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Looking Back…

24 Jan

Inspiration originates for any writer in myriad ways, from objects to artwork, as well as prose and poetry that provide motivational examples. Writing also comes with a number of challenges, and one of the greatest, I think, is surpassing the dreaded “writer’s block.” These writers were not defined by this nor their own particular challenges—those of memory loss. Instead, they rose above them.

From personal histories to imagined vistas, these writers from the Memory Connections group at Baylor, Scott & White in Georgetown allowed me to guide them through a series of exercises in six classes that resulted in a small body of work, the best of which appears below. Their pieces leave room to pause, ponder, and appreciate before moving on to the next word or image. They’ll stay with you, so be prepared!

Tracey Lander-Garrett
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Wheelbarrow

wheelbarrow

– inspired by William Carlos Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow”

Where have you
gone

I miss your
utility

for feeding
the hogs that

fed me
all year

Randy Russell

This Moment

shadows

I see a mother
with a little boy playing
in the blue and white pool.
There was a sound,
a yell of delight.
Later, they watched the sun
go down in darkness.

Mary Russell

Blue Skies

umbrellas

Just imagine
Blue and white clouds
Water splashing in the background
Clouds floating overhead
Umbrellas open and waving in the breeze
Salt in the air and sticky
Everything is beautiful!

Judy Rogers

Genealogy

crystalball

My expertise is genealogy

At this time
I am going through my family
from as long ago as the 1600s

I am writing—storytelling—
of these people

How to make a story
of a person?

Tell when
and where
she was born?

Describe where
she lived
how many
siblings she had
and who died

Show what
she did
and how she lived,
what she loved,
and who she loved

How she lived her life,
and how
and when
she died

Lynne Devin-Smith

Locket

locket.jpg

I have a little locket. It was worn by my grandmother and my mother. It has a dent in it, which was allegedly caused by my mother biting it. It was passed down to me by my mother. I never wore it much, as I was afraid I would lose it. It is now in my safe deposit box at our present bank location.

It’s just a simple little locket with very little monetary value. But it could never be replaced. It is a keepsake, a reminder of what and who was important to me in life… people and love.

It will be passed onto my daughter and then my only granddaughter. Perhaps it will be treasured by them… and passed onto many generations!

Beth Vogt

My Name

heather

My name is Heather. Heather is the small flowers you see on the hills of Scotland. They are usually purple. Isn’t that pretty?

My older brothers called me H-Bomb. I guess I was rather hyperactive. This name was mine until I was all grown up.

I think that they could have called me anything else and it would have been much better. Don’t you think?

My brothers had names like Charles and Fraser. How about that?

Heather de Loyo

What’s Possible

tennis

A sunny day calls for two or three
sets of tennis.

Without tennis balls, no sets
are possible.

The balls should be new to have
good bounces.

A tennis court and racket are necessary to hit
the ball and play the game.

Without a dry day, a good racket, and three balls,
no game is possible.

Jerry Miller

A Time Long Ago

Dance

I treasure the moments
of an evening long since gone

cherished because
of the memories it contains

laughter, merriment, sipping champagne,
dancing foxtrot, swing, waltz…

all the music of Glenn Miller,
Tommy Dorsey—Big Band sound—

embraced in the arms
of the young man I loved

these memories are sweet,
innocent, of a time long ago

that remains in my heart
for a lifetime.

Helen Haynes

Evolution

shell

As shells have evolved through time
immemorial, the complexity and
advancement of life can be seen
and appreciated.

Evolution of life is such an amazing
advancement in evidence and support
of complexity and beauty
of progression of life.

To think that life on our planet
is an example and proof that evolution
of life is very probable in other
planets, other solar systems, other galaxies.

Evolution of life is evidence that
life has existed before
and will exist
in the very far future.

Manny Chavez

The pieces above were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, an evidence-informed program for people experiencing early-stage memory loss. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.

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Where Life Shimmers

24 Jan

The Hope Lutheran writers embrace each other and each other’s work. As their collective poem states, there is true warmth in this group. They encouraged fellow storytellers to share their poetry and prose aloud, and were constantly praising one another’s work. The poem “This Moment” by Eavan Boland moved writers to pen musical prose about their own evening routines. Reflecting on their names revealed childhood rivalries and nods to royalty. Close inspection of small objects inspired new characters and vivid settings. The Hope Lutheran writers are naturals when it comes to sensory description. Their writing transported me. I felt the warmth of their stories, and their support of one another, and it made me feel part of something bigger than myself.

Claire Campbell
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Spring

wildflowers

The small corner out back near the house  is covered with beautiful, small flowers (whose name I cannot find)so beautiful, so tiny, and yet glorious in their homes.

The three of us take turns putting sweet things around to keep the beauty there. We don’t tell Mother because she might make us clean it all up!

We seek out every chance we get and take turns watering them—I often wonder if the water wasn’t necessary outside.

Jeanne Roden

Night

angel

Relaxing and sleeping with random dreams and thoughts.
The stillness in this moment with shafts of light coming in the windows through the shades.
The stillness—the time for relaxation and movement with random thoughts.
Sometimes with deep sleep and other times with awareness of the stillness and the sense of security and peace.
Dreams come and go—some disappear in a single moment or they reemerge as a reflection.
Music is present.
Moments like this are brief and fragile, and can give consolation.
Music in my ears can float in the movement, and the images reflect the peace and surrounding tranquility with the joys of deep sleep.

Larry Graham

Wild Basin Preserve/There is a Place 

Waterfall.jpg

There is a place I love to go
It’s here in Austin just down the road
I see beautiful trees, and flowers that grow
I want to stay there forever you see
I watch the waterfall there flow
I walk around alone, not feeling pain
I listen to the birds there sing
The only safe place I really feel sane
But I know this place is there for me.

Joyce B.

My Name

blackboard.jpg

I would like to keep my name and how I feel about it.
I will stay with my name.
“Magda…!”
This is my name…
Magda Salazar.

Magda Salazar

My Name

Ron

I like and am comfortable with my name, “Ron.” “Ronald,” to me, sounds pretentious, and I always use “Ron.” I am named after an old actor, Ronald Coleman. My mother did not want me to be associated with an Irish Catholic culture, so she picked a very English-British name: Ronald.

For years, I was into sailing, and four of us were named Ron. But people refused to call us by our last names, only by our first names, which caused all kinds of problems.

Ron

Summer

icecream

The long days and nights
Coolness of the morning, but the sunshine
Afternoon wonderful for swimming
And getting a tan for some period of time
Sitting in the shade of trees
Looking at a beautiful garden of flowers
Perhaps sipping on some orange juice
Or having an ice cream.
I always liked to sit in the sun for a while
Something that was harder to do as a child living in Ireland
Oh yes, we learned to suntan in moderation
In between splashing in the pool
Fills the heart and soul
With joy!

Audrey Krier

The Fall 

autumnleaf.jpg

I love the fall.
When the leaves turn different colors—
Red, brown, black, white, orange, cream, beige, purple, or gold.
Some stay on the tree,
Some twist off the tree
As they dry up and
Fall to the ground.
The leaves gather around
The bottom of the tree.

Pat Keen

Us: Our Present Journey 

childhoodhappiness

In the winter of our lives
We feel warmth in this group
We have something in common:
Laughter
Humor
Experience
Pain.
For a short while our fear is gone
Understanding we’re not alone
Because we are together
Sharing, in sync, giving
Each of us has a history
We all have our own stories
As we wade to shore.

The Hope Lutheran Writers

The pieces above were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, an evidence-informed program for people experiencing early-stage memory loss. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.

The Moments That Last

24 Jan

It’s their honesty and humor that are most memorable. With each visit to the YMCA North, these adult writers—who face the unfathomable challenge of memory loss—showed me how to approach each day with grace. Their shared experiences pulled them closer together, as they laughed and kidded each other, discussed their lives, and, then wrote from the heart. They remembered precious childhood moments with their parents and grandparents. They held onto the images of valuable things, like mental snapshots of a daughter lost, soaring through the clouds as a pilot, or a father’s priceless handmade ship. I imagine today—each day—is the most precious for them. Living “this moment,” a poem which inspired beautiful works, gives them a chance to pass on their amazing stories and know they are not alone in this journey.

Terri Schexnayder
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Peace

wooddrake.jpg

Berry’s wood drake calls me to the memory of a time when I took my grandson down the hill to look at the wood ducks. I’d never seen their beauty before. San Marcos was not wood duck territory. But children and mothers fed bread to the ducks, and the birds decided it was a good place to live. Have you ever seen a wood drake? Beautiful! I did, as a grandmother sharing time with her small grandchild.

