The Isolation Journals

Today is day 194 in Bahrain’s Covid-19 chapter. Cases are going up, but restaurants have opened and in-person school began on Sunday for a few students who signed up for the blended-learning option. It is Prompt 108 in The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. Ash Parsons has shared a prompt today to write words to describe ten mental images from the last 24 hours.

A little girl had her mask on backwards, with the blue side inside. “Is your mask on the right way?” I asked. “Yes,” she told me. “OK, that’s good–as long as we keep the germs on the outside, that’s the important part.” What else to say?

Looking at my schedule for perhaps the tenth time this weekend. On my first day of school: “What do you think about that extra English class on Tuesdays?” I asked a colleague. “What extra English class?” We compared schedules. One of us has the wrong one again.

Later in the day we got a message, “Check your schedules; they changed again.”

Yes, two English classes on Tuesdays, but not on the virtual classes. So now the students who are coming to school have 2.5 hours of English a week. The online students have 70 minutes of English. That doesn’t seem equitable, does it.

Am I seeing anything these days that is not related to school and the stress of teaching in this crazy pandemic?

Energy Multipliers

Energy Multipliers

    • Walking briskly indoors (or outdoors when the weather permits)
    • Sipping a pot of karak tea
    • Finishing a good book
    • Creating something
    • Chatting with a friend
    • Writing, writing, writing
    • Communicating with my husband
    • Cooking something delicious
    • Baking cookies

One line that goes through many of my energy multipliers is that I love being productive. That’s why cooking, baking, reading, writing, creating, and walking all end with an accomplishment–something I can say I made or finished.

Good communication is also a value, especially deepening one-on-one and small group relationships.

I noticed there is just one thing that has me sitting quietly alone. Sipping tea. I love to drink tea, especially spicy, sweet, milky karak tea. However, even though it is on my list of multiplying energy, I am not usually doing it only. I am typically multitasking–reading, writing or working on my computer. while I sip. So, is it really an energy multiplier or just something I love to drink?

Today is Day 187 in Bahrain’s Covid time, Prompt 107 for The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. Her prompt(s) today:

Your prompt for the week:
What multiplies your energy? Write these in list form and tack them to the wall above your desk.

Bonus Prompt:
Reflect on the throughline between all of these things. What is it they do for you? What qualities do they share?

A World in the Future

The Rise of the Good Garden

If I could spend the day with you in the Good Garden,
we would pick sun-kissed fruit and eat,
the juice dripping through our fingers,
down our forearms and
off our elbows for the ants to enjoy.
We would swim up waterfalls
to clean the sticky nectar off.
We would harvest leafy greens
and fleshy yellow vegetables for dinner.
We would sing praises to the Creator.
We would give names to another ten thousand insect species.
We would lie down with the wolf and the lamb,
and we would all rest well.
The leopard and goat would peacefully pause
under the olive tree.
The calf and the lion would go for a walk
with the first Child leading them.

The Fall

When it all began they were kept apart
But the most crafty and cagey creature
(for Goodness sake, why?)
took the good and stirred in the evil
Introduced Knowing right and wrong

That cunning creature asked
Really? Are you starving here? Don’t you get anything to eat?
No, I mean, yes, we eat. We eat
delicious, phenomenal
fruits and veggies…except…uh…
I mean…we don’t eat everything, exactly…
just…just not from that one tree in the middle…
Ahhh, they say that’s the best one.
No. I don’t think so. We’ll die if we eat.
Mwahahaha! Do you believe that lie?
Think for yourself. It will open your eyes. Be like Creator.

It does look delicious.

They ate.
They hid.
They hid their knowing.
They no longer knew only Good Garden.
They now also knew evil empire.
They spread their
to the rest of us.
We hide.

But Goodness calls,

“Where are you?”

Back to the Garden

Sent out of the garden we
were, and now swords and hatred are
our life’s stock and stardust

Waiting for the Messiah we
were, but preying and cursing are
becoming golden

Where are we?
Why are
we caught
between heaven and being in
hell of murderers and monsters–the devil’s
friends…Us? But God had made a covenant. A bargain
as it were. Jesus came and
Back to the garden we
are being drawn. Jesus got
hung to
death to get
the garden restored–It’s not ourselves
getting us back.
The world now has an open invitation to
dine at the tree of Life in the
New Good Garden.

Inspiration this week came from a sermon I listened to by Brian Zahnd:

“Back to the Garden” is a golden shovel poem, based on lines from Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock.

Today is Day 178 of the Covid-19 time in Bahrain, Prompt #105 in The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. The prompt, by Marie Howe, is to imagine a world we really want.

Small Steps to Creating

Sometimes with small steps we take, we have no intention of creating something bigger. We may just be stepping in to test out the water. This happened to me recently when I started using spices in the kitchen. It happened to me when I made a decision to say yes to teaching kindergarten  during a college summer, when my major was not education.

One of the things I thought about this week that started small and became something greater is my very first tweet inquiry about “genius hour.” Thanks to the fact that together we are smarter, #geniushour has grown a lot over the years. It was nine years ago that I saw a tweet by Angela Maiers about something called “genius hour.” I

I did hear more and learned more. I started giving my students time for genius hour and sharing about it on Twitter. Thanks to my future friends, Hugh and Gallit, who were teaching partners at the time, we began to use the #geniushour hashtag, first just the three of us and gradually it has developed into a huge PLN.

Gallit had the idea to start a Twitter chat once a month, that has gone on continuously since March 2012. Hugh, Gallit and I, along with Joy Kirr were asked to be interviewed about Genius Hour and write a Genius Hour Manifesto. We all wrote about Genius Hour extensively on our blogs and practiced this empowering learning with our students.  The next year Gallit and I wrote an e-book about Genius Hour, which didn’t actually get published because of changes at the publisher. In 2015 it was picked up by Middle Web and Routledge Eye on Education and became published as The Genius Hour Guidebook. The second edition was released in 2020.

This past spring we had a chance to talk about the importance of Genius Hour in at home learning.

When I started doing Genius Hour with our middle school students, I never would have imagined that it would become a thing that so many people are practicing with their students.

Today is Saturday, Day 172 in Bahrain’s Covid season, Prompt 104 from Suleika Jaouad’s The Isolation Journals. Today’s prompt from Prune Nourry is “Reflect on a time you took one small action that led to a much greater creation.” Watch a video about the cathartic sculpture Prune made during her fight with breast cancer.

Movement and Creativity

Slice of Life at

It is really difficult to get enough movement and exercise during both the Covid-19 outbreak and this hottest time of year (On 23 July days it was over 40C [104F] and got up to 118F a couple times. It is also steamy). We sometimes go to the mall early in the morning and walk before the shoppers come, but we don’t do that too often because of my husband’s work schedule.

However, I do keep moving and creating even in my small flat. As I sit at my computer so often these days, I have learned that I need to get up just as often. I pop up and walk every hour, at least for 250 steps. It does clear my head. I am on a serious band exercise routine every other day.

Today when I needed a creativity break after working, I went into the kitchen, watched the news, and painted part of an egg carton that has been sitting here for a couple weeks and my husband was getting close to throwing in the garbage. Making my very hungry caterpillar took the sting off watching the news with chyrons like, “All the promises trump has made, but not kept on health care.”

Another thing I’m doing these days is practicing my singing. I still can’t believe that I signed up for virtual singing lessons, and I even do my homework! I practice creativity in the kitchen too. We are eating better than ever.

Are creativity and movement related? Absolutely. I am a changed person after these months of living more intentionally and with a greater range of priorities. In the past, I could get stuck in the overwork cycle of doing school work for days at a time. It is so unhealthy! Even after the coronavirus chapter, I am committed to exercise and creativity and not just work.

Today is Tuesday, time for a Slice of Life post, Day 161 in Bahrain’s Covid-19 chapter, and Prompt #103 in The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. (This prompt was about how  movement helps with fresh ideas and contemplative thinking.)

The Isolation Journals, Prompt #102

The prompt this week: Reflect on your earliest awareness of a disconnect between what the world said was okay and what you instinctively felt wasn’t right. How did you react? What action, big or small, did you take? Since then, how have your beliefs changed or stayed the same?

This was difficult for me because my childhood and youth were not ones of activism or seeking social justice at all. Instead, I feel I was always attempting to prove myself and my competence in whatever I did. To be smarter, to throw the ball farther, to be better than the others. I’m not sure why, exactly.  I didn’t come from an activist family, but rather I came from a family in survival mode. Seven children and a father who died too soon. For the most part, I was safe and had enough, but I wasn’t thinking about others. 

One example I noticed pretty early on. The world said it was okay to have people in positions where they weren’t fully qualified and that made me angry and responsive. Even as a child and teen, I noticed among teachers and others in authority. I remember in high school when our creative writing teacher promised we would put together an anthology of our work at the end of the semester. However, there seemed to be no plan to do that or any attempt to collect our work or recruit a team to help or anything. The end of the school year was quickly approaching. I don’t remember the conversation we had, but I must have approached him. However, the result was that I collected the work of my classmates and made the anthology myself, typing all the submissions on ditto masters and printing copies for the whole class using the machines in my business class.

Another example is when I worked full time during the summer after high school. It was a great job working in the nursing administration department of a hospital. I was an assistant to the administrative secretary of the hospital nursing administrator. Everyone was highly competent and I loved the satisfaction and pride this job gave me. (By the way, the job was part of a federal job creation program called CETA. I was eligible because our family’s income was low. That job, which paid minimum wage during the summer,  transitioned into a really high-paying part-time job that put me through college. Looking back, I think that was a CETA success story.) Anyway, at times, some of my hours were spent typing policy and procedure manuals for nursing supervisors of the various units. It was fascinating work. It was in my interactions with those supervisors that I noticed some were much more qualified than others. I remember more than once thinking I didn’t want to type policy and procedure manuals, I wanted to be the supervisor who could come up with effective policies and procedures.

How have my beliefs changed or stayed the same? First of all, by God’s grace and mercy, I have become more understanding of others, more lenient in my judging, and more accepting of others’ imperfections. When I was younger I was ruthless to my teachers and authority figures. Just the ones whom I felt were unworthy of my respect. (Oh, my, it’s embarrassing to admit that! What kind of warped evaluation tool I used to determine competency, though, I have no idea.) Anyway, grace has come to mark my acceptance of others now. I’m not 100%, to be sure, and I have a tendency to call out BS, but maybe I’m better at doing it privately now. An important addition to my thinking is that I have come to notice my own incompetencies and realize that others have to put up with me, as well!

Today is Monday, Day 153 in Bahrain quarantine time, and Prompt #102 in The Isolation Journals by Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO of FEED.

Beauty Hunting

Last month for a poem in the Open Write, I did research about saffron crocuses. This poem resulted:

Rose of Saffron
Out in the open
In the full sun
Lies the costliest of all

For thousands of years
It is true
The Crocus Satimus corm
Initiates the process
First lying dormant
Through the heat of summer
Does its wizardry underground

Then the autumn crocus
Burgeons and blossoms
Six purple petals
Cradle the crimson stigmas
And yellow styles

Gentle hands
Carefully pluck out
Three red threads,
Dry and store safely–
150 flowers are needed to make
One gram of spice
(that’s almost 400 flowers to match the mass of a U.S. penny)
Use saffron for
Fancy fragrances
healing and health
Creating golden ambrosial delights
Beauty of the beloved

I haven’t really seen the flowers that produce the spice saffron, but I have definitely gained so much respect and seen the beauty. Because of the costliness, I’m sure there is a lot of corruption and thievery. (Just do a search for how you can spot the “real” costly stuff from pawned-off adulterated versions.)

I have some I just took out of my cupboard that I’ve been afraid to use. All my other spices have opened up my culinary skills and interests in the past Covid-19 stay-at-home season, but the saffron still sat in this tiny case, unused.

However, this prompt today had me free it from the spice cabinet. Tomorrow I was planning to make a pot of masala tea for a socially-distanced tea party with a friend. Today, I decided that I will adjust that plan, adding a few strands of saffron I’ll make Middle Eastern style karak chai.

This saffron was a gift to my husband to use in his Arabic coffee. He hasn’t tried it yet, either.

Today is the first Sunday weekly prompt for The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad. This is prompt 101 and Day 145 in Bahrain’s Covid-19 time.

The prompt today came from Raven Roxanne and is called Beauty Hunting. “Think about the last time you looked at something and noticed a change within—studying a painting, an animal, a flower, a piece of fruit, what you saw through a window. Write about what you saw, and what you felt shift.”

All the Colors

Today is Thursday, Day 135 in Bahrain’s coronavirus time, and day 100 of The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad.

On May 20, 2020, I learned about The Isolation Journals and joined in on Day 50. The next day, Sky Baynes had us write a “to feel” list. I made a “to feel” wheel for my journal that day.

When I saw Suleika’s prompt today, it seemed like a complete colorful circle for me in The Isolation Journals: “Reflect on all the colors that make up your emotional palette–from the brightest neons to the drabbest grays. Examine the different hues and shades that occur each morning, midday, afternoon and evening. Write about how they’re playing out on a canvas, how they work together to make each day a painting of its own.”

Instead of writing, I painted a picture of my emotional palette. It has all the colors in my paint box, from the inquisitive, inspired, strong and valued yellows to the appalled, revolted and infuriated reds. It has the lonely isolated and exposed blues. My painting and life during this time is a joyful, frustrated, amazed, peaceful, powerful, and excited rainbow of isolation with a shadowy covid flower right smack dab in the middle of every single day.

I was delighted to learn that The Isolation Journals will continue, one prompt per week. If you are interested in joining, visit Suleika’s website here to add your name to get the emailed prompts.