1000 Words, Take Two

1000 Words Take Two

A picture is worth a thousand words.

I have never been to the place where this picture was taken. More than anything this picture reminds me of a snapshot from a dream.

The cable car is ascending, so perhaps the passengers are making their way to their destination. The past looks deserted. The present is filled with motion, and the future is yet to come. How do I know? More steps. More climbing. More ascending. Upward. Onward.

Not there yet.

Dreams mean something to me. Sometimes I think my subconscious is talking to me. Sometimes I know God is speaking to me. The colors of my dreams offer clues to interpretation.

This photo is much like the mysterious dreams I’ve had. There isn’t much color, so I can’t decipher the good from the bad. When I dream in vivid color, I am at the peak of my creativity. When I dream in black and white, I feel as though an omen has lit upon me.

I’ve had three types of recurring dreams: my Idaho Customs House dreams, the bathroom dreams, and the cityscape dreams.

For a year or more, I used to dream of a Customs House in Idaho. Week after week. Day after day. And then the dreams stopped. To this day, I have no idea why I dreamed about this place. As far as I know, it does not exist. Why Idaho? Why a Customs House?

I’ve never been to Idaho. But the video that played in my mind was accurate. Beautiful. Well, as much of the Idaho scenery as I could see. In my dreams I was always on the inside looking outward—somewhat of a twist on the outside looking in scenario that might color most people’s dreams.

The Customs House itself was a busy place, lots of hustle bustle. It was old and wooden. I remember everything being brown, but it was a comforting shade of brown, warm, inviting. I always felt as though I had stepped back in time when I entered the Customs House. Truth be told, prior to having this dream, I really didn’t know what a Customs House was. I had to look it up.

A customs house, or custom house, is a building that houses the offices of government officials who process the paperwork for goods going in or out of a country.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a customs house. I passed by The Custom House in Salem, Massachusetts, and without knowing it, I have driven by the one on Broadway in Nashville at least a zillion times.

But the Customs House in my dreams looks nothing like what I’ve seen in pictures. And to this day I don’t know why I spent so many nights thinking about it.

As for the bathroom dreams, I’m embarrassed to say I still have them. But who wants to talk about bathroom dreams? Who wants to have bathroom dreams?

My bathroom dreams are always dark, as if I have walked into a partially lit room. But over and over—it’s never the SAME bathroom—I dream that I am in a bathroom in an abandoned building. It’s eerie. Nothing bad ever happens. I just find myself wandering in a cold place, looking for something. I never know what it is.

Psychologists would tell me that I am suppressing emotions that I need to release. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Not something I prefer to dwell on. Ewwww.

And then there is the cityscape dreams. These dreams are a combination of the Customs House and the bathroom dreams. I have traveled through New York City a couple of times at night. I remember riding on a multi-level bridge. I couldn’t see much around me as it was dark. I do remember seeing the water and the apartment buildings, side by side, one after another. I felt small in such a big space, scared, alone, as if danger I could not see was close by my side.

My cityscape dreams are similar to my New York City trips—dark, foreboding, mysterious. In these dreams I’m lost and looking for my way out. Sometimes I’m being chased.

When I look at the picture above, I feel as though I have stepped into a dream. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know the people. I can’t understand their emotions. As I look closely at the photo, I admire the mystique of the mosaic steps, but I can’t help but notice that the patterns of the rock resemble the scales of a snake.

The climb is so steep. How easy would it be to fall backwards and keep going?

Why is the cable car so narrow? Why are there only a few people outside it? Are they waiting to board? Could the cable car represent the passage from this life to the next? Could the people who are embracing be saying their final goodbyes?

A picture is truly worth a thousand words, but in this case it has inspired 834.

Need inspiration for your writing? Check out WordPress’s Weekly Writing Challenge. Let this photo inspire you to write a thousand words, more or less.

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Am I a failure?

EpicFailure

Am I a failure?

Sometimes I have to ask myself that. Things never turned out the way I planned, but they didn’t turn out bad. I guess I need to keep things in perspective.

I want to write. I’m a writer. I tell other people’s stories. I don’t get paid much, but it has never been about the money. I could be a biography channel junkie, so when I am privy to a “famous” person’s life, I get giddy. That feeling is a GIFT. But the real gift is the lesson the person I interview delivers to me. I get to share it with other people who need to hear it as badly as I do. That’s not failure, is it?

I wanted to write a novel, so I wrote a novel. But it sits unpublished. I don’t even have an agent, but I never pushed to sell it. My parents died. I lost my drive. I guess I figured that in a serendipitous sort of way, an agent and I would cross paths, and everything would fall into place. It hasn’t happened. Am I not working hard enough? Will the story be continued? Or have I failed?

