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.
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.
MY RESPONSE: A characteristic that defines me: fluttering around like a butterfly from one hobby to another. Instead of being predictable and completing each project, I sometimes lose interest, netting myself partially finished projects. A front-wrap blouse. One partially knitted sock. Necklaces and earrings needing repair. But I also have completed projects as well such as drapes for our first home, many fringed-fleece blankets for hospital patients and also making meals for others.
It used to bother me when I didn’t stick with projects and complete them until one day, when my husband, sons and I were in California on a trip, we met up with my great uncle. In conversation, I mentioned my unfinished works and how I tried so many new things. I told him it bothered me and made me think something was wrong. He looked at me and said, “I think you’re smart, like to learn new things then get bored and have to move on.”
From that day, I had a new perspective on the temporary nature of some of my activities. I’ll always be glad Uncle Max enabled me to see how much I truly love to learn and that my efforts in moving to new activities were an example of that desire.