Thursday, March 29, 2012

The World According to Twinkle


1.  If that dish isn't full to the top, I'm not eating.  I wouldn't deign to eat out of a half-empty bowl.  What am I, a dog?

2.  God wouldn't have given me this awesome tummy if you weren't supposed to scratch it, Human.  Get to work.

3.  WTF?  You stop petting me and walk away?  How does this claw feel in your arm?

4.  This is my side of the couch.  Yours is over there.  You will know which things are mine because I've rubbed my white hair all over them.  See also: your pillow.

5.  Squint.

6.  C'mere, dog.  I'll bite your face.

7.  Cat protip:  Make sure you get a younger, wilier sidekick so you can blame all instances of "cat pee" on someone else.

8.  Hey family, thank you for installing this wall-to-wall nail sharpener.  Why do you keep referring to it as "carpet"?

9.  I love you.  No really.  I love you, Human.  You're my favorite.  I love you.  Oh, wait... you fed me already?  Forget that thing I just said.

10.  Meow.  I'm on the wrong side of the door.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012



I knew this time it was going to be different.  I knew I could make a difference in this one's life.  I knew I could be the person who actually believed in him and made a positive change for his future.

Julian* was a freshman, and a gang member.  Or at least he was on his way to being a gang member.  He was a wannabe, which I understand can be more dangerous because he'd be looking for ways to prove himself; this was according the officer who came to give the obligatory "how to recognize gang affiliations" chat at our staff meeting.  If the single-focus of color Julian wore daily wouldn't have been enough of a clue, the stuff he was drawing on my desks were a clear message about where he felt like he belonged.

At first I brushed him off as a rude, lazy kid.  He was late all the time, never did any homework, and had smart answers to all of my questions.  But I realized I could joke back with him, and that he was clever.  Humor is as sure an indicator to me of intelligence as anything.  He started to listen more in class and I was sure if I just encouraged him, he was going to turn his life around.  Maybe he just didn't have the support at home, and maybe I could give that to him at school.

I sat him down one day after class and made it clear that I thought he could be doing much better in my class than he was.  I asked about what kind of help he had at home. His answer: none.  He didn't even have any supervision.  He was a thirteen year old boy, alone. I gave him extra time on his assignments.  I offered to take his work late. He was always tired--he said this was because he would stay up all night watching TV because there was nobody to tell him to go to bed.  I told him to focus, to get his homework done in class when I was there to help.  For a while, he turned things in on time and it seemed our talks had meant something. His grade was eventually a mid-range C and I thought we could start to tackle his other classes.

I checked his other grades and saw that not only was he failing English, he had F's below 15% in every other class.  I emailed his other teachers asking if there was any way they'd give him time to make anything up.  I told them I was going to meet with him daily to do his make up work.  I made my room available to him at lunch.  I told him I'd help him as much as I could with his other subjects.

He never showed up at lunch for help.  Not once.  I'd see him in class every day after lunch and every day he'd have an excuse about why he didn't make it.

I had to make up a test.  Yeah right.
I didn't feel good.  Mmmhmmm.
I was in lunch detention.  Okay, that one I believed.

Every day I told him I'd see him the next day so I could help him.  I kept tabs on his grades.  I figured out which assignments he'd need to make up in order to pass.  I thought if I could just convince Julian's other teachers that he was capable, this would all work out.  If he could just pull it together in their classes, he might be able to get on track to graduation.

I remember talking to E at this point and being so frustrated with his lack of response.  "You can't care more about his education than he does, Heather.  You're doing more work than him," he said.  He was right and it stung.

Soon after, Julian stopped coming to school regularly.  He would just disappear for two weeks.  He came back like it was nothing, then he'd be gone again.  His grades were bad before.  Now they were abysmal.  He was a freshman and he was already on his way to not graduating.  I'd see him around town, but hardly ever in class.

When he did finally show, he was full of promises.  He said he needed to stay after and talk to me about his grades.  He said he had a new reason to pass, a new reason to make sure he graduated high school. He said his girlfriend was pregnant.  It took everything I had not to throw my hands up in the air while I talked to him.  But I listened.  I told him he could do it.  He promised he would.  He said this time, he knew it mattered.  I knew it mattered more than he could probably imagine.  I knew that this time, he had to succeed.

I never saw him again.

Today is the last day I'm writing in response to a prompt from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Today's prompt: Talk about a time when you intervened. What prompted you? Did you regret it?


*For obvious reasons, I've changed the identity of the student.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In case it never happens again...

my house was this clean today.

It made me so, so happy.

Pet Peeves: A List

When you don't wash out your pan from cooking late night corned beef hash.

When my students write in pencil, or so illegibly that they might as well just not write words.

Pants on the floor next to the bed.

Repetitive, annoying noises coming out of children or teenagers.
Related: that thing where you think you're gonna be a rap star so you tap out beats with your pen.

People who start singing in the middle of class or on public transportation.

That one guy who says "oh no, he di-in't" and "DO NOT GO IN THERE!" at the movies.
Related: that one guy who brings his kids to R-rated movies at 10:00 PM.
Related: that one guy who lets his kid kick my chair at the movies.

Empty to-go cups on the kitchen counter.

