Word Play

Things I Like: honey roasted peanut butter, Blackwing soft lead pencils, The Bear (FX Series), truth, controlled chaos, runs with friends, oatmilk lattes, joggers, wide-ruled notebook paper, chukka boots, bucket hats, challenges, All Creatures Great and Small, Scandinavian design, University of North Carolina, solutions, cheese and crackers, foxes, wide sidewalks, routines, farm-to-table, blue skies, and thin wool socks 

Full disclosure, my “Things I Like” list is pretty lame but it accomplishes my goal: to create an example of a found poem derived from a list. At the end of the week, I’d like my students to do the same: Create a poem using items from their list. I’ll emphasize the importance of specific word choice and variety of categories.

Word Play: a Found Poem

The solution to this chaos

is not honey bears,

Carolina foxes, or

black-winged creatures.

The truth runs soft, like cheese,

runs contrary to the great design rule.

The challenge is with the friends you sock

not the pencil-thin ones you roast.

There is not a single university in the north

with enough wool 

to knit hats or Scandinavian skies.

It will take boots on the sidewalks

and joggers who rule

to chukka the farm back to its oats.

Power Struggle

Sleep tucks the duvet

under my chin

and presses his palm 

against my forehead.

It’s time, my darling, 

he whispers,

breath like lavender.

But I am not ready

I insist, an insolent child

with arms crossed

and feet kicking.

Just one more show, 

one more page 

one more hour,

I plead.

But his grip grows stronger

than my contempt,

and his embrace too warm to ignore,

and despite my best effort to 

hold onto a few more minutes of 


his hazy fog creeps in-

My eyelids droop.

I’m standing on the edge 

of Sleep’s dark abyss.

He leans in closer,

and using his index finger and thumb,

closes my eyelids,

like he’s the coroner 

and I’m his corpse.

Trash Collection

I wanted to be an archeologist when I was younger. The thought of digging up clues to our past fascinated me and was the motivation behind my first collection, rocks!  I come from a long line of collectors. In our family, collections are defined by three characteristics: affordability, ease of acquisition, and interesting subject matter. That is to say, we are not collectors of fine art or vintage cars.

Over the years, our collections have included vintage hats, Fiesta ware, vinyl albums, wooden spools, milk glass, vintage paint-by-numbers, egg cups…you get the idea.

My grandmother owned over 100 pieces of pewter, a poor man’s silver, acquiring many of her wares from the local garbage dump. Red Rose Tea includes Wade figurines in their tea bag boxes–my mom, not a tea drinker, has been collecting the figurines for years, most purchased for less than a dollar from yard sales.  

But Dad trumps us all with his trash collection. He spent a year collecting detritus he found scattered along the streets of his town. He picked up fake vampire teeth, a broken compact disc, Visine, a retainer, receipts–discarded bits and pieces of people’s lives–clues that tell the stories of our more recent past.

“We’ll be shirts. You be skins,”-says every guy who ever played pickup basketball against a girl

For much of my life, I identified as a basketball player. I learned to play in eighth grade, and once my coach helped me take my game to the next level in ninth, I was hooked. Girls didn’t have access to play on elite sport teams outside their high school programs like they do today. 

To find more competitive challenges, I played pickup. As a girl and then as a woman, playing pickup basketball means most of your teammates and opponents are guys. Some players were tentative at first until my skills convinced them I could hang with the big boys. If there was a court, I was there. This was true whether I was on vacation, at work, or in school. Even the guys I dated needed to prove themselves on a court first. One-on-one to a game of 21 would usually be the test. 

The last time I played consistently was in a men’s league in Atlanta. I was 30. And that is if I don’t count my Thursday pickup games with co-workers while living in San Francisco, pregnant with my first child at 32. 

Ultimately, motherhood put the kibosh on team sports. I struggled to find time and the energy to play organized ball, a perennial problem for many women athletes. I never made the decision to stop, life just happened.

While out on my morning run, I passed an outdoor basketball court. A full game was in progress. There were no girls or women playing–just dudes, many of whom could be dads with partners watching their children play on the adjacent playground. I wondered how many of those sidelined moms grew up playing basketball like me. How many still fantasized about lacing up and calling, “Next game!”

Tonight’s Menu: A Quick and Easy Slice in 15 Minutes

When time and brain resources are limited, try this simple weeknight recipe.


Take out your writing from this morning. The best ideas should have risen to the top by now. Carefully scoop the meaty part onto the page and shape it into the desired form. Remove the fat but be careful not to overdo it. Some fat is needed to enhance the flavors. Sprinkle on your favorite seasonings to taste. Metaphors and irony work well.  Remember the goal is to enhance the meaning, not overwrite it. However if this happens, simply use a sharp serrated knife to slice off the crusty edges. Rich layers of voice should remain. Remember, the goal is a consistent tone, one that will leave your readers asking for more.

