Sunday, March 18, 2018

Ladder Skills

        When I was around six or seven years old, my father was still building our house. It looked kind of like a house from the outside, but there were still a lot of things missing.  We had windows, but no interior doors. We had floors but no interior walls, and no stairs anywhere.  We got in the front door by way of a stack of cement blocks, piled neatly with their open ends up, holes filled with sand.  Ladies who wore heels complained a lot about those steps when they came to visit us.  We got from the main floor of the house to the basement by way of an 8 foot rung ladder. 

One summer day I was wandering around our house looking for something to do.  My mom was outside, doing laps around the house with my sister Veronica in the stroller, and my sister Bernadette holding onto the stroller practicing her walking skills.  My dad was at the back door of the house, in his shorts, t-shirt and work boots, fitting and installing the door sill.  There was nothing for me to do.  I decided to play in the cellar.  I loved our cellar.  It had no floor yet, and so it was full of sand. It was a lot like being at the beach in your own home, and if you ran around a lot down there, you could also make a dust fog that we kids thought was great, but the parents HATED.  I went to where the cellar stairs were going to be, and I carefully turned around and lowered down one foot at a time to meet the round rungs of the ladder. I held the edge of the floor with my hands and backed down a step. I was familiar with this process - I had already done it dozens of times.

I must have fiddled around too much with my feet. Suddenly, the part of the ladder that had been leaning on the floor I had just left was no longer there.  It must have sunk down just far enough into the sand so that it was no longer tall enough to lean on the floor above.  I felt the ladder tilt away from my now dangling feet... I saw it in slow motion… falling, falling... until Pfit!  It landed with a soft thud and puff of dust in the sand below.  Luckily, my hands were still in contact with the floor. I looked down at the ladder lying uselessly on the sand far beneath me, and then I looked up at my hands above me, grasping at the flat floor I had just stepped off of, and I did the only thing I could think of..

“DADDYDADDYDADDY!!!I screamed for my dad.  I heard him drop his tools at the other end of the house and come running. It took him literally 3 steps to get to me. I counted them… ONE and he was almost though the kitchen, all the way from the back door, TWO and he was halfway through the playroom - almost there! THREE and he was crouching low in front of the stairwell and lifting me up by the wrists. He placed me gently back on the floor.  

“Are you ok?” he asked me. He knew I was. He knew that I was just scared because I had hung off the edge of the world for a second. I shook my head, yes, yes, I was ok. 

Years and years later, I asked him, “Dad, do you remember that time the ladder fell out from underneath me when I was going down into the basement?”  

“OH yeah,” he said.  

“I just remember that it only took you like, 3 steps to get there,” I told him.  

“Kids yell all the time,” he said, “but sometimes…” 

“Yes,” I said, “I know exactly what you mean.”

That day, I just remembered that my dad had gone back to his work, and I went outside and found my mom and told her the story, but I always thought to myself, 'Wow, I never realized how fast Daddy could run.'

Sunday, March 4, 2018

My Bra's Maiden Voyage

      Is is any wonder middle school kids are so stressed?  Even things like wearing a bra to school for the first time can stress them out.  Be kind to those little devils - the little bumps on life's path are hard for them.  A while back, a writing teacher of mine asked the class to jot down 25 memories and then expand them into memoir pieces.  Here's one of my funnier memories.

My Bra’s Maiden Voyage

  Madeline and I shared a trapezoid-shaped desk in the exact center of my 6th grade class.  Mr. Kogler, our teacher, sat just two desks in front of us, his curly head bowed as he wrote in his grade book while we worked. He was paying minimal attention to us, but it was still pretty quiet for a group of 6th graders, as everyone was silently writing. Or so it appeared.  Most likely, a good portion of us were silently agonizing over what to write next.  I leaned back in my chair and glanced around the room.  Our school was built according to the open classroom model, with four very large “houses,” each divided by partitions into smaller areas we referred to as classrooms.  Sometimes, if someone had a friend in the next classroom over, they would sneak their hand through the partition into the next room to pass a note.  Kids would sometimes throw things, or pull things over that had slipped too far under the dividers. A small bookshelf made the wall in the front, left corner of the room.  Since ours was a corner classroom, in addition to the wall with the window and chalkboard behind Mr. Kogler at the front of the class, we had part of a wall on the right side too; beyond that was a room of lockers.   
Madeline, who sat to my left, kept looking at me.  Uh oh, I didn’t like that look.  When she got that look, it meant she was going to say something, and usually when Madeine said  something, it was something obnoxious or at the very least, annoying.  She talked to everyone and everyone knew her, but she didn’t consider all of them her friends.  I, however, was graced with her friendship.  She had committed her time and attention to helping me “come out of my shell.”  How did I get so lucky?  Wait… she was looking at my chest.  I was wearing a bright orange shirt with a sequined dancing girl on the front.  Although my shirt was kind of flashy, I was pretty sure she was not staring at it because she loved it - she was more into nautical stripes. Her blonde eyebrow lifted noticeably under her reddish-blonde cowlick.  She leaned back in her chair and said quietly, but smugly, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were wearing a bra under that shirt… It really looks like you’re wearing one…” 
  “That’s because I AM wearing one,” I whispered back. I gave her a smug look of my own.  Apparently according to the Rule Book of Madeline, I should have told her about this news, firstly since we were friends, and secondly, since this was my first public appearance in, as my own mother called it, an “over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder.”  Besides, much as I HATED the idea of having to wear a bra, I knew she’d be jealous, and after all the ribbing I took from her on a daily basis, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to annoy her just a bit in return.  For some odd reason, she thought having boobs was cool.  
“I’m going to tell the whole class…” 
I cut her off in mid-sentence. “You better not!  I’ll kill you!!” I tried to look threatening, but Madeline wasn’t threatened by much.  Not only did she model herself after a bizarre character I’d never before heard of named Pippy Longstocking, but she had tried to shove  me in her closet the first time I had been to her house.  “GET IN THERE WITH THE DEAD PEOPLE!” she had yelled until I really started to think she was crazy, and not just annoying.  Afterwards she laughed and said, You really started getting scared for a second, didn’t you?"  
She caught the eye of Daryl, who was siting just even with us at the long bank of tables further to our left. Daryl could be obnoxious, too at times, but he seemed a bit more savvy of his audience.  He knew when to shut up.  “Guess what?” She said to him, “I’ve got something to tell you…”  She KNEW I would hate this - telling girls was one thing, but telling a BOY?  It reminded me of the time in 5th grade music class; we were divided into two rows of chairs facing each other, boys on one side, girls on the other.   One day while I was minding my own business sitting with my friends on the girls side of the classroom, boys were laughing and pointing at me and I didn’t know.  Toward the end of class, it dawned on me…  I looked down at my brown corduroys to discover with horror that the fly of my pants unzipped and my bright white underwear was exposed.  Now here we were, a year later, and in addition to Daryl, Debbie and Andrea too looked up from their papers, ready to hear a juicy tidbit that would break the monotony of English class.  Madeline glanced back at me again.  She was undeterred.
“You’d better not!” I said and glared at her with my most fearsome, but obviously ineffective stare.  “I’ll kill you,” I muttered. 
She turned away from me and leaned towards them conspiratorially, “Melinda’s wearing a BRA!”
“Oh GOD,” Daryl said, let down by the banality of it all. “Shut up, Madeline.” He shook his head at and smirked at her, then went back to work.  The girls, too, went back to their writing and Madeline looked at me triumphantly - she had broken the news to the public.  I’d been outed.  I went back to working on my essay in a solid attempt to dismiss her, but when I leaned forward she reached behind me to grab my bra strap and SNAP it loudly.  

“Cut it OUT!” I said, as loudly as I could without drawing too much attention from Mr. Kogler.  Behind her back, Daryl rolled his eyes sympathetically, but it hardly seemed to matter.  Madeline had struck again.   

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Flowers and Jalapeños

I wrote this memoir piece years ago and only recently found and revised it a bit. Hope you like it. 

