Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Which Will It Be?

I am out and about today in between appointments. I savor the moments of sunshine and warm weather-38 degrees and counting. The balminess of a March day that can't decide what it wants to be is felt.  My neighbor is outside with a shovel in her hand and we exchange laughter because shovel in hand, snow, water puddles, and frozen ice mounds are typical sights in the neighborhood. Snow shovels mark the perimeter of my house as symbols of what is to come.

As I start my day, I am appreciative of the winter snowsun that seems ready to melt some of the ice away. What a treat!  So off we go.

Everywhere I travel I find potholes-small ones, medium-sized ones, and big gapping holes in the roadways. Driving is a challenge. I need to dodge the holes in the streets. My son comments, "It's like being on a buggy ride today." Indeed! 
Up and down,
we go.
Must we drive
oh, so slow?

Headline reads-Potholes have become just another part of the daily grind for New Yorkers. 

Channel 12 News spot announces that there is a shortage of salt to melt the ice.

It starts to rain-a change from snow but the big sign on the parkway flashes: 
Weather advisory from 7 pm to 7 am. 

Will the rain turn to snow and freeze leaving ice?

Will there be school closings? 

Will our LILAC/NRC Conference keynote presenters, Dick Allington and Pam Munoz Ryan, be able to travel into the New York airports before the storms hits Long Island? 

Suspense mounts. 

Which Will It Be?

The itchy, twitchy feeling 
begins to swell.
I know it well.
People squirm
as weathermen tell.
Rain, snow, ice
Roll of the dice.
Which will it be?
Tomorrow we'll see. 


Power outage cuts all lights. Computer goes down. I sit in total darkness with no flashlight in sight. Shades of Superstorm Sandy days.  

Stay tuned for more weather reports and how they impact life as I know it. In the meantime, I hope your roadways don't look like this:

It's Day 4 of the SOLSC. Check out Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life Story Challenge and #SOL15 for record breaking numbers of offerings from bloggers across the states. 

Please also stroll over to Heidi Mordhorst's my little universe site to see the Forward...MarCH Challenge. Today's word is twitch. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Digging Out

Today is Day 2 of the March Slice of Life Challenge on Two Writing Teachers and the digging out of the snow process is ready to start anew. My son is so tired of taking out the shovels that he left one by the front porch while my husband insists on leaving the snow melt particles in a bucket in the front hallway. 

Before beginning a day of digging out, it is time to drift back into yesteryear and think
about my childhood days in snowy Syracuse where winter existed from November to Easter. Life was fun as a child. The sun would shine brightly after a storm and my sister and I would run out of the house to begin a morning of flopping in snow and building snow forts that looked like an igloo. You can only build a structure when the snow is ready for packing but it takes skill. Creating the perfect snowman, fort, or just snowballs is an art.
When the day of playing in the snow was over, a cup of hot chocolate was in order. We used to have a milk box by the back door. It had a little door that opened to a ledge. When I was a little girl, I recall being intrigued by the milkman's delivery truck and his careful placing of our milk bottles in the milk box. Those bottles of milk were the perfect base for a hot chocolate after a snowy afternoon. Snowy days offered much fun for children but little did I realize how much work there was for adults after a snowstorm.

As I grew up, winter storms continued; school closings occurred. There was one particular closing that never left my memory. We were trapped inside for a week. The roads were impassable and if you wanted to go to the local grocery store you had to walk through a cut out passage in the center of the road. It was so much taller than the average child. That week off from school after a significant blizzard was an adventure. Warm meals and good books were the fare of the day. 

So to engage in a day of digging out, I need a good book, writing tools, a cup of hot chocolate, and a warm cooked meal. I am thinking a mushroom gravy made from fresh mushrooms over grilled chicken is in order. 

Now stroll over to Day 2 of the Slice of Life March Challenge at Two Writing Teachers and read through the various bloggers' March 2nd entries.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"In Like A Lion" Slice of Life Challenge-Day 1

Today is Day 1 of the March Slice of Life Challenge on Two Writing Teachers.

