Monday, February 8, 2016

500th Post Celebration


Within the realm of connected education, doors open daily to enhanced digital learning and engaging conversations with supportive colleagues. Thoughts bounce across the universe in asynchronous time laying a foundation for a journey filled with wonder. Beyond the comfort zone, I gingerly walk. Sudden spurts of creativity are released through reflections, Twitter conversations, creative challenges, and readings. Daily, I harness the wonder of life's observations, noticings, and questions to channel my inner voice to weave words into soft streams of positivity. Within sanctuaries of stilled thought that I search for, I ponder, muse, and create. 

Ardently, I have heeded advice to write daily. Whether the words are polished or not does not matter. They are there on a page, in a digital portfolio, digital journal, or photo/poem composition for me to hone my craft. With passion for language and the power of poetry, I listen and learn among other writers in various digital communities that I am a member. I encourage others to find their voice and model the process for their learners or children as a means of empowerment.

Continuing my daily writing practice has led to this 500th post, a first milestone of my digital journey. Through connected conversations, creative challenges, and learning, I continue to unravel the mystery of life and literacy to affect change in my small section of the world. Join me as I grapple with the following quizzical digital photo prompt to convey meaning as I see it in my mind's eye.  

Day 8 Photo Prompt for Laura Shovan's
2016 Found Object Poem Project 

Photo submitted by Diane Mayr

I lie among the shadows of mid-day sun
professing nothing, just residing
with body buried deep within a barren land.
You question what lies beyond my half-smirk,
my reckless abandonment of wholeness.

Half-truths, broken thoughts buried alongside me
within the shadowed forest search no more
for the stillness awakens wonder.

I ask nothing more than you open my eyes,
freeing my soul to continue pondering 
the fullness of life in the vast expanse of universe.
©Carol Varsalona, 2016

Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand.  ~Neil Armstrong


Laura Shovan's 2016 Found Object Poem Project to read the varied responses to the above Day 8 photo prompt and see what is in store for this week. 

In addition, please consider sharing your creativity via my upcoming digital gallery of artistic expressions, Winter Wanderings. You can access the invitation here

Lastly, on February 21, 2016 at 9:00 pm EST on Twitter I will guest moderate the #ISTELitChat on the Power of Poetry. Please join the moderator Michele Haiken, guest poet Laura Purdie Salas, and me for an opportunity to let voice fill the Twittersphere.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Remembering When

As a child I was immersed in doll play as many young girls my age were. When I moved into my first home and had children I displayed a few of the dolls my sister and I played with and the ones that my mother had during the 1940s. One doll, lovingly called Corky, became a faithful companion for my daughter. As time went on, Corky and the other special dolls left their cozy abode to be preserved. They wait patiently for the time when another little girl will love them as much as my sister,daughter, and I did.

This month, Laura Shovan created a new challenge, the 2016 Found Object Poem Project. Laura's Day 6 image that you see to the right caught my interest. It reminded me of the dolls with the beautiful eyes, lashes, and moveable parts of my childhood. I honor the memory of those types of dolls and my daughter's beloved, Corky, with my following offering to Laura's poetry collection. 

Sometimes poetry allows the writer an opportunity to vividly recall memories from the past. While it is important to be expressive and create in a non-digital world, it is equally important to be inspired to compose in the digital playground. I find both platforms and multiple writing tools are essential elements of my process.

At the onset of today's writing session, I began by carefully observing the photo prompt offered by Laura. Next, I wrote down a few words, crossed some out, and connected thoughts using pen and paper. 

Since I like to work in other dimensions, I switched to a digital platform and redesigned the layout of Laura's original photo. This step, using the PicMonkey tool, allowed for another layer of creativity to flow. The photo design that I created below led to a refinement of the draft of the poem.











Remembering When

Sweet friends and confidantes,
your friendly faces
remind me of doll days
when my mother and I
lovingly designed
your tea time clothes.

Now, you sit on dusty shelves
stripped of your dignity,
mere remembrances of
another era, a time gone by
when little girls adored you.
Who will call you their own?
©Carol Varsalona, 2016 

Because it is fun to create digitally, I took the enhanced photo and added a few more layers. Then, I tried out different backgrounds and overlayed the poem that I wrote to create this postcard-like digital composition. I am hoping someday in the future when Corky comes out to play, a little girl will read what I wrote and wonder about tea time from the past.

 
Turning my attention to the classroom, I recognize that in the digital playground creativity is nurtured and honored as a way to compose. Modeling the above process for students may entice them to write and try out different digital platforms to showcase their writing.

