Wednesday, July 27, 2011


There are about 30 minutes left of my birthday. It has been a very good day. Nothing big happened, but I feel great. I am looking forward to all of the possibilities of this year and the years to come.

Me at 2 years old.
I will resume the blog, but I am taking a break for a day. I don't want to break too long, or I will get out of the habit of writing.

Thank you all for reading and for the birthday wishes!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

1 day 'til 45

"It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else."--Erma Bombeck
When I started this, I had no idea what direction I wanted to take this. I knew that I wanted to write something. I miss writing. My day to day life as a teacher is filled with so much that I don't give myself time to do the things I love like writing. That's my fault and I can change it. I might not write in the form of this blog, but it has been so nice to hear from so many of you who are reading that I don't think I will totally give up the blog.

I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to not only to read my blog, but also to respond:

Jennifer B., Jennifer L. (your baby is beautiful), Kati R., Kristi D., Sweet Lew, Christine D., Julia S., Carol W., Janice T., Amy S., Rebecca L., Catherine B. (I miss you), Nicole L., Kathy M., Megen E. (my student turn friend), Janice S., Aimee K.R., Chrischeryl M., Evelyn L., Jessica M., and Andrea O. (the only person who lived with me for four years and survived my quirks--love you!). Somebody name Anonymous too.

Thank you all. You have given my courage to continue writing in some format and that's invaluable to me.

So, what am I doing on the day before I mark the end of my 45 year on earth? I will probably mop the floors, give the dog a bath, and take a walk around the block. At 9pm I am driving to the airport to pick up my in-laws.

After I get back home, before I climbed into bed next to my sweet hubby, I will stop and give thanks to God for this wonderful life I have.

And tomorrow when I walk up I will be taller.  :-)

2 days 'til 45

(Won't pretend I tried to write this yesterday. I was tired enough to sleep for more than 4 or 5 hours. When that happens, I have to sleep).

When I was a kid in junior high, I discovered Erma Bombeck. I think my mom bought her book, The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, because she thought the title was funny. I had no idea what a septic tank was, but her writing made me laugh. She was a suburban housewife with a life far removed from the one I lived, yet her humor made her accessible to an urban 12 year old. I read every book that she wrote.

I wish I could write so that some kids or adults can understand my part of the world (the one I inhabit in Leander, Texas and the one that occupies my mind).

And I hope it makes them laugh.
 One of,my favorite quotes, sometimes attributed to Erma Bombeck, sometimes others:

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.'"

Monday, July 25, 2011

3 days 'til 45

Short and sweet...

When I got home from four days away from home, I found my dog and my husband waiting for me.

My husband missed me. It's wonderful to be missed by someone who can say so as well as show it.

I love him.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

4 days 'til 45 (Revised from previous post)

Dancing queen, machine, or fool...

At the International Baccalaureate Conference of Americas, a room full of educators, administrators, renowned authors, and intellectual giants got busy on the dance floor to classical songs such as "Doin' the Butt," and "The Humpty Dance."

The principal at a school in Ecuador, a man in his 50's, grabbed a woman, took her to the dance floor, and showed her that a distinguished man in a tailored suit and tie can teach a few youngsters about salsa dancing.

And there I was, in the midst of all those people, learning how to "wobble." This from a girl who was too shy to go to dances in high school because she thought she would have to, uhhh, dance. I started to loosen up in college, and every year I get less intimidated, more animated, and just a tad less coordinated.

I intend to learn to salsa well enough to dance with that principal from Ecuador at the next convention.

By the way, Grisham people, study the video. We are wobbling at the first dance of the year.

Friday, July 22, 2011

5 'til 45 (Revised from my home computer, yaa!)

When I was a kid I always felt taller on my birthday. It is not that I really wanted to be taller. No, I enjoy being short. I have been a reference point for many of my friends: Well, how tall is it? Twice as tall as Kasandra. How deep in the water? Just over Sandy's head. How big is the closet? Sandy can sleep in there pretty comfortably. Can't help but believe that my friend who said this to me really wanted to see if that was true.

When I would wake up on my birthday, I would stand next to my twin bed and back up to the mattress; I would swear that the top mattress was hitting closer to my calves than my thighs. My head would feel closer to the ceiling. I would just feel more stretched out. As the day wore on, I would start to feel more normal, but for a moment, I was tall.

The moment was all I needed, but I think my mom thought I wanted to be taller and she started to feel guilty about my height. Not that it was her fault; she's taller than I am. My dad was at least 6 feet, my oldest brother is 6'4", and my brother Leroy is 5'11". She had no need to suppose I would not reach 5'.

I think she felt guilty that I would think that my shortness was my fault. My mother used to tell me that kids grow when they sleep, so I needed to go to bed and sleep if I wanted to grow. Well, I have had trouble sleeping my whole life. Of course my mother could not have known this when I was a kid. She thought that I just wanted to stay up and read my books and watch television. Sure I did, but I was usually watching television and reading because I couldn't sleep. Anyway, she tried everything to get me in bed (and sleeping, not reading) and I am sure that she thought that I was going to grow taller on my own. If I saw myself growing and I was sleeping I could connect the dots and would continue to get the eight required hours of sleep. That didn't happen.

By the time she realized that I might not grow very tall, she had repeated the no sleep/no grow idea. Then she backtracked and remember a few random relatives --all dead, so no way to check--who were short too. Mom remembered Mama Sarah, my dad's grandma: 4'8", large breasted, and mean (which explains my other issues, but that's a story for another time).

Poor thing. What she did not know was that I could care less if I got taller. The nicknames did not bother me; really the only thing that bothered/bothers me was/is that I can't reach some things that are pushed to back on the top shelf at the grocery store. I either have to climb or ask someone.

Otherwise, 4'10 1/2" is what I am. The 1/2 is important because 4'10" is the height at which you can be declared a little person. No offense to little people, but I am not a little person. Really.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

6 days 'til 45

I am at a conference in San Antonio. Just got inspired by a 27 year old who has done more for the world than most people twice his age. His name is Craig Kielburger and he has written a book titled, Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World. At the ripe old age of 12, he created an organization, Free the Children, and as an adult, he has been nominated for The Nobel Peace Prize four times. On top of all of that, he's a nice guy--well, he's Canadian, eh.

There was a time in my life when I would have been jealous of someone like him and wondered why I didn't do something big and dramatic when I was young. I always wanted to have some sort of impact on the world and for a while I felt like it needed to be something on a really huge scale. I wanted to do something so great that Bryant Gumbel would call and invite me for an interview on the "Today Show." Then when he became Bryant the sports guy, I began planning to meet Oprah. Too late for that too.

What I am finding is that my impact does not have to register on the Richter scale to be important. Every day as a teacher, I encounter 125 or so students in my classroom, and many more in the hallways. I have an opportunity to reach hundreds of kids from 7:30am to 3:30pm and beyond. That's a lot of access to raw energy. That's power.

Craig talked about providing that "spark" to kids to get them to find their passions and their realize that they have certain gifts. I am dedicated to being flint and steel.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

7 days 'til 45

My birthday is a week away. I am feeling excited about this one. Maybe because there are so many new things coming my way. It may be just because it is a number that is divisible by 3, 5, 6, 9, and 15. I like things that have a kind of symmetry to them, order and systems. That's not to say that my house is in order. No, far from it. But I do like to put certain things in order.

My CD's are alphabetized in my album. I have not had the time to alphabetize my books since I moved in here, so I don't look at the shelf where they because that is a multiple day project and I haven't had the time yet. I did put some on the shelf according to size.

When I worked at Fashion Barn, I learned about colorizing the clothes: whites, then beige, yellow to orange, reds move into purples, and so on. That was my favorite thing to do in the store, and now I do it in my closets. I decide fabric types, length of sleeves, casual or dressy, then I colorize them.  I feel better knowing that I will find my white long-sleeved dress shirt on the left end of my closet.

One day while I was in college, my roommate Cheryl noticed that I had stacked all of the coins on the table into types. She didn't know that I put them in chronological order within the groups. She did, however, place a pile of tangled necklaces on the table just to see what would happen. By the end of the day, I had them untangled and lined up according to the length of the chain and pendant types.

I know it sounds bad, but I'm not like that guy in Sleeping With The Enemy. I don't insist that anyone else do this. I have even relaxed about it a bit. Well, not really. I was going to say that there were some things that I don't put in order anymore, but as I sat here, I couldn't think of anything. I mean, Adama puts the clothes in the closet sometimes, and I have only changed where they were a couple of times. Okay, I am looking around the room realizing that the DVD's are in alphabetical order in the cabinet and that I just reorganized the shelves in the kitchen.

The time I spend doing this things could be put to better use I am sure. Just can't think of how right now.

8 days 'til 45

For Jessica M. :-)

A little over five years ago, I decided to run a marathon. Well, I was convinced to train for a marathon. This was the first year that Jessica and I worked together. She's very peppy and talkative and had high hopes for the school year. I tried and failed to look excited when I met her. I still feel bad about that. I think she now knows why I was skeptical about how the teaching would go that year and that it wasn't about her at all, but even today I wonder if she thought I was one those doom and gloom Eeyore types. It was hard to resist her enthusiasm for everything though, so when one of the other teachers at our school mentioned that she would be training for a marathon and that we should join her, Jessica got excited and I got swept up in the excitement.

We were assured that ANYBODY can run a marathon. I was as close to any BODY as you can get--39 years old, not known for athletic prowess, and at least 25lbs above what is considered the "ideal" weight of someone under five feet tall. Twenty-six point two miles was a long way to carry 140lbs of low self-esteem, but I was going to try.

So, along with a few other teachers from the school, we joined Round Rock Fit, an organization of runners who would help train us for the marathon. Eventually, all of the other teacher quit and it was just Jessica and me. We got up early on Saturday mornings, warmed up with our running group, and ran the long distance goal for the day. Each week the distance would increase. The leaders of the group decided that we would end our runs at the same time each week, so as the distances got longer, the running groups met earlier. Then the time changed and we were running in the dark.

This would not have been so bad if we were running in the city where you could find lights, convenience stores, toilets and people. We were out in the undiscovered parts of Round Rock, running on country roads in abject darkness. One morning, I told Jessica to run in front of me so that if a car came it would shine on her white body and maybe we would not get killed. She liked that. Just a day after hearing about a woman who was attacked by dogs while she was out running, we found ourselves on that country road listening to the howls of the animals hiding in the darkness, wondering aloud what the hell we thought we were doing out there.

The runs were grueling and satisfying. I remember the first time we ran ten miles. We were at the halfway mark and marveled at how good we still felt. These bodies ran from one city to the next almost.

The best things about the run was getting to know Jessica. We always ran at a speed that let us talk comfortably. Talking was what got us through the worst days and made the best days even better. We spoke about issues in her relationship, "she who must not be named" at our school who gave us grief, and whatever we were watching on television at the time. We stretched, cried, and complained together. But mostly, we laughed.

I did not get the chance to run the marathon with Jessica that year, but I was there when she crossed the finish line. The next year, she was there when I finished.

Today, we are still there for each other.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

9 days 'til 45

When I decide to sit down with my grandmother, I had no idea if she would really tell me anything. My family talks, but they seem to leave out the important stuff. For example, I found out that my grandmother had breast cancer because I was in the room with her while she was dressing and I noticed that she did not have breasts. It had been about 20 years since her mastectomy and I knew nothing about it. I am no better about being open. I mean, I did not go to her and say, "I heard you have brain cancer so I'm going to record you before you die." I would not have been that blunt, but that's what I was doing. Besides that, I really wanted time with her. So I picked a none holiday and drove to her home in Calvert.

We were both shy about the tape recorder when I started, but eventually, we were able to talk comfortably. She brought out a box of pictures that she had underneath her bed. Not the pictures we gave her. The school pictures with the generic blue backgrounds were lined up on her shelves and covered her walls. Poor grandma! Having to find a space for at least 40 grandkids, 40 great-grandkids, and three great-great grandkids. She couldn't do it, so some of us fell out of rotation once we graduated high school. The pictures that she showed me were the ones she really treasured.

I recorded our conversation on a cassette tape. A few years later, I found a device and software that allowed me to convert our conversation to wave files. I have added bits of our conversation to this post. Click on the links and they will take you to a page that should allow you to listen if you would like.

I love my grandmother's voice and the words she used to talk about things. Listening takes me back to that day in her little house in the country. She was lively and beautiful that day and that's the way I always see her when I think about her.

Here is a link to the audio of my grandmother talking about the picture of her parents. Then she tells me about how she got together with my grandfather. One of the most shocking things that she revealed to me that day was that the man who she grew up with was not her biological father. She showed me a picture of her real father. My uncle Eugene, the youngest of the 11, looks a lot like him.

About two minutes in to the next audio clip, my grandmother talks about a scary incident and how she was ready to protect her children.

I asked my grandmother to tell me something about her 11 kids. Here's what she said about my mother and I my aunt. My mother's name is Verma and she was the second born, and Delois is the oldest family. The voice in the background in my aunt Shirley, the youngest girl in the family. She stopped over while we were talking. When I was a kid, I thought she was as beautiful as a movie star.

I am blessed to have my grandmother with me this way.

Monday, July 18, 2011

10 days 'til 45 (really late tonight)

When I found out that my grandmother had brain cancer, I drove to Calvert, TX to see her. I took a tape recorder because I wanted her to tell me something about her life and about her kids, my mother being one of them. I had no idea how open she would be, but I wanted to try. It is not that I felt really close to my grandmother. At the time, she had eleven children, forty grandchildren, forty-two great-grandchildren, and three great-great grandchildren. And most of the time when we would visit her, it would be a holiday or a huge family occasion, so I hardly ever got her all to myself. What spurred me on was not that she was sick, but how much I had loved my grandfather and how I felt I never really knew him. He died when I was 17 years old, so I had been around him plenty, but he was a mystery to me.

Whenever the family gathered in Calvert, my grandfather kind of stayed back in the corner, allowing my grandmother to get all of the attention. He would sit in his chair, head resting in his hand, and would seem to be lost in thought as we would laugh and play around him. Occasionally, he would tell stories. Most of the stories were full of details about people we knew behaving in humorous ways. After funerals, you could count on him to lighten up the mood by regaling us with stories about the deceased. Before the day was over, he would retreat to the shadows again--with us but somewhere else.

He always told the same story about me. My brother and I were visiting my grandparents. Actually, we lived with them for a while after my father died, a fact I learned when I interviewed my grandmother. Apparently, there was a trail of cowboys, black cowboys, who would pass by the house everyday and I would want to see them. I would run from the back of the house to the front at top speed. When I got to the steps, I sailed right over them, my short legs never touching a step as I landed safely on the ground and continued to run to the gate to greet the cowboys. My grandpa said he held his breath every time I got to the steps, sure that I would stumble one day. But I never did, he was proud to say.

After his funeral, we told stories about him too, but it got kind of bizarre.

We were all talking about how our grandfather had never really been to Dallas before. Most of the relatives, my aunts and uncles, lived in the Dallas Metroplex, but my grandparents did not visit there much. I don't really think my grandfather visited until right before his death. He had come up to to have an operation, and though it supposedly went well, he died a few days after it. I remember being angry because no one told me why he needed the operation, and my mom did not let me go to the hospital in the days after they found him on the hospital floor. The last time I had seen him was the day before his operation. Two of my cousins, my grandmother and I were visiting him in the hospital. We were about to leave and he started to cry. My grandmother held him and kissed him. I stared because I had never seen him cry and I had never really seen them together like that. That ended up being the last image I had of him alive.

Anyway, my cousin was talking about how, a few days before his operation, he had insisted on being taken back to Calvert. I don't know who drove him home, but they said that he went to his house, walked around a bit, and visited with his daughter who still lived there. Then he came back to Dallas. We figure he probably knew he would never be back again and he wanted to see his home one last time. After a few minutes of silence my cousin added that she saw my grandfather after he died. She said that he appeared at the foot of her bed, surrounded by a bright light, and told her that he was alright. One of my immediately exclaimed that the same thing had happened to her too. As they discussed the similarities of these events the rest of us listened in awe. I was a little bit jealous. Why didn't he come to me too?

After a while, we went to bed. My mom and I were going to share a bed in a room that held three beds. My brother occupied one of the beds and I can't remember who else was in the room. I climbed into bed and started thinking. I really wanted to see if my grandfather would come to me. My mother was in the bathroom getting ready for bed, and everyone else in the room was already sleeping. I said to myself, "Daddy, (most of us grandchildren called him daddy), if you are going to come, please come by the time I count to 10. Don't come after I pass 10 or I'm going to be scared. Okay?" Then I started counting in my head: one...two...three...four (come on)...five...six...ssevveeen...eiiiight....niiiiiinnnnnnne..TEN! He did not come!

I jumped out of the bed and ran to the bathroom where my mother was brushing her teeth. She asked me if I needed to use the toilet and I told her no, I just wanted to wait for her to come to bed. I was 17 and I had no shame about this. So, there I stayed until she finished her bath, brushed her teeth, and dressed for bed. All the while I talked to her about any and everything else but what I had just done.

The next day, I told my brother about calling out our grandfather. He laughed and said sheepishly, "I did the same thing too."

So, I guess I missed my opportunity to talk to him when he was alive and then again after he died. I did not want to do the same with my grandmother. I wanted to talk to her and get to know her better. Turns out, she told me things she had never told any before.

To be continued...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

11 days 'til 45

I think that at some point in my life I will parent someone. Maybe not a baby, but a child of some sort. If that happens, I would like to sit down with my mother and talk about how she was able to do some of the remarkable things she did as a mom.

How, for example, was she able to hide Christmas presents in our tiny duplex and put them under the tree during the night and the wee hours of the morning without waking me or my brother? The way our duplex was set up, every room was connected to the next room except for the bathroom. From the front living room, we'd walk through the hallway straight into the room I shared with my brother (and later with my mother), then through my mom's room to the kitchen. There was no way for her to get to the living room where the Christmas tree was without passing through our room. Furthermore, she did hide some of the presents in the room where we slept--we discovered through intense detective work--and still managed to move those things and place them without casting a shadow across our Santa-seeking eyes. When we would wake at 5am, we would be shocked at the number of gifts we saw. And she still managed to look like she got some sleep the night before. If I didn't know better, I would have sworn she slipped us something to knock us out.

Beyond that, she seemed to know where I was and what I was doing at all times. Not that I was a bad kid, but occasionally I had a few lapses in judgement. I remember one time I was all the way on the other side of town, over by Dolphin Road, and I lived on Lindsley. I walked home with a friend as she talked me into visiting a guy that I liked. Most uncomfortable thing I had ever done. She left me alone with him in his house and all I could think was how badly I wanted to go home. After he teased me about knowing that I liked him (and sang Teddy Pendergrass songs to me), I got up and left. Nothing at all happened, not even a kiss, yet I felt like I had done something very wrong.

I managed to get to my house right before my mom got home and she busted me. How did she know? Nobody was home to tell her. I arrived long enough before her to look like I had been home. It's not just that she knew I wasn't home; she knew I had been in a boy's house. She also knew that nothing happened, but we still talked about why it was not a good idea that I would go there. She answered my silent query of how she knew by saying, "I know you."

So, on my prom night, when the goal seemed to be to stay out as late as possible or not come home at all, I asked my mom what time I should come home. She said, "Come home when you think you need to be home." Really? 'Cause you know, it's a tradition for everyone to ride around the streets surrounding the high school and the junior high wearing their prom outfits the next morning, looking as if they stayed up all night. She repeated, "Come home when you think you need to be home."

Wow. Prom Night. No curfew. Hot date that I had a massive crush on and oh when he asked me to go I was shocked cause he was so fine and so out of my league that I was sure he was not going to show up but he did and I did not have to be home...until...I thought...I be home. Wow.

So, I went to the prom. Had a little fun there. My date left me for a while (never knew where he went), but showed up at the end. We went to a hotel room...with about four to five other couples and ate hamburgers and watched karate movies. Sometime during the night, I realized the netting on my dress had made multiple snag marks on my pantyhose, so I took the hose off. At about 2am, my date decided to take me home. I was actually fine with that. I was tired and had seen almost every Bruce Lee movie ever made. Besides, the other girls in the room were doing their hair in anticipation of the prom parade the next day.

When we got to the car, my date noticed that I was not wearing pantyhose and he freaked out.
"Where are they?"
"In my purse."
"Put them on."
"Because your mother is going to kill me if you are not wearing those when I drop you off. She is probably sitting in your living room with a shotgun."
"My mother is in bed."
"Put them on."

I was kind of surprised at his insistence that my mother was just waiting for him to drop me off so that she could permanently part his jheri-curl hairdo. My mom is the sweetest looking person I know. (Of course, I knew how hard she could be, but you really couldn't tell from looking at her. That was what made her so deadly.) I p-shawed him, but he wasn't going anywhere until I was "dressed."

When we got to my house, he was sweating, curl activator running down his cheeks. He quietly kissed me goodnight, then ducked and ran for his car.

I walked in to find my bed...asleep.

She knew me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

12 days 'til 45

Very brief...

I think I am experiencing a side effect to the prednisone I am taking. I had really bad muscle cramps in my upper back earlier today. I was rolling around in agony, tears on the brink of falling and now I feel it coming back. So I am going to lie down and try not to tear my pillow in two with my bare hands.

Good night.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

13 days 'til 45

I had a hard time writing about this because I don't want to. But it's stuck in my head and I think this might be the only way to get it out.

My husband is learning new English words all the time and he likes to try them out on me. The first time this happened, we were not married yet. He was taking ESL night classes at the school where I work, and I would stay at school at take him to his brother's house after class.

After class that night, he put his arm around me and said, "You are my only bond."

"Your only bond?"
"My onee ban."
He was smiling at me, so I figured whatever he was saying was something nice, but I still was not getting it.

Finally, we got to my car and he showed me his notebook with the words he was saying to me.
"Oh! I am your honey bun!"

I love telling that story because it is sweet. Then he started learning other words and phrases: boring; obnoxious; I am not your maid; don't get clever with me; my wife will kick your ass. Okay, he did not learn that last one at school.

He also says, "You are my boss. You are number one." Every time he tries these words out on me, I know when he is being serious and when he is kidding. I do know that he loves and respects me.

Tonight he told me that he learned the word self-centered, and just like every other word he learns, he teased me by using it with me in mind. I did not take it well. I was so bothered that I could not let it go even after he made me understand that he did not believe that about me and that he was just kidding. I believe him; I am questioning me. Am I really self-centered?

This word, self-centered, and it's relatives, selfish and self-absorbed, have dogged me most of my life.

I remember being called selfish when I was very young. I don't remember the context--probably something I did not want to share. I do remember the pain of hearing that about myself. I felt it again tonight. I think at a young age I was so determined not to be seen as selfish that I gave away and gave in way too much. Then I spent too much time worried if it was enough and what people thought of me.

Self-centered. It's all about me.
Forget young age--I still do it.

I guess I want to say that I am still a work in progress in this area of my life.

14 days 'til 45

Fifteen years ago, I decided to accept a job offer to teach in Colombia, South America. I did not go looking for a job teaching overseas; it was one of those times when circumstances lined up and presented a chance of a lifetime.

I was working the 4pm to midnight shift at the Department of Public Safety when I was offered the opportunity to interview for a job overseas. I had just gone to bed at 7am when the call came at 8am, a dangerous time for me to make rational decisions. I remember waking up later in the day thinking, "What did I just agree to?"

I figured it was an opportunity for me to at least work on my interviewing skills. I got the call on a Tuesday, interviewed on Wednesday, was offered the job on Thursday, and had to let him know by Friday. I talked to everyone about what I should do. Responses ran from "it might be a good opportunity," to "hell no." My mom called and talked to her minister, and friends reminded me that it was COLOMBIA and if I needed to be rescued they probably couldn't get to me. All I could think about was that I was  turning 30 that year and would probably never have another opportunity like that again. I took the job and did not have any regrets--until the day I left.

My mom and her boyfriend (now husband) took me to DFW airport that morning. I was flying from Dallas to Miami, then Miami to Barranquilla. My brother was going to meet us at the airport so that we could say goodbye. Mom was holding up well. Her minister told her that she had to let go and trust God. I was excited and ready for my new adventure until I realized that my brother would not make it to the airport on time. I started crying. I don't ever cry, really, and I was close to becoming hysterical and making a scene. My mom had to hug and hush me. To this day, I don't know where all of that emotion came from, but I pulled myself together and got on the plane. I had met one of the other  teachers going to Colombia earlier in the month, so I knew at least one person on the plane. The other teachers, one more from Texas and two from Canada, would be on the plane from Miami to Colombia. I picked out the other Texan right away in the airport in Miami: large Mexican guy, looking very stressed and kind of muttering to himself. We're still best friends.

The trip was pretty uneventful until we got to Barranquilla. We had a seven hour layover in Barranquilla. Seven. Seven hours to take in all the sights and sounds of the airport because we couldn't go out into the city. Seven hours of realizing that everyone around you is speaking Spanish except for the group of teachers you just met. Seven hours to think about the fact that this was going to be your life for almost a year. Seven hours to check the flights back to Miami and the United States.

There was a feeling of uneasiness about the fact that we could not go out into the city. I mean, we had seven hours. Why did we have to stay there in the airport? What were they hiding from us? The man who hired us was there and had the same Mickey Mouse smile plastered on his face that I saw when I was being interviewed. He did not seem to be a person who would sell me into slavery, but you never know.

It was almost time to board the plane to the region where we would be living, but there was a problem. There were too many people who needed to be on the 40 passenger plane. Our director made sure that we got on the plane, but our luggage was going to have to stay behind. We could take a small something that we could carry. He promised that we would get our bags the next day. What could we do? We left our things and got on the plane. Did I mention it was a 40 passenger plane? One of those planes that you walked out on the tarmac to get into. I was lucky to be small because those seats were jammed close together. Both of the Texans were pretty large boys and had a hard time getting into the seats. They also would not turn on the air conditioning until the plane was going--and there were flies on the plane. Oh, did I mention I am just a tad claustrophobic? I stared out the window and tried not to begin rocking a shrieking.

We finally took off. I have forgotten how long the flight took, but I remember the rocky landing. It wasn't bad, but you can really feel everything on those small planes. We transferred from the plane to a bus that drove us to camp. There were no street lights, just the light of the bus driving us through the darkest night I had ever seen, and every once and a while lighting up signs that read "peligroso (danger)". Just the word--no pictures of animals, falling rocks, steep hills, curving roads--leaving the possibilities open to interpretation. It's Colombia so you can probably guess what I was thinking. I did not need a sign with a picture of Al Pacino holding a machine gun a la Scarface to get my imagination going.

We finally arrived at the camp at about 1am. There was a crowd of people there to greet us, talk to us, and feed us pizza. That's when I decided they were trying to brainwash us. We had been traveling most of the day and experiencing Colombia (peligroso!) for the first time, and they were trying to get us to stay up and talk to them. Not a great first night. But then the director took us to his house so that we could call home and let everyone know that we arrived safely. By the time I got to my bungalow, I did not care where I was. I just wanted to sleep. I ignored the possible new creatures I might find in my place, ignored the fact that I only had a few things, ignored the fact that the walls of my new place were painted so pink that it seemed like I was in utero (my new friend Abe dubbed it that when he visited the next day). I just wanted to sleep and finally I did.

The next morning, I looked at the clock. It was only 5am. I looked out of the window and saw this really bright light. "What the heck is that?" I thought. It was sitting high up in the sky and was really bright. Oh my goodness.  It was the sun. Big and bright at 5am.

What kind of hell did I just enter?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

15 days 'til 45

I have been writing this blog for 15 days now and I am having a great time sharing my writing. Thank you for reading and for everyone who has commented on my blogs. I am humbled by your responses. I am sorry that I have not thanked you personally. It is a strange thing to do what you have wanted to for the first time in a long time. I want to write and be read, but if I stop and think about who is reading then I start to get self-conscious and I start to worry that what I might say will be offensive, or incorrect, or boring, etc.

This feeling surrounds me. This may sound unrelated but bear with me.

I was working at the McCombs School of Business at UT, and it was one of the best jobs I have ever had. I think I found myself during those years because of the boss I had and because I was in therapy. One day I was talking to my boss--don't remember what I was talking about--but something made me start laughing. Not a quiet giggle but a loud, long, deep in the soul laugh. I walked out my bosses office to see several student workers looking at me. One of them said, "Are you okay?" I said yes. They said they had never heard a laugh like that before--sort of like I was running out of breath. It made them laugh but also a little concerned until they found out I was okay.

I had never been told that I had a funny laugh before. I thought about it for a while and realized something: I had never really thrown my head back in laughter before. I had laughed before, for sure. But not long and loud with abandon. I remember trying hard not to be loud. When I was really young, I was always told to be quiet; I was the smallest person in the house with the biggest sound. At some point I got the message. I did not want to bother anyone with anything. So I kind of silenced myself, including silencing my writing.

Well, now I am told regularly that my laugh is funny. That makes me happy. It means that I have let loose. Now I need to continue doing that with my writing. The only thing I need to silence is that loud voice in my head that says, "Don't do that. What if they don't like it? What if you offend someone? What if you say too much? What if it is no good? Why don't you stop?"

It's been fifteen days. A good record for me. Here's to at least fifteen days more.

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

16 days 'til 45

I just saw that new episodes of Dallas will be starting in 2012. I saw Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, and Linda Gray in the previews while the familiar theme music played in the background. I am not sure I am going to watch the new show; the old show meant so much to me and my family.

Actually, we were kind of a soap opera watching family. When I was very young, before I was old enough to go to school, I stood on a chair in front of the sink in the kitchen and watched Another World while doing the dishes. Mom cooked and we discussed what was going on. We had a very tiny black and white television that sat on the kitchen counter when we were in there, and traveled with us to other rooms to assist us in completing other chores. I don't know why I remember this so well. Maybe because it was just mom and me. She worked many different shifts throughout my childhood and having her there to talk to was a treat. I think her shift changed when I got to elementary school, so we couldn't watch soap operas together anymore. I used to record the soap operas for her--not on a VCR, but with a tape recorder. I would put the recorder as close to the television as possible so mom wouldn't miss a thing. When the actors would stop talking, I would explain the action to mom.

"Jill just cut a hole into Stuart's throat so that he can breathe, and Lorie looks mad because she thinks Jill is trying to kill him."
"Leslie's face is frowned up as she plays the piano. I think she's going crazy."

Mom would listen to the recordings at night and I would tell her anything else she missed. I loved doing that for her. I watched all of the soaps on CBS and recorded them as long as I had cassettes. If I ran out, I would just tell her everything that happened--what the characters said, what they did, how the dressed--and I would give her my opinion about what would happen next. Is it any wonder that at one point in my life, I wanted to write for soap operas.

When Dallas started, all three of us, Mom, Leroy, and I, would watch it together. From the beginning montage of the Dallas Metroplex, to the last close-up of a character's eyes and the promise of another episode the next week. Sometimes we had dinner first; most of the time we ate in front of the television set. And we talked during the commercials--about the show and other things.

One day, I came home from school on a Friday to find that someone had broken into the house. My cousin was with me and when we saw the front room in disarray, we ran to her house and she called her dad's job. Her mom and my mom both worked at T.I. and were due home any minute. When mom got there, we walked through our duplex to see what was missing. We noticed that some things were sitting stacked by the back door, waiting for the intruders to come back and get them. This was the worst part. They could come back. No one wanted to stay there that night, so we went to my cousin's house for the night.

There we sat, in front of the television on a Friday night. Three adults and six teenagers watched Dallas as of everything was normal. But life would never be the same again--someone just shot J. R.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

17 days 'til 45

We have had a pretty busy summer so far. Adama gets up at 3am to get to Target at 4am for the early morning shift. Then he comes home to sleep or do homework because he is taking three classes this summer--ESL Reading, ESL Grammar, and Pre-algebra. So I tutor and type papers for his ESL classes and he takes care of the math. Ever try to tutor someone you love? Especially someone who wants to know why something in the English language is the way it is. He can't believe that the Language Arts teacher does not have all the answers. Our sessions usually end with me saying, "Sorry I yelled at you."

As for me, I have been dealing with the car. We had two car accidents in May, neither our fault, and have had to deal with insurance and having the car looked at and fixed multiple times. I hope to get the last part done this week. And I have bronchitis. Been coughing so hard I have wet my pants a few times. We have not slept in the same bed for the last few nights because my coughing fits have been so bad that I have not wanted to wake him up. We need a break from all of this.

So we started talking about getting away for a few days. He thinks he can convince his boss to give him two days off together and maybe he won't go to class on Thursday.  That might give us a long weekend. We talked about a quick trip to Las Vegas, New York, or maybe driving to New Orleans. The reality is we have very little time and not a lot of money. After looking at a few trip websites, we ended up talking about doing something next year.

Today after work, my husband brought home a couple of patio chairs. He has had his eye on different chairs throughout the summer, waiting for something to go on sale. Not just a few bucks down, but what he would call a good deal. My husband likes discounts, or as he likes to put it, "I want to win the good price." These were not the chairs he liked in the beginning, but he began to realize that if he didn't buy something now, we would be waiting until next summer for that too.

After a long day of doing errands for our in-laws who are in Europe for three weeks, we sat outside in our new chairs. Adama asked me what I really wanted out of life and we started talking. I talked about wanting to be a writer and wanting to live somewhere else for a while. He asked about my most vivid memory, and when I told him, he said that I could write about that. He told me stories about his past and what he wants. I didn't mop the floor like I wanted to and he didn't study for the test he has tomorrow. We just sat in the quiet of Leander and reconnected. He said how nice it was just to talk and look at the sky.

One day,  we will travel far away from home. We have no doubts about that. But for right now, sitting on five dollar chairs in our backyard is the best trip we've taken together in a long time.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

18 days 'til 45

Bear with me. I have a nice little buzz in my head from the steroids I am taking to battle bronchitis. As usual, I waited until everyone around me said, "Please, please, please go to the doctor," before I went.

I really hate going to the doctor. I have had some pretty bad experiences with doctors, but none as bad as the one I had with a neurologist here in Austin (seriously, I wish I could remember his name so i could tell everyone I know to avoid him). He was THE GUY to go to if you were having nerve issues. At the time, I did not know what was wrong. I was dizzy and experiencing headaches and other body pains. He was just another truck stop on the road to some answer, but not like that nice stop in Italy, TX . More like stopping in that store from the movie Deliverance.
Like most doctor's visits, I sat in the exam room for a long time. As I said, I had been to a lot of different doctors by the time I got to him, so I really was feeling nervous and hopeful. When he walked in, I kind of relaxed. He looked like Dave Thomas, the owner of Wendy's and he had a genial smile. He started by asking questions about my symptoms.

He would ask "normal" questions. How, when , where, to what degree was the pain. Was I in pain at the moment. Family history.

Mother had this problem? Not that I know of?
Father? My father is deceased.
How did he die? Gunshot
Probably doing something bad. Huh? Wha...?
You look a little like my granddaughter. She's so cute. I spent some time in Africa. Wonderful place. Stand up please.
Did your mother marry again? No.
She probably should have.  Uhhhh.... What?
You planning on getting married some day...close your eyes. I don't know.
(He pushes me to one side while my eyes are closed. I stumble a little.)
You're 34 years old. Your clock is ticking. Better hurry up and decide. Uh 'kay?????
(He shoves me to the other side.)
I don't blame you. Most black man are in jail or the are irresponsible. Hard to find a good one. (!!!!!!!!!!!????????!!!!!!!!)
He shoved me around a little more and continued to make comments along those lines for a few minutes more.
He said, "You'll have to come back for a nerve velocity test."

Then he left the room.

I sat there thinking, "What the heck just happened here? Was that part of a test? Are there cameras in here? Are we on television? Is he coming back?"

He never did come back. Finally, a nurse came in to tell me that appointment was over and that I needed to schedule my nerve velocity test. I was so disturbed...and angry with myself. Why didn't I say something? I know people who would not have taken that; would have stormed out of the room; would have asked to speak to someone. But really...I wasn't even sure that all of that had really happened until I got home from the appointment.

I remember watching You've Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Meg's character talked about how she wished she could say the right thing at the right time when confronted with someone who was being rude or mean. I do too. I have gotten better. Probably because of my age. Sometime after 40, I started being more forward and assertive. I try not to lament that it took so long and just be happy that it seems to be getting easier to speak up as I get older.

At this rate, I'm going to be quite ornery when I hit 50. Can't wait!

19 Days 'til 45

Today, July 8, is my husband's birthday. He has changed the color of my world. The first time I saw him, I felt that "zing" in my heart that told me he was going to be in my life for more that just a moment. I have had these zings before, so I wouldn't say it was love at first sight. In fact, many of my closest friends produced that same feeling in me the first time I met them. It's possible that I made those relationships happen, but for the most part I would say circumstances caused us to find our ways to each other and then we became friends.

Let's say I stepped out of my comfort zone and allowed this relationship to happen. First of all, I let my co-worker, now my sister-in-law set me up. It did not sound promising as a long term thing which is probably why I said yes. She asked me if I wanted to go to the movies with her brother-in-law who was visiting from Italy where he had lived for the last 10 or so years. By the way, his English was not very good and I would have to call him and pick him up for our date.

Okay. I said okay quickly staying ahead of that inner dialogue that kept me from dating for 11 years. A few weeks later, we had Parade of Cultures at our school and he was there. I had not been shown a picture of him, so I did not know what he looked like, and he was not standing with his family members whom I knew very well. But when I saw him, I knew. There went the zing. I found another teacher, a friend of mine, and asked her to come with me to see if she thought he was good looking. Instantly 12 years old again, we followed him around the gym where the exhibits for the culture fair were set up. I never got close enough to talk to him that night. The next time I saw wasn't good.

His sister-in-law had invited me to her house for a late Thanksgiving party. I woke up, got nervous about going to the party, and was ecstatic that I had a fever and couldn't attend. When I called, she said she would bring food to me later. I should have known it was a code, but I had been out of the game too long. There I was, pajammied, bathed in vapor rub, disheveled, answering the door to her...and him. Okay, I thought, maybe if I ignore him he won't see me. So, you want to go out with me (sniff, sniff, cough, cough)?

Well, we finally made the date just after Christmas. He called me, and through very broken English tinged with Italian and French accents, he asked me if I wanted to go with him to the movies, or to eat, or sumf-fing. Since I was beginning to think this was not going to happen and I was starting to feel a little relieved (and a little sad), my shields were down. Okay, I just wanted to get this over with. Though I was attracted, I was starting to feel the familiar fear that kept me home most nights for more than a decade.

The first thing he said to me after we decided not to go to a movie, after I promised not to kill him with my car, after I admitted to being nervous, after we sat down to a nice dinner, he says to me, "You fear life."

Hold on, Pepe LePew. Aren't you suppose to be kissing my hand, whispering sweet nothings in my ear, and promising to whisk me off to the Casbah? You're not suppose to be exposing my deepest secret. I was annoyed, speechless, impressed and intrigued.

He told me that I really did not what to got to the party at his sister-in-law's because I was avoiding him(true).
He told me that I stayed in Dallas one extra day to delay going out with him (true).
He told me that I was beautiful (true and finally, I was getting some wooing. It didn't last),

He said, "The first time I saw you at school, you were happy, zing, zing, zing, zing..." (You noticed me. Did you notice me noticing you? Did you like me? Check box yes or box no.)

I liked that he did not give me the standard date resume. He talked in philosophical terms. He was confident even in his broken English. He did not sugar-coat his assessment of me, and it allowed me to throw in my own observations. We spoke as if we had nothing to lose. He had the kind of honesty that comes a year after dating, not just hours. As I argued, debated, teased, and laughed, for the next 8 hours, I started to fall. ZING!

I am looking forward to a lifetime of anti-wooing honesty.

Bon anniversaire!. Je t'aime, Adama!
(Happy birthday! I love you, Adama!)

Friday, July 8, 2011

20 days 'til 45 (Later than my usual late)

Eight years ago, my mom called me and said, "You're going to have to be my brave girl now. I have breast cancer. Everything is going to be fine." With those words, I lost 30 years.

I remember asking questions and finding out what was going to happen next, but remaining relatively calm. My roommate Andrea walked into the apartment during that conversation, and I grabbed her arm as she passed me. We had not been living together very long and we were still getting to know each other, so I think I kind of shocked her by holding on to her so tightly while my mother talked on the other end of the phone. When I hung up the phone, I told Andrea that my mom had cancer. She immediately dropped down in front of me and prayed with me. That's who she is. My rock when I need her. She helped me through all of the ups and down that a person experiences when she learns that her foundation might be crumbling.

My mom is my foundation. She raised my brother and me by herself, making sure we had just what we needed. We did not have much money, but you never would have known it. We always had lots of gifts under the Christmas tree and plenty of food on the table. Once, she was laid off from her job. She told us not to worry; the lord would provide. We spent that week as if our mom was on vacation: walking to the store--we did not have a car--playing games, and just having fun. By the end of the week, she was offered a job at the same place--for less money, but still, it was enough. Now, she needed me and I did not know if I could do it.

I drove to Dallas the next day to see her. Nothing was going to happen for a while, but I still needed to see her. It was Wednesday and we went to prayer meeting at church that night. During altar call, the minister asked if there was anyone suffering out there, was someone in need of prayer. Please come and tell us so we can pray for you. I looked at my mom, wondering if she would walk down that aisle. She said to me, "I don't want to call attention to myself. I'll tell people later." That's who she is--strong and humble.

On the day of her surgery, we sat in the waiting room--Mom, Leroy, and I. Our small family was used to doing things alone, away from our huge, extended family. Others were coming later, but it was just us for the moment. Mom had to fill out lots of forms, one of them was a form to tell the doctors what to do just in case something went wrong. Mom tried to tell us what she wanted; she did not come right out and say it. She looked at me and said, "I know you know what I want and that you will tell them if the time comes." I knew and I would do it if necessary. Please, God, don't make it necessary.
My mom, prepped for surgery, looked both young and old. After I prayed with her, she said that I had really grown up. At 36, I had never felt more like a little girl than I did at that moment. Helpless, fearful, and a little angry. My wonderful, faithful, mother had to go through this when there were people who never had any troubles. I'll admit it; I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, too. I still needed her to be mama.

After surgery, I slept in her hospital room overnight, listening for her breathing, staring at her face, searching for signs of pain. Every little frown was like a prick in my heart. I wanted this to be over for her. The next day, the nurse showed me how to make her breathe with the breathing machine, how and when to clear the drains from her surgery, and how to record data about what I saw. I get squeamish just looking at pictures with blood. But this was my mom, and she needed me. I did it without a second thought.

For about three days until I returned to Austin, I took care of my mother. My foundation. I did what I never thought I could do because she was my mother.

Mom has been cancer-free for the last 8 years. We talk on the phone once a week. She is who I want to be when I finally grow up.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

21 days 'til 45

A few years back, I took a solo trip to Arizona. I had been on group trips before and there was always one or two people who kind of dictated where everyone would go and what everyone would do. This was fine with me because most of the time I don't like to think when I am on vacation. Besides these leader(s), there was often a naysayer in the group. The one person who would go along with everyone because she (let's face it ladies, it's almost always a female) got out-voted, therefore was unhappy for most of the trip. She often confides in the go-along-to-get-along person--usually me. So vacations would equal drama.

I needed a drama-free vacation.I chose Arizona because I knew that I could take a tour bus from Phoenix to Sedona,which I heard was beautiful, and I could also see the Grand Canyon on the same tour. On the first night of my stay in the Days Inn in Phoenix, I spent time reading by the pool, finding places to eat, and talking to the girl who worked in the gift shop. I decided my day and I liked it. People would ask why I was in Phoenix and with whom. When I would say I was vacationing alone, they would be impressed. I was more impressed by two women I met on the tour bus the next day.

There are lots of people who like to "discover" places on their own and shun tour buses and tourist-y events, but I kind of like having someone tell me interesting things. Plus, you get to meet new people. I like meeting new people because everyone has a story to tell if someone will listen. I listen because I love stories. On the bus were two women who had traveled together once every year for the last 25 years. They left their husbands, children, jobs, and family obligations to take trips together. Through sickness and pregnancies, they kept their vacation times sacred, and they kept it a party of two.

I envied their friendship. When I was young, I used to read books about friends who had known each other for years and had been close for all those years no matter what. I really wanted that.

I still know people from elementary school, middle, and high school, but we do not have that kind of friendship.

I have reconnected with friends from college, but so far, it doesn't feel like that kind of close.Of course, I have my husband, but that's different. 

I have not been a good, stick around, check on you, call regularly, let's take a trip together kind of friend in the last few years. I am ready to change that. I know it is not too late.

So, if you would like to hang out with me for the next 25 or so years...

Have friendship, will travel!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

22 days 'til 45

Fifteen years ago, I got a job working at a school in Colombia, South America. I taught four classes of English--two 8th grade classes and two 10th grade classes. Since most of the kids had been speaking English since preschool, it was kind of like teaching those subjects here in the United States. The kids there even behaved the same way you would expect kids in our country to behave, except they were a little more forward about things. For example, when I was sick and had to leave the classroom suddenly, the kids asked if I had diarrhea. I don't think U. S. kids would have asked, or they would have snickered about it. These kids were more or less unfazed by my possible stomach problems. I, being a product of my Texas upbringing, was quite fazed by that question, but I didn't want to lie, so I just said yes and went home for the day.

For this reason, I should not have been surprised by what happened when I introduced and new word to my students. Since these were English classes, I taught a lot of vocabulary. Regular old vocabulary that we encounter every day can get kind of stale, so I liked to throw in some words that I found in my WordSmart book. This book claimed to assist readers in achieving an "erudite" vocabulary, and one of my 8th grade classes was primed to learn more interesting words. These were gifted kids and I liked to challenge them. So, I introduced the word "callypigian," which means having well-formed buttocks. I let them look it up in the dictionary. When they found out the meaning of the word they were fascinated, awestruck that such a word existed. They were seriously discussing when someone might use that word. I was triumphant. I had captured their attention. Little did I know how much I had captured.  One of my students raised his hand, and when I called on him he said, "Ms. Hughes, you are very callypigian."

Oh my. I looked around the room. Some students were nodding, others had their heads tilted, puzzled looks on their faces as if trying to decide if his assertion was accurate. No one giggled; no one was really shocked. Except me.

"Thank you," I said after a moment and tried not to have my back to them for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

23 days 'til 45

Tomorrow, July 5, is my brother Leroy's birthday. Mom once told me that he was born at 8:30 in the morning. So I have been calling him at 8:30 in the morning on his birthday, almost without fail, for as long as I can remember. When we were kids, I slapped his bottom to wake him up on his birthday. He wouldn't get mad because it was his birthday.

We always shared our birthday parties because we both were born in July. My cousins who lived close by would come over and we would have cake and lime sherbet ice cream mixed with ginger ale for drinks. I don't remember presents or cards, but I do remember the pictures we took with everyone in our little duplex smiling and eating. Then we would go outside and play. Sometimes we will ride our bikes farther away than we were suppose to, and come back to the yard as close to sundown as possible to play red light/green light, mother-may-I, and hide and go seek. So much fun. I can still see us in the dark catching lightning bugs.

I know my brother will probably be at work tomorrow when I call, and I will need to leave a message, but I am looking forward to waking up at 8:30 tomorrow and calling him to say happy birthday and feeling summer.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

24 days 'til 45

I love the lyrics of the Mary J. Blige song, "Work What You Got." I think every middle school girl should listen to this song.

These are the words I like the most:

I just wanna be myself
Don't sweat girl be yourself
Follow me
Follow me
Follow me
Girl be yourself
That's why I be myself
And I'm gonna love it

Let em get mad
They gonna hate anyway
Don't you get that?
Doesn't matter if you're going on with their plan
They'll never be happy
Cause they're not happy with themselves

I'm talking bout things that I know

It's okay show yourself some love

Don't worry bout who's saying what
It's gonna be fine
Work what you got

I see so many girls going through such hard times during middle school. Girls can be so mean to each other and to themselves. I used to just love myself when I was in elementary school. I liked my hair, I never worried that I was a nerd who played the violin, I danced around people and didn't worry that I had steps wrong. Then I got to junior high and everything seemed to change. Some people seemed to be doing fine, but I wasn't. One of my closest friends started hanging out with a different group of girls, and I heard them talking about her clothes behind her back. I told her and she said she didn't care, but I was the one she stopped talking to.

I was not bullied or talked about really, but my childhood friends were moving in different directions, choosing cliques that I really did not fit into. I found friends (lots of them), but I always felt on the edge of everything until high school. Even then, I never felt that same "I'm wonderful" feeling. That's too bad because I think we all need that.

I think we should find a way to spare all girls the pain of feeling less than.  See what Mary says:

Theres so many-a girls
I hear you been running
From the beautiful queen
That you could be becoming
You can look at my palm
And see the storm coming
Read the book of my life
And see I've overcome it
Just because the length of your hair ain't long
And they often criticize you for your skin tone
Wanna hold your head high
Cause you're a pretty woman
Get your runway stride home
And keep going
Girl live ya life

We should have runway stride day at school. Play this song and just let everyone strut for a while.

That would be a great flash mob.

25 days 'til 45 (yesterday)

Let's get ready to rumble.

When we were kids, my brother and I fought almost every day. Not yelling at each other; we let our fists do the talking. He was a year older than me and taller, but I was stocky and determined. We were evenly matched. Our summer day would start with us lying on the opposite ends of the couch watching television (Dusty's Treehouse, New Zoo Revue, Three Stooges). Then one of us would offend the other person somehow--body noises were usually the culprit--and we would start fighting. Punches, headlocks,and any moves we saw on early morning wrestling were legal. It would be ferocious for a few minutes. Then it would be over. We would watch "The Young and the Restless," discuss the problems between Victor and Nikki or the Abbotts, and have lunch. Inevitably, one of us would breathe, and the fight would be on again. We would usually have at least one more before Mom got home at 4:00. She knew about these fights because one of us would blab. She told us to stop, that siblings shouldn't fight like that, and that she was very disappointed in us. We did not want to disappoint her, so we stopped--tattling, not fighting. First rule of sibling throw down is don't talk about sibling throw down.

These fights continued until my brother entered junior high. He had started playing football and was getting very strong. He was still very skinny, but there was muscle now covering those bones.

As always, the fight started over something trivial. By now, we were fighting with words as well as fists. We both knew that the verbal was just the preview of the coming attraction--the main event. Only this time, the feature would be very short. My football playing, athlete brother punched me in the stomach. Fight over. I clutched my stomach in pain, tears sprung to my eyes, and I said the one thing guaranteed to hit him where it hurt: "Momma said you're not suppose to hit girls." The look on his face was one of fear--fear that he had really hurt me. In all of our years of battle, I always knew that my brother would not hurt me for the world. Not really hurt me. This was the same brother who sat outside of the bathroom in the hallway to keep the monsters--rats--away from me. As long as I gave as well as I got in our fights, it was okay to hit me. Now, with me in tears, he was the one really hurting.

We never fist fought again and I never told momma about him punching me in the stomach.

My brother and I have a very good relationship now. I think we both feel free to tell each other the truth about our lives. My mom thinks it's good that we can talk this way to each other.

Of course we are close. We are war buddies.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

26 days 'til 45

That's Just the Way it Is. Period.

When I was about 9 years old, my mom took me aside to have a talk with me. It was a Saturday morning, so I knew this was serious. Saturday was about cartoons and hair washing and shopping, not discussions.So I already had a bad feeling about this. And it was a talk just between the two of us. My brother was nowhere in sight. Yeah, this was going to be "the talk." Well, at least one of them.

My mom told me that my cousin had started her period that morning. I had already heard about getting periods, and according to my sources, it only happened to "fast" girls. Now I was being told that this happens to all girls and that it could happen to me any day now. Yep, this was bad news. It got worse.

Mom told me that a period could last from 3 to 7 days, that I might experience some pain, and that I could expect it to happen every 28 days...until I was an old lady. She told me about mini-pads and pregnancy, about how she hid it from her mom, and how she did not want me to be afraid to talk to her about it. She said many other things that day, but the thing that stuck in my head was that she said that now my cousin may act different and that I was not to ask her about her period. She was becoming an adult and needed some time to adjust. She asked if I had any questions.

Sure I did. Could you be wrong, mom? Is there anyway out of this? What is my cousin going to be like now? Will she stop talking to me? Did she have to stop playing with me? Why wasn't I born a boy? All they do is talk about sports and guns. I was bummed after our conversation and would remain that way for the next few weeks.

That same day, my mom, brother, and I went with my cousin's family to the Natural History Museum in Dallas. There on display was a clear figure of a woman with visible internal organs...and she was pregnant and you could see the developing baby inside of her. Next to her was a huge wheel where you could chart your...period. My cousin, who usually told me everything, had not said a word about her period.

I felt so alone. There was my cousin, walking around becoming an adult, and a chart of my destiny spinning right in front of my eyes. I was being assaulted with this period thing and I really wanted no part of it.

When I did get my period two years later, I still didn't feel any better about it. Sure, I had read Are You There, God? It's me, Margaret by then. Just because those girls were happy and excited about getting their periods didn't mean I felt the same way.

Since I could not change the fact that I was a girl and that this was going to happen to me and one day I would be grateful for it because then I could have babies and it's a beautiful thing, blah, blah, blah, and I had to accept the things that I could not change, I finally let go of that feeling of betrayal I had since my mom told me about "being a woman." When that happened, I won't say because it was embarassingly late in game.

My mom really did a great job and I'm sure that I could do a good job too. However, if I ever have a daughter, or iof my husband's daughter is with us when her period starts, I am going to try to talk my husband into having "the talk" with her. He knows all about it, more than some women I know, and has not been emotionally scarred by hearing about periods. He'll do a great job.

I'll talk to her about football.