to be continued – solc #31

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it.

Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.


This quote has been on a bulletin board in our study for over a year. It is so inspiring, yet until now, I have only wanted to write. I had never begun.

Thank goodness for the Slice of Life Writing Challenge 2012. Thank you to Ruth and Stacey, who were bold enough to begin it and consistent enough to keep it going. Thank you to all the writers I have read whose words show genius and compassion and talent. Thank you to those of you who have read my words and made comments that have been magically encouraging to me.

I am thankful to God for giving me the power to write every day for a month. I definitely couldn’t have done it on my own. This experience has been one of the best things I have ever done – it has changed me for the better, and for good.

The March Challenge may be over, but my writing is to be continued…

GaGa’s garden – solc #30

When I was in fourth grade my parents and I moved to a new house and my grandmother – GaGa – moved in with us. (That’s a funny name to write now in the days of Lady Gaga – but we actually pronounced it “Gaw-Gaw” and I can assure you there’s no relation). GaGa’s first floor bedroom was directly beneath my second floor one, so at age nine I began to learn how to walk softly and listen to music on headphones (they were big as a helmet back then).

One of the things I think of first when I remember GaGa was how she loved to eat bread. Actually we have decided it must be genetic as it seems to be a family trait to crave biscuits, rolls, breadsticks, even crackers. She was also wild about tomatoes. At dinner, she would always ask, “Does anyone want that last slice of tomato?” My parents would always smile at each other and make a big deal of sacrificing the last tomato to her – but they always let her enjoy it.

My grandmother was a seamstress, an embroiderer, an organist, a cook, and a collector of owls. But above all GaGa loved plants. She knew the name of every flower, bush, shrub, weed and plant that could grow in our area. Out of habit she sometimes called them by her own special name: for example, what most people would call a croton, she called the Florida plant – because she had gotten her first one in Florida, of course.

She loved to dig in the dirt and nurse a failing plant back to life. I can see her in the heat of summer in long pants, long sleeves, and a wide-brimmed hat covering her sweat rag that she tied around her head. She really did have a green thumb.

After I grew up, got married and my husband and I had our first child, we built a house with a hillside in the back and talked of planting a “rock garden” where the land fell away. I knew my grandmother could help us choose the right combination of plants, but we never got around to it.

We finally landscaped and planted our rock garden the year GaGa died. Several plants and basket gardens were sent to our family in her memory. We used many of those, and purchased other plants that we knew were her favorites, to start our rock garden at last.  I remember our daughter snapping the snapdragons and checking the “high-biscuit” (hibiscus) flowers every day to be sure they weren’t blooming more than they were allowed.  We moved from that house long ago, but I can recall that little garden so well and I hope it is still there.

We have planted all kinds of other growing things at the different places we have lived since then, and just tonight we went by our daughter and son-in-law’s house to see all the garden work and landscaping they had just finished in preparation for a party they are hosting tomorrow. Maybe gardening is genetic, too. GaGa would be so pleased to know that her love of plants lives on.

collecting words – solc #29

As I keep wishin’ and hopin’ to be a writer someday, I frequently find words that speak to me, phrases that repeat themselves in my mind, and sentences that paint pictures so vivid that there’s not a medium or an artist that could portray what is set in my mind and heart with those words.

So a while back I finally decided to follow others’ advice. I discovered that I could be (and should be) a collector of these words. I could keep these messages from others and reread them for inspiration along the way.  A well-turned phrase truly is a thing of beauty and something I long to create… someday.

The first phrase I chose to record was something not written but said by a friend – advice she had given her son:

You know someone is a true friend when you feel good about yourself after you’ve been with him.

Words from the heart.  Thanks, Dana!

Then I found something written by a columnist in our local paper. His stream of consciousness writing is easy to follow and always takes me to a new way of looking at things. Here’s what I highlighted from one of his ramblings about hitting golf balls on a driving range:

…most were discolored or nicked or cut and all at one time or another could have been an eagle on a par five or a chip to the pin from 20 yards out…and it was hard not to think of them now as failed promises or spent wishes so I tried not to… and when all the balls were gone I thought about going out and hunting them down but decided to leave them where they were to regain their promise or to become wishes once again.

Takes my breath away. Thanks, William Carter!

