Peach Ping

Last night at the end of our Father’s Day dinner, our son asked me if I had my mom’s recipe for Peach Ping. And he wanted to know if I would give it to him – or better yet – make it for him. I told him not only did I have the recipe; I would gladly make it. And that simple question brought up a very sad memory. The last time I made it was in August 2013, a few months before our dear friend Cynthia died. I made dinner for our group of friends, including Cynthia and her husband, and baked my mom's peach ping for dessert. That was the last time all eight of us were together. I found the recipe in my mother’s recipe box. One of these days I will copy the recipes – each one meticulously typed on now-yellowed four by six cards – and publish them in a book to share with my family. Here’s the recipe for Peach Ping: 10 to 12           peaches ½ cup             butter or margarine 1-1/2 cups      brown sugar, packed 1 tsp                grated lemon peel 2                   … [Read more...]

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April is National Poetry Month

I started reading poetry in grade school although I didn’t start writing poems until much later. Once in a while I’d write a poem or two when I was upset emotionally or feeling lonely, but not regularly until after my son’s suicide. It was the only way I could deal with my grief. It still is. Reading poetry regularly is a given. During April, National Poetry Month, Knopf sends me a poem a day, and the website Poem-A-Day sends me a poem every day all year round. Sometimes over a dozen poems are in my reading queue. I also write poems regularly - this month especially since I'm participating in a poem a day challenge. Poetry is my favorite writing genre. It's hard to know if my poems live up to Lori Anne Ferrell’s criteria as discussed in her LA Times Op Ed piece below, but many have been published, so they must resonate somewhere. “A book of poetry that's worth $100,000, and so much more” by Lori Anne Ferrell "A few months ago, I was talking to a former student about how s … [Read more...]

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Getting back into the writing groove

Our Grand Canyon adventure and my husband’s healing process have taken me far afield from my writing life. Everything just seemed to stop on November 16. Interesting that I had carefully packed some paper and a pen so I could write a journal entry after my walk down the Grand Canyon that day. Unfortunately I never used them after hearing the news of my husband’s injuries and the challenge I faced in getting back to the rim and to the Flagstaff Medical Center to be with him. However, in this past week I’ve sat myself down at my writing desk and managed to write a couple of poems in response to Robert Lee Brewer’s poem a day challenge – that ended on November 30. And it felt good to “poem” (as Brewer likes to say) again. I am also putting together a new chapbook that I’ll submit for the Frost Place contest that’s due on January 1. Though I’m not back to my writing in full force yet – as you can see from how long it’s been since I wrote my last post here, I’m getting back slowly. … [Read more...]

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Putting together a book of poems

I’ve been putting a poetry manuscript together in response to a submission request from a press asking for books written by women over fifty. I figure I'm well over fifty, so why not? The requirement is to compile a book of sixty to one hundred poems. I've been gathering my poems for the book during the last month or so. I've written a lot of poems - certainly more than the requirements of this submission, but the big question is: how many of them are good enough to put in a manuscript hoping to win a $1000 prize. As of today, I think I've completed the gathering phase. The next step is to organize them. I really had no idea how to do that. I've submitted to chapbook competitions before but never a full-length book. So I went to my poetry book shelf and looked at how some of my favorite poets (Ellen Bass, Billy Collins, Maxine Kunitz, Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, etc.) do it. Some just number the sections, some use the title of one of the poems in the section as the title of the sec … [Read more...]

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Two newly published poems

I've had several poems published over the last couple of months. I wrote the first in response to one of Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides Wednesday prompts. I think it's the first one of his I ever responded to. The prompt asked us to: "...write a box poem. This poem is either about a box or includes a box somewhere in the poem (or title). Don’t be afraid to poem outside the box this week (sorry, I had to say it)." Thank you Editor Ted Badger for including my poem in your Lucidity Poetry Journal International (a venue for understandable verse). Things in Boxes He left a black canvas box filled with his music recordings next to his bed, the cassette tapes neatly packed in order of performance. And on his closet shelf we found a cardboard box filled with little games, cars, toys, 1984 Olympic souvenirs, and Russian buttons and buckles his uncle brought back for him. He fit these favorite things together like an intricate puzzle, before he left his body for u … [Read more...]

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A progress report

In John Lennon’s song, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” he sings: “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_j-tpmdPlI My mother always said something similar: “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, life was sure happening to me last week. I worked diligently on my book, as I said I would do in my previous blog post, for the first three days, and I actually made some great progress. Then boom! It all fell apart. My husband, Bob, woke up early last Thursday morning with shortness of breath. I took him to urgent care and he got an EKG. With those results the doctor there said take him to emergency at our local hospital. And we were off and running. Two and a half days later and tests to rule out a heart attack, pneumonia, blood clots in his lungs, and congestive heart failure, he was feeling better. So they sent him home. Less than 24 hours later, he was short of breath again – even worse. This time we called his own doctor (who ha … [Read more...]

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A couple more PAD poems

Today I completed Day 14's poem. I'm almost half-way through Robert Lee Brewer's November 2015 Poem a Day chapbook challenge. Though I'm not ecstatic about my product, I am happy that I'm writing a poem a day. My long-term consulting job and vacation took me out of my writing routine. This challenge seems to be helping me get back to it. Day 9 Write a work poem. For some folks, writing is work (great, huh?). For others, work is teaching, engineering, or delivering pizzas. Still others, dream of having work to help them pay the bills or go to all ages shows. Some don’t want work, don’t need work, and are glad to be free of the rat race. There are people who work out, work on problems, and well, I’ll let you work out how to handle your poem today. Three things saved my life after my son died: writing, working out, and working. No, I don’t consider writing work. It’s my healing balm, whether I’m creating a poem or ranting in my journal, the more I write the better I feel. … [Read more...]

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A couple PAD poems

I'm knee deep into poem writing these days. Here's a couple from the first four days of the November 2015 poem a day - PAD - chapbook challenge. I haven't done a careful edit of these yet, but you'll get the idea what I was up against given the prompts. I always enjoy Robert Lee Brewer's prompts. They are designed to stretch our skills and give us a topic we can have fun with - or not. Day 2 Write a surrender poem. A person can surrender to the authorities or a mob, but people can also surrender to a feeling or to music. Or leftover Halloween candy (at least, “my friend” has had that problem). I hope you surrender to your poetic impulse. It was almost 11 pm when he arrived at Grand Central. Tall, lean, perfectly quaffed in a hand-tailored sports jacket. But not to look too stuffy he wore it with jeans, an open collared blue shirt, polished tan wing tips, and carried a scuffed old briefcase. He walked through the station without looking side to side, with an air of con … [Read more...]

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Please join the November PAD Chapbook Challenge with me

For the last several years I’ve participated in the Writer’s Digest poem a day chapbook challenge in November and April. It is managed by the WD poetry editor Robert Lee Brewer. The prompts are always very interesting. The challenge is work but a lot of fun.   So, in case you’d like to join me, here are Robert’s guidelines. Please sign up and you’ll receive a prompt from Robert every day from November 1 to November 30. I’ll be sharing some my poems here throughout the month. Here's Robert: Here are the basics of the November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Beginning on November 1 (Atlanta, Georgia time), I will share a prompt and poem each day of November on this blog. Poets are then challenged to write a poem each day (no matter where you live on the planet) within 24 hours (or so) from when the prompt is posted. Don’t worry: If you fall behind or start late, you CAN play catch up. Poets do NOT have to register anywhere to participate. In fact, poets don’t even nee … [Read more...]

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What’s in a book title?

