Friday, July 28, 2017

Between Twilight and Night

In the sliver between twilight and night,
when the world seeks rest,
nighttime sings its lullaby.
Summer sounds of childhood,
once forgotten, hum their tune
rocking infants to sleep as nature
blankets earth with a slumbering darkness. 
Nighttime sings its evening song,
a chorus of chirping sounds 
from the woods at the edge of the trail,
in the sliver between twilight and night,
when the world seeks its rest.
I listen. Peace flows.

The idea for the above poem evolved initially from my poetry friend, Linda Mitchell, the host of Poetry Friday this week. She presented a slate of first lines from her writer's notebook and asked writers to choose one and then give one in the spirit of connectivity.  I chose, "In the sliver between twilight and night" for several reasons. While visiting my new granddaughter in Reston, Virginia, my husband and I acquainted ourselves with the night sounds at the edge of the trail. The sounds were so distinct and reminiscent of childhood sounds that it made an impact on me. While walking the trail alone during the week, I encountered many a sight and sound that was far different from the ocean sounds of Long Island. You can find many more first lines and image prompts at Linda's site, A Word Edgewise.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

6-Word Teaching Story

From our life journey, stories evolve.

Educators have stories to tell. Their lives are a mix of teaching, learning, and family and are guided by passion-filled principles. When Kathleen Sokolowski sent a tweet asking educators to share their teaching story in a 6 word memoir, I paused to reflect on why I teach.

Teaching is my passion  and I have been: 

My long-standing career in education has taken me on an incredible journey from urban educational settings in Albany and Syracuse to Long Island where I taught and supervised K-12 students from diverse backgrounds. Experiences from novice reading teacher to reading specialist/coach to districtwide Language Arts Director have provided me with many windows into the hearts and minds of students

Because passion was still burning when I retired from public education, I changed gears to consider an unretirement lifestyle. I decided to go back to my passion, teaching and thus, began a career as an ELA Consultant. Teaching teachers has been a fascinating experience. Doors of possibility have opened. For the past two summers, I have taught an ELA Summer Institute at the local college to graduate students (teachers in the field). This summer, I asked the teachers to unleash their creativity with the end goal of finding their voices. They responded as I expected-with enthusiasm, passion, and pride.

You can see their accomplishments here.

No matter what type of student came before me in my career, I have been guided by positivity to impact learning. Motivating the learner from a passion-filled perspective has provided me with the opportunity to encourage all types of learners to move in small steps to succeed. 

Motivation is a key factor in engaging students
 in the task of becoming lifelong learners. 

What are my takeaways from decades of teaching experience:

Build a culture of trust and solid relationships
Engage learners from a stance of positivity
Look for teachable moments
Honor ALL voices
Release responsibility
Celebrate the sparks that ignite


What is your teaching story? 
Share your six-word story on Twitter 
with @MrsSokolowski and #liwp6words.

It's Slice of Life Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers
Join me to read what others slicers are writing about today.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Celebrate Summer 2017

It's here. The heat index is rising, the sunshine glaring, and summer fun is in full force. What is it about summer that lights up people's faces as bright as 4th of July fireworks or makes us want to chase fireflies, summertime's nighttime fairies? 

Summer is time to celebrate lazy, hazy days, time to relax 
and remember the old-fashioned fun of childhood.

This morning, I linger over a memory of cotton candy and salted potatoes-Firemen Field Day awaited treats. I remember the aroma of a neighbor's kitchen that filled the entrance with sweetness of fresh-baked peach and strawberry rhubarb pies. Ice cream treats were sought after and neighborhood children played in streets devising imaginative games to pass time. Air conditioning was not part of childhood summer days but life was enjoyable. Summer meant kicking off shoes and wiggling toes in the grass. There were no beaches or lakes near by but the hose and sprinklers provided a cooling experience. Summer was full of surprises each day.

Now switch to today when air conditioning is a must, playtime is scheduled, and cars are a necessity in suburbia. Life is more hectic but can be filled with old-fashioned, unplugged family fun. Instead of watching a screen, observe nature. Museums, parks, and libraries are readily available to explore. Slow life down, become fully engaged and aware of your surroundings. This type of thinking will bring inspiration to ordinary moments. 

