Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The New Year is Right Around the Corner

I think I've said before that I'm not much for New Year's resolutions, and that's still true. I think we all should try to lead our best lives all the time, and though I'm not always successful, I do try. However, spending Christmas Eve down at the local homeless shelter brought home to me that I don't do near enough. I remember reading somewhere once that most of us are just one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves, and visiting with the people at the shelter made that very real for me. There were mothers with newborn babies- one of the moms had eight children ranging from early teens to an infant. That could've easily been me. I was lucky. I had the support of friends and family, and if I had ever ended up without a home, I had generous people in my life who, I'm sure, would have taken me in. One father stood on the sidelines, watching his kids play games with our group- a sort of sad smile on his face. One mom asked her son if she could take the gifts we gave him and wrap them so that he would have something to unwrap in the morning. Another young teen was overheard saying he was going to put the skateboard he'd gotten as a gift outside another younger boy's door because he had heard the boy saying how much he wished he'd gotten a skateboard. Here's this kid with just the clothes on his back willing to give away his gift to make another child happy! The generosity of that touched me to my core. I got to come home to my big warm house, and these children were spending the night in the family section of SAMM's Shelter, an emergency shelter where they are expected to get up and leave in the morning. A new shelter called Haven for Hope is in the process of being built, and it's a place where all the services a homeless, jobless person might need will be housed together- places to sleep, a medical clinic, classes, job counseling, psychiatric counseling- everything. And I'm planning to find out what I can do there to help. Watching these little children was heartbreaking, and nobody deserves to be in their situation. Seeing their parents doing the best they can under their circumstances - well, it made me think about those who are against health care reform, those who want to criminalize the poor, those who think they're "better than" because they are wealthy- those who will never understand. So I am making a few New Year's resolutions this year- to DO instead of just talk- to HELP instead of shake my head at the sadness - to BE that best person I can be every day to the best of my ability.

May your new year be the best ever, and may we all be grateful for what we have.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A busy month!

December began with a trip to Virginia for Sofia's fourth birthday. My only granddaughter, she is just adorable! It was a great trip, visiting with Kristinn and Tim and Sofia's big brother, Gabriel, who is 6. We left San Antonio amid reports of a very possible snow in San Antonio, which of course is very rare, and didn't happen- of course. But, the day after it was supposed to snow at home, it actually did snow in Virginia! It was lovely, and just enough to enjoy without getting stranded or stuck. We had Fia's birthday party at Chucky Cheese, with a great time had by all. She was definitely the princess of the party, crown and all! Despite the cold weather, we all got out to the Native American Museum and the Botanical Center, all decked out for the holidays. We also were able to just relax, which is always nice when on vacation. Gabe read to me and is doing very well with that and school in general. He has a very funny sense of humor- so does Sofia for that matter!

Upon returning home, it was back to work to get ready for our Chanukah play- a short revue using 40's music with Chanukah-ish lyrics. With only a few rehearsals, we were able to pull that off at the Latke Cook-off and then were asked for an encore performance at the Chanukah dinner at Temple. It's a pretty silly little show, but we had fun, and the audiences enjoyed it- that's good enough for me.

Eli's high school bowling team remains undefeated, and the biggest news there is that during a match against MacArthur High School, Eli bowled a perfect game- a 300! I'd never seen that happen before, and I have to say, it was pretty exciting. Everyone cheered- even the other team and their coach, and their were hugs all around. Just today at Eli's Saturday youth league, his team got their first place trophies for the first bowling season, and now they have two weeks off until they begin anew. At this moment, he's at the award party for his travel league, and I believe there's another award party on Monday night for the scholarship league. Yes, I spend a lot of time in bowling alleys!

