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What Is It?

14 Sep

Meet high-schooler and poet, Anya Van Arnam! Anya participated in our Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp at Headwaters School this summer. Her poem, featured below, offers a meditation on bird species classification and interrogates the social structures of our world. Another poem by Anya, titled “I Am Proud to Call Her My Nana,” will be published in the forthcoming edition of Emerge: Youth Voices in Ink. She will read from the anthology at the Badgerdog Young Authors Reading on October 27!

What Is It?

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it’s a spinning circle
we love to hate
we hate to love
it’s a dove’s cry
upon misty morns
in white valley landscapes
it’s a pigeon’s coo

upon no morning
for no morning exists
in a city that has no seasons

the dove and the pigeon
both are birds
both have wings
both can fly

but one perches on the highest oak
one pecks for scraps
one lives long
in its white feathered glory
one is slain in the gutter

the dove and the pigeon
both are birds
both have wings
both can fly

but one flies no more
this one once free?
this one now captured
seen by (what we call a God above)
as ugly
as dumb
lower
the pigeon is not these school house
barn house
white house
insults
that we love to hate
we hate to love

both can coo
both can squawk
both can be quiet
or run amok
and cause terror in trampling feet
yet the feet still walk in a circle

becoming a buzzing background
while the doves
argue on skyscraper mountains
about where to dispose
(not disclose!)
the pigeon carcasses

now the skyscrapers
have black foundations
painted over in titanium white
our eyes are painted blind
our ears muffled
by the buzzing
there is no quiet
only white bees
drained of honey

Anya Van Arnam

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Inventing New Landscapes

7 Aug

Meet Gabriella, one of the amazing teens to attend our Teen Writing Lab at the Austin Public Library this summer. Gabriella’s short story was inspired by a lesson that explored the idea of place and invited teens to imagine their own cities, consider the rules that keep them running, and describe what makes each city unique. Seeking inspiration, Gabriella says she glanced outside the library windows and was momentarily blinded by the sun reflecting off a car window. This is when her idea for the city of Nomalli was born!

The City That Casts No Shadow

If you were to visit Nomalli, you would at once be astounded by the light. No brightness could ever compare to the glowing white city. You must wear special glasses or else fry your eyes to a crisp.

Everywhere you look, the tall, blazing buildings’ graceful yet forbearing gaze look down upon you, as if judging your every move. Strange floating discs pass by, transporting the fluorescent citizens about their business. The people are friendly once spoken to, but stare right through you, as if gazing at some faraway point of interest.

When walking in the streets, all is quiet except for the conversations of nearby people and high-pitched squeaking sounds that can only be heard when listening closely.

The road leading away from the shadowless city fades in brightness until street lamps must again be used. Night never comes in the city, only a slight dimming of the light. If only the beauty of Nomalli could be enjoyed by all, for the people of the city are blind.

Gabriella Erb
Grade 8, Austin Waldorf School

 

 

Memory Connections: Tracing Back to Our Roots

29 Jun

The sense of humor displayed among the Memory Connections writers at Bethany Lutheran Church delighted me each time I walked in the room. “Hey, I know you!” one gentleman exclaimed. “Now, what’s your name?” and he would laugh at his joke. Nature poems and memories of mouth-watering foods they enjoyed as children flowed onto the pages. One question, “Where are you from?” followed by the reading of “Child of Summer” by Lynn Worley, launched much discussion about not only the cities, states, and countries in which we were born, but who played Monopoly on Friday nights or slept on a screened-in porch. The writers shared that they were from “homemade soup and stuffed cabbage,” as well as “I am from a guitar given to me after tears and sorrow so I could play it all away.” I am humbled by the honesty and laughter that greeted me each time I joined this amazingly gifted writing group. I know you will enjoy their work as much as I did.

Terri Schexnayder
Teaching Artist

List Poem

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I’m from homemade soup and stuffed cabbage.
I’m from “be home by dark.”
I’m from Slovak ancestors.
I’m from my antique collection.
I’m from my maternal grandmother.
I’m from Youngstown, Ohio.

Jane Baran

My Sister

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I’ve always felt close to my sister. We live miles apart now, but we try to connect at least one or two times a week. She is twenty years older than I am, so I always went to her for advice or a recipe for something our Mom cooked. We are both alone now—her husband died and I am divorced—so it would be great to live with her. If we were closer in distance, we probably would. We both have four children and always catch up on them and our grandchildren. I really miss her (my brothers, too) and so I hope I get to visit them in the near future.

Jane Baran

I’m From

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I’m from tandoori chicken.
I’m from “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
I’m from Indian ancestors, speaking Bengali as my language, and hearing stories from my mom.
I’m from Scrabble and Rummy.
I’m from my dad.
I’m from Bareilly, India, where my dad worked for forty years before retiring.

