One of the best decisions I ever made…

haiku for February 3, 2012:

quiet, gentle awe

a simple flower opens

all the world listens

~ ~ ~

This post has been composing itself for weeks now…

in smiles,

in stretches,

in walks,

in those dozing off to sleep moments,

in those wake up with a start in the middle of the night moments,

in those sleepy “just look at the sunshine streaming through the window” wake-up-in-the-morning moments,

and most definitely through the long (long!) workday hours of my life these past several weeks.

~ ~ ~

This post is a tribute to a woman I’ve never (yet) met face-to-face.

This post is a tribute to the magic of Skype, the magic of the Internet, the magic of technology, the magic of PLNs (personal learning networks / professional learning networks) and SLNs (social learning networks) — without which Joanna and I would most likely never have met.

This post is a tribute (also) to the learning journey I’ve been traveling these past several years (please see this link for more info).

~ ~ ~

Several weeks ago (Dec. 15, 2011), I received news of a devastating announcement, news that would be closing, shutting down, no more — as of Feb. 1, 2012 or sooner.

Since that time, so much has happened!

After a few frantic days of trying to ‘save’ the memories of EnglishCafe, of mentally attempting to adjust to a life without EnglishCafe (rearrange the letters of E N G L I S H C A F E and you can spell “changes life” — and indeed, EnglishCafe changed my life). EnglishCafe ‘was’ my life, or at least a very large part of it!

~ ~ ~

So, what to do?

As is my usual tendency, I ‘did’ a lot.  Notified people I knew who might know of jobs, amped up my jobhunting, followed lots more folks on Twitter, spent more time on LinkedIn, cried (wept), threw things, walked, walked, walked, talked, talked, talked, and kept logging in to EnglishCafe… which was no longer the same.

As I was recording screencasts (for my own memories) of various posts and profiles on EnglishCafe, I would repeat, a lump in my throat, the mantra that this “just can’t not be anymore” often followed by “but how, but what can I do, what can we do?”  During one of these screencasts, I voiced an idea that popped into my brain, “What about a Ning?”

When that screencast was finished, I went to  I had learned of Nings years ago (Thank you EVO, thank you CarlaArena) and had experimented with a few of my own Nings (back in the day when they were free).  I made the decision that I could not justify paying to keep the Nings I’d created once Ning went to a fee-based service, so had not used them much in recent months/years. But my memory and experience told me that a Ning might just, might just, might… be an answer.

~ ~ ~

A new Ning is born… December 22, 2012

Was it really only a week later?  December 22, 2012 I explored Ning, set up a free one month trial Ning, played with it a little, then a lot, read, read, read, read, read the excellent help files Ning provides. I pondered. I dreamed. I began to wonder…

And that is when I made one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (December 27, 2011).  All that I’ve learned throughout my online experiences has taught me to value collaboration, feedback, constructive criticism.  I knew/know/acknowledge that I will never please the entire population of the world, but also knew that I should not be creating this site alone.

There were complications. Because of the contract I and others had or had had with Global English/EnglishCafe, because of the uncertainties we were all experiencing as a result of the announcement of the site shutdown, because of the different directions other teachers on the site were taking, because of the high emotion a collective we were reeling from, because of many factors, there did not seem to be a likely colleague to work closely with.

But then, some angel of inspiration let me expand my thinking… why did it need to be a fellow TESOL (teacher of English to speakers of other languages) colleague?  Why couldn’t it be a colleague with expertise of online learning?

So… then… who?  It must be someone I ‘knew’ fairly well, knew instinctively I could work with (and whom would be / might be willing to work with me — not always an easy thing to do!). It needed to be someone who would be / might be willing to devote a fair number of hours.  It needed to be someone willing to ‘tell it like it is’ and ‘give it to me’.  It needed to be someone who wouldn’t just agree with me on nearly everything.  It needed to be someone with a sense of humor.

So… who?  Immediately, four names came to mind.  Two were not really considered because I knew their lives were too busy and it would be a huge burden to even consider asking them.  Of the other two, I will admit I chose “female over male.”  And so I approached Joanna.  And she said “Yes!”

And that is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

If you visit the Learn English With A Worldwide Perspective (LEWWP) site you will see evidence of our (Joanna and I) work together.

It is, of course, also the work of Ning, also the work of everyone mentioned above, and it is an ongoing work of collaborative energy.

~ ~ ~

It is my strong hope that at TESOL 2013 or another international conference, Joanna and I will be able to meet in person, perhaps with another member or two of LEWWP and share more details about our online PLN (personal/professional learning network) development journey.

~ ~ ~


soft smile satisfaction

haiku for today:

Maybe mama squirrel

feels this smug when all are snug

with nourished welcome!

~ ~ ~

Day one, nearly 24 hours ago ‘launched’ and there are now 34 registered members, 3 more who have tried to register but have hit some snags.

But despite the snags, I feel snug and somewhat smug.


~ and off for some well-earned rest, uninterrupted sleep. . .

passions and compassions

haiku for today:

blue, bare, blustery

woodsmoke drifts across sunlit

backyard chill: dreamland

~ ~ ~



These are two of my favorite words.

Earlier today I was writing a post for Steve Hargadon’s “Teacher 2.0” challenge activity related to discovering/rediscovering passions.  I’m copying most of that post here:


The H tree!

~ growing, admiring, photographing flowers; carefully picking and designing floral bouquets and arrangements to give to others

~ walking and photographing in natural settings, walking in lovingly cultivated garden areas

~ reading and writing

~ intentional dialogue groups

My paternal grandmother taught me to identify flowers, observe their preferred growing conditions — beginning at a very early age. This love of flowers has been a strong steadfast joy in my life ever since.  Most people who have met me know this about me — often at the very first meeting!

I was privileged to grow up on a 32-acre farm (agricultural farm) with 3 ponds, two creeks, woods, fields (with Native American arrowheads turning up once in awhile!), and with parents, an uncle, grandparents, and two other nature-loving families living on those 32 acres along with my family.  Ample opportunities to explore nature, learn from nature, abounded.  In addition, my dad planned wonderful family outings and camping trips to explore beyond our farm.

My dad was an avid reader, my mom read to us frequently. Our home included a substantial library. I recall being quite proud of my ‘always with a nose in a book’ status, and striving to borrow and read more books than anyone else my age from school and local libraries.  Currently, I continue to read an average of 3 or more novels per week.

Intentional dialogues:  Sometimes I’m accused of not knowing how to have fun (but do not believe this is an accurate accusation) because I prefer meaningful activity over meaningless activity most of the time. Meaningfulness is subjective, at least to some degree.

I’ve been teased because I often actually like meetings (well-organized, well-facilitated meetings).

I like learning opportunities.

I like listening to people speak about their passions, their compassions.

Freshman year discussions — sitting with classmates on sofas, chairs, floors, bunk beds — sharing as we probed philosophical questions: loved it!

Anti-racism  Undoing racism / Dialogue on race groups have been important, still are important, in my life.

Intercultural groups, Parent groups, class assignment groups, community groups, all of these and more = fit into the realm of what I refer to as intentional dialogue.  And while I agree that talking is not enough, I also passionately believe that intentional dialogue is a needed part of any process of change.

I would be surprised if people didn’t recognize my passions and compassions fairly quickly; a poker-face I have not! This is true for ‘students’ as well as colleagues or any other citizen of the world I might meet.

Passions and talents: how are they different?  I’m smiling as I read this question, think about my response to this question, smiling because the two words/meanings hadn’t crossed paths in my mind until I read the question.


I do have some talent at floral design, at speed-reading, comprehension, teaching reading, writing, listening, caring, building community.  But I believe it’s my passions that enable those talents to emerge.  There are a few people who seem to have innate talents, but unless those talents are presented, explored, shared, developed with a passion at their core, they lack meaningfulness.

Do I spend as much time ‘as I need to’ focusing on my passions?  hmmm….  If I were given the scale of “rarely / sometimes / usually / always” I would respond, “Usually.”

Compassions generate and perpetuate meaningfulness.

Pursuing my passions generates healing, healing generates energy to persist in following, acting upon my compassions.

Interesting reflections…

What do you agree with?  Disagree with?  Why?  How would you respond to any or all of the above-referenced questions?


ta-da’s, ta-done’s and discontinue printing phone books?

haiku for the day

job applications:

Mother Nature’s scrutiny

wildlife panels score

~ ~ ~

The eclectic title of today’s post represents a few highlights from my mumbo-jumbo day.

I like lists. My mom teases me that I would be declared deranged, quickly, if I were not allowed to write my post-it notes!  My husband agrees, although he’d add scratchpad notes and scratch paper to the post-its.

So, I was thinking of writing about my attempts to switch to writing notes online.

There are many applications out there (some listed here), Evernote and SpringNote are the two I’ve heard the most about.

I also wanted to write about a tip I heard several months ago and keep trying to follow, and that is to make a “ta-done!” list each night.  I wasn’t sure whether to spell ‘ta’ as ‘tah’ or ‘ta’, so I googled and discovered an application I like,!  I’ve been playing around with this tadalist today, using it both for to-do and ta-done lists (ta-da!).

Do you keep ta-done lists? Do you keep to-do lists?

~ ~ ~

On my to-do list was to log in to and check current posts.  I read Shelley’s post:

Later, I wanted to compare companies for a particular type of service we need done at our home (septic tank pumping) and only one from my google search had a website. So I decided to check our (paper) phone book.

As I reached for the phone book and flipped to the Yellow Pages, it occurred to me that it was an unusual gesture (reaching for the phone book) these days.  That led me to thinking about the expense and environmental footprint involved in printing and distributing phone books.  That led me to the question, why don’t phone companies discontinue the practice of widespread distribution?  That led me to wonder if anyone had, so I googled and found this article from USA Today.

And that led me to want to ponder these questions and to ask you these questions:

1. Do you still receive ‘free’ copies of telephone books?  If yes, how many do you receive and how often?  If no, do you recall when distribution ceased?

2. Shouldn’t, couldn’t landline phone bills be reduced if the publishing were discontinued?  What are the pros and cons of this idea?  [We gave up our landline phone number earlier this year; do you still have a landline phone?]

3. Who would be inconvenienced (and how inconvenienced?) if telephone companies no longer provided the phone books, or no longer for free?  How many jobs would be lost as a result?

4. Could kiosks with phone directories be placed at convenient locations at less cost than distributing the paper directories?  Couldn’t paying customers simply be provided with a website directory? or a log in access code to such a directory?

5. How often do you reach for and use a phone book? 

6. What reactions, comments, questions do you have in relation to this topic?

I hope to hear from you soon!

Holly, over and out for tonight.