Dear Readers…

Confession time…

It is probably obvious that I have been struggling with blogging over the last few years.

Near full-time teaching (up until last June), combined with my own and family illnesses, a son’s near fatal injury, and my father’s death finally culminated in a diagnosis of Follicular Lymphoma last spring, March 2018.

Bad News, Good News

Of course the bad news of having cancer was that I have cancer.

However, the good news was that follicular lymphoma is one of the most survivable forms of cancer and, with treatment, most patients die of other causes.

The other good news was that my husband and I agreed it was time for me to retire from full-time work. Those of you who know me well, know I have been writing novels and short stories my entire adult life; I even got a few stories published with Cricket Magazine and a few other publishers of short works. Now, I thought, I can finish my novels and embark on an expanded writing career.


Crash! Through the late summer, fall, and winter, sinus infection followed sinus infection, cold followed cold, and asthma attack followed asthma attack. I felt so tired and discouraged, I both lacked the energy and didn’t trust myself to write a word of fiction, my first love.

Reading, Writing, & Counseling Changed My Life

Fortunately, our health plan covers counseling as part of its cancer treatment program. I cried and cried and cried through the first few appointments. I will spare you the gory details.

I talked about my life ranging from when I was a very small child to the present. Exasperated with myself for not just focusing on the cancer and how it was impacting my life here and now, I asked my wonderful counselor is this was normal. Do cancer patients often talk about their whole lives? It turns out we often do. Facing mortality, heck, just facing the big C stirs up a lot of stuff.

My counselor encouraged me to keep a hand-written journal (something I haven’t done in a very long time; I switched to digital journaling about the time I started this blog), so I did as instructed.

I researched articles about what I was feeling and experiencing, in an effort to understand myself—who I was and who I am becoming. Slowly the all the bits and pieces of my struggles started to fit into place.

Hope Reborn

Through this process I am beginning to reconnect to the creative person I have always been, but who has felt buried by the “slings and arrows of life” and my very own coping strategies for dealing with them.

I have been thinking about how these changes will impact Literate Lives. I confess, I have seriously considered shuttering it completely. However, as I heal both emotionally and physically I find I do not want to.

What I do want to do is connect more authentically and less “professionally.” Being a professional teacher has dominated my life for twenty years, and I am realizing, now I am retired from teaching, that this no longer needs to be so.

Yes, I will still blog on Reading and Language Arts topics. I am passionate about helping parents and teachers to nurturing young people’s love of reading and writing. However, it is likely these will share more of the stage with posts on the creative, inspiring, and fulfilling aspects of a reading, writing, and journaling life. (You will find the same mix on my Facebook page: Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author.)

And, oh yes, I have finally got back to work on that novel I was trying to complete in the fall. I finished drafting the last chapter last month. Now, on to revision and editing.

My blog posts may not flow as regularly as they once did, but even when I’m not posting, I am thinking about you, my readers, making notes, and dreaming of where I will take us in the future.

Thank you for not giving up on me!

Your Turn

Reading and writing, creativity and inspiration will always be critical parts of my literate lifestyle. In the comment box below, please consider sharing the role they play in your life. Is this role evolving? How? Let’s encourage one another!

Happy National Poetry Month! Enjoy These Resources

Happy National Poetry Month! Enjoy These Resources: Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives
This month I have dipped into the archives to gather the poetry prompts I have provided over the years. Whether you are a teacher, poet, or journal writer, enjoy these prompts. For the seasonal ones, like the first, you may need to make some independent choices. Be creative. Have fun. Rock your words!

autumn-metaphor-poemPlay With Your Words: An Autumn Metaphor Poem

Teachers and students alike are back in the classroom. No matter what grade level, literary devices are probably being taught or reviewed. Some key ones include metaphor and the use of sensory details. Craft this autumn metaphor poem to exercise these skills and capture the essence of autumn.

Farewell ’15: Write a Poem of Remembrance

Just think of a moment–this week, this month, maybe this season–that you’d like to hang onto. Your poem doesn’t have to rhyme or have a beat. However, if you love rhyme schemes and meter–play away!

“aab…” Poetry Mystery Form–Try It!

The basic unit of the form is a stanza consisting of a couplet (two rhyming lines) followed by a single unrhymed line.

Tree BlossomApril is National Poetry Month–A New Haiku

The Wonders of Haiku and what you may or may not already know about the form.

Play With Your Words: Three Minute Poems

Savor the turning of the season. Go outside. Write three three-minute poems.

130001114Vacation Poetry Inspiration: Mount Rainier National Park

I have just returned from a trip to Mount Rainier where every experience was fodder for a poem. If you are a writer, or you want to encourage your children’s literacy skills, take pen or pencil and notebooks on vacation and pause to write. Try these easy poetry forms: haiku, list poem, or concrete poem.

wooded path 7.13My Most Visited Writing Prompt Ever: The Essence of Summer Poetry Haiku

The graduation ceremonies are winding down, I haven’t had to wear socks for weeks, and this next Friday will be the last day of school. Go somewhere you love, soon, and write some summer haiku’s.

Write Your Life—In Short Form

I have recently adopted a short form of journaling—the haiku. Capture some snapshots of your life.

Who am I? Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

It’s the beginning of another school year—time to get to know your students and to warm them up to writing by having them write about themselves. Thus, the “Who am I?” poem, a poetry template that uses the list poem format to write a description of self. Using the template, write your poem leaving one line of space between each stanza. Revise, edit, and share.

The Essence of Summer: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Capture the essence of summer’s outdoor world by writing a haiku. Think about several of your outdoor experiences this summer. Choose an image to focus on in you haiku. The most simplistic American haiku form is the 5-7-5 pattern, but You can choose to vary your syllables and their spread over the three lines or reduce your haiku to the least number of syllables possible without losing its meaning.

The Essence of Summer: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt Revisited

I found just the right words for summer at Mom’s, and even words for reentry into daily life when I got home. I’ll share them. Then, review the steps for the Essence of Summer haiku and write your memories or farewells to this sweet season, or perhaps your welcome to the new school year and fall. Includes, “Mom’s Hummingbird Feeder,” “Pinecrest,” and “Reentry.”

A Day in the Life…Narrative Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

Write a story, from the point-of-view of a possession you carry with you every day. Give your possession its own style. Have fun with this prompt.

Warning!!! Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a poem that both honors the spirit of summer and includes a health or safety warning. Have fun with it. If you’d like, make a poster and upload it. I’ll make sure it appears here on the blog as well as on my Pinterest board.

Summer is Fig Lang ExerciseSummer is—Figuratively Speaking: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

Practice using figurative language. Complete the pre-write exercise then write a richly descriptive paragraph using sensory imagery and figurative language to describe summer.

Summer Dreams and Plans: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a poem about your dreams and plans for the summer. Post includes instructions for brainstorming, drafting, and revising, and links to information about free verse and sound effects in writing.

Poetic Advice not Taken: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a poem based on A.E. Housman’s “When I was 0ne-and-twenty. Focus on word choice, the sound and fluency of the poem, and of course on the concept of advice not taken.

A Pair of Quatrains/Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

How is your day? Write a pair of quatrains describing your April 20, 2012.

Poem a Day Challenge: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

April is National Poetry Month and Writer’s Digest is running a “poem a day” challenge. Day 1’s assignment? Write a communication poem.

Write about Your Favorite Song: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

Write a short essay explaining the meaning of your favorite song. Practice using quotation marks and proper punctuation while doing this. Punctuating quotes examples included.

A Pre-write for a Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

When writing a poem about an object, feeling, or idea it is challenging to find something new to say. However, a little pre-writing can provide you with a list of vivid associations and images to draw on that will make your poem uniquely your own. Decide on a topic for your poem and then follow these steps.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Musical Muse

Musical Muse: Freewrite to instrumental music then go back over what you’ve written and highlight what you like best. Use the highlighted bits, and add to them if you wish, to write a poem. Revise your poem for sound and share. Optional preschool activity included.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Datebook Poem

Datebook Poem: Write a poem in the form of date book entries representing your goals, hopes and or dreams for the coming year.

Write a Current Event Poem/Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a Current Event Poem: Find an article in a newspaper, news magazine or  news website. Write a poem inspired by what you read.

 Inner Landscape Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Inner Landscape Poem: For this month’s poetry prompt, you are to write a poem that describes the landscape inside you—in your mind, your heart, your spirit. Use sensory details. Show how this landscape relates to who you are. Revise, edit, and share.

Self-Metaphor Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

The Self-Metaphor Poem is a poem that describes the inner and outer you. The Self-Metaphor Poem is composed of two parts. The first part details who we are in the world, and the second part consists of an extended metaphor for the person you are inside. Here’s how to write one.

