Mayhem Monday: Why the Source of your Problems isn’t Who You Think!

I want to speak on something that may not win me any popularity contests, but it’s truth: quite simply, too many of us are focused on the wrong thing. We think our problems are the result of who when in actuality they have more to do with how! We think that it’s people who cause us grief when in reality it’s how we respond to them that determines that grief.

In addition, we’re unwilling to own our stuff and as long as we don’t own it, we will continue to be plagued by it.

What do I mean?  I’m talking about our focus:

focus (1)

 

  • Rather than focus on your child’s misbehavior or academic deficiencies, you focus on everything that’s wrong with the school, the teachers or the administration…
  • Rather than focus on your insecurities or low self-esteem, you focus on how everybody’s doing you wrong, treating you badly and not giving you your due…
  • Rather than focus on your academic short-comings, you focus on your professors’ unwillingness to grade on the curve…
  • Rather than focus on your poor work ethic, you focus on your boss’ unwillingness to promote you…
  • Rather than focus on your bad habits, you focus on your friends’ unwillingness to be around you!

At what point do you turn the lens onto yourself? At what point does it become less about them and more about YOU?  When does it become your responsibility to improve the situation?

When is it time to own your stuff?

Maybe it’s  all the CNN and Fox News headlines that are starting to get to me. Maybe it’s the social media I’ve been seeing lately, but this blame game is ridiculous! Who’s at fault? Who cares? Pointing fingers is getting us NOWHERE!

Who do you blame for the problems that you’re dealing with? Is it all on the other guys? Are you sure about that?  Rarely are issues one-sided, but it’s so easy to project our shortcomings onto others.  How easy is it, though, to face criticism that is directed at us when it’s true?

Maybe, just maybe,  it’s time to look in the mirror. Nobody’s perfect, so why not figure out how to work through the imperfections rather than being so quick to attack? Why not try extending grace to others so that they may be willing to extend grace to us when (not if) we need it?  To solve our conflicts or fix our problems, why not try something different?

Why not change our focus?

Focus What will that look like for you, this focus on solutions? That’s a question you’ll have to answer, but I can tell you what it won’t look like. It won’t look like blaming or  pointing fingers. It won’t be about other people at all. It will begin with you.

What do you need to improve in yourself? In your children? In your habits? In your work ethic? Before you look outward, look inward.

Happy Monday!

SignatureMed

Don’t forget our Cityscape Challenge! Share pics of your favorite spots in the city or town where you live. Also, why not kickstart your day with my Green Tea Smoothie and a Tabata?

 

Mayhem Monday: Dreams & Determination!

My niece and nephew graduated this weekend and, of course, I’m super proud of them! They each chose a different path, but both tore through the academic wilderness and emerged unscathed–well, they survived anyway. After all, what’s a war without a few batttle scars?

Victory is the child of preparation and determination.

(Sean Hampton, actor)

They were priveleged with great parents who prepared them for their successes, who equipped them with all of the necessary tools–private schools, summer camps, extra curriculars–as well as the intangibles like love and security.  Yet, Tyler and Greg had to find their own way in college. Mom and Dad couldn’t study for them or finish their assignments. Once the foundation was laid, the building was up to them.

The “Different World” can be a scary place when you’re facing it all alone…

mouse

Funny thing is, a different world is where Greg and Tyler are NOW!

Kids often think that preparation is the time at home.  To an extent that’s true, but what my niece and nephew are about to discover is that they’ve actually been in a safe haven all this time. College is just an extention of home. It’s still a place of preparation as professors and administrators dictate courses and curfews (especially when you attend, as they did, a parochial school affiliated with a highly conservative religious organization.)

Oh yes, the real world is still waiting…

But I’m proud of them, nonetheless.  I know they’ll make it.

We’ve done all we can to prepare them–we, the parents, the aunties, the professors, the surrogates.  Now we’ll watch as they spread their wings, and we’ll hope that the determination that brought them this far will carry them the rest of the way!

And for all the other Tylers and Gregs out there, setting out on your own, just know that life is full of surprises. Your future may or may not turn out the way you envisioned it, but you can be sure that success is possible if you stay open to the many ways it may be manifested. For our Mayhem Monday motiviation, check out Laura Berman Fortgang’s TED Talk on “Finding Your Dream Without Looking at Your Resume!” And I wish you all Godspeed!

SignatureMed

 

Let’s Write!

For the past two days I’ve featured poems from my Creative Writing class inspired by Irene Latham’s Live Your Poem workshop. Today I’d like to invite you to participate in a Live Your Poem activity! It’s simple! Take a look at this image and tell me what word comes to mind.  Don’t say “phone,” but tell me what this image of a phone makes you think about. What do you associate this image with?What memory do you connect it to? What does it represent in your mind?

phone2

Put your word (or words) in the comment box and over the next few days let’s see if we (or I) can put the words together to make a poem! I’ll post the finished product of our “collaborative” poem and you can tell me if we/I capture the essence of the image (yikes!) No pressure…

SignatureMed

Keys

Here’s another installment in the Irene Latham iconic images poetry! Tyhara Tyrell is another one of my lovely and talented students who chose this striking image and wondered about the significance and symbolism of keys.

What do your keys unlock?
do they unlock anything at all?
or do you simply like their antique jingle?
why do you have so many?
must you compartmentalize all aspects of your life

into separate boxes…?

are they tangible expressions of the secrets that you keep?
are they there to comfort your fingers when you feel lost?
do they reassure you of yourself

to know you hold the key,
the answers,
the truth,
knowing that they are yours
to share,
to never be used if so you choose,
to never be touched

by any other fingers other than your own.
They are yours.
your secrets,
and you don’t owe us any answers.
You don’t owe us any keys.

-Tyhara Tyrell

Check out my other creative student, Darlyze’s, poem “Woman Enough” and other creative works here on Books & Coffee!

smallsignature

 

Woman Enough

Well, Poetry month has passed now; I had wanted to post my students’ poetry while it was still APRIL! But I had to BEG to get this ONE! Nonetheless, it is a good one, by Darlyze Calixte, a talented young lady whose not even an English major (Chemistry, go figure)! Anyway, better late than never, right?

So, you may remember my earlier post in which poet, Irene Latham shared some lovely postcards with us and asked us to craft poems from the inspirational images. This is the image that inspired Darlyze to write “Woman Enough”

WomanEnough

He was a man who had just buried years of self loathing into the womb of a woman more handsome than he was.

Each inhale of the black gummy herb, burnt as an offering to the body to bribe it to forget what had led him there in the first place.

Each breath of it brings him no closer so he paints a new memory of her instead.

In his Art, her hair lovingly kisses her back, her  hips provide handles for grip, her bosom is a soft pillow for his head.

Cupid bow lips, porcelain skin unmarred by reality.

With every delicate stroke..hmm, every different stroke…a new “her” was created.

In his painting, she sat like a delicate and limp flower, waiting to be plucked but reality had painted the woman handsome. A cactus. Strong, sturdy, thorny.

And yet,

Just woman enough for him to bury his insecurities in.

Click here for more from my Creative Writing students. For more poetry check out CRACK! and if you like short fiction check out The Looking Glass. Check back soon as I plan to round up more creative works from my students and me!

smallsignature

Irene Latham: Live Your Poem!

Well, April is National Poetry Month so we should be writing poetry! I know what you’re thinking, “I can’t write poetry!” I used to think the same thing. But the more I learn about this beautiful art, the more I think, well, maybe…

I had the pleasure of meeting the most delightful poet a couple of weeks ago, her name is Irene Latham. Irene has written two award-winning novels for children, Leaving Gee’s Bend and Don’t Feed the Boy and she has a slew of poetry collections that have earned her a small mountain of metals.  They are colorful and happy collections of poetic phrases.  I admire the way poets are able to artfully string words together to make meaning, seemingly without effort.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to do that!

Irene came and talked to my Creative Writing class about “Living Your Poem” and what great advice she gave! One way to “live your poem”, she says, is to use art as inspiration. Ekphrastic poetry is poetry that “reflects on the action of a piece of art and adds to or expands upon its meaning.” Basically, it’s studying a piece of artwork—a painting or a sculpture—then writing a poem about it.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so you shouldn’t run out of things to say!

 

IrenePostcards

She came with a little vintage trunk full of postcards with intriguing images and striking colors and the students chose whatever captured their imagination.  Then they followed her guidelines and set to work on their poems—or at least made a start. Her guidelines:

  1. Any kind of art can be used for ekphrastic poetry, including painting, sculpture, wood carving, play, dance, movie, etc.
  2. Choose a piece that speaks to you. Sit with it. Perhaps carry a photo of it.
  3. Strive to carry the poem beyond description. Add to the artwork.
  4. Tap into the senses not evident in the art; enter the scene.
  5. Don’t worry about whether your poem matches the artists’ intention. Write about what it means to your life, memories, experiences, you.
  6. Don’t miss the details. Deconstruct the piece, then put it back together again in your own unique way.
  7. Use words in your poem that reflect the mood of the artwork.
  8. Ask questions of each character in the artwork.
  9. Speak to the artist? What do you want to ask? Address these issues in your poem.
  10. Surprise the reader by making leaps in your poem by connecting the artwork to big thoughts and ideas.

I chose several vintage postcards that reminded me of my childhood. The first was this one.

20170423_205407

The roller skates immediately took me back to my ten year old self in the summertime. Houston, TX. I won’t dare tell the year, but you can look at the picture and tell it was a long time ago! And here’s another one that conjures memories of my grandmother’s living room.

20170423_205237

I’ve been beating my head against the keyboard trying to get some words to come out that would capture these images and memories in a way that would be worthy of sharing, but I haven’t quite gotten them together yet. Over the next few days, though, I will be sharing more postcard images and some of the beautiful words that my students came up with from this assignment.

In the meantime, if you have some ideas or want to try your hand at some Ekphrastic poetry, put them in the comment box! I’d love to hear from you!

For inspiration and more great poetry check out Irene Latham’s blog: Irene Latham

smallsignature

Flash fiction: Life’s a Challenge–Face It!

In my Creative Writing class we learned about micro-fiction or “flash” fiction, a genre that takes the “short” in short story very seriously. Micro-fiction really challenges a writer to get his or her point across quickly and creatively. Every word counts. It’s much like poetry, except it’s prose! So, last month I featured Raven’s story.  This month I’m featuring my two boys–there’s only two of them in the class–and they each did a great job with this assignment. First, “She’s Like a Wack-A-Mole Game by Thierry Lundy

Everything was fine between her and I, until she started to give me trouble.  Like a psychiatrist, I tried my best to help her resolve her issues, but this was a frustrating and expensive task.  She became too much like a wack-a-mole game.  It seemed like as soon as I would knock one issue out, another would pop up.  This led to constant visits to the store to buy her things to make her feel better.

Sometimes, I would be overcome with gladness as we rode through the city together.  I would not hear one peep from her.  To me, this was a sign that she was healed.  Filled with hope, I would say to myself, “Maybe she has overcome the wack-a-mole syndrome.”  Then on day this hope of mine quickly vanished.  While riding down the street with her, another mole popped up.  It was a big mole.  Her brakes went out.

She was my first car, a Ford Tempo.  She was my own personal wack-a-mole game.

Ford Tempo

Next is Cory Jackson. He’s kind of a quiet force in the room, but he has a way with words. Since he didn’t have a title for this piece, I’ve chosen to call it “DECISIONS, DECISIONS”

Staring into space, it seemed I watched him contemplate every decision he’s ever made. His rights, his wrongs, the right things he’s left and the things he’s left that he knew was right. Puzzled, but yet still determined to figure out the solution in this life and death situation. As we both stood there aimlessly, I mumbled, “Just pick”.

With a sarcastic smirk he replied, “I can’t, it’s not that easy.”

“What do you mean it’s not that easy? Either pick the right one or the left one, you can’t go wrong with either one.”

“If only it was that simple” he quickly responded.

“Well, it is, so pick or I’ll choose for you.”

“Fine!” he stated, annoyed at the fact that I was rushing him to reach a conclusion, he gracefully stretched out his hand as if he knew all along which one he wanted, then  swiftly pulled it back. “Can’t I get both?”

“Absolutely not!” I responded. “Either pick or we can leave.”

Disappointed, he laughed it off. “Ok fine, I’ll go with the Kyrie 2’s rather than the Kyrie 3’s.

“Alright grab them so I can pay.”

As he grabbed the shoes of his choosing, filled with excitement, relieved his hard work of decision-making had finally payed off, I watched as my younger brother made eye connect with the beautiful patent leather on the Jordan 11’s. Noticing, I quickly shouted, “Don’t you do this!”

Standing there in a daze he looked at me and said, “But what about these?”

I sighed and sat back down. “Just pick.” In that moment I was reminded of the trouble with being a 16 year old boy.

Jordans

Did you like these stories? Share them with a friend! If you like this, you might also like The Looking Glass. Like, follow and share Books & Coffee. Be sure to check back every Monday for more stories, poems and inspiration!

smallsignature