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We started our first Monday together with this quote. I introduced notebook writing. Begin with a quote, talk a bit about it, then write for 10 minutes. Writing alongside my students gives me great joy. I’ve missed this over the summer and happy to have it back.

Here’s a little peek into my notebook musings:

There’s a book by Parker Palmer with the title “The Courage to Teach.” I read it years ago, and I can’t remember much about it, but the title still resonates. I’m entering my 32nd year of teaching. I would be what they call a “veteran” teacher. You could say I’ve earned my grey hair, but I rarely feel like an expert. Everyday teaching requires courage. You must put aside the headache from lack of sleep (or lack of caffeine, or both), and be ready to listen and see each student as a child who needs you to love them, to know them, and to understand them.

Currently I am listening to Cornelius Minor’s book We Got This. I highly recommend it even though I’m just a few chapters in. Cornelius speaks of the courage to teach as well as the necessity that we be intentional with our every step. We need to teach in a way that meets the needs of our students. And we get to know these needs by listening.

I’m encouraged that what I do for my students (notebook writing, independent reading, etc.) are courageous steps toward being a compassionate teacher. I need to trust the years of experience to guide me and comfort me in the knowledge that I Got This. Courage doesn’t always roar. It’s a daily walk, a listening ear, and a loving heart.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Christie at Wondering and Wandering

Christie Wyman has invited the Poetry Friday community to write about trees this week. I am back in school and have so missed the days of writing alongside my students. Because I am itinerant and teach at three schools, I have three opportunities to write during the day. That gave me time to write, read aloud, revise, write. Not to mention the joy my students felt to be back in the saddle of writing.

We used “That was Summer” by Marci Ridlon as a mentor text. The repetition makes this form an easy one to mimic. I chose to write about the different trees we see each season.


Seasons of Trees
after Marci Ridlon “That was Summer”

Remember that time
when the rope swing hung
from the old oak tree
the knot round and rough?
You wrapped your skinny legs on tight
let someone give you a push
your head leaned back
tongue out, tasting the breeze.
That was summer.

Remember that time you gathered pecans
plopping one by one
into grandfather’s tin bucket?
You held the brown nut to the metal cracker,
and turned the handle until Crack!
Tasting hickory butter sweetness.
That was autumn.

Remember when the wind turned cold,
Flakes fell softly on the trees,
and you bundled up and walked
with your sisters through rows and rows
of Christmas spruce,
playing hide and seek
and searching for the just-right one.
That was winter.

Remember how the warm sun rose
on the Japanese magnolia
prompting firm blossoms
to open like helium-filled party balloons?
Remember how you walked near
to smell the strong rosy scent
that could make you sneeze?
That was spring.



Margaret Simon, draft, 2019
image from Pixabay

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.

Today my Sunday Poetry Swagger writing group is celebrating a new form invented by our colleague Heidi Mordhorst, who is hosting the PF link up.

Heidi’s definition of a definito is “a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem.” A few weeks ago during one of our Sunday night critique meetings, she asked us each to try writing our own definito.

I’ve been following Teach Write on Facebook and each day they post a word to jump start writing. In the month of July, they posted “voracious vocabulary”. One day the word was “zephyr.” This was a new to me word that I thoroughly enjoyed learning about. A definito is a great way to explore a word’s meaning through writing. I will be using this activity with my students this year.

Zephyr

Zero in.
Feel the wind
blow oh, so, slow,
lightly feathering
the sleepy moss,
slightly rippling the shore.
Not a gale or hefty gust,
blustery bora or frigid buster.
This Greek god is a gentle one
waving from the western sky…
easy-breezy  zephyr.
(draft) Margaret Simon

Melanie Wupperman, Pexels.com

Read more definitos at these Poetry Swaggers’ sites:
Catherine Flynn: Reading to the Core
Molly Hogan: Nix the Comfort Zone
Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise

And playing along:
Mary Lee Hahn: A Year of Reading
Laura Purdie Salas: Writing the World for Children

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I am gathering Spiritual Journey first Thursday posts. Scroll down to link up.

Sometimes I marvel at how things do not change. I wake up at the same time every morning, make coffee, feed the dog and cats, read my email, check Facebook…routines that keep me grounded and moving forward.

But the truth of life is change. Nothing really stays the same.

We age.
We lose.
We gain.
We grow.
We change.

Some changes bring new life. I have had the privilege this summer to share in the care of my sweet grandson, Leo. Now he can sit up. He eats mushy food. He squeals and grunts and interacts with me. I especially love how he grins and hums when I sing to him. Pure love. The changes we watch are marvelous and miraculous.

I never get too many Leo kisses.

Some changes are harder. My parents are aging. I’ve tried to deny this for years, but when they made the decision to move to a retirement home, I had to face it. This was the best place for them to be. Their health remains, and I am grateful for it.

My school year begins next week. There will be changes, new students, a new school to go to, new classrooms, but part of the excitement over beginning a school year is living into the changes and celebrating them.

Over the last few weeks, I watched black swallowtail caterpillars eat a lot of parsley and grow. Then they sat dormant in a strangely shaped chrysalis. Each one emerged as a complete and beautiful butterfly that I released into the air. The life cycle of a butterfly never ceases to amaze me.

There are changes we can see and some that hide inside a chrysalis emerging later, surprising us again and again. When I keep my faith centered on Love, I can accept change with peace and understanding.

Posing with my daughter Katherine,
whose womb holds another beautiful butterfly baby to love. (due date Sept. 5)

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!Click here to enter

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

Earlier this summer I traveled back and forth three times to help clean out my parents’ lakeside home in Mississippi. I wrote about the sadness over leaving the home that has been a summer sanctuary for me in a slice a few weeks ago.

What I haven’t written about are the treasures we found. My parents had no recollection that my godmother’s estate had come to them. It was all buried in a brown envelope in a desk drawer in their bedroom. I had resolved to look at everything in the house and decide if it was to keep, to trash, or to sell. When I opened the envelope with the simple label “Hollingsworth,” I didn’t know what I would find.

It’s been years since my godmother died. I barely remember a visit to her when I was a teenager. I was afraid of her because of her age and her suffering. I never knew her as a healthy person, but I dearly loved her son. Bill was my father’s best friend and lived as a monk in Covington, Louisiana. He was small in stature but big in personality. He died in December, 2015. I miss visits with him.

My parents gave me a sculpture my godmother Jane had made and some sketches of her that her husband, William Hollingsworth, had drawn. But I knew nothing of the jewelry she left behind.

The most charming item of jewelry was a pearl ring. And it fit me perfectly. Pearls are one of my signature jewels because the name Margaret means “pearl.” Seems meant to be.

Another treasure I brought home with me was the portrait of my maternal grandmother. Again someone I didn’t know. She was Margaret Shields Liles, and she died three months before I was born. As I was named for her, the portrait passed to me. It was painted in 1943 when my mother was 7 years old. My mother remembers traveling to Memphis to have it done. I grew up with this image hanging first in my grandfather’s house, then in ours. The angel in a white dress cradling her violin became my guardian angel. Now, she hangs beautifully in my dining room.

Portrait of Margaret Shields Liles, 1943.

There is a feeling of loss with these treasures. The wonderful women I never knew feel like a part of me in some small way. The passing of a legacy, a history. Treasures lost; treasures found.

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Poetry Friday round-up is here! Scroll down to link up.

Laura Purdie Salas started a sharing group on Facebook around the journal companion to Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. One of the exercises asks you to steal a title to create your own story.

I recently attended an art show for my friend and SCBWI colleague, Denise Gallagher. The title of her show was “A Teaspoon and a Bit of String.” She is currently involved in an ArtSpark grant for her upcoming middle grade fairy tale. This is her title illustration.

A Teaspoon and a Bit of String by Denise Gallagher

I stole (like an artist) this title to write a poem. For a few weeks this summer I was cleaning out my parents’ home. They moved to a retirement home. I found treasures as I whittled through drawers and closets. A teaspoon and a bit of string fit just right.

A Teaspoon and a Bit of String*

We live in shared spaces
thirty years or more
storing things away
for someday
when you need
a bit of string.

Tie it to your shoelace
or round a simple gift.
Hand it to your lover
to remember you with.

Down in the abyss
of the silverware drawer,
a teaspoon speaks
of years of sugar
measured,
perhaps the purple medicine
to calm a cough.

I tuck this teaspoon
into days-old news
tie with a bit of string
and carry it with me
into next time.

(c) Margaret Simon
*title from Denise Gallagher

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!Click here to enter

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

As I sit down to write this, there are 5 electric service trucks outside on my street and in my neighbor’s driveway. Hurricane Barry powered through over the weekend and took out a few branches. Nature’s way of tree trimming, but unfortunately, one of those limbs took out a transformer. We were only without power for 24 hours and thanks to a trusty, industrial generator, we didn’t suffer much. The guys working on the poles, clearing out the downed wires, and restoring electricity are heroes in my book. Many are not even from our area. They made the sacrifice to travel here in the wake of a major storm. We are grateful.

This summer my life has been busy in a different way from previous summers, no teacher workshops, no writing retreats, no foreign travel. I have not sliced in weeks because the topic feels too big for a small slice.

My parents moved to a retirement home. This is good news for many reasons. They made the decision on their own, and they are now in a place that feeds them good meals with a built in social life.

What needed to be addressed was the house they lived in for 29 years. This was not the home of my childhood, but it is the home of my children’s childhood. It was a place I took them to be loved. The house was on a lake where sunsets were glorious. My brother took my girls fishing on the dock. I watched herons and egrets and white pelicans. Sitting on the swing on the back porch was a favorite spot. Many family photos were staged there.

I’ve visited my parents every summer, so I looked back to blog posts written there. Here is a poem I wrote the summer of 2015.

Sometimes on the lake in June
white pelicans fly in together
and I get out the camera.
Then they turn as a drum line in step,
swim away swiftly in a cloud.

Sometimes on the lake in June
a lone blue heron fishes.
Sly step, long beak held high,
drinking in the sunlight.
A small boat passes by
lines thrown out,
catching nothing.

Sometimes on the lake in June,
I wake before dawn,
put the coffee on,
Sometimes Dad will join me
silent, reading the daily news.
Mom comes in pleased to have fresh coffee.
We sit on the porch, quiet
content to be together
on the lake in June.

(c) Margaret Simon

Sifting through the stuff of a house, the history of a life, is bittersweet. There were treasures to find, memories to share, and things to keep. My daughters and I have all taken things with us, but we will all miss the peacefulness and joy of the house on the lake.

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