Monday, August 20, 2018
“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” (George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman)
Thanks, Bernard. What exactly were you saying with that? That anyone not good enough for any other job or profession, can always turn to the profession of teaching? If one cannot function in the real world, the teaching profession is always so dire for help, it will take all and any rejects?
“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” (Woody Allen, Annie Hall)
Those who can’t what? Get a job anywhere else? Cannot face a job that demands long hours? Demands a persistent attitude working with a resistant client? Does not want to work under a stressful deadline?
Let’s try teaching! They work short hours, have weekends and summers off, paid holidays. They teach kids. How hard can that be? Whee!
Well, let me tell you, Bernie and Woody, teaching is a PROFESSION, one that demands more than any other job. That 8 to 5, paid summers and holidays myth is a lie, and your cutesy, funny quote is an insult to those who teach.
A teacher has to love the act of learning so much they have to share that love of learning with others. They know their subject matter so well, they can take it apart into its basic components and deliver it with finesse. Teachers keep a mental rolodex in their brains that almost instantly matches learning methods and materials to each student, so when a child “doesn’t get it” in one lesson, the teacher expertly tries it another way.
A teacher looks at each student as a client, a sometimes resistant, petulant, and angry client, but a client nonetheless. A teacher doesn’t have to love each student who walks into the classroom, but they have to like and care for the children who they serve.
A teacher works under a contract, one that demands certain outcomes for a set amount of pay, disregarding the long hours it takes for the teacher to deliver. They work evenings, weekends, holidays, and summers on their own nickel. These hours are not paid. Any other profession can bill for the time spent outside the time clock; teachers can’t. Any other profession can decline to serve certain clients; teachers can’t. A recalcitrant student, an angry, demanding parent, a harsh public, the insulting myth that anyone can be a teacher – all of this makes it hard to choose the profession of teaching as a career.
And those who can’t put up with all of these demands, can’t teach.
Friday, August 17, 2018
Monday, August 13, 2018
HoneyBunch and I come from families who do not believe in throwing away food, ergo, The Leftover is sacred in our homes.
Any little scrap of food goes into plastic containers with tight fitting lids or gets wrapped in plastic with the same reverence as an Egyptian mummy. It shows up at the next meal either in its original form or under a clever disguise. Handfuls of leftover vegetables get thrown into stews or soups; old fries get scrambled into eggs, and though not much can be done for a leftover enchilada, smothering it with soupy beans can make it edible.
When my own kids were young, I “forced” a weekly clean-out-the-refrigerator buffet on them but gave them fair warning. They knew when I called them to the table, they’d better hurry because it was first come, first served. The last one to the table ended up making do with The Leftover Leftover, usually something doubly unrecognizable and inedible.
HB is really big on not wasting food, but I do set limits. In its original state, if it came out of a can, the frozen section of the grocery store or a drive-through take out, it never even makes it to the refrigerator. It is not worthy of being labeled The Leftover since I consider such food has been handled enough in its lifetime. It goes straight into the trash can. If it is homemade from scratch, it can make it as far as a third curtain call before it goes into the trash can, but if it changes color, emits odor, or winks at me, it goes into the trash can immediately.
I am all for not wasting food, but I do have standards.
I WILL NOT give myself food poisoning and all the discomforts that entails over neon-colored ham slices, petrified pizza, or a recycled pork chop.
Monday, August 6, 2018
One year ago, I was finishing a year’s study of the Holy Bible. Month after month, we trekked our way from Old to New Testament.
I underlined one favorite verse in each chapter as I worked my way through each book, and from those verses, I chose the following twelve as my most favorite, one for each month.
Because of this study, I developed a better understanding of God’s connection and the promise he made to his people.
You probably have your own favorites but here are mine.
# 1. The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Exodus 15: 2-3
#2. The Lord bless you and keep you.” Numbers 6:24
#3. You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all this is in them. To all of the them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you. Nehemiah 9:6
#4. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wonderous deeds. So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me. Psalm 71:17-18
#5. Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. Psalm 91: 14-15
#6. I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121: 1-2
#7. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139: 13b
#8. For a child has been born to us, a son given to us . . . and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
#9. Now the end is upon us, I will let lose my anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, I will punish you for all your abominations. Ezekiel 7:3
#10. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy; your body is full of darkness. Luke 11:34
#11. I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
#12. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 2Timothy 1: 7
Monday, July 30, 2018
All characters and events in this story are entirely fictional.
