Un-coloring My World


Painting walls in one’s home is big news these days. Be brave, brighten your rooms with color, color, color.

Well, now, I’ve been coloring-up my rooms for years and years. Not just one overall color throughout. But each room was given a personality. Walls dedicated to the person living in each space. Roberto danced in Florescent Green. Brad played Legos in Light Grey. Liz had friends spend the night in Orangesicle Orange. Rudy and I chilled in Olive Green. The living room, a light turquoise blue, matching a very small teapot, wrapped anyone sitting there with comfort. And the kitchen felt happy, alive in Buttercup Yellow.

Everywhere I looked the color spoke to me. Reminded me of milestones, friendships, hardships, laughter, serenity, and so much more. Life happened amongst those walls.

I loved the color. Until I was over it. 

So, I decided to paint every room in my house white.

Not a new concept, I know. I see those walls in buildings, in magazines, on TV.

White. White. White.

And I love it.

I’ve been coating the walls with Crystal Cut white. Soothing. Relaxing. Vibrant.

And the stories live on. Nothing has changed. Color still makes its claim. Among the white it speaks quietly or loudly, depending on its mood.


RIP, Mary Elizabeth Palmer

mom age 10

My mom, age 91 at the time, was telling me stories of her youth. Just talking. Telling stories as they popped into her mind. Memories of a young girl.

“The school was very big. Five stories high with a big attic. Mount Saint Mary’s Academy For Girls in Little Rock, Arkansas. I lived there. For a bit.

I remember so much….

When I first arrived at St. Mary’s, my older sister was crying as the nuns showed us around. Showed us where we were going to live. Told us the rules. I didn’t cry. I was okay. And I was so young! I adjusted myself to the situation. Somehow, for some reason, for me, it was no big deal. I don’t know how I did it. I just did. You just do. Adapt. Adjust.”

I reminded her that I, too, easily adapt. A trait she passed on to me.

“I remember the nuns rapping our fingers for acting up.”
“What was considered acting up?” I asked her.
“Talking.” We both laughed at the simplicity of the bad behavior kids got themselves into. Compared it to today’s standards.

My mom continued.

“I think it was amazing the way I loved the wood. The wood of the banister. I just couldn’t get over it. Well, anyway I was running my hand along the smooth wooden banister, walking down the stairs when I noticed Bertine Miesner, a red-haired Jewish girl, stepping up the stairs. ‘You’re so spoiled, you’re rotten!’, she said to me. I didn’t even know her. Never saw her before. And, she didn’t know me! So I said ‘If I were rotten, I’d be black!’ Bertine just looked at me like, hey, that makes sense. We became best friends after that.”

My mom smiled at the memory.

“One year, there was a Halloween party at the school. The nuns let me borrow a tutu. You know the kind? Like a one-piece bathing suit, with the lace around my hips? Well, I was wearing that tutu, which was too big for me, and I didn’t care. I was doing cartwheels and it would fall off my shoulders. But, I was having a ton of fun. Just flipping over and over. While listening to the sounds of chains being dragged across the pipes. Making spooky Halloween sounds. During one of my flips I noticed a woman watching me.

Next thing I know I was invited to a party. A party for one of the other girls. A girl living off  the school grounds. There was party at her house a few weeks later.”

I kept listening. Just watching my mom’s gestures and facial expressions. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, even if I tried, because I was so mesmerized by her tales of long ago.

“The nuns dressed me for the event in a very pretty red dress. They chauffeured me to the place. Dropped me off. I had arrived a little late, so I walked in by myself. As I passed the adults sitting down near the entrance, I heard someone say ‘Oh, she’s here.’ To this day I have no idea what the interest in me was. Kids were never told anything. And we didn’t dare ask anything. When I sat down to eat cake and ice cream that same woman who had been watching me do cartwheels, leaned over and whispered in my ear just as I was gobbling a mouthful of cake. I don’t even know what she said. All I know is how embarrassed I was that my mouth was full, and I couldn’t answer.”

