Haiku and the Little Ones

Right around the time the season changed from summer to autumn last year, I stumbled upon a haiku collection while perusing a colleague’s bookshelf.  I hadn’t read haiku in years! I borrowed her book and enjoyed the haiku for a few days before giving in and ordering my own copy of the book. The book is entitled The Essential Haiku: the Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, edited and translated by Robert Hass.

The haiku masters offered the perfect moments to sip tea and reflect on changes in the natural world as the seasons transform from one to another. They served as a welcome substitute for time that would have been spent outdoors (and perhaps with my camera) because the weather was often icky last autumn and winter.

After I had my fill of the haiku masters, I moved on to Sonia Sanchez’s Morning Haiku, a book I must blog about at another time.

As you can guess, I was pretty haiku obsessed. I read them to my son. I tried to get him to write haiku with me. He ran in the opposite direction–screaming, arms flailing (slight exaggeration). Aha! But eventually I found a way to “capture” him (along with his 15 classmates).

Last April–building on the lessons on metaphor, simile, and image I’d taught the children in second and third grade–I taught a brief lesson on the haiku form, read a few to the (then) fourth graders, and allowed my son to transform a longer poem he wrote for National Poetry Month last year into a haiku to demonstrate for the class how a three-line poem can tell the same story and present the same image as a much longer poem.

Poem written by my little one when he was in third grade.  The frog is one of the many animals he loves.  Scrapbook elements by Amanda Wittenborn: Amanda Creation

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The children were tasked with writing about something in nature, the change of seasons or an animal.  They “mastered” the form easily and loved writing their haiku.  Since nine-year-olds are still eager to please, they vied for my attention to read their haiku. They didn’t have time to read their poems to the class, but I took their poems, typed them, and created a display for the university library. (FYI–The school is situated on the university campus).  In May, during the last week of school, the entire class gathered in the library with their teacher, Mrs. Johnson, and a few other parents and had a poetry reading followed by a class picnic at “Unity Pond” on campus.

Many months after I’d intended, I’m sharing their haiku. [Click an image for a closer look]

The lesson and writing took about 30 minutes. They did a great job. Don’t you think?

Even though haiku is a lot more complex than it seems, it is a good form to teach to children. They won’t catch all the subtle nuances of language and imagery, but they get the basics in terms of the traditional structure and themes of haiku.  I am looking forward to my next adventure with my son’s class. I don’t know how or when, but I’m sure we’ll have some literary adventures this school year!

 

They Gave Me Butterflies!

As part of my Mother’s Day gift this year, my hubby and son planted zinnia seeds outside my home office window, so I can enjoy the flowers even when I’m indoors.  I’ve watched the buds open and multiply brilliantly over the last few weeks.  A couple of days ago, I noticed butterflies hovering around the blossoms. Today, I stepped outdoors to snap a few shots of the zinnias, and the butterflies were everywhere, gracefully fluttering from flower to flower while I attempted to capture them in their best poses. They lightened my mood and made my heart smile.

This picture (post-processed) captures my mood after today's encounter with the butterflies.

This post-processed image captures my mood after today’s encounter with the butterflies.

My guys gave me flowers. They also gave me butterflies.

 

 

“Just Like Your Dad,” or Happy Birthday, Daddy!

 

Daddy.

Daddy.

“Just like your dad,” some people say to me. Typically, this is in reference to some unwavering position I hold on a particular issue. I’m not always sure of their meaning, but I take it as a compliment. My father is an honest, hardworking man of his word. He has impeccable integrity. Is he perfect? No. Can he be stubborn and contrary? Indeed! But it is because of his strong opinions and my having to battle him throughout my childhood and adolescence for the right to my own, that I do not waver with every “change in the direction of the wind.” It is because of his (and my mother’s) sacrificing that I know my worth. And because of the fierceness of his commitment and service to our family that I know the character of genuine love.

Today is my dad’s 81st birthday. Eighty-one years is a long time to be blessed with life and good health and love on this earth. It is more meaningful because my dad is the first among his parents and siblings to live beyond the age of 60. I imagine that he spent his years up to that point a little anxious…holding his breath a little. So we celebrated 60.  We celebrated 70. And then, 80. And 80 was major because we had not gathered as a family since Karlette passed.  There was something in the celebration that was more than just another birthday–it was a celebration of “being alive” and with family and close friends. For some of us, we celebrated for Karlette, who loved (and never missed) these family gatherings, and who would have been right there with us making much over Daddy. For some of us, it was intense because our last celebration of this magnitude–for my dad’s 70th birthday–where family and friends gathered was just weeks before Hurricane Katrina scattered us in different directions. For those of us who suffered loss after loss after loss over the last few years, the celebration served as a welcome exorcism of the heaviness of the grief that weighed us down.

