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

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

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?