33 word challenge: Bedpost

Dyed scarlet pointe shoes dangle
forlorn
from the bedpost.

Calves cramp. Sleep is fleeting.

Tomorrow:
a thousand calorie diet,
a bruised self-image, and
a shred of hope

to be the next swan.

 

I ran across a really interesting blog that poses flash fiction challenges:  A key word (bedpost) and 33 word limit. 

Check him out!

http://ericalagan.net/2013/03/20/bedpost-33-word-flash-fiction/

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Stripping My Identity

It started with a girl.  It always starts with a girl.

Amazed

Julia and Max in Amazed

In the summer between my 8th grade and freshman year of high school, my then girlfriend was in a community theater production of Gypsy. She asked if I wanted to help move the sets. Of course. This was prime opportunity to spend multiple evenings in a row with my girlfriend. Score. For whatever reason, the director asked me to say a line during a set change:  “Take it all off!”

That was my debut. My first appearance on stage was in the dark, moving a table, asking a beautiful woman to take her cloths off. Of course I was hooked. Little did I know what that actually meant.

Over the next four years, four very important, very patient individuals created a monster. John, Sue, Dave, and Maria took a leap. By high school graduation I was infected: theater had to be part of my life. But I went to college with a realistic attitude: theater was for fun, I was there to get a job. So I did nothing for a year. It was miserable. That summer, Dave and Maria took me back, gave me wings, and sent me away from the comfort of my home. I was performing up to 9 shows a day two and a half hours away and loving every single second of it.

Pajama Game

Pajama Game

Community theater was reintroduced to me in college, and it was there I met my savior: Carma. A costumer/college academic advisor, she found me, recruited me, changed me. She found a way to link all I loved into one pretty package. Reading, writing, theater, helping people. All these combined to create me, a high school drama teacher. I officially made the switch: finding my home in Ball State’s AC building, dividing my time between the theaters and the fourth floor.

Cam and Whitney in The Curious Savage

Cam and Whitney in The Curious Savage

I was not successful in college theater. I didn’t try very hard because I was too insecure, too scared. I had convinced myself that I could never measure up to these people I secretly idolized. I crossed the stage occasionally: never significant, never memorable. I eventually found comfort in the fringes of tech, where obsessive compulsive and perfectionist tendencies equal respect (but not notoriety). Though I existed next to my heroes, I never really felt at home. For the majority of the time I think my identity was Ric’s friend, not me.

Upon graduation, in a spontaneous conversation with my stage manager, Meggan, she suggested I ask her high school if I could take over the program. I knew this wasn’t the way you get a teaching job, but after roughly 15 interviews in Indiana, Ohio, California and Texas, I ended up right there, in her high school. It was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Laura in Exit the Body

Laura in Exit the Body

Marie was my partner in crime for the first 9 years.
As I sift through photographs, I am at a loss for words. Together we created magic out of masking tape, Goodwill treasures,  latex paint and late nights. We mounted production after production, choreographed dance after dance, and reused the same tired platforms and flats to build alternate worlds, transporting our audiences out of a cafeteria and into far off places. I continued for another 4 years without her, and though both Billy and TJ have been fantastic,  it just hasn’t quite been the same since she left.

So it is with a heavy, sentimental heart that I have decided to hang up my director hat at the end of this year.  After 13 years of working 60 hour weeks, and mounting 40 productions, I can officially say that the time has come.

Pippin

Jordan and Cameron in Pippin

There are things I will never forget:  Cool Ranch Doritos and Diet Coke, Dr. Pepper Jelly Beans, forgetting the time change and taking Dan home at 1:30 in the morning after hanging lights, a decorated tent and cast serenade after our 5 year anniversary remarriage ceremony, the dimmers catching fire, Senior circle and the breaking of the glass, wrestling mats on the stage, my daughter’s first steps, the lobster, locking up the Harry Potter books so people would stop reading, Game Time, and opening nights spent sitting on the filing cabinet in the back of the auditeria discussing with Marie the next one. I could list these all night.

But what I will never ever forget are the hundreds of students who changed my life. You gave my life worth. You made me feel like I was good at something. Often you were the only friends I had. You were, and still are, a huge part of my life.

