At the End of the Day

family photos

I was lounging. In my room. Reading. Reading a few chapters. Of the young adult novel I had heard about. Wanted to see for myself if the storyline was indeed intriguing.

Noticing the sun falling slowly down. Out of view. I wanted to make sure the house was locked up, lights off, before my evening ended. Before the kids retired to their rooms for the night.

The pile of clothes on the living room floor, at the feet of my kid, bothered me. The empty five gallon water bottles near the front door, waiting to be filled, by someone willing to drive to the local water machine, irked me. And the full of dishes sink threw my mood for a loop.

“Geez!” I started. “Why is it that I just can’t get the help I need?” I eyeballed my two old enough kids. “I guess asking nice, even writing down what I want done, just doesn’t work!” I began to yell. “I’m not the only one who lives here. We all need to contribute!”

Blah, Blah, Blah is probably all the kids heard.
I was sure of it.

I picked up the water bottles and slammed out the front door. Sped off to fill them. Then returned home again. Still angry. One kid stood to help me as I stepped over the threshold of the front door. “Don’t bother,” I snapped. “I can do it all, as usual.” I plopped a water bottle onto the dispenser, splashing a bit of water onto the floor. The other bottle, I dropped onto a table, in the garage, as my other kid just stared at me. Not sure what to say.

I went to the kitchen to do the dishes. Clinking them into the dishwasher. Hard. Hoping I wouldn’t break anything.

Yet, didn’t care.

The clothes in the living room? I left alone. I was at a boiling point as I stormed back to my room. Slammed the door. Sprawled on the bed. I breathed deeply. Sighed. Then lay my head down. Sideways.

Feeling a bit calmer. A few hours later. I returned to the living room. To recheck the door locks. “Sorry, Mom,” the kids tried. I just nodded. Tried to smile. Noticed the clothes had been discarded. Somewhere. Couch blankets folded.

“Goodnight,” I mumbled.

I went back to my own room. To read another chapter. To sleep off my bad mood.

At the end of the day, I know tomorrow will be another beginning.

Fearing the Boogie Man

There I was. A wee child. Hidden under the covers.

I would not. No way. Allow my feet to dangle over the edge of the bed.
No way.
No how.
Only because I suspected the Boogie Man was lying in wait. Waiting to grab a foot. Or both. And drag me under.

My whole body was covered with a few thin blankets.
But not my light brown hair. My hair managed to escape. Above my head. Out from under the covers. Not on a pillow. Just on the flat mattress.
As I lay there, quietly, wondering if my thoughts would go away if I just pretended I wasn’t there.
On the bed.
Alone.

I somehow knew my thinking was not right. That the Boogie Man didn’t exist.
Yet, I wasn’t sure.
I never told anyone my fears. Kept them to myself. Dealt with it alone.
Knew how to jump off the edge of the bed, as far as I could. Far enough away. To run out of the room. Before an outstretched, ugly grey arm reached for my foot. And dragged me under.

bedroom

Now.
As an adult.
When I allow my feet to hang over the side of my bed, I sometimes wonder about my small self. Wonder why I thought those thoughts. Where did they come from? What made me think of them?
There was no TV in our house.
Just lots of books.
And plenty of outdoor activities. Where maybe I overheard someone talking about the Boogie Man hiding under the beds of children.

I don’t know.

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.

blogging writes

me blogging

Way back. Years ago. I had heard the term blogging, yet didn’t quite understand what that meant. Not until I saw the movie about the girl who blogs for a year, cooking everything Julia Childs, and documenting it, allowing readers to be part of her potential goal being met. “Interesting concept,” I thought. Writing down, whatever, and allowing readers to take a peek into your world. The idea intrigued me, although I wasn’t sure how time worthy it would be for others to explore my day-to-day life. Just a regular person doing regular things.

And then Rudy was offered the job in Arkansas.

So, I signed up. It took me a moment to commit. I gingerly hovered my fingertip above the submit button, while thoughts swirled in my head. Mostly about throwing my life into the cyber winds. Could I really put our world out there. “Well, why not,” I told myself. And so I pressed. Ever so gently, barely registering the new page, create your first post.

Thus, blogging was born.

I thought about what it meant to be living life apart from Rudy. About how we were still in a 100% committed relationship. That it was up to me to hold the fort down here in California, to make sure the kids continued to behave without their dad around. And how all the while Rudy solely maintained another household, and did what he needed to do to make it all work. As I reflect back, I remember in the very beginning I honestly did not know what to write to interest readers about our ordinary daily routines. No one would want to know that I had a cup of coffee in the AM and that news was my main entertainment, while Rudy did the same thing across the country. Then we’d both drive off to work, separately. Later, we would return to separate homes, eat separate meals, watch different TV shows. And so on, and so on. Sounded mundane to me.

Until.

One summer, while visiting Rudy, I looked at my surroundings. I was sitting on a couch haphazardly pushed against a wall, in a room that could be described as a bachelor’s pad. I sat there staring at the keys on my iPad until I felt my thoughts. Those thoughts became words on a page, and those words turned into stories. Stories about how I felt in regards to our situation, him living there and me living here. And that’s when I realized that the interest of my stories lay in me, and if I’m lucky with readers who wanted to know more. I simply wanted to document what was happening, as a sort of journal. As a way to gauge my emotions.

And in part, as a way to be heard. Fully.

You see, I am, and will always be, someone who is more of a listener than a talker. Someone might have asked how it was going with Rudy living so far away. Verbally, I would water the whole situation down, just get it out as efficiently as possible. Then, like a focused listener, I would ask questions, casually deflecting attention away from me and onto my companion.

So, not only has blogging allowed me to detail my life consistently, very specifically, and without interruptions, it’s also where I do most of my talking. Which is a great thing because those who are interested in reading about, or trying to understand who I am and how I think get to eavesdrop with permission. And more importantly, our children will forever have a place to read my thoughts, and share them with generations to come. There will be no guessing as to what I was feeling, thinking, and hoping.

These are my stories.

What’s in a Name?

Long ago, naming our children took precedence over everything else…

“I’m pregnant,” I said, in a woo-hoo! kind of way. Rudy smiled that I‘m feeling pretty good right now smile of his as he wrapped me in his arms, and laughed that gentle laugh of his. That laugh that said so much. “¡Gracias Dios Mio!” he blurted, raising his arms to the heavens.

As the initial excitement began to calm, we realized a very important decision was now in order. “What will we name the baby?” we both questioned in unison. We also wanted the surprise element of the baby’s gender, so we needed to be considerate of a boy and a girl.

Fortunately, for the two of us, we knew our children would be given family names. One name from my family, one from Rudy’s. A first name. A middle name. That narrowed down our options, therefore making the process a bit easier.

“If the baby is a boy, how about your name? He could be a junior,” I offered. “No. That’s okay. I’m not sure I like my name enough to pass on,” Rudy stated matter-of-factly.

We pondered the names in our families; the choices: maternal and paternal grandfathers, brothers, and uncles were said aloud. We combined them; one as the first name, another as the middle name, and then switched the order. Nothing felt 100% just right. We moved on to girl names. A just as consuming test – which took months, mind you!

“I really want to name her after my mom, using her middle name, Elizabeth,” I said, as I felt my heart soften, thinking about naming my daughter after my sweet, kind-hearted mom. “I like that,” Rudy said. “I was thinking of Victoria, after my grandma. We would visit her a lot when I was a kid. When it was time to leave I would always run out to the tree in the front yard of her house and hug its trunk so hard that my parents had to struggle to pry me away. You see, I didn’t want to leave Grandma Victoria. She made me happy.” I became teary-eyed thinking of little Rudy crying, screaming. This was going to be harder than we thought, we suddenly realized. Rudy also liked his ambitious, intelligent sister Cecilia’s name. I considered my middle name Anne, too. Anne with an e.

This serious do-not-want-to-pick-a-name-that-will-harm-the-future-of-our-child-by-picking-the-wrong-name job produced two candidates. For a girl baby. Elizabeth Cecilia and Victoria Anne.

After I had delivered our child, Rudy by my side, and him being overwhelmed by, and amazed with the process of birth, he kissed my puffy – just had a child – face. He had a tear in his eye and quietly whispered “That was amazing! I want to name her Elizabeth Cecilia, after your mom and my sister.” I smiled, lay my head back, and sighed with relief.

Three years later Rudy was in Honduras, with Elizabeth and my niece, a full week before I was to arrive. His sister was getting married. Little did he know that I had a surprise for him. “I’m pregnant!” I cried as I fell into his arms when he greeted me at the arrival gate. Rudy hugged me, Elizabeth hugged me. My niece hugged me. “¡Gracias Dios Mio!” he shouted, as he raised his arms to the heavens.

Again, family names filled our daily thoughts. The name Victoria Anne sat quietly in our minds, waiting for her turn, if we were to have another girl.

“I really admire my dad,” I simply stated. “Yet, in my family all the first boys were named John so I think it’s best to leave it that way.” Rudy, too, admired my dad, and also agreed with my thoughts on why we shouldn’t name a son after him. “Well, my brother Bill meant a lot to me. Before he died in a car accident when he was 19, he always made time for me. Maybe we can use his name, William?” I questioned. Rudy nodded, knowing how much Bill meant to me, having heard my many stories. “I like the name Roberto, which is my younger brother’s middle name, and my blue-eyed uncle first name,” he said, seemingly deep in thought about those he cares for. The name Roberto seemed so foreign to me, like those Spanish intonations just didn’t know how to roll on my OC tongue. I kept those thoughts to myself.

Months later, as I struggled to get off the couch, to answer the phone, my water broke. “My water broke!” I yelled, hoping Rudy was near enough to hear me.

After securing Elizabeth with a downstairs neighbor, Rudy drove me to the hospital to deliver our second child. But wait! Seriously, did we forget something?! Yep. A camera to capture the moment (when I held my child for the first time). While Rudy returned home to retrieve the video camera, I began to hyperventilate. Unusual for me, which made the experience worse. I was given, what I seem to remember as a paper lunch bag, but was probably actually an oxygen mask, to help soothe me. Rudy returned as quickly as possible, within minutes, it seemed, of the birth. “Its a boy,” the doctor stated. Rudy hugged me. “So, what is our son’s name?” I asked him. Rudy smiled, that smile that makes him even better looking smile of his. “Roberto William.” Perfectly named. “I love it,” I said with exhaustion. I was willing to work the name into my life, to roll it off my tongue, to make it a part of who we had become – an interracial family.

Eight years later, I handed Rudy the home pregnancy (test kit) wand. He looked at the + sign. He looked at me, wide-eyed. “¡Gracias Dios Mio!” he gleefully cheered, once again sending his arms up toward the heavens.

Naming our last, and final, child now included the involvement of Elizabeth and Roberto. When I went in for a check up and the nurse asked if we’d like to know the sex of the child, before we could even consider our options, the kids – didn’t scream, but were pretty darn close to scaring the other patients – said, “Yes! Please Mom and Dad?” Rudy and I looked at each other, smiled and gave the OK nod and a thumbs up. “It’s a boy!” the nurse happily told Elizabeth and Roberto.

“Bradford,” I said. “Let’s name him Bradford in honor of our marriage. Named after the place where we were married. Let’s have his first name be a surname, like Palmer, on All My Children.” Huh? Rudy’s expression wondered. “Bradford? It sounds like Buford. Like an overbearing rich guy,” he sneered. I laughed. I was really keen on the idea, even though it diverted away from our family names. I figured I had some months to get Rudy used to the idea. “I think Ramon would be good. It was my brother Scott’s middle name. Remember how, a month or so before he died, he shook your hand? A gesture that said ‘I like you. I can see you care for my sister. Sorry if I was ever rude….’. I think to honor his memory would be great. It was also my paternal grandfather’s name. Double great.” Rudy listened, really took to heart in what I was saying. “I want to use my middle name, Antonio, too,” he confirmed. “Well, I have, also, always wanted to give a child of mine two middle names, just as my parents did with my older brother Jim,” I added.

We spent months bouncing names around, listened to the input of soon-to-be big sister  Elizabeth and big brother Roberto.

When our third child was born, our son, was named Bradford Ramon Antonio.

All three children’s names warm my soul when I say the names out loud, or if I hear them as they float into one ear and gently, quietly, climb out the other.

Teach Your Children Well

Parents seem to be very aware of teaching their children about avoiding strangers, those bad people who prey on the innocent. But who’s to say which strangers need to be avoided, and which are simply people we don’t know. I’ve raised my kids with my

Don’t Talk To Strangers

voice-of-wisdom. I said things like

“Don’t accept gifts, food, or candy from a stranger, don’t walk off with someone you don’t know, NEVER get into someone’s car,” etc.

