Saturday, December 7, 2013

Today I Celebrate Tradition

Today I'm joining Ruth Ayres in celebration.  Stop by Ruth Ayres Writes for links to other celebrations.  Thanks, Ruth.

Yesterday the snow fell outside as I sat on the couch near our french doors and watched it gently float to the ground.  It wasn't long before the green beyond our doors had turned to a beautiful bright white.  There was something about the snow nestled in the branches of the evergreens.  There was something about its gentle descent from the sky.  There was something about this change that finally motivated me head to my basement to grab the plastic tubs filled with holiday decorations.

Each year I begin in the same way, pulling out the ceramic nativity scene painted by my great grandmother.  Each piece, carefully wrapped in tissue and newspaper, is unwrapped to be placed upon our mantle.  As I pull the pieces out one by one I always hold my breath a bit hoping they have not been broken while in storage.  Pulling out the pieces of the nativity scene I'm always reminded of the story that is the reason we celebrate each year, but I'm also reminded of the story of two women I loved so much.

Each year as I open the box I think of my grandma.   As I open the box I'm always reminded of seeing the nativity scene at her house when my brothers and I would go to help her decorate her tree.  It was always already arranged atop her entertainment center.  As soon as I'd walk into my grandma's house, I'd notice it.  Sitting on the large wooden shelf would be the painted pieces that tell the story of the birth of Jesus.  It always took my breath away.  Even as a child I would stand there for some time taking note of the details in each piece.

Years passed and I arrived at my grandma's house one evening before Christmas.  Grandma brought up the box with nativity scene upstairs and handed it to me.  I was speechless, I couldn't believe she wanted me to have this family treasure.  She said she really didn't want to keep getting it out each year and she was sure it would look beautiful displayed at my house.  Perhaps she knew I'd open it each year and think of her.

Each year as I put the pieces so carefully painted on my mantle I'm also reminded of my great grandma.    As kids we would hang out at her house near the lake a few times during the year.  She had her own kiln and many different paints.  She'd painted small books with the wedding dates of our family, a small collection of dolls for me, and a variety of vases to share.  Sometimes she'd sit us down in her back room to paint ceramics with her.  When we'd go to her house we'd paint hot plates with a special paint containing small beads that would explode with color as they were being fired.  As I place each piece on the mantle I always smile to myself at the thoughtfulness in the detail of each piece.

This year as I arrange the nativity upon my shelf, like my grandmother and great grandmother before me, I am thankful for the stories.  Within the routines of our traditions rest the stories we hope will be treasured for years to come.  Tradition not only takes us back, but it carries us forward.  Today I celebrate tradition.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Poetry Friday: A Wish is a Start

Today I'm joining the Poetry Friday fun hosted by Robin Hood Black.  Stop by for more poetry links.

Last week I joined the #Nerdlution.  My goal is to read 50 minutes of fiction each day for 50 days.  I know, tough goal, right?  This week I finished The Center of Everything.  This story, about a girl named Ruby who is trying to make sense of the loss of her grandma, was touching.  In the book Ruby makes a wish.  As a read, like Ruby, I became fascinated with the power of a wish.  I couldn't help but think a wish might make a good topic for a poem.   However, as I wrote my poem I heard of the death of Nelson Mandela.  Reflecting on the life of Nelson Mandela caused me to pause to remind myself that a wish might not be enough.  Sometimes we have to do more than wish --- we have to take action.  

via C M Handler WikiMedia Common
A Wish is a Start
A coin tossed
into a shimmering fountain.
A birthday candle snuffed
in just one breath.
A shooting star
racing through the dark night.
Go ahead,

A wish
for the perfect moment,
held tightly
within the deepest corners
of our heart.
Go ahead,

A dream
for something better;
a change
that would somehow
make our world
a better place.
Go ahead,

may not be enough
to grant a wish.
We can wait on a wish,
or we can make changes,
speak up.
Go ahead,
Take action.

Take action,
find the strength to
work for a lifetime
to make a difference.
Go ahead,

a wish is a start.
Go ahead,
Find a coin.

© Cathy L. Mere

More about wishes:
Huffington Post:  Wishing Traditions Around the World
The Wishing Project:  Wishing Traditions Around the World
The Mystery and History of Wishing (see for movies about wishing)
Fact Monster:  Wishing (who knew there were so many ways to wish)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Queso Anyone?

Today's post is part of the Slice of Life roundup at Two Writing Teachers.  Stop by for links to many great slices or, better yet, join the fun by linking your own piece.  Thanks to all for hosting.

Tonight I am slipping in under the wire for Slice of Life.  At least I'm slipping in with something.

Me, Deb Frazier, Karen Terlecky & Nicole Kessler

What's one of the best ways to spend an evening?  Hanging out with these three over a bowl (or two) of queso.  A few years ago, the four of us started chatting often on Twitter and then crossing paths at conferences and gatherings.  It wasn't long until we decided to start getting together to share what we had learned.  We've supported each other through blogging, Twitter, Evernote, Pinterest (yes, even Pinterest), learning about new apps, and weaving all of this into literacy in our classrooms.

Our gatherings have moved from our devices, to queso in the winter, porches and patios in the summer.  Whatever the weather, I enjoy the time chatting with these three amazing women who have become great friends.  Our conversations weave across teaching, literacy, technology, professional reading, and into our lives (even yearbooks and yellow  Whatever the conversation, I always come away feeling refreshed and energized.

So thankful!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Slice of Life: My New Addiction

Today's post is part of the Slice of Life roundup at Two Writing Teachers.  Stop by for links to many great slices or, better yet, join the fun by linking your own piece.  Thanks to all for hosting.

The blog isn't the place to confess your addictions, but admitting you have a problem is the first step.  Right?  My addiction is worse on the weekends, but lately I'm finding I'm falling victim to it during the week too.  It keeps me up late at night.  It makes me mumble in my sleep.  It has me searching into the night to find just what I need.

My addiction?  It isn't Reese's Peanut Butter cups, though that would have been a good guess since I have a stash hidden in the freezer.  It isn't  Twitter, though one could make an argument that I have a Twitter issue.  It isn't coffee, though I do have a slight headache if I haven't had a cup by nine in the morning.  My addiction will shock and repulse you.  My addiction is....fantasy football.  Who knew?

If you know me, you know I'm not much of a sports gal.  I am, however, a little competitive.  When my son decided our family needed a fantasy team, I had to join.  I started reading blogs, following the Bleacher Report, checking my ESPN updates, and created a secret Twitter fantasy football list.

I must admit to enjoying talking smack as well.  Let's say I talk much more than my team wins of late.  Team Naughty or Rice (Ray Rice inspired) started out winning, but things went south pretty quickly.  Injuries.  Politics.  Running back issues.  I changed the name to Cruzin' on Back (Victor Cruz inspired as my wide receivers are the only hope I have each week), but we still were having a hard time keeping a 500 record.

This week is the BIG GAME.  My son and I are playing against one another.  I'm pretty sure the rest of the family will be glad when it is over.  He's got quarterback issues that I'm hoping will be in my favor.  Of course, I have running back issues.  I was up at 6 a.m. checking blogs to find the latest rising stars to add to my roster.  I came home tonight to do some more research.

Yes, it's an addiction.  I'm not sure if it's a need to win or just something new to learn, but it is taking way too much of my time.  Thankfully the season will end eventually, and I can get back to life as usual.  I thought that would be how it would go.  Then my son decided we needed a family fantasy basketball league.  Help!!!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Celebrating Possibility

Today I join Ruth Ayres as she hosts this week's celebrations at Ruth Ayres Writes.  Stop by to read her post and follow the links to other celebrations.

"Life isn't about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself."                  -George Bernard Shaw
Finally taking a minute for lunch I check the clock on my phone.  Cassie should be ending her college visit about now and heading to the next one.  "How are the visits going?" I inquire in a text message.  My phone rings almost as soon as I press the send button.

"I found my school," she relays quickly.

I can hear the excitement in her voice.  She has been on several college visits and few have ended without questions or hesitations.  She's found schools she likes, but I haven't really felt she loves any of them.  Some are too small.  Some are too expensive.  Some she's not sure she can get into.  Some she's not sure she will fit in with the people who attend.  Today I hear the click in her voice.  I know it feels right to her.

"They have my program," she explains.  "The size of the campus is perfect.  It's big, but everything is easy to get to.  The dorm rooms are small, but they are nice."  She rattles through a list of things she likes about this school.

I listen.  Enjoying the sound of her enthusiasm and feeling the relief of knowing she is pleased with this decision.  "When does the visit at the next school begin?" I ask.

"I'm not going," she replies, "I've found the place I want to be.  I just wish it wasn't so long until I start."

The application is submitted.  Her school has forwarded her information.  Now we wait to hear a definite answer on her application.  So many opportunities are ahead.  Today I celebrate POSSIBILITY as Cassie stands at the beginning of her journey.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Slice of Life: The Recipe Box

Today's post is part of the Slice of Life roundup at Two Writing Teachers.  Stop by for links to many great slices or, better yet, join the fun by linking your own piece.  Thanks to all for hosting.

I don't really know where pot pie came from.  Was it a recipe with its roots in the kitchens of the Pennsylvania Dutch?  Has it been adapted from the German bot boi recipes?  Was it a recipe used in kitchens during the depression when eggs may have been harder to find?  I'm really not sure.  I'm not even sure it matters.  In my mind, pot pie always came from Grandma's kitchen.

What I do know is, as a child, I could always count on having pot pie when I visited my grandma.   The smells from my grandma's kitchen greeted us as soon as we climbed the cement steps to her house.  She'd open the door and we would be immediately enveloped in the love of her kitchen as she wrapped her arms around each of us.

Grandma would make pot pie - my favorite dish - for family dinners, week visits, and over the holidays.  Mixing flour, shortening, salt, and a little baking powder, Grandma would magically create thick noodle-like squares to toss into a pot of boiling beef broth.  She'd add leftover beef, make some mashed potatoes, cook a few sides and dinner would be served.

Just before I got married my grandma gave me a tan plastic box containing contents too valuable to measure.  I still remember looking inside to find her carefully scripted recipes I had grown to love over the years.  Alphabetized meticulously, the box contained recipes for cheese potatoes, ham loaf, date pinwheel cookies, strawberry salad, sugar cream pie, and many other dishes Grandma would prepare with love in her kitchen for family gatherings.  And of course, the box contained the recipe for pot pie, a dumpling-like noodle made with a recipe similar to the recipe used for pie crusts.

I remember looking at that box and thinking how thoughtful the gift was.  I was touched by the care given to prepare each of these cards.  What I didn't realize then was that each year that box would become more and more treasured.  What I didn't know was how many times I would reach into my kitchen cupboard and feel that she was standing right beside me telling me to add a pinch of this or a dash of that.

Tonight I came home from a long day of writing student learning objectives, preparing science units, and learning with first graders to prepare dinner.  I reached into the cupboard near the oven, grabbed the recipe box, and looked for the card quite worn from use.  Mixing flour, shortening, salt and a little baking powder, I carefully made thick noodle-like squares to throw into the pot of boiling beef broth.  As the smells of my grandma's kitchen began to fill my house I smiled to myself.  Sometimes someone breathes so much life into a moment that it carries across days, seasons, and years.  Sometimes memories sit so firmly in our hearts that they bring us joy when we least expect it.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Writing Priorities: Slice of Life

"I must write it all out, at any cost.  Writing is thinking.  It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living."                                  --- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Today's post is part of the Slice of Life roundup at Two Writing Teachers.  Stop by for links to many great slices or, better yet, join the fun by linking your own piece.  Thanks to all for hosting.

Why Write?
If you didn't have time to check out this week's Big Fresh by Brenda Power be sure to stop by.  In it Brenda talks about the different kinds of writing we do and compares our writing to gardening.  She shares, "A garden is a great metaphor for writing, because it helps me to think about what I need to prune, plant again, or trim back to keep myself thriving as a writer."

I've been trying to rethink my writing habits --- or maybe I should say begin to shape strong writing habits.  I really value my time writing like some people make time to exercise, quilt, or read books.  Writing helps me to make sense of life.  Writing makes me pay attention more to all that happens around me.

There are many types of writing I enjoy doing, but finding time for them all is a challenge in the busyness of life and teaching.  This has especially become apparent as I do more writing online.  More and more communities are forming that are finding common ideas to write about.  I enjoy these writing communities, but being a part of them means finding time to write, to read, and to comment.

Writing I Enjoy

I really wasn't sure whether I would post this.  It really has no voice.  I'm still trying to figure out want I want to say about it.  I stopped by Two Writing Teachers to see what was happening and stumbled upon Stacey's recent post, Climbing Out of a Rut.  When I read her words, I knew just what she was talking about and loved these two quotes:

The problem:  "I don't feel like I've written anything that is fueling me as a writer."  Stacey Shubitz

The solution:  "Clearly, something has to change so I can make time to write the stories that live inside my head that are yearning to make their way on the page."  Stacey Shubitz

What changes do we need to make as writers to find time for the work we value most?  

So I Wonder
What do you like to write?  How do you carve out time for this type of writing?  What's most important?  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Celebrating Discoveries

I was pretty excited to learn of Ruth Ayres' Celebrations Round-Up at Ruth Ayres Writes.  As I have thought about it, I have so much to celebrate each week it is hard to choose just one thing, but here it goes.

Today I'm celebrating DISCOVERIES.  This weekend we found a little time to sneak away to visit our oldest daughter.  As teachers it isn't often we manage a fall get away.  With Friday off, we packed our bags, jumped in the car, and decided to head south.  

The drive was beautiful as we meandered through the Blue Ridge Mountains speckled in crimson and gold.  We arrived in North Carolina at the end of her school day and the adventure began.

Staying at the Ritz Cortney has been full of delightful discoveries.  I became a vegetarian after eating a zucchini sandwich at Natty Greens in Greensboro.  Maybe it was the combination of vegetables.  Maybe it was the fresh bread.  Either way, I wondered why I didn't order veggie meals more often.  

While in the Carolinas, I found I love antique stores after discovering they hold so many great memories for me.  What's not to love about those Looney Toons Pepsi glasses, a 70s Barbie case, a silver Christmas tree like my grandma's, and an avocado green Easy Bake Oven?  I'm not sure what to think about the fact that antique stores now hold clues to memories long forgotten for me.  For now, I'm not going to think much about it --- just revel in the discovery.  

This weekend has reminded me that new cities are full of places to discover.  While in Greensboro we found cheesecake, the Woolworth's lunch counter where the 1960 sit-in occurred, and interesting local artisans.  I realized I am a discoverer.  Today I celebrate discovery:  new places, new hobbies and discovering memories to last a lifetime.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Don't Miss It: Poetry Friday is Here!