The three widows first met during senior aerobics. They became good friends and were soon making plans to get together during the week.
The aging women went out to lunch, had their nails and hair done, and often found other things to do to pass the time. They called them “outings,” and it pleased their grown children. It freed them from having to entertain their mothers. When the three friends offered to take each other to doctor appointments as well, the children, especially their spouses, were even more delighted.
One day the youngest of the three, the one with emphysema from breathing in years of her late husband’s cigarette smoke, was called in to the police station for questioning. She had a real estate license so her fingerprints were on record with the state. On a random search, her thumbprint matched one found on a bat, the weapon at a gruesome murder scene.
When questioned about her whereabouts on the day of his death, she claimed two alibis, so her friends were also called in to the police station. The oldest limped in with the help of her cane. A stroke had left her with limited use of her right leg. The middle-aged widow seemed the healthiest, the spryest. She burst into the station as if she owned the place and hurried over to the youngest to check the level of oxygen in her mobile tank.
The police questioned each one separately about their whereabouts at the time of the murder, but it all came to a stop when the middle one rummaged through her purse. She looked up through her thick bifocals and smiled at the female detective. Among all the trash at the bottom of her bag, she retrieved a tattered movie theater ticket. It had the date and time stamped on it along with some questionable chocolate smudges. The three were at the movies that day, she said.
But what about the bat? The thumbprint?
The youngest had donated a bunch of old toys recently to Goodwill. She recalled several old bats that once belonged to her sons among the boxes of things.
Their stories all matched, word for word, so as the detectives studied the three elderly women through the one-way mirror, they agreed there was no way these feeble women could have overpowered a young man, six foot tall and muscular. The three old widows were released to their children, and as they drove their sweet mothers home, they commented, incensed that anyone would even consider their dear mothers involved in the heinous death of a repeat sex offender.
It wasn’t until the following Monday that the three widows ventured out of their houses again. They showed up at the gym with plenty of time to warm up before their aerobics class.
“Don’t you ever forget your surgical gloves again.” The oldest whispered into the youngest’s ear in case the gym was bugged. “You almost blew our covers.” She turned to the middle-aged one. “Thank goodness, you never empty that garbage bag of a purse of yours. It saved our skins.”
“I guess we better cool our outings for a while.” The middle-aged one replied.
“But the next one on our list is that lawyer who got acquitted for killing his wife for her money.” The youngest said. “The one who is already shacking up with the hussy who used to be his wife’s hospice nurse.”
“Give it time. We have to be extra careful now that we've been fingered. Arrogance will be his undoing, and then we will go through with his outing.” The oldest ran an osteoarthritic finger across her throat. “Evil never sleeps and neither do we.”
Monday, July 23, 2018
July 23, 2018
The idea began five months ago at my mother’s funeral. Cousins from both sides of the family talked about getting together at a party of our choosing, instead of waiting for a death or a wedding to bring us together again. We needed time to get to know each other; we needed time to share family history and stories.
Only one uncle and one aunt remain of my mother’s entire generation, so it was up to us The Cousins (Los Primos) to tend to the family tree. Our parents and grandparents were brothers and sisters to each other, and we the cousins had once also been close, childhood friends, but marriages, careers, and travels had taken us down different paths. It took a small group of The Cousins (Los Primos) from my mother’s side of the family to take on the formidable task of hosting a matriarchal family reunion on short notice, but it was one amazing afternoon.
We have an astounding history; we have memorable stories, and by sharing them with each other, we hope to inspire future generations.
Because my mother’s family history was so important to her, I looked up what I could about her heritage, and I noticed a pattern of strong women:
- a great-great-grandmother who immigrated husbandless with her children to Texas from the state of San Luis Potosi in Mexico,
- a great-grandmother left penniless to raise four young teenagers during a time when widowed women were easily cheated out of their fortunes,
- a grandmother who raised her five children alone during the Great Depression and World War II while her husband went off to eke a living as a migrant worker for months at a time,
- and my mother who dropped out of school after the eighth grade to help her mother support her younger brothers and sisters.
