Writing Prompt Wednesday 09/18/13

Y’know, this having a planned post makes life a little easier – I don’t have to keep thinking up titles. Very handy.

The School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati moved out of this building in 2009.
The School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati moved out of this building in 2009.

For decades, I’ve been writing bits and bobs, maintaining a journal off and on, even wrote and sold a few children’s books when I was a children myself (no threat to Maurice Sendak or JK Rowling). Didn’t really do a whole heck of a lot with it or about it, nor gave it much thought, until I was auditioning for my high school.

Perhaps to encourage voluntary desegregation, the Cincinnati Public Schools started a magnet program. Parents would camp out when they knew the registration date, so they could get their children in. Once in, going from one magnet to another is easier. Currently, there’s a lottery for getting into the magnet Kindergarten classes. Beyond that, there are other application procedures, accepted only during specific dates. I don’t have children, so I don’t have a very clear idea of how it really works. I do know that there are people whose parents couldn’t afford the time off to get them into these schools, and that there were fights that broke out during the waiting.

I was in the magnet program from the beginning. I started out at a Montessori school, although I had no idea that’s what it was until about ten years ago. Moved from there to a college prep school for 7th grade. The school required an entrance exam, and it wasn’t uncommon at the time for my particular elementary school to send a large percentage of students there. I knew a lot of kids when I started.

To say that I loathed it would be an understatement; I was miserable. For the first time in my life, I had gotten grades lower than B. I actually failed the last quarter of my Ohio History class. The next year, I didn’t even bother going to school on a regular basis. I was usually home at least four times a month, and hardly ever went to my Algebra class, which happened to be during a lunch bell. I could sign my mother’s name perfectly, and on the off chance the school called, I sounded enough like her to be plausible. They didn’t call often. That was the attitude that made me so miserable, that no one there really cared if I showed up or not. After another quarter of dismal, barely-passing grades, I finally convinced my mother to let me audition for my high school.

Since I was little, there were three things I did as often as possible. Well, four, but the fourth (craving knowledge enough I would read encyclopedias for fun) led me to the last school, and we already know how that worked out. The other three things I’d done since I was small is sing, write, and act. These things made me happy. My family was subjected to my mini concerts and plays, and as mentioned before, the little books. Kinda wish I still had them; it’d be interesting to see what passed for good literature when I was 9. Since these were the things I loved to do, these were the areas where I auditioned. I was so nervous that day that I passed through extreme anxiety right back into calm. I don’t remember my vocal audition at all. Couldn’t even tell you who I performed for, but I have a guess. For my drama audition, I did a cold reading of a monologue from “A Raisin in the Sun.” Or was it “The Glass Menagerie?” Both? Okay, maybe I don’t quite remember.

The one I do remember, though, was the creative writing audition. There were several kids at tables in a room surrounded by book-laden shelves, the dusty smell of the library mixed with the academic aroma of chalk dust permeated the air, overcoming the nervous sweat of the kids in the room. On the board in front of us was a task – we had to write about a bathtub, a filthy, disgusting, bathtub, graphically demonstrating just how nasty the cesspool of murky water had become. There was no plot required, thankfully; I’ve yet to figure out how to flesh one out beyond 5,000 words. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I do remember the visual I had in my own head. A white claw-foot tub, no shower, in a bathroom with moss on the floor tiles, and frogs in the toilet. The water of the tub was full of particularly-viscous sludge, built up after several years of never being cleaned. Must have been alright. Must have done well on all auditions, actually, because I was able to choose from any of the three as an area of focus.

I still get a little teary-eyed when I remember that phone call telling me I had been accepted. I hadn’t experienced that level of happiness until this past July when someone I love very much, and her husband who I’ve come to love very much, grew the family by one. That’s a little sad, actually, that there have been so few things in my life bringing me that degree of joy. I’ve had some truly amazing moments, don’t get me wrong, but that euphoria, only twice that I can think of.  Maybe I’ll think of more at two in the morning. Seems to be when that happens most often.

So what in the world brought on this Rockwellian reminiscence? Oh, well it’s my first creative writing teacher’s birthday. Friends with her on Facebook. S’pretty cool.

Alright, I didn’t use the website I’ve been using to prompt me. Still, there was a prompt, wasn’t there?

Ooh, the day I passed my driving test, and mom sent me out in HER car to get a TV Guide! That was pretty exciting.

