Friday, May 10, 2013

Blog Every Day in May Writing Challenge

Jenni, who blogs at, challenged followers to blog every day in May. She put together 31 topics that I have found fun, some more than others. She also gave me a new reason to “journal” and write for the sheer delight of putting words together. For today and for subsequent posts through May, 2013, I will share my responses, and I hope you’ll visit Jenni’s blog and begin yourself. The rules don’t prohibit a late start.

May 1. The Story of My Life in 250 Words or Less

I must confess I’ve been afraid many days of my life. At camp, as a girl, I recall the raw courage required just to walk from the cabin to the outhouse set outside a low stonewall surrounding a cemetery. Lions and tigers and bears stalked those grounds--I swear! And in college, I held my breath before entering my dorm room after seeing, now and then, a wraith at my window. Years later, while reading the alumni magazine, I learned that many before and after me saw her, too--the ghost of a girl who passed during the flu pandemic in 1918. And that lesson helped me on my way to shedding my fears. Now as a woman about to reclaim her contributions to Medicare and living upon her contributions to retirement plans, I am almost fearless. I am calmer, more self-assured, confident that what we think we can’t live without may be cast off. I have plenty of tricks in my bag, gleaned from mistakes, stumbles, and false starts. I know I’ll endure and strive and thrive--alone, if necessary, but together is better. My dear husband and I have bought and sold, built and broken, imagined and confronted much, all the while learning that getting and keeping means little. Love is indeed all we need.

May 2. Something(s) I Know A Lot About

I know something about many things. For example, I know how to engage most students and offer real-world illustrations to help students grasp characters and themes. I know how to dissect literature and film and evaluate them. I can also put together words and phrases, sometimes in pleasing and informative ways. I know enough about politics and politicians to admit I’m cynical, but however cynical I may be, I know enough not to join the paranoid fringe. I know quite a bit about dogs and cats, having shared my home with at least one almost all my days. I also know what college and university admissions officers seek when they review applications and read college essays. I’m a pretty good coach for those seeking acceptance from them. I also can spin language so that résumés accompanied by a cover letter almost always score an interview.

May 3. Things that Make Me Uncomfortable

I am never comfortable in groups! I am NEVER comfortable in groups! And this makes my husband chuckle. He’s seen me make small talk. He’s watched me ask questions to let others speak while I listen. He knows I remember what those others say. He knows that I enjoy the company of others, but as I’ve explained more than once, I lack stamina. I simply cannot sustain my composure. Like a beast programmed to hibernate, I must retreat to solitude. I must breathe and recharge before I sally forth again.

May 4. Favorite Quote and Why I Love It

My favorite quotations shift daily, especially now that Facebook and Google + and TED have come into my life. One Facebook pal with the great good fortune to live in Paris posts many quotations daily. This is the one I’m fond of currently:  Sometimes you have to be your own hero because sometimes the people you can’t live without can live without you. These words echo a truth in which I believe. No one and nothing bring happiness to us. We are the sole architects of our happiness without or with others.

May 5. Public Confession of Love

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love your enthusiasm for being among people. You’ve never met a stranger and make friends by befriending others. You will offer a hand and a meal to the homeless as quickly as you will offer the same to colleagues and neighbors. You’re also loyal and diligent, almost obsessive about your avocations: hunting, motorcycling, and dog training before children, now fine coffees and photography. You’re inquisitive about blends, processes, and brews, and thoughtful, supportive and encouraging when commenting upon photos presented by others. Such mentoring comes from a loving, giving heart. You have a temper, your scourge and demon, one born of the occasional insecurity or setback that afflicts us all. You push on, however, making amends as best you can while believing in good fortune, serendipity, and your own ability to make opportunities where none existed before. You’ve told me daily that you love me. You’ve cheered me and cried with me. You are my beloved.

May 6. What do you do?

This late in my life, I realized that few other people on earth, past or present, care as much about organization as I do. Untidy places, books not in alphabetical order, and mismatched towels haunt me. Even my considerable spice and dried herb supply is  in alphabetical order. For each year of our family life, I collected photos, pamphlets, awards, and ticket stubs, dropping each into its proper file, one for each month. At year’s end, I chose a new album cover and began to create a history of our lives. Long before Creative Memories and Scrapbooking became big business, I invented attractive pages celebrating school, recreation, athletics, promotions, recognitions, and holidays. Each album closed with the annual Holiday Letter that summed up the year. Reading them, you could tell a lot about what I care about. Some would call all these projects behind closet doors, inside album pages, and within cabinets a phobia; others might label me OCD. I’m not offended, but I am surprised when others claim they simply don’t have the time to organize. My reply is also one of my favorite axioms: If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have the time? (similar to a quotation attributed to John Wooden).

