Search Results for: poetry part one

Poetry Part 2: So What’s Behind All Those Stanzas Anyway?

Old Letters & Quill: Image courtesy of Simon Howden /

Old Letters & Quill: Image courtesy of Simon Howden /

Attention all you future William Wordsworth’s and Robert Frost’s … Emily Dickinson’s and Sylvia Plath’s … Shel Silverstein’s and Amy Lowell’s – I know you’re out there! And whether or not you agree that you have it “in you” to be a great poet, let’s take a look at what comprises poetry and what draws us to it. Time spent exploring poetry is certainly enriching time spent “off the merry-go-round!”

In “Poetry Part I: What Is Poetry – Exactly?” we explored the “definition” of poetry, as well as what constitutes a poem. When you hear the word poetry, what goes through your mind? You might have a fixed idea in your head about what that means. But did you know that there is a whole world of different types of poetry out there just waiting to be explored – by you!

Here in Part 2, we will look at what draws us to certain kinds of poetry – why one poem might “speak to us” over another, as well as why someone might want to use poetry as a form of expression. We will then explore the more popular and familiar forms of poetry, and discover the first step toward composing a basic poem.

One of my favorite, albeit quirky, poets is E.E. Cummings. I think my enjoyment of his poetry stems from the memory of when he was introduced to me. The summer after I graduated from high school I had to have all four of my wisdom teeth removed – at once. Needless to say, later in the day following the surgery I didn’t feel that well. So my mother came to my bedside and read to me. She read Cummings’ poem, “in Just.” I took to it immediately and have read it many times since then. I explored and read other poems by Cummings. One I also enjoy is, “I Carry Your Heart with Me,” and it reminds me of what perhaps my mother thinks when she remembers my father who recently passed away.

I know why I like this poet and these two poems in particular. However, it is not as easy for me to express why I like Robert Frost’s, “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” These are two of my favorites by this poet, yet exactly what makes them so and why they are the two poems I think of when I think of Robert Frost I don’t know. I think perhaps it is his use of language – and this just illustrates that sometimes the answers to these questions about poetry are unclear. Rather, the reason may be simply “because.”

When you begin to read poetry, you will inevitably be drawn to certain styles of poetry, and authors whose work just “speaks to” you.  (Snowy Forest - image courtesy of dan /

When you begin to read poetry, you will inevitably be drawn to certain styles of poetry, and authors whose work just “speaks to” you. (Snowy Forest – image courtesy of dan /

Many of you may have a favorite poet as well – an author whose prose simply “speaks to” you, though you may not even know exactly why. The why it does, however, is not as important as that you have found a poet and a style of poetry that you enjoy, as well as one that you can relate to as you read his or her work.

There are so many types of poetry that exist (and are still being created!) that it is nearly impossible to summarize and categorize them all, and some can be quite complex. However, there are more well-known, popular, and familiar forms you can learn to compose.

Categories of Poems

I.  Formal or Traditional

Some fixed forms such as sonnets (of which Shakespeare composed many) or limericks (remember Edward Lear?) have very specific line counts, rhythmic patterns and rhyme schemes. Other forms are classified by their use of different kinds of “constraints” – such as repeating end words, or words that repeat later in the poem.

II.  Free Verse

Free verse poems are very common today; and are less complex and easier to compose. They don’t have specific fixed rules in terms of line count, and rhythmic patterns or rhyme. In fact, most free verse poems actually don’t rhyme. Although some free verse poetry does incorporate a few traditional elements (e.g. alliteration), and can use rhythmic patterns and rhyme, there is no specific rule it must rely on to do so. Free verse poetry also relies on line breaks, which can be broken in different places to emphasize different words in the poem and create different meanings. The best part? The format of free verse poetry is determined by the author!

III.  Prose

Prose poetry combines elements of prose and poetry into one “hybrid form.” It doesn’t use line breaks, however does use a lot of the same techniques as free verse: alliteration, assonance, internal rhyme, and poetic imagery.

