Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Teaching-Like Racing In The Indie

     Even here at the end of the school year, like most of you I imagine, I am looking toward the next year, thinking about how I can improve my work with teachers and students:  searching for new ideas to improve teaching, to communicate more clearly, and to create closer collegial relationships.  In between all the personal summer activities, I will read and think and make notes and gather resources.  There lately was an article from Education Week titled “Teaching Is Not A Part-Time Job”.  Here is the link:  http://svteach.wikispaces.com/Teachers'+Work+Goes+Beyond+the+School+Day
       I find that I make so many connections to what I observe, on TV sometimes, and in other activities that I do.  Yesterday, I watched most of the Indie 500 race, and early in this most prestigious race, I began to apply what I saw to teaching.  This time, while the ending holds just one winner, the entire broadcast information held much to be applied to education.  First of all, they showed the history of the race, this year 100 years old, with the primitive model-t racers that climbed to 75 mph, to the near-rocket cars of today that reach 220 mph.  In between are innovations, tweaking of new applications, brains working overtime to create the best racing (read ‘learning’) possible for the cars.  And the drivers themselves today learn they must strengthen their hands, to be able to hold onto the shaking steering wheels at such high speeds, must workout even like the Olympians to be able to endure the nearly four hour race.  We too have historical background in education that supports what we do.  Innovators in our history have given us basic knowledge that we use again and again, and much of it hasn’t gone out of style.  We too have to stay in shape, perhaps not like the Olympians, but most of all, we keep up with the best practices that are proven; to read what we must takes stamina, while to use what we learn takes endurance in the classroom, keeping up with different groups, different individuals.
           During the race I noticed that the pit crew was discussed at length, including how much they practiced in order to get ready for the event, how they rehearsed in order to shave even parts of seconds off the time taken to change tires, re-fuel, and make minor adjustments.  Teachers often teach to the moment, also making minor changes as they assess what is happening in the group, or to an individual.  They form the pit crew that keeps the car going, don’t they, working alongside (or with) the driver?  
And who is the driver?  I believe it’s an ebb and flow between the teacher and the students, a companionship that could be akin to teaching the student to drive, directing with details, teaching as much as you know about learning, then the gradual release so that the student is driving alone. Having learned what is offered as well as possible, the student takes over, practicing, getting the needed help from the pit crew, but this time it’s the driver who must make the crucial decisions that help complete the race.  The classroom/students are also the car, also interacting with the driver and given support by the pit crew.  One story that resonated with me was the race by Danica Patrick, who placed 10th in this Indie 500.  During the race, the car ran hot and the pit crew, all the background help, made changes at every pit stop, trying to reduce the heat, to keep the car running as well as could be, with Danica herself making changes in the way she raced, to give the best chance for success.  She didn’t win, but the car did complete the race without breaking down, and the different changes made by the pit crew helped that happen.  Hurrah for teachers who keep tweaking their methods in order to differentiate the learning for each student, and achieve success.
             I guess that many might think this connection is a little silly, yet when I make connections like this; I share them with my teachers and students, because I want more than anything for them to understand the myriad parts that encompass the practice of teaching and the components of learning.  It is hoped that those same teachers and students begin to examine anything they wish to understand more fully, in the minute parts that create success.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rambling Thoughts

