Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I woke up this morning knowing that it was Tuesday.
And knowing that I needed/wanted to slice today.
And knowing, given that it's New Year's Eve, that most people
would probably be writing things that were deep and profound.
I thought about not slicing today.
I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions.
I'm not feeling very deep and profound.

I read some more blogs
and thought about compiling
an end of year photo essay
but I don't have a smart phone
or a working camera
and I almost never take pictures
so a photo essay is kind of out of the realm of possibility

I read some more blogs
and thought about writing a reflection about my reading life
But I'm not good about keeping track of what I have read
And the idea of  choosing my favorite books
just seems too big for right now.
I read a lot of books I loved this year.

I spent two hours looking for my phone
which somehow, last night,
went completely and totally AWOL
in the space of about five minutes.
and has yet to turn up. 
While I looked
I thought about my slice.
And I thought about making a resolution
about not losing things.
But that seemed a little trite.
And I knew I would probably break it by tomorrow.

I went to lunch with a dear friend
we talked for three hours
about teaching
and parenting adult kids
and healing the hearts
of our foster kids.
And I thought about blogging about that.
 But aside from writing about
how blessed I am to have such great friends
I'm not sure what I would write.

I came home and read a few more blogs.
Lots of people, it seems, are writing about their one little word.
At first I wasn't sure I have one.
And I'm embarrassed to admit
that last year, I said
that I wasn't sure about my word
and I was just going to wait.
And I waited.
365 days.

But today, as I read other people's blogs
and as I thought about the last year
I really did choose my word.
My word for 2014 is OPEN.

I just want to be open
I want to be open to new ideas and experiences.
I want to be open to new friends.
I want to be open to new possibilities.
I want to be open to what God is doing in my boys' lives.
Most of all, I want to be open
to hear the voice of the Father.
Lord, teach me what it means to be open this year.

Monday, December 30, 2013


I didn't start out thinking I was going to participate in Donalyn Miller's #bookaday, and I haven't quite made it, but I have read a lot over break. Yesterday, I read WINGER, the story of 14-year-old Ryan Dean West, a rugby player (a winger is rugby position, in case you are wondering about the book's title) at a very exclusive boarding school. The theft of a cell phone has landed him in "Opportunity Hall" for the semester. He is a typical eleventh grader- madly in love with his best friend Annie, but also mildly interested in Megan, who happens to date his roommate.  Ryan Dean becomes friends with Joey, a star rugby player, who also happens to be gay. A review I read described WINGER as alternatively "hilarious and heartbreaking" and that pretty much describes it. There were times when I was laughing out loud, and other times when I was sobbing. An added feature- there is a  lot of text, but it also has cartoons and charts woven throughout, which gives it a graphic novel feel. I may have to buy this one- I know the eighth grade guys at my school would love it!

 I have been wanting to read this book for more than six months. I loved it, it was one of my favorite reads of 2013. I'd put it in a "growing readers' hearts" basket, along with RULES, WONDER, and OUT OF MY MIND.  You can read my review here

One of my reading goals for 2014 is to expand my reading horizons by reading ten graphic novels, (I really don't enjoy them all that much), so I decided to start early. MARCH, is a memoir by John Lewis, a congressman from Georgia who has been very active in the Civil Rights movement. MARCH, which is the first of three books, captures his life as a child, then his role in the lunch counter sit-ins. It will be a great book to share with upper intermediate, and middle and high schoolers during the month of January. 

Lisa Scottoline is one of my favorite adult junk reads. She writes mysteries that are fast paced and just good to keep around for when you want to read something, but are too tired to concentrate super hard. DON'T GO is the story of Dr. Mike Scanlon, a podiatrist in the reserves, who ends up in Afghanistan. While he is there, his wife is killed in a freak accident, and he returns home to a baby, then discovers a very unwelcome surprise.
Finally, I read SHADOW CATCHER. My boys are not readers, which breaks my heart.  I'm always trying to find books that might pick up simply because the cover looks interesting. Found this at the library and brought it home the first day of vacation. I read it in one day (think of it as John Grisham does fighter pilots) but neither of the boys has picked it up so far.

I'm at the point of vacation where I am starting to think I really need to drag out some student writing and do some responding, or at least clean house, but this week's reading might include: SALT, BEHOLDING BEE, FLORA AND ULYSSES, FALLOUT, or THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP.  I have all of those from the library and would like to get through at least two or three more before break is over.

Saturday, December 28, 2013



Discover. Play. Build.

For the past ten weeks, I've been participating in Ruth Ayres' Celebration Saturdays. This was a quiet week, a week for celebrating the ordinary…

1. Time to bake- When I'm working, I don't bake much. This year, with the boys gone, that's been especially true. This week though, I actually baked twice. On Monday, I baked banana bread (then tried to convince Son #1 that you really won't get a disease from eating the overripe bananas, instead of throwing them out). On Tuesday, I baked six dozen chocolate crinkle cookies, which disappeared in about 24 hours.

2. An ending- For the past couple of months, I've been reading elementary and middle grade nonfiction for the CYBILS. There were 95 books on our list, and since the middle of October,  I have read 91. This week, the first round judges had to choose the seven books we would pass on to the second round panel of judges. We had lots of hard conversations, but we finally ended up with a list we are really proud of. This is, I think, my sixth year of judging and I always love the opportunity, both to read lots of great books and then to meet people from all over the country.

3. Time to read- With my CYBILS reading winding down, I've had time this week to do other reading, and have surprised myself by reading pretty much a book a day. I've read NAVIGATING EARLY, which I loved, MARCH (an autobiographical graphic novel by John Lewis, a Georgia congressman who was very involved in the Civil Rights movement), SHADOW CATCHER (a spy espionage novel that I picked up at the library, thinking that the cover might grab my boys' attention) and then another mystery  "junk read, DON'T GO, by Lisa Scottoline. Last night I started WINGER, which I picked up after recommendations from Twitter.

4. Time for yardwork- This fall, I got my front and side yard raked (20 bags of leaves!) , but then we had a string of cold, snowy weekends, and I didn't ever get the back yard done. Yesterday, the temperature in Colorado was a glorious 60 degrees and I raked 25 bags of leaves. I love the opportunity to be outside, yet also to be productive!

5. Time for a "hot date!"- Tonight I have a date with my two favorite "hotties"- my sons! Really, this probably means that we will go to the theater together, I will buy the tickets, and then we will somehow "lose" each other in the lobby, so that they can check out girls, but it's always nice to spend time with them. And one week from tonight, I'll be taking them to the airport, so I need to enjoy them while I can!

