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.
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.
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
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
How many more trips around the sun?
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.
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.
sprinkled with salt
sticky sweet juice
bursting with simplicity
when the mood strikes
held on an analog
in good times
for stealing moments
resonating with souls
me this morning
out of nowhere
no kids playing
did this little
without others trailing
floating in the air
is it Glinda
coming to pay me a visit
grant me some wishes?
promise I won’t cheat
for three more
here I am
for Glinda the Good Witch
in her puffy pink
crowned in her
waving that magic wand
three hopeful wishes
that floated along
in a single
“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.”
A few weeks ago, I wrote about an online craft retreat I paid for, attended over Zoom, and didn’t skip. It was what my heart needed. What my life needed. A little productive distraction doing something completely out of my comfort zone. After all, I credit myself with art skills of a third grader, if that. I’m not that great. I’ve read about creativity and doing something other than what you already do to express yourself. You get more ideas and it helps your craft. In my case, writing. My thoughts on that are on the March 7th post, Building Creative Stromboli.
Life, as it’s currently happening, competes with craft projects. I needed to allow the clay piece to dry over a few days. It did. I moved it to another location, to keep it safe. It wasn’t safe enough. I knocked it over and it broke in three pieces. I didn’t throw my adult tantrum. I picked up the pieces, sighed, and mumbled, “Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. I can make another one.”
My son reminded me about the Mandalorian’s helmet. Beskar steel was used to mend it when it was broken. It became part of the helmet, part of him. It was much stronger, reinforced at the weak points, part of the art it once was making it into something new. Holding on to its originality. He took a look at my broken project after I mentioned I’d probably throw it away or glue it together with Tacky glue so it wouldn’t be too obvious.
“You know Mom, if it’s obvious, then it makes it that much better. You can see what it was supposed to be, but if you use something else, like glitter glue, it will be different and it becomes part of what you want it to be.” Whoa. Nerds beget nerds, but I can’t take credit for this one. And, hello, glitter!
Determined to paint the thing, I repaired it, first with almost dried out craft glue (it had been that long since I’d used it), then with almost empty tubes of glitter glue. I used the paint from the craft kit and got it painted. Lesson(s) learned: you do need to use good paint brushes. And have a good idea of the colors you choose. Maybe practice on another surface ahead of time. Almost dried glue applied with a toothpick doesn’t create a strong bond. Red glitter glue looks like blood.
I worked at my end of the kitchen table, covering it with poster board I use and re-use for making messes. I noticed random sketches from our beginning-of-the-pandemic flurry of craft projects to keep us busy. I haphazardly painted, knowing this isn’t something I’ll be holding on to much longer. I wanted it finished along with the experience of painting something other than walls. By that, I mean a fresh coat of interior house paint, nothing interesting or fancy like a mural. I worked quickly because ‘tween wanted to take over.
I worked in phases and finished it. I made plenty of mistakes, but my intention was the experience more than the end product. It got me thinking. If we mess up on something, no need to toss it. We keep what’s good. Aren’t we human art works? Our bodies mend themselves with new cells to heal wounds. Our lives mend themselves with experiences we live through to figure things out. Sometimes we can’t start over, but we can mend. We can use what we have to put things back together. We may not use glitter glue or Beskar steel, but whatever we choose makes us unique. There is beauty in the art of being human and it’s supposed to be there.
“If I could shake the crushing weight of expectations
Would that free some room up for joy
Or relaxation, or simple pleasure?”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Surface Pressure, from Disney’s Encanto
One thing I don’t like about myself is I have HAS-Happiness Avoidance Syndrome. I completely made that up, but I think I have it nonetheless. You won’t find it on WebMD or HealthLine, but I know it’s real. I don’t know why I have it. I try to get rid of it. I’ve read books, lots of them, on the topic. I’ve tried all kinds of happiness “Kool-Aid” from the best happiness experts and gurus.
However, some of the people who claim to have all their happy ducks in a row are millionaires. And the happy drinks they offer are laced with toxic positivity and a huge dose of privilege. I work hard to be positive and to see the glass as half full, which I discussed a few days ago, but then again, what’s in the glass? I prefer reality. No amount of positivity is going to completely turn something horrid into something not so horrid. What helps in those situations are a lot of people helping me through those times because you have to ride through them. If something’s awful, it’s awful, there’s no need to pretend it isn’t.
