Saturday, December 3, 2022

Tis the Season to Wonder!

Thanksgiving ushers in December. I move quickly from one family holiday to another, as do others. Am I ready for the wonder of Christmas? Yes and No! My mind is full of ideas but there is not enough time to complete everything I would like to do. The best plan is to slow down, breathe, and wish upon the Christmas star. In the midst of wishing, I feel the need to consider a thought from Spirituality Practice by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat.

"Wonder begins in the senses, comes alive in the imagination, and flourishes in adoration of the Divine." 

How do I awaken my senses, stop ruminating over unreconciled issues, and focus on what is before me? Pause again and turn to the prompt  that this month's Spiritual Journey Thursday's host, Bob Hamera, offers: Accept and Change. Part of the dynamic sequence of creating mantras involves a dash of wonder, imagination, positivity, and belief in Divine intervention. Bob reminded me of a simple prayer from my youth on accepting and changing..

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference…"  

I admit that I have been awed by nature this year. In appreciation of God's lovely creations, some ordinary in stature, others grand, I will continue my practice of finding quiet time to write and share the wonder.

by the power
of wonderment
I sink into the quiet
of a bright December day-
nature's silence surrounds while
fir trees ggently sway in morning light- 
I indulge in nature's peace and presence!
©CV, 2022, draft

Blessed is the Great Artist who fills our very being with wonder.
-Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

The donation of a Christmas tree to Rockefeller Center for its lighting ceremony is an annual tradition bringing joy to millions who visit or watch the broadcast on TV.

grand, glistening tree
gifted from nature's rich soil
holiday wonder
©CV, 2022 

Thank you also to Catherine Flynn for hosting Poetry Friday this week and offering a wonderful writing prompt from The Inklings. Please travel over to Catherine's blog post with me to enjoy the poetic goodness.

created by Linda Mitchell

Don't forget to visit the Spiritual Journey Thursday community's responses to Bob Hamera's prompt here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

My Hallmark Moment

As an adult, I have always enjoyed a memorable birthday weekend. After all, I was born on Thanksgiving. I remember one birthday during my toddler years. We were at my Nonnie's house and I was allowed to stand on the dining room chair to get a better look at the yummy cake with candles before I blew them out. I don't remember if that cake was my favorite type, an Italian rum cake also called a Cassatta cake, but I do remember how happy I was. Somewhere, there is a photo of me commemorating my birthday. That was probably my first Hallmark-moment. 

This year we celebrated my birthday the day after Thanksgiving and I felt happy being with my family for two days. As a  dedicated Hallmark channel fan, I recognize the signs of Hallmark-moments. Your Dictionary describes this as a memorial moment or event, one which would make a poignant greeting card. 

During the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I prepared by baking with freshly roasted pumpkin, creating maple roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin bread, and cookies... {I think you deduced from this that I love roasting fresh pumpkin for baking.} If you look at my blog post, you will read about the goodies I created for family and friends. Thanksgiving was a wonderful day with the little grandgirls at their house.

The next day was my birthday and we were invited by my daughter to join them at the Reston Town Center for a morning parade and evening tree-lighting ceremony with Santa. The town center was decorated like one of the scenes in the Hallmark Christmas movies. Illuminated trees lit every street; the ice skating rink was a grand spectacle of skaters of all ages, and the little children paraded around shaking large silver bells given to them by the town. Santa and Mrs. Klaus entered the square on a large old-fashioned carriage. On the count of three, the tree was lit. Onlookers were in total amazement watching the tree turn various colors as the snow machine spread beautiful white flakes throughout the area. Music played in the background and both children and adults clapped to thank Santa. If you are a watcher of Hallmark movies, you know what this magical event looks like,

There was a sharing of smiles throughout the day.
the dark sky lights up
joyful holiday glee spreads 
santa whisks away 
©CV, 2022

May Thanksgiving become one of your blessed Hallmark-moments.

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for their weekly open meeting space for a growing community of writers.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Recipe for a Mindful Work-In

Thanksgiving is always a busy holiday but such a wonderful time with family. While my Poetry Friday post is late in coming, I wanted to join in to celebrate poetic goodness. My traveling poet/teacher/friend, Ruth Hersey, is hosting today from her new residence in Uganda. She shares odes about a kitchen table with lines that illuminate the significance of daily life and family. Please travel to her blog here for a feast of poetic goodness not to be missed.

During this week, my thoughts centered on new baking recipes to dazzle the Thanksgiving table: freshly pureed pumpkin pie with an oreo crust and chocolate pecan pie with hints of whiskey. I also contemplated the Poetry Sisters' challenge to create a recipe poem with a new twist: be creative with form, length, meter, or topic using an assemblage of elements with recipe text/cooking instructions. I used the language of my recipes to create a self-care recipe poem for post-Thanksgiving. 

Back Story: This month has been filled with many events and downtime has taken a back seat. During yoga, I listened carefully to my yoga teacher's thoughts. Inspired by her inspirational thoughts, my topic evolved.  

May my recipe for a Mindful Work-In bring a plate full of zen and peace. As I write, I relax and begin a work-in practice that allows the mind to let go. The body relaxes and the soul finds inspiration in the silence of the room. 

"Silence is the eloquent expression of the inexpressible." Sri Chinmoy, poet

Recipe for a Mindful Work-In

1 quiet place to ponder
1 cup of brewed herbal tea
1 tablespoon of honey
a pinch of peace
liquid awesome
1 yoga mat

Preheat your space to relax the muscles, mind, and spirit.
Start off with a full playlist of quieting music.
Gently add a flow of soft breath.
Mix in praise-worthy raised arm movements.
Scoop up generous amounts of drishti.
Slowly whisk in bending bows.
Add 1 cup of refined liquid awesome.
Gently smooth out the process.
Pour your body onto the mat in svanasana.
After 5 minutes, release the pose.
Cool down your mind, body, and spirit in gratitude.

©CV, 2022, draft

Within silence
the mind understands what is
involved in the
quieting of senses. Eloquent
ways of expression
evolve in awareness of
what is the
©CV, 2022, draft

Thank you Poetry Sisters, Laura,  Tanita,  Mary Lee,  Liz,  Kelly,  Tricia,  Sara,  and Andi for the November Challenge to write a recipe poem. 
Thanks to Tanita for the above ad. #PoetryPals

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

With Gratitude

The week before Thanksgiving is a time of merriment, remembrance, and special thanks for what we have. There is always a busy hum throughout the house during this time period. Pans clank, cabinets displaying fine china and linens open and close, and groceries are transported from the car to the kitchen. Decorations are set in place. China turkeys filled with artificial flowers adorn the front foyer and buffet and LED candles provide low light. There are no more traces of Halloween and some small fall decorations are stored away. Herbs from the garden have been brought inside and dried for the stuffing. The kitchen becomes a mini-version of Grand Central Station with people coming and going as preparations begin for the upcoming feast. 

As I look around, I see items from my childhood displayed linking the past with the present. The kitchen looks a bit topsy-turvy because three sets of hands are active. The aroma of sweet baked items is present.  A distinctive atmosphere of gratitude flows throughout the house


The busyness of the day before Thanksgiving does not distract me from pensive thinking. I pause to remember those who came before and prepared a feast of enticing and delicious selections. I am grateful for those in the family who continue the traditions. Thanksgiving is a day of thanks that provides time to appreciate one another and the gifts bestowed on our family and friends. 

Prepare the stuffing.
Bake another pie. This one will be a new one, chocolate pecan pie with bourbon.
Pack all my offerings for Thanksgiving at my daughter and son-in-law's house.

homemade harvest treat
fresh pumpkin and chocolate
grateful thanksgiving
©CV, 2022

What's left for you to do before the feast begins?

Since I fell asleep before finishing my Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers, I send it out now to thank my slicer friends for their weekly writing.

Friday, November 18, 2022

November Autumn

This week, fall weather reminds me of November days when I was a child in upstate New York State. Winter usually visited around Thanksgiving and continued her journey up to Easter. The weather was always the center of conversation; now, Winter's nip in the air again interrupts Autumn. Instead of crispness in the air, the shock of blowing cold air leads me to wear triple layers of clothing in the early morning even though the sun shines brightly. Leaves are crinkly and create interesting sounds as they scatter underfoot. There are no birds soaring and chirping this week. Perhaps, they realize it is time to head south. The local meteorologist predicts a long week of cold weather and snow in some areas. Luckily, the heating system keeps it warm inside the house. The beauty of the season keeps floating back into my mind

"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit and resign yourself to the influence of the earth."  - Henry David Thoreau

For me, Nature Nurtures the Soul!

Each Wednesday, Margaret Simon posts an invitation to write alongside her at This Photo Wants to be a Poem. Yesterday, she posted a photo of a cardinal that reminded me of a winter day several years ago. A cardinal perched on my picket fence and let me approach so I could take a photograph. Below is my response to Margaret's photo, Cardinal in the Cold.

Cardinal Ponders

May you enjoy the upcoming season of joy.

For now, stroll over to Jama Rattigan's blog,  Jama's Alphabet Soup, to enjoy the Poetry Friday Roundup and Jama's beautiful spread of Thanksgiving art, desserts, and a poem that is a parody of Thanksgiving. 

Friday, November 11, 2022

Blessed and Holy

With its mixed media delights, November is Gratitude Month, a time to pause and reflect on being thankful for life's blessings. When Fran Haley, teacher-writer slicer, introduced the word holy as the prompt for the Spiritual Journey Thursday community (SJT) this month, I paused to ponder the meaning of the word in my life. Holy is a word I learned during  catechism studies as a child. As I grew, I remained in faith and heard the word holy repeated often but I never intently considered the significance of this small word. With this in mind, I searched for quotes that would bring clarity. I found one written by a revered Jewish theologian and philosopher, Abraham Joshua Heschel"Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy."  

I have tried repeatedly to "just be", meditate quietly, and pause often to find small delights  to be thankful for but my impatient side often has me racing toward a lengthy to-do list. It is difficult to just be when there is an ominous pressure surrounding me. Piles of papers dealing with household tasks and my son's disability case detract from the beauty of Thanksgiving decorations and memories of sun-golden days of autumn like the scene below.


In my last blog on gratitude, I explored the following idea by Eckhart Tolle. 
"Just be and enjoy being."

Perhaps, the act of just being is one I talk about but it is not always part of my actions. I think of myself as a work in progress, pausing, reflecting, and acting. I question the constant movement so now, I sit still in between tasks remembering the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything this is beautiful for beauty is God's handwriting." Even the rain tapping against my windows reminds me to look and find thanks for earth's gifts. For a few minutes, I enjoy the silence after the rain. Being in the moment is a sacred act of thanksgiving.  I thank my fellow SJT writers for their perspective on Fran Haley's reverent and inspirational prompt holy that you can access here. As I reread the words of my fellow SJT writers, I discovered a line or two from each of their blogs and created a poem.

Setting the Rhythm

Open the soul to seeing.
Holiness can be found in any place.
The soul should always stand ajar, 
Ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.
Beauty is God's handwriting.
Live your life in ways that help others and
At evening's end, feel the movement of the earth
Gracefully bowing down to heaven;
Utter a silent prayer of gratitude,
worship deep, and
Be thankful for the blessings bestowed.
©CV, 2022

Line 1  Fran Haley
Line 2 Bob Arjeha
Lines 3-4 Emily Dickinson
Line 6 Bob Arjeha
Lines 7-8 Carol Varsalona
Line 11 Carol Varsalona


Enjoy your pre-Thanksgiving preparations. This time of year is always filled with the spirit of family, beauty of the earth, and blessings from a bountiful harvest.

For now, I turn my thoughts to the fabulous kidlit author, poet, and nature photographer, Buffy Silverman as the host of this week's Poetry Friday. She is sharing a sneak peek of Laura Purdie Salas' upcoming book, Finding Family. It is sure to capture the heart of readers. Please click here to access Buffy's blog post filled with more poetic goodness from the Poetry Friday community of poets.

SJT Community, I extend my apologies for 
being a week later than our due date.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Reflacting During Gratitude Month

Reflect + Act = Reflaction
Lately, I am in fast mode, moving from event to event. I am acutely aware of the lack of just-for-me and slow-down time. I wonder if I can deprogram myself from racing through life?  

Just be and enjoy being!  (Eckhart Tolle)
Be full of gratitude!
More yoga time!

Forward Steps:
Last night, I presented my second keynote address to the Reading Specialists Council of Suffolk via Zoom. I felt relieved when I finished the presentation, The Power of Writing: Inviting and Encouraging Students to Discover the Writer Within because this week was one of constant motion. Despite the exhaustion of a jam-packed week, I was grateful and honored to present my keynote to a group of interested teachers. Needless to say, I decided to relax and just be.

This afternoon, I share my thoughts through digital art, nature photography, and writing poetry. This work has had a calming effect on me.  Below is what I call a digital inspiration from the past that influences my writing since it is about gratitude.

Inspiration often comes when I look out the window and see the colors of autumn but sometimes portions of life are not inspiring. Yet, the desire to write is still there. The following quote addresses how a writer proceeds without instantaneous inspiration. Upon reflection, I realize that most of the time I am an impatient-doer writer, not a waiter.

