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Blue is the Apple of My Eye

Dear blue, cool to my eye,
painting the sky:
You make me want to fly
in a Boeing 747 across the big blue
ocean to Sverige with the yellow cross
piercing through flying, waving blue.

My first car was blue. At 16, I
prophesied I’d have a blue car,
and that it’d be, instead of a Plymouth Horizon,
the type that Dad had bought Liana and Justin,
a Dodge Omni.
(O, yes, I had to be different.)

And I suppose I have to be
different in having you as my favorite color.
Stereotypically, you are for boys – for men,
and I can’t figure out why it’s that way anymore
than I can figure out what is a man, who maybe
really is rather like the sky,

which to me seems soft, and is always
a welcome sight signifying the warmth of the sun,
and yet is a clear and vast protection from
getting burned.
You are the cool that keeps me from
overheating, and getting burned.

And I must confess
that the shallow reason I wanted
to teach at the school I’m at is because
of you, blue. My every working day
is filled with you:
Mustang (Carolina) blue.

O, blue, the color of my life,
the apple of my eye:
I want to fly
up to the sky, surround
myself in you, and
pierce through, cut out a piece of blue.

The writing challenge from Teach Write for the month of February is to write a love note everyday to something we love. I may not write a love note everyday, but I may try to write a love note in the form of a poem once a week.

Teach Write is a community of writers who teach and practice writing in order to become better teachers of writers. If you’d like a community to support you in your writing journey, whether you’re a teacher or not, I recommend the Time To Write workshop, or any other workshop offered through Teach Write.

Dear Gramma,

Well, this week passed with… some difficulty (because there will always be some level of difficulty in life), but God is our helper and he is getting us through. Actually, what I was going to write at first was “this week passed without a hitch”, but then I realized that it’s quite silly to say that because, as I wrote in parentheses, there will always be some level of difficulty in life. But, there was no major external, physical difficulty for me in my life this week – except for maybe getting out of bed while the owls are still hooting each day and heading to work.  

I suppose the only other difficulty is that I have honestly been struggling to really connect with God this week. But, I just keep praying little, little prayers of feeble faith here and there (because all it takes is a mustard seed of faith), and I know God hears those, and I have noticed strength and motivation here and there. Last night and this morning, especially, when I “plugged in” to prayer meetings with my church, I felt very much lifted, energized and encouraged to carry on, and most importantly, to keep feasting on Christ for strength. So, although that has been difficult, God is good and faithful, and as I said, I know he is our helper and is getting us through.

A few of my favorite things this week have been the following: reading several different books, bribing my children to speak life-giving words to one another and resist speaking nagging words, getting back into my running routine, watching a bit of the presidential inauguration, and laughing at Bernie Sanders memes (and my mom’s Facebook meme about women’s haircare versus men’s haircare).

Currently, the books I am reading are Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why It Matters by Dr. Juli Slattery. Also, I am reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (which is the first Harry Potter book). One of my neighbors actually got me into this – he said it’s pretty much a part of the culture now, and so I decided that, as a language arts teacher, I really probably ought to read it so that I understand when others allude to it. Furthermore, I am reading a book called My Life As An Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi, which is a middle grade fiction novel, and a high interest book for students. And lastly, I am reading a memoir by Kristen Iversen called Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats – this one actually looks like it’s going to be a great mixture of narrative and informational text. This will be a perfect mentor text for the writing challenge that is coming up for my students. I am thinking that I will probably read aloud a few excerpts of the book in order to show them the kind of writing that will be expected of them.

Anyhow, aside from reading and teaching this week, I’ve also been trying to get my children to speak good, positive things to each other. They got on my last nerve early in the week – and on each other’s last nerve – and, thankfully, since we had been talking with them about “the power of life and death are in the tongue”, I was able to bribe them and challenge them to practice not nagging each other and instead speaking life-giving words to one another. I know that external rewards won’t ultimately change their hearts, and that’s why I also encourage them to pray and ask God to help them. But, I am also hoping that they will notice the difference in the atmosphere and that will stick with them and motivate them. For this week, I especially focused on the girls. I bribed one with candy and the other with a Starbucks frappuccino. The bribing just might continue into next week and include the boys.

Well anyhow, I am tired and will close this letter for now. I hope you all had a great birthday week and a good visit with family.

Love you and miss you.

Dear Gramma,

Mom reminded me last week that it’s your birthday today, Sunday, January 17th. Happy Birthday! It was really good to see you and Grampa on Facetime last night during your birthday celebration. It was great to see everyone. I wish I could have jumped through the screen and teleported to Aunt Michelle’s living room to be there with you all. (Or at least spend more time online with you.) It’s always good spending time with everyone. I am especially longing for it lately. I’m tired of being socially distanced.

Having the tendency to be introverted, I normally wouldn’t mind the social distance. But, this is too much. This introvert needs energy from others at times, and when I need it and it’s not freely available, it makes me realize that this pandemic has been having its way for too long.

During the Fall semester in my classroom, there was a day when I went around to each of my in-person students to check on their work. In my closer-than-usual-in-a-pandemic interactions with them, and the energy and joy that I felt later, it made me realize that human interaction really is good and that my students are wonderful people. At the same time, though, I don’t think I would have realized this if we hadn’t had this huge slow-down, shut-down, cut-down-the-hours-at-Walmart pandemic. (Do you know, our Walmart stores all around here are closed at 10 PM these days?!? Is it the same there in Nebraska?)

Honestly, I am not happy about the deaths, job loss, and business shutdowns that this pandemic has produced, but I am happy for how it has forced us to slow down. This school year, I have only had, at most, 15 students in my classroom at one time, while all the rest are at home. I haven’t had to manage the attention, whims, and talkativeness of 35 to 40 students in a small space, all at once. Before this time, because of crowded classrooms and impossible expectations from administration, human interaction for me was very stressful. And students were really starting to get on my nerves… not because I didn’t like them… but because there were too many of them and because of the pressure coming at me from every angle. But this school year, a lot of pressure has been lifted, and I honestly hope we never go back to the way things were in certain areas in our society.

This week, in our county, all the students are being forced to stay at home and do school online again, because there is a shortage of substitute teachers – because teachers are getting sick. But, teachers who are not sick, will still go into school buildings and teach online students from their classrooms. I am not happy that the students that I DO have in-person this semester will be at home, because I do enjoy having them in my classroom. But, at the same time, THIS WEEK, I kind of am relieved that they will be at home, because of the heightened political tension, and personally it takes some stress and pressure and worry off of me. I don’t think anything terrible will happen, but it still gives me relief somehow.

I have a feeling that I will be lonely this week, all boarded up in my classroom by myself. But, I bought an electric tea kettle and tea paraphernalia for my classroom last week. I bought them so that I wouldn’t have to run out to get tea or coffee, or walk down to the weak-powered microwave in the storage closet at the end of the hall to heat up water. But, I realize, too, that this week at least I will have the comfort and company of tea in my classroom, and if I make an effort at some Facetime calls to loved ones, (and if I make a different kind of effort to hear from the Holy Spirit), that ought to help to stave off the loneliness. (I think you all may just be one of the ones I call this week during a planning period or a lunch block.)

Well, let me close this letter for now, until next time. Once again, happy birthday, and I love you so much!

I’m Going to Put in the Work

I am going to sore muscles, leg aches,
worn down Brooks from pounding up and down my neighborhood streets
on most days of the week in preparation for running a 5k in at least 30 minutes.
It may or may not happen in February, during my school’s annual
Stampede in the Park that supports the cross country team.
We’ll see. I’m going to put in the work.

I’m going to my kitchen table, Dunkin’ Donuts,
or my favorite seat on the firm couch, for Time To Write
a letter to grandparents, a poem, a few paragraphs of my fairy tale, and spiritual encouragement, at least once a week for each of those.
I’m going to growing my audience, because I just want to write, and for it to make a difference in someone’s life. I’m going to put in the work

I’m going to consistent quiet mornings, and moments whenever I can,
with black coffee nearby and Bible notebook in hand.
I’m going to “Our Father in heaven… your kingdom come… give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts… and deliver us from the evil one” because all needs are covered in this prayer and His is the glory forever, and with Him, I’m going to put in the work

I’m going to free my hummingbird often – that freedom-loving male –
and call my friends, instead, when I need to lament,
and we’ll go for a run, a walk, a climb, and let all our woman-energy out.
And I’m going to snuggle next to the little ones – who are not so little anymore,
with our own bought copies of Dogman, The Wide-Awake Princess,
Unofficial Minecraft graphic novels, Teen/YA, and books galore, and
read aloud with crazy voices, because kids who have books in their homes and parents who read aloud, do well in school. I’m going to put in the work.

