Saturday, March 29, 2014

Have I not been writing?

I have been writing, it's just been a tough writing season for me overall.

About a week ago I said to someone that I lost my dad in January.  It didn't fully register with them and they asked, "Where?"

"Um, it's not like I turned around in Sears and he was under a clothing rack saying, 'Pick me!' to freak out shoppers.  He died suddenly."

Let the awkwardness commence in 3, 2, 1....

See my dad was on peritoneal dialysis for almost 8 years.  No matter how careful you are with these things, there is always a risk of infection and a high density, quickly moving staph infection in his catheter gave him two choices: hemodialysis or death.  He swore up and down several times in the past he would never, ever, ever go on hemodialysis again.  We all figured he'd change his tune when he saw the other choice.

We were wrong.

While his last 4 days on this planet were surrounded by family and deeply moving for all of us, it is still a tough one for me to process.  I don't know if I fully will process losing him, but I"m grateful for those last days both on his behalf and for me.

Add a tough semester of grad school requiring far more "small" writing (3 page paper here, a lesson plan there), well, writing hasn't been so much on my radar this time through.  Then the other day I subbed for a fourth grade teacher and had to teach a lesson on opinion writing.  Like most kids, they were trapped in "The first reason I feel..." "The second reason...." "and a final reason...." without understanding that opinion writing - like any writing - is telling a story.

Watching their frustration at knowing what they were doing wasn't what they wanted it to be, I read them an old piece of mine called "Why Baseball." (Because they are kids and I was reading, I substituted "cold beer" for "cold drink.")  I then asked if someone could tell me the reasons I liked baseball and they should too.  They could list them.  I then asked what made my piece different and one kid said, "It was really persuasive, but it was like a story."

I called, "Bingo!"  I then told them that their piece, using the proper transition words and "So What" wrap up for why the evidence supported their reason should read like a story as well.  It doesn't happen overnight, it takes time but they can do it and they should stop seeing adding a quote or dialogue to support their opinion as something dry but as something that enhances it.  When I'm done reading about why gymnastics is important, I should be convinced that the camaraderie of teammates is something all of us need in our lives or that when my fish bumped his head against the fish bowl as an invitation to play, it was not only something that would brighten my day but remind me I'm loved in unexpected ways and everyone should have a Beta fish to make them feel that way.  Sell me without letting me know you're selling me.

It was then I knew I was ready to write again.

I signed on to Camp NaNoWriMo (yeah, the national novel writer people) to jump start myself.  It couldn't come in a worse month.  April is the wrap up of the semester, Passover and a million and one other things.  On top of all that, last winter I signed up for a half marathon in June because, you know, when anyone's stressed out they do stupid things. So why do this?

Because life has to go back to normal.  I have to write or I'm miserable trying to face everyday as more than a chore.  I reduced my word count and set myself up to write short stories - flash writing - so I can just be as random as I need to be.  Perhaps I'll focus on my dad one day and running another.  I don't know.  I don't so much as have a plan as I have a big, blurry picture... and that's OK.

But one thing is sure, I need to start writing more than 3-5 page papers about Piaget's theory of disequilibrium as a method of processing learning and teaching place value to elementary school kids.  I need to tell real stories again.