I'm truly honored to be hosting today's Poetry Friday event.   I always enjoy wandering through the blogs joining the Poetry Friday conversation.  It is a pleasure to be reminded of poems I have loved, to discover new poems, and to read the poems written by participants.

If you're joining us today, and I hope you are, please add your link to the comments section of this post.  Then follow the links in the post, and the comments section, to find more poetry.  I'll be by a few time across the day to update the event.  Enjoy!

A Chance
The quarter
tossed carelessly
to the bottom of my purse,
once coveted,
now overlooked.

Shiny quarter
once held such promise,
a wish for something grand
from the store's gum ball machine:
a new ring,
a bracelet of gold,
a plastic parachute man. 
Something sure to be envied. 

Twenty five cents
placed in a slot,
Opening the door
revealed a clear plastic bubble,
the tiny treasure inside
never what I imagined.

Yet, that quarter,
that shiny quarter 
or found,
would provide a chance
that maybe,
just this once,
the treasure would be
everything I hoped. 

© Cathy L. Mere

April from Teaching Authors celebrates Poetry Friday and Teen Read Week with a poem from her book, Girl Coming in for a Landing:  Imprinting.  

Have you noticed those orange pumpkins popping up on patios and near front doors?  At Father Goose  Charles Ghigna shares his original poem, Pumpkins on Guard.  You will think differently about those jack-o-lanterns on doorsteps.

Today Violet turns grandma poet to share poems written in senryu about her busy days, Grandma Poet.  If you like haiku, you won't want to miss this. Stop by Violet Nesdoly Poems.

Stop by Blue Window where B.J. shares her roundel, The Things I Saw.  Warning:  don't read it in the dark.

You can't miss this!  A little fun, a guessing game, some information --- all rolled into verse.  Tabatha Yeats shares Joyce Sidman's, Do Ya Know 'Em?.   Stop by The Opposite of Indifference to test what you know about inventors.

Mary Lee wakes up early to share Millay's, The Fig, at A Year of Reading.  She also tackles some big questions and misconceptions we may have about the poem.

It's a good day for Millay.  Julie, at The Drift Record, shares our second Millay poem, Recuerdo.  Join Julie as she takes us on a virtual ferry ride.

At I Think in Poems, Betsy shares an original poem about those writers that are just discovering the power of their words, Tiny Hands.

Michelle shares Carrie Clickard's Danse Macrabe at Today's Little Ditty.  Mortimer stops by too for a little interview and some poetry fun.

Mortimer also joins Janet for her Poetry Friday post at Across the Page.

Stop by Author Amok for original concrete poems "Lucky Hat" and "Blue Ribbon" in the voice of Joe, a character cut from her novel in verse. It's number 3 in her "Kill Your Darlings" series.

Laura Purdie Salas shares her original pandoum, Otter's Winter Song.  Fascinating form and song.

Tamera also joins Poetry Friday and the Children's Poetry Blog Hop.  She shares her reasons for writing children's poetry and playing with form.  She also shares an original poem from long ago, Running.

Mortimer reappears at Mainely Write where Donna tries to impress him with some rabbit poetry.  Hop on over and join the fun.

Ride on over to Carol's Corner where Carol shares a poem from Cowboy Up, a Cybils Nonfiction Nominee, Rodeo Rider.

At Reflections on the Teche Margaret shares student poetry inspired by photography.  This poetry is sure to appeal to your senses.

Steven shares an original poem called "A Clutch of Sea Turtle Eggs" at Crackles of Speech.

One can hardly ignore politics these days.  At Random Noodling Diane shares, "In the Moonlight."  Stop by for an interesting read and some great links.

Everyone has a favorite sweatshirt.  Stop by Kurious Kitty to read "Hand Me Down Sweatshirt" from Button Up!.

Stop by Kurious K's Kwotes for something to ponder.

Dog lovers, stop here!  Robyn Hood Black shares a canine poem today with Mary Oliver's new DOG SONGS.

Looking for tasty fall treats?  Stop by Jama's Alphabet Soup for a little poetry, "A Short History of the Apple" by Laux, and a must-try recipe for Baked Apple Oatmeal Pudding.

Catherine, at Reading to the Core, shares a poem by Derek Walcott, "Love After Love."  She talks a bit about mindfulness and how knowing ourselves can help us to love others.

Amys' poem makes me laugh.  You wont' want to miss it.  So many great poems' on her page.

Sorry, I just couldn't resist.  Amy LV makes me laugh with her poem Apostrophe as she sets things straight at The Poem Farm.  

At There is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town, Ruth shares two powerful lines from Emily Dickinson that will make you stop and think for a bit.  So true!

Matthew Forrest Esenwine, at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme, answers some questions from Mortimer who appears yet again on one of the Poetry Friday posts.  I must say, I learned a lot about Matthew and the writing of poetry by reading his responses.  Mortimer runs a tough interview.  There is plenty to read when you stop by; including an original apple poem by Matthew:  "The Apple Tree."

Stop by Linda Baie's blog, Teacher Dance, where she shares a story sure to lift your spirits.  Take a moment to read the Mary Oliver poem she shares, Wild Geese.  Make sure you click over to read the poem in it's entirety.  You'll be glad you did.  

