I Need S’more Fuel

National S’mores Day brings to mind times around the campfire – – times we share with others, fellowshipping with good food and stories to refuel our spirits as we toast marshmallows and melt chocolate over graham crackers. There’s no better way to connect with the outdoors than sleeping right up under the stars!

Today’s poetry form on page 40 is a cherita, which tells a story in three stanzas of one, two, and three lines.

Campin’ Dogs

“Where are the campin’ dogs?” we ask, and they come running, ready to go.

Ollie first, then Fitzie, then Boo, bounding the stairs into the camper

knowing there’ll be dog-watching, maybe even a pink poodle

And off we go, camper hitched, ready to relax, fireside,

under the stars, fairy lights dancing in the trees like fireflies

~re-kindling, refueling our kumbayah souls

S’mores by campfire

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*During the months of August and September on days when I’m not participating in the Open Write at www.ethicalela.com, I will be writing in response to the pages of Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. The poems, poetic forms, narratives, quotes, and calls to action to make one small difference might be just the medicine my world – or the whole world – needs. I’ll be inviting insights in the form of an immersion into a 10-minute-a-day book study (just long enough to read the page, reflect, and connect). If you don’t have a copy of the book, you can order one here on Amazon. I invite you to join me in making August and September a time of deep personal book friendship. A few teachers will be following the blog and engaging in classroom readings and responses to the text. So come along! Let’s turn the pages into intentionally crafting beautiful change together.

Pause (and Read). It’s National Book Lover’s Day!

On National Book Lover’s Day, pause. Read. Reflect. Let the words and meaning seep into your life and change your world. Today’s word in Dictionary for a Better World, pause, does not come naturally to me. I make daily lists of what all I need to accomplish, and I hyper-focus on the next checklist item rather than enjoying each moment along the way. I need to be more intentional about taking the time to pause, to breathe, and to laugh.

The poetic form featured on page 70 is a limerick, a humorous poem which has five lines with an aabba rhyme scheme.

Pauseth

to pauseth and readeth a book

is to calmeth a world that once shook

when we crawleth in bed

stories filleth our head –

we dreameth, awaketh: look! look!

photo from consciousdreaming.org

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*During the months of August and September on days when I’m not participating in the Open Write at www.ethicalela.com, I will be writing in response to the pages of Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. The poems, poetic forms, narratives, quotes, and calls to action to make one small difference might be just the medicine my world – or the whole world – needs. I’ll be inviting insights in the form of an immersion into a 10-minute-a-day book study (just long enough to read the page, reflect, and connect). If you don’t have a copy of the book, you can order one here on Amazon. I invite you to join me in making August and September a time of deep personal book friendship. A few teachers will be following the blog and engaging in classroom readings and responses to the text. So come along! Let’s turn the pages into intentionally crafting beautiful change together.

Reach for Happiness. It Happens.

It’s National Happiness Happens Day.

On this day of practicing the active, intentional verb reach, I recognized the artwork by Michelangelo on pages 70-71 of Dictionary for a Better World, and it took me straight back to a day many years ago when my parents visited the middle school where I was teaching at the time. We were walking through the office, where the hands depicted in The Creation of Adam hung over a desk.

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

“So,” my Dad asked me as he gestured toward the divine image, “Which hand is God’s, and which hand is Adam’s?”

I’d taken art history in college, but I’d never truly studied this painting, and in the absence of the full image, I wasn’t prepared for the trivia question Dad was asking, especially where others were taking notes of our interaction and waiting for my response.

“I don’t know,” I admitted.

“Look,” he said, “Do you see the hand that is more purposefully reaching, there on the right? That’s God’s hand.”

The painting came to life in that moment, and what I hadn’t seen before, I saw. In July 2019, I got to see it in person when I visited the Sistine Chapel and stared in awe at the ceiling. There are no words to describe the feeling of being there in that sacred space.

Living and connection begin when we take the initiative to reach out. It’s a choice we make. Just like Irene Latham, I am an introvert. Reaching out in a face to face world does not come naturally to me. I’d rather dwell in my quieter world of reading and writing, with a slight buffer zone of physical distance from others way back in the woods of the rural countryside in Georgia. Here in the digital realm, I am more likely to reach out with words and stories. Today, I’ll answer the call to action and practice reaching out in my daily interactions – – and I will also observe to see who may be reaching out to me for a response.

On Happiness Happens day, I’ll purposefully reach out and smile. I’ll make happiness happen.

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*During the months of August and September on days when I’m not participating in the Open Write at www.ethicalela.com, I will be writing in response to the pages of Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. The poems, poetic forms, narratives, quotes, and calls to action to make one small difference might be just the medicine my world – or the whole world – needs. I’ll be inviting insights in the form of an immersion into a 10-minute-a-day book study (just long enough to read the page, reflect, and connect). If you don’t have a copy of the book, you can order one here on Amazon. I invite you to join me in making August and September a time of deep personal book friendship. A few teachers will be following the blog and engaging in classroom readings and responses to the text. So come along! Let’s turn the pages into intentionally crafting beautiful change together.

Eradicating Hate on National Friendship Day

The goal of National Friendship Day was originally to mail a card to a friend. Just this week, I received a card from a friend who is traveling through Iceland right now, and it makes me smile when I think of the inspiration and encouragement she brings to my life. I can’t help thinking of all the hate at the root of evil that would shrivel up and die off if friendship and kindness replaced all the negative energies that seem to hang heavier than ever before in the thick air of our world today. On National Friendship Day, perhaps a smile or holding the door for a stranger or paying it forward at Starbucks might take the place of all the cards I didn’t mail my friends today.

In Dictionary for a Better World, I find today’s page the most unique of all the pages in the book. It’s the only page that features a negative word (but it does it as if the word is now dead and in its grave, hence the epitaph). If you’re participating in the word-a-day journey and take a page-walk through the book, stopping at pages 44 and 45, you will notice that in this entire book that looks like each color from the mega box of Crayola crayons was used so vibrantly, this page is only black and white, like two sides of a fierce argument, with a perfect scribbling capturing the intense rage of hatred that is reminiscent of how I feel every time I read Elie Wiesel’s Night.

What I love most about today’s message on the page is that readers are encouraged to consider the truth of their feelings instead of using hate as the convenient word that it has become for us. Irene’s story encourages us to look deeper into the negative feelings we have about situations and whether it may be disappointment or anger we are feeling rather than hatred.

The quote today by George Washington Carver drives straight to the heart: “Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater.” It got me thinking: if hate is its own cancer of the soul and I could cure hate starting with one other word in the book, which word would I choose, and why? Love certainly comes to mind, and so does forgiveness. Empathy and listening and dialogue would work wonders on eradicating hate, too. I thought about each word as I considered what would most heal the heart of a hater. I believe if I could create a nationwide emphasis on eradicating hate, it would all begin with kindness, because if each person really focused on doing something kind with others foremost in mind, I believe we would see even the most bitter, hate-soaked hearts begin to feel the stirring emotions of mattering enough to someone who took time to make a difference.

I keep a stack of stamped, blank postcards ready to be mailed, so I’m wondering how friends might react if I send cards next week that say:

Hi, friend! I was busy on National Friendship Day last week at Starbucks, paying it forward in your honor, and that’s why your postcard is running a little late. Tag. Your turn. Go do something to stop the hate, and light up another heart with kindness. Love, Kim

Which word would you choose to eradicate hate, and why? What are other simple ways to make a difference – (like leaving a basket of soap pods at the laundromat). Please share ideas in the Padlet below by scrolling across to today’s date and posting your response.

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*During the months of August and September on days when I’m not participating in the Open Write at www.ethicalela.com, I will be writing in response to the pages of Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. The poems, poetic forms, narratives, quotes, and calls to action to make one small difference might be just the medicine my world – or the whole world – needs. I’ll be inviting insights in the form of an immersion into a 10-minute-a-day book study (just long enough to read the page, reflect, and connect). If you don’t have a copy of the book, you can order one here on Amazon. I invite you to join me in making August and September a time of deep personal book friendship. A few teachers will be following the blog and engaging in classroom readings and responses to the text. So come along! Let’s turn the pages into intentionally crafting beautiful change together.

Play Outside and Enjoy Nature!

If it’s the first Saturday of any month, it’s National Play Outside Day! Dictionary for a Better World reminds us to spend time in nature . Today’s form of poetry is a Haiku, one of my favorite, which traditionally has seventeen syllables in a 5-7-5 line pattern, but Modern Haiku throws out the rules and urges a short poem in three to four lines and no rules.

Rain

quenching Earth’s dry thirst

steady rains saturate plains

trickle, tickle dirt

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*During the months of August and September on days when I’m not participating in the Open Write at www.ethicalela.com, I will be writing in response to the pages of Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. The poems, poetic forms, narratives, quotes, and calls to action to make one small difference might be just the medicine my world – or the whole world – needs. I’ll be inviting insights in the form of an immersion into a 10-minute-a-day book study (just long enough to read the page, reflect, and connect). If you don’t have a copy of the book, you can order one here on Amazon. I invite you to join me in making August and September a time of deep personal book friendship. A few teachers will be following the blog and engaging in classroom readings and responses to the text. So come along! Let’s turn the pages into intentionally crafting beautiful change together.

On National Work Like a Dog Day, Don’t be Out-serviced!

It’s National Work Like a Dog Day, and I’m considering the similarities and differences between work and service, my word of the day. Dogs seem to have a strong work ethic, naturally – – and they don’t clock in and out. They do what they see needs to be done, and they do it all with a servant’s heart. How many times have I turned over at night to see our Schnoodle, Boo Radley, wide awake, sitting between my husband and me, guarding over us? He loves his people (and besides – he has all day to sleep). He is the nightwatchman, working hard for those he loves and serving us with what he has to give – his dog strengths. He works like a dog, and it’s an act of service, too.

Irene Latham’s story about serving food at a convent as a way to feel satisfaction and unity brings to mind a story that Dr. Kyle Reese, interim pastor of St. Simon’s Island First Baptist Church in coastal Georgia, shared in his sermon last week. He told about a Florida pastor and his wife who’d had a tremendous impact on those in his community. Dr. Reese shared that in one conversation he’d had with his pastor friend, this man explained that God had placed in his heart a strong calling to help those in poverty. After many years of working together with his wife in their ministry, Dr. Reese’s pastor friend died. At the funeral, people spoke about the difference this man had made in their lives.

“He would drive the church van to our neighborhood……,” he said.

One young man said, “He gave us a story. He would drive the church van to our neighborhood and pick up all the kids and take us somewhere during the summer. It didn’t matter where we went, whether to McDonald’s to share a meal, bowling, to a movie, or to a park. The important thing is that we went somewhere and had fun. We all knew that he did this because for those of us who never had a way to go anywhere, we needed a story to write when the teacher asked us the first week of school what we’d done that summer. Because of him, we always had a story to write. He always made sure we had a fun experience like the other kids.”

The quote by Lao-tzu today, “The heart that gives, gathers,” rings truth. While we bless others with our gifts of service, we are the ones who are blessed tenfold when we seize the opportunity to make a difference and act as good stewards of our gifts!

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*During the months of August and September on days when I’m not participating in the Open Write at www.ethicalela.com, I will be writing in response to the pages of Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. The poems, poetic forms, narratives, quotes, and calls to action to make one small difference might be just the medicine my world – or the whole world – needs. I’ll be inviting insights in the form of an immersion into a 10-minute-a-day book study (just long enough to read the page, reflect, and connect). If you don’t have a copy of the book, you can order one here on Amazon. I invite you to join me in making August and September a time of deep personal book friendship. A few teachers will be following the blog and engaging in classroom readings and responses to the text. So come along! Let’s turn the pages into intentionally crafting beautiful change together.

Experiment! You Might Bake a Chocolate Chip Cookie!

In honor of National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, consider this: Ruth Wakefield was experimenting when she baked this classic cookie for the first time. She was going to make chocolate cookies, but instead experimented by adding some chocolate chunks, which resulted in a delicious accident that led to the formation of the Toll House company and became a timeless treat.

I love Irene Latham’s story today in Dictionary for a Better World as I reflect on the word experiment. She tells about her desire to become an acolyte in her church, and because the church was willing to experiment, she became the first female acolyte in the history of her church.

As I reflect on my early days of student teaching, I remember visiting a Pre-K classroom to observe. Ms. Laurie was the teacher in that class, and I remember her well because each evening, she read a picture book on local TV. Storytime with Ms. Laurie. As I observed, I noticed a group of three young boys gathered by a record player on the far wall. They were taking the wooden cars from the block center and putting them atop the turntable as it spun, watching to see how long it would take before the car flew off the edge.

I started to walk over and remind the boys that the cars didn’t belong on the record player. But as I moved in that direction, I heard Ms. Laurie whisper to me.

“Wait,” she said. “Let’s watch. They’re experimenting!”

Those words truly changed my perspective on teaching young children. Allowing them to experiment before being bound by rules that they don’t yet know exist is a rare golden opportunity for them to explore how the world works.

I left that day with a different outlook on teaching. I wanted to be that teacher who saw around the “rules” being followed and considered the child’s point of view that figuring out how motion affects an object at rest is an adventure in discovery – – a course in advanced physics on the preschool level. I was inspired that day to become a teacher who cared about children’s discovery learning enough to say, “Wait. Let’s watch! They’re experimenting.”

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*During the months of August and September, I am writing poetry forms and responding to quotes and narratives from Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini.  Join me at the start of a new school year by turning over a new leaf – writing more, reading more, reflecting on quotes, connecting to text, and performing a simple daily act of kindness.  Together, we can make the world a better place!  

Celebrating the Diversity of Georgia

It’s National Georgia Day! On this day, we celebrate all things Georgia! Today’s poetry form presented in Dictionary for a Better World by Charles Waters and Irene Latham, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini is a Rondine – a 12-line poem with seven lines in the first stanza, five lines in the second stanza, and all lines having either 8 or 10 syllables except the seventh and twelfth lines, which repeat a single word – such as Diversity or Georgia, which is the first word of the first line of the poem. I love the diversity of my home state, from the mountains to the coast! The authors inspired me to try my hand at a Rondine today.

Georgia’s Diversity

Georgia mountains to pristine beaches

Loblolly pines to Freestone peaches

Coastal marsh to Appalachian Trail

Bottlenosed dolphin to northern right whale

Margaret Mitchell to Alice Walker

Livestock auctioneer to slow-drawl talker

Georgia

Urban city to rural countryside

Six Flags Over Georgia: Cheers for the ride!

People of all nations stand unified

Embracing each other from far and wide

Georgia

Sunrise through Loblolly Pines in Williamson, Georgia

I had an interesting email exchange with my dad earlier this week about the top ten books in each state. If you had to choose ONE book as the literature to represent your state, what would it be? Most would choose Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell for Georgia.

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*During the months of August and September on days when I’m not participating in the Open Write at www.ethicalela.com, I will be writing in response to the pages of Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. The poems, poetic forms, narratives, quotes, and calls to action to make one small difference might be just the medicine my world – or the whole world – needs. I’ll be inviting insights in the form of an immersion into a 10-minute-a-day book study (just long enough to read the page, reflect, and connect). If you don’t have a copy of the book, you can order one here on Amazon. I invite you to join me in making August and September a time of deep personal book friendship. A few teachers will be following the blog and engaging in classroom readings and responses to the text. So come along! Let’s turn the pages into intentionally crafting beautiful change together.

Dictionary for a Better World: Intention in an Ice Cream Sandwich

I selected the word Intention for today’s focus when I saw that it was National Ice Cream Sandwich Day. I’ll explain the connection in a moment, but in looking at pages 50-51, the poem on these pages of Dictionary for a Better World is a didactic poem, which offers a moral message with an instructional purpose. Oprah Winfrey’s featured quote is, “I believe the choice to be excellent begins with aligning your thoughts and words with the intention to require more from yourself.” Her quote expresses much of the purpose I felt in taking this book and stretching it over two months, allowing the words to seep in and saturate my thinking as I meditate on engaging in acts of service that make a difference. One of the authors shares his intentions to become a published author, despite the rejection letters and frustrations along the way. The authors issue the call to action in writing down something we’ve felt compelled to do, and then pursuing it.

National Ice Cream Sandwich Day takes me back to my childhood on a day when I was visiting my grandparents in Blackshear, Georgia. We lived on St. Simon’s Island, about an hour and a half away, so we visited them frequently on weekends. Meema Jones, as we lovingly called our mother’s mother, always had a box of ice cream sandwiches waiting for my brother and me in the freezer. Like most grandmothers, she knew how to coax hugs and spoil us with sweets. It worked.

Until the day that we pulled into the driveway and I fled the backseat and made a beeline straight for the freezer without a greeting hug. My mother, right on my heels, took the ice cream sandwich away from me and refused to let me have it. She made me go back and greet my grandmother since I had clearly gotten my priorities out of order. I still didn’t get an ice cream sandwich on that particular visit, because I had to learn my lesson.

My intention was not to hurt my grandmother’s feelings, but by losing sight of the giver and going straight for the gift, that’s exactly what I had done. I had to set things straight, and that one life lesson five decades ago has stayed with me, reminding me to give forethought to intentions and unintended consequences of situations before I go bumbling in and making a mess of things.

I love the blurbs of history and evolution of the national days on the calendar as linked above. Today, I’ll enjoy an ice cream sandwich, and I might even hashtag a photo with #IceCreamSandwichDay. But what I certainly won’t forget to do is to be intentional about smiling and saying thank you to the person who serves me, as I bite into the creamy sweetness, remembering the grandmother who introduced me to these delightful dairy desserts – and a mother who showed me what was most important.

Ken and me with our Meema Jones, January 28, 1989

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Dictionary For A Better World: Respect

Today’s word in Dictionary for a Better World is Respect, and the poetry form introduced is an epistle, a letter poem addressed to someone, using poetic devices. There is a quote from Joseph M. Marshall III: “Respect is a close relative of tolerance, and both go a long way to prevent and alleviate the negative interactions between and among people.” One of the authors shares a connection about his love of Aretha Franklin’s music (R-E-S-P-E-C-T), and in the call to action, the authors encourage readers to try an act of respect by making a list of people we respect, explaining why, and then to reach out to them or their families to share our thoughts.

As I consider the opportunities to respond to this text as we celebrate National Respect for Parents Day, I’m choosing to write an epistle to my mother, who died in December 2015, using a short Haiku chain as poetic device. Later today, when I talk with my brother, I’ll share with him how proud I am that he and I get along and make decisions that honor both our father and the legacy of our mother. Because even though Mom’s not physically here with us, there is no doubt that she is still here. She lives on in us, and the way we live reflects her. We always want to make her proud when others look at us and see her spirit.

Bringing Heaven to Earth

you slipped away, Mom

leaving a rich legacy

and yet you’re still here

that hawk on the wire?

checking to see if we have 

our seatbelts fastened

that redbird feeding?

reminding us to behave,

keeping us in line

those black swallowtails?

urging us to plant fennel ~

long live butterflies!

the eyes of our dogs?

“You take care of these dogs, now.” 

you’re there in that love.

you’re not ever gone

you’re everywhere we look, you

bring heaven to earth

Obituary of Miriam Jones Haynes
Miriam Jones Haynes
FEBRUARY 19, 1943 – DECEMBER 29, 2015

What comes to mind when you meditate on the word respect? Please share the places that the word respect takes you in the Padlet or in the comments below!

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*During the months of August and September, I am writing poetry forms and responding to quotes and narratives from Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini.  Join me at the start of a new school year by turning over a new leaf – writing more, reading more, reflecting on quotes, connecting to text, and performing a simple daily act of kindness.  Together, we can make the world a better place!