“Sugar Cubes”

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

“Sugar cubes,” I read. “Hmmm…we’ve never been sugar cube people.”

“I’ve got nothing. We never bought sugar cubes growing up,” my husband chimed in.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

Some months ago for The Isolation Journals prompt, Jenny Boully gave a list of words of which we were to choose 5. I did so and wrote about them here. But I also took all the words (plus more) and wrote each on a slip of paper. They sit on my dining room table and each day at dinner my husband and I choose one and talk about it.

I’m surprised at all the stories that come up from these slips. I’ve known my husband more than 40 years, and I always learn something new about him. And he about me, I suspect.

Today it was sugar cubes. After our initial hesitation, we remembered.

We never bought sugar cubes either, but my Aunt Josephine always had them. Whenever we visited her on the farm, I was so excited to hold a sugar cube ever so gently on my flat palm, being sure to not curl up my fingers so Rony didn’t bite them. She gently plucked off her treat with her tickling nimble velvet lips.

My husband shared about his friend in high school who took a few drops of LSD with his sugar cubes.

That reminded me of standing in long lines at my local school to get vaccinated. I would have been happy to stand in line forever if it meant not getting a shot. When it finally was our turn we were full of fear and trepidation. While I “ouched” and complained about the smallpox vaccine that came through multiple jabs to my upper arm, I was delighted that I also got to ingest the polio vaccine in a glorious sugar cube. It was like getting a sucker at the dentist for being good.

Every day we discuss multiple stories from that one noun on our story slips. We’ve talked about wagons and watermelon, caterpillars and canoes, Ferris wheels and firewood and so much more.

Some future story starters for us…

Biting Heads

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

I’ve officially retired from my teaching position. This year I am doing some volunteer work at my same school in reading intervention. Some days I miss the everyday joys of teaching fulltime, but most of the time during this pandemic, I’m just thankful I don’t have to walk through all the crazy 2020 is throwing at teachers. Like this week the teachers prepare for their first student-led presentations on Zoom starting tomorrow, plus a visit from the BQA, the Ministry of Education’s quality assurance assessment. Both are adding to the already stressful nature of teaching in-person and virtually–in four different class groups. Some of my colleagues are teaching two grade levels–eight groups, four classes a day, with over a hundred children total.

So, today I am thankful that beside the Coronavirus stress we all carry, I only have mild stressors in my life this year. Like yesterday it was forgetting to get the grocery list from one of the people without a job we were going to serve through the outreach team. When I realized I had neglected to call her two days before, I made a quick call–no answer. So I made initial contact with a text. I copied and pasted and sent her a previous message I had written earlier in the week, but I forgot to edit it, so I sent the wrong name in the salutation. OK. That blunder was embarrassing and causing me momentary stress as I was trying to delete it before she saw it, and also make contact with her to get her list before my team went shopping in a less than an hour.

Enter my husband for lunch. He went to the kitchen sink and saw the morning breakfast dishes filling the dish tub. Next to that was the previous day’s dishes piled high in the dish drainer, puzzled together precariously.

He took a deep breath and sighed as he started to put the dishes away. Again he breathed–maybe yoga breathing–trying to compose himself and not say anything. But after a few deep breaths and sighs, I exploded.

I responded. “What is wrong with you? Stop breathing. Do you want me to do them? Just stop showing me how angry you are with your self-righteous deep breathing.”

He, “I just have a short time for lunch today.”

“OK, stop putting the dishes away. I said I would do it. I will. Can’t you fix your lunch with dishes in the drainer? How many times do you have to shout at me with your breathing. It’s obvious you think I should have done the dishes, oh high and mighty one. What is wrong with you? Why don’t you act like Jesus? Would Jesus put the dishes away? Or would he just fix his lunch while smiling and greeting me pleasantly? Blah, blah, blah.”

I thought of the quote about getting bumped and having what’s inside spill out–it could have been love and grace, but in my case this day, it was anger and sarcasm.

Fortunately, at this time in my life those outbursts are rare. I couldn’t help but think about the stressors in my life just a year ago, even before the pandemic. Teaching school is a never-ending flow of creativity and learning, sweet relationships and assisting young people in growing as learners. Yet, there is an everyday barrage of extra administrative requirements that don’t seem to help children, as well as unfulfilled hopes and unmet expectations, daily to-do lists never completed. I know over my years of stressed-out teaching there have been many outbursts like this directed at my husband, but also at others. I am not very sanctified when I get bumped, which I think is a true test of my character.

Before my husband went back to his office, I apologized for biting his head off. He, of course, accepted and offered his own, as well. I am so thankful we do not stay angry at each other.

Poem of Gratitude

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org – Say YES to writing with #TWTBlog and #SOLSC

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

~e. e. cummings

November has been a month for me to consciously say “thank you”. I think I shouldn’t wait for American Thanksgiving month to be thankful. (That has been one of my takeaways this month.) It is good to practice gratitude for a lifetime. As Meister Eckhart said centuries ago, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Here is my gratefulness prayer today inspired by e.e. cummings and 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Thank You

I thank you God for most this amazing day–
for the dancing tingling cooling ocean of breeze
and the great green born of
gossamer petrichor and dusty dreams.

Limitless and welcome breath of God,
thank you for swelling my sails
to bear me
through the storm
safely to the other side
of the Bay of Blight.

For the mellifluous music of the ages
Singing softly from the
treetops of joy: It is the birth
day of olive branches
and of keys and of openness and hope.

My eyes have not seen
My ears have not heard
My mind has not thought of
All the delicious dazzling dulcet days you
have prepared for those who love You.
I do love you and I thank you.

Prompt 118 for The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad.

Write a poem of gratitude. Write from your deepest senses. Write of the “great happening illimitably earth” and all its strange wonders (including me, including you). Write with the ears of your ears awake, and the eyes of your eyes open.

Mentor texts:
e. e. cummings “i thank You God for most this amazing

1 Corinthians 2:9: “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.'”

Breathe Out the Stress Breathe In the Peace

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

Brokenness and heartbreak, loss of job
Bickering teachers overwhelmed
Safety protocol mistakes
Covid deaths and counting
White House renegade
Friend triangles
Knotted neck
Breathe out
Breathe
Breathe in
Peace and hope
Healthy dinner
Thanksgiving (really)
Strolling along the shore
Cooperating with Truth
Foaming bubble bath to my neck
Leaning on the everlasting arms

That nonet duo I wrote today for Ethical ELA captured my day, unfortunately minus a lot of the “breathing in” remedies. No strolling along the shore, healthy dinner, or foaming bubble bath for me today.

It was a stressful day of relationship overload. I am an introvert, and I try to steer clear of controversy. I don’t like to be put into situations where I know two sides of a difficult situation. I always try to mitigate conflicts, not to add to them. But today, I felt overwhelmed with so many problems.

Covid restrictions are toying with our mental health. This day was for the birds, and my neck is tense now.

Death

Death

For you, the pandemic is only a
history lesson owned by
old folks who shudder about
having gone to Zoom school
when they were kids.
The fear of fundamentalism
was in its prime back then
And it happened at a time when some
in our country were so poor
they didn’t have
homes, enough food or health care.
Do you believe it?

I am your ancestor and you know little about me
No reason for you to imagine the problems I helpfully solved
or my taste for sweet juicy mango
No reason for you to know that I was a storyteller
and a story writer or that I tried
to help children
own their learning

You will live your life well without knowing how I
could bake chocolate chip cookies as well as Mrs. Field,
nurture sourdough for years without killing it, and
edit videos for online church services.

All my digital files were
put into the Recycle Bin
with one click of
a mouse,
(do you still call them that?)
maybe two clicks.

I remember how I died,
and because I couldn’t stop myself,
Death kindly came for me.

He slowed down for me to smell the
jasmine in the garden,
to eat the spicy rice,
ignoring the chicken.
He let me say goodbye to the butterflies
and cheetahs, the puffins and the elephants
He let me hold a newborn baby, pet a fluffy puppy,
and write once more with a fine pen.
He let me listen to favorites by
Simon and Garfunkel,
Gordon Lightfoot,
and Carole King,
like an old person.

He told me
the unfinished paper piles,
collections of “important” stuff,
unfinished to-do lists
could all be left behind
and no one,
really, no one,
would care.

All those things I had spent decades counting as gain,
I finally was able to count as loss
Looking back,
I can see how
taking Him by the hand
gave me more than
I could ever imagine

Prompt 116 by Mark Wunderlich:
Write a poem in which the speaker is dead but still possesses a consciousness and is capable of thought and speech. Include rich description and concrete physical details, as if the speaker is greedy for the sensory experience of life on earth.

Mentor texts shared by Mark, including one of his own poems. I used ideas or phrases from each of these in my poem:

“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson

“Mummy of a Lady Named Jemutesonekh” by Thomas James

“Our Dust” by C.D. Wright

“To Whom It May Concern” by Mark Wunderlich

and a Bible verse that inspired me Philippians 3:8