Friday, August 30, 2019

Poetry Friday: Ode to Kool-Aid

I love this poem by Marcus Jackson because it brings back my childhood in a powerful way. I remember mixing up the Tupperware pitcher of Kool-Aid in various kitchens in various houses where we lived. The little cloud of color at the bottom of the plastic cylinder (and how different was my view of plastic back then, before the stuff was choking our planet), my "healthy" version of the recipe where I added only 3/4 cup of sugar instead of a full cup (see the word "unsweetened" on the package), the brightly-colored mustaches on myself and my brothers after our tumblers of Kool-Aid, consumed with a cookie or two.

Ode to Kool-Aid
Marcus Jackson

You turn the kitchen
tap's metallic stream
into tropical drink,
extra sugar whirlpooling
to the pitcher-bottom
like gypsum sand.
Purplesaurus Rex, Roarin'
Rock-A-Dile Red, Ice Blue
Island Twist, Sharkleberry Fin;
We need factory-crafted packets
unpronounceable ingredients,
a logo cute enough to hug,
a drink unnaturally sweet...

Here's the rest.

Kathryn Apel has the roundup this week.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

What I Learned this Summer

I kept a file of things I was learning this summer; mostly it's links to articles I read and thought were good, or at least thought-provoking. I hope you, reader, find something to interest you here! As usual with these posts, some things I've been thinking about are presented in a fairly undigested way, but I'd welcome further conversation on anything here.

What does it mean to be a "real" mother? This is a lovely meditation on motherhood, infertility, adoption, and love in general. "I wonder about quantifying love, weighing belonging, measuring realness. By volume or heft or texture?....I thought love was a pie and I didn’t want to share my slice."

I learned a lot about birds this summer. I acquired some binoculars, with the help of my brother, an experienced birder, and he took me out a couple of times birding and taught me things. I also read about the healing effects of watching birds and started following this blog, Bird Therapy. More to come on this whole topic.

Speaking of healing, I loved this article on the first mass celebrated at Notre Dame after the fire.

This was a fascinating article on how hard it is to get rid of a piano.

Paul McCartney picks out his favorites of his late wife Linda's photos.

My husband and daughter took a bike trip this summer, and I was reminded both how large the United States really is, and that in spite of everything, the country is still full of good people.

I learned about this new online database of female artists.

This article is about the challenges of writing non-fiction about real people. Truth is slippery, and complex, and difficult to capture.

Did you catch the news this summer that kids were growing horns on their skulls? This is an article on why that's nonsense, and how to spot ridiculous studies.

This is a video on the effect of boarding school on small children. It was hard to watch, but it sparked some good conversations.

This one is about grief.

"The Life-Changing Magic of Making Do."

It turns out that, like so many things,  fireflies are disappearing, but this article has some ways you can help them come back.

I know it's technically still summer, but I'm back at school, so I am already in fall mode. You can expect another post on what I've learned at the end of September.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Poetry Friday: Honoring LBH

Today for Poetry Friday we are honoring the life of Lee Bennett Hopkins, a champion of poetry who died on August 8th. Hopkins produced over 120 anthologies of poetry during a long career.

We celebrated his birthday last year here at Poetry Friday, and here's the post I wrote then.

Jone MacCulloch suggested that we could best pay tribute to LBH by writing a poem inspired by and/or including a line from one of his.  I found "Why Poetry?" here, and borrowed his title and last line for my poem. (I also borrowed an Emily Dickinson line, while I was at it.  See it?)

Why Poetry?

Because some subjects
don’t work like math.

Because some objects
can’t be held in the hand.

Because some truths
have to be told slant.

Why poetry?

Because some surfaces
are shiny
and some are dull
and some things are invisible.

Because life doesn’t go on forever.

That’s why. 

Ruth, from

Thank you, LBH, for all you did for children's poetry. You'll be missed.

Amy has today's roundup here. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Poetry Friday: Prompts and a Tree

This poem seems appropriate for the first full week of school. It's gone well, but it's been exhausting, and that's even with Thursday being a national holiday here. This poem gets into the stakes, the human lives we're dealing with as teachers. It's worth the exhaustion. It's worth writing about.

Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry)
by Dante Di Stefano

Write about walking into the building
as a new teacher. Write yourself hopeful.
Write a row of empty desks.

Here's the rest.

Today's theme for Poetry Friday is trees.

Jane Hirshfield

It is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.

Here's the rest.

I took this photo on our school campus this week. It is not a redwood, but it makes me think of the "immensity" in the last line of Hirshfield's poem. Trees and kids have that immensity in common.

Today's roundup is here.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Poetry Friday: Halfway

I had my thirtieth college reunion this summer, and it surprised me to find that all of us - in our fifties, an age twenty-two year old me would have considered staid and settled - were in transitions big and small. We're between our kids and our parents, between jobs, between relationships. We're still figuring things out. I've spent a lot of time lately between cultures, too, figuring out that dynamic as I've been doing since my birth. I still have things to learn.

I'm heading off to school today to begin my I've lost count how many year of teaching. I started as a teaching assistant in grad school that same summer I graduated from college, but babies have kept me home a few of the years between. It's been a lot of years, and while I'm infinitely more confident now than I was that first year, and I have infinitely more tricks up my sleeve, I know there are still new things to learn, new kids to teach, new discoveries to make.

I've loved this poem since I was a small child, and I taught it to my children, who love it too.

