It seems like the summer into 6th grade is a sort of time warp. Many kids left 5th grade looking like 5th graders, and entered 6th grade looking like mini grown ups 😳. Sometimes I only know the differences in myself when people remark how “grown up” I look. It’s funny because in many ways my heart feels like a really silly version of 8, 9, and 10, but, my brain says, it’s time to “grow up” and “act mature”. But, mostly my brain is nuts and doesn’t have a clue, so, I’m not sure I should trust it 🤪!
I think sixth grade is one foot in childhood, and the other in grownuphood. It’s a magical, mixed up netherland of possibilities. It’s a time to ask loads of questions. Figure things out. Linger in some loneliness. And, make mistakes. It’s a time to think about passions, and dream about the future. Eleven is a smidge of time like no other and, mostly, I hope people just let me be eleven this year.
What do I mean by this? Sometimes it feels like grown ups rush kids through important things. It’s like they want us to learn the lesson before the learning experience is even over. So, when I say let me be eleven, I want you to know, I will probably write another blog next year asking you to let me be twelve 😬. In other words, stop rushing me through times where I need to linger. Rushing feels awful, and it makes me forget to pay attention. It makes me miss important things that might become a really special memory.
I have a few other wishes for this mixed up netherland of possibilities, so I figured I’d create a small list for people to consider. Maybe if grown ups read this blog, they might understand a bit better what kids like me need. To be honest, most lists about being eleven, come from adults who are trying to remember what eleven feels like OR they are attempting to interpret eleven from the kids around them. Consider this a primary source for all things ELEVEN 😉:
1) Eleven needs choices
Most kids want choices, but when you’re eleven it’s super important for loads of reasons. Eleven is trying to figure things out, and without choices, it’s really hard to know what makes our heartbeep. We will make some wrong choices; please let us. Give us the space to learn from mistakes. Stay patient, and don’t shame us when we end up on the wrong side of right. Maybe we need a bit of wrong to understand what’s right for us. Maybe what’s right for us is different from what’s right for you. Eleven needs choices.
2) Eleven needs reassurance
I think one of the hardest things about growing up is making decisions. Decisions are super hard. It might sound like I am contradicting myself, since in the bit above, I said eleven needs choices and with choices comes decisions, but we also need reassurance when we make the decisions. Remember how I said some of my friends came back to school looking like mini grown ups? Well, just because their bodies look older, doesn’t mean they understand all the craziness happening around them. Sometimes the best kind of reassurance comes from being wrapped up in a huge hug by a favorite grown up. Please don’t ever think eleven doesn’t like to be hugged. Hugs reassure us. Hugs energize us. Hugs remind us we can make mistakes and keep going. Eleven needs reassurance.
3) Eleven needs consistency
It’s funny how when you’re growing up, you hear the word consistency a lot, like be sure to do you chores or homework with some kind of consistency 🙄. I love this word for loads of reasons, but maybe not for the same reasons grown ups like it 😬. It’s really important if you’re involved in a kid’s life you don’t flake out. It’s like the story from The Little Prince when the Rose explains love to the him by saying, “You are responsible for what you tame.” Kids learn to love by experiencing consistency from those around them. Consistency means being available, reassuring worries, answering loads of questions, or even reminding eleven they have purpose in the world. Sometimes the one foot that’s in grownuphood feels purposeLESS, so being there consistently matters. Don’t be that grown up in a kid’s life, who doesn’t see them for a long time, then regrets it. Eleven needs consistency.
4) Eleven needs challenge
Nothing is worse than being stuck in situations where learning is questionable. Sometimes it feels this way in project-based learning. It’s like every, single learning experience becomes an occasion for a project where the labor to learning ratio is skewed, so mostly labor but little learning. My mum and I talk about this ALL THE TIME, and sometimes we present on it at conferences. I like when she describes learning as the times when we have the most questions and even some confusion. She says this can push our thinking deeper and challenge us in real ways. I just love this! I love thinking about questions for a long time. I also super love looking for answers. I love doing projects too, but the best projects I’ve ever done aren’t ones graded in school; they are ones that have challenged something I feel passionate about. Eleven needs challenge.
5) Eleven needs time
Tucked up inside of me are all my years: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. I can’t be eleven without being all the other ages too. It’s really powerful to imagine how all the other ages create experiences you’ve learned from in your life. But, time is a funny thing, and it passes very quickly and sometimes even very slowly, maybe even in the same moment. It’s all about perspective. I’ve heard so many times this year, how much I’ve grown up or changed, and it’s probably true. Still, at the very heart of who I am, is who I was when I was 10, and 9, and 8, and so on. So, take the time to appreciate eleven through my eyes. Try to hold back judgments. Try to offer understanding instead of answers. Remember how time will pass and sometimes even change who I am in profound ways. Kids love when time matters to you as much as it does to them. So, try and listen when we talk on and on about Minecraft (hehehehehe 😂) because someday you might miss those endless listening sessions. Eleven needs time.
Thank you for being a part of my eleven. Thank you for thinking about choices, reassurance, consistency, challenge, and time with me. Thank you for looking at the kids in your life and considering how much your understanding can make a difference in who they become. Thank you for thinking about how someone who is eleven can teach you first-hand what matters to kids. But, most importantly, thank you for creating spaces where eleven is encouraged to grow and change, make mistakes and learn, be serious and goofy, and be just what eleven is meant to be, a big, giant heartbeep in between 10 and 12 💓.
Keep reading! Keep thinking! And, thank you for following LivBits!
Have you ever thought about how learning outside of school can be just as valuable as learning in school?
I’ve been bugging my mum for awhile now with questions about the meaning of irony. I’ve asked her so much, she sometimes anticipates a question from me, and says, “No, Liv that’s just a coincidence.” But, I think I have a perfect example of irony: all the times people ask me about missing school for my LivBit work. When someone pesters my nana with the same question over and over again, she always says, “If I had a nickel for everytime someone says that to me, I’d be a rich person!” And, that’s how I feel about the questions around me and school and LivBits.
It’s ironic people ask me about school since my LivBit work is soooo RICH with learning opportunities. I’ve actually worked and reworked this blog post for several days, trying to find the best way to explain my learning. I’ve edited out HUGE examples of all the things I learned on my last adventure because the list of things I learned was too long. I thought maybe I should list the content areas underneath each example to “prove” my learning is legitimate. Maybe it would satisfy some of the people asking me questions about missing school, but instead, I hope my words will be proof enough. I’ve also tried to figure out just the right words to explain how grateful I feel for the opportunity I had because I’m fearful people’s constant questioning means I don’t show enough gratitude.
Last week, I had an incredible opportunity to travel to Anchorage, AK with the Follett Learning team. If you don’t know who Follett is, let me tell you! Follett Learning is an incredible book company, working all over the world to get books in the hands of kids! Lucky me, I got to announce the winners of the annual Follett Challenge!
Tudor Elementary in Anchorage, AK is this year’s Grand Prize Winner for their inspiring project, “Young Global Citizens.” The coolest thing about Tudor’s project is how similar it is to the work I do on LivBits. It's such an outstanding example of how #KidsCanTeachUs!
Tudor’s efforts won them $60,000 in products and services from Follett Learning! I have sooooooo many #heartbeeps thinking about how their work will touch the world even more widely now that they have Follett’s support. It was very humbling to be a small part of Tudor’s story, and I learned soooo much while I was in Alaska, and I made soooooo my new friends!
In case you’re curious or are worried about what I learn when I miss school, I hope this mashup of facts from my Seattle/Alaska/Portland adventures proves how much learning happens from my LivBit work.
There are no direct flights from Boston (my home airport) to Alaska. But, if there were, it would be about a 12-hour flight to Anchorage. Oh! In case you’re wondering why we went to Seattle and Portland (since I got several messages asking how many cities I planned to hit on this trip), it’s because my mum has a very serious eye condition, and we had to take a short break in flying to relieve the pressure in her eyes. We decided to make a sad situation, HAPPY!
I finally got to meet the very first person in my #DigitalTribe, Susan, also the voice for Helen the Shark. If you’ve followed me for awhile, you know how important Susan-Helen is to me. Susan and I recreated a picture (you can see it in the slide show above), that’s so special, I’ll never forget it! I hope when you think of my work, you’ll think about this picture and how real digital connections are in the life of a learner.
I was able to add to my #tutuproject throughout this trip, and the Seattle pictures were so special and in so many iconic places! I even got to meet up with my Disney friend, Amanda, who just happened to be home visiting her mom! In 24 hours, I saw two people I SUPER love in Seattle! How awesome is that?
Did you know Seattle is one of the most literate cities in the United States? It has the most bookstores and libraries per capita, and the most library card-holders to check them out! BEST LIVBIT FUN FACT EVER!
The Alaska state motto is “North to the Future” and although I don’t think any state motto beats NH’s “Live Free or Die,” I do think Alaska’s is pretty cool! It made me think about my connected learning journey taking me all the way to Alaska; first digitally, and then, in person. I’m positive I’ll never forget their motto because of its meaning to me as a learner.
One of my best #KidsCanTeachUs fun facts about Alaska is about their state flag! 13-year old Bennie Benson designed it in 1926. It became the official Alaskan flag when Alaska became part of the Union in 1959. Isn’t that AMAZING?!
Alaska’s schools are the MOST diverse in the ENTIRE United States. This is a pretty awesome claim to fame because I think most people would imagine the most diverse schools would be in a big city somewhere, but not true! Alaska has more cultures/ethnicities/races in its schools than anywhere else in America.
The Anchorage School System has over 100 schools in it. Some of the schools have specialized programs like STEM, Montessori, and even immersion programs in German, Japanese, and Spanish. Tudor Elementary School, where I visited, has a school within a school program. Some of the kids are in a K-2 Montessori program, and next year they are expanding their Montessori program into the upper grades too! I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!
There are A LOT of moose roaming around Alaska. They aren’t shy, and will even come into people’s yards to eat and visit. Schools often have moose (or bear) evacuations if one shows up on the playground!
More than half of the world’s glaciers are in Alaska. When I was there I saw the Matanuska Glacier from the air! It had sooooo many turquoise blue pockets from compressed ice crystals. It’s one of the most beautiful things in nature I have ever seen.
I was in Alaska at an incredibly cool time of year! The sun barely set at night! It was twilight all the way until almost 2:00 in the morning, then the sun would set for a little while, and then come right back up. As it gets closer to the summer solstice, the sun in Anchorage will be up for almost 19.5 hours! Some Alaskans say all the light is their gift for so much darkness in the winter! I think it also means all that light fills people’s souls with joy to carry them through the year.
Alaskans have very generous hearts. When I was there, I met so many incredible people. They wanted to share their cultures with me, and why they call Alaska home. I loved learning about what the different native groups ate, and what some of their traditional clothing looked like. Also, no one I met lived in an igloo, but they told me plenty of Canadians do!
