I Wrote a Children’s Book!

It took a couple years of intermittently working to write the story, find an illustrator, find a way to publish, and then get the courage to finalize the project. I am excited to share that my first book is complete! Physical copies have arrived and Print On Demand (POD) is available for ordering your own copy.

So what is the story!?

While visiting with family in northern Michigan people kept losing track of their phone and tablet chargers. It started to feel as though each time we sat down together someone was asking, “Have you seen my charger?”. I felt compelled right then to grab a pad of notebook paper and start rhyming out lines to go along with the situation taking place. It is becoming a question asked more often, “Have you seen my charger?”. Common replies seem to be “No”, “Yes, on the counter”, or “Where did you leave it last?”.

As the lines started to flow out and family members kept adding their own input, a short story was quickly developing. For the character in the story the search for a charger takes them on a journey. In searching, they find something even more valuable than the charger they were looking for in the first place.

After several tweaks and edits to the manuscript “Have you seen my charger?” is more than just a common question, it is also the title of my first book.

How can you get your own copy? Great question! There are two main options for purchasing your own copy. Book Baby’s BookShop and Amazon.com Even searching for the book, or my name, on Amazon boosts the status of the book. Please consider at least giving it a search or clicking the Amazon link.

BookShop sends 50% of the sales back to the author.

Amazon sends 13%. Amazon does have a much larger reach and you could add the book onto an order quite easily.

The price is actually set below the BookBaby suggested price. I would go even lower if the cost of printing allowed since I think the message of the story is worth spreading.

There are several people I will not be able to thank enough for helping this all finally come together, but I will try.

Illustrator Tracy Burnett took the manuscript and ran with it, really bringing the words to life. I am very thankful for her willingness to take a chance on the story and work through all my short-comings as someone publishing their first book. I asked a lot of Tracy and she helped make it work. Without her there literally would not be a physical copy of the story.

My family. I am blessed to have two loving families to belong to. A big thanks to the Skalecki/Haggerty side for inspiring this situation. A big thank you to the Johns family for building my confidence to continue after the initial story was written.

A special thank you to my wife and kids for listening to the story and helping with feedback. Also thank you for patience as a “quick project” stretched into multiple hurdles to overcome and a lot of new learning taking place. Also, thank you for believing in the book enough to self-publish. Another spot which could have stopped the process, but I am thankful the book is now complete.

Thank you to Kevin Kammeraad for meeting up with me at Panera Bread and encouraging a complete novice like me to find an avenue to create a finished book.

Thank you to my teachers. I recently found a few papers I had written in high school… I would say looking back that writing is not necessarily a natural gift, but I know I would lack an ability to express my thoughts through writing without their guidance. This includes my colleagues as an educator. Several of you have encouraged me to “do hard things” or build my skill set.

The process from notebook in a cabin living room to printed book was riddled with obstacles to overcome. Perhaps another blog post will help explain how each these challenges added meaning to the project overall. Peace.

Singing and Swinging: What to do when you lose your way

Have you ever felt ‘off’? Things you used to do with ease seem to take a lot of focus and effort. Or you are going through the exact same motions as before, but you don’t feel fulfilled like you used to. As much as you try to get out of a funk, nothing seems to get you back to where you know you belong. No matter how many times you try to recreate Unique Life Feels (ULFs), it seems you are not able to feel what you once did.

This feeling reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, “The Legend of Bagger Vance”. The one time all-star golfer, and hero of Savannah, Rannulph Junah (Matt Damon) struggles to find his swing. As his soon to be caddie Bagger Vance (Will Smith) points out, perhaps Junah’s real struggle is with more than the mechanics of his golf swing. Here is the scene from the movie. Here is a partial transcript if you want to skip the clip (though I recommend the clip).

Bagger: See, the trick is to find your swing.
Junuh: What did you say?
Bagger: You lost your swing. We got to go find it.
Bagger: Now it's somewhere in the harmony of all that is...
Bagger: ...all that was...
Bagger: ...all that will be.
Sometimes in life we “lose our swing” and need help to get it back.

Recently, my brother invited me to play some indoor golf and it became apparent I too had “lost my swing”. It was probably unreasonable to think I could just pick up where I left off, but mentally I expected to hit my normal shots. Even though I was out of practice and had not even attempted to golf for the past few months, something inside me expected the best version of golfer to shine through.

There is value in practice, routine, and working to improve. Even in small ways, how we spend our time makes a big impact on how we interact with the world around us. If there is something meaningful you want to maintain or improve in your life, there is a need to make a conscious effort to make it a part of your routine.

Trying to “find my swing”. The tree is a good indicator or how things started off! After getting back in the groove and settled things started coming together.

This post is about more than just golf though. The title for this post ‘Singing and Swinging’ hit me one Sunday while my wife and I attended church. At our church, we begin the service singing worship songs. On this particular Sunday I felt as though my voice as carrying the tune with some power, the notes flowed steadily as we sang along. Whether the melody or the harmony, my voice was locked into the songs. It felt great to sing and feel so connected to the music!

During the last song, I had a much more meaningful realization. My voice was much more of an outward expression of my spirit than I had realized.

The fact my voice felt connected and ‘on’ was great! The realization my voice, and spirit, had been ‘off’ for months was not.

I had been letting my faith wane. Not that I was actively abandoning my faith, but I was certainly no longer in a practice of growing my faith. In some way I had become Rannulph Junuh. I was expecting to stay filled with faith, even though I had not been making faith a priority. I believe the religious term for this situation is that I had become a sloth, not putting in effort to maintain or grow my faith.

As I stood in church and thought about how pure and connected my voice felt, I could not help but think of another clip from “The Legend of Bagger Vance”. In this scene, Bagger is explaining “the field” to Rannulph Junah. Here is partial transcript if you want to skip the video clip (although I recommend the clip).

There's a perfect shot out there trying to find each and every one of us.
All we got to do is get ourselves out of its way, to let it choose us.
...
Where everything that is becomes one.                
You've got to seek that place, with your soul, Junuh.                
Seek it with your hands, don't think about it, feel it.                
Your hands are wiser than your head's ever gonna be.                
Now I can't take you there just hopes I can help you find a way.                
It's just you that ball, that flag, and all you are.   
“The field” is the groove we all search for, the place where life makes sense. Often we might need someone (or something) to help us redirect in order to “see the field”.

During those few months of feeling a disconnect I did several things to try to fill in a hole I did not consciously realize had even been growing. As Bagger Vance explains to Junuh, getting back into my faith did not include a checklist of things to do, but rather involved letting myself go enough to feel connected with my faith once again.

For me, it is no surprise “The Legend of Bagger Vance” is based on a sacred Hindu story about a deity intervening in a warrior’s life to help them realize their full potential. I believe the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us and has the ability to help us all reach our full potential.

Perhaps sometimes the spirit is communicating with us, and we are just focusing on everything except this one thing inside which can lead us back to a fulfilling life. Perhaps that Holy Spirit is always working to help guide our way, and we also just need to “get ourselves out of its way” and let it choose how we can use our gifts to live a fulfilling life. Peace.

Posted: A Nature Poem

Posted

I sit. I Listen.
I allow silence to surround.

With winter fading and spring awaiting,
no leaves on tree or ground.

With little wind the forest rests,
and invites me to do the same.

I close my eyes and rest as well,
and let the woods reclaim.

With mother nature all around it’s easy to let go.
Of all my stress and worry, right now I do not know.

And as I sit and listen to the stillness of the breeze,
my focus shifts to “Posted” signs, stapled to the trees.

They rustle and they rattle and break the peaceful quiet.
We have broken nature, though society denies it.

Nature is the great inventor of what was and is to come.
While we continue to abuse her, we become more numb.

What can a single soul like me do to help amend?
Certainly not turn away, ignore, or just pretend.

Nature needs us more than ever, this I truly know.
Our gifts alone can help or harm, destroy or let regrow.

Remove the “Posted” from the land, and also from your mind.
Nature is here to be protected, not destroyed by humankind.

I sit. I listen. I think of what could be.
For nature has already given all needs for you and me.

Back to Basics Entertainment

Last week in The Grand Rapids Press I found it interesting to find two articles which seem to pivot around the same idea. Article #1 titled “These toys can help kids have healthier minds, bodies” was written by a Harvard Health doctor and the list of toys to help a child’s mind includes: Blocks, drawing materials, dollhouses, cars, play kitchen, dress-up clothes.

For those of you who read this list and said “yeah right, any child would get bored with these.” you are not alone. Dr. McCarthy admits boredom might be the result of some of these toys, but she also points out that boredom might be a key piece to breeding creativity. “If they are constantly entertained, they will never learn to entertain themselves, and they will miss out on important opportunities to create and explore.”

Now just a few pages later in the same edition of The Grand Rapids Press is the article titled ” ‘Fortnite’ addiction is forcing kids into video-game rehab”. Whoa. In this article Jef Feeley and Christopher Palmeri give a laundry list of issues with kids being hooked into gaming, specifically Fortnite.

Continue reading

‘Bull’ An Unexpected Literary Treat

For those who know me you might be able to envision my reaction when I read the opening line from David Elliot’s book, Bull. Sorry Mom, I am just quoting here.

”Whaddup, bitches?”

I literally set the book down.

But like a curious cat the intrigue of why a book would start in this way got the best of me so I reread the preface and started again.

I quickly understood this would be a unique read for me. I seem to stay in the non-fiction genre most of the time and this verse-novel version of the Minotaur tale from Greek mythology piqued my interest early.

With some thematic elements and some literary imagery fit for HBO the story reads quickly and presents the epic in an engaging way. Each of the seven characters communicates through their own poetic form. Another bonus in my mind is given the short stanzas of poetry, the story reads quickly. Continue reading

Are You Listening?

A soft, steady click. Not more than the light click of a spacebar.

This little click is all it took to cause a week-long headache of a recurring battery failure on our Ford Explorer. A headache that peaked when the dead battery caused our son to be late for his first day of pre-school.

The issue in diagnosing the problem was the battery was fine to drive from Grand Rapids to North of Detroit, then the next morning it was dead. After recharging it was fine for a day. Then dead again. After recharging again we drove back to Grand Rapids with no trouble. Finally, another full day later the battery was dead on pre-school day #1. Continue reading

These 6 Things

This post is geared to the educators out there, so if you know a teacher pass this along! I have been blessed to teach with some great educators. Not just people good at their job, but individuals who are constantly pushing themselves to be even better. One of these individuals is Mr. Dave Stuart.

Several times a year students will comment about how great Mr. Stuart is and stir up a little bit of teacher envy inside my teacher soul. To a high school student some teachers are “great” because they allow cell phones, or give open note tests, or don’t keep track of tardies. The more I have gotten to know Mr. Stuart, and how his class functions, the more I have realized he probably expects more from his students than the average teacher.

During the second year at my current school I became more interested in finding out what makes Mr. Stuart such a great teacher in the minds of so many students. I asked students, positioned our instructional rounds group so we would see Mr. Stuart in action, asked colleagues, and even asked Dave for bit of advice.

Through these observations and conversations I learned a lot about things Mr. Stuart’s class does but I was missing the real difference that helps students key in to his instruction. It is not some trendy pedagogy that helps students enjoy Mr. Stuart’s class. Sure, students frequently share about a good Pop-Up Debate, or how the Article of the Week is relevant in their life.  What underscores all of these activities is a set of beliefs students share in that class.

The Five Beliefs are:

  1. Credibility: I believe in my teacher.
  2. Belonging: I belong in this classroom.
  3. Effort: I can improve through my effort.
  4. Efficacy: I can succeed at this.
  5. Value: This work has value for me.

Image result for these six things dave stuart

I have the benefit of being in the same building as Dave and can pick his brain if I am looking to try something from his class in my own room. I have even tried resources on his website. If you are anything like me, I like to have a physical copy as a guide when trying something new that has some type of format involved. As a college student I remember having Harry Wong’s First Days of School, and once I started my current assignment a colleague handed me Teach Like a Champion 2.0. Both of these were great resources to help build a skill-set as a teacher.

Lucky for anyone looking to build classroom culture, Long-Term Flourishing in their students, or looking for a guide to using Pop-Up Debates Dave has just published his second book. This one is simply title These 6 Things.

I know my copy will be nearby as I plan throughout the year. I am sure it will be a much loved resource as I continue to build my skill-set and get students more involved with reading, writing, and using meaningful argument.

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So aren’t Reading, Writing, and Speaking things that should be left to ELA and the Social Studies departments? Not at all, especially with the Next Gen Science Standards and the increased emphasis on students modeling their understanding of science concepts.

A key piece of developing science-minded students revolves around what NGSS refers to as the Science and Engineering Practices. There are eight practices, but let’s connect dots between three of these standards and These 6 Things.

  1. Analyzing and Interpreting Data- Reading
  2. Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information- Reading, Writing, Speaking
  3. Engaging in Argument from Evidence- Speaking/Listening

Our biology classes have dabbled with using news articles as source documents. We have also increased the amount of modeling as part of our investigations. Having These 6 Things as a guide for Pop-Up Debate is the piece I am most excited about having this physical copy.

There are so many topics in science that will lend themselves nicely to Pop-Up Debate. Climate Change, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), safe dieting, stem cell research, and how about the granddaddy of them all, Evolution.

Dave’s writing is conversational, yet informative. He is authentic and it comes through in his teaching and in his book. Whether on a personal, department, building, or district level there is value in getting this book into teacher’s hands. Almost all of us who are teachers chose this career to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others. Not just to help boost standardized test scores or get into a college, but to really help students become successful individuals as they head out into life after school.

This book helps focus on 6 things to streamline meaningful instruction. This helps students flourish in the long-term and will help teachers find balance between school and life. I know this book will be a great resource for Professional Development. I am curious to see how long it will be before this book is on a college syllabus for new teachers. First Days of School was a good preview to essential classroom management. These 6 Things will be a great resource for helping develop meaningful, life-long skills in our students. I hope you have a great year! Peace.