Tag Archives: aliveness

(364) Stay Tuned

Yesterday a friend gave me this awesome shirt:


I decided it was perfect for my musings today. I am typing this as I go, after thinking about the theme a lot, after going to Lakes Park and sitting in my power spot. Here goes…second last post!


Moving toward 2016, I understand my life is going to be more and more about sound. How the world sounds. How I sound. How we sound to each other.

Walking in the park today, I was behind two people who both had ear buds in, yet were talking loudly to each other. They obviously were listening to something, but decided it was important to communicate.  But here was my thought: If we really want to hear each other, we should be cognizant of shutting out other noise. It is like the people who talk on the phone when the television is on. Why?


This year has opened me up to sound. I planned a whole vacation around sound. We heard bluegrass music and blues music and synthesized music and musicians talking about the sounds specific instruments make, the sound of Jim and I singing together in the music booth at the Birthplace of Country Music, the sound of the Flint, the Cumberland, and the French Broad Rivers, the sound of old blues musicians wafting across Dockery Farms, the sound of The City of New Orleans speeding next to Money Road in the Delta. These sounds have stayed with me and I call on them from time to time.

Today as I walked I brushed my hand through all the palm fronds I passed. “How can I duplicate that sound” was my constant question.


Paul Simon had an exhibit on his songwriting at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. I was unable to get there, so I purchased the exhibit booklet. In it is Simon’s speech when he was inducted into the Rock Hall.  He said:

I thank Sam Phillips for Sun Records, for rockabilly’s Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley, whose recording of ‘Mystery Train’ remains my all-time favorite. I spent a career trying to get that sound.

This stood out to me for many reasons. First, because “Mystery Train” is my favorite Elvis tune, mostly because of the way it sounds. And second, because this came late in the book and I had already read Simon’s words over and over again about trying to get to a sound.  The exhibit was called “Words and Music,” but from what I read it was really about sound.

As I stay tuned to the sounds in my life, I am looking to get them into any music I create. My music teacher talked mainly about sound when I told him I wanted to write songs. Silly me — I thought it was about lyrics. Seems that isn’t always the case.

Not sure why I’m just learning that.


A friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook:


We are the music we love. I want to do this experiment. Tell me the song that matters most to you, and I will listen for you in it.


Years ago I heard that our DNA, when related to various musical notes, creates a different musical composition for every person. This idea has never left me, and continues to intrigue. Today I found there is a website for it (of course there is) where you can actually send in your DNA information and the type of music you like, and they will create the composition for you. Here is a future birthday present!

If interested, check it out here.

They have created songs for all kinds of things, including this one for whales:


So, yes, sound is in our very DNA.

With sound comes vibration. This is why crystal bowl meditation and bells during ritual services and chanting monks lift us to new dimensions. Sounds and vibrations are our lifeblood. They can heal or poison.


As I finish up this blog, my plan is to stay tuned to the Five Questions in my life. They have truly become a part of me during this journey, and now I cannot imagine living life without seeing it through the lens of the Five Questions. Not writing about it will free me up to be in the moment, to search for the sound in the message, to stay tuned to doing the next right thing. All year long I have been listening, and this message comes to me continually like a drumbeat.


Here (hear).






(319) Pen Song

This is today’s mentor poem, found in the New York Times Magazine:

Fall Song  by Joy Harjo
It is a dark fall day.
The earth is slightly damp with rain.
I hear a jay.
The cry is blue.
I have found you in the story again.
Is there another word for ‘‘divine’’?
I need a song that will keep sky open in my mind.
If I think behind me, I might break.
If I think forward, I lose now.
Forever will be a day like this
Strung perfectly on the necklace of days.
Slightly overcast
Yellow leaves
Your jacket hanging in the hallway
Next to mine.


I wanted mine to be switched up a bit — not follow the same nature to domestic reality pattern. At first I called it “Blog Song,” but soon my pen took over.

Pen Song  by Helen Sadler

It is another writing day

My pen glides smoothly across the page

I hear my words

They cry “Dull!”

I am seeking a story again.

Is there another word for “bewildered”?

I need a song that will keep the sky open in my mind.

If I think of the past, I yawn.

If I think of the future, I idealize.

Forever will be a Sunday

Never quite being what I want it to be.

Gray. Just gray.

Declining water line.

My pen slowly running out of ink

and patience with me.

(317) Musings from a Blogger

Off and on I think about life after this blog. What will it be like to wake up in the morning and know I do not HAVE to write?  For the last 317 days, I have not had that luxury. I look around and see all the reading I want to do and all the music I want to play and I think…The day is coming. 

Of course, that is not really true. I know when the day comes–January 1st–I will be happy, yet secretly worried that I won’t write, or I will put off writing, or I will fail to make the discoveries that has made this writing project so fruitful to me personally.

I think about the body of work I have created. Sometimes I look back and I’m simply amazed at things I have written and have forgotten all about.

