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Sunday, April 13, 2014

In all your getting, Get Understanding


It has occurred to me that my previous post might have confused some of my readers with regard to how it connects to my declared theme of Crafting a Family. What seems obvious to me is not always readily apparent to others, so let me explain. 

The older our kids get, the more aware of current events they become. My high school freshman has had to engage in the homosexual marriage discourse extensively in school this year. We live in a very liberal region where Christians are the minority. I can assure you that the hate speak is harsh in both directions. Repeating the sort of trite arguments the extreme religious right have made would get her crushed and ostracized in school. Therefore it became necessary to walk her through the process of seeing both sides of the argument. 

Furthermore, she needed to determine her own beliefs. I don't want my kids to believe in the God of the Bible because I do. I want them have their own reasons to believe. I have assured my kids that it's okay for them to think for themselves in ways that are contrary to the official statements of organized religions, and even my statements, and still know God. If my faith is real, there should be no reason for me to fear raising intelligent independent thinkers. They are welcome to question everything. If I don't have an answer, we can look for one together.

This is really hard for a lot of parents. They fail before they're even thinking of it in these terms. The kids go visit Grandma and she gives them candy. Mom doesn't let them have candy. Grandma doesn't even ask mom for permission before handing it to them. Then Grandma sits them down at the table for lunch and tells them they have to finish their sandwich and EAT THE CRUST before they get up again to go play. Mom never makes them finish their meal if they're full, and they didn't know people could actually eat bread-crusts. Grandma ignores their whining and they eventually eat everything, but it's triggered Mom's childhood trauma and associated weight sensitivity and she's pissed. This is even worse if Grandma was Dad's Mom and doesn't know Mom's original family culture. If Grandma isn't going to follow Mom's rules for the kids, the kids aren't going to go to Grandma's house! They leave early in a huff and the kids learn that "our rules" and "our way of doing things" are the only ones that matter and everyone else's way of doing things is inferior or downright wrong.

Kids are remarkable learners. They will pick up that lesson the first time. Fortunately, they can also easily handle the idea that there are different rules for different places. Grandmas different rules don't phase them, and won't disrupt their acceptance of differing rules at home, so long as Mom doesn't undermine them by compromising Grandma's rules at Grandma's house. They have elastic perspectives that can be taught empathy easily if we take the time to explain a situation from another point of view. Maybe Grandma insists they eat crusts because she grew up in a situation where wasting food meant going hungry. It won't hurt them to eat crust. We stunt their growth in these areas by allowing our own self righteousness and offenses to prevent them from having a diversity experiences.

It gets worse when we send them to school. We have disagreements about how our kids are being taught. I loathe homework, and research clearly indicates that it has no effect on student outcomes in the primary grades. This runs contrary to what most teachers have had drilled into them in college, and what school district policy may require. If they do embrace modern research findings and quit homework, they run into parents who insist that they had homework, therefore their kids must have homework. The teachers can't win. I make a point of discussing possible homework flexibility with each child's teacher, but ultimately back whatever the teacher assigns, because it's more beneficial to my kids that I support the authority of the teacher's position, than that I micromanage my idea of a perfect education. 

They can adapt. They will adapt. Mom will have more credibility and support from Grandma and teachers when she backs up their authority in front of her kids, and saves her objections for private respectful conversation later. My kids have great relationships with their grandparents on both sides, and have adopted a lot of extra grandparents, because they have learned that Mom respects the differing rules of other's households, even when I disagree with them, and expects them to show respect too.

This naturally flows into respecting the differing ideas, values, and viewpoints of others as they mature. Our rules are different, our homes are different, and how we see the world is different, and that's okay. We can still come to the table together and get along. Armed with these life skills they can go anywhere in the world peaceably, and still retain and defend, or reasonably adapt, their own strong personal beliefs.

Contrast that with the child who has been raised in isolation from, and/or with a critical judgmental view of, other ways of living and thinking. When they leave home they easily become confused by the discovery that people who live other ways can be successful and happy. They can't answer for why they believe a thing, or why they criticize others who believe differently, because they've never dug deeply into that question. They can only repeat Mom's answer, without any internal resource to defend it from the feeblest attacks. And the world will attack. Being unprepared for a greater world, they either open themselves to learning everything they missed as kids from scratch, out among the dangers of an adult world instead of in the relative safety of home, or retreat to a micro-culture enclave where everyone was raised in a similar manner and the questioners have mercifully all moved away.

You can raise your kids like that. You're allowed. And I know there are exceptional situations where Grandma's way is actually abusive or harmful. There are limits to what we should accept and/or expose our kids to with regard to diverse lifestyles. But we should consider carefully what those limits are for us. More often than not, we're not protecting, but passing on our small mindedness and our fears to our children. We live in micro-culture enclaves ourselves and it's hard to venture out into that big scary world that will attack our beliefs. It's HARD. And it's okay to venture out slowly. It's even better to take a friend with you so you can process all the diversity you'll find out there. 

No matter how hard it is, I recommend you begin as soon as possible. The risk of losing your adult, or even teen children is high. Who do you think they will blame when they reach their existential crisis and look back at the little ideological box they grew up in but never fully understood? I've heard the sob stories. Parents who have no idea where they went wrong, because they never connected their own isolating behavior with their child being unprepared to leave the nest. Because, "they were such good kids until they went to college." While I was growing up I heard Christians say that we shouldn't send our kids to college because it will corrupt them. This was not a whisper through the church, but a loud outcry. I'm not the least bit surprised that a common descriptor of Christians in the media today is "ignorant." 

I'm not just speaking to Christians. The desire to isolate and surround ourselves with like minds is universal. All of us tend toward it. Politicians take advantage of it. Divided we are easily conquered. It takes a deliberate decision to reach outside of our micro-culture and try to understand someone different's point of view. But every time we do, we empower ourselves. My kids have been taught in school about an emotional toolbox they have for dealing with conflict. I believe UNDERSTANDING is a power tool for those who would like to impact the world for the better. I'm equipping my kids with power tools!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Thoughts on Freedom of Religion and the Right to Discriminate


A fellow Mensan posed a question at lunch today that got me thinking. I'll have to paraphrase because I don't remember her exact words, but she asked why religion is the only area in which we still allow and even protect the right to discriminate/hate. It's a fair question. There is a lot of hateful discriminatory rhetoric that gets tossed around in the name of religion. But at the end of the day, no matter how many legal challenges are presented, we all submit to the rule of law. If someone goes crazy and commits a truly violent act in the name of any religion, the leaders of that faith (residing inside our borders at least) are quick to condemn them as lunatics. 

The freedom of religion that we enjoy is one of the first inalienable rights, granted to all mankind by God, acknowledged in law for us by our nations founders. A predominantly Christian group of men who opened every meeting with prayer to God for wisdom, amazingly—given the current public view of Christians— believed their God favored religious freedom over church dominion. This is still a revolutionary idea in many parts of the world. Since the founding of our nation there has been a seemingly unending stream of religious genocides taking place outside our borders. They're still taking place today. In many places around the world, a person may only change their religion at the risk of their life. Governments enforce religions on their people, and control of democracies is fought over with religious fervor, because winning puts your religion in control. Contrary to common belief, America is not a democracy where the (potentially religious) majority rules. We are a representative republic where the law rules.

Whatever debate takes place over the outcomes of our Supreme Court rulings, I feel reasonably confident that our justices will ultimately place the law over their personal religious convictions. I feel confident that they will eventually strike down any law put forth by the legislature that seeks to suppress the free exercise of any religion. They may wish they lived in a more religious and/or moral culture, we don't know all their personal thoughts on the matter, but they understand that the level of governmental stability we enjoy is due in large part to this enforced acceptance of the religious freedoms of people we disagree with, or even vehemently oppose.

The tricky part comes when civil regulation begins to conflict with our religious beliefs. For instance, it's seems right that a religious institution be able to prefer hiring members of their religion to work within their institution. But in the general marketplace, hiring discrimination based on religion is not acceptable. More recently we are facing the question of whether a business that provides services for what they see as a religious ceremony, a wedding, must provide the same services for what a potential customer sees as a civil ceremony. You may ask what difference it makes to a business getting paid for their services, but weddings require the services of many artistic people, and artists tend to feel a connection to their craft and their clients to the degree that their willingness to provide services is tantamount to an endorsement of the event. If their religious beliefs do not allow them to endorse the event, the inability to discriminate in choosing their customers becomes a serious moral quandary for them. 

Many businesses have posted their "right to refuse service to anyone," but know they would still face serious legal consequences for denying service based on race, gender, or disability. Sexual preference seems like it shouldn't matter either. But while a baker, even one with those sort of artistic sensibilities, should have no problem selling a birthday cake to a homosexual, a wedding cake may become a sticky point with their religion. How much do we protect their right to discriminate according to their faith? Can the rule of law require them to do something that violates their personal religious beliefs? Should the government be allowed to force a person to commit what is a sin in their own eyes? Does their refusal to provide the services requested really violate the civil rights of their customer? Doesn't it seem a little different from providing equal access to bathrooms and bus seats? Is a wedding cake crafted by that particular baker an essential service to which they have a civil right? Are photographs by that particular photographer a civil right? Are vendors who hold such strong religious views so numerous that it becomes at all difficult to find another who is willing? Most of these types of vendors are allowed to discriminate based on not liking the customer, or just not wanting to work for them. But if they admit a moral quandary in making that decision, they can be sued. Does that seem reasonable to anyone? Would anyone want to enlist the services of a vendor who feels coerced by the law into providing services for their wedding?

I don't have satisfactory answers for all those questions. Answers that will satisfy everyone probably don't exist. But I don't feel overwhelmed or disgusted by religious conflict in America. I feel encouraged by the active discourse. It's amazing that we're to the point where we're having this discourse when governments in other countries, for religious reasons, still allow women to be stoned for driving a car and endorse killing a homosexual on sight. For more than 200 years religiously diverse Americans have managed to work out our differences and stay on a steady course of increasing grace toward our fellow humans. That is an immense achievement. I'm confident it will continue. 

Honestly, hateful religious rhetoric from any group doesn't offend me. Even though I'm personally Pentecostal (a branch of Protestant), and am often saddened to see people saying abhorrent things in the name of Christ, I am not offended. Firstly, the Bible denies me the right to be offended. It denies me the right to judge others in any way. I am only to keep myself holy. Secondly, the Bible is very clear that if I don't forgive others, I will not be forgiven. Thirdly, it equates hatred to murder, and as a follower of Christ, I can expect to ultimately be held accountable for my thoughts as much as my words and actions. (Non-believers, having no restrictions to your judgement, can take comfort in the knowledge that their own religion condemns the "Christian" haters.) Lastly, it makes the identification of true followers of Christ quite clear; we will be known by our love. 

Adhering to that standard keeps me quite occupied, as I am required to love my enemies as well as my friends and fellow Christians, regardless of whether or not or how they have sinned. An assignment Christ understood to be so profoundly difficult for anyone, that we are told the ability to fulfill it, that degree of love, comes as a gift from the Holy Spirit, because we couldn't do it in our own ability. And really, I don't think we can. How much peace could mankind realistically achieve without this side of the religious rhetoric? Maybe we should think more about that and ignore the hate speak. Perhaps we should take the internet mantra to heart and not feed the trolls irl.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Seven is Magic

Seven is magic. Looking back, I realize I had some forewarning of this in the form of a picture book by the same title. It was brought to my attention by the school librarian, an effervescent woman who resembled a twenty-something Mrs. Claus. She read books  upside down, and her voice was a lyrical bridge between reality and story-land. I idolized her and read everything she gave me with an intensity that increased its impact. Whether that book influenced my experience or just declared a simple universal truth, I cannot tell. I turned seven in mid-April, and school let out for summer vacation near the end of May. By then, the magic was already in motion.

Every summer, some contingent of my family went to visit my paternal grandparents in California. My mom must have had a part-time job that year because she stayed behind with my older sister and me, while Dad took the three boys south and left them there for the duration. It's the first summer I remember staying home. I was blissfully alone with my imagination, free to roam the small fishing town of Petersburg, Alaska, during its bustling busy season.

That still amazes me. While it's true that everyone in town knew I was the police sergeant’s daughter, I can't imagine giving my own daughters that kind of liberty. And my imagination is pretty good. We moved away from the island when I was ten, but I moved back for two years as an adult, and I could remember the things I had imagined there, better than I could remember reality.

My body also remembered the place. I felt in harmony with my surroundings in a way that I've never felt anywhere else. The constant overcast of clouds and light drizzle of rain were not things that registered as discomforts. They scrubbed the air and kept it soft and moist. Every drawn breath felt like I was taking in an elixir of health.

My ears opened to the silence and I may have travelled back in time. I could hear the squishing of my rain boots in the muck, the splash of a frog jumping into a muskeg hole, the distant buzz of a float plane taking off or landing, the sound of my own breathing...even my own heartbeat thudding loudly in my ears, because, behind each distinct noise was the vast quietude of nothing. A thousand miles of nothing. No low hum of traffic or even of insects. Profound isolation. A quiet so reverent you are loathe to break it with the sounds of your own movement, so you move as quietly as you can as you step off the end of a trail out into nowhere, every step an adventure into new, uncharted territory.

The first place my young feet carried me was the trail up to the senior housing where my maternal grandparents lived. My grandma is more than ten years younger than my grandpa, and she voluntarily helped care for and encourage the more elderly residents. She carved a poultry yard out of the muskeg at one end of the building so they could enjoy feeding breadcrumbs to ducks and geese.

A few of my summer days were spent visiting the other residents with her and learning how to sew a patchwork quilt on her machine. The orange and brown polyester double knits, leftover from the seventies, fit right in on my brothers’ beds. She backed them with peach cotton twin flat sheets and tied them with yarn. Over her decade of residence in Petersburg, she taught numerous women to quilt, and started a longstanding tradition in town. Some of her students became quilt artists, but she was always a practical quilter, creating utilitarian quilts from leftover scraps in the prettiest patterns she could. She prayed over each piece as she worked, creating spiritual and material coverings for her descendants, the transient, and more missionaries than we can count.

At seven, I knew where to go to find what interested me. I knew what I can eat and what I must leave alone. I knew what kind of stream I must find to drink from and how to be careful of bears and other animals that might be getting a drink, too. I wandered off the trail often, with a five gallon bucket and a stick. I dipped the bucket in a muskeg hole to fill it halfway with murky water, then set about catching frogs. When I tired of the frogs, I let them go in exchange for wishes. Then, I picked wild flowers, skunk weed, and other vegetation and pretended to make magic potions. I ground up bark with a sharp piece of blue shale plucked from the roadside to make a fine reddish powder for makeup.

I imagined myself to be characters from books. I'm still especially fond of fairy tales, mythology, Shakespeare, and Bible stories. I was visited by dragons and dinosaurs. An apothecary bottled poison for me. I became a dwarf, my tool an old nail, as I scraped away the soft rock matrix hiding garnets in a boulder brought from an abandoned mine out the road. Animals talked to me and trees listened, gently nodding or swaying like old ladies who disapprove of gossip on principle, but cannot help silently registering their opinion on overhearing it.

I must be home by dark, when evil takes over and my fairyland is no longer safe for humans to wander. But dark is late. Dark is approaching midnight. I don't remember being tired. When I returned as an adult, I found that memory to be true. My body adapted to the length of each day. I needed little sleep in the summer and nearly hibernated through the winter. My stamina returned, and my body became fit and toned without any conscious effort to do so. I had only to go outside every day. To breathe, to walk, to eat the diet of my childhood was enough to bring my body into balance. It made me wonder how much of human adaptation to a localized environment is in our genetic nature and how much is nurtured by the environment of our formative years. Whatever the case, my body knew that it was home.

While it's true that the gray skies and rain barely registered, the occasional breakthrough of sunshine carried more magic by virtue of contrast. When the clouds opened and the sun peeked through, it was easy to imagine that the earth was being kissed by a great benevolent spirit. On my island, every direction you look is filled with a stunning view of snow-capped peaks and untrodden wilderness. It is easy there to believe that leprechauns follow rainbows and Puck is darting through the canopy on a mission to make trouble.

All these woods were my playground from infancy. I never thought much about them, nor that I might miss them. They seemed so permanent, and they are there still. But I am no longer immersed in this fantastical natural setting. Sometimes, I ache from my soul to return again. It is not a place that can simply be seen. It must be felt, heard, smelled, tasted, breathed. You must draw it into your being and let it become a part of you, purify you, so you can carry the magic within you when you leave.

After I turned seven, I was also allowed to go into town. Downtown Petersburg changes in the summer. The population doubles as migrant workers arrive to take jobs in the canneries and on fishing boats. The resident male population comes and goes with the tides and the legal fishing seasons for each species. The women run the town, from the two full-service grocery/general stores to the little local art and books shops. They make up half the volunteer fire department and fill the majority of civil service positions, including Mayor that year. They civilized this little outpost on the last frontier. Like generations of pioneer women before them, they are the pillars of the community, the strength which holds such adventuresome and independent men together so that something more than individual subsistence living can exist.

Into this character web of already odd and interesting individuals streamed college students from all over the world. They came for the promise of a full year’s wages earned over a three-month summer break. They stayed in the cannery barracks my grandpa, helped build, with resident families, or in the tent city just out the road past the airport.

Occasionally, one stayed with my family. My older sister received piano and voice lessons from a woman that stayed in our guest room. This young woman had been raised on the foreign mission field and been part of a Christian rock band before coming north to work to pay for her next adventure. But my sister is six years older than me, and the daily rituals of her life held no meaning for me yet. She was busy avoiding her annoying younger sibling, like all older sisters from the beginning of time. One less thing to hamper my freedom.

I walked the seven blocks downhill to Main Street with a light step. The last block, by the post office, had the only patch of public lawn in town. It was obligatory for free spirited children to roll down...if it ever got dry enough. When it was wet, balancing down the wall alongside it would do. If I crossed the street, I could go upstairs in the city building to the city library. Downstairs lurked the public health nurse with her dreaded shots. No need to visit her. Around the corner was the police station, but my dad worked graveyard shifts and wasn't there to share one of his Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge Sodas with me. I popped in anyway to say "Hi" to the dispatchers.

There was a new candy shop in town. I rarely had enough money to go in, so I watched the taffy pulling machine through the window for a while, then took my pennies to the five and dime for gum balls from an old machine they undoubtedly lost money on. I wandered through a gift shop that only opened regularly in the summer, where I knew there would be free samples of fudge. Then, I went into the general store...alone. The stock rarely changed, but I went there often to drool over the Peaches and Cream Barbie I wanted more than anything else in the world. She would be the first Barbie I bought with my own money. But not yet.

My dad wouldn't let me have Barbies because of their "hyper-sexualized image." Fortunately, my babysitter let me come over and play with hers. When I turned seven, my big sister gave Dad what for, and permission was reluctantly granted. She was always good at debate. Mom, not wanting to push the issue, bought me two cheap knockoff fashion dolls for my birthday. Dad's big sister bought me real Barbies. Big sisters may want to avoid you, but they are important when you're seven.

When I'd window shopped sufficiently, I wandered over toward the docks. This was the one area I was not allowed to go. Someone's dog got plucked right off the dock by a sea lion a few years prior, so kids were banned unless actually going to a boat. But I could lean on the fence by the dry docks and watch the sea lions play. I could watch bald eagles fish and occasionally see the back of a whale, orca, or porpoise glide by on its way through the Wrangell Narrows.

This was where I met a new girl. I can't remember her name. I think it was Amy. I never saw her at school. She usually lived on a boat with her dad. That summer she was living in a shack behind the greasy spoon restaurant on Main Street and across from the dry docks. When I say shack, I mean something prefab you might put in your backyard. It held little more than bunk-beds and a dresser.

The idea of a father and daughter living in one room in those conditions made me uncomfortable. Mostly because my cousins had gone through hell the year prior when it was discovered that their dad was molesting them. I didn't entirely know what that meant yet, but I thought it had something to do with sleeping together. When something like that happens in a small town, there's no getting away from the unwanted attention. Even well-meaning attention is unbearable. My aunt divorced him, married another questionable guy because, like so many women, she didn't know how to take care of her kids alone. Then, she left town with them to get away from the shame. My dad was the investigating officer. Even though he kept their confidentiality, I heard enough from others.

But Amy's dad's boat was out of commission, so he was out working on someone else's boat most of the time and had to leave her ashore. Only when I came back as an adult, and got to visit a few fishing boats, did I realize that shack was a veritable palace compared to crew quarters on a boat. So Amy, a girl just my age, was living alone for most of the summer. Everyone knew her by her family, like they knew me, and they looked out for her. She knew places to go that I would never have dared. With my closest regular friend out on her family's fishing boat all season, I spent much of my summer of freedom in Amy's company.

She knew about the penny gum balls and fudge samples (the fudge lady gave bigger samples to her). She also went straight into the back dining room of the greasy spoon and ate sugar packets, and no one bothered her. The waitresses brought water out, checked that she'd eaten real food, and asked where she'd been. When I had a little pocket change, she introduced me to Lik-M-Aid. She had her own secret Lik-M-Aid recipes involving glasses of water and more sugar packets. She knew the way over the hill at the end of Main Street to the beachy portion of the coastline where we could ineffectively dig for clams with sticks and dare each other to touch sea cucumbers. She knew where they were building the new harbor and where there were crab pots to climb on. She knew what all the different types of boats were fishing for and how the different equipment on them was used.

On the Fourth of July we watched the town parade as it meandered down Main Street, then up around the block and down Main Street again. We dug for change in the big pile of sawdust the bank sponsored, then spent it at the booths lining the sidewalks. We watched the lumberjack games together. We sat around an old wooden cable-spool-turned-table on the deck of Harbor Lights Pizza until eleven o'clock at night, so we'd have a good seat to watch the town fireworks display set off across the water. We listened to the thunderous rumble of the explosions echo up and down Frederick Sound.

I brought her up the hill to my house, a world as foreign to her as hers had been to me. I packed a picnic, saltines and a can from my mother's secret stash of Diet Cokes, into my orange Tupperware picnic basket, and took her up the hill further. A back trail led to the little league diamond. We could pick salmonberries along the way. Then we went off the trails to catch frogs, a pastime she loved. She wasn't as keen to let them go at the end. We took buckets of them home to keep. The dogs tipped the buckets during the night and dined on frog legs.

Before the summer was over, she disappeared. One day the shack was closed up and she was gone. My other friend came home about the same time, so whatever Amy's dad had been fishing for was probably no longer in season and he had earned enough money to fix his own boat. She wasn't at school when it opened in September. No one seemed to remember her or be worried about her. Her transience through my life has made me wonder if I imagined her, but how could I imagine something so foreign to me? Her world was entirely outside of my experience. Like a character in a fairy tale coming into my life for a season, to open my eyes to a bigger world, then leaving without adieu. More magic.

School started in September, as it inevitably does, and I got the best second grade teacher ever. Ms. Franzel had long red hair and loved to read Pippi Longstocking. She dressed up as Pippi for Halloween, wired red braids and all. Because I loved my teacher, I dressed up as Pippi, too. She understood my love of learning and let me go ahead of the class in reading and math. She decided the whole class was advanced enough to learn cursive, something I dearly longed to do. Something our third grade teacher got mad about the following year.

I wanted to go to school every day, and I hugged her goodbye every afternoon. When I took the standardized tests at the end of the year, I got 100% on three of them and 99% on the other two. Because she made me want to try, I discovered that I was unusually gifted academically. Something I needed to know as the fourth child in a talented family. My mom always said everyone was good at something, but I didn't know what I was good at until that year.

This superpower I discovered in myself was the magic that carried me through the following school year, in which I had a teacher who hated smart kids. I felt so bullied by my third grade teacher that I went back down the hall to hug Ms. Franzel every day after school. Good teachers plant magic beans in the hearts of children that grow into enormous beanstalks reaching up to the heights of our imaginations. We climb them and discover the treasure within ourselves and our innate ability to defeat giants.

Not all magic is good. Seven was also the year I watched an after-school special and realized what my older foster brother had done to me when I was five, just before he was sent to a state facility because he was getting into too much trouble. Everything we were taught about good touch, bad touch, and sexual abuse, in school and on TV, urged me to tell. But I remembered what happened to my cousins. I watched their family be destroyed. Worst of all, they had to leave my island. I knew what it would mean for this to happen in my dad's house. The man who was charged by the town with investigating this type of crime. I knew what my foster brother's history had been, and that he was already basically in jail. I considered carefully.

For me it was a choice between revenge against a boy I had no feeling of vengeance toward, only sympathy as he was passing on his own experience of abuse, and protecting my family from the fallout of this kind of scandal in a small town. I decided to say nothing. As an adult, I've never regretted my decision to be silent then. I acknowledge my experience was an unusual exception. He quickly hit the three strikes law in Alaska, so I know he's in prison and not out hurting other children. I took control of my future and chose what would have the best outcome for me and my family. In doing so, I effectively ended the ability of his actions to negatively impact my future.

The realization that this had happened to me and that I had been unaware, caused me to engage with reality. I still overlaid it with my imagination, but I was aware of the reality. Like Sleeping Beauty, who lived a hundred years in a dream, I had lived entirely within my mind. But this strange magic came when I was seven, and woke me up to the world.

