Just some Langston Hughes for your Wednesday

Walkers with the Dawn

Being walkers with the dawn and morning,
Walkers with the sun and morning,
We are not afraid of night,
Nor days of gloom,
Nor darkness–
Being walkers with the sun and morning.

Fairies
Out of the dust of dreams
Fairies weave their garments.
Out of the purple and rose of old memories
They make rainbow wings.
No wonder we find them such marvelous things!

In Time Of Silver Rain

In time of silver rain
The earth puts forth new life again,
Green grasses grow
And flowers lift their heads,
And over all the plain
The wonder spreads

Of Life,
Of Life,
Of life!

In time of silver rain
The butterflies lift silken wings
To catch a rainbow cry,
And trees put forth new leaves to sing
In joy beneath the sky
As down the roadway
Passing boys and girls
Go singing, too,

In time of silver rain When spring
And life
Are new.

 

Some Monday inspiration

I had been in Budapest for less than an hour when I began to wish for a time in an implausible future when I could go there for a month or two and just write. Travel often evokes creativity and inspiration. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing profound in that statement. However, once in a while I will stumble across a place that seems to be dripping with intrigue and magic. Budapest is a city completely infused with art and imagination.There seem to be stories tucked away in the hidden corners of the city.  The day and a half I spent there on the way back from Romania has continued to stir the storytelling imagination over six months later.  So since it’s Monday, and I’m feeling a bit uninspired, I’m taking a look back at this beautiful city full of unwritten stories.

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Coach

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I’m not sure I’ve ever told anyone this, but when I was in middle school, I composed a screenplay of an inspirational future biopic about the first female NFL coach, loosely based on myself. Or at least starring myself when I hit mid-twenties. (Which would have been about last year–sorry about that, 13-year-old self) I had this pretty planned out, beginning with the highly implausible premise of a sort of “open call” for a replacement coach for the Redskins an often down-on-their-luck football team with exceptionally loyal fans. Then, miracle of miracles and against all odds, our plucky leading lady is hired as the coach! But who will believe in her? Certainly not the skeptical and curmudgeonly, young, attractive, and single team owner! (You see where this is going) Aside from the fact that I managed to RomCom the plot of my inspirational football movie, I did have a spectacular final game planned with the emotional music and with sufficient slow motion jumping as the team wins. Well done, sister suffragettes.

While my twenties have not thus far involved an NFL career, coaching or otherwise, I did briefly start and coach a middle school football club my first year of teaching. I discovered that several of the middle school boys I taught were quite good at football, and as baseball season descended I found myself missing football more than ever. It started pretty casually, scrimmaging on the back lawn, but it grew and I tried to “coach” whichever team played offense. I tried to bring in some guest trainers and arrange some outside games, but if nothing else I extended football season for myself.

That would not be the first time I would coach an all-boys team, though. I became the coach of the varsity cross country team, which became the varsity boys cross country team. I got an official coaching polo, and I got to drive the 12-seater van. One of our first away meets was on a Saturday, and as I loaded up the mom van, a small caravan of parents showed up and announced they were following me to the meet. I’m not sure it’s possible to feel more pressure behind the wheel than to be driving a massive van followed by a string of parents whose children are in your passenger seats. Maybe the movie Speed with Sandra Bullock. Otherwise no. Tension was high.  We merged onto the highway as a long snake was crossing, and as we ran over it, I let out a shriek that no doubt threatened to crack the windshield. This is not something that the coach of an all-male team lives down, and in addition to trying to achieve driving perfection in front of all the parents, I also fielded the bewilderment of those around me who explained that between the snake and the driver of a passenger van, I should not be the one in mortal terror. Indeed. 

Even though I am a girl, the abrupt transition from coaching boys to coaching girls cheerleading was always a shift. The first day I discovered a middle schooler stretching while in tears, I realized I needed to reign in my inner Jillian Michaels and take a different approach. Our squad was a sideline cheer team as opposed to a competitive team, and each combination of girls over three years had their own flare. We had the best seat of the house at basketball games and the most fun practices running through half-time show dances.

So after many adventures in a variety of sports seasons, this fall I debuted as coach again, this time to middle school girls soccer. Our first practice I was warming up with them. Our first stretch, a standing hamstring stretch, I gave the instruction and then demonstrated by stretching down and grabbing my feet. A collective gasp arose and someone said “We’ve never seen a grown-up coach who can do that before!” So the verdict on soccer coaching? Nailed it. I can touch my toes. My sports-movie-screenwriting self from days of yore would be proud.

Here’s to a Brand New Season

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I’ve always been a firm advocate of all things autumnal: counting down to the pumpkin spice latte, burning the seasonally scented candle, trying to make average warm weather into sweater-weather and ending up a literal hot mess, and of course the start of a new academic year. As a college student, I always got so excited about planning a new class schedule, and then as a teacher I loved decorating the room with faux fall foliage. (And a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils of You’ve Got Mail fame) Fall as a teacher involves new ideas, resolutions, and expectations. The names you saw as you looked over the roster become tangible faces who eventually imprint themselves on your heart after many months in the trenches of the triumphs and challenges that the school year brings. I like to think fall brings a fresher start than the calendar year, which maybe seems glam and sparkling on December 31, but then immediately becomes slushy, gross, road-salted January.

This autumn has been the start of a brand new chapter for me. After leaving the school where I worked full time for four years, I returned from Oxford to many new changes.  Last year, I spent so much time grappling with a change in thought process. I had been for many years a teacher who writes, but I realized that I wanted to be a writer who teaches. There’s a nuanced difference there, but significant. It means sometimes waking up at 5 AM to work on a novel. Or to schedule an evening off at a local coffee shop to write queries. However, there are some variables full-time teachers/coaches/advisers/club sponsors/ all of the above/ can’t control. After a season of 16-hour days, a dining room table full of papers at 2 or 3 am, and actually working myself into the emergency room once or twice, I started to consider what the next season should look like. I was accepted into an MFA program for Creative Writing, and I had fought to carve time to write the first half of my novel. I tried to figure out how to weave all the elements of teaching, and pursuing concurrent master’s degrees (M.A. in the summer/M.F.A in the academic year) and, on top of that, write. After four years at one school, to whom I am forever indebted for taking a chance on a rookie teacher,  I symbolically “graduated” with that class of seniors, a group who became so special to me and continue to be an inspiration. In a wonderfully poetic moment, I was helping out at the seniors’ graduation rehearsal and happened to check my phone, when I received an email saying that one of the articles I had sent out many months ago had been picked up for publication.

Now autumn is here. After our house disbanded, I moved about an hour north. While I had to defer the MFA classes for this fall, I picked up some part time classes at a wonderful private school nearby, so my life is not completely devoid of the academic, but my schedule is still freed to write. My biggest project at the moment is editing my novel, and I’m working on some other smaller projects. I’m coaching middle school soccer, as well, which is also a little bit poetic, since my first novel that I wrote when I was 15, was about middle school soccer players.

On the publishing front, I’m very excited to have just had an article appear in the September/October issue of Bethesda Magazine. So raise your pumpkin spices, chai lattes and apple ciders to a brand new Autumn!

 

Looking Back (Part 2)

And now returning to Oxford for another look back…

World War I

The 100 year anniversary of the start of World War I, which was acknowledged heavily. In our college common room is engraved the names of those in just our small college who were killed in World War I. World War II is over another mantle in the common room. It is a sobering reminder anytime I’m in there, but particularly so on this anniversary year. Our college is one of the smaller ones and their sacrifice was so great. Multiply that by all the colleges that comprise Oxford University and the loss must have been devastating. Seeing the names reminds me of the beginning of Chariots of Fire, which takes place just after the war:

“…name after name which I cannot read. And which we, who are older than you, cannot hear without emotion. Names which will be only names to you, the new college, but to us summon up face after face full of honesty and goodness, zeal and vigor.” -Chariots of Fire

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Miscellaneous

I took a long walk one of the days I was feeling well, planning my next writing project, and upon getting lost stumbled upon this.

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This is the imp who lives in our college.

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This is the front gate of the college, which are normally only closed at night, which were closed and locked (we could enter with a key) during a busy Saturday, due to conflicting protests and counter-protests to do with the Middle East. Everything was very peaceful and didn’t come near our college, but the precaution was sobering reminder of the state of the rest of the world and how many scared and hurting people are on both sides.

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Punting Trip! There were four or five boats in our little flotilla.

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Then a storm blew in.

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Sunset view from a riverside pub, the first stop on our end-of-term pub crawl

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Then there was graduation, so well attended that some of us watched it live streamed from the pub.

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After saying tearful good-byes at breakfast, I took a walk around the city the morning we checked out to say good-bye to the city itself. I had been in bad shape the night. The illness I battled earlier in the summer had come back much stronger, and particularly bad in a respiratory sense. I spent a frightened night trying to pack and also breathe and terrified I was going to end up in the hospital and missing my flight. I am truly indebted to the amazing friends who helped me out that morning, making a scary thing much less scary. I just remember feeling so thankful as I took this walk. Sad to leave, but thankful for a magical summer with amazing friends.

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My final view of London from the hotel:

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My final view of the “pleasant pastures green”

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