I watched them internalize what I was saying, a bit of fear on their faces as they absorbed the fact that our world is not always wonderful. I watched as my precious words floated into their ear canals, into their memory banks, to remind them to think wisely, to stay out of harm’s way. To stay away from strangers.

Four years ago, as I was driving homeward, after picking up Brad at a friend’s house, he hesitantly began giving me the details of his evening’s unexpected, and worrisome events.

“You’re going to be mad,” he started. “Something happened that shouldn’t have.”

He went on to tell me how he and some friends had decided to play a childhood prank, Ding-Dong-Ditch, within the confines of another friend’s gated community. And how one friend kept pressing a doorbell, over and over, causing the homeowner to rush out, bringing his wrath with him. Maybe kids had been pranking the guy continuously or maybe he was in a bad mood or maybe he was just a mean, mean man. Whatever the reason, he used it to his advantage to control the situation. The boys, all aged thirteen at the time, were scared, and felt threatened and powerless when the man approached them, teeth baring. As Brad told it, the guy grabbed two of the boys within his reach, while yelling to Brad and another friend to

“Get over here!”

as they tried to slip away.

In the end, all four boys felt they should listen to the man considering he was the adult in the situation. So, when the mister asked each of them their names and took pictures of their faces, they obliged. Brad told me he believed they deserved the man’s anger, even when the guy head-locked one of the boys, dragging the kid around the cul-de-sac, chanting

“Now we’re friends, aren’t we?”

When the guy told the boys to get into his car, that he was going to take them to the security guard at the front gate, each hesitated, but then did what they were told. Brad told his friend

“My mom told me never to get into a stranger’s car,”

and his friend said,

“My mom told me the same thing.”

The boys were afraid because they have been taught to listen to adults. Therefore, in their young minds, the man was in charge. They were just kids who should have been behaving respectfully.

As I listened, I realized I never taught my kids what to do, if for some unforeseen reason, they found themselves in a powerless situation with someone. As much as I told them not to talk to strangers, I neglected to discuss what to do if they were, in actuality, confronted with someone unknown, including someone so angry that they used their adult authority to put fear into children’s impressionable minds.

So,

when Brad was in the midst of the childhood prank gone bad, he didn’t think he had the right to simply dial 911 on the cell phone he was holding in his hand. He thought the police would be mad at the boys for playing the prank and say they deserved the angry man’s treatment.

I told him he and his friends were lucky, that it could have been worse.

The guy could have been a psycho.

He could have beaten them up.

I went on to tell him that this should be a hard lesson learned, one that should never have happened. But, because it did, he needed to understand he has rights, and just because someone is an adult does not give them the right to punish kids in the manner that that guy did with the boys.

And just as important,

I told Brad that if ever he finds himself in any kind of non-deserving, uncomfortable situation, run away and call the police.

Oh boy. Thank goodness I have developed a you can tell me anything relationship with my kids. Otherwise, I may never have known what had happened, and I would never have known how important it is to not only teach kids about stranger danger, but also alert them to what they should do if they ever find themselves in a dire situation.

The Turd

There’s this girl. A sixth grader to be exact. My former student. Her name is Cassandra. She has short wavy hair and wears glasses. She’s tall and thin. Quirky and confident. She’s awesome. The perfect description of a character in a book.

Anyway, she walked into my classroom – just as she alway does, every day after school, to say

Hello, how’re you doing?”

or

“How do you like my haircut?”

or

“Do you like your class this year?”

or

“Oh, the state report, I remember doing those!” 

Things like that.

So, like I said, she came into my classroom and plopped herself onto the floor, her face buried between her knees. She was next to my desk, which is next to my chair, in which I was sitting and said,

“Do I look like a turwal?

I didn’t understand what she said.

“What?” I asked.

“Do I look like a turwal?”

“Do you look like a turd?”

Cassandra’s lump of a body quivered with laughter. She laughed and laughed.

“Okay, yeah, you definitely look like a turd lying there on the carpeted floor.” I stated.

Still laughing, she unrolled herself and looked at me with a smirk on her face and said,

“I asked, do I look like a tur-tle? Turtle.” I cracked-up

The next day, she repeated her pose, positioning herself into a lump on the floor and said, “The turd is back.”

I’m a teacher because kids are so great. They roll with the punches and are simply looking for fun, pure and simple.