A Prayer of Lament

Day 22

Last night in our family Bible study we wrote prayers of lament, like in Psalm 13 (How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?) and Psalm 22 (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?).

Prayers of lament start out with protest, continue with petition, and end with some kind of praise, at least anticipated praise. Here is mine:

God are you here in your church?
Why does it not look like heaven?
Why have we distorted your Body so much?
When will we give up white supremacist
theology for the upside down
Realm of Jesus?
Have you abandoned your church?
Do you laugh or cry
about the mess we’ve made of it?

Can you just start over, God?
Re-transfuse the church with your blood,
and do whatever you have to
to make us serve the Jesus of the Bible,
not the “white” Jesus created
by enslavers and murderers.
I want your will to be done
on earth as it is in heaven,
but it is hard to believe it will happen.

I want to praise you
because I know you will fully come.
I do believe,
but help my unbelief.

Grandma’s House

Day 21

Each window in the ramshackle cabin had a jagged starburst framework of glass shards. After Mom knocked out the most dangerous pieces from the bottom part of the window frame, she lifted me through. We were both careful so I wouldn’t cut myself on the glass knives on my right and left. Mom, who wouldn’t fit through the window herself, watched protectively as I stepped onto the glass-covered floor and walked toward the door to unlock it from the inside. I jumped when a mama bird took flight across the high ceiling of what would later become Grandma’s bedroom.

We worked every weekend for months to get this old homesteader cabin in shape. My grandma needed a new place to live, and my grandpa provided this little cabin for her to live in. He had built it decades before. (They were long ago divorced, so he had his own place.)

This became the grandma’s house I knew and spent many nights at. It was a two-and-a-half hour drive east from our home near L.A., and we often drove there on Friday after school and came back Sunday night. It’s where we went to the Sky Drive-in Theatre, hiked over the mountain to see what we could see, explored other abandoned cabins, flew cracked broken asbestos hot pads like frisbees, caught lizards and stink bugs, read from cover-to-cover the latest Mad Magazine that Mom and Grandma brought home from their  grocery runs, took baths outside, hung laundry on the clothesline, ate Grandma’s popovers, and feasted on Grandma’s favorite KFC fried chicken for special occasions.

We had Thanksgiving at Grandma’s every year. She, and all of us, thought more is always better in both the food and people departments. So we often brought others along who needed a home for Thanksgiving. When the Thanksgiving meal was finished there was always pumpkin pie and a nap or two. Later if anyone was hungry, they could warm up another plate of food from the spread that was left out on the naturally-refrigerated screened-in porch.

The next day we woke up bright-eyed and in a new holiday spirit. We put on our ugly Christmas sweaters (but no one called them ugly back then). We put away all the fall colors and turkeys, and we transformed my grandma’s house into a Christmas wonderland. A tree went up, red and green decorations and Christmas tablecloths adorned all the many dining room tables that had been pieced together. Gifts went under the tree. Games were played and gifts were exchanged. (Earlier we had chosen a name for one gift to give.)

When I got married my grandma couldn’t come to the wedding. They told me she was sick, but they didn’t tell me how sick. The day after the wedding, my husband and I went to Disneyland. We had a family tradition that when someone went to the Magic Kingdom, they would stop in Tomorrowland at the futuristic surround-sound telephone booth and call home. I didn’t want to stop that tradition, so on our Day 2 of married life we called home. My sister greeted us and gave us the news that my grandma had colon cancer. We actually left Disneyland at that time and drove the two-and-a-half hours to see my grandma. It would be the last time I saw her, as she died six-months later during my husband’s last semester of graduate school in Michigan.

The next time I went to Grandma’s house, it had become my Mom’s home. She had moved from our childhood home, where my brother and his new wife were living. Not exactly like a palimpsest, scraped clean and ready to be used again, for she had just moved into the same home and was now the grandma there for a new generation.

When we had children, the girls and I would leave at 5 in the morning and drive (not often enough) four hours west from Phoenix. Grandma would have breakfast ready for us, and then my girls would do some of the same things I did when I was a little girl.

When my mom got sick, she moved to another place near my sister, just a few miles away. We were all there with her the last week of her life. I was glad my teenage daughters got to be there to say goodbye.

Beside my dying mom
During her last days
In her rock house living room
Next to the rented hospital bed
Because of love
With sadness in our hearts
With fear, but with God
Good-bye, Grandma

Now the house stands empty, owned by my siblings and me. Will someone in this generation or the next scrape it clean and use it again?

