Linda Kulp Trout

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Poetry Friday: Grandchildren Rhymes

I had a lot of fun shopping for my grandchildren's Christmas presents!  I can't wait to see the expressions on their little faces when they open their gifts! This is Victor's first Christmas so it's all brand new to him. Evie is a two and a half  and an old pro when it comes to unwrapping presents. She'll show her brother how it's done!  There is just no greater joy than experiencing the magic of Christmas through the eyes of a child. Here are a couple of quick rhymes (really just an excuse to share photos with my Poetry Friday friends). I tried to imagine what they might be thinking, and this is what I came up with.
I wish all of you many magical moments this holiday season!

                                                   I don't care about Santa
                                                   or what he thinks of me—
                                                   'cause I'm on Grandma's Good List
                                                   and that's where I want to be!

Bright- colored sprinkles
adorn cut-out cookie dough
Oh, how beaut-i-ful!


Merry Christmas!
Heidi is our Poetry Friday holiday hostess this week at my juice little universe.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Poetry Friday: Thanku

When I was in high school, I was not a fan of poetry.  The poems we read in English class were complicated and no matter how hard I tried, I never got them.  We spent endless hours analyzing hidden meanings that remained hidden to me even after the teacher explained them to us.  To me, poetry was meant only for the intellectual elite who could comprehend it.

After my first son was born, I decided to earn my degree and become a teacher.  I majored in English and loved reading the assigned short stories, but once again the poems seemed distant and unappealing. 

Then one day while browsing the children's section in a local bookstore, I came across The Dream Keeper and Other Poems by Langston Hughes. Being a lifelong dreamer, the title appealed to me. The introduction written by Lee Bennett Hopkins inspired me to read on.  I turned to "Dreams" and like magic, I fell in love with those eight gorgeous lines.


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

(Read the rest of the poem here.)

 I read that poem again and again until it became part of me.  It was the poem that changed my life and led me to discover a passion for poetry.

Now I start the school year by reading "Dreams" to my students. I even have a poster of it hanging in the front of my classroom where students see it every day. I want them to carry it in their hearts the way I have. So when I decided to join with Teaching Authors and write a thanku, I chose the two poets who led me to believe in the possibilities of  poetry.

Thanku Langston and Lee

poetry changed me
with words of friendship, dreams, love—
so simple, so true

Thank you for stopping by! Today's Poetry Friday is hosted by Mary Lee at A Year of Reading.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Poetry Friday: Where Ideas Come From

Tonight, I'm in the middle of grading a huge stack of eighth grade essays, but I wanted to take a minute to share an interview and video of poet/author Sandra Cisneros explaining how a real life experience inspired her to write her latest book Have You Seen Marie? 

You can read more about the book and about Sandra Cisneros on her website, and you can read her one of her poems "Good Hotdogs" here.

Be sure to visit our Poetry Friday host, Ed,  at Think Kid, Think! for great poetry and book reviews.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Poetry Friday: In the Path of the Storm

We had two days off school during the hurricane. There were reports that our area would experience a lot of damage and power outages. We had two days of howling wind and heavy rain. A lot of trees came down, and there was some flooding, but no major damage to our house or neighborhood. Tonight we're counting our blessings and sending prayers to the folks in places like New Jersey and New York who suffered the worst of the storm.

On Monday and Tuesday, I spent a lot of time watching coverage of the storm. The comments made by the politicians and newscasters from their first warnings to their descriptions of the damage really stuck with me. I sat with my notebook and started jotting their words down.  Today, I'm sharing a found poem I put together from some of those comments.

        In the Path of the Storm
We learn lessons from every storm.
Please heed the warnings—
The worst is yet to come
It's time to hunker down
The damage will be

In the path of the storm,
there's nothing we can do
but ride it out the best we can.
When people think it's safe—
it can be the most

The clouds have not yet parted
with another night of darkness
it's tough to see the sun
recovery will be slow—
we are tough
It will never be the same
but we will rebuild.
We will not quit—
We learn lessons
from every
Donna at Mainely Write is our lovely hostess for this week's Poetry Friday. Hug your family tight and have a great weekend!  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Poetry Friday: Home

I can hardly believe it's been over three months since my last post. Even though I haven't participated, I've been enjoying all the great poems, book reviews, and interviews on the Poetry Friday blogs. I've missed being part of the fun.  Today I'm jumping back in so I can reconnect with with other poetry lovers.

There have been some big changes in my life lately. One of the biggest changes is that we moved.  We loved our old house, but it took a lot of time and money to maintain.  It's just the two of us now so we decided to downsize to a much smaller house.  Each week our excitement grew as we watched our dream home become a reality. We moved just two days before school started, and we worked like crazy to get unpacked and settled.  Now, eight weeks later, the furniture is arranged, pictures are hung, and life is getting back to normal. Everything looks really nice.

 So why doesn't it feel like home? Change has always been hard for me, and I've  had to make a lot of changes since we moved.  But, there seemed to be something missing, and I couldn't figure it out. So I turned to poetry for help. I pulled three collections from my bookshelf and spent a few evenings curled up on the sofa reading poems that reminded me any place can be "home."

The more I read, the more I realized that the reason it doesn't feel like home here is because this house is still empty. There are no memories to fill it up.  It's memories and traditions not rooms full of pretty furniture that make a house a home. My very sweet daughter-in-law sensed what I've been feeling and emailed me the other day with some ideas for our family Christmas gathering and new traditions we can start this year. And, right this very minute, my husband is working in the basement turning it into a perfect playground for memories with a family room, guest room, and a playroom for my grandchildren. So I'm feeling better because soon our new house will be brimming with memories.  It won't just be our house,  it will be our home.

Moving is hard, and it can be especially stressful on children. I found a lot hope and comfort in the following three collections.  The first is Home: A Journey Through America. Thomas Locker's breathtaking paintings compliment glorious poems by some of my favorite poets including: Jane Yolen, Eloise Greenfield, and Joseph Bruchac.

Front Cover

The godfather of poetry, Lee Bennett Hopkins,  brings us Home to Me: Poems Across America. Stehpne Alcorn's brillant illustrations accompany poems by many popular poets including: Janet Wong, Tony Johnston, Alice Schertle, and Ann Whitford Paul.  This book more than any other reminds me that home is the people and places we carry in our hearts.

Home To Me

Moving Day by Ralph Fletcher ( I've been a fan of his poetry since I heard him read from his first collection Water Planet way back in 1994) is filled with heartfelt poems children and adults can relate to.  One of my favorite poems from the collection starts like this:

Front Cover         Empty

With the furniture gone
our house feels different.

The rooms are echoey.
The walls are blank

except for lighter squares
where our family pictures hung.

The rest of the poem goes on to describe how although the house now feels really big,  there was "enough love/ to fill all these empty rooms."  Ralph captured just the way I felt as I looked around an old house one last time before we closed the door.  You can read more "home" poems by other poets here.

Speaking of home, Poetry Friday is home to all who love poetry. Be sure to visit this week's hostess,
Linda at TeacherDance for more poetry joy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Poetry Friday

One of the best things about subscribing to online poetry magazines is that I wake up every morning to poems in my inbox!  I always look forward to discovering poets who are new to me. This week, The Writer's Almanac published "The Fence Painter" by Richard Jones.  I liked the poem a lot and decided to search the archives and internet to read more of his poems. I realized that althougth I hadn't recognized the poet's name, I had indeed read and enjoyed his work. Today I'm sharing one of my favorite poems by Richard Jones from his collection The Blessing.

Why do poets write?

My wife, a psychiatrist, sleeps
through my reading and writing in bed,
the half-whispered lines,
manuscripts piled between us,

You can read or listen to the rest of the poem here, and read more Richard Jones' poems here.
Enjoy more poetry gems over at A Teaching Life.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Poetry Friday: Old Friends

One of the best things about summer vacation is having time to visit with old friends. Last night, I was looking through some boxes of books and came acorss The Bat Poet by Randall Jarrell.  The Bat Poet is one of the friends I turn to when I need to be reminded to be myself.

I love this story.  Every time I read it, I see connections I hadn't noticed before.  The main character is a little brown bat who struggles through inner conflict trying to find his voice. At first, he imitates the mockingbird, who he admires for her songs, but he soon realizes that imitation is not answer. When he finally decides to express himself in a way that only he can, he begins to discover his own true self.

 I've been spending a lot of time this summer trying to find my writing voice. I read writers I admire and try to learn from them.  Like the little bat, I often tend to compare myself to others who are more talented and successful.  And, at times I even try to imitate them which is always a disaster because I

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Father's Day Poem for My Sons

Your Dad
-for Chris and Tim

My greatest joy has been
watching the two of you grow
from little boys to men
I admire and respect.

I’d like to take credit
for the men you've become,
but there's someone who
deserves it more.

Your dad—
worked twelve-hour days
six days a week
at a job he didn’t love,
but it paid the bills.

Every night he'd come home tired and dirty,
ask us about our day,
then take a quick shower
while I started dinner.

Within minutes
I'd see him playing
with his two small sons
racing Match-box cars
across the living room floor.

Dinner was always laced with laughter.
Your dad would get it going
telling some funny story about work or
poking gentle fun at one of us.
We laughed more than we chewed.

Sundays, he was behind the wheel
taking us on long drives--
back country roads to get homemade ice cream,
through the mountains to see autumn trees, or just
cruising through neighborhoods to see Christmas lights.

Your dad--
coached your Little League games,
helped with scout meetings,
and cheered you on
at karate competitions.

When you graduated from high school
college, grad school—
He was there.
He may not have said it, but
he was so proud of you.

Your dad--
taught you to drive,
helped you get your first car,
made your friends feel welcome,
and danced at your wedding.

He couldn’t buy you
everything he wanted to. 
So he gave you
everything he had.

It's no wonder
you turned out so well, and
I should have told you long ago
how thankful I am
he's your dad.

“You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes.” ― Walter M. Schirra, Sr.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer is Here!

Summer is finally here! I've been looking forward to this for months.  This summer is going to be different from any other.  For the first time in thirty-five years, I have the entire summer to myself! My sons are grown,  we're staying in a small apartment while waiting for our house to be built so there aren't any "house projects" to do, and I decided to resign as a mentor teacher so I won't be working with the newbies this year. The summer is all mine!  Hmmm.  That makes me both excited and scared. 

I'm thrilled to have time to work on the writing projects I've putting off for way too long..  I want to find out where I fit in the world of writing. For as long as I can remember, I've dreamed of writing books for kids. Now, I have the time to work toward that goal. .

