Tuesday, January 2, 2018

My One Little Word for 2018

You know I loved my word for 2017.  I'm a little sad to let it go.  STRETCH will certainly be missed.

Here are my past words:
But...it's time for a new word.

This one came to me much earlier than I usually find them.  I found this word in early November so I've had some time to weigh it and consider its possibility.

Well, here it is.  My word for 2018.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Stretch: What I Learned Along the Way

"Lean into the stretch and grow, breakthrough limits and old ways that no longer serve and eventually soar and reach deeper levels of strength and faith and expression."  

 - Christine Arylo, Are You Feeling Stretched?

In 2017, I chose the word STRETCH (read about it here).  I'm honestly having a hard time leaving in 2018 though I know what I've learned will stay with me.  In a new position at school, STRETCH gave me permission to tackle tougher challenges.  An introvert at heart, STRETCH made me reach out to others a bit more (yeah, I'm not there yet).  Here are a few favorite STRETCHes from 2017.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Slice of Life: When You Can't Decide

I'm a terrible decision maker.  There are just so many possibilities in this world, I don't want to have to decide.  It's the reason I say I will cook, but I dislike having to choose what we are having for dinner.  It's the reason I am always reading at least three books at a time.  It's the reason getting dressed each morning is a dreaded task.  Decisions, decisions, decisions.

This evening I was gathered with friends on the patio for dessert.  It was the perfect night, minus a few mosquitoes, the temperature was just right, daylight stayed late, and the conversation was delightful.  After chatting over tacos and salsa, we left the table to get some dessert.  As we gathered around the kitchen counter, two glorious pies were lifted from their containers.  Oh no, two pies?!?  Decision time.  The first pie was a strawberry pie with whip cream swirling across the top.  Who can resist a strawberry pie?  Especially in June when strawberries are at their best.

Out came pie number two.   Once again the fluffy layer of whipped cream across the top hid the pie underneath, but the chocolate chips decorating the top were a dead giveaway.  Chocolate pie!  Both pies looked ah-maz-ing!  What to do?  What to do?

I was stuck.  Chocolate or strawberry.  Chocolate or strawberry.  Then I realized maybe this wasn't an "either-or" question, maybe this was an "and" solution.  Why not a little bit of both?

Why make a decision when one doesn't need to be made?  Why choose one piece of pie when you can have two?  Life's too short to limit ourselves, when you can't decide, don't.

It's Tuesday.  Today I'm joining the Slice of Life Challenge hosted at Two Writing Teachers Stop by today's link up to join the conversation or find some great reading.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

#SOL17 Day 12: Let Them Eat Cake

I've never been a baker.  I don't mind cooking, and at times I almost enjoy it, but baking makes me want to run and hide.  I have friends and family that bake.  I always hope their talents will rub off on me.  My sister-in-law is an amazing baker.  She whips up cakes like it is her job.  She can make a cheesecake in a blink of an eye.  Need cookies?  She can bake dozens without breaking a sweat.  Everything she bakes is delicious and there isn't a recipe she can't make better.

Baking for me as never been easy.  My friend, Julie, is also a baker.  She bakes cakes with the greatest of ease and makes a-maz-ing biscotti.  Julie makes baking sound effortless, but I'm not fooled.  She has listened to my fear of baking and has assured me I can bake.  She shared a few tips and has helped me to at least think I might some day be able to bake.

In the last few years, I've gotten braver.  I've stopped buying cake mixes and started finding recipes I'd like to try.  I've managed an oreo cake that is a family favorite.  I also have a chocolate bundt cake recipe that is sure to be a hit at any party.  I'm not afraid to dive into the cranberry-carrot-cake recipe that has become a holiday favorite and have a lemon cake recipe that's perfect for summer.  Still, every time I'm asked to bring a dessert I want to wiggle out of it.  Every time I face a new cake recipe, I wonder if I can even come close to making it edible.

Tonight, I took the big plunge:  German chocolate cake.  My dad's birthday is tomorrow so I decided I'd try to make him one of his favorite cakes.  German chocolate cake has always been a recipe I have steered clear of in my attempts to bake.  Anything that requires multiple layers AND has a special icing recipe seems like something I should try to avoid.  Since it was Dad's birthday, I decided I'd give it my best shot.  This afternoon I gathered the ingredients and started to make the cake.  As I gathered the ingredients I wondered how anyone could not like German chocolate cake; there is a huge amount of butter, sugar, and buttermilk in that recipe.  What could go wrong?

As I mixed the ingredients the batter looked pretty good as I poured it into the pans and placed it in the oven.  This is the part that always gets me.  How to get that cake out of the oven at just the right moment so it is cooked, but not overdone and dry?  That's always the challenge.  When the timer went off I wasn't overly pleased with what I was seeing, but I thought I was okay.  I decided to turn the cakes over quickly to see if that might make them come out of the pan with greater ease, but not letting them cool for a few minutes turned out to be a bad idea.  Each layer had tears and jagged edges.  I decided to grab a piece to taste it and it tasted pretty good.

Years ago, my cousin and I made a cake for my grandpa.  I can't remember what kind of a cake it was, but by the time we were done it looked awful.  Grandpa cheerfully ate a piece of that cake, reminding us that the look of a cake wasn't nearly as important as the taste.  He assured us we had made a cake that tasted delightful.  Well, he was probably telling a story, but now as I stood here years later looking at the jagged pieces of this German chocolate cake, I had to laugh.

Wondering why I didn't just order a cake, I went into the kitchen to make the icing.  The recipe said to melt the butter, add evaporated milk, sugar, and heat it until it was thick and golden brown.  I stirred forever.  What would golden brown look like exactly?   Finally, I decided it seemed thick enough, added the vanilla, coconut, and pecans to complete the icing.

Somehow I managed to carefully stack one layer on top of the other.  The icing made it simple to hide the tears and jagged edges.  When I was finished the cake was presentable.  I hoped Grandpa was right all of those years ago and that the taste of the cake was more important than the look.  (One of these times I'd like to make a cake that has both taste and presentation.  #lifegoals)

After dinner I brought out the cake and we all sang happy birthday to my dad and Lisa.  I had to chuckle to myself as I thought about all the little challenges that had popped up along the way.   Despite the earlier drama, the cake seemed to do the trick.  How can you go wrong with a little cake and ice-cream?

Another cake successfully served, but I'm still not sure I have discovered the joy of baking.  I certainly haven't mastered any of the tricks.  I'm not sure I'll tackle another German chocolate cake in the near future, but I did at least give it a try.  That's progress.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

#SOL17 Day 9: Who's in Charge?

Dog prances
at 4:30 a.m.
pitter patter
tap tap
her feet prance
on the wood floor.

I try to ignore her
but the pitter patter
tap tap 

I roll over
hoping to continue
to sleep.
Hoping she'll
settle back down, 
but soon I hear
the pitter patter 
tap tap.   

I rise 
let her out.
She wins, 
yet again.  

© Cathy L. Mere, 2017 

For the sixth year, I will be joining the Slice of Life Challenge with the community of Two Writing Teachers.  I will be trying to put my fingers to the keyboard every day for the 31 days of March.  Stop by today's link up at Two Writing Teachers to read other posts.  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

#SOL17 Day 8: Hello, Daylight

Taking the dog out
in the early morning,
there used to be black,
but now -

Getting in the car
to drive to school,
there used to be darkness,
but now -

It is now possible
to tell morning from night,
as the world awakens,

As the day turns
to afternoon;
the sun shines bright,

Driving home
at the end of the day,
impossible to believe,

Evening now brings
time to walk,
time to get outside,
the joy of

After a winter
of unending darkness,
my heart sings.
Thank you,

© Cathy L. Mere, 2017

For the sixth year, I will be joining the Slice of Life Challenge with the community of Two Writing Teachers.  I will be trying to put my fingers to the keyboard every day for the 31 days of March.  Stop by today's link up at Two Writing Teachers to read other posts.  


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

#SOL17: Find Your Tribe

This evening I sit here with a cup of coffee by my side as friends gently tap away at their keyboards or jot in their notebooks.  I'm not sure what anyone is writing right now;  I just know that everyone IS writing something.  Tonight is one of my favorite nights of the month as several teachers from around the district gather for a writing class.  Our class, "Amplify Voices:  Teachers as Writers," meets once a month.  I've come to look forward to our time together as we all wrestle with the challenges of writing.  From coming up with ideas, getting started, finding time, and discovering our voices, we listen to one another to consider new possibilities and solutions.  Our reasons for being here are varied, and each is finding her own path.  This time each month make me get my fingers to the keyboard and keeps me committed to continuing to grow as a writer.

I've come to realize that in anything I do, the secret is in finding my people.

We've been meeting since October, in a small classroom with rolling desks and checkered carpet squares.  The room has windows from wall to wall on two sides, adding sunlight to our work and allowing a space for daydreaming.  At our first meeting, the room was filled with apprehension as we timidly shared our work at the end of our time together.  During our time that night, we each talked about our reasons for joining the class and the plan we had for our time.

We've been meeting for many months and each of us have grown in our writing.  "What have you learned about yourself as a writer?" I posed as we started our quick write at the beginning of our meeting.  Pens went to paper, iPads were poised, and computer keyboards began clicking.  While we used to pause in these times, everyone started writing and were still writing when the time was up.  As usual, the conversation did not disappoint.  "I find I go to the same topics over and over again," one participant confided.  We discussed the ways we too often feel pulled to familiar topics.

"I find it is easiest to write the things closest to my heart," another layered into the conversation.

We all started this journey in different places, and we each were reflecting on new discoveries we've made about the challenge - and joy - of finding our voice.  "It's been the partnerships that have helped me," added another group member.  "I've learned so much from listening to everyone and hearing their writing."

Ideas continued to popcorn around the table.  It's always hard to end these conversations, but we try hard to value the time to write and leave enough time for everyone to get a few thoughts down on paper.

As someone who writes, I'm always trying to grow my habit, improve my craft, find my voice, but it is moments like these, surrounded by others who know the struggle and the celebration that I feel most at home.  My cup of coffee is now gone and I'm nearing the end of this piece.  As I pause I hear the gentle scratch of the pen beside me and know that everyone is finding their way on the page right now.  I look forward to hearing what everyone has written today, and what I will learn from their conversation.  These nights have been a gift.  I've pushed myself to get back in the habit and take new steps thanks to this group.

As in anything in this life, if you want to move forward, find your tribe.

For the sixth year, I will be joining the Slice of Life Challenge with the community of Two Writing Teachers.  I will be trying to put my fingers to the keyboard every day for the 31 days of March.  Stop by today's link up at Two Writing Teachers to read other posts.  

My One Little Word for 2018

You know I loved my word for 2017.  I'm a little sad to let it go .  STRETCH will certainly be missed. Here are my past words: ST...