IV.  Experimental

Some types of poetry step in an entirely different direction and therefore are classified as experimental poetry. An example is “Oulipo” which uses different types of formulas and constraints to create new poems. For example, the author of this type of poem might take a poem that already exists, and replace each noun with a different noun from the dictionary. Pretty wild!

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The best way to get started writing poetry is to read poetry. Of course, you may find a few forms of poetry more enjoyable to read than others, yet the important thing is just that you are reading. This allows you to immerse yourself in the language and form used, and perhaps soon find that words in a certain form begin flowing naturally for you as you begin to compose.

As a lover of poetry, and a writer of poetry, I often look online for poetry websites. I recently came across a wonderful site that I think you will really enjoy checking out! Family Friend Poems is a simple, yet popular site for contemporary poetry published on the Internet. There are thousands of poems organized by themes, and the site prides itself on being different from other poetry websites. Family Friend Poems publishes contemporary poems not already posted on the Internet, though only after they know they are well-liked by their audience. Posted poems are enhanced by the stories of many readers facing similar life events. Once a poem is published, the site uses feedback from ratings and sharing metrics to ensure that published poems are meeting the readers’ needs.

What I really like about this site is that the writers are “everyday” people – who just happen to enjoy creating and writing poetry. Poetry is such a wonderful way to express everything from a simple topic that amuses the author, to some of life’s most powerful experiences and the deep emotions that accompany them. I think of writing poetry almost like making a short journal entry.

When you visit a particular subject matter on the site, it takes you to an introductory page that explains the general topic, or theme, for each poem categorized there. For example, an excerpt from the section on “Nature Poems:”

Whether one is watching a thrilling thunderstorm or looking up at a mighty tree, the experience of nature is one of awe. One cannot help but marvel at the intricate design of a single leaf, or the roar of a great waterfall. Time spent in nature is time spent realizing that you don’t know it all and that you never will…

Preceding each poem, the author then offers a brief summary as to why they wrote the poem; as well as perhaps how they got into writing poetry. I came across what I thought is a beautiful poem about nature called “May’s Spring Days” (© Hemakumar Nanayakkara). Here is the first stanza:

Over the distant mountains morning breeze blows
Humming through robust beech birch and oak trees
Evergreen pines whistle to the tune of nippy breeze
Group of songbirds sing delightful springtime Songs

Willow Catkin - Photo Credit: Licensed under Creative Commons by Aka

Willow Catkin – Photo Credit: Licensed under Creative Commons by Aka

Reading the writing of others will enhance your own. Reading this poem in its entirety got me thinking about nature which I enjoy most in springtime and the warmer weather it brings. For me, it is a time of renewal. The more poems about nature I read from this site, the more the writing spirit inside me stirred.

Once you have immersed yourself in the writing of other poets (and not necessarily well-known ones), the more you too will find the words to express how you are feeling … about anything that is on your mind! Another way you can get started writing poetry is to immerse yourself in experiences. Simply put – get out there! Even a quiet walk in a light, soft rain can spark a creative feeling; and what you see and feel around you can bring those descriptive words to mind.

Do you have what it takes to write a poem? We’ll find out in Part 3! In the final part of our poetry series, we will learn specific ways how to write poetry – even if you have never composed a poem before. Additionally, I will share a poem I wrote, as well as how I got the idea for my poem.

In the meantime… Share your favorite poems and/or poets with us. Feel free to offer any tips for writing poetry that you have found helpful – you may just read them in part 3!

Poetry Part I: What Is Poetry – Exactly?

"How do I love thee?"Photo credit: Pixabella Poetry credit: Why, William Shakespeare of course!

“How do I love thee?”
Photo credit: Pixabella
Poetry credit: Why, William Shakespeare of course!

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

With Valentine’s Day having arrived today, many of us may be scrambling for last minute cards and gifts for our spouses, children, other family members, and even good friends. This may especially be the case for those of us who have been buried under several feet of snow the past few days!

There are so many popular presents that are typically given on this day – fragrant flowers, delectable chocolates or other candies, cuddly teddy bears, lacy lingerie, sparkly jewelry. In the 19th century, however, valentines were more of the homemade kind. How many of us receive love poetry these days? Actually, I happen to be (and please don’t hate me, ladies) one of those lucky women who receive the traditional gifts on Valentine’s Day, and love poetry to boot. My husband just seems able to let the thoughts he has in his mind flow through his heart, and out the tip of his pen right on to his valentine paper. His “poems” are really more like free-flowing paragraphs that read like poetry. They’re beautiful and touching. And then there are the envelopes he puts his letter, poem, or card in. It was not until I married him that I discovered he can draw – and what begins as a doodle can turn into a rather elaborate sketch on the outside of the envelope portraying something about me, our family, or our life together.

Although there certainly are many popular poets (the poet “greats”) most people who write poetry are just “every day” people who seem to be able to create a poem out of thin air – my husband being one of them. He has what I consider a “poetic flow” when he writes those loving words to me.

My name in lights ... even my husband's DRAWINGS take on poetic-like form!

My name in lights … even my husband’s DRAWINGS take on poetic-like form!

I know a poet – and a poem – when I see one!

When you think of a poet – whether one of the “greats,” a local or less well known poet, or even just someone who enjoys writing poetry; how do you picture their personality or what is going on in their lives? Are they excessively happy? Depressed? Brooding? Mysterious? Also, what defines a well put together poem? The “flow” of the poem? The pentameter (poetic meter based on length and type of syllables used – iambic or dactylic) used? The length of the poem? Whether the poem is comprised of rhyming verse or not? If the poem is one to which you can relate? The form (physical structure) of the poem?

All of these elements are potential considerations when looking at poetry. No matter how you picture the author of poetry going about constructing those lines and forming them into conveyed thoughts, though, there is always some kind of emotion behind a poem and a form which the poet found best expresses it.

How many forms?

In conducting further research on poetry, I discovered over 25 various poetry forms – plus, a very long list of Asian-inspired forms! If you had an interest in writing poetry and an emotion you wished to express through poetic verse, how then would you decide what “form” your thoughts would take? Would you need to learn about all of the poetry forms first in order to know which one you feel comfortable using? Or, can you just structure your thoughts in any form you like and simply call it a poem? Well, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Rather, let’s take writing poetry a step at a time …

What is a poem … exactly?

The Free Online Dictionary defines a poem as: “A verbal composition designed to convey experiences, ideas, or emotions in a vivid and imaginative way, characterized by the use of language chosen for its sound and suggestive power and by the use of literary techniques such as meter, metaphor, and rhyme.” The answer to all those questions above, then, is “yes!”

Some of the most popular poets – many of which may be familiar to you, are: Langston Hughes, Shel Silverstein, Pablo Neruda, Maya Angelou, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, E.E. Cummings, Walt Whitman, William Wordsworth, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Jack Prelutsky, William Butler Yeats, Thomas Hardy, Robert Hayden, Amy Lowell, Oscar Wilde, Theodore Roethtke, and T.S. Eliot. Each of these authors tend/tended toward a certain style – one that was familiar and comfortable. Some even created a new style of presenting poetry (who knew that the E.E. Cummings style of writing poetry would even become the initial way many people composed emails – in all lowercase letters! [By the way, if you are still writing your emails that way, do stop.]

All of these great poets had a unique way of presenting life’s experiences and emotions. Some even chose a light-hearted and humorous way of doing so, as evident in Jack Prelutsky’s poem, “As Soon as Fred Gets Out of Bed.” Additionally, the collection of poetry in Shel Silverstein’s book Where the Sidewalk Ends whose name came from a poem he titled the same.

Jack Prelutsky

To be (a poem) or not to be? That really is the question!

Many times when one is looking to define poetry, it is commonly done by distinguishing it from prose. Simply by glancing at the two (a poem and prose) on pages side by side, one can tell the difference by “appearances only.” On the page, a poem has lines of different lengths, and the line breaks are chosen by the poet. The appearance of a passage of prose, on the other hand, is shaped by the typography and the size of the page; and the words fill the page or column, with line breaks determined by the margins. Prose is built of sentences and paragraphs, while a poem is made from lines and stanzas. In a poem, the white space around the words (or the pauses or silences, if you’re listening to a poetry reading) is part of the poem. As another example, this can be equated with rests in a musical composition.