But, I'm also scared. I'm not used to having chunks of free time. I'm used to being busy, constantly busy with work, home, and family. I think I've taken on this lifestyle of always having too much to do because.I don't do well when there's too much empty time in my day.   I tend to fill in the empty spaces with worry, and before long I get depressed because I've wasted so much time worrying.  Then, to make things worse,  I waste even more time trying to cheer myself up by searching the Internet, reading blogs, checking Facebook,  reading other people's books, and daydreaming about what I'll write "someday."  It's been easier for me to keep filling my time with chores (which I now realize are really just excuses for not writing) then to face the  possibly of finding out that I'm not really good enough to be a writer after all.

So, this summer, I'm trying something different. I joined the wonderful Kim Messenger's TeahersWrite! online summer camp to help me feel that I'm part of a writing community.  I wrote down some writing goals.  I gathered up some essays, poems, and picture book manuscripts that are in various stages of completion to take another look and see if they can be revised in something worth submitting. But the most important thing I've done is to accept the fact that I need to be held accountable. Leave it to me, and I'll fritter the days away, but give me a deadline, and I'll meet it!  I don't like letting other people down so I make sure the task gets done. The other thing I need is to know someone is going to read my writing and give me feedback I can use to improve. I feel extremely fortunate and grateful for the opportunity to be working with a team of mentors this summer. They are teacher/writers I respect, and I know I'll learn a lot from them.

I've tried to set myself up for the best chance of success.  Next, I need to come up with a daily schedule.   I'm already feeling  a little guilty about spending time doing something just for me when there are so many needy folks I could be volunteering to help.  If you are a teacher/writer, how do you balance your time to get it all done?

Monday, May 7, 2012

SOLS: What to Write

One month from today will be the last day of school for students. Thanks to a snowless winter, we are finishing five days earlier than scheduled.  I'm going to work part-time, but I'll also have some time to do what I've dreamed of doing for a long time- write! 

Knowing my chunk of time is limited to the summer I'm already stressing a little over how to best use that time.  What should I write?  I know that the usual advice is to write what you love to read. I read a lot of poetry. I love the brevity and deep emotional connections poetry brings.  I love personal essays because they help me relate to others, and I love poetic picture books,novels-in-verse, memoirs, and nonfiction books about writing. But, loving to read a particular genre doesn't mean I'd be good at writing it. I've read books on craft, taken writing courses, journaled, and talked with other writers, and prayed, but I'm still searching.

Over the years, I've had about two dozen poems, a few essays, a short story, and one early reader published. I just don't know where my writing strength lies.  If I had a lot of time, I'd probably start a project in each of those genres and see where they lead, but I'm not sure I can handle multiple projects. My hope is to finish at least a first draft of book length project or collection this summer.

Even with my publications, I'm not confident that I can write anything worth publishing.  That little voice that has kept me from submitting keeps whispering that maybe the editors who published my work were just being kind, or maybe they simply didn't have much to choose from so that made mine work look good.

I want my words to touch the hearts and inspire the minds of others.  I'm not interested in fame or fortune, I'm not interested in writing just to be published.  I am interested in creating something that is meaningful to me and to my readers.  I once read an interview where a writer said he can't think about how his readers will react to his writing because the pressure would keep him from getting words on the page. That thought scares me, but when I read something that touches me, makes me think in a new way, or gives me hope, I dream of writing words that will do that for someone else.  I don't know if I can do that, but I'd like to try.

So, how do I figure out where my writing strengths lie or if I have any writing strengths at all?  How have you figured out your own strengths?  I just realized that I've been working on this for the past two hours and it's past my bedtime so no revising. I still have another month of classes to teach, so I'm hoping I will find my direction by the time school ends.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Poetry Friday: I Worried...

I am a worrier. I worry about EVERYTHING! I'm always planning ahead— always trying to control the outcome. Even when life is going well, I find something to worry about. It's not an easy way to live!Last week, I read a Mary Oliver poem that really spoke to me (many of her poems do that, but this one even more so). I hope that someday I'll learn to follow the wisdom she shares at the end of this poem.

I Worried
by Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

You can read the rest of the poem and a few other from the collection here.

Friday, April 27, 2012


This month has been more hectic than ever!  Selling a house and moving into a tiny apartment in less than 30 days has been an overwhelming experience. We go to settlement for the house we sold on Tuesday, then we'll have a four month break while our house is being built. 

I know I've missed some wonderful blog posts this month, but hopefully I can catch up this summer. The one thing I did manage to do was to log-on each day to follow the progressive poem started by poet extraordinaire Irene Latham. It's been a lot fun watching this poem grow, and trying to imagine the line I'd add when it was my turn.  From the start, the first two lines made me think of the deep emotional hunger I've often filled with poetry...reading it, writing it. Although I kept testing other possible topics,  thoughts of poetry kept weaving its way back to me. Every line relates somehow (at least in my mind) to poetry.  Yesterday, when I read  the line added by Renee at No Water River, it seemed like a natural lead in to the what I think this poem is about.

If you are reading this

you must be hungry
Kick off your silver slippers
Come sit with us a spell

A hanky, here, now dry your tears
And fill your glass with wine
Now, pour. The parchment has secrets
Smells of a Moroccan market spill out.