Tomorrow is DigiLit Sunday so I not only offer this post to Laura Shovan but also to Margaret Simon who rounds up the bloggers for the DigiLit Sunday community here

Celebrating Winter Days

As winter snows fall,
quiet stillness pervades.
In a sanctuary of thought
my mind wanders,
pondering life's meaning.

As winter snows fall
white gloves sweep
across the lawns
throwing soft slipcovers 
to warm the chill.

As winter snows fall,
I celebrate moments
unveiling silent beauty,
savoring each snowdrop
offering quietude.
©CVarsalona, 2016 

When the snow falls relentlessly, we draw inside to the comfort of warmth, letting go of all the worries of the outside world. That is when the celebration of winter days begin. 


Yesterday at day's end, after the unexpected power of a second storm that hit Long Island, I gave thanks for:

  • no damage from a large, snow-laden branch that broke from my old tree
  • a favorite comfort food, escarole soup, after an afternoon of family snow shoveling
  • cozy comforters to warm cold feet wet from the heavy snow
  • quiet reading/writing time
  • positive medical news stating that I continue to be in remission from non-Hodgkins lymphoma

How do you celebrate winter days? If you are interested in a creative challenge during the winter months, please see the following:

Taken during Snowmaggedon 2016
See invitation to create for my upcoming gallery, 

Winter Wanderings, at http://goo.gl/3r5p2P.

Please visit Ruth Ayres' Celebrate This Week site here where positivity on weekly celebrations of life is the focus. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Found Object Poetry

Writing colleague, Laura Shovan, sent out an invitation to create alongside of her in February for her 2016 Found Object Poem Project. In addition, she asked for photos to be sent in. I contributed a couple of photos that I thought were not only interesting but thought-provoking.

While I missed writing poetry for the project on Days 1-3, I am jumping in now to write poems based on the found objects for Day 4 and 5. 


Day 4

You whirl, sputter, roar
to cool summer days
as thick as pea soup.
Oh, gadget of necessity,
your task is never done.
You should ask for
overtime pay.
©CVarsalona, 2016


Day 5

Found Object Poem contributor, Matt Forrest Esenwine,
calls this found object “Tomato Moon.”

Not two peas in a pod.
Not two beans on a pad
but
two simple valentines 
linked
creating
one tomato moon,
filling the spaces of 
my February heart-
peacefully co-joined,
artfully sculptured,
waiting for a receiver.
©CVarsalona, 2016


 Happy Valentine's Day!

©CVarsalona, 2016


If you have not seen the invitation to my upcoming gallery, Winter Wanderings, please access it here. I welcome you to offer your perspective on winter in your locale through a digital composition of a poem and photo. Please encourage students to lend their voice to the creative challenge. The deadline for submission is March 4th.





Tricia Stohr-Hunt is the host of Poetry Friday today. Please visit her site, The Miss Rumphius Effect here to read her poem, Pablo's Cat, and the offerings of the Poetry Friday community of writers.



Thursday, February 4, 2016

Walk by Faith

Life is not predictable. At various times the journey becomes a rocky one. Uncertainty about which direction to take leads to an unsure footing. It takes resiliency, positivity, and perseverance to step lightly through an uneven path. 
We walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

More than walking by faith we must live by faith with as much positivity as possible. Believing, staying in the present, pausing and reflecting are needed on the journey called life.  


What is this faith that leads me on? It is:
  • Trust, belief, and confidence in the power of God
  • An undeniable spirit that guides and allows me to follow my path in life wherever it leads 
  • An unqualified commitment to a plan that may not be mine

What can faith do for me as a traveler on the road of life? It will:
  • help me see possibilities in the darkest sky
  • negate the word impossible
  • override the human emotion of doubt 
  • provide the gift of believing
  • lead the way 

Benefits of believing and being led by faith:

For fourteen long days, I have waited to hear the results of a catscan to determine if there were any signs of the reoccurrence of lymphoma diagnosed in 2003. While my oncologist felt that the exam in October did not show evidence of the disease, his fellow thought there was "something" that she felt. Understanding that doubt is a powerful emotion, I have tried to override the feeling and to rely on faith to carry me through the waiting period. Sleepless nights and unwanted thoughts have thrown some more rocks on my path, creating an unbalance. Last night the long wait was over. My oncologist's office returned my call and placed the report in my Memorial Sloan Kettering virtual account. My silent prayers were answered. While not understanding the entire report (medical terms are not only difficult to pronounce but troublesome to understand), I did read one line that allowed me to pause, reflect, and praise God for His miracle of life: Since June 16, 2009, no evidence of recurrent or metastatic disease. 