I didn’t say a word. I wanted to let my mom live in the past, so I just listened. Wanting more.

“I was a great skater,” she continued.
“Roller skating?” I asked.
“Yeah. We skated all over the school, except for the side of the school reserved for the nuns. It was their private area.”
“Where did you get the skates?” I questioned.
“Skates were on the school grounds, for the girls to use. We would skate down a slope. Skate like the boys do now. Whoosh!” She demonstrated with her hand and arm, gliding them in a quick sloping motion. “We would go down, then up. Up onto the sidewalk. Just like during the Olympics,” my mom stated, firmly.
“Oh, yeah. Like they do in the X-Games, right?”
“I think so. Yeah. We were doing that! Not with skateboards. With roller skates. But still, it’s the same thing. In a way.”
“What were your skates like?”
“I strapped them on. And tightened them with a key. The wheels were metal. We’d zip up and down. Do it over and over. In the back of the school,” she happily retold the memory.

“Later, when I moved to Los Angeles, to live with my aunt and uncle,” my mom continued, “I walked right up to a group of girls at my new school, assuming they would just allow me to join their conversation. As I approached, one of the girls said, ‘Oh, hi, we were just talking about you. Trying to decide if you are beautiful, or pretty, or just average.’ I was curious about what they thought. I just stood there, waiting to hear the answer, when suddenly another girl shouted out, ‘Let’s play ball!’ Everyone suddenly dispersed. I never did find out if they thought I was beautiful or not.”

She put her finger to her lips, a sign of contemplation.

“Well, I am sure the answer was most definitely beautiful. You always have been. Looking at pictures of you. Throughout your life. You were beautiful. Still are,” I said, with heartfelt emotion.
“Yeah, I am assuming they thought I was beautiful.” She laughed.

“I am rambling on,” she quickly added. “Next time I will let you talk.”

“Oh, you’re not rambling. I like hearing your stories. Tell me anything. Everything. I am listening,” I honestly admitted.

My mom yawned.

“You seem tired.” I knew she was.
“I am,” is all she said.
“I will let you rest.” I gave her a hug. A kiss. “I like your stories.”
“I guess when you get older you remember things,” she reflected.

I smiled.

“I love you,” I told her.
“I love you, too.”
“Bye, Mom. See you later.”

Sorry, #R.L.Stine, BUT I Had to Laugh

zombieOctober is the month of scary, and what better way to intrigue my fifth grade students than with a spooky thriller. Something about Zombies, something by the best-selling children’s author R.L.Stine. And based on past experiences, with other groups of students, kids love this stuff. They literally sit on the edge of their seats, wanting more, telling me, begging me to keep reading. “Please don’t stop, Mrs. Romero!”

So, there it was, mid-October, pre-Halloween.

I pulled out the Zombie book, held it up for them to observe the gruesome twosome on the front cover, building up excitement. “Wanna get freaked out!” I bellowed. “Oh, yeah!” everyone shouted back.

Several students raced to the light switch. “No lights?” they simultaneously crooned in low growling voices. “Yes!, Please?” their counterparts hollered, everyone looking to me for the final vote. “Of course,” I calmly said.

First and foremost, background knowledge necessitated a 10 and 11 year olds understanding of what they knew before I began the titillating tale. “Raise your hand if you know what a zombie is.” All hands shot straight into the air. “Okay then. How many of you are familiar with the TV show The Walking Dead?” All hands popped back up. “Cool beans. So….who actually watches the show?” Everyone. For a moment, I took a silent pause, thinking these fifth graders have the upper hand here. I have never watched the show. Never will. (Just doesn’t interest me, in case you were wondering.)

Alrighty then.

