Thursday, December 14, 2017

Poetry Friday: I Fell Off the Internet Again When My Daughter Was Diagnosed With a Chronic Illness

It was almost two months ago when I finally felt ready to write about Atticus, cancer, fear, and learning to breathe again.

Then my daughter got sick.

In reality, Betsy was ill before Atticus even had surgery, but we didn't know what was wrong. We were looking for answers, took a couple of wrong turns, listened to a misdiagnosis, thought she was getting better. And then it all went to hell. She got sick. Really sick. As in, this-mother-was-sick-at-heart sick. She was hospitalized twice in November -- mid-month, and then again the day after Thanksgiving. Really, even now, I don't have the energy to write extensively about what she's been going through. She has a chronic, autoimmune disease but now, with the right medication, we are starting to get it under control. We are beginning to get our daughter back.


In the Hospital 
Karen Edmisten 

The first time I spent a night with her
in a hospital was twenty-one years ago.

In the dark, she cried. I reached for her,
held her, nourished her.

Now, darkness. A whisper:
I wake from fraught sleep.
Sweet girl, yes, I'm here.

Nourishment is elusive.   
My vibrant, beautiful girl is frail, wasting.
In the dark I cried,
and held her.


It's been a hard few months. This poem shouts despair, I know, and I've certainly felt a portion of that lately, but things are looking up, and I have genuine hope for Betsy's health. I've got the energy to write this because my daughter has the energy to eat, keep food down, absorb nourishment again. It's such a primal desire ... a mother wants to feed her child: Eat, eat! 

They say a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child, and it's true of health problems, too -- a mother can't really be happy when her children are suffering, can she?

But a mother can hope. And trust. And keep going. And that's what we've been doing around here. It's what we'll keep doing because it's the only thing to do.

Hope and trust. And learn to breathe again.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Random Noodling

Friday, November 10, 2017

Poetry Friday: a beautiful one by Anne Porter

I've shared Anne Porter's work before, but not for awhile. Here's a beautiful one: 

A Short Testament
by Anne Porter

Whatever harm I may have done
In all my life in all your wide creation
If I cannot repair it
I beg you to repair it,

And then there are all the wounded
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed
As if I were not one of them.
Where I have wronged them by it....

(Read the rest here, at The Writer's Almanac.)


The inimitable, incomparable Jama Rattigan has the round up this week

Friday, October 27, 2017

Poetry Friday: Some October

After resurfacing last week with news of Atticus, cancer, and the smudgy blur that was the beginning of our school year, I'm back this week with some lines from Barbara Crooker which feel achingly appropriate. I know so many of you can claim the same kinship:

Some October 
by Barbara Crooker

Some October, when the leaves turn gold, ask
me if I've done enough to deserve this life
I've been given. A pile of sorrows, yes, but joy
enough to unbalance the equation.

(Read the rest here.)


Barbara Crooker. She's just one of those lovely gifts to and from the universe.

She writes of the ordinary, painting it with extraordinary color and depth. She makes me think, and sigh, and laugh. I always associate her with autumn, for some reason. Crisp and lovely, golden hues, endings and beginnings.

If you've never read her, you can find her books here.

And go here for a little Poetry Friday bonus, Crooker's Poem of the Month, "Halloween."


The Poetry Friday round up is at Friendly Fairy Tales.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Poetry Friday: Richard Wilbur and The Time I Fell Off the Internet Because Atticus Got Cancer

Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Wilbur (who has long had his own category on my blog), passed away last Saturday at the age of 96. May he rest in peace.

I sort of fell off the internet over the last two and a half months (which have felt surreal) but leave it to my beloved Wilbur to bring me back to my blog -- finally ready, I guess, to talk.


This summer had me thinking a lot about cancer. All the time. In June, my dear friend Lissa was diagnosed with breast cancer. In late July, an internet friend and kindred spirit, Beth, died after a long, brutal battle against cancer. I was angry at cancer, sick of cancer, hated cancer. I didn't want to hear about another person I loved being attacked by cancer.

On July 28, Atticus got a phone call, and we went in to see the doctor. A routine colonoscopy had revealed cancer.

There are all kinds of stories to tell about the month of August: waiting for the CT scan and the MRI, which would eventually tell us that the cancer didn't appear to have spread (though, we were cautioned, we wouldn't know for sure until after surgery.) Meeting with one doctor who scared us terribly, then meeting with a surgeon we liked and trusted. Not being able to get surgery on the calendar until September 15th. Five days, four nights in a hospital two hours from home. Dissolving into tears when (as we were preparing to check out of the hospital) a young resident delivered the news: the pathology report was already back. It showed no spread to the lymph nodes. They got all of the cancer out. 

I hadn't realized, until I crumpled into my husband's arms, how the hope for that news had been holding me upright until that moment.

And so, the prognosis is very, very good. Atticus is four weeks into recovery, and is getting a little better every day. There will be close follow-up, but he's working, he's sleeping. The man who ran two half-marathons last spring/early summer is running again. He's adjusting to his post-surgery body. We can start to breathe again.

And think about poetry. And Richard Wilbur.

"The Beautiful Changes," Richard Wilbur said.

Everything changes. All the terrible, wonderful, maddening time. The ground beneath your feet shifts, something breaks, you think you're falling. Then the dust settles and you see that

the beautiful changes   
In such kind ways,   
Wishing ever to sunder 
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose   
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.

And you are thankful for that second finding, for the hope that kept you upright. You are thankful for wonder.


I couldn't let a Poetry Friday about Richard Wilbur pass without referencing "The Writer" (which I have posted here numerous times). It's about his daughter. It's about my daughters, the daughters and writers who love Atticus. As Wilbur did his daughter, I wish mine always "a lucky passage."

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten.  I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

The beautiful changes daily. Minute by minute, it sometimes seems. And so I will keep wishing what I wish for Atticus and for my girls, but harder.

May Richard Wilbur rest in peace, and may my beloved Atticus live as long and beautiful a life.


You'll find the Poetry Friday round up at A Day in the Life

Friday, September 08, 2017

Poetry Friday: Nature Walk, by Gillian Wegener

Ah, this is a lovely poem. Gillian Wegener's "Nature Walk" conjures memories of nature walks with my girls -- part of our homeschool, part of our history, bits of our family lore. Some walks were laden with wonder, some were a push-me-pull-you of competing mindsets.

Nature Walk
by Gillian Wegener

The fern fronds glow with a clean, green light,
and I lift one and point out the spores, curled
like sleep on the back, the rows so straight,
so even, that I might be convinced of Providence
at this moment. My daughter is seven.

(Read the rest here, at The Writer's Almanac.)


Daughters do keep moving toward "whatever's beyond" but sometimes you still get to sneak in a nature walk with them. This is from ours, yesterday:

So many painted ladies! So much delight in watching them with my daughters. Laden with wonder. They flitted, they fluttered, they drank sweet nectar. And then they were gone. 


Friday, August 25, 2017

Poetry Friday: Summer's End

Summer's End 

by Karen Edmisten 

August, morning walk.
   The grasshoppers pole vaulting,
a season shifting.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Check It Out.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Bits and Pieces of Our Days

As Imperceptibly as Grief, the Summer Lapsed Away....
~~ Emily Dickinson 

No one can nail it quite like my girl Emily. 


I didn't mean to let the last few weeks slip by without writing. It just sort of happened, in the midst of a crazy late-July/early August. Some of the craziness had us dealing with some hard stuff (I don't mean to vague-blog...I'm sure I'll be able to say more soon), and some of it was just the busy-ness of life.

