Here Comes the Sun: Part 2

the sky west of Sherman Creek Orchard

"Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right
It's all right "

I did a post on December 28th entitled Here Comes the Sun. That may have been the last time I captured such needed images of sun and blue sky until today. Sunshine can bring out laughter, smiles, cars to the car wash, neighbors waving hello, and dogs running with pleasure. As I loaded up for a trip to town this morning I packed my camera thinking I may get a few good shots. Here is my Saturday Sunshine collection:looking back at our sunroom as the rays pierce through a pine treea horse fence poised in front of a brilliant sky with a single jet stream heading down to Haag Cove campground the icy field stood empty and still looking north the mountains are still covered with snow Through the trees Lake Roosevelt shimmered from the reflection of the sun at the campground.

When I used to hear "Here Comes the Sun" I always thought of the Beatles, Abbey Road, the Humdinger, and the summer of 1970. Today I think of James Taylor and Yo Yo Ma and their duet released in October on Yo Yo Ma's CD "Songs of Joy and Peace". This CD has such an amazing collection of duets, but of course my favorite is Yo Yo and James Taylor. If you haven't checked out the CD, I recommend it. Enjoy some time here with Yo Yo and JT.

Writer's Meme

painting by Georgia O'Keefe

I found this meme on Rondi's blog May's Day. I thought it would be fun to try.

What’s your favorite genre of writing?

I really like to write memoir

How often do you get writer’s block?

Not very often because I have many books with inspiring prompts to use.

How do you fix it?

return to those books, walk in the garden, or go on a photo hunt

Do you type or write by hand?

I used to always write by hand. I still do in my journal, but other writing is word processed.

Do you save everything you write?

Yes, I do. I try to set a good example for my students because I have them collect writing. I still have pieces I wrote in classes twenty years ago!

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
All the time. I found a poem I had written about a box in the closet many years ago. I tried it again and used it in class.

Do you have a constructive critic?
Many... a friend Bev, my brother who was our visiting writer at the retreat last summer, a poet that willingly reads my stuff when I ask, and my students.

Did you ever write a novel?

No, I have never been interested in big projects like a novel.

What genre would you love to write but haven’t?

I would love to write travel pieces about the Pacific Northwest and places I have visited and informational essays on gardening.

What’s one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
Horror /scary stuff

How many writing projects are you working on right now?

I am always writing for my blogs, working on a cookbook project, poetry, and some professional writing.

Do you write for a living? Do you want to?
No and I don't want to because I am afraid I wouldn't enjoy it as much if my livelihood depended on it.

Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?

I have written articles for both magazines and newspapers.

Have you ever won an award for your writing? No

What are your five favorite words?

glistening, hope, wondrous, serene, memories

Do you ever write based on your dreams?no

Do you favour happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?Happy endings

Have you ever written based on an artwork you’ve seen? Yes, I did a series of exercises with poetry based on famous works of art like the one above.

Now ... this is enough writing for today. Try the meme. It will help you examine your own writing life.


How many ways can you say it?
How many ways can you explain it?
How many ways can you illustrate it?

It has been really, really cold. Last Friday the heat stopped working in my classroom. When I arrived it was 46 degrees and it finally reached 56 by the end of the day. That is pretty darn cold to think and work.
The ice has never melted on top of our snow and the parking lot at school has a path of ice I get to navigate each morning heading inside.
When I watch my car thermometer as I drive to school, it drops all the way south down the lake until I reach school and it has read 2 degrees, 5 degrees, and 11 degrees this week.
Wearing my scarf and gloves all day has helped, but they don't always match my outfit!
Wearing wool socks and lined boots keeps my feet warm, but make it tough to stand on my feet.

I need to be like these cats and find a warm place inside at home...or sit in the sunroom and feel the warmth on my back....or be Kit and go anywhere that is warm!! I heard a rumor the weather is going to warm up above freezing next week!

Reading Like a Writer

" An absolutely necessary addition to the personal library of anyone who is a writer or dreams of writing, but it's also a terrific choice for anyone that loves to read." -National Public Radio

I have started, stopped, revisited and now continued with this book since last summer. As I read this book I think of so many of you that would love it. She opens the book by posing the questions "Can creative writing be taught?","Can the love of language be taught?", "Can a gift for storytelling be taught?" She would say no.

As a teacher herself she doesn't feel creativity can be transported from teacher to student. She then begins to reveal to all of us her ongoing process of becoming a writer and invites readers to notice great writers that have continued to provide models of inspiration in her own process. Often as readers we are engrossed in the story line and the action with the characters and don't think to take apart the paragraphs, sentences, and words and look at it for the writing. Studying some of her examples has made a difference as I have tried reading like a writer. It may be a second reading of a part of a book. It may be revisiting paragraphs that stayed in your mind long after you put a book down.

She then introduces things that can be learned and that is where I am at. I look forward to reading the rest of the book. She has a list at the end called "Books to Be Read Immediately". Since I haven't read many of the books on the list I have obviously not been reading as a writer! Some of the titles included are Middlemarch by George Elliot, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

" On a very basic level, I can't figure out why people would want to write unless they like to read. I mean, what would be the point? For the incredibly glamorous fast track lifestyle? I don't think so." - Francine Prose

Creating A Community: Leave No Writer Behind

Every day I read good writing. I read it as my students imprint their thoughts to paper. I read it on blogs that fill me with appreciation, laughter, amazement, and curiosity every day. I read it in literature, magazines, and online.

Recently I asked my students to reflect on their writing. On an exam I asked the question," What made your writing better first semester?" For my newest students in sixth grade I smiled at their answers like " I write more, and more, and more", "I don't complain so much about doing writing," and "I use bigger, stronger words." Part of creating writers ( or better writers) is to help them view themselves as writers. Even more important is to create a writing community.

Blog sites like Sunday Scribblings create that community each week as bloggers from all over the world respond to the same prompt. Building a blogroll from my own personal blog has helped me build a writing community among other very talented writers. When I have worked with adult writers at our annual writing retreat building that community is as important. I strive to create that same environment in my classroom. It isn't always easy. Young adult writers can be hurt easily. They can also be shy to share their words. After working with my sixth graders ninety days in class I am beginning to see them shed some of their insecurities. It has taken lots of baby steps.

I nuture these writers by providing time, practice, feedback, and celebration. In the busyness of preparing students for state testing, making sure we make Adequate Yearly Progress and Leave No Child Behind teachers have to carve out time for the process of writing. In my experience with students I have learned to move out of the way and give them time and practice. I am there to provide feedback along with their fellow students and families. The icing on the cake is to celebrate their wondrous words by having an author chair, read-arounds, or provide places for them to publish. I look forward to continuing with this community of writers as we move into second semester.

In closing I think one student really figured out how to be successful in my class.
" I think the best thing I can do is write about things my teacher enjoys like dogs, flowers, and things that make her laugh. It is called buttering up the teacher!"
I call it embracing individuality and leaving no writer behind!



The hen flings a single pebble aside
with her yellow, reptilian foot.
Never in eternity the same sound-
a small stone falling on a red leaf.

The juncture of twig and branch,
scarred with lichen, is a gate
we might enter, singing.

The mouse pulls batting
from a hundred-year-old quilt.
She chewed a hole in a blue star
to get it, and now she thrives...
Now is her time to thrive.

Things: simple lasting, then
failing to last: water, a blue heron's
eye, and the light passing
between them: into light all things
must fall, glad at last to have fallen.

-Jane Kenyon
from Otherwise, New and Selected Poems

Everyone Needs a Spot: Makeover Project #3

Just as we are completing the third makeover project around our house I finally see the sun peeking out from behind a gray cloud cover that has been hovering for many day. Now we can stop and I won't have to beat the winter blues. JEJ breathed a sigh of relief!
The front bedroom/guest room/computer room/home office now became the study. I was amazed how much I could pull into this room to make it coordinate. JEJ added the new paint, but with the exception of the candles on the wall and the striped Kleenex box, everything else was somewhere in the house before. Again, a makeover that didn't cost much.I love my writing table in front of the window and will enjoy watch spring burst forth in a few months.
There is something about having things organized on shelves... even if it doesn't last.
This beautiful print " Dancer of the Coeur d' Alenes " by Carrie Stuart Parks needed a better place to hang. Her watercolor was to commemorate the Historic Skills Fair at the Cataldo Mission in 1990. Our families have been connected for over fifty years and Carrie was raised and still lives close to the Mission. I love to have this reminder of family and historic connection hanging in this room.

I still want to use the east wall to display some of my own photos. I think I will go to the study and sit. The redone bathroom was a great sitting room, but the chair will be more comfortable here!
The colors in this room are from the Ace Colors of Your Life. The combination is Siesta ( walls), Northern Exposure , and Pink Lady ( which was the color that was "to pop"... my it does pop!). Of course, Kit always makes himself at home and looks like he belongs there. JEJ did all the hard work on this project.. I just rearranged and accessorized. Thanks JEJ!
Click any pictures to enlarge and see the details!

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers

This is a photo image JEJ captured from the deck a couple of weeks ago when we had a sunrise. I am holding on to hope we will see another one this winter. sigh.

Hope is The Thing With Feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

- Emily Dickinson

Beating the Winter Blues: Makeover Project #2

“I can't think of any sorrow in the world that a hot bath wouldn't help, just a little bit.”-Susan Glasee

When I moved into this house, the main bathroom was designed with beautiful wood around the tub, low light, and high white walls. The whole room was pretty simple. It worked for me though. Somewhere in the scheme of makeover projects during the last week, it came up to redo the bathroom. I am so glad we took on the bathroom. It is hard to see much with this picture, but there was a lot of blank wall space.
After much consideration, the colors of platinum gray, a lovely blue called Blue Waltz, and navy all combined into a bathroom makeover. The beautiful painting by a local high school artist that was a gift worked well with the color scheme as wall decor.

Last night I had a new room that I just wanted to sit in for the sake of sitting. I don't think I have ever used the bathroom just for a sitting room! Perhaps when the whole project is done I can soak in the tub and take it all in!

Beating the Winter Blues: Makeover Project #1

When it is gray and cloudy outside and the weather is too cold to appreciate an outdoor activity, it is time to move indoors and plan some makeovers. For my birthday gift JEJ offered to paint the main bathroom and the study. As always happens with makeover projects... one thing leads to another. When we realized all the furniture wouldn't fit back into the study we did a makover of the sunroom. Above are the shelves moved from the study.JEJ did some contract work a few years ago at my school. He built new shelves in classrooms which meant there were some beautiful old, varnished wood shelves that were going to be trashed. They came home with him. We had the two sets of shelves divided and placed in two rooms. Saturday we created a new shelf setup in the sunroom to hold the gardening books. We left them just the way they were with the shiny varnish intact. I like having all the books in one place. The sunroom is a nice place to sit with seed catalogs, gardening books , and a warm fire while dreaming and planning the 2009 gardens. We may not even notice the gray skies and dirty snow if we stay in the sunroom! Click the pictures to get a larger view if you want to check out my favorite gardening books.

Good news about this makeover. It was free! Makeovers can never end with one project. Stay tuned in days to come as I post our other makeovers taking place as I write.

Teaching and the Many Hats I Wear

I have now taught my students almost ninety days this school year. Some of you have asked "What do you teach all day?" Being in a school of about 200 students K-12 I definitely wear many hats. Originally when I arrived at my school I was hired to reorganize the Title I reading and math program, which is a federally funded program to support students struggling in reading and/or math. The program has staff pull students for tutoring or move into classrooms to provide learning opportunities. We also coordinate a summer school program. I now have another teacher and three paraeducators as part of this program.

Once the program was in place, I asked to add classroom teaching to my "duties as assigned"! I really missed working with students of my own in the classroom. Now about a third of my day is working in Title I and Learning Assistance Program K-12 and two-thirds is spent teaching sixth grade writing, and seventh grade and eight grade language arts. That pretty much fills up my day. Of course there are times that I charge iPods, wipe tears, listen to stories students need to tell, and do playground duty. We are busy and the days go fast. One advantage in our school is small class size. None of my classes have more than seventeen students. I also loop the same students all through middle school so I know them pretty well by the time the finish 8th grade.

I love this time of year at the end of the first semester. I can sit back and reflect on student learning and celebrate the growth my students have made. I look forward to the next ninety days. I also look forward to the day there aren't ice chunks outside my classroom door and kids don't need assistance walking from the basketball court to the door over the ice!This is the ice that has not melted yet outside my classroom door.

Praise Song for the Day

photo by Callie Shell/Time magazine

Inaugural Poem, January 20, 2009

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise.

All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day.

Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day.

Praise song for every hand-lettered sign;

The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national.

Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

by Elizabeth Alexander

I could only find a transcript so I don't know if this is how it is organized by lines. I wasn't able to watch the inauguration,but later I appreciated the mix of words. I loved the sound of brink, brim, cusp. I loved the image of dirt roads, raising bridges, and figuring it out at the kitchen table. I loved the feel of "love that casts a widening pool of light." It was a praise song for "walking forward in that light." I thought the picture above captured our president and president elect walking forward in the light.

Winter Tour: Fortunately, Unfortunately

I love the picture book Fortunately by Remy Charlip. This week-end I was finally home when it was light outside so I could tour the property and survey the effects of winter. This book kept coming to mind.
Fortunately the snow is still piled high enough that Shelby can still play Rin Tin Tin and watch over the neighborhood.
Unfortunately it is still almost impossible to get the car in the garage.
Fortunately the ivy under the eaves has survived the winter.
Unfortunately some climbing roses got hit with the snowplow and we don't know the damage.
Fortunately the trellis is still standing after it was covered with snow for weeks.
Unfortunately one lawn decoration didn't get put away and it is buried in this frozen snow bank. I spotted the pretty copper color glinting in the sun.
Fortunately there are actually buds coming out on the lilacs, forsythia, and serviceberries in the yard.
Unfortunately they may be buried in snow again in a week.
Fortunately this crabapple tree has food for the birds.
Unfortunately the feeders are impossible to fill right now because of the snow.
Fortunately we had snow shovels when they were a scarce item a few weeks ago.
Unfortunately that meant JEJ had to use them!
Fortunately the sun came out and the sky was blue so we could get some Vitamin D.
Unfortunately I was sequestered in the study grading tests and scoring writing to be ready for the semester end this week.

4X4 Photo Meme: Bucket of Fire

I saw this meme in many variations as I visited blogs this week-end. My sister Silver Valley Girl sent it this way so I'll try it. The only difference with the others were the number of the folder and picture.

So here are the rules:

1. Go to the fourth folder where you keep your photos.

2. Post the fourth picture in that folder.

3. Explain the picture.

4. Tag four fellow bloggers to join in the fun.

All fellow bloggers.... join in and let me know so I can come peek!Here is my fourth picture in my fourth folder. This is not a new fireplace for our gazebo. When the weather was so cold the smoke stopped going out the top of the chimney. I thought I was doing something wrong in building up the fire when JEJ was gone. The whole sunroom filled up with an awful smoke. The same thing happened to JEJ. He took the burning firewood out of the stove, put it in a coal bucket and placed it in the snow. I had to take a picture of it because it did look like a bucket to warm up while shoveling or building a snowman. This cute fire burned a long time. The problem? When the weather was so cold the moisture on the mesh around the top of the chimney combined with soot froze and the smoke couldn't get out. JEJ hit it with a snow shovel while removing snow on the roof and once again the sunroom wood stove worked beautifully.

Sibling Assignment #88: Fog

Raymond Pert gave the sibling assignment this week. It was one word: Fog. You will soon find his here and Silver Valley Girl's here.
A found poem is created by taking lines, phrases, and passages from other sources and reframing them as a poem. This poem was created by pulling lines from a variety of poems on the theme of fog.

Found in the Fog

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

Open the door now.
Go roll up the collar of your coat
To walk in the changing scarf of mist.

Light refracting and pulsing
new frost clinging
shrub and nettle,
goldenrod and milkweed
blanketed, crystallized
in frozen fog.

A heavy fog clings like cobwebs to the naked limbs of winter’s trees.

It cushions away the sounds of life;

All morning bathed in a dovelike brooding.

Living without faith is like driving in a fog.

The Sun took down his Yellow Whip
And drove the Fog away.

Like a deep rich fog
so is the grace of God
ever present in our lives.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

a found poem created by InlandEmpireGirl

photos taken at home and around Lake Roosevelt

Stay Gold

One of my classes is reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. When students have time to read in class you can hear a pin drop. Students really relate to Ponyboy, Johnny, Cherry, the Greasers and the Socs. To help them understand the period and location of setting of the book I introduce the unit with the first part of the movie. The Outsiders opens with Stevie Wonder singing "Stay Gold." Students are used to seeing a theme throughout a movie or at the end. This surprises them. Some aren't familiar with Stevie Wonder and the song seems a bit "cheesy" as some remarked. After immersing ourselves in the book then watching the whole movie the song makes sense. Of course, it ties in nicely with "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost, which Ponyboy recites after he runs away. Today the song took on a whole new meaning. One of the contestants trying out on " American Idol" sang it last night. I don't watch the show, but there were certainly enough of my students that heard it last night. I was surprised they remembered the song! I found a live performance by Stevie Wonder that reminded me how important this song is to the theme of the book.

"Stay Gold"

Seize upon that moment long ago
One breath away and there you will be
So young and carefree
Again you will see
That place in gold

Steal away into that way back when
You thought that all would last forever
But like the weather
Nothing can ever...and be in time
Stay gold

But can it be
When we can see
So vividly
A memory
And yes you say
So must the day
Too, fade away
And leave a ray of sun
So gold

Life is but a twinkling of an eye
Yet filled with sorrow and compassion
though not imagined
All things that happen
Will age too old
Though gold

If you haven't heard him perform this song for awhile... enjoy!

Surrounded by Angels

"The magnitude of life is overwhelming. Angels are here to help us take it peace by peace. " ~Levende WatersMy mom has an incredible collection of angels. Some of the angels sit above the living room windows on shelves and look down on all of us lovingly all year. Other angels appear during the holiday season to surround the nativity, gather as a choir, or hang from trees. It was fun to catch a variety of photos from the beautiful angels.