Slice of Life 3 – A Junk Journal Day #sol24

3 March 2024

It was a junk journal sort of day. We are going to visit our niece and her three daughters next week, so this morning after breakfast, I took over the whole table to make junk journals for each of them. I didn’t clean up until 9:30 p.m. That is why I had not visited any Slicers today until late tonight. The junk journals were really my whole day! My husband even brought me food.

I’m new at junk journals, for sure. I’ve been following Natasha at Treasure Books to learn what I’ve learned. She is the only one I will watch now. I’ve become spoiled watching her great videos. She is kind and practical and thrifty. She is a great “junk journal” shopper. She is both meticulous and artistic. I’m barely either, but I’m trying.

This was my work table for 12 hours today!
These are four junk journals at various stages of getting ready to gift my nieces next week.


Slice of Life 2 – A Golden Shovel #sol24

2 March 2024

Today I’ve been thinking of Alexei Navalny’s funeral and the hundreds of people shot (dead or wounded) in Gaza while they were waiting to receive aid. So much pain…

So March has begun, and I
already search for ideas. Shall
I begin with a prayer? Yes. Never
will I be convinced to stop
believing in a God who is writing
the story of our lives because
a God like you knows this world, it
is full of the haunts of cruelty and is
attempting to kill you again. Like
in your Garden prayer,
you asked for release from the
suffering, but instead it became your impetus
for going through with the thing of
which the angels cringed, growth
by design of the kingdom, and
that design, your death, made a change
in history. But do you ever wish for
earth to more readily embrace the sacred, the
hope for community on earth to better
reflect your love and pain? Starting
anew, Lord, I ask for faith to live far from
the confines of self, and instead you within.

A Golden Shovel poem with the striking line, “I shall never stop writing because it is like prayer, the impetus of growth and change for the better. Starting from within,” by Fran Haley. Thank you, Fran, for the inspiration for my Slice of Life today.

Slice of Life 1 – Jury Duty #sol24

1 March 2024

The last two days I’ve had jury duty. In our state, there is a one day or one trial jury process. If the first day you are not put in a courtroom for jury selection, you are finished with your service. I was chosen to go through the jury selection process; this process took two days. It was so very fascinating. I wrote about it here. There was something so amazing about being a mostly anonymous community member (we were called by numbers in the courtroom, never our names), gathered together for only one purpose–to provide a fair trial for one of our peers. We weren’t supposed to use our phones in the courtroom, so I was texting my husband on a break:

I thought he might read that last comment sarcastically. But I truly meant it–“I love sitting here with all my peers waiting…”

Not that it wasn’t boring, but it was satisfying to be a significant part of providing justice. Bonus: I did have a chance to read about 20% of my really long book, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers in the many breaks we were given. For me, jury duty only lasted two days, for the jury was confirmed by the end of the second day, and the rest of us were excused, while they will continue with a three-week trial.

Slice of Life – A Name Joke Lost in Translation

27 February 2024

“Minha sobrinha é Denise.”

I recognized Muriel’s Portuguese. We had just been talking about my name. The difference in the way it sounds in Brazil and America. Dee-nee-zee in Brazil. Slow and lyrical. (I think I like it better.)

Then I heard Muriel say sobrinha…and I knew in Spanish sobrina means niece, so I recognized what she was saying. It was such a funny surprise to be discussing in another language Denise and niece. I can’t count the many times in my life I’ve heard the conversation-starting, unrealistic joke about the one who had to name his sister’s twins because she was unconscious after childbirth. When she came around, he told her the names he picked. Denise for the girl. “Okay, that’s not so bad,” she said. “And what did you name my son?” Denephew. Haha.

But in Portuguese there is no rhyming of sobrinha and Dee-nee-zee. This was a true niece named Denise. I should have just appreciated the bit of communication that we were able to have without knowing each other’s languages. Instead, I attempted to tell her that sobrinha in English is niece and sounds like Denise. (But it doesn’t sound like Dee-nee-zee.) At that point, someone came by and was able to translate my little word play. Muriel laughed and we hugged and said tchau tchau, both off to our next activities.

I was reminded again from this exchange how important and complicated and beautiful language is in all its varieties. And how often the heart comes through even without words.

sobrinha or niece
some things lost in translation
but sweet love comes through

Spanish was very helpful while reading and trying to communicate in Portuguese. However, the pronunciations were so different, and there is more new vocabulary in Portuguese than familiar Spanish cognates, so I quickly learned that Spanish speakers and Portuguese speakers do not naturally understand each other. Like this word no in Portuguese. It means in (and a lot of other important prepositions). It’s pronounced nu. (The English no is não and pronounced more like English and Spanish.)

In love there is no fear
In my father’s house are many dwelling places – (Na is the feminine “in” here.)

Slice of Life in Brazil

20 February 2023

Since I was in sixth grade, I have had an interest in Brazil. It was the year we studied South America, and I chose Brazil for the country I wanted to focus on. I had never been there before last week, so when I got the opportunity to go, I jumped at it. As a fascinated tween, I remembered the built-from-scratch capital city of Brasilia, the Amazon, the cattle ranches, the rain forests. (I don’t think the southern cattle ranches had dangerously encroached into the rain forests at that time.)

After 55 years since studying Brazil, last week I helped to lead a Simply the Story workshop in São Paulo with young people from all over Brazil. The people of São Paulo are called Paulistanos. We felt warmly welcomed in this huge city. Here is an elfchen I wrote with Ethical ELA and Margaret Simon on Saturday about the Paulistanos we got to see each day in São Paulo.

Greet kindly
Pursue life audaciously
Drink deeply of Amor

Here are a few photos. But really, where do I start with all the amazing experiences I had?

