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
wafted toward me this morning out of nowhere empty street no kids playing backyards seemed bare, still from where did this little bubble appear without others trailing behind? one shimmery rainbow glistening bubble floating in the air is it Glinda coming to pay me a visit grant me some wishes? promise I won’t cheat no asking for three more wishes but seriously, here I am a grown woman looking for Glinda the Good Witch in her puffy pink ball gown crowned in her sparkling tiara waving that magic wand contemplating three hopeful wishes that floated along in a single bubble until somewhere it popped
“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.”Neil Gaiman
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.”Frank McCourt
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.
soy una piñata
llena de alegría y deseos dulces ¡ dale, dale, dale, rompe la piñata ¡ uno, dos, tres, zas y pum, zas y pum doy más, y más, y más ya no tengo ¡ ayudame ¡
I am a piñata
full of joy and sweet wishes go ahead, go ahead, go ahead! tear the piñata one, two, three zas and pum, zas and pum, zas and pum I give more and more and more I have no more [to give] help!
Two students came in this morning to print flyers they made for next week’s Spirit Week, kicking off spring break ’22 (is it really that time already?). One of them is a student library helper that has taken on the task of checking out books to students so we can work on more pressing issues. Like making sure no one tries to bite a Chromebook. True story, but not under my watch.
One of the scheduled spirit days is “Dress as Your Favorite Decade.” They asked if I’d be participating. “Heck yes! Totally the 80s for me.” Then I began reminiscing. They asked what it was like and how I dressed. My answer? Pretty much like I do now, except everything was neon. Big hoop earrings. Side pony tails. Leg warmers. Fingerless gloves. Rectangular sunglasses. Rubber bracelets stacked from wrist to elbow. Miami Vice jackets with huge shoulder pads.
Miami Vice…my celebrity crush was Don Johnson, among many others. “Ooh, Ms. Garza, was he cute?” They proceeded to Google him. “No! Not yet! You can’t Google the Don Johnson now. You have to search for the 80s Miami Vice Don Johnson, they won’t look the same. Don’t do it!”
Too late. They give each other an odd look. Sure enough, it’s not the Miami Vice Don Johnson. We dig a little deeper and find one of Crockett and Tubbs donning their signature pastel t-shirt and suit combos. Sigh… “I know, he was way too old for me.” My library assistant chimes in, “But if it’s a celebrity crush, it doesn’t matter.” I mull it over. “True, but look at him now, ewww! It’s just ewww! He’s old enough to be my dad! Gross!” They agreed without having to agree with me. “Okay Ms. Garza, we’re going to come check out your outfit.”
“The flyer says you’re giving out candy if people participate. I’m totally going to get some candy!”
I print their flyers. We chat a little more about how we plan to dress up and other 80s celebrity crushes. For about ten minutes I was 13 again, swooning over a Google search instead of a poster in Teen Beat magazine.
No, I don’t have one, but I sure did hear Charlie Bucket singing about his golden ticket as soon as my son surprised me with a chocolate bar when I came home. A chocolate bar is always good, but one with a mystery ticket…
…a popular social media influencer by the name of MrBeast launched chocolate bar products recently. Four of the said bars were procured by a young man-child, Mr. Garza, in a world-wide mission to win a non-Willy Wonka mystery ticket, but certainly inspired by Mr. Wonka’s Golden Ticket (original concept by Roald Dahl). 21st century mystery tickets are not wrapped around a chocolate bar and tucked inside of a wrapper, but accessed via QR code. Enter the special code and “spin to win” a chance for one of these fabulous prizes: Visit Feastables.com for more details…
I’ll take chocolate any time. My son fills me in on possibilities, “1,000,000 in prizes and offers,” one being to compete in a video to win the chocolate factory. A Tesla, earbuds, a Beast Burger. I tap into my inner twelve year old and think of the possibilities. If I won the chocolate factory, I’d manufacture book shaped chocolate, educators get it free any time. And it wouldn’t be one of those BOGO deals we get during teacher appreciation week either. If I win the Tesla…heck, I’d be happy with a free burger.
I turn the chocolate bar and look at the little corner that instructs me to peel the label concealing the code, which will be entered onto a website with algorithmic robots controling my million dollar destiny. Or that with the value of a burger. Most likely the value of the chocolate bar. I still haven’t “played” the game. I’m wondering if the code is a distraction and there really is a golden ticket wrapped around the bar inside of the wrapper. It certainly isn’t too late for dessert.
Is they’re ordinary basic inexpensive collectors of dreams disappointments mileage scribbles doodles facts and figures A crayon mark or two Sometimes they’re blank like a mind can feel or like a sadness or a fresh start, a new beginning with the possibility of an end or eternity Sometimes they're a continuation of ideas The thing about notebooks the containers of one's soul, potential, possibility, is people dismiss them as mere notebooks without appreciating the fact that anyone who bothers with a blank page may never be the same The thing about notebooks is the infinite variety in which they’re bound, that people want to read them the ones that are filled fat with words, oozing with thought, seeping with taped in mementos receipts, tickets, love letters to do lists notes a thumbprint coffee stains and the magnificence of what’s contained in the creator’s mind somehow finds its way into the world leaving an indelible mark on those lucky enough to read them