For a bunch more celebrations, head over to Ruth Ayres' Writes!

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Have spent the past couple of months reading mostly nonfiction, but my responsibilities as a first round CYBILS judge will finish in the next couple of days, and I'm slowly working my way back to the world of fiction. On Saturday, our first day of Christmas vacation, I went to the library. I was able to snag NAVIGATING EARLY, which I have been wanting to read for quite a while. I loved Vanderpol's first book, MOON OVER MANIFEST, and couldn't wait to to dive into this one.

NAVIGATING EARLY is the story of Jack Baker, born and raised in Kansas. When his mother dies unexpectedly, Jack's Navy officer father transplants him to a boarding school in Maine, where Jack meets Early Auden. Early is a little eccentric- he lives in a janitor's closet close to the gym, attends class when he wants to, sees the number pi as one long string of colors and stories, collects articles about black bear sightings, sorts and resorts a bottle of jelly beans when he's upset, and listens to certain music on certain days (Billie Holiday is for rainy days). The story is set in 1945, and true to that time period, Vanderpol doesn't use the word autistic, but that's definitely a word that comes to mind as I come to know Early.

Jack and Early somehow become friends. Through a series of miscommunication, they are left at the school over a week's vacation, and Early convinces Jack to set out looking for black bears along the Appalachian Trail. Along the way, they encounter any number of unusual characters, who have previously shown up in Early's "Pi" stories, which are inserted periodically throughout the book. At this point, I could not help but think of Maniac Magee…

I loved NAVIGATING EARLY. I loved Jack and Early's journey. I loved their friendship, and Jack's compassion, and his ability to understand Early. I definitely think it's one that could help kids talk about and understand differences, and grow their hearts a little. I loved Jack and Early's attempts to deal with the grief and losses in their own lives, think this would also speak powerfully to a lot of kids. And like MOON OVER MANIFEST, I think Vanderpol is an incredible writer, it's one of those books you finish, and want to go right back and read again, just to see how she put it together.

NAVIGATING EARLY was one of the highlights of my reading year! Thank you, Clare Vanderpol!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


May the true meaning of Christmas dwell richly in your heart today!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Almost every Tuesday, I participate in the "Slice of Life" community at Two Writing Teachers. Head over there for some great writing!

My second son is very linear and sequential. He likes his life to work just so.

His mother (me)  is his polar opposite. Totally random.

Which drives Son #2 absolutely crazy.

I try hard to reform. I really do.

But I just keep finding myself in ummm, I guess I would say, ummm,  situations that dictate otherwise.

A year or so ago, I sliced about the great plumber confusion.

And last Sunday, I found myself in a similar situation.

Sue, a friend from work, was flying out to Oregon early Sunday morning with her boyfriend and I had offered to take them to the airport. I actually live about halfway between their house and DIA, and originally, the plan had been that I would backtrack to their house, about twenty minutes west, and then jump on the highway, and head to the airport, which is about twenty minutes east of my house.

On Saturday evening, however, we had a little ice storm and the roads got pretty slick. Sue texted me and said that she and Alex would shorten my journey by driving to my house, and then I could take them from there. I wasn't especially excited about driving for 45 minutes on black ice, so I was thrilled not to have to drive any farther than necessary.

Sue said that she and Alex would arrive at my house at about 5:30 Sunday morning. Given the ice, I thought it might take awhile to clean off the car, so I went out about 5:20 to start scraping. The ice, however, didn't prove as thick as I had presumed, and so it took me less than ten minutes to clean off the car.

I debated going back in the house, but it was really cold, and I thought it might be nice if the car was warm when Sue and Alex arrived. It's against the law to leave a car running in Denver (and another teacher at work, new to Denver, had his car stolen the week before Thanksgiving when he did that) so I decided to sit in the car and read for the few minutes until they arrived.

I had probably been sitting there about five minutes when a black SUV pulled up right in front of me. I don't live on a busy street, in fact, aside from the newspaper delivery guy, this was actually the only car I had seen. I knew Sue drives a little dark blue sedan, but I thought that the SUV probably belonged to Alex, and I jumped out of the car and stood by the rear of the SUV, all ready to help them move their bags from their car to mine.

But they didn't get out.

I stood outside my car for two or three minutes, then started to get a little nervous.

What was going on? Why weren't they taking so long?

Finally, I got back into my car and noticed that the license plates on the SUV were from Illinois. That struck me as a little odd, especially given that I knew Alex was from Oregon, and that Sue had met him when she attended college there.  I didn't remember Sue had ever saying anything about being in Illinois, but maybe Alex had spent some time there.

I waited.

After about five minutes, the driver's side door on the SUV finally opened.

It wasn't Sue or her boyfriend.

 Instead, it was a man who did look vaguely familiar. After running through the list of possibilities, I realized that he was the brother-in-law of Caroline, my neighbor to the north. His family are in the process of moving to Colorado, and his wife, Caroline's sister, has been here all fall with their two little boys. He's come out once or twice a month and we have exchanged greetings, but have never really been introduced.

I thought he might wonder why I was sitting in my car, waiting to greet him at 5:30 on a cold and icy Sunday morning. Maybe I should try to explain myself, at least a little. I opened the door and got out.

"I'm going to the airport." I announced cheerily.

He smiled tentatively. "I just drove in from Chicago," he said.

I'm waiting for my friends," I explained. "They're coming to meet me here."

He reached into his car to grab a little dog, who immediately started to bark at me.

 "That's nice," he said, sounding like someone who had been up all night driving on icy roads.

"How were the roads?" I asked.

"They're fine, he said. "I drove through an ice storm in Illinois, but they're ok here.

"Oh, good," I said, "because I'm going to the airport."

"Have a nice trip," he said.

"No, I'll be here," I declared, "my friends are leaving and I'm waiting for them, so I can take them to the airport."

"Merry Christmas!" he said, as he grabbed his bag and headed toward his house, trying to get away from this crazy early morning conversation.

Two days later, I'm still thinking about the odds of a car pulling up in front of my house, at 5:30 on a Sunday morning, and me being there to greet it. 

I try, Kadeem, I really try.

But these kind of situations just keep finding me. 

Monday, December 23, 2013


Jen Vincent hosts "It's Monday, What Are You Reading?" every week. I don't always participate (partly because I feel embarrassed about how little I get read every week, compared to the people who post there), but this week I have read such a weird combination of books that this seems like a good way to share it.

For starters, I am a judge for the CYBILS Elementary and Middle Grade nonfiction committee. Since the end of October, I have read over 90 nonfiction picture books and short chapter books. We are getting close to the end of the process, and by the end of next week, we will have chosen our 5-7 books, written blurbs, and sent them on to the second round judges. I hate this part- I can always get down to ten or twelve favorites, but getting to seven that the entire committee can agree on, that's a different story! Suffice to say, I have spent a whole lot of time this week rereading our top contenders. I can't say which ones those are, but look for an announcement very soon.

WILD is an adult book, and one I have been wanting to read for a long time. The author, Cheryl Strayed, embarked on a backpacking trip on the Pacific Coast Trail from California to Oregon, in summer, 1995. She was 25 years old and had never been backpacking in her life, but Cheryl's life had been on a downward spiral, and she was desperate for a change. She had lost her 45-year-old mother to cancer, watched her family disintegrate, divorced her husband, and was struggling with heroin. I loved reading people's life stories and was delighted when I found this in one of those little neighborhood library boxes when I was walking the dog a couple of weeks ago.  If you want to watch a trailer, with lots of pictures of Cheryl's hike, go here. The trailer is at the bottom of the first page.

Right now, I'm about 50 pages into NAVIGATING EARLY. I loved Vanderpool's first book, MOON OVER MANIFESTO and picked up NAVIGATING EARLY at the library on Saturday. I'm doing my version of #bookaday, which is actually read a book every two or three days. Hoping to get at least five, maybe even ten books read over the break, but we will have to see.

Sunday, December 22, 2013



Are you still shopping? Need gifts for animal lovers?

I fell in love with Nic Bishop's work several years ago. This year I've found a new wildlife photography series, EYE ON THE WILD, by Suzi Eszterhas, that would be terrific gifts or additions to any classroom library. SEA OTTER and ORANGUTAN were both nominated for the CYBILS. When I checked to find out whether there might be others in this series, I discovered that that Eszterhas has published CHEETAH, LION, GORILLA, BROWN BEAR. TIGER and ELEPHANT will be released in June, 2014, but they are available for pre-order now.

SEA OTTER AND ORANG-UTAN trace the lives of animals from birth until adulthood. The books are full, full, full of interesting facts but read like narratives; they'd be terrific mentor texts for kids who were trying to write factual narratives or animal reports. Each book has an end page, "More about …" with ten facts that kids are going to love.  And of course each page contains one or two or three of Esterzhas' beautiful full color photographs.

Perfect last minute gifts!

Saturday, December 21, 2013


For the past ten Saturdays, I've participated in weekly celebrations, initiated by Ruth Ayres at her blog,
Ruth Ayres Writes. Be sure to stop over there for a whole lot more celebrations.

My boys are home!
And it's so, so good to
have messes in the kitchen,
and banging until all hours of the night,
and their great big hugs.

Today I'm celebrating us.
We are not a "traditional" family.
And we don't do Christmas in traditional ways.
My boys, especially my older son,
hate the holiday season
And so  I try to keep it kind of quiet.

 I celebrate the Advent
put out a creche,
attend church,
read advent reflections
usually by myself. 

We do a tree
some years
if the boys want to.

I bake cookies.
The boys help
If they want to.

We have presents.
They always want to do that part.

Last Saturday night
the boys got home from school.
I hadn't done any decorating
because I was kind of waiting
to see how they would feel. 
I asked, tentatively
"Anyone want to help
put up the tree tomorrow?"
I was super surprised
when son #2
responded enthusiastically.

Sunday after church
Son #1 was watching football.
Son #2 was playing video games. 
I went out to the garage
to find the tree. 
(I love a real one, but the boys,
for whatever reason
abhor them).
I dragged the tree out of the garage
and across the backyard to the deck
where I got stuck.
It was too heavy for me to carry up the stairs.
I called for help.
Son #2 hefted the tree
and dumped it unceremoniously
in the living room.
Then retreated again
to his bedroom
to play video games.

I took the tree out of the garbage bags
(And yes, I know you are supposed to keep the box,
but ours got destroyed several years ago)
and discovered that somehow,
the lights on our prelit tree
had come off
and were horribly tangled.

I was about half an hour
into trying to untangle them
when son #1 appeared.
"Want help?" he said.
And then he dismissed me.
"I got this," he said.
"Go get the rest of the stuff we need."
And in the ten minutes,
it took me to get the ornaments out of the garage 
Zay had untangled the lights,
and manhandled the tree
into the corner of our living room.
"The top was a little broken," he declared,
"but I just stuck it back on there."

I have learned,
over the past ten years
that his usual methods-
duct tape,
rarely meet my specifications.

In the old days,
I would have protested
insisted on more artistic fixes
but I have learned
that those interactions
are rarely positive.
 So today, I don't check
I say nothing
and we move forward.

I remember my father
spending hours
twisting the lights around branches
carefully positioning them
so the tree would be evenly lit.
I envision a similar process
for repairing our now unlit
prelit tree.

 Zay takes the lights,
pitches them
over the branches
 at the top of the tree
takes five minutes
to make a few minor adjustments
and plugs them in.
"Ok, we are ready for the ornaments,"
he declares
Again, I long to protest
or make a few fixes
but restrain myself.

It is good enough.

"He can do the rest," Zay declares.
gesturing toward the bedroom
where his brother
is still playing Madden.
Despite his protests,
 Zay helps me unwrap a few
from the newspaper coverings
and decides to stay.

Each ornament is a piece
of our short family history. 

The jillion apple ornaments
from my years as a teacher
('Why do people think you want those?"
asks my son, wrinkling up his nose).

The silver pinecones
from my dear friend Cyrene
who sent a box of ornaments
all the way from Maine
for our first family Christmas. 

The football and basketball snowman
and African American angels
From a book club friend
the boys describe as Book Auntie Terri.

A set of cheaply painted
football and basketball ornaments
the boys found one year at the grocery store
and insisted on buying
for our sports-themed
family decor. 

The tree is done
in about fifteen minutes.
I am pretty sure
there is a whole other box
of ornaments
still in the garage.
I ask if I should go get them.
"No," says Zay.
"This is enough."
He pulls out his phone
and takes a picture

 He is happy.

Later Son #2
whose only contribution
was carrying the tree up the stairs
also comes to take pictures. 

And I realize
that in our family
this crooked topped
unevenly lit
scantily decorated tree
really is enough.

