Thursday, January 30, 2014


My father died last night.

He went to sleep--peacefully.

My mother and I were with him

He was the only man who has been present in my life and for me -- all of my life.
He was a faithful and loving husband and wonderful father.
My mother is missing him.
My sisters are missing him.
His grandchildren are missing him
His sons-in-law are missing him.
I am missing him.

My father died last night.

Seven years ago for his 80th birthday surprise party I wrote the following piece as a tribute to him.
As I reread it--through both tears and smiles and rememberings-- these words still define the measure of my father.

The Measure of the Man   

My father can be measured by the words that define him.
As a little girl I remember my father always seemed to have a tape measure handy in his pocket—ready to measure whatever needed measuring.  And it seemed like back then there was a lot to be measured.

I also remember he always had a word in his pocket.
He is knowledgeable about just about everything, could give a word or two or a sentence on any topic--- and he could speak volumes in his areas of expertise….engineering, construction, geology, mechanics, aviation and airplanes, finances, mathematics, cars and science, and the list goes on.

See Knowledgeable J  

This is a word from his measuring stick J In his own estimation, he has never been wrong.

He is faithful to God, working tirelessly on various church commitments and efforts.  He is faithful to his wife, family and friends, working overtime to provide for his family with all that he thought we should have, and continuing to be there for both family and friends.

He was and continues to be one of the best looking men I know with a smile that suggests the mischief he has just spoken or performed, or the devilment he is about to do. (When he first met my mother at The Ohio State University, she asked what he was studying-- he replied Devilment!)

He can fix, build, erect, construct, invent, or create what ever is needed for whatever purpose …and he can do it quickly.   We had hardwood floors and a finished basement in the house in Shepard. In addition, there was a pool always in our yard, and an ice-skating rink, along with a tether ball court. Of course, the obligatory swing set that everybody else had was also present. He made sidewalks for Grandma Whiting…. And made everything in her house work also.  Our cars were never out of service long. Our skates were sharpened, our bikes always fixed and our toy room had plenty of shelves to hold all the toys, games, and dolls.

Daddy is the one who killed the bugs and caught the squirrels, birds, raccoons and other creatures that happened by accident into our home. He was the one who carried the “big stick”  in case of bad guys.  We were always safe when he was around.

Not only was he not afraid of the bad guys, but several times he demonstrated by both words and actions that he was not afraid of the “uniformed good guys.”  Those guys in blue took second place to getting home to the gash in Rhonda’s head, to get Renee and her broken arm to the hospital in record time, and to helping a petty thief beaten bloody by the security guards at Gold Circle.

At a time when it would have been easier to go to bed after watching the late night news, or before that hour, he waited up in order to pick us up from weekend parties, dances and other events.  Most of my friends were told by their parents, Yes, you may go if you can get a ride.My dad was always the ride!!

Daddy enjoys eating good food and cooking good food.  He loves to eat out…Chinese, pizza, any restaurant instead of home… especially his favorite breakfast spots, McDonald’s and Bob Evans.   He cooked most breakfasts that I ate during my childhood and most weekend dinners.  I never understood why at someone else’s house we would have to wait until a “mom” came home to cook .  It did not work like that in my house.

In addition to cooking, Daddy, very ably and comfortably, did things that I took for granted but soon discovered were “ women’s” jobs…..He cooked, cleaned, sewed, ironed, combed our hair…whatever needed to be done.  He was the supportive, egalitarian husband…before his time.

My father is very wise, worldly and experienced.  He often gives advice on how things should be done....little things and big things.  He enjoys this role.  See Knowledgeable

My father is one of the smartest people I know.
For me, the connotation of serious intelligence usually involved numbers and math.  He was a wiz at these…See Knowledgeable

I don’t know anyone else except my dad who relishes a good bloody operation on The Discovery Channel or the Learning Channel.  He also enjoys sharing the details.

He is a quick wit and bounces with laughter at the funny parts or sometimes when he has said something that tickles himself.

He gets a weekly ration of hugs and kisses from the ladies at church.

His word is his word.  If he says he will do something, you can believe him.  He will be there doing whatever he promised, whenever he said he would.

My father is proud of all that he had accomplished during his lifetime…. and rightfully so.
My father is now resting-happy and healed in God's divine light, perfect peace and eternal life.
My father died last night.
I am missing him.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Think about a person--living or dead-- who is important in your life.

How do you measure that person?
What words define him? What characteristics does she exemplify?

Write about this person using words and characteristics from your list as a starting point.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I sat on a bench outside the retreat center.
It was the summer of 2005.
I was early--excited-anticipating-and-ready early.
Today I was beginning what would become my continuing relationship with the Columbus Area Writing Project and the National Writing Project.

I was waiting for the Columbus Area Writing Project 2005 Summer Institute to begin.

While I waited, I was reading ( Isn't this what we all do as we wait--if we are not writing?).

As I looked up from my book for a moment to enjoy my surroundings, the event in the following poem occurred.  A man appeared out of nowhere and offered me water.  I wrote the poem on the inside flap of my book.

The Water Man

Sitting on a bench
under a tree
in front of the retreat center
in the cool breeze
reading a book
beginning to notice my thirst

A man walking
appeared and asked
Are you ready for a drink
of water?
He had two.
He gave me one.

Later I saw him
laying stones
for a new path.

Sometimes a moment strikes us as noteworthy and write-worthy.  

Sometimes we just have to capture that moment-- to later turn it over in our minds, to insert it into the unfinished story we are writing or to use it to transform the piece of poem that has floated near our ear for days.

We grab a napkin, a scrap of paper, or the inside flap of the book we are reading and jot down notes or a whole poem.

On further reflection of this moment, upon deeper consideration and rereading, the moment can be expanded and details can be added:

What additional details do you now remember?
What sensory details can be added? Where can further description be expanded?
What comparisons occur to you?
Can you add analogies? Are there appropriate metaphors that can be included?
What did it mean?  How did you feel? 

In the summer institute one of the many prompts we were given was to "slow down time by exploding the moment."  My response to this prompt was to revisit and revise The Waterman.  It was interesting to realize that there was much more to remember, to visualize, to consider in this moment.

The result is this second poem.

The Water Man 2
( Exploding the Moment)

Sitting on a bench
under a tree
in front of
the Maria Stein retreat center
in the cool breeze
with the flag flapping
reading a book
observing the quiet
and the stillness--
the bridge
and the pond
 and the island--
watching for the others to come

to wait--
beginning to notice my thirst

A man walking
 and asked
Are you ready for nice cold drink
of water?
He had two.
Frosted, they dripped
with condensation
and satisfaction.

He smiled and
gave me one.

Later I saw him
along with a young man
a teenager
(his son?)
laying stones
for a new path

Even as I reread this now I remember more about that moment-- off to my right close to the road sat the church that held the relics and off to my far left I could see the stone labyrinth.  No one was walking it in prayer during my moment.

I keep thinking.
I keep remembering more.
What moment sticks with you?
What moment could you explore and explode?

In Chapter 5 of After "The End": Teaching and Learning Creative Revision, Barry Lane suggests many way  to slowing down time in our writing, many strategies that can be used as we write drafts and during the revision process. He also provides excellent examples  of pieces in which moments have been explored and exploded.

For step-by-step directions for one way revise expand, explore and explode your moments click here.

For additional sample pieces illustrating this strategy click here.

And finally in the following video,  Barry Lane explodes a moment with us:

What moment sticks in you mind?
Which moment can you explore, expand, and explode?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Reflect on a recent moment in your life or in a fictional piece you are writing-- a noteworthy, write-worthy moment.
Picture that moment in slow motion.
Begin to record more and more details  of that "slowed-down" time.

What do you see? hear? smell? touch? taste?
Have you been in a moment like this before?
What are you thinking?
How do you feel?
What does it mean?

You may want to write your slowed down impressions as a poem or narrative.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Today is Martin Luther King's birthday.
Today he would have been 85.

Each year during January we remember Martin.
And we learn more about him.

Each year new books are published that teach our children (and us)  more about his dream for our nation and for the world.

Each year we learn more about his desires for all people to have the same rights and equal access to opportunities.

2013 was no different.

Three marvelous new children's books were published this past year from which we can learn more about Martin. Each enlightens us about an event  in Martin Luther King's life of which we may not be aware.
Each explodes a moment of history.

Did you know that Martin Luther King and Mahalia Jackson were friends?
Did you know that she is the reason we have the now famous I Have a Dream Speech?

In Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song,  Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney present a friendship,  parallel stories, and the moment when Mahalia urges Martin to "tell them about your dream"  which brings him front and center. He had talked about his dream on several occasions prior, but thought he would not have time for that segment of thought at the March on Washington. At her urging, the now famous dream words remain part of our living history and continue to be our own dream.
They were each born with the gift of gospel.
These two icons, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahalia Jackson, both shared their gifts of gospel--words and songs-- on August 28, 1963  on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington.

To read eyewitness accounts of several who witnessed and heard this moment between Martin and Mahalia that lead to dream history, click here.

Click here to read my earlier post  I Have a Dream Today, written on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, which highlights books about Martin Luther King Jr and his I Have a Dream Speech.

And for a review and an extensive sampling of  Pinkney's brilliant  illustrations from this book click here.

Did you know that Martin Luther King's coffin did not ride in a shiny black hearse, but an ordinary cart pulled by mules?

Martin Luther King wanted a common funeral,  not a showy production.  Many of us may not be aware that during his funeral procession, his coffin was carried through the streets of  Atlanta, Georgia --from Ebenezer Baptist Church  past the state capitol to Morehouse College-- in a lowly cart pulled by two mules.

Eve Bunting read about this event and decided to add this story to the growing number of books for children about Martin Luther King.   The Cart That Carried Martin  begins with finding the cart and follows the cart and the procession to its sad, yet hopeful end.

As the cart carrying Martin's coffin made its way slowly through the Atlanta streets, do you know what song they sang?

In We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song, Debbie Levy tells the story of the song that accompanied the cart  that day, the same song  that was the soundtrack for much of the Civil Rights Movement, and that same song that continues to serve as the background music for human rights struggles throughout the world. She has written a biography of  We Shall Overcome.
We shall overcome.... We shall overcome.... We shall overcome someday-ay ay-ay. Deep in my heaarrrr-t I do believe we shall overcome someday.

As we celebrate
Martin Luther King's birthday
as we remember
his life and legacy
as we continue
his work
and strive
to dream his dream
into reality
we must remember
memorable events
and archival  history
are made up of small moments
that we can explore.
and explode.
And those small moments
teach us
more about the big events
and the people
who lived them.

Happy Birthday Martin!

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Think about a small fact or detail  that you have heard that interests you about Martin Luther King.  Take some time today to research that information to find out more.

Write a narrative, personal essay or poem about that small detail, fact, or moment.
Bring life to your writing  by adding sensory details, conversation, and description.
You may also want to include your own thoughts and speculations.

Turn the moment inside out and examine it closely.
Turn the fact upside down and dig into its background.
Explore the information and explode the moment.

Friday, January 10, 2014




We take breathing for granted.

Yet we all appreciate a deep breath.
We take a deep breath before the big plunge, the angry answer, the hard conversation, the important presentation. Often in my classroom I would have a student take a deep breath while they were crying or angry or had hurt feelings.  This provided them a minute to calm themselves and collect their thoughts.

We take a deep breath to clear our minds, open our hearts,  energize our thoughts,  settle our being.

The one thing I miss most about smoking is taking that first deep breath and having the air (and smoke) hit my lungs (I smoked for thirty years and quit in 2001, but that is  food for a different post.)

Experts say we don't breath deeply enough.   Harvard Health Newsletter encourages us to Take a Deep Breath:
Proper breathing goes by many names. You may have heard it called diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, or belly breathing. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and you will notice that your lower belly rises. The ability to breathe so deeply and powerfully is not limited to a select few. This skill is inborn but often lies dormant. Reawakening it allows you to tap one of your body’s strongest self-healing mechanisms. (May 2009)

Many healing activities involve slow, deep, cleansing breaths. One of the  ways we are called to mindfulness in both physical exercise and spiritual meditation is to attend to our breathing

Breathe in for the exertion and  breathe out for the release.
Breathe in for the first part of the prayer or mantra and breathe out for the last part.

On his website The Art and Science of Breathing, Dr. Andrew Weil offers several breathing exercises to reduce stress and anxiety, as  mental energizers, to promote healthy breathing, and as an aid to enlightenment.

Lynn G. Nelson also promotes conscious, controlled breathing for well-being and better writing. After outlining steps for a deep, focused breathing exercise in Writing and Being: Embracing Your Life Through Creative Journaling, he summarizes the benefits:
Your journal  and  your breathing, your writing and your being, work hand in hand, each helping the other. Use this exercise often, in relation to specific issues and simply as regular writing-relaxation exercise activity. As you do this, you will notice your writing and  your breathing and your being become lighter and freer. 
Throughout his book he offers both writing and breathing exercises that lead to relaxation, powerful self-discovery,  and meaningful, authentic writing.

My father can't breathe right now.
He is in ICU on a ventilator.  It regulates his breath and breathes for him.
He has been unable to pass the weaning trials that would allow the doctors to remove the breathing tube.

We sit in his room and watch his breathing and ask questions about his breathing, and pray about his breathing.

We are acutely aware of breathing, his and our own.
We want him to breathe again.


In the Columbus Area Writing Project Summer Institute, we do a lot a breathing. One of our co-directors, Kevin Cordi, makes certain that we take time to breathe in, breathe out throughout our day.
Click here to read my  poem, Breathing  In and Breathing Out written for Kevin on his 40th birthday.  


 Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Pay attention to your own breathing. You  may want to try one of the breathing exercises suggested on Dr. Weil's website.

Write about your experience. What did you notice about your breathing?  What thoughts occurred as you are minding your breath? What surprises you about the experience?

Write a poem or essay about breathing.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


What are you waiting for?

Waiting  is such a strange state.
It takes us away from our normal world and regular activities, placing us in a holding pattern, a limbo state.

We spend much of life waiting for life to happen.

We have special rooms designed just for waiting.
We sit quietly waiting for appointments in offices, procedures in hospitals,  turns at the counter or the window, news we are expecting, and impending events--we wait and we wait...

Waiting takes up much of our time.

And what do we do while wait?
We read our books while waiting for our financial planner, our lawyer, or our next business meeting.
We write emails while waiting for the movie to start,  doors to open, the check-out line to move.

Sometimes waiting is happening against the backdrop of life marching forward.
We wait on our loved ones to return home, for the baby to be born, for the much needed vacation to start-- while in the meantime we go about our routine activities.

Faith Wilding writes about  everyday-everyman-everywoman waitings --all the various ordinary waiting experiences we suffer or enjoy -- from infancy to adulthood, and all the childish hopes and teenage angst in between--in Waiting: a Poem.

Waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting . . . 
Waiting for someone to come in 
Waiting for someone to hold me
Waiting for someone to feed me 
Waiting for someone to change my diaper
Waiting . . .

Waiting can be a wishing for or a hoping against --  we can be waiting for our ship to come in or hoping the other shoe does not drop.

What are you waiting for?

Waiting can be an eternal hope-- as we wait on divine promises.

What are you waiting for?

I have been waiting during the last days of 2013 and these first days of 2014-- my father has been in the hospital two times in two weeks.
He is still here.

We have waited for nurses and techs to come, for procedures to happen, for reports to be given, for beeps to be turned off or turned on, and tubes to be connected or disconnected, for food, for news, for family members ... we have waited...

 In the Waiting Room by Elizabeth Bishop captures this waiting room experience from a child's view and takes it beyond to a dream state. After hours in the ICU waiting room with my dad, this poem begins to capture my thoughts.

...It was winter. It got dark
early. The waiting room
was full of grown-up people,
arctics and overcoats,
lamps and magazines.
My aunt was inside
what seemed like a long time
and while I waited I read
the National Geographic
(I could read) and carefully
studied the photographs:
the inside of a volcano,
black, and full of ashes;
then it was spilling over
in rivulets of fire... 

Dr. Seuss approaches waiting differently. He considers waiting  to be  a useless and unnecessary activity  as we venture out into the world. In Oh, The Places You'll Go!,  he warns against arriving in this Waiting Place.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come
or a plane to go or the mail to come,
or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No
 waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting...
He instead suggests that smart, ambitious folks make things happen along the way to avoid the waiting and staying.

 Click here to read  The Waiting Place by Dr. Seuss.
 Click here to  read the complete text from which it is excerpted, Oh the Places You'll Go.

