Thursday, May 6, 2021

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Blossoms of Joy

Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link is rounding up our Spiritual Journey Thursday posts relating to the theme Blossoms of Joy. Thanks, Carol, for hosting this week.

Can you imagine our earthly sojourn without the blossoms that accompany our celebrations and our farewells? Some years ago, carnations worn on Mother's Day signified whether a mother was alive or deceased: red if one's mother was living, white if one's mother was deceased. Our mothers pinned our love to their Sunday dresses in the form of corsages. Today we gift our mothers gorgeous flower arrangements for the home as a reminder of the joy they bring to our lives. 

I am fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest where spring trumpets its arrival with bursts of flowers, blossoms on trees, and the tender green leaves of spring. I decided to search my photos for my favorite pics of spring. Here are a just a few of my joyful blossoms of spring. I was trying to limit myself to ten, but it looks like I ended up with a baker's dozen!


The lyrics to the hymn "God Is Love" capture the joy of the natural world and its reflection of God's love and kindness.

God Is Love 

(the link has two additional verses)

1. Earth, with her ten thousand flow’rs, 

Air, with all its beams and show’rs, 

Heaven’s infinite expanse, 

Sea’s resplendent countenance— 

All around and all above 

Bear this record: God is love.

Text: Thomas R. Taylor, 1807–1835, alt.

Music: Thomas C. Griggs, 1845–1903

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: A Fabulous Friday!

Fridays are exciting at our house because the grand boys come for the day! Their arrival brings laughter and joy to our home. We played with sand and play dough and Legos and Main Street, read stories and Sesame Street flash cards and Jack's Rocky story, watched vacuum truck videos, introduced Grandma to the upstairs routines (since Grandpa was on a call for work), and went for a walk with Grandpa.

Someone left two May Day baskets filled with flowers on my front porch. It didn't take long for me to figure out they came from two of my favorite visitors throughout this past year. They come on their bikes and sometimes I have cookies to share, but mostly we stand in the driveway, masked and distanced to chat about their day. They're first graders and I've known the twins ever since they were born. And now they're amazing first graders. So glad they made May Day baskets at school and their grandma helped them fill the baskets with flowers from their property. I failed to take a pic of the baskets, but here they are transferred to vases where they brighten my day and perfume my home (yes, those are lilacs). 

When Sara came to pick up the boys Friday afternoon, we had a delightful call from Kara and Kathy! It was serendipitous that Sara and I were together to chat with them about the event they had just attended: the OkPACE (Post-secondary Adult Career Education) spring conference with the presentation of The Karl Scifres Leadership Award in honor of the legacy and hard work performed by my brother, Karl, during his career. We miss this gentle giant who loved and served so many every single day of his "far too short" time on earth.

Friday was also Miss Ruthie's first birthday. We loved getting FaceTime calls throughout the day. It made us feel a part of her special day even though we weren't there in person. And big brother Teddy had a T-ball game on Ruthie's birthday too.

My fabulous Friday ended with a beautiful walk. It was rainy and cloudy for most of the day, but the sun came out for the late afternoon and evening. So glad you could join me for Friday fun!

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Slice of Life and Sharing Our Stories: From Languishing to Flourishing

When I read this article today "Those Blah Feelings Have a Common Name," in the Science Times section of the NYT, I immediately saw that I could create a diamante poem from the ideas presented in the article.  I could save this for Poetry Friday, but it's what popped up for today's slice of life. Our prompt for Sharing Our Stories last Thursday was aloud. I usually read poetry that I create aloud, but I'm looking forward to using this strategy with my narrative pieces as well.

Here's the formula for my antonym diamante poem:

1 noun

2 adjectives

3verbs ending in -ing 

4 nouns (2 relating to the first noun, 2 relating to the antonym at the end of poem)

3 verbs ending in -ing

2 adjectives

1 noun

It's the center point of the poem where the poem pivots to reflect the final word (an antonym for the first word).


joyless, bleak

muddling, stagnating, languishing

befuddlement, aimlessness, absorption, connection

 attending, rediscovering, flourishing

immersive, intentional


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Slice of Life: Come Stroll with Me!

 Spring is my second favorite season 

(after fall which I adore)!

It's been amost three weeks

since I've shared pics from my walks.

Come along for springtime color

and celebration of new life!

One of my favorite spots is this fence line.

I can't resist a close-up shot

and a view from the other end on a sunnier day!

and tulips

and tiny flowers and dandelions!

Cherry blooms circle our library roundabout

and sparkling blue frames a tree in white.

Heavy pink blooms call me up the hill

while evening sky bestows day's benediction.
- Ramona Behnke

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Writing Habits

I've been mulling over my writing habits since Thursday's prompt for SOS arrived. When I awoke at 5 am, I decided to indulge in a couple of my favorite habits - sipping and meandering. For more than a few years, my Saturday morning habits included an early morning Weight Watchers class followed by a raspberry hot chocolate infused writing session at a nearby Starbucks before I tackled Saturday morning errands.

I tiptoe downstairs to make a cup of hot chocolate, plump the pillows, and settle in, laptop in lap for another favorite habit, meandering the posts of my writing buddies. I decide that I'll leave a comment on each post to the SOS prompt before beginning to write. I revel in the early morning songs of the birds, delight in my friends' exquisite word choices, and decide that my favorite writing habit is time spent in the company of my writing friends.

I often arrive with no thought or intention other than it's time to write a post. But after strolling through a few blog posts, I'm ready to write. So whether it's a favorite word (isn't dappled just the most delicious word?) that gets my creative juices flowing, or the poems posted by my Poetry Friday friends, or the sharing of a favorite book tucked into a story of hospitality, my meanderings lead me to discover something to share. And today it was my favorite writing habits: sipping, meandering, writing, and napping. Yes, the best part of an early morning writing session on Saturday is the chance to snuggle back under the covers for a few more winks before the day begins in earnest!

And here's a Saturday serendipity that popped up on my feed this morning: The Nine Habits to Increase Your Energy. Please excuse me while I indulge in Habit #3: 20 minute naps!

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Sharing Our Stories and Slice of Life: Going Home!

Home is McAlester, Oklahoma.

We moved to our first home in McAlester at 1011 North D Street in 1962, the summer before I started second grade. Just a year and a half later we moved two blocks away to 306 West Tyler, home for our family for the next twenty-eight years. I left this home to attend college, to live in Hong Kong while I served as a missionary, and to share an apartment just across town with my brother Karl. I returned to this home after my father's death and my brother's wedding in the summer of 1980. I was glad to spend the next two years with Mom, helping her adjust to life without my dad, her companion of almost forty years.  I left this house in the summer of 1982 when I married and was thrilled that I would be living just two hours away in Tulsa, an easy drive back to my hometown.  

My easy two hour drive to my hometown became an almost seven hour drive when we moved to Houston in 1986. Sometimes I flew and sometimes I drove, but my children became familiar and acquainted with my hometown of McAlester, Oklahoma. Even after my mother died in 1991, we continued our visits because my brother and his family lived there. With our move to Washington in 1997, our road trips ended and we always arrived by air, frequently with a stayover at my BFF's home in Tulsa. I have always loved going to McAlester, my hometown, where I feel the closeness, the love, and the tug of home.  

That has changed with the death of my brother in December and my sister-in-law's move to Stillwater to live closer to her son and family (and I understand). We've had members of our immediate family in our hometown for almost sixty years. 

How do you go home when there's no home to visit? Well, my visits will be less frequent, but I'm sure that my trips to Oklahoma will occasionally include a stop in McAlester.  I still have a few friends, some extended family who live there, and so many family members at Oakhill. My parents, aunts and uncles, my grandparents, my great-grandparents and now my brother all have real estate at Oakhill Cemetery. I know lots of folks who no longer visit cemeteries, but I like going there and remembering the stories and basking in the memories of those I love. So I will be going home again, but I may have to stay in a hotel.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

SOL: Sunday Morning Giggles

,It was Easter morning and we were watching the Sunday morning General Conference broadcast of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Pres. Russell M. Nelson had arranged for the speakers and music for this session of conference to represent our worldwide church. Midway through the morning session, Elder Dallin H. Oaks announced that choirs of women and children from around the world would sing a beloved song from our children's hymnbook, "I Am a Child of God." 

I liked the way the filming began (49:25) by spotlighting the groups as they prepared to sing, some just gathering, a group of women chatting, a group of teenagers laughing as they lined up and prepared to sing, another group fanning themselves, one group giggling, a group of children sitting on church pews. I really liked the little girl in the white dress with pink polka dots (50:08). Her smile and wide open eyes conveyed her excitement and enthusiasm.

However, my favorite group and star performer of the morning was not in the sneak-peek-before-performing collage. It was the largest group, three rows of boys and girls, beautifully attired. And our star performer? A little girl in a yellow dress, 2nd row, 4th from the right. She's not looking at the conductor. No, she's looking down stroking her pigtails (50:35) and watch for it . . . YES!!! Eight seconds into her group's performance, she grabs a pigtail and tucks it under her nose, mustache style! I could not keep from giggling. It was so refreshing to see a child acting just like a child! 

This could so easily have been cut from the final take, but someone with a sense of humor, knew that we would all be amused by a little girl with a pigtail swished under her nose, playfully looking up at the camera. I can't help thinking about her and being grateful that someone saw to it that her antics made the final cut and brought comic relief to our Sunday morning conference session and smiles to me two days later.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Spiritual Journey Thursday, Sharing Our Stories and Poetry Friday: All Things New!

It's a triple Thursday as I share a favorite quote, a golden shovel poem and some favorite pictures from recent spring walks for Spiritual Journey Thursday, Sharing Our Stories, and Poetry Friday.

Karen's Got a Blog is rounding up our
Spiritual Journey Thursday posts 
relating to the theme All Things New.
Thanks, Karen, for hosting this week.
Head over to A Year of Reading
 for this week's roundup of poetic goodness.
Thanks, Mary Lee, for hosting this week.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
- Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

I chose this phrase "The flowers appear on the earth;..." from Song of Solomon 2:12 to create a golden shovel poem. Golden shovel poems are inspired by a line of poetry or text, constructed so that the ending word of each line when read top to bottom composes that line.

Awe fills my heart as the  

season changes. Winter fades away, flowers

dot the landscape, beautiful blossoms appear,

and I remember sorrow turned to glory on

a blessed spring morning. An empty tomb reveals the 

victory over death, the Savior's gift to all who live on earth.

                                              - Ramona Behnke

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

SOL 31/31: Rounding Up a Month of Writing!


It's been a rough writing month for me. I even told my family that I might not participate next year. I've been challenged to find moments to write about since my moments have such a monotonous sameness to them (blaming that on the pandemic).

I circle back to the questions Dana posted in a comment (10 years ago) to my plea for how to help my students reflect on a month of writing. They are so good that I'm including them here for you:
Reflections - hmm....some quick ideas:
What did you learn about yourself as a writer?
What topics did you write about (go through and find patterns)?
What piece do you feel proudest of and why?
What strategies did you use when you were stuck?
What would you suggest I do different with students if I repeat this challenge next year? What should I do the same?

I return to my favorite question and the one I've used most frequently through the years. What topics did you write about (go through and find patterns)?

Books (12)

Is playfulness in your March toolkit?

Just buy the book!

What’s in the brown bag?

A love letter!

Is there a tape recorder in your house?

Serious Commitment Issues

The Unchosen

Sometimes a Book Arrives at the Perfect Time!

Tracking my reading life!

Do you Read more than one book at a time?

Celebrating Beverly Cleary

I will never run out of books I want to read!

Poetry (5)

God’s Handwriting

Book Spine Poetry

Everything Nye

Revisiting March 2020

Rainy Day Plans


The Grands (3)

Stepping Away to Savor the Moments

Precious Memories to Last Awhile

It’s Friday Fun Time!


Meandering (3)

My Slippery Slope

Ten Early Morning Musings

Meandering Thoughts


Venturing Out (2)

Celebrating March 9th

I Went to Island Books


Year 10 (2)

Celebrating my tenth year!

A quick March through my first decade of slicing


Inspired by others (2)


Party Time at Leigh Anne’s Place


Nature (1)

Celebrating Green (and blue and white and pink and purple)!


There's something I love about reflecting on a month of writing by looking at patterns. It's not surprising that the topic I wrote about most frequently was books (after all my email address includes the word bookwoman). I was surprised that poetry was my next largest topic. I have no problem describing myself as a writer, but it's harder to claim my spot as a poet. Meandering and the grandkids tied for 3rd place. No surprise there. But nature coming in last place? I apologize for this oversight. Especially since nature has been my source of solace and perennial pal through much of the last year. I vow to include homage to this dear friend more frequently in my weekly slices.


And one final question to include in this reflection: What piece do you feel proudest of and why? 


That would have to be Serendipity. First of all, I simply love the word serendipity. I remember teaching this word to sixth graders when it occurred in one of our basal reader (I'm dating myself here) stories. I love that this slice was inspired newtreemom's 12071 slice, the serendipity of grandson's Tupperware pics appearing on my FB memories just as I was writing this slice, and the double serendipity of Diane reading my post and claiming her spot as my inspiration. I love that something so simple as a Tupperware bowl can evoke such memories, a testament that family heirlooms aren't always the physical objects, but the memories that are attached to the objects.


Thank you Two Writing Teachers for creating this challenge and providing the space and support for us year after year. And thanks to this magnificent community for sharing stories with me and encouraging my writing life. I'm pretty sure I'll be back next year! 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

SOL 30/31: Meandering throughts

Sometimes I spend way too much time chasing random thoughts and reading old slices instead of writing. But I have fun along the way! I started the morning knowing that I wanted to slice about numbers. Here's my collection of numbered thoughts from this morning's meanderings:

288 - the # of times I've walked to meet my exercise goal since March 2020. I know this number because I walk for stickers and I total the stickers for each month in my planner. Two things I've learned from those days of walking: I can walk alone and it's okay to be boring and take the same walk. Sometimes the best walk is the most convenient one. While I used to crave walking with a buddy and taking different walks, I reached my goal most days by getting out the door and taking the exact same walk. When I switched from a FitBit to my watch, I learned one more thing: I can walk faster. Closing my activity ring required me to pick up the pace and while it wasn't easy at first, walking faster is my new habit. I still stop to take pictures though.

2 - the # of serious slices I've written on Day 30 during my decade of participating in this monthly challenge: Praying that those who mourn will be comforted (2014) and From Light and Breezy to Serious and Important (2019)

6 - the # of slices written on Day 30 during a decade of Day 30s that include books

3 - the number of commenters from my first March of slicing (2012) who are also participating in the 2021 March challenge, listed in order of appearance:  Stacie (Girl Griot) at If you want kin, you must plant kin , . .  Stacey at Raising Literate Humans, and Anita at Learning to Be Writers and Readers

8 - the number of commenters from March 2012 who I've since met in person: Ruth, LeAnn (Elsie), Mary Helen, Stacey, Linda, Christy, Tara, and Kim

1 - "slicer to the rescue" from March 2012, Dana gives me questions to help my student writer's reflect on their process 

1,200 - the # of posts I reached this week without realizing it - I love that my 1,200th post was about Beverly Cleary. Here's the Beverly Cleary article  I just discovered this morning on Vox with this great quote from writer, Constance Grady: "That, ultimately, is the bliss of the Ramona Quimby books: a safe and happy space, and a little girl running wild within it. It’s what makes the books such uncontested classics."

And so I wind up this meandering post of numbers. Don't ask how long I meandered. There are a few perks to being retired. While I've never considered myself a math person, I do enjoy playing with numbers! 

Monday, March 29, 2021

SOL 29/31: I will never run out of books I want to read!

Tracking My Reading Life (SOL 22/31) was a peek inside the two book journals I keep. When I was writing that post, I pulled two additional notebooks off my shelf and decided they deserved their own post. I started the first notebook in January 1997. These notebooks are the repository of book reviews, book recommendations from friends (Stephanie Goodliffe, Jolene Graham, Joan Scales, to name just a few) and lists I would compile while visiting bookstores (3rd Place Books, Powell's Books). The second notebook begins five years after the first one in 2002 and is titled simply "Books I Want to Read."

When I pulled these off the shelf, they were stuffed with newspaper articles, book reviews, and lists created by me. I took the time this morning to weed through these papers and add the ones I wanted to keep to the second notebook. 

 You may wonder why I don't have more notebooks. The second one was started nineteen years ago! Somewhere along the way I moved to putting reviews and book lists into a rather hefty file.  

More than a decade ago, my son saw me writing down titles in a bookstore, grabbed my phone, and said, "Just take a picture, Mom." I've never put all those pictures into a folder of their own, but I'm sure I have a reading list on my phone that reaches into the hundreds (maybe even thousands).  

And that brings me up to how I handle the book reviews I read today. I open my computer and request the title from KCLS, my local library system. If it's one I might not want to read right away, I put it on the For Later Shelf which currently holds133 items. When grandson and I reach our limit for holds when we are requesting picture books, we add them to the For Later Shelf. I should probably go through the shelf with him sometime soon. I like that my latest system keeps me from adding to the paper piles in my house. 

And just in case something were to happen to my digital files and shelves at KCLS, The Unchosen bookshelf at my house currently holds 31 titles. This quote from the Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges sums up my hope for the afterlife: "I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."

Sunday, March 28, 2021

SOL 28/31: Rainy Day Plans

Writing a short haiku so I can make time for the important things:

Rainy afternoon

Perfect for napping and reading

and cookie baking!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

SOL 27/31: Celebrating Beverly Cleary

Like many of you, I was shocked yesterday when a message popped up on my phone that Beverly Cleary had died. I shouldn't have been surprised. She was 104 years old after all, and about to turn 105 next month. I knew that I had at least a couple of posts that referenced Beverly Cleary. I'll use those posts to bookend my remembrance of this beloved children's author. 

Serendipity at the Mall (July 30, 2012) captures a slice of a father reading a Beverly Cleary book to his children. You'll have to click on the post to discover the title of the book. Want to guess before you look?

Ramona's World was purchased in September 1999 (I sometimes put the date purchased in the front cover underneath my name) and is the only Beverly Cleary book I currently own. I bought it in hardcover, read it, and may have read it to my 3rd grade class that year. I can't remember. (As my dad would say, I've slept a few nights since then.) It's the last published book in the Ramona series begun in 1955 (the year of my birth). 

Tucked in the back cover of the book is a NYT Book Review article "Ramona Forever" by Pamela Paul from Sunday, April 10, 2011 (just before Cleary's 95th birthday). You can imagine that I might have a special connection to the Ramona books, although I missed prime time for them since I was already in my teens when the other Ramona books were published.

On my shelf of saved DVDs is Ramona and Beezus, which a friend gave me several years. ago. The film was released in the summer of 2010 and the video became available in December 2010. The title comes from Beezus and Ramona (1955), the first of Cleary's Ramona books. The plot for the movie comes mostly from the sequels, Ramona Forever (1984) and Ramona's World (1999). I look forward to watching it with the grandchildren.

Ramona the Brave (1975) is a treasured book on my bookshelf, but it's not the actual book. It's a compilation of sentiments from my colleagues glued over the pages of the discarded library book. It was given to me when I retired (2014). Here's the inside front cover that includes the pocket where due dates were stamped and the catalog card (remember those?)for the book . 

This final bookend for this post, Beverly Cleary's 100th Birthday, was my slice of life on April 12, 2016. It's a list . . . wait for it . . . drum roll and confetti . . . a compilation of my 100 favorite middle grade books to honor this very special author on her 100th birthday.

(If you haven't reached your fill of Beverly Cleary yet, check out this CNN opinion piece by Allison Hope, "Beverly Cleary's Ramona is a force for all us beautiful pests" including a 3 minute video clip).