Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Slice of Life: A Man of Honor

It's Tuesday so stop by Two Writing Teachers to join tonight's link-up and conversation.  There's something about moving from blog to blog to savor the little stories that make us smile.  

"Blood is thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood."                 --- Garth Brooks:  Thicker Than Blood

On this Veterans' Day we honor the men and women who have served for our country; those people who believed in freedom and helped us to live as we do today.  Of course, behind all of those who served in uniform there are other stories.  Sometimes the story of a hero is beyond the battlefield.  Sometimes the story of a hero is built over years of making a difference in other ways.  This is the story of my grandfather who, not only served his country, but taught us all what it means to live to make a difference.

Many years ago my grandma, a widow with two small boys, married this man.  Who would have known that this one decision would shape so many events that would follow?  He worked hard for his family.  He eventually landed a good job with a progressive company.  This job helped him to raise three boys into adulthood.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time with Grandpa and Grandma.  Grandpa would come home from work, sit down in his chair, and relax a bit before dinner.  He was the king of keeping me occupied.  He always had a puzzle nearby we should try to puzzle out.  He'd play a game of Kerplunk or a few hands of Cribbage.  He taught me to play chess though I rarely was able to win.  He would endlessly keep his eye on his watch while I would try to increase the amount of time I could stand unwavering on one leg.  As I've grown older I've realized he apparently was wise in ways to calm a child.

Grandpa kept the best stash of treats.  Grandma always had plenty of food for us at her house.  She made graham cracker sandwiches with homemade icing.  She kept a fruit drawer full of tangerines and apples.  She canned applesauce and peaches.  She bought milk from the farm with the frothy layer of cream resting at the top of the jug.  Though she had all of these treats always ready, nothing was as tasty as Grandpa's bag of Keebler Iced Oatmeal Raisin Cookies or a dish of his vanilla ice-cream.

As I got older I learned of the stories that went along with this man.  I learned about his mother who died when he was much too young.  I learned of his service to our country testing planes before they would go into battle, putting them into a dive and hoping they would come out.  I learned about how he had met my grandmother after her first husband had died in Iwo Jima during World War II.  I learned of the work he did with his company and was amazed as I started working with computers to realize all he knew about programming.  I never saw him give up and he was always one to do the right thing.

Many years later my children would go over to my grandparent's house.  My grandpa would occupy them with games.  He would take them to preschool or pick them up from school when they needed a ride.  They'd hang out with Grandma and him often.  They'd eat his snacks and my youngest, to the shock of the entire family, would steal his chair.

Stories of heroes are often told about the battlefield, but sometimes the real stories are wrapped deep inside our hearts.  They are the stories that shaped our lives and made us who we are today.  I know I am who I am today thanks to the love and hard work of this man.  My grandfather, a man of honor and integrity, is in many ways responsible for where we all are today.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Gift of an Hour

It's Poetry Friday!  Stop by Random Noodling where Diane Mayr hosts today's event.

The Gift of an Hour
They say I was given
an extra hour to sleep,
but who wants to waste
precious time?

I considered
all I could do
with an extra hour
just given as a gift.

An extra hour might be:
another quiet cup of coffee,
or maybe a little more time
wrapped inside a book.

Sixty minutes for free
to put my feet up
and gaze at the stars
floating above our world.

Three thousand six hundred seconds
tap tapping words,
shaping them into something,
molding and sculpting.

Now it occurs to me
the hour has come and gone.
Yet, I'm not sure
I was able to savor it.

I rise and look at my clock.
What was nine a.m. is now eight.
I rub my eyes wondering
how I slept away this precious gift.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Right to Vote

It's Tuesday so stop by Two Writing Teachers to join tonight's link-up and conversation.  There's something about moving from blog to blog to savor the little stories that make us smile.  

Dorotha Mae Stough Millikan
My great grandmother would have been 25 years old when women first obtained the right to vote.  I like to imagine what it must have been like to vote for the first time.

