Monday, January 26, 2015

Movie Monday: AMERICAN SNIPER & THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

In our quest to see all of the films nominated for Oscar's Best Picture award, we stood in line with everyone else this past weekend to see AMERICAN SNIPER.

I'm not much for war movies. Just not my thing -- I have to close my eyes a lot. (Totally my husband's thing, though!) That being said, Bradley Cooper was pretty amazing in this part. Perfect. An All-American hero, indeed. Who wouldn't want Chris Kyle as their husband, father, son, friend, comrade-in-arms? The true story behind the movie makes it all the more compelling -- especially when I don't know a single person whose life hasn't been touched in some way by these particular events as we've watched our loved ones suffer the horrible realities of PTSD and other emotional fallout, injury, lost limbs, paralysis... powerful, life-altering stuff. The ending of the movie is so, so perfect. We all moved out of that theater as one unified hushed cloud. Go see.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL we were able to watch cozied up and in our pjs, thanks to HBO. It's imaginative and fun, even though it, too, is set during a fictitious war clearly modeled after WWII. It's chronicles the adventures of a concierge and his young protege, a lobby boy who in later life has come into possession of the Grand Budapest. It made me think of  Downton Abbey, because of the intimate glimpse into an area of service. Still, it didn't win my heart. Of all the nominated films we've seen, this one least engaged me. Maybe there's something I'm missing?? If you've seen it, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Two to go: FOXCATCHER & BIRDMAN. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hurray for MultiCultural Children's Poetry Books! #ReadYourWorld

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tara at A Teaching Life for Roundup.

A few months ago I joined the MCCBD team in an effort to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but also to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries. Look for a Roundup post coming January 27! Also join us for Multicultural Children's Book Day Twitter Party also on January 27, 9 pm EST. Use hashtag: #ReadYourWorld to win 10 book packages. :)

Lucky me, Lee and Low Books sent me three poetry titles to share!





More on these in a below! But first.....

Why? 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.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day is a way to change all of that!

From the amazing co-creators of this unique event Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press:

“The MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book."

What can you do? If you are a reader, parent, teacher, caregiver, librarian, or citzen of the world, we invite you to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details through Pragmatic Mom's roundup and via our hashtag
(#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

and now, the BOOKS, the BOOKS:

Water Rolls, Water Rises El agua rueda, el agua sube by Pat Mora, illus. by Meilo So. A Cybils Finalist, this one beautifully explores water in all its many forms:

Water rises
into soft fog,
weaves down the street, strokes an old cat.

El agua sube
formando suave neblina
que ondula por la calle, acaricia a ungato viejo.

Filling deep wells,
water hums in the dark,
sloshes in buckets, quenches our thirst.

Llenando hondos pozos,
el agua susurra en la oscuridad,
salpica en baldes, nos apaga la sed.

The whole time I was reading this, I was thinking how great it would be to pair it with WATER CAN BE... by Laura Purdie Salas. What a celebration of water that would be!


Lend a Hand by John Frank, illus. by London Ladd. This one is a collection of poems all about service - how we can give in small and large ways. I've selected 2 to share with you. The first would be a great way to introduce students to the concept of "Pay it Forward."  The second can help students recognize ways they are already giving that they may not recognize -- plus it celebrates community and its subject is one of my most favorite things in the world! Read on!

No Charge
by John Frank

The woman in the shop
inspected my bike,
spinning the wheels
and testing the chain,
then took out a tool,
did some quick work,
and told me my ride
was now as good as new.
I reached into my pocket
and pulled out my money,
but she waved me off--
"No charge," she said.

On my way home
I stopped by the grocery store,
but before I went in
i helped a woman load
bags into her car.
She reached into her purse
to give me a tip,
but I shook my head.

"No charge," I said.

-----------------------------------

No Bounds
by John Frank

Mulitpication
was always a chore,
till my grandmother
too me to her quilting club.
There I discovered
the simple marvel
of squares of cloth
sewn together by hand:
two squares by two squares
makes four,
three squares by three squares
makes nine,
the rhythm of a needle
making rhythms of shapes
to cover and comfort
a shivering child.

As I practiced my stitch,
I wondered aloud
if there should be a limiit
to how far quilts reach.

Yes and no, my grandmother said.
A warm spread
should have a maximum size ...
but the spread of warmth
should have no bounds.

-------------------------------------------------------

Call Me Tree by Maya Christina Gonzalez celebrates in English and Spanish all the ways children are like trees... they start tiny then grow big and strong. Would be great paired with FOREST HAS A SONG by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and OLD ELM SPEAKS by Kristine O'Connell George. You could extend this tree metaphor with students by asking them to choose a type of tree with which they most identify... for me that might be;;; palms that bend but don't break, redwoods that reach for an ocean they will never sea, birches that constantly shed their skin.... you get the idea. :)

My favorite spread says:

I reach
And I rise

Me extiendo
Y me elevo

-------------------------------------------
Huge barrels and buckets and balloons of thanks to our sponsors:

SPONSORS
Sponsorship details can be viewed  HERE.
Author Sponsors include Suzee Ramirez (Beautiful Rainbow World), Mac McGooshie (Lulu and the Very Big Meanies, illustrated by Alexis Hogwood), and Quentin Holmes (Real Street Kidz Multicultural Children’s Book Series)


Our CoHostsAfrica to America, All Done Monkey, The Educators’ Spin on It, 
Growing Book by Book, InCultural Parent, Kid World Citizen, Mama Smiles, 
Multicultural Kid Blogs, Sprout’s Bookshelf. More info on these wonderful folks here.


Thanks also to FIRST BOOK for donating multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. We want to help get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it and now we have a way to do it! The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found HERE.

Finally, another collaborator is the Children’s Book Council (CBC) to highlight wonderful diverse books and authors on an ongoing basis all year.

Go out and read a Multicultural Children's Book Today! Hope to see you at the Tweet Up January 27! Remember: #ReadMyWorld. Happy weekend, Poetry Friday friends! xo

Monday, January 19, 2015

Movie Monday: THE IMITATION GAME

Whenever the Oscar nominations are announced, my husband and I set out to see as many as possible before the awards ceremony.

This year, of the 8 films nominated for Best Picture, we'd only seen three: BOYHOOD, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, and SELMA -- all of which we really enjoyed! So this week we started catching up with THE IMITATION GAME, the film that seemed to be on a fast track out of theaters, with only a few showtimes to choose from.

It's a biography of Alan Turing, who, during WWII, worked with Britain's MI6 to crack Enigma, a Nazi code that had been deemed "unbreakable." Though it's never named such in the movie, Turing exhibits many hallmarks of Aspberger's Syndrome. (There's some debate about whether or not these details were invented for the film or if Turing actually exhibited these traits.) AND he happens to be gay, which at the time was a crime. He's brilliant, and he struggles, and good things happen, and terrible things happen. Basically this is the guy who invented the first computer. It's a beautiful movie, and hubby and I both loved it.

There's been some talk about which of the two British biopics -- THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING about Stephen Hawking & this one about Turing -- is the better movie. I can't really answer the "better" question, but I do have a preference. If I had to see just one again, THE IMITATION GAME gets my vote.  But then, I have a soft spot for Aspies, fictional or no. :)


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Welcome to the MLK edition of Poetry Friday Roundup!

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Roundup is HERE!! I'm thrilled YOU are here to share it.

In honor of MLK Day, and because I've still got the movie SELMA on my mind, I'm sharing today from Cybils Finalist VOICES FROM THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON, Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon

One of my favorite voices in the book is a fictional character penned by J. Patrick Lewis:

Raymond Jarvis, 25
B.A. Degree in Business Administration
Out-of-Work Store Clerk
Amarillo, Texas

THE WATCH

I watch my business administration degree
     secure a place for me in the unemployment line.

I watch my mother worry that her
     math-star son struggles to earn a living.

I watch the register fill
     till my boss's magic trick makes all
     the "petty cash" disappear.

I watch my paycheck shrink
     ten dollars a week till they fire me
     "for offending a lady in hardware, boy."

I watch my blister
      of a bungalow get splat-tattooed
     with a red, white, and blue swastika.

I watch the window
     and the rock sailing through the window
     with a promise.

I watch the moon
     as if the moon had any answers,
     her face hidden in a disgrace of clouds.

I watch my no-account savings account
     buy a cup of coffee and a heap of humiliation,
     and you ask me why I'm going to the March?

- J. Patrick Lewis
-------------------------

...and I also love this imagined voice from George Ella Lyon, whom, thrill of thrills, I got to meet this past November at NCTE!:

HALLEY LIZA CLEMONS
30, Hotel Maid
Nashville, Tennessee

A pause between speakers
and a man white as a pillowslip

asks where I came from,
how I go there. I say

Nashville, Tennessee. I took
a bus. That satisfies him.

He's from Kentucky. He drove.