Finally, there is the collective waiting, our universal, hopeful waiting for better times, a better world--for a soaring of intentions, and miraculous implementations of peace and goodwill.  Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poem, I Am Waiting, first published in 1958 in A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems,  still sings out our social/political waiting, our national/ global waiting-- our human waiting.
...and I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder 
and I am waiting for someone
 to really discover America 
and wail
and I am waiting   
 for the discovery
 of a new symbolic western frontier
  and I am waiting
  for the American Eagle
 to really spread its wings
 and straighten up and fly right
 and I am waiting...
What are you waiting for?

How do you wait?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

When was the last time you waited for an appointment, an event or occurrence, a person or condition?

What did you do while you waited?
How did you wait?
Did you wait in a waiting room or go about your normal activities while you waited?

The following poem is an excerpt from a longer poem I wrote in the fall of 2009, Waiting for a Flu Shot:

gives an opportunity
to take off the burden
and weight
of going nowhere.
forces a stillness
in the river
of rushing
calls us
when we just don’t  have
the time
when we just don’t hear
the time...

Write your own  poem about a waiting experience.
You may want to describe the place where you waited, your feelings, or what you did while you waited.  You may want to be literal or metaphoric.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


I am a blogger.

How  pleased and proud I am to identify myself as such.
I can't believe it has been almost a year since I joined the blogging world.

After rereading my first post, Welcome to Deeper Writing (1/16/13), I  realize that blogging in now an essential part of my life.
It has become part of who I am and what I do.

Today we traditionally reflect on the year we are leaving.
And we also begin to look ahead to our plans and wonderings for the new  year.

Today I  also reflect on this past year of writing and about projected writing in this coming  year.

What have I learned in this new experience?
What important lessons will I  take into the new year regarding blogging, specifically, and writing in general?

About three months after I began blogging, I asked myself the same questions and  recorded my reflections in the post,  Lessons in the Blog.  In rereading this post, I find that these same  lessons  continue to be those I am learning and relearning.

In addition, I have learned several new lessons.

What happens if life interrupts the ability to write?

This year there have been a number of challenges that have changed my writing schedule.

I have traveled.

Vacations  always seems to encourage writing for me.
Interruptions in my routine to take in sun and beach and seafood and friend-time always  inspires writing for me.
 And likewise, retreats with precious quiet time in serene places, whether on a religious retreat or with the  Columbus Area Writing Project Summer Institute at Kenyon College-- these times always lead to profuse writing.

I learned this year, however, that professional travelling, such as to conferences and conventions, while encouraging much thinking and learning, left me with a brain so full that writing my blog just didn't happen.  I found that the writing came only after I was home and had had time to reflect, digest, and process.

Our family has had several health challenges this year, as well.  My dad has been hospitalized twice (stroke and stomach issues), he spent some time in a rehabilitation center following his stroke, and continues to need numerous doctor visits.  In addition, my mother had shingles.  

Writing in between, around and through new schedules at first seemed impossible.

Yes I have a small computer (10 inch screen that can go anywhere) . Yes I have an iPad with a Blogger app. Yes any where I am has wi-fi.  Yes my iPad has a AT& T chip so I am not ever dependent on wi-fi. Yes....

None of that seemed to matter.
Writing in between, around and through new schedules still at first seemed impossible.

However, I found myself able to write everywhere more easily once I gave myself permission to NOT write. Once I relieved myself of a rigid (self-established) publishing schedule, I found, ironically, that  I was able  most of the time to follow that same schedule--- being patient and lenient with myself on the very few times I could not.

Sometimes life takes over and writing waits.

But I also found during the times I was not physically writing, that I was still writing in my head, still planning, still constructing and creating the next post and one after that and one after...

As I look back over the posts for 2013, I was interested in which posts you liked, which ones were most read, reposted, tweeted, and googled..

Here are the top ten-- the most read posts-- since the inception of my blog:
Which was your favorite post?

Which piece of your own writing is your favorite?

What lessons have you learned this year in your writing?

What do you want to write in 2014?

As we enter 2014,  I wish you a happy new year....and happy writing!

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

What do you learn as you write?
Make a list of lessons you have learned from writing a particular piece of writing.
Make a second list of lessons you have learned from your collected writings.

Perhaps a poem taught you to break lines in a new way.
Perhaps an essay taught you that you could repeat phrases for emphasis or ask questions that you would not answer in the piece.
Perhaps you learned that sometimes research is necessary,  even to write about a very familiar topic.

Write an essay about your own writing and what you have learned from it.