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.

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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#tb 5 years ago…

Bradford Ramon Antonio, age 11

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There he sleeps, that child of mine. I’m sure he’s dreaming about all the things he wants to do in his young life. His innocent life. His right-now life.

Sunrise to sunset, that kid is on-the-go either physically, or mentally, or (of course) both those things at once.

The minute he hops out of bed, he puts on his favorite baseball cap. Angels! At the same time his feet begin to shuffle. Swish! He slides his left foot across the wooden floor, kicking it straight out in front of him. While that foot dangles in the air he quickly raises his knee, and just as quick he stomps that foot back down. The other foot takes its turn and begins to also stamp. Now both feet are shuffling back and forth. He spins his body, grabs the brim of his cap and twirls it backward, then forward again in a rapid, smoothly-planned motion. His whole body is moving. His feet are gliding, stamping, and being raised high off the ground. The techno music in his head eventually stops, so then does his dancing.

He settles on the couch, waiting for a hot cup of tea. While he waits, his fingers, all ten of them, begin to intertwine. His hands move as if they are dancing. A hand dance. His arms shoot out as his hands continue to twirl, round and round. His arms twist around each other, like slithering snakes; his fingers continue to lace loosely together, then apart, and his arms maintain their own motions, to ensure that the fluidity of the dance is just right. The hand ballet stops when he reaches for the sugar-and-milk-filled cup of tea.

He’s a DJ. He uses the computer to spin a record, to jumble the original music in an interesting way. He adds voice overtones to create definition, character to the song. The techno music adds a certain flavor to the whole effect. He works it, over and over, in various ways. Both his hands are moving rapidly, spinning up, spinning down, spinning to the right, spinning to the left. Then his feet begin to shuffle. All his skills are joined together into one fantastic show. His motions don’t stop until the music does yet, his heart still sings. He knows his skills are working, working the crowd. He knows because they all scream for more.

So sleep well, my son, sleep well. Dream your dreams. Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow is another day you can move. Another day to perfect your real-life ambitions.

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.

____

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.

A Boy and a Wad of Wet Paper Towels in the School Bathroom

Brad joyfully squeezed the soaking wet paper towel, after he yanked it out from under the rushing water. In just a moment, that ball of slop would be splatted against a bland-colored wall in the boys’ bathroom. Oh the joy of doing something so fun, with three other boys. Boys who didn’t follow the rules. Bored boys spending their recess in the restroom, messing up the place.

Splat! Two wads flattened and spit water, side-by-side, midway down the eggshell sheen. Cheers all around. The next wad was aimed up, thrown at the semi-high ceiling. Thud! Perfect shot. A few droplets fell back to the floor. But those boys didn’t care. They just stood there, amazed at how easy it was to make a wads of wet paper towels stick. Stick and stay put.

The mirror received a Wham! Then another. Both slowly sliding down, into the sink. Then Brad threw the final ball of goo. Which clung to the mirror. Water oozed, distorting their reflection. So Cool! Artists. That’s what they were. So they thought. They left the facility with proud smiles on their faces.

Days passed. Dried wads were peeled away. A few weeks later, the janitor had complained that the situation was getting out of hand. It seemed the wads of wet paper towels had become some kind of ritual. Some kind of overdone game. A kid was questioned. Accused of the crime. He said, “It wasn’t me. It was him!”

“You! Here! Now!” yelled the custodian, tired of cleaning the stupidity of kids. Brad walked slowly toward the angry adult. A bit teary-eyed. Sort of scared. On that day, he was dressed so nicely. Had worn all black and even put on a tie, which made him look super cool. And handsome. Different from all the other second graders. He knew he was guilty, just not on that day.

The day he and those other rule-breakers made the mess, no one noticed, or at least didn’t seem to care much. Other boys made the new mess. But he didn’t say anything. He took one for the team. He deserved it. He was punished. Had to collect trash. Beautify the school during his lunch recess.

ostracize

True story. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

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Abby was a nice girl gone sort of mean. And uncaring. Not intentionally but because her best friend lied to her. Abby had money. Money she had been saving to use toward an investment in a new purse. But. Her best friend took it. Anna took the money. And ran. When Abby asked her friend about it. Did she know what happened to it? Anna just said no.

But, then along came another friend. Not the best one, but the Second Runner Up, and she said that Anna did indeed take the money. Second Runner Up friend saw her reach in and take it. Take it and shove it into her front pocket.

Anna cried. Said no I didn’t. But Abby didn’t believe her. She believed her best friend just lied. To her face. And that made her angry.

So she started to hang out with Second Runner Up. Spent time talking with her. Telling her how much she didn’t like Anna anymore. That she didn’t trust her.

Abby and Second Runner Up told everyone. And everyone told everyone. So now, everyone didn’t want to talk to Anna. Anymore. They didn’t trust her.

So, Anna sat alone. And as she pulled the stolen money from her pocket she wondered if she’d be someone’s best friend. Again. Some day. Soon.