I don’t need an alarm to wake me. I keep my shades open. When the big star breaks the horizon, its brightness spills onto my bed. Facing the wall or the window, my room is washed with muddled hues of a grapefruit.

Forgiveness is like burning water and boiling it the same way routinely. A festering grudge takes effort to retain like a can of beans without a can opener. A damp towel you can’t shake off, your trip to the beach will always be tainted by the crab pinching your toe than the shells you collected.

When I was a little girl, my dad took my mom and me everywhere. His enthusiasm was my calm inspiration to daydream on long car drives and energy to keep walking on my own five year old feet when exploring.
I don’t recollect more. My prime flashbulb moments are fixated in the duration of the acme of my teens. Clanging cymbals of disagreements, no math homework help or driving lesson was without verbal talons streaking across each other’s hearts.

Clouds are amorphous. On stratus days, you’re a dulled kitchen knife. But puffy cumulus days, painting with shaving cream, giggle and wonder at all possibilities.

A sailor drifts on sea to value land and appreciate the waves that carry him forward.
I wouldn’t know how to drive if it weren’t for my father. I managed to pass calculus because of him. Today when I get frustrated at work, I call him on my drive home and he listens to me rant. I can’t tell him what’s in my heart and he doesn’t ask limiting any disapproval to be spoken. Instead, we watch hours of television together, our silent communication solid through our shared laughter and tears watching comedic shows and Hallmark movies.

For every negative comment, it takes five positive comments to bring you back to state of balance. My wavering self-confidence tells me there’s still gold emotion coins to be earned. But as sun shines fiercely marking a new day, striving to be positive will set a precedent of a mindset that will react with patience and acceptance – for myself from my own eyes.


take my hand dearie

I’m going to be a cat mom!
Last Friday night I went to an animal shelter looking to offer my services to foster a cat, but I found myself falling in love with a two year old black American shorthair. Indigo was friendly, the first cat to lick my fingers on her own accord. Quiet and reserved yet welcoming of all belly scratches, I went home that night unable to stop thinking about her.
So I went back the next day. She was curled up in a little bed in a middle crate, but when Indigo saw me she started pacing in her little room. When I went over to pet her – made a beeline straight to her really – she kept trying to stand up on her hind legs. I realized quickly she wanted to be held and I picked her up in my arms where she nestled comfortably.
She’s my family now. In my head. In two days, I will officially be welcoming her home.
I’ve been waking up dreaming about cats, excited but there’s worry in it too. I fear I jumped in too impulsively and financially I will not be able to take care of her in the future. Here I am, living all by myself and just learning to pay all my bills, am I ready to take care of another life?
But I can’t imagine her in anyone else’s life. I want to give her the best life. I believe that desire will help me do just that.
Unfortunately, there’s another stress: I cannot tell my parents I am getting a cat. They believe that I will move in with them when my lease expires. They see me living on my own as an experiment that will teach me life is too rough and I will go back to them. They live in an apartment that doesn’t allow cats so they made it clear I couldn’t get one because what if I have to live with them again?
Yes, expenses are high – rent, insurance, grocery, electric and Wifi and on top of all this cat bills. But how can it be that I live on my own and I am still plagued by what my parents think of me?
I’m a loner girl whose only constant in her life was her parents. Yet, their love always feels conditional – like if I don’t meet their expectations they’ll stop loving me.
I didn’t tell them when I bought a car. I didn’t tell them I was moving out until I got my keys. I can’t tell them I will have a precious life I am responsible for. They see me as impulsive – and I am. But I follow through. How can I know what I am capable of if my parents fear hold me back?
I know being a cat mom isn’t like having an actual baby (thank goodness, nowhere close to that yet at 22), but I have so much love to give. If I can share a little bit of the little luck I have with a precious life, I have to take that chance.
My favorite quote is by Emily Dickinson: if I can stop one heart from breaking in vain, I shall not live in vain. I hope I can make that difference.

rebel strikes back

Why is the first reaction to criticism rejection? It’s this automatic reaction to save our prides. It stings worse when you’ve actually made an effort.

I checked my email to see if I got comments on my guided reading lesson plans. Occasionally there are a few formatting slights or material presentation misprints and sometimes I’m lucky enough that I did it right. But today there were more comments than the first time I wrote my plans back in September and it was unnerving realizing I had to edit twelve lesson plans. It’s hard enough to write that many in a week with deadlines of subject lessons plans and homework creation. My mood soured.

Since the last testing round, guided reading has changed in our school. While in the long run, once we teachers have fully grasped all the changes and have well-oiled implementation, our scholars will fully benefit from the change in style that allows them to learn to read while increasing their schema, right now we teachers are in the same boat as leadership. The information that is coming down to us is in a narrow pipeline and with no exemplary model to follow, we try and fail and get a thousand edits that leave me with more questions than answers. What am I doing right?

Our school has an education consultant who makes the trek from Brooklyn to Plainfield to help fortify the foundation of our school. A lovely lady she works with each teacher one to one listening to their questions and goals and then assisting them in improving their outcomes. Apparently what I gathered from our discussion from our meeting earlier this week was misinterpreted; I accepted the tip of the iceberg as the whole rather than delve into the frigid waters of the big picture.

We start our reading with a text presentation, a hook question if you may, like the one I started with at the beginning of this entry. Over the last few months I’ve been told to do it differently: from writing an engaging question that opens a discussion to asking a yes/no question that scholars can answer by showing a thumbs up and down to. Now to promote more usage of schema – which is much needed – I thought the consultant wanted us to present the text’s big picture in the question. For example, if the leveled reading book is called Banana Sometimes and on each page there is a pattern in which readers are told what bananas sometimes look like, it is best to create a hook based on. Thus to my scholars I asked, what do bananas sometimes look like? I let them talk to their partners before they shared out and then I was able to tie in their answers to how the book would read and what the book would tell us about bananas.

Wrong. Apparently, the big picture is much bigger. In the case of the aforementioned text in which a boy is playing with his banana as a boat, phone, spider, fingers, pencil, he is really using his imagination to pretend what the banana could be. Thus, my opening question should have been about how my scholars use their imagination to play with – a pencil. Then I would take their experience/replies and connect it to the book’s big picture to allow for a growth in schema by comparison of practice and told by story.

I get it. I understand it. But I was looking forward to my Thursday night with no work to do. Because every night I come home and I have some preparation to do, some email to answer, some plan to write. When you’re a teacher, you can try, but you can’t really turn it off. There’s just too much to do.
And today that made me want to scream. Because if the edits were given sooner, if I had prep longer than twenty minutes, if there was a quiet place for me to think during my prep, if this distinction was made clear before with a model, if if if if if if.
I still have to get it done. But I was told by tomorrow afternoon so I chose not tonight. Even though I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

Tirelessly I try to exceed expectations and face responsibilities with optimism, but I’m stifling the kid inside of me. And she’s banging on my heart to get out. The devil on my shoulder whispers for me to look for a mundane 9 to 5 ticktock workplace, but the kid in me ignores that. She just wants me to remember the fun parts of work: the challenge of coming up with sentences that the scholars can read and have sight words, finding new ways to make lesson plans engaging with videos and stories and hands on activities, doing arts and crafts to make classroom decorations, laminating for literacy centers. Still teaching related but sometimes the brain wants to follow the heart.

Let it. What good are you to anyone if you are dead at heart?

just another day

The date may change tomorrow, but I don’t see today as an ending.
I used to. I would make a list of New Year Resolutions, the primary one always no romantic entanglements. But I could never help myself.
When a new year rolled around, I thought change was necessary: my chance to fix everything that went wrong the prior year. I don’t think that anymore.

Don’t make a new you.

– All the past years have made you become who you are.

– The memories you don’t want to look back on? Do it. Because you overcame it. Only you have the power to stop the past from holding you back.

– Increase growth mindset. When you believe you can, you will.

– Don’t diet. Use replacement healthy snacks/drinks at a timely manner. Munching on nuts and smoothies is really yummy!

– Write in a planner or a bullet journal. It will help with efficient use of time while limiting ghost hunger pangs from rising or negative ruminations from nipping.

– Commit to the things that are in your planner. Don’t just use it for chores, use it to list things you’re excited to do: watch The Greatest Showman or a day trip to a new local venue.

– Read a book or watch a show with a happy ending. Game of Thrones is a work of art, but miracles of kindness exist too.

Tomorrow is just another day. But what you do with it will make it special.

With the temperature freezing, I know I will be indoors frantically trying to complete making homework and lesson plans before work on Tuesday. But I’ll be doing it eating delicious chicken broccoli soup and binging The Mindy Project after. I’ll be turning the small things into big things as I savor it all.



wallflower or loner?

Rich thinks I need more friends. I’ve had friends and I do have friends. We’re just on different paths right now, the reason I am grateful for the ease of technology to occasionally catch up.
But I generally keep to myself.
I have a job that now takes up a chunk of my life. It’s a myth about teachers only working six hours a day. My school day itself is about ten hours and I bring work home. I manage to make time to have adventures with Rich and watch television with my parents as bonding therapy. In between all of it, I am trying to write daily. My last post was written in a sleep daze, this is NOT advice, more to prove to myself if I am committed I have to see it through. All around these things I like to do, I am wrapped up by simple life responsibilities. So when I do find free time in my schedule, I would rather spend time with myself than make plans with friends.
Rich worries about its impact on my health. Sure I get a lot of social contact working alongside a coteacher and twenty-six scholars who constantly need my attention, but that doesn’t make all of those joyous moments. As a former psychology student, I understand his concern: strong friendships act as buffers for stress. It’s never about the quantity of friends, but the quality. I do have three amazing best friends. One is in her graduate program in architecture, the other is working in her biomedical engineering field in San Diego and the other is pursuing her dreams of psychology and writing. We talk only a handful times a month. But most of the time, I’m on my own.
This I am used to. As an only child, I appreciate both loud surroundings to be a part of and stillness to hear my thoughts. But behaviors are connoted by labels.
When I think of wallflowers, I think of pretty pastel flowers that are fading. When I think of loners, I think of leather jackets and a flippant attitude. I call myself loner girl, but that is not entirely true. It depends on the situation.
I love spending time with my best friends, but when it becomes a group hang, I am a wallflower – smiling but too shy to contribute. When it’s people I don’t know or not interested in getting to know, I make it clear that I want my space.
As I share the ephemeral letters, I write a character who is five years younger than me. The angst is what I try to capture, the struggle to figure oneself out. I’m beginning to realize though we people are like onions. Layers thick, we can refine our outer coat but our sharp taste stems from our bittersweet successes and failures.
If there is a singular word to define you, me, everyone it is complex. We cannot be confined by one label. Our personalities are round with some edges being sanded down.
The comfort I take in my solitude is knowing I can turn my day around by changing my mindset.

ephemeral letter # 7

November 6, 2012

Dear Charlie,

I never admitted it. Once a coworker asked me what I wanted in life, and I snapped at her, “That’s for me to know.” To say aloud was to jinx it. But Scott and I – we couldn’t keep secrets from each other. When he told me wished he could spend more time being a better tennis player, I shyly told him my dream. In that very moment I must have jinxed it.

I might be a writer for our school newspaper Hawkeye, but that doesn’t mean I have to be published. No, I’m just a headcount in the club.
I blame the topic I was given to write. Forced might be an appropriate term, but the staff makes sure we ‘re comfortable writing the assignment. But what could I say after their faces remained impassive when I proposed to write about the positive effect of procrastination through its influence on creativity? I was ready for my article to land in the opinion section; finally teachers would understand  students need more artistic expression in assignments thus promoting originality while reducing procrastination. Unfortunately, the editors sought a different topic to go along with the theme at hand: elections.

In a satirical piece, I was to recreate the debate between Mr. Don Key and Mr. El E. Fant to describe the ongoing presidential race. The goal was to call out both parties on their pomp and show. It was so awkward and poorly constructed the editors rewrote it on my behalf.

I don’t know what I will tell my mother. When I told her the first issue of this year was coming out, she said, “Oh, please get me a copy! I’d love to read it!”
Jokingly, I’d said, “Because not a lot of people read in my school, for you Mom, I’ll get two.” Now embarrassment floods my nervous system.

My mother likes to tell the story of how I used to sit next to her, pencil and paper in hand, while she studied for her master’s degree. “You’d watch me write,” she tells me. “And you’d try to copy me.”

I was three years old when I began to draw five incongruous circles to represent my name. And I didn’t stop there. I saw my parents’ flowing signature and I would try to mimic cursive. It would end up as endless strings of loops, gibberish, but I loved the feel of a writing utensil in my hand. As I grew up, when I had nothing to do, I’d make lists of random words, just to have something to write. In class, I could never pay attention, unless we were taking notes. Since the beginning, the feel of a pen was the stem of knowledge for me. Then in seventh grade we were tasked to keep a free-write journal. I was able to create! It was a whole new world.
I haven’t stopped writing since. Not when my writing didn’t meet the expectations of my teachers. Not when my father disapproved of my ‘wasting time’. Not when I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Writing is always there for me.
It’s all I have.

When I get home today my mom’s going to ask me if I brought my article. If I tell her the truth, she’ll have me considering my other options so fast my head will spin. “You can do so much more with the time you spent writing.”
I’m going to have to lie to her.


there is luck right in front of you

There was a full moon last night. The weather was more springlike than autumn. I hadn’t enough sleep. My plans to see Rich were altered and I had to sit around waiting.

I was sorely blue last night. The way I dealt with it was picking at any reason for why. Nothing good enough, I picked at the last one, not being able to see my love. He had a group project to finish and I waited for him in the computer lab. I directed all my negativity toward thoughts of him: he doesn’t prioritize me, he doesn’t really love me, our lives are headed in different directions what are we doing together –

When we finally saw each other, my sour mood was hard for me to overcome and for him to overlook. He didn’t give up though; his patience and persistence chipped away at me until I broke down crying. When he asked me why I was crying, I wailed I didn’t know. “You don’t know?” he asked incredulously and I insisted I really didn’t. The past week has been a lot of consecutive late nights of work. I was exhausted and it grew when there was linchpin in my To Do completions waiting for Rich to finish up his project. Sheer mental fatigue left me blue and I picked at thorns to explain my emotional state.

As I sobbed and clung to my love – which subsided when he held a straw up to my lips to help me guzzle down juice – liquid sugar to calm my nerves – I realized I was depressed. Sometimes it’s not for a specific reason; sometimes it’s just the body’s way to compensate for all the tension instead: a reminder sometimes we need to just lay in bed and not do anything. It’s a way to heal.

I wish I hadn’t overworked myself. I threw in blogging every night into the mix of nightly classroom preparations and it left me sleeping at midnight and joy deprived the next day. But I wish this because I was so embarrassed for Rich to see me so worn out. In his last year at the university, he is much more sprightly managing classes, homework, his job and still being able to go to special events like drag shows and dances and local band performances. When we finally see each other, there’s a clock ticking on how long before my eyes droop and I constantly feel guilty about it. I like that he sees me as a ferocious and ambitious force of nature – but when I use up 99% of that energy in the classroom, all I have left for him are snuggles and kisses and couch sharing.

But I learned last night that when you’re with the right person, what may embarrass you is exactly the reason he loves you more. Rich will now forever tease me about not knowing why I was crying but he will hold me tight just the same. It’s important to let other people in. In desperate effort to help myself feel better, I simply scrambled for a reason why I was feeling down and only found myself deeper in the rabbit hole. Voicing aloud to Rich my week, I realized I was simply grateful to finally be spending some time with him. I missed him.

Share the little and the big moments in your life with the people you love. It’s an easy cure; they’ll be your self-care reminders when you run the extra mile without water.
Luck’s definition varies for all, the basic meter ticks from most to not at all depending on whether or not you have what makes you the happiest. Let it be giving love and being loved – it’s the quickest guarantee to retain hope.