Slice of Life Story Challenge – March 23 – Books, Coffee, Campuses, and Authors

Throughout the month, I’ve been inviting the participation of others on my blog. Today’s post is by my sister-in-law, Dr. Bethany Johnson, who is also my friend and travel buddy. She shares about her recent trip to Mississippi.

Books, Coffee, Campuses, and Authors

My sister-in-law and I began taking much needed girl trips together after the pandemic. We both felt the need to get out, explore, be immersed in nature, and simply connect and have fun. We have been to beautiful gardens, historic hotels, stayed in outdated but comfy cabins in the mountains. We have walked around beautiful towns shopping, sought out confectionery treats, eaten in cute cafes and, of course, always found a coffee shop.

Square Books – Oxford, Mississippi

When deciding how we pick our trips, we look at what we love the most and begin centering ideas for places that satisfy one, if not more, of these criteria. We both say a bookstore is our second home, so it’s always a given that books need to be involved. However, we like to go to unique, privately owned bookstores with personality, so no large chain bookstores for us. We both love coffee, so a coffee shop is a must. She is a writer, so any place that has a connection to an author makes her giddy – and for me, being a professor, I love to walk around college campuses.

Square Books – Oxford, Mississippi

Kim and I never return from one of these trips without discussing our next
adventure. One of these discussions led us to a possible trip to Oxford, Mississippi. Why
Oxford? Because all four of our must-haves are in this quaint, beautiful Southern town. It has a campus – Ole Miss. It features two American authors – John Grisham and the late William Faulkner. It has several coffee shops, and it has one of the most unique bookstores in the country … Square Books.

Unfortunately, due to conflicts in our work schedules, we were not able to take that trip together. However, my adventurous sister-in-law, who has taken many solo trips, encouraged me to go by myself when an opportunity to attend a conference in Oxford arose.

So, off I went!

The square in Oxford, alone, is worth the trip. Walking around the square, I found myself slowing down and meandering into the many shops. But I must admit my slowing down wasn’t the first thing I did because I had one destination in mind, the sole goal of the trip (no, the conference wasn’t even the true reason) … Square Books. There are four Square Books stores all within walking distance of each other and each offering something unique. I chose to visit the original and main store. This multi-floored bookstore has everything from rare books to best selling books to books signed by the authors. Each floor offers so many possibilities for a book lover like me. It was only within the aisles of these floors that I finally slowed down while looking at the books, just waiting for that one book to speak to me. I ran my finger along the spines of the books as I took in the smell. I wandered to the rare book section, taking in the history behind them. I stood looking in wonder at how something so small has within its pages something worth so much!

I sat in one of the antique chairs nestled in a corner on the third floor simply listening to the hushed sounds of other people chasing the infinite possibilities within the pages of a book. I smelled the coffee from the small coffee shop and wished it wasn’t raining because I really
wanted to sit on the balcony overlooking the square. That will be my reason for going back.

I lost myself within the first few pages of several potential books trying to decide if I should only buy one. I sat there for a long time finding peace in my heart and letting the rest of the world stay outside of those brick walls.

This bookstore has been written up in many articles nationwide. My favorite article about it is in Southern Living. In this article, it describes Square Books so perfectly: “The little independent bookstore that could has made quite the name for itself, while somehow managing to remain true to its roots.”

So, if you love sweet southern towns and especially love books, I hope you find yourself walking around the streets of Oxford and especially among the floors of Square Books.

Slice of Life Challenge – March 22 – Metaphor Mumbo Jumbo Jam with Denise Hill at Open Write

Denise Hill of Bay City, Michigan is our host today for the final day of the March Open Write at You can read her full prompt here. Today’s challenge is to twist up an idiom or aspect of figurative language to make it opposite or different in some way, then run with it. Since I brought my new chicks home yesterday from the friend who hatched them and kept them for a few weeks, I chose the idiom Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch. My chicks hatched on my mother’s birthday, February 19, and I first wrote about them here on March 10.

Chicks on hatch day
Welcome, Spring Chickens!

Nine Easter Eggers
I didn’t hatch my chickens
Before they counted

Eleven candled
Only three-quarter dozen
Made it out alive

Chicks the day I met them
Chicks this morning, 3/22, a week and a half shy of fully feathered

Slice of Life Challenge – March 21 – Seeing the Stranger Poems with Katrina Morrison

Today’s host of the March Open Write is Katrina Morrison of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who inspires us to write poems from the shadows – from places of memory or distanced wonder. You can read her full prompt here – and join us, if you’d like. Come and peruse the poems today – there will be some moving poems, I predict. I hope to see you there!

I write from a place of childhood haunting – a movie scene that has branded my heart and left me wondering about the thin veil between strangers and friends.