A Summer Metaphor Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Happiness is a Warm Puppy, by Charles Schultz, is an example of a book based on a collection of metaphors. Collect your own metaphors to write a “Summer is…” metaphor poem.Look for a pattern in your collection. Select items that go well together to create a “Summer is…” poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: I Hear America Singing

Read Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” Write a free verse or structured poem celebrating something you love about life in the United States of America.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: A Snapshot from Your Future

Imagine a “perfect moment” this summer. Write a poem in the past tense describing it as though it has already happened.Mom and Marie Capitola Edited

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: “A Picture of My Mother”

Find a picture of your mom. List a bunch of words or phrases you associate with this photo. Use your list to write a poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: What Is…? Poems

Learn how to write a “What is…?” Poem, and write a poem that only you can write. Web or brainstorm topics, web or brainstorm descriptions, and write your poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: List Poems to Capture Your Life

Writing a list poem is a good way to process your life. How to write a list poem: Choose a topic; brainstorm ideas that relate to the topic; choose the ones you want to use in the poem; decide the order in which you wish to present them; write your poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #8—Farewell Poem

Write a Farewell poem. Characteristics of a Farewell poem are: It is written as though its audience is the person, place, or thing the author is saying good-bye to. It is written as a means of saying good-bye, be it permanently or only for a time to the subject about whom it is written.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Free Verse

Write a free verse poem. Use sound effects of poetry and line breaks for poetic effect.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Patterned Poem

Write a poem that plays off the pattern of a poem or song you like. Use the built-in repetitions of the model poem or song to establish the organizational framework for your poem.

Play with Your Words! Poetry Prompt: Poetry Poker

To play poetry poker, you need to collect words, and build yourself a “deck” of words. Shuffle your deck, draw cards from it, and use the words you drew to craft a poem.

Play with Your Words! Poetry Prompt: Six-Pack Poem

Using observation, recall, and note taking, craft a Six Pack Poem.

Your Turn

Playing with your words is a fun and critical part of a literate lifestyle.

Do you have a favorite poetry prompt? If so, please share it in the comment box below? Have you tried one of these prompts? Feel free to share that as well.

Together we can both celebrate  National Poetry Month and create a great resource list for each other and those who find us.

Don’t be shy; let’s encourage one another!

Get Ready for a Celebration: April is National Poetry Month

Get Ready for a Celebration: April is National Poetry Month;


National Poetry Month is almost here, a time to celebrate the beauty, wonder, and wild exuberance of words and poetic forms both for reading pleasure and personal expression.

How might you enjoy National Poetry Month?

There are many ways to savor poetry this month. Your first stop might be your own bookshelves. What about that little volume on friendship your best pal gave you? How about those dusty textbooks from college? If a few years have intervened since your last reading, you might encounter something completely new and unexpected, or long beloved. (Shakespeare’s Sonnets, anyone?)

Consider an outing to the library. National Poetry Month is when volumes of poetry are often on display. Pick out a few that appeal to you. Sit down and sample some random pages. Check out one that “speaks” to your imagination, interests, or (dare-I-say) soul. And don’t forget the children’s section….

I will never forget the day my Mom discovered Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. She was a volunteer in my little sister’s elementary school library and brought the book home with her. When my brother and I got home, she told us we had to listen and read us a poem. I don’t remember which it was because we spent the rest of the afternoon passing the book around, reading, and roaring with laughter. (And please note, Silverstein is not the only author of humorous poetry, nor is the children’s section the only place you will find it. Talk to your librarian.)

Speaking of children, if you have any of your own or perhaps nephews, nieces, pupils… read poetry aloud to and with them. Children’s poetry covers an amazing range of subjects, and if you love long fiction, you can even select a novel in verse. (I just finished a great one, Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose.)

Young children especially love the bounce and swing of rhythm and rhyme. Read to them either from a collection of poems, nursery rhymes, or a picture book written in verse. (My all-time favorite rhyming read-aloud is Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat; and whether it is written in prose or not, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is pure poetry.) Either format is sure to delight. When done, get silly and have fun coming up with rhyming words together. This kind of verbal play is great for building pre-reading skills.

Got teens? Got lyrics? Rap is not the only form of music that is poetry based. Share with each other favorite lyrics from songs—rock, blues, show tunes, even. (They, too, are great for telling a story; I fell in love with Arthurian legend on the basis of the soundtrack for Camelot that my parents bought after seeing the play.) You don’t even have to sing; savor the magic of the spoken words alone.

Copy down or memorize favorite poems. I often have difficulty falling asleep, and just yesterday I remembered how soothing are the rhythms of “Sweet and Low” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and “Wynken Blynken and Nod” by Eugene Fields. Maybe this poetry month I’ll memorize one, or both, and recite them to myself as I’m seeking to drift off to sleep.

If you find a line you love, or even a whole poem, post it somewhere it can be appreciated. Thanks to sticky notes we’re not limited to refrigerators and bulletin boards. Or, gift little snippets of poetry to loved ones or friends.

And Write

Write poems. There is such a wide range of poetic forms to play with. You do not have to be a Shakespeare and write sonnets. You do not even have to write poems with meter or rhyme. Free verse is truly free. What matters with this form is the distillation of experience into well-chosen words. You steer your reader through the poem with your word choices, line lengths, line breaks, strategic repetition, and the echoes of well-placed rhyme or alliteration, and more. With free verse, even punctuation is up for grabs. (Remember e e cummings?)

Write a list poem, a letter poem, an observation of whatever you see outside your window.

Write a haiku, an acrostic, a limerick, and you musicians, write a song!

Write and share, and read and write some more. There is no more varied form with which to celebrate language and life than that of a poem.

(Note for teachers—here’s an oldie but goodie article from Edutopia: “Encouraging a Love of Poetry”)

How I’m going to celebrate National Poetry Month

I will continue my practice of capturing moments from my life in poetic forms. I love haiku, free verse, and the rhythm and rhyme of quatrains and couplets.

I may pull down the volume of Christina Rossetti I purchased because I love the Christmas song “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which is based one of her poems, and continue reading wherever I left off.

Also, I love the poetry of many hymns. Maybe, in addition to my personal “lullabies” I mentioned above, I will try to memorize all the verses of a few favorites starting with “Be Thou My Vision.”

And I hope to enjoy some read-alouds and giggles with my grands.

Your Turn

Poetry is one of the oldest forms of literature and an amazing means to appreciate language and our world. What are you going to do to celebrate National Poetry Month? Please use the comment box below to respond. Let’s encourage one another!

A Literate Lifestyle: Journaling and Me

A Literate Lifestyle: Jjournaling & me have always been somewhat of a journal keeper. I can remember in my senior year of high school (You know, when life was DRAMA) coming to the realization: “I think better with a pen in my hand” (and now-a-days, more likely a mechanical pencil).

Although, I was never a daily diarist, journaling as a life practice has held steady, even if sometimes a month or so elapsed between entries.

This past year journaling has exploded as a practice in my life, and I move into 2019 with a deep commitment to a diversity of forms of journaling, including:

  • basic, general journaling
  • working through a “Journey Journal”
  • maintaining a gratitude journal
  • using a hybrid bullet journal/planner

My Digital Journal

I do I basic, general journaling on my computer. In this journal I do the typical things like capture memories, plan, dream, work out my concerns… However, to this basic function, I have also added the recording of quotes, my responses to them, and correspondence between myself and family and friends (Once I’ve written something in a letter or email it seems redundant to write it again in my journal). The digital journal works particularly well for this; I love “copy” and “paste.”

My Journey Journal

 These last two years have been particularly filled with trials and seismic events. Life is irrevocably changed and will never be the same again. To process the impact of all this, I began my Journey Journal. I am using it to sit with and understand my emotions, explore the roots of ongoing issues, practice and build my resilience, and dream of the new horizons that lie ahead. Needless to say, I’ve been using my digital journal a lot less since starting this. 

My Gratitude Journal

My gratitude journal (pictured above) is a beautiful little book someone gifted me. (I am so sorry I do not remember who, but know, if it was you, I love it!) My gratitude practice stems from three sources, my faith and gratitude to God, my susceptibility to seasonal affective disorder and the value of gratitude in fighting depression, and my desire to capture the little things, as well as the big, that I value in my life.

Each day, I simply write in the date and “Thank you,” then write a brief bulleted list of things I am grateful for from the previous day—usually just 3. I love doing this. It is a real mood lifter. Despite my troubles or inner conundrums, it keeps me aware of how incredibly blessed I am (And it’s likely, so are you).

My Bullet Journal/Planner, or is it Planner/Bullet Journal?

