Cupcakes and Tequila

Before it gets darker and I (again) don't stay up until midnight, while I sit here with my good friends (cupcakes and tequila) I'm working on my 2012 resolutions.

This is what I have so far:

More air, more sunshine.

Less cupcakes, less tequila.

More travel, less shyness.

More kindness, more salads.

More sunscreen, more walks.

More calls and letters to my 91 year old Abuelo.

Less TV (except for Jersey Shore, which starts January 5*)

More laughter, more stories.

A Rock Waits in Cuba

Today I applied for my first passport so that I can go to Cuba with my Mom, just like I promised at the end of Marvin's Book. Its in writing,  it is published.  I absolutely have to do it. 

 In the past two years I have seen the invisible wall separating us from Cuba crumble, and the scholar and historian and storyteller in me should be drooling over the opportunity to take part in and write about this moment in history but I'm not entirely ready.

The idea of being So Far Away makes my stomach hurt.

Except for my two year exile in the Great Mountains of Far Far Away Colorado and maybe a few trips across the border to Georgia, I'm not much of a traveler. When I do travel, it to places where there are fireworks, ChikFilA, Princesses and Monorails. 

I can't expect that in Cuba. I'm not sure if my blowdryer will work (if not, can I use my straightener? is there a Plan C for hair?) and  I don't think my iPhone will be able to generate my soothing Pandora nighttime channel.

 I'm scared.

But I'm going to go to Cuba, anyway.

I have a story to tell for my Abuela (and for you) and although I already know most of what I want and need to say, there is something I need to see.  There is a rock, a magic rock in Cuba and I know where it is.

I have to see it, it calls to me, laughingly. 


So today after stalling hour hours by sinking into episodes of Pawn Stars and Storage Wars, I turned on my computer and applied for my passport online.

At least, I filled out the form online.


Now I have to print it out, and in order to do that I have to set up the still-in-the-box wireless printer that Psychic Santa sent me, along with a pack of white paper.

And in order of set up the new printer I need to clear a great space for it, and to do that I have to tackle cleaning this post-Christmas house, do a few loads of  laundry, and while the laundry is rolling I should drag the kids to the grocery, then when I get home, cook and then clean some more.

But after all that, I'll set up the printer and print it out my passport application.

And then, I'll have to take a passport picture.

And actually go somewhere to hand this form in.

Maybe I haven't actually applied for my passport YET but I've taken the first step - I've started on my start to see the rock that waits patiently for me in Cuba. 

Now Can I Open a "Real" Present?

Zack hugged himself on the sofa, rolling and moaning. "I don't feel gooooood," he whined, making sure he had my attention.

It's hard to stop my pre-Christmas momentum -- it's Christmas Eve, I have to clean everything up so that we can mess it all up tomorrow -- but it's the holidays so I find a way to roll myself into park and settle next to my little guy on the kitchen sofa.

Poor guy, of course he's feeling  sick.

He was up half the night asking if it was Christmas Eve YET.  Around 6:15 he finally got out of bed (and got me out of bed) egging himself on by this inflated expectation of getting a gush of joy from  opening a gift ANY GIFT today.

 I stalled him until about 7am, but but soon enough he ripped into a present and  for about three minutes it was enough for him to parade around in his awesome new pirate socks.

After that wore off (and while my first cup of coffee was still mostly full, and also still very warm) he looked up at me and asked if he could please now open a REAL present.

Right. I knew that would happen.

Before "Just one present?" became "just one more?"  I packed both kids off for a romp to the mall.

In case you were ever afraid of going to the mall on Christmas Eve, let me tell you, it was tranquil and empty. As late as 10am there were only tiny threads of quiet people wandering among the shops. outnumbered by with bright eyed employees.

The entire trip was uneventful except for the part where Zack set an alarm off on a display while playing with a smartphone. The staff pulled out keys and cheerfully turned the horrendous beeeeeep off and consoled my sobbing red-faced son that this happens "all the time, in fact he was the third guy today!" but I knew that alarm hit his stomach, hard.

That's probably why my little guy is such a wreck, I tell myself, stroking Zack's hair as he sat next to me on the sofa looking sick and slightly moaning.

"You've had a tough day, little guy," I tell him.

Then I ask, "What can I do to make you feel better? Apple juice? Crackers? Want me to put something on tv?"

He rolls over and with suddenly bright green eyes, sits up a little bit and faintly pleaded, "Opening a present would help....."

I pushed him backdown and left him to his misery.

It's Christmas Eve, I have to clean the whole house today so we can spend tomorrow messing it up again

The Santa Tax

Ho, ho, hum, I thought I was almost done.

