Mix Tape

Almost Almost

I scrolled and noticed the post, Bono & Brené Brown in Conversation.

No. Freakin’. Way.

I didn’t miss it. There’s time to get tickets, they don’t go on sale until TOMORROW! Check the calendar, check the calendar, check the dang calendar. Who’s working? Is there a musical rehearsal after school that day? Doesn’t matter, I’ll arrange my reinforcements. But wait, 4:00. I’m at work until 3:45. Traffic. How much? Ticket prices are not available until sales open.

Wait. Nope. You have to at least try. It’s BONO and BRENÉ! Calm down. You don’t have a ticket. I have to try. I check the calendar and decided to take the afternoon off. I made imaginary arrangements for S to get picked up from rehearsal. And the price? I have unspent summer school and birthday money waiting for a big, fun, for me purchase and this is where it will go.

I set the alarm to go off at 9:50 a.m. on November 4th. I open the site for ticket sales to have it ready. I have classes coming in that day, but by the time I’m done, students will be checking out their books and getting ready to leave. Okay, calm down. It’s okay, don’t get your hopes up.

November 4th, 9:50 a.m. my alarm goes off as planned. I slip into my office and open the website. An updated message appears saying something like “Ticket sales for Bono and Brené in Conversation, another event, followed by another event, and another event will open at 10:00 a.m. …”

“Yes, I KNOW,” I fuss at my phone. I retrieve my purse from a cabinet and thunk it on the counter next to my desk. I dig for my bank card. How many more minutes? I refresh the page to make sure it doesn’t get stuck. Our building is notorious for clogging up anything you want to pull up on cell networks.

My heart throbs…

I refresh the page.

10:03 a.m.

Let’s do this, I don’t care how much it costs.

And I’m stuck in a queue. A virtual line. They rub it in and show virtual me standing in a cyber line. Lucky number 3,405 with 3,285 people ahead of me. The theater’s capacity is 1,270. Sigh. I found what I was looking for, but there weren’t any left for me.

In a real line I could have met a bunch of other people and been part of a collective disappointed groan. Instead, I put my card back in my purse, return it to the cabinet, and await the arrival of the next class.

I almost cried. Almost.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Blurred Images

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Taking a picture of a teen is like taking a picture of Bigfoot. The Loch Ness monster. Chupacabra. Results are hard to decipher. You get a blur of hair or a running body. You get the back of one standing with others, a line-up of sorts, in reverse. They’re all dressed alike, same height, same hair.

Mine gets on a tire swing and for a split second, I see her little-hood oozing out in her smile. She sees the camera and immediately gets back into her grumpy character where everything about life is horrid, brows furrowed, braced teeth gritted, and a small grumble eking out “Mo-O-m! Ugh! I hate pictures!” because she also hates speaking.

I got what I could, sifted through a hundred photo bursts, and found a glimmer of hope, one capturing the essence of who she really is deep inside all of those defensive teen-aged layers–even if that first teen year is the only layer there. It’s tough and almost impenetrable. Almost.

“Get one of me with Dad.” We stand, stiffly posed along the bank of the San Gabriel river. The light is perfect. We’re both not grumbly middle-aged parents. We’ve shed our own layers for a while.

“Give us a warning, at least,” I remind her, because we know she’ll capture us mid-yawn. Eyes closed. Mouths opened.

Brows furrowed with a small grumble starts out a whiny “F-i-ah! You’re taking selfies! Take the picture so we can move on and let other people get a turn.”

Laughter ensues, she shows BFF the screen, pretends to run, but first returns the phone and then runs. We take a look and there we are. It’s a good one.

Even better are the selfies. There she is. They’re good ones.

All layers–the one layer–shed because she played. Dimples in their original location. Braced teeth. A sparkle in her eyes. She’s still there.

Cupcakes Beat the Sunday Blues

I have a planner. I use it. I set reminders on my phone. My watch buzzes those reminders and my phone zaps my rear end from my back pocket so I don’t forget. I write things down. I have three tabs open of the same chock full Google calendar because I can’t find it buried within countless other tabs. I was a week ahead of everything in my mind and I still can’t get it straight. Seems that this week is irrelevant as I look ahead to plan lessons, activities, book displays, contests, book clubs, maker space activities…

I enjoyed my weekend. I took teen and a friend to the Chalk Walk Art Festival. The laundry can wait, might as well enjoy the decent weather. Still hot, but not as hot as summer.

Sure enough, as Sundays always do, the day whizzed by, but I was determined not to subject myself to the Sunday Blues. I signed up to bake ancho chilli chocolate cupcakes for our potluck on Monday. Chilli themed. A contest, I think. I’ve been on this campus for a year. Still recovering from COVID, some traditions halted, but I’m not sure if this is one or not. No matter, I stopped at the grocery store after church to pick up a few ingredients which turned into full-on groceries.

I mixed up the batter and baked cupcakes between loads of laundry. I packed them up early. Before 10:00 p.m. early. Monday, a staff development day, allowed me to sleep in a little. No lunch prep for me because we’re having chilli. PTA is serving breakfast so double score there. We’re down to sharing a car because hubster’s is in the shop, which brings a whole other level of schedule juggling, or schudggling.

Monday morning, I put the two tubs of cupcakes in the back seat, grabbed my bag and got my ride to school.

“I brought my cupcakes,” I announced, only to learn the potluck is in two weeks. We had our first Monday PD two weeks ago. One was scheduled for October 10th. The next one is on October 24th.

I didn’t read the sign up sheet properly. Scroll reading. Exactly what I tell students not to do. I’m on autopilot with doing all of the things, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. I was a week ahead of the actual calendar last week, trying to do what was planned for this week, but knowing it wasn’t because of book fair chaos.

This reminded me of the time I took my kids to dinner for Taco Tuesday. On a Wednesday. Another time I missed a parent-teacher conference because we went out for ice cream. Before he started middle school, I skipped my son’s orchestra instrument selection appointment and I don’t remember why.

Sigh…

I put the cupcakes in the staff fridge. I co-facilitated a session for teachers with my ITS during sixth grade lunch today, a trial run of our first “Lunch and Learn” series integrating tech/library resources. We bribed some with dessert and drinks. Unknowingly, I made dessert.

The cupcakes and training were well received.

I learned that dunking dried chillies in dark chocolate and sprinkling them with sea salt takes them to a whole other level of sweet with zippy zing.

“Yes, I’m making another batch for the next potluck,” I smiled, as a teacher snagged two on her way out. I’ll garnish them with chocolate covered chillies.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

thingie

I’ve resorted to describing

important words with…

thingie

I can’t even fall back on thingamajig

doo-hickey

whatchamacalit

that

thing

it’s a thingie

that thingie over there, I need it

can you get it for me, please?

sure!

I know exactly what you meant

that thingie

of a brain

that’s so overloaded

it forgets basic

thingies

Tuesday, October 3, 2022

Cincuentañera

A week later
streamers hang on the patio
vibrant, yet tired
a trampoline hasn't been reassembled
and probably won't return
to its spot in the backyard

She's thirteen now 
we've long stopped 
synchronized 
wahoo-wahoo-wahoozie
mother-daughter bouncing
of summers long past,
my hands intertwined 
with her silly little 
first grader fingers

Gifted wine bottles line up 
one behind the other
I sip from a new coffee mug
and finish the last two
homemade Mexican wedding cookies
baked for a birthday

A lone striped gift bag didn't get folded,
hot pink crumpled paper 
peeks from the top

A new sparkly evening bag invites
possibilities and wonderings about
unknown adventures
How many more trips around the sun?
Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Cicadas

drone off and on
off and on
their outer selves hold
tight to a blade of grass
tree trunk
iris leaves we don't remember planting
the front door frame
under the porch
as if they've been invited
they were time tellers 
before I could read time
signaling a long hot day
hanging back on my favorite swing
long hair dangling in the dirt
rocking myself into a bright summer haze
eyes closed
big toe digging into the ground
giving myself a little push
nothing to do inside
nothing to do outside
too hot
too boring
all I could do was swing
back and forth
back and forth
if I were a cicada
I'd sing with them
droning off and on
off and on
complaining about the heat
the sun
summer
almost wishing for cooler weather 
then realizing 
I'd have to stop swinging
I leave the shell of my former self
on the swing
pull myself up and head indoors
for a drink of water
the cicadas continue their songs
reminding us 
this summer heat 
is temporary
Tuesday, July 12, 2022


	

Summer Initiation

I must have been born with a magnetic plate in my head that attracts flying objects, magnetic or not. If I believed in alien abductions, I’d blame it on that too, but I save that one for my pinkie toe and other stories. Stay tuned. Ever since I can remember, anything launched into or sticking out of the air, finds me. The top of my head. My ear. My face.

The last day of eighth grade, brothers in our friend group, the only ones with access to a pick-up truck, invited us to their house to fill water balloons after our end of school year celebration. Officially, even though it’s summer break, we’re Freshmen. Fish. Stinky Fish. Why do they even call it that? Not wanting to be left out, I tagged along. I wore my favorite jams shorts printed with tropical fruits and a tank top. My new summer outfit.

I was supposed to go home right after school to watch my younger siblings, but I convinced them to stay put and not tell Mom where I ventured. “I won’t be gone long and I’ll be home way before she gets home. Don’t tell!” I took off with a friend and made it to the party house.

The plan was to fill the balloons, load them-and ourselves-into the the bed of the pick-up and drive around town catching the new unarmed sophomores unaware. My bestie had a crush on one of them and on one of the drivers, so this was more of a flirting opportunity for her than anything else. Summer teen romance with a side of a third wheel.

We filled buckets with water and loaded them with water filled balloons. The brothers got inside the truck cab while the rest of us climbed up the back and sides to find our places. We drove around, our pent-up and hopeful for high school energy oozing out of us hollering “Ninety! Ninety! We’re the Class of Ninety!” No one heard and no one cared. Except for us. And those sophomores.

We made our way to the only park in town. That’s where we found them. They walked toward us and then, “Fire!” We all scrambled for water balloons and began to aim. Mine didn’t ever go far. Not only do I not throw like a girl, I can’t hold on to any type of sports equipment and water balloons weren’t any different. The others, faster and with better aim launched balloon after ballon at our opponents. They didn’t need my help throwing them, so I started grabbing as many as I could hold and distributed them to the others.

With nothing in their defense, the sophomores devised a clever plan. Evenings had been rainy. The unpaved parking area where we sat in the truck bed was…muddy. They picked up handfuls of mud. Sticky, clay-like mud that holds its shape when cupped into the palm of a hand and shaped into a ball.

“D-u-u-u-ck!” One of the guys yelled.

I sat near one of the buckets, so I didn’t see the commotion. I kept handing out water grenades. “D-u-u-u-ck!”

The girl in front of me ducked. I didn’t.

WHACK!

Everything went black for a split second. I reached for my glasses, but almost couldn’t find them. “My glasses, where are my glasses?” Still unable to see because I kept my eyes closed, I felt around for them. I took them off and noticed mud where the lenses were supposed to be. My face throbbed. Chunks of mud decorated my new outfit.

I’m not crying. I’m not crying. I’m NOT crying.

The truck peeled out and we were back on the street, pitched mud balls hitting the side of the pick-up. Most of the other kids laughed and pointed while I tried to figure out if the lenses to my glasses popped out or broke.

“You look like a raccoon!”

One of the girls, in between laughs, asked “Why didn’t you duck down?” I didn’t think I needed to. They aimed for her, not me.

“I’m going to get in so much trouble,” I managed to choke out. I pulled chunks of mud off my glasses and found the lenses. Mud clung to my hair. When I almost figured out what happened, a bucket of water came at me.

“Why did you do that?” one of the girls fussed at one of the boys.

“I was just trying to help her get the mud off,” he explained.

“You didn’t have to dump the whole bucket of water on her!”

Some of the mud washed off. Still intact, I wiped the lenses with the bottom of my tank top. I held my composure, but throat tightened. “Just take me home now. I’m going to get in so much trouble.”

I climbed out of the truck and walked up the driveway. One of my sisters ran outside when she saw I was home as I headed to the water faucet in the backyard. I gave her a look and put my finger up to my lips. I turned it on and hosed down my hair. I was already drenched. I put my outfit in the washer, cleaned myself up, and put on my responsibility cloak.

I heard about high school freshman initiations. I watched them in movies and read about them in books. I didn’t know they existed for summer breaks. Later, I managed to laugh about it, but I still have that taste of mud in my mouth.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

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