Pie Story #sol16

I don’t like to admit it, but we are pie snobs at my house.  It’s not our fault.  I blame my mother-in-law (or should I say credit?).

Before I even married my husband, I knew that making pie from scratch was going to be an art that I wanted to master.  His mother, you see, had the gift of creating these masterpieces and at the end of many Sunday meals, they would be presented, savored, and devoured.

I was there.  A mere 16-year-old girlfriend.

I saw the look on my husband’s eyes when the pie came out.

I saw the look on my father-in-law’s eyes when the pie came out.

I also saw the family in my husband’s house melt into a blissful state upon tasting that first bite.

And, I saw the love that radiated around the table.

I learned then and there that I would need to figure this pie thing out.  As a new bride, my pies were a sad disappointment. Crust making was torture.  My husband persevered, never criticizing my attempts.  Perhaps he knew he still had his mother’s pies as a default.  Or, maybe he was praying that eventually I would get there.  Really, I think he was just grateful that I was trying.

It’s taken years, and my pie making art is one of the few things I will openly say that I’m pretty good at.  There are days that no matter what, a crust won’t take shape and I’ll throw it in the garbage and start over (or decide to make a box cake instead).  There are days when I can’t find my rolling-pin cover and I have to cut off the toes of a sock to stretch over the pin.  And, there are days when I overcook the apples turning them to applesauce.

But, on those good pie days. . .

oh man. . .

my husband is like putty in my hands.

Shari 🙂

Nothing is Original #sol16


My day began with coffee, feeding Sandy and mining old notebooks.  Every so often, these old friends call on me to revisit past pages, reflect on where I’ve been and look for patterns or ideas that are begging to be attended to.

I love words.  Seriously, I do.  Word Crazy.  My notebooks are filled with glittering gems collected from other writers, singers, artists, thinker-people and from conversations. There’s a lot of garbage in my notebooks, too – not fit for the outsider’s eyes.

Most of the good stuff in my notebook . . . is not my own. It’s stolen from other places. Words jotted down because they have a hold on me.  I recycle them into my own writing in hopes that they can be crafted into my own voice authentically.

But sometimes, I worry.

When does a writer give credit to where words come from and when can we steal words and rework them into something unique, using them in a different context and not feel obligated to cite the source?  (Yes, this is the research/grad student coming out here.)

It’s muddy waters.

I don’t know how many times I’ve written, “They were like puppies in church,”  or “We melted into the furniture.”  These are memorized phrases from Anne Lamott’s writing that I’ve used in both my talking and my writing.  Do I credit her?  Who owns a metaphor?  or a simile?  or a phrase?  Is there even an original source?  Do we go by word count?

Listening to the radio today, lyrics from Blake Shelton’s song, Mine Would Be You, nudged me to write them down,

What’s the greatest chapter in your book?
Are there pages where it hurts to look?

These words reach out and grab you.  I will use them somewhere.  Do I have to make sure I say they are from Blake? or his song writer?  Do I revise these two sentences to make them my own before I can use them?

In my notebook are these words copied down from somewhere, a comment from a lady on a blog.

I’m glad to be on this journey at the same time as you, wonderful-writer-thinker-lady.

Dang.  I adore how that sounds. I imagine being given the gift of these words and feel my heart well up.  I had to keep them safe somewhere.  They have become etched in my brain and they have come out in my writing.  I have no idea where they came from.

The idea of being accused of plagiarism can stop a writer in their tracks.

Worse yet, it can make you not write anything at all for fear that everything you have is really from somewhere else.

Again, the image of Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like An Artistimmediately comes to mind.  I get up and snatch it from my shelf.  Page one of Austin’s book has these words:


Every single page of this book is a gold mine.  I have to fight the urge to underline each line because of its brilliance or way it is written.  Have you ever read a book that has a hold on you in that way?  I have so many books full of my notes and sticky notes that they resemble more of a fan than a book (yep – I stole that simile somewhere).

Austin teaches us that nothing is original.  “The writer Jonathan Lethem has said that we people call something ‘original’ nine out of ten times they just don’t know the reference or the original sources involved.”   

and he writes. . .

“French writer Andre Gide put it, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said.  But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

This is true for anything.  Writing, art, and teaching.  Much of what some educators claim is “new” is actually a mashup or remix from the work of John Dewey or Paul Freire, Marie Clay or Fountas and Pinnell, Donald Murray or Donald Graves.  We need to pay homage to these thinkers.  Who do we think we are to claim something brilliant our own?  Insane. (I’m looking down at my feet here.)