Atticus, for example, is already back at work. He started on August 9th. And, as happens every year, I'm scrambling to remember what it's like to think about making dinner every night. Can't remember where on Facebook I saw this, but it is the perfect new header for my "What's for Dinner?" chalkboard:

Pros and Cons of Making Food 

Pros: Food 
Cons: Making it 


This is one of our baby swallows. They nest on our back porch every year, and this year we were privy to every step of the fledglings leaving the nest. The girls and I were enchanted. 


I think Ramona should be a picture book illustrator. Here's her rendering of Ten and Rose. 


I love having a daughter who loves to bake. 


One of the highlights of every  month for Ramona: a new ScrawlrBox. Worth every penny for my teen artist. 


This cup? 

When my girls were little, it sported a Cookie Monster design. Over the years and through thousands of washings the design faded (as imperceptibly as grief, Cookie Monster lapsed away.) 

The cup has remained in the cupboard but this week it's going with Betsy to her first apartment.

Serve her well, Cookie Monster cup. We'll miss you. 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Poetry Friday: Hope is the thing with feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.


Donna has the round up at Mainely Write.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Brave Writer: Registration for Fall Classes Opens on July 31

I'll be teaching for Brave Writer again in the fall! Huzzah!

I'm teaching another session of The Writer's Jungle Online (formerly "Kidswrite Basic") from September 25th to November 3rd.

The complete, upcoming class schedule (for all Brave Writer classes) is here.

You can find registration information (including cancellation policies, etc.) here.

Hope to see you in one of my favorite online spaces!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Poetry Friday: Mac and Cheese and ... Haiku?

July 14th is National Macaroni and Cheese Day (that's okay -- I didn't know it existed either) and Tabatha is seizing the day. She's hosting a cheesy Poetry Friday, and I am lamenting days gone by.

Casserole Woes 

by Karen Edmisten

We savored the stuff. 
 O, lactose intolerance!*
No more mac and cheese.

* I'm not the one with lactose intolerance, but since I've been tiptoeing (tentatively, with many stumbles over stubborn old habits) down the vegan road, I guess I should be thankful that Betsy's lactose intolerance has helped get certain cheesy dishes out of our house. And yet ... and yet ... O, cheese! Food of the gods! How I love you! Can I ever really let you go?

Hey, I can call that haiku, too: of the gods! 
How I love you. Alas, can I 
let you go? 

Okay, I think it's time to stop. 

For a starchy, cheesy Poetry Friday, visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Poetry Friday: Marginalia, by Billy Collins

Are you a marginalia type? Or a notes-in-a-separate-notebook reader? Do you use post-its? Do you dog-ear? What do you think of book darts? (Thanks, Anne Bogel, these might change my life.) Do you leave your own books in pristine condition, but enjoy eavesdropping on the marginalia of others, via a heavily used book?

Whoever you are, whatever you read, however you scribble, Billy Collins gets it.

by Billy Collins

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
(Read the rest here, at the Poetry Foundation.)


Carol Varsalona has the round up this week at Beyond LiteracyLink.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bits and Pieces of Our Days

Umm, where did the first half of 2017 go? Kinda sped by, no?


In May, Atticus ran his first half marathon. He'd run the distance before, but had never signed up for a race. A dear friend, who runs a couple of races a year, asked if Atticus wanted to run with him, so he tried it and loved it. Then he ran another half a couple of weeks ago. After we cheered his start, the girls and I went out for donuts and coffee. To my credit, I walked a lot that week. Really. I blame my aversion to running on bad knees that run in my family. (So to speak.) At least, that's what I tell myself ever since that time when I tried to run and my knees hurt. 

Anyway, now Atticus has plans for a third half-marathon in the fall. I see more coffee and donuts (and walking! Really! And podcasts while I walk!) in my future. 


My Brave Writer Kidswrite Basic class ended on June 16th, and I miss those kids! It was a fantastic and fun six weeks. I'll be teaching Kidswrite Basic again from September 25-Nov. 3rd. Registration for that session opens on July 31st.


