Handle with Care

60. Handle With Care: Write about a very fragile or delicate object.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

OUCH!

Having children under the age of five can be exhausting.

Our three-year-old is especially… Physical.

We’re pretty sure he’s at least bruised (if not broken) Chico’s ribs. The other day, after spending an afternoon in the play room with him, I felt like I’d been in a full-out brawl.

He doesn’t stop jumping on me, climbing on me, and otherwise being ALL-OUT ON ME.

The Kato to my Inspector Clouseau

The other day, when describing this state of affairs to my friends, one of them said,

“So, he’s the Kato to your Inspector Clouseau?”

It took me a second, because it’s been years and years since I’ve seen any of the Peter Sellers “Pink Panther” movies. Then I started laughing until I had tears in my eyes.

Yes! That is EXACTLY IT!

Yup. This is pretty much how it goes in our house.

Mama is Fragile!

I feel this is very true today.

I had a dermatologist appointment, and different parts of me were frozen, sliced, prodded, pressed, scraped, squeezed and sewn up.

The last time I had any kind of anesthetic was in childbirth three years ago, and everyone feels pretty drained after giving birth.

When the dermatologist told me this morning that I might feel tired and woozy after having a local anesthetic, I mentally brushed her off.

By noon, however, I had realized what she meant.

It’s probably age catching up with me (like it’s been doing for a while, now), but man! I feel completely drained.

Handle With Care

I’m lucky to have natural strength. I’m no delicate flower. But I’ve been particularly struck in the last few weeks at how my body, while still incredibly strong, experiences stresses differently.

Whether it’s the stress of lack of sleep, an attack-child, or a local anesthetic. My body feels these more acutely, and seems more sensitive than in former years.

This is why I am that much more grateful that I have taken the step of adding exercise to my routine.

With this small change of 30 minutes every couple of days, I feel more equal to the physical demands of parenthood, and of life in general.

My body is naturally powerful. Now, it feels like that power can be sustained. And it feels amazing.

Memory Lane

52. Memory Lane: What does Memory Lane look like? How do you get there?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Today, a piano is taking me down Memory Lane.

I can hear my mother nagging me to practice piano as a child. I can see the little upright we had in my childhood home. I can hear my brother playing “The Entertainer.”

Fast forward nearly twenty years since I last had a piano lesson. A piano has fallen in my lap.

(Not literally.)

Friends were clearing some things out of their home and offered us their old spinet piano. It hasn’t been tuned in twenty years, but hey! It’s a free piano!

Well, turns out nothing is really free.

The tuner came in on Tuesday and opened it up. I heard a tentative clearing of the throat.

“Jane…? I need to ask you a question.”
“Yes?” I said.
“Did you spend any money to move this piano here?”
“No… Why?”
“Well there’s that, at least.”

The bass bridge is cracked and there’s what looks like mold in the bottom of the piano.

Essentially, the piano sounds like crap and will always sound like crap unless we pay about $800 to repair the bridge. Even then, the sound is nothing special.

The question is, is the piano worth this much?

The tuner was wonderful. She didn’t charge me for coming out, and she gave outlined three possibilities:

  1. We repair the crack in the bridge ($800 as previously mentioned).
  2. We ignore the crack in the bridge, tune the piano and know that it won’t be a stable tune and the crack could get worse.
  3. We replace the piano.

We looked around a bit online at Craig’s list and Facebook marketplace to see what was on offer. Turns out, a lot of people are trying to get rid of pianos for free (since they know whoever takes them will have to pay professionals to move them).

It also turns out that people who are trying to get rid of pianos are happy to open them up and send me pictures of the instrument’s innards.

So now I’ve identified a promising piano. I know how much it would cost to get it here and to haul out the old one. I know how much it would cost to get the new (old) piano tuned up and repaired.

The question is:

How much am I willing to spend on a “free” piano?

And all because I want to remember how to play?

Sunrise, Sunset

51: Sunrise/Sunset: The sun comes up, the sun goes down. It goes round and round. Write something inspiring about the sunrise or sunset.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Do I have to write something inspiring? Can’t I just write something inspired by the sunrise or sunset?

Not Inspired (or Inspiring)

Why is it, that instead of feeling inspired by today’s writing prompt, I feel annoyed? “[The sun] goes round and round.” No, it does not! The EARTH goes round and round! What are you, a flat-earther? Do you believe the solar system is geocentric??

Anyway. I’m going to use today’s prompt as a kick-off into a subject that is pressing on my mind right now.

At Sunset Last Night…

Our local school board had convened and was debating.

They were debating whether or not to go back on their plan to offer both hybrid and 100% distance learning for Fall 2020, and to offer only 100% distance.

The superintendent had come out with a recommendation to cancel the hybrid learning option and go to only 100% distance learning, despite pressure from the white house.

