I Was Given a Golden Shovel Today

Day 28
A hopeful Golden Shovel from September 2021 using Biden’s Build Back Better slogan.

Thank you for the challenge and passing on the Golden Shovel to us today, Fran Haley. I saw your post this morning, and I thought it was a great day to write another Golden Shovel poem.  I’ve been thinking about it and doing a little mental digging throughout my day.

Because it’s Palm Sunday, I made that the topic for my poem using William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow” poem.

So Much Depends Upon Jesus
Hosanna in the Highest, so
very many Hosannas! It seems there is much
joy filling Jerusalem today, but it depends
ultimately upon
your perspective. It’s not all hosannas…We sense a
burst of red
hot anger–religious leaders reinventing the wheel
of hatred, building a barrow
above the tombs, glazed
sepulchers of envy, with
little hope of Hosannas to rain
peace and justice on the earth. Beside
Jesus’s little donkey, the
fickle crowds also heave their temporary praise, white
hot and later we will all become chickens

A year ago this week, I wrote another Golden Shovel poem using a Williams’ poem, “This is Just to Say

It’s A Good Friday Just to Say
This week started with a parade I
Witnessed. Shouting and waving my palm branches have
Given me hope. Too often I’ve eaten
Of this desire, dreams for the
Future, broken again. Grapes and plums
Crushed into sour wine that
Is poured out and wasted. Were
You informed of this in
Heaven before you agreed to the
Plan? Heaven must have been an icebox
The moment the plan was devised and
Executed. Which
Brings us back to you
Here now getting lead-studded lashes. Were
You tempted to split the earth and let them fall in? Probably.
Crown of thorns, ‘My God” groaning, but saving
Some bit of hope after the forsaking for
A fish-laden breakfast
On the beach. All to forgive
Us, the world, villains, sinners, trespassers, me.
Sour sponge dripping vinegar they
Gave to relieve your pounded nails, pounding head? Were
You aware that your forsaken cries would become delicious
Victory over the grave, so
We would be able to say, ‘It’s Friday, but sweet
Sunday’s coming,’ and
Our scarlet sins could become so
Clean like fire and snowy cold

By Laurie Avocado, CC By 2.0

Handmade Hugs

Day 27

This winter a group of us made 50 crocheted toys for the pediatric cancer patients here in Bahrain.  They will be distributed to children as they come for their treatments.

Then we received a grant from a nonprofit in Bahrain to add a Bahrain coloring book made by local artists and a box of crayons to each handmade toy.

We delivered the packages to Salmaniya Medical Center’s Patient Relations Office this week. There are 13 patients there this week who will each receive a package. As new patients come, they will have one waiting for them.

I wasn’t much of a crocheter, (mostly I had made potholders  before this) but this project was a motivating one to join because of the cause. I made a turtle and baby turtle because it seemed like an easier animal to attempt, as I am not much for following patterns.

Spelling Bee Wrapped Up

Day 25

So we just wrapped up the third Zoom Spelling Bee of the day! And now we are officially on spring break.

Three weeks or so ago I wrote about initial ideas for our final Spelling Bee. Here’s what I thought then:

  • Round 1–they each write the same word in the chat to the host (judge).
  • Round 2–we’ll say the same word and everyone will write it on a whiteboard. On the count of three, they will turn it around and show the judges.
  • Round 3 would be a traditional spelling bee where each child left in the competition gets a different word and spells it orally.

Here are some of the successful changes we made.

We gave the children a list of words to practice and a book to read.  Here are the lists we used: Amber, Ruby, Sapphire. We had three separate events for each leveled group. (The levels were created by an online Google preliminary round; students were placed according to their scores on the preliminary.)

One big change happened that we didn’t discover until the first group did Round 1. One of the students told us when he and his dad were practicing that the auto-correct chat featured fixes words. OK, yes, indeed! Why didn’t we think of that? Auto correct on Zoom is spectacular. The next time you are in a Zoom meeting try misspelling a word in a chat message! So, the first group got 5/5 correct in Round 1. For the next two groups we didn’t do Round 1 like this. Instead, we had the students in the second group write five words on their whiteboard. Then we checked them all at one time. For the youngest ones, we had them write the words one at a time.

Then we did Round 2, which was spelling on the whiteboards with fewer, harder, and higher-point-value words. Last time I wrote about the spelling bee, Melody Parker suggested the students show their whole body, which we kind of did. We’d have students stand behind their chairs with the whiteboards for Round 2. It was a really good view and we could see them writing.

Round 3 was two rounds in a traditional oral spelling bee style. Three points for each word spelled correctly in this round, and no eliminations for spellers who missed their words.  For Rounds 3 through 5, the students also stood behind their chairs and had their hands up. They could just hold them up or pretend to write on one hand with the other hand as the stylus to help them with the spellings.