But it would be truer to say
somebody sang me here.

If it wasn't for some old
woman, one of my greats,

humming, working
dark to dark, never giving

up, I wouldn't even be. She
kept the song of our blood

going. She carried me here.

- George Ella Lyon
-------------------
and finally, a poem I found in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech delivered August 28, 1963, Washington, DC. I wrote it in the form of a letter, since he liked letters. All the words appear in order, kind of like blackout poetry. Fun!

Dear Martin,

Today injustice
still lives
in the corners
of our republic.
Yes, freedom
promises
brotherhood.
Equality
is awakening
whirlwinds
of thirst.
Fresh storms
rise up
on the red hills,
heat exalted,
hope jangling
into faith –
we join hands,
sing,

          at last.

- Irene Latham

-----------------------------------
And NOW, the reason you're here: Please leave your link and visit the awesomeness that is Poetry Friday Roundup!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Movie Monday: SELMA

So I've lived in Alabama for over 30 years. I've been to Selma several times and have driven over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I didn't live these stories, but I've heard them time and again. We here in this state are constantly pushing forward as we try to understand and overcome our state's history. Which means when I go into a movie like SELMA, I have some apprehension and also a set of expectations.

The story of the Selma to Montgomery March was in good hands here. It felt honest to me, well-rounded, complex. It surprised me and moved me.

There's were several scenes -- one scene in particular near the beginning of the movie -- that left me completely stunned. And I know this history! But for a little bit there, I wasn't breathing. So, so powerful.

I find it very difficult to watch brutality and hatred -- man's inhumanity to man. So I had to close my eyes during parts of this film. But that wasn't the only point the movie had to make.

The most important point was the human-ness of all these Civil Rights figures. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in particular, is portrayed as a man who struggled and made mistakes and did the best he could, just like any decent human. I appreciated the scene of him bagging the kitchen trash as much as the powerhouse speeches from the pulpit. It says to me that anyone who believes in something enough to never give up can achieve his or her dreams.

And wow, great casting.

Incidentally, the suffrage issue came up time and again in my Gee's Bend research -- the ferry was closed down for years as a way to prevent Gee's Bend residents from getting to Camden to vote. (Gee's Bend is only about 45 miles from Selma.) I just said this last week in my look at BIG EYES, and it's true here as well: we've come a long way, baby.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Wild Winter Poems

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Music Maven, Swap Queen & Poetry Goddess Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup. Her blog always inspires me!

Today's poem are on the theme of winter! SO COLD. I know many of you have experienced weather this week far more severe than here in Alabama, but really, below freezing day AND night? You know it's bad when I have to wear socks with my flip flops. :)

The first poem can be found in JULIE ANDREWS' TREASURY FOR ALL SEASONS, poems selected by Julie Andrews & Emma Walton Hamilton, paintings by Marjorie Priceman.
The following two can be found in THE TREE THAT TIME BUILT, poems selected by Mary Ann Hoberman & Linda Winston.

You'll see that the first poem takes the "wild winter" theme in a fun, unique direction... and the others salute the winter wilds of the great outdoors.

Happy Winter, Steamy Tub
by Karen Gundersheimer

Happy Winter, steamy tub
To soak and splash in, wash and rub.
Big blobs of bubbles pile on me
The way the snow sits on a tree.
I rinse the soap off, scrub some more,
Drip puddles on the bathroom floor--
Then gurgling bubbles drain away,
A wet and merry end of day.


from March '79
by Tomas Transtromer, translated by Robert Bly

Being tired of people who come with words, but no speech,
I made my way to the snow-covered island.
The wild does not have words.
The pages free of handwriting stretched out on all sides!
I came upon the tracks of reindeer in the snow.
Speech but no words.


Something Told the Wild Geese
by Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, -- "Snow."
Leaves were green, and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, -- "Frost."
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly, --
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

------------------------
Wishing everyone warmth & beauty (and bubble baths!) these winter days and nights!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Movie Monday: BIG EYES

This week we escaped for a few hours into Tim Burton's latest: BIG EYES. It's set during the 1950s and is based on a true story about artist Margaret Keane whose husband Walter takes credit for her work -- because "lady art" doesn't sell.

I love movies about art and artists, so it's no surprise I liked this one. It also made me SO glad I wasn't alive in the 1950s, which as the movie is prompt to point out, was a good time to live -- if you were a man. We really have come a long way, baby. I loved watching Margaret become empowered to tell the truth about her life. THAT is art. Also, she created what was in her heart, for herself, not for anyone else. There's a lesson in there for all of us pursuing the creative life. Go see!

