"" Writer's Wanderings: September 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006

LPs and Vinyl Records

Whoa! Just when I was about to pitch my old LPs and 45s, CNN reports that vinyl records are becoming popular again. I didn't know there was anyone who owned record players anymore. We gave up long ago trying to find needles to replace the one turntable we had left in the attic.

Part of the story said that dance music was better on vinyl. Hmmm. Is that because they can scratch it back and forth as they rap to it? Or, that could explain why our ballroom dancing isn't as polished as it once was.

The vinyl craze seems to be spinning out of Great Britain. That makes sense. Afterall, they gave us the Beatles too. What's next though? An 8-track tape revival? Unfortunately that trend lasted about as long as Beta tape players did.

If you've wandered on to this blog and haven't a clue as to what I'm talking about, ask your parents. . .some of you may have to ask your grandparents. But I guarantee it'll be a great conversation starter and they won't lack for stories of the past vinyl/8-track/Beta era.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Prayer Power and Acceptance Letters

Last week was rainy and gray. The sun hid until Friday and even then I had to go south about 120 miles to find it. It also started out with a memorial to 9/11. Watching all those who had lost loved ones was a bit depressing. Then came the news that my daughter-in-law's grandfather had suffered a major stroke and wasn't expected to pull through.

I didn't know her grandfather--had only met him once or twice--but his stroke and her family's vigil renewed memories of my mother's death. Even though it was 22 years ago, it brought back tears. (The anniversary of her death was last week also.)

"I'm feeling as gray as the weather," I e-mailed my online writing buddies. "Having a hard time deciding what I want to write--what direction to take this week. I wish I could get just one acceptance letter for encouragement."

All were quick to cheer me on and pray but one in particular, Trish, wrote the most beautiful acceptance letter for me. It was written from God's point of view and how He accepted what I was doing for Him. My eyes filled as I read it.

I was also feeling apprehensive about major changes that are about to take place at our church. I'm getting to the age where change is a little more difficult to deal with sometimes. I talked with my writing buddies again about their churches and was encouraged by what Leslie and Cathy told me.

Toward the end of the week my spirit lifted. I made the trip to stay with my grandchildren while their mom and dad went to the funeral on Friday. They were so well-behaved and entertaining the whole day that by the time I left, I was feeling happier. Still, it was hard to see the pain of grief in my daughter-in-law's eyes.

By Sunday, I was excited about our Sunday school lesson, the antics of our pastor and Sunday school director in trying to allay the fears of change, and I was smiling comfortably as I exited the worship service. One of the members of the adult class I teach stopped me on the way out. He haltingly explained that he had been praying for me that week. He didn't know why the Lord had directed him that way but he thought I should know.

"That explains it!" I exclaimed. "It was a tough week but my attitude had surely changed by the end of it. Thanks so much."

His kindess in telling me that he had obeyed the call to pray for me was a welcome affirmation of God's love--sort of another acceptance letter.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11--Forever etched in my mind

I was seventeen. My mother had picked me up from school and we stopped at the donut shop so I could run in to get a dozen donuts to take home. The radio in the store blared the breaking news: President Kennedy had been shot. Mom said I looked as white as a sheet when I came out of the store. JFK had been an idol of sorts. The first president I learned to care about. I will never forget that weekend.

It was the morning of April 19, 1995. I was doing laundry. Two of my kids were at college. One was married and the youngest two were at school. I sat down in front of the TV to fold clothes when the breaking news of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City interrupted the morning programming. I watched in horror as people, bloodied and in shock, walked trance-like in the street until someone came to their aid. Then, the heartbreaking news: there was a daycare center in the building. How? Why? Who?

September 11, 2001. The last child would be leaving home soon. We were to spend the morning buying furniture for his apartment. Before I left, I sat in my sewing room (my daughter's old room) with a small television tuned to Good Morning America and worked on my quilting project. The phone rang. It was the church secretary with a question for me. I don't remember the question because as I turned to answer the phone, Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson announced the breaking news: a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I remembered pictures from a old newsreel I'd seen on the History Channel of the plane crashing into the Empire State Building. How odd I thought, history repeating itself.

Then the second plane hit. This was no accident. Anyone could deduce that. Why? Who? We would soon know.

I left the house, glad to have something else to do. I remembered how watching the Oklahoma City tragedy had affected me and I didn't want to experience the depths of that emotion again. . .little did I know. . .

Don and I shopped for his furniture and household supplies. Every where we went the stores were disturbingly quiet and most employees were glued to TVs or standing in the middle of aisles listening to the speakers that were filling hearts with the enormity of the tragedy.

We stopped for lunch at a pizza restaurant and I positioned myself where I could see the television. Suddenly the picture showed a tower collapsing, then the second one. When they replayed the scene I realized what I had missed in my morning's busyness. Don ate most of the pizza. In his limited mental capacity he didn't understand the implications of what was happening.

I dropped him off at home and hurried off to a funeral at church. On the way, I heard the news that the pentagon had also been attacked. I didn't realize then that overhead Flight 93 had turned away from Cleveland and headed for DC. Now a gnawing emptiness began to fill me. What did all this mean? Who? Why?

Those days immediately following were eerie. The noise of airplanes in the sky to which we had grown accustomed, suddenly was gone--the quiet was deafening. What would we do? Did this mean invasion? Did it mean, at the very least,war? Who? Why?

The whos of JFK's assassination and the Oklahoma bombing have mostly been answered as have the whos of 9/11. But the whys. . .will they ever have acceptable answers? What is it about the quest for power that drives men to kill, that drives one group of people to try to destroy another? I believe it all has to do with power--the need to control. The destruction, the death, will not stop until the need for power, for control over others is harnessed by spirits that seek peace and respect and love for each other.

Until then, I take comfort in knowing we are all in God's hands. I pray there will be no more dates like these etched in my memory.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher--Conclusion

Torn paper swung from the bulletin boards. The chalkboard was spattered with tempra paint. Broken jars of color spewed their contents onto the tiled floor. Desks were overturned and schoolbooks lay open where they had landed from their flight.

Jill's desk was still upright but books, papers, pencils, tissues, everything that had been on top of it was now heaped on the floor. In the corner behind the desk stood Cassie, her back turned to Jill.

"Cassie!" Jill felt her fury rise. As the child turned, the red ceramic apple, Jill's prized possession, slipped from her hands and shattered against the floor.

"What have you done!" Jill cried out as she surveyed the broken pieces of her dream strewn at Cassie's feet. Her face flushed and her cheeks burned.

Cassie stared at Jill and backed into the corner. She slid down the wall until she was curled into a ball, knees tight under her chin. Fear lit her eyes.

Jill started forward, frustration and anger raged. But before she reached Cassie something--the memory of another frightened little girl, made her stop. A tidal wave of tears cascaded down Jill's face. She dropped to her knees sobbing. Slowly she began picking up the broken ceramic pieces.

Cassie peered over her knees at Jill. Cautiously she rose, picked up the tissue box, and made her way to Jill. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm not a very nice person. People keep giving me away because I'm bad. My new mommy prob'ly will too." She handed Jill a tissue.

Jill looked up. She realized what had kept her from reaching out to Cassie. It had been her own fear of rejection and failure. She had been afraid to get too close to this child who reminded her too much of herself. The pain that she tried to shield herself from was mirrored in those large sad eyes looking at her now. Gently she took Cassie into her arms. "I can always get another ceramic apple. It wasn't nearly as special as you are."

For the first time, Cassie smiled.

An Apple for the Teacher--7

Jill spied Cassie sitting in her chair, head between her knees, shaking her head wildly about.

"Cassie," Jill said softly. She didn't respond. "Cassie!" Several students jumped as she shouted. Jill crossed the room, took Cassie by the hair and righted her in her seat.

Cassie stared at Jill defiantly at first, then hung her head as though repentant. Jill was shaking. She had never handled a child so roughly before. What was she to do? She couldn't get Cassie to finish her work. Her attention span was next to nothing and she was like a jack-in-the-box jumping out of her seat every five minutes.

"Cassie, this paper is not finished. You must do the whole picture and be neat. Learning to color in the lines is as important as getting the answers right."

Jill's anger grew. doesn't this child appreciate what she has? Doesn't she want to impress her new mother? The pangs of jealousy hit hard. Jill wished she had a mother with whom she could share the excitement of her teaching award. A mother who would be proud of her and encourage her.

After lunch, Mr. Bridges introduced the visiting committee from the state PTA organization, his comments made Jill feel guilty about her reaction to Cassie. "Mrs. Passep is an outstanding teacher. Her students leave this classroom each year working well above average. She takes time to get to know each student individually."

All but Cassie, Jill thought. How could she be jealous of a little six year old? It was ridiculous--ridiculous but true. Resolving to make a concentrated effort to reach Cassie in spite of her feelings and Cassie's difficult behavior, she arranged to have some time with Cassie after school to help her catch up with her work.

"Please finish up that paper, Cassie. Your mother will be here soon to pick you up. I'm going to the office for a moment. I'll be right back."

Jill let out a hissing sigh as she walked down the hall. This was a waste of time. Cassie had spent a half hour on a paper that should have taken ten minutes and she still wasn't done.

An envelope poked out of Jill's mailbox in the office. She grabbed it and tore it open. The letter explained that Jill was one of ten educators being honored at the state PTA convention. One of the ten would be the state's nominee for the national award. Jill's heart pumped faster. As she walked back to her classroom she read the questionnaire that was enclosed.

Jill was so distracted she failed to notice the paper on the floor until she stepped on it. When she reached down to pick it up, her eyes caught a glimpse of the rest of the room. She gasped.

(Continued. . .)

Friday, September 08, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher-6

"Tom, I'm sorry. I had a difficult day with a new student and I took it out on you." The newspaper rattled as Tom turned the page.

"Well it seems to me you should be able to separate work from home. After all," he added, "isn't that what you expect me to do?"

"I guess I deserved that remark." Jill paused. "It's just that I feel everyone at school epects me to be able to handle any situation that comes along. But this student is so demanding of my time and attention. . .I can't let the other kids down to pamper one child." Jill ignored what really bothered her most about Cassie. She had a mother who had chosen to love her. It was a relationship Jill would never know.

Tom peeked over the newpaper as Jill's eyes began to well with tears. He put the paper down and reached for her hand. "Look, what was all that hoopla about the other night? That big red apple you earned? Doesn't that tell you something? You are a very capable teacher. You will find a way to reach out to that child. I know you can do it." He stood and hugged her. "Now, let's go enjoy that great dinner I smell."

She appreciated his confidence but on Monday morning, her doubts began to overwhelm her once more.

(Continued. . .)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher-5

Tom was so preoccupied with his expected promotion, Jill felt neglected and left out. She was sure their marriage was headed for trouble.

"Hi, Hon. How was your day?" Tom stalked through the kitchen and pecked at Jill's cheek as he passed by. He doesn't want to know how my day was, Jill thought. That was just an announcement of his arrival.

Their relationship was too predictable. Had she grown dull? Maybe that was why Tom drew deeper into his work.

Tom returned to the kitchen and investigated dinner. "Heard a good one today." He popped a piece of carrot into his mouth. "Seems Steve and Julie have decided to call it quits. Steve says the spark is gone. Julie said she wouldn't fight it. Really makes you wonder, doesn't it?"

"No, not really," Jill replied tartly.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Jill could almost see the chip on his shoulder. Well, she was just the one to knock it off. "I'll tell you what that means. Men do not want to work at marriage. The minute it takes effort to keep the spark going, they get lazy and decide to bail out."

"Is that the way you feel about me too?"

"If the shoe fits. . ."

Tom grabbed the newspaper and stormed out of the room.

Jill sank into the nearest chair. Why had she deliberately provoked him? All she wanted was a little reassurance that their relationship was alive and healthy. She couldln't bear it if Tom left. Tom was the only one who had ever loved her. She had to find some way to east the tension she created just now.

Jill rose slowly, took a deep breath and headed for the family room.

(Continued. . .)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher-4

It began to rain as Jill's meeting with Mrs. Marquette ended. Jill gathered papers to grade and turned out the lights. Gray clouds filled the sky. She shivered in the light misty cold while she fumbled with her car door. That day had been gray and rainy too, Jill remembered, as she pumped the gas pedal to get the old yellow Volkswagon started.

She had fought hard to hold back the tears as she struggled up the steps of the children's home, rejected and alone again. A "forever family" was what the case worker had said. Well, forever didn't last long. It was all right though, she told herself. She was eleven years old. She could take care of herself. She didn't need a mother and father. They would only boss her around and tell her what to do . She'd make it on her own.

And she had. Jill let the VW rest for a moment. It was probably flooded again. She glanced in the mirror. What did Cassie have that she didn't at that age? Jill remembered her school pictures. She wasn't beautiful but she was cute. Cassie on the other hand was homely and her personality wasn't the least bit pleasing. How had Cassie attracted an adoptive family and Jill failed?

Well, Jill thought, as the VW roared to life, I have Tom--that is as long as he still wants me.

(Continued. . .)

Friday, September 01, 2006

An Apple for the Teacher--3

As Jill greeted Mrs. Marquette, she recalled the pictures she had poured over as a child. Each one had reflected the image of an ideal mother; the kind any child would be happy to have. Mrs. Marquette could have posed for all of them.

"We are so excited," Mrs. Marquett said, "now that Cassie has been placed with us for adoption."

For a moment, Jill blocked out what this picture book mother was saying. The word "adoption" had cut through Jill, hitting an old wound. She sat stiffly in her chair as she listened to Mrs. Marquette describe Cassie's numerous foster home experiences and the original neglect Cassie experienced in the birth home. Mrs. Marquette was concerned about the strange behavior that had resulted.

"Mr. Bridges recommended you highly. I am confident Cassie will adjust to your classroom and we will see a lot of growth and development in her this year," Mrs. Marquette said as she stood to leave.

As she shook Mrs. Marquette's hand, Jill felt her shoulders grow heavy as if the load Cassie's mom carried was shifted onto her now. Could she carry it?

(Continued. . .)
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