How did I become this way? Is it being a (mostly) rule following first born? Is it the high expectations I load onto my shoulders? Is it nature or nurture? I often have to tell myself not to fret about certain things.
Case in point: This weekend. I’m fretting about ordering dinner. What can I share with my ‘tween who will either have the appetite of a gnat or a full grown man? I’ve been sharing meals with my kids for almost two decades. Why? The damn budget. I hate wasting food. My husband orders whatever he wants, plus extra sides and a drink without blinking. Why do I have to second guess everything and tally the bill before we even order? I’m usually hungry and since we don’t eat out more than once a week (which I think is too much), might as well enjoy a good meal I don’t have to cook, right?
If I do share, ‘tween devours the double sized portion and I’m stuck scrounging up leftover fries or half a chicken strip with the breading gnawed off. If I don’t share, we wind up with too much food. The thing is, we can afford it. We don’t go to overly pricey restaurants and we order what’s reasonable. Everyone else is happy, so why do I do this to myself?
Is it first-born perfectionism? I’ve had to play adult before I became one. I helped younger siblings with homework. Cooked some meals when my parents were at work. I did lots of sibling-sitting while I was in high school. I’m not the only one. It’s the default when you grow up with two parents working. I don’t know if this is the reason or not and I’m certainly not blaming my parents. That’s how it was.
Thanks to Disney, I have Surface Pressure from Encanto playing in the back of my mind. Often. The song annoys me. It isn’t pleasant. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth and hurts my ears. And yet, it’s fitting. Isn’t that what HAS does though? It’s annoying. It’s unpleasant. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth and hurts your ears. And thoughts. And everyone around you. Everyone around me. I’m working on it, but it’s hard. That’s reality. It’s self-inflicted. I’m trying to stop.
I don’t know what’s it’s like being a HAS-not. Happiness ebbs and flows. That’s okay. We can’t be happy all of the time, otherwise, we wouldn’t know there’s a difference between anything else.
This morning, I emphatically ordered avocado toast and a cappuccino. It was delicious and I enjoyed every bite of it. I didn’t share a meal with ‘tween and it felt good. Then I ordered a concha, my favorite Mexican pastry, to bring home for tomorrow morning. Might as well. We were in San Antonio and found a bougie Mexican panadería. I’m a sucker for conchas. I will be happy when I have it with my cafecito in the morning. Or at least the second half of it. I happily ate some on the way home.
“Everyone has a story to tell. All you have to do is write it. But it’s not that easy.”
We received two shipments of delayed book orders I placed last semester. Supply chain issues. I’m new at my campus after spending my first five years as a librarian at an elementary school. I went back to the middle. What people don’t know is there are more steps to getting books onto the shelves than what meets they eye. “They already come with the barcodes, why can’t you just scan the book and check it out to me?” Not that easy. Not that quick.
First, I have to make sure I received everything. Publishers make mistakes, so I have to check that all of the pages-of the correct book-are in order, match the cover, match the correct series, match the genre. I load the records. Not only that, I have to go through each record to check for errors. This is the ELA teacher equivalent of grading papers. It’s time consuming. Sometimes I edit records and change genres to match what we have at our library. Example: mystery books are labeled suspense books on my campus. When everything is ready, I send the records to our district systems librarian so they are added to our catalog.
I lay my hands on each book, label them with corresponding genre stickers, print new call numbers if needed, stamp the inside with the date received and label them with our school’s address. Then I pay for them. Well, the district does, but I have to enter financial information on a program that never has liked me. Each book is inventoried and the final touch is a bright yellow NEW sticker above the call number.
They’re enticing. So much so that I want to check all of them out and keep them to myself.
These aren’t the only stories I get.
Yesterday, I chatted with a student while she worked on a 1,000 piece Harry Potter puzzle I set up in our maker space. “I love puzzles. I have so many at my house. And I love books. My mom does too. That’s why I love coming here.”
“What do you do with your puzzles when you finish them? Do you pull them apart and swap them out or do you display them?”
“Modge Podge. I pour Mod Podge on them and attach them to canvas so I can hang them in my room.”
“Cool,” I say, pointing to my Wonder Woman puzzle displayed above the graphic novels. “I do the same, but I use foam core on the back. Heat the blade of a box cutter and it slices right through to trim it.”
We continued with the conversation of books. She described a tattoo her mom wants to get: a girl holding a stack of books ascending a staircase with one side of her parted hair turning into a bookcase. I oohed and ahhed, imagining something similar to what I’ve pinned to my Pinterest boards. “My mom also has tattoos her grandfather drew. He would be my great grandfather. He escaped Germany during World War II and he drew a lot during that time. He came to the United States. I’m half Jewish.”
“Your great grandfather fled Germany during World War II?” I had collaborated with this student’s teacher to prepare them for a unit on the Holocaust. “Does your teacher know this?”
“Have you written this story? Have you told it?”
“You have an important story to tell.”
“Yeah, my mom says her tattoos tell stories. One arm is for the tattoos her grandfather drew. Her left arm is for her vacations. She loves fish and the beach. She has a mahi-mahi, a catfish, and a turtle. One time, we went to visit my grandfather in Oregon. We went in a red van so she has a red van on her arm too. I’m not sure where we’re going this summer, but I think she’ll add another fish.”
She continued adding pieces to the puzzle.
“Thanks for sharing. I think you have a good story you need to write.”
I went back to the third cart of books awaiting processing. Of all the new stories that made their way into the library this past week, this has been my favorite.
“…a calzone is like a taco and a stromboli is like a burrito. Tacos and calzones are always folded. Burritos and calzones are always rolled.”
from bon appètit, “What’s the Difference Between a Calzone and a Stromboli?” by Alex Delaney
I scroll through my Notes app and find this gem. Building Creative Stromboli. I open the note and find that I had made a note to self: It really was “Building creative stamina” 🤣. But what was it that made me write such words? Was I listening to a podcast while on my afternoon walk or in the middle of cooking dinner, but most likely not stromboli? Brenè Brown? Did it come from her? Did she say this or did she make a reference to something? Is it a book title? Is it something I want to do or am curious about doing?
Note to self: Take better notes. My phone autocorrected the original snippet of whatever my brain needed, but this time, I like the correction. Makes me think. Either way, what am I doing to build creative stamina? What is it? This SOLSC where I write for 31 days? To top it off, I’m a late night slicer (shout out to all you night owls!) so getting to my computer at the end of the day, every day for a month certainly builds those writing muscles. But I tend to get cramps. Aha! I should order a calzone or stromboli or both to get me through it.
If I’m to build creative stamina, could it mean that I need to do something besides writing? Should I make my own pizza dough (I found a great recipe I frequently use) divide it half and make a calzone for dinner one night and save the other for stromboli? Kneading dough by hand is cathartic, unleashing new ideas through the push, fold, turn, push, fold, turn motion for a good ten minutes the recipe suggests. I have about an hour to myself while the dough rises, but that usually isn’t enough for me to switch over to writing which will soon be interrupted with pizza making.
That’s as far as I’ve taken it. That dough can become any kind of pizza, but I have yet to lead it to become a calzone or stromboli. I don’t know why. I’m stuck with my favored Neapolitan style pizza because I’m a creature of habit and when I get comfortable, I don’t like to explore much.
I’ve been reading about creativity for a few years. My favorites: The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron; Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon; Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. One of the ideas that keeps getting repeated is to do something else besides [insert your creative endeavor here.] To get better at writing, I need to do something other than writing. Not all of the time, of course, but when feeling stuck-making pizza dough and only making pizza-do something else. Make a calzone. Make stromboli. Or tacos. Or burritos. Play with clay and then watch it break, like I wrote about here a few weeks ago for a Tuesday Slice.
A Google search for “building creative stamina” will tell you a lot of the same things in a lot of different ways. One thing I’ve learned is to let that creativity out, even if it isn’t great. It’s better for those ideas to come out to play. Ever watch a kindergartener draw or paint a picture? They don’t care how it looks, they care about the process. They get into the zone. Like kneading pizza dough. The end result may be good, but releasing those creative bubbles is the point.
Calzones and stromboli are the culinary bonuses for late night writing sessions. Roll with it.