Writer’s Digest November Poem-a-Day 2017 Challenge #20. Theme: What I Learned

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What I’ve Learned (so far)

What I learned from Creative Writing is that you don’t take it with the notion of learning how to get published–you take it to learn how to become a better writer so that you will have a better chance of getting published.

What I learned from Computer Concepts… Well, that would be nothing. Nothing at all.

What I learned from Ethics was “The Silver Rule” (or what I call the passive rule, as it concerns not doing something), and that I can Kant.  (I also learned that I love philosophy.)

What I learned from Poetry was that rhyme is limiting (take that, Robert Frost–I play dangerously without a net!), and that a person who wears a “Make America Great Again” hat wants to discuss more than mere poetry. I also learned that with workshopping, it’s wise to abide by the admonition of Cinderella, which is “to have courage and be kind.”

What I learned from English Composition II was how to write a research paper on a subject I knew nothing about (i.e. horses) and that Shakespeare is more fun to discuss than read. (I also learned that ratemyprofessors.com is pretty accurate.)

What I learned from Intermediate College Algebra was that I was not necessarily brilliant, but persistent enough to not allow the fear of algebra keep me from finishing college a second time.

What I learned from Security Awareness (besides finding a cure for insomnia) was that I could go viral (if not bacterial) on YouTube and make lots of money producing cat videos.

What I learned from Contemporary Literature is that a playful syllabus is indicative of a chill professor. (And a chill professor won’t take it personally if you kill him off in one of your stories. He just might laugh!)

What I learned from College Publications, Reporting, and working on the student newspaper is that I can make 24-hour deadlines. I learned that being a humor columnist would be my dream job (as I will never have a passion for reporting “ticker-tape news,” but for what comes after).

What I learned from medical coding classes what that I hate medical coding, but in learning that, I also learned that no education is ever wasted, for it took a wrong turn to get to the right one.

And what’s more, I learned that with a career and a family, it will take me longer to finish my education, but that’s okay, for as my college newspaper adviser says, “No one has ever asked me how long it took to get my Ph.D.”

There is time.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-20

 

Writing Prompt: The Desert (Inside of Us)

travel-857086_960_720Imagine a desert, and then a cube in this desert.  Describe the cube.  Then describe the ladder that you see.  Imagine a horse, then flowers.  A storm commences.  Describe everything as you go.  How do all these things relate to or affect one other? 

This was the first creative writing exercise in my creative writing class (the professor said it was based on an ancient, Middle Eastern philosophy, that reveals your inner self).  More in-depth analysis can be found at the link below:

http://oliveremberton.com/2014/how-to-connect-deeply-with-anyone-in-5-minutes/

Here was my attempt:

The desert is like scorched earth—dry, desolate, with nary an oasis in sight.  It’s like the life has been drained from it—evaporated in the air that doesn’t move, but is dead, like a radio gone silent.  It’s as if Mother Earth has been stripped of all her beauty…and flesh and blood.

In the center of this desert is a most curious thing.  It is almost clear, but not quite—a sort of milky pearl, except it is a square, like a lump of sugar.  It glistens under the hot sun, and there is a tiny puddle underneath it.

Adjacent to it is a ladder with 12 rungs, lying on its side.  Like a hologram, or a mirage, I move, and it is no longer visible.  As I move nearer, the cube becomes smaller, until I step on what I assume to be the bottom rung; it is only then I realize that I had to take the first step to be able to reach the oasis.  I had to acknowledge that I had a problem—this was the first step to sobriety, but that oasis was getting smaller the longer I waited.

I take the 12 steps and reach down to kiss the ice cube as if it is the Pope’s ring.

Twelve months have passed, and I look up to see this strange animal—a unicorn.  It is the only living thing besides the cactuses.  The unicorn is rainbow-colored, her tail reminiscent of Rainbow Brite—a favorite of my childhood.  Her horn is silver, and, upon closer inspection, I see it is a compass.  I pet the unicorn I have named Lavender, for she appeared in the twilight of my life.  I mount her, for there is a storm coming.  There is darkness ahead, but I know I can pass through life’s hurricanes if I just use the compass and carry on to wherever Lavender takes me.  I hold onto the horn and we pass through the storm.  When the clouds are behind us, I realize we have crossed over, for I see the Rose of Sharon—a single white rose—and Lavender stops, and asks, “Will you accept this rose?”

I answer, “I will”, and then I reach my eternal destination.

What each story element represents: 

Desert=worldview
Cube=you, self-portrait
Ladder=friends
Horse=lover, ideal lover
Storm=trouble, challenge
Flowers=things you nurture or create

What each story element (I surmised) represented to me:

Desert:  Hell on Earth, known as Pensacola (my surroundings)
Cube:  Oasis
Ladder:  My friends are my 12 steps
Horse:  At the end was my true love, leading me away/saving me from a life of drunkenness
Storm:  Addiction
Flowers:  I nurtured my faith, and my faith did not fail me; because of it, I shifted focus to the Living Water, not old wine

10 Myths

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Sometimes you get tired of hearing the same things, especially if they aren’t true, and these are just twelve of them.

  1. Myth:  Well-done meat cannot be tender.  Truth:  If someone knows how to cook, they know how to keep well-done meat tender.  I’ve eaten meat well done all my life (it was how I was raised; my grandfather grew up on a farm and said if you’d seen as many sick cows as he had, you’d eat your meat well-done, too).  If you want to eat it rare or whatever, that’s fine, but the smell of blood from medium rare meat makes me physically ill.  I’m sure rare meat is a lot more tender, but then, in that case, completely raw is even more tender.  No thanks.
  2. Myth:  Every episode of “I Love Lucy” was about Lucy trying to get into show business.  Truth:  True fans of the show know that Lucy often spent a lot of time cooking up schemes that had to do with just getting close to movie stars, as well.
  3. Myth:  Men prefer women with make-up.  Truth:  My husband doesn’t, and my grandfather didn’t.  Some men actually like the way women look without it.  We need to stop comparing women to barns.
  4. Myth:  All calories count the same.  Truth:  The calories from an avocado still count, but they count in a different way than the calories from a candy bar.  Make the calories count for something, like nutrition.
  5. Myth:  You should be open-minded.  Truth:  It is okay to be close-minded (and even intolerant) about some things.
  6. Myth:  Good art has to offend.  Truth:  Does the painting, “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth, or compositions by Peer Gynt, offend?
  7. Myth:  Southerners eat everything fried.  Truth:  We prefer our peanuts boiled.
  8. Myth:  Poetry is dead.  Truth:  Poetry isn’t dead, but there’s just a lot of bad poetry out there.
  9. Myth:  Only get a degree in STEM.  Truth:  Famous and successful philosophy majors include, but are not limited to, Mary Higgins Clark (a personal favorite of mine), Martin Luther King, Jr., George Stephanopoulos, Harrison Ford, Bruce Lee, and Alex Trebek, to name several.
  10. Myth:  Profanity makes characters edgy, and more provocative.  Truth:  Excessive and gratuitous profanity distracts rather than enhances good writing.

Our Time

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I’d written this awhile back for “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”  I’d written it in response to the popular saying (by many of the Christian persuasion, of which I am) that everything happens for a reason, which I do not believe.  Sometimes things just happen.  And in those instances, we can choose to find meaning in what happened, or make something meaningful come out of the experience.

Taking an ethics/philosophy class has made me think a little more deeply about abstract things, but that’s what higher learning is supposed to do–make you think, not tell you what to think or how to think.

Now here is my story, though few stories are truly ours, and ours alone to tell.  Sometimes, we just happen to be the messengers.

It was 1981, the year of my birth, when my parents were robbed at gunpoint. They were managers of a cinema in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and two men they fired had broken in. The whole episode must’ve had an effect on me in utero, for as a baby, whenever a light was turned on, I’d hold up my hands like I was part of a stick-up.

I literally dodged the bullet on that one.

When we were living in Rota, Spain, I contracted spinal meningitis at the age of six, losing all hearing in my left ear. When my mother was told by the doctor that most children die within 24 hours without treatment (I’d had it for three days before being diagnosed), I realize how lucky I was, and I wonder why me, instead of why not me? That is a question to which I haven’t sought an answer, thinking perhaps someday, the answer will come to me.

It wouldn’t be until years later that another medical miracle would occur in my family.

It was in February, a few years ago now, that my dad got real sick.

The first hospital he went to, he was told to go home and take a Motrin. He did so, but he only got worse.

He then went to our family doctor, who saw how ill he was. She called an ambulance for him, and he was taken to a second hospital. They kept him for a couple of days, then released him in a wheelchair, too weak to walk on his own, because they needed the bed.

My brother and I had a conversation with him during his stay that he doesn’t recall (which we found eerie), though he did remember a black minister coming to his room and telling him he was going to be all right.

A nurse, who showed up at our house the next day to check on him, told us to take him back to the hospital immediately. So we called another ambulance, where he was taken to yet a different hospital. Dad was diagnosed with pneumonia and a lung infection, including a blood clot on his lung. For five days, he was put into an induced coma in ICU.

Had that nurse not come, Dad would’ve surely died.

Dad’s near-death experience changed our lives in profound, and not so profound ways. He told our family dentist that he knew he was better because we were all mean to him again. My mom, dealing with the stress of not having enough money coming in, quit smoking just like that, and hasn’t smoked a cigarette since. I do believe we all become closer when these things happen, but then the awe and wonder that we have lived to love another day fades and life goes on again.

One can only guess why some things happen. I wanted to go into the military, but my handicap prevented that. Why did my dad have to get so sick, when it wasn’t his time to go? Maybe his getting sick, which led my mom to quit smoking prevented her from getting lung cancer in the future. Maybe my not getting into the Navy kept me from dying too soon.

We will never know.

I’m not one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason, but I do believe we can either find something good to come out of the chaotic events in our lives, or make something good come from them.