More Honest Names for College Classes 101 (aka: That Time I Let my Teens Write the Blog)

Because I’m apparently suffering from Blogger’s Block, I decided to let my 14 year-old son and my 17 year-old daughter write this blog post. They were sitting around sharing goofy titles they came up with to replace the boring titles of typical college courses. I’m sure that their imaginary university would be pretty interesting to attend!

  • How to Take Over the World (Political Science 101)
  • Destroy Anyone in an Argument by Insulting their Innate Human Tendencies (Psychology 101)
  • How to Design Buildings that Won’t Fall Down in the First 5 Minutes (Architecture 101)
  • Math, Except All the Numbers Are Replaced with Letters and Weird Symbols (Calculus)
  • How to Go to the Party Without Really Being There (Quantum Mechanics 101)
  • Mindfulness and Meditation (Mortuary Science 101)
  • How to Talk to People Because You Didn’t in High School so Now You’re Making Up for It (Communications 101)
  • How to Get One Step Closer to Ending the World (Robotics)
  • How to Be Totally Fake But Make Everyone Like You (Drama)
  • How to Have a Slim Chance of Striking it Rich but Probably go Bankrupt (Business 101)
  • How to Get Away With Blowing Up Entire Buildings (Chemistry 101)
  • How to Beat Someone in a Fight Without Violence (Dance 101)
  • Turn Your Parents’ Money into Art a 4 year-old Could Make (Art 101)
  • How to Make Everyone Mad at You (Gender Studies 101)
  • How to Relearn Your Own Language Because You Spent So Much Time Texting (English 101)
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Spile (a poem)

Spile (a poem)


Silence

your reward and punishment

for my kindness, for my love

Your silence

spreads, acid creeping through my veins

quells the muse

binds my tongue

turns my words to ash



Your spile dug deep into my wood

honeyed spirit drained in great golden drops

spilled to the cold ground

wasted

like the blood of a too-young soldier

branches pale, leeched of life

Silence

grows like vines

webbing around me, a metal tomb

and I trapped within

my love for you

the melody

that plays on and on

drowning out your

silence

Two Small Words (a poem)

Today

The universe breathed your name

(the car you drive

the foods you eat

a sport you love)

and two small words

Hey you.

So tiny, innocent

written by the wrong hand

but in my mind

your voice

as clear as a summer sky

shines over the desert

that familiar lilt and cadence

Hey you.

The sweet, sharp heartache

of missing home

tiny razor nicks

Hey you.

Your strong arms around me

the wind carrying your scent

on two words

like wings

Where’s the Story? (aka: A Flash Flood of Flash Fiction)

First, let me make one thing clear. Not all flashes are bad. Some flashes are even good, in fact. Flash drives, for instance, help us to protect our sensitive data. The Flash, I’ve been told, is a pretty fast superhero. And let’s not forget my favorite flash of all: Flash Beagle.

 

But some kinds of flashes earn a thumbs-down. These are brief, destructive flashes that appear, unwanted, leaving destruction in their wake. Flash floods. Hot flashes. Flashes of lightning. And now, the latest trend to takeover the blogosphere: Flash Fiction.

No, I am not a big fan of flash fiction.

What I am a fan of is fiction. Well-written fiction. Convincing fiction that has all of the requisite elements for a good story. An interesting beginning. Compelling characters. An actual plot, climax, resolution. And, of course, a satisfying ending.

Short stories can often accomplish this, if the writer is clever enough. I have read some wonderful short stories by authors great and small, who manage to weave a web of intrigue with a clear beginning, middle, and end in 5,000 words or less. But my personal preference is novels. Give me the thick, juicy, unabridged version of the story. Let me become absorbed in the story, swimming in the delicious stew of words and action. Let me escape to that other world, lose track of days as I drift through the pages. Let me fall in love with the characters as they grow, and learn, and change.

Just don’t give me flash fiction.

The premise of flash fiction is not new. Take a complete story. Now tell it in 1,000 words or less. Or try writing in Dribbles and Drabbles of less than 500 or less than 100 words. Shortest of all? Micro fiction, told in 6 word sentences. For example: Her expensive lingerie collected dust afterwards.

“Oh, how moving!” One blog reader may comment. “So thought-provoking!” Comments another. But I grit my teeth, frustrated. What is so thought-provoking? Why are we calling “stories” what we once called an opening line? Why have so many non-writers jumped on the flash fiction bandwagon, turning the world of blogging into one enormous slush pile?

Yes, flash fiction can serve as a way to strengthen one’s writing skills. And once in a blue moon, I come across some that features high quality writing. But most of the flash fiction, micro-fiction, and other Twitterature I have come across on the internet are junk. Sure, they sometimes have a stand-out character, or a beginning that makes me want to read a little more. But then…nothing. The story never builds. The characters never grow. There is a shadow of a plot, or a unique idea, but the writer, either due to laziness or lack of skill, doesn’t bother to develop it.

Sometimes, I’m tempted to pull on my Miss Snark high heels and walk all over these so-called stories. “Who is this character?” I would ask. “Why did she buy the expensive lingerie? What happened to make her stop wearing it?” In other words — WHERE’S THE STORY? Is this a kind of journal exercise? Am I supposed to take the idea and write my own damned story?

Forget it. I am so done. I shall go and stick my nose where it belongs — between the pages of a nice, long novel.

I can only hope that flash fiction blogging is nothing more than a flash in the pan.

Wings (aka: Two Poems on a Winter’s Day)

Ode to a Caterpillar

 

Oh little caterpillar

who brought such color to the world!

How I remember

tiny fingers grasping

heavy Mason glass

swift

ready to catch, to observe

the free ones

the ones with wings

the ones who flew.

So much you learned, as you curled

safe

in your small, loved home

until today

fragile walls tearing loose

open crack of wide, wide blue

cupped in hands

to test new wings.

Oh butterfly

this world is yours.

caterpillar-to-butterfly

 

Night Angels

 

Eyes lifted toward darkened skies

strapped warm in leather womb

hushed voices mingle with

steady drone.

There I see it

flash of copper light

brief sight of wingless angel

flying in the night.

Warm sigh

fingers pressed, cold against glass

until

once more the darkness lifts

and angel glows.

One by one

on tall, steel legs

they dance

across the stars

halos burning in bronze glory

as my lashes droop

beneath watchful eyes.

street-lamps-shining

Three Poems on Tuesday

Fragile dawn

All the Things We Cannot Keep

Now I lay me down to sleep

dream of sunshine, little sheep

downy dandelion bed

angels dancing ‘round your head

 

Dawn will break before you know

bathe the world in scarlet glow

one by one the stars they fade

as daylight burns the window shade

 

Time will cut the nursery lock

restless feet must take their walk

leave behind the dusty lap

set your compass, draw your map

 

Garden walls shall not constrain

hold the clouds until they rain

push the wind until it blows

keep the seed until it grows

 

Sunrise pinks and palest blue

crystal drops of early dew

lingering dreams as morning creeps

all the things we cannot keep

all the things we cannot keep.

Words

What do you want from me?

More words?

Fine. Have a seat while I

boil them up

pour them steaming in your cup

then stand back

as you scald your tongue on the hot bitter black

words

Shall I melt them down like sugar

sticky and sweet

a child’s easy treat?

Or can you handle something more?

Yearning and sore

for the flowing passion

of my underground river

swift and changing current

reaching, wanting, hiding beneath the surface

in fear of your thirst?

You think this is what you want, what you need

but you never see

that I bleed

words

and that you are the form of every letter.

beware the girl in red

Beware the Girl in Red

“Go into the wood,” her mama said

then dressed her up in velvet red

placed a pail into her arms

“Beware the wolf. He means you harm.”

 

With tiptoe steps the girl made way

and left behind the light of day

weak and cautious little bird

marched to the tune of Mama’s word

 

Weary after many hours

Little Red noticed the flowers

blooming off the beaten trail

and so she paused to fill her pail.

 

It’s always off the trail, I fear

that clever wolves choose to appear

Sleek as shadows, swift as wind

He blocked her path and sniffed, then grinned

 

“Sweet and delicate little rose,”

He purred as the child froze

“Don’t you worry. What’s your haste?

I only want a little taste.”

 

Through the brambled wood she fled

But was no match for Wolfie’s tread

He swallowed her scream, devoured her cry

Then lifted his howl to the sky

 

He laid the girl beneath a tree

and shook his head in sympathy

“There’s one like me in every story

You wandered in my territory.

 

“All alone, a tempting treat

Juicy apple, red and sweet.

Beware the wolf – you should have known

Foolish child on your own.”

 

As he left her, Little Red

yanked the red cape from her head.

No more rank humiliation!

No more victim of predation!

 

With weapons fashioned from the tree

she sat and waited patiently.

As wolves strolled by, she took her aim

then made a fur coat of her game.

 

Soon wolf mamas warned their sons

“Heed my warning, little one

for many a wolf has lost his head.

You must beware the Girl in Red.”

Have a Wonderful Day (aka: Paying Forward Happiness)

wonderful day“You have a wonderful day today.”

Startled, I glanced up from my Kindle book and into the face of a fellow train passenger. “Thank you,” I said, smiling. “You too.”

The stranger flashed a friendly grin and exited the train. I felt dazed, too distracted to read my book, the unexpected and kind words echoing in my mind. You have a wonderful day today. He could have aimed those words toward any other stranger on the train, but he’d singled out me, handing me the verbal equivalent of a hand-picked daisy.

Funny how such a small gesture can change your morning. Instead of drifting to work in my usual fog of random thoughts, noticing little of the world around me, I snapped to attention. The same old scenery came to life — skyscraper windows dazzled with sunlight while strange and lovely shadows played on nearby walls. And all around me were people — ordinary people, like me, clutching their coffees and cell phones and satchels while shuffling down the sidewalks. People who may have been stuck in the same fog of thoughts that normally accompanied me on a typical morning.

What if I paid it forward?

What if I took the burst of joy that had come from a stranger’s simple words and offered the same to the next person I saw? Could I do it? Could I dare to break out of my eggshell of timidity and brighten the morning routine for another person?

Fighting back the butterflies, I studied the people who passed me on the sidewalk. One looked away. One was chatting on her phone. One marched forward, eyes trained ahead like the eye of a bullet train. My courage faltered. Maybe the timing was wrong. Maybe this wasn’t my thing. Maybe I had to find my own way to brighten another person’s day. Perhaps I could just try smiling at other people as they stepped onto the elevator. I could bring in fresh produce from my flourishing garden to share with other employees. I could be the first person to say, “Good morning,” instead of passively mumbling in response. kindness daisy giving

The point, I think, is to be mindful. The point is to keep from drifting into my fantasyland reverie and stay in the moment a little more often. Only then will I see people as they drift through the fog, and be able to offer them rays of sunshine at just the right time. Just as a kind stranger did for me on an otherwise ordinary morning.

For anyone out there who happens to be reading these words, I hope that you will have a wonderful day today.