The Smallness of Us

There are these moments when I picture myself benevolently aged, a bittersweet smile of the past playing about the crow-footed corners of my eyes.  What I wouldn’t give to have a conversation with her.  The woman who weathered storms.  The woman who brought storms.  

What would she think of me with my self-pity and social angst?  

“Child,” she would say, sipping Zinfandel through her favorite My Little Pony mug a lover from long ago gave to her, “It is not the darkness in the life of an artist that creates art.  It is the hope that the darkness will end that helps the artist create life through art.”

I would cast a side-eyed glance at her, but since we occupy the same mind and body, she would guffaw at me and kiss her teeth as she knocked back another swig.

“It’s just like that story we loved as a girl and would always cry at every time we came back to it.  You know… the one where the guy crashes his plane in the desert and meets the alien boy and he tells him this story about a fox and a rose,” she would prattle on.

“Le Petit Prince,” I’d sigh back.  “Everything that is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“Exactly. Except there are also scars the eye cannot see, but that doesn’t mean we let them pervert our heart,” she’d sagely nod in the annoying way old people do right before she takes another gulp which causes Twilight Sparkle to mock me with her smug smile.  “Like this wine.  The fruit of which is sweet from the vine but fermented can leave a bitter aftertaste both in the mouth and in the actions taken under imbibed persuasion.”  

Adding punctuation to her words, she would put the mug down and lean forward in her chair, donning the doggedness that my mother wore when you knew she was right, when you knew she didn’t bring the storm but was the storm, “We must savor the delicacies of our lives, no matter how bitter.  We must not take for granted the world within the smallness of us.”

In response to Daily Prompt: Savor
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Storm” by Free-Photos (CC0 Public Domain)

Shipwrecked

These words were actually written a month ago. Not a lot has changed, but at least I’m writing again.

Each day I do in exercise in self-loathing.  I turn on the shower as hot as I can stand it.  I disrobe and step into the billowing steam.  The water flushes my skin scarlet with anger, humiliation, confusion, and remorse.  I lay my head against the tiles and I close my eyes.  As a literature teacher, I know water is supposed to be a symbolic cleansing.  As a human being, I know this is just a figure of speech.  There is nothing that can expunge shame.

It’s been a long time since I did this – poured myself out onto a page and shared out for the world to see.  These past few months have seen irrevocable change, and things are much darker than they ever have been.  It’s as if the light optimism of my youth reeked like the dead and was buried in secret haste.  Only something foul clawed its way out.

Once upon a time I knew who I was or at least had solidly clung to its semblance has to have that perception.  I am still amazed at how that concept is so fluid and temporary, how the winds of fortune or misfortune can shift the sail of the H.M.S. Identity.

I don’t expect understanding.  I don’t expect sentiment and encouragement.  I don’t expect any words I put down to make any sense to anyone let alone myself.  Without a rudder, I am aimless, and these words I’m stringing together do not provide the relief I so desperately seek.

In response to Daily Prompt: Bury
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Shipwreck” by tpsdave (CC0 Public Domain)

I am

the taste of vanilla
melting into a concoction
of pecans and bliss
on Thanksgiving
when the warmth
of family is rising
like homemade bread.

The laughter plumes into the air,
and I smell the stale cigarettes
on my Mother’s hands
as she kneads the dough  –
their strength molding my world.
A twinkle of teeth flash
through open mouths
as a symphony of guitars
crescendo in a sense of urgency.

These are the moments I remember
while I lie in bed wrapped
in the warm embrace
of my mother’s cashmere blanket.
Salty tears catch at the corner of my mouth
and the bitterness
of these life moments irrevocably lost
stings like the wooly worms
I stepped on as a child.

“Baby girl, you need to stop worrying.
Dry your tears.  It’ll sting like hell today,
but in the morning it’ll feel better.”
If I close my eyes tight enough,
I can still smell her hair, freshly washed,
as she bent down to kiss
my seven year old foot.

In this moment I can taste
the bittersweet mix of
3 Musketeers, Dr. Pepper, pain medication,
and the release of a final labored breath.
In this moment I remember
she is
and I am.

Featured Image: Pixabay – “Heart” by castleguard (CC0 Public Domain)

Star Stuff

This is a notion I’ve heard many times before but which didn’t fully realize until I shared the room with individuals from all over the world: Hungary, Croatia, the Netherlands, and Italy. The full gravity of it hit me when a Syrian refugee and educator shared stories of how she would play music for her students to drown out the sound of airplanes and bombs. Carl Sagan says we are all made of stars. Instead of trying to dim them because of their differences, I think it’s time we celebrate the things that make our fellow stars shine.

We all are made of
oxygen
hydrogen
nitrogen
calcium
and phosphorus.

We all feel
anger
fear
love
loss
and happiness.

There are a million things that we aren’t.
There are a million and one things that we are.
When we look at comparisons,
holding ourselves up to
a mirror
or someone we think should be our mirror,
we always look at the one thing that makes us different.

By doing so, we either
negate the other person
because we believe our difference is more important,
or we negate ourselves
because we believe our difference makes us somehow deficient.

In reality,
we should be looking
at the one thing that makes each of us unique
and celebrating the miracle of improbability
that created it.

It’s all in the connotation of things.
The way we see things in either:
lightness or darkness.
love or hate.
lament or celebration.

We all try to dim
our fellow stars,
but it doesn’t have to be this way.

This post initially appear on Miss Ross’s Blog via my school district.
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Stars” by skeeze (CC0 Public Domain)

Good Morning from 35,000ft

Good morning from Europe!  I am over Glasgow, Scotland making the final push for Amsterdam.  Currently it’s about 9am here even though my watch and phone read 2am.  I feel pretty accomplished stealing around 3-4 hours of sleep, albeit an hour of that was spent contorting my body in a new ways to ensure blood flow to my posterior.

The most surprising and delightful part about the flight was tasty food, especially a mango sorbet which was served.  I would’ve been happy without my spinach lasagna if I could’ve opted for another sorbet.  Zoe and I agreed on this point.  More mango sorbet for everyone!  It seems a little thing to be happy about, but it’s always the little things that make a difference when most of the time my flights have beverage service consists a few pretzels or snack mix, if you’re lucky, and 8oz of your drink of choice.

We did fly through a storm last night that was rocking things pretty good.  It was an exercise in how well I could balance food on my fork instead of wearing it like an artist’s palette on my shirt.  Afterwards it was the impetus that rocked Zoe and I off to sleep.  It’s good to know we can sleep during a storm even at 35,000 feet.

All in all the flight was uneventful except for the scare the facilities in the lavatory gave me when they flushed.  It immediately reminded me why I don’t go more often on flights.  Loud noises aside, I still remember the stories my Dad would tell to discourage my sister and I from wanting to go on the plane.  Needless to say, his tactics still work.

For now, it’s time to say adieu.  The map cycling on the screen informs me that we descended about 20,000 feet and are 15 minutes away from touchdown.  As much as I love flying, I’m ready to stretch my legs out and feel the weight of the ground pushing against my feet as I set out to explore Amsterdam.

This post initially appeared on Mis Ross’s Blog via my school district.
Featured Image: My view as we descend into Amsterdam on the morning of April 10th.

‘Twas the Night Before Amsterdam

If you called me a procrastinator, I would say guilty as charged.  Most of the time I am distracted by lines of poetry and prose that I compose while I’m washing the dishes, cooking dinner, grading essays, lesson planning, and a multitude of activities where I’d rather be doing something else.  Tonight that activity is packing.  In all reality, I know I should’ve already packed for the trip, but I at least made a checklist of what I wanted to take so I’m not completely behind schedule.  

The sheer excitement I feel pulsating through my veins is the same excitement I would feel climbing into bed on Christmas evening.  The excitement that no matter how tight you squeeze your eyes shut hoping to fall asleep you can’t.  At least not until that sweet exhaustion anticipation has caught up with you and you drift off, a small smile still playing at the corners of your lips.  However, the nap after opening presents is the soundest, most peaceful rest of the year.  That will be me tomorrow about 6pm as we take off from Chicago O’Hare on an eight hour flight to Amsterdam.

For now, it’s the night before Amsterdam, and I am letting visions of tulips dance in my head:

‘Twas the night before Amsterdam, when all through the house
I was frantically searching for the perfect blouse.
The luggage stood empty; the clothes were not there.
I has to de-fuzz them as they were covered in corgi hair.
Final arrangements were made, itineraries were reread
When all I wanted was to sleep in my bed.
The hotel and “must see’s” were checked on the map.
A forte for planning would ensure no mishap.
When all of a sudden I squealed with laughter.
This anxious excitement was all procrastination blabber.

Tomorrow the adventure starts; it’s sure to be blissful.
But if I don’t get some sleep it will be more like abysmal!
So, I leave these words with you before I settle down for the night-
“Happy to travels to all, and to all a good flight!”

This post initially appeared at Miss Ross’s Blog via my school district.
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Flight” by ThePixelman (CC0 Public Domain)

Embarking on an Adventure

I have always wanted to travel internationally.  The cultures, ethnic food, and historical locations have been a magnet drawing the vane of my imagination since I can remember.  Once, back in college, I was this close to spending a semester abroad in Cork, Ireland.  Through a series of unfortunate events, my passport was packed away in a keepsake box, and a few years later I entered the field of education and worked to open up worlds of possibilities for my students through teaching literature.  Looking back now, it seems almost serendipitous that I would find myself drawn to San Antonio, AFIA, and the chance to dig out that old passport and dust it off.

We had been gathered together by Mr. Rockstroh sometime in late November.  It was the holiday season for the school, and there were quite a few announcements that needed to be made.  Admittedly, my mind was wandering towards lessons and planning and grading, as it’s wont to do, when something stuck.  “We’re sending one facilitator and one student to Amsterdam to participate in programs with the Anne Frank House.  How cool is that?”  How cool indeed!  Immediately, the fire of memory and expectation sparked inside me.  

Reading the Diary of Anne Frank as a young girl, the prose Anne wrote that elicited such youthful earnestness and a timeless evocation of wisdom and worldly understanding spoke to me and helped me find an escape during a time when I struggled with self-identity and angst.  The beauty of the diary’s words helped me to see the beauty in the world, in myself.  Now, as an adult, Mr. Rockstroh’s announcement sparked the desire for the opportunity to go to Amsterdam and to learn in order to bring that beauty back and use it as a mirror for my students to look into to see their beauty and potential.

The decision wouldn’t be made quickly, but we would be receiving information to follow.  An anxious Christmas break ensued and a return to classes in January was full of anxiety as I waited to hear how the facilitator would be selected to attend.  The application and selection process had commenced for the student, but still no word had been given on the facilitator selection.  I checked my email messages every day and casually inquired about it in passing conversation as I didn’t want to pester or seem overly eager.  Then one morning my email dinged “Facilitator Application – Amsterdam Trip” from Dr. Etienne.  Without hesitation I opened it and devoured the contents.  We would be writing an essay explaining why we would like to attend.  I both simultaneously groaned and cheered.

There are three internal voices that speak up when I really want for something: the “I’m going to get it no matter what” competitor’s voice that makes me seem too ambitious at times; the “I am not good enough to make this happen so why should I even try for it” self-conscious voice that talks me out of achieving as much as I could; and the “Carrie, don’t listen to either of them – just do your best and speak from your heart” voice that echoes the soft intonation and kind encouragement of my mom.  Ultimately, I listened to my heart because you can never go wrong making that decision.

So now, I am a week away from stepping on a plane that will whisk me across the world to Amsterdam, to exploration, to growth, to discovery.  In the days to come I will have to pack, unpack, and evaluate everything: clothes, preconceptions, learning, language, emotion, and things I can’t even think of yet.  I don’t know how to feel except as a bundle of excitement and hope.  I am the proverbial wide-eyed and slack-jawed child staring at presents wrapped in the colors of joy, reflecting back the twinkling lights of promise, and I am beyond thrilled to bring you along on this journey.

This post initially appeared at Miss Ross’s Blog via my school district.
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Luggage” by MikeBird (CC0 Public Domain)