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Showing posts from 2015

My Husband Finally Got a Job

My husband is a carpenter by trade and his shop is on the same three acres as our home, so sawdust follows him into our house.  It is a fine powder and not big shavings, so I never see it or feel it until I sweep or vacuum. I have learned to never wash my things with his work clothes unless I want to break out in a rash afterwards. The chair where he sits at lunch has to be dusted once a week because it collects a fine film.
He found a new job last month and hired out as an “independent contractor.” His boss and fellow workers are in awe that a man who once managed twenty employees and grossed six figures in one year is now working alongside them.  Because for once he is not the boss, he jokes that he finally got a real job. He can choose his own schedule but so far he has worked a 40-hour week. Instead of the same sturdy school furniture he built for the last 30 years of his life, he is building cabinets for a local company and enjoying not being the boss and not filling out page aft…

Getting Ready for Santa

HoneyBunch and I married when in our fifties.By then we had a lifetime behind us as well as a moving van of stuff each that we wondered how we would merge into one home. I moved into his house after the wedding and went through every nook, cranny, room, and closet, and totally rearranged it into “ours.” Organized is the better word. His bachelor pad was clean but kind of “disorganized.”  His ex had left him with all the odds and ends she did not want on her quest to a “better life,” so I replaced things a little at a time. It took me one year to fit all I wanted from the two houses into one and sold my old house.     We compromised on a lot of things, but still we ended up with two china cabinets and two family-sized eating tables. I kept my “buffet” and he kept his “dry sink.” He kept his Christmas doll collection  and I kept all my nativity sets, but it took me several years to convince him we should limit our Christmas decorating to just the dining room.  It limits how much stuff we …

The Christmas Cactus

My mother-in-law kept a Christmas cactus over her sink on the window sill that looked out into the back yard.  Someone had given it to her as a present and she cherished it all the years I knew her.  It had three, spindly stems and never grew others. It also never bloomed. When the plant grew long and unwieldy, she would cut off some of its length and repot the cuttings.  These she offered to anyone who had shown interest in the plant.  I always deferred the offer, laughing at my inability to keep any house plant alive for more than a month.  But in all honesty, I found the plant ugly. If this was what it was supposed to look like, I did not find it lovable.  It was unworthy of all the attention and care my sweet mother-in-law gave that barren, little plant. I would have ditched it and moved on to something else to overwater – like the African Violets or Venus Flytraps that my children gave me as presents.  I wasn’t there when my mother-in-law passed away.  By then I was married to my…

The Nativity Set

I didn’t get married until January of 1973, so while shopping for Christmas presents the months previous, I found a beautiful old-fashioned Nativity set on sale that I bought for my hope chest.  It is all wood and the figures, the people and the animals, are made of sturdy clay.  It has the look of old European artwork, so I fell in love with it the moment I saw it at the store.    It has graced my Christmas tree every year for the last forty-two years. It is the first thing we set out before a single ornament is hung.  Each of my three children has played with the figures and I encourage each of my grandchildren to do the same. I like knowing that when they hold the baby in their hands, they are acknowledging who is the cause for all the celebration. The “grass” has worn thin in some areas and some of the brittle wood has chipped off the ends, even the angel fell off its pegs years ago so we hitch her at an angle onto a plank that sticks out of the roof.  It has seen several artificia…

My Thanksgiving Promise

When my youngest son told me I was going to be a grandmother, I had just turned 51.  I felt I was too young to be the oldest ranking person in the room, but I had no choice.  A baby was on the way and I was going to be a grandmother. Memaw, Nana, Mimi, Oma – I tried them all on, and decided I wanted to be known as Grandma.  It was simple and descriptive.    That little baby boy awakened in me a warm, strong, memory that I did not know I missed. He reminded me of a time when my own children were young, a time that slipped past too quickly because I was distracted with work and home and a difficult marriage.    Being around this little boy allowed me to relive those moments; this time with a wisdom based on knowledge and appreciation.   His little brother followed seven years later, and then we went through a baby boom. My daughter gifted me with two step-children and two more babies all within three years.  My youngest married a second time and I soon had another step-son and two more gra…

The Greatest Table

Back in 1994, I discovered a wonderful children’s book called The Greatest Table: A Banquet to Fight Hunger.  Printed on one side of a continuous sheet of paper, it folds into itself like an accordion and creates an amazing book.  Sixteen children’s book authors collaborated with the charitable group Share our Strength. The money raised by the sales of this book went to fight hunger in America. Each artist interpreted what “the greatest table” meant for them and the editor Michael J. Rosen arranged it into a unique treasure. Because I could not presume that all of my middle school students would be celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner - nothing like those idealized and elaborate feasts one sees on television - I used this book to demonstrate that we each celebrate differently and to different degrees. In the book people of all cultures and ethnicities sit around different tables; some are seated on mats or blankets.  Some are indoors; some are outdoors. Single souls or whole …