That was last year. This year the celebration is a little quieter–as we had a huge family reunion a few weeks ago. But the day is no less significant. As I celebrate my dad and his day, I’m not only looking at today. I am looking back to the warmth of yesterday, meditating on all the intangible and imperishable gifts my father bestowed on his 10 children. I also look to tomorrow, as I realize these gifts are being instilled in generation after generation of his progeny. Though I cannot tell all that he is and all that he’s accomplished in one blog post, this is what I celebrate.

Thank you, Daddy, for being unapologetically who you are and for passing a little of that on to me.

Happy Birthday, with all my love…

 

Mom and Dad with all their children at their 50th wedding anniversary, 2008.

Mom and Dad with all their children at their 50th wedding anniversary, 2008.

Journaling: Unleash the Magic

Faith Journal: This is one of four journals I use regularly. It holds scripture, snippets from devotional readings, prayers, intercessory prayer lists, inspirational quotes, meditations, sermon notes. The notebook is a Staples Arc. The flexibility of the disc-bound system is perfect for journaling.

The ARC: This is one of five journals I use regularly. The notebook is a Staples Arc. The flexibility of the disc-bound system is perfect for multi-focused journaling.

I’m elated! Today I spent time with some really super women who meet periodically for journaling and vision board workshops. One of my friends, who spearheads the journaling program, asked that I come and talk about journaling with the group. Although I journal a lot and in multiple ways, I felt I had nothing to say that she probably hadn’t already said. My hubby, who knows how I excited I get talking about writing in notebooks and pretty papers, pens, and stickers, said–“Do what you always do. Show them what you do. Be you.” [Forgive the overuse of forms of the word “journal” in this post].

So that’s what I decided to do. I gathered as many crafting tools as could fit in my rolling scrapbook case–a zillion pens in various colors and weight, washi tape, stickers, Project Life cards and elements, Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board, paper trimmer, Martha Stewart punches, old magazines, three of my journals, camera, and iPad (of course). It would have been fine with me if we’d just sat down and played with stickers and washi tape! But I’m sure the women wanted to do more than play with pretty things. And I appreciate their tolerating me.

Journaling isn’t easy for everyone. Besides the “intimidation” of writing on a regular basis or confronting one’s feelings fully, one has to take time to journal. And that is often the most difficult part. But it doesn’t have to be so involved or time-consuming, and it should be something to look forward to.  In a life that is often too busy for words, journaling is typically the only “me time” I can manage!

I shared with the group some no-stress ways to journal. I use every method I suggested, so I know they’re quick, easy, painless, and even fun. Some of you may be looking for easy ways to journal, so I thought I’d share.🙂

  • Morning Pages: Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, suggests “Morning Pages”–three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. “There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only.”   You can read more about morning pages by visiting Cameron’s site: Julia Cameron Live.
  • List Journaling. I wrote about list journaling in a post last fall.  I really enjoy Cori Spieker’s (The Reset Girl’s) monthly list prompts for adults and little ones.  You can access the lists and find out more at her website:  Listers Gotta List from the Reset Girl.
  • Scripture Journaling.  Scripture journaling requires nothing more than actually handwriting and meditating on biblical texts daily.  I thoroughly enjoy the quiet time of contemplation. I’m sure there are a number of scripture writing plans available, but here are two themed plans I recently started using (If you prefer to purchase a journal for scripture writing, check out the Write the Word journal offered by The Lara Casey Shop):
  • Photo Journaling. Photo journaling requires little writing, but it requires making a concerted effort to “see” the world in which one moves. Phone cameras make photo journaling a whole lot easier. The two sites below offer inspiration and motivation for documenting life through photographs.
  • Digital Journaling.  Though some people journal exclusively using their phones, tablets, and/or computers, apps make journaling appealing even to the non-journaler.  Each of the apps listed below allow a combination of text, pictures, handwritten notes, drawings, information from websites, and digital content from other sources.  Each also accommodates folders and/or tags so we can categorize our thoughts and musings by subject or theme.
    • Day One
    • Evernote
    • Notes
Scripture Journaling. I scripture journal inside my planner because I want to have access to the day's scripture throughout the day. I use washi tape and stickers in my faith journaling.

Scripture Journaling. I scripture journal inside my planner because I want to have access to the day’s scripture throughout the day. I use washi tape and stickers in my faith journaling.

In a conversation about the importance of writing, one of my good friends, Dee, a professor in the area of health and human performance at the University of Florida (Go Gators!) pointed out that “our brains were designed to generate ideas not store things.” That makes it all the more important for us to flesh out our ideas in writing and record not only what we want to remember but also use writing to sort out and untangle all the “stuff” that gets crammed into our brains every.single.day. Writing unleashes our creativity, yes, but it also frees our minds from the heaviness of our day to day interactions and stretches our critical thinking “muscles.” I like the way Dee put it–“When we write, magic happens.”

Write on!

Happy Mail from Bunny Bear Press!

Happy Mail from Bunny Bear Press

Happy Mail from Bunny Bear Press

I just returned from a wonderful trip to New Orleans (more on that later) to find a gorgeous package in my mailbox from Bunny Bear Press. Adina, the owner, sent the package as a “thank you” for my letting her know about a glitch with her signup link.  Totally unnecessary, but who am I to refuse happy mail?

Take a closer look at the gorgeousness.  [Click an image for a closer look].

Beautiful, right?

Each card was designed and handprinted by Adina.  I don’t usually buy greeting cards for birthdays and such–I make my own–but the high quality and uniqueness of her cards urge me to support Bunny Bear Press.

I❤ Adina even more because of her drive to get women to write more letters. She recently started the Pen Gals Club (#thePenGals) to encourage women to write letters and send snail mail to their gal pals instead of using texting and social media to communicate–even those jokes, anecdotes, and little tidbits of information we’re prone to share.  As much as I love snail mail and contribute to the volume of mail winging its way through the USPS, I usually simply call or text my closest gal pals.  So I decided to accept the challenge. The day I signed up, I wrote my bestie a letter, included some inspirational goodies, and prettied up the envelope; she was so thrilled, she dubbed me “The Creative, Feel Good, Pretty Snail Mail Wonder Woman!” Pretty impressive title, eh?

If you’re interested in the Pen Gals Club, you can sign up by clicking the link. Adina has all sorts of plans and goodies for those of us who sign up.  After signup, she sends an information packed email and weekly newsletters filled with snail mail inspiration. I’m so excited that, as I plan my schedule for the academic year, I’m building time in to write letters and notes to my closest friends.  They’re worth it.

Until next time…

Write more letters…

Bunny Bear Press Contacts

Bunny Bear Press Contact Info

[Note: I realize this must sound like a paid advertisement, but it isn’t.  I’m simply excited about snail mail: good snail mail and great ideas about snail mail must be shared!]

Considering the Flowers…

Colors of Nature

“Considering the Flowers” (Charmi’s Hydrangeas)

Forgive me for burying my head in the sand for just a moment. I am a Black woman living in America with a Black “male” child and a Black “male” husband and a Black “male” father and Black “male” brothers and Black “male” nephews and Black “male” cousins and Black “male” friends, and every day that reality feels more and more like a maddening nightmare.  I cannot at this moment look this pain “full in the face” or allow myself to feel the full weight of my grief for fear it will push me over the edge.

I’m weary.  Tired of the same narrative.  I need to contemplate the flowers for a little while to keep my sanity intact.

Power

 

The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
yourself
instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else
only the color”. And
there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”

Children’s Book Illustration Postcards: Part V (Final)

We’ve finally reached the end of 122 weeks of children’s book illustration postcards.  I’ve enjoyed our excursion into world of children’s literature.  It’s particularly been a pleasure going through the cards and sharing them again with my little one–who’s really not so little anymore.  Though he is way beyond “picture books,” he still appreciates the books and illustrations and fondly remembers his early childhood reading.

As I consider the fact that this swap was hosted every week for more than two years, I’m impressed that some of us “stuck it out” and participated in every.single.swap.  That is quite a feat!

We end with the final 24 postcards I received.  In this set, there’s a series of postcards I had never seen before–those from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.  The cards are big (just above 5×7) and colorful with  a snippet of the story featured on the back of the card.  You’ll once again see a few Alice in Wonderland postcards and some from other series, nursery rhymes, and fairy tales.

Although this is the last post of the five-part series, I will begin the new children’s book illustration postcards swap series this weekend and will share the postcards regularly.

If you’ve missed any of the other posts, you can find them here:

Ciao!