Mala Bhattacharya

Grandkids

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Grandkids keep me young. I get to see my younger ones on a regular basis, and my youngest grandson when he takes the bus from school on Tuesdays. We have a snack together. He enjoys my ice tea, especially since it’s sweetened, and shares part of my sandwich. We play games like Connect Four, reading, and drawing. On a nice day, he likes playing with kids from the neighborhood—soccer, chase, riding their bikes. It’s the day of the week I really look forward to.

Mala Bhattacharya

Stories from My Pen

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Between my finger and thumb, I hold this pen. I can see things I still remember as a child. My father and mother were great parents, and there were lots of siblings—three daughters and five brothers. We were loved by our parents. I remember times when my father worked long hours, and my mom took good care of us. There were so many of us, and we all knew what they did for us. To this day, I have not forgotten what they lovingly did.

We had great times on trips we took to Ohio to visit my grandparents. I remember the girls helped Mom clean the house, and the boys worked with Dad on the cars. I remember lots of things.

Sherril Cole

I’m From

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I’m from fish sticks.
I’m from “In or out!”
I’m from Irish ancestors.
I’m from Mom and Dad, plus many brothers and sisters.
I’m more like my mother.
I’m from Indiana.

Sherril Cole

Flowers in Season

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It is Spring!
Purple flowers are in bloom …
while the hint of pink is peeking through.
The bridge is covered with all kinds of vegetation—
most of all, this reminds me of walking with my husband
when the temperature is calling us!

Linda 

My Dad

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My Dad was always working and always walking through the park to get to his office. When his office closed, my cousin Bill found a position in the bank where my Dad was. What I loved about my Dad is that he once turned down an adding machine—his adding machine was his mind! I loved doing math, which was my major in high school and college. This was my Dad’s influence. Dad loved to write poetry from his own thoughts. My prayer is that I will be my Dad!

Linda 

I’m From

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I’m from ice cream on a cold night.
I’m from “Where are the A’s on the report card?”
I’m from Irish and English ancestors.
I’m from my wedding ring since fifty-three years ago.
I’m from my older sister Dorothy, since we look alike.
I’m from Mt. Vernon and Decatur, Illinois.

Helen Hartness 

My Sunday Dinner Date

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On a very cold day in December 1958, I invited a close friend, Robert, to my home for Sunday dinner. I was kind of nervous when he said, “Great!” He surprised me when he arrived carrying flowers. But he had brought them for my mother! We had a wonderful time and shared our Sunday lunches for many years. My family loved him. However, he joined the Army and died in the line of duty. His memory remains.

Helen Hartness 

My Rosary

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One of the things I carry with me is my rosary. It’s important to me because it’s a symbol of my faith and it carries memories that go back many, many years. I was raised in the year of the Great Depression of the 1900s. Times were uncertain at best. As a member of a large Catholic family with six children, I was sent to a Catholic girls’ school. My teachers were all nuns and each day, we attended church to “say the rosary.”

This time in church gave me a feeling of serenity, that someone or something was watching out for me. A feeling I did not get from my family because of the scarcity of money, jobs, etc. My parents were loving and good people, but both of them had to work, plus run a small farm to provide food for us.

Joyce 

I’m From

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I’m from homemade bread and butter made in an old-fashioned churn,
from cream skimmed from the top of a milk pail and from Wisconsin.
I’m from any song by Bing Crosby in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
I’m from German, Polish, and Irish ancestors, and beer drinking.
I’m from a family of book readers and book lovers!
I’m from a large family, and especially fond of two sisters who were kind to me.
I’m from West Allis, Wisconsin.
I lived in Seattle, Milwaukee, Chicago, Pennsylvania, California, and Austin and Houston, Texas.

Joyce 

My Grandmother

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My father’s mother and I are probably more alike than not. We are both short. She did nothing besides chain smoke and eat and take the kids to perform—you know, dance and sing with percussion. She must have talked a lot to herself and everyone else. I was always quiet, I think, playing piano and dancing and singing to myself.

I really don’t know much about Grandmammy. She must have inspired everyone around her. Let’s face it. She was the talented one who allowed everyone else to entertain her.

