theorangeinkblot

Looking at life through orange colored glasses…

Archive for the tag “writing”

Just Stop Talking

Just Stop Talking

A Poem

Maybe we should just stop talking- after all, we disagree.

Should I even listen if you don’t agree with me?

When you say those things that go against what I’ve been taught,

It makes me feel these feelings: anger, sadness, and distraught.

 

When feeling these emotions there’s a strong need to defend

my position (which is right) so that you can comprehend.

After all, I must be right-otherwise that means I’m wrong.

How could that be true when my feelings are SO strong.

 

And yet you are the one who thinks you’re clearly in the know.

It seems there’s nothing left to do but argue to and fro.

It doesn’t really matter WHY you’ve come to hold your view-

though if you were to share that I might think of things anew.

 

If you haven’t shared it’s probably ’cause I haven’t asked.

But if I asked that question I might find myself off task.

The task, of course, at hand is to convince you that I’m right

(and make you feel quite foolish that you haven’t seen the light).

 

This might make you angry- you may even think it’s rude

which explains your coming at me with a pissy attitude.

Now you’re storming off because you say, “Enough’s enough!”

I can’t understand why you must leave in such a huff.

 

I was only pointing out the errors in your thoughts.

People are so touchy when they’re not calling the shots.

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I Wish I Ate Hay (Sing to the Tune of “Stay” by Rihanna)

The tragic story of a rooster in love with a cow who is looking for greener pastures…

All along it was a heifer

A bovid mammal with no feathers

I perched on a rock, said, “Crow me something,”

She said, “All you cocks think you are so kosher.”

Day after day after day after day you moo.

Couldn’t care less about my cock a doodle doos.

I know you don’t feel the same about me

but something in the way you moo.

Makes me feel like I can’t roost w/o you.

You help me greet each day.

I wish I ate hay.

I think that you are quite amazing

Sometimes I just sit and watch you grazing.

Day after day after day after day you moo.

Couldn’t care less about my cock a doodle doos.

I know you don’t feel the same about me.

but something in the way you moo.

Makes me feel like I can’t roost w/o you

You help me greet each day.

I wish I ate hay.

Oooh, oooh, oooh you’re waiting for a bull.

Oooh, ooooh, oooh but I’m ready and able.

True a hen can lay an egg but you make milk that’s used for cheese and butter.

And I’ve come to realize that for this rooster that there can be no udder.

I know you don’t feel the same about me but something in the way you moo.

Makes me feel like I can’t roost w/o you

You help me greet each day

I wish I ate hay

I wish I ate hay.

All Things Good

All Things Good

It has been more than fifteen years since my grandmother passed away following a long battle with Alzheimer’s.  While I think of her often, this week, for no particular reason, my Grandma Nat has been on my mind more than usual.

My grandma was not your typical Jewish grandmother.  Unlike many Jewish grandmothers, mine was not known for her culinary abilities.  I have no memories of my Grandma Nat frying latkes in the kitchen or making matzobrei.  I never saw her bake or cook anything, though I did once hear a story that she broke a pot while trying to reheat soup.  The only food I remember my Grandmother preparing for me is tuna salad- which happened to be one of her favorites.

My grandma also differed from other Jewish grandmothers in her love for Christmas.  Each holiday season, my grandmother turned her front room into what could have been a department store window display.  A glittery white felt and cotton carpet was topped with a red cardboard chimney and an inflatable Santa Claus.  Placed carefully around the chimney were everyone’s “Chanukah” presents which we opened together during our annual holiday get together (which was catered, I assume).

My grandmother had four grandchildren: three grandsons, and me, the only granddaughter.  She was proud of all of her grandchildren; of this I am sure, but being the only girl I always felt that we had a special relationship.  This was especially true once I reached middle school and would sometimes spend the weekend with my grandmother at her apartment.  My grandmother was a volunteer in the gift shop at Long Island Jewish Hospital.  Part of what she did was decide which items the gift shop should stock.  During my weekends with Grandma Nat, she would bring me with her to volunteer.  We would go through the catalogs together and she would ask my opinion on items that kids would want to see in the shop.  She would take me to lunch in the hospital cafeteria where we would both eat, what else, tuna fish.

During these weekends, my grandmother taught me how to play various kinds of solitaire (then called it beginners luck when I won the first three hands I played).  We talked about the books I was reading and she took me to “the club” where she introduced me to her friends, let me order sodas on her tab, and I swam in the pool while she sat and kibitzed with the other ladies.  These weekends that I had with my grandmother are some of my best memories of her.

By the time we celebrated her 80th birthday in 1990 Grandma Nat was already showing signs of Alzheimer’s.  She experienced a slow and steady decline between then and her passing in 1997 but there is one more visit with her that I remember very clearly and will always treasure.  During one of my visits home to NY while away at college, I stopped by my grandmother’s apartment to have lunch with her.  She was still having some lucid moments, but got confused easily and couldn’t always differentiate fantasy from reality.  She required a daily nurse to manage her medications, and to make sure that all of her day to day needs were being met.

Luckily, that particular day she was especially lucid.  She knew who I was and was excited to see me.  We had our traditional lunch of tuna fish on rye and pickles and sat and talked on the couch for a long time.  My grandmother told me that she knew she was nearing the end of her life but that she was not afraid of death.  She was afraid, she said, that after she was gone nobody would remember her.  I did my best to assure her that this was not the case- that her memory would live on through our oddly Christmas like Chanukah celebrations, our book discussions, our card games, and our tuna fish lunches, not to mention the countless family gatherings we shared for Thanksgiving, Passover, Mothers and Father’s Day, and other important family events.  I hope I was able to put her mind at ease that day.  When I left her apartment that day, she left me with the same parting words she always said when we said goodbye, “All things good.”

When I got back to college, my creative writing professor assigned our class to write a poem.  I don’t remember what the specification of the assignment was but this is the poem I wrote:

All Things Good

 

The black door swings open.

She stands smiling

With painted face,

Flowery house dress,

Matching slippers.

“Hello Stranger,” she says and holds me in a maternal embrace.

I hold her frail body to mine

Kiss a soft, wrinkled cheek.

 

In the kitchen we eat

On a table of Formica.

Tuna on rye,

Sliced tomatoes,

Sweet pickles.

“How did you know tuna was my favorite?” she asks.

I smile at her contentment

And help her clear the table.

 

We move to the living room

Sit side by side

Stories from long ago,

Childhood tales,

Sincere declarations.

“I’m not afraid of dying,” she says. “My fear is of being forgotten.”

I take a velvet hand in mine

And promise eternal life.

 

The black door swings open

She stands smiling with painted face,

Flowery house dress,

Matching slippers.

“All things good,” she says.

My hands smell like tuna

As I wipe away salty tears.

I have one other memory of my grandmother.  The very last time I saw her was several weeks before she passed away.  I was a graduate student at that point, living in Michigan and it was harder to get home for visits.  Her condition had deteriorated terribly.  She lay in a hospital bed murmuring, “why, why, why, why” over and over again.  She looked distressed and confused and it was unclear if she knew who was there with her.  My parents and I stood at her bedside and I took her hand in mine.  My mother, in an attempt to engage my grandma said to her, “Natalie, did you know that Meryl has a boyfriend?”  My mother held out a picture of the man who two years later would become my husband.  My grandmother looked at the picture, looked right at me and asked in a feeble voice, “is he Jewish?”  I guess my grandmother was a typical Jewish grandmother after all.

I may have the flu, but the flu doesn’t have me.

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

― Abraham Lincoln

 I Choose Happiness

Even though I have the flu and am feeling somewhat crappy

Today, I am choosing to be happy.

