A Writer’s Blessing


A Blessing for the Writer at the Beginning of Something New

May the beginning be alive with the fruit of sleep
Your heart stirring to the draw of a new wondering
Your mind pulled by an accidental vision that pierced
Through your armor to a truth.

May this be a dawn of unguarded birth
When the treasure you hoard flows free
of the thorny labyrinth of your own story
With its pain and memories
And unyielding rigid shape.

A beginning when you find yourself a clear conduit
For what longs to arise from the quiet.

May your heart experience
The blessing of complete risk.

To extend past the words of others
And the cycle of sameness

Reaching profoundly into the story of all the starts and stops
Until the hidden truth gives way
And a new story unfolds to excite your heart
And blossom in your soul

So that you may begin in an unfettered rhythm
That pulls from the ages
A story not yet told
A song not yet sung
That beckons words to form a new rhythm.

May it provide its own magnetism
And thrive in the space betwixt love and breath

To enchant the keening heart
By how perfectly it fills the space around
Its hidden longing.

Based on John O’Donahue’s “For the Artist At The Start Of Day”



CLMOOC Week 5: The Maker Party

IMG_5227 This morning is our weekly maker party. I guess people are really busy this summer as it hasn’t been well attended, and this week I’m leading it alone. So far, totally alone, so I thought I’d bring you all in as virtual participants after the fact (because I’ll continue writing this post during the time I’m here today.)

My ideas for the making today are threefold, and people can decide what interests them the most, and then try it.  Here they are:

First, I will show the photos I used in yesterday’s blog post. They are all in a sort of similar mood, one of pensiveness and remembering. I want to have people look at each photo, and imagine the story behind it. Maybe do a little quick write about each photo, or about two or three that generate interesting thoughts. This can be made into a Haiku Deck, like this one. This would be an example of a picture being worth a thousand words. With music behind it, as in a Zeega, even more.  So that’s another thing we might try this morning. I’m interested in Zeega, but it seems so complicated. All the more reason to make one, right?

The second idea is to make little origami books like the one in the photo above and hack it with some copper tape, coin batteries and LED lights. My access to these supplies is limited today but I have enough to try it.  Especially if you only follow virtually and don’t need supplies and I’m the only one actually physically here.

My final idea is to play with the app called “Glow-Doodle.” This one seems really fun to me, and I brought materials for playing in the dark with it.  Okay, Here goes. I’ll work on each thing for about 40 minutes, and keep you updated as I go along. I’m starting with the origami book. This one will stretch my brain, I know.  And I’ll be really careful not to just spend the whole morning surfing around, looking at what all of you are doing online. Promise.

1. 9:30 – The little origami book: Okay, I’ve made my parallel circuit. I’ll attach the battery and the LED light. Wait, the light only needs a battery to light. Duh, I knew that. But I have a few little stick-on lights that do need the copper tape circuit…okay, they will light but only if the copper only touches the back and side of the coin battery. If I fold it over, the lights go out. I wonder what to do about that. I could really use another brain to think about this with me. Wow. Just as I was about to give up and move on, it lit up, all four lights. So this is an interesting possibility that deserves more consideration. But it’s 10:15, so I’m moving on.


2. 10:15: I’m making a Zeega from my photos and a song I like. I’ll be back!

Okay, I’m not so sure about Zeega. It gives little in the way of instructions. As in, I can’t figure out how to make the photos loop. It seems to loop on other people’s projects, but mine just stops at the end. When I click on Help, a little popup says “Read the Instructions.” Okay then.

The other problem I’m having is with the photos. I can take their stock photos, but when I try to upload mine, all jpg’s, it will accept some and tell me the others are not in the right format, to use a jpg or .gif. The thing is, my photos are far better than the ones they make available and are already jpgs. Hmpf. Again, if someone else was here we could talk this through!

Here is my kind of hokey Zeega: http://zeega.com/166824

Dang. I thought it would embed it here. Again, strength in numbers! Someone else would know how to do that.  (Actually, I just looked it up. You can’t embed a Zeega on WordPress. Good to know.)Guess I’ll go eat a snack. I brought them, don’t you know? Well, time’s up on Zeega. We will probably break up before we even become friends. Wow. It does loop. Weird,but I’m glad. I’m still not sure our relationship will ever be anything deep.

3. 11:00: Glow-Doodle. Wow, I’m wiped out from all the less than successful stuff I just did. Let’s see about the Glow Doodle. Hm. Not so great. All it’s doing is highlighting the wrinkles on my neck, and that’s not fun at all. Last night it was kind of cool to see how my fingers could create an image.  APparently that’s not going to happen today.  I think my time here is up.

All in all, I’d say I gave a good effort to learning some new ways of telling stories using light. I might try again with these particular ways and I may not.  I have to think that over. The thing that stands out for me now is how much better a maker party is with other makers. We are so much more creative and funny and interesting making things together than we are alone.  And that’s all I have to say about that. Except for thank you for taking the time to read this and being a virtual part of my maker party!


CLMOOC Week 5: Storytelling With Light, Part 2

IMG_8284After these birds, that I couldn’t resist sharing because the reflection is so great, I have a list of various techier light-story projects and websites to check out. These were shared today on the CLMOOC  “Make With Me” live event. Here goes:


 Intro to Stories with Light: http://clmooc.educatorinnovator.org/2014/2014/07/14/make-cycle-5-storytelling-with-light/

Stop motion in the make bank:http://clmoocmb.educatorinnovator.org/2014/assignments/stop-motion-video/ 


e-Textiles:  http://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-videos-for-eTextiles-soft-circuits-and-we/I

Another resource on high-tech textile design:


Glowdoodle = Great long exposure photography resource http://scripts.mit.edu/~eric_r/glowdoodle/

Stop motion in the make bank:http://clmoocmb.educatorinnovator.org/2014/assignments/stop-motion-video/


Scribbling Machines  http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/scribbling-machines

Makey-Makey http://www.makeymakey.com/

Squishy Circuits http://makezine.com/projects/squishy-circuits/

There is a lot of good information to peruse here. Thanks to everyone who posted things during the Make With Me live event this afternoon. If you were unable to attend, be sure to check out the archive when it is posted in the next couple of days.



CLMOOC Week 5: Storytelling With Light, Part 1

IMG_4111This week’s make is about storytelling with light. I’ve wandered around in my mind about this, as usual. Does the light have to come from a coin battery and copper tape and an LCD light? I don’t think so. Could it be moving light photography, like the photo above, bringing up a story of a cold walk on a December evening, taking pictures of Christmas lights? Of course it could.



Maybe it’s the light of a child’s spinning toy, that brings memories of a special night out.


Or a single porchlight, creating a bird of paradise on the wall, that brings forth an almost forgotten love story.


Or what about a really great sunset, all fiery and hot? Certainly this could be the impetus for a story. Or at least a backdrop for a story. A memory of a desperate need to get to the river before the sun set to glimpse the last moments of the day.

IMG_0029Sometimes the light is cold, seeping into your body, bringing up memories of times gone by, wintry times of emptiness, when you were really glad to get back to your warm home, even though no one but you were ever there.


Consider the glow of a backlight that puts in silhouette a bride arranging her reception table before the guests arrive.


Not everyone knows that it’s the last few minutes of the sunset, just before the sun is gone that is the most beautiful. Most people leave too soon, missing the best part. The story.


When the moon goes behind a cloud, it’s easy to imagine angels in the sky, moving around, back and forth.

IMG_3702Sometimes the light seems to be swallowed up by the water, even on a sunny day, holding on its surface the heartbreak of loss, a simple poem, floating out to sea.


And sometimes the the water won’t absorb the light for anything. It just throws it back and back in a stunning play of glimmer, as though the Earth is showing off her glory. One can never get enough of scenes like this; our eyes hunger to take it all in and hold it fast.

These particular light stories hint at stories of solitude and pensiveness. A different set could tell a different type of story completely.






CLMOOC Week #4: Hack Your Writing


Last week the CLMOOC Week #4 was about hacking our writing. I had a hard time grasping what that meant. On Wednesday we all shared in Hack Your Notebook Day (HYNB2014). It was super fun creating electrical circuits in a little notebook and creating little drawings that lit up. This didn’t have much to do with writing, but it was fun, and I think I might be able to think of ways to use it in my classroom. Imagine, you read a story with the class, and you want them to react in some way to it. Maybe they draw their “Aha!” moment, and then make it light up. Now that is a lot of work for one Aha Moment, but maybe I could come up with a way to make it worth spending that much time on it. Engagement, for one thing. I search for engagement with my students, always.

