when i was in 5th grade i was way too shy, trying to figure out what it meant to be part of a group of friends. i felt clueless, yet somehow i managed to hang with what may have been the popular group. or maybe they were on the verge of discovering fame. all i knew was that they seemed to be the kind of friends that made sense to me. girls who just wanted to have fun.

during those early years, i was what one may have called a wallflower. a listener. an observer. someone who found interest in the way others related. simply by watching. and absorbing. without much talking. i don’t know if anyone was aware of my awkwardness. but i was. i felt insecure. as if they had so much more to offer than i ever did. but what they had to offer i couldn’t even begin to say what that was. really. those girls were just like me. surviving. trying to find a place in an elementary world.

as the years progressed. and i grew. and continued to learn the dynamics of relationships through listening and observing. i found myself. realizing that i had something to offer. to give to the world. when i was in the 5th grade.



The neighbors had been diligently preening, pruning, and pampering their small rose garden, which lay along side our driveway.

Elizabeth was 4 years old. She was out front, enjoying the sunshine and twirling around. She was amazed with how the hem of her skirt would fly out, away from her legs. She’d laugh and twirl some more, oblivious to her surroundings. Until, suddenly she noticed, for the first time, the white roses that were blooming just a few feet from her. She stopped. Stared. And walked toward them. She sniffed. She touched. Then she picked one of those prize winning flowers.

Mommy, here, this is for you, she squealed as she ran onto the front porch.

Where did you get such a lovely flower? I asked her.

Over there, she pointed towards the edge of our drive.

Yikes! I screamed inside my head.

Elizabeth held my hand, happily walking me over to her find. And there stood our neighbor; a tall, burly man, scratching his head, looking at the roses with a scowl on his face. Without much thought I squeezed Elizabeth’s hand a bit too tight. Ouch! she growled.

After many apologizes from me, and a confused look on Elizabeth’s face, we slowly walked back into the house. I explained to her, as best as I could explain to a four year old, that what she did was inappropriate, that she can’t just take things that didn’t belong to her. She seemed to understand, and confirmed as much when she returned a short time later with a beautiful picture she had drawn of the rose garden, emphasizing the white rose she had plucked. I walked with her to the neighbor’s front door. She knocked hard, barely making a sound, but enough that the door opened wide.

Sorry, she told the man.

All I could do was smile politely, hoping the colorful picture would mean as much to him as his fragrant rose.



Well rested, freshly showered, and clothed, Bradford looks at himself in the mirror as he expertly coifs his hair, making sure each strand layers just right, complementing his handsome face. A little gel swiped from root to tip, just above his forehead, completes his stylish do.

He walks from bathroom to bedroom; Brad scans himself, looks at his full body image, making sure his T-shirt, color and length, work well with his just right fitting, side-pocket khakis. Too cool shoes and a swag pullover hoodie are the final details. And just to make sure his assessment of perfection is correct, Bradford heads to the garage, to another full-length mirror, rotating oh so carefully, content with what he sees.

Then, its out the door, onto his bike, heading to school, for another ordinary day in the 8th grade.



Every morning one of Mrs. Berry’s students placed an apple on her desk, and every afternoon she threw it away because she wasn’t sure where the hands had been that held the apple.

By the end of his first trimester, Chad decided his 5th grade teacher needed help giving him straight A’s.

She was always telling him If you’d just focus more during lessons, you’d improve your scores. Blah. Blah. Blah. It was then, as he was walking home from school, holding his tattered bad-news report card in his tightly squeezed hand, that Chad would do just that. He’d focus more. Sure. Focus on some cool magical elixir that would entice Mrs. Berry to improve his grades, whether he earned them or not.

That’s when the apples began appearing on Mrs. Berry’s desk each morning. Chad never told her, or anyone for that matter, that it was he who gently placed the fruit upon her desk. No one needed to know that he had doctored the shiny apples, filling them with give this kid an A+ juice. He knew she was taking the apples with her to lunch, yet his grades didn’t change and neither did her teacher voice when reminding him to pay attention!

Oh, my. Who gave me this delicious chocolate-and-caramel-covered apple? she asked the class after a week of tossing the fruit. No one admitted anything. Especially not Chad.

During lunch break, while sitting with the other 5th grade teachers, Mrs Berry selfishly downed the dessert before anyone would ask her for a slice.

Hey, Chad! Great improvement on your math test today. See, staying on task will grant you rewards, she happily announced.

Ain’t that the truth, Chad smirked. He looked over his test and could see that most of his answers were incorrect, yet Mrs. Berry had written a bright red A+ across the top of the paper.