May 30, 2011

Rambling Thoughts During This Mini Vacation

     Yesterday was the third day I’ve had without  going to work, although I'm not quite finished at school, as we have two and one half days more with students this week, then final staff meeting and staff party.  The hourglass is nearly empty.  We had a lot to do the past days, running errands, going to a movie, and visiting my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter for a few hours, helping them with some lawn work (mostly though, playing with Ingrid).   In between errands, I’ve been doing those last minute school tasks, like wrapping goodbye gifts and writing thank you notes. 
Yesterday, we hung out mostly, so I put ingredients for a stew in a slow cooker, and I’ve kept busy on the mission of cleaning out things-first drawers, then some closets, etc.  I found no surprises, (or money), but did fill another box for give-aways & a bag of things for various people at school.  My mantra is use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.  It’s an old World War II saying, when many had to live that way in order to help the war effort.  It’s interesting how today there is much talk that supports that saying; we’ve come to believe that doing what we can to waste less is a good thing for the planet.
 School ending gives me such energy for home things.  It’s almost the same feeling when spring fever hits, and I yearn to be outside, in the garden, without a coat!  It is bittersweet to say goodbye to continuing students who are leaving for good, but we all feel the pull of summer, the almost visceral need to do something different, whether it’s to stay at home, go on vacation, or just take a few hours every day in the garden, tending the new growth. 
So today, I puttered, I cleaned, and I sat on the patio a while, and while there, a gift came by.  A hawk flew in, and landed on one of our fence posts.  Guess he was hanging out too, although probably for dinner.  He didn’t stay long, but it was a great thing to see.  I didn’t have a camera, and if I’d moved, he too would have taken off.  So, he’s just in my mind’s eye, a beautiful thing, making his way in this almost-summer world, just like I am.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Brother

May 29, 2011

   Yesterday was my brother's birthday.  We live far away, so I sent a card and a gift, and we called him last night.  He is my only sibling, and special to me.  We're looking forward to a long visit this summer when we return to my home state.  He, his wife, my husband and I love to travel the back roads, looking for terrific little cafes, general stores, and antique shops.  It's just fun to be together and I wish we were closer, but glad we do spend time together as much as possible.  A poem for Jim,

            My Little Brother

                  My brother,
                  my little brother,
                  is sixty-one,
                  director of a band,
                  leader of the church choir,
                  father and grandfather of a household,
                  saver of cats and dogs,
                  really-all manner of living things.
                  He's a grand manager of his life.
                  But all I see is
                  my brother-
                  my little brother

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Like It Is - student backpacks

May 26, 2011

Like It Is

Like my room,
my backpack is
my life.

It may be heavy,
but I really have to pack all
of the things in. 
Nothing is removed at school,
but those few reports demanded,
the pencils expected,
and the cell phone
(when no one is looking).
Nothing is removed at home,
but those few things important
to survival—a math book
for the homework; the English anthology
in order to read Twain, maybe Dickens;
and lately, above all, the topic list in order to practice
over and over-the five paragraph essay.
(Occasionally I don’t finish the history research
at school, so must retrieve that assignment, but it
is returned pretty fast to the pack.)

I must be sure that
I don’t miss a beat
of my year,
the math,
the English
the history,
the geography.  And so,
I lug the pack
back and forth,
heavy on my back,
looking like I’m bound for Harvard,
or somewhere,
all that bulkiness the sure sign of success. 
All these things
move me forward,
doubtless because the higher powers
deem it so, but also because I
need them to form part of me,
to create the me that is
the school-going, sometimes-serious,
how I look,
how I seem,
how I drive,
how I dream,
but never worried about the pack.
It’s just all in there, ready for student use,
just in case it’s needed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Special Day

May 25, 2011

       Today is my son and daughter-in-law’s fifteenth anniversary.  They, with their nine-year-old son, are the part of my family that moved to another state this year, and it’s the first time we haven’t been able to take them out to dinner, or send them out while we babysat our grandchild.  I have thought of them all day, and all the fun we’ve had through the years together.  They’ve helped us so many times, and we’ve helped them too.  My husband closed a retail business several years ago, and weekend after weekend; they came to the store to help clean it out, to get it ready to close.  We have kept our grandson countless days, and then weeks at a time, for just fun, and sometimes when family tragedies created the need.  We have cooked for each other, joined each other’s friends’ lives, traveled together, laughed and cried together.  I am so proud of them and their committed lives together, and miss them a bunch.
        When my son was young, he played often with the little people toys of Fisher-Price.  One of those favorite people was the little red-haired girl.  Is it fate that he met and then married a red-haired girl, or did that earlier sweet connection create the later attraction?  Funny how life goes, isn’t it?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Choice to Make That's Not So Easy

May 24, 2011 Slice of Life Tuesday

One of the important aspects of the school ‘s philosophy where I work is that we give students so much choice in their learning.  For example, each year they choose a personal unit of study around which teachers build the learning appropriate to each child’s needs.  The choices also spread to mini classes that students have a couple of times a week, personal book goals, writing goals in workshop, etc.  While this is challenging both for teachers and students to make good decisions for learning, it works well almost all of the time.   Numerous conversations happen to help students learn the skills of making good choices, like how to look ahead to foresee consequences or what might be the next ‘step’ of learning in a particular curriculum area.  It doesn’t always go smoothly, and we teachers have our own continuing dialogs to find good ways to support the way this best works for students and the way we teach.
            I give this lengthy introduction because I wanted to describe a challenge I had this week that involved choice.  I have been substituting for a teacher in a ‘mini’ creative writing class, and in her plans, she told me that students were working on a fiction story or a memoir—their choice.  They had completed a lot of support in those areas before beginning.  We met at the tech lab, and in the first session I was teaching, one student struggled with focusing on a goal. She at first told me that the teacher had said that the students could write anything, but when questioned, other students confirmed the two choices mentioned earlier.  The young woman finally got some of a list typed, and after some conversation, thought that she could connect the list (of very long words) to things that had happened to her—a sort of memoir.  I supported the idea, and asked her to write a couple of sentences as an introduction to explain to her readers what she was doing.  She was resistant, saying that it was her ‘choice’ to have readers just use their imagination and figure out her plan.              I have used reasons to persuade her that occurred to me first, like usually writers want to communicate to readers as well as they can, to be clear, and to not confuse.  And, I suggested it might be fun to begin with a question using one of the words, asking readers to connect their own memories with that word, and that too was a way that readers would understand her writing goal. 

Nothing changed this student’s mind.  She insisted it wasn’t necessary to tell, that readers surely were smart enough to figure it out. 
            The goal of this class is for all students to complete two pieces, work some on revision, and to create a book of all the writing.  I have my own choice to make with only a few classes to go.  It is such a dilemma, to honor the writer’s/student’s decision, or to insist that certain guidelines be followed.  If the subject matter is hurtful to others, I have no problem telling the writer that changes needed to be made, but because this writer actually is writing, and just resisting a suggestion, I’m not so sure I shouldn’t just let it go.
            Giving students choices means taking risks as educators, yet the dialog that this student and I are having is learning too, and the fact that she is willing to defend her choice is admirable.  She may see the consequence in the sharing, when her readers get confused.  That is one natural consequence that could occur.  No one will make fun, they will just ask questions. 
It’s a big deal, these choices, for me and for students.

Monday, May 23, 2011

It Depends On What You See

May 23, 2011

It Depends On What You See

Right now, right before dusk,
stretched bars of shadows
reach across my lawn, nearly touching
the house,
They linger 
before the sun carries their power
over the mountains.

Sometimes I believe they’re lovely,
showing off the light in a different way,
kind of like before that last closing of the window blinds.
Other times they seem like fingers grasping,
scary thoughts reaching for my mind.
In those eerie times,
I draw the curtains to cover the windows,
calling over my shoulder to my husband,
“I can’t believe it’s already so dark out.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Found Poem - 10 O'Clock Weather

May 22, 2011

             Found Poem – 10 O’Clock Weather

Weather comes in a rush; or is it a gush?
I really don’t want to talk about it—hush!

More rain possible, even snow is in the forecast.
Heavy ridge of high pressure over the low; we’ll
be following the futurecast in order to see what ends
up over us.  Here it is right now Friday night.
Look at the snow back in the mountains once again, soon to be here-perhaps tomorrow night.  30’s 40’s 50’s in the next 24 hours, we have good air quality, but 54 at the most tomorrow, although it could get to 68 by Monday.  Too bad for the weekend-stay tuned for the future four!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

When Grandchildren Come To Play

May 21, 2011

When Grandchildren Come To Play

There’s only two that will ever do
when grandchildren come to play.
There’s a box of blocks and a basket of balls
for entertainment all the day.
There are big and wide blocks, round and lean-
blue and red blocks,
yellow ones and green.
The ones that are the biggest make
walls of houses sound.
The ones that make the people
are little ones and round.
(Sometimes the towers grow and grow
until they tumble down.)

And then the basket filled with balls
is picked up for some fun,
and out roll many, many of them
as if they like to run.
We have red ones, orange ones,
stripes and solids too.  
There are hand-sized ones and tiny ones,
plus a huge one that is blue.
They bounce and roll and hide under chairs,
and are always fun to throw downstairs.

I only know I don’t have to go
for other toys at all,
For all it takes for fun and games
are just these blocks and balls.

Friday, May 20, 2011

One More Way To Say Goodbye

May 20, 2011

      I've written earlier about my collection of poems that say goodbye, and as we are now living the final days of this school year, I've written another goodbye poem.  This time, all but two of the students I have had in my classroom will be leaving, moving on to high school.  They are special because they hold a place as part of the group of students in my last classroom, and so it's time again to say goodbye.

            Time Rushes In

I can’t believe I’m going to have
to say goodbye to them
Time rushes in.
It seems we just become a family,
get settled in the nest,
and then they fly away to seek new goals,
to fight new fights, to dream other

It’s best to give a little push to help them
It’s best to give only a smile, a simple wave,
but I’ll be sure to ask for a small feather to keep here at my desk,
to help me tuck them in my mind,
to revisit the good times
now and then.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A How To Poem

May 19, 2011 

         My daughter is pregnant with her second child now-due in August, has a two year old, works a challenging full time job, and sounds tired lately.  She lives near, but mostly we talk on the phone in the evenings.  I have thought back to the taking care of children when I was a mom with the kids still here, and some of the care given when they were ill.  When our adult children are ill, or just tired, we can't do those things we used to do, at least very much.  I've written a poem that tried to capture one of those moments.

How To Comfort A Sick Daughter

        How to comfort
        a daughter out of sorts:
        Offer hug immediately,
        then bring the thermometer, and
        perhaps a cold cloth.
        Finally, ice water and saltines,
        the blue and white afghan
        and of course
        the cat.
        Close the blinds;
        begin the Mozart - quietly.
        Start boiling the water
        potato soup.
        Write a quick note that says      
        I love you,
        but in French.
        Give one more hug
        and leave the room.
        (She needs the rest!)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing Is Hard Work!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011  

          Writing each day gives pause to think about all the writers whose words enthrall me, and whose words daunt, yet inspire too.  Sometimes I can't quite see how the writers keep on.  It's hard work!

children and love
birds of a feather
being alone
seasonal weather

whisper of the wind
good of work and play
special memories
fill me up today

poems to create
from topics listed
challenge to my hand
pencil’s resistive

I’ve written and rhymed
metaphors of thought
figured that poetry
isn’t easily wrought

This time, lain aside
penciled, paper lists
gave up empty words
till ready to persist

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Special Trip With Early Primary Students

May 17, 2011

A Special Trip With Primary Students

All students in the school where I work go on many trips, day and extended, and for a variety of reasons.  They work with different teachers on these trips, and sometimes with their core teachers also.  From the five year olds to those about to move on to high school, thirteen or fourteen year olds, studies of the outdoors and the way the world works in other ways according to students’ individual interests occur.  I taught the middle school group for numerous years until moving into a literacy coaching position last year, and we traveled numerous places through the years, changing themes, but most important, experiencing the world as it happened in order to add to the information they had already studied in print, whether online or in published books. 

This past week, instead of an extended overnight trip, I had the pleasure of one extended day with a group of early primary students, mostly fives and a few fours.  We spent much of the day at the farm of a teacher at the school.  As I worked with the group and talked and helped students with different tasks, I was struck by the similarities between this Tuesday-until-almost-dinner trip and the ten-to-twelve-day trips I took with older students.  They came to add information to that already studied, through print that was shared during the day, and by field journal writing and sketching that captured more information.  Here are examples of just a few ways that reading and writing was used before and during the trip:  

First, students were so prepared for the experience.  They knew all the things they had in their packs, and were able to access them quickly, like snack, water bottle, lunch, second layer, rain layer.  They showed they were ready for travel.  Teachers this time carried the field journals during the set aside journal time, but the students were ready to capture learning as soon as one activity was completed, and journals were always accessible.   For example, they watered the mulch around baby plants, learning how the mulch holds moisture for them, and then they wrote about the plants and chose a favorite one to sketch.  With adults helping, they wrote one new fact learned about the plants. 

All during the year, this particular class has studied food and how it comes to the table for their special class unit.  In addition to other trips, they began the year at this same farm, learning about harvest time and picking cucumbers so they could make pickles.  They have read books about plants and how they grow, and in the fall, were able to examine different stages of growth, including the plants’ flowers that then turned into the food.   On one trip they took to a different farm, they got to dig potatoes.   At lunchtime on this day, we all shared the pickles made from the cucumbers picked months ago. 

Last week, so I could get to know the class a bit better, and they could get to know me, I read the book Tops and Bottoms, by Janet Stevens to the group.  It was a good choice at this time, because the humor is subtle and yet the class knew so much after their yearlong study of how food grows that they immediately understood the trick played by the rabbit on the bear.   During one conversation in the garden, they examined the parts of a rhubarb plant, and learned how the ‘tops and bottom’ were poisonous, and only the middle was eaten.  Students remembered the book and referred to it in the discussion.

The current read-aloud of the class is Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White, and one of the teachers read after lunch in the chicken house, among the chickens, ducks, and one gobbling turkey.   It was another special moment, and more than one child pointed out the spider webs hanging on the walls, wondering if there was a relative of Charlotte living near. 

Later in the afternoon, we traveled to a nearby lake and looked at some of the plants found at the edge of the water, like cattails, and discussed their uses, including food and nest-making materials.  Students got to break off some of the dried cattails and pull the seed fluff, sending it into the wind.  Another book studied was about seeds, so they knew just what the wind was going to do.

Finally, we had a late treat before boarding the buses for the return home:  homemade ice cream that had been made earlier in the week at school.  An earlier study of dairy cows and the food produced from them had also included cheese making, but now the sweet ice cream with strawberries proved to be a fine end to a special day.

The connection between hands-on activities and the use of what was learned previously was strong during the trip.  Using information learned showed students the usefulness of research, how it helps inform the questioning when in the field, and how being in the field can confirm what was seen in the earlier research.  It’s quite a satisfying circle that we at school hope continues with our students during whatever they read and then experience.

Monday, May 16, 2011


May 16, 2011

          Closing in on night and that time before full dark is a magical time.   I remember hide and seek games during the time when it was just a little bit scary because shadows were deeper and times when I could sit on the porch, lazily listening to the grown-ups talk as we all finished our days.  Some of this feeling is captured  in the movie To Kill A Mockingbird, that sweet, sweet time before being called home after having such adventures with the neighbor kids after supper.  So I wrote about it, but just a little poem.  It hopefully will bring more specific personal memories of that time to those who read it.

Plump yellow moon on a blanket of stars
spills thin light in the chill
of the night.
With the farewell of dusk,
echoing songs murmur in the air.
The sun has sunk into the mountains,;
 gold edges the rims in a final blast of brightness.
Crickets and robins chatter while
the chilly shadows
‘it is night’.  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Granddaughter Visits

May 15, 2011

          My daughter wants to build a teepee for her daughter, Ingrid, to play in this summer, so they both arrived at our house with poles and ideas.  Unfortunately, the weather turned rainy and cold, so we stayed indoors and had a great visit, watching Ingrid play and talking about the coming summer, along with teepee ideas.  We found a pattern that looked good on Amazon, and ordered it;  ate tamales that I bought at the farmer's market earlier in the morning, and just had a lazy day, not exactly as anticipated, but maybe what we needed.  My two year old granddaughter is a busy girl,  sweet and delightful.  It is such fun to see her that I often wish they lived down the block and not so far away (30 minutes into the city).   When she is here, no other priorities exist;  she is here.

