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I'm still writing; you just won't find me here any longer. If you want to keep reading my writing, head over to mollyflinkman.com. I'll keep a cup of coffee warm for you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


word of the day: response \ri-spän(t)s\ something constituting a reply or a reaction

A few weeks ago I wrote this.  It was my first crack at fiction in a long time and it was inspired by this picture (and one of my ninth graders who has generously shared some of her brilliant fiction with me).  When I looked at the picture, I found myself immediately turned off by the woman’s face.  She irritated me for some reason.  When I looked into her eyes, I found myself feeling as though she must have done something to deserve the blood that covered her face.

Then I looked deeper into the picture and wondered if the woman’s eyes instead were pleading to be understood.  I wondered if the blood was indicative of some kind of pain.  I realized that if she walked down the street she may be ostracized or cast off.  That’s when the story came to me.

I’ve been thinking lately about all the people I come in contact with on a daily basis.  My life intersects with hundreds of people every single day just as the two women in the story cross paths.  Literally.  Every day, my classroom houses 150 different students.  I work closely with teachers, I meet with a small group, and I stand in line with strangers at Starbucks. 

The other day I was driving home from school in the fast lane on the Interstate.  I quickly came upon a van that was going far too slow for my liking.  My first instinct was to let the driver know I was annoyed.  I wanted him to know that he was going too slow for the fast lane, so I stayed right behind him trying to “force” him to move.  Then I had a thought.  Maybe this guy had a rotten day. Maybe he’s so lost in thought about some lousy life circumstance that he just forgot what lane he is driving in.  Suddenly, my irritation was gone.  I put my blinker on, passed him on the right, and went on my way.

We all have our fair share of baggage don’t we?  When I think about those hundreds of people I see on a daily basis, I can think of a broad range of trials plaguing their daily routines.  Divorce.  Abandonment.  Loneliness.  Disease.  Death.  Financial turmoil.  Insecurity.  Doubts.  The more I interact with people, the more I realize that there is always more to the story.  There’s always a curtain that covers the stage equipment and a façade to mask the pain of how things really are.

But how often do we think about that?  How often in our interactions with people do we stop to think about how they are really doing?  How often do we treat people with disregard or unkindness because we’re inconvenienced or annoyed?  How often does an unkind word escape our lips instead of a simple, “How are you?”  Because really, wouldn’t that be a better solution to the problem?

When I say “our”, I really mean “my” because when I think about it, I am as guilty of this as anyone. I am the first woman in the story.  So often my needs and opinions and presuppositions take priority because I have neglected to realize that I’m not the only one walking the face of the Earth.  So often I get caught up in my own stress and to-do list without stopping to remember that there are plenty of hurting people in my life who could just use a prayer or a smile. 

How much different would life be if we all just loved?  In my observation, love has become somewhat of a conditional thing.  It’s like all the marriage books say: If you don’t feel loved, you won’t show love, and the cycle goes on and on.  Aren’t all relationships like marriage in that regard?  An unkind word, an unreasonable request, or a simple slow driver justifies our retreat into self-centeredness. 

What if love was at the center of the response?  Wouldn’t our interactions be drastically different?  In the case of the two women at Starbucks, a little love gives the story a different ending.  It gives the story hope.  It gives the woman in the cream sweater something to hold onto in that moment.  It lets people know that they don’t have to walk the road alone.  That they matter.  And how beautiful it is when we remind people that they matter.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


word of the day: fiction \fik-shən\ something invented by the imagination or feigned

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done since about seventh grade; I conjured up a fictional story.  I don’t know what came over me exactly.  I think it was a combination of an exceptional piece of fiction one of my students wrote recently and The Write Prompts (the website I referenced in my previous post).  Yesterday’s writing prompt can be found here (you should follow the link as it will provide a small piece of insight as to where my thought process began).

There’s some commentary I could attach to this piece of writing, but I’m going to save that for another time.  The beauty of reading anyway is that it speaks differently to different people.  I’d hate to unnecessarily color your lens.

But that’s enough of the disclaimer…
I buttered my toast while I watched the clock.  8:51. I should have been out the door six minutes ago.  Minutes go a long way in the morning.  They can mean the difference between a red light and a green light and can affect the kind of lunch you have time to make for yourself.  Frustrated at the realization that a granola bar would have to suffice, I grabbed my purse and headed out the door.  The brisk air met me.  I had anticipated a warmer greeting, so my lack of coat caught me off guard.  I grumbled to myself in response to the chill.

I walked a half a block down the street to the bus stop and stood surrounded by a sea of strangers.  One woman sat on a bench reading a book.  I looked more closely.  Twilight.  I rolled my eyes.  A young man in the corner swayed to the beat of his iPod and a business man chattered busily on his cell phone.  I stood and stared at my recently painted fingernails wishing I had chosen a color other than the coral that now seemed a little too perky for my morning.

The bus arrived late as usual and I filed into my regular spot in the front.  I put my bag on the seat next to me to deter any potential neighbors and took out my planner.  The day ahead was relatively easy.  No appointments until after lunch and no pressing deadlines until the beginning of next week.  As I began to anticipate the crossword puzzle I could finish once I got to work, the bus came to a stop.  I made sure to stand and exit before anyone else and stood on the sidewalk for a moment as the bus drove into the distance.  If only the bus wasn’t so economical.  It wouldn’t be my first choice for transportation.  I threw my purse over my shoulder and started down the street.

The Starbucks on Sixth Street was unusually busy.  I sighed as I took my place behind a large woman.  She wore a cream sweater which seemed unnecessary in anticipation of the heat and rocked back and forth on her heels.  Her constant movement immediately irritated me, and I moved to the side to escape her range of motion.  I glanced at her profile and noticed that her face had been rubbed raw.  Feeling uncomfortable at her presence, I looked away to a painting on an opposite wall. 

Her humming brought me back to her.  It was a nervous sort of humming.  The beat was erratic and didn’t match the steady rhythm in which she rocked.  I looked around to see if anyone else was watching her, but no one else seemed to notice.  As her turn at the register arrived, it took her a couple of moments to step forward; her lack of urgency angered me.  Didn’t she know there were people behind her who had places to be?

She ordered a small milk, and I almost laughed when she said it.  Taking up my order space for a drink you can pour at home?  Come on, lady, I thought.  Some of us want grown-up drinks. 

The barista asked her for $1.47.  She took out a dollar and then opened up her change purse.  She pulled out a half-dollar and then gasped inwardly as she stared at it.  Like she’d never seen one before.  She just stared at it but didn’t do anything else.  I tapped my toe in frustration.

“Hey lady,” I said, “think you could speed the process up?  You can pay with that.  It is real money after all.” Her shoulders tensed and then sank as she handed the half-dollar to the woman who waited uneasily behind the counter. 

As she turned, our eyes met for a moment.  Hers looked deep into mine and I sensed she felt sorry for me.  I scoffed at the thought and took my place at the counter.  How could a person like that feel sorry for a person like me? 
I scrubbed my face repeatedly.  I looked in the mirror and was startled by the state of my skin.  Still, I scrubbed more.  Maybe I could physically rub the pain away. 

I walked away from the sink and got dressed.  I put on my jeans robotically and grabbed a ratty, old cream sweater.  For whatever reason, that one had been her favorite. 

I stepped outside into the cool air.  It burned my raw skin, and I touched my hands to my cheeks.  I took a few deep breaths and then moved slowly forward.  Even walking took extra effort now.  I walked with no direction.  Everywhere I looked there was something to remind me of her.  The porch swing took me back to our summers at the cabin.  The green grass brought memories of hours spent finding shapes in the clouds.  The daffodils took me to her funeral just a few days earlier. 

“They’re your favorite, mom,” she had said.  “If you have them everywhere, maybe you won’t feel so sad.”  I couldn’t deny her request.  Unfortunately they hadn’t helped.

They didn’t help today either.  I turned in the other direction and walked away. 

I ended up in front of a Starbucks.  I walked inside and stood in line.  I rocked back and forth on my heels in order to assuage the tears.  They were a constant presence now that threatened to burst forth at any given moment.  The rocking helped.  The rhythm took my mind off the need to cry.

Soon I realized that my rocking was accompanied by humming.  It happened to me often—subconscious humming.  The humming no longer followed a tune.  Instead it reflected the sadness within me.  It was tuneless and without emotion.  The notes were stagnant and lacked order.  I stopped myself in time to realize I was next in line.  I wondered how long I had stood there unaware.  The barista gave me a nervous smile, and I realized I had no idea what I wanted to order. 

“A small milk,” I said suddenly.  Her order. 

The girl asked for $1.47.  I handed her a dollar and then opened my change purse.  I pulled out a half-dollar and breathed sharply.  She had put it in my hands just a few days earlier. 

“You’ll have to let it go some day, mom.  Just like you’ll have to let me go.  I know you can do it.”

I flipped the coin in my hands as I remembered her kind countenance.  She was only ten, and yet I found myself finding solace in her wisdom.

“Hey lady, think you could speed the process up?”  The words shook me back to reality.  My shoulders tensed.

“You can pay with that,” the voice said referring to the coin I held preciously in my hand. “It is real money after all.”

My shoulders fell as I handed my half-dollar over.  I couldn’t let all of her go yet, but maybe this was as good a time as any to start. 

As I turned around, my eyes met the angry voice.  How could she know? Our lives had intersected at this moment, but she was oblivious to the pain of a stranger.  I pitied her ignorance as I pitied my own pain—with an emptiness that surfaced through my hollow eyes.  She shouldered past me to the counter, and I walked towards the door wishing the whole world didn’t seem so unfriendly.

Monday, April 2, 2012


word of the day: insatiable \(ˌ)in-ˈsā-shə-bəl\ incapable of being satisfied

I taught my students the word "insatiable" last week.  I used it in a blog post over Spring Break and thought it'd be a good one to use for our weekly "Word of the Week" (this week's is Audacity).

Since then, I can't stop thinking about what a great word it is.  I also can't stop thinking about how I have an insatiable desire to write more.  Spring Break spoiled me.

While we're on the subject, there are a few lingering Spring Break topics I never followed up on.  Like the completion of my window frames:
Or the new paintings I painted for our bedroom:
Thanks, Laura, for letting me steal your original idea!

In addition, I saw the Hunger Games and feel as though I owe it to my love of the books to write a review.  The short version is that I loved it.  Naturally it can't ever be as good as the book, but in terms of trueness to original text, I thought it was right on the money.  And, I'm now convinced that if you take your love of the book into the theater, you can use it to fill the voids the movie will inevitably leave. The long version is said best by my friend, Jessica Keller, in her recent blog post, "Why The Hunger Games is the Most "Christian" Book I've Read in a Long Time"

After watching the movie, I have an insatiable need for a new book series to throw myself into.  A series, preferably, and one that I can get so emotionally involved in that I start to forget the difference between reality and fiction.

To fulfill my insatiable longing to write, I found a website called "The Write Prompts".  The prompt for April 1st was the following:

It is a pity that, as one gradually gains experience, one loses one's youth.  - Vincent van Gogh

My first instinct is to think, "Yeah, that's really true."  It is a pity to lose one's youth.  But then, I wonder if it really is a pity.  If I were to become especially reflective, I would realize that I haven't gradually gained experience this year.  Instead, I've had it thrust upon me even when, at times, I'm not necessarily ready for it.  But with experience, comes growth and how can it ever be a pity to grow as a person?

I'm learning that each new phase of life becomes the "new normal."  Even when you don't think you're ready or you don't think you can handle it, you adapt and you figure out how to make it work.

And when I say "you", I really mean "me". 

So maybe you leave pieces of your youth behind, but you figure out what the new stage looks like based on the experience you take with you.  That, I think, is far from something to be pitied.

So is my evening (far from something to be pitied that is).  With the grill now in its rightful place, Jake and my's new favorite spot is to sit on our balcony listening to the steady buzz of Grand Ave.  It's just cool enough that a long sleeve tee is sufficent, and I've watched the moon rise steadily in the sky above me.  Who needs to revert back to childhood when you've got a night like this?

Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk.