Mix Tape

A Secret Garden

When you do something noble and beautiful and nobody noticed, do not be sad. For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience still sleeps.”

John Lennon
“This is my hobby.”

My morning run lures me into a cul-de-sac. Any extra steps to increase mileage and a closed ring helps. As I approach the turn-around, I notice a Little Free Library, the fifth one in my neighborhood. Note to self, I’ll come back to add more books and scope out what’s there. I’m on a run today, so I make a mental note to return tomorrow.

A surprise downpour the next morning keeps the sky thick with clouds. Better to rush out the door once it’s over before the sun burns the clouds and sweltering temperatures begin to rise. Humidity can choke you soon after a summer rain, even if it’s early. I’m on a mission to the Little Free Library.

I approach the area, which has three entry points. The first one, where I see the little blue box of a library tucked into trees has a saucer swing waiting for a youngster to climb into. Squish. My shoe sinks into the mud. Do I keep going? Might as well, I already started along a path. Regardless of which direction I go, more mud will stick to my shoes. This section is set up for littles. A split log creates a bench where a colander waits for someone to sift for acorns, leaves, bits of twigs. Two tiny Tonka trucks are positioned on one edge of the path.

A labyrinth! Yes, I did gasp, and no one was there to hear me.

It’s a transition space between the kids’ area tucked into a dense section of trees and the garden, complete with an entry. By this time, my shoes are so thick with mud, I tread carefully so I don’t slip rather than get caught trespassing. Is this space public? I can tell it isn’t part of the house next to it because there’s a clear distinction between the lawn and this space. Is it an HOA project? It looks too natural to be tended by an HOA. An HOA would’ve ripped the trees out and made sure the bench was anything but wood. Don’t want to be liable for anyone getting a splinter.

I enter the garden area where small bird baths are nestled around wildflowers and wind chimes gently sing in the breeze. Benches and rustic garden treasures complement the plants. Steps lead back to the sidewalk in two more areas and an iron owl greets me as I pass by. I stop for a few photos to share with the ‘tween who wishes there were more places to explore because living in a subdivision is so boring. I have to prove it’s worthy of exploration.

I make my way back to the sidewalk and two people with garden gear appear from one end of the garden. They wave hello. I approach and ask how long this small gem of a space has been around. About ten years. I’ve lived in the neighborhood going on twenty, but cul-de-sacs don’t seem to have much more beyond them. Except for this one. The gentleman introduces himself and I ask if the HOA tends it. “No, I’ve been doing this since I moved in,” he motions to his house across from the garden. “This is my hobby. I wanted to set something up for people to enjoy.”

I don’t know if I enjoyed the garden more than I enjoyed finding it. In an age where people practically shout to get noticed on social media, other people do small things. I’m guilty of spending more time on social media than I’m proud to admit.

Finding this garden taught me a few things:

  1. Expect the unexpected, especially when you’re not looking for it.
  2. Go in a different direction, whether or not your step count depends on it.
  3. Little things make a big difference.
  4. You can enjoy good things even if life gets a little muddy.
  5. You’re never too old for a surprise.
  6. You can change the world by focusing on what’s in front of you.
  7. Doing what you love benefits others.

Psst…

Mrs. Garza!
he whisper-yells
hand raised, 
tests await commands to start

You got a baby trash can?

Trash can? I moved it 
to the front
hand sanitizer
box of tissues
bathroom sign-out sheet

He mumbles, looks around
making sure no one hears
or at least he tries

I walk to his desk

You got a baby trash can?
a little tiny trash can?
You see, I got sunflower seeds
eat em when I'm bored
I don't wanna 
put em all over the table, 
you know...

Yeah, I know,
spit

I get it 
I eat them on long road trips
so I don't fall asleep 
while I'm driving

Testing binder in hand
I walk to my office
looking over my shoulder 
letting everyone know 
I'm sort of watching

Yank, yank, yank, yank

Use paper towels
that's all I've got
take a bathroom break
if you need more

Psst...
Mrs. Garza
thank you

He sets his desk
as if breaking bread
computer plugged in-
he forgot to charge it
a bag of sunflower seeds
slouches agains the testing divider
paper towels stacked and ready
pencil
scratch paper
testing ticket

Today you'll be taking...

Crack!
He snaps the first seed
Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Stopping

for a break is valuable 
but when you stop
what do you do?
does the mind wander too much?
why is it hard to refocus?
start again,
build momentum
why stop?
is it to observe?
try something new?
look for something, or
let something find you?
rather than restarting, 
it's time to 
continue 
this thing that 
sustains and
feeds me,
consider words 
that want to be said,
that need saying
was the stopping meant
for listening?
how do you 
bring everything together?
Tuesday, May 10, 2022

(Not So) Alarming

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

I have always set two alarms. One for 5:30 a.m. and one for 6:15 a.m. I figured out the latest I can get up, fly by the seat of my pants on a jeans and school t-shirt day, is 6:30 a.m. I have to skip my morning pages, although I don’t like doing that, scald my throat glugging my coffee, sweep in whatever food fits into my lunch bag, and get going. I can make it to work on time and look (mostly) normal. This isn’t ideal, but having tried it a few times, it’s acceptable.

Recently, I’ve (sort of) given up my morning alarm clock. Most nights I still toss and turn, but it’s been so much better. What has worked is setting the alarm for that latest possible jump out of bed our you’ll be so late time. My I’ve-hit-the-snooze-button-for-an-entire-hour-it’s-time-to-suck-it-up-and-get-out-of-bed-already time. One alarm. 6:30 a.m. I wake up at 5:00 and sometimes go back to sleep. I wake up at 5:15 and sometimes go back to sleep. I wake up at 5:50 and decide not to go back to sleep. It’s almost like I’m hitting the snooze button without the annoyance of an alarm clock beeping. Except it is annoying. But it isn’t a heart stopping I’m going to rip that thing out of the wall annoying.

If I start tossing and turning in the middle of the night, rather than counting the number of hours of sleep I haven’t had, I tell myself I can “sleep in” until 6:30. All will be well with the world. On most days, I wake up a little past 5:30 and get up without any snooze button calculations. I turn off the alarm so it doesn’t wake my husband while I’m getting ready, even though he has an amazing ability to sleep through it. This is a much calmer process. I’ve finally learned how to wake up without an alarm. Sort of.

Raspberries

tart and sweet
flavor and stain
a round mound 
of crushed ice
packed into
a paper cone
on a 
hot 
summer 
day

macerated,
fill and sweeten
a layer between
white wedding cakes,
the top tier saved for
that first year 
anniversary
shared 
two weeks later
after the honeymoon
because it was 
so 
darn 
good
why save it?

two fresh ones
kerplunk!
into a sink full
of dirty 
dishwater
escaping the 
dysfunctional 
sieve of a 
hand
while another plops
their neighbors
into 
a 
waiting 
mouth
Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Slices

of oranges 
sprinkled with salt
sticky sweet juice 
dribbling
down 
a 
chin

of memories
well lived
some 
uneventful
bursting with simplicity
some saved
for savoring
later
when the mood strikes

of time
held on an analog
clock 
holding still
in good times
or bad
placeholders
for stealing moments
to write
contemplate
create

of stories 
interwoven 
across miles
initiating laughter
provoking 
thoughts 
ideas
resonating with souls
unleashing frustration
distraction
confusion
affirming realities 
and struggles
inspiring hope
and kindness
through shared
Words
Thursday, March 31, 2022

A New Pillow

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

I have a hard time sleeping. My pillow is old. I forget to buy a new one because a new pillow isn’t something I think about adding to my shopping list. I remember around 1:45 a.m., the first of my sleepless fits flopping back and forth between being wide awake and wishful sleeping. I tell my brain that it’s okay to go back to sleep, the alarm is set to do its job. And if I accidentally sleep in, the world. Will. Not. Stop.

This afternoon, I went to Target for some odds and ends. A pillow! I wrote it, (finally) onto my list. I already dislike shopping and I haven’t been in the mood to research pillows. Some were on sale, but the shelves were bare of those. Honestly, I don’t care how much it is, but manage to steer away from a $99 pillow. So much for not caring. I find one that I hope will work. It’s not like you can try it on. If I don’t like it, I’m certain someone else will gladly take it from me.

I also wound up with a pair of jeans. I know Target clothes never fit me well, but I try these on. Surprisingly, I like how they fit. But I may change my mind tomorrow. I’ll sleep on my new pillow tonight. In the morning, I’ll wear my new jeans. If for some reason they don’t fit like they did in the dressing room, at least those can be returned. What in the world possessed me to purchase two of the hardest things to shop for on the same day?

Morning routine

finds us dodging each other
bumping almost shoulder to shoulder
stepping over a wet towel 
or bunched up pajamas
if it's a bad morning,
we'll argue
if it's a good morning,
we'll argue a little less
"clean up the toothpaste worms from the sink"
I remind her 
for the hundredth time
"I KNOW!"
she snatches the brush 
before I can get to it
so I plug in the hair dryer instead
I decide to let the exasperation 
and tone roll off
not. worth. it.
I wear my thick-skinned fur coat
24/7
grit my teeth, 
breathe in, 
breathe out
and carry on 
with my morning
"this eye looks good
 but why is this eye 
just NOT working?!"
a white washcloth smudges off
a crooked layer of eyeliner
along with a few tears
she doesn't want me to see
I lean in, mascara wand
trying to make some magic
happen for my own eyes
I don't have time 
to smudge it off
"how? how can you 
put on mascara
without opening your mouth?"
I continue applying my face
she continues applying hers,
sneaking a glance at my 
expertise
with a mascara wand
"I've been doing this longer 
than you've been alive"
she leans in with her own wand
mouth wide open
satisfied,
she steps back 
I look at our reflection
and try not to think
about the days
I braided her hair
in front of this mirror
and she'd want to help
with my makeup
Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Work Vacations

Monday, March 28, 2022

I’ve had two days of what I like to call “work vacations.” They’re still work, but off campus. Friday, our middle school students competed in our district’s annual reading competition. We have a list of selected middle grade books the students read through the year. We take a team, or two, or three, depending on how many are interested and the sizes of our campuses. In a double elimination tournament style of questions about books, these kids take the competition seriously. Students have a great time meeting peers from other schools and we enjoy watching them show their stuff. And they know those books inside and out.

Today, we had an off-site team meeting. We caught up with colleagues, discussed end of the year procedures, participated in team-building activities, and had time to work on those odds and ends that tend to get left for the last minute. Instead of a rushed thirty minute lunch, we were able to go to a sit-down restaurant to enjoy a meal. Unfortunately, the day ended with a retirement announcement. On the other hand, I’m happy when people step into their next chapters, or even stories, in life. Such is the stuff of an approaching end of the school year.

At the end of April, I’m attending our annual library conference. The last two have been virtual and almost as exhausting. I like to think I have a plan set up for all of the sessions I want to attend and schedule back-up sessions for those that get full. This year, I may just schedule some re-charge time in my hotel room. It’s usually go, go, and go hard for about three days. It’s hard to skip the author lines and rush from one session to another. This is my kind of theme park.

I’m fortunate to have these types of days. A break from work, but still work. Something different that helps me re-charge and continue learning. Having time to eat lunch is also a bonus.

Navigating the Kitchen

Sunday, March 27, 2022

When you get there, go to the right. It’s in the back on the right. Second shelf. Behind the French onion dip, stacked on top of the leftover rice. Blank stare. Right, left, turn around? Top? Bottom? Confusion ensues. It’s in there, it won’t jump out at you. You have to search for it. Even more confusion. If it isn’t in front, why is there such apprehension to move something out of the way? I clean out the fridge every Sunday, so there’s nothing that has grown fuzzy enough to grow teeth and bite.

Okay, let’s try this: Find the milk. Go south. Stop. Too far. Go north a shelf. Now go east. Move that container, bingo! You found the queso!

Is it me or do other people have to help someone navigate the fridge or pantry? Google Fridge Maps should be a thing.