Friday, January 2, 2015

One Little Word for 2015

wee "wild" me
Hello, and happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Tricia (whom I was so lucky to meet at NCTE!) at The Miss Rumphius Effect for Roundup.

First: It's been a float-y couple of days what with learning DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST was included in the 2014 Nerdy Book Awards and as a 2014 CYBILS Finalist. I am so thrilled and grateful! Special thanks to all my Nerdy friends including one Mary Lee Hahn who wrote such a beautiful post about some beautiful poetry books. Thank you! And to Amy at Hope is the Word (who nominated the book!) and to the CYBILS Poetry Round One judges (Kelly Fineman, Nancy Bo FloodTricia Stohr-Hunt, Jone MacCulloch, Margaret Simon, Sylvia VardellBridget R. Wilson), throwing you kisses! Having served on the committee in the past, I know just how hard it can be to winnow the list. I'm so honored you chose to include WILDEBEEST. Poetry popsicles for everyone!!

And now: I'm thrilled to be sharing with you my 2015 One Little Word  - and some related poetry:

WILD (adj.): Occurring, growing, or living in a natural state (The Free Dictionary)

No, I'm not talking the girls-gone-wild kind of wild. More of a return to, or discovery of, the true-est me.

The kind of wild that's found in the following poems:

The Summer Day
by  Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean --
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaw back and forth instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
How she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
I don't know exactly what prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


And here are a couple of other rather famous "wild" poems. Any others come to mind?? I think I will work on a Wild Poetry Playlist during 2015. If YOU have a "wild" poem, please do share! xo

"Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver


p.s. Want to see what magic two musically-minded high school kids (one of whom is my son.. ErBeeko) can create?? They are in 9th grade. :) Follow them on Facebook... They'll Be Going Far!


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Six Word Memoir for 2014

Here's my Six Word Memoir for 2014:

Bittersweet mystery fiddles with poet's heart.

This year held some wonderful and difficult moments -- as all years do. I was able to spend quality time with poets I adore and children I love, and I experienced some wonderful times with family... yet I've had to watch my father struggle mightily with the return of his cancer.

Amid some hard, fulfilling work writing and rewriting, I delivered to the world my 3rd book of poems for adults THE SKY BETWEEN US and my 1st book of poems for kids DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST and my first paperback DON'T FEED THE BOY... yet I've faced some crushing rejections this year. ('Tis the writer's life. Sigh.)

You may remember that I chose the world MYSTERY as my 2014 One Little Word. I have spent a lot of time dwelling in mystery, asking questions, allowing myself to be in transition instead of hurrying toward the quickest resolution. I've learned a lot about myself this year. (Check back Friday for my 2015 One Little Word!)

I started taking fiddle lessons this year, and it has brought all kinds of joy to my life. I made some important decisions about how to spend my time in ways that honor my true-est self, and I'm excited to see how those decisions play out in the year to come.

Something I'm proud of: I participated in #bloglikecrazy, during which I blogged every day during the month of November. This produced some unexpected writing, and some of my most honest writing. I am hoping to continue that kind of writing in 2015 --- though, no, I will not be blogging every day!

One of the highlights of my year was going to NCTE. I love this community of book lovers and poetry lovers. Also a highlight: New York City with my family. We've wanted to do that trip for SO LONG! I'm so grateful. I'm also grateful for the opportunity to share in the lives of our boys as they continue to grow and develop and become themselves.

What a year! What a life! Thank you for being a part of it. xo

Monday, December 29, 2014

Movie Monday: WILD, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING & the latest HOBBIT

The holidays are such a great time for movies! We were lucky enough to see three of them in the past week -- and I present them to you in order of preference.

WILD starring Reese Witherspoon, after the memoir by Cheryl Strayed. I've blogged already about how much I loved the book -- so I had high hopes tempered by past experiences of movie adaptations not living up to the books that inspired them.

The material here is raw and real and seemed like it might have been a bit of a puzzle to piece together. All that backstory -- and yet it is beautifully done. You get enough of Cheryl Strayed's internal thoughts and scenes of her past. You appreciate her journey and how it changed her. I thought it was beautifully done. (But, no, I have no interest in hiking 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Just day trips for me, thank you very much.)