There is a lot to be added to this history and to these stories, but the reunion has provided me with additional names and dates. There is a lot that needs to be revised. Genealogical records sometimes misspell or transpose names. They sometimes do not provide correct birthdates and dates of death. Hopefully, the information gathered at the reunion of Los Primos will help me fill in the blanks and send me in search for more information.
Most importantly of all will be the tribute to our antepasados and the stories of the grandmothers and their families, inspiring the future generations in our family to bravely strive for more.
Monday, July 16, 2018
Walking into my fourth-grade classroom, the teacher announced a pop quiz over the history chapter she assigned for homework, the one I didn’t have time to read, because I had math homework, and science, and spelling words, so . . . I prayed and promised all kinds of things, if only He would help me get through the pop quiz without failing.
My mom interrogated my baby sister about the pearl necklace she found in her jewelry box. I was next, so . . . I prayed for forgiveness, not because I was going to confess my guilt since I was the one who played with it when it broke into beads, but because I was going to lie and weasel my way out of a spanking. By some miracle, my baby sister got blamed, no one got spanked, and I still kept my promise to be extra nice to her for a whole week.
Fast forward a few years.
I hate thunderstorms, heights, and scary movies. They give me nightmares, so I pray and He sees me through my fears. Prayer also got me through the years of depression and grief when my first marriage ended and I considered suicide.
Every morning, I stood by each student desk in my classroom and prayed for the child who would sit in that chair. I prayed for them as children and for them as students.
I prayed every day on my way to work and on my way home for my own children, and especially for my youngest son while he was off being a Marine serving his country.
I still pray first thing in the morning, and I pray again the moment I lay my head on my pillow at night.
Best of all, I prayed for HoneyBunch. After my divorce, I was prepared to live the rest of my life as a single person. I was grateful for all my blessings, but if there was someone else “out there” for me, maybe He could send him my way. And He did.
So, yes, I pray. It is as natural to me as breathing or thinking or being. It gets me through the day.
Monday, July 9, 2018
My paternal grandmother saw three of her four sons sign up and go off to fight in World War II. My maternal grandmother saw all three of her precious sons drafted in the early 1950’s during the Korean War. Several of my male cousins, including my older brother, served and some died in the Vietnam war. Those who came home were changed forever, but their parents stood proud, supportive of their sons’ service.
When the draft ended in January of 1973, many mothers (and fathers) rested easy; their sons could choose to serve or not. Even with that freedom, some of my family, both women and men, have joined the US service and made it their careers. We are proud of their patriotism and selflessness.
My youngest joined the Marines during his senior year and in June of 1999, just weeks after graduating from high school, he went off to boot camp.
He made a studied decision and though I cried about it, when it came time to drive him to the drop off point, he deserved my respect and loyalty. He was a grown man and would always have my undying love.
From that day forward, I “had his six.”
He was deployed in 2001, 2003, and 2010, and with each deployment I noticed increased differences in him, so when someone disrespects the flag, trashes this country, and encourages divisiveness, my patriotism comes to the fore. There are those who do not understand the immense sacrifice our military gives to create and keep this country safe.
For every problem, every injustice, every failing we see in this country, let’s work toward solutions and honor the sacrifice millions have made to ensure the survival of this country.
Monday, July 2, 2018
The marvelous sentence seems so simple a preschooler can string one together without thinking; yet, it’s amazingly complex in its construction.
A composite of numerous careful, deliberate, and creative decisions, its basic construction can be taught easily; but only a dedicated wordsmith can transform it into a memorable work of artistry.
Like any other aspect of language learning, we listen and observe before venturing to imitate and form a sentence. We learn to speak by speaking; we learn to write a sentence by writing.
But some writers venture farther; they create.
Like their fellow artists - musicians and painters -, the writer looks at each single word like a beat on a sheet of music or a stroke of the brush on canvas. Each word is deliberate; every punctuation mark is a nuance filled with meaning.
What needs to be altered? Cut? Revised? Expanded?
The writer artfully and courageously choreographs each sentence. Clarity and intention, visual and rhythmic appeal, syntax and grammar rules – all color the canvas for innovation and uniqueness.
The simple sentence becomes an extraordinary and memorable work of art.
