Depending On When You Met Me Depending on when you met me, I might have been: A five-year-old sitting alone on a stoop, Tongue stuck out of the corner of her mouth, Brow furrowed in concentration, As she fought to master the art Of shoelace-tying... A ten-year-old grade five, terrified To be starting at her fourth new school, This time in a different province, And enduring the stares of those Who'd all grown up together... A fifteen-year-old writing in a middle-school library, Churning out lunch-time pages for an anxious crowd, The latest installment of a soap opera Starring Duran Duran Taking acceptance where she could get it... A twenty-year-old security guard, doing outside rounds Of a fifty-acre psychiatric hospital property, Swinging a Detex clock and breathing in fog, Silently begging the shadows not to move, and her Fellow guards not to prank... A twenty-five-year-old tour guide, Wearing a mishmash of "historic costume", Biting her tongue behind the wide smile, As those who had just been rude asked, "Can you tell me where to go?" ... A thirty-year-old substitute teacher, Wheeling AV carts through crowded halls, Asking strangers to unlock classroom doors, Ignoring "Don't smile until Christmas," And learning to teach math in French on the fly... A thirty-five-year singing Duranie, In a university stadium in Northern Virginia, Finally seeing the original band members Twenty years after screaming herself hoarse At LiveAid on television... A forty-year-old crisis intervention worker, Answering middle-of-the-night calls At the domestic violence shelter A resource of resources, and Powered by energy drinks... A forty-five-year-old brain injury survivor, Parking in the lot at Walden Pond for the first time, Blinking in disbelief, relief and sheer joy, Having made it there entirely under her own power, And not been squashed like Frogger on the I-95... A fifty-year-old pandemic recluse Staring at a screen full of rectangular strangers, All teacher-writers with words to share, With her feeling like the first day of grade five again, Not knowing that they were all her friends already.
The last month or so I’ve been feeling exhausted. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, all the personal adverbs … exhausted. And I know I’m not alone.
Although I do my best to go through my days singing Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” to my cats and dog (“I get knocked down, but I get up again…”), the getting up is getting slower and more difficult each day. And today was grey and dismal, and just one of those days when the cats were sniffing me for signs of life, and the dog gave up on trying to get me to the car.
And then I checked the mail, and the sight of a little blue envelope with my name on it lit up my face like Broadway.
One of the best things to come out of this past year is that I have found a wonderful community of teacher-writers through Jen Laffin’s Teach Write.
These friends — and they are friends — are spread out around the globe, but we get together via Zoom to write and brainstorm together at sessions like Time to Write and Wake Up and Write. Outside of those sessions, it’s not unusual for us to reach out to each other via text, Facebook Messenger, email, and — yes — snailmail, like tangible blue envelopes that arrive as complete surprises on the days we seem to need them the most.
Besides reading the fun message about my ever-changing names on Zoom (there are two Karens, so I mix up my moniker regularly) and the other kind words contained within, I really enjoyed the variety of stamps!
The intense gaze of the big cat is definitely my favourite, but the grouping itself truly makes me smile. In a way, it reminds me of Time to Write, where we are all different but similar, beautiful souls, who come together to get us where we need to go.
We get knocked down, but we get up again … and We get by with a little help from our friends.
Thank you, my dear teacher-writer friend in Texas. Your little blue envelope today was exactly the outstretched hand I needed, and you are a blessing.
You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.
I knew it would happen eventually. And, of course, it did.
Like so many people out there, my social contact since the pandemic began has consisted of screens. An unexpected benefit of this has been the sheer number of conferences, classes, and gatherings of like-minded people that I could not have otherwise have encountered, let alone enjoyed attending.
The last week of July 2020, I was invited by a long-distance friend to visit her writers’ group, and that was when I first learned of Teach Write.
Begun by Jen Laffin, Teach Write is an online gathering of teacher-writers who meet several times a week to set writing goals, celebrate, and write together. I’ve been attending since August 2020, and those Time to Write (TTW) sessions are easily the highlight of my week. I have made friends with writing teachers from across Canada, throughout the United States, in Ghana, and in Asia. It makes spending so much time in my house a lot easier. 🙂
One of the very first things a newcomer to these writing sessions learns is that, during celebrations, we silently cheer each other on by holding up our hands and waving our fingers, as if we are throwing “virtual confetti.” Until someone explains it to you, it can look rather odd, but it becomes a natural part of your life after a session or two.
Besides Teach Write, I have been taking a memoir class that follows hard on the heels of the Sunday TTW session. (In fact, I usually duck out a few minutes early to get to it, just so I’m not rushing to get there. What that means when I’m literally signing out of one screen and into another, rather than running across campus, I don’t know. Welcome to 2021.)
At the beginning of yesterday’s memoir class, Nancy — our facilitator — asked us each in turn to share how our writing week had gone. I went first, and then listened to another classmate describe his accomplishments.
And then it happened.
OMG I just sent virtual confetti in my memoir Zoom class. They’re all looking at me like I’m from another planet!
My TTW friends texted back with reassurances. But I was not to be assuaged. I felt I needed to explain myself to somebody, anybody.
I was just in TTW — didn’t even get out of the chair — so my confetti hands didn’t realize we had switched Zooms and we were done that part!
My friends laughed along with me, and I sheepishly spent the rest of my last memoir class sitting on my hands.
As it turns out, that was not the last time I will be seeing most of those memoir classmates. We have decided to continue on meeting regularly, with me as facilitator.
I know exactly what the first thing I teach them about our virtual meetings will be.
You can view other writers’ Day 1 contributions via the comments here.
Every month in the Time to Write Community (part of Teach Write), we have a challenge or two to get our creative juices flowing to areas they might not have considered.
The challenge for February is “My Life in Five Sentences,” and since I’m usually trying to pull something together on the last day of the month, I thought I’d take an early stab at it.
Well, everything came to me as images, and as poetry instead of prose. I wrote it and shared it with my fellow Time-to-Writers, and then debated sharing it here. It’s pretty personal, and a little bit raw, but hey. That’s — literally — Life.
My Life in Five Sentences I was born a half-century ago In a centuries-old city of Fog, smokestacks, wharves, And old brick. At ten, I was dragged off to Lower Suburbia, Different Province, A community of cookie-cutter houses, No ocean, few friends, And too many bullies. My intuition led me to safe places In the forms of teachers, And books, and libraries, with My own words pouring onto the page. My twenties and thirties meant Home, Back to my city of bricks and mist, Marrying my mister, rocking an empty cradle, And countless days assuming different names With the front of the class my stage. My forties were a blur stirred up By a noon crosswalk and a Ford Focus, Relearning to walk straight, to think straight, And a slow regenesis of Self, With my words being the last to return, At the age of fifty.
Quality Street tin
Jewel-covered sweets so tempting
Take it from me quick!