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Spiritual Journey First Thursday is being gathered today by Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link.

Carol is gathering Spiritual Journey posts today around the topic Blossoms of Joy. When I first typed it, I wrote “Blossoming Joy,” which slightly changes the blossoms into action. I have come to believe that we are all in the process of blossoming. We never arrive because life is hard and good and disappointing and joyful all wrapped up on any given day.

I’ve been listening to Untamed by Glennon Doyle. It’s a book full of quotable quotes. This is one that spoke to me.

“I am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself again and again forever. To be alive is to be in a perpetual state of revolution. Whether I like it or not, pain is the fuel of revolution. Everything I need to become the woman I’m meant to be next is inside my feelings of now. Life is alchemy, and emotions are the fire that turns me to gold. I will continue to become only if I resist extinguishing myself a million times a day. If I can sit in the fire of my own feelings, I will keep becoming.”

Glennon Doyle, Untamed

My spiritual journey is the alchemy that keeps me blossoming. I’m in a constant revolution with my inner and outer selves. Outside I want to show I’ve got everything under control. No rocky roads here. Smooth sailing. I know what I am doing, and I am doing it.

Practically every day, someone in the halls will comment about my appearance. Whether it’s the cute Dr. Seuss “Teacher, I am!” mask or the shoes I’m wearing, someone will say something. I know. I know. This is how women interact. I find myself doing it every day.

In fact, one day a little kindergarten girl was rushing in the hallway. She said, “I have to go to the bathroom,” and rushed by me. Then I heard from her little sweet voice, “But I love your hair!”

Perhaps she genuinely had noticed and liked my hair. But it struck me that even our young girls are trained to greet another girl with a compliment about her looks.

I’m not saying this practice is one I would change so much as notice. Our society trains girls at a very young age that how you look matters. Is this healthy?

Lucille Clifton is one of my favorite poets. Years ago I had the privilege of hearing her read at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Her poem “roots” was the poem of the month for A Network of Grateful Living. I loved the voice and cadence so much that I wrote beside her. Literally placed the poem on a document and wrote my own beside her. Glennon’s words and my own inner thoughts led me to this poem.

wings

call it fire even,

call it anything.

it’s the desire in us

to fly.

we hold our hands

above our heads

and call them

branches,

and grow on them.

we flutter them and make melodies.

call them stories, wild stories.

we are lost in the cumulonimbus

field of clouds.

call it lightning,

our flames.

call it wings.

it’s the wild in us.

it’s the wild of us.

it is the wild, call it

whatever you want to.

call it blossoming.

Margaret Simon, after Lucille Clifton
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

On Sharing our Stories Magic, Ruth posts a weekly writing prompt. This week the prompt came as a challenge to write about a sunset without using color or seasonal language yet evoking a sense of both through the story. My mind naturally goes to poetry, so I wrote a poem. In June of 2019, my parents moved to a retirement home, and my siblings and I cleared out their home of 30 years. Even though, thankfully, Mom and Dad are both living healthy lives, the move was like a death. Their home on the lake had become a peaceful vacation spot for me and my family. I mourned this loss in this sunset poem.

The Last Time

You won’t know when the last day comes,
but it will come with a sunset
while you sit in the porch swing
dangling your feet like you did as a child
perhaps talking with your brother.

Hummingbirds will hum at the feeder,
a blown glass ornament your mother left behind
for you to fill
with sweet water just to see their wings
flutter hungrily, hearts beating faster than
the speed of sound.


The orb that makes each day new
ends this day
in silent symphony
hovering over the lake
bathing it in jewels
you can hold in your hand
lay down in the velvet-lined jewelry box
she left in her closet
for you to find.

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.

The phone rings blinking Facetime, and I know who’s calling, but this time he greets me differently.

“How a doin?”

Leo, 27 months learns a new phrase almost daily. This one was his latest. He was so excited to say it.

“Hey, Leo. I’ve been sick.”

In the background, Maggie says, “Ma mère‘s tummy hurts.”

“Hold you, Ma mère!” Leo exclaims with a concerned expression that melts my heart.

“Oh, I wish I could hold you.”

“Tummy. Kiss it. Better.” He leans forward and kisses the screen.

Leo kisses make everything better.

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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.

A friend sent me an article suggestion from The Atlantic. “Ode to Low Expectations” by James Parker. Here’s a quote to start off my Slice of Life March Madness:

We’re half-finished down here, always building and collapsing, rigging up this and that, dropped hammers and flapping tarps everywhere. Revise your expectations downward. Extend forgiveness to your idiot self. Make it a practice. Come to rest in actuality.

James Parker, The Atlantic March 2021

I needed to read this before committing to a month long writing challenge. I need to lower my expectations and be myself on this page. Who else is any better or worse? Who else could I even try to be?

I’m testing my creativity every day. If I place my hands on the keys and get something written, then I’m ahead of the game. I’m just warning you, if you are a reader of my blog. Every day is a risk. Every day is scary. But I am here. Will you join me?

Notebook page 2/26/21

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Ruth invites bloggers to Share Our Stories. Today’s prompt is to write fast.

Capture a shadow, dance with the wind, stand in a rainbow, begin at the end.


Mary Anne Radmacher
Photo by brenoanp on Pexels.com

Leo is learning the difference between his reflection and his shadow. He sees himself in a mirror, says, “Cute Shadow!” I am finding myself fascinated by how his little brain makes connections. How does language develop? What I am learning is that it is not at all linear. We start by repeating things a big person says. Leo parrots often. I was writing a card to a friend and said, “Dear Ellen.” He took the paper using the pen to draw right over my words and said, “Dear Ellen.” But then he kept scribbling hard and said, “Words!” And then some gibberish I didn’t understand. I took a video on my phone and sent it to Ellen.

I don’t have much video from my own children growing up. I’m sure I was as fascinated, but I was also busy being their mom. Being grandmother allows me time to reflect. I am writing things in a notebook for him. I’ve decided not to worry whether or not he will care about this when he gets older. That is not the point. I think that so many times as someone who wants to write, I worry too much about audience.

I read this morning on the Writer’s Almanac that Toni Morrison felt free when she wrote. She didn’t worry about her audience. She just marveled in the way writing consumed her. “But the writing was the real freedom, because nobody told me what to do there. That was my world and my imagination. And all my life it’s been that way.”

I don’t expect to be Toni Morrison, but I can take a bit of freedom from her. Let go and just write what comes. Ruth’s invitation today was to write fast. This was a quick write, about 20 minutes or so. Just enough time to bake a brownie or write a post. Both are sweet in their own way.

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I’m writing today in response to an invitation on
Sharing Our Stories: Take Space for Writing.

The word sacred can have many connotations. When I read today’s invitation to write about your sacred writing space, I began with thoughts about the word itself. Sacred. Yesterday I read Nikki Giovanni’s poem “In the Spirit of Martin” alongside a fifth grade student. She asked the question, “What does sacred mean?” responding to the poem’s first line, “This is a sacred poem…”

My initial response was “holy.” Sacred is a place that is quiet and contemplative, like a church.

Is my writing space sacred? Consecrated by different sizes, shapes, and surfaces of paper. Blessed with pens which become cat toys if I leave them out. Ordained by hard maple wood. My writing space is my kitchen. It’s where all the animals hang out. It’s close to the coffee pot. There’s a door that leads out to a winding bayou and cypress trees.

Our writing spaces become sacred when we make the space to sit in quiet stillness, to listen to the inner voice, and to be confident enough to put words on a page (or screen).

When the c trades places with the a, sacred becomes scared. Sacred can be scary. I’ve certainly had that mix of butterfly flutters in my belly when entering a sacristy.

Writing can be scary, too.

I’m learning to trust the process. To let my words be sacred. To open up myself to the vulnerable space. It’s still scary, but more often than not, it feels fulfilling and safe.

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This week Ruth invites us to write about rituals. As I sit at my computer on Boxing Day, I realize that rituals change. And change they must. In fact, I’ve had to understand that a ritual for me may or may not be one for my family. Accepting the change is my mantra for this holiday season.

Speaking of the lack of church-going in my pandemic life, I said to my daughter, “I’ll be spiritual again in 2021.”

She responded, “Oh, you are still spiritual. It’s just the ritual that you’ve taken a break from.”

She’s right, of course. But I feel the ritual of church, especially singing carols with the choir on Christmas Eve, fed my spiritual life, and without that food, I’m going through the motions of Christmas. My advent candles sit on my kitchen table having never been lit. I wonder at the long term effects of this ritual loss.

I totally forgot about Christmas dinner. Who forgets Christmas dinner? I realized after a text from my sister-in-law that we would have a visit, masked and on the porch with open doors, but no meal. Yikes! We ran to a nearby place that has frozen foods and stocked up 10 minutes before they closed on Christmas Eve. Emergency averted. That meal was the easiest Christmas dinner ever. Maybe a new tradition was born?

As I reflect on Christmas, 2020, I have so many things to be grateful for, beginning with a negative Covid test, so I was comfortable being around my grandchildren. The joys of children at any time of the year, but especially at Christmas, cannot be overrated. Leo, 2 years, was amazed by every “pwesent”, and Thomas, 15 months, wanted to taste every goodie. “Pease!” with the sign for More caved me every time. And even though I cannot physically hold baby Stella, I can watch her from across the room melt onto my daughter’s shoulder. So many blessings. New rituals. Always hope!

Cousins Leo, 2 years, Stella, 3 weeks, and Thomas, 15 months

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#SOSmagic: Routines

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

When a toddler’s routine is interrupted,
he cries “for no reason” and says “don’t like it”
about the thing he adored the day before.
Routines keep me grounded,
like the right foot in my tree pose,
planted into the earth of solid ground.
Sometimes a breeze blows; the tree sways,
but it doesn’t break.

My routine is my checklist:
animals fed, check
smoothie, check
lunch, check
Yeti cup, check.
Mask, check.

A routine is the canvas for my day.
I can be fully present if my routine is in check.
One forgotten or lost step sends my sensitivity into a tailspin.
I need to be protective of my routines,
keep them close and safe,
until…
you call and need me there.

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Click over to an invitation to write at Sharing our Stories.

This week’s invitation to “Share our Stories” is writing from a definition. I chose my One Little Word embrace.

Embrace: to clasp in arms: hug. The very thing taken away from us this strange pandemic year. The value of a simple hug has grown. Nothing is taken for granted.

Embrace: encircle, welcome. While I do not welcome an insidious virus, I do welcome the quiet reflection that comes with alone time.

Embrace: acceptance. This one has proven hardest of all. I am easily angered by the rising numbers. I have a hard time accepting screens over face to face. I also miss my children, and that is hard to accept.

Embrace implies gathering of separate things within a whole. Last month after careful planning and quarantine, we had an intimate family wedding in which we gathered another family into our whole. It was a beautiful wedding for my youngest daughter. Not the one she wanted, but the one we embraced.

Embracing this year has proven more challenging than ever. I still love the word. Etymology of the word comes from en+brace meaning a pair of arms. The blessings of my life abound. I hold within my figurative arms a healthy family that continues to grow. Soon I will embrace another grandchild. Soon we all will embrace a vaccine. Soon our country will embrace a new leader. We have much to embrace. May we all embrace Love!

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