AFOL

Adult Fan of LEGO

SOLSC Day 26

As a kid, I loved all kinds of toys. Etch-a-Sketch, Fisher Price Little People with the school house, a cow you could milk, a crawling doll that my great aunt broke soon after I opened it on Christmas morning, Play-Doh, Lite-Brite, the Easy Bake Oven I never received, and countless others. With my own kids, I hit the jackpot. I could buy toys again. E was four when I bought (his, my, our?) first LEGO set about fourteen years ago, a 3-in-1 race car. We assembled it together and he played with it for days on end. Later I found a SpongeBob set on clearance, perfect for his fifth birthday. It was a complex set designed for older kids.

One day, we worked on the Boating School set. He threw fits because he couldn’t figure out some of the steps. I threw fits because he didn’t want my help. I wanted to help because, you know, it’s a toy. I didn’t have any growing up. They were expensive (they still are on the pricey side). And they are so cool! Of course, I couldn’t say that out loud. Didn’t want to be the adult fighting with her kid over a toy. With tension reaching tantrum proportion, on his end at least, I put the set away for another time.

Five months later and groggy with pregnancy fatigue, I needed something for him to do the week of spring break. I retrieved the set again and reminded him about how to handle frustration. I didn’t help much this time. I needed sleep. The kid spent the day working with that set. I helped with a few sections, but he built it. We both became fans.

As E continued requesting different sets for every birthday and holiday, he figured out all kinds of building tricks. He learned about various sets, names of each brick type, printing techniques, when certain pieces began going in and out of production, the company’s history, and value. They do go up in value. He also taught himself how to make stop-motion LEGO videos when he was in fourth grade.

Harry Potter sets were around before he could crawl and I saw them as I walked through toy aisles, but I didn’t consider buying them. Once he got old enough, I’d of course try to sway him to choose those sets. It didn’t take much swaying. E swayed me to get him as many sets as possible.

It didn’t occur to me to get my own until I saw the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter sets with new eyes. Several years ago, I made my first for me purchase. We made a trip to the LEGO store and I found a Wonder Woman key chain. I couldn’t leave her there. E accused me of becoming an AFOL, Adult Fan of LEGO. For one of my birthdays, he chose my gift: LEGO Harry Potter Quidditch Match.

My small collection consists of LEGO Star Wars Episode VIII Chewbacca, Harry Potter minifigures, LEGO Brickheadz Wonder Woman, Harry Potter and Hedwig, Charles Dickens Tribute Set (yes, it’s the book with a scene on top, squee!), and LEGO Ideas Central Perk. It took me an afternoon with several cups of coffee to build Central Perk. If you like putting puzzles together, LEGO is similarly satisfying.

At 18 years of age he’s still a fan, an official AFOL. He has spent Christmas mornings over the years seated at the kitchen table, clear empty bags strewn all around him, instruction book open, box to one side, and a play-by-play, or rather build-by-build commentary as each section gets completed. He has completed homework with a little help of his (LEGO) friends. I still find pieces on the floor at times, but they’re contained in his room. For graduation, he has requested a LEGO set.

Thanks, LEGO. This is one way we’ve been able to connect, a common bond we’ve built, brick by brick.

The Case for Audiobooks

SOLSC Day 25

“‘…I discovered the the marvel of audiobooks. Listening to them, I realized that the great writers are meant to be heard.'”

John Bowers as told to Julia Cameron in The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention

I’m a slow reader. I take a while to finish a book. I like puttering around the pages, observing the characters, new to me words, conventions, dialogue. When I was a kid, I wound up in remedial reading classes. I don’t know why. I could read. I read a ton. Just not fast like the other kids. I struggled with comprehension because of four answer choices none of them were ever the ones my mind discovered. I wound up with English degree and became and ELA teacher. Take that!

When I enrolled in a children’s and YA multicultural literature course for my library science degree, with its heavy reading list, I turned to audiobooks. The intensive five-week course required me to read at least twenty books. Sure, they’re children’s and YA novels, but finishing four per week was too much. I subscribed to Audible and borrowed what was available from the library.