Beyond the notebook hack, however, I was kind of lost by the writing hack assignment.  Is it creating something digital like a ThingLink to tell a story? A digital story of sorts as a way to make what you have to say more vivid and engaging? Maybe.

I thought about a poem I’d rewritten a few months ago. I took the poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” by Wallace Stevens and rewrote it as “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Classroom.” My friend and colleague, Tanya Baker calls this hacking a piece of writing. Lord knows I’ve done plenty of that. I love to find an interesting piece of writing and change it up. So this is hacking my writing? But what is new about that? Maybe I should take my hacked poem and further hack it by making it digital?


Creating this Haiku Deck of the poem was interesting as I discovered that the photo I chose for each card was a way of hacking the poem. The photo had the power to change something poignant to something a little funny. So then is this a multi-layer hack? From the original poem to my rewritten poem to a HaikuDeck presentation with photos?

But then someone mentioned that a hack by its nature needs to include an aspect of subversion, and I was gone. It has to be subversive? As in what? Examples, please.  I didn’t find such an example, so I remained in a state of flummox.  All week. Until today when I decided to try to sort it out by writing about it. And maybe I’m now a little closer to getting what I mean.

CLMOOC Week 3, Part Two: True Confessions

Moonlight Mahjong

Here is my second part of this game thing. The modern part. The part where we play games on our computers and our phones and our tablets. I have learned that I’m a game addict, and I am not alone, not by a long shot.When a game requires no physical participation that tires me out, I can play and play and play. Online Solitaire, Angry Birds, Bubble Witch, Candy Crush? Moonlight MahJongg?  Oh yeah. I have to delete those games if I am to stop playing them.

Actually I go in phases. I was a big Mahjong player – on my computer only – for a while, and I finally gave it away to a visitor to my house. That was the only way I’d quit. But that was long ago, when the games weren’t so easy to download, when you had to go to a store and buy them, if only you could find one for a Mac. I’m not so hooked on that anymore, although I do love a good game when I’m on a long phone conversation. Or watching TV. As you can see from the image above, I’m a rather competitive player. I play against a tilebot that always knows where the next match is. As you can also see by my score of over 800,000, I’m rather good at it. I must watch a lot of TV or talk on the phone a lot.

The beauty of those games is I don’t have to find anyone to play them with me. It is also the sadness of them. I can hole up and play alone, no need to interact with anyone at all.

Some are different, though. Candy Crush requires or at least encourages you to get lives from other people. I did that for a while, until it got too hard and I realized that they really just wanted me to spend $.99 for an extra life so I could pass a level. And then I heard that King pulls in $500.000 daily from that game, and that is not from downloads of the game itself. That is free. Sounds like a drug deal doesn’t it? And in a way it is. Solitary electronic gaming is an addiction, much like drugs or gambling or alcohol.  For me, at least, it can be. That’s why I’m always deleting those games to break the addiction to the current one. I no longer play Candy Crush, by the way. As opposed to someone very dear to me who has passed every level and is now on the secondary levels.  The Owl levels, FTW.


Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 5.44.45 PM

After I gave away MahJong, my daughter introduced me to Farmville. I think she even made me a farm so she could ask me for things. I got completely immersed in that game. I had friends on Facebook that I’d never met, that I only connected with for the purposes of that game.  I’d wake up in the middle of the night to harvest a crop so it wouldn’t wilt before morning. One year (#trueconfession) I decorated my farm for Christmas and not my house. Let the impact of that settle in for a moment… That year I quit cold turkey on New Year’s Day. And I didn’t look back, honestly. Once I’m done I’m done. (Okay, I just went and tried to look at my farm. I have no friends any more and it is all different, as though someone else farmed it while I was gone and didn’t do a very good job. I do still have over $2,000,000 in gold coins and 876 tanks of fuel, but all my animals are gone. It has these weird buildings on it and hardly any fields. And I had to place a Zen teahouse before I could even look at it. It was probably a mistake to look, because now I’ll start getting requests on Facebook about it, but I am not at all attracted to look twice. I’m cured, thank goodness!)

So thinking of how these games affect me, a grownup, an educated person with a responsible job that I have to go to every day, how does that translate to my students? School requires involvement on a less exciting level than does a game. Video games are way fun, and exciting and challenging. You can stay up all night playing them, and I know that often my students do just that. Then they come to school and sleep. Whenever I have to wake a kid up, I ask if he (usually a boy) was up playing games last night, and the answer is usually “Yes.” How can I compete with that? No matter how interesting I make my class (or think I’ve made it) when the kid is asleep it doesn’t matter, does it?

Unless you find a really good video about honey badgers (Not Randall’s!). They’ll wake up for Honey Badgers.

CLMOOC Week 3: Games


Hide and Seek

I grew up in the fifties, with few choices for TV programs, and little else to occupy our free time other than what we could devise on our own. Our parents tried their best to make sure we weren’t overly burdened with free time, as do most parents, but when we did have time we made the most of it. Summer evenings were the best time because we played games outside, after dark. We played Seven Steps Around the House, Captain May I, Simon Says, Red Rover and Hide and Seek. At least those are the ones I remember. I must have gotten to be the captain fairly often because that is a game I remember vividly. I always liked to tell people what to do (I remember wondering secretly if I was bossy. The answer to that is probably “Yes.” I’m a teacher today and have no problem telling people what to do!) and in that game I was the one in charge.”Go back! You didn’t say “Captain may it?””

I think Hide and Seek was played on special occasions, maybe in places bigger than our yard, because I don’t remember playing it there. I do remember being it and finally giving up and yelling in a singsong voice,  “All outs in free! Or all -y all-y outs in free-ee!” I’m not sure if people even know today where that phrase came from. It seems to me that they say ‘allyallyoutsinfree’ as one big word, with no idea that it came from the game of hide and seek. That’s the dynamism of language, I guess.

I remember that Seven Steps Around the House involved somehow getting all the way around the house in only seven steps. Seven recognized steps, that is. In this game someone was the leader, and they turned their back and made a huge step. We would run up as many steps as we could before the leader turned around. I guess he or she turned around seven times. All I really remember of that one was taking huge steps as leader and running right up behind the leader when I wasn’t.

These games were loud and hilarious to us, and we couldn’t get enough of them. Every night until we heard our dad whistle for us we were out there playing.  All the kids of the neighborhood were involved and having fun. At least I think they all were – I can’t think of any who weren’t out there with us.

This was very different from the athletic games we played at school during P.E.  I forever hated those games. I wasn’t athletic, despite being a strong and active child. I rode my bike, roller skated, and ran around a lot. I was cooperative, loved to play with others, yet when it came to baseball or any other games we played at school, I wanted no part of it. From about second grade on, I was the kid who was always chosen last or next to the last. Looking back, I wonder why that was. Maybe it started because I couldn’t catch a ball. I was afraid it’d hit me in the face, I think.  It didn’t occur to me to ask my dad for help.  I didn’t care about it enough to get help, and at that time there was no little league or any other sports opportunities for girls aside from school intra-murals, so I saw no purpose in doing something I didn’t like. I was a decent hitter and runner, but forget catching. So I spent my time in the outfield, usually sitting down, making braided chains of clover. No wonder they didn’t want me on their teams!

In the winter we played board games. Sorry, Careers, Clue, Candy Land and Monopoly were our favorites. One Christmas we got the game of Life, and we played that a lot despite never really liking it. Too many little pink and blue kids to try to cram into that little car, and they were always falling out. It just wasn’t fun for us. We always defaulted to Sorry or Careers, or even Candy Land. Monopoly took so long, and Clue belonged to our friends so we didn’t play them as much.

The thing that strikes me about all these games is the need for cooperation involved in each one.  We had to talk to the other kids, to cooperate and agree on the rules in order to play the game. Today our kids seem to spend a lot of time on devices with screens, playing games alone, or with virtual friends. There are plenty of kids living in my neighborhood, and I don’t see or hear them outside after dinner playing, ever. This is the age of play dates and being home by dark. It seems to me that maybe kids are missing out on learning to play well with others. Or maybe they are just learning it in a different way than we did.


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