We also had Round 4, which had words from a book we asked the children to read (from our online library subscription). We gave each child one word from the book. (Round 4 was especially hard for the youngest ones in the Amber group below. You can see only two spelled their word correctly.)

Finally, we had a Finals Round for the top scorers. It was a single elimination round, which determined the winner. The scores were only used to help determine the other places, if needed, as in the example below.

The school classes were cancelled for today, so other students could watch the Spelling Bees, which were live-streamed on YouTube. We played the national anthem, the principal or vice principal took turns thanking and greeting the participants and spectators and each person introduced themselves. Two or three volunteer teachers came to each room to be judges. There were three of us on the Spelling Bee design team, and we each were able to be in all three groups–to host the Zoom, to answer questions, and help during the scorekeepers breakout meeting.

We were thrilled that each of the three bees went off successfully. They were much better than we thought they would have been. The goal of this project in the Learning Inclusion Department was to give an opportunity for enrichment for our talented and gifted students.  It was a joy to see these excellent students be in the limelight for a day. It seemed like they were proud and happy to be there.

Two suggestions for next time: Schedule 90 minutes for each, instead of 60 minutes. The second group was scheduled right after the first one, so it got a late start. Also, Group 1 needs fewer rounds and a shorter list to study. 

A Prayer of Lament

Day 22

Last night in our family Bible study we wrote prayers of lament, like in Psalm 13 (How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?) and Psalm 22 (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?).

Prayers of lament start out with protest, continue with petition, and end with some kind of praise, at least anticipated praise. Here is mine:

God are you here in your church?
Why does it not look like heaven?
Why have we distorted your Body so much?
When will we give up white supremacist
theology for the upside down
Realm of Jesus?
Have you abandoned your church?
Do you laugh or cry
about the mess we’ve made of it?

Can you just start over, God?
Re-transfuse the church with your blood,
and do whatever you have to
to make us serve the Jesus of the Bible,
not the “white” Jesus created
by enslavers and murderers.
I want your will to be done
on earth as it is in heaven,
but it is hard to believe it will happen.

I want to praise you
because I know you will fully come.
I do believe,
but help my unbelief.

Grandma’s House

Day 21

Each window in the ramshackle cabin had a jagged starburst framework of glass shards. After Mom knocked out the most dangerous pieces from the bottom part of the window frame, she lifted me through. We were both careful so I wouldn’t cut myself on the glass knives on my right and left. Mom, who wouldn’t fit through the window herself, watched protectively as I stepped onto the glass-covered floor and walked toward the door to unlock it from the inside. I jumped when a mama bird took flight across the high ceiling of what would later become Grandma’s bedroom.

We worked every weekend for months to get this old homesteader cabin in shape. My grandma needed a new place to live, and my grandpa provided this little cabin for her to live in. He had built it decades before. (They were long ago divorced, so he had his own place.)

This became the grandma’s house I knew and spent many nights at. It was a two-and-a-half hour drive east from our home near L.A., and we often drove there on Friday after school and came back Sunday night. It’s where we went to the Sky Drive-in Theatre, hiked over the mountain to see what we could see, explored other abandoned cabins, flew cracked broken asbestos hot pads like frisbees, caught lizards and stink bugs, read from cover-to-cover the latest Mad Magazine that Mom and Grandma brought home from their  grocery runs, took baths outside, hung laundry on the clothesline, ate Grandma’s popovers, and feasted on Grandma’s favorite KFC fried chicken for special occasions.

We had Thanksgiving at Grandma’s every year. She, and all of us, thought more is always better in both the food and people departments. So we often brought others along who needed a home for Thanksgiving. When the Thanksgiving meal was finished there was always pumpkin pie and a nap or two. Later if anyone was hungry, they could warm up another plate of food from the spread that was left out on the naturally-refrigerated screened-in porch.

The next day we woke up bright-eyed and in a new holiday spirit. We put on our ugly Christmas sweaters (but no one called them ugly back then). We put away all the fall colors and turkeys, and we transformed my grandma’s house into a Christmas wonderland. A tree went up, red and green decorations and Christmas tablecloths adorned all the many dining room tables that had been pieced together. Gifts went under the tree. Games were played and gifts were exchanged. (Earlier we had chosen a name for one gift to give.)

When I got married my grandma couldn’t come to the wedding. They told me she was sick, but they didn’t tell me how sick. The day after the wedding, my husband and I went to Disneyland. We had a family tradition that when someone went to the Magic Kingdom, they would stop in Tomorrowland at the futuristic surround-sound telephone booth and call home. I didn’t want to stop that tradition, so on our Day 2 of married life we called home. My sister greeted us and gave us the news that my grandma had colon cancer. We actually left Disneyland at that time and drove the two-and-a-half hours to see my grandma. It would be the last time I saw her, as she died six-months later during my husband’s last semester of graduate school in Michigan.

