Tuesday, December 01, 2009
St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6) always sneaks up on me because it comes just on the tails of Thanksgiving. But it's a great day to celebrate, especially to share with children the gift of giving.
While many legends and myths surround the person of St. Nicholas, we do know a few things about him for sure. We know he was a Christian pastor. We know he was a Christian bishop. We know he lived in what is modern-day Turkey around A. D. 200-300s. He is best known for his generosity and his gift of gold to a family with three daughters in need of dowries.
I think it's safe to say that he practiced generosity as an extension of the compassion and grace he received from God. This motivation to do good because good has been done to you is what I love best about Nicholas. It's not a call to works of charity because of duty. His example serves as a model for us to give back from the good we've received.
On the night of Dec. 5, encourage your children to set their shoes beside their beds, ready to receive a treat from St. Nicholas. Give them some gold chocolate coins or a small treat. Remind your children that all good gifts come from God and serve as reminders of that best gift of all--the redemption God gives through the gift of His Son.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
HOW TO RITE RITE
- Don't abbrev.
- Check to see if you any words out.
- Be carefully to use adjectives and adverbs correct.
- About sentence fragments.
- When dangling, don't use participles.
- Don't use no double negatives.
- Each pronoun agrees with their antecedent.
- Just between you and I, case is important.
- Join clauses good, like a conjunction should.
- And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
- A preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.
- Don't use commas, that aren't necessary.
- Its important to use apostrophe's right.
- It's better not to unnecessarily split an infinitive.
- Never leave a transitive verb just lay there without an object.
- Only Proper Nouns should be capitalized. also a sentence should begin with a capital and end with a period
- Use hyphens in compound-words, not just in any two-word phrase.
- In letters compositions reports and things like that we use commas to keep a string of items apart.
- Watch out for irregular verbs which have creeped into our language.
- Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
- Avoid unnecessary redundancy.
- A writer mustn't shift your point of view.
- Don't write a run-on sentence you've got to punctuate it.
- A preposition isn't a good thing to end a sentence with.
- Avoid clichis like the plague; they're old hat; seek viable alternatives.
- Comparisons are as bad as clichis.
- Do not use a foreign term when there is an adequate English quid pro quo.
- If you must use a foreign term, it is de rigor to spell it correctly.
- Avoid colloquial stuff.
- It behooves the writer to avoid archiac expressions.
- Do not use hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it effectively.
- Mixed metaphors are a pain in the ass and ought to be thrown out the window.
- Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not correct.
- Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
- Consult the dictionary frequently to avoid mispelling.
- Don't use tautological, repetitive, or redundant statements.
- Don't use tautological, repetitive, or redundant statements.
- Puns are for children, not for readers who are groan.
- The Passive Voice shouldn't be used.
- Proofread carefully to see if you have any words out
- Hopefully, you will use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
- Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
- Always avoid any alliteration, albeit agreeable.
- Contractions aren't necessary.
- Who needs rhetorical questions?
- Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
- Do not put statements in the negative form.
- Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!
- Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
- Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
- Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
- Be more or less specific.
- One-word sentences? Eliminate.
- The passive voice is to be avoided.
- If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
- Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
- Understatement is always best.
- Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
- Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
- If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
- Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
- Remember to finish what you sta
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Blonde doesn't begin to describe me.
So, you all should definitely try it! Leave a comment with your six-word memoir.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Yesterday, I talked with a student whose friend's baby had H1N1 and while the family feared for the young one's recovery, is doing much better now, thankfully. But my student's comment about this was something along the lines of, "I don't want to touch anyone anymore."
Both of these situations touched a nerve. Over the summer I read a book called Generation Me by Jean Twenge. After years of research, she has come to the conclusion that the younger generation (born in the 70s, 80s and 90s) are more isolated and thus more depressed, anxiety, and lonely than ever before. I fear for us when our society--and even our churches are afraid to gather together.
We're already isolated enough. Instead of listening to the radio to wait for our favorite song to come on, we select our personal playlist on our iPods and plug ourselves in to our own little world. We cocoon ourselves by putting on those headphones and ignoring the person on the bus next to us.
Instead of talking problems out with co-workers and coming to solutions together, we immediately go to their superiors to complain.
Instead of going to a gathering, we sit behind our computer screen and de-friend people on Facebook whose opinions we don't share.
So, with all of these thoughts in my mind, I saw the news about the diocese changing the policies on communion and shaking hands and realized that not only is the policy an overreaction to the virus itself, it also serves as a way to isolate us further into our own little cocoons. Furthermore, studies over the years have been done which prove that there is no link between sipping from the Common Cup and getting sick. The American Medical Association did a study years ago that shows how unlikely people are to share germs by drinking the Common Cup. The study found that the precious metal of the chalice, the alcohol itself, and the fact that the chalice is wiped clean after each communicant drinks all lowered the risk of passing germs. I also found this good article in the L.A. Times about how communing from the chalice is much less risky than talking with someone in close proximity who is contagiously ill.
