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Final bell.
Noisy pandemonium erupts and is sustained for ten minutes before gradually fading to silence.
Nola Baxter lifts her head from her hands.  Now it is safe to emerge from her cocoon.

Looking around the grounds outside her classroom door, Nola utters an expletive.
Damn kids, she thinks.
They have left the place in shambles — papers, jerseys, lunch boxes and even the odd shoe scattered across the playground.

How inconsiderate!  How irresponsible!  she mutters under her breath.
Little pigs!  Little monsters!  Is this the thanks I get?
Nola is so tired. She is completely spent.
She used to love teaching.  She used to enjoy getting out of bed in the morning.
Now she is just so damn tired.

With a sigh she leans down and starts to pick up the litter in front of her home-away-from-home.
Maybe it is time to resign. she thinks. Maybe I should call it quits.
I’m not getting through to these kids anyway!  They certainly don’t appreciate anything I do.

One piece of paper catches her eye — an A5 paper folded into fourths and brightly decorated.
It looks like a note that has been passed from one person in the class to another.
Nola’s temper rises again.  They don’t even listen to me!  Too busy passing notes.

Curiosity gets the better of her and she unfolds the letter.

“I love Mrs Baxter.  She is my best teacher ever.”

 

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Today’s assignment:   You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to whom it’s been addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

Lost Soul

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Some things are lost in an instant –
like the green flash at sunset,
like a crystal glass meeting a tiled floor,
like my laptop (which one minute was in my dining room and the next was in a stranger’s arms halfway down the street).

Other things are lost over time –
a slow seeping away,
so that one never quite knows exactly when what was lost was actually lost.

 

I was the firstborn of four girls, a big disappointment to my father who had grown up an only child and was looking for a compatriot.
As Mom refused to further populate the world, Dad settled on me as his partner in crime.
I don’t have many actual memories of those early years, but the photos are precious and well-worn.

There we are watching a ballgame on TV, feet propped up on the ottoman, hands behind our heads.
There I am sitting on his lap, helping him choose cards to play in cribbage.
There he lies, sprawled out on the couch, waiting for his sidekick to deliver his beer.

I lost my dad, slowly, insidiously to an alcohol addiction.
There was a time when we were best buddies.  He held my hand, my heart, my homage.
And there was a time when I looked into his eyes and wondered who this strange man was.
Somewhere along the way I lost him. The man who was my dad had trickled away, weary drop by weary drop.
And then one melancholy day I realised that he was gone.

 

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Today’s assignment:  Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.  The twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

Raining Grace and Death

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I love listening to music on my way to work.  Puts me in the right frame of mind for the day.

Some scientists (I heard) predicted that within the next ten years Southern Africa won’t have enough water for her people.  Scary stuff.  I live in a town where I have water whenever I turn on the tap.  (Okay, that is not strictly true, because quite often for a host of reasons, the water in town has been turned off.  This especially seems to happen whenever we have visitors.  Sometimes I think I can predict the length of the outage based on the number of days our guests stay.)

I take water (even with all of its inconsistencies) for granted.

Bathing — flushing — washing (dishes, clothes) — cooking (AND MAKING COFFEE!)
all depend upon the availability of H2O.  Clean, pure water.  (Okay -now here’s where some of my fellow citizens will rage.  We often turn on the tap to receive what smells like super-strength chlorine or what looks like mud [I kid you not!  But I digress])

Now we are facing a crisis.
Our town dam is dry.
We desperately need rain.
Not just a light shower or two.
We need heavy consistent rain.

Grace Like Rain” (Todd Agnew) calls me to remember the parallels between rain and grace.  They both fall freely, but not at my whim.  They are both essential for life, in so many aspects.

I need to experience grace –

to receive it
to dance in its downpour
to be thoroughly drenched in its goodness
so that I can

love
and serve
and minster
and forgive
and be a channel of that grace.

I take it for granted, thinking I can turn it on whenever I want and ignore it the rest of the time.
Drought scares me, because I cannot be in control.

Beautiful Feet”  (Nibs van der Spuy) speaks to me of living for others
Let go of     ME

ME
ME
ME
ME

and focus on my brother next to me.
To be a bringer of  life

love
hope
joy
peace!

And she who brings blessings to others has BEAUTIFUL FEET.
And as I let go of    ME

ME
ME
ME
ME

I am reminded of “Learning to Die”  (Jon Foreman)
We are born to die.
Between that first cry and the last sigh.
I am discovering how to die to myself — get the ME out of the way –
so that I might truly live.

