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.”

Slice of Life – NCTE Reflections

28 November 2023

I guess “Reflections” in my title is a bit of a stretch because I didn’t actually take time to reflect much yet. Instead, I wanted to get some thoughts down and share some photos. There is so much more to say about the whole NCTE experience, but for now here are some of my delighted, though surfacy, highlights.


  • Having presentations to attend where I knew presenters, like fellow Slice of Life writers–Glenda, Sally, Margaret and Trish.
Sally and I with Glenda at her round table discussion on “Planning with Purpose”
Trish inspiring us at “English Language Arts and the Climate Crisis”
  • Presenting and rooming with Mo and Jennifer
Sarah Donovan was the lead presenter, but sadly we took no photos of her.
  • Hearing Jacqueline Woodson and Tom Hanks


This beautiful mural in the Convention Center with my favorite word
That yellow book on the top shelf is one I wrote with Gallit Zvi, and there it was on display in the exhibit hall.
I had several opportunities to write poetry. It is such a peaceful practice during a busy conference. I bought some new Poetry Spark cards–examples on lower left (moon, echo, distant)
We went to the Scholastic brunch and heard these four authors and received their books–Alan Gratz, Joanna Ho, Ali Terese, and Ann E. Burg.
My return flight was on Southwest, so I was able to check a bag and a suitcase full of books I received from the conference. Free books and free transport for them. They will do a lot of good in my community.
The fall leaves were gorgeous, as was the neighborhood Airbnb we stayed in together

New Connections

  • Meeting Victoria Pasquantonio, a fun and passionate educator who is now the education producer at PBS NewsHour Classroom.
  • Meeting Dr. Luz Carime Bersh from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Carime used a kaleidoscope as a beautiful metaphor for the multiple layers of identity.

Delicious Food

  • Restaurants at the Short North Arts District on High Street in Columbus were a definite high–but I didn’t take any photos! My favorite was Brassica, where we ate dinner two nights in a row.

Slice of Life – NCTE and more biking

14 November 2023

A few weeks ago we met a new friend at Starbucks. He’s a fellow bike rider and lives in the town of Joshua Tree. He has literally ridden every highway and road–paved and dirt–as well as all the trails. He helped us find a new shortcut to Joshua Tree on a three-mile trail to his house. Now, he has taken us on several adventures seeing the landscape and sites. This week we went on two 20-mile rides. Just some of the sites we saw were beehive homes, a split rock, a suspiciously-not-really-contaminated “high energy microwave field”, a mirrored egg embedded on a mountain, a train museum (where the train has never passed through) and more. He estimates it will take two more months to finish seeing the sites he has to show us. Here are some photos of our last two bike rides.

Those are full-sized train cars in the background. In the foreground are tracks for a narrow-gauge train that goes around the grounds.
Is this warning sign really something? There was no fence around the area, and “Security by Julia.” Do you see the egg-shaped light in the background?
Here is the egg up close. I’m wondering if the warning is to protect this beauty.
How do you suppose this rock split?
A working fire hydrant in the desert (There was a house behind me)
These little cabins are made with socks of dirt with cement powder arranged in concentric circles.
My husband riding up ahead
We made it home just in time for the sun to fully set



I’m working on my own personal schedule from the NCTE Conexiones schedule. Have I missed any that you are leading or that you are attending?



7:00 a.m. – One Line Coffee with Ethical ELA friends
F.14 – “Building Networks: Bringing Together Teachers, Researchers, Families, and Communities to Explore, Expand, and Interrogate Writing Instruction” with Sarah Donohue and Margaret Simon and others
H.10 – “Acts of Assemblage: Bringing Art, Science, and History Together in the Storytelling Classroom” with Glenda Funk and others
I.18 – “Connecting English Language Arts and the Climate Crisis” with Trish Emerson and others

K.19 – “Authors are Real People: Connecting Students to Children’s Book Creators” with Margaret Simon, Sally Donnelly, Mary Lee Hahn, Heidi Mordhorst, Amy Ludwig VanDerWater, Laura Shoven, and Laura Purdie Salas and others.
L.29 – “Relational Poetic Practice: How Poetic Thinking Empowers Teachers to Author Their Own PD” with Sarah Donohue, Mo Daley, Jennifer Guyor Jowett, and me, Denise Krebs
M.34 – “Planning with Purpose: Nuts and Bolts for New College Classroom Teachers” with Anna J. Small Roseboro, Glenda Funk, and others and 4:00-4:30 – Laura Purdie Salas signing Finding Family

P.11 – “Connections within Research in Young Adult Literature” with Leilya Pitre and others


Slice of Life – Spanish for Breakfast

October 31, 2023

Last week we found this quaint little coffee shop/restaurant in Palm Desert, D’Coffee Bouteaque. It has a healthy and interesting menu, an amazing selection of coffee and tea drinks, and homey, eclectic decor. Everything is served on a variety of china dishes. We had a sweet server who we really made a connection with, and we knew he would be there today when we were going to be back in town for an appointment. So during the week, I made a plan to speak to our waiter, M, in Spanish this time. I had to look up a few words that I didn’t know because, as I told M, “Por favor, ¿Podemos hablar in español hoy porque quiero mostrar a mi esposo que puedo hacerlo? He was such a good sport, and it was a success. I ordered a chai latte with leche de avena and agave en el lado. He helped me with one of the many mistakes I made, but I forget it already. I think it was at the end of  the sentence above about how to say, “I could do it.”

Anyway, I felt like I am on my way to the next stage of learning Spanish. I will definitely feel more confident next time.

Now, because we have no trick-or-treaters in our rural area, I’m sitting writing this and eating the M&Ms I bought (just in case).

Burrito de desayuno
Una rebanada de tostada con hummus y la aguacate
M brought this over to us with four stamps from this visit and last week’s
The decor is an eyeful everywhere you look!


Slice of Life and October Open Write 2023

October 24, 2023

I spent so many years of my life overworked and overwhelmed, and now here I am in retirement and I needed more to do. I told my husband today that I wish we could spread retirement out over our careers and enjoy a little boredom, respite, and rejuvenation throughout the years. On that note, I volunteered for the Friends of the Library in our town. They needed someone to figure out how to do email blasts, so I said I could do that. I went to MailChimp (or as the FOL board president has started to call it–ChimpMonkey. I’ve started calling it that too.) It was not difficult to learn, and today I successfully added contacts and sent out different newsletters to each of the four segments of our audience. It was rewarding, and such a treat to have time to sit and work without distractions.

A few pictures of late:

I love an early moonrise.
These berries on this tree were so interesting. Using Lens, I think it is a cypress tree. Do you know?


This week is the Open Write at Ethical ELA is going on this week. Here are the poems I’ve written so far:

October 21, 2023
Found in Artwork with Erica Johnson


La Grande Vitesse–
great swiftness–
is on its toes
This suspect stabile
is a dancer
Even those
who don’t dance
Can walk around it
Walk up to it
Dance with it
Never the same

Found poem from this article
Images of La Grande Vitesse

October 22, 2023
If Your Shoes Could Talk with Tammi Belko

My Boots Are Talking

Hey, we’ve just gotten started–
These desert trails are great.
Hope you don’t grow again
Or we’ll end up in a thrift crate
before we’re properly worn,
just like your last sole mates

The inch I’ve lost in height
has been added to my feet–
An unfortunate birthright

October 23, 2023
The Luc Bat with Wendy Everard

Marshmallows burnt just right
Settled round the fire light—cold backs
Warm fronts, time to relax.
Then looked up, viewed star tracks—chatter
turned to higher matters
Universal star spatter, bright moon
Soul space, Divine commune

October 24, 2023
It’s My Birthday!! All Month with Donnetta Norris

Inspired by “August Moon,” a poem by Emma Lazarus. I used this striking line: “Look! The round-cheeked moon floats high in the glowing August sky.” Her poem reminded me of this moon last August:

