Anger Strikes a Pose

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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.

The Arkansas Way

 

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Several years back I would spend my time off work relaxing in Arkansas. You see, during a three year stint Rudy was living and working there. Not by choice, rather because of necessity. It was the only job he could find when the economy was suffering. A time when choosing where to work wasn’t an option for him.  So, when Arkansas called he left. And, unbeknown to me, I fell in love with a true wonderland. Arkansas is beautiful. The landscape is breathtaking.

Though Rudy did come home for visits, I looked forward to flying out, hanging out, walking around and embracing the true meaning of relaxation. Instead of spending my week or a complete summer cleaning, organizing, painting, repairing, etc., like I always did (and still do) in California, I’d chill.

My daily routine in Arkansas was so simple, so basic, so enjoyable. After giving Rudy a ride to work in the early morning (I wanted the SUV during the day) I’d plop on the couch and begin writing. I’d spend a few hours spilling my thoughts, constantly editing and rereading until I felt a publishable story was complete. And then I’d walk. I’d take long walks through neighborhoods, walking down paved roads, admiring the architecture and the tall trees. Or, I’d walk the length of a complete hilly golf course. Walking along the golf-cart trail. Which never seemed to be an issue as the course was rarely being used by others – possibly due to either very cold or very hot weather. Not ideal for the players, yet perfect for me. And then, back home, after a shower, Brad would awaken, which meant we’d travel around town finding different scenarios to engage in for the remainder of the afternoon. (Did you know the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel is in the middle of the forest in Bella Vista? Or how about the Crystal Bridges Museum, a wonderful establishment full of modern art in Bentonville?) We’d explore places like this until it was time to pick up Rudy from work.

Which brings me to today. Day 1 of Spring Break, Orange County, CA. And how I’ve decided to spend the week. I’m taking the time to embrace relaxation. The Arkansas Way. I will not use the days to clean, organize, paint, repair, etc. This week my routine will be as carefree as possible. After enjoying a cup of hot coffee I will begin writing. I know I will spend a few hours honing in on what I feel is a piece of work that is worthy of publishing. And then I will walk. Whether it’s a walk in my neighborhood, the heights behind our house, or a stroll along the shoreline down south. My mood will guide me. Then I will attend to enjoyable extrusions, whether heading to the store to purchase ingredients for my baking experiments, cruising through a bookstore (just because I love the environment), or any other place that tickles my fancy. I will end my days with conversations with Rudy and, if I’m hungry, eat the food he prepares. Followed by a comfortable bed and a good read.

I Knew Then

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Note: This memory is a gift for Rudy, as today is his HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Long ago, when we were first dating, during the summer of ’84, I watched Rudy as he paced back and forth, back and forth.

“I don’t know how to ask,” he said to me.

I continued watching him, curious and very interested, wondering about his nervousness..

“Just say it,” I encouraged him.

Honestly, I had no idea what was on his mind. I mean, seriously, it was way too early in our relationship for him to propose, and what else he so desperately needed to say, well, I didn’t know. I couldn’t even begin to guess.

“It’s hard for me to ask you this. I barely know you, and well, it’s not something I should even ask.”

I wasn’t feeling irritated at all, more amused in fact, but still, I really just wished he’d say what he needed to say. And I didn’t know what to do to let him know he could trust me.

So, I just said,

“You can trust me.”

He stopped pacing and looked at me, but then began his back and forth movements across the back patio. Suddenly, without looking at me, his head down, as if he couldn’t handle my reaction (in case it was negative, I suppose) he let loose. The words sprang quickly.

“Can I borrow twenty dollars?”

It took me a second or two to respond because I wanted to laugh out loud. I thought it was cute that he was so nervous about asking me such a simple question. But I maintained my composure, held in the giggles. I did not want to make the situation worse for him. I was pretty sure he’d misinterpret my laughing.

“Sure,” I responded.

You see, for me, I considered the question as part of the development of honesty and loyalty, beginning right then and there, cementing itself into our newly forming relationship. The value of knowing Rudy could trust me enough to ask for money was huge at that moment.

“Really?” he seemed surprised.

And then he went on and on about how he shouldn’t even be asking, but he needed money for food and so he could take the bus to work, and he was feeling desperate, and he didn’t know what else to do. And so on.

“Really,” I answered.

I knew then that Rudy was the kind of person I wanted around. The kind of guy I wanted to spend more time with.

I. Am. Independent

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When I was 16, able to work, I immediately applied at McDonald’s. A local place up the street. A walk-to-work kind of place. I didn’t have a car (and wouldn’t buy one for another 3 years) but, I really wanted to express my independence, mostly to myself. I also needed to take the burden off my parents (even though they never ever made me feel like a burden) because I was growing up.

Still young, sure. But ready to conquer life. Ready to prove to myself that I could manage, regardless.

I love being able to take care of myself yet, the flip side, the (sometimes – a word given lightly) negative aspect of complete independence is never asking for help, not wanting to be a burden –

(and yes, I do note a theme here, not wanting to bother people.)

Interestingly, and it took a few years, the one place I am comfortable with others helping me is in the classroom. Kids are notorious for wanting to take the burden off the teacher, do small chores, help out whenever they can. I’ve learned to embrace such willingness. Their excitement surpasses my need to just do it all.

But to be fair, I don’t have a huge problem with the fact I don’t ask for help, which stems from my desire to be independent, because taking care of ‘whatever’ myself simply means I am in control, and more importantly, I know exactly what is happening. Which then rewards self-sufficiency.

I can live the life I do, the life I choose, on my own.

(Which, I must say, my mom would be proud. She always, as I began my relationship with Rudy, told me to make sure I could take care of myself, with or without him. That I must be a female who can stand on her own, rather than relying on anyone, especially a guy, to prosper.)

No truer words have been spoken, to me.

I. Am. Independent.

My Newfound Relationship with Doors

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.

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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?

Wrong.

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?

Wrong, again.

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.

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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!).

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.