You have come to the right place, just breathe in.
Honey, mint, cinnamon, sorrow. Now, breathe out
last week’s dreams. Take a wish from the jar.
Inside, deep inside, is the answer…

Unfold it, and let us riddle it together,

…Strains of a waltz. How do frozen fingers play?
How do fennel, ginger, saffron blend in the tagine?

Like broken strangers bound by time, they sisterdance…
their veils of sorrow encircle, embrace.
Feed your heart with waltzes and spices.
Feed your soul with wine and dreams.

Humble dust of coriander scents your feet, coaxing
seascapes, crystal sighs and moonshine from your melody
Beware of dangers along the path of truth
And beware, my friend, of too much bewaring–

strong hands cushion you, sweet scents surround you—now leap
without looking, guided by trust. And when you land
on silver-tipped toes, buoyed by joy– you’ll know
you are amazing, you are love, you are poetry


Stay tuned, who knows where Caroline at Caroline by Line might lead us when she adds her line tomorrow!  
Be sure to check out more poetry fun at Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Poetry Friday

Last Saturday,  I was browsing my local Barnes and Noble and spotted Live Your Dash by Linda Ellis.  The book opens with the poem "The Dash."  I was so touched by the message of the poem that I haven't stopped thinking about it. It's amazing how so few words can say so much!  After doing a little research, I discovered this poem has been around for years. I don't know how I missed it, but I'm sure glad this little poem finally found it's way into my life. 

The Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

Linda Ellis copyright 1996

You can hear the author read the entire poem here.

For more poetry joy, head on over to Booktalking where Anastasia is hosting Poetry Friday. Don't forget to check out our Progressive Poem. Today's line comes from Tabitha at The Opposite of Indifference.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Poetry Friday

The 2012 Madness Poetry Tournament has come to an end,but you can still read the poems written by the 64 poets who participated.  Many thanks to Ed DeCaria for organizing and sponsoring the Madness! He was an amazing host who tirelessly answered participants' questions and provided constant encouragement. He did a fabulous job of planning this event, and he even designed a trophy for the champion.  It's obvious he put in a lot of time and effort to get something like this going.

What a delight it was to read the poems. The quality is amazing. Remember, poets had only 36 hours from the time they got their assigned word to write their poems.  Deciding on which poem to vote for in each match-up was a challenge! 

Although I only lasted one round, I had a great time being part of the fun. My word was synthetic.  When I first saw my word, I freaked a little. I had no idea where this word would lead me, but after about a dozen false starts, time was running out.  I finally decided to try writing a limerick anyone with a sibling might relate to. I'm always nervous about posting my poems, but I'm trying to push myself to take more risks,  so here goes.
Broken XBox

His words are apologetic
But I know they’re simply synthetic—
With tears in his eyes
My brother spews out his lies
Hoping I’ll be sympathetic!

I don't usually write humor and meter is always a stretch for me.  I was just grateful to come up with something using the word synthetic, and I enjoyed being part of a poetry-writing community! Ed has decided to make the tournament an annual event!  So,  I'm looking forward to many years of Madness! 

Now on to the next event-  the Progressive Poem!  Head on over to  A Year of Reading to read the poem so far. It's going to be fun to watch how it unfolds during the rest of the month!
A big thank you to Robyn at Read, Write, Howl for hosting Poetry Friday today!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Until We Meet Again

Dear friends,
Today, I'm full of mixed emotions.  I'm a little sad that the March Slice of Life Challenge is ending. Your comments and support have meant more than you can imagine. Writing for an audience has been very rewarding.  Most of my slices were posted late in the evening,  and every morning, I looked forward to reading your thoughts about what I wrote the night before. I'm going to miss the feeling of being connected on a daily basis to all of you.  Our group has beomce more than anonymous writers, we've become freinds.  I've been touched and forever changed by your stories. I'm especially impressed by the quality of writing in our group! It's amazing how much everyone was able to relate to each individual's  slices.  I look forward to reading your future blog posts, but I may need to take some time away.  Things are really hectic right now.

We finally have a contract on our house so we're going to be quite busy in the near future. Our buyers want to settle by the end of April, and things are moving very quickly. If the appraisal and inspection go well, we'll move in just two weeks into an apartment.  We'll live there for a few months while our house is being built and then move again! Our next house is less than half the size of our current home, which means we have a lot of downsizing to do!  So, until we meet again, I'm sending you my best wishes for peace, love, and joy in all things!

Happy writing!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Poetry Friday, SOL, and Poetry News

One of my favorite things about being part of Poetry Friday and SOL is the connections I've made with folks who share my passion for words.  We're teachers, writers, librarians, parents, and poetry lovers who support and encourage each other through our comments and blog posts. Writing can, at times, be a lonely endeavor.  I don't have a writing critique group or friends who enjoy reading poetry.  Having an online community of friends nourishes me in a way my face-to-face friends cannot. I feel as though I've found my tribe. I look forward to reading their blogs, and seeing their work in print is always a thrill.  Just the other day, while I was skimming through the April edition of Storyworks Magazine, I noticed a poem written by Irene Latham. Her poem, "Same Hands" was breathtakingly beautiful.  Being an avid reader of Irene's blog, made the experience even more special for me.  Thanks to Poetry Friday and SOL, my soul has found a home. I hope yours has too.   I love this Maya Angelou poem because it reminds me how important it is to make connections.

by Maya Angelou
Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

A small slice of good news!
I rarely send anything out to publishers, but last fall I decided to send a few poems to Spider magazine. I was so excited to get an email from the editor telling me they wanted to publish one of them!  I didn't want to tell anyone until I signed the contract. I guess I was afraid the editor would change her mind.  I don't know when my poem will appear in the magazine, I heard they have quite a backlog so it could be a while, but hey, it's something to look forward to!  

A Half-Billion Dollars!

I rarely buy a lottery ticket, but today's newspaper headline: "Mega Millions Jackpot at $500M" got me!  I bought not one, but three tickets!  Hey, what's three bucks when tomorrow I might be rich? Now I'm dreaming about what I'd do if I win the jackpot, so I decided to make a list. Since this is just for fun, and just off the top of my head, I didn't worry about putting them in any particular order. 

1.Give $50M to each of my sons.
2. Set up a trust fund for my grandchildren.
3.Split $100M among extended family members.
4.Move my mother in to live with me. Hire a private nurse to help care for her.
5.Take our entire family on a cruise. (I'll decide the destination later.)
6. Retire.
7. Make a large donation to each of the charities I help support.
8. Fund a scholarship program for single moms.
9. Pay off our mortgage.
10.Enroll in the Vermont College Children's Writers' Master program.

Well, that's all I can think of.  My chances are slim to none, but oh, it's so much fun to dream!
What would you put on your list if you were suddenly rich?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


A very short slice today. I have a migraine so being on the computer is especially difficult. I've been having 6-8 migraines a month for the past 30 yrs.  A variety of things can trigger a migraine. Perfume, bright light, and weather changes seem to be my biggest hazards.  I try to avoid them as much as possible. I teach in a middle school, so avoiding perfume is almost impossible. The boys are worse than the girls when it comes to over applying it! 

I have a rescue medication I take once the migraine starts, but it takes a couple of hours to work. I think I've been on just about every prescription medication out there, but none of them work all that well for me.  I used to take a daily preventative med until I experienced some negative side effects.  Now all I can do is to I try to take the med as soon as I feel a headache about to strike.  My insurance only pays for 6 doses a month so I usually wait until I'm sure it's going to be a migraine before I take the medicine. Migraines take the fun out of life. If you experience migraines, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  If you are someone who suffers from migraines, I would appreciate hearing about your experiences and anything you've found that helps with this condition.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

After The End

With only a few more days in the March SOL Challenge, I've been thinking about how I'll spend my writing time each evening.  It's  been a challenge, especially in the beginning, to find time to write a blog entry every day, but since it was a priority, I made time.  I admit that most of my posts have taken a half hour or less, but those half hours add up.  It's funny that for years I've talked about scheduling writing time into my day, but I never thought I could find even a short amount of time. I was wrong!

So, it's got me thinking that if I'm able to set aside time for a challenge, I should be able to set aside to work on a writing project. I really want to do that. I'm just a little concerned that writing privately, without comments from a writing community to encourage me and keep me accountable, I'll get discouraged and give up again. I believe that if I could think of a project I'm excited about, it might be enough to motivate me to keep going.

I've been wondering if anyone else is feeling this way?  What are you going to do to keep yourself motivated to write after the challenge has ended?

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Integrity- The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. 

Choosing to live with integrity can be a challenge.  Sometimes people can make you feel guilty for trying to do the right thing instead of taking the easy way out.  When that someone is a person close to you, someone you admire, it hurts even more.  And yet, we all have to be able to live with our own conscience. Maybe it's a benefit of getting older, maybe we grow a bit more confident, or maybe we just become less willing to compromise our beliefs out the fear of being rejected.  Whatever the reason, we no longer allow others to bully us into decisions we're not comfortable with.

I'm currently involved in a situation that is causing some turbulence in my life. It would be easy to agree to go along with the other person's suggestion. No one would get hurt, no one else would even know we lied. But, does that make it okay?  Not long ago, I would've agreed to do it just to keep peace.  But I've come to realize that dishonesty never brings peace.  By choosing integrity, I'm making things harder on someone I love, and I'm very sad about that.  It will cause us more work, more money, more risk. Still, in the end, I truly belief we'll both look back and be glad we did the right thing. At least, I hope so.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Last year, we tried to sell our house.  It was exhausting trying to keep the house "perfect" all the time, but we were very motivated to sell. We priced the house low- almost 200,000 below what it was worth when we bought it.  We did everything we could to make the house attractive to buyers. After nearly six months, we were so excited to finally we get an offer.  We decided to do whatever we could to try to make it work, but the offer was WAY lower than our asking price, and the potential buyer wanted an additonal 30,000. to put toward his moving expenses!  We were shocked that anyone would make such a request until our agent told us that it was typical for the market we were in.  We couldn't afford to give the extra cash so we turned the offer down and took the house off the market.

We thought about refinancing, but we're getting close to retirement age, and the upkeep on a house this big is getting to be too much for us. So, 11 days ago, we put our house back on the market. We've had about 9 showings so far, 3 of them today.  A couple of hours ago, our agent called and said we have an offer. She didn't have the details yet and asked if we could meet her in the morning. After last year's experience, we're trying to to get too hopeful. What a relief it would be if this works out, and we can finally move into our next home!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

SOL and Poetry Friday: A Poem for My Granddaughter

Today is my granddaughter's second birthday. I can't believe she's already two! It wasn't that long ago that I sat with the rest of the family watching her on a 3-D sonogram. Back then, I couldn't have imagined the overwhelming joy she would bring into our lives.

