Saturday, January 31, 2015

#EveryBrilliantThing January Roundup

Trees in winter.
When we visited NYC this past December, we saw a wonderful play at the Barrow Street Theatre called Every Brilliant Thing, starring Jonny Donahoe.

Upon entering the cozy space, each of us was given a slip of paper. (Paul was also selected to play a role in the play... but that's a separate blog post!) Mine read "alcohol." Paul's was "rollercoasters." Daniel's was "peeing in the sea and no one knows." Andrew's was "tea and biscuits." And Eric's was "the color yellow." The main character in the play started a list of brilliant things to share with his depressed mother -- and later used the list himself as he faced his own depression.

So, basically, it's a gratitude list. Nothing like a little gratitude to pull one from a funk, right?

AND THEN... a friend of mine suggested keeping a Gratitude Jar for 2015, and then, at the end of the year, pulling out all the slips and reading them. I thought, hmmm, how 'bout a virtual jar, an Every Brilliant Thing Twitter list? I decided to post one Every Brilliant Thing for each day of 2015. I also use Instagram (which feeds to my Twitter) as a way to include photographs. To keep a nice record of my list as it builds, I'll be blogging a Roundup at the end of each month.

Here's January:

Lays Chocolate covered potato chips.
Pink shoelaces.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.
The sky – always different, always the same.
Ruby's neverending enthusiasm for the headless rubber chicken.
My fabric stash.
Fuzzy socks on a cold morning.
Stained glass windows.
Sunday morning Jazzercise.
Small notebooks for recording big ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Trees in winter.
Baby pictures.
Bento box.
Chocolate milk.
Being the only one awake in the house on a dark, quiet morning.
Self-checkout at Walmart.
Dancing with Kyle Abraham; Otis Brown; Eric (at the Carver Theatre).
Velcro poetry.
“The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight.” -Julia Cameron
Free books.
Being the last one out of bed.
Little boys in overalls exploring the world.
Proof that spring will come. [pic of daffodil shoots]
Decorating with cotton.
Tiny books.
Going to the movies with my husband on a random Friday afternoon.
Gel pens.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Poems about Small Things, selected by Myra Cohn Livingston

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit passionate reader/teacher/poet Mr. Hankins for Roundup!

So. Anyone else out there shocked we're at the end of January?? I started The Artist's Way this month with a group of Birmingham artists, and I AM LOVING IT. Morning pages and artist dates, oh my! I'm learning lots about myself, that's for sure. In that spirit, I have written about where I am in my artist-writer's life over at Little Patuxent Review (should be up about mid-day). Spoiler: I am in a far different place than I was a dozen years ago! Thank you, LPR, for publishing my "Artichoke" poem and for inviting me to post.

I'm excited to move into February, my most favorite month of the year! I have a February birthday (as do many Poetry Friday friends! Yay, and Happy Almost Birthday Month!), so I pretty much celebrate all month long. Here's some of the festivities: scrapbook weekend with the womenfolk in my family, hubby taking me to see Billy Joel in concert, more cello lessons (yes! I have switched from fiddle to cello! Holy Bach, if I ever master the bow hold it will be a masterpiece!), more Artist's Way, more writing, blooming daffodils and forsythia, cheesecake (just thought of that -- I must be hungry) and who knows what else??

And now, for you, this last Poetry Friday of January: poems from the 1994 book ANIMAL VEGETABLE MINERAL: Poems about Small Things, selected by Myra Cohn Livingston. Enjoy!

The Snail 
by Langston Hughes

Little snail,
Dreaming you go.
Weather and rose
Is all you know.

Weather and rose
Is all you see,
Drinking the dewdrop's

Trees: The Seeds
Myra Cohn Livingston

We are
given light wings,
parachutes, downy legs
that we may be carried alof
by wind

and drop
where some kind mouse
will bury us in earth;
some squirrel will forget we are food,
leave us

to sprout
green shoots, to weave
rootlets, that we may eat
and drink and grow in time our own
small seeds

Invitation Standing
by Paul Blackburn

Bring a leaf to me
just a leaf just a
spring leaf, an
april leaf

Blue sky
never mind
Spring rain
never mind
Reach up and
take a leaf and
just come

Monday, January 26, 2015


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

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:

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


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


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!:

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
is awakening
of thirst.
Fresh storms
rise up
on the red hills,
heat exalted,
hope jangling
into faith –
we join hands,

          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...) can create?? They are in 9th grade. :) They'll Be Going Far!