Sunday, May 1, 2011

Week 15 theme - Yourself as a Writer

I confess. I signed up for this class because I needed three credits for my recertification as an ed tech. I wasn’t interested in learning to write about vignettes, narratives, and alienation. I thought an online writing class would be a piece of cake… but I was wrong. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time going to an actual classroom…but instead I spent MANY hours in front of my computer. But now that I’m ready to submit my last writing piece, I know that I made the right choice on taking this class. I’ve enjoyed writing again for John Goldfine. I still remember taking my required English class with him when I went to EMTC in 2000 – and the warnings from other students about him – which all turned out to be bullshit.

My entire life during this semester revolved around my laptop. I soon learned that by Friday night or early Saturday morning I could log on and see what the weekly assignment was. If my first reading through brought me no answers, I would reread it several times to get the feel for what to write. I also read the works of previous writers. Their stories were of great help. My goal each week was to get everything written and submitted by Monday night, because I soon learned that I would get a response from the teacher (usually) on Tuesday. I would check the website for feedback every hour, just holding my breath for the “Yes, this is right” from him. Each week I was proud of what I had written.

Many times I had not a clue what to write about, but then an idea would come to me and the words would fly from my fingertips. My family was a big help for many of my writings (but they don’t know it). I wrote things about my mother and father, who were such a big part of my life. After mum died in November, I knew at the beginning of this class that I had to write “Alone in a quiet room…what do you see?” It told my pain of remembering how I took part in caring for each of them as they lost their battles with their diseases, just a few years apart. I can still picture in my mind where I stood in their modest home to see all the things mentioned in the piece. Another inspiration for me was my beautiful granddaughter Jordyn. As I wrote this semester, (and I even wrote about her for my I-Search in 2000 ) Jordyn was on the bad end of the deal between her and the doctors who performed her liver transplant – the first one. I will never forget what happened to her, nor will I ever stop hoping that somehow, someday, and it would have to be a miracle, she will be “better.” In my heart I know the probability of this, but…hey, I can hope, can’t I?

I’ve only shared a few writing pieces with family and friends, but maybe that will change. I’d really like to say “Hey, here’s my blog address. Go check out what I’ve written!” but I’m not ready to do that. Maybe in time I will.

Will I continue to write? I doubt it. It’s time for me to put away the “pen” and trade it in for cleaning supplies and a rake, maybe even read some of the books piled on the table. But if possible I will still frequent the sight for this course. Who knows? Maybe some of my work will be used as an example. If it does, I hope it helps a student with the meaning of the assignment, as someone else’s did for me.

As Frank Sinatra would say….”And now the end is here…

Week 14 - Using yourself differently --2nd piece

Supper’s over…kitchen’s cleaned up…a load of laundry’s done…favorite show is over. Time for getting things ready for another day tomorrow, and then bed. She slowly climbed the stairs with her arms full of the recently folded laundry and, after delivering clothes to each room, used the bathroom and then retired to her room. He was already in bed, watching tv. She almost dreaded getting into bed, knowing that it would be the same as previous nights. Lately it’s been three or four times a night. The covers come off… the covers go back on…she tries to go back to sleep. He just doesn’t understand how each time makes her so tired, and agitated. He usually sleeps right through each time. She knows when she gets up in the morning she’ll still feel tired, and it’s all because she is a she. It’s her reward (more like punishment) for being a woman - a woman who is aging.

Week 14 - Using yourself differently - 1st piece

Up and out of bed early like every morning…but today was Saturday, not a workday. Three people had to use the bathroom before seven forty-five, so like every other day she got up early to get ready to give the others time later. This was the day her grandchildren had been waiting for. The circus was in town.

“Let’s go,” she said to the four-year-old and her mom. They climbed into the car and buckled up.

Thirty minutes later there were four of them cruising down the highway. The eight-year-old grandson sat in the back eating his breakfast, while the four-year-old played with a doll she’d brought with her. She asked the kids what they wanted to see at the circus. Elephants and clowns were their answers. They’d probably be clowns there, but the elephants could be iffy. The last time she’d been to the circus was years ago, and there had been an elephant, but this year there had been no ads about elephants at the circus.

When they arrived, there certainly were clowns everywhere, and she watched with a smile as both grandkids got most of the clowns to sign their circus books. She was happy to see that there was no shyness or trepidation towards the clowns from both of them. Inside the auditorium they were immediately overwhelmed with salespeople selling cotton candy, snow cones, and souvenirs. Might as well get it done, so she bought each of them the light-up souvenir they wanted. With seats picked out, they sat and waited for the show to begin.

As each performer dazzled the crowd with their amazing acts, she spent her time watching the grandkids enjoying the show. She laughed with her grandson at the antics of the clowns, shared a look of wonder with him at how the lady could change costumes inside the curtain so fast, and watched her granddaughter clap along with the music as the dogs jumped the hurdles and the monkeys walked around in their leopard skin outfits. She was glad they were here. This is what grandmas should do with grandkids, she thought. This is why she had gotten up so early this morning.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Week 13 Theme - Big to Small

Their walk through the terminal was put on hold as they stopped to help their daughter. As she was yelling “Hey, Hey, Hey,” they gently put their arms around her to calm her down. Her strong, long legs kicked high in the air as she threw her upper body violently back against the back of the wheelchair. Next, her hand threw off the earphones that had been supplying music to her, which in the past helped to keep her calm. “It’s okay, Jordyn. Where’s Jordyn? Come back Jordyn. Do you want more music? “her mother asks in a soothing voice. Jordyn laughs loudly as she kicks and throws herself into the wheelchair several more times. Other travelers in the terminal slow down and look at Jordyn having this seizure.

