A Text Message Poem: A Poetry Invitation #1/30 PAD

The March #Slice of Life Challenge ended yesterday, and while I’ve yet to reflect on that month long journey of putting writing out into the world, I felt a nudge to keep sharing some writing each day. How lovely it is that March flows right into April – the blessed month of poetry, along with opportunities to share poetry all over the place. I am delighted when April rolls along so I can take a deep dive into the world of poems.

Big wonderings lead me into this quest:

How can poetry sustain me this month?

What might my themes for poems be?

What new poetry strategies, forms and craft techniques might I try out?

Who will the poets be that guide me on this journey?

Years ago, I was introduced to Georgia Heard and devoured her book, Awakening the Heart. She taught me that poetry hides within the Doors of Poetry: The Observation Door, The Heart Door, The Wonder Door, The Memory Door, and The Concerns of the World Door.

Early on in my poetry journey, before I truly LOVED poetry (because if I’m honest, I was not schooled to love poetry), I categorized the poems I found and wrote using these doors. While this was a very limited view of poetry, it gave me some stepping stones to begin observing where poetry hides with a variety of lenses. And, while I don’t think of these Doors of Poetry now, when reading or writing poetry, I believe they might unconsciously be an underground knowing that I draw from. Many poems can be categorized as several doors at once, or. . . it just depends. Some poems are their own category.

Yet, I believe we sometimes need a place to start. Thinking of The Doors of Poetry gives one a framework for opening up to a new and unrestricted view of poetry. One that is starkly different from their own middle and high school years, of analysis of poems and writing poems within prescribed forms.

This month, I’d like to attempt to put some perimeters on my poetry deep dive and strive to read, write, share and offer invitations to write poetry within the framework of Georgia’s Doors of Poetry. Yet still, be able to do this without tripping up the flow of what a poem wants to be. This can be both restrictive and creative at the same time.

If anything, these invitations are here for myself, to use again and again.

Here’s the first Poetry Invitation: A Text Message Poem

Search your phone for a text message conversation that can be shaped into a poem.

The Mother-Daughter Dance

There is a space
where my tooth belonged
The tongue wriggles
around in its confused
state of bewilderment

It's the first sign
of old age 
I message my 
28-year old daughter

Or young age 
she replies
Kids lose their teeth, too, Mom
she reminds me

Maybe I should shift
my thinking 
as this transition
into wise age
I text back

Yes. Very Wise. She Replies.
You are so wise
that your teeth
are falling out . . .

(long pause)

I feel like I
need to lose some teeth
she adds

Shari Daniels, draft

What started out as an observation poem, in the newfound awareness of this empty space way back in my mouth, and the text messages to my daughter, had turned into a heart poem, showing the compassion and care my daughter has for me in her attempt to trip up the default wiring my own mind has when I go down the “I’m getting old” road. She recognizes this and saves me.

Her last text message response is bait for me to notice that she, too, right now, in her 20 something life, is seeking an extra dose of wisdom. She in a state of what-to-do-ness.

It’s a dance we dance frequently – the Mother and the Daughter.

You can find it in the messages we hold in our hands.

This month I’m participating in the 2021 April PAD (Poem A Day) Challenge in which I’ll be poeming my way through the month and also the NaPoWriMo poetry challenge for April. If you’d like to join along and write poems, you can find other poems to read at these sites here and here. Each site also gives invitations for poems each day. Or, head over to Poets.org to find other ways to celebrate poetry this month.

National Virtual Vacation Day #SOL 30/31 ~ 2021

Yesterday the temperature hit 70 degrees, a glorious day in northern Minnesota for the end of March. Today, the high is predicted to be 25 degrees, of which I have yet to see, the wind gusting up around 30 mph with bizarre scenes of blizzarding snow which accumulates to nothing and then a flash of sunshine. I’ll hunker down inside today.

A quick dash to the National calendar announces the specialties of the day. After a quick run down of my choices for celebration today, the weather forced me to choose a Virtual Vacation Day. This particular day, a Spring Study Day at our university campus, so classes are not held for education students today, makes for a little time to imagine.

My first visit was to the Vatican library. I learned that only scholars are allowed in the library and the Pope is the only person who can actually check out a book! Some of it’s texts are 2000 years old!

