Christmas Day, 2014

The dianthus I planted the other day looks beautiful and Christmas-y

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It was a low-key day for me today. I slept in as I always do on Christmas morning, following the “magic” of the night before. Outside, the noise was at last hushed, the only silent morning of the year. There was no underlying roar of traffic, no commotion with sirens. I wished it could always be this way.

Not much happened on Christmas Eve this year except I said “goodnight” to Siri as I closed my iPad after reading for about a half an hour. I could no longer stay awake, and I succumbed to deep sleep in the warm cocoon of my bed.

Dad came over for Christmas dinner around noon. The meal consisted of things that we heated up or pulled out of the refrigerator. No big fuss. That way everyone can relax and enjoy, no slaving away for hours in the kitchen as in years past. Dad ate heartily, which was good, and then I showed him my Christmas present from Desmond, given to me at Thanksgiving, an iPad mini. I love it, and after I showed it to Dad, I think he liked it a lot, too. He’s 89, and I am always happy when he shows an interest in something. If I could just get him to go somewhere with me over the break to take photographs, that would be great, too. He is an excellent photographer, just hasn’t had much interest in doing it for the last few years since my mom died.

After Dad left, I went for a walk around the neighborhood. The roaming bands of big families weren’t out yet to disturb the solitude, and it was reasonably peaceful. The weather couldn’t decide if it wanted to be cloudy and cold, or sun and clouds and reasonably warm. It stayed mostly cloudy, windy, and cold, much to my happiness. After I walked, I had visions of curling up on the couch by myself and watching “Nutcracker” productions like I did two years ago, but Desmond and I decided to read instead. We sat companionably and comfortably side-by-side and read for a couple of hours (well, I did, and he fell asleep!). Later, we will probably binge-watch the Netflix series we are currently interested in.

It has been a perfect day, and it’s too bad it’s only one day each year. I’d like to have a couple of these days when it is quiet and peaceful, there is no pressure to go somewhere and do something, and I am at home enjoying the warm cozy-ness of deep winter. It’s the best feeling in the world.

Creativity and the automatons

I was standing in my classroom yesterday, it was filled with noise. I looked at the dark day, the beautiful clouds overhead, and at that moment, I wanted nothing more than to be sitting at home, quietly sipping lemon tea, and writing.

This may seem strange to you since I just finished a month-long writing challenge, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Many people wouldn’t want to write another word after finishing over 50,000 words. That is around 1700 per day for the 30 days of November. Think of that. And, if you happen to miss a day, well, then you have to write 3400 the next day. I won’t lie, some days were really difficult. I don’t know if I’ll ever actually do anything further with what I wrote for this most recent NaNoWriMo, but it is there if I want it. It is enough to know that I finished the 50,000 words.

Yesterday, I simply wanted to enjoy the dark, brooding day, to sit quietly and enjoy creating a story, letting it happen naturally. More than anyone will ever know (or care), I miss having opportunities to be creative. I saw this quote the other day: “Lots of people will tell you how difficult it is to be an artist. But nobody tells you how difficult it is to NOT be an artist.” This was accompanied by a depiction of a person obviously at work, looking very beaten down and tired, probably wondering how his life veered off the creative path into … “this.” It happened to me. I was happy working as a graphic artist, most of the time quietly sitting at my computer, figuring out how to use the different software programs to make things work to the best advantage, involved in a somewhat creative process, before the printing business as I knew it disappeared. It wasn’t all fun and games, but it was a creative outlet for me.

Now I must settle for writing stories, creating books, and making images, all for my own personal enjoyment and benefit, nothing else. These days, because of the internet and other technology, “everybody” is a writer, or a photographer, and there is no making a living doing either of those things. In addition, those in charge want people who are entering the world of work to become corporate automatons incapable of coherent, logical, or creative thought. That way, those in charge can stay in charge, right or wrong.

I suppose I should be glad that I am in the right place to try to foster some logical, creative thought in my students. That, sadly, is nearly impossible within the current educational climate, no matter how hard I try. I have to settle for dealing with incessant noise, and an impossible job. Creating things will have to be only for my personal enjoyment, and I will have to be happy with that.

50,000 words of tired

NaNoWriMo drags on. The deeper I get into the month, the harder it is to squeeze out 1700 or so words each day. My job doesn’t help either. I am engaged in intense work all day every day, teaching and working with kids, and sometimes by the time I get finished working out in the evening, I am just done. I sit down and eat dinner, usually reading as I do so, and then I want to fall asleep. But I can’t. I must drag out my laptop, and write.

Not that I wouldn’t be sitting here at my laptop anyway, It’s just the thought that I have to write. I love to write, and I am not saying I don’t write every night, but 1700 words is a lot if you are super-tired to begin with.

It’s been a rough week, with Veteran’s Day in the middle of it, the starting and stopping, the crazy things that go on in an elementary school all the time. There are also the physical workouts, which for me lately have consisted of digging in the school garden. What am I digging, you ask? Well, all the garden plots got seriously overgrown with grass during the summer vacation, except our grade level’s, of course. The other grade levels let the grass completely take over, and when everyone else came back from vacation, it was a total mess.

I had worked our plot the whole summer, even standing out there one day in 115° heat taking down giant sunflowers that were now dead. I didn’t go over to the garden every single day, but I never let more than a couple of weeks go by. I just knew what would happen. Under the garden beds, which were newly made last February, there is particularly aggressive Bermuda grass, the kind that will not ever die. The garden was not dug down properly to begin with, and I watched it happen, but since I am only one little person, the people who were building it did not listen to me. Plus, as usual, most people take the easy way and don’t care about doing things right. I always think it is better to take a little extra time and do it properly instead of having to go back and re-do it after it’s messed up. Well, guess what happened? It got messed up.

So, my project is to dig out all that nasty Bermuda. You have to dig way down and get the white spaghetti-like roots out, and it takes digging with a spade. And jumping on the shovel to get way down in it. I don’t really mind, it’s a great workout, and it is keeping my boss from getting really annoyed at people for not keeping up the garden after all the effort that was made to put it in. Since I was one of the people who really wanted it, I feel obligated to do my share of the work. And, apparently, other people’s share of the work as well. Anyway, the schedule of working all day and then doing physical labor every afternoon takes its toll by the time Thursday rolls around.

Tonight I also had the privilege of going to an awards ceremony for one of my students who earned one of the awards. I am really proud of this girl, and she deserved the award. She is a great student. In fact, after I told my class about what National Novel Writing Month is about, she was the only one who showed interest in it. She signed up to do the 50,000-word version even though she is only 12. If anyone can do it, she can. She and I can at least commiserate every morning about how writing went the day before.

So, I guess I’d better get back to my words for the day. Here I am, sitting and writing about “stuff” that doesn’t count for the novel, but at least it’s a good warmup.

Yes, NaNoWriMo drags on …

I’m published now!

I finally did it, my first “indie” published book is on Amazon. It is a collection of haiku poems, which I know some of you have really enjoyed in the past. This is a compilation, and even has some new poems that have not been published anywhere else before. It also has a few photographs.

Here is the Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Jodi+Koller-Smee

This was my first try at “indie publishing,” but it won’t be the last. Soon to come is a humorous book, motorcycle travel stories, and then, next year, my horse story.

Please check out The Ring! I will be so grateful. It’s good writing for a reasonable price! 🙂

 

New Year’s resolutions

In a party mood:

Happy New Year!

Yes, I look ridiculous, but just this once (well, maybe). Anyway, I wrote down some resolutions for this year:

1. Finish the book! I am talking about the horse book that I wrote last summer. It sort of was going to get published, but it was going to cost me too much money. So, rather than rely on a vanity press, I will send it out, try to get a deal with a conventional publisher. Failing that, I will just publish it on lulu.com, or some other site, self-publish it for my school kids, at least. If you don’t remember it, I published most of it here last May-June, but I had to take it down in case a potential publisher objected. I might re-post the first chapter, if anyone is interested. But, in my opinion, it needs a lot of work by me before it is ready to be read by millions! 😉

2. Manage money better. Too much goes into motorcycling, although motorcycling is the way I meet people and get to do amazing things, and travel far. Not to mention photograph beautiful sights, some of which have ended up in the local gallery. Hmmm. Maybe motorcycling isn’t such a bad investment after all. I think it’s all priorities, what is most important. I don’t think any dying person would ever say, “I wish I’d traveled less and worked more.” I would like to be able to travel more and have more motorcycle-related adventures. That is what gives me subjects to write about, and photograph. Writing and photography are important things in my life.

3. Speaking of motorcycling, I should take an un-emotional look at which bikes I really need and which should now be sold so someone else can enjoy them. I can only ride one at a time, and it’s not good for bikes to sit too long without being ridden. Plus, they are taking up a lot of room in the garage. I am fortunate to have an understanding husband!

4. Invest less time in work. I know that sounds a little “bad,” but I am not getting any younger, and having to put so much time and energy into work is not what I want anymore. I am not saying I won’t put a lot into my job, but it doesn’t need to invade every aspect of my life. The common theme here seems to be having more time for travel adventures.

I know those are only four, but they are fairly big. Some are going to mean thinking differently, and not going about things in the same old way. That idea always is enough to test a person’s resolve.

Wish me luck.

A semester ends as the holidays shine

End of the semester. The holidays. It all came together Friday within the elementary school in which I work.

To set the stage, at three a.m. I awoke to the sound of a thunderstorm reverberating through the cold air outside. Following that was the steady drum of rain on the roof. I unfolded from the warmth of the bed, got up to pull the curtain away from the window and peer outside. I could see the rain falling, dimpling the puddles on the patio. It was raining hard. I dove back into the warmth of the bed, pulled the covers up to my chin, and reveled in the unbelievable coziness.

It was dark and raining when I got up at 6:15, and very wet an hour later when I wanted to leave for work. My husband was going to drive me to work, and he got his truck stuck in the gelatinous mud on which he was parked. We took one of the cars, and made it just in time.

I plugged in the holiday lights of my classroom, and immediately a warm festive glow filled the room. The kids would arrive soon, and it was still almost dark because of the overcast. It was an amazing start to the day, and when the students arrived, they brought their excited chatter through the door with them.

“I heard the thunder in the middle of the night!” one said.

“My hands are freezing!” said another.

“My shoes got all muddy!” exclaimed another.

They also brought treats for the holiday party we would be having later in the day. I didn’t even mind that there were many pounds of sugar to be consumed! I wanted them to enjoy the day, the last day of school before the holiday break.

School started, they settled down a bit, and then we went to the assembly in the gym. The room filled with the exuberance and joy of kids before Christmas. We were one of the first classes to arrive, and I looked around. I noticed that the light was a little subdued to accent all the wonderful little multi-colored lights that decorated the stage. The red and green spotlights bathed the stage in the colors of the season, and it added to the kids’ anticipation.

The assembly is a monthly event held to recognize the positive achievements and examples of good character. It is always a special event, but because of the upcoming holiday, the school chorus performed after the awards. I watched the singers take the stage; several of the little girls were wearing sparkly headbands and shirts, and their little faces were glowing. Music is magic anyway, and when the accompanist, a student, began to play the piano, the mood in the room changed to wonder and appreciation.

It was a simple song, but a hallowed moment. The music blossomed, the love and warmth in the room flowed like warm honey, a river that pulled us willingly into its stream. It was an enchanting moment that I wanted to last for a long time. I thought, this is how it’s supposed to be, a positive, loving, special experience that these kids will remember forever. The lights, the music, the glint of the shiny ornaments in the spotlights, the beauty of the moment. The happiness and wonder I was reliving from years past was so strong for me, the tears almost welled up inside, choking me for a moment. I was also missing my mom, who loved the glowing lights, too.

It hasn’t been like this at our school for a long time, but now the love and innocent magic is there again for the kids to be a part of. There is an atmosphere of love and caring, a place where they are safe and can be themselves. All is calm, all is bright, I thought, at last. I was surprised at the strength of emotion that I felt, the love for these kids and hope for them to make something of themselves. I felt such joy that things were as they should be, and I hoped that all the kids could feel it, too. Their little faces were beautiful, lit by the inner light of innocence and childhood.

The music selections were all unique, and none had any religious connotation, just a meaning of beauty and colorful light, of peace and happiness. The musical rhythms were deep, and echoed through our hearts. Gradually, the program came to an end, and the music set us down softly into the rest of the day. Soon, it was time to go home, carefree and free, at least for the next two weeks.

When the break is over and they return to me like butterflies to a flower, I hope they are ready to really learn how to fly. This year is a pivotal one, it is when their futures are being formed. Within the nurturing chrysalis that our school has now become, I know we are giving them their wings.