In today’s society children like Jordyn are accepted, but the majority of people don’t understand how hard and demanding caring for a child with disabilities can be...unless, of course, they are living it. As a society, when a new child is welcomed into the world we don’t wonder what will be wrong, or go wrong, with the child. Most of the time new parents think of good things for their child, such as first steps, running around the yard, struggles of potty training, saying mommy and daddy, walking hand in hand with their toddler. What parent hasn’t bragged about little Suzy or Johnny saying “I Love You Mommy” for the first time, or hung their child’s artwork from the ‘fridge.

Traditionally, young couples who marry today hope for the “white picket fence, family home, good jobs, dog, and a cute little boy and girl” to make their lives complete. Do they ever stop to think how this American Dream can end up totally shuffled in the blink of an eye? They don’t hold all the cards. They may ask for it all, but in the end you play with what you’re dealt.

The pain of childbirth can be terrible, but it’s a good pain…because of the end results…and because the pain is soon forgotten. (Female perspective.) When that newborn child leaves the warmth of her mother’s womb and breaths that new air for the first time, and cries as she is wrapped up, that child is totally depending on her parents to love, nurture, hug, feed, and clothe her. Not just through the good times, but through the bad times too. That child didn’t ask for “problems”, nor did the parents. Every child deserves the best. Accept them for who they are. I believe parents are given what they can handle, and it takes extra special parents to take care of children with special needs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week 12 Theme --- taking risks, humor

The stories of Zak and Zeke

(Names have been changed)

As soon as she went in the door, she could sense that something wasn’t right. None of the personnel would look her in the eyes. She was there to pick up her four year old identical twin boys, Zak and Zeke. She spotted her sons as they were playing trucks and cars with other boys. Finally, one lady, still not looking at her, pointed her finger at a plastic bag that lay beside a desk. She told the mother that the bag was hers. The mother picked it up, and looked inside it. She was shocked to see a pair of her panties in the bag. The lady proceeded to tell her that “the children were on the letter ‘P’ in preschool, and they were to bring in an item beginning with that letter. They said that they had a pair of your panties in the bag. I didn’t let them show them around. You can take them home with you.” The mother quickly gathered her sons, and her panties, and headed out the door.

As Zak and Zeke got ready for school, their mother gathered the freshly laid eggs from the chicken house. As the eggs rested in the egg crate, the boys climbed in the back seat of the car. “Who wants the eggs today,” asked Zak.

“Your teacher,” mom replied.

Upon arrival of school the three of them took the eggs to Ms. Fern, who was alone in the classroom. When she spotted the eggs she asked where the eggs came from.

Zeke replied, with an replied matter-of-factly (with an implied “DUH, like, is she stupid,” ) “The rooster humped the chicken and now we have eggs.”

The mother was floored with the remark, but finally laughed along with the teacher.

There comes a point in the lives of twins when they don’t want to be identical anymore. This happened to Zak and Zeke while in first grade. They didn’t want to be the others’ twin, or dress alike, or be mistaken for each other. The mother said looking alike physically was something that couldn’t be helped. Later that evening the boys had to take showers. They were still at the point of showering together, and the mother overheard their conversation from inside the bathroom.

“We’re not the same down there,” Zeke said as he looked and pointed at his brothers weinie, then at his. “Yours is bigger than mine.”

Zak’s reply was, “I told you what to do. Ping it, and it will get bigger.”

Zak and Zeke were picked up from school by their father who does not live with them and their mother. They spent the evening with their dad, then mom picked them up on her way home from her college class. Bedtime came and they went to sleep. Mom was awakened at five a.m. by Zak tapping on her arm. He was panicking because he had left his school planner at his dad’s the night before. He had actually hid it from his brother at dads, then forgot to “find” it to take home with it. Mom pleaded that he could do without it for today, but Zak insisted that it was needed. So mom, still in her pajamas, put the twins, still in their pj’s, in the car and drove to dad’s house, twenty miles away. When they arrived at dad’s, he had already gone to work. Mom called dad to see if there was a spare key to get in to get the planner, but there wasn’t. “Can I jimmy the lock?” she asked. He gave her permission to do this. Well, as she was jimmying the lock, the neighbor was calling the cops, and a state trooper pulled into the driveway. She was told to stop, and asked what she was doing. She explained the whole situation to the trooper. Can we call the dad, he asked. A check of her watch told her that dad was already on the train (he drives for the local railroad company) and he can’t answer the phone while driving the train. So, she ended up calling his dispatcher and explained the whole situation to him. He agreed to call the boys’ dad. It ended up that the dad had to stop the train, which means a lot of paperwork for the unscheduled stop, and he told the trooper that he knew what was going on at his home with the mother of his twin boys and he was good with it. The mother got the door open, and with an escort from the state trooper, she retrieved Zak’s school planner. She and the boys got back in the car and drove the twenty miles to home, got out of their pajamas, and started their regular daily routine, if things can be routine with identical, twin six year olds.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Week 11 Theme - when words mean something else

I’ve learned to make brown sugar date-filled cookies using the family recipe my mother used, which was the recipe her mother used. I remember making these cookies with my mother as a young girl. The cookies are delicious, but they take a while to make. The date filling has to be cooked and cooled, the cookie dough made, then rolled out…not once, but twice, making sure the top layer is thinner than the bottom layer. I have resolved to making these cookies mostly on holidays, but if they are requested by someone, I will make them. That was the case with my former boss and friend. He was constantly asking for these cookies, so I not only made them for him, I also gave him the recipe so he could make his own, and share them with me.

Imagine my surprise last Christmas when I answered a knock at my door. There he stood, with a decorative Christmas tin in hand, and a smile on his face. His first words were “They’re not as good as yours, but I want you to try them. “

“Oh, I bet they’re good.” I replied, hoping to give him confidence in the nice gesture.

“Well, I couldn’t find your recipe so I used another one.”

Not going to be good, I thought. You need my recipe.

“I can give you my recipe again if you want it.”

“Not yet. Try these and let me know how they are.”


I thanked him again as he left. I opened the tin to see date-filled cookies that looked like mine. They looked like they would be good, but a taste of one told me that the cookie was molasses flavored, not brown sugar. I slowly finished that cookie, but didn’t eat any more of them.

A few days later I saw my former boss at the store, and he asked me what I thought of his cookies. “They were good,” I said.

“Not as good as yours, though, were they?”

“Well you did a good job. You tried.”

After some idle chit-chat about life in general, we parted ways. Such an awkward conversation.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Week 10 Theme--distance, framing, alienation

I climbed up off the floor and instantly smelled smoke. One look around the corner and into the kitchen told me that something wasn’t right. Smoke! I ran to the kitchen, coughing and gagging. I frantically waved my hands in front of my face, trying to breath clean air. The room is filled with smoke. The smell is like I have never smelled before. Oh, God, stay in the living room, Mackenzie!

It’s my day to pick up my four-year-old granddaughter, Mackenzie, from the daycare. My mind is filled with things I need to do when we get home. Laundry. Snack for her. Work on my papers for class. Get supper going so it’s ready on time. Sweep the floor—god that floor is dirty. First thing, give her a snack and try to get her to play alone, or let her watch a show so I can get some things done. I turn my laptop on as I head for her snack, and turn the internet on after giving it to her. “Can I watch Fresh Beat Band?”

“Yep, which one?” I find what she wants, and go to sit in front of the laptop. I’m working on the second prompt for this week. I read what I have so far and make a few changes. A look at her shows me that a bomb in the house wouldn’t draw her eyes away from the tv. While she is content on the couch, I start the laundry, edit my paper some more, finish reading the newspaper from this morning, and start pulling things out for our supper. Fresh carrots are a favorite of Mackenzie’s, so I peel and cut them up and add water to the pot, knowing I need to start them early so they will have time to cook. I set the pot on the back burner of my flat top range. I must remember to start them in about ten minutes.

By now Mackenzie’s show is over, and she’s by the toy box with her dolls, puzzles, and make-up. “Gram, will you help me with my puzzle?”

“Just a minute. I have to finish my schoolwork. Then I will.”

I dart to the kitchen and turn on the burner to start the carrots cooking.

I add a little bit more to my prompt, hit save, and close the computer.

“What do you want to do?” I ask her.

“Sit down and I’ll do make-up on you.”

“Okay,” I say as I sit on the floor beside her.

As I sit there, she puts face powder and lipstick on me, and I do the same for her. After about ten minutes, I tell her, “Grammie has to get up now. Her legs hurt.”

I climbed up off the floor and instantly smelled smoke. One look around the corner and into the kitchen told me that something wasn’t right. Smoke! I ran to the kitchen, coughing and gagging. I frantically waved my hands in front of my face, trying to breath clean air. The room is filled with smoke. The smell is like I have never smelled before. Oh, God, stay in the living room, Mackenzie! Something’s smoking on the stove! A potholder! Why was that there? Cough, cough. I grabbed the one corner that hadn’t turned black and threw it into the sink. The water I put on it made it smoke more. A look at the stove, where the carrots were suppose to be cooking, tells me that I turned on the wrong burner in my hurrying, and the pot holder was on top of the one I had turned on. As I coughed and tried to clear my throat of the smell, I yelled to Mackenzie to stay in the living room. I ran to the back door and threw it open, letting in the cold winter air. I then opened up the front door to help circulate the air. The ceiling fans helped to move the smoke in the kitchen, the smoke that was thick and burning in my throat. I continue to cough and clear my throat while keeping Mackenzie in the living room so she isn’t exposed directly to the smoke. With the doors wide open, and fans whirling overhead, I turned up the furnace to ward off the cold, and then turned the correct burner on so the carrots will cook.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Week 9 Theme - Linked vignettes

The sun was shining on the wedding party as people gave congratulations to the happy couple. Andrea and Jason stood on the grass, holding their two month old daughter. Andrea’s cousin commented on the baby’s nice complexion. “She must have skin like her dad’s.” Before leaving for the hall, Andrea’s Aunt Becky approached them to see the little girl. There was the usual “she’s so cute!” and “she’s getting big.” Becky later said to me “something’s not right with her color.”


When I walked into my kitchen, they were huddled together, cuddling their baby closely, and crying. “What’s wrong?!” I asked.

“There’s a message on the machine. We have to take her to EMMC right now.”


I pulled my car up the pump, in hopes that someone would take pity on me and pump gas into my car. I pretended to know what I was doing, but the young man noticed my stupidity, and helped me. After thanking him, I asked him how to drive to Boston. He laughed at me, in a nice way. “Straight shot through,” he said. “Going to visit someone?” “No, I’m headed to Mass. General.”


He held the back of the johnny together with his hand as he crawled onto the gurney. The orderly covered him with a white sheet. His wife bent over him while they cried and hugged. I squeezed his hand. Tears filled my eyes. “See ya in a while,” he said as the bed was pushed away.


You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when I am blue. You never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.” The song keeps playing in my head as I listen to the washing machine agitate. Tears come with the song, every time. I stare out at the city spreading as far as I can see from ten stories up. Trees are bare. Things look so gloomy, just like I feel. After the laundry is done, I headed back to the PICU.


“What do you hope for Jordyn?” the reporter asked me.

“I hope that someday she’ll walk, and that her hearing and vision will be okay.”

The child on the floor couldn’t sit up yet, so she lay there looking at the toy beside her. “I hope she’ll learn to talk. Be normal.” My voice cracked with sadness. I didn’t look at the camera that was taping me.

“Why are you staying with her?” she asked.

“Because her father had to be rushed back to Boston.”


The teachers stood in the classroom doors and watched, as did I. Jordyn was wobbling down the hallway, unassisted, with her aide right beside her, ready to catch her if she faltered. Her steps were not smooth and graceful, but she was doing it. “She’s doing so good!” “She’s made such progress!” they exclaimed. I just stood and watched her, and let the tears flow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Week 8 Theme ---- vignette

We got three feet inside the door and stopped, now the last in a very long line. The four year old with us wants to know why we stopped. We have to wait our turn, we tell her, like at a restaurant. It’s hard to hold back my tears as I think of why all these people are here. Minutes later we reach the welcome table and hand over our donation. I scribble a quick note in the well-wishes book. I hope to see the little girl, but the note says doctors advised against her being here tonight.

Inside, the room is full of family and friends. I see a woman I know who has gotten her hair back after her treatments – a woman I know who is losing hers because of her treatments – and people who just want to help. A walk to the back of the hall unknowingly leads me in the direction of the little girls mother. She talks with those who have come here tonight. My arms want to hug her, give her encouragement regarding this whole ordeal, but I know my tears will come and I will look like a fool. I know what’s ahead for her child, her entire family. I pray the ending results are not the same. I walk past her. I can’t speak to her right now.

People purchase tickets and write their names on them, hoping to be a winner. The D.J. asks people who have eaten to please give up their seats so others can eat. The child’s grandfather takes the mike and speaks to the crowd. He thanks everyone for coming, and praises the support of our small town and surrounding communities. As he speaks of his grandchild, his voice quivers, he wipes his eyes. I wipe my eyes. The crowd claps politely when he finishes.

Jordyn and her family are here. They’re here to support this family. Eleven years ago this same community supported them.

People eat, talk, and show their support. When we leave, the room is still full, and people are still lined up just inside the door.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Week 7 Theme - Character

He’s the only boy out of six children. There’s only eleven months between us (no, we weren’t Catholic) so we’re close to each other. He’s easy going, and likes to have fun. His small nieces and nephews call him Uncle Clifford the Teaser. He can take a sober faced kid and tease them so badly they have to laugh. When my daughter was little he would tickle her ‘til she had tears in her eyes – good tears. My granddaughter, who is four, runs and hides from him when she sees him coming. She knows he’ll tease and tickle her. It’s just the way he is with little kids.

He’s had reason in his life not to be so jovial. He’s a cancer survivor. The word cancer is enough to make someone less than happy. He went through the chemo, the hair lose bit, the stays in the hospital. Maybe that’s why he looks at life like he does. “Enjoy it. Laugh and have fun. It could be worse.”

He called me the other night, quite unexpectedly. I didn’t really have time to talk to him. He started with, “I had a colonoscopy today.” “Okay” I responded. Like I want to hear about this. “The doctor said it didn’t look good,” he said.

Here I must say that I take everything seriously. My chest heaved. I sat on the bed to listen. I thought to myself, Shit . I don’t want to hear this. I can’t lose another family member. I wasn’t sure what to say. Knowing Clifford, him being a wise guy, I slowly asked, “What do you mean?” He chuckled. I had the feeling I’d been had. Cautiously I asked, “Inside or out?” Another chuckle. I am such an easy target. “Outside,” he said. “He said he’d never seen an ass that looked as bad as mine.” He’s laughing hard now. “You bastard. You ass hole.” I’m not laughing. He still is. I’m still fuming, trying to find the humor in this. I’ll get him, I say to myself. I started to cry like I was really upset, thinking he had bad news. I made him feel like a smuck for playing that shitty joke. He quickly got serious and apologized, several times, for upsetting me.

The more I think about it, the funnier it gets, and I’m sure the next time my siblings and I are all together we’ll laugh about it. I realize that this is just how Clifford is. That’s his way. He finds the humor in things, and hopes others will too. He has a good time and wants others to too. He’s a very likable person, he has a big heart, and I love him, but sometimes he’s such a pain in the ass.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Week 6 Theme - place

(Names have been changed)

My sneakers squeak with each step as I walked down the hall. They’re still wet from the dusting of snow last night. The lights are on in the room. As I enter I see that some mail did not leave the night before. Some didn’t get put in its proper slots either. They’re reminded repeatedly to take their papers home, but they still forget. I catch some throwing their papers away. “Your parents would like to see those.” “They just throw them away.”

Eddie’s nametag is falling off. Luckily, that’s all that’s falling off. The mailboxes are just cardboard, and have been in this same place for years, just below the chart with names and bus numbers on it, right beside the door.

