Tuesday, July 30, 2013

writing in a notebook, again (I hope) a Slice of Life

I don’t even remember when I bought this notebook, but I can imagine that feeling of excitement over the fresh pages. I was likely attracted by the narrow lines. I like the strong cover and the elastic that keeps it closed; it gives me a sense of purpose when I pull the elastic back and take the pen from behind my ear. I probably even thought about the plain black cover that gave a blank slate feeling, no boundaries, no guidelines, just write.
I had been in the habit of buying a new notebook when I was nearing the end of the old. The promise of the new inspired me to write even more, I was so anxious to open the fresh one. The dates near the beginning and end of each of my notebooks show way more productive work than the middle. I’m sure I bought this notebook with a sense of excitement and enthusiasm.

I’ve had the notebook for over a year.

Because during that time, I have been unable to write without pain. I had to switch to typing which allowed me to compose longer before I had to give in. Today, I can barely sign the receipt to pay for lunch; it hurts so much to write by hand.

And I miss it.
I miss the way my brain works through the pen, the different kinesthetic experience of gliding through words rather than pounding them out.
I miss the freedom of pulling out a notebook and jotting down ideas no matter where I am. I’ve used the notes feature on my phone and bought this really lightweight MacBook, but I know I don’t write as much as I did when I used a pen.

Tomorrow, I go in for arthroscopic surgery to repair the TFCC tear in my joint which we think is the likely cause of the worst pain, though I also have two other problems in the same area. According to my surgeon it has a 70% chance of improving my wrist. He calls it lousy surgical odds. I say I’d buy a lottery ticket on those odds. If this doesn’t work then we go to the next, much more invasive and serious, surgical step.

So, to prepare for the surgery, I took out this as yet unused notebook and put it on the table as my inspiration. I can feel the joy of the ink marking up the first page. Dr. A – make it happen!

Sunday, July 28, 2013


I was browsing through the photos from my mother’s 80th birthday party when I paused at this one of her hugging her nephew’s daughter and I thought to myself, there is real love in that hug. It made me cry and smile and remember and cry some more.

As I browsed further through that photo album, I found this hug.
This is my husband and our oldest daughter at the same party. It made me cry and smile and remember and cry some more. There is real love in that hug.

All day I have been lost. I don’t know where to put my sadness or why it’s persistent today. While I’m not yet completely found, I am glad to have felt these hugs.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Broken

Participating in the Five Minute Friday writing prompt with Lisa-Jo Baker and her blog followers, because it's fun.

Five Minute Friday prompt: BROKEN

For more three years, I have been broken. I have not worked the way I am supposed to. But we didn't get the extended warrantee so here we are stuck with what we've got.

I am right handed and somehow, I still don't know exactly how it happened despite the number of times my doctor asks, I hurt my right wrist. It started as an occasional pain that would cause me to limit my activities and wear a brace. Then it became something I could count on every week. For over a year it has been a daily pain. I can't write more than my signature, and even then sometimes just paying for a meal is painful. (Why can't we just use a fingerprint or an eye scan?) I can type, in short bursts, as long as I wear the brace and hold my arm at an awkward angle and use only three fingers (the pinky is completely off limits, being so closely connected to the spot on my wrist that hurts).

Because of the weirdness of the brace, my writing has been broken too. Can't write for the one hour goal. Have to truncate every thing. Blog posts are ideally suited for broken writing, being so short. But, my pain and my frustration (my pissy-ness, if you must know) seeps into every sentence, breaking them.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Belong

Stumbled across this weekly challenge to write on a word for 5 minutes and share. Thought I'd join the fun. This week's word = BELONG

I belong to a large family but I have often felt as if I did not, in fact, belong. As crazy as it sounds to imagine that a couple who already had nine kids would adopt a tenth, there was a time when I wondered if that weren't the case. Doesn't every tween think that? I mean really, how can I belong to this family? I don't fit in.

This fear (I was trying to find a different, less negative sounding word, but when you're 13 and you feel like there is no place for you, fear is the descriptor) of not belonging waxed and waned my entire life; continues to do so. I didn't really belong with the "smart crowd" in high school who all had professional parents and seemed to know what was going on. I didn't belong in college - not intellectual enough. And yet, I didn't belong to my working class family either.  My sisters all had husbands, kids, divorces and I was still trying to figure out if I should go to grad school.

(And, there's the timer letting me know 5 minutes is up. I'll stop writing here, but I like this prompt and will continue to see what this turns into. Thanks Lisa-Jo Baker for the prompt.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Every expert was a beginner once

Step back rock; heel, heel, step; step half turn, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

Last night my girls and I finally took my sisters up on the invitation to join them at a line dancing class. I learned a few steps, and re-learned how my students feel in my class.

Some background: I’ve never taken any sort of dance class in my life. I have a bit of rhythm and have always enjoyed dancing at parties. My family makes all sorts of excuses to get together with a DJ and a dance floor. But, I’ve resisted learning any of the line dances my sisters were getting into, mostly because I don’t enjoy much modern country music. I decided to join this class more to spend time with my sisters and to do a fun activity with my girls than any true desire to learn the dance.

Perhaps not the most useful motivation.

The “warm up” dance took only a few minutes to learn: step up 3 times, back 3 times, repeat, then 4 quarter turns. Easy. We were able to add in hip swinging and other fancy moves pretty quick.

But then we tried something a little harder. I watched the teacher’s feet and listened intently to her instruction. She was a good teacher, using verbal cues and hand gestures to help us follow along and she moved herself around the room so she could serve as a model for different groups. She knew right away who would need her more, and who could get by with only her voice.

She previewed the next dance with a word of caution for us beginners that it was a lot more difficult and that we should not feel bad if we didn’t catch on completely tonight. “Fake it ‘til you make it” was her mantra and she encouraged us to just keep at it. I watched her feet and listened to her voice. When I couldn’t quite follow a few steps, I moved closer to my sister and tried to follow along with her, knowing my sister could be relied upon for loving support. When I still couldn’t get it, I focused on one of the expert students and tried to use her as my guide. Trouble was, she was so expert, she had already added some fancy moves like full turns and lots of hip action, so I couldn’t rely on her. I switched my focus back to my sister and the teacher.

At the end of the class, I found myself thinking of Michelle (not her real name) who entered my second grade in March with almost no proficiency with the English language. I remember how she latched on to me quickly and tried to follow along. But soon, she partnered up with some friendly Spanish-speaking girls who offered loving support. Once she felt comfortable, she joined groups of expert children and tried to keep up. She frequently turned back to her support group when the experts moved too fast, but she didn’t give up. You could see her goal was to become an expert student herself.

Everyone in my class is a teacher. New kids look to the established group for cues on what to do. They immediately, as if by instinct, seem to find those students who will help them along without judgment, who have the skills needed – like knowledge of both Spanish and English – to be of use. And with that support in lace, they gain the confidence to step further into the group, and start to see those elites as no different from themselves. Everyone is a beginner at some time; none of us begin as experts.

Michelle and I both have a long way to go before we can comfortably join the experts, but that doesn’t lesson the value of the work we are doing now. We are both enthusiastic beginners, in it for the joy of working toward a goal, and taking in all the fun along the way.

My youngest daughter has decided she does not want to return to class. She felt too overwhelmed by the amount she had to learn and was unable to see the experts around her as support. I’m sad that she felt bad about the class, but the silver lining is the reminder she gave me to spend lots of time at the beginning of the school year building the sort of community with my students that welcomes newcomers easily. While the dance teacher was welcoming and encouraging, the nature of the drop-in class means that a community had not been created so, beyond the teacher, there was no built in support system. My second grade classroom has the benefit of working together for 180 days so we have the time to create a community that supports it’s members wherever and whenever they enter.

My oldest daughter and I will be back at class next week, still feeling like beginners. We plan to practice together this week (and hopefully little sister will join us) to try to master a few of the tricky parts. And by the time the Lamarres plan their next party, we’ll be ready to show our expertise.

This post is part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by the Two Writing Teachers blog. See more here

Friday, July 5, 2013

Artifacts of a Life - The New Testament

This New Testament belonged to my Dad. The pieces of paper are his notes from the class he took to become a Eucharistic Minister. I had seen both book and notes before, but I rediscovered them while cleaning out my parents’ house. I brought them home with me a few months ago and since then have been slowly reading the book; I constantly reread his notes.

I was brought up Catholic and remained very unquestioning so for years. In 7th grade I seriously contemplated entering the convent, though that could be attributed to the totally cool Sister Roberta more than my own religious fervor. (Who wouldn’t want to be like Sister Roberta?) I made some serious mistakes when I was in high school and to try to get myself back on the right path, I taught CCD – the Catholic Sunday School (I know you’re asking what CCD stands for. I had to look it up: Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Clears that right up, doesn’t it?)

In college, when I began to question everything, I began my drift from the church. By the time I married, I would not even consider a religious ceremony. I did not baptize my children.

Still, this book means a lot to me, not just because it belonged to my father, but because he belonged to it. I mean, he was so devoted to his faith that he took the time, after working all day (my Dad held at least two jobs until he retired, when he cut back to just one) he took the time to attend this class, to do some independent reading and reflection, and to serve his parish.

I have long wanted to read the bible through. I grew up hearing readings in church, we read some in the parochial school I attended for 1st through 8th grade, and I occasionally picked up the big family bible that sat on a shelf at the head of my parents’ bed (loved that one, in part, because of the intriguing illustrations and because of the entries in the family history in the back). I’ve tried before to start from Genesis and work my way through, but I never made it too far. I like the simple wording of this New Testament. It may not have the poetry of the King James, but it’s easy to read. And, yes, of course, I like to think of my father reading this very book. What did he think about that proclamation against divorce when his children announced their separations? Did he relate to Mary’s sorrow when he lost his own son? Did he find comfort here?

I’m reading this New Testament because I want to remember the good teaching of my family’s church, even though I don’t expect to ever count myself a member again. This book is more a part of my childhood, and of the adult I became, than any other (except for that big family Bible, which I spent more time with as a child).  The price printed on the cover amuses me. You can’t buy a book for $1.65 anymore. But you can’t put a price tag on this artifact of my life.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I no longer like holidays

I hate holidays. I didn’t used to. Used to love them simply because it meant the family getting together. But the family doesn’t get together anymore, though we all say we want to.  A few of my sisters, and at least one niece, are clinging to the idea that we must have family gatherings at my parents’ house; at my parents empty house. A few more of my sisters, and me, very much me, feel too much sadness to go to the empty house. Until the house is filled with a family, we would like to gather somewhere else. This has resulted in dueling family gatherings, requiring folks to choose. This completely stinks.

I love this house that my dad built for his sweetheart. I cherish the memories, even the memory of sitting with my Mom when she came home to die. It will always be my mother’s house, will always represent my parents' love. Even if I never go there again.

Somehow, this image of the tree down outside the house fits my mood. Things end.