Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Reason #627 Why I Love Librarians.

About a week ago I attended a Championship Tailgate event... at my library! It's an annual event hosted by Katie Jane Morris of Hoover Library in which she speed-book-talks her favorite titles from the previous year.

I immediately put on request about twenty titles I hadn't already read, and also shared with Katie Jane some additional titles that made my list. And then yesterday, when I opened one of the books, CATCHING A STORYFISH by Janice N. Harrington (WordSong, 2016), this is what I found:


Note says: I hope you love this one! Katie Jane

Isn't that awesome? And. I love the book! It's about a girl who loves her grandfather and talktalktalks... until she moves to a new place and kids tease her about her (Alabama) accent. It's a book of friendship and family and love and fishing and finding our power through story. And it's all poems. Yay! It reminds me of WORD WITH WINGS by Nikki Grimes and GONE FISHING:A NOVEL IN VERSE by Tamara Will Wissinger.

Here is a poem from the book I am happy to share with you:

FISHING LESSON #7
by Janice N. Harrington, from CATCHING A STORYFISH

Bait your hook with patience,
if you want to catch a fish.

Bait your hook with be still,
be quiet, be slow.

Bait your hook with mosquito-buzzing,
with dragonfly-darts and frog-plops.

Bait your hook with shadows,
with a crow's awk-awk and with sunlight.

Bait your hook with enough wind
to cool the heat but not too much.

Bait your hook with your grandpa's
steady breath and the way he smiles at you.

But mostly, bait your hook with listening, with waiting,
with low waves bumping against the bank.



Friday, January 13, 2017

#ReadYourWorld with HERE WE GO: A Poetry Friday Power Book by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday on this fabulous Friday the 13th! (Unlucky? I think NOT.) Be sure to visit Keri at Keri Recommends for Roundup. Also, shout-out to our baby boy Eric, who turns 17 today!

For the past several years, it has been my privilege to be a participating blogger in Multicultural Children’s Book Day, now it its fourth year!


This year the celebration will be all over the blogosphere January 27. You will find my review below of HERE WE GO, a multicultural book provided by two of the most passionate and generous poetry people I know: Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell of Pomelo Books. HERE WE GO is also a Children's Book Council "Hot Off the Press” selection for January 2017. Woohoo! Win your own copy below! But first, some more information about this event!

Multicultural Children's Book Day was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. 

Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
MCBD Links to remember:
MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta
Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/


Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i
------------------------------
Don't you love all those diverse faces on the cover?! And that's just the beginning... the art continues throughout the interior as well. It's perfect for the book!

Like its predecessor YOU JUST WAIT, this is an interactive poetry book that includes a bunch of original poems by Janet Wong as well as a selection of "anchor" poems, many of which appear in previous books in the Poetry Friday Anthology series.

Anchor poems in HERE YOU GO are courtesy of some Poetry Friday friends, and other wonderful poets, including (in order of appearance) Naomi Shihab Nye, David Bowles, Carole Boston Weatherford, Kate Coombs, Margaret Simon, Eileen Spinelli, Ibtisam Barakat, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Joseph Bruchac, Renee M. LaTulippe, David L. Harrison and Robyn Hood Black.

HERE WE GO focuses on activism and how we can change our world. Readers meet four characters: David, Ameera, Jack and Jenna -- who are struggling with some timely issues, like being an immigrant; practicing a minority religion (Muslim); identity; what makes a family; what can we DO to make our world better? Each PowerPack provides a complete lesson -- a way into the material, poems to share, and an invitation to create one's own poem. The book is also a writing notebook, with space for young writers to include their responses.

And now, here's Janet Wong to answer a few questions for us!

IL: Welcome Janet! How did this book come to be?

JW: When Sylvia and I met together at NCTE in mid-November, we were despondent over the election. As bad as we felt, though, we knew that there were vulnerable children who felt even worse—and we wanted to create a book that would offer comfort and inspiration to them. We hope that HERE WE GO accomplishes this. We decided not to make explicit references to the election and instead to focus broadly on empathy, unity, and social change (in this case, fighting hunger).
IL: Wow, that's a book with a BIG idea! Did you encounter any difficulties or challenges?

JW: For me, a big challenge—but something that I wanted to do—was to put a “Trump supporter” in there. Jack’s dad never is described as a Trump supporter, but—pssst! you heard it here!—he is! I wanted to do this because I believe that Trump supporters were lumped together and dismissed as being all the same—and they’re not. We all have a friend, acquaintance, or family member who voted differently than we did; now is the time to get over it. In order for this country to move forward, I think we need to stop labeling each other as much as we do, and simply to come together as people. That’s what I’d like kids to take away from this book perhaps more than anything. Part of getting over it might require stepping into that person’s shoes or, as Naomi Shihab Nye describes in her poem “Blue Bucket” (the opening poem of the book, found below -- keep reading!), to carry "someone else’s bucket a while.”

IL: What are your hopes for the book?

JW: That HERE WE GO will find its way into the hands of 3rd graders who have been confused or fearful since the election and that it will give them comfort and security to read about kids like themselves: Muslim kids like Ameera, grandkids of immigrants like David, young feminists like Jenna. I also hope that teachers will read this book aloud to classrooms that include kids from conservative families; and when they hear this book, they might start to understand that what they're hearing at home isn’t the only way of thinking. And if my poem “Fake News” gets us ALL thinking more critically, what a much better place this will be!

Thank you, Janet! I think many of us have these same hopes for our children. Congratulations on the new book... and now let's take a peek inside!

The PowerPack I'd like to share with all of you today is the one that begins the book.
This spread introduces the pack!
 THEN we get this wonderfully thoughtful page to help open us up to find our poems... (including my answers to the "easy" ones. ;)
 JUST IMAGINE
Imagine if the world were a little different or you were a little different. What would that be like? Choose one of the following questions and draw or doodle your response on the opposite page.

1. If you lived in a country at war, what would your life be like?
(my answer: I just wrote a whole middle grade novel about this! And I've also just written a series of poems set in Aleppo... bombs, dust, dead bodies, blood, missing parents, demolished buildings, trash everywhere, no bread, powdered milk, no electricity... it's pretty horrifying, and my heart breaks for those actually living it.)

2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would that be?

3. If you could stay home and play all day, what would you choose to do?
(my answer: read! quilt! write poems! play cello! take a walk! cook - and EAT- good food!)

4. If you were the leader of your country, what one thing would you like to change?

5. If you didn't have a home, what would your life be like?
(my answer: there are quite a few books out lately about refugees. See this post.)

6. If you could change one thing about your family, what would that be?

7. If the whole world were listening, what would you like to say?
(my answer: Thank you. I love you. Forgive me. I forgive you.)
from BLUE BUCKET
by Naomi Shihab Nye

What if, instead of war,
we shared our buckets
of wind and worry?
Tell me the story 
you carry there,
steeping in old pain
and future hope,
rich with fragrant
savory spices,
ginger, turmeric,
tarragon, find me
a spoon in one
of your pockets,
even if we don't
 speak the same language...

maybe
 you hold my bucket
a while, see what
the handle feels like,
and I hold yours,
and maybe both buckets
are empty and
we trade them forever...
-----------------
Isn't that lovely? And here is the RESPONSE POEM:

JENNA
IN OUR WRITING JOURNAL

In our writing journal this week
we are supposed to ask,
What if?

It can be something silly, like
What if
I could stay home and play all day?

Or something serious, like
What if 
I didn't even have a home?

Most kids are choosing a fun subject
and funny answers,
but I feel like taking a chance

and asking a hard question
even if I might not like my answer,
even if I might not have any answer at all.
- Janet Wong



 Ameera
WHAT IF

What if -
instead of
this country and that country,
this state and that state,
these people and those people,
it was just
us here and us there?

What if?
- Janet Wong
----------
I really love how accessible and timely this book is! I also love how it invites questions and doesn't demand answers. This is what it means to be a poet... to be open to the world, to play with words and to live in the questions. I hope you will include it in your reading and writing practice... also, toward the end of the book there are some great ideas for practical ways kids can start changing the world TODAY.

Maggie
If you would like to win a copy of this book, Pomelo Books has generously donated FIVE copies to giveaway! Simply leave a comment by 11:59 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2017 answering one of the above JUST IMAGINE questions, and our cat Maggie will select the winners!
Happy day - go forth and #ReadYourWorld!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Movie Monday: LA LA LAND

Last night while La La Land was winning a record 7 Golden Globes, we were sitting in the theater watching it.

Sunday night is not our usual date night, but this past weekend the city of Birmingham was incapacitated by snow and ice for about 48 hours, so... we missed Saturday night, and let me tell you, I was going CRAZY! I was so, so happy to get out of the house.

And you know, I loved the movie. LOVED it. I really cannot think of a movie that has made me so happy -- and broken my heart -- as this one. It's magical and beautiful and inspiring. It about dreams and hope and always, always LOVE. And did I mention it's magical and beautiful? In some ways it's old-fashioned, and it reminded me of MARY POPPINS. Plus I want all Mia's (Emma Stone) dresses. :) That whole segment at the end -- which I won't spoil for those who haven't seen it yet -- is so very perfect (even though it broke my heart). And the music! Great lyrics and melodies, throw in some jazz, and WOW. I can't think of a single thing I'd change about this movie. I can't wait to see it again. DON'T MISS.


Friday, January 6, 2017

GUESS WHO, HAIKU by Deanna Caswell

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Linda who wrote some amazing haiku during December at TeacherDance for our very first Roundup of 2017. Wow!

I am at a school visit today talking books and writing with elementary students, which is a wonderful way to spend a Friday! But I did want to share a link to a post I wrote earlier this week over at Smack Dab in the Middle entitled One Hope for Writers.

And click here to read about my 2017 One Little Word.

Also, other good news: FRESH DELICIOUS was selected as a Cybils finalist for poetry along with some other great titles:
Photo collage created and shared
on Twitter by Sylvia Vardell!


When I realized I'd read all but two, I logged in to put a hold on those books at my library.  Interesting thing: our library system has just over 20 libraries, and there were at least a dozen copies of GUESS WHO, HAIKU by Deanna Caswell, illus. by Bob Shea (Abrams Appleseed) in the system! Yay for poetry!

This is an adorable, accessible book, perfect for our youngest listeners. I like how it's interactive -- not just haiku, but a guess who? game. Poetry for wee ones should be fun, and this book is! And who doesn't love farm animals?

I like this one, offered up by the cow:

"flower visitors
busy buzzing in the field
black and yellow stripes

Can you guess who from her haiku?
----
A bee!"
- Deanna Caswell

Something in the author's note caught my eye: "Try covering the middle line of other haiku in this book." Hmmm... I will try this with other haiku as well.

Wishing everyone a lovely day and weekend. xo






Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 One Little Word

Hello! Today marks our first Spiritual Journey Thursday of 2017, hosted by Carol at Beyond Literacy Link. Thank you, Carol! We'll all be posting about our One Little Word. Want to sign up to host? We still have one slot left!

This year marks my 10th year of practicing One Little Word. (!) It's been such an enriching experience that I really can't imagine NOT choosing one little word to guide and inspire my year.

Here are the words I've selected in the past:

--> 2016 delight 

For 2017, the word I've selected is ABUNDANCE.


-->
"Abundance is not a state of finances or wealth, it is a state of inner health. Wherever there is joy, appreciation, gratitude, giving, caring, creativity, vision, inspiration, love, patience and playfulness, there is abundance." - unknown

The word makes me think of the sky or the ocean, how there is enough for everyone. It makes me think of love and forgiveness -- also enough for everyone. It pulls me away from thoughts of comparison or feelings of lack -- I am enough. I am exactly where I am meant to be.


