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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Text from Susan Edmunds

When I married Jeff almost 39 years ago, I did not know everything about him, but I did know that he had had a boa constrictor for a pet at one time during his wild childhood. Jeff has a brother who is only 18 months younger. The Simon boys spent a lot of time out in the woods along the bayou. Stories include the time they fished out a shark from the bayou. (Little did they know as young boys that sharks don’t live in the bayou; obviously someone’s throw back from fishing in the Gulf.) But that story is not the one I want to tell today.

Calm in every situation would aptly describe this hero. He sat next to me for hours and hours during natural childbirth…3 times…and never lost his cool calm demeanor.

Susan may not know this about him, but she does know that he cares about reptiles. Susan and Jeff go way back to days when she lead summer library programs, and Jeff would collaborate on ones on canoeing and camping and fishing all through the local Optimist Club. And she may remember (she sent me a photograph once) of a library workshop he brought our middle daughter Katherine to when she was four-years-old, and how Jeff showed particular interest in the snakes. Nevertheless, she texted on Sunday morning, and I sent my hero away to save the day.

Jeff and Susan patiently released 3 tangled rat snakes. photo by Mary Tutwiler.

I am deathly afraid of snakes. Jeff has tried many times to get me over my phobia, and often I’ve become the source of a snake joke. Needless to say I did not personally attend this snake rescue. In fact, I’m having trouble posting the pictures. I refuse to post the one of the three rescued snakes happily wriggling in the bottom of a trash can.

My calm hero was able to patiently cut away the mesh entrapment while Susan held the snakes’ heads. I don’t know which was braver, but combined these two people should win a prize. The snakes were not released in our backyard, thank you very much. They are happily in someone else’s yard.

Here is the text of a thank you email from Susan:

“Thanks again for coming to the rescue yesterday-I don’t think I could have done the extraction solo, the task needed experienced snake rangers comfortable with very close contact!  Certainly you handled the snipping far better than I could have, didn’t see any fresh blood! Excellent work.”

Instagram photo by Susan’s husband, James. Those hero hands are mighty close to that snake tongue!

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Recently I listened to the podcast “We Can Do Hard Things” with Glennon Doyle. The theme was Fun. Their definition of fun came from Abby Wombach who said that fun is when you enter into an activity without knowing the outcome. That is the definition of every day for a toddler.

Monday was the first day of Camp Mamoo. (Thomas (21 months) calls me “Mamoo”) He and his mother, daughter Katherine, are visiting and cousin Leo, 2 1/2, spent the night. Leo has come to know that when Mamére takes him someplace, it will be fun. “Going to ‘nother fun place.”

“Today we are going to a farm.”

“Yay!”

When we passed a horse, Leo yelled, “I saw a horse. That’s great!”

The farm is in nearby St. Martinville. Belle Ècorce Farms sells goat cheese in a small portable using the honor system, a locked money box. A small town luxury.

When we got to the farm, we walked around to see some of the animals. The boys were mesmerized. Or scared.

The loose animals, rooster, chickens, and geese were particularly frightening. A billy goat in a fence came up and climbed onto the fence, expecting something good to eat.

“You don’t have to get close. Just watch.” The boys stood still as statues to watch the billy goat.

I haven’t decided yet if this was a fun experience. The boys were easy. They stayed close to us, no run and chase games. We talked on the way home.

“What did we see at the farm?”

“Moo,” says Thomas.

“Umm, rooster!” says Leo.

All I know for sure is that a day with toddlers is a day of Fun.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I don’t remember who recommended The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad as a place to find prompts for writing, but on Sunday morning I was sitting with this idea of dwelling in possibility from Rhonda Willers.

Art made by Rhonda Willers

Saturday had been a full afternoon of Leo, my 2 1/2 year-old grandson. With his mom, my daughter, we attended a party in a small town, a gathering attended by some of Maggie’s high school friends, there with lots of young children. So much happens in 15 months of separation. Babies were born. Babies became toddlers. Toddlers became children. And they were all so happy to see each other.

At first Leo held up the wall.

Shy Leo watches the party from afar.

There was a yellow school bus parked in front of the building, a wonderful playground for toddlers who love to pretend to drive and fix things, curious and full of possibility. Where are we going? Who’s coming along. “The wheels on the bus…”

“Go round and round,” an echo from a nearby grandpa.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I’m a little obsessed,” pointing at Leo in the driver’s seat.

“I am, too,” he replied pointing to the toddler opening and closing the bus door with the handle.

Each of us knew what a bus was for. We shared that we were both elementary school teachers. But today, we were filled with the possibilities of where our grandchildren will take us.

“Look, Mamere, I’m driving the bus!”

A teenage girl with braces was painting faces. Leo stepped up shyly and sat completely still as she painted a Spiderman mask over his eyes. Looking around there were about 4 or 5 boys of various ages all wearing Spiderman masks. They were transformed into super heroes able to run, climb, fall and get back up with newfound confidence.

Transformation into Spiderman

I was chatting with a former boyfriend of Maggie’s, now a father of two, about his kids. He pointed them out and said, “He’s two and she’s almost six. This is the best time.” Whether he meant being past the scary baby stage or beyond worries about pregnancy or being free to go to parties and take your kids with you, he was right. Even for me, as the Mamere tagging along. This is the best time, dwelling in possibility.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Black-bellied whistling duck on top of the wood duck nest box.

Through the magic of a Ring doorbell camera, we are watching the wood duck nestbox in our backyard on the bayou. During the months of March and April, we had a reliable wood duck hen sitting on a clutch of 14 eggs. On April 15th, 13 ducklings, barely 24 hours old, jumped out of the nestbox into the bayou. And off they went.

We’ve had a wet spring, so the bayou has been high. My husband pulled a canoe up to the nestbox, tied it there, and climbed a stepladder to clean out the nestbox. The next day we had shoppers, new wood duck couples swimming by, poking around.

We thought we had a new hen sitting. Day by day a hen would fly into the house and lay an egg. She seemed to start the incubation a week ago; however, her sitting was erratic. There one day, gone the next.

A few days ago, I noticed a larger, louder duck inside the wood duck house. Invaders! Squatters! Thieves! The ducks were what we call Mexican Squealers or Black-bellied whistling ducks. This duck is larger, with a bright orange bill, long legs, and a loud squeal. Two of them. How did they get in? Why? Did they lay an egg? It was actually hilarious to watch these ducks try to get back out of the house. Lots of noisy squealing and legs scrambling.

Since this incident, the hen has come back and settled in. She doesn’t leave as often and for as long. Maybe we can start counting days. We’ll see. Nature is not predictable. Even an innocent nestbox is not always peaceful.

You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@margaretgsimon) for updates on the wood duck house. On Twitter during May I am posting #poemsofpresence. Here’s the poem-of-the-day for Monday.

Rainy grey Monday,
Watching new wood duck tenant
nestle for sitting.

Margaret Simon, #poemsofpresence

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I’m inviting you to find inspiration today at Ethical ELA. I wrote the guest prompt of the day for National Poetry Month. My inspiration came from a National Geographic email that I subscribe to. In the newsletter, there were selected photographs chronicling the pandemic across the world. I chose to write about a photograph of undocumented workers making masks.

Writing to photographs is inspirational as there are so many ways to approach the task. With students you can ask questions that lead them to wonder and response. Who do you see? What do you think you know? What can you discover?

Building a sense of empathy is vital in our world today. Finding a world view can open up empathy. Consider joining the community at Ethical ELA and writing a poem in response to a photograph.

Undocumented

“How can you say we don’t belong here
when we are working so hard
to heal this country’s communities right now?” Veronica Velasquez

I think of the mask makers,
side-by-side on an assembly line
cutting, threading, sewing
white cloth
To keep us safe
while they live
in the shadow
in plain sight,
essential now.

Belong
or don’t belong?
Our survival
depends on
their survival.
Undocumented
saviors.

Margaret Simon
Photo by SKYTONER on Pexels.com

The Progressive Poem is moving along. Check on it today with Jan at Book Seed Studio.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

On the last day of the March Slice of Life Challenge, walk with me. Listen to the birds. Take a minute to just be here.

This month of Slicing has been a way for me to be present. Present to my thoughts. Present to the words of others.

One of my favorite photographers is my writing critique group partner, fellow SOL blogger, Molly Hogan in Maine. I cannot imagine how she gets such amazing photos of birds. She must be so still and patient. Her latest batch on Facebook are shots of bluebirds. This one she posted looks like a cartoon character.

Consider writing a small poem in response to this photo in the comments or on your blog (link in the comments). Leave encouraging comments to other writers.

Bluebird by Molly Hogan
Morning birds serenade my walk,
an aubade to the trees and sky,
gentle as your hand
on my sleeping shoulder.
Margaret Simon, draft

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I have been tutoring 3rd grade virtual students after school once a week. There are rarely more than 3 students who tune in. It’s on Monday; what can I expect? I actually prefer the small group. The planning for these meetings has been a challenge because I am not completely familiar with 3rd grade standards. I usually focus on a writing skill. This week when I checked on what third graders are learning, I found similes. That was a topic I could get my head around.

I created a slide show with some simile examples and a writing activity. Only one student came. D does not show his face or turn on his mike because there is a lot going on in his house. I often wonder if he is paying attention at all. When I asked him what a simile was, silence.

“Are you with me?”

In the chat box, “yes”.

“Do you know what it is?”

“no”

“Let me show you.”

I showed examples and then asked him to find the simile in a passage. He got it. We then moved on to the poem. Have you ever written a poem with a student you cannot see or hear? With discussion (me talking, him typing), we got through it. For taste and sound, I gave him some ideas to choose from.

“Do you have any clothing that is lime green?”

“A shirt”

“Where did you get that shirt?”

“school”

“Oh, it’s the Spirit Shirt you can wear on Friday?”

“yes”

So I typed “feels like Friday” as well as the line “Lime green reminds me of the shirt I wear to school on Spirit Days.”

We had “It smells like…” to fill in.

By then he had gotten the idea. He typed, “outside.” Perfect!

D unmuted long enough to read his poem out loud. I heard the pride in his voice. And then he said, “Thanks. I learned something today.” There it was, all I needed to smile.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I’ve been writing morning pages for a few months now, and every once in a while something appears that is worthy of sharing. And then I saw this quote on the last task in the last week (Week 12).

So today I am sharing some morning pages writing.

3/23/21 Touchstones, things you love

  • Flowers in a vase on my kitchen table
  • Pearl ring from my Godmother’s estate (Margaret means “Pearl”)
  • Wisteria blossoms, azaleas, sunflowers, magnolias, roses…flowers!
  • Dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds
  • Pecans, roasted, sugared, and in pie
  • Paul Simon Graceland
  • The name Simon
  • Grandbabies
  • Papa’s shirt

3/26/21
Reading Aimee Nezhukumatahil this morning. Just writing
her name makes me feel smart. She names things
like fruit bats and whale sharks, becomes animal in her poem,
leads me to wonder what animal I am, barely alive, awake
enough to feel the familiar ache of waking.
I am worried about the final shot, how my body
will react or not, and what immunity really means.
Yesterday my dog jumped on the AT&T saleswoman
at the door. I told her he was friendly while I kept
my distance. We all keep distances between us.
I wonder what immunity really means.

Margaret Simon, draft

3/29/21

Resistance in “not good enough” mantra

Fear is an infection poisoning my body so I cannot perform

Anger is I can’t do this; why do you make me?

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Saturday was my lucky day. In the morning I received my second Moderna shot, so in 10 days I will be fully vaccinated. Today I’ve been in bed with chills, fever, headache, and nausea. I still feel lucky. This response means my body is building immunities.

On Saturday afternoon, the local historical home had a fundraiser, a Wine Walk. The event took place on the grounds and 8 different groups decorated a booth and served wine paired with an appetizer. It was fun to socialize again. The atmosphere was one of pure enjoyment. And I pulled the cork for the prize wine, a 115 dollar bottle of Silver Oak. A few people came over and asked to take a picture of the wine. Event coordinator Liz Terrell said she bought it from the locked cage at Bi Lo. Yes, in Louisiana, you can buy fine wine at the neighborhood grocery store.

Mary enjoys a glass of wine in the gardens at The Shadows.
My lucky day, prize wine.

I don’t know what occasion will be blessed by this fine wine, but if I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s not to wait for the right time. Make today the right time.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Open Invitation to Write on Sharing Our Stories

 One of the most satisfying things about teaching for me is learning. I learn something new every day, and it still surprises me. On Teach this Poem by Poets.org, I learned about a poetic device: caesura, referring to a pause for a beat in the rhythm of a verse, often indicated by a line break or by punctuation. This literary device was used with effectiveness in a poem by Yesenia Montilla, a brief meditation on breath.

A brief meditation on breath

–they’re saying
this virus takes your breath away, not
like a mother’s love or like a good kiss
from your lover’s soft mouth but like the police
it can kill you fast or slow; dealer’s choice.
a pallbearer carrying your body without a casket.
they say it’s so contagious it could be quite
breathtaking. so persistent it might as well
be breathing                        down your neck—

Copyright © 2020 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

A long held belief of mine is that our bodies will tell us when to pause. I’ve believed this since 1995 when a herniated disc in my spine caused severe pain and subsequent surgery. There was nothing to do but pause and heal. Whenever I moved, pain would send me back. Luckily, I’ve not had any serious trouble since then, but I have learned to listen and pause when my body tells me to. I haven’t quite conquered yet the annoyance and guilt that sets in. We always want answers, so when the answer is “wait”, we twiddle thumbs and pace and complain.

Pause to enjoy the azaleas–
Walking to the parking lot from school, I stopped to notice how two azalea bushes were intertwined.

Following The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I’ve been writing morning pages for a few months. They are scribbled scratches before my coffee, before my mind wakes up. I really wasn’t sure this exercise was working for me. I’ve been resistant and irritated about it. Like when my body hurts, morning pages were a kind of pain in my side. I did them out of obligation, a commitment to a weekly group. But yesterday morning, a poem came out. And today, I wrote about a picture book idea.

So, wait a minute…you’re telling me that writing morning pages every day since January 3rd is finally opening up your creativity? Could it really take that long? Perhaps it won’t for you, but it has for me. And I’m still unsure if I’ll keep up the practice after our last meeting this week. Yet, there is something to be said for taking a pause, taking your pulse before the day begins.

Like caesura Pause. Begin. Be.

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