One of many neighborhood Carnaval celebration.
Barbecued tilapia with rice and tapioca bread.
Do you see the VW in the garage? There were many on the roads, and lots of graffiti. Not too many stray dogs, though.
So many electrical wires!
I love these little bananas.
One of the lanes in the neighborhood where we stayed.
Did you know they eat mashed potatoes on hotdogs in Sao Paulo?
Brigadeiro is a sweet I saw in a few places. A young man made and sold these ones to help him earn support.
Tereré was a very interesting discovery. It has been “a social beverage for centuries…an important ritual signifying trust and communion.” Two of the participants came from the place in Brazil that practices this gentle tradition.

Now, as we look ahead to a daily Slice of Life in March, would you like to continue in April joining us at Ethical ELA for writing poetry during National Poetry Month? Click here to sign up.

Slice of Life – A Friends and Family Week

6 February 2024

We learned a few days before they arrived that some friends we haven’t seen in five years were coming to Palm Springs for a vacation. We made plans to spend a day with them visiting Joshua Tree National Park. Last Tuesday I had this text conversation with the friends:

We both made assumptions. First, I had thought that they were still in Michigan when I sent that message. (I guess the “road” I really meant was, “Are you up in the air already?”) I assumed they meant they were leaving in 30 minutes for the airport. I also made the assumption that their ETA was to get to the airport, either in Michigan or maybe in California. I thought it was odd, but I didn’t answer anything back.

However, they had arrived the day before in Palm Springs. They assumed they had the day wrong or that we had had to change the day, so when they saw my note, they changed plans and got ready to come to our house. (They did miss the “tomorrow” in my text.) We were still in our pajamas at their ETA of 9:25.

We all laughed, my hubby and I got dressed, and we spent a wonderful day together, a day early. The weather was perfect–the best of their cold and rainy week of vacation, so that was a bonus!

It was fun to see the park through the eyes of someone who had never been to the desert. They were so genuinely enthusiastic and loved the rocks!

We watched rock climbers. Do you see them?

Then on Saturday, my nephew from Pennsylvania came for the weekend before he went to Las Vegas for a business expo. Two more California nephews were able to join us. My siblings came too, and we spent many hours together over the weekend reminiscing and laughing We laughed over crazy stuff my nephews and brother did together, a brother who became an uncle at age four. He was a ringleader of mischief–swimming in desert lakes without adult supervision, spinning donuts in the sand with younger ones in the back of his pickup, crawling through culverts in out-of-the-way places and more. We marveled with gratitude that they all grew up without a tragic accident.

We have not kept in good touch with some family members who live far away (and who have far and away political views from ours). However, love prevailed, and this visit revitalized my resolve to stay in better touch with those I love.

Thank you for coming, A

Let us forget our differences for a moment.
Mutual affection wins this time, wins over false
love of unwavering political loyalties. Let’s
continue in humble love for one another.

Hebrews 13:1a “Let mutual love continue…”

Slice of Life – A Shortened Life of a Roadrunner

30 January 2024

Yesterday on the way home from church
I was sitting in the passenger seat.
From the left side of the road
I watched a roadrunner hurrying
toward us. It happened quickly.
Roadrunner, why didn’t you veer off
or stop? The cartoon Road Runner
has led me to believe you are invincible,
wildly wise, and never take a wrong turn.
But you ran right under our truck’s
front tire, and I was sickened.

Today my heart hurt when I rode by
the place where it happened.
There are too few of you, anyway,
and now there is one less. Who waited
for you to come home yesterday?
And you didn’t.

On a lighter note, we were hiking the other day, and this box of animals with some sort of electronic tracking devices was sitting by the side of the trail. There was a large group of middle schoolers in the parking lot hearing a talk by the park ranger, so I figured they were going to be something for them. It was a funny site.

The trail was tough, so I welcomed this break with my Thermos of hot tea…

and an oatmeal date bar.

I’m enjoying reading this beautiful book of poetry by Margaret Simon and artwork by her father, John Gibson. So lovely!

Slice of Life – Paying Attention this Year

23 January 2024

I’ve missed this community the last few weeks, and I am glad you are here faithfully each week. This year my special word of the year is cherish. (I wrote about it here and here.) I want to pay attention to the joys and sorrows and slices of life that I so often miss. Maybe that’s why it’s hard for me to write these Slice of Life posts on Tuesdays.

Anyway, I have joined The Stafford Challenge this year. Kim Stafford, poet and son of William Stafford, suggested a daily writing practice where you include the date, a diary (boring prose of the day), an aphorism, and a poem. Every single day. He said when people suggest his father was a genius and they couldn’t do what he did. (Write a poem every day for decades–he wrote over 20,000 poems from during WWII until his death.) Kim said he responds that maybe his father had a genius process that all of us can use. Look at all the healing with poetry that could happen if more people would take up this genius process. Anyway, that’s what I am trying in 2024.

Here’s today’s writing page. A mess, but that’s what they tend to look like for me.

Today’s poem…

The first thing I noticed about you is that
most of your words and actions show how
important and smart you seem to think you are…yet
part of me sees myself in you. I have a fear
of giving myself too. Being vulnerable in my/
(your need) is not easy for me (and you.) It’s been our
life. My fear
is masquerading as pride. You didn’t know just
ahead of you was something you needed help holding–a fear
of your son’s health–he was sick, living in his car, with guns–
you worried. Where is his dog? He’s
not well, you knew, but his next message was garbled. He’s
behind on his prescriptions. We let go.
You cried and we held each other and prayed.

A golden shovel from a David Brooks’ quote “The most important part of your life is ahead of you, not behind you.”