True, the flu’s a bummer

I could wallow and be glummer

I could whine away the day

let my thoughts decay to gray

let my mood succumb to nastiness

Instead, I’ll just choose happiness.

 

 

Even though there’s congestion in my chest

Today I am choosing to feel blessed.

True, my cough’s annoying

It’s not something I’m enjoying

I could choose to be depressed

That my immune system’s suppressed

I could sit here and be stressing.

Instead, I’ll count my blessings.

 

 

Even though the gross stuff in my nose is of great magnitude

Today I am choosing to show gratitude.

True, if I run out of tissue

It could become a larger issue

My nose is in need of a soft place to sneeze.

And it’s only request is to breathe with more ease.

About this I could feel quite hateful

Instead I choose to be grateful.

The Best Day Ever…

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by us standing in our own sunshine.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Back in March of this year, I wrote a post called ‘The Year of Meryl” (see full post here http://wp.me/p1ZHOE-7B) in which I proclaimed that starting in September of 2012, with both children on the same school schedule for the first time ever, I was reclaiming my life, my time, my purpose.   I was going to strive for balance between the things I have to do (i.e. chores and errands) and the things I want to do (such as write, exercise, and think deeply about important issues).  More importantly, my plan included doing the things I want to do without feeling like a “time thief”- stealing five minutes here, and five minutes there in order to fit in those meaningful activities.  I envisioned myself saying goodbye to chaos and ushering in a new era in which I had time to do housework, get fit, be social, and think intellectually.  ‘The Year of Meryl’ was meant to be a time to rediscover what is meaningful to me- not me the mother or me the wife, but the me who was once a musician, a political advocate, a traveler, an educator. And I thought the universe was just going to hand it to me on a silver platter.

Not so much.

On the first day of school, I loaded my kids onto the school bus, watched the bus drive away, and did a little happy dance, even while other moms dabbed melancholy tears from their eyes.  I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary that day, but the feeling of freedom I had for the rest of that day made me positively giddy.  The giddy feeling lasted until that afternoon when my 4th grader got off the bus, walked into the house, and burst into hysterical tears.  My nine year old has been dealing with an anxiety disorder on and off for the last few years and had been pretty well managing it for the prior 9 months.  But something about the first day of school this year, brought her anxiety back full throttle and it threw the household into something of a crisis mode.  My primary job the past few months has been to reconnect my older daughter with the resources that were helpful and necessary in managing her anxiety the last time it tried to take over her head and her life.

September and October were jam packed with meetings with teachers, school administrators, private psychologists and a psychiatrist (during those same hours that I was going to be writing, exercising, and thinking deeply).  For two months it meant using all of my super mom (and my husband’s super dad) powers to even get my daughter out of bed and to school in the morning, and then wondering all day if I was going to get a call from the school that she had experienced another anxiety attack.  It meant helping her to battle the worry monsters at night until she finally (far beyond bedtime) fell asleep.  It meant trying to not take it personally as my scared, angry, and frustrated child took most of her emotional turmoil out on me because on some level (I hope) she knew that my love is unconditional.  It meant extra hugs and snuggles for my younger daughter who felt a little neglected by all the attention that big sister was getting.

Where did this leave me?  Too tired to think deeply.  Stealing time to fit in exercise and writing.

I could say ‘The Year of Meryl’ got off to a rocky start, but if I am being really honest with myself that’s not really true.  It’s just that it was naive to think that just because my kids are both away from the house at the same time, that the time without them is any more mine as it was last year or the year before that.

Or maybe the better way to think of it is that the time without them is JUST as much mine as it’s always been.  I’ve just never thought to fight for it before.

Whether or not you have children, life is busy and something is always there to pull you away from the things you love.  In the past, I have just resigned myself to the idea that my life is no longer my own and figured  I had no control over it.  I let what was happening with my daughter completely take over my own life which I have now learned is not necessary.  Just because my nine year old may feel anxious and sad and angry does not mean that I also have to be feeling anxious and sad and angry.  My first success in ‘The Year of Meryl’ has been learning the lesson that it is okay to decide to be happy even if people around me are not.  I can take care of my sad, anxious, and angry child without being sad, anxious, and angry myself.  

It took me a couple of months to figure this out and in part I have learned how from my 5 year old.  My 5 year old wakes up every morning and says, “Today is going to be the best day ever.”  It doesn’t really matter what is scheduled for the day.  There is no reason for her to believe she is going to have a bad day, so she assumes she is going to have a great one.  And she does- pretty much every day.  Her kindergarten teacher called me one day in late October to share that my little girl had fallen on the playground, landed on her face, and her lip had started bleeding.  He went over to make sure she was okay but she just stood up, brushed herself off and said, “these things happen sometimes.”  He told me that in that moment he thought yes, that’s true but for a five year old to think that way is pretty impressive.

Her days are not perfect.  Like everyone, my five year old faces her own version of adversity throughout the day.  She just doesn’t let it bother her or keep her from having the best day ever.  I decided to try to be more like my five year old.  On October 31st I made the last minute decision to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the month of November.  Participants are tasked to write 50,000 words in 30 days giving them a jump start on that novel they have always wanted to write.  I wasn’t sure I could do it- in fact before I even started I was rationalizing to my husband why I wouldn’t be able to complete it, but at least I could try.  I woke up on November 1st and decided I was going to write 1667 words that day.  Somehow, I found time for it that day, and every day in November.  Nothing else in my life had changed except my attitude.  Proving to myself that I could accomplish a goal I had set for myself despite the other things in my life that I was dealing with was huge.  The writing I was doing (while mediocre at best-it’s hard to write for quality when you are writing primarily for quantity) completely energized me.   I started waking up happier.  When waking up my older daughter for school (a task which was arduous at best) instead of pleading, threatening, and physically dragging her I simply turned on some upbeat music and danced around her room.  Her little sister would join me and eventually big sister couldn’t resist joining us for our early morning dance parties.  Are there still some rough mornings? Of course.  I just don’t let them dictate the rest of my day anymore.

Learning this lesson was not part of my original plan for ‘The Year of Meryl’ but sometimes the Universe knows what we need better than we do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go have the best day ever.

Please Continue to Hold…..

I haven’t written in a while and there’s a reason why.

I have a kind of writer’s block

The minutes pass with a tick and a tock

As I sit and wait for my brain to unlock the words on which I rely.

It’s not that a topic escapes me-

it’s more that I can’t narrow down.

Should I write ‘bout religion?

Or nuclear fission?

I sit in my kitchen, my brain on a mission, my face twisted into a frown.

I could write on the subject of discrimination-

Gay or straight, white or black.

Freedoms under attack.

I am taken aback, by the way our words smack of judgment and condemnation.

Perhaps I should write about all things political

But political words are so shady

Dishonest, and often berating

And not becoming of a lady

or maybe I’m just being cynical.

There are plenty of “wars” that they show on the news.

Wars on women and drugs

Wars on terrorist thugs

And similar slugs.  Even wars on bedbugs

to name only a few.

.

So it’s not that my head is empty, it’s quite full

With news of the day

Close to home, far away

Try to rise ‘bove the fray,

to sort truth from the bull

But when so many thoughts swirl around at one time

There’s a clog in my brain

Like you’d find in a drain,

And I have to abstain from writing these lines.

Eventually chaos will give way to clarity.

The word dam will burst

I’ll be free of this curse

and I’ll jump in headfirst, quenching my thirst,

 enjoying this moment of rarity.

Because when I put pen to paper,

I want to evoke a response.

Whether or laughter or tears

Or thoughts of past years

Even sneers allay fears of cool nonchalance.

P.S. Write Back Soon…

Dear Reader,

The only items to arrive in my mailbox these days are from companies to whom we owe money and companies who wish to lend us money.  Of course, there are also coupons and catalogs, in case we have run out of ideas regarding how to spend our money.  Very occasionally we will receive an invitation to a wedding or a thank you note for a gift we sent, but even those are starting to arrive via email.  Some days I don’t even get the mail.  I leave the task of sifting through junk mail and bills to my husband.

As a teenager, getting the mail was my favorite daily task.  The anticipation of finding out if someone had written me a letter was almost unbearable.  I took great pains to increase my chances of getting a letter which means I, myself, wrote and mailed a lot of letters.  My high school years were a revolving mailbox of letters to celebrity fan clubs and pen pals, not to mention the countless chain letters that I sent out to avoid bad luck.

I found many of my pen pals in the back pages of those teeny bopper celebrity magazines.  Kids would place ads listing their hobbies, favorite bands, TV shows, and celebrity crushes, along with a photo, and an address.  I would pick folks with similar interests and we would exchange enthusiastic letters of very serious subject matter (such as which member of ‘New Kids on The Block’ we would most like to date) and debating the important issues of the day (i.e. Corey Feldman vs. Corey Haim).  Most of these pen pal relationships were short lived (apparently it takes more than a shared adoration of Joey McIntyre’s very blue eyes to build a real friendship) but with a couple of pen pals the letter writing went on for years and real friendships were forged.

My good friend, Ronnie, was even more obsessed with letter writing than I was.  Occasionally, when she was overwhelmed with the number of letters she had to respond to, she would toss a couple of letters my way, and I would take over her pen pal responsibilities.  That is how I began writing to Sam, my favorite of all of my teenage pen pals.

He lived in Northern California and despite being the same age, our lives were very different.  Sam and I spent most of my high school years writing long letters comparing our lives on opposite coasts.  I read all about Sam’s trials and tribulations in his world of playing high school football and dating cheerleaders (which was not as easy as I assumed it might be) and I wrote him endless narratives about what was happening in my geeky world of yearbook editing and jazz choir rehearsals.  We shared stories about our parents who just didn’t understand what it was like to be a teenager and were equally perplexed about what the future held in store.

If Sam and I had gone to the same high school, we probably would have never spoken- it would have gone against the rules of high school social order.  But with 3,000 miles between us we were free to ask each other questions, share ideas, and confide secrets.  Sam and I became close enough friends that he flew out from California to attend my high school graduation.

For a long time I kept all of the letters I had received from Sam (and from all of my other pen pals) in a shoebox, which then overflowed to a second shoebox, and then a third.  I have weeded them out over the years but I hung on to my favorites which I still re-read on occasion.  There is something about pulling out and re-reading an old letter that has special meaning that allows me to re-live a moment in time and feel like I am once again there with that person.

In the eleventh grade I had an amazing American History teacher.  I had heard rumors that he was tough as nails and that he would lock tardy students out of the classroom and deny them entry to class.  I was terrified of him before going into that class, but I ended up having one of the most powerful learning experiences of my high school career. My senior year I signed up for two more classes with this teacher and before graduation I wrote him a letter telling him how influential he had been to me and how grateful I felt to have had him as a teacher.   The teacher wrote back to me, thanking me for taking the time to put my thoughts into writing so that he could re-read the letter any time he had a “bad” teaching day and needed a reminder of why he went into teaching in the first place.  I didn’t keep in touch with this teacher after graduation, but I have kept the letter he wrote back to me, and it reminds me of the importance of expressing my gratitude to those people who have made a difference in my life.

I grew up in a world without text messaging.  Email did not become a part of my life until college. Nobody had cell phones.  If I wanted to get a message to a friend during the school day, I had to write them a note and pass it to them in the hallway or cram it through the slats in their locker.  Some of these notes were pages and pages long (and written when we should have been paying attention in class) and contained our joys and worries- both frivolous and deep.  The first boy to tell me that he liked me did so through one of these passed notes.  Sometimes, my friends would argue quite intensely via notes passed in the hallway.

People do the same thing now, through text, email, and social media websites- but I don’t think it’s the same.  Email, texting, and social media require us to be brief and it can be very hard to gage tone or intent.  When I write an email I constantly question- have I written enough to be clear? Have I over- shared?  When I sit down to write an actual letter (you know, with a pen and paper) I feel free to actually say what it is I want to say.  Instead of writing from my head, I write from my heart.  It is a chance to communicate without feeling pressured to be concise, or without worrying if my intentions are clear.  There is something personal and intimate about a hand written letter as opposed to an email which can be forwarded and shared with the click of a mouse.

I haven’t received a real letter in a long time, but I know if I found one in my mailbox I would feel great knowing that someone had taken the time to sit down and write to me.  Technology has enabled us to communicate more efficiently and in real time.  But nothing has replaced the letters I used to receive and I miss them.  Emails may come with documents attached, but letters come with emotions attached- joy, sadness, excitement, closure- and that is what makes them so special.

I would like to start a letter writing campaign- in support of letter writing.  I want to invite each of you to take a half hour and sit down to hand write a letter to someone important to you.  Make it a letter they will be happy to receive- one they can pull out time and time again when they are in need of a lift.  Maybe tell somebody something that you’ve been meaning to tell them for a long time.  If you were to sit and write that letter, who would be the recipient?  What would you tell them?  What are you waiting for?

My life in verse…

I know I owe you part 2 to my last blog entry. Consider this an intermission.

My brother is the poet in my family, but I was feeling creative this morning and thought I’d give it a shot. Here’s what I came up with (mostly) while I was driving my daughter to preschool this morning They are all a work in progress:

Wake Up Call

I am privy

To a very exclusive

Concierge alarm clock service.

Extremely personalized

And very reliable,

Every morning

At crack of dawn o’clock

I am roused from slumber

By the intermittent,

And increasingly loud

Shouts of

“MOMMY”

Floating across my house-

And there is no snooze button.

A Girl Named Sarah

I know a girl named Sarah who likes to stay in bed;

Morning, noon, and night, with the covers on her head.

“Wake up” says her daddy.

“Wake up” says her mommy.

“Wake up” says her little sister too.

But Sarah says, “that didn’t work, so you’ll have to try something new.”

I know a girl named Sarah, who likes to stay in bed;

Morning, noon, and night, with the covers on her head.

“Tickle Tickle” says her daddy.

“Tickle Tickle” says her mommy.

“Tickle Tickle” says her little sister too.

But Sarah says, “That didn’t work, so you’ll have to try something new.”

I know a girl named Sarah, who likes to stay in bed;

Morning, noon, and night, with the covers on her head.

Daddy takes the legs,

Mommy takes the arms,

Sister smiles sweetly, turning up the charm.

“I guess we’ll have to throw her” little sister starts to say.

“I’m up, I’m up” yells Sarah. “I guess I’ll start my day.”

Crayons

Crayon scribbles in the hall,

On the floor and on the wall,

They’d mark the ceiling I suppose

If she could reach on tippy toes.

I guess it’s better than last year,

When she stuck one in her ear.

And according to her tummy,

Periwinkle is quite yummy.

Cereal, It’s What’s for Dinner

Perhaps, instead of ‘mommy,’ they should call me “Cap’n Crunch.”

I eat cereal for breakfast.

I eat cereal for lunch.

At dinner time, cereal appears on the menu too.

There’s just not time to cook with all the running ’round I do.

My Town – A Haiku

(I wrote this yesterday in response to a Haiku challenge issued by my brother. The challenge was to describe an unusual addiction or obsession using Haiku or rhyming verse.)

My digital town

Has turkeys that roam the street.

No one seems to care.

Photo credit: Original filename: alarm_clock.jpg, added February 12, 2009 by Credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit link: http://photo-dictionary.com/phrase/409/alarm-clock.html#ixzz1hDFoB3wZ

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