Writing Prompts

There are times when I feel the need to write but have nothing to say. Okay, that’s really not true. As anyone who spends time with me can attest, I always have something to say. But there are so many choices, how do I narrow it down? Do I journal out my worries about my children, do I write a chapter in one of the three books in progress, do I work on the outline for this year’s NaNoWriMo work? And then I realize that none of those feel right, and that what I really want, or need, to do is blog.

Many moons ago, many many moons ago, my “blog” was a blue-covered spiral notebook. The pages were college ruled and it was divided into sections by four buff-colored tabs. When I got the urge to write in a broad and non-specific way, I would get out that notebook and a pencil or pen and I would write. It was full of short stories, essays, really bad poems, plot ideas for novels, observations about the people around me. It was more than and different than a journal. It was my writing. I lost it years ago in one of my many moves, but I can still see the blue marble-patterned cover. I can even picture a page with its pale, blue lines filled with my somewhat messy, striving to be cool handwriting. My blog is now my blue notebook, and has been for years, either here or somewhere else.

There was an international student who somehow wandered into our small group when I was in college the first time around. I don’t remember his name, but he had shaggy black hair and blue eyes like perfectly round bits of sea glass. He spoke in a rumbling, purring sort of British accent. My mind remembers the tone and cadences even still but I have long since forgotten what he actually sounded like. He stands out in my memories of that short time as clearly as does Jenny, my favorite roommate.

British Guy was fascinated by the blue notebook. He wanted to know about my writing, he was truly interested. And I, with my crazy hormones and often odd attractions to the worst people, saw him as a friend and a confidante and shared both the best and worst with him. I remember him saying “I think you could write about anything.” Under the light of his blue eyes, I really could write about anything. He challenged me with prompts like you’re in a field of flowers on a summer afternoon or it’s your birthday and your family forgot. I would write a page or two, let the words fly right from my head to my pen, and then give it to him, unedited and rough. He would tell me that I needed to make things happier, stop making everything end badly. I was full of angst, remember? He also told me that I had words in me, beautiful words, and that I was destined to share them.

Circling back to today, I still love a writing prompt. I feel like prompts pop the cork and let the words flow. Sometimes the words fly out like my brain is a bottle of champagne that has been shaken by an overly enthusiastic post-game celebrant. Sometimes they flow slowly, yet without stopping, like the silver cop in Terminator 2. I found myself looking for a prompt this morning, a cork-popper, and found many but none. I found some that were shared by teachers but they were not the sort of thing I was looking for. I found some that were too detailed, or at least more detailed than what I like. I am the Goldilocks of writing prompts today. Except I didn’t find one that was just right.

Instead, my quest for a prompt became a prompt in and of itself. It reminded me that life is a series of circles, some interconnected and some distinct. I am circling around, nearly thirty years later, to the place I was then, to that girl with the bad 80’s perm and the footless tights, sitting lotus-style on a narrow bed in a college dorm room, handing her dreams to a stranger whose eyes spoke to her soul. I feel that girl waking up inside me, each time I think about going back to school to let her live her dream. She had so much potential, and she had so many beautiful words in her. Even if the tools change, the words do not.

A turn on the road or a step closer to the cliff?

I had an aunt (a great-aunt I think) who started life as a housewife and mother, but who had a dream. She held onto that dream until she was in her forties and all of her children were on their feet and in the world before she took the steps to make it come true. She went back to school and became a biology teacher. I had her in tenth grade and she was a tough, nonsense sort of teacher. She never threw a softball, she never picked a favorite. Her class was tough for me while pretty much everything else I did was easy. Looking back, I have to say that made her a really good teacher.

Like my aunt, my dream and my life took different paths after high school. I did start college, but something got into me, sending me on my way to eight years in the Navy. I learned an awful lot about electronics and came home with two young children, a husband who wasn’t a local, and a dream placed firmly on the back burner. I took my mother’s advice, something I highly recommend to almost everyone, focused on the computer work I did in the military, and somehow landed an IT job. I’ve been doing it ever since. I even went back to school and got my degree in Information Technology, mostly because all the transfer credit from the schools I attended in the Navy made the major a no-brainer.

I often love what I do. It can be challenging, frustrating, exciting, and boring. I get so pulled into what I am working on that I miss lunch and birthday cake and quitting time. It could absorb me totally if I would let it. It has absorbed me in the past, back before I learned to expand the sources of my self-worth to include things besides a good work ethic and kudos from the bosses. It’s rewarding to solve problems and make things work. It’s mind-crushingly horrible when I can’t figure things out, though. I don’t like that.

There are times when the failures seem to pile up and I think what I need to do is look for a new place to work. I change jobs and discover that the work has not, in fact, changed. I might be supporting a different Windows operating system, another manufacturer’s enterprise backup, or the competitor’s application deployment software but it is really all the same. I don’t hate it, but I am beginning to realize that it is not my dream. I am also seeing that maybe my dream doesn’t have to die. Maybe I can follow in my aunt’s footsteps and do a bit of a mid-life exploration.

With that in mind, I filled out an application today for a second bachelor’s in English Education at the school where I work. I printed off copies of my transcript and my DD-214 and carried them over to the admission’s counselor, and danced all the way back to my office. I have no idea how I will handle full time work and going to school, but in my heart I know it will work out. I also am aware that my dream may not be obtainable – I might get to the point where I am student teaching and decide it was all crazy talk and walk right away.

But I might not.

There is a chance, a good chance, that in a few years, I will be teaching English. When all of the young teachers, kids younger than my own children, are off working summer jobs, I will be home writing books. I will walk down a new path, and perhaps learn that it was the road I was meant to be on all along. I can hardly wait to get started.

What’s so bad about a four day work week?

Well, besides having to be at work for 10.5 hours a day (there’s a 30 minute lunch break in there you know).

I’m sitting on the bed, next to Wayne. My legs are stretched straight out, allowing me to catch glimpses of my super awesome polka-dotted socks over the top edge of the monitor. My shoulders are resting against the headboard that I covered with black and white fabric to match our bedroom soon after we moved in. My laptop is on my legs, my Kindle is waiting patiently, and I am considering how this weekend should rank on the Karen Scale of Excellent (KSE).

The KSE is newly-created to suit my life. I am occasionally grumpy. Wayne is occasionally short-tempered. We have problems and stresses in our lives just like normal people, believe me. But we’re just a little bet better at dealing with them than is typical. It all comes down to how we communicate, but that’s totally not the point here. The point is that, on any given day, X number of awesome things happen, moving the KSE from good (the norm) through great, terrific, astounding, amazing… all the way to excellent. There’s nothing on the other side of good, by the way. There used to be, but I’ve figured that out. At least for now.

So let’s talk about the weekend, shall we? Starting from the ground-level measure of good, these things happened:

  • We had crabs on Saturday
  • We had fresh, homemade crab cakes today
  • We had silver queen corn
  • I made the best soup I’ve ever made (well except that cream of zucchini soup I made a couple weeks ago)
  • We rode almost thirty-five miles
  • The grand-princess came to visit
  • The weather changed, and there’s a nearly autumnal chill in the air
  • I did a new Leslie Sansone workout with weighted gloves and punches that made me sweat like a pig
  • The sweet baby squirrel was here – I adore her little self
  • We had g’latto and it was awesome

I am winding down. I’m ready for tomorrow – my clothes are laid out (navy skirt with white polka-dots, which seem to be a theme tonight, navy cami under white blouse). My lunch is packed (the previously mentioned soup, a turkey wrap, fresh watermelon – plus a Special K cereal bar and a sugar free applesauce for snacks). I have a plan in mind for the morning (2 mile Leslie walk, smoothie, coffee, nice and hot shower). My ducks are lined up and I like it.

As Wayne leans towards me and The Black Pearl plays on the TV across the room, I am happy, that deep-down and serene sort of happy that means real happiness to me. I would say the KSE has pretty much pegged itself to the far right of excellent.

Lazy Sunday mornings

We had planned a bike ride today, forty or more miles. We only have a few weeks left before the Century to train. But life and weather decided not so much. 

It started earlier this week, when Wayne picked up a particularly nasty cold. He’s one of those people (bless them) who goes to work sick unless he is really too sick to work. I am not. Of course he passed his illness to me. We really do share everything. I started feeling bad on Wednesday and when I woke up Thursday morning with the simultaneous feelings that I could not catch my breath and that my throat had been cheese-grated in my sleep, I called off work. Wayne was still sick; he called off as well. I spent the day either snoozing on the couch or curled under a blanket with my Kindle. No exercise of any sort happened.

On Friday, I woke feeling a little better but far from good so I called out again. When Wayne left to go to work, I went back to bed and slept until he got off at 11. There was lunch and there was more resting and the consumption of copious amounts of ibuprofen. I propped myself up well enough to take a shower (you’re welcome) and get dressed so I could go with Wayne to his eldest daughter’s wedding rehearsal. I cried, a lot. I could blame it on still being a bit under the weather but that would not be entirely true. I’m just a crier, plain and simple. We went to the groom’s parents’ house for a little buffet dinner party, where we met a lot of their family, most of whom I won’t remember – I am terrible with names – and then it was home and bed, pretty early for a Friday.

Saturday I lazed around in my jammies for hours before deciding I needed to do something outside of the house. I trekked to Goodwill and picked up some stunningly cute dresses (I did a super job choosing them if I do say so myself). Then I picked up my son to have some mama-mama’s boy time. I took him to the mall to help me pick a couple pairs of shoes. I took him to Barne’s and Noble where I got iced coffee and he got a Frappaccino. We went to a drug store and he helped pick a card for the wedding and we picked up some random stuff. Then I dropped him home, went home myself, and got ready for the rest of the day.

And then it was time for the wedding. My husband looked amazing in his suit, and he did his job of giving his daughter to one of his close friends with grace and humor – basically as he does most things. I got to meet some of his relatives for the first time. I gushed over his beautiful daughters; the bride was stunning and her sisters/bridesmaids were heart-breakingly lovely. I drank beer and champagne and wine. I danced a little bit and gave out hugs. I ate amazingly good food and talked to a bartender who reminded me of my daughter. I snapped pictures, first with one of the girls’ digital camera and then with my phone. I smiled so much my face ached. I drank so much that I started stealing cigarettes. I had a wonderfully good time.

When we got home, we barely managed to get into jammies before falling into bed and sleep. I have no idea what time it was. I woke at 2 AM with a dry mouth and a pounding head. I got a glass of water and a handful of ibuprofen and went back to bed. After lying there for a few minutes, feeling the pain pulse in my temples in time with my heartbeat, I realized that I would not be quickly going back to sleep and got out my Kindle to start reading. A couple hours later (I saw 3:45 when I went to get my third glass of water), I went back to sleep to the sounds of thunder and the the steady drum of rain falling.

And that brings us to today. I slept in and woke up with the headache gone but still feeling oddly shaky and uncoordinated. Wayne said we weren’t going to do the 40 miles; it is too wet out there. We may do a short ride later today. I’m fine with all of that, really. I have a lot to do today: working out, cleaning, preparing for the upcoming work week. But not just yet. I’m going to enjoy this feeling of being languid and slow for a little while longer. I’ll write a bit, read a bit, and maybe look at pictures of cats. For a little while longer, I will let myself be lazy.