During the week, I took my own advice when I planned a family outing to the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the afternoon to miss the noon day sun. After a stroll and lunch in Little Italy in the Bronx, we arrived at NYBG but the heat index was still hot. In order to save energy for the touring experience and to continue to be unplugged, we took a tram ride throughout the park. As we listened to the rich information, the Chihuly installations of magnificent glass structures jutted out from gardens and reflecting pools. A calm peace surrounded the grounds as art met nature and inspiration was sparked. The only hint of an electronic device was the click of the iPhone cameras. I left the gardens replenished by nature.

I walked away with an intent to fully celebrate Summer 2017. Through a lens of wonder, inspired light will enter my space. From a new vantage point, I will capture the joy of sunkissed moments and deliver them to the digital page.

Are you ready to join me? 
Let's celebrate summer together
and capture the joyous moments of summer.
See my invitation to a #Sunkissed Summer experience here.

Jone MacCulloch and Heidi Mordhorst sent these picturesque image poems to start my day with wonder. 

Photography tip: 
For my galleries, resize your photos to 450 pixels so that both the image and the writing pop.

I Celebrate This Week with Ruth Ayres and her writing community.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sunkissed Summer Invitation

"Summertime and the livin' is easy."
-Porgy and Bess
summer kissed 
sand and seaside with sunshine-
serenity settled


Summer's lazy days fill our lives with tranquility.
Summertime provides fun time to explore the outdoor and enjoy life with family and friends.

Michelle Kogan

Summertime is our time to slow downrelax, and recharge.

Join me as I create a collection of memories this summer this summer at Sunkissed Summer Gallery.

Be inspired to capture the joyous moments of summer in your locale or in your travels. 

Share them digitally with the world at #SunkissedSummer on Twitter. 

Unleash Your Creativity as exemplified by 

some Poetry Friday contributors above.

Are You Ready to:
  • Capture a sunkissed summer memory through an artistic lens with an original photo or drawing. You can also choose a free image from,, or 
  • Write an accompanying poem for an image poem/digipoetry or a poetic expression for a digital inspiration.
  • Superimpose your words on the image using a photo editing tool, like FotoJet, PicMonkey, Canva.
  • Sign the digital composition with your name and location.
  • Post your digital creation in jpeg form (450 pixels is the best size for this gallery).
  • Upload your digital inspiration to Twitter using the hashtags and handle: #SummerkissedSummer and @cvarsalona. 
  • Send your jpeg offering to @cvarsalona at gmail with the subject heading, Summerkissed Summer

Other Creative Options You Can Submit: 
  • A short video with a poem using iMovie or Animoto
  • An audio reading of your poem
  • A collage of your favorite summerkissed sites
  • An original inspirational quote or one from a poet or philosopher about summertime or summer relaxation
  • A song or instrumental composition to add a dimension of music to the gallery
  • Original photo or artwork of summer (in any format)
Ramona Behnke

Deadline for Submission: August 28, 2017

Wanted: Student Voice to grace Sunkissed Summer Gallery. Please encourage your summer program class or children to engage in this creative writing/artistic project to showcase their talents and amplify their voices. 

Thank You to:

Joy Acey
Ramona Behnke
Brenda Harsham
Michelle Kogan
Irene Latham
Jone MacCulloch
Margaret Simon

for being
early contributors to the  Sunkissed Summer Gallery. 

I hope you enjoyed the mini-sampler of what is to come at the end of the summer season.

You can view last summer's Summerscapes Gallery here

This week's Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted by Katie at her site, The Logonauts

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Art Meets Nature

Today, I walked the sprawling grounds of the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) with my family. Within that space exists a veritable treasure of botanical design and unique art. I was fascinated by the juxtaposition of artwork amidst nature and listened to the NYBG story unfold as we rode the guided tram tour. Being fully present in the moment, I noticed the nuances of the various landscapes, wondered, and reflected on the phenomenon of Chihuly glass structures interspersed throughout the grounds. 

Besides the dazzling display of hand-crafted blown glass sculptures, I was delighted to see children's poetry showcased on giant poster boards.

The above poem was paired with the amazing red Chihuly art piece below. Jacquelin Woodson, author, judged the NYBG Poetry Contest that was open to all students in the Tri-State area. Throughout the garden these poems inspired by "the installations" created by renowned glass blower, sculptor, Dale Chihuly created, were seen next to the artwork.

expansive lawns

accented with swirls and spikes

glassed artistry

The artwork reaches out to immerse you in the viewing experience. 

If you are a lover of nature and art, you will enjoy a tranquil nature walk through the New York Botanical Garden. You will be amazed at the delicacy and power of Chihuly artwork, as well as the history of the soon-to-be 100 year old botanical garden. 

You may also be interested in viewing Springsations for a gallery walk through springtime. There you will find a stunning array of landscapes and poetry from around the globe. 

Today is the close of Slice of Life Tuesday. Please visit Two Writing Teachers to see other slices. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Celebrate Life's Joys




Outdoor Concerts
(SixGun Country Band at Long Beach, NY Summer Concert Series)

Unveiling of Springsations-Global Gallery of Artistic Expressions

Baby Wonder

We can find life's joys if we notice what is around us and appreciate its beauty!

Summer is the time to Relax-Reflect-Recharge!


I am celebrating #CelebrateMonday with my Twitter colleagues and Ruth Ayres with her Celebrate This Week community of writers at #celebratelu who joyfully embrace life.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cheesy Delight

July 14th is National Macaroni and Cheese Day. Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference is hosting Poetry Friday with an optional Mac-N-Cheese theme thanks to Diane Mayr for suggesting the idea. I decided to jump into the mixing bowl and find the cheesiest, creamiest, healthiest mac and cheese ensemble to grace my table. I turned to Chocolate Covered Katie who has been "voted the #1 blog for healthy comfort food recipes." Sure enough, Katie created a healthy, cheesy dish that sounds delicious, Greek Yogurt Mac and Cheese. You can read the recipe here.

When my daughter was a child, she always asked my mother for grilled cheese. Macaroni and cheese was a favorite too. 

Today, I might think differently about a diet of cheese, now that I am a new grandmother.

Lunch please-
gooey mac and cheese!
                                                                                        Healthy choice-
                                                                                        hear my voice.
Mac and cheese-
hurry please.
                                                                                        Mac, cheese,
                                                                                        spinach agrees.

Golden delight-
not green fright.
                                                                                       Give it a try
                                                                                       Do not cry.

Now enjoy reading Kenn Nesbitt's humorous poem, 
I'm Not Picky - A Funny Food Poem for Kids.

The next thing to do is try this delightful comfort food recipe. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

First Month Joy

Thursday marks the first month of Baby Sierra Kathryn's life. From the moment, I read the text and saw her newborn photo, I fell in love. Joy immediately flowed and I counted the hours until I met her. 

This week, on my second trip to Virginia, I celebrate Sierra's life with my family. Her smile, coo, stretching poses, and adorable faces have delighted me as she becomes more alert and in touch with her surroundings. With these images, I have created a  memory quilt to take back to Long Island. They will be placed in a special corner of my heart as a keepsake of grandmother love. 

Being a grandmotheralbeit a long-distance one, is a gift of endless joy. I can be a cuddler and story teller while I am with Sierra and then, a dream maker and story builder while I am away. I can envision walking a path alongside Sierra as she makes her mark in life. 

Many grandmothers have shared this same joy that I feel today. I have heard their stories and honored the wisdom that they have passed on to me. One such grandmother, Donna Smith, surprised me today with a beautiful, original poem that she wrote for me. She included a special note: "Enjoy this chapter in your life. It is amazing." I thank Donna for reaching out to me as I celebrate this week with my daughter and her husband, along with my husband son.

This afternoon, while the house was quiet, I read aloud Donna's poem to Sierra and her mother.

At Her Birth

Fathomless, untapped
Love freshened, unwrapped from depths;
All hearts were remapped.
by Donna JT Smith, 2017

Time passes on. I savor each precious moment spent with Sierra.  

Although I am late with this writing, I will  Celebrate This Week with Ruth Ayres and slice with Two Writing Teachers.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Springsations Gallery Unveiled

Designed by Carol Varsalona
featuring a Community of Reflective Writers

Each year, Spring arrives of its own accord,
renewing the world as it bursts forth
with color and joy!