Today’s idea is from The Isolation Journals, and it challenged us to think of our lives as metaphorical palimpsests. 

Prompt 144. Greater than the Sum of Parts, by Maura Kate Costello

Think of a site that holds many stories—like your hometown, an heirloom, your family tree, or even your own body. Can the stories live together in harmony? Or does the tablet need to be scraped clean, the story rewritten?

Friday – A Day to Rest

Day 20

This week I had three really busy days in a row; I wasn’t enjoying anything that was keeping me busy. I felt like Grumpy Gills Nemo when Dory tells him to just keep swimming. When life gets you down, you just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

By the skin of my teeth, I reached most of my deadlines on Thursday evening, but when I went to bed I left this note for the morning.

I was half asleep, so I couldn’t even stop to write a quick SOLSC blog post before bed. I thought I could do it in the morning because when it is 8:00 a.m. the next day in Bahrain, it’s midnight on the U.S. East coast. I remember vaguely thinking that the U.S. recently sprung ahead, so now it will be 9:00 a.m. at midnight, so I had lots of time in the morning. I woke up at 6:55 and went to my computer. I wrote the blog post, published, and went to post on TwoWritingTeachers. But alas, it was now 7:15 a.m. here and 12:15 a.m. EST. So that’s how that spring ahead thing worked this time! Oops, so I missed my 18th day of SOLSC.

Next on my checklist was making music videos for our church school children to sing to record their voices. They are nothing pretty, just our musicians playing with lyrics and actions, but it took a lot of time.

Finally, it was about 1:00 p.m. and the perfect time for a nap! I slept for an hour. A delightful “Sunday”-afternoon nap. Friday is our church day, and so we think of it as Sunday still, always a good day for a nap.

After that I woke up and was so excited to sit and read, something I have been neglecting for way too long. Though I didn’t spend a lifetime with Suleika Jaouad, I did spend about six months, and got to chapter six in her book Between Two Kingdoms. The book is quite engaging. Suleika has such a beautiful way of observing and describing the details of her surroundings and experiences. I’m really enjoying her story.

It was a lovely relaxing afternoon, something I desperately needed. Later I made some naan bread, and I was surprised to see that some of them had creepy faces. I began wondering about each one’s personality traits. Oh, my! It’s been quite a week!


Just Stop

Day 19, not 18!

Yesterday morning I woke up to a third busy day, but a challenge from this poem (and again from Glenda) about slowing down and smelling the hyacinths. (It is a backwards poem, so you have to slow down and read it right to left.)

I decided to finish my work as soon as possible and dust off that book I’ve been neglecting.

Later in the day, I was still busy with previously neglected deadlines for video editing and spelling bee work. So I continued working and neglected to “spend a lifetime in a book this afternoon.”

Now it’s early in a new day, and I am going to savor the moments today.

I read another new challenge yesterday: “unless you are ready to part with things you are holding on to–there will be no room for new wisdom, new ideas, new innovation, new reasoning, new anything. There is great wisdom in parting.

Ok. Today I am going to stop thinking I’m indispensable, and spend a lifetime in Suleika Jaouad’s memoir.

Freedom to Admit Defeat

Day 17

Today I woke up with another yo-yo day planned. DIBELS screening for second graders, followed by two more Grade 11 Sociology classes. However, I woke up early and remembered that I had not prepared the Slides for the screening, which has to be done in a Zoom breakout room.

I hate to admit defeat against my calendar and my neglected to-do lists, but today I had to. I couldn’t go to school and pick up the test papers and get the Slides ready by period 1, so I was able to excuse myself. It is one of the good things about being a volunteer. If it happened last year, I would have killed myself to get it done, even if haphazardly and incomplete. But everything will be fine. Everything would have been fine last year, too, but it hurts my ego to not be on top of things. I don’t like to admit defeat.

However, I have had a good and stress-free day, with more time to work on video editing for church and my Ethical ELA Quick Write poem today called the Arabic form by Marwa Helal. (And I didn’t get the Slides ready!)

If you haven’t heard of the poetry going on over at Ethical ELA, you should check it out. In April, we will write a poem each day. I started in 2020, and it has been great for my soul. (Thank you, Glenda!) Learn more and subscribe here.

Yo-Yo Teaching Today

Day 16

Today I had to get to school at 6:45 for a Covid test, which is required for all teachers every day they are in school. It was self-administered, and we did it in socially-distant small groups at a time for those of us who were just learning how. Next time we can do it on our own. Mine was negative. That’s good.

Then I went to period 1, where grade 11 students presented their social media platform creations, which had to be designed according to the audience they surveyed and studied. It was fun to get to see the passion with which they created and shared. Sometimes after a presentation, a group would ask me if I would want to install their app. I wasn’t sure if my enthusiastic yes was a positive for a teen or a negative!

Next I ran home, had a snack and did my first yo-yo swing to get ready for my grade 1 tutoring small group. We had scavenger hunts for red items, outgrown items, something that rhymes with blue. We listened for rhyming words, clapped together word parts and made compound words and other phonological awareness activities, and then we took an exercise brain break while we tried to read number words.  We had a dance break, marched, bowed, jumped and flew like Superman.

This is such a fun brain break. Click on the image or the link here to go to this and more on the Minds in Bloom blog post.

Then yo-yo back to grade 11 presentations on Zoom and dealing in the chat box with students who were unprepared or had conflicts with their team–issues that they should have dealt with sooner than in class.

The day proceeded like a yo-yo, which I’m glad I don’t do on a regular basis. I think I only have two more Tuesdays like this!

Our Trip to the Embassy

Day 15

Yesterday my husband and I had an appointment at the U.S. Embassy. We booked the first available appointment two weeks before. We each needed to sign a document and have them notarized.

Yesterday we left ourselves 40 minutes to get to the Embassy, which was about ten minutes away. Sure enough, we walked up to the gate and pulled out our passports, papers to be signed, and appointment verification. Then he looked at me and asked about my appointment. Oops, we thought. We only have one appointment. “May I go with him?” I asked.

“I’ll talk to my supervisor. In the meantime, you can wait in your car until five minutes before your appointment.”

“Yes, sir,” my husband said to this first person we met.

We waited and sat in the car and began to notice the details of the Embassy, which looks like a military base under protection. Rolls and rolls of razor wire on every perimeter. We wondered if it looks like our U.S. Capitol these days. Why is America so afraid? we thought aloud. We know about many of the experiences in the world that have made us afraid. It’s also related to power. Powerless countries, it seemed to us, don’t have to live at the same level of fear as we do.

We went back to the gate at 8:55 a.m. There was a new man there, probably the supervisor, who was very polite and thanked us for waiting. He said we could proceed with our one appointment, instead of two. He pointed across a lane to a ramp up to a sidewalk that had a rope barrier along the right side and a wall border on the left. I marched right up the ramp, took a 90-degree right turn, trying to follow his orders precisely. My husband, on the other hand, cut diagonally across the lane to an opening in the rope ten meters down. What? I thought!

When we caught up, I said, “You better be careful. I feel like someone is sitting in a guard tower ready to shoot us if we take a wrong turn.” I’m sure I was overly-anxious and exaggerating, but it felt all very strange and barren and foreign and cold.

We walked and walked, about the length of a soccer field to another right turn. We went into a small airport-like security system. We emptied our pockets, putting everything in a bin. These were scanned, then we walked through the scanner. We were also wanded this way and that, even though nothing beeped when we walked through. Finally, we were given a tag to pick up our things later. We were allowed to keep our passports and the papers we needed signing. Oh, yes, and my husband’s wallet so he could pay $50 each for the notary’s work.

We came out of that room and finally saw the Embassy building. We took a wrong turn to go up a set of stairs, but we were being watched. Fortunately, we didn’t get shot. Instead, we were politely shown where we missed our turned and escorted back.

We went inside. The three windows looked like the way prisoners talk to visitors with thick glass and microphones. However, it was also like a bank teller with a little doorway to slide our papers and passports inside. We got to take our masks off for a bit to assure him that we were the same people on our passports. Then he notarized our signatures, and we were off.

We backtracked our same steps as we picked up our belongings. The whole time took about twenty minutes.

Everyone was so professional and helpful. And really we didn’t see any guns. (Although I suspect there were some there, out of our eyesight.) Another thing that might be interesting, the only American we encountered was the notary public who witnessed our signatures. The other workers were all ex-patriates.

Of course, there are no photos in this post because our phones were not allowed on the premises.