Portland, OR could have actually ended up Boston, OR since the name was decided when the founders, one from Portland, ME and one from Boston, MA flipped a coin to decide the name! THIS NEW ENGLAND KID LOVES THIS FUN FACT SO MUCH!
I saw my first nude bicycle rider in Portland. It was interesting. 😬
Portland’s slogan is, “Keep Portland Weird.” Maybe that explains the nude bicycle rider???? 🤔
Powell’s City of Books is apparently the world’s largest independently owned bookstore. I spent hours there and wrote lots of recommendations for books! I was so excited to see they encourage kids to write recommendations! It’s the only bookstore I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to LOADS of bookstores) that has kid-written book recommendations. WAY TO GO POWELL’S!
Maybe someday we can have small tech devices for book recommendations. That way, kids of ALL ages can recommend their favorite books. I chose to write recommendations for picture books since all the ones written for those were by grown ups. If we used tech, we could have kids make voice threads or their own BITS for their recommendations! So age wouldn't matter! All kids could participate! SOMEONE TEAM UP WITH ME TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN! 🙏🏻
Portland’s nickname is “City of Roses” and the International Rose Test Garden has over 10,000 rose bushes with over 600 different types of roses! It’s one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever visited, and I loved looking at all of the different names of the roses. My favorite was the Charlotte Rose because it reminded me of my little sister, and it made my heartbeep for home.
I hope my long list shows how learning is everywhere. My mum says being curious about the world means you’re ALWAYS learning. And, I think that’s very true. I’m so grateful how much learning LivBits brings me. I learn from every experience I have. Sometimes my learning is so personal, it takes me awhile to process it. This happened in Alaska when one student shared about living with her brother because both her parents died. She was just a little older than me, but her comments made me think about how much kids have tucked up inside them every single day; how school is really only a small part of life; and learning comes from living everyday with your heart wide open to the world.
Here are the wishes lingering in me after this adventure: more opportunities for kids to learn WITH the world; more grown ups who genuinely encourage ALL kids to be part of a learning story; more ways for kids to use technology to CONNECT to places they’ve only ever dreamed about; and more encouragement for kids to become GLOBAL CITIZENS, like the kids I met at Tudor Elementary School. Finally, I wish for you, loads of adventures you’ll experience with your HEART WIDE OPEN because I think that’s the best kind of learning ever.
Thank you Follett Learning for helping me have a learning opportunity that will not only stay with me forever, but has changed me forever. You are defintely a copmany with your heart wide open. I am so happy I am connected to all of you!
And congratulations again to my friends in Alaska at Tudor Elementary! If I could have stayed with you forever, I would have in a heartbeep.💓
Keep reading! Keep thinking! And, thank you for following LivBits!
Have you ever thought about how📱+📚+🌎=🙇♀️
You don’t have to be a grown up to care deeply about another person, or to have wishes bigger than the present moment. Kids can have those feelings too. Kids can understand the power of being there for each other and encourage each other’s dreams. I’d say one of my best qualities, is my heart. It’s open to the possibility any dream can happen. I don't think I'm unusual; most kids have open hearts.
This week, I worked really hard to create a promo video for my school visits. I combed through loads of pictures, video clips, tweets, and emails trying to find just the right content. I hope I captured the feeling that happens when I visit schools to share my LivBit message. You can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/266234532
As I was searching, I thought about the feelings I GET from visiting different schools and the feeling I hope to GIVE during a visit as well. I could simplify the feelings by saying they are full of heartbeeps. But, I know, people might not know exactly what I mean. So, let me explain a bit more by describing some “heartbeepy” examples of why kids teaching each other is so important.
In Ohio, I met a kindergartner who followed me around her classroom and kept sneaking up and hugging me from behind. She whispered, “Can’t believe you’re really here, LivBit!” Except she actually called me “RivvBittt” which made my heartbeep even more for her. Her hugs were a reminder of how powerful my LivBit videos are even to the youngest students. I learned while I was visiting, this little girl doesn’t always have people outside of school who encourage her reading and thinking. I felt determined to keep a connection going even after I left her school. I’m lucky one of her teachers sends me videos of her, and I send videos back.
Just recently, I was sent videos by kids in Massapequa, NY. They made them as a sort of endorsement encouraging other schools to have me visit. The coolest part about receiving these videos is, it wasn’t an assignment from their teacher, it was something these kids did on their own time. Each time I watched the videos, (and I watched each of them about 100 times), I thought about how incredible it was to see kids who were passionate about my message, so much so, they encouraged other schools to have me visit! Another Massapequa student actually wrote an entire book about me and then sent videos explaining the book and why she wrote it.
Last night, one of the teachers from Tadlock Elementary, the school I visited last week in Frisco, TX, sent me a sneak peak of a video she created with her staff as a way to encourage the kids to do well on the Texas Standardized Test. I felt proud she included me in the video doing some of my crazy floss dancing, because I know the kids will love it! And, it will also keep me connected to them for longer than just the day I visited. School visits have the power to go on and on. All kids need is access to tech and permission to keep sharing.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from LivBits is how much learning can happen when you see the world as your classroom. Being a connected learner means having opportunities to learn from kid activists, authors, scientists, ballerinas, and people I admire and wish to be like. It also means having the privilege to visit schools and work with kids and teachers sharing my message #KidsCanTeachUs. It means being inspired by those people too!