I have theological reasons for preferring the Common Cup, and for those reasons, I always prefer taking the Chalice.
But lately, I've also been considering the the sociological reasons. When we tune out the world and the people in our community and the person sitting next to us, we not only run the risk of perpetuating our own isolation and loneliness, but we cut off the other from a connection with someone else who is in the same boat, so to speak. People now are more depressed, lonely, and anxious than ever. The statistics are always on the rise, and I attribute that, at least in part, to our unwillingness to talk to one another, to cut ourselves off from community, and not shake hands for fear of getting sick.
I'm not saying I want people to contract H1N1. Far from it. But being safe and smart with one's health while still connecting to others is important not only for each individual, but also for the community.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
“Just past midnight that hunched bundle behind the barn was me, Reuben Land, in deep regret. Skittish, that’s what I was, and unnerved about walking out into the dark. Here all day I’d imagined the glory of this act—waiting for a certain heaviness in the house, slipping on pants, ghosting down to the kitchen, pocketing gingersnaps, easing shut the door, crossing some hundreds of yards into Davy’s night—just thinking of it beforehand slid me into the company of heroes…. Wouldn’t I, too, defeat jitters and win out for Davy’s sake?” (Peace Like a River, Leif Enger, 223).
1. Word choice - "ghosting" down the stairs, "pocketing" the cookies, the "hunched bundle." This little passage is brilliant in its economy of words--and not just the word choice, but the visual imagery created by those choice words.
2. Detail - the "gingersnaps" is such a small and seemingly insignificant word in this paragraph, but again, it represents the best of writing. I can feel the sweet spicy crumbs in my pocket, can't you?
3. The surprises - perhaps best of all in this passage are the surprises. Instead of the expected use of "quietness" or "stillness" to describe the house, Enger uses "heaviness." And isn't that just right? Isn't there a kind of heaviness in the wee hours of the night? I also loved the surprising sentence structure of that first sentence: "That...bundle...was me."
On another note, I've been enjoying my teaching at IPFW so far this semester, and now I am also tutoring ESL high school students. So I'm busy, but I love being in the classroom, and I am finding little pockets of time to write as well.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Tonight, though, I'd like to reflect a little bit on social and personal connections. GenMe'ers (or iGen'ers) are, not surprisingly, described as isolated and cut off from others due to our focus on the self. This is, Twenge strongly argues, due to the self-esteem education we received in the '70s and '80s ("you can be anything you want to be!"). We focus on ourselves, we believe in our dreams, we want what we want when we want it. But--Twenge warns--do not call GenMe'ers spoiled; after all, isn't this what we've been taught all our lives? That we're special? Unique? No one is like us? We deserve to have it all?
This enchantment with the self, along with advances in technology (I can set my iPod to my personal selection of music and shut out the world; I can Tivo my show and watch it whenever it's convenient for me, etc.), has, at least in part, cut us off from other people.
Wait a minute! I hear you say, what about email and the internet and texting and cell phones? Don't they connect us more?
Well, that could be true. But Twenge did her homework. Today's generation feels more isolated, cut off, lonely, and depressed than any other. It is counterintuitive, but true, if we can trust her studies.
So even while all of these thoughts ruminating around my brain, I've had some interesting experiences this summer. I helped my parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in June. At the party, I saw lots of familiar faces from my childhood--the parents of my brothers' friends, my piano teacher, family friends, friends from church...so many wonderful people.
I had a wonderful chat with Don and Lucy, the parents of my best friend in high school, Lori, who, unfortunately, could not make it to the party. But it was great visiting with her parents. Lucy said she'd been thinking about it and decided that I'd have never married my husband Scott if it wouldn't have been for Lori's grandfather. This seems like a strange deduction to make on the surface of it. My story is not all that unique: I went off to college, met a guy, and married him. Not all that unusual, right? Well, here's the thing.
Lori's family is Lutheran, and Lori went to a small Lutheran college in Ann Arbor, Michigan after we graduated from high school. I went the opposite direction, to Seattle Pacific Univ. But because of Lori's influence on me and our exploration of our faith together, I decided my freshman year of college to join the Lutheran church. That, then, led me to decide to become a Lutheran teacher, which led me to transfer to Concordia College in Ann Arbor, with Lori, which is where I met my husband, who later became a Lutheran pastor, etc. etc.
