Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Slice of Life #52Stories: 8/52, An Apology Poem

Last week I gathered my courage to join fellow educator and slicer friends at Ethical ELA for a five day writing challenge. One of our prompts was to write an apology poem using William Carlos Williams's poem "This Is Just to Say" as a springboard. As I thought about who I might need to apologize to, my conscience was pricked.  I wrote my apology to my fellow library patrons. I can't write stories about my life without including stories about my relationships with books and libraries and book clubs. It's a powerful thread that is stitched through the stories of my days and years.

This is Just to Say

I picked up
Giver of Stars
from my
holds shelf

Knowing I
couldn’t squeeze
it in before its
Feb 28 due date

Scheming to keep
it longer
and just
pay the fine

Apologizing to
my KCLS book friends
waiting patiently
in line

Returning the book
today and getting
back in line
I'm #499

- Ramona Behnke

Friday, February 21, 2020

Poetry Friday: Poetry for Young People: African American Poetry

Head over to Library Matters
for this week's round-up of poetic goodness and
 Cheriee's celebration of Vancouver poet, Avis Harley.
Thanks, Cheriee, for hosting this week!

I had planned for some time to share this book for Black History Month and almost missed my chance. Added to the Poetry for Young People series in 2013, African American Poetry is an exceptional collection of verse by African-Americans. Be sure to read the introductory four page essay by editor Arnold Rampersad. Marcellus Blount is the other editor of this excellent collection. I'm highlighting several favorite poems (with links to three of them), but don't rely on my recommendations. Get your own copy so you can savor every single page and then share it with a friend.

"The Bean Eaters" by Gwendolyn Brooks 

 "I Want to Write" by Margaret Walker

"Winter Poem" by Nikki Giovanni

"Songs for the People" by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Although this poem was published 125 years ago, the words in this quatrain still resonate today.

". . . 
Our world, so worn and weary,
Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.

. . .  "

"The Creation" by James Weldon Johnson
I love the focus on light (my OLW for 2020) in this poem. Be sure to click on the link to read the entire story about the making of the world.

" . . .
And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That's good!

. . . " 

I hope you'll look for this anthology, read the introduction and meet some new-to-you poets!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Slice of Life #52Stories: 7/52, No Lost Items Today!

I'm attempting to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. One story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories of my life. This is the first one that actually occurred during this year.

One sad fact of life as I've grown older is a preponderance of lost items in my life. On Sunday, it was my earbuds. I was headed for the treadmill to pick up enough steps to meet my 10,000 steps goal when I opened my earbud case and it was empty! I spent more than an hour searching for them. I was terrified because I always put them back in the case! My husband helped me look and it was only when I had returned to the car for the third time (convinced they weren't there because I never wear them when driving) that I discovered them on the passenger seat. I was frantically trying to finish a book on audio this past week before our book club meeting, and I must have worn them to the car, pulled them out, carefully placed them on the passenger seat, and promptly forgot that I did this. 

As if that wasn't enough challenge, the next day the butter dish turned up missing. My husband had unloaded the dishwasher. As I was putting away a few items on the counter, I noticed the top of the butter dish, but no bottom. 

"Honey, where's the bottom of the butter dish?" I inquired.  

He replied, "It wasn't in the dishwasher."

"Oh, yes it was," I replied with certitude. I distinctly remembered moving it from a vertical position to a horizontal position as the top rack became ever more crowded and I played the "shuffle-the-dishes-around" game in order to make everything fit.

"Well, it wasn't there when I unloaded," was my husband's reply. 

Each of us spent a bit of time looking around the kitchen trying to figure out where the bottom of the butter dish had gone with no success. And then, just before we headed to bed, my husband found it! In the dishwasher, in the very back of the top rack, under a basket. I had totally forgotten moving it back there as the top rack had become more and more crowded. Mystery solved! 

And I'm happy to report that today has passed uneventfully with no search for lost items eating up time we'd rather spend doing other things. Unfortunately, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule lately.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Poetry Friday: Save that Empty Heart-shaped Box!

Head over to Teacher Dance 
for this week's round-up of poetic goodness. 
Linda composed an original poem and shared hearts and valentines,
both current and antique from around her house.
Thanks, Linda, for hosting this week on this very sweetest of days!

You are probably familiar with the Jack Prelutsky poem "My Mother's Chocolate Valentine."

Many years ago, someone pulled a fancy Valentine chocolate box out of their poetry bag of tricks. (It sounds like something Janet Wong would do, doesn't it?) I borrowed the idea, saved an empty heart-shaped box from Valentine's Day, and glued the poem inside the box. It's a delight to take the lid off the box of chocolates and recite the poem, pretending to eat chocolate by chocolate . . . until you reach the final two lines and replace the lid on the box: 
"I ate my mother's valentine . . .
I hope she likes the box."

So even if no one gives you a box of chocolates this year, watch the after Valentine's Day sales and purchase this prop for your poetry suitcase. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Slice of Life #52Stories: 6/52, Love on a Pillowcase

I'm attempting to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. One story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories of my life.

I'm not sure what I was thinking. Perhaps my double digit status gave me the courage to defy my father. I think I was eleven or twelve when this story took place. I was at cousin Carol's house. Sunday visits to each other's house after church were an almost weekly tradition. After Sunday dinner, we painted our fingernails. We had done this before I'm sure, but this was the first time that I dared to wear it home. For some reason, my father abhorred fingernail polish. (Perhaps I should mention that my father was born in 1912, in rural Oklahoma and his father was a Baptist preacher.)

When I got home from Carol's house, it didn't take long for my father to notice my fingernails. He exploded in his gruffest voice and insisted that I remove the offending nail polish. I responded with tears and my own anger. Fingernail polish seemed so innocent. What could be wrong with the pale shade of pink on my nails? I stomped off to my bedroom, removed the polish, and began a reign of silence.

The next day I was surprised to find fingernail clippers and a nail file on my pillow. Without the rage of the previous day, my father sat on my bed and explained that he wanted me to take care of my nails and had bought me these tools so I could do exactly that. The discussion ended with a hug. I never understood my father's dislike of painted nails, but I always understood that he loved me. (Perhaps it wasn't really the nail polish he disliked as much as the thought that his little girl was growing up.)

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Seasonal Bliss

It's the first Thursday of the month and time 
to show up with our friends for Spiritual Journey Thursday.
Carol at Beyond Literacy Link is hosting this month and selected 
Seasonal Bliss as our theme. Thanks, Carol, for creating this 
beautiful graphic to accompany our monthly reflections.

I have to admit that I've felt a bit grumpy about Carol's chosen theme, Seasonal Bliss. I've even mentioned it to a few family and friends and we've chuckled about the idea of bliss this time of year when we've had nothing but incessant rain for weeks on end (with a bit of sunshine a few days ago, just to show us what we've been missing). 

Reading your posts this morning has brought light to another rainy day and joy to my heart. I love Carol's quote - "Joys come from simple and natural things..." I've already texted it to daughter who is speaking on joy this coming Sunday. And so this morning I'm collecting joy-filled moments.
  • Beads of water sparkling like diamonds on the tree outside my kitchen sink
  • Green shoots of daffodils prepping for their showy entrance, promising spring is on its way
  • Pink blossoms (already!) on the tree as I drive downtown
  • A chance to write my SOL in front of a roaring fire with snow falling gently when I took a friend to her doctor's appointment (a hospital/doctor's office with a huge fireplace & enormous windows to the outside, thanks to the architect who designed this beautiful space)
  • Hummingbirds sipping at their feeder, buzzing me when I happen to step into "their" space
  • A dry morning when I "brushed" the dead leaves out of the tree on the driveway with the long utility broom
  • Days that are growing longer, giving us more light (even if it isn't always sunlight)
  • Playing hide and seek with three year old Jack who hides in clear view with gleeful joy
  • Giggling with almost ten month old Robby
  • Face timing with perpetually moving, always smiling grandson Teddy (and I get to see him this month!)
  • Three friends together yesterday for the first time since mid- December, cups of hot chocolate in hand, the "Call the Midwives " Christmas special on TV, hitting pause when we need to tell stories, reveling in the joy of simply being together (and that we waited to watch this until we could be together)
  • The "winter" lights on the deck popping on each evening as daylight ends and evening descends
  • This forecast!  (5 days when the sun will peek through the clouds.)
Praise to God for seasons, for family, for friends, and for His ever present love. Thanks for reminding me, Carol, that bliss is waiting to be discovered in every season if we just take the time to "Pause, notice, wonder."

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Slice of Life #52 Stories: 5/52, A Weekend Trip to the Flat

We're all packed and ready for the drive to Granny's house. But first, we sit in the car and wait for Mom to get off work. Dad drums on the roof of the car and I imagine rows and rows of Army men marching there. Finally, Mom comes out the door of W.T. Grants and we are ready for the three hour drive to McNally Flat from where we live in Tulsa. It's the early 1960s. Kay and Karl are in the back seat, but as the youngest in the family, I get to sit in the front seat between Mom and Dad. 

We head south in our '53 light blue and white Chevy. Most of the drive is on two lane highways, but I know we're getting closer once we turn onto the dirt roads of the flat. We urge Dad to pick up speed for the thrill hill as Mom cautions him, "Be careful, Ellis." It's like being in our own roller coaster as we fly down the hill, that fun feeling in our tummies. 

It's been a long drive and my eyelids are droppy. Sure enough, as soon as I drift off, a rabbit scampers across the road. I sit up straighter, trying hard to stay awake so I won't miss the next one. I watch the glow cast by the headlights hoping mightily for another bunny to hop across the road. My vigilance is rewarded. 

It's impossible to go to sleep now. There's Uncle Aaron's house to watch for and then Aunt Ruby Dee's house. After that it's a short jaunt to Granny's house, but the second best part of the trip is coming. It's a favorite game we always play. As we round the bend, it's a game to see who can shout out, "I spy Granny's house," first! We pull into the drive and tumble sleepily into Granny's house, ready for a weekend of fun at the farm.   

And the best part of the trip? It had to be sitting snuggled between my parents, cocooned by their love, listening to Dad sing and Mom tell stories about growing up in the flat. 

Each Tuesday I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice"
This year I'm writing 52 stories from my life.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Poetry Friday: Reaching for the Light!

Head over to Jone Rosh MacCulloch's blog 
for this week's round-up of poetic goodness. 

I'm struggling this week, but continuing to reach for the light (my OLW) in spite of friends' health challenges, two deaths in our extended family, and the state of our democracy. When I read Heidi's review of Finding Treasure last week, I was propelled to pull it off the shelf of books waiting to be read.  And I was not disappointed!

A favorite poem "Collecting Stars!" highlights the joy of fireflies with this opening phrase:
"When darkness deepens
sparks of starlight
dance around the yard."
The poem continues with a familiar image of a child capturing fireflies in a mason jar.
And then closes with these lines:
"those specks of light
aren't made to keep.
So float free - goodbye stars!" 
The book lay open to this page all week. While it may stretch the idea of the poem a bit, it spoke to me of reaching, seeking, and capturing light during dark times. And the act of releasing the fireflies? Maybe it's sharing the light we find with each other.
Here are a few sparks of light I've discovered or leaned on recently:
  • A Facebook find on Martin Luther King Day - "Shed a Little Light performed by The Macabees and Naturally Seven 
  • John Henry Newman's hymn, Lead, Kindly Light performed by Daniel Beck 
  • Verses of scripture - "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119:105) "And I will also be your light in the wilderness..." (1 Nephi 17:13)
  • These words from Jerry Craft regarding his phone call from Kwame Alexander after his Newbery win - “I was so surprised, I thought it was Kwame Mbalia.” When he finally realized it was Alexander, “a light shone through my window on the phone and the angels started singing,” he said laughing.
  • Playing hide and seek with my grandson & his insistence that an important prop is the illuminated flashlight that we carry when we are the seeker
  • The joy of watching grandson revel in light and love at his 3rd birthday celebration
My focus for this past month has been a wonderful way to keep my OLW front and center as I've begun 2020. After a month of sharing light, I'm stepping away to my more traditional Poetry Friday posts of sharing poems, poets, or books that speak to me. However, don't be surprised if the light occasionally strolls into some of my posts.