I wanted to write a poem for her birthday.  I tried to come up with something cute and clever, but nothing seemed to work.  So I decided to write a letter poem from my heart that she can read when she gets older and know what I was thinking on her second birthday.
Of course, I got so busy this week that I didn't get to work on the poem until tonight.  I wanted it to be a special keepsake for her.  This is pretty much a first draft, and I know it needs a lot of work.  I don't have a writing critique group so I don't have anyone to give me feedback. If you would be willing to share your thoughts and suggestions, I would be most grateful.

I Want You to Know
    for Evie

I don’t get to see you
as much as I wish I could
I’ve missed so many
special moments in your life

I missed your first breath,
your first word, your first step,
your first tooth, your first haircut,
your first boo boo—

But I want you to know
my reason for not being there
has never been because I don’t care.

I think of you every morning,
and wonder how’ll you spend your day.
I think of you when I see other children
who are just about your age.
I think of you before I go to sleep
and every night I pray for God
to watch you, to guide you.

Because you are so young,
sometimes I worry—
you’ll forget about me.
It’s hard to remember a grandma
you hardly ever see.

And sometime I worry
that you’ll never know
how your laughter,
your hugs, your kisses
your bright blue eyes
and auburn curls
have become my reason
to try harder
to be someone—
worthy of your love
worthy of your trust
worthy of your forgiveness.

Most of all, I want you to know
that no matter how far
we are apart
love will keep us close—
and no matter how many firsts
I might  miss,
you will always be first
in my heart.

Love you forever,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Taking Anne Lamott's Advice

Here are some things I've learned so far by being part of the SOL community. 

1.  It's hard to find time to write everyday, but I can do it. Small bits of time add up.  I might not be able to write a complete draft at any one sitting, but I can write a paragraph, sketch a poem, jot down a few ideas, write an outline, list, web a story,  or add to/revise something I already have.  A lot can be done in short slices of time.

2.  I'm not yet sure what kind of writer I'm supposed to be, and I 'm still trying to figure out the form that I have the ability to write best.  But, I've narrowed it down to the forms I love to read: essays, poems, verse novel. Can I write in one of those forms well enough to touch readers?  I'm still trying to find that out. Is there one form I'm best suited for?  I think I'm getting closer to finding out.

3.  Being part of a writing community feeds my soul and makes me feel like I've found my home.

4. Sharing our stories is important because I see my own reflection in the window of your words.  I've laughed, cried, and learned with you and othe slicers.  I've come to look forward to seeing what you are up to each day. I cheer you on, and think of you as I drift off to sleep.

5.  When I write from my heart, I feel truly alive!

I have been a fan of Anne Lamott's for many years. I've read most of her books because I feel like she's a friend sharing her wisdom with me. Lately,  I've been reminding myself to take this search for answers I've bee on,  bird by bird.  I read this interview today in the Huffington Post Blog where she shares some wonderful advice. . I hope you enjoy it!


Right Now

Based on recent conversations with family, co-workers, and folks who have commented here,  I'm starting to understand that the happiest people are the ones who just go out there and try something.  They don't sit around and worry if it's their "life's purpose." They just try something they want to do, and if it doesn't work out, they move on and try something else. Through this process, they find out what gives them meaning and purpose.

Last night I read a quote that made me realize how important it is to be grateful for what we have right here, right now.

"My advice to you is ot to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate." -Thonton Wilder
Wow! A lot of wisdom in those words!  I decided to write a little "poem" to sum up my realization. It isn't anything much, but it's my personal reminder to lighten up and enjoy what I have right now.


All day I carry worries
About things I haven’t done
By the time I set them down
I've missed out on the fun!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Have you read ONE MONTH TO LIVE?

Thank you to the folks who stopped by and made comments on my Saturday slice Figuring Out My Life's Purpose. It meant a lot to me that you took time from your busy day to share your thoughts and advice.  You helped me realize that I'm not alone in my search.

I was feeling like I needed some time to myself yesterday so I skipped a few chores and went to one of my favorite places, Barnes and Noble.  As I browsed the "New Arrivals" table, a title caught my eye.  One Month to Live by Kerry and Chris Shook. I thumbed through and read a pages.  The tone seemed very compasionate, and I wanted to read more. I have so many questions about the direction and purpose of my life, I wondered if this little books could help me find the answers I need to feel at peace. I took the book to the cafe' and sat down with a cup of chai. Much of what I read was not new to me. Over the years, I've read dozens of self-help books that promise to guide you in finding your life's purpose. One thing I did like about this one is that it consists of daily strategies, small steps to change your life and live with no-regrets. Many of the steps like forgiving people and letting those you love know it, I've always done. 

I read the stategies that most applied to what I'm looking for. Once again, most of them were not new to me.  I left without buying the book because I thought it might end up on my shelf with the others. We're living on my income alone these days so I try to spend money on needs over wants. As I said, I already own a lot of self-help books. Also, the title One Month to Live grabbed my attention, but after a while the thinking about that concept started to feel depressing. I think it might make me even more anxious about finding my purpose before my time runs out!  : )

I'm wondering if any of you have read ONE MONTH TO LIVE, and if it really helped you find your life's purpose.  Was there another book you found more helpful? 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Help! This Mouse is Driving Me Crazy!

