SOL: Celebrating & Remembering

Today marked my brother’s 59th birthday. Celebrating it without him here brought both sadness and joy. Sadness that he isn’t here with us, but joy in the many wonderful memories we hold tightly to.

On his 18th birthday he fulfilled his greatest dream: to jump out of an airplane. Skydiving from that day forward became one of his greatest passions. I never could understand this love he had for the sport, but I loved watching him make jumps, holding my breath in the free fall until finally I could see his sky blue parachute open for his gentle decent to the ground.

This morning I received an unexpected text from a relative in California who knew my brother well and had seen him skydive in year’s past. While driving along the coastline, she looked up into the sky only to see a lone skydiver, enjoying a beautiful morning in the sky.

Knowing it was my brother’s birthday, he came to her mind immediately and she snapped a picture to share with me. I saw it and my heart skipped a beat. Signs and wonders. These are the things that sustain me in my grief. They bring comfort and assurance that while he is no longer here on this earth, he is still near.

Happy Birthday, Don. You are so greatly missed, but will never be forgotten.

Pout Pout Fish Visits Kindergarten

Oh, kindergartners! They never cease to stop me in my tracks and amaze me with their wit, their curiosity, and their outlook on life. Today, after our reread of Pout Pout Fish Goes to School, I posed the question, “Boys and girls, what makes you pout?” Here are a few responses they gave…

“I pout when my mom doesn’t give me what I want.”
“I pout when I fall off my bike when trying to ride without training wheels.”
“I pout when I have to take a 1-hour nap.”
“I pout when my friend snatches something away from me.”
“I pout when I can’t go to my friend’s house to play.”

On the flip side, I then asked them to consider what makes them happy. Here is what I heard…

“I am happy when I get to cook with my mommy.”
“I am happy when mom takes the band-aids off my owies.”
“I am happy when I can ride my bike without my training wheels.”
“I am happy when my mom gives me a drink.”
“I am happy when I have a friend.”

As adults, I think we can relate to many of these kindergarten observations of real-life moments when we are feeling particularly pouty, or joyfully happy in the comings and goings of life. Can we remember the frustrations of learning to ride our bike without training wheels? And nap time? Come on, mom, seriously?! These off-the-cuff responses cause me to realized that the simplest things of life are real and deeply meaningful to a 5 year-old. And you know, despite the complexity of the adult challenges I face in life these days, they are often just as meaningful to this 50 year-old. I mean, who isn’t happy when they have a friend?

So tell me…what makes you pout? What makes you happy?

Poetry Friday: Welcome, Kinders!

Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Beyond Literacy

Thank you to Carol @ Beyond Literacy for hosting our Poetry Friday gathering this week.

I am nearing the end of our first 4 days in kindergarten. I have 20 fresh new little faces who are ready for an exciting year of learning ahead for all of us. Not all 20 little learners were eager to make the brave walk into the building on the first day though. It is the spirit inside of those few timid souls who I compose today’s poem for.


I am happy to report though, that those who arrived at Day 1 of kindergarten with great anxiety and a few tears quickly transitioned into our classroom with eager anticipation and genuine enthusiasm for the adventure that awaits us all.

Here’s to another exciting journey ahead!

SOL: A New Journey Begins Today!

The carpets are cleaned, the tables are scrubbed, and the brand new supplies are ready to be opened. Day 1 in my kindergarten class starts today! Many days of preparing have preceded this exciting day, and I can truthfully say that I am ready. Ready to welcome 20 new little learners into a world of wonder, excitement, and joy. I hope that these three elements lead us through all of the learning that is before us.

I want my learners to wonder about the world around them. Wonder and ask LOTS of questions that everyone in our learning community can invest themselves in as together, we uncover answers to lots and lots of Wonders.

I want my learners to be excited about learning. There is nothing like the enthusiasm of 5 and 6 year-olds. The world before them is yet to be completely discovered, and in our classroom, I hope that each day is a new day of discovery and excitement in our 180 day journey together.

I want my learners to discover JOY in our classroom. Joy in sharing what they know, and joy in uncovering what they don’t. Joy in reading a book that makes them laugh. Joy in writing their first poem. Joy in taking a risk, and discovering even if they make a mistake, that mistakes are proof they are trying.

180 days lie ahead of us; untouched, undiscovered, and unknown. And I can’t wait to see what is in store for each of us!

Poetry Friday: Bayou Song Blog Tour

Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee @ A Year of Reading

I am thrilled to be the final stop on Margaret Simon‘s blog tour for her recently published book, Bayou Song. Because we are friends, I have been a listening ear and occasionally have given Margaret input on a few in-progress poems. It has been a joy to watch this book come to life!

The interactive elements in her book are like nothing I have ever seen in a poetry anthology. The way Margaret creates entry points for readers to take the reading experience to a writing experience is unique, inviting, and fun. Teachers will find this book crosses multiple content areas and can bring students along in a beautiful journey of learning about the landscape of south Louisiana.

In preparing my blog tour post, I decided to choose three forms of poetry Margaret shows us in Bayou Song and use the landscape of northwest Montana where I live to be my inspiration. I still consider myself a developing poet, and owe any success I have had in my writing in this genre entirely to Margaret. Her encouragement, teaching, and gentle nudging as I dipped my toes into what has been unknown territory for this writer have kept me coming back to poetry time and time again when I didn’t think I knew what I was doing.

Here is my zeno poem. It is a ten-lined poem with a specific syllable count of 8, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1 where the one-syllable lines rhyme. I enjoy syllable count form poetry, although this was more challenging than I expected.

Using a repeated line in poems is another form I like to play with. In her book Margaret uses the repeated line “There is always” to describe a place in nature. Here is my poem about my most favorite place in Glacier National Park: Going To The Sun Road.

My last poem is a word play piece where I add the ending -ing to words describing all I observed at a recent day on Whitefish Lake near where I live. Each summer we enjoy a 2-week “staycation” with friends who have a cabin there. It’s where we gather most afternoons to enjoy warm Montana lake days that, after the long winters we endure, come and go all too quickly.

If you haven’t read the other posts on Margaret’s Bayou Song blog tour this summer, I encourage you to stop on over at the following links.

Friday, June 22:
Michelle Kogan

Tuesday, June 26:
Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core

Friday, June 29:
Ruth Hersey at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town

Friday, July 6:
Kimberly Hutmacher at Kimberly Hutmacher Writes

Friday, July 13:
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise

Tuesday, July 17:
Laura Shovan 

Tuesday, July 24
Amanda Potts at Persistence and Pedagogy

Friday, July 27:
Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink

Monday, July 30
Linda Baie at Teacher Dance

If you don’t already have a copy of her book, I highly recommend you get a copy! I am certain you will enjoy it, and will find you are greatly inspired to bring poetry into your writing life. If you are a teacher, it will breath new life into your classroom for your students to try for themselves.

Happy Poetry Friday, everyone!

SOL: Life’s Unexpected Turns


I have been away from my blog since the sudden and very unexpected loss of my big brother on May 25. While biking up the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park, he suffered an apparent cardiac arrest, and died instantly.

Nothing can prepare you for such a tragedy. The utter shock and sadness in such a sudden, significant loss leaves a gaping hole that just can’t ever be filled in the same way.

But my brother would not want me to go on and on about our family’s sadness. He would not want the focus of his death to be clouded in sorrow. He would instead want us to focus on living life to the fullest – making every moment from each and every day count. This is what my brother did better than anyone else I know.

At his memorial, and even in the days after, I cannot count the number of people who shared how their lives were impacted by my brother. As a hockey referee, he was a calm, professional presence on the ice. He especially loved mentoring young referees as they navigated the often tricky moments of making the necessary calls in a game. Everyone loved when he took the ice, and had enormous respect for him as an official. In his job at Glacier High School, he was remembered for how he brought joy to everyone he encountered, always more interested in what others wanted to share than his own stories. His love of adventure was evident in all that he did; skydiving since the age of 18, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and cycling to name just a few of his passions.

Memories are my greatest source of comfort now as I transition into life without him here. It’s funny how I reflect on them in a different way though. I see the amazing way Don had of appreciating every moment in life that mattered. While my mind was more often focusing on the next thing I needed to do, or the next event that was coming up, his attention always remained right there in the moment. You could see it in his demeanor in the way he would just stop and take in the beauty of what was around him. You could hear it in the simple things he said about whatever we were doing together. And you could feel it just being with him; he had such a unique way of exuding a genuine satisfaction and happiness in every moment that he lived.

I sense his presence with me so much in these days since he died, gently helping me refocus my gaze in a different way, allowing me to capture moments in a deeper, more meaningful way. I want to keep this perspective and awareness always.

My greatest desires now are to see the world around me through my brother’s eyes, to connect with others around me with my brother’s heart, and to live each day to the fullest, chasing my dreams the way he did, and finding joy in all that I do until I see him again.

While it is impossible to fully represent the amazing life my brother lived, I share this slideshow with you as a glimpse of the big brother I was blessed to have. It encapsulates the highlights of a life lived to the fullest, of dreams sought and found, and reveals a man who was the greatest husband, father, brother, son, and friend to so many who count themselves fortunate to have known him. You can view it here.

The view from what will forever be known as Don Graham’s site, located just past the Weeping Wall & Big Bend on Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park.




Poetry Friday: More Than Meets the Eye

Poetry Friday round-up is with Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

This week for Poetry Friday I am participating in a poetry photo exchange, arranged by this week’s host, Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche. She is calling it “More Than Meets the Eye.

Margaret has paired me with Christie @ Wondering and Wandering. Christie and I have exchanged photos with one another, and will write a poem to the photo we each received. These are photos that we have taken in the area where we live. I am from Montana, and Christie lives in Maine.

I love this unique and fun idea that Margaret thought of, and am excited to read the other exchanges in those who participated. Be sure to head over to Margaret’s post and click on the Inlinkz at the bottom of her post to read other poetry photo exchanges.

The photo I received from Christie is of Walden Pond, famously known by many thanks to poet Henry David Thoreau. She shared with me that the pond is not far from her home, and that she has recently been spending quite a bit of time there, exploring Thoreau’s “ordinary, yet extraordinary home-not-so-far-away-from-home through a different lens.”

I found the image haunting at first examination. Knowing the long-standing history this place represented, I began to imagine Thoreau there among the still trees, seeking to deepen his understanding of his life through the beauty of nature.

“I suppose that what in other men is religion is in me love of nature.”
                     -Henry David Thoreau Journal, October 1842

As I continued to spend time simply looking more closely at the photo, my eyes were always drawn to the moss covered trees (at least I think that it’s moss covering the trees; I am actually not entirely sure what it is). Regardless though, I found myself seeing it like a blanket, covering the trees as if to keep secrets left behind from Thoreau and others who walked these woods long before Christie did.

The reflections, the stories, and the wisdom of those sojourners lie in silence, full of mysteries unheard by the ear, but perhaps seen through our eyes? I would love to know what Christie has discovered during her quiet moments at Walden Pond.

I share with you my tanka, entitled Walden Pond: