Bugger: A Frog's Tale in 3 Parts

My new book, 


Part 1: 2 Books, Or None, Depends on How You See it. 

I spent the days before Christmas in a writing frenzy instead of shopping in time to buy my parents and my Abuelo anything and ship it to them.

 I didn't buy the windchimes,  the gift books, the Sharpie markers, the lotto tickets; I didn't print out and frame pictures of the kids.

 Instead I was going to send them a BOOK for Christmas  about this Praying Laughing Frog in my office who brought a beautiful moment into the world.

Bringing a story to life is 1% inspiration and the rest is just damn hard tedious heart wrenching mind challenging work. I wrote and I wrote and I ignored my family (sorry!) and didn't cook (oops!)  or do laundry (maybe Santa will bring clean clothes?) and sometimes I had a big tumbler of an adult beverage by me to cement myself in the chair - lemonade and tequila; cranberry juice and vodka; Bailey's in coffee. 

It worked. I finished on 12/23 and send the file electronically to a print store by my parents.  

Compulsed with the buzz comes when creativity transforms itself into productivity, I then decided to login to Walgreens.com and create a photobook for Abuelo with pictures from Cuba. 

That took a few hours and then I hit submit. Fine. It would be ready by 9pm that same night.

At that point I deputized my father - the man whose birthday is on Christmas - to round up the books.

He called after 9pm that night from Walgreens. There was a frustration in his voice. 

What name is it under? I give him the order number, one name, another, his name, mine, my email. 

He ends it with a tight statement of OK, they have no record of your book, handle this.

OK, I will I tell him sweetly and he goes home.

The next morning my Dad calls me. He is at the print shop. They have no record of your book here.  What name is it under? He tries  few things.  Then he mutters under his breath "I don't like your Christmas gifts this year!" and I lighten it up suggesting this can be our new "holiday tradition" but he answers bullshit and gets off the phone.

I call Walgreens and stay on the line long enough for the woman there -- the one with an accent who understood what a big deal it was to send my Abuelo pictures I took in Cuba of HIS house, hard evidence I was there, it is there -- to figure out the book had been filed under a random letter. Yep, there it was, ready for my Dad.

Then I checked my email. There it was, a notice my print job was ready. Prayer of the Laughing Yoga Frog, 3 copies, ready for pickup.  I call my dad. He has already printed out the file I sent him, but OK. Good, he begrudges that I didn't send him on fool's errands and we move on with our long-distance Christmas. 

Part 2: The Big Wince

We are opening presents on Christmas; fast forward to me unwrapping a box that had a statue and three cool rocks. One rock tries to run and almost crashes on my foot. I decide to keep an eye on that agate and put it back in the box.  Then I unwrap the statue from from its tissue paper.

It is silver and space aged looking.

I wince.

Don't you like it? It's a FROG!

I look at it again. It looks like the 6 Million Dollar Frog, like what a frog who worked for the Air Force would look like.

It looks tough and cold and hard and I can't even look it in the eye.

 It isn't green. It isn't funny. 

It isnt' very froggy and nothing at all like my beloved silent yoga-tastic frog and less frogilicious than my sideways swimming windchime frog.

This frog was all business, which makes me by my very nature wince.

Zoe explains it's a powerful frog that will help me "jump into the next part of my life" whatever that meant to her.   I shake my head and try to be thankful but I don't want to jump into the next part of my life, I love it where I am, I think unconvincingly and I wrap the frog back up and keep Christmas moving.

Part 3: Bugger

The day after Christmas I open the frog again and read its tag - the frog has a name? - "Bugger". 

Bugger: a slang word used to refer to anal intercourse; a curse word to express dissatisfaction.

Bugger the Lucky Frog who is going to make me JUMP alrighty. 

 I put him up on the mantle and walk away quietly hoping he wasn't checking me out in my yoga pants. 

Part 4: 1 Book Down, 51 More to Go

The next day the sun is extra bright and life is happy around here. In the middle of a conversation I ask Zack if he thinks I'll write 5 more books and he answers "I think you'll write 52!! This year!!" which makes me want to hug him and kick him.  

52 books in a year is crazy talk but thanks, I tell him, swelling up with some invisible optimism that carries me to find a way to publish my book, the one I wrote before Christmas.

I go online and feel my way around, successfully clicking here, then there.

There's the cover page; the ISBN; now the template.  The formatting kicks back errors 9 times; over and over I upload the manuscript until its approved.

There, done. 

I go online and announce I've published my second book.

 People comment they didn't know I was writing this book and I add that I didn't know either, but now that I've started moving I'm halfway done with the next book, too, so stay tuned. 

The frog, that bugger, gleams from the corner.  

He's growing on me. 



What would Jefferson Madison or Monroe do?

There is a moment in my life seared across my memory like an invisible START line no one else can see.