The sun just touched the morning;
The morning, happy thing,
Supposed that he had come to dwell,
And life would be all spring.
-Emily Dickinson

I glanced out the window at the signs of spring. 
The sky was almost blue, the trees were almost budding, 
the sun was almost bright. 
Millard Kaufman, Bowl of Cherries

Ah! The signs of spring have been wonderfully visible this season:
Terje Akke discovered Estonia adorned in springtime bloom

Kumud Ajmani found clarity as sunset closed day in Ohio

Join me in taking a contemplative gallery walk through nature that is richly showcased in digital inspirations and music.

Begin by listening to R. Clayderman's, 
Hello Spring.

Admire the lush greens and vibrant techno-colors of nature's loving handiwork adorned in each digital inspiration.

Westbury Gardens, Long Island

Kent Kristensen
Landscapes have a language of their own, expressing the soul of the things, lofty or humble, which constitute them, from the mighty peaks

Jerry Toups, New Jersey

to the smallest of the tiny flowers hidden in the meadow grass. -Author unknown

Let the majesty of nature awaken your soul
and heart center.

Listen to the calming sounds of 

Joyful Spring by Giovanni Marradi.

Let your joy burst forth like the vibrant 

flowers of spring!

Ramona Behnke, Washington
Terje Akke, Estonia
Like a flower, just opened,
hiding secrets
in my heart,
I have room to bloom,
to stretch and expand
into sunshine,
one petal at a time.
No rush, no hurry,
nothing to prove.
I am each petal,
each leaf,
the stem,
and the roots,
holding deep and sure.
I am time itself,
measured in thoughts
and raindrops.
Brenda Harsham, 2017

Flowers can't solve all problems,

but they're a great start.
-Country Living

Irish daffodils greet the morning!

Rain is grace;

rain is the sky descending to the earth;

without rain, there would be no life.
-John Updike

Fishing on the dock after the rain in Ogdensburg, NY-submitted by Chris Carmen

Nature has a language of its own.

-Alexandra David-Neel

Take a photo tour of springtime

around the globe.

Estonia by Terje Akke

Norway by Gail Boddy

Ireland by Delia Garrity

Hawaii by Kimberly Hays

Colorado by Linda Baie
Craig Zabransky

Nature is the perfect backdrop

for inspiration.

The beach, ocean, or other water bodies

are places of peace or adventure

when springtime arrives.

 under pillowed sky
beachfront lives tuck soft-toed dreams-
swooshing waves sweep shore
balancing springtime's longing-
possibilities in sand
©CV, 2017

Trees are poems the earth

writes upon the sky...

Kahil Gibran

Jerry Toups, New Jersey

Spring allows us to see the world

through different lenses.

Through Art
Elizabeth Druart, HS Student
Michelle Kogan

Through Children's Eyes

Through Humor

Through #StuVoice

Through Video Poetry

View Kevin's video poem here.
View CV's video poem here.

Through Writing

Promise and peace are offered each 

springtime sunrise and sunset.

Morning has broken - Kent Kristensen
Laura Purdi Salas, Minnesota

Springtime is the season for

spring cleaning and renewal.

Springtime has been the topic of many songs

throughout the ages.

Listen to the following original composition

by@PSAcreates here.

Pete Seeger's song was inspiration

for a poem.

Kay McGriff

Spring brings awareness of Earth's riches.

We are the stewards of the Earth.

Listen to What Have They Done To The Rain

Joan Baez described Malvina Reynold's song as a song that "protests rather gently." It is one of the earliest--and one of the few--songs concerned with the issues of environmentalism and pollution. -Song Review by William Ruhlmann

Young Poets' Corner

Deb Shackell's First Grade Student, Canada
Christie Wyman's Kindergarten Class

Let us all remember Rumi's thoughts:

Be Silent Now-

Let yourself become living poetry!

With grateful appreciation,

I thank all those who contributed to

this lush gallery of springtime beauty.


In closing the gallery walk of Springsations, 

let us remember:

 "Three things remain with us from paradise, 

stars, flowers and children."
-Dante Alighieri

Terje Akke

You can visit the following galleries that

integrate the arts, technology, and poetry

by clicking on the individual titles.






Thank you for perusing Springsations.

Please return at the end of a sunkissed

summer for a new gallery that showcases

nature in its finest light.