It also reminds me of a time when I was a child at my grandmother’s house. There were hollyhocks, which made flowers turn into dancing children. Rose petals decorating a mud pie. And my grandmother hugging me.

Ruth Crowson

This Moment

stars.jpg

– inspired by Eavan Boland’s “This Moment”

Sounds surround me
Sounds of friends
Some of many months
Some new today

Things from above
Children laughing
Trees outside the windows
Barely moving
A few moments ago, the trees were shaded
Now they’re in the sun

When that sun goes down
My favorite time arrives
And stars will surround us
All the way to the edge of the sky

Ruth Crowson

Peaceful Place

mushrooms.jpg

A peaceful place for me
will always be in the woods.
Besides being quiet and peaceful,
there is always the expectation
that you will see something new.

Billy Garry

Little Box

box.jpg

Little box so neat and square,
What is it you have hiding there?
I won’t know unless I look
And see it like an open book.

Billy Garry

Memories of Virginia

I like symmetry. The near mirroring in the calendar photo reminds me of the still days on the creek where I grew up—less than a mile by water from the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. We didn’t have the mountains, but there were a succession of points and caves, usually poles that marked the edges of oyster beds, all mirrored in the still water.

There is a large tree near the mouth of the creek where white egrets roost at night—it is impressive to see them arrive, twos or threes together. On a still evening, the tree blossoms as if dotted with white blobs on the actual tree.

Jim Hadden

Knuckleball

baseball.jpg

A clean baseball is a reminder of what once was. A skiffle ball can be exploited by some pitchers, but is anathema to a knuckleball pitcher. I have a friend and teammate from the Austin Men’s Baseball League. When he played first base, I would always make my first knuckleball throw to him in our routine between innings.

Once when I was purchasing a new car, I went through the test drive and got to the paperwork. He saw my signature and commented, “I know you—you’re the knuckleballer!” A good knuckleball brings the small and slow pitcher (me!) up to the level of bigger players.

Jim Hadden

This Moment

thread.jpg

– inspired by Eavan Boland’s “This Moment”

We are all sitting here with many different thoughts. Some may be thinking of things they will be doing soon after they get home. I plan to get some fabric out, put it on the ironing board in preparation, and sew it with another piece of fabric of a different color.

First, it must be pressed so there are no wrinkles. Then, they will be measured and placed together so the two pieces will be made into a baby blanket. One piece needs to be slightly longer than the other so that the hem goes beyond the cotton batting. Next, the two pieces of fabric will be sewn together on three sides. The batting will be cut to fit in between the sewn pieces after they are turned inside out. I will fit the batting snugly and evenly, while extending to all four sides of the fabric. The final side is now tucked in on the fourth side and stitched.

It is now time to smile and admire the finished baby blanket. The baby will be pleased to feel so good within the new blanket.

Eleanor Hall

Where Potatoes Grow

potatoes.jpg

When I was growing up in Montana, I had no idea how important the rain was for our family to survive. Once, I learned that we did not have enough rain for the crops or even the grass to grow for our cattle. However, my parents did not talk about this in front of me—they probably decided I didn’t need to be concerned about something I could do nothing about. However, God did have a plan for us. He did care for us.

We had a coulee, land that is lower than its surrounding land, a short distance from our house. There was tall grass growing there, and when my father investigated it, he found that it was being subirrigated. The grass became moist from the soil below. He took a shovel and dug just to be sure. Then, he brought the horse and plow to make the area good for raising potatoes. We cut the potatoes so that every piece had at least one eye from which other potatoes would grow. We girls dropped them into the rows dug in the rich soil. My father plowed and covered the potatoes in each row, and then made a trench in which to plant the next row. He did this with a single horse and plow.

After about ten days, the potato plants started coming up, and then, after another couple of weeks, it was time to hoe the plants to rid them of weeds. My sisters and I got a nickel for every two rows we weeded. Almost all the potatoes grew large because of the moisture they received from the ground below. At harvest time, my father cleaned the dirt from the new crop with his plow and horse, and the girls pulled up the potatoes. We had a good crop and a large cave in which to store them. My father made this by building a cement walkway down the center of the cave and wooden board areas to hold the potatoes off the ground. The crop was so good the first year that we had enough to sell to the stores. When both of my sisters had appendicitis, my parents could pay the full hospital bill with potatoes.

I recently learned that potatoes are a very good food—they furnish carbohydrates for energy, plus vitamins B and C.

Eleanor Hall

A Bird

bluebird

It’s colorful, cheerful, and cute.
And he’s certainly not mute!
So, stand away, friend, and listen,
And show him how you glisten.

It’s a song he sings,
And it seems to ring
Just for you and me.
Just for you and me!

Betty Hamilton

Valuable Objects

piano

My grandmother’s stack of classical piano music and cabinet (a somewhat midsized one in which they are kept) are valuable to me. None of my own piano music was ever that voluminous as her complete stack. She told me I could have all her books—heavy ones, rectangular ones, etc. I would take a few home with me when she offered them, and although I wanted them all, it was difficult to take them all home with me at the same time. For, I was in college, but without a car to carry them home easily.

After looking through all her heavy books of classical piano music, I decided it would be too difficult to learn to play too many of them. I could never read them easily, so I left those with her. What a great classical pianist she was! She had taken lessons since she was sixteen years old and had played in double piano concerts with eight other symphony pianists onstage in Montgomery, Alabama. She was so advanced in her piano playing that I avoided the instrument and eventually discovered the organ. It was a simpler instrument. Even though the pedal board added a challenge, it was much more fun for me to learn the organ.

Betty Hamilton

My Place to Go

gardentools

My peaceful place to go is outside. Everything about me is outside. There, I am free. I enjoy weeding because it frees the ground of nuisance. I enjoy planting because the view changes—once empty, it turns beautiful. In the morning, I walk with my neighbor. We each own a Fitbit and try to beat the record we set the day before. It is nice being with someone you like, who can talk about the ins and outs of our past and present days.

Another peaceful is the home of my elderly friend Nelda—mostly, because she is ninety-two years old. I want to make sure she is safe. Of course, I don’t say that to her! She would resent someone wanting to take care of her, as she is very independent.

Donna Hebner

This Day

trafficlights.jpg

On the way here, I arrived via Uber. This is always fun because the driver and I talk about the music on the radio and what has happened, like the murders last night or whatever comes up. Sometimes, I feel like we are rehashing what we have heard on the news or experienced during the night or day before.

It is a good feeling to have someone to exchange ideas with in the morning, because it brings us into a new day, each of us having thoughts about what is next.

Donna Hebner

Colors of the Ocean

rope.jpg

Saltwater and fishing for lobster
Colorful coral swaying in the ocean currents
Spearing sea foods and more.

Larry Runyon

Important Object

modelship

When my dad was young, he had a hobby of making model ships that he built from scratch. He is gone now, but I have three of his sailing ships. I value them greatly and display them in my office. I hope to pass them on to my younger brother or my two sons when I die.

It’s important to me to keep them in the family as a memory of Dad’s skill, and so they can be passed down to my brother’s sons as a reminder to them. A reminder of their grandfather, with whom, unlike my brother and I, they didn’t get to spend as much time. I hope they will eventually pass along the ship models to their own children.

Alan Sagen

Walking Along Brushy Creek

turtles.jpg

My wife and I make it a practice to walk together most days along Brushy Creek for exercise. We enjoy walking through the park that begins after we cross the low waters. In the park, people picnic and kids play. After going through the park, we cross over the creek’s bridge to get us back to the other side. From there, we head further upstream. Eventually, we come to a road we must cross to continue upstream. There is a part of the creek, called Turtle Creek, where we usually see the creatures. Sometimes there are a lot of turtles, sometimes not.

After we have counted the number of turtles, we take the way back home. We cross the creek again, use the low water crossing again, and walk uphill to our home at the top of the hill.

Alan Sagen

Peaceful Time

mountain.jpg

A peaceful time for me was spent in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. We once went there for a vacation. My son was an Eagle Scout, and he worked at the annual gathering of the Boy Scouts. We had never seen the camp before. The sky was clear—there were only white puffy clouds up there. You could sit on the mountain and see forever.

The camp was filled with young Boy Scouts—approximately 5,000 of them. Sitting on the top of the mountain, with the Scouts camping below, was an amazing sight.

Ed Stephens

What Happens Next?

rose.jpg

This is my neighborhood
At the beginning of spring.
The roses are blooming.
I see the sun’s impression on the window.
The skies are blue with white clouds forming.
Wait a little while—
What will happen next?