Parents who don't make their kids look at adults in the eye.

Overgrown lawns.

That awful song, "Proud to be an American."
Related: the fact that America doesn't have a better song.
Related: American flag clothing on non-olympians.

When someone does all the dishes but doesn't wipe down the counter.

Related:  When I'm teaching and you don't wait for me to finish before you raise your hand to ask a question about the thing I'm going to talk about.

These words: vision statement, webinar, actionable items.  And the word panties.  For crying out loud.

That thing where you procrastinate and your emergency has to become mine.
Related: you didn't pay attention the first time I told you, and you want to know again.

People who think that being cute means they don't have to follow rules.

You, using my razor.
Alternately: you, being mad at me for using your razor.


Sneaky people.
Related: parents who lie so their children won't get in trouble.

When Henry takes 3 hours to eat his dinner but can down the whole thing as soon as E says "you have 30 seconds to finish."

Elementary school parking lots at about 2:36 PM.

Linen. Rayon.

Trying to squirt mustard out of the bottle and getting that gross mustard water.  Yuck.

Stores that make you use coupons/store cards/special mailers to get the prices they should just give you in the first place.

When people say they'll help but they step in and do it for me.

Mean people. People who steal.

People having meetings to read power points/handouts out loud.

Cauliflower.  We have broccoli, so what's the point?


Lately I'm writing in response to prompts from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Today's prompt: Pet peeves. We've all got 'em. What are yours? Write about a time when you experienced one so vividly that we all join your army of defiance.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Head to Toe

Photo on 3-26-12 at 7.16 PM

Too loose to be called curls, too frizzy to be cool: my hair is a mass of thick tangles.  But I've learned to tame them, mostly.  I stopped brushing.  (Really!)  I bought better shampoo.  I diffused.  Now I manage.  My hair holds a curl or a flattening like there's no tomorrow.  It's coarse, thick and long.  I pile it in a knot at my crown.  I've got strategies, now.  Tools.  Curly hair is not the curse it once was.

My spine gently curves to the right like a bending reed.  My shoulders slope and betray my scoliosis.  My left is higher, feels better carrying purses.  But Left holds tension when life gets too hard.  It's Left I rub while I check my email and grade.  When I was dancing, Left had to be pushed down, fought into compliance.  My shoulders are a teeter totter of effort, but they look good in halters.

I don't particularly mind my arms.  E likes them a lot, and they seem to work when I need them to.  They're not very defined, but they shape up nicely when I work out, and they can swing a seven year old in the air.  I think of my arms as starting at my spine (as all ballet dancers do, I'm sure).  The muscles of my back hold them strong and they stretch wide to touch the sides of the room.  They punctuate in thick, stubby fingers... but I learned to work them into arabesques and fifth en haut.  They're well trained hands that remember ballet shapes that have mostly faded away.

My chest was a point of contention from years eleven to twenty five (or so).  A particularly disgusting boy in eighth grade made a comment that stuck.  I thought such things actually mattered.  But when it did matter--for babies--I abandoned all preconceptions and marveled (and laughed) at the functions of my body.  My chest is having a Renaissance in my thirties... no joke.  What a silly thing, but I'll take it.  It's a different chest; nursing took a toll.  But age has brought blessings, or at least, perspective.  And frankly, I worship at the altar of the structured undergarments of the 2010's.

My back was never flexible, but it has always been strong.  From waist to hip I'm a living memorial, an etched map of topographic lines that betray any impressions of youth I might garner with my face.  Nearly three weeks after my due date, I sat and waited for Roo to come.  I grew and grew and grew.  The white lines that cut into my flesh to this day remind me of how strained my body was to hold her.  The doctors took Henry early, but he stretched out inside the space his sister had made.  The mark of their births, my Cesarean scar, slopes down to the right, echoing the line of my shoulders.  I'm a parallelogram.

I love my legs best.  They leap.  And spin.  And run.  And rise.  They bend deep and they move like not a single day has passed since I've taken technique class.  Muscle memory must fade slowest in the legs, because mine seem to remember every roll, leap, and rond de jambe.  The skin remains taut and healthy looking.  I'm thankful for my legs when they stick out of skirts.  They feel good when I run. Strong.  Healthy.  Sure.

I've broken many toes. They fit together now like slim puzzle pieces.  My feet roll inward on weak arches and I pronate when I run.  But my soles feel good in the sand.  When I'm not crashing them in to anything, my feet flex and pointe and push like old times.

Years pass and I'm still aware of the imperfections, but thankful to be in this body.  Youth meant a constant state of dread over each flaw.  I let that go.  I haven't changed drastically in adulthood--most people wouldn't think so to look at me.  The changes are personal, close to my heart.  But in spite of them I maintain this temple with more confidence.  I like to dress it up.  Or make it up.  Or wrap it in soft comfort on tired afternoons.

My body has given me two beautiful children.  And another--before Ad--that it inexplicably let go. That was hard. Like all hurts, that was followed with different joy.  It's another imperfection, but it's proof that such things are not my undoing.  My DNA walks the earth on two other bodies.  When I think of that, I feel small, and also immortal.

I'm thankful that I know this body well and I get to dwell in it with comfort.  I'm thankful for health.  I'm thankful for running.  I'm thankful for the sway of my hips and the pirouettes of my core.  I'm thankful that I can love something that's flawed.  That's love of anything, right?  Even me.


Lately I'm writing in response to prompts from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Today's prompt: Talk about the ways in which your body is awesome.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekend Update with PDawg

Despite the stressful week I had, and Friday night's Meltdown Extraordinaire, it's been a pretty good weekend.

Henry has a broken finger--he got stepped on at baseball practice this week--but since it got splinted and casted he's been ok.  The first splint they did was awkward, but the cast has made him much happier.  He's carrying around a Sharpie so everyone he sees can sign it.  Any discomfort he's feeling from having to wear a cast is outweighed by the celebrity that comes with such a badge of honor.

Last week E hired a housekeeper and she comes for the first time this Tuesday.  I got a bug because of this and Friday night I dug in to tackle the Boy's toy box.  Our family room has been a play room which has been a repository for about (just spitballin'...) ten tons of toys.  And out of those ten tons, I'm gonna say that the kids have outgrown 9.99 tons.  They were just piled up and there was no place for anything to go.  So I got his stuff sorted on Friday and then yesterday I woke up to dive in to Miss Roo's. Her stuff was worse because she's on the tail-end of the whole toy thing.  Anyway, by yesterday afternoon we had a family room that was a family room again.  I don't think we've had that since 2008.  It felt like we gained square footage in our house.  Last night E vacuumed out all the dust behind everything and he moved the TV.  (I can see it better from the kitchen now when I cook, too!)

Saturday we had a baseball game--kind of funny that our kid can't play with his broken finger, yet there we are coaching and team mom-ing.  Our nephews are on the same team, though, so it's still pretty cute.  And I'm really liking having some involvement with the whole team.  I am finally starting to feel like I know who the boys are.  We sat around all morning, hoping it would rain out so we could finish our organization, but that didn't happen. It was wicked cold, but it was a great game.  Henry is happy to sit on the bench and chat it up with whichever other kids are out that inning.

E and I had a great little date last night, too.  We're so lucky to have regular, free and generous babysitting from K.  I don't worry one bit about leaving them because she makes it so easy on us and they all genuinely like each other.  What a gift.  The kids had a quiet night at home and we had dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant and saw The Hunger Games at the drive-in.  I love the drive-in.  No running in to any of my students.  No listening to people talk through the movie.  Nobody kicking my chair.  Win.

Today I've just been prepping the house for Tuesday--wandering the quiet aisles of Target early in the morning to pick up cleaning supplies and then trying to pick things up and off of all the surfaces in our house so we get the most clean for our buck.  I baked some scones already, and I've got a full afternoon of more baking, some reading, and a fatty nap planned.

I'm so thankful we don't have anywhere to be today.  Home = happy.

march collage 2

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day 8 | Simple Pleasures

Things that rock my world:

Heavy blankets + flannel sheets + memory foam mattress.

That feeling after a really long run when you lay on the ground for a minute and you don't have to move.

Book smell.

Henry's cheek against my kiss.

Cat feet.
Cat feet.

The way I fit into E's hug.

Reaching the point in a book when it gets really good.


A good tequila buzz.

Shouting into the white noise of the American River.  Or sleeping to it.

"Charge it to my room."

Mom's roast beef, rice and gravy.

The smell after it rains on asphalt.


Texts to say "goodnight."

That thing high school kids do where they write you notes telling you what you mean to them.


Ocean air.

Vaccum lines in the carpet.

Envelopes full of cash just after payday.


Sermons that challenge you to think.

Appetizers, especially ones with shrimp.

Portable, battery-powered, laptop-sized printers.

Visiting Disneyland with other adults who love it too.  Or kids.


Mechanical pencils, Bic Rollerball pens, and Uniball Vision Elite pens.

When dogs are excited to see you after a long vacation.

Christmas Eve, just before the presents are opened.

Confidence that there are people you can trust to love you no matter what.


For the next few weeks I'm writing in response to prompts from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Today's prompt: What are your simplest pleasures? Go beyond description and into showing the experience of each indulgence.*

*(I didn't really follow the prompt exactly.  I feel okay about this.)

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Gnarly Head

The beef stroganoff I cried into didn't end up tasting too weird. Actually, it was turkey stroganoff, but that doesn't have a great ring to it.  I downed two bowls of the stuff with my glass of (aptly titled) Gnarly Head Zin and I'm no worse for the wear.

When I started to break up the chunks of ground turkey in the fry pan and stir in the cream of mushroom soup, I just lost my shit.  Just cried hysterical crocodile tears right there in the kitchen.  Sure, it didn't help that E couldn't find his way to my position in our argument if he had a map, or that he was standing there demanding I explain to him just why I couldn't just tell him what happened... why I was such a damn mess.  Some messes are too far gone; they can't be encapsulated into anything word-like.  Instead they come hiccuping out into the dinner you're stirring--as sloppy, blubbering hysterics.

That word bothers me, too: hysterics.  It's fraught with the notion of being crazy because you're a woman... the same accusation which added blubber to my messy outburst.  But there it is in my own writing, the perfect word for such an unmanly thing.  Irony.

The truth is, I freaked out because I've been faking it all week and I could finally let go.  I've been acting okay.  Yeah, I said two days ago I was fine.  I felt fine.  Logically, it made sense to be fine.  I think for fifteen minutes or so I believed myself.  But I've been faking it.  My lack of appetite and constant gut shenanigans should have been a clue.  Oh, have I been putting on a show.  How else was I going to get through this week of classes, baseball games, and a son with a broken finger?  Acting happy, that's how.

So much of my job as a teacher is a carefully managed show.  It's me, but it's not me-me.  I'm used to the day-to-day niceties that far exceed my standard personality boundaries.  I can put on the costume of the extroverted teacher--on a normal day--with little to no thought because it's what's right for the job. It's a familiar role and I know "Mrs. P" well enough how she'd react in most situations.  I like her, but she's braver than I am.  She's witty, and confident.  And she doesn't take as much shit.  She knows what she has to do and she does it.  It's how I talk myself up to get through a job that's insanely difficult.  Ordinarily it makes me tired to keep up the show, but it's not excruciating.

This week it was.  This week I got challenged.  I felt attacked, and it made me turn inward with a kind of hyper-focus that's not healthy.  It made me taste every painfully awkward word as I said it.  It made me catalog my past actions and tweak them to see how they could be misconstrued.  Knowing and loving the beautiful ambiguity of words--this is a curse when my imagination starts to dance across the dark possibilities of how things might be misunderstood.  I got scared.

And in the face of fear I tried even harder to be okay.  To look okay.  To be that Mrs. P who didn't show how afraid she was, and how hurt, and how frustrated with the vulnerability in a job like this.  I smiled bigger.  I stood taller.  I breathed deeper.  I made sure I was still toeing the line.

I came home from school today and collapsed.  I should have stayed in bed, because I only got up to fight.  I can barely get out a sentence without turning into this puffy-eyed snot monster.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Our chant:

School Loop.  Home Group.  Focus Group.  Program Improvement.  Bold goals.  SMART goals.  Goals and objectives.  Mainstream. Standard.  Benchmark.  Objective.  Anticipatory set.  Progress monitoring.  Direct instruction.  Improvement Cycle.  BEST.  Title I.  Interdisciplinary.  Peer-based.  Pair share.  Ticket out the door.  Facilitate.  Student-centered.  Proximity. Learning communities.  Book study. Alignment.  Vision. IEP.  504.  PLC.  AYP.  API.  WASC. CELDT.  FAFSA.  SST.  PAIS.  STAR9.  CST. CTE. TDA. SAGE. SAT.  CSET.  ACT.  AP.  EL.  CSRE.  MYPAS.  FAST. SISWEB. NCLB.

My tribe speaks a special language.


For the next few weeks I'm writing in response to prompts from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Today's prompt: List the tribes you belong to: cultural, personal, literary, you get the drift. Talk about the experience of being in your element with your tribes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


At seventeen, I flew across the country to a Christian ballet intensive.  As one of the older girls in our group, I helped shepherd the younger girls through our layover and onto the small plane.  We headed for Jackson, Mississippi full of joy in our shared adventure.  It was my first parent-less trip.

Time there was a thick, wet blur of ballet classes.  It was always hot and humid.  One day a girl stepped off the bus at the studio and yakked up her cafeteria lunch.  For two weeks, every muscle in my body ached from lack of rest.  Day after day we studied, bent, stretched, reached.  We piled sore on sore muscle.  We shoved down grits and pale, colorless produce.  No rest.  We danced for God.  Who was going to ask Him for a break, after all?

The only place in Mississippi that wasn't hot was the dorm room I shared with my best friend, C.  A poorly conceived air conditioner blasted through our room before dissipating through the halls.  No one else seemed cold, but our daily transition from studio-hot sweat and exercise to the biting, sterile air of our empty space was excruciating.  I had packed my linens in my suitcase; only a set of primary colored dinosaur sheets and a thin matching polyester blanket would fit.  This was barely enough weight to secure me so far from home, but even less protection from each night's artificial chill.

Evenings and mealtimes, we roamed halls, lay in corridors.  One girl talked about her boyfriend who had a motorcycle.  Oooh.  Most of the time we did as girls do--hair, nails, not much at all.  There was a scandal on the floor where a few twelve year olds got creative and gave each other new haircuts.  Friends taught each other how to pluck eyebrows.  It was a bold time for good girls.

I don't recall why C and I went downstairs that day, but we ended up in a hysterical, electric room filled with girls.  J, a friend we'd known for years, sat on the bed, crying hysterically, unable to speak.  Another girl--sixteen, maybe?--held her hands out over J's head and arms.  They both shook violently.  Let it in, the second girl cried over and over again.  Let it in, don't worry, it's okay.  Let it in, J!  She grabbed and pulled at J, but it seemed like J was somewhere else.

I was cold, but a new kind.  The kind that comes from fear.

This kind of scene certainly didn't play out back home, where the rowdiest thing at my tiny Methodist church was a lame puppet show.  Sure, folks would get together and have a rockin' pool party each summer, but no one ever shook or went catatonic.  No one chanted.  No one cried or fell down.

