I’d Rather Not Take “Fun and Games” for $500 or How Jeopardy Tipped Me Over the Edge

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hBack in college I had a good friend whom I began to avoid. I loved him dearly, but at some point during our years together, he went through a prolonged Eeyore phase. Every time I approached him, I learned to anticipate doom and gloom.

“How’s it going?” I’d ask tentatively.

“Not good,” he’d inevitably reply (and that was on an up day!).

Then, he’d elaborate. Whatever the opposite of rose-colored glasses is, he was wearing them, and he never hesitated to share his pessimistic world view.

I’m not proud of myself, and perhaps I could have been a more stalwart friend, but sometimes I avoided him and his unrelenting negativity–a quick duck into the student center, a turn down Main Street, whatever it took. Not all the time, but sometimes.

Unfortunately, it has occurred to me recently that I might be becoming that person.

This past week, there was a non-mandatory Open Enrollment Health Insurance meeting after school. I decided to go because I had a few questions. My oldest is getting kicked off my insurance (aged out!) and I’d received a confusing form about that, and my middle daughter is on better insurance through her new job, so I needed to delete her from our plan. 

After school was over, I straightened up a few things, then rushed upstairs into the meeting, hoping to ask my two questions and be on my way. Unfortunately, the presenter had other plans. My heart sunk when I saw that she was busy setting up the overhead projector to display a Jeopardy-like screen.

What?!?! I thought we were just asking questions!

I’ll take “Deeply Concerned” for $200.    

“Someone recently told me that when I start talking about benefits, they fall asleep,” she said. “So, I decided to create a Jeopardy game.”

While I sat there, my jaw on the ground, my to-do list making like rabbits, and the clock ticking toward my meeting with a parent in 23 minutes, she proceeded to divide the room into teams.

“This isn’t happening,” I thought. “This can’t be happening. I know her creativity is admirable. I really do. But I don’t have time to play insurance Jeopardy. I don’t want to play insurance Jeopardy. I have two questions. Just two questions.”

I’ll take “On the Brink” for $300.

Next, she went over the categories. Honestly, I don’t remember what they were. I think I blacked out temporarily. When I came to, the first team had asked for some category or other for $400. They seemed to be entering into the spirit of things.

I’ll take “Who Are These People?” for $400.

“OMG,” I thought, “I am feeling incredibly antagonistic about this whole thing and I need to leave before I blurt out something awful…or simply scream. But really…how is this reasonable? Health insurance? Jeopardy? In May?? AHHHH! Please just tell me what I need to know so I can cross one more ridiculous thing off my list and move on to the next one!”

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Edward Munch’s The Scream

Ten minutes later, we had uncovered three squares (out of  30!!) and learned about open enrollment dates, health plan choices and vision benefits. None of which helped me. I muttered something to one of my team members. It may not have been intelligible. It may have been a subdued guttural scream. I don’t really remember, but I knew I had to escape. I literally felt like my head was going to explode. So, I left, aware that my degree of distress was irrational, but still feeling extremely frustrated, and with my two questions unanswered.

I walked downstairs and into my colleague’s classroom.

“How’d it go?” she asked, turning from her computer.

“It was a torture chamber!” I announced dramatically.

That’s when it struck me. I realized that I might just be becoming that person–the one others are ducking to avoid. Here’s this nice, motivated HR woman going out of her way to make educating us about health insurance fun. And how do I respond? Practically antagonistically! It was just one more thing taking up too much time in a long list of one more things. And then I had to interrupt other people’s valuable time to tell them about it. I’m not exactly a ray of sunshine here. Clearly, I have to work on this.

But for now, I need to e-mail the well-intentioned HR person to get my questions answered. I guess I should have just done that in the first place.

I’ll take “Hindsight” for $500.

 

Instructions to a Standardized Test

74707-poetry-friday-logoOver at Today’s Little Ditty this month, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes interviewed Liz Steinglass about her debuting picture book: Soccerverse: Poems About Soccer. It was a great interview and ended, as always, with a challenge. Liz invited readers to write Poems of Instruction to inanimate objects. What an intriguing challenge! I’ve been having loads of fun seeing what others have written and finally settled on my response. (I apologize for the appearance, but the only way I could retain my formatting was by taking screen shots and cutting and pasting them.)

Instructions to a Standardized Test

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The ever-inspiring Margaret Simon of Reflection on the Teche is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup. She’s sharing some wonderful nature pi-ku poems written by the gifted and talented students she teaches.

Complaint

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Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Oscar Wilde

Like many others in my neck of the woods, I’m a bit obsessed with the weather these days. Overall, it’s been a pretty miserable spring. Chilly, drizzly and grey. I’ve tried to talk myself into appreciating it. All this rain sure makes everything green!  or Well,  it’s easier to still be in school when the weather’s not so nice.  or …. Well, honestly, I can’t think of much else. Maybe,  At least you won’t get a sunburn?! Clearly, I’m reaching here.

So, I’m terribly sorry, Oscar, but I’ve decided to grab onto this silver lining: The crummy weather gives me something to write about. It inspired my first dizain last week (Rainy Spring Lament) and today I’m lodging another poetic complaint. 

Complaint

Yo, Springtime, why you gotta be so rude?
It’s April showers in that platitude
May’s for sun and blossom amplitude
This weather smacks of nasty attitude
My sunscreen lotion cap is still unscrewed
My pallid winter skin is still unhued
Can’t you gift us with an interlude,
a patch of sunny day to up the mood?
Folks down here are gettin’ kinda rude
This weather is a major downer, Dude!

©Molly Hogan, 2019

 

Rainy Spring Lament

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I’ve been struggling to write for the past few weeks. I didn’t participate in the weekly Tuesday SOL for most of April, and my poetry writing has been erratic. My morning writing pages haven’t been accumulating either. Outside, there’s lots going on and I’ve enjoyed time down by the river, and walking, taking pictures, gardening, etc., but I’m not feeling a writing tug. I just haven’t wanted to write about anything in particular. I’ve started and stopped a couple of pieces, unable to find any sort of rhythm. Could it be the weather?

Thank goodness for my on-line writing communities–Poetry Friday to the rescue! Intrigued by the dizains on show in several posts last week, I decided to attempt one. The basic rules to a dizain are 10 lines with 10 syllables each and a rhyme scheme of ababbccdcd.  Our depressingly rainy spring seemed to be the perfect topic.

Rainy Spring Lament

These ceaseless days of drizzle drag me down
fair sun retreats, unfelt and rarely spied
sky clings to clouds as to a favorite gown
debuting springtime blossoms peek then hide,
droop ever downward, fully mist-ified
The forecast looms with unrelenting grey
belies the merry, merry month of May
when typically the whole world comes alive
instead our spirits sag and tempers fray
Oh, when will springtime finally arrive?

©Molly Hogan, 2019

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Elizabeth Steinglass at her blog, Elizabeth Steinglass: Poetry for Children and Their Grownups. She’s celebrating all sorts of milestones this spring, including the imminent release of her first book: “Soccerverse: Poems About Soccer.” Congratulations, Elizabeth!!  Today she’s sharing a first draft of a poem that’s included in that book, and a poem that was cut.

Time Traveling With John Smith

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Captain John Smith sits on my desk. To be more precise, he stands there. I found him a while back, tucked in a closet corner, forgotten. I picked him up and assessed his condition. He was missing some accessories–his helmet and one leg protector were gone, and the sword I dimly recalled was nowhere in sight–but overall, he seemed to be in fighting condition. He must have fallen out of some haphazardly packed box of my son’s childhood ephemera. I carried him downstairs to place him on my desk.

On our journey downstairs, I idly wondered about the original historic John Smith. What did he really look like? Was he tall, blond and muscular? Did he have all his teeth? What did Pocahontas see in him? I imagined the real man was probably vastly different than this bold Disney-ified version. 

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It’s been a couple of weeks since then, and John Smith is still standing on my desk. I like him there. He strikes an interesting note amidst the writerly clutter, and I stop and look at him from time to time. I never did google him. I don’t wonder about his appearance or his life now. I don’t think about his story. Instead, when I look at him, I always think about my son. I remember him playing with this treasured figure, and oh-so-many others, devising elaborate scenarios of derring-do and rescue. I remember his small hand clutching John Smith about his trim waist, moving him to and fro and his young voice artificially deepening to create his version of an adult masculine voice. It never fails to make me smile.

Note: I saw my son this past weekend. He’s 25 now, almost 26, and I mentioned to him that I’d found his John Smith figure. He immediately grinned. I could feel the sands of time shift for him as well.

 

PF–Fibonacci poems

74707-poetry-friday-logoIf you didn’t have a chance to watch Laura Shovan’s fabulous Nerdy Book Club Facebook appearance, I highly recommend it. During part of this poetry extravaganza, she focused on Fibonacci poems, and offered several resources to facilitate writing these poems with students.  After watching Laura talk about Fib poems, I realized that I’d never written one. Oops!  Inspired by Laura and some of my recent photos, I set out to rectify that omission. 

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This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jama Rattigan at her sumptuous blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup. She’s celebrating spring with some fabulous art and poems by Sara Teasdale and Mary Oliver.

Wishes

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My thoughts have turned to my grandmother a lot lately.  I’ve always thought of her as a strong and capable woman. She was relatively reserved and certainly proper–“A place for everything and everything in it’s place” kind of woman–and I suspect she could have given etiquette lessons to Miss Manners.  One thing I’ve been struck by recently is some of the contrasts between my ideas about her and my actual memories of time spent with her, and ultimately, how little I knew the woman she was.

Wishes

My pragmatic grandmother
stoic and steady
taught us to wish
on eyelashes and stars
and on a slice of pie–
Cut off the corner
tuck it behind the crust
now turn your plate
clockwise, three times
eat it all, corner piece last
to make your wish come true
On the first of the month
she taught us to wake
and quickly whisper
Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit
for good luck
I wonder why she dwelt on wishes
what she wished for then…

Oh, how I wish
I could ask her now

© Molly Hogan, 2019

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by the dynamic Carol Varsalona at her blog, Beyond Literacy Link. She’s sharing a lovely foggy morning at the beach in photos and poetry.