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, about Stephen Hawking's life. No doubt, Stephen Hawking's life is rich and inspiring. I loved that the focus here was the woman behind the man, the love story -- and how it fell apart. (Longtime readers may remember a poem I wrote about Einstein's daughter -- it seems that brilliant scientists have a knack for being more committed to their science than to their families... this seemed the case for Hawking as well, and I couldn't help but feel like he was likely more troublesome/less likeable in real life than how he's portrayed in the movie. This SLATE article sets the record straight.) The movie was beautifully made, but it just didn't feel quite honest in the way that WILD did.


Finally, finally the final HOBBIT movie! Can I just say there is something wrong when it takes a person longer to see the movie(s) based on a book than to read the actual book?!

I loved reading THE HOBBIT, and I still love the old animated version of the story. And I had high hopes that this third movie would be more enjoyable than the previous two... alas. I fell asleep in this one, too! Too much darkness, too much conversation, too much dragging things out. I can't imagine watching any of these three again, and I'm sort of mad that they didn't just make one killer movie that contained the whole of Bilbo Baggins' journey. Sigh.

What movies have you seen lately? We still have UNBROKEN and INTO THE WOODS on our short list... hope to get to them this week!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry, Merry!

Our Christmas gift to ourselves was a family trip to New York City! It was magical and merry and everything we wanted it to be.

Merry Christmas from all of us to all of you!

at Cornelia Cafe in Greenwich Village
before our show EVERY BRILLIANT THING (which was brilliant!)

me and my boys at the Central Park reservoir (It was cold! But we were still smiling.)

at the New York Public Library (oh, Patience and Fortitude!).
And how 'bout that pink scarf around Eric's neck?!

me and the sweet fella who introduced me to NYC 24 years ago. Love!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

POISONED APPLES for Christmas?

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Please visit Buffy's Blog for Roundup. I can't believe this is our last Poetry Friday before Christmas! Even though it's not exactly festive, I've decided to share with you selections from POISONED APPLES: POEMS FOR YOU, MY PRETTY by Christine Heppermann. This book has appeared on a number of Best Of 2014 lists... and it's poetry! Love when that happens. The book explores the fairy tale tropes in modern day life. Happily Ever After, this is NOT. Oh, darkness....

 I give you the opening poem (with a killer last line!) and my favorite of the collection (because it is such a clever metaphor).

The Woods
by Christine Heppermann

The action's always there.
Where are the fairy tales about gym class
or the doctor's office or the back of the bus
where bad things also happen?
Pigs can buy cheap building materials
just as easily in the suburbs.
Wolves stage invasions. Girls spit out
cereal, break chairs, and curl beneath
covers like pill bugs or selfish grannies
avoiding the mess.
No need for a bunch of trees.
You can lose your way anywhere.


Photoshopped Poem
by Christine Heppermann

Some say the Before poem
had character.
This poem is much more attractive.
With the Healing Brush Tool
I took out most of the lines.
I left in a few
so it wouldn't look unnatural.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Quilt for my Father & Then Some

As many of you know, my father is currently battling his second bout with cancer. He also serves as Executive Director of Bismarck Cancer Center in North Dakota. Which means he has accumulated a number of cancer survivor/BCC t-shirts that mean a lot to him.

SO... I said, send 'em to me! And my father did. Here's the box I got in the mail:



Here are the t-shirts unpacked, on the cutting board:


...and here are the t-shirts minus sleeves and collars and backs:


...and here is the finished quilt top! 
(sorry, pic is fuzzy and doesn't do it justice!)


fyi: I chose to back it in lime green fleece 
and to bind it in a black-ish star print. Pics to come!

MEANWHILE, here is the monster that is our son Andrew's quilty graduation gift! It's king-sized and contains so many of the things he's been passionate about...from Pokemon to swim team to McDs to funny sayings (thank you, Mental Floss!). I chose black minky for the back (he LOVES soft textures) and a rainbow-ish print for the binding. Can't wait to see how it comes together!

...and FINALLY, an Auburn throw for my uber-Auburn-fan husband. This one contains sweatshirt tops from way back in the 80s to now! (Binding will be in the orange dotted fabric seen below, and the back will be an Auburn fleece print. Cozy!)

As soon as January comes, I'm going to start piecing the Christmas quilt I've been planning for oh, about 5 years now. Maybe that way it will actually be ready come Christmas 2015. :)

Any quilty or crafty projects going on in your life?

Friday, December 12, 2014

ON THE WING by David Elliott

Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Mr. Hankins a.k.a. Paul at These 4 Corners (Living Loving Laughing Learning --- how much do I love that?!) for Roundup.

What a week this has been! So many things going on this month -- youngest sons multitude of Christmas concerts, preparations for our trip to NYC, Christmas-y outings with friends and shopping and last-minute gifts and writing, always always writing.

Today I am taking a break from all that for just a minute to share with you a lovely book ON THE WING by David Elliott, illus. by Becca Stadlander. It's contains short vivid poems about birds! So, bird lovers will love it, and people who aren't bird lovers will BECOME bird lovers. :) I don't think poets will ever NOT be inspired by birds, and rightly so! I'd like to share three of these poems with you today:

The Hummingbird
by David Elliott

     Backward!
Forward!

     Here
then
     there!

Always
        in a
tizzy!

Got
     mo
time
     to
sit
     or
sing!

     Too
busy!
     Busy!
Busy!

(This one is on a two-page spread, and the stanzas flit across, just like hummingbirds. Beautiful!)

The Oriole and the Woodpecker
by David Elliott

Music lovers fast await
the first duet
of summer.
Oriole is vocalist.
Woodpecker is drummer.

(Isn't that perfect?! Of course I love the whole "duet" metaphor what with all the music in my life these days.)

The Macaw
by David Elliott

Who
spilled
the
paint?

(If that doesn't make you smile, you are in dire need of a day off... and more poetry. :)

I'm sitting here wondering which is my favorite bird... ever since SUMMER OF THE SWANS, I have loved swans. I fell in love with the African tanager a few years ago... and every time the cardinals nest outside my kitchen window, they are totally my favorites. :) What about you? Any birds that hold particular appeal for you??

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DORK DIARIES author Rachel Renee Russell On Writing Across Cultures

The latest issue of Writer's Digest magazine features an article by Tiffany Luckey on DORK DIARIES author Rachel Renee Russell. It's a great article.

When asked how she feels about authors writing about cultures other than their own, Ms. Russell said this:

"Authors of any race and gender should write - number one - what their heart and brain are leading them to write, and - number two - what they're passionate about."

"Authors of any race should be able to write other races. We see [white] authors writing people of color [all the time], so, to be fair, people of color should be able to write other races [as well]."

(Ms. Russell is African American, and her DORK DIARIES protagonist Nicki Maxwell is white.)

She also gave this bit of general advice:

"Write what you are comfortable with, write what you're interested in and what makes you happy."

YES.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Movie Monday: iNTERSTELLAR

After several of my nearest and dearest suggested to me that I would really enjoy INTERSTELLAR, I finally got myself to the theater! Youngest son went with me, even though he'd already seen the movie once.

It was exactly what I expected and nothing like I expected. Tense (expected), pondering big questions (expected), ultimately about love and relationships (unexpected).

I have long been fascinated by space and space travel. (Remember the movie SPACE CAMP?) Planets and meteor showers pop in my writing, as have the Mars rovers and the shuttle launches. I figure we humans will continue to explore the cosmos out of curiosity alone (nevermind other grander reasons like saving humanity). The movie touches on all these things. What is brave? What is love? How can we unravel the mysteries of time and dimensions? Our understanding of ourselves and the universe is tiny compared to the vastness that exists. Are there other beings, a "they?"

The movie brought me back to one of my favorite books of all time: THE SPARROW by Mary Doria Russell. This is one of the few books I have read numerous times as an adult. Lots of big questions in it, as well -- and ultimately, about love and relationships, too.

I don't really have any desire to explore any other planets, except in books and in movies. I'm pretty happy right here on Earth. (I am not a rollercoaster kind of gal -- would not a good astronaut make!) But boy oh boy am I fascinated by what's out there, and how much I admire those who are passionate enough to look mystery in the face, risk everything, and explore the possibilities.

Go see the movie! It'll make you think and feel and wonder.

Friday, December 5, 2014

MANGER (Lee Bennett Hopkins) & "Manger"

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Anastasia at Booktalking #kidlit for Roundup.

Now that it's December, I want to share the loveliness that is MANGER, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins with illus. by Helen Cann. It includes poems from several of our Poetry Friday friends, and is really a gorgeous take on the Nativity story.

When I was a little girl, there was no story I loved better than the Nativity. I was one of those girls who never ever played with Barbie dolls but loved my baby dolls well past the age when most girls outgrow them. Anything that had to do with babies, I was there. And add animals?! OF COURSE I loved it.

MANGER is a gorgeous book -- each poem spoke to me. And that doesn't often happen in an anthology! All the expected animals are included, and there are a few surprises, like a llama poem by Alma Flor Ada. A llama! Other surprises I've chosen to share with you today are "Fish" by Lee Bennett Hopkins and "Spider's Gift" by Michelle Krueger.

Fish
by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Despite
the world's
sudden glee

we cannot leave
our home -- the sea

but
we will
swish and flap
each fin

for
we, too,

welcome Jesus
in.



Spider's Gift
by Michele Krueger

All evening long
I'll spin my threads
to place upon the child's head.

I will not rest until it's done,
my humble gift to greet the Son.

I'll weave for Him
a cobweb crown,

and on eight legs

bow deeply down.

............

And now, an original poem inspired by the book! I wondered what the manger would say....

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What I Learned from #bloglikecrazy

I can't believe it's the last day of #bloglikecrazy.

I can't believe tomorrow is December 1.

I can't believe we are closing in on the end of 2014.

What a year! What a life! What wonderful things to come!

So, here's what I learned:

I can write about anything.

I can blog every day, but it's a bit much for me. I got a little saggy in the middle of the month and totally wanted to quit.

But I didn't, and I'm glad. I really enjoyed responding to the prompts, which were often out of my comfort zone.

I learned (again) how good it is to get out of my comfort zone. Good for my writing, good for my life, good for me as a human being on this journey.

Changes are coming for me in 2015. I'm thinking now about what that means for my blog. Thank you for hanging in there with me. And thank you, Javacia Bowser for the challenge!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

4 Simple Goals for December #bloglikecrazy

Quilt by Mozell Benson
I can't believe it, but my #bloglikecrazy month is coming to a close! Tomorrow will be the last day. Whew!

Todays' prompt from Javacia Bowser is "Set 4 simple goals for the remainder of 2014 and write about them."

1. Write every day... 1 poem & add some words to my middle grade novel wip.
2. Practice my fiddle every day to be ready for the mini concert I'm giving for the family on Christmas Eve. :)
3. Go to Jazzercise 3-4 times a week.
4. Live in the moment as much as possible... especially on our family trip to NYC!

Friday, November 28, 2014

I Like Old Clothes by Mary Ann Hoberman #bloglikecrazy

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Carol at Carol's Corner for Roundup. I am still buzzing from meeting so many Poetry Friday friends at NCTE! Awesome.

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is "write about an outfit you wear that makes you feel fierce."

Man, I love that word "fierce!" As for an outfit that makes me feel fierce... anything with boots. It's the boots that do it for me. :)

And since my favorite place to buy clothes is at the thrift store, I thought it would be fun today to share I LIKE OLD CLOTHES by Mary Ann Hoberman, illus. by Patrice Barton. Originally published in 1976, the book is newly adorably illustrated. It's a celebration of "clothes with a history/ clothes with a mystery." of the past lives of clothes, and the new lives we give them. I love it!

Here's a video of Mary Ann reading the poem.

Here's the Kirkus Review.

Hope everyone had a lovely Turkey Day! Anyone else not quite ready to move into Christmas gear?? Nope, not there yet... hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Poem #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is of course, "What are you thankful for?"

So many things! The beautiful world, the people in it, poetry, you. And as this poem has popped up in my life a couple of times this week, I wanted to share it here. Happy Thanksgiving! (says the girl who just put a turkey in the oven :)

Be Thankful
Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.
Author Unknown

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

About My New Adopted Brother & Sister #bloglikecrazy

image from here
Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is “write a post about your family.” There are so many things I could write! But I've decided to share some about Charles and MadiLynn, the two newest additions to our family.

My mother and her husband are foster parents and recently adopted Charles (8) and MadiLynn (6).

When my mother talked with me about their decision to adopt, she said, “So how do you feel about getting a new brother and sister?” I imagine the mix of displacement and intrigue I felt was similar to many an older child's feelings about getting a new sibling. I was initially resistant to thinking of them as a brother and sister... I mean, I already have brothers and sisters – the ones I grew up with. It took me a while to figure out what my role with these kids would be, and it took a while for me to fully open my heart to them.

I didn't understand my mother's choice – as I 'm sure she hasn't understood many of mine. Her decision to adopt more/other children made the little-girl in me feel I wasn't enough, when really it had nothing whatsoever to do with me. And these children, like all children, need love. Even more love than most, I think, given their particular circumstances and the general feelings of abandonment/confusion all foster/adopted children feel. And wasn't I in a great position to offer them love?

So, gradually, I've come around. It still makes me sad sometimes that I am not able to enjoy my mom in the ways I had hoped to as my own children have needed me less and less-- she's in the throes of busy parenting, and I remember how hectic that can be! (How's that for a role reversal?) 

The point is this: Charles and MadiLynn are precious people. I can be their big sister who functions more like an aunt. They are one of the most unexpected things that has happened in my life, and I honor and trust the forces that brought them here. My goal is simply to love them, to be a safe haven for them, a constant in their lives. We have something very important in common – a loving mother.




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"Hoke, You're My Best Friend." #bloglikecrazy

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is “write about your best friend or a group of friends.” 

I've been blessed with some wonderful friendships over the years. I've also experienced the crash-n-burn friendship, the not-what-I-thought-it-was friendship, the slipping-away-we've-outgrown-each-other friendship. I've made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot and loved deeply. But no friendship has impacted my life more obviously than the friendship I share with my husband.

Paul and I met on a blind date. We were set up by my best friend in college Cindy and her friend/Paul's sister Donna. They just knew Paul and I were meant for each other. It didn't take us very long to believe they were right!

A pic of us at my parents' house, just after we got engaged. 1990
Nearly 24 years ago when we went on that first date I remember how after we'd enjoyed our meal, Paul pulled from his pocket a newspaper clipping of the movie schedule. (Back in the day when we used the newspaper for such things!) He asked me what I wanted to see, and I, without hesitation, pointed to DRIVING MISS DAISY. So that's what we saw. Of course it's a story about the unlikely friendship between Miss Daisy and her driver Hoke. It's one of only two films we watch again every single year. (The other is IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.)


Paul is not my driver (okay, sometimes he is!), but he is definitely my best friend. I'm so grateful.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bobbie's Best Cornbread & Grandma Dykes' Hoecake Recipes #bloglikecrazy

original cornbread recipe from one of my
favorite cooks: my mother-in-law
Bobbie Latham. You can see my
adapted version of this recipe below!
I am still buzzing from #ncte14 but am committed to following through on my November blogging challenge! More on NCTE later.

Today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser is to write about a favorite meal or dish.

A couple of things come to mind:
1. lobster dish from Dish of Salt restaurant in NYC. This restaurant is no longer open, but for several years in a row on our trip to The City, we would dine there. The restaurant served Cantonese dishes, and there was always live music – usually a pianist playing Broadway show tunes. Amazing ambiance. I was completely enchanted – and that was before we got to the food!

The dish we loved best of all was called Crown Lobster. One time when we asked our server what was in it, he said the sauce had a mayonnaise base. Basically it was bite sized pieces of lobster tossed in this incredible sauce over rice. DELICIOUS. Maybe more so now, because the restaurant is gone and never again will we enjoy that particular meal! Maybe this recipe is close? I will have to try it!

Speaking of lobster, a few years back on a trip to Maine, we made it our mission to enjoy lobster prepared in as many ways as possible. We ended up having some fourteen lobster dishes! But we drew the line at lobster ICE CREAM. I kind of regret it now, but at the time I wrinkled my nose and order the fresh berry tart instead. I mean, ice cream? Really?

The ONLY brand of corn meal to use
for hoecakes!
As for home-cooked dishes, two women come to mind: my Grandma Dykes and my mother-in-law Bobbie. I miss them both so much!! Interestingly neither knew how to cook when they got married, but they soon learned! Each loved to prepare cornbread to go with a vegetable dinner, usually made with homegrown veggies.

Grandma Dykes's cornbread was actually a hoe-cake made of water-milled fine-ground white corn meal. Add salt and water to make a batter. Pour into a puddle of heated oil into an iron skillet on the stovetop. Fried bread. Crispy on the edges/outside, gooey in the middle. So, so good! The kids get pretty excited when I make it.






Bobbie's cornbread is made in the oven. Heat some butter in an iron skillet at 450 degrees. When it begins to brown, pour in the batter. Batter is made of buttermilk corn meal mix (I use Aunt Jemima's), buttermilk, egg, blurb of oil. Brown in oven approximately 20 minutes, then flip and cook another few minutes. Buttery and moist and delicious! I use it every year at Thanksgiving to make dressing.

Just a few days now... excited to get in my kitchen!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Favorite Place #bloglikecrazy


In our bathroom, we have a piece of art that says, "If I could live forever, and you would live with me, I'd choose a house for all seasons in a mountain greenery."

When I'm feeling stressed, this is the place I go. It's not an actual place, but it IS real in all the ways that matter most. And it's the first thing that popped in my head for today's #bloglikecrazy prompt from Javacia Bowser. :)