If you wait for inspiration to write, you're not a writer; you're a waiter.
~Dan Poynter

Here is my 18th slide from last night's presentation, Inviting and Encouraging Students to Discover the Writer Within. I started with a prose piece, then followed with a free verse poem with the topic, The What of Writing.
The poem below was penned one night this week when I felt like an insomniac.

It's time to finally join my Poetry Friday friends at Heidi Mordhorst's blog, my juicy little universe. Heidi is sharing her thoughts on the importance of voting. The piece of digital art showcased explains the reasoning for Heidi's naming this year as a "life-or-death election year". Heidi also reminds us that it is Folktale Week 2022 and the writing group, the Inklings critique group's, monthly challenge.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Dansa Poem #PoetryPals Challenge

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: 
it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity. 
-William Wordsworth

Tranquil Thoughts
It starts with a gentle flow,
Like leaves dancing in the breeze.
Pleasant, slow movements that please
Awaken emotions. You know,
It starts with a gentle flow.

Body and mind are at ease.
Breath relaxed. Slow down, please.
Feel the rush of letting go.
It starts with a gentle flow.

Yogi listen, bend  your knees,
Down dog pose leads to heartsease.
Breathe in, breathe out, joy will grow.
It starts with a gentle flow.
©CVarsalona, Fall 2022, Virginia

Yesterday, while in the yoga studio, I listened intently to my teacher. She led us through a series of gentle flows. This practice allowed me to relax while pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and reminded me of autumn's gentle flow. Yoga and nature's movements set the stage to write alongside the Poetry Sisters who challenged us this month to compose a dansa poem. Since I have never heard of a dansa poem, I really needed to pay attention to the format and start the process by using a simple refrain. The poem opens with a quintrain of 5 lines and an AbbaA rhyme scheme. Quatrains of 4 lines with a bbaA rhyme scheme follow. The  A repeats because it is the opening line of the first stanza and the final line of every stanza, including the first. 

Do you know what belsnickeling is? It is a Christmas practice, inspired by early 20th-century German Americans, in which costumed groups would visit neighbors' houses, offer a short performance, and then, were rewarded with food if the neighbors couldn't guess their identities. My granddaughters and I enjoyed a variation of belsnickeling last weekend when we walked around the neighborhood with baskets of homemade cookies. My oldest granddaughter wore dentures to make the neighbors laugh. 

Belsnickeling Fun

Little creatures march around
With toothy grins and small treats,
Delivering gooey sweets.
For all the neighbors earthbound,
Little creatures march around.

Stomp, stomp they walk up and down.
See that pumpkin who overeats.
Down the dark and lonely streets,
Little creatures walk around.

They skip, sway, and eat a piece.
Head home when cookies decrease-
Belsnickeling fun found.
Little creatures walk around.
©CVarsalona, 2022, dansa poem, digital art & Pumpkin photo by Margaret Simon for This Photo Needs To Be A Poem

It is time for the Poetry Friday Roundup.
Join me at Jone MacCullock's blog here to find out what our Oregon poet/photgrapher/librarian has as a sweet surprise. It will sure to be filled with poetic goodness and maybe a nature photo or collage.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Pre-Halloween Fun

The end of October is almost here and I have been busy adding the final touches to my October decorations. With Halloween just a week away, I thought a bit of digital magic would add the sparkle needed to wrap up my October decorations. All I needed was my little granddaughters to inspire me because what is Halloween without children? My wish was granted. 

The little girls spent last weekend with us. I had a variety of ideas planned to entertain them. One was a morning walk around the neighborhood with baskets of cookies for neighbors to taste. While adding Halloween decorations around the house, my oldest granddaughter found two accessories in my Halloween box that made her eyes sparkle. She giggled with joy upon finding a LI Duck whistle and dentures. I started taking photos that made my younger grandgirl and me laugh. One in particle sparked an idea. Why not digitize the photo with some photo apps to create a party invitation. The photo chosen for the invitation was carefully placed on the outside wreath for the parents to see before entering the house.

Dressing in costumes is part of the fun of a Halloween party so of course the question was asked, "What can the girls wear?" Luckily, I had costumes made by my talented mother for my children when they were young. The grandgirls decided they would be happy to wear the robot and clown costumes made by Grandma Kay.  Their parents were surprised when they walked in and I was delighted to have my first Halloween House party in Virginia with the family and my little grandgirls.

Join me at Slice of Life celebrated at Two Writing Teachers,
a meeting place for a world of reflective writers.