I Have Jesus’s Rookie Card

IMG_7786.JPGThe question and answer session was conducted in Polish by an impossibly young priest.

The quiz was not for us; we were only tourists watching the show (and surreptitiously taking photos of the exchange). But we were still nervous.

  • The last time you attended church was?
  • The reason you are giving your donation to the church is?
  • The eldest child is not present this evening; is she part of a parish in her college’s town?

We nearly cheered when we realized we had the answers.

Even we understood the contribution will support improvements to the windows in the church, even we could describe how cold the sanctuary is, how the inside, in winter, is nearly as cold as the outside, how, despite all of the kneeling and rising, parishioners need parkas and gloves.

Even we had noticed, from the jam-packed back of the holiday crowd the Sunday before, the skinny altar boys wore puffy jackets beneath their ample robes.

The family presented the clergy “man” with cash, cake, and delight for his visit.

In turn, he offered us a blessing in the form of something that reminded us of a Topps trading card for Jesus.

***

This week in Creative Writing, the students are developing a dossier for a character.

Like a rookie card, the dossier showcases the protagonist’s strengths, statistics, and trivia.

***

 

 

Happiness Is…

IMG_8340.jpg

When I was young, I had a tall glass that had a jubilant Snoopy and Woodstock and the words: “Happiness is a root beer float.” This stein, even when filled with milk or water, made me happy.

For me, happiness hasn’t changed too much since then. I still delight in birthday cake, mom’s cooking, and afternoon naps.

***

Yesterday, as I was Spring cleaning my office, I observed how I display, for students and for myself, all sorts of reminders about the value of happiness: a poem by William Stafford, photos of celebrations and loved ones, favorite words, quotations, papel picado.

In tidying, I noted that one of the photos contained a person who has, over the past year, hurt me. He seemed to hang on the edge of an otherwise fondly-recalled celebration.

So I lopped him off the picture.

***

I immediately was not sure what to do with him, this quarter-inch-slice. I mean, I wondered if I should slip him into a book, throw him into the trash, slide him into an folder and file him.

All I knew was that I instantly felt happiness that he was no longer in my  office.

So, I recycled him.

***

I have a sore throat. One of my friends says that a sore throat is from not saying what you need to say, but I’ve been to the doctor and it is just an end-of-winter cold.

Despite the fact that my voice was scratchy and tired, I told M last night, “I felt like a sixth-grader this afternoon. I cut X– out of that birthday photo of all of us on the patio. It made me happy.”

He laughed at me; he knows that happiness is sometimes acting like a kid who is not trying to making anyone else happy.

***

Happiness

–Raymond Carver

So early it’s still almost dark out.
I’m near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren’t saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other’s arm.
It’s early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn’t enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

***

  • My colleague, K–, recently did an activity with her students to make abstract concepts tangible. She shared some of the creative images her creative students concocted.

Lost: a sad song trapped in an empty jar

Chaos: a spilled box of dry spaghetti

Forgiveness: the sweet taste of a Sour Patch Kid

Joy: A free scoop of coconut ice cream

Despair: Writing a ten-page paper for days and forgetting to turn it in

Here are some abstract nouns for feelings, what do they remind you of?

 

Adoration, Amazement, Anger, Anxiety, Apprehension, Clarity, Delight, Despair, Disappointment, Disbelief, Excitement, Fascination, Friendship, Grief, Hate, Helpfulness, Helplessness, Infatuation, Joy, Love, Misery, Pain, Pleasure, Power, Pride, Relaxation, Relief, Romance, Sadness, Satisfaction, Silliness, Sorrow, Strength, Surprise, Tiredness, Uncertainty, Wariness, Weariness, Worry

 

Sunday’s Child

IMG_8464It is winter, and the language exchange in the Home Depot parking lot continues. We talk about Trump’s politics, the Spring-like weather that has arrived for our class time (though there will be rain the rest of the week), what we had for dinner, what we did on Sunday.

Ariel wants to practice the seasons in English. We learn them and drill on them for a half an hour, mixing these new words with days of the week, months, colors, and questions to make sure he remembers the words. He does.

It is the Monday of midterms and the guys ask, “When will your English-speaking students join us?” I reply, “No puedo adviniar.” (I am not able to guess, predict, divine the answer to this.) And, this is one of the things I love about acquiring a new language.

Before knowing this verb in Spanish, I would utter only: “I don’t know.”

I go on quizzing: “Verano?” “Yes, summer.” “Azul? Okay, blue.” “Invierno?” “Right, winter.” “Viernes?” “Yes, Friday.”

I think about how I was born on Sunday, in the US, in California, in the desert;  I know these are forces that have shaped the happiness and fortune in my life. I say the “Monday’s Child” rhyme out, in English in nearly the same singing way I offered “Roses are red” in a Valentine’s Day lesson.

Monday’s child is fair of face

Tuesday’s child is full of grace

Wednesday’s child is full of woe

Thursday’s child has far to go,

Friday’s child is loving and giving,

Saturday’s child works hard for a living,

But the child who is born on the Sabbath day

Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay.

“Monday’s Child” is a fortune-telling song to predict a child’s character based on the day of the week of her birth. In addition to the day of the week, humans look for astrology, numerology, graphology, palmistry, tarot, crystal balls, runes, tea leaves, ouija boards, pendulums, scrying mirrors, even a magic 8 ball to lend us wisdom into the universe, to help us know more than we do, to divine.

  • What prophets, soothsayers, clairvoyants, seers, or oracles might inform your story?

The world is composed of stories…

OLS Writers' Conference 2018 Flyer

The writers’ conference is coming soon!

Even sooner, we are seeking submissions through the end of February for the literary journal. Submissions can be posted online at: https://cosumnesriverjournal.submittable.com/submit

And, my online Creative Writing students are blogging at:

No Day

911 quote

On the way to Poland for winter break, M and I spent a couple of days touring New York City. One of the places we visited was the hallowed ground of the 9/11 memorial. It is a startling amphitheater of  deep sorrow,  a mausoleum for the 2,977 lost, a monument of remembrance for  the survivors–and the rest of us. It is horror amplified to sensory overload with the sounds of sirens and phone calls and news and the photographs of people frozen in disbelief, dumbstruck, confused, terrified.

There is an urgent seriousness buzzing through the halls, as if the tragedy hovers over us–and it does. I did not know how heavy the news of this particular morning (this vast crime) wears within me. Wandering through the exhibits, the heaviness inflates again with sorrow, and I am almost bursting with the deeply personal stories of the people.

Today is the birthday of a handful of victims whose names are marked with a white rose and whose stories play in a dark room, as a vigil of sorts, with friends telling the stories of their loved ones, how brilliantly they lived, how tremendous the loss.

How tremendous the loss. “No day shall erase you,” I am reminded at my discomfort. “No day shall erase you,” I promise to the void.

“No day shall erase you,” reminds the adamant woman who survived the terrorist attacks in 1993 and again in 2001 by climbing down the stairs, these same stairs where she reports to work each morning as a docent bound to share her story and the stories of those who cannot.

*

I am headed to Poland, and people keep asking me which Polish writers I like. And, I stall, wondering if I have categorized writers by country. I have not. I report that I know I love anything by Wislawa Szymborska. I think of her poem “Hatred” and how relevant it is now–and probably forever. I research other Polish writers and pull out pieces that might accompany blog posts.

*

I am searching now for other poets’ takes on 9/11. And, the first piece I find comes up Symborska. An audio poem with no companion text, it does not prepare me. It does not prepare me:  Photograph from September 11.

*

No day.

  • White roses, stories, monuments, museums, poems, and more combat erasure. What must we remember?

 

[More on Virgil’s quote.]

Will Write for Likes or Follows

To view the solar eclipse, I headed to Boise, Idaho for a few days before venturing to Weiser, Idaho, and a site at a high school in the path of totality.

Boise was bustling with hordes of other eclipse enthusiasts exploring the area in anticipation of the main event.

At the Saturday morning farmers’ market,  there were all sort of buskers, including this talented b-boy performing for applause  and a dollar or two.

Speaking of applause, the creative writing students are blogging again this semester and need you support as they share their words and expand their audience. Please follow them, like them, and tell your friends about these diligent and creative writers.

https://ficticiouscivilservants.wordpress.com/  (note the spelling)

https://munchbunchblog.wordpress.com/

https://soundsofthesoulsite.wordpress.com/

https://virtualsoulfood.wordpress.com/

https://dailycupofwomen.wordpress.com/

And, a former student has started a blog at: https://kakainna.wordpress.com/ (Kakainna! is Tagalog for Eat Now!)

My fantastic former student also recommended the following blogging resources:

http://www.sacramentobloggers.com/ – A local group.  I attended a meeting of theirs a week ago, and the info exchanged was quite useful.  For example, we discussed the use of images, and the importance of confirming no copyright violations and, if using your own images, the importance of watermarking them (which I hadn’t even considered).  Attendees also spoke about affiliate links, which I’d never heard of previously.  We also discussed tips on generating more traffic to our blogs, such as group boards on Pinterest and something called “link parties.”  This was my first time attending a meeting, and I thought I’d go to this one, at least, to see if I found it useful, which it was.  There’s no cost for joining or attending.

https://2017.sacramento.wordcamp.org/ — This was brought up at the Sacramento Bloggers meeting.  It’s a series of sessions on using WordPress.  It takes place on September 16-17 and costs $40.

http://foodbloggerconference.org/ — The founder and organizer of Sacramento Bloggers is also on the advisory board of the International Food Blogger Conference.  She suggested to the non-food bloggers present that they still might want to attend as the content covered would benefit them as well, not just food bloggers.

 

Dublin Castle at Christmas

It is week ten of the semester, and we are on the brink of spring. This is the point in the term where the speed picks up, and what felt like racewalking suddenly turns into a jog to Spring Break and then a frantic sprint to the end.

This weekend I am scanning photos of Christmas as though the length of time is as vast as the distance from here to Dublin. I am grateful for having timed my visit to encounter a castle elaborately decorated for Christmas, for the generous sun shining on the labyrinth and gardens, for the the luxury of history and the venue of a gallery to learn more of Ireland’s bombings and terrorism. I am grateful for the joy and safety I enjoy even at the end of a long winter.

Indeed it has been a long winter full of hard lessons and interesting work. I just have to  pause to remember where I am going and where I have been. Speaking of week ten, the creative writing students are blogging.

Daily Bread 400: https://dailybread400.wordpress.com/

Blissful Binge: https://blissfulbinge.wordpress.com/

Passions of 8: https://passionsof8.wordpress.com/

World of Actions & Reactions: https://creativeblogforclass.wordpress.com/

All Things Dreamy: https://allthingsdreamyblog.wordpress.com/

Please follow them, like them, and tell your friends about these diligent and creative writers.

Looking for writing inspiration, take a look at: http://awesomewritingprompts.tumblr.com/