May 7. Things I’m Most Afraid Of

I fear lightning and wind when I’m on the water, but on land, safe inside, I love the sheer, naked power in Nature. I fear deep, dark water, too. Once while swimming in upstate New York, from shore to raft in the middle, I imagined the Creature from the Black Lagoon down below, kicking his amphibian legs, stretching his webbed hand up and up, toward my toes. I’ve logically and reasonable argued against this notion many times since then, but I’ve never fully, completely knocked it down the dream drain. Consequently, I dread deep, dark water wherever it happens to be. Oceans and swimming pools and lakes and streams should be crystal clear, pristine and cool. I want to count the pebbles below and trace the lazy wiggle propelling a fish downstream. I’d like to know whether a hazard lies below--some fallen tree, a ball of old, blackened discarded net, a boat with a hole in its hull. These I could catalog and measure against their potential harm. I could swim faster, dip the oars deeper, or float above. I’d be sure of my footing. I could turn my face to the sun and sail on.

May 8. Advice

First do no harm! All those who’ve recited the Hippocratic Oath have spoken those words. A film has borne them as its title. I’ve failed to live up to them, with them, or by them more than I care to acknowledge most days, but when I am mindful of doing no harm, I am at peace, content, confident, and whole. What I give returns to me in kind. What I offer has worth; people seem grateful. But here’s the secret: when you strive not to harm others, you save yourself, too. Angry words plant seeds of remorse. Arrogance leads inexorably to ruin. Simple human error does not invite suffering, you see. I admit, apologize and advance. Doing no harm serves me. I wish I’d learned that earlier.

May 9. A Moment in My Day.

I have lived most of my life upon ground scorched by the sun, parched by drought, flat land where horizons are 180 degrees. Sometimes so little stands between my spot of ground and the distant line between sky and soil that the curvature of the earth is apparent. When rains come, they come in loud and hard. Thunder snaps and hollers. Lightning pops and sizzles. The clouds roll ominously, and those of us who live under them, dread the coming of night when we won't be able to detect the tornadic spin. But dawn and dusk are glorious in these lands. Rich, powerful promises are made and broken under these skies. (Photo by Al Griffin)

May 10. Most Embarrassing Moment(s). Spill.

How can I possibly select just one? I am, without doubt, among the top-ranked competitors in the Universal Olympics of Clumsy, Stumbles, and Falls. One of the more recent ones occurred at the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, MO. Having stood through the rather long overview provided by a tour guide and having sat through an entertaining, but lengthy film offering many of the same details the guide gave, I was eager to find the ladies’ room when at last I was on my own to see the treasures dug from the muck and marvel at the boat so carefully preserved, first in a farmer’s field after the course of the river shifted over time and next in a man’s swimming pool until preservation for such wood could be discovered and perfected. As I turned to make my way out of the exhibit room, I failed to notice the slightest change in surface. My sensible shoe, fitted with a nonskid toe, hit a wee rise and failed to slide, skip, or save me. Arms up and fingers wide, like a sprawled cartoon character, I searched for something to keep me upright, but gravity called. I thundered to the floor, my whole body skidding until Inertia at last held all that energy. I left two blouse buttons snug between planks in the floor. My left elbow took most of my weight and now, two years later, it still plagues me. At least I didn’t show my knickers this time. But alas, I’ve done that, too. I’ve even slipped in deep snow and ice while trying to traverse the ground on crutches, one leg bound straight and taut after a surgery. Like the old woman in the long-ago commercial, I cried, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” The most adorable upper classman, a football stand-out in a mediocre program, came to my rescue. He hauled me up and out of the cold, wet snow, grabbed my crutches, and helped me to better ground. I could only look up at him like a fawning fan until he was almost beyond my voice. Then I remembered to say, “Thank you. You saved my ass.” I’ve regretted those words ever since. “Thank you” was enough, don’t you think?

Reading Challenge:

Read Jenni’s blog at

Writing Challenge:

Accept Jenni’s challenge to post every day in May, or at least write responses to her topics every day.