My Journey into Writing #SOL17

In this slice, I reflect on this thirty-one day challenge by harkening back to the unknowing mentors who have guided and informed my writing practice.

JourneyLewisLike many new slicers, I can’t believe I actually completed this challenge. As I face my final day, I am humbled by the moment. When I started the month, I made a list of potential topics. As I checked off those items, I mined my notebooks for inspiration and also tried techniques from other slicers. One quote that caught my eye for this culminating post is from Lucy Calkins, shared during one of the summer institutes. She asked us, “Can you feel yourself changing as a writer?” That got me thinking back with a wider lens on how my writing life has evolved.

WriteSoulPrior to my teaching life, I’d always been an avid reader and writer. When my children were very young, I’d wake up at 4:30, grab my journal alongside a cup of coffee, and head outside my front door to my writing corner on the porch. Two wicker chairs and a small glass top table became my sacred space. Whether it was my path toward Simple Abundance, The Artist’s Way, The Purpose Driven Life, or nature’s bountiful gifts – writing was my refuge. There I mused, responded and explored my hidden fears and truths. In many ways, it became my religion. My reading choices reflected a similar path – all culminating with my decision to answer the call to teach. Who knew I could get paid for spending a life immersed in reading and writing!

When I switched careers from business into teaching, I was fortunate to have a professor who lived in Manhattan, and who had her eyes and ears on the Teachers College Writing Project. Lucy, Nancie, Ralph, and Carl were all required reading, and Heinemann was our go-to source for all things literacy. Therefore, when I began teaching, I only had the workshop model as my frame of reference – lucky me!

TCRWPThree years into teaching, I attended my first summer institute in 2008. Since then, my writing life has expanded along with my mentors. Mary Ehrenworth and Colleen Cruz became my first choices at subsequent summer institutes. I have notebooks filled with their wisdom, which I regularly visit for inspiration. In that caliber of people, I’ve been blessed to add Katherine Bomer, Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, and Vicki Vinton to my growing list of writing teachers. My heart is full and I am grateful for their commitment and steadfast beliefs in honoring the art and craft of writing.

BlessedReflecting back on that section with Lucy, she was discussing the power of conferring, and noted the importance of remaining present, in order to “be at the boundary” of a child’s readiness. Today, I am feeling like that child – on the brink of something new. Although I created this blog two years ago, I only posted twice even though I had eleven unfinished drafts in cue. The habit of writing every day has provided me with a renewed sense of joy anticipating what might come next. Suddenly, posting a Slice of Life every week, no longer feels daunting. I not only want to participate, but I need to participate.

To have the support of an entire community within the guidance and framework of the Two Writing Teachers, is truly a gift. I am at a loss for words to effectively communicate how this challenge has empowered me. Thank you for encouraging me on this journey into writing.






My Season Playlist Poems #SOL17

I borrowed an idea from two fellow slicers, Alice Nine and Kim K, to use my slice of life story titles as a poem. I decided to group my slices into categories and reflect and respond to them. The words in italics are not part of the title, but I wanted to use them to connect the ideas.

Believe Stone

Hidden Gifts
On a wing and a prayer,

The eyes of my heart
Sacred seeds –

Majestic warriors
The gift of grace

Moon shadow

The Apple of My Eye

Hidden Gifts was the first poem I wrote in this challenge. It was a reflection on how I have lived through the lenses of my three One Little Words. That reflection opened me up to share a bit more about my faith, which led to my spiritual expression of poetry. Since my son’s illness literally brought me to my knees, it’s interesting that I ended my month with a poem about him. None of this would have been created without the daily lifeline of this community.


Powerful Women
The sounds of silence

In my daughter’s eyes…
A heartfelt tradition
A grand aunt

Powerful Women was a reflection on women in history who forged a path for the rest of us. My mother was my first role model, so it was only fitting I honor her for recognizing my writing ability. My daughter is so much like my mother; I wished my mother would have lived longer to see her grow and mature into womanhood. My grandmother, our family’s matriarch, was the inspiration in a heartfelt tradition. Talk about a powerful woman! And finally, my niece, my “mini-me,” has always been special. She was crying when she read the post about us. Now with a new baby on the way, I am certain she (hoping!) will carry on to forge a path for herself.


A Week in the Woods
Cabins and cottages

A doorway of hope –
Winter solace

My love of nature and its healing power was the inspiration in the pieces above. I have done my best writing outside. It’s the one place I am free to explore, to seek, to meditate, to reflect, to learn, or just to be. I am so grateful to be attending Summer Camp at the Barn through the generosity of the Highlights Foundation. It will be the ultimate crossroads for nature and writing.


The Neighborhood Watch
Kitten crime, Dog tales, and Monkeying around

At the Drive-in…
The circus stampede

These stories harkened back to my childhood memories… those crazy moments my family shares over and over. I am so happy that I finally put them in writing. My family photo journalism project now has a great start.


Nun of This and Nun of That
Kindergarten charades –
The cookie caper
unable to
Curb your laughter
Dimmed lights of Broadway

Finally, this section refer to the friendship and school-related stories in my life. My Catholic school education had a profound effect on me. I have come to the conclusion, that a person either conforms to the rules or rebels against them. I am so glad I fall into the latter. It makes life more bearable when you have a warped sense of humor. 🙂

Tomorrow’s post will be about how I have changed as a writer through this challenge. Suddenly one slice a week doesn’t seem so daunting. Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for this incredible opportunity to share and take risks within such a supportive community.


The Apple of My Eye #SOL17


The Apple of my Eye
I used to be…
the apple of your eye
many years ago…
Those innocent days
of Crystal and Coal
two stuffed bears
held close to your heart…
Before – 
baseball, drums, and Harry Potter

And now…
an apple a day
wouldn’t keep me away…
These fragile days…
of silence and fear
two great crosses
held close to my heart…
After – 
baseball, drums, and Harry Potter


My son is currently healing from a medical issue, which I mentioned in a previous post. Since his birthday is this Sunday, I can’t help but look back and reflect. Like all mothers, I saved his little gifts; the ones above are my favorites. I struggled, deciding on whether or not I should post this poem… it felt like one of those personal pieces to hand write and tuck away. But authentic writing calls for vulnerability – this was on my heart, so I surrendered to it.

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for providing this opportunity to write within such a supportive community.








Powerful Women #SOL17

StrengthDignityToday, I thought I would share a bit about the book I am currently reading. As a lover of historical fiction, I downloaded a copy of Kate Hannigan’s The Detective’s Assistant, which is about the true adventures of Kate Warne, America’s first female detective hired in 1856 by Pinkerton’s National Detective agency. In her role, Kate travels all over the country on a variety of cases, but becomes well known for her work in thwarting an assassination attempt on President  Lincoln as he made his way by rail from Illinois to Washington, DC.

DetectivesAssistantThe story is told through the eyes of Nell Warne, Kate’s orphaned niece, who moves in much to the surprise and dismay of her aunt. At eleven years old, Nell is a fictional character who tells the story of their detective adventures as well as the history that is unfolding. Through letters to her African American friend, Jemma, the reader is privy to the impact of slavery and the work of the abolitionists on the Underground Railroad. Beyond the incredible history and well crafted narrative, I am enjoying the use of dialect alongside sophisticated language. I was highlighting and book-marking so many pages on my Nook, I decided to stop and simply enjoy the story.

Although there are so many social issues raised in this book, I am most impressed with the empowerment of women. In the author’s note, Hannigan includes, “When Kate Warne became the first female detective in the United States, Pinkerton was doing something almost unheard of: hiring a woman to do what was then seen as a man’s job. Aside from mind-numbing factory work or running a boardinghouse, there were very few employment options for single or widowed women.”  What is disheartening though, is that when Pinkerton retired and his son took over, he disbanded the Female Detective Bureau, closing the door on this opportunity for women. If we are supposed to evolve, from generation after generation, then how could the son have taken such a drastic position?

WHMGraphicThankfully, I was raised to believe I could choose any career I wanted. Although my mother’s opportunities in the corporate world limited her to remaining as a Girl Friday, my twenty-two year career in business culminated as a project manager for a fortune fifty corporation. And when I decided to switch careers into teaching, I pursued the workshop model and after eight years of teaching, I moved into coaching. During Women’s History Month, I’m grateful to women like Kate Warne, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Stanton, Amelia Earhart, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Blackwell, Rosa Parks, Dorothy Day, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, and Sandra Day O’Connor, pioneering women who found their strength and voice to rise above their circumstances and create change. A generation of women thanks you for your unbridled passion, courageous heart, and unyielding spirit.

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for providing this opportunity to write in this supportive community. We’re headed into the stretch, with only three more days to go!


Winter Solace #SOL17


After reading Melanie Meehan’s post today and learning about her thesis on the importance of setting in fiction for middle school students, I remembered an exercise about setting from one of my summer workshop classes, called memory walking. This writing practice was introduced in the book A Life in Hand by Hannah Hitchman, which prompts the writer to:

  • Choose a place from your childhood
  • Let the image become clearer
  • Think – what were your landmarks?
  • Stop/sketch/note/reflect/write

In her book, Hitchman notes: “Most of us sorting through childhood memories, have remarked that it isn’t always the significant event or the important day we remember. It is more likely to be an apparently random detail… What is it about the child’s mind that allows it to register impressions with such clarity? She stands and gazes or listens and lives in the gazing or listening. There is nothing held back, she is all eyes and ears.”


