No Argument. No Winner. (But I Won)

I'm sitting quietly in my green writing chair, working on a picture I've been painting.

He walks over and looks at it.
I say nothing.
Maybe he'll go away.

Then he looks at me.
I still say nothing.
Really, maybe he'll go away.

Then he looks in my hand.
I say nothing (brilliantly,  by this point, I might add -)
Really, doesn't he have somewhere to go?

"Is that your new Sharpie?"

"Yes!" I smile and admire (again) the handy chiseled tip that helps me make funky artsy letters.

"Well......that's NOT a Sharpie," he says, and then spins on his heels and walks, clearly away satisfied his message has been fully conveyed. 

Because I don't bother contradicting him with reality (example: the words "Sharpie" on the pen),  I win the argument  and the universe rewards with more time (alone) to draw and to write, happily and quietly. 

Let go. Grow.

For eleven days it lay broken on the floor, a shoe with its heel twisted at an impossibly wrong angle, a crime scene that would make any Jimmy Choo-loving woman wretch.

My favorite shoes suffered this break on a particular day when I was lecturing for another professor. After class, while I was turning off the computer, I leaned back on the heels of my gorgeous high heels and (forgetting they aren't made of steel...) "click" the heel popped off.

So off I hobbled, to my office (no extra shoes there) to my car (nope, no shoes there) then home, where there were shoes... but not the ones I wanted.

That's OK, I told myself.  Be open to new shoes. The universe is full of wonderful things, make room for something new....

I placed my broken shoes in a corner, by my home office, and tried not to look at them.

But despite my best efforts and best intentions, I just couldn't throw those gorgeously carved wooden platform leather topped shoes away.

Then again, I couldn't fix them.

These awesomely perfect shoes were a super amazing sale find of $12.   It would make more sense to buy new (cheap) shoes than to bring these (cheap and broken shoes)  to the dreaded shoe man (with that awful shoe smell) and ask for help.

For almost two weeks, I shopped and shopped but no other shoe had the right heel, the same lift, that exact color and texture that made me smile.

Nothing looked good enough. Nothing looked right.  I didn't even try a single shoe on.

(Note to self: "investigate serial shoe monogamy")

Then yesterday a surge of courage and hope rolled over me.

I picked up the tube of Gorilla glue that normally terrifies me (what if it spills? what if I glue the washing machine closed? wonder what it smells like.....?)  and decided that I would find a way to stick that heel back on.

 At first it didn't work, but I tried again with more glue and a steadier hand until the heel stuck back up against the rest of the shoe, flat, strong and stable like it should be.

So if you see me smiling a little more than I should be today, you'll have to forgive me -- I'm wearing my favorite shoes and thinking about what they taught me.

It's great to let go and grow, but some things are worth fixing.

Camp Mommy: Under Attack*

It is  after lunch and before what would be afterschool if they were in school which they are not because its Spring Break.

Zack is sitting on my lap quietly.

We rock back and forth, silently. He's tired, I'm tired.

No, maybe not tired. Peaceful.

Yes, the two of us both feel calm and peaceful.

The spell is almost broken by  loud metallic crash in the other room, and Zoe almost-cursing (Dannngggrrrrrr...UGH!) in a loud whisper to herself.

She doesn't call for either of us.

She doesn't say she's hurt.

I can hear her breathing heavy, like she's lifting or pulling or fixing something challenging.

Zack and I stay quiet, still slowly rocking back and forth, resting in each other's peaceful company.

Then I hear her a loud dial tone come out of the speakerphone in the other room.

So... it sounds like she hurt herself.... trying to dial the phone?

It seems so, Zack answers quickly, then hugs me, as if I even a little bit had entertained getting up and saving Zoe from the horrible dangerous phone.

We laugh together for a minute, then he slides off my lap and slips away to bug his sister, as if inanimate objects weren't enough for her to battle on this lovely day at Camp Mommy.

Camp Mommy Day #1: Big (Crafty) Love

I leave the house early early and shorten office hours to spend time with my kids who are on their Spring Break (which is never the same as my Spring Break, but I've had Spring Break every year since 1986 so I'm not complaining).

Two  minutes after the sitter leaves the house, both of my normally happy kids are twisting and climbing around me with complaints like sticky thorns... what is there to DO? Where are we going to GO? But I'm BORED!....

So I packed the kids off to Michael's Craft Store, telling them I was going to buy plastic flowers for our yard because Tita said they use them in Cuba and it really works.

They believe me.

So the three of us walked around that store for a good hour while I picked up 50% Daisies (in teal, in white, in orange, in purple, in black, in pink) and then Irises and then Petunias and matched them in bunches and them in rows and considered them and put them down.

Then decided I couldn't live without them and generally pretended that I would really stick plastic flowers outside my house without the supervision of a real Cuban.

In between all of that general wandering around, we find cheap things for the kids to do and make. 

 Of course, I didn't buy the plastic flowers.  In my entire life I have never been seized (more than once or twice) with the urge to buy plastic flowers.  And that was the 1990s.  And I've put that all behind me.

