Friday, January 12, 2018

Poetry Friday: I, Too by Langston Hughes

Give me your tired, your poor 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Because this is America.
Because this is who we are, or are supposed to be.
Because no country is a sh--hole and no human being is disposable.

I, Too
by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

(Read the rest at The Poetry Foundation.)


The Poetry Friday round-up is at Bookseed

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Poetry Friday: To the New Year, by W.S. Merwin

I love this one.

Happy Poetry Friday, Happy New Year, Happy Hope.

To the New Year
By W.S. Merwin

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
(Read the rest here, at The Poetry Foundation.)


The round up this week is at Reading to the Core

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

What I Read in 2017

Let me start by saying it wasn't nearly as much as I'd planned to read.

Gosh, somehow, after Friday morning, July 28th (when Atticus got the cancer diagnosis), the year just kind of got away from me. August was that blur of tests and MRIs and scheduling and worrying. It wasn't always easy to concentrate. I do remember finishing Middlemarch while I was staying in the hospital with Atticus. He was asleep one morning, and all was quiet, even the nurses and their ever-present checks on vitals. Then there were blurry days of recovery at home, and difficulty concentrating again, and just as he was getting back to some semblance of normal, the blurriness, the tests, the doctors' appointments were happening with Betsy.

And yet.


The one constant in our lives.

The list is all I have time to share today, but in the days to come, I hope to blog more about what I loved, what I didn't, and what I want to read in 2018.

The 2017 Book List (including read-alouds with Ramona):

The Highly Sensitive Person, Elaine Aron
Anne's House of Dreams, L.M. Montgomery
The Spindlers, Lauren Oliver
The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines
Stitches, Anne Lamott
Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham
11-22-63, Stephen King
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
Dragonspell, Donita K. Paul
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill
Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin
Echoes, Maeve Binchy
The Year of Living Danishly, Helen Russell
Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
Black as Night, Regina Doman
The Wheel on the School, Meindert deJong
The Mother Daughter Book Club, Heather Frederick Vogel
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
Emily of New Moon, L.M. Montgomery
The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
Beauty & the Beast (a Camp NaNo novel by my daughter, Betsy)
A Fatal Grace, Louise Penny
Emma in the Night, Wendy Walker
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin
Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf
Design Your Day, Claire Diaz Ortiz
Untitled (Another NaNo book by Betsy)
Middlemarch, George Eliot
Emily Climbs, L.M. Montgomery
Reading People, Anne Bogel
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine
Emily's Quest, L.M. Montgomery
The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin
The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown


What did you read last year?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Happy Christmas Eve and a Happy Update!

I'm about to go hide in my room and write my annual Christmas-themed Harry Potter fan fic (a tradition started by Anne-with-an-e in 2008 -- so this is our 10th year! -- wherein we each write a Harry Potter story sometime during Advent, then read them to each other over Christmas Eve dinner.) But, before I do that, I wanted to share a giddy update:

Betsy started a new treatment a couple of weeks ago, and it is working. We have seen an incredible change in her, especially in the last week/ten days. (I could almost say that the last four months seem like a bad dream, but the dream is still too vivid, so... nope ... not there yet.) She is actually starting to feel relatively normal again. We're getting our girl back, and we couldn't be happier.

I'm not feeling very articulate about all of this -- all I can say is, "Happy! We're happy! We're so happy!"  😃

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.