I never wanted to teach, not really. I feel really bad saying that because there are so many very dedicated teachers out there who take pride in what they do. Teaching was my Plan B. I was a RIM major at MTSU. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. I was a terrible RIM major. I had no direction, no prior knowledge. I just loved music. But I got married in college and faced the harsh reality that I would probably be living on a farm the rest of my life. Farm living was not for me. I live in a subdivision now. I guess nothing ever turns out like we plan. Now my older son is living the life I dreamed. He’s making music videos and has a writing job that PAYS WELL. I write for pennies per word now. He is worried about being a failure because he feels where he is in life is not enough.

Ah, music, my serenity. There was a time when God let me visit the music world on the weekends. I stayed pretty busy as a freelance music journalist until Michael came along. Then the writing trickled to a stop. The boy never slept. The boy never stayed still. All my focus went to him. His dad was busy coaching and being a youth minister, so I became Michael’s personal sports trainer, chauffeur, and teammate. I taught him how to catch and how to throw. I played football in the front yard. I raced him around the house. I took him on adventures in the woods. I camped out in the living room with him when his dad was on trips. I took him to every practice. I learned how to keep the books in baseball, and I worked the fair booth as a football mom. I coached his soccer teams and basketball teams and even his coach pitch teams. When he became older, I dragged him to his first drum lesson and said YOU WILL PLAY DRUMS. Why not? Every part of his body moved in a different direction, but in rhythm. I knew he’d be a natural. He says he likes it, and it’s something we do TOGETHER. His older brother got his writing love from me. Maybe Michael gets the music from me. We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t want to live vicariously through my children. I want them to be happy. I don’t want to be a failure mom.

So I spend my day teaching, but I don’t want to teach. I don’t want to fill out lesson plans. I don’t want to grade papers. I don’t want to lurk behind the lockers to make sure couples aren’t sneaking a kiss or two. I don’t want to chaperone dances, to spend my Sundays at awards programs, to sell tickets at ballgames, or to listen to students tell me how much they hate the subject I’m teaching. Does that make me a failure? My dad never wanted to be a printer. His guidance counselors tried to match him up with a job, and that’s what was left. So for his entire working life, he was a printer. He brought home boxes and boxes of scrap papers and envelopes. I loved to write and draw, so I was never without supplies. I never thought he was a failure, but he never did what he wanted to do. But he helped me do what I wanted to do.

I teach because I have to. But I interact with students because I want to. I don’t keep them at a distance. I open my life to them. I am a firm believer God puts people in our path for a reason. People are treasures. So, okay, right now, I am not living the life I want to live, and I may never live it. I’m getting old. My time is now spent encouraging the kids I teach to find what they love to do so that they’ll never have to work a day in their lives. That’s not failure, is it? Maybe I’m not a failure because I can help others see that they’re not failures. Maybe that’s enough to be a success. Maybe all my creative dreams aren’t as important as helping others.

Today I got a hug from one of my first semester creative writing students. She came back to see when she could take guitar lessons again.

Today I got a BIG thank you from a student because I paid his field trip fee because his cash was running a little short.

Today I got a note on my board from a former student who visited me Friday, the day I had to go home because I had a fever, bronchitis, a sinus infection, and perhaps the flu. Ugg. She said she missed me.

Today I received word that my former student, J., wanted to see how I was doing. He’s working as a Walmart greeter now. I’m so proud of him. He had to overcome so many obstacles in school. He always has a smile on his face, and he always wants to tell me about the last movie he watched. I owe him a meal at the Mexican restaurant. After he graduated high school several years ago, I treated him, and I think it’s time he, his mom, and I went back for some more chips and salsa. Yum!

Today my seventh period students told me what teenagers look for when they read. They were trying to help me become a better writer.

What is failure anyway? What is success?

I haven’t gotten what I’ve always wanted, but maybe God has given me what I need.

Maybe success and failure is determined by attitude, not necessarily achievement.

Six degrees of the blues vs. fifty shades of grey? I’ll take the blues.

square dance

A serendipitous life is like an “allemande left.”

In square dance terms, this call requires each dancer to take the other’s hand, making it easier to enter and exit the movement. Serendipitous dancers move freely in life, acknowledging that all things work together like an “allemande left” to allow them to take take hold of and to learn from the fortunate accidents they encounter.

A few weeks ago, I had a creative dream. When I woke up, song lyrics trickled in my head like a gentle stream. But one word  spewed forth like the spring–Celie.

Never heard it–at least, so I thought.