Probably more than enough.

And so today I celebrate
our less than ordinary family
with a less than perfect Christmas tree
and an even less perfect mom
who is only beginning to understand
that imperfection
is enough.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Discover. Play. Build.

I am participating in Ruth Ayres' Celebration Saturdays. Head over to her blog, Ruth Ayres Writes and read a bunch more celebrations. Lots to celebrate this week!

1) Homecoming! This afternoon, my boys come home for three glorious weeks! In a little while I will head to the grocery store and buy all the things I haven't kept around since August- chips, and frozen pizzas and ice cream, in addition to stuff to make real meals. I'll clean for a while, then head to the airport around 2:30. I can't wait to give my man boys a big ol' hug! I'm hoping that tomorrow they will help me decorate the Christmas tree.

2) Laughter! I love that I work at a job where I get to laugh hundreds of times every single day! Two stories from this week…
Kindergarten recess duty- I have lunch recess duty with the kindergarteners. The two classes are really heavy on boys and I usually end up acting as referee for whatever sport they are playing. This week's game has been Iron Man, which tends to get a little rough. On Thursday, I had had enough and I said, "OK, guys, no more Iron Man. Now we are playing Marshmallow Man!"

I was amazed when all ten or twelve little boys cheered and then proceeded to run in circles bumping into each other for a minute or two. One of the boys finally stopped and looked at me.

"Hey, Dr. Carol, how do you play Marshmallow Man?"

b) This week, I helped administer my district's midyear interims. I was proctoring a group of eighth graders who needed extended time for math. They had just come in from lunch recess and were a little round up. Usually a little humor goes a long way, and I said, "Don't make me get out my mean teacher voice!"

One of the kids responded, "You don't have a mean teacher voice."

"Yes I do!" I insisted. "And it's right here in my pocket."

B, one of the kids who makes me laugh every day responded, "Well it's not a very big voice, because that's not a very big pocket!"

3) Being outside- Last week, we had subzero temperatures for five or six days straight. We had enough snow to make driving treacherous, but not enough to really enjoy. Mostly it was just cold, cold, cold! This week it's been warmer- all the way up into the 50's several days. The kids have been able to play outside, which is always infinitely better than indoor recess.

On Thursday morning I was proctoring tests for a group of seventh graders who struggle with school kids of learning. We had completed one hour-long session, they had worked super hard, and I could tell they were getting really tired. I couldn't imagine them being able to do their best for another hour.

"Let's go for a walk boys," I said.

We checked in with the office, then headed out for a quick walk around the block. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and it was just glorious to be outside. We went around once, which was all I had planned, but it was so beautiful, I asked the boys if they wanted to go again. They did, so we made another loop, then headed back inside to do a second session of testing. The boys worked super hard and really gave it all that they had.

Today I'm celebrating the power of a ten minute walk.
4) Dedication- I work with an amazing group of colleagues. They work so, so, so hard and give so, so, so much to kids. This week, they have had to deal with a zillion end of semester deadlines, an altered schedule, interim exams, and then scoring interims. They've been troopers-- giving up planning time, scoring writing samples early in the morning and after school, helping each other, etc. I'm really grateful to get to work with such an incredible group of people.

5) Yesterday- Another school shooting in my city.  My heart breaks for all involved-- the fifteen year old girl in the hospital in critical condition, the parents of the shooter who are grieving the loss of their son as well as the pain he inflicted on others, the teacher/debate coach that was the intended target, the 2500 students who had to experience that terror, and all of the teachers and school staff.

At the same time, I'm grateful that it wasn't any worse. I'm thankful for the school custodian who saw the boy entering the school and called for help, for teachers who got kids into corners down and out of sight, for law enforcement officials who acted quickly and possibly prevented a much larger tragedy.

Please keep the students, staff, families and community around Arapahoe High School in your prayers. Pray especially for the student who is still hospitalized in critical condition, for the family of that girl,  and for the parents of Karl Pierson, the shooter. I cannot imagine what any of them are going through.

And that's enough celebration. I have to go to the grocery store. My boys are coming home today!

Thursday, December 12, 2013


There are some subjects that I absolutely know kids, even the squirrelly-est bunch, on the squirrelly-est day (like after five days in a row of indoor recess) will love.Volcanoes are one of those subjects.

In my CYBILS stack, I've discovered a new picture book, VOLCANO RISING, that I am pretty sure kids are going to love.VOLCANO RISING is about volcanoes, but it's not about the destructive nature of volcanoes, like we usually think about.

Instead, author Elizabeth Rusch chose to focus on what she calls "creative" eruptions. Early in the book, she compares destructive and creative eruptions, saying that destructive eruptions are like when you shake a bottle of pop, and then open it, and it goes everywhere. Creative eruptions occur when you open the lid slowly and carefully, and the pop just bubbles up. Rusch teaches the reader that creative eruptions actually occur three times more often. Creative eruptions cause new mountains and islands, and repair scarred land.

The set up of this text is really interesting. Actually, there are two different, but related texts. The main one, located at the top of the page, is larger and much simpler. A secondary text gives more information, or tells a stand alone story about a specific volcano. Reading the book aloud might require several sessions, because I know kids would want to hear both texts.

Susan Swan's mixed-medial collage illustrations are absolutely perfect. They colors are vivid and each page has a sense of motion that captures the "feel" of a volcano. Back matter includes a volcano vocabulary and a bibliography.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


My niece and nephew are almost grown and Christmas shopping is easy. Money or gift cards. When they were growing up, though, shopping was a lot more fun. My niece and nephew knew me as the "book auntie." I always, always, always gave them books (sometimes I still do!).

I wish I had a younger niece or nephew to buy for this year, because I know what book they'd be getting. LOCOMOTIVE by Brian Floca is a CYBILS nonfiction nominee. It's also won a ton of other awards, including six starred reviews and a place on the New York Times Best Books of the Year list.

LOCOMOTIVE traces a family's journey from Omaha, Nebraska, all the way to Sacramento, California, almost like four stories rolled into one. First, beginning with the gorgeous front pages, the book is a tribute to the builders of the Transcontinental Railroad. Second, there's a ton of information, both in the text and in the illustrations, about the workings of a locomotive- including the parts of the engine, and the people who make it go.  There's another story about what it would be like to ride on a train- the conductor picking up tickets, the "butch" peddling newspapers, fruits and candies, and "all the cigars" you can smoke, the "convenience" for when you have to go to the bathroom ("don't wait for the train to stop- it's rude to use the toilet when the train is sitting at a station). Finally, the book is a travelogue- with scenery from Omaha, the Platte River Valley, Wyoming, Castle Rock, (Colorado!), Donner Pass, and into California. The pictures of a rickety bridge, tunnels,  and steep inclines are so realistic the reader feels like she is right there on the train.

Floca's previous book, MOONSHOT, reads like poetry, and LOCOMOTIVE is very similar.

Listen for the engine
for the mighty locomotive
She's waiting in the railyard,
ready for her work
Hear the clang of the bell,
hear the huff of the engine--
for her crew is bringing her out!
(and then embedded in the picture)CLANG, CLANG, CLANG
See a puff from her staci--
a puff of smoke, a smudge in the sky.
Here she comes! 
See a puff, a smudge, a cloud…
a storm!
I picture myself on Christmas afternoon, with four-year-old Gregory, a lover of trains, nestled against my side, sharing this story, making train sounds. I know he wouldn't let me miss one word, either of the text, or the captions that accompany the illustrations  I see Gregory as a six-or-seven year old, poring over the illustrations, asking a million questions about how trains work, what would happen if the train really did blow up, would it be scary to go across the bridge. I imagine him as a nine or ten-year old tracing the journey of the transcontinental railroad on a map. Even now, I can see my 25-year-old history buff nephew loving LOCOMOTIVE.

LOCOMOTIVE, by Brian Floca, should definitely be on your Christmas list. I can see myself buying several copies, for the train and history lovers on my list. There will definitely be a copy for my school, and maybe even one for me!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I'm contemplating a change.

A big change.

I'm thinking about shutting down my AOL account. Which I have had for almost 20 years.

It all started last January. I was at work one morning, minding my own business. At lunch time, I checked my phone, which I keep locked in a file cabinet in my office. I'm not a big phone/text person and I generally don't get that many messages-- usually not more than one or two. I check my phone a couple of times a day, just to make sure my sons haven't called.

That day, there were fifteen messages. My first thought was that something had happened to one of the boys.  I soon, discovered, however, that people thought something had happened to me.

My email, it seems, had been hacked. Everyone from family members to close friends to distant business relationships had gotten an email saying that I was in the Philippines, with no cell phone or wallet. I needed them to contribute so that I could get home.

Evidently, given the response, the email was reasonably convincing. Several colleagues left messages on my phone to make sure I was at work that day. One of my son's mentors even called the consulate in the Philippines to find out if I was sitting in the waiting room there.

It took several days to straighten out the mess. I changed my password, returned all the messages, and sent emails saying that I was not in the Philippines. Life gradually returned to normal.

But now it's happened again. Except this time, people think I am in the Ukraine. (Where I actually might like to be, given that we have had almost a week of subzero weather, and are just now inching back into the mid twenties). And this time, it's been much more complicated. As soon as I knew my email had been hacked, I changed my password, expecting that life would then return to some degree of normalcy, just like the last time.

Except it hasn't. For whatever reason, AOL has locked my account and no one can send me emails. I have tried every help technique I can think of to get it unlocked. I've sent two emails to AOL.  Supposedly, according to their website, they respond within 24 hours, but it's been 72, and I still haven't heard anything. Yesterday, I asked the technology teacher at school. He told me that unless I have a paid AOL subscription, I probably won't be able to access an actual person for help. That's a problem, given that I have had a free subscription for years. I actually don't think I knew there was any other kind.

And so I am contemplating, seriously, moving over to gmail.

It's probably not that big a deal.

I've actually had a gmail account for a several years. One of my professional committees wanted everyone to have gmail, so I opened an account three or four years ago.   Last summer, my school district encouraged everyone to get gmail accounts, so I actually have two- one personal and one professional. My AOL account still gets most of my personal email, but it also gets a ton of junk mail, probably up to fifty advertisement type emails a day.  It seems like I might want to give up wading through the ads to get to prayer requests or invitations from book club. 

I'm having a hard time, however, actually pulling the trigger.

I think I'm having a hard time for two reasons.

First, I'm worried about losing touch with people. For almost twenty years, everyone from high school friends to professional colleagues to the pest control guy have contacted me at the same AOL account. If I don't have that account, how will people find me? I can still get into my AOL account, so I guess I could hunt down people's addresses and send out a mass email, saying I'm changing, but that seems like a pretty overwhelming task, and I'm not sure I'm up to it, at this point in my life.

Second, I think I have a little sentimental attachment. I started using AOL in the early 1990's. I was living in New Hampshire, working on my doctoral degree. I had a dial up modem that I plugged into the phone line and then into my computer. It took several minutes for the computer to actually connect, and when I was online, people who tried to call would get a busy signal. In those lonely days of writing a dissertation, email was my connection to the outside world.

I've had AOL ever since. It's been a constant through my move back to Colorado, adopting the boys, my CCIRA presidency,  at least four different addresses. And as weird as it is, I can't imagine not having that account.

I talked to several people yesterday. All of the young teachers at school, and a younger friend at a meeting, assured me that gmail is way more hip and with-it, and that pretty much everyone uses it. They promised me I would get used to the format (which I actually don't like much at all) in no time.

And so I'm contemplating a change.

I guess (gulp) from this day forward, you can contact me at

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Discover. Play. Build.

Today I'm joining Ruth Ayres Celebrate This Week. Stop by her blog to read some other celebrations.

It's 9:00 on Saturday night. I spent last night and all day today at our church's Christmas Store. I'm pooped and contemplated not posting, but I haven't missed a week of celebrating and wanted to keep the trend going. So this is probably going to be a brief, and probably not very well-crafted list of celebrations from today…

1) Christmas Store- Every year, my church does a Christmas store. Low income families from the community can come to the store and purchase terrific, brand new gifts, really good stuff, everything from Fisher Price toys, big wheels, and Legos for the little guys, to CD players and phones and clothes for big kids, for $5 each. I've volunteered several years and always really enjoy it. Last night, I ran home after work, changed clothes, and headed out to the high school where the fair was being held. In about two hours, 40 or so volunteers unloaded a huge truck (the kind you rent when you move), arranged tables, set up Christmas trees, and sorted gifts. This morning, volunteers started arriving around 7:30, for the store, which opened at 10:00. When families arrived, they were assigned a personal shopper (my job). The family selected two gifts per child, placed them in a laundry basket carried by the shopping assistant, then waited in a hospitality area while the shopping assistant took the gifts to a different area for gift wrapping. I'm really grateful to attend a church that does lots to meet the needs of people in our community. It was really fun to meet the families and talk to them and help them select gifts. My families included a Korean woman who spoke absolutely no English, a grandmother shopping for her 14-year-old twin granddaughters who live with her, another mom who had five little boys, ranging in age from 18 months to 11, and several moms that only spoke Spanish (which relates to my second celebration).

