just do it

i have a pile of books to filter through. lessons to lightly write. work to get done. yet. here i sit. unwilling to get on-task. me. a teacher. always reminding my students to stay on task. to concentrate. to get their work done. but, i am finding that the task, though necessary, has not quite found its way into my educator thoughts.

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in a while, i will sit in front of those school books. those teacher’s manuals. and i will review. yes i will. because, review i must. for my own sanity. and to ensure starting the year off right, properly educating students. who will be depending on me to fill their days with classroom ooo’s and aaah’s, and just as important, life lessons.

but first, i need to sit here and think.

“mom, can we talk?” brad asks.
“yeah, sure,” i say, with a smile.

i guess my teacher tasks will have to wait even longer to imprint my brain with information.

This Child of Mine

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It’d been an exhausting week… Back in the 5th grade classroom. Dealing with excessive heat. Walking into a house without central air, a house that is just as hot inside as it is outside, with no relief. Not complaining, just stating. Weather in the triple digits is sure to zap anyone’s energy, so when I began to slide lower and lower into my favorite oversized chair, the one planted directly in front of the TV, I didn’t care that it was only 6pm. I was tired. Then,  5? 20? 45 minutes? later, all I remember, was Rudy saying “Hey,” as he walked in from work, rousing me from a light doze. “Oh, hey,” I responded, popping back into an upright position.

Several hours later, I lay down on my bed, ready for a much needed snooze-fest. And then there was a knock on the front door. For a minute I waited, assuming Rudy would answer but he didn’t. Maybe it was because he was in the garage and the knock was very light? Maybe he just didn’t hear it? But anyway, because it was after nine, I knew it must have been important, which meant I couldn’t ignore the knocking. I stood on tiptoe, looked out the small window in the upper portion of the door and saw a girl. I opened it, gingerly. Carefully.

“Yes?” I asked. She was young. Early to mid-twenties. Polite.

“May I speak with you?” she asked quietly, backing off a bit. I was confused.

“What is it?” I said.

“Please, can you come out here? I need to talk with you.” Now I was more confused, and becoming concerned, frustrated. Did something happen to one of my kids, and for whatever reason, she felt responsible?

“Who are you? What’s up? What do you need?” I questioned firmly. She walked toward me, holding her phone out, showing me a map, a white circle with a computer icon in it.

“Someone stole my computer and it’s showing that the computer is here, at your house.” She was so polite. So nervous, worried, concerned, and upset. I leaned in close to her phone and sure enough it was my address.

“I don’t want to press charges,” she continued, “I just want my computer back. I’m a student at Cal. State, Fullerton and I just bought the computer for school. I need it. Please.” Still confused about the situation, but understanding what she was asking me, I told her to hold on, that’d I look for the computer. I closed the front door.

I immediately walked into Bradford’s bedroom, pissed that my son could commit such an act. I called him. Yelled at him. Told him to tell me where the computer was. Not wanting to hear excuses or explanations I told him to “just tell me where it is!”

I handed it back to the girl, telling her I was sorry, that I didn’t know what was going on. I called Brad again, in front of her, did some more yelling then handed my phone to her and let her have her say.

“What the fuck!…” she began, then turned and looked at me saying “I’m sorry about the language…”

“No problem,” I responded.

“What the fuck were you thinking?” she admonished. Then she went on saying this and that, asking who, where, and why. When satisfied, she handed the phone back to me.

Turns out, it wasn’t Bradford who stole, not only her computer, but a backpack with her wallet in it along with all her expensive school books and other supplies. Turns out Brad happened to give the thief, a person he didn’t know aside from seeing him occasionally around town, a ride. The fact that the thief, sitting in the back seat, was holding a backpack, a computer, and an iPhone didn’t faze Brad. Until I “schooled” him, told him “No son of mine!” that he realized his mistake.

“Mom, this dude had that sh*! on him. He called me about 20 minutes after I dropped him off saying he had left it in the car and wanted me to take it out because it was so hot!”

I believed him.

Later that night, after giving a statement to the police, after learning the thief lived four doors down from the girl, she walked up to Brad and thanked him for helping her, that she was planning to “throw that guy’s ass in jail!” And then she looked at him, really eye-balled Brad and told him, like a parent would, that he needed to think about his choice in friends, about what he wanted in life, that he shouldn’t be around that kind of BS.

Brad nodded. “I definitely learned a lesson tonight. Thanks for believing me.”

“Thank you,” she said to me.

It was after midnight when I lay myself down to sleep. I closed my eyes but so many thoughts bounced inside my head. Thoughts about my child. My children. About lessons taught. Lessons learned. About me as a parent. I’m teaching the lessons and my children are learning the lessons, but how far do the lessons take them, to what extend? My only hope is that what I pass on to them instills the importance of thinking about their actions and how those actions effect others.

 

 

 

Teach Me Teach

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I was sitting behind the reception desk, filing papers, answering the phone, and rubbing my pregnant belly when I decided to leave the workforce and return to school. Without consulting Rudy, I walked into the head-honcho’s office and verbally resigned, giving him two weeks to find my replacement.

Back then, I had allowed myself to somewhat give up on my education because combining a fulltime job and being a fulltime student had become overwhelming. Rudy and I needed me to work more than I needed school, so I temporarily dropped out.

Which meant, I soon discovered, that I was working for the sake of working. Simply showing up day-after-day, earning a bi-weekly paycheck. What I really was seeking, besides a monetary compensation, was the feeling of making a positive difference in someone’s life. I was six months pregnant, with our first child, when I quit the receptionist job, and found myself joyfully walking onto the local university’s campus, ready to fulfill my goals of earning a Bachelor’s of Arts degree.

My daughter was born the day after my first semester ended and on occasion, she continued to tag along, sitting in on lectures with me, quietly coloring or pretending to take notes, absorbing the value of an education. As a transfer student, it should have taken me two years to meet my goal but, being a new mother, I needed to balance my homelife with my academic one, so I cut back on my courseload, in order to accommodate both.

Ironically, after graduating, Rudy and I decided I needed to, once again, return to work. More focused, and determined not to give up, or give in, I found employment working with young children, which filled my days with satisfaction. Fulfilling my dreams of working with impressionable youth.

After three years of involving myself with preschool children, I once again gave my resignation notice, knowing that once-and-for-all I was going to complete the necessary steps it took to earn a Clear Professional Teaching Credential. I returned, to a different college campus, with my second-born, a son, holding my hand, as I walked him to the onsite children’s center, while his sister attended second grade at the near our home local public school.

A year of daytime, and nighttime classes, resulted in my receiving a credential. Finally, I would be able to structure a classroom not only filled with academics, but also a safe haven to instill a belief in all children that they are valuable.

Several years later, I became a student once again. Yet, this time, I was a student simply enhancing my skills as an educator. I had another personal goal to meet. I earned a Masters of Science degree, while attending to not only child 1 and child 2, but also while caring for my third, and final, child.

Not only am I happy that I pursued, and met, three major educational goals for myself, my hope is that I have instilled in my children to never let any obstacles block their way and that they live life the way they choose, regardless.

Roberto William

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He was born with an abundant amount of hair. From the beginning I knew this small boy-child of mine was, and is, mine. He definitely possesses my looks, so I say. Everyone else seems to think he looks more like his dad. “Think what they want,” I tell myself. “He’s me.” Not only was the dark, newborn hair like mine, except for the fact that Roberto’s would stick up straight like blades of grass, but as the years passed, more and more of me – shrug it off-one day at a time-go with the flow-if it can’t be changed then move along-attitude flowed out of him. The way he thinks. About the world, and the people in it. Of course, his eyes match mine, only his somehow look more brilliant, and the shape of his face is definitely inherited from me.

Aside from Roberto’s mostly not completely predetermined mom’s DNA personality, he is himself. His own unique person.

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One of the most obvious stand-out physical attributes he has are his eyes. His blue, blue eyes. The stops and stares began way before he could understand the compliments people tossed his way, admiration of his Paul Newman eyes. “He has the most beautiful eyes…,” they’d say. I agreed with all those wow compliments, yet I always made sure to tailgate them. “He also is such a nice boy, and so smart, too.” I didn’t want him to grow up thinking it was his handsome face, his pretty eyes that would take him safely through life. No. I wanted to ensure he knew how to stand strong. As a person. Less so as a look. As he grew, began to understand what people were saying to him, he also began to roll those baby blues. He’d heard enough. He wished he could paint them brown. Just to stop people from saying anything.

When he was about four and a half years old, I would drag him along with me to watch his only sis cheer for the local pee-wee football team. I soon realized that it wasn’t a drag for him, it was the beginning of a booming talent. Entertaining people, without trying to.

While the little girls were dressed to the tee in their white and dark blue cheerleading outfits, standing in front of all the adoring parents, he stood off to the side. Far enough away so that the crowd didn’t spend their time confused wondering if he was part of the cheer squad yet, close enough to copy exactly what moves the girls made, the shouts they cheered.

Roberto stood there. Or, no he didn’t. He really moved to the music. He never just stood. It was the girls who should have been pumping up the crowd but it really was him who brought smiles and laughter to the field on those fall mornings. The cheerleaders spun, bent, jumped, shouted, tossed, ran, raised arms, clapped. They did what cheerleaders do. Cheer.

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So did he. He cheered. Wearing his jeans and a neatly tucked in t-shirt. Little did anyone realize that during practices, before the big game, he was watching every move. Every must do it right move. He practiced. And practiced some more.

He was the entertainment. Sometimes even more entertaining than the game itself.

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Not much later as a group of girls danced to the Spice Girls in the garage, he would take over the show. Steal the limelight. Not intentionally, he just did. He was Mr. Personality. When the youngsters decided to perform for the other families in the neighborhood he was center stage, singing and dancing. The girls dancing and singing behind him joyfully laughed along with everyone else.

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I remember once upon a time, Roberto was just a young 6 or 7 year old, when he decided it would be cool to shred the bottom portion of his jeans. Let his personality take over, I believed. Creative, artistic, funky jeans were all the rage for him that year. So creative. So cool. So him. He wore them everywhere. I thought it was fantastic. His ingenious idea.

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The garage bathroom door needed to be painted. “Let me do it,” he said, the lilt in his words told me it was really a question. I took the door off its hinges. Removed the doorknob. Lay it flat on the ground. After I painted the background an ocean blue and let it dry he began drawing using a pencil. For whatever reason, I never asked, he drew a picture of his dad and his sister holding hands. He wrote the word el baño on the top portion. For his dad. He speaks Spanish.

Roberto has always been an interesting character. A unique one. Someone everyone should be so lucky to share their life with. I watch him. Admire him. Am proud of him.

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As a young adult now, he truly does appreciate his good looks, his big blue eyes yet it’s his kindness, his spark for life, his energy, his personality that he really likes about himself. I do too. While he is lovely to look at, it’s his concern for everything that I am most content with.

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I am the Mother of a Gay Son

rainbow flagI heard my 7 year old child quietly crying. Roberto was wiping the tears from watery eyes. I wondered if I should say something. “Give him a minute,” I told myself. “Let him have a moment. Everyone needs a moment to work through their grief.”

As his breathing slowed and tears were blotted dry, I asked Roberto, a sweet innocent person, “Are you okay? You seem very sad.” Deep breaths, interrupted with quick short sniffles. “Heave-ho,” his chest physically vibrated.
“Some kids said I was gay.”
“Gay? Doesn’t gay mean happy?” I asked, allowing him to control the conversation.
“Yes, I think so, but… they meant boys-like-boys, girls-like-girls gay.”
“Why did they say that to you, why do you think?” I wondered.
“I don’t know. One of them said that the color of my eyes were not like theirs so I must be gay.”
The adult in me simply said, “They are just uneducated, uninformed”. The feeling miffed person said, “Ignore them.”

Gaily, life went on. Mostly, Roberto enjoyed happy days, with many days trying to figure out what life means – only in a way a young child is capable of.

___

I heard my 12 year old quietly crying. Roberto, almost a teen, was wiping the tears from watery eyes. I wondered if I should say something. “Give him a minute,” I told myself. “Let him have a moment. Everyone needs a moment to work through their grief.”

As his breathing slowed and tears were blotted dry, I asked Roberto, not so small, not quite a grown person, “Are you okay? You seem very sad.” Deep breaths, interrupted with quick short sniffles. “Heave-ho,” his chest physically vibrated.
“Some kids said I was gay.”
Why did they say that to you, why do you think?” I wondered.
“I don’t know. Some of the kids think I am different. One day someone is my friend, the next day they don’t talk to me”.
“How does that make you feel?,” I questioned.
“I feel bad. I just want a friend I can trust, be myself with.”
The adult in me simply said, “Just be patient. Somewhere, a friend is waiting in the wings“. The feeling miffed person said, “Ignore them.”

Gaily, life went on. Mostly, Roberto enjoyed happy days, with many days trying to figure out what life means – only in a way a preteen is capable of.

___

I heard my 17 year old quietly crying. Roberto was wiping the tears from watery eyes. I wondered if I should say something. “Give him a minute,” I told myself. “Let him have a moment. Everyone needs a moment to work through their grief.”

As his breathing slowed and tears were blotted dry, I asked Roberto, close to being an adult, “Are you okay? You seem very sad.” Deep breaths, interrupted with quick short sniffles. “Heave-ho,” his chest physically vibrated.

“I don’t want to ruin the dynamics of a nuclear family. I don’t want to disappoint anyone,” Roberto emotionally forced the words out of rather strong vocal cords.
“Why do you say that?” I soothingly asked, already knowing the answer.
“I am gay,” he stated, voice quivering. He fell to the floor, emotionally overwhelmed.
I knelt next to Roberto, told him to always be true, true to who he is.

Gaily, life went on. Mostly, Roberto enjoyed happy days, with many days trying to figure out what life means – only in a way a close to being an adult teen is capable of.

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I heard my adult son, laughing happily, content with who he is. Knowing his family supports him no matter what, a family who doesn’t judge him based on who he chooses as a partner, but rather a family who embraces his warmth, his kindness, his love, and his life, without conditions.

Dad Among Dads

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I quietly snuck down the vacant halls of the building, creeping along, listening attentively, trying to hear my dad’s voice behind one of the many heavy doors, where he taught the science of politics. Even as a small child, I was around 7 years old, I very aware that that was a place not to scream (ever!) and to keep giggling to a quieter that quiet whisper.  I knew that Mr. Political Science Professor was behind one of those doors, teaching young impressionable minds, and that they all deserved the respect of a non-disruptive environment. I understood my boundaries within the confines of his workspace.

As I tiptoed along I discovered the door to his classroom was ajar. So, I peeked in. Ever so slightly. So curious about what exactly he did.  I didn’t quite know what his job entailed. What it meant to be a teacher. My dark blond hair fell onto my face as I lowered my head when he glanced at me. But then, I quickly looked back up at him and found a smile on his face. Casually, he turned his attention back to his students, as he continued to lecture.

I felt my dad’s power in that moment. His ability to drawn people in, to mesmerize an audience with the knowledge he shared, by his sheer presence, his demeanor, and his top-of-the-line enthusiasm. I quickly glanced at the rows of students watching him. They were enthralled. Focused. Entertained. So much so, that they did not even notice me gazing at them because, obviously, my dad was the only thing that mattered at that moment. He was their professor. Someone building their knowledge base, adding another step toward their future.

To me, though, he was simply my dad. A person I adored, deep within my heart. The person who took me for rides in his convertible, our hair blowing every which way. My dad was the person who sat at home, quietly reading various books and completing crossword puzzles while gently scratching a kitten’s tailbone.

My dad, Professor John B. Palmer, was, and always will be, thought of lovingly. Fully. As both an intellectual, someone I admire, and simply as the calm, serene person who made an impact on my life.