Mystery Eco-challenge


Mystery Eco-challenge

We arrived at the cabin
on the peninsula
at Lake of the woods
the water level had dropped
3 feet since last time

The dock had to be lowered
pulled out to reach the boats
the duck boats hauled
closer to the edge of shore

It’s an Eco challenge
every time I come up here
Steve said, breathing heavy

A mystery eco-challenge, I added
because you never know
what the challenge will be

I looked over the bay
at the glistening shimmer
of the sun on the slowly rolling waves of clear and healing water
breathed in the solitude
and untethered the fraying rope
tied to the rest of the world

And I said to myself

I’ll take it.


I am participating in Poetry Friday this week being hosted by Tabatha Yeates at The opposite of indifference. Stop over to enjoy some poems or add one of your own!

Guided By the poems of Hazel~January Poet Guide

My January notebook is painted and awaiting the scribed words for the cover – ones from the poet Hazel Hall that wish to be my guide throughout the month of January.

Let me tell you about some of my writerly rituals for the beginning of a new month.

My notebooks are these pink leatherettes from Walmart. I do love them and fill one notebook each month. They are cheap and sturdy, with paper thick enough to resist the bleeding of any pen. My only angst is that I can only find them in the color of pink. It didn’t used to be this way. Walmart used to carry them in a variety of colors – but no more. Only pink they offer. So, I started painting them. A lovely color of the month adorns each notebook, along with some artful designs. A wide open space is left in the center for the poetic words chosen from my poet guide of the month. I often don’t know what those words are until mid-month – the words that keep appearing in my days become the chosen words.

A couple of years ago, I read a post by Austin Kleon about how he starts his notebooks. What stood out specifically was his ritual of adopting a guardian spirit over the notebook. I tucked this idea away to let it marinate for awhile and this year poets began waving their hands at me, asking to be personal guides for my writing and my living. I remembered Austin’s ritual and decided I would choose one poet each month as a guide for my writing, notebook and living to see what would evolve.

I hold an audition the first day of January inviting a few poets that might fit the job description for the month as Poet Guide. Auditioning this month were four poets I’ve had my eye on. January’s preferred requirements: give insight to my ancestry (great grandmothers), poet’s subjects speak to my January themes, poet’s work has craft that is admirable AND within my reach (so I might try it out in my own poems).

Here’s who have appeared:

1. Ted Kooser/ I bought his book Winter Morning Walks and so want to explore it deeply. As a Winter Walker, I’m already seeing with new eyes because of his words;

2. Willa Cather/a female poet from the early 20th century (and there are so few), who writes of the prairie and nature;

3. Julia Hartwig/a Polish poet, again female who wrote a book of poems titled In Praise of the Unfinished, and I think she may know me;

4. and finally Hazel Hall/ because I’ve been saving and admiring her poem “Mending” for months and a seasonal theme for January is mending. She writes of sewing, loneliness and being lost and I intend to begin two quilts this month. She’s an overlooked poet and is said to be the utmost poet of observation.

*****Hazel Hall was my chosen guide.

Just look at her and her poems! How could I pass her by?

After a little play in my notebook, adding her images in dedication to this notebook honoring her words as guidance, and making a little book to fill as I learn more about the life of this lovely human being, I glue an old envelope in (this one, an old birthday card from my mother – see her beautiful handwriting with my name?). Then, I do some googling and search for poems and I fill the envelope with Hazel’s poems, keeping them at the ready for the days of January.

The notebook is ready. And my guide awaits her role as daily mentor, wise way-shower and poetic hand-holder.

Not every day, but many days out of the month, I reach for a poem after my daily entry. Magically, the words resonate with the words I’ve scribed on the pages of my notebook for that day. And, I feel enveloped in compassion, knowing another soul understands my angst. Gratitude is given for her gift in stringing together letters, words and phrases to meet me here.

Closing my notebook, I say thank you. Thank you to Hazel, to the moment of connection, to the words captured in my notebook for safe-keeping of who I was on this day. And, I await for the next time we are to meet – here – in this space I’ve carved for us each day.

I am participating in today’s twowritingteachers Tuesday Slice of Life. Please head over to their page to read the smallish stories that describe the moments of of other slicers. They are delightful.

Or, add your own.

Poetry Friday: Banishing Expectations

swimming with a buoy

My husband is trying to teach me to swim this year. I’ve never liked swimming. I think I was traumatized in middle school during swimming lessons with water up my nose and a stolen swim suit. Regardless, I’m determined to test my edges this year, and say yes to the things I’ve most often avoided. Swimming is one of those things.

Yesterday was my 10th visit to the pool with my husband. I was able to swim an entire lap (50 yards) of the American crawl. . . with a buoy between my legs to keep me afloat and allow me to focus on my breathing. My husband, who swam in high school and college, hailed this as progress.

The moment begged to be a poem to document the event.

Scaffolding ~

She began her quest of 1000 yards
of the American crawl
or front crawl as originated 
by Ojibwa swimmers
named Flying Gull and Tobacco
some time in the early 1800's.

Tending to her breath
arms and legs neglected
her body sank
like a ship with too much cargo
a buoy placed between her thighs 
supported her to the end

You're doing it hon, he cheered.
You're actually swimming!
Applauding her progress, 
a beaming smile admired her
yet. . . 

she resisted - shaking her head.

It's like cheating, she degraded herself
Needing a device to keep me afloat?
I should not need this extra help.
The yards do not count. 
They are cheapened.

Yes, they do count, he assured her pride
I count my yards swimming with buoys and boards.

You do? she questioned her All American Swimmer.
I didn't know. . . 

Who do I think I am? her expectations chased away
by the sword of the teacher.
8 tons of cargo
lifted from her drowning ship.

Shari Daniels; draft 2022

I’m taking part in Poetry Friday this year and if you’d like to join us and add your poem, head over to Carol’s site at Literacy Link and join us! Or, you might just like to grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the poems that others have shared there.

Whatever you decide, I hope you are safe and warm today. Take tender care of yourself and those you love.

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.

Letting Go of Old Bones #SOL 16/31 ~ 2021

Ella with her old bone.

On our walk this morning, Ella decided to pick up an old bone from the yard and haul it along with her. 

About a third of the way, she set it down, and carried on without it. She attended to the scents in the air, splashed in water by the ditch and appeared to be lighter in her step. 

I was thinking she would eye that bone on the way back home and pick it up again.

Only she didn’t.

I wish I could do the same.

Note to Self: Let go of old bones.

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.

On Forgetting: The Facets of Our Genius #4/31 SOL ~2021

My entry today was to continue onward about rituals. I’ve described the warming of the room, the filling of the pen and my obsessiveness with having a notebook that subscribes to all of my preferences. I am a little persnickety when it comes to my habits.

Today was supposed to be an entry in my lighting of the candle. 

But, I am suspending that plan.

I had my day’s plan scribed out in my Life Book. This takes place in the early morning of the evening before. Yet, I allow for flexibility. Today, the Universe has other plans.

My Mother calls and wishes to meet for lunch. A student meeting on zoom is cancelled due to illness. My slice of life was not yet completed. Arrows were already filling my page.

So, I checked my morning emails in this newly crafted space of time.

And there it was.

A Slice of Life from one of my former teacher education students. She, now a Teacher Warrior in the midst of this pandemic – her first year as Teacher.

I’d been floundering lately. AGAIN. Resistance towards the inner callings that my soul has been screaming for me to pursue. I’ve been here a number of times. It’s painful. A quiet desperation, as Thoreau describes. The path mucky. Distractions in abundance. Bills need to be paid and peace to be kept.

The more I ignored it, the louder it screamed.

My notebooks were filling again with questions to live, observations and unfolding bread crumbs to follow. There is no playbook, manual or script that can tell us how to or where to go to figure out how to live our own purposeful lives. We discover it on our own by living and doing and paying attention and then listening.

A teacher I have always been. First, of my siblings, then those darlings in the early childhood years and moving upward to elementary. Then, to teachers, as a literacy coach and now to preservice teachers, and sometimes in service teachers as well. I love teaching and believe it has always been my calling.

But, there is something deeper that rumbles underneath all of this. An itch I can’t scratch. An ache that won’t heal. A taunting that won’t leave. 

I believe there are bigger callings we have beyond being “teacher”. A calling that works THROUGH us as “teacher”. 

The past few weeks, I’ve been partaking in Jeffery Davis’ free Wonder of This Life workshops on Insight Timer. He so perfectly attached words to what it was that was gnawing at me as I tried to describe it. 

He said something along this line. (Forgive me, I fail in capturing the direct quotes, although these might be. They are all scribblings in my notebook. I hadn’t planned on rewriting them here.)

“Genius is the capacity to retrieve and reclaim childhood at will. It’s a force of character that wakes you up to your best self and your best work in the world. It will guide us if we are awake to it.”

He goes on to remind me that “each of us is born with a distinct facet of character. A soul’s code. It’s presence is to remind us of our core unique genius. To reclaim it, we have to remember it. Our facets of life align with this genius. We are born forgetting. Others can mirror back our genius. We each are a gem, radiating from a facet of that gem – all together we are connecting and glowing. We are not alone. We are interconnected.”

It was revealed to me many years ago, through writing, that a one facet of my own “soul’s code” is to reflect others’ genius to them and tell them so they would hear it out loud and not forget. I had labeled this as “gifts”, however, rather than “genius”. I vowed to pay close attention to the notice the gifts of my third graders and tell them what I saw and attempted to create conditions in which they could tend to those gifts. 

Nathen loved to talk. I told him he would be a voice for those who were afraid to speak. Nevaeh was a quiet gifted artist. I provided sketchbooks, artist books in the classroom library and taught her zentangling. Rayah loved to dance, so did Grace. We created a container of space for them to dance in the classroom when they felt called to do so. And, Jace, he was a natural when in charge. I told him he was a born leader – would maybe be a coach one day – so competitive he was. Soon, these third graders were noticing gifts in each other.

But, there is now ANOTHER layer yet! (All these bless-ed layers!) This facet of genius is to show others how writing can be a medium to reveal the facets of their own genius for themselves. Our own words that appear on the page in front of us can guide us through this messy life. The writing helps us remember who we are meant to be and our place in the world.

Imagine the world we would live in if everyone was living out their true genius – their soul’s code. 

I dream of that world.

Those third graders of yesteryear have perhaps forgotten already what their genius is. I’m thinking I should write them letters to remind them. 

But, today, I thank you, Caitlin, for reminding me of what it is that I’m here to do.

I keep forgetting.

Notebooks: Tools of the Trade ~ #SOL 2021 ~Day 3

I had to say goodbye to another notebook today, filled with words from front to back. Ending a new notebook and beginning a new one usually fills me with melancholy. I’ve written about this before. In fact, I’ve written about notebooks a lot. It must surely be annoying for someone to read who does not write in notebooks. I apologize ahead of time for “non-notebook writers”.

I have a routine of mining my notebooks when they fill, but I’ve no time for that today. I’m moving on to the new notebook. I’ll write about mining when I’m doing some mining. Let’s talk about new notebooks, shall we?

I’ve been purchasing the same notebook for writing for the last four or five years. I discovered them at Walmart after a hiatus with a variety of past notebooks. This one was different. It had a hard, leather like cover, sturdy, and had the ability to lay flat when I wrote. The pages were thick, resisting the bleeding of my heavily inked pens. The ivory color of each page were calming, unlike the harsh white paper so many other journals contain. These pages also had a slight texture, so my pen could feel just a very slight resistance when I scribed letters. I find this pleasurable, as if holding my pen accountable for not messing up, while some journals have these thin slippery pages for ink to dance and bleed all over the place. Such dread.

There are about 160 pages in this journal, just enough for a good month’s worth of writing if I write every day, which I do. It’s a goal I aim for and a celebration is always in order when I end a notebook and can begin a new one exactly at the beginning of a new month. I mean, who gets that??!! I can’t even explain this kind of serendipity.

There is a ribbon attached in the notebook for me to use as a placeholder to remind me I’m at in the notebook and also a black piece of elastic is attached to stretch around the notebook to hold it tightly closed when not in use. I appreciate these fine details. I do wish it had a little pocket on the binding to slide my pen in when not in use as well, but this is just wishful thinking.

These notebooks come in a rainbow of colors: blue, pink, black, blue, green – I can choose a color to match the month or the mood. This also heightens my joy! February always gets to be pink while December, a holiday green. This also helps me to locate various months when I go searching for something.

And the size, a sweet 6×9” makes it perfect to slide in my purse or a small duffle bag. Wherever I go, the notebook goes, too. Such ease.

Seriously though, the best thing about these notebooks is the price. $3.98 a piece. You read that right. I could buy a year’s worth of notebooks for under 50 bucks. No kidding. I would haul them home by the box so I would never run out, always to have another notebook at the ready.

And then one day . . . Walmart quit selling them.

My distress was horrendous. I talked to the manager and he checked in the storage. Nothing. I went online to purchase them and they were not to be found. I traveled to Grand Forks, Fargo and neighboring Walmarts to scour their shelves to hopefully discover some left behind – overstock of notebooks. I found a few stragglers to get me through a few months, but whatever was I going to do when those notebooks were filled with the scribblings of my world?

Eventually, the day arrived when I’d used them all up and I had to go searching for something new. Composition books are cheap, but my pen wanted sustenance. Other journals had issues: pages too thin, white-bright paper harsh to my eyes, the slipperiness of the pages made my wet ink smear or I had to wait and wait for ink to dry before I could turn a page. Size issues and price issues became a constant rumination. Every notebook I purchased thereafter could not live up to my Walmart notebooks.

My husband tried to console me. “Tell me what you are looking for and I’ll go find it for you,” he urged. He likes hunting and buying stuff for me that make me happy, but I had to tell him no. This is something I have to figure out on my own. He felt helpless. Now my notebook dilemma was causing BOTH of us pain.

A couple of weeks ago, I perused the Walmart notebook aisle to see if they had any new notebook arrivals and. . .

BESTILL MY HEART! There was a random box of my old friend notebooks hidden in the back of the shelf behind the shiny and sparkly new journals. A whole box! Eight notebooks to be exact! They were all pink but no matter! My writing angels must have been witnessing my morning writing frustrations and magically parked these gifts on the shelf for my eyes only on that one particular that day. The timing could not have been more perfect. Mid-day, mid-week, mid-month in the middle of winter. Who doesn’t need some joy then?

I’m good to go for a spell now. My axis straightened out again.

I know it won’t last for long however, so I’m asking you. . . 

If you have a Walmart near you, would you check the notebook shelves and see if there are any straggling Pen+Gear notebooks left behind? I’ll pay you to ship them to me! There HAS to be some out there!

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. When teachers write themselves, they are able to draw from their inner curriculum they have shaped for themselves in which to model and teach their students. But, more than this, as human beings, we also cultivate a writing practice that can be a buoy and and an anchor in the turbulent waters of our lives.

Filling the Pen: A Ritual ~ #SOL 2021

Once nestled in my writing chair to scribe a few words for the day, a quick check of the pen to be sure the cartridge is fully loaded with ink is necessary. There’s nothing quite as tragic as being wrapped up in the flow of writing and, all of a sudden, the ink decides it’s done for the day. I try to prevent this drama at all costs.

I choose the color of hydrangea for my ink this morning, feeling the warm spring energy of the day ahead. A shade of blue “reminiscent of the image of raindrops nestling on its petals”.  My giddiness welcomes this change from vintage brown to this fresh color in my notebook. 

The glass container which houses this ink is a work of art in itself. Heavy and solid with a slight dip downward at the bottom of the jar – intended for the tip of the nib to drink up ink with ease. Every time I refill my pen, I gaze in awe at this ingenious idea. I often wonder if the bottle is perhaps worth more than the ink it holds and what might I do with the bottle when my ink runs dry? Is there a place I can send empty bottles to and just purchase refills? I’ll need to look into this one day.

A candle is lit and a string of ivory lights around the perimeter of my sanctuary window offer just enough glow to provide light to perform this ritual. There is something about doing this work in the edge of time when the moon waves goodbye to morning dawn as if signaling the night shift is over. The switching on of lamps would disrupt this moment.

I hold the jar steady in my left hand as I ever so slowly and delicately twist off the cap. I envision a nightmare of accidentally dropping the bottle of ink and watching it spill in horror all over my beloved chair and blankets – ruining all forever. My mother would be mortified watching me. A wise person would not fill their pen sitting in an overstuffed chair wrapped in a blanket. They would be at the desk with protective paper underneath. My husband tells me that I’m not the daring kind, but he should see in the morning, filling my pen.

Turning the cap on it’s second twist, a flash of insight arrives. My newfound love of fountain penning has slowed me down – even more than the act of writing itself. All my attention must remain on the filling of this pen. The removal of the barrel, the dipping of the nib into the ink. The slow twist of the cartridge, first to the left to empty remaining ink and air out of the pen, and then ever so gently, a half rotation twist at a time, to the right, to suction the ink up into the cartridge. One jerky slip and catastrophe ruins the whole process.

This act of preparation settles my mind and gives whispers to the writing angels that she’s getting ready. . .

I admire the filled cartridge before sliding the barrel back on, imagining all the pages this single cartridge of ink will fill. How many new discoveries will appear from the letters strung together? Will this ink scribe words of gratitude, angst, or just capture the inner and outer goings on around me? Such mystery it holds!

I decide to give the ink a blessing.

Oh blessed ink. May you only write words of praise for the greater good – words that create community and channel love and compassion into the world. 

Well. . . this was a surprise revelation. Perhaps if I’d been blessing my pen and ink all along, I’d have more productive writing days. 🙂

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. When teachers write themselves, they are able to draw from their inner curriculum they have shaped for themselves in which to model and teach their students. But, more than this, as human beings, we also cultivate a writing practice that can be a buoy and and an anchor in the turbulent waters of our lives.

Warming The Writing Space ~ #SOL 2021

My writing sanctuary above our garage was quite chilly this morning, the heat turned excessively down at night. I turn the electric heat dial to high in an effort to bring warmth quickly, before my fingers numb. A small electric fireplace in the corner across from me assists the main heat while also offering a background hum and a warm comforting glow. 

Grateful for the warmer temps, with highs predicted in the 20’s, means my sanctuary becomes my writing-reading-playing-workroom. When the Minnesota lows hover around -20 below zero, I must migrate to a writing location inside the house as even with all the heat power my writing room has, it refuses to warm my midlife bones. My husband also complains about the electric bill when I’m up here in frigid, cold weather. 

Usually, I don’t listen to this nonsense, but when I know he is more right than not, I bail.

On these chilly days, I tend to write in my overstuffed chair parked next to my bookshelves and wrap myself in blankets, rather than sit at my desk. I have two down blankets that envelope me on mornings such as this, both gifted to me from my husband who spotted them on super clearance, because he knows I’m always cold. They are perfect for cocooning in. Not quite bed size – more lap sized – a fuzzy imitation fur on one side, and the outer shell, well . . . nylon, but in a warm woodsy print.

Now at first, when he presented this gift to me, I was quite perplexed. Why would a company use a nylon fabric for this outer shell? It’s cold to the touch and it tends to slide down my shoulders when I am using it. It took me a while to warm up to it because I am a slow warmer-upper to sensory kinds of things. I had to force myself to use it, repetitively, in order to acclimate to it because it was a gift from my husband and his feelings might get hurt if he sees me not using his gifts to me. And, I can’t risk not receiving more gifts.

After a time, however, I realized it’s advantage. We have a yellow lab, named Ella, who roams our house and lounges on the furniture. These nylon blankets are the only blankets we have not attracted to all of her dog hair. 

Frankly, this is the only reason I can find for the advantage of the nylon. I suppose it might be beneficial in the rain.

In a perfect world, the shell would be heavy flannel.

But, I carry onward as best I can. . . knowing my spoilage. . .

Well, I certainly didn’t know this Warming of the Writing Room would be the first entry I would pen for the Slice of Life this year. This tending to the heat has become a necessity ritual in the creating of conditions for writing each day. 

The ink in my pen now thawed, my breath calm, my heart open.

I welcome in new words for the day.

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. When teachers write themselves, they are able to draw from their inner curriculum they have shaped for themselves in which to model and teach their students. But, more than this, as human beings, we also cultivate a writing practice that can be a buoy and and an anchor in the turbulent waters of our lives.