Monday, June 25, 2018
When I was in Catholic elementary school, the nuns gave us holy cards as presents or rewards. A holy card is smaller than a playing card. It usually has a picture on one side of the Holy Family, a saint, or an angel; and is either blank or has a verse or prayer on the other side. One is supposed to keep it near to remind the believer to pray or trust in the faith. By the time I finished the 8th grade, I had acquired a stack of these. I still own some from those days, and I use them as bookmarks in my Bible and my books of devotions. In high school and college, I used a holy card as a bookmark in the textbooks of my most difficult classes.
When I taught school, my specialty was Remedial Reading, English, and ESL, all subjects that required the students to read on a daily basis in my classroom. Since I could not hand out holy cards in a public school, I gave the students bookmarks I bought at school supply stores. If money was tight, I assigned a classroom contest where the students designed bookmarks. I chose the top best and ran them off, cut them up, and distributed them. The designers loved seeing their name printed at the bottom of the bookmarks, especially if they found me using one of theirs for personal use.
I also recycled old playing cards and made these “bookmarks” available next to the library stacks in my classroom. I used Uno, Old Maid, Go Fish, and the old alphabet and numbers cards from my children’s pre-school days. The kids got a kick out of this and my supply was often depleted. When I taught high school, I offered the students old Bicycle Playing Cards that had grown unusable from HoneyBunch and his family’s avid bridge games.
What can I say? I love to read and the bookmark is an important accessory. I am tickled when someone sneaks a pretty keeper into a birthday card or on Mother’s Day. Some in my collection are elegant beauties from foreign places; others are miniature works of art, but I do not want for bookmarks. I love using old tickets from Broadway plays or concerts I’ve enjoyed. I have also used parking lot receipts, old airplane tickets, and, I confess, I have availed myself of colorful cardboard paint swatches one gets in the paint department.
The bookmark, like the holy card, is a marker in space and time. A respite where we take a moment to breathe, get on with aspects of life that need attention, and come back to a warm welcome.
Monday, June 18, 2018
I belong to a writers’ critique group that meets once a week. I’ve been at it now for seven years, but the group has been around for twenty. Amazing, isn’t it?
We swap pages and give each other feedback on our writing. Some of us are published, but all of us are writers. I have learned more from being a member of this group than from any class I have ever taken on the subject of being a published writer.
Here is what I have learned (the hard way) that might help other aspiring writers.
1. Get into the practice of formatting your manuscript pages in a professional manner. Type it in Times New Roman, 12-point font, and double space it with a one-inch margin all around. Indent your paragraphs. Learn to type in a header with your name and the title of the manuscript, and number your pages.
2. Study how to use all punctuation correctly, especially the use of the semicolon and the quotation marks. Become an expert at it (or as near an expert as you can be.)
3. Learn to discern the different points of view (first, second, third), and if you move from one to the other, how to do it correctly.
4. Learn to discern the use of verb tense (past and present, for example), and if you jump from one to the other, how to do it effectively.
5. Study sentence boundaries. Look at where each sentence starts and where it ends, and be able to identify independent clauses, dependent clauses, run-ons, comma splices, etc. Learn how to punctuate them and use them well.
6. Make sure objects (including characters) do not appear suddenly when they were not there in the previous paragraph or scene. A knife should not show in a character’s hand suddenly, or a character should not be standing when he was kneeling a moment ago, unless you go back and write the action or the prop into the story previously.
7. Go back and search for passive verbs and rewrite the sentences so you remove most of them.
8. Read through for adverbs and rewrite the passage with descriptive verbs or phrases instead of limiting it to an adverb.
9. Learn to describe emotions with physical characteristics or actions instead of using adjectives.
10. The most important tip of all is to learn how to keep the exciting promise you offered your reader. Each scene, each chapter, must move the story forward. If it doesn’t, then it is not necessary, and you will lose your reader. Each scene or chapter must keep the reader engaged, and if it doesn’t, then it needs to be removed or rewritten so that it does.
Monday, June 11, 2018
While driving my grandson home from kindergarten the other day, he announced he will one day be a daddy.
Snarky is a proud genetic trait in my family, so I didn’t rein it back. “Shouldn’t you learn how to do addition, make your bed, and finish high school first?’
“Don’t you want me to be happy?” He snapped.
(Obviously the snarky gene has not skipped a generation.)
He was buckled into his car seat in the back so we had to look at each other through the rear-view mirror. “Well, of course, I do. I’m just saying you’re very, very young to be thinking of marriage.”
“I want to get married to a woman one day and have lots and lots of kids.”