Writing Prompt Wednesday 09/11/13

Short weeks screw me up so much. It was Saturday before I realized I hadn’t written. This past Saturday – all day – was my church choir retreat, so I didn’t have time to write then, either. Sunday morning we sang in church, Sunday afternoon was football (Who Dey!?), and Sunday evening was recovering from spending time with so many people for so long. Actually sat at home for the first half of the game just to recharge a bit. I love my choir; we sing some challenging music, and we challenge ourselves with the speed in which we learn new music – I’ve gotten *really* good at sight-singing. And we’re good. Looking forward to our December performance. I love my friends, the ones I watched the game with, the ones I watch most football games with. After a week having to make phone calls to strangers, I’m tired. I *need* my time to myself. I get grumpy without it, and when I’m grumpy, I can be pretty nasty. Just ask my former roommates.

Not one of their better games
Not one of their better games

Yesterday was pretty cool. Not the day at work – I’m in the mortgage business, and times are a bit tense right now in the industry – but after. Because we exceeded a goal in July, we got to go to a baseball game, with one of the top teams in the league. Not all of us were there, but most of my team was able to attend. We split up into two bars, one with underwriters, one with processors (not really sure how that happened. I don’t think it was conscious), one in Kentucky, one in Ohio – it’s not as big a deal as it sounds – and we had a great time.

Today, even though a lot of us left before the 7th inning, we were all dragging. Feeling pretty good, oddly enough, but exhausted. It was hot last night, and it took a while to reach the 6th inning. Some of our group didn’t walk in their doors until 1 am…to be fair, they were driving to Columbus, Ohio, but still… It was hot, did I mention that? It was. Humid, too. A bit on the unpleasant side. ‘Cuz it was hot. The thermometer I pass on my way home said it was 89 degrees at 10:10 pm. During the day, that thermometer is less accurate, since it gets hit with the sun directly, and it is surrounded by asphalt, but it’s not too far off.  Obviously I had my camera with me, so I had to do some editing before I went to bed. Did a bit of tossing and turning. Besides still being wound up from being out late, it was also hot in here. ‘Cuz it was hot outside.

But I digress…

We most of us know what today is, what anniversary is recognized. I could tell where I was when things went down, but I’ve done that enough times in the past. Recognizing the day, absolutely. But like January 28th, there are some memories I would rather not have, at least once in a while. I don’t want to forget, I just want a moment to not think about it.

So, that said, it’s Writing Prompt Wednesday. Today’s prompt: Writing Prompt 9 – Describe what you feel right now using your sense of smell.

This could be interesting. Or weird, it could just be weird.

I’m irritated, tense, knowing that any day I could have the rug pulled out from under, knowing my current money situation. That’s a constant twitch, a twinge of something sharp, not quite unpleasant, but not pleasant, either. Something that you haven’t decided if it’s fresh-cooked hard-boiled eggs or last night’s chili. Sulfury, with a hint of cinnamon, the tang of citrus nearly rotting, sweet and cloying, nauseating and foul.

Uncomfortable, the aroma of something that smells good but probably isn’t. For me, it has lots of mushrooms and Brussels sprouts in it, broccoli and cheese (broccoli alone, cheese alone, fine. Together? Ick!), or maybe just escalloped potatoes.

Sorry, it’s dinner time.

Discomfort is uncertain, unclear; is that a sirloin or liver I smell? Is the meat fresh, or is it just about to turn? It’s deceptive; chocolate chip cookies or a spray meant to mimic them? It’s stronger than it has any right to be; mustard greens and chit’lins. Stale (or off-brand) baby powder, foot odor covered by perfume, armpit with a hint of soap. Sharp, tangy, bitter, but not quite bad enough to make you change or move or wash right that moment. It’s not quite men’s locker room after a game, just before showers

And I’m exhausted. It doesn’t smell like anything. It’s muffled, hidden, practically non-existent. But it causes a craving for sheets fresh out of the dryer, that sharp, hot smell of clean, a hint of the detergent, the dryer sheet if one was used. It’s a gentle aroma, peaceful, restful, encouraging snuggling and relaxation, peace, sleep.

Right this moment, I crave the smell of tomato sauce and cheese, slightly burnt around the edges, and gooey in the middle, followed by that hot linen. It will be a while between the two, though; we’re having a food day at work, and I have a breakfast casserole to put together. Egg-y, cheesy, potato-y, sausage-y goodness, all blended together with a bit of sage and dill.

Okay, so…

I had been writing every Saturday morning, just to keep my chops in shape. I missed writing, I missed reviewing something I was thinking of, “talking” about something current, or something important to me, and I missed starting conversations. Not face-to-face, ‘cuz, you know, introvert, but still, conversations.

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On vacation, I was up before dawn all but one day. Back home, my alarm has to wake me up. Figures.

I found pretty early on that I needed to write, well, pretty early, or I’d lose my train of thought or ability to focus on what I’m doing for more than ten minutes or something like that. That time before the sun is up, when the majority of cable channels are still showing infomercials, and when for some people it’s still last night, that time is the best time for me to write. Except I keep running out of ideas. Okay, not really run out of ideas so much as run out of ideas I want to share here. There are still quite a few things I choose not to share in this blog, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is my identity isn’t exactly anonymous here. On my previous blogging site, I had two identities, and I posted under each, one public, one a bit more hidden. The latter started getting more preachy and more instructive, which in small doses is not a big deal. As a constant, though, it gets harder and harder for me to come up with topics. Since I didn’t want that blog to be connected to me, I never promoted it on my social media site, so no one read it unless they stumbled on it by accident.

I thought perhaps I would use the Saturday morning writing to just talk about what’s on my mind, or maybe use some of my photographs to inspire a subject or story. It was a lovely thought, and it did work for a while…until it didn’t. I found it harder and harder to get up, harder to walk over to my computer in my spacious 300 square foot room, harder to turn on my computer, and harder to write about something new. Or even a new spin on something old, I wasn’t picky. There were Friday nights that went late, Saturday mornings where I didn’t have time to do anything but leave the house for whatever I’d planned, and Saturday afternoons when I just wasn’t home. Saturday evenings, unless it was after 11, were just right out of the question. My attention span is about non-existent then.

So what to do? I still wanted to write, still wanted to post, but it was getting more and more difficult to post on Saturday mornings. Sunday mornings during the summer are fine, but starting next week, I have to leave early for choir rehearsals. Church choir starts up again. Our first rehearsal for the season is Thursday. Bad girl, I don’t go to church if I’m not singing in the choir. It’s not that I don’t like my church – I *really* do. But something I learned years ago, something that hasn’t changed, really bothers me. There’s a lot of singing in my church. Not just the three main hymns, but a couple of responses that we all know by the time we’re 6, if we grew up there. I didn’t until I was 13, but that’s because mom let us decide for ourselves where we wanted to go. Skin in the game, as it were. The church I first joined is still standing, ‘tho the congregation is small. I keep meaning to stop by when I don’t have to sing. Hasn’t worked out, yet.  Back to why.

Lots of singing in church. And despite what some people think, I really don’t like being the center of attention. It makes me very uncomfortable. Not the same feeling as giving a speech in front of a crowd – that, I have no trouble with. I don’t understand the difference, unless it’s that people aren’t actually interacting, but listening when I speak. Or at least pretending to. This is the pattern Every. Single. Time: First hymn, nearly everyone sings. Maybe they sing well, maybe they don’t. Maybe they sing out, maybe they mumble. Some don’t sing, never sing; most do. Second hymn/response – a small circle around me has stopped singing. If they haven’t after the first hymn, they feel compelled after the second to tell me how lovely my voice is, and I should be in the choir, if they don’t recognize me from the choir. Third hymn, the circle has grown. Fourth hymn/response, the circle has grown wider still, although lack of participation is spotty when it’s a response rather than a hymn. Final hymn, I’m in a non-singing vortex, and everyone is listening and not singing, either because they are embarrassed to sing around me, or they want to hear me, I don’t know which. Extremely uncomfortable for me, so I just don’t go. I tried not singing – I was miserable. The only time I can go to church and not sing is if I’ve lost my voice.

It might sound silly, but that is a large part of why I don’t go to church if the choir isn’t singing. ‘Cuz I really do like my church, I really like my faith, I like the message, I like the ministry, even though I don’t have the time/energy to really do anything.

But I digress…

For now, I will try to keep up my Writing Prompt Wednesdays. It’s easier for me, since I don’t have to think of a topic. May be a bit of a cop-out, but I’m a little out of practice, yet; I’m hoping it will allow me to write creatively again. I don’t know if Saturday mornings will come back with the fall. I hope so. I kinda miss that ritual.