Lucy pointed out, though, that it was actually due to her father who insisted that all of his kids be educated in Lutheran schools which then influenced his family to remain Lutheran, and perhaps that influenced Lori to attend a Lutheran school. I then, being a new Lutheran, decided I'd go to the same Lutheran school Lori did...
The story gets a little long (and maybe boring), but after she described all of the connections, I had to agree: I would not be married to Scott if it weren't for Lori's grandfather.
And that is a little bit amazing to think about.
I mean, how is it that our lives collide and bump against each other, and we influence each other every day--even in ways we may not realize? Did Lori's grandfather sit in his rocking chair thinking about how his Lutheran beliefs would affect his granddaughter's friend and her husband? I doubt it.
But these are the sorts of connections that all of us have--and we may not even realize it. We think we're floating around alone in the world, and then someone like Lucy says, "well, you know, your life wouldn't have happened if it weren't for..." Sometimes life does feel lonely, but maybe we feel lonely because we've isolated ourselves behind our iPods and laptops. I'm not making judgements--I love the new technology as much as anyone else. But I wonder if it's that personal element, that person-to-person contact that we need more of, and my parents' anniversary party helped me realize that.
So do something social this week. Go to a restaurant with friends. Gather around a bonfire. Phone your childhood pal; even better, go for a visit. You're probably more connected to the people around you than you realize.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
When I think of a perfect summer in Indiana, I think of picking blueberries. I remember one summer, about ten or twelve years ago, a couple of friends and I took our kids blueberry picking. (Do you remember it, Kathryn?) That day--after driving out to the country in my friend's old giant sedan, with kids and sunny blue skies, picking blueberries from the bushes in rural Indiana--that day seemed to capture the essence of summer. And I think, somehow, it brought back the simplicity of my own childhood summers, running in the sprinklers, drinking from the hose, playing Green Ghost in the neighborhood.
So now, it's hard to keep me from Blueberry Acres in LaOtto, Indiana during blueberry picking season. And check out how delicious these recipes look. Sheesh.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Their story became popular when footage was uploaded to You Tube a couple of years ago. The footage shows the moment when Christian's former owners "Ace" and John are reunited with the lion after a year of separation. The lion is so amazingly affectionate to the two men that many people found it quite moving, and interest in the story was rekindled. A new edition of the book was published. It's really a remarkable story, and the book itself is quite well written, describing that amazing connection between animals and people.
Here's the link to the video. (And, no, this doesn't mean that I now want to own a lion...although the thought did cross my mind. This story is a great example of a cautionary tale against bringing exotic animals in domestic situations. However, listening to the story does make me want a kitten.)
Friday, May 29, 2009
I have several sets of them: a traditional black, red and orange one, a little bit like the image on the left. I also have a winter scene doll and inside are small Christmas tree ornaments, instead of smaller dolls. I have a kind of cool Biblical one that has Mary with the infant Jesus as the biggest doll, then three gray-haired saint-like men in chausibles (the three persons of the Trinity? Joseph and some other saints? don't know). Then the last littlest object is a tiny little candle.
My favorite nesting dolls are the ones that tell stories. Here's one of Goldilocks and the three bears. I like the story-telling dolls because, I guess, of the teacher/storyteller in me. I want to use the dolls to tell a story. My favorite set (that I own) tells the story of the turnip. I love this story because it shows how important a role everyone in the family plays--from the littlest to the biggest.
A farmer grows a huge turnip. When it's finally ready to harvest, he goes to his field and tries to pull it up. It won't budge. So he asks his wife to help. It still won't budge. He asks his children to help. No good. He gets the dog to help, the cat to help, and still the turnip won't budge. It's only when he enlists the help of the mouse that he is able to pull up the turnip. Pop! Turnip soup!
The turnip story dolls show, as you might guess, the different people/animals who help to pull the turnip out, starting with the farmer, then the wife, then the kids, then the dog, the cat, and finally ends with the mouse (or a rat).
In one of my unpublished-but-I-have-high-hopes-for stories (a tall tale about a western cowdog named Lightning Lulu), I use an echo of the turnip story. Lulu can't pull the flooded chuck wagon out of the river by herself. She needs the help of the cow, the cat, and all of the other animals. Finally, working together, they rescue the wagon.
Folk arts, like matrioshka dolls, the Russian Easter eggs, quilts, Japanese fans, and even origami appeal to me because of the stories they share. Crazy quilts show a lifetime of little scraps of clothing that a family lived in. The memories enfolded in a sheet of paper or a painted egg or a piece of cloth tell the stories of our lives and help us understand ourselves and others.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Saturday, May 02, 2009
Everything is bursting into bloom right now. Tonight, my dog and son and I went for a walk, searching for goose nests. We found two, but one was abandoned (a pair of geese was close by, but it seemed odd that they'd let us get so close without causing more of a ruckus. Maybe it was the dog that scared them.Still, I'd think they'd at least honk at us). The other nest only had two eggs in it, and they didn't look healthy. They had blackish spots on them. One was cracked open, but no baby was nearby. Hopefully the groundskeepers haven't done anything to keep them from hatching. I love the geese.