I am going all out with independent reading, student interest and their goals,
because autonomy is motivating, and I need motivated, interested students
who will actually learn something and grow because they want to. I’m going to meet
the minimum requirements – squeeze them in somewhere – and spend the majority
of my energy interested in their lives and what they’re interested in.
I’m going to show them my own writing, reading, and struggle, and
give real feedback, answer their every question with patience – Holy Spirit help me – with smiles, and reply “my pleasure” to their “thank you”. I’m going to put in the work.

I’m going to put in the work each day, because I’m learning from running
that when I put in the work, step-by-painful, tedious step, that
at the end of the day – at the close of the year, I will be stronger, faster,
I will have the product I was working toward because
I decided now that I’m going to put in the work.

The above poem is in response to Teach Write’s Time To Write January 2021 challenge. The challenge was to write a poem in the same spirit as George Ella Lyon’s Where I’m From poem. Instead of writing about our past and the stuff we are made of, the challenge focused on Where I’m Going, and challenged me to think about my goals for 2021 and beyond.

If you’re a teacher of writers (or a writer… you don’t have to be a teacher) and you’re looking for a supportive group of other writers to encourage you along your writing journey, check out Teach Write.

Prayer in Real Time

Amidst the prayers that seemed to me
all over the place, at least there was one
prayer that I could pray, which, was to stay –
to remain focused. I could at least focus on that prayer.

And I focus on it now, as I carry on from
an intense battle. I offer up my meager prayer,
knowing that all it takes is a mustard seed
and I don’t have to muster strength.

Help me, Father, to carry on in this momentum
of depending on you and in expectation of nudges
from you on a daily, meal-by-meal basis, because
just as I need food and water, I need your word and life.

Help me to focus. Help me to carry on in this momentum.

Dear Gramma,

Sunday, January 10, 2021

So, I want to make a habit of writing in order to catch you up on what’s going on in the Oyerinde world. Or, if that’s too boring, to let you know what’s going on in my mind – which could be more exciting than the reality of my life.

I was told that you like to read. Since I like to write, and you like to read, then I thought we’re a perfect match – except that I like to read, too, and would love to read something from you, too, every once in a while. (I did enjoy reading your letters you used to write and send.)

Speaking of writing, I joined a writing group in October last year, (which I think will really help me to keep up writing to you). It’s a teacher writer’s group. We meet online through Zoom for “Time To Write” several times a week. It’s a group that is mostly made up of teachers, who teach writing, and who are trying to be better writing teachers by being writers first. Us writing teachers tend to neglect our writing life, and that’s no good, we’ve discovered. How can we really teach writing if we ourselves don’t write?

Some arrogant, spoiled and irresponsible people in society like to say the following about teachers: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” The thing is that “those who can’t”, actually can, but it’s just that we have to make a living, because we have ourselves and a family to support – we can’t be starving, irresponsible artists, divorcing our spouses and abandoning our children, bumming off of our parents and social security.

And so the thing is, is that as teachers, it’s hard to find time to write. So, that’s what this group is for. It’s a group where (mostly) teachers meet together for a time to write… and that’s what it’s called, too: Time To Write. We don’t just write, though. We set goals out loud, encourage each other, and get ideas and challenges from each other. Being a part of the group costs money every month (because we CAN pay money, because we have JOBS, because we are RESPONSIBLE), and so there are other perks. But, these are the only ones I’ve taken advantage of right now.

I am looking forward to being a part of the group for the next six months – I have committed by a subscription. So, I imagine that I’ll be at Dunkin’ Donuts or at my kitchen table every Saturday morning for the next six months, from 9:30 to 11 AM. (And then probably tap, tap tapping away at the keyboard, somewhere in my home, at various other times throughout the week when we meet.)  

Because of the pandemic, as I’m sure you know, there are not a lot of places open to the public for sit-down dining. Dunkin’ Donuts is one of the rare places open around here, and so I’ve been going there on Saturdays. It’s not ideal, as they have their annoying “Dunkin’ Radio” playing way too loudly, with all kinds of cheesy and obnoxious advertisements playing in between contemporary radio hits. But, I’ll take what I can get when I need to get away from the kids, so I can focus.

I would normally love to go to a nearby local coffee shop called Alcove Coffeehouse. (Mom and dad discovered it when they visited here one time, and they got me hooked on it.) But, they are not open for sit-down dining at this time. (I hope their business can survive through this pandemic. I suppose I could help them by at least going to pick up a coffee and bringing it home.) It’s a nice little coffee shop, overlooking a serene little lake, and offering a quiet, social and study atmosphere along with locally roasted coffee and other miscellaneous breakfast and lunch items. I do miss going to that place.

I miss being able to freely take the kids to different places. We had been going to the indoor trampoline park, the public library, and other public places before the pandemic. For now, the only outings we take are to the different nearby outdoor parks and to church. I sometimes take one or two of the kids with me to the store, but I don’t take all four of them because they’re hard to control and it stresses me out. I’m kind of a pansy and don’t have the energy or the gumption to beat them into perfect orderliness.

Anyhow, I am going to stop here for now. I hope I’ve not made you bored with my thoughts.

How’s the weather? Do you get out much?

I miss you and Grampa, and I’m hoping and praying for a chance to come visit you again soon.

Poetry

Teach Write has got me
writing gratitude haikus:
it’s reviving me.

Ella Lyon’s book’s
gone unread on my shelf, but
now’s its time for me.

Which led my mind to
my Poetry subscription:
high-minded wasteland.

I cancelled, and bought
instead, Oliver, Collins,
and Julie L. Moore.

Husband listened as
I talked poetry, then asked
how it solves problems.

Gratikus provoke
gratitude in me – help me
see and innovate.

Poetry, done right,
could show us the Kingdom way –
show the King has come.

During the month of November, I will be joining Teach Write in the #Gratiku challenge, in which we write and share a gratitude haiku (or other poemish piece) every day in November. I may not write every day, but I will certainly try my best.

If you’re a teacher of writers (or a writer… don’t have to be a teacher) and you’re looking for a supportive group of other writers to encourage you along your writing journey, check out Teach Write.

Evening Running Companion

The light that governs
the night, looking like God’s thumb
nail, shines low through trees.

#Gratiku

During the month of November, I will be joining Teach Write in the #Gratiku challenge, in which we write and share a gratitude haiku (or other poemish piece) every day in November. I may not write every day, but I will certainly try my best.

If you’re a teacher of writers (or a writer… don’t have to be a teacher) and you’re looking for a supportive group of other writers to encourage you along your writing journey, check out Teach Write.

After-Work To-Do List

Ran three miles with
speed intervals after work.
Prep for 5k run.

Chicken pot pie from
farmers market for dinner:
another task done.

Little girl wants a
workout partner for P.E.:
bonus task of fun.

Print out non-fiction
articles about dogs and
read with youngest son.

Prepped half of lesson
on eClass, then brain mush
and I just want to write.

Three and a half, and
bonus tasks, out of seven:
it’s better than none.

During the month of November, I will be joining Teach Write in the #Gratiku challenge, in which we write and share a gratitude haiku (or other poemish piece) every day in November. I may not write every day, but I will certainly try my best.

If you’re a teacher of writers (or a writer… don’t have to be a teacher) and you’re looking for a supportive group of other writers to encourage you along your writing journey, check out Teach Write.

The Weekend

Saturday:
Waffles for kids, then
Time To Write for myself, then
kids, kids, husband, run.

Sunday:
Join the stage, grab my
guitar. Choristers next. Sound
check. Plink, chord, sway, sing.

Monday:
Monday: my mind in
low gear. The weekend was work.
I need a day off.

During the month of November, I will be joining Teach Write in the #Gratiku challenge, in which we write and share a gratitude haiku (or other poemish piece) every day in November. I may not write every day, but I will certainly try my best.

If you’re a teacher of writers (or a writer… don’t have to be a teacher) and you’re looking for a supportive group of other writers to encourage you along your writing journey, check out Teach Write.