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.
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.
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.
So, this past summer I did quite a bit of home improving, choosing to challenge myself with various projects rather than paying a professional to fix what needed fixing. Of all the projects – painting, landscaping, creating a minimalistic vibe (except for my new office space which is packed with my life, packed with everything important to me– it was the interior door(s) that gave me the most trouble.
Interior doors, I thought would be the easiest project to tackle. In my mind, after researching ways to replace the doors I discovered the “Pre-hung Door”, which arrives in its frame, the hinges and the door handle (hole) already in place. All I had to do was set it into the opening, the spot in which I planned to replace the door. Easy, peasy. Right?
I ordered one door. For my ensuite bathroom. A test I had given myself. Could I do it? Actually replace an interior door? Why not? I asked myself. You’re self-sufficient. Hanging a door, regardless of the fact you’ve never done it, should be a no-brainer. Right?
The door arrived wrapped in plastic. And, yes, without knowledge about what I was going to suffer through, I was excited.
… here’s the kicker, though… I thought the frame around the door was simply protecting it while traveling to my destination, to my home. So. What did I do? I unhinged the frame and tossed it.
Literally. Threw. It. Away.
Then I “tried” to put the new door into the door opening, only to discover it didn’t fit.
I. Was. Confused. Frustrated. Didn’t understand.
Light cussing. Bad words. Sprang into the air.
Believe me when I say I went through quite a bit of turmoil trying to figure out where I went wrong. Even after watching video after video and reading information, nothing quite explained my problem. Until it dawned on me, several weeks later, that I had thrown out, not a protector piece, but an essential part of the door.
So, I leaned that door up against the wall in my room and I ordered another door (seriously, I didn’t want to build a new frame around the door. No way!).
I bought two doors, actually. I figured, I got it. I CAN do it, now. All I had to do was measure the original doors, side to side, top to bottom, choose solid or hollow ( I went with hollow – cheaper and lighter weight ) order them online, and wait for them to arrive.
Arrive they did. A month later. Two doors. One for the bathroom. One for a bedroom.
Yet, my confusion simply deepened. I now understood I had to keep the frame, but Why the heck wasn’t it fitting into the opening where the new door was projected to thrive? And then, again, it dawned on me. I had to take out the original framework before installing the new pre-hung frame.
During this second round, I decided to first replace the bedroom door – a more urgent necessity – so I began ripping out the heavy-wooded frame, making a mess in the hallway. I then proceeded to “test” the pre-hung door, placing it into the now (wide-open) opening, happy that it fit.
Yes! Now I’m onto something, I told myself, patting my back.
Until I realize that the frame (around) the new door didn’t extend to the width of the original frame (built with the house). Meaning, There is (not was, is) plaster board exposure inside the bedroom due to an inch difference in frame sizes. Plus, I had to chop off part of the bottom of the door to avoid it from scrapping (which is par for the course). What I didn’t think about, though, was that by cutting off an inch I cut the entire solid portion (sort of a sealant within the otherwise hollow door), exposing its inside, which means if a spider happens to wander underneath, it would find a prime spot to lay its eggs.
Aside from all my mistakes, the door is in. Not perfectly. And surrounded by crude, unfinished work. But for now I am done. And I will admit that the unfinished work does not bother me. I, for some odd reason, like the reminder of how hard working I can be.
But, at the moment, I am over replacing doors.
Over it, until next summer, that is.
In the end, the bathroom door will remain leaning against the living room wall, outside of its frame. And it will remain there. As will the one in my bedroom. Both are now part of my interior design, which are actually my new, pleasing-to-the-eye conversational pieces. Ironically, they look like planned art.
Sometimes the planned takes a turn and the unplanned becomes the focal point.
long ago, probably about five, six, maybe seven, eight years ago brad announced he knew someone, or talked to them in passing, or something, and mentioned that the person had told him about a cute, little, itty-bitty, barely-born, newly-arrived kitten.
he wondered if he could have it.
i have forever been opposed to pets because kids tend to think all they have to do is pretty much nothing. just occasionally (operative word here) engage with their newly obtained hobby. goldfish died due to an overload of food. while on the other hand, hamsters starved to death.
for me, it was too much to handle. little kids running around asking mommy this, mommy that, mommy, mommy mommy, which caused me to forget there was a pet in the house. i had tunnel vision. hence, supervised kids. unsupervised critters.
which meant no more pets. no. never. not on my watch.
until brad showed me, and roberto (a huge pet advocate), an adorable photo of the kitten he had mentioned. he caught me off guard. sly kid. the kitten’s big green eyes and fluffy fur was hard to resist, for all of us, apparently. please, please, please they both whispered, hands clasped into steeples, prayer-mode.
ok, i said.
say what? what did i say? i asked myself.
really?! they both screamed.
really, i mumbled.
as they were walking out the front door, i said, bring home two. (again, what the heck was going on with me?)
two? you sure?
yeah, you know, to play together.
within the hour they brought home Cassandra and Skyler (named later that afternoon by the boys). fraternal twins. one black, one multicolored. both with green eyes.
i was smitten.
roberto recently moved out and brad is a busy 17 year old. both engaged elsewhere, most of the time. so, aside from brad allowing them to sleep in his room, the girls belong to me. i tend to them 99% of the time, and i even renamed them. (the kids don’t know this, they’d probably think i’ve gone bonkers, but oh well, a caretaker’s got to do what a caretaker’s got to do, right?)
cassandra’s now-name is chicka-chicka-boom-boom (which, ironically, is the title of an adorable kid’s book about the lower case letters of the alphabet climbing a tree, thinking they know what’s what) because of her diva personality and i refer to skyler as skitter. so sweet, yet so nervous. she has never been able to fully relax.
ah, there she is. I can hear chicka-chicka-boom-boom’s deep guttural mew call me. she wants in the house for a quick nibble of chow and a full-on vigorous back rub. she likes her cheeks gently caressed as well.
spoiled. i know.
Nine years ago Rudy took a job offer in Honduras, Central America. He had been working there for several months when the Winter holidays arrived. It was December. The kids and I were beginning our school break so, rather than having Rudy come home to us in California, we decided to venture into his native land and explore the country where he spent his youth.
One place Rudy really wanted us to see was Roatan, one of the Islas de la Bahia, so we jumped aboard a charter boat off the mainland, anticipating an exciting trip that’d take us across the sea.
All I could think was,
Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Honduras.
The. Boat. Trip. Was. Awful.
For me, anyway!
I mean seriously, there I was, hardly ever sick, can handle pretty much anything… vomiting. It was so embarrassing! And I was so obvious, sitting in the front of the boat stumbling to the rear every 10 minutes, to the same bathroom, over and over, during the entire excursion.
Rudy and the kids? Oh, they were fine! …Okay, well, maybe Roberto had an issue as well. But he did a better job of holding himself together than I did.
Two and a half, three hours later, we stepped onto a wooden dock. I was feeling a bit shaken, but the solid ground helped ease my vertigo.
Our rental car was waiting for us curbside. We were off to our destination (for the next four days). The resort was an almost untouched paradise. Almost, because it was under construction. Once we got past stacks of plant-less planters, still needed painting stucco, and an empty not finished by any means manmade pool this is what we saw:
After we tossed our packed things onto the huge beds, checked out the supersized bathtub, opened and closed every single kitchen cupboard (stocked full of useful items), and turned on, then off, the big screen TV, we ran Outside. Our toes clinched the warm, finely-grained sand as we ran to the water’s edge, where we then frolicked in three versions of blue water. The Caribbean Sea was splashing into a private alcove, a place of complete serenity. Pure bliss!
We spent those several days enjoying the uninhabited land, on the far side of the island. Seriously, it felt as if we were the only ones there. It was so quiet, like it belonged to us.
Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Roatan.
As days always do, ours came to an end.
On the winding road back towards the wooden dock, to our departing boat, we made a quick stop for some Dramamine. You know, the anti-motion sickness pill. No way, no how was I going to let the extreme rocking of the boat ruin my trip back to the mainland. So, I popped a few pills, as did the kids. Rudy had no need for them.
The drug did the trick. We all felt energetic and content, happy even. The boat was bouncing up and down, sailing along. I took it in stride, observing what I missed on the ride out. I watched Brad as he stood outside the door, stood with some tall guys and just seemed to enjoy the water’s spray as it licked his face. His exhilarated expression told a story of its own. Liz and Roberto were playfully being sarcastic with each other, laughing.
At the same time, people were screaming every time the boat lifted its nose into the air. The kids and I laughed. We thought it was actually pretty fun. It seemed, to us non-Spanish-speaking foreigners, everyone was having fun on the amusement park kind of ride.
Suddenly, it started raining outside, lightly at first, then progressively harder. I began to notice the faces of the people, at least those nearby enough to observe. Their pained looks said they weren’t screaming for the fun-of-it, they were scared. I looked out the door, towards Brad. The ocean was getting out of control. Rudy grabbed him by the shirt sleeve, quickly yanking him inside.
We were no longer laughing, or joking. We were quiet. Rudy began listening to the people, to their panicked concerns. “It’s bad.” he said. They only thing we could do was watch the people’s expressions and wait for Rudy to explain what was happening. I stayed calm, hoping it would help calm Liz, Roberto, and Brad.
All of a sudden someone piped, “Land!” We breathed a sigh of relief but quickly realized… it was definitely land but not the mainland. The boat, for safety reasons, had returned to the island, to Roatan.
We, again, stepped onto the wooden dock.
The weather worsened. It was windy. It was rainy. It was stormy. It was loud. We had to stay in a bug-filled room for the night. Needless to say, none of us slept. Rudy found a local guy to drive us to the airport way before the sun rose, where we had to sit and wait out the storm before boarding a 12-15 seater plane. A plane that was old, small and loud. Water dripped from the ceiling. I found myself smirking at the entire situation. Part of me thought the whole adventure had been kind of cool, in a extreme way, while the reasonable part of me wondered if that was the day of our demise. It sure felt like it could have been. But, that was a thought I kept to myself.
Late into the afternoon, our wobbly old plane safely landed. We had made it back to La Cieba, the small town where our boat should have docked. And where the kids and I hugged and kissed Rudy goodbye before returning home to sunny California.
Chris had always been a person in my life, a sister who, no matter what, came through, was always there for me. Sitting here, thinking about her, how she was a part of my life, my relationship with Rudy and eventually the perfect aunt for my kids, I’m remembering when Elizabeth, was born, and how Chris needed to take charge because Rudy and I, both thirteen years younger than her, were very anxious about me giving birth, an unknown territory for the two of us.
Chris, the oldest of 11 children, knew exactly what was going on (not only because she was like a second mother growing up, but because I don’t even know how many times, she helped feline after feline, dogs too, give birth to their new offspring). You wouldn’t know it, but I’m telling you, those lessons she learned were a definite asset for anyone feeling the pains of labor. She could read the situation and help the process move along smoothly. Chris knew the signs of “It’s time!”
When I was in labor with Liz (yet didn’t realize it) and Rudy, assuming I was just a little uncomfortable (because that’s what I told him “Oh I’m just a little uncomfortable”) was grabbing his jacket and heading towards the front door just as Chris walked into our tiny apartment.
“What?! She looked at Rudy, stared him down. “You are leaving? Going to work? Why? She is going to pop this baby out any moment! You can not leave! I won’t allow it.”
My sister. My older sister. My only sister was the boss. At that moment, regardless of any reason, viable or not, she was not going to let him leave.
“I don’t think so! She’s in labor. Daphne is going to have this baby today,” my sister said, giving Rudy no other reason to dispute her. “You need to call work! Tell them you will not be in.”
“Alright,” Rudy mumbled, which is not an easy task, trying to sway Rudy to an opinion other than his own. But, I think like me, he sensed arguing was pointless. Chris seriously knew her stuff.
I suddenly felt a jab, a painful ache, something more defined than I’d experienced as the days of Lizzy’s birth grew closer.
Chris was right. Rudy needed to get me to the hospital.
Driving there, a 20 minute trek, seemed to take forever. And the fact that the pains grew stronger didn’t help.
We were both anxious.
“It will be okay. You will do fine,” I heard Chris’ voice tell me. She was in my head.
“We are going to be fine. This is it!” I told Rudy, cringing as another contraction surged through me.
Within the next several hours, three to be exact, our dark-hard baby girl was born, using every inch of her lungs to cry out, as if telling us, you did good.
And there was Chris, waiting in the lobby, waiting for the news. Is the baby a boy? A girl? Is Daphne OK? Rudy walked up to her and hugged her. Tight.
“Thanks for making me stay home, for making me call into work to say I couldn’t go in.”
She hugged him just as tight.
He walked with Chris to the baby window, arm around her shoulders. They both smiled. Gazing at Elizabeth, a wee child that Chris would spend a lifetime adoring.