The Speed of Love

When I was little

There was this movie

A man and his chimp

Were best buds

The man gave the chimp

Treats to coax good behavior

Trust was built 

At the speed of treats

Love at the speed of 

Time together

And so it was

Until the scene 

In the biohazard lab

Where the deadly spores 

   Diffused into the air

Where that door 

Got stuck 

And the double whammy -

      the bomb was ticking

Tick tick tick tick tick

No one could

Break the code

   or the glass

The man on one side 

His best little buddy 

   stuck on the other

The fate of mankind

    Hanging in the breeze

The camera panned 

To the furrowed brow

To the moment of knowing

    the heartsick feeling

      in the man's heart

But he had to do

    What he had to do

The man dangled the treat

    at  the window

Pointed to the problem

directed his best little buddy

to deactivate the bomb

The chimp pushed the button

  Saving mankind

     No more spores spewing

        No more bomb ticking

Returned to the window

  for his treat

     for his good behavior

        for saving mankind

But the chimp’s fate was sealed

  He’d breathed the spores

     Opening the door would only kill more

The camera panned to the 

   Man’s hand holding the treat

     Against the glass

       The chimp’s fingers feverishly

         Trying to grasp it

Trying to grasp the treat

   Trying to grasp the truth

       The question mark on his brow

          The tears in the man’s eyes

              The grief in his heart

thud thud thud thud thud 

And that was where the movie ended


But it has never ended

   It still plays on 

      In a quiet chamber

        Of my heart


Slice of Life Challenge – March 20, 2023 – Open Write Day 3 with Stefani Boutelier – Flip Poetry

Our host today at for the March Open Write, Day 3, is Stefani Boutelier, Associate Professor of Education at Aquinas College in Michigan. She’s using technology tools this week and inviting us to apply some of these ideas in our teaching. Today, she invites us to participate in Flip Poetry. You can read her full prompt here.

I’ll return to the Open Write later to explore more with today’s flip, but to begin this morning with a heart full of gratitude for warmth on this 26-degree morning, I’m writing a springtime palindrome poem in 3-21-23 fashion for today (as the first day of spring) and tomorrow (as a palindrome date). I can use syllables, words, or apply a function of math to each line to write this. I saw gorgeous azaleas at the campground over the weekend and add them to my pile of good things I celebrate today! I’ll experiment with Stef’s flip at lunchtime! 

Azaleas in bloom at FD Roosevelt State Park on Pine Mountain in Georgia 3-19-2023

Springtime 32123 Palindrome Poem

Pink azaleas bloom
Buds burst
Warmer days
Ahead….welcome springtime! 

Slice of Life Challenge – March 19 with Stefani Boutelier – Open Write – Pile of Good Things Poem

For five days each month and every day in April, I write with in addition to writing with Slice of Life every Tuesday and every day in March. In fact, two years ago I kept on blogging every morning, and the last day of February 2023, I celebrated two full years of daily blogging. I’m also looking for more groups and would LOVE to have a calendar of writing groups so that I am better able to carve the time for more writing. If you have a calendar you’ve created, I’d love for someone to share it.

Today, we are writing Pile of Good Things poems after the mentor text shared by Stefani Boutelier, written by Amy Kay. You can read Stef’s prompt here. She’s an Associate Professor of Education at Aquinas College in Michigan, and she’s certified in all the tech tools of the trade, it seems. I first met Stef when I interviewed her for the Oklahoma State University Oral History Project as many of us shared poetry we’d written during the days of Covid. That project, led by Dr. Sarah Donovan, is available in OSU’s library, and the videos are deeply moving. From that project, our book Bridging the Distance was published, featuring the poems we shared in those interviews.

Our group in Ahaheim – Stef is on the far left in the black sweater; I am on the right in the sage green shirt. From the Slice of Life group, Barb Edler is on the back row, left, black shirt; Margaret Simon is on the back row, third from right, Glenda Funk is on the back row, red shirt, and Denise Krebs is on the front row, gray shirt without cream colored sweater.

I didn’t meet Stef in person until November 2022, when we convened in Anaheim for the NCTE Convention and were part of a presentation group together. Everyone pitched in – Glenda wrote our proposal and rallied us to success in getting there, Margaret set up a dinner, Stef organized a time of writing with our group, and everyone worked on some part of making the time together magical, including teaming up to create prompts for the times we host during the coming year – Barb and Glenda did that! I still remember us trying to get the famous green couch moved out of the exhibit hall into a public place so that we could gather around it. While we weren’t able to use the green couch, we sat on the benches and the floor sharing sacred time together. Melanie Meehan from Slice of Life joined many of us. I remember Bryan Ripley Crandall strolling by and joining us for this time that I still consider one of the highlights of the trip – it was warm, intimate, and deeply moving. There were plenty of tears that morning as we were both sad to leave our friends and ready to get back home to our families with long flights or drives in between.

Stef leads our group in a time of Open Writing as Leilya Pitre looks on

I’m celebrating all the writers in my life today, and the friendships that writing communities create. Whether I’ve met you or not, you may know me better than most of the friends who are part of my daily life. Thank you!

Today at the Open Write, Stef leads us through the process of creating a Pile of Good Things poem and uploading it to Canva to create a colorful graphic form of the poems, ready for sharing. Come write with us at Here is mine, written from Campsite 108 at F. D. Roosevelt State Park in Georgia:

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers at Slice of Life

Slice of Life Challenge – March 18 – Open Write with Stefani Boutelier : Using AI to Generate Poems

Hylas and the Nymphs (1896) by John William Waterhouse

Today I’m participating in both the Slice of Life Story Challenge and the March Open Write through Our host at the Open Write today is Dr. Stefani Boutelier, whose prompt guides us in using AI to write a poem. One of the things I fear most is the outsourcing of human creativity and intelligence, but Stefani’s fresh and open approach encourages us to learn alongside it and use it in our lives. You can read her full prompt here. I opened Chat GPT and gave the directions: write a poem about nymphs and goblins on a saltmarsh with green glass beads stolen from the moon. I was thinking about my favorite poem I shared yesterdayOverheard on a Saltmarsh by Harold Monro.

Here is the untitled poem “I” wrote today:

On a saltmarsh, where the mist does rise,
Nymphs dance and play under cloudy skies,
With green glass beads stolen from the moon,
They adorn themselves in a radiant boon.

Their laughter echoes through the night,
As they flit and flutter in their flight,
Their wings like gossamer, delicate and light,
Beneath the moon’s gentle, silver light.

But lurking there are goblins sly,
With glowing eyes and teeth awry,
They cackle and jeer at the nymphs’ delight,
And their mischief causes them much fright.

The nymphs know well to avoid their grasp,
For goblins are cunning and quick to clasp,
But sometimes, in their game of chase,
The goblins catch one in their embrace.

Then it’s up to the others to free their friend,
And the chase begins anew, without end,
Until the goblins tire and flee,
Leaving the nymphs to dance and be free.

So on that saltmarsh, where the moon does shine,
Nymphs and goblins play a game divine,
With green glass beads, a treasure stolen,
A tale that shall forever be spoken.

-written by my AI nymph and goblin friends posing as me, Kim Johnson

Růžena Maturová as the first Rusalka
Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers at Slice of Life

Slice of Life Challenge – March 17 – Green Glass Beads on St. Patrick’s Day

Water nymph

Throughout my childhood, I was obsessed with one particular book. I spent hours on end reading it – – even took the flashlight into my closet so I could read it in there too and not be bothered while I was mesmerized. I not only fell in love with the words in the book, but also with the pictures – they were enchanting. I studied every detail of the pages in Childcraft Volume 1 – Poems and Rhymes – with the pink band on the gold-numbered spine.

One poem in particular was my favorite among favorites.

Overheard on a Saltmarsh by Harold Monro (14 March 1879 – 16 March 1932).

I lived near salt marshes in those days, on a coastal island in Georgia. I’d never seen any nymphs and goblins in the marshes, but I wondered – – could they really be there? How had I missed them?

Overheard on a Saltmarsh by Harold Monro

I fixated on the goblin and the nymph in the illustration. That’s a water nymph – – they often have plants growing from their heads, I learned. She’s not afraid of that ghastly looking goblin, either. She is confident in herself there in the moonlight, wearing her green gown and green glass beads.

That’s what I’d wanted to be when I grew up – a beautiful nymph with a shapely figure, wearing a flowy gown and green beads, telling my goblins NO.

And so to celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day, I will not sport a shamrock. I won’t wear a green flowy gown or drink a green beer or flash a Kiss Me, I’m Irish t-shirt or paint my face green. Or get a tattoo.

Instead, I have framed my favorite childhood poem and will nymphatically wear these green jasper beads.

Hush, I stole them out of the moon.

A framed childhood favorite poem, with green beads
Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers!

Please join us at Saturday through Wednesday for the March Open Write. We’ll be writing poetry for the next 5 days. Come write with us!

Slice of Life – March 15 (Ides of March) – Grooming Day

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge

Yesterday was grooming day for our three boys.

You know those kids you see coming to class and think, “well… we go…..they couldn’t be absent just this once?”

Two of these dogs are those kids.

I went to pick them up and got pulled into the dreaded parent-teacher conference with the principal of the facility; one of my incorrigible boys can no longer stay in the same run with the others because he picked a fight that ended up in a kennel brawl. Another one lost all of his facial Schnauzer features – his signature brows and beard – because he had run through the brambles at home and the hair was too tangled to be saved. One came home looking like the Lorax and another like a junkyard dog. The lone angel, of course, looks like a fine specimen of his breed and minds his own business. He’s the best dog we’ve got, I tell my husband, as he covers the ears of the other two.

I can’t take ’em nowhere.

Fitz, Boo Radley, and Ollie (the angel)
Can't Take 'Em Nowhere 

see these boys right here?
two kennel troublemakers~
can’t take ‘em nowhere!

'cept one's an angel~
"the baby" can do no wrong
minds his own business

they went for groomings-
what a complete disaster!
can’t take ‘em nowhere!

see this one right here?
he ran through the beggar lice,
lost his schnauzer face

had to shave him down
now he looks ridiculous
he don’t care one lick

see this one right here?
he started a kennel brawl
can’t take 'em nowhere

flashed a sharp-fanged tooth
issued aggressive death threats
- - - solitary cell- - - 

see this one right here?
he don’t never cause trouble
this perfect sweet soul

can’t take ‘em nowhere
‘cept home to the Funny Farm
with the rest of us

see these boys right here?
two kennel troublemakers~
can’t take ‘em nowhere!
Fitz – – caused a kennel brawl and came home looking like The Lorax
Boo Radley – had to be shaved down and came home looking like a junkyard dog and don’t care one lick
Ollie – the little angel who never causes trouble

Yet despite all their shenanigans, they’re our much-loved bad boys.

Slice of Life Challenge – March 14- Epsom Salt Overall Review: My Favorite Soaking Solution (Part 3 of 3)

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for giving writers space and voice

I was a strange child.

Still am.

When I worked on a 50 States project in 5th grade, I wrote to every state capital’s Chamber of Commerce requesting brochures I could include in my presentation binder. I learned far less about the states from that project than I did about the power of written communication, and writing the letters was not an assigned part of the project – it was something I enjoyed doing because it enriched the experience – – much like bath salts enrich the bathtime experience. Today, I’ll share my favorite variety of the bath salts I have used.

I also learned that written communication could get me free samples of products – and more mail with my name on it. Back in the day, magazines would list where you could write for free samples, and I had every free beauty product they offered, whether I needed it or not. Mom always got me stamps when she knew I was writing for a worthy cause – plus, it kept me out of other trouble. I had lipgloss, eyeshadow, and even a jar of Gerber’s Dutch Apple Dessert when their campaign persuaded buyers that it wasn’t just for babies, but that people of all ages could enjoy it as a snack. I also got coupons for cool products like Lemon Up Shampoo and Conditioner – and I got in trouble for using the entire bottle of each in one bath on my angel wings “because it smelled so good.” I’ve learned through epsom salt reviews that there are far less expensive ways of taking a great-smelling bath!

Lemon-Up Shampoo from the 1970s

Pink Himalayan Mineral Soak Restore & Replenish – this variety is a mineral soak that contains pink Himalayan salt along with bergamot and sweet orange essential oils to help rejuvenate the body. It has a grapefruit-y smell, and the salt crystals seem less coarse and smaller than the other varieties I have used. It smells amazing, but again – this one is one that does a better job of awakening than relaxing, so I would not recommend it before bedtime.

Vapor Bath with Menthol, Camphor, and Spearmint Essential Oil – this one is for a special purpose, and it isn’t for sleep when you can already breathe freely. But when you can’t breathe, this one will work to help open sinuses and airways. It’s so powerful that you have to sit in the bath with your eyes closed, because it will flat out make your eyes water like you’re slicing an onion. I would definitely recommend wearing swim goggles when soaking in the vapor bath.

Today’s favorite between these final two varieties is Pink Himalayan Mineral Soak, simply because the vapor bath is more for medicinal purposes.

This brings the overall competition to my three daily favorites – Pink Himalayan Mineral Soak, Cannabis Sativa Hemp Seed Oil, and Calm Your Mind.

My third favorite bath salt is Pink Himalayan Mineral Soak.

My second favorite is Calm Your Mind……

…and my favorite aromatherapy soak is Cannabis Sativa Hemp Seed Oil Soaking Solution.

I did not review any of the foaming bath counterparts that go along with these products, and I did not review all of the varieties. There are still other varieties that need bloggers’ reviews. Here is the Dr. Teal’s website with all of the products and varieties (I am not selling their products, just providing the link for the ones I did not review).

And here I am, the cleanest I’ve been in years – – probably the cleanest I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve learned that epsom salts have multiple health benefits, but more importantly, I’ve learned that it takes a deliberate mindset to shift the balance between baths and showers. While I still prefer showers because of my busy lifestyle, I will continue to carve time for soaking as a way of regulating the pace of life.