Tara at A Teaching Life reminds us of the importance of slowing down a bit as she shares Robert Hedin's poem, "This Morning I Could Do a Thousand Things."  

If you've ever had a kitten you know exactly what Marileta is talking about in her original poem, "Whew."  You'll love the beautiful language used in this delightful poem of a kitten full of energy.  

Time for a little haiku.  Stop by Anastasia's blog, Poet!  Poet!, to read Sleepyhead.  I thought of the sun a little differently after reading this haiku.  

Mortimer is a busy guy.  He's visiting Tricia at Miss Rumphius Effect where she shares a poem she wishes she wrote and another she loves from long ago.  

As you go through the poems from Poetry Friday you begin to see threads.  For example, we have the obvious visits from Mortimer happening across blogs, there is also a little form challenge that appears now and again, there is the recurring thoughts of fall, and also one might notice a movement to slow down from the busy pace of life.  

Today Liz is reminding us to slow down as she shares one of her favorite Ted talks and a poem inspired by it, Cloud Watching.  

Heidi brings the busyness of school together in her original poem, The Dishwasher of My Mind, at My Juicy Little Universe.  

At Tapestry of Words, Becky shares just a taste of a poem from the poetry collection An Eyeball in My Garden.  You'll want to stop by to read her thoughts on this poetry book that had her laughing and wanting to read more.  

Do you remember spinning round and round until you collapsed in laughter nearly sick?  Well, today Joy shares her original rhyme that may have come from just spinning until poetry popped out, Little Rhymes, at Poetry for Kids Joy.  

Dia shares the Demon Snag, by 12 year old Eva, the heroine-poet from her middle grade novel, Eva of the Farm.  

It seems these days everywhere I look I see the web of a spider.  Jone weaves a web in her original poem, Orbweavers, at Check It Out.  Apparently, she has noticed this too.

At All About the Books, Janet shares one of my newer favorites:  A Full Moon Is Rising.  Seems perfect since I noticed a full moon hanging in the night sky on my way home this evening.  Stop by to read more about it.  

Myra, at Gathering Books, shares a creepy poem by Margaret Atwood, Questioning the Dead.  Surely perfect for October --- and slumber parties?  

Jen, at Teach Mentor Texts, shares her original poem Speak Up as she ponders all the would haves and should haves we consider after difficult conversations.  

Wowza!  So many great little time.  That took quite some time, but well worth it.   You'll find many treasures in this virtual poetry parade.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Just 15 minutes

Life has been busy.  It's busy for everyone.  I find when I get busy I have to let some things go, and keeping up with this blog is always one of them.  Today I'm rethinking that...

It's 7:53.

Today is Slice of Life.  In March I joined the month long challenge once again.  After March was over I decided I was going to try to continue with the Tuesday Slice of Life posts.  I did really well for awhile; writing a slice, reading at least three, and then leaving comments.  Soon I didn't have time to write and would stop by a few posts to comment.  Then I was reading a few and not leaving a comment.  Then it just seemed hard to keep up.  I've missed this weekly community so today I've decided I'm going to find time for this post.  I've decided all I need is 15 minutes.

You see, recently at a writing retreat Brenda Power has had me rethinking productivity.  She's caused me to pause and rethink writing time a bit.  I've always felt I need a large block of time to write, but maybe sometimes 15 minutes is all I really need.  She talked a lot about the power of just finding small pockets of time to write.  It was something to think about.

It wasn't long until this idea was reinforced by Ruth Ayres when she visited Central Ohio recently and spoke with Literacy Connection participants.  She gave us two different writing time periods less than 15 minutes.  It was interesting to see how much could really be accomplished in less than fifteen minutes.  I realize how many times ideas slip through my fingers because I don't take time to write.

So I've been rethinking 15 minutes.  Yes, I've been rethinking writing time, but also a lot of things I have a hard time finding enough time to do.  I've started keeping a list of things I can do in 15 minutes.  When I find myself with a few minutes I just look at the list.  I've also started trying to find 15 minutes to write quickly.

In 15 minutes I can:

  • take time for a 15 minute clean (This is my new favorite.  I just set a timer and clean as much as I can in 15's a lot less of a commitment.)
  • clean off my dresser
  • complete a quick write about an idea so it is ready for my return 
  • jot a quick poem
  • make a list 
  • go through the dreaded mail stack
  • put dishes in the dishwasher
  • fold a load of clothes
  • scan my Twitter feed
  • read a few blog posts
  • clean out my car
  • read a few Slice of Life posts
It's 8:08.  My 15 minutes are up.  

What do you find you can do in just 15 minutes?  

Monday, September 30, 2013

September's Chalkabration: Reach

Well, I guess life's been a little busy.  I was shocked to see I haven't posted since July 5th.  Yes, July 5th!?!?  I can't believe my mom hasn't called to complain about this.  Today I'm joining September's Chalkabration hosted by Betsy at Teaching Young Writers.  

My chalkabration creation:

                            Looking up.
                            Then climb.
                            You are the stars!

Deb Frazier, Betsy Hubbard,
Mary Lee Hahn and Marie Nixon
at Mellow Mushroom.
This weekend I had the privilege of spending time with Betsy Hubbard.  When I met Betsy for the first time at #nerdcampbc, I felt like I already knew her.  For some time I had been following her blogs I Think in Poems and Teaching Young Writers.  I knew her from Slice of Life, Poetry Friday, Chalkabration and Twitter too.  This weekend she made the long drive to join us at the Literacy Connection  with Ruth Ayres.

On Saturday as Ruth shared her thinking about Celebrations in Writing, the group decided to join Betsy's end of month fun and had a chalk celebration during our lunch break.  Participants went out into the front of the school to leave chalk poems and messages for students as they arrive on Monday.  This was the perfect complement to Ruth's message of joyous celebrations and a great ending to fabulously fun weekend of learning and conversation.  

Friday, July 5, 2013

Poetry Friday: Freedom (and mood)

Today's post is part of Poetry Friday hosted by Keri at Keri Recommends.  Stop by today's host blog for more poetry links.

As part of yesterday's #teacherswrite events, guest author, Jenny Meyerhoff, talked about mood.  The quick write exercise was to see a room through the eyes of a character feeling a particular way.  

I am discovering that, though I am very much a character reader, I am not much of a character writer. She reminded us, "When the writer isn’t deliberate about mood, the reader is often left emotionally cold." Jenny's comments about mood did apply to some of writing I dabble in here and there.  

I really wondered about mood in poetry.  It seems like an important piece.  One I rarely think intentionally about; so I decided to try it out a bit in two poems about freedom (yes, a little cliche since yesterday was the fourth).

Of course, I didn't really accomplish mood so more practice is ahead.  It seems I did manage two different perspectives.  Here are two original works in progress:    


An illusion
granted only to those
with power,
A line 
not made to cross.
A path
moving only in one direction.
and sold
in America.


To wake
To be
To choose 
To go
To vote
To know
To learn
To grow
To read
To speak

© Cathy L. Mere

Friday, June 28, 2013

Winter Wish: Poetry Friday

Don't worry, I'm not wishing for winter.  I'm not sure I will ever wish for winter.  We went to the Columbus Zoo yesterday and saw the moose.  The moose looked a little sad and as I researched I realized moose really do not like heat.  They don't like temperatures above 57 degrees.  I'm guessing Ohio summers are as pleasant to them as Ohio winters are to me.  So today's original poem is dedicated to the moose as they struggle through these sizzling days.  

Thanks to Amy Ludwig-VanDerwater at The Poem Farm for hosting today's event.  Stop by for more Poetry Friday fun --- and try not to get lost on Amy's amazing treasure of a site.  

Winter Wish
The sun beats down
I hide under this tree
Wanting to remove
My heavy coat
Or wade in a deep cool pond
Instead I rest
For the cold days of winter

I miss snow
Weeks of winter white 
My hooves are snowshoes
My lanky legs keep me moving
In the deepest of snow storms
The cold is comforting
The extra fat I have stored
Cushioning my body

I miss my wintery world
But it is summer
Heavy heat surrounds me
Even in the shade
I do not move
Do not want to eat
There is nothing to do
But wait
Wait for winter.

© Cathy L. Mere

About the Process
Those of you following my writer's notebook dilemma know I am trying a few digital notebooks.  I'm starting to really like Noteshelf.  Here is some of the playing I did on Noteshelf before posting this poem.  

At first I thought I'd be writing about the fact
that none of the moose had antlers, but as I
researched something else caught my attention.

So Noteshelf doesn't help my handwriting.
My apologies.  However, it did let me play
with words by changing colors before
publishing today's poem.  

More About Moose
I enjoy playing with nonfiction poetry.  There's something about a little bit of research and a little bit of writing that I find interesting.  Here are a few sites I used to learn more about moose:

Ranger Rick:  Moose (love the PDF magazine format)
Zoo Borns:  Orphaned Moose Calves Know How to Kiss (Columbus Zoo 2011 story of moose)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Notebooks: Bound or Digital? That is the Question

Today's piece is part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted on Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers.  Thanks Stacey and Ruth

Yesterday was the first day of Teachers Write hosted at Kate Messner's blog.  I was excited to see many of the participants from Slice of Life joining this writing event.  This is my first year to participate and I'm looking forward to continuing to build my writing community.  Today's post is a reflection of yesterday's conversation --- and a continued problem for me.  I hope you can help.  

Notebooks:  The Beginning
It's been a little over ten years now since I trained to work as a literacy coach in my district.  I often look back at that time, not just as training to be a literacy leader, but also a training in life.  I learned many life lessons along the way and changed the way I do so many things.  Our trainer at the time, Max Brand, taught me perhaps the most important lesson:  not to TEACH literacy, but to LIVE literacy.  