I think Jane Yolen shows her brilliance in everything she writes. In Letting Swift River Go she tells the story of small towns that are “drowned” when the people of Boston need more water and so decide to build a dam and flood these areas by creating a reservoir. Early in the book she describes a scene in which the main character Sally Jane is catching fireflies as a child and hears her mother’s voice telling her to let them go. Years later she and her father take a boat ride on the reservoir. As they try to peer through the water and remember the places that used to exist on the bottom down below, it gets dark and the stars reflect on the water “winking on and off like fireflies.”  She begins to be almost overcome with the memories of what used to be and what can never be again – all the places that are:

Gone, all gone, under the waters. Then I heard my mother’s voice coming to me over the drowned years. “You have to let them go, Sally Jane.” I looked down into the darkening deep, smiled, and did.

A full circle – genius! Thank you, Jane!

So now I hear those voices in my head as I write. And I continue to be a collector of words.

spring at last – solc #28

Perhaps you can feel it before you even get out of bed in the morning. There’s something different about the air – the way it smells, the way it quivers with anticipation, the way it holds the light.

It has been dark and cold for what seems like a very long time. You have spent your time with your head down and your inner self wrapped in a quilt of self-protection. Just hunker down and endure, you have been reminding yourself, as one day fades into another.

Keeping that bit of inner warmth going takes all you can muster. There’s not much excitement to spread around to others these days. It’s hard, just so hard, to keep going in this gloom. Surely this can’t last forever.

And sure enough, today is different. Hard to say exactly how, it’s a feeling, a stirring, maybe just a wish, but somehow it feels like more. So you open yourself up a bit and you venture a little farther than you have dared to let yourself go in the shadowy times of the yesterdays past.

As you poke your head out you sense it. You see the sun, you feel its encouraging warmth. You let yourself lift your head higher, searching for more. Yes, that’s what you have been waiting for, looking for… for such a long time.

You sense the shimmer of eagerness around you. You embrace the cool breeze that blows gently, nurturing instead of defeating. You stretch, you drop your guard, you unfurl your safety blanket, finally letting it go.

It is time, at last, to get on with your life. You have weathered the cold, and lo, the winter is past. Like a dormant seed underground you can send out roots to gather nourishment – those roots that were waiting there all this time. Now you can stretch, and spread out, and grow into who you were meant to be all along.

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

an unwelcome guest – solc #27

This story is a legendary tale in our family, having been told and retold through the years in many forms – a memoir, an entertaining anecdote, a cautionary tale. One morning about fifteen years ago…

“Come home right now,” I told my husband when I called him at work that morning.

“Are you alright? What’s wrong? Are you hurt?” he asked.

“No, I am fine, you just have to come home.”

“I just got to work. Why should I come home now?” he replied.

“Because… a   snake   just   crawled   out   from   under   our   stove.”

“Sn-sn-snaaaake? What can I do about a snake?”

“Listen here, Chicken Little. Get home right now. I don’t care how scared you are of snakes, we need you to come home and get rid of it. NOW.”

I hung up the phone and reminded our son Mark, who was sitting at the table eating his breakfast, to stay far away from this unwanted visitor that came into our kitchen that morning. It was just a small black snake and after it made its appearance it may have been more scared than we were. But I knew I couldn’t let it crawl back under the cabinets or refrigerator or stove or I would never stop wondering when it might come out again.

So I found a big plastic tub we kept outside toys in and somehow managed to slam it down over the snake so it couldn’t get away. Then Mark and I waited for Dad to come home.

Pretty soon we saw him walking across the back patio with Mark’s hockey stick in hand. He grinned at us through the windows, but when he came through the back door his face was sober.

“Where is it?” he inquired as he looked around. We both pointed to the upside-down tub.

“What now?” I wondered silently. But I smiled at my husband. “All yours,” I said.

And that is where this retelling must pause. I have interviewed all the witnesses and none of us can remember exactly how the snake was removed from the kitchen.

We all recall that the snake did not survive the ordeal. We seem to recollect shouts and screaming. We agree that the hockey stick was probably used as a weapon of self defense. And we are certain that the snake was never seen again.

Somehow in the numerous retellings down through the years we have lost a few of the important details, but I have no doubt that this isn’t the last time our snake-in-the-kitchen story will be retold.

underwater glow – solc #25

Away from the heat

Or the wind, or the rain,

The air is thick inside the boathouse.

Crisp lines and edges blur.

