Archive for May, 2018

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

Living near nature puts you in touch with the sanctity of all life. I am spending Memorial Day weekend at my parents’ home on a lake in Mississippi. They watch the birds that come and go like they are their own family. Mom called me a few months ago to tell me the goslings had hatched. And now those babies have grown and still come by every afternoon. When years ago the Canada geese were invasive and leaving behind a stinky mess, now they are part of the nature of things that live with my parents. They cry out, “The babies are here!” My father says he has new respect for the species because the father stays with the mother and goslings.

Two Canada Geese families

Around Easter, I noticed a new contraption in my neighbor’s front oak tree. I couldn’t tell what it was, but there was a metal ladder, a wooden platform with a small umbrella set above it. What could this project be?

We saw our neighbors at the Boy Scout banquet last week and Svitlana shared with me her story. She had rescued a baby owlet and the mother owl. They had both been injured in a storm. Ric made a platform for her to place a basket on. She cared for the mother and child for about 6 weeks. She fed the mother who then fed her baby. I was enthralled by her story. She sent some pictures to me.

Svitlana rescues an owlet.

Mother barred owl in basket.

In her poetry, Mary Oliver reminds me to pay attention. We are all part of the family of things. Nature can guide us to ourselves and to God. I want to live in this knowledge and appreciate the sanctity of nature.

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Poetry Friday round-up is here!

Last month I invited Poetry Friday peeps to participate in a photo exchange, “More than Meets the Eye,” in which we’d send a photograph from our own geographic area for our exchange partner to write a poem about.  Please take some time to read other posts by clicking the Inlinkz at the bottom of this post.

I exchanged photos with Molly Hogan.  She sent me photos from a tidal pond in Maine.  I selected the photo of Greater Yellowlegs, a breed of sandpiper.  Here is Molly’s email explaining the setting:

Choosing is hard! I thought at first, I’d choose from one of my favorite places, but I changed my mind and am sending two from a new discovery. I often drive down to visit Popham Beach in Phippsburg, Maine. Driving back from walking there last weekend, I noticed a beautiful small pond? lake? off to the side. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed it before! At any rate, there was a small paved area I could pull into, and I did so. Then I noticed a trail and saw the signs: Spirit Pond Preserve and McDonald Preserve. It was such a misty, ethereal morning, that the name Spirit Pond seemed…well….heaven sent!

I did a little research at home to discover that Spirit Pond is a tidal pond fed by the Morse River. The small paved area I had used is to provide access to the pond for local clammers. As I checked a spelling this morning before sending this, I found an entire new rabbit hole of information about some runes that were reportedly discovered at Spirit Pond in the 1970s that were considered as possible evidence of Nordic activity. Then, there was some mention of those runes having possibly been brought to Maine by the Knights Templar along with the Holy Grail! Yikes!

Allaboutbirds.com describes the Greater Yellowlegs, “A common, tall, long-legged shorebird of freshwater ponds and tidal marshes, the Greater Yellowlegs frequently announces its presence by its piercing alarm calls.”

With this information and a prompt from Poets & Writers to write a love poem that uses animal behavior as a lesson in how we interact as humans, I wrote my first ever sonnet.

Spirit Pond by Molly Hogan


A Sonnet for Sandpipers

If I should hear alarming calls from you
within this holy place where we find rest,
I’d come to you like two birds often do;
We’d dance in water pools; close-by we’d nest.

From Nordic days, your charm & elegance
will lead a waltz across this Spirit Pond.
Where Knights themselves discovered sacred dance,
you kiss the sunlight at the break of dawn.

We’ll wade along a shore in misty haze
and build a nest on hummock safe & high.
In Maine, where nights are cool, we’ll spend our days
aloft on air uplifting wings to fly.

No fear how high or far away I roam
I know without a doubt, you are my home.


–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved




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We all have our favorite words.   We seem to carry with us a lexicon of words.  As a writer, I feel challenged to get out of my word choice comfort zone.  I’m always on the look out for new ways to use words.  I am careful not to overuse a word.  One word I feel gets overused is love.

I am not a royal wedding fangirl, but I did get up in time to see the full service start to finish on Saturday.  As an American Episcopalian, I was proud that our Presiding Bishop was the preacher.  As I listened to Bishop Curry, I wondered how many times he used the word love in his message.  Curiosity led me to make a word web of the text to see how strong the word love would appear.

If you didn’t hear this message, you should take the time to listen to it.  The text can be found here, but hearing it is much more powerful.  We do need to hear the word love.  We need to know love as the most important thing.  We need to realize the redemptive power of love. We shouldn’t have to have a royal wedding to remind us of this, but I’m glad we did.



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Poetry Friday round-up is with Rebecca at Sloth Reads.

As school winds down, I keep teaching.  I haven’t pulled out a movie yet.  I haven’t started packing (not significantly, anyway).  I want to savor every moment with my kiddos and want them to enjoy every moment left with me.

On Wednesday, we held our annual Gifted by Nature Day when all the gifted kids in the parish elementary schools gather in City Park for a day of nature, learning, and play.  This year our theme focused on fractals.  Do you know what a fractal is? Here’s a collage of fractals in nature:

Fractals in Nature


To follow up on the learning from our day in the park, I reviewed fractals and provided art supplies for students to paint a chosen fractal from nature.  Did you know that the Fibonacci series is a fractal?  Of course, we had to write fib poems.  I used this post by Catherine Flynn as a model text.  I wrote a model fib poem based on a fractal in nature.  Then sent them out to create.  Here’s a gallery of art and poems.



by Jasmine, 6th grade

The sound
Lightning makes
Spreading through the sky
Sharing its color with the world
Fascinating us with its beauty, but deadliness

Peacock Feather by Lynzee

Beautifully swirls
Fractal stares from a peacock’s wing

by Lynzee, 3rd grade


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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

I know May is supposed to be my favorite month of the year.  There’s Teacher Appreciation Week with its gifts and food, food, food.  There’s Mother’s Day with more gifts, more food.  And then there’s this end of the school year count down.  How many more days are left?

The end of the year is not a joyful time for me.  I am looking back on the year and thinking; Did I do all I could?  Did I make a difference? Are my students ready to move on?

I’m faced with packing up the classroom (make that three classrooms), making them stark and uninviting, covering computers, cleaning out cubbies, trash, trash, trash…

But the hardest part for me are the last days when my students come sporadically (I teach gifted pull-out). How can I plan anything with substance?  We review for summer reading.  We create writing anthologies. We play games.

Then there are the goodbyes.  I teach my students year after year, so when they leave me, I’ve usually had them for multiple years.  Letting go is hard.

Here I am looking at the countdown my students have written on the board, 7 days left.  Seven? Seven!  Where did the time go?  I’m not ready.


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A rose among thorns

Mother’s heart and hands

Love most complete

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.


Students proudly read their poems to Amy VanDerwater.

My students and I spent the month of April glued to The Poem Farm.  What would Orion’s adventure be today?  What technique was Ms. Amy VanDerwater teaching us?

After a month of writing poems, we couldn’t wait to meet Amy in person, virtually. Before any question was asked, Amy asked my students to share poems that they had written.  The pride! The joy! And her amazing responses!

Amy talked about her writing process, showed us her messy notebook pages, and gave us wonderful advice for writing.

Mason asked her how to write rhyming poems.  She gave us all a wonderful lesson on rhyming.  You can use rhymezone or a rhyming dictionary, she explained.  Then she showed us a notebook page where she had written the alphabet.  She works through the alphabet to try to find a rhyming word with the meaning she wants to convey.  She emphasized that the meaning is most important, so if you can’t find a word to rhyme, try a synonym.  After our Skype visit, Mason immediately wrote a poem using the techniques she had taught.

I am holding onto Amy’s advice for my own writing as well.  She talked about how she wrote a sonnet, a form that I have yet to try.  But now I think I will.  Somehow, Amy makes me feel more brave about writing poetry.

One of her last pieces of wisdom came from a poem she read aloud to us.  Her reading was as if she were cavemom and we were here cavechildren whom she was telling to write so our writing will live on.


