Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Living Summer to Its Fullest

With a sunburn on a small part of one shoulder, I told myself a day out of the sun might be best for today. But in truth, I think I was looking for an excuse to putter here at home. Since getting out of school two weeks ago, I’ve taken the phrase, “Live life to its fullest!” to heart. A trip to Boston, The Color Run, a week of Young Authors Camp, a night at the movies, two ocean days and one day at the pool, a visit with Mom, a wedding reception, Causeway walks and fireworks, even time spent snuggling baby goats, and several BBQs later, these first fifteen days of my summer vacation have been a whirlwind adventure of fun! 

But today has been just as nice. I completed a few chores that had been neglected. I located the vacuum that had been in hiding, emptied the upstairs wastepaper baskets, cleared off “the blue table” by putting away the last of my teaching materials, swept pine needles off the deck, and reorganized my writing desk (which then inspired me to write two blog posts). I took the pups for a mid-afternoon nap, read a couple of chapters in a new book, and even watched an episode of Law & Order with little Zoe in my lap. Even our kitty Jenny hopped up for an extended period of cuddling. I took a shower around 5:00pm, plopping down in front of my bedroom fan while in my towel, hair sopping wet. I played Yahtzee on my phone and I opened up and hung two strings of outdoor lights on the little tree near our deck. Oh, and I antagonized my son a bit, had him go down cellar to change the kitty litter box, then made him lunch. 

Shortly I’ll head outside to water the flowers. No doubt the pups will run around the house as I move from one planted pot to the next. I’ll chase them, retrieve another saliva covered ball to throw again, hear Ziva playfully growl in excitement as I try to pull her toy away from her. Zoe will go to her favorite digging hole and then play keep-a-way when it’s time to head back inside, coming in ten minutes later when she’s proven her point. The sun will set, I’ll read another chapter or two in my book, join my family for a little TV, and get to bed before midnight. 
That’s as much as I know. How tomorrow will unfold, I haven’t a clue. Maybe I’ll pop up out of bed and get in an early workout at the gym. Maybe I’ll laze around in bed and read some more. Maybe I’ll make us all a big breakfast and we’ll find a movie to watch together in the family room. Maybe I’ll hit the beach again, go to a movie matinee, sneak off for a pedicure…

One thing is for sure. I’ll be grateful for another day of summer. 

Inspiration: Young Authors Camp


For five days, June 27-July 1, 2016, I led a Young Authors Camp at the Naples Public Library here in town. Offered through the Southern Maine Writing Project, of which I became a Teacher Consultant back in 2007, the YAC day camp allows children and teens of all ages an opportunity to meet one another for a week of creative writing time. This was my first year leading a camp. Although each site is to have a minimum of six campers to cover costs, an exception was made for our group of four. We are a rare high school aged group and the coordinators hoped to nurture this budding interest in the Lakes Region. 

I had butterflies the morning of our first day. I arrived at the library an hour early and Dani Longley, the library's director (who would prove to be an incredibly supportive force for the teens and I), carried in several boxes of materials to The Gathering Room which would serve as our home base. As the campers arrived, I shook hands, smiled brightly, introduced myself as "Anne", and made last minute arrangements with parents concerning pick-ups at dismissal time. I led everyone to our meeting room. Then, we were off and writing!

In our week the three girls and one boy experimented with various writing exercises and prompts, practiced giving feedback to one another, enjoyed a fun writer’s marathon exploring our beautiful town, and worked on pieces to submit to an anthology of writings from all area Young Authors Camp participants. We tested the variety of nooks in the library and settled into our spaces to write. We often ate lunch together on the beautiful deck of the library overlooking the town. Those were times when the campers would find their way to me, to ask me to look over their stories, to ask a question, or to simply talk. At the end of each day, I asked my campers to leave me honest feedback on how the day’s activities had gone for them and whether or not they had suggestions for the next day. It was my hope that each participant was learning, feeling accomplished, and having fun. The teens expressed strong appreciation for the free writing time and the array of interesting exercises. They also proposed a few new activities they hoped to try. 

The writing marathon day was clearly their favorite day! It was mine as well, for it had been the day our group had truly bonded. Walking through town together a natural sharing of our writing and our lives had come about. By the time we reached our final destination on the marathon, the playground, it was evident the four teens had become friends. I sat at a picnic table watching the four of them push one another on the merry-go-'round and I felt all the emotions of a proud parent and teacher. The group was also sincere in their interest to encourage one another’s voices. They consistently shared their excitement to return to camp the next day. The notes gave me the satisfaction of knowing their time at camp was well spent. I could not have asked for a better set of young people to spend time with at the start of my summer.

Although my intention had been to inspire these young people to fall further in love with the written word, working with these four teens over the course of the five days has inspired me as a writer. Their enthusiasm to fill the blank page, to dive into new genres, to experiment with new approaches to writing was beautiful to witness. I began to realize it was time for me to reopen my own writing journals, to recommit to my love of writing.

Returning home after our last day together, I emptied my bag of books and writing utensils and took time to read the notes each had penned to me as we were about to exchange our goodbyes. Signing on to lead a Young Authors Camp, doing the leg work to bring one to Naples, and extending my teaching year for this one week was undoubtedly a blessing. And throughout this summer, I vow right here and now to practice what I’ve preached, to take a risk each new day to put words on the blank page.