 $11 later and we are home, each kid armed with 50% off craft supplies and happy mood from a nice car drive on a sunny day.

This means one thing. Time off for Mommy.

I know, I know, in real camp, someone would supervise the children.

But I taught the Vietnam War this morning. I shaved my legs, I've had meetings.

My 9-5 is 5-1, and it's already 4pm and I have another shift (dinner, whatever, darkness, sleep) before repeating it all tomorrow. I slip  away from the happy kids to take off my dress, take off my heels and put on my yoga pants.

I cuddle with a pillow and watch to the Series Finale to Big Love, listening every now and then to the chirping happy-craft-day-at-camp kid voices coming from the room.

I get thirsty and push pause, and leave my warm soft TV spot.

Just as I'm turning the corner I hear Zoe telling Zack (in a sugary sweet hushed tone extra nice nice way), "Remember you're not going to tell Mommy..."

So I bang my fist on the wall, causing them both to jump.

"Tell me, what? That you LOVE me?"

And they laugh, because that isn't what they were talking about at all.

We laugh together and suddenly it does feel like camp again, like last summer when we were all rested and relaxed.

I sneak back to my lunch break before the next shift -- dinner, whatever, whatever, darkness -- and watch the end of Big Love, then, because the kids were so happy, I got to write for a little while.

A Castro By Any Other Name...

Before every unit I give a pretest.

This week, as part of the pretest, I put a picture this of Fidel Castro up and asked, "Who is this?"

In one class, two guys in the front blurted the answer out (in a "duh" tone; I think they thought I was really wondering who was in the picture!), so that class found out the answer quickly.

Out of my other two classes, about 50% correctly identified the man in the picture as Fidel Castro (not all spelled it the same way -  there were a few "Kastro" and some "Feedels"  and a "Phedel"  that I decided to count as sorta correct).

  • 23 students thought the image was Osama bin Laden 
  • 6 thought the man in the picture was Saddam Hussein
  • Stalin(3)
  • Tom Cruise (2)
  • Liam Neeson (2)
  • George W. Bush (2)
  • Lincoln, LOL
  • Middle Eastern Terroriots
  • Theodore Roosevelt 
  • Kumar from “White Castle” 
  • Che
  • Jimmy Frimmel
  • Hitler’s cousin Jimmy
  • Ben Linden
  • John Cock
  • John Cain
  • Jeff Clain
  • Jeff Swindell
  • Whodumwhosum
  • A smoky guy
  • Jose Cuba
  • Coy Moses
  • My Dad
  • Chiba
  • Rafiki
  • Casa Blanca


In her perfectly still mind, 
as empty and silent as the Grand Canyon, 
she floated along
on the sound of extinct rivers 
still roaring past

her beautifully carved and scarred
completely ready 
and absolutely certain
of the water's

Lunch Bunch 1: Leaky Princesses

During my Spring Break, I join Zack and Zoe for lunch at their cafeteria, with their friends.

My son apparently has a harem or something like that because the closest boy to him is eight girls down the line of chattering first graders who all sit on the same side of the table facing empty seats where parents would be if they were visiting.

A tiny girl in front of my with angelic blonde hair and impossibly white teeth nibbles a cheese sandwich "with Mayo!" she proclaims, causing the girls and Zack to wince all grossed out.

They compare lunches, take sips and sit awkwardly.

I spy their high-class icepacks enviously. I can't find where they hide those suckers in the store, or/and when I do find them I think "oh, no, we don't really need new ones..." so I give my kids the same  years-old battered and leaky blue packs, mummified in two feeble layers of zipped baggies.

I point it out to them. You have a soccer ball! Your mom rocks! And you have... an insulated sandwich holder! A+ supermom! And you have... a Princess icepack! Cold princesses, cool! 

 Zack and his harem all giggle,  and I sneak my third mini-muffin from my son's lunchbox.

The girl with the soccer pack adds, "I used to have the Princesses! But they leaked...."

You had to throw it away? I ask, making an exaggeratedly sad face. I understand the sentimentality of the six year old heart.

She nodded, giggling and pretending to be sad. That is my cue. I take a carton of chocolate milk and hold it up as a toast.

A line of girls hold their juiceboxes and thermoses up. Zack smiles proudly, impossible to embarrass.

It's a good policy to throw leaky princesses away. We should all agree to that now. It's a good rule to have for life. No leaky princesses. 

We high-5 each other and a cafeteria aid comes to stand near us and do this clapping thing that translates to "stop making noise, pay attention to me" -- and I stifle my frown.  This is America, we are free to laugh, I want to say, but I don't because I know that's a lesson they'll have to learn on their own.

Lunch Bunch: Part #1 Disposable Princesses

Because I didn't have classes during Spring Break, I was able to join my kids for lunch at the cafeteria.  

The first day, I joined my first grader for

Out of the Closet & Easy

Last week I dragged myself in for my infrequent eye exam.

I arrive to my appointment compulsively early as usual, check in, and walk along the cases of frames.

