Personal Journey

Y is for Yoga

Y

Yoga can be a religion. But so can Netflix. Not that I’m converting, but I’ve never heard of a yoga practitioner who donned a suit of explosives and took out a plaza… Yoga people, the religious sort, are usually wiry, elven, stoic folk who don’t talk much and never eat. Being only elvin, I’m more of an ala carte practioner: no spiritual frills, just the poses.

What I love about yoga is that it’s exercise for people who don’t like pain. I know that doesn’t make sense considering the impossible positions into which some yogies tie themselves. What we see as a human pretzel is the result of countless hours inching toward that end. And while genes play a part in yogic range, the secret to success is honoring your limits at each practice. Initially, yoga is about humility.

True story. I’m working through a new yoga video when my son comes in the room and says Why aren’t you doing what they’re doing? because he doesn’t know I am doing what they’re doing. He also doesn’t know I’m honoring my limits. 🙂

yoga
The only way to improve yoga is to practice it on a beach.

A friend of mine teaches a yoga-based class to our homeschool group. She calles it Outstretched Gym. While we’re stretching or holding the poses, she prompts us to think of different aspects of God. You’ll never hear her say down dog or namaste, but the students get a great yoga workout and a fresh perspective on Jesus. I think they see an adult mastering her body in a way they can’t– quite, and it cultivates respect.

Yoga is not like other exercises. It actually feels good much of the time, depending on how you practice. Man yoga is for people who just have to have pain. Brand-new learners, check out the DVD “The Flow Series: Earth.” And my latest love, the YouTube series by The Yoga Vine is an intermediate 45-minute practice I never have to psych myself into.

You’re welcome.

 

 

 

Advertisements
on writing, Personal Journey

Z is for Zero Regrets

ZMade it to Z, folks! *thunderous applause* When I decided to participate in the A to Z Writing Challenge, I was apprehensive– not at the thought of putting out words at firehose pressure, but at the thought of my perfectiosis regarding those words. I’ve spent more hours on a handful of words that will get skimmed by three people than Mozart spent writing Symphony No. 5.

The biggest problem: I didn’t have a theme. Oh, I tried to think of one. I stewed on it for weeks. Nothing came. Sometimes that happens to writers. Haha…

So first day of the challenge, I had no theme, no pre-written posts like they suggest, no A-word. I felt like an A-word trying to carve something worthwhile out of thin air. But that’s behind me now. Thank you, Jesus.

Now that the challenge is over, your social feeds will be cleaner. For those who actually read my posts, I thank you, especially you beautiful souls who took time out of your busy schedules to send me a 10-4 good buddy. They say the difference between a good writer and a bad one is the bad ones give up. But I say maybe the bad ones didn’t have a cheerleader or two. My heart is full at the thought of my friends and family who support me. *tears*

Did you know Robert Frost was insecure? Even after he became totally no-contest famous. So never think your kind words to a writer are wasted. I love writing for writing’s sake, but I’m not going to lie– when I see comment in my inbox, it’s like Christmas.

Then there are the connections I’ve made along the way. I bolded the links so you can check them out if you’re so inclined. One fellow blogger used the challenge to write a book, using the alphabet letters as chapter titles.  Another blogger I stumbled upon or vice versa captured in words what I love about writing: Perhaps the pleasure of being a writer comes from the ability to lose oneself in a world filled with words and metaphors, muse and madness; because it is in this lunacy that we find and curve our niche in this world. – Abu Amira.

I’d like to end with a shout out to my dear friend Nancy, who I roped into doing this challenge with me, who’s up to any crazy idea I throw at her, including sledding backwards down a humongous hill… Nancy, whose theme I desperately wished to I’d thought of– our position as children of God, A to Z.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Homeschool Life, on writing

W is for Writing Class, 5000 Words Style

WAs soon as I had an open room (Katae went to college), I began teaching a writing/literature class in my home. I called it 5000 Words because I promised the students would write a minimum of 5000 words over a six-week period and that they would do it with a smile. 

My credentials were a B.A. in Creative Writing and a decade of experience home educating. Also, I was involved in a 100-family homeschool group. Teaching literature/writing to the students in our group gave me valuable experience. I remember the day I realized teaching might be for me. The founder of our group called to tell me her son, who was always a science-lover, had decided to switch his major to writing because he so enjoyed my class. He had to change his college choice last minute. What did you do to him? she asked me. And would you give him a reference for Houghton?

If I could affect that kind of passion in the co-op, just think what I could do if I actually had enough time with them! Such were my thoughts as I planned out my curriculum. One thing I knew– to become adept writers, they must do two things: 1. write a ton and 2. read a ton (of great literature).

Progeny Press is a super resource for single or group study. What I appreciate about Progeny is they give permission for group use of their materials. All I needed for my purposes were the study questions, so it made no sense for each student to purchase a $20-$25 study guide in addition to the book and my time. Homeschool families are often single-income. I priced my classes to be a blessing.

Even I’m amazed at how well the 5000 Words strategy worked. Students who take my classes for at least a year end up testing into college English, most into Honors English.  My students usually go on to take CCP classes (college in high school), and not a soul leaves with writing trepidation. Whatever fear they had of writing, it was long-ago slayed as part of the 5000 Words Writing & Literature Class.

Here are some of the books we’ve studied together:

The Screwtape Letters

The Hiding Place

The Red Badge of Courage

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Lord of the Flies

Frankenstein

Romeo and Juliet

Poetry study

Alas, Babylon

Watership Down

This year I added 10-13 year old classes for typists and non-typists alike. We read The Call of the Wild and Island of the Blue Dolphins. For my keyboard savvy 10-13 year olds, I created a group blog where they publish their assignments. That class ended three weeks ago, and students are still publishing great stories and encouraging one another with their comments!

For Alas, Babylon and Watership Down I wrote my own study guide questions, which is great fun and allows me an unlimited possibility of books. Finally, I can’t forget WordPress, the lynchpin. All my high school students have their own WordPress blogs. They publish their assignments and are required to comment on one another’s work with a prescribed template. It’s not a perfect system, but it motivates.

Most student blogs are private, but you can check out this blog or this one by two of my students who keep public blogs. And check out the home of 5000 Words for posts on how to teach and evaluate writing.

Personal Journey

V is for Victim

VIt was 1981. Even reasonable people feared impending doom by a nuclear duel between the USA and the USSR. The Cold War had everybody wondering how to prevent the total extermination of humankind when the sabers stopped rattling and started their deadly slicing. Fallout shelters were born.

My 6th grade teachers came up with an aggressive plan. To teach us what to expect in the aftermath of a full-scale nuclear event, they offered: a one-night co-ed sleepover in the school library/actual fallout shelter (say it with pride). This would be the culmination of many lessons on radiation, the invisible yet deadly gift of science. Radiation is why we’d all be living in the fallout shelter for a year or two. All 30,000 of us residents.  Not like there were actual fallout shelters everywhere… would it be like the Titanic, steerage on the school lawn? Even in elementary school, death sounded better than the library option.

Just so we wouldn’t inundate the school psychologist over the fears they’d implanted in our featherweight psyches, they would make it fun. From Geiger counters to astronaut food, we were going to have ourselves a little end-of-the-world role play. A one night co-ed sleepover would teach us about months of deprivation in postapocalyptic Ironton, Pennsylvania, which is sort of like learning about the marriage contract from a one night stand. But they were children of the 60’s, my teachers. This would never fly today.

I was checking radiation levels (i.e. wandering the halls with my painted tissue box) when a teacher pulled me aside and told me she had a special project. My job was to sprawl on the bathroom floor “unconscious” until someone discovered me. Then I was to remain unconscious until I received the appropriate medical care. Dutiful me, I lay on the floor with my eyes closed and waited to be rescued.

How long I lay there I don’t know, but it was all worth it to have everyone scuttling about me, concerned for my welfare, caring about me exponentially more than when I was upright and conscious. That’s the lure of being a victim. All that attention is outright intoxicating. And I, the radioactive damsel-in-distress even made the local paper. The first words in 72-point-font read, Kelly Seyer was in trouble…

A victim of radiation poisoning, I had succumbed to it while doing a routine check of the levels. How long I lay in the bathroom decided how radiated I was and underscored how inept we 6th graders were at keeping attendance. Except me, I couldn’t be at fault because I was the victim. [Note: victimhood gets you out of trouble. Lawyers know this.]

I enjoyed being a victim so much that I decided to get radiated again that night, without teacher approval. I lay down in the bathroom and waited… and you know what? I got more attention! I was carried by my classmates to the first-aid area and given a second dose of royal medical treatment. Then and there I decided that being rescued was the bomb.

I’ve since unlearned that lesson. Because strength and diligence and perseverance are the lessons of real life emergencies.

The 6th grade sleepover taught me absolutely nothing about preparing for nuclear war. In fact, I intend to situate myself as close to ground zero as possible, so I can be instantly vaporized. Anyone who’s read Hiroshima Diary: The Journal of a Japanese Physician will be there holding hands with me. Hachiya’s descriptions of his neighbors’ bloated corpses packed into any water they could find was horrifying. Everyone’s on fire on the inside and desperate for water. That’s hell if I’m not mistaken. Organic victims, the kind that bleed or bloat or scream– often don’t get a rescue. Playing at being one doesn’t deserve a rescue either. On my better days I recognize my wayward victim leanings; I remember this night and pull myself off the figurative bathroom floor before anyone sees.

Fallout

 

 

Personal Journey

U is for Unexpected

UTrue Story.

Science class in the ninth grade. Film day. The lights are off, the bubblesque TV perched atop a rolling stand soothes the room with flickering glow. Students slink down into their chairs, rest their feet on other chairs. For a few sacred moments, school is not a jungle. We put our masks away because no one is looking. X sat beside me, but to see the screen, we oriented ourselves toward the front of the room, X behind me.

You know that feeling, when a ladybug or an ant crawls on your skin, how it tickles? If I were commander of planet earth or even dictator of a small European country, I’d have my minions bring in buckets of non-stinging insects and let them crawl on my arms and legs. That fact may just be the weirdest piece of intel you’ve ever heard. I realize that. Apologies, but I feel it’s important you understand just how much I enjoy that featherlight touch, so that you’ll believe the rest of my story.

Back to science. We were watching something about the Hubble and why we should be amazed by it and by mankind’s genius for building it and all hail science class… thank you, science class. This doctrine delivered by that deep, trustworthy voice my generation has come to associate with boring school films. Everyone was getting as comfy as we could in the hard plastic and metal chairs on the harder tiled floor, in the stark decoreless science room that smelled of magic markers and sulfur.

I was daydreaming/snoozing/definitely not-watching when I felt this tickle on my back. It was late in the school year, one of those blazing hot days. I wore a light shirt that didn’t tuck in, the small of my back open to the air when I slouched down in the chair. X behind me must have accidentally brushed against me with his knee. X’s knee felt so nice against my back, like one of those ladybugs. And though X’s knee was brushing against me an awful lot, I just figured he was a bit clueless and unaware (ironic). And it felt so nice… I let it go.

Right up until the moment I felt his hand reach around, clearly not his jeans, not an accident, still feathery but (zoinks!) not worth it, going for the front of my shirt.

Well that was unexpected.

All that time, all those touches. None of them accidental. Had my chair suddenly become electrified with 100 volts it wouldn’t have launched me higher into the air than that horrible realization. I yanked my chair forward a safe distance, the screeching chair legs screaming for me. Heads turned. The voice of boring science droned on, and I was just a bit more wary of the world. When the lights came on, X asked me if I would go with him. That was the phrase we used. Stupid, I know.

True story.

 

 

Personal Journey

T is for Tory

T (1)Tory was an easy baby, the easiest child, the hardest teenager. I think each phase caused the next. You see, Tory was so breathtakingly sweet that losing her to the atmosphere was that much more bitter. By atmosphere, I mean adolescence. When a rocket re-enters earth, there is a gap in communication while it makes its way through the atmosphere. So you have this fun-loving little person, you have the atmosphere, and on the other side you have a reasonable, able-bodied young adult. I didn’t come up with this; I wish I had.*

Tory made it through the atmosphere. We all did. I remember the moment she turned in her flight suit. She smiled her dazzling and beautiful smile and said sweetly, “Mom, I just realized: I don’t hate you anymore.”

“The feeling’s mutual,” I answered.

Even when Tory was in the atmosphere she did great things. In high school speech and debate, one of my favorite Tory-moments occurred. It was her second year debating and she came up with a unique (and I thought– unbeatable) case. First, backtrack. There is an unspoken hierarchy in speech and debate. It’s not just a seniority gig. It’s also about dynasty. There are those families, you know, speech and debate royalty, who churn out generation after generation of final round winners. Then there are the plebianic masses who do their best to not wet themselves when they face a dynasty debater.

Some dynasty debaters didn’t think Tory’s case was worth a hill of beans, and they convinced her partner to scrap it. Tory, being shy and sweet and dynasty-less, was heart-broken. After all the work she put into it, they were going to scrap it because some Dons** didn’t like it?

Absolutely not, I told her. I got on the phone with the head of the program and outlined Tory’s case structure. “Is there anything wrong with this case?” I asked. She concurred that it was an ingenious case, that it would probably catch everyone off guard, and they should run it. They did run it, and they won with it over and over again.

This, from a 14-year-old who absolutely hated debate.

Then there’s her heart.  At twenty, Tory’s not above playing basketball with Gabe or taking him to the movies. She gives me honest but gentle fashion advice and tells me the hard things not many people will. If I ask her, she’ll even read my fiction writing!

At both Wagner’s and Gymboree Tory was promoted into management. Now Tory works at Aeropostale, a company that perfectly suits her. She handles her college load and a growing financial responsibility–her first car! She and Bob spent many quality hours together car hunting, taking five duds to various mechanics and having them rejected. Finally, a winner!

IMG_1306
Bob & Tory at the end of a long car-hunting journey. Victory!

When I think of Tory I think of her at her high school graduation party or at her 16th birthday luau. It’s a My Fair Lady image I have of Tory: grace and peace while she mingles with the people who have come out to love her and celebrate her.

Today it’s my delight to celebrate her in my own way. 🙂

*The atmosphere. That little gem is from Dr. James Dobson, whose parenting books traditionally make me cry. Good tears, the kind that come when you realize you’re not an alien parenting– badly– from Mars, but that everyone struggles. Many of them are still on our shelves, including, The Strong-Willed Child, Bringing up Boys, Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, and Night Light.

**Debate-Obsessed Nerd.

fiction

S is for Solution

The Solution

S

The reflection of his summer whites blinded the navy man. He closed his eyes to shut them out, to shut out the harrowing workday he’d just finished. A naval hospital ER had sounded so exciting in the recruiter’s office. Now, slumped against the smudged trolley window, he tried to lose himself in the lull of the swaying car, the rhythmic clicks, and the whirr of street sounds that rushed by. Just pulling his willowy frame out of the seat made him sigh with effort. Once he got on his connecting bus he’d be home in less than ten minutes, and she would be there.

It was her fault they were trapped in this squalor, where even the pizza man wouldn’t deliver. Evenings were an endless screaming soundtrack of salsa music from the multi-family commune of illegal aliens next-door. He was sure they held tactical meetings on how to ruin his life. Right when the music stopped, his other neighbor would crank up her push mower with the headlight duct-taped to the front and mow her lawn. “It’s cooler at night,” she would giggle when the navy man brought it up. How smitten she was with her own ingenuity. A punch into her pasty jaw would wipe that smile from her face.

He dropped into a bench to wait for his connecting bus. A beautiful woman wearing make up and lipstick sat a few feet from him. She whispered furtively into her cell phone, and he strained to hear snatches of phrases, “no activity… hungry as hell… suspect hasn’t moved…”  Taking notice of the navy man staring at her, she winked at him, then put her slender, manicured finger to her lips in a communication meant just for him: Shhhhh. He noticed the belt, the sidearm, the practical wardrobe.

His breath caught.

She must be part of a surveillance team casing the seedy laundromat across the street, the navy man’s own laundromat, where they spent their Saturdays washing his uniforms, his wife’s tentlike clothes, and all the little outfits the size of dish rags.

Not wanting to move away from her, he drank in her voice, her hair, her thinness, her make up. Why couldn’t his wife wear make up like she used to? His connecting bus came and went, and he hoped she wouldn’t notice that when he got on the next one. It was important to him that she not think him a fool, but he couldn’t will himself off the bench. If only he could come home to her. Just the thought of her made him feel lighter inside, his chest puffed out a bit, his slouch straightened. For an enchanted moment, he imagined himself coming home to her… until the second bus came and he had no choice but to get on it. She didn’t look up from her phone. He willed her to, but she didn’t.

As usual, his wife was waiting, tittering like a fat bird, talking about things he could care less about: How was his day? Did he do this? Did he do that? Did he stain his whites again? Had he filed the claim on their lost couch cushion? What earthly good is a couch set that’s missing one seat cushion? Somehow the van lines lost it in the move, and it fell to him to walk the claim form to the office. They deserved a whole new couch set, she contended, but it wasn’t going to show up by magic; he had to put in the claim. For now, they had a bed pillow where the missing seat cushion should be. It looked ridiculous. Thus he spent his evening in a stupor, alternately hating the salsa music or his wife or the misshapen couch. Sleep was his only reprieve.

At 10:13 he was yanked from sleep by the snarl of his neighbor’s lawn mower. He spasmed and knocked over the lamp. The sound of its breaking filled him with rage. Next to him his wife lay like a cow, snoring softly, her frame heaving and falling. How he hated her for sleeping on when he was ripped awake.

They’d been asleep nearly an hour and a half because the pregnancy exhausted her, and the princess needed sleep to “grow their little guy.” It made him want to vomit every time she said that. Somehow other people thought it was cute, that she was cute. He flinched at the hill of life under her belly, and it was all he could do to not jerk his hand away when she would place it there, beaming at him like it was Christmas.

The mower continued to scream at him. What if he just got out of bed, took his Smith & Wesson, strode over to that wench who had the audacity to mow her lawn after ten o’clock at night, and put a bullet in her skull? Then he’d run her over with her own mower for good measure. That would teach her.

He looked over at his wife sleeping next to him, oblivious. He thought of the exotic woman at the bus stop. And for the first time, his thoughts took new, exciting directions. It amazed him how simple a solution could be, how in-your-face it could be, yet he’d been blinded to it all this time. The impossibly bright navy whites he wore every day, they’d get blood-stained by the thick, crushing moments of his job at the hospital, but the blood came out, and if it didn’t, he just got a new set. It wasn’t like he couldn’t get a new set of whites, no matter what happened.

He smiled to think of it.