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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.

Two months ago today, I took my mother to see my father in the hospital for the last time. He was not responsive. She held his head and kissed it over and over saying, “I love you.” He died the next morning.

I never heard my parents say “I love you” to each other. My father told me he believed that if you said it often, it would lose its meaning. Ten years ago, after he had colon surgery, I vowed to tell them both I love you every time I talked to them on the phone. Mom would respond, “hmm hmm.” Dad would say something like, “me, too.” Over Covid isolation, they finally said an audible “I love you.”

But this doesn’t mean they didn’t love us or each other.

Yesterday in the dining hall of the retirement home, a resident said she’d never seen such a loving family. She said we cradled my mother. I said, “I wish I could cradle her every day.”

Alzheimer’s is trying to take my mother away from us. She knows Dad died. She knows we planted a tree in his memory. She visits it every day. However, when we took her across the hall to look at a one bedroom apartment for her to move into, she said, “Is Dad moving, too?” I hugged her and said, “No, he’s gone. But he’s in your heart.”

My brother said, “Taking up less space.” We laughed. That’s something Dad would say. He loved irony.

Then Mom said, “You suppose I could find another man?” More laughter.

Mom at the Columbarium visiting Dad on Father’s Day.

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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.

My friend and colleague Erica called me during my Covid days, the last week of school, and asked what she could do to help get my room ready for summer. I told her she could box all the books on the shelves. I have plastic bins for this purpose. She didn’t call me back, so I wasn’t sure if it had been done.

On Monday last week I took Tuffy with me to check on my classroom. I thought I might be there for hours getting it packed up for cleaning. Lucky for us, there was Sophie, the 10 (almost 11) year-old daughter of my principal. She entertained Tuffy while I checked on things. To my pleasant surprise, the only space left to clear was my desktop. All the books were not only boxed, but the bins were neatly stacked over the cubbies. No packing or heavy lifting necessary.

I called Erica to thank her and asked if we could meet somewhere with her daughter (who I taught a few years ago). I wanted to treat her. We decided to meet at a local splash pad. That was the best decision ever. While Erica and I talked, Rylee and Tuffy played.

Tuffy enjoying the shower at the splash pad.

I enjoyed the splash pad so much that I insisted that we meet there on Saturday to play with Leo and Stella. What fun! I made a reel on Instagram of Stella hunting for a ladybug decal.

Because I was sick the last week of school, I did not feel like I had properly said goodbye to my students, so I texted their parents and set up a play time at the splash pad. I brought them bubble sets and bought each a snowball. A perfect day!

One of the lagniappes (a little something extra) of our time together was the relaxed atmosphere for talking with parents. I teach my students year after year while they are in elementary school. Relationships with parents are essential. Without much effort at all, and a lot of fun, the splash pad has saved my life.

Some of my students and me at the splash pad.

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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.

As I was resting on the sofa in my living room, I heard a light tap on the window. Oh, no, I thought. We’ve had times before that a bird has flown into the window and either died or been stunned. I expected to see a poor thing lying lifeless on the deck, but instead was surprised by fluttering. The little guy flew to a nearby branch and stayed long enough for me to identify him as a Prothonotary Warbler.

I studied this swamp beauty when I was writing Swamp Song (which has yet to find a publisher).

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary warblers live in wooded swamps and forage above slow moving water. They hop among branches of downed trees searching for insects and snails to eat. They are a bright yellow color with blue-gray wings and tail. The male will select a nesting cavity in holes left behind by woodpeckers and chickadees. Prothonotary warblers are declining due to habitat loss. Prothonotary warblers got their names from the bright yellow robes worn by clerks for the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church known as prothonotaries. 

From Swamp Song by Margaret Simon

I am on the council for the T.E.C.H.E. Project as an education consultant, so I called our president who is a biologist and knows about birds. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Patti, I know some people believe their parents come back to them in cardinals, but I think my dad is visiting me in a Prothonotary Warbler.