I was never all that interested in birds until the last few years. When I was a teenager, I had a couple of not-so-great experiences with birds that sort of messed me up for awhile. I was taking care of the neighbor's parakeet, who I think was named Gordo. While I was changing the newspaper at the bottom of the cage, he got out. What happened next was awful. He was flying all around their living room (with a cathedral ceiling, so I couldn't get hold of him), and he kept crashing himself into the chimney and their big living room and dining room windows. It was awful. Finally, somehow (I don't remember how), I got him back in his cage. The poor thing must have been a wreck.
I also remember getting occasional birds in our chimney when I was growing up. Seems like once I had to help take care of getting him out. (By the way, a good tip is to throw a blanket over the bird, and then gently take him outdoors.)
But now I like birds. Some are cute and twittery (sparrows), others silently majestic (herons), still others colorful (cardinals and finches). Until I started watching and identifying the birds that came to our feeders, I never realized how many types of birds there were. I always thought most of those little birds as sparrows, but I've identified lots of others: nuthatch, titmouse, finch as well as two or three types of woodpeckers and many others.
So I've put out my thistle seed feeder (thanks to Shirley who got me started on that) and my regular feeder, and I'm soaking my other hummingbird feeder to clean it out.
I noticed on Amazon today that Kevin Henkes has a new book called, "Birds." Looks interesting.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Posting poems (nearly) every day has been an interesting exercise for me. I'm often hesitant to show any of my work before many, many revisions, critiques by trusted friends, many more revisions, etc. So to publish my work, even on such an informal venue as a blog, feels risky to me. But I also benefited from doing so. Several of you helped me revise poems, which I always find helpful. Plus, I got encouragement along the way to keep at it. That always helps.
Being a writer is an odd life. On the one hand, I have to develop this super-tough skin to weather all sorts of rejections and attempt to stay positive so that I can continue working and writing new things. On the other hand, I have to stay vulnerable and sensitive to the emotions of others so that I can portray an authenticity in my writing as well as stay open to critique and edits. So it sometimes feels a bit strange. I'm usually reluctant to share any work until I feel it is "ready" because experience has taught me to wait. I wait because I can easily become discouraged about a project. Keeping that optimism is very important for maintaining motivation, that drive which keeps progress moving on a project that may never have a single reader, except for me. I dream one day of having a published collection of poetry, but poetry is a hard sell since very few people actually spend time reading it.
Anyway, enough rambling. For today, the last day of poetry month, I'll share one of my favorite poems:
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
by William Wordsworth
I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay;
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
On a second-hand sled,
we speed over snowcapped mountains
soaring into snowfall.
the dips and turns,
this way and that
on our winter roller coaster.
Touching down in one
a snow pile explodes
We climb off,
grinning with cold teeth.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
yellowed newspaper from late February
and gaze into the dusty white surface
like looking through a photo album,
as my grandmother's china becomes mine.
I gently lift from the crate
dinners at Easter
gatherings in late November, and
a family of memories embracing these dishes.
we stood at your sink after Thanksgiving
in your pale blue kitchen
with stars in the counter top
and a sequined calendar hanging on the wall.
my sink full of hot bubbles,
I wash away the dust of time
from dishes which waited for my home,
gently massaging the silver-rimmed surface
with my tattered cloth.
One by one, I wash each dish,
and storing away,
my cabinets now full
(First published in Welcome Home, vol. 15, No. 7; July 1998)
Thursday, April 23, 2009
The first is:
Spring is sprung,
De grass is riz.
I wonder where dem birdies is.
Them little birds is on the wing.
Now ain't that just absurd.
I always thought the wings
was on the bird!
I vaguely remember this from my childhood, and I remember thinking it was so strange because the grammar was so messed up. Now I find it charming.
The other one is not so much a poem but a proverb:
Bloom where you are planted.
I remember this one from childhood because my mom had a stained-glass decoration that she set in the bay window, which gave this sage advice.
I have been thinking about this because I'm doing so much reading about the pioneer women on the frontier. They were the ones who provided comfort, nourishment, and sustenance for their families as they walked along their covered wagons, camped out in all elements on their way to the west, and then made a home in spartan conditions once they finally reached their destination. "Blooming where you are planted" applies to them in a very poignant way. They did their best to make homes out of nothing, and in doing so, helped to pave the way for all of us who came after them.
The other saying that pops in my mind is:
Put your nose to the grindstone.
I was reading a book recently in which one of the characters was complaining about his work. He didn't want to do it, it was too difficult, etc. Another character responded: "Well, I'll be glad to put my nose to the grindstone as long as the good Lord gives me a grindstone on which to put my nose." Awesome, eh?
Okay, so now, spring is in full bloom, well, almost full bloom here in northeast Indiana. About a quarter of the trees are leafing out, the daffodils are fading to give room for the tulips to put on their show. The azaleas are blooming, the mowers are mowing the Ireland-green grass.
And, the magnolias are in bloom (so this poem is a little premature), but here goes:
color the grass.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
13 Shades of Gray
The color wheel spins
shades of reds and blues,
yellows and purples.
in whirling carnivals
But what of the grays?
shades of gray?
Those blurry lines
across my life
and unfinished sentences
that linger in smoky clouds around me?
Within the kaleidescope of
and neon pink,
as 13 shades
Monday, April 20, 2009
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Water Balloon Volleyball
The net is up. The teams are poised,
the water bombs are set.
Anne Marie steps up to serve.
She eyes the sagging net.
The bomb is launched, away it flies,
but gets there with a splash.
The bomb explodes in Richie's hands,
which starts the water bash.
A splash on us. A splash on them,
oh, who will win this game?
Balloons are raining everywhere--
be careful when you aim!
The game goes on. It's getting hot.
Our server tries again.
More points for us. More points for them.
The score is ten to ten.
We're low on bombs. We're getting soaked.
I hope the game's done soon.
Then comes the call: "Game point!" we hear.
It's getting close to noon.
The final bomb then heads our way,
but doesn't clear the net.
And even thought we win the game,
we most liked getting wet.
Friday, April 17, 2009
First, I've recently been watching a fantastic PBS series. I first watched Frontier House. My dad reminded me of this show when I was telling him of my research into the 1880s pioneer/frontier life in Kansas Territory (Colorado today). Then I learned from my friend Sara that PBS had produced other projects in this series, so I just finished watching 1900 House.
The idea is to take a modern-day family and have them live in period dress, in a house made up just like it would have been in the historical period, and see how they adapt. So, in Frontier House, three different families traveled in a covered wagon mini-journey to Montana and had to scratch out a living with few resources and lots of hard work for five months. The five months ended in the early fall, and a panel of historical judges decided which families would be best prepared to survive the winter.
In 1900 House, one family lived in a house (more like a "rowhouse" as we Americans would think of it) in south London which was completely fitted in 1900 furnishings, appliances, etc. The women wore corsets and heavy layers of long dresses. The father shaved with a cut-throat razor. The thing the women missed most was leisure time and shampoo. For the latter, they tried all sorts of revolting concoctions like egg yolks and lemon juice, etc. in place of shampoo. It all sounded horrid. And the house was so dark! Gas lamps had been installed in the first floor, but they only had parafin candles on the second floor, but the heavy drapes and dark wallpaper and big, oversized furnishings made the rooms seem oppressive and gloomy--even in broad daylight.
The striking thing for me from watching both of these shows is just how much time we have for other things now. In both Frontier House and 1900 House, two of the women mentioned that washing machines seem like magic compared to the older ways of washing clothing. Having hot water within mere seconds on a tap flowing into the kitchen and into the bathrooms and into the tubs and showers...wow! And having light in the evening makes such a huge difference. And those are just the basics. Of course, there was no TV, no computer, communication with the outside world was very limited. But taking care of the house--the cooking, the cleaning, the washing, the shopping--all of that would have consumed the housewife's day, and those days would mean heavy, difficult physical labor, only to have the energy at the end of the day to fall into bed.
There are lots of other projects in this PBS series: Texas Ranch House, 1940s House (in England, complete with bomb raid drills, etc.), Colonial House, and probabl others I haven't found yet.
On another note, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Cedarville Elementary just north of Fort Wayne this afternoon. I spoke to the K-3rd graders about my books, where ideas come from, and the writing process. It is always such a joy to visit with the children and hear their thoughts and questions.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
A couple of other miscellaneous tidbits before the poem:
Just in case you're in the mood to hear some neighing horses (for whatever reason), here's a good website.
Tonight is opening night for the (weirdly named) Fort Wayne Tin Caps. They are supposed to have fireworks after the game, so I'll be keeping an eye on Lucy, the giant golden retriever who is terrified of thunder and fireworks.
Tomorrow I'm looking forward to visiting with the students and teachers at Cedarville Elementary to finish off their young authors week. What a privilege to share writing with kids!
Now the poem:
In my first
I lie, eyes open,
before I remember
the history of yesterday,
the future of today,
before my thoughts
resemble patterns of my own,
my day is
unburdened by guilt,
unpressured by dreams.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
So here's a poem about Sophie. This poem could be easily copied by simply using picture language. The whole thing is just one sentence, using just three words metaphorically.
My black cat
between my ankles
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
This is the type of poem that kids could easily create, and it really challenges the use of active verbs (or gerunds, technically speaking). Speaking of gerunds, it might be interesting to try writing it in the present tense too: "Storm comes / Sun hides /" etc. It would be a good thing for children to recognize and analyze. Which form is stronger? With "-ing" endings or present tense endings? How does it change the feeling of the poem?
Also, notice the construction. The subject of each line is repeated in backward order in the second half of the poem. "Scurry, scramble" is the center point. So, have kids write 8-10 subjects, with simple verbs (or gerunds) following each, leading up to a pivotal point in the poem. Then, using the same subjects in reverse order, have the action diminish.
Oh, and another quick thought. Thank you to those of you who have suggested edits to my previous poems! I love the interaction, and I know that my work only can get stronger with good critique. So, thank you!
Scurry, scramble! Get inside!
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Jesus' bloody body in myrrh,
the scent of death.
This was His baby gift
his baby gift
became a swaddling cloth
but sweet lilies line
the white-robed altar today
the alleluias of life,
but even while swooning in
Easter's lily-laden perfume,
the scent of myrrh,
the bitterness of death
hangs in the air,
Saturday, April 11, 2009
June 19, 2001, Touchdown
In the flat plains
north of Denver,
our plane bumps
onto the runway
in midafternoon sun.
Suddenly, I am in 1880,
in the red dirt.
My hair, in a bun,
long as Sunday,
rough and calloused.
I shield my eyes from the sun
as I look for my man
through dusty wind,
waiting for gold,
settling for flour
to feed my family.
A memory engulfs me:
of western Pennsylvania,
crowding thick upon me.
But now I open my eyes,
stretch out my
wide as miles,
Friday, April 10, 2009
Every year, on Maundy Thursday afternoon or Good Friday morning, the order of Easter lilies would be delivered and placed in the stairwell near the sacristy. Seeing those lilies, after the arduous season of Lent, especially at the end of Holy Week made such an impression on me that every year I wrote poems about the lilies. The scent of Easter lilies, to me, is the sweetest for so many reasons.
Into the darkness,
of the tomb
is the scent
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
From a slab of cold marble,
pale as death,
weighty and strong,
with pictures in mind
and art in his chisel
creates a delicate face,
full of health, beauty, movement and grace.
From a rock, stone-cold,
arises a phoenix,
aglow with vigor.
And she looks at me
with eyes, light and dancing,
bidding me to come
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
So the key is--wait for it--to keep writing! Whether it's crummy or good, boring or engrossing, just keep at it. First drafts usually stink. Or better put, first drafts may have good potential or have a glimmer or something good in them, but really aren't the best a writer can create. Revision is always the key.
But in my experiment this month, I'm boldly and nervously putting out some rougher drafts to stick with my challenge of every-day-poetry-writing. With that introduction, here is "Forest Fears."
Hansel and Gretel: lost and alone,
Little Red Riding Hood: met by a rude wolf,
Snow White: escaped an evil queen,
So it's no wonder when
forest shadows creep closer,
and day fades fast,
my feet walk faster,
my heart pounds,
my stomach quivers.
But when I am safe at home,
cozy, under blankets,
I remember that
Hansel and Gretel: found their good father.
Red Riding Hood: outsmarted the wolf.
Snow White: won her prince.
And Goldilocks: learned to stick close to home.
Monday, April 06, 2009
Back - Forth
pump -- reach
bend -- glide
back -- forth
swing -- ride
I -- fly
just -- one
push -- more!
Am I a better batter than him?
Is he a badder batter than me?
Sunday, April 05, 2009
I love the simplicity of haiku. I have written a picture book manuscript in all haiku stanzas about a young Japanese girl who moved to the U.S. and adapts by sharing her origami with a new friend.
Traditional haiku is 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third and last. Typically, also, it revolves around themes that have to do with nature or the seasons.
Here is a haiku for Palm Sunday:
Palms and hosannas,
songs and prayers we offer, Lord,
such small gifts we bring.
But our gifts cannot,
do not compare to the One
who gave everything.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
My letter floats.
It even takes the train.
Through gloomy nights
and sunny days,
and even in the rain.
It's on a truck.
The miles add up.
It's far away from here.
It's on a long,
but should be getting near.
It finally comes
to your front door.
It took so long to haul!
My letter flew
from me to you,
but next time I'll just call!
Thursday, April 02, 2009
ground, frozen hard as stone,
eternal nights, brightened only with dim candlelight,
I am a stranger to sunlight,
layered in polyfill, wool,
wrapped in a scarf,
capped with a hat.
I shed winter skin,
stepping onto the forest floor,
the carpet rolled out,
green tufts of grass,
strewn with wildflowers,
and I walk
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
An April Fool's Day Limerick
On the first day of April each year,
I always get shivers of fear.
Will I get worms in my lunch?
Or flies in my punch?
Today's a good day to disappear OR It's best to be absent--that's clear!
I don't like that last line (which is why I have two options, neither of which I like). So I reversed the whole thing. I'm still not sure if it works, but I think the last line is better.
What do you think of option B?
An April Fool's Day Limerick
Some find this day filled with cheer,
but I find myself shivering in fear.
Will I get worms in my lunch?
Or flies in my punch?
It's the scariest day of the year!
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
In the meantime, here's a picture of the daffodils outside my window.
Friday, March 27, 2009
By the way (did I post this already? I can't remember), I found out recently that Gobble was chosen as the Feb. 09 book of the month for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Thank you to that organization for choosing Gobble. I love that it's going to lots of children's homes across the country. I've had such fun with this turkey story, and I'm thrilled to share it with young readers and their families. Dolly's program, Imagination Library, is a great one, providing free books once a month for children under 5.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Here’s the thing: I believe that his honest, up-front, curious approach to the Bible is much more appealing than many who call themselves Christians, but end up living pharisaical, hypocritical lives. Their words are sweet, but underneath there is a maliciousness that lurks behind the happy, smiling faces. And who am I to judge? I am guilty too.
But I like the approach Jacobs takes. He genuinely tries. He seeks to live Biblically. He counts the times each day that he lies. He attempts to forgo coveting his neighbor’s belongings. He's honest with himself and with his readers. I like that.
Sometimes his efforts are over the top. However, I find his approach refreshing. This is how to discuss religion: to have a frank, open discussion without judgment.
I’m only about a third of the way through the book, but I already heartily endorse it. It's given me a lot to think about in terms of God's laws, the goodness of God, and the mercy of Christ.
I meant to post about this earlier, but the author is coming to speak at IPFW this evening for an Omnibus Lecture.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
But it's hardly the story I recall. What I remember is feeling the utter and complete joy that a child can feel when sharing a good story with someone they treasure.
My grandfather died not too long after that, when I was only nine, so my memories of him are very few. But this is one I hold onto. My grandfather was not a well-read man. He was a carpenter. He worked for most of his life making cabinets and tables and chairs. His garage smelled of sawdust. The tools were lined up on the walls, just so. What I remember, though, and what I treasure most is that he read with me.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Allow your toddler time to feel the cool dampness of mud, the tickly grass, the sounds of honking geese. Then…guess what comes next…read about what your child is naturally drawn to. Find books about mud, grass, and geese. Get fiction and nonfiction. If a thunderstorm rumbles through town, talk about it with your child, and then go get some books on lightning and thunder. The great thing about children's books is that you can find a book on a certain topic for any age.
For example, when I share my book Cheep! Cheep! with preschoolers or young grade-school children, I often show them other books (not necessarily mine) that have similar themes. Cheep! could lead to several different thematic ideas:
- a new sibling joining the family - read Cheep as well as books like Mercer Mayer's The New Baby
- other farm animals - look at Garth Williams' Baby Farm Animals or Margaret Wise Brown's Big Red Barn
- welcoming spring - look at a book by Lois Ehlert, like Planting a Rainbow
For an reader (adult or child), the key is finding what you like to read about--baseball, solar eclipses, giant squid, flea markets, or yes, possibly, even baby chickens. Whatever you like--enjoy!
Monday, March 09, 2009
Tip #2 - Get books into the hands of children.
So, after setting aside one or more reading times per day for your little one, now you need to have books to read. What are the best places to find books?
Libraries, of course, are a great place to start. Many libraries have no limit on the number of books to check out, and some even check out big tubs to take them home in (when you forget your tote bag)! In addition to the wide selection of books, children's librarians are great resources for book advice. Whenever we're not sure what to check out for my son, we consult with a librarian who always steers us in the right direction. Also, story times can be a great introduction to reading for the young.
I enjoy browsing bookstores for new books. (And many bookstores also feature story times.) I also love finding vintage books at used bookstores or antique stores. Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, and other websites can also be helpful if you can't locate the book in a bookstore. However, you can save yourself shipping costs if you call a local bookstore and order it from them if it's not immediately available.
