Sweet peas.

My grandparent’s house was on about an acre of land.  Their house, built in the 60’s, sat near the front of the lot.  There was just a little front yard, and bushes grew beneath the large living room window.  The majority of the land was in the back yard.  As an adult I realize it wasn’t huge, but as a child it was a gigantic playground.

The North side of the yard was lined with cherry trees, the South side with apricot trees, and the back of the yard butted up to an empty lot, in season raspberries grew along the chain link fence that separated the two properties.  A tire swing hung from one of the oak trees, that offered shade.

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My siblings, cousins, and I would spend hours running around the yard, swinging, and pretending we were on some great adventure.  But my favorite memory of that back yard is the garden, a fairly large garden in the very middle of the yard.  One time I was helping my grandpa – he pulled a carrot from the ground, we went to the water spigot, he washed the dirt off of it, and handed it to me.  I took a big bite off of the carrot, the wet leafy tops dripping water down my arm.  My grandmother would send me to the garden to collect veggies.  One time she sent me for peas.  I guess I had been gone too long, and she came looking for me.  I was walking down the row of peas, eating them as I picked, depositing the empty shells in the basket, which was meant for the peas. They were so incredibly sweet, I couldn’t stop myself.

I wish my grandparents were alive now, so I could tell them this.  Some of my best childhood memories were spent at that house, in the yard, sleeping over, playing in the basement, and eating the wonderful sweetness that came from their garden.

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What to do?

This is Frankie.

Frankie sitting

Frankie is a PITA (pain in the ass).  I love Frankie, but he is causing me much, much grief.  My partner, M, and I bought a new house in May.  I knew that it would be a hard move for Frankie and his PITA brother Jelly, but I had no idea.  The second day we were in the house, M and I were getting ready for a nice lunch to celebrate.  I couldn’t find Frankie, but could hear tiny cries.

This is where I found him:

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A corner in the kitchen, where the two cabinets meet.  It wasn’t covered at the top, and he fell down, so was stuck at the bottom.  Unable to get out.  Fortunately the animal loving sales person for our community was at work.  He, using a very nice steak knife, cut out the bottom of the cabinet and Frankie leapt out.

In June, the week before we were to go on our three week vacation, Frankie got sick.  Thank goodness I found a vet who makes house calls.  Frankie ripped her shirt, and scratched her up.  He jumped from the opening on the 2nd floor, to the 1st floor, to escape her.

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She still took him to her own home while we were gone.

Now, Frankie is spraying.  I can cut him out of a cabinet, pay thousands of dollars in vet bills, buy him extra special high quality food, love him, pet him, buy lots of toys for him.  But I don’t know what to do about the spraying.

Feeling worried, exasperated, sad, and damn near desperate.

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Dad’s Birthday

“He’s so stubborn, and gets worse as he gets older.”  This is what my step-mom, C, said about my dad not wanting to celebrate his birthday, his 70th birthday.  The stubborn one, possibly even unaware, is C.

A month ago I told C that I want to visit him, as a surprise.  She was thrilled!  We exchanged some emails, and she asked if I thought she should invite her adult kids and their families.  I told her that selfishly I would like for no one else to be invited. I’m very close to my dad, and I rarely see him.  They see her kids all of the time.

Last week I talked to C and she said she hopes I don’t mind, but she’s going to invite her kids on Sunday for the night, a drive from Salt Lake to St. George.  I will be there Saturday through Tuesday. She thinks it would be good to have his birthday celebration then, so they don’t have to drive to Salt Lake for another one.  What am I supposed to say?  I wanted to say, “Hell yes I mind!  We discussed this in our email.  Dad doesn’t want to celebrate. He and I will want to hang out.  Your kids are assholes!”  She had just gotten done telling me what assholes they were on Christmas.  Instead, I said, “Of course not.”

Today I got an email from C, her sister is moving in with them, temporarily.  She thinks the big problem is going to be sleeping arrangements, I’ll be on an air mattress in her sewing room.  The big problem is they’re loud and intense.  They’re high maintenance and don’t appreciate that Dad and I like to hang out and visit, maybe read, or putter in the yard, take a nap.  I want this long weekend to be about him, and what he wants to do.  He and I have the same idea of fun.  So the plan is, I’ll go with him to Costco, for his daily yogurt swirl, and spend a day hiking in Zion.  And I’ll take my earplugs.

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They always believe

A gift I have is my ability to say something funny, or a lie story, or something sarcastic, with a straight face at my normal tone of voice.  I call it a gift.  I really like the stories I tell.  Not lies, stories.

If you live in Texas, especially Houston, you know who J.J. Watt is, or at least have heard his name.  Unless you don’t have T.V., radio, friends, a job, or conversations with someone other than your cat.

Today our office secretary, Ms. C, was showing me a picture of J.J. Watt.   I said, “Who’s J.J. Watt?”

She asked, “You don’t know who J.J. Watt is?”

“No.  I’ve never heard of him.”

Our school social worker, Mr. G, a rotund and loud man, ran out of his office, “Ms. A (me), you don’t know who J.J. Watt is?  How could you not?  He plays football for the Houston Texans.”

I looked at him, quizzically, and said, “I thought the Texans is the basketball team.”

Every face was blank, they didn’t know what to say.

Seriously people?  I do have conversations with real people, not just with my cats.

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Girl on her own

School has been in session for two days and I have gotten six new students.  Six students to a new school half way through the year.  This is a common thing in my school, with this demographic.  Families are transient, so we see the same kids cycle in and out of our school.  What makes this year different is the large number of immigrants.  Four of the six students are new to the country, all from Honduras or El Salvador, three immigrated as unaccompanied minors, and one was reunited with her mother in Houston after being held in Florida for a month.  That leaves two minor immigrants, living with extended family or friends.

I’m not a very political person, but there are some things I feel strongly about.   One of those is immigration.  I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that these kids need our help.

The week before our winter break a little girl from El Salvador ended up in my office, crying.  She had heard that her mother, in El Salvador, didn’t have any food and was sick.  Her father quit sending her money.

In July, at 15 years old, my student left everything she knew to come to the U.S. She traveled with others, not family, to get here.  If she had stayed in El Salvador she most surely would have been kidnapped and sold into sex slavery.  Her mother knew that she would be safer getting here than staying with there.  Her mother sent her on an 1700+ mile trek to get to Texas, to be safe.  Can you imagine kissing your child goodbye and praying she makes it to her destination?  I can only imagine the emptiness, guilt, sadness, hope, desperation, and fear both mother and daughter feel.

I don’t know the political answer, but I do know the humanitarian one.  People need help.  People need opportunity.  People need, above all else, safety.  Everyone should be able to live in a world in which they are safe.  Sadly, most don’t.  But as human beings, the right, kind, and just thing to do is help when we can.

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What makes me, me.

My goal this year is to write a story every day.  I have LOTS of stories.  Good ones.  But, I can’t think of a story, I’m stumped.  Not so much that I don’t know what to write, I’m not sure how to write it.  So, for now, a little bit about me.

I’m a  44 year old liberal educator in Texas.  Yes, there are liberals in Texas, and not just Austin.  We’re everywhere.  I moved to Texas, far from my family, because the women in my family are crazy.  Excluding myself, of course.  These women are my mom and my aunt, sisters who used to be best friends and now don’t talk.  My mother doesn’t have a boundary, doesn’t bite her tongue, has no tact.  She thinks it and it comes out of her mouth.  She’s also an addict.  And, she’s very smart.  The combination that makes up my mother, makes for some really funny shit that has happened in my life.  My aunt is pretty much the same person, just smaller and with more energy.  Maybe even a tiny bit more narcissistic than my mom.  I have gotten to the age that I can laugh about most of the craziness.

I’ve been in Texas for 16 years.  I taught English for seven years, and am in my ninth year as a counselor.  People who aren’t in education, or aren’t close to someone in education, would be surprised at what happens behind the scenes.  It would make for a kick ass HBO or Showtime series.  This stuff couldn’t be on network television, not good for the kiddos.  It’s jaw dropping.

Before becoming a teacher I was a receptionist (twice), a collections agent, worked in retail (five different stores in three states), have worked at bakeries, one ice cream parlor, tried my hand at Mary Kay, was a corporate runner for a TV station, a restaurant hostess, a live-in nanny, and a copy clerk at a law office.

I’ve been married twice, went to five different colleges/universities, as an adult have lived in four states (I spent my first 18 years in one state), have had bouts with depression and addiction.  I have two siblings, no kids, and two pain in the ass cats.

After all of that, I’m finally feeling grounded.  My partner and I bought a house together.  For the first time in my adult life I’m not living in personal chaos, I’m ready to tell some stories.

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Why I’m blogging.

When I was in 4th grade my mom bought a dream journal for me.  It was a shiny fabric cover, purple with a rainbow across the cover.  She said she thought it would be nice for me to be able to look back on my dreams, and remember them. I knew it was because I told her every detail of my very vivid and long dreams.  That’s when I started writing.  For most of my life I kept a journal, wrote poetry, wrote letters and cards (actual things to put in the mail), and when in school wrote academic papers.  Now, the extent of my writing is work emails.

I created this blog two years ago, intending to write more, but didn’t.  I would think about it, stress, worry that I wasn’t writing the right things, was boring, and am a shitty writer.  But I’m over that now.

I have great stories, and I want to tell them.  I will be writing mostly about education, I’m a high school counselor, and my family.  I’m blogging publicly because eventually I would like feed back on my writing, and this is a venue for me to read other writing, and make connections.

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Edgar

Tomorrow I go back to work, after two weeks off for winter break.

I’m a high school counselor – 9th grade in an urban public school.  We are 85% Free/Reduced lunch, high gang participation.  Many of our students have basic needs unmet, and are usually worried more about eating and surviving, than school.  I am the only counselor for over 700 students.  I don’t dread my job, but so many of the issues that come with it completely overwhelm me, and I wish I could work at Home Depot instead.  My duties require my main concern be scheduling and getting kids graduated, that is around 90% of my job.  My main concern is the students – social, family, emotional well-being.  In nine years of counseling I have seen funny, sad, delightful, inspiring, hopeless, pitiful, and infuriating situations.  I don’t have to watch the news, read articles, or be able to quote statistics to know we are severely failing kids, and ultimately, everyone.

A former student, Edgar, is one of the common, and hard mental health issues I have dealt with.  I don’t remember if Edgar was initially referred by a teacher or his mom.  Edgar was 16, old for the 9th grade, so at some point he was held back in school.  When I called him to my office, he hovered in the doorway, uncertain if he should come in.  His large body filled the space, long brown hair covered his face, and his head was bent down.  I asked him to come in, he sat uncomfortably across the desk from me, left his backpack on, seldom looked at me, and spoke softly.

It surprised me how honest he was with me.  Edgar had been in inpatient psychiatric care three times, is a cutter, and has attempted suicide.  He isn’t allowed to be alone, so when he gets off the bus from school his 7th grade sister is there to walk him home, and when they get home she checks him for cuts.  He spends the most of his evening in his bedroom, which has the door removed.  When his mom gets home from work, she again checks him for cuts.  He is under constant monitoring.  Sadly, he still believes his family doesn’t care about him.

Throughout the 1st semester I would check in with Edgar, and meet with his mom and sister every now and then.  In August he seemed to be stable, but as the semester went on, he went down.  The Friday before Thanksgiving Edgar’s mom told me he was cutting again, he confirmed he was also thinking about suicide.  He felt like he should be in the hospital again, but his mom couldn’t afford it, Medicaid wouldn’t cover it again.  Edgar made it through.  He really liked our social worker, Paul, so continued to check in with him.

At some point after spring break Edgar was in the office for another reason.  I asked to talk to him, I just wanted to check in for a second, as he was finishing up his first year of high school.  Edgar was uncomfortable, he didn’t want to sit down.  Edgar hovered over my desk, looked at me through strands of hair, and mumbled something I wasn’t sure, and hoped I hadn’t, heard correctly.  He’s so quiet.

I said, “I’m sorry, Edgar, what is it you said?”

“I think about dismembering people.”

“You think about dismembering people. Ok. Is this a thought that on occasion pops into your head, something that you may have seen on TV, or is it more specific?”

“I imagine it, all of the time.”

“Do you imagine this about all people, or specific people you know or encounter?

Keeping eye contact, which is rare, he replied, “I think about dismembering everyone I know.  Except for Ms. Ortega (my secretary) and my English teacher.”

I thought, What?  Shit!  You think about dismembering me?  Oh, fuck!

But I said, “OK, we need to call your mom, you need to go to the hospital.  Do you think that is a good plan for you?”

“OK.”

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Pluck, wax, relax.

Once a month I’m guaranteed 20 minutes of peace and relaxation, on my esthetician’s treatment bed.  I didn’t want to go to my appointment today, simply because I didn’t want a commitment the last weekend of my winter break, but it is always so damn good to go.

People don’t think of waxing and plucking as relaxing, but at Lindsey’s it is.  The space is one room, a curtain separates the treatment area from a little seating area with product displays.  Lindsey’s space smells like fresh air, mixed with the essential oils she uses.  The building is surrounded by trees and greenery, so filtered light comes through, and she has a lamp in the treatment area, so the light is perfect.  The window air conditioning unit is always running, the hum drowns out the sounds of the other business in the building, and she always has on calming instrumental music.   The treatment bed has a full length heated water pad, which is covered with terry cloth.  I take off my shoes, climb onto the bed, sink in, and she covers me with a cotton blanket.  Ahhhhh…..

For the next twenty minutes she dyes my brows, waxes and shapes, does a pluck here and there, and massages my face with essential oils.  I sometimes take a little nap, and I always relax and am mindful of how good I feel at that moment

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Tina, Tina, Tina…

One of the secretaries at my school, Tina, is the last of the old timers.  And is country.  Tina isn’t stupid, she is uneducated, unaware, has no tact, and doesn’t care.  One of my favorite things is what we call Tina-isms.  She absolutely destroys words, names, and twists idioms and phrases around.  Tina doesn’t pay attention, and usually thinks that what she is saying is correct.

Some of my favorites:

Morphite (hermaphrodite)

Brushed nickles (brass knuckles)

Butched (butchered, as in haircut)

Median (mediate)

A bird in the hand leaves two more to pick up.

When she was sick she got a calloscopy and esofospy (colonoscopy and endoscopy)

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