Next Time, Engage Filter

slice-of-life_individualTired of doing the cobra dance from behind students, trying to see their writing in that elusive middle distance through my bifocals, I’d finally decided to opt for progressive lens. After helping me pick out my new frames, the woman at the eye doctor’s outlined my options, detailing what my insurance would pay and what it wouldn’t. She managed to convince me pretty easily that I should go with the newest technology. (Yes, of course, the one with the skimpy insurance coverage. Ouch!)

“Do you want transitionals?” she asked, then elaborated at my blank look, “You know, the ones that change into sunglasses when you go outside?”

“Oh,” I said. “Oh, no, I don’t want those.”

“Well,” she said, “if you do choose those, there’s a package deal available. If you have three options selected –and you already have two–and add transitionals for only $25, you can get a free set of lenses and pay only 75% of the frame price. It’s a great deal!”

“But I really don’t want transitionals,” I said.

“So,” she confided, leaning closer over the table, “here’s what you do. You just say you want transitionals now. Then, when they come in, you tell me that you don’t like them, and I send them back and they’ll make you a new pair!”

“Oh,” I said. “I don’t know about that.”

“It’s no big deal,” she said, “I do it all the time!”

She looked at me  expectantly, hand poised over the mouse. I sat there feeling uncomfortable. Squirmy.  Should I? Shouldn’t I?

“You’ll save hundreds of dollars,” she reminded me as I hesitated, trying to organize my thinking and my response. I really did need a new pair of sunglasses, and that was a huge savings, but it just didn’t feel right.

“No,” I said, “I’m sorry, but there’s something about that that just hitches up against something ethical inside me. I just don’t like playing games or playing the system and am really not comfortable doing that.”

Then I heard my words in my head again. And cringed.


Silently, I rebuked myself, Oh, Molly, why did you say that? You could just have said, “No, thanks!” Did you have to use the word ethical? Didn’t you just essentially tell her that she was being unethical? Ugh.

“I appreciate your telling me about the option, though,” I said aloud, quickly, smiling, hoping to make amends.

“Oh, that’s fine,” she said, coolly. “I just wanted to let you know.”

I bobbed my head up and down, vigorously. “Yes,” I said, “and I really appreciate it! It really sounds like a way to save a lot of money! Quite a deal! ” Stop babbling now, Molly…

After another year or two   fifteen minutes or so, we’d finally finished ordering my glasses (sans transitionals!), and I left the store, still inwardly shaking my head about my ill-advised comments. Why, oh, why did I say that?

Two weeks later, I’m still waiting to hear that my glasses are in. I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps the order was sabotaged…

PF: Pulse

downloadA recent Poetry Friday post by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater inspired me to revisit a moment I’d written about (here) and try to create a poem from it. I was further intrigued by her idea of  “smoosh-ing” two words together to make new ones.


Face the ocean
Stand still
with both feet sandplanted
Close your eyes
Feel the sunwarmth brush your cheeks
Breath the fresh, salty air
Listen to the whisper of the breeze
the rhythmic rush of surf
Tune in
to your own

©Molly Hogan, 2019

Carol Varsalona is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at her blog, Beyond Literacy Link. She’s sharing a fabulous travel log celebrating summer adventures. Be sure to stop by and check it out!

Kids Write the Darndest Things!

slice-of-life_individual“Can you drive on the way back so I can get some school work done?” I asked my husband (and heard a faint echoing chorus of too many teachers saying similar things on a Sunday afternoon after a busy fall weekend.)

Kurt nodded and changed direction, heading to the driver’s side of the car. I climbed in and organized my papers around me in the passenger seat. Moments later we were on our way.

What to start with first?

I shifted through papers and sighed, wishing I were merely admiring the passing scenery, but knowing I simply had to get some work done. Finally, I pulled out the Habits of Work reflection my students had completed on Thursday. I needed to look through them and give feedback. Not too mentally demanding, but it had to be done. A good place to start.

With our Habits of Work, we have each student assess  himself/herself as “Not Yet” “Sometimes” or “Yes!” on four categories: Respect, Preparedness, Engagement, and Determination. Students who score themselves a “Yes!” in a category have to note evidence of how they show that particular strand. After reflecting on all four habits, students create individual goals.

