Friday, November 08, 2019

Poetry Friday: November Night

Did I say I was finished with fall poems? 
I lied. 

November Night
Adelaide Crapsey 

Listen. . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

(This poem is in the public domain.)


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Poetry Friday: I'm Hosting!

This will perhaps be my last ode to autumn.

Or, perhaps not.

I may sing this song into November, as I'm reveling in the glorious golden days we've been having. When our weather is still gorgeous in late October, I think of it, as Helen Hunt Jackson does in this poem, as "one sweet, mad, last hour" and am thankful for days such as these — crisp, crackling, a gift.

Helen Hunt Jackson

Bending above the spicy woods which blaze,
Arch skies so blue they flash, and hold the sun
Immeasurably far; the waters run
Too slow, so freighted are the river-ways
With gold of elms and birches from the maze
Of forests. Chestnuts, clicking one by one,
Escape from satin burs; her fringes done,
The gentian spreads them out in sunny days,
And, like late revelers at dawn, the chance
Of one sweet, mad, last hour, all things assail,
And conquering, flush and spin; while, to enhance
The spell, by sunset door, wrapped in a veil
Of red and purple mists, the summer, pale,
Steals back alone for one more song and dance.

(This poem is in the public domain.)


I'm hosting today!

Leave your links with Mr. Linky, our ever-helpful Poetry Friday assistant. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Poetry Friday: Mary Oliver's "Song for Autumn"

I can't get off this autumn poetry kick. But why would I want to? Autumn is truly, madly, deeply one of my favorite times of the year.

This poem, by Mary Oliver, has me thinking about what else the leaves might be dreaming of, the trees longing for, and what other whisperings are being exchanged, just out of earshot?

And then be sure to check out all the Poetry Friday goodness at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Happy Feast of the Inimitable St. Teresa of Avila

Some words from St. Teresa of Avila that I've returned to often:

"Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life ... If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing."

And, of course:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

And, of course, of course, I love the story of Teresa questioning God's wisdom during a supremely annoying trial and reportedly receiving the reply, "You are my friend. This is how I treat all of my friends." To which Teresa replied, "If this is how you treat your friends, it is not surprising that you have so few of them!"

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Poetry Friday: Sending you elsewhere

I've been swamped! Between teaching The Writer's Jungle Online over at Brave Writer, and several other freelance projects (things rise and converge, and always at the same time) I've had a full plate.

I didn't get to Poetry Friday yesterday, but loads of others did. Check out their postings at Reading to the Core.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Poetry Friday: G.M. Hopkins and (the usual suspect) a Gatsby quote

In my usual  melancholy, stop-the-party-I-want-to-get-off   happy-go-lucky way, I'm sharing a Gerard Manley Hopkins heartbreaker.

Aren't I fun in the fall?

But, just in case an existential crisis isn't your thing this morning, I have another beloved autumn offering, a quote I feel compelled to share nearly every, single year:

"What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon?" cried Daisy, "and the day after that, and the next thirty years?"
"Don't be morbid," Jordan said. "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."
                                                ~~ The Great Gatsby 

I tend to bounce back and forth between mourning for Margaret and rejoicing in the crispness. How about you?


For this week's round-up, get thee immediately to Library Matters


Spring and Fall
to a young child

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Poetry Friday: Autumn, by Alice Cary

I love the way Alice Cary's "Autumn" captures so much of what I've been feeling and thinking of late about the approaching season. Just a few nights ago, I took the dog outside around 8 p.m. and was suddenly struck by the dimness of evening. "Hey," I felt the need to call out to anyone and everyone, "have you noticed how much shorter the days are getting already?" Of course, everyone had noticed. ("Shorter and shorter now the twilight clips the days....")

Yesterday was languidly warm — in the upper 80s! — and humid. I could almost convince myself that the day would stretch out, push itself past nine p.m., but alas ... ("Save when by fits the warmer air deceives....")

This week, each of us, in turn, made mention of the crickets that have moved into the garage.
("The robin.../Has given place to the brown cricket now.")

Linger then, over the loveliness of this poem, and Alice Cary's erstwhile but evergreen observations about the slow fade that is summer bowing out, making room for autumn.

by Alice Cary

Shorter and shorter now the twilight clips
The days, as though the sunset gates they crowd,
And Summer from her golden collar slips
And strays through stubble-fields, and moans aloud,

Save when by fits the warmer air deceives,
And, stealing hopeful to some sheltered bower,
She lies on pillows of the yellow leaves,
And tries the old tunes over for an hour.

(Read the whole thing here, at the Poetry Foundation.)


The always lovely and wonderful Linda Baie has the roundup this week at TeacherDance

Friday, September 13, 2019

Poetry Friday: "Maybe if we reinvent whatever our lives give us...."

Here's a new-to-me poem from Naomi Shihab Nye. It's short; do click through and read the whole thing because it's delicious.

I think my favorite line (although it's always a challenge to pick a favorite line from one of her poems) is:

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems.


As one who has re-invented the unexpected, labyrinthine ways of her life, I say again: Yes.

Valentine for Ernest Mann
Naomi Shihab Nye

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”

(Read the whole thing here, at


She's also hosting a giveaway of her new book, Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle! Check out the details in her post today.


Thursday, September 05, 2019

Poetry Friday: Our *Last* First Day of School

Although Ramona started French class as an early-enrollment student at the college a couple of weeks ago, I have always waited to "officially" start our homeschool after Labor Day and this year is no different.

Well, one thing is different.

Today is the last first-day-of-school for Ramona and me. My last first-day-of-homeschooling forever. She's a senior this year. (Whaaaat?) We have thoughts and plans and aspirations for this year, of course. And we'll tackle them fiercely, knowing all the while that we have no idea what this year actually holds.

Have we ever known what a year holds, before that year takes hold of us? Not really. Life has an annoying funhouse quality, with unexpected twists and surprises around heretofore unseen and unconsidered corners. I love the way this poem by Henrietta Cordelia Ray captures the breathless, naive, but utterly lovable optimism of being human while acknowledging the as-yet unknown shadows and gloom that will inevitably color and shape every life. And yet we soldier on and continue to "climb the slopes of life with throbbing heart."

Here's to a school year propelled by an eager pulse, rich song, and eyes wide-stretched. We cannot repine, Henrietta. No, we cannot repine.

Henrietta Cordelia Ray

We climb the slopes of life with throbbing heart,
And eager pulse, like children toward a star.
Sweet siren music cometh from afar,
To lure us on meanwhile. Responsive start
The nightingales to richer song than Art
Can ever teach. No passing shadows mar
Awhile the dewy skies; no inner jar
Of conflict bids us with our quest to part.
We see adown the distance, rainbow-arched,
What melting aisles of liquid light and bloom!
We hasten, tremulous, with lips all parched,
And eyes wide-stretched, nor dream of coming gloom.
Enough that something held almost divine
Within us ever stirs. Can we repine?



(Photo courtesy of Barbara A. Lane at Pixabay.) 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Poetry Friday: Indeed, why?

I've taken oodles of time off from the blog this summer but now I'm looking forward to the "second new year" of September and all of its cool, delicious promise.

I've been feeling enormously grateful lately. So many gifts: my family, my work, my friends, dark chocolate, open windows. Time, then, to rerun this little bit of perfection from Chesterton:

by G.K. Chesterton

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Bookish Language

I was at Half Price Books with my librarian daughter the other day and we were trying to keep each other from buying too many books.

I saw this beloved gem and thought, "Oh, I love Nora Ephron and I loved that book. But I don't remember it." (Because I am, you know, a woman of a certain age.)

So, then I replied to myself, "You can get it from the library. You don't need to buy it, even if it is only $2."

Then, my self replied to myself, "But you loved it, and you want to reread it, and even if the library has it, you'll want to read it again."

Then, in unison, my two selves said, "And you know you won't remember it, so won't it be nice to keep it around so you can reread it?"

When I caught up with my daughter in another part of the store, I said, "There's a story behind why I'm getting this one."

She said, "And here's why I'm getting these six...."

And I nodded vigorously, because she didn't even have to explain.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Theatrical Days of Summer

Ah, the theatah.

There's been a fair amount of it around here this summer. And we're good with that.

In June, Ramona and I were both involved with the local youth theater summer camp. I had the fun and privilege of adapting a beautiful picture book, The Rough-Face Girl, into a play. Do you know this book? (How did I not know this book before this summer? I mentioned it to Anne-with-an-e, my librarian, who replied, "Oh, yeah, Mom, that's a great book. You can find it 398.2, Folklore and Fairy Tales.")

I fell in love with the story and the illustrations, and I had a marvelous time crafting this lovely story into a play. 

Ramona was in another of the four short plays produced that week. She had a busy, exhausting, exhilarating whirlwind of participating in all aspects of play production. Theater camp has the kids rotate through everything: acting workshops, sets, costumes, lighting, and it all culminates in two performances at the end of the week. I just love the people who run our youth theater camps -- they are talented, dedicated, creative, and so full of heart. What a gift. 

Ramona will have another chance to be involved in a couple of weeks, with the junior camp (for 5-9 year olds). She'll be in a leadership role this time, helping out with the costuming workshops. 


This week, she enjoyed a quick, two-day, "Short Film" camp sponsored by the library and the community college. The kids produced two short films, complete with fun, Stranger Things-ian special effects. It was fun to hear Ramona's behind-the-scenes stories, which included the fact that the door that mysteriously slammed shut was powered by my daughter, lying on the floor, kicking hard. The magic of movie-making. 


In other theater news ... our current musical obsession? Hadestown


Speaking of obsessions, our final encounter with theater this week came on Wednesday when tickets for Hamilton went on sale in our area. My daughters joined me as we parked in the virtual waiting room to buy tickets online and even though Betsy was 2,789th in line (to buy for our family) and I was 6,149th in line (to buy for my mom) we managed (in under 90 minutes) to score six orchestra level seats. (We were willing to Wait for It.) So, our whole family will finally be seeing Hamilton, along with my 84-year-old mom, who has never before been interested in hip-hop, but is extremely excited to spend some time with Alexander. (So are we. I mean, I may or may not have mentioned Hamilton a few times in the past couple of years....) 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Poetry Friday: William Carlos Williams and Some Meandering Thoughts

"In summer the song sings itself." 

I always think there's going to be a certain feel to summer, and there is, for certain. but it's never quite the vibe I anticipate. 

Before its arrival, I daydream about summer's long, lazy days. I picture a tall, cold glass of lemonade (though I rarely drink lemonade), and see myself lying by the pool (except that I haven't done that for years.) I think about the endless, unscheduled hours, and I happily plan on not planning anything to fill them, other than reading everything I can get my hands on. 

Then summer always "arrives" too soon. In mid-to-late May, when I'm still adjusting to the idea and the reality of the school year wrapping up, the world is announcing, "SUMMER!" Schools are dismissing, the library is revving up its summer reading program, vacations are being planned and announced, and people start asking, "How's your summer going?" I startle, and blink, and reply, "I, um, don't know. My summer hasn't started yet. It isn't even June yet. How did this happen?" 

Summer, with all its attendant activities, is always busier than I think it will be or should be. And part of me still wants to live in a world that I haven't known for decades (a world that maybe I never knew?) A world that still treats August as part of summer. Every year, in early August, I rail at the world, like a crazy woman: "It's August 9th! Why is school starting? Why are the pools closing? Why aren't the lazy days of summer just now coming into their own? What's wrong with waiting until after Labor Day, huh, huh? Crazy, meddling air-conditioning! You changed everything about summer and school-start-dates!" (But let's be clear ... I would die without air-conditioning. I DO NOT WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING. That shuts up the crazy woman inside me.) 

I always settle down, of course. When my inner crazy lady coils and prepares to strike, I remind myself that there is a certain feel to summer. And I love it. The plans that do fill up the calendar are deliciously voluntary. The night-owl nights are possible because Atticus and I aren't getting up at 5:30 every morning. Math is absent from everyone's life in the summertime, and who could ask for more? Our days unfold with a lovely balance of planning and coasting. 

Sure, about this time in July, I realize that summer, as defined by my husband's job, is indeed careening by, that Atticus will go back to work in all-too-short a time (and that my summer chef will be gone!), that my school year with Ramona is just around the corner. I'm reminded that routine will return, and the days will eventually grow shorter, but for now ... it's still summer. 

And the song is singing itself. 

Summer Song
by William Carlos Williams

Wanderer moon
smiling a
faintly ironical smile
at this
brilliant, dew-moistened
summer morning,—
a detached
sleepily indifferent
smile, a
wanderer's smile,—
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
where would they carry me?

(This poem is in the public domain.)


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Brave Writer Staff Retreat: Joy, Nourishment, Laughter, and Still Flying High

The Brave Writer staff retreat was held June 21-23 and I was delighted that I had the opportunity to attend. Atticus and I made the drive to Cincinnati together -- the road tripping was an added bonus to an amazing-in-every-way weekend. We got home late Tuesday afternoon, and I've been playing catch-up since then. Things are busy on the homefront this week!

At the retreat, I was thrilled to spend time with my dear old friend, Melissa Wiley (and, ahem, how did I know we'd stay up far too late on Friday night?) I was delighted to meet Julie and other Brave Writer staff members in person for the first time, and I feel overwhelmingly lucky to have made so many new and dear friends. These women are such inspiring, smart, encouraging and creative kindred spirits. They live and walk the same relaxed-homeschool talk that I do, and there's just nothing like the feeling of being in a room that's packed with your people.

Kirsten Merryman and Jen Holman put together a beautiful weekend, and Julie Bogart -- such an inspiring speaker and leader -- led the charge toward both personal and professional growth. I'm still processing all that we discussed and shared, and I definitely need more journaling time.

So many stories to ponder (and so little time today!) I'll share more soon, but in the meantime, here's a collection (woefully lacking -- I never get enough pictures!) of the joy:

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Bits and Pieces of Our Days

June is doing its usual thing, and by "usual thing" I mean, "careening past me at an insane speed that should get it stopped by a state patrolman immediately and, possibly, it should even do some jail time."


We love our local arts center and last month Ramona got to sing at an arts center fundraiser. Her voice teacher is a dear friend of mine (and an amazing singer) and she had several of her students sing that night, which was lovely. Ramona sang "Stars and the Moon" (which I had never heard until her recital last month and now I'm obsessed with it. Beautiful song.)

When I started this blog, Ramona was three years old, and my reports on her went something like this:

from April, 2006, age 3:

She wanted a brownie last night. It was fine with me, and I started to cut one for her. She looked at the pan and an anguished look overtook her face. She threw herself down on the floor with a groan. 
"What's the matter? I thought you wanted a brownie!"
"I do-o-o-o," she whined from her pitiful spot on the floor. "But I was assuming they were frosted."

... and now she's singing about the men in her life. Well, okay, not actually in her life -- men in the life of the character singing "Stars and the Moon," but you know what I mean. Times have changed. The kid quotes are different these days. They still sometimes make it to Twitter or Instagram (because she's one of the funniest people I know and she can wickedly snark with the best of them), but I mostly try to respect her privacy. But some things never change. I posted this in January of 2006, and it's still true:

"Mommy, you'd be very sad without my fwiendship." 
       ~~ Ramona, age 3 
(Does she know she's providing me with material on a daily basis?)

Here's a recent, 16-yr.-old Ramona story:

Her: Mom, remember when we first watched Mary Poppins? When there was the run on the bank, I said I didn't know what that was, so we stopped the movie and for 15 minutes, you explained it to me, and we talked about the Great Depression, and then we finished watching the movie together. And that, in a nutshell, is my childhood.

Me: Oh! I'm sorry! Did I ruin the movie for you?

Her: No! I loved it. I meant that in a good way!

Indeed, I would be very sad without my daughters' friendship.


Recent reading: 

Oh, so many good books! They need their own post. I've read about 30 books so far this year, but when did I last blog about them? Where shall I start? Oh, dear, this is anguish on the level of a three-year-old who was assuming she'd get a frosted brownie. 

I'll start with a list of what I read in May, and thus far in June: 

Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner (Beautiful.) 
The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides (Not what I expected, had hoped for something...different.) 
Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess, by Shari Green (Lovely.) 
Harry's Trees, by Jon Cohen (Also lovely.) 
Introverted Mom, by Jamie Martin (Spot on and a fun read.) 
The River, by Peter Heller (Kind of a gut-wrench, but in a beautiful way.) 
The Plant Paradox, by Steven Gundry (Interesting. My family gets frightened, though, when I read a new book about food. They wonder what I'll be doing to our diet next.) 

I have not been doing justice to books here on the blog. I must remedy that. 


I'm teaching two classes for Brave Writer in the fall, and registration is already open. I'll be teaching The Writer's Jungle Online in September and Middle School Writing Projects (which is already filling up fast) in October. You can check out all the Brave Writer offerings here