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. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Invitation to Create

There is a calmness about the day. 
A chill exists. It welcomes winter.
There is a dusting on the ground,
glistening sprinklings that sparkle.
There is a howling from the trees
shivering in frenetic movement. 
There is a storm that is coming. 
I am at peace with its calling. 
©Carol Varsalona, 2016


AND THEN CREATE
Digital compositions of photographs with poetry or poetic expressions
for the newest Reflect With Me Gallery of Artistic Expressions,
Winter Wanderings

The winter gallery will also feature and accept the following:
Nature photography
Quotes
Songs

Winter has different hues and scenery depending on your locale.
Send your offerings to cvarsalona's email, Google+, Facebook, or Twitter accounts.

ALL digital compositions must have proper credit for work displayed, name of author, and location.

Preferred size of digital compositions to be no larger than 5x7.

Last year's digital gallery, Winter Whisperings, can be accessed here.

DEADLINE: March 4, 2016

***************

Sneak Preview of the Winter Wanderings' collection:



Lester Laminack's Digital Inspiration



Winter Photo Corner


A SPECIAL THANK YOU to LESTER LAMINACK, author and national literacy consultant, for creating the title of the winter gallery. 

**************

Now please visit Tara Smith's site, A Teaching Life, for the Poetry Friday Round-Up. Tara has a peaceful winter scene and poem waiting for us there.


Stay Warm During the Northeast USA Winter Storm

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Be Present and Believe

Today Spiritual Journey Thursday led by Holly Mueller explores Margaret Simon's one word present. Within this simple word there is much to ponder. I pause to create a link between Margaret's word with my one word believe to begin my day.


Being present in each here and now moment is an action that often escapes me when involved in life's daily tasks. But what if I could slow down life to be present in stillness each day? What if I could carve out a few moments to uncover new truths, wisdom, or rethink the have-to tasks? 

What ifs are hypothetical wishes that can become positive actions through the power of believing. Moving aside clutter, simplifying thoughts, and filling spaces of my life with positivity are part of being fully present. Wrapped in strong belief, this would open additional portals to possibilities so that uncertainties that come my way can be dealt with without stress. 

Today, I stand in the presence of the world's beauty (despite the cold) with faith that my path will continue to be guided. Below is a simple creed I created for daily reflection.

Here in your presence

I stand believing 
that earth and sky
unfold to envelop
each and every moment.

Here in your presence
I see with new eyes
the majesty of life
making each day
a wonder to behold.

Here in your presence

I accept life as it is,
savoring what it beholds,
noticing each artistic blade
as a miracle of nature.

Here in your presence

I am aware and fully present.
In stillness I stand 
observing all to
reflect and recharge life.
©CVarsalona, 2016 

Famous quotes (from http://presentliving.com/quotes/):

The more I give myself permission to live in the moment and enjoy it without feeling guilty...the better I feel about the quality of my work.
~Wayne Dyer (1940 self-help author, speaker

You really don't even own the present moment, for even this belongs to God. Above, all, live in the present moment and God will give you all the grace you need.
Francois Fenelon (1652-1715) French Archbishop, theologian, writer

The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) Psychologist, Maslow's hierarchy of needs



My parting thought.

In life I shall be present.
Offer a positive comment.
Notice, and fully see, 
what is standing before me.
©CVarsalona, 2016 

Please visit Spiritual Journey Thursday to read the perspectives of other bloggers on Margaret Simon's one word, present. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Importance of Voice

As I sit at my desk after #NYEDChat's convo on being the digital change, I realize how important voice is. Tonight participants from across the states joined in to discuss the topic, "Be the Digital Change". A chorus of voices rocked the Twittersphere as I hoped. While tweeting with Marialice Curran, co-founder of Dig Cit Summit and Dig Cit Summit UK, and her 3rd grader son about this, I realized that educators have a challenge. It is our duty to provide students with writing and speaking opportunities for their voices to rise beyond their classrooms. Teaching them to do so with respectful and responsible behavior is a necessity. 

I think how apropos it was to have this conversation on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. As an important figure in history, King's powerful voice proclaimed his beliefs despite challenges faced. His words still ring true today. 


Intelligence plus character define what a digital citizen is in this Information Age. During the era that King lived the words digital citizen were an unknown thought but if King were alive today, he would be an ideal model-a powerful, ethical voice speaking out on freedom across social media.

I look back on a post that I wrote two years ago, honoring his words. The image below was an ending thought on my blog. King posed this question that is still a most urgent one decades later.


