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Does your skin burn from invisible tattoos? Those bullying scars that continue to pierce your psyche? Are there times you look in the mirror and only see what others had hissed? Dog. Freak. If you’re like me and heard the daily taunts, felt the rising welts from rubber bands, or the swelling cheeks after meeting fists, then you might want to purge those memories.
“How?” You ask. “I don’t have a laser to remove every inked memory.” Counseling helps, I’d answer. As does a healthy life of purpose. Finding friends who really get you makes a difference. Surrounded by others who accept you just as you are, will help those marks to fade.
But sometimes all those things are just not enough. We need more. Such as the Burn the Bully happening at the 2017 Cuesta College Writer’s Conference I participated in recently.
The event was sponsored by Thirteen Reasons Why author, Jay Asher, whose New York bestseller chronicles the tragic suicide of a teen that has been bullied. Since it’s release ten years ago, Jay has been a champion for the voiceless victims of bullying speaking nationwide to teens to help them navigate through the pain.
This ceremony was intended to both raise awareness as well as be a coming together to heal from the scars of bullying. It was open to the public and participants wrote the name of a bully on a strip of paper and placed it into the fire pit. The fire and name burning was meant to release the bully and the memory to ash. Afterwards, volunteers gave hugs and affirmations.
It was strange. As I watched decades old wounds go from paper to flame, a lump grew in my throat. For a moment, when the fires grew, those words licked at my skin. But then, as the blazing bonfire waned, the pain dissipated with every wisp of smoke.
Feeling overwhelmed by the rigorous standards of Common Core? Wondering how the heck you are ever going to get to it all? If you are like most teachers, you probably answered yes. I know I get a little panicky at the beginning of the year knowing the scope and sequence of the months to come. I mean just for Trimester One in math we are required to teach adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers and decimals, with the goal of mastery for every student.
In addition to being a teacher, I’m also an author. And I approach both disciplines the same way. For my novels, it’s one word, one sentence, one page at a time. If I thought of writing all 70 chapters at once, I’d be overwhelmed. Not that I don’t think of the entire story, I do, but I still attack it a little at a time.
Teaching is similar. Know the standards, where you are going, the arc of you classroom’s story. But don’t let the volume of what is required, hamper your progress. You can’t teach it all at once. It’s impossible.
Instead, look at each lesson as if it were a sentence of your epic novel. You want those words to sing, to rise up and fill the air with joy and wonder. Use your creative talents to make your school year that novel you always wanted to write.
And it just might be epic.
You want me to perform on stage
For you alone
An actress reciting lines written long ago
When you first imagined nubile girls
And felt stirrings sensual and strange
You ask for a curtain call
But the first act has not yet begun
Or even been rehearsed
I am outside this theater looking up
At its neon lights.
Wondering whether to step inside
Or run from their harsh glare
To the soft twinkling
Of country summer.
You want my ecstatic dance
To rise like a crescendo before your eyes
My limbs twisting and convulsing in
But the music has yet to play
And I am wrapped in the silence.
You want an aria, a magnum opus
A soprano hitting notes so high
As to shatter hearts.
But I am just a woman.
And can’t even sing on key.
Long ago, when I was too young to have the life’s experiences I do now, I thought of Friday the 13th as just another day.
I was so naive.
Friday the 13th is a harbinger for the supernatural. A day when the doorways between death and life swing perilously.
I was a young mother raising two kids the best I could. It was a Saturday and I had promised to take them to see The Incredibles matinee. But as usual, I tried to do too much and was running late. I strapped both of them into their seats, revved up the old Volvo, and stepped on the gas.
We were halfway down the long drive when, boom. Thud.
I slammed on the brakes.
“What was that, Mommy?” Jess asked.
Heart pounding, I got out of the car and looked under. There lay our black cat, Cuzie, matted fur around her sweet head.
I started to tear up.
“Do something,” Nick, who had jumped out of the car, ordered, a desperate plea in his voice.
Gently I scooped up the gentlest cat we’d ever had, placed her in Jess’s lap and started racing for the local vet. Both kids crooned to Cuzie telling her it would be okay in one breath, chastising my stupid driving with the next.
With shaking hands I carried her into the office calling, “I hit my cat! She’s hurt. Help me.”
The receptionist immediately ushered us into an exam room and within seconds the vet was there. He placed Cuzie on the table, and began to probe gently with his fingers. The kids and I stood by, stiff bodied, barely breathing.
After about five minutes he declared that Cuzie was fine, but should have quiet place to rest. “And keep an eye out. If you notice any change, call me,” he said caressing Cuzie’s ears.
Back home we placed her bed in a little nook near the back door, gave her water and a soft blanket, and stroked her back.
She mewed and snuggled down to go to sleep.
It was still early so we headed to the theater. Even got there on time.
To this day, my question remains. Was Friday the 13th bad luck for us because we hit Cuzie? Or did a black cat crossing our path on that fateful day counteract bad fortune, saving her life.
But tell me, what mysterious things have happened to you on Friday the 13th?
My publisher just sent me the new cover for Artania and I’m thrilled. I feel so blessed to have an editor, like Miika, who listens to my input as he works to make my book the best it can be. Thanks Creativia!
These last few months have been so amazing, I keep having to pinch myself just
to make sure I’m not dreaming. First, ever since its launch on August 8th, The
Pharaohs’ Cry has stayed in the top ten for art books on Amazon for seven
weeks straight. Thank you to my publisher, Creativia for their wonderful
marketing. Artania II is now with the editor and should be released around
Christmas. In this book Mona Lisa has been kidnapped by Renaissance pirates
and its up to my two young heroes, along with their new sidekick, Gwen, to
In September, my short story about an anthropologist alien was published in
Coastal Dunes: A CWC Anthology. It was fun channeling an alien who tries to
keep her cool while pounding music begs her feet to dance. Tee hee!
In addition to starting the school year with a new crop of 5th graders, coaching
Student Council and Battle of the Books, and trying to navigate a new language
arts adoption, I’ve been working on a couple of new projects. I’m about five
chapters into Artania IV which will take place during the French Impressionist
period, drafted some paranormal short stories, and continued to work on a
coming of age novel. Lots of research into the Impressionist period, rock and roll
of the 1970’s, and influencers of both times. If any of you have special insight to
add to my files, please send it on.
This is an amazing time for me. Thank you all for your continued support. And
may your art be true