On Sunday, I took my youngest daughter to our county board of elections office to vote before returning to college.  She had come home to visit for the second time since the semester began.  She had realized it might be possible to vote before leaving.  We filled the car more winter clothing, a few meals-to-go, and other items she might need in the coming weeks.  We then headed to the polling location.

This was her first time to vote, and she was quite excited.  She had studied the ballot.  She had looked up information on candidates.  She was ready to head to the office.  Thankfully we found the office open and taking voters.  Cassie handed them her identification information and headed to the voting table.  In our small county, voting is a bit like completing a multiple choice test as ballots are still paper with a fill in the circle format.  As we left the election office, we chatted about the right to vote.

via WikiMedia Commons
New York Times photo
(taken 1917)
shared by Mr. Gustafson
I've voted in most every election since I was old enough to vote.  Somehow I have always felt I owed it to the women who fought for my right to vote.  I also have always felt it was important to try to have some kind of voice in the decisions that would impact me.   There are many women around the world who do not have this same right.  There are many people around the world who do not have this same right.

Though advertising and dollars have become a big part of American politics, we must continue to go to the polls and vote.  I'd like to think my great grandmother would be happy to know her great great granddaughter is exercising her constitutional rights to vote.

Here are a few sites I found interesting about women and the right to vote:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Poetry Friday: How Many?

It's Poetry Friday.  Stop by Teacher Dance, where Linda Baie hosts today's roundup.  Thanks, Linda.

How Many?
The door opens.
I step outside
greeted by the sunrise -

I don't know
how many suns,
how many moons,
how many times,
I've looked at the sky.

Sunrise or sunset.
Morning or night.
Mid afternoon
as clouds dance across the sky.

Every single time,
my breath catches.
I stop;
caught in the moment.
Each sky a new masterpiece,
painted hues of possibility.

I don't know how many times
I've marveled.
I only know
each sky
a gift.

© Cathy L. Mere, 2014

Over at Today's Little Ditty, Michelle has been talking about zenos.  J. Patrick Lewis has challenged everyone to give them a try.  I've tried and found them to be much more challenging than I imagined. Here's a few attempts.

A few sky zeros...
The morning sky begins to shine
pink, purple, red,
so I
at painted sky.
This masterpiece,
just one

© Cathy L. Mere, 2014

Ev'ry sky a quiet surprise
Each in background
Made of color
Each masterpiece

© Cathy L. Mere, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Poetry Friday: A Gentle Hello

It's Poetry Friday!!!  I'm honored to be hosting today's link up of beautiful words.  If you're joining us, please leave your link in the comments.  I will be back later in the day to move links up into this post.  In the meantime, be sure to visit the comments to find links to more poetry finds.  

A Gentle Hello

Out of nowhere
you appear.
I wasn't expecting you;
not today.
It has been awhile
since you stood near the door
strong and tall 
greeting me as I entered; 
assuring me you would still be right there
upon my return.
That was long ago.
Days have turned to weeks.
Weeks to years.

Though time has passed
I haven't forgotten you.
Sometimes it's a comment,
a picture,
a smell. 
The song of a bird.
The rush of the wind.
The bloom of a flower.
Taking me back
to the days when you were always there.

Without warning
here you are again.
A gracious gift. 
An unexpected surprise.
A gentle hello.
Making me smile. 
Bringing hope,
that you know 
how much I have missed you.

©  Cathy L. Mere, 2014

Oh, Fall!  
Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge shares October by Robert Frost.

Stop by Teacher Dance where Linda Baie shares her poem, Confusion in the Garden.

"Reply to the Question:  'How Can You Become a Poet?'" by Eve Merriam.  Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe discusses science, autumn and poetry.  This is perfect on so many levels.

Stop by Carol's Corner where Carol Wilcox shares a poem about fall and morning  --- or maybe they're really about something else:  William Stafford's, Yes and Mary Sarton's, Autumn.

Mary Lee Hahn has crafted an original poem at A Year of Reading titled "In the Early Morning Dark, In the Fall."  You'll find words to savor here.

As I look out the sliding glass doors, I can almost see the cold coming.  Maybe the geese, and other migrators, are smarter than those of us who search our closets for warm coats, gloves, and boots.  At Write Time, Linda shares her original tanka:  Fly South; a gentle reminder that it is time to go...or maybe a warning of what is to come.

Jone at Check It Out shares an original zeno about those darkening days of autumn.  Follow the links to discover more about zenos and a challenge.

Carol Vasalona shares her original poem, "Savoring the Season," at Beyond LiteracyLink.  Stop by to enjoy her rythmic words about the season and learn more about her "Finding Fall Gallery" poem submission requests.

Falling for Authors
Margaret Simon, at Reflections from the Teche, shares the poems inspired by the work of Laura Purdie Salas in Bookspeak.  Laura's work inspired a little eclipse poetry by Margaret and her students.  Stop by to discover these poems and follow the links to comment on the work of young poets.

Catherine, at Reading to the Core, shares words of wisdom from Ralph Fletcher and his poem, A Writing Kind of Day.

Ramona, at Pleasures from the Page, shares her diamante poem as she awaits a visit from poet, Janet Wong.

An ode to signed books, and a photo gallery, are waiting at Author Amok.  Laura Shovan uses dedications and the book titles to create her found poem, When You Sign My Book.

Who doesn't fall for advice from a poet?  You won't want to miss your stop at Today's Little Ditty where Michelle Barnes features advice from Carrie Clickard about using rhyme.

Can't fall asleep?  (Yes, I'm having a bit too much fun with the word "fall".)  On her blog, Laura Purdie Salas shares her poetic response to Barney Salzberg's book, Chengdu.

Over at Random Noodling, Diane Mayr, looks at Ernest Hemingway through a new lens and shares two of his poems:  Chapter Headings and Montparnasse.

It is so hard to stay focused as I link blogs to this round-up.  The posts give me so much more to think about that I find myself wanting to click links, locate poems, discover new poetry.  I had to work extra hard when I stopped by Doraine Bennett's site, Dori Reads.  Doraine shares the work of Rainer Maria Rilke with a snippet from Letters to a Young Poet, as well as a poem by Rilke:  I Am Much to Alone in this World, Yet Not Alone.

At a wrung sponge, Adromeda Jazmon Sibley shares a nonfiction text with Chinese poems translated by Evans Chan.  The book, Angel Island, by Russel Freedman is a story of a west coast immigration center.  You'll want to stop Andromeda's blog to read all about this nonfiction text by Freedman.

Falling for Others
Iphigene at Gathering Books shares her original poem, Sapiosexual.

Jama Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup shares a little Colin Firth fest and a poem by Sara Teasdale, The Look.

Do we target writing for a particular audience?  April Halprin Wayland at Teaching Authors ponders this question and shares an original poem, Reluctant.  

Animal enthusiast?  Tabitha Yeatts, at The Opposite of Indifference, shares Nurture by Maxine Kumin and ****NEWS FLASH**** a plan for a poetry swap.  Time is limited as addresses need to be submitted by November 7th.  

You can continue your creature loving poetry walk with a stop at Kurious Kitty's Kurio Kabinet where Diane Mayr shares Creature Carnival by Marilyn Singer and highlights the poem:  "Cerberus".

This month is Dyslexia Awareness Month.  Elizabeth Steinglass reminds us of the importance of taking care of others as she shares an original poem, "Note to the Teacher."

More creatures featured!  What is October without an opportunity to fall in love with monsters?  At Booktalking #kidlit, Anastasia Suen shares M is for Monster:  A Fantastic Creatures Alphabet by J. Patrick Lewis.  She features his poem, "F is for Frankenstein".