I was warming myself up for writing leadership curriculum at Leadership Broward in the summer of 2005 and I came across an article that had the word "blog."

Blog? Sounds like a booger, I thought, but it couldn't be because the article was about an insider in the "beauty industry" writing under a psyuedonym; I searched the blog and read it for a second.

My eyes were pulled to the top corner.

An icon proclaimed "Create your own blog" and I clicked on it to see what this was all about.

It took me a few seconds to realize that the service was free. And easy.

I had in front of me something that Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and James Monroe (not Jackson, he wasn't much of a "writer") would have drooled over -- a truly free and democratic arena to write and be read.

No stamp tax, no editors, and best of all, no one in the whole world telling me what to write, when to write, or who I was even writing for.

I had no deadline, no target audience, nothing but space and freedom to write nothing or write something, the American way.

In the 8 years since I started blogging the world has made a humongous jump forward in connectivity.  Now we have more places to meet freely - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and whatever new media just popped up and my daughter wisely hiding from me.

There is now another step forward; people can publish a book for free, all on their own, without the need for agents, editors (well, um, don't skip that one) and any limitations of money.  I can on

What Would Colin Powell Do? (Fisheyes and etc)

Early Sunday morning Zack wakes me up this morning standing over me with a bright smile - "We're hungry, please can you make breakfast?"

He has a friend sleeping over, it's after 8, so yes, I get up quickly and happily and start making bacon and pancakes and coffee.

While I'm doing all this my son come up and hugs me and asks where his iPad is.

 I give him a one arm hug and shrug him off and pour a pancake on my pan as he walks away.

My dad taught me to watch for fish eyes popping up in the pancake batter as it cooks.

After a few seconds one appears as a bubble.

Then another, then a group of them.

 Fish eyes, time to flip the pancake. There, it's just brown enough, just perfect.

 I finish it and take the pan off the stove so I can look for that iPad.

Is it on Zack's desk? (no) Is it on Zoe's bed? (yes).

I pick it up and hand it to my son who is bunkered down on the big sofa with his friend, both playing minecraft.  One of them, I'm not sure who, mutters thanks, and I go off back to the kitchen and bacon and fisheyes.

After filling their plates with pancakes and bacon, I carry butter, syrup, cups and orange juice to the table I announce in my most "don't embarrass me Moooommmm!" voice,  "Hey hungry boys who woke me up to cook for them! Breakfast is ready!"

They say nothing.

I'm up and getting things done so I keep moving and decide to gather a load of laundry.

I used to toss my laundry in my huge bathtub (the one with hot bubbling jets that I use a lot less in reality than I do in my imagination) but I stopped that on Thanksgiving day after I came back from a fantastic workout running up and down  the hill near my house.  I was hot and sweaty and  decided to take a pre-Holiday Madness long hot bath.

This meant clearing about 6 big towels out of the tub, so while turning on the right songs on Pandora I mindlessly reached in and pulled a few towels out with one hand.

 I dropped them  on the floor (note to self, get bathmats for Christmas; Zoe puked on all the old ones) and reached in to pull out more towels.

As I'm tossing these towels on the ground I realize there is something in my hand that is not a towel and I drop it right back into the bathtub.

It looks kinda familiar, like a toy Zack would make with Legos, all spindly but collapsed into itself like the skeleton of  umbrella folded down. Sometimes Zack takes baths in this huge tub, floating and playing and just being a boy.  Yes, it  must be one of Zack's toys of course, so I reach down and start to pick it up out of the bathtub but then it moves so I don't touch it at all.

One leg straights out.

Then another.

 It's a spider. It's a big black skinny spider bigger than my palm and I don't know what to do so I keep extra quiet and still.

This is a mortal and moral dilemma. I just ran up and down hills under the stars, embracing life. I can't just kill something now.

I ask myself what Colin Powell would do.

 I know. I know. He kicked Saddam out of Kuwait in Desert Storm.

Limited objective, success.

I decide the spider must go down the drain and try to find something to chase it down with (or poison it -- now that I named it Saddam Hussein I'm thinking of using my WMD on it).

The bathroom offers a variety spider chasing (killing?) tools - hairspray, sharp heeled shoes, magazines -- but my heart is set on spraying some cleanser with bleach at this spider and also sanitizing the bathtub.  Under the cabinet, where the bleach spray belongs, I only find two things - toilet paper and tooth whitening mouthwash.

So I pour a capful of mouthwash and pour it at Saddam Hussein the spider in my bathtub.  He shakes one arm at the wetness (or was it a leg?) and moves a little. I pour more,  he moves a little more deliberately away from the dental WMD.

The cap is empty. I grab the bottle and pour it towards the spider and chase him towards the drain.

As it slips into the hole, I forget the Powell Doctrine go a little more Bush (Cheney?) Doctrine and smash the drain on the spider, leaving half his legs (arms?) dangling on the outside of the drain.

Maybe he lived, maybe he died. Either way, I cleaned the bathtub and had a long hot bath that morning.

Now that I've gathered laundry (which I no longer keep in my tub) and started a big load of school clothes for next week I notice something.

The boys haven't touched the food.

They aren't even at the table yet.

I repeat myself.  "Hello? Boys? Breakfast?"

Zack says "Later, we're not hungry!"

I come closer to him, because I'm sure I didn't hear him right, and you know maybe all that loud music in my youth and in my car is catching up to me.

He repeats himself, "We're really not hungry yet, mom, but it smells good."

I kiss him on the forehead. "So basically you woke me up to find the iPad?"

He nods and adds, "I knew better than to wake you up just for that."

 I kiss him again and go eat his bacon.

Merry Xmas! Marvin's Book is Free on Kindle*

Marvin's Book: The Story of a Professor and a Promise is a free download in Kindle for Xmas.

Don't have a kindle? Download the kindle app on your iPhone, iPad, Android or laptod.


Laughing Yoga Frog: Chapter 10: Culito de Rana

Later that same week the professor returned to her office to give the last set of exams for the semester. Again she collected her exams and again she readied the lucky rocks.  But it was too early to go to class on this particular day so she stood still for a minute and looked out the window.

There he was, arriving in his special limousine.

The professor decided to down just for once and meet him as the elevator lowed him to the ground.  Hey Alex, ready for your exam?

He nodded as best as he could but actually last week his old chair broke and now he was in this sportscar of a chair that he was still figuring out and that was taking ALL of his concentration so she didn’t ask him any more questions until he hit the green button once, then once again then pushed the circle forward and his chair moved him away from his limousine and through the glass doors into the building.

I like this one better she babbles at him. Before you were leaned back more, now you’re right up and down like you’re in a tight sports car.  He pushed the red button twice, stopped his car and smiled his agreement.

The professor meant to walk Alex to their classroom to make sure that he was there to take pictures but he shrugged her off.

 I have to wait here, he said slowly, carefully chosen word forming itself in him and then bursting out of his otherwise rigid silence. She asked if he was warm enough, if he needed anything. He turned his eyebrows down and said no.

 I want you to be part of this, she told him and then left him in the warm hallway surrounded by hushed packs of whispering students quizzing each other and cursing under their breath.

She went back upstairs to her office and fetched exams, the rocks and the frog.
Again the professor paraded with frog down the hall past exhausted looking exam-worn students strewn here and there like remnants of  party that died hours ago.  A waif like girl with a cuddly animal face knit hat looked up and smiled from her spot surrounded by piles of notecards pink green blue white.   Other students looked down and away staring at graphs and highlighted passages and printed out power point slides.

At five minutes before the time the Final Exam was supposed to begin the professor walked into the room. Several students were sitting on top of their desks in an informal circle quizzing each other.   The professor hid her pleasure at their intensity and walked silently to the front where she dropped the box of empty final exams and the laughing yoga frog on a small table. 

At exactly the time the final exam was supposed to begin the professor held up the frog statue and launched into an impromptu graduation speech.  Congratulations you’ve made it to the end! Look at the empty chairs. That guy stopped coming. That girl, the one who never had a pen, she disappeared, but you guys made it to the end in one piece, and that’s something to celebrate.

The class broke up into cheers as though someone were tossing candy and free tshirts at them.

I’m giving you a speech, I’m not cancelling your final, I need to talk to you about my frog, the professor announced and several fallen faces dropped their gazes back down into notebooks and notecards.   A few faces looked interested. . One girl with particularly tight headband winced a little.
I like frogs because they start out completely different from what they are intended to become.
They have tails, right? Then they lose them and grow up. That must be traumatic.
When my mom tells me Sana, sana, culita de rana, si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana”(heal heal little frog’s tail, if you don’t heal today you’ll heal tomorrow) I imagine this poor baby froggy looking for its tail, what it’s lost, and not at all noticing that it has arms and legs and now it can leap.  
But once the frog realized it’s a new creature, strong and whole, it can do so much more and leap into a bigger world. And that’s what I wish your education will help you do.
I fell in love with this particular praying laughing yoga frog the moment I saw it.
 Just look at it, doesn’t it look like something I would love? 
Well I left it. But then the next week I went back to Cracker Barrel and it visited it and I had the money and I had no reason to not buy it but I just ran away from it.
And a week later I went back to Cracker Barrel again and I can’t believe I’m publicly admitting I went to Cracker Barrel three times in two weeks and I thought the frog was gone but it was THERE and it was 80% off. 
I love it and it was meant for me and I bought it and what I want to tell you all is that the universe is always growing and ever expanding and it is full of joyful things – big and small -  like this frog and I’m sure that what is meant to bring joy to you will find you.
After  you each finish exam I’m going to give a lucky rock and you’re going to take a picture with me and the frog. I’d give you your lucky rocks now but some of them are so strong that they bring an unfair advantage so you’ll have to wait.
Ready for your exam?
The professor hands out empty exams full of spaces for students to explain things like The Treaty of Versailles,  The Manhattan Project and The Powell Doctrine.  After finishing her walk up and down and between the rows she turns her attention to Alex who will leave her and take his test in a lab.
Ready for your lucky rock?
He nods.
She holds up the rock-laden tray that obscured the word “Believe” etched across it right under Alex’s hand. His rock picks him quickly but he can’t hold it in his hand. She asks if she can put it in his slipper and he laughs.
The professor turned her laptop and held her frog up to take a picture with the three of them. It came out well.  They took another, then another and because Alex was just hanging out in the room until his aid met him, the professor kept taking pictures with Alex and the frog.

