I’ve Looked at Both Sides Now

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Joni Mitchell

Be cute and quiet, Dad’s anger will cease
Go outside, don’t stir up trouble, please
We called peace where there was no peace
I looked at peace that way
But now, “No justice, no peace,” I know
The arc is bending slowly, though
Let justice roll down and freedom flow
I’ve looked at peace from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
Peace’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know peace at all

Husband and wife, the man’s in charge
He brings home the bacon, his power’s large
Patriarchy’s rules discharged
I looked at marriage that way
But now he weds he or she marries she
Marriage is an act of love, I see
It’s not just my experience for love to be
I’ve looked at marriage from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
Marriage’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know marriage at all

God said it, I believe it, that settles it.
Deny the times you’ve been in the pit.
No questions asked, fake it with grit.
I looked at faith that way
But now I have a faith that stays
God’s with me even when I stray
I have the amount I need just for today
I’ve looked at faith from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s faith’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know faith at all

Prompt #115
Write about a time you encountered someone from your past after many years. How did it feel to be suddenly reacquainted with this person? What did it reveal to you–about who you were and who you are now?

The Isolation Journals prompt today is by Alex Gaertner. It inspired my poem in a roundabout way. This Joni Mitchell prompt is one I didn’t write last April when Susan gave us the prompt to use “Both Sides Now.” Alex’s prompt inspired me to consider my developing beliefs and attitudes over decades. I was reminded of my cousin in a same-sex relationship. There were a few years when I didn’t see her and didn’t know. Because I didn’t see her in those young adult years before I read a life-changing book called Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, I don’t have to know what the encounter might have revealed about me.

Sunrise this Morning

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

I had a lovely God-breathed moment yesterday and today. Someone I know was going to have surgery today, so last evening when we were taking a walk at the mall, I made a phone call to this friend. I was taking a walking break because of a sore foot, while my husband continued.

She lives alone in this country. I asked her about her surgery the next day, When I asked how she was getting to the hospital, she told me she was taking a taxi. Now, I wish I could tell you I said, “No you aren’t” but I took a little longer than that to catch on. When I offered to drive her to the hospital, I could sense the relief. She said she would love a ride to the hospital, and God had answered her unspoken prayer.

What an easy answer to prayer for me to get up a little earlier than usual, see a beautiful sunrise (below), and bless my friend with a ride to the hospital. I wasn’t able to stay because of Covid restrictions, so I was home within an hour.

I’m so glad that voice told me to make a phone call.

My First Seven Jobs

Suleika Jaouad‘s The Isolation Journals has been a lovely way to find writing inspiration this Covid-19 season. This week the prompt was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s essay called “The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon.”

Prompt 114:
“Excavate the long-buried lowlights of your résumé and jot down a list of your first seven jobs. Then pick the most surprising, disastrous, or absurd, and spin it into an epic tale.”

My First Seven Jobs

  • Babysitter
  • Thumbtack packer
  • Office worker in my high school office
  • Hallmark store retail clerk
  • P.E. aide in middle and high school
  • Geography research assistant
  • Staffing Clerk

So, lots of unique and unforgettable memories come up when I peruse the list of my first seven jobs, but one that stands out today is being a P.E. coach and assistant teacher in a small Christian school just starting out. My roommate was a teacher at the school, and I was recruited to help coach and assist in P.E. classes. Oh, my. To say there was a bit of a mismatch in my skills and the position would be an understatement.

First, a word about my long and winding road to a bachelor’s degree. I worked my way through college in a part-time job.  (Albeit it was a much easier job when California State Universities were tuition-free and unions were stronger.) I mostly took 12-15 units a semester while I also worked to pay my living expenses. I was a business administration major for a while, with plans to be a high school business teacher (inspired only by my infatuation with the young hunk of a business teacher I had fallen in love with in high school). But then the required-reading Wall Street Journal newspapers piled up on the dining room table during my first econ class. I had no intention of reading them, so I dropped that class and changed my major. The infatuation gone.

I was a Liberal Studies major for a while, which I loved. You get to dabble in everything. I had the idea of being an elementary teacher during those semesters. Gradually, I decided, though, to be an adapted physical education teacher. I had loved an internship I did at a state hospital in the P.E. department of their onsite school.

Therefore, I changed my major to P.E. and took all the science, kinesiology, exercise physiology, and other foundational and theoretical courses in the physical education program, along with some special education courses. However, at the end of that, I was finally left with most of the activity course requirements. That meant for each one-unit volleyball, swimming or basketball class, I would have to spend three hours a week in activity courses. My full-time job for a semester or two would have been playing sports. Now, that wouldn’t be all bad, but deep down, I was not a P.E. teacher. I was not a coach. I was not even an athlete, in the committed, all-out way, that had I been, I would have welcomed taking all those activity courses.

So, I changed my major yet again. I looked at the units that had been piling up in my transcript. Geography was the department in which I had accumulated the most units. I took those courses purely out of my love for geography. I have always loved it, since childhood. I looked at the program in that department, and planned my schedule. I took two more semesters taking solely advanced-level geography courses. It was the best year of my six-and-a-half year journey through college.

Which leads me to that job as P.E. coach and assistant teacher. Fortunately, I was surrounded with mentors in that job who were dedicated and committed “coaches.” They were good role models for me to see what I was not. I remember taking time to teach the girls about aerobic exercise, teaching them to take their pulse, helping them calculate their maximum heart rate and check to see if they were in the 80% range after their runs around the field. I loved that. I loved the math, the science, the teaching.

However, I was also a coach. Junior high softball and volleyball, and assistant coach for basketball. Oops, at that point in my life, my greatest knowledge of basketball was that in high school I could shoot really good layups, and I was a statistician for the boys’ basketball teams. The stats job was mostly so we could ride the bus with the team. I hardly knew the rules of basketball when I played myself. I was a poser as far as this team sport went.

In my first outing with the basketball team, I was assigned to be one of the officials. Each team had to provide one official, so our coach surely felt it safe to assign this job to her new “P.E. major” assistant coach. They gave me a whistle. I ran around the court trying to stay out of the way of the junior highers. I gave the ball to students to throw back in, feeling powerful. I followed the lead of the other official and began to feel like I could do this.

In one of my first solo whistling acts as a ref during that game, I blew my whistle nice and loud and called a three-second violation on my own team. When I did that, I immediately knew something was wrong. The wind collectively dropped out of the whole scene. Fans, players, parents, coaches stared, open-mouthed. Everything stopped. I felt like I was being pranked or pranking the stadium on Candid Camera. I really didn’t know what had happened. The coach came out and had a little conference with me, explaining my faux pas. Our player had been shooting and rebounding when I blew the whistle.

“OK, I learned something,” I thought to myself. I made it through the rest of the game, with a lot of grace extended to me.

I actually stayed in that position for two years during college. I appreciated all that I learned during those years, but I don’t regret not becoming a P.E. teacher. Since then, I’ve coached a lot of softball over the years, and love it, actually. Softball is my game. But believe it or not, the abundance of P.E. units on my transcript has always said, at least on paper, that I am certified to coach K-12 sports. Lol!

Creative Ritual

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

I am the queen of NOT having rituals that help me get into a creative mindset. In the mornings I wake up early or late. I exercise or not. I eat first or I shower first. I have few if any steady rituals for life, much less for creative time and space.

I’ve been trying half-heartedly for the couple of weeks since Suleika Jaouad’s The Isolation Journals Prompt #113 by Naomi Ayala. It was about coming up with a short pre-writing “creative” ritual–something to get myself in a creative space. It might have to do with a sight, a sound, a movement. It might be going outdoors or holding a yoga pose, etc.

These past failed two weeks have encouraged me to try again. I think it will have something to do with enjoying a cup of tea. I’ll keep working on it!

I wrote a couple of poems last April trying to articulate my writing process, (or lack thereof). Now I’m thinking maybe a prewriting ritual could help me focus…

A Limerick of My Writing Journey
Wield a half-millimeter black rollerball
Indite in my journal, whatever befall
Mind focused on prompt
Diversions I’ll stomp
And tomorrow I’ll work on an overhaul

A List Poem About Why That Limerick is a Lie
While writing it, I…
…answered a teacher query about post-Eid assessment changes
…recorded four Flipgrid video responses
…initiated family trivia night
…answered six What’sApp texts
…and two phone calls
…warmed up and ate leftover machboos
…browsed The Washington Post
…watched my husband play a video game
…worked on my genius hour presentation

time…none like the present
8:00 a.m., noon, 3:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., midnight, 3:00 a.m.

tools…any or all
my rollerball is probably lost,
so grab a pencil or a conference freebie ballpoint or my computer

topics…prompts and non-prompts
letters, emails, recipes, students’ feedback,
texts, poems, blog posts, lesson plans

In reality, I cannot articulate my writing process.

What about you? Do you have a prewriting creative ritual you follow?

October Open Write with Ethical ELA

Ways of Looking with Susan Ahlbrand

Ten Ways of Looking at Time

I
When it began

My childhood prayer
growing up in a
“Thief in the Night” church:
Jesus, please don’t return
until I grow up and
get to have my own family.

II
When it’s focused

Softball practice in the park,
softball games every Saturday
and one evening a week,
playing catch in the street until even
the streetlights didn’t make it
safe enough to continue.
Ironing, (yes ironing!) my
Bobby Sox Softball uniform,
getting it ready for tomorrow.
Begging someone to play catch again.

III
When it’s squandered

We never found the time
to sit together regularly and
talk about faith and life
and the Bible
like we always planned to.
What happened?
Now those high school years are gone.

IV
When it’s lingering

That falling asleep time being held in your arms
after we make love is the best sleep of all.

V
When it’s not enough

Saying goodbye to my Mom in 2010,
a brother in 2012, a sister
and sister-in-law in 2018. No
more “see you laters.”

VI
When it’s unsettled
Covid-19 in 2020, 2021? 2022?
What does the future hold?

VII
When it ends

Will I be ready?

Tritina with Susan Ahlbrand

Reading

Do I choose or am I chosen by reading?
Sometimes I am lifted out of myself, with a stab
To my heart. Unexpected riches that grieve.

Riches that turn into empathy as I grieve
The axe for the frozen sea within is my reading
As Kafka wisely said books are to stab

Not to make me happy, but to stab.
Books to affect me, allow me to deeply grieve
It is not for the faint of heart, this reading.

Quick pain of the stab and subsequent grief comes from reading.

Take a Word for a Walk with Anna J. Small Roseboro

Hope
Is Hope a winged bird perched
Or flying? Hope who owns nothing–
Makes room for Hope, love, grace–
She’s able to soar, Hope filling
the heavens. God, please more Hope

Allusion with Anna J. Small Roseboro

Rights attacked
Racists backed

Covid fear
What a year

Vote them out
Make it a rout

Good Jesus
He sees us

Swamped boats fill
“Peace, be still”

Calms the storm
Hearts transform

True Jesus
He frees us…

“Don’t fear the deep
I’m not asleep”

Bodies in Motion with Sarah Donovan

Each of us scrambles to borrow a bicycle. Not that many years
Ago I would hop on my own bike and pedal to the start
Of the Go Pink ride. I am in a new time and place, though, so I
Borrow one.
Sorry, there’s only one gear that works, my friend tells me.
We ram the old broken thing in my van and drive it
Home.
It needs a new seat, says my husband. Ride it down
The street to the shop on the corner, and we’ll see if he has one.
 He
Walks along, I ride. The crank arm breaks
On the two-block ride.
Two, three or three-and-a-half for the saddle;
Five for the gear shifters, ten for the crank, five for the
Derailleur. Why not take
A new one? Only 45 BD, 
the shop keeper says.
OK, says my husband.
This one is foldable, good for the car, the little man says, as we
Wheel it out of the shop. Back home,
We put it in our car. I set my alarm for
4:00 a.m. The alarm goes off, I stumble and
Pull on my pink tee-shirt backwards, extra wide shoes to
Alleviate pain from Morton’s neuroma, eat a banana and drive
To the Cycling Bees shop. Bahrain
is flat, the trip is ten
Kilometers, the seat is wide and cushy, my borrowed helmet is too big. I
manage to finish, in all my out-of-shape glory, at the end of the pack.
Thoughts of coronavirus
Haunt me as we talk, sometimes too close–them without
Masks. This is the first bicycle ride of my
Sixties. I remember rides in my
Twenties a bit differently. I devour
Huge plates of pasta at the campsite in Half Moon Bay,
Gorge on ice cream in Monterey—so much more gratifying
to fuel up on a bicycle than in a
Fossil-fueled vehicle. We pedal up
Hills, race down, and try to avoid semis through Big Sur,
80 to 100 miles a day. We do it all
Again the next day.

That was fun! The Cycling Bees have another ride next
week, how about it? The route looks charming,
 my friend says.

Nah, I’m OK.

Time is a Great Teacher, But it’s Killing Me!

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

You know when time flies and you don’t know where it went? You want to stop it, but, of course, you can’t?

I experienced that this evening in a workshop. I am part of a leadership team doing a storytelling training on Zoom. (Yikes!) The leaders were given 90 minutes to help our small group prepare a story to be presented in the workshop. All participants would go through the process to learn the story, but one brave volunteer would actually tell the story to another group.

We had quite a schedule to follow–learn the story, find spiritual observations, plan and prepare for leading a discussion, make applications, prepare an introduction, and the list goes on a little bit more. Fifteen minutes here, five minutes there, forty minutes for this part, ten minutes there, and so forth, according to a very specific schedule.

However, I’m not sure what I did because I looked up at one point and saw this message pop up in my breakout room on Zoom–“45 minutes are finished. You will have 45 minutes more.”

What? Where did the time go? How was I so off schedule? The time had vanished! And we were getting behinder and behinder! Pretty soon, our storyteller would be beamed out of the room to tell the story that he/she was not prepared for.

Time…that strange entity that passes at the same rate each year, month, week, day, hour, and minute.

However, at times it lingers and loiters like it does for a kid waiting to go to Disneyland. Or like an American waiting for November 3. Or like the world waits for the coronavirus to stop spreading its germs. (Uncle, already!)

But most often these days, time feels like it is scooting and sprinting to the finish line of my days.

“Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.” ~Hector Berlioz

Slice of Life the Day After

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

Today is Wednesday already here in Bahrain. I’m up and ready for the first of my Zoom classes, which are gradually becoming someone else’s Zoom classes. I’m in a very slow process of saying goodbye to my school. In February it started. I decided not to return because I could only commit for half a year as our visa will expire in December.

Then my replacement was stuck in the U.S. and couldn’t get her visa. We have been team teaching now. But on Saturday, she arrived, and yesterday, Tuesday, I taught my last class, with her observing. Next week she will take over.

It has been an effective and gradual transfer of duties, and a nice way for me to ease out of my responsibilities.

Today I’m a little bit sad, but I’m also content, satisfied with a job well-done, and looking forward to future challenges.

A Walk in the Neighborhood

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

This evening my husband and I took a walk around the block. We had some tiny errands so we headed out with four full bags–two were just trash that needed to be dumped in the bin down the street. Two were full of second-hand clothes to be donated in a donation bin on the corner. Then we walked around another corner to get a house key made. I stood outside because the shop was small and there were already a couple of people inside. The photo above shows my view.

I stood and watched the traffic go by, and then I noticed the green palm tree in the planter in front of the shop. Each day in September, for my 1SE (One Second Every Day) app, I took a video of something green growing in Manama. This seemed like a lovely opportunity with the palm, but also the red metro bus, a wailing siren and ambulance coming, and our church lit up in the background. There was even an almost full moon above. I grabbed my husband’s phone inside the shop just in time to catch the scene.