Tuesday, September 29, 2020

What you think you know


I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.
                                                        Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Walking directly behind him on the path, to stay to the right and make room for runners and cyclists going by, I decided - out of boredom - to see if I could walk exactly like him. You know - adjusting my legs with a little skip, a forgotten step, so that we might step simultaneously, right foot forward, heel down, left foot, step, exactly together, at the exact same pace. It took me a moment or two to get in step with him. It felt very, very silly. I was amazed by the almost instantaneous memory from many years back, when in college, of goofing with a friend in this same way, trying to see if we could mirror each other in our walks - how much we laughed! It was also SURPRISINGLY hard to keep up, to walk EXACTLY like my husband, my walking partner of many, many, many years. We don't focus on one another in this precise way typically. There's no need for it; I'm pretty comfortable in my skin, with my gait, and he with his. 

I was reminded, once again, of our uniqueness. Isn't it extraordinary, no two of us exactly alike?

I was reminded, too, even though it feels as if I am walking the same places every single day, there are always new things to see and do - no matter how small, how trivial. 

We were astonished by this tree find on a recent walk, just a couple blocks away:

Neither of us had ever seen a tree with such fruit - oblong, seafoam green, soft...what in the world? I love the feature in Google photos that will identify what you are looking at: photo taken, and we learn we are looking at a Pawpaw tree. National Park Service, National Capital Area adds:

One of the most tasty late-season rewards for hikers and wildlife alike is the pawpaw fruit, which begins to ripen in late summer and peaks in September and October. The flavor of pawpaw fruit is often compared to bananas, but with hints of mango, vanilla, and citrus. The fruit has the ungainly appearance of a small green potato and may occur in clusters on the tree. 

We realize, September has never led to walks in this part of the neighborhood; we have never wandered this way. Every September has been filled with back to school demands, that rush of overwhelming "to do's." Yes, this IS a silver lining of the pandemic, finding new treasures in the most ordinary of places, looking at the familiar in new ways.

My third and last example of looking at the world in new ways while walking: my two year old granddaughter regularly lives out, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." Her latest obsession: POTHOLES. Right in the midst of a walk, right in the middle of a street, and much to my astonishment, she just sits down and "reveres" each of these - and there are many! 

Who knew that potholes are akin to creek beds, in that they typically have a bounty of small rocks and gravel? What two year old doesn't love a new rock? She helps us to look at the world in new ways.

She keeps us smiling! 


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Makroud el louse

I am participating in EthicalELA's September 5-Day Open Write

Today's inspiration was entitled "Tasting a Memory with Laura Shovan" and we were prompted to write a poem about a food memory.

I remember the celebration,
you returning from Algeria,
opening your suitcase,
setting the small muslin bag
at the center of the table.
How mesmerized I was,
unveiling the parchment paper within,
wrapped around
your mother's homemade
cookies shaped like diamonds.
A stream of Arabic ensued,
from all the guys,
your friends,
your countrymen,
as they clamored with delight,
at the sight of these treats.
So many hands reaching
at once, and
you, laughing, blocking,
not letting me taste,
until I successfully echoed you,
"Makroud el louse,"
my first attempts
met with teasing laughter.
At last, the delicacy,
almond and orange,
soaked in powdered sugar
melting in my mouth.
How long did I sit invisibly
alongside you and your friends,
in that Arabic fog,
picking at the remnants,
the delicious crumbs?
I saw how sweet we had been,
now, empty and gone.
This was the first time I realized
you can be both fully present and
also hold
what was.

I received these comments on the Ethical ELA website:

This is beautiful. The image of hands teaching into the pile for the almond and orange sweets reminds me how humans have common desires. One of my favorite travel activities is tasking new candy and buy them as gifts for friends. Such a sweet memory. Thank you.


Susan O

Maureen, I really like this “taste” of Arabic culture. I sense in it a bit of making the woman invisible and it seems in your last words “I saw how sweet we had been, now, empty and gone” that this relationship has changed dramatically and you pick “at the remnants, the delicious crumbs” of memory.

gayle sands

Oh, Maureen. I saw how sweet we had been, now empty and gone. This struck a chord in me that I can’t even explain. Wow.