During the months I have been ill, I did a LOT of online reading, and as is the case online, one blog post links to another, and another, and another, and I found myself exploring new and interesting things. One of them was bullet journaling, popularized by Ryder Caroll. Here is a little video.

Now I have used a planner ever since I started teaching and was required to keep an open, filled-out lesson book on my desk. I very quickly learned how handy it is to use a planner and have done so both personally and professionally ever since.

Bullet journaling, however, was a whole new world. The planning part blended well with my already developed planning instincts, but the discovery of decorative page spreads, trackers, reflection pages, and the wonderful omnibus of lists that could be incorporated… I was enchanted.

I immediately began practicing, using the disc-bound planner I had already purchased for 2018. I added dividers for sections instead of “indexing” –as by-the-book bullet journalers do, began experimenting with different forms of trackers, and have been following planner and bullet journaling blogs online and pinning oodles of inspirational images on Pinterest.

 This year I am making my own pages for last year’s disc binder. I finished the “Future Log” this week, and have weekly spreads in place for January and February, with templates for weekly spreads, and more on my computer. I love the creativity of making my own pages, and the efficiency of tracking what I need to do and have accomplished. (I especially love checking or tallying items off! There’s just this little kid inside of me who delights in a “showy” completion.)

Your Turn

  • What kinds of journaling or planning do you include in your literate lifestyle?
  • Do you hand draw or create digital bullet journal spreads?
  • Would you be willing to share pictures in the comments?

I look forward to hearing from you. Let’s encourage one another!

A Creative Advent Practice from Sybil Macbeth

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives: A Creative Advent Practice from Sybil MacbethI am so excited for this Advent season (the Christian church calendar’s four Sundays plus remaining days before Christmas) to begin!

Why? Because I am finally going to doodle one of Sybil Macbeth’s Advent calendars, and my mom, daughter, and granddaughter are going to do it too! We’re going to share our Advent creations Christmas Eve! (Please forgive the excess exclamation points; I truly am excited.)

Who is Sybil Macbeth?

If you are new to following Literate Lives, you may not be familiar with Macbeth and her book and blog, Praying in Color.

Reading Praying in Color revolutionized my prayer life. What Macbeth teaches and practices is prayer through drawing, writing, and coloring—essentially, mindful doodling.

For me, this practice has helped me to pray when I have more feelings than words to speak. Her drawing, coloring, writing practice has also helped me pray for longer amounts of time, stay focused, and pray with greater depth.

What is Sybil Macbeth’s Advent Practice?

At its most basic, Macbeth’s practice for the season of Advent is to doodle/meditate/pray each day through the three-plus weeks before Christmas.

She has developed a variety of creative grids that have a spot for each day’s prayer/meditation, which she shares, for free, on her site My family and I have all chosen to do the Christmas tree template, but there are several others—including calendar-style rectangles and a “stained glass window” baby Jesus.

Macbeth also recommends multiple ways for using the Advent grids each day:

  • Write the name of a loved one in a space and pray exclusively for them.
  • If you are using a devotional book, choose a word from your reading upon which to pray and meditate.
  • Because Advent is a season of hope, you might use each space to doodle what you hope for, not just tangible items, but hopes and dreams for yourself and others as well.
  • Since Christmas is the holiday that celebrates Christ’s birth, you could use each space to reflect on one of the many names for Jesus—wonderful counselor, prince of peace…

Last year, Macbeth shared an article she’d written for The Living Church, “Year-round Advent,” in which one of her suggestions was to make a list of words you associate with the Advent season and select one to doodle in the day’s space. I was excited to try this strategy. Macbeth and The Living Church provided a list of words and quickly brainstormed some more:

  • Luscious
  • Angel
  • Mary
  • Shepherds
  • Gifts
  • Prayer
  • Invitation
  • Transformation
  • Salvation
  • Blessing
  • Love
  • Grace
  • Search
  • Celebrate
  • Share
  • Give
  • Create

I planned to use an index card for each day, but got derailed very early in the season by illness. Here is one of the cards I did make:

Advent Vocabulary: Patience;

(Sorry for the crooked scan, at the time, I never thought I’d be sharing it.) A new Advent word list is posted on the Building Faith website, here

For my Advent Tree, I want to doodle prayers for loved ones and some Advent vocabulary. I’m planning to alternate from one to the other each day.

Your Turn

How do you celebrate Advent or count down to your family’s holiday? Please use the comment box, below, to share your favorite practices. Let’s celebrate a December filled with love and goodwill, and of course, let’s ever continue to encourage one another!

P.S. Our schedule at Literate Lives will be a little different this upcoming month. In order to bypass Christmas, instead of blogging on the first and third Thursdays of the month, Literate Lives will come to your inbox on the second and fourth. Have a wonderful holiday season!

For more on Sybil Macbeth, check out Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil Macbeth.

It’s Thanksgiving Time!

It's Thanksgiving Time!
It’s time for Thanksgiving, and I have enjoyed reading a variety of blog posts I’d saved just for this holiday month. Here are a few nibbles from each. Just click through the title links if you want to read the entire article.

Two Great Lists from Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D.

In Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D’s “Ten Things to Be Thankful For: Thanksgiving is a very special holiday, embrace those around you,” he proposes an eye-opening list of things to be thankful for. Among those that stood out for me:

“Be thankful for growing older. Not everyone gets this opportunity. Aging with health and grace is a rare and beautiful gift.”

“Be thankful that you can read these words. It is a very sad thing that many  people do not have the ability to read.” This second one is definitely a favorite of mine. The ability to read and write has enriched my life in so many ways—helping me to learn, express myself, enjoy myself, even work at a job I loved–helping students build their reading and writing skills.

And last, this suggestion, particularly poignant since my dad died just a year and a half ago: “When your parents are telling you how to run your life, be thankful that you still have them around.”

In “10 More Things to Be Thankful for: Look at what you have, not what you’ve lost,” Goldsmith lays out another powerful list things to consider, focusing on our closest relationships. This list includes “Laughter,” “Tears,” and “Health.”

On Health, Goldsmith writes:

“If you’ve ever dealt with a serious or chronic illness you know how important your health is. Being with someone who will care for you if you ever have a physical crisis gives you a powerful sense of well-being.”

After enduring several consecutive seasons of prolonged illness, I know how one’s health truly is. I also know, without the love and support of my husband, this time of nearly 100% rest would have been unbearable for this recovering-perfectionist overachiever. Early on, especially, depression hovered at the periphery of my days, and I am still learning how to live well when not feeling well.

Gratitude is Good for You

In, “Gratitude and Giving Thanks: Being thankful is not just part of a holiday, it’s good for your mental health,” Samantha Smith, Psy.D. points out that negativity bias, a propensity for focusing on what’s going wrong, comes naturally to human beings and shares studies indicating the practice of gratitude “can have a powerfully positive effect on our lives.” Studies indicate that nurturing gratitude can lead to better health, increased optimism, greater satisfaction in both your familial and social relationships, and enhanced academic achievement.

She then lists a number of ways to maintain a grateful perspective. The first, keeping a gratitude journal, is something I have benefited from greatly. She lists five other practices, some I would never have thought of, that are worth taking a look at as well.

Thanksgiving 2018

So, how do you want to practice Thanksgiving this year? I have two suggestions to consider. First, cut out one paper leaf using a variety of autumnal colors, for each person who will be attending Thanksgiving dinner. Place one leaf at each place setting and scatter pens /pencils across the table. Rather than ask each person to tell what they are thankful for this year, ask them to write it down on their leaf.  After dinner, either collect the leaves and make a Thanksgiving wreath by taping them onto a pre-cut cardboard ring. Other options could be to have the children who are present tape the leaves to the ring, or have each individual tape his or her own leaf on the ring. When done, hang the wreath somewhere everyone can enjoy it.

Option Two? Consider making a Thanksgiving time capsule. For this you will need slips of paper, pens/pencils, and a jar. If you wish, decorate the jar ahead of time or ask someone crafty (or a kid) to do so. This time, instead of asking Thanksgiving diners to share what they are grateful for, ask them to write it down on a slip of paper, sign their name, and place the slip in the jar. Wait a year, and on Thanksgiving 2019, as you sit down to dinner, open the jar and enjoy reading aloud what people were thankful for last years. Discussing what you were grateful for in the past can be a great conversation starter for reflecting what you are thankful for in the new year.

In either case, you can still add the step of sharing, verbally, what you’ve written.

More Things to be Thankful For

If you would like more suggestions for sharing gratitude with your friends and family this season, check out “Thanksgiving Conversation Starters,” a post from Literate Lives’ Thanksgiving past:

Your Turn

  • How do you and your family express gratitude at your Thanksgiving gatherings?
  • What kinds of questions do you ask to help loved ones focus on what they are grateful for this season?
  • What are you thankful for?

Please use the comment space below to share.

My New Facebook Page: Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author

Facebook Page; Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author;
My Facebook page—Debby Zigenis-Lower, Author—is up and nearly fully operational. (When you see the widget in the right column here on the blog to connect you to the page, you’ll know I am at last truly done—however, it does contain an opening post.)

Yearning to Share

I’m excited about my Facebook page. There are so many things I long to share with you in quick, brief ways, too many to always write a post, and so many not requiring a full post. So, I hope my page will provide greater opportunities to share and enrich your reading, writing, parenting, and teaching practices.

What can you expect to find on Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author?

“Play With Your Words” Writing Prompts

One of the most valuable things I learned when I studied for my master’s degree in teaching was that studies show two of the best ways to improve at both reading and writing are to read or write. Each helps to improve at both skills! With the exception of longer writing projects (which will be archived here, in Teacher’s File Drawer), I will now post writing prompts—for fiction, non-fiction, and personal journaling—on my new Facebook page.

Reading Response Exercises

These were another favorite in my Language Arts teacher’s toolbox. When students reflect on what they read, it helps them to understand the text more deeply and remember it better. Free reading + reading response exercises were my favorite Language Arts homework. Reading Response Exercises will also assist aspiring authors in reading like a writer, a practice highly recommended by the pros.

Wonderful Words: Quotes

I love quotes. I love ideas powerfully stated. I love words strung together in marvelous ways. (To refresh your memory, check out my post here.) While I have had fun preparing omnibus quote posts, I have so many quotes collected, and I long to share these beautiful and inspiring words more often. Now I can on my new Facebook page.

My Literate Lifestyle & Writing Journey

I will also use my Facebook Page to share my literate lifestyle and writer’s journey—books I’m reading, projects I’m working on, insights and organizational strategies—and I hope you will share yours. I’d like to be a friend and comrade to you in your pursuit of a literate lifestyle.

Your Turn

My vision is that this new Facebook page—Debby Zigenis-Lowery, Author—will facilitate more daily interactions and opportunities for us to encourage one another. Please use the comment box below to let me know how I can be a help to you.

Celebrate Summer 2018: Best of Summer Brainstorm

Celebrate Summer 2018:; Best of Summer BrainstormIt is hard to believe summer is nearly at an end. Of course, the season lasts until September 21, but the start of school makes it seem like the start of fall. So before summer of 2018 yields to autumn, let’s pause to appreciate this season.


You will need: a bowl or jar, slips of paper, pens, pencils, or crayons.

Place these in an easily accessible spot in your home.

Tell your family that you want to celebrate this summer and ask them to use the slips of paper to write down favorite activities and memories, then fold them up and drop them in the bowl or jar. (For toddlers and preschoolers ask them what they enjoyed and write it down for them on the slips. Before you drop the slips into the bowl or jar, read back to your child what you have written, pointing to each word as you read it to reinforce the one to one connection between the spoken and written word.)

Set a date for your celebration and encourage everyone to drop in at least one memory/favorite activity per day up until that date.

Plan Your Celebration

Maybe you want to plan a picnic. Maybe you want to plan a bar-b-que. However, you choose to celebrate solicit your family for suggestions of favorite summer foods to create a proper summer feast.

Celebrate Summer 2018

To celebrate, eat together and play together, and make time to read and discuss the slips of paper that have been placed in the bowl/jar.


  • reflecting on which activities/memories the family liked best
  • making note of things you want to repeat next year or try in a new way. (For example, if you visited one national park this year and enjoyed it, consider visiting a new one next year.)
  • listing things you would like to do more often.

Enjoy each other.


If you are a scrap booker or photo album maker, you can use these slips in your layouts to better characterize this time in your family’s life.

Your Turn

What do you do to celebrate and memorialize summer?

If you embark on this particular practice, let us know how it went, what fun twists you might have introduced, how you might do this next year. Just use the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

The Landay: Play with Your Words with a New Poetry Form

The Landay: Play with Your Words with a New Poetry Form; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives

Last week, while vacationing at my aunt’s home in Carmel, I discovered a new poetry form, the landay, and had to try it.


As usual when traveling, I brought along a stack of magazines, Writers Digest, The Writer, The SFWA Bulletin… I’m always behind with my magazine reading and enjoy the change of pace from reading online.

In the Writers Digest, September 2017 issue–told you I was behind–the “Poetic Asides” column by Robert Lee Brewer featured an unfamiliar form–the landay. I found it intriguing and became obsessed with “capturing” out getaway using the form.

The Landay

The landay is a fairly simple poetic form that features:

  • couplets–it can be a short poem of just one, or longer poem featuring many
  • specified syllable lengths for each line–9 for the first and 13 for the second
  • couplets that relate a witty, but difficult truth–this was a characteristic I neglected to follow because of my purpose in writing.


Because I find coming up with multiple couplets challenging, I started by brainstorming. I made lists of words and phrases for multiple categories, for example, the sky, the beach, the house, the 17 mile drive, and focused on sensory imagery–what I saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and experienced through touch.

Next I looked for pairings of word sounds that could work together and began crafting phrases and lines.

Finally, I selected the couplets I wanted to use.

My Landay

August 2018, Carmel, 17 Mile Drive

Cormorant perches, wings spread to dry,
sated lord of kelp kingdom, proud beak raised to sky.

Seals bask and bark in sun-washed splendor,
Dive, frolic, splash spray, giving selves to joyful surrender.

Endless sea swells rise, whoosh, plunge, and crash ,
moon-pulled, singing serenity’s praise with every splash.

Your Turn

  • How do you like to capture special times in your life?
  • Did you give the landay a try?

Please share your thoughts and poems in the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

The Best of the Best Ereads of Summer, So Far…

The Best of the Best Ereads of Summer, So Far...; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesThis summer has been a “medical” summer. As those of you who are teachers know, any procedure that can be postponed until summer break usually is, and that is precisely what happened with this household of educators.

The positive side of this quiet summer is that I have had a lot of time for reading, both books and on the web. In fact, I saved so many articles for this “Best Ereads” post that I had to delete a few in order to not to run over long. So, these are actually the best of the best articles and blog posts I’ve read this summer so far.


A cautionary tale… This title seems to say it all, or does it? Although I accept, in fact already believed, that eye/hand coordination can impact academic performance, the article does not conclude that gross motor skills, as the title implies, is the key. The most important thing I learned from this article is that it is essential to read critically, and to exercise this skill with all media, especially electronic.

The Life of the Mind

This article explores the value of imagination, which is greatly unappreciated world-wide. According to Rivandeneira, “Imagination is a practical means for achieving and enabling…commonly valued skills.” I whole-heartedly agree. Imagination is not only a necessity for children and artists, it is the engine behind problem-solving and the creation of every practical thing that makes life in the twenty-first century good. Keep exercising yours and encourage your loved ones to exercise theirs.

“For those who identify as introverts, the interior journey offers an alternative path to deeper meaning—one steeped in silence and solitude, rest and simplicity, wisdom and tradition, beauty and mystery.” — Lacy Ellman

Being an introvert myself, it has been so exciting to find so much being written on the study of introversion and the introvert lifestyle. (Quite Revolution, the blog on which I found this article, is one of my favorites.) I really valued Ellman’s contributions to the discussion.

Jane Yolen is the queen of Folkloric Fantasy, the genre in which I write, and so I both enjoyed and was inspired by Windling’s profile of the prolific author. In addition to talking about Yolen’s fiction writing, Windling and Yolen discuss the centrality of writing in her life, a topic highly espoused here at Literate Lives. Enjoy!

As an introvert, I often find myself overwhelmed by the rapidity of communication options, deluge of information, and unending bombardment of the twenty-four hour news cycle. Therefore, I really appreciate Ta-Hehisi Coates and Jen Pollock Michel’s call for thinkers to be given time to think before being expected to provide insight and answers. This is a provocative read.

To facilitate your journey into the life of the mind, here are some writing prompts for August from A Symphony of Praise.


Yikes! I’m still running long. The following are posts deal primarily with fiction writing and the professional writer’s life, two areas in which I seek to continue learning and growing in skill:

This last is for both writers and Language Arts teachers: “Grammar and the Singular ‘They,’” b Steve Laube. This article addresses an issue I struggle with, especially here on the blog. I want to be gender inclusive. I will often alternate between he and she, but even doing that, things can get clunky. Therefore, I found this article by literary agent Steve Laube very helpful.

Your Turn

What have you been reading online this summer? Any particular article that inspired or excited you? Please share the title and link in the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!