So … is there any circumstance in which prose can be a poem – as opposed to just a paragraph of prose? This is a debate in the literary world, and some would say that a poem cannot be a poem if it takes the form of prose and avoids line breaks. However, others would argue that the manner in which phrases are clustered, and words arranged, on a page are not the only defining elements of poetry. There are many linguistic forms that can only be considered poetry – metaphor, image, the “dance” of words unconstrained of lines and other dividing elements. It may actually be easier to define a prose poem by saying what it is not: It’s not “verse,” which demands line-based metric rhythms and often rhymes. It’s certainly not a sonnet, or other kind of poem, that is clearly defined by its form. An excellent example of prose comes in Hysteria by T.S. Eliot (1915) …

As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved in her laughter and being part of it, until her teeth were only accidental stars with a talent for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps, inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by the ripple of unseen muscles. An elderly waiter with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty green iron table, saying: “If the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden, if the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden…” I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of the fragments of the afternoon might be collected, and I concentrated my attention with careful subtlety to this end.

"Our love endures, like beams of sunshine through the clouds." Yes, ladies, he really DID write that!

“Our love endures, like beams of sunshine through the clouds.” Yes, ladies, he really DID write that!

In the end, then, when trying to distinguish between a poem and prose, one may only be able to get a sense of what a prose poem is, even if they cannot offer a clear cut definition.

Poetry … versus prose … versus being poetic – which I define as what one is feeling when they want to get past all of the literary definitions and blah, blah, blah that was spewed forth in English Lit class and simply – write!

In Part 2 of our Poetry series, we will look at why someone might want to take an interest in, or even learn how to write, poetry. We will explore three examples from the more popular and familiar forms of poetry, and discover how to compose a basic poem. I will also share an example of a poem I wrote in that style.

Let’s hear from you readers … What were some of your past experiences writing poetry, whether in class or on your own? Have you ever published a poem; or shared one in another venue (writing club, author share)? Do you have further thoughts on what can be considered a poem / poetry?

How to Keep Your Child Interested in Learning and Reading through the Summer


Choices, choices! Photo Credit: ProjectManhattan

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

When I checked my email this morning, I saw a message from my son’s lower school principal titled – “Summer Reading and Enrichment Resources.” Ah, yes, it took a moment for my former elementary school teacher brain to register … just because it is summer does not mean we stop reading and learning!

I wonder if any of you share the following experience raising your children:  My son is an enthusiastic learner who loves school and absorbs so much around him like a dry sponge soaking up water. However, usually if I try sitting him down for more structured learning – as in, “We’re going to learn about the – ch diagraph now;” I find him balking at this “academic” time.

Even at such a young age, my preschool son takes school very seriously and loves to learn.

Even at such a young age, my preschool son takes school very seriously and loves to learn.

I get so much more from his young mind if we learn through play; or at the very least, weave learning time into playtime. One afternoon, we were drawing pictures on our sidewalk with chalk. My son began making the –sh sound for the beginning diagraph he learned last week, as we wrote our last name and talked about the sound that starts it. When I casually wrote “ch” on the sidewalk next and asked if he had learned this letter-sound combination (which I knew he had), he immediately rattled off a long list of beginning –ch words he had learned!

My parents were leaders in the field of education and learning was of great value in our household. Yet, it was a fairly structured experience and my mother’s school teacher job continued through the summer – if you know what I mean. I don’t think I lost any interest in learning because of this. In fact, many times I even enjoyed it since I was born loving to read and write. However, now I do admit that sometimes it could be a drag.

My little boy just turned 5 years old, and he had a very successful preschool year. This was due to several factors. For one, he has very supportive and involved parents – go us! Second, the philosophy of the private school he attends is grounded in just letting children “be” and grow into who they will be – of course with the support, guidance and nurturing of amazing teachers. Third, between school and home he was not taught, but not “pushed” to the point where learning became stressful and not fun anymore. Of course, there is a structured academic program and curriculum at my son’s school; and the education actually is fairly rigorous – just through a different approach. As in: Struggling with a weak pencil grip and forming your letters? We’re certain that with a little breathing room and some practice you’ll be writing with no problem as you fill out your college applications!

