Friday, June 10, 2016

49 Years, 49 Days 'til 50: A Kind of Grief

I was going to start this blog again yesterday so that I could do 50 days til 50. Yesterday, however, my old friend, Mr. Migraine showed up again. I shouldn't have been surprised. The end of the school year always knocks me out both physically and emotionally.

I told my seniors that for me, teaching is like having a very intense relationship for nine months, then having it end knowing that we will probably never see each other again. For me, there's a kind of grief that happens at the end of a school year. No matter how tough the year has been, I mourn the loss of those classes, those mini villages, that interaction.

That grief, with the migraine that set off pain all over my body kept me from my plan to write yesterday.  And this blog is late today. I am still going to count it as a blog for 6/9/2016 since that was when I started it.

I have way too many rules for this blog. It's just a few words to get me writing again, but I had to start it on the right day so that I could have a clever title for it. It's my need for order. So many things around me are chaotic that I have a need to have something make sense. So this blog is it.

I'll be 50 next month. It's a nice number, divisible by 2, 5, and 10. Two times 25. I don't really remember being 25. I think I'm about that age in these pictures.

The top picture was my going away party when I decided to quit working at KXAN and to go back school for an English degree and teaching certificate. My button reads, "No longer living at work, but working at living." One day that will be true again.

The bottom picture was one of the few times in my life I felt confident about how I look. I love that dress; however, counting this picture, I wore it maybe three times only.

I would never want to be 25 again, but I aspire to be the girl in those pictures: Driven, confident, "working at living." I miss her.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

14 days, then 49: Haunting Walmart (July 13, 2015)

Back when I worked the 4pm to 12 am shift at the Department of Public Safety, I would leave work and drive around town until I got sleepy. Gas price were pretty good then, so I didn't worry about that. However, my burnt orange Volvo did not have air conditioning and some nights the breeze wasn't enough to keep me comfortable. One night, I drove to the only place (besides Denny's--shudder) that I knew was open all night--Wal-Mart. I was hooked and began making regular after work visits there.

I rarely bought anything during these early morning excursions. Mostly, I just walked and people watched. Not the kind of Wal-Mart people watching that produces those awful shaming pictures on social media. No, it was the same kind of examinations I did during city bus rides--minus the conversations; I loved talking, mostly listening, to people on the bus. I never really talked to anyone at Wal-Mart. I mostly made up stories as to why other people were shopping at 1 a.m. 

The husband and wife with the two carts, one holding food and clothing, the other carrying their sleepy kids, were enjoying the only kind of date night parents of small children can get.

The girls dressed to the hilt, running through the store were on a bridesmaid scavenger hunt--"Find a honey bun, a package of condoms, and a rain bonnet," the imaginary list read.

Man wandering the store with no basket and his hands in his pockets, he worked the late shift and couldn't sleep so he decides to wander Wal-Mart...people watching.

I don't work late nights anymore, but sometimes when I can't sleep or I need to get out of the house, I go to Wal-Mart again. I still don't buy anything during these mind-cleansing trips (except for one night when it was close to Christmas and I was in a panic). I window shop my two favorite things first--cleaning products and office supplies.

If you were to look under my sinks in the both bathrooms and the kitchen, and in the hallway closet, you would think that I ran a custodial service on the side. Floor cleaners, kitchen cleaners, window washes, and my favorite, bathtub cleaners. Good stuff.

So I peruse the cleaning product aisle first. Lingering over the newest scrubs and sponges. Caressing the beautiful steam mops. Sniffing the toilet deodorizers. Heaven.

When I tear myself away from the cleaners, I head for the pens. Gel pens. Felt tips. Rollerballs. Even the cheap Bic or Papermate stick pens. Perfect for students who forget their pencils. 

My favorite are Sharpies. They have to be the fine point, not the ultra fine point. Oh, and now they have an 80's Glam product with limited edition pastel colors. Combine that with the metallic collection and there's a "write a story based on Mrs. Diomande's high school days complete with pictures" project just waiting to be assigned. Makes me want to go out and buy poster board so I can get started.

But I don't buy anything because the point is to ease my mind for sleep. That would be impossible if I spent the night testing cleaning devices and writing stories with my new pens, and drawing and coloring pictures, which I would have to laminate because who doesn't love to laminate things--and I own a laminator. I bought it from Target.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

30 days, then 49: Depression Part 48 (June 27, 2015)

Sometimes it creeps up on me. It is especially insidious in the summer when I do not have any "have-to-do" obligations to distract me and get me going. The sunny days are overwhelming in their insistence that I get out and enjoy the day. Nothing else to do but enjoy. But if you can't...

When I do heed the call of the outdoors on those bright days, I do feel a little better at first. Eventually, the view becomes skewed, and everything takes on a mirage-like quality. The people, the cars, the grass, the sidewalk. Does any of it really exist? Do I? I've walked through and sat in the sun and felt the warmth, but only as an afterthought.

Summer rain is actually better. It is the sound that I like. Not just the thunder, but the water hitting leaves and ground. Something I can stand in and feel. Feel. Because I haven't been.

There's a cloak around me--impenetrable and heavy. It keeps darkness in, but the outer layer colors for my family and friends. It's exhausting pretending, but necessary.

Hard to do anything with the weight and the darkness. Cleaning leaves me anxious and dissatisfied. Explaining is laborious and daunting. Dissension, harmony, unity, and strife all ocean behind my eyes but only trickle down my face in secret.

Writing escapes me, so I have no rescue.

But this day, alone with the screen, in the earliest parts of morning, everything held within for days. spews onto this.

I'm awash with embarrassment and freedom.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

39 days, then 49: Remember (June 18, 2015)

I haven't written in a while. Life stepped in and knocked me over.  I was ready to write again today.

But a racist terrorist visited a church yesterday. He was probably welcomed in as someone who perhaps needed comfort. He stayed for almost an hour at that prayer meeting and no doubt heard the prayers of the members and the comforting words of the pastor. He may have heard songs of praise and joy and thanksgiving. There was probably a spirit of love there, surrounding him.

Bur he couldn't see pass his hate. This hate killed 9 members of that church.

This historic church will rise again as it has so many times before.

What will we do in the meantime?

Mourn, get angry, pray, write about it, declare we will never forget.

Then we'll move on and congratulate ourselves for not letting the tragedy kill our spirits of resilience.

Then we will forget...until hatred kills our peace again.

I will not name the killer, but here is a link to the ones who lost their lives to hatred in a place of peace.

We need to remember their names

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41

Cynthia Hurd, 54

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45

Tywanza Sanders, 26

Myra Thompson, 59

Ethel Lee Lance, 70

Daniel L. Simmons, 74

Susie Jackson, 87

Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49

Monday, June 15, 2015

45, 44, 43, days, then 49: Quiet (Started June 12, 2015; Finished June 15)

Noise. Sometimes I feel like The Grinch, railing against the noise, Noise, NOISE, NOISE!! NOISE!!!

I'm an English teacher and I actually think it would be weird if my classroom were quiet most the time. Part of the study of language is speaking. And speak they do. More than I want, but it's important. And noisy.

My daughter is a talker. Last year, when I still worked 30 minutes from home, she would spend our drives telling me how she was going to stop talking so much.

"Mommy, I talk a lot right? I'm not going to talk anymore. See I can be quiet. Mommy? Did you hear what I said? I can be quiet. What are we having for dinner? Oh yeah, I'm suppose to be quiet. I can be quiet."

For the entire drive. 30 minutes. Then we get home, and she talks until bedtime.

My husband is a talker too. Well, sometimes. He's not an every day, every minute talker like his daughter. When he gets going, however, he can talk for hours. He's a binge talker.

I welcome verbal interactions with them because they are my loves, but I sometimes miss the peace of living alone. At night, when they sleep, I sit on the couch and gulp down the quiet as if I will never have it again.

I don't think I just want quiet. I need it. Without a daily dose of silence, I get/stay moody. Angry, sad, nervous, anxious. The sounds buzz and bump around in my head, crawl from the nape of my neck to the forehead and vibrant behind my eyes. It's painful and if I can't find some peace, I lash out. As I get older, the more I seek out noiseless situations and the less likely I am to find them.

When I was teaching middle school, I would arrive early and use that time in class before students were allowed to come in to get my mind ready for the day. It helped me work through my natural shyness and lack of confidence. By the time they arrive, I'm like Joe Gideon in "All That Jazz"--"It's show time!"

Unfortunately, high school students are free range and can often be found sitting outside my class waiting for me to arrive. They like to talk to me because I listen. In those moments before school starts, I find out about their home lives, their outside interests, their fears. Students also stop by after school and talk to me. Those times are valuable and help to continue to remember that I am not teaching English. I am teaching kids. But I miss the quiet.

So, when I come home from school, I sometimes sit in the driveway for 10 minutes before going in. During the last week of school, I almost made it to 30 minutes one day. I couldn't shake the day off and was not prepared to face my family.

When I was young, I used to hang out underneath the coffee table and read my books. Our duplex was so small that I shared a room with my brother until I was 11, then shared a bed with my mom until I was 17. You can only hang out in the bathroom for so long before people start to wonder about your health. I was 19 year old before I had my own room and got a chance to retreat from other people's sounds.

When my last roommate moved out after getting married, I had an apartment by myself for about 3 years. Whole weekends would pass and I wouldn't have spoken to anyone. I didn't really feel lonely. I was rid of the stress of talking and interacting with people.

For the first year of my marriage, my husband would say that he didn't know what I was thinking, that I kept everything in. My long silence was a hard habit to break.

So I push through the comfort of quiet and I interact with people and think I do a pretty good job of feigning comfort.

And at night, when everyone is asleep, I sit silently on my couch, healing from the pain of all day assaults on my solitude, and rearming my senses for another day of noise.

Friday, June 12, 2015

46 days, then 49: Love (June 11-12, 2015)

(Short entry)

I've often talked about my inability to sleep. Both getting to sleep and staying that way throughout the night. Well, occasionally I do get to the deep sleep that one of my doctors told me I miss regularly. It really doesn't happen often, and when it does, it's ugly.

On those nights  that I can sleep, I become a soggy mess. Loud, crunchy sounds like a pack of small children running wild through dry leaves emanate from my maw. I suck in my lips and blow them back out forming spit bubbles that pop and run down my face. And I make sounds like pigs at a trough enjoying the best meal of their lives. It goes on and on and on...

How do I know this if I am asleep?

My husband, love of my life, recorded me.

After seeing and hearing that, I concluded that he must love me very much.

Thank goodness he hates social media.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

47 Days, Then 49: My Temp Job (June 10, 2015)

Today is hair washing day. She sits in the tub and I wet her hair. She's getting so tall that neither of us can find a comfortable position to complete this task. As I soap her hair and create a lather, I scratch her head because it is comforting to her. She hates having her hair touched because she is tender-headed, but the scalp scratching causes her to calm down and coo. After just a few years, we have developed a rhythm.

"Why do we have hair on our bodies?"

"On our heads?"

"No, on our bodies?"

I search my science answer file and come up empty.

"I really don't remember."

She examines a scar on her leg. Then looks at her arms.

"I don't have hair on my body."

"One day you will. When you get older, you will have hair on your arms, your legs, under your arms, in your private area..."



I begin to rinse her hair.

"One day, you're also going to get breasts like me...well, maybe not exactly like me. I don't know how big they will be. And you will have a period and once a month you will bleed."

She turns her head slightly to the right and shifts her eyes in the same direction, not looking at me. Gazing at a thought in her head. This is what she does when she is seriously thinking about what is being said.


"Well, you have eggs in your body, and if nothing gets added to the egg to make a baby, then the egg comes out of your body. The blood feeds the egg if it becomes a baby, but if there is no baby, you don't need the blood."

We've had the "where do babies come from" talk already, so I don't need to explain much more than that at this time.

I put conditioner in her hair. She has a lot a hair on head. I remember when I did too, and I instantly think about my mom, silently praising her for her patience. Something I do regularly now that  Aminata is here.

"We have eggs?"

"Not chicken sized eggs...smaller eggs."


"I'm telling you this now so you won't be scared when it happens. Grandma was 10 when it happened to her and nobody told her, so she was afraid. She told me about it when I was 9 and it happened to me when I was 11. I have a friend who got it when she was 8 years old, like you are now."



I section her hair and put the sections into double-strand twists.

"Do I have to grow up?"


"I don't want to."

"I didn't want to either. But it'll be okay."

Eyes shift again. She has beautiful eyes. She's been told this often. They are very expressive. When someone comments on her looks, she often likes to tell that person that I am her stepmom. It use to bother me, but now I get it. She doesn't look like me because she can't, so don't say that she does. Also, her mother is beautiful. She needs something from her mother. The other one. Because to her, I am her mother too--for now, maybe forever. But there's the possibility that she will go back and live with her mother for a while when she gets older. Maybe permanently if she likes living with her in France or Italy.

"Do you know when it will happen?"


"You don't know when it will happen?"

"No one does. It just happens."

She flinches as I tug the hair on the back of her head into a twist. This is the most sensitive spot. It hurts the most, she says.

"Can I stay a little girl?"

"For now, you can."  Please do.