New Experiences For March

*10 Days 10 Foods

*Serving in the Soup Kitchen

When I began thinking about new experiences, the idea of looking at food in a new way came to mind. For 10 days (March 2-11), I decided to limit myself to 10 ingredients.   My purpose with ten foods over ten days was to be intentional, and very mindful about my food. I was excited to see if I could discipline myself to follow such a strict eating program.  I also looked forward to seeing how creative I could be with only a few choices. I live with such excess. There are so many choices. Recently, I have realized that I am starting to suffer from  decision fatigue. I liked the idea that for 10 days, I would only need to think about 10 ingredients. Shopping, cooking and what eat would get a whole lot easier. While, I have been gluten free since 1999,  what used to be a very limiting diet, now thanks to many manufacturers as well as restaurants, is quite easy to follow.

While I was ready to jump in head first, the rest of my family was not quite as excited to challenge themselves in this way.  So this was a challenge that I was taking on solo.

Here are the things I chose:

10 ingredients:


  • Salt
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice
  • Coffee
  • Avocados
  • Apples
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Black Beans
  • Olive Oil
  • Red wine


Food journal-      Day 1  March 2:  It is exciting!  I have never done this type of challenge.  I am wondering what it will be like by day 4 or 5.  However, I am committed to seeing this through until March 11.  I decided to start the morning with a cup of coffee. Usually I would have added my favorite creamer, but after trying Whole 30 a few years ago, I got used to black coffee. I love the taste of coffee, and the smell of the beans are amazing.  Creamer is not necessary.

Oatmeal-sprinkled in a pinch of salt.  It was actually pretty good!


Bummed that I did not have an avocado in the fridge

Black beans with a touch of olive oil and salt

Interestingly, I am already feeling better and drinking more water. I think I was a little frustrated this morning not being able to eat peanut butter, or something else. This might honestly be boredom.  

Lunch was a sweet potato.  Sweet potatoes are truly amazing and full of rich flavor.

I went to the movies with the kids- at first I was bummed I did not put Diet Coke on the list.  Then, as I sat there surrounded by everyone with their popcorn, it took me back to movies a long time ago, when I did not get anything to eat or drink. I was okay, and still enjoyed the movie.  

When I got home I was so excited to make rice.  I ate a lot of rice!

As I was making the rice I got frustrated and felt like quitting. I wished I could eat something like Peanut butter.  My oldest son Nathan asked me why I was punishing myself. I figured I needed to last at least a day!

After yoga that evening,  in a skillet I cut up sweet potatoes, apples, sprinkled in oatmeal, and seasoned with salt. I used a little olive oil to cook it.  It was actually pretty good. And very filling.

I did indulge the treat of a glass of red wine as the day came to an end.

Saturday 3/3

Day 2

I got up early as I planned to go for a 13 mile run.

I ate a bowl of oatmeal and made black coffee.  

Excitement for Rice after my run

Two sweet potatoes

An avocado

Multiple apples

Red wine at the Voyager event.  I was nervous about what I would eat.  I did not succumb to the temptation…and was able to leave feeling victorious.  Discipline accomplished.

Sunday 3/4

Day 3

Ran 6 miles

I have to say after two days, I feel lighter and faster.  I have had two amazing days!

Oatmeal for breakfast

Spent the day at various practices after church.

I ate a lot of rice, beans, and sweet potatoes.

We went over to Mom and Jim’s for pizza afterwards.  I did have to pass on pizza that smelled really good, a gorgeous looking salad (good news is that I don’t think I could have eaten it due to the noodles), and apple crisp.  Apple crisp!

I did bring my beans and rice which was pretty good. So good, that Graham (my two year old nephew) asked for some of my beans.  I also ate an avocado, although was not necessary- and red wine.

When I got home, I felt hungry, or was it just habit of eating. I made a sweet potato, but it was not very good since I really was not hungry.  

Day 4

Monday 3/5

Coffee in the morning

Looking forward to my oatmeal.  

I have to say that I do feel less stressed about what I will eat.  Packing lunch is easier since I don’t really think about what I will eat, but tougher in some ways as I cannot just grab something.
Day 5 Tuesday-  Nate and I were able to enjoy a night at Tio Gordos.  I looked forward to the beans and rice all day! The food did not disappoint.  Although, the warm basket of chips on the table paired with salsa was tempting, I was strong.  Everything was perfect. The glass of Merlot was tasty. I felt really good, and not stuffed. I think future visits to Tio Gordos might include a side of beans and rice!  During dinner we shared our lists of 5 places we each wanted to travel to in the U.S. as well globally. We had so much fun dreaming and explaining to each other about where we wanted to go.  The best part is that it honestly felt like we would at some point accomplish all of these bucket list places. I have a pretty amazing husband who also wants to travel!

Day 6, 7 and 8-

These days kind of all went together. I made a few different dishes, but overall settled into the routine.  

Day 9-

We had pizza for dinner.  It sounded amazing actually, and my beans and rice did not look as appetizing.  I am starting to feel bored with my food, and wishing that I could eat something different- a salad, sushi, and am starting to think about peanut butter.  

Day 10-

I made it.  The day was difficult at times, but I ate the best avocado. I also enjoyed my favorite recipe (Black beans, rice, and avocado mixed with a little salt and oil). I actually thought about waking up at midnight and eating peanut butter! I started to plan what I would eat the following day, and I described a California sushi roll.  Nate pointed out that it was pretty much what I had been eating (rice avocados). It was then that I wondered if I should have attempted to create a simple piece of sushi!

My experience serving at a Soup Kitchen

Interestingly enough on day 10, I had chosen ahead of time to volunteer to work at a soup kitchen with our church.  I was nervous about what the experience would be like. Part of me could not believe that I had never volunteered for one in my life.  

I was grateful that Tricia, a friend of mine from church suggested we both drive together since we were volunteering on the same day.  I was excited that she had volunteered there before, and had an idea of how this would go.

We started out by making ham and cheese sandwiches.  There was an extremely large pot of soup in the process of cooking.  I was excited to see that there was a bin of cut up fruit. I was thinking that a cold piece of an orange would be an amazing treat.  As we prepared dinner, a few other volunteers from our church arrived. It was exciting to work with people who had such a strong commitment to helping others.  As I stood behind the counter, it reminded me of when I worked in the pharmacy in Guatemala on a mission trip back in high school. I thought a lot about the mission trip I had taken that day, and realized how much I missed being part of that team.  Claudia from our church who is actually planning a future mission team told about the plans to visit Guatemala. I really would like Nate and I to take the kids in the future.

As we neared the opening of the dinner, a man came with his truck packed full of plastic bags.  Tricia and I were asked to go upstairs and help him bring the bags down the basement. I kept wondering why he would be randomly dropping off so many bags.  As we piled them up downstairs I realized that there were loaves of bread and potatoes set out for people to take home. The bags were sure to come in handy.  

As people started to come in, we decided it was time to say a blessing and then proceeded to our stations.  I was serving the soup. The people we served were very thankful. I was curious about where some of these people lived, and wished that there was some way I could sit down with each person and hear his or her story.   There was something profound, simple and ultimately beautiful about the afternoon we spent in a basement serving soup and sandwiches. The food was very simple and nourishing. Preparing and serving the food really slowed me down and helped me to savor our task during an incredibly busy time in my own life.   There was something pretty inspiring about people who seemed so grateful for the food in front of them. I was also reminded of how much we are like other people. I noticed a mom who came up and arranged portions for her children first before asking if she may have another plate for herself. As I watched her care for her children, and make sure that they were comfortable and fed, I knew that I would have acted just like her.  As the evening came to an end, I found her little boy, who looked to be about four or five years old hiding in the coat rack.. We exchanged smiles for a moment, and his big brown eyes reminded me of my own boys. I knew that being there really did matter. It was encouraging to do work that really made a difference in someone’s life. I was grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a great experience. After an incredible evening at the soup kitchen, I couldn’t believe that my 10 days were almost up.  

It’s funny, when I went to Guatemala more than 20 years ago, I lost my luggage and as I experienced the mission trip, I realized I had more in my carry-on than most people owned in the village we were serving.  When I thought about the limited 10 foods I had experienced over the last few days I realized how extravagant my life really was. Even with 10 foods, I was not limited at all, and an abundance of choices within my 10 foods.

February’s New Thing

Ice Skating

February’s New ThingIMG_3154

“Hockey Skates or Figure Skates?”  I stood there for a moment not sure what to answer.  I had not thought about the fact that I would get a choice of which type of ice skate I wanted to try.  After what seemed like a very awkward pause, I responded with the question, “I don’t really skate often, which one would be easier”?

Before 2018 started, I thought about some of the things that I wanted to make sure that I would get a chance  to try out.  Ice skating was one of the first new experiences that I wanted to have.  While this would not be my first time ice skating, it was maybe 1990, and I was in middle school when I was last on ice skates.  I figured  this could qualify as a new experience since it had been a significant number of years since I had done it.  I was pretty nervous about being able to stand on skates and not completely fall over!  For some reason my mind was comparing the balance required to stand on the ice as to that needed for a tightrope walker.

February 18th had arrived.  The family was excited to take on our adventure with the Simons family.  I am pretty sure that I am the weakest link in both families when it comes to skating.  We helped the kids get their skates laced up, and Nate said that he would take the kids onto the rink as I would get settled and eventually onto the rink.  Part of this sounded like a good idea since the kids were itching to get on the ice.  However, on the other hand, part of me was very concerned that I would be able to make my way to the ice on skates all by myself!  

Putting on the skates were a little tough since the toe is very solid and it is tough to slide your foot into them.  Nevertheless I was able to get ready.  I am not too proud to say that I was pretty excited as I walked toward the ice.  I had done it, I was actually walking on ice skates and not falling over. I wasn’t sure that I had the right size, and my right foot felt a little weird, but I was ready to attack the ice.  Capture

I started out by holding onto the wall.  I slowly edged my way around the perimeter of the ice.  I felt bad for any kid who might fall because I was in no position to help him or her.   There was something pretty exhilarating about being able to glide on the ice.  I saw a few people that I knew, and the little kid in me wanted to say, “Look at me!   Did you notice I am actually ice skating!” The air felt cool, and it was very refreshing.  Luke, Rachel and Nate were skating like professionals.  I was pretty impressed by their abilities. Nathan on the other hand, had not been on skates in quite a while.  Once we switched his size of skates to a smaller size that helped and he seemed to do a little better.   For someone who had maybe ice skated once or twice, I thought he was doing a pretty fantastic job and had a willing attitude.  My growth as an ice skater was pretty amazing! As I became more comfortable I noticed my hands did not need to touch the walls, and I felt like speeding up my slow pace.  My friend Shelly and I were able to carry on a conversation for a few laps around the rink. I forgot I was actually on ice skates for a while! Although as the open skate time neared the end, I felt like I needed to sit down and take a break.  My legs were getting really tired.  

And just like that, an hour and half had passed.  As I took my feet out of the skates, it was truly the weirdest sensation.  Walking in boots felt so new!  Everyone had fun, and it was honestly something I could see doing again. I was truly impressed by the speed and grace that some people were able to skate with.  I am not sure when, but I think I will be back! It was a lot of fun.  I don’t know if I will try hockey skates a second time, or figure skates on my next skating adventure.  I liked the support of the hockey skates, but part of me would love to lace up the skates on the figure skaters.   I am very glad I tried it! It gave me a lot of confidence to know I could skate!

January’s New Experience

January’s New Experience

Bird Watching
Unexpected blessings from trying something new

When I started to think about what my new thing would be for January, I decided I wanted to do something that I knew nothing about. I remembered that my sister and brother-in -law, Erin and Dave were really into bird watching. On a whim, I started thinking about what it might be like to go and see why people enjoyed bird watching. Later that evening I texted Erin saying, “This is going to sound really weird, but I was wondering if you would take me bird watching sometime?”

Right away she responded with excitement by saying at all four of us could go. I was honored that she would even consider taking me. I had no knowledge whatsoever about birding. I wasn’t sure if my husband Nate would be interested or not, but I knew he would love the chance to be outside and the idea of walking or hiking would definitely be something that he could get excited about. Within minutes we had a date! We were excited to go to church together Saturday night and tackle our adventure on Sunday morning. It was already turning out to be a great weekend to get together with family and afforded us time for worship and enjoying the outside together. Plus, our kids would get to enjoy their cousins two days in a row. Venturing out beyond our regular church service and visiting a new church was pretty cool. The pastor told his story about how he got into ministry, and also talked about being fishers of men. I realized at that fishing needed to be on my list of new experiences for the summer.