Was I less Christian because we didn't talk about demons? I wondered.  I didn't yet have the Biblical or worldly understanding to place what I saw.  God was God, I'd always thought.  My way got me to Him, too, right?  Mississippi was my initiation to the other between Christians, the differences between faiths that are hidden in the subtleties of denomination like a code.

I don't remember if I left the room and came back or if I stayed, but eventually an adult from the program showed up.  Whatever this was, it was too much for kids to handle or touch alone.  There was the implication that a few girls either bit off more than they could chew or that there was some dramatizing. I never knew which he meant, really.  Nobody should be letting anything in, he said.  Nobody had anything to fear.  God is powerful.  He told us how the staff had prayed over the building before we arrived, anointing it with oils and praying protection over us and our journey.  Some of this was unfamilar, but it had the familiarity of authority and it was presented in love and care.  I headed back to our room, bewildered.

That night C and I slept in the same twin bed to stay warm (we said--I was grateful not to feel alone), our two blankets a slightly warmer barrier against the constant, uncontrollable chill.  I was scared out of my mind, and I prayed all night for understanding while I stared up at the glow that radiated from outside our dorm window.  I wasn't sure what I'd seen or what my role was supposed to be in seeing it, but I felt different for being there. The cold settled into my spine and shook with the chill. I knew I didn't understand enough yet to make a judgement. I knew then I probably couldn't put into words what happened, so I kept what I'd seen to myself.


For the next few weeks I'm writing in response to prompts from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Today's prompt: Talk about an experience with faith, your own or someone else's.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Reason #456347236237623 I cannot be in your gang:

I am a lousy thief.  Case in point:

One time I defrauded Winco.  Ugh.  I feel so guilty even typing it.

I bought Jasmine Rice from the bins. I scooped it into a bag, but on the tag I wrote down the code for regular (read: cheap) rice. I was sweating it at the register, but I paid the lower price and I got away with it.  I'm sure I saved myself all of one dollar.

I felt so guilty about it the whole way home.  I was almost crying by the time I got inside. I hate people who steal, and I was one of them.  I couldn't hang on to the lie for more than five minutes.  It came spilling out of me.  I blurted it out to E in one big, dumb confession. I felt like a dishonest cheat.

Never. Again.


For the next few weeks I'm writing in response to prompts from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Today's prompt: Talk about a time when you got away with it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy: Two Views

A: Weekends

I wake up before the sun. No alarms beep at me. Nobody asks me to pour them any cereal. Everyone sleeps.

I stretch my toes down to the bottom of the flannel sheets, dig my heels into the memory foam. I lay in bed, lazy, reading blogs on my phone until my eyes adjust to the light. Once my legs are alive enough, I roll left and put my feet on the floor. I put on my slipper and robe, then make my way to the kitchen to grab Henry's Christmas mug--the one with the teddy bears; it has just the right weight in my palm--and I fill it with hot coffee. There's a fresh quart of cream in the fridge and I add a generous blop.

Moving into the living room, I set my coffee on the coaster. I open the blinds so I can watch the sun rise. I pull a quilt over my legs and grab my laptop. I call to the cat. I check my text messages, set my phone on the couch.

I turn on Pandora.

I write.

B: Weekdays

I round the corner and peek into the open classroom door. You're sitting with your brother, eating cookies. Or you're sitting and he's bounding between the desks like a wild pinball. You always look up and smile. He usually has to be asked, but he'll come hug me second. I check in with Grandma, ask if he behaved. I tell you about how tired I am, but you just smile. You're glad I'm there to get you.

I ask you what I'm going to do when we get home.

"Take a nap," you sigh, the daily refrain. You understand, though, because you too like to sleep.  You have lots of homework.

"Come on, Buddy," I say to your brother. He has to be reminded, even though he wants to go home too.  He dawdles. You're waiting with your rolling backpack by the door. We make our way out. Grandma says bye, she loves us.

We drive off toward home. I ask you your best and worst things. The whole night is ahead of us: a beautiful emptiness that's ours to fill.


For the next few weeks I'm writing in response to prompts from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Today's prompt: What does your everyday look like? Describe the scene of your happiest moment of every day.

Scenes from last week

I've been (sort-of) following the March Photo A Day on Instagram. These are some of my little moments from the last week:


Clockwise from the top: Edamame for St. Patty's Day.  Loving my new car, even in the rain.  Specs and my fish mirror in the classroom.  Green Monster smoothies, every day.  More rain in the forecast at the gym.  Suit-shopping with E.  Pedicures with my best girl.  Clouds out the window--while I snuggled under a blanket.  And center: cat hug (these two are hard to keep apart when it's cold!)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Why thank you, Mason Williams.

Purple metallic lycra and silver sequins. I hear the song and my mind goes back to that sparkling fashion moment.

Muscle memory is strong.  Classical Gas plays, and I stand taller.  I'm onstage at the Sacramento regional I Love Dance competition circa 1995.  My eyelids are heavy with false eyelashes.  My body is squeezed into a long-sleeve purple suit of itchy, thin lycra.  My hair is slicked into a tight bun.  I breathe in before the long stretch.

My jazz hands flex.  We grab palms, developpe side, then back into a horseshoe bend; we slide--still linked--into the splits, fold into double attitudes, get up, chug, chug, leap.  The trumpets come in.  We streak across the stage in blurs of teal and purple.  We're young, and thin. We make circles, lines, pairs of two.  We don't complain about the silver headbands stretched across our foreheads. We focus our young energy on isolation of muscle.  We control of our lines.  We don't want to fall or let anyone down.  The world is bright as the stage lights on our faces.

Mason Williams' Classical Gas is everywhere.  It's playing behind someone running in a movie.    It's playing in grocery stores and elevators.  It's playing while I drive south on I-5, playing iPod roulette.

It makes me feel hopeful.  Inexperienced.  And jazzy.


For the next few weeks I'm writing in response to prompts from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Today's prompt: Talk about a memory triggered by a particular song.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In which I am the adult I imagined:

We sold our house, we paid higher taxes. My husband had to stay home to be with the babies, I worked even though it pained me on a molecular level. We decided to separate, we had to tell our children. Our dogs died, we had to teach our small humans about mourning. Barf happened, we cleaned it. People screamed for food, we cooked it. I feel most adult when there's nobody there to step in and do something for me, when I can't cry and hide or run away. The first instance of this was probably my F in entomology at UC Davis, but my daughter's first diaper blowouts had more of an immediate, pressing effect. Shit can't be ignored as easily as a shitty quarter of college.

Responsibility has the predictable heft of adulthood. The chores of living make me feel like I have to step up, and I feel like life can't be about just me. Kids, a house, a career--these all accelerated that responsibility factor. But there's one place that makes me feel the kind of delicious freedom I dreamed of as a child. A place that holds the kind of adult power which seemed out of my elementary school reach:

the grocery store.

God, I love the grocery store. And I'm not picky. I love 'em all. Whole Foods, Sprouts, Bel Air, Winco, Trader Joe's, Grocery Outlet. Each has something different to offer in terms of product and experience. I even kind of love grocery shopping on vacation, finding the comfort and stability of healthy food when I'm in a new place. Safeway on Maui.  Albertsons in Palm Springs.  The Super Wal Mart in Jackson, Mississippi.  The bodegas of New York. And Costco... so many beautiful Costcos across the earth.  I love the challenge. I love the hunt for deals and fresh produce. Gimme a cart, and I'm the adult I thought I would be when I was nine.

Cocoa Pebbles?  Sure.  Throw 'em in the cart.

Grocery shopping makes me so deeply happy. I'm not sure if it's the allure of aisles and aisles of things my mom said no to when I was a kid, or the knowlege that I can afford just about anything in the whole place if I so desire (seriously, where else can I afford anything in a whole store?), or the promise of new tastes and potential projects, but I adore my time behind a cart. I feel grown up when I push that basket of kids through the rows of veggies or when I sort through roasts and whole chickens.

Perhaps my grocery-shopping self is my imagined adult self, but what better reason to love it? If I want to spend all my money on Squirt, salt and pepper Kettle chips and Mocha Almond Fudge ice cream, I can. I can also stretch $50 like you wouldn't believe when I need to feed my family. In lean times, my hobby has been a huge asset.

God bless those ordered aisles.

For the next few weeks I'm writing in response to prompts from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Today's prompt: When did you realise you were a grown up? What did this mean for you? Shock to the system? Mourning of halcyon younger days? Or the embracing of the knowledge that you can do all the cool stuff adults do: drink wine, go on parent-free vacations, eat chocolate without reprimand?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pumpkin Formica

I used to crouch just below the window and listen to the neighbors fight. The metallic clink of bent, off-white mini blinds against the frame betrayed my occasional peeks outside to catch a glimpse of the action. He would yell. She would yell. She would get into her black Trans Am and peel out. He would go back inside and slam the door. She would drive to the end of the street, wait a second, and return home. She would kill the engine, lower her shoulders and walk, resigned, toward the door. Every time.

The single-paned windows in our first apartment let in wind and cold and all of the neighbors' business. I was twenty and newly married; I thought I was privy to a new and unique soap-opera of odd characters. What I didn't realize then was that the same drama exists in suburban neighborhoods, but I'd been sheltered from it by the space around my growing-up house. All of the sudden I got to see just how messy people's lives could be. I hated and loved it with equal measure.

Our apartment was spacious by anyone's standards. Both bedrooms were of decent size and it had two full bathrooms and a fireplace. It was always cold. We didn't care. We looked beyond the odd, pumpkin-colored formica countertops, the thin carpet and the dated rock-wall of a fireplace. It was home, and it was ours. Not having lived on my own before getting married, I was just happy to fill a place with my own things and play a lot of Donkey Kong with my new husband.

We didn't just play Donkey Kong, either. We played a mean streak of Tetris on our Nintento 64 and the nineteen-inch TV set we bought on a 2:00 AM run to Wal Mart. Weekends, we pushed our second-hand hide-a-bed sofa up in front of that set so the controller cords would reach and we could play video games until we fell asleep in a heap with our cats. We stayed up late and slept 'till the afternoon, just because. E introduced me to Boondock Saints and Star Trek Voyager. I'd buy vegetables, but they'd rot because nobody would eat them. We were young enough that vegetables didn't matter.