I got a new Samsung laptop for Christmas.  It has a nice wide screen, Windows 7, and Microsoft Office 2010. It's a lot faster than my last laptop, and the keyboard is very comfortable with a place to rest my wrists as I type. So, I really like everything about it...well, make that almost everything.
It has this automatic mouse thing that I can't seem to shut off. While I'm typing, it suddenly appearing and scrolls up causing me to lose my place.  Sometimes it goes completely crazy and jumps to another page. 

I looked it up online and found directions to turn off the auto mouse. I went into the controls and tried that.  It seemed to work briefly, but then it came back on.

Have you had the same problem?  Do you know how to get rid of this thing? It makes typing very difficult. I'm not good with technology so I'm lost here.

I would appreciate your suggestions. Thank you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Figuring Out Our Life's Purpose

I've been watching Oprah since the days when she was on a local TV station in Baltimore.  I find her to be a source of inspiration.  For years, she's been telling us that we each have a life purpose and that it is our duty to figure out what that is and then share our "gift" with the world. Every time I hear her talk about finding our purpose, I'm reminded of my seventh grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Zimmerman.

Mrs. Zimmerman wore heavy makeup to cover scars on her face.  I never knew the full details of how she got the scars, but the rumor was that she had been in a car accident.  Some of the kids made fun of her,  but I thought she was beautiful. She had an inner beauty that came through in her smile and gentle disposition. She knew that we, as adolescents, were trying to figure out where we fit in the world. She had a knack of applying every novel, every play, every poem, that we read to our own lives.  One of the most memorable lessons she was us was that we each had a special talent, a gift, something we were really good at doing.  I took that lesson to heart and began the search for "my gift."

But somehow, while going through all the challenges and changes of growing up, I forgot that lesson. I stopped searching and just lived for each day.  When Oprah began reminding us to figure out our purpose, I was in my late twenties and the search started again.  Here's the thing, it's now thirty years later, and I still haven't figured out my "purpose."

I can usually figure out other people's gifts pretty quickly, but I can't seem to figure out my own. I'm even starting to wonder if I have one!  Now that I'm getting older, and feeling time is running out, finding what I'm good at has become more important than ever.  I have thought about it, journaled about it, and prayed about it.  Still, I'm lost. I think that it's more than just being passionate about something, it has to be something I do well enough to make a difference.

I raised two sons who despite any shortcomings I had as parent, grew into wonderful men that any mother would be proud of.  I'm a teacher, and that has been an important part of my life.  I hope I've made a difference in the lives of my students.These roles have given me a purpose to wake up every morning, but I'm not sure that is the same as a life's purpose.  Does that make sense?  It seems like there is something else that I'm meant to do that I haven't figured out yet.

Maybe I'm over thinking it, but I don't want to grow old and have regrets or feel that some part of my life was unfulfilled.

So, I'm wondering how other people have found their gifts, their life's purpose? Does our life's purpose change through the stages of our life?  How is it that some people are born knowing what they came to this earth to do?  How did you figure out what you are good at?  Did someone tell you, or did you just know?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  It's late and my vision i blurred so I'll close now.  I hope I haven't embarrassed myself by revealing too much about my inner craziness, but if I''m struggling with finding my pupose, maybe some of you are too?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Madness 2012- 1 and Done

Well, the voting is over.  My poem didn't win. I'm a little disappointed, but I enjoyed the experience. My "opponent" wrote an outstanding poem. She deserved to win, and I'm actually quite happy for her. Being in the poetry challenge taught me that I'm more competitive than I realized.  I didn't think I cared about winning until the voting started. I found myself checking the scoreboard several times today to see how many votes I had. The final tally was her- 60 to my-37.  I was worried I might not get any votes, so I'm grateful for the 37 kind folks who voted for my poem.   
Another cool thing that came out of the challenge happened when I showed the scoreboard to my students and gave them time to click through and read the poems. They couldn't vote because only one vote was allowed for every IP address.  Next year, I'll make voting sheets for them and tally their votes. Then we can enter one vote as a school. Several kids asked me if we could do a poetry challenge. .  I think that would be a great National Poetry Month activity. First, I need to think of a way to keep the poets anonymous so it doesn't become a popularity contest.  As middle school students, it will be hard to keep them from telling their friends the title of their poem. I also worry that poems that don't get any votes might cause the author to feel hurt.  If anyone has ideas on how to handle these types of things, please let me know.

If you haven't checked out Madness 2012 at Think Kid, Think, take a look. I think you'll like what you see!  Maybe next year, you'd like to join the challenge. It was a little tense for me worrying about the word I was going to get,, if I could actually write a poem in such a short period of time, and if anyone would vote for my poem. Would I do it again?  You betcha! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Just for Fun?

When I signed up for the March Madness poetry challenge, I told myself it was just for fun.  As my turn to write grew closer the idea of fun turned to fear, espcecially when I saw the list of "real" poets who would be participating.

I'm not fast when it comes to writing poetry, and this challenge requires one to write a poem in 36 hours after receiving an assigned word.  Thirty-six hours doesn't seem like long, but because I teach an extended day program, I only had a window of about four hours to come up with something I hoped would at least make sense.  Again, I tried to convince myself that it wasn't that important, it was just for fun. 

So, my poem went "live" this morning, and the voting got started. I didn't think I cared about winning, but suddenly, I REALLY wanted to win.  I guess that's human nature. We become competitive, and want to know that our efforts matter.  I know I won't get very far in this challenge, but it would be nice to at least get to round 2!   I admit my "opponent" wrote a very cool poem.  DARN! Why did she have to be so good? 

If you haven't checked out the March Madness challenge, take a peek.  I'm so impressed by the poems the others came up with. I really am having fun to voting for my favorites. I think you will too!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


With the time change, it's dark when I leave for work.  I don't like driving in the dark because the older I get the weaker my night vision becomes. To make things worse, there are a lot of hazards on one particularly dark road.  Deer dash out from nowhere, cars back out of their driveways, and things like lumber and cardboard boxes from a nearby construction site often litter the road.  So, I drive pretty slowly and try to stay mindful of what's happening around me.

This morning, as I drove along  I saw something up ahead lying in the middle of the road.  It appeared to be a large box, but as I got closer I saw that it wasn't a box at all, it was a small doe.  I slowed to a crawl afraid that she might run out in front of my car.  As I approached, my headlights lit the place where she lay in a puddle of blood.  She raised her head and looked at me.  Her brown eyes alive with fear and confusion. I stopped the car. She didn't try to run. She couldn't. She just lay there watching me. 

I didn't know what to do.  There wasn't any place to pull over safely.  Another car was coming up behind me, and I knew I had to move.  Tears gushed down my face as I drove.  I grabbed my phone and dialed 911. I described the emergency and location of the deer to the operator.  He promised to send an officer and animal control to rescue the little doe.

I sat a few minutes longer shaking and crying. I should have done more for her, but my fear for my own safety caused me to leave her there alone.  I've been very down all day.  Some people might not understand my sorrow over the life of one deer, especially when the area I live in is practically overrun by them, but she was one of God's creatures all the same, and she was beautiful.  She didn't deserve to die alone. No creature does. I wish I would've had the courage to save her.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A "Poem" About Reading

We're in our second day of testing.  My job, as a test examiner is to walk around the room and monitor students taking the test. We cannot read or work on anything during test-taking time.  I'm working with eighth graders, and they've been doing a great job.  They are pretty much self-sufficient with very few questions. Yesterday was the longest day of testing so while they were working, my mind started to wander.  The first stanza of this "poem" came to me.  This morning as I walked around the room, a few more stanzas started coming together. 

I've never been good with meter. I don't know why, but I just can't seem to get it right. Maybe it's some blockage in my brain, or my country twang. So, I really would appreciate any suggestions you have for improvement.  I'm thinking that after I work on it some more, I might use this poem as a writing prompt to encourage students to write about their own favorite books. Thanks for your help!

The Book on My Shelf

When I was little
and tucked in my bed—
I’d listen to stories
that Grandpa read

about a young boy,
his silly Pooh Bear,
a Hundred Acre Woods,
and the adventures there.

Grandpa read those stories
again and again—
until Christopher Robin
became an old friend

It’s been a long while
since we’ve read together
but I’ll remember those
stories and Grandpa forever

It’s a book on my shelf
I got when I was three
A very special book—
my grandpa gave to me

-Linda Kulp

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Promises We Make

Yesterday, like most Sunday mornings, I arrived at the nursing home around 9:00 AM.  Mom is sitting in her room strapped in her wheelchair trying to feed herself.  When she hears me come in, she looks up from her tray but doesn’t recognize me, at least not at first.  Food littered across her tray and down the front of her blouse is a sign she is getting weaker. I smile and tell her she looks good. I I can’t let myself think about what's happening to her—so I just keep smiling. I ask if she needs help with breakfast. She shakes her head. I pretend not to notice as she lifts her fork, but misses her mouth. Feeding herself is one of the few things she is still able to do.

The nurse comes in to check on her progress.  Mom introduces me as “a visitor.” The nurse smiles in recognition and takes the tray.   I ask her how she's doing.  She tells me about her physical therapy and how she is able to walk on her own now.  She doesn’t remember that the doctor gave up on physical therapy months ago.  She believes she’s getting better. She describes how she walks through the halls all night long while the others are sleeping. She believes she’s going home, and asks when I'll come to pick her up. I quickly change the subject and begin to update her on family news.

I see a little spark in her eyes as she finally remembers me. She if I'll bring her a cell phone the next time I come so she can call her friends.  I know I can't do that because the last time she had a phone, she kept calling 911 and reporting her roommate missing. Besides, the one her friend she had is gone now. But, I tell her I'll bring the phone.  I don't want to upset her.  “Do you promise you'll bring it?" she asks. I nod and change the subject to the weather.  She thinks it's July and thinks it's funny that I'm wearing a jacket. I tell her that all the air conditioning makes me cold. She laughs.

When it’s time for me to leave, she asks me to meet her at the church later for Friday Night Bingo. I smile and nod. I don’t tell her that it's Sunday. I don’t tell her that she cannot leave the nursing home-
ever.  I don't tell her that she is never going home. Instead I smile and nod when she asks, “Do you promise?” 

I take her hand, “Yes, Mom, I promise. “ An hour from now, she won’t remember our conversation, she won't even remember that I came to visit. But, for a little while she is laughing and making plans. I can’t take her away the hope that keeps her believing in tomorrow, so I make  promises I know I can’t keep, and I pray that forgives me.