The next stop was to Ireland, as yes, it’s still March! The month of the Irish is winding down! I touched down on the coast of Northern Ireland and then took the drone on fly by. Simply mesmerizing.

Finally, I savored the warmth at Whitehaven Beach in Austrailia, and sighed relatively heavy tired wintery breaths.

I’m back, now, to reality.

My little vacation gave my brain a rest and the best part – it was FREE!

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. I’ve missed a couple of days, but I’m still at it! If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.

Irish Soda Bread Story #SOL 28/31 2021

There’s only a few more days to publicly celebrate my Irish heritage, so I thought I’d bake some Irish soda bread. Now, I’ve not ever baked Irish soda bread before. It’s been on my Pandemic Baking list.

I found a recipe from Alexandra’s Kitchen of alexandracooks.com, after scouring the internet for an authentic traditional soda bread recipe. It had to be authentic – if I was to be true to my ancestors.

The authentic traditional recipes include only four ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk.

Geez, seriously? This was going to be easy peasy.

When I landed on Alexandra’s page, she mentioned adding an egg, and a little sugar and butter. Now, this seemed to Americanize the Irish ways, but I’m trying to be open minded, ya know, instead of stuck in my ways – then, I realized, I don’t even have a way yet . . .

I appreciated Alexandra’s commentary about these added ingredients, which usually, I find “the story” of the recipe QUITE annoying with recipes online. Just cut to the chase and give me the recipe! my typical whine. But, in this case, I needed to know why one would mess with the Irish?

The author of this recipe made a bold statement in saying that the original version was edible, but she missed the scone-like texture, the richness that comes from the addition of butter.

Now, I wasn’t going to succumb to the false riches of the Americans – I wanted the real deal. Yet, as I was mixing the dry ingredients, I found my wicked mind had latched onto this author’s statement and was now taunting me.

What if for all this work – your Irish soda bread is only “edible”?

In the last minute, I added the sugar, butter and egg to the milk. It’s wasn’t THAT much, I rationalized.

Did I also tell you that I didn’t have buttermilk in the house?

Well, I knew you could substitute this with milk and lemon juice, so I searched online for specifications. Some recipes warned, Only use buttermilk! Other recipes said, You can substitute, but use whole or 2% milk with the lemon juice. I only had skim and Almond. Well, this was going to be an all – out gamble. Finally, I found a vegan site that said you could do it with Almond milk – no probs! So, I did.

So now, its a Vegan American Irish Soda Bread.

The dough seemed awfully sticky. One site said you gotta use your CLEAN hands – like claws. That’s how they did it in Ireland. So, I did that. I had to keep dipping them back in the flour though to make the dough behave.

I greased the heavy cast iron pan, after washing out the bacon grease. It might now have a little bacon flavor, too.

Next, I scooped the dough into the pan and worked with it to try and shape it into a nice ball. It wasn’t easy – still sticky. The knife I used to make a cross cut across the top didn’t do such a nice clean cut either – sticking to the dough besides. Hopefully, those fairies got out of there to ward off evil.

Finally, I shoved it in the oven, hoping to just end this ordeal.

I read some more Irish history while it baked, learned some useful Irish slang and had a message round about with my mother and sisters trying out my new slang. We laughed a lot.

40 minutes later, I pulled the bread out of the oven and cut into it. The middle was still doughy, so I put it back in the oven. I guess I should have flattened it a little more.

Finally, when completely baked all the way through, I had a taste slathered with some butter.

It didn’t really taste like bread.

It tasted more like scones – sweet and rich.

That’s not really what I wanted.

But, it was edible.

My husband wanted to try some so I gave some to him. He didn’t seem impressed either.

I guess my Irish taste buds know more than I do. I’ll try the real recipe next time.

I wrote it down to remember it.

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. I’ve missed a couple of days, but I’m still at it! If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.

Laughter is Medicine #SOL 25/31 ~ 2021

Source: Off the mark.com by Mark Parisi

My sister likes to send funny pictures to me, my other sister, and my mom on her phone. Sometimes they are photos of something dumb she’s done, like wearing her shirt inside out with company over, or sewing pajama bottoms without a pattern (she doesn’t believe in patterns) or a vegetable from her garden with extra parts. Sometimes, it’s just a silly picture she found on the internet.

Source: internet – Quirky Momma?

Sometimes, my sister and I will keep the string going and reply with other dumb pictures or goofy stuff we find on the internet. I’ll be chuckling and my husband will ask, “What’s going on over there?”

And, I just say, “Sisters.”

Source: Party Wowza

My mom will usually chime in later, and say, “You girls are nuts.” And then someone will write, “I’m going to bed!”

And, that’s code for, “Let’s be done now.”

I love it when these small gifts are shared later in the evening. And then, at bedtime, I rest my head on my pillow with a lighter heart and gratitude for these special people in my life.

Perhaps we carry this trait from our crazy Irish aunts, Pat, Marge, Cele and Mary.

It’s impossible to spend time with these women and not leave without your cheeks aching from laughter. My dad used to tell funny stories, but these ladies just ARE funny. They’ve all suffered loss and journeyed through heartache, but still – their laughter is their buoy.

Even the Mayo Clinic prescribes laughter for what ails you.

Laughter relieves stress, improves our immune system and mood and lowers our blood pressure.

In any case, we should all be more intentional with accumulating fodder for laughter, whether it be comics, stories, videos or memes. And, then, don’t be selfish in keeping it to ourselves.

Because laughter is more than medicine, it truly is a gift.

Source: Speed Bump by David Coverly

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.

How Words Are Received #SOL 24/31 ~ 2021

~ the happinessprojectuk on Instagram

The other day, my dear friend and I visited via phone while we were both out walking – she in Wisconsin and myself in Minnesota. I’m still marinating on some topics of our conversation, two days later. How grateful I am to have a friend who ponders deeply with me and wrestles with being human as I do.

My friend is also a writer, and participating in the March SOL challenge, so much of our talk revolved around writing. My favorite topic to think, talk and write about.

I brought up to my friend, who was such a generous listener, how much concern I have with how our writing might be received to a reader. In a prior post, I shared my intention of combing through my words after they are written to tease out any imposters of ego – victim, martyr, savior, prosecutor, preacher, politician, know-it-all, and on and on. I’ve played them all. If writing is authentic, we have to be real and true to who we are without these masks we wear to protect our fragile egos.

One of the more hurtful ways, however, that I think writing can impact someone is by being “tone-deaf” to what is happening in the world right now.

And, blind to our white privledge.

Yesterday, I wrote about capturing the memories of our lives that signify the delights, joys and small moments of relationships to save and reread later in life to experience these same emotions again and again.

This sounds lovely, yes.

But, I also worry about it being received by many people in the world right now as a “tone deaf” blabbering that touts the adage – focus on the good, ignore the bad, or that I might be suggesting to just put on your polly-anna rose colored glasses – don’t worry, BE HAPPY! All is well!

Contributing to the toxic positivity that whispers to put your blinders on and ignore the suffering in the world is easy if you are privledged. There is much suffering right now: individual and collective grief from the loss of loved ones, people unable to work, businesses lost or shut down, systemic racism, political division and a more common epidemic – loneliness and mental illness prompted by isolation and absence of human connection.

How easy it would be, for some of us, to ignore all of this pain. And, don’t get me started on climate change.

It’s like saying, “I don’t see color,” or, “I treat all my students equally.” or, “You just need to have grit or a growth mindset!” or “Just be kind.”

I wonder, “How might words be received by someone who is suffering from debilitating anxiety right now when I say collect good stories? Really? or when I describe the sequence and fussiness of my blanket situation or notebook specificity? Seriously. Like this is important? A person of color is attempting to walk into gas stations without being followed and accused of theft just because he is Black, or lives in fear of not using a signal light or coming to a full stop because of racial profiling. Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latinx and LGBTQ face trauma, worry and fear that plague their every day lives.

Filling up my car with gasoline today, the white man in front of me pays for his own gasoline, maskless. There are two signs on the front of the gas station that state the requirement of masks in the station. No one says anything to him. I should have said, “Are you covid-free?” or “Oops – mask.” or I could’ve have said, “Are you vaccinated?” Yeah – that’ what I should have asked.

But, I didn’t. He was big and had a goatee. The clerk tells him, “By the way, Billy Bob (not his real name), there’s a prayer chain for Bobby Sue (not her real name). She was taken to the hospital yesterday. Its’ her heart.”

Thoughts and prayers. Be kind. Don’t worry about your mask though. (sarcasm intended)

Somewhere, a blog post I think, I read that when we write about our blessings, or say we are blessed, and describe our healthy children, family or material things, a new job, vacation or blissful situation, we have to ask ourselves, “So, are those without those things not blessed?” I wonder if this is what God had in mind when he blessed people.

It just feels like if we aren’t thinking about the trauma and suffering the world right now, then we also probably aren’t doing anything to relieve any of it or acting in ways to make the world a better place for those who are not as privledged to be sitting here writing.

I’m not bragging. I need to remember this is life-time work, pay attention and do better. Be braver.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and speak up.

To help us all through this storm.

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.

Custodians of Our Inner World #SOL 23/31 ~ 2021

John O’ Donahue, author, poet, philosopher, and theologian, was adopted as my guardian spirit for my March 2021 notebook. I’d read of this ritual in choosing an author or influential being as a guardian spirit for each new notebook from Austin Kleon. I thought, yes, I need the whispers of these past wisdom spirits.

Also, while this notebook is in use, I also track down the written work of the guardian spirit and do some close ponderous reading. Quite often, the language of the writer will weave its way into the written words of my own wreckage of words.

In Walking in Wonder, in which I’ve been reading in the mornings, O’ Donahue writes that, “Each one of us is the custodian of an inner world that we carry around with us” (p. 7). How lovely this is to think about. A custodian is such an important essential worker. One who keeps the property well cared for, cleaning out the dirt and residue, pruning, and shining up the valuables for the world to see. He never seems to take vacation, and I’ve always believed that one must treat the custodian with the greatest of respect, or your garbage can might not get emptied. All that junk piles up pretty quickly.

He goes on to say how within ourselves, we carry a whole harvest of lived experience. Yet, it seems like these memories just vanish if not revisited regularity. Sadly, he continues, “memory seems to be focused almost exclusively on past woundedness and hurt, some of it induced and some real.” If we can be sure to trust our custodians, perhaps she can alert us to when we need a good spring cleaning.

I wrote these lines down in my notebook:

“It’s sad that people don’t use their good memories and revisit again and again the harvest of memory that is within them, and live out of the riches of that harvest, rather than out of the poverty of their woundedness. . . You can go back within yourself to great things that have happened to you and enjoy them and allow them to shelter and bless you again” (p. 12-13).

This. I had to pause and savor for a moment.

What more reason can we have for writing? in being story-catcher of this warm harvest? Each time I reread a story I’ve captured in detail, it’s relived as if it’s happening again in my imagination and I feel lighter, my heart expands and I’m reminded of how grateful I am for the life I’ve experienced. Even more so to have it written down in my notebook – for safe keeping, and for lifting me when my heart needs lifting.

Let me share one story with you that brings a small memory back and makes me chuckle, mostly because my husband and I have no willpower. This story is in comics, which sometimes allows me to capture more than if I wrote the description with words.

There are thousands of moments to capture into our notebooks, the smallest episodes that we think don’t matter.

Until they do.

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.

Tokens of My Father #SOL 22/31 ~ 2021

My dad and I

There are moments where the grief I carry deep within me from the loss of my father is so overwhelming that every planned intention for that period of time must come to a complete halt.

These moments do not always occur when an image reminds me of him – like sitting in my car at the drive through window at the bank and admiring the bricks he lay with his hands.

They do not always occur when something prompts me to think of a memory, like the barking dogs that trigger the story of my dad in his slippers, in the middle of the night, on the three wheeler, riding over to the neighbors to do something about the neighbor dog, Cupcake.

It happens when I’m startled by how many days he’s been gone and I’ve realized that I’ve lost track.

It happens when I’m shaken at the observation that I’ve not written or talked with him in awhile.

It happens when I’m plagued by the fear that world will forget he was here.

He’s fading away I cry, farther and farther away from our view, like Jack in the Titanic floating away in the dark. Rose calling his name until her voice tires and all that is left is silence. And, she is alone for the rest of her life.

Yet . . . she lives on.

But, she carries with her a silent gift – a precious jewel – she wears it hidden, as a token of their love.

I keep forgetting, allowing my days to fill with meaningless fluffery. Forgetting that I promised to keep his memory alive. The documenting of his life, his influence, his legacy.

Perhaps, I’m just hearing now, that this task is not meant to be mine, but to ask for others to share their own tokens of his memory. To put them somewhere safe so all those who blessed to know him can remember him dearly, and keep his memory alive.

