Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Ok here’s a weird thing that rolled through my mind the other day: gum-- specifically: “The Gum Drawer”.
When I was a kid, my mom kept Carefree gum variety packs in the top right-hand drawer of her dry sink. The kitchen of our house at the time had a perfect wall for this interesting piece of furniture. I am not sure of the exact history of it, but I think my parents picked it up second hand somewhere. My dad made cupboard doors for the bottom half and replaced all the knobs so it looked finished, though rustic, and perfect for our kitchen in the house my mom referred to as her “dream house”.
The dry sink drawers were always full of interesting things, stamps, nail clippers, change purses, a deck or two of cards, paper clips, the good scissors and other small items we couldn’t keep in other places. The sink part held decorative tins labeled with coffee, flour, sugar, and tea and the only one that ever held what it said it did was the tea (now almost 30 years later it still does). Most of the drawers mom kept us out of, she kept her personal stuff there. But the gum drawer was up for grabs! We could go in there and grab a piece of gum almost whenever we wanted. If my brother and were whining before dinner, we could have a slice of gum! If we were in the mood for something sweet, or just to chew, the drawer was there for us. My favorite flavor was always the cinnamon, and naturally that flavor was the first to go. There were times when we would sneak an extra slice and take two instead of one, feeling so rebellious at the time! I probably crammed more than two in my mouth on one or two occasions to be honest. The freedom of that drawer was important; it represented a crucial step in growing up. We could make our own choices and could help ourselves without adult help and sometimes without permission. I remember sharing gum with friends over to play and feeling a sense of pride in having a drawer especially reserved for gum. There was also a sense of responsibility, we were encouraged to report to mom when the gum drawer needed replenishing, she’d get annoyed if we ever let it go dry without letting her know, evidence that she, too, enjoyed this satisfying drawer. I can’t remember when the drawer stopped being “The Gum Drawer”, but it may have been when Andy and I were grown and my parents moved to the house where my dad still lives. The dry sink is there, right next to the kitchen, no longer a perfect spot actually IN the kitchen for it. Some of the drawers still hold what they used to: cards, notebooks, the good scissors, but The Gum Drawer, alas, only contains a crochet hook, a roll of stamps, and other odds and ends--no gum. The dry sink now serves the next generation of children, holding crayons, games, books and hiding away craft projects in progress. But I will always refer to the top right-hand drawer as The Gum Drawer, I think there are times, when looking for a stamp; I still get a whiff of carefree sugarless gum.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Yesterday, my daily calendar quote read:
A good rest is half the work. ~Proverb
I have just had a very restful summer. I had plenty of time to rest and sleep in and really do pretty much whatever I wanted. It was great. For maybe one of the first times, my family didn’t undertake a huge home improvement project and we didn’t make plans for a long trip. (Although I should mention that I DID talk my husband out of starting a big project late in the afternoon of our last day of break!) We did a few smaller landscaping and maintenance projects and basically just enjoyed being home and spending time with each other.
Yesterday was my last day of vacation; it was a gloomy, cold day. We had no Labor Day picnic to attend or to host. There was no exciting project to wrap up or and I spent most of the day agitated about the things that I didn’t quite get to, the large number of unproductive days and simply the fact that summer was over and another year had passed all too quickly. I was grumpy and frustrated and anxious about the “could have beens” and the “need tos” that were surfacing and resurfacing in my mind all day (and most of the night). That quote helped me feel only somewhat better…
Today brought Opening Day for teachers, a day when the entire faculty meets together in the High School Auditorium to kick off the year. I found myself looking forward to it and happy to be a part of a large group of enthusiastic educators. There was a lot to be done, decisions to be made, meetings to attend, and relationships to forge. We have all worked hard to ready our classrooms and our plans for the students’ first day tomorrow. The feeling of anxious anticipation was palpable in the hallways. We have to wait out the hours before the halls fill with children. Tomorrow starts a new year full of work, unknown faces, behaviors, challenges and blessings.
I am looking forward to the work, the routine, the structure and the feelings of normalcy that these things will provide. I am thankful to have had an unstructured summer to rest and relax. I feel ready for the work ahead of me. I hope that you, my fellow educators, and parents are feeling optimistic, and rested. I hope you have had a full enjoyable summer, doing the work of resting as we now head into a new year.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
In October 2009, I happened to attend a Saturday morning workshop called a Morning of Writing with Amy Vanderwater. She is a poet, teacher and mother and is a master at combining these traits, which only describe a small part of her that make up her whole being, into a worthwhile lecture and workshop. I remember having trouble deciding whether to attend this workshop, did I want to give up my Saturday morning and get out of bed? Could I actually manage to get up and drive across the county to an elementary school I’d never been to? What about my husband, would he grudgingly support my decision to go, willing to deal with our daughter for a big chunk of the day? Despite of, or maybe in spite of all my perceived obstacles, I got myself there, and sighed with relief that I’d found the school and parking and was able to sink into an old school auditorium seat with a few of my co-workers. As I struggled to organize myself, travel coffee mug, purse, folder (given by the workshop organizers), notebook, pen and tried to find a comfortable way to sit, in the old velveteen seats, I began to focus on the speaker. Amy opened her mouth and started talking to us in an engaging and frank way about how to teach kids to write poetry, not my favorite thing to teach or to do on my own. I used to fancy myself as a poet and fan of poetry, but after one failed attempt to get published in my middle school newspaper and several failed attempts to wrap my imagination around the words of ancient poems in a compilation book I saw another friend reading and bought to look “cool” in college, I hadn’t really though seriously about poetry at all.