Rather than sitting in the provided teacher’s chair, I was standing in front of a hip-high table, teaching a math lesson to my students. The overhead projector shot the equation onto the front board, making it easier for every student to see what I was doing. As I took a step back, allowing them time to work the problem, a slight headache began to form. I reached up and gently rubbed both temples before bending over the table once again, writing numbers and symbols as students called out the steps to solving the displayed math expression. I could feel the headache gaining strength as I continued working with the kids; yet, I masked my pain. Unfortunately, as the school day progressed, so did my aching head, regardless of trying to tame it with a piece of fruit and a handful of almonds.

At home, Rudy’s homemade chili enticed me as it bubbled in a pot on the stove. I figured my aching head was simply calling out for some substantial nourishment. Wrong. The aching continued to antagonize me. Advil also failed to rescue me, I noted, as I buried myself under a heavy pile of blankets.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. I was experiencing coffee detox.

For the past several months I had been indulging in six cream-and-raw sugar-filled cups a day of hot coffee, without the side effects of wide-eyed wakefulness. I knew I was overindulging, not caring about the consequences of the caffeine’s non-health benefits; I was addicted. I was enjoying two cups here, two cups there, two cups everywhere. Daily. Two plus two plus two equals six. Six cups of coffee on a typical day.

The night before I had felt sluggish, tired, and wasn’t sure why. But, when I awoke the following morning I decided to curb the overindulgence of sweets, and to completely rid coffee from my routine, figuring they were the culprits of my afternoon fatigue.

Caffeine withdrawals hadn’t been considered. The consequences foreign to my radar. It wasn’t until that moment, when I was curled under the covers, hidden in the darkened room, experiencing a kind of detox first hand, that I understood coffee will get the best of you if you take it too far.

I spent the entire evening and early, early morning hours in bed, holding my head, caressing my temples, dealing with an excruciating headache; until, finally, it simply disappeared.

I returned to the classroom, to continue with more math equations to stimulate the students’ sponge-like minds. With a clear, headache-free head.


Rudy is back.

From his two year stint.

Of working and living in Arkansas.

And, boy, are we happy.

We have enjoyed talking.


A lot.

About life.



About a job.

For him.

As a consultant.

To help companies.

Working with dyes.

Coloring cloth.

Wanting to improve.

The production.

And quality.

Of the dyeing process.


He would work.

As needed.




Instead of living somewhere else.

Rudy will live here.

In California.

With us.


the wedding cake

Contribution for GBE2: Blog On prompt: in the freezer

Long ago.

After our vows had been read, the food eaten, and the party died down, Rudy and I carefully placed the top tier of our wedding cake in the freezer.

The idea was to save it, keep it frozen-fresh, for the first year of our marriage.

Then on December 28th, on our one year anniversary, we’d remove the vanilla-frosted spice cake from its frozen world, thaw it, and devour a year’s worth of memories.

We’d celebrate our ups, reflect on the downs.

Happy Anniversary we told each other as we dug our forks into the should-be moist cake.

Blech we both announced, tossing the rock-hard, lost its flavor, small, circular dessert in the trash.

wedding cake

another woman

I heard he was interested in a girl, a younger woman. Someone he met, somewhere. She had dark hair and dark eyes. And was supposedly nice. A nice, simple girl.

He didn’t talk about her, and she didn’t talk about him, but somehow I knew this woman was someone who may, or may not, intrude on our life.

The day we went to the local fair, he and I, with our kids, I saw her. Just talking. I didn’t know her. Yet, I knew she was the one. Somehow I just knew.

He had wandered off, taking our youngest on a ride. I stayed behind, just hanging out with my daughter.

I walked over to the girl, said hello, and asked her if she was indeed interested in him.

The strange thing is, the fact is, that even though we didn’t know one another, at all, she knew who I was talking about and answered as if we were best friends. I think so, yes, she said. He’s nice. Very nice. She went on to say other things, nothing big deal, but things that confirmed her interest in him.

When she was all done talking I stated, He’s my husband, the guy you are considering a relationship with. The girl didn’t seem surprised by my admission. And neither did she seem pissed, as if she’d been duped. She simply stared at me with her big brown eyes, saying nothing.

Later, at home, I said to him, I know about her, and if you have plans to pursue something, anything, count me out. He looked at me, didn’t respond. Not five minutes passed when I restated my thoughts. No. Never mind. Just the fact you are interested has uninterested me in you. I’m done.

Suddenly I awoke, from the dream I was having about my husband considering an affair with a another woman.

I rolled over in our California King bed and found him there, lying on his side, turned toward me, looking at me. Good morning, we whispered, simultaneously.


The day before Rudy began driving home from Arkansas, I began wondering how his allergies were going to adapt to the two cats that have been living in our house for the past year. Just as I pulled into my work site’s parking lot, I received a picture of a mostly white, medium-sized dog from Roberto. Random dog inside our house, he texted. I knew immediately that the dog had slipped under our garage door, through the ten inch opening meant as a convenience for the cats’ comings and going.

