Tuesday, December 29, 2020



We were all in the backyard, goofing around with my two year old granddaughter ("Frog"), playing an improvisational version of "Follow the Leader" - can you do this, Frog? Here, try this! A bunch of silly adults, a beautiful day, and one very willing imitator. It brings great joy to watch her move, to see her try her very best to share in our physical movements - and it's even a lot of giggles to reverse roles and simply imitate her (see James Corden and Justin Bieber here for laughs like this).  Uncle pulls a new move - running backwards quickly, and we watch Frog immediately take the new and unusual dare. 

No inhibition! No hesitation! Just go, just try.

How might I be more like my granddaughter?

I said to Uncle, "wow, she's moving just like a cornerback - that takes skill!" Truly, I wish you could have seen my son's face. Ha! Makes me laugh as I write. He was totally stunned that I had thrown out this football position and used the term correctly. He said, "Whaaaaat?!" and stopped in his tracks. I am totally ignorant about football, and this man has followed it passionately since he was young...from time to time, he has tried to explain various aspects of the game to me, as have my father, my brothers, my husband, my friends, on and on. I think to learn there must be a kernel of curiosity, an appetite whet. For me football on the television always means I can slink away and read or write; I have zero interest in the game.

So where did this sudden enlightenment come from? NPR, of course! I listened to a recent Ask Me Another with guest Nnamdi Asomugha. This game show is always an entertaining listen, and this episode was particularly so, because I could really relate. The host Ophira Eisenberg introduced Nnamdi Asomugha, sharing that he is an actor and former football player - a cornerback...I can't remember the specifics of her introduction, but I remember that the more details she provided about his football career, the more stilted, distant, and dry her voice became; the more clear it was that she was unfamiliar with the sport; and the more obvious it was that she was simply reading aloud from notes. Mr. Asomugha called her bluff on this, and they both laughed at how right he was - she did not know or understand football. Then, savvy radio host that she is, Ms. Eisenberg challenged him to explain what a cornerback is in layperson's terms. 

Oh that's impossible, I thought, there's no way to explain this. 

Unusual for me, I listened in. Perhaps because I was trapped in my car, driving, alone, rather than at home and able to flee to another refuge apart from football.

Mr. Asomugha patiently and deftly explained ... well, here's my version -

  • He asked her if she knew what a quarterback was. (yes, sort of!)
  • He noted that the quarterback throws the ball to another player who hopefully catches it (and I think is called the receiver) (yes! I was still following, more or less)
  • He said his role as cornerback is to stop that second guy from catching the ball - and to do this, he has to predict this player's movements and basically run backwards quickly to stop him. He described this position as cornerback "as one of the most difficult positions in all of sports to play."

Where am I going with all this? Well, a new year's resolution, of course!

This is the closest I've ever come to understanding anything about football and here I am using it as a metaphor for how we need to change the world.

It dawns on me that social justice advocacy is like being a cornerback. This frightening year - 2020 - has shown the importance of being knowledgeable and predictive about what oppositional moves are being plotted...in what ways are our systems, our laws, our country being intentionally changed and manipulated? To what purpose? What do I need to study more closely? Who is being left out, hurt, disenfranchised, who benefits? What intentional evil is being planned? How do I learn more about what is happening in our democracy? What has happened throughout history and how does this continue now? What are the patterns of white supremacy and inequality? In what ways am I complicit? How do I keep alert and fight for justice for all?

I must
we must
move with knowledge and understanding, 
purpose, skill, speed 
unpredictably and yet focused
eyes on - ALWAYS ON - these opponents
to stop them cold
to undo their plans
and create the outcome
of our dreams.

Yes, I wrote this slice like a cornerback: moving backwards, with purpose! Ha! Hope you enjoyed this playful writing...I had good things in mind.

Happy new year, all! 

Thanks for reading.

"You can't understand the most important things from a distance. You have to get close."
                 Bryan Stevenson, sharing his grandmother's wisdom.


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Time of winter solstice

Yesterday was the winter solstice, the day of the least sun of the year. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, we had a cloudy, grey day, which seemed a little unfair, to have so little sun on this day of all days. Even the sunrise was grey, muted. When the sun burst through sometime after 3pm, I stood at the window and stared, soaking it in, knowing it was going to be entirely gone before 5pm. I noticed the white strands of clouds, with uneven, circuitous borders, not unlike the craggy coast of Maine as displayed on a map. The blue parts of the sky were especially compelling - funny how blue the color blue can be, how many different tones it can have in one sky. Thanks be for this treasured, fleeting sun! 

This year has been a winter solstice of the soul, with so little sun
of family
of friends
of gathering.

Late yesterday afternoon, as the sun set, I sat for a special zoom session of On Being, an uplifting conversation between Krista Tippett and Lucas Johnson that was filled with reflection about this year and wonder about the new year to come. It struck me again,

this has been a long year.

