300 Writing Prompts: #146

“What keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep?”

When I was a kid I slept like a rock. It didn’t matter the circumstances, what noise was or wasn’t in the house, I never had to count wayward sheep in order to nod off or to stay asleep all night. No wonder I was always bright eyed and bushy tailed every day. Of course I also got to sleep at a quality time for me (imposed by my maternal figure) so my body got used to the circadian rhythms. They got me through.

But then I got older. Teenage years were not the best. The solid sleep that I had gotten as a youngster had become an anchor because I began sleeping too soundly, not waking up when the alarm went off. Banging on my room door became the norm (since I had gotten a chain lock, for privacy’s sake), and the yelling of my mother in the morning began to assimilate itself into my dreams.

As I got to young adulthood, though, something shifted, something fundamental changed, and at first I had no idea what it could possibly be. Eventually I realized it was my bedtime. I had started watching 10 o’clock television shows on my black and white television, so I didn’t get to bed until at least 11 on most nights, and oft times later on others (I blame Mario and Luigi). These changes threw off my REM sleep, and the cycle got all jumbled up. Continue reading “300 Writing Prompts: #146”

300 Writing Prompts: #143

“Describe a ‘first day’ in your life.”

first_place_blue_ribbonI’m really big on firsts. The first tooth I lost was a cause for utmost celebration, even though it created an imbalance in my mouth, because I knew more would follow. The first time I kissed a girl the smell of her gum (cinnamon) stayed with me for weeks afterwards, even though we shared only the one kiss. The first movie I saw in the theater was abbreviated because I arrived late, but I will never forget it for as long as I live.

There’s just something about firsts that is special, that draws me in and makes me want to indulge them for as long as I can, because once each one has passed there is no getting it back. The first time is special simply by essence of being the first time, and nothing can change it once it has occurred. That’s why people celebrate anniversaries, because each one reminds them of the original, of the first time something happened, good or bad.

The first time I realized I was black, and what that meant, was in fifth grade, when a class of white students visited our all-black school and I was introduced to the “other” for the first time. Before then all the faces I saw looked like mine, and everyone I knew had a similar history and heritage. But that day, the first day they were at the school, I saw that there was more to this world than my own insular understanding of it based on those near me. That was when being black became a differentiator and not just something I saw in the mirror every day.

My first day in Tennessee was a study in contrasts. For a boy from the ghetto in one of the largest cities in the country, moving to an up and coming college town in the heart of the Bible Belt was a shock to the system. I remember looking around when I got out of the car after driving all night, and wondering what this brave new world held for me, if I could even survive what I knew would be a radical change. I walked around in a daze that day, faced with the surreal idea that I lived there, that it wasn’t just some chaotic dream.

Life is full of firsts, from the first step we take, to the first song we hear, to the first time we hear the word “dad” and know it means us. Those firsts tend to define us more than many other things can because they stick with us. Often we memorialize them, and revisit them in our thirst for a nostalgia that may or may not have been truly amazing that first time but becomes so in the reliving.

Which is our prerogative. Which is our joy.


300 Writing Prompts: #140

“Complete this thought: ‘Today I hope…'”

i-hope-you-danceToday I hope we can be mature adults, that we can talk about deeply important issues without resorting to name calling, throwing dirt, and wrecking friendships. I hope that love stops being a dirty word that makes others worry about our state of mind. I hope that our choices are the ones we want to make, not ones made for us by others. I hope we can come together as human beings and laugh together.

Today I hope people aren’t judging each other based on stereotypes, that this world doesn’t keep devolving into a cesspool of gossip and mudslinging. I hope that technology doesn’t destroy the human connection, the person to person connection. I hope that being faithful becomes more of a “thing.” I hope that conversations can be about more than just the weather, that it becomes popular to dig deep with others.

Today I hope that we can learn to trust others, that being realistic doesn’t have to mean being pessimistic. I hope that freedom is not just something we talk about, but that we live that ideology every day. I hope that the angels of the silences don’t fly back to heaven weeping every day because we are so loud. I hope that we can accept others for who they can’t help being.

Today I hope this song in my head never quiets down. I hope the blue of the sky continues to greet me every morning. I hope the flood of emotion I feel when someone does something nice for me never goes away. I hope the flood of emotion I feel when I do something nice for someone else never goes away. I hope my friends continue to rely on me to be there for them. I hope my friends are always there for me.

Today I hope I’ve made a difference in someone else’s life, even if I don’t know for sure that I have. I hope my coffee never grows cold unless I ordered it that way. I hope the world becomes an even smaller place than it is now, that we can love them like Jesus instead of like strangers on a boulevard. I hope “forever” means just what it says again, at some point.

Today I hope they don’t condemn the bridge I used to play upon. I hope people stop writing “your” when they mean “you’re.” I hope my thoughts come out more clearly than they’ve organized themselves in my mind. I hope tomorrow means more than today. I hope fear stops being my constant companion. I hope this overwhelming apathy in the world is merely a product of disillusionment, that illumination returns. I hope it rains.

Today I hope for a peace that passes understanding. I hope a mighty wind will blow me off my moorings so I’m forced to breathe again. I hope these words aren’t as hollow as my soul used to be, because I couldn’t take it if they were.


300 Writing Prompts: #138

“Write a one minute ‘Thank You’ note to someone.”

original_set-of-12-handmade-thank-you-note-cardsDear someone,

Thank you for being an important part of my life, for giving me a vague understanding of the intricacies of this existence, and for not minding when I sometimes get things wrong. I can’t tell you how many times a word you threw out carelessly helped me to become a better person. That’s because I take things to heart, even when they’re not meant for me. Some people call it paranoia, but you understand it goes much deeper than that.

Dear someone, you give me a reason to smile. That time you ignored me was one of the best lessons in patience that I’ve ever gotten. That time you cut me off when I was driving to Dairy Queen, and I almost went in the ditch, taught me a string of new curse words that I had never used before, and that I’ve never used since. Your ability to know just what I need when I need it is more important than you’ll ever know.

Dear someone, thank you for sitting beside me in math class and cheating off me. It gave me an insane amount of confidence in my answers, that you chose me over Amy Lou, who was also really good at math, and who sat on the other side of you. I’ll never forget when you blamed the dumpster fire on me, even though you didn’t even know my name. Your pointing and saying “It’s him!” was reaffirming to my psyche.

Dear someone, thank you for never giving me the time of day, even when I don’t have a watch and you do. I appreciate your candor and the way you never lie about anything, even when it could protect someone else’s feelings. It’s those little things that mean more than words could ever say. Which reminds me, thanks for hardly ever using words to tell me how you feel. That way I can imagine you think positive things about me, even though you hardly ever show it.

Dear someone, I hope others are just like you. Just not to me.


300 Writing Prompts: #130

“What do you and your spouse or best friend have in common?”

I want to say “love” but it’s so cliche, and the way she loves me is not the same way I love her. It can’t be. We’re individuals. So feelings are out, even though feelings are in, and I have to think of something else. Isn’t that always the way?

She’ll probably tell you that we both grew up in the ’80s but that’s not particularly true as she was a teenager and an adult in the ’80s while I barely hit 13 by the end of that decade. It means that she saw The Breakfast Club when it first came out, and I caught it on some nostalgia channel in the late ’90s. It means she was dyeing her hair purple while I was begging my mom to stop making me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for school.

She’ll probably tell you that we both have a fondness for cheesy movies, and she would be right there. We seem to like those romantic comedies that most other people pan. Or the time travel film where you can totally debunk the method of time travel in seconds. Or movies starring Meg Ryan, even though she hasn’t been in a good one in years.

She’ll probably tell you that we both have a sweet tooth, and she would be right there as well. Give us some cookies and chocolate any time and we can exist on just that for ages. Ice cream doesn’t stay too long in our freezer, and we have been known to snack on things even if we’re not hungry.

She’ll probably tell you many things, and she knows us as well as just about anybody, so I would listen to her, but I’ll tell you what she won’t. We are both writers. No, she has no aspirations at the moment to publish anything. She doesn’t even write all that much. I can’t recall the last time she wrote anything just because, and I write every day. But that doesn’t make her any less a writer.

That’s what first came to my mind when I read the journal prompt, even though it’s been an eternity since we wrote anything together, since she shared anything she wrote with me, but it’s one of the first things I found out about her. That was in the midst of our insane back-and-forth emails at the beginning of our relationship, when we were miles apart but drawn together by our words.

And I am in breathless anticipation for the day she comes to me and says, “Let’s do it again.”


300 Writing Prompts: #128

“What is a sure-fire way to distract you from the task at hand?”

  1. Tell me a Philadelphia sports team isn’t good. It doesn’t matter which sports team, I will argue to the death about them and their prowess. Yes, even the 76ers. Even if I have to go back to the “glory days” I will find some way to tell you just how wrong you are.
  2. Ask me what books I’m currently reading. On average I have some 3 1/2 books I’m reading at the same time. Generally these books are based on my self-imposed hierarchy of how interesting they are to me at any given time. Sometimes they flip-flop back and forth between interest level depending on how fast or slow the author goes.
  3. One of my favorite songs is on. I don’t listen to the radio so the odds of one of my favorite songs appearing on my iPod’s display are much better than if I trusted it to a true kind of fate. But if one of those songs does happen to start playing (Britney Spears’ “Circus” comes to mind) I have to drop everything, sing it at the top of my lungs, and dance with wild abandon (like a stork on parade).
  4. The amazing vibrating phone. I am totally addicted to my phone, so if I don’t want to keep checking it every second for new status updates from my “friends,” or for text messages from my friends, or for some ridiculously funny memes from my “friends” about a cat who can haz cheezburger, I have to place it out of my reach. And even then sometimes it doesn’t work. Maybe hiding it from myself…
  5. I feel a binge watch coming on. Netflix is the devil. Honestly. Because when I find a show I like it’s way too easy to just let the next one come on right after the first one has finished. And then to let the one after that just keep the party going. What happened to the days when we had to wait a week before seeing the next episode. Fuller House, I’m coming for you on Friday.

As I get older it has become much easier to distract me from what I’m doing, except for when I’m writing. That’s pretty much the only way to guarantee I will stick on task and focus with an iron will. Maybe that’s because writing is and has always been my top priority even when I had no others. Perhaps it’s because writing has always been there for me. Or maybe it’s just that I know if I don’t get down my thoughts right away they will disappear into the ether, never to be found again.

Regardless, if we ever meet and you want me to drop a particular topic, there’s your list right up there. Just beware my wrath if you say the Eagles suck.


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