Take a Look!
Time for a surprise, for the
calendar has yet to turn round
and this orb, full-cheeked,
is shining again–blue moon
they call it. Super moon floats
above the mountain, lighting high
and low across the sand, just in
time for popcorn on the
porch and the glowing
cozy comfort of this August
evening, falling up into the sky

October 25, 2023
Take a Word for a Walk with Anna Roseboro

Children buried in rubble of war.
Are children only flesh and blood
literally–just children born to bleed
die survive as children no more?
Adopting hatred of elders, children waste
Justice and peace! They’re our children!

Slice of Life – Sourdough and Sad Thoughts

October 17, 2023

The news this week is painful. So many questions, so much pain in Israel and Palestine. Pain for the past seven decades, and more pain in the future too. God, please help.

The slices in my life recently seem to include sadness and questions and worry about how to be a better global citizen, but here is a small moment that happened this morning. In 2020, for the first time ever, I made a sourdough starter in Bahrain, along with many other people who were home during the pandemic lockdown.

When I moved back to California, I brought a small bottle of sourdough with me in my carryon. I nurtured it, used it, and gave some to my daughter. Over the year in Minneapolis, she improved my process and products of sourdough bread. Meanwhile in California, inadvertently I let my own sourdough die.

When I came home from my daughter’s last month, I returned with a small jar of sourdough in my carryon. It’s from the same batch I started in 2020. Now it’s healthy again and living in my fridge. This morning I started a loaf of bread.

The sadness is getting into my Inktober poems…

October 15 – dagger
knocked, assaulted, choked, stabbed
dozens of times: mother and son
hate crime, unthinkable escalation
Gaza war exported to Chicago by a
monster of a man who once
built a treehouse

Read more about Wadea Alfayoumi with a gift article from me at Washington Post.

October 16 – angels
when times are oppressive
God’s protective calming cloud
peace in the world

October 17 – demon
Who will
cast out
the demon
of hatred?
How will
anyone be able
to pay for the
What will
bring justice
and peace?

more here

Slice of Life – #Writeout

October 10, 2023

It’s time for the #Writeout, an annual time to go outside and write! Thank you, NWP, for sponsoring so many opportunities for all to write. Yesterday I got lost viewing and reading prompts and ideas for writing out. Here is one I watched by a NE Ohio high school teacher, Amy Hirzel. She is a poet and gifter of beautiful writing inspiration.

I thought of her idea when I went for a walk today. I looked for artifacts–both manmade and natural. Then I chose one of each and tried to find the connections. Of course, the horrific bad news in Israel and Palestine was on my mind today too.

Here’s today’s poem.


uncompromising message
ramrod straight ahead
No detours
stay the course
do it my way

fringed amaranth
cries out
there are other ways
today she waves to travelers
arms beckon us to follow a new path

signs of sureness are needed at times
but flowing signs of wonder can
forge new directions of hope and home
rather than war

Here are my Poemtober poems from this week and last week.

Slice of Life – A Covid-19 Lazy Sonnet

October 3, 2023

A Covid-19 Lazy Sonnet




BUT feeling


Two years ago I wrote a small poem each day in October using a word from the Inktober prompts. I thought I would challenge myself again this year with the new list. Does anyone want to join me?

Small Poems

October 1 – Dream
will drift
round our dreams

October 2 – Spiders
Spiders shouldn’t be
sitting by little misses
thinking they can scare
them away. She’ll just grab her
jar and nab those arachnids.

October 3 – Path
Would you take one less traveled?
Or prefer the beaten path?
Both will work–Keep on moving!

October 4 – Dodge
There once was a game of ball
Fun for all, but just don’t fall.
Keep your eye on it
Make your feet fly flit
Dodge it or get yourself mauled.

October 5 – Map

The links above are all to a variety of forms that I used for each #smallpoem.