The title of my memoir is Leaving the Hall Light On (Dream of Things). A lot of people ask me what the title means. Here's an explanation. At first I believed—my magical thinking—that if I left the hall light on, if we didn’t move away from our house, if we didn’t change our telephone number, Paul, our son who took his life at age 27, would know how to make his way back. Paul would know we were still here waiting for him. For a long time I waited for that familiar sound of his Volvo coming into the garage, the sound of the door from the garage slamming as he entered the house and went down the hall to his room, the sound of him walking around the house at night, the sound of the door opening and closing as he went in and out of the house. In fact, for a while I thought I heard those sounds. And for a long time I left most of the things in his room alone for fear of removing his presence there. For a long time I refused to give away his things in case he would need them when he … [Read more...]

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A new poetry project

Poetry has been on my mind this past week. I submitted a new poem to the Writer's Digest poetry contest, and I sent several poems to my friend Keith Alan Hamilton as my first contribution to our joint endeavor of an anthology of poems and smart phone images. I'm also again participating in Robert Lee Brewer's November Chapbook Challenge although as of today I'm about six days behind. Since I won't share the poem I submitted to the contest, here are a couple from my project with Keith. I'd love to know what you think. Morning Walk I walk in the dark of the morning. watching as gray clouds move toward the horizon’s edge, and the sun begins to peek out. It’s almost a tug of war, the dark gray versus the sun’s rays that burst forth to take over the night sky. Then, almost in an instant the sun’s warmth rests on my shoulders and I forget the chill of the dark.                 The Lone Poles The pol … [Read more...]

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Inspiring Spaces Blog Hop: share what ignites your creativity

  My friend Cate Russell-Cole has started the Inspiring Spaces Blog Hop, and I had to participate. I created the room in our house where I write six years after the suicide death of my son Paul. It was the last room he lived in. I've written  about this room and how meaningful and healing it is for me before  A version of the  following poem appears in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Making Room for Me   After six years I stacked Paul’s books and records, once in alphabetical order on his closet shelves, in boxes out in the garage, and finally cleared away all the dust. I recreated his room and closet, with a new hardwood floor, a bay picture window, deep taupe walls, a white ceiling and crown molding, and file drawers and book shelves for storing my books and poems. I refurnished his room in shades of black and orange. The sofa is like a futon because he o … [Read more...]

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A poem in three acts

I've mentioned before that I write to Robert Lee Brewer's Wednesday poetry prompts that he posts on his Poetic Asides blog. Robert is one of the Writing Community Editors at "Writer's Digest Magazine." He also provides a prompt a day during his April and November poem a day challenges. Some Wednesdays writing to his prompts comes easy, some days it does not, but I always copy and paste them to a running list of his prompts with my sporadic poem attempts. I also religiously take the PAD challenges - just to keep up my poetry training, if nothing else. Last Wednesday Robert's prompt said: "Write a poem in which you’ve imagined a story for a stranger. Maybe someone you see on public transportation, a couple at the laundromat, or a neighbor. Is the person more fabulous than expected? Fallen upon harder times? Exactly as one might guess?" This one hit home because a couple of years ago I decided to write a series of poems about people I didn't know. I found it to be a very fun exercise … [Read more...]

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A found poem

A friend recently posted a found poem on one of my Facebook poetry sites. We both agreed writing a found poem is great way to get over a bit of writer's block. According to the American Academy of Poets: Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.   A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet. I've written, or rather, refashioned several. Here's one taken from a restaurant menu. I loved all the exotic words. Recipe for Fulfillment Pile chicken satays, sesame-crusted Char Siu buns, Manhattan summer rolls, Indian samosas and crab rangoons into a Dim Sum Tasting Tower. Stir fry tempeh with galangal, … [Read more...]

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A new poem from Esalen

Looking down from the road I spent five days last week writing poems at Esalen, a beautiful site high on a cliff in Big Sur CA. I go to this particular workshop almost every summer. Led by poets Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar, I always learn some lessons about writing poems, I hear excellent poems read by my fellow poets taking the workshop with me, and I never lack for something to write my poems about. This year I wrote six poems using prompts given at the end of each day’s craft talks on: 1) a coming into consciousness poem, 2) a poem with sentiment and no sentimentality, and 3) a poem using various line break and syntax techniques. We also beg our leaders to give us a list of ten words and an assigned phrase with which to create a poem. Once in a while we’re asked to include our pick of a body part, season of the year, or time of day. Writing to a list of words is like solving a puzzle. But sometimes the poems turn out just plain silly. This year I wrote a co … [Read more...]

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Jane Shore’s poem about a tree

This is definitely another opinion about how to care and feed and trim a tree. I love this poem. Wish I had written it. Counter-point to my tree-trimming rant.   Willow by Jane Shore It didn't weep the way a willow should. Planted all alone in the middle of the field by the bachelor who sold our house to us, shoulder height when our daughter was born, it grew eight feet a year until it blocked the view through the first-, then the second- story windows, its straggly canopy obstructing our sunrise and moonrise over Max Gray Road. I gave it the evil eye, hoping lightning would strike it, the way a bolt had split the butternut by the barn. And if leaf blight or crown gall or cankers didn’t kill it, then I'd gladly pay someone to chop it down. My daughter said no, she loved that tree, and my husband agreed. One wet Sunday— husband napping, daughter at a matinee in town—a wind shear barreled up the hill so loud I glanced up from my mystery the moment the wi … [Read more...]

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A spring poem

I love Robert Lee Brewer's poetry prompts. He gives one out once a week except during poem a day challenges in April and November. I don't always do them on time or in order, but I eventually get through them. I guess he prompted us to write a spring poem at first bud. I'm a little late, but here it is. I lay on the Pilates reformer and push on the foot bar, in and out, in and out. My feet, first in the second position at the corners of the footbar then in first position at the center with my heels locked tightly together, I keep pushing and pulling. Two red and one green springs determine the weight for these exercises. And as my legs move back and forth the springs squeak, they yearn to stop, they want to do no more work. But I keep going. I don’t listen to their moans never giving those springs a rest. … [Read more...]

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Tree trimming rant – a new poem

Butcher The tree trimming was yesterday. And with his long-handled ax he hacked the trees stripping off leaves and giant birds of paradise until only bare branches and trunks were left. His onslaught hit the ground leaving broken and bent petals, the red succulents flattened and spent. Of course it got its intended result – Light pouring through. I can’t wait for the shade to come back. Coral Tree Before Coral Tree Today (2 weeks after the hack job) Poor Eucalyptus and Palms … [Read more...]

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Vacation poems and photos

When we travel I challenge myself to write a poem a day. And this past vacation to New England, Boston, NYC, and Washington DC was no different. Here's a small sampling with photos. Still leafless in Vermont In New Hampshire Birches The sparsely leafed birches scintillate amidst the spring trees along the road Their barks, like diamonds, bring sparkle to the forest floor. Even with full foliage in limes, reds, and emerald greens their fellow trees cannot compete. Montpelier Augusta Concord Three Domes We traveled around the states of Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire knowing there was no way we’d see everything. Those states are much too large and overwhelmingly rural. But we made up our minds to see each state capital and take photos of the domes. In Montpelier and Augusta there was no missing them they were gold and shining. The Concord capital dome is a dull green. With George and Barbara Bush ESP? This morning I joked about seeing B … [Read more...]

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April challenges update

I took a break over the weekend and caught up today with my two April challenges. The Platform Challenge Days 5 through 8: Day 5. Create a blog – since you’re reading this you know I already have a blog. I also post at several other blog sites you might not know about: http://redroom.com/member/madeline-sharples/blog/ - Red Room blog http://www.naturallysavvy.com/savvy-over-60 - Naturally Savvy Over 60 blog http://www.psychalive.org/index.php?s=madeline+sharples&image.x=15&image.y=7 - PsychAlive blog http://tlswriters.wordpress.com/ - The Last Sunday Writer's group blog Day 6. Comment on a blog: Robert LeeBrewer posted a few possible ways to respond (and he suggested linking back to our own blogs). I think these are great suggestions. I just need to learn to follow them: Share your own experience. If you've experienced something similar to what's covered in the post, share your own story. You don't have to write a book or anything, but maybe a paragraph or two. Add … [Read more...]

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