This year I want to love from a place of abundance, and write from a place of abundance. There are more than enough words and ideas for everyone! I want to focus on ways I can create abundance. Instead of asking, what can I get out this experience? (which has many times been the way I've decided whether to do this thing or that thing), I want to focus on what can I give?

Consider this quote from Lao Tzu:



"The sage never tries to store things up. The more he does for others, the more he has. The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance."

I think I've done a lot of "storing up" in my life. Choosing this word makes me want to let go of things -- things in my basement and closet, mementos, even photographs. Somehow I think abundance is related to simplicity. In the way that a flower only takes the water it needs. And the ant carries only the amount of food it can eat. Having more, storing up is a byproduct of fear -- fear of future loss.

And so it seems abundance is also a way to live in the present, to be fully present in one's own life. And the time to give is always, always NOW.
Visit Life & Style on Etsy!

Thank you for reading... I'm excited to see where this word takes me! Please share your thoughts below!



Monday, January 2, 2017

Movie Monday: FENCES

I love plays. I don't always love movies adaptation of plays. And I didn't love this one, but I did like it enough to blog about it.

Based on August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize winning FENCES, the movie version of FENCES stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Their performances are great. But the movie felt flat? I don't know, it just didn't get me in the gut, I felt too much like an observer. The movie felt too long. The dialogue was so so powerful in places, and how powerful a metaphor is a fence? So. Many. Fences. Fences to separate, fences to trap... fences that can't be breached, and fences that are breached. Unfinished fences. Lives lived between the slats. And on and on.

Rich stuff. I just wish I'd felt more a part of it.

Wonder if either of these actors will get Oscar noms?? Denzel directed this one as well... We'll see Tuesday, January 24, 2017!

Also, coming Thursday: my 2017 One Little Word!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Letter to 2017

Dear 2017,

Soon you'll be here. The news is full of you today, and I can't drive anywhere without passing a fireworks stand flashing your name in neon lights. I do hope your final hours of travel are smooth and free of blizzards or other storms.

Please accept my regrets about the party this evening. It will certainly be full of good cheer and smiling faces! I look forward to welcoming you in the morning. We can share a cup of tea, then walk the trail together. Enjoy the quiet.

I need you to know right up front that I want nothing from you. I've made no resolutions. I have no grand plans, just the everyday ones: to love this world in the best ways that I can. I simply want to share the moments, to exist together. To laugh and know beauty and be grateful. Who knows what magic will happen? Your predecessors have taught me that miracles are everywhere, that the unexpected things are often the best things. All I need to do is to be open to them.

I look forward to our journey together. I know it will include new adventures and new words nesting on white paper. Anything can happen – and will! I'm ready.

Love,

Irene

Friday, December 30, 2016

Selected Poems from ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME

Hello and Happy last Poetry Friday of 2016! Be sure to visit Donna, my Winter Poem Swap partner!, at Mainely Write for Roundup.

ETA: Why/how has this posted a day early... and says "Friday" on the header when it is but Thursday?! O Mystery!

I'm in with a few poems from the delightful ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME, edited by Kenn Nesbitt, illus. by Christoph Niemann, brought to us by Little, Brown & Co.

I love this book. So often these big anthologies are wildly uneven -- a shining poem here, a meh poem there. And sometimes, when there are so many poems, they just kind of all run together ?? (This could be just me.)

What's great about ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME is that pretty much wherever you crack open the book you will find something surprising, something delightful. And many of the poems are short, which is good. And the illustrations really add to the fun of the book -- some poems are presented sideways, or upside-down. On one spread a lion turns into a bed! This is good book-making. Thank you to all involved! It reminds me of those Shel Silverstein volumes I so treasured as a child. This book, I think, will be enjoyed for many years to come.

And now for a few poems from the book that are calling to me this morning (so hard to choose! so hard to choose!):

A Hard Rain
by Greg Pincus

Tonight the rain is falling hard.
It's washed the colors from the yard.
It's scrubbed the paint right off our house.
It's rinsed the fur right off a mouse.
The rain's turned fields to huge mud pies.
It's cleaned the stars up in the skies.
Rivers run and try to hide.
Tonight I think I'll stay inside.
--------------
I love this page in the book! The poem is presented sideways, and the page is mostly black. Delightful! Side note: my son Eric LOVES rain! He always goes OUTSIDE when it's raining to write songs and take pictures and ponder life. Fun.

Btw: Greg's newest middle grade novel THE HOMEWORK STRIKE (coming in January) is a JLG selection! Congrats, Greg!

Bedtime on 7th Avenue
by Ron Koertge

Big old dog sighs and lies down.
Spider closes her many eyes.

In the vacant lot, weeds lean against
each other.

Even graffiti opens its loud neon mouth
and yawns.
-----------------------
Can't you just see those (unexpected!) weeds leaning against each other? And the "loud neon mouth" -- wonderful! (Want to know Ron's secret to a long life? Click Ron's name above.)
-----------------------

Rolling down the Hill
by April Halprin Wayland

Sky,

     grass,

             sky,
 
                    grass,

                               Grandma,

                                            grass,

                                                        grass.

---------------
This poem is so April! It's zany and fun and makes me smile every time I read it! (I suspect April wrote this poem after actually having the experience in the poem!)
---------------


Wild Flowers
by Bob Raczka

Our dandelions
are tame, but their color is
a loud yellow roar.

------------------
Perfect example of a short, vivid poem... and the illustration is adorable! ROAR! Also check out Bob's latest WET CEMENT, which has earned a whole constellation of starred reviews!
------------------

Sky Story
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Who has the keys
to the moon,
to the moon...
who has the keys
to the moon?
Not me,
said the owl,
said the owl;
no keys.
Not me,
said the mouse
as he nibbled his cheese.
Not me,
said the bee,
Nor I, said the fly.
Only I, said the sky.
Only I.
------------------
This poem is magical! I love all the animals in it, the repetition, the rhyme... and the "unexpected inevitable" at the end: of course the sky is the only one with the keys to the moon. Of course! If you haven't checked it out yet, be sure to read Rebecca's THE KNOWING BOOK, which I adore! (Look up!)
------------------

Shelter

Such a slim space you're tucked into,
Butterfly:
feet
stuck to
the underside
of this dripping leaf,
wings shut tight like a 
flat gray purse holding
ribbons of color.

----------------------
Can you see the cocoon?? Beautiful example of how language need not be compromised in a shape poem. (Shape is just one tool -- don't forget language!) The cocoon does look like a gray purse, doesn't it? And speaking of stars... weren't we? Joyce's new BEFORE MORNING has also received a lot of shiny!
----------------------

November Volcano

November volcano
exploding 
a lava of leaves

--------------------
Another short, powerful poem! I am completely enamored of "lava" in this poem. And the illustration! Joy! For more poetic goodness, check out #haikuforhealing on Twitter, which features many wonderful poems, including a slew of them by Heidi!
--------------------

and finally.....

Good-Night Poem

Now the long day
feels complete.

Tuck your feet
between clean sheets.

Tuck your body
into bed.

Tuck sweet dreams
into your head.

Tuck your covers
snug and tight.

Tuck the good
into the night.

-----------------------
I love how the poem and illustration work together on this page... the poem is tucked into the curve of the moon! And how delightful is that last stanza?!

Thanks so much for reading... support poetry and poets and have fun doing it: get this book!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Winter Poem Swap "DELIGHT" by Donna Smith

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Buffy's Blog for Roundup.

Wow, can it really be Christmas Eve tomorrow? I feel like I have been Christmas-ing for a good month, maybe more. My mailbox has indeed been a happy place! I was thrilled to receive a penguin-y package from Donna Smith. Among other things, it included a handmade quilted penguin ornament! Donna is a true Renaissance woman. She does everything! And of course there was a poem -- titled after my 2016 One Little Word.