I sneak a quick look in the mirror to the right, and with two steps more I make sure the large, old Macs are turned on. Most days they sit idle unless I use one to check my email. The room is quiet, and the computers produce a low hum. Earphones sit waiting to be used by the little ones. The blue table in the front of the room is covered with chairs and book boxes. Pencils sit waiting in the plastic cup to be borrowed, half of which have been chewed and/or are missing erasers. These are the ones they should keep, not just borrow. I cross the room and open the curtains, throw up the shades. No sun yet, but by one o’clock the shades will be drawn again, to keep the sun from the eyes of children. Mittens hang with clothespins from the rope hung along the heater to dry them after playing in the snow at recess. They were told to take them home. Sometimes it’s like being a mother to fourteen kids. They don’t listen.

The large desk in the corner holds a water bottle and laptop. She’s here, but not here in the room. I notice the chairs at the 14 desks haven’t been put down. I do it for the kids. Blue chairs, green chairs, plastic chairs, wooden chairs, tall chairs, short chairs. All kinds of chairs to fit all kinds of kids. How many of them will be out today? I think a lot of them come each day because they’re made to. (Ex: Little Johnny says he threw up before coming to school. Why didn’t you stay home? Mom said to go to school. Thanks mom. I’d love to catch his germs! Idiot! ) From working here I’ve seen that some of these kids do not have great lives at home. I personally think some come to school to get positive attention, support, and a sense of worth from their teachers. I weave my way through the maze of desks, picking up stray pencils and crayons. My collection grows every day.

The second blue table in the room, tucked in the corner by the reading books, holds extra materials I use during the day. The math facts that Mary practices with me sit in the baggie. The container of fake money waits for her to count. I’d like to think I’m making a difference with her, giving her the extra support she needs to learn her facts, to recognize and count money. I like giving her extra attention, extra help. She ask to work with me, and that makes me feel good. She tries so hard for me.

The double door to the next classroom is open, but the teacher isn’t sitting at her desk. I go back to the bookshelves by my table. These shelves hold books for beginning readers all the way to readers who can read and understand hard chapter books. Today I look to find a book that is challenging for my group, but also one that will hold their attention. I think back to the Sally, Dick and Jane books from my early school years. None of those books in this bookshelf.

The ten foot long bookcase at the front of the room extends from the wall to the middle of the room like an arm. It’s loaded with “sharing” books. Children borrow as they wish. Some days it resembles the playroom of a nursery school. Books lain on top, books on the floor. It’s times like these that the room occupants get a lesson in cleaning up their messes. Since children read at different levels, they each have their own book box that contains books they have mastered. These boxes sit on top of the bookcase, along with containers of crayons, glue sticks, scissors and markers. Most of the colorful markers are missing. They’re probably in someone’s desk.

The paper is coming off the backside of the bookcase because kids lean against it and rip it. It’s purpose there was to make it look better but now it looks like crap. Another reminder of kids in the room. Reminder to me… replace the paper later today.

Every classroom has a chalkboard, and this one, at the front of the room, is older than dirt. It’s green and covers three fourths of the front wall. I use the white chalk to write the date and today’s special. Today is Wednesday and it’s music day with Mr. West. The students have new recorders and he’s teaching them to play them. They’re trying hard. (Note to self…leave the room at music time!) A box of puffs tissues sit near the chalkboard. Not for nose blowing, but for wiping the board clean. Much better than the old time eraser. Puffs makes the board look like it has just been washed. Someone must be getting rich for thinking of this. It isn’t me.

A quick scan of the room tells me that the room is ready for the day to begin. Everything is in place, and I’m ready. The bell rings. My day begins.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Theme Week 5 Narrative

I never realized how hard they worked for our family, or said thank you to them for all they gave us, even though I probably never thought what they gave us was enough. My parents always worked while we were growing up. I know it was from them that I got my good work habits.

“Any job worth doing is a job worth doing right. Do it right the first time and you won’t have to do it again,” my dad would say. That’s why, when I got laid off from the local shoe factory, and I had a chance to go to college, I knew it was time to make a change with my life, a change that would be best for my family.

It was June 15, 2000 when the last employees of the shoe shop, including me, were given their walking papers. Ha, ha, walking papers from the shoe shop! That’s funny!

“This isn’t easy for me,” said my boss, the boss I used to make cookies for, the boss who still asks me for cookies occasionally. “If it was up to me, we wouldn’t be closing.” It wasn’t up to him. He just worked there, too.

We had been warned that this was going to happen, but it made it no easier. I had worked there for twelve years. For twelve years I sat at a sewing machine, pushing the leather through, knowing that the faster I worked, the better my paycheck would be. Twelve years of punching a time clock, taking vacation when they told me to, smelling like leather when I left at the end of the day.

So with pink slip in hand, I had choices to make.

“Stay home. Collect unemployment for awhile,” my husband said. “It’s fine with me.”

Those were options I considered, or I could search for a new factory to employ me. But a flashback of my parents again turned me against the factory route. I remember the shift work my father worked at the paper mill. He would be getting home in the morning, after my mother left for her day job at the shirt factory and before we kids got ready for school.

“Morning. Want something to eat?” I’d ask him. “No, just going to bed. I’m tired.”

Mum would be home late afternoon, tired, but made a meal for us, attended our school activities. Hours later, she’d pack a meal for my father, so he could start his drive up through the woods to go to work.

“Hope the moose aren’t out tonight,” he would say. “Saw a big one last night. Just missed me.”

Thanks to companies sending their work over seas to be produced at a cheaper wage, the reason the factory closed, I was eligible to participate in a government-retraining program, no charge to me.

“This is my way to get a better job. I can go to college on someone else’s money,” I told myself.

“I don’t know why you wouldn’t.” my husband said.

“I’m too old,” I said.

“No you’re not. Do it.”

“Not sure if I can do it.” Any excuse. Most people go to college right out of high school, not after working piecework for more than twenty years.

“Go to college,” I remember the guidance counselor saying to our junior class. “There’ll be more available to you if you do.” Good advice, but I never considered it because I had a child to support. (That’s another story.) Out of six children, only one of us had gone to college, and now I could be number two.

So, I have no job and I have free government money. What do I do? I started by listening to people tell me how to write a resume, “Always list your most recent job first, then the others with the first one being listed last” - they told me how to interview for a job with a new employer, “Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” - and I inquired at local job fairs to see what was out there. “What do you want to do?” the lady asked. I was really interested in nursing, but decided against it after interviewing a nursing supervisor. “Most new nurses end up working weekends and holidays. Maybe nights,” she said. Not for me. So my attention turned to EMTC – that’s what it was back then – not EMCC.

Scared shitless. That’s what I was as I chose a field, signed up for classes, and went the first day. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine,” my husband and girls told me. “You can do better than those young kids.” They were proud of me…happy for me. They even got together and bought me my own L.L. Bean book bag. Ha ha. A forty-plus lady with a new book bag. And, an L.L.Bean book bag!!! “We never got L.L.Bean book bags!” the girls whined.

I often thought to myself, “What’re you thinking, going to college fulltime, instead of working?” It was different, but I adjusted. I did the work I was assigned, got used to campus, and met new people. By now I had buddied up with a girl who had also been laid off from the shoe shop. “Hey, Teena, we’re in the same classes. We can help each other out.” We often went to the library to work. That’s where I was warned about English teacher John Goldfine. “Who do you have for English?” the young kid asked me as we worked beside each other at the computers. “John Goldfine.” “Oooh. If I were you, I’d get another class and teacher. He’s hard!” (True story.) But I wouldn’t think of doing that. I was tough. I knew how to get work done. I stuck you out, and I’m glad to say all went well.

When I think back now, the two years of college flew by. I prioritized my workload at school, and kept the house together at home. When I wasn’t doing laundry at home, I was working on a science project, an I-Search paper, or writing a speech, one of I many had to read in front of the class. Standing in front of a class and speaking was the worst. The teacher would say, “Everyone’s here for the same reason. We’re all friends. Take a deep breath and speak loudly.” I still remember being so nervous my voice would be shaky. There were a lot of eyes looking at me. I think I started one speech three times. What can I say.

May 2002. My graduation from college! Never thought it possible. My father didn’t attend “Too far for me to ride,” but mum did, along with my family and siblings. Pictures, hugs, “We’re proud of you!’s.” “Now go get a job!” At the house afterwards, my dad gave me a hug–just a hug. He didn’t have to say anything. I knew he was proud of me, happy for me.

College was hard, it was a challenge, but now I know I made the right choice. I never believed I was too good for hard factory work like my parents had done their entire lives. I made many friends and had a good work record at the factories.

Today, I always give my all at my job. Just like my parents had. A person isn’t born with good work habits. They’re taught to you, and my parents were great teachers.

“Any job worth doing is worth doing right. Do it right the first time.” Thanks, dad.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Theme Week 4 Re-do

The workday is over, the weather isn’t too cold, and I’m off for a walk. The extra layers under my jeans and shirt are enough to keep me warm. With my I-pod on I don’t hear sounds around me, only my music. Today I noticed cars getting too close to me, dogs on porches, and puddles from melting snow. Half way through my walk the sun went down and it got colder. I had to zip my coat up higher, put my gloves back on, and walk faster.

The long workday is over, the weather is warmer than it’s been and I’m off for a walk. The extra layer of clothing that I have on will keep me warm. With my I-pod playing under my ear band, I practice my singing, knowing that I am nearer to my new career. Nobody is invited to go with me. Today I noticed cars getting too close to me, dogs on porches, and puddles from melting snow. Half way through my walk the sun went down, and the walking got slippery in areas. Twice I had to throw my arms out to my sides to use as balance poles to keep from falling. I had to zip my coat up higher, put my gloves back on, and try to walk faster.

The long workday is over, the weather is warmer than it’s been, and I’m off for a walk. The extra layer of clothing that I have on will keep me warm, but it does make me look ten pounds heavier. With my I-pod playing under my ear band, I practice my singing, knowing that I am nearer to my new career, the next American Idol. Nobody goes with me. They don’t like my singing. Today I noticed cars getting too close to me, and dogs on porches…or that’s where they started. When almost home, the little black poodle five houses from mine jumped off his porch and came running at me. With my music on I didn’t hear him, but I saw him, and could read his mouth movements. I stopped quickly and turned to him, throwing my arms in the air. He stopped, and that’s when I ran towards him. He turned around, ran like hell to the porch, and proceeded to hide under the chair in the corner. I kept an eye on him as I slowly continued on. As it got colder, walking got a little treacherous in places. I can still see the look on the drivers face as I almost went down two times. I felt like a tight ropewalker as I used my arms as balance poles. Maybe walking today wasn’t a good idea.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Theme Week 4 Truth or Consequences

We’re sitting around waiting for the game to come on. Almost time for supper. Not sure what we’ll have. Toys are all over the floor. She gets out another without picking up the others first. That’s what four year olds do.

In our sweats and pajama bottoms, we wait for the Super Bowl to come on – or at least two of us are waiting. The black clock on the wall shows that some kind of meal should be being served, but not sure what will be fixed, or by whom. Maybe hot dogs. The living room floor is cluttered with dolls, puzzles, tea sets, and a crazy Zhu Zhu pet running around. The girl with light brown hair has no concept of one toy at a time. She’s just a normal, healthy child having fun.

