Wednesday, July 18, 2018

act 1, scene 3

i have a friend who works at the market i frequent and we've developed the art of encouragement while she's stocking shelves, a sort of "daily affirmation in the frozen foods section" if you will.

this week when it was my turn, being hungry and tired, all i could come up with was borrowed words, so i said, "to thine own self be true."

when i arrived home less than an hour later, there was a package waiting for me, out from which tumbled a magnet bearing the same words, "to thine own self be true"!?

shakespeare, in hamlet, has polonius speak this line. the second part, however, is just as key and that is, "... and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."

sounds suspiciously like "love thy neighbor as yourself" to me. and i am left pondering this interaction and mystery: in what ways do being true to ourselves better, and more authentically, serve others?

(not to worry, mom, this isn't a picture of my arm)

lessons from a succulent

i consider myself a fairly good gardener, but the tending that makes fruit and vegetables happy kills cactus.

the irony of succulents presented itself when yet another one died but i came home to two new ones on my doorstep as a gift.

i over-water, just like i over-tend to things and people sometimes. it's what people want in a pet and house sitter, but no cacti is safe with me.

this brings me to the awareness that a little "healthy neglect" might serve me, others, and my new succulent plants well. tending is not my problem.

i remind myself that, nature needing no improvement, there is a time to just let things be.

we can't make anything grow, after all, but we can give it the right environment to help it (or them, in the case of people) flourish.

that said, my intention is to try to ignore my new and super cute little plants in hopes of them actually surviving me.

wisdom from the desert, lessons from a succulent.

bottle shock

this is a comedy (2008) starring chris pine about how a napa valley chardonnay upset the french wine industry in 1976.
when a british wine connoisseur sets up shop in paris, he is unsettled to hear that california vineyards are becoming increasingly popular.

he decides to visit and taste them in person, ultimately setting up the historic blind tasting that would rock the european wine world.

(it is based on a true story and the winning vintage is actually on display at the smithsonian!)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

wildflower picking time

on a recent wildlife refuge hike with my parents and aunt, she was reminded of when she and my uncle would go wildflower picking as kids.

i love this photo she sent of them collecting lamb's tongue flowers with grandma (my mom is 10 years younger and yet to be born).

what family traditions or outings do you remember fondly and want to continue?

Friday, July 6, 2018

worth our salt?

credit for this blog post's inspiration goes to my dad who, over a meal started wondering out loud about the etymology of something he had read about salary being somehow related to salt.

being word lovers, we looked it up and sure enough, the word salary (sel/salarie in French) is derived from the Latin sal or salarium for "wages".

as history goes this is an abbreviation for argentum, or "salt money" referring to Roman soldiers being paid in salt, and also where we get the modern vernacular, "to earn or to be worth your salt".

even if you don't fancy your employer trading your time for this flavor-enhancing mineral, you can still use it to improve your cooking.

it is first in the list of culinary foundations in the book i am currently practicing from, " salt, fat, acid, heat" by samin nostrat.

in the words of james  beard, father of american cookery, "where would we be without salt?"

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


just minding my own business today, two different people just randomly gifted me books--that's a good day, in my mind! 

the first, via a mutual friend, is "lines from a place that's all sky" by the ever-beautiful and wise poet i am fortunate enough to know robin m. lawton.

the other, also fresh from the press, is by amy natzke (who handed me a copy in the bookstore parking lot) entitled "turnings:  a book of consolation and provocation".  i know amy as a violinist and so it was fun to know that she also enjoys writing.

a sample of each...


she says that angels
touch the earth
where water is
and she speaks truth,
i know.

dark green dams
on afternoons
of numinous skies
green boughs tipping
to touch the breezy forms.

she pictures airy essence
stroking worlds with wonder
rainbow shades
where earth
and water are.

she says that angels
touch the earth
where water is.
and angel she,
she speaks truth. i know.

by robin m. lawton


"those in whom Christ is disguised are not only strangers and enemies--they are our neighbors, and they are us.  in disguising himself this way, Jesus answers our prayers for himself, as we say that we seek to love him.  he has put himself within our reach.  if we want him, we can find him."--amy natzke

Thursday, June 28, 2018

the light all around me

this is what a Portland street poet made up and wrote for me today, typed on her vintage smith-corona:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

new ways to wait

today i experienced a new way to wait in the same old lines.

for example, last night i watched the movie "Dunkirk" (the scene of civilian boats showing up to rescue stranded soldiers bringing tears to my eyes) which relates here because in front of me today was an elderly couple, a man in a wheelchair being pushed by his wife.

noticing his Navy cap, i thanked him for his military service, referencing the movie. to this the wife added that one of her closest friends bears a tattoo from surviving the Holocaust.

"she must have only been a small child", i said. " yes," she answered, "none of her family survived and she doesn't like to talk about it". it was a less-than three minute interaction, and yet we saw each other and shared a moment that we may not have otherwise.

in another store a very classy older lady came in the door behind me. i happened to hear her talk about trying to get a job but being old. " i know you don't know me," i began, "but i hope you don't say that about yourself. there's only humans and we will all be where you are if we are lucky enough. i might add it seems you're really put together and we would do well to listen to you."

this surprised her and began what turned out to be a twenty minute visit, her telling me about the history of our town when you could come to the same building we were standing in, once a soda fountain, where they  bought treats for just fifteen cents.

she seemed to really enjoy telling me about the history of the land that had been in her family for over one hundred years (several acres of it now a school) as well as fond memories of eating summer berries with real cream at her grandmother's.

sure, it's not always like this, sometimes an errand's just an errand. but today's interactions have me rethinking the time we spend waiting in lines.

do you have a memorable waiting story?

Friday, June 22, 2018

martha stewart's calendar

i have to laugh when i read martha  stewart's *calendar in the front of Living magazine. Of course...

Monday: cardio, take twins to riding lessons, prepare asparagus grafts

Tuesday: weights, de-moss garden cottage roof, make celebrity
appearance on Food Network

Wednesday: yoga, oil change on Land rover, prune grapes and hand press for sangria

Thursday: cardio, fertilize Meyer lemons, host brunch for foreign diplomat

Friday: weights, hike with pure bred dogs, espalier apple orchard for fall cider...

*fictionalized by me, as opposed to an ordinary...

Monday: start workout DVD, get distracted by dust bunnies

Tuesday: stand in line at Target, weed garden

Wednesday: put dishes away from Sunday, try to finish workout video

Thursday:  the weeds have multiplied overnight

Friday: start laundry, donate workout video to local thrift store

what about your calendar makes you laugh the most?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

this i believe, part deux

i believe in neighbors.

like Mr. Rogers sang, "won't you be my neighbor?" ringing true demographically in a hospitality-starved world.

i live where i am fortunate enough to enjoy aspects of community that, did i not experience them, i might not believe still existed...

canning applesauce and carving pumpkins in the fall, Christmas caroling and light-lined driveways in the winter, tea and puzzles in spring until it is warm enough for endless summer meals and berry pies in the lavender field under party lights, laughing at outdoor movies until our sides ache.

just the other day i came home to freshly baked bread on my doorstep, celebrating another successful school year and start to vacation.

art lives on my fridge from coloring with the kids during our latest potluck.  "would you like to keep it!?" grinned the eldest daughter. "would i !? best art ever!" we think nothing of sharing books, eggs, or anything extra we have.

we help each other when water pumps wear out or we need a truck to transport furniture. we feed the rabbits, goats, or chickens when someone is out of town.  or we enjoy chatting, unhurried at the mailboxes, picking wild sweet peas. sometimes we stay up too late talking, because we know home is just a walk away.

i love my neighbors and can feel the love they have for me in return.

this i believe.

this i believe

inspired by reading "this i believe: the personal philosophies of remarkable men and women" (edited by jay allison and dan gediman in association with NPR) i decided, as the collection encourages, to write my own.

i believe in dirt. more properly termed soil, for all its aliveness from which life is sustained.

i remember being four years old, working alongside my parents in the greenhouse. my job was watering the disc-like seed starters until they swelled to three inches.  then i could put the seed in the opening at the top and push it down with my forefinger, my expression alternating between concentration and delight.

i'm named after my great grandma nettie who raised chickens and gorgeous flower gardens.  my favorite photo is of her standing beneath her ten foot sunflowers, squint-smiling into the sun.

another relative, who spent his life farming in Alberta, told me over coffee around the camp fire about his practice of letting the land rest, the importance of cover crops, and putting nitrogen back into the soil.

i've tasted the difference between an artificially ripened tomato (akin on the palate to what pale pink packing foam might taste like) as compared with one that bursts on my tongue with all the sweetness of sunshine. and there is nothing like eating a carrot straight from the garden.