Sometimes we were hungry. I'm barely sure of how we made it each month. He worked at the auto parts store. I was apprenticing (unpaid) to Sacramento Ballet and waitressing at Chevy's. I kept the singles from my tips in a plastic box at the bottom of a cabinet in the dining room. My pointe shoes--in varying states of decay--I kept shoved in a plastic tub at the bottom of the closet.  Those $85 ballet shoes were the single greatest cost in our first year of marriage since I needed multiple pairs per month. The garage was his, entirely, though he had to walk outside, downstairs, and around the corner to get to it. Our dining room table was too short; we had to bend, awkwardly, to eat dinner. Pigeons lived in our attic.

Were we happier than we are now? Not really. Just differently happy. Sometimes it's hard to remember we come from that place.


For the next few weeks I'm writing in response to prompts from The Scintilla Project. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nine big fatty hours

Goal: One week.  63 hours of sleep.

Hey.  This week I am going to go big or go home in the sleep department.  Nine hours a night, every night.  I set this lofty goal because I caught myself at the end of last week--for the third or fourth day in a row--basically wishing all day that I was just home, in my bed, asleep.

That's quality, PDawg.  That's an awesome way to live.

No, not being excited to write.  Not being happy about playing with my children.  Not being, you know, "nice" to students at work.  Not even enjoying the inane reality tv that normally floats my little boat.  Nope.  Just waking up, wishing I could stay in bed, and counting down the hours to sleep and hating every minute of everything I was doing that was not sleep.  L-A-M-E.

The other thing was that I saw this piece on CBS Sunday morning about the importance of sleep.  Well, truthfully I think a lot of the focus of "getting an extra hour" or "one fewer hour" everyone has to talk about every time we change to or from daylight savings is ten kinds of stupid.  One hour doesn't make one bit of difference.  I know.  I've wasted plenty of those hours watching the Real Housewives of Just About Everyplace.  But as I watched that piece, I started to wonder if just getting more sleep, you know, on a regular basis, might not be a terrible idea.  During the summer I'm all kinds of happy, and I am willing to put a lot of money on the hypothesis that it's related to how much napping and sleeping I do.  (Which is, frankly, a ton.)

On average in the last few weeks, I've been getting about five or six hours a night.  This is not nearly enough for me.  I'm a big ol' baby and I need a boatload.  Go ahead and comment and tell me how you've been blasting through life like alien-shootin' Daniel Craig on your 3.2 average hours of sleep, but I'm just gonna shrug and be like okay cowboy, you win.  Go ahead and jump off that horse and onto a flying saucer for all I care.

I'm 2 for 2 in the sleep department, and I've consequently been able to take my fully-rested self to the gym two mornings in a row for running, stretching, and planking (not the awkward kind, the core-building kind).  I feel tired, but it's good tired.  Going to bed early sucks, but not as much as hating my whole life.  The end.

Sorta related:  here are some pics from this weekend.  In addition to sleep, it's back to real life things like vegetables, and little league, and early mornings with my boy.

Radishes. #farmersmarketTurnips. #farmersmarketBaseball.Little League. Opening day. :)Day 11: Someone you talked to today. Henry. #marchphotoaday

Thursday, March 08, 2012


Something I wore. It doesn't get any better than this. #marchphotoaday

The princess movie and Thomas the Tank Engine sounds that used to fill our house have been replaced with the rat-a-tat-bleh!-bleh! of dragon-slaying on the boy's XBox, and a shrill loop of the Muppets' mahna-mahna from Roo's room.  I'm happy we're all techno-savvy, but it's really crampin' my write. (And, I might add, my bandwidth.  I do not like sharing.)

Gawd, I wish I had a quiet little office.

The gatos are snoozing on couches, in direct defiance of our efforts to provide them with a brand-new multi-level, four story walk-up in the family room.  For now it's too new to be awesome.  We keep putting them up there and they keep leaping off of it in a wide-eyed panic as though cat martyrdom is preferable to the smell of new carpet.

+1 life point for me:  I've got chicken and rice in my belly.  I cooked it.  Not Grandma Lila's recipe with the onion soup mix, but a kind of less-salty impostor.  Real onions rather than the brown powder.  Close enough.  That makes two nights of real cooking, and I'm feeling better in my soul.  Auntie Wendy messaged me the other day to suggest I cook and go hug my grandparents to get myself out of this funk.  (I'm going to make good on the second thing this weekend.)  So far, a definite improvement just from the cooking.

I have one more day of this week that won't end.  Teachin' weekends (or coaching weekends, as the last one) make one week bleed into the next and make me want to lay down and die a little bit.  Admittedly, so does judging three periods a day of proficiency speeches in my freshman English classes.  We're on day three of four.  Even the good speeches are becoming a little fingernail-on-chalkboard-y at this point.  I'm getting sooo restless.  The malapropisms abound and I have to bite my cheek so often that I'm getting a little sore spot.  Grading these speeches has become an exercise in patience and a special kind of gymnastics for my kind spirit.  My special little snowflakes.

We finished speeches a bit early in sixth period today.  A kid randomly plugged an ELECTRIC GUITAR into a portable amp and just started strumming away. In English class.  (IS THIS WHAT WE DO NOW?)  I about lost it.  No, I don't want to hear you jam right now, son.  PASS.

So much noise.  I can't wait for quiet.

(Admit it... you just heard Animal yelling QUIIIIIIIEEEEEEET! --or is that just me?)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Birthday Boys

I got so swamped last week I didn't get the chance to post any birthday pics from our week of celebration. We went out to dinner for E's birthday, I made birthday pancakes for Henry, and we went out for crab this weekend.

Birthday #7 pancakes and scrambled eggs for my boy. <3

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Room for two?

After I changed into my suit yesterday afternoon to head to court, I turned to check my backside in the mirror of the staff bathroom. The view wasn't as great as I'd hoped. My grey pencil skirt puckered notably just below the waist, a telltale sign that my underwear cut too tight into my widening rear. I no longer cared that I looked professional in my suit, ruffled shell, and peep-toe pumps. I fixated on my lumpy ass, and for the rest of the night I was self-conscious.

Confidence gets me through challenges with more dependability than any kind of actual skill. You could replace "skill" in that sentence with talent, intellect, or style, too. Simply put, if I feel off in my clothes (or like I have two stacked butts) I'm not going to wear them well. My butts or my clothes, that is. It doesn't matter how great an outfit looks on a hanger if I can't wear it without feeling like a schlub. Feeling good in clothes makes the difference. This is why I buy size 8L Express W20 jeans like it's my religion. I feel attractive in them and I enjoy my day more. The end.

Lately my lumpy ass shows in my writing. I'm self-conscious. I haven't written much here lately because I feel the eyes of the world on me. I give myself some really great excuses about not having time or about writing too much for my masters' program instead, but the truth is that I've managed consistently to make writing a priority for about three years under more stressful situations than the current ones. And I'm kind of stalling when it comes to writing anything substantial for UCR. I'm not writing because I'm afraid.

I've been here before, and I know it will pass as soon as I can write for me again. Or for that one person who needed to read it. Frankly it's not--or I should say it's never--the idea that I am ashamed of people knowing any of the details about my life. I think that's what people think would be the hardest part of writing for any kind of audience, internet or otherwise. But they would be wrong. Look:

I bribed my kids with donuts last weekend so they would go shopping with me.
I cheated on 100% of my homework assignments for my AP Econ class in high school.
I have white hair growing on my head now with increasing frequency.
E and I have had a rough time with our marriage lately.
My ass is getting kind of big. (related: I ate chocolate cake for breakfast for the last two days.)

See, that's a bunch of stuff that you would think could be embarrassing, but I don't really care that you know it. If you were sitting here with me and you genuinely wanted to know, I'd tell you all of that. I think there's way more power in honesty when it comes to writing, anyway. I know I'd rather read a piece of writing that's real over the one where somebody talks in vague generalizations to keep up an image. (Hi, have we met, though? I'm Heather and I'm obsessed with my good-girl image.) But what brought me to blogging in the first place, which brought me to pursuing writing, was reading honesty. I was so comforted to see other people being broken, awkward, and interesting on the web.

I get weird when I start putting pressure on my writing to be something. I don't even know what that something is, but I know that when I start to feel like my writing is not it, I stop trying.

I'd like to try today.  So here's where I am, March 6, 2012:

I'm exhausted because I've been running hard for about a week and a half. And the running I am talking about is not the kind with athletic shoes and earbuds. It's the kind where I get really involved in something at work before I give too much thought to how it's going to take me away from my home and my family. And that doesn't make it bad, but it sure makes me feel guilty. And I might as well not call myself a runner anymore, because that is still just not happening. I haven't cooked dinner in weeks. I've been eating fast food like I want to be on the next Morgan Spurlock documentary. And my marriage? It's really, really hard to be married. It never gets easier for us. Sometimes, like now, it's really hard even with counseling and a history of hearing other people tell us how it has to work if it's going to work. We've been more frustrated with each other in the last month than we have in a long time. I don't really know why, but suddenly everything about everything has to be a thing. And of course I feel misunderstood and I feel pulled in two directions and I feel like I could just make everyone understand that they are all important to me.

So there you go. There's nothing at all literary about this post, but hopefully it helps me to hop back on the blogging bandwagon. Hopefully there's room for me and my two asses.

Thursday, March 01, 2012


So far, so good this week. Made it through two more rounds of Mock Trial competition with my school kids. Set a new record for number of hairdos I can do in a 20 minutes (I think I did 7?) last night. Mock Trial has been great. These kids are amazing and it's cool to get to see them compete and really shine. They've been staying positive and really just knocking out of the park (courtroom?) every night. Our kids are standing strong and making our school proud. And me. I'm proud too.

BUT I did get home last night and E and the kids ate up all the leftover pizza, so I was STARVING. Like, crazy starving. So I shamelessly took a box of Triscuits and tub of hummus into my bed. I ate that hummus like it was my job. You know that thing where you're starving but you're tired, so you just kind of stand there staring at the fridge like a three-course meal might pop out and onto your plate? Only it doesn't? Yeah, that.

Hummus to the rescue.


Currently, I'm waiting for E to get home from baseball practice #2 so we can go celebrate his 33rd birthday. As of today, I have known E for more birthdays than not. That's totally weird and totally cool.

Happy Birthday, E. #