Shhh! It’s a Surprise!

Two Writing Teachers Today

Oh, my! I am really inexperienced with throwing surprise parties. Especially on Zoom.

Carrot cake, with its spicy and sweet aromas wafting throughout our flat and hallway, ensures that I can’t bake his surprise birthday cake here at home.

However, I figured I would be able to mix the batter here, but even that got a little complicated. My husband works in the same building where we live, so he is known to pop in during the day to retrieve something or take a quick break. There is only one fail-proof safe time when he is in a meeting and that is 7:30-7:50 a.m.

Seven to 7:30 is also pretty good, but if he gets to his office and has forgotten something, even that 30-minute period is at risk. I stayed up late the night before and woke at 7:00, so I jumped into action.

I got out 8 eggs, hid them in a pan with a lid on it. Broke them one by one into a big rectangular Tupperware. Then poured in two cups of oil. I was always a bit nervous and concocting a believable lie should he pop in. Relief. I was safe so far. I took a quick shower and got dressed.

At 7:30, I was finally safe for 20 minutes. I got out the food processor, quickly peeled some carrots, grated them and measured out 6 cups into the tub with oil and eggs. Then I buried it in the fridge among all the other similar tubs.

Next was clean-up! Oh, the ubiquitous carrot gratings! I kept wiping and cleaning, picking them up off the floor. The orange spots of carrot juice and tiny orange shavings screamed, “See me in all my fluorescent glory!” I was supposed to be getting ready for Zoom school not finding another shred of carrot. “Why in the world are you grating carrots?” I heard my husband ask in my imagination where he came home for coffee and saw carrot remains.

As I watched the clock, and kept finding more evidence, I felt like a nervous criminal trying to clean up a crime scene. Finally, I thought I had it all picked up. I even went into the bathroom and checked my smile to make sure all the end pieces I’d been munching on were not wedged anywhere conspicuous. I grabbed my bag of carrot cake trash–eggs shells, empty oil bottle, carrot residue–and went down to the dumpster.

There when I returned back to my flat was my husband in the clean kitchen, thankfully with absolutely no question about carrots. I began to make myself a cup of tea, and he said, “Wow, thanks for emptying the trash…” (It had been sitting by the front door since last evening.) “…and before your tea even!”

This adventure happened twice this week–double recipes of carrot cake mixed up surreptitiously and then taken to a friend’s on the way to school to bake and freeze at their home.

Finally, on Sunday evening we had the successful and sweet party! Several times over the last 24 hours, he has said “Thank you for last night.”

I waited until yesterday, his official birthday to deliver the small cakes I had baked. Between school and time with my husband, I hadn’t had enough free time to bake, thaw, frost and delivery before the party.

I wrote about this party and carrot cake in my Sunday poem for #Verselove and below:

Carrot cake:
our family recipe for 
anniversaries,
births, weddings,
baptisms of
Shredded carrots
freckling the kitchen
So many fluorescent flecks
threatening to spoil the
surprise
Z
O
O
M
into the meeting at 6:50 p.m.
Bahrain time,
8:50 a.m. Pacific,
for this
pandemic party
Carrot cakes
stealthily baked
with love
in tiny
aluminum pans
delivered to
participants
to celebrate
the anniversary of
the birth of my beloved–
this man,
so good
and kind
and passionate–
with carrot caky goodness

Little Big Cat

Today’s post at Two Writing Teachers

Walking along the busy road, I heard crying that sounded like a distressed child. I was heading toward school, and there at the crumbling corner of the building next to my school was the crier. It wasn’t a human.

A small cat who seemed like a mini wild cat was attempting to intimidate and dominate another. It stood up on a curb to boost its dominance over the harassed cat. I watched for a while while it howled and yowled, as the filthy feline below, even though larger,  calmly waited. The players never changed their positions, actions, or rhetoric.

I’m not sure why I was fascinated with this big talking cat.

KidLit Progressive Poem 2021


Greetings and welcome! It has been a privilege to participate in this written-for-children progressive poem this April. Here’s what was decided for the first six days:

I’m a case of kindness – come and catch me if you can!
Easily contagious – sharing smiles is my plan.

I’ll spread my joy both far and wide,
As a force of Nature I’ll be undenied.

Words like, “how can I help?” will bloom in the street.
A new girl alone on the playground – let’s meet, let’s meet!


Rose then offered two sweet lines for me to choose from:

We can jump-skip together in a double-dutch round.

or

I spy Mrs. J toting grocery bags.


So, like Rose, I wasn’t ready to let the new girl go. I decided to get them together, and chose Rose’s first line.

I’m a case of kindness – come and catch me if you can!
Easily contagious – sharing smiles is my plan.

I’ll spread my joy both far and wide,
As a force of Nature I’ll be undenied.

Words like, “how can I help?” will bloom in the street.
A new girl alone on the playground – let’s meet, let’s meet!

We can jump-skip together in a double-dutch round.


Now, what will happen with this new girl? Perhaps the two children will join together on a kindness mission, or this new shy girl may be won over by the “case of kindness” child. Or likely something else entirely! It’s exciting to see where this meandering poem will lead by the end of April.

For now, Margaret Simon is invited to choose one of these next lines:

Over, under, jump and wonder, touch the ground

OR

But she was shy when greeted; she didn’t make a sound.

I look forward to following the rest of the Kidlit progressive poem journey for 2021. You can too, here at these blogs:
  1. Kat Apel at katswhiskers
  2. Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
  3. Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
  4. Donna Smith at Mainely Write
  5. Irene Latham at Live your Poem
  6. Jan Godown Annino at BookseedStudio
  7. Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
  8. Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
  9. Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
  10. Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
  11. Buffy Silverman
  12. Janet Fagel at Reflections on the Teche
  13. Jone Rush MacCulloch
  14. Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living
  15. Wendy Taleo at Tales in eLearning
  16. Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
  17. Tricia Stohr Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
  18. Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
  19. Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
  20. Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
  21. Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
  22. Ruth Hersey at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town
  23. Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
  24. Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference
  25. Shari Daniels at Islands of my Soul
  26. Tim Gels at Yet There is Method
  27. Rebecca Newman
  28. Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
  29. Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wondering
  30. Michelle Kogan at More Art 4 All

Acrostics and Shadow Poems

Two Writing Teachers Blog 🙂

Today I had the opportunity to finally put one of the Ethical ELA poetry prompts to use with students! It was a rewarding and engaging lesson in the long-term substitution I’m doing in grade 11 sociology.

I wrote an acrostic with its shadow earlier this week.

Today in sociology, we were looking at social problems because they are going to develop a charity proposal. The teacher had me do that. He’ll be back the week after next, so then he’ll do something with it. I just had two more classes with them, so I stretched out this charity proposal. Since it’s (Inter)national Poetry Month, I thought we should write some poetry. Here is my sample for them.

First we brainstormed a list of social problems they were concerned about and how and by whom the solutions would come. (We didn’t dig very deeply, though. It’s been millennia and the world hasn’t figured out how to solve them, so I guess 11th graders in Bahrain can’t be expected to in one period.)

Then they collectively wrote an acrostic using the words SOCIAL PROBLEMS.

Society
O
verwhelmed;
C
ommunities
I
n danger of
A
ny
L
iabilities

Progressive
Right
Or
Below
Level
Experience
More
Struggle

I told them about shadow poems, as Stacey Joy had taught us this week, how they could take the foundation of the acrostic and search for the deeper shadow poem within the acrostic. They were to find the shadow poem of one of the social problems they had chosen to explore. One pair chose teenage smoking, others: sexual harassment, racism, mental health, unemployment, malnutrition, poverty. The poems are becoming beautiful, as they are continuing to work on them. Here are a few lines from some of their poems:

The constant danger is rising and everyone is not speaking about it. No one is aware; everyone is blindfolded.

We are all In danger of being harmed or harming others. Why is my mental health overlooked, why am I not heard nor seen?

How many people were shunned by society because they are unemployed? How many were overwhelmed with pressure from others to get a job?

It was so great to be able to bring the joy of poetry into the social studies classroom. What a great writing assignment, as opposed to their regular  written paragraphs and essays. I’m sold! Thank you, Stacey!

We are still in the first week of daily #verselove poetry prompts on Ethical ELA for the month of April. Do come along for the joy found in this writing community. (Did you see Dr. Kim Johnson’s poem about what writing communities bring?)

A Month of Poetry 2021

Day 20 – Duality Poem with Brooke, Bailey and Ryan (OSU Education Department preservice teachers)

Regular rotation
Moonth after moonth
Decrescent, increscent
Full wanes to youth

Unsung in radiance
High hopes are sunk
Never to be a beacon
How, when so shrunk?

Linked, but disunited.
Moon: reflecting only
the Light of our galaxy
When veiled, so lonely

Tsunami of shine
Moon unable to refine
As bright as the Sun
Brilliance defined

Day 19 – Summertime Poem with Soshi, Betsy, and Abigail (OSU Secondary English teacher candidates)

The constant conversation:
How many more days?
We’ll leave the day after school’s out.

Finally the day arrives.
We get up early and
climb into the car.
Positioned on the back of the front seats
are the cloth slings my mother sewed,
each painted with our names.
They are filled with snacks
we got to choose ourselves,
plus brand new coloring and puzzle books
and a fresh box of crayons
Late that afternoon we stop half-way
at a cheap motel in St. George, Utah
or maybe Cedar City if we made good time
The next day we get on the road
again early. Our travel bags and
snacks help the day pass
And that evening we arrive in
time for dinner in
Lander, Wyoming.
Here will be our summer home–
six weeks in
cousin-time
delight and wonder,
outdoor exploring,
Yellowstone camping,
sandstone carving,
rodeos,
swimming in the public pool,
even library visits
are magical here.

The forgotten conversation:
How many more days?
Wait! What do you mean it’s time to go home!?

Day 18 – Write Sculpture Writing Poem with Jennifer Jowett

Carrot cake:
the recipe of
anniversaries,
births, weddings,
baptisms of
Shredded carrots
freckling the kitchen
So many fluorescent flecks
threatening to spoil the
surprise
Z
O
O
M
into the meeting at 6:50 p.m.
Bahrain time,
8:50 a.m. Pacific,
for this
pandemic party
Carrot cakes
stealthily baked
with love
in tiny
aluminum pans
delivered to
participants
to celebrate
the anniversary of
the birth of my beloved–
this man,
so good
and kind
and passionate–
with carrot caky goodness

Day 17 – Living Traits Poem With Gayle Sands and Annie

Wisdom was born eons ago
in a small town called Adversity. She has
the bruises and scars
to show she is a graduate of
UWS–the University of the Way of Suffering.
When she gets to an impasse,
Wisdom braves the decision,
she persists and either turns back,
retracing her steps,
or finds a new route.
Wisdom splinters
the status quo
with her fierce and
piercing questions.
Wisdom is married
to knowledge. Though she
holds all the degrees,
she doesn’t assert herself
against pretenders. Wisdom
doesn’t always
outshine the imposters,
but she does outlive them.
Wisdom kisses love, joy, and peace.
Wisdom dines on patience, kindness, and goodness.
Wisdom wears faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Wisdom is
as quiet as a heartbeat,
as sweet as a hug after a loss,
and as gentle as a bell of mercy.
She listens more than she speaks,
but when she talks,
those close to her
sit up and listen and she spreads.
When necessary she thunderously
proclaims truth from the peaks
and topples over tables of injustice.
Wisdom leans on the
moral arc of the universe
and brings justice just a little nearer.

Day 16 – The Power of a Question with Angie Braaten

Question?
That question that haunts me to my very core,
the one I avoid.
The one that I shove back
into the depths of my ugly heart
And don’t let it surface.
But others dig deep and have been
doing so this week.

Susan inspired you yesterday.
Angie’s prompt reminded you today.
These and others have asked tough questions.
Why don’t you too, Denise?
Speak it, repent, reframe the question.
Not today. Maybe
Soon.

Day 15 – Title Poem with Stefani Boutelier

Please read the poem first and then read my title below.

Put it on the table
A staging of a fable

Donkey deity in the desert
Matching pants and shirt

Pieces in a collection
Go in that direction

Arrange the type for print
Vinegar will keep the tint

Pick it up and make it right
A string of LED lights

Hunting dog points
Relocate bones and joints

Concrete gets hard
Groups that score in cards

Earth’s star sleeps
That camera pose keep

Part of a tennis match
A whole cohesive batch

Start a campfire
A car’s new tires

Get ready and into the blocks
All the tools in your box

Your heart yearns for that
A suit with a matching hat

Pieces played in the band
Moving the clock’s hands

Direction of the wind
Rows of teeth above your chin

Choose a wedding date
Fix the value at a rate

We could go on for days and days
There are four-hundred, thirty ways

To use my little title word
Three letters–how absurd!

Title: Set

Day 14 – Hate, Outlived with Dr. Padma Venkatraman

Hate is the country with such a long scar
We dole out death sentences far
From courts of law
White power, our flaw
–Street-selling loose cigarettes, death
–Holding a sandwich taken as a threat, death
–Not signaling when moving to the right, death
–Using a bad twenty or having lofty height, death
–Going to the car wash with your new ride, death
–Eating ice cream where you abide, death
–Even sleeping in your own abode, death

Remember their names and the code:
Eric Garner
Casey Goodson
Sandra Bland
George Floyd
Daunte Wright
Botham John
Breonna Taylor

The code of hatred: White supremacy
Hope: Dismantle the enemy

My inspiration came from this Instagram post I saw this morning

Day 13 – What We Take and What’s Been Taken with Andy Schoenborn

Yes, I do want a chocolate-coated,
date-filled cookie, thank you.