(Subsequently, a dear friend and brilliant radiologist who has followed my medical journey since the first catscan shed light on all of the medical terms in the report. This provided an extra layer of comfort.)

I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. Selah 
Psalm 3:4


You can read the lyrics to the song, Walk By Faithhere.

As a faithful witness, I have decided to share this news with the supportive community of Spiritual Journey Thursday led by Holly Mueller. Being human with a range of emotions, I need to keep the focus on positivity and possibilities with faith as my foundation and guide. 

How serendipitous that news of the continued miracle of life was provided the night before my Spiritual Journey Thursday post went live! Or was this the Divine plan all along? 

Please visit Holly Mueller's site to read how The Spiritual Journey Thursday community is exploring Justin Stygles' one word, faith, this week. While Justin does not have a blog he is on Twitter, @JustinStygles. For those who are struggling with a troubling issue, I hope that faith guides you through your difficult period, like it did for me. Peace!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Finding Balance

In the midst of many home and work commitments, I think about the balance needed to juggle life. While finding balance is necessary, it is not the easiest state to achieve. There seems to always be a myriad of tasks waiting. My once user-friendly, endless to do list seems pointless now. The old check-off pads are being being placed aside while I figure out a more manageable plan to balance both my professional and personal life. 

It is a full time endeavor to savor each day so that well-being does not take a back seat. Daily life is a balancing act in which a sure footing is needed. Each month there is a new swing of the pendulum. While I may not be a parent of small children and an educator at the same time with all of those commitments, I am still immersed in the professional world. Interspersed with my work as a consultant are medical appointments, household upkeep, collaborative chats, connected educator initiative, and writing. 

The new year has brought a new wrinkle to daily life. Cold weather, Snowmaggedon, and redecorating have added addition tasks to complete. Lately I have felt as though I am walking a tightrope. There are too few hours in my day. One more task might make me pull a few hairs out. I like others have reached a frustration level so it is step back time. Since frustration does not let go, I have to purposefully release its hold. 

I have been reflecting on what I can do to end the endless to do lists and release any tension that interferes with well-being? Reading about positivity and its effects on well-being has been helpful. When I found the statement below by Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, spiritual master and writer, I knew that this would be a thought to channel my thinking. 
Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. 
Balance and order are the structures needed in life while rhythm is the beat that allows harmony to find its way into human hearts. Finding balance is an important step on my journey. I need to create avenues leading to happiness. Here are some ways that I try to keep in mind each day now.
  1. Think positive thoughts
  2. Smile more often
  3. Eat healthy
  4. Observe life more closely
  5. Bring energy to both my home and professional life
  6. Pause frequently to reflect
  7. Breath in and breath out slowly
  8. Exercise
  9. Return to the yoga studio to find my center
  10. Be joyful


The educator's role is an important one as influencers of students' lives, so we need to care for our well-being. Being full of a playful and adventuresome spirit definitely helps in finding joy in life. Isn't the old adage, all work and no play, still true today? Having endless to do lists only adds stress to our lives so be mindful of what it takes to feel centered. Finding balance in life is a gift we can give to ourselves. I am grateful that I can consciously add its presence to my daily walk and I hope you do as well.

On Sunday, Margaret Simon creator of DigiLit Sunday put out a call for the blogging community to send in topics. Julieanne Harmatz suggested balance. Please visit Margaret's site to read how others feel about the word balance.

Today is Tuesday and time for Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life. You can access the site here to read an array of slices. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Celebrating the Messiness of Storms

I wasn't sure how I would present my celebration this week and then I read Ruth Ayres's post at Celebrate This Week on being in the middle of a mess. It is with Ruth's thoughts in mind that I spin my thoughts about coming out smiling from a messy winter storm.

After a weekend full of Snomaggedon's visit to Long Island, life seems to be settling in. Over two feet of snow landed last weekend, making everyone realize that winter has a spunky nature. The winter white scene was an amazing and beautiful sight, but feelings of close quarters and hours of shoveling started getting everyone a bit jittery. Flipping the scene took some maneuvering.

Steps to Create a Positive Perspective:

Step 1: Get Involved
The messiness outside made my entrance way look messy but that is a fact of life when boots track in snow. I decided to get involved with the clean-up as a way to show my commitment to family tasks. Gingerly, I used my arm that is has rotator cuff tears to break up the mounds of snow while my son did the heavy lifting. This occurred in the afternoon after my husband completed the first round of cleanup in the morning.

This was just the beginning of the storm.

Step 2: Provide Sustenance
To fortify all for long stretches of snow shoveling, I cooked hearty meals of turkey chili and chicken soup.

Step 3: Celebrate
Winter white Lexus
compliments the season
After the driveway was shoveled and my husband's car dug out of the mounds of snow, we went off to the dealership in town to choose our new car. In a very bold move on my part, I was able to close a deal in one sitting. My husband's negotiations and my decision to seal the deal was well worth the hour of strong haggling. 

Afterthought: 
There is residual snow still left in the neighborhoods but today's warm weather started to melt away traces of the blizzard of 2016. Snowmaggedon may have created a messy situation and left some people cranky but persistence and positivity teamed to end the week with feelings of good cheer. With a positive spirit and faith most challenges can be overcome.

Please visit the Celebrate This Week site to read how the community of bloggers celebrated their past weeks.

Also, please visit my latest post, Snowflakes, that invites everyone to join my newest creative challenge. At my upcoming online gallery, Winter Wanderings, writers can offer their perspective of winter through photographs and poetry. I look forward to receiving digital inspirations, quotes, winter songs, and photographs from around the globe and especially from my connected friends.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Snowflakes

In the great expanse of space,
snow crystals
as fragile as life 
delicately dance in patterns,
rhythmically moving-
spiralling,
sometimes colliding,
downwardly descending,
inevitably landing.
Snow crystals
in their fragile state
visibly enter life
and then, depart in 
a flurry of time. 
©CVarsalona, 2016 


You are cordially invited to let your voice flow and be showcased 
at the upcoming online, global gallery of digital expressions

Winter Wanderings

Please offer your perspective of winter from whatever corner of the globe you are viewing it from.

You can access the original invitation here.

Snowflakes, like words, are visible representations of the flow of life.
~Carol Varsalona

Snowflakes: "...the endless repetition of an ordinary miracle."
~Orhan Pamuk, Snow



Please visit the Poetry Friday Round-Up at Catherine Flynn's site, Reading to the Core. Catherine has a wonderful interview with poet Irene Latham about her newest poetry book. One of Irene's statements that resonated with me is "Our goal as poets is to explode the moment" and that she does in her poems.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pause and Reflect


At evening's end
when the moon's soft light
floats in the inked sky, 
pause and reflect.
In the presence of stillness,
listen to the night wind
soulfully close the day.
Trust in the power of faith.
Find your center.
In the spaces of life,
between happenings
and responses,
lean in. Be present.
Listen for the call
to respond positively 
to life. Believe. 
Wait on the Lord.
Pause and reflect
in the here and now.
©Carol Varsalona, 2016
  
While reading Greg Smith's blog, Selah-Pause and Reflect, this morning, I started thinking about my own personal reactions to life's uncertainties. When faced with an unexpected difficult situation, a sense of fear initially enters and the fixer mode goes into effect. Why is this? As Greg Smith says, when fear enters we react to difficult situations rather than thoughtfully responding. "But when we take time to engage in Selah, then we remember that in the center of it all, God is our refuge and strength." When this happens faith overrides fear.

At Spiritual Journey Thursday, Holly Mueller asks the blogging community to focus on Michelle Haseltine's one word, Selah. I never heard the word before Michelle introduced it, so I am grateful that she provided a definition. In her New Year's post, Michelle describes selah as "the space between what happens to us and how we respond to what happens to us". This definition is one of those stop and pause statements that requires action. What does this mean for me in the face of trials? 
  • Shall I rest in moments more before moving into a fixer mode? 
  • Shall I listen for a voice inside to respond before acting?
  • Shall I believe that I cannot do it all on my own?

It is an unequivocal yes to all of the self-inquiry questions above but the Selah space is not one that is easy to enter in times of distress. Faith is needed as a foundation. Without it, life can be an isolated journey. Even with it, you can walk alone on the edge of darkness at times. Pausing and reflecting is essential. The mantra, pause and reflect, opens doors to slowing down life, to hearing the voice that guides, and to "be still and know that there is a place for us to rest" in the majesty of life. 

Final thoughts to ponder:

  1. We are not alone. 
  2. We do not have all the answers.
  3. Resting in stillness allows us to linger in the moment.


Please visit Spiritual Journey Thursday at Holly Mueller's site to read how the community of bloggers interpret Michelle Haseltine's one little word, Selah.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Celebrating Inspiration

Last week, there was a positive energy surrounding me. I was guided by my one little word, believe, and inspired by the digital citizenship mantra, be the digital change. Several events inspired me and spurred me to create. As the NYEDChat convo moderator last Monday, my team and I conversed with educators around the states and our guest moderator, Marialice Curran and her son, about digital citizenship as a pre-cursor to the international conference, #DigCitSummitUK, that was in England last weekend. Throughout the week, I blogged, wrote poetry, and sent them out to the public via social media. I honored the projection of voice and also various communities that I belong to that believe voice matters:#celebratelu, #digilit Sunday, #SOL16, Spiritual Journey Thursday, #PoetryFriday, #NYEDChat, and #DigCitSummitUK. The individual and collective voices of these communities are distinctive, supportive, and inspirational.

Fueling the celebration of inspiration is the power of language to create and share tapestries of thought. I applaud writers' voice that filters through readings and texts shared. From the practice of repeated writing, voice emerges and impacts readers in different ways. Writers are like dreamers, dreaming big and imagining, using their voice to define what they are thinking, whether it is by digital or non-digital means. Regardless of skills sets, all can be writers who are expressive. It takes a measure of risk taking to believe this.

As far back as I remember, I have always been inspired to write. I wandered in thought sparked by nature itself, wondering how those feelings affected my thoughts. Through the years, I have learned how to notice what I am observing and reflect on what I see. The process of word weaving allows me to project my thoughts from heart to mind to pen. With digital tools, like PicMonkey and Canva, I create digital compositions with the hopes of inspiring adults and students to write. Sometimes, I move beyond my comfort zone when I share my creations via social media channels because the venue is so far reaching.

As a person who believes in the power of voice to inspire, I explored a question posed by Margaret Simon this past Digilit Sunday, "What inspires you?" For me inspiration lies in nature. While observing, I am in the moment, noticing, wondering, and capturing small moments in photo and poem. Below are two different versions of a poem/photo combination inspired by the trail of Snowmaggedon 2016. Both adults and students can use this prompt, Be Inspired-Create!, to find the inner voice that beckons them to add their perspective on winter or the blizzard of 2016 to a photo. See the invitation to the global gallery of artistic expressions here and the post-snow day inspiration to spark a lesson here.

Created using Canva

The image created in Canva was brought
into PicMonkey for additional work
& a correction of a glitch. 

How do you celebrate inspiration?
  • Are you motivated by an outside force?
  • Are you roused by an action or cause?
  • Are you encouraged by a colleague?
  • Are you energized by an action?
  • Are you influenced by a trend?
Whom do you inspire by your action?

It is with sincere appreciation for the power of writing to affect personal and professional lives that I ask you to be observant of what is around you and be positive about what life has to offer. Share your thoughts because voice matters.

Today I am writing to honor two communities that celebrate inspiration each week:
  • Ruth Ayres' Celebrate This Week that can be accessed here.
  • Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life that can be accessed here.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What Inspires Me?

Margaret Simon, founder of DigiLit Sunday, asked a pertinent question today: What inspires you? In response I will recount a story as part of my response but the short version is that nature is an inspiration to me as it unfolds each season. 

This weekend has been one of expected waiting for the blizzard storm of 2016 that was to hit Long Island with force. The days preceding the storm were quiet and calm, it was difficult to imagine the force that would soon be present. Friday night was spent preparing and anticipating what was to come. Saturday morning was the moment of truth. Awakening to a raging blizzard with snow falling constantly was an awe-inspiring event that needed to be shared.

Waking to the blizzard

By evening the frost was very thick.

Needless to say that this force of nature inspired me to observe, reflect, and write. The event called snowmaggedon occurred hours after I sent out an invitation around the globe to writers, bloggers, poets, photographers, teachers, social media colleagues, and family to create a digital inspiration for my newest gallery. You can access the invitation to Winter Wanderings here. Thinking that the storm was a serendipitous moment, I sent out tweets requesting winter scenes from the blizzard of 2016 for placement in the photo corner of the gallery. 

Today, after an afternoon of family snow shoveling, I found the snow to be endless. One family as they walked by commented, "This is an absurd amount of snow". Even though my husband's car was stuck in the snow and now not working, and mounds of snow are still all around, I can still say that I am inspired by the sheer beauty of winter. Its immense blanket of snow and crystalline frost on the windowpanes created a certain stillness that is incomparable.

In tribute of the event that brought Long Island to a standstill, I created a digital inspiration. If I had a classroom of student learners, I would use this poem as a motivator to create poetic compositions about snowmaggedon, complete with artistic renderings of the snow monster.


Below is a blank template that teachers may use with their classes. If your students are inspired to write about the blizzard of 2016 or their personal perspectives of winter and create a digital inspiration, please send me a couple for insertion in the student voice section of Winter Wanderings


You can also find mentor texts to use in class at last year's gallery collection, Winter Whisperings.

Please visit DigiLit Sunday to read other responses to Margaret Simon's question on what inspires you.