Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Celebrate a Marshmallow World

The #firstsnow lit up the Twitter feeds as a trending topic of the day. Meteorologist reports were constant as the weather pattern inched northwards. Long Island braced itself for its first snowstorm. 

Then, it started slowly as a chain of little white fairies dancing to earth. Gaining momentum, gentle drops moved from a slow entrance to a steady stream, falling gracefully onto the earth. The first snow invited me to step outside to wonder about the late-autumn weather pattern. 

When I woke the next morning, I was invited to the marshmallow world snow party. What you see above was just the start of the first snowfall. The scene below was taken at another time. Mesmerizing, white puffs hung from bushes and snow festively decorated branches like white icing on a cake. Crunchy golden and browned-edged leaves, peeked out here and there to announce that autumn did not take its exit but Nature had other plans. Being bored of fiery colors, it switched its palette to cool tones, creating a winter-like season.

I was impressed by the quick switch and started listening to Dean Martin's song, "It's a Marshmallow World". You may be interested in listening, too.

In the aftermath of the first snow, when Long Island settled down to the reality of a non-snowblower day, I wrote a #haikuforhealing. My poet friend, Mary Lee Hahn, started this December poetry project last year.

I am adding one more #haikuforhealing on the first snow from my poet friend, Catherine Flynn. There is no photo but I can easily imagine the beauty of a Connecticut snowy day.

While I am late to sign into Two Writing Teacher's Slice of Life and Celebrate This Week by Ruth Ayres, I would still like to offer my remembrance of this December's Long Island #1stsnow with hopes that I will have time to continue to design my Autumn Ablaze Gallery before the official start of winter.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Nature is Overflowing

 "Look!  Nature is overflowing with the grandeur of God!"
-  John Muir  

This autumn  I have been impressed by the beauty I see around me. The digital inspirations, image poems, nature photography, music, and artwork that have been coming in for my upcoming Autumn Ablaze Gallery provide evidence for the above Muir quote. 

Today, I've been wondering about the season of autumn and decided to create a digital inspiration based on the autumn collection that I will unveil this month. I used the Buncee platform to blend images, a  video, Autumn Leaves, and the haiku that I created to bring peace to my day and glory to the grandeur of God. You can access the full version with the song here.

While it is technically still autumn, I am gearing for a different weather pattern that is predicted to cover the crunchy leaves with a white blanket tomorrow. In the meantime, I am heading over to Poetry Friday hosted by Lisa at Steps and Staircases

In closing, I would like to give a shoutout to Mary Lee Hahn for her wonderful #haikuforhealing project that she is offering this month. Since nature brings healing power to my soul, I offer my image poem with the hashtag #haikuforhealing.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2017 One Little Word Reflection

December is always a good time to step back and 
reflect on my one word journey. 

Questions I Pose:
Did I create a fluid journey story centered on my one little word? 
Were there opportunities to grow as a life learner? 
Did I meet my goals? 

2017 One Word Journey:
My story grew from one word, joy. This word guided me throughout the year. Sometimes it appeared in obvious ways. Other times, it eluded me. Sometimes, I felt like I could soar like an eagle. At times, I felt depleted and joy was snatched from my hands. Within every story, there are conflicts. Solutions need to be found to bring closure to a story and so it was with my one word journey.

My 2017 Creed
With a genuine spirit of wonderlust, I shall notice and wonder more about the ordinary, the commonplace, and the small things in life, seek joy daily, and share thoughts and feelings on positivity. By searching for joy, I hope to send it out into the world as a reminder that a "joyful heart is good medicine..." (Proverbs 17:22)

Quick Reflection:
2017 was a year of sparkling joy. I savored the ordinary as an opportunity to notice and wonder more deeply. As a new "Grandma", I found sparkling joy emanating from the smile of my beautiful grandbaby, Sierra Kathryn. I enjoyed a year of learning, loving, and gratitude, yet, I have reflective thoughts at the end of the 2017 journey. I will take one long, last look at my one word, joy, and my 2017 creed to see if I met my goals.

Goals Met Checklist:
  I noticed and wondered more about the ordinary, the commonplace, and the small things in life.
   I shared thoughts and feelings on positivity in my blogs. 
   I searched for and enjoyed joyful happenings. 

Perhaps on some days, I forgot about my one word, joy, and how a joyful heart is good medicine for when nagging troubles overshadow positivity.

Life Hacks to Overcome the Stumbling Blocks that Line the Path When Life Seems Challenging:
   Reflact, reflect with action. 
 Read positive thinking articles, such as The Science Behind the Joy of Sharing Joy, by Emma M. Seppala Ph.D. to promote a spirit of joyful living.
  Share  joy to increase joy (from E. Seppala's article). 
✓  Spread positivity daily.

"At every moment of our life we have an opportunity to choose joy."
-Henry J. M. Nouwen

I choose joy and hope you do, too! 

It's Spiritual Journey 1st Thursday at my friend, Irene Latham's blog so I am heading over there to read my colleagues' one word reflections.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Holiday Spirit

It happens every December. The holidays creep up. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas leaves my house in a state of cluttered transition. What do I do to get organized? I stress over what comes first then, go into action mode but this year there is an added feature to the month of December. I am still under construction. 

Steps to bring the holiday spirit to life amidst clutter:

Day 1
-Frantically pile Thanksgiving on the table in an attempt to organize the items for packaging up.
-Give up on that attempt and pile the decorations in a box for storage. 
-Wrap the presents for the Giving the Tree at church.
-Take down (from the attic) the outdoor Christmas decorations because the sun is shining and there is a small window of time to prepare before the temperature drops.
-Try to balance decorating for Christmas outside with clearing Thanksgiving inside.
-Remember to be grateful for the opportunity to celebrate the holidays.

Day 2
-Wake up early since I dreamt about my dilemma during the night.
-Try to laugh and remember that my one word for 2017 is joy.
-Write this blogpost for Two Writing Teachers because writing helps me sort
my thoughts and lets peace and happiness flow.
-Drink my tea, smile, and begin the day anew. 

Wish me luck in getting everything ready!
My wish for all:
Take the time to fill your heart with quiet joy this holiday season!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

November Exits

“Submit to nature, return to nature."
-Matsuo Basho

autumn ablaze
fired up by nature's flame
november exits

Today, nature flipped its calendar from November to December but the weather continued its warm salute to autumn. While in between decorating the house and participating in Bigger Than Beads charity events, I shall enjoy these lovely days at the end of autumn and start designing the Autumn Ablaze Gallery. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements. 

After a long week and the return from a state education conference, I turn my thoughts to Poetry Friday. Mary Lee Hahn is our hostess today. Please visit her site, A Year of Reading, for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Mary Lee is brewing tea and offering a haiku for healing.
If you have an offering for the upcoming autumn gallery, please send it in by Monday morning.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

#NCTE17 Take Aways


It has been one week since I returned from NCTE 17 and that special city with a catchy song, Meet Me In St. Louis. Memories vividly remain in my memory bank but for visibility sake, I captured them in a photo story, An Unforgettable NCTE 17 Convention Experience, that can be accessed here. The photo log illustrates the best moments of four days worth of learning, connecting, and having fun.

Before leaving for St. Louis, I created the following digital with Dr. Seuss in mind for my pre-conference blog.

While at NCTE 17, I not only had time to learn but to enjoy St. Louis. I may not have seen the arch up close, but I did get a beautiful view of the Mississippi River at night.


Now for some of my best picks of quotes from NCTE 17:

Jimmy Santiago Baca
True poetry happens in the mistake of life, when the mistake lets us step forward.
Teachers are the dream makers. Reading is your magic.
Tips to write a good poem / story: JUST write! If you want to write, WRITE!

Mary Howard
We all have a common denominator: books are the heart and soul of what we do and talk is intertwined in this experience.
Dialogue is informal, conversational, and invitational.

Ellen Keene
We need to make major revisions in the way we speak about ourselves and our students-re-think our language.
We must amend our deficit-based language to an asset-based language.

Kara Pranikoff
Turn the conversation back to your students. Developing student voice requires teachers to learn how to listen.

Justin Dolci
Create safe spaces in your classroom. Be visible to all. Technology can augment social identity and social justice.

Sam Fremin, #bowtieboys
Constraining students’ creativity puts the emphasis on vetting knowledge, rather than expanding it.

We need to arm our students with more stories to create a wider definition of who people are.

Kylene Beers
Choice never, never starts with "What's your level?"

Pernille Ripp
We, as teachers, are on the frontline of change. We must teach all stories.

Lucy Calkins
Community is about diversity. Let’s make listening instruction something that brings people together.

Katherine Bomer sums up the #NCTE experience: "It was a night to remember, sharing food and laughter (and even some tears) with my dearest old friends and stunning new friends. Just one of the joyous, meaningful perks of #NCTE17 & every year."

I always say that NCTE is the literacy educators' red carpet gala event, a time for literacy luminaries to light up the stage, educators to mingle, and enough books to make an educator's heart throb. The NCTE Convention memories not only fill the pages of my photo story but provide a "grateful living" and learning experience and a nice entry into Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday.

Join me now for the Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers where Betsy Hubbard posted the following digital inspiration.

I feel that I did follow Mary Oliver's advice while at NCTE.
I paid attention, was astonished, and now I am telling about it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Heart Full of Gratitude

Now that the bright lights of NCTE 17 have dimmed and Thanksgiving decorations are being sorted and placed away for another year of celebration, I sit at the computer and write with a heart full of gratitude.  What came out of this reflective moment is a gratitude Buncee that you can access in its full animated version here.

Still image created with Buncee

Then, on the recommendation of our parish priest, Father James, who gave the Thanksgiving Day homily, I opened one of Oprah's SuperSoul Sunday podcast. What I found is an inspiring conversation between Lynne Twist and Oprah.

The following take aways were powerful thoughts from Lynne Twist:

-What bounty and blessings have I received from the universe that I want to celebrate and be grateful for?

-Don't bookend your day with scarcity.

-Wake up in the morning and be grateful for the sweet territory of silence and sleep.

She also quoted her teacher, the Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast.

"Gratefulness is the experience of the great fullness of life." 
- Brother David Steindl-Rast

I needed to mull that over. True, I have found powerful #onewords to guide my journey each year: openness, listen, believe, joy and I did avail myself of the gifts those words afforded me. But now, I question if I was truly immersed in "grateful living" for I did spent some days floundering. Was I not able to fully grasp the crisp clearness of thoughtful action beyond those spoken words? Did I avail myself of the fruits of living and the opportunity to enjoy life, even in the midst of unhappiness? 

I now ask myself those deeper questions. Knowing that this is my new challenge, I commit to waking up each day this week, not with thoughts of what I did not accomplish or wasted minutes of what I need to do but with an open heart to what each new day will bring. Positivity will rise beyond the scarcity of thought, the not enoughs of each day.

Wish me luck as I continue to have a heart full of gratitude and an action plan to accomplish this. I #CelebrateMonday with a renewed spirit of what I can accomplish today with a positive spirit and hope you do also.

Friday, November 24, 2017

So Much to Be Thankful For

Autumn Is:
The season for enjoying the fullness of life -- partaking of the harvest, sharing the harvest with others, and reinvesting and saving portions of the harvest for yet another season of growth.
-Denis Waitley

Using the above quote, I created my own thoughts on Thanksgiving 2017.

Thanksgiving is:
The holiday for enjoying 
life living moments --
partaking of life's harvest,
sharing life's harvest with family and friends,
and reinvesting and saving
each part of life's bountiful harvest
 for the end of this season and
yet another one as I
understand there is so much
to be thankful for.
©CVarsalona, 2017


Thanksgiving Songs to Listen to:

Thank You by Brianna Hayes

Thanks to living.
Thanks to life.
Thank you for the joy inside of me.
Your give us hope.
You plant the seed.
You harvest every heart in need.
Thank you for the love you give in me.
-Brianna Hayes

(A Josh Groban Song)
(The Perfect Thanksgiving Song sung by Dallyn Vail Bayles with Scott & Ryceejo)


Thanksgiving by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o'er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus.


I am signing off with an attitude of gratitude for Day 2 of the
Thanksgiving festivities begins again tomorrow when my grandbaby Sierra arrives at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

From today's Google Hangout


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. Now it is time to enjoy the Thanksgiving after-party with our Poetry Friday host, Carol  Wilcox at Carol's Corner.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Autumn's Change

Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was is not and never again will be; what is is change."
-Edwin Teale


Using the beginning of the above quote, I penned a Golden Shovel poem:

Autumn brings change.
In seasonal cycles, change is
inevitable. It's a
juncture point to measure 
existence in a world of
everyday racing time
©Carol Varsalona, 2017

This Buncee can be activated here to listen to the song, 
Together We Can Change The World.


The following poems were featured here.

sashaying in
november walks with gusto-
pre-holiday chill
©Carol Varsalona, 2017

In 2013, I wrote a blog post, Autumn, A Time of Transitions, that will frame my thoughts as I close the collection of digital offerings for my Autumn Ablaze Gallery. The deadline for submission is November 28, 2017. Thanks is extended to all those who submitted image poems, inspirational quote, nature photography, artwork, and music. Also, I would like to thank Janet Wong for her welcoming efforts to gather poetry friends to join in this season's gallery writing. I am connecting with Janet and many poetry friends at #NCTE17. 

For those I am able to only connect with virtually, I offer this post to Poetry Friday's hostess, Jane at Raincity Librarian