Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tuesday Afternoons

The room is empty, devoid of students. Chow in 100 comes early and always during literacy class. Through the door I watch two female deputies work the tower, a raised area in the center quad of three large dorms that house thirty women each, and my classroom. Food carts squeak. Trustees push plastic trays through portals in locked massive, metal doors. Women wave and mouth verboten greetings through heavy windows laced with wire mesh. Phones ring. Walkie-talkies squawk. Voices loud – laughing, scolding, praising, joking.

Fifteen minutes – “Teacher’s waiting. Hurry-up.”

A wave of women shuffle in, then another, back to their pencils and pages. Greetings and gossip, all ages, races, average, normal – dressed in orange, INMATE stamped on their backs. Each has a story, choices and circumstance – tragic or luck. Lives pulled from poverty and privilege, sit side-by-side in search of change. I listen and pray, glad I’m the volunteer and not the judge.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Test of Time

As a kid in school, I hated tests. Looking at my old elementary school report cards (the ones where the teacher wrote a progress note home to the parents every six weeks) more than one teacher mentioned, “Not a good test taker.” I think probably today I’d be diagnosed with one of the AD syndromes, but in my family, failure was not an option. I didn’t realize until I had four children and was back in college that I had learned to survive my lack of concentration and ability to memorize with perseverance.

Recently, I was required as part of my volunteer prison ministry to take a computer based training, mandated by the federal government. Thirty multiple choice questions with 80% needed to pass. Sounds simple enough. The first day I spent six hours—ninety minutes of that, just to find the minuscule icon that opened the actual test portion of the program. Thoroughly frustrated, but afraid the program would time-out, I plunged ahead for a pre-test score of 50. Several tests later and a high score of 58%, I quit to start afresh the next day. With a new attitude and a better understanding of the program, I started with the video odyssey training sessions. After hours of endless lesson scenarios, my high score reached 78%. Another try with a 50 and I quit again. However, failure was not an option. I passed the test eventually with some handholding, but I’ve discovered new meaning in the dreaded words – the test.

Testing in reference to my faith has always bothered me. The dictionary refers to test as “a purification process by heat and pressure.” Purified by fire scares the Hell out of me, literally. I have a hard time reconciling my loving God as testing me. What if I fail? But that’s the whole point. Life – this journey is the test – baby steps of faith, and if we keep getting up and toddling back on the path, we can't fail.
The test of time – stubborn perseverance. God help me. I’m still not good at standardized tests, but I have the wisdom that time affords and the dogged determination that can’t be measured by little bubbles on a page.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Big Thaw

I started this blog several days ago.
It’s 10pm and finally quiet. The rest of the house is sleeping, and I’m sitting here, looking for inspiration. Our calico walks across my page, sits on my arm, and kneads my stomach. No amount of good natured shooing works, only the obvious push onto the floor. I could use a good push myself. I haven’t written my pages in weeks – forgive me Julia.* I’ve dropped my pen and I can’t pick it up.

At the computer surfing the self-help blogs that encourage January goal setting and perseverance, I languish in fear. The ink has dried up, dedication shrivels. My mind has wandered off the page into the dessert dunes. Big Bang reruns flicker across the flat screen. The bright colors and loud noise make my head nod with the laugh track. What happened to that book I was reading? Seduced by Sudoku. Replaced by the lure of electronic solitaire and mindless word finds.
Where is that Muse? Did I pack her in the attic with the Christmas decorations? Wait! I see a Leisure Learning writing class in my future. Okay, and there’s that contest I want to enter. Oh, yeah, I’m up next for critique this week.
If you’re suffering from a creative ache that eats at your soul, I recommend reading the spiritual leadings offered by * Julia Cameron, author of Right to Write and The Artist’s Way, and writing three pages every morning whether you want to or not!