when pouring for guests in the tasting room, they tell me they can taste the difference in wines from various levels of volcanic soil and elevation. "wine," i say, "is from the dirt and dirt keeps us humble."

the name Adam in Hebrew, for example, means "from the earth", a reminder of our own mineral-miraculous composition and place in a landscape bigger than ourselves.

it's this primal connection to the soil that reminds me nature needs no improvement.  she will continue to sustain us if we care for her.

this i believe.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

and the pursuit of happiness

this is such a fun book!  being that i am at the "looking at pictures" stage of reading (aka: magazines and other mindlessness) having just 2 days of school left, it was relaxing to savor this stroll through history over a cup of tea.

illustrator maira kalman is one of my favorites, and her whimsical style and laugh out loud humor was an enjoyable way to learn more about our founding fathers.

Monday, June 4, 2018

the central park effect

this is such a fun, one-hour documentary about all the bird life in central park!  it tracks migratory patterns through the four seasons and highlights at least three birdwatchers from varied walks of life.

i've been to central park and still had no idea the vastness of the bird species.  it makes sense, though, from an aerial view, when they are looking for a place to rest and feed, that they would choose this green space in the heart of new york.

call me old fashioned...

why is it people seem to appreciate a stamped letter in the mail or a paper invitation to an event so much?  is perhaps what used to be the norm now the exception?  i started to wonder and then observe some social trends to decide what practices i wanted to keep and these are my top ten:

i want to...

1) say "absolutely", "right away", or "you've got it" when serving someone (this instead of "no problem" because that makes it sound like there was a problem to be solved instead of a person to be served)

2)  count back people's change, both bills and coins

3)  tip well (it used to mean To Insure Prompt service and now is a reward) and RSVP (from the french Repondez-vous S'il-Vous Plait) whether i am able to attend or not

4) drive 55 mph and enjoy the ride

5) use stamps to send real thank you cards in the mail, same with party invitations as much as possible

6)  wait in lines without checking my phone and make eye contact and conversation with the clerk, ask them "how's your day?" and listen to their response

7)  grow fruit and vegetables/immerse myself in the birds and wildlife around me

8) make bespoke things for people by hand, from baked goods to art

9)  ask open-ended questions such as "what can i get for you?" instead of "can i get you anything?"

10) play *board games

*i was reading a magazine this week and the irony i saw made me laugh:  on one page was an add for the latest technology and a few pages later was an article about tech-detox family spa vacations where their internet access is blocked for them so they can reconnect to each other and play board games.  this only for an average of $5, 673.

what are some habits or practices you would like to keep alive?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

the life & love of trees

this large tome of a coffee table book contains beautiful photos of trees around the world.  lewis blackwell's photography and writing really gives one pause to appreciate these unique vertical giants (and not-so-giants) among us.

it makes me glad i planted a tree over 10 years ago on the property my family owns in southern oregon.  a cedar sprig i received at the portland marathon finish line transported via bucket came to its new home, my grandpa tapping the dry ground with his cane.  he really did know the best place to plant it, in ground supported by early march springs.

thanks to the thoughtful watering done by my uncle in the dry summer months, not only did the cedar survive (the willow shoots were not as fortunate, although the deer enjoyed them) but is thriving and well on its way to being a legacy, like my grandma in whose honor it was planted.

this winter, when i was missing greenery, i wrote my life story from the perspective of trees, which was quite an intriguing experience since they are rooted and we come and go around them.  the writing exercise really caused me to appreciate them and our part in their story, since most of them will outlive us.

what's your favorite type of tree memory and why?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

spring and exponential growth

just 9 days old
same bird 5.22.18

baby bird 5.20.18

Monday, May 21, 2018

the color of love

middle school mixed media

paint chips by sherwin-williams, newberg

painting by 6th grader

entrance and photo gallery

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

ocean in the fire

beautiful display by a beautiful artist!  ceramics by monika vitek at behind the museum cafe (1229 SW 10th, portland OR) may-june 2018. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Monday, May 7, 2018

what we see in our stars

i can see the stars very well where i live, on account of being away from a lot of the city lights.  this book was a fun read to educate myself further on constellations and all manner of celestial happenings going on all the time around and above us.

*i even think the author's last name sounds perfect for the book she's written, as in maybe she should have a galaxy named after her!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

sea church

i love this poem so much and feel the same way about the ocean!

sea church

give me a church
made entirely of salt.
let the walls hiss
and smoke when i return
to shore.

i ask for grace
of a new freckle
on my cheek, the lift
of blue and my mother's
soapy skin to greet me.

hide me in a room
with no windows.
never let me see
the dolphins leaping
into commas

for this water-prayer
rising like a host
of sky lanterns into
the inky evening.
let them hang

in the sky until
they vanish at the edge
of the constellations--
the heroes and animals
too busy and bright to notice.

by aimee nezhukumatathil

Monday, April 23, 2018

california typewriter

just watched this documentary and even though i love my new laptop, this made me want to go out and also buy a vintage typewriter immediately!

named after a repair shop, this film features the collectors, history, and benefits of the typewriter as *tool (*this is the simple root meaning of the word technology) and why so many people are going back to it.

actor tom hanks collects them, musician john mayer uses one to type his lyrics, and other famous authors prefer them over word processors in order to really see and edit their work on paper.  there is even--get this! a 'typewriter band' who uses the keys and bells to make music!?

i remember typing out papers in high school on our old smith-corona electric typewriter, using correction tape or fluid to cover mistakes.  my grandpa always had one out on his dining room table to type letters and take care of business paperwork.  what are some of your typewriter memories?

water walking

the art of love

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

expressing motherhood pdx

this was a great event!  i know one of the speakers and somehow all the stories avoided being jaded or too sweet...instead hers along with a hilarious mix of other tales really did make the audience (both men and women) laugh and cry.  though targeted to mothers, clearly well juried and practiced, their skits and material covered a wide range of topics relevant to everyone, really. 

originally done in LA, the show has come for its second time to PDX.  well, done everyone!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

april showers


really listen to the rain
and it will tell you where its been
of climes absorbed, sun-held,
and miles traveled to reach you
in stillness you will hear
all the drops release, ever-moving,
over the expectant,

--ls 4.8.18


looking for a fantastic film? "wonder", based on the book by RJ palacio, is touching.

it can encourage people of all ages and roles to embrace our flaws and truly celebrate what makes each person unique. easier said than done, but this movie is inspiring to me.

and now to read the book...

Thursday, April 5, 2018

national poetry month

we ring in april with national poetry month!  celebrating the words and wordsmiths who craft ideas, images, and words to share that make our world a richer place.

who are your favorite poets, poems, and why?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

bach and nicolai

i read an inspiring article in the wall street journal today over coffee titled "a song of spiritual awakening" by mene ukeuberuwa.

in his 1731 cantata "wachet auf, ruft uns die stimme", johann sebastian bach finished a composition by a predecessor, the hymnist and preacher philipp nicolai.  in both its tune and its text, the cantata (known in english as "sleepers awake")  describes the ultimate feast:  the fulfillment of all human hope.

musically, nicolai belonged to the last generation of meistersingers, german musicians with rigorous training in poetry, harmony, and vocal performance who were quickly being replaced by the orchestras and organs of the emerging baroque style.

what captured my attention was not only this teamwork between composers, but the fact that nicolai began this work of hope in 1598 while the bubonic plague was ravaging his hometown of unna, claiming the life of one of his top music students.  nicolai channeled his grief into this piece which urges people to await the fulfillment of hope at a diving wedding feast, drawn from biblical parable.

bach leaves this message intact and adds adaptive verses from old and new testament divine love poetry.  through duets for baritone and soprano (representing the roles of God and the human soul) there is foreshadowing here on earth of the feast and joy yet to come; a message of hope just beyond the horizon.

clean bandit

i discovered, quite by accident, a band i really love.  sorting through random cds at the library, i came across a cover design i liked by a group i'd never heard of.  playing it in my car, i immediately loved their blend of electronics and strings. 

three weeks later, still listening non-stop to the cd, i found out that they were actually coming to portland on their US tour, so i bought a ticket, only to discover they had to cancel their tour (the drummer needs foot surgery, it seems, alas).

since i like to see the bright side of things, this just means i'll have to go to the UK to see them!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

we can print that

some of my friends have had to move recently, which led us into a discussion about affordable housing.  then i came across this article of a 3D printed home!  this has huge ramifications, it seems to me, in terms of global economy and homelessness.

click on the following link to learn more:  3D printed house

first day of spring

happy first day of spring, everyone!

springy things i've enjoyed lately include:  playing on the playground and swinging with small children, puddle stomping, hiking in the hail/sun/rain/sun, getting my bike out and on the road, drinking an iced latte, remembering i have sandals and wearing them (except not in the hail/sun/rain/sun), buying new sandals (i love shoes, i'm shallow that way!), taking time to watch clouds, gathering with my neighbors, collecting beautifully colored eggs from the hens, trying new things, and making colorful art.

what are you loving about spring so far?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


today is a good day because i learned a completely new word!  petrichor, noun, "a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a period of warm, dry weather."

etymology?  it comes from the greek word petra, meaning "stone" and ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in greek mythology.

not only is it fun to smell, but it's fun to say; here's to petrichor and puddle-stomps!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

living splashes of paint

as i write this from the nature haven of my friends' home, a stellar jay is stealing not only my attention but the sunflower seeds from the rest of the avian menagerie.  i like to sit in front of the picture window, better than any nature show on tv, and watch the feeding unfold.

at least two hummingbirds live here and alternate between the syrup, rarely perching at the same time.  juncos, sparrows, starlings, finches; the occasional squirrel...and, coffee in hand, i learned something new from an article my bird-loving pals left for me on the kitchen counter.

it's from the paper column "every day physics:  by helen czerski; the color war of blue jays and cardinals".  czerski teaches me about the science behind these beautiful birds. 

red, like the brilliantly throated hummingbird, is visible to me because of pigment, a molecule that absorbs some colors and reflects others.  a red pigment molecule will absorb the blues, greens, and yellows so that only the red is reflected back to our eyes.  the absorption happens because of the structure of the molecule. 

birds use pigments called carotenoids, which are common in many leaves and seeds, and tend to be reds, oranges and yellows.  birds can't make these pigments, no animal can, and so they get them from their diet.  a red bird is a living splash of paint, having transferred the pigment to its feathers.

pigments, however, never turn a bird blue.  the color of blue in a jay, for example, comes from the architecture of the protein keratin that make up its feathers.  the outer layer of keratin is full of tiny air pockets and, as light waves flood in, they bounce off the boundaries between air and protein.

blue light waves are short and, when they meet another blue light wave, they line up to reinforce each other which is why we see iridescence in feathers from every angle.  blue light is the only light that escapes intact and, in the case of feathers, is called structural color.

(green parrots, snakes and frogs use both pigment and structural color) 

who knew science could be so beautiful?

the glass universe

if you have read or seen the movie "hidden figures", this book seems to me to be along those lines.  "the glass universe:  how the ladies of the harvard observatory took the measure of the stars" by dava sobel chronicles how the women went from "human computers" to pioneers of discovering the galaxy.

sobel, a longtime science reporter, has also authored "longitude", "galileo's daughter", and "the planets".

an paragraph from the inside flap, "...elegantly written and enriched by excerpts from letters, diaries, and memoirs...this is the hidden history of the women whose contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe." 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

the (recovered) art of correspondence

i hesitate to call letter-writing a "lost" art, because i think the pendulum of technology is once again swinging in favor of putting pen to paper.  and it can be beautiful and fun to draw pictures of things you at other times may snap a picture of and include in a text message.

as a child i loved to collect stickers, which has translated into a grown-up version of seeing what the new *stamps are at the post office.  (yes, i am that person who cares which design she gets, although i try to make friends with my local postal clerks and make my decision quickly if there is a line behind me.)

what are some of the best pieces of snail mail you've ever received and why?  it can be so fun when, expecting the usual bills and junk mail, a beautiful envelope tumbles out of the mailbox.  why not make someone's day...

*you may already know this, but i happily discovered that when "forever" is written on a stamp, it means that it is good for a first class letter literally forever, regardless of an increase in postage costs.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Monday, February 26, 2018

in the mix

i just love this picture--it is from a spontaneous moment in art class when one of my sixth grade students was mixing paint for his acrylic project.

the room was actually fairly quiet in that moment until i heard, "miss smith, look at this!"

"wow, let me get my phone and take a picture," i said, as we oohed and ahhed over the natural color mix in the middle... beautiful we couldn't have made it if we tried!  what "happy or beautiful accidents" have you come across lately?

Monday, February 19, 2018

classics, again

as a little girl, i had a set of hardbound classic books.  i must have gotten rid of them in one of my minimalist downsizing sorts, but i can get them from the library.

a couple of weekends ago i reread "heidi" by johanna spryi and through adult eyes realized it is basically a *child in foster care story but with a happy ending.  (*language matters, i've moved from saying 'foster kids' to 'children in care' because they are children first and the foster system, while a part of their lives, does not define them). 

and this weekend i reread "the swiss family robinson" by johann david wyss.  my main motivation was, having recently stayed in a treehouse, i remembered this book had some sort of treehouse in it!  the illustrations were whimsical and the treehouse on the island, not to mention their resourcefulness as a family, was epic.  (i always confuse this story with "robinson crusoe", so maybe that should be next on my list.)

what classics do you find yourself drawn to reading or rereading? 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

within reach

it takes commitment and training to get ready to watch the winter Olympics.  first of all, i stretch to make sure i don't strain anything when flopping onto the couch.  then there's the arm curls in order to lift the popcorn and hot chocolate repeatedly to my lips.  regular massage ensures i remain uninjured when reaching for the remote control.  all the while, marveling at the capabilities of the human body. 

here we are, some forty-nine days into the resolutions of many.  still working out, still saving, still chipping away at that dream? 

it's a small thing, with a big metaphor, but at school in the hallway, there is a cord that dangles down from the pull-down crawl space door in the ceiling.  the rope hangs just in reach of many of the students.  for twelve years i have watched kids jump to touch this cord (which is beyond frayed).  one day i asked myself, "why is this so fun for them?" 

because they can.  it's like a goal.  if it seems completely impossible, kids are less likely to jump for it.  same with students once it is easily in reach.  it's most fun for the ones who are at the height where they have to jump and know they'll be able to touch it when they do.

this is the sweet spot of world championships, of resolutions, and of goals in general.  too defeating and why try?  too easy, boredom ensues.  something just out of reach?  people are more likely to go for it! 

time for me to get back to vicariously winning gold in my favored winter sport that i wish was in the Olympics:  snow shoeing!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Monday, February 12, 2018

winnie the pooh

the 2017 british biographical drama "goodbye, christopher robin" is about the creator of winnie the pooh author aa milne's process of creating this beloved story and the impact it has on his family.

the film was directed by simon curtis and stars domhnall gleeson, margot robbie, and kelly macdonald.

watching the movie caused me a none-too-small wave of nostalgia.  i actually paused the film and went to my linen closet to retrieve my own beloved bear.  i have an original winnie the pooh bear (the light tan color, as opposed to the newer golden rod tone) given to me for christmas, 1975 that came with the book.

this winnie the pooh has moved with me approximately 15 times and is intact, save for a small hole in his right foot from which some stuffing is falling out.  like the velveteen rabbit, i take this as a sign of his being loved by me all these 42 years.

learning more about aa milne and christopher robin's life gives me a new perspective when i reread the story.  what beloved story or toy do you cherish from childhood?

Sunday, February 4, 2018

cozy up and write

i had the distinct privilege to be part of an amazing panel of fellow writers for a program at school affectionately dubbed, "cozy up and write".  the panel consisted of a bible journaler, a blogger, a musician, a screenplay author and myself (poet).

we answered questions ranging from "what inspires us?" to "what do we do when we're stuck?" and then everyone, kids included, were given the same writing prompt.

with my small group afterwards, the kids didn't want to stop! only having time for two more writing prompts and sharing, it was time to go. i encouraged them to use the journal for any and all styles that inspired them.

i also told them about the solitude and discipline it takes to write. sometimes when i'm working on the next book chapter, poetry edit, or blog post i'd rather be out trying a new restaurant or having one of my outdoor adventures. i do all of those things and more, but sometimes it is a matter of putting everything else away for a while, getting my glasses on, and typing for several hours by myself.

sometimes poems come to me like a dream: complete and unexpected. other times they take some effort and editing. same with song lyrics and articles. but i love the shape and sound of words so much, i know there will be time for adventures of all sorts: those "out there" and those here, in my writer's soul.

so for now i will sign off, cozy up, and write...

Thursday, February 1, 2018

poetry post

for those of you who live locally, multnomah arts center has sent out their schedule of the 2018 poetry collection pieces that will be available in their poetry post outside the building. i'll type it for you here below.  (my poem is featured during the month of april and it's fun to see the other titles and authors!)

january  corianna nuqui  "list"
february  christopher luna  "say it"
march  ethel gullette  "appreciation"
april  lanette smith  "an episode of sparrows"
may  deborah chava singer  "in the green chatter"
june  francis opila  "listen to whoever flies or sings"
july  sarah rehfeldt  "abstract"
august  gwen osborne  "grace"
september  michael wynn  "blue skies and the trees behind gabriel"
october  jesus becerra  "from my house to your house"
november  alicia grimshaw  "putting the pieces back"
december  ben mefford "no time"

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

back by popular demand

bob ross has made a comeback.  the truth is, i'm old enough to have watched him when his show aired on channel 10 the first time, in 1983. 

i would sit, mesmerized by the relaxing brushstrokes and soothing voice of the "happy trees" artist.

and now i'm having fun as my students do the same.  enter:  a room full of 7th graders...casual conversation turns to bob ross, i put on a video, and thus a new tradition is born!  today we listened to a remix song encouraging the creativity in everyone.  it is stuck in all of our minds now, but it's a good message, so that's ok, right?

if someone talks while we are working and listening to bob ross, they will "shhh" each other, which i find hilarious.  i think i'll order the tshirt that says, "make mistakes in life?  it's ok, they're all birds now."

what's your favorite bob ross quote?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

in honor of ursula k. le guin

author ursula k. le guin, best known for her science-fiction and fantasy writing, passed away this week.  it seems fitting to post one of her quotes,

"love doesn't just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new."

Monday, January 22, 2018

color your winter

need some color in your january?  look no further than professional finger painter iris scott!

scott, a trained artist, happened upon her finger painting technique accidentally one day while painting abroad when all the brushes were dirty.  and i'm so glad she did!

in addition to regular K-8 art classes, i also teach after school art and i'll admit that even i was skeptical about doing this with a group of kids.

but they really rose to the occasion and had a complete blast doing it!  the picture caption from our afternoon?  "28 hands, 100 gloves, 14 masterpieces and a whole lot of FUN".

for more about iris and her work, you can visit iris scott

Monday, January 15, 2018

all lives matter

putting ourselves in a position to imagine someone else's perspective, especially today for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, can be powerful.

to do this, first of all, i watched the documentary "STEP" about an all-girls leadership academy with the goal of every student graduating from high school and attending college.

it follows the lives of several young African American ladies through their involvement with dance and what they learn through teamwork and perseverance.

i also read, "Reading with Patrick" by Michelle Kuo. Kuo, Taiwanese, volunteers as a Teach for America program in Helena, Arkansas. the realities of life are tested for her as one of her most promising students, Patrick, is jailed for murder while she is away pursuing her law career. Michelle returns to the Mississippi Delta where she and Patrick discover the power literature has to bind us together.

Monday, January 8, 2018


this could be the year for you to do some of those things you've always wanted to do!  it doesn't have to be a big-ticket item, either.

for me, it was taking a stand-up comedy class!  i learned so much.  there are a lot of funny people in the world, but i took for granted how much effort they put into their routines.  it's not enough to be funny, it helps; so does having a keen sense of timing.  but there are key portions to creating a stand-up comedy routine that is a hit with your audience.

exercises the teacher led us in:

1)  brainstorm things you think are funny
2) WHY are they funny? (ironic, contrasting, shared experience, etc.)
3) what does your audience need to know about you/the topic in order to understand the humor?

i appreciated that they said, "never punch down", that is, comedy is not about degrading anyone, but it is ok to make fun of yourself, use humor to work through an experience, or join in a common cultural irony together.

just because something is funny to one person does not mean it will be a hit with someone else.  spending time answering and developing "where is the joke?" and being self and others-aware, though, can greatly increase the odds at joining in the laughter.

in my case, teaching middle school has a lot in common with improv and feels like a small department of insane hilarity woven into my everyday world.  what are some things you find funny and why?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

honesty, hope

i have permission to publish a friend's poem here; finding it to be such a poignant expression of honesty and hope for our culture and times...

New Year's Eve 2017

Fireworks surround our cheap hotel
It was a dismal, bruising year
Short-lived dazzle and sulfur smell
What is there to celebrate here?

#Resist and #MeToo but
#BlackLives(Still Don't)Matter
Hurricanes and earthquakes
Empty gun control chatter

Tomorrow we lay my grandmother down
Her vacant place a silent chair
Each grief an assault, no words will be found
Yet traces of hope pierce the air

Fiery messengers whistle and squeak:
A shout, this flare of ours
Bumping along on rock bottom, we
Send rockets toward the stars

by Alison H.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018