Many kids clung to each other, opened their eyes wide, dropped their jaws, and held their breath throughout each chapter, yelping for more when I left them hanging, stopping the story so that we could move on to more educational avenues. But, after about fifteen chapters several outspoken kids began to claim, “So predictable. Boring”, only because nothing ever really happened. Lots of buildup, sure, but it always turned out to be a skinny friend grabbing someone’s shoulder, not the boney hand of a monster, or the hot, bad breath of a dumbfounded character, not the foul stench of a dead person sneaking up, who was just about to chomp on the neck of the unsuspecting. I agreed with those students, but in silence, so as not to deter the kids who hadn’t quite grasp the concept of boring read.


It was four days after Halloween. And I had had enough. I was so over the story, the supposed zombies, and nothing really happening – and plus I had Thanksgiving on the brain. You know, being thankful for what you have not preying on the fears of others. Scary was so last month!


So, that’s when I exclaimed I was going to simply breeze through the rest of Stine’s zombie story, and read only the quotes. And boy, unexpectedly, I cracked up!

As I was reading, I kept questioning the validity of the story line – “The zombie ran away from the guy? Come on. Class? You Walking Dead people? Really? Would a zombie run away?” I laughed, uncontrollably. Seriously, tears sprung from my eyes. The kids laughed because of my laughing.They caught on, grabbed hold of my antics and began having as much fun as I was, sadly at the expense of Mr. Stine. (Sorry, dude.) A spooky tale, told in a darkened classroom, with the sound of laughter. Who would have thought?

“Oh, geez!”, someone called out when I read the part about a girl who was finally freed from the basement, no longer human, but a full-on, grossed-out, ugly zombie who was mad that she had been locked away for so long. I just had to demonstrate what she looked like. I knitted my brows, squeezed my eyes, and pierced my lips. I threw my hands in the air, and walked away with a swivel of my hips, shouting ‘What-ever!’ The students busted out roll-on-the-floor laughter.

“What-ever!” they repeated.

“So fake!” someone added. The kids began comparing the book to the TV show, not realizing (or maybe just not thinking about it) that both were equally fake. Meaning, the show, though maybe more realistic, is just as silly (presumably). Which made me laugh even more!

In the end, when the final word, in the final (finally!!) chapter was read, the students cheered and clapped, just as the end-of-the-day bell blared.

There’s an Angel on my shoulder, sitting right next to the Devil

IMG_5519While life is full of obstacles, things that happen that challenge me, I do what I can to jump, to improve, to move forward. Optimism is my middle name. Or, it was. I used to consider everything with the idea that my life is mine alone. That the path I have chosen is the right one. The solid one. The road that will take me to everlasting happiness. I would see things in a positive light, even within a negative situation. But somewhere along the line, I lost a piece of my goodwill feelings, honing in on what’s not right. What’s bad. What’s wrong with our world. And I’m concerned, about me.

The Devil sits heavy on one shoulder, tells me not to care, while my Angel reminds me that life is what I make it. The Devil says life sucks, why bother. The Angel counter-argues that it’s worth the effort. All the while, I simply listen to their opposing arguments, taking in what each has to say, roll their thoughts around my heart. Where normally the Angel would shine as the true winner, as of late, on occasion, more times than I’m used to, it’s the Devil who makes more sense.

My writing has suffered because of my lack of optimism. Not because I don’t want to write, I do, I know it’s the way for me to project my voice, to be heard but, my thoughts and my hands aren’t communicating because, well, I feel depleted of energy. Focus. And desire.

I have so many things to say, but haven’t. I have a story I’m working on, a chapter book for children, a kind of a mystery, but one full of love, forgiveness, morals and values, a story that turns bad to good. The narrative swirls around my mind, fills my head with its characters, the setting, the motive, and the triumph. It’s there, all of it, waiting. Waiting to come to life.

My blog, my stories, also wait. Until, like today, I find my voice spilling onto the page.

Yesterday, Rudy and I took a walk along the Southern California coast, in Laguna Beach. A soothing, no-nonsense, salty-air, full of happy people kind of place. And I felt invigorated, renewed, and happy. I felt my optimism hug me, reminding me, whispering to me, that it’s the Angel who speaks the truth. That the path I have chosen is the right one. The solid one. The road to everlasting happiness.