Highs and Lows

When I come home after being away for a few days, there are always tasks (and sometimes few surprises) waiting for me in the garden. Yesterday I spent some time inspecting and weeding. It was work I was glad to get back to, and as always, there were highs and lows among the things I discovered. I was happy to find the balloon flowers and black-eyed susan I planted last year. The peonies are budding profusely, so it won’t be long before they burst into color. I noticed that all of the bird houses are occupied, or at least have nests. Sadly, I didn’t identify any of them as bluebird nests. Hopefully the one in the back belongs to the tree swallows who come every year. The change in my bird population started last summer and will probably continue this summer, so I will just have to remain open to the change.

As I worked, I thought about highs and lows in other life situations. The good news, the bad news. The “been there, done that, never again” balanced with the “been there, done that, I’m ready for another round.” There are highs and lows in everything, but when we are able to find more of the good in something, we stay. It happens to me all the time when I play golf. It’s that one good shot among the many bad ones, the spending time with friends, the enjoyment of being outdoors, that keeps me coming back.

Last weekend I was at the Highlights Foundation for the Eastern PA SCBWI Retreat. It was a wonderful weekend filled with comradery and learning and fun. I can honestly say there were many more highs than lows. In fact, probably the only real low was that I had to leave a little early and missed the last great meal (the food is always fabulous!). That is, of course, unless you count hearing your work in progress read aloud in front of an editor, two agents, and an art director who could pinpoint the strengths and potential problems by hearing only the first 65 words. And even that wasn’t a low, just a little heart-pounding.

This week I hope you have more highs than lows, more good than bad, in everything you do.

Slice of Life2

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In the Card Store

Slice of Life2

I’ve been trying to read (and write) more poetry during April. Mostly I’ve been concentrating on my go-to Mary Oliver whose eloquent words I carry around in my head and heart all day. But I’ve also been reading a lot from Billy Collins. Two of his poems from the collection Aimless Love, “Poetry” and “Monday,” recently inspired me. In these poems, Collins discusses the difference among novelists, playwrights, and poets. Poets do not need lengthy descriptions or plots or to think about moving characters on and off stage, they just have to concentrate on what they see or feel and translate it into words. He also talks about the importance of windows in a poet’s life – the looking and noticing that is so important in capturing an image. So last week as I ventured out on my errands one day, I decided to look for images that I could capture and translate into words, a small moment in time that would serve as a virtual snapshot.
From the card store:



I stared in


at the rack of cards,

carefully choosing


where images and words combined into



across the aisle there was


a young boy

begging for each card to be opened

a new tune

a new dance

all perfect

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Slice of Life2

My shift in the Children’s Garden at Longwood was just ending. Despite the fact that there had been a steady drizzle throughout the morning, I decided to keep my plans to explore the just-beginning-to-bloom tulips. Besides, by now the drizzle had slowed to some intermittent drops. There is something special about a flower garden after it rains – the colors are more vibrant, the fragrances heightened, and a lingering raindrop kissing a petal can offer just the right photo opportunity.

There are tulips in several places throughout Longwood, but yesterday I chose to wander in the Idea Garden. The tulips there are laid out in a rainbow of squares, bringing to mind a patchwork quilt. Some of the tulips were in full bloom, some just opening, while others were closed tightly for a few more days. I marveled at the well-planned blooming schedule that would provide optimal viewing to guests over several weeks.

Since my plan for April is to post poetry, and since today is International Haiku Poetry Day, I offer this observation:


 A quilt of colors

Purple, pink, red, and yellow,

Welcoming the sun.

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The In-Between

Slice of Life2I love seasonal changes. They remind me that life is constantly changing and that change and growth are a necessary part of moving forward. I especially love those in-between times, those times when two seasons co-exist, one melting into the other. I wrote about summer moving into fall last October, and the other day I was equally mesmerized by winter giving in to spring. We’ve had some crazy weather lately, warm temperatures in the middle of February that forced the daffodils out way too early, then a significant snowfall in March. Last week a chilly wind was blowing, but spring was just about ready to make an appearance.


The In-Between


white bud-clusters

peek from green jackets

feel the chill



pink blossoms

eager to greet the world

stay sheltered from the wind



one brave tulip

joins the drooping daffodils

beckons more to follow



then a day of sun

and a gray-green world

bursts forth in color


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Banana Mania

Slice of Life2  The Inspiration: I sit at my computer, hoping for an idea. What have I noticed recently that could become a slice of life on this first Tuesday after the March challenge? My mind wanders through events of the past few days and I think about the Crayola crayon that is being retired – Dandelion, I believe. Then I remember that Amy at The Poem Farm is doing a project where she pulls a crayon at random each day and creates a poem from it. Bingo! I’ll try it.

The Process: Since I don’t have a box of 64 Crayola crayons handy, I pull up a list of the colors, choose a random number, and count down. I land on Banana Mania. I like the name, but what shade of yellow is that exactly? I soon discover that it really isn’t a shade I normally associate with a banana – more of a tan or beige with yellow undertones. I’m not inspired, so I decide instead to brainstorm thoughts and ideas associated with Banana Mania. I come up with monkeys, rainforest animals, nutritional value, how to eat a banana, the banana tree at Longwood, taste, and various recipes that use bananas. Is there something in there I can use?

The Product:

Banana Mania

Bananas in my smoothies

Bananas in my bread,

Bananas on my waffles,

Bananas fill my head!

The Reflection: I will be the first to admit that this is not a wonderful poem, and although I tried to come up with a second stanza, it just didn’t work for me without feeling forced. But it reminded me that this experience plays out every day in classrooms. As we offer strategies to our students, it is important to remember that what works for one may not work for another.  It is a reminder to see each writer as an individual and help them find what works or inspires them. It’s OK to hit a dead end. It happens to writers all the time.

I think I’ll go eat a banana now.

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Thank You

Slice of Life2

I am participating in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Thanks to the co-authors of              Two Writing Teachers for creating this  supportive community.

Thirty-one days ago I started this challenge by creating an acrostic poem. So today, I offer another acrostic poem to sum up the month. There were days when I scoured through my notebook, read some posts for inspiration, and wondered as I sat down to write just what would happen. But magically something always appeared, as I knew it would. So, to all of you who sliced along with me, read, commented, and offered just the right nudge, and especially to Beth, Betsy, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey – this one’s for you.


Thanks, Two Writing Teachers, for

Hosting this special month of writing

And sharing. So many ideas,

Never feeling at a loss for words,

Knowing I could find support from fellow slicers.


You have created a community

Of writers and an ever-growing,

Unending web of friends.


See you on Tuesdays!

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A Spine Poem

Slice of Life2

I am participating in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Thanks to the co-authors of              Two Writing Teachers for creating this  supportive community.

Today I decided to try a spine poem. I remember creating one before and know that sometimes it is not as easy as it may seem. At least not for me. Should there be a message? A theme? Since we’re getting to the end of the month long Slice of Life Challenge, I’ve been starting to do some reflecting on what the month has meant and what I have learned.

Hmmm…Maybe that could be my theme.

To me, Slice of Life is about finding the stories in our lives, falling in love with those ordinary gifts that come with day to day living, becoming more confident as writers, creating, and risk-taking.

Now for the books. Can I create that message with book titles ?

I looked around my office and noticed a few stacks of picture books, a TBR pile, and my bookcase of mostly professional books. The Newkirk book jumped out at me right away, then I found some more titles that seemed to work, rearranged, added, discarded, rearranged again, and finally came up with this (please read from the top down).

Spine Poetry

Hey world, here I am!

A happy dreamer

With aimless love.

Minds made for stories

Open a world of possible

Day by day

P.S. Happy Dreamer is a new book by Peter Reynolds that celebrates the unconventional, sometimes-messy-but-always-creative dreamer in all of us.

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