How does the head help the heart when we lose those we love?  This question is considered at Bildungsroman in the poem, "Head, Heart" by Lydia Davis.

At There is No Such Thing as a God Forsaken Town, Ruth shares "Death, be not proud" by John Donne.  She reminds us that even in our final fall, or the fall of those close to our heart, death will not win.

Falling for Children (Even Though...)
The things we will do for our children.  We fall for them quickly, but oh do they keep us up at night.  Stop by Karen Edmisten's blog where she shares this stage in a poem by Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet:  "Called".

A bedtime story can sometimes soothe a little one, lulling them back to sleep.  This is true for bats as well.  Mama takes care of little bat in this original poem, "Little Bat,"  shared by Joy at Poetry for Kids.

Speaking of they way we fall for our children.  Yes, the tiny ones wake us up at all hours, but those teenagers keep us on our toes.  We fall for them anyway.  At wee words for wee ones, Bridget Magee shares the words she is sure her teenage daughter hears in this original poem:  Yada Yada Yada.  A fun play with rhyme and rhythm.

...and for all of those years in between, stop by Radio Rhythm and Rhyme for Matt Esenwine's poem, "Which One?".  This made me laugh!

Falling for Places
What's not to love about a stop at The Poetry Farm?  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater discusses her recent attendance at an event called, Love Yer Brain.  She reminds us of the importance of new experiences for inspiration and shares her original poem, "Dear Brain".

Let's hear it for Niagara Falls.  Charles Waters shares his original poem, "The Honeymoon Capital".

The Fall of Humanity
Tara Smith, at A Teaching Life, asserts:
"It doesn’t seem as if we ever get around to making the right choices about being human in these days of endless conflict." 
Isn't it sadly true?  Tara shares her powerful poem, The End and The Beginning, a poem on the sad truths of war and conflict.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lessons Learned: A Tribute to Mr. Conway

It's Tuesday so stop by Two Writing Teachers to join tonight's link-up and conversation.  There's something about moving from blog to blog to savor the little stories that make us smile.  

via Personal Excellence blog
As a teacher, I always wonder what my students will remember about me.  My hope is always that students will see their light reflected in my eyes; that I will in some way help them to see all that they can be.  In my years as a student I was fortunate to have many teachers who touched my life in different ways.  I like to think each one played a part in shaping the person I am today.  Today I stay in contact with many of these teachers who helped paint my childhood in possibility.

Today I came home to the unfortunate news that one of my teachers just passed away.  It was sad to hear that my fourth grade teacher had lost this last battle, but he had triumphed so many times before.  Though he will likely never know it, he taught me much.  When I think back, he is one of the first teachers I knew who truly believed in me.  Even today, many of things I have become are a result of the light I saw in his eyes.

Though I no longer act --- thankfully --- he taught me to push through tough situations.  I learned a lot about myself during our class play, the Wizard of Oz, in which he cast me as Dorothy.  I was humbled to be given such an important part and studied my lines over and over again.  Though I often appeared confident on the outside, I was worried I would mess up the play for my friends.  When I found out I would be expected to sing some of my parts I wanted to run for the hills.  Mr. Conway worked me through a lip sync routine that surely rivaled the later short-lived success of Milli Vanilli's musical career.

Mr. Conway was also the first teacher to make me think I might be able to write poetry.  If you stop by here on a regular basis, you know I dabble in poetry every now and again.  Every time I join the Poetry Friday link up or post a poem here, I think of my fourth grade teacher who first nudged me to try my hand at poetry.  In these attempts, he carefully sowed the seeds of possibility in his enthusiasm for my attempts.  Tonight I went digging for a poem he returned to me several years after I graduated.  He handed it to me many years later knowing that surely I must still be writing poetry.   Apparently even as a fourth grader I had a thing for nature poetry.  I am comforted, however, to know I no longer feel the need for rhyme.