I wrote down the lyrics but changed the name to Cecilia, which is what I thought my mind was probably trying to dream. Hey, it worked for Paul Simon.

Of course, my OCD nature compelled me to research the name’s meaning. Historically, Cecilia was the patroness of music because when she was dying she sang to God. A little more research revealed the name’s meaning refers to “a way for the blind.” Hmm. Music? A way for the blind? Yes. And, of course, “blind” can be interpreted on a myriad of levels.

I was so pumped. What a very cool dream. But one thing kept nagging at me. I didn’t dream the name “Cecilia.” I dreamed “Celie.” Once again, I felt compelled to grasp the hand before me and examine the next clue to find out why I dreamed this song.

Turns out Celie is derived from Cecilia. I don’t want to give away my song ideas, but I wanted the song to have a Delta feel about it. As most of you know, I love, love, love the blues, so I built the song around a mysterious woman named Celie who could read people.

A little more research revealed the French origins of the name. Okay. Louisiana. That works. And according to my Internet “baby names” search, people with the name “Celie” are often great analyzers or mystics.

Perfect.

At this point, I had the whole song written with multiple layers of meaning. I thought I was finished, but then I found one more detail that put the icing on my joconde. (So, I’m trying to be clever here. Get it? For those of you who don’t know, a joconde is a French opera cake. It will make even more sense when you read the next couple of sentences.)

So here’s the missing link (literally) to today’s serendipitous story.

I’m a fan of the show Nashville. I serendipitously showed up at a taping and was an extra. I serendipitously met one of the stars at the Aerosmith concert. My favorite singer on the show is Clare Bowen, who plays Juliet. While I was creeping my Facebook newsfeed, I found a post from my favorite shop, the upscale Two Old Hippies in the REAL downtown Nashville.

(Sidebar:  I love Nashville, the city. I really like to visit  Two Old Hippies. It’s fun to browse for, not just merchandise, but also details and vibes for stories and songs.)

Back to story, the post revealed that Clare Bowen had just bought the last pair of Liberty fringe boots, the same pair of boots I admired but could not purchase. The Two Old Hippies post included a video clip of Clare wearing the boots on The View with Whoopie Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd.

I don’t always click on links, but, hey. I like Two Old Hippies. I like Clare Bowen. And I like the boots. I clicked on it.

(Another sidebar…I had the opportunity to interview Sherri Shepherd several years ago. What a lovely lady! Her presence in this story just makes me smile. Squirrel! Yes, I know. I’m a little spastic.)

Back to the story…again.

Anyway, when they interviewed Clare Bowen, the ladies of The View revealed that the beautifully Southern singer was actually from Australia.

AUSTRALIA?

And she was a trained opera singer. (Remember when I made the witty remark about the joconde?) Clare had to learn country. And she had to learn Southern.

Turns out Clare Bowen herself was having a serendipitous moment on the show.

She couldn’t tell her own story without revealing how a song about Whoopi Goldberg’s character, Miss Celie in  The Color Purple, changed her life.

(Sidebar Number Three…Miss Celie! My dream! Maybe I had buried that little detail far back in my brain and my subconscious was trying to help me dig it out. We can’t even comprehend how God designed our brains. We think we know so much.)

“Miss Celie’s Blues” opened the door to a new understanding of music for Clare Bowen. She found freedom in the blues. She loved the bluesy feel of the song.

The blues. Miss Celie’s blues. Sister Celie’s blues.  Of course! THE BLUES!

Clare Bowen’s first real taste of the blues change her life and brought her to Nashville. How serendipitous.

And, had  I not been sick for seven days with what I am sure is the plague, I would have never have had to leave work today to go to the doctor. And if I did not receive the dreaded shots, I would not have had to go home instead of back to work.

Because I came home when I did, I serendipitously read the Two Old Hippies / Bowen post as it was the first to pop up on my Facebook feed.

Now I know how Clare Bowen, Two Old Hippies, the show Nashville, Liberty fringe cowboy boots, Sherri Shepherd, Whoopi Goldberg, the plague, and THE BLUES worked together today to create my tailor-made serendipitous story.

“Allemande left” everyone.

 

What your Facebook posts really mean

FACEBOOK

I would love to see a study that clocked the number of hours people spent watching TV compared to the number of hours they spent trolling and creeping on social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest.

Don Henley sang, “I make my living off the evening news / Just give me something-something I can use / People love it when you lose / They love dirty laundry.”

But who needs the evening news? We all know the stories are tainted by the media conglomerates that control the release of information to the public.

We want our information fast and furious. Who cares if it’s true? We want to know about our next door neighbor, our cousin’s best friend, and our kid’s homeroom teacher.

Now THAT’S entertainment.

We’re both voyeurs and exhibitionists. Everybody wants his or her fifteen minutes of fame. Thank you YouTube. Thank you Facebook. Now we can live life any way we wanna, even if it’s all in our heads.

Now that we no longer live IRL (in real life), our patterns of socialization have changed.

How do we fit in? Who have we become? How do we reveal ourselves to the world? We don’t speak in sentences anymore. Our communication has reverted back to symbols, quite honestly not so far removed from the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Our symbols are, of course, more advanced, thanks to the easy transfer of images through cyber space. The posting of poignant, witty, vulgar, religious, whimsical, or romantic sayings convey a deeper message.

What is it we’re really trying to say?

WHAT YOUR FB POSTS REALLY MEAN

Even though our social media connects us to the world, we’re still ALONE. We need human interaction. Posts like these convey that we’re hurting. We have forgotten how to say it in words.

1

The conglomerate media outlets have brainwashed women and men to believe that beauty is limited to certain sizes. We know it isn’t true, but we have to remind ourselves. Yet, even though we post these pics, there is still a part of us that believes the lie is truth.

2

Christians should not be ashamed of Jesus. They SHOUT his name over cyberspace. But some of them whisper it in their actions with people who don’t believe the way they do.  Somehow, by posting these pics, these Christians feel redeemed.

3

We are surrounded by people, but we still feel alone. When we post these pics, we hope to draw someone into our lives. We may be afraid to admit it, but part of us thirsts for belonging.

4

Again, the post below reflects our reaching out for affirmation.

5

Heartbreak is universal. But in our fast-paced, cyber world, we are afraid to trust, so instead of wearing our feelings on our sleeves, we post them on our statuses. It doesn’t matter if the person who hurts us sees them. Posting helps us digest and own our feelings.

6

Passive aggressive behavior isn’t just for IRL. We can’t handle conflict, so we say it on Facebook.

7

All of our friends are busy posting. We don’t want to impose on others, so instead of turning to a counselor or a self help book, we find a quote that reassures us that everything is going to be okay.

8

When we can’t say it aloud, we post it in a picture.

9

We know the truth. But does the truth matter anymore?

10

More than the quintessential cow girl

COW

The other night I watched The Words (Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, and Zoe Saldana). I didn’t plan on watching it, but any movie about a writer struggling to “make it” begs me to watch it.

The movie bases its foundation on one question: “Just how far would you go to be the person you want to be?”

In other words, would you steal someone else’s story just to be who you wanted to become?

The film portrays an old man who says, “We all make choices; the hard thing is to live with them, and there ain’t nobody that can help you with that.”

Wow.

I write. All the time. Something. Anything. Celebrity profiles. Fiction. Notes on papers I’m grading. Blogs. Texts. A few emails. Poor attempts at song lyrics.

So far everything I have written has been true. I have never stolen nothing, no not a thing—well, with the exception of the deliberate theft of that last sentence. If you know song lyrics, you’ll understand. If not, proceed. It’s no big thing.

I have a new group of creative writing students this semester, and once again, my goal for them and for me is for us to take our writing to the next level, to step out of our comfort zones.

My new class of creative writers has been very good for me. So far my students cut me no slack. If they have to write, they expect me to write. My homework for them? Create a blog with its own unique writing. Their homework for me? Write a blog about them.

But what can I say? I don’t know them well—yet. So far I have met the super intelligent Batman, a Halo freak who shares his cheerios, three musicians, an artist, a baton twirler, Lady Wit, a runaway who gets to stay, and a very shy girl who kind of reminds me of myself.

But when I get to know them, can I say more? If I tell their stories without their permission, will I invade their privacy? Will I steal their stories for my gain? But what happens if their story IS my story? I believe people’s paths cross for a reason.

Never should I define people by the characters they play in my life story, for tomorrow they will grow into somebody else. You change; I change. Not everything about us, just some things.

I, for example, will always love God, my family, and the Red Sox. I can’t imagine ever giving up writing or music. And I won’t give up the people I love. I do, however, abandon certain fads. I left the leg warmers in the eighties, and I don’t perm my hair.

I’m what they call a “seasoned teacher.” You can’t fool me. That’s just another way of saying old. No matter how you say it, I have been a supporting cast member in the stories of many students’ lives. I don’t mind. I just don’t want them to sell that chapter as my entire story.

When I first started teaching, I decorated my classroom in a black and white spotted motif. The next thing I knew I became the crazy teacher who liked black and white bovines. I like cows, but they don’t necessarily moooove me. I have, in fact, ridden a cow backwards across a barnyard. That, my friends, is another story, one better left in the barnyard.

During my “cow phase,” I acquired a lot (literally) of Holstein items, including a stool with udders, which I thought was utterly hilarious. Heck, even the baseball coach brought me a cow ink pen from a coaching clinic. The cow lady. That’s who I had become.

During another phase, I was the crazy lady who loved Julius Caesar. I still do. I received anonymous letters from students warning me to “Beware the Ides of March.” While some teachers had to be on the look out for yard rollers on Halloween, I had to keep up my guard the night of March 15. But that’s okay. My rollers and I are now great friends. But they should remember the evil that men (and women) do lives after them. Paybacks are killer.

At another point of my career, I voraciously taught my students the importance of vocabulary, and we started with the word QUINTESSENTIAL. Every student I had during this phase used the word either to impress or distress me. And even now, my co-workers smile when they use the word around me. I think it’s funny, especially when QUINTESSENTIAL shows up on my Facebook timeline.

There was a time when Michael W. Smith was my favorite singer, and, yes, in fact, I did name my younger child after him. I didn’t just like Michael W. Smith; I wanted to be like Michael W. Smith. I wanted to own a place like his Nashville-based Rocketown so that I could positively impact kids’ lives with music. I still do.

And now I’m the crazy Steven Tyler stalker. I don’t know why. I just am. I guess Steven became a symbol for me, a reminder that regardless of one’s age, a person can never be too old to act a little crazy,  to love music and to love people, the latter, I think, Steven Tyler maybe too much. But again, there’s another story, and we haven’t the time.

If I become a character in my students’ memoirs, I have no idea which persona I will portray. I hope the writers paint the truth and avoid portraying me as a one-dimensional character.

All people leave their colors on other people’s canvases, some more vividly than others. And believe me, whether or not it’s in print, we read each others’ stories daily. We should be careful to avoid over generalizing and assuming.

I have stories about my life I can’t tell, won’t tell, because my life isn’t its own. I am a vault. I could never make it as a member of the paparazzi.

I also don’t want to be painted as the crazy cow-loving cat lady who stalked Steven Tyler in the most quintessential way. I’m a whole lot more than that.

If we have met, YOU have become a character in MY story. You are paint on my canvas.  And if I do tell my story, I’ll do my best to paint you with an honest brush and to write you with an trustworthy pen.

My Doompocalypse Revue

ZAP

What better way to start 2013 than by writing!

And for all you bloggers and wannabe bloggers out there, I’m going to share nifty tip that’s guaranteed to generate a few ideas in de old noggin. Check out THE DAILY POST.

Today’s challenge?

What if a ginormous meteor were expected to hit the earth within three months?

What would you do NOW? For real? Like, for real, it really matters? Like forget about the resolutions that you make every new year but usually forget by the end of the first week in January. What would you do, REALLY DO, differently before the world stopped spinning?

Me?

My for-real resolution is to do what is right and to stay honest.

What does this mean?

Well, I don’t follow astrology, but I can’t deny that whoever made up the traits that go along with my Sagittarian sign has me pegged.

Sagittarians hate hypocrisy, live for adventure and serendipity, and have absolutely no tact. Yep. That’s me. (And yes, the website I consulted to check my facts actually used the word serendipity—well, serendipitous:  “Sagittarians have a serendipitous spirit.”)

So, being one who hates hypocrisy, I cannot have peace if I live a lie. I must live the truth.

But I don’t have to say everything that comes to mind, just what’s really, truly important. But even if it’s the truth, I don’t have to speak it, especially if my words have the potential to do harm.

That’s the journalist’s creed, you know—”print [speak] the truth but do no harm.”

Again, what does this mean?

Let me make an analogy.

We all have to do things we don’t want to do—at least until the time is right to stop doing them.

I am a teacher. I love my kids. I don’t love aspects of my job, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop loving my kids. That will never, ever change. No matter where I am, no matter what I do.

But just because I don’t gee and haw with the requirements of my job doesn’t mean I have to open my mouth and badmouth it. I will do what I have to do until I can stop. But never ever will I deny what I know in my heart is true.

So what will I do before said meteor hits?

I will say what I mean, mean what I say. Tell the truth. Do no harm.

I won’t care what other people think about me because what they think won’t change who I am or how I feel.

I will be transparent. I won’t hide the truth, but I will play nicely.

I will do what’s right. I will love. I will do my best, as imperfect as I am, to follow the example of Jesus.

And I will hope, when the meteor hits, that it will bring a nice surprise. I am, after all, Sagittarius, so they say.