Anger Strikes a Pose

IMG_0193

A few years ago a student of mine stated, “You’re so chill, so easy to talk to.” I smiled, happy I was making an impact with my low-key demeanor. Happy that just being me was important to someone else.

“You know what I also really like about you?” she added.

I made eye contact with her. “My blue Vans™ High Tops?” I joked.

“Well, yeah,” she laughed, “but I like how you respect kids. Instead of talking down to us, you speak to kids as if we are equal. Like, you don’t make me feel small. You make me feel I can accomplish anything.”

“Wow! That’s so great. That’s exactly what I am hoping I am doing.”

I must say, all that is awesome, great, the reason I wanted to be a teacher, a person who has an impact on these youngsters who cross my path, not only to educate them but just as important, to build their self-esteem.

BUT, this year, for the first time, no kid has ever said nice things about me, to me. (Not that I need the accolades) it’s just that I have questioned myself as to why I am allowing deep-set negative feelings about the world at large seep into my core and camouflage who I truly am. In other words, I feel what’s good about life has taken a backseat to what is wrong in our world. Thus, these feelings have had an impact on the kind of teacher I never thought I’d be.

Nothing dramatic, just not cool. Not chill. Not low-key.

“…I like how you respect kids. Instead of talking down to us, you speak to kids as if we are equal…”. 

I’m missing that. 

A few weeks ago, when I had a conversation with myself (yep, I do that, I talk to me because I know myself best) I realized my behavior was out-of-tune. Today, the old me, the chill me, stood if front of a group of relaxed,  smiling kids who seemed to enjoy being in my classroom.

bad bad little girls

pexels-photo-143603.jpeg

We were 8 years old. In the third grade. Girl scouts. Selling Trefoils©, Do-si-dos©, and Thin Mints© throughout our neighborhood.

We were so sweet. So nice. So unassuming.

Until we snapped. For real.

As we rounded a corner, there stood the local Vans© store. A small establishment full of Authentic Vans© lace-ups. But it was the light blue pair that lit up my eyes.

So young. So determined.

We pulled out the money collected for cookies sold, 15 bucks each. Eyeballs barely reaching above the countertop, we grabbed our newly purchased Vans©.

We, bad bad little girls, wore those shoes with glee. Feeling radiant and lighthearted.

11,686 Days

IMG_8755

ELEVEN THOUSAND, SIX HUNDRED EIGHTY SIX 

Sounds like a life time, that many days, but it’s not.

It’s 32 years plus six days.

Thirty-two years of marriage, plus the 6 days after the last celebration.

11,686 days of all kinds of emotions and feelings.

Rudy and I have stood toe-to-toe, face-to-face, arms wrapped around each other.

And endured difficult moments, standing heel-to-heel, back-to-back, arms rigid, avoiding contact.

ELEVEN THOUSAND, SIX HUNDRED EIGHTY SIX

32 years plus 6 days of a committed relationship, solidified through loyalty, love, and friendship.

iphone be gone

yesterday, tuesday, 4pm, the early hours of halloween, i found myself stumped,

due to my lack of focus.

it all started when i had hauled all my teaching gear to my crossover vehicle.

– well, the reading manual, so that i could figure out my next plan for the students, and a big fat AVID book, where i would find info to help me conduct a productive note-taking lesson with the kids –

anyway… i put those two texts onto the back floor of my car,

along with my white jansport backpack, a round fluffy Rugrat (Tommy specific) knapsack, the one i recently reclaimed, one that once belonged roberto, long ago, when he was a rugrat himself, and next to my macbook air,

i’m floundering, unfocused…

this is about my iphone; not my afterwork, parking lot life.

well, actually, the parking lot plays a big role here.

before i sat in the driver’s seat, i realized my phone wasn’t with me.

which, honestly, it isn’t unusual that i didn’t have it because i really don’t carry it with me much… whereby on the other hand, it’s actually amazing that i even noticed i had forgotten it… because i really don’t carry it with me much.

you get what i mean?

well now, after noticing the missing phone, i trekked back to classroom, hunted around for it, but couldn’t find anything remotely resembling my 2 1/2 year old white iphone.

hum.

i walked back to the car, sifted through my stuff, again, only to note that the phone was definitely not there.

once again, i unlocked both gates, walked back to class, lifted every paper and book, and found nothing except more papers and books. i stood there, near my desk and wondered.

hum.

and then i remembered that i had been cutting artwork out to hang up in the window so that the sun’s shine made the oily bones of the kids finger prints glow – which was actually pretty cool, a fun project for sure…

i was cutting the hand shapes, letting the fallen pieces of paper gather on top of my desk and when done i threw the paper in the trash.

no! i thought. no way. i did not throw my iphone away.

did i?

back at the car, i texted brad from my computer – thank goodness the internet was available out in the parking lot – then i walked to the trash can.

this is what i texted him, literally:

can you call my phone… i can’t find it… call a few times… i am outside by the trash then i need to go in the class…. keep calling until i answer it… if i call you good… if i don’t bad… i will message on my computer if i can’t find it… or my phone if i do…

he messaged back, OK.

i lifted out what i knew was my plastic bag of debris. the sprinkles of colored paper gave it away. then i walked back towards my vehicle and i placed the trash bag into the back of my car thinking that maybe i was overlooking the phone. something told me i was on the right track, but my thinking wasn’t concise. so, i decided i’d take the trash home and investigate there, just in case. i surely didn’t want to make a mess right there, at my place of employment.

that’d look odd. right?

seriously, though, no regrets.

that’s my motto, you see.

i heard no Old Phone ringing.

in the meantime, i assumed brad was continuously calling me because i hadn’t called or texted him back.

i walked back to class.

nothing.

i walked back to the car.

nothing.

opened the rover’s hatchback.

rifled through the bag of papers.

and then i heard it. ever so faint. my phone, ringing. coming from the trash bag. i stuck my hand inside. swirled it around. and found ‘the missing link’.

yes!

i answered brad’s call as i was walking the semi-heavy ladened trash to the large receptacle in the school’s parking lot.

 

Adventures within Adventures are What Memories are Made of.

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.

Unfortunately,

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.

Teach Me Teach

IMG_7089

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

roberto baby

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.

roberto youngster

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.

roberto

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.

roberto2

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.

roberto's shredded pants

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.

bano roberto

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.

roberto4

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.

roberto3