These are some words that resonated with me from yesterday's live session of  On Being (I apologize that the quotes are not exact...simply notes I took while listening):

inspiration for today's program - to consider what we are carrying out of the year and into the next

many layers of loss this year; when we experience a loss, it surfaces all the other losses from earlier in our lives (Krista Tippett)

the virus allowed people - or is it forced people? - to see racial injustice; how do we make that awareness resilient? (Lucas Johnson)

this idea of 'accompaniment', the long work of transformation, we can surround ourselves with others who also carry and maybe carry for us when we can't (Krista Tippett)

we just need to do what is ours to do, develop a disposition to encounter, to support (Lucas Johnson)

how might we turn to each other with curiosity? (Krista Tippett)

this year has shown the importance of relationship, being curious to one another; we must also remember,  some of us, even in the context of our grief, have more to carry. (Lucas Johnson)  
we have a big 'action muscle,' but not a big 'reflection/discernment' muscle (Krista Tippett)

we want the people in our community to know they are accompanied, their loss is seen (Lucas Johnson)

if all we have coming out of this year are questions, this is good, we possess a great deal (Krista Tippett)

As you might imagine, the session left me in a very reflective place, giving me plenty to think about in the days to come. One takeaway - rather than writing new year resolutions this year, I think I will work on a list of questions for myself. I like that idea.

As this year draws to a close, I want to express my gratitude to Two Writing Teachers for this writing community - it has been a source of strength, inspiration, and light.

Wishing everyone a beautiful holiday season!


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Poem - Graceful geese

This was Day 5, the final day, of the five day December Open Write with Dr. Sarah Donovan's Ethical ELA. What fun I had these past few days!

Today's inspiration was suggested by poet and author Chris Baron, challenging us to write a poem called a "Before Picture":

Write a poem of any structure that behaves like a before picture. A “Before Picture” is meant to capture not just an image but also to serve as a symbolic remembrance of everything that happened at that moment but also what led to it–both inside and out.

Imagine you are taking a before picture.

Use images, figurative language, and everything else to help capture that moment in time: What it looks like AND what it stands for.

As has been true each day of this poetry challenge, I had several false starts on my writing, thinking of all sorts of "before pictures." I actually flipped through my Google images, and then remembered this recent day when I happened to see dozens of geese on a pond, and later watch them fly away. They seemed to instantaneously divide themselves into equal size flocks, which fascinated me. Honestly, how do they do this? I took a picture when the third and final remaining group (gaggle?) of geese was left at the pond. (I've included this image.) Unfortunately, I did not capture their gorgeous departure.  

Here's my poem:

Graceful geese

Graceful geese scattered on the pond,

there must be several dozen of you

floating, resting, softly stirring,

soaking in the sunny day. 

but not necessarily with 
one another.

Giving no hint of the disciplined flash mob that you are.

Each of you appearing lost in your own thoughts, 
soft ripples surround, 
small and intermittent honks of harmony,
a few beaks bobbing in the water.

In an instant, you will take flight
gather in your gaggle
simultaneously dividing into 
not one, not two, but three 
perfect formations in the sky.

Who directs your beautiful show?
When do you rehearse?
How do you know what to do?
What is the signal? 
Will you teach this teacher your ways?

How you tease me
looking lazy, leisurely, and languid,
yet ready
to vault into your voluptuous v. 

There is such mystery in this.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Poem - Forever lost

Today is day 4 of the  December Open Write with Dr. Sarah Donovan's Ethical ELA. Glenda Funk offered the poetic inspiration, introducing a poem by Tiffany Midge called Antiquing with Indians, and noting:

Some things that stand out to me in Midge’s poem are

  • The three-line stanzas
  • Enjambment
  • Specific historic references
  • Ironic tone

With these focus points in mind, we were encouraged to write a poem. I struggled with this one! Here's what I finally wrote:

Forever lost

You were always so able, and then you weren’t.

It was up to us to clear out your house, with you

in the recliner, snapping, sneering, barking

orders at us, you the commanding officer, we your drafted recruits, 

working quickly and somewhat blindly, to divide a lifetime

of belongings into a uhaul going north, a pile of donations, and

the dumpster. I heard your heart breaking with every insult you hurled,

at our not knowing whether something should be kept, knowing 

the only thing worth saving was your independence and that was

forever lost. Yes, it’s true, we each siphoned off little treasures,

I have the hurricane lamp, the bird bath, and the funny garden pelican, and

you never knew or had to know or ever would have understood

why we want to hold on to the loss of you.

Trail running

My friend and I have recently resumed trail running, once a week. Well, trail "wunning" or "wogging" - maybe "ralking"? Some combination of walking jogging running. We run wearing masks and we keep safe distance from one another. We meet early on a weekend morning, to ensure there are no crowds. We have a favorite park where we meet, and the views these past weeks have been spectacular - sunlight radiating through the branches of the trees, bouncing and shimmering on the creek, highlighting the deep soft green of moss. Let me share a few photos from our last run together - a beautiful, mild morning here in the Washington, D.C. area. 

Funny, when I go out for a jog by myself, the first 10-15 minutes are a negative monologue along the lines of - "this sucks!", "oh my goodness, I don't think I can do this today," "why am I doing this?", "am I moving?" ,"maybe today I will cut this short", "what's wrong with my breath?", "why do I feel so lousy?", and more. If I just make it through those first minutes, I'm fine and I jog with ease for the rest of the run - but I really detest and resist those first minutes by myself on a run.

With my friend, the run is fun from the get-go, from the moment our eyes meet. It's so great! We just go! slowly, slowly, slowly, through the leaves and the mud, over rocks and stumps, under the bare trees, dodging puddles, up, down, and around hilly curves, all the while, chattering, conversing, sharing aloud, together. It's a multi-sensory experience - feeling the cold air, noticing the freshness, hearing the birds and the wind, getting a little messy, seeing such beauty in the woods. It's such a blast. 

These outings have been the perfect antidote to this pandemic, and all this time isolated indoors. Running outdoors clears my head, relaxes me, takes my anxious edge off.  Running feels good, cleansing. I forget my age, forget my size, I just move and enjoy. To be out in the woods with a friend, running and walking trails - ahhh, this is so fantastic! I am blessed.


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Poem - The Christmas Tree

This is day 3 of the  December Open Write with Dr. Sarah Donovan's Ethical ELA. Today's inspiration was offered by Glenda Funk, and introduced poetry by Don Mee Choi. Here is the challenge that Glenda Funk proposed:

Today I’d like us to think of ourselves as translators and find inspiration in the belief we, like Choi, can “witness and resist” through translation. In DMZ Colony Choi gives voice to orphans, political prisoners, and other survivors of war. We can choose to “translate” what we witness in our world. I took my inspiration both from reading some of Choi’s poetry I found online and from the recent debate over a local high school mascot.

  • Choose a subject for translation
  • Find inspiration in an image or text.
  • Think of yourself as a translator, a witness, a reporter
  • Compose and share your poem.

I really liked the idea of writing poetry from the perspective of a translator - to me, with this point of view, I am both stepping back from the topic and getting closer. However, truth be told, I simply wasn't up to attempting a 'serious' poem - I decided to go much lighter, channeling the voice of my favorite English-language learner, who translates and narrates the world for me these days . . . my two year old granddaughter.

The Christmas Tree

tree nana see living room

kiss-miss touch gentle

lights on see

off on off on off on no more

what’s this one

angel see take off see

hook see careful hurt hook

hold on table put here here

what’s this one


red hat nose stick

what’s this one

bell ring ring ring

beads beads no eat

what’s this one

star gentle glass break 

no break nana

nother one nana

person paper person

i like paper person 

see big angel up high

small angel see

nother one nother one nother one nana

angel angel angel i see angel

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Poem - The Food Bank

This is day 2 of the  December Open Write with Dr. Sarah Donovan's Ethical ELA. Yes, I love these 5 Day interludes with poetry writing! Today's challenge was to write a poem about a journey. I had so many thoughts, journeys of all different types - cycles of life, actual trips, even going for a run...but I kept thinking about this long line of cars that I observe every Wednesday at a food bank near me...a line that has been getting progressively longer during this pandemic. This is the journey I decided to write about, out of sadness for this season of so many peoples' lives.

The Food Bank



the road


backed up

stacked up






































Saturday, December 12, 2020

Title Poem: Lucille Clifton

It's time for the December Open Write with Dr. Sarah Donovan's Ethical ELA! Oh, I love these 5 Day interludes with poetry writing. Today's challenge was to think of the 'gifts' of poetry that we receive from different writers...choose a poet, and create a 'title poem' from their writings:

Feel free to pretty the titles up with as many of your own words as you’d like or add words sparingly. 

I am in awe of Lucille Clifton; every one of her poems is a gift.

This poetry challenge was intimidating for me,

to create a poem from her titles.

I played around with her many titles

(I have her book The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010) and

created this simple poem,

without using a single word of my own:

if I stand in my window

i agree with the leaves

some dreams hang in the air

listen children 

the mystery that surely is present

the lesson of the falling leaves

i am not done yet

Tuesday, December 8, 2020


"One of these days you going have to turn around and look at whatever it is you running from."
                                 Willie to Bell in The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Pandemic + retired from teaching + cold weather = lots of books and movies

A clear theme has emerged in my recent choices of books and movies: central characters who, as children, lived in unstable, chaotic, and downright traumatic situations. Am I choosing these or are they choosing me? 

Here, briefly are my latest diversions (all highly recommended):


The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett


The Queen's Gambit

Hillbilly Elegy (this is actually a memoir)


I love good stories and don't want to give anything away about these titles shared above...you should discover them yourself. I love how early childhood played such a significant role in these stories.

As an early childhood educator, I believe passionately in how our earliest years impact our whole lives. Adult problems are regularly rooted in childhood - affecting how you see yourself, how you communicate with others, and what you believe about the world. Our earliest years inform what we study and seek to know, where and with whom we feel most comfortable, and even our overall resilience. 

When I finish a good book or movie, I like to think about the writing that went into the storytelling. In each of these recent shows/books I've loved, the authors grappled with the lingering effects of childhood, bringing 'threads' forward, having them continue to resonate in the characters' adult lives. For me, the whole story becomes more believable - I start to 'see' why things happen. Which brings me right back to one of my core beliefs - we can offset many future problems if we provide safe, healthy, and joyful childhoods for our youngest. 

(However, does 'happy' make for dull storytelling? Ha!)

What's funny is, my thinking about all of this is so circular . . . did the authors set out to emphasize childhood, or do I bring that into my understanding of the story because early childhood is so important to me? What do I bring into my very listening? What do others take away when they indulge in these same stories? 

Rich writing takes us many different places.


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Unpredictable joy

How are you handling this COVID-19 surge? I have such a sense of dread about the next couple of months, fearing they will be harder than I've experienced to date with this pandemic, fearing, too, that my energy and fortitude for all this time at home is depleting. Time to recharge! Bring in the reinforcements  for the long winter ahead! I am taking care to have a book waiting for me when I finish another, I continue to build our list of movies and television series worth watching, I piddle about with small home projects. I have been doing some letter-writing, continuing my daily journaling, and continue to sketch out and develop some larger creative ideas. I hope I am ready. I must be ready, because, here it is - this is the reality for now. 

I know I am fortunate that this is the extent of my trial with this dreaded disease so far. 

To date, no one in my immediate family has gotten the coronavirus. We were on pins and needles over Thanksgiving - one son, the teacher (teaching virtually these days), received word that one of his colleagues tested positive for COVID-19 just a few days after my son and this colleague had been in the school together. 

Another son works retail...and reported that the crowds really picked up in his store this week of Thanksgiving....

Obviously, with possible COVID, it was no time for Thanksgiving as usual. We didn't think it wise to have even our immediate family together. Funny, I really wasn't sad to not be with my married son or the grandkids - I knew they had a party, in and of themselves. I found myself fretting about my two single sons being home alone on this holiday - an anxious, spiraling level of fretting that is becoming all too familiar during this long year of pandemic. I read these articles about people getting together with family and friends because they just couldn't take the separation and isolation any longer, and then everyone gets sick, and I think as I read these things - oh how careless you were! why did you do that? Go a little longer without seeing each other! Yet, here I was, making the same choice: I really wanted to see my 'loners.' I know this pandemic is hardest on them. What to do? How to handle safely?

We made the decision to have Thanksgiving in the backyard, just four of us - Tony and I and the two singles. We were graced with glorious weather that didn't even require a fire pit for warmth until the sun went down. The meal was scaled back considerably and served casually. We sat distanced from one another and wore masks when we weren't eating. All of us agreed that being outside in the open air greatly reduced our anxiety. We had lots of laughs together, and good conversation. Just the four of us together....it was weird and wonderful. 

I think this was the funniest part - Tony turned the television towards the backyard so that the boys could watch their football game! COVID memories. Things you never imagined doing.

My son, the teacher - he had a COVID test the day before Thanksgiving, and there is such a backlog in this area, he has still not heard yet - almost one week later.  This does not bode well for reducing COVID in general, if we have these type backlogs. Thankfully, he has been isolated at home - with the exception of our backyard Thanksgiving. 

Crazy times.

Let me close with a real laugh, though just a small one:

I made a routine, boring, ubiquitous on-line order for a toiletry. I am not sure what made me even open up the email response - these responses are so commonplace too, I often 'mark them as read' without actually reading, and save them in case there is some hiccup in my ordering. However, this time I opened the email, only to read: 

"Everyone is cheering at your purchase! Kalina is doing laps around the cooler and Eddie from marketing just passed out from excitement. Thank you for your order, the office is going wild!!"
Isn't this so funny!? These folks were swooning over a nothing purchase. Delightful, really - my chuckle for the day. Such an unexpectedly fun and silly response. 

Or am I easily amused?

What kind of unpredictable love and laughter can I share today? Oh, my, the world needs it.