October 2004 Archives

October 28, 2004


It came to me as I was driving to my all day Advanced Athena Training workshop this morning. At first, the ideas trickled in slowly as I wove in and out of morning traffic, working my way across town. By the time I got to the hotel, my mind was abuzz, swarming with images, characters, and hope. I checked in, got myself a cup of coffee, found a seat at a table alone, and plopped myself down to capture as many images as I could before the workshop started. I think I may have something.
Continue reading Eureka....

October 27, 2004

I am only one...

For as long as I can remember, I have been alone. Even when I am with people.

I pretty much raised myself from the time I was 10. I got myself to school let myself in after school, made dinner and, many nights, put msyelf to bed. Naturally, this offered me quite a bit of freedom, probably more than a 10 year old should have. I watched shows my friends would never be able to see, stayed up later than everyone else and cut more school than I should have. Hey, you can't blame me. I was just being a kid.

I moved out 2 weeks after high school graduation into an apartment with people I hardly knew. Actually, I didn't know any of my roommates but I knew the guy downsatirs, Paul. We had been best friends through middle and high school even though he was a year ahead of me. I think I knew he was gay before he did. When he told me about the apartment upstairs from him, I jumped at the chance and found myself living with 4 total strangers in a 2 bdrm. apartment. That first summer was tight. After paying rent, I had $20 savings to live off of until I got a job. Unfortunately, that took 5 weeks. Every afternoon, Paul would come upstairs with Coke and Doritos and we would sit and play cards to pass the time. I learned to smoke and found that smoking made me less hungry. It wasn't until much later that I realized that he would bring the Coke and Doritos upstairs so that I would have something to eat. So it wasn't a balanced diet but mixed with the nicotine, it kept me going.

When I finally did get a job (at McD's, thank you very much), we began actually going out occasionally. The best trips were into Boston where we would go to see Rocky Horror Picture Show (oh yeah, I've seen it 40+ times) or to a gay bar, which was a surreal experience at best. For some reason, no one, male or female, would ever approach me at these bars ... possibly because the females there knew I wasn't gay and all the males there were. Inevitably, my friends would all end up hooking up and I would be the odd person out. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Just sayin'.

I pretty much went through college alone. I joined the radio station and the theater department hoping to find a family and, yeah, I did make a lot of friends but, when it came down to it, I did everything for myself. I made decisions, chose classes, fought with financial aid, paid for my books, paid my rent and utilities ... and only once did I ever have to ask my mom for help.

* long story alert *

** ok, about 3 paragraphs too late, but I digress **

It was while I was subletting an apartment for a Kuwaiti friend that had gone home for the summer. I was to stay in his apartment, pick up his mail, take care of things and NOT let the landlord know I was living there.

The summer passed without incident and he came home and, since I didn't have any place to live yet, he told me I could continue to stay with him ... as long as the landlord didn't catch me. HE occasionally would make passes at me and told m that I was welcome to sleep in his bed, that he wouldn't touch me ... yeah right. I was smart enough to keep my distance and my guard up.

This precarious situation lasted until one October morning, round about 4am, when I rolled in from my boyfriend Brian's birthday/D&D party, still high on Rolling Rock, Courvoisier and a little pot. The landlord met me in the hall as I tried to sneak in the back door. Long story short, I turned around and walked 3 miles back to campus to tearfully call my mom from a pay phone and ask if I could move home for a couple of days. Those were the longest couple of days of my life, let me tell you.

In my senior year, I secretly got married to someone that I had met six months before, not to mention we moved in together about 6 weeks. Yeah, I loved him and, at the time, would have done anything to please him, proven by the fact that I married him on Christmas Eve so that he could start the proceedings to get his green card, days after I had finished my finals, without letting anyone know. At graduation the following May, I noticed how the previous 6 married months had changed me, how slowly he had cut me off from the friends I had in school and how far gone I was. I had a hard time mingling with my old friends knowing he was across the room watching me, waiting for me to do something that would displease him. I wasn't too concerned at the time, though, since 2 weeks later, we were getting married 'for real' in front of God and everyone. I figured that would change everything, that I would finally have someone in my life that I could rely on, that would have my best interests at heart, someone that truly loved me and would never leave me. Okay, so I was a little Pollyannaish.

