The Isolation Journals and Studio Visit with Nadia Bolz-Weber

Prompt 112 last week from Nadia Bolz-Weber was writing about “Things I’m not proud of…” Here is more:

Write a confession—something you did or said that you still carry with guilt and shame. Then write your own absolution, honoring the aftermath of your actions, calling in grace.

*Optional: Burn after writing.

This was powerful for me. I wrote and wrote about things I am ashamed of. Of words that I have spoken to my own children and my students. My tongue is  too sharp. Over the years, I have felt the millstone around my neck getting heavier and heavier, a sad reminder of the little ones I have offended. 

Then He said to the disciples, “…It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 

~Luke 17:2

I wrote my confession and then shredded, instead of burning, it (due to the smoke alarm in my flat).

As a result of Nadia’s prompt, I subscribed to the Studio Visits at The Isolation Journals. Tonight I got to go to my first Studio Visit with Nadia Bolz-Weber and Suleika Jaouad. It was a lovely hour spent soaking in grace and hope and peace.

God, I thank you that you understand that I am complicated, so many folded together layers of humanity. So much to be ashamed of, yet so much to rejoice in. So much fruit and life and joy and service. I thank you that you have gradually given me freedom to grow past my mistakes, actions, and words that shame me. You are never surprised by what I do, you love me and forgive me. Thank you. Thank you, Jesus, for picking up the pieces and patching me together with you, the living Word of God. Amen.


Today is Sunday, Day 215 in Bahrain’s Coronavirus time, and Prompt #111 in The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad. This week’s prompt was written by NYC teacher, Cara Zimmer. She challenged us to write a color poem using synesthesia, a literary device that is a deliberate confusion of the senses.

Teal is the satisfying ocean smell of cyan serendipities.
It feels like the refreshing eye of the Persian Gulf peacock
And tastes like the blue morpho dipping into a waterfall.
Teal is the sound of a mermaid’s balayage of rainbows painting a masterpiece.
Teal feels like a surfeit of raspberries.
It smells like an opulent sweven of fairies.
Teal tastes like the susurrous symphony of the trees.
It is the savory sight of the unassuming prism of perfumes.
Teal smells like an imbroglio between two youthful unicorns.
Teal tastes like the bread of heaven.
Teal is an epiphany of the syzygy of God
without a scintilla of hopelessness.
Teal is hope.

The Isolation Journals – Magic 9

Today is Saturday, Day 214 in Bahrain’s Coronavirus time, and Prompt #110 in The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad. This week’s prompt was written by Rachel Schwartzmann. It is about sitting quietly and seeing what thoughts come.

  • Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  • Stare at the wall or nothing.
  • Enjoy the slowness and stillness.
  • Write the thoughts and questions of those moment.

Last week at the Ethical ELA Open Write, we wrote Magic-9 poems. Two of the participants wrote about the stillness that Rachel talked about in her prompt.

I was reminded of The Isolation Journals prompt while I read their poems. Sharon wrote one called “Soulspeak” inspired by the quote: “Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak,” by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavatiand. Susan wrote a poem called “Behind Eyelids” inspired by a quote from Paul Gauguin: ”I shut my eyes in order to see.”

Their poems inspired me to write my own Magic-9 poem about what I heard during my quiet reflection.


In blindness I grope
Hope is a winged bird
My parched soul longs to cope
To cling to this good news
The world is a kaleidoscope
Of centurions and servants
Each at the end of their rope
A still small voice I heard
“Never give up Hope”

What came to mind during my five-minute quiet was this first stanza of a poem by Emily Dickinson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Another thing that has been on my mind is a Bible story about the centurion’s faith in Jesus to heal his beloved servant in Matthew 8:5-13.

This is What the Living Do

Today’s Slice of Life at

We capture pictures from inside our homes on our devices and post them on Instagram.

We send Whatsapp messages and make online sticky note cards for friends on their birthday.

We start yet another Zoom meeting and, during Internet instability, we smile and say, “Interesting” in response to something we didn’t really hear.

We surf our news apps and Twitter for the latest buffoonery and buzz.

We pray that our fellow citizens will learn from history so we won’t have to repeat it. 

This is what the living do during a pandemic.

But sometimes we remember when we used to hug and kiss each others’ cheeks, and talk for an hour after church, eating samosas and cookies. We remember moments of hearty laughter around the table with breakfast and a shared pot of tea. We remember singing praises together in church, chock full of people of all nations, but one in Christ. We remember sitting around a bonfire, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. We remember gatherings at your house with all of us there, eating, singing, laughing, praying. We remember late night talks without masks.

We remember and we wait, for this is what the living do.

Remember, we will do it again.


Today is day 203 in Bahrain’s Covid-19 time, Tuesday’s Slice of Life, and Prompt #109 in The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad and inspired by Marie Howe‘s poem, “This is What the Living Do.”

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.