The old saying that March comes in like a lion is a truth to be told here on Long Island today. As the winter season is coming to a close, I recall my childhood days in Syracuse, New York thinking that winter was really a two season timeframe. I remember a very short spring because the snow would linger up to Easter. The winter of 2014-15 has resurrected those feelings. March came in like a roaring lion today and may keep us hopping right up to Easter or beyond. While trying to remain positive to ward off negativity, I decided to have a conversation with March to find out the details of what he had in mind. 

  why do you roar in the wake of white?
  Choose crystal flakes with a snappy bite? 
  Linger in snow of inches deep?
  Don't let yellow daffodils peep?


  why did you march in today
  with heavy snow marking your way?
  Let Mother Nature take a bite
  and chilling temperatures escort daylight?

Long Island,

  I came today to fool the crowd
  and stir the pot with a voice real loud.
  I chose to enter in a crown of white,
  not thinking it would bring a fright. 
  Ask me to stay for just awhile.
  I promise I'll exit with a smile.

Today, another six inches of snow descended upon Long Island, New York. This makes snow upon ice for this week and records of February being the coldest month in sixty years.  So I ask you March, please be kind because I am not quite sure how your new snowstorms will play out for my family members who have tumbled in your dense snow and slippery ice many times this past month.

One thing is for certain, March. You started the month by providing me with prompts to listen to and respond to winter's whisperings. 

Now, please stroll over to Day 1 of the Slice of Life March Challenge at Two Writing Teachers and read through the various bloggers' March 1st entries. As a newbie slicer, I am excited to peruse the veteran slicers' posts, who are once again accepting the March challenge, as well as those who are starting out like me. I hope to learn from all of the writers while positioning my posts with a positive air.

In addition to sending this on to Two Writing Teachers, I would like to add my March poem to Heidi Mordhortst's MarCH Challenge as the first of my poetry offerings.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Celebrating Voice

As soon as I retired from public education, I created a dedicated space to ponder, reflect, and converse about life, literacy, and learning. It is here, at my blog site, that voice has been my connector to educators across the globe so this week, I celebrate voice and the opportunities writing brings.

#1  The joke in my household is "tell me when you really retire" as I walk out the door early in the morning to travel to a district or BOCES center to deliver professional development training on some aspect of literacy learning. What started out on July 24, 2013 as an "unretirement" state of mind has now slowly grown into professional pursuit. I am enjoying working with different teachers across Long Island as we grapple with ways to create a culture of trust and positivity and impact teaching and literacy learning. This week I broke all records with four days of presenting. (This is not the norm but because of the extreme weather conditions, professional development had to be postponed in several instances.)  I celebrate the pursuit of "unretirement" opportunities. 

#2  I celebrate the ease of creating presentations in Google Drive and now converting then into Google Slides to share with educators. My thoughts are now being housed in the cloud for easy access. Long gone are the days when I forget to download presentations on flash drives and wonder what to do. Google Slides on Drive have provided me with a new avenue to worry free presentations. 

#3  I celebrate the creation of inspirational images to provide messages of positivity. I release images like the one below across the Twittersphere. There are for teachers to use in their classrooms or for PLNs. Motivating everyone to raise their voices with others across the globe is a focus for me this year as I listen more intently. 

#4  I celebrate new to Twitter teachers I worked with this week who are intrigued about new possibilities that await them in the cloud. Here is my tweet that I sent out this evening. 
Believe in the poser of Twitter to open doors to educational possibilities. Make connections. They are real! #NYEDChat #satchat #edchat
#5  I celebrate the many educators, business contacts, friends, family, and even three elementary students for participating in the Finding Fall Gallery that I just updated with a poem that was hidden under an image when the gallery first went to post. Please enjoy a stroll back into autumn to read different perspectives on the season before I start designing the next collection, Winter Whisperings.  

Enjoy your weekend as you find the positives that lead to daily celebrations! Voice Counts. Let it be heard.

Now stroll over to Ruth Ayres' Celebrate This Week site to read the blogging community's posts on their celebrations this week. 

Listening for a Winter Whispering

At each new turn of life, there awaits a chance to renew your spirit. Building a journey around one little word helps define the path to start upon. In the quiet of the winter, I have listened, waited to hear the calling, and have tried to step forward each day with a positive spirit. 