Another thing that parents can do to encourage a love of reading is to make books a reward instead of giving a treat that is less healthy. Instead of lunch out at a fast food restaurant, why not make a healthier lunch at home and head to the bookstore after lunch for a treat--a book that can be enjoyed over and over again.
Parents can also look into free reading programs, like Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), and other book clubs. RIF is a federally funded program for school-age children in elementary schools. This program is usually run by a volunteer in a school (like a PTA volunteer) or by a school librarian or teacher. They receive money from the federal government, and then add more of their own funding in order to purchase books for the students in the school.
I was in charge of the RIF program at my son's school in Brentwood, PA for a couple of years. We purchased about 800 books per year and had distributions throughout the year. It was great to see kids come in and pick one or two free books to take home to build their own libraries.
Another idea, which I think was inspired by Carol Baicker-McKee is to buy books for birthdays/Christmas. Make this a tradition. Or suggest that a grandparent make that his or her tradition for gift-giving. You could even start a wish list of books for your child on Amazon or at a site like Good Reads. Put the books on a "to-read" shelf on Good Reads, and then have friends or relatives know that your child would love those books as gifts.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
The first and best advice is to make reading a natural part of a child's day. Children thrive on routine and stability, so start by building reading into the routine of your child's day.
When my son was young, we had reading time before naptime and before bedtime every day. Every afternoon, even when he was at the age when he started resisting naps, we still had our reading time. He would snuggle close on the couch, and we'd read a pile of books together.
Some of our favorites when he was a toddler were: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, any Richard Scarry book, the Berenstain Bears books, Curious George books, P.D. Eastman books (especially Go, Dog, Go! and Are You My Mother?), and so, so many others.
For young toddlers, one sentence or just a few words on each page is enough. That keeps their attention, and allows them to begin experiencing what reading is all about. As they get older, they can handle longer and more detailed storybooks, like Mike Mulligan or The Story of Ping or Make Way for the Ducklings.
One of my favorite memories of my son as a two year old was listening to and watching him "read" books that we'd read together many, many times, so many times, in fact, that he'd memorized them. Sometimes he even just said nonsense words, but he knew the rhythm of the story, what was coming next, and the ending. He had already, at that young age, discovered the strength of story--that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an ending.
We used to read a book together called "Wheels Are Everywhere." There wasn't much to it, just something along the lines of: "Wheels are in the city, in the country...wheels are on bicycles, cars, and trucks...etc." But he knew the ending: WHEELS ARE EVERYWHERE! And he'd say it with such enthusiasm, throwing his hands up in the air and shouting it.
Setting aside time for reading every day has so many positive benefits. You share with your child your joy for reading and stories. You get time with your child to bond and share a special time. Your child develops good listening skills. Your child has a calm, relaxing time to prepare for sleep. Your child learns about his or her world, and begins to experience the world through story.
In addition to home reading times, take advantage of story times at the library. Story times are often offered for children as young as 18 months, and most of these are staffed by wonderful librarians who love children and books.
Take a look at this blog for more information on children's literacy and promoting reading with children.
Friday, March 06, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
It made me think about what talents lie untapped in people. When we choose a career path, we often have to focus on that particular task and leave other interests or talents behind.
Here are some of the careers I would choose if I weren't doing what I'm doing.
Children's Librarian - I'd love to help kids and parents find that perfect book for their child, to see all the new books that come in, and have it as part of my job to study and learn about kids' books all day long.
Children's Bookstore Owner - This is why I love the movie "You've Got Mail." That movie has everything going for it: children's books, romance, and golden retrievers.
Graphic Designer - This could be great fun. I know I don't have the training for it now, but it could be awesome.
Kindergarten Teacher - I love kids and would love to be the one to introduce kids to school, especially books and reading.
What are your alternate career dreams?
Friday, February 27, 2009
So I was intrigued when I heard about a new show on this winter called True Beauty. They gathered up 10 beautiful people from all over the country and had them go through challenges to see who would emerge as the most beautiful person. The twist to the show was that the contestants were being judged not only on their outer beauty, but on their inner beauty (and the contestants didn't realize this twist). Their actions were followed by hidden cameras, and their unkind words and actions were, ultimately, what got them eliminated from the show.
The finale summed up what they were looking for in a beautiful contestant. They listed these qualities as the ones that showed true beauty:
...and there were a couple of others that I'm not remembering, but they were along those lines.
In a way, I almost felt bad for the contestants getting kicked off because they were eliminated not because of outer beauty but because they were lousy people on the inside. Ouch.
But I found the whole concept illuminating. What does our culture say about beauty? What makes someone beautiful on the inside? Do these qualities sum it up? Are there others? What do you think?