Jennifer Martinec

I’m From

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I’m from perch on Fridays and goo on Wednesdays.
I’m from playing on Friday nights.
I’m from German-Czech ancestors.
I’m from Pink Floyd songs and visits to Europe.
I’m from Grandmammy, my father’s mother.
I’m from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, Mineral Wells and Dime Box, Texas, New York City, and Heidelberg and Schwetzingen, Germany

Jennifer Martinec

My Bible

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My Bible is important to me because I believe it is the number one book of wisdom. I have several Bibles, and I refer to different ones at different times, depending on the need of the moment. They are of several shapes and sizes. Two are quite large at 8” X 10” and two will fit in my purse easily. I carry a small one to church on Sunday, and use it while the minister is teaching from a specific Bible passage. He teaches about that Scripture passage during the Sunday morning sermon. Then, he expounds on the wisdom and appreciation of the Bible. Following the sermon, we are dismissed to gather into small groups, where the Bible Scriptures are taught with discussion and questions.

Gloria Shelton

The Spectacular Sunrise

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Standing inside my daughter and son-in-law’s house, I can go to any room and view the spectacular sunrise. It’s exhilarating to breathe in the hill country air and smell the fragrant flowers. The reddish, purple clouds cast a hue on the hills and flowers that bring even more vibrant colors.

Gloria Shelton

I’m From

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I’m from fried foods and homemade food, pastries, and desserts.
I’m from my parents listening to old music.
I’m from Dutch and German ancestors.
I’m from my wedding ring and my family.
I’m from, and look like, my dad and Uncle James.
I’m from Norfolk, Nebraska.

BJ 

Love for Pizza

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I love the smell of fresh pizza.
I love the fresh, doughy crust.
I love the feel of a slice of pizza in my hand.
I love the taste of fresh pizza with toppings I like—
pepperoni, Canadian bacon, olives, tomato sauce—
and, don’t forget the peppers!

I love the lingering taste in my mouth.
I love a great pizza!
(Did I mention I love pizza?)

BJ 

Lobster Tails

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About fifty-six years ago, when I was taking my girlfriend (now my wife) out, the car stopped. No, it wasn’t that I was out of gas! A guy came along and helped us in the middle of the night. He took us back to his restaurant where he treated us to lobster tails and steak. It wasn’t a poor community, but you certainly didn’t buy lobster tails.

My wife Marilyn and I were married for fifty-five years on May 25, 2018, and are taking a three-day trip to San Antonio. When I reflect back to that time so long ago in Madison, Wisconsin, when a stranger helped us, I know it was a very different time, where you didn’t worry if your car broke down. There would be someone who would always stop and help you.

Brad Bradley 

A Big Red Apple

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There once was a big red apple hanging in a tree. I could see it from my back room window. I knew the tree was tall, and I was so small. I would reach out to the red apple before I had to go to bed. Then, one night, I fell asleep and had a nightmare! I awoke in the morning and looked out the window.

The apple was gone. My dream was dashed!

I went to breakfast. There on my plate was the big red apple. What a surprise my mom gave me again. What a mom!

Nelson

I’m From

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I’m from candy and sugar and cavities sometimes.
I’m from all over the place.
I’m from a guitar given to me after tears and sorrow,
so I could play it all away.
I am from my younger sister Jo.
I’m from Houston, Texas.

Starr D. Hawkins

Tiny Things of Nature

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My home is on Dorilla Road in Austin. Yesterday, I walked and turned and turned. I love tiny things, and as I was walking, I saw these miniature flowers, yellow and white, the cutest things! I showed them to my husband, who said, “Starr, that’s illegal to pick those!” When I see them, I remember picking them as a little girl.

April is my favorite month—my sister Jo’s birthday. She died of heart disease when she was only forty-four, and all she ever wanted was children. She had five wonderful children.

Starr D. Hawkins 

Memory Connections: A Magical, Delicate Balance

29 Jun
The Memory Connections writers at Hope Lutheran Church contemplated big themes in their work together: the immensity of time and space, the beauty of the wilderness, and the magic of music and art. And yet we kept coming back to those small details that make stories—and life—both challenging and endlessly fascinating. We examined the tiny petals that make up wildflowers, and the small ornaments you’d find in a curio cabinet. We looked at photographs to pull visual details into our stories, and we listened to the subtle blend of instruments in works by Mozart and Rossini. As creatures walking the planet, we may be small in comparison to the vastness of the universe, but there is beauty in being small. There is wonder and humor in vulnerability. And there is magic in seeing both the smallest flower and the farthest star. The Memory Connections writers at Hope Lutheran reminded me of this delicate balance, and how it makes for powerful storytelling.
Claire Campbell 
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Flowers 

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Red roses for my
Grandmother,
My wife loves
The yellow roses.
Our daughter loves the white roses.
When I look back,
There are many other flowers.

Bobby

Study of a Bloom 

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A gorgeous shade of purple with a background of green and clustered leaves: the beauty of which is transformed by the freshness of springtime, before the heat of August overwhelms the countryside. Each petal is a delicate array of colors.

Flowers like these capture the essence of life and remind us of the fragility of the busy outside world, often overwhelmed by the changing breezes or transformed by new rainfall. Water can surge unexpectedly in the shadows of rocks that shelter this bloom.

The wild flowers cultivated along the roadways in springtime first appear with the showers of April and May: I hope her sisters and brothers are nearby and can shelter their beauty.

Larry 

Childhood Morning 

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I peek one eye open and can see it is early morning in my home. I smile, hug my covers, and look for my house shoes. Then I look out the window again and feel the slow rising of the sun, and the stars quietly disappear in the sky.

“This is just the beginning!” I say to myself. “What wonders are ahead of us!” I get myself dressed quickly in a clean shirt and my new blue jeans.

Tip-toeing ever-so-quietly past my sleeping parents, I head for the back door.

Suddenly: ”K-i-g-i-g-i-g!” The door slams and shakes the house, and everyone, including my parents, are in the hall wondering what in the world is happening!

I look up, shivering but smiling. “Oops! I didn’t mean to wake anyone…” Mother frowns and Dad points to my bed with a strict expression on his face. I don’t think I will ever try this again!

Jeanne

My Perfect Morning

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There will be birds chirping outside my windows, which look out on a yard full of flowers and fresh green trees. The smell of the flowers floats up to my table by the window. It is springtime.

I’ve got a fresh coffee cake on the table with plenty of raisins and nuts on top of it. The pot of dark roast coffee is there, as well as fruit salad with apples chopped up, oranges, and strawberries.

I hear music—Mozart is calling to me, telling me to get with the program. All is as it should be.

Pat Keen

An Ordinary Object 

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The tiny Santa Clause with the cute black reading glasses reminds us that Christmas is on the way, even though it isn’t May as yet.

His outstretched arms are ready to hold all the small boys and gals who sit on his lap. Santa’s red lips are ready to break into a wide smile as he begins his ho, ho, ho!

Santa is tiny, but he has the presence of a big-bellied generous man with a big hearty laugh. He wants to be more than a big yard balloon. He wants big-boy pants made for a small frame!

 Evelyn

Ornament 

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My object is used as an ornament, a decoration.
It can be hung on a Christmas tree.
It could be used in decoupage—I can see it there with pictures of flowers and other plants.
If it was hung on a Christmas tree, I could see my old cat batting at it.
It looks like it was made from parts of toothpicks.
Please tell me they were new ones, okay?
The red accent makes an intricate design.

Joyce

Salvia 

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I see only two small blooms—two flowers, two tiny blooms, really—from a common shrub. I am surprised and saddened to behold so little of what is ordinarily a large shrub. Usually, there is more to see in a yard.

Looking more closely, I notice a line of small, unopened—I don’t know the word for then—buds or clusters: just enough here to identify and make me recall this common, blooming shrub.

I see for the first time the structure, the life, of the shrub familiar to those of us who live in this area—this verdant, temperate Austin.

Elizabeth

Paying Attention to a Flower

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This is my flower. It has come into my life, and I am focusing on it. It is a small flower, not large, like an iris or a lily. It sits demurely in water in a paper cup, waiting for me to observe it. It is purple and has many little blossoms that grow out of a stalk. I counted forty-five blossoms—a lot of blooms for such a small flower.

What do I notice about my flower? I notice its long green stem. I notice it is soft and feminine. Paying attention to a flower is not something I do every day. Usually, I walk right past them and don’t notice them. But this one has my attention. What is so special about this flower that I should notice it? It was given to me by a teacher. She probably cut it, got a paper cup, and put water in it to nourish the flower. And she gave it to me to write about. Now it is a part of my day!

Suzette

We Are

–A collective poem by the Memory Connections writers at Hope Lutheran

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We are millipedes
We are insignificant creatures
We are old [now wait a minute!]
We laugh at our own mental ability
Our fragility
We are elderly, free as kids playing in the sand
We are led, enriched, educated
We can lie on our backs at night and ponder the immensity of the universe
We want more time, and to see where we can go
As free-flowing spirits.

Memory Connections: Tracing Our Origins

29 Jun

“Hi, I’m Terri Schexnayder and I am from Houston, Texas! Where are you from?” This greeting at the beginning of our Memory Connections workshop at YMCA North launched a wonderful discussion about where writers were from—oftentimes expressed as the place where they were born or the many places where they lived. Then we read “Child of Summer” by Lynn Worley, and the room filled with chatter about wringer washers, wearing hand-me-downs and flour sack dresses, and who had “fish sticks every Friday night.” They began to understand that we are “from” so many people, places, and things. One writer even exclaimed after discussing the poem, “This helps us share our memories!”

The power of writing, with its cathartic, playful, and memory-rich possibilities, became evident, time and time again, when I had the honor of being with these amazing authors. Enjoy their stories, poetry, and learning more about where and what “they are from.”

Terri Schexnayder
Teaching Artist

I’m From

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I’m from homemade ice cream from the big freezer.
I’m from the baby ducklings and worried mama hen.
I’m from grandmother’s house and a stocking filled with oranges and other goodies.
I’m from feeding lambs and one baby goat.
I’m from yellow hair and a bonnet to keep the sunburns from my freckled face.

Ruth Crowson

Homemade Ice Cream

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We all lived together in two houses—my granddaddy, grandmother, an aunt and uncle, my parents, and me. There were fresh peaches we all liked, and homemade ice cream created in a big container by this one and that one. Kids took turns sitting on the freezer while an uncle turned the crank. Grandmother made the ice cream mixture and my mother cut the peaches. Then, all were packed in ice. The child snuck a slight taste of salt. It was party time, you know! All ages came to eat the homemade peach ice cream.

Ruth Crowson

I’m From

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I’m from bland Irish cooking.
I’m from the high school football trophy.
I’m from Saturday soccer games.
I’m from “Shut the door behind you! Were you raised in a barn?”
I’m from my dad and mom, and all Irish grandparents.
I’m from Boston, Massachusetts.

Billy Garry

My Memorable Object

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Somewhere in the dark recesses of my attic, I still have a plaque from my Little League days. It’s inscribed with my initials and the initials, “M.H.L.L.” I used to tell the lie that those initials stood for “Most Hits.” But in reality, it’s a participation trophy, which everyone received, and the “M.H.L.L.” stood for “Mission Hill Little League.” It’s not a necessity, but I won’t throw that trophy away.

Billy Garry

I Am From

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I am from

peach cobbler shared with cousins who couldn’t
cut it in a straight line –

a Gil McDougal fielder’s mitt
so old it was made in America –

family vacation trips by car
lubricated by reading from A.A. Milne’s
children’s book—

“Chuckie won’t play ball with me” and
“Chuck, John, Robbie, SKIPPER!”
when my mother wanted to scold the dog –

a long line of “furr-iners”
generations who were in a place,
but not “of” its culture –

My home place on a tidal creek that emptied into a river
that, two miles later, emptied into the Chesapeake Bay.
We used to joke that some of our mosquitoes would land at
Langley Field (ten miles away by air) and refuel without being detected.

J. “Jim” Hadden, Jr.

I’m From

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I’m from garden-grown tomatoes, eggs from our own hens, and hand-kneaded biscuits.
I’m from a self-designed and hand-sewn prom dress with store-bought lace.
I’m from “You’ll catch your death!”
I’m from the Taylor birthday dinner on the Sunday nearest PawPaw’s birthday—
and, others who had birthdays near his, which included me,
so I got to eat at the first table.
I’m from a mother who read every book she could and played school with me.
Because of her, I started school in the second grade.
I’m from the black land farmland of Collin County, Texas.

Ouita Haltom

Ambrosia

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As far back as I can remember, I have loved peanut butter. Maybe it was because my mother had what she called “a steady diet” of it when growing up (and growing to detest it!). Whatever the reason, she left it off the grocery list more often than not, causing me to crave it. That must have brought about a conflict for her—the most inexpensive sandwich making in the middle of the “Great Depression.”

And so I looked forward to going to school and taking my lunch with peanut butter sandwiches. As far as I knew, there was no alternative. To Mother, however, here was an opportunity to introduce to me the myriad of other things that could be made into a sandwich.

Ouita Haltom

Beef and Chicken Slaw Taco

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Something crunchy for our “lunchy”
is waiting for you on your plate.
So, squeeze the lime on “taco” divine
and you’ll find it’s just fine—
and cost you just only three dimes.

Betty 

Chocolate Brownie Pumpkin Cake

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Chocolate topped with a pumpkin layer is a “yummy, yummy fit for your honey”
supersize dessert to enjoy,
so come for a chat over a chocolate delight
It’s for sure we won’t have any worries about fights.

Betty 

Capturing the Moment

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As I get older each year, I find myself checking the inside of our family car to make sure I have a ballpoint pen (or moderate-size fountain pen) and a small tablet to write on. It may be that I want to write down the name of a popular song being sung on the radio or the name of the person singing it. It will be handy to have these things written down if I get to the music store to purchase a CD. It’s nice to have background music as backup or to sing along with the correct pitches. You can also learn the words to the music!

When I shop for a CD at a book store or wherever, I have to take the time to locate it first, so I call the store to see if they have the music I want. If they do, I ask them to put my name on it. I might pick it up that afternoon for a program with the elementary students the next month. The CD is a necessity, a small item to obtain for the program with fourth graders. The music is already familiar to them, but they will now memorize the words to it. All of this is an important part of a musical program at school—it’s almost the end of the semester! A song set to a familiar melody and perfect for ending the school year.

Betty 

I’m From

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I’m from one vegetable, one baked potato, and one piece of meat.
I’m from a bicycle—two wheels, chain-driven.
I’m from “Be back in time for dinner and don’t be late!”
I’m from a low-priced summer apartment at the shore with a wooden ice chest,
no refrigerator, sand on the floor brought in by kids coming directly from the beach.

I’m from my father, his quiet, his sense of humor, a regular worker, reliable.
He was a talented amateur mechanic and handyman—I am not like him in this regard.
I never had his talent as a mechanic, but
I am like him in the sense that I love to take naps!

Ron 

Spaghetti Dinners

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When I was growing up as a young boy, I remember the spaghetti that my mom would make. Once, while it was cooking on our kitchen stove, my whole family could smell the aroma of it wafting through the house. When the spaghetti was ready, my mom would set the table, and we would sit down around it in the nook my dad built for us. It was just like sitting down in the booths you might see in a restaurant. I will always remember those meals we had together.

Alan 

I’m From

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I’m from chicken and French fries.
I’m from the 1963 Chevrolet Impala SS coupe.
I’m from a family who spent Christmas Eve watching old movies.
I’m from ancestors Jim and Effie Barrett.
I’m from Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Edward Stephens

Thoughts of Nature

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Brisk winds
Bright sky
Ducks flying by
Turning leaves
Sunsets
Full moons
Warm sun
Groundhogs popping up out of the ground
Snow falling
Boats in water
Looking into a meadow from above
Newborn calves
Fresh air
Flowerbeds

Edward Stephens

I’m From

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I’m from fried chicken and green beans on Saturday night.
I’m from military dirt and mud, chigger bites and bugs.
I’m from vacations to Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana.
I’m from “Turn off the light and shut the door! You’re letting the warm air out.”
I’m from Uncle George, who slept with his feet outside the covers and smoked cigars.
I’m from Germantown, Tennessee, at the end of the good old days.

Chris Turk

What I Carry

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The one thing I try to always carry is a medallion that has a cross on one side and a Bible verse on the reserve side. It reads, “Do not be afraid. I am with you always.” It is a very important reminder of who my Boss really is, and a reminder of who the person is that has kept me alive all this time. He has given me life, two strong boys, a great wife, and a truly blessed life. A whole lot more than I deserve.

Chris Turk

Sandy’s Candies

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In my home state of Pennsylvania, I used to have a business called Sandy’s Candies with my friend Barb Abrams. We made all kinds of candy—at the top of the list were peanut butter cups. We also made chocolate-covered pretzels, nut rolls, cream cheese mints, and lollipops. We went to craft fairs, where we sold our candy. Every year, there was a big Christmas farm show in Harrisburg. Since I moved to Texas, my friend carries the candy business on her own.

Sandy 

Memory Connections: Mirrors to the Past

29 Jun

George Bernard Shaw wrote, “You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” I asked the writers of the Memory Connections class at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church to tell me about where and what they were from, to interpret paintings by Claude Monet, and to share those things they love and the things that make the world wonderful for them. In doing so, it was as if I were asking them to look into the mirror of the past and share their “reflections.” What they created with these works of art, however, are most definitely glimpses of their souls.

Tracey Lander-Garrett
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Another Day

—Inspired by Claude Monet’s painting “The Road in Vetheuil in Winter”

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Greenery, snow slowly melts
Those who go outside are in garb
With the spring coming
Mountain rivers are coming down
Cold water in the streams
Families will start their daily chores.

Sigrid Clift

I Am From

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I am from a loving family with significant ties to Waco, Texas, Baptist religion, Baylor University, and conservative (Republican) politics. I was very privileged with financial support, educational support, and opportunities not given to many.

All these wonderful things came with strings attached. I was expected to behave according to strict rules and to accept religious doctrines without question.

After many journeys, I left the Baptist Church and aligned with the Democratic party. My parents were not pleased, but loved me anyway.

Bottom line: Love trumps politics and creeds. I try to follow this in my daily life. (“Sermonette for the day.”) I am my mother’s son.

Walter Boyd Spencer

To Set Sail or Not

—Inspired by Claude Monet’s painting “Entretat Rough Sea”

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I love the water. I love to sail!
And I love sailing in rough seas.
I think the boatmen are contemplating the rough sea
to decide whether to set sail or not. I would say no
the practiced, adult side of me would explain all the dangers
of going out into an obviously angry storm. However,
the romantic sailor in me would say, “Go for it!”
The adventure is worth the risk!
You will be so proud if you make it back to shore!
And think of the stories you will tell your children!
And the lesson you could teach them!
And the ones you should have taught them!
… If you get to see them again!

Carol Yacono

How I Enjoy Gardening

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How I enjoy gardening! Each spring, I plant my favorite seeds. These will germinate and grow into beautiful vegetables. In only a few months, there will be fresh vegetables growing in the bed behind our garage.

I will use my red wheelbarrow to start the process. First, I will till the soil in my bed, surrounded by a border of interesting pieces of limestone. Then I will add the rich moisture of humus and sprinkle with water daily.

Lastly, I plant the seeds for celery, lettuce, tomatoes. This bed is behind our garage and very easy to reach. What I now do is watch daily, water judiciously. Now I see sprouts. How lovely.

Susan Warren

Ode to a Banana

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I love the soft banana skin protecting
its tasty fruited and succulent fare.
it’s the taste of nourishment of a golden fruit
on picnics on the beach or hillsides at sundown.
I enjoy the fruit most often on road trips
in a basket filled with picnic fruits and a light wine
plus the gentle companionship of my wife
and friends on a nearby hillside.

Dan Odom

I Am From

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I am from Ironton, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; Waco, Texas; Middletown, Ohio; and Austin, Texas. I’m from a radio tuned to WLW Cincinnati. I am from clothes on the line and coal bins. I am from the two-story house at the top of a long hill, a large oak tree in the front yard and many friends and playmates. I am from a home that often smelled of wonderful food. I am from the screened in porch. I’m from a performing family, one professional (father), the rest of us rank amateurs. I’m from Ann, my sister. I’m from family foods as they were prepared in the South. I’m from “Only honesty is the correct way to live.” I’m from a Southern father and a Yankee mother. From kale and fried chicken. I’m from my father, a radio performer, who wrote a script each day for tomorrow’s show.

Lee Bland

I Am From

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I am from Houston, where I lived the longest, at least fifty years. Before that, I was from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and before that Chicago, and before that Waukegan, Illinois.

I’m from being born in a home with a basement.

Waukegan was a memorable place to be from. My 65th high school reunion is coming up.

Many friends are contacting me. It’s fun to go back in time to relive one’s youth. Ice trucks, coal deliveries, tarring the streets, riding streetcars, then buses.

I’m from smelling lilacs and eating apples and plums direct from the trees. I’m from playing hopscotch, Red Rovers, Russia, jumping rope. The coloring of maple trees, the bark of birch trees, snow with sleds and skates. I’m from igloos made in the backyard and burying treasure.

Betty Oertel

Wonderful World

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The things that make the world wonderful for me are my three children, my seven grandchildren, and my ten siblings and their families and my friends. We are a large Irish family so the shades of green and heather fill the days, from childhood to adulthood to life as a 75-year-old today. There has always been laughter and love shared over meals and numerous celebrations of life and death. Showing love in all places, being there for one another, helping, supporting, loving no matter what. Sharing daily ups and downs of a life lived with love, patience, and kindness. Always asking, “What can I do for you?” and then doing for them with a smile on my lips and a glint in my eye.

Patricia Kilbane

Memory Connections: A World of Joy and Wonder

29 Jun

The idea of being “from” somewhere is as familiar as breathing, but we come from more than places—we are from the sum of our experiences, from the homes we lived in, the media and culture we’re immersed in, world events, the people we meet, the sunrises and sunsets we observe, and the trees and flowers we walk among. We carry images and words from great artists and interpret their meanings in ways that resonate with who we are at our deepest cores. These writers in our Memory Connections workshop—in telling their own stories, making up stories and poems based on paintings by Monet or Hopper, and recollecting those aspects of the world that fill them with joy and wonder—reveal deep feelings of gratitude for the world we live in, the one they come from, and those they imagine.

Tracey Lander-Garrett
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

I Am From

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I am from St. Louis, Missouri—baseball was the sport. My mother—who lived in Memphis, Tennessee, (200 miles from St. Louis)—watched the games on TV. The St. Louis Cardinals dominated the towns north and south of St. Louis. Baseball season is the longest of most sports, with spring training beginning March 1st and the World Series ending in October. Baseball was in our lives two-thirds of the year. Only late in the year and early the next—four months—were we without baseball.

The game is probably the most difficult to play. It requires catching, throwing, batting, running. On every pitch, the player must anticipate and respond. It’s thinking, anticipation, and reacting to the always-fluid and changing movements of the baseball as it’s thrown and hit. Even the sound of the baseball being hit by the bat gives some important information to be processed by your vision and hearing to determine how far the baseball will fly.

Edward Shelby

What a Day

—Inspired by Claude Monet’s painting “Entretat Rough Sea”

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What a day, the ocean is wild.
The fishermen are trying to decide
if they can take their boats out to sea.
They watch the ocean water hit hard
against the high rock walls. They look
through the open space in the rocks.
They see only the same waves
that are in front of them.
They look at their boats. They see
that they are old. They question
if the sails can be put in place.
Again, they have concern about whether
they will be safe if they take the boats
into the dangerous waters.
They decide not to put the boats
into the water. Better to be safe
than sorry.

Jerry Miller

El Paso (The Pass)

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Where I grew up, we did not have trees or grass, other than what was planted in people’s yards. But the sunsets over the mountains are always beautiful. I miss those sunsets. They are like rainbows—always a lot of color and shades. There is so much in the rocky mountains that run through El Paso (The Pass). They are large and majestic. When the sun sets, it’s a wonderful sight—the blending of colors: red, purple, yellow on a bright blue sky—one of my favorite sights.

Pat Joyce

The Black Trains

—Inspired by Claude Monet’s painting “The Gare Saint-Lazare: Arrival of a Train”

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I see the black trains coming and going.
I can see people working and going places.
There is a lot of steam from one of the trains.
There are a few trees on the left. It seems
fairly arid where the trains are.
The train track in the middle seems to snake out.
Two lanterns hang down from the trees on the left side.
I wish I were going on a train ride at this moment in time.
This train also seems to have two yellow lights in front.
One sits slightly above the other.

Heather de Loyo

I Grew Up

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I grew up in Sherman, Texas. I was born in Sherman and had sisters older and younger. My oldest sister would go to the Canteen with her friends to entertain the soldiers. My mother and dad let my sister and her friend bring several of the soldiers to our house to dance and eat.

Mother let us watch their dancing, and some of the soldiers would pick me and my sisters up and dance with us. That’s when I learned to dance. I have loved dance ever since.

As I grew older, I always remembered how much fun the boys had with us. So many of them later went overseas. We never saw them again.

At the time, I didn’t realize what they were there for. And as I got older, I remember all those boys fighting in the war. I know some didn’t come home.

Mary Russell

Spectacular Sunsets

Down By the River

If I were to pick a season that brought spectacular sunsets, it would be fall—along the coastal area of Southern California. The east winds, which lasted three to five days, blew in from the desert regions, hot and dry. The humidity was near zero—claiming victims of dust and pollen. But then came sunset: the most beautiful slow-motion picture. You gazed across the channel, some twenty miles away where the island of Santa Cruz lay. It is there where the sun dips into the ocean, causing the island to turn a deep purple-blue silhouette against the sky. That sky becomes a backdrop of brilliant yellow-orange—then, with time, as the sun sinks further down, it fades into pastels. So the blue of the sky fades into dusk, then night: out come the evening stars. And in turn, as the sky darkens to a deep blue, all the stars and some planets make their evening vigil—making each evening breathtaking, awe-inspiring.

Helen Haynes

The Great Artist

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I am touched by the sunrise and the sunset
at the beginning and end of the day.
The colors are brilliant and the clouds
are magnificent. There is an artistry
that can only be seen as divine, transcendent.
I imagine myself in the Space Station,
overwhelmed by the beauty that seems endless.
A multicolored sky: red, blue, white—
clouds are endless, and appear
to be painted by the Great Artist in the sky.
I love walking through fields of flowers:
bluebonnets, daisies, roses.
Skies, horizon, greens of the trees.
There is a freshness
in the late spring in this part of Texas,
birds singing in the evening.
I recall the words of E.E. Cummings:

i thank you God for this most amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes

Paul Visokay

Stars on an Autumn Evening

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I enjoy the autumn season of the year. It gives me a feeling of completion of the hot, muggy summer being replaced with cooler, dryer air. Living in Central Texas, we love the change in colors of Spanish oak trees and the falling of leaves in preparation for winter. I actually enjoy raking oak leaves in the fall. I feel autumn is the season to enjoy bounty and success.

Liking astronomy, the dryer air and lower humidity make the season much more amenable to using telescopes to look at planets close to our sun. I enjoy looking at the sky on a clear evening and picking out our sister planets that are part of the Milky Way. Remembering their distance from our sun is Challenge #1. Remembering their distance from earth is Challenge #2. I also enjoy looking for other solar systems beyond the Milky Way and guessing at their distances from Earth.

Manny Chavez

Tilling the Soil

—Inspired by Edward Hopper’s painting “Pennsylvania Coal Town”

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Tilling the soil
preparing the flower bed
on the side yard
The man works
to add some beauty
to his yard
His hands tightly grip
the tools of his labor

Arthur Mike McMahon