I really don’t know where I was going with this.  It’s still a worry/wonder, yet it’s not going to stop me from collecting and studying the work of those I love.  Our work becomes the product of those we read, study or are with.  We are the sum of all these parts.  Eventually, it all becomes a part of us and we don’t know where it comes from.

So, choose carefully.

If you have never been to Austin Kleon’s site, you need to get yourself some coffee, find a spare hour and head on over there.  And, then of course, you’ll need to go see Chase Jarvis. These two give a person so much inspiration that it is difficult to get any of those chores on your to-do list done.  No lie.  You’ll be off creating. . .

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  While I’ve missed a few days, I’m still in it for the long haul!  To check out other writers, visit here.



I Am The Moon #sol16

How am I the moon?
a poem ~ Shari Daniels
The moon is ever changing
emptying and filling
unlearning the old
to learn new

Always present
but sometimes needs 
to disappear
to become new again

it watches
when ready to be seen
you notice it
speaking volumes

Living in seasons
aligning with human energies
it whispers
the natural time
for starting things, maturing
and planning

This first full moon 
after spring equinox
reminds us
to rest, stop, reflect.

And begin again
with new eyes.

Befuddled #sol16

We began to do some notebook collecting for non fiction writing, my third graders and I. We created lists of passions, interests, wonders, places we’d like to visit and people we’d like to meet.

I became quite befuddled when I realized my kids did not know very many famous people beyond You Yubers.

“What’s a You Tuber?” I asked them.

“You know, people who make You Tube videos?” they laughed at me, not realizing I was fishing for more information.

“Well, what kind of You Tube videos are you all watching?” concerned – these are 8 and 9 year olds.  There is some pretty nasty stuff out there.

“Video games!” they shouted.

“What? I don’t get it,” I replied, confused.

“They make videos of themselves playing video games!” again, trying to help me understand.

“Huh? I’m confused.  Why would you want to watch that? Why wouldn’t you just play your own video games?” I asked.

“Because they are funnier!  They make jokes, but you have to be careful, Mrs. Daniels, because some of them swear,” they confessed, “but they are funny!”

I tried to nudge them to be interested in Teddy Roosevelt or even Kate Dicamillo, but several of them declared the name of a video You Tuber as their person they would love to meet some day.  Ugh.

So, I did a little googling tonight to see what they were talking about and I discovered that this character called PewDiePie made over 7 million dollars in 2014 just playing video games on You Tube.  Yes, he is what my third graders are watching.  No, they shouldn’t be.

Just sayin.

The world is a-changin.

And, I’m not sure yet what to think.

What are your kids watching?


I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  While I’ve missed a few days, I’m still in it for the long haul!  To check out other writers, visit here.


You Do Not Have To Be Good #sol16


The eastern morning sky kissed goodbye to nighttime sky as I climbed out of my car, scrambling with my totes and slamming the car door with my foot.  As I glanced eastward, ribbons of orange, velvety apricot and gold caught my attention and I was captured for a moment, lost in this small gift of the morning sunrise. . . and then I heard them.

The Wild Geese.

High above, I listened to their calls to me.  I’ve heard that music before.  I knew what they were messaging.  Mary Oliver’s poem came to me in full verse.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees 

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting . . .

Yes, yes, I know.  Always, the wild geese.  They remind me of this.  I should quit hauling all this stuff home on the weekend, thinking I am going to dig into it.  I carry this bag back and forth from my classroom, to my car, to the house, back to my car and into the classroom again.  The contents remain in the bag, while I wear a cloak of guilt that says I’m not doing enough.  Thank you, Mary Oliver for teaching me that who I am, what I am, and what I do is good enough.  It’s ok. Thank you.

Poetry is such a part of who I am.  I’ve memorized a few poems.  Wild Geese.  Stopping By The Woods On a Snowy Evening. These poems bring me calm and peace, like a prayer, when I call on them to rest upon.

I have plenty of poetry mentors:  Mary Oliver, Georgia Heard, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, and Ralph Fletcher.  But, my online secret social media poetry mentor is Amy Ludwig Vanderwater.  She is the author of several fabulous poetry books, however, it’s her online home at Poetry Farm that keeps me alive when I need a poetry feeding.

She leads me to poems of any topic or technique.  If you are looking for poems about art, she’s got some.  Need a poem about spring mornings?  You’ll find one of those, too. Once you discover this secret hiding spot of poems, you will visit here a gazillion times.  If you peek along the left side, you will discover resources galore.  I so love it when writers/poets/artists share their ideas for free.  It’s such a gift.  Especially to us teachers.

Amy also teases me into sneaking over to her other playground – sharing her writers notebooks.  Heavens.  Seriously.  I can’t even. If you are not using a writers notebook, you will be when you are done visiting here.  Stuck for notebook ideas?  Go here now.  Never again should you say, I’ve nothing to write about.

And, if you write poetry or would like to try your hand at it, you need to swing over to Poetry Friday, which sometimes  Amy hosts.

Hopefully, you don’t save poetry for one month in April and instead, you sprinkle it in your classroom all year long.  Regardless, one way or another, you are missing out on some glorious poetry treasures if you have never stopped in at Amy’s home.

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  While I’ve missed a few days, I’m still in it for the long haul!  To check out other writers, visit here.




Who Are Your Secret Social Media Inspirationalists? #sol16


The other day, I came across a facebook post by an artist I adore, Rachel Caringella.  She wrote about how there are people on social media that we follow, read their words and are deeply inspired by.  It’s almost like we can feel a connectedness to them, as if we were best friends.  We share common passions, feelings and thoughts.  To be honest, we are like-minded-souls.  We may comment or message them, but really, many of them have no idea that we even exist.

In my mind, that is perfectly okay, if it makes us happy.

I need to share out more who these amazing people are that inspire and energize me. They need to know of their healing powers.  And, I just need to say thank you. Thanking them for the work that they do, for putting their words out there.  They nourish both the heart and soul of others.  They feed the mind.  It is my obligation to say thank you.

Today, this person was Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

She posted this illustration on her twitter feed:


It knocked me out of my chair because I am supposed to be working on a project for one of my doctoral classes that is due tomorrow.  I can’t get the words out that I want on to paper, so I keep revising my plan.  I sheepishly peered by behind me.  Was there someone watching me?  Seriously?

“Who is this lady?” I asked my laptop.  I had to know.

It’s pretty easy to do investigative work online.  You just keep clicking on the links.  It turns out, she is children’s author, illustrator, reader, Donalyn Miller fan, and even shares (for free, mind you) teacher resources for readers.

I dove into her site and tweets, marveled by her illustrations and creative work.  Her words so encouraging.

Struck by her found art, I discovered her  you tube video to share with my third graders this week for art workshop.  Her instagram page is just too much.

I got lost in her world for over an hour.

Then, her words jumped on my screen:

“My biggest piece of creativity advice for writers & illustrators (all ages): make time to PLAY.”

Ummmm. . . yeah.  That was it.  I forgot to play before digging into my work.  I know this.  Why can’t I remember it?  It would open the flow.  I know.

I pulled out my notebook, printed some images, grabbed my paper tapes (oh, how I love my paper tape), scissors, glue stick, markers and did some playing.  20 minutes later. . .


It surely was a Happiness Day for me.  Thank you Debbie for inspiring me and reminding me to play.  Your influence will spill over this week when I introduce you to my kids at school.  And, hopefully, to others who read my words thanking you.

This week, my slices are showcasing the inspirationalists I call my friends on social media.  They don’t really know me, but, I am letting them all know that what they do matters.

Who are your secret social media inspirationalists?

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  While I’ve missed a few days, I’m still in it for the long haul!  To check out other writers, visit here.

Dirty Dishes~ sol#16



Knowing that your kitchen sink is adorned with the overflowing of dirty dishes causes one to linger in bed a little longer on a Saturday morning.  Even to get to the coffee maker means some dishes need to be washed. 😦  My husband snuck out of bed early to head up to work for a bit.  On any other Saturday morning, he would be helping, but today, it’s up to me.

I’ve never been one to fret about going to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.  I know I should as it’s certainly not a pleasant way to start the day by peering into the sink wondering where the wash cloth is.  My mother would be horrified, although, I’ve also heard her say that she often wishes she could ignore the sink dishes and go straight to bed.  She has a lot of German in her, so I understand.

Her mother ironed sheets.

It doesn’t bother anyone else in the household enough to do them before bed, so why should I be concerned?  I ask for help, sometimes, and I get ridiculous excuses:

“I’m charging my phone right now.” (24 year old son)

“Actually, I was just going to watch this hunting show. How about after?” (husband)

“But, I didn’t dirty any of them.” (23 year old daughter)

“I was just about to take a nap.” (20 year old son)

“I don’t even live here anymore!” (26 year old daughter)

“Are there any scraps on those plates?” (dog – Sandy)

I will hear my Grandma Killian’s voice, “Oh, the hell with it,” and I just leave them.

I guess I have more Irish in me than German.

I have not decided if it’s a good trait or not.

Shari 🙂

Image above is from https://www.etsy.com/market/dirty_dishes.  I think I need to buy it as a reminder.

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  While I’ve missed a few days, I’m still in it for the long haul!  To check out other writers, visit here.


