Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My 1963 Rambler, El Tanque


My first car was a 1963 Rambler.  My dad bought it for me in 1971 because I needed transportation to get from college to my student teaching assignment.
A boxy looking sedan, engineered by the American Motors Corporation to be economical and sturdy, the Rambler was not exactly what I envisioned as my first ride.  A putrid pink, somewhere between flesh color and throw up, I nearly fainted when Dad drove home with it.  
On one of my first outings, I turned the wheel too much while backing out of a parking space and scraped the whole side of the car parked next to me.  It looked like it had been hit by a semi-truck. My car did not have one scratch.
Made of solid iron, I named my pink baby El Tanque, the tank.  
A few weeks later, I t-boned a mustang that belonged to some high school football hero who lived down the street from us.  For the record, the kid was at fault this time and not I, so he got the citation. I was following him when he slowed down and rode along the curb on the right. When he came to a complete stop, I started to pass him. It turned out he was making a wide turn to the right before turning into his driveway on the left. Thankfully, I wasn’t going too fast when I plowed into his driver’s door. This was before seat belts, so the impact threw him into his passenger side and that saved his life. His new Mustang was totaled and he was in crutches for several months.  The Rambler had a scratch of paint on the bumper that came off with some Ajax.
When I called home a week later to report I had been in another accident, my dad was in good cheer because I was innocent once again.  He said bad luck usually happens in threes, so maybe this was it. This accident was caused by a woman who was not paying attention to the traffic lights. While I waited for the light to change to green, I noticed in my rear-view mirror that she was not going to stop, so I jammed my foot on the brake and gripped the steering wheel.  The woman hit me so hard, the Rambler jolted and so did I.  Once again, the Tank held up but the woman’s car had to be towed away.  
By now the Rambler and I were infamous, a joke in the family.  I prayed it would all stop before something worse happened.
Not long after that, I was in the middle of a busy street, waiting to turn left into a parking lot, when suddenly, a man driving a motorcycle coming toward me lost control of his bike.  It went one way and he flew straight into my windshield.  Like a rag doll, he barely made any noise on impact.  He looked at me as he melted softly off the right side of my hood unto the street.
I was afraid to check on him, thinking he was dead, but an ambulance and the police soon appeared and assured me the motorcyclist was okay, a few broken bones, but nothing serious. When Dad got there, I cried.  I bawled.  I wailed and I told him I thought the Rambler was cursed.  He assured me that wasn’t true.  It was just temporary bad luck and it would all end soon. He said, one thing for sure, the Tank would keep me safe through good or bad.
I made him promise me that was true.  He laughed but he promised.

I kept that car for almost ten years before I traded it in for a bigger family sedan.  I had three children and we needed a new vehicle.  I cried when I gave it up.  El Tanque and I were family.  We had been through so much together, so many trials and adventures. She wasn’t a beauty on the outside, but she was my first car and my protector, and that made her special.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Facebook – It’s the High School Cafeteria All Over Again


We enter the cafeteria in waves. We look around scanning for friends.  The self-proclaimed cool yell for each other from across the room. The louder we yell, the more important we feel. 
All the cliques jostle for space in the lunch room: the jocks, the nerds, the thugs, everyone. 
Importance is measured by volume and drama. Popularity is measured by number of friends, both true and imagined. Acceptance is decided by “others,” how we dress, speak, act.
We pretend our privacy, but relish rumor about others.  Rumor becomes gossip and gossip becomes truth.
Territories are marked, that club over there, that organization opposite, the undefined along the wall.
We dread the cafeteria but it is a part of who we are and cannot resist its lure. 
*     *    *    *
One billion of us log onto Facebook. We scroll through the feeds, scanning for friends, some we have never met or will never meet.  The Pope, the President, movie stars. We know more about the lives of strangers than we do about family members.  
On one hand, we bewail the loss of privacy; on the other we hope our posts crest over the FB algorithm and go viral, and we end up on the 6 o’clock news or Ellen or Huffington.
We are willing to sell our privacy to strangers, so we worry about selfies, platforms, domains, brands. We put up with trolls and threats from people with too much time on their hands and too little brains.
We have redefined “news,” and grammar, and punctuation.   We pin and tag and poke, meme and post. Every day we learn some new hook that keeps us lured to FB.   
Instead of outgrowing the cafeteria culture we left behind in high school, we are reliving it through Facebook.  