Maamouls–a Ramadan gift from
my husband’s co-worker.
I take the wrapper off
and bite into the buttery goodness.
I take another.
How about some chocolate-covered hazelnuts?
Turkish delight and pasta flora?
Gifts of love from my friend.
The pounds I lost last year
are staging a comeback.

The year has taken a toll.

Day 12 – Writing Beside with Penny Kittle

The earthquake trembles under my feet,
not from the San Andreas,
but from my own faults.
Remembering when my seven-year-old
“embarrasses” me at Costco.
The middle-aged woman beside us–
intent on rifling through the mom tees–
hasn’t even noticed the child’s faux pas.
(What actually is the little girl’s blunder?)
But because Mom insists,
she apologizes.
Everyone awkwardly
walks away.
I’ve seen my faults shock and shake.

Day 11 – Day Poem with Scott McCloskey

Ode to Grilled Cheese
How glorious are your
gooey,
melty,
strings of goodness,
golden globs of
nutty,
buttery
deliciousness
nestled inside.
Outside,
thick slices of
homemade
sourdough
buttered and sizzling
in the pan,
crispy and brown,
becoming one with the
cheddar.
You are a wonder.

Day 10 – The Skinny with Denise Krebs

Vaccinated

I winced but smiled with the second dose.
Wondering
Hoping
Dreaming
Drifting
Wondering
Mutants
Spreading
Wildfire
Wondering
With the second dose, I smiled but winced.

Day 9 – Haiku with David Duer

Determination
Needed to survive a world
Blind to crucial needs

Day 8 – Things I Didn’t Know I Loved Poem with Barb Elder

On Noticing

Today I noticed details–
Like the smell of the cardamom
And saffron in my milky tea,
And the way the young mother
Stooped over again to retrieve
The blue binky for the
delighted warm baby,
who was the clear leader
in this game of fetch.

I noticed how much
I don’t like to wear lipstick, but not
Until I was able to stop
And put on a mask instead.
My one lipstick, already years old,
may last another decade at this rate.

I was never able to notice how much I liked to cook,
until I moved into my home last March.
It’s the same flat I had slept in for six years,
but I finally began to live here.
Now I cook, I plan, I write, I read,
I smile, I laugh, I listen, I pray
in this place.
I’m no longer a whirlwind of anxiety
about the next
appointment,
meeting,
service, or
responsibility,
for which I need to run out the door.
I never knew how much
I needed more peace in my living,
But now I know.

I never knew how much I appreciated
noticing these things until I joined
other teacher-poets in this
#verselove community
in the April of Covid, 2020.
I didn’t know how much
I loved poetry,
But now I know.
Thank you, friends.

Day 7 – Mirror Poem with Kim Johnson

Psalm 58 – A Prayer for God to Punish the Wicked
Do you rulers ever give a just decision?
Do you judge everyone fairly?
No! You think only of the evil you can do,
and commit crimes of violence in the land.

Evildoers go wrong all their lives;
they tell lies from the day they are born.
They are full of poison like snakes;
they stop up their ears like a deaf cobra,
which does not hear the voice of the snake charmer,
or the chant of the clever magician.

Break the teeth of these fierce lions, O God.
May they disappear like water draining away;
may they be crushed like weeds on a path.
May they be like snails that dissolve into slime;
may they be like a baby born dead that never sees the light.
Before they know it, they are cut down like weeds;
in his fierce anger God will blow them away
while they are still living.

The righteous will be glad when they see sinners punished;
they will wade through the blood of the wicked.
People will say, “The righteous are indeed rewarded;
there is indeed a God who judges the world.”

My 21st Century Mirror of Vengeance

I learned something about God from this poem,
placed in the good book, and read for eons.
God must have invited
people to speak their truth,
not to hide their emotions,
“break their teeth”
“blow them away like weeds”
“dissolve them like salt on a slug”
but
also
there was no need to
take vengeance in
their own hands and do violence.
“Give it to me,” God said, “I’ll take it from here.”
So, I wait and pray:
We’ve got some unjust and evil
people with power
who still need their teeth broken, God.

Day 6 – A World Trying to Deal Poem with Margaret Simon

I couldn’t get the photo I wrote about out of my mind all day. It’s the last one on the Glimpses of Grief and Resilience article in National Geographic. “This picture reminds me that domestic violence doesn’t start with bruises on the skin, domestic violence begins with words and takes many forms,” says photographer Irina Unruh. (I also alluded to Jenny in Forrest Gump, Jeremiah 6:14, and a reprise of this week’s shadow and mask poems.)

Hang On
Pray with me
fly, fly
away from here

Poison pulsing through the air,
Trampling and suffocating,
Cruelly wounded by words,
only to have them
superficially
dressed with
“Sorry” bandages.
“Let’s go for a drive, baby,
you know I don’t mean it.”
He speaks peace
where there is no peace

Masked by the thing with wings
Little glimpses of hope
Glittering in the sunshine
Come soon, Promise,
For she is still
Hidden in the shadow
Of the pandemic

Day 5 – We Wear the Mask Poem with Anna J. Small Roseboro

I wore the mask of a bully
It hid my cheeks and shaded my eyes,—
I couldn’t speak truth to myself or you
I tormented the weaker ones

It hid my cheeks and shaded my eyes,—
It covered my heart, squeezed out love
I tormented the weaker ones
Fear’s seed grew into deplorable domination

It covered my heart, squeezed out love
I wore the mask of a bully
Fear’s seed grew into deplorable domination
I couldn’t speak truth to myself or you

Day 4 – Say to Them Poem with Allison Berryhill

Speech to the Spenders; Speech to Those Sinking Our Planet
Say to them,
Say to the private profit proliferators,
the conspicuous consumers,
the I-can’t-live-withouts,
and the empty souls needing something,
yet settling for stuff,
“More is not always better.”
Buying that thing will not satisfy your longings.

Try thrifting or bartering.
Wear out the one you already have.
Dig deep and see what’s really missing.
Free yourself by giving freely.

Day 3 – I Don’t Want to Be Poem with Glenda Funk

I Don’t Want to Be a Porcelain Bowl
I don’t want to be a
bowl of porcelain–
pale, translucent
and fully fragile.
I don’t want to be displayed
shamelessly on a
shelf, waiting in the shadows,
perfect but untried.
Smooth and without character.

I want to be a Kintsugi bowl,
flawed and fully fractured,
but gold-veined–
beautiful in my brokenness.
Scars and wounds do not
imply defect, but they
are the rich
integration of
wounded suffering, and
rising empathy.
Even the author of
the Resurrection
unabashedly chose to
rise with
His scars on.

Today’s poem inspiration came from by a New York Times Opinion piece I read today called “Why Is Jesus Still Wounded After His Resurrection?

Kintsugi art by Martin Howard (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Day 2 – Bop Poem with Mo Daley

Procrastination
It is my middle name.
How can I wait
to do the important
’til I’m a tizzied state?
It is my constant shame.

When will I learn?

Videos to make
Cakes to bake
Projects to grade
Bills to be paid
Bops to write
Fights to fight
Bees to crochet
May Day, May Day

When will I learn?

Probably never!
I need to embrace it,
Write the bop
and get on with
the first thing on the list
OK, here I go.

When will I learn?

Day 1 – Shadow Poetry with Stacey Joy

I’ve had George Floyd on my mind all week. I watched and read the transcript of his encounter with the police. He was scared, not scary. And then there was the Filipino-American who was attacked in New York. My God, save us. When you shared the list of metaphorical shadows, I was drawn to this verse in Psalm 91, which has always been a favorite of mine. Yet, today I wonder if it’s easier for me to believe God’s protective wings cover me because I don’t have to fear for my life because of my color.

He who lives in the secret place of the Most High
Shall stay under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Safe in
Heaven’s
Abode
Direct and
Omnipresent
Word

How do people of color in these
divided states get
to that secret Safe place?
Away from knees on their necks
and hate crimes against their very personhood?
Is God there in Heaven’s
reach? Is there an Abode
for all? Create a just and verdant place, God,
shady with your big wings’ protection.
Stir up good trouble–
Direct distress for us who feel
worthy in our whiteness.
Bring new Omnipresent
Truth in Minneapolis and
beyond. Word of God,
shine in the darkness.

Today is April 1. It is the first day of National Poetry Month. I am excited to Write, Read and Care with a lot of other passionate teachers. I plan to write my first drafts here on this blog post, and then copy and paste it onto a comment on each day’s prompt at the Ethical ELA site.  Do please give it a try and join us!