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). 

Friday, March 26, 2021

SOL 26/31 and Poetry Friday: It's Friday Fun Time!

An arun is a fifteen-line poem in three sets of five lines. Each set of five lines follows the same syllable structure: starting with one syllable and increasing by one (1/2/3/4/5 — 3x). 

Fellow slicer, GirlGriot (Stacie), created the arun for her National Poetry Month Challenge in 2013. Check out her niece's birthday arun. You can see my inaugural attempt here. Today's arun celebrates Friday fun at our house.




listen for the 

crunch of tires in drive.


son one -

thinking cap, 

Duplo builder,

and gleeful singer.












son two -

scales the stairs,  

Grandpa's partner, 

snuggles for stories.










 - Ramona Behnke

Head over to Soul Blossom Living
 for this week's roundup of poetic goodness.
Thanks, Susan, for hosting this week.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

SOL 25/31 and Sharing Our Stories: Do you read more than one book at a time?

I used to never read more than one book at a time. But, as the old adage goes, "Never say never."

If you happen to peek into my bedroom, you'll find several books on top of the nightstand . . . more stashed on shelf underneath . . . and sometimes a few piled on the floor. 

Here's my current roundup of books I'm currently reading and those I'm oh-so-eager-to-read, with my recent picture book reads on top of the stacks.

Picture books are often my bedtime reading, just the right length for my shortened nighttime attention span. I try to read through the stacks of picture books I pick up from the library before I share them with the grand boys. I'm not sure they are ready for Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, but it should be required reading for older children. I grew up in Oklahoma and knew very little about the 1921 Tulsa race riots until I read the the YA novel, Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham. If you haven't read Sophie Blackall's If You Come to Earth, then add it to your "must read" picture book list. Picture books often end up on the floor, ready to be carried downstairs and added to the book bag I take to Jack and Robby's house.

The stack on the left includes the "required" books I'm currently reading/need to read for upcoming book club meetings. Can you believe that I've never read a Louise Penny, Three Pines mystery? I'm so glad one of my book clubs decided to read Still Life.

The middle stack is filled with books I "choose" to read. Miss Benson's Beetle was one of the  "unchosen" in our recent book club balloting for 2021-22. And so . . . I picked it up . . . and started reading . . . despite the required reading in my first stack. I want to read something . . .  right . . . now . . . that promises to be "an absolute delight" (Elizabeth Berg) and "a pure joyride" (Lisa Wingate).

The stack of middle grade books on the right is a problem. I try to avoid having multiple middle grade books arrive at once because I always want to read more books than I have time to read. But Red, White, and Whole comes highly recommended and is a novel-in-verse, a structure I love. The other two titles are by authors I love: Just Like That by Gary Schmidt and The Canyon's Edge by Dusti Bowling. Oh, sometimes I wish that I were a faster reader!

I hope you've found a title or two you might want to add to your WTR (want to read) list. Please excuse me, it's time for lunch and I want to begin Red. White and Whole

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

SOL 24/31: Revisiting March 2020

What I remember most 

is the comfort I felt

facing a global pandemic

with this community of writers. 

And how very afraid 

I was to face April 

without the daily support 

of my fellow slicers.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

SOL 23/31: Precious Memories To Last Awhile

We arrive at the new airport

where we walk and walk and walk

before reaching baggage claim.

Quick as a wink 

Grandma and Grandpa are claimed curbside

by Teddy and his mama. 

Two walks and sunny days mark our first two days together,

a stroll to explore the neighborhood 

and a long walk to the park with a playground.

We make Muddy Buddies, 

read Attack of the Underwear Dragon, 

and play games of Chutes & Ladders and Sneaky Squirrel.

I watch Teddy frolic 

on the just-delivered-by-me

Ninja Turtle beach towel,  

a remnant from his dad's childhood. 

Miss Ruthie, a bit tentative at first, 

warms up quickly!

 She lets Grandma kiss the top of her head,

loves spending time in Grandpa's lap,

and adores her new yellow duck.

This petite wonder amazes us

with the amount of food she can eat.

Our short visit

expands to include

 exploring rocks, fossils, and crystals with Grandpa,

 kitchen visits by Astronaut Teddy from outer space,

plenty of time for reading picture books,   

singing songs and lifting flaps in Ruthie's board book, 

oohs and aahs over her clapping skills 

and giggles in response to her "strawberry pucker."

My desire for some of Utah's famous cookies 

is gratified by boxes from Chip and The Store.

Blake's wish for chocolate roll

brings out the family recipe and the rolling pin

for the creation of this dessert, beloved by five generations. 

