Monday, June 25, 2012

Flipping It

Hey everyone!

Wow, it's been so busy these last two weeks as we prepare to move back home! Our last holiday, a weekend trip to Berlin, was fun but now there's only 5 days left to pack and prepare everything. Nonetheless, I'm trying my best to catch up with some writing assignments. Here's the Thursday Quick Write assignment from 6/21. Author Miriam Forster posed a fun idea to flip a favorite fairy tale. Let's see if you can guess which one I've chosen!


There once lived two twin brothers named Jonas and Maxi. Jonas and Maxi lived with their mother and their stepfather in Morristown, NJ, a quiet upper middle class town about an hour by train outside of New York City. Even though the boys lived so close to the city, they had never been there. They were only eight years old and they had no desire to leave the safety and familiarity of Morristown where they could ride their bikes in the street and play football with their friends. Plus, the boys' mother was a corporate lawyer in the city and she just seemed so miserable and tired to the boys when she got home from a long day's work that the boys vowed never to go there.

Their stepfather was a mean and corrupt investment banker who their mother married shortly after their father died serving the country overseas. Although he also worked long days in the city, he dreaded coming home to Jonas and Maxi, who he thought were noisy, messy and annoying. To make matters worse, he was from New York and the boys knew that he hated them. This made them want to go to the city even less.

One day, Jonas and Maxi were setting up a fort in the dining room right next to the tall, glass china cabinet. Jonas, who was a shade sillier than Maxi, was in mid-flail after pretending to be shot on enemy lines when he tripped on the corner of the fort and flew backwards into the china cabinet. The top two shelves of white and pink flowered plates came tumbling down onto the hard pine floor. At that moment, their stepfather came in from work.

"JONAS AND MAXI!!!!!! What have you done?!," he screamed as his face darkened.

"It was an accident!," Maxi cried. "Jonas didn't mean to!"

"I've had enough of you boys," said the stepfather. "Go get your shoes on, we're going for a ride."

Jonas and Maxi ran to their room and got their things. "I don't know what he's up to, but I don't trust this guy. Maxi, bring your coin collection. I don't want that dummy to try and steal it while we're gone. I'll meet you outside," Jonas said.

After the stepfather threw them in the car, he drove and drove and drove. The boys did not recognize anything around them. They were far away from Morristown for sure. Suddenly, they entered a large, dark tunnel. When they came out the other side, the boys' hearts sank. A large sign read "Welcome to New York City".

At this point, Jonas nudged Maxi and mouthed, "Crack open the window. Drop a coin out of the window at every block." Maxi did what his brother asked. The stepfather was so engaged in his bluetooth phone conversation that he didn't notice what the boys were doing. A few minutes later, their father stopped driving.

"Why don't you boys go into that store and see if you can find me today's New York Times. I'll wait out here. I'm waiting for someone from work to call me back," the stepfather said. The boys knew deep down inside that he would leave them but they went anyway, just to get away from him. Sure enough, when they walked outside with the paper, their stepfather was gone.

Jonas and Maxi were nervous. They looked around and all they could see were buildings, people and more buildings that were so tall they touched the sky.

"Let's go try and find my coins. At least then maybe we could get back to the tunnel," Maxi said.

But the boys soon learned that the streets of New York have small change scattered everywhere. Plus, the streets were pretty dirty and they weren't about to start crawling on their hands and knees to try and find the small coins.

"We're never going to get home!", Jonas wailed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Story Bank

I'm playing catch-up with this week's assignments so please bear with me. On Monday, I concentrated on studying and beginning to write my educational philosophy and yesterday I was in Belgium for the day!

For Monday's assignment I choice the second option- to create "idea banks" for various settings, characters, etc.

Setting Bank
1. List ten places that you have lived in your lifetime. It need not be 10 different towns. Different places in one town are fine. Summer camp, visits to grandma, college dorm, basic training—they all count as places you’ve lived
  1. Bayonne, NJ
  2. Swarthmore, PA
  3. Vienna, Austria
  4. Siena, Italy
  5. Bochum, Germany
  6. Houston, TX
  7. Poconos Basketball Camp
  8. College dorm
  9. "Treehouse" apartment
  10. Nick's basement

2. List ten places to which you feel a strong emotional connection. The emotion can be positive or negative. Either is powerful. (it’s okay to have repeats in the bank. That can tell you something useful about where your heart lives.)
  1. Paris, France
  2. Tromso, Norway
  3. Bayonne, NJ
  4. Swarthmore, PA
  5. Vienna, Austria
  6. Bochum, Germany
  7. Houston, TX
  8. Santa Monica, CA
  9. Nana's house
  10. Dad's house

3. List ten places you’ve visited on vacation or places you’d love to visit in your lifetime were money and time no object.
  1. Tromso, Norway
  2. Malaysia
  3. Cayman Islands
  4. Fort Worth, TX
  5. Svalbard
  6. Chefchaouene, Morocco
  7. Cambodia
  8. India
  9. Lebanon
  10. Madagascar

4. List ten places from which your ancestors or in-laws come.
  1. Lugo, Spain
  2. Havana, Cuba
  3. Roscommon, Ireland
  4. Houston, TX
  5. England
  6. Poland
  7. Small town
  8. Large City
  9. Italy
  10. Farm

5. List ten books or movies that have settings you’ve found particularly captivating. (you may want to include a brief note about what attracted you to the setting.) This one was hard for me!
  1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Halloween town, my favorite holiday!)
  2. Coraline (imaginary "otherworld")
  3. The Help (time period)
  4. Finding Nemo (LOVE the ocean... loved the attention to detail to the sea life in the background, thought the shipwreck details were fabulous)
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird (poor rural southern countryside setting description brought a detailed image immediately to my mind)
  6. Pans Labyrinth (dark, imaginative)
  7. ALL of the Harry Potter BOOKS 
  8. The Metamorphosis (Kafka did an amazing job describing the bedroom and the apartment)
  9.  Eat, Pray, Love (my favorite setting of the book was when she was in the meditation camp)
  10. Three Cups of Tea (appreciated the description of the mountains and mountain life in Pakistan)
6. List ten jobs whether paying or volunteer that you’ve done in your life.
  1. Marketing Intern for an art appraising firm
  2. Teacher
  3. Home appraiser
  4. Babysitter
  5. Summer intern at NYC art museum
  6. Camp counselor at sports camp for low income neighborhood
  7. Art gallery assistant
  8. Visual Resources assistant for art history dept. slide library
  9. Columnist for NJ newspaper
  10. Volunteer at art museum

7. List ten famous people, historical or contemporary, that you would love to share a meal with.
  1. Hieronymus Bosch
  2. Susan B. Anthony
  3. Anthony Bourdain
  4. Clara Barton
  5. Ghandi
  6. Michael Pollan
  7. Bill Hicks
  8. Natalie Portman
  9. Babe Ruth
  10. Martin Luther King

8. List ten ethnicities, religions, tribes, cultural groups, gender or sexual orientations, or political philosophies that are represented in your extended family.
  1. Hispanic
  2. White
  3. Catholic
  4. Atheist
  5. Agnostic
  6. Heterosexual
  7. Bisexual
  8. Liberal
  9. Conservative
  10. Indigenous Mexican

9. List ten people who can make you laugh.
  1. My Dad
  2. Mitch
  3. Louis C.K.
  4. Bill Hicks
  5. Jon Stewart
  6. Colbert
  7. Daniel Tosh
  8. My sister
  9. Ellen DeGeneres
  10. Conan O'Brian

10. Complete this sentence ten times. “I’ve always wanted to _____ like ____________. For example, Dance like Gene Kelley.
  1. I've always wanted to have ab muscles like the Tone It Up girls.
  2. I've always wanted to dance like Usher.
  3. I've always wanted to sing like Mariah Carey.
  4. I've always wanted to travel like Anthony Bourdain.
  5. I've always wanted to write like J.K. Rowling. 
  6. I've always wanted to be good at math like Mitch.
  7. I've always wanted to play basketball like Kobe Bryant.
  8. I've always wanted to be an artist like Leonardo Da Vinci.
  9. I've always wanted to travel to space like Buzz Aldrin.
  10. I've always wanted to be a ichthyologist like Maurice Kottelat.

Wow, that took me a long time to complete! I tried to answer the questions as accurately as possible. I hope to one day use this bank for future stories. 

Friday, June 15, 2012


I didn't get a chance to write yesterday because I was visiting a former student's house. I thought I would only see her and her family, but another 5 of my former students surprised me! It was so nice to see all of them before moving back. Even in a month and a half, everyone grew and matured. I'm going to miss my little ones!

To be honest, I'm wasn't super motivated to write today but I did accomplish my original goal of 15-20 minutes (which I usually surpass). I think it's the rain and gloomy weather that has been filling the sky for the past week. Just makes me wanna curl up on the couch with a book!

Regarding worldbuilding, this is a challenge for me with my current writing endeavor. I posted a question in the community because I'm concerned about accuracy in my setting. I want to be as accurate as possible in my descriptions of this location but I have never visited it in person. I'm trying to look at pictures but I feel as though my descriptions are falling short. I don't feel like I'm capturing the small details. Maybe this is due to my lethargy, but nonetheless, does anyone have a suggestion in how I can be descriptive of a place where I've never been?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday Quick Write

Today's assignment was to take the main character of the story and to create a dialogue with him or her somehow. It could either be in the form of a letter, describing him/her to someone close to you or to have them answer a set of questions. 