Last night, fortressed behind three locked doors, bopping to happy (not holiday) music,  I wrapped three bags of gifts and wrote names across each one in large scrolling letters (clearly mine) so there would be doubt who these gifts would be from.

After I finished wrapping the gifts (all of them! hooray!)  I carry them to the tree and scatter them in between and among the other gifts,  The kids watch silently, pretending to be transfixed by an episode of the Amanda Show.

 When I finish I head back to clean up the tape, the paper, the scissors, but before I can get out of earshot I hear Zack  announce "16 for each of us!" like it would be a Christmas miracle that I would remember to bundle and separate and wrap gifts so they would balance in their inevitable pre-Christmas ritual of counting and re-counting the gifts under the tree. He continued, "I wonder how many more Santa is going to bring?"

Santa? SANTA?'

I forgot about the Santa tax.

I will pay that tax, of course I will,  but dear powerful and mystical St. Nicholas, forgive me now for what I am sure will be meager efforts in your name, but my enthusiasm and budget expired hours ago.

Motherhood Chronicles: Porcelain Boundary

Today my son asked me sweetly and convincingly to sit on the cold hard toilet seat and warm it up for him.

I almost did it, I almost fell under his spell, then I balked.

I do enough, already.

I will not be his potty warmer.

Walk of Shame

I spent the first hour of my office hours rearranging images for a lecture on Vietnam and answering email. After that, it was time to proofread the actual pages of the print edition of Marvin's Book.

It was real. 167 pages of real, with just the right font and perfect footnotes on the right pages. I didn't swoon, I didn't gloat. I got out a pen (red) and hunted for my own bloopers.

Because Marvin's Book is partly a book of grief and loss, I'm kinda drained from writing it. So there, I said it. It was hard to write about losing students and a friend, and re-reading the stories doesn't take a bit of the sting of grief away.

But today I have to read it, it is time. This book will be in airports. It will be available in at least 31 countries. I can't have my own bloopers.

So I read. And my eyes danced on a few funny things I forgot, then stuck on something new. I write about chocolate eclairs and carrot cake in one chapter.  Chocolate fudge Pop Tarts play a big role in a different chapter. Oh my gosh, I skim the pages. I wonder whether to be ashamed or not, then decide I'm hungry and continue to lament nobody feeds me.

This is a problem that one day will solve itself, I am sure. Until then, there is the Student Union. So I gather myself and stroll off to Subway for breakfast and forget myself and order lunch (why?).   After the awesome guy goes to the back and finds me a pack of the sacred jalapeno chips, I tuck my money in my pocket and march back to my office, stomach rumbling, and mildly confused on why I wasn't holding grits and eggs.

After I eat my lunch (happily) I realize there is cash in my back pocket, which is strange because I know I brought my wallet to the Student Union.

I hunt in my purse, in my computer case and I even open my office windows to see if it could have fallen out the window and onto the hedges below. Nothing.

I call Subway.

Its there.  Sigh. I ready myself to march back.

Dr. V is now in his office across from mine and he sees me rush out.

I stop myself and collapse a little with humility as I admit to him I was  about to do "the walk of shame" to go pick up my wallet. I shrug, salute him, and head out.

He sees I'm frustrated and calls after me,  "Melissa, you can't do the walk of shame. You're Cuban!"

That makes me perk up a bit.

I've already turned the corner and done a little three step salsa to cheer myself up and call back cheerfully, "That's RIGHT! I'm CUBAN! VIVA!"

His deep laugh fills the hallway behind me, "No! I said HUMAN! I said YOU'RE HUMAN! It's HUMAN to make mistakes"

I heard him and giggled, thankful for the timely reminder.

Solidarity

It's Really Real

In the last day I've gone from writer to author and I'm happy to report so far, so good.  I've stayed on top of the dishes and done three loads of laundry.  I steadfastly refuse to sweep or vacuum or do the toilets. 

I spent  a great deal  of first day as an author getting facebook messages from students who were in the book.  I learned  I misspelled Zac's name.  The student code-named "Joy" finished the book and was ready to celebrate with me. So was David Lowe.

I'm happy to report Morgan has read about herself in the book and even though it made her cry she loved it. Which is a huge relief. Also, her mom wants to know what's this whole thing about "LYSOL" and I guess Morgan's going to have to explain that part (good luck, sunshine).

As much of a celebration as it is to finish and publish a book, it  didn't seem quite right to have a party to celebrate a book whose roots  are so deeply planted in grief.  If you didn't know that, here is the long description that will be on the book jacket. 

I swear to you, I worked harder on this than I did on most of the book.  I didn't know how much of the story to give away, but then again, I wanted someone who picks it up at an airport (OMG MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE AT AIRPORTS OMG OMG OMG)  to  pick it up and take it with them, wherever. 

MARVIN'S BOOK: THE STORY OF A PROFESSOR AND A PROMISE
 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/103885


Have you ever made a promise that dogged you through years, nagging you silently?  Melissa Soldani Lemon did in 2000 when her student, Marvin Mark Scott, died in a single-car accident on the way to school. In her grief, she reached out to the young man's family and promised to write a book for Marvin and start a scholarship in his honor.

Ten years, two children and many semesters of teaching college history later, Soldani Lemon had amassed a growing following of readers for the hilarious stories on her blog, but no book had yet emerged. She finally sat down to fulfill her promise—only to find herself facing new raw grief in the unexpected deaths of a colleague and another student, both of whom had encouraged her to fulfill her promise. 

Now she was really stuck. How could she write Marvin's book when she only wrote stories with happy endings?  Melissa’s journey to answer that question takes us a roller coaster ride through a year of new students, service projects honoring United States veterans, office hours, exams and graduations as she interweaves inspirational stories with outrageously funny bloopers taken from real student exams. In the end, it is a student veteran "exiled" in a VA nursing home who leads her to find a bright and hopeful ending to this story.


You will laugh, cry and rekindle your belief in the power of intention as Melissa turns the promise of a book for Marvin into Marvin's Book: The Story of a Professor and a Promise.
One thing. If I could do yesterday again, maybe I would have had a party or at least forced my kids to go to Chikfila, at least, just because I love those ketchup packets so much. 

Peace.

Dried Up


It’s after my class and I take my time going up the stairs and into my office, where I often disappear for too long.  I meander through the faculty lounge and find some fun.
Professor Dribbles, one of most favorite people, walks in right behind me and says, “Ask me why I’m tired. Why? Because I was at the clinic last night with a UTI”
The idea of a bladder infection makes me wince. Professor Dribbles continues, “Why? Because I’m dehydrated. Why? Because the water fountain is broken.”
I laugh – I think she’s kidding – and tell her she could have gone to any other water fountain in the building, or on campus. We are not in Ethiopia during the famine, we don't have to walk miles in danger in hopes of water.
 This answer doesn’t suit her. I understand. 
We faculty get used to teaching the same subjects year after year, sitting in the same office year after year, and stopping on the way to class to  drink at the same fountain between classes year after year.
One small change in that routine and the foundation of sanity cracks a little.
Yes there are other water fountains but this one is on the FACULTY side, not the student side. It is in a place we can bend, slurp, dribble and adjust without being in the public eye.
 I understand my friend and I want to help her so I  offer Professor D a diet coke, which she politely declinesAnother professor overhear my offer and sticks his head out of his office – “I’ll take it!” forcing me to play deaf rather than fork over my precious 1-liter bottle to anyone but my beloved Professor friend.
The Dean joins our conversation because he isn’t sure the water fountain is actually broken. 
We form a pack (if we had an agenda, it’d be a committee) and  head down the hall to investigate.
When we arrive at the water fountain, the Dean pushes the bar and a trickle of water rises up.
Professor Dribbles shakes her head. “It wasn’t like that yesterday.”
He pushes the bar again. Again a little dribble roles out. 
To drink from so low a fountain with such a small dribble requires acrobatic talents of bending and twisting, which I impulsively demonstrate to the Dean and the thirsty Professor. I ask her was she trying the water fountain like this? Like this? Or with deep knee bends like this?
More people join our pack mostly to laugh but also to give grave consideration to the water dribble situation.  The Dean says he will put in a work order. And with that, quickly enough, we disband, shaking our heads at apparent frailty of this world and all  things in it.
After spending hours these past six weeks tossing and turning around the house looking for my writing spot, I finally found one - standing up at the kitchen bar.  Maybe it's the freedom of being able to literally step back, pack and come back, or maybe just the view of a clean kitchen, but I've been hard at work and the manuscript is dead-on deadline and will be ready on time.

Today as I plugged my laptop in and unpacked my wireleass mouse and moved cords to set things up, I made sure to look around for anything I could spill.

Nothing on the counter.

I keep looking and see
Its been six weeks since moving into this house and I've decided that if I haven

Knowing Glance*

Five minutes before the bell rings, Zack and I are standing outside his classroom.  A father and son walk up the sparsely populated hall carrying cupcakes and some sort of round holder.

Zack lights up and proclaims, "Hooray, you brought the frog back!"

Under my breath I ask the father as he slips by while I hold the door open for him, "Yes but is it the SAME frog?"

What I Wrote 9/11/01

http://laughingmelissa.blogspot.com/2006/12/today-we-became-generation.html

Hanging Up on World War 3: My 9/11 Story

Here is my 9/11 story.


9/11/01 was a Tuesday.


I was home with baby Zoe pretty much all the time except the few hours I taught one History class that met at night on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 


On this particular Tuesday morning I took Zoe to the pediatrician for her 9 month check up. 


Everything went beautifully and as I pulled out of the parking lot, I called Chuck let him know appointment went well.


He answered the phone, "World War 3" -- so I hung up on him because I hate it when he answers the phone in fake voices or saying crazy things.  


A minute later, when he didn't call back, I called him again, and again he answered, "World War 3!


I hung up on him again, annoyed at him and also at trying to take a particularly tight left onto Betten.


A few minutes later, he called me back. 


I told him Zoe had a great check up and he asked if I'd seen the news.


No? You're kidding he said, you have to see this, YOU of all people. America is under attack! 


America is under attack? I asked, say, repeating his words while looking into the backseat at happy quiet Zoe. 


I don't remember asking who was attacking us or why, and I didn't think at all to panic on the drive home.


I didn't turn on the car radio because I wasn't ready to hear what was going on (yet).


The rest of that day I was glued to the TV and the phone and email because students were tracking me down to ask if there would still be a quiz that night. 


I didn't have a quick answer for them - I guessed there would be because I hate moving quizzes and changing published dates. 


Students said they couldn't study, they were afraid to come to campus, that they were  too distracted by trying to find brothers and cousins and best friends in New York.


I didn't know what to do - I'd never even imagined a day like this. I grew up during the Cold War -- the best I could do was sing a little "Duck and Cover" which, it turned out, didn't help us much during this particular attack.


TCC's campus closed that afternoon, so my quiz was postponed.


But those hijackers didn't hijack my semester; we dove into American history deeper and harder than any semester before.   


Since 9/11 there have been more opportunities to show kindness and neighborliness; since 9/11 there are more flags, and more parades.

Best of all,  9/11 I've had the pleasure of seeing more Veterans in my classroom than before -- prouder, younger, and more visible  than any group of Veterans to roll out of war and into college since WW2. 


The only time fear has crossed into my life since 9/11 was a few weeks after 9/11 when I was flying with Zoe.



She was almost a year old and barely able to stand, so I carried Zoe with me through the airport electronic screening.  The metal zipper on her footed jammies set off the beeper and so they needed to go over her body with that beeping hand-held wand thingy.

The whole beeping ordeal was starting to freak Zoe out, so she was crying hysterically and clinging to me.

 A stern voice barked at me to put her down so they could wand her, telling me to take my hands off of her and step away.

I remember blank faces staring helplessly as I pulled Zoe's grabbing hands off me, making her cry even more hysterically.  

It was all over in less than five minutes, but while it was unfolding,  I didn't feel like I was in a free country -- for a few minutes I didn't *like* what I thought America could become.

When we boarded that plane I let all my fear and anger go, because I love this country. I study US history and foreign policy professionally and tell stories about her compulsively and passionately -- including one where I hang up on World War 3.

A Positive Note




This semester I added a new question to my Unit #1 Pretest.

After asking “Who is the Commander in Chief”[1] and “Name 5 countries in Asia[2] I asked the students something they weren’t ready for.

“#24: Tell me what you’re great at*

When a roomful of fearful eyes darted up from the page, I explained I wanted them to imagine me calling people who know them and asking that question. 

A few students winced, so I continued, “For example, if you won the lottery what would you DO for fun that you’re already great at?” 

A student blurted out, “Well I wouldn’t be HERE!” and a few others laughed along.

I didn’t laugh. I stopped cold and lost all my bouncing Tigger energy. “Oh no! I don’t wish that for you! I want you to be happy, now and always, like I am!”  I told them I taught my heart out as a graduate student for $1000 a class just as hard as I teach full time now.  And if I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d STILL be teaching here, same classes, same students, same attitude (cuter earrings), because every single day at my job is fun.

The class stops and everyone looks up, because this whole “life thing” sounds serious.

 I remind them that life is supposed to be fun. FUN FUN FUN.  Too many of them look at me like I’m crazy which is a problem because it’s early in the semester and I’m still doing my best to not look crazy.  I have to concentrate on “composure” more at the beginning of the semester than later, with a CNN-crawl through my head saying HEY! don’t throw pens HEY don’t trip over your feet, HEY! don’t wear the same outfit twice in a row, HEY! don’t lose the wireless mouse.

While I have their attention (and also because they’re taking a test and they don’t know the next question so they’re literally hostages) I tell them about H* from last semester who came to my office for advising.

While we discussed his major, H* told me he knew he could find a job after graduation with the state, and it would be steady work.

I asked H* if he’d LOVE that job and he laughed at the question, shooting back, “Dr. Soldani, not everyone can LOVE their job like you do!”

When the shock of his statement rolled past me I told him I wished better for him, I wished for him a life that brings fulfillment and joy.

Their answers to question #24 by the way, were beautiful. Across three classes my students candidly shared they can (among other talents, I’m sure) hunt, fish, sing, do hair, fix cars, build computers and make other people feel included.[3]

The fact I think I have the dream job, and get giddy at work sometimes bothers people.

The other day I got to class 10 minutes early, ready to set up.  Another professor was still there, having a serious talk with a concerned student.  I erase the board and find a place to put my stuff. 

Then, I guess I swirled around like Snow White because she stopped talking to her students and said, “Did you just swirl?”

I caught myself and felt my hand against my long favorite peach silky dress.

It was possible I just swirled, but just in case, I did a nice twirl and told her I was so happy to teach Reconstruction I couldn’t contain myself. 

She told me to get my head checked, which was funny, so I swirled and twirled again and soon enough I was off telling stories to another class, positive I have the dream job and wishing the same for all of them.




[1] About half the students answered it correctly;  guesses included Condoleesa Rice,  “some General” and “Donald Rumsfelt”
[2] My favorite was a student who wrote “Persia, Persia, Persia, Persia, Persia”

[3] My favorite was the student who wrote (in purple pen, with round deliberate handwriting)  “People come to me for advice” then inserted another word so it read “People come to me for GOOD advice.” 

I'm Already Giving Students Nicknames...

Its the first week of school (again) and I'm surrounded with people who soon won't be strangers but for now, they are a little too silent, too serious, too stiff.  


Maybe not all of them.


The first day, in my BIG auditorium class, I gave them a mini lecture on the scope and content of the course. 


 We went through the Civil War and Reconstruction, past the Spanish American War, through the Progressive Era and  WW1, then past Lysol douches and paused in the 1930s where I showed the students a picture of a Hooverville and told them what a Hoover Flag was (an empty pocket, turned inside out), what a Hoover Blanket was (a thin piece of newspaper).


I pause and ask -- knowing most of them won't be able to answer it  -- "What's on a Hoover sandwich?"


Blank faces tinged with fear looked down and away, but one girl -- a beautifully dressed one in the front row blurted out,   "a whole bunch of people, I hope!" 


I shook my head, trying to imagine -- then not imagine -- a sandwich full of people, which looks like a bread orgy in my head.


"No, it's a stale piece of bread, but you're awesome..." I said while pausing lecture to give her a nice hug for being so funny (and sitting in the front row).


In another I class, a student  kept her phone out as I was starting class, then said "But I'm tweeting!" 


aI asked "about me?" and she said "YES" and I said "$20! I can't tweet about you during class, you can't tweet about me during class." 


It killed me to take her $20 because deep down I wanted to show her I was impressed at her initiative in reporting from the field, for writing when she didn't have to write, and having the sense to write something nice about me,  but I couldn't, so instead I gave her a nickname (Tweet) and called on her relentlessly for the rest of the class period.


So far, so good. 



Once, Twice, Three times a Blonde....

After being happily blonde for a few years now, I decided to go darker (redder?) this summer.

Krystal, my hair sorceress, agreed, and through a series of texts we set a date for "the change."

And on the day I was supposed to de-blonde myself (a big deal after coming out of the closet so happily as a blonde, really, a big big deal) pieces of my mental security blanket crumpled when I found out I wouldn't be renting the house I thought I would be moving into in a few days.

 I texted Krystal, begged to reschedule.

She cheerfully agreed.

Weeks later, after finding my dream house and getting packing ready to move, but before going to South Florida to spend a week with Abuelo, I made another appointment with Krystal and also text her a picture of the color I want (which I'm calling "Honey Ginger" and she's calling "Red")

On the way to the hair appointment, a very nice very young guy smashed into my car.

I texted Krystal from the accident scene that I would be detained and I'd reschedule as soon as I knew when I'd be free again.

She understood.

Just now I almost texted Krystal again, about to ask for "that" color, but something made me pause and string the pieces together into a story, 

Every time I try to de-blonde, the universe seems to be saying NO in a most direct, firm and consistent way. 



My Car Lies

Thank you, Allstate, for taking such good care of me in my recent accident. 

Thank you for fixing my car so wonderfully and thank you for hooking me up with the Rav4  rental car. 

It was OK, tolerable, but not especially comfortable or powerful. 

For a moment today, I doubted you. 

As the kids and I ran our first errand today in the "post-crash" Santa Fe, I checked to see if I needed gas (no, not yet) and then noticed something was seriously wrong.

The temperature (outside) was reading 77 degrees.

 It is August in Tallahassee, there is no way this could be right. 

I think (fiercely!) "Damn you, Allstate and your preferred provider! What did you DO to my car's delicate computer system? Teach it to LIE?"

Why is it reading 25 degrees low? 

 (I think briefly, oh Allstate, we are on to something -- can you fix bathroom scales to read 25 pounds lighter? Yes...? call me.... then I remember I'm annoyed and get back to being annoyed)

Then, in a fit of daring, I rolled down my window down a crack and dared to let a bit of August into the car, where her hot breath (I was sure) would quickly fill our car with an uncomfortably thick hot wetness.

No such rush came, so I lowered my window more, then more.  

My car wasn't lying (sorry Allstate) -- so I open all the windows and let today's strangely enchanting dry cool air slip in and dance around, wondering what other magic Allstate can do.

Secret Comfort

In a few hours I'll pick my parents up and end the week-long reign I've held over my childhood and teenage home.  I'm not nostaglic - I left here at 17 and have been on a grand adventure since then.

The only thing I missed - the only thing I'm going to miss - is   shamelessly borrowing my Dad's well worn, long thick soft shirts which I've been wearing without his permission.

The Crying Game

As we are cruising down I-95 home from a day of lots of waterpark and almost but really not enough sunscreen, I call my Mom (who is in "another time zone") to check in with her to see if she's talked to Abuelo and knows how he's doing today since I saw him at 8am.

She tells me she talked to him.

 He's sad. He's lonely. He's crying.

He really doesn't want to move to the "much nicer" place a mile or two away that has "Village" in its name and is often called a "retirement community."

I know he doesn't want to go, and I don't blame him.

It isn't like he's moving to the dorms at Harvard, proud of himself for landing a coveted spot.

It isn't even like when he left Cuba in 1960 for what he expected to be a "short vacation" from Castro's revolution.

He's looking down the barrel at soon leaving the house he's lived in for decades, the one Abuela lived in too.

Moving on to the "next part of his life" doesn't feel so good, and -- more than he can know -- I understand.

When we get out of the car, before I even change out of my bathing suit I march straight through my parents' backyard to Abuelo's door. He answers. 

He doesn't look that sad; more tired and disheveled.

Without much small talk beforehand he straight out  tells me, "I'm sad. I'm depressed. I want to cry. I feel useless..."

I nod my head. "I totally understand. I'm sad and I'm depressed and I cry all the time.  Let's do it together, I bet I can cry longer. Let me in...."

He laughs and stands in the door shaking his head.

Apparently I'm reading off a different script because he doesn't know what to say at first.

"You know what, you're a piece of work" he says, and I can't help but shake my head and laugh too because I know I could have beaten him in both intensity and duration if he really wanted to challenge me to a crying war.

"You're not sad. You're not depressed. You just need some rest" he tells me, like he's now the designated advisor to sad people.

 I say "No, I don't need to sleep, I don't need to rest, I need to work more.  I get sad when no one needs me, like I'm invisible and I might as well disappear... now can I come in and cry?"

He laughs again and says "No crying, lets just dance...." and before I could even start to take him up on his offer,  my kids started shouting for things (I'm sunburnt! I'm hungry! Where is my camera? where is my snake?) and I dance away by myself, leaving him smiling, for now.

Crash Test*

On the way to get my hair done (which I rarely do, because I don't sit still well) someone  - lets call him Driver X -- crashed into my car.

The impact of his Honda on my Santa Fe felt like a head butt by kindergartener.

No airbags went off.

Not bad.  Not something I'd want to do again; not something I've ever done, so today I let go my perfect  no-car-accident 25 year perfect streak that has been running since 1986 -- nine years longer than "Driver X" has been alive. That's fine.

Neither of us were hurt, but our cars looked a bit mangled.

We called the cops and waited.  No injuries, no hurry.

He was shaking (a little) so I got him out of the car for awhile so we could  talk under the canopy of a convenient (like a movie!) old oak tree in front of a huge house off Thomasville Road.

 I drilled him on things I'd seen on Cops and Dog the Bounty Hunter.

"You have a license? You're in America legally? You only have one ID in your wallet, right, not like 10? Any warrants? Any weapons"

(He laughed - he looked like he belonged on the set of Glee or High School Musical).

"Your car is legal? Not stolen? The plates aren't altered? And no one is hiding in the trunk? You're not trafficking humans, seriously, tell me know, pay me off and we'll split it -- also, there is a cap to how much cash you can have on you without looking suspicious..."

After about twenty minutes of my thoughtful interrogation, he still looked off and odd like he'd been in a BIG ACCIDENT and not the minor crash we were blessed with.

 I asked him directly, "What's wrong?"

"I feel guilty, I'm so sorry I hit you."

I laughed. "If you were going to hit someone, I'm glad it was me. This is no big deal in my world."

He nodded.

But I haven't lectured to students or anyone (my kids have headphones and ignore me for fear of hearing more about the intricacies of Jacksonian politics & etc) so I kept talking.

Because I could.

"Don't feel guilty. Guilt is like self-torture and it's so selfish. And pointless. Be sorry. People who are sorry express regret, make things better and move on.  If you're sorry you can come help me move boxes tomorrow...."

Soon enough, the cop was there, the papers were filed and we drove off, a little wiser from afternoon on Thomasville Road.

Reporting from at Camp Mommy

It is past noon and I have gotten enough grading done that I can justify turning my attention back to Camp Mommy  - which I am happy to say has past the 50% mark.

Everyone gets dressed and we slide into the car, dancing to nothing I'd admit to in writing.

As I pull down the hill and onto the curb the children gasp and point.

I'm sure I killed a kitten at least, or a fat rabbit or baby deer at the very worst.

But nothing went thump. Still, I stop and exhale, and look where the kids are pointing.

I didn't hit anyone. Our neighbor is standing on his corner, saluting me.

I roll down the window.

He says, "I bet no one has saluted you in a while."

I am speechless.

I'm hungry and I'm happy I won't be washing roadkill off my tires so I laugh, "No. You're right, especially not.. outside in the daylight

The Big Bang (Birth of a Bra Salesman)

I am writing and writing and also packing and then writing (can't you tell?) when a loud BANG explosion from the living room stops me cold.

There are 4 kids out there (two tween girls and two redheads) so I wait a second for the laugh, the cry, the crash that comes after the BANG.

Strangely enough, nothing.

I think to ignore it, but then, I'm the adult.

 I can't wait 30 days to check on my kids.

People hold me to higher standards than that.

So I get off the yoga folded yoga mat and pull myself away from my writing and my Mac and go into the living room unannounced.

There was a Fort in my living room and no apparent casualties.

Zack's friend -- standing over a bicycle airpump that I'd uncovered in my unpacking, repacking and throwing things away --  holds up pieces of limp orange rubber (formerly Zack's favorite basketball)  and calmly explains. "It exploded."

I nod my head and point at the Fort then say nothing and return my room, to the yoga mat, to the floor half- waiting to hear Zack scream out in protest that his favorite ball had been murdered.

I wait.

Nothing.

I wait.

He knocks on the door then enters holding the two halves of  his basketball in his hands, offering it up to me with a big smile. "Here Mami, we made you a bra...."

Emily Remembers

 (From Charming Emily -- the first book a book in a series called "Blowing Sunshine")

Sister Georgina walked around inside the circle of folding chairs in the St. Joan House looking at the ceiling, at the floor, everywhere but in their eyes.

The tale of Snow White – and her sister Rose Red – is a tale of redemption, of faith, of the kind of love we should expect in life. 

The sapphire rosary wrapped around in Sister Georgina’s left hand tinkled joyfully as the gray haired, dimpled woman marched to the cadence of her own lecture

And the love, the ultimate love Snow White found was given to her freely, in her sleep. She had not sinned, yet she was punished. She was exiled, yet she found a home. She was cursed, and then redeemed.  A story not from the Bible, yes? But a story of love, divine.  Snow White did not need the Bible, she did not need to wear a cross. She was loved, always and unconditionally because God’s grace does not discriminate.

Last week, Sister had told them the story of Cinderella, again with a happy ending about love and God.

The week before that, it had been Sleeping Beauty, love and God.

And before that, back in December, before final exams, Sister Georgina told the story of Aladdin, only she ended it by telling them that everyone had magic lamps that could bring them great abundance.

Which, Emily particularly knew, was crazy.

And wrong.

And undermined the whole purpose of being Catholic.

Sister Georgina halted her march, exhaled with her palms up, arms open, and asked, “Now my children, what questions do you have for me about God? Or Love? How can I help you find your way a little bit better this week?”

The group clapped politely and dismissively. Without ever discussing it, the core group – all female, all Catholic, all scholarship residents of St. Joan’s House  -- agreed that the mandatory Tuesday prayer circle ended when the questions began.

They each stood slowly, reaching to their neighbors, shaking hands.

Peace. Peace be with you.

And with you.

Peace.

Peace.
Peace.

Mike stood up first, then offered his hand to Emily.

 The gesture felt corny and pressured to her, like he’d mentally rehearsed it then waited for his cue.

She took his hand, stood up, allowed him to kiss her on the cheek.

Peace be with you, he said.

And also with you, she replied, eyes on the door.

A Chapter from *Blowing Sunshine*

 Sister Georgina walked around inside the circle of folding chairs in the St. Joan House looking at the ceiling, at the floor, everywhere but in their eyes.

The tale of Snow White – and her sister Rose Red – is a tale of redemption, of faith, of the kind of love we should expect in life. 

The sapphire rosary wrapped around in Sister Georgina’s left hand tinkled joyfully as the gray haired, dimpled woman marched to the cadence of her own lecture. 

And the love, the ultimate love Snow White found was given to her freely, in her sleep. She had not sinned, yet she was punished. She was exiled, yet she found a home. She was cursed, and then redeemed.  A story not from the Bible, yes? But a story of love, divine.  Snow White did not need the Bible, she did not need to wear a cross. She was loved, always and unconditionally because God’s grace does not discriminate.

Last week, Sister had told them the story of Cinderella, again with a happy ending about love and God.

The week before that, it had been Sleeping Beauty, love and God.

And before that, back in December, before final exams, Sister Georgina told the story of Aladdin, only she ended it by telling them that everyone had magic lamps that could bring them great abundance.

Which, Emily particularly knew, was crazy.

And wrong.

And undermined the whole purpose of being Catholic.

Sister Georgina halted her march, exhaled with her palms up, arms open, and asked, “Now my children, what questions do you have for me about God? Or Love? How can I help you find your way a little bit better this week?”

The group clapped politely and dismissively. Without ever discussing it, the core group – all female, all Catholic, all scholarship residents of St. Joan’s House  -- agreed that the mandatory Tuesday prayer circle ended when the questions began.

They each stood slowly, reaching to their neighbors, shaking hands.

Peace. Peace be with you.

And with you.

Peace.

Peace.
Peace.

Mike stood up first, then offered his hand to Emily.

 The gesture felt corny and pressured to her, like he’d mentally rehearsed it then waited for his cue.

She took his hand, stood up, allowed him to kiss her on the cheek.

Peace be with you, he said.

And also with you, she replied, eyes on the door.

Veteran's Village: Good News and Bad News

I have great, heartwarming news. 

My students came together to assemble and deliver about 50 bags of groceries and $200 in gift certificates for the food closet at Tallahassee Veteran's Village. 

We want them to know they are part of our holiday, that they are remembered and included and that we are thankful for their service. 

I took pictures of the food in my office (below) but my hands were full once we arrived at Veteran's Village. 

A gentleman there offered to show us the Food Closet. 

Kori, Anthony, Zoe, Zack, Margie and I climbed the stairs behind him and peeked into the room, 

That's where the bad news comes in.

The food closet is the size of a large walk-in closet, lined with wire shelves.

The food closet was, for all practical purposes, bare.

There are rows and rows of  creamed  corn. And there are rows of canned regular corn.  The only food in the dark refrigerator was husks of corn, which I was told were expired and would be thrown out. 

Other than a few cans of green beans and about ten boxes of off-brand rice-a-roni, the shelves were bare. 

We brought a lot - PopTarts and cereal and sauces and boxed dinners and  brownies and cookies --  but the Veteran's Village food closet needs more. A lot more. 

They need milk. They need bread. They need eggs. They need a little bit of help from a lot more of us.


Please consider donating to the Veteran's Village, and choose to serve those who have chosen to serve their nation. 













This summer, my AMH 2010 and 2020 students have been putting together supplies to bring to the Veterans Village so the local Heroes there know they are appreciated, honored and included in of *all* of our 4th of July celebrations.

Students have offered to  bring chips, dessert mixes, breakfast foods, and things to stock up the pantries there like sauces and mixes and nonperishable staples.

We will also be bringing "Party Stuff" like paper goods, cups, and decorations for a 4th of July Party, along with 
 gift cards for you to buy the meats and etc for the BBQ.

Besides that -- any special requests? 

Also -- I had asked the students to plan on coordinating our delivery on Friday morning around 11 or so -- does that work for you? If not let me know a better time so I can pass it on.

Thanks for all you do!!
Dr. Melissa Soldani
TCC Dept of History

We have all the paper goods and decorations, cups & plates etc.
WHAT WE NEED:
We need giftcards to Publix or Walmart

4th of July Party:  use your imagination, but nothing cooked/perishable. Chips, cookies...

Breakfasts: poptarts, muffins, grits, cereal, oatmeal

Drinks: coffee, tea, mixes

Bag/Box Meal Mixes: Hamburger Helper, Tacos, stuff like that -- 

Snacks: crackers, popcorn, pretzels, pudding mixes, dessert mixes

You can bring your donation anytime during the working day to the HSS division @ TCC and they will bring it to my office, or just bring it Friday morning. If you come by when I'm no there, take a picture of your bag and mark it with your name to make sure you get credit!

Let's have fun!!!