We’re dancing around the room. He has his Steelers game shirt on, she’s wearing her new black leather pants and two inch heals, and I‘m wearing my now-too-small mother-of-the-bride dress from ten years ago. The sixty -inch television is set to broadcast the World Series. The grandfather clock that sits in the foyer strikes seven o’clock. It’s time to eat. We’re ready for the chef to serve a meal. Smells like roasted chicken, twice-baked potatoes, green bean salad, and fresh yeast rolls with cinnamon butter. The floor of the sitting room looks like Toys R Us emptied it’s stock there. The blonde headed boy sits and cries because there are too many toys for a twelve year old to get a handle on. He should be happy, but he’s not. He just sits there.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Theme Week 3 Scene Setting and Dialogue

We’ve put it off long enough. We have to do it. I get out of my comfy chair at home and go to the phone. I call my sister to tell her it’s time…time to face the inevitable. Mum’s house.

“Meet you up there in twenty minutes?” I ask her.

“Okay,” she replied.

Twenty minutes later, we walk through the door together. We’ve been here before, but never has it seemed so empty, thought it’s not.

“Where do we start? One room at a time, or jump all around?” I ask my sister, my sister that has been here just as many times as I have in the last few months. She shakes her head, looking at the memories around the room, and says, “I don’t know. I don’t want to do this.”

“Neither do I, but we have to. Why don’t we try to clean off this island to make more room.” What I really mean is “let’s take care of all these things that remind us of her.” Her memory is so strong. We find numerous lists that she made. Lists of birthdays of family members, lists of all her doctor appts., lists of who will be on D.W.T. S. – she loved that show.

“What should we do with these knitting needles and yarn?” she asks. “Do you want them, or do you think Sandy does?”

“I don’t want them. Hey, did you see the crocheted dress she had started for the doll? I found it stuffed in a bag in the closet. It’s red and white and it’s almost done. I wonder if Sandra would finish it? I think mum wanted it finished for the little ones.”

“Ask her. I bet she would.”

We both go to different areas of the house, she tackling the cupboards, me looking through the dresser drawers, drawers that contain her personal things. I find a paper that tells when each of us had our polio shots. A picture of my brother as an enlisted man. The wedding invitation for my oldest. A picture of mum’s niece who died twenty something years ago. That was her memory keepsake.

“Do you think we could give these Tupperware containers to anyone? Or just throw them out?” she hollers into me.

“Throw them out! Hey, do you remember who gave her this locket? There’s no picture in it.”

She comes into the room with me. She looks at it, holds it in her hand, turns it over.

“No,” she sighs, “just another unanswered question.” She forgets about the mess in the kitchen as we get caught in with the other treasures that belonged to her. We work in silence for a while, knowing that the end line is far away.

“Let’s finish this part and take a break - get something to eat,” I say.

“Sounds good to me. We’ll come back later.”

Minutes later, as we head for the door, we walk through the room where she used to sit, making her lists. The table has papers, books, and pictures on it, ready to be claimed by family members, members who will (hopefully) treasure them as she did.

“There’s a lot to be done, still.” I mutter.

“Yep,” she says, “but not now. A half hour won’t make much difference.”

We step outside and close the door, knowing we’ll be back to get the job done…later.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Theme Week 2 A Decade of my Life

Early seventies. High school. Time spent participating in sports, bus rides, school work, and hanging with close girl friends in the neighborhood. Sharing clothes with friends, (my mother never knew I changed clothes before going to school) sneaking cigs from my friend’s parents, (they were suspicious a couple of times) and giggling when the boys threw us a hint of attention. We watched American Bandstand and listened to Gary Puckett and the Union Gap’s Young Girl on our 45 record over and over. Night time shows were The Brady Bunch and Happy Days. “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” ……….. “Heeeeeyyyyy! “ ……..Nothing better. Saturday nights were spent with the family watching reruns of the Lawrence Welk show, watching Bobby Burgess dance and listening to the Lennon Sisters.

We took drivers ed together, and grew interested in boys. When we weren’t playing sports, we watched as the boys did. The boy’s bb team had strong players, and we showed team spirit at the auditorium in Bangor. Boys became interesting. Neighborhood boy became interested. Finally, noticed by a boy. There was less time with the girls, and more time with the boy.

Sonny and Cher were getting rave reviews in the music industry. Nixon resigns the presidency in ‘74. Paul Anka’s hit song “Having My Baby” becomes “our” new theme song. She was one of the last born at the hospital, while my grandfather was one of the last to die there, just days apart. Time with girl friends is less. Duffel bag put away, diaper bag used every day. Content to sit on the sideline that last year of school with a new bundle, sharing her with classmates. Wasn’t the norm in the early seventies, but we had love.

Graduation in ’75 meant welcome to the real world. Parents have been supportive for the last year, living in our respective homes, but factory work produces a paycheck. Local shirt factory kept me busy all day, home to husband and child after that. He joined the workforce and we were proud to become owners of our first car…a Chevy Vega. Two door. Tan. Big enough for the three of us.

Local Justice of the Peace did the honors for us on her front lawn in ‘76. Nothing big. Nothing fancy. Just right for us. New (old) mobile home, wasn’t great, but it was ours. Television is now the Muppet Show and Sesame Street. Music is nursery rhymes and children’s songs. Still involved in sports, but now it’s him on the softball diamond, us in the softball stands. Cheerleader now….not a player. High school girl friends move on with their lives while we get ready for child number two. Old Vega is too small, so we trade for a Ford Fairmont wagon, brown, four door. We are moving up.