Halfway Down
A. A. Milne

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where I sit.
there isn't any
other stair
quite like
I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
so this is the stair
I always

Halfway up the stairs
Isn't up
And isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery,
It isn't in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn't really
It's somewhere else

When I got home at the end of the summer, I had a package waiting for me from my friend Irene Latham. I had forgotten that Irene's cat had chosen me to receive this in a giveaway on her blog, so it was a nice surprise!

Molly has today's roundup.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Reading Update

Book #62 of 2019 was Michelle Obama's book Becoming. I also got to participate in a very fun discussion group about the book - unfortunately before I'd read it. It was taking forever for my name to work its way to the top of the holds list at the library, but finally I got it in the mail from a new friend! I enjoyed reading it immensely.

Book #63 was How We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where, and Why it Happens, by Benedict Carey. This was for my summer professional development reading, and I found it interesting, counter-intuitive, and encouraging.

Book #64 was Master and Commander, by Patrick O'Brian. My brother couldn't stop raving about this series, so I decided to give it a try. The nautical terminology is way over my head, but my brother promised that if I just kept reading, soon that would become like background noise and I would be focusing on the main point of the stories, the relationships of the characters (always the part I like best about stories anyway). This seemed to be starting to happen. Now I'm ready to read the second book, but all I can find at the library is the audiobook, so I'm not sure I'll continue right away.

Books #65 and 69 were books I was reading aloud to my husband, and with some extra time over the summer we were able to finish both. The first was Beautiful Country Burn Again, by Ben Fountain, which is about the 2016 election, and the second was The Great Santini, by Pat Conroy. If I'd been reading the latter by myself, I would have given up early in the book. Although it is well-written (if somewhat floridly), I found the racism, misogyny, and abuse difficult to read about.

Book #66 was Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb. I found this fascinating reading, both because of the individual stories involved and because of the insights into how therapy works.

Book #67 was The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk. I knew that this book was about trauma, but I was not expecting it to be as wide-ranging as it is. Particularly interesting was the section on shell shock/PTSD and the history of how the military has dealt with it. I appreciated the insights into how mind and body work together and how trauma affects people long-term. I also liked how research-based this was and how much hope there is for the future as professionals learn more and more about this topic.

Book #68 was The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley, the first book in a series about eleven year old Flavia de Luce. This was entertaining reading.

Book #70 was Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie is a private investigator. The first novel in the series is set in 1929, and in it we learn about Maisie's current cases, but also about her past, and how she went from being a maid to a university student to a very clever investigator.

Speaking of clever, book #71 was extremely cleverly written. It was Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey, and it's the story of Maud, who suffers from dementia. It's hard to know which aspects of the story she is imagining, and which ones are really happening. Is Elizabeth really missing? And what about Maud's sister Sukey?

Friday, August 02, 2019

Poetry Friday: Lisel Mueller

We're traveling again this week on Poetry Friday, but this time I got my act together enough ahead of time to write a post.

I found this Lisel Mueller poem recently:

Steps Out of the Circle
Lisel Mueller

The self steps out of the circle;
it stops wanting to be
the farmer, the wife, and the child.

It stops trying to please
by learning everyone's dialect;
it finds it can live, after all,
in a world of strangers.

Here's the rest.

Reading this poem sent me looking for more by Mueller, and here are some I loved at the Poetry Foundation. 

Love Like Salt
Lisel Mueller

It lies in our hands in crystals
too intricate to decipher

It goes into the skillet
without being given a second thought

Here's the rest.

Poem for my Birthday
Lisel Mueller

I have stopped being the heroine
of my bad dreams.

Here's the rest. Scroll down - it's the second poem on the page.

When I Am Asked
Lisel Mueller

and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.

That's how it ends. The rest is here.

Why We Tell Stories
for Linda Foster
Lisel Mueller



Because the story of our life
becomes our life

Because each of us tells
the same story
but tells it differently

and none of us tells it
the same way twice

The rest is here.

Here are some other Lisel Mueller poems I've posted on my blog before: Monet Refuses the Operation and The Mermaid.

Heidi has today's roundup.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Spiritual Journey First Thursday: Change

A few years ago I got this fortune in a fortune cookie: "Change is not merely necessary to life. It is life."
Everything changes. Sometimes we're happy about the changes, and other times we're not, and either way, we're often wrong; that is, the changes we think will make us happy sometimes don't, and the ones we dread can turn out to be positive in the long run. I often find myself resisting change, seeing it as inherently a bad thing, and then asking myself why I'm reacting that way. Maybe it will be a change for the better, I tell myself.

One of the oldest teachings about God is immutability, constancy, not changing. While throughout the Bible we see God responding to human beings by changing plans and thoughts as a result of prayer, God's fundamental character doesn't change; we can rely on that.

"Change and decay in all around I see; oh Thou who changest not, abide with me."

Back in 2009 (on Good Friday), I wrote a post about the hymn that's the source of that line. 

The text of this hymn was written by Henry F. Lyte (1793-1847). Whenever I hear it, I think of evening chapels at boarding school. We would always sing it then, and those words, "fast falls the eventide," were then simply literal for me. I wanted God to be with me through the night, with its darkness and scary sounds. These days I think about it more metaphorically, and focus on the second stanza: "Change and decay in all around I see; O thou who changest not, abide with me."

It seems appropriate for Good Friday, but with strong echoes of Easter.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

One of the changes I fear most is losing people I love, either to death or just to moving on in one way or another. God's abiding is a precious thing, the fact that we can trust that in spite of others leaving us, God never will.

Margaret is rounding up our posts for August's Spiritual Journey First Thursday. She has some beautiful reflections on change.