Four years later, on the day my son turned one year old, my husband went on the road to be an OTR truck driver, leaving me alone with a baby and two months later, to find out I was pregnant again. He had spent the previous 2 years going through truck driving school and trying to pass the test and, when he finally did, he wasted no time getting out of there. From then on, I was the sole caretaker of my children, being both mom and dad while he was gone and keeping them quiet so he could sleep when he came home.

When we moved to North Carolina, my withdrawl was complete. We lived 20 miles from the nearest town so it was easier to just stay home and amuse ourselves. We lived like this for years, the kids and I, enjoying our time together as a family of three during the week. During and after the divorce, I found that I had to rely on myself to crawl out of that particular hell and keep my family together. During this time, I was the only contact for my kids school, the only one that would take care of them and their needs, the only one that would volunteer or go in for Parent-Teacher conferences or check homework.

Now that the kids are in middle school and I'm working full time, not much has changed. I am alone and solely responsible for, well, everything.

Okay, so I have the kins so I'm not really 'alone' ... But still, I am only one ...

I don't expect that to change anytime soon. Many people, when they are single parents, begin looking for someone to come in and take on the role of the other parent, someone to share the burden of raising children that are not their own. I am more realistic than that. My children are my responsibility, not my burden. If I didn't accept this responsibility, I would not be here right now, working my ass off to make a life for us.

It would be nice, however, to have someone there to reassure me that I'm not a bad parent, to remind me that I'm only one person and no one expects me to be as perfect as I think I should be, to refresh my spirit when I'm sitting here, totally broken by an argument or a bad report card.

Nice ... Not necessary, but nice. Is that too much to ask?

October 25, 2004

SO ... what will I write about?

I've been writing for 6 years now. I've wanted to write since I was a kid. I spent much of my childhood lost in one book or another and, even as an adult, I spend my days surrounded by books. Just over 12,000 of them, in fact. Yes, I'm a librarian but not just any librarian ... I'm a media coordinator in an elementary school, a place that challenges every trained shushing cell in my body.
Continue reading SO ... what will I write about?.

October 24, 2004

Oh, what the hell...

I've been thinking about joining NaNoWriMo for a while now ... years really ... but I never thought the time was right. November is always a tight month, with the upcoming holidays. On top of that, I've been in school for the past few years so my schedule already had quite a bit of writing in it.
Continue reading Oh, what the hell....

But it's a good tired

If you noticed the post earlier this month shamelessly asking for sponsors for the JDRF walkathon, you would know that today was the day. I woke to a gorgeous morning, fairly cool with brilliant sunshine, perfect for walking. After the kids left with their father to go for breakfast, I got myself psyched up by playing Glory Zone to System of a Down. Nothing like blasting the snot out of hundreds of alien ships to put me in a good mood.

I got there to the walk site a half hour earlier than we had planned, about 9, to wait for my teammates at the gate. Even though I was early, I had to park waaaaay over near the tree line in the field next to the fair grounds, about 1/4 mile away from the grounds. I just knew I would never find the van after the walk was over so I made sure to try to picture the trees near where I was. A tall, thin pin oak just starting to go yellow stood out from the rest right behind where I parked, slightly leaning over to point to my van. How convenient!

Standing at the gate, watching cars pour in, I had a chance to engage in some serious people watching. I've always enjoyed doing this, watching, rather than being the one that is watched. Funny thing about being a watcher, you see so much when you just center yourself and focus on something else other than being uncomfortable in a strange place. It allows me to study people, to try to figure out how they work, to try to gauge their body language, their mannerisms. Since I am extremely shy, to the point of it being painful, I find it easier to approach people if I know where they are coming from and what their mood is before I even try. Most times, I'll see something that will make me hold back and I find out later that it was a good thing ... being a watcher helps hone your intuitions and lets you keep your bullshit detector running smoothly and, seriously, my BD needed a tuneup.

C. showed up first and I was glad for that. Of the walkers on our team, she and I probably have the best working relationship. Another new teacher, she teaches the gifted kids using a pull-out program. We work together quite a lot in the media center, teaching her kids research techniques and publishing. As we stood together there waking up, chit-chatting (which I find I can do fairly easily with her since she gives me time to respond, something most people don't do), a couple of our kids came by with their families to register for the walk and we got some hugs and ended up having to "talk school" with their parents. The only thing about being a teacher is that whenever you go out anywhere, the mall, the movies, the grocery store (or, God forbid, the ABC store!), you have to be ready to run into your kids and their parents at any time. It is very hard to just relax and be anonymous, especially after you've worked in 4 schools in the district. You get used to it, though, or so they say.

Closer to 9:30, M., or Coach as we like to call him, arrived. He was going to bring his son but at the last minute his parents said they would babysit because they thought it might be too cold for little Z. Since he was actually our team captain, he jumped into Coach mode and tried to organize us but he had no idea what we were supposed to do - as I am fond of saying, he is a mess. The good thing about it is that he knows it, accepts it, and has a good sense of humor about it.

He was still filling out his pledge envelope when our principal showed up and our team was complete. Now our Principal, T., is a neat lady. She came into our school last year in January and had to hit the ground running. She had never been a principal before and only had a couple of years as an AP at a middle school under her belt when she came to us so most of the staff were very skeptical at first, not only of her youth but of her inexperience. Personally, I think she is going to be fine. She has an excellent strategy, though I'm not sure it's intentional, of handling people. She has this gentle way of dealing with the complaints of parents, kids, and staff alike, which allows the complainer to open up with her and be honest about their intentions, whether they intend to or not. The best thing about that is that she can then deal with the problem she is being presented with in a fair, firm way. Meanwhile, the people that think they are getting away with something soon find that she knows what they are up to and she will put a stop to it. A few more years and I think the staff will be stronger than we have ever been ... the school will run like a team like we are supposed to, not a dictatorship like we were under the old Principal. Personally, I like her because we both came into that school last year in administrative positions for the first time and it was easy to cling to each other while we got our bearings.

After registering, we wandered around the fairgrounds, got snacks, got t-shirts and warmed up before starting the walk. I wasn't sure how I would do since I haven't walked 3 miles in one fell swoop for a long time and my asthma (thank you ragweed!) has been acting up lately. My longest walks lately average 2 miles and when I walk the neighborhood by myself, I can slow down if I need to ... AND I end up at my house, where I can flop on the lawn if I want to. Walking in a sea of strangers with a team, you pretty much have to either keep up with your team members or be left behind and, since I'm the oldest and most out of shape of the 4 of us, I could see myself as the one that would be cut loose. In usual Sharon fashion, though, I was deathly afraid of being talked about later (since I like to pretend that neither my weight nor my asthma is a hindrance) so I knew I had to suck it up and keep up with them, no matter the cost. Have I mentioned lately that I don't really like to sweat? Heh.

A the walk started, there was plenty of hooping and hollering as we passed beneath the balloon rainbow at the starting gate which was flanked by JDRF volunteers that cheered us on. We landed somewhere in the middle of the crowd and got swept along by the other 1,500 walkers at a brisk pace and everyone pretty much kept that pace through the walk (the bastards ... heh). That pace was faster than I was used to and the trail was a three lap course that wound around the fairgrounds on the dirt and grass path that trucks use to drive into the fairgrounds to set up for special events so I knew I would be feeling it soon.

The four of us started out together, talking easily together about school related issues but eventually we naturally separated, paired off in twos, which was nice since we each had a chance to spend almost a whole mile walking and talking with one other person on the team. C & I spent the first mile making jokes about M kissing up to T since he had her ear. The best part was making him think we were talking about him, which is more fun than actually talking about him. During the second mile, T and I got to catch each other up on our moms ... hers is having surgery next week and is convinced that she needs to clean her house from top to bottem beforehand and it falls on T to help her. Yeah, I think we have the same mom. It is good to have someone that understands that sense of duty and responsiblity and guilt and how entangled it all is in every word without having to explain it.

By the beginning of the third lap, I was really feeling it. The temperature was creeping up and the tree line was preventing a wonderful breeze that could cool us off from reaching us so the conversations around us were getting more serious or stopping all together. Yes, I was also listening to other people's conversations ... in addition to being a watcher, I'm a listener. Part of my upbringing, I guess, of always lurking on the fringe and taking everything in, mostly to make sure I'm prepared for anything terrible that's coming my way, that has become a part of me. Luckily, M and I were walking together by this time and we talked easily about everything ... Red Sox vs. Yankees, how he met his wife, where I grew up, my social life, his son, writing grants ... anything to take our minds off the last mile and the increasing heat.

We rounded the last corner and the four of us came back together to finish as a team, just as we had as we passed beneath the balloon rainbow on each of the previous laps. As we crossed the finish line, we were given bottles of water or cups of juice, had our picture taken (I'm sure we looked just wonderful ... NOT), and we were shown to the refreshment area. As a team, we got lunch and collapsed on the grass to eat. Let me tell you, the ground never felt so good. I could have napped right there on the hard, dry grass and would have, too, if I wasn't sitting with my co-workers and about 1,500 strangers.

The conversation during lunch was light and funny ... I realized that I wasn't the only one that was hurting during the walk and that the ground felt mighty good to all of us. Over a lunch of cold hot dogs (oxymoron!), chips, fruit and water, we all realized that we were all in the same boat at school, being the new people and having to prove ourselves, which makes us work doubly hard (and triply late).

It's been about 12 hours since I got home and, I have to say, I feel really good ... until I stand up. That's when I remember that I'm 40 ... *ouch*. Oddly enough, my knee and my back feel great it's just an overall soreness that goes away after walking around for a minute or two, albeit slower than normally. It seems every time I get up to walk to the bathroom or the kitchen, I get a message in YIM and have to turn around ... not that I'm complaining (sorry for my slowness, T) ... I need the company, but it's just taking me longer to get back. It was all worth it, though ... going through the trouble of spamming friends and family for sponsors, getting up early on a Saturday, putting myself through not only the extreme uncomfortableness of such a social situation but also the physical challenge of performing while risking failure and humiliation. I have to thank everyone that supported me! You helped me raise a total of $230, of which 100% is going to JDRF.

Yeah, I'm tired ... but it's a good tired.

October 19, 2004

My mother's daughter...

Over the years here, I've detailed various aspects of my relationship with my mom. It hasn't always been pretty or flattering for either of us. I can pretty much say anything I want to here because I know my mom will never read it and you, dear reader, do not know my mom and, therefore, could not tell her what I said. Yup, I have free rein to speak my mind and let all the anger, resentment and disappointment out, every last bitter drop of it. I've been known to do it, too, though it usually comes out in the form of a poem, like this or this or this ... lots of material to work from.

Something's changed, though. Last weekend scared me. After getting the frightened, teary phone call Saturday morning, our roles were suddenly reversed. I found myself having to act as the calm, responsible grownup to her frightened, irrational child. I reassured, placated, and finally convinced her that staying overnight in the hospital really was the best thing for her. For a few more days, I was hovering over her, ever the dutiful daughter, and I didn't resent it. I just knew she needed me and I had to be there for her. I rearranged my schedule, spent hours making small talk, made sure she was comfortable and following doctor's orders which, let me tell you, was not easy since she was starting to act rebellious. No, she didn't take her medicine, she didn't need it. Yes, she was tearing apart frames and reframing some of her artwork because it needed to be done. Yes, she was doing housework ... did I want her house to be messy? Frankly, I didn't care about what she thought needed to be done ... all I cared about was getting her healthy but she wasn't helping matters any. Trust me, if I could have put her in time out, I would have.

A week after her hospital scare, she was back to her old self, doing too much and not taking care of herself ... and complaining that I was driving her nuts. I took her cue and backed off a little, not calling as many times during the day as I had been. Granted, I was also busier and didn't have the time to call between technology workshops and a formal observation at work (results tomorrow, cross your fingers) and trips to Clayton but I did try to call from work at least once a day ... she compensated by calling me every couple of hours, asking what I was doing.

Yup, we were almost back to normal. Until last night anyway.

Yesterday, we had Parent/Teacher conferences at my school and my schedule was 12:30 - 7:30. Great on the front end since I could sleep late but the back end of it really hurt. Normally, I ask my mom to take the kids while I have workdays but, this time, I told her they would come with me. Since I'm the Media Coordinator, I explained, most parents don't need to come see me and I can stay in my office and work all day in peace. The day went pretty much as planned ... I made paper airplanes with a bunch of 4th and 5th graders and we had a contest to see whose went the furthest ... we had sandwiches from the PTA for dinner ... we pulled out the DVD player into my office and watched Invader Zim (DVD 3 arrived yesterday! Woo!) and generally had a good old time.

Colonel, our AP, was kicking us out at 7:30 but it took my kids and I until close to 8 to finish up and get out of here. When we went out to the car, the battery was a little sluggish so we decided to take a joyride around town to charge it. About 8:45, we pull into the driveway and get in the house. The kids immediately flop down on the couch to continue watching Invader Zim and I sat at my computer to touch base and check email. No sooner than we had our shoes off, the phone rang.

"Hi. You're home! Did you get my message?"

Mom apparently had been called the house since 6:30, when she locked herself out of the house. She was calling from a neighbor's house and, frankly, she was lucky that I even picked up the phone since it came up Private Caller. APparently, she was taking some paintings to a meeting that she really didn't want to go to and she went out to her car, locking the door behind her, mistakenly thinking she had her keys in her hand. She wne to the neighbor's house and called my house, knowing I was at work, and sat to wait.

Why she didn't call the school, I don't know, especially since I have a phone in my office.

Why she didn't call my cell phone, I don't know, especially since I HAD my cell phone with me in my office and usually, when I don't answer the house phone, she'll immediately call my cell phone.

No, she sat for hours waiting for me to come over her house and unlock her door. Meanwhile, I had just driven around the city for 45 minutes and passed my her neighborhood.

Do you see where I'm going?

She said she didn't call me at work because she was afraid that she would interrupt me while I was meeting with parents.

I reminded her that I had already told her that I wasn't meeting with any parents.

She claimed she didn't know my cell phone number ... how she can call me so much on a phone and NOT know the number is beyond me.

When I got to her house, they were standing ourside waiting. I unlocked her door and looked on the key hook in the kitchen ... there were her keys, just as she had left them, while she swore they were in her hand when she left.

I'm not usually an alarmist but I can see a trend. This isn't the first time but it's the first time I've taken it seriously and, frankly, it's scaring the shit out of me.

I will never be able to leave her to take care of herself or my kids ... not to go on a weekend, not for an overnight, possibly not even for the afternoon.

I will never again be able to go a couple of days without hearing from her without fearing the worst.

I have yet another responsibility that ties me to North Carolina.

I am alone in this, the only child here to watch over her.

And I am all she has.

I am trying very hard not to resent this. I am not doing very well.

Listening to...

Am I faithful, am I strong,
am I good enough to belong
In your reverie, a perfect girl?
Your vision of romance was cruel
and all along I played the fool.
All your expectations buried me.

Don't worry, you will find the answer if you let it go.
Give yourself some time to falter
But don't forgo, know that you're loved no matter what
And everything will come around in time.

I own my insecurities,
I try to own my destiny
That I can make or break it if I choose.
But you take my words and twist them 'round
Til I'm the one who brings you down
Make me feel like I'm the one
to blame for all of this...

Don't worry, you will find the answer if you let it go.
Give yourself some time to falter
But don't forgo, know that you're loved no matter what
And everything will come around in time.

You need everybody
with you on your side.
Know that I was here for you
but I hope in time
You'll find yourself alright alone,
You'll find yourself with open arms,
You'll find yourself,
you'll find yourself in time.

The riot in my heart decides
to keep me open and alive
I have to take myself away from you
'Cause I can't compete, I can't deny
there's nothing that I didn't try.
How did I go so wrong in loving you?

Don't worry, you will find the answer if you let it go.
Give yourself some time to falter
But don't forgo, know that you're loved no matter what
And everything will come around in time.

Perfect Girl, Sarah McLachlan

Dusting off ...

Driven by the promise
of a possibility,
we came to find
the ruby rim, the edge,
but, of course
(we should have known),
there never really is an edge,
or there is but it is
always folding in on itself,
taking us straight back
to the plain old center
where all the small sufferings occur.

Expected, SMO c. 2002

Considering ...

giving up and going to sleep. I have a long day tomorrow and the alarm goes off in about 3 hours. I have two posts in the works and they are biggies ... I worked on them for most of tonight but I just can't seem to wrap my head around anything that meaty right now.

Great ... I've become a mental vegetarian.

October 14, 2004

For what it's worth...

In the strata of blogs, I guess mine would be embedded in the bottom layer, the 'personal' blogs. Not that 'personal' blogs are less worthy than, say, web developing blogs or news blogs or political blogs ... to just about anyone that reads blogs with any frequency, though, 'personal' blogs have more meaning for the person that is blogging than the reader.

/me makes note to stop putting quotes around 'personal'.


What I write here has no meaning for anyone but me.

I've tried, in the past, to write for others, so that I could possibly get a message across to someone I could not communicate with or to actually say something that would mean something to somebody.

Seriously ... do you really give a shit that my mom was in the hospital last weekend? Does anyone?

Does it really matter where I'm from?

Am I so full of myself that I think that recounting my day or voicing my opinion really could make a difference on some level to anyone other than me?

If I didn't blog, would it really matter?

No. Not to you. Not to the next person that comes here or the last. No, not to anyone that knows me or to anyone that knew me or even to anyone that will never know me because my blog is not here.

I've been accused of using this vehicle for attention, for accolades, for recognition from some anonymous 'crowd'. Hell, if I wanted to do that, I would log into some chatroom and start blasting everyone in there and generally making myself a nuisance 24/7. I don't care about that, though. I hardly even care about this.

I do, however, care about writing, something I don't do very well ... something I would like to do better. The only way to be a better writer is to write, stupid. So, here I am, writing all this personal crap about myself in the hopes not that I'll garner sympathy of attract attention to myself but that I will learn to tell even the most mundane story in an interesting way.

And why bring this up now, almost 4 years into it?

Why not?

Does it really matter?

October 5, 2004

Still watering over here...

There was a time when I was *this close* to being committed and, for a while, that sounded like a good idea. Seriously, what could be wrong with having your own room, some peace and quiet, 3 squares a day and no housework to speak of. Okay, so a mental ward isn't exactly Eden but, given the alternative, it looked pretty much like a paradise to me.

It was six years ago while I was in the care of Dr. B. During one of my weekly visits, when I let it slip that I could kill my ex (then husband) for what he had done to me the day before (it was sexually violent), I was told that my fantasy of a little getaway could be coming true and sooner than I expected. My doctor was morally and ethically obligated to report me after my confession, at least to her supervisor ... possibly to the police so they could warn my ex of my intentions. It was also suggested that I stay in 'the unit' for at least the weekend until I calmed down.

If I had known that what I said to her was not confidential, I never would have let that out ... I also found out that by saying that I wished the pain would stop and I could just die, I would be put on the "watch list" and extensively questioned before being released. Who knew??

Anyway, there I was faced with the very real possibility of being locked up without a chance to get out until someone said I was no longer a danger to anyone, including myself. I had to convince them that I was not a danger to my kids and that they didn't need to contact social services. Suddenly, the fantasies of that place turned into nightmare and I found myself promising enything just to not be turned in, to not be locked up, to not lose my kids. I royally fucked myself by telling the truth.

A good 4 hours passed in the doctor's office that day while I pleaded my case. When they finally did let me go, I could have fallen down outside and kissed the cigarette strewn grass next to the parking lot. I decided that maybe letting people know my innermost urges was a bad thing and, unfortunately, my therapy didn't progress much after that.

I recently had a chance to visit the very place that I had pleaded so vehemently to not be locked up in. This past Friday, I was asked to make a McDonald's run for a friend of the family that found herself in the "Behavior Management" ward. She belongs in there, no doubt in my mind. She is a danger to herself and, unfortunately, she doesn't care neough to change her behavior yet so she will, most likely, spend quite a bit of time behind those double locked, steel-reinforced doors.

I did learn something very important while I was there. That place would have killed me. As a matter of fact, by the time we left there, I was so shaken, I had decided that I would never let myself slip again. Oh no, no way in hell I'm going back there. It was a scene straight out of Girl Interrupted, and not any of the pleasant outdoor scenes, either. Talk about being scared sane.

Anyway, she is still there and, if she calls, asking for more fries, I'm going to have to figure out a way to get them to her without going back in there. *shudder*

On a sad note, this past week, one of my fellow teachers passed away from cancer. Her kids took karate with my kids for the past 2 years and I was one of the first people up at the dojo that she let know about the breast cancer, which progressed into lymphoma and, finally, brain tumors she was fighting. She was a very brave lady and an excellent teacher.

Oh yes ... still watering over here.

October 3, 2004

From the NCSLMA conference...

I know it was a couple of weeks ago but life got kinda turned upside down when I got back, so I'm just getting around to getting my ass in gear here.

Though this was a professional conference for school librarians, there were some very creative and fun workshops to attend, some of which were given by one of my favorite authors, Deborah Wiles. Her specialty is Story (yes, with a capitol S)and how telling and retelling your story gives you a place in the world and validates your reason for being. You know that was right up my alley so I signed up and attended two back-to-back presentations by her. The first was more of an introduction to her methods of writing and readings from her work but the second was a hands-on workshop that we all had to contribute to. Little did I know that I would get a poem out of it.

What Deborah Wiles suggested is that we brainstorm, making lists first ... lists of things that are sensory, rich, whole parts of your past, what makes you 'you'. Some of the subjects could be:

Happy memories

Sad memories

Scary moments

Something that always makes you laugh

Something that always makes you cry

Food memories - favorite family dishes

People you loved/hated

Geography - physican places

History - a place in time




Other stuff - for that stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else!

These things should be both unique to you and universal, things that stand out to you as your strongest memories. You'll end up with many more things than you will actually use in this poem, so save the list for later poems ... I've started keeping a notebook for brainstorming. You'll be amazed at what you come up with when you let yourself go.

Using the same basic structure as the following poem, "Where I'm From..." by George Ella Lyons (below), choose images from your lists that are the richest to you and build your own "Where I'm From ... " poem.

Where I'm From
by George Ella Lyons

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the black porch.
(Black, glistening
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush,
the Dutch elm
whose long gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I'm from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from perk up and pipe down.
I'm from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I'm from Artemus and Billie's Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.
Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments-
snapped before I budded-
leaf-fall from the family tree.


Here is my version ...

Where I'm From ...
by Sharon O'Neill

I am from the last house on the right,
a place where words were sparse,
brittle weeds pushing up
through cracks in the cement silence.
I am from aluminum Christmas trees,
from Spam and transistor radios.
I am from the smell of hyacinths,
a Clematis covered chimney and Linden trees
that showered us with chartreuse pollen.

I am from scalloped corn and shag haircuts,
from Anthony and Adeline
and the white cabin on Merrymeeting Lake.
I am from steps- and halfs-
and still being an only child,
from snap-out-of-it and
from pink striped ballerina wallpaper
hidden beneath Tiger Beat posters.

I am from taking the dirt road to MacArthur Park
to ice skating on the frozen reservoir,
from Hostess fruit pies and braided gimp.
From the night my mother took too many pills
to the morning my father was just gone.
I am from the tree branches that kept me hidden
when it was my turn to go to the dentist
to the roof I could watch the stars from
and ignore the storm brewing inside.

I am from floating on my back in the pool,
bobbing for hard, underripe pears
that tasted of chlorine and abandonment.
I am from the pregnant purple balloons
of the hostas nodding along the front walk,
crushed prematurely by ignorant fingers
that didn't understand that
a popped blossom would never know
the joy of opening into a beautiful bell.

This can be adapted to any age or grade level as a lesson and I'm willing to bet you can find no less than 20 full lesson plans online if you would like to have your class do a similar exercise.

It was a lesson in discovery for me ... revisiting many images I had forgotten, expecially some of the more plesant ones that get forgotten by the flood of the darker ones. We'll see where this notebook takes me. It's good enough to me that I'm writing again. *whew*

October 2, 2004

The grass is always greener...

No, this is not a post about regret, just a change of perspective.

The old saying is "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." Basically, you always want what you can't have and, once you get on the other side of the fence, you realize that what you had in the first place was perfectly fine ... and on and on ...

The altered version of this moth-eaten mantra is "The grass is always greenest where you water it."

Got something you want? Take care of it, nurture it, just water it, dammit ... and it will grow. Even cement crumbles after years of neglect ... relationships are much more fragile.

"It's Been Awhile"

And it's been awhile
Since I could hold my head up high
And it's been awhile
Since I first saw you
And it's been awhile
Since I could stand on my own two feet again
And it's been awhile
Since I could call you

And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I've rendered
I've stretched myself beyond my means

And it's been awhile
Since I can say that I wasn't addicted
And it's been awhile
Since I can say I love myself as well
And it's been awhile
Since I've gone and fucked things up just like I always do
And it's been awhile
But all that shit seems to disappear when I'm with you

And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I've rendered
I've gone and fucked things up again

Why must I feel this way?
Just make this go away
Just one more peaceful day!

And it's been awhile
Since I could look at myself straight
And it's been awhile
Since I said I'm sorry
And it's been awhile
Since I've seen the way the candle lights your face
And it's been awhile
But I can still remember just the way you taste

And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem to be I know it's me
I cannot blame this on my father
He did the best he could for me

And it's been awhile
Since I could hold my head up high
And it's been awhile
Since I said I'm sorry...

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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