As I read and marked, I was impressed by the detailed responses. Overall, my feedback was in synch with how students were rating themselves. The kids were giving thoughtful evidence and often noting specific areas to work on. For example, one student, explaining why she scored herself a “Yes!” on engagement, focused on partner work, writing, “I ask questions to try to understand what they are thinking.” Another wrote, “I raise my hand and share ideas.” A different student, commenting on determination, wrote, “I ask for help when I need it and try when things are hard. I need to take feedback.” I read through, enjoying the insight into their thinking and appreciating their efforts, getting to know them just a little bit more.

After a while, I looked up, taking a break to check out the rolling hills and sun-dappled landscapes. It was a picture perfect day–stunning New England early autumn in all its glory.

Taking a deep breath and gathering up my will power once again, I turned away from the window and back to my work. I was happy to see I’d made good headway through this particular pile and had only a few papers left. Turning to the next one, I glanced to see who’d written it, then began to review it.

“What!” I yelped and then burst out laughing.

My husband glanced over. “What’s so funny?” he asked.

I looked down at the paper again, shaking my head, laughing even harder.

“OMG!” I said, “I can not believe what my student wrote!”

“What is it?” he said.

So I read it to him, and he laughed just as hard as I did.


Oh, my! I don’t think it’s going to be a boring year!

PF: To Prepare for Winter…

downloadIt’s that time of the year when finding time for writing is harder than ever. The demands of school leak into other parts of the day, and my reserved writing time can easily slip slide away before I even notice. These days I am especially grateful when a prompt or challenge sparks a response. I wrote this one to Laura Purdie Salas’s prompt for her “Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle!” give-away. I didn’t win the give-away, but having written something was a welcome consolation prize. 🙂

To prepare for winter…

I snap some photos
of blazing maples,
then sweep the leaves
from my mind,
wipe away dew-laden webs,
prepare to focus on lacy frost,
misty clouds of breath,
the glory of the first

©Molly Hogan, 2019

The Poetry Friday Roundup this week is hosted by the ever-gracious Linda B. at her blog, Teacher Dance. She’s revealing the cover of a new book by Irene Latham and Charles Waters that will be coming out in February. Take a peek! It looks wonderful!

What was that?

slice-of-life_individual.jpgI struggle up from beneath thick layers of sleep.

What? Huh?

I hear a series of thumps and a murmur of voices.

What? Is that coming from outside? Is someone here? What’s going on?

Blearily, I look at the clock. 12:37 am. Living at the top of a hill, we don’t have stray visitors and most assuredly not at this time of night. Who could it be?

“Someone’s here, Kurt,” I say, turning toward him as he sits upright, clearly also wakened by the noise.

Knock! Knock! Knock!

“I think someone’s at the front door,” he says, groggily.

 No one uses the front door in Maine…Has there been some sort of accident?

Kurt (aka “The Brave and Impetuous One”) throws back the covers and gets out of bed, heading downstairs. I (aka “The Cowardly Prudent One”) move over to the window and peer out into the dark, trying to see what might be going on. Is that a car in the driveway just past the corner of the house? Are those lights or moonlight? I strain to listen, but hear nothing. 

Long minutes pass.

Who’s out there?

Where did Kurt go?

What is going on?

Suddenly, a hushed voice murmurs, “I think I see movement.” Then I hear the rustle of people moving, and see the sweep of a flashlight’s beam over the yard. 

I call down through the open window, “My husband’s on his way out.”

“Oh! Hello?” a woman says. “I’m sorry it’s so late, but I think I have your cat.”

“What!?!” I exclaim. 

“I found it on my porch when I came home tonight. I recognized her picture from your “Missing” post on the town Facebook page. She’s grey with a tan dot on her head, right?”

“Oh, my gosh! Yes! Is she okay?”

“She seems fine. We…”

“I’ll be right down!” I cry, cutting off her response.

I race down the stairs and into the family room as Kurt is pulling the door closed, coming back into the house.

“What are you doing?” I say, trying to get outside. “Someone found Squirrel!”

“What? No way!” he says, “I called out, and no one answered!”

“They’re right at the side of the house,” I say, pushing him out the door.

We rush through the garden and around the corner of the house. There, in the lights of a car we can see the shadowy silhouettes of a woman and a young man.

“I’m so sorry it’s late,” the woman repeats. “My son and I found her on our porch.” She continues, “I would have kept her for the night, but I’m so allergic to cats. I messaged you, but it’s late and you didn’t answer, so I googled your name and your house came up on google maps, so we thought we’d give it a try. She’s just in the back of the car.”

While she speaks, her son opens up the car and lifts out a laundry basket covered with a towel. He sets it gently on the ground. As he pulls back the towel, a dark shape bounds out. Kurt grabs, catches her and lifts her up into into his arms.

“Squirrel!” we both cry.

She scrambles up onto Kurt’s chest and immediately begins licking his hands.

We bubble over with effusive thanks, interspersed with intermittent admonishments and endearments to Squirrel (“We’re so happy to see you! Where have you been, you stupid cat!? We’ve been so worried! We thought you were dead!”).

After another minute, they leave, and we head back inside to croon at and feed our very affectionate, and much thinner, cat. Finally, we stumble back up to bed. Not long afterward, Squirrel joins us and the three of us snuggle together through the rest of the night.

After 9 days missing, she’s home at last.

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This month’s DMC challenge was posed by Canadian poet, Jane Whittingham. During a delightful interview with Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty, she invited readers to write an acrostic about themselves– “a little ditty about you!”

The acrostic form feels like a perfect fit for these first frantic back-to-school days. I find my mind fiddling away at different possibilities, especially when I wake in the middle of the night–which happens more than I’d like to admit!

As I played around with the challenge, I found that I was changing things up a bit and creating small fictional scenes. I also was loose with the acrostic form. While I’m still deciding if they “fit” the prompt or not, I thought I’d share two of the poems here. (WordPress was not playing nice, so I had to get a bit creative to include indents–please excuse the cut-and-paste look!)

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Laura Purdie Salas is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog, Writing the World for Kids. She’s offering a peek at her newest book (a delight!) and the opportunity to win a signed copy. Make sure to stop by and check it out and visit the Roundup as well.

PF: Box Poems

74707-poetry-friday-logoThis month the Sunday Night Swaggers tackled a prompt shared by Catherine Flynn, who challenged us to write a poem about a box. It could be about a box from photos she shared, or about any box we wanted. I knew immediately that I would write about my recipe box, but wasn’t sure how to begin. I had lots of ideas, and random phrases, but could not settle on a form. Nothing came together. 

After lots of fruitless starts, I suddenly remembered Ian MacMillan’s poem, “Ten Things Found In a Wizard’s Pocket.” Bingo! I had my form! Though now I had to stick to ten things–another challenge!

The bare bones of the poem came easily, but I am still fiddling away with it. Every time I think it’s “finished”, I come back to it and find myself changing it–sometimes merely a word, sometimes cutting a phrase, sometimes adding one. It just hasn’t quite clicked into place. It’s a squirmy one! But alas, the deadline has sounded, so here it is, in it’s slightly drafty form.

Ten Things Found in My Recipe Box

An array of batter-splattered cards
Four corners with dusty, clustered crumbles
A whispered scent of warm spices
A marked preference for desserts
Yellowed newspaper clippings, fragile at the folds
My mother’s faded handwriting
An archive of good intentions
Time-proven spells for comfort and celebration
Sticky fingerprints, from small, helpful hands and
a handful of empty recipe cards,

©Molly Hogan, 2019 (draft)

Then I thought I’d play around with a more generic box in a “Things to do…” poem. It occurred to me that a basic cardboard box has a lot of things it can do!

Things to do if you’re a cardboard box

Package a pizza
make a cheap, speedy sled
Bedeck yourself with blankets
for a cozy cat bed

Stay solid when shaken
enclose and protect
transform at the hands
of a small architect

Yield to blunt scissors
and imagination
become a car!
                    a rocket!
                              a ship!
with unknown destination

Hold keepsakes in the attic
cuddle colored lights
Serve as sword or shield
in raucous pirate fights

Grant a reader respite
from the hurly burly world
Reinvent yourself until
your sides are frayed and curled

Once time-worn and tattered,
fold yourself and then
recycling awaits you
–your chance to start again!

©Molly Hogan, 2019

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at the blog, Poetry for Children, hosted by the dynamic duo, Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell. Among other offerings, my fellow Swaggers will be sharing their box poems. Make sure to stop by and fill up with poetry for the weekend!

If you want to go straight to some other box poems, click to visit my fellow Swaggers:
Heidi Mordhorst
Catherine Flynn
Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon