Thursday, June 25, 2020


I am practicing what I "preach" this week, as I prepare remote lessons for the ELA Summer Institute graduate class that I will teach online.  Teaching in this fashion is a brand-new experience for me. I do believe that teacher-learners need to move beyond their comfort zone if they are to guide students to do the same but what a journey it is to be caught in a cyberspace storm. While learning the Canvas platform, I cyberspace swooped down and sucked up major portions of my work with just a click. My blunder! A few more of these led me to be more vigilant and persistent. I was frustrated but eager to move through the frenzy of getting my work finished but when my husband suggested that I join him and my son for a walk on the boardwalk, I realized that I deserved a break. Off I went into the car, starring at the bright sunshine and wondering what I would find at the beach.  The lure of a seaside walk on a beautiful June day was too appealing to worry about work. 

Masked with iPhone in hand, I stepped from the ramp onto the boardwalk and listened to the sound of the sea lapping the shore. I scanned the beach looking for signs of compliance. Social distancing was seen on the beach as well as the boardwalk. Even the gulls swooped in a format that fit quarantine life. 

What a splendid afternoon walk I had. I left the beach in wonderment of nature and its constancy while wondering if this is what a weekend day at the beach would look like?  Probably not, but I want to hope for the best! 

The sea has a soothing effect on my quarantine life perspective. Inspired by the sights and sounds of the beach, I returned home to find the poem on wonderment I wrote for a poetry swap for Brenda Harsham.  My walk in the sun by the sea led me to pair the poem with a question for my teacher-learner students. Where will wonder lead you this fall? 

I certainly can say that poetry allows me to be in a state of awed admiration of nature. My jaunt to the beach was medicine for the body, mind, spirit, and soul. Poetic thoughts were flowing as I watched the waves swoop to shore and gulls swoon in sweeping gestures. 

As I finish tonight's work for my course, I join the Poetry Friday Roundup at my friend Karen Eastland's Blog, Karen's Got a Blog!  Come, join me for some more poetry goodness.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

From Newborn to 3-Years-Old

The years have passed quickly between newborn wonder and three-years of age.  When I saw photos of my little granddaughter rock climbing (one of her favorite outings) with the T-shirt label, Young, Wild, & Three, I knew that line captured her spirit. So, inspired by these photos and a T-shirt, I took my digital pen in hand and created an after-birthday poem. 

With purple being Sierra's favorite color and lilacs a flower that brings me back to my own childhood, I created a golden shovel poem using poet Amy Lowell's poem, Lilacs, and the strike line, "You are the smell of all Summers."  If you read downward from the first line end word, you will see the strike line emerge. 

I see you
as you are
laughing in the
 woods, whiffing the smell
of pine, searching for wonders of
delight. There is a warm touch of love in all
your smiles and hugs. I long for our endless summers.
©CVarsalona, 2020

It's the Poetry Friday Roundup at Tricia Stohr Hunt's Miss Rumphius Effect  blog,
so join me as I share my tribute to Sierra there.

Note to Kathryn Apel, poet:
While I initially chose Amy Lowell's poem for your #PoetryPepUp Day 5 Challenge, I struggled to create a golden shovel poem from one of her beautiful but challenging lines.  It is still in the apple polishing phase. When I reread the poem and found the strike line above and paired them with the Google Photos in Sierra's album, I was energized to create a photo collage poem.)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Honoring Nikki Grimes, Poet

You can see the animated version of the card above at Buncee.

I recall one NCTE a few years ago when Poetry Friday friends were seated around a table enjoying the camaraderie of friends. Nikki Grimes was part of that group. We chatted about poetry and life. I was one of Nikki's fans so I listened carefully. Following this evening event, I was lucky to spot her at an author's signing for her new novel in verse, Garvey's Choice that won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. 

To prepare for Day 3 of my graduate school summer institute for teachers, I reread Garvey's Choice. I knew that it would be an appropriate book to be included in a text-set for a mini-unit on adolescent bullying, self-identity, and/or family and friend relationships. As I read through the book, I grew to care about Garvey as a person and student. He, like many middle year and early high school teens, is perplexed by internal conflict emanating from his relationships with his family and lack of friends.  This book is beautifully-crafted and seamlessly written in the tanka form of poetry. Nikki Grimes shares sensitivity toward her main character and visibly illustrates the growth of Garvey's identity from a boy taunted for years about his weight to one who takes pride in whom he is. You can see the Garvey's growth of self-confidence in the found poem I created with selected lines from Nikki's book.

Fill in the puzzle of me.
Fear is the flip-flop in my belly.
I take a breath. 
I'm suddenly feeling brave.
Now "fat boy" insults glide
right off like raindrops.
I'm a balloon of song,
reaching the edges of space.
Somehow, music makes me full.
Listen to my dreams.
I choose what words to let in.
Set to face a new morning,
I stand Taller.
The perfect size is happy.
Designed by ©CVarsalona, 2020
with lines from Garvey's Choice by Nikki Grimes


I listened to Nikki read "Jabari Unmasked" from One Last Word, which she says is one of her favorite books. You can listen to her video here.  I look to Nikki's work as a model for my own Golden Shovel poem writing. Below is my poem using Nikki's line, ."..still, the world needs the dreams we offer," as both the title and strike line for my poem.

Thank you Irene Latham for suggesting that we honor Nikki Grimes and her work this week at the Poetry Friday Roundup. I am heading over to the celebration at Irene's blog, Live Your Poem, where she is hosting today. I am bringing my Buncee card, this post, and grilled peaches cake because it is a Poetry Friday party for Nikki Grimes.

Poetry Friday Roundup Celebration

Note: I still have a draft of a Golden Shovel poem for Day 5 of Kat Apel's #PoetryPepUp challenge but it is still not ready for sharing. I will post the Golden Shovel poem/image poem I created above on social media noting Kat's engaging challenge last week. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Teachers as Essential Workers

It is the end of the school year and I think everyone will agree that this year has been a tumultuous one for schools around the globe. Because of the due diligence educators have given to instruction and student learning, they should be honored as the essential workers of the education field. Back in March, they came together to enter a new age of remote learning as teacher-learners. Knowing that this type of teaching was the only way children could safely continue their education during the COVID-19 quarantine, teachers embraced the call of action. 

Thousands of teachers dedicated their quarantine life teaching days to bring a sense of calm to students in need of guidance and instruction. This week, committed Long Island educators will sadly end their virtual teaching time for the 2019-20 school year. To honor their diligence to educating the whole child, we should honk horns and shout out to these passionate educators who spent time reinventing their classroom rituals and routines. Their steadfastness toward their goal of educating the whole child, allowed them to mastermind a plan from their homes.  It was not an easy path of learning but they persisted in hopes of guiding  their learners on their own journeys.  

needs to rally 'round school,
shout praise for concerned educators,
inspired to reimagine their teaching practices
during the trying times of Covid-19.
With passion in their hearts,
they came together as
armed to

For a touch of humor, Listen to teacher Michael Bruening singing ,
Will Survive, Coronavirus version fro teachers going online.

I appreciate Michael's song so I'll play it as I continue to navigate the world of online teaching via the Canvas platform. Wish me luck! My 4-day ELA Summer Graduate School Institute at the local college is soon to begin. 

In the meantime, it's Slice of Life Tuesday so I'm heading over to Two Writing Teachers to join the community of writers. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

#PoetryPepUp Fun

When the stress mounts, it's time to relax with my digital notebook and create. So that is what I did this week and joined Kathryn Apel, Aussie children's book author and poet at her poetry challenge, Poetry Pep Up. Because I mixed up the times for the first Zoom meeting, I missed that live event. Unfortunately, I will miss the second one because of the time difference but there is always the archived video of the Zoom meet that Trudie Leigo sends from Australia.
So now here is my mini-gallery of this week's attempts to build my writing muscle and spark creativity. It was pure fun as Kat hoped it would be. 

Day 1 Challenge Blog post  - Zentangle Poem Directions from Kat Apel
fragrant messages bloom
in the midst of grass.
Sunbeams filter through foliage,
mellow and golden-
rare dignity,
©CVarsalona, 2020

Day 3 Challenge Blog post - Tetractys Poem Directions from Kat Apel
   In This Moment
finds no place
as upsets mount,
protests, unrest but life moves on with hope
©CV, 2020

Day 4 Challenge Blog post - Write a Poem Inspired by a Photo Directions from Kat Apel

Just for fun, I moved out of my comfort zone and created a Quarantine Life video while outside in my garden. You can see that here.

Thanks, Kat for the enjoyable week writing alongside you. I did miss challenge 2 but plan to pen a poem for Day 5. For now, I am off to sleep but first I need to travel to the Poetry Friday Roundup at Margaret Simon's blog. Here you will find a touching letter poem Margaret penned to her students. 

Quick Note: If you offered a digital inspiration for my #NatureNurtures2020 Gallery collection please place it in the padlet that I created that you can find here

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Keeping Hope Alive

There is no denying it that agitation plus restlessness and rising conflicts are now adding to the already stressful issues related to the pandemic. Quarantine life is a series of endless days listening to or watching newscasts, reading newspapers, and trying to maintain hope. Headlines in our local newspaper highlight issues of the day. Below are a few of today's headlines from our local newspaper:
    • Floyd Protests Continue Across LI
    • New Day of LI Protests of Floyd Death
    • Trump visits shrine
    • Episcopal bishop 'outraged' by president's visit
    • Poll: Most would send kids to school (if there are social distancing measures in place)
    • Tracking the Coronavirus
Days blend into the next as most people try to bring back into place some of life's routine practices. I do not believe that we can return to life as we knew it but I do hope that positive changes can occur. Below is my go-to scripture reading that brings me comfort.

Today is the monthly meet-up of my Spiritual Journey Thursday writing community. Ruth Hersey, educator and poet from Haiti, is our host this month. She suggested that our topic be hope, her one-word for this year. Hope was my one-word guide for 2018 so I am happy to continue sharing my journey with this word. Hope is a constant companion in my life because it is a faith-filled word that brings positivity into any of my troubling or trying situations. I rely on hope and the above scripture to lift me during confusing, sad, and stressful times. Oftentimes, I turn to writing and nature for additional comfort. You can read my latest quarantine life thoughts here.

Today is also Day 3 of Kathryn Apel's #PoetryPepUp Challenge. Kat is an Aussie poet friend. She has asked us to write a tetractys and hope seems to have found its way into my poetry again. Tetractys sounds like a dinosaur (LOL) but it is a 5-lined syllable poem. 
Line 1-1 syllable
Line 2-2 syllables
Line 3-3 syllables
Line 4-4 syllables
Line 5-10 syllables
                                        In This Moment

finds no place
as upsets mount,
protests, unrest but life moves on with hope
©CV, 2020

According to the Vatican News,  on January 1, 2020, hope was at the heart of Pope Francis' World Day of Peace message. "Peace is a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family. Hope is the virtue that inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem insurmountable." 

I decided to create a commitment statement for the next month to keep hope alive. I shall practice hope daily in spite of obstacles that may seem insurmountable. How can you keep hope alive in your quarantine life?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

#QuarantineLife Musings

The afternoon sun was playing peek-a-boo as I walked around my garden marveling at the blossoms of spring. My lilac bush, full with fragrance, filled the air with a familiar scent from my childhood. I indulged in the freshness of the perfumed air while walking past the brilliance and plentitude of my rose bushes. The garden was still except for the soft music of Yanni's Butterfly Dance. I felt at peace.

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, 
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike." -John Muir

In this tranquil setting, I stepped out of my comfort zone and created a video of quarantine life. Wrapped in an outdoor mask that I made, I luxuriated in spring's bountiful blessing for a few moments. Then, I quickly shared my passion for writing and designing a gallery of artistic expressions that shares Earth's beauty. Please take a few more moments to visit Nature Nurtures! padlet

I hope the short jaunt there allows you to breathe in the freshness of spring while wandering through the collection.

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday so I am traveling to Two Writing Teachers to be quieted by the inspiration of pens scribbling across the page.
See the first piece I found there.