Monday, April 10, 2017

Stop to Smell the Zinnias


          For a brief time in the 90’s, I owned my “dream home.”  It was this spacious, two-story, four bedroom, two and a half bath beauty. It had two living areas, but I turned one into a “formal” dining room.  This gorgeous expanse of HOUSE met you as you walked in through the front door.
          The backyard was tiny compared to the half-acre we owned before so we built a deck that encompassed the whole back of the house.  I made it more welcoming by adding container plants, and we spent morning and evenings outside.
Landscaped by the builder, the front yard had the usual sapling and the all-purpose shrubs most new subdivisions provide. I wanted to distinguish it from all the other front yards on our street, so I went out and bought fifteen envelopes of zinnias. I planted them all in that front flowerbed. By June, the shrubs were hidden among the zinnias.  They had taken over and created a beautiful display of color.
          The flower bed was situated underneath this majestic, cathedral window, and whenever I was home I opened the shades to let in the view. I was surprised one Saturday morning to find people looking in my house while I was looking out. Parents positioned their babies in among my flowerbed and took picture after picture.  Photographers took close ups of my flowers. There were people on my grass and in my flowerbed at all hours of the day and late into the evening, so I made a polite sign for the trespassers and posted it in front of my flowerbed. 
YOU ARE WELCOME TO ENJOY THE FLOWERS, BUT PLEASE DO NOT TRAMPLE MY GRASS OR THE FLOWERBED.
          I sold that house after four years. The new owners were a couple who stopped one day to enjoy the flowers and fell in love with the house.  I have driven by twice, and the sapling is a tree now and the shrubs have been replaced, but the memory remains. I think of my zinnia experiment every spring when I plant flowers in my yard.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Aging Angst, Bad Bladder, and Keanu Reeves


          My intelligent, strong-willed, old-fashioned parents restricted my creativity.  I wasn’t allowed to do anything extra-curricular.  If it meant they had to go out of their way to take or leave me some place other than what the school bus provided, it was out of the question.
          School was a priority in our household; straight A’s a must, so I was shocked to learn that any college money saved was intended for my older brother. There would be none for me.  I got my parents to agree that if I could get financial aid, I could go to college.  They were more than surprised when the offers started coming in during my second semester as a senior. 
          I was allowed to accept the one offer that kept me in town.  At first, they were their usual negative selves, putting up barricades at every turn. They complained I was costing them money, and I was wasting my time and theirs. Secretarial school would be easier and faster than pursuing a four-year, teaching degree.
What changed their mind about me was that my older brother flunked out of his first year of college.  He got drafted and went off to Viet Nam, while I was speeding through university, making good grades.  They were suddenly proud of me. When family asked about my progress, my parents took full credit.  I never contradicted them in public, but privately I reminded them that they blocked me at every turn.
Burned by that experience, I made my first husband promise he would never hold me down in my pursuits.  He kept his word but his own endeavors took precedence over mine or of the needs of the three children we raised.  I was done with barricades in my life.  I was done with negativism.  Life is too short to let others stand in the way of accomplishing one’s dreams. 

The only angst that holds me back now is my aging body.  The aches, the pains, the bad bladder.  I am free to do whatever I please as long as I know where the nearest bathroom is located.  As for Keanu Reeves, nothing negative there.  I would love to meet him one day, but it better be soon.  Shout out to Keanu.  Hey, babe.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Moses Was a Nag

         
Last fall one of my friends decided she would read the Bible in one year as her New Year’s Resolution. She went on Facebook and invited anyone interested to join her on this venture.  To her surprise, several of us signed up. She spent the last few weeks of the old year working up a weekly calendar and forming study questions to help keep us on task.

          Over the years, I have attempted this on my own but I usually lose interest by the time I hit Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Moses becomes a real nag, and I get bored with all the goat sacrifices. When this opportunity came up, I decided to try it once again.

          Why am I doing this?

          I consider myself intelligent and a voracious reader.  I taught English/Language Arts for thirty-seven years to students.  I have read most of the classics and the contemporary masterpieces out there.  Some I have read multiple times and can discuss each at great length, but I cannot say the same about the one, most influential book in the history of modern man – the Bible. Maybe if I joined a group, I could stick through it and get it done.

          We get a weekly reading reminder and those of us who are still hanging in there, respond to the prompts.  Some members share videos, charts, and research found on the Internet, and these really help to give me insight.

          Presently I am halfway through Joshua, and Judges is next.  Instead of using the questions our leader provides, I changed the study more to my liking. As I read each chapter, I go back and find one verse to underline.  In some chapters, I have trouble finding one that I like, but in others, I have trouble choosing only one. I bought an inexpensive monthly planner, the kind where each month takes up two full pages when opened flat.  In the far left square (Sunday), I write the weekly assignment and then use the squares for Monday through Friday to write one quote from all those I chose from that week’s reading. I use the Saturday square and any additional space on the far right to summarize the readings.

          I am in the my third month and as I go back, the quotes and the summaries help me understand how the covenant developed between God and Man.

          It is not fun or easy, but the more I get into the Bible, the more I feel a connection, something I cannot describe. I feel a presence.  It is like He is in the room, observing me, like when a parent stands back and watches a child struggle with homework. There is also a sense of accomplishment, and I hope He is pleased with my attempt to communicate with Him on a different level. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Pet Shop


My dad loved animals so he would often show up after work with a dog that someone was giving away free at the office.

Our first dog was a brown, bull terrier mutt. The other dogs in the neighborhood were afraid of this small, muscular, brown dog, but he let my two-year-old baby sister pull on his ears and tail. Butch kept an eye on all of us, but he loved her best.  I witnessed the day he yanked her away from the busy street by the seat of her cloth diaper. He died when I was about eight or nine.

Dad soon after came home with another terrier mutt.  This one was all black and had a white mark on his face, so we named him Zorro like the TV character we all loved. He too was the lead dog in the neighborhood but this one loved my older brother best and would perk up every time my brother played with him.

About the same time, we owned Zorro, Dad came home with a full-blooded English cocker spaniel. We named him King because he looked like a lion with his golden mane of hair. He and Zorro vied for lead dog, but Zorro always won. He wouldn’t play with us. He knew how to unlatch the gate and would take off on adventures at will.  When we chained the gate to keep him in, he learned to climb a vine that grew over the fence. One day he disappeared, so someone may have claimed him for themselves, not knowing they had done us all a favor. 
  
Zorro died when my brother was a senior in high school and I was a junior. It was devastating for all of us, so we all vowed we didn’t want to get a dog any time soon. By then we were growing up and would soon have our own homes, so it would be up to us to decide on whether or not to own any pets.

Newly married, my husband and I decided to adopt one of his mother’s dog’s puppies. Our dog was a small, fluffy, wimp of a pet.  Duke was part beagle, dachshund, and terrier.  A true mutt.  We took the largest, thinking it would be a mighty warrior. It took him months to learn how to bark and even then, it scared him. In a fight, he always lost or ran. He was hard to train, but he grew up alongside our three children, and they loved him.  He was with us for fourteen years.

We tried our luck with two other dogs to replace the family pet, but a tiny Peke died the day we brought her home, and the other, a Pug, had so much wrong with him from his blood line being overbred, that we had to return him and demand our money back.  I had never cried for a dog before, but the day my husband and I took Bubba back to the owners, I bawled so loudly, I scared everyone, including myself.

The kids and their dad went in search of another family dog. My only stipulation was to bring back a short-haired dog, one easy to groom and train.  

They came back with a golden-haired Pekinese, the runt of the litter.  My husband thought it would at least stay small and cute.  It had a pedigree and papers to prove it.  It grew to be over fifty pounds and lived more than fifteen years.  In that time the kids grew up and moved away from home. I got divorced and lived alone.  Our big boy developed cancer and the vet said I would know when to let him go. When the day came, I made an appointment with the vet, and called the kids to come say goodbye.  He perked up as each one came to visit but he became a young pup and got up to play when the youngest came to see him.  

My son slept over that night, but before midnight, he woke me and said his beloved pet couldn’t wait any longer.  My son found a clinic open twenty-four hours and while he held his pet and best friend, I drove us there. He stayed with his dear doggy until the end.

HoneyBunch and I do not own a dog.  I have asked and he has said no, definitely no. His pet stories are harder on the heart than mine. We have had so many loved pets in our lives and hesitate about going through that again.  I love cute puppies and kitties.  I enjoy watching the shenanigans of my granddogs, but we agree to protect our hearts and to be selfish with our time.

I won’t say we will never own another dog in our life time, but for now, we prefer to live with our memories.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Bunch of Losers


They straggle in one at a time from the parking lot.  Most wear the same clothes they wore last week and the week before that and so on.  Some carry their possessions in old, grocery bags; others carry theirs in tote bags. They study the circle of chairs and each person selects where they will park their things before stumbling toward the growing line that is forming in front of the receptionist. 
One who has already done so digs into her bag.  Out comes a plastic container.  It pops open and delicious aroma fills the air.  All are hungry; fasting is a must, so several heads turn toward her as she digs into her breakfast.
“Next,” says the receptionist, and a woman slowly steps up to the table. 
She hands over her membership card, offers up a small smile and an excuse, and steps onto the scale to weigh herself.
It’s Thursday morning.  My weekly Weight Watcher meeting is about to start. We always register and weigh in first.  For this it is best to wear the same or similar clothes every week because outfits that weigh more show up on the scale. Every ounce counts when one is trying to lose weight and those cute, skinny jeans can weigh as much as five pounds. Those of us who have places to go immediately after the meeting bring change of outfits in our totes or bags. On cold days, we come in layers, but all of those are shed before we line up.
We also come fasting for the same reason.  One cup of coffee, even one slice of dry toast, might show up on the scales.  The savvy enjoy their breakfast after the hated weigh in is over and done.
No one says a word if the scale goes up and not down, but the person being weighed knows.  Suddenly that extra margarita she had last Saturday or those two doughnuts she scarfed into her mouth when no one was looking have come back to haunt her.
The leader starts the meeting.  A theme is presented; a question asked.  We banter; we offer solutions.  We lift each other up. 

We are a bunch of losers, but losers of the best kind.  We are losing weight and helping each other lose even more.  

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Mystique of a Good Critique


I belong to a critique group of nine writers, some of us are published authors and some of us would like to be, but we all bring to the group different degrees of expertise.  Some of us have a good sense of story, some of us have a good eye for mechanics and grammar, some of us have a good command of human dynamics.  We have been together for several years, so we keep each other focused on critiques of our work and not on criticisms.  If that should happen, we delve deeper into what caused the emotion.  Only then can we offer suggestions to the writer.  

“This chapter went nowhere.”

“Your lack of commas confused me.”

“I didn’t like the character.”

A criticism is a judgment, a disapproval, based on an emotion.  Stated in such a vague or negative manner, it comes across as a personal attack of the writer instead of focusing on what the person has written.  It faults the person and zooms in on flaws and weaknesses.  It condemns what is lacking on the page and it is a painful censure of the person’s skill. Its offensiveness puts the writer on the defensive, and both parties gain nothing from the “critique,” other than ill will. 

How does one turn a criticism into a critique?

First of all, neither is painless. 

A good critique is an evaluation, an analysis, based on evidence.  Stated in thoughtful and detailed concrete examples, it looks at things the author has done well and at those that might need to be clarified or revised. A good critique looks at structure, trends, patterns, strengths. It focuses on the written page and how the author crafted it.  It is not all sugar and sweetness; it is specific and helpful.  If something is awry with the story or the structure or the semantics, then a good critique partner can help the author to find a solution and allow for improvement.

Secondly, it takes practice.  Learn how to turn a criticism into a critique.

“This chapter went nowhere.”

Ask for clarification.  “What were you trying to do with this chapter?  Is this chapter or scene necessary?  What other way could you say that?  Does it help to look at the scene before this or the scene that comes after?”

“Your lack of commas confused me.”

“I helped you here with a few examples but you need to double check a good manual and learn their use.” Recommend a good grammar manual.  “From now on, double check your commas before handing out critique pages.”    No one likes to work with someone who continues to do the same proofreading mistakes over and over again, and depends on the critique partner or group to edit and proofread for them every week.  After one or two reminders, I stop proofreading mistakes that the person has refused to fix or learn to fix.

“I didn’t like the character.”

Question the author about this character.  “Is this character integral to your story?  I didn’t like this character; is that how you wanted me to feel? If not, then what was I supposed to feel for him or her?  How could you delve into their character more to soften/change/depict them differently?”  


          There is no mystique about critiquing well.  It takes practice and a dose of kindness. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Nine


Down the gravel road away from my house, they take their chatter, laughter, and energy.
There is a food stain on my new table cloth, dirt on the carpet.  The sofa sectionals are askew, and a blue ball hides under a chair.
Half-full water bottles sit abandoned throughout my house. Someone ate the leftover rolls.  The roast is gone, so is the mac and cheese, but there will be lots of salad for Grandpa HoneyBunch and my dinner tomorrow.
My grandchildren came to visit and they brought their parents with them. My two sons, my daughter, and their spouses are their chauffeurs and they generously include us in the upbringing of The Nine.
The quiet is deafening.  The house sighs.  I need a nap, but first I sit and smile, remembering the day and missing them already. 
Watching The Nine grow reminds me of how quickly time escapes through our fingers.  It brings back memories of when my children, their parents, were little and their chatter, laughter, and energy filled my days. The memories are sweet. 
So when I watch The Nine run about, chatter, eat up all the food it took hours for me to prepare, I am grateful to be around to see life repeat itself.  It is comforting to see it all happening once again, the wonderful moments I once took for granted.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Why Get Married?

      
The headline said she was divorcing her husband because he voted for Trump.  Another said a woman shot her husband over a taco.  Some have tried to divorce their spouses before claiming their lottery tickets, but that never works.  The ex always finds out and sues and still gets his or her share of the dough.
          The truth is they married for the wrong reasons. They are divorcing because of them.
          Why get married, especially in this permissive day and age when no one raises an eyebrow if you don’t?
          I married HoneyBunch because I wanted to live with him, day in and day out. I wanted to sleep with him in the same bed and wake up with him the next morning.
          I married HB because I liked him and cared for him and I wanted to be around him, holding his hand, kissing him, and making his life easier for him. If he was sick, I wanted to warm him a can of soup and offer him medicines.  When he was well, I wanted to laugh at his corny jokes and shake my head at his stubborn opinions. 
          I married him because I wanted to be acknowledged as his legal partner.  I wanted the security and the legality that the home and the life we made together would still exist after one of us didn’t.
          I wanted him to be my permanent date in life, my dance partner, my plus one to parties and family dinners.
          We don’t always agree on politics or how we like our tacos, and if I ever win more than the usual dollar playing Lotto, I would most certainly share my winnings with him.  The love I feel for him is grounded in something deep that mere words cannot explain. It’s the same kind of love I feel for my children and grandchildren, my family, and my belief in God and country. It is as much a part of me as the blood that courses through my veins.
          So, the next time you read about people divorcing over Trump, tacos, or legal tender, they shouldn’t have married in the first place.  

          PS:  HB wants me to note that he is hardly ever sick.  He soldiers through colds and pores hydrogen peroxide on boo-boos, so his health is an unintended plus in our marriage. 

          

Monday, February 6, 2017

Loose Lips


          The politician’s wife walked next to her husband.  My eyes were drawn to her blue outfit. 
          “She’s lost weight since the convention.”  I look over at my husband and his eyebrows acknowledge my statement.
          It is inauguration day and we are watching a TV station that limits its commentary and editorializing. It lets its viewers think for themselves.
I press the remote and it instantly transfers to another TV station.  A tiny man perched on a stool sits center stage.  He peers at a paper clutched in his hand and reads a comment “someone else” has said about the woman in blue.  It is mean and derogatory, but the commentator is blameless.  He is only repeating what “someone else” has said.
I switch back to the station without the snide remarks and look at the politician’s wife.  Word has reached her long before the little man voiced them on national TV.  It is evident she has lost weight and changed her hair style and wardrobe in the last few months, but no one on this station comments on her looks, no one reads the mean comments of “someone else.”
SOMEONE says something. ANOTHER repeats it, but the blame is not on them.  It is on SOMEONE else. And so it goes.  The opinion, whether it is true or not, takes on a life of its own and it does not matter who it harms. 
It becomes gossip, mean, ugly, demeaning. 
I switch back one more time to the little man.  He could use a meal, maybe a doughnut or two.  He too is trying to fit in, to build up his own worth, but he does it at the expense of someone else’s discomfort.  


Monday, January 30, 2017

Here Comes Another Birthday

   Here comes another birthday.  At my age birthdays zoom by faster than mile markers on an interstate.  I’ve never been one to putter along at the speed limit, so before I know it, there’s another candle on the birthday cake.
          Should you feel the need to wish me a happy birthday, here are a few do’s and don’ts.
          One, do send cash or gift cards.  Any denomination will do.  I have a healthy respect for money, both my own and that of others, so any form of moolah is appreciated.
          Don’t waste your money on anything else, especially if it has to be dusted or worn.  I abhor dusting, so anything that requires display or upkeep is a no-no, likewise with clothes.  I do not wear pink, ruffles, or spandex.  I look ghastly in anything from the “autumn palette,” and should you buy anything in my correct size, I will be forced to deny you guessed it right.
          I also suffer from lactose intolerance and cannot eat bananas or anything with brown sugar.  My IBS makes me less pleasant than I used to be.  
          So, it is best to stick with a gift card.
          Two, do lie to me.  When you send your wishes, be advised lying to me about my age is not a sin but a kindness.  Feel free to shower me with blatant charity about my age.  Yours will be a heavenly reward.
          Tell me how youthful I look for someone in her “fifties.”  (Any younger and I will suspect sarcasm is your motivation.) Ask about my anti-aging regimen since I do not look a day older since the last time you saw me.  Practicing in front of a mirror before we meet is a good idea.
          Never, ever, use the word “spry” in your birthday wish to me.  It is a nasty, little, four-letter word I have come to despise.
          Now that I have stolen your good will and cheer, now that I have completely discouraged you from coming near me on or around my birthday, please know that I wasn’t always this touchy and crotchety.
This isn’t really who I am.
          It’s those infernal birthday candles that keep growing in number on top of my cakes. It’s that old lady with gray hair and wrinkles who looks back at me in the bathroom mirror who is to blame.   

          It’s that constant reminder that I zoomed past my youth and the golden years, and I am racing toward the end zone. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Tazas (Coffee Cup) Book Club


Six years ago, nine, cool, writer chicks decided to start a book club.  Fascinated by the magic of words and how they come together to create stories, we wanted to talk about the books we read.  Half of the nine were published authors; the other half wanted to be. 
          Once we agreed on the idea, we thought it best to wait until the new year.  We chose our first book, our meeting date, and on some basic rules. As the day approached, we needed a place open late enough for us to meet after our regular, weekly writing group.  We chose a coffee shop that had just opened in the area.  
          Hey, we cool, remember?  Writers, books, coffee shop.  Where else would we meet?
          Our coffee shop closed this past fall, but the book club is still going strong.  Six of the original nine members are gone, but we have replaced them with three others.  Whenever you get a discussion group together, it is always difficult to make sure everyone gets a say.  By keeping it to a group of six, those of us with “stronger opinions” are reminded to let the quieter ones speak.
          We started 2017 with book number forty-six. We meet every month or six weeks.  We have read historical and modern fiction, a lot from best seller lists, but we have also read mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and memoir.  We have read books from all age groups and books on craft as well. We have read some amazing books and some real stinkers.
          Now that our coffee shop is gone, we have searched for a new place to meet.  We tried Starbucks, Panera, and a new sandwich shop, all in the same general area.  None have the same feel as Tazas did, so we keep looking. Out of necessity and hunger, we met at IHOP one Monday, and we find ourselves returning there.  At nine in the evening, we have the place pretty much to ourselves, besides their Harvest Grain pancakes are healthy and delicious.

          Since the coffee shop is gone, we have dibbs on the name.  The Tazas Book Club sounds much cooler than The IHOP or The Harvest Grain Book club; after all, as writers, we are aware of the importance of branding ourselves.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Elephant in the Room



I always early vote and this year I could not wait to get it over with, so I went as soon as early voting started in my tiny town in Texas. Up until THE MOMENT, I did not know who I was going to go with – Trump or Clinton – so I went with my conscience and voted for Trump.  I believed the media, the newspapers, the polls, and Facebook that Trump was going to lose and decided to go down with the ship.
Yes, I voted for the Trumpster.
I left there thinking Clinton would win the popular vote and thereby, the electoral college. It was what the press and the national news and Facebook predicted. I was prepared to accept that, but at least I took a stand and hoped the new President would show more mercy on those of us who voted against her than Obama did, the days before being REPUBLICAN became synonymous to a bad word.
Anyone who truly knows me or follows my rants on Facebook, knows that I was as appalled as the next person that Trump made it this far. 
Back when we had seventeen yo-yo’s bidding for the Republican candidacy, I started my study to see who I would back.  I whittled it down to two, and believe me, Trump was not one of them.  By the time the GOP convention started, I was horrified that my party was about to be represented by him. 
No, I did not watch the debates.  Why?  I had watched some of the early matches among the many Republican wannabes, and I watched both conventions, but I did not watch the debates.  One, I was embarrassed by it all, and two, it was discussed at great lengths in all the media and social media for days afterwards.
Facebook was enough for me. 
My family and close friends know I lean Republican, and some make fun of me.  I get introduced, “This is Raquel.  She is Republican.”  It is usually followed by a snicker and a few giggles.  My family and close friends, the very people who should know me well, who should know my heart and have seen me in action.  They should know how I feel about equal rights, where my loyalty and compassion lay, that I am as appalled by his crassness and lack of political protocol as they are, but I could NOT bring myself to vote for his opponent. 
I took a stand and got criticized for it. Hurray for the right to an opinion and a free vote.
I guess they expected less of me.  I should have voted for who they wanted.  Maybe I should have hidden under a lie and told them I voted for Clinton, but I do not feel a decision that causes embarrassment or shame is a worthy decision, and I refused to be bullied.  

My true friends have stopped harassing me; my family hasn’t disowned me. But  now I have to live with, “This is Raquel.  She voted for Trump.”  

Monday, January 16, 2017

List of GOTTAS

          Now that the Christmas decorations are packed away, it is time to move on into 2017.  Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that I make yearly goals, lists and lists of things that “GOTTA” get done. 
          These are not resolutions, those pesky things people profess to do then abandon by mid-February.  Unlike the forgotten exercise equipment, the unused gym membership, or the hobby accessories that get thrown away at Easter, my “GOTTAS” are based on goals that will get done.  It is do or die.  Literally.
          G – these Goals are contingent on dates, amounts, and completion.  They are Gaugeable. I have to lose ten lbs. to be at the weight for my height.  I lost thirty-five lbs. last year; I will lose another ten this year.
          O – these goals are of Obvious necessity for my own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  I need less stress; more fun.  I need to do something Out-of-the-box; learn something new to stay young and healthy. I must do new things or else I will become obsolete.
          T – these goals are painful Truths, things I should admit to and demand for myself. I must give myself permission, power, and priority when overwhelmed by the wants of others.  
          T – these goals are Time-bound; Time is of the essence; not only for someone of my age but for anyone with a goal in life. I am not getting any younger, any more flexible, any more energetic.  I do not have that many years left to get everything done on my bucket list.  
          A – these goals must have an element of Altruism, unselfishness, giving forward.  I mustn’t forget to share my good fortune with those who aren’t as blessed. My brain years for Art and creativity.  My right brain would like a go at it after years of left brain dominance.
          S – this goal yearns for Spirituality and calmness of spirit.  It yearns for less Stress and more Smiles, enjoyment of a life well-lived.  The new year provides a chance to Start over and try Something New.
          So here they are – my GOTTAS.  Based on this criterion, I am scratching things off my lists and adding others.  No sin in admitting that what worked last year will not make it onto the list this year. 

          Happy New Year to you. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Being the Parent of a Teenager: Public Enemy # 1

  
For twenty-five of my thirty-seven years in education, I was a classroom teacher.  For twenty of those years, I taught children ages twelve through fifteen, the threshold into adolescence.          
We all went through it; most of us survived. Often compared to the midlife crisis of our later years, this age surpasses it as the most formidable period in a human being’s life span. How we get through one shapes how we get through the other, so I made it my mission in life to know all that I could about my clients.
          You go to bed a child and wake up to puberty.  Where there was no hair, it has sprouted in several private places.  Where your dulcet voice once danced in the air, you honk and squeak.  Where your arms once fit your favorite long sleeved shirt, your arms now dangle past your knees.
          You suddenly notice half the world is of the opposite SEX, and SEX suddenly takes precedence over your train set or your dolly.  EVERYTHING reminds you of sex and you start to worry about your eternal salvation. 
          Your parents become Public Enemy Number One. They are slave masters, jail wardens, old people.  Every time you ask if you can do something, you already know their answer – No!  Can I stay up late?  Can I go out to see my friends? Can I grow out my hair?  Can I get a tattoo?  Can I get a piercing? 
          Your hair is oily.  No matter how much you bathe, you stink.  Your nose and ears grow before the rest of your face, then pimples start invading the terrain and eyebrows grow together and you feel like a teenage werewolf/Peewee Herman.
          Teachers want you to pay attention to the lesson while you are seated next to the most beautiful/handsome kid in the class. How can they expect you to concentrate? Not only do your parents drag you to church but Mom insists you wear the outfit Grandma gave you for your last birthday.  It is hard to act cool wearing corduroy.
          Parents have a lot to learn about adolescence and when asked my advice, I offered what I could.
          It is a necessary and important step in human growth.  The child is morphing from child to adult.  The teen is in transition and the road is slippery and tricky, and it varies with each teen. What works with one child, may not work with the next.
The child needs a parent, not a friend, but being one does not exclude the other.  Just like we were there to help them learn to walk and talk as babies, we need to be there to help them learn to walk and talk as adults. Talk to them when everyone is calm; no one is angry. And LISTEN to what they have to say or don’t say. Learn to read between the lines.
Keep them busy. Find what they like to do and get them involved in that sport or hobby or activity.  Steer them in the right direction with the right friends, like kids at church or school groups. Invite their friends to your house so you can know and meet them, but stay out of their way.  They are your teen's friends, not yours.   
Like it or not, rebellion is a part of the road to independence, but teaching them how to be independent varies with each teen. How one teen reacts may not be how his brother or sister will.  Learn to let go. A little at a time is best for both of you. Give responsibilities that earn them rewards, like free time or parole.  Drive them to and fro from activities.  Meet the other parents.
Always allow them to call you if they need help, need to be rescued, need an excuse to get out of something they do not want to be pressured into doing by others. No questions asked. At least not then.
          For some teens, the transition is subtle; for others it is not, but it is inevitable.  
          A mother of five teenagers once told me she wished she could freeze them through their teen years, then defrost them in their twenties. I offered no consolation. I told her it does not work that way. Her five would still have to go through adolescence, and it was better for them to do it then and not later.
          Getting a child through the teen years takes the two of you, parent and child.