SOLC Day 31:A Messy Pile of Gratitude

March 2023 SOLC–Day 31
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

This post is also a Poetry Friday post.

Whew! Well, here it is. The last post in this year’s challenge. Success! I won’t say it’s been easy. In fact, this year it’s been more difficult for me than it has in most of my previous years (all 8 or 9 of them–I can never remember).  In short, while part of me will miss the daily posting, a big part is heaving a huge sigh of relief.

I struggled with sleep again last night and composed an awesome acrostic from the word “Slice”. I thought it would be a great ending post, and perhaps that’s why I was finally able to drift back off into sleep. But when I woke this morning it had disappeared into the mist. I sat down to write one again, hoping to retrieve some fragments, but the remnants were well and truly scattered.

I sat for a long time, debating what to stay. What to write. Finally, I realized that I really want to end this month and begin this new day with gratitude. I once met a beautiful, wise soul who said, “All my prayer is praise.” I’m not much of a prayer person, but her words sparked something within me. I love the idea of rooting myself in a practice of giving thanks, of praising. I am far from successful at this, but still I persevere.

Next my thoughts turned to a recent ELA prompt to write a “Pile Poem”. Amy Kay, the mentor poet shared there, was apparently inspired by this quote:

So, what if, instead of thinking about solving our whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.

A Pile of Gratitude

the first one
is probably the hardest.
My husband? My three children?
The blessing of my sisters? Living in Maine?
Maybe the Carolina wren who sings the day awake
or the fox sparrow scrabbling beneath the birch? I can't
forget the marsh, the beach, the deep green of pine and steely grey granite.
Each day's sunrise. The ever-present chickadee. The bold swagger of a crow on
glittering snow. The laughter of children. Soon, I suspect, my lines will be overflowing, 
overrunning the page, the margins, and rewinding onto the next line, pooling, puddling 
like the extra fabric of curtains in old homes, and I think what a wonder it is to live a life that is 
so full of beauty, friends, family, community, that I have to worry about not having enough room to 
write it all on the page. It simply won't fit within the margins. And isn't that just grand?

©Molly Hogan

After writing this, I previewed to see how the poem looked when published. I realized I was right–when constricted to the blog format, my lines took on a life of their own. No longer does my poem have the ever increasing lines of my draft. To capture that, I’d have to play a bit more with technology, and I decided not to do that. It feels right to let my overflow of gratitude take over the form and make it its own. A teetering messy pile of sorts, one I might need to reconstruct now and again if it tilts or threatens to topple. That feels just about right.

Every day this month the SOL icon has been centered at the top of my post with a thank you to Two Writing Teachers, but that’s so easy to overlook. So here it is again: A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow. A huge additional thank you to everyone who took the time to read and comment on my blog during the month. I only wish I’d had more time to meander, read and comment along the way.

Poetry Friday this week is hosted by Mary Lee Hahn at her blog, A(nother) Year of Reading. Yet another thing to add to my pile of gratitude.

SOLC Day 30: Gifts

March 2023 SOLC–Day 30
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

Yesterday morning, after a rough night’s sleep/not sleep, I woke to a gift. In my Inbox was a poem from the poet, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. I don’t subscribe to many daily e-mails, because I simply can’t keep up, but this is one I read regularly. Rosemerry writes and shares a poem each day. Today’s began like this:

“No matter the day is already planned
to the minute. No matter how pressing
the deadline, the must do, the should.
It takes only a second to look out the window.”

I am blessed with many windows in my home and lovely views of green and gardens. I spend lots of time watching the birds, spying deer, watching the seasons unfold in the foliage. I can look through my car windows as I drive to school on winding country roads through rolling fields and beside and over a river each day. I truly am thankful every single day for living in the midst of such beauty.

Still, when times are busy and so much is compacted into a day, I so often forget to look in any sort of meaningful way. The reminder that It takes only a second to look out the window is an important one for me.

Her final verse begins, “How quickly the known world cants toward awe
when wonder slips in…”

This is one reason I love her poetry. She is deeply attuned to the powerful, positive impact of the natural world and nudges me to be so as well.

I thought of her words as I drove to work yesterday, and tried to be more mindful of the beauty that surrounded me. I parked in the early morning empty parking lot at school, and my mind turned to the bird feeders I’d so optimistically placed outside my new classroom window in the fall. How winter’s forces had pulled the pole to the ground. How, in the daily rush to getreadygetmoredonegettothatnextthingonthelist, I’d not taken the time to fix it. Week after week after week.