So, how do you keep your child from disconnecting from all he or she learned throughout the school year? How do you get them to want to read? How do you decide which books are best for a young reader – a “pre-reader” as they are commonly referred; and how do you find books that will spark your child’s curiosity and imagination, and keep your child interested in the world of books … without any “nagging” on your part?

Don’t let reading and learning – no matter what time of the year,

become an overwhelming experience for your child.

Read on to learn more!

Parents genuinely want their children to have an interest in books and learning; however, sometimes accessing those pathways to learning can be daunting – even in a place as seemingly benign as a library.

In libraries and bookstores, the children’s sections can actually be overwhelming, especially when your child is just beginning to show an interest in books. This can be especially tough during the summer when other activities and experiences beckon your child to take part – summer camp; swimming lessons; “pee wee” (insert name of sport here); weekday playdates; parties and picnics; vacations and day trips; etc.

The question parents need to ask themselves is:

How can I generate, support, and nurture a love for reading and learning in my child

without it becoming overwhelming?

Even a Superhero needs to know how to read!

Even a Superhero needs to know how to read!

Below are several ideas and tips for how to choose, or help your child choose, books that will engage them; and have them seeking time to read, think, and learn!

In their online Week of January 6, 2014 edition, ‘Baby Center’ published an article called “How to choose the best books for your pre-reader,” which shared six suggestions from reading specialists, teachers, and experienced parents. Here they are below:

Read rhyming and word pattern books. Preschoolers love to hear books with rhymes and word patterns, especially ones that are easy to memorize. They love to join in when they know how to finish a sentence: “One fish, two fish, red fish, BLUE fish!”

Look for books with short, rhyming sentences and predictable structure: Nursery rhymes, counting books, alphabet books, and poetry books. Books by authors such as Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, and the poet Shel Silverstein are good choices.

Share your childhood favorites. Winnie-the-Pooh, Goodnight Moon, and Go, Dog, Go!: Yes, they’re still around!

Browse through the library or bookstore and look for the books you loved when you were starting to read. Find out whether your parents still have your first books packed away. The classics never go out of style.

Encourage your child to read about his favorite characters or topics–even your childhood favorites such as Pooh and Piglet!

Choose books with colorful illustrations. Words aren’t the main attraction for pre-readers. Pick out books with vibrant colors and beautiful pictures, and talk about the pictures with your child.

When you’re reading the story to your child, stop once in a while to discuss the picture and how it relates to the story. This prepares your child for the early reading stage, when he’ll use pictures for clues about what each page says.

Pick books that fit your child’s interest. Choose books about his favorite subjects: Cars, trucks, zoo animals, kids his age — even television characters such as Dora the Explorer or Elmo. The idea is to develop a love of reading, not a love of reading a certain kind of book.

Take your child along with you to the library or bookstore. Don’t restrict your child to one age group or subject. With reading, anything (within reason!) goes.

Look for books your child can manipulate. Pre-readers are drawn to books that do things. Show them how fun reading can be with bathtub books, pop-up books, big books (oversized books are often sold in teacher supply stores), squeaky books — anything to keep your child turning the pages.

Seek expert advice. Librarians and preschool teachers know from experience what kinds of books preschoolers love. Ask for their recommendations.

What experiences and advice can you offer our Off the Merry-Go-Round parents and community for capturing and keeping your child’s interest in books, reading, and learning? Was there a time in your childhood when you recall your love of books started to develop? Whether you are a reading specialist, a parent, an educator, or even a grandparent who reads with their grandchild – we will appreciate hearing your thoughts!



Off the Merry-Go-Round combines the writing talents of seven women–all working moms who strive to put their families first. Grab a cup of coffee and get to know us!

Jennifer (Jen) P. Ashenfelter

Jennifer is a freelance writer who established Pen & Page Communications in 2011. She writes blog entries, articles for online and traditional publications, marketing copy, and press releases for several local business owners. She graduated from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania—where she met two of her fellow Off the Merry-Go-Round bloggers—in 1990 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Before becoming a full-time mother with the birth of her first child in 1998, she was a communication specialist for global R&D at a large pharmaceutical company. After her two children entered school, she returned to work as a marketing assistant for a real estate agent and earned her real estate license in 2009. A desire to spend more time with her busy family and a passion for writing and social media, led to her jump off the merry-go-round…again. She lives northeast of Philadelphia in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons.

Mary Ann Filler

Mary Ann, also known as “MA,” was born in Frederick, Maryland to a 16 year-old birth mother. At three days of age, her foster mother picked her up at the hospital. She lived with her foster family for 13 months prior to being placed in her adoptive family’s home in rural Frederick County, MD. MA was told that she and her older adopted brother, not genetically related, were chosen and special. Despite that, the transition from her foster family to her adoptive family was not an easy one.

Living in the same small town during all of her formative years, MA was eager to leave and go to college.  She attended Salisbury University, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and earned a B.S. in chemistry with a minor in mathematics. Today, when people ask her why she majored in chemistry, her answer is “to prove I could.”

After graduation, MA moved to Annapolis, MD to work for an environmental company on an Environmental Protection Agency contract. After a year, she returned to Salisbury as a teaching assistant; two years later she earned her Master degree in Mathematics Education and became certified to teach math in the state of MD.

In the fall of 1990, MA was hired by Frederick County Public Schools to teach mathematics for grades 9- 12.  Shortly after earning her master degree and beginning her teaching career, MA “earned” her M.r.s. degree.  (Despite making a pact with herself to never date any of her brother’s high school friends, she married one!) She and her husband moved back to their hometown, but began discussing where they would raise their future children.

In 1995, Mary Ann, 6 months pregnant, and her husband moved to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where they currently reside.  After the birth of her first son, MA gave up her full-time teaching position to be a stay-at home mom.  However, in between the births of her first, second and third sons, MA dabbled in part-time teaching assignments such as evening high school, GED prep classes, and math classes at Harrisburg Area Community College Gettysburg Campus.  Now that all three boys are school age, she teaches 12 credit hours per semester at HACC Gettysburg Campus with Fridays and summers off!

Frequently, MA wonders if she truly is off the merry-go-round as life is so busy and full. One thing she realizes is that everyone has a different capacity to handle the day-to-day stresses of parenting and career. She believes that God has blessed her with the great gift of family. As a result, her highest priority is to God and her family!

Beth Heeschen

BethA retired Army Logistics Officer, Beth spent twenty years living and working many places, both in the United States and abroad.  During that time, she developed a love of travel and a passion for cooking.  She has traveled to over a dozen foreign countries, and sampled the cuisine in all.  He favorite place to visit is Copenhagen, her favorite “foodie” place is France – all of it!  Her latest travel included a course at the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland.  Her current interests include developing her skills in Pennsylvania Dutch foods, Asian cuisine, authentic Italian recipes, and Vegetarian and Vegan cooking.  Her family is very happy to be her test kitchen.

Beth grew up in rural Iowa, and spent many of her formative years working on farms.  She is very excited about the reemergence of farmers markets and local food movements, and firmly believes in buying local whenever possible.  Fresh ingredients means fresh taste!

Beth, her husband Jim, and three teenage children currently reside in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  She is developing plans to start a “home cooked meals” business for busy families in the local area. She holds a bachelors degree in Finance with a minor in Psychology, and a Master in Business Administration. This is her first venture into blogging.

Karen Hendricks, Founder and Editor

A writer at heart, Karen Hendricks’ communications career included numerous positions in television and radio news, as well as the newspaper industry. She also worked as an event coordinator, and marketing and public relations director. Her intuitive ability to listen, focus on a message(s) and craft engaging stories earned her numerous awards and accolades along the way. However, she had a revelation during a visit to the ER with one of her three children in early 2012 and decided to take a leap of faith, jumping off the merry-go-round of 60-70 hour workweeks.

Currently, with a healthier mix of professional and family life, she manages her own communications firm, Hendricks Communications, and provides compelling public relations, marketing, social media and freelance writing services to a select group of clients.

Karen lives in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with the loves of her lives—her husband and their three children. She enjoys being a soccer mom, dance mom (not THAT kind of dance mom) and the kind of mom who insists on making home-made pie crusts. In her “spare” time she enjoys photography, cooking, gardening, scrapbooking and playing piano, as well as many forms of exercise–pilates, ballet, yoga, running (when her knees allow it) and walking (although she misses the companionship of her greyhound Stanley, pictured above).

Karen grew up in the shadow of Philadelphia, in the Valley Forge area, which means she will forever be a Phillies and Eagles fan. She attended college in the mountains of upstate PA at Lock Haven University where she graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Communications/Media Studies. It was there that she met her husband, along with fellow Merry-Go-Round pals Jen and Jennifer.

It is her hope that by founding this blog and website, it becomes a place of community for parents everywhere who are jumping off the proverbial merry-go-round and putting their family lives first.

Christine Brandt Little

Christine LittleChristine Brandt Little has been writing pretty compulsively since the fifth grade, when she set up a booming business writing up pieces, mailing them out to magazines, and collecting primarily rejection slips—though she did sell a couple prose poems to The Chronicle of the Horse in the eighth grade before ultimately deciding poetry was Not For Her.

Chris studied philosophy as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, where she worked on the school’s paper, The Cavalier Daily, and for the local weekly, the Charlottesville Observer. She went on to earn a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, focusing on health-related communications. Her career included work in corporate communications, advertising, and full-time freelance writing and editing before she stepped “off the merry-go-round” in 1994 after the birth of her first child.

Today Chris lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with her husband and two children, now ages 18 and 15. She does freelance writing and editing work for a wide variety of clients, from regional magazines and local nonprofits to an area college and an international theology journal. You can find her work at

Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Jennifer Schuler, a published writer and freelance proofreader/editor, also has a diverse background in the education and public health fields. Jennifer graduated from Lock Haven University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism/Media Studies and a Minor in English. She also holds a Master of Education degree from Cabrini College. After marrying her husband, she ended her full-time teaching career to support his work in parish ministry. When their dream of having children both biologically and through adoption seemed it would never happen, she took a very demanding job as an assistant director at a leading child enrichment center in Washington, DC. Then, the phone rang with news from their adoption agency – it was a boy! Jennifer finished her center’s contracted school year, and then happily and permanently stepped off the merry-go-round to raise her son. Her family lives on a beautiful 2 ½ acre property in Maryland surrounded by 1,100 acres of preserved reservoir and woodland. Recently certified by The National Wildlife Federation for its ability to sustain and preserve wildlife, their home makes a peaceful and inspirational place to write and to spend her days at a more relaxed pace!

Ruth (Gohl) Topper

Ruth was raised on a farm near Jersey Shore, PA and has all the good growing-up “hardship” stories. Within weeks of high school graduation, after the death of her father, she moved into the town of Jersey Shore, to her mother’s childhood home. She attended Shippensburg University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and minor in German. After graduation, Ruth moved to Harrisburg and began working at the Navy Ships Parts Control Center in Mechanicsburg. She worked there for less than a year, but the best thing that came from her time at the Navy was meeting her future husband in a training class. Ruth didn’t even make it through the entire class before she changed jobs & began working at Dauphin Distribution/Exel Logistics. Two milestone events happened in 1990–her wedding day and a move to the Gettysburg, PA area.  Ruth continued working at Exel Logistics full time until the birth of her second child in 1997.

In 1998 Ruth was introduced to the scrapbook/photo preservation company Creative Memories and she became a consultant.  Nearly 15 years later, she is a Creative Memories Unit Leader and a “stay at home” mom who is rarely home. Her family includes three children, two sons and one daughter in their tweens/teens. Ruth enjoys running, biking, swimming, taking classes at the local YWCA, scrapbooking (both traditional & digital), reading, baking, taking “furry” family member Fletcher on walks and attending a multitude of kids’ sporting & music events.

This entry was posted on January 22, 2013, in . 12 Comments