I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in how I feel after I take the time to read. I’m investing time reading and I’m reading for many reasons – to become a better writer by comparing and contrasting author styles to my own, for pleasure, for ideas for lessons for my middle school creative writing students.
I ain’t gettin’ any younger so I figured I’d better find a way to help turn this tide of frustration. It was getting to be so annoying I considered taking every book in my “to read” stack and either returning them to their owners, the library or donating them to charity.
One day while wasting time on social media I discovered an idea I’ve now put to use. I don’t know if it has an official name but basically the idea is to take a 8.5 x 11 paper and after reading a book, record dialogue you liked or vocabulary or whatever. It doesn’t have to be a time suck and I’ve figured out the easiest way for me is to use sticky flags or somehow “marking” what I read. I’m choosy, you know, like those mothers who choose Jiff peanut butter. Then, I take the paper and sketch the title and author name so it’s somewhat similar in how it looks. I don’t stress over this. The purpose is to help recall not to increase my blood pressure, which, by the way I was supposed to take today. Seriously.
The next step simply involves writing those nuggets of wisdom or whatever on the paper, in any direction, in any way I choose. I find that during the process, I am giving myself a VIP tour of the book’s contents.
I’m now happier because it’s helping me recall more about the stories.
Who knows? Maybe you’d like to try.
The idea is to not become a major art project but to have fun. And fun does not have an expiration date simply because I’m more than half a century old.
Why don’t you try? I’d love to see what you do with the idea.
Alright, now. Everyone who knows me knows I love to celebrate. It doesn’t have to be a big party. It doesn’t have to be elaborate food. But it DOES need to be a celebration. Let’s face it. A celebration without the vital ingredient – hoopla – is well, not a celebration – at least in my mind.
The aforementioned fact brings me to a sad point in today’s social media scrolling, updating, posting exercise. Generally, said exercise takes place most mornings – at least until I start teaching creative writing again in two weeks – and then I try very hard to let the world and all those I know and love have the whole rest of the day to chat and tweet and message and … you get the idea. This period of online silence brings much needed peace in my life.
Which returns me to the reason for this important post. I don’t WANT peace now when I should be celebrating what I think is a very worthwhile – be it obscure – holiday. Maybe no one else noticed or wished me a happy celebration because they’re busy fitting in last minute summer trips, writing their back to school shopping list for Florida’s tax free shopping days in Florida on Aug. 1-3. I don’t know but I DO know that it’s time for us all to sit a moment, to ponder and to recall our favorites in honor of July 30.
For me, I remember my first in 8th grade Language Arts. It was The Citadel. I can’t remember much about it except I felt successful for actually reading the entire book. I’m sure I read others in high school but their titles escape me. Probably because I’m so flustered. Most recently, my participation involved On Writing by Stephen King; Unleash the Writer Within by Cecil Murphey, God is Just Not Fair by Jennifer Rothschild and Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. And then there are the four that my friend loaned me today at lunch. I asked her to prioritize them for me.
So according to daysoftheyear.com, this is REAL since 2009. That’s when founder, website developer and content manager Jono Anderson, was creating a calendar and researching funny, weird and unique holidays to include. The effort ended up transforming into a site where events that qualified were discovered, researched and featured. Then BAM! you have one site to rule them all – a spot where you can celebrate SOMETHING every single day of the year – and multiple holidays on individual days if you wish. And everybody in the world can know!
My story isn’t quite as lively as Jono’s. His discovery is my oversight and if you’re honest, probably yours as well, but I won’t tell anyone. I discovered my almost missed opportunity for happiness inspired cheering in a tweet from Scholastic.com.
So, let’s rectify this oversight because not only is it Father-in-Law Day and Cheesecake Day. It’s Paperback Book Day!
I’m thinking the most honorable way to observe these is to take your father in law out to celebrate his day, to buy his cheesecake (if you’re too cheap to buy a whole meal) and then, just as he is wondering how you became so knowledgeable about HIS special day – WHAMO! Whip out a paperback book as a gift – or if you’re pressed for time a gift card for said paperback.
However, since the day is almost over, I think a simple verbal expression like this Happy Paperback Book Day post will suffice!
Now, if I can just find my Kindle. Oops. You didn’t hear me say that!
To help me retain more, I decided to doodle/record information/comments/important points I liked after I read them. I like the result and enjoy reminders in one place! What do you do to remember what you read?
There she sits
With eyes wide open
To a future she can’t yet imagine.
From red dresses and white pinafores
To button up, aqua colored shirts and knakis
From surviving on peanut butter, bacon
and Crackers hidden (for later) on window sills
To steel cut oats with protein powder and
Wheat Thins with reduced fat Swiss cheese flavored
Laughing Cow wedges.
From dolls and “playing mommy”
To a home, husband and becoming a real mommy
To two sons, 21 months apart,
Who both require being on tip toes to hug and kiss.
From staying after school in first grade
Because she answered the teacher, “Yeah,” instead of “Yes, m’am”
To being the teacher of 6th to 8th graders
And requiring them to say “Yes, m’am” as well!
The snoring was followed
by periods of not breathing
gasping to automatically revive myself,
which resulted in –
you guessed it!
Each night challenged me
daring me to
There was the sleep study
and temporarily placed electrodes secured
onto my pulse points,
adhered with airplane-smelling adhesive.
Why do they call it a sleep study
when you DON’T snooze well
But I digress.
In a separate room,
A young man in primary blue medical scrubs,
and trained in polysomography,
observes me and my circadian rhythms through the night.
He watches with electronic eyes of closed circuit technology.
He monitors his marvelously impressive medical machinery
To note and record hypopnea events
(the times I stop breathing for at least 10 seconds.)
Finally morning arrives.
In several weeks, the follow up visit occurs
And the prognosis is decreed
Severe obstructive sleep apnea.
Learn to use a CPAP machine at night
To keep my airways open.
Now the snoring is gone
The gasping has ended.
I stay awake ALL day.
And my only concern
is how badly I’ll feel tomorrow
If the electricity that powers my machine goes out tonight.
Hundreds of hymns I sang as a kid
I loved music and rhyming
I most certainly did
The rhythms and crescendos
I adored even more
I knew many old songs
In my heart they are stored
When I saw this prompt for poetry you see
Since______(blank) made me think of one hymn particularly
With its strong repetition and solid declaring
I sang with conviction
With others in sharing
Since Jesus came into my heart was the phrase
It reminds me of my childhood and hymn singing ways
It reminds me that I decided to let Him come in
In fact, I think
I’ll just sing it again!
My computer battery is going dead in 15 minutes
I’ll be making another journey
To my office
To the surge protector
Guarding my cords so as not to experience
The journey of my written works and notes
And lesson plans and emails
And “this will be helpful oneday” files
As they vanish into the atmosphere
Forever and forever
And in several hours
Before I decide to head to bed
I’ll be making the journey to my kitchen
Where my lonely Apple charger cord
Hangs listlessly in the wall awaiting for its friend
The iphone to drop by and connect
Tomorrow morning I’ll make
My usual 5-day a week journey
From my home near a hospital
To a school in downtown
Where I’ll hear slamming lockers,
“Do we have to do THIS?”
And all that comes with
Being a middle school teacher.
I remind my students occasionally.
“I have already been through middle school.”
It’s their turn.
But I’m here as they make their journeys
8th grade and through the hallways
Where they’re like salmon swimming upstream.
And as I begin my journey home after another day
I’ll start all over again
But making sure this time
That when I begin writing on my computer
I won’t have to stop and make that journey to my office to
Plug into the surge protector.
That’s because it bugs me to have to stop my writing journey
Finally, in Tune!
For more years than I can remember
I warmed the piano bench
On the back porches
Of grandmotherly piano teachers
Who chided me for not putting in my practice time.
I endured hours of practice balancing
A penny on each wrist
To learn and maintain
Correct piano-hand posture.
The fun wore off as the pennies plummeted to the floor.
I elevated myself to a reasonable height
By sitting atop telephone books
In order to reach the keyboard
And practice with those darn pennies
– The ones that seemed determined to dare gravity.
For some reason, I stayed connected
To the music
And became a medal-winning pianist
I wore a long white dress of red-dotted swiss fabric
To a recital at a junior college
And playing on the baby grand on stage
Made it worth the practice time, the pennies and the phone books.
But my desire deteriorated
After moving to yet another city
Because it meant
Another new teacher
And I was certain that his unimpressive exterior
Would probably mean more gritted-teeth endurance.
Oh, how wrong I was
Because it was Mr. Ferguson
His lanky lack of muscles
His job as a church pianist
And his one sentence to me
That helped me discover
Joy at the keyboard
Freedom in playing
And determination to continue
Because he unlocked my mental cage
And told me to
Stop playing “like a girl.”
Thank you, Mr. Ferguson, wherever you are.