Looking west, I see dark clouds.
Will it rain today?
I see people rolling up the car windows.
The wind is from the west.
The storm is passing over.
The sun sets.

Tomorrow is a new day.
I wonder what will happen next.

Ed Stephens

Fireflies on a Summer Night

fireflies.jpg

I am sitting here in a class and writing about this particular moment. The room is filled with friends, and it’s pretty good. I appreciate that many of them are going through the same things I am. I am not a poet, but I understand what the poets look at—the importance of smaller things. Good for them!

They have time to spend at that level, and understanding that point of observation is appreciated. But, this poem, “This Moment” by Eavan Boland, brings back a memory of my childhood with my brother and sisters one night when we were catching fireflies in jars. Sorry, fireflies!

Chris Turk

Valuable Item

pistol.jpg

Of all the objects I own, the most valuable is a Colt pistol dated around the 1850s. I don’t know anything about who owned it in my family or what they did with it. It’s a pistol and it’s old. No finish, and with a broken firing mechanism.

But, it’s from my family, and I have it in my safe. Not sure who I will give it to when I die—maybe my grandson.

Chris Turk

In the Moment

trees

In this moment, I am surrounded by people I have just met. They are having the same problem as me and dealing with it in their own way. We don’t know where life is going to lead us. Will our memories get worse? Will I end up like Dad? Only time will tell.

How did I end up like this? What cruel twist of fate put us here? Will science ever have an answer to memory loss?

Sandra M. Zandrusky

The pieces above were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, an evidence-informed program for people experiencing early-stage memory loss. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.

Life’s Little Beauties

23 Jan

During each of my visits to Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church, I was met with a depth of intelligence, curiosity, humor, and vivaciousness that renewed my own energy and penchant for living fully in the moment. These writers, who come from all walks of life, allowed themselves to be vulnerable, to open up to an unfamiliar experience with admirable aplomb, recounting family histories and unearthing joyful memories of the past—stories that may have otherwise gone untold if not for the safe space created by this writing group. Bonds formed between writers from completely different worlds, whether in the room or on the page. The Westlake writers were able to find comfort and solace in each others’ words, knowing they were all undergoing the same experience. They discovered the power of language to move one to tears or laughter and found that creative writing can actually be fun! The following pieces exemplify the wit, vigor, and positivity I encountered weekly in this talented group of writers, a delight that can be felt again and again whenever I read their words.

Julie Howd
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

I Am…

photoalbum

I am a husband, father, and grandfather.
I like family, friends, laughing, good food,
privacy, my computer, and freedom to think.
I have a wonderful and supporting wife, loving
extended family members, and financial security.
I think—how lucky I am!
I think more of philosophical and theological issues
as I get older and progress with Alzheimer’s.
I feel so very, very fortunate—for my parents,
education, and living in the USA.
I love having the time to work on my photo albums,
being alone, and being with family.
I wonder about the universe and my place in it.

Boyd S.

Sailboat

dock

My sailboat slips through the water like memories,
as the smooth hull slips through water and time.
The lonely sound of the paddle dipping into water
gives way as the sails are raised and the lake air
fills the sails with a snap, and then more silence
as we move through the water and we lose ourselves
in our thoughts and dreams.

Carol Y.

How to Fall in Love with the Night Sky

telescope.jpg

To begin, first sit in a comfortable lawn chair and wait for a clear, dark night. Add a decent pair of binoculars and just scan the sky for bright stars, planets, and other intriguing objects. Don’t rush. It takes time and patience to really see the beauty and wonders of the dark sky. Mix this with a goodly amount of time getting to know your instrument, be it binoculars or a telescope. For a beginner, it’s best to thoroughly understand the instrument you use, i.e. binoculars are okay to begin, but work toward larger instruments to find the wonder of planets, nebulas, stars, and other objects. Take your time to discover the dimmer objects that pass by others observers who lack the patience. Try it. You may find a wonderful hobby.

Dan

Grandmother’s Table

house.jpg

I remember my grandmother’s house in Dallas
And the furniture it contained.
Also the uncles it contained.
I have a table from her house and still get
Memories from it.
Memories still remind me of spending the day with her
And catching the streetcar to the Dallas YMCA
And swimming all day.
Later she moved into a small house my father built.

Jerry H.

Read

books.jpg

Choose the book.
Join a book club.
Read a synopsis or book cover.
Immerse yourself in the story.
Savor the ending.
Recommend to others.

Betty O.

My Red Kayak

kayak.jpg

I bought my red kayak and was very proud of it.
What fun I had on the red kayak in the water:
the way the glistening kayak lifted high
over the waves of the river. The sound of the waves
was music to my ears and solace to my soul.
There were exciting times as well as relaxing times
in the beautiful and glistening red kayak.
It floated without effort.
My kayak allowed me to be one with the river
and I felt a part of nature. I could be totally relaxed
and continue floating for hours, just enjoying
the intense green plants on the river bank.
There were many water birds—egrets, swans—
gracefully swimming along. The beautifully
puffy white clouds added to the enjoyment.
This is my idea of bliss.

Susan W.

Bird Watching

acorn

Always I have been an observer and lover of nature. I collect acorns every fall in our yard. I save special oak leaves and wildflowers in the spring.

My greatest joy is observing birds at our bird feeders. We have two large feeders, which the birds visit every day. My binoculars are “on the ready” to sight more birds. I keep a bird identification book handy.

Birds are awesome—some of God’s most beautiful work. Thank you, God, for sending these beautiful birds to us. Birds add color to our yard and are such a pleasure to observe.

Susan W.

By the Ocean

sea

I loved the ocean and was only ten minutes away from it in Hampton, New Hampshire, where I lived and grew up from age four. Now I’m eighty-three years old. I loved to swim in the ocean, although mainly it was from March through maybe October that I could swim. I loved living with my parents there. Both of my parents were memorialized when they passed away—Dad at age seventy-eight and Mom at age eighty-six—and that is in North Hampton, right on the ocean!

Glenice

Bama Company

Day 113/365- Late Night Snack

A jar of peanut butter and jelly or jam always reminds me about my father’s business. He started the Bama Company in Alabama and then brought it to Houston, Texas. The Bama Company was bought by Welch’s but still exists in grocery stores under the name Bama, and nowadays sits on the bottom shelf! My dad went on many trips to Mexico and other states to buy the fruit to make his products. My brother got to go on those trips, but not me, since I was very young. I did go to the building where all the jam was made and often would take all of my friends—a fun excursion. Of course, I also took a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school each day.

Marianne M.

Christmas Morning at the Kilbanes’

christmas

The Christmas tree is lit in the living room. The mantles on the fireplaces are twinkling with their lights and stockings filled by Santa. Both fireplaces are lit. The coffee is brewing and the milk warming for hot chocolate. I take the Irish bread out of the oven to cool, then slice. The bacon and sausage crackle and Mike takes the eggs out. He takes the sleigh bells off the hook and shakes them, and the house begins to wake up. The three sleeping children come down to open their gifts in the living room. They are excited to see their gifts and anxious to tear open the boxes they have received. The boys with their trucks, Karen with her dolls, and, as they grew older, their many tapes and CDs, and new clothes that were worn over their PJs.

Patsy K.

Our Home

house2.jpg

The home was beautiful, a mix of antique and modern. The dining room table was beautiful, oval in shape with weaving movements around the edge.

In the winter, we had a fireplace. Memories of the fireplace: shadows that leapt and roared, a collection of fireplace tools, and a beautiful glow in the room. This was our home in the cold winter, waiting for warmth in the coming sun. The fireplace was a place where warmth would come, and music in the background that flowed beautifully all around. Chess was the game we played.

I still remember the comfort of the home, the mix of modern and antique. There was a view of the bay, and we could hear the lapping of the waves breaking. Palm trees were in abundance.

Jackson G.

Christmas

dog

I see: beauty, cooking, happy faces, a beautiful table.
I hear: good, cheerful conversation, the wind, children, kitchen sounds,
laughter and music, a roaring fire, a dinner prayer.
I taste: a well-cooked meal, apple pie and wine, a delicious dessert.
I touch: my wife’s hand, the oven, my shaved beard.
I smell: fireplace scents, roasting a favorite meal, my wife’s perfume, the smell of rain.

Jackson G.

Familial Love

family

What can I rely upon?
Familial love.
There are reasons to get down,
especially in this day and age.
But when I need to be lifted,
all I need to do is think
of all the blessings that I have
to be thankful for, and
familial love is the most important.
I have the most wonderful family around,
scattered as they are around the country and the world.
By the way, the family even includes an ex-wife,
who remains very much a loving part of the family.
Friends are fine and dandy, but without family
I would be nothing but candy and not as sweet.

Logan M.

Settling In

hotchocolate

On a special evening at 18 Chandon Lane, Beverly and I nestle down to enjoy listening to an album. The dim light outside still illuminates the backyard to such an extent that all the gray rocks are wonderfully highlighted against the newly laid sod that sparkles with all the rain that has recently fallen. The weather has cooperated and gotten cooler just when we needed it to. How could this be so perfect? Hot chocolate, flowers, incense.

We have just moved in, gotten organized, and hopefully halfway rested. The house feels perfect, at least for now.

Logan M.

The Game of Chess

chess

I remember an onyx chess set I purchased in Florence, Italy, forty-six years ago. The hand-carved set is not only a game of intellectual skills, but a piece of beautiful art, a treasure that I lugged around Europe, from Italy to Spain to France to Belgium to Holland, ending with a transatlantic flight to the US.

Over the many years, this work of art provided many days of challenging, intellectual brinkmanship between friends. In more recent years, it has provided opportunities to bond more closely with one of my daughters and, within the last month, the opportunity to teach my seven-year-old grandson to learn a life skill and game—a game that I hope will enrich his future and give him a loving memory of his Popi.

Gary C.

How to Make a Beautiful Landscape

garden

Develop a plan with all necessary materials.
Cultivate your soil, enriching it with compost.
Select the best ground cover, including grass and alternatives.
Research flowers to paint a colorful environment.
Study and acquire the right trees, for now and the future.
Plant your trees with adequate drainage and fertilizer.
Place and plant your flowers and shrubs to provide a picture.
Install an efficient automatic sprinkler system.
Have your sod and ground cover delivered.
Lay your ground cover, your sod.
Water your landscape and enjoy a new environment.

Gary C.

Setting a Vision

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Have a plan to accomplish a vision or objective. Explain the plan to the audience or employee with the goal set to attain completion of the plan. This requires confidence in the leadership, with the goal to accomplish the objective by communicating the vision. This requires communicating the objective’s intent and following through to explain the objective to those who will need to complete the task to achieve the required result. Inquire of those who will follow through to implement the plan to achieve required results.

Fred D.

The Best Pug

pug

I am the friend of a Punkin. We met a few years ago. He was about the size of a tennis ball hiding behind a hedge. I like the way he showed himself, with innocence and trust as he stole my heart. I picked him up and rubbed his fur against my cheek, thinking about how I was going to keep him.

My neighbor said she couldn’t take him because she had three pugs already. So it was my choice keep him, which I did, and he fit into my family with another pup that taught him all she knew. Through her, he learned how to remove insulation with his teeth and wiring removal on tractors and autos.

Joe P.

The pieces above were written by participants in AGE of Central Texas’s Memory Connections Program, an evidence-informed program for people experiencing early-stage memory loss. The Badgerdog writing workshops provided for these groups were made possible by the generous support of St. David’s Community Foundation’s Health’s Angels.

The Magnificent Hippo Llamas

4 Aug

It was such a pleasure spending a week at the Magellan International School with these fifth- and sixth-graders and their inventive minds! The Magnificent Hippo Llamas dove straight into the camp and delighted me with their eagerness, cleverness, and humor every single day.

As reflected in their name, these sixteen writers graders love animals, and they wrote about everything from rhinoceroses to butterflies to sharks. We created “chimera” creatures, animals made up of parts two or more other animals and told stories about their lives, their origins, or their discoveries. We imagined abstract ideas like creativity and anger as though they were animals enclosed in a zoo.

We read and discussed writing by Nicolás Guillén, Franz Kafka, Patricia Smith, and Jacqueline Woodson, and their words inspired our own. To practice surprise and encourage experimentation on the page, we played surrealist games, like three-headed know-it-all and question and answer, and these games gave many of the stories below their initial seed.

I so enjoyed working with The Magnificent Hippo Llamas, and I hope you’ll enjoy their pieces below. Be prepared to laugh, gasp, and smile.

Erin Zwiener
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

 

Putter

When I was about five years old, I won a bug catcher. That day, I caught a beautiful blue-winged butterfly. I live on a country lane in Fieldtown. My dad owns a farm where he grows corn, peas, cows, pigs, and horses. When I got home, I set Jane, my new pet butterfly, on the barn cabinet and decided to take my horse Snowflake for a ride.

I saddled her up and hopped on. We went around the farm and over to the pound. We then galloped to the corn fields, where my dad was picking the corn stalks. Then we headed towards the pig barn, where Grumpy, Snozzy, Lazy, Happy, and the three other pigs (whose names I could never remember) were sleeping and eating. Then I went over to milk Snickers. I grabbed the bucket and stool out of the dusty cabinet and started milking her. I then thought about my teacher and how we had just finished reading a Greek myth.

I then remembered Lazy, my favorite pig and how, when I was a child, she let me ride on her back. And I remembered Jane, my butterfly… What if? No that wasn’t possible.

Later, after a dinner of yummy biscuits, chicken, and creamy milk from Snickers, I took Jane up to my room. And since I had won Lazy from the county fair, she was my responsibility, so she slept with me. I brushed my teeth with my blue Cinderella toothbrush and put on my PJs and got in my bed, and my mom read me a story and tucked me in. Later that night, I woke up to the sound of the window shuddering. I stared up at the picture of my name in all blue letters: Rosie. Then I slowly drifted back to sleep.

In the morning, I awoke to the smell of eggs and pancakes. I noticed that Lazy was not in her normal spot, and Jane was not in her cage. I started to freak out when I saw some small fluttering by the door. I grabbed the bug catcher and trapped Jane inside and went downstairs to eat. Once I had finished, I went upstairs to check on Jane. When I looked in a magnifying glass, I saw that Jane was a little bigger. She even had a pig nose. Then I remembered Lazy.

Wait… I looked closer. “Jane” had pig feet and even Lazy’s old scar. OMG, I thought. I threw Jane (in her cage) into my saddlebag, jumped on Snowflake, and we rode off to the vet. The vet didn’t know what was going on and said to take Jane to the doctor. The doctor said to take Jane to Professor Louis. Professor Louis ran tests and did experiments that involved machines and needles.

Eventually, he concluded that I had invented a new animal! A pig butterfly, a putter. It was pink with pig legs, a pig nose, pig eyes and ears, and a pink butterfly body and blue wings with pink spots. Professor Louis thought Jane and Lazy had been struck by radioactive heatwaves. He said Lazy Jane would eat leaves and plants. When I got home, I decided that I would keep Lazy Jane a secret. Lazy Jane hangs out in the field till I come home from school. Then she eats dinner and sleeps.

Helen Payan

 

Creativity

—after Nicolás Guillén’s “The Hunger” 

It flows out through the bars,
Bright blue eyes, wings like an angel,
Like a horse in a pen!
Free of heart and mind,
But unfree to roam wild.
It is always thinking of new things,
Like the wolf on the hunt
Or the lion as it roars.

If it could be free, free of this cage,
It would soar like an eagle
High above, where no one could stop it.

It beats its wings in the cage.
The girl stops as she passes the cage.
She breathes.
The girl feels the spirit of the animal
Deep within her heart.

She presses the key into the lock.
It falls.

Free at last.

Lanie Sepehri

 

Larry the Swimming Grape

It was 2032. Humans and animals had become more intelligent, but they were not the only ones. So had grapes, and Larry the Grape was going further than any grape had gone before. He was going to the Olympics. He trained hard every day, jumping off the counter and swimming in a bowl with the fan blowing him the opposite direction.

Then it was time for the Olympics. He entered his name, got his gear on, and when he heard his name called with the rest of the swimmers, he got out of his seat and started walking.

His fellow swimmers did not seem to notice him, as they almost stepped on him three times, so he hitched a ride on someone’s shoe. When they called a name, they did it three times. He guessed they were honoring him. When he got to his spot, someone else was there, so Larry tried to get him to move, but he wouldn’t budge.

When the buzzer rang, Larry jumped into the water. When the water hit him, he felt the rush as he swam. He could feel the water helping him, and then he won, but there was no medal and no winner’s music. He guessed he’d have to wait, so he jumped into his grape bag to say hi to his friend Cherry. The next thing he knew, he was being swallowed.

Emily Steer

 

Anger

—after “The Hunger” by Nicolás Guillén

Creeping, pouncing, shredding.
Always on the prowl.
A panther sneaking in the
woods, a lion crouching in the plains.
A shark swimming in the reef.
An eagle ripping into a fish.
This is anger, wanting revenge,
being resentful and mad.
Anger is cruel, it destroys
and deceives.
You cannot escape anger.
Not you and not me.

Michael Gearing

 

Project: Aquatius Monkius

Project: Aquatius Monkius.

Day 1: The lab just started. My lab just moved to a small, tropical island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. This project is run by the government. The public will not know about it at all. It is my job to keep a journal tracking the experiment. We are trying to make a part-monkey, part-shark creature. Our plan was revised more than thirty times.

First, we had a shark completely consume a yellow leaf monkey, which are native to this island. The lab then exposed it to radioactive waves for ten minutes. We put it in an enclosed area of water that was touching the shore, and we are going to keep the creature there overnight.

Sketch #1: Shark being exposed to radioactive waves.

Day 2: The project has gone horribly wrong! The experiment was not in its enclosed area this morning, but we still had a chance to see it and do some tests on it. The first time we checked on it, it was amazing. It had the head of a great white shark and the tiny body of a yellow leaf monkey. The monkey’s arms were replaced with shark fins, and it had a large shark fin on its back. The monkey’s legs and tail were normal, but they didn’t have any fur. It is very dangerous, and it will eat anything. Right now, I am on a boat with my team searching for it. Where did the team go? Who got ketchup all over the floor? What is that grunting noise behind me? Why do I see a monkey tail and a shark fin in the water? Oh no.

Ivy Semovitz

 

Animals…

A black and white animal.
It looks stressful and in pain.
Creepiness on the outside,
but anger on the inside.
Heat sliding down the forehead,
thinking quietly about
revenge. I look closely at it,
thinking how much pain and
stress this animal is given.

A yellow and black spotted
animal. So sluggish and lazy.
Drooling everywhere, waiting
patiently to get out. The eyes
are barely open, gaining more
weight by the second.

An orange and black striped animal.
So loud and wild. Roaring
every second. Running rapidly
back and forth. Slipping and
falling. So dirty.

Shreya Gupta

 

The Chronicles of the Goatster

One day, I wake up and do my daily routine. I go into the farm and “borrow” some chicken seed, then I go back to my cave and eat. By the way, I’m a Goatster, head and wings of a rooster and body and legs of a goat. I hear the farmer screaming, “It’s gone again!”

“There is someone breaking into the shed again!” exclaims the farmer’s wife. “That’s 3 days in a row!” They take the whole bag of chicken seed! We need to call the cops about this!”

That. Is. BAD! They can’t call the cops! I’m going to go back to those scientists! And technically that isn’t all true! When I’m done, I make sure not to finish it! I just leave one seed and put it in one of the animal pens. That’s fine, right? RIGHT? My best bet is to stay in my cave. That is the only place to hide anyway. Where I live, it is all flat ground surrounded by mountains. Wondering how I got here? I was running away from those scientists and fell down the cliff. That’s right. I fell down a CLIFF!

The farmers definitely called the police. They’re talking with one of them right now. I go to the back of my cave and try to blend in, although a giant chicken goat does not blend in well. Next thing you know, an officer walks by, he looks in the cave, widens his eyes, then walks back, humming and looking at the sky. What are the odds he saw me?

The next day, I do my routine. I “borrow” the chicken seed and go eat, and then I take a nap. I wake up to the sound of traffic and a large bump. All I can see is myself and a bunch of white. I wait for about an hour and then feel the truck screech to a stop. I hear people talking outside and immediately pretend to sleep. They take me outside, and I immediately make a run for it. As I run through the lab, I get lost. I go past all sorts of animal experiments. I feel so bad, so I let them out, but they run away from me fast. I finally get out. Now I’m a Goatster on the run.

Kiana Thompson

 

Courage

—after Nicolás Guillén’s “The Hunger” 

Never afraid to speak up
Stands out
Like a peacock in a field of cows
Beautiful without knowing
When you least expect it
It will show
It cannot be contained
But will hide with the best
Until, until the day when it breaks free
It will soar high again
Not afraid to express itself
Not afraid to do anything
This is courage at its most

Hannah Van Houten

 

Raining Gorillas

Today I woke up in the morning and turned on the news. They said we were going to have a big rain, so I had to bring my umbrella with me. Should I bring original or lucky shield or super bright yellow umbrella? I wondered. I decided to bring my lucky shield umbrella, just in case if I had bad luck, like someone punching me.

I went to my school after I prepared the lucky shield umbrella. Going to my school was fine. Then I went to the classroom, and I knew something was wrong. My friends and teachers looked like gorillas. I thought, What? Am I unconscious? It was weird.

After school, I crossed a street to go home. It was still raining. Suddenly, the raindrops formed like a huge hairy black monster. I turned on my phone radio, and it said gorillas (which were made by raindrops) were spreading a gorilla virus that makes people turn into gorillas. I protected myself with the lucky shield umbrella. I guess this umbrella is unlucky. Anyway, I think I’m the only one who can survive here. I protected myself with the lucky shield.

But I had a great idea. How about I feed the gorillas and treat kindly? I had this idea when other citizens started freaking out and punching gorillas. So, I started the action. Luckily, I walked in front of gorillas. Then I said, “Listen up gorillas! I will treat you very kindly, so please stop the raining gorillas!”

The gorillas talked together as a team and said very deeply and loudly, “DEAL!” But there was confusion. How would we turn gorilla people into actual humans?

I asked the raindrop gorillas, and they cast a spell on gorilla people, erased their memories of the raindrop gorillas, and turned people into humans again.

Meredith Kim

 

The Pengrhino

Once a year, it’s Pengrhino versus the Mousrat. They fight in New Zealand in a giant stone arena. If you step on one tile that’s a trap, you die. The Pengrhino has a penguin head with a rhinoceros horn, a rhinoceros body, and penguin’s feet. The Pengrhino waddles. It is about six feet tall and weighs 550 pounds. The Mousrat has a mouse face with rat teeth and tail. The Mousrat flies around the arena. It weighs 400 pounds and is five-foot-three. The Pengrhino gets its horn into the Mousrat’s stomach right off the bat. The Mousrat dodges all the attacks after that. The Mousrat jumps up after and sinks its teeth into the Pengrhino’s back. They fall off. The Pengrhino turns around and kicks the Mousrat out of the arena. The Pengrhino wins the animal games. Fireworks!

Price Deering

 

Kangacows

Once on a dark and scary night, a mad and crazy scientist with wacky white hair tried to make a hybrid of a kangaroo and a cow! He added lots and lots of strength potions so the animal would be impossible to defeat. That scientist wanted to rule the world, but something went wrong…

When the hybrid was created, it was given the name Kangacow. It didn’t listen to the scientist and punched him, so he became unconscious. The Kangacow ran out of the lab and hopped to the nearest town, Baltimore. The AFC Championship was going on — the Baltimore Ravens versus the New England Patriots. During the fourth quarter, Kangacow made baby Kangacows from his udders. They grew to full size in five seconds and rampaged the field. The crowd ran for their lives. Someone called the army, which surrounded the stadium with tanks and helicopters. The Kangacows started to multiply, and they hijacked the army and made those army men their slaves.

They did this to the whole USA in a matter of months! The scientist built a Kangaproof bunker and tried to make a formula to turn the Kangacows back into normal animals. The other countries tried to gang up on the Kangacows, but to no avail. The Kangacows destroyed the troops and vehicles.

To help take over the rest of the world, the Kangacows called the Swampmunks and Neagles. The Swampmunks were the Navy, the Neagles were the Air Force, and the Kangacows were the Army. They had a whole military force! They first attacked Russia and China because they knew they were the biggest powers after America. The Neagles guarded the Americans, the Kangacows guarded the Russians, and the Swampmunks guarded the Chinese. Then, something happened…

The Americans revolted and ran into broken tanks when the Neagles weren’t looking. They could shoot the Neagles with a tank’s machine gun and missile launcher, but the tank couldn’t move. Then they had an idea. The army men could distract the Neagles by detaching the machine guns and shooting the Neagles while the civilians could stay in the tank to shoot missiles. They kept the Neagles and strapped them to tanks. Then the Kangacows kept calling, but they didn’t come. The Kangacows sent the Swampmunks, but they were ambushed and kept them hostage. The Kangacows called the Swampmunks, but they didn’t come. They knew a big battle was coming…

Shaurya Pathania

 

Llamstrich on the Loose

Once upon a time, there was a scientist who bred animals in his lab, and one day he made a Llamstrich — half llama, half ostrich. It was hideous! When he looked at it, it had the body of an ostrich and the head of a llama. As soon as he grabbed his dart gun, the beast kicked the door to its cage and sped down the hallway. The scientist alerted the police, but as soon as they arrived, the Llamstrich was gone.

In an old house there lives a family of two, a woman and her son. They were llama farmers, but something was off. One llama looked different. First, it had feathers. Second, it had talons. The boy ran to his mother, but as soon as she came, it was gone. The Llamstrich could not find a safe place to hide! So it ran to the police and found a magic portal.

August McMurphy

 

Llamstrich on the Loose, Continued

It was just time for bed, but I remembered I had to tell Egard something, and I asked, “Do you want to go on a trip?”

Egard nodded yes. “I already packed for us. Eight-thirty, and we’ll be on the road.”

I said, “Heh, heh. Be in the sky, I guess.”

Egard grunted and used his big gecko-gripped tail to hang on the ceiling. The rooster crowed, and Egard and I were awake. I put on my swim shorts and got my matching shirt and hopped on Egard’s large eagle head. He flapped his beautiful angel-looking wings and thrust out the door and into the sky.

An hour later, we stopped at our favorite seafood place. Once we finished that up, we got outside, and I checked Egard’s portal generator. It had full battery. He put his two front eagle-arms out. I looked, and to my surprise, we were over a parking lot, and everybody saw us. They were taking millions of pictures. The portal opened, and Egard flew through with ease. When we were going, I told Egard to do it alone.

Once Egard was through the portal, he was in an arena full of sadistic kittens. At the end of the arena there was the one and only Llamstrich, which was dressed in a combat suit, and then the Egard looked down. He was in a combat suit of his own. The kittens yelled fight!

Jacob Ulmer

 

The Hippsquirrel

Pete goes to the desert to look for a new species of animal. He gets to a huge hole in the ground that looks like it goes more than thirty feet deep. He’s big enough to fit in the hole, so he goes down. He sees some light at the bottom of the cave. He goes down to it. It takes him five minutes to get to the light. It flattens out, and he enters a small room. When he gets closer to the light, he figures out it’s green and slimy. He jumps over it and sees a straight tunnel forward. There’s more green stuff on the walls. He tries to avoid it, but he accidentally touches it. It burns him and dissolves.

He keeps going forward, and he sees a huge lump on the ground. Then it starts moving. He yells and tries to get out, but a wall of sand falls over the entrance. The giant thing has a huge head and a really small body and tail. The gigantic thing moves forward and snuggles on him. It starts licking him too and then starts digging through the wall back toward the light. The giant head thing goes through the hole and into the light. Then Pete has a good look at the creature and sees that its body is a squirrel and its head and teeth are a hippo. He decides he likes it and that he will call it Hippsquirrel. The Hippsquirrel starts going up. He follows.

When they get to the top, Pete picks it up and carries it into his truck. It seems okay with this. It keeps licking him, but that’s fine. Pete drives back to his house. It’s in the forest away from the city, so nobody can mess with him. He does research on the green light and finds out it’s nuclear radiation. That’s why Hippsquirrel is two different animals. After that, Pete tries to find out what it eats. Two hours later, he figures it out. Frogs! After that, Pete lives with the Hippsquirrel and takes care of it.

Alastair Dorsett

 

21 Hours

Hello, my name is Jerry the Rhino, and I live in a zoo. Here is a tale about my everyday life. I wake up at 7:00 and eat breakfast, which lasts until 8:00. I have a rest till 12:00. I’m so tired, but I know I can’t sleep for the whole day. I have to eat! I dreamed about sleep. Then I wake up and have lunch until 1:00. Nap time is the best. I sleep until 6:00, and then I have dinner, which lasts until 7:00. Then I take an amazing night’s sleep until 7:00. I repeat this day to day. I am the tired animal and nobody will ever stop my nap time!

Jonah Strong

 

The Story of Fly Guy, a.k.a. The Prowling Fly

Once upon a time, there was a fly who had a kid. That kid was named Fly Guy. Fly Guy loved to prowl everywhere. Soon he got the nickname The Prowling Fly. He left home when his mom died. He caught a plane to Abilene, Texas. Then he caught a cow trailer to England. Then he went to Spain in a taxi cab. Then he caught a submarine to Australia. That is where he started his hunting spree.

First, he tried eating a human, but he didn’t like it. So he went to the outback and saw a pretty fly named Annie Bell. They got married. They had a kid named Darwin Jeffery Wendell. Prowling Fly soon taught Darwin Jeffery to hunt. Prowling Fly killed a giraffe and loved it. Darwin killed an elephant, not realizing they were endangered, but it tasted good. One time, Prowling Fly killed a rhino. He didn’t like it. One time, he and Darwin Jeffery were trying to kill a lion, but Darwin Jeffery was swatted by the lion’s tail and died. Then Annie Bell left him because she was mad.

Then Prowling Fly was all by himself. Then a fly caught his eye. Her name was Kim Lardashian. Soon they had another boy, and his name was Ronald McDonald Wendell. Ronald loved chicken, so Prowling Fly found the most popular bird and told Ronald it was a chicken. Ronald made chicken nuggets. Everyone loved them. So Ronald left his parents and made a very cheap fast food place. It became famous nationwide.

Prowling Fly wanted a hunting partner, so he called an old friend. His friend was Silkie Spider. His friend was a good hunter. When Silkie got there, Silkie brought his wife, but Silkie had no kids. But the day Silkie’s wife got there, a mouse ate her. Silkie decided to go back home. So, Prowling Fly was on his own. Prowling Fly was hunting an elephant but was spiked by the elephant’s horn. He was never found.

Epilogue: You should never be scared of flies. Nothing was harmed in this story. Don’t think that in real life a spider won’t eat a fly. It will.

Coalter Daywood

The 16 Musketeers

24 Jul

I’m honored to introduce you to a group of creative and passionate young authors, who call themselves “The Sixteen Musketeers.” Like the musketeers in the famous story, each of these writers represent an essential part of this collective whole—a group that worked hard over the course of a week, encouraging each other, cheering for each other, laughing with each other, learning from each other. But each Musketeer is also an individual, with a distinct writing style and a powerful voice.

During our week together at the Magellan International School, these students wrote stories and scenes of dialogue that starred a talkative fisherman afraid of cats, a mysterious young girl with wings, a bus driver who borrows a time machine, and a host of other fascinating, complex characters. Yet most of the pieces collected here—the writing that these students most desired to share with the world—are poems or nonfiction passages that focus on transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, through the precision and magic of language.

These students are determined to report on life as they see it, and to share their passions—for violins and videogames, for starry nights and storytelling—with their readers. I was inspired this week by the imagination, intelligence, and playfulness of these young writers. I hope you, too, find inspiration in these pages.

Allison Grace Myers
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

 

Ode to my Pencil Case

As I open my pencil case,
Little opportunities sprout legs and escape the dark pouch.
A pencil for making the opportunities
And an eraser for cleaning the messy ones up.

This case isn’t the kind that holds books or scrolls,
But the one that holds the tools to make them.

Inside there is a place for everything to go in.
It is so packed up and works very hard,
But it tries not to complain.
The pencil case says,
“My zipper isn’t stuck, and I’m right in front of you,
So open me up.”

Mannat Ahluwalia

 

Henry the Dragon Slayer

My name is Henry. I am a dragon slayer.

I was found in a river, adopted by one of the King’s ministers. I am now the dragon slayer, and I am one of the best in the profession, but there is yet one dragon that remains. We all call him Scaly. He has eaten all our dragon slayers. He is the fiercest one of them all, so my job was to kill him.

One day, I set out on foot, because no one was willing to come close to the dragon. I would love to say I reached the cave and heard the dragon snoring and chopped off its head, but that’s not what happened. He was torching the cave. I walked into the cave. It was around 100 degrees Celsius. (Talk about turning up the heat!) Yet I was determined to kill him. I charged in and fought the dragon. It was a short fight. I died.

I am dead now, as I tell this story.

Pranav Rao

 

Inspiration

As the sun sets over the mountains
And cast shadows in my room,
Colors spread across the sky—
Red, orange, yellow, pink.

I gaze in awe at the setting sun
As bright as the opossum’s yellow eyes—
The scene that gives all artists inspiration
To draw, to read, to paint, and to write.

 Nadia Tjiptadjaja

 

Spider

Spiders are very ugly and scary, and you can’t really change that, but I’ll try:
Their eyes are an okay color?
Maybe they cannot bite you when they’re in a good mood?
Well, bottom line: They’re TERRIBLE!
With their eight eyes and eight legs, it’s hard not to flip out around them.
You have to admit, when you see a spider, it’s like you’re King Kong.
It’s disgusting when their webs won’t come off your skin.
But I have to make them cute,
So they’re CUTE.