Sheltered there,

The water seems firm.

Occasionally the boathouse creaks and moans,

Crooning its age old water tune

Of slipping highs and lows.

Beneath the floating docks

The light shining brightly outside

Reflects here indirectly with an underwater glow.

Sometimes it lights the path

For fish to swim

Along the unseen passages there

With a green transparent hue.

The muted glimmer

Holds so much promise

Of emotions to surface

Or tales to tell

When this peace is left behind

And traded

For the sharp-edged world outside.

La Fortuna – solc #24

Til There Was You is a charming movie from several years ago. The setting in a busy impersonal city includes an old apartment building called La Fortuna. It is an anachronism in its architecture and in the way the neighbors know and care about each other. The center courtyard design of the place allows the inhabitants to see each other’s comings and goings and the many porches and sitting areas encourage conversation among friends.

After viewing the movie several times I (finally) noticed that the enchantment of the old place was always emphasized by gently falling blossoms. Whenever the main characters walked through the courtyard, the silently floating petals added a wistful dreamlike quality to the scene. As the characters grew to love and appreciate the magic of the place, you were mesmerized as well.

This time of year always reminds me of La Fortuna. Today after the rain I noticed our cherry tree in the backyard and watched its drifting petals falling slowly and steadily. They seemed choreographed so that a new one turned loose from its branch when the one before was almost to the ground. Again, the calming sensation made me pause and reflect on the good and important things around me. I could sense a bit of sparkle in the air. La Fortuna indeed.

what have we here? – solc # 23

what have we here?

b” says /b(uh)/ and “s”  says /s-s-s-s/

and “a” can say all kinds of sounds

you can blend all these letter sounds to make words you know…

and sometimes words you’ve never heard of

you can pull off the beginning sound of a word and see what’s left

(but why would you want to do that?)


you can find words that are brothers and sisters in the same family,

you can outline the shape of a word


you can use words to fill in blanks…

and you can put words together to make a sentence


do those words ring with your thoughts from inside your head?

if you know all the sounds and all the words

and even answer all the questions

                                just right


but if the words don’t make you


and remember

and laugh

or even cry

are these words speaking to you?

what have we here?

the true heart of a player – solc #22

She grew to love the game of soccer. When she was five, her father took her to sign up for the community rec (recreational) league for the first time. She was reluctant until she saw the sample pink uniform on display. Her eyes lit up and she smiled at her dad. “I can wear pink to play soccer?” she asked. “OK then, sign me up!” she said.

She played for years in this league. She had uniforms of all colors (except never the pink one) and she had all kinds of coaches. There were good years where her team had a winning record, and there were worse years – including the year they never scored a goal, not even one. Each year she improved, and as her understanding of the fundamentals increased, she grew to love the game more.

Her mom made her try out for the middle school team. “No, mom, you don’t understand,” she explained. “This isn’t rec soccer. These girls are good. They play on travel teams year round. I’ll never make the team.”

“Nonsense,” her mom replied. “You’ll make the team – and you’ll never know unless you try.” So she tried out, and she didn’t make it. With a sense of relief she kept on playing in the rec league.

High school came and there was her mom’s urging again. “Now you can try out for the high school team,” she said.

“You don’t get it, mom. These girls are good. Real good.”

“So playing with them will make you better,” said her mom. “And you’ll never know if you can make the team unless you try out.”

“There are no tryouts,” she said. “You just show up. Then they make you run till you drop and if you can last through that you are on the team.”

“Perfect,” said her mom. “You’re in!”

Practice was grueling to say the least. They would run, and run, throw up, and keep running. Then they would run some more. One day a teammate kicked the ball into her face accidentally, and her nose gushed with blood. She was afraid to talk to the upperclassmen. She didn’t talk much to the girls her own age. Her skills were woefully inadequate compared to others. At each game she carried the team’s soccer gear with her fellow freshman teammates, including the PVC goals. She played some in the JV games (junior varsity) and she dressed for every varsity game and never got to play. And she kept playing soccer, or at least giving it her best try.

Each year there was a school sports banquet for all fall sports. That first year her family thought surely she would get the most improved or at least the hardest worker award. Then she found out that the soccer coach didn’t give awards to his players – he only gave recognition of seniors and team captains. But he did talk about each player because he knew them all well. When it was her turn, he said, “We all wondered if she would make it around the track every time we ran. And sometimes she didn’t. But she didn’t quit.”  No words about her soccer abilities. Maybe that was a good thing.