After doing a little research, Erin decided that Columbus Park about 25 minutes from our house would be a fantastic place to go bird watching. I was most nervous that I would enjoy bird watching. I really wanted to like it, and have it be a great experience that I would remember for a long time. It was interesting to look through Erin’s bird books and checklists about what she was hoping to see. She compared the activity to a treasure hunt. It was neat to predict about what we might be able to find. Considering the mindset of birding to be like a treasure hunt, I now understand one of the reasons people are excited about the activity. On the way to the park I started asking Erin all kinds of questions. I started out by phrasing each question, “This might be a dumb question, or one that shows how little I really know”. But, as she would answer my questions, she would assure me that they were in fact good questions. My mind was like a sponge, and I had an incredible interest in learning everything I could about birds. It was really fun to be curious about something, and really lead me to reflect on the quality of opportunities I give my students and own children to experience pure learning.

Upon arrival, we pulled up near a car that had a number of ultra distance stickers on it. It was so cool to see some of the extreme distances that the owner must be passionate about. Fortunately, we were able to chat with the ultra distance woman who owned the car. She told us all about an adventure race similar to the well known Barkley marathon, that she was putting on in Northern Michigan. And, she also told us about how she was running across the state of Tennessee this year. Just talking to her got me excited to think about the different races I want to do. And, watching her begin another lap around the park was pretty awesome. There is something powerful about watching someone in his or her element: especially a runner!

As we ventured out my husband Nate compared the sky to a Scotland fog. It was beautiful to hike in the middle of winter. We ended up seeing a tufted titmouse, cardinal, blue jay, red-tailed hawk, black-capped chickadee, crows and a sparrow. My favorite was the cardinal. I have always been drawn to them- it might be because that is the bird my Grandma always tells me that she sees. Looking at these birds through the binoculars was pretty cool. It had been quite a while since I have spent time pausing and looking at nature through a new lens. When we saw the cardinal again, I didn’t want to just look through the binoculars; I wanted to see it up close in person.

Throughout our journey, we also crossed some pretty rugged area.  After being assured that it was safe, I went along with the group and crossed a frozen river. I felt pretty proud after that. We also saw a kayak frozen in the water. It was kind of fun to let my mind wander and think about how it got there, and what the story was behind it. It gave me a whole new idea for writing prompts and photography in the classroom!

As I look back on my first experience as a bird watcher, I have fond memories. It was exciting to be there in the middle of such a beautiful park with two experts on birds. The experience also made me aware of the fact that I don’t go for enough walks and hike nearly enough. The morning hit all of my senses, which is why I still remember so many details about it. It was truly a simple experience, but when I look back it is one that really taught me about the ordinary things that I miss when I don’t slow down to see things I have never “really looked at before”.


My One Word 2018

My word for 2018 is innovation.  In the fall of 2017, I decided that I wanted to try something new each month.  I wanted to have the experience of doing something that would put me out of my comfort zone.  So, my idea to use innovation to frame my goals for 2018 was born.  I also thought about using the idea of innovation to serve for inspiration of how I can handle regular things in my daily life a little differently.  Why not try new approaches to things and see what happens.  I had heard about people having new experiences after a major event happened in life.  I decided that I could start in the new year.  In the fall I started talking with Nichole, a colleague of mine who brainstormed a few creative ideas with me.  She often talked about how much she enjoyed Yoga, and I had always wanted to try a class out (but, yet was honestly terrified about going- since I had no experience), so my trial of doing a new scary thing was born.  Before taking on a major project, I was excited about seeing if the experience was what I really wanted.  

At the end of November, Nichole gave me the schedule to the yoga classes downtown and told me how to go about attending the first class.  She also mentioned she would go with me when I attended my first class so I would not be quite so nervous.  

I remember being so excited, yet so nervous about how the class would go.  During the first 10 minutes of class, I felt weird and was concerned that I did not fit in.  Plus, I really wanted to like Yoga.  But, I was not sure that I did.  Although, I am glad that the class was an hour in length.  About halfway through the class, I remember thinking, “I love this, and I could see myself going back.  It is honestly the best tech, mind and body detox, and I have never felt more relaxed.”  It truly was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  Since my first class I ended up buying more classes and I go weekly now.  

pexels-photo-374632My sister in law and mother in law, and a few friends also frequently attend class with me, which is really fun!  I am so glad that I gave it a try, and have since realized that it is the perfect cross training for me as a runner, and will greatly help improve my work and life balance . Now, after only a month in a half, I cannot imagine my life without yoga.  I am still contemplating what new adventure I will take on in January!  

Day 5 Remembering Your Dream to Teach

There is value in looking back to that first moment when you realized that you be a teacher.  Here are some of the prompts to consider as you do that:

Describe in some detail when you first knew you wanted to be a teacher.  Growing up with two teachers as parents, it was a career I thought a lot about. Early on, I was able to gain numerous teaching experiences in after school programs and within our church.  It always felt natural.  No matter what state in life I was in, the profession always felt like home.  I do remember the exact moment when I realized that I was choosing education over nursing.  Even when I thought about nursing, I thought about how I could teach other nurses.

What appealed to you most about the job of being a teacher?  When you realized you wanted to teach, did you imagine yourself in the job  If so, describe how you saw yourself.  I remember my first summer after college, when I was applied for teaching jobs.  I could not wait to get a job!  I had all kinds of ideas about the units I would teach, the little things I could do to make learning more fun, and how I would organize the year.  I also remember the moment when I loaded up my car with my “teaching things”.  I was so excited and overwhelmed at the same time.  My first job came in August, and I had little time to prepare.  I was going to be a varsity coach as well as advise the Journalism staff (Yearbook and Newspaper).  It was a tough start, but as  the year progressed, I was able to figure out how to bring balance to my day.  I suppose, this is was not exactly what imagined.  But, I was truly fortunate to have a job, so I knew I could figure it out.  Early in my career, I thought teaching would slow down as I got older, and I would have a lot more time.  However, as someone who is always looking to try new technology sites, and read new literature, I am finding that, along with working with my own kids at home:  I am busier than ever! But, it is a good and challenging busy!  And I love it.

Do you agree teaching is a calling, and if so, what does that mean to you?  Teaching is a calling.  It is a lot of time and commitment to not be invested in it beyond a paycheck.  When the “why” is in place, and a job somehow feels like you are coming home;  you know that it is more than a job.


Day 3 Thoughts Worth Sharing

Thoughts and words about wisdom, insights and sayings that you have learned regarding teaching a learning.  The first part of today’s writing is to list some advice or wisdom that has been gained as a result of being a teacher.

Step 1: First write down some of the ideas and then try to word them concisely.   The following are a few quotes that I really love.  I post these around my classroom and say several of them on a regular basis.  

*You can do anything, but not everything.—David Allen
*You can afford anything, but not everything.-Paula Pant
*You must be the change you wish to see in the world.—Gandhi

*You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take  —Wayne Gretzky

*If you are on time, you are late.

*Don’t just sit there. Let’s get started.

*What are you beginning to do right now?

*The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. —Marcel Proust

*Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.—Will Rogers


After working through this exercise, I started to notice a few different things.  There are certain quotes and comments that resonate with me, and others that do not. I am sure that this is the same for my students.  It is important to say a number of different things, because certain words and phrases will click and really stick with students.  I am still able to remember some of the things that teachers or coaches said to me growing up.  It is important that I carefully choose the words that I am going to use as well as the context and emotion connected with them.  One thing I am going to do to have a quote a week and really start talking about it, and applying it throughout the week.   I think the lasting message is important.  It would be interesting to have students investigate the quote of the week and use Google Draw or another technology to find a picture to illustrate it and make it more visual.


Day 2- Making Time to Reflect

According to Petty, reflection is the act pondering questions deeply.  He says, “Ask good questions and you get good reflection.  This leads to deep learning and discovery.”  

I like how the author says we should consider the pace of our work and the amount of time that is normally taken for reflection.  

How often do you reflect on your life and your work? In the past, sadly, too much of my reflection has taken place in my head, and not really been written down.  One thing I typically do, is just process the actual day or the lesson I taught and how it went.  I would like to improve the quality of the questions I am asking myself, to dig deeper and really analyze my teaching and the materials used for students to demonstrate learning.  By forcing myself to ask some of the tougher questions, and less obvious ones, I may uncover some of the themes in my methods as a teacher.  Perhaps I can consider what my lessons and assignments say about me as a learner, and what type of learning I am asking my students to demonstrate.  I am interested in  what story  I am trying to tell with the students in my classroom.

What are some of the questions you could ask students to get them to discover important things such as their purpose or what they hope to get from their time in school?  I found a copy of The  40 Reflection Questions  These questions will help me to generate a few good ones to regularly ask.  I really like how the questions are broken down into different categories.  I really appreciate how the author used “Backward, inward, outward and forward-looking” categories  in order to organize the questions.  One of the questions, that would be really good for students to answer would be, “Did I do my work the way other people did theirs?  In what ways did I do it differently?  Or, If you were the teacher, which comments would you make on this project/ assignment?” “In what ways were the standards or objectives met?”

I love the inward looking question, “What does this assignment tell about you as a learner?”  With this question, I like the idea of further extending it to a few of the backward looking questions that ask, “What story are you telling with this project?  What will people be able to learn about you?”

What steps can you take to incorporate more reflection in your personal life and your classroom?  One thing I have started doing in order to reflect on the books that I am reading, is to post some of the book covers to Twitter and Instagram.  I like sharing what I am reading.  I also write my Grandma a weekly letter where I tell her about what is happening in my life, but also the books I am reading.  I share the essence of the different books with her, and it somehow feels like a reflection;  like I am continuing a legacy by talking about the books I read.  

I also write a one sentence journal each day.  I like to incorporate on the margin which books I am currently reading at the time to add to later reflection of my year.  As I reflect on my writing today, one thing I need to improve in order  to frame my reflection, is the questions that I am asking.  Lastly, I like this link about Personal Reflection Questions.  I love the questions that ask about what my priorities are right now, and if I am living in the past, present or future right now.  And lastly since we are moving in two weeks, I love the questions, “What is your ideal home like?  How can you take the steps to achieve your ideal home?”  Clearly this list of 101 personal reflection questions will get me started and keep me thinking for a long time.


31 Days of Teaching Like an Artist Day 1

product_thumbnail 31 Days from now, I will have written 31 blogs!  This is exciting since my goal for blog posts this year is 52!  I have written two so far, and it is March.  So, it is time.

This year at the 2017 Macul Conference, I won a prize! I was privileged to be in an amazing session, and won Mike Petty’s Teaching Like an Artist book. After being hooked on the first entry of a 31 day challenge with journal and reflection prompts, I decided this this book would be exactly what I needed to get me blogging every day!

So here it is.  Day 1.

Finding your Passion. First, start by listing your three favorite movies.  After much deliberation, here they are.  This honestly took about a day to figure out! This is based on Michael Hyatt’s work.

  1.  Notting Hill
  2. The Family Man
  3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

What common thread runs through them? Figuring out a common thread between all three movies provided to be a challenging task.  I realized that I like the fact that each of these stories are about a journey.  The protagonist goes through so many different challenges throughout the movie.  It does take them a while to even figure out that they are on a journey in the first place.  I love that once they get a goal in mind, and realize what they are looking to accomplish, nothing will stand in their way.  I love the raw story. I love that they are attacked to the simple life, and focus on relationships.  I love seeing a character take a risk.  Maybe these are all things that I am hoping come true for me.  These movies also bring up some of my favorite things.  London, friendship, books, being a mom, writing, and travel.

What do you think that indicates about your passion?  I am a sucker for a good story. I like to hear about people’s lives.  I like the process in something. I like seeing growth.  I am attacked to  the idea of really living life, and  enjoying the present. I love the challenge, and making things my own. I like seeing a story as a work of art. I like seeing someone or myself work through challenges.

If you think this helped to clarify your passion, state your passion in a sentence. One sentence is tough.  So, I might revise it as I think about it. I might also look at a list of themes from literature to see if anything sticks out.

I crave a story filled with challenges. (This is a working passion).  3/20

Would this activity be useful with any students or classes that you are teaching?  If so, describe how you might use it.  Are there ways that you could modify it, basing it on students’ favorite songs or books, for example?  I like this activity.  It was tough to look at three movies, rather than just one or two.  I can see using this in the classroom. I might start with my 8th graders for a journalism class activity.  I am not sure if I would use the word passion. That seems like of heavy for a middle school student.  I like the idea of using books too. I could easily come up with books that were my favorite, but I struggled with wondering if there was a reason it was a movie (more fiction oriented). I know that if I did books, I would most likely  have a few non fiction thrown in.  I do like the idea of  song lyrics too! That is kind of a neat way of thinking about a topic too.  However, the songs I like seem to change over the years. I do think students would like songs.  Maybe rather than just passion, I would have students look at learning about themselves.