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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.
Wildflowers in a jar, Margaret Simon

If you read my post last week, you know I have a thing for flowers. After visiting Petite Anse Farms and cutting my own flowers, the wildflowers that line the Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans drew me in and begged to be clipped, collected, and given away.

This week is the Ehtical ELA Open Write and Monday’s prompt from Sarah Donovan encouraged us to write about “a shimmer of being alive.” My mind went back to the wildflowers I had cut on a walk with my daughter this weekend.

And So I Cut Wildflowers

I am taken by the little blooms
that peek from weeds
the ones on the side of the road

and want to carry them home
though I have nothing to cut them with
and frankly worry I will look like
a thief, a landscape destroyer, hoarder. 

The store is open, so I rush in,
buy kitchen shears, the kind for deboning
a chicken–I debone flowers

touch them with my soft hands
hold them in a nest
where scent to scent
pollen on pollen
the warmth of sunlight
still in their faces…

I cut wildflowers
place them in the Mason jar with residue
of coffee grounds, leave them
on your kitchen counter
without a note that says

I love you
You will know

Margaret Simon, draft
And So I Cut Wildflowers, Margaret Simon

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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.
Ring of Fire Sunflowers, photo by Margaret Simon

My daughters packed their cars, their dogs, a toddler and returned to New Orleans on Saturday. The house was cavernous and quiet. I needed to do something for myself or I knew I would sink into the sofa and sulk.

Petite Anse Farm advertised a cut-your-own-bucket-of-flowers weekend. On Sunday morning, I grabbed my coffee and smoothie and hit the road. The farm of beautiful Jennifer and handsome Andrew Graycheck is about 8 miles south of town. I was greeted by Georgia, their Australian Shepherd and Lorelei, their 5 year old.

Lorelei helps me choose the best zinnias. Their stems need to be strong and not springy.

In the warming breeze, I set out with a bucket of water and clippers. I stopped to take photos. I took Lorelei’s picture, and she took mine. She also helped me choose the best stems to fill my bucket.

Photo by Jennifer Graycheck with my phone. She’s a fine art photographer and gave me some great pointers for using “portrait mode.”

When I checked out with Jennifer, I asked, “What am I going to do with all these flowers?”

“Give them to the people you love!”

At home I gathered jars and vases and cut the stems again to place in arrangements. After lunch, I set out to deliver flowers.

My friend (and my husband’s cousin) Annie has been called as a priest for our church. She is the first female priest in charge for the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in its 165 year history. I wrote an article for our local newspaper about her. You can read it here. I stopped by to thank her for all the little things she is doing at our church to make it a stronger community of caring people.

Madre Annie Etheredge flashes her smile.

I made 4 more stops. It took me 2.5 hours because everyone was home and ready to visit. I caught up with friends and delivered a bit of joy in the process. Literally and figuratively filled up my bucket.

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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.

Another week of writing from The Quickwrite Handbook by Linda Rief. I have two pieces of writing I’d like to share today. The first was a prompt after Cynthia Rylant’s When I Was Young in the Mountains. Linda Rief wrote a mentor text “When I Was Young at the Ocean.” I wrote “When I Was Young at Purple Creek.”

When I was young at Purple Creek, I dangled my toes in the trickle of water and watched minnows dart around them, sending tickles and goose pimples all the way up my skinny white legs. 

When I was young at Purple Creek, I buried my Barbies in the sand, played Treasure Island on the wrip-wrap shore, and let go of the leash so Loopy could wander and explore, bark at the squirrels. 

When I was young at Purple Creek, my fear of snakes was on high alert. Brother shouted a warning just to see me jump. We gathered treasures in a tin bucket (rocks, broken glass, colored leaves, mimosa seed pods, a baby frog).

My flip-flop feet toughened on summer days when I was young at Purple Creek. The trickle was my ocean. The shoreline my cave. The pine trees my towers. I was queen of Purple Creek.

Margaret Simon
Photo by Marta Wave on Pexels.com

The next text we read and wrote from was an Excerpt from The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John.

That Kind of Teacher

On the first day of school, you can decide what kind of teacher you want to be. You can be the smiley teacher, the one who greets everyone at the door with “How are you today?” You could be the fashionable teacher, the one who turns heads with her new outfit each day. You could be the kind of teacher who knows everything about the new reading curriculum guidelines. The teacher who decorates her classroom in rainbow colors and files everything in matching color-coded binders. You could be the teacher who stands at the board and takes roll, who finishes her report cards on time. Or you could be that teacher who works as hard as her students. The curious teacher. The open-minded teacher. The teacher with a lot of stickers on the chart. When the school year starts, you can choose what kind of teacher you will be, the kind of teacher you will be for the rest of your life. 