Sophomore year was a bit better, and her teammates grew to appreciate her efforts.   She played some JV but never saw action on the varsity field. Again at the banquet the coach talked about her struggling to get around the track when they ran. “This is getting embarrassing,” she told her family. But she kept playing soccer.

Her team was unstoppable her junior year and they won the state championship. She was as excited as any other team member, even though she got on the field for only a very few minutes during the tournament games. That summer before her senior year her teammates elected her team captain. She led the drills before the games and represented her team well. She even got to play in a few varsity games although she still had most of her playing time with the JV team.

The local newspaper did a story about her dedication and effort, saying she represented the true heart of a player. Her coach, who had become a real encourager and positive influence in her life, had suggested the interview. The reporter asked her about her own personal goals for her soccer career. “Well, I would like to score one goal,” she said, knowing that was a long shot. However she did just that in one game. The whole crowd from her school cheered and yelled like crazy. Even the characteristically calm coach jumped up and whooped with delight. It was a memorable day.

The season ended and the time came for the annual sports banquet. She would be speaking about the coach and presenting him with a gift as all team captains had always done. “I hope he doesn’t go before me,” she said. “He’ll get up there and talk about how they always wondered if I would make it around the track when we ran and I’ll be so embarrassed to follow that.” Sure enough the coach spoke before her when the soccer team was recognized. She accepted her team captain award and her senior recognition, thankful that there were no stories about running at practice as part of the presentation.

Then the coach said they were giving a new award that year. The crowd perked up because they knew he never gave awards. “This award represents what soccer, or any team sport, is all about. A true team player puts her teammates above herself. She always works for the best interest of the team. She is always improving her own skills and always encourages others. This award will be started this year, and will continue on in the future for other players who demonstrate the same spirit. It will be named after this year’s winner. I am happy to present the first Beth Merrill Award.”

With hardly a dry eye in the audience and on her own wobbly knees as she walked forward she accepted the award named in her honor. She had grown to love the game, with the true heart of a player.

birdsong – solc #21

Yesterday another teacher and I were discussing ideas for next week’s lessons on the genres of fantasy and science fiction. To clarify the distinctions between the two we decided to look up definitions for both genres, but since everyone seemed to have their own opinion and take on things, that left us even more indecisive. So then we searched for lesson plans about science fiction to see if we could gather more information. Interestingly one site showed a book called Birdsong under science fiction – a definite mistake. We decided to “think on it” and get back together at a later time.

Of course it never crossed my mind again last night (I’ll work on it today, I promise). But this morning I went outside at daybreak and was stopped in my tracks. The birds were calling, cheeping, trilling, singing and tweeting to welcome the new day. It was incredibly melodious – soothing and invigorating at the same time. Their calls were coming from all different directions, swirling through the air, blending, harmonizing, creating solos and duets and choruses.

Today – and every day – I am thankful that birdsong isn’t science fiction. No, not at all. We are blessed.

finding home – solc #20

My parents were two of the most energetic and enthusiastic people I have ever known. My mother especially never turned down any invitation that held the slightest promise of enjoyment. She was very talented in many ways, establishing a millinery business, making hats that were known around town. She was always willing to use her talents to help others. Daddy was a railroad man and also a dedicated sports lover. Our small family had big celebrations attended by lots of friends for each of their eightieth birthdays as well as their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Even into their eighties they were both hospital volunteers, church workers, football fans, and they were continually making new friends.

Soon after they finally moved from their home of thirty six years to a more manageably-sized condominium, my mother’s cancer returned, and she died three weeks later. My father was lost without her – dealing with failing eyesight and almost no hearing, living in a new place without familiar things and people near, and missing the one who had spoiled him for so long by tending to his every need.

I tried to visit him every day after work, and many days I was his only human contact. Those afternoons together became a calm in the storm of my busy life, and the father who had always been a bit overshadowed by my more outgoing mother became so dear to me.  My children came to know their grandfather in a much more personal way and his advice and heirloom gifts will always be treasures they hold dear.

Unbelievably my father soon discovered that he, too, had cancer. Other complications, including a broken hip and a blinding stroke, came upon him in a period of two weeks.  Despite the excellent care of his compassionate doctor, he just couldn’t overcome all of this, and he passed away six months after my mother.  When she had passed away, friends asked me what would I do with my father, since my mother had always taken care of him. After his death, having had the gift of those six months with him, I wondered what I would do without him.