In a flash, she arrives—
Never stopping, never frowning,
Gramma”, shouting, “here I am!”
Restoring happiness wherever she lands.
Inside my heart,
Daughter’s love, and therefore mine.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Reflection

May 13, 2011

Well, somehow yesterday's post was lost, along with some comments on the previous one, so I am going to post my Thursday post again. It may end up a double, if they restore things as blogger have said they would. This seems a bit funny now, because we in Denver had two wonderful rainy days on Wednesday & Thursday, hence the poem below. Today is the usual bright, sunny spring day, but the rain was sorely needed & it was wonderful to be inside with rain tapping on the windows. At school, the students seem to enjoy the difference also, even happy to have a chance for quiet worktime, & lunch inside for a change.


Rare rainy day I treasure, so

I pull the quilt closer, and

relax into my thoughts.

In my mind’s eye of a

magnifying glass,

I examine

a favorite part of my life.

With all its complexities,

it’s simply

a gathering of wood pulp,

the binding of paper,

hard, then soft, then hard.

The difference lies in

the symbols

gathered and arranged

—according to

each person’s

experiences in life—

to inform, to persuade, to entertain.

I speak in awe of

these written words,

found within

a book.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Favorite Month

May 11, 2011

My Favorite Month

When we gaze across the months, we see that some seem

more dutiful to the seasons than others. My vote goes often

to October as the favorite, holding minutes of dreams

of summer weather, then hinting at times of winter

with cooler nights. It glories in the final blast

of color from the summer gardens, and the leaves who’ve

lost their springtime green turn now to loss, yet hold fast

with their goodbyes in oranges, reds and yellows.

October carries us on the coaster ride from warm to cold

Winding down to Halloween, the holiday of old.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

a book that I loved!

May 10, 2011

a recent book I loved

As a classroom teacher and as a literacy coach, I read so many books to find new ideas to share that will enhance our literacy program. I search for books for specific individuals and groups, mentor texts for writing workshop, and read-alouds to share special content and find new ways to see others’ lives as well as our own. The ideas presented in the books also promote rich discussions, in whole classes or small groups. Books form a spine of the school’s curriculum, and it seems important not only to find the new authors who are exploring new ways to communicate through print—like the recent explosion of graphic novels—as well as to review books that have been in print a while, even a long while, to access their value. This time, it’s a new book I’d like to recommend.

Published last fall, and lately awarded the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for older readers, A Long Walk To Water, by Linda Sue Park, fills several goals mentioned above, and I liked it so much that I wanted to share about it in this Tuesday’s slice. It is a recent read and I loved it, was inspired by it, and hope you will be, too.

The book is based on the true story of Salva Dut, a Sudanese refugee who fled his home village at the age of eleven because of war. Salva became one of the ‘Lost Boys of Sudan‘, immigrating to the U.S. in the 1990s. He is the inspiration and the founder of Water for Sudan. In the book, Park switches viewpoints and stories between the boy Salva who in 1985 was forced to flee his home after his village was attacked and a girl from 2008 contemporary Sudan who walks eight hours each day to get water for her family. The changing viewpoints across the years create interest in the story, and begin with the two children 23 years apart, but slowly, as the book progresses, brings them together. Park weaves a difficult and complicated story well, crossing the divide of 23 years in a clear (but uncomplicated) style.

There are several ways I might share this book in the classroom:

o As a book group, with a study of unique ways of telling true stories as historical fiction.

o As a read aloud that will include many discussions of other ways of living, in challenging circumstances, but without giving up. Discussion of personal traits, like persistence through adversity and determination to reach one’s goal comprises the ‘other’ curriculum that teachers cover for our students.

o Also, a class might be embarking on a search for a service project, and reading this story together could inspire students to see needs that they might not have understood before.

o As a book goal for a particular student (or group) that might be reading and studying different ways of living, including challenges, attempting to figure out the characters’ source of strength and determination. As one reads the book, a consistent question underlying the story is ‘how do they manage?’ or “how do they keep going, accepting the responsibility over and over?”

It’s wonderful to find a new book to add to my collection of books to use in the classroom and of course, I am always searching for more!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Advice on Mother's Day

May 8, 2011

Clothing Advice Overheard on Mother’s Day

(from Mothers Probably)

I know that this is something you’d like to avoid, kid,

but let’s not skirt around the issue.

Be sure you take care of your money, honey,

and certainly don’t lose your shirt.

When you prepare for a job interview, dear,

You should go dressed to the nines.

If you want friends around to support you, sweetie,

don’t ever be a turncoat in your group.

When asked, be sure to grab your coat,

and get your hat, dear, leaving the worries on the doorstep

It’s really great that you think for yourself, lovey,

I don’t want you tied to my apron strings.

And be sure that if you get upset with anyone,

That you won’t get shirty with me!

But in all, when I think about you as my child,

I know that I’ll always take off my hat to you.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day Mom

May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

I am on a mission, like all moms, straightening, dusting, attacking those

mundane tasks of housekeeping. As I move into the kitchen,

I glance at the clock and the numbers blink:

often 1:11, sometimes 2:22, or 3:33, 4:44, and 5:55.

They occur twice a day, of course, and in one half, I’m usually asleep.

But even then, sometimes I wake, and there they are: 1:11, 2:22, etc.

I notice them often enough to make me superstitious.

My mother believed in numerology,

and that when one noticed the numbers repeating,

it was loved ones in heaven, looking down, making a connection,

and letting you know that they were watching over you.

Of course, in reality, this seems a bit silly, because

the important parts of my mother are in me, and need no care.

Just like poetry is in me, she wrote her beliefs into my being.

The beliefs sit with me sometimes, just as my mother did so often,

dialoging about a dilemma, a challenge, a victory.

Sometimes it seems to be the time when I look at the clock,

and 4:44 appears, making it easy to remember:

Be kind, make lemonade out of lemons, always try to do things better

than the last time, and always, always go the extra mile.

Still, in lieu of the real thing, I like the numbers, a little visit

from my mother.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Considering the meaning of stanza

May 5, 2011

Considering The Meaning Of Stanza

Stanza means ‘room’ in Italian.

It’s a good thing because there are so many rooms

from which we write our lives (or deaths).

There is the living room, where lives are lived

or lost, yet in recent years no one who has died has a night there,

but often spends that last, earthly time in some cold other place,

missing out on the final conversations about his or her life.

The room with a view if you can afford it offers a chance for good talk

now and then. “Look, the sky has darkened to ready for the rain,” or

“the ocean seems particularly calm today” and

“you can see the mountains so clearly today; aren’t they gorgeous?”

Another room to consider is the bathroom where drama

can unfold, much that involves the slamming of doors and locking

oneself in, most especially if one is a teenaged girl. And then we notice

the bedroom, also high drama, especially early in a relationship,

or not so much if the fight has occurred, and then this room houses

lonely bedcovers and quiet, not the good kind, but the thick kind.

I like to think that the music room is one where quiet is welcomed until

cymbals crash, drums roll, and violins play until the tears flow. Here also voices

can scream, especially when the other kind of music enters the room, like rock ‘n roll.

In past times, the rec room was filled with box TV’s, ping-pong tables and bowls

of popcorn. Families who valued each other enjoyed recreation time with each other,

and even invited others in on occasion for a night of Monopoly and mixed drinks.

In some houses there is a sunroom, a delightful space with wicker and plants

and quilted cushions. Sweet tea is served, with cucumber sandwiches and tiny cakes.

Men don’t often appear.

The laundry room becomes a contented space where housewives

think themselves lucky to have moved into the Maytag brand of their lives,

And they spray and press and hang sweet-smelling clothes on the rack,

ready to carry to the bedrooms. This room plays second fiddle to the

other workroom of the house, that doesn’t even earn the name of ‘something’ room,

but its own designation, the kitchen, from the ancient German, kocina. This is the

room, the best room, one that nourishes more than the body and could easily be

called the home room. This is where lives play in and out, with fights and hugs and kisses

to show love and hate and shear wonderment at the goings-on in this room. It is where gifts

are given through measurement, mixing, and (today) microwaving,

and also received with gratitude for the gestures made.

How can I write a poem with a stanza or two, when there is so much to say?