The next time I went to Grandma’s house, it had become my Mom’s home. She had moved from our childhood home, where my brother and his new wife were living. Not exactly like a palimpsest, scraped clean and ready to be used again, for she had just moved into the same home and was now the grandma there for a new generation.

When we had children, the girls and I would leave at 5 in the morning and drive (not often enough) four hours west from Phoenix. Grandma would have breakfast ready for us, and then my girls would do some of the same things I did when I was a little girl.

When my mom got sick, she moved to another place near my sister, just a few miles away. We were all there with her the last week of her life. I was glad my teenage daughters got to be there to say goodbye.

Beside my dying mom
During her last days
In her rock house living room
Next to the rented hospital bed
Because of love
With sadness in our hearts
With fear, but with God
Good-bye, Grandma

Now the house stands empty, owned by my siblings and me. Will someone in this generation or the next scrape it clean and use it again?

Today’s idea is from The Isolation Journals, and it challenged us to think of our lives as metaphorical palimpsests. 

Prompt 144. Greater than the Sum of Parts, by Maura Kate Costello

Think of a site that holds many stories—like your hometown, an heirloom, your family tree, or even your own body. Can the stories live together in harmony? Or does the tablet need to be scraped clean, the story rewritten?

Friday – A Day to Rest

Day 20

This week I had three really busy days in a row; I wasn’t enjoying anything that was keeping me busy. I felt like Grumpy Gills Nemo when Dory tells him to just keep swimming. When life gets you down, you just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

By the skin of my teeth, I reached most of my deadlines on Thursday evening, but when I went to bed I left this note for the morning.

I was half asleep, so I couldn’t even stop to write a quick SOLSC blog post before bed. I thought I could do it in the morning because when it is 8:00 a.m. the next day in Bahrain, it’s midnight on the U.S. East coast. I remember vaguely thinking that the U.S. recently sprung ahead, so now it will be 9:00 a.m. at midnight, so I had lots of time in the morning. I woke up at 6:55 and went to my computer. I wrote the blog post, published, and went to post on TwoWritingTeachers. But alas, it was now 7:15 a.m. here and 12:15 a.m. EST. So that’s how that spring ahead thing worked this time! Oops, so I missed my 18th day of SOLSC.

Next on my checklist was making music videos for our church school children to sing to record their voices. They are nothing pretty, just our musicians playing with lyrics and actions, but it took a lot of time.

Finally, it was about 1:00 p.m. and the perfect time for a nap! I slept for an hour. A delightful “Sunday”-afternoon nap. Friday is our church day, and so we think of it as Sunday still, always a good day for a nap.

After that I woke up and was so excited to sit and read, something I have been neglecting for way too long. Though I didn’t spend a lifetime with Suleika Jaouad, I did spend about six months, and got to chapter six in her book Between Two Kingdoms. The book is quite engaging. Suleika has such a beautiful way of observing and describing the details of her surroundings and experiences. I’m really enjoying her story.

It was a lovely relaxing afternoon, something I desperately needed. Later I made some naan bread, and I was surprised to see that some of them had creepy faces. I began wondering about each one’s personality traits. Oh, my! It’s been quite a week!


Mi Primer Publicación Español

Day 12

Me on my own:
Yo hablo inglés solamente. Porque quiero aprender español. Con Duolingo yo aprendo mucho cosas interesante. Yo escribo esta post con no ayuda.

I went to Google Translate to see how I did…
Solo hablo ingles. Pero quiero aprender español. Con Duolingo, aprendo muchas cosas interesantes. Escribo esta publicación sin ayuda.

What I intended to say

I speak only English, but I want to learn Spanish. With Duolingo, I am learning many interesting things. I wrote this post without help.

OK, I don’t speak Spanish. The last time I studied in school was in Grade 9 in a Spanish 2 class. Now, I’m doing one or two lessons a day in Duolingo, sometimes more.

I am on a 43-day streak! Woohoo! (Mr. Wilkinson is at 800+ days in a row!) But as you can see above, I forget a lot of things that I’m learning. For instance, I said “mucho cosas interesante” instead of muchas cosas interesantes, which sounds much more beautiful when said correctly.

Here are a few more things I can say since I’ve recently passed Checkpoint 1 on Duolingo:

Yo tengo dos hermanos y cuatro hermanas.

Yo tengo dos hijas y uno esposo.

Este vestido azul es muy bonito.

Yo quiero hablar español.