They seem fairly unrelated to our political climate. However, in 2016 and half of 2017, I was spending way too much time watching and reading political news. Instead I decided to read and write.
Recently, on 750Words, I broke my previous record of 62 days in a row, set in 2011. Today, I was up to 74 straight days.
It’s interesting how some outside lead measures have helped me to find serenity the second half of this year. Instead of searching for serenity, though, I write in the mornings, often praying for others and counting my blessings–10,000 reasons to say thank you.
In addition, I’ve read 7 books since school started, almost on par for my 40-book challenge. The frozen sea within me is getting chipped away.
I don’t have as much time for the news nowadays. Perfect. Instead of trying to say no to the drama and toxicity of our politics, as I had for so many months. I have said yes to writing, reading, praising, and reflecting. As a result I have more serenity.
I nod my thanks to the driver of the black Yaris as I pull out of the side lane in front of him. “Go ahead. You can go in front of me,” he says silently. The busy mother with a young child at each hip hurries through the crowd to get to the bus stop on time. The girls’ starched uniform pinafores move like great church bells, their scurrying legs the clappers.
I’m sitting at the red light listening to the music my husband put onto the USB. Usually I don’t pay much attention to what’s playing, but this morning, this time, this song had such a sweet and melancholy effect on me. It is “Time of Your Life” by Green Day.
I thought of the story that brought us to Bahrain. We were in our late 50’s. No need to make such a radical change, right? But we did. It was so unpredictable. From the beginning it’s been right. Just right. A chance to meet and love people from scores of different countries. From backgrounds, languages, and cultures so radically different than mine. I’m learning so many lessons day by day. This sweet song spoke to me today.
Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time
It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right
I hope you had the time of your life
So take the photographs, and still-frames in your mind
Hang it on the shelf of good health and good time
Tattoo’s of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while
It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right
I hope you had the time of your life
Normally I walk to school, but today I drove because I needed the car after school. It’s just a 5-minute walk, so I always know if I will be on time when I walk out the door. However, when I drive I need to leave 20 minutes earlier to make it on time. Today, I missed the 20-minute mark. I was on the road at 6:48. Only 12 minutes to drive less than 1 kilometer. I share the road with many others–adults hurrying to work, delivery men loaded with parcels, parents and drivers darting with their young charges to get them to school on time.
As I sat in the long lineup of cars a few blocks from my school, my friend and colleague Victoria walked by. She didn’t see me, and I didn’t even bother to roll down the window and holler at her to hop in for a ride the rest of the way to school. I actually considered how I might ditch my car and walk with her the rest of the way to school so I wouldn’t be so late.
The music played on. I listened to the Green Day song twice, and two other songs started and finished by the time I pulled into the lot behind school. I punched in about 5 minutes late. Not too bad actually.
I added to my photographs this morning–the still-frames in my mind that I take with me. So many beautiful images. The grandfather pushing the baby in the pram, as he lovingly gazed at the baby’s face more than the bumpy sidewalk he traveled on. The lanky fellow who tripped and stumbled a bit when he stepped off the curb. He caught my eye as I sat at the red light, and he passed an infectious belly laugh to me. Laughter and smiles. These are the sweet slices of life that I cherish.
It’s worth all the while. I’m having the time of my life.
I have a FitBit, and right now I am on a bit of a 10,000-step-a-day streak. I also like to keep moving for at least 30 minutes each day. Sometimes I keep going while my husband runs an errand. Today I kept walking while he went into the Viva store to take care of a mobile phone issue.
Last week, when I needed a few more minutes to hit my goal, my hubby stopped at the market to buy some cashews. I went in, but I kept moving, moving around the store. He told me I was like a cat underfoot, going here and there, needing herding.
Tonight we walked through the dark alleyways and narrow streets of Manama, where I am never afraid. It’s dusty and run-down and crowded with cars parked on the sidewalks and people going every which way. Cars squeeze through places you would never believe they’d fit. (I spent almost a whole lifetime thinking I needed more room to drive than I really do.)
I took a walk with my husband tonight, after we heard about the tragedy in Las Vegas. I am weeping that my own country seems so unsafe and broken nowadays. O, God, save us, I pray.
I had an amazing summer. We have a two-month break from school, and for the whole time I was settled into my small desert island nest. You can’t drive more than an hour in one direction here before you get to the sea and have to turn around.
I was home for two months with time to spend cooking and baking for friends, including never-before-attempted recipes, spending leisurely time with people, cleaning and organizing my home, keeping up with daily household chores, reading, reading, reading, writing, eating out, taking long walks in air conditioned spaces, enjoying my husband, reflecting on U.S. politics and racism, reading the Bible, praying, and never feeling anxious or worried–except occasionally about the way our country is headed.
My summer is coming to a close, and I am a little bit dreading going back to the never-ending grind of busyness that the school year has become for me the last few years. Recently I read, “Wrapping Up My Summer of ‘No'” by Katherine Sokolowski. It was like a rallying cry for me to join her fragile movement of finding balance.
Like Katherine, I can relate to making school not only my work, but my life and leisure, as well. My children are grown and live 7,000 miles away, and my husband is an amazing servant who can cook and clean and does. As a result, I have lots of time to work. And like Katherine, I love working. I love creating opportunities, preparing BreakoutEDU games, writing blog posts, publishing student blog posts, shifting the way we’ve always done it, figuring out how best to meet the needs of my English language learners. I am never satisfied and never feel finished with my work at school.
However, that life is less than complete. I don’t have serenity. I miss out on so many moments of joy. I don’t want the unbalanced life of all work.
I’m reading another book right now, The Four Disciplines of Execution. I believe it’s going to help me in my personal life, my teaching life, and my overseeing life as an English teacher coordinator. When we determine our wildly important goals–one or two of them at a time, we can have more success than when we try to do it all. More about that in a future blog post.
So, Katherine, for now, I pray I really will join you in saying no to the things that trip me up. I want to say yes to the wildly important goals that will help me live with no regrets.
Instead, I did what I’m good at and what I love. I stayed in the kitchen. (Am I an expert? My husband thinks so.)
I made Spanish rice, chicken fajitas, black beans and salsa and all the fixings. I baked tahini chocolate chip cookies for dessert. (That is a magical little recipe, by the way.) I even cleaned out the Tupperware cupboard.
Each Tuesday evening this summer, we host our pastor and his son who are home while the rest of their family is in the U.S. We have them over for dinner with dessert. Then we send the leftovers home with them for the next day. They are always so appreciative, and I love cooking for anyone with a good appetite.
Today Keith was giving the tour of the buffet line. “We’re having Mexican rice bowls. It’s like at Chipotle’s–you just put whatever you want into your bowl,” he said.
Minus the E. coli, I thought to myself, though I didn’t want to say it aloud.
After dinner and the dishes, I sat down to write this post. Since today’s Capture Your 365 theme was “Relaxing,” I took this picture–one of the first times I relaxed today.
I wrote the post below today for Teachers Write, but I thought I would share it here because it’s a slice of my life, though 20 years ago. I was thinking of Arizona a lot today because I baked a lemon meringue pie and because the weather is really hot and steamy here in Bahrain, a little like Arizona during the monsoon season. When I saw today’s prompt, this wondrous mud puddle came to mind.
A wondrous puddle is hidden in the Bermuda grass most of the year. Who would have thought there was magic in that small bald patch of yard? The patch near the naval orange tree where the grass can’t grow has the approximate diameter of a large kiddy pool, but the comparison ends there. There is nothing tame about this piece of earth when the rains come.
Unfortunately, Mom never let them flood it with the hose. Otherwise they could have enjoyed mud baths all summer long, mud baths that were simultaneously exhilarating and restful. Mud baths that put grit in their teeth, long-lasting cakes under their fingernails, and the smell of magic in their nostrils. Instead, these girls were forced to pray for rain.
On this day, monsoon winds come. Dust is in the air. Finally, raindrops the size of 50-cent pieces splotch the deck around the pool and back porch. And, yes, the drops are even noticeable in the sticky caliche soil near the orange tree. The girls watch from the French door windows, willing the drops to keep falling. Please not another false rain alert is their unspoken prayer. So often the muddy drops end as a vain attempt to wash the dirt out of the sky, a tease of petrichor they can feel and smell even in the house. More often than not, in Phoenix, the summer rains stop not only before they wash the dust out of the air, but well before they fully wet sidewalks or muddy the hopeful spot in the yard.
This time, though, it’s different. The magic is working. Not just pitter patter. These drops are thunk thunk thunking on the roof, ping ping pinging on the tin cover of the A/C unit in the yard, and quietly invading the dry soil around the orange tree. It is a real monsoon rain. Finally. The season came late this year, but today rain will win the battle to uncover the wondrous mud puddle.
Yesterday I was considering doing some research about how to make a Mars Curiosity model for my Teachers Write Monday assignment. The assignment, by Sarah Albee, was to do nonfiction research, particularly to talk to an expert. However, I am spending my writing time this summer working on a children’s fiction story. Plus, since I’m hanging out at home with my husband after his eye surgery, he became my “expert.”
Keith suggested I would need a base to hold the motor. He said you’d want to make a base out of plastic or something.
I argued. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m not really making it. No one who reads it is going to know if it’s really feasible,” I said.
He acted like he didn’t hear me.
He found a rubber band car on YouTube. After watching the first minute, he said, “OK, here’s what Bailey needs to do. Make the base with straws and toothpicks, like in the video. You can use the bottle caps for wheels. This will be strong enough to hold the motor from the broken RC car he’s going to find abandoned at the thrift shop.”
“OK, maybe,” I said when I woke up this morning.
It was also after the part last night, when I snatched my Chromebook from him and gave the I-said-I’m-not-really-going-to-make-it-!-don’t-you-get-that-? speech.
So here’s a short scene from my story after my “expert” interview:
“Hey, Bailey, look what I found at work today!” Dad came bolting into the kitchen through the back door, the wooden-framed screen door bouncing behind him. Bailey was sitting at the round yellow Formica table–what Bailey used to call “our sunshine table”–munching Oreos dipped in milk. “Some gals ordered smoothies for lunch and they came with these jumbo straws. Perfect, right?” He held up two shiny straws, one peachy cream color and one lavender.
“Perfect?” Bailey said. “Dad, the Curiosity is like white, gray and black. How can these be perfect?”
“Oh, but look how strong they are. You can’t even bend ‘em. They must be close to a half inch in diameter. And heck, we can spray paint them black.”
“Black would be good. Won’t we need more?”
“I asked the women to save more for us. They said they order a few times a week. I had never even noticed them until I saw them in the garbage today. You know, after we watched that YouTube video yesterday.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think that was going to work,” Bailey was still suspicious about it.
“Let’s give ‘er a try after supper. What do you think? And, hey, why are you eating Oreos now?”