 A man in a suit greets me and I tell him what I'm looking for.

"I love the glasses I have on now - I think they are awesomely Tina Fey. But I need another look, something different and something that goes with my blondier hair," I tell him while he appraises the shape of my face and nods.

 I continue,  "Ever since I became a blonde my daughter won't let me wear these glasses to pick her up at school. That hurts me. Deeply."

I feign a sniff of imagined indignity

He shakes his head laughing and asks, "You haven't always been a blonde?"

I lean over the counter, make sure no one is listening and whisper, "I just became one about a year ago but I feel like I've come out of the closet, like I've been a blonde all along and everyone knew it but me."

He chokes back a laugh.

They call my name and I tell him I'll be back.

I follow a cheerful pink-scrub wearing ponytailed 20-something.

I tell her I'm not going to enjoy this, and she doesn't care.  I like that about her.

I tell her that I hate putting my chin on anything and staring into a box.

She says she understands.

I tell her I hate being asked (cheerfully, even worse) "Which is better? One?" "Two?" "Again?" "One?" "Two?" 

And she agrees that it gets annoying.

Then I tell that I especially hate having my pupils dilated.

She tells me it's not that bad, that it's much lighter and gentler, and that I'll be fine.

I ask her, "are you going to use a speculum?" but she doesn't answer.

Or laugh.

When she leaves the room with my chart in her hand, I pick up my iPhone and with dilated eyes compose a tweet about that.

I feel better.

Soon enough, it is over, I survive and  am rewarded with a prescription for new lenses that are "a little" stronger.

I return to my gentleman at the frames counter, who thankfully is not detained by someone trying on every frame in the shop.

I've been that person.  The narrative went something like: Nothing looks right, nothing looks good, or if it does look good, it's too expensive so show me something that looks like the one I love and can't have but I'll never be happy with it...has it been two hours? I'm so sorry I just haven't quite found anything, but OH how about those? Oh? I tried them already? *sigh*

He greets me and asks me if I'd please indulge him and try a particular pair of frames he thought might look good.

Of course I try them on.

He's a professional glasses-picker.

I trust him.

They are red. They are hip. They are different. They are perfect.

"Thanks!" I say, take them off and hand them to him. "What do we do now?"

His eyebrows furrow. He doesn't understand.

"They're perfect.  I know what I like, and I like these. Now what?"

He silently exhales all his sales-pitching and coaxing and coaching that he won'tbe doing.

I imagine he also happily pockets the patience I'm not going to drain from him, not today.

I follow him to a chair and stay on my best (translation: QUIETEST) behavior while he writes up the details of the order.

I think he's waiting for me to suddenly change my mind, or to freak out about money or something along those lines. I wonder if our uneventfully quick transaction disappoints him.

We shake hands when I stand up and he doesn't say it, so I do.

"You didn't think I was going to be this easy did you?"   

He shakes his head, laughs and then waves at me as I happily leave the store and go back into the world,  out of the closet and easy.

To My Students on Spring Break

As you go where you're merrily going, please do me and the universe a great favor.

Be careful.

Wear your sunscreen, wear your helmet,  wear your seatbelt, and wear your condoms [as relevant].

Keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times.

Don't drink and drive, don't drive and text, and don't put your precious life in the hands of someone who does.

We have many more stories to live and to tell, more laughs to have and you have so many more wonderful adventures on your path to becoming who you were imagined to become.

Be careful.

Disconnected, Connected

The last time I saw my Mom we were both sick and coughing.

 It was before Christmas.

Since then we've bridged the 500 miles between us with short (coughing) conversations, short email and even shorter texting.

Then the other night my Mom calls and asks me a question about something she'd emailed me and apparently I'd ignored.

"I didn't see that question," I tell her, unrepentant. "I get so many questions on email.... I feel like they're writing assignments....Or I glance at them and think I read them but I didn't... I'm sorry."

Mom doesn't laugh.

I hear her take a deep breath like she's dealing with a teenager and needs to choose her words carefully.

The silence feels like  she is gathering her courage to say something difficult.

Finally she asks, "Melissa. Please. How can I better communicate with you?"

Now she has my full attention.

No one EVER talks to me that way, at least not since I got tenure.

So I finally push PAUSE and tell her the truth.

"Mom, I just discovered Kitchen Nightmares. I mean, all this time, I never saw it, and now I'm catching up and I'm watching two and three of them a day!"

Now we're communicating.

 She suggests that I'd probably also like Top Chef.

 I admit to watching Teen Mom 2,  Pawn Stars, Hardcore Pawn, American Idol, Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious, Shameless, Boardwalk Empire, Tabitha's Salon Takeover, and as I'm trying to remember other things to make my confession complete, I add "OH! AND there's a new America's Next Top Model! Isn't that AWESOME??"

We giggle together, and then, finally, we talk about Abuelo, about Cuba, about things going on in our family, and we talk and talk until my finger itched so badly I *had* to undo the pause button and see Gordon stick his hand into a box of moldy fruit.

My Mom understood this compulsion, and we got off the phone, happily connected again.