How often do we stop to think how we are affecting and impacting the lives of others, especially our students' learning lives? How often do we stop to teach our students what it means to have a responsible and ethical voice? Having intelligence plus character is what makes a digital citizen a voice to be heard. I am moved tonight to ponder King's question and ask my readers to do the same as a call to action. 

Each Tuesday Two Writing Teachers offer space for teachers and writers to offer their Slice of Life. Please visit the site here to read other slices. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A View Through the Lens

The camera lens is a window to the world. It is receptive to creative sparks and often provides a source of inspiration when you least expect it. Yesterday, my camera and I set out on a new digital adventure after being invited by Michelle Barnes to a ditty challenge (that was provided by the popular New York City artist and author Douglas Florian). I must admit when I first read the creative prompt I had to pause to think what does this mean for me.
My ditty challenge is to write a poem about nothing.~Douglas Florian
Michelle did provide a model, a wonderful poem, The Story of Nothing, she wrote for her daughter's birthday. You can read it here.

Since I was undressing my Christmas tree yesterday, I decided that my bare tree could be my model. It cooperated. I took the photo, cropped it, and then looked at what was left-a big nothing of green branches. Because the notion of being a connected educator is looming in my mind (#NYEDChat is having a convo, Be the Digital Change, on Monday night as a warm-up for #DigCitSummitUK on January 23rd), I envisioned a poem that would incorporate those events. In order to capture the feeling I needed to bring my photo into PicMonkey, my go-to digital tool. After a few minutes of digitalizing the photo from the original nothing, I came up with something-a globe that would connect my ideas. Next, I needed connectors to overlay the globe. Voila, I found the branch image to signify the starkness of winter (an idea stemming from a virtual winter gallery that I will be designing). Next, came the word weaving. Ideas were swirling. I liked the word expanse that popped up and I wanted to use the word nothing so I continued to play with these ideas. Revision is an important phase of my process so that took some time. A micropoem emerged from the original nothing to something for Michelle's ditty challenge and DigiLit Sunday's post. All it took was a bit of imagination, a wonderful model, the camera on my iPhone, a digital tool, and the creative sparks to pull everything together. 

Here is my finished view through another lens. I hope you see some of the fir branches peeking through the globe. What is your thought on nothing?



Today's digital inspiration and post are being offered to the following:

Today's Little Ditty~Michelle H. Barnes
DigiLit Sunday hosted by Margaret Simon

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Celebrating Stillness


After a busy week of discarding old "stuff" to make way for the new year, I woke in the middle of the night thinking about what still needs to be accomplished. While this is not a common practice of mine, it did serve its purpose today.


Removed from the hectic pace of life after the holidays, I reflect on what needs to be done. With a fresh outlook, I prepare to tackle the last bits of lovingly storing the Christmas memories and believing everything is possible for him who believes.

 

On the weekend, I  join Ruth Ayres and the bloggers of Celebrate This Week to look at life with a positive attitude. Please visit the site here to read others' viewpoints on their week of living life to its fullest.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Winter Creativity


Winter has arrived on Long Island with a chilling wind but no snow-tipped landscapes. There is talk of a dusting coming but for now there are only winter trees standing tall in the still morning. 



Each morning winter trees, 
stark and barren,
boldly frame the sky
saluting daylight.
I watch them dance
to wind's orchestration-
leaning in, bowing down,
swaying, conversing
bidding life to wake.
Howling, they move in rhythm,
not tipped with frost
nor touched by snow,
listening for earth's response.
My mind wanders.
Winter progresses.
©Carol Varsalona, 2016

Today is Poetry Friday and Keri Collins Lewis is hosting. Please visit Keri Recommends where she talks about the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and welcomes our ideas on creativity. Since I am ready to embark on a new creative journey for the Reflect With Me Galleries I design, I am eager to share my first thoughts on creativity with Keri.

At some point these ideas will make their way to a new blog post and poem but for now here are my thoughts.
Keri, I appreciate your conversation starter on creativity since I think it is the heartbeat of the innovative classroom and life. What is creativity to me? Creativity is bubbling froth spilling over allowing passion to expand into a delicious, far-reaching feeling. It is a wind chime that greets day to ring in good cheer. It is inside our spirit, within our soul allowing us to find our effervescent qualities and share them in an artful ways. Without creativity life would be devoid of inspiration and innovation. It is the "stuff" dreams are made of-the artist's brush, the poet's words, the dancer's rhythm, and the body's elixir. Creativity has unlimited reach when brought to the surface. It is my heartbeat!