Mr. Conway helped instill of a love a literature and story.  He was the first teacher I remember reading aloud, though I am certain other teachers read aloud before Mr. Conway.  It's hard to forget the way he would spend time each day after lunch reading chapter books to our class, his voice rising and falling with every word.  We enjoyed the antics of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, the adventures of James and the Giant Peach, and the life of The Mouse and a Motorcycle.  After lunch each day he'd pace around the room reading to us; leaving us hanging at the end of each afternoon so we couldn't wait until the next day.  Our class was a bit of a challenge.  Since it was only Mr. Conway's second year, I'm sure we caused him many a sleepless night, but read aloud was the one time a day where I remember everyone sitting quietly captivated.  Music tames the savage beast, and beautiful words can calm the craziest of fourth graders.

Mr. Conway taught me to make decisions and think for myself.  He believed in personalization before it was cool.  In math, we worked through chapters at our own pace and he consulted with us as we worked.   I enjoyed being able to work at my own rate and having an opportunity to be in charge of my own learning.

Though Mr. Conway has lost this final battle, I am thankful to have walked the path beside him if only for a short time.  He helped me to see far out into the future and paved the way for the many steps that would follow on this journey.  Jackie Robinson said, "A life is not important except for the impact in had on other lives."  His impact was felt by many.  I only hope my students will some day be able to say the same.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book or eReader? What's Your Poison?

It's Tuesday so stop by Two Writing Teachers to join tonight's link-up and conversation.  There's something about moving from blog to blog to savor the little stories that make us smile.  

"Don't sit too close to the television," our parents warned as if our eyes might fall out or rays might soak into us.  Maybe both things happened, but I seemed to make it through a childhood of mild television watching with few, if any, symptoms as a result.  It's interesting to live on the cusp of new technologies.  What did people think as they watched the first car owners drive past their homes?  Imagine the disgust as televisions began to replace radios.  What were they saying when computers first found their way to our desktops?  What about that hard rock-n-roll music that was sure to doom your soul?

With any new technology or discovery there are gifts and concerns.  The eReader is no exception.  I had to laugh this week as my friend, an avid book holder, sent this link to my Facebook account:

I nearly fell over laughing when I saw it.  As much as my friend enjoys reading books, I enjoy reading on my reader.  The study suggests that people who use readers may have difficulty sequencing events in a story (for the record, I may have had trouble with this before eReaders).  Of course, I think there are a lot of questions to be asked about the study.  What was the sample size?  Were readers experienced with eReaders?  Did readers want to read on an eReader?  These are just a few questions for starters.

No matter what science says, I will continue to read from my reader.  I just prefer it.  There's something about being able to visit the library virtually and fill the shelves with titles.  There's something about being able to read a sample before purchasing a book.  There's something about being able to highlight favorite lines and have them collect in a cloud.  There's something about being able to touch a word for a definition.  It even makes me feel better to not be able to physically see how far I am from the end of the book without touching for a line at the bottom of my screen.  There seems to be less pressure to race to the end of the book.  I love the swipe of a page turn, the gentle adjustment of font size at the end of the day, and the look of a bookshelf with covers facing out.  Not to mention the additional space I now have in my living room, closet, and other spaces around the house.  I can carry my library right in my purse.

As I told my friend, I'm sure when they left clay tablets and moved toward scrolls there were people who missed the feel of those heavy tablets.  All I know is I read more now than I ever did.  The great thing about our world is it is full of options.  If you still love a book, you can still get a book.  I love my friends who still love to hold a book, smell its pages, and turn through a story with the pinch of their fingers instead of a swipe.  The good news for both of us is according to scientific studies, reading for just 6 minutes a day reduces stress by 68%.  You can't make this stuff up.  We also appear to be 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's.  (2.5% is huge, right?)  Whether we can sequence effectively or not, there are still benefits to time spent reading no matter how you choose to do it.  For me, it's the opportunity to chat about books with friends and exchange interesting scientific research from the internet.