Although I am not much of a sketch artist, I gave it a shot as my memory unfolded, which happened to be the roughly ten acres of woods in the back of my house. I tried to mark the places where we ice skated, went sleigh riding, rode mini-bikes, swung on a tire swing, caught frogs, picked flowers, climbed on rocks, and slid down a sandy pit with makeshift summer sleds made of cardboard. On my map, I indicated that the woods was my “free zone,” while my house was the “safe zone.”

Going to the woods was an escape from the world. No rules, no parents – just trees and trails. Some paths were clear, while others were not. Sometimes we went with a purpose, but often we went out exploring just for fun. Near the tire swing was a giant single boulder – to climb it took guts, which we gladly risked.


Winter was glorious. We nicknamed the two slopes, Snakey Lane and Bumpy Hill. One of the boys tried skiing once, but snapped his skis in half on the un-groomed hill. Another time we used a plastic boat from the pool and slid down Bumpy Hill. As we neared the bottom, we hit a patch of ice and soared right into the unfrozen brook. Ice skating was another adventure. The frozen pond was in the middle of the woods, so skating around trees made it a challenging course.

It’s interesting to me that I chose the woods. I guess I’ve always been an explorer. I’ve always been independent. I’ve always longed to escape the boundaries that restricted my freedom. Despite all that action, the woods echoed a quiet calm – infused with nature, we were free and at peace. There was no better gift.

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for providing this opportunity to write in this supportive community. We’re headed into the stretch, with only four more days to go!




My Seasons Playlist #SOL17

For the last two days, my writing has been inspired by the brilliant poet, Georgia Heard and her seminal work with Heart Maps. Near the end of the book, teacher and literacy leader, Penny Kittle, included an essay on her experiences in heart mapping by reflecting on the power of music in her life as well as her students. In it she shares, “Our hearts hold hidden playlists.” Although my list of favorite song titles would run off the page, I discovered three songs connected by seasons in my life, which bear further reflection.

ECCSeasonOne undisputed fact is that the 1960’s was an era of great music. Mirroring the turbulent anti-war protests, there were some poignant folk songs sung in the streets, at festivals, and in our churches. With a single acoustic guitar, I remember hearing The Byrds, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in our own church, which is based on scripture from Ecclesiastes, a personal favorite. A decade born with hope, quickly turned violent with the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy along with Dr Martin Luther King. Instead of withdrawing from the war, we accelerated our efforts and began drafting young men, boys really. Although we were only in elementary school, my brothers and I watched the draft with our parents, worried for other families affected. When I switched careers in my forties, and returned to college to complete my English degree, I took a writing course, where we explored literature about that time. Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried, still lives in my heart as I was finally able to articulate the emotions I suppressed as a child in that season of war.

To everything, (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season, (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under the heavens
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

SeasonsPicWhen I was in 7th grade, one of our classmates died mysteriously. In our small school community, with only one class per grade, we were close. Michael was ill during a terrible epidemic of the flu, which afflicted me as well. I remember our phone rang and my mother shared that it was a prayer chain for Michael… I am certain she was worried about me, which is why I remained home longer than usual. When I returned to school, my classmates and I insisted on singing at Michael’s funeral mass, customizing the lyrics to “Seasons in the Sun.” On the day of the funeral, when Mrs. Hinks played the first key, we were stunned into silence. Although we started to sing, one by one, our voices dropped out of the chorus, and we were unable to finish. I always think about Michael’s parents and how they might have felt that day… already torn up by the loss of their son, and hearing the pain articulated with the sounds of our mourning, must have been heartbreaking in that season of loss.

Goodbye my friends it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that spring is in the air
Pretty girls are everywhere
Think of me and I’ll be there

We had joy, we had fun
we had seasons in the sun
But the hills that we climbed
Were just seasons out of time

When my husband and I got married, I insisted on having our church music accompanied
by an acoustic guitar. One of our song selections was Stevie Nicks’, “Landslide,” a favoriteHeartSeason for its voice and words. Although I had known my husband eight years before we married, and loved him dearly, I also lived through the divorce of my own parents, and understood the commitment and challenge of marriage. The lyrics of this song evoke a sense of trust, and serve as a reminder to constantly seek spiritual guidance throughout our season of love.

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for providing this opportunity to write and take risks within this supportive community. This has certainly been a season of abundance, as I have been graced by the commraderie of fellow slicers, as well as a generous gift from the Highlights Foundation.


On a Wing and a Prayer #SOL17

Robin graphic
While I was reading Georgia Heard’s Heart Maps yesterday, I remembered a technique I learned from her to move through writer’s block. It was taken from her book, Writing Toward Home. In it she recounts a moment after her ninety-year-old grandmother died. Staring at an onion on the table, Georgia began to write and reveal insights made between the layers of an onion to the “soft, papery hands of her grandmother.”HeardOnion

Following her advice, I sat down at the kitchen table in full view of the backyard. I was working on my writing homework for one of my workshop sections through Teachers College Summer Institute. It was still bright enough to see outside on that summer evening. Suddenly a robin came into view, criss-crossing through the yard. I took pen to paper, and here is what I wrote:

RobinNotesThe next morning, Georgia Heard gave the keynote on the Columbia campus. Afterward, I found the nerve to approach her to share my discoveries and gratitude for the idea. With a poet’s eye, she was genuinely intrigued. Although that breakthrough helped me to draft a writing piece, I decided to return to it today and try my hand at poetry.

On a Wing and a Prayer
The robin moves with purpose
and appears to know her worth – 
Seeking, searching, scampering
great treasures beneath the earth.
Sustenance to feed her young
who wait inside their nest – 
entwined in bits of twigs
created for their rest. 

Mothers move unknowingly
though appear intent on course – 
Kneeling, knowing, nurturing
unknown truths within the source.
Faithfulness to rear her young
intent on leaving home – 
instilled with strong beliefs
no matter where they roam.

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for providing the opportunity to engage with this amazing community of writers!



A Heartfelt Tradition #SOL17

This morning, I was watching marathon episodes of the TLC show, “Long Lost Family.” With a box of tissues nearby, I sobbed, listening to story after story of lost sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, and siblings. One woman, who was given up at birth, spoke about the hole in her heart saying, “It’s like reading a book about your life with missing chapters.” It’s those missing parts, which urge all parties forward in their quest to discover the truth.

Coincidentally, while I was watching this series, I was perusing Georgia Heard’s latest book, Heart Maps, a whole-book version of heart mapping she introduced to us in her seminal work on the teaching of poetry, Awakening the Heart. As Georgia Heard so eloquently notes, “Heart mapping is a visual emotional blueprint for writers to map the people, memories, and experiences that are significant and memorable.” While I ached in listening to the heart breaking tales of lost family, I couldn’t help but think about families who know one another, yet purposely stay apart, or about distant relatives from a family’s ancestry, who remain unknown in the family lineage.


Michael & Filomena Tafuni

That thinking led me to one of Georgia’s templates, called the Family Quilt Heart Map, with a prompt to “include details of place such as a family home or town, city, or country where your family comes from and how that has shaped your family memories and stories.” That brought me to Italy and one of our family traditions, originating from Altamura, the birthplace of my paternal grandparents, Michael and Filomena Tafuni.


Altamura’s mayor joined us on the 90th anniversary

Every Labor Day my family gathers in a park in North Bergen, NJ to celebrate the patron saint of Altamura, Maria SS. del Buoncammino, translated as Mother of safe travel. One of the stories connected to the saint includes Salvatore Tafuni, a distant relative. While he was being assaulted by robbers in the night, he cried out to the Blessed Mother for help. She miraculously appeared in the sky, frightened the robbers away, and saved his life. This feast day became the tradition in Altamura, which traveled with my grandparents and others here to America.


Artist’s rendition of Salvatore Tafuni

Nothing made my grandparents more proud than honoring this feast day, which celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2015. My grandfather, Mike the Ice Man, proudly walked in the procession, first with my Aunt Mary and Aunt Josephine by his side and then later with my cousins, Vicki and Judy. Years later, after my grandfather passed, my father, Sonny took over, and now my brother Michael, cousin Anthony and my cousin’s son Luke have taken their place of honor, sharing my grandfather’s original procession badge.


From left – my cousin Anthony, Dad/Sonny, and my brother Michael

As you can see from the pictures, this tradition has greatly impacted our family. Although, we may have begrudgingly attended when we were kids, as adults, we look forward to it. Beyond the history of our tradition, it’s the food, laughter and stories we share that connect us to the Tafuni name. Although my grandparents are departed, I am certain they beam with pride knowing they’ve instilled a tradition in our hearts, which we proudly hope to continue celebrating for years to come.

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for providing the opportunity to engage with this amazing community of writers! You have given me the impetus to track my family’s stories, so the chapters of our lives will be complete.






Dimmed Lights of Broadway #SOL17

It always seems, that whenever I have done something wrong, I get caught. Like when I stole twenty cents to buy a raffle ticket for a kitten, and even though there were only three participants and two kittens, I didn’t win. In this slice, I recount a story from high school where I get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is still a draft, as I need to turn it into a narrative with the appropriate dialogue, action, and thought to carry the story.

During high school, I was friends with a girl named Kim, who I met through our joint venture on a competitive dance team. Kim’s parents were divorced; she and her younger sister lived with their mother in New Jersey, while their father resided in Chicago. Kim spent time in both locations, so she was a savvy traveler. As a drama queen, she wanted to pursue dance professionally, and was drawn to the theater as well. She also possessed an air of sophistication, and was fiercely independent. During the summer of 1977, when we were nearing our junior year in high school, our paths crossed more closely as we were nominated to lead our dance team for an upcoming competition. Between her worldliness and my teenage rebellion, we were trouble.

NYGraphicBecause we only lived twenty miles outside of New York, most of us were fortunate to enjoy the sights and artistry of the city. My aunt treated me to the ballet and the theater, my dad to sporting events and my older cousin to concerts. So it didn’t take me long to agree with Kim when suggested we head into the city to try and see “The King and I.” At fifteen and sixteen, we had it all figured out. I told my parents that Kim’s older cousin was going to take us, so we would be with an adult. Kim’s mother, who was a bit more hip, gave Kim permission as long as we took her younger sister, who was twelve going on twenty – shocking, I know. The three of us, along with another friend, hopped on a bus and into Port Authority to begin our adventure. Mind you, this was the seventies, before Mayor Giuliani was elected and cleaned up 42nd street, so the sights and situation were slightly dangerous and less than ideal.

TimesSquareFirst stop, was to Times Square to the TKTS booth to scope out tickets for prized shows. Although there wasn’t anything available for “The King and I,” we did purchase balcony tickets to see “Chicago.” As show time drew near, we headed over to the theater and into our seats. From our view at the top, Lisa, the other friend,  swore she spotted Eric Clapton in the audience. We also noticed four open seats in the orchestra, that remained empty after the first act. During intermission, we headed down and slipped into the “open” seats.

ChicagoWhen the curtain rose during Act II, one single light illuminated a dark stage, and the person on stage announced “All the lights are out in the city!” The audience laughed, assuming it was part of the show. The actor shared again, “No. I’m not kidding. New York City is experiencing a major blackout. Please look to the ushers who will lead you out through the exit doors on the side.” The audience gasped in unison. A previous hushed crowd began speaking in louder whispers, slight panic in their voices. For some reason, the emergency lighting did not work, so little by little people began igniting lighters to guide the way.

King&IThe four of us held on together hand to shoulder in single file. Once out on the street, we discovered that bus service in and out of the city ceased. Port Authority was too dangerous, and at the moment, off the grid. We were definitely in a bind. Thinking quickly, we slipped into the St James Hotel, which was across the street near our theater. Luckily the pay phones were working, so Kim called her mother, who notified me that my mother was frantic! Oh boy, how was I going to get out of this one? She told us that her uncle was in the city, singing at a night club. As soon as he could retrieve his car, he would pick us up.
DailyNewsMeanwhile a small crown was gathering in the hotel lobby. As it turned out, many members from the cast of “The King and I,” were staying at the hotel. Putting on their usual, the “show must go on faces,” they led us in songs from the show! What a treat. Although my nerves were shot, fearing what awaited me at home, my spirit soared in singing those show tunes. There may have been mayhem on the streets with unnecessary looting and crime, but inside the cocoon of the St James Hotel, we were serenaded and nurtured into calm.

NYCBlackoutA few hours later, Kim’s uncle picked us up. The eeriest sight was the view of the New York skyline blacked out against the summer sky, as we emerged from the helix of the Lincoln Tunnel. Instead of bringing us home, he took us to another club in New Jersey to visit a friend! The party continued until I got home and faced the music from my parents. Just another teenage angst to add to the story of my life.

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for providing the opportunity to engage with this amazing community of writers!


Sacred Seeds #SOL17


Sacred Seeds

Pine cones beckon me on Maine morning
Rising early, I head out to the dock
Inspired by the possibilities – 
a gift, a sacred quest…

Gazing deeply into the new born day,
I scribble in my journal – 
just words,
just lines…

Until I land on something sweet, or sentimental, or surprising
Seeds of an idea emerge
Waiting for me to discover its meaning
My meaning – my purpose – my truth