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I’ve been thinking about writing this post and have gone back and forth about whether or not I should.  Loss is a difficult topic to write about, but especially hard when the loss is not your own.  As parents, we all hope that our children do not have to face hardships, but as living and breathing people, we know inevitably they will.  We cannot protect them.

I have experienced loss in my lifetime, but I’ve not experienced a miscarriage.  I am one of those lucky women who had three pregnancies and three children.  So when my oldest daughter, Maggie, announced her pregnancy last November, I had no reason to believe that it would be anything but normal.  We celebrated with her sisters.  She was feeling nauseous and tired and enjoying it.  Mid-December, I waited to hear about her doctor’s appointment.  I crumpled when she said there was no heartbeat.  The ultrasound showed the baby had not developed past 8 weeks.  Her body, however, still thought she was pregnant.

The next day, I went with her to the surgery center for her DNC.  Maggie cried quietly.  I sat near her and listened.  She talked about how she could now relate to her friends when it happened to them.  There is a scary statistic that many first pregnancies end in miscarriage.  She knew this.  She knew that the baby was not viable.  That something had gone wrong.  That it wasn’t meant to be.  But even so, a new child died that day.  There was no way to deny the loss.

My daughter realized that through her pain and grief she was learning a life lesson.  Little did she know how soon her counseling would be needed.  A few weeks ago, she got a call from my middle daughter, Katherine. On the previous Saturday, Maggie and I had talked about how she was being weird, unusually cheerful.  We thought something was up.  But once again, a new baby was not to be.  Katherine had taken a pregnancy test on Saturday and was waiting to tell us the following weekend when we’d all be together.  On Tuesday, bleeding started and her blood test came back negative.  A quick drop on the roller-coaster that took her breath away. She tried to see the positive side of things, but she was devastated.

There is so much joy and hope and love in watching your daughters get married and start their lives with someone they deeply love.  We expect the best.  We hope for new life.  I’ve even been a little pushy about wanting to be a grandmother.  I didn’t expect this heartache, this loss.  I have no explanation for it.

Grief over miscarriage is a private grief.  There are no ceremonies to offer condolences.  In fact, most people don’t talk about it.  The loss is buried deep into the woman’s soul.

As their mother, I grieve with them.  As their mother, I hold their hearts in mine.  I’m with them through it all, joy and pain, love and loss.  I am holding onto faith that there will be new children in our future, but for now, I grieve with my daughters.



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Silent Sunday

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales.


April came to an end on Monday, but my students are still writing a poem a day.  We are in the groove, so to speak, and we did not do all the prompts at The Poem Farm yet.  It was time to write metaphor poems, so we grabbed the idea treasure box and passed it around.  I suggested that the item pulled became the metaphor for the topic.  I pulled out a peacock feather and could only think of my youngest daughter’s blue, blue eyes.

Your eyes
are a peacock feather’s
deepest center blue,
hidden as you
fold into a dream
of who
you plan to be
when your feather
fan opens.

–Margaret Simon (c) 2018.

When we work together writing poems, conversations center around language and metaphor. When Chloe was writing a poem out loud about her favorite topic, cotton candy, Noah said ,”It dissolves in your hand.”  Chloe put that line in her poem.

Pink or Blue
Feels like a soft pillow
dissolving in my hand
Munching and Crunching
as I taste sensational,
cotton candy.

–Chloe, 2nd grade

Erin addressed her poem to one of her classmates who we were teasing when he stuck the word tree in a poem just to have a rhyming word.  Poetry builds community, even if we are clowning each other.


The wind rustles through the leaves
As a gentle breeze
Blows by
The bark scratches my hands
As I climb nature’s ladder
Up high the birds are singing
To the beat of the trees
Mother Earth’s Condo
Not a good rhyme though

–Erin, 6th grade

I want to thank Amy VanDerwater for being my co-teacher for poetry month.  I was a little shocked when I clicked over and found she has taken all her Orion poems down.  I understand, but I’m going to miss them.  She hopes to make them into a book which I will look forward to holding one day.

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