Saturday, March 17, 2018

March Musings #17: Collaboration Counts Poetry Slice

I am not sure how it all began but I do remember it was one of the nights this week when the Night Owl PLN got together on Twitter. I decided to switch up the conversation. One of our group members sent me an absolutely, beautiful landscape photograph she took while driving in Pennsylvania. The photo just begged for a poem to accompany the image and I was ready to design my global winter gallery of artistic designs, Winter Wonderland. The stillness, the serenity, the lightly tread upon road all called out for more so I proposed a collaborative poem. 

I set up a Google Doc and invited those interested to join the writing fun activity, afterall it was different way of having a conversation. Oops! Did I say fun? I think I moved a few of my Twitter friends out of their comfort zone as I placed some ideas on the Google doc. When I realized that ideas coming in were evolving into a poem in verse I thought, "But isn't that what I said was out of my comfort zone? "

"When a group of colleagues step out of their comfort zone to collaborate and create, they are the risk takers that their students need to stand before them."
-Carol Varsalona

And so we began the process of adding ideas, making comments, and having others take a peek at our collaborative poem based on Spiri's photo. We were going public, putting ourselves out there for critiquing. We were vulnerable and yet there was pleasure in the creation process. (You can take a look at our Google Doc here.) 

I worked over the course of several days to edit, revise, and word weave (the process I designed to move words in and out, creating a designed effect during the revision process). Then, I moved from Google Docs to Buncee to create a digital poem. The end product is below but you can see a larger version at my Buncee dashboard

This image poem will be added to my Twitter repository, #WinterWonderland18, as I prepare to organize and design my winter gallery. Stay tuned for more on when the gallery will be unveiled. 

I thank the following members of my Night Owl PLN who chose to step out of their comfort zone and write alongside me:
Melissa Chouinard-Jahant
Steve Kelley
Faige Meller
Chris Quinn
Valerie Tilton
and to Spiri Howard for her fine photography skills

Collaboration Counts!
I celebrate collaboration today.

"Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work."
-Vince Lombardi

Ruth Ayres has a wonderful story of friendship and the power of one word

Thursday, March 15, 2018

March Musings #16: Snowflakes

Golden Shovel Poem
Line Lifted: Into a perfect flake of miraculous snow

They danced into
my heart as a
cascading array of perfect
 snow kisses, each flake
a representation of
Lady Winter's miraculous
artwork of crystallized snow
and then, they danced away. 

Student voice is strong in Margaret Simon's classroom. She below.

Who knew that Lady Winter would send an ice storm to Louisiana!

Hosted by my writing colleague, Linda Baie who is celebrating spring at Teacher Dance

Day 16 of  Two Writing Teachers' March Slice of Life Story

I am in the process of designing my Winter Wonderland Gallery and the digital inspirations on this page are included. Stay tuned for news of the unveiling.

March Musings #15: Snow-Kissed Winter

Lately, nor'easters come and go on Long Island announcing their arrival and quick departure like layover flights. You would think Long Islanders are used to the meteorologists creating a stir with their predictions. You would also think that people would not scramble to grocery stores as if they were in survival mode or that the local Home Depot would become the mecca for winter shoppers. We should  be used to the fluctuating changes in the weather by now but we really aren't. 

I remember my days growing up in Central New York. Winters were a mix of gray days and piles of snow. People bundled up from Thanksgiving to Easter and snow was a shared experience. When I first moved to Long Island, I laughed when the snow came and saw the shock on everyone's faces. But I must admit that this time when the nor'easter decided to return for another run, I was perplexed. 

Yesterday, I was scheduled to travel to Albany, our state capital, for the last in this year's series of statewide conferences.  Since Monday, I felt harried. I listened to the weather report, called the Albany hotel several times, and checked in with other travelers. My colleagues whom I was driving up with decided not to venture out into the predicted storm. I waited to see the extent of the storm and made a final decision last night. Since I already had a crazy experience a couple of years ago during a blizzard trying to get from Long Island to New York City's Penn Station and off to Albany, I decided not to attend this last conference. I guess it was the right decision to stay home because I knew I could read the material distributed online. 

What transpired: After all that worrying and planning would you believe that the storm came, left a light winter blanket on the ground, and then by afternoon took off?  Weather patterns are strange here. One thing I can say for sure, winter has been having fun creating a stir and leaving its snow kisses for us. 