By Sunrise Today…

The school board had voted. For the school year starting in September, our kids will all be staying home.

As I wrote earlier this month, I had agonized over the choice between 100% distance and hybrid learning for our rising kindergartener.

Now, I’m just annoyed that they put me through that emotional upheaval, only to remove the options.

Through the Wringer

Did we all really have to ride that rollercoaster? Was that absolutely necessary? Did I have to spend those days anxiously doubting? Did I have to shed those tears?

Nope. Turns out I didn’t.

I’m not going to criticize the school board’s decision. The decision is what it is, and given the state of things, hardly surprising.

But I am ticked off that they didn’t just make this call earlier and spare us the headache and trouble.

No One Knows

And yes, I know, I know. No one really knows what’s going to happen. But numbers have been going back up for a while now, and health experts have been warning that we’re not even out of the first wave, much less into the second.

So yeah, this is probably the right call. But it could have been made much earlier and at much less anxiety to parents had everyone just agreed to trust public health experts in the first place.

Anyway

That’s all I really have to say. Nothing new. Nothing inspiring. Just that at sunset last night, we thought things were going one way. By sunrise this morning, we learned they’re going another.

And I now have this song stuck in my head:

You’ll be singing it all day, too now. You’re welcome!

The Joke

49. Joke Poem: What did the wall say to the other wall? Meet you at the corner! Write something inspired by a favorite joke.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

A good joke is honest.

I find things funniest when they are unexpected, blunt and have a strong element of truth.

The Beginning of Life

A Catholic priest, a Protestant priest and a Rabbi are arguing about the beginning of life.

The Catholic priest says, “Life begins at conception!”

The Protestant priest says, “No, no! Life begins at birth!”

The Rabbi looks at his colleagues in wonder and says, “Are you kidding? Life begins when the kids move out of the house and the dog dies.”

Lost in Translation

As a mother of young children, I can definitely see the truth in that joke.

But it’s a rare joke that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers. The joke above would probably not seem all that funny to my family in Spain. While some of the jokes they tell are completely lost on me.

And that got me thinking…

About Monty Python

Because Monty Python is funny in whatever language. Am I right? Of course I’m right.

Written in the Stars

48. The Stars: Take inspiration from a night sky. Or, write about a time when “the stars aligned” in your horoscope.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

I swear this story is true.

I don’t really believe in “signs”. I’ve never read my horoscope or bothered much about fate or superstition.

(Except I think it’s a scientifically proven fact that bad stuff happens in threes.)

A-Courtin’

About ten years ago now, my Chico and I had just started dating.

We went to restaurants, for walks, picnics, to concerts.

We watched Spain blaze its way to victory in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and ended the night of the final dancing in a fountain with every other Spaniard in Geneva.

By mid-July, though we had only started dating in April, it was pretty clear to me that this man was very special.

A Separation

But I was getting set to leave. I was headed to the UK to do a one-year masters program.

We also learned that summer that my Chico would be moving to Montreal the following year.

It was time to make some big decisions:

Was I serious about this guy or not?

The Truth

Alright, alright, since I swore at the top that this story is true, I cannot lie to you now.

By mid-July not only was it clear that this man was special, but we had also explicitly said that we were meant for each other and that I’d join him in Canada after I finished my MA.

So no real tension there.

BUT! There was a sign!

Our last weekend together in Switzerland before I left for the UK, we spent up in the Jura. We cycled by a mountain lake, and finished the day with a delicious dinner in a cozy mountain inn.

After dinner we took a walk.

If you’ve ever spent the night in the mountains, you know just how dark it gets. And consequently, just how bright the stars are.

Wrapped up in sweaters and each other, we gazed skyward. My Chico is an astronomy enthusiast, and helped me spot some of the constellations I didn’t know.

We found Arcturus, the brightest star in the summer sky. I remember feeling warm with contentment despite the chilly mountain air.

Chico turned to walk back to the inn, but I lingered for a moment. In that brief instant, I saw a shooting star streak across the sky.

It was like a private sign from the heavens:

He’s the one.

Ten years later, he still is.

Foreclosure

Back to the writing prompts for Day 21. After writing this I realized it’s not so much about someone who has lost their home as it is about a fictional version of me.

21. Foreclosure: Write a poem or short story about someone who has lost or is about to lose their home.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“I thought the state had put a stop on mortgage payments and foreclosures during the pandemic?”

“I thought so, too.”

We stood at the curb, looking at the house. It looked like any number of the houses in the surrounding neighborhood. Probably four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms. It was set into a hill, so like the nearby houses it had a walk-out basement. The front was brick, but we knew it to be decorative. All these houses are made of wood. A little portico covered the front step and a walkway led from the front door to a two-car garage, attached to the house. If I had to guess, I’d think it probably cost about $650,000. I’d seen other houses in the area for sale on Zillow.

Unlike the houses around it, a sign was sticking out of the front lawn. FOR SALE. Nothing unusual about that.

What was heartbreaking was the smaller sign dangling from the large one, with one very telling word: FORECLOSURE.

We often walked through this neighborhood. We would leave our development where we rented a townhouse and walk the leafy streets lined with single family homes.

This was the first time we’d seen a sign like that.

As we waited for our kids to catch up, we wondered about what was going on behind that front door, on the other side of those curtains. Just visible around the side of the house was a play set—slide, swing, seesaw. A glance at an upstairs window showed pink curtains, the back of a teddy bear’s head propped against the pane. One garage door was open, and we could see two children’s bikes inside. They were about the same size as the ones our children were riding on.

It was terrifying to see how very much like us this family was.

Maybe we’d passed them on one of our walks. Had we nodded politely, each family stepping off the path on either side to let the other pass? Had we intervened to stop the children from getting too close to each other?

I looked at that horrible word: FORECLOSURE. Are they legally obliged to put that on the sign? Why else would they hang it there like a badge of shame? Broadcasting your misery to all your neighbors. It seemed to me like adding insult to injury.

We walked on. I put my hand in my husband’s and gave it a squeeze. “There but for the grace of God go we,” I whispered.

He gave my hand what I thought was supposed to be a reassuring squeeze.

Hopelessly Addicted

16. Addict: Everyone’s addicted to something in some shape or form. What are things you can’t go without?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Tea. I cannot go without tea.

Can this article be done?

What, you need further explanation? Fine.

Coffee vs Tea

Think of coffee. It has caffeine, it gives you that boost you need to kickstart your day. Its bitter flavor and strong smell combine to activate your get-up-and-get-going mode.

Now think of tea. (I am speaking, naturally, of the only tea worth drinking. That is Yorkshire Tea, produced by Taylor’s of Harrogate, Yorkshire. If you disagree, stop reading immediately and just go away.)

Sure, it doesn’t have as much caffeine as coffee. And it doesn’t have the energizing smell of coffee. And though it can be bitter if left to brew too long, it doesn’t have the same tangy bitterness as coffee.

So what is so wonderful about it?

Simply everything.

Tea Time is Me Time

My best friend once told me that life gets 10% better when you put the kettle on. Time and again, I have found this statement to be true.

In these times of social isolation and spending seemingly endless days at home, the one thing that lifts my spirits without fail is when I hear my beloved husband put the kettle on to make me a cup of tea.

(A quick side note to say that the saintly man does not even drink tea himself, but he brews a mean cup of tea. He’s got it down to a science, and now I almost prefer a cup of his brewing to my own. He also seems to have a sixth sense for knowing exactly when I need a cup of tea.)

Tea, since it’s made with boiling water, is much hotter than coffee and stays warm longer. When your tea is ready, you know that you have probably 10 to 15 minutes to enjoy it while it is still warm.

That’s 10 or 15 minutes for you to sip, close your eyes, and enjoy the warmth spreading through your mouth, down your throat and into your belly. The warmth then spreads from your core, slowly through your body, finally reaching your outer extremities. You curl your toes in response to it, and inevitably you take a deep breath and let out a sigh of contentment.

Characteristics of Tea

Just the act of wrapping your hands around a warm mug of tea is addictive. The calm that then descends on me in that moment is what I crave.

Coffee tastes like a swift kick in the butt saying, “Get up! Get to work!” But tea… Tea tastes like a best friend saying, “Come on over and sit a spell.” It’s inviting, it’s kind. It’s comforting and caring.

It also stains your teeth something fierce. Oh, well. I guess that’s the price of addiction.

What One Week of Writing Has Taught Me

I never thought I’d get to seven straight days of writing! Go me!

*Pauses to give herself a nice pat on the shoulder.*

I do hope to continue–I’ve already read today’s writing prompt and I’ll mull over it throughout the day until I can sit down this evening and write.

But I’ve already observed a few things thanks to this daily writing exercise, so I thought I’d hash them out.

You don’t have to feel creative

I can’t say I ever really feel creative. What does that mean? I mean I’m not a very artistic person, I’m not a creative type.

Even when I’m knitting, which is arguably a very creative pursuit (you are, after all, quite literally creating something), to me it just feels like I’m following directions from the pattern. I am giving form to someone else’s creativity.

And yet, I have been able to sit down and write on a daily basis. I still don’t feel like I’m being particularly creative, as I’m mostly basing what I write very loosely on my own experience (except for the rocket ship to the moon. I’ve never been on a rocket ship to the moon).

Takeaway: you don’t have to feel creative to be creative. You just have to do it.

I feel the limitations of my vocabulary

Though I read a lot and as an English teacher I have expanded my vocabulary quite a bit, I still feel limited when I sit down to write.

Maybe it’s that words fail me, or perhaps it’s that lack of creativity that I feel that has me sometimes searching for the right language.

(Anyone who has spent time with me knows all too well that words usually come to me with absolutely no difficulty.)

I have a feeling that practice will help this.

My comfort zone has become very clear

I’m definitely more comfortable writing from my own experience. Even if it’s a fictionalized version of my experience, I like to have something to base myself on.

That’s why I found the Day 7 prompt about a rocket-ship going to space to be quite challenging. I even felt a little silly and self-conscious writing it. It seemed so far beyond me.

But I suppose that’s the point of the exercise!

More to come!

As I (hopefully) continue this exercise, I’m sure I’ll learn more. I have a feeling, though, that while certain prompts may be a challenge, the practice of writing every day should make the process easier.

Just like regular exercise makes running easier, or speaking a language every day makes you more fluent, writing daily will make me a better writer.

Here’s hoping!

salsa-dancing-birthday-girl

The Salsa Dancing Birthday Girl

This is the fourth in a series of essays based on a writing prompt.

4. Dancing: Who’s dancing and why are they tapping those toes?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“I’M SORRY I CAN’T SALSA DANCE!”

“COMO?”

“I SAID, I CANNOT DANCE SALSA!”

“THEN WHY ARE YOU IN A SALSA CLUB?!”


Why indeed?

I’d been asking myself the very same question since I’d paid ten euros to get in the door. I asked it as we pushed through the crowd. The music was deafening, the atmosphere hot and stuffy. It smelled like booze, sweat and body odor. It almost made you wish they hadn’t recently banned smoking in clubs.

The place was a maze. Open staircases going up and down, doors leading to smaller, more intimate rooms, the bar, the toilets (never, EVER go to the toilets). Our leader seemed to know where she was going, though, so we sharpened our elbows and pushed on, following as closely as we could through the mass of people.

We climbed a sticky staircase that lead up to what I can only assume was the holy of holies. Huge windows went from floor to ceiling, dimmed lightbulbs encased in class spheres hung suspended from the ceiling at artfully varied heights. The floor was wooden, polished with use in the middle. It was the top floor of the club, the huge dance hall, open only to people who actually knew what they were doing.

Why, oh why was I here?

Upon closer inspection, there seemed to be plenty of other people if not as clueless as me, at least as awkward. The onlookers gathered close to the walls and the bar, leaving a large oval open space in the middle of the room. That oval was where only true dancers dared to tread. And boy, did they dance.

All eyes were turned to them, and everyone watched in awe as couples twirled and spun, the men masterfully making the women look amazing, the women moving like goddesses. In spite of my Irish, Scottish and German blood, my hips started to sway.

That’s when I was accosted.


“THEN WHY ARE YOU IN A SALSA CLUB?!”

“WELL…”

…How could I explain? I was brought here by force? Peer pressure? I shrugged weakly, shook my head and gave what must have been a pathetic grimace.

It turns out the young man couldn’t dance much, either. In halting Spanglish, he told me he had taken a couple of salsa classes, and he would be happy to show me the basic steps. My companions were between us and the dance floor, craning their necks to see and be seen. They were close enough that I felt safe, and so in a corner of that temple to salsa, he shyly took my hands and we started to move.

Despite some treading on toes and awkward giggling, we had gotten into what could pass for a groove when suddenly the music changed. A salsa version of “Happy Birthday” began to play, and we all crowded closer to the dancefloor to see what was happening.

A plump young woman in tight black pants and a teal tank top was dancing alone in the middle of the floor. Her body seemed to move in line with her own curves, smoothly and confidently. She danced with her eyes closed, a smile on her face, totally unselfconscious. Then a young man stepped out of the crowd and took her hand. There was no interruption to her movement—he simply glided in and suddenly the two of them were dancing together in what looked to be a choreographed routine. But then another man stepped forward. Seeing him, the first man smoothly passed the birthday girl’s hand to the second man, and on went the dance, as seamlessly as the first.

One by one, men stepped up and took turns dancing with her. There was never a halt, a hesitation or a misstep. I thought it couldn’t possibly be improvised—nobody dances like that! But then one of my group, a young man fancied by a girl I was with, stepped forward. I knew for a fact he didn’t know the birthday girl. And yet he took her hand and spun her around the floor.

My new salsa teacher slipped his arm around my waist as we watched, and tried to whisper (but due to the volume of the music, ended up shouting) in my ear, “You could dance as well as she does.”

I said nothing. I just gazed at her. For a brief moment, I allowed myself to believe him.