Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Where I'm Really From

Where I Am Really From

By Jillian Grimsley

I used to tell people that my dad’s stage name was David Copperfield.

That made me feel better about him being a magician.

Cutting people in half for a living was a little embarrassing -

Unless your dad was a doctor,

Like all the other kids in my neighborhood.

No one else’s dad had a profession like mine.

We didn’t have a beach house like Liza, or a lake house like April

Nope, we just had one house - a funhouse.

Two pinball machines beeping away in the bonus room

A real antique telephone booth tucked in a corner of the living room

A fake hand propped up in the attic window,

Frightening people as they walked by

Thinking someone was trapped up there.

No one else had household decorations like mine.

Everyone else in my class had a dog, maybe a cat.

We had two white doves, Hocus and Pocus.

The perpetual cooooooo cooooooo coooooing

That emanated from the garage

Was more unpleasant than the noise made by a weed eater.

Houdini the white rabbit wasn’t much better

(granted I’m not an animal person)

But his beady red eyes and pellet like poops

Always left me feeling uneasy.

I think he had a lot of rage built up

From being crammed in the fake bottom of that box

All those years for dad’s magic shows.

No one else had family pets like mine.

During the summers, the family business boomed

So everyone in the family had to help out.

I would take turns making the snow cones for sweaty faced customers

Crushing the ice in the loud angry grinder

Scooping a perfect shaved sphere with a ladle

Striping the top with red and blue syrup.

It sounds okay, but you don’t know what sticky means

Until you’ve worked a snow cone booth.

By high school I swore I would be fine

If I never saw another snow cone again.

No one else had summer jobs like mine.

I have to concede – our birthday parties were the best in town

Bouncing for hours on a red and blue moonwalk

Or sliding down an inflatable water slide taller than our house

Or watching Tom Hanks play the giant piano in Big

On a theater-sized screen in beach chairs lined up in the driveway

Eating salty fresh popped popcorn and clouds of pink cotton candy

Deep purple snow cone syrup staining our tongues for days.

No one else had birthday parties like mine.

Everyone else in my class had boring family dinners

With normal small talk conversations about school projects and papers.

I quickly learned that my friends couldn’t wait to come over to my funhouse,

Where we all told stories and jokes at dinner simultaneously

And even though she wasn’t wearing sequins –

One time my mom even threw us the rolls from the kitchen.

It was a culinary circus with three rings.

No one else had family dinners like mine.

When I was little

I said that when I grow up

I want to be a teacher and a part time clown.

I think I made this decision because

My parents taught me the value of working hard

Of learning and studying

But also the importance of having fun

And laughing and playing

Until you fall asleep

A big snow cone smile stuck to your face.

No one else had a childhood like mine.

True, I may not be able to juggle flaming clubs

And my classroom doesn’t have a cotton candy machine–

But I love being able to clown around with my students

And help them to understand

That it’s okay to be silly

That learning can be fun.

No one else has a job as magical as mine.

Except maybe my dad.

Where I'm From

I Am From a House in the Mountains

By Jillian Grimsley

I am from a house in the mountains

Where leaves never stay the same color long,

Sweet tea is always in the fridge,

And front porches are rarely empty.

I am from a house that was the picture of Southern hospitality,

Where black shutters batted like Scarlett O’Hara’s eyelashes,

Where lush green hanging ferns sheltered the fragile lives of baby birds

Where the white wicker porch swing rocked in time

With the lazy rhythm of watermelon afternoons.

I am from a homemade house

Dinner’s on the table at 6:00 house

It’s not a dinner unless you have three side items house

Fresh corn and green beans and hashbrown casserole house

Leave room for a piece of cream cheese pound cake house

A house my mom filled as full of food as she did with love.

I am from a house full of strong women

A home where the girls outnumbered my dad four to one –

Five to one if you count Lucy the yellow lab

Katie loved her Barbies, Erin loved her stuffed bear in the pink pajamas

I loved to fix their hair, paint their nails, boss them around

and pretend I was their mommy.

I am from a house where the empowered sounds

Of the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain taught me that I have a voice

Where choppy chords from my first Fender guitar took shape

At first behind my closed bedroom door

Then a requirement at every family gathering and holiday.

I am from a house that watched me learn

All about American History and Calculus and The Count of Monte Cristo

How to serve a volleyball over the net in the backyard

To never wait by the phone for a boy to call

To put your own plate in the dishwasher after dinner.

I am from a house that included held hands and blessings before meals

Nighttime prayers, Bible verses on the dashboard of the car

An I know the plans I have for you declaring kind of home

A foundation that I’ve built my life upon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I haven't been writing much for my personal blog lately - mostly because I've been spending 8 hours a day reading and writing as a participant in the Upstate Writing Project.

So far I've written lots and lots of poems, started a mystery, drafted a professional piece (crossing my fingers to get chosen to submit for publication!), called my Nana to get stories from her life for a narrative poetry book (a la Out of the Dust - but happier), outlined a trickster tale, and collected snippets for about 186 ideas for various stories.

I am a writing fool.

Okay, mostly a fool.

Last Friday we went on a field trip to Flat Rock, North Carolina to visit Connemara - Carl Sandburg's Estate. Everyone else was writing poems about leaves and flowers and trees.

Being the stubborn individual I am, I was determined to find inspiration in a different place.

Here's what I came up with:


Dirt –

The carpet showcase of the forest floor

Where seeds snuggle into squares

Of burnt sienna berber

And sandy plush pile

Cushions the hooves of baby deer

Taking their first fumbling steps.

Leaves don’t mind falling headfirst

Into this cozy cinnamon carpet

A lovely place to nap

In the dappled rays of the autumn sun.

Tufts of tawny espresso give energy to

The swiping paw of the black bear,

The swishing tail of the rust red fox,

The busy bustlings of red ant architects.

Finer than any Persian rug

Is the mahogany topsoil that comforts a fallen oak

Providing a peaceful place

For proud old limbs to be put to rest.

Dark black loam cradles

Blushing pink earthworms

That weave a complex pattern

From decaying ground,

Transforming old life into new.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Song Saturday #12 - My new favorite song

My friend Darsey always listens to cool new music. I used to love it when she was my roommate because she'd pass it on to me, and then I felt cool, too.

When she came this weekend on a visit from her new hometown of Portland, Darsey brought me a CD by up and comer Lucy Schwartz called Life in Letters. She said that every time she heard the title track, number 5, she thought of me, which I love, because this is exactly the song I want to be identified with!

The A,B,C part makes me think of being a teacher, how there's nothing better in the world than the sound of pencils scratching on paper and no greater sight than a sea of waving hands, just itching to be called on.

Living your life in letters totally makes me think of my new life as a writer, how I see and experience everything in the context of telling a story. This is the kind of identity I want to share with my students - to give them the power of having a voice, of having something to say.

The sensational clapping makes me think of happiness and car dancing and getting high fives. It makes me smile.

It's my new favorite song, natch.

Give 'er a listen.

I know you, with your heart of blue
You take your troubles and release the sound
Into the open, up from the ground
These words unspoken, you sing aloud

Words can be strong, like the beating drum
Like ten thousand voices that call together
A is the ailment, and B makes it better
C is creating your life in letters

Life in letters
Life in letters

So take me back, I have lost the path
I need to recover this life you lead
Sing when I’m broken and I’ll sing when I’m free
Sing for the world and then sing just for me

We are just stories, so here’s mine to tell
Give my heart freely, hope you keep it well
A is the ailment, and B makes it better
C is creating your life in letters

Life in letters
Life in letters

A B C, B C
Come on set me free

Life in letters
Life in letters

Saturday, June 11, 2011

friends with big heARTs

I will not leave you as orphans.
I will come to you.
John 14:18-

"We can't take any credit for our talents.
It's how we use them that counts."
- Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time

One of the biggest gifts that teachers have is time off during the summers.

Some spend that time investing in their families. Some do professional development by attending conferences, workshops, and seminars. Some get second jobs. Some respond to a nudge from God to go out into the world and serve people living in other countries.

I am so proud to say that my dear friends Mollye Crowell and Bethany Rountree are in that last category, a special one to be sure.

You may remember seeing horrifying pictures of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that happened just outside Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, in January of last year. It killed tens of thousands of people and left countless children orphaned. With all of the other natural disasters that have taken place since then, the media blitz about helping Haiti has faded - but the situation there still remains grim.

Mollye and Bethany are currently en route to Canaan Orphanage in Montrouis, Haiti, a special community that takes care of and educates over 100 children, many of whom were orphaned by the 2010 earthquake.

While they are at Canaan, Mollye and Bethany will be teaching art to these precious children - children that simply don't have the opportunities or the resources to express themselves creatively.

I can't imagine how powerful it will be to watch a three year old's eyes light up when he draws a fat, wobbly line with a bright blue marker. Or seeing a ten year old girl discover her creative potential through watercolor painting. Or seeing a sad and lonely middle school boy become transformed by an unknown talent for drawing.

God is at work through Mollye and Bethany, through Canaan Orphanage, and through art. I can't wait to see and hear about all the work He accomplishes this summer because of their willingness to go, to serve, and to love on God's children.

If you want to follow Mollye and Bethany on their journey, check out their blog:

Now I know:
My friends have big heARTs.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Song Saturday #11

The moment has come.

The moment teachers all over the good old US of A (or at least good old Greenville County Schools) have been waiting for.

Drum roll, please..............
It is officially the first day of summer vacation!!!!

(Yes, I'm doing that annoying thing where you whisper "aaaahhhh" in your hands to make it sound like the roar of a crowd).

Anyway, in light of this free, joyful, no papers-to-grade moment - my Saturday song choice was a total no-brainer!

My favorite lyric is: I'm so happy/like the first day of summer vacation/happy/wanna get some rest and relaxation/happy/like the choir on Sunday morning, sweet and true

But the kicker is, I'm not actually taking a vacation this summer. I'll be writing curriculum for Greenville County for two weeks, participating in the Upstate Writing Project for the month of June, presenting at the Upstate Technology Conference, and doing the SmartArts arts integration workshop the last week in July.

I know, I'm geeking out.


I'm still happy.


Happy, by Martin Sexton

You and I here all alone
Sunday morning here at home
The sky is blue as the coffee’s strong
It’s true
But then I open my eyes
To this dream realized
In front of me
Oh and I haven’t got a clue
What in the world is happening to me

I think I’m happy
Like the first day of summer vacation
Happy when I get some rest and relaxation
Happy like the choir on Sunday morning
Sweet and true

Oo sister when you cook that way
Sweet distraction rules the day
The kitchen table honey just might break
To the sound of you and I rockin our bodies

I don’t understand why I wasn’t your lover man
A hundred years ago
The fellas are gonna have to understand
And tip their hats to the man who scored

Hot damn I’m so happy
Like lovin you all night long
Happy and sleeping on our front lawn
Happy like hearing my favorite song on the radio

Take me to the bridge

Cuz I’ve been round this world a hundred times
And I never knew love could happen this way
I think of you so often and I know that you are
Thinking of me too
That makes me so happy

Happy like the first day of summer vacation
Happy apple pie and relaxation
Like peace all round the world we’re living on