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.

expected

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.

ostracize

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

2girlsarguing

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.

Just Do It

I walked into the apartment, looking somewhat relieved, yet nervous about Rudy’s reaction. “I quit my job, today,” I told him. He looked at me, not sure what to think. He looked at my tired expression and then at my swollen belly. “Why?” he asked. I knew I had made the right decision for me, for our future yet, I knew it wasn’t fair to Rudy that I hadn’t consulted him about leaving a job that brought in money to help pay the bills. I wrapped my hands under my pregnant belly, six months of baby inside me. “Well, I drive by the university everyday on my way to work and everyday I tell myself that someday I will return to school to finish what I had started long ago.” Rudy approached me, put his hands on my shoulders, and said that it was okay. “We will manage. We will figure it out.”

My first semester as a transfer student was somewhat difficult. Not only did I have to renew my mindset to student but I was preoccupied with the fact that I would soon become a mother for the first time. I was uncomfortable physically, and mentally I felt overwhelmed. Tired, sure, but more than that I was determined to walk a steady line. I completed the semester with all my work turned in, finals finished. The following morning, my baby daughter was born.

me-newborn lizSix weeks. That was the amount of time that Elizabeth and I had bonded, with no distractions. Well, as it always happens, time runs out. In mid-February, semester number two began. So then did a whole new challenge. How were we going to do it all? Rudy was working the graveyard shift (as in 11pm to 7am), so he was constantly trying to adapt to some kind of sleep pattern. A new baby added a new dimension: Will we ever sleep? While he worked through the night, I was at home caring for Elizabeth, waking up every few hours to feed and change her. Then, just before the sun rose, I began gathering my school things while getting dressed. Plus, I needed to do another breastfeeding session, swaddle Liz in fresh linen (cotton diapers, delivered to the house) and soothe her, gently rocking her while we waited for Rudy to return home. Then, he’d take over while I went to morning classes.

He looked exhausted as he walked through the front door, but he reached for Liz, held her close, and began babbling quietly as I rushed out the door.

rud:newborn lizUpon my return, several hours later, I would quietly enter the apartment only to find Rudy lounging on the couch. His feet splayed out in front of him, his head tilted forward, chin against her head, and his arms tightly, yet gently, wrapped around our wee child. I didn’t want to interrupt Rudy’s much needed nap but I knew it was best to get him into the bedroom, close the door, and let him sleep for as many hours as he could manage. Not easy, though, when the bedroom window faced the kindergarten playground of the neighboring elementary school. I then spent the day caring for Miss Lizzy, doing the best I knew how. When she would fall asleep, I would gather my homework and study. As late evening approached, after Rudy had eaten something, anything, he would kiss us goodbye,  and then the cycle would begin again.

liz&meGRADUATEAfter two and a half years of adjusting to our “situation“, the I just wish I could sleep! situation, Rudy tiredly took pictures of me with a cap and gown on, Elizabeth in my arms, smiling at the camera.

I knew I still had an additional year of schooling to complete, in a credential program somewhere, anywhere, before I could teach solo in a classroom. Unfortunately though, I needed to return to the work force, full-time. Sleep deprived or not, I was confident that  eventually I would return to school. “I will,” I told myself.

And I did. I eventually enrolled in a credential program, taking evening classes so I could continue to work during the day. And by this time, our second child, Roberto, was three years old, the same age Liz was when I earned my Bachelors Degree. The day I left for my first day at work, as a certified school teacher, was the same day Roberto began kindergarten.

Here it is, twenty years later and I reflect on those days and wonder how I did it. How we did it, Rudy and I. Well, I’ve determined that we just did because, honestly, we had to.  We tried (very hard) not to reflect on the downside, but rather on how to make the most of our situation, or probably more accurately, we just plowed through it, hoping for the best. Those obstacles seriously molded the way we continue to approach life. With perseverance. Whether we sleep or not.

Parenting 101

REPOST from Sept. 15, 2012: (stands the test of time…)

brad, age 13

There’s this fine line between disciplinarian and friend, when it comes to being a parent. Kids need rules, yet, they also need someone they trust. Someone to talk to. Someone like me.

I’ve never grounded my kids. Rather, I find quiet moments to talk about a situation, without making a big deal. Which in turn develops a bond between us. A solidarity.

One day, when Brad was at a friend’s house, I took the opportunity to clean his way too messy room. As the pile of clothing, and other junk, began to diminish from the top of his dresser, having settled back into the drawers, I spotted the Kindle Fire. I had forgotten about the electronic reader, as I had given it to Brad to use for school; so, for me, it was out-of-sight-out-of-mind. During the summer, he said he wanted to spent some time getting acquainted with the gadget, to just play with it, learn how to use it.

Sounded good to me.

I picked the Kindle up, which was tucked into its black leather jacket that I had bought, to protect it. I stretched the elastic band off the cover, flipped it open, turned it on, and browsed through items Brad had downloaded. Just checking in, one might say. Games, Facebook, and a few magazines.

I should have guessed, but I hadn’t. Nor was I surprised. Or even mad, that one of the magazines included lots of photos of girls; young women, actually, in teeny-tiny swimsuits. HOT women, emphasizing breasts and rear-ends.

I laughed. To myself.

Later, when Brad was lounging on his bed, I walked in, asking how his day was. It was fun, he told me. And he thanked me for cleaning his room.

“Oh, and by the way, I was looking at the Kindle,” I began.
Brad gave me a sideways glance, narrowed his eyes, and smirked a bit.
“I saw the magazine you downloaded. The girls,” I continued.
He just looked at me. Waited for me to do some more talking.
“I see you have good taste,” I joked.
He smiled, and looked down.
“And, well, anyway, I have no problem with you looking at those pictures, but a word of advice.”
He waited, patiently.
“You need to delete them. The Kindle is for class books, for reading, and I don’t think your teachers would like those photos on campus.” I finished.
“OK,” Brad answered.

The night before his first day of school, I asked him if he had everything he needed. If he was all packed up.
“Yep,” he responded. “And, yes, the magazine has been deleted.”

I am sure he will not be surprised when another respect for women conversation drops into ours lives somewhere down the road.

I am building a lifetime with him. A trusting relationship, so that he knows that no matter what, he can always count on me.

How tall is your age?

Several years ago, during the first week of school, I was going over the classroom rules. The students listened with awe. So interested in what lay ahead. And, as they developed a sense of comfort, tons of questions began flowing. All kinds of questions.

“Will we have homework?”

“Where will our field trip be this year?”

“Do you remember my brother? He was in your class.”

Etc. Etc. Etc.

And so…

After all questions had been exhausted, I held up the chapter book I would be reading to them, daily, and explained that throughout the year I would continue to read different stories, one after another.

I was ready to begin. Jump right in, and start reading.

Just as I turned to the first page of the book, a sweet-faced boy suddenly shot his arm up into the air, wriggling his hand to and fro, excitedly. I figured he must have remembered something important.

And there it was, the ultimate question. The one every kid seems to want to know. Every year.

“How old are you?” he inquired.

“51,” I answered. Honestly.

“I didn’t know you were that tall!” he exclaimed.

tall2