Posted in Poetry

Ode to Oak Season

Today at school, my sinus headache made me grumpy with my students, even though they hadn’t done anything to make me grumpy. But I don’t think they noticed; they were grumpy too. One boy bravely volunteered answers and completed his work while holding a tissue to his nose the entire class period. One girl had to go to the bathroom due to a bloody nose. In one class, I counted nine sneezes. (Two of them were mine. One came from somewhere in the hallway.) Everyone who wasn’t actively sneezing, sniffling, or coughing stared at me with a vague, foggy expression.

All of this is to say… oak season has descended on Austin.

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This is the big, beautiful, majestic (evil, torturous, sneeze-inducing) oak tree in our front yard and the top of my car, which used to be blue.

Ten days ago, I was writing on patios and taking walks at the Wildflower Center and sleeping in my hammock. Now, it feels like any one of those things could kill me. The pollen count is in the high to extreme-high range, which means every time I go outside for more than two minutes, my eyes start to itch, my sinuses swell up, and I start talking like the albino in The Princess Bride before he cleared his throat.

Ah, spring time.

I wrote a poem about oak allergies, which is in this year’s Texas Poetry Calendar. In honor of oak season and National Poetry Month, wipe off your glasses, put some drops in your eyes, and read “Yellow.” I’m going to go use my neti pot.

*

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We are covered in cowardice,
seeped in a sickly smear
that sticks in crevices
and crow’s feet,
revealing all our lines.

We wade through
fallen sunshine,
track fresh banana footprints
onto faded dandelion floors,
taste gold dust on our tongues.

We yield to the bitter grime
that clogs our nostrils,
clothing our lungs
in warning shades
with each breath.

During oak season,
we view the world
through a margarine haze,
learn how it feels
to be pollinated.

© Carie Juettner

Posted in Writing

Phoenix

WOW.

That’s how I felt when I found out my story “Phoenix” had been selected as a runner-up in the WOW! Women on Writing Flash Fiction Contest.

I’ve been a WOW! reader for years. I first discovered their quarterly flash fiction contest back in 2013. I submitted a couple of times, without success. My writing wasn’t at the level they sought, and I didn’t yet have a good grasp of what flash fiction really meant. But I started reading their blog, The Muffin, where I drew inspiration from their writing tips and anecdotes, eventually becoming a guest blogger myself, twice in 2014 (in September and November) and again in 2016. I was honored to have my words share space with the women who had motivated me.

This fall, I decided I was ready to give the flash fiction contest another try. I submitted my 748-word story “Phoenix” and crossed my fingers.

“Phoenix” is a subtly witchy story about the power of nature and the power we hold within ourselves. It’s about persistence and sacrifice and a love for unwanted things. It’s unlike most of the pieces I write, and I didn’t know how it would be received, so I was ecstatic when I learned it had placed in the top ten of the contest.

(A visual collage of “Phoenix”)

I want to thank the editors at WOW! for selecting my story as a finalist and Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency for choosing it as a runner-up. I appreciate you giving Gwen and her story a home.

Go to this link to read all the winning stories from the Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest. Or, to skip straight to “Phoenix,” simply click here.

WOW! will be publishing an interview with me on The Muffin, so if you’re interested in hearing the background story of “Phoenix” and what the writing process was like, stay tuned…

Posted in Life, Teaching

There’s a New Version of Me in the House, and She’s a Little Wacko

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My hubby refers to the person he’s living with right now as “Summer Carie.” Summer Carie is a little crazy. She stays up late but also, somehow, gets up early. She reads for hours on end, only stopping to skip over to her husband, kiss him on the cheek, and tell him her latest idea for a creepy short story. Summer Carie decides on a whim to turn an old skull candle into a bird feeder or clean out the medicine cabinet or reorganize all of the books in her house. She takes walks and naps and texts her husband far too often while he’s at work. Summer Carie can be a bit exhausting, but she’s happy and relaxed and carefree and creative.

I love her.

I love being a teacher, but I also love my summers. I NEED my summers. Without them, I would not love my job. I haven’t once checked work email since the last day of school (I probably should, I will eventually) and I haven’t planned any lessons. Right this moment, I can’t even tell you what day we go back to work (and I don’t want to know). But every day, while I rearrange books and work puzzles and make bird feeders and take pictures of raccoons, somewhere in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “Could I use this in my classroom? Could this tie in to a lesson? How could I share this experience with my students?” I’m always a teacher, even when I’m Summer Carie, and I think I’m a better teacher upon returning to work because I allow myself this time.

Please don’t hate on teachers because we get the summers off. It’s not why we do the job. It’s why we CAN do the job.

Ok, I’m off to hide something that belongs to the hubby and leave him a trail of sticky note clues to find it. Summer Carie strikes again!