Along the journey I picked up a notebook and began to write.  It was truly the best time for me to pick up a notebook as my grandfather had just passed away.  I was devastated, but somehow I found comfort in tracing back through the stories we shared and recording snippets in my notebook.  Somehow I found happiness among the sorrow as I remembered working in his workshop, the ways he'd make my grandma crazy, his family slideshow presentations, his myriad of life lectures, and his wonderful way with people.  

Picking up a notebook in these days wasn't the first time I had written.  I had notebooks here and there along life, but they hadn't amounted to much.  Probably my best notebooks were poetry notebooks filled with poetry I had written in my younger days.  It was, however, the first time I had really committed to keeping up with a notebook.  For years I recorded moments in life that made me pause:  a memory from long ago (yes, there are a lot of grandparent stories), funny things my children said or did, poetry, phrases, ideas, lines from books I read, webs of ideas, conversations I overheard (yes, creepy I know --- but, admit it, you do it too), articles that caught my attention.  My notebook was a messy catch-all for all I was noticing.  

Life got busy every now and then, causing me to move away from my notebook, but I always came back. A few years ago, I found tech.  Oh, tech.  Yes, it changed my thinking yet again, but it took me away from my notebook.  I was more likely to find a device in my hand than a notebook.  I've written about this dilemma before.  Yesterday, I read Kate's post about notebook, and I was catapulted right back to, perhaps, my greatest writing challenge:  capturing ideas.

Why Paper?
My biggest goal for this writing challenge is to find an effective way for me to capture ideas yet again.  Honestly, when participating in Slice of Life over half of my ideas came from revisiting my notebook (other half were from that day events --- daily writing will do that to you).  There's something to be said for physically writing an idea.  For some reason, ideas I've written by hand feel like they stay with me longer; I can locate them in a snap.  Hand writing an idea makes it easier to grow and yet keep a trail.  In my notebook I can easily cross out words, list possibilities off to the side, highlight favorite phrases, draw pictures to help me think.  However, I'm not the neatest person in the world and even I sometimes I have difficulty reading my quick thoughts.

Why Tech?
Yet, ideas come in the craziest places and my notebook is too big to lug around.  For a year or so I carried a smaller notebook with the intent of moving ideas into my notebook, but they never got moved.  Small notebooks, in my world, are easily forgotten.  What to do with these ideas that hit me as we ride the motorcycle through the hills, as I sit in coffee shops, when I'm waiting on a game to start?  Tech.  Using tech to record ideas allows me to easily include pictures that have started my thinking.  It allows me to easily link information connected to my idea.  With tech, I can grow ideas in a different way.   With tech I can voice record, add images, type, list, and so much more.  I've written ideas on several different apps only to, as Kate said, forget I have them until I stumble upon them one day.  Another concern with going digital is accessibility, will I always be able to return to the pages?  (See apps I will be considering here:  Writer's Notebooks.  Going Digital)  

My Goals
March's Slice of Life Challenge followed by May's Poetry Challenge have really helped me to get back into the habit of writing.  For this reason, I think I am going to make all of my goals about getting ready to write.  I'm going to make all of my goals about finding a system that works to capture ideas.  Here are my goals for this event:

  1. Find THE App!:  My first goal is to find an app that works for capturing ideas.  I need something that can have images, (links and voice would be a plus), tags, writing/drawing capabilities, can be linked (synced would be best) with Evernote (Evernote ALMOST WORKS, but it doesn't feel "journal-like" enough and it doesn't have drawing capabilities).  
  2. Capture at Least One Idea a Day:  During the summer it is easier to find time to write. I usually begin my day writing, but I'm not always as good about taking time to write down ideas and things I notice.  I'm going to really work on this side of my writing.
  3. Figure Out the Role of My Notebook:  Is there a point where I want to move ideas into my notebook?  Are there certain types of writing that work best with a notebook (I'm wondering about poetry here)?  
  4. Organize:  I really need to figure out some way to organize, color code, prioritize --- do something with all of this thinking.  
More About Notebooks
Have you seen Taylor Swifts commercial at the movie theaters.  I honestly can't even tell you what product she's endorsing (sad for advertisers), but I'm fascinated with her notebook.  Have you seen the way she is has it coded?  I think you need to see it so I looked it up (now I know, Diet Coke). 

Here are some of my favorite sites/posts about notebooks:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Poetry Friday: Lily Dance

Today I join the Poetry Friday fun with this poem original poem about lilies.  Carol Wilcox is hosting today and has some great poetry books waiting for you there.  Stop by Carol's Corner ( for more poetry fun.    

Lily Dance

as the tulip and iris bloom,
you wait
staying close to the ground
for warmth.

It's hard to resist
the sun,
calling you to play.
You reach
your ladder-like leaves,
connecting ground and sky.

The warmer days
call you out,
you climb,
rising above others watching.
You ascend higher,
hoping for a better view.

you can see her,
orange and hot
in the deep blue sky.
You burst like a firework
in stunning color.

you bring color
to the green all around,
in your magical stance.
Lily radiating from the earth,
Sun singing from the sky.

© Cathy L. Mere

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Slice of Life: Why I Stay

Today's piece is part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted on Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers.  Thanks Stacey and Ruth.  It is written in response to the numerous "I quit" letters written by educators that float around the internet.  

A few months ago our son, at that time a business major with nearly two years of business classes completed, came to us with news. I could tell he was worried and nervous as he sat us down to talk. My husband and I listened intently as our son explained his reasons for wanting to switch his major to education. Jeff and I, both educators, looked at each other and smiled. I think we both had known this day would come eventually.

John's decision made me think carefully. It is one thing to endure the current stresses in public education, yet quite another to envision your child (another one of your children) in that situation. The long hours, the continued attacks by politicians, the enormous amounts of mandated testing, the goal to educate for the 21st century while we assess in 20th century ways, the continued push to do more with much less, all weigh heavy on educators. The push for profit in education from companies like Pearson, the rise of vouchers, and the current trend to tie testing to teacher evaluations and pay, have undermined public education. External stresses can divert attention from teaching students, meeting the needs of a diverse group of learners, and being passionate about the profession we all proudly joined.

Yesterday when another resignation letter was being passed around the internet I sighed. More and more you see letters from teachers posted to the internet about their reasons for resignation. In these letters one detects a feeling of powerlessness or a refusal to continue to do what is felt as not in the best interest of children. Many factors are out of teachers' hands. Kids come to school unfed. Families go through crises that make learning hard for children. Some neighborhoods are not safe. Learners need a variety of types of support. Children sometimes have needs beyond a good test score.  Educators feel they are losing the ability to make decisions in their classrooms. All of these made me think of my son's decision and the reasons why I stay.

When John told us he was changing his major to education, we were happy for him. Jeff and I both love what we do, and John has seen that. Like us, he has enjoyed his work at a local summer camp and in my district's latchkey program. I see how much he likes working with children and how good he is in that work. Like John, I enjoy the time I spend teaching children. It is the first, and most important, reason I stay. I often wonder, "How many people get up in the morning excited to go to work?". I do. Each day I look forward to working alongside the students in my classroom. I enjoy their stories, marvel at their curiosity, laugh at their jokes, and celebrate their successes. I stay for the children.

I stay because I am passionate about learning. First and foremost, I am a learner. The world is a big place, and it seems there is always something to learn. I've spent years reading, studying, observing, reflecting to improve my ability to help others learn. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing others accomplish goals. I can't explain to you the feeling that comes from witnessing a student as they realize they can read. There are no words for observing a student discover something new. It is a privilege to watch children develop as citizens, readers, writers, scientists, and mathematicians. It is an honor to observe as they wonder, question, search, seek, create, solve, discuss, and collaborate.

I stay to make things better. I am glad I am not a student right now. The requirements and expectations sometimes leave little time for personal reading, writing, and learning. The consistent message that they are scores and numbers instead of journeyers on life's learning path must make it challenging for many. The constant push on education from politicians who seem to struggle doing their own job can be frustrating, but running doesn't fix things. We need a variety of voices working toward a common goal: what's best for children. We need new teachers sharing what they see. We need experienced teachers looking through a longer lens to speak up. We need to speak up and speak out to advocate for the children we teach.

I stay to share the real story of education and the positive things that go on each day. Last night I participated in an uplifting conversation on Twitter (#tlap) sharing ways to be passionate and immersed in the work we do. It was amazing to be a part of a discussion among educators, many on break, sharing their thoughts. You can find this passion all over the internet.  As I move from blog to blog, I'm continually reminded of the many ways educators work to create learning environments that allow children to have ownership in their learning. Constantly, I hear school hasn't changed and, in some ways, I suppose this argument could be made. There is always room for improvement. However in our school, and many elementary schools, learning is very different than when I went to school: expectations are higher, children have more choice, work is more authentic, collaboration and conversation happen across the day, technology has taken learning beyond classroom walls and given students a voice. Classrooms are places to explore and create.  I feel strongly it is our job as educators to spread the word about the learning taking place in our classrooms. It is our job to find ways to show student progress in ways beyond standard assessments. Image is up to us.

I stay to retain an active voice and advocate for public education. This quote by Kofi Annan says it best, "Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy, and sustainable human development." I'm very concerned that a movement toward standardized testing, school vouchers, charter schools, and virtual academies are part of a politically based movement to undermine public education. I believe strongly that education is a human right; one that is essential for the future success of our country. Children, no matter their socioeconomic status, have a right to a quality education.  We must advocate for equal opportunities in education and the funding to support learning for all.

I stay because I have great respect for our profession. For this reason, I am proud of my son's decision. He, and his older sister, are what our profession needs to continue to move forward and to advocate for what is best for children.  In Teach Like a Pirate, David Burgess reminds us, "At some point in your career you have to decide if you care more about teaching to tests or teaching kids.  My decision was made a long time ago.  I teach kids."  So I've renewed my professional memberships, purchased my summer professional reading, scheduled summer classes, and continue to follow the conversations on blogs and Twitter because I am staying.

Why do you stay?  Please comment below.

Slice of Life: Today They March 24 of 31

For the month of March, I'll be writing with the  Slice of Life  community. Disclaimer: I'll be writing every day so the writing ...