My fourth daughter turned seven this year. Once again, I am watching a child transit that mystical bridge between her world within and the world around her. It demands her attention, sometimes frightens, sometimes awes. She is discovering her own strength. That she has power to create ripples, however small they may be, in the collective experience of humanity. How young she seems, but how powerful. She knows about the magic, too.

Friday, January 31, 2014

"Love, Joy, & Pees" Now Available

I'm incredibly excited to announce that my first poetry booklet is Now Available to purchase online at https://squareup.com/market/eaprovost! The booklet is at the printer and will be in my hands to deliver or ship by Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. It's going to be beautiful on warm white felt cardstock, and will include a matching envelope so it can be easily mailed as a greeting or given as a card. But it's so much more than a card. With 10 of my most popular children's poems on eight illustrated pages, it's sure to make you lol.

Help me out by ordering in advance and I will autograph as many copies as you like. Just write how many copies and to whom in the "notes to seller" box of your cart during checkout. This is only offered here, or when you order from me in person. If you note that you will be at the San Francisco Writers Conference the weekend of Feb. 14th, I will deliver your booklets to you in person! You can find me there in the Volunteer Lounge each morning of the conference.

Shipping via USPS and sales tax are included in the price.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bagheera Provost, 2011-2014



This is how I started my day. After barely sleeping because I worried he wouldn't survive the night, I took W and her kitty, Bagheera, to the vet. He was too sick to save. W wanted a video with her kitty before they put him down, so I have her heartbreak to watch over and over again, should I be so masochistic. 


She held him while they did it and asked them to wrap him in her blanket in the burial box so he would be comfortable. She decorated his box with love messages and made her sisters do the same. Then, we went to Costco to pick out a fruit tree to bury him under. I put them to work doing some other digging and planting in the yard and we all took turns digging on the big hole while we waited for Dad to come home. 


He finished digging, then, Winnie put the box in and buried it with Dads help, while E sang "I'll Fly Away" and "Amazing Grace" softly in the background. Then, she said her piece and we all agreed that Bagheera was a very special kitty. 


He was. He not only tolerated all her aggressive affection, but purred continuously through it. He was already in her bed at bedtime, so she didn't have to chase him down, and waited until she fell asleep to get up and do his night prowling. He was only about 2 and a half years old. He got sick and stopped eating. He felt like a bag of bones when we took him in, and he was clearly hurting. 


I realize I'm writing an obituary for a cat, but the internet has become our family album, and she will want to look back and remember him here. This video is sad stuff, but not as sad as watching her carry that little coffin shaped box out of the vets office with barely controlled grief on her face. She didn't want to put it down so she sat right next to it in the office while I settled the bill. Normally she would be clinging to my legs, but she couldn't leave that box. 


I'm not worried about her. She does everything intensely and then moves on quickly. But I feel like a wrung out dishrag at this point. I don't think my own grief has ever been as wearing as watching my 7 year old daughter grieve. I'm guessing other moms would say the same. 


Then I think, this was all just over a cat! Someday it will be a person she loves. Someday it will be me. The process we went through today is just the very beginning of teaching her how to process all the pain that life will throw at her so she can eventually live without her mom and dad. 


Life is long and hard, and having children makes it harder...and better. Just not today. Today hurt. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Newbie Writer's Podcast Appearance

Newbie Writer's Podcast invited me to appear on their show yesterday to talk about my book "eBook Fundraising," available as a free guide at BookBaby.com, and my other current projects. It was my first time being interviewed for a show, so of course I was nervous, but the ever lovely and energetic Catherine Bramkamp, and guest host Dionne Lister, kept the conversation on course and made it fun.

Since I get asked almost daily, "how's your book coming?" and seldom have time to answer more than, "great!" this an opportunity for interested friends to get a very thorough answer to that question. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Rhyme & Punishment - Short Fiction

*** The following was first published in the Redwood Mpire Mensa Bulletin, May 2012 edition. Since that publication is limited to Mensa Members, I'm posting it here for the rest of my friends and fans. It's long for a blog post, but short for a story, and in spite of many similarities to my own life, most definitely fiction. Enjoy!



Before I begin there is one thing I must make perfectly clear; I did not ask to spend seven hours a day wandering from room to room listening to bored teachers give boring lectures about stuff I've already learned.  They should have let me out when I passed all the exit exams at the end of last year.  But noooooo!  I need credits to graduate from high school.  So, here I am in my sophomore year, doing time for credits.  As far as I'm concerned this is just an extension of the juvenile detention system.
Rebellion doesn't come naturally to me.  I can't swear worth beans.  I can't imagine putting drugs, alcohol or cigarette smoke into my body.  And sex is just too risky with all the STDs out there.  But I want to rebel.  I need to rebel.  I never do anything an authority figure tells me not to, and right now my life is beyond pointless.  I can feel my psyche creeping toward the edge of depression.   My days pass by in monk-like silence as I watch the endless dance of idiocy all around me and wonder where I can ever fit in.
On the up side, my intellectual gift allows me to see things and make connections.  Things no one else notices.  Things like ancient unused chalkboards in an open classroom during lunch.  Things like a certain history teacher looking over the heads of intensely focused students to see if anyone just got the humor in his lecture, and winking at my badly concealed amusement.  A moment so rare it sticks in my memory like a single bright spot in this dark pointless season of my education.
This spark of amusement does something to me.  It gives me impetus to strike out on my own and find some purpose to while away the days of my confinement.  The aforementioned classroom provides the scene for my great rebellion.  I have means, motive, and opportunity.  The moment is right for me to strike.  
The hallway is empty, but my heart still pounds in my chest.  I slip into Mr. Van Dyke's math classroom.  Afraid to draw attention to the room by turning the lights on, I work in semi darkness.  The basement classroom has high windows that never see more light than shadows.  Most of the classrooms have white dry erase boards, but Mr. Van Dyke is an old hold-out.  Chalk dust hangs in the air and the dry smell of it causes some nerve or other to twinge inside my nose and remind me of the last time I cleaned erasers...in Kindergarten.  I pick up a broken little white stick of chalk and begin to write.
The words flow from my fingers in a style I feel to be both poignant and pointed.  I feel rage, and I translate it into verse.

There is no place where hate can dwell
Where life can feel like death
As in this dreadful bit of hell
Where getting by requires meth

More lines are taking shape in my head, but I can't risk getting caught.  I leave those four lines emblazoned on the chalkboard and slip back out the door.
Ok, as rebellion goes I know that was pretty tame.  It was only chalk.  The teacher will undoubtedly erase it before his next class even starts.  
Imagine my shock to see it preserved, carefully worked around, when I come into class the next morning.  I hold my peace and wait for others to ask the questions that jump around like popcorn in my head.
"Who wrote that?"
"I don't know.  It was here when I came back from lunch yesterday," Mr. Van Dyke responds.
"What the hell is it supposed to mean?"
Raised eyebrows.
"That high school is hell, dumbass!"
Raised eyebrows point in another direction.
"Why did you leave it there?"
"I kind of like it."
"I thought teachers are supposed to love school."
Raised eyebrows with a lopsided smirk.
Someone snaps a photo with their phone and it makes it around to me on Facebook later.  I muse to myself about the irony of my ability to rebel on a public chalkboard, while being completely incapable of participating in the widely accepted rebellion of sneaking cell phones on campus.  The school handbook bans them on pain of detention, though teachers only enforce the ban during tests.  That is enough to stop me.  There is nothing in the handbook defining punishment for snarky poetry in a public forum.
The high I feel after my little indiscretion lasts through the weekend.  My poetry rated a "What the hell?" Not quite as distinguished a compliment as "WTF?" but way better than a "Cool!"
Monday starts off on the low side again.  My verse has fallen off the radar as news of the death of a little wannabe punk gang banger makes its way through the student body.  He drove his car off a bridge Sunday night after drinking himself stupid at a party.  Two girls fall apart in first period PE and excuse themselves for having lost their boyfriend the night before.  By noon a posse of girls who have all lost their boyfriend the same way, at the same time, because he was the same boy, begin to find each other.  I can't help it.  The lines write themselves.

A dozen damsels, more or less
Have gaping holes within their breasts
Where once his love did satisfy
Now in his death they're mortified
For each one as she deeply grieved
Noticed her sisters all bereaved
So the laddie cheated fate
And a dozen lasses of their date
When he was haply laid to rest
Before the damsels got his best

I am enraptured with my own wit and stay a little longer this time to appreciate my creation.  The words seem to echo around the quiet classroom.  That is my best measure of good work.  Resonance.
Fortunately, the damsels in question are not the brightest sort.  Another still cries quietly in the corner all through our math class the next morning.  She never perceives the insult in front of her.  But the teacher glances back at her with an odd sort of half pitying smile and barely perceptible shaking of his head at regular intervals.
Only one question this time, though numerous students pause to read as they enter the classroom.  "Did you figure out who's writing these yet?"
His mouth says, "No." But I could swear the look he gives me says, yes.
Something about that look puts me on my guard. I wait a week and a day before I compose another, in spite of a wealth of inspirational fodder.  I don't want it to become an obvious Monday thing.  Pointing my newfound weapon in a different direction I take on another regular irritant.

You say that I should know this well
Though what it is you never tell
Thank God that I can read a book
Or it'd be a class that never took
So here I am, looking smart
While Robby rips another fart
You get paid for a job not done
Neither of us finds this fun...

I title this one "Mr. W" so Mr. Van Dyke will not be offended.  As math teachers go he's quite good.  Three teachers have last names starting with "W". I hope this is enough to keep me out of trouble, but on some level I just don't care anymore.  Do prisoners speak respectfully to their captors?  Torture victims to their tormentors?  I have only this one little vent for my pain and frustration.  The pressure built up behind it is no longer restrained.  It bursts forth in silent angry torrents of verse which at best I can only edit for the most offensive of verbiage.
This one merits a "Holy Crap" from my classmates.  A quick and accurate consensus settles the full identity of Mr. W. and Robby.  I hadn't meant to offend the latter. I am put at ease later, when I hear him bragging to a friend about featuring in one of my poems. For some boys the ability to fart on demand, or in melodic sequences, is a matter of great pride.  Robby is one of those boys.
Now it occurs to me that, were someone to search for me, I have just narrowed the list of suspects to thirty-two.  The students in Mr. W's class with Robby.  They could cross reference that with students who have math with Mr. Van Dyke and narrow the number further, though as the poems have all appeared during lunch there is no way to be certain the writer is also a student of this teacher.  If I want to maintain anonymity I should get out of the math classroom and lay some false trails.
My resolve to do so firms up quickly when Mr. Van Dyke spends an extra second examining the test he's returning and comments, "Your handwriting looks familiar." He looks me straight in the eye, one eyebrow raised in a silent challenge, and drops the paper on my desk.
Each poem I write is snarkier, more critical.  I find other classrooms to slip into during lunch, or right after school when teachers leave for meetings. The high I experience after each venture is starting to diminish.  School is otherwise painfully boring and I marvel that no one can hear my internal screams for help.  They seem so loud to me.  So little of my intelligence is occupied with learning that the overwhelming portion is left to rant and rave at the hell school has become.  Composing verse is a welcome break from the morbidity of my other thoughts.  I look for more opportunities. Strike too often.  Take too many risks.  Am more cruel than I ever intended.  
I feel bad about it, really.  But not as bad as I feel keeping silent; keeping the hell to myself. Just because most people are too stupid to know when they're insulted, it doesn't give me a pass. I know that.  I am more careful about what I write on Mr. Van Dyke's chalkboard. He understands things.
Back in his classroom the dim light and the smell of chalk dust, pleasant to my sensory memory, actually make me a little bit happy. I consider less aggressive lines than I have written in some time. As I touch my scrap of chalk to the board, about to write, the movement is arrested by the sudden opening of the door. 
Mr. Van Dyke strides in, glances in my direction, and proceeds to sit at his desk.  I stand unmoving for a few long moments, just staring at him, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  He glances up at me again and nudges me back to work with a nonchalant, "carry on." After which he returns to whatever he's doing on his notebook computer and ignores me.
Apparently, he knows, and I have his blessing.  I turn back to the chalkboard and ponder this for a bit before I am able to take hold of my lines again and wrestle them into place.  There is no need to hurry now.  Though I struggle with words, I do not have to leave this one unfinished.

Dust motes rising in a ray of light
The tangy taste of chalk
Somehow this will be alright
I am silent, but walls can talk

Dry tears fall, crumbly bits of this tool
I use to grind out a message
I refuse to recognize your rule
No sorrow, these are tears of rage

The clink of chalk coming to rest
Caught with the residue of its destruction
But some flecks fly creating zest
Dancing circumlocution

I breathe, and will go on again
I write, clues to where I've been

It feels clunky and awkward to me.  The word "I" is too predominant.  My soul is standing naked for those with eyes to see.  Lost in the moment, I have forgotten that one of those observes me now.  Too late to withdraw.
This verse, this awful bit of self examination, this is what elicits the coveted "WTF" in class the next morning.  I catch a look from Mr. Van Dyke.  A smile of approval and a conspiratorial wink.  How could he like this bit of drudgery?  I find it depressing and uncomfortable.
Lunch finally comes.  Without intent I find myself drifting back toward the math classroom.  It isn't empty today.  Fluorescent light streams out the little eight inch square window in the door.  Muffled adult voices draw me closer.  They're arguing.
"If you know who's writing this you have to tell me.  It's vandalism!"
"Has any been written on surfaces not meant for writing, anywhere destructive?" Mr. Van Dyke asks.
"No," a frustrated growl, "but surely you see whoever's doing this has no right to scrawl their opinions in places that don't belong to them.  They can't go around insulting everybody.  I've been getting complaints from other teachers...and PARENTS!  Mr. Rose is holding off a feature story in the school newspaper on my request, because we don't want to encourage more of it, but the kids are putting this up as heroic freedom of expression. He's going to cave soon."
"I don't think you have any reason to fear.  Kids need to blow off a little steam now and then."
"Steam?!?  And what about this?  This looks like steam to you?  It's looks potentially suicidal to me!" It takes me a moment to remember exactly what I wrote there.  Suicidal?  Really?
Mr. Van Dyke's voice gets lower and sterner all of the sudden.  "Silence is the hallmark of suicidal intent.  If she has any suicidal tendencies, then this outlet for frustration may be the one thing keeping her from it."
I skip off quick after that. I don't want to be caught outside the door when whoever it is gets mad enough to storm out.  Am I suicidal?  I don't think so.  I'm angry, and hurt, but not enough to hurt myself.  The craziness creeps in often, but maybe I'm healthier than I think.  Someone said rebellion is normal for teenagers.  So, maybe I'm being normal...in an abnormal way.
Good grief!  I need a little drivel after that drama.  The typing teacher has left her door unlocked.  The residual smell of her old lady perfume assails me as I enter, but she's a harmless thing, a teacher everyone gets their freshman year. I slip in and leave a little gem on her white board.

Clickety clack
No yackety yack
A trickle of type
Nobody gripe
Texting is faster
When typing you master!

I sign this little ditty, "Yoda," and it makes me smile again.
Peeking out the window before I leave, I see the school Principal exit Mr. Van Dykes classroom. Dagnabbit!  (I told you I'm incapable of real swearing.)
It's too good to last. Mr. Van Dyke won't give me up, but if the Principal is after me, he will eventually find me.  I haven't done anything wrong.  Not technically.  But my conscience pricks me every time I assert that lie, if only to myself.  I'm hiding behind anonymity so I can say things that should never be said.  
However true my statements, they are unkind and unnecessary.  Dang conscience!  It doesn't seem to bother other kids to say mean things to each other or complain loudly about their teachers.  I imagine my conscience as a grasshopper and squish it.  Then sigh regretfully drawing unwanted attention from nearby classmates.  How in the world did I become such an all fired goody two shoes?  For a moment I hate them because I envy their carelessness.  In the next moment I hate me, for envying qualities I despise when I'm in my right mind. Two days have passed and I wonder how much longer I have.
The lunch bell rings and without moving I find myself in an empty classroom, still musing to myself.  Even the teacher ditches quickly today.  One of the clubs has challenged all the teachers, especially the overweight ones, to walk laps at lunch to set a healthy example for the students.  They have to eat fast to fit it in.  
There's no reason for me to hurry.  I'm writing my public poetry daily now and I've become more comfortable moving in and out of places I'm not supposed to be.  This is an excellent opportunity.  I open a green dry erase marker, grimace at the fumes, and begin.

Being bad
Is feeling good
Am I mad
Or misunderstood?

Short and sweet, and I didn't insult anyone.  It makes me feel a tiny bit better about myself.  
The hallways are empty so I walk confidently out of the room and down the hall.   But I have not escaped this time.  The school secretary calls out to me as I pass the office.  "Miss Schuyler, do you have a second?"
"Sure," I answer.  Can she hear the hesitancy in my voice?
"I just have a note that's supposed to be delivered to you at the beginning of next period, but since you're here..."
"Oh, yeah.  Ok.  I'll take it." But my relief at the seeming innocuousness of her motive for calling is short lived.  A glance at the message reveals it carries the horror I have been dreading.  The Principal wants to meet with me this afternoon.  I pray that he hasn't called my parents in for this meeting.  I fully expect to be humiliated, and I would rather not have any unnecessary witnesses.  The injustice burns in me.  Why am I to be censored when others blatantly rebel and never are? But I know I am not so clever in speaking as I am when I write.  And I am invariably cowed by authority figures.  This is likely to be a bloodbath.
Outside the Principal's office I sit, in a diminutive plastic chair, under artificial light.  Like any other offending student that must be put in her place.  I have never been here before.  My emotions are not inured to feelings of humiliation.  I have always felt superior to all the morons who regularly fill these seats.  I don't deserve to be here!  My anger mutes me.  Speaking one word will let loose tears I want no one to see.
There is no sign of my parents.  For that small bit of grace I am grateful.  The face of my accuser is stern as the student before me leaves his office.  A kid I recognize as a habitual truant.  He smirks at me, clearly untroubled by his offenses.  I wish I could share his equanimity.  The Principal's expression doesn't soften as he turns to face me. "Miss Schuyler," he says as he motions me to another humiliating plastic student chair inside the office.
The tiny space is devoid of personality.  It lacks even the generic motivational posters you see all over other parts of the school offices.  A metal desk, ancient rolling office chair, and file cabinets are all the furnishing it affords.  The only object that indicates what kind of office I'm in is a kitschy apple shaped pencil holder with "#1 Teacher" emblazoned on it.  I guess no one appreciates you once you make Principal.  If I weren't so angry about my own plight, I might feel sorry for the occupant of so miserable a room.
"Do you know why you're here?" He asks.
Still unable to speak, I nod. It's a short jerky motion. I really don't want to satisfy his inquiry, but cannot ignore a direct question.
He moves behind the desk and picks up a manila file folder.  His face grows even grimmer as he scans the contents.  He turns and drops it open on the other side of his desk, in front of me.  I recognize the photos.  I've been downloading them off Facebook myself, as a record of my work.  Someone has been documenting it well.  As far as I can remember they're all there.  
A flash of pride breaks through my humiliation and kick starts self-preservation. Injustice sears my mind again.  He can track me down to punish, but has no care for the cell phone wielding students who are posting these pics online.  They're actually breaking a school rule.  And it's not like they're difficult to find.  Nothing is anonymous on the internet.  I wonder if he just tracked me down for the challenge.  Some kind of power trip.
"I would imagine you're wondering how I found you."
Duh, but I refuse to respond.
"I started out just doing the math, and I got pretty close.  But then you got smarter about it and led me on a little goose chase.  In the end the English teachers helped me out.  You've been particularly vicious with them.  We narrowed it down to four possibilities, based on quality of your work.  You've been careful to disguise your handwriting...except in the first three.  Though even that was not conclusive.  Handwriting naturally changes when you go from writing on paper to writing on a wall.  You have a champion in Mr. Van Dyke, but he slipped up when he got angry and revealed your gender.  Only one of our suspects was female." 
He scrutinizes me for a reaction.  I hold myself in check though angry tears burn behind my eyes and threaten to undo me.  My English teacher hates me.  She can't imagine a student producing work at my level and accuses me of plagiarism.  Though she can never produce what work I supposedly copy.
He waits for me to look him in the eyes before continuing.  "You're right.  You haven't broken any rules," he concedes, understanding my unspoken argument.  "But you know as well as I that you have been unkind.  Cruel in some cases.  I could make the case that you have been a bully.  We have a zero tolerance policy for that."
I know I have been cruel.  Had I not been compelled to face self condemnation on that score only this morning.  But I am not a bully.  I have not singled out any one person to attack.  Never have I brought any person into my verses more than once, and never have I insulted the weak. It is a matter of deliberate restraint.  I don't need another reason to hate myself, and I hate bullies as much as anyone.
I am staring back at him, the challenge clear in my eyes. He allows another long pause. Perhaps he's testing my verbal restraint.  I cannot speak now for anything.  I will not give him the satisfaction.  The lump in my throat prevents it in any case.  Just maintaining slow steady breathing has become a challenge.
"You have a little problem," he finally continues.  "And I have a little problem." He moves from where he has been perched on the corner of his desk to sit in his chair.  Sitting so low seems to be a difficulty for him as it's accompanied by a substantial groan.  The chair seems to echo his discomfort, letting out an equally substantial creak.  This in turn is echoed by a long tired sounding sigh.  "If anyone else finds out who you are you're likely to face retribution.  From students of course, but you may not have considered that you still have to study under many of the teachers you have insulted as well.  They're not as magnanimous as we'd all like to believe.  They're people who hate their jobs and get hurt by criticism just like everybody else."
"Furthermore, if I admit to knowing your identity and don't expel you I'll have parents threatening to sue.  You've upset a fair few and they're willing to play the bully card even if it is a stretch.  It'd be a PR nightmare.  If I do expel you, you'll end up at the remedial high school where I cannot even imagine the trouble you'll get yourself into with so much more intelligence than good sense."
This little jab offends me.  I have good sense.  I have already arrived at the same conclusion. It is time to change, and I know it, without his interference.  The tears burn my eyes again.  The upper half of my face feels like it must be on fire.  I won't cry.  My whole being is focused on this resolution.
"If you stop suddenly, it will be obvious that I have found you out.  So, you're going to continue."
Stunned, my mind reels, looking for reason behind this edict.  
"You're going to continue. But first you're going to go through this pile of poetry and make a list of everyone you have insulted.  Then, you're going to find something good about each of them and make that the subject of your verse." The shock on my face stops him for a moment and his demeanor finally softens a bit.  "There is good and bad in each of us.  The bad is always easier to see, but if you look for the good, you'll find it."
I am disgusted.  The Principal leaves me to the task he has assigned, confident of my acquiescence.  The tears continue to prick and burn, and I to deny them.  Part of me is screaming, It's not fair.  But my reason cannot argue with the justice of this punishment.  It is exactly fitting.  It takes all the aggression out of my actions.  He must have expected this to stall me.  The only way I can find to maintain my dignity, and some semblance of rebellion, is to write as witty and capable verse in praise as I have in criticism.  I will not let him make me dull.
Refusing to rescind any of my accusations, I find I can be complimentary about other irrelevant attributes of my tormentors.  I imagine myself to be Paula Abdul on American Idol, telling a singer who sucks that they look great doing it.  My English teacher is the most difficult to compliment.  The best I can manage is still a little backhanded:

You push and prod and make me wise
Though all your methods I despise
When this fateful year is done
We both shall happily move on

I do not specify in what way she's making me wise.  It certainly is not in the area she's supposedly teaching.  Mostly, I have learned a great deal because of her...about my rights of resistance as a student.
Only a few months of the school year remain in which to make restitution.  It takes longer to search out my subjects, and the task occupies time once spent seething.  There is more satisfaction in the task than I expect.  The original challenge had already begun to wane. My punishment becomes the much needed new one.  With each affirmative work I feel a little better about myself.  Like I am buying back my self worth one verse at a time.  
Mr. Van Dykes chalkboard remains sacred.  It is never the location of a restitution poem.  At least once a week I brandish my best verses, the ones I write for myself, and transpose them there.  I don't need so much rebellion as I thought.  This little bit sustains me.  I rage against undefined enemies.  Ones that cannot retaliate...or sue the school.
In the last week of this academic year, having redeemed myself entirely, I slip once more unnoticed into his classroom.  I drink in greedily the atmosphere of this place I have come to consider a refuge.  The scraps of chalk are all tiny now and I use up three of them on my short verses.

Redemption begins in Hell
Else from what are we redeemed
And if the case goes well
All becomes what it has seemed

You've loathed me and you've loved me
And I really have not cared
Most of you will never see
How much that I have dared

I only ask you read this once
And feel with me a spell
I will not think you are a dunce
If you comprehend before the bell

So on your summer travels go
Who I am you needn't know

I did the time, and paid for my rhyme, and felt it a fair exchange.  My work did not cease, but became wiser in the years that followed.  I managed to remain "undiscovered" with help from my few secret advocates, the Principal included.  By the time I graduated others had begun to write in the same way and would carry on in my place.
In the end, punishment, the real sort of punishment, came directly from the teacher I had grown to trust.  He may not have known what he was inflicting and I certainly never saw it coming.  But I suffer from it to this day.  He told me, "You should be a writer."