I suppressed the need to tell him that “lots and lots” might not be something to mention to “a woman” on their first date. Instead I said, “Well, I am very happy for you, but what brought this on?”
“I want to grow up and be the best daddy in the whole wide world, just like my dad.”
Who can argue with that?
“And,” he said, “I’m going to let you babysit them. You’ll have more grandchildren to love.”
I shot him a look through the rear-view mirror.
I’m his grandmother. I subscribe to AARP and get Medicare. I’m that old.
This is where the knowledge of learning to add and finishing high school might come in handy to a little man who I love with all my heart, a little man buckled into his car seat dreaming big, daddy dreams.
Monday, June 4, 2018
It’s that time of year when my mailbox is full of graduation announcements. All those grads have plans: off to college, the military service, or the workforce.
Even those who aren’t doing any of those things, have plans of their own. They plan on living rent-free off Mom and Dad while they take a year off to “breathe” and explore their options. They have “creative talent” and need room to develop it further. They were “flooded” with options but felt rushed and needed time to choose from among the multitude.
Not everyone has a clear view of what comes next after high school, not even those packing for college, the military, or the new apartment. They too have their share of doubts.
I’ve seen some college students speed through their classes, anxious to get the degree and start their careers. I have also seen some meander their way, semester after semester, including summers, taking courses with dubious titles that have nothing to do with a tangible degree until the parents demand an outcome to their investment.
The steps one takes learning to fly after high school graduation are both formidable and freeing. I can see why life after high school isn’t for the fledgling.
It takes courage to soar and survive on one’s own.
Monday, May 28, 2018
When my daughter-in-law first moved here from China, among the first things she wanted was to get her driver’s license. She had never driven a car; she had never even been in the front seat of one.
I told her learning to drive looks differently depending on where you are seated inside the car. To prove my point, I gave her a quick driving lesson.
First, I verbalized all the steps I took, both physically and mentally, as I cruised around our three-acre property.
Next, we changed places and I walked her through all the same steps while she drove in between the house and the other four buildings on our place. I helped her ease around corners, made her stop, start, reverse, and change direction and course. The last trip around, I told her to drive the car and I would not say a word until I told her to stop.
As the final step, I asked her to sit in the back seat while I drove into town on an errand. It was too soon to let her do anything but observe, but I hoped she was more aware of what it took to drive. I wanted her to examine her perspective and see how it had changed.
What does this have to do with narrative point of view?
In second person narrative, “you” are the instructor. You give the directions and make comments. Opinions are thrown in extra at no cost. Though the driver is the central person in the car, the driver’s vision is limited, while the passenger is better able to both listen to the instructions and look about and see what is happening both inside and outside the car. The driver decides the course but the person addressed as “you” sees how the instruction and the narrative come together.
In first person narrative, “I” is the driver. The responsibility shifts onto “I’s” shoulders. The narrator relates the driving experience through what is seen, handled, smelled, or heard. “I” reacts when he/she goes through a red light or experiences a skid. Driving a car may be second nature to many of us now, but remember how it felt the first time we took off in Mom’s car?
In third person narrative, the narrator’s viewpoint shifts to that of the passenger. The narrator is there to observe and recount what the others are doing as they travel down the road. If seated in the front seat, the narrative is expressed through more action and less telling because “his or her” actions are up close and tangible. If seated in the back seat, the scope widens with the distance. The narrator is able to observe everyone inside the car, along with some of what is happening outside. As more passengers come along for the ride, each one adds their own voice, personality, and quirks. Everyone will have an opinion on the speed limit, when to stop for lunch, and who gets to sit by the window the next time we all climb back into the car.
On your next trip through a novel, whether as a reader or as a writer, keep an eye on the narrative point of view. Where are you seated? Who gets to call the shots? Is everyone staying in their own lane?
Monday, May 21, 2018
When I was eleven, my teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I pondered that question with all earnestness and narrowed my options down to three: doctor, writer, teacher.
She suggested I might want to narrow my choices further for the sake of the essay we were going to write, so I asked her for advice. She said one should choose with passion; one should look forward to going to work every day.
I nixed “doctor” when she asked me how I felt about cutting people open, the sight of blood, and caring for the sick and dying. That was eye-opening and I quickly switched my essay topic to something less “passionate” - teacher, and years later, saw that become a reality.
Fast forward thirty-seven years, and I retired from a career where I was required to work twelve to fifteen-hour days, seven days a week. I spent my “vacation” time taking classes, compiling research, and writing curriculum units without pay. Only those close to me witnessed the hours I dedicated during my time off or the amount of my own money I invested fortifying classrooms with the necessary supplies and books we needed.
If it sounds like grousing, it isn’t. I loved that career. I was passionate about it and looked forward to going to work every day until I retired. A career well done takes time, effort, money, determination, dedication.
I am pursuing a second career now, an encore to the life I had before. To pursue a career in writing takes all of the above plus more. I am passionate about it. I cannot go a day without writing something. Pencils and pens lie in every room. Stacks of papers cover tables and bed stands. Ideas surface at the oddest times and places, and I gleefully annoy everyone around me with my latest inspirations.
My sixth-grade teacher would be proud of me today. I am still taking her advice.
Monday, May 14, 2018
This was the first Mother’s Day without my mother. I tripped when I wandered by mistake into the grocery aisle with all the cards, the candy, the flowers, but I soldiered on and browsed at all the pretty things, knowing some other Mommy would be enjoying all those little trinkets.
I always bought childish cards for my mom though I haven’t been one in a long, long time. She would get a kick out of my nonsense. She would giggle and show it off over and over. “Aye, que muchacha.”
These last few years I stopped buying her presents and enclosed money, cold hard cash, into her envelope. We never said it out loud, but we both knew she wouldn’t live to see things wear out, so why not spend it NOW, since she couldn’t take it with her? I also learned my lesson the year I spent hours and hours (and a big chunk of change) selecting a present only to find it on her sales table at a garage sale two months later. We laughed about that and her audacity at trying to sell it back to me “for a price.” “Te lo doy barato.”
I loved my mom. I miss her, but I do not wish her back. She is where she needs to be, and I am here. She is at rest and enjoying glory.
My loss does not keep me from celebrating Mother’s Day. Almost every woman I know has been a mom or a parent or a caregiver at some point in their lives, so why not enjoy the day, besides I don’t really believe in waiting to tell folks how much we love them on only one designated day of the year.
You see, my mom and I did it right. We fought with each other, yet afterwards, we asked each other’s forgiveness and made up. There were times we hurt or disappointed each other, but yet again, we asked for forgiveness and made up. She wasn’t perfect and neither am I, but she was my mother, my strongest ally, my truest friend.
On the day before she passed away, she asked us to honor her DNR. She also asked us to celebrate her life, so we made sure to do what she asked. “Gracias, hija.”
The day she died was our last Mother’s Day. She was a strong woman and taught us to be strong, so we said our goodbyes like the grown women we are.
Monday, May 7, 2018
When I was a child, I remember the men’s society at our church would sell carnations before and after Mass on Mother’s Day weekend. My dad, always the gentleman, would buy a carnation corsage for my mother and another for my grandmother (his mother-in-law), and they would in turn buy him a carnation boutonniere. They would fuss and giggle as they pinned them on each other.
I always asked for a carnation, either a tiny corsage with a sprig of baby’s breath or a long-stemmed beauty, but my mother would scold me that they “were for grownups only” and hurried us into the church for Mass.
One year, as we walked out of the last service for the day, the men’s society announced that a few flowers hadn’t sold and were free to anyone who wanted one. I ran to claim a freebie before my mother could hold me back. While others chose a corsage or boutonniere, I plucked a lonely, long stemmed carnation that sat by itself in a bucket filled with water. I would have preferred a red beauty but I was happy with my white carnation.
As I walked back to my parents, I noticed that my flower had tiny red speckles on the edges of the petals. This may have been why it hadn’t sold.
My grandmother said that wearing a red carnation on Mother’s Day meant you honored a mother who was still living and a white carnation meant you remembered a mother who had passed away. To help me remember, she said mothers in heaven wore angelic white gowns, and that was why she and my dad wore white flowers and my mother’s was red.
My mother scolded me for taking off without permission and – horrors! - for choosing a white carnation. I should have gotten a red one. I defended my choice, saying it looked abandoned in the bucket by itself. I wanted it for all the mommies who didn’t have someone who remembered them that day. I was allowed to keep it but not without a scowl.
This Mother’s Day, I am going to buy bunches of white carnations. They will probably be the least expensive because everyone will fight over the reds or the most colorful. I am going to trek out to the cemetery where we buried my dear grandmother, then my handsome dad, and just a few months ago, my formidable mom. I want them to look down from heaven and know I haven’t forgotten them.
I am going to cover their lonely graves with white carnations.
Monday, April 30, 2018
“Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught
they’re hiding” W. S. Merwin
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught
they’re hiding” W. S. Merwin
I’ve enjoyed blogging this month about poetry. It is a nice respite from my usual form, and I hope you have enjoyed our attempts at penning verses.
To end this jaunt, you might browse your public library or a bookstore. Find the kind of poetry that speaks to you and add to your library.
Buy a journal, something fun and inviting, and emulate the poems you enjoy, stretching your creative muscle and drafting a few poems.
Read a poem or a Psalm from the Bible. Use them for meditation before the start of each day. Journal using words, phrases, verses that call to you.
Introduce poetry to those around you. Besides those I referenced in my April 9, 2018 blog, try Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky or Ogden Nash for the younger people in your life.
To explore the male or female point of view, read Judith Viorst, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, or Emily Dickenson; or Pablo Neruda, Billy Collins, or Robert Frost.
For the crafter in you, refer to George Ella Lyon, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Georgia Heard, or Dunning and Stafford. Their suggestions are enlightening.
There are so many books out there, waiting for you to discover them and add them to your library. Enjoy what is crouching inside your pencil, waiting to be spoken, and try your hand at poetry. Best of luck.
Monday, April 23, 2018
Writing poetry does not come easy for me, but that does not mean I don’t occasionally try my hand at penning a few verses.
My poetry collection numbers close to 100 books. It intrigues me so some of those books are on the craft of writing poetry.
This week’s “how to write a better poem” suggestion comes from Georgia Heard’s Awakening the Heart. It is a technique she uses with students called the Six-Room-Poem that I found amazingly helpful.
You take a sheet of paper and fold it into six boxes and position the paper landscape, three boxes on top and three boxes on the bottom.
In box 1: describe thoroughly an image or a memory you want to use as the subject of your poem. You are not writing a poem yet, so just fill this box with description. If you are stuck, hold on, since you might get more ideas as you fill the other boxes.
In box 2: describe the quality of light or shadow or colors about your topic.
In box 3: describe your topic/image using the following senses: smell, taste, sound or lack of, and touch.
In box 4: what questions does your image elicit, or what questions might it ask you? You could also use this square to note quotes or verses from other sources that fit your image/topic.
In box 5: what feelings/imagery come from observing or describing your topic?
In box 6: go over the five boxes and find an image, word, verse, sentence that stands out. Write it in this box three times.
Go back over the six boxes and fill in more descriptions and images, build imagery using similes and metaphors or other figures of speech.
If you have been successful, you now have enough material to write your poem.
The sun gathers her skirts
pinks and purples.
Her song over
she steps off the stage.
shafts of light
cling to the end of her dance.
A magnificent spectacle
Her beauty on mute.
She throws her arms into the air,
And darkness follows.
Monday, April 16, 2018
In my previous two blogs for the month of April about poetry, I gave two suggestions: trying your hand with a “found poem” and imitating a favorite poem or poet by copying one example and substituting its form with your own words to practice “writing a better poem.”
To illustrate how a found poem works, I took a favorite Psalm from the Bible and did the following:
1. I copied words, phrases, or verses from the psalm that I really loved unto a sheet of paper, one example per line, then I cut them into movable pieces with a pair of scissors.
2. In a found poem, you are not allowed to add or change ANYTHING; you can only work with the words, phrases, or verses you have chosen. You cannot punctuate differently or add punctuation where it might be needed, but you can repeat words, phrases, or verses to create a refrain or make transitions or to emphasize images. It will look very “modern.”
3. I took my bits of paper and moved them into different positions, paring phrases down to single words if necessary and creating line breaks where I wanted.
It is always best to show an example so below is my version of Psalm 91. I hope it inspires you to try your hand at a found poem. Happy April is Poetry Month!
Psalm 91: I Will Be With You
I will protect those who know my name
You will not fear the terror of the night
I will be with them
When they call me, I will answer them
bear you up
no evil shall befall you
guard you in all ways
from the snare of the fowler
You will tread on the lion and the adder
You will not fear the terror of the night.