A Room of My Own?

Where I write

When my husband and I are driving through neighborhoods we wish we could afford to live in, we imagine what kind of rooms we would have in our dream house. He, of course, wants a man-cave where he can display his sports memorabilia and his action figures–excuse me, his rare collectibles. We imagine a giant room where our son’s massive collection of toys (excuse me, his rare collectibles) can be stored away from the living room.

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I dream of a place that doesn’t echo with the sounds of Wii tennis or laundry tumbling in the dryer. A place that doesn’t require me to clean up every time a meal is served. A place that isn’t surrounded by bills to be paid or homework to be finished. It doesn’t have to be a large room, just a small room, preferably with a door, where I could retreat every day to write or meditate or reflect. Where I could find a book without crawling through drying laundry or kitty litter. Where things that were valuable only to me

wouldn’t disappear.

Once when we were looking for a file cabinet at OfficeMax, I found a beautiful desk. It was designed to fit in a corner. It had not one, but two full desk-tops. The kicker for me, however, were the cupboards that ran the length of both desktops. The doors were inlaid with glass so I could see my supplies and find anything I needed. I yearned for that desk with all of my being, and it was on sale, but there was no room in our little house. It seemed that there was room for everything else: two jumbo rat cages, three litter boxes, six giant bins of toys, six book cases, a corner desk and two more book cases for the man-cave, but no room for my writing desk. Perhaps, the message is that there is no room for my writing. So, I make room.

After dinner, the computer comes back out to sit on the dining room table and remind me to write in the morning. It goes away for breakfast, but comes out again before lunch. I carve out time from chores and work and parenting. I don’t need a special room in my house for writing as long as I make room for writing in my life.

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Living Fearless

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

Dear God,

The thing I care most about is making sure that my son has a good life. I worry that I’m not a good enough role model for him. I don’t want him to live a life full of regrets, full of half-lived ambitions, and unresolved dreams. I want him to go after what he wants. I want him to be fearless.

To be the role model he needs, I need to start cultivating those qualities in myself. I need to stop sitting back and letting life pass me by. I have to pursue my dreams. If I want to be a writer, then I need to write. If I want to be a teacher, then I need to teach. Whatever it is that I’m meant to do, I need to find that thing and pursue it with my whole heart–for him, so he can see that it is possible to pursue his dreams and, in the pursuit, live a fuller life, rather than pining away, wishing for what might have been.

Living fearless,

J

Angst of a writer

My violin


I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.

Gustave Flaubert

 From the moment I picked up my first violin, I found it easy to make the instrument do what I wanted. My ear was true, and I could easily hear when my fingering was off and adjust accordingly. I was often dissatisfied with the sound I produced, because I played a beat-up loaner from the school. No matter how well I placed my fingers, the notes I produced were harsh and discordant. That changed when my mother’s foster-uncle loaned me his violin to play. It was a beautiful instrument with mother of pearl inlaid on the back. Its tone was old and mellow and it followed my commands obediently. I soon learned, however, that even my uncle’s beautiful violin was inferior to other instruments. I did not know that until my mom purchased my own violin from a concert violinist. My new violin was a 3/4 instead of a standard violin. Suddenly, everything felt right. I could hit the notes I intended and my violin had a light, delicate tone.

I started writing my own stories the same year I started playing the violin–the third grade. While writing was my passion, it didn’t come as naturally to me as playing the violin. While my violin produced the sounds I intended instantly, my pencil stuttered disobediently across the page. I just couldn’t seem to make the images that danced in my head come to life on the page. My brain felt as wooden as my violin, but did not sing as sweetly. Still, I persisted. After nine years, I gave up the violin. I never played it for enjoyment, but for the fulfillment of my mother’s frustrated childhood dreams. I, however, continued to write. Over the years, I started many projects, but left them unfinished. I grew frustrated with my uncooperative pencil, and let my writing routine lapse.

This fall, I realized that, unless I committed to putting that uncooperative pencil to paper every day, I would never be the writer I wanted to be. I committed to the NaNoWriMo challenge and completed my first novel. Every day, I berated my wooden brain and lackluster pencil for their lack of creativity, but I continued plodding to the end of my novel.

I realized that writing, unlike a violin performance, can be revised. Once I finished a violin solo, it was gone forever–the notes played and heard. I would never have the chance to repeat the performance and improve it. With writing, however, I can continue to work on a piece of writing that dissatisfies me until the words produce the melody that pleases me. I can let go the frustration I feel when I am drafting, because eventually I can make my writing sing. I will never be one of those writers who produces a perfect piece of writing on the first try, but I will eventually produce a masterpiece with dogged persistence and many revisions.

Taking a Knee

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

As football season begins anew, we are again focused on the players “taking a knee” during the national anthem. President Trump tweeted this week-end that football players who kneel during the anthem should be thrown off the field. In May, the NFL said all players who did not wish to stand for the anthem could remain in the locker room without consequence.

As I watched this debate last season and last week, it seems to me that everyone, but the NFL players, have forgotten that the First Amendment of the Constitution grants the players freedom of expression and the right to petition their government. By taking a knee, during the anthem, they are petitioning their government to take notice of an issue about which they feel strongly. That is their right as citizens of the United States.

While the NFL and Trump worry about ratings, they have forgotten one of the cornerstones of our country’s values–the right to free speech. When they take a knee, the players are peacefully drawing attention to their issue and asking to be heard. They are not interfering with the game and they are doing the job they are paid to do when they are on the field.

According to the NFL and Trump, football ratings are down. They attribute this to the players taking a knee. If this is true, then the viewers are also exercising their right to express their perspective by turning off the game. Again, this is their right as citizens of the United States. If the NFL decides to institute a policy that limits their players’ right to protest, it would be in violation of the players’ rights–and the Constitution. People might argue that the players are employees and have to follow the policies of their employers. Employers’ policies, however, cannot supersede the rights granted by the Constitution.

No matter the issue, we need to support the rights of other citizens to protest. If we allow the president and the NFL to limit the rights of players, we have opened the door to limiting our rights as well.

Regret

 

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Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

At 52 years old, I think a lot about the past. Things that I could have done differently. What if I had pursued psychology instead of teaching? What if I had focused on my writing instead of putting it off?

When I find myself starting to regret the past that is gone, I stop myself and focus on today. The choices I have made for myself have shaped who I am today and the life I have. While I am not always happy with how things are, I have a lot of things in my life for which I am grateful.

Watching my son grow up reminds me of all the possibilities that still await me. In his eyes, all things are new. When I experience things through his perspective, I remember that I still have something to offer the world and the world still holds promise for me.

I have a job teaching community college that I love. When I catch myself dwelling on losing my job teaching middle school or not being able to find another one, I remember that I am valued at the college where I teach. After leaving for a semester, they welcomed me back with open arms. That’s much more than any of the public schools I worked for ever did.

My husband and I don’t always see eye to eye. When I am frustrated with him, I remind myself that he has been my partner for over half my life. We are very different people, but we meet our challenges together.

Sometimes, I beat myself up for not writing. I don’t always blog or work on my novel, but writing is always a part of my life. When I have a problem, I always write about it. It has been the one constant in my life. I have been writing since the third grade. Even if I never get published, I will always be a writer.

Regret can sap my energy and my hope. It’s like a sweet poison. It is so easy to slip into the past and rewrite my life, but when I slip away, I miss the blessings that are right in front of me.

 

Things I’ve Learned

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

  1. A good dog can complete your family; a bad dog can ruin your day.
  2. You can’t spend your life pleasing everyone.
  3. The world won’t end if you stand up for yourself.
  4. I am just fine as I am.
  5. Anxiety is a waste of time.
  6. Nothing is set in stone; everything changes.
  7. Pursue your dreams right now. There is never a perfect time to follow your passion.
  8. It’s all right to make a mistake; I don’t have to be perfect all the time.
  9. It’s all right to put my needs first.
  10. The most difficult tasks are easier if I break them down into manageable chunks.
  11. Watching a child grow up is like reading a good novel. There’s a lot of plot twists and turns, but you end up with an amazing story.
  12. Sometimes, you need to fail in order to succeed.
  13. Don’t worry what anyone thinks.
  14. The only way to be a writer is to write.
  15. Ideas are everywhere.

The Day I Became a Writer

In the third grade, I discovered that the books I loved to read were written by actual people. I am not sure where I thought books and stories came from before I discovered this, but it was an important moment for me. I remember standing by Mrs. Hill, my third grade teacher, as she created a bulletin board. I asked her what the bulletin board was for and she told me we were going to publish our stories. She told me that all the books I read were written by people just like me. I was astounded. She also told me I was going to write and publish my very own book.

Image result for yellow legal padThe day she posted my book on the bulletin board was the first day I considered myself to be a writer. My first story was about a bird who had lost its family. I designed the cover for my book and made my book in the shape of a bird. After school, I went home and told my mom I wanted to be a writer. She immediately bought me a large yellow legal pad and some sharp new pencils, and I began writing.

Over the years, I have filled up spiral notebooks, binders, and bound journals with my writing. My writing has gotten me through tough times–when I was stuck in dead-end jobs with no way out, when I lost teaching jobs, when I was sad or depressed. At times, I have stopped writing, but no matter how long I stay away from writing, I always come back to it.

When I write, I can express ideas that I am sometimes afraid to say out loud. I can be me without the fear of judgment or criticism. I can tell stories, state my opinions, and explore new ideas. Writing makes me happy and inspires me to improve.

Whenever I think about giving up writing because I am discouraged or it feels too hard, I think back to Mrs. Hill and the day I became a writer, and I realize that writing isn’t just something I do. It’s a part of who I am.