It began a year after he left us, the Tokens of My Father seed was planted. It slowing beginning to sprout, was dormant over the winter months, and with spring, my wish is for warm light from others to help nurture it’s growth. I can’t continue alone.

I am a good starter. Not so good at finishing.

Which in this case, I don’t intend for it to ever be done.

This token of stories to hold him near.

Reasons to Bake #SOL 21/31 ~ 2021

There are many reasons to bake something.

You might have a hankering for a little sweetness. Or, perhaps the kids are coming for dinner. Maybe baking is something that you can actually admit to being skilled at – and if you’ve got something you know how to do, you don’t want to lose it, so to stay sharp, you keep up the practice. The challenge of baking that perfect dessert or sweets and perfecting a dish is an act I never grow tired of.

But, if I’m honest, I bake mainly for one person.

My husband.

Looking back in my notebooks over the years, there are common threads that always surface in the month of March. Snow melts and yard debris emerges, reminders of tasks undone from the fall. The snowmobile must be stored away, along with snowshoes and ice fishing gear. The lakes remain with layers of ice, but unsafe to trek onto for fishing or journeying across to the cabin. Hunting seasons pause. Fishing opener still two months out. Months of laps in the pool take a toll on my husbands shoulders and he drags into the house worn down from the extra hours in the long weeks of work.

He becomes little edgy. Quiet. Less giddy-up-ed-ness in his skipp-i-dee-do-da. Even Ella steers clear some days.

“If you could have anything, any kind of baked good, dessert or treat, what would it be?” I ask him.

“Geez,” appearing surprised at this question, “I don’t know, what are my choices? I need some perimeters.” He lights up just a bit, yet seems overwhelmed by the possibilities.

“There are none. Anything!” I respond.

He ponders for a bit and and after rambling some options, he decides.

“I would have to say apple-cherry pie. But, that’s kind of a lot of work,” he says Eeyore-like.

I was afraid he’d say pie. He’s right. Pie crust is temperamental and I’ve still forgotten to purchase a new rolling pin cover, so I’d have to use a cut up sock. There will be sticking problems rolling out the dough. I can do it. It’s just my own willingness to wrestle with this today is at a two on a scale of one to ten.

How can I make this pie without the uncertainty of the crust turning out or frustrations of a sticky rolling pin?

I decided to just press the crust into the pie pan with my hands. Perhaps I should have greased the pan, I don’t know. And, once the cherries and apple filling were added, just a topping for Dutch apple pie crumbles was added rather than rolling out a top crust. We’ll see what happens. It’s practice for my uncertainty muscles.

Appearances can be deceiving, so the true test of pulling this off will come at the actual tasting.

Oh my, it’s World Poetry Day today, so now I must shape this into a poem.

The days of Mid-March wear on us
like a ship voyaging the ocean
through weather of fraught
rations dwindling 
cold, damp and weak. . .

But, sun peeks through
the thick heavy clouds
land appears 
in the distance

We'll make it through
by holding one beautiful
memory in our minds' eye
an image, a scent, a pleasure
a loved one, a dream
or a place of warmth 

What is it for you, hon?

Could you make me
an apple cherry pie?

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.

Spring Rituals

I must hurry with this post. My computer is alerting me to a shut down for updates in approximately ten minutes. I’ll make this quick.

On this first day of Spring, I have a few rituals to celebrate the coming of warmth and light.

  1. Attempt to sleep out in the camper. Yes, I did. It was pretty nippy at 36 degrees last night, but I bundled up and I survived.
  2. Go out and buy some flowers for myself. The lady asked, do you want a card? I said no, they’re for me. She said, awe, those are the best kind of flowers. Yes, yes, they are.
  3. A walk outside to breathe in fresh smells. I almost didn’t – the wind ferocious – but my friend called and we walked and talked. The best kind of walk.
  4. Clean a room. Just one. Don’t get crazy. The rest of them aren’t going anywhere.

That is all. I don’t want to go about setting too high of expectations for myself. There are many spring days ahead.

I am participating in the 14th Annual SOL 2021 March challenge. For 31 days, I will attempt to write and share a small slice of life from my days. If you’d like to read more of today’s slices from other teacher-writers, please head over to twowritingteachers, who have also committed to this challenge.