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

Friday, June 14, 2019

Poetry Friday: June Light, by Richard Wilbur

I'm not sure what's more beautiful than an evening in June with Richard Wilbur ... 
and this one is particularly swoon-worthy. 

June Light
by Richard Wilbur

Your voice, with clear location of June days,
Called me outside the window. You were there,
Light yet composed, as in the just soft stare
(Read it here, at


Laura Shovan has the round-up this week, and it's a truly delightful one. 
She's poet-in-residence at Northfield Elementary School, and today she's sharing
first drafts from aspiring, third-grade poets. Join the fun here

Friday, May 31, 2019

Poetry Friday: Naomi Shihab Nye and The Creativity Project

Mary Lee, at A Year of Reading, has the round-up today. She's celebrating Naomi Shihab Nye, so I thought I'd join in that bit of poetic goodness.

Mary Lee played around with this delightful prompt (and wrote a delightful poem):

"Write a list of ten things you are NOT (not an astronaut, a perfectionist, a wool spinner, a butterfly, a name-caller). Then pick your favorite lines and develop, or embellish, them, adding metaphors, more description, whatever you like."

That's just one of Naomi Shihab Nye's prompts from this book (which just went on my wish list):

Edited by Colby Sharp, The Creativity Project is full of writing prompts, plus a huge bonus. Here's the teaser from Amazon: 

Colby Sharp invited more than forty authors and illustrators to provide story starters for each other; photos, drawings, poems, prose, or anything they could dream up. When they received their prompts, they responded by transforming these seeds into any form of creative work they wanted to share.
The result is a stunning collection of words, art, poetry, and stories by some of our most celebrated children book creators. A section of extra story starters by every contributor provides fresh inspiration for readers to create works of their own. Here is an innovative book that offers something for every kind of reader and creator!

You can see why it went on my list. I'll be using it in the fall for Ramona and her friends when we meet for our weekly writing group.

And to continue the Naomi Shihab Nye immersion, here she is reading her poem, "How Do I Know When a Poem is Finished?"


May has been such a busy month (my mom in the hospital a couple of times, but we think they finally found and addressed the problem, thank goodness ... teaching a class for Brave Writer ... keeping up with all of my daughters' and Atticus's goings-on) but summer is coming, and I'm hoping for more time for writing, poetry, and books, books, books.

Be sure to join Mary Lee for the round-up!

(Other posts about Naomi Shihab Nye are here.)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Poetry Friday: A New One from Ramona

The other day, Ramona and I were talking about the variety of perspectives on dandelions. She falls firmly into Camp-I-Love-Them. The next day, she needed to produce a piece of writing for our writing group, and she wrote this poem. I absolutely love it. 

The Dandelion Lady
by Ramona (age 16)

The Dandelion Lady sees beauty and light,
where others see nuisance and blight.

She loves the bright, yellow heads,
where others fear for their flower beds.

She picks a bouquet, and at the end of her day,
says, "Thank you, dandelions!" and throws them away.

Friends ask, "How is your crop?"
She replies, "It fills my heart to the top."

Neighbors ask, "How are your seeds?"
She chuckles and responds, "Why, they're growing like weeds!"


Where do you stand on dandelions? 

For more about the magic of nature and all things poetic, visit Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche, for this week's round-up. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Bits and Pieces of Our Days: The Catch-up Edition

The last couple of weeks have been over-the-top busy, and this past week was jam-packed, featuring four consecutive days of four hours on the road each day. But this week will be less travel-laden, and, at the moment, I have a little time to reflect on what we've been doing around here when we're not on the road.

Besty graduated from college! 

The graduation ceremony was held outdoors, on a gorgeous day and we were glowing with pride over our Summa Cum Laude graduate. All would have been well if I had remembered the sunblock, but alas, I did not, and we were all glowing in a different way later (though "blazing" might be a more accurate word.) But the important thing is that Betsy is done and is in the midst of a job hunt. Whichever elementary school snatches her up will gain a treasure. 

Atticus Ran Another Half-Marathon! 

Here he is, crossing the finish line. Betsy and I were watching his time on the tracking app, and saw him hit 13.1 miles at 1:54:50, but his officially clocked "cross the finish line" time was an hour and 56 minutes. He felt pretty good about that time, and felt even better when he saw his cancer surgeon last week (just a follow-up, no worries!) and found out that he beat his surgeon's son's time. 


No spoilers, in case you care and/or haven't seen it yet, but Anne-with-an-e and I had fun creating this manicure for her. I think there's a nail for every Avenger, but I won't say which nails did or didn't survive. 

Gluten-free baking! 

Paleo bread, which was a bigger hit with me than it was with Betsy. Still on the hunt for a better recipe. 

Gluten-free chocolate cake (thank you, Pamela's Products!) and homemade, dairy-free frosting. What was the occasion? It was called, "Look! We can make a gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate cake that tastes delicious!" The other occasion was: 

My birthday! 

And now we are 59. 