Put me on your head the frog whispered to the professor.
She put the frog on her head so that its lilypad looked like a 1920s hat.
Alex threw his head back and laughed the happiest laugh anyone had ever heard. 
Before the moment could pass, the professor took a picture of the three of them, Alex laughing, the frog praying, her just peeking in from the side of frame.

 A minute later Alex’s aid entered the room apologizing for being late.  That’s fine Reggie, the professor said, eliciting giggles from testtakers who remembered the day she stopped lecture and asked him his name.

He told her. It was something like Eric. She shook her head and told him she was going to call him Reggie and after that she just did and everytime she did everyone giggled.  
Hold the my frog and take a picture Reggie, don’t ask any questions, act like this is normal the professor commanded as she thrust the frog at Reggie.
 Reggie did exactly what she asked, which only made Alex laugh harder. 

After that the two of them left for the lab, leaving the professor and her frog to finish the exam and take pictures with the rest of that class.

One by one students went off into their worlds, relieved of an exam, hopefully a little bit wiser and happier.

In the after-exam quiet the professor took her time stacking exams up and clearing off odds and ends from her desk before retreating to a long weekend of grading.

She wiped down her desk, watered her plants and placed the Laughing Yoga Frog on the windowsill right under the crystal that spun rainbows of joy across the office walls and floor for a few minute at just the right time each day.

Looking around one last time the professor went back to reposition the frog. Something had changed, just a little.

Your silent prayer was answered today, wasn’t it, the professor asked the praying laughing yoga frog.

So that’s what you’ve been waiting for, she asked again into the silence, answered only by a tiny rainbow that shot through the prism and onto the floor. 

And so, while the professor was indeed intended to be grading answers regarding the Potsdam Declaration and the Platt Amendment, instead she thought about what a wonderful universe this was that she could play even a little part in answering the prayers of the laughing yoga frog.

The world is a perfect place, created by a perfect creator whose imagination is still unfolding. 

Each bit of creation from the perfect creator is also perfect, both a piece in itself and also part of a whole.

Laughing Yoga Frog; Chapter 9: Pulitzer Frog

And then at the end of one particular semester just as the professor was packing up her lucky rocks and her laptop to take pictures and a box of empty final exams full of spaces for students to explain "Marshall Plan" and "Buck vs Bell" she noticed the frog and wondered "Would you like to come?"

Yes? The frog didn't protest so the professor tucked the frog under one arm, slung the box of exams and such under the other arm, and marched down the halls full of college students huddled in study groups surrounded by puddles of notes.

She acted as if it were totally normal to be walking down the hall with a statue of a laughing yoga frog, like this is just how things are supposed to be today.

Upon entering her large class the professor put her frog down, set up for the exam and when it was time to start the exam - but not a minute before - she asked the students for their attention to tell them one last  story for the semester.

She holds the frog up.

I brought the Laughing Yoga Frog for you today to help during exams. Sometimes I hold it and pretend its the Pulitzer Prize for comedy and practice my acceptance speech.  

The class laughed the professor continued with a short tale of falling in love with the frog, leaving it, visiting it, leaving it, again, then finally retrieving it.

 The class stares at her for a moment, the word "so?" hanging over their heads collectively, silently, heavily.

This was their final exam; they were not expecting to hear about the Cracker Barrel gift shop.

The professor puts the frog down and tells her students that the frog has taught her a great deal.  What the universe intends for you, you will receive.  This frog waited for me, she tells them, and adds, this frog is to remind you that what is intended for you will be something joyful, something that you will find and will find you.

Smiles of relief cross the room.

The professor picks up a heavy stack of exams and asks who's ready to take an exam and even though no one said yes please she decided to give them their final exams anyway.

One by one as the students finished their exams the professor let them pick their stone -- or rather, let their stone find them -- and took a picture with each student, their stone and the laughing yoga frog.

When the last student finishes her exam she begs for mercy and the professor promises to read the exam carefully.  They take a picture together and the student carries her lucky rock -- amber -- out of history class and off into the rest of her life.

The professor packed the exams neatly and again tucked the frog under her arm and walked through the hallway stepping over the twisted tangled study groups of students that lined the wall.

When she got back to her office the professor put the frog back in her spot below the crystal and next to the windchimes. She stacked the exams up neatly, turned her office light off and went home to thing about things big and small.

The next day the professor gave another exam.

Again she brought the frog.

Again she told them  the story of Cracker Barrel and pointed out that what was meant for them they will most definitely get.

Again she told them it was her pretend Pulitzer.

Again she told them to marvel at the tree pose,  that  finding balance and strength and joy takes practice and intention.

This time she added that the universe was always growing and expanding and many of the wonderful things intending for them are still only being imagined.

 Have patience,  and expect wonderful things she tells them and then tells them to put everything away and take their history exam.

One by one students pose with the frog, with their rocks.  When the last student leaves the room the professor stacks the exams neatly and carries the papers and the laughing yoga frog back to her office.

That night the laughing yoga frog looked up into the moonbeams and broke her silence with small  words crammed in one joyful prayerful thought bubble proclaiming "I'm almost there."

Laughing Yoga Frog: Chapter 8: Silent. Strong, Balanced

Semester after semester the professor and her students and the rocks and the laughing yoga frog continued their dance.

Students went through her class and off into their lives to become mothers and warriors and dentists and engineers and artists and philanthropists and musicians and whatever else seed that was planted in their soul and watered by experience and nurtured by hope.

The professor came and went day and day into her office life and back into her mother life.

 Every day she was thankful to the universe and her creator that she had an office, this office with crystals and rainbows and frogs and stones and students.

And through it all, day after day, semester after semester, year into year, the laughing yoga frog stayed planted in tree pose, silent, strong, balanced.

Chapter 8

Laughing Yoga Frog: Chapter 7: Faithful Expectation

The professor often met students who were in college but not really.

They would come to class once and sit off from the rest of the class, take a week off, then wander in lost and confused and then take another week off to recover.

 If and when the professor could get such students to her office she would remind them of a Buddhist proverb: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears" and offer to them that they really weren't meant to be learning this from her, here and now.  Sometimes she would continue in her explanation, saying perhaps they weren't coming to class thirsty for knowledge but surely they were learning alot somewhere else in their life, that something was really compelling them with passion and growth.

 Students often looked down and sad to hear the truth and graciously be allowed to admit that they didn't really want to be in college not now, not here.

 The professor would remind them they were free, and then wished them well on their path, arming them with a lucky stone.

As the 21st century college world would have it, most students didn't ever come to the professor's office.

They came to class, asked questions in class or on email, and went on with their life without ever meeting the laughing yoga frog.

Because the professor spent so many hours in her offices she had plenty of time to grade exams, write lectures, answer email, compile learning outcomes, waterher plants, rearrange her stones and stare out the window at the planes going by.

Sometimes the professor got up from her chair and stood in the tree pose with her frog, falling out of the pose, laughing.  Sometimes she forgot to laugh and instead sat hunched in her chair staring at Dr. Suess WW2 cartoons, trying to pick exactly the right four that together could tell a good story.

On an especially quiet day when the professor had no one to meet with, nothing to grade and nothing to write she stared and stared at the laughing yoga frog and then finally asked of it what she always wanted know.

What are you laughing at?

What are you praying for?

Are you praying  thank you for something delightful that you received?

Or are you praying thank you for something delightful you know you'll get?

Something told her it was the last thing, that the frog was smiling, waiting silently and tree-like, immobile in its faithful expectation of joy.

The Laughing Yoga Frog: Chapter 6: Statue of Liberty

When the professor brought the Laughing Yoga Frog home she thought she would put it outside by the rose bushes, jasmine and fish pond.  Right there it would be a glorious center to a meditation area.

She put it down, surrounded it with rocks and stepped back.

The otherwise jubilant frog disappeared into the foliage small and lost, a point of joy dimmed into nothing.

  No, no this is all wrong the professor muttered then put the frog on her mantle.

 There, you will inspire me every day to be quiet, to be prayerful, to be happy and balanced like you. Perfect.

The frog looked a little bit better there next to the flatscreen TV, but because it was up so high no one could really see it's prayer and appreciate its balance.

One day as the professor was packing her laptop into her shiny red faux-leather sack on the way to work she looked up at the frog and thought to the frog Hey! Are you happy there are do you want to come with me?

The laughing yoga frog didn't protest so the professor carefully picked her up and brought her to the car where -- just in case, you can't be to sure, you know -- she placed it in the passenger seat and strapped the seatbelt carefully around it's delicately strong pose.

Once she arrived in her office the professor put the yoga frog down on the corner of her desk, unpacked her computer and turned it on.

She sat back in her chair and looked around for a suitable place for the frog to pose.

Over there was a line of frogs the professor had rescued from her mother's house, frogs who were being evicted in a purgative house cleaning. The yoga frog was larger than the other frogs -  the Puerto Rican surfer frog, the bank frog, the frog with the safire eyes, the two frogs melted together in a tango - like the Statue of Liberty placed among kindergarten playdough creations (no offense to the other frogs she thought quickly then laughed at herself).

The laughing yoga frog wanted to stay on the professor's desk, right there by the pile of lucky rocks that sprung from the center of the earth and although they couldn't walk, couldn't talk, had no free will, here they were offering themselves up to the endless line of students who came to talk to the professor -- and now her frog -- about Andrew Jackson, the Cuban Missile Crisis and other such professor stuff.

Over the next semesters the  ever changing pile of rocks that visited the professor's desk and watched the frog do her yoga before leaping into the hands of students included blue lace agate for healing, crazy lace agate for balance and laughing; rose quartz for harmony and love; Amber for luck and success and to remember that sap was once running and then slowed down, so slow it transformed into art.

One day the professor received an email that a student died. She wanted to turn her computer off and walk away from her office, her rocks and the laughing yoga frog but instead she brought her laptop to exams and took pictures with each and every student as they handed in their exams and received their lucky rocks. This one is for freedom, this one is for insight, this one helps you let go of beliefs that no longer serve you and don't help you become who you are intended to be.

No matter how carefully the professor counted rocks when she went to buy them the professor always ended the semester with twenty or thirty rocks that refused to let themselves be picked, and instead insisted on being returned to her office where they could stay with the laughing yoga frog.

Legend of the Laughing Yoga Frog: Chapter 5: A Mile in My Flip Flops

When the professor approached the counter to pay, the extra friendly brown aproned cashier asked if everything was OK. 

 Yes, yes, fine, she muttered in response then despite herself blurted out, I was just wondering about this Yoga Frog you had and maybe you have some more in the back?

The cashier looked at her for a second  with a blank face then pointed to the back of the store.  There's still one sitting there. It's out of its box, I think. I'm pretty sure its the last one. 

The professor spun on her heels and quickly weaved through a crowd of slow moving people with large purses and bags,  marched past the dice games and around the pile of gifts celebrating each branch of the Military and looked exactly where the cashier had pointe,  right there facing the bathroom, doomed to smell cinnamon apple candles read cute signs like “Don’t Judge me Until You Walk a Mile in My FlipFlops."

There, planted like a tree was the Laughing Yoga Frog, now 80% off on clearance.

She carefully picked the frog up, cradled in her arms and said silently to her heart to the universe to whoever was listening,  I hear you.  I don't know why, I don't know what for, but it's clear we belong together. 

Chapter 4: Gone

Legend of the Laughing Yoga Frog: Chapter 4: Flat and Weak

The next week again the professor had an overwhelming undeniable craving for eggs.

 She tried an Egg McMuffin but it felt empty. 

She tried Village Inn but it felt heavy. 

She tried to cook at home but it felt rushed and cold.   

Finally she made time and a date with a friend to go to Cracker Barrel. proclaiming to the world Oh my GOSH I come here to often! 

She marched right to where the frog was and it was gone.

She marched right to where the frog was and it was gone.

She waited in front of the moon pies and orange soda somberly and waited for her name to be called.

The professor ate her two over-medium eggs eggs quietly and bitterly. 

They seemed rubbery and wet and tasteless at the same time. 

The bacon was fat and limp.

The biscuit was hard and flat and doughy; none of the jellies even sounded good. 

Her diet coke tasted flat and weak.  

After a few minutes the professor gave up and just put her fork on the plate, realizing she didn't even know what she wanted at all anymore. 

Chapter 3: Falling Over, Laughing

The next week the professor again couldn't stop thinking about the frog. She googled it (nothing) she tried to draw it (no, too flat, too cartoonish) and then finally stopped and sat herself outside to be extra extra extra quiet.

What is it I'm supposed to be learning from this frog the professor asked the universe and the answer was silence, silence and more silence.

Am I supposed to jump like a frog, she wondered, but that didn't sound right.

Maybe I'm supposed to work on this pose she thought and of course that was the answer so she got right into Tree Pose.

 She stood straight up on one leg, tucked the other foot above her knee making a right triangle.

It was hard to hold, she fell out of it, laughing.

Again she tried to hold the tree pose, to be like a tree, strong, silent, balanced.  Again she fell down, laughing.

Over the next week she worked on her tree pose over and over and over, telling people they should try it, they should try it and try to learn to be like a a tree - solid, quiet, flexible, strong.   People nodded and  changed the subject.

Morning after morning, night after night the professor tried to stand like a tree, to stand like the frog and keep her balance while looking up to the sky, to the universe and each time she tried she fell over, laughing. 

Legend of the Laughing Yoga Frog: Chapter 2: Obsessed

The next week the professor tried to put the Laughing Yoga Frog out of her mind.

Well, she kinda tried, but mostly she talked about the frog to her mother to her daughter to her students to her friends and imitated the pose the best she could much to their entertainment.

The professor was so enchanted by the memory of the Laughing Yoga Frog that she she googled it to see if she could sneak a peek at it online. She tried "Yoga Frog" and "Laughing Frog" and "Cracker Barrel Frog" and "Most Amazing Happy Frog Ever" but nothing she tried brought an image of anything that came close to the amazing Laughing Yoga Frog.

As life would have it, the next week she was hungry for eggs again and found herself at Cracker Barrel again.

 The professor went straight to the section where the frog had been and there it was, still standing still and quiet in tree pose, still laughing, still balanced, still patiently waiting to picked up and brought home.

Its price had been slashed 30%.

The professor stood possessively in front of the discounted-frog for as long as she could, but when her name was called she raced right up to the front, hungry and thirsty and ready for eggs.

When she finished her meal the professor paid quickly and left the store racing past racks of books on tape and recipe books on things like how to use Coca-Cola in amazingly American dishes.

She didn't take a single last look at the frog, not a peek.

 It's easier this way, she told herself, explaining to no one that she did NOT want to become someone who had frog statues in her front yard.

 In her heart she wished the frog a great life and then kept going,  as quickly as her cute Jessica Simpson nude colored patent leather pumps with peek-a-boo toes allowed her to move, past the row of old fashioned rocking chairs, past the oversized table with the oversized checkerboard, into her car and onto the highway.


Legend of the Laughing Yoga Frog: Chapter 1: Delightful!

The professor stood frozen in her orange sherbet long dress in front of a small statue of dark green frog standing in perfectly balanced Tree Pose with her hands folded in front of her heart in prayer while her entire head was thrown up to the sky in a broad laughing smile.

DELIGHTFUL! the professor proclaimed out loud,  startling a chubby woman who was holding up a package of off-label gummy worms in a patriotic Halloween package.

I love it, she said again, under her breath, pet the statue twice, rubbed its stomach and walked away when her name was called over the loud speaker.

After eating her eggs and such and rounding up children and other normal lunch things she went back to the gift shop and stared at the frog again.

It was like meeting an old friend, a new friend, a friend she had been waiting for.  Seeing it made her smile, laugh, shake her head. 

Again she said,  Delightful!, this time only in her heart, in the place where you know if something or someone fits like a key or not. 

 This was love -- frog love -- immediate and perfect. 

And because she loved the frog so much, and because the professor was so damn wise, she turned right on her heels and walked right out of Cracker Barrel, past the windchimes and rocking chairs and awkwardly parked 4 door Buicks. 

The professor didn't stop until she got safely in her car, strapped herself in and drove away as fast as she could. 

The world is a perfect place, created by a perfect creator whose imagination is still unfolding. 

Each bit of creation from the perfect creator is also perfect, both a piece in itself and also part of a whole.

Into that cascading fountain of awesomeness appeared things like corn and Cuba and artists like Brito and Billiards players like my father, each worthy of a story of their own.

This particular story is about a professor and her magical Laughing Yoga Frog.

When God imagined this particular professor she decided to place her with happy people who would let her learn how to fall in love with reading and stories and breakfast foods and generosity and the beach and Cuba. 

 Much much further down the list in things that God created this professor to take delight in was “cooking” and other “kitchen” things.    

One day while waiting in the giftshop of Cracker Barrel the professor passed a long line of garden decoration frogs.  

The first frog was fat and lumpy and awkward.

The next frog was sneaky looking.

The third frog was love at first site.

The Legend of the Laughing Yoga Frog: Prelude

The world is a perfect place, created by a perfect creator whose imagination is still unfolding. 

Each bit of creation from the perfect creator is also perfect, both a piece in itself and also part of a whole.

Into that cascading fountain of awesomeness appeared things like corn and Cuba and artists like Brito and Billiards players like my father, each worthy of a story of their own.

This particular story is about a professor and her magical Laughing Yoga Frog.

When God imagined this particular professor she decided to place her with happy people who would let her learn how to fall in love with reading and stories and breakfast foods and generosity and the beach and Cuba. 

 Much much further down the list in things that God created this professor to take delight in was “cooking” and other “kitchen” things.    

One day while waiting in the giftshop of Cracker Barrel the professor passed a long line of garden decoration frogs.  

The first frog was fat and lumpy and awkward.

The next frog was sneaky looking.

The third frog was love at first sight.

Confessions of a Birthday-zilla.(Adventures in Yoga Pants)

You didn't hear from me last year on my birthday.  I was a Birthday-zilla who refused to answer the phone or to return a text.  My facebook was deactivated, my blog turned off.

 If I'd had a Harry Potter invisibility robe I would have thrown it over myseslf.

Zoe was home for a week with an awful flu and maybe I caught it or maybe I caught something else - a virus of the spirit? - that left me languishing in my tub for hours staring at the ceiling waiting impatiently for an answer to a question I still couldn't quite formulate yet.

The first print copy for my approval of my book, Marvin's Book, arrived in the mail while I was in the bathtub.

I can't remember which of my kids opened it and brought it to me in the bathtub thinking it would snap me into a happy birthday spirit.

In a movie I'd like to think that any author presented with her first copy of her first book would spring out of the bathtub and dance in a towel. Not me. Not today.

I fussed at the poor messenger (now I remember it was Zoe because she was home and feeling much better and asking please could I get her something for lunch and hence I ended up in the bathtub, two hours ago) about opening my mail and it was my BIRTHDAY leave me ALONE PLEASE and ugh if the camera crew from Birthday-zilla was there they would have had a good scene.

Because I was hungry - not because I was a responsible mother - I got myself out of that bathtub, blowdried my hair and threw on some yoga pants.

 For a minute I thought to get myself new yoga pants for my birthday, remembering I had bought these the year before Zack was born.

Zoe hears me getting dressed and asks where we can go. I don't want to go in anywhere that involves makeup, a dress, being charming.

 I want to get back home and sit on my swing in silence and keep figuring something out. so I offer a few drive thru's.

 Zoe tilts her head and asks sweetly for Subway, offering to go in and get the order by herself.

This snaps me out of myself. I clarify with her that she would and can go into a store all by herself. Yes, she nods brightly, she'd done it before. 

Her energy brightens me up for this yoga pants  adventure.   I hand her $20 and she repeats the order.  We discuss back-up chips in case they don't have the jalepeno chips.

We arrive to a Subway crowded with the high school lunch rush.

 Zoe's wearing ugg boots, pajama pants and a sweatshirt.  Her hair is in a sloppy bun. She could fit seamlessly into in any of my college classes. She could slip right into any high school class. She knows this and takes a deep breath before steeling herself up leave the car and join the crowded store.

I have my copy of Marvin's Book in the car.

I can't open it. I don't know what to do with it.  I should be happier, I want to be happier, yay yay I wrote my first book and yay it arrived on my birthday but I don't feel that at all.

 It's the story of trying to fulfill a promise I made to Marvin Scott -- one of my most beloved students who passed away too suddenly -- and looking for a happy funny ending for the book.

The book, tangible and bound in my hand now  doesn't fix one bit the grief that I feel in losing him; if anything it magnifies it like a sore that just had its scab ripped out.

Tears well up.  Birthday-zilla girl is in her car, crying.

 I know enough to shake this off; I'm someone's Mom and I don't want to be the crazy woman crying in her car so I turn on happy music and  toss the book in the backseat and wait for Zoe to bring me my Birthday lunch.

A minute later she emerges from the store looking bright and proud.

 She slips into the car and as I drive us home she tells me every detail about  who she saw in there and who was working and I interrupt her to ask for my drink and her story stops dead.

Drink? Oh. Oh mom. I. I forgot.

You forgot my drink?

I forgot your lunch, oh my gosh Mom I'm so sorry.  It was so crowded in there and I felt shy and Mom I'm so sorry we can just go right back if you'll just turn around.

We are at a light at a major intersection. I could pull over a lane and get back to Subway. I don't.

Instead the tears I'd been holding back from Marvin's Book, from losing two more people while writing that book, from having it all finally be over,  come flooding out.

You forgot my BIRTHDAY lunch?  This has to be the worst birthday ever!

Birthday-zilla-osity overwhelms me, joining hunger and grief into a whirlpool of self-centered muck. Zoe sits sullen and sad, she wants to give me her sandwich but I don't eat it with all those veggies and really she doesn't want to give it to me, I know this so I refuse.

After the intersection we pass Wendy's and Chik-fila.

 I drive thru one of them and get myself a chocolate shake and sharing Zoe's jalepeno chips, deciding to  write a happy ending to the whole ordeal.  I didn't try to have a good birthday and overall I had a very below average one  but despite myself I did have a great year.

This year I went to Cuba and wrote most of my next book. Marvin's Book hit #1 in humor. Every book signing sold out.  I met awesome people and wore cute shoes. I buy new yoga pants, snappy black ones that look "much better."

This year I'm having a better birthday. I decided to, I planned to.

Last year I announced that no one needed to buy or do anything with or for me (please) and to not even try.

This year I decided to be happy, and I decided that in order to be happy I needed a present from Abuela, I know she'd want me to be happy and to celebrate a great year ending and a better year beginning.

Before heading to the mall I ask myself what Abuela would have bought me.

 Jewelry? Shoes? No.

Three seconds of rewinding in my head and I remember what she gave me every year in college and after that - makeup gifts from the mall, artists palettes of violets pinks corals and golds, entire rainbows of possibility

I find a gorgeous box of color at Sephora and shamelessly buy it, reveling in the hope of having another year of adventures worthy of lipgloss, cute shoes and stories to write for you.