SOL

Things I Know by Heart #SOL

My poem today is inspired by Emily Yamasaki’s post Core Memories on Ethical ELA’s #verselove April poetry writing challenge.

the exact spot you turn, turn, and plop into the crook of my legs in bed
the sound of Bubba's horn from across the lake
the time needed to boil the sugar, cocoa, milk and butter to the perfect consistency
the exact location where scar tissue replaces a lump
the eight digits pressed in order to reach you
the feel of the worn three panel leather ball resting in my hand
the sound of my father's whistle in a crowd
the boards that creak as I sneak out of your room
the woody scent of your cologne
the place between your ear and nose where I nuzzle you for a furry kiss
the blended sequence of breath and movement in a chaturanga
the harsh words spoken to me 40 years ago, 28 years ago, 3 years ago
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Wrapping Up Year 3 #SOL22 Day 31

Today finishes 31 days of writing with the Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge. This is my 3rd year to join this writing journey.

I find myself better after 31 days of looking at life through the lens of writing. I’m more aware of the world around me. I keep an eye open to little things that happen throughout the day that actually have a big impact when I stop and dissect them. I read others’ writing with a magnifying glass, looking for words and phrases that speak to me. I develop my craft of arranging words, shifting ideas, creating opening lines, searching for catchy titles and hooks, wrapping it up with that just right closing sentence.

I’ve perused a few blogs this morning. I will return throughout the day. I love reading how everyone has grown this month, how this writing matters, how this experience influences our teaching, how we are better humans than we were 31 days ago.

I would like to thank Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life for inviting me to #SOL writing 3 years ago. She has dedicated time each year to read my posts giving me feedback and encouragement. Janeen Pizzo at My Writing Life has been a cheerleader for me everyday of this challenge. I always look forward to reading her thoughts about my posts. I’m so thankful for these writers and the many others who have taken time to read and comment on my writing this month. I have learned so much from all of you!

I’ve been inspired to try the April challenge of a poem a day by Kim Haynes Johnson at Common Threads. In today’s post, she gives the background of Ethical ELA’s #verselove challenge. As of late, poetry has become part of my sacred hour in the morning. I love the arrangement of sparse words on a page making a big impact on the reader. I’ve dabbled a bit in writing poetry, and I think now is the time to join in writing it daily.

So as March winds down, I am looking forward to continuing my writing journey through the love of poetry!

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Dear Notebook, #SOL22 Day 28

Dear Notebook,

The end is in sight. Four more days. Four more. We can do this.

I’ve missed you this month, dear Moleskin. Your ivory colored, thick lined paper. The way the my Papermate 0.7mm pencil glides across your smooth page. The flipping and turning to read snippets from past entries.

The calm I feel after sharing my soul with you. My thoughts on the page and out of my head. The unconditional acceptance you give me. No matter what, you’ve got my back.

I even snuck back to you a few days this month to brainstorm some Slice of Life ideas. But, shhh…don’t tell my hp Chromebook. I’m sure there would be hard feelings. It’s just not the same. Tapping the keys vs. flowing the pencil across the page. It’s nothing personal, but I don’t think he would understand.

When I return to you on Friday it will be glorious! Hang tight! Four more days. We’ve got this!

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A Slicer Party #SOL22 Day 17

On March 12th, Leigh Anne Eck invited us all to a “Slicer Party.” If you lost your invitation, here it is. You have until March 31st to join, so don’t delay.

At the end of a long dusty road is our writing cabin. It is tucked into the woods surrounded by mountains with a gurgling stream at the edge of the property. There are rocking chairs on the porch that invite you to sit, think, and compose while gazing at the beauty of nature all around.

I’ve packed my favorite tools for this retreat–my moleskin notebook (actually several), my Papermate 0.7mm mechanical pencils, and some lead refills. I have my Dell Chromebook ready to transfer some pieces crafted on smooth lined paper into my blog to share with others.

I will have an ample supply of Starbucks Pike Place ground coffee (not K cups–but that’s a different story), my Ninja coffeemaker, and some half and half. My mornings will start with two cups of coffee sipped slowly as my thoughts simmer. My afternoons will contain another cup of coffee along with a sweet pastry item like a blueberry muffin or a lemon loaf. Fuel for my writing.

I will be inspired by Mary Oliver’s words: Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

I hope you’ll join me!

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Mentor Blogs #SOL22 Day 15

This is my third year participating in the Slice of Life Challenge. When Leigh Anne Eck, from A Day in the Life, convinced me to give this a try, (Thank you Leigh Anne!) my first obstacle was creating a blog. Writing everyday for an entire month was one thing, but creating a blog to share my writing was a whole new challenge. I felt so much pressure. What to name my blog? What would the url be? My username? Lots of big decisions for something that might be around for a long time. If you knew the turmoil I endure buying a new couch, you would understand this was very similar. Finally, I just had to take the plunge and realize I was just starting out. It didn’t have to be perfect. I could change and revise things when I’m ready.

Well, three years later, and my blog looks the same. It serves the purpose of sharing my SOL posts, but not much more. Last month, I even signed up for a virtual help session with WordPress, but had to cancel when my day got crazy.

I’ve spend a majority of my reading/commenting time in the #SOL22 challenge noticing the layout of slicer’s blogs. Many have stuck out to me but, unfortunately, I didn’t bookmark them or write them down. Here are a few of the ones I did make a note of…

  • I love the notebook look of Charlene Doland’s blog Reflections, Ruminations, and Renderings.
  • Caitlin’s layout stopped me in my tracks. I explored all the sections of love always, caitlin. Everything from her Mary Oliver quote to her Meet Caitlin section; I just loved it all!
  • The Book Dragon, Saba T. Siddiqui, has sections with drop down arrows. Talk about organized. I love this! I also really like her Goodreads running down the side. I’ve seen this with Twitter, also.

So, I’m seeking advice. What are your best layout tips? How do you create a blog that works for sharing multiple things…book recommendations, SOL, teaching tips, etc. Please feel free to share a link to your blog in the comments, so I can check it out and learn from you!

This is my third year to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge. 31 days of writing about small moments in life. Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting this challenge.
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Words Matter Part 2 #SOL22 Day 2

The card lay among the mess of what had become my desk. A packet with spreadsheets of books that need to be ordered, stacks of assessments that need to be given, a few random rocket rewards, completed reading challenge fliers. But within the disarray sat a natural colored envelope with “🤎 Jill” written on the front. Warmth permeated from the small package. I knew whatever was inside would comfort and uplift me.

I walked by several times without acknowledging it. All business at the moment, I had things to get done and needed to stay focused, remain strong. It has been a rough week. A friend’s life turned upside down in a split second. My role at school changing to support her students. Managing my emotions of sorrow for her and trying to remain strong with her students has been a balancing act of feelings.

I tucked the envelope carefully in my bag as I left for the day. I wanted to savor these words in the safety of my home where I could fully take in the message without distraction.

Arriving home, the house so quiet, the dog doesn’t even stir, I place my bag at the bar. I pull out the thick envelope. Remove the decorative washi tape seal. Slide out the crisp pages. The sheets are full of verses chosen by friends to strengthen and comfort me. An act of compassion and care. Yet another example of the amazing group of people I work with. When you work at a school, you are surrounded by an instant community. Any my school community is like family.

As I linger over these pages, I am reminded again that words matter.

This is my third year to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge. 31 days of writing about small moments in life. Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting this challenge.
SOL

Words Matter #SOL22 Day 1

“Your words have never mattered more,” I emphasized to our 6th grade students. Their writing teacher and my good friend and colleague, had tragically lost her husband in a car accident over the weekend. Our hearts felt heavy. We knew there was nothing we could do to take away this pain, but we could use our words to bring hope and comfort, to share our love and concern, to offer our thoughts and prayers.

Some looked up verses, others found poems and quotes. Ty wrote from his heart, as he has experienced the loss of his brother. His words were direct and to the point, sharing advice only someone who has walked this road could offer. Carter said, “I just don’t know what to say.” We talked through several phrases that people use to extend sympathy. Some sat with their heads down, not sure how to process such a loss.

My teacher brain wants to reflect/critique my time with these writers. I should have had a couple mentor text examples. If I would have created a word bank they would have had some sentence starters. But my heart tells me, there are times when we do the best we can. This was not an easy day. I pray their beloved writing teacher can feel their love poured out through the words on their pages.

This is my third year to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge. 31 days of writing about small moments in life. Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting this challenge.
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In the Stillness

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. Just sit in nature and let it over take me and write. Use my senses to observe and listen to the voice of the earth. As I learned of #writeout, a collaboration between the National Parks and the National Writing Project, I knew now was the perfect time. With inspiration from Six Room Poems by Moving Writers, I set out on a fall day to hike and write.

As I enter your space,
Time stands still.

Tall, skinny trees
Bare until the canopy of green
Takes over the sky.
Long trunks 
With peeling bark
Exposing fresh layers of life

A random leaf floats to the earth

Grey brown takes over the stage
Patches of yellow dot the backdrop
Peek-a-boo light pops in the shadows
Brown dried leaves blanket
The forest floor
The dead returning to nourish the earth

Wind moves the branches
The shadows dance
And then return to stillness

Listen closely
There is no silence
The hum of insects becomes white noise
The wind moves in slowly
Rustling a wave of leaves and branches
Like a pattering of the rain

This space is a gift
The rush of life slows down
Senses come alive
Hearts soften
Minds become curious

Life can be so simple
So beautiful

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Morning Porch Sittin’

Our rustic home for 3 days in Happy Valley, Tennessee

I turned over in bed and noticed the faint light penetrating the thin muslin curtains. Ah, morning time. I love the first streams of light and the soft nudge they give me to wake up and start my day in the stillness.

Brewed coffee in hand, I step out of the 100 year old cabin onto the front porch. The wooden screen door creaks on its hinges. I catch it carefully so it doesn’t slam. I breathe in the damp mountain air; feel the moisture on my skin of the fog rising off of the Smokies. I settle into the rocking chair with my books and notebook. THIS is what I came for. These next 120 minutes of time to think, reflect, observe, and be at peace in my mind.

I notice the chorus of little birds on the hillside across the quiet street. Swooping and calling in playful movements. So many varieties playing chase in the meadow.

My devotion and prayer time come first. I picked up a bible from the end table inside, inscribed with “Bobby Christian.” It molded to my hand, soft and malleable from years of use. I wonder what life was like for Bobby? Did he and his family attend the church two lots down?

A deer appears near the top of the hillside. His head on a swivel; frozen in place and looking for enemies. I beg him to relax and feel the safety of this place. He knows the area much better than I and the risk of being out in the open. Finally, he settles and feeds on the dewy grass.

Next up, notebook time. I let my mind process some of what the last month, last year has held. My role as instructional coach was put on hold to address many different needs in our building…tech support for teachers and families, teaching 6th grade math online, teaching 3rd-5th grade writing online, teaching in a very challenging 5th grade classroom in person for the last nine weeks, preparing for my son’s high school graduation and the open house that followed. Putting these thoughts on the page allows them to leave my mind; breaking the cyclical thinking attached to them.

My eyes search the unruly overgrown wire fence separating the road from the hillside. The green of the trees brings peace and calm to my being. I’m not sure what it is, but trees have this immediate effect on me.

I open Mary Oliver’s collection called Devotions. “I Worried” spoke to me. I love the last stanza: Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang. Then I read “Passing the Unworked Field” about Queen Anne’s lace, how it stands straight on its thin stems how it scrubs its white faces with the rag of the sun how it makes all the loveliness it can. Sitting in a rocker on the porch of a 100 year old cabin reading Mary Oliver. The perfect setting to feel the essence of her poetry.

I hear a rustle in the cabin. The others wake to the start of the day. My solitude time is over, but I am filled up and ready for the family time ahead.

The view from the front porch
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So, What’s Next? #SOL21

31 days later, and I’m still here writing! This is my 2nd year participating in the Slice of Life challenge. I must say, it is even more rewarding this year, than last year. I knew what to expect, what it was going to take, and even employed some new strategies to help me be successful. I am proud of myself, not only for growing as a writer this month, but also for learning new things from fellow slicers, and become an all around better human.

So, what’s next you ask?

Keep writing! Since November of 2019, I’ve made a commitment to writing. I’ve written almost everyday. I rise early at 5 am, have my quiet time followed by my writing time. A cup of coffee with each one. This is my favorite time of the day. I will continue this practice. It starts my day off right and sets me up for success.

Visit Two Writing Teachers every Tuesday Slicing isn’t over! Last year, I sporadically participated in the Tuesday challenge. This year, I want to keep the momentum going.

Revision work I hope to improve my revision process on my slices. One strategy I employed at the beginning of the challenge was to write my slice the day before, let it simmer in my mind throughout the day, and then revise and publish it the next morning. This practice led to better writing. My goal will be to flesh out my first draft of my Tuesday slice on Monday morning, continue to think about it, rework words, add ideas, and be ready to publish on Tuesday.

Revisit the March challenge My reading and commenting on the SOL challenge barely touched the surface of the exemplary writing that was posted this month. I hope to go back to many of the days and read more pieces and comment to others.

Encourage others to write with me I shared this challenge with my staff this year. No one joined me, but I planted the seed. I hope to provide opportunities for us to write together and ways that we can share our writing with each other.

Feedback Giving and receiving feedback is such an important part of this challenge. I know I would eagerly check my comments throughout the day to see who read my post and what they thought of it. That reminds me of our students. When they write, they need feedback! And the sooner the better. I have a goal to provide quicker feedback with students, and for that feedback to contain a lot of positives.

In the last 31 days, I’ve become a better writer, a better teacher of writing, and a better human. It’s #whyiwrite. Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for organizing this challenge! I’ll see you on Tuesdays!