I decided to take on this challenge by "interviewing" my main character. I asked my main character a few questions and had her answer in her voice. This exercise helped me develop her personality, her name, the name of her friends and to research cultural dynamics to help make my story more authentic. 

I would like to continue with this exercise at some point this week to further develop my character and my story. I'm also hoping that this dialogue will branch out to help develop the personalities of some of my other characters. 

Getting more excited about writing each day! I'm feeling more confident with each assignment. This quote really sums up my mood for today..


Monday, June 11, 2012

Outlining Ideas for Writing

Our assignment for Teachers Write! for today is to outline a potential project. I know this may sound a bit strange, but I actually had a dream about an idea for a children's book a few weeks ago. I wrote down my idea the morning after, but have not yet tackled the organization. I'm going to start it today, but as Kate Messner says, it's a work in progress!

Update: I started the outline to my book and a lot has already changed from my original vision. I'm starting to experience the extensive research that goes into writing a book. My original idea is science based, so I'm doing lots of research as I go along to make sure the information is accurate and current. I'm worried about posting any of my ideas in a public forum (including my blog), so I'll just tell you that my "work in progress" is a fictional story geared towards Grades 3-5.

I noticed that I've already spent lots of time going back and forth between jotting down my thoughts for each chapter, character, setting, etc. while simultaneously researching. I've definitely exceeded my goal of writing for 15-20 minutes today!

Leaving you with a bucket filling message today!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Teachers Write! Thursday Quick Write

This post is going to be super duper quick because we have to leave for Dusseldorf in awhile to catch our flight to Paris! Very excited about this short trip, as I get to see my Dad. First time since October!

Here is the Thursday Quick Write scenario:

A student walks into the library/media center at lunchtime.  What is she/he thinking?  Worried about?  Dreading?  Hoping or wishing for? What are the risks/stakes for him/her? Show us in a paragraph or two.

She cautiously lingered at the door for a few moments, her eyes darted around the room frantically. "This girl looks a little paranoid", I thought to myself. She took one hesitant step in, like she was toeing the edge of the water in a cold pool. Her hair was straight, so straight you could tell she used one of those straighteners because there was a slight bump by her hairline. She was wearing expensive jeans that didn't quite fit her properly but her V-neck sweater hugged her sides. You could tell she was preoccupied with her thoughts because she carelessly bumped into an occupied chair, disrupting the silence that usually filled the room and annoying the reader who angrily tried to find his page again. "Sorry, didn't mean to. I'm looking for someone", she said. 
Suddenly, her eyes widened and she froze. I could faintly see the beads of sweat that broke out over her forehead. She slowly walked up to the table at the far side of the fiction section that was occupied by a single boy. He was completely engrossed in his paperback, so much so that he didn't even notice her fumbling over the chair next to him while she sat down. She mumbled something to him I couldn't quite understand. He looked up abruptly and put his book down. She asked him something while fumbling anxiously with her hands, the inflection in her voice clear, although the question itself inaudible. The boy smiled shyly and quickly nodded his head. Her shoulders relaxed and she stood up, pushing her chair in. She strode towards the door with her head up. The sweat was gone. She turned quickly before leaving the room, flashing a wide grin.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday Free Write for TeachersWrite!

Today's assignment is to do a free write on a specific place. Here goes!

It sits low, at the bottom of a very steep hill and is flanked by running trails to the left and a bridge leading to more trails at the right. As you continue on, a small parking lot and a large concrete building suddenly pop up to your left and your path is narrowed by a brick building at your right. You follow this designated path to a set of red gates, which you cannot enter unless you press a button. If they are open, someone is on guard duty and they usually greet you with a handshake and a smile, unless they are amicably chatting with a group of students.

You walk through and the first three people you usually see are Kristine, Ryan or Andreas. Kristine is probably wearing a blazer, a scarf tightly wrapped around her neck and a long, flowing skirt. Ryan is definitely always wearing a shirt which is coming unbuttoned at the end, slacks which are a bit too short and a tie that has some food stains at the wide base. He is always wearing a smile. Andreas is most likely sporting a sweater vest over a long sleeved dress shirt, slacks and brown shoes. His hair is impeccably parted and seems to never move. Kids are already there too, even at this time in the morning, kicking around a soccer ball outside, wearing their gray hooded sweatshirts and charcoal slacks, encouraging each other in German to kick harder, higher and run faster. Some girls might be skipping rope, the familiar, rhythmic "clack clack"sound is barely audible over their German skipping rope songs about a bear turning around and touching the ground.

Suddenly it's 8:20 and you hear Ryan ring the bell, a loud, intrusive, aggressive clanging sound that goes on for a bit too long, making the bell teeter dangerously on its hinges. There's a thunderous pounding of feet as they run to their lines and shout "bis spaeter" to their friends in other classes. The smell from Mike's baking broetchen in the kitchen wafts through the air as second grade parades through glass double doors.

Ben struggles to hold open one of the heavy glass and metal doors in front of the third grade line. He is already smelling sweaty and salty from his morning soccer game. Rose, her little braids, looking like antennas, sticking every which way, bob up and down as she leads the class inside. She gives me a tight squeeze for a morning hug. This creates a chain reaction and I feel two little arms wrap around my waist and I pat a little curly blond head with a cat barrette.

Monday, June 4, 2012

why "filling buckets"?

I decided on the name of this blog because it is a goal I'd like to concentrate on for myself. 

The past year and a half living in another country has been difficult to say the least and I oftentimes found myself being quite negative. During this time, I was teaching 3rd grade in an international school and, as a classroom management tactic, I decided to introduce the kids to the concept of "being a bucket filler". This idea is based off of the book

which encourages positive behavior, showing kids that outcomes of one's own actions and words on others. I thought this would be a beneficial daily activity for the kids to participate in to concentrate on their own good deeds and be tuned in to positive behavior from others. I benefitted from weekly sharings of bucket filler posts as well because it amazed me how attentive the kids became to the small good deeds others did which, beforehand, went unnoticed by most. This activity also helped me to reflect on how negative I was thinking and speaking and reminded me of the "power of positivity".

So as this blog currently showcases my assignments for Teachers Write!, I also would like to couple it with my goal of staying positive. I've been trying to further link this thinking with my marathon training...trying to search for as many positive, motivational and inspirational quotes as possible. I like this one:

"Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think"

Teachers Write! Monday Warm Up

Wow. I did it. I started a blog! 

I was waiting to have a purpose to start a blog, most notably, a teaching job back home in the states. I've seen so many manicured and diverse blogs that teachers have unabashedly spent countless hours hovered over a computer perfecting. All are full of wonderful ideas and inspirational pictures of extremely organized classrooms. Since I didn't get a chance to concentrate on these elements of teacherhood while I was teaching in Germany, I am still working towards attaining this goal (I take my Texas certification test July 22!). I decided that in addition to studying, I'm going to get a head start on writing for my future Houston classroom by joining Teachers Write!, a free online teachers writing workshop.

For the first assignment, we needed to make time to write, meaning finding out when in our schedule will we be consistently dedicating time to just alone with our creative thoughts. I decided that until Mitch (my wonderful, hardworking fiancée) and I move back to Houston, I could dedicate about 15-20 minutes in the afternoons before he comes. Yeah, we have a few trips planned. We are going to meet up with my father and his fiancée in Paris in two days. We're going to Berlin the next week. We move back to Houston the following week. Looks like I'm just going to have to bring a notebook and pen around with me.

My first Monday writing warm up is to describe the kitchen of my childhood. So here goes..

At first, it was a place where the family regularly convened for dinners. Mom's favorite dinner to "cook"was pasta with vodka sauce and turkey meatballs (which she did not make from scratch). Everything I ate up until I moved to college, except for Dad's occasional arroz con pollo or picadillo, was packaged, jarred or frozen. It doesn't mean it wasn't delicious and it doesn't mean the time spent together eating this food wasn't valuable. Conversations were what you would expect between adults and their children at the dinner table.. "How was school?" "How was work?", etc. Despite the redundancy of food and conversation, I loved this time because my parents both worked hard, late and often. Dinner was the time where my sister and I had their full attention. Everyone was together and, oftentimes, there was laughter. The kitchen was where we got to know one another a little bit better.

Then, sadly, my mom left, my parents got divorced and the kitchen became a lonely place. A full-stocked fridge turned into something that would have contained spider webs if it were biologically possible for the spiders to survive in the cold atmosphere. There was no more pasta and vodka sauce and no more turkey meatballs. Dinners for my sister and I quickly turned to bowls of cereal or macaroni and cheese, which we ate alone and quickly. The kitchen which once emitted an aura of warm orange light, bright red countertops, apple themed decor and the sound of sliding chairs was now a shell of its former self. Walking into the kitchen became a lonely task. The kitchen grew old with us but it didn't age well. Countertops cracked from wear. Curtains faded and stained. Even the window screens were torn and ragged.

It's not all sad, though. There is one time of year where everything has always been the same and the kitchen becomes alive once again. That's Thanksgiving.