Patti: Yeah. Yeah?

Me: No, really. This male bird is coming to my window and fluttering wildly. I’m afraid he’s going to hurt himself. What should I do?

Patti: It’s likely a young juvenile who sees himself in the reflection. They are very territorial. He’s stupid. He thinks he sees another bird.

Me: So, he’s just strutting his stuff!

Patti: Yeah, he’s showing off for ya’!

My first thought was my dad was not that kind of guy. Showy. No strut. But he was one who liked to tell jokes and hear people laugh. So before I chased the bird away from the danger of the window, I looked up at his sunny self and smiled! Thanks, Dad!

Prothonotary Warbler in cypress tree. (Not a bad shot for through a window with an Iphone.)

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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 Poetry Friday, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater posted on The Poem Farm a slide show created by teacher/author Emily Callahan. Her 4th graders have been writing proverb poems after Amy’s. I shared the slide show with my student Chloe. She was inspired to write a prequel to Ms. Callahan’s students’ prequel poems. Here is her Fanschool page, Prequel Crazy.

Here it sits
covered from the rain a chess board
broken into pieces.
I allow access to
the board.
He has found a new home. 
I glue it,
I wash it,
I rinse it,
I dry it,
I wrap it up
and drive along a bumpy road
the perfect gift 
to my daughter
She asks, ” Where did you dig this up from?”
“One man’s trash is another mans treasure
Maybe you can do the same
Like with a blanket?”

Chloe, 6th grade

I wrote alongside Chloe. A poem about my sister’s plan to create a quilt from my father’s shirts. I left the last line blank so I could make it a prequel to Chloe’s. We enjoyed this playful poem making. Thanks, Amy and Emily!

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

The girl sees patterns,
pictures in her father’s shirts,
gathered,
sorted,
cut,
stitched
into a quilt of many colors,
into a memory of many hugs,
into a dream of everlasting rest.
She sees more than anyone
a life lived as a husband, a father,
a doctor, an artist, a friend.
She touches every day what he wore,
a treasure in her hands.
Maybe you could do the same.
Maybe with a chess board.

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.

My friend and fellow writing group member Linda Mitchell led the writing prompt for #verselove at Ethical ELA yesterday. She directed us to use the steps in the scientific method to craft a poem. As many of you know, my father died on Friday morning. If you follow my blog, I’m afraid there is nothing else so pressing on my mind than this and the care for my mother. Writing is healing for me.

A Place at the Table

You could make this place beautiful.
Can you float a flower in the vase and call it home?
Flowers, a white cat, a black dog, coffee brewing, what could be missing?
The empty seat at the table is cold, lonely.
I move over, sit in his chair, open the last book he was reading.
Time will fill the space at the table, even in the midst of absence.
There will be beauty again.

Margaret Simon, draft
Louisiana iris in our bayou bog

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Thirty-four days. Our wood duck hen sat for thirty-four days. We were losing hope, afraid the freeze back in March did it. On Sunday morning I got a text from a bayou neighbor, “Today is jump day for one of our houses!”

“Our duck has been sitting for 34 days. No hatching yet. I’m not sure we should keep waiting.”

“Mine sat for longer than usual.”

So I flipped over to our RIng app. Did I hear cheeping? Mother hen was eating a shell. They were hatching!

You probably want to know how many, but it’s nearly impossible to count when they are little blurry black blobs wiggling.

Monday was Jump Day. It was also a school/work day. We had to rely on the camera. Jeff set up a new Ring camera outside of the house in order to record the jump. Around 10:00, I checked the cameras. Gone. All the ducks had jumped. I missed it, but the camera did not.

As I showed the video to my student, Avalyn, she named the little ducklings. “Come on, Tiffany, you can do it!” she urged as one of the babies hesitated to jump. Avalyn also wrote a poem-song (impromptu) to celebrate Jump Day!

