Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Tuesday Slice: The gap


I am dreaming

In the bathroom
there is a gap
between the floor and the wall
A sizeable one
maybe six inches deep,
a foot wide

I am not too surprised.
We live in an old house
and it is a dream, after all--
I know this.

What I don't expect
is the large snake--
wait, make that two snakes--
sleeping in the gap
I can't see their heads
only yellowish gray scales
(is there even a pattern?)
except for

one   huge    rattle
as big as my hand
its light tan segments silently still.

I am calmly afraid, if
being calmly afraid is possible.

Leaving the bathroom, 
I quietly close the door and
inform my husband, who carefully
stuffs an old bedspread 
into the gap
over the snakes
and calls a guy.

It's just a dream, after all.

Of course, I had to look up the meaning of rattlesnakes in dreams as I wrote my morning page.  Heeding warnings and boundaries, warning others before strike were the first interpretations...but they didn't make sense, since the snakes were sleeping.  Tackling problems by trusting gut instincts, and the presence of spirits close enough to sense and almost touch--now that seems more apropos.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Tuesday Slice: A cup of metaphor/ writer's notes

The second cup of coffee is always sweeter
        Poured into remnants of the first
        Hot dark mixing with lighter cool
Stevia upon stevia
Half and half upon half and half
        A tiny silver spoon swirling it all together.

The first line of the poem has been stuck in my head for a week, the neurons taking it out of my mental filing cabinets each morning as I refreshed my coffee.  I finally tried expanding on it in my morning writing.

Digging deeper, I see this as a metaphor for the second half of my life:  experience building on experience, sweet gratitude for all that has come before and more good things to anticipate in the future.  The tiny silver spoon was bought in Japan, where we traveled for our silver anniversary-- a reminder of the lovely coffee serving sets in the hotel featuring similar spoons. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Abandoned Traditions: Spiritual Journey

I am late to this gathering, this writing of Spirit, due Maundy Thursday but penning on Easter Sunday instead.

I feel rather like the breathless women arriving at the tomb, just barely realizing what has happened.  Confused, saddened, angry perhaps at an incorrectly perceived injustice until the truth is revealed.

Several years ago, I drifted away from the Church of my childhood, taking my family along with me.  The suffocating patriarchy, the tedium and social politics experienced by my children in religious education, and my increased reading on the representation of the feminine in the Divine drove the wedge deep enough to impact our church attendance.  It didn't happen all at once, but eventually we all realized that much of the teachings just didn't align with how we needed to experience Divine presence.

We lost our religion, but not our faith.  We still said grace, blessed each other at bedtime, performed service projects in lieu of crowded Christmas Mass, made birthday cakes for Jesus on Christmas Eves and looked for the baby in the manger on the mantel on Christmas mornings, placed there by Santa (who enjoyed his slice of cake instead of a cookie).  Sometimes we made Lenten resolutions, trying to focus more on positive acts than on the giving up of chocolate.  We had special dinners at Easter.  But the children have grown and are (mostly) flown from the nest, and so the home traditions are going by the wayside.

During this transition, I needed a faith practice that was inclusive of all my Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish friends.  I needed to hear of a God who loved all of His/Her children, even my gay relatives and friends.  The God of Love, who invites all to the table, sinners and saints, no password needed.  I found Her through books--Nadia Bolz Weber's stories of her progressive Lutheran church, Sue Monk Kidd's awakening in The Dance of the Dissident Daughter  and the bibliography she provides.  There were discussions with friends of faith and even a spiritual director, all affirming this questioning as spiritual growth.

I feel like my faith has grown as the years have passed.  I believe in the power of prayer, especially those of my Celtic forebears which often draw upon the wonders of this Creation, connecting Heaven and Earth.  I experience the Divine in beautiful sunsets, birds at my feeder, the many-hued faces of my students, the sharing of good food and soul-filling conversation.  Absolution is given with heartfelt apologies and changed behavior, not in closed cabinets with curtained screens.  Communion is bringing a cake to the party, canned goods to the food bank collection.  Confirmation is found each morning in the granting of one more day to try and get it right and gratitude written in a journal at bedtime.  Matrimonial blessings are conferred in the smiles of loved ones wishing the new couple every good thing in their promised partnership, no matter the setting.

At the same time, I have a longing for the traditions of the old Church.  I miss the scent of incense, the sprinkling of Holy Water, the communal Lord's Prayer.  I miss the quiet of the sanctuary between Masses, the feeling of standing on sacred ground, the removal from the everyday for just an hour to focus on the Divine.

And so I have become an on-again, off-again seeker. I am truly walking this Spiritual Journey.  Here's hoping that the joining of this group of writers as they explore Spirit each month will be a new beginning, a brighter light shining on my dulling practices of faith.

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

SOLSC '21 Day Thirty-one: Challenge number nine--check


I am participating in my ninth Slice of Life Story Challenge run by the team behind the Two Writing Teachers website.  We are challenged to write a blog post a day throughout the month of March.

I wasn't going to do the "woohoo, last day of SOLSC!" post.
I wasn't going to highlight that it's my ninth one, and threes are my favorite numbers.

I wasn't going to write about how wonky my old computer is getting, how frustrating it was some mornings--and evenings--to highlight and revise, upload pictures, make the spacing just right when the cursor wouldn't comply.

I wasn't going to write how this year seemed just a bit easier than the last, which, let's face it--SOLSC '20 was really a COVID diary, with plenty of fodder for posts.

I wasn't going to discuss how I've managed writing a full morning page BEFORE each day's Slice, and how I think it's helped me with my posts, even on days when I didn't Slice about what's in my morning pages.

I wasn't going to moan about not being involved in a Writing Camp with students this year, so I didn't get to share their prompt and hold up my writing for their scrutiny, talk about the commitment to putting words on paper every.single.day.

I wasn't going to gush over writers both familiar and new who have dazzled me with their words during this Challenge.  How they've inspired me, stretched me, made me rethink how I string words and spaces together to make sense, make a story, record a memory.

I wasn't going to talk about all the book recommendations that I gleaned from Slices.  Or all the posts I've bookmarked in a task bar folder, waiting to go back and read.  It may take months...

I wasn't going to talk about how I will be a bit relieved tomorrow when my time is just a little freer, the obligations of writing and reading and commenting lifted--but I'll miss those obligations, too.

I wasn't going to write about any of those things...and yet, here we are.  

Thanks for a wonderful ninth year of Slicing with me, writing friends.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

SOLSC '21 Day Thirty: How was your day, dear?


I am participating in my ninth Slice of Life Story Challenge run by the team behind the Two Writing Teachers website.  We are challenged to write a blog post a day throughout the month of March.

It's a question asked every evening, most often at the dinner table.

"How was your day, dear?"

How was my day, yesterday?  It started quietly enough, no students zooming through the halls, chatting and laughing as they rub in their hand sanitizer.  Nope, they were most likely still asleep on this at-home asynchronous learning day.

Emails first, then a para came in asking for work to do.  Got her set up with barcoding new professional materials, then got a third cup of coffee and sat down to four hours of our monthly district librarians' meeting.

It went by fast, packed with celebrations, talk of spending our budget money ASAP, inventory woes, an origami bookmark and a STEM challenge to try (mine was a flop).  Us elementary-types got the big reveal of next year's Armadillo Readers' Choice list (yay, I already have two of them on my shelf!), discussion about the brouhaha over Seuss (no, we're not pulling the entire collection off of our shelves).  Multi-level breakouts spent a considerable amount of time discussing systemic racism--the system part of it, from food deserts to how the justice system impacts everything from housing to education to healthcare.  There was a specific focus on indigenous people--a group often overlooked in discussions about racism.

Meeting over, a quick lunch, reconnecting with my library assistant, and then an afternoon of group poem editing, book orders, and budget transfers.  Hunted down professional materials for our dual language teachers and discovered the source of the mystery kit next to the circulation desk.  

A quick chat with our ITS, and it was home to plug in my laptop and prepare for a committee meeting.  My husband came home and started eating dinner as I was wrapping it up for the night.

I still had a walk around the block, my Duolingo lessons in Spanish and Japanese, my Noom articles, and watering my plants before I could call it a day.

And that, my dear, was how my Monday went. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

SOLSC '21 Day Twenty-nine: A very short week

I am participating in my ninth Slice of Life Story Challenge run by the team behind the Two Writing Teachers website.  We are challenged to write a blog post a day throughout the month of March.

