Live, Love, and Write Good Sentences

Poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Photo by Hans Beacham

I want to live, to love and say it well in good sentences.  –Sylvia Plath

I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.   –Sylvia Plath

Postcard Note: The postcard, featuring Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, came from Gina B (aka Bianca), my pen friend/literary twin in Germany. I received the postcard a day or two after talking with one of my students about her senior thesis. I’d suggested to her that she include Sylvia Plath in her discussion about Anne Sexton’s poetry. Coincidence? More than that, of course.

On Books: A Poem in Honor of Dr. Seuss

Thanks for picking up the hat for me, Butterfly. My own cat has outgrown his hat, but he’ll pick it up again, some day–after the self-conscious tween years, or when he has his own kids. 😉 Photo by Meli aka Butterfly’s mom.

It’s been years since my last Dr. Seuss birthday salute. Gasp! How did that happen? When I was finishing up a Dr. Seuss swap way too early this morning, I ran across a couple of Dr. Seuss items that had been hiding in my clutter. I’m sure I intended to blog about them, but well…things get buried in the “to be blogged” pile.

I rescued  a poem to celebrate “Dr. Seuss Day.” The poem was written by swapper Kate Mc (KateKintail, a swap-bot ambassador) for a “celebrate Seuss” swap two years ago .

“On Books”

Sometimes you get bored
and there’s nothing to do.
You stare at the clock
And nudge stones with your shoe.

You flop onto a couch
or a chair or a bed.
You watch infomercials
or do nothing instead.

And just when you think
life isn’t all that,
why, who should arrive,
but the Cat in the Hat!

I’ve come for your boredom.
I’ll take it away.
I’ll bring in the fun
and cheer up your dull day.

I’ve got boxes and bins
full of toys and what-not.
You’ll be amazed
by the stuff I have got.

But for you, my dear swapper,
I’ve got just the thing.
Though not covered in glitter
or tied up with string.

It’s something you’ll like.
Come here, have a look.
I’ll show you what fun
you can have with a book!

Now, don’t make that face.
It’s not what you think.
Don’t rip up this letter
and throw it in the drink.

Books are jam-packed
with bushels of fun.
I really should know–
I came out of one.

So suspend disbelief.
Without further ado,
I shall outline the things
a good book can do.

Open one  up and
fold it just right.
Put it on your head,
and like that, you’re a knight.

With a couple of books
you can make a band.
Clap covers together
with one in each hand.

Or riffle the pages
for a different sound.
Even when its quiet
music can abound.

Find a table or desk
and prop one up on its side.
Grab your favorite food
and behind it you can hide.

You’ll be absorbed
while the world goes on by.
Hidden in knowledge,
new tastes you can try.

Or go to your bookshelves.
Collect a whole stack.
The green, white, and brown ones
the little ones in the back.

Pile them all up
up higher than high,
and pretend to climb up them
all the way to the sky.

Imagine the scenes
you’d pass on your walk.
The places you’d visit
and characters who’d talk.

One foot on Great Gatsby,
another on Dune.
After Gone with the Wind
you’re halfway to the moon.

But maybe climbing
ins’t your cup of tea.
Don’t run away;
please stick here by me.

Put a book on your head
for a balancing game.
Hop on one foot.
Repeat your own name.

Put one underneath
a table’s unwobbly leg.
Then set up a race
with an orange an egg.

Stand many on end
for a fence or a fort.
A beach chair and mai-tai
make it a resort.

An old book is great
if you’re in a craft stage.
Make a purse of the cover
and ATCs of the page.

But the very most fun
can be all in your head.
The best thing is that
a book can be read.

Designed using papers and elements from

Be sure to do some reading this weekend in honor of Dr. Seuss!

Till the Gossamer Thread Catch: A Short Break with Walt Whitman

I’m in the middle of grading a heap of papers and trying desperately not to lose focus until I reach today’s goal, so I’m dropping in to share a “photo poem” I pulled from my “archives”–the second verse of Walt Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider” paired with a dandelion I shot some time ago.

You can find the (only a few lines longer) full poem and a little about the poet here: Academy of American Poets: Whitman.

Until next time…

Psalm 23 Celebration Freebie: We Did It Again!

Yesterday, one of my besties, Aleta, sent a morning text filled with encouragement for the day and a beautiful poem, a reworking of Psalm 23 by Japanese poet, Toki Miyashina. She wrote:

The poem speaks perfectly to our need for peace and calmness of mind as we rush through our days of madness. Meditate on it today…

When the seriously involved mom of four-busy lawyer-pastor’s wife who is also taking courses toward yet another degree tells me that something helps her find balance in her days, this woman takes note.

The Lord is my Pace-setter, I shall not rush;
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.
He provides me with images of stillness,
which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency
through calmness of mind,
and His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things
to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for His presence is here;
His timelessness, His all importance,
will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal
in the midst of my activity
by anointing my mind with His oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness
shall be the fruits of my hours;
for I shall walk, in the pace of my Lord
and dwell in His house forever.

The only “solid” information I have on the poem is that it was written in the mid-1960s. But what has been popularized as the “Japanese Translation of Psalm 23” is really a reworking or reinterpretation of the psalm rather than an actual translation of scripture. No matter. Toki Miyashina beautifully captures the essence of the psalm for the busyness of our modern-day lives: God as guide and giver of rest and sustenance and God as pace-setter and balance-keeper, under whose management we produce harmony and effectiveness.

I must see this poem as I’m going through my busy days, so I designed a simple printable for my Arc and Classic planners. And…I’m giving them to you in celebration of my completion of NaBloPoMo for the second year in a row and as a simple “thank you” for enduring my random postings and musings for the last 30 days.

There are two designs and three different sizes: for full-sized planners and notebooks (8.5 x 11–such as the Arc, Levenger, or Tul); for the Classic (5.5 x 8.5–Franklin Covey, DayTimer, DayRunner, etc.); and for A5 planners. The printable was designed with floral elements from Jen Maddocks Designs. Take your pick and download the size you need–or all of them. Click one of the links below:

Be sure to adjust your printer settings for the size you need. Enjoy!

Speaking of Sunflowers…

“Chelsey’s Sunflower” Postcard Made by Trang K.

Isn’t this the most adorable piglet “sunning” beneath the brilliant rays of a sunflower? This postcard was beautifully made by the talented Trang K, who sent me a different sunflower few months ago. Trang wrote a long note, sweetly embellished with  flourishes, doodled flowers, hearts, and a butterfly.  She closed the card with, “You are a blessing and a treasure” written in gold. I’m convinced her heart overflows into each card she makes.

My sunflowers bloom all year long, thanks to my penfriends.

“The Sunflowers” by Mary Oliver

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young –
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds –
each one a new life!

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

The “Other” Sister: “I didn’t have to fight…”

Although I’ve written about my younger sister Karlette who succumbed to breast cancer a few years ago, I have not mentioned Lori, my other sister, who danced with the devil. Lori’s diagnosis came a few years before Karlette’s first. I asked her to write a blog post about her experience, but she feels that she has little to add to the conversation. However, what she shared with me during the “trying-to convince-her” discussion says a lot about the feelings of some breast cancer survivors whose battles may not have been as “dramatic” as others’.

It has been hard for me to think of myself as a survivor. I really didn’t have to fight cancer. Karlette fought cancer. It kept coming for her and she fought with everything she had. I just went through treatments and it was gone. I’m not sure if I’ve ever celebrated survival. I know that there’s always the possibility of its coming back, but my plan would be the same[…]. I never thought of it as a fight. I thank God for His mercy and for blessing me when so many others had to fight and many even lost.

When I pointed out to her that her status as “survivor” is a matter of perspective, that every year she “holds her breath until given the ‘cancer free’ news,” she responded:

I do. [But] I give it all to God. I thank Him daily for every breath I take. Don’t get me wrong. I know I, too, could have lost, but I know that it was God who fought and won. Not me–not without giving it to Him.

It has been difficult for Lori being the older sister survivor when one of her baby sisters didn’t survive. She lives with profound sadness because of this reality. I watched her go through treatment, and it wasn’t pretty. Cancer changed her life. It changed her body’s chemistry and even impacted the way she processed our younger sister’s passing. 

A cancer diagnosis–no matter how positive the prognosis–is a sucker punch that a person feels deep in his or her being. Every cancer survivor lives with the possibility that “it” may return.

That is what makes survivors survivors–not “beating” the disease or coming through unscathed but the daunting reality of the disease; they’re survivors because they can stand up in the world and move and contribute and be [whole and well] with the looming possibility of such crippling news.

We lost Karlette. That’s an awful reality that hurts like hell. But losing her makes us celebrate Lori even more. Though we may never have the answer to why not Karlette too, Lori’s survival is important. It rescues us from despair. It gives us hope. And that is certainly a reason to celebrate.

The closing lines of my favorite Lucille Clifton poem comes to mind:

come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
[from “won’t you celebrate with me“]

*Photos in this post are from Pixabay.

Flowers, Feathers, and Butterflies: Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much

When I lamented in the Global Postcard Art Swap/heart Exchange group that I missed the signup deadline for the swap, Sharon R., with whom I had no previous interaction, immediately offered to send me a postcard. When I received her gorgeous postcard, my jaw dropped.

It is simply stunning! The colors, multiple layers, and textures offer a visual feast. The scan does little justice to this handmade postcard. You’d have to see it in person, touch it and hold it to fully appreciate its beauty.

“Live, Laugh, Love.” Handmade postcard by Sharon R.

Live-Laugh-Love is one of those phrases we hear (and see) often, but most of us don’t know where it originated. It has been misattributed to many others–including Hitler (?!) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (doesn’t even sound like him to me); however, the phrase actually comes from the first lines of a poem written in 1904 by writer Bessie Anderson Stanley.  [Note: the year the poem was written explains the gendered language, and we won’t go into what “pure women” might mean].

He has achieved success
who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;

who has enjoyed the trust of
pure women,

the respect of intelligent men and
the love of little children;

who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

who has left the world better than he found it
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;

who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;

who has always looked for the best in others and
given them the best he had;

whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

When you are tempted to measure success by dollars and things, revisit this poem and take a look at the treasures stored up in your soul. When it comes to the things that really matter in life, you will find that you are richer and way more successful than you think!