Which brings me to my next point. I love the photos and videos I can attach on the tech format, but I feel somewhat removed at the same time. It takes time and effort to find things I wrote because of the format I chose for the blog. Now I am thinking how much I want my writing scrawled first and then printed and in my hands. I like it better that way.

Which leads to my next point: I had moved my students toward digital writing rather than using their notebooks, and I’m feeling the same “removed” feeling in the classroom. I have decided we need to get back to the tactile–hand writing.

It has been an interesting journey as a writer and a teacher to be involved in this tech format. It is has a place, no doubt. But I am heading back to the wild woods of the hand written word for myself and my students. I need to recover the piece that is missing.

(313) “But what if it was…”

Up at 5:30 and out to the lanai to pray. The moon is back in its resting crescent shape, bright on the rocker bottom and outlined above. The planets and stars are brilliant today, and I even saw a shooting star.

I was thinking about the day to come: back with my students who behaved horribly in my absence, so much so the assistant principal had to be called in. I have once again had to go to my old standby — Ye Tang Che.  Give up hope. There will never be ground under my feet with these classes. I just exhaust myself hoping for change.

But the other part of giving up hope is to become fearless. I once again prayed for direction to reach my students. And I think I found something. I TRUST I found something. Looking at the moon today, I thought of that word TRUST and how it came to me yesterday while I was writing in my journal after the conference. It felt loaded. Maybe a lot of my exhaustion this year is because I simply haven’t been trusting myself to know what is best for my students, so I have been led astray.


There is a new comedy on television called The Grinder. It stars Rob Lowe as a former television star from a legal show called The Grinder. He was The Grinder in the show –a lawyer who did all kinds of dramatic and risky things, as only lawyers on television can do. Now that he has retired from show business, he has decided to hang out in the law firm owned by his brother and father.

In one episode, every time The Grinder came up with a plan for winning some case, his brother Stewart (played by Fred Savage) would tell him it was impossible. “But what if it wasn’t,” was The Grinder’s reply every time.

Stewart: We can’t do that. 

Grinder: But what if we could?

Stewart: That isn’t the way to do that. 

Grinder: But what if it was?

You get the idea.


As I sat on the lanai today, enjoying the moon and thinking about trust, I saw this fluttery purplish-pink image ripple out of the moon and disappear. I blinked, thinking it was just my eyes playing tricks on me.

But what if it wasn’t?

AngelMoon-Vintage-Pink-GraphicsFairy2I’ve decided to trust myself on this one, much like The Grinder always trusts himself. I think I saw an angel. That is what it reminded me of. I think this angel was heading out to do her angel deeds and forgot to turn off her inner light that makes her visible.

People might say angels don’t exist.

Others would say there is no way I saw one.

But what if I did?

(292) Strait Talk

Hey, it’s Monday and I’m feeling downright happy.

Here are some of my thoughts today:

Because of some scheduled days off, this is my last full week of work until the week of November 30th.

I am teaching “Annabel Lee” which I am looking forward to. What a beautiful poem it is. I am hoping my students can feel it.

I am grateful I do not have a ton of meetings this week.

I played my guitar a lot last evening, and I think that has lit up my brain, as they say playing music does. I am finding that I am anxious to spend more time with my music once my obligation to this blog is done.  Just over 70 blogs to go.

I downloaded George Strait’s new album this past weekend.  I am not sure it lives up to its predecessor, Love is Everything, which was my favorite album of 2013, but it has potential. The last song is called “Even When I Can’t Feel It.”  I’ve decided to post it here today.  Great way to begin the week. Here is the chorus:

I believe in God even when He’s silent

I believe in the sun even when it isn’t shining

I believe in good luck even when the dealer don’t deal it

I believe in love, I believe in love

Even when I can’t feel it.

(278) No Frenzy Zone

I witnessed it many times from childhood into my adult life.  My mother would be rushing or frantic about something. The more frenzied she’d get, the more my dad would slow down. He would never say anything, but he would become a snail.

I can recall the first time he did it to me. In sixth grade I was in a public school, so that required I go to religion classes on Sunday. Since I was the only one doing this, one of my parents had to make a special trip to get me to church. One Sunday, we were running late. I was frantic. Walking into a class late was a shameful thing to me. It came to pass my dad would drive me.

And he was a snail.  He drove super slow. The more I tried to push him, the slower he seemed to go.  He made sure we got every red light.

Now I find I am my father’s daughter. At least, I am making every effort to be.  After years of being the one who was frantic and frenzied, I now am becoming the one who takes a breath and slows down. This applies mostly to work, where I see teachers overworking themselves, trying to do everything, trying to make sense of things where there is no sense, and basically making themselves crazy. The crazier they are, the more I slow down.

Today, I wrote these words in my journal: Relax into language.  That is what my class is about.  It isn’t a list of objectives or vocabulary words to memorize. It is about language — how it is used, how it is misused, how it is biased, how it is freeing.

Relax into language. My mantra this week.


(268) Allowing


Yesterday I wrote about getting back to flowing like a river (metaphorically.) There were challenges in my day, but I think I made some progress.

