Archive for July, 2013

Join the Chalk-a-bration over at Teaching Young Writers

Join the Chalk-a-bration over at Teaching Young Writers

It’s July 31st, the last day of July and time for a Chalkabration. That means writing poetry in chalk, or chalketry. I knew it was coming up, so instead of unpacking boxes, arranging shelves, or covering a bulletin board as I have been doing for days to get ready for back-to-school, I crossed the hall and borrowed three children from a colleague’s classroom. Her children are usually happy to comply, but amazingly, I was able to get all three of them to write a poem (or two).

The 5-year old, Jacob, is entering kindergarten this year. He is very bright and can read already, but he didn’t know what a poem was. So I pulled out “Fancy Nancy Poet Extraordinaire.” This is a great book for teaching about poetry with lots of fancy words. Funny me, I would stop and explain the meaning of a word only to find Nancy would explain it, too, and often better than I did. She even introduced the word ode.

On finishing the book, I pulled out some old loose leaf paper and managed to locate pencils among the mess of supplies, and we set about writing poems. I did what I always do and wrote with them. Kaylie (entering 7th grade) and I decided to write about the sun. Emily (3rd grade) wrote an acrostic with the word poem. She was trying to help Jacob write an acrostic, too, but he got frustrated and moved to Kaylie for help. She began brainstorming words with him. (I have taught her well!)

Then I said, “Jacob, what do you want to write about?”
He replied, “Teenage Ninja Turtles.”
“Ok, what do you like about turtles?”
“Turtles’ shells are shiny.”
“Great first line!”
“I like the colors!”
“Write that for your second line.”
He wrote, “I COLORS”
“Great job!”
“Let’s think, what words rhyme with shiny?”
Jacob liked the word tiny.
The last line became “They’re tiny.”

While Kaylie and I were helping Jacob write his poem, Emily was writing. She wrote another poem. This one about rainbows. I love waving the magic wand of poetry over children. The world is a better place and certainly more fun! Thanks, Erica, for loaning me your delightful children for this summer Chalkabration.

Turtles' shells are shiny. I like the colors. They're tiny.

Turtles’ shells are shiny.
I like the colors.
They’re tiny.

Rainbows When I see a rainbow, they make me feel happy. When the sun goes out, I get sad.  But I'll see another one again another day.

When I see a rainbow,
they make me feel happy.
When the sun goes out,
I get sad. But I’ll see another one
again another day.

Haiku to the Sun morning sun columns shafts of light streaming through the clouds yellow glitter shines

Haiku to the Sun
morning sun columns
shafts of light streaming through the clouds
yellow glitter shines

Sunspots buzz like flies behind my eyes yellow polka dots.

buzz like flies
behind my eyes
yellow polka dots.

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

flower dew drops

The only essential to practicing the habit of Forgiveness is a genuine wish for both yourself and your adversary to become whole. Naturally, there are times when we cannot manage this. But we will see that, in genuinely opening ourselves to the power of Forgiveness, we ourselves become free. –Ed Bacon

I have come to understand that forgiveness is absolutely essential to happiness, wholeness, and love. What kind of person would I be if I still held on to the hurts of childhood bullying? What kind of life would I lead if I could not forgive? Forgiveness allows us to move on and be free.

When I discovered that my forgiveness of someone did not mean that I had to be in relationship with them, I was freed. Years ago, I was hurt over and over again by the same person. And, stupid me, I kept going back for more. Like I somehow deserved the condescension. I failed to see how I was in control of my own life. I matured and got wiser, but also I had someone who valued me as a person help me see the problem. Forgiveness, however, took longer. I ended the relationship, but I was still chewing on her critical words. Still feeling unworthy and unloved. Oh, the power I was giving this person, I shudder to think about it now.

Forgiveness became a process. I first had to realize my own weaknesses, my own contribution to the situation, and then I had to truly forgive. However long and hard, it was well worth it. Now I recognize when I am giving someone power over my sense of self-worth. I am independent and strong. A strong sense of self is necessary for forgiveness to happen.

Ed Bacon says that the Habits of Love require us to take responsibility for our own state of being. I am the only one responsible for my choices. I am also not perfect. So I have to learn to forgive myself, my weaknesses and faults, first. I can choose to be a victim, whining about how someone else is responsible for my happiness. However, this is a false identity. I must be truthful to myself before I can reach out to others.

Forgiveness opens doors. It allows our creative gifts to shine forth. If we get caught in the vicious cycle of our past, we get stuck and cannot move on to a productive, happy life. We must take on the responsibility of forgiveness to ourselves and to others. Living a life of love, rather than fear, gives us the inspiration to forgive.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Mahatma Gandhi

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Sunset 1

I have been participating in the Teachers Write virtual writing camp at Kate Messner’s blog. The first few weeks I was very good about doing all the exercises. One of the early quick writes asked us to think about a special place. The details of the prompt can be found here.

I visited my parents this summer and enjoyed daily views of their lake. Usually a bird was in the view. The sunset is always beautiful and different. So this became my special place for my response poem.

The Lake
Sometimes near the lake
cardinals flirt,
flickers of red
darting, clicking.
You’ll hear honks of Canada geese,
a gaggle on the shore pecking grass.
There is the great white egret
sailing above the water
reflecting a shimmer of sparkling sun-kiss.
Sometimes, the tinkle of the wind chime
whispers softly, “I love you.”
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

Kate’s model poem was her own Sometimes on a Mountain in April. Hers is a poem in photos, very nice. Hop on over there now.

Thanks, Matt Forrest, for taking on the Poetry Friday Roundup today. Go on over to find more rich poetry links. poetry friday button

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

The Bean in Millennium Park.

The Bean in Millennium Park.

We just got home from Chicago last night, so I wasn’t going to do a Tuesday Slice of Life. But I read Katherine Sokolowski’s blog post this morning about her day trip to Chicago, and I decided OK, I can do that! So I made an Animoto video of our weekend in Chi-town. My husband and two older daughters ran the Rock-n-Roll half-marathon on Sunday. I watched with my mother-in-law, my youngest daughter, and two boyfriends. They did great! We had a packed weekend with lots of walking and eating. Enjoy my video!

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summer sunflower

I bought a macro lenses for my iPhone. My sunflowers bloomed. So I took a close-up picture of this amazing gift of nature.

Using a poetry prompt from Poets and Writers, The Time is Now. “Choose an inch of space anywhere around you…Write about that inch. Take a step back. Focus the scope of your poetry. Writing about a single drop of rain can tell us the most about the sky above,” I set out to write a poem about this shining inch in my flower bed.

I also did some research on Wikipedia and found out that the design of the inflorescence (flower head) is a swirl. The swirl design can be mathematically described using the Fibonacci series. With my students last year, I wrote Fib poems using the syllable count of 1,1,2,3,5,8 then turned it around 8,5,3,2,1,1. So what is more appropriate than writing a Fib about the sunflower?

I’ve posted both versions of my poem here. The first is free verse while the second is a Fibonacci poem.

Summer Sunflower

in yellow exuberance,
spirals off a golden angle—
a mathematician’s playground
in patterned perfection.
I study your face
with squinty eyes,
let time elapse
loving our mother’s glory.
–Margaret Simon

(Fibonacci poem)
in yellow
spirals off a golden angle
patterned perfection
study of
— Margaret Simon

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Jone at Check it Out.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Jone at Check it Out.

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sans souci fountain

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Children have an exquisite capacity to play, to imagine, to create stories, to connect with nature, art, and ritual. When children move into an imaginative space in their minds and spirits, a world of possibility and promise opens up for everyone. –Ed Bacon

This summer I have been responding to Ed Bacon’s book 8 Habits of Love. The 5th chapter is what I’ve been waiting for, the Habit of Play. What a boring world this would be without play!

This week I coordinated an art camp for kids. Each day we made something new. Rainsticks, cardboard self-portraits, and wood sculptures. We read The Dot by Peter Reynolds and made our unique dots. This was the 6th year for our art camp, and I finally had the brilliant idea to make a “Free Time Activity Box.” One little girl built a park scene using pink paper, pink tape, some wood scraps, sequins, etc. We put a sign next to it, “Do not touch.” It stayed up all week. Finally we transferred the scene to a scrap piece of foam board. I was fascinated to watch her play.

A sense of Play is essential to happiness and a feeling of safety in this world. Ed Bacon speaks of the difference between childlikeness and childishness. “Childlikeness makes room for everyone to play.”

Recently a friend of mine, a colleague and young mother, died in her sleep at 41 leaving three young children. As you can imagine, there were feelings of sadness,confusion,and helplessness. Following the service, I watched as my priest lifted up her 3-year-old son. He smiled and bounced the boy up and down. “I love you. We sure had fun today, didn’t we?” A sense of play in the midst of so much sorrow helped me see the hope that lives in love.

Love always wins. When we allow love to be in our nature, Play helps us relax and see the beauty in God’s gift of childlikeness to us all.

