Thursday, February 8, 2018

Coach

    It’s hard to write about those that we have loved and lost.  But sometimes its the best thing we can do because words written amidst of tears can be like the tears of a Phoenix, healing us as we rise from the ashes. And it is from ash and dust that we all begin and to dust we all return.
    I often wonder if there is truth in the lyrics claiming “only the good die young.”  It feels like that to me.  It’s always the good ones, the people you want to hold onto forever who are suddenly gone. 
     So it was with my coach this past weekend.  For those of you who have ever played a sport and especially to those of you who have ever been an underdog, you have that coach.  The one who always believed in you, who never gave up on you even when you wanted to give up on yourself.  It’s almost as if they’ve walked out of the Remember the Titans script and are making it come true in your very own crazy life.
     My coach was named Ginny Hill.  At least that was her name when I met her as a 4 foot sixth grader, trying out for the middle school soccer team.  To be clear although the tryouts were really more of a formality than an actual culling process since we all made it in some sense of the word, I was facing them with coke bottle thick glasses, zero sports experience and little of hope of doing more than “riding the pine pony” or “keeping the starters spots warm” as you will… so when the very first game she started me in goal no less, I was speechless.  Coach told me later, when I made Varsity as a freshman that she chose me for my heart, my “lion bird heart,” a nickname my college roommate later resurrected. She changed my life that day she put me in goal and she continued to do so for the next 3 years of middle school.   It is part of the reason I love to teach middle school.  My own experience was so poignant.  I grew a quarter of an inch but leaps and bounds in confidence and friendships.         Coach had a pretty big 3 years too. The team fought side by side with her against her first bout with cancer.  I remember how seriously we took each poster we made her and each round of chemo she conquered.  She was a hero to all of us and amidst this crazy battle, she got engaged and married! 
    She could never convince me that anyone would ever be good enough for her.  She was a saint.  But as I got to know Paul over the next 20 years, he won me over.  He became a mentor to me as well, with his humble servant’s heart and constant faith in the face of hardship.  Every day found them with a smile on their faces, even at times amidst tears.  I saw them less and less after moving across the country and then back but she always made time for me.
     I won’t be there tomorrow to celebrate her life in CT but I will be thinking of her and telling all my kids about how God used her in my life. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Letter to President Trump on Martin Luther King Jr Day 2018

Dear President Trump,
         Confession.  I am prejudiced.  I cried the day you were elected.  I was frightened by a world who would elect a white, rich and powerful man.  A man, so much like the one who took away my innocence before I finished first grade.  

 As I sat in my bathroom crying, I remembered going into the voting booth with my mom back when Dukakis was running against the first Bush.  My job was to keep the cheap blue curtain in place while my mom got to pull the levers. I couldn’t wait till the day I got to pull those levers. I even aspired to be on the ballot.  

Full disclosure:  In my first Presidential election I voted for George W. Bush to serve a second term as our president.  I figured he was the one who got us into the Iraq war which my friends had heedlessly enlisted in, only to come back ghosts of their former selves. I guess I was just hoping that he had a plan and I was wise enough, even at 19, to see that bureaucracy required almost a decade to carry out a plan. 

Fuller Disclosure: I voted both terms for Barack Obama.  I not only wanted an African
American to be president, I wanted him to be president. I admired the way he wrote his memoir so humbly, admitting his weaknesses and insecurities. I liked the way he told stories of all the people he’d met along the campaign trail. He was so skilled at diplomacy and after eight years of war in the Middle East I believed that we needed someone who would sit down and talk, someone who was internationally savvy.  Maybe it was vanity, maybe as a speech and debate teacher and coach I wanted someone well spoken.  

Fullest Disclosure: I did not vote for you last year but neither did I vote for Hillary Clinton.  I did what most would say was wasting my vote by casting it for an independent.  

Now, here I sit, a white mother of three white children, trying to make sense of how to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. in light of your alleged racist remarks.  

I face 3 main problems:

1. My first dilemma- Your comments themselves.  Even if they prove to be inaccurate in the particulars I take issue with them and even to your rebuttal to the allegations:  "I am not a racist. I'm the least racist person you will ever interview.”  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42685356 
This strikes me as ridiculous.  How can we ever crown someone “the least racist.”  It’s immeasurable and unquantifiable.  Even if someone is an activist for racial and ethnic equality we can never know the moments of snap judgements they make based on their own subjective experiences and unacknowledged indoctrination into “how life works.”

2. My second dilemma- Martin Luther King Jr. was not perfect.  He was a great man.  He made the world a better place but not without controversy.   “King was regularly accused of what today would be called ‘reverse racism;’ of hating white people. One piece of hate- mail is particularly revealing: “How can you be a minster and have such hatred in your heart for the ‘white’-race and the Nation in general?”  http://www.missioalliance.org/king-wasnt-peaceful Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable to contemplate that in his mind I owe Black Americans reparations for the sins of my forefathers  I hate being lumped together with bigots and racists because I am white. In fact it makes me want to dig up dirt on him such as the fact that he was unfaithful to his wife, and he put her and his children in danger as well as leaving them penniless. But I know that is petty.  


3. My final dilemma: What can or should I do?  My first instinct is to stay silent because I have yet to “win” a debate via social media or blogging.  Also, I run the risk of being misinterpreted and phrasing something in a particularly offensive way to someone, which would break my heart.  But in the end I love Martin Luther King Jr's message and I think he deserves to be celebrated. I found this article that I think is really helpful on how that can play out in each of our personal lives.  


He was a man who truly made America great and he did so by recognizing that without humility, self-sacrifice, faith and love our own beloved country is a hateful sh--hole.  So, let's go President Trump. Let's honor the man who gave his life for equality and civil rights.  Let's make America great again.  

Sincerely,
    K.D. Simington

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Silver Thunderbird


Prompt #4- Write about a car.

       Just before the start of school in 7th grade I was lamenting the poison ivy scabs that still oozed out of her chin despite my best efforts not to scratch them.  My dad came almost dancing into the indoor/outdoor flag stone floor of our kitchen.  I turned to him and threw the front door open wider motioning for us all to come and look.  I peered behind him and saw my mom’s maroon station wagon that he had bartered a whole summer of roofing to get, and next to it I saw a new car.  Well, truth be told it looked like a very used car but definitely new to us.  It held some similarities to the 1985 Camry that had died about the time Dad began his roofing for the station wagon. “It’s a T-bird,” My dad gleamed.  “The Shoemachers
      “Why?”  I asked taking a bite of my peanut butter toast.
      “Why?!” He echoed. “They are classic cars!  Marc Cohen ‘Silver Thunderbird?!’” I knew the song and I double checked.  This car could not truly be a Thunderbird.  It had no chrome, no fins, small lights and looked nothing like the bat mobile. Dad headed into the living room to play the CD. He was all about CDs in 1997.  I was skeptical but he had given me almost all of his cassette tapes in favor of the “Compact Disc.”  My mom still listened to her records on the record player and those songs were my very favorite.  I wished she’d let me play them.  But in no uncertain terms I knew that if I ever touched the record player I would instantly break the needle and then it could be months before my mom could harangue my dad into getting her a new one.  He slipped Marc Cohen into the entertainment center that he had built from scrap wood from various side jobs. 


    “Why were Rick and Lynn getting rid of it?”  My mom asked, wiping her soapy hands on a dish towel.
    “Aww, you know Rick, he doesn’t really work with his hands. Some small electrical problem and he’d just as soon get a new car.”
         I marveled at this.  “One man’s trash is another’s treasure” held Biblical status in our house and that was saying something.  I looked at my mom, for I knew she did not ascribe quite as whole heartedly to the axiom.  The pressure in the room suddenly made my head hurt, the same way the atmosphere warned me when a thunderstorm was coming. My headaches were totally debilitating but they were also what had taught me the joy of escaping to my room with tea and a good, easy read.  No-one would knock, knocking would make it worse.  So, I crept upstairs and tucked myself under my comforter.  It was a little scratchy but looked paint splattered which was exactly the motif I’d begged to instill upon my entire room.  It was not to be.
        
My sister came in, up from a nap, or a session of reorganizing her books across the floor of her room.  She wore the sesame street ABC comforter that I’d handed down around her like a cape.  She lay down next to my bed. 
        “I can’t read out loud.”  I told her flatly. 
        “Ok,” she shrugged. She produced her LiteBrite miraculously from the folds of the well worn canopy.  She settled down against the spray painted metal bars of my bed.  We’d rescued it from the trash and it’s fancy wrought iron work reminded me of “The Little Princess.”  I liked to imagine waking up to a surprise feast one morning.  I’d even imagine eating and enjoying a tangerine which was something I’d never done.  Anything with seeds was anathema to me.  I gagged at the thought. 
    
    “Do you want to make a radio show?” She asked.  Sometimes we’d hide in my wardrobe; I was fairly certain one of these days we’d be allowed to enter Narnia but until Aslan deigned to see us, we made radio shows.  We had a cast off cassette player from my dad and a good amount of blank tapes and those we’d tape over. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

NaNoWriMo Recap

        It started as just a camaraderie thing.  I knew there were several writer friends doing NaNoWriMo and i; e always wanted to write a novel so why not do it in a month?  I'm crazy like that, right?
       Plus, I was spurred on by the adrenaline from the Boston Book Festival.  So, I figured I'd participate, get some words on the page which is notoriously difficult.
         I didn't take it very seriously at first, I didn't jealously fight for my writing time.  I wasn't willing to get up early.  At first, it was just a jumble of moments, no real order or plan but they were all moments that mattered to me. 
          They were all part of my story .  I began to realize in a new way how skewed my relationship with God has been, how much I have not changed since I was a child, how much I refuse to change.  How deep the wounds and brokenness go.  As I'd write I'd wonder, "Has there ever been anyone so messed up as me?  Making deals with God and bargaining a way to avoid my pain."  Then I'd reply (to myself) "SO many, I know, all of us, broken and bruised….human after all.  Only human and him all knowing but how can we ever heal?  How can we ever change?  How can my story be any more than just a mess of mixed up doctrines and false assumptions."
         I decided to start taking things a little more seriously and realized that I love writing at the Library.  I feel so inspired and though the books do distract me for a while, once I set down to work things go much more smoothly, efficiently.  I also notice I don’t watch music videos at the library.  I just listen to instrumental music and focus on the writing.  Sometimes I only put one headphone in so I can be aware of my surroundings.  Music videos seem inappropriate at the library and I suppose they are addicting and distracting even at home. 
     Trying to find the right music added to my guilt over falling behind on my word count.  First, it was wine and then scandalous pop song videos.  But it was also what I was writing.  I felt a guilt that was heavy and demanded healing when I wrote about my ex boyfriend, when I relived sweet moments together, re-imagining them with rose colored glasses but the process also forced me to confront why we didn’t end up together.  It wasn’t just that he smoked weed and drank or didn’t care about women’s rights. A cynic could accuse my husband of those things as well (albeit in the past.)  No, it was that this boy I loved at first,  did not love God more than he loved me.  And to write it off as anything else would be dishonest. 
          And I began to take writing more seriously, I began to take the themes and questions I was wrestling with and weave them into a fictional quilt filled with very true moments.  But then fatigue set in. Each word was like a slow crawl to the finish.  I  could not seem to get my words down and the words I did get down felt cliche and ambling.  I was  annoyed at myself but refused to give up.  I had written so much already; probably more than in the past two years combined or at least equal to it.  There was already so much to edit and to play with.  I think that will be the fun part.  If only I could figure out what music to listen to. 
       Before I could believe it, it was already the last day.  The very last write in on the last day.  I had 5,000 words left to write and so little energy.  The leader of my writing group put these two pins in front of me and told me to choose.  I could continue this story next year or next month or I could finish it in the next 3 hours.  I began to write feverishly.  I wrote and I wrote.  I set my timer and every half hour I'd give myself a cookie...literally.  I tried extending scenes that felt short and adding description where it was lacking.  I was scrambling. 
     Then, at 11:43 with 22 minutes left of the month I finished.  I would not say it is a truly complete novel.  But it is a love story that I am proud of.  It is more than a start it has a beginning, middle and end.  I can't believe how long it took and how hard it was and yet how worth it.  I felt like a winner and when people ask me what I've won, I show them the pin.  Because really that is enough, more than enough. 
        I gave myself  a whole week off.  But part of me doesn't want to lose momentum.  I want to keep "writing like my pen is on fire."  So, I think I will.  I think I will always write.  It is part of me. 



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The hat

 Prompt #2 “He couldn’t take it anymore.  This was the last time he was going to let her”

 “He couldn’t take it anymore.  This was the last time he was going to let her” hurt herself.  The scabs disgusted him. Her perfect porcelain skin clawed into thumb-sized pox.  He’s watch her do it.  Her eyes would start to scan their surroundings restlessly.  She’d shift in her sit, cross and recross her legs.  Then, reach her dirty, ragged nails to the nape of her neck and quickly scratch an imagined itch.  She’d pull her hand down and then thoughtlessly reach up again finding a razor sharp edge to her claws and drag them across her chin or hairline with enough pressure to draw blood.  He’d reach to swat her hand down but it was too late. 

She was hooked now, her hand would surreptitiously search her scalp for dead skin to pull away, old scars to reopen, any way to let the panic inside ooze out.  She’d examine her hands.  Unaware of him now.  He’s hit her again, swatting just hard enough to startle her back to reality.  Once, during a movie he’d asked her to sit on her hands and she had dutifully obeyed just until his attention was riveted back to the screen, then she’d reach back up to her face, digging deeper and deeper pits, aiming for arteries, examining old pus with detachment. 

He’d get so mad and she’d cry helplessly.  They even made a pact one hopeful date night.  She agreed that for every time she drew her own blood she’d stick on a huge floppy hat regardless of the time or place. The intention was two-fold to block her access to her most prone areas but also to shame her into breaking the habit.  The next day, he stopped by for lunch and she guiltily let the brim of the hat fall over her eyes as she cried salty tears into the sandwich they were sharing. 

“Don’t you want to stop?” he asked.
“Of course,” she wailed.
“Then, why do you keep doing it.  You know it’s going to get infected.  I listened to a podcast the other day where a girl dug a hole so deep into her own head that they could see her skull.  It was so infected they couldn’t get it to heal.  Is that what you want?”
 She shook her head vehemently.  “I’m so scared that’s what is going to happen.”
“Why?  That’s ridiculous!  It’s your choice, it’s not like it happens without you knowing.  You are doing this to yourself!”  He allowed some scorn to harden his voice.  His eyes flashed and cut her heart.
“It IS like it is happening without me knowing.  Most of the time it’d totally subconscious.  I hate it but once I start I just can’t stop.”
“Of course you can….you’re not a zombie or something.  You can’t stop because you think you can’t.  Mind over matter.”

She rolled her eyes, and scratched an imagined itch by her wrist, she made an X in the skin pressing diagonally with her thumb in one direction and the other with as much pressure as she could muster.  No relief, she scratched absently looking for a more tender spot, an old wound, preferably near some nerves. 
   
   “I’m not really hungry…I don’t feel good.  Do you mind if I go for a quick run?” she begged. 
    “Sure,” he replied. Flicking on the TV.

  She threw on the same thing she’d worn the day before, old sports bra, the Rose Bowl Race for a Cure Shirt and running shorts.  She contemplated the day old socks but didn’t have the energy to go searching for new ones.  She had to get out.  She ignored the smell, pulled them on, dragged her headphones off the dresser in her room and gave Will a quick kiss on the cheek before she scanned her iPod for her running mix.  She walked until she found it, stuck in her headphones, hating the way they felt in her ears.  She began to jog.