Jase Brown

 

The Pillow

Dear Pillow,

I know I throw you off the bed every night, and my butt lands on your face when I’m doing gymnastics, but you’re a pillow—do you even feel pain?

Okay, you definitely had something to say about that.

Okay, okay, you have feelings too, I get it.

But, I’m sorry, I mean, I bought you so I could have pillow fights, a fort, and something to rest my head on, not really for a friend.

Oh, I do need you a lot.

I guess I owe more to you than I think I do.

Olivia Trail

 

Flickering Stars

Crickets singing
Silence, almost, as
The stars flicker
Like diamonds in sunlight
Further away than the sun
But we’ll reach them
Someday
Sooner or later.

Miette Crawford

 

Ode to My Violin

Seven years ago, my mom bought me a violin. In my free time, I like to practice. I go to camps, clubs, orchestra, and a middle-school competition orchestra called All Region. My violin is brown, except for the neck, pegs, button, and chin-rest, which are black. The body is rough, like half-sanded wood. It is very comfortable. My violin sounds like an oboe if I play properly. If not, it’s like someone snoring. Without you, violin, I would be bored every day.

Akhila Jallepalli

 

A New World

I get inspiration from my imagination. Whatever comes to my mind, I write it down, and instantly I get transported to a world of magic and wonder. I write my thoughts down, and a story comes to life, until soon I am pouring my thoughts onto the paper. I pick a tiny piece of my writing and move it around, only to pick it up again and piece it with another sentence. My thoughts and feelings are my inspiration. I find a thought in my brain, and a new story is born—a new world in which I am engulfed, a new place to go, a new place to see, a new place that will inspire me.

Aanchal Save

 

Flowers

Flowers, flowers,
Full of power supplied by the sun.
They patter in the rain and
Wither when they’re done.
Colored with Beautiful shades
Of red, white, and blue,
Depending on the seasons
They might not catch the flu.
Flowers are for everyone,
Whether you’re sunny or dark.
If you want to be at a golf-course, or when
Batman leaves his bat-cave
Right after he sees his mark.
Flowers are more ancient
Than the human race itself.
They make sure to stay living
Either in the garden or on the shelf.
FLOWER
POWER.

Aditya Gupta

 

Clowns

Clowns haunt you instead of making you laugh.

Their lipstick looks like blood and scars, like a knife digging in every day. Clowns are becoming scary and dark, and they are making horror movies about clowns named It. There are clown gangs attacking people. What is the world coming to? What next — the Joker coming to life?

The world will come to an end, knowing we will all die of clowns. They are as scary as a dark hooded man coming up from your bed, and pulling you under.

Sully Meyers

 

Inspiration

Where I get inspiration is when people complain. I write about what is bothering them, or unfair to them, or to the team, so people can notice their mistakes. And, after that, they need to talk to the person and explain why they were doing this bothersome thing and try to fix it, or tell the person what to do so it will stop. It’s like when you order a hamburger with everything, and they give you nothing on it.

Maggie Wright

 

Baseball

I like baseball, because I’ve played it since I was three. I hit the ball with force. I like the stripes on the baseball. They are red like fire. I like that there are different types of bats. I have four metal ones and one wooden bat. The bat has a vibration when I hit the ball. I like when I step on the plate—it gives me a great feeling. Baseball is a fun sport to play in the fall and the summer. It’s hot in the pants.

Owen Doerle

 

Ode to Tiny (Yorkie Puppy) 

Mommy got me my sweet, tiny Tiny,
My smidgey puppy.
His honey-brown eyes
Are melted Hershey bars.
Every day
He looks for me to play.
When petted,
He nuzzles closer to me.
When hearing the flow of piano,
Tiny naps in my lap
Like a mini bear hibernating for winter.
He lifts me up when I’m down
And turns a frown upside down.
I don’t know where my joy would be
Without my little Tiny.

Samantha Tang

 

Run!

In a videogame shop, there is a game. It is a very special game. When you play with four players, you each pick a character, and then you’re sucked into the video game, and you are trying to get off the island before it sinks into the ocean. But don’t worry—you will go back home.

There are enemies that smell like garbage that will try to kill your character. The jungle on the island has plants and trees that smell moist. Everywhere it smells like a very real island, and everything looks like what it is supposed to in real life. Rated M: It is called “Run!”

Daniel Nikazm

 

The Secrets of the Spider

Spiders are hairy, big and small, black and ugly, but their webs hang majestically from the ceiling. Sparkling dewdrops hang on the web in the mist.

The black widow’s hourglass sits proudly on its back, gleaming with pride in the rain.

Spiders are masters of the shadows. Scuttling quietly in the darkness, they spin their prey into blank paper-white cocoons.

In the end, a female spider has hundreds of tiny spiders, and ideas. A new generation of spiders float in the wind, carried by silver lines, but all in all, only a few survive.

Sophia Li

 

Ode to the Clock

The shiny circle on the
wall, with numbers up
to 12, hands that move
around the circle of
numbers, 1:37 to 12:59,
lots of numbers to tell
the time, my mind and
my eyes say it’s 9:45,
it’s 1:00, ZAP,
Time goes past in a blur,
One red hand goes
second to second, fast,
BOOM, it’s 2:30, BAM,
3:20, Ding Dong Ding
Dong, it’s midnight, Ding
Dong Ding Dong, it’s mid-
day, tick tock goes that
circle with the time,
the clock was red,
like blood.

James Trudo

The Magical Murdering Unicorns Absolutely Slayed

22 Jul

The fifteen rising seventh- and eighth-graders who comprise the Magical Murdering Unicorns brought tremendous energy, humor, and talent to our Badgerdog Camp at the Magellan International School this year. No matter what I threw at them, they handled it with hilarity, thoughtfulness, and imagination. They wrote ekphrastic pieces in response to classical art; they wrote stories and poems based on a series of emojis they’d created themselves; they authored tales imagining the end—or the beginning—of the world; and they crafted monologues from real and fictional characters.

They even played a group-wide game of Exquisite Corpse, a sort of Mad Libs game in which we created sentences word-by-word without seeing the previous word—and then wrote pieces explaining the crazy sentences that ensued.

These campers at the Magellan School always surprised and delighted me, and often knocked me out with their insight and descriptive power. The week flew by. I bet you’ll see a few of these names on the covers of books one day.

Katherine Catmull
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

 

Waking Dream

It was too early to be at school.
Beep • Beep • Beep
Goes the broken alarm.
The smell of smoke and metal fills the hall.
I can feel his presence behind me.
He’s gurgling, ready to pounce.
I could stand here and let him kill me
Or run, but eventually be trapped.
I wasn’t scared, I couldn’t be.
Drip • Drip • Drip
The blood pooled in his mouth slowly dripped off his chin, and fell to the floor.
He was always so persistent, no matter
Where I ran to.
The alarm stopped.
Now, I could clearly hear his fingernail-like claws clacking on the marble floor.
Now it was just me
And him.
Something wet touched me.
I looked down
Deep crimson blood, sticking to my bare feet.
He was closer now.
I turned around and yelled through gritted teeth,
“LEAVE. ME. ALONE!”
But there was no one there. . . . 

Lila Boyd

 

Escape

I leap over a boulder and land running. The creature is still chasing me. I push things behind me to slow it down. I can see the exit up ahead. I reach my hand out and push the door open, run through, and slam the door. I hear the creature bang its body against the door. The cold, bitter winds stab my face like needles.

My horse, Frost, a pure white horse with white eyes, stands waiting for me. I hurry over to her and mount. I ride all the way to Whiterun. I am on a mission for the Jarl of Whiterun. I open my bag, and the small moonstone with something in the center seems to look up at me. It looks a lot like a cat’s eye. I close my bag and ride on.

I leave my horse at the stables and follow the path up to the gates. Since it is night, the guards unlock the gate with a key. I walk up to Dragonsreach when a man stops me.

“Have you seen this man?” he asks, holding up a sketching of a man.

“No,” I said. “But I’ll keep an eye out.”

I continue on. I open the doors to Dragonsreach and close them behind me. I walk up to the throne.

“Do you have it?” Jarl Balgruuf asked.

“Yes,” I said, reaching into my bag and pulling out the moonstone.

Dalia Chachanashvili

 

The Murder

– an exquisite corpse piece

The awesome library murdered the mourning noodle. The headlines were everywhere. The assassination took place when President Ned Noodle was getting a book called Suicide: A Wonderful Thing. The library then started to launch books, computers, CDs, and chairs at him. One of the CDs sliced him in half, and he died.

Everyone thought of the library as a hero; in fact, he didn’t even get arrested. Everyone loved Ned Noodle when he was first elected, but then his wife and kids died tragically. He became angry because he knew they had been murdered but did not know who had murdered them. Ever since then, he hated everyone and everything, so he made a bunch of terrible rules that affected the people greatly. So when they found out he was going to commit suicide, they were all excited. They had been waiting for days, then weeks, then even a few months.

They found out he cancelled the suicide because he missed his wife’s funeral. He sat at her grave mourning for three weeks. He finally left, and went to the library to get a book about suicide. Even the library was tired of him because he made a rule that you were allowed to talk in libraries. The library noticed that Ned Noodle was checking out a book about suicide, so he decided to get the job done.

The library is now a hero. He is known as the most awesome library that ever lived.

Bonnie Daywood

 

My Day in Emojis

– after an emoji collage

As I did a handstand, I smiled fakely, sad my crush hadn’t come to the party. My friend told me a joke, and I smiled, still sad. I looked toward the door—there he was.

My heart surged with joy and happiness! He was sticking out his tongue and winking at me? No, at his girlfriend. I wish I was her, I thought. As he walked over, my heart burst out; my eyes became little hearts. I looked down as he passed with his dog . . .

Then I wished that I was a magical sea unicorn with a glittering horn, more beautiful than everyone. In my fantasy, my crush’s girlfriend was a devil. I laughed so hard at this that a tear ran down my face. I saw my friends making funny faces, sticking their tongues out and squinting their eyes.

Suddenly, Death-Devil Girl left my crush. He walked over and brought me a Topo Chico; I took it shyly, my eyes being hearts, golden ears on my head… He asked me out. With a huge smile, I said yes, not caring that his girlfriend had just left him.

Maisy Duncan

 

The Mother of Stars

– after an etching by William Blake

In a clearing between two trees, the Mother of the Stars sits with her arms outstretched. The tangle of branches above her forms the platform, and the thick, luscious green canopy forms the ground.

The Star Children play in this world above ours. Orion and Taurus fight in the inky blue heavens. Virgo and the Seven Sisters dance through the curtains of the sky while, down below, Old Father Time sleeps unawakened in a deep slumber. His hand on his scroll, surrounded by the living dead, a ribbon of frolicking spirits.

A book older and frailer than the Web of Life sits upon an oaken chest, just as aged, illuminated by the radiant glow cast by the Mother of the Stars. A lamp that never burns low reveals a text that no mortal man can read and would retain all the knowledge in the world if he did. Golden crocuses give the space a warm presence, and the whole scene is covered in the cloak of darkness.

Gabriella Erb

 

This Is the Way the World Ends

This is the way the world ends, vacuuming the light out of an old, pasty sky, pasty because it was sick of looking at the same plastic world, fake and scripted. The women are in gray dresses, pristine with no stains, and the men walk beside the women wearing stern expressions only of important business. And the children never shine with joy, are just obedient and fake.

The sun gives up shining slender beams of joy to a fake prison of a world, and the moon quits showing soothing-shaped light on the silver mist. They are no longer needed. Although the world has not ended and there is no slavery here, the universe has given up on our plastic, scripted lives. It seems all the beings have been handed to us and all the beings on the planet have been stolen from—their joy and happiness gone, just gone, as a fox takes eggs from a loving mother hen. Gone, never to return. And this seems to me like the most pain injected into all of our Barbie-like bodies, as the world has ended—shut off from life, real life, a loving life, joyful life.

Ryan Honza

 

The Sun

This is how the world began. The Sun. She burned a dark crimson color, slowly circling the universe, a black space of infinity. She had no end or beginning; she went on for eternity.

The Sun by herself got lonely, so she turned space into its canvas. Using a brush of life, she painted stars like herself. The stars danced, sang, and laughed with each other, later returning to their own space in the universe.

The Sun got lonely again. She took a brush and painted unique new objects, nothing like her. Some were small and rocky, others were large. They didn’t dance, sing, or laugh. They walked around the Sun, watching her every move, never to leave.

The Sun got bored, so she got her brush again; she painted trees with leaves of dark green. She painted water that glistened and glowed under her watchful eye. Then she made animals, some big, some small, some red, some blue. All were different. Then she made all the foods.

Finally, she made us: eyes to see with, mouth to talk with, hand to hold, feet to kick, and a brain to think with. Now we sing, dance, and laugh with Sun watching us all for eternity.

 Zaina Jafri

 

Waking Dream

I was in the middle of dismissal when I heard a loud bang. Everyone from my class looked outside. There was a man outside with a shining sword connected to his back and two giant guns in his arms.

I started running back to my house from school. As I was running, I saw all of the brick houses with creepy dolls sitting on the doorsteps. All the dolls with the long hair and ragged clothes were staring at me. It seemed as if they were looking straight through me.

I started sprinting down my street up the hill, past the dark, mysterious cul-de-sac, all the way past my creepy neighbor’s house to my house, home sweet home! I was back at my house, the white house that was almost at the top of the hill. Being home made me feel safe from all the chaos that was behind my back.

Lucas Li

 

The End

This is the end
I’ve dreaded this exact moment
The more I think
The faster I forget.
The more I look
The less I see.
This is the end.

Naomi Melina Raab

 

The Pond

My feet dangle in the water,
My fishing line waiting for a bite.
The trees sway with the wind,
The sunset’s rays illuminate the pond,
The smell of fresh pine fills the air.
I close my eyes,
Slowly falling asleep,
Dreaming, dreaming.
All is calm.
I awake with a flash,
Unable to breathe.
I look up,
The sun’s rays shrouded by murky water.
I’m drowning, I realize,
Drowning, drowning.
My instincts kick in,
I arise to the surface.
My grandpa’s laughter
Echoes across the pond.
I smile.
All is
Calm.

Thomas Mazzurana

 

The End of the World

This is the way the world ends… As I wake up, I feel a cool breeze of frost, but why? It’s summer. A feeling of loneliness sinks in slowly, like black ink sinks into my skin. As I walk outside, all I see is dust, with ashy grey skies and trees all burned into sharp ridges. No one outside. You may yell, but it only echoes back.

I run inside to seek help. No one. It’s pitch black inside the house with no electricity. All the water is cloudy grey. No food to feed my starving bones. So I lay quietly on my hard bed, slowly sinking into darkness.

Chloe Pence

 

The Glittery Zebra’s Revenge

– an exquisite corpse piece

The glittery zebra honestly killed the poopy unicorn. The glittery zebra was glittery because he ran into the poopy unicorn. The poopy unicorn farts rainbows and poops glitter. They were both in the forest and the zebra was walking behind poopy unicorn, and… well, you can guess what happened. The zebra’s least favorite color was glitter (who knows when he became such a cold soul?), and he was really angry at poopy unicorn. The glittery zebra was so mad that he drowned the poopy unicorn in the glittery lake.

Sahana Sudarsan

 

Supergirl Monologue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a dark confession. I have had a huge lie—I have lived a huge lie. No one knows what I really am. I was born on the beautiful planet Earth, in the Milky Way, not on Krypton. I was born with abnormal abilities. My parents put me with my adoptive family because they had sheltered Superman before and wanted me to have a good life that they could not provide.

They told them I was from Krypton, that I was an alien. They told me that, too. Always, deep down, I knew that I was different, but overall I was the same.

I have been fearing this day my whole life. But I never imagined that I would ever care for my family and friends so much, that there would be so much at stake.

Now, I am asking you, please help me figure what I am, who I am. I need to know. If you guys don’t ever want to see my face again, just say it and I will disappear.

I am just Kara. Being Supergirl is part of me, and I can’t, and won’t, stop doing what I am doing. I just want you to know I am still me, Kara Danvers, and that, my friends, will never, ever change.

Alia Thompson

 

The Giant Octopus

The Giant Octopus had giant teeth,
Also big chompers on his four feet.
To defeat it was a huge feat.
Huge flames out of its arms,
It can do you great harm.
The Giant Octopus was so great,
But it was evil and got lots of hate.
It is evil because it was raised in the fiery pit of a volcano.
Luckily, it doesn’t have a bow.
And the evil octopus couldn’t grow.

Sakthivel Vijayakumar

 

This is the Way the World Ends

This is the way the world ends. I see the flash, brighter than the sun, that lasts long into the night, then more—the terrific burning. I see these things from space, because I am an astronaut on the ISS. Asteroids are killing our planet, like bullets to a human heart.

The Earth starts to crumble, then splits. I can see the lava spilling out onto the surface of the Earth.

Then, like a bomb, the Earth explodes.

Mateo Wells