The Album

Born in the early light of day, the baby’s eyes are shut tight, so are his fists. Swaddled and lying in his crib, he wonders who this strange thing is that smiles at him, flashes lights in his eyes, and laughs so loudly.
One day he will understand why she props him up against the corner of the sofa and giggles when he teeters over and falls onto the soft cushions.  She tickles him, but he forgives her because she smells of milk and she is warm when she cuddles him. 
A crowd of people (for now he knows what these creatures are) gather around him.  Mommy dresses him in a scratchy outfit and there is laughter and jabber, things people do when there is more than one in the same room. They “ooh” and “aah” in one voice as one of them, he sounds like a daddy, pours water over his head and smears slippery stuff on his forehead. Doesn’t that usually go on the other end?
Pages turn. Birthdays and Christmases come and go. Some school day pictures capture smiles, others don’t. Only his family, his …

In Thanksgiving

When the ex-husband decided he wanted a divorce, there was little I could do to stop him.  For almost thirty years, we danced to the same song: he left, he came back with promises, he broke the promises, and he left again. My marriage and my patience were worn thin. He swore he had never been happy with me and with his life. I could understand his displeasure with me, but what about his children, his home, his livelihood?  He said this was his one shot at happiness, and so we got divorced. If you lost everyone and everything in your life, what would you miss most?  What would keep you going? I tried to understand his motivation but I couldn’t. I liked my life.  I loved my children and my family.  I had friends who rallied around me. I liked my home, my career, and my things.  I had a bed, clothes, food, books.  I had a roof over my head, running water, and an alarm system that helped me feel safe at night. Other than the divorce, little had changed in my life. I considered myself lucky…

The Cucuy in the Nighttime

According to my grandmother, the cucuy (pronunciation: coo coo ēē) recognized a kindred lost soul when he saw one and would abduct the bad child at night.  He had eyes that gleamed in the dark and had fangs that tore through young flesh as if it were cake. No one would miss the bad child the next morning.  They would be too busy celebrating good times and lavishing all their love and attention on the good children the cucuy left behind. On days when I was exceptionally bad, I slept with one eye open, knowing the cucuy was waiting for me to fall asleep. I have used the cucuy on my own kids but not to the extent it robbed them of their dreams.   My children had their own bouts with night terrors.  As a little boy, my oldest tried to escape his by sleep walking.  I was always on the alert and followed him around the house until I could steer him back into his bed.  My youngest swung punches and kicked at his brother and sister in his dreams. We had countless family meetings about not bul…

What Scares You?

With Halloween just around the corner, everything around us screams Boo! I went with HoneyBunch the other day to Hobby Lobby and then to Lowe’s. There was a whole section of expensive, scary lawn decorations.  I am talking The Grim Reaper, a horrific witch who lunged at you as you passed in front, and a zombie who drooled and turned to follow you with its watery eye sockets. Way to go!  Buy that trio and you make up what you spent on decorations by not having to buy Halloween candy.  The neighborhood kids and their parents would be too frightened to come near your abode. What scares you besides opening your water bill every month or the price of beef? I hate scary movies.  I do not like zombies or vampires, Chucky or the guy from Elm Street.  I like realistic endings.  Let me emphasize that again – endings. I want to know that when you kill something, it stays dead.  I realize that commercially successful movies will engender sequels and prequels, but I hate scary movies that make you…

I Believe in Ghosts

We bought a house in the older area of the little town. The houses on that two-block neighborhood were on quarter-acre lots, made of brick on all four sides, and were spacious. The owner had passed away and the heir had inherited several houses and wanted to liquidate all the properties, so he sold the house to us at a ridiculously low price. The real estate agent knew the deceased and told us she had passed away within days after one of the neighbors found her ill inside the house.  Her husband had died several years previous and their one son had died in a war a long time ago, probably Vietnam. My first husband and I divorced, the dog and cat died, and the three kids grew up and moved away in the fourteen years I lived in that house, but I never felt alone. There were lots of times I felt, heard, or saw movement inside the house, but when I went to check, there was nothing or no one there. One time I was standing at the sink washing dishes and saw movement out of the corner of my rig…

Do you believe in ghosts? I do.

It’s not like I attend séances trying to visit past relatives or old loves.I do not go chasing after them or watch TV shows about ghosts.Mine are incidental encounters. I believe in ghosts because I believe in the hereafter.  And because I believe that there is better than the right here, I think the ghosts we do encounter have a reason to make themselves known in this realm. I have no explanation why they want to visit with me but I wish they would do it in the daytime, but that is never the case.  My ghostly visits have always been at night. Everyone in my family thinks I am afraid of the dark.  Not so.  I am fine with the dark.  It’s the night that scares me, and I have my grandmother and my dad to thank for that. My grandmother raised us and she kept us in line with the whole array of Mexican folklore about the llorona (pronounced yorona), the Cucui (the boogieman), the Diablo, and an assortment of other scary stories.  When we got older (and properly scared straight), she confesse…

Three Novembers

I got this idea recently when I discovered all my old journals that I kept for years and years.  What if I wrote a novel in three parts?  Each one about the same person but in different years. Each showing how much her life has changed in a short span of time. Here is a sample of what her journal entries would look like. *     *     *     *     * He told her the management was sacrificing their holiday so the hourly workers could spend Thanksgiving with their families. Knowing her husband well, she demanded to know who else had volunteered for this assignment.   He ticked off four names on his hand.  A familiar one was couched in between the second and the fourth. Here was the real reason he was “working” on a holiday. When she asked why a single female would give up precious time with her three children when there were so many others who could take her place, he snarled at his wife, accusing her of always thinking the worst. She had only asked a simple question, yet he had responded wi…

My P.E. Course from Hell

In college I took two dance classes and a swimming course for my P.E. requirements, but for my final class one of my girlfriends decided our group should take a camping class together. Our final was a three-day camping “survival” course on the banks of the Guadalupe River; it would be a free, idyllic vacation. During the semester we learned how to start a fire with only two sticks.  We waxed and waterproofed our tents.  We learned basic first aid and sanitary practices.  We prepared for “living in the wild” in the back lot of the campus by an open field. On our survival weekend it down poured and stormed for three days straight.  Since it was our “final,” we could not postpone it for later. Once we got to our destination, we unloaded our cars and no one was allowed to go back for anything.  The first thing we did was to scout an area, clear it of debris, and hunt for dry wood.  We covered the wood with plastic tarps to shelter it from the storm, then we set up our tents.  By then, mos…

Move Over Clark Kent

I love how Superman rips off his Clark Kent duds and shows off his mighty chest, not even bothering to hide his identity, and doing it in plain view of all Metropolis.  In the old movies he had to find a phone booth; in modern day he just moves at the speed of light and no one notices him change from one moment to the next. They are too busy looking at their cell phones. That’s us. Clark Kent’s.  Heroes, you and me.   We all have an inner persona that few people ever suspect. On the outside, we slouch around in our yoga pants, bargain bifocals, and worn out gym shoes, but come the moment of need and we all have that special something hidden inside of us that no one else can offer the world. Why edify a superhero when we are the real deal? We are single parents working hard to raise well balanced children, and I do not mean just single moms making do but single dads as well.  We are two-parent families raising kids in a modern society that laughs at our attempts to discipline and educate…

Fifty-Word Contest Entries

Several years ago, I entered several “stories” in a fast fiction contest.  They had to tell a story but could only be fifty words long. Here are two of my favorites.  
“He cried because I dumped him; said he lost everything because of me. “  The woman laughed into her drink, stood up, and staggered toward the exit before falling dead to the floor. The female bartender washed the poison from the woman’s glass. “That’s for my ex-husband and my kids.”  

High school, junior year, I sat between two, very handsome, senior football players while we watched the 16 mm film on the male reproductive system.  Our Biology II teacher walked around the darkened classroom, monitoring our attention.  Meanwhile we all laughed that he hadn’t noticed his front fly was unzipped.




The Lighthouse

The lighthouse tosses her silver mane. She turns her back for a moment but then returns for one more look into the dark, into the distance of yesterdays.
She stares into the vast ocean, into that faraway place she cannot see, that place she can never reach.
With the cruel passing of time, seasons fade into each other. Blame and promises wash away.
Her constancy wears away anger and pardons expectations and regrets.

Downsizing

Every time my ex-husband and I moved, I learned to clean house and sell or give away things I did not want to pack and move to the next house. The two times I got divorced it was easy to get rid of the ex’s junk. Without his clothes, his collections, and his tools out in the garage, it left lots of room for my stuff.  It also gave me permission to replace all his man cave junk with nice decorations. When I married HoneyBunch and we had to combine two households, I cut all my possessions in half by offering things to my three kids.  They were just starting their own homes, so some took furniture; others took household items. I had a monster of a garage sale and called the Disabled Vets to come get the rest. Even like that HB and I had doubles of too many things and so the downsizing continued for a year after we married. We still have two dining tables, two sets of “grandma’s china,” and two truckloads of Christmas decorations that neither one of us will surrender. As an educator for t…

Verbal Abuse

She cooked his favorite supper and waited for him to get home from work. Six o’clock turned into seven, so she called to see what kept him.  When he didn’t answer she left a voice mail. Are you working late?  Are you on your way home? After a half hour, she tried again, tamping down her suspicions, quieting her imagination. She schooled her voice to cover her concern. I made your favorite supper.  Should I go ahead and eat without you? At nine o’clock, she put away the food, her hunger replaced with anger and disappointment. The cycle was starting again. She knew what to expect next. He started coming home later and later each day.  At first, he blamed work, and instead of six, the norm became ten or eleven at night. She stopped asking for an explanation, because when she did, he yelled at her; he accused her of nagging. Her silence gave him license to do whatever he pleased, but even when she dared to utter a protest, he turned the blame on her.    Are you gaining weight again? Look ho…

Three Hundred Romance Novels

Thirty-something years ago, a lady who worked across the hall from me, handed me a well-worn paperback.  “It reminded me of you,” she said.  I didn’t know what that meant so I just took it and thanked her.  “I want it back when you finish.” I promised her that I would. It must have been a Friday because I remember reading it straight through and returning it right away.  We didn’t discuss the book’s plot since it was about a haggard, single mother of three who falls in love with the cutie-pie next door.  He turns out to be the husband and father she and her children deserve.  I was a haggard mother of three, married to a man who acted single. There was no cutie-pie next door willing to rescue me.  On the contrary, the neighbors next door rented a room to a weirdo who waited for me to go outside so he could peek at me from behind the ligustrums.   But one could wish. My experience with romance novels was limited. It dated back to when I was an adolescent and I read my mother’s copy of Go…

Ode to the Odious School Supply List

Back to school. Haircuts School clothes Uniforms Shoes Backpacks Physicals, vaccines, new bifocals The list is just beginning - There is also the (cue music) 
SCHOOL SUPPLY LIST
One for each child of school age. 
8-count watercolors, 16-count watercolors Ten-packs of Ticonderogas # 2, red pens, blue pens Eight-count colored markers Map colors, scissors, ruler Glue sticks, glue bottle, AND a roll of cellophane tape College-ruled, wide-ruled, and primary-ruled reams of paper. 
TWO boxes of facial tissue
Pocket folders, binders, composition books Highlighters Sticky notes
 and the ever-intriguing PROTRACTOR. 
Crayons, rubber erasers, scissors Baby wipes and hand sanitizer. . .
Will the list ever end?

No.
On the first day of school the kids will come home with even more stuff you have to buy.

The Bully

The teacher was over six feet tall.  He walked around with a scowl on his face and was always angry with everyone. One year he was assigned a classroom down the hall from me.  By then I knew him well.  Suffice it to say I was not one of his favorite ethnic groups.  It didn’t bother me, but that dislike included the majority of the students that made up our middle school. His hate targeted the young men who looked and acted like street gangsters.  Most of those kids were just that – kids.  Some did have more street smarts than they had school smarts, but their attitude almost always was a front to cover their inability to do the class work and the homework. He picked on those boys in the privacy of his classroom, but when they fought back and sassed him, it spilled out into the hallway.  The teacher would yell close to their faces, goading them to hit him. Once they took a jab at him the teacher then had a “legal right to defend himself.” His anger toward these boys was so intense he re…

The Day I Ran Away

I was eleven and tired of being the middle child, the one who had to help my older brother with his chores after doing my own, the one who had to look after my younger sister and make sure she didn’t cry. I decided to run away that summer because I felt no one ever noticed me unless someone needed to be blamed for something.  If I ran away, I doubted anyone would even notice. I stayed awake for several nights in a row to listen for Dad’s snores and my mother’s and grandmother’s deep breathing. It signaled they were fast asleep. During the day, I counted the steps between my bed and the front door, and I practiced opening the lock with a minimum of noise.  Since I would be running at night and the house would be dark, I tried doing it with my eyes closed.  My grandmother scolded me for my pantomime, and my mom yelled at me to go outside and see about my sister.   I made a hobo pack out of an old scarf and hid it under my pillow every night when I went to bed. Inside was a full set of clo…