         I was walking down the hallway of our hotel, feeling pretty good about myself. ‘Hey, I’m in Mexico... I’m in the tropics…’ I said to myself just under my breath, ‘Everything is cool.’  I checked to make sure no one was around, then did a little hip-shimmy in my wildly flowered dress.  My flat, gold sandals clicked to a stop in front of Cathy’s door and I knocked the ‘shave and a haircut’ knock, then spoke into the crack of the door, “Helllooo... it’s me…”
Cathy answered the door wearing shorts, a T-shirt and espadrilles.
‘Look she’s wearing shorts and a T-shirt’ said that annoying little voice in my head. ‘You’re going to make a spectacle of yourself, Melinda.’
‘Shut up,’ I told it. ‘If she wants to wear shorts, that’s up to her. If I want to wear a dress, that’s up to me.’ But I held my short white jacket tighter, just the same.
“I brought a jacket, just in case the air conditioning is cranked up really high. You know I’m always freezing…” my words trailed off lamely while she stuffed some money in the pocket of her shorts and closed and locked the door to her room.  We headed down the open air hallway to the front of the hotel so we could catch the bus to…
“Jalapeños, right? I mean, you don’t mind listening to reggae, right?” she said.
“No, it’s fine, really. Reggae’s OK.”
“I just feel like dancing to some reggae, you know?” 
 I was not a huge fan of reggae, but I did know. She seemed to have absorbed some of the mood I was in before I got to her door, her eyes moving around from one clichéd tropical site to another until they finally landed on me, and she said, “YOU look very nice tonight. I think we’re going to have to beat Mexican men off you with a stick.”
“Haha, yeah, right,” I said. 
I should have brought my long, black sweater instead. 
Fifteen minutes later, we hopped off the bus and ran across the highway to Jalapeños where a flock of taxi drivers hovered, waiting for some action. 
“Whoooooeee, pretty mama,” I checked out my sandals as we walked past them. Some Spanish accented whistlers called out a greeting and I could not help but look over to see if they were talking to us.
        “Nice dress…”  I heard.  I looked up briefly.  Yikes, yup, I was the only one wearing a dress.  I shouldn’t have looked.  I tried my best to ignore them. Although it was uncomfortable to be cat-called, it was even more weird that they were paying no attention at all to Cathy. Why didn’t she get dressed up, too? If she had, I wouldn’t have been the only one in this situation. I did my best to turn on my ‘selective hearing.’  I pretended not to hear them, even though I could hear the sound of traffic coming down the highway a mile away.  Suddenly I was clammy and wishing I wore something else entirely - something that provided me with more cover. I put on my white jacket and pulled up the sleeves.  Cathy, whose sarcastic wit picked up the most finely detailed of personal flaws, seemed to have missed these men loitering around the outside entrance of the club. Were they all cab drivers waiting for a fare? There was no time for us to talk about this though, because she was a woman on a mission.  She strode into the club with such single-minded purpose that she left me trailing in her wake, hop, skip and jumping along behind her in an effort to keep up, while simultaneously lengthen the hem of my dress. 

Inside, we were surprised to see a bar less than half full of people, even though it was way past 10:00 pm, and the band was working diligently through its reggae set. We approached the first empty table and Cathy said, “do you want to sit down and get a drink first? I don’t want to dance yet. Nobody else is out there.” 
“Yeah, that’s fine.” I grabbed a chair and lowered myself into it, trying to look inconspicuous as everyone stared at us. 
  A waiter rushed over almost immediately with his order pad and a large smile on his face. “Good evening señoritas. Can I get you a drink?” 
“Yeah, uh…”  Cathy and I looked at each other.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the waiter leering at me. Good lord, I’m not Helen of Troy, I’m just some girl in a flowered dress.  I decided to use my selective vision as well, and tried not to meet his eyes.
“Vodka and cranberry” she said.
‘I’ll have an extra-large cloak of invisibility with a hood, please’ is what I wanted to say but instead I said, “I’ll have the same, thanks.”

The waiter left to get our drinks and we looked silently around the room and checked out the one or two couples who were on the dance floor.  After a few more minutes a some more people made their way one to the dance floor to sway in time to the music. Still trying to make the most of my evening out, I thought hopefully that maybe soon they would turn down the lights on the dance floor so I could go out there and dance and no one would see me.  Hmmm it’d probably have to be a lot darker than this, though.  I was still staring, hoping for this eventuality when a thin, long-faced man with a thatch of dark hair and a mustache approached our table.  He looked like figure on a Mexican souvenir  - tall and lanky, slightly hunched at the shoulders.  He perfectly matched this tropical setting.   He leaned towards me so close I could see the dampness under the arms of his burgundy polyester shirt. “Would you like to dance?” he asked.
My brain said, ‘WHATT?’ and a I squeaked out, “Oh, no thanks, I just want to sit and listen for a while.” My eyes darted around the room, landed on him for a split second and darted off again.  
The long-faced man retreated in silent disappointment and I noticed an amused grin on Cathy’s face, but she said nothing.  Shit, I thought.  Now I can’t dance - I told that guy I just want to sit and listen.  Long-faced man ordered himself a drink.  I imagined it was tequila.  