After the introductions, and Amy’s initial introduction to the topic, I was annoyed that she wanted us, at this early weekend hour, to start a poem then and there. But she did mention a poet I had heard of and felt akin to, Byrd Baylor. So in my cramped seat, trying not to spill what was left of my coffee, I attempted to write a poem about the morning. I followed her lead and listed some adjectives along the edge of a page in my notebook and wrote about what I noticed about the fall morning on my drive over. I recovered my sense of humor and positive attitude after that and focused on the structures and methods she presented to us.
Then Amy LV posed a question for us to think about while composing our next, workshop-demanded-poem, one that we were writing at her command: “What is rolling around in your mind? Just write about that, start a poem with something you’ve been thinking about but haven’t really done anything with.” Rolling in my mind??? At first I thought, “Oh cool, I can do this, focus on me a second, a good reason to get up on a Saturday, self introspection!” But then my mind really did it to me, I started thinking about my father. And this is what I wrote:
Small changes in his face
New crinkles around his blue eyes
Noticing more gray in his mustache
A different sparkle in his eyes.
His face, his sparkle, his sadness, a mirror of my own…
Our eyes have been darting from each other,like water striders on the surface of a stream, close together, apart close again, apart, afraid to stay still and locked together too long, for the true emotion to be unloosed.
He seems scattered, a small rock being tossed by the current, rolling one way and then another, his anchor gone… I, too, am a pebble, rolling in a current, not knowing how to take control. but somehow we are, both of us, sharing our grief but separately we have lost our anchor.
He a wife and best friend, a companion and confidant. Me a mother and best friend, someone to guide me and support me no matter what. She is gone, but we are left…left to find solace in one another, left to find our anchor and guide, left to get to know each other without her…
OK so that’s not exactly what I wrote, but the first six lines or so are, the rest sprouted off of that just now. Then, as now, nearly a year later, I cried. I sat in that auditorium trapped in the middle of a cramped row, crying my eyes out. I am not one of those lucky criers who can hide it, pretty little tears that don't ruin make-up and aren't noticed by others. I turn red and my nose runs and my skin gets all blotchy. Tears streamed down my face and I couldn’t stop them, they were uncontrollable. (Ironically in the comfort of my own house, I am not crying this way, but in an auditorium full of co-workers, and strangers, I was crying without ceasing.) I felt like everyone must think I was a freak, losing my mind! In truth, I think only my co-workers who knew about my mother’s illness and death over the previous summer and who had supported me through that tough time noticed, and could probably guess why my emotions were shaky. I am sure Amy could see my red teary face as she looked out at her audience and I am sure the other teachers in the row saw it and were puzzled too. It seemed an eternity until we had a break. I found my way to an empty girls’ bathroom down the hall, avoiding the crowded, nearest one so I could be alone and cry it out and get myself back together. One of my co-workers happened to find the same deserted bathroom and kindly checked on me, and more kindly left me alone to see if I could get through the rest of the morning of writing, not crying!!
Later, I rejoined the group perusing the latest teaching material and research books on sale in the foyer. Shopping is a great way to regain composure! A long drink of water and some sympathetic looks and back pats and I was ready to re-join the group tear-free. I learned a lot that morning about writing poems, teaching writing and about how dangerous it is to explore what is “rolling around in your mind” publicly!
Later in the morning, I escaped my uncomfortable seat for one that was in an empty row where I could fidget and stretch without disturbing others. Amy, taking a minute to step back and join the audience as someone else was speaking, sat in my empty row. I assumed she was probably trying to figure out if I was sane or not! I smiled apologetically at her, hopefully conveying the thought that I was ok, and that she shouldn’t feel bad for suggesting that we should explore our thoughts as a catalyst for a poem. I felt a kindred spirit in her, somehow knowing I would learn more from her another time.
That “other” time came just a few weeks ago at a two-day summer workshop in my home district. One that everyone signed up for as soon as the registration time allowed. I know that I was anxious to get in and had marked it on my calendar.
I once was lucky enough to hear and learn from Amy about writing and teaching and spent those two days riveted by her way of teaching and making us write. At this workshop I did the opposite of the last, I found myself laughing as uncontrollably as I was crying in the fall. Once again exploring all too publicly what was rolling around in my mind!
Amy referenced her “poem-a day-for a year-blog” several times throughout her workshop, inspiring one of my friends to get started on her own blog and reminding me that I had created a blog space to keep in touch with family far away and to (I’ll embrace it--) brag about my growing daughter and her accomplishments. I hadn’t posted anything on that blog since my mother died and I paid her tribute.
I could see now that it was time to explore more of what a blog could do for me, and I decided that like Amy’s Poem Farm and Lori’s blog of “little things” that I, too, have things rolling in my mind that I want to share.
Hopefully it won’t be too uncomfortably personal, only enough to be heard and to force myself to explore those things that I don’t ever give myself enough time to think about. And so this blog is born, a place where I will ramble on about what is rolling in mind. You can choose to read it or not and comment at will, this is a blog for me by me. Sometimes I might explore level 3 and 4 ideas that maybe should stay locked in a diary, but also 1 and 2 things that more people can relate to. And if you’ve gotten through this LONG introduction, maybe you’ll be interested to read my thoughts in shorter installments for a longer time period, if that makes sense to you.
My thanks to teachers and speakers like Amy who keep my attention for two long summer days and friends and co-workers like Lori who are brave enough and confident enough to share their own thoughts in writing with the assurance that kindred spirits and like minded folk will learn from and relate to their own thoughts rolling through their minds.