I’d say the one downside of being a connected learner is the amount of time I spend missing people. My heart is filled with A LOT of missing. I’d say sometimes equal parts love, equal parts missing. But, the missing piece is the price you pay for sharing your story with the world. Once you share your story, it doesn’t belong to just you anymore; it belongs to the world. When you share your story, you become responsible to other people, and this means you have to open your heart to hear their stories too. All this leads to a whole lot of missing feelings. Those feelings squished together are what create heartbeeps.
I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t have desires and wishes to do something good for the world. It’s just each kid shows desire in different ways. So, if you’re a grown up reading this, and you’re wishing for more heartbeeps, just find a kindergartener and ask them about something they love. I PROMISE! You’ll find some heartbeeps by listening to them.
I was reminded about the power of my own heartbeeps from my kindergartener “RivvBit” friend who lives in Ohio, but also lives in my heart now, too; by my Massapequa friends who sent me video heartbeeps; for sure, by my Tadlock teacher, who sent me heartbeeps, too when she valued my flossing skills; and in all my missing feelings, there are sooooo many heartbeeps just waiting to be noticed.
Your world is filled with heartbeeps; you just have to look closely to see them. When you see them, you’re changed forever and ever, ever. So, embrace the missing. I promise, it’s worth it.
Keep reading! Keep thinking! And, thank you for following LivBits!
Have you ever thought about the importance of “seeing” your story in the world?
Last week I got to travel to Dallas, TX for the Texas Library Association’s annual conference. I was the keynote speaker for the Tech Camp and got to present sessions with my mum on LivBits and digital identity. The TxLA conference was one of my best conferences ever for loads of reasons, including the fact that I’ve NEVER been to Texas or been asked to take soooo many selfies with people before!
So, what makes TxLA the number one conference of my LivBit life? First, it’s a conference for librarians, and I figured out while I was there, that for SURE, librarians are MY PEOPLE. Maybe you’re surprised I didn’t know this already, because I call myself a book activist, but I’ve never been to a conference before whose main participants were librarians. Librarians “get” my message with no explanation, and we can also have loooonnnngggg conversations about our favorite books, and if you know me, you know, I LOVE to talk books! Next, I discovered everything really is BIGGER in Texas! They have the best hair flair, the most bedazzled clothes I’ve ever seen, and big hair that makes me soooo happy. I can also tell you there is NO city better than Dallas at night! Most buildings are lined with incredible lights, and it makes their height and beauty POP against the night sky. Big buildings make me soooo happy and Dallas has some of the best ones I’ve ever seen! But, the absolute BEST part of my Texas adventures were the PEOPLE! The people in Texas gave me sooooo many heartbeeps for books, life, and the world! I really feel like I found a big part of my story in Texas.
The day of my keynote was busy and fast paced. I love the energy in my body just before I am going to talk to a lot of people. It’s like my storytelling excitement is bigger than any nerves I might feel, and I just want to share big heartbeepy ideas with the audience. I’ve never started my keynote with a joke before, but I couldn’t resist sharing one my dad assured me would be a HUGE hit:
A duck walks into a library and says, “I’ll have a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke.”
The librarian says, “Mr. Duck, this is a LIBRARY!”
The duck answers (whispering), “Oh! Sooooo sorry! I’ll have a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke!”
Thanks TxLA for laughing so hard. I was worried it was one of those jokes only dads think are funny. But, I guess you can’t go wrong with a whispering duck in a library when it comes to an audience full of librarians!
I began thinking more deeply about my LivBit story from my keynote experience, and from something that was said to me while I was at TxLA. Someone said, “Liv, your librarian must LOVE you.” This assumption made me pause and think. The truth is my librarian doesn’t even know me. It’s not because I don’t spend time in my school’s library, because I’m there A LOT, but I’ve never really connected with the people in charge. My town’s librarian knows me because I spend time there reading loads of books for my Liv’s Lists. Still, no one has ever asked why I make them, and I guess, in some ways, I don’t want to assume the librarians I see weekly, will care about my LivBit story.
But, that’s why being connected is sooooo powerful! I know I have an ENTIRE state full of librarians in Texas who value my story and who have added meaning to it! I wish every kid had learning experiences outside of their classroom, school, and town. Every kid deserves to feel like an entire state is cheering on their learning!
Another person, who reminded me about the power of being connected, is Edward, the TxLA sound man. He made sure my mic worked well, and my video sound was loud enough for the massive room. Edward shared usually he doesn’t stay for the speeches, he just does the sound adjustments and heads out to other rooms to work on his daily to do list. But, when he heard the first few words of my keynote, including my “adorable” joke, he knew he had to stay.
I didn’t speak much to Edward before my speech. He was just working the sound, and I didn’t even know his name when he checked my mic. But, at lunch, he came over to me and asked if he could “give me an assignment.” I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, but I was curious. As Edward spoke to me, he grabbed his waist length hair and explained his Native American heritage. He shared how recently he was in a bookstore and found 4 books about Native Americans and over 50 about dogs. As Edward spoke, his eyes glistened. He proudly whipped out his phone and I saw images of him in his traditional Native American gear. His pictures were stunning. His words were stunning. His love for his story was stunning. Edward showed me how powerful it is to see your story in the world.
Edward wanted me to have this assignment because he said I have a special gift. He shared how the words in my keynote touched his heart, and my passion for sharing my story reminded him of the power of his own story. He asked if I’d become a legacy partner. This means I can share the story of Edward’s tribe, who are known for their fierce fighting skills and their loyal hearts. I asked Edward if being a legacy partner means his story never disappears. He answered, “That’s your assignment, Liv. Find a way to share my story so it never dies and people can see how Native people’s stories are stitched into the earth. Then, your people become my people. Our people become one and our stories become forever stories Then, we can see my story in the world, the way you see yours.”
I can absolutely tell you this experience with Edward helped me to see my own story more clearly. Now when I think of my story, I’ll think of TxLA, and how I found my people. My mum told me some people search their whole lifetime just to find their people. She said maybe their people came to them, but they weren’t able to see them for one reason or another.
So, I hope today, you’ll think about your people, how they help you create your story, and how your story stitches you into the earth. Imagine if we could have a bird’s eye view of all those stitches! I think it would look like cool heartbeepy patterns connecting us together.
Finding your people helps you see your story in the world. Finding your people helps you know your story matters. Finding your people gives you heartbeeps for life.
Thank you, TxLA for loving LivBits, and most especially, a super special thank you to Becky Calzada, for believing in a kid like me and making TxLa possible! I feel so lucky I get to go back to Texas in June for work in San Angelo and November for NCTE because that means I get more time with my people.
Keep reading! Keep thinking! And thank you for following LivBits!
Have you ever met someone briefly and thought, “This is someone I will never forget?”
Last week was incredibly memorable. I was in three cities (Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis) within 5 days time, and it was all such a whirlwind! I feel sort of like there might never be another week in my life where so many heartbeeps come at me sooooo quickly.
I went to my favorite city, Chicago for an epic 24 hours of food, friends, and seeing Hamilton (someday I will blog about the words in this show, but I need more think time on that one) for the first time. Then, I traveled to St. Louis where I visited two schools in the Lindbergh District, Crestwood and Dressel. At both schools, there was so much LivBit spirit! Kids were soooo excited to hear my message AND learn how to make their own Bits. At one of the schools, the assistant principal dressed up as Helen the Shark, and the principal wore a ginormous shark head that he later gave me! I ended my time in St. Louis at the METC conference, where I was the closing keynote speaker. I saw old friends AND I made new friends everywhere I went.
But, heartbeeps find you at just the right times. You only need an open heart to feel them.
On our way from the STL airport to our hotel, we hopped in an Uber. Our driver, Michael was chatty and kind. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise anyone to hear, I usually talk a lot whenever I’m in a taxi or an Uber. My mum and me make friends wherever we go. So, it was no different when we were in STL. I told Michael all about what I was looking forward to, including getting to share my story with METC as the closing keynote speaker.
Michael shared a lot of beautiful ideas with us as we chatted. He talked about his path to peace, loving other people, and having a heart for the world. He also shared about how a lot of this came from feeling disappointed by others, but finding faith in ideas bigger than people. I don’t think it’s an accident Michael found us that day. If you’ve read any of my other blogs (check out #ForGood here: http://www.thelivbits.com/blog/previous/2), you know about my mum and me having incredible taxi and Uber karma.
I think good people find each other. I also believe the universe gives you gifts bigger than any material gifts you can ever be given. So, hearing Michael’s words that day were a reminder for my heart about how beautiful the world is. And, how loving through a hard time is so important. I thought about Holly McGhee’s words in my podcast, where she said Pascal Lemaître, her illustrator friend, sent her a message after 9/11 that touched her heart so much, she held onto it for years, until eventually they wrote a book together. Come With Me commemorates their friendship, and it also tells a story about love and light.
Michael dropped us off at the hotel for the conference that day, and, if I’m completely honest, I said goodbye, thanked him, and didn’t think I’d ever see him again. But, it’s ok, because when people share beautiful ideas, the heartbeeps they give you, stay with you forever. I carried around those heartbeeps from Michael for the entire conference.
My mum and I were sooooo busy at the conference! We presented together and we presented individually. Then, the big day was here before I knew it. As we were walking to the huge ballroom where I was going to speak, my mum gave me the same words she always gives me before I share my LivBit work: Be present, give love, listen to my heart and let it carry me through my speech.
As soon as I arrived in the room, I quickly mic’d up, tried out my step stool at the podium, and did a sound check. Then, the doors were opened and people began to stream in.
Minutes before I was going to step on the stage, someone tapped on my shoulder. When I turned around, I immediately grabbed my mum’s hand to get her attention. It was Michael, our Uber driver! He said he volunteered for the day at the conference, so that he could come to hear me speak. He was even wearing his BEST message shirt! I was stunned. I was honored. I let Michael’s surprise carry me onto the stage.
As I was speaking that day, I felt the kind of love for the world that comes when you realize strangers can quickly become people you will never forget. Strangers can be the people who teach your heart the kind of lessons that last for a lifetime. Strangers can give you the kind of heartbeeps that never fade away. Strangers can become friends.
Michael brought us back to the airport at the end of the conference. It was the best Uber ride ever. He couldn’t wait to talk to me about my speech, and he gave me a new word to think about. He said I was refulgent. I had no idea what that word meant. Then, he told it means to shine brightly.
So, think about the people you might see today, but not know. Take a minute, give them a smile, ask them a question, listen as they speak. In a world filled with strangers, think about how every, single person has the potential to be your Michael. Everyone has a Michael waiting for them. And, just like my Michael, you’ll be changed forever by knowing each other. Your light together creates heartbeeps for the world. Find that light and share it. The world needs more refulgence, and you have the power to make that happen, just like Michael made it happen for me.
A stranger is only unknown to you, until you ask them a question. As soon as you hear them answer, they have the potential to become a friend.
Share your light with the world. Share your light to change the world.
Keep reading! Keep thinking! And, thank you for following LivBits.
Have you reflected on the people who have made 2017 memorable?
This year I could buy my own Christmas gifts for a lot of really important people in my life. It’s not that I haven’t bought gifts for people with my own money in the past, but this year was a little different. LivBits has given me A LOT of incredible opportunities, and with every job I have, I donate a percent of the money I earn. I did research to find an organization (https://gifts.rescue.org/product/education/year-school-girl) I thought reflected the spirit of my LivBit work. I feel so proud that I was able to make donations in the names of people who have helped me grow my own reading, writing, and thinking, and together, we are sending girls in Afghanistan to school.
I am not sharing any of this in a bragging sort of way. I am sharing this because my LivBit work has made me understand the world more. I am not sure I would have thought much about girls in other parts of the world, and whether they had opportunities to learn and grow before I started LivBits. Now, I wish a lot for girls everywhere and I want to help them. When my friend Cris got her gift from me, she told me that educating girls means a more peaceful world. Cris’s words made me realize LivBits helps me put a tiny bit of peace into the universe.
Can you imagine if all kids had this opportunity? Peace on earth wouldn’t be a dream; it would be a reality!
So, as the New Year approaches, and the 2nd anniversary of LivBits gets closer (it’s in February), I’ve been thinking about all the incredible people I’ve met in the last year because of my work. The most beautiful realization is many of these people have moved from digital spaces, into real life spaces with me. Recently, my friend Heather remarked that it feels impossible that we’ve only known each other for one year. Yes, impossible because when your heart meets people you were meant to know, you get heartbeeps so deep that you are changed forever.
So, thank you to everyone who made 2017 the best LivBit year ever! Thank you for the small things, like posting, liking, and sharing my work because those are like virtual hugs! I hope I have hugged you in return! And, thank you for the BIG things, like helping me write my very first keynote (Muma and Pana); throwing me the best 10th birthday party ever (Elly, Heather, and Victoria – remember we have a date for my 20th birthday too); meeting me for breakfast at my favorite place in my favorite city (Sarah); coming to my final ballet performance in NYC (Victoria); taking me to my first (I say first because I know I will dissect many more) shark dissection (Heather); taking time at a conference to have dinner and talk and laugh and love around a big table (Cris, Deb, Heather, Sarah, Bridget, Lynda, Elly, Victoria). All of these memories have made my life so much sweeter! All of these memories mean that you gave me the gift of your time! I'm so lucky!
Kids appreciate grown ups who understand who we are, understand the people we are becoming, and respect the people in our family. It’s because of my Mum LivBits exists, so I’m really grateful that she puts things on pause so I can chase my dreams. And, I am even more grateful when my people become her people or, her people become my people! Me and Muma have sooooo much people love!
So this last blog post of 2017 is one that is filled with gratitude. I’ve changed this year because people have stood by me; accepted my annoying parts; listened and assured me when I had worries; sometimes read lots and lots of texts and/or messages from me, and, loved me anyway. I am not special in very many ways, but it is special that so many people have cared about me this year all because of LivBits. I’m so thankful!
Whose changed your life this year? Whose made your year sweeter? Who has changed you in ways you’ve never imagined possible? Who makes time for you even when it seems like time might not exist? Who do you imagine will be with you for eternity? Those are the people I hope you reach out to RIGHT NOW and let them know they give you heartbeeps.
So, what are you waiting for? The clock is ticking! Before 2018 is here, let your people know they’ve made a difference in your life. I promise, if you do, you’ll start the New Year with so much love, you’ll have to pass it onto others. Thank you for all the times you’ve done that for me.
Keep reading! Keep thinking! And, thank you for following LivBits!
Special shout out to my 2017 people:
Peter and Paul Reynolds; Pana Astavavatana; Alan November; Heather Lang; Cris Tovani; Victoria Coe; Elly Swartz; Booki Vivat; Hannah Cope; Holly McGhee; Cynthia Levinson; Helen MY Shark; Susan Bunch; Lindsay and Ella Currie; Susan Verde; Matt Soeth; Anne Collier; Senator Maggie Hassen (NH); Pam Allyn; Stephanie Madlinger; Jennifer Casa-Todd; Bobbi Hopkins; Jordan Matter; Meenoo Rami; Kristen Mattson; Nancy Watson; Kathy Buckley; Sarah Aronson; Marialice Curran; Jennifer Williams; Inge Wassmann; my Wonderopolis and Eduro people, and of course, Kristin Ziemke ❤️
Have you thought about words you’ve been gifted in 2017 and what you’re meant to learn from them?
When I first learned how to play the violin, my mum couldn’t wait for me to learn her favorite song, ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple.” She’d hum it all the time and when we were on our way to activities, she’d play it in the car. Sometimes, in the evening, she’d play the song while daddy was cooking dinner. I know this song by heart, so it made me happy when I finally learned to play it.
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be…
‘Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn…
This song has beautiful words about learning, love, and life.
LivBits is my simple gift for the world and it’s taught me many things. Maybe simple life words mean more to me now because of my LivBit work; words like giving, loving, fleeting, and blessings. I am so thankful for these words because they truly define my 2017.
Giving is such a beautiful word. In the last year, I’ve learned how giving the world can be. In so many instances, I’ve been the receiver of so many gifts, like encouraging words, books from authors, and opportunities that have helped me understand myself as a learner, and I’ve worked hard to be giving too! I want to give the world happy thoughts, smiles, and things to think about. I am grateful so many people care enough to be a part of my LivBt journey. Giving is definitely a defining 2017 word for me!
I’ve written before about how my mum says I love BIG. And, the best part about loving BIG is when you get love back! One of the things my LivBit work has shown me is how powerful putting love into the world FEELS. Love is like a boomerang, put it out there and it comes right back to you! I believe all people need more love, and I’m happy to give it! Loving is definitely a defining 2017 word for me!
I think when you chose to love; you have to accept some people you love aren’t meant to stay forever. This is probably the HARDEST lesson I’ve learned this year. In fact, I didn’t even know this word until this morning when I was talking about this blog post with a friend. This year, I’ve learned that some people I’ve loved BIG are just fleeting relationships. I am still unsure why that has to happen because it makes MORE sense to me when you love someone sooooo much, they should stay forever. But, I’ve learned people come and go, and I have to learn to be OK with it. I’m not going to lie; it’s not OK yet. I’m loyal and true, and fleeting seems sad and shallow. Fleeting is definitely a defining (grown up) 2017 word for me.
My biggest wish for the world is that people have blessings that help them feel connected, care for, and loved. This year, I’ve felt so many blessings, it’s hard to count them, but I hope I’ve blessed people too! Blessings are a two-way street, the more you bless, the more you’re blessed in return. I think there’s a reason this word is connected to people’s faith, it’s because feeling blessed is probably one of the most humbling feelings a person can feel; you feel like you are connected to something much, much bigger than yourself. I am so grateful I’ve felt blessings this year that these words seem too simple. But, I go back to ‘Tis a Gift’s lyrics, and I know that simple is actually really powerful. Blessing is definitely a defining 2017 word for me!
I challenge you to think about this post and decide what your defining words are for 2017. Share those words in the comments; I promise your words will seem bigger if you share them! Maybe you’ll even ask the people you love about their words, and we’ll start a 2017 word avalanche! I can’t think of a better way to end this year than with a word avalanche!
Thank you for sticking with me, encouraging me, and helping me share my thinking with the world! It’s because of all of you LivBits matters, and I promise I will keep trying to put good in the world forever and ever in my own simple ways.
Keep reading! Keep thinking! And, thank you for following LivBits!
Have you ever wondered what you can do to help people who feel left out?
Today is “twin day” at my school. As you can probably guess, it’s a day when kids get together and coordinate outfits to look like twins. It’s also a way to show some school spirit. I’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks because it means I can connect with my friends in a fun and cute way!
All weekend long, I bugged everyone with my excitement! I talk about what I’d be wearing with my friends; I talked about what other people said they would be wearing; I talked about how funny it would be if my two teachers decided to be twins too! Basically, I talked about this idea until people rolled their eyes when I brought up.
Here’s the thing, mostly, I was thinking about this day from MY perspective. This is important because my dad had ideas about twin day, but he didn’t say much to me when I was bugging him with my excitement.
This weekend, I also went to see the movie Wonder. The movie was INCREDIBLE and inspiring in so many ways. Sometimes when books get made into movies, you leave feeling disappointed. I promise, this one won’t disappoint you!
At the end of the movie, my heart was feeling a little ache that’s hard to describe. I left the theater thinking lots of things about life. I thought about kids at my school other people don’t pay much attention to or who aren’t included in ways that help them feel like part of the school community. I talked about it with my dad. He asked me an important question: “Liv, who's your Auggie?”
I can’t tell you how this simple question made me think about many things; my school, my life, and most importantly, my family. My dad talked to me the whole way home. He asked me to consider Twin Day. He asked me to think about the kid at school who might not have a friend to twin with. He asked me to think about Quinn.
My brother, Quinn doesn’t have a physical deformity like Auggie. His struggles are more on the inside. Sometimes he can hide his struggles, and no one notices. And, other times, hiding his struggles is really hard and exhausting.
Quinn doesn’t have anyone to twin with today; the heartache I felt after I saw Wonder is with me again. I think it’s the ache that comes when you love someone sooooo much you wish you could make things better. I asked Quinn to twin with me, but he wasn’t really into doing that. It sort of screams, “I HAVE NO FRIENDS SO I AM TWINNING WITH MY SISTER!!!!” Yeah, that’s not cool. But, I got him to agree to twin in a very subtle way. Today we are wearing the same shark bracelets. It’s my way of including Quinn.
I hope everyone reading this thinks about the underdog. Sometimes your Auggie is right in front of you. RJ Palacio made Auggie’s disability something really dramatic, so that we would stop and think deeply about how we treat others. Auggie’s face is something we can’t miss. But, here’s the thing, maybe we miss A LOT of people’s differences because we have to look deeper; their difference isn’t something right on their face.
Think about how you include others. Think beyond the obvious differences and look deeper. Think about your behavior and whether or not you truly reach out to those in need. Think about how being kind is more than a hashtag; it’s thinking beyond your own perspective.
If I get to see RJ again, I’m going hug her soooooo hard for all the ways she made me think about my life. It’s true that books can change you. Wonder made me realize what’s right in front of me.
Today I dressed like my friends for Twin Day. But, I also brought a bag full of shark bracelets for all the kids in my class. That way, we are ALL connected, and we are also connected back to Quinn, my Auggie and my heart.
Keep Reading! Keep Thinking! And, thank you for following LivBits.
Have you ever visited a place and felt like your heart was meant to be there?
This week I was in Miami for the ShiftinEDU conference. I feel really lucky that my Building Learning Communities (BLC) friend, Inge invited me to be a speaker. Before the conference began, I got to visit the school responsible for creating and hosting ShiftinEDU.
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School sits in the middle of Coconut Grove, surrounded by yummy places to eat and shops that have loads of interesting Florida-y clothes. The first feeling I got in my heart for St. Stephen's was that it hummed happy.
The minute I walked through the front gate it was like the school hugged me. At the morning ceremony, I got my first glimpse of the students and teachers at St. Stephen's. It was almost as if they decided to dress with LivBit in mind. Normally they wear uniforms, but today they dressed as their favorite book characters. There were loads of kids in Harry Potter garb, several Pinkalicious fans, some Piggy and Elephants, but NOTHING topped the kindergartner dressed as Captain Underpants! I just knew the day was going to be incredibly special with such an EPIC beginning!
St. Stephen’s has a very inspiring motto: think, love, grow. As I visited and worked with the kids, I thought about how much MY love for learning and understanding the world was growing. It’s like my time at St. Stephen's perfectly reflected the school’s motto.
The kids at St. Stephen’s are encouraged to take risks in their thinking and learning; support each other’s ideas; use technology in interesting and innovative ways; and value each other’s differences. I noticed older kids supporting younger students with compassion. I saw so much happy at this school it made me want to stay forever.
My time in Miami made me wishful for ALL kids.
Kids need teachers who encourage them to grow interests and passions. Kids deserve time to use technology to create and connect with people who can help them think deeply about their interests. Kids depend on grown ups who understand the power of digital spaces and encourage them to be connected. Kids need to know they are safe to be who they are meant to be and every bit of who they are as a person is valued. Most of all, kids deserve to learn in spaces that are safe, joyful, and welcoming.
Kids can’t think, love, grow in joyless places. ALL schools should hum happy.
So, think about your school community. Does it hum happy? What do people feel when they enter your building? Is it a joyful learning place?
I hope this blog inspires you to take action and become an agent of happiness! Kids NEED you to hum happy! I hope you join me in this happiness campaign! Let’s help ALL kids think, love, grow.
Thank you to my friends at St. Stephen's Episcopal Day School in Miami, FL for helping my heart see how powerful happiness is to the world. If I could have stayed with you forever, I would have! And, a very special danke je to #MyDutchTeacher, Inge for believing in my LivBit work. Ik heb je lief!
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Have you ever thought about the power of your digital patterns?
Digital patterns are the story you tell in your posts, the kind of support you give to others, and the way others understand you online. Digital patterns are powerful and important when we think about identity. This year I’ve done a lot of thinking about my digital patterns and the story I tell through my work online.
I’m a dreamer. My heart carries big ideas about the world I hope come true. It’s the reason LivBits started. I dreamed about sharing my story with the world, and I hoped the world would care.
I’ve learned that sometimes when you’re a dreamer, you meet people who don’t believe in dreams. Sometimes they say things to discourage you. Sometimes they act in disappointing ways. Sometimes they work against you by doing things that are confusing.
At a recent conference presentation, someone asked me if kids are jealous of my work. It was a question I had never been asked before, so it really made me think. The truth is, most kids don’t care about my work unless grown ups share it with them in a positive way. It’s sort of like kids are busy doing their own thing. With the exception of a few mean kids at my school, (and they’d be mean even if I didn’t do LivBits), most kids have no idea what LivBits is or how much it means to me. I don’t share much about my LivBit life at school because I never want people to think I am bragging.
But, grown ups are another story. When the person asked me the question about kids and jealousy, I answered honestly. I shared that kids are mostly fine, but grown ups are weird. I’ve had grown ups stop following me, stop encouraging me, and say terrible things about me, and sometimes my mum. I think my mum is a target because she believes in me no matter what. After my session, several people from the audience came up to me to say I MUST be misunderstanding the grown ups. It was like they had to convince themselves that grown ups could never mistreat a kid.
But, guess what? It’s true. Grown ups have mistreated, taken advantage, and disregarded me. I think if people knew who some of these grown ups are, it would shock them. Sometimes grown ups spend a lot of time excusing the behavior of other grown ups when they would never allow this behavior from kids. It’s sort of like people saying grown ups can’t learn anything from kids.
It’s Media Literacy Week and in lots of places people are gathering to talk about important things related to online work. I hope those big thinkers remember there are dreamers like me who understand the power of being connected. We also understand the power of our behavior.
It doesn’t take a lot to show someone you care on social media. It can be as small as liking, sharing, or commenting on their posts. I’m learning how to stop looking at other people’s feed and noticing how some of my former encouragers are now promoting other people. It’s hard on my heart, but an important heart lesson to learn. I’m also learning to focus on the people who don’t mind my texts, take time to answer questions, and truly share the joy of my LivBit work. Those people haven’t stopped liking or sharing my work. They’ve stayed consistent in their support, and I’m incredibly grateful for them.
Truthfully, none of these things are social media lessons, they’re life lessons. People move on. Sometimes people you love move on without you. I’ve learned some people are better at loving than others.
The best part of my LivBit story is there are MORE people who encourage than discourage; MORE heartbeeps than heartache; and MANY digital connections that have turned into real friendships.
So, I hope you take some time this week to think about your digital patterns. I hope you reach out to people in positive ways, and reconnect with people you may have left behind. I hope you’re brave when things get tough, and help others find their brave when they need it. I hope you shine so much awesome that the world can’t help but notice because, after all, the world can never have too much awesome!
Keep reading! Keep thinking! And, thank you for following LivBits!
Hi, I'm Liv and I am super excited to share my thinking with you!