I’ve got these songs (and a few others) on my phone on loop
and they remind me every morning to “dress” myself for the day.

 

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(Today’s assignment: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

Twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward —
are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.)

Ice Cream Dreams

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PollyAnn3It was 1979.  There were five of us twenty-something college girls renting a funky old house in the outer Sunset District of San Francisco.  We spent the first few days exploring the nooks and crannies of our new abode.  It was Martha who suggested we extend our inspection to the neighbourhood, and so off we set.  Two blocks from our lodgings we discovered it: Utopia.

It was a true “hole in the wall.” A sign on the outside of the window suggested there might be ice cream on sale within and that compelled us to investigate further.  Nancy, our  ice-cream-aholic and aficionado pushed open the door and led the way. None of us were prepared for what met our eyes.

An old-fashioned dime-store soda bar took up half of the room. Placards spouting all sorts of home-grown, granny wisdom filled the small space.  The walls were a cheery dandelion yellow. Standing on the other side of the counter, a short, stalky, balding gentleman with a white moustache greeted us with a smile wider than his face.  “Welcome,” he boomed, “to Polly Ann Ice Cream!”  He swept his arms out over the room inviting us to take it all in.  “How can I serve you?”

On the wall behind the gentleman was a large roulette wheel.  And on either side of the disc were beautifully painted plaques.  They were organised into columns of twelve, twenty-four on each side of the  wheel.  They bore the most fascinating names and pictures.  One had “Bumpy Freeway” printed across its face with an image of a rocky road fading into a sunset. Another read “American Beauty” and carried the image of a stunning deep pink rose.

“Is this an ice cream shop?” Nancy asked.

“It most certainly is,” the man replied.  “Let me introduce you to Polly Ann’s.”

Mr Hanson, for we later learned that was his name, began telling us about his ice cream.  “Some shops have 24 flavours.  And others have 32.  We make 250 different kinds of delectable frozen wonder, although there are only 48 flavours on offer at any one time.  Allow me to introduce you to some of our favourites.”

For the next 30 minutes Mr Hanson danced behind the counter, back and forth between various tubs of ice cream.  Each time his hand would swoop a small spoon into a flavour and he would hand one of us a unique taste sensation.  “Try this!” he would excitedly shout.  “It’s vegetable!  There are 8 different kinds of vegies in there!  Dinner and desert all in one!  And here’s a winner!  American Beauty!  It is made with roses!”

“What is ‘Bumpy Freeway?'” I queried between his dashes.

“Ah,” he said.  “Most people would tell you that it is just another name for Rocky Road.  But our Bumpy Freeway is made with the finest, darkest chocolate available and with the pinkest mini-marshmallows money can buy and the freshest walnuts on the market.  Try some!”  One tantalising taste and I was hooked.

“Why do you have a roulette wheel hanging on your wall?” Celia enquired.

Mr Hanson’s face lit up even brighter.  “That,” he proudly exclaimed, “is my invention.  It is for people who cannot decide.  I spin the wheel and they agree to purchase whatever flavour the wheel lands on.”  Each slice of the disc was vibrantly coloured and touted a number corresponding to a flavour of ice cream.  Two of the sections read ‘FREE.’  We all decided to trust fate and one-by-one let Mr Hanson turn the wheel for us.  My first Polly Ann cone was watermelon.

Needless-to-say Polly Ann Ice Cream became our local haunt.  Over the course of the year in which we lived in that house, we managed to consume just about every flavour Mr Hanson produced.  Long after we moved away we would continue to make the trek to this little piece of heaven on earth.

Years later, as I sit on the other side of the planet and reminisce, I realise it is not just the novel flavours and quirky names I miss.  It is not just the wild decor and the dynamic host.  It is the laughter and the love.  It is the passion and the dream.  At Polly Ann’s anything seemed possible, even eating your dinner for dessert.

 

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(Today’s assignment:   Choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.)

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nota bene:  Polly Ann Ice Cream lives in the heart of the Outer Sunset to this day.  Next year it will turn 60 years old.  It is currently owned by Charlie Wu and the roulette ice cream wheel is still on the wall.  The building it originally occupied was torn down.  It can now be found on the corner of Noriega and 39th Avenue.  “If you’re going to San Francisco . . .”

 

 

Blah Blah Blah

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Argh!
When I am alone there are voices continually yammering in my head. They usually echo the characters who romp about in whatever story I happen to be reading at the time. Sometimes there is one voice, speaking directly to me. Sometimes that voice is narrating my day. Sometimes there are two or more voices having a conversation.

This is so stupid.

Hah! I’d like to see you put THIS on your blog.

Maybe you should start over.

Yes, start over. You’ve only been at it for three minutes. You can do a whole lot better.

Shut up and just write! Just keep writing.

Who cares what you say or how you say it. The point is to write.

Yeah. Don’t worry about whether or not it will be on your blog.

Or who will read it.

NO ONE.

You’re rather pessimistic.

Well, I am bored and I am here while you are writing. Can’t imagine anyone sticking around this long.

I roll my eyes. I think before I post this I will have to change font colour to show the different speakers.

Different speakers! What a goof! It is all you, you know. You are just talking to yourself.

Sigh. Life is rather crowded at the moment. Not in my head, but in my schedule. Goodness, today I didn’t know if I was coming or going.
The best part of today were all the telephone calls.
First call: “Bring back the papers we gave you. It was a mistake. We will bring the papers to you tomorrow.”
Next call: “Call the others and tell them to turn in their papers too.”
Third call: “Did you register for this? I don’t think you registered for this. Maybe you won’t get the papers back at all.”
What a circus!

Check the time. SIX minutes! Really? Feels like I have been writing for hours.

It’s all the voices.

I should go to bed and get a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s exam. I am so nervous. Weird little butterflies are inside my gut, knocking up against the wall of my abdomen. Makes me feel a bit nauseous. (Maybe that is just a bit of hunger from having skipped dinner?) AND I AM NOT EVEN WRITING THE EXAM! I am administering it.
Oh, gosh, I am so nervous. I am going to have a monitor hovering over while I administer the jolly test.
BLEH! I hope they bring the test papers (that I had to give back to them today) to the test tomorrow.
ON TIME!
One can dream.

My bed will be so soft and welcoming when I get there. I love my crisp, white, clean sheets. And that duvet — that goose-down duvet — AH! It is so deliciously comforting to wrap that baby around myself. Suddenly now I am so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open.

Well, you started writing about your duvet!

And those pillows! My two feather pillows that mould themselves around my head. Snuggle, snuggle, snuggle! I want to go to bed and snuggle down and slowly lose myself to sleep.

I never remember my dreams these days. I know I dream because right before I wake I am wrapped in them (like my duvet around my body, so my dreams wrap and hold my subconscious). But by the time I am fully conscious, the dreams seem to have evaporated like so much mist in the hot sun. I believe that if I could wake slowly and gently, then I would remember my dreams. But there is that awful blare of K’s alarm every morning. and on weekends it is the radio from 4 AM.

I wish I could choose my dreams. Like Sophie in BFG. Mix one part of this with two parts of that and a happy dragon and a fuzzy caterpillar and a peanut farmer . . . and POOF! you have a wonderfully fun and adventurous dream.

Okay — that is it! Time’s up.
Whew.
Hard to begin. Difficult to stop.

Bedtime. Let me go introduce myself to my dreams. G’night.

 

(Today’s assignment:  To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.
Keep typing (or scribbling, if you prefer to handwrite for this exercise) until your twenty minutes are up. It doesn’t matter if what you write is incomplete, or nonsense, or not worthy of the “Publish” button.

And for your first twist? Publish this stream-of-consciousness post on your blog.)

Twenty Days

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cropped-class-seal_seal-class-of-september-20141

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have signed up for “Writing 101″ through WordPress.
For the next twenty days I will try to post once a day, following the writing prompts for the day (as closely as I can).
And I may even engage in the twist or two!
Here is where it starts, in case you might want to follow the prompts!

This is how we start:

Welcome to Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit.
In these twenty days, we’ll dive into the elements of storytelling,
help you cut through writer’s block
and access the pure thoughts and ideas of your wild mind.

Sounds good!

Follow me, if you like, as I follow Writing 101.
In fact, it would be awesome if you joined in!

Parasitoidy

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Millions and millions,
he said –
the expert on evolution.
Millions and millions of years
between seawiggles and landhuggers.
Then millions and millions more
to graduate the skyfliers and furryfaces.

Why, man,
he marvelled –
was such a recent phenomenon,
(so new, in fact,
that if all of history were reduced to a single year,
man would appear in the last millisecond)
a brilliant, accidental adaptation gone haywire,
much like current cancer cells
madly reproducing to overpower and kill the host.

I got lost somewhere in a millennium.
My hundred billion are just not advanced enough
to grasp such infinity.

But I did catch the last parallel
and wonder when the final straw will break the dromedary’s spine.

Lord, save us!
For surely we are in desperate need of salvation –
being our own worst enemy.

 

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