Saturday delivers gray skies and rain.

Sunday morning brings a sprinkling of snow

and a smattering of March Madness basketball,

with time to snuggle and laugh and share our love.

This family gathering delivered

precious memories to last awhile

until we gather again. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

SOL 22/31: Tracking my Reading Life!

Joanne Toft wrote a post about reading habits and journals that inspired this post. I jotted down "time of day, places, and book journals."  An idea for another book post popped into my head so I jotted it down beside the topics I remembered from Joanne's post. I decided to focus on my book journals.

My first book journal ever was begun in July of 1997. Interspersed in the blank pages are photos of women reading and quotes about the reading life. Unfortunately, I am a sporadic recorder of what I read. This book lasted me from July 1997 until the end of 2018. I frequently fail to write down what I've read.

In January of 2019, I started my second book journal. My previous journal had been purely chronological and I would label entries as PB (picture book), MG (middle grade), BC (book club). Adult books that weren't for book clubs did not have any label. When I started my new book journal (a blank book that my son purchased in India), I decided to label the top of the page as to genre. So I have pages and pages and pages of picture books (I've gotten better about recording them) with occasional pages labeled Middle Grade/YA books, and even fewer pages labeled Adult Books. When I pulled my book journals off the shelf, I found a note inserted in my first journal with the words picture book, middle grade, adult, and book club. Book club is not a category that I've used in my new journal, but I intend to do so going forward. 

I try to track when I read a book by month and use a star system for rating books. My 2020 two star adult reads were Where the Crawdads Sing, Harry's Trees, and A Place for Us. I had four two star MG reads (When Stars Are Scattered, Before the Ever After, King and the Dragonflies, and A Wish in the Dark) and one three star MG read, Echo Mountain. My three star picture book/children's book/adult book (a book for all of us) for 2020 was The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse.

Before I take leave of talking about my book journals, I have to share the pages I create in the back of the journal. They include Books Currently Not Available at KCLS (sometimes I request them before the library has purchased them), Shower Baby Gifts (a list of books I like to give for baby gifts), Kid Books to Recheck (I didn't get to them before they were due at the library), and Adult Books to Recheck (often with a page number that I reached before returning the book, The Moment of Lift, p. 115).

I have quite a few friends who use Goodreads for keeping track of what they read. I have another friend who uses an elaborate Excel spread sheet for recording what she reads. I prefer to use blank journals as my vehicle for tracking what I read. What's your system?


I wish I had started tracking sooner, but these two journals represent a priceless (albeit  incomplete) peek into the past 24 years of my reading life. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

SOL 21/31 and Sharing Our Stories: Sometimes a book arrives at the perfect time!

 I open my Libby account to find an e-book has arrived. I rarely request e-books, but I open this picture book and fall in love. It's the perfect book for Shelly, my friend who just spoke to her scholarship group about Passover. I wish it had arrived sooner, so I could have shared it with her before her Passover presentation. 

I wonder how I knew to request this book from the library. Later that day, I'm searching the ALA (American Library Association) Youth Media Awards page and discover why I requested this particular book from the library. It won the picture book category for the 2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award, an award recognizing titles for children and teens that exemplify high literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience. 

Shelly's birthday is next week. I call Island Books and they have a copy in stock. I pick it up on Friday, share it with my daughter on Saturday, and find it impossible to wait for Shelly's birthday. I drive to her place on Monday, give her the book, and then proceed to read it to her. She loves it! You will too! The illustrations are gorgeous and the text captures the warmth of a family gathering, the light inside juxtaposed against the darkness outside.

Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tale

by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Susan Gal

Have you had a book arrive in your life at a just-right time like Welcoming Elijah did for me? 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

SOL 20/31: A quick march through my first decade of slicing!

I awake to an early morning surprise! I'm one of four folks selected for the Decade Prize. Congrats to my fellow prize winners, Jodi Mahoney, Tracy Shepardson, and Jennifer Kesler. I offer a jubilant thank you to TWT who organize us every year for our own version of March Madness and to the sponsors of the Decade Prize, Claire Landrigan, Zane Bloser, Simon and Schuster, and Penguin Press.

I decide to revisit ten posts from my first decade of slicing, one for each year. They are not my favorites for it's impossible to pick my favorites. These are the posts that caught my eye or that I might have remembered as I gave myself permission to take a quick march through a decade of writing.