2) Growth- Lots of Spanish speaking families come to the Christmas store. My church is really diverse, so we have lots of bilingual translators to act as personal shoppers for the those families.  Every once in a while, though, there would be a big rush of Spanish speaking families and they'd  need bilingual shopping assistants and I was pressed into service. Two years ago, when I worked with Spanish speaking families, I really struggled and had to ask other people for help on several occasions. Today, I could understand everything the families were saying to me, and pretty much make myself understood (OK, so I don't know how to say 'wrap your presents' or 'gift wrapping' in Spanish), but for the most part, I did ok. I was excited to see that my Spanish has improved a little.

3) Answered prayer- One of the things I love about the Christmas store is the opportunity to meet new people from the church, or to talk to people I have seen, but have never really gotten to know. This morning, I stood in line next to a woman in her seventies. She and her husband had only been attending the church for a few months and this was her first time helping with the Christmas store. She shared a few stories about her life as a missionary, then I told her a little about my boys. She asked how she could pray for them and I told her that I really want my boys to meet some Christian men who can mentor them into manhood. She said she would pray, then, much to my surprise, tapped the gentleman in front of her on the shoulder. She introduced herself, told him my story, and asked if he knew of any organizations that focus on mentoring young African American men. We talked a little about my boys and I said that they were in Arizona. The man said he had an uncle that lived in Arizona. Surprisingly, (or really not because it seems like that is the way God works in my life), the church happened to be in the Phoenix area, in the exact suburbwhere my son goes to school. He took my number and is going to have his uncle call me.

Tonight, then, I guess I'm just celebrating a really "ordinary" day as a princess of the Most High King.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Last Sunday night, the subject of #titletalk on Twitter was books that promote resilience in children. Someone posted about KNOCK, KNOCK, a poetry picture book written by Daniel Beaty and illustrated by Bryan Collier (one of my favorites). The book is brand new-- it won't even be released until December 17th.

Immediately, I thought of a conversation my son and I had shared over the weekend. People who have read my blog for a while know that I adopted my boys, who were students at my school, from Denver Human Services when they were seven and nine. They were an answer to prayer. My life has been better because of them. I think their life has been better because of me.

And yet there are things that make me really, really sad. One of those things that makes me saddest is that my boys have never had a dad. We have just sort of had to make do as best as we could. A friend of mine taught the boys how to tie a tie. They learned to shave on You Tube. I paid for Drivers' Ed. We've done ok. And Yet I still think a dad brings a whole different perspectives to kids' lives than a mom does. And my boys have never had a dad. 

I googled Daniel Beaty and found him reading the poem aloud. I've listened to it about five times and cried every time. I shared it with a sixth grade teacher, who shared it with her students. It made some of them cry too. Powerful stuff, this poetry…

Robyn Hood Black is hosting Poetry Friday
at Life on the Deckle Edge this week. 
Be sure to visit for lots more powerful words….

Thursday, December 5, 2013


There's a big, wide world out there. The kids I teach, however, live in a much smaller microcosm. Many have never been to the zoo, or the Denver Art Museum, or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. They've never been to the mountains, even though you can drive there in less than 30 minutes. Their vacations consist of long, dangerous bus rides to visit family members in Mexico.

I love exposing kids to the wider world. One way I do that is through books. A series I have come to love is SCIENTISTS IN THE FIELD.

 The overview of the series describes the series in this way:
The Scientists in the Field series shows people immersed in the unpredictable and dynamic natural world, making science more accessible, relevant, and exciting to young readers. Far from the research laboratory, these books show firsthand adventures in the great outdoors—adventures with a purpose. From climbing into a snake den with thousands of slithering snakes to tracking wolves, swimming with hammerhead sharks, and collecting bugs, readers experience the thrill of discovering the unknown.
There are approximately 35 books in the series right now. You can see a full list here.
 Nor surprisingly, two of the books have been nominated for the CYBILS nonfiction picture book awards..

WILD HORSE SCIENTISTS follows scientists who work with the wild ponies on Assateague Island. As a little girl, I loved, loved, loved Marguerite Henry's MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE series, so this book, about the neighboring island, brought back lots of memories. The size of the herd on Assateague has grown too large, and author Kay Frydenborg follows the work of scientists attempting to use birth control drugs, shot by dart guns. It's hard work, requiring long hours in sometimes brutal weather conditions. Readers get to see the scientists' journals, and learn about their successes and failures. Fascinating stuff.

In THE TAPIR SCIENTISTS, author Sy Montgomery (KAKAPO RESCUE) and photographer Nic Bishop follow a team of scientists as they track the tapir in the Pantanal Wetlands of South America. Readers are again exposed to the tedious, exacting, and unpredictable work of scientists- this team would spend days looking for a tapir, finally find one, then use a dart gun to sedate it, so they could measure, photograph and fit the giant mammal with a radio collar.  Sometimes they would sight a tapir, but then lose track of it in the wetland. Other times the dart wouldn't work, and they would have to simply  let the animal go. Another altogether fascinating look at the world of science!

The website for the SCIENTISTS IN THE FIELD series has lots of interesting resources, including videos, interviews and links to related articles. Go when you have a little time to spend, because there's a lot to look at!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The airport is busy, really busy, at 6:00 on Sunday morning. Son #1, not a fan of morning or crowds, is more than a little growly. Son #2, who has also done his share of grumbling falls silent. I recognize the look of detachment. He has struggled. Been homesick. It's hard to go back and  he is wearing his game face.

Somehow, an athletic bag and a small suitcase, usually carry on's, are not carry on's today,  and we join a looong line to check them in. I worry that arriving tow hours ahead of time is not early enough  and scoot out of line to discover that we can check in on my son's phone. Which we do. And then still have to wait 15 minutes for the baggage line.

Finally the bags are checked and the boys and I head toward the bridge to Terminal A. It's time to say goodbye. I count, mentally, how many times I have done this in the last year. At least five. And this time is only for about two weeks before the boys return again. And I still hate it. Every. Single. Time. I envy the parents who say goodbye, then walk away as couples.

We stop at the entrance to the bridge. I cannot go any further with my man children. We exchange one last hug. I breathe in their scent willing myself to remember.

And then they turn. Walk away.

And they are gone.

I head
to the parking garage
with canyons of
in my heart.

Monday, December 2, 2013

THE GREAT TROUBLE- Deborah Hopkinson

 I love historical fiction. I love a good mystery. And I love Oliver Twist.

Deborah Hopkinson's THE GREAT TROUBLE: A MYSTERY OF LONDON, THE BLUE DEATH, AND A BOY CALLED EEL fills the bill on all accounts.

THE GREAT TROUBLE is the story of a cholera epidemic that occurred in London in 1854, as told through the eyes of a street urchin named Eel.  At the time, people believed that cholera was an airborne disease, but through careful detective work,  Dr. John Snow, was able to prove that the germ was ingested via mouth, in this case, a contaminated water pump. In the actual epidemic, over six hundred people died.

When the book opens, Eel is a former mudlark, a street child who makes his living by digging copper pipe and other treasures from the banks of the smelly Thames River. He has recently been employed as a saloon boy at the Lion Brewery, and also does side work, sweeping up for Mr. Griggs, the tailor across the street. Additionally Eel cleans animal cages for Dr. John Snow, a doctor/researcher/ scientist. Eel is desperate for money, he needs to make four shillings a week to pay off a secret debt.

And as with any Dickensian novel, there is a bad guy. Eel is hiding from Fisheye Bill Tyler, one of the nastiest villains imaginable. There is also a bully named Hugzie, the nephew of the tavern owners.

Trouble comes to Broad Street. Hugzie accuses Eel of stealing from the pub. Eel goes to Mr. Griggs to verify that he is making his money honestly, and finds him in the last stages of cholera, called "the blue death," because victims become so dehydrated that their lips turn blue.

Soon others on Broad Street become ill and Eel goes to Dr. Snow for help in treating his friends and neighbors. Dr. Snow can't help people who have already fallen ill, but he is anxious to discover the source of the disease, and enlists Eel's help. Together, they attempt to put together the pieces of the puzzle and solve the mystery of the Blue Death.

In a recent Nerdy Book Club post, "Why I Wrote THE GREAT TROUBLE," Hopkinson says she wrote the book for fourth graders, I definitely think it would be appropriate there, I can see myself using it as a read aloud to introduce the genre of historical fiction. I also think, though, that THE GREAT TROUBLE will be a really engaging read for older students, and I will be including it in a book talk for sixth graders this morning.

I found the back matter in this book especially interesting (Does anyone else wonder why the back matter isn't at the front of the book? Or does anyone else read the back matter first?). Back matter in THE GREAT TROUBLE includes historical information about the actual event, biographies of several key characters, and a timeline.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Most people know about the Tuskegee Airmen. Far fewer know about the Triple Nickles, America's first Black Paratroopers. The Triple Nickles started in Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1943. Walter Morris, a black serviceman, was the leader of a group of black soldiers assigned to patrol the base where white paratroopers trained. His men were bored and morale was low, so Morris decided to train his soldiers to be paratroopers. At that time, black soldiers spent most of their days digging ditches and cleaning latrines- very few were actually trained or treated as soldiers. Later, attempting to gain more of the black vote during a bid for re-election, Franklin Delano Roosevelt endorsed the Triple Nickles and allowed them to receive actual training.

This book is disturbing in so many ways. The Triple Nickles never actually got overseas. Instead, they were sent to the West Coast, where they spent their time as smoke jumpers searching out balloon laden bombs, sent over by the Japanese. Despite their elite training, they were reduced to riding in the back of military buses, sometimes, behind prisoners of war. The Triple Nickles were never allowed to eat in Officers' Clubs.

This is a really interesting book. Tanya Stone cares deeply about this subject and spent almost ten years researching and interviewing members of the Triple Nickles. The book contains lots of actual photographs and interviews. It's not an easy read, but would be a terrific gift for a World War Two buff or as a read aloud (probably selected chapters) in a high school history class.


Florence Mills was a little known singer who chose to use her talent as a voice for Black Americans.
Like many Americans living during that time, Florence faced discrimination from a very young age. As a teenager, Florence was invited to perform at a fancy theater. When she got there, she discovered that it was a "Whites Only" audience and her friends would not be allowed to watch her sing. Florence walked away. The theater manager begged her to come back and snuck her friends in.

Later Florence's family moved to NY,  and Florence was part of the Harlem Renaissance movement along with Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington. She was invited to perform in London,  but on the ship people would not eat in the dining room with her and her troupe. Some people said that they wouldn't come to see black performers on the stage

After returning from London, she was invited to be the first woman to star in the Zielfield Follies. This was "Every performer's dream but she turned it down. Instead she chose to use her voice in shows that gave unknown black singers and actors a chance to perform onstage."

Christian Robinson's folkartish collages complement the story. 

An author's note tells more about Florence.


 "In the winter of 1936,
New York Yankees manager
Ed Barrow and his scout Bill Essick
needed to test a young, skinny
prospect named Joe Di Maggio.

"To see how good he is,
he he has to face the best,"
said Barrow.

That's when Satchel Paige got the
call. "Can you come north?" the
scout asked. Satchel had been
barnstorming the entire winter
in Souther California.
Never one to turn down
an opportunity to pitch,
Satchel accepted the invitation.

DiMaggio went one for four that day. Essick sent a telegram, DIMAGGIO ALL WE HOPED HE'D BE. HIT SATCH ONE FOR FOUR. Phillies manager Connie Mack said he'd pay Satchel one hundred thousand dollars (top dollar in those days)… if he was white. Di Maggio said Paige was "the best and fastest pitcher he ever faced." DiMaggio went on to play in the majors for many years. Paige didn't actually pitch there until twelve years later, a year after Jackie Robinson, when he was 42 years old.

DiMaggio was elected to the hall of Fame in 1955. Paige had to wait sixteen more years. And even then, there was a debate about whether Negro League players should have their own separate wing.

Sometimes living in the land of the free just kinda takes my breath away.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres started "Celebrate This Week" about two months ago, as a way of helping people remember all the rich blessings of their week. This week I'm celebrating these two…

I'm celebrating successful navigation through the airport
and a safe trip home from Arizona.
(ok, so there was that one phone call about how you get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4 
in the Phoenix airport, but they found the shuttle and so we will just ignore it).
Should I mention that they are so grown up 
that I hardly recognized the two young men coming toward me
across the airport?

