Homework—mine

I have been taking writing classes for a while now, and where there once was a vague story line has turned into a memoir and two fiction proposals. I would like to say at least one is outlined, but writing is hard. It takes a lot of discipline and concentration. If you’ve tried it, you know.

The IMG_0704scary part is having someone else read it! Of course, I’m talking about stepping out there on the teeniest branch of the tree and handing a flash drive to a stranger. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but even a lot of my friends and contacts on Facebook (including students) do not know what I am doing. Hell, I’m not sure what I am doing. Some days I wake up with the Bad Critic standing over me, laughing.

“Seriously?” he says. “What makes you think you can do anything? A book?” and then he laughs so hard, he falls off the bed, and I put the pillow over my face and try to stay in bed.

I get up, though. Some mornings it takes everything I’ve got to put my feet on the floor. But my new part time job is helping. I’m teaching 4-5-year-olds English online. I have to get up at 5 or 6 because they live in China. I know, I said I wasn’t going to teach ESL anymore, but these little guys are funny, and I get to be funny, too. They call me Teacher Sonya, or just Teacher (which is a respectful title in Asia), and usually, by the time I get done with the first class, I’ve put the Bad Critic into a garment bag and zipped him up. Oh, he’ll figure out how to get out, but not for a while, and he doesn’t dare show his face while I’m teaching online.

Yes, I know it’s a circus act, but you remember my depression? It can’t hold on to me while I’m singing the ABC’s to a five-year-old online. So far I’ve taught 47 students. And now the circle of my ESL teaching is complete. Primary School through High School. Some days I wonder how I do it.

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

You Have to Write Badly

Agreed. I’ve done it. I still do it. Maybe this is bad. But I am writing a Young Adult book. No vampires. No unicorns or princesses. Maybe a little love, just a little. But it’s a real high school, and it’s got violence and grit, maybe more than some people would be comfortable with.

As for princesses and love. I can’t write them. I tried in a writing class, and I ended up with a dark story…no good.

I’m good at real, or close to real. I have seen what I write, but I also can imagine things. Things that happen behind the scenes that no one is supposed to know about.

Are you curious?

The photo is of four teen boys, hanging out in front of a store, smiling. and relaxed.
Not Their Fault

The Call at the Door: 10:35 pm

I have a little book in front of me titled The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing. It’s written by Monica Wood, and and I got it because a fiction professor told me it would help me get in the mind of a fiction writer. I’m supposed to be writing fiction; in fact, by the end of next summer, I will, let me say that again, I will have a young adult novel completed. (That doesn’t mean I’ll be published. That’s a whole bag of Pandora’s worms!) Okay, let’s stick to what we’re doing here. The Pocket Muse has unusual ideas for writing starts, so honestly, I just opened the book and there it was:

“An unwanted stranger comes to your door.”

This is the third year living in the city, so I have had election people, people who want me to change my electricity supplier, people who are lost, the plumbers, and then a few nights ago, as I sat cutting out alphabet letters for my students, someone jerked my front screen door open. This happened behind my back, literally, so I jumped and had that front door unbolted because I saw it was a kid.

I just caught the back of her as she ran up the street cackling, but I got enough of a look to realize it was one of my former students, one I used to mentor, one who left and came back when she was caught in a fight on Market Street, (and winning, apparently). I knew she’d try again, so I opened my front door, put a mean teacher look on my face, and there she was.

Marta.

“Ah, hahahaha!” she hollered, and off she went.

(Truthfully, I was glad to see she’s gotten braces.)

Sadly, her hair was a mess, as though she hadn’t washed it in days and because I have a strong front porch light, I could see her eyes were big as dark moons.

I shook my head. Drugs. Then I locked my screen and front doors and went to bed.

Marta wasn’t unwelcome, but there was nothing I could do for her. Unless she came back. I’m waiting.

Magnets on Ducks and a New Classroom

Now do not skip to the end of this blog post, not yet. It’s true I have been unemployed, but no longer.

I’m still am ESL teacher! And I teach students one-on-one. I began working toward my certification last November and met the qualification in late January. Today, I have seven bookings with Chinese children, 5-7 years old, and I don’t make up the lesson plans but I do get to play–a lot! Below is a photo of my classroom, minus my laptop and headphones, and toys, and, well you get the idea. If you notice on the lower left, there is a stuffed pig in the basket, and he is named Mr. Pig. (overly creative, right?) It is the Chinese Year of the Pig.   Keep checking. The ducks are coming.

Why yes, the owl is wearing a tiara, but I will put it on if one of my girls likes it. I also have a baseball cap.