Some fellow bloggers have found their one little words of which I borrowed a few to help me think of ways to continue my pathway to positivity. Thank you to Holly Mueller, Michelle Haseltine, Leigh Anne Eck, and Margaret Simon for the bonds we have forged with our one little word focus. 

Find inner silence
Organize your thoughts
de Clutter your mind
Undo cluttered chaos
Step forward

Fasten your seat belt
Linger in thought
Yearn for flight

Take a step back
Utter your thoughts
Return to faithful following
Next steps to hear

Resurrect your hidden thoughts
Enthusiastically look for possibilities
Authentically approach life
Heighten your awareness

As winter continues to bring its arctic blasts to Long Island, I relax in the thought that there is beauty in each frozen particle that lays at my feet and each whip of air that heightens winter's presence.

I am inviting all those who have become dreamers this winter to listen for the whisperings of the winter season that may call you to write alongside me. The Winter Whisperings Gallery challenge asks for only one poem-one photo that brings awareness of how winter has defined your thoughts. Is there a stillness in the whispering you hear--a yearning--a sadness?  

Some Poetry Friday friends have answered the calling. Will all who read this post be filled with the spirit of the muse and compose your thoughts to accompany a photo that is reflective of winter in your locale? Remember that winter is a season and does not only revolve around snow, although this year many states have been hard hit by record breaking arctic blasts. Lean into your thoughts and send them my way by the end of the 1st week of March. ( or Twitter DM to @cvarsalona)

Now March over to Heidi Mordhorst's site, my juicy little universe
where she is hosting Poetry Friday and a March challenge.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Stretch-Fill Your Heart With Dreams

University of Notre Dame
With a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever. 
 Psalm 136:12

As snow blankets the earth
caressing the stillness,
eyes focus on a solitary image:
a cavernous hallway of white,
a walkway of peace at the feet of the Lord.
Arms, glowing in February's chill,
majestically welcome those 
weary from studies
to rest in winter's arms.
But no travelers turn their gaze
this winter day.
No one accepts the quiet solitude
of a stilled perspective.

In the cavernous hallway of white,
peace reigns.
The winds listen for human sounds.
They whistle through barred branches 
dusted by a confectioner's hand-HIS hand.
But still no sounds break the stillness.
No one hears the outcries of sorrow
or joy laid at the feet.
Only the trees hold 
the whisperings of youth 
as they stand guard, saluting 
the One who lights the way.

The blanketed earth,
colored with petals of white,
covers the campus path.
It waits patiently for those
to approach-
looking ahead to snowsun's thaw
when birds stretch their wings
and students reach out to touch 
the hem of golden grace.
It is here that encumbered thoughts
fly away like the birds of winter
to dive into the fresh smells of spring.

As the cavernous hallway of white,
transitions to the green hues of spring,
it stretches onward, becoming
a pathway of renewal,
a reflective space 
for hearts filled with dreams.

Winter's touch has quieted the land.
A stilled campus waits in silence
until a new season awakens the earth.  

A simple prayer for winter days:
Lord, help us to forget our past failure and lack of faithfulness in order to press on toward our heavenly prize. Stretch us toward your goals and your glory.  - Dean Deppe
I hope that this song, Find Your Wings, by Mark Harris, coupled with Psalm 126:12, is a joyful entry into your journey today. The song's touching words may help all of us reflect on our roots, give hope to those finding their wings to set sail on life, and bring into focus the light of the Divine that guides us on our path. 

It is here in the spaces of Spiritual Journey Thursday under the guidance of Holly Mueller, that bloggers stretch their limits today to be hopefully refreshed by the snowsun that brings light from above. It is here that we honor our one little words (underlined in the poem), with today's focus on Ramona Behnke's one word, stretch, that guides her journey. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Slice of Positivity

I am serving a slice of positivity today with motion and rhyme combined.

Life is full of movement- 
  • Fast-paced versus slow 
  • Purposeful versus meaningless 
  • Reflective versus labored 
I say, take caution. Observe your surroundings and step lightly as you move forward. Don't settle for the status quo because there is no moving beyond with mediocrity. Life should be filled with vigor, liveliness, and passion for balanced living so find the beat that stirs within. Wiggle and jiggle until the just right step leads you on and if by chance you take a misstep, don't worry. Pick yourself up and find a new way to cross the path. 

Lately, I have been in and out of many chats, whether face-to-face or on twitter that talk about moving beyond the status quo to achieve fullness. I think, we all look for that in life. Achieving this is the difficult part, so listen to the sound clip, Deep Purple - Smoke on the Water Tab, from the Sound Poem Project-Day 23 on Laura Shovan's site.  Swing along with me as I move to the beat of positivity.

Movement to the beat-
fast, lively, full of heat,
sweet rhythm for my dancing feet.

Music picks up-deep and strong,
for life's dance, no right or wrong
when mixing with a clapping throng.

Sway and step to swinging sound.
Listen for those hearts that pound 
and fill the space with joy that's found. 

Come along. Sweep the world with me. 
Dance to the tune of possibility
opening doors to let spirits free.
In a world of many sounds, we are the makers of our own music. We can choose to jiggle and wiggle with positivity or drown in the stagnant waters of mediocrity. As we hear on school announcements, the choice is yours. I choose moving with positive thinking as my guide. 

Now, dance your way over to Two Writing Teachers to find the Slice of Life bloggers posting their thoughts this Tuesday. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Merging Two Art Forms: Photography and Poetry

Photographs have always had a place of importance in my life. There were the black and white photos of my childhood. Birthday parties and summer events were remembered and kept in small family albums. During my teens, all the girls had a scrapbook with memories. As I married and had children, each child had a beginning of life photo book. Soon after their births, I returned to teaching and the photos were stored in boxes with the idea that later on in life, I would sort them and place them back in albums. Now, the Digital Age is here and photo collections are able to be stored online. Behind each photographs is an underlying story, the backchannel tale of a life event that we want to savor and applaud.

The old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words, has a new face in this digital age. Photos can be easily transmitted now through the instant capture of a single scene with a camera, iPhone, or SmartPhone. Instagram has a one stop, easy access for public viewing of special shots. Digital tools are being advertised via the internet and sites like Pinterest and Facebook store photos with quick uploads. 

While photography tells stories through images, the fusion of poetry with photos creates another layer of storytelling. Vibrant images embedded with poetic expressions or poems are engaging readers on Twitter. Educational chats are posting flyers composed of superimposed wording on photographs or images. Free photos sites like Pixabay and Morguefile are stocking their collections with additional images to supply the demand for topic-centered photographs. 

You can take the process of capturing lasting memories through photos, one step further by adding another layer of creativity. The merging of two arts forms, photography and the written word, allows for the seamless blending of literacy and technology through simple photo-editing tools, like PicMonkey, Canva, and Microsoft Word. The connection becomes a collaboration of the heart and the mind to make public what the voice inside has to say. Multi-sensory feelings are evoked in this process of blending art forms that are transferred from writer to readers and viewers. 

Let's look at the process of how I create one image for public viewing. In this case, I use a screenshot of an antique postcard dated 1910 and turn the artifact into a jpeg for further use.

I decide to create a visual that will enhance the card and have it as a focal point. I use both Canva and PicMonkey to create the following image that I save as a jpeg.

Next, I go to PicMonkey to upload my new image and superimpose the poem that I created from listening to a sound prompt for day 21 of Laura Shovan's Sound Poem Project.

The end result is an attractive visual that enhances my postcard and showcases the poem I wrote.

The combining of photos and poetry creates a striking visual for viewers. I have designed gallery collections using the technique described. Please view the latest one, Finding Fall Gallery here. To the left is one sample from the collection that was a collaborative effort between the photographer, my daughter, and the writer, me.
Photography and writing have always been a part of my life but now this connection is enhanced through digital tools. Join me as I continue to make these connections vibrant messages of positivity in the next gallery of artistic expressions, Winter Whisperings.

The digital age is providing me with many new outlets to merge two favorite art forms of mine: photography and poetry. 

Now travel over to Margaret Simon's DigitLit Sunday site to view her contribution, Shades of Grey.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sound Poem Project

During this season, I have been trying to listen intently to the sounds around me. When Laura Shovan advertised her Sound Poem Project, I realized that this would fit in nicely with my goal to follow one little word to guide my journey. For tonight's writing exercise, I listened to a sound clip from Day 21 of Laura's project to become inspired to write an initial entry.  Since I have been following the posts, it was time to devote a blog post to the interpreting of sounds found in Laura's project.   

In yoga, we listen to our breath to hear the sound and allow it to direct our practice. Similarly, I wanted to listen to a sound prompt multiple times to see what it was offering me before I wrote. Although the clip is captioned Colin Huehns Asia Collection, I had a totally different image in mind while listening. Perhaps, my thoughts stemmed from a brief idea that we would travel to New York City today to enjoy Chinese New Year. Since it snowed again, this idea was put aside.  As an alternative, I decided to write about what New York City would be like in the springtime. 

For those who know New York City, it is a vibrant place. One of the most impressive sights in the city is Central Park in springtime. Every inch of space at the entrance to the park is occupied when spring is in the air. Street vendors display their wares as do the food carts. The buggy rides are lined up for those who wish a leisurely ride, and people are everywhere enjoying the opening days of a new season. In sorting through my collection of antique postcards, I found one titled, Terraces in Central Park, New York, dated 1910. Diane Mayr actually gave me the idea to have a postcard as a background for writing and Laura Shovan told me that her 2013 Sound Poem project was built around vintage postcards. 

Today's sound clip reminded me of a springtime day in Central Park. There is so much buzz outside and inside the park when the weather breaks. The zoo is thronged with families and the park is filled with leisurely walkers and sprinting joggers. The buggy ride horses are splendidly arrayed in flowers and silken coats. To recreate a portion of that scene based on the sound clip, I wrote two thoughts, one in rhyme and one in free verse. As always, I am open to comments to improve my writing style. 

Thank you Laura for pushing me on to try something new. 

Celebrating Small Moments

As we walk (and sometimes race through) life's journey, there are many moments to celebrate. Some are stellar, some ordinary. The ordinary ones of a routine day can be the jsut right ones that allow for a spark to battle humdrum type of days. From one of those everyday routine days, I found a story to celebrate. 

It was rise and shine early yesterday for another annual doctor visit. My first notice of the day was the coldness of the tiled floor in the bathroom-as cold as the floor in the doctor's examination room on Monday. This  signaled that it must be extra chilly outside. A step into my car confirmed my belief. The temperature may have been 8 degrees but I was ready to brave the cold. Ugg gloves, matching headband, warm boot, and double layers under my coat were my protectors against Mother Nature's blast. My first gratitude of the day came when I turned on the heated seats, heated steering wheel, and warm air blowers. These were enough to think positive thoughts during a humdrum, errand-filled day.

When I felt secure against the cold, I thought of my breath. Slowing it down would make me more aware of my surroundings and a positive mindset. As I breathed in, I relaxed into the warm seat. As I breathed out, a stream of white smoke filled the air in front of me. Brr! I repeated the practice another time and once again my breath created a small burst of whitish air. I thought of the warmth of the yoga studio where breath is emphasized to still the mind. That thought served me well. Continuing on the highway, I noticed the sun's glaring blaze. Sunglasses were in order, making me think about the upcoming Oscars. Seriously, this day as cold as it was (lowest in 60 years), made me appreciate the small moments in life when life is full of just the ordinary.

I usually rush to appointments and today was no exception but all of a sudden, I caught white billowy puffs against a bright blue sky. They were streaming in a pattern similar to the birds that fly south. There was nothing else in the sky but the flow of whitish smoke. I thought of my breath once again but what I saw was so much larger and organized. I wanted to follow the line of white puffs but could not stop. Then, I realized that the pattern was not an out-of-the-ordinary one. My thoughts streamed as the smoke continued.
How many times were the puffs in the sky visible to me? How many cars ahead of me thought about this pattern? How many moments pass when I don't see life in front of me.
I celebrate the small moments today that make me stop, pause, and reflect on where I am going and how fast I am attempting to arrive at my destination. Slowing down the pace may be the answer because you never know when one small moment stares you in the face and leads you to an aha moment in life.

Please join Ruth Ayres at Celebrate This Week to discover how other bloggers are celebrating this week's journey.