Can you see the penguins
hiding in this graphic?? Love!
DELIGHT
by Donna Smith

Delight greeting daybreak,
Delight meeting noon;
Delight in the evening
With barred owl's croon.

Delight in the heavens,
Delight in each star,
Delight in the twinkling
Winks from afar.

Delight in the quiet,
Delight in the noise;
Delight may be found in
The humblest of joys.

Round pebbles to ponder,
Sweet laughter, warm breeze,
Tall mouuntains to wander
Each day that you seize.

Delight in each moment
Dissolving in air,
But hold some as memories
When moments are rare.

Though we may not see as
Delight moves along;
It whispers to others
Who hear your heart's song.

Delight taken in is
A gift to bestow.
Precious seeds of delight
Delightedly sow!

If ever you feel that
There's no more Delight,
Remember that morning
Still dawns with new light.

Delights's the beginning,
Don't look for its end,
For all who delight have
Embraced the soul's friend.

May delight in your heart
Flow freely and sweet
So others will see it
And bless all you meet.
--------------------
Thank you, Donna! And thank you Tabatha, who facilitates such wonder and joy in our lives. I'm so grateful!

And now, a few links for you:

On Twitter -- #haikuforhealing and #commonplacemarvels - Wow! Some amazing poems from some amazing poets. JOY.

an original poem for the Winter Solstice

Reflections on my 2016 One Little Word "Delight" + a sign up for Spiritual Journey FIRST Thursday (just two slots left!)

A post about why bookmarks are important.

My Secret Santa mystery: solved!

My son Eric has a magical, new instrumental song called "Four Years," about his four years of school at Alabama School of Fine Arts. Give yourself a gift and listen!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Poem for the Winter Solstice

Tonight's the night! Birmingham friends, I hope you'll join me for SHINE BRIGHT, a poetry reading and open mic in celebration of the winter solstice.

Here is the poem I will be reading:


Winter Solstice

No more hurry
hurry.

Time now for firelight
and dreaming,

for church bells
mingling

with the cold,
quiet sunlight.

And somewhere
deep

inside of you

a kernel of courage
unfurling --

each day, more light.

- Irene Latham
-------------------

I can't wait to hear what others will be sharing! What poem would YOU share on the topic of "winter" or "light" ?

And, here, just for fun, is the Little Bear "Winter Solstice" episode.  Lanterns and snow angels... and a song! (The night is cold, the snow is cold, Grandmother loves winter, and I do, too!) We loved watching this when the kids were small. :)

Monday, December 19, 2016

For the Love of Bookmarks

Over the weekend, in between wrapping gifts and other assorted holiday fun, I decided to do a little tidying up in my closet. One of the things I found was a small box of things from my childhood, including a jewelry box, my birth announcement and some trinkets my father brought home to me from his travels (when I was a child).

But the most interesting thing was the stash of bookmarks!

Now, what kid, besides an avid reader, would keep her childhood bookmarks?! Here they are:


I found so many of my favorite things: handmade bookmarks! bookmarks with quotes! Animal bookmarks! Bookmarks from places I've traveled (Cherokee, NC)! And some of them had writing on the back:


I discovered one was a gift from my mother. Another contained the name of one of my best friends at William Pitcher Jr. High in Covington, LA. One I gifted to my parents and instructed them to "USE IT FOR A VERY SPECIAL BOOK." (I don't know how I wound up with the bookmark after I'd given it to them... I can only surmise that I needed it more than they did!)

So I added these bookmarks to my nightstand drawer o' bookmarks. Using them makes me feel connected with a younger me. And it's validating, you know? I have always always been a reader. So many of the things that are important to me now were important to me then. I'm still me!

Other weekend highlights: Birmingham Cello Project Christmas concert!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Reflections on 2016 One Little Word

Hello, and welcome! I'm delighted to host a roundup today for Spiritual Journey Thursday.

What is Spiritual Journey Thursday? Well, it was a tradition started by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning, as a weekly space to explore aspects of our spiritual lives. Whatever your religion, or lack of religion, you are welcome! We honor all voices and beliefs here.

The first few months of 2016 we discussed each person's One Little Word. These posts included reflections on why the word was selected, and what that word means in our lives. I found these posts so nourishing and enriching! And then things kind of fell apart when Holly let us all know that she was being called in other directions and needed to step away for a while. Several of us discussed ways to revive the practice, and now, after talking with Holly (who graciously passed the torch to me) and tweeting with others, I think we have a plan for 2017!

Instead of weekly posts, we will be scaling back to once a month:
Spiritual Journey FIRST Thursday!

We'll run the roundups the way we do Poetry Friday, with people signing up to host the roundup. Hosts will choose their own topic -- and we will all write on it. This can be your One Little Word, or something else. The only catch is this: I will need to know topic within the next couple of weeks (so I can create a schedule proper and share before the first Spiritual Journey First Thursday of 2017)!

So, here are the dates. Please let me know in comments which date you would like to host, and what topic you want us all to write about!

January 5 - Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink (One Word to Guide our Journey 2017)
February 2 - Leigh Anne at Turn  (Rise)
March 2 - Doraine at Dori Reads (her OLW - tba!)
April 6 - Violet at Violet Nesdoly (New Life/Spring/Easter)
May 4 - Donna at Mainely Write
June 1 - Margaret at Reflections on the Teche (Finding Joy)
July 6 -  Pat at Writer on a Horse (Getting Out of Comfort Zone)
August 3 - Julianne (Beginnings)
September 7 - Ramona at Pleasures from the Page (her OLW - tba!)
October 5 - Maya at Move Over ADHD - Small Steps Lead to Big Change
November 2 - Karen Eastlund (Gratitude guest post at Live Your Poem)
December 7 - Irene at Live Your Poem (One Little Word end-of-year reflections)

And now for a few words about DELIGHT, my 2016 One Little Word. This word has brought much joy and meaning to my life this year. I've found myself using the word in every day life: "I am delighted." It's a version of happy that feels more in the moment, more connected with presence and wonder. I've discovered the things that delight me are often the unexpected things, the lighter things, the everyday joys. Simply naming these things "delight" has had a huge impact on my life. It's hard to feel bad about anything for too long when you are focused on delight!

I'm also seeing more delight in my writing life. More playfulness and experimentation. More "just because I want to see what happens" kind of writing. And now, because it was this year's word, and this is the year my father died, "delight" is a word I associate with him. He was like my very own Santa, complete with a twinkle in his eye... the embodiment of delight. He still is that for me.

Finally, the one delight I return to every day is the sky. It's so easy to feel delighted. Just look up!



Thanks so much for reading! And now it is time to select a word for 2017... I'm pretty sure I know what mine is. :)



Monday, December 12, 2016

Movie Monday: FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK

We've seen a number of movies lately in theaters that I liked okay but not enough to write a blog post about them:
ARRIVAL
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
ALLIED
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
DOCTOR STRANGE
HACKSAW RIDGE
(I was especially disappointed in FANTASTIC BEASTS... probably because I had expectations attached.)

Thank goodness for Netflix! The other night we watched a biography of Leonard Nimoy FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK.

I am not a Trekkie (in fact, I'm glad I checked Google for the spelling of the term, because I was using a "y") - never watched the TV show. I have, however, enjoyed the latest movie franchise very much. And this documentary is fascinating on a number of levels. (Trekkies will know why I said that!)

First, the whole rise-of-a-pop-culture phenomenon. The movie is made by Leonard Nimoy's son Adam, and he recalls, among other things, how in the beginning, fan mail came to their own home, and they answered the letters as a family activity. (Adam was 9 or 10 at the time.) And then we get a look at all the fan festivals and merchandise and the Spock's influence on later TV shows, art, etc.

Here's Nimoy. (Try as he might,
my husband cannot do this salute!
 Clearly, he is not Vulcan. :)
Second, the appeal of Spock himself. I was very interested in what a hand Leonard Nimoy had in the creation of Spock. For instance, the "fascinating" dialogue was his idea and really set forth Spock's controlled, don't-show-emotion character. Also, it was Nimoy who thought of the famous Vulcan salute. And the fans included in the film said they related to Spock because he was an outsider, and they, too felt like outsiders. Also, viewers could relate to Spock's inner struggle to feel things, but not express them. This made him a mysterious, yet very relatable character. How many times to we feel something and not show it? Great fodder for we who love storytelling.

Third, I loved learning about Leonard Nimoy's relationship with his son Adam. It wasn't all rosy, that's for sure. Both struggled with addiction. There were periods of turmoil and estrangement. Ultimately they were able to enjoy one another, and in the later years of Leonard's life, they really came together as father and son, and as friends. Oh boy, can I relate to THAT! What a gift and a miracle.

Finally, who knew Leonard Nimoy was a poet? And a musician. I'll leave you with the poem that opens the film, because I love it:

- Leonard Nimoy
I may not be

I may not be the fastest
I may not be the tallest
     Or the strongest

I may not be the best
Or the brightest

    But one thing I can do better
     Than anyone else...

      That is

        To be me

More poems here.

Great film, whether you're a Trekkie or not!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Poetry & Fiction About the Refugee Experience

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jone (whom I am so happy to have met in person!) at Check it Out for Roundup.

I've been reading a lot lately about Syria and the refugees, and it's heartbreaking to think about these families, right now, today, so desperate for safety and food that they must leave their homes for the great unknown. It's a terrible situation. It leaves me feeling a little lost because I want to help, and what can I do from my snug little studio? Donate to the cat sanctuary in Aleppo.

I've also just read three novels about refugees:

1. SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys. Set during WWII, it follows 4 teens fleeing the Russians for the coast where they will board a ship for freedom. Powerful writing, rich characters. And based on a true story! Books like this one are why I love historical fiction.


2. THE ONLY ROAD by Alexandra Diaz. A contemporary novel that follows 2 teens from Guatemala who travel across Mexico, surviving hunger, gangs, and the dangerous trains to get to their uncle in the United States. At one time I was working on a similar (middle grade) book, and I am really in awe of the details included in this book! I have learned so much -- mostly what courage and faith it takes to embark upon such a journey.

3. BONE SPARROW by Zana Fraillon. This one is not about the journey, but about being detained in a refugee center in Australia -- and the conditions there are pretty horrific. The book is like a cross between ROOM by Emma Donoghue (young narrator who was born at the center and has never known life outside) and THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS by John Boyne (unlikely friendship between one on the inside and one on the outside).

And I've also been reading SOMOS COMO LAS NUBES/ WE ARE LIKE THE CLOUDS by Jorge Argueta, illus. by Alfonso Ruano. Like Alexandra's book, it's about children leaving their homes in Central America. The two poems that follow are appear on the same spread and are presented in both Spanish and English, as are all the poems.


Caballo de carrera

En la espalda de m i papa
me pongo a cabalgar.
No me puedo quejar.
No hay en todo el
   desierto
caballa tan hermoso
no tan veloz
como Felipe, mi papa.

Racehorse

I get up on my father's back
for a ride.
I can't complain.
Here is the desert
there is no horse as
beautiful
or as fast
as my father, Felipe.

Cantamos

Desde que salimos de casa
no dejamos de cantar.
Dice mi papai
que si cantamos,
espantamos el cansancio
y el miedo
y nos volvemos cancion.

We Sing 

Since we left home
we haven't stopped singing.
My father says
if we keep singing,
we'll scare away all the tiredness
and the fear
and become a song.
----------------
I love the idea of becoming a song. And who needs a racehorse with a father like that? xo