Snow Kisses

If you go out when it’s snowing
And look up at the sky,
You’ll feel lots of icy kisses
As the snowflakes flutter by.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

March Musings Day 14: Dream Big

Thanks Alyssa H. for creating 
this inspiration poster.
My dreams tug at my heart. They are my longings, the urgings of my soul, and the guiding lights on the road to owning my brave
"To me, #brave means being and bringing my best, most confident, authentic, and powerful self to whatever situations I face. Inherent in that is constructive action and full responsibility." - Kimberly Davis
My dreams follow me from morning to night. They may not be totally actualized YET but they are worthy of my pursuit.

Line lifted to create a golden shovel poem* 
based on Langston Hughes' line from Dreams
"Hold fast to dreams."

In the rush to hold
my hurried life in the fast
lane, I sometimes forget to
slow down to reach my dreams.
©CVarsalona, 2018


Seasonal Advice to Self

Hold fast to dreams,
Floating high 
Like kites of summer
Seeking to fly.

Hold fast to my dreams.
Never letting go
Realizing hope
Is tucked in snow.
©CVarsalona, 2018


I Can Statements for Constructive Action:  

I can own my brave.
I can continue to dream big one step at a time.
I can give thanks for each actualization of my dreams.

Day 14 of Two Writing Teachers' March Slice of Life Story Challenge

*Golden Shovel Poem How To: Lift a line from a poem. Turn that line into a golden shovel poem.  That is done by lining up the words of the original line in the right column, one word at a time, and create a new line ending in each word. If the borrowed line, called a striking line, is five words long, you will end up with a five line poem. If it is 7 words long, you would end up with a seven line poem, and so on. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

March Musings #13: And So I Write

so I write to
start a brand new story
view the world through a different lens -
to be in the moment, in the presence of stillness -
alone I write as words swirl in a sea of fragmented ideas
and dreams dangle on indigo strings in a star-mapped sky -
and so I write watching hope crisscross life with finely crafted words
so I can believe in the power of voice to 
pierce the night
awaken morning 
©CVarsalona, 2018

Day 13 of Two Writing Teachers' March Slice of Life Story Challenge

Words by the Bee Gees 1968

Buncee Creation

Monday, March 12, 2018

March Musings #12: Winter at the Beach

"Sun's out. Let's go to the beach."

That's all it took to lure me aware from Sunday chores. My husband, son, and I were going to our happiness place. Since I had not been to the beach in months, I was excited to see what winter would look like this year.

Arrival: I was bundled up and ready to walk the boardwalk when I turned back to see my husband and son without a heavy winter jacket. Not to worry. I am always the one that is cold. But as soon as I started walking toward the beach, I felt it-the whipping winds of winter. My husband thought out loud. "I guess this is going to be a short walk!" We continued to head toward the boardwalk and there they were, the beach and the ocean right in front of us. The scene looked so calm. If it wasn't for the wind you would have thought that spring arrived.

Spring-not yet, winter had the upper hand! As we walked on the boardwalk, we trudged against the wind, reached an agreed upon spot, and walked back with the wind behind us. Then, we saw a couple of amazing sights:

a baby gleefully enjoying the gathering of hungry seagulls circling her

a couple climbing the sand dune barefoot to gaze at the calm ocean-brrr

As we left the beach, my husband said, "Aren't you glad that we came to the beach today?"

"Yes, it was a short but memorable visit to our happiness place."

Sunday, March 11, 2018

March Musings #11: Happiness Is...

Happiness is...

morning sun waking day
soft snowflakes at joyful play
evening stars fully dressed
summer flowers deftly pressed
lulling waves come to shore
kites afloat as they soar
baby smiles and warm embrace
a slowing down, reflective pace
©CVarsalona, 2018

Is happiness your go to place?

May your day be filled with joy and happiness!


Saturday, March 10, 2018

March Musings #10: Berry Time

For the month of February, I was inspired to write ekphrastic poetry with Laura Shovan in her 6th Annual February Poem Project.  Now, I am taking a second look at the pieces I created. I was a bit sidetracked when a new photo, "Huckleberry Heart" by a local Montana photographer, John Ashley, popped up on my screen for a follow-up challenge. The photo so inspired me to write that I decided to create an image poem. I send thank yous to my writing friend, Dani Burtsfield for providing an aha moment for me with this photo she shared for the challenge. Below is the digitally designed image poem I created with FotoJet.

To ensure that the proper amount of inspired energy be poured into the above piece of writing, I turned to Google Hangout for an early morning peek at my almost nine-month old grandbaby. Recently, Sierra learned how to blow raspberries. (I guess if I was living in Montana, Dani, I might say Sierra enjoys blowing huckleberries.) Maybe, Sierra will show off her new skill when she travels next week with her parents to Montana for a skiing adventure.

I was able to catch this photo while chatting with Sierra on Google Hangout (GHO) during the week. Today, she threw us two more raspberries during our Saturday morning call. It was a delicious moment of fun watching her have fun with her mouth.

I celebrate writing time and connecting time with Sierra as part of this week's celebration of life. 

Ruth Ayres has a wonderful story of friendship and the power of one word

Friday, March 9, 2018

March Musings #9: Inspired to Write

Another challenge comes my way from my poetry friend, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes at Today's Little Ditty. This month, when Michelle interviewed Nikki Grimes, the master of golden shovels, she asked Nikki to pose a writing challenge. You can see it below.

Take a line from one of the poems included in this post, and turn that line into a golden shovel poem.  That is done by lining up the words of the original line in the right column, one word at a time, and create a new line ending in each word. If the borrowed line, called a striking line, is five words long, you will end up with a five line poem. If it is 7 words long, you would end up with a seven line poem, and so on. Have fun!


The following March Musings were inspired by both Michelle Barnes and Nikki Grimes.

Line Lifted:
"A poem can strip away fear" from Truth by Tryone Bittings

When issues come a
calling, search for a poem
Hidden? Dig deep. It can
soothe the tired soul, strip
the edginess away, 
rid underlying fear.
©CVarsalona, 2018

Line Lifted:

"revealing heart, truth...and, I might add, hope." by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

My pen writes, revealing
murmurings of my heart.
My mind speaks with truth
spilling forth from thoughts and
actions crusted over as I
reveal life's pages that might
shrink in memory and add
layers of infinite hope
©CVarsalona, 2018

Notice from Michelle H. Barnes:

Leave your golden shovel on our March 2018 padlet. 
While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on March 30th, and one lucky participant will win a copy of Nikki Grimes' new companion novel to Bronx Masquerade.


Day 9 of Two Writing Teachers' March Slice of Life Story Challenge

Thursday, March 8, 2018

March Musings #8: International Women's Day

Today, is the day set aside each year to celebrate International Women's Day. This year's theme, #PressforPower, is a timely one based on the issues present in the world today. It is important for women around the globe to be visible positive forces, to have their achievements recognized, and be influential models for the younger generation. 

I have been privileged to celebrate women's achievements in the refugee village of Masese, Uganda and support my friends', the Garritys, for their work in providing education to 550 elementary children, helping the mothers of Masese to understand how to market their paper beaded jewelry and accessories, and support high school students attain an education. All of these endeavors are supported through the tireless work of the not-for-profit H.E.L.P. International organization and the fundraising efforts on Long Island

Each of the 90+ mothers have a craft. They create beautiful hand-crafted jewelry and accessories from paper. When the Garritys first arrived in Masese they found poverty, disease, malnutrition, and illiteracy.  The mothers did not know how to market their wares. Thanks to the Garritys the women now have the knowledge to sell their products and provide sustainable living for their young ones. Their children attend the school that was built through donations and proceeds from the jewelry sales, and eat two meals of day. All of this is done by a group of volunteers led by the Garritys. 

Each long day in the sun,
in my village, Masese,
my hands roll paper-
turning, twirling each piece,
into handcrafted beads -
for a future built on hope.

Hope rises from our work.
Hands swell with crafted pride
and eyes sparkle seeing 
my children filled with joy.
Bellies full and learning fresh
leads us toward betterment.

Hope rises within Masese.
Sustainable living thrives- 
honest fair trade work brings
our refugee village
together as people 
believing in hope.
©CVarsalona, 2018

I feel proud to be part of a mission to support learning and sustainable learning in Masese.


Day 8 of Two Writing Teachers' March Slice of Life Story Challenge