That is what I fear most. Losing that.

Drew and Devi in Seussical

Drew and Devi in Seussical

I’m scared. I feel like I am stripping my identity. In this school, in this town, this is what I am known for. I can’t even go to the grocery store without running into a student or parent of the program. I’m afraid without that I will become forgettable. Or ineffective. But I have to do what is right.  That part is not much of an art for me anymore; it’s a job.  That is why I know it is time to go.  If you live in the world of theater, that completely makes sense to you.

So thank you. Thank you for being you, bringing your talents, your passion, your baggage with you ever single day. So many of you have so kindly told me about how much I changed your life. I want you all to know how much you changed mine too.

Once on This Island

Once on This Island

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Kamm Teapot Foundation

Art by a friend of mine. All of his stuff is pretty great. You should check it out.

Derek Reeverts

The Ends Justifies the Means

 

 

 

“The End Justifies the Means” was recently purchased by the Kamm Teapot Foundation from the “Teapot Redefined” exhibit at the Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, MA

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Escape

As soon as I make the decision to finally go, the sun slips behind the cotton ball clouds. Sunshine that promised at least residual warmth has eluded me again. The wind outside whips the dry, multicolored  leaves into mini tornadoes that travel eastward down the street in front of my house. The temperature gauge reads 47 degrees. Lies. All lies. We step out of the front door,  both shiver, and I start to second guess the black mesh shorts and orange UnderArmor sweatshirt. I know the rule of thumb is to dress like it is 20 degrees warmer. I’m not sure that rule applies to today. It is downright cold.  And the lack of sun does not help.

We take off, a short bouncy jog. This is not about speed. It is about exercise. Moving. Being together.

My escape is not one place, though it can often be the same one. Most of the time, it starts at my front door and follows a path that only my feet and my state of mind allow it to pursue– sometimes 4 miles, often 5, occasionally 7 or 8 or 9.

Most of the time it is simply a neighborhood loop: nice and easy, mindless. Today it is just that.

If I run by myself, I usually listen to music. At first it was pace-pounding upbeat popular music to help me ignore the things racing through my mind. It is easy to forget with my friends Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, and Rhianna screaming nonsense in my brain. But I have graduated to slower, more mellow sounds: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, The Carpenters, and Peter, Paul and Mary. They are slower, more pensive. These songs allow me to mull over my thoughts instead of suppress them.  Though these songs have probably cost me more than a minute in pace over time, the calmness they provide far outweigh a PR in running. I’m nearly 36. I’ll never win a race. I’m never going to be good. It isn’t about that. It is about coaxing this body into movement when I swear it is genetically programmed for the opposite.

Lately I have taken to running with my wife.

We try to talk about things. It doesn’t generally last very long.  Instead we fall into a labored breathing rhythm, punctuated with heavy, slapping footsteps. Occasional grunts and comments escape our lips, fragments of where we have allowed our minds to roam in the moment. But conversations rarely ever form.

Out of respect for each other, we opt to forgo the headphones on these paired runs. And we both admit that neither of us misses them. There is something about running side by side in comfortable silence. Neither of us try too hard to entertain the other. We are just there, in tandem, escaping all the things we know we should be doing, and quickly shedding our guilt at putting ourselves first for that very moment in time.

With every deep breath exhaled, a bit more of the stress, of the frustration we feel, releases into the air around us. I don’t see our breath today, but I imagine it floating out, carrying with it all we pen up inside.

And that is my true escape: a silent run with the only person in my life where silence has finally become comfortable.

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Posted in health, life reflections, Weekly Blog Challenge

Synthetic Sunshine

 

The dull,

murmuring,

disillusioned

memory gripped my

confused conscience like a

dull and scarlet icicle.

 

I flutter. A lost, childish

soul in the perceptible tattered

grip of intellectual possession.

I am lost. Unbalanced. Cowering. Lost

 

My  elastic smile: ignorant as

an uncomplicated filthy

girl. A girl trembling in

vile synthetic sunshine.

 

You are furious.

 

Be me. I smile

anxiously

at you.

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The House of the Rising Sun

The House of the Rising Sun

My head rests gently on the plush brown carpeting in my basement.  It’s winter and it’s cold.  However, the temperature doesn’t affect my 8-year-old body like it does today. Sharp fluorescent lights fall just short of the corners of the room, precisely where my father and I are sitting. His chocolate eyes are somewhat obscured by the deep, elongated shadows.

He lounges cross-legged against the paneling wall, his battered guitar perched carefully on his thigh. He adjusts the tuners while absently plucking strings, oblivious of his present audience. He hums quietly as he works.  Suddenly he looks up, holds my gaze, and winks.

My dad was in a band.  I don’t actually remember his being in a band, and in fact, I hardly remember him ever even playing his guitar.  It generally resided on the top shelf of the storage closet in the basement, right next to my shoebox filled with his hand-drawn Christmas cards and stacks of family photo albums.  As a child, I studied those photos so religiously that the line between true and fabricated memories often blur.

One particular photo was of my dad on a stage. He was playing guitar, sporting horn-rimmed glasses and a classic white T-shirt.  An ethereal wisp of cigarette smoke constructed a halo of sorts, highlighted by the blinding cyan and magenta of the stage lights.

Tonight I get a rare private show.

He finishes tuning, lays out his music in front of him, and starts a hesitating introduction.  “There is a house…down in New Orleans.”  His fingers slide clumsily over the strings.  The sound is muddled, imprecise. But it works.  It’s almost like that is the way Dylan wanted that song to feel, slightly intoxicated, though I am positive that my father has had not a drop.  Though the music is in front of him, he never once looks at it.  Like most musicians, he quickly gets lost in the moment, eyes closed and body gently swaying to a silent internal metronome.

“…the only pleasure he gets from life, is rambling from town to town…”

I wonder if that is a lie for him.  As a child, I remember my father traveling often, though probably more than he actually did.  But I know he was both a semi-truck driver as well as a traveling salesman.  It seemed that he was never happier than when he was home.  I wonder if he actually found any pleasure whatsoever from the constant road trips, his rambling from town to town.

“Well it’s one foot on the platform, and the other foot on the train…”

Are his thoughts were similar to mine as an adult: What if?  What i—I tried to really make it?  What if—I let my art drive me instead of common sense (and fear)? What if—I threw caution to the wind instead of playing it safe?  We’ve both been in this same place in our lives: one foot rooted in security while the other one flirts with danger.

Did he–and by extension–did I make the right choice?

I think we both know the answer to that question.

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If You Really Knew Me…

This year I have started a weekly blog challenge for my freshman English classes.  They have to submit to me a blog entry to be posted in a new blog I started for them , called Real Teens Writing What They Know. Posts will start next week.  To challenge myself, I am writing the same entry each week with them.  Here is the first:

Man in Shadow

If you really knew me…

…you would know that before I was a teacher, I was a professional singer and dancer, sweating six steamy days a week for paychecks that barely covered rent and gas.

…you would know that I am the clumsiest person I know.  I frequently run into things, trip over things, knock over things, and spill things (both on the floor and myself)!

…you would know that I don’t really like most sports.  Maybe it is because I was never good at them so I avoided them.  Maybe it was because I just couldn’t understand why so many care about a game that doesn’t really matter.  Regardless, I am still amazed at how much financial and social power they hold.

…you would know that I turned down a full ride scholarship to the college my parents wanted me to go to so that I could go to the one I wanted to go to (at full price).  I stand by that decision today, even though I am still paying for it.

…you would know that I was a vegetarian in high school for an entire year because someone bet me I couldn’t do it.  I started eating meat again when she graduated.

…you would know that my wife is my best friend and the only person I feel I can truly trust.

…you would know that I think everyone deserves a second chance, but I rarely trust people enough to give thirds.  And I never forget.

…you would find that I believe all students have the ability to learn, as long as they are willing to try and occasionally fail.

…you would know that I drink Diet Coke straight out of the two-liter bottle and almost exclusively eat Cool Ranch Doritos during a show production week.

…you would know that I believe there is a correct way to fold bath towels.  And I get annoyed when people don’t do it the right way. And I have been known to refold them.

…you would know that I have ADD and Obsessive tendencies.  My perfectionism combined with my inability to focus consumes the majority of my time.  Activities others can do in minutes may take me hours.  I am also aware that I usually make things remarkably more complicated than they need to be.

…you would know that I worry every day if I am a good husband, father, and teacher.

…you would know that three years ago I started the most terrifying and difficult journey in my life, losing 130 pounds, nearly 40% of my body weight, through only diet and exercise.  Since then, I have run in 5ks, 10ks, sprint triathlons, an Olympic triathlon, half marathons, and a full marathon.  Finishing the Flying Pig might be one of my biggest accomplishments.

…you would know that I have an honest and true addiction with food that I battle every single minute of every single day, and I will have to for the rest of my life.

…you would know that I spent a large portion of high school feeling lonely, friendless, and depressed.

…you would know that I love to read, but hate to be told what to read.

…you would know that, even after all these years, I am still very insecure with my writing.

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How To Build A Better Parent

This is the first time I’ve ever re-posted a post, but this woman, Brenda, who I do no know, is one of the most concise thoughtful bloggers I have run across. This particular essay seemed to have hit me at just the right time.

Here She Is Boys

No one likes to be told what to do. (Just ask a toddler if you don’t believe me.) But that hasn’t stopped anyone and everyone from proclaiming that you are not raising your children in the correct manner. There are books which chastise you for not being more French or feline. Newsstands are chock full of glossy instructional manuals. There was a time when parenting articles were bundled with home economics and fashion articles in ladies’ magazines. That will no longer do. The magazine industry (in all its floundering glory) has produced copious parenting titles. One needn’t purchase a magazine or book however; simply turn on the computer and enter the blogosphere/chat rooms/message boards that long to be heard.

Of course many of these sites are less interested in telling you what to do and much more concerned with daily affirmation. Are you having some doubt about sleeping in the…

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Broken Collarbone= Frustration

I know that I am not the first person to break a collarbone.

In fact, on the day I went into surgery, the doctor had 3 other collarbone surgeries that morning.  Two others caused by biking accidents, one caused by a motorcycling accident.

But I’m a baby.  And I am scared.

To backtrack: I had just gone out riding with my wife for a recovery ride the day after finishing the Caesar Creek Triathlon.  It was a slow, easy ride, just moving on a hot day.

I wish I had a great story for how it happened.  I don’t.  We had just finished talking aero bars, and whether or not we thought we would like them.   I was moving down from the upper position of my handlebars into the lower position, and I think subconsciously I dropped my elbows in a way that replicated the way aero bars would feel.  At least I kind of remember that in my mind.  Next thing  I know, I was swerving and wobbling, terrified that if I fell left, I would take out Marie.  So I may have purposely fell right.  But I’m not sure.  It happened in a fraction of a second.

Next thing I know I’m on the ground. I’m guessing I was going 17mph, and hit the ground with both my shoulder and my head. I vaguely remember yelling “Shit balls”  but Marie swears I didn’t actually say anything. I remember  looking up through the trees and thinking: at least I’m in the shade.

Somehow I rolled/crawled/walked to the side of the road.  I don’t remember getting there.  I just remember lying at the side of the road instead of in the middle, and my wife telling me to “Suck it up, Alayna!”  My daughter has  a flair for the dramatic, and I know Marie was joking, trying to distract me.  But I hurt.  I actually don’t remember hurting this much ever in my life.

She decided that I need to go the emergency room.  I hate hospitals and avoid doctors whenever humanly possible.  I don’t argue with her.  I cannot move my right arm.  At all. And I have cracked my helmet.

Then the real conundrum:  what do we do?  We’re six miles from the car.  One of my shoulders is clearly lower than the other. I’m lying in pain on the side of the road; my head is just inches from the white line.  I can’t stand up.  Hell, I can’t sit up.  I have to pee.  She doesn’t want to leave me to ride back to get the car.  I can’t possibly get up and trek 6 miles on foot hauling a bike.

Marie has thought to pack her phone, thankfully, because I never do.  We call her mom.  Luckily she answers.   Logic tells me it is at least a 20 minute drive to where we are.  I swear she was there in 5.

The rest goes as expected:  ER visit. X-rays. A collarbone shattered into 10 pieces. An orthopedic specialist tells me surgery is my only option.  A lucky opening in the OR the next day.  A silly journey to Oxford for surgical clearance from my family doctor (by the same, kind mother-in-law)… And BOOM!

I’m down for the count.   I cannot do anything.  No running or biking for at least 8 weeks.  No exercise.  No using my right arm.  I can sleep in an inclined position, on my back, propped up by an army of pillows, resting.

Forget the rest of the races I’ve signed up for this season.  Or the entire first floor renovation of our house we’re in the midst of.  I must sit on my butt and rest, while my body grows a new clavicle.  Awesome.

But mostly I am just scared about my weight.  This is certainly not the way to maintain a weight loss.  I know it sounds pathetic, but at this point in my journey, I am still afraid every day of losing my motivation, and more importantly afraid of getting fat.

When I started running, I didn’t take a day off for the first 6 months.  I was afraid that if I didn’t do it, I might never come back to it.  Granted, I’d trimmed it to a more reasonable 4 times a week.  But now I’m terrified that I will put on my running shoes in six weeks, trying to run off the 20 pounds I will inevitably gain, and will  have absolutely no motivation.  I’m not sure my ego can sustain having to start over again.

For the past two and a half years I have never, ever gone more than 2 days  without exercising.  I’m now on day 17.  It is killing me.

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Posted in health, life reflections

Book Challenge Update Books 20-32

It has been a long time, and lots of things have prevented me from reading.  Now a broken collar-bone and an order to do nothing for the next month has certainly opened up my time.  So here’s the update.  Since I haven’t read some of these in a while, I’ll forgo long commentary on most of them (since Clint told me nobody reads them anyway…).

20-22. The Queen of Air and Darkness; The Ill Made Knight; The Candle in the Wind: T.H. White– I read this series with my Honors English Class.  I found it to be slow and dry often, but also felt like an honors student should have the Arthurian background.  It was a much better book to talk about and discuss than to actually read.

23. The Woods: Harlan Coben– I’ve read enough of his stuff now that it is becoming predictable.  However I still plowed through it in a day.

24. Counting on Grace: Elizabeth Winthrop– Cute piece of historical fiction regarding children working in textile factories. Great for the lower level reader.

25. The Fault in Our Stars: John Green– Love this author.  Love how he treats the mentality of teenagers suffering thorough the emotions and realities of terminal illness.  Powerful.

26. The Postcard Killer: James Patterson– My beach read.  Not to be insulting, I find Patterson to be pretty forgettable.  It has been a while and I remember precious little of this novel.  But it was entertaining.  It’s like watching an episode of Law and Order: entertaining story at the moment, but nothing so powerful that it sticks with you.

27. Looking For Alaska: John Green– Wow.  This is the one Green is known for.  I understand why.  Loved this book a lot.

28. Nickel and Dimed: Barbara Ehrenreich– I am so not into political books.  I find the agenda they attempt to expose is often overshadowed by their own agenda.  This book is kind of the same.  I saw her push for liberal unionization early on, so I couldn’t divorce the idea from what I was reading.  That being said, it made me think.  It made me think about how much we all struggle financially, and how most of us will struggle to ever come out ahead. It also made me really think about the things I buy in terms of  how many hours I had to work to buy it.  It also made me frustrated that giving up on work altogether and going on welfare is easier and more profitable than doing the right thing and working to make a living.  I don’t know how to solve it; I just know how to complain about it.

29. Deliver Us From Evil: David Baldacci I liked it at first.  His gore is always borderline too gory.  He might have crossed some lines, for me, in this book.  It was an exciting read (after I skimmed some the torture paragraphs), but the last 50 pages just turned into The Most Dangerous Game.

30. Amazed: Tony Howell Funny Play.  Directed it once. Redirecting it this fall.

31. Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradury: In honor of  Bradbury’s passing, I read my favorite book of his.  I still love it.  I think I love it more the more times I read it.  His insight into human nature, as well as his amazing predictions of the future, will make this book truly timeless.

32. The Imaginary Invalid: Moliere– One of my favorites of his.  A fun play I did at the end of the year with my classes.

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Posted in 100 Book Challenge

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