Primrose – SOL 2017

*straight out of the notebook

Primrose trembles
in the wind
in the window.

Why do I like
delicate flowers?

Especially those
made of water.

Than can vanish
between the hard crush
of 2 fingers?

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Notebook Miracle – SOL 21

Notebooks make all the difference.  Used by the teacher, that is.  Of this, I am an official believer.

Let me tell you..

I had been a day-to-day notebook keeper since early 2015.  Prior to that, I’d written weekly in several notebooks and journals — as many as raising children would allow.

Notebooks in 2015 increased my teacher performance, improved my relationships with my students, boosted my self-esteem — I have stories on these, but I’m under the gun to get this SOL out before midnight.  🙂  This all happened because I began my work with the National Writing Project.  I was drawn to it because I’m a believer in marrying your beliefs to your work.  Writing has been my belief all my life..

Sometime last year, a cork got shoved somewhere in my brain.  It started by not keeping the writing habit going.  It got so bad, I didn’t even keep my little journal and notebook writing around the house.  Maybe it was the political climate — or the nation’s climate — that got to me.  Maybe it was my mother being place in a nursing home (separate from my Dad) and losing access to my childhood home, possibly forever.  Major upset, I haven’t gone back to guess why my writing stopped.  All I know is the effects.

Here is how I was affected:

  • the worst personality crisis I have ever experienced in my adult life. We spend all this time, day by day, week by week, year by year, beginning with teenage-hood, perhaps, trying to figure ourselves out.  We improve, we backtrack, we jump with ecstasy when we’re in a place we’re recognizable to ourselves and have figured ourselves out a little.  All that stopped for me, for a period for, gosh.. I can tell you if I went back to my notebooks.. I want to seriously, seriously guess 1 year.  The. Worst. Totally not myself.  Silent.  Lost.  Inside Out.  Where was I?
  • teaching impacted.  Totally stilted. I could still perform, still love my children, but there was a wall there .. you know?  I felt.. inauthentic.  Something definitely missing.  How can I be totally me if I’m not totally there.. or there’s a part of me that is lost as I stand in front of my kids?  I functioned.. I worked hard.. I stressed SOOOO much because not “being” all there just didn’t seem right to me.  That’s not how I’ve ever lived.  It’s all or all..
  • thinking impacted.  There were times when I would begin to write something down.. and my mind could not hold a sentence. My mind would flip and I’d draw a complete blank.  Or I would hit a skip and begin thinking of the next topic without finishing the first sentence. Twice in a paragraph.  Very odd.  This is recorded in my “Classroom Notebook” that I used while I still tried to write during Writing Time with my kids during Workshop.  I learned to record these [boats on a river] lapses with brackets — just you just saw now.  Over time, I grew afraid of the blank page..
  • creativity null and void.  Gone, just gone.  All my life, I’ve had an edge on idea. I enjoyed my brain and thinking stuff up, a new version, a different angle, a unique perspective.  This was absent during that time…

But let me tell you what’s happened.

I had a mahvelous Workshop with a mentor from the Heart of Texas Writing Project (our NWP affiliate here in Austin).. and it was just what I needed to get the Notebook started again.  This happened February 20th.  I have been writing non-stop.

Today, the cork popped and my creativity sparked.. and roared!!!!

I came up with a quick-draft for curriculum for next unit.

I came up with 1 Topic-Talk chart for my kids to work with during Workshop tomorrow.

I came up with a Risk Rubric as they develop their ideas for Opinion.

I came up with a Community Chart for listing their Topic Commitments.

I DREW UP PLANS FOR A TEACHER APP!!!!!!

That… I was not expecting that…

… and I wrote it all in my Notebook, which is going fabulous.

Please, please.. if you want to streamline your practice and don’t feel you have time to work in your Notebook, do whatever you can to carve out time to get back into Writing for Self, for you, for your mind, for your thinking, for your soul, spirit and sanity in this world.

Give it a solid month, like I did — 15 minutes everyday, like I did with my students (I was bound to them through a promise).

You will notice the stress disappear, your thinking become clearer, you’ll become more efficient, your confidence will rise, you will be yourself and more pleasant and friendly and fun to be around, you’ll be more at peace with yourself and the world.

It is so worth it..

..Veronica, don’t forget.

Writerly Advice to My Daughter- SOL Day 15

Tackled 3 bookstores today.  A total of 8 hours — while we waited for brother to be done with his shift work.

Found a notebook for middle child, who hasn’t written at home .. for months and months.  She used to walk around with her nose buried in a notebook, scribbling about her daily life.

When she finally sat down to write, she said she didn’t know what to do, how to start.  Gave her a quick launching lesson, then summed up a why it’s so important for her..

My talk, as  captured from my own Notebook:

“You should always be capable of writing for yourself — not for someone else, not for grades, not for scores, but entirely and wholly for yourself — to please yourself.

Your language, your thoughts, they belong to you.  And if you have trouble composing them for yourself, then you need to pause and figure this out. Figure out how to talk to yourself, how to think for yourself, how to write for yourself, with you as your audience.  No one else.

Society, school, parents, friends, ourselves — we’ve all done enough damage and discourage. Don’t let it be a complete and thorough annihilation of you, your voice.  Because who when would you ever get it back?

Do you really want to wander through this world without a voice? For even yourself to hear?”

 

Writing on the Fly – SOL Day 11

So, at about 4ish today, before I took my nap, and then at about 8ish, after I took my nap (I’m Christianing my Spring Break, you see), I thought about how I still needed to write my Slice of Life for the day — and I felt a lump of dread form in my stomach, as though I swallowed a lump of raw dough whole.

Not the kind of thing I wanted to feel on this, my second year of completing the challenge.

I’d already noticed a lot of my little SOL friends from last year are missing, I lamented the fact that I hardly see them blogging, and, of course, I wondered what my fate might me.  Do I give up, too?

I just wasn’t feeling the fire.  It’s been creeping up on me this week, especially with Life.  And then Life.  And more Life.

I decided to go in for an adjustment.

I didn’t quite write about this yet, because it was against my self-imposed “rules” — I hadn’t written about it in my Notebook for the idea to make it to my blog — BUT — here, I’m going to tell you now what I should have said at the beginning of this paragraph:

My plan was to really use my Notebook as a launchpad for all of my entries this year.

The experiment didn’t fail, I just need to tweak it.  I think that’s a trait of good writers to notice what’s working for them — or not — and to allow themselves the freedom and flexibility to adjust as they see fit.  Do whatever you can to NOT kill the Writing Spirit. .. because everything else in Life tries to smush it enough, I think.  Don’t you do it yourself.  Don’t allow mission-kill to creep in.  Do whatever you can to feed the fire, sustain the muse, even if it means abandoning plans and slowly modifying habits.

So… here I am absolutely free-writing on my blog, as I did last year.

Issues I observed with blogging were:

  • I didn’t reread my stuff much
  • I didn’t revise
  • I waited last minute A LOT to post  (hitting the 11:59 was very common for me)
  • I rushed with ideas and just dumped
  • Whatever writerly habits I developed online didn’t seem to translate to what I wanted to accomplish in my Notebook or in my real life writing.

Greatest success I experienced was:  forcing myself to address my own mind during a time in the school year that would have demanded I abandoned myself, my mind, my writing.  A 30-day commitment is a big deal.

Those observations were what led me to use my Notebook as a bridge.. to extend the thoughtfulness and the time thinking and preparing for each post.  To be more involved and mindful.

I just don’t have the time.  Not as much as I would want.  I’m raising a family, we have kids attending 3 different schools (university, middle and primary) — we rise early for commutes into the city.  So, yeah.. it’s tough to find time to be thoughtful in the Notebook to bridge that thinking to here.

What’s my plan now?

To just do whatever I feel like doing.  If I want to spit on a page online (like this), then I will.  I will continue to be thoughtful about writing in my Notebook and bridging it to here, because that’s something I really, really want to do — I just need to be more intentional about carving out that time.  I really want to allow myself to be free and unafraid of writing on the computer (which is probably what allllll this is about.. isn’t it curious how we get the point at the end of the page?).  I will work on going back and rereading my stuff that I type online.  Or not.  I’m among friends and colleagues.  What have I to fear?  Being chucked in jail?  Death?  Bah.

It’s just little ole me being me.

Hopefully — and I’m sensing this, look at how much I wrote — I will write more online during this year’s challenge, post beyond the SOL postings.

I won’t know until I try.  🙂

 

 

Dad’s Notebook – SOL Day 9

Dad’s Notebook.  Dated from  2002 , from deep in my drawer as I’m looking for my favorite pens..

One of my special pens I’d buried all over the house.  Open a drawer, you’d find one.  Close a door, one would fall out.  I’ve been dry for months, though, no pen in sight, happy enough to just get something down in any chance moment.  The writing instrument just hasn’t mattered lately.

When you want to write, you’ll write..

Anyway — opted for hubby’s I found in his bedside drawer as I hunted for said pens.

I’m a thief.  I’ll ask for forgiveness later..

Opened my own desk drawer, pulled out a nest of random notes — buried underneath was Dad’s prayer book in a composition notebook.

I know I’ve written a lot about my Dad.

We had a complex relationship.  He was a burden on our marriage, never allowed us to delight much in him, but I knew he loved us in his odd way — just as he knew we loved him.

Through it all, before we lost him to Alzheimer’s, I needed that tether during that period of my of my life.  I know I rationalized loving my Dad, even though he was mean… and ugly..  and not nice .. and was suspicious of what-have-you (made up plenty of stories.. boy!  what a storyteller!), but I’m thankful I had the sense not to push him on my family.  We simply, very quietly, withdrew from his life .. with those occasional surprise re-emergings to catch him off guard.

Now, I just cherish.

Several years ago, when Dad’s memory finally kept him from communicating, Mom gave me his Notebook.

It had Dad’s prayer list in it.  Ever person he fought, combated, and cursed —  my mother, my sister, my husband, my brother — he had an ongoing prayer in there for them.

I want to believe he felt regret, and that maybe this was a way to find amends. For himself, at least.  His way of reaching out into the empty he forged, to pray privately for the people he was angry at, the people he believed had abandoned him — like the abandonment he must have felt most his life after his own father died when he was 2.  Maybe to find relief from the grief he created in his own life.

I know his prayers were sincere because he never lorded his prayers over us.  Never bragged if he perceived his prayers were fulfilled like some “religious” people I know, never ingratiated himself on us because of the private time he spent thinking silently about us.  He ingratiated himself on us for everything under the moon, beneath bridges and across vast distances, for everything else.. He told us so.

But not those prayers.

Those prayers. . I never knew they existed.  Had I known he prayed for us at the time, maybe things could have been different.

But he never said.

He never told us.

I’m left with his Notebook .. and I wonder.

I’m comforted to know he had a private Notebook he retreated to, too.

It’s nice knowing I have something in common with my Dad.

It’s nice knowing through this post — this very moment — I’ve come to define  what ailed my Dad for my whole life I knew him:  his issue of Abandonment.

Wow.  Even now, I’m still getting to know my Dad.  Through his Notebook.  Something he left behind for me to hear part of his voice.

The silent one.

 

 

Dad’s Pen – SOL Day 4

dads-pen

New Notebook.  Same brand, same model.

…because I’m a creature of habit when something seems to be working for me.

Since mid-summer 2016, I hadn’t written consistently in my Notebook. Stacks and stacks of completed notebooks I possessed.  That summer, it just stopped.  My mother moved into a nursing home — that made 2 parents now, institutionalized 350 miles away, a situation I had no say in as the youngest child — extended family members were squabbling, lawyers were summoned, and.. my writing just stopped.  Dried up like a rusty faucet.

One day late in February, my National Writing Project mentor visited our campus to lead a workshop for our department.  She was just the person to undo the spell, the plumber with a monkey wrench to get my mojo going.  I’ve been writing ever since, daily, dedicatedly, devotedly.  It’s all coming back to me now, my “bad” year a blur.  I’m now teaching mini-lessons directly from entries in my notebook, we are finding time to write every other day in our classroom, and we are becoming a writing community, even though it’s past mid-year. We just have a lot of catching up to do, that’s all.

Never will I forget the look on my children’s faces when the spell broke — where have you been all year?  I. Will. Keep. This. ..at the front of my mind for the rest of the year when I am tempted to abandon the practice we have ALL (every last 140 one of us) fallen in love with, for the sake of “one more thing to do!”  Never again (please!).  I pray I can keep it for the rest of my writerly life, with my students or without.

New Notebook… Same pen.

This one is an older model Pilot — a “Precise V5” that’s been around for years and years and years. I know because my Dad would grade his Chemistry papers with these same pens during the 80s and early 90s.  Blue — Red — Green.  Exactly what they’re still selling in stores now.

Never once did I pick up one of these pens — when I’d find them in his suitcase as I rifled for stuff for him, when I’d see them lying around the kitchen counter or on the counter in his lab.  Never during his grading fury, which usually came toward the end of the six weeks.

This was when final exams would pile onto student work from the week and he’d have only a day to return report cards to his students.  This was the era before retesting for a 70.

It was my job to help him with the averaging the night before grades were due.

Dad discovered my talent for the 10-key the night of one of his grading binges that usually started around 11 o’clock on a Sunday night.  I was up to say good night to him and he very innocently asked me to average the grades for one kid for him.

“Oooh… you did that very fast. Here, do these grades, too.”

…5 x 5 desk calculator, the kind you can still find at Office Depot, like so many other things the world hasn’t outgrown..

Before long, it became my duty all throughout high school to take care of the averaging.

Every six weeks, 140+ kids, until I left for college and then some.  I’d handle the 10-key for him as soon a his grades were ready.

Which meant:  sometimes his sending me to bed early at 7, 8 o’clock so I could be ready to average for him at 3, 4 in the morning when he’d be done with his Precise V5 grading.   He’d wake me with a little shake of the shoulder, a little cafecito, a little “Mijita..”

Me and him, sitting quietly through the night with his ranchero music playing softly in the background, the smell of coffee beckoning us to stay awake through the night.  These moments were among the most peaceful of my life, my father and I like Cistercian Monks praying over a silent meditation of numbers and averages.

Once I’d enter the final grade, he’d hand-write them onto his carbon-copy report cards for his students.

Looking back, I know it wasn’t ideal — but I cherish the memory it gives me, the help I could give my father.  In generations past, there were the children of bakers, farmers, shoemakers who helped their parents.  I can see how these children had no choice in the work they did, the help they gave their family.  This was just what I did with my father.  As a child born to older parents, fun things were few and far between.  What we could bond on was work-centric.  Maybe this was just a product of his generation, his culture at the time.. work was what he always did.

Idfff these are the only memories I could have with my father, I’ll gladly take them.

 

 

Write Me

I'm the slice you didn't write
The moment you 
took too long
to see

and forgot about a moment later.

You didn't 
take the time 
to plant me

In your Writer's Notebook for later.  Why didn't you?
I'm one you'll 
take awhile 
to perceive,

but come back, we'll talk, and you'll see.
You shouldn't skip 
right 
by me

I’m right here, right in front of you.

I'm the slice you should write down when you think you didn't notice.
I'm the version of a story that belongs to everyone.
I'm the one you can't remember later, so think about using your phone to record the moment.
I'm the slice you're going to be thankful you didn't miss.
Don't let me be the slice you didn't write.

*Inspired by  On A Thought’s “The Slice You Didn’t Write“: