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.

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.

a letter to 16 year old me

Dear Daphne,

Remember to be yourself. Believe in who you are. You don’t need to be like her. Or her. Or even her. You have as much to offer as they do. Maybe more. And what’s so bad about that girl. The one over there. The one everyone seems to be avoiding. She’s just being herself. Just wanting what we all want. Friendship. Go talk to her. She will appreciate your kindness.

It’s not about popularity, but rather about integrity. So, just be you. Speak up. Talk. It’s not hard at all. Just ask questions. People like to answer what they know. So ask them about them. Their life. And fit in your life stories. When you can. When there is a break in conversation. They want to get to know you, too. They do.

Go out. Enjoy hanging out with people. Stop worrying about what everyone is thinking. Who cares. No one, really. All the downs will make the ups so much more rewarding. Remember that. Life is a series of lessons. Lessons to help mold who you will grow up to be. A person who cares about others. About life. A person who is a realist. Someone who knows anything can happen anytime. Anywhere. To anyone.

So simply enjoy your youth. Laugh. A lot. Out loud. For the world to see. To experience. Fall into bed each night knowing, there is so much more to life. Than being an insecure young girl.

♥ Love your wiser, more mature, experienced self.

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The next day. A new conversation. ( Yesterday: unexpected)

“Good Morning,” Brad sheepishly says.
“Morning. Would you like some tea?”
Yesterday is over.
Today is here.
It’s easy for me to forgive.
Without saying a word.
I figure it’s best to forget.
Yesterday’s mishap isn’t something to hang on to.
To drag out.
It’s over.
Today starts anew.
“Yeah. I want tea. Thanks, Mom.”
“I’m making oatmeal. Want some?”
“Yeah. Sure.” He seems relieved I didn’t bring up yesterday’s bitch-fest.
We eat breakfast, together.
We watch a little TV.

Then I clean.
He plays video games.

After a bit, I make lunch.
“Before you eat, I need you to pick up your soccer net. Take it apart, or drag it to the back yard.”
“Alright,” he quietly says as he opens the front door.
“Thanks,” I tell him, my voice exiting through the kitchen window.
I watch him.
My son.
He’s a good kid.
Just growing.
Trying to find his own grounding.
Wants some independence.
Soon enough, he will have it.
I know.
“You want juice or milk with your lunch?”
“Juice,” Brad says as he walks back into the house.
Washes his hands.
“Thanks, Mom.”
“How does it taste?”
“It’s good.”
I smile.

“Later, this evening I need to go out. Do a few things. Wanna go?” I ask him.
“Mmmmm….”
“We can rent a movie.”
“Can we get something for dinner? To bring home? Eat while we watch?”
“That sounds good. Sure.”
We go to Rite Aid.
To develop photos of my students.
We go to Stater Bros.
To rent two movies from RedBox.
“Where would you like to go to get food?” I ask.
I always let him decide.
Why not?
It’s really his thing, not mine, to pick places.
I’ll go anywhere.
I don’t mind.
“Why do I have to decide? I always have to decide,” he questions.
“Oh. Well, every time I mention a place you seem to give me a reason why we shouldn’t go there. So, I figured it’s easier to just let you chose,” I answer.
“That’s true,” he smiles. Sort of laughs.
“How about McDonald’s?” he decides.
“Oh, yeah. A Filet-a-Fish sounds pretty good. And fries. A shake, too,” I tell him.
“I want Chicken Selects,” he states.
I’m not surprised.
We don’t go out to fast-food joints too often but, when we do, often enough it’s Mickey D’s.
The Selects are always Brad’s top choice.

Bagged food on his lap, I drive home.
I pull into the driveway.
Not all the way.
Enough so that he can let himself out, before I back completely in, next to my daughter’s car.
He needs the extra space to open the passenger-side door wide open.
He gently closes the door.
I back in.
He waits by the front door.
I turn off the car.
Get out.
Walk across the grass.
Unlock the front door.
Open and close it carefully.

No kitchen table tonight.
We both plop down on the couch.
Watch a funny movie.
Eat fattening food and slurp down a cold drink.
The company is good.
For both of us.