I'm celebrating 
sitting in the back seat
all weekend 
listening to my two guys
best friends talking about 
football and music and girlfriends and life

This week
I'm celebrating 
that for the first time in several years
both boys both accompanied me to my sister's house
for a holiday dinner with my sister and her family and my mom.
Holidays have not always held happy memories for my guys
and they often refuse to participate or withdraw
but this year they went without protests, 
and sat at the table all the way through dessert,
and even conversed a little.
I'm celebrating the growth and healing 
that has taken place
over the last ten years. 

This week
I'm celebrating
a three hour math tutoring session
with one son
School is hard for him
and he probably is not going to pass algebra
again this semester
I'm celebrating his perseverance
his willingness
to try again and again
that huge old heart
that hasn't given up
after two years
the dreams that keep him
in school 
when it would be so much easier 
just to quit. 

I'm celebrating
 that my guys
are trying to overcome past mistakes
and  make better choices
it's hard at home
where many of their friends 
expect them to participate 
in the same poor choices
that they used to make
my boys committed to each other
that they were not going to do those things
last night they went out together
split up and somehow got separated
had a heated phone conversation
a two hour raised voice discussion at home
I listened from my bedroom
as they pounded the table 
and discussed and reconciled
I'm celebrating their commitment
and huge loyalty
to each other. 

This week
I'm celebrating
growth toward adulthood.
More thank you's,
and "Can I carry that for you?"
and cleaning up after themselves
and getting up at a reasonable time
and being ready for things
when I ask them to be ready 
Even a few unprompted "I love you's."

This week I'm celebrating 
the privilege
of being a mom.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Happy Thanksgiving! 
Poetry Friday is here! 

I'm not a shopper and will stay as far away from shopping centers and malls as I possibly can tomorrow. When I do shop though, books, and especially poetry books, will definitely be at the top of my shopping list.  Some poetry books I will be giving as gifts this year…

I love Caroline Kennedy's POEMS TO LEARN BY HEART. A perfect collection for a family or for a young teacher or a teacher who doesn't have much poetry or a teacher who loves poetry. 

This collection by students in the Denver Public Schools would be perfect for any of my young poetry writing friends. Or for the teachers of those friends…

STRIPES OF ALL TYPES, perfect for preschool and primary grade animal lovers. 

In PUG AND OTHER ANIMAL POEMS, one of my favorite poets, Valerie Worth, combines with one of my favorite illustrators, Steve Jenkins.

A couple of new favorites by J. Patrick Lewis, one serious and one less so…


And I definitely couldn't leave out Marilyn Singer's latest…

Also love Joyce Sidman's newest…

And then two for my dog-loving friends... 


Leave your links in the comments section and I will publish them throughout the day.


A really quiet poetry Friday, I'm thinking people were probably spending time with family, or recovering from Thursday's festivities, or maybe shopping…

Those hardy, poetry loving souls that did participate celebrated the extraordinary we so often miss in the ordinary.

·      April and her fellow bloggers at Teaching Writers, have been writing Thank-u’s, a really clever haiku that I wish I had started on November 1st (note to self for 2014). Read April’s, then click the link to read the rest. 

·      Anastasia celebrates Emily Dickinson, queen of __________. (I’m not giving away her surprise, you need to go read her original haiku). Very clever!

·      At Author’s Amok, Laura Shovan invites us to celebrate the ordinary with a quiet walk along a stream with “Travelling” by William Wordsworth.

·      At Bildungsroman, Little Willow has posted Carl Sandburg’s “Sketch,” another poem that celebrates quiet moments.

·      Margaret Simon celebrates an ordinary Thanksgiving, This turkey roasting, the warmth of the fire, this place where I am always loved,” with an original poem.

·      Tabatha Yeatts celebrates fortitude with Edgar Guest’s “Equipment.” Be sure to give yourself two or three minutes to watch the poem being performed.

·      Linda Baie, posting for the 600th time today (CONGRATULATIONS LINDA!), celebrates a poetic week at NCTE, where it sounds like she connected with lots of bloggers and poets.

·      And then, as it so often seems to do, poetry inspired poetry. Betsy read Linda’s post, then wrote an original poem, “Poetry is Eternal.”

·      Tara, Linda’s roommate at NCTE, recaps the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, which was given to Joyce Sidman. Tara summarizes that session, then reviews Joyce’s latest book: WHAT THE HEART KNOWS: CHANTS, CHARMS AND BLESSINGS. Tara’s favorite poem seems perfect for Black Friday. 

·      At NCTE, Catherine attended “Keeping Poetry at Our Core” by Georgia Heard, Linda Rief, and Tom Romano. In today’s post, she summarizes some really big thinking by Georgia. I an’t wait to share Georgia’s questions with the teachers at my school.

·      Diane Mayr drove down to NCTE (heaven to have the conference an hour away from your house!), then celebrated meeting up with poetry partner, Laura Purdie Salas, by sharing her monthly favorites from a year of 15-word-poems (Laura publishes that challenge ever week).

·      Over at Year of Reading, Mary Lee, probably exhausted from a week in Boston, celebrates with Meredith Holmes’ “Ode to My Bed.”

·      And then of course, on Thanksgiving weekend, have to mention food! Michelle H. Barnes is celebrating my favorite part of Thanksgiving- leftovers! Be ready to write a five word ditty while you are over there.

·      At “There is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town,” Ruth, who writes odes with eighth graders every November, shares Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to an Onion.” I guarantee that you will never look at an onion in the same way!

A few folks welcomed visiting poets…

·      Robyn Hood Black brings us haiku from Dave Russo, a poet from the great state of North Carolina.

·      The November/December theme at Gathering Books is “Goddesses, Fairies, Spirit Stars and Celestial Beings.” Today’s visitor (not sure which on of the aforementioned categories she falls into) is Neyrisa del Carmen Guevara, a poet and professor from the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines.

And finally, our Canadian friend, Violet Nesdoly, has an original poem, “Black Friday Blues,” that confirms my original feelings about why I do not celebrate that “holiday.”

Julie Larios offered a Saturday morning Entry that is just to good to omit. Head over to The Drift Record and read "The World is in Pencil" by Todd Boss. Wow! Love this image of a creator!

P.S. Whenever I host Poetry Friday, I worry that I will forget someone, or leave someone out. If I did, it's total unintentional-- shoot me an email ( and I will rectify the situation immediately.