When The Words Don’t Come

Spring may be in the air, but it hasn’t reached my front porch.  The cold taunts me even as the forecast promises it will be warmer tomorrow.  While Charming turned up the heat in Vegas for an epic March Madness Bachelor party last weekend, my stubborn refusal to turn the heat back on condemned me to feel every bit of those dipping, nippy, thirty-degree days and nights, colder still without a handsome man beside me.  I couldn’t remember what to do with a weekend alone, so Saturday I sat on another familiar perch, this one a deep cherry with Queen Anne feet.

The wooden bench isn’t worn, not like my writer’s niche; no, this tattered love seat has endured two moving trucks less than two years apart crossing at least a half a dozen state lines.  The cherry bench isn’t worn like the one in my parents’ living room in Upstate New York, still occupying the same space on the cuff of the Wedgewood blue oriental rug.  Nor is it worn like the stool that I substituted for a bench, the one I last felt beneath my fingers in a rented home on a cul-de-sac in Antioch, a curiously named suburb of Nashville, over five years ago.  Has it really been that long since I left my ex-husband, that 1906 Baldwin vertical piano, and the first decade of my adult life?

It has.  He remarried this year, or so the Facebook grapevine showed me.  We move on. Life moves forward.  We change.  We grow or weaken, but we never stay the same.  Six years ago, I was a devoted wife juggling a full time teaching career with a graduate program coming to grips with the reality that my husband couldn’t relate to the academic parts of me.  Honestly, I played dumb for the better part of the decade that I was with my ex, and I was a good actress.  They called me, “Casi Mexicana.”  It meant, “Almost Mexican.”

Despite the prominent role that intellect had played in shaping my childhood and adolescent path, education was neither respected nor necessary in the world my former husband grew up inside so many years ago.  He would tell me he wasn’t book smart; he was street smart.  This was never more true than when he sat on the stool from Grandpa Rubbo’s workshop that substituted for my piano bench, and no college degree could accurately award him for the masterful melodies he would make there, harmonizing with voice and keys, making me fall in love with the memory of a passionate musician whose only muse was me.  That would change in time, and eventually he’d stop writing.  He’d stop making music. His heart may as well have stopped beating in his chest, if I hadn’t been so wrapped up in my collegiate and career pursuits to notice that he’d abandoned his music for a nine to five that would satisfy vested stakeholders, like my parents.

Perhaps we never should have been, but we were.  Perhaps his new wife is his muse now, and he’s making music again.  I’m not.

Charming likes to tease me after church services where folks have commented on my “beautiful voice”, saying, “See, you’re still a singer.”  Oh, but I’m not.  I used to wake up singing, carry that tune on through the shower and the rest of the day, having transformed a freewrite into a poem into the fourth revision of a song lyric that warranted a lunch break camping out in the chorus room, plunking out the accompaniment on a baby grand I liked to pretend was mine.  During class or rehearsals, Mrs. Quackenbush took the helm, but at lunchtime, I was alone in the oversized, carpeted room, and I made music best that way.

Best until I met my ex-husband, that is.  I’d made a demo when I moved to Nashville during college, but few people know that since I was quite confident early on in our dating relationship that there was only room for one performer.  I dabbled a bit in modeling and on stage, but my voice was reserved for three-part harmonies with my mother and father-in-law, slipping between familiar Spanish and English translations of favored choruses while my husband manned the drums; there, he was as equally brilliant as on my makeshift piano bench.

Five years, and there’s no music in my life.  I’ve got some fine-tuned Pandora stations that I’ve meticulously crafted over the last half a decade, but ultimately, apart from songs my gym mentor texts me with a note like, “Watch this all the way to the end, “ I hear what comes and goes on secular radio and the platform at Liberty Baptist Church.  I sing only during worship services.  I am not a singer anymore.

And I really wonder how that happened.  My junior year of high school, I averaged a fully produced song a week, with original lyrics and piano accompaniment.   This weekend, with Charming celebrating with his pals, I tried to do what I used to do before there was Charming, or really, back in Antioch, Tennessee when my diet was a steady balance of music and academia, one foot in each world and happy because of it.  My rented bungalow with the red door in earshot of Darling Stadium, the place where my students throw down on the football field each fall, is usually quiet anyway.  Maybe it wasn’t so much as Charming’s absence as it was a couple of days without formal obligations that found me trying to wear down the cherry wood of the piano I bought in Hampton shortly after Charming and I started dating, after I made my bucket list.  There were notes, but there were just no words that hadn’t been sung already before.

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My bucket list committed me to buying another piano.  It was the first thing I accomplished from my, “Thirty Things to Do in My Thirties” list because, coming at solely a financial cost, it was easy to arrange.  The grand beast was transported by my gym Mentor Chuck and some of his old cop buddies.  I’ll never forget the way they backed Lt. Col. Anderson’s truck up to the steps of this front porch, how they set up the piano just the way I wanted, how they left and I sat down to try and write a song.  How no song came that night, in the quiet.

Two and a half years later, I’m still trying.  I’ve written several enticing chord progressions, but there are no words.  Do I spend all my words here in this blog, leaving no creative originality for the musical meanderings of my mind?  I posit that it is more likely that my inability to write music stems from one of two things: either, that music was the bond my former husband I shared to a fault, and without him, it seems an empty pursuit.  Or, I grew up and realized that the world didn’t revolve around me, that half of the kids I taught in Nashville would make names for themselves as performers, but that I was just a high school teacher.  What message do I have to share?

My love affair with music is longer seated even than with writing, though my favored mistress shouldn’t be jealous.  Of course, solid writing was at the foundation of the songs I’d write, starting as early as third grade when I was trying to convince the pastor’s son that girls did not actually have cuties. I sang in the church choir in elementary school.  I did all our school plays. Mom schlepped me to auditions for community theater, and then she schlepped me back for all the rehearsals to come.  I think I truly believed I would make it in the music world, that I would be famous, either as an actress or a singer-songwriter, and that in that obvious success, I would have proved my worth.

This weekend, I tried to write a song.  That’s on my list of things to do in my thirties as well, and I’m already halfway through this decade.  Why can’t I write a song?  My fingers somehow still compose.  Eyes closed, each digit finds the right note to depress and release at just the right time.  This piano is barely broken in, having been secured in a season when I was only the artist formerly known as a singer or a musician.

I think when I wrote and sang in my pre-teens, adolescence, and even in my twenties, that it was all about me.  I would change the world, right? I wasn’t a millennial, so I’d mastered my craft to make that claim… only the world wound up changing me first.  When I try to write lyrics now, I close my eyes and I’m back at the enormous vertical 1906 Baldwin I had to leave behind when I left my ex-husband.

Writing came back.  Will music?  Will I ever sing in the shower again?  It’s been five years, and every time a familiar worship chorus plays, I still hear it first in Spanish and still choose the second part harmony, still hear my former in-laws’ voices intermingling with mine in an almost supernaturally inspired way.

There’s a picture of me, full head of dark hair, standing on my toddler tiptoes to reach the ivory keys begging to be played just like my oldest brother, David.  His son is now tickling the keyboard, too. His daughter wants to pursue theater, like I did.  This weekend, while my fiancé accumulated incredible memories with his friends, I bonded with an Italian hymnal with songs my great-grandfathers composed decades ago.

It’s so cold tonight, but it will be warmer tomorrow.  There’s always a frost after the cold.  My magnolias must have deep roots to keep boasting pink and white blossoms morning after morning.  Perhaps I should see a lesson in this unusually long month of blooms. After my divorce, it took a long time for different parts of me to thrive.  I think the roots with music go deep enough to face that challenge of writing another song, even if my words and melody are simply for an audience of one.

With the spring comes the thaw, and tomorrow will be warmer.  Warmth is always a more inspiring foundation for original thought.  It doesn’t matter if it changes the world like it did at fifteen.  At thirty-five, I just want it to change me.

Sentiment vs. Syntax

The porch light catches magnolia blossoms half-trodden on the glistening sidewalk before me as I write and remember all the nights spent on this white wicker love seat with the same view. Only, blog post nostalgia begs me to reconsider: the dim, post-rain fog that surrounds me on the first night of spring fails to comfort like the warm breeze that stirs up my wind chimes in mid-June. The setting varies with the seasons, and my perspective tags along.

It’s never really been the same view. My body settles into cornflower blue paisley cushions worn to my shape, and I finish this sentence after stopping to evaluate the necessity of a comma after blue in the previous independent clause. I accept that the Writing SOL exam for my sophomores was last week, and my thoughts can take precedent over syntax like our new units. We’re writing poetry and fairy tales for the next two months, after all. If e.e. cummings can spell his name in lowercase letters, the grammar guru’s genius is eradicated by prioritizing the writer’s voice and message over command of language conventions. If there are no rules in poetry, then the sky is the limit. If the kids are lost in a fairy tale, they will believe anything is possible.

As my students have transitioned from the Art of Rhetorical Persuasion to discover the taste of freedom, as the five paragraph essay basic, staple mainstay fades from foggy adolescent memories, so I find myself allowing more latitude in every area. I’m not as young as I used to be, and my shoulder reminds me in subtle and sledgehammer ways that it has a broken bone, for goodness’ sake. In turn, I’ve been more submissive, bending to the rotator cuff’s will. I will tolerate a degree of organized chaos, ignoring dusty surfaces no one will notice but me and consolidating clutter to appropriate junk drawers.

My gym mentor Chuck helps me sort through life’s clutter. After describing the type of pain I’d felt the day I’d forgotten my sling at work as my arm being pulled downward, Chuck said something profound: “Gravity works against all things… with time.” It was just that way, with a pause for emphasis, and it struck us both squarely as we shifted contexts, and subsequently, we shifted perspectives, too. I could hear my brain cue up Pandora as John Mayor’s voice filled the empty space. It’s working against me, wants to take me down. Gravity is metaphorical. Chuck had been literal, and yet, his words echo and resound every day as I see a new application, even catchier than the pop song lyrics.

Gravity literally weighs on my shoulder without the sling, and I feel the way it works against me. When I look in the mirror, I see the way that gravity has worked against me and know it will continue to add even more wrinkles and make skin sag in a manner that won’t let me pass for twenty-nine anymore. Last April, I was squeezing into size ten jeans. Now, my size two A-line skirts from personal training days are seeing light after a decade in storage. Unfortunately, even though I can fit into the Forever 21 crop tops causing dress code violations at school, I’m too old to actually wear them in public without pulling them down every other second.

We’re never completely satisfied. When our instinctive desire to be better wins out over passive participation in entertainment, the varying perspectives are far more entertaining when experiencing the real world. I’ve done that from this front porch, and I’ve never seen the same two Tuesdays, not in one hundred and fifty-eight nights of blind typing or the near quarter of a million words spilled out of my brain onto the page and shared with friends and strangers who happen to connect with something in the way that I saw life on that particular evening, still and silent on a street that soothes me with the familiar comfort of the collective nights in which I responded to the setting this porch gives me. And yes, that sentence was correctly punctuated, not that it matters to e.e. cummings.

One of those connections was Charming, but I never could have known that starting a blog would amount to finding my husband. Gravity has worked against us, too. Two and a half years of a mid-distance relationship takes its toll. In our fragmented time together on the weekends and stolen handfuls of phone conversations to tide us over until Friday night. The drive on 95 wears on us both, and planning a wedding across state lines adds to the load. The restricted use of and resulting clumsiness combined with the nagging pain and associated sleep loss caused by my right arm keep me at a resting irritability rate of about a five on a scale of one to ten.

I know I’m not fun to be around, but I can’t expect Charming to overlook my snarky retorts and be my knight in shining armor at the same time. Gravity is weighing on him, too, as his career future has taken an incredible turn that will mean everything changes, for him and for us. I’ve written about all my worries for the world to see, but my Charming will bear the weight on his shoulders because he knows I’ve only got one right now. I learn lessons when I sit here. I told myself in a blog post months ago that I can’t put the burden of my happiness in Charming, that experiencing joy originated somewhere else, that I could be at peace even if I wasn’t smiling all the time.

Molded into these blue cushions, I gaze out at the same magnolia tree opposite my loveseat in my front yard. This afternoon, I was surprised by how long they’ve been in bloom. Perhaps rather than confusing the Japanese trees, the colder temperatures gave my block a couple more weeks of brilliant color. Today, even against the rain, they made me smile. My writing journey reveals the seasons I experience just like my magnolias. There were nights I looked out at barren branches and saw the cold in my own heart. Other times, the late setting sun inspired a hopeful optimism as the full shade of green leaves kept me comfortable.

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In one of my very first posts, I fixated on the great, old oak tree that fell on Valentine’s Day three years ago. It was my first nature analogy, setting the stage for the way my writing would take shape and find its own voice and message. Almost always, my perspective fits my magnolias and the weather. Tonight is the same, so night is ever the same. You can’t see the pink blossoms in the dark of night, but they are there. It’s cold, but it will get warmer soon. That’s how I’m feeling about my life right now, too.

Even as I pen these words, all sparked by Chuck’s unintentionally powerful statement. Gravity works against all things, and it’s the “over time” part that matters. Gravity doesn’t affect Word documents, but it affects everything else in my life. Gravity took down that oak tree, but it took a hundred years. For three years, I’ve devoted a night to my mistress, and unlike e.e. cummings, the intentional act of routine writing has led me to a masterful command of language that tantalizes me.

Weaving words and wisdom in attempts at wit challenges me, and there’s no one who gives better advice than Chuck. If the stars align, and it seems they might, I told Chuck to start hitting the record button on his smart phone whenever he starts spilling out one of his inspirational stories from his days on the force. It doesn’t seem fair to the world that all his wisdom is wasted on an audience of one.

What if my mistress could be more than that? I could ghost write Chuck’s book of motivational anecdotes. I could write my mom’s story the way we’ve always dreamed about doing in the hazy someday. I could visit all the places in Italy where my ancestors lived and worked and write the book I don’t even know I’m supposed to write yet. What if?

When Charming and I get married, I will become his wife. That will undoubtedly bring a new perspective, one that will never see these magnolia trees shed their blossoms. Despite the dark, I look out and see the colorful pink I know will be there in the morning. We’ll move into a home together, and I’ll find a new writer’s perch, and I’m already wondering what will replace the magnolias to inspire and delight my writing love affair.

Wrecks, Writing, & Rituals

Not even a freak, unexpected snow storm would halt the flow of thousands of Hampton sophomores into proctored classrooms this morning; district-wide testing for the Writing SOL, my kids’ end of course test, prevailed over icy back roads yet untouched by the sun’s rays.  As I slipped and slid my way to Kecoughtan, I counted eight separate sirens, no doubt responding to those less fortunate, perhaps with fewer experiences driving in the snow.

Even as I type that sentence, my brain is cataloguing language conventions: alliteration times two, fewer versus less, bundled up in imagery as part of a hook, and the realization that I correctly employed a colon in this budding paragraph.  Why can’t I escape the need to rise in rhetorical ranks, responding to the responsibility of my calling with an inability to settle for ordinary?  The answer resides in the sweet reward of ritual and routine.  Just as one who has spent time practicing stops and turns in an empty, icy lot will brave a storm with more confidence than our Southern contemporaries, continued exposure to SOL passages and question stems boosted my students this morning, despite the disappointment of the two-hour delay that never was.

Confidence alone only got me so far, though.  In January, just before my eighteenth birthday, I wrecked my grams’ Oldsmobile in hazardous winter driving conditions.  Twice.  I knew what to do.  I had memorized the rules.  Experience, however, was my adversary.  When that little old lady stopped to allow me to cut across four lanes to make a left turn, I trusted her motioning me forward to mean there weren’t other cars coming that the six-foot snow embankments prevented me from seeing. I T-boned a car in the lane just beyond her.  I’ve never made that mistake again, though.  I learned from the experience, and I neither trust little old ladies motioning me forward nor put others in danger with my own well-intentioned traffic violations to let someone in my lane.

Two weeks later, my father gave me the keys to my repaired vehicle.  I drove it just one day.  After indoor track practice, there wasn’t even enough snow accumulated to need to dust off the hood.  It was dark by then, a classic haloed, New York twilight, and there had just been a light dusting of flurries that hadn’t stuck.  Though I turned my wheel to the right in an attempt to proceed on the main road home, my brakes were useless.  Worse, even, they were deadly.  Gram’s car wouldn’t be redeemed after the van and I collided head on, an entertaining spectacle for all my senior friends getting out of their winter sports’ practices.  I learned from that experience to, refusing to drive for several months until there was no threat of a freak snow storm… and it took an unexpected man, as well.

He was the father of some kids I babysit in a nearby neighborhood.  He strapped the boys in their car seats, handed me his keys, buckled himself into the passenger seat, and told me to take the wheel.  Experience is an incredible asset, but when you get someone who believes in you so much that he says, “If you don’t drive now, you may never get past the fear.  I trust you with my children’s lives.  You can drive this car.”  I did.  That doesn’t mean that I didn’t get in another wreck again, but with each challenge I found the collective sum of lessons was beginning to amount to something akin to a good driving record.  Oddly enough, my last wreck (and last totaled car), was the day of my students’ end of course test back in Nashville six years ago.

Learning the rules and practicing scenarios laid the groundwork with confidence for me as a driver as my students’ experience with English grammar and rhetoric.  That isn’t enough, though.  As though found today, there were some tricky new question stems that required them to represent their answers in different ways than we’d practiced; this is when all our year-long experiences investing ourselves in doing more than just master the rules.  Like John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society, my kids need to be able to think for themselves again.  Life is not a multiple choice question with a twenty-five percent chance you’ll get it right.  We prided ourselves in becoming literary researchers and life analysts, and those practices naturally foster minds that engage readily in critical thinking.

If that’s not enough, I’m here, like the driving father angel who set my wheels in motion decades ago.  With training comes confidence, with experience comes critical thinking, but with a mentor, the sky is the limit.  Mrs. Shelton, my faithful writing mentor, believed I could be a writer, and I let her take me there.  I breathe writing.  It is my discipline, my craft, my never-a-forty-hour-work week.  My brain dissects sentence structure because it’s one of those routine, ritual, repeated actions that’s become automatic, subconscious even.

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Heading into the gym this afternoon, the sun was shining and I was smiling… until I remembered my gym mentor was on vacation.  Maybe there’s a recipe here. I started weight training in middle school. I’ve only stopped when my body’s prevented me from hitting the gym, daily if possible.  The routing, ritual, repeated action is scaffolded by twenty-five years of toning muscles and cutting fat.  Unfortunately, my shoulder will restrict me from lifting weights for the foreseeable future, and while I know that, I still had to try a few exercises.  Abs or legs shouldn’t affect my shoulder, right?  It turns out I can’t operate half the machines without my right shoulder, and the exercises that seemed innocuous jarred my rotator cuff sufficiently enough to make the searing pain not entirely worth the benefit of uncovering the four pack I lost in my twenties.

I know the gym.  The training, experience, mentor – it’s a complete picture, but when you introduce a shoulder injury, the entire game changes.  I had no clue how severely this post-surgery recovery would affect and alter my everyday life.  Used to moving quickly, carrying all my grocery bags inside with one trip, multitasking while I’m multitasking, well, this handicap doesn’t just slow me down.  It frustrates me because it slows me down, and so I take off my sling to grit and bear it, and then my shoulder reminds me it’s going to be the boss of me until it’s healed, and I suffer in constant pain that makes writing and working out and cooking difficult.  This is a brave new world, and perhaps I’ve allowed a high threshold for pain blind me from the basics of getting good at anything new.  When I see my doctor for my one-month follow-up tomorrow, I’m going to have to admit that I thought I knew better, that I didn’t follow the rules, that I overextended myself and am facing the consequences.

I can drive well in a storm now, but I opted not to tempt fate or history by taking this gimpy, one-hand show behind the wheel in last night’s snow.  I won’t make it a career, so of course I won’t log the same hours on the road as I do typing on this front porch in my writer’s perch.  What’s true for me with driving is also true for most of my students when it comes to writing.

The Writing SOL is behind us, or at least the first half.  The sun came out, and the snow melted.  We’re watching Dead Poet’s Society, and I’m ignoring the collective groans when informed they’ll be actively viewing the film by completing a guide and pausing for discussion.  My last block class had my number, though, surprising me with uncharacteristic brevity and lack of participation until I realized they were trying to get back to the film.  This class is one of those special bunches, and I can’t wait to leave persuasion and grammar behind, abandon syntax, and embrace the unconventional.

We can all be drivers, even if we’re scared or had bad experiences.  Likewise, I believe that we can all write good poetry.  More importantly, I think this batch of bright, young minds believes that I will help them find their voice.  Life’s not a series of multiple choice questions.  You need to be able to think critically to solve real problems.

Still, it’s easy to overlook the power of the exponential potential unlocked when a teenager figures out that he’s good at something he didn’t believe he could be good at, or when she overcomes a fear that kept her from living fully.  We tell our kids to dream, we design state tests to elicit higher level thinking, but how often do we give them what adolescents seek most desperately, what they’ll act out if starved for it: a voice, an analytical perspective, and a platform to share it with the world.

I’ll let continue Mr. Keating priming the pump, so even if there’s another freak snow storm, I’ll slip and slide through alliterated sirens and street signs to see my kids become poets in training next week.  Next year, who knows what they’ll believe they can take on?

Rain or Shine (3 Years)

A lot can happen in three years.  Things begin.  Change.  End.

I checked the calendar.  On the second Tuesday in March of 2015, I opened a blank Word document and started typing what would become the first of 156 nights to come and counting.  The sunset in my rear view must have drove me the rest of the way after exiting at LaSalle, all pistons firing, spurned by a now unfamiliar urgency to get home to that empty, rented three-bedroom house and write something.

I remember it so vividly that it could have happened just last week, although at the time I couldn’t have anticipated the routine I’d unwittingly unleashed, that this writing itch, once scratched, would unfurl an almost supernatural gravitational pull when the sun sets over Darling Stadium, beyond two rows of unassuming homes you’d never guess contained such treasures (in contents and people).

It wasn’t habit yet that night, though: into the kitchen, pour a glass of red wine, grab my digital bestie, flick on the porch lights, snuggle into my white wicker love seat, pop open the hood, and just start writing the first words inspired after the sun has set and I’m sitting still.  That first paragraph flowed freely, though it wouldn’t always be that easy.

“I used to be a writer and a poet and a novelist. And a singer. And an actress.  And a media tech.  And a computer repair geek.  I used to be a little sister and a big sister, a babysitter, a housekeeper, a business owner, a gardener, a receptionist at a hair salon, an intern at a church, a tutor at a private school, a certified personal trainer, a model, a Nashvillian.  I used to be so many things.  Even a wife.”

In one fell swoop, I’d defined thirty-two years of my accumulated value.  There were accomplishments, certainly reflected in the myriad skills highlighted in that cross-section, a laundry list for a closet full of costumes I tried on, all of which I seemed to forget I had tucked away.  Yet, despite the tone set a Hampton spring night at its best, with my magnolias just hinting at the full blooms I’m savoring now, only it was a balmy and clear night then instead of the one currently tempting me to pack this up and head inside where it’s warm and dry.

But that’s just it, rain or shine, you’ll find me here, night after endless Tuesday night, still hoping to accomplish, to any degree, what I admitted in keystrokes three years ago: “[T]he thought occurred to me while weaving through traffic at dusk that if I could just reach my computer and start writing again that I might just expose a sugarcoated sentiment that would change me somehow for the better.”  Each week, it does that in some unexpected product of weaving anecdotes with reflections make even my readers unsure, at times, how my eclectic brain will make it into something that resembles meaning.  Rain or shine, I write, and those same Magnolias still beg me to stop and smell the springtime whether I’m locking or unlocking the door or just glancing out the window… for these precious few weeks each year.

A lot can happen in three years.  Things begin.  Change.  End.  I realize those roles I’d defined myself by, some since childhood, continue to shape every next set of three years, and like my writing, change me somehow for the better.  In reality, I’ve had the opportunity to, through weekly installments in the annals of 21,904-word document (and counting, of course), intentionally reflect, assess, and record this resurrection of sorts, as I now look in the figurative rear view and see which costumes should be reclaimed and which should be retired.

Having spent a full decade of my adult life geographically separated from my immediate family, living in Hampton will have equated to watching the seasons change four times as my nieces and nephews grow.  That first year when the twins were small, my brother would close the office door and hunker down on his dissertation while Gabrielle and I wrangled the kids through post-dinner clean-up and bedtime routine at least three nights a week.  As if being Auntie La La wasn’t chance enough, I babysat for Gabrielle’s Bible Study so the ladies could meet and focus without childcare costs.

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In fact, this past weekend was my bridal shower up in Maryland, hosted by a friend of Charming’s mother who had arranged for a fabulous, beach themed celebration where a childhood friend of Charming’s led the activities.  One of the games was a series of questions that my fiancé had answered about me.  The goal was for me to guess what answer Charming had recorded.  When asked what one thing I couldn’t live without, I’d said him, but he’d said, “Family.”  They gave me the point, anyway.  He will be family, and he tells me he already is.  His mother, sister, and grandmother are already mine, and their faces were as dear to me as my own mother and sister-in-law present in the same space.  No,  I don’t have any costumes for sister and babysitter – they still define me, and I wouldn’t mind if I’m the one needing a babysitter in the next three year time window.

Given my line of work, I get to be an actress and a media guru every day, one of those “big fish: small pond” type scenarios.  I’ve had ten years’ experience engaging adolescents in core English curriculum, and my classroom is the only place where I am a good salesman.  I get to put on a show, step up the energy, and use the stage to change my students for the better, too.  Serving on the technology leadership team my first year at Kecoughtan put me on the district’s radar, and I was quickly leading PD trainings.  I thought it would take years to reclaim a media specialist’s reputation in a new district like it had back in Nashville.

As for housekeeping?  Well, I get got don that apron all the time, even if I’d rather let someone else have center stage for Thursday cleaning nights.  I still know just enough to make me confident from my geek squad days, and more than enough to get me into trouble at bedtime if I’m lost in some techy undertaking that’s supposed to be done by professionals.  After Nashville, I experienced a year of daily work in a cubicle, and it wasn’t a failure to discover that wouldn’t be a career for me.  Owning a business is better left to someone like Charming, and my TA’s handle responsibilities of a receptionist for me now last block every other day.  We learn.  Three years can, does, and will change a lot.

There were other things like interning at the church that inspired dreams unrealized, like someday leading a Bible study, and I suppose I’ve been just waiting to settle down with Charming and grow those roots at Restoration Anglican in Virginia.  While personal training was a fulfilling side job, my throbbing shoulder reminds me that needs to be shelved for now. My modelling days are long gone; I’m sure that the most camera action I’ll get in the future will be as a politician’s wife if Charming decides that’s a priority on his epic bucket list, too.

I used to be a Nashvillian.  That decade is nearly a third of my life.  I was a suburban New Yorker, now a Virginia beach girl … What will be next?   Or even where?  Charming was offered a job to begin after his current post ends that means a different next three years for us.  I used to be a lot of things, but there is one thing that defines me above all the others, and probably why my subconscious spit it out first.

I used to be a writer.  No. Not anymore.  I’ve been writing every week now for fewer years than I spent in college, working part time and graduating with honors; however, I’ve invested into this hobby more years than it took to complete my masters, teaching full time and securing that 4.0 and a speech at commencement.  I hope that supernatural gravitational pull to my front porch isn’t limited to Downtown Hampton, because I think maybe it’s time to write my first book.

Life is new and bright and good.  It is also cold and wet and dreary.  Rain or shine, you’ll find me writing my way to elfin epiphanies.  I know my magnolias, and I cherish them, but I didn’t know I would until I saw them bloom.  There are more of these wonders of God’s creation I haven’t seen yet that will likewise make me stop and smell whatever season I’m in.

A lot can happen in three years.   Things begin.  Change.  End.  Blossom.  Surprise.  Inspire.