Over a year after Daddy died, on my birthday, I made a visit to the cemetery. I was missing both Mama and Daddy and wanted to spend some time with my memories of them. The cemetery setting was beautiful and peaceful, but I did not find what I was seeking at their graves. All that was there of my parents were their names on the footstones. So I then went by the house where they had lived for so long. The new owners were not at home and remodeling was underway. I walked through the yard, out to the riverbank, and peeked in several windows. There I could feel Mama’s and Daddy’s presence.  This is where they had lived for so long, and this is where I could best remember them – how they loved God, loved life, and loved me. This is where their spirits reached out and touched my heart.

My parents did not have much monetary wealth or even many valuable possessions when they left this world. Their legacy of laughter, service, and love, however, live on.

those people – solc #19

When our children were little they had favorite toys. Some were more loved than others, but eventually most were outgrown and left in the back of the closet in favor of newer ones that were more suited for our children’s age at the time.

From time to time we would sort through them together and choose ones they could donate to Goodwill and others that they couldn’t part with, even if they weren’t being played with by our maturing daughter and son. We decided to set these “keepers” aside and save them for much later, when our children were grown and had little ones of their own. “Your children might want to play with them someday,” we would tell them. “You can say, ‘We played with these when we were young.’” Then we would box those treasures up and keep them up in the attic.

One day our son was going through some of his things and picking out which toys to give away. There were two piles. We knew one was to donate, so we asked what the second group was for. “You know,” he said, “but them in that box upstairs – the one for those people.”

changes – solc #18

March is an unpredictable month. You never know whether the weather will be more like a lion or a lamb. You can’t tell if those ambitious buds and shoots will be nipped by tomorrow’s return of winter. You are always surprised when your basketball bracket picks are swallowed up by a smaller team with a bigger heart. You wonder if you will wake up with your feelings stuck in the winter doldrums or itching with spring fever. March is a time of transition – the seasons are changing, and with that, new life is being born.

Change can be a difficult thing. You often teeter on the edge of change and waffle in your decisions about going forward or back. Should you let go of the familiar, or reach out for new things, or both? You may wonder why things have to change, and wish they could stay the same.  I have never embraced change. My dad used to tell me, “Honey, the only thing you can count on to remain the same is that things always change.”

Yet looking back through my life, I think of the changes I have been through and I am thankful for almost every one of them. Be it a move to a new house or a new town, working in a different school, having children, having children grow up, making new friends, discovering new places to visit, or seeing things in a new light – all of these changes have enriched my life.

Recently I was reminded of trips to a water park and spending time on the lazy river. Not being one who seeks excitement (in this case tall water slides) I could easily spend the day floating around and around and around. Each new turn brought something different, and even as the route was repeated there were always different people to watch or new angles of the sun revealing something previously unseen. Eventually something would prompt me to get out and move on.

So I’ve decided that’s how I’ll approach the changes that are sure to come. I’ll try to keep an eye out for the opportunities that present themselves and consider each one carefully. With that attitude, somehow I believe that I’ll know when it is time to move on. Just as the change to spring is sometimes stormy, change may be a bumpy road. But it brings new life to old things, and that seems like a change to look forward to, don’t you think?

a lucky day – solc #17

In case you are wondering what day it is, just look outside. All of nature is dressed in green for St. Patrick’s Day! What a beautiful way to celebrate.

It seems that the Irish do possess some measure of magic. They somehow discovered how to mix work – hard backbreaking work – with pleasure – loud and boisterous celebrations. They have an eye for beauty in their glassware, woolen cloth, leprechaun tales, Irish tunes, vigorous dance, poetic words, and Celtic designs.  They hold onto their history while making a place for themselves in today’s world. And their faith has gotten them through so many sorrowful times.

When visiting Ireland, you sense céad míle fáilte – one hundred thousand welcomes – everywhere you go. I never saw green like that before, mostly in overcast weather, almost blinding in the sun.  The ubiquitous stone walls reminded us of our Scots-Irish heritage at home in Tennessee. The castles were imposing and charming at the same time, and my schema about the Blarney Stone was corrected when I had the chance to wander through the castle ruins and hang backwards to kiss the source of the gift of gab.

Such a small country with such a large legacy. There’s a lesson for us all in holding on to what makes us distinctive and celebrating the uniqueness we possess. Cheers to the Irish for embracing their history and traditions and even sharing them with the rest of us! The luck of the Irish to us all!

finding my voice – solc #16

When someone asks me what I want to do when I grow up I always say, “I want to write a children’s book.”  (OK, so I am close to retirement and nobody really ever asks me in that way, but if someone does ask me about wishes and dreams that always tops my list.) I have just been busy teaching and mothering and making the most of the time left over, but I do think about it for “sometime.” And until now, I haven’t written a thing.

Nothing is better to me than reading a good book and getting lost in the story. As a teacher I know the connection between reading and writing is real, so real you can’t truly separate the two. So from time to time I would try to make a list of things to write about to make a tale of my own but I never could think of a story worth telling. And so, I didn’t write a thing.

Way back when I was in high school we had an annual student literary publication and to me the work therein was unbelievable. Yes, there was a bit of teen-aged angst in some of the writing, but generally it was inspiring work by talented writers. I never attempted to have anything accepted for the book. I knew my work wouldn’t be good enough. And except for school assignments, I didn’t write a thing.

Through the years as a classroom teacher of writing I have gone through phases of instruction – pattern writing, writing to a prompt, monthly writing folders, journal writing, Six Traits, Lucy Calkins Units of Study, and even helped plan a yearly writing curriculum using Ralph Fletcher’s Craft Lessons. I have introduced and entertained speakers who came to our district for writing workshops. I have taught some very good writing lessons, and seen some excellent writing by my students. And except for a few model pieces, I didn’t write a thing.

Then along came this year’s Slice of Life Writing Challenge. Hmmm, let’s see, all I had to do was set up a blog and write every day for a month. Wait – I didn’t know how to set up a blog and I don’t know when I have been consistent with anything long enough to do it every day for a month! But, somehow (Divine Intervention, I am sure), I began. I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. And now here I am halfway through without missing a day – and at last I have written MANY things!

I can already look back at some of my posts and cringe. But at last I have a growing body of work that is all mine. I am writing! I AM WRITING!! For good or for not-so-good, I am putting thoughts into words and being brave enough to post them on my very own blog! One day I will even post a little something in the “About Me” section and maybe I will tell my friends the address of the blog. I have told some what I am doing, but I am not courageous enough – yet – to really own it and own up to it. But I am getting there and I know that too will come. And I am writing.

My patient and encouraging husband thinks this is great. (I did share my blog address with him and he reads it all. Thanks, Honey!) He is an accountant and generally not much of a reader: however, he knows how I love books and he does not begrudge giving me the time I need to spend with them. But he gets this reading-writing connection. I know this because the other day he said, “Do you think that all the books you have read through the years have helped you with this writing?” Yes! Oh, yes! Without the time with those books, without the close reading, without the wistful aspiration for something like that of my own, I know I could not now or ever write one thing.

Being a part of this community, however anonymously, has given me so much already. To Ruth and Stacey, I can’t thank you enough for this wonderful idea and for the time and talent you have invested in it. And to those of you who have replied along the way I am deeply honored and I appreciate your time and your responses. One precious soul commented that one piece reminded her of Cynthia Rylant’s In November – when I read that, there was a moment I just couldn’t breathe. Don’t worry – I know I have a  l-o-n-g  way to go – but I am writing!

bluebirds – solc #15

Students are asked to read nonfiction, take notes, and then use those notes to produce nonfiction writing.  Not so easy as it seems…here is my attempt.


A bluebird is a kind of thrush that is easily recognized by its blue coloring. The male is a bright blue, and the female is mostly gray with blue touches on the tips of the wings and tails. Both male and female have rusty red coloring on their breast. Bluebirds have long wings, a short tail, and a round head. They sit up straight as they perch on fences, wires and low branches. Their favorite spots are open places where they can easily see the ground to look for food, places such as parks, golf courses, or backyards.

Bluebirds eat insects, including caterpillars, crickets, beetles and grasshoppers. When a meal is spotted, the birds drop quickly down to the ground to snatch up their prey. Sometimes they might try to catch an insect in midair.  In the fall and winter they will perch in a fruit tree and eat berries. Bluebirds have been seen eating lizards, salamanders, and tree frogs, but this does not happen often.

In the early 1900’s bluebird populations became smaller because of bigger and more aggressive birds using nest holes and leaving no room for bluebirds. Concerned bird lovers began to make nest boxes for bluebirds and place them in the open areas where the birds like to live, and today the number of bluebirds has increased.

Bluebirds build their nests in protected empty holes, such as an abandoned woodpecker’s hole or a nest box.  A male bluebird begins the nest building process by taking grasses in the hole and fluttering his wings on a perch outside near the hole. This activity will attract a female, who comes and completes the nest by placing pine needles, grasses, feather and even bits of animal hair or fur.

People can help insure that bluebirds will not disappear from our landscape by making sure they have nest boxes and other places for nest building and laying their eggs.

How wonderful that we usually include photographs in nonfiction texts. Even though there are none here, I hope you can “see” some now.

waiting – solc #14

The air is warm and still this morning. The grass is greening. All around plants are on the verge of the annual coming out party. The trees have just a touch of that spring green fuzz at their tips. The stalks of bushes are starting to bulge. The buds that set last fall are getting bigger. My aunt said they have tomato plants with four leaves already.

The air is warm and still this morning. The frisky squirrels race ‘round and ‘round the trees, up and down. The birds are singing and calling and searching for worms in the still damp ground. From time to time one will fly from point to point, here to there, bush to fence, inspecting things – or maybe just because it can’t stay on the ground on a morning like this.

The air is warm and still this morning. The clouds move ever so slightly as the sun rays do their best to peek through them to light the scene. With it being this warm you wonder if it will lead to another spring storm, with the fierce winds that come from cold air that doesn’t want to give up its hold yet. But there’s no sign of that now in the closeness of the air on your skin.

The air is warm and still this morning. All the pots where flowers will be later look so empty. The temptation to fill them is strong, but you know, not yet. You can look around and see that spring is definitely knocking on the door. But we don’t open the door yet and invite our long awaited friend in, not yet,  because we know that winter isn’t quite packed and ready to go.

The air is warm and still this morning. We are all waiting.

madness – solc #13

I love basketball. I played it when I was young. Girls’ basketball was six-on-six half court then. I was a guard and never scored any points. My son cannot even begin to understand that concept. It does seem unbelievable in light of today’s sports for women. But I loved it. We could “clog up the middle” with the best of them.

So I was the most enthusiastic fan during my son’s high school basketball career. Perhaps a little too enthusiastic. Sometimes my husband wouldn’t sit with me. Maybe I was a little too loud.

After our son graduated and left basketball behind, and although it wasn’t nearly as fun, I became an avid college basketball fan.  I could name most players (or at least recognize their names) on several teams and even quote some stats. That was when I discovered the world of brackets. How could I have missed out on this for so many years?

Now it is that time again. I have been a little pre-occupied for the last two weeks (with what I wonder?), but I can’t wait to fill out the brackets, cross my fingers, and start yelling at the TV again. Hooray for March Madness!!

football runs in the family – solc #12

I was an only child, born late-in-life to my parents. My dad never acted as though he wished he had a son, but I know he was frustrated through the years with my lack of athletic ability.

To say my dad loved football would be putting it mildly.  He played football with a leather helmet in high school, packed his footlocker and went away to play briefly in college, and was a referee for fifty plus years in high school and college games. My mother spent hours getting his white referee pants free of grass stains, and I remember how carefully he hung his black and white jacket on its special hook during “the season.”  Every once in a while I would sneak out his whistle and blow – never when he was home, but somehow he always knew.

Many years later our son became a football player. My dad was already 73 years old when our son was born, so unfortunately the two of them never spent a lot of time tossing the ball or discussing strategy. But my dad was oh, so proud that there was (finally) a football player in his family.  He would often point a crooked finger at Mark and say, “Be aggressive!  Don’t let them get at you first!”

My dad passed away the year our son was a freshman in high school. A friend of mine noted that it just didn’t seem right that my dad didn’t get to go to Mark’s high school games and watch his grandson follow in his footsteps.

“I wish he were sitting there with us in the stands,” I replied. “But he’s definitely watching the game.” In response to her confused look, I continued, “Mark says he hears ‘Be aggressive’ in his ear every time he lines up for a play. Mark says it’s like having another coach. Daddy is definitely Mark’s biggest fan.”