The Age Myth

I remember it as though it were yesterday. I was in first grade, watching the sixth graders do their science homework. Going to a one-room school has its advantages. For me, I was able to see and know what it was like to interact with “the big kids”. I just knew they were all grown up, those sixth graders who now seem like babies to me.

It’s a queer thing, this concept called “age”. My perception of it is constantly changing. One minute I’m saying, “Wow! 2008! I’ll be 16!” and the next I’m saying, “Hey, mom. Why are you calling so early? Oh, yeah. I guess it is my birthday. Thanks.”

Back then, college kids were scary because they seemed so mature and so smart. I wonder where that went. Back then, I spent all my time wishing I could hurry and grow up. I just knew that by then I would have a car, a driver’s license, maybe even a boyfriend…18 seemed an eternity away, and I thought I’d have it all together by then. Now here I am, just barely finishing my teens and feeling like I’m living in a body that has taken an early holiday. Boyfriends are only figures of my imagination, something that exists only in the movies, and a car…sheesh, I’m doing well to stay in school.

Honestly, I didn’t realize how lucky I was back then. I spent all my time wishing I was older when I should have been appreciating the freedom that I had: freedom from the worry of paying school bills and the menace of cafeteria food every single day for every single meal. I didn’t have to scrounge for food on the weekends since I didn’t have to worry about meal plans and if I earned any money it was mostly for playing around and having fun. Sure there were a few rules: be in bed by 9, do your chores, eat your darned vegetables…if only. What I wouldn’t give to live like that again. And the funniest part is I’m saying this and I’m not even 20 yet.

Even though I complain about what I face now, I do realize that I’ll be laughing at myself ten years from now, just as I laugh at the way I used to be ten, and even five, years ago. Ten years from now I won’t be worrying about paying for school. Instead, I will be worrying about whether or not I can pay the rent, the electric bill, the water bill, the health insurance, the car insurance, the student loans from when I was worrying about paying for school, etc. I’ll be fixing my own food, assuming I have the money to get food, instead of complaining about the “horrible” cafeteria food that was cooked for me every day. And that’s assuming I will only have myself to worry about.

I used to complain about my parents, too. After all, they never understood how I felt and they were ridiculous most of the time. They obviously didn’t know anything when they said that the guy I had a major crush on wasn’t the one for me…until three years later I realized they had been right all along. Parents, even the ones that irritate you the most, are not always as bad as they appear looking at them through those all-grown-up 13, 14, 15, and 20-year-old glasses. And, if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself wasting precious time with them.

Never has this been more apparent to me than it was this summer. I had just gotten off the phone with my dad. I had called to tell him, “Happy Father’s Day,” even if my chipper tone was a bit forced. My dad and I don’t always get along. His personality and mine often clash, so I find myself angry at him more often than I am happy with him.

I set my phone down on the table, glad to have gotten that task out of the way. My great aunt, who I was living with, was sitting across from me and she got a wistful look in her eyes. Then she said simply, “I wish I could talk to my daddy.”

She’s 79 years old, that chance now long gone.

There comes a point when the mind stops aging and the body takes over. I watch my grandparents, great aunts, and great uncles joke around and I realize that they are no different than I am…joking around with my friends, pretending to shut them in closets, etc. The only difference is that their bodies are aging. That will be me some day.

And with that in mind, I can’t help but look at my friends as we’re laughing insanely for no apparent reason and think, “Life is good.” It’s very likely I will never have this exact same group of people around me in an environment free enough to laugh in.

I can’t help but look at my parents, troubled as they may be sometimes, and think, “Life is good.” I won’t always have them.

I can’t help but look at my school bill and the opportunities God has given me here at college and think, “Life is good.” I won’t always have the opportunity to play both the kid and the adult.

Five for Fighting knew what they were saying when they wrote the lyrics to “100 Years”.

15 there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to choose
Hey 15, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live

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The Rose

This is an old story poem that I wrote a couple years ago. Hope you enjoy!

—-

The Rose

One time as I was rushing by,
I stepped upon a rose
And didn’t even notice it
‘Till the scent had struck my nose.

I felt sorry for the poor little thing,
Its crimson petals crushed,
But I couldn’t stop to fix it
So on my way I rushed.

And as I went I saw a man
Living in a cardboard box.
He had no coat, no blanket;
He had no shoes, no socks.

For a moment I paused and thought about
The coat that I now wore;
I thought about my nice, warm bed
And the meal I had in store.

But I was far to busy
To stop and tell him hi,
So I tossed to him a quarter
And quickly passed on by.

Just then I saw an old woman
Bearing a heavy load
Trying to get over to her car
Parked there across the road.

But I couldn’t stop to help her.
I had something else to do.
And so I set my eyes ahead
And hurriedly passed on through.

Then alas I arrived at the place
To which I had to go.
I at last arrived at the church;
I’m a member there, you know.

I listened to the preacher
And cherished every word
Until all of a sudden
I was struck by what I heard.

The pastor spoke about the time
When our Lord was crucified.
He compared our Lord to a crimson rose;
At his words I nearly cried.

I thought about the flower
That my hurried feet had crushed,
Of the crimson bud upon the ground
I stepped on as I rushed.

And as I thought about the flow’r
In my mind’s eye I saw
A man living in a cardboard box
And a woman, three in all.

So ever since that moment
I take my time to see
Just what it is that the Lord
Has in store for me.

Now every time I see a man
Living in a cardboard box
Without a coat or blanket,
Lacking shoes or socks,

And every time I see someone
With a burden in their arms,
I do all that I know I can
To shield them from all harms.

‘Cause every time I see a face
I hear the question God will pose:
“Will you help the least of these?”
And I think about the rose.

The Summer Storm – A Sonnet

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I am enrolled in a poetry class this semester. My most recent assignment in this class is to write a sonnet. Now, I had several types to choose from, but like most people I chose to write a Shakespearean sonnet. It’s the easiest kind.

There are several different elements in my sonnet, drawn from various things I have experienced and read within the past month, including a reference to Greek mythology thanks to the stories (namely, the Odyssey) I have been reading in my World Masterpieces class. The topic itself, however, was inspired by the rainstorm we had on Friday, an incredible blessing for drought-worn Texas. So, I hope you enjoy my first attempt at a sonnet.

——

The Summer Storm

In dark and lofty clouds, it strikes on high,
A beating tune like drums upon the moor.
It dances, fierce, across the eastern sky
And, pulsing, brands the land not scorched before.

A rippling gale, it sweeps the barren field,
The four that were an ancient trav’ler’s bane,
When twisting round the cow’ring warrior’s sheild
It rends the man who once had hoped to gain.

In torrents poured like God’s celestial falls,
The rhythmic hum of life now drench the earth.
In whisp’ring peace, to calm the rage, it calls
To cleanse the air and chase away the dearth.

The answered prayer of man now comes to form
And brings about the lovely summer storm.

The Beauty of Innocence

It is common knowledge that being a college student is tough. Money is hard to come by, and when you do come by it, you most certainly don’t want to spend it on anything menial. Thus, it is not hard to find college kids who live on entirely unhealthy food and, gross though it may sound, who walk around in clothes that have already been worn once. (Insert gasp of horror here.)

I have come out on the better end of this deal. I go to school where I have an abundance of family and friends. There is a definite advantage to attending a college close to relatives and friends. Aside from getting to see them more, which is generally a good thing, you can also bum off them when you’re hungry and do laundry for free. You get extra brownie points if you babysit little cousins, do dishes, and walk the dog while you’re at it. All in all, I consider it a very good deal. And so it was that a few nights ago my cousin and I loaded up her car with laundry and backpacks full of homework and set out to do laundry at our aunt and uncle’s house.

Once we had gotten a load of laundry going, my cousin immediately set off for her little corner upstairs, the only place that she could concentrate on her homework. I curled up on one of the loveseats downstairs and began to study as well.

Now, bear in mind that my aunt and uncle have two children, one of which is my little 4-year-old cousin I call Lexi. I had not been studying long when I heard her high, childish voice ask, “Where are the girls?”

I laughed inwardly. Though she is only four, she often talks and acts like she’s much older. This was one of those times. I heard her ask the question again, this time more emphatically, so I called, “Lexi, I’m in here!”

In a moment my little cousin stepped into the room. She leaned up against the couch shyly as I said, “Hey, Lex. How are you today?”

She grinned sheepishly.

“What have you been up to?”

Still an awkward grin.

I already knew what she really wanted. She wanted my other cousin, the one I had come with, who I will call A for now. A is much more energetic than I am, and so if Lexi wants a playmate, she will usually find that in A. Nonetheless, I was bound and determined to get some sort of response. So, I used the old trick my grandmother and mother used on me when I was little. I smiled at Lexi, leaned forward, and asked, “Did the cat get your tongue?”

Immediately she burst out into giggles. I smiled, then repeated, “Did that kitty get your tongue?”

“No,” she laughed, with that tone that people get when they can’t believe you just asked that ridiculous question.

Just then A came down the stairs. Lexi’s eyes brightened and in a moment A had whisked her up into her arms. I just smiled. I wasn’t surprised. To a kid, I’m no fun.

What A and Lexi did for fun, I’m not sure. However, my aunt had soon prepared supper, then rushed out the door for a meeting, leaving A and myself to watch the two kids. We talked and played and had a very fun time. I, in particular, was enjoying the food, which was dramatically better than the cafeteria food I would have to live on for the rest of the week.

One by one, A and Lexi’s brother finished eating and slipped away from the table, leaving Lexi and I by ourselves.

“Lyn, will you play with me?” Lexi asked.

I looked up at her from my heaping plate of food and groaned inwardly. I was already sore from walking five miles that day as part of my PE class, and I rarely have a lot of energy to start with. But I knew A had to study (ah, the life of a nursing major) and I didn’t have any homework left. With A already keeping an eye on the laundry, I figured the nice thing to do would be to entertain the little energizer bunny. So, I finished my food and took her outside to the trampoline.

“I’m gonna show you how high I can jump,” Lexi said as I lifted her onto the trampoline.

“Okay,” I smiled, leaning against the edge. I was glad I wasn’t having to jump.

As she bounced, I suddenly got the urge to sit on the trampoline instead of stand. Maybe it was me being lazy or, maybe, it was that watching her stirred some ounce of energy and childish nature somewhere deep inside me.

I watched her for a while, then she asked, “How high can you jump?”

After as much as I had eaten just a few minutes before, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. But I remembered how much I used to enjoy bouncing on a trampoline, so I stood up and took a flying leap. I came down hard on the trampoline, sending my little cousin sailing upward. She laughed as she bounced back down. We continued this for a while until my stomach told me that it had had quite enough bouncing for one night.

Then Lexi said, “Let’s play ‘Mommy, Mommy, Come Alive’.”

“Mommy, Mommy…” I began, then I grinned. Oh. That’s what my friends and I used to call “Mummy, Mummy, Come Alive”. Her version was less disturbed and I wasn’t about to tell her where the game came from.

We played this for a while, then she got bored again.

“I wanna play Little Red Riding Hood, now,” Lexi said.

“Okay,” I replied hesitantly, “how do you play that?”

“You be the Big Bad Wolf and I’ll be Little Red Riding Hood.”

Big Bad Wolf…that’s fitting. “Okay. What does the Big Bad Wolf do?”

“He goes grrrr and chases Little Red Riding Hood around.”

“Alright,” I grinned. “Grrrrr!”

I chased her in circles around the trampoline for a minute or two, then caught her up in a big bear hug and gently tackled her.

Grrrr!” I said, tickling her. “I’m the Big Bad Wolf and I’m going to eat you!”

“No!” Lexi protested between giggles. “Big Bad Wolves don’t eat little girls!”

“Why not?” I questioned.

“Because I’m made of skin and bones.”

“So what do Big Bad Wolves eat?”

My little cousin paused, contemplating the question. Then she grinned sheepishly and said, “They eat…something.”

“What kind of something?” I prodded.

She thought about the question a moment longer, then her grin broadened and she replied, “They eat toast!”

I had nothing left to say. Oh, the beauty of innocence!

The Trouble With Poetry

As I come to the close of my fourth week of poetry class, I have begun to think very seriously about the aspects of poetry, as well as the difficulty a person faces when judging and grading it. So much depends on the reader. A word that fits the rhyme scheme when the author reads the poetry may not sound right when someone else does. Likewise, a word may mean one thing to the author and an entirely different thing to the reader.

Take, for instance, the word “sliver”. (And yes, I am breaking one of my professors’ cardinal rules by putting the period after the quotation mark.)

In class, one of my friends wrote about how a “sliver of steam curled upward”, and instantly I got the image in my mind. When it came time to discuss the poem, the professor noted that he couldn’t imagine a sliver curling.

My friends and I stared at him blankly. I asked him what kind of sliver he was thinking of.

“The kind that you get in your finger, like a sliver of wood,” he replied.

“You mean a splinter?” I questioned.

To which he responded, “Is that what a sliver is to you? It must have something to do with dialect.”

And that’s just it. When one is reading or analyzing poetry, you have to keep the author in mind. I am a small-town, southern farm girl. I live and breath my culture and my society. No matter how many years of college I obtain, I will always have that in me. I will always say “ya’ll” and “fixin’ to”. I will forever call potatoes “potatas” (pronounced puh-tay-tuhs), and a sliver, to me, is a slice.

A friend recently pointed out to me that the word “prejudice” didn’t fit the rhyme scheme very well in my poem “Assumption”. I went back to look at it and, pronouncing it as I know it is supposed to be pronounced, I could see what she meant. But then I did a double-take. In reading the poem out loud to myself, I noticed something very interesting. Despite the fact that I know how prejudice is supposed to be pronounced, I still pronounce it pre-j-dice. The “u” is totally lost in my general use of the word. Thus, my version of prejudice fits the rhyme scheme perfectly. The real word, however, probably doesn’t.

Another example of the effects of culture on poetry is an experience I had a couple weeks ago. I had brought my poem called “Sunbeam” to class. It’s one of my favorite poems and, I have always believed, one of my crowning achievements as a poet. However, when it came time to comment, my professor tore the thing apart. He was very much against the concept of the sunbeam being a good thing. To him, the sun was “evil”.

At first I was quite upset. I thought the man had gone nuts. What was wrong with the sun? Looking back on it now, however, I do realize one thing. My professor is not from the south. He comes from England, a place where there is always plenty of green country and rain to feed the foliage that grows there. No doubt, living in Texas, particularly during the worst drought in the history of our state, is a rather scarring experience. To me, however, this is home. Home is Texas, where there are plenty of sunny days and few bitterly cold winters. And I am rarely ever warm enough, so the sun is a good and welcome thing to me. Unlike my professor, I don’t blame the drought on the sun. I blame it on the high pressure in the atmosphere, which keeps away the much-needed rain. But that, of course, could very well have everything to do with my background.

All in all, I’m rather apprehensive of mid-term grades for this class. How will my teacher grade my poetry? Will he judge it on his standards alone? If so, I might be in trouble. All I can say is I hope he remembers to consider culture and dialect.

Loss of Faith

In studying the Millerite movement and the Great Disappointment of 1844, I began to think of the essence of faith, and why it is that people seem to lose their faith when something goes wrong. And, since I need to add to my poetry repertoire for my poetry class, I thought I’d write something about it.

Loss of Faith
We see it all through hist’ry,
Men whose hopes are dashed
Like ships upon the ocean
And against the tempest cast.

By folly of their own mistakes,
Their ruin can be sure.
Yet still they go and cast the blame
And reject what once they were.

But can a man walk blamelessly
Then with loss, reject the Call?
And if he then should lose his faith,
Did he have that faith at all?

Assumption

So, a lot of very frustrating things have happened lately. In response, I have written another poem.

Assumption

We all have met some people
Who make mole-hills into more,
And try to find a rampart
In a closed and scratched-up door;
Who carry ’round a checklist,
As if the whole world could be placed
In charts and little diagrams:
Orderly, ruled, and spaced.
They assume they understand it all,
The meaning that isn’t there,
And ridicule the content;
All I can do is stare.
Do you really assume that what you think
Can be applied, even to me?
That what you have experienced
Is all a soul can see?
Remember that not everything
Can be labeled on a shelf.
So don’t assume you know it all,
And keep your prejudice to yourself.

—-

Ahh…I feel better now. Have a good day, everyone!