Speak Up for Puerto Rico – Part 2

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I woke up this morning and enjoyed a cup of coffee as I sat on my dry couch. When I looked up at the ceiling, I spotted a cobweb, and thought “I’ll clean that up right after I post this on social media.” I intend to call my sister today, because I haven’t talked to her for a few days. I have enough fuel to drive to see her in person if I want to. Before I go anywhere, I will shower in clean water, put on dry clothes, and drink some pure refreshing water. I might even eat some breakfast.

Today, the woman in the photo could only do one of the things that I listed. She woke up. 7 days ago Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, destroying the island. This is what she has woken up to each day since.  Each day gets worse. There is no electrical power.  Hospitals are shutting down.  Food is spoiling.  Farms were obliterated by the storms, so there will be no fresh food. There is no clean drinking water. Despair is growing.  Yes, the woman woke up today, but will she wake up tomorrow? What about the other 3 million American citizens who are trapped on the island?

#SpeakUpForPuertoRico – This is a “Major Disaster” and it must be declared a Major Disaster by the US president before they will receive all the help that is available. So far, it has been approved as an “Emergency Declaration” which does provide assistance, but not enough. #BeAVoice #PuertoRico

Image from
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/22/puerto-rico-still-without-power-receives-aid-from-ny-delegation.html

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Still Life with Elephant (NaPoWriMo 6)


Still Life with Elephant (Denial)


O.
Because I have no words—
Only images—
Memories—Pain—
I will carry as much as I can.

I.

Mommy?
Daddy?

III.

Look! Duckies!
Skip, run,
Play, hooray,
Hop,
Heavenly
Happiness.

VII.
School
Safety
Study
Serenity

 X.

 

 

XII.

Achieve
Achieve
Accomplish
Achieve
Do more.
Everything
Is fine.

XVI.

I didn’t mean to be
Rebellious,
Sassy, or
To talk back.
I just thought I
Saw an elephant,
maybe.
Whatever.


XX.

Yep. Definitely
An elephant, maybe several.
I can see the grey
And smell the evidence
Of their presence.
I can’t talk about it
Right now, though.
The stench is too
Raw.
Maybe I just need to
CLEAN
Everything.

 XXXII.

I hear rumbling.
Perhaps roaring?
Who is this
That cries and screeches for
Help? 

XL.

I was born to be a mahout.
I am becoming whole,
Learning to balance,
And I now recognize this
Behemoth as
A healer And my friend.
The elephant
That was once “in the room”
Is now free.
Together we face
Our journey.
Our pain.
Our story.
Our trumpeting.
Our victory.

NaPoWriMo.net – Day 6 Prompt “And now for our (optional) prompt. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that looks at the same thing from various points of view. The most famous poem of this type is probably Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. You don’t need to have thirteen ways of looking at something – just a few will do!
Happy writing!”

Iris (NaPoWriMo – Day 5)



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Sometimes, when home was a battleground
And the rest of the world seemed equally formidable,
I’d escape to the tiny fir fortress
That lined the front of the house.
Armored behind an Arborvitae acropolis,
I would wait out the storm
Of drunken denunciations
and loaded questions. Cradled
Between bricks and bushy branches,
I discovered a fragrant friend.
Iris.
She was late, as the flowers of spring
Had come and gone.
Lily of the valley
Whispers could no longer be heard.
She was diagonal—
Leaning toward the light
That forced its way between the shrubs.
She was evanescent.
As soon as I discovered her each summer,
I knew she would only be around for a few days.
Then, she would wilt, shriveling
As she aged.
Fortunately,
She would return each summer—
Just when I forgot, or thought
She’d forgotten—
She would rise up,
A Champion,
Flaunting her fruity falls,
To remind me—
To make sure that
I see—
Even in the darkest corners,
Even when I had waited longer than
I thought I could bear,
Beauty,
Hope,
always pushes through.

Day 5 Prompt from NaPoWriMo.net “In honor of Mary Oliver’s work, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that is based in the natural world: it could be about a particular plant, animal, or a particular landscape. But it should be about a slice of the natural world that you have personally experienced and optimally, one that you have experienced often. Try to incorporate specific details while also stating why you find the chosen place or plant/animal meaningful.”

Training


(NaPoWriMo2017 – Day 2)

5 years friendship
12 miles bike path
4 gym shoes, slightly worn
2 caps baseball
3000 milliliters water

Locate 6-mile bike path, and confirm that at least one end has parking.  Fill 2 water bottles for each person, set aside.  Dress comfortably.  Be sure to use baseball caps to protect eyes and face from the sun.  

Walk together. Share funny stories. Ponder aloud. Reveal fears and worries. Discuss emotions.  All of them.  Listen.  Provide pep-talks.  

Pause

Notice the breeze.  See the color of each leave, noting the differences since the last walk.  Celebrate the slivers of sunshine that drip through the canopy of trees above. Pay attention to the beauty around you.  Declare the metaphor among long walks and important friendships.

Continue walking to the end of the path.  Drink more water.  Turn around and make 6-mile return hike.

Prompt for 4/2/2017

Today, I’d like you to write a poem inspired by, or in the form of, a recipe! It can be a recipe for something real, like your grandmother’s lemon chiffon cake, or for something imaginary, like a love potion or a spell.  NaPoWriMo.com

Love Letter to America

Dear America,

Love can save us.  Trust me, I know.

My childhood was not a lovely one.  I was the youngest, and therefore the most helpless, child of a very broken family.  Alcoholism, domestic violence, and several types of abuse were some of the secrets we kept (or thought we kept) hidden within our household. When life was not a place of fear and terror, it was a place of shame and doubt.  Love saved me. One of the first times that I confronted love was in the book Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.  I know it seems silly that a book about a donkey and a little red marble could show me what love looks like.  It was Sylvester’s parents who got through to me. They grieved when their adored son, Sylvester, couldn’t be found.  I realized that love could look like grieving.  My next encounter with love was the Frances books by Russell Hoban.  Frances was lovable, though she was sometimes stubborn, selfish, and childish. Frances had wise caring people in her life who helped her grow and change. I learned that love is not abrasive and that love can transform.

I watched my dad encounter love in the Alcoholics Anonymous book (the Big Book) as he read accounts of other recovering alcoholics sharing their experience, strength, and hope. Yes, I ended up reading the whole book cover-to-cover, too.  I was watching it transform my father, so I just had to read it.  I knew there was good stuff in there!

Book by book, chapter by chapter, page by page, I have been transformed as I have encountered love in books.  I have realized that I am not alone. I have realized that my shortcomings don’t have to be permanent.  I have learned that people are resilient, and I can be too.   I learned that there is hope.  Since then, I have tried to share this love with others.  I like helping my students and friends find the right book. The book that will speak to their hearts.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon Donalyn Miller’s words that put voice to what I was trying to do with books.  On page 9 of The Book Whisperer, Donalyn explains how she and her husband have use books to express themselves and their hearts to each other with “Books are our love letter (or apologies) passed between us, adding a layer of conversation beyond our spoken words.”

For over a week, I have been beyond words. I know that to heal, to move forward, I need to use my voice, but there is too much to articulate.  I also know that I need to love. Fearlessly.  So, America, I want to express my love for you.  Here is my love letter to you in the form of books.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Even when it seems that the world (or in Melinda’s case, the entire high school) is against you, and you are hurting alone, find your safe place, your safe person, and speak.

Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

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Sometimes the best way to help a friend is to listen to what she is not saying.

 

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

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When a friend encourages you to be yourself, your toughest critic might finally accept you as you are, even if your toughest critic is your own father.

 

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

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Wait, do you really expect me to tell you a tiny little thing about each book on this list?  Just read this one!  Trust me!

One For the Murphys by Lynda Mullay Hunt

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Even those of us who feel we are undeserving of love, are indeed loved.

 

Love the Baby by Steven Layne

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Jealousy can cause hatred, but seeing another’s vulnerability and humanity can sometimes be what we need to help us love.

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

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“If you plant a seed of kindness, in almost no time at all, the fruits of kindness will grow and grow and grow.”

 

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

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Sometimes love looks like a bald, chipped-tooth, taxi-driving coach who pushes you to be better.

 

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

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Love, especially sacrificial love, trumps everything no matter how terrifying, dark, and powerful a certain force may appear to be.

 

A Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un Tiempo Perfecto Para Soñar by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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Find someone you trust and share your dreams.

My Secret Camera: Life in the Lodz Ghetto by Frank Dabba Smith, with photographs by Mendel Grossman

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Even in the worst of times, connecting with others, laughter, and love helps us persevere.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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Pay attention to how you treat others, and remember that even small amounts of kindness can ripple outward and change the world.

 

America, this is a teeny tiny list, and there are countless books that will remind you who you are to the world, and who the world should be to you.  These are just a few that I have on my coffee table right now, reminding me that there is hope. Start with one of these, or choose another book, but read, love, transform, and be transformed.
Fondly,

Julie Hoffman

 

 

 

Paper Things (Read Along)

Before you read, let it be known that we were inspired in two ways.  First of all, we were inspired by the book Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.  It is an incredible book!

paper-things

 

Our second inspiration came from Brian Wilhorn @HelpReaders, who put together a similar visual guide for the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  We decided to compose our own version for Paper Things, which is another must-read.

Thank you to Michael, Bella, Trey, Emma, Jezlyn, Shae, and Rowan for doing the research and the hard work to put this together.

Chapters 1 through 5

Chapters 6 through 10
Chapters 11 through 15
Chapters 16 through 20

Chapters 21 through 25
Chapters 26 through 30

Chapters 31 through 35
Chapters 36 through 43