In Hope Springs Eternal, I pen a haiku about how I often feel discouraged at the close of day, but a new day always fills me with optimism. (2012)

In My Life in a Bag, I reflect on life as a bag lady. (2013)

In Savoring the Light, I compose an arun, a form invented by fellow slicer, Girl Griot. (2014)

In Memories to Last Awhile, I capture three joyful days of a visit from son and his wife. (2015) 

In Book Club Retreat, I remember our annual book club retreat that fills us to the brim with good food, dear friends, a new book list, and memories to last us until next March. (2016)

In A Meditation on Badges, I propose adding a 3rd badge to the badges of pantser and planner. (2017)

In Sunshine Bouncing on my Lap, I write about a small moment with grandson Jack. (2018)

In Inspired by Wordsmithing, I create my own job description. (2019)

In Adapting to Our New Normal, I feature a couch full of books shared in Face Time story times. (2020) 

In Celebrating Green, I invite you to see the glory of spring in my part of the world.

And the best part of meandering through the slices is reading comments left by dear friends and fellow slicers! While I've had the privilege of meeting some of you in person, I feel connected to all of you since our slices serve as meeting places for the sharing of our hearts.

Friday, March 19, 2021

SOL 19/31 & Poetry Friday: Everything Nye

I wanted to share Naomi Shihab Nye's most recent book of poetry that I've checked out and renewed three times from the library. 

And I wanted to share some of her poems that I love from the book and found published on two favorite poetry sites:

Academy of American Poets: "Kindness"     "Shoulders"    "Gate A-4"

Poetry Foundation:    "Yellow Glove"    "Supple Cord"    "One Boy Told Me"

And I wanted to share three more favorite poems from this wonderful collection, Everything Comes Next: Collected & New Poems.

"Sifter" p. 26    I've loved this poem ever since I first read it in Nye's book A Maze Me. You can listen to it here.

"Museum" p. 54    A new-to-me prose piece, first published in Nye's collection, Honeybee, that made me laugh out loud. Listen to her tell the story here.

"Ted Kooser is My President" p. 177     "Actually I have never been / to Nebraska, except with Ted,/ who hosted me dozens of times,/ though we have never met./ His deep assurance comforts me." Surely, Nye has met Ted Kooser by now.

And here's my short account of the delightful evening I spent in Nye's company for the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture at Western Washington University in 2018. Every time she speaks, it feels like she's in conversation with just a few good friends.

And then I discovered this brand new Nye poem, Every day as a wide field, every page, in the March 2021 issue of Poetry magazine.

Just in case you want to hear Nye read this poem, check out The Poetry Magazine Podcast (3/9/21) Naomia Shihab Nye and Danusha Laméris in Conversation. "Nye and Laméris remind us that poetry makes sense when things stop making sense—that poetry can take us over, under, or through difficulty."

And that's how a planned post intended to share Nye's latest  book, Everything Comes Next, expanded into an "Almost Everything I Love about Naomi Shihab Nye" post.

Head over to Teacher Dance
 for this week's roundup of poetic goodness.
Thanks, Linda, for hosting this week.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

SOL 18/31: Stepping Away to Savor the Moments

This is my tenth year to share a slice of life every day in March and the first time that I've written slices in advance. I'm an avowed plantser, with the emphasis on pantser (a writer who flies by the seat of her pants, with an occasional spurt of planning). I might know that I'm planning to write a certain slice some time during the month, but writing slices ahead of time is not in my wheelhouse. Until this week when I decided that I could plan and write ahead and step away for a bit. We are headed to our son's place for a quick visit. 

So for the next four days, I will post my pre-written slice and leave three comments. But then it's back to savoring the moments with Teddy, almost five and Ruthie, ten months. I'm sure I'll have some fodder for future slices, but while I'm there I'll be focusing on play and conversation and good food with our son's family. We saw them in September when they drove here. This time since husband and I are vaccinated, we are the ones doing the traveling. 

Even though it's been six months since Ruthie and I met, I'm really hoping that she will recognize me from our almost daily conversations on Face Time. Take a peek at a few of the pics I've snapped this month. (Note: Even though this shows that I posted on Wednesday, it was already Thursday on the east coast, the time that counts for posting!)

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

SOL 17/31: Celebrating Green (and blue and white and pink and purple)!

My walks are filled with words. I listen to podcasts (mostly to distract myself from the fact that I can no longer call my brother while I walk). The words fill my head and distract me from the sorrow that fills my heart. 

I did not start out to write a sad post. Look at the title. This is a celebration post! But before I share what I'm celebrating, I have to share two songs I often hum in my head, especially after returning from my walks. The first is Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." The second song, "I Think the World is Glorious," is one I learned as a child attending Primary (our faith's mid-week, after-school, gathering for children). 

Every year in March the world explodes in glory!

Come stroll with me to savor the colors of our glorious world.