Today is an asynchronous day in our district; students have assignments from Friday to work on while teachers meet and plan for the last quarter.  Librarians have a virtual meeting this morning, and then we get to work on all that stuff we do behind the scenes:  cataloging, inventory, lesson planning, collaborating, weeding.  I get to cap the day off with a virtual committee meeting for an annual conference event coming up in three weeks; because of our schedules, we meet from 530p to 630p.  It makes for a long day.

Surprisingly, we still get Friday off as a "spring holiday".  We thought it would be removed from the calendar as a meager make-up day for all the school missed during the Texas Snowpocalypse.  Maybe the board realizes that a respite is needed, even two weeks after Spring Break.  I imagine that they are tired too; the pandemic has probably quadrupled the decisions they've had to make this school year.

I am already planning on a quiet Friday, spending time doing weekend tasks early so that I can enjoy the holiday weekend.  I'm thinking that 70's soft rock and scented candles will be nice accompaniments for the time spent doing laundry,  reading, crocheting, and giving myself a mani-pedi. 

A productive Monday with a Friday off to look forward to is a nice start to the week.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

SOLSC '21 Day Twenty-eight: Time capsule


I am participating in my ninth Slice of Life Story Challenge run by the team behind the Two Writing Teachers website.  We are challenged to write a blog post a day throughout the month of March.

My uncle sent me a box, densely packed by the weight of it, several weeks ago.  I knew what was in it, but couldn't bring myself to open it right away...until last night.

My husband was cleaning up odds and ends from the living room floor, and asked about the box.  

"My mother's yearbooks, from my uncle," I told him.  

I went ahead and opened it, took the carefully wrapped contents to the couch, and proceeded to travel back to a time just a few scant years before she would be a married mother.

I was determined to skim the books in order.  

Her freshman face was broad, eyes smiling from her cheeks, hair still so dark and parted down the middle, poofing out at the sides.  That year showed me uniform skirts almost down to the ankle, an all-female graduating class though there were male undergrads.  The faculty members, mostly priests and nuns, were all pictured with a student, carefully posed in teaching mode.  And there was a librarian--not a nun.  

Her sophomore picture showed a slimmer profile, but disheveled hair...perhaps it was a windy day?  Instructions for a home perm are tucked into the index, where her brother's name joins hers.  She is pictured during morning prayers with her class, this young woman who told me she was known as "the heretic" in high school because she dared to ask the nuns "why".

Her junior picture is much more sophisticated--a short 'do that she would sport for much of her adult life.  My grandmother is also in the yearbook, joining the staff as the study hall monitor.  There is a picture of her with other faculty members in the home ec lab, enjoying a Thanksgiving meal while she chats up a priest, cigarette dangling from her fingers.  Another student with the same last name is listed under my three family members, but I don't recognize her name.

Her senior picture is happy, hopeful.  She has tucked a small print of her sixth grade self in that page.  Her aspirations of being a secretary aren't surprising; she once showed me her shorthand skills after I came across an old textbook of hers.  My grandmother, uncle, and mystery girl are also still pictured.  My mother has "candid" photos with yearbook staff, decorating a Christmas tree, working a mimeograph machine.

There are other details I notice in these yearbooks.  Men and boys featured before the girls (the school was segregated by gender).  The uniform skirts getting shorter, and seniors not in uniform in many pictures.  Most of the senior girls listed secretary as their future career; some had housewife/ homemaker.  I was impressed by the few who said marine biologist, electrical engineer, mathematician; after all, the pages touted science and math classes for both genders.  Along the way, my mother goes from being "Anna" to "Annie", and "Anne".  There was a change of librarians, an addition of an assistant, and my own mother's stint as a library helper.

More realia was found:  a Valentine card from my uncle to his sister; skillful pen and ink drawings of cars, just for her, from a (boy)friend; a color Polaroid of a stereo system, out of place in these black and white pages.

I will have to ask my uncle about the girl who shares their last name, about the boy who drew those pictures, why there were only young women in that first graduating class.  I'm glad he's still here to answer those questions for me.

Was the hopeful look in my mother's high school senior eyes an inkling of the amazing life she would lead two years later as an Army wife, traveling the globe just months after being married, giving birth to me, her firstborn, half a world away?

I would like to think so.
Ninth through twelfth grade, sixth grade at the end.

Home perm instructions.

Morning prayers.

My grandmother

Grandmother is center, wearing glasses

Grandmother's second yearbook photo

My mother is third from left

Mother on the right

Mom decorating a school Christmas tree

Senior notes