What I didn’t know is that many authors read their own books. I’m hanging out with the authors and the characters they created. I took them on walks. I took them on road trips. I let them cook with me and we did laundry. I read books I wouldn’t normally pick up and discovered I gravitate toward nonfiction books. I’ve laughed and yelled and cried and rewound sections over and over. I take screenshots of the time for a certain section in case I borrow the book again. I’ll know where my favorite parts live. On my own audiobooks, I bookmark such places. Oh, and I annotate. Annotate!

Over the years, I’ve hung out with Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sherman Alexie, Shonda Rhimes, Malcolm Gladwell, and Matthew McConaughey. Alright, alright, alright. That was a fun read. I’ve read books during the school year instead of saving them for summer break. Yesterday I finished The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. I’m not an easy crier, but she sure hit me with this one.

I prefer reading and holding a book. Audiobooks have become welcome alternatives to this book snob who once didn’t consider the other kind of reading world available through the human voice. It’s like having personal tour guide. The reader does the work so I can kick back and enjoy the ride. For books that become particularly meaningful, I make a mental note to get copy of the book so I can, ahem, annotate.

Testing Season and Sainthood

SOLSC Day 24

Ahh, the Lone STAAR State. With the end of spring break we get into full-on testing season. We fast from regular schedules in favor of more disciplined stamina building test prep, the school desert. Pre-pre tests. Check the data bible to make sure we’re following everything TEA says is all good and holy. The gospels tell us what should’ve been taught by now, what still needs to be taught, what may or may not be tested and then the prophets warn us to prepare for field test questions. Testing demons attack on the day of the test(s) and even tempt kids and adults to quit before they start.

The congregation met today after school. We received intensive study lessons focused on Testing Commandments. We learned about possible sins: students cheating, teachers scoring tests, helping with test items, marking on an answer document, switching answer documents, working on a different test, stepping out of the room, lack of monitoring students, starting and stopping times, keeping visual aids uncovered. Taking a nap.

We also learned about mortal and venial test administration errors. Scoring a test before returning it. Mortal TAE (test administration error). A student in the wrong testing room before the test starts. Venial TAE. However, both testing sins must be reported to the high priest of testing commonly known as the CTC, Campus Testing Coordinator.

Ex-communication from a church at least allows us to settle our differences with God. Texas flat out revokes teaching licenses. No absolution. No redemption.

We all wear blank looks because our lesson requires us all to stare at the camera Jan Brady style. TEA gospel. We already took some independent study courses and earned our certificates. Confirmation of our ability to test students requires one more class. Some of us have been chosen to earn an esteemed designation of OTA, Oral Test Administrator. I received my certificate yesterday, a fresh parchment looking document I filled in with my name and the date ready to download and send off the the CTC.

It’s a demanding time, but we all celebrate when it’s over. One more class to go. I get to confess my training and qualifications by signing the Oath and submitting it to the CTC. One step closer to TEA sainthood.

Sunset Check

SOLSC Day 23

My son snaps a picture of the sunset. “Sunset check.”

“Sunset check? What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s this thing I do with my friends. We all take pictures of the sunset and send them to everyone. It’s how we see who’s had a good day or not so good.”

Brilliant idea, as brilliant as the dazzling colors of the sunset.

Sunset check.

How did your day go?

9 Weeks, 2 Days

SOLSC Day 22

My oldest graduates high school on May 26th. His high school hosted a drive through Countdown to Graduation this evening. With everything being cancelled this year, parents are working on ways to creatively celebrate a full pandemic senior year. I held my composure and didn’t say much. The first stop along the route in front of the school was a senior yard sign. Then a goodie bag. Followed by a senior t-shirt, topped with a cupcake. It didn’t hit me until today. I’m mourning the busy-ness and frenetic planning of a Mom of a Senior while he mourns the “loss” of a typical senior year. I know we’re not alone and there are others going through so much worse, but it still stings.

“Not too bad. As long as there’s food, it’s worth it.” He chomps the cupcake in two bites.

Left Behind

SOLSC Day 21

TASTES LIKE HEAVEN, BURNS LIKE HELL

Fireball Whisky

My parents visited for spring break. They left this morning and what remains is Sunday. An I-will-not-get-the-Sunday-blues type of Sunday. We cleaned up last week. The yard is in good shape. The house is free of piled up messes typically saved for weekends because we’ve been home, work free, school free, worry free. We finish off homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast courtesy of my husband. We check rooms, the pantry, the fridge, wall outlets, my car, the back porch, closets and bathrooms to make sure everything is packed. We stand in a prayer circle, holding hands, reflecting on time well spent and petitions for a safe trip home. They pull out of the driveway. Standing on the porch in our pajamas, the still cold March morning chills our bare feet. We wave our last goodbyes.

Back in the house, I set out to get myself dressed for church. On the counter, next to my sink, I find a small plastic bottle topped with a red cap, the front label peeled off. Hmm… Dad probably left this, whatever it is. Mouthwash? Aftershave? Definitely not Mom’s because whatever she owns lives in pastel bottles with shimmery letters. I rotate the bottle and read the label:

I chuckle. I process five thoughts: 1) Dad found it on a run. He hates throwing anything away. He brought it back and meant to give it to me in case I’d drink it later. Except I don’t drink whisky. And I certainly wouldn’t drink that one. 2) For whatever reason, Dad slaps it on as aftershave. I mean, do people do that? 3) It’s Dad’s mouthwash. And he takes a tiny swig. But he doesn’t drink, so that’s odd. 4) Maybe he does drink a little swig with his morning shave. 5) He’s reusing a bottle he found somewhere and put mouthwash in it because he didn’t want to buy a travel sized bottle of mouthwash. Plausible.

Knowing it’s not something worth turning around to retrieve, I message Mom, just to see which of my thoughts is close.

Is this Dad’s?

Throw it a way. I think it’s alcohol.

It is. Fireball Whisky.

Does he take a swig every morning?

Or does he use it as aftershave?

He couldn’t have found it on a run,

it would’ve been empty. 😂

No he uses it after he shaves.

LOL! That’s what I thought.

Confirmed. I burst out laughing. He scratched the devil off the front. But why would he go out of his way to get a small bottle of Fireball instead of regular aftershave? Maybe he does take a little swig.

A Few of My Un-favorite Things

SOLSC Day 20

Mushrooms with onions and yogurt all milky

Cheeses with mold and sheets not so silky

Socks full of holes all hanging with strings

These are just some un-favorite things

Raindrops that go plop straight onto my forehead

Teens up so late, oh why don’t they go to bed?

All of the stress the end of break brings

These are just some un-favorite things

When the sun shines

When the birds fly

When I’m feeling glad

I simply remember un-favorite things

And I start to feel so sad

Stepping on ice from the freezer all melted…

Sweet Teeth

Papá in his garden, tending his apricot trees
Papá had a mouth full of sweet teeth
Not a tooth
He liked Folgers instant coffee with
a heaping spoonful of sugar and milk

No tomes café o te vas poner prietita,

He pulled up his long sleeved shirt, 
proving it with his farm tanned skin
I didn't care if my skin got dark 
I took a sneaky slurp of his hot coffee
before delivering it with a small plate
full of chocolate chip cookies
or a thick slice of banana bread
peach cobbler
Mom's 7-Up pound cake 
carrot cake drenched under 
a thick coat of
cream cheese icing
pan dulce
cinnamon rolls

On hot summer days
we greeted him with a tall glass 
of Coca Cola or iced tea
garnished with lemon
accompanied with a side of sweets

When we had it,
a bowl piled high with
scoops of butter pecan ice 
made its way onto his lap,
replacing his straw work hat 

We chatted,
changed the channel to Bonanza
or Gunsmoke reruns,
his favorite shows

Replacing his hat,
the signal he'd had his fill, 
we collected empty dishes

Rising from his seat,
he thanked us
and waved goodbye

He'd return tomorrow, 
his sweet teeth
urging him back

SOLSC Day 19

Artist’s Date

SOLSC Day 18

I took myself on a date today. With ideal places still iffy, I took her to a local coffeehouse. She likes coffee. I invited her to bring her journal and she ordered a raspberry mocha. Indoor seating is closed, but the proprietor offered the patio. We accept, walk around to the back, and find a table. We have the place to ourselves. He delivers the raspberry mocha.

I open up to chapter five of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and peruse the exercises at the end. I pick up my pen and start answering the questions, reminding myself to dig deep and be honest. This is our second round with the book. The twelve weeks we started in October 2019 came and went. We worked on morning pages, three days of writing every morning for twelve weeks. It’s become a good habit. I’m still wondering what three pages means if we start with an 8.5 x 11 journal then switch to an A5. But three pages is three pages, sometimes more, sometimes less, but every morning. Mostly. And ideally before we pop into social media, work, email, busy-ness, but that’s tricky with work. Weekends and breaks are best, but we’ve stayed the course.

Besides the morning pages, Cameron also makes us go on an artist’s walk. Once a week, but more is okay. No one else is allowed. No spouse. No kids. No pets. Reeses hates it when we leave without him. No music filled earbuds. Those walks have become our lifeline. We have to listen. Pay close attention to our surroundings. Our inner voices.

The reason for this intervention is to unblock Creativity. I have great ideas. She’s not so good at following through. No time. Self-doubt. Stuck. Getting too old. Needing to tend to the kids first. Working on alone time with the hubster. Alone time with each kiddo. Family time. Cooking. De-cluttering. Work. Self-soothing with too much social media. Lots of self-sabotage.

We’ve made lists of possible dates: museums, an empty church, hiking, a relaxing bath, perusing bookstores, a massage, star gazing, tickets to a musical, day trips, lunch at a new to us restaurant, an art class, hand lettering, hanging out at a library. Artist’s dates are the hardest to schedule. Once a week. Every week. We’re working on that. We need variety, but we’ll take what we can get. It’s usually a walk, hike, short drive, a visit to a coffeehouse, or massage. Our last pre-pandemic artist’s date, just when we were making progress on this new routine, was to the Lone Star ‘Zine Fest.

Today we went to a new coffeehouse that opened about a week before the pandemic shutdowns began. I’m glad they’re still around. Artists’s date for the week is done. I’m glad we spent time together. We need it.

Restart

SOLSC Day 17

Virtual workouts aren’t my favorite if there’s a live in-person option. There are pluses, like having the entire spin studio to yourself. There are more virtual classes available. Some can be done at home. 24/7 access.

I don’t own a stationary bike so I went to a virtual spin class today. I opted for one called “The Trip,” which takes you on a surreal, computer graphic ride through hills and highways resembling roller coasters. Studio lights are dim, a screen comes down, the music comes on, and an instructor’s voice from who knows where guides the workout.

It’s a hard 50 minute class that I haven’t attended in several years. I’m the only one in the studio. Plus. I start the “ride.” After the warm up I realize it’s too much visual stimulation. I pump as hard as I my legs will pump. I listen to the cues. Add more resistance, the invisible voice instructs. Nah, I’m good, I pant back. I do my best to keep up with the beat, the cues, the hills, and bright lights that guide me along a virtual road up to the sky and down, roller coaster style. I can’t skid off the road on this ride. Plus.

I last 25 minutes. Minus. Sharonda, my favorite instructor, isn’t here to catch me cheating. Minus. So I cheat. Minus. My heart feels like it’s running away from me and I can’t catch it. Minus. I’m the only one still in the studio. Plus turned minus.

I need other people for good, healthy peer pressure. How did I ever survive 50 minute rides? I’ll be back, but I’ll try the version with a screen full of human instructors. Once more classes are added, I’m opting in for the in-person instructor led version. I’m so done with virtual everything.