Affirmation of Affirmations

Recently, I listened to Jon Acuff’s new book, Soundtracks. It’s a fun book to listen to and gave me a lot to think about as I continue my own process of change. The technique he describes in working to change our thoughts involves choosing new thoughts and practicing these new thoughts by repeating them aloud morning and evening for at least 30 days.

I have been struggling to reach a particular student since school began this year. He is a fourth grader with K/1 literacy skills. He has mastered every avoidance trick in the book and uses distractions to derail lessons. Finally, I split his group and am seeing him 1:1. At first, it was the same. I felt like I spent the entire time redirecting him–trying every trick I knew to keep him on task.

However, on October 13, 2022 things changed. I decided to apply what I had learned in Soundtracks with this student. At the beginning of the lesson, I took out a mirror and had him repeat the words, “I am a reader. I can do this.” We had a successful lesson. At the end, I had him repeat again, “I am a reader. I can do this.”

As we walked to class on October 14, he asked, “Are we going to do that mirror thing?”

I said, “Do you want to do that mirror thing?”


Every day since, we begin and end each lesson with the mirror and his affirmations. Today we added, “I can learn new things.” So far, that’s 7 consecutive days of affirmation and successful reading lessons.

For the first time in his life, he completed a “chapter” book. Yes, it was decodable and yes, it had six short chapters. To him, it was still a chapter book. I was so proud of him and glad that he responded to the words, “I am a reader.”

Today, when I picked him up, he was on the carpet. Reading.

Getting Coached

I signed up for life coaching after receiving some great writing coaching from Jen Laffin of TeachWrite ( At the beginning, I didn’t really know how life coaching would help me, but I knew there was work I could do to become the person and writer I want to be. I was willing to try.

The last few days I started to spiral into my annual mid-summer funk. Not pleasant. Typically, my funk accelerates in July when there is more unstructured time than I am used to. I become overwhelmed with the possibilities of what I could accomplish. The long-awaited “free time” in the summer becomes a curse. There are so many possible directions that I end up sitting on the couch with a book or my ball of yarn and knitting needles. Those are not bad ways to spend time, but this is the time of year for. . .

I began to write in my journal to process some of the thoughts that kept swirling around in my head. As I wrote, I saw a familiar pattern. I was engaging in the “luxury of confusion!” If I stayed in a state of indecision, I wouldn’t have to commit to a goal or specific project.

I realized that in my coaching sessions I’d been taught some pretty powerful writing practices to work through times like this. Practices such as writing by hand without any judging or comparing to others, asking a few simple questions:


Working through thoughts has power to change feelings. I learned that there is a recursive process at work in our brains all the time. We have a thought (which may or may not be true). The thought produces a feeling which leads to an action. The actions we take lead to results. If we don’t like the results, we can work backwards. What result do I want? What actions will that require? What will it feel like? How are the thoughts different when you begin with the end in mind?

These are not new concepts, but practicing them in a focused, intentional way has brought about change. I’m now writing my way out of my mid-summer funk. I know that it will be worth it to put these few words on the page. If only to enjoy the fact of having done it.

Poetry Friday

July 1, 2022

A writing prompt from James Crews inspired this small poem. It is an early draft of a memory that has come often to me in recent weeks. Perhaps a longing for a more innocent world is the ground these words rest on.


Summers before air conditioning
slowed down time.
I sat on the hot pavement,
careful not to burn my bare legs.
I wore my short red sunsuit and
navy blue KEDS (you know the ones
with the square rubber toes).
Too hot to play,
we spent hours popping the black tar bubbles
that only emerged on the hottest days.
“Pffft,” they popped, a sound
so satisfying to my four-year old ears
listening for the popsicle man.

I hope your summer has some lazy days to just be.

Thank you to all the Poetry Friday Poets and to Janice Scully at Salt City Verse for the Poetry Round-up today.

It Seems Like Forever…

It’s been a very long time since I posted here, but as I’m sitting here, I can hear a woodpecker, the conversation of crows, and the little chirps of wrens and sparrows. It feels good to slow down for a few moments and appreciate the beauty of spring in Virginia. The setting sun illuminates the many shades of fresh green leaves against the blue sky. I’m grateful.

Some months ago, I wrote an article that was published in the Virginia State Literacy Association’s new online journal, The Collection. The topic was how I came to make peace with “the reading wars.”

The story I want to tell here, however, is not of the debate in the reading world, but a small story of friendship. It’s a story of a teacher who cares for other teachers as much as she cares for her students.

When I retired, the pandemic lockdown was only a few months along. I needed a way to bring closure to my teaching experience. While talking with my friend, Sally Donnelly (who writes here), she suggested that I write to process this transition in my life. Weeks went by. Finally, I had a draft which she volunteered to read. She gave me feedback, and I revised and then revised some more. Later, she sent me the call for proposals for the new VSLA publication and encouraged me to submit my article.

I had never submitted my writing anywhere except here on this blog. Sally’s encouragement helped me extend my reach. More time passed. I assumed that my article was in a rejection pile, but finally I was informed that it had been accepted for publication. Another round of edits and revision followed.

Another month or two passed. One morning, I got an email from Sally with the link to The Collection. I saw my name in print! It felt so good.

Later that week, Sally and I met for dinner. Very quickly, she excitedly pulled out a print version of The Collection. She turned to the Table of Contents, put her finger down, and said, “Now sign it.” Sally gave me my own “Dot Moment” which I will never forget. I felt like Vashti, whose attempt at art was celebrated by a wise teacher.

Whose work can you celebrate? Reread THE DOT, by Peter Reynolds and consider whose creative spirit you could nurture. You can make a difference like Sally did for me.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this space to share our stories.


I’m hearing the word “witness” in many places these days. Sometimes people use it when describing a horror they have witnessed. Other times, it’s the wonder one feels at being able to see something unexpected or extraordinary. It’s the latter experience I will try to share.

I play the organ for my church congregation. The way the chapel is set up, I sit behind the podium where the speakers stand. It was from this vantage point that I was a witness to a tender moment I won’t soon forget.

Mary (name changed) is a tall, slender, 17-year old with cranberry red hair who sings like an angel. She is the middle child in a family with five children. Nathan (name changed), her younger brother, is also a tall, slender 14 or 15-year old. Due to the pandemic, I hadn’t heard them sing in nearly two years. In fact, the last time I heard Nathan sing, he was still a soprano. I was pleasantly surprised now to hear his rich baritone voice.

Sunday, they stood at the podium ready to sing a duet. As they listened to their mother play the introduction, Mary reached for Nathan’s hand. At first, he squirmed his hand away, but when she reached again, he held her hand. The podium hid their hands so the congregation did not see what I saw. Mary and Nathan didn’t let go through all four verses of the song.

As the song progressed, Mary became emotional and was having difficulty singing without crying. She squeezed his hand. With a quick glance, Nathan continued and sang Mary’s solo part giving her time to regain her composure. I learned later that Mary’s grandmother who was in attendance would be starting chemotherapy the next day. Her cancer had returned with a vengeance and her prognosis doesn’t look good. No wonder it was hard for Mary to sing.

This expression of family love touched me deeply. I am grateful to have been a witness.

Poetry Friday, August 27, 2021

Poetry Friday is hosted by Elisabeth. Drop by and visit here.

One of the blessings of the past year has been the opportunity to participate in poetry classes via Zoom. One of these was a 6-part series called Poetry of Resilience that was hosted by James Crews and Danusha Lameris. I have become very fond of them as poets, thinkers, and teachers.

This week I have been thinking about my experiences with poem writing. I am a novice, at best, but with each poem I write, I gain a little confidence. Poetry is something that is a private practice to me. I read and write it mostly by myself, and haven’t shared my poems very widely. I’ve never had a desire to be published, or to enter a contest, but I’m happy to have this small space in the universe to try out a few thoughts.


Walking beaches
and country lanes

Climbing mountains
and city hills

Circling the track
and neighborhood block

Strolling along rivers
and wandering forests

Always looking
Always searching
Always listening

Starting to believe
the poem
in me.

DRAFT, 8-27-21

Summer Poems

Today my poem is in response to a challenge given to write a summer poem. So many poems celebrate the glories of summer. It was humbling to try to add my words. I kept thinking of the quote attributed to Albert Camus:

“My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

Truly yours,
Albert Camus”

The idea of an invincible summer appealed to me when I first came across these words nearly 50 years ago. I thought of summer memories and images I’ve loved over the years which have lived in me as my own points of strength. In addition, I love the form of the Praise Poem which I learned from Glenis Redmond. (You can read her lesson here). These thoughts came together in the poem which follows.

Invincible Summer

I am summer.
I am a cobalt blue damselfly
Darting here and there.
I am a lonely creek
Meandering through the hemlock-dark hollow.
I am a red-winged blackbird
Perched as a sentinel over the meadow.
I am a tiny Deptford Pink flower hidden in grasses
And secretly plucked by young lovers.
I am the slow winding down of hot
Summer days–
Sunsets that last for hours.
I am August’s crescent moon
Smiling as nature’s night songs lull
Children to sleep.
I am summer.

Marilyn G. Miner DRAFT
August 13, 2021

Thank you to all the poets who share their poems here, and to Christie Wyman, who is hosting today at

Self-talk of a Mosquito

As a child I practically lived outside in the summer. We had no air conditioning then so we survived by staying outside. I remember getting mosquito bites, but it was no big deal. Sadly, in recent years, mosquito bites have become a big deal producing huge welts and frantic itching that even awakens me from sleep. So imagine my indignation when I was attacked by a mosquito the other night as I slept.

I thought of this incident when Christie Wyman (you can find her here) challenged a small group of poets to write a poem from another’s perspective. At first, I found it difficult to think of an object, a character, or a person whose perspective I could take. Then, I started scratching again and my topic became clear. Here is a draft of that poem:

Self-Talk of a Mosquito

You know,
I’ve been through a lot already in my life.
I’ve escaped dragonflies from above
and fish from below.
Now it’s my turn to feast.
Oh my…I’ve caught you sleeping.
Where should I begin?
First, let me just slide in here
Between your fingers…
This skin is thin—such a tender, delicate spot.
Here come the scratchers.
That was fast.
I’d better move on.
What about that sleek forearm
or the squishy spot on your tricep?
Can I possibly penetrate those tense, tight trapezius muscles?
I’m going to try. Here goes!
Good thing you’re still sleeping and don’t notice my voice.
This muscle is tough, but
you won’t miss the tiny bit of blood I take.
You’ll know I’ve been here
By the spit I leave behind.
It’s just a little anticoagulant to thin your delicious blood.
Scratching again? Scratching still?
Antihistamines, I’ve heard, might help.
Thank you.
You’ve been a most gracious host.

August 4, 2021

Many thanks to this week’s hostess, Mary Lee. You can find her roundup on her blog, A(nother) Year of Reading. I hope you will join us for reading, writing, commenting, and celebrating Poetry Friday!

By the Window, an ekphrastic poem

The old trellis

leans against the time-weathered window.

Rudbeckia crowds reach their faces upward–

their brown gumdrop centers

encircled by petals like yellow sun rays.

These bursting blooms endure across years and shout

Even when

No one lingers to witness such glory.

May I pass by and stop.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Molly at Be sure to stop by and enjoy a bit of summertime poetry!


My husband will eat anything (except scallops=allergy!). He has only one request when I cook. “Make lots of it.” It doesn’t matter what “it” is. He’s eaten my best cooking and my worst cooking. It’s either “good” or I hear, “It was fine, but maybe next time…”

Over nearly 46 years of marriage, my interest and motivation in cooking has gradually diminished. I would rather spend my time doing other things. Without kids at home anymore, I haven’t had much motivation. With the pandemic, we have fallen into survival level food. Take-out has been more frequent (curbside pickup is so tempting), and my cooking has been very basic.

Enter 16-year old granddaughter, Samantha. She is living with us for a few months and being a nanny for our new grandson–her cousin, Peter. This has been a very happy summer for me with her in my home. When I knew she would be coming to stay, my biggest anxiety was dinner.

“I’m going to have to remember how to cook again!” I said to my sister. Daily dinner seemed like a big challenge.

Imagine me going back and forth the five paces between kitchen and dining room as I put plates, forks, salt, and napkins on the table. A big bowl of shrimp pasta salad and a bowl of watermelon chunks were in the center.

“I’m so excited!” she said.

“Why?” (I assumed she would tell me about an activity she was invited to go on.)

“For this salad!”

“Oh! I hope it’s good!”

It really is the little things that matter. I have loved having Samantha with us, and I found that my pleasure in making food has increased. I don’t even mind doing the dishes. And that says a lot.

Stories from my life, Tuesdays and every day in March. Thank you Two Writing Teachers.