Trying something new

Today I am making a choice to challenge myself as a writer.  I know, I write to you here on my blog, but I need to stretch my abilities, to gain some skill in other areas of conveying thought.  To that end, I have decided to join up with thousands of others,  HERE  at The Daily Post.

It is not my intention to write every day, but through the week I may choose one or two prompts to stretch my brain and foster my creativity.   How ironic then, that in choosing today to begin, the prompt should be one of a personal nature?  Well, it is said to write about what you know, and so I begin.

Audience of One:  Picture the one person in the world you really wish were reading your blog. Write her or him a letter.

~*~

Dear Aaron,

You often told me of this lovely place and asked me to come visit you here.  Your descriptions of the countryside, and the joy in your voice told me it was special, yet I delayed my interest in visiting.  I was afraid to let go of home.  Afraid of going somewhere new.  So I stayed.

Why did I wait till your memorial to come and see you?  Only then to discover what a beautiful place this is…  after you were gone?  How many times did Bob tell me that he wanted to leave California, to get out and live somewhere less hectic, more rural, and I dug in my heals.  Resisted.  Shut my heart to the thought.

I finally made it here little brother, and you were right all along.  It is a beautiful place to live.  My only regret is that you are not here to enjoy it with me.   I write about it often here on my pages.  I share the loveliness with others, and only wish that you could read it, that I might share it with you too.

I miss you little brother,

Lynda

~*~

Ephemera

Ephemera

In the great state of Texas the Rain Lilies defied an historical drought.

Clouds formed,
rain fell,
the lilies awoke.

Stretching to meet the sun their fragrance filled the air…

Ephemera

~*~

As you may know Texas has had one of the most severe droughts in recorded history.  Cotton crops have been lost, rivers, streams and lakes have dried up, and then there were the fires.  It has been a difficult time for the residents of this stricken state.

Recently, there were rains over a large portion of Texas, and in the Austin area Steve Schartzman was able to find a very large colony of these beautiful Rain Lilies.  That is the colony in the picture above and their name tells you their story.  When rain comes it takes only a few short days and the lilies spring forth.  Sadly, their beauty is short-lived, but for the time they are here you may choose to take them for granted or, as he has done, go out and enjoy them,  photograph them, breathe in their fragrance, and share the experience with others.  In so doing, he has made his readers aware and they take notice of their environment, enjoying the loveliness of a fleeting little white lily.  An ephemeral in the floral world.

Ephemeral:  Lasting a very short time.

Ephemeral.  There is a parallel for me in this, and it nicely sums up my career as a teacher.  I returned to school late in life and studied hard to get my BA and teaching credentials.  On graduation day it was as if I were in a dream.  The calling of my name.  Me,  the girl who most hated school, and barely graduated high school.  Fact is, the only reason I graduated was to prove my father a liar.  He said I wouldn’t.  I proved him wrong.  I remember the last name being called, the valedictorian speech, the hat throwing (I held mine tight!) and the million multicolored bits of Mylar confetti  floating down from the highest point of the sports arena’s ceiling. I had pushed myself, striven to get to this place.  Why, my last quarter in university I carried 21 units just so I could be done with it all.  It had taken me almost ten years to make up for ill spent time in high school and to get in all the new learning, but I did it, and I was so proud!

Then I got my first job and my own classroom.  I was teaching first grade.  Two weeks into the first month of school found me on my lunch break standing alone, the lights off, in the middle of my classroom.  Slowly I turned round in a circle surveying the room.  I thought, “What in the world was I thinking when I decided to become a teacher?”  The truth of it was that I was terrified of the responsibility, and yet, exhilarated too!  We learned from each other my students and I, and by the end of the year I was in love with teaching, and adored my students.

I spent three years at Morris Elementary.  In my time there I lost my mother.  We lost Bob’s father, and when his mother moved into an assisted living facility we moved into his parent’s home.  I then left Morris for a position closer to our new home.

My last two years at the new school were very difficult.  I broke my foot and the district would not allow me back on campus till it was healed.  I was out of work for over two months.  Bob had hernia surgery which turned into prostate problems, which led to another surgery, and almost a year of pain and suffering for him. He was one of those rare individuals who bled… a lot.  It necessitated two more surgeries, with several trips to the ER, overnight stays, and a blood transfusion.

Then my youngest brother died.  He was forty-nine and had a massive heart attack.

“Father, give me strength.” I cried.

You might imagine I was coming unglued and you’d be right.  However, as a teacher I was expected to keep it together and be there for my kids.  We had to pass the state tests and I had to prep my students to do their best.  It was high stakes and everyone was wound too tightly.  My coworkers didn’t understand the many times I had to leave, because my husband was ill again and in the ER.  They didn’t understand when after taking three days bereavement, I later took two more days and left to go to Alabama for my brother’s memorial service.  This would be a total of five days of “out-of-state bereavement time.”  This was cleared with the office and I didn’t think I needed to explain it.  I was wrong.

When I came back I was informed there was to be a meeting after school and I should attend.  I arrived and found that the meeting was about me.  In the course of the hour-long discussion roast I was told by my coworkers I was not a team player, I wasn’t supportive of the other staff, that I had purposely hurt myself to get out of work, that I was making up all the trips to the hospital for my husband’s problems, and the killer was the statement made about my going to my brother’s memorial service,

“You took three days a couple of weeks back,  and now you’ve taken two more!  Weren’t you over it the first time you were off?”  and, “We think you just wanted a longer holiday weekend for Easter.”

I never cried so hard as I did in that meeting.  I was destroyed emotionally and couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Alabama is a beautiful state.  When he was alive my brother had begged me many times to come and see for myself.  I did not get the opportunity.  However, once here I realized he was right.  Over the course of the rest of the school year I would work as hard as possible to be  “supportive of the other staff,”  to walk on eggshells and smile when the bile would otherwise have me grimace.  I did it for my students.  I took it all, and got the job done, for them.  All the while knowing that I was moving at the end of my contract.  That made all the ugliness bearable because I could see there was an end to it, and soon.

We packed, we moved cross-country, and we were so happy to be in our new home.  Bob found work and is now fully healed.   I praise God for that because I never want him to be that seriously ill and uncomfortable again.

Me?  No, there would be no teaching job for me.  The recession, and then later the laying off of thousands of teachers throughout the US meant I would not be hired.  Would it have made a difference if I’d stayed in California?  No, I was told they laid off twenty teachers at my old school, some with fourteen years tenure in that district, so I was surely on the chopping block if I’d stayed.

Our first summer here passed quickly and I didn’t get hired.  The first day of school came, and as we drove by on the highway I could see all the bright faces.  I saw the children wearing their shiny new shoes and new clothes.  There were parents holding hands with their children and walking them into their classrooms.  The teachers looked rested and excited for the new school year.  It was wonderful and I wasn’t to be a part of it.  I cried.

That was three years ago and I feel blessed.  I still don’t have a job, but I have a home that is paid for by the sale of our home in California.  Our bills are paid, Bob makes the same wage as he did there, and that makes all the difference.  We watch our pennies and we are OK!

I have adjusted to not being a teacher, but Oh do I miss it.  And yet, I feel I gained much from the experiences of helping my students to grow and learn.  To be honest, I grew and learned as much from them as they did me.

And so it is, that I feel a connection to the Rain Lily Steve shared with us on his site.  Though my career was short as a teacher,  I drank it in, blossomed, cast seeds then faded.

However, 

the beauty of my time in teaching remains.

~*~

If you would like to see more of Steve Schwartzman’s beautiful work, then please visit his website Portraits of Wildflowers .

~*~

Thank you Steve for allowing me to illustrate my story with your lovely photographs.

Letting Go

I stand at the window and watch as bin after bin is loaded into the big panel truck.  I tell myself it’s OK, that I don’t care…

But I do.

I feel the tears start and then I get angry at my inability to hold them back.  I have held onto the contents of those bins for almost three years now and I finally find that I have the strength to let go of the past.  Twenty-five Rubbermaid storage bins, crammed to the top with games, puzzles, musical instruments, books, flash cards, critter keepers, and more than I can name.  All of it collected by me (or given to me by my students) loved and cherished by every class of children I ever taught.

We shared a journey wherein we learned together and had fun getting there!

I watch the truck pull out of the drive, roll on down the road, and know that the stuff of my career is finally gone.

I think:  “Bob will have his garage back and we’ll have an empty spare room for company when they come to visit.”

All of my special things will be sold for far less than I paid for them, then trying to be pragmatic I tell myself, the proceeds will help those in need.  Now in my mind’s eye I imagine a child holding her parent’s hand, looking at the things I once owned and I see the child smile on hearing the word “Yes.”

Does it hurt any less?  Maybe just a little.  It is a melancholy feeling.  The task of getting rid of all of this has hung around my neck for so long…

I held out…

drowning with the weight of it.

After all, I tell myself, I have a new life here and my days are full with other tasks now.  I feel myself smiling through my tears and know that my decision was a good one.  I breathe in freedom and expel a sigh relief that I could let go.

It is freeing.

Of Thanksgiving Past: or death by turkey leg

When I was young my cousin Bruce and I used to hang together at all the family get-togethers.  We were inseparable as children.  There were only four months difference in our ages and we got along (in)famously.  Well, there was that incident with the Skippy dog food in Grandma Strong’s kitchen… and of course this epic tale:

I have said it before, my mother was not a good cook, but she tried her best and on Thanksgiving meals she poured her heart into the task.  With a family of six, and relatives to feed, she would get up at 4:00 AM to begin roasting the big turkey to feed us all.  The smell of it filled the house and all of us kids would be in and out of the kitchen wanting to know, “IS IT DONE YET?”

How do mother’s survive the commotion?

As well as the turkey there were candied yams,  mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce,  assorted vegetables, and fresh-baked dinner rolls to drown in butter.

Oooooh, and after it all there would be the pies!

Apple, pumpkin and mincemeat…

although I never understood the need for mincemeat.

Well, the big event was finally at hand!   We all gathered around the table, said the blessing and dove in…

However, on this particular Thanksgiving Bruce and I were truly at odds.  There were five kids at the table, and we all wanted a leg.  My Dad said that we must “…share with the other kids at the table” and we proceeded to argue:

Bruce:  “I’m the oldest and biggest kid and I can eat a whole leg by myself!”

Me:  “That’s not fair!  That’ll mean that I have to share with all three of them!”

This went on for a bit, until Dad said:

“Fine.  You want a whole leg for yourself?  Then you will have to eat the whole leg and anything else you put onto your plate.”

We looked across at each other, and sneering in victory proceeded to pile it on…

Plates cleaned of all the piled on goodies, we then picked up our treasure and ran for the door wanting to devour our ill-gotten booty without the little kids accusatory stares.  Once outside we danced about on the porch leering with bulging eyes at each other.  We could not believe our fortune!

One for him and one for MEEE!

These were the biggest turkey legs in history, we thought, and they were all ours!  Then, tilting turkey legs, we began in earnest to gnaw on them.  After only a few bites we began to realize our folly.  We were already truly full!

It was at this moment we began to really consider the proviso my father had given us.

We must eat the whole thing or suffer the consequence for our greed.

Having barely made a dent in those legs we had already begun to slow down.  Looking back at the kitchen window we could see my father giving us the look.

He had a way of drawing his mouth into a thin line, his eyes becoming beady with brows knit, and a little tick would start in his left cheek just below the eye… he was truly angry at us for our greediness.

We looked at each other.  Moaning, Bruce pulled up his shirt to show me how full his belly was and whined that he couldn’t take another bite.  At this, my dad opened the window and calmly said:

“You wanted it now eat it.”

As we sat there listening to the rest of the family, we heard them laughing and enjoying their meal.  We began to feel sorry for ourselves, as we continued to pick at our huge, meaty, turkey legs.

Then Bruce whispered, “Hey Lynda, I’m going to give the rest of mine to your dog, he’ll eat it all, come on!”

I instantly knew this was a bad plan, and opened my mouth to say so, when my dad reappeared at the window and said,

“Don’t even think about it!”

“How does he do that?”  was Bruce’s whispered lament.

We were skunked.  We had to eat the whole thing or suffer my father’s ire, and so we sat there and…

ate

it

ALL…

Each bite we took felt like a rock in our bellies.  I looked at my tummy and it was pouched out just like his.   Silently, I began to cry.  I wondered why I had wanted a whole leg in the first place.  Wouldn’t sharing have been the better thing?

Now it seemed that with each bite I took, I was piling up another stone in my belly.  I hurt.

I remember thinking that each bite lacked flavor, and in finishing those last bites I also realized that there would be no pumpkin pie with whipped cream for me that day.

***

***

I felt I was going to explode

***

That was over forty years ago, and to this day I have no real desire to eat turkey.  I haven’t spoken to Bruce in a very long time, but I am sure that he would remember that particular Thanksgiving vividly.

Was my father wrong to have done what he did?

Perhaps, but I forgave him a long time ago.   Now I look back on that day and laugh at my foolish greed.

Just don’t ask me to eat turkey.