Online Friends

I’ve written before about my online connections–both the rich friendships I’ve made and my reluctance to be so public.

Today I want to talk about a connection to someone I don’t know– author Patti Digh. I bought her book Life is a Verb about four years ago, and it resonated immediately. I started following her blog and then on twitter, also purchasing her book What I Wish for You. I haven’t taken her Verb Tribe class, yet, but that’s on my list, too.

You know how a stranger often feels like they could be a good friend? That’s what happened to me with Patti.

So when I read recently that her husband had been diagnosed with cancer and there was a fundraising drive on to help with expenses, I immediately clicked over and donated.

Helping to save a life. This becomes the best, most profound way our networks serve us.

She includes a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye on her blog today, one that will carry me for a long time.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

-Naomi Shihab Nye


Is it Writing?

Reading this post on the Center for Teaching blog has me thinking. Robert Ryshke asks us to consider great questions about our teaching in relation to Mark Applebaum’s TED talk on music and the roles he plays. Please go there and read the post first, and then ponder this:

Couldn’t we ask the same questions about digital writing today?

Is it writing?

What does it take to be a creative and interesting writer?

Even his list of roles takes on new meaning if we think in terms of a being a writer:

  • interpreter
  • inventor
  • visual artist

As I prepare for my VAIS workshops this fall, I’ll be digging into this. What does this mean for the writing curriculum? For teachers of writers? In light of standardized tests?

Aging Gracefully

I recently turned 60, and I am feeling old.  I can’t run as fast. My arthritis kicks in regularly. And I have trouble sleeping most nights.

But getting older is also changing the way I see the world–and myself.

For example, I am beginning to hate the word “nice.”

Being nice started early in my life, when I heard my mother (even when she wasn’t around), saying: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” So, I became quiet.

Not a bad philosophy I suppose, but if you’re not careful, being nice can translate into don’t confront, don’t disagree, and don’t speak your mind. All dangerous.

When I left the newspaper I worked for in the early ’90s, the editor said: “All the niceness has now left the office.” She meant it as a compliment, but I knew better. Journalists need sharp edges.

Turning 60 also means letting go of lots of baggage, like worrying what people think. I have a long way to go, though. Last night when someone complimented me on a recent story I’d written, I made excuses about an editor changing the first paragraph because I was over the word count. Instead of simply saying, “thank you,” I felt the need to explain why it wasn’t perfect.

The old ego kicking in again. You’d think after all these years……

My goal for aging gracefully is to practice humility and “be enough.” Ben Franklin once said, “a man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.”

Hey, I might even start sleeping better.



Coming Back

I closed the door to the cabin this morning at 6am, ending a restful two-week vacation. The cabin sits behind my mom’s house in a small community in South County, Rhode Island. Walks down to the salt pond, boat trips across the pond to the beach, and visits with cousins and friends gave me time to think, read, and sleep. We arrived home around 3 today, dog and cat grateful to be out of the car.

And I am ready to put finishing touches on a presentation I’ll be doing at Collegiate School in Richmond next week on project-based learning. Actually it’s more of a workshop as teachers are coming prepared to dig in and rethink their curriculum. I’m looking forward to the conversations about inquiry-based learning and what that means for all of us.

But tonight I’m missing the sand between my toes.