Then today I read this poem by Danna Faulds called “Allow.”  It is exactly what I needed to hear:

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream, and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in—
the wild with the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

I had some moments yesterday when I felt that I was an alien just visiting this planet. I had moments where I lacked confidence or wondered how I am being perceived.

I do not like when doubt creeps in.

But then my wonderful writing group grounded me back. It is so wonderful to have friends, colleagues, and partners in the writing and teaching life that know me. We speak the same language. God blessed me with them and I am forever grateful.

I move on with allowing myself to be who I am — in the classroom, on the page, as a musician, as a wife, a sister, an aunt. It is easy to be swayed by those who live by fear. But living authentically is all I’ve ever really wanted.

I start again. Today.

(263) Modern Stillness

Lakes1I took this picture and my mind titled it “Modern Stillness.”

I went to Lakes Park today with the intention of moving through nature and finding joy and stillness.

I stopped to take this picture because the ladies behind me were yakking up a storm, and I wanted them to pass me so I could have some quiet.

The water is high in the park today. There were bikers and joggers, but not too many. No kids on the playground. A few birds here and there.

I walked in peace. Stillness. Joy.

An elderly couple did not talk loudly. They stopped to watch a squirrel eating its breakfast.

Lakes2Joy in the modern moment.

I walked on. Felt the waning of summer, the onset of fall.

Knowing the days will just get better and better.

A life in the modern era.

My life.

And nature full of reminders to find joy in stillness.

Lakes 3

(258) The Gift of Joy

Today, A Year of Being Here website had this poem by Albert Huffstickler:

There is always that edge of doubt.
Trust it, that’s where the new things come from.
If you can’t live with it, get out,
Because when it’s gone, you’re on Automatic,
Repeating something you’ve learned.
Let your prayer be:
Save me from that tempting certainty that
Leads me back from the Edge,
That dark edge where the first light breaks.

Here is my version. A little more abstract than I like, but this is just my first shot at it:

There is always the gift of joy.

Embrace it, that’s where jubilation is found.

If you can’t find it, seek calmness,

Because when you quiet yourself , Pure Harmony

With everything that surrounds you.

Let your prayer be:

Save me from the tempting negativity that

Leads me away from Joy;

Breathe deeply into the place of spontaneous newness.

(241) 12:55 P.M.

12:55 P.M.  That is when my 8th grade advanced class starts arriving in my classroom. This class is already proving to be energy-inducing, rather than draining. When they arrive, I have already spent over three hours with a variety of lower academic 7th grade students who tend to bounce off the walls and do those stupid middle school things like making popping noises incessantly. They exhaust me.

Then the 8th graders show up, and all is well with the world again. They are proving to be a bright spot in my day. They are my people!

I take back all the nasty things I’ve said about 8th graders based on my experience two years ago. That was not a true experience, as I was trying to adjust to middle school after six year in high school, and the discipline system at the school purely rotted.

Things are way better now.

When the 8th graders show up, I do not have to explain alliteration or similes. They KNOW and can perform.

We laugh — a lot!

And when I saw the poem “Mystic” by D.H. Lawrence, I knew it would be a great starting point for mentor texts. I wrote one, which I shared on this blog yesterday, and I shared both with the students. They got in groups based on the results of the Multiple Intelligences survey they took, and wrote their own. Today, I share three of those poems.

It is going to be a great year!


by Amber O., Mun, Paige K., and Brendan

They call all experience of leadership mystic, when the

experience is considered.

So being a leader becomes mystic with pros and cons,

the hard hot summer, the cold-hearted people

of society.

All of which I can do as a leader.

Nonetheless, some days the act of leadership is preponderantly difficult, tiring, and

bitter, dark and dirty, too much to think about

like the streets in a flood.

We feel this way about leading, we are called mystic, which means


The only way to lead is to take charge, and

question everyone.

That is real.

But if we lead with too much thought, we’ll lose ourselves deep in thought

Working day and night we need a solution to life.


by Paige C., Amber, Medejine, and Hilary

They call all experience of learning

mystic, when the

experience is history.

So history becomes mystic with

dates and facts, the magical

Some students wanted to dive right into using their chrome books; others preferred good old pencil and paper.

movement of time, trapped between


All of which things I can do as a


Though some days of the past can be

boring, old, repeated, and plain, even

blurry, to see the days like a

cloud full of rain.

If I feel this way about history

I am called mystic, which means

a student.

The only way to learn is to go to

the past,

question everything.

That is real.

But if I look deeply, I could

study the past to change the


Opening my textbook and diving in.


by Mike, Mark, and Ashling

They call all experience of melodies mystic, where experience is considered.

So music becomes mystic when notes are out to words, the sweet sounds

of the song, the loveliness of each line.

All of which I can do as a musician.

Though some days the sound of my voice is preponderantly broken,

terrible, and shrill, sounding like a screaming banshee that has been


If I feel this way about music, I am called mystic, which is lip-syncher.

The only way to enjoy music is to let it touch your soul, and feel everything.

But if I listen from a place of no thought, my senses awake,

Playing music like a beginner, I call the music to my side.