Saturday, February 27, 2021

February Poetry with Ethical ELA

Before this month closes out, I wanted to share the five poems I wrote for Ethical ELA during their monthly February 5 Day Open Write. Every month, for five days in a row, educators come together to share poetry. How I love this poetry writing community! Each day we are presented with a poetry inspiration and encouraged to create a poem of our own. I am introduced to new poets, reading lots of fabulous poetry, and stretching myself in whole new ways.

Here are my February poems:

Day One -

Allison Berryhill kicked off the five days of poetry writing with the inspiration Sonnets (Don't Run Away)  and, with Valentine's Day just around the corner, I challenged myself to write a sonnet for my husband. I'm not sure I ever wrote a sonnet before. It was very challenging! I seem to write narrative poetry - telling a story...

To Tony

You leaned out the window into cool night

Sweaty giddy tired from so much dance

I still see you pausing, precious that sight

Whisper wonder, do you dare take a chance?

Both of us stuck, weighing past hurts and pain

We took the risk lovers always invite

Something in the night air, a soft refrain

To be tender, open, to hold on tight

One night filled with laughter, music, and play

Birthday party, for a friend of a friend

Providence works in mysterious ways 

This is our tale told again and again

Love heals, love hopes, love laughs, love holds us still

Day in, day out, love is, love always will

Day Two -

David Duer provided the inspiration Let's Meet Somewhere, sharing a poem by Diane Seuss entitled "Let's Meet Somewhere Outside Time and Space." We were encouraged to begin our poem with those three words 'Let's meet somewhere.' Here's where my writing took me - 

Let’s meet somewhere
between the said and unsaid
your truth my lies my truth your lies
abandon the bright bombastic red
toss aside the condescending blue
shut down our echo chambers
slip through the barbed wire
dividing us
bloodying us
let each of us
to consort and contort
to lift all that is
precious in this world
above our heads
with one hand
while standing on one foot
while our other hand
reaches across the midline
towards one another
to hold this position
the quiet
unrelentingly off-balance
the mix of trepidation and trust
acute need for
one another
the ground we share
the hopes we hold
let’s meet there

Day Three -

Rex Muston provided the inspiration called Out and Back, and shared William Strafford's poem Traveling through the Dark

Here's my poem -

“let the children play”

to the untrained eye, there we were, teachers and preschoolers
on our one block walk to the community playground, however,

this minimizes the work of a wiggling, winding, weaving procession,
herding cats, really, with endless congestion and delays along the route

multitudinous mishaps with shoes and laces, hats and mittens, coats and
zippers, not to mention irascible line partners and unplanned sightseeing

oh my, truck, oh my, broken glass, oh my, everything, anything, fabulous things,
the scurrying full stop movement of preschoolers, one block becomes ten miles

We arrive jubilant,
me in the very front, when,
in one sudden, sly, and deft moment,
I see, grab, and hide

three bullets

lying on our path

a glance, entrance, in trance

and so ensues teaching as improv, teaching in two minds, staying composed while my
insides falter, a blur of joyful children run, laugh, play, and my eyes search the environs,

wondering if there was someone still here that was up to no good
wondering how might I protect these little ones
wondering how quickly I can get us all back to school

how far away school seemed

one clutching hand
touching fear

burning, searing, hating, hurting, devastating in my pocket

Day Four -

Rachel Lipp provided the inspiration called Steps to Being, sharing Brandon Leake's spoken word poem "Steps to Being Brandon Leake." It was very challenging for me to imitate Brandon Leake's approach, in large part because I am so much older! (The poem would have gone on forever...hahahaha) Here's what I wrote:

“a part of me”

I was born
long enough ago
to know that
details must be scrubbed
if attention spans will survive

a part of me
will always be
5 years old
at my brothers’ antics

a part of me
will always be
12 years old
by my mother’s mental illness

a part of me
will always be
17 years old
in my room writing

a part of me
will always be
19 years old
late into the night
with girlfriends

a part of me
will always be
22 years old
to be on my own

a part of me
will always be
27 years old
falling in love

a part of me
will always be
35 years old
by my young family

a part of me
will always be
40 years old
to become a teacher

a part of me
well, you get the idea,
the years go by
I grow, I hold

a part of me
will always be

Day Five -

David Duer provided the inspiration called Alternate Names - A List, sharing the poem "Alternate Names for Black Boys" by the poet Danez Smith.

Here's where I landed:

Alternate Names for Grief

all is well and then it isn’t
needing to be alone when with others
needing others when alone
enormous weight of empty
sudden onset of vivid memories
becoming comfortable with cold comfort
full stop in the midst of busy
elusive and resounding last words
realizing no one sees the holes throughout your body
solace of birds, tea, quiet
making one’s way through wilderness
lost in the middle of the night, without map or stars to guide
seeking company of bare winter trees
tendency to be two places at once
a time to be gentle with oneself

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Cabinet fever

I am going to do a simple picture post for today's slice of life -  because we have just finished hanging our newly painted kitchen cabinets! Yes, this very minute! (Which is why I am posting later than normal on this Tuesday.)

Here's the finished look!

All this time at home, and I just can't stop tweaking and adjusting our living space.

The kitchen needs some real fixes - many of which we simply must hire out. (Floor repairs, upgrade the counters, backsplash, etc. etc.) But, in general, it's a great kitchen and I can make a few changes while we wait for the 'real' contractors. Let's paint the cabinets!!

We have had oak cabinets for 30 years, and they were marvelous for those first many years, but seemed particularly dull during these many days at home. 


The oak doors are in great shape - nothing needed to be replaced; it was all about paint. We made a 'game time' decision to paint the upper cabinets only, for now - let's get the floor fixed before we touch up the base cabinets. Narrowing the project like this made it much, much more manageable - I seriously don't know how my stamina would have lasted for a re-do of all the cabinets at once. (Let alone, where would I put all the doors and drawers while I was working on them? Our basement is only so big.)

Here's a few photos of the work itself:

I used thumbtacks and cardboard to support the drying process!

Yes, I'm a bit behind on the 'white' cabinet trend, but better late than never!

I found some cute and varied knobs!

Truth be told, I had to convince my husband that this would be fun - and, in the end, we are both very pleased. We are happy with the results! 

The happy homeowners!

No more house remodeling, redecorating, or any other big projects until the March Slice of Life blogging challenge is over! See you Monday, March 1st!!


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, February 16, 2021

Blueberry delight


This past Sunday was one of those days when we most certainly would have skipped church in the "before pandemic" times. We woke up to everything encased in ice, with continuous pellets raining down throughout the day - too intimidating to leave the house. Here's a view from my family room window:

What a perfect day to stay in, to stay put. Oh, hey - you mean JUST LIKE WE HAVE BEEN DOING SINCE LAST MARCH? hahahahaha

Hasn't it become almost an art form to find a silver lining in the unexpected forced isolation of say inclement weather on top of all the isolation we are already experiencing, day in and day out? 

So, there we were, stuck at home.

I decided to bake a small batch of blueberry muffins to brighten the day, something a little different, a delicious indulgence before we settled into our virtual church service. Yes, we are almost at the one year anniversary of our church offering Zoom services every Sunday. These have been a true gift, allowing us to be in community with others, to hear inspirational words, and basically to never have to miss church again. We've been amused and amazed by our regular attendance - is it the ONLY thing to do? Or the chosen thing to do? I believe it's the latter - I always come away from the service with a sense of peace and hope, feeling nourished and soothed. 

Back to those blueberry muffins. I was following a new recipe and my timing was all off, meaning that they came out of the oven a mere three minutes before our virtual church service. There was not even enough time for them to cool down before the service, certainly, no time to eat them. I left them on the cooling rack, wishing that I had been more organized with my timing. 

We logged onto the Zoom session, just listening in - we always turn off our video feed. The house began to fill with the delicious smell of those muffins. 

We looked at each other. 


Then, we jumped up and grabbed one of those muffins to eat right then and there! 

Yes, we had this whole surprise, unexpected moment of warm blueberry extraordinariness in the midst of church, bringing prayer and contemplation to a whole new wild level in my mind. For this child of parochial schools, it felt delightfully irreverent and harmlessly naughty. It was a moment of rebellion and radical fun that my own heart so needed in the midst of all this stuckness.

I do believe we're going to miss some aspects of this time of isolation.

"There's something to be said for keeping prayer simple"  - Anne Lamott


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, February 9, 2021

Making it through

He dropped by to see us yesterday, my youngest son, a porch visit only. Outdoors, socially-distant, COVID-style. He hasn't dared to come by, won't dare to come in right now, because COVID cases are soaring and he works in a college bookstore - a campus that has welcomed students back for second semester this school year, this pandemic school year.

I search for his eyes, above that mask, beneath the warm hat. 

His eyes lack their usual smile, he seems weighed down. He's frustrated by his work, this sense that the students don't care they are making others sick, this sense of being overlooked by the university administration, failing to protect him and other even more critical front-line workers - those that clean the dormitories, serve food in the cafeterias, drive the shuttles, etc. He's disillusioned and discouraged by the world. 

He worries about his own health. He's in the area, visiting us, because it was time for another infusion; he has an autoimmune disease and needs these regularly. These infusions wear him out, he's always fatigued afterwards. 

Today, he's fatigued and freezing. We're freezing, all of us, despite the small heater that Tony has set up. Once cold gets into you, oh my, there's no warming up. I feel it in my feet first, and it just moves through my body, despite the lap blankets, warm coat, gloves. 

He doesn't stay long. The winter day doesn't allow it. 

Hours later, safely ensconced on my couch, wrapped in a throw blanket, I continue to feel chilly. He was so sweet to indulge us. He knows how much we miss him. (We sent him off with a shower of love treats, of course - homemade cookies, gourmet coffee, even a hot chicken/beans/rice dinner from our favorite local hole-in-the-wall takeout.)

I am so saddened by the heaviness I saw in his eyes. He's only 25 years old...despair is not a good look on anyone, especially the young. 

I am so done with COVID! Unfortunately, it is not done with us. There is still so much more to get through. I know this. We all know this. Getting the vaccine is the new chapter of the hassle, and it is grueling, too.

There's this mass of tall, deciduous trees at the back border of our next door neighbor's yard, where I often watch for hawk sightings and other birds. There are also rampant invasive vines that have grown up and through all the branches - a real mess, really. These trees probably need a good pruning, but who has the time or patience to get to this? Plus, doesn't it provide a little privacy, ultimately? The mess is largely invisible, if you keep your eyes lowered - ha! (but you'd miss the birds - ha, ha!).

Well, this past Sunday, we had the most magical snow. Truly. We woke up to these enormous, thick, soft flakes falling rapidly, instantly enveloping everything, making everything look gorgeous. I happened to look out at this mass of branches and vines as the snow fell - and I am so happy that I did. These inter-looping, interlocking, interwoven wild tentacles of ugly made for almost a fine lacework when coupled with snow. This visual eyesore was transformed, as if by magic wand of snow, into majestic beauty! I have the photo to prove it!

Savor this beauty, however brief. Joy is essential to persevering.

What beauty can we offer to transform the ugly sores of this world right now? 
What words or actions will bring a little soft magic? 
How might we treat ourselves and others, in this midst of all this ugly, 
to life's essential beauty?


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, February 2, 2021

Others as us

I received Isabel Wilkerson's book Caste as a holiday gift, and this was just the impetus I needed to sit down and read her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns. Long overdue, since I have had it at my bedside for quite some time (it was published in 2010!). 

I was able to do a deep-dive into this reading these past couple of days, thanks to snowy weather providing the perfect ambiance to curl up with a good book. Yes, this was a very good book - an extraordinary book, in my opinion. I am awed by the tremendous detail of Ms. Wilkerson's research, alongside her gift of being able to write in such a tender and personal way. 

I am astounded by what I did not know, what I learned from this one text. If you asked me about the Great Migration, I could give you a short, succinct textbook answer - and maybe throw in a reference to Jacob Lawrence and his magnificent paintings. I knew about the migration of Black Americans from the South to other more "hospitable" parts of the United States in only the most cursory ways. I had never stopped to think about how hard and cruel daily life in the South must have been, for folks to choose to leave. I had never stopped to think about how legal it was to hate. I had never stopped to think about the continued cruelty they faced in their new homes, just because they were Black. 

I found the anecdotes about white silence and complicity to be the most disturbing. If Whites weren't doing something explicitly hateful, so many seemed to have an innate ability to put blinders on, look the other way, to not be troubled. For example, Robert Joseph Pershing Foster drives hundreds of miles in the mid-1950s, trying to get to California, tired and sleep-deprived, and no motel will let a Black person have a room. He breaks down at a gas station, and the White gas attendant listens: 

Something in the voice, in the way the man looked in his eyes and touched his shoulder and tried in the middle of a cool desert night to console him, made Robert feel all the sadder. It confirmed he wasn't crazy, and that made him feel utterly alone. Yes, there was an evil in the air and this man knew it and the woman at the motel knew it, but here he was without a room and nobody of a mind to do anything had done a single thing to change that fact. And that made the pain harder, not easier, to bear.

These passages, with their spotlight on 'man's inhumanity to man' hit hard. Several times, I put the book down and did something else for awhile, just to catch my breath. One such time - a passage about 1966, in Chicago, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was stoned - a rock thrown at his head! Imagine, I am reading this from the safety of my home, some 55 years later, and I am a wreck. I think my horror at this scene was amplified due to the recent riots at the Capitol. Why do we hate so? Too many of us have been raised with hate, this sense that "I am better than you," "you are less than me," "I deserve more than you," "I will hurt you if I don't get my way." Or is it, "there's not enough for both of us, so I am going to get mine"? It is sickening. It is depraved. 

Contrary to modern-day assumptions, for much of the history of the United States - from the Draft Riot of the 1860s to the violence over desegregation a century later - riots were often carried out by disaffected whites against groups perceived as threats to their survival. 

It seems so simple to me, that we all deserve the same rights and freedoms. Our ability to see others as us is essential. 

I am reminded that there are many facets to ignorance - white privilege being one. Isabel Wilkerson used the phrase "the dispassion of the indifferent." What injustices have I not even noticed? 

As a White woman, I have not needed to know more details about our nation's history of Black migration, and, for many years, I never sought to know. In recent years, I am working very hard to learn and understand more. I think, how can our democracy afford for its citizens to NOT know about Black history? How do you move past something, towards a better society, if you know very little about what's been so wrong? 

Obviously, this book has left me thinking! 
Let me share one last and uplifting quote: 
It was, if nothing else, an affirmation of the power of an individual decision, however powerless the individual might appear on the surface.

                                                                      - Isabel Wilkerson, about the Great Migration



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!