Stealing Ideas sol#16

If you’ve read Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon, you know that nothing is really our own idea.  Every idea we’ve ever come up with was born somewhere else by someone else, somehow.  We can put a new twist on things, but honestly, a totally new idea is rare.  Old wine in new bottles.

Elizabeth Gilbert in her book, Big Magictells the story of how she believes there are these ideas floating around out there and they decide who to land on.  When you feel inspired with an idea, that’s the idea angels, fairies or whatever you want to call them.  If you don’t do something with that idea right away, it up and takes off from you and goes to someone else.  Gilbert documents a true story that proves this to be true – in her life.

Well, my truest inspiration, if I’m honest, comes from other writers.  I love when that little nudge from someone else’s writing whispers, “Try this, Shari!”  Sometimes it’s an idea about content because a memory is triggered.  But, what I find more beneficial is when I discover a structure because I can use it not just once, but again and again.  A writing structure is like a tool that can be pulled out anytime.  The more you use it, they easier it is to remember and to whip something up from it.  In the last few days, I’ve found quite a few structures that I intend to steal and try out – with a must of giving credit to my inspirational writers.

Elisabeth Ellington at the durigible plum, wrote in her sol today about small gratitudes.  Loved it.  I’m stealing it.

Here goes ~

I am grateful:

For the morning snuggles that keep me in bed too long

For the lab with a sprained leg that lies on the couch with a wagging tail as I walk to the kitchen to make coffee

For the scale that shed one pound the last time I stepped on it

For the deep dark Caffe Verona Starbucks beans that wait to be ground for my coffee

For the clean pair of jeans that beg to be worn

For the fresh inch of snow that blankets the ground (not)

For arriving at school before most others, savoring the quiet and preparing for the day

For the conversation with my soul-teacher-friend, drinking our coffee, before kids arrive

For Grace, who enters my classroom first, with a giant smile and a full wrap around the body hug because she is happy to be here

For Wonderopolis, because we wondered about four leaf clovers and St. Patrick and all things green and Ireland

For will power to refrain from the bars and desserts in the staffroom

For gratefuls.  Because once you start looking for them, they bombard you and you cannot document them fast enough

For Elisabeth Ellington who always seems to do something in her writing to inspire me

For the gumption to write a post today

For writing. Period.

Shari 🙂




Dreams sol#16


“What would we be without our dreams?”

I asked that to my third graders today.  There were looks of befuddlement.  It was a heavy question for a Monday morning.  Then, I shared Langston Hughes’ poem.  I read it several times, allowing the words to marinate for a moment.

I let my kids turn and listen to each other talk about their dreams and to then about what Langston Hughes wants us to know about our dreams.

And, I just listened.

It’s moments like these that are part of my own dreams.

Dreaming.  Sharing.  Listening.  Smiling.  Laughing.

We went from early Monday morning-I-need-another-hour-of-sleep to sharing our biggest dreams and feeling inspired by others dreams and filling a classroom with uncontainable energy.  If only I could bottle that up.

I shared my dreams – of having a little farm out in the country,  raising chickens, llamas, a few goats and of course, puppies.  I’d have a big garden and a little house with a loft up above that faces the east so I could see the sun rise – and that will be by writing room, because I’ll be an author, you know.

Of course, some of my students added raising llamas and writing rooms to their dreams, too.

Calub dreams of being a metal worker and creating robots that will help those who are handicapped.  His dad is a metal worker and he watches him.  He knows what to do.   Miguel dreams of being a guitar player and creating you tube videos.  Nathan dreams of being a video game designer and combining old games with new ones.  Camille wants to be an artist, author and book illustrator while at the same time, be a doctor.   “I’ll be a doctor to earn my money and write and illustrate on the weekends,” she confidently said.

Caden dreams of racing snowmobiles and four-wheelers, but also, he wants to help the homeless somehow.  Kimberlee dreams of raising horses on her own horse ranch.  Grace – she’s dreamed of being a ballerina forever.  She twirls to her spot in the circle.

These third graders have big dreams.  I tell them that if we let go of those dreams, Langston Hughes tells us our life will be changed somehow, and we go back to the poem to for another close reading.

We decide that our dreams are what keep us alive.

Of course, I snuck in a little lesson on metaphors as this poems begs to be noticed because of the comparisons.  But, it did not overshadow the bigger message here.

A poem is meant to felt, to be taken in and become of part of you.

A poem should be lived.

Just like dreams.

What dream or poem are you living?

Shari 🙂

Inspired by Brett Vogelsinger’s post on Edutopia last week:  4 Reasons to Start Class with a Poem Each Day