Wood duck, wood duck
open your shell.
Come out, come out, come out now!
Little duck, little duck,
quack with your snout.
Little duck little duck, little duck
don’t you frown
Come play in the bayou
and make no sound.

Avalyn, 2nd grade
Jump Day, 2022: Watch the lower right corner to see Momma Duck come back to get a wayward duckling.

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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.

Today is March 31st, and I have successfully written a blog post every day this month. Today, many of us in the Two Writing Teachers community are breathing a little easier knowing we made it. Earlier this year, I received an Emergency Encouragement Writing Kit from Irene Latham. When it came time to make a new journal cover, I cut out this quote and placed it front and center.

I don’t always (actually, rarely do I) believe it to be true. But just in case it is what the world needs from me, I keep at it. I have to thank you, my dear reader, for your dedication to listening. You honor me with your presence.

According to Kate DiCamillo, writing is a “sacred task”. And though I am not and never will be a writer like Kate, I believe that what I do here is sacred.

It matters. Story matters. What we do matters.

I attended a mental health seminar last night. I was pleasantly surprised that there was food and wine. The intention of the evening was to let teachers know their own self-worth. The speaker was a local counselor who talked about ways to take care of ourselves. She repeated a mantra: “I am worthy. I am enough. I am amazing.”

We all have times when we feel like imposters. Writing a blog post each day that friends and strangers can read makes you vulnerable. Often I feel like I don’t know what I am doing. Thank you for reading and appreciating and caring.

Tomorrow begins a new chapter: National Poetry Month. I am committing to writing a poem each day and leading my students to do the same. April is my favorite month of the year. Click here to read a post I wrote for Cardinal Rule Press about National Poetry Month. Happy writing. Happy reading.

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

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Last week I took my students out to the playground to find photos. I wrote about the activity yesterday. I was surprised by the variety and interest their photos generated. Without any direction, Adelyn straddled the drainage and folded herself in half and took this photo upside down. When I asked if I could use her photo for the poetry prompt, she said, “Be sure to give me credit.” Of course. She wrote this equation poem: Investigation = question + adventure.

Now it’s your turn. What do you see? Write a small poem in the comments. Support other writers with your comments.

Follow your curiosity.
Landing among the stones,
Explore a mystery.

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.

Following other teacher-bloggers can lead to new ideas for classroom activities. Recently I read Kim Douillard’s posts about using photography with her students. She graciously sent me a slide show to teach students about three photography techniques, bug’s eye view, bird’s eye view, and rule of thirds. My students caught on to these ideas with ease and were anxious to get outside to try them out. Our beautiful spring weather was a wonderful collaborator.

Following our playground photo sessions, my students used the editing tools on the Chromebooks. Kim had led her students to write equation poems with their photographs. I shared Laura Purdie Salas’s equation poems. I directed my students to use Canva to display their photos and equation poems. Here are a few student photos.

Sunlight + Trees = Painting by Jaden, 6th grade
Ripple = Air + Net by Chloe, 6th grade

The creative teacher in me wants to find more opportunities to practice photography and language. In fact, I think I’ll use one of their images for a poem prompt tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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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 am proud to be a council member on the TECHE Project. This weekend the final touches on a kayak dock in downtown New Iberia were installed. My friend and TECHE Project member David Dahlquist designed kiosks for every town along the route of the Bayou Teche. For this kiosk in New Iberia, he placed my poem I am a Beckoning Brown Bayou from my book Bayou Song. It warms my heart to know someone will read this poem every day.

The TECHE project also works to improve the water quality of the bayou. The ultimate goal is to restore the waterway to be a safe recreational area. The work is ongoing and requires participation from many entities. Yesterday afternoon, Jeff and I did our small part. We picked up two plastic chairs and pieces of 3 styrofoam ice chests. We also had a beautiful paddle on a gorgeous spring day. What a blessing the bayou is to us and our neighbors! A place of peace in this crazy world.

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