Please Vote

I was a freshman in college when Watergate finally took Richard Nixon down. I listened to his resignation speech on the radio at my part-time job. In fact, I became a political science major because of what was going on in Washington, D.C., although my family always encouraged me to read the news and keep up with what was going on in the world.

I was in one of the first groups of 18-year-olds to vote for the first time!

And now, when the world seems to be in constant turmoil, the one thing we can positively do as American citizens is vote! Please do not think your vote doesn’t matter because it does. Every vote matters.

I will not use my blog to promote politics, because we each have a right to our own opinions, and I am not judging anyone’s free speech. However, I do think we have a responsibility as citizens to go to the polls. Today is the last day of September. The days are moving quickly.

Mark your calendar for Tuesday, November 6 and vote.

 

Sports and Other Oddities

Girls were just beginning to be encouraged to play sports in the late 1960s. I had half athletic genes from my Dad, but my mother broke her collar bone trying to execute a forward roll during high school gym class. It was gym class, not P.E., and the teacher was the gym teacher, of course. Today, most athletic teachers hate the term “gym.” I just hate the whole subject. Everything we did was prescribed for us, and thank goodness the sexes were separated in high school.

In the fall, we played softball. I couldn’t figure out if I was a leftie or a rightie, because no one had taught me how to hold the bat until the gym teacher yelled at me to use my dominant hand. (“No, Sonya, the other side of the base!”) The first time my bat connected with the ball, I threw the bat and got tossed out of the game. I didn’t do it on purpose. I was just so surprised I hit something! Being in the outfield was worse. We didn’t have gloves to catch the balls flying everywhere, and I backed away from the falling balls instead of trying to catch them. It must have been hilarious to watch me as I cowered down when a softball started to descend near me.

It’s funny now, but I still stay away from flying softballs and other objects. Even in a room, if someone yells, “Here! Catch!” I hold my hands out uselessly. Sometimes I get lucky enough to catch it with my body. It’s not that I think catching things is a required skill in life. I just remember the hoots of laughter (even the gym teacher) when I couldn’t manage the ball.

Guess who was picked last for gym teams.

I think if I had made up my mind to catch the ball, I could have done it, but my head said, “You idiot! What are you trying to do? Be a baseball player?” It was impossible.

**********

There was something I was good at in gym class: square dancing. I swung my partner and do-si-do’d all over the gym floor. I loved it; as far as I was concerned, we could have done that all year. My secret desire to take dancing lessons had come true! Unfortunately, square dancing lasted only a few short weeks, and then the boys went back to their side of the gym, and the girls to theirs. It would be mid-winter by then, and I knew what was coming next: gymnastics.

In the next gym class, the floor would be outfitted with a balance beam, trampoline, uneven bars, and something the teachers called a “horse.” I had watched the Olympics, so I knew how athletes were supposed to use this equipment. We were beginners, but there were always a few girls in my class every year who were good at everything. Everything. And they knew it.

“Please, Miss Loren, please! Can I show how to do a cartwheel and split?”

“Well, Jenny, you may, but remember girls, not everyone can do this!”

And with that caveat, Jenny would do cartwheels and handsprings and double forward rolls and end in a split that earned her the applause and attention she sought. I cowered in the corner and prayed for my period to start and last for several weeks so I could get out of gymnastics. It never worked.

 

Go Ahead and Cry

I have always considered myself a glass half-empty girl. If someone demanded that I put myself in one space or another, it would have to be introvert. Since I have had depression most of my life, that’s quite natural. I’d rather read than play outside, and I still feel that way.

But since my depression spiraled me down so low in the last five years, and I bounced off the bottom of the well, I have become a crier. I believe that when I was a child, I was told to stuff my feelings  down and not cry.

I remember clearly, the afternoon after my sister had been hit by a car when my grandma Lilly came to my classroom to pick me up. I had no idea what had happened, but one look at my grandmother’s face scared me. As my teacher helped me with my coat, my eyes never left grandma’s face, and finally, as I stepped near to her she whispered, “Deanna was hit by a car. She’s in the hospital.” As my teacher helped me with my coat, I began to tear up, but grandma told me not to cry, and she took my arm as we walked away.

I don’t remember much after that. Deanna had a concussion but wasn’t hurt badly. She got flowers and a lot of cards from her classmates, and I believe she might still have a small scar near her eyebrow.

It was my sister, hurt.

But I wasn’t allowed to cry about it.

So I didn’t.

And now, I am crying about a lot of moments. Yesterday, I cried while I watched John McCain’s daughter speak. I also cried when the military men carried the coffin and gave a slow salute to honor the dead Senator. Maybe I am making up for it. There are a lot of sad things in the universe, and I am crying about them.