What are you cooking up tonight?

I Draw a Line at Dumpster Diving

This poem was inspired by a To Do list found on the sidewalk near my house.

I am a thrifter 

a repurposer

a flea market surveyor

I wear secondhand store garb

and our furniture is

salvaged from the curb

I bring home books from the library

and raise rescued pets

our home is a

one-of-a-kind treasure trove

of other people’s stuff

with one exception

I don’t dumpster dive

there is a hierarchy 

in the animal kingdom. 

and I am a proud card-carrying

Homo sapiens

a fire starter

a descendant of farmers

a utensil user

I’m not a city rat

feral and opportunistic

this is where I draw the line

between predator and


Breaking up with March

We’ve never been a compatible couple. You with your mood swings. Me with my grass is always greener… 

But lately, you have become unbearable. 

Your behavior is unpredictable, unreliable, and honestly, at times, downright oppressive –vacillating between a beast, whose roar rattles, and a fleecy embrace.

Our origin story began with a promise of warmer days and a bright future. I thought we’d blossom together. Thought you’d be my shining knight, not my god of war. 

Your toxic friendship with the Irish prankster, the one who chases rainbows and insists on wearing green, was an early clue that something was off. You’d return home after a night of debauchery, and I’d be left to endure your wrath, your icy words and whipping accusations. 

It is time.

I am breaking up with you.

No more chamber of gloom.

No more somber love songs.

You’ve stolen my time and now I’m claiming it back.

I’ve boxed up all your belongings–the tailored suits, the cashmere coat, your wellies–and placed them at the curb. 

Good luck.

I’m moving on.

Thanks to Nerds Beget Nerds and Ms. Chiubooka Writes for the inspiration.

A List of Good Things from the Weekend

(Monday’s Gift of Grace, #13)

Viewing Everything, Everywhere, All at Once

Sleeping-in, snuggled under flannel sheets

Watching my youngest play some collegiate ultimate frisbee

Walking three miles with a good friend

Solidifying plans for a beachy spring break

Adding an extra hour of light to the end of the day

Loving my husband who takes such good care of me

Finding a curbside freebie: a gently used copper fire pit

Snuggling with my sister’s dog, Ernie

Sharing the planning workload with my collaborative team

Publishing two more slices, #11 & #12, done!

The Pitch: Four Fantasy Projects

If money, resources, time and experience were not prohibitive factors, here are four projects I’d love to explore in the future. I’m including written descriptions for each — my pitch to the universe.

  1. Sister Teachers: A podcast about two sisters who are also seasoned teachers working in the same school district.

Pull up a chair alongside these two hilarious teachers who also happen to be sisters, as they reflect on the current state of education post Covid. They’ll discuss the good ole days in education when teachers were underpaid but revered as valuable professionals in their community; and ponder a near-future scenario where the best teachers have left to work for educational software companies. They’ll ask the tough questions: Who will remain in the classrooms–long term substitutes who are figuring out their post college career paths? Even experienced teachers will find their hot tips, covering work-life balance and healthy living beneficial. Topics like: Maximizing Your Lunch Hour with Blended Drinks. Lunch sipped through a straw, offers mobility and frees up one hand for maximum productivity while also delivering a nutritious meal.

  1. Motor City Makeover: This DIY blog follows a teacher who leaves the classroom after 19 years to renovate a house in Detroit. 

“I’ve always wanted to renovate houses, especially ones with character,” Juengst told the content editor at Houzz in a recent interview. “Detroit offers the perfect mix of affordability and charm. A big resurgence is going to happen in and around Detroit. Mark my words. The city has it all: infrastructure, fresh water, cooler temperature, resources, world class universities…Just let me know if you’d like me to renovate a house for you,” she added with a chuckle.

  1. Fort-itude: A children’s picture book about two friends who find respite from the ills of the world in the fort they build in the woods.

This is the author-illustrator’s first foray into the children’s literature world, and it has become one of the most anticipated book releases in 2024. Sure to be an instant classic, Juengst, a self taught painter and writer, has shown it doesn’t take a fine arts degree to create an engaging story about the healing bonds of friendship.

  1. Fiber Optic: A collection of embroidered wall art, from the macabre to the anthropomorphic. 

Come visit this embroidery collection, Fiber Optic, which examines the dark side of our imaginations. The installation centers on the fantastical. Bats and crows and other personified woodland creatures come to life in the bold, intricate stitches the artist sews onto a black fabric canvas.  It is a stitchery not to be missed.

What projects might you try if anything was possible?

This idea was sparked after reading  Writer Tammy Evans s prompt: Look around and choose 4 things within 4 ft. of you and 4 minutes to write about them. One sentence each.