Laura Shovan

Maureen, I love how the opening of your poem expresses what a process it was to go through the suitcase, peel back the layers of wrapping, and reveal the treat inside.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020



I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.
                                                        Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

The day dawned dark. Although, I actually woke up after dawn. Is this why I feel so dark? I overslept? Sleeping into mid-morning? Not a problem, really, now that I am retired, but it feels wrong, somehow. Imagine...teachers are well into their school days, but I am just now crawling out of bed.

What is my negativity about? Where is it coming from?

How do you handle your blues?
Are you lucky enough not to have them?
Oh my, this world is hard right now.

I actually have a little list of "to do's" or "at least, try" to jumpstart me from a depressed feeling into a more productive, happy one. Such as:

- go for a walk, dig in the dirt, just get outdoors
- think about what you are grateful for; write down ten things that make you smile
- just write for a bit, write into what you are feeling
- do a small, perhaps boring, but necessary task: clear out a drawer, wash the dishes in the sink
- repeat a prayer

I even have a small collection of things to read that are inspirational and uplifting.

This time, I didn't fight the feeling. I didn't try to do any of those things. I actually sat in total silence with my journal opened across my knees and listened to what came up. I didn't write anything down.

Honestly, I just wallowed.
"Sat with the ugly."
Didn't try to fix it.
Didn't try to squelch it.
Just let it flow.

For once, I did not try to force myself into a state of cheer, but dared to experience the low. I let me be me. 

Then I had some potato chips.

It's a start.

The sad part is that all we're trying to do is not feel that underlying uneasiness. The sadder part is that we proceed in such a way that the uneasiness only gets worse. The message here is that the only way to ease our pain is to experience it fully. Learn to stay. Learn to stay with the uneasiness, learn to stay with the tightening, learn to stay with the itch...
-    Pema Chodron

Time to row

I am participating in EthicalELA's September 5-Day Open Write

Today's poetry prompt was called "Magic-9" - nine lines in the rhyming scheme "ABACADABA" (note the pun?)...inspired by a favorite quote.

My quote was from a UCC Daily Devotional meditation I read just this morning, written by Matthew Laney, entitled "That Sinking Feeling" :

"We can't know what it means to be lifted up until we know what it means to sink."

My poem:

Falling, drowning, sinking low

Pervasive sense of overwhelm

No way out, nowhere to go

Soaked and inundated

Justice swept by undertow

We must not give up

Integrity and truth must flow

Let's be together at the helm

It's time to shout, it's time to row 

I received these comments on the Ethical ELA website:

Stacey Joy

Wow, Maureen, the flowwwww! Brilliant choices in rhymes and visuals! I felt like I was moving with each line! Loved the end!
“It’s time to shout, it’s time to row.” Bravo!!!!

Barb Edler Maureen, the word choice throughout your poem is incredible. So much energy and all the water imagery flows so well to your final phrase: “it’s time to row” I couldn’t agree more!

Sharon B. I love it, Maureen! This offers so much inspiration, something I desperately need right now.

Anna Roseboro

Maureen, your poem reminds me of my favorite song from HAMILTON, “In the Room Where it Happens”!

Let’s be together at the helm
It’s time to shout, it’s time to row.

Erica Johnson

What a great use of the rhyme scheme of the poem and I appreciate how it doesn’t end badly, but with a call to action. I especially appreciate your use of the phrase “soaked and inundated” because I really think it contributes to the imagery of being in a storm-tossed sea and having to row for survival — to not sink or drown.

Denise Krebs

I love the transition line in the middle. Justice is in danger, and so the switch. Integrity and truth, staying together. Yes, let’s do this. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Big Oil

I am participating in EthicalELA's September 5-Day Open Write

Today's poetry challenge is by Denise Krebs, who prompts us to find a news article that resonates and to try to make sense of the content through poetry.

The news source of my poem is an NPR article on how plastic is not really recyclable.

I wrote an acrostic.

Damning details of deception by Big Oil and Gas.

Unsuspecting consumers convinced:

Plastic is recyclable.

Lies ongoing, more than 30 years now.

Internal documents by industry indicate infeasibility of recycling

Cheaper and easier to make new plastic out of oil

Image of recyclable plastic purposefully promoted for enormous profit

Tempting consumers to buy more, while plastic litter languishes in landfills

Yogurt tubs, water bottles, milk jugs, bags, containers, packaging, take out . . . .

I received these comments on the Ethical ELA website:

Gracie Eggleston

Maureen, what a creative approach to the prompt! It has been so long since I have seen a poem in acrostic form. The word you chose, duplicity’ is so powerful in connection with your article. Thank you for sharing 🙂

Denise Hill

There is so much to rant and rail against in this discovery, seeing it condensed here does nothing to stem the anger I feel in reading it. Love the term Duplicity and format, helping to keep the messaging focused. This alliteration is powerful: “litter languishes in landfills.” I feel like we are ALL languishing in one giant landfill of lies. The last line ending on “take out…” reminds me of “take out the trash” but also how we have all been “taken out” by this mess. Oh, how to reverse this. What now? A great piece to both reflect and force forward thinking.

Glenda M. Funk

An acrostic is perfect for your poem. There’s an environmentalist (forgot his name) who said nearly twenty years ago we recycle “diddly point squat.” I shared a video of him w/ students many times, and every time a kid wanted to write a paper on recycling or offer recycling as a solution for an environmental problem I pushed back and made them learn about the reality of recycling. Truth is much recycling produces toxins and waste that leach into the environment. The only way to deal w/ our plastic problem is to stop using plastics. Anyway, Ted Talk over. I love your poem. Thank you.


gayle sands

Maureen—this is great! It should be shared with every science class across the land. Duplicity. We have all been duped…

Jamie Langley

Love the acrostic; well chosen words define the word along the margin. Sharp and clever. Tone is powerful thanks to well chosen words. Focus narrows.

Denise Krebs

Oh, Maureen,
What a powerful acrostic and strong word you chose. You riled us up with your beautiful poem of this news story. Thank you for shedding light on it.

As LLP said in her poem today, we are in a “gutter of greed” thanks to systems like big oil and all the ties with government. How many of us would have to refuse their plastics and demand more plant protein plastics?

Sunday, September 20, 2020


Today's poem is written in response to a prompt from Barb Edler called Ego or Homage, where we were encouraged to explore our own 'uniqueness.'

My arms,
once the bane of my existence,
thick, solid, and far too masculine,
preferably hidden from view,
over time,
have carried their weight,
pulling, throwing, bending,
stretching, lifting, pushing, prying,
moving, herding,
soothing, tending, caring,
holding, embracing,
holding up the whole world when it is falling apart.
I see now
they are strong, protective, rock-solid
just like my Dad's,
and that's okay.
I am well-armed.

These are the comments I received on the Ethical ELA website:

gayle sands

Maureen—my hands follow your arms! I love the ending—the comfort and pride in the strength they have given you!

Marilyn Miner

“Well-armed” was a perfect ending!

Gracie Eggleston

What a beautiful ending to a beautiful piece. As I read this, I could envision your strength in being ‘well-armed’ building up. Thank you for sharing 🙂

Seana HW

I love it. I really enjoyed the various words yu used describing what our arms do on a daily basis- pulling, throwing, bending,
stretching, lifting, pushing, prying,
moving, herding,
soothing, tending, caring,
holding, embracing,
Thank you for this! I’m already looking forward to your next one.

Renee C

Beautiful. Direct, strong, and the ending “I am well-armed’ …. such a nice play on words.

Denise Krebs

Oh, my, Maureen, this is a masterpiece. I love all that your arms can do! As well as:

holding up the whole world when it is falling apart.

So beautiful! Yes, arms need to be strong and nurturing when they are mother’s, grandmother’s, teacher’s arms.
And , of course, that last line is an instant classic–“I am well-armed.” Wow!


Those last three lines are leaving me smiling. Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem. So much joy!