Well, Gumby's actually 66, but Ramona chose him as the bearer of greetings that day. We have a ritual of taking turns hiding Gumby where the other will find him. It was her turn, so she enlisted his help in wishing me a happy birthday and it was indeed a happy one! 

This is fuzzy because we took it with my phone (bleh, not a great camera), and then I cropped it (bleh, further worsening the quality), but I'm thinking of chopping off all my hair. What say you? 

Our School Year is Almost Over! 

No more math with candlelight (it does help, a little) and just a bit more of Hamlet to read and discuss, and then ... we're done! A sweet, math-free summer awaits. We. Are. Ready. 

And Finally, Happy Day, Whether You are a Mother or Not....

It's Mother's Day, and if you're a mom, I celebrate you. If you act as a Second Mom/Beloved Aunt/All-Around Awesome Woman to someone in your life, I celebrate you. If you desperately want to be a mom, but it hasn't happened yet, I've been there, and I understand. If you've never wanted to be a mom, I've been there, too, and I understand. If you are a mom to children lost through early or late miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, infant death, or at any stage in life, I grieve with you, and I understand. 

Let's all support one another on this day that celebrates mothers, even as we acknowledge that motherhood (and womanhood) has a million faces. 

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Poetry Friday: Philip Larkin's "The Trees"

The Trees 

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said; 
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief. 

Hear Larkin read the whole, short poem here, at The Poetry Archive, and I promise you that it's beautiful and not ultimately dreary, as one might presume from the aforementioned grief. Promise me you'll go see (or hear) for yourself.


The round-up this week is being hosted by the one, the only, the incredible Jama Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Poetry Friday: first green flare

Yesterday's page from "A Year of Tiny Pleasures" calendar. 

I can't stop thinking about spring poems and feeling spring-y.

Spring is gloriously, finally, truly-madly-deeply here. We can get outside, walk, breathe, not freeze, feel a breeze, believe in promises again.

Enjoy the promise of this lovely little piece by Sidney Wade, and then visit the Poetry Friday round-up at Carol Varsalona's Beyond LiteracyLink.

first green flare
by Sidney Wade

the air

and dart

the throat

(Read the rest here, at

Friday, April 12, 2019

Poetry Friday: Resting Heart Rate

This is just a first draft, but I'm having fun playing around with this idea. 

Resting Heart Rate 
Karen Edmisten 

My Fitbit knock-off
(face it, I'm cheap ...
no, let's employ the more
poetic, "frugal")
blinks at me: my heart
is racing.

Worries, health, worries,
daughters, worries,
climate change, worries, friendships,
storms, politics, 

Is this number off the charts?
Is this number
even on the chart? Or meant to be?

Enter John Ashbery.
John Koethe, too,
(though, face it, he can prompt
existential worry. 
I love him anyway.)

Billy Collins would
dispatch my frugal knock-off
with a wry smile and a shake of his head.
So I open his book and sail alone
around the room.

Wordsworth. Words worth
savoring. Richard Wilbur (Oh!
Be still my heart! How I adore him.)
Wait ... what's that?
It is.
It is still.
It is resting.
It is
still resting.

Balm, salve, sedative.
Poetry, my remedy,
the tincture that calms,
prescription for my overzealous brain,
frugal economy of words,
hushing my heart.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Poetry Friday: I'm hosting!

Why we write, why we read, and why poetry exists ...
All neatly answered in one short, perfect piece by John Ashbery. 

(I could use a day alone with my madness and favorite flower. 
Wishing you the same.) 

Share your links, please, by way of the ever-helpful Mr. Linky! 

Late Echo
by John Ashbery 

Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.

(Read the rest here, at the Poetry Foundation.)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Poetry Friday: Spring (Again) by Michael Ryan

Spring (Again)
by Michael Ryan

The birds were louder this morning,

(Go here to read the other four lines of this short, splendid poem. The last sentence is perfection.)


The round-up this week is at Carol's Corner.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Nine Worries About Unschoolish Ways That I Needn't Have Worried About

I wrote this five years ago, when Anne-with-an-e was in college, and Betsy was on the brink of graduating high school. Now? Anne-with-an-e adores her job as a librarian, Betsy is student teaching (and interviewing for elementary school jobs), and I have one year of homeschooling left (really?!) with Ramona.

I've revisited these questions, worries, and concerns over the last year or two, and I can still say this:

Stop worrying. Keep loving your kids and giving them the best of you. All that love, concern, work, and effort you pour out for them will not be for naught.


Now that I have a daughter in college and a high school senior who has taken early enrollment/college credit classes (both girls did), I've seen some of the fruits of our relaxed homeschooling. I look back and recall the worries I had over the years, the ways in which I questioned myself, and wondered if what I was doing would work out.

So, here are some of the questions I used to panic wonder about, and the answers I've observed:

1. Will they ever learn how to adhere to an outside schedule if I don't impose a rigid schedule on them while they're growing up? 

Yes, they will. They learn this: you do what you need to do when you need to do it. Doing it sooner than you have to doesn't teach you to do it any more efficiently. Having a rigid schedule as a child doesn't necessarily translate into efficiency in adulthood, and sometimes it translates into burnout.

2. Will they ever learn how to get up early and get out the door to a class/a job, if I let them sleep in through all their school years? 

Yes, they will. They learn that it is not "years of getting up early" that teaches you how to get up early. It is "an alarm clock" that teaches you how to get up early. Whenever you have to get up early, all you need do is set an alarm clock. No training necessary.

3. Will they ever learn how to read/learn from textbooks if I use real and living books for their home education? 

Yes. They will sometimes find them boring (and I have sometimes used textbooks in our homeschool, so — Hey! Good for them? — they've already been exposed to the boredom) but they will know how to read, comprehend, and use these schoolish tools. They may not like them as much as the vibrant books they mainly grew up with, but they will be fully capable of using them.

On the other hand, they will sometimes love their textbooks. Anne-with-an-e loved her World Geography and Microbiology classes/textbooks and was thrilled to be hired as a tutor in both subjects.

4. If I allow them to pursue their own interests in their formative years, will they ever learn the self-discipline necessary to succeed in college classes? Will they know how to meet deadlines and finish assignments? 

Yes, because they have been taught and they understand basic concepts such as time management, goal setting, and doing what is necessary to achieve the desired result. These concepts can be taught in myriad ways as our children grow up and such concepts are easily applied to college classes. Trust your kids to use their brains.

5. Will they learn how to take a test? 

Yes. (See #1 ... i.e., "they will do what they need to do when they need to do it.") Also? It doesn't take that much practice to learn how to take a test. And you will learn that ACT scores and college grades show exactly what you always suspected: they excel precisely where you thought they'd excel, and they are weak precisely where you thought they were weak. Your suspicions (that you know your children very well) will prove to be true.

6. Will they know how to act in a classroom? 

Yes. They will understand the difference between sprawling on the couch at home and sitting at a desk in school. My daughters have never confused the two locations.

(I also taught them how to eat in public, sneeze in public, and find public restrooms. Problems solved.)

7. Will they learn how to tackle unpleasant assignments? 

Oh, yes. Family life is excellent preparation for general ed classes.

8. Will they resent me for hiding the truth from them -- that learning can sometimes be dull? 

No. They are thankful for years of a lively education, for all those days that we ate popcorn for lunch, read Little Women and Little HouseHarry Potter, and The Secret Garden together, discussed The Hunger Games at two in the morning, learned about history, science, and literature from life and marvelous books and experiments in the kitchen and discussions over dinner and museums and walks at the lake. They will look up from a history paper they are writing, and sigh, and say, "I'm so grateful to Samantha. I learned a lot about the progressive era from her."

Also? Without even trying — believe me — you will give your kids lots of opportunities to be bored by things they have to learn. (Math, cleaning the house, scooping up the dog poop in the backyard.) You've got this.

9. Will I ruin them? 

We all run that risk, whether our kids are in school, out of school, homeschooled with curriculum, or homeschooled without it.

But my guess — if you love your kids more than your own life, which I'm betting you do —  is that the answer to that question is, "No. A thousand times no."

Friday, March 22, 2019

Poetry Friday: The strange reason Jane Kenyon's "Happiness" feels like the right pick for this week

A cardinal, singing in our backyard this morning.

After Tuesday's post (in which I talked about the flooding around here), I thought we could all use some good news. And I have splendid news to share about Betsy's Crohn's disease.

She's been on her new medication for six months and has also been following the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet (with some food reintroductions in the last four months). Last week, after the latest round of tests/scopes and biopsies, we heard back from her doctor, and she is ...

in remission.

She is in clinical remission (feeling good), endoscopic remission (tests show healing of inflammation), and biopsies did not detect other active signs of the disease, which theoretically indicates that she is in histologic remission. (One can get dizzy trying to decipher the medical literature and jargon, and of course, there's so much about IBD that we don't know.) We've been told that Crohn's doesn't have a cure, but for right now, we know this: she is in remission.

And yet, I have chosen for today this alternately optimistic and bleak poem. Why? (Oh, Karen, you melancholic, Enneagram 4, INFJ rascal, you!) Sorry. This is me. So, let's be honest. Jane Kenyon's brand of happiness is not a whimsical, charming sprite, skipping merrily down a sparkly, rainbow path with you. (Depression, as you probably know, was Kenyon's long-time companion.) The happiness of which she speaks is hard-won, fleeting. Life is hard, Kenyon knows. It hurts. Pain is very real and weighs us down, shackles us, leaves wounds. But as real as the pain is, so is its opposite: streaming light, freedom, elegant, translucent scars that commemorate the wounds ... reminders of what we've endured. Happiness, too, then is tangible: we clutch it, touch it, hold onto it with fierce gratitude and released breath. We know it's never here to stay, not temporally anyway, but neither is pain. They co-exist and, in their symbiosis, teach and shape us.

by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

(Read the rest here, at the Poetry Foundation.)


The round-up this week is at Sloth Reads