Ramona's been busy and so was happy to get some down time the last few days. She helped with skits and music for VBS, took a cake decorating class, had a fun week with the Missoula Children's Theater, and did some citizen science one morning at a youth discovery camp. Whoosh! Time for a good book. 


Speaking of good books, Betsy has been revising her NaNoWriMo novel from last year. She's expanded it to about 72,000 words and I can't wait to read this first in-depth revision. I'm so happy for her! 


Speaking of revising, Anne-with-an-e has been helping me revise our books shelves. It's the Summer of the Great Bookcase Declutter. We're trying to be ruthless. It's not easy, but we've sent at least a dozen grocery sacks of books out the door. We are proud of us and we usually reward ourselves with an iced coffee and some reading time. 


Speaking of reading time, I need to pull a book post together. I recently read Marilynne Robinson's Gilead for the first time and it's become one of my favorite books ever. Beautiful. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Poetry Friday: Leisure

It's been a slightly hectic summer for us so far, but I'm looking forward to some days of lolling around soon. Time to stand and stare ... ah, yes. Good for the soul. 

by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Carol's Corner.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Poetry Friday: Mary Oliver

Go read "Mindful" by Mary Oliver, which begins

Every day 
I see or hear 
that more or less 
kills me 
with delight 

Then come back and tell me what it's put you in mind of.

I wanted to post the whole, gorgeous, little poem here, but I'm mindful of copyright laws, so all I can do is mindfully send you to this link at Google Books. "Mindful" is part of Why I Wake Early: New Poems and is also part of why I adore Mary Oliver, who kills me with delight.


I've been having a blast teaching my Brave Writer class, Kidswrite Basic. I've been so mindful of the fact that every day I read something from these kids that more or less kills me with delight. These kids are brave, and I feel lucky indeed.


The round up today is at Buffy's Blog

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bits and Pieces of Our Days

We've closed the door (and the math book) on another school year and I'm emitting happy sighs.

When her sisters started college, Ramona and I had adjustments to make in our newly-one-person schoolhouse, but over the last three years we've found our own rhythms and routines. I love our days together.

We're still finishing up our read-aloud of Emily of New Moon, just finished Black as Night, and we have summer plans to read Romeo and Juliet together. (There's never an end point for read-alouds.) Ramona also has plans to work on writing a fairy tale novel this summer, and plenty of other fun, summer diversions await.

Huzzah for summer!


About seven years ago, I wrote this post in which I mentioned that I was bugging my parents to move back to the midwest (after many years of living in farflung places ... Houston, Phoenix, Hot Springs). I'd been bugging them annually about that move, until last year -- Ta Da! -- they made the move! It's been a crazy year for them. My mom fractured her hip just a month before their planned moving date. They still moved on schedule! (They amaze me!) Then she had (her second!) open-heart surgery last October, and in December she got a spinal compression fracture. Enough already! She has recovered beautifully from everything, and both of my parents are inspirational in their positive approaches to such challenges. My mom never wallows in self-pity, and my dad steps up to the plate to be a generous caregiver, and I find myself thinking that I hope I'll be as positive and inspiring when I'm in my 80s. 

The benefits of having them closer are countless. Recently, my dad had the privilege of taking an Honor Flight, and Mom stayed with us while he was gone. The girls and I went to a Mother's Day party with Mom at her retirement community and it was the first Mother's Day we've all spent together in ... how many years? Ever? More birthdays together, more holidays, more trips to the bookstore together, and they want to go see Wicked with us next summer. We love that they finally loaded up that moving van are living in our neck of the woods. 


I'm in Week 2 of my Brave Writer class, Kidswrite Basic, and I am loving it! It's delightful to work with such devoted parents who want the best for their kids and there's nothing I love more than sharing ideas about writing. 

If you've never looked into Brave Writer, I highly recommend checking it out. A couple of great places to start: