Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A maudlin poem

Actually, I don't think the poem is maudlin, I wanted to take the challenge to be a teacher who writes poetry, given in the throwback post from Two Writing Teachers. I followed the general plan for starting with a word of the day, finding synonyms and then synonyms of synonyms.


Tearfully charming,
Mawkish weeping,
Dreamy howling.
A comic mourner
In a funereal scene
from Charles Dickens.


Tall black hat,
Downcast eyes.

Dies Irae

The undertaker's mute
Pacing behind
Tenderly, professionally tearful.


Maybe the poem should speak for itself, but I'm going to talk about it anyway. I tried to pair unexpected synonyms - some of the synonyms and definitions were at odds with each. This led me to thoughts of the undertaker's mute, the hired mourner who walked behind the hearse in Victorian England. Oliver Twist was a mute for a short time in Dickens' novel, a pale, sad little boy dressed in mourning. One of the synonyms was lachrymose, which I discovered means weeping. That word took me to the Requiem mass. The Lachrymosa is part of the Dies Irae, so that became part of the poem, too.

Though I have written poetry in the past, I have fallen out of the habit. This was an enjoyable challenge that should lead to more poetry on my part.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


I decided to write this post in the middle of the night. I was awake, wishing I was asleep.

I don't really know why I can't sleep through the night sometimes. Maybe there's some noise that wakes me, maybe it's something I ate, maybe it's the end of the school year anxiety, but it's been happening regularly lately.

The first doctor that I told about my sleep problems gave me a prescription for Sonata. Such a nice, musical name. He said, "You'll love this. You'll think nothing is happening for 20 minutes, then the next thing you know, you're waking up in the morning." It did work like that for awhile, though it always made me a little nervous. Then I took it and it didn't work. If you don't fall asleep after taking Sonata, you can have hallucinations! Not fun at all. That was it for Sonata.

Years later with a different doctor, I got a discussion on "sleep hygiene." If you can't sleep, don't stay in bed, get up and do something boring for awhile and then go back to bed. Dark room, don't read in bed, etc. Doesn't work for me. I also tried natural remedies - melatonin and calming herbs.  I'm still awake. And being awake, I start thinking of all the things I should or could be doing.

My teaching partner said I should put a notebook and pencil beside my bed. "If you're going to do lesson planning in the middle of the night, you might as well write it down so you don't forget it."

This is a pretty good representation of what it's like to be laying awake, not being able to sleep:

That is The Nightmare Song from the operetta Iolanthe by Gilbert and Sullivan, performed by Dave Ross. It's a patter song and the lyrics go by pretty quickly, so here are the words:

When you're lying awake, with a dismal headache,
And repose is taboo'd by anxiety,
I conceive you can use any language you choose
To indulge in without impropriety.

For your brain is on fire, the bedcothes conspire
Of usual slumber to plunder you.
First your counterpane goes and uncovers your toes,
And your sheet slips demurely from under you.
Then the blanketing tickles, your feel like mixed pickles,
So terribly sharp is the pricking.
And you're hot and you're cross and you tumble and toss,
Til there's nothing twixt you and the ticking.

Then the bedclothes all creep to the ground in a heap,
And you pick 'em all up in a tangle.
Next your pillow resigns and politely declines
To remain at it usual angle.

When you get some repose in the form of a doze
With hot eyeball and head ever aching,
Your slumbering teems with sucn horrible dreams
That you'd very much better be waking.

You awake with a shudder, despairing...

You're a regular wreck,
With a crick in your neck,
And no wonder you snore,
For your head's on the floor.
And you're needles and pins
Form your soles to your shins,
And your flesh a acreep
For your left leg's asleep.
And you've cramp in your toes
And a fly on your nose,
And some fluff on your lung,
And a feverish tongue,
And a thirst that's intense,
And a general sense

That you haven't bee sleeping in clover.
But the darkness has passed, and it's daylight at last!
The night has been long, ditto , ditto my song,
And thank good ness they're both of them over!

I love Gilbert and Sullivan!

What I have been working on lately is getting some exercise, mostly walking and a little yoga. I think this makes me more relaxed and tired, so hopefully I will fall asleep and stay asleep. It is also essential for me to avoid looking a screen too close to when I want to sleep, because the light in my face disrupts the melatonin that should move me into sleep mode. So no computers or Kindle before bed. I have to say that the experience of not sleeping makes me appreciate those nights when I sleep soundly until morning. What a great feeling!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


This week I am feeling grateful. Last week one of my colleagues, who is also my friend, was taking his daughter on a college visit out of state. They were in a horrible car accident on Wednesday. The driver behind them didn't slow down in a construction zone and plowed into the back of their car, pushing them into the car in front of them. My friend was airlifted out to the hospital. His daughter was banged up, but had no serious injuries, though I'm sure it was pretty terrifying for her.

My friend is married to my teaching partner, who got the call at school from the hospital. She dropped everything and headed for the airport.

He was in the ICU with multiple injuries for a couple of days, and then was released from the hospital and flew home on Saturday, amazingly. He is now recovering at home, and will probably be there for a few weeks. He's been sending cheerful emails, including mentioning that he'd always wondered what it would be like to be airlifted, and now he knows!

My teaching partner sent a photo of the car, which had been towed away. It looked more like a ball of metal than a car.

It's a reminder when terrible things happen - a reminder of how important our friends are to us, and how much we care. It's also a reminder that life can change in an instant.

So I am very grateful that my friends are back with us.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Favorite Books or Best Books?

I thought I was the only person who disliked The Giving Tree, but it turns out there are others who had the same response to the book that I did!

Grammarly's post on April 1 titled "The 5 Best Children's Books of All Time." The list includes Charlotte's Web, The Giving Tree, Oh, The Places You'll Go, The Giver, and Where the Wild Things Are.  I disagreed with several of the books on the list. But, lists of favorites or bests are very subjective. Lists like this are a starting place for discussion.

I hated The Giving Tree the first time I read it and have not changed my opinion. I know dozens of people who love it and find it inspiring, but I see it as the boy talking everything, including, finally, the tree's life. The boy gives nothing. I have kept my opinion mostly to myself, until now. Several readers made similar comments, saying, for example, it "should be renamed The Taking Tree."

I love Dr. Seuss, but Oh, the Places You'll Go is not one of my favorites. I love Horton Hears a Who, The Sneetches, and especially Green Eggs and Ham. I haven't read The Giver and though I like Charlotte's Web and Where the Wild Things Are, they don't touch me the way other books have.

So what would I put on the 5 Best Children's Books of All Time list? The Wind in the Willows is perhaps my absolute favorite children's book. I didn't read it until I was an adult, but the story of the friendship and gentle adventures combined with the luminous language is the best, in my opinion. I also loved Kidnapped and The Jungle Book, for the adventurous stories. A Wrinkle in Time and the Narnia books are also up there on my list.

I was so fortunate to have an uncle who loved books and gave me a book every year for my birthday. Because of him I read some more offbeat novels that I wouldn't have found without him. He gave me The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clarke, which led me to the Brontes and more wonderful novels. He also gave me The Outsiders when it first came out, and an oddball novel by Jules Verne that is printed sideways on the page. I owe him at least for some of my love of reading.