Margaret Simon

And here’s 6th grader Chloe’s poem response for “I’m the Kind of Kid Who”

I’m the kind of kid
who leaves
at the end of class,
new kids asking why.
I say
“Guess” to hear
what they think.

I’m the kind of kid
who always does their work
or finishes their homework
in class so 
they have nothing left
to do.

I’m the kind of kid
whose teacher lets
them eat in class
as long as
she doesn’t see me.


I’m the kind of kid
who writes every day.
If you don’t 
know what I mean,
I’m doing it right now.


I’m the kind of kid
who is ready
for the weekend
and is actually
ready to come
back to school. 

Chloe

Adelyn, 3rd grade, wrote about her sister and posted it here on FanSchool.

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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 want to thank all of my readers who were praying for me and all of South Louisiana this weekend as Hurricane Ida invaded our state. We are fine.

A hurricane is an unusual beast of a storm. While it gained strength out in the Gulf, it swirled into a tighter circular cloud with a well-defined eye. That swirl gathered everything into it. As the hurricane entered the state at the tip of the boot (Grand Isle), here in New Iberia (in the arch of the boot) we felt eerily calm weather, light rain and periodic gusts of wind, but not enough to even knock out power. In fact, the weather was really pleasant.

All day on Sunday, we watched and waited. My oldest daughter and her family stayed at our house because we have a good generator. I have to admit, this mamére had a wonderful time with the grandchildren.

My two younger daughters live in New Orleans, and they have evacuated to Florida. Now that Ida has knocked down a major power transmitter, they will be driving to us and staying here for weeks. When I talked to my husband about this, he said, “This is why we’re here.”

We are here to be a safe haven for our children, a calm in the storm. Please continue your prayers for our state. In our gratitude, we can open the doors and welcome whatever comes next.

Grandmother oak watches over us.

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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.

We are in our second full week of school, so it’s time to start slicing. I am pleased with the daily routine I’ve started this year with my students. Today, they came in and found their notebooks, opened them up to a clean page, dated it, and waited. Ah, yes. Routine of writing every day is taking hold.

This morning after our quick write, Jaden pointed to Katie’s filled page and said, “She told me she didn’t want to write this morning.” The magic of Linda Rief’s The Quick Write Handbook. Together we have done the first two quick writes in the book, Rambling Autobiography and On Being Asked to Select the Most Memorable Day in My Life. These were great set ups for writing a Slice of Life post on our class blog. (Kidblog has morphed into Fan School and we are not happy.)

I write alongside my students. For the rambling autobiography, Linda Rief suggests using three phrases on their blank page, at the top, middle, and bottom, and write to them. (I was born…, I lied to…, and A friend once told me…)

Rambling Autobiography

I was born under the Perseids meteor showers in a Mississippi torn by racial riots. When I was six, “camping out” in our front yard, we set it on fire, an accident that left me with a fear of fire and deep shame. Our house had the largest oak tree on the whole block. I’ve always imagined my grandmother as my guardian angel. I carry her name with me every day. I lied to my mother about the fire. A friend once told me to trust my gut. I could create a timeline of my life with parentheses of hurricanes.  I secretly like to listen to choral music and sing along the alto part. I once danced with Marilyn Singer’s husband. I’ve won an award for teaching writing but not for writing. 

Margaret Simon, notebook quick write 8/19/21

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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.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

This is not where I usually write, but I’m trying it out–the coffee shop where jazz is playing and the hum of the refrigerators sound like the cicadas in my yard. A young couple chat quietly. She’s wearing athletic shorts and a “Friends” long sleeved t-shirt. He’s got on jeans and a ball cap. She’s talking and playing with the straw in her cup. He leans in, nods and laughs. She is a natural beauty, long black hair, tanned skin, perfect teeth. Someone’s daughter. Someone’s sister.

While I watch this couple, I am trying not to look by the window where two women sit in the comfy chairs talking with their hands. Literally. There are no sounds, only signs. I once knew some sign language, but as with any language you do not practice, the ability fades with time. No matter. What they are talking about is none of my business. I can sit and listen with my eyes. Notice the beauty of expression without words.

I recently read Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest book Whereabouts. Lahiri’s writing fascinated me because there was no defined setting even though you always had a sense for where she was. The narrator does not identify herself or anyone else by name. Lahiri breaks the rules about novels without blinking an eye. She takes us to wherever she is and we go willingly. Like sitting here in this coffee shop observing and being present to the moment when nothing much happened.

The writer’s greatest chance may be devotion to the passing fragment.

It is small, but it is pure, and it may hold compact infinity.

Kim Stafford, The Muses Among Us

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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.

Covid numbers are rising in our community. It’s invaded my family. We thought we were doing everything right. We are all vaccinated. Apparently, the Delta variant doesn’t care. The good news is no one is very sick. The vaccine is doing its job. Needless to say it’s rocked my world. We thought we knew. Now we know nothing. Keep masking up, my friends. This awful ride isn’t over yet.

Trying to replace some sense of control, I planted a tree. I’ve been nurturing a red buckeye for years. My friend Jim gave me a seedling. I’ve kept it in a pot, then a bigger pot and a bigger one, but now it’s in the ground. I hope the roots are ready.

In January, my friend Marion died from an aggressive cancer. I did not get to say goodbye. Before her death, she and her daughter Robin cleaned out her yarn supply. They gifted me with two large boxes that I placed in a closet upstairs. I wasn’t ready to open them. Robin had asked that we plant a tree to memorialize Marion. When I planted the red buckeye, I thought of Marion and the yarn, so I opened one of the boxes. I found a piece of knitting and wrapped it and placed it in the hole before placing the tree. A simple gesture that I am writing about here, so I can remember.

red buckeye

Marion was a writer. We met in a writing group once a month for at least 18 years. The poem “Last Words” by Rita Dove appeared in The New Yorker shortly after her death. This poem was just what Marion would have said.

Let the end come
as the best parts of living have come
unsought and undeserved
inconvenient

now that’s a good death.

Rita Dove, read the full poem here.

In the Open Write at Ethical ELA, Tracie McCormick prompted us to write a Golden Shovel. Here’s my Golden Shovel for Marion.

Bury the Knitting
(Golden Shovel for Marion using the striking line from Rita Dove, “Let the end come as the best parts of living.”

I bury the knitting; Let
dirt fall like rain on the
stitches of your gentle hands. The end
came too soon. I come
to this tree today to pray as
you did. The
roots will ravel around the best
parts
of a daily life of
love and care-filled living.

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.

Every summer I look forward to Kate Messner’s Teachers Write virtual writing camp. The first week is this week. Kate invites us to go outside and reflect on a time when we felt fully whole. I went outside and ended up weeding a flower bed. It wasn’t too hot, and for a minute, it wasn’t raining. I had a “clunker” line from Linda Mitchell to work with. “August was long of light.” There was a time when we didn’t start school in August, and it felt like summer would go on and on.

Mississippi Heat Wave

August was long of light
in a Mississippi heat wave that summer of ‘72.
On the path to Purple Creek,
my flip-flops kept the stickers away
and mosquitos preferred Missy’s freckle-juice.
Covered in Off and Coppertone, we’d hold hands
to cross the waterfall, tip-toe trickle over a concrete slab.
On the other side was an endless pine forest. We’d walk
the path of dirt bikes, side-stepping ruts in the muddy red clay.
Avoiding under-the-bridge where the smoking kids hung out,
we’d wander to the stables, pick out a favorite horse, pretend they were ours.
Endless summer days
stretched out like a Gulf Coast beach
burned our tender noses,
streaked our blonde hair,
became a backdrop to childhood memories.

Margaret Simon, draft
Pine forest in Mississippi, photo by Margaret Simon

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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.

Last weekend with grandkids in tow, my daughters and I traveled to Mississippi to see my parents. Mom celebrated her 85th birthday on Friday. We had an amazing dinner together, all four generations.

Pop with great grandchild, Stella, 6 months.

Over at Ethical ELA, it’s Open Write time. Denise Krebs posted a prompt that pushed me to write a poem for my father. Her poem prompt was based on Langston Hughes’s poem I Dream a World.

He Dreams a World
(for my father, John Gibson)

He dreamed a world where hope
would be our North Star guide,
a world where we could care,
embrace each other’s side.

But dreams read daily news
on print as small as stars.
His weathered hands held fast
so futures could be ours.

Today he watches them
and wonders where they’ll go,
more treasures to be found
and promises of hope.

Margaret Simon, after Langston Hughes
John Gibson, Pop, watches toddler artists Leo and Thomas.

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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.
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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