Instructions for Play

Leap in the green grass meadow.
Blow bubbles into the wind.
Twirl a girl in a swirling dress.
Open up the blossom of a flower.
Wave to everyone you see.
Smile, it’s always contagious.
Run through the sprinkler.
Climb a tree.
Make a bird out of an egg carton.
Create a space ship from a paper towel tube.
Laugh, giggle, belly guffaw.
Spend time with someone you love.
Praise the creator of Play.
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

When we invite Play in to all areas of our lives, we turn away from our fearful natures and invite the loving self to reengage with the world and with the parts of our brains that imagine and create. –Ed Bacon

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2013 poetry swap with stamp included

Last week Tabatha sent me the name of my 3rd Poem Swap for this summer. I was so excited to see Linda Baie‘s name. Linda is a presence in the kidlitosphere. She won the prize (a copy of my book Blessen) for the biggest commenter on my blog during the March Slice of Life Challenge with the Two Writing Teachers. I have embraced Linda as a cyber-friend with hopes to one day meet her in person. She is so kind and supportive, I wanted to do something special for her.

My father had given me back issues of art magazines to use in my classroom, so I pulled one out for inspiration. I found a poem in the words of the magazine. Then I decided to make a collage of pictures. That didn’t work out so well. While my result was something and may have been creative, it didn’t please me. It wasn’t good enough for Linda, so I made another one. This one pleased me. The found poem came from The International Artist. The images came from American Artist.

play in art collage and poem

Introduce Play into your Art
a found poem from the International Artist
Imagine the surface
alive with light
not pure white—a combination
of source and object.

Look out the window.
See a passenger train
in late afternoon,
a spider web
on a dewy morning,
the cornfield
below the horizon,
tree branches
on a rainy night.

If you follow the light,
you will find the sun.
Light is like salt—
a little is all you need.

–Margaret Simon

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Michelle at Today's Little Ditty.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty.

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life roundup over at Two Writing Teachers



Not the high mountain monastery

I had hoped for, the real

face of my spiritual practice

is this:

the sweat that pearls on my cheek

when I tell you the truth
–Kim Rosen

Candor (from Merriam-Webster)

  • whiteness, brilliance
    obsolete : unstained purity
    freedom from prejudice or malice : fairness
    unreserved, honest, or sincere expression : forthrightness

During the first few weeks of summer, I started writing about Ed Bacon’s 8 Habits of Love.  I wrote responses to the first three chapters, Generosity, Stillness, and Truth.  Then came Candor. I got squirmy, uncomfortable, and avoided responding to the chapter.  I am really not in a better place for responding to this today as I was, but a fellow blogger prodded me on in a comment last week.  From Deborah at Show, not Tell, “When will we see more of the 8 Habits of Love?”

I love that the first part of the definition of Candor is “whiteness, brilliance”  as if the habit of honesty may blind us with its brilliance.  Is this why Candor is so hard?  While I like to think of myself as someone who lives in love and not in fear, I get butterflies, the sweat on my brow, when faced with a situation that calls on me to be candid.  In fact, these times make me feel completely vulnerable.

Many potentially life-giving experiences of Candor are self-sabotaged by the fear that the person you are addressing will leave, …and you will be left alone in the world.

When we engage the Habit of Candor, our open, loving hearts help alleviate our fear and give us the courage to speak our minds.

–Ed Bacon, 8 Habits of Love

Candor requires us to have a sense of security and courage in our relationship, that it is strong enough to withstand the brilliance of honesty.  I am blessed to have a husband who will not let us sleep with anger or an unsettled matter.  We talk a lot.  Communication is key to our long lasting relationship. (30+ years!)  I believe this strongly.  Even as an introvert having to battle with my own insecurities, I have come to respect Candor as necessary, no matter how hard or painful.  Our honest conversations have helped me improve myself as a wife, mother, and teacher.

Candor is also instrumental in sustaining my relationships with my children.  My daughters are now in their twenties.  I can remember many candid conversations with them as teenagers.  I once said to my daughter, “Do we have a kid problem here or a teacher problem?”  Once we had the honest conversation about whose responsibility her grades were, we were able to move forward to address the issue.  The teen years are the hardest, in my opinion, and there were many times when I wanted to bury my head in the sand.  By being open to conversations, honest conversations, I feel my daughters are stronger and more goal oriented.  They have a support system backing them up at all times.

While I am an avid fan of honesty, sometimes it can cause painful resentment.  Ed Bacon talks about this.  “Even when the intention of Candor is positive, people often react to it with ferocious defensiveness.”  We want to protect ourselves from criticism.  I find in my most trusted relationships, I can ask for Candor and receive it much better than from someone I do not know well.

I have grown to love and care about my writing partners in my writing group.  While I still try to temper criticism with praise, I sometimes say things that I think a total stranger would take offense to; however, we have built a level of safety that allows us to be candid.  And we know that the spirit is a giving one; we support each other in all our writing endeavors.  Ed Bacon says that Candor is a compliment, an act of trusting the relationship. 

Candor takes courage.  Courage means opening your heart.  But if all is done in love, then Love will temper Candor with Kindness.  You may need to be patient and persistent.  The world may not be ready for what you have to say.

In what ways are you using Candor?  Have you found it difficult to be honest?  What is the risk?

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2013 poetry swap with stamp included
Tabatha Yeatts invented the Poetry Swap. I have been writing a poem each week to send out to my assigned Poetry Buddy. This week I received a poem from Tabatha herself. And she knows I have cats. The featured cat in my photos is our house cat, Mimi. These thirteen ways of looking at Emma could easily be about Mimi. She enjoyed hanging out on Tabatha’s poem while I wrote at the computer.

Mimi naps on a poem.

Mimi naps on a poem.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Emma

By Tabatha Yeatts

with thanks to W.S.
for M.S. and E.

The tail moved
always —
and after.
There was never a time
the tail’s journey was over.

The cat’s nose
in the dog’s ear —
whispering love poems
with her whiskers.

Anything can be hidden
on the ceiling.
No one looks up.
Except the cat.

The cat walks across the board game.
The whims of fate
cast furry shadows.

Only the spiral circles
of pacing and waiting
can express the longing
the scent of chicken

The cat’s bones
like a pebble
in a water dish.

Sleeping upright,
paws hidden,
tail delicately curving
around her side,
the memory of deity

The cat,
guardian, silent companion,
desires to be close to the rabbit,
as the tree guards the moss,
as the leaf guards the air,
as the earth guards the moon.

A plane can take you far from the world,
but a cat can always bring you to it.

The cat discerns the approaching rain,
spins, and returns so adroitly
you might never imagine
that was not her original direction.

Next to the cat,
the man sneezes.
The cat licks her side.

One cat stalks a darting fly.
Her sister leaves her sleeping post
only to find another.

Shadows fall around the cat,
the icy gray fingers of age ruffle her fur;
the cat gets up
and moves.

When Mimi is happy, she flips.  We call her "Mrs. Flips."

When Mimi is happy, she flips. We call her “Mrs. Flips.”

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Keri at Keri Recommends.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Keri at Keri Recommends.

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Motel Beau Sejour by Paul Schexnayder

Motel Beau Sejour by Paul Schexnayder

On Friday, I joined a group of teachers from the Acadiana Writing Project on a writing marathon. I took two other teachers with me to show them my friend and colleague Paul Schexnayder’s gallery. I sat next to the above painting and wrote him a letter. Paul was dubbed “Art Man” some years ago when he taught at the school my children attended. He has become the Art Man of New Iberia promoting local artists in an old historical building known as A&E Gallery after the original owner, August Erath.

Serendipitously, Paul posted his before and after paintings on Facebook and gave me permission to post them here. This painting is one of his Hometown Series. Residents remember this motel that stood at the western edge of town in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Click here to visit Paul’s website.

Dear Art Man,
I’m here in your gallery today. Like Goldilocks,
I sit in your chair. You know the one:
an old metal stool with the white vinyl seat
splattered with paint, just-right
for reaching the easel. Your apron is draped
over the back. I try it on, pretend
to be you.

Here is an aerial photograph of your subject.
Did you use it to lay out your design?
Are you finished yet? I’m not sure.
Are you?

The sky is a deep dark blue stretching to near white
in the far right hand corner. The sun, perhaps, is rising.
A line of trees defines the horizon. In the foreground,
a sign:

Free TV,
Beau Sejour,
Swimming Pool, Restaurant

I recognize the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser
I had as a child, fake wood on the side.
Does this one have a sunroof or an AM/FM radio
like ours?

I want to go jump into the motel pool
alluring me with a curvy white slide.
I see your foam plate palettes still full of paint.
Do I dare dip a brush in?
Make my mark on your developing masterpiece?
I can hop into the station wagon,
ride to Motel Beau Sejour—

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

Motel Beau Sejour finished by Paul Schexnayder.

Motel Beau Sejour finished by Paul Schexnayder.

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