Friday, December 27, 2019

Holiday Countdown

The countdown to our family's Christmas holiday started last weekend when we planned our trip. While the route from Long Island to Northern Virginia is not easy lately, it is one I anxiously await. 

After arriving in Reston, I started the countdown to Christmas with my 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter.  I woke early on  Christmas morning to find a glorious sight.

sunrise slipped through
winter trees, breaking silence-
earth bowed its head
©CV, 2019

Santa arrived a little later in his usual fashion, full of Christmas spirit.

jolly ho-ho-ho 
bells ringing, door clanking-
wide-eyed child listens
©CV, 2019

Now after the Christmas holiday, I begin two new countdowns: one to the new decade and the other to the birth of a January granddaughter. What could be better than ringing in the new year with a new addition to our family?  

winter joy, wonder
and hope fills frosted air-
new life cometh
©CV, 2019

There is one last countdown. As we travel back to Long Island, we are tired and feel cramped in our overpacked car. We long for the last stretch home but the trip seems endless. I decide to write a Fib, a poem created by Gregory K. Pincus using a Fibonacci sequence. The number of syllables in the following six-line poem is the sum of the previous two lines:  1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8.

Holiday Angst
like a slug,
hug holiday roads
filled with sore, worn-out travelers.
©CV, 2019

It’s Poetry Friday and finally arrived home after a long, tedious trip. There were some bright spots along the way, time to write and the opportunity to visit Michelle Kogan's site since she is the host of the final Poetry Friday roundup of the decade and an avid spokesperson on the environment and social justice issues.  

While my Poetry Friday sign shows snowflakes, I found no snow upon arrival. That is a plus when driving. Have a Happy New Year and a wonderful start to a new decade!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Tis the Season!

This week is crunch time in my home. There is always so much to do at this time of year: decorating, shopping, watching Hallmark movies, and baking, one of my passions. Being passionate about the holidays brings back the best of years-gone-by memories. Each Christmas season, I search for my favorite holiday cookie recipes that have been part of our family's traditional Christmas event. So, this year, I take out my favorite recipe book, Christmas From the Heart of The Home, by Susan Branch. My son decided to bake with me this week and true to tradition, I pulled out Susan Branch's book and created several recipes that were my mother's favorites. 

by Phoebe Boswall

Smells of baking remind me of you.
Your red apron, my small striped one with the torn pocket.
Your soft stretched skin, fingers kneading dough
into a ball. My fat floury hands
grasped for your amber necklace,
Quick, Phoebe, the oven!

You played with flavors,
made little blogs of buttery dough on the tray
Your warm kitchen, my safe haven.

You taught me your language:
bicarbonate of soda, self-raising flour, vanilla extract,
milliliters of milk, grams of sugar:
caster, muscovado, granulated.

Now your apron hangs empty on the peg.
I wear it from time to time; mine with the torn pocket
doesn't fit anymore.
Feeling nostalgic after baking a batch of one of my favorite holiday cookies, I decided to craft a golden shovel poem using the strike line: Smells of baking remind me of you.

Tis the season for sweet smells
to deliciously scent the hub of
my home. Each whiff of holiday baking
brings back sugary memories; remind
family of chocolate tastings, and me
recreating a long-seated passion of
baking with heart and following you.
©CV, 2019
Tomorrow, I will continue to bake and try my best not to be the messy baker I am in tribute of a loving artist, baker, and creative mother who offered her heart to all. 
Now, it is time to join this week's Poetry Friday host Buffy Silverman, children's author and poet of nonfiction books. Buffy is bringing to the writing community her almost solstice edition of Poetry Friday that focuses on the wonder of Liz Garton Scanlon's new lyrical book, One Dark Bird.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Holiday Magic

Lazily climbing out of bed to start the day, I feel the heartbeat of the holiday season upon me. Holiday tasks await-one week left to decorate the house, wrap the gifts, and pack the bags for a family holiday in Virginia. It is the time of year to share love and kindness to one and all.

With holiday crunch time upon me, so like a Christmas elf, I dust off the boxes of time gone by and start the business of spreading the spirit of the holidays throughout my house. But for a moment, I pause to ponder the meaning of "giving". As I carefully unwrap the decorations from my Christmas bins, I remember holidays past. Hopes, sorrows-family gathering memories tumble out from the boxes of wrapped treasures. Endless thoughts spinning as the CD turntable makes its way through holiday songs. One holiday, in particular, comes to mind-the year I spent the Christmas holiday in isolation at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, exhausted from four months of intense chemo treatments. In the midst of sadness, I found joy and kindness flowing. Even housekeeping knew what to say to brighten a day. A lesson was learned that year. Life is fragile and uncertain. Family love becomes a strength in challenging times. Hope reigns. With those thoughts in mind and gratitude in my heart, I return to decorating the tree as a tribute to all that is blessed and joyful during the holidays. 

There is undeniable magic in the air during the days before Christmas. I stack the Christmas cards from friends near and far in a Santa mail carrier and gather twitter greetings across my screen. Next, I wrap the gifts for our church's underprivileged in hopes that my packages will bring joy to those families and light the house with luminesce glow as a precursor to the Light of the World soon to enter. 

Holiday magic.
What does it mean?
Can wishes be wrapped
in dreams unseen?

This year, the holidays are filled with a sense of expectancy as:
the world waits for a new decade
and the family waits for a second grandchild.
May there be a special light to brighten your world.
I send a special greeting and gifts of light and hope to all friends and slicers who write with heart at Two Writing Teachers.  May your holidays be filled with joy.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Quiet Morning

In the stillness of the night, snow quietly entered to cradle a sleepy neighborhood in a blanket of warmth. Not until early morning did I realize the gift of late autumn snow nature presented. My leaf-strewn neighborhood was transformed into a wonder-filled, peaceful scene. I captured that tranquil image, digitized it with the app, MobileMonet, and created a #haikuforhealing/#haikuforhope.

From this image poem, I designed a music collage with the app, PicPlayPost. The music complemented the scene and let the day start with a sense of contentment to embrace the day giving a nod to my one little word for 2019. You can see the music collage on YouTube or below.

Switching my thoughts back to an amazing Thanksgiving/birthday holiday at Hotel Hershey, I started the holiday season with autumn's glow and good cheer. The experience brought out the child in all of us as we celebrated the beginning of the holiday season with my granddaughter.

May the spirit of the holidays bring hope to all!

Now, I am traveling over to Elizabeth Steinglass' site, the host of Poetry Friday, to enjoy some poetry magic. Liz has an original poem about a short word that is so important. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

NCTE19 Inspires Educators

Four days of continual learning, meet-ups with friends, books, giveaways, lines to stand in, and good times-that is what #NCTE19 is like the weekend before Thanksgiving 2019.

Inspiration finds a place at the convention all day long!

I shared the above visual presentation at my regional meeting of Long Island literacy leaders on Tuesday morning and created this blog, but I fell asleep before sending this post out to Two Writing Teachers

Enjoy the quotes from some of the literary luminaries I either spoke with or joined their presentations and my summation of the NCTE 19 Convention in a cherita poetic format. 


Snippets of conversations filtered through the halls.
Literary luminaries shined on stages of talk.

Inspiration found its place
among the crowds of 8,000 attendees.
Educators left with a sense of wonder and a suitcase full of books.
©CV, 2019

Friday, December 6, 2019

Creating Digital Art with Flair

Late autumn snow painted earth early before my neighborhood woke. Snow sparkled in its coat of white but the glorious Sun decided to restore Autumn so Winter had to wait its turn. 

This week, a slicer friend of mine, Arjeha, who writes at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life shared a post on a poetry session attended at NCTE 19. The form discussed, Sijo, originated in Korean. While trying out the syllable count of 44-46 syllables, I attempted to introduce the poem in line 1 with 14-16 syllables, develop the poem in line 2 in 14-16 syllables, and create a twist and conclude the poem in line 3 with 14-16 syllables. 

Yesterday for Spiritual Journey first Thursday, I reflected on my one word, embrace with this digital inspiration below.
Life's a Puzzlement

For this week's Slice of Life, I chose to write a haibun, starting with a prose poem and following with a haiku based on my glorious Thanksgiving/birthday celebration with my family at Hershey Hotel in Pennsylvania:

The countryside was awake with the glow of late autumn. Stillness surrounded except for the intermittent chatter of children playing in the gardens. The landscape was regal in its color of golden-brownish hues and fresh air was plentiful. Inhaling the scent of autumn mixed with the hint of chocolate from Hotel Hershey provided a euphoric sense of contentment. 

Experimenting with poetic formats and digital tools is a wonder-filled experience that I enjoy. Thank you for joining me in my creativity playground.

seasons find time to 
dance in gratitude for life-
pause, notice, wonder
©CV, 2019

It has been a busy week so I am grateful to join Tanita Davis, host of Poetry Friday, for a toast to being grateful. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Reflecting on My One Little Word

2019 tiptoed in with my one little word. "Embrace" slowly filtered into my life, gently prodding me to move beyond worry and seek new beginnings. With an energetic flow, I started the year with a blog post and intent to embrace new chances at happiness. There were uphill climbs, sweet surprises, and repeat performances at embracing life. Along the way, lessons were learned. Today with my Spiritual Journey first Thursday writing friends, I look back to poetically reflect on this past year.

Life's a Puzzlement!
The decade will conclude its journey in a few weeks so it's time to reflect on how effectively I have approached my mantra, Embrace the flow. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 notes, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...a time to embrace and a time to refrain." With this in mind, I ask myself one reflective question:

What did I learn from my one little word, embrace?
-Trying to accomplish much in a short time does not work.
-Prioritizing is important.
-Life is fragile and uncertain. I must learn how to deal with unexpected interrupters with faith as a guide.
-Embracing life with positivity is a mantra that will joyfully lead me into the next decade.

What steps will I take to Embrace the Flow? 
-Faithfully reflact (reflect with action steps) to determine how to nudge beyond my comfort zone.
-Notice and wonder more to observe what is around me that provides beauty, peace, and rest.
-Combine the richness of all my one little words to open my heart to listen more intently, believe with undeniable faith, find joy in all tasks, and hope in this method of embracing all aspects of living.
-Believe in the power of God who is the ultimate planner of my life journey.

I thank my Spiritual Journey first Thursday writing friends led by our gentle and creative host, Irene Latham, for the opportunity to ponder and grow spiritually in a world of ups and down. 

Before I join the group, I will add few thoughts on my process. My digital inspiration, Life's a  Puzzlement, was created through a series of steps: nature photos of Long Island during various seasons and a selfie shot with my iPhone, photos stylized and digitized with FotoJet, poem composed, and finally embedded on the artistic background. The poem was fashioned after reading the mentor text, The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Autumn's Glow

The countryside was awake with the glow of late autumn. Stillness surrounded except for the intermittent chatter of children playing in the gardens. The landscape was regal in its color of golden-brownish hues and fresh air was plentiful. Inhaling the scent of autumn mixed with the hint of chocolate from Hotel Hershey provided a euphoric sense of contentment. 
With autumn in the air, my 2-year-old granddaughter and the family made memories at the sweetest place on the East Coast. Wide-eyed and energized with excitement for each new experience she saw, Sierra strolled Hershey Gardens overlooking the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania. There she found a hall of trees exquisitely decorated for the holidays, a tropical butterfly room filled with brilliantly-colored butterflies and exotic moths, a children's garden, winding paths, and huge trees, one named Sierra Redwoods which delighted her.
Sierra Kathryn standing next to Sierra Redwood

All of this countryside beauty, the warmth of family, and so much more provided the perfect setting for my birthday and Thanksgiving celebration of life. What more could I ask for? Plenty of chocolate surrounded me, a massage therapist at the spa awaited my arrival, and interesting delicacies were plenty. It was a picture-postcard holiday with family. 

Sierra, summed up her feeling with a hilarious statement, "I'm going to party all night!" (...and that she did until the adults were more tired than she.)
While we visited Hershey when my adult children were young, we never experienced the full Hotel Hershey experience. During this trip, I found Hotel Hershey to be a true historic treasure, rightfully named 2018 "Best Historic Resort" by Historic Hotel of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. Lovely accommodations, beautiful views, gourmet food, an amazing museum of historic facts, memorabilia, and story, and plentiful activities allowed me to make delightful memories that I will cherish for years to come. Will my granddaughter remember this holiday? Perhaps, not every part but her digital photo album will provide a look back at a wonderful family memory. 
#TravelTuesday is approaching so I am moving over to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Tuesday. Join me in celebrating a slice of my life. Then, look for my Abundant Autumn Gallery of Artistic Expressions to arrive on social media.