End of the 70’s decade. Mork and Mindy is a hit comedy. Robin Williams is still the best. Disco is wild, and John Travolta stars in Saturday Night Fever, and then Grease. I knew all the words to every song. Leisure suits were smooth looking. Slow-pitch softball tourneys are weekend festivities for our family. Old friends become more distant…. family becomes a constant. One decade over…a new one just beginning.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 7 Journal

My life is rushing past me, faster than I wish. How did the momentum speed up so much? Why, as a teenager, was I so eager to be older, anxious to grow up? As I quickly read the paper this morning, before rushing out the door to go to work, I turned the page and there it was... a broken fortune cookie with the message....Do not rush through life. Pause and enjoy it. Well, those words really hold true to me - to many people, I would think. For me, it seems that after working five days, I would enjoy the weekend. But I keep so busy - until it's time to go back to work Monday morning. Go back to work to rest. Why is the world moving so fast...why is everyone in such a hurry? Why don't we all slow down.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 6 Journal

Today has to be better. It's my choice.
Let me explain. Flashback to Saturday late afternoon.

Having a bad day today. A pity party for me. Disagreement with my husband, disappointed my grand-daughter, and the pina colada mix on ice is going in smoothly, right to my head. “If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy” would fit the day. Tension around here is so tight. Not sure why I have these days once in awhile. Stress? Not sure I can blame it on that today.

Then---while I wallow in MY self pity, I get an email from a friend and co-worker (and distant relative) who is happy with her husband ----he may live 3-4 years with his kidney cancer if things/treatments go well!! Well f… myself. I guess things could be a lot worse for me. Compared to my friend and her husband, I truly don’t know what it is to

“Have a bad day.”

Back to Sunday. I need to change my attitude. Learn from yesterday. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 5 Journal

More snow. Colder temperatures. Why is it that each year I hate winter more? I often wonder if I liked snow when I was a child. Did I hurry to go out and play in it? Did the cold temps not bother me? When did I cross that line that changed my opinion about cold and snow? Is it an age thing?
Possibly, the older.....the colder? There are lots of ways to enjoy snow - for those who want to. I choose not to. I'm too old.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 4 Journal

No work today. Should be saying yee-ha, but it could be a hard day for me. Why? My thoughts will be on food. Yes, food. For me, how to not eat all day. There's plenty around here. But how do I stay away from the freshly baked cookies sitting on the sideboard? They make it hard for me to cut back. My will power is weak.
My other thought of food will be regarding the kids I work with. I know many of them hunger for the two meals given them at school. They rely on them. Being home today, will there be food for them? Will there be enough for the weekend?
Doesn't seem right to think so much about food.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 3 Journal

Had snail-mail today. The quarterly edition of the family newsletter. Not sure I wanted to read it ...pretty sure there will be a lot of sad memories in it. My first thought upon seeing much longer will this be published - people are dying off - who will send in things. My second thought was....will I continue to send in a contribution, knowing that I only did it in the past because mum liked her kids to participate in it. She really liked reading the articles- what's going on in out-of-staters' lives,- but will no more. Do people really care that my husband and I are still at the same jobs? That we still live in this little town that will soon have no grocery store in it? That I'm sick of the cold, and counting down 'til vacation? Do I care that cousin so-and-so will have a new daughter-in-law? No.
Maybe by the time the next newsletter arrives, my thoughts will change. Probably not.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 2 Journal

Good night tonight. Out to spend time with the Bonko B......! Yes, that's what we call ourselves. 12 of us get together once a month to play a dice game, gossip, share stories, and eat too much. Husbands don't understand us, and they (probably) prefer to stay away when the wife plays hostess. Makes for a short sleeping night, but the company is good. Just a nice way to have fun with the girls.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day #1 Journal

Someone asked me today "how you doing?" I replied "fine." That's what I always say when asked this time and again at work by my co-workers. It's easier than saying how I really am. I think they can probably guess how I am, considering my life the last few months. Some know the feeling, some don't, and I don't wish it on anyone. It is a feeling that "will get better" in time. How much time? How much time is needed to stop hurting?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Week 1, Part 1

My goal for this class? Pass it. Maybe exceed on some writings.
Thoughts keep going through my head, wondering what my assignments and finished products will be, will my life provide me with the needed material to write something with the “Wow” factor. My previous experiences with writing stories started with high school, which I have no recollection of because it was so long ago, and then two writing classes when I went to college full time in early 2000 for two years. My strongest memory of college English?... When I was told by another student to “switch out of Goldfine’s class, it won’t be good. Get a different teacher.” I couldn’t imagine doing that, didn’t do that, and was quite proud of myself when my writings met your standards, no problem. Hope I repeat with this course.

Don’t agonize over it, you can, and you will do it. You do work that’s always on time and you do your best. Isn’t that all you can to do? I don’t know what you will write about. Maybe write about all of Jordyn’s medical problems, how you still blame her doctors for her problems, or, how well you did in college even though you were more than twice the age of the average student in your classes. Remember how well you did on that I-Search? You better hurry up and get this first piece done.

She worries too much. She dwells on things until they are done, or until she is completely nuts. She won’t sleep, she’ll probably have to go for walks just to reduce the stress, and she’ll constantly be checking for a new assignment, and then she’ll get it done. I know she will work to her fullest, but she needs to chill out a little in the next few weeks. She’s going to be hard to live with while she takes this class. Will she still have a family to talk to/with when the course is over? It will be a long few months, but she will succeed.