Before the dog entered the kitchen, Brad had been sitting on the couch listening to an audio book, in preparation for a test that morning in class. He heard an unfamiliar clicking sound, turned to look what was causing the noise, and saw the dog standing there, eye-balling him. Brad jumped up and sprinted into Roberto’s room whisper-yelling, There’s a dog out there! As both boys stood cautiously back, wondering what to do, the dog gently walked over to them, rubbing his nose in Roberto’s hand. He immediately looked for tags, or any other kind of identification, but found none. After Brad had gone to school, Roberto took the dog to PetCo to see if an identification chip had been implanted, to find out who owned the dog. No such luck. A sales clerk gave the dog a bag of goodies: food, a leash, and some treats.

Later, when I returned home from work, the dog was in the backyard alone, relaxing. With no information about the dog, I knew he would be spending the night with us, and possibly days ahead. Hey, how is the dog?, Roberto texted. He’s quiet. He likes company… and you should give him a name, just so we can call him something other than dog, I texted back. It didn’t take him long to respond. Nelson. As in Willie Nelson, he wrote. That night, Nelson slept with Roberto, in his bed. Nelson never did bother the cats. He had a healthy appetite and drank plenty of water; yet, he was breathing heavy, was very tired, seemingly lazy, and mostly, Nelson seemed sad. Also, the small circular gash, as if he was poked with some kind of skewer in his leg, didn’t help.

As I was cooing to him and petting his smooth white fur, I contemplated Rudy’s arrival within the next twenty-four hours. I wondered how his allergies were going to respond to Nelson.

The next day, Nelson was limping, and constantly licking his injury. And by this time Rudy was home, enjoying everything he missed while living in Arkansas. I had to forewarn him that yes, there is a dog at our house, but no, we will not be keeping him. I was going to find his owners, to bring back the spark of life into Nelson’s demeanor. Happily, as the day wore on, as I was returning from picking up Brad from the local skate park, we noticed a Lost Dog flyer. On it was a picture of Nelson. Yet, the three times I called the number listed, I was told that he was not missing a dog. Nelson, once again, slept with Roberto. Rudy patiently accepted the situation.

Early, the next morning, while Brad was having his baseball picture taken, I took the flyer to a few nearby homes, asking people if they recognized Nelson. No one did. Forty-five minutes into my adventure, a man was climbing into his car when I hollered, Do you know who this dog belongs to? He pointed to a house up the street from his, and stated that the elderly couple was going to be so happy to have their dog home.

I knocked on the front door, and was greeted by a woman, possibly my age, being followed by a lady I assumed to be her mom. I held up my phone, showing them the picture of Nelson and asked if the dog belonged to them. The older woman raised her arms, excited, claiming the dog. Tosh! That’s my Tosh. His brother, Mac, who is blind and deaf, has been missing him. She pulled me into her house and introduced me to Mac. Mac and Tosh, I said, grinning. That’s cute. He looked like Tosh, except for his eyes. Tosh helps Mac. He guides him, makes sure he is safe, she said, happily. Then she hugged me, and introduced me to her wheelchair-bound husband.

I held up the photo once again and asked if the phone number listed was theirs. She said yes without really looking at it. I explained that I had been trying to call. Then she looked one more time, and realized the number was incorrect. How did you find us then? the younger woman asked. I told them my story. Then, even though I offered to bring Tosh back to their place, the elderly woman jumped into her own car and said, No. I will come and get him myself. Then she gunned the engine.

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the road

Rudy drove along the peaceful road, reflecting about the past two years he spent living and working in Arkansas. Two years of necessary income but, two years without a full-time family. As he drove, heading home to us, to California, he smiled, took a picture, and sent it to me via text. Almost there!, he wrote. Almost there!

About a week and a half ago, without hesitation, Rudy resigned from his job in the color lab where he was working, stating it was time to return home, time to reconnect with his family through daily interactions. Neither of our boys minded that they’d be taking a step back, allowing their dad to resume his role as the alpha male. And, of course, our daughter Liz was ecstatic to have him back in town, knowing her dad would have tons of cooking ideas to pass on to her.

When Rudy first called me with the news, I did what I always do. I completely supported him, telling him to come home, that everything will work itself out. Ah, just listening to you is soothing, he told me. I can’t wait to get home. I repeated the sentiment, laughing, feeling happy, concluding with an I love you.

And so it began. The reflective road trip home. Rudy drove for two days, stopping only once to sleep for several hours at a rest stop. The road trip gave him time to think about the experiences he gained in Arkansas, the family he misses, and what plans he has for his, and our, future.

Things are as they should be.