Waiting

Waiting

Are you ready for Karak tea?
My husband’s gift to pour–
Friday mornings, quietly free
This chai, my drink du jour

On this Advent winter Morning
Emmanuel–God with us
Gift of Ransom from our mourning
Rescued from pain and pus

Rejoice, rejoice–God with us, here
In this place, in becoming–
Sipping sweet, spicy, milky Tea
Pause and smile. He’s coming.

The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad Prompt #120 by Cat Miles.

Write about a beloved drink—about how you make it, a memory associated with it, or the way it connects you to others or yourself.

I combined this with another prompt about using Emily Dickinson’s techniques. I attempted #1, writing about a mundane subject with a bigger idea, and #2, using common meter and rhyme. It was also easy to throw in techniques #3, capitalized nouns, and #4, use of dashes. I think I’ll keep practicing! Especially on #2.

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.

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?

The Isolation Journals and Studio Visit with Nadia Bolz-Weber

Prompt 112 last week from Nadia Bolz-Weber was writing about “Things I’m not proud of…” Here is more:

Write a confession—something you did or said that you still carry with guilt and shame. Then write your own absolution, honoring the aftermath of your actions, calling in grace.

*Optional: Burn after writing.

This was powerful for me. I wrote and wrote about things I am ashamed of. Of words that I have spoken to my own children and my students. My tongue is  too sharp. Over the years, I have felt the millstone around my neck getting heavier and heavier, a sad reminder of the little ones I have offended. 

Then He said to the disciples, “…It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 

~Luke 17:2

I wrote my confession and then shredded, instead of burning, it (due to the smoke alarm in my flat).

As a result of Nadia’s prompt, I subscribed to the Studio Visits at The Isolation Journals. Tonight I got to go to my first Studio Visit with Nadia Bolz-Weber and Suleika Jaouad. It was a lovely hour spent soaking in grace and hope and peace.

God, I thank you that you understand that I am complicated, so many folded together layers of humanity. So much to be ashamed of, yet so much to rejoice in. So much fruit and life and joy and service. I thank you that you have gradually given me freedom to grow past my mistakes, actions, and words that shame me. You are never surprised by what I do, you love me and forgive me. Thank you. Thank you, Jesus, for picking up the pieces and patching me together with you, the living Word of God. Amen.