Today, with Rosemerry’s poem in mind, I dropped off my bags in my classroom, and walked immediately out the end door and around the building. I carefully hoisted the metal pole and repositioned it, straightening the feeders and putting in the last of the bird seed. Then I returned to my race of a day. As the hours passed, every so often I glanced out at the feeders, but nothing stirred.

At about 5 pm, after a staff meeting, the finish line still wasn’t as close as I would have liked. I sat down to begin writing sub plans for this morning, when I have to attend a district meeting. I was tired, and let’s just say my mood wasn’t serene.

A flash of color and movement caught my eye, and I glanced up and out the window. Perched on the platform feeder was a male bluebird. The late afternoon sunlight sparked all his brilliant blue and russet brown into a dazzling glory. I leaned forward to admire, to watch as he hopped about, as he picked up a choice tidbit to eat, stopped, and seemed to cock his head at me. We regarded each other for a moment and then he resumed his seed foraging. I watched him for longer, admiring the intensity of his coloring, the sweet open look of his eyes, the inquisitive tilt of his head. Slowly, I felt some of the day’s accumulated stresses flow off my shoulders. Then I sat back down, settled into my work, a bit lighter, and thoroughly grateful for yet another gift in my day.

“How quickly the known world cants toward awe
when wonder slips in — wonder forged
not from epiphany or greatness
but from the barest instant of meeting what is real.”

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Addendum: Not long after I posted this, I finally emerged from writing to notice that day had arrived while I wasn’t looking. The view had changed since yesterday with a faint dusting of fresh snow covering the garden. Again, movement caught my eye, and as I watched, three turkeys ambled out from beneath the apple tree. Slowly, they sauntered across the driveway and into the garden. One emitted a loud “Gobble Gobble Gobble” and then they all strode off down the driveway. And so the world “cants toward awe.”

It takes only a second to look out the window

SOLC Day 29: Insomnia

March 2023 SOLC–Day 29
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

Sometimes I fall into patterns of disturbed sleep. I will fall asleep with no problem, but wake in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep again. For hours. Or I feel like I’m just floating on sleep, still too alert, not fully resting.

One of my go-to strategies for dealing with this is to write acrostic poems as I’m lying there. It beats tossing and turning and often, if the word is long enough, I’ll somehow lose focus and drift off again. My go-to word is “insomnia.” It seems to fit the bill.

Last night, I feel asleep early, sitting up in bed with my cell phone in my hand, listening to a new pod cast I’d just heard about. Yes, I was that tired. I woke as the cell phone slipped from my grip, put it on the table, turned out the light and fell immediately back to sleep. For about 3 or 4 hours. Then I awoke. Alert.

Uh oh.

First I tried to focus on my breathing. On the softness of the sheets and blankets. On the steady warmth of the cat curled by my side. On consciously relaxing each part of my body. None of that worked, so eventually I turned to acrostics. I composed one after another in my head. Sometimes I lost track of where I was–perhaps I’d slept a little? Still the clock bore witness. This wasn’t working. I knew I’d feel the full impact during the day to come.

Eventually I moved to a different bedroom, turned on the light and read for a while. Finally, I drifted off to dreams of bleeding wounds, melting electric wires and pet injuries. Maybe staying awake would have been a better choice? This morning I’m pulling together the drifty remnants of some of my half-remembered acrostics.

It’s 1:27
Now it’s 1:34
Sleep eludes me
Once again I fret, pick at thoughts
Minutes flow as slow as pitch
No respite in sight
I dread the

Or here’s another one…

It’s like a sneak attack
Nothing and then…
Slam! I’m awake.
Mind awhirl
No sleep in sight
Instead a steady barrage of
Ambushing thoughts and worries


It’s futile, my
Never-ending efforts to
Subordinate my thoughts, to
Overwhelm and dominate them,
Manhandle them into submission
Night-time is their territory
Ideal for their advance
A battle ensues

Ugh. You can see, perhaps why this wasn’t working.

Maybe I need to pick a different word…

SOLC Day 28: Wordle, Sisters and Bat Poop

March 2023 SOLC–Day 28
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

Two of my sisters and I have a Wordle thread going. Instead of saying “Good Morning” each day, we just share our Wordle results. Today my older sister and I had both gotten stuck (and complained) before ultimately prevailing. My younger sister, who’s usually the last to report in (slacker!), chimed in with her score and comment. I didn’t get a chance to respond until much later in the day, but did so succinctly. Our conversation made me smile. The word, in case you were wondering, was “guano”.

It was a silly exchange when I was feeling grumpy and overwhelmed. A bright spot in a dim day. Once again, sisters to the rescue!

PS If you’re interested, here’s a more complete definition:

There’s a lovely house museum we like to visit in a nearby town. It’s a fascinating time capsule of a Victorian home and I wrote about it (at length) in a post many years ago. The family included groundbreakers in forensics and medicine but originally made at least part of their fortune as shipbuilders trading in guano. Yup. That was a thing. #truestory

SOLC Day 27: My Desktop

March 2023 SOLC–Day 27
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

Not long ago someone was helping me with something technical and took a look at my computer desktop. I wish I had a picture of their face. They were, simply put, horrified.

“OMG!” they said, “How can you do that!?!”

My desktop, you see is a mass of collaged files, screen shots, and pictures haphazardly scattered about. Here’s just a portion of it all:

I suspect some of you have similar expressions on your faces right now. And sometimes I do too. I look at this mad mess and think, “Ugh. This is insane. I really need to do something about this.”

But then I start looking at picture after picture and I just get lost. Each one holds a story, a memory. When I start browsing, I relive those moments.

Looking for a slice to write, I fell right into that time warp again this morning.

Here’s one of an early winter morning years ago. I had been wandering along the coast by myself, hoping to see a snowy owl. Instead I saw this solitary tree, this rippled sky. Looking at the picture, I remember standing boots deep in snow, marveling at both.

Or this one. After a marsh visit, I was running late. I had loaded up my camera, got in the car, and turned onto the main road to head home. I saw this great blue heron and pulled over. I spent long minutes watching it appear and disappear in the marsh grass. I was even later at this point, but felt time spin out and away. I don’t know how long I watched, but I can fall into that moment again as I look at the picture.

Or this one that captures a simple moment in the garden outside my window, when light transformed a hydrangea blossom into something radiant and almost holy.

Sometimes I’ll click on a picture and it will bring back a totally forgotten moment. This one is surely a slice in the making.

So many pictures capturing so many moments. Moments I want to write about. Moments I want to remember. Moments that allow me to revisit something bigger than myself. Some are moments I’m not ready to write about yet– This early morning field scene holds magic and grief, intertwined. Perhaps someday I’ll write about it.

Pictures of people are few and far between, but they pop up along with their tendrils of story and long ago adventure. Here’s one of all of us in Dublin. How was this 6 years ago? Or was it 7? Still, I remember that night, the Dublin streets at the end of our vacation. Our last dinner before heading home.

There’s a world on my desktop. In winter the greens of spring and summer pictures seem unreal. In the depths of summer, winter’s shivery blues and whites seem otherworldly. Each picture is a touchstone. A portal. I like the collage aspect of it all, the way moving one picture reveals another layer beneath. An image long forgotten or one held dear. There’s a randomness to it that appeals to me. I like to wander through them, like a scrapbook of memories. To time travel, to marvel, to remember.

Now that I think about it, why would I want to tidy them up, to whisk them away into organized files or folders? I can live with the mess and appreciate all that it offers. At least for now.

SOLC Day 26: Wabi sabi and tulips

March 2023 SOLC–Day 26
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

I was uninspired to write today, so I turned to reading other posts. Usually I don’t do that until after I’ve written, but I was hoping for a spark. Reading Terje’s post, I recognized myself when she wrote that she hadn’t noticed that the flowers had dried in the vase, and then her thoughts had turned to wabi sabi.

Wabi sabi? I couldn’t quite remember what it meant, but had a sense it was similar to Kintsugi (true confession: I couldn’t remember the word Kintsugi, but knew it had to do with admiring the beauty of imperfection, like the crackles of a repaired vase. Thanks, Google!)

When I looked up “wabi sabi”, I found this definition: “In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of appreciating beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” in nature.”

I realized that I’ve been unknowingly practicing wabi sabi, though no doubt in a very amateur fashion. This spring I’ve been indulging myself by purchasing bouquets of tulips every week or so. I appreciate them more than most flowers because they are so dynamic. They are fluid from day to day, opening, closing, revealing an innate architecture and grace as they transform. My camera roll attests to my fascination.

Yesterday I bought yet another bouquet. Today I’m admiring the tightly wound buds, the pursed lips of their clustered petals and the fresh green of their stems. Later in the week, I’ll appreciate the exuberant opening of their gaudy, blowsy blossoms and finally I’ll take time to recognize the beauty in withered blooms, scattered petals, and newly revealed pistils and stamens.

Perhaps I can infuse other aspects of my week with the practice of wabi sabi. I’ll look to the tulips for a reminder.

SOLC Day 25: Drifting Along

March 2023 SOLC–Day 25
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

I hear the birds outside, calling. I’m choosing to think of it as a dawn serenade or even a cheery “Good Morning!” rather than as a reminder that the feeders are empty–an avian rebuke of sorts.

The small splash of last summer’s red nail polish on the tip of one big toenail? It’s a cheerful memento, rather than an embarrassing indication of laziness.

Those spider webs in the window? Not evidence of sloth. No, they’re an effort to foster a natural habitat, to provide refuge, or perhaps an investment in natural bug eradication measures. 

I’m weaving my world into different patterns today.

Thinking about the spider webs, I remember the time my son’s teacher laughingly shared with me how my son had shared with his class a story of us stopping our dinner to watch a spider wrap its prey. (Clearly, web has been part of my decorating motif for a long time.) I suspect she was thinking of this as one of those unfortunate revelations kids make to their teachers–the ones that would cause parents to cringe if only they knew. You may have heard some of these yourself, the ones that can make future eye contact challenging:  “My dad walks around in his underwear and farts all the time.” “My mom’s reading Fifty Shades of Grey.” or “My mom has handcuffs in her room. She says it’s in case there’s ever a bad guy.” But, while his teacher was, perhaps, considering my poor housekeeping efforts,  I chose to think of it as a time we fostered wonder and flexibility.

Anyway, this morning, after a week of long, long days and too much focus, I’m allowing myself to drift. You may have noticed already. I was late to rise (10 hour sleep celebration! Woot!) and ignored the pull to get up and out and greet the sunrise. Instead, I’m allowing my body and mind to be slow, to wander where they wish. To ignore the to do’s and simply to be. At least for the moment.

Yesterday at recess a second grader zipped her coat around a playground structure pole. She took each empty sleeve in one of her hands. Then she danced. An easy-breezy graceful dance. Her eyes half-closed, her body loose and relaxed, she and her coat dipped and swayed around that jaunty red pole. Utterly content in the moment that she’d created. 

That’s how I want to be today. I want to drift along, see where the tide of the day takes me and mix metaphors wherever I want.  To wander. To wonder. To create my own enchantment. To spend my day easy-breezy, eyes half-closed, loose and relaxed.

Wish me luck!

SOLC Day 24: Irish Bears?

March 2023 SOLC–Day 24
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

We’d just finished reading “The Truth about Bears” by Maxwell Eaton III. As we looked at the final page, we examined the map showing where bears lived in the world. We’d already learned earlier that bears don’t live in Australia, Africa and Antarctica. The map confirmed this. Our conversation was winding down, and I glanced up at the clock.

“Time to get moving,” I said. “Let’s pack up and head to Specials.”

Chatter erupted. and kids picked up their stuff and headed to cubbies. A few lingered at the rug.

“Are there any bears in Ireland, ” S asked.

S, you should know, is a bit preoccupied with Ireland. It all started when the Music Teacher had the kids learn Irish songs for their spring concert. She spent some time teaching them about Ireland and Irish culture, and S remains thoroughly smitten with all things Irish.

Earlier this winter he announced, “Mrs. Hogan, I’m not going to be here for the whole year, you know. I’m going to be leaving.”

“You are?” I asked, puzzled, as I hadn’t heard anything about this.

“Yes,” he said, “I’m going to Ireland. And I’m going to miss the rest of second grade.”

He was quite definite about this and even though it didn’t sound quite right, I didn’t totally dismiss it. After several other teachers asked me in passing if S was really going to miss the end of the year to go to Ireland, I decided I should check with his grandmother.

“I wish,” she said.

At any rate, back to the potential for Irish bears.

“I don’t think so,” I said, glancing at the map.

“Yes, there are,” he said.

“Well, look,” I pointed. “This is Ireland, and it doesn’t show any bears there.”

He walked away and said quietly, but adamantly, “There are bears in Ireland…and they’re green.”

K, who was still gathering up her things, overheard him and shook her head.

“S, there’s no such thing as green bears.”

She turned to walk to her cubby, then suddenly stopped. Slowly, she turned all the way around and looked at me.

“There aren’t, are there?”

SOLC Day 23: A Disturbing Trend

March 2023 SOLC–Day 23
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

We have Morning Meetings every day, and for the Share, I sometimes ask my students “Would you rather?” questions.

This morning I asked, “Would you rather go for a ride in a helicopter or in a submarine, and why?”

The first student earnestly replied, “I’d rather go in a submarine so I can’t fall and die.”

Several kids nodded their heads in agreement.

The next one said, ” I’d rather go in a helicopter because you’re less likely to drown. If there was a storm I could jump out in a parachute.”

“I’d go in a helicopter because in a submarine a sea animal could come and break the glass and water would get in and I’d drown.”

Again and again students responded with answers based on how they would be the safest, or at least less likely to get injured. Sure there were a couple who said things like, “I’d go in a submarine so I could see the wildlife and maybe have a pet fish”, but most answers were safety-based.

This is not the first time this year that I’ve heard these kind of answers.

A while ago I asked “Would you rather travel across the United States or sail around the world?”, and almost every student chose traveling across the United States so they didn’t drown. Or they just said it would be safer in some way or another. More recently, when I posed the question, “Would you rather live in a rectangular or circular house?” they mostly chose a triangular house, because “a house that is a circle might roll away in a bad storm.” Which brings us back to today’s responses.

I think about the past few years and the messages that have inundated these kids’ lives: “Wear your mask to stay safe.” “Don’t get too close so you stay safe.” “We can’t visit Grandpa, it isn’t safe.” ” Make sure to sanitize. We have to be safe.” and on and on and on. And while I understand and applaud the actions that promoted safety, I am becoming ever more concerned about the unintentional fallout.

I’ve been teaching almost fifteen years and these answers feel different. And disturbing. We’ve taught our children how to stay safe in these crazy times, but we seem to have also taught them that safety should be their primary concern when making any decision, and that every situation, even hypothetical ones, should be assessed for elements of danger. I worry about the impact of this and its ripple effect a lot. I want these kids to have big bold dreams. Sure, I want them to be safe, but I don’t want them to see the world and their lives and all their possibilities from a vantage of fear.

I’m not quite sure what to do about it, and it makes me so damn sad.

SOLC Day 22: Currently…

March 2023 SOLC–Day 22
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

Currently, It’s 7:46 pm. I have had 12 Parent-Teacher conferences in the past two days, tucked in before and after full school days. I have four more tomorrow. And although I know I’m fortunate to only have 16 conferences total, I am tired. I’m also not 100% sure my day is thoroughly planned for tomorrow. (Actually I’m 100% sure that it is not.) Nor am I 100% sure how I am making it through three more days this week. 

I’m sitting here wondering what to write for my slice. I’m pointedly not looking at the large, flat box to my right. The one with two prints in it. The one that I special ordered this past weekend so that it would be here in time for the photography contest. The one I don’t want to open in case the pictures didn’t translate well to their enlarged printed form. 

Currently, I’m berating myself for cowardice. I love taking pictures but I don’t know enough about the digital/tech. stuff. So playing around with the photos to get the right size, the right settings is a bit of a crap shoot. Even when I have someone to ask for help (Thanks, Ash!), I easily get frazzled. I didn’t even end up having my favorite photo printed, because I couldn’t get it to cooperate. The file was too big, then the print size I wanted altered it and cut off a key part. And I’d left it all too late, which amped up the frazzle. The few times I’ve gone through this process, I ultimately get to the F-it stage, throw up my hands, send in my order, cross my fingers, hope for the best. Then I worry. That pretty much sums up this past weekend.

Currently, the box remains sealed, and I’m thinking of winding down and heading to bed. As noted, I’m tired. And I’m just not sure I’m up to facing the photos right now. If they’re good, I’ll be relieved, but if they’re not good, I’ll be totally stressed. There’s no time for a fix, and nothing I can do about it tonight. I’m a big believer in putting off today what I can worry about tomorrow.

So, no surprise, I’m opting to stall. Apparently, the worry about possibly being more stressed trumps the possibility of being relieved. Somewhere in my mind, I know this isn’t a healthy way to approach this situation. I think I’m going to blame it on conferences. Anyway, I also know the box will still be here tomorrow morning…or even tomorrow afternoon. I’ll definitely have to open it then…