The waiter returned with our drinks and we sipped them for a while, passing the time checking out the decor.  Humanized jalapeño peppers complete with wings and mustaches cavorted among a heaven full of clouds painted on the ceiling.  A neon green jalapeño and some of his red buddy chili pepper pals formed the logo on one wall. There was some lighting behind the band, and behind the bar, but other than that, it was pretty dark in there. I guess it was no good hoping it would get darker so that I could dance.  I looked over at Cathy. She was checking out the band. 
“I really want to dance, but this really isn’t good reggae,” Cathy said finally.  
Oh, it doesn’t matter, I thought. I shouldn’t have worn this damn dress, and now I told that guy that I don’t want to dance, so how can I just get up now and start tearing up the dance floor?   
“That’s ok.  It sounds fine to me.  Really.”
Our smiling waiter returned and asked if we wanted anything else.  We declined and he retreated to observe the band from the walk space next to our table. We watched the band, too, and I suspiciously kept an eye on the waiter, wondering why he was still standing right next to our table.  Another waiter walked over next to ours and the two of them started chatting, occasionally pointing with their chins in our direction.  
Our waiter and his grin returned for an encore performance, “Would you like to dance?”  For a second, I was stunned.  He’s WORKING, I thought.  Is he allowed to dance on the job? Are the rules that different in Mexico? 
“No thanks,” I said and looked away quickly but this time, smiled sweetly so that I didn’t look like a complete bitch.  Better, I said to myself.  The waiter, unfortunately, didn’t seem to think so.  “Why not? It looks like you want to dance so come and dance with me.” In my 26 years, I had never run into this sort of thing.  How was I supposed to answer that? ‘No, buddy, I might consider dancing, just not with YOU.’  Yeah, that probably wouldn’t go well.  
“No, really.”  I said, and shook my head no.  “Thanks anyway.”
I suddenly noticed that the tequila drinker was watching us closely.  MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS! I wanted to scream.  
Cathy was wearing that smirk again, and I widened my eyes, trying to convey that that I could use some help.  She looked back at the band.  
The waiter leaned over me, his hand on the back of my chair and tried a new approach, “Come on… You’re on vacation.  You’re supposed to be having FUNnnnnnn…”
“No.”  I said. My voice took on a harsher tone, but sounded to my ears, just a tiny bit desperate.  Leave me the fuck alone, so I can enjoy my night, I thought.  
“Do you want to go?” Cathy asked. The waiter, who seemed to have forgotten all about her, turned back to look at her.  
“Yeah!”  I said, with enough enthusiasm to convince anyone except for this idiot that I really did want him to get away from me. I put some money on the table for the drinks but when we stood up to go, the waiter grabbed my arm and started walking toward the dance floor.  
“No,” I said, “I don’t want to dance.  We’re leaving now.” I silently cursed my God-damned dress.  Why did I have to wear it? Why are these men such blathering assholes? 
“Where else are you going to go?” the waiter asked.  He then had both of my arms and was trying to steer me away from the door and back toward the dance floor.  “Don’t you want to hear reggae?”
My temper bubbled up like steam in a kettle. “No.  I want to go back to my hotel and go to sleep.”  While my statement sank into his thick skull, I wrenched free first one of my arms and then the other, then headed for the door with Cathy following behind me, who still managed to keep her eyes mainly on the band even as we headed out the door. 
I strode to the parking lot and hailed a taxi to take us back to the hotel - the first taxi with a driver who looked old, and happily married, and grandfatherly.   We got in the cab, and as soon as he pulled away from the curb, I gave voice to my livid thoughts.  
“How obnoxious!”  I ranted.  “I can’t believe they wouldn’t cut it out and leave me alone.”  
“Well,” she said, “You wore that dress, what did you expect?” 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Birthday Buddies

Today I had an endoscopy to check on some stomach issues.  Nothing serious, but I thought it was a good idea to have it checked.  Anyway, during the check in process, several people ask your name and birthdate, etc.  When I get to the get to the outer procedure room the nurse there, once again, checks my name and birthdate.  I tell her my birthdate and she says, "Oh, you just had a birthday!" I say yes, and she says she just had a birthday, too. 

This was the kind of conversation my mother engaged in that I was frequently a witness to as a kid.  She would chat with anyone and everyone on all sorts of topics. We would be on a checkout line somewhere and she would have a 10 minute conversation with the cashier (if no one was waiting behind us). She chatted with the children’s librarian in the public library, the guy who inspected our car, salespeople in the stores we went to.  I vacillated between being impressed that she could talk to virtually anyone, and being mortified that she did.  Sometimes she would overshare which was indeed mortifying, but mostly she just spread kindness and small talk, taking time to personally connect with people as she went through her day. My dad too, was impressed, except when we were in a hurry and mom was a little too busy chatting and not focused enough on the reason we were out in public that day.  

Personally, I had time to kill today, and no reason not to be friendly. “When was yours?” I asked the nurse, and she said, “October 5th… Shhhhh, We’re born in the same year, too.” How fun! I thought. ”OH! we're birthday buddies!" I said and she said “Yeah, we really are!” and before you know it, we were off on a roll, talking about things like, ‘what is this flab over here, do you have this? Where is that coming from? I never had that before! and do you feel old?  I don’t feel like I should be old, but I guess I am, and do you notice your hair getting thinner? which lead to my favorite, remember the big hair and the hairspray? We’re laughing away, and she walks behind the curtain next to me, and tells someone over there that, “Melinda is my birthday buddy.”  While I am smiling about all of this, the anesthesiologist comes in the room, and the nurse is telling me from the other side of the curtain about how, ‘talk about getting old, HE just sprained his ankle,’ and he introduces himself and tells me how yes, he sprained his ankle by stepping on it wrong, right there in the parking lot at work and he had to go to the emergency room to have it checked out, and finally at 11:00 at night they called his name (a nice Italian sounding last name) and said, “You can go home, there’s no fracture, it’s just a sprain.”  He then asks me my birthdate and name so I tell him. Then he asks if my last name is mine or my husband’s and I say it’s his, so he asks me maiden name.  When I tell him, he says, “AH, a nice Italian last name!” and now we are high-fiving and bonding over having Italian heritage.  Now I am smiling when they are wheeling me in for my endoscopy, and I’m thinking about my mom, and how she can talk to anyone, and now, I guess so can I.  And I am thinking about how much more pleasant life can be when you connect with people and bond over what you have in common.  And you can find something you have in common with virtually everyone out there… everyone.  And I am so glad I take after my mom in this way.  Thanks, mom. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Heavily Caffeinated Friday

Since our school has just successfully administered the ELA exams, AND today is Friday, my principal bought my coworker and I Starbucks this morning.  I've been wanting to try their sweet cream cold brew because I heard that the cold brews are less acidic than the hot brewed coffee and I thought that would be a good idea with my problematic stomach.

So... about an hour after I started sipping my coffee, I commented to my friend, "This is good, but my head is starting to feel a little funny, I wonder if it's the caffeine..." I had a weird feeling in my temples and forehead - not a headache, but weird.  I continued to sip my drink...

Around noon I went out and sat in my car for peace and quiet and lunch.  By then I knew without a doubt that I had a wicked caffeine buzz.  My leg was twitching, I was using talk to text, and I was talking really fast.  I wasn't even hungry.  I sent my coffee loving best friend this text:

Omg, I got a 
Starbucks cold brew
and I am jittery as hell

That cold brew 
has a lot of caffeine, 
but it's so good

It's good but I can do 
this much caffeine - 
I feel so off right now, 
and I didn't even finish it! 
I looked it up 300 mg 
for a venti size.  

Good LORD, I was being held hostage by my coffee, and I didn't like it one bit.  It took HOURS to wear off, and now, this evening, I'm thirsty as a parched desert camel.  The upside of all this is my stomach feels just fine.  But still - no more heavily caffeinated drinks for me.  If you want to see how much caffeine is in the coffee/tea of your choice, plus a bunch of other interesting caffeine related info., you should check out: 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Seussical - Showtime!

Finally - everything was done! Yippie!

I don't have pictures of everything, since some things were on stage for literally seconds or just a few short minutes. 

The big piece was very versatile, though.  I loved how the lights looked on it.  The pictures don't do the lights justice. (very hard to not staple through the wires when you're stapling 4 strands right next to each other.

I think in this scene, Jojo is thinking about Whoville.  The Whos are wearing the read vests and skirts.

Horton ponders his speck.

Here, Horton is having some problems with his egg.

And finally, the egg hatches, and Gertrude promises to help Horton.  All's well that ends well!!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Splatter/Spray Painting Dilemma...

Today I finished painting the loops that go on the back part of the large structure.  I like the colors in them, and by themselves, I like how they look, but I have two problems with them:  They blend into the background (that can be solved with black outlines, so not that big of a deal) and I'm not especially fond of how they look when paired with the tree tops for the jungle scene.  See below:

The tree tops are all outlined in black.  In the above picture, I was just starting that part.  

The problem is that these loopy things are in two very different scenes, and I can't paint them specifically for either of the two scenes because then they will look oddly out of place in the other scene.  

So I'm trying to decide if i should add additional "spray" paint (I diluted the regular paint about 1 part paint to 4 parts water and sprayed it on with a spray bottle), or if I should do a paint wash over what I have already (but then what about the other scene?) or should I do a paint wash AND more spray, or a light spray in two different patterns?  

Decisions, decisions...

On a more positive note, here are the completely finished Who houses (except if we put a few Who faces in some of the windows)

So, any ideas or opinions?