I've got the annual holiday poem finished but am waiting for Alan to add the pictures, so I can send it out. Looking forward to a great year. Happy holidays everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fun with the Boys

Rachel and the boys were over yesterday, and we had the radio on- playing oldies. Aden wanted us all to dance, so we each had a partner: Alana and Aden, Rachel and Khalil, and Abram with me. We danced a slow song, twirling and moving around the living room; and then a fast song came on, so someone said, "With this kind of music, you have to shake your booty," so we did. Aden and Abram were hilarious- shaking booties and laughing. We all got to laughing so hard it's a wonder nobody had an accident. Later, Aden asked me to sing the "Tree Song." Remember it from Captain Kangaroo? Grandpop used to get us singing it in the car, too. "...the hole in the ground and the green grass grew all around, all around, and the green grass grew all around." Over the years, we've added our own verses, so that now it goes all the way to the "prettiest dandruff that you ever did see..." (after the hair on the wart, and the wart on the flea, and the flea on the feather, and the feather on the wing, and the wing on the bird, and the bird in the egg, and the egg in the nest, and the nest on the twig, and the twig on the branch, and the branch on the tree, and the tree on the root, and the root in the hole, and the hole in the ground...") And we always have to sing it twice. Once that was over, Aden said, "Sing the WART song, Bubbe," and I said I didn't know the WART song, but he insisted because he knows if he insists, I'll make up a silly song, so we sang a song about Aunt Alana with a wart on her butt who had to go to the doctor to get the wart cut, cut right off her butt butt. Rachel loves it when I do this, by the way...haha. I can't think of anything more fun than dancing and singing songs with my grandchildren. I am one lucky Bubbe!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Poor Neptune!

It was bound to happen. Neptune, the Boston terrier, loves to chase Sazoo, the 25 pound cat. Usually Sazoo runs from him and goes through the kitty door into the garage, but about two years ago, Neptune cornered him, and Sazoo swiped him, tearing his left eye. Surgery followed that, and Tune has since had limited vision in that eye. Well, the Tunester is a slow learner and has continued to torment the big fat cat. Saturday night I got home and noticed his OTHER eye was squinty. Upon closer inspection, I saw it was very red, but he seemed to be doing ok- until Aden threw a ball to me, Neptune got in the way, and the ball hit him in the eye. Needless to say, there was a trip to the vet today, and it looks like his eye will be saved but most likely his sight will not. Dr. Hill says the other eye is developing a cataract and that he will soon be blind in both eyes, but that blind dogs do very well since they don't have the psychological issues we people have. Now, how can anyone know that? Maybe at this very moment, Neptune is sitting in his kennel at the vet's office saying, "Damn- I can't see a thing, and this really sucks." I felt terrible leaving him because he hates to stay at the vet's, but there was no choice. I'll pick him up tomorrow to the "tune" of $450.00. Sazoo, in the meantime, is walking around like he owns the place. I wonder how he'll feel about his new job as a seeing eye cat.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I spent the morning with Aden and Khalil while Rachel took Abram to his music class. Aden loves to "play school," so Rachel makes flashcards for him, and while I was there, he got out his flashcards and asked me to "do them" with him. He whizzed through all of the words until he came to "PHONE," at which time he stopped and said, "Bubbe, did you know that a p and an h together make a sound like f? P-h-o-n-e spells phone!" He also has words like "tizzy" and "wailing," and he knows them all. Then he got out his magnadoodle and wanted me to spell "ambulance" for him, which he promptly wrote down. Khalil, in the meantime, at 3 months old is rolling over and trying to crawl. He didn't fuss at all- this was the first time ever Rachel's left him, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I shouldn't have been worried. He is interested in everything around him and just squeals with delight when Aden or I interact with him. When Abram and Rachel got back, Abram told me all about a little roach he saw and how "cool" it was...he likes to capture bugs, examine them and then let them go. Wonder who he takes after???? :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

L'shanah Tovah!

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is right around the corner, and it's a time for us to reflect on the past year and think about what we'll do differently in the new. I've been feeling like good things are coming for some time now, and that's intensifying as the high holy days get closer. Last weekend was S'lichot, the official beginning of these days of awe, and I had the distinct pleasure of putting my play, Ben's Gift, on for the congregation at Temple Beth-El. I was also one of the actors, and I've noticed as I get older, it's more and more difficult to learn lines- especially when there are so many of them! Thank goodness for a patient director! Thankfully also, the play went over very well. Rabbi Block held a question/answer session afterwards. He asked, "What was Ben's gift?" and I was shocked and delighted by the numerous responses- some I hadn't even thought of myself! I received a very meaningful e-mail from Rabbi the next day, so it seems the show was a success.

Yesterday, I spent a good part of the afternoon with Aden and Abram. We went to Barnes and Noble to hear a storyteller, and I let them each pick out a book to buy. Abram went straight to the shelf with the teenager books on it and took the biggest Harry Potter book he could find. He's TWO. I convinced him that that particular book was probably one that needed to wait a few years, so he ended up finding a large Harry Potter coloring book. Alana bought both boys wands awhile back, so Abram runs around the house with his Harry Potter sweater on, pointing the wand and saying, "Expeliarmus!" Aden is much more laid back and found a Sesame Street book to buy. Then one of them spotted some stuffed dragons, so of course we bought those too. From there- off to McDonald's to play and home with two tired out little guys.

The following is a very short poem inspired by the play:


The fireflies of her memories
light and dim the way
I was her mother yesterday
today, her granddaughter
once she called me Tootie,
a long ago friend
flickers of her life that was
as it fades slowly away

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer ends once again

What a summer I've had! Khalil Isaiah was born on June 25- another beautiful little boy to add to our growing family. For the first time in years, the boys outnumber the girls in our gang. Grandchildren continue to amaze and delight me.

In July, my theatre group had the opportunity to perform Darfur Calls once again and it was so wonderful to be back with the cast- great friends and actors who give their time to the cause. It's such an amazing feeling. I spent much of the rest of the month writing another play, Ben's Gift for the holiday, Selichot, and we've started rehearsals now on that.

Just last week, Eli, Alana, and I were in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, visiting my sister Jane and her husband Rich. They were the best hosts- taking us hiking and to all of the beautiful sites. We even got to go out on a boat where we saw some whales, an otter, some Puffins (they are SO cute!), jumping salmon, and bald eagles- not to mention waterfalls and scenery like we've never seen before. It also just happens that Rich is the chef at the hotel there, and I don't remember ever having more delectable food in my life. He kept us spoiled the entire trip- even serving up bananas foster on our final night there. Thank you so much Jane and Rich for a truly fabulous vacation.

Eli goes back to school tomorrow- a sophomore, and though he really wanted to stay in Alaska for a year, I think he's getting used to the idea of another school year here at home. He and his friends have been burning up the phone lines, and he got all of his school supplies in order last night. Here I am- for the first time in 28 years, I won't be going back to school with the kids. It's a bittersweet feeling- I will miss the daily interaction with my students and my colleagues- my friends at Bush. I will miss "talking teacher" with them and my other friends in the profession. Yet, I feel really good about my decision to retire. I have this overwhelming sense that new things are coming soon, and I can't wait to find out what they are.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Seeing Barack

I picked up Aden and Abram today to give Rachel a little break, and we went to the Play Place at MacDonald's. Now those of you who know me KNOW I don't do MacDonalds, but when that happens to be one of my grandsons' favorite places, what can I do? We have a little routine- the boys eat their Happy Meal McNuggets with fruit and milk, and then they play for awhile. Last, we eat an ice cream cone (don't tell Rachel!!) :) and we go home. So today, we were sitting in a booth eating our ice cream- Abram was next to me, and Aden across from us, and there was a large group of African Americans in a couple of booths next to us. Suddenly, Aden stops eating and says, "Look, Bubbe- it's Barack Obama." My initial reaction was "Oh crap," but then I noticed one of the young black men looking at me and pointing over my head, so I turned and looked up, and there on the TV screen was none other than Barack Obama himself. The young man looked at Aden and gave him a thumbs up.

On the way home in the car, Aden was playing and talking to his stuffed bear (from the Happy Meal) when Abram piped up with, "Aden, you are a one man show!" And Aden said, "Bubbe, tell Abram not to call me a one man show." I thought I'd wet my pants laughing. I told Rachel about it, and she said neither she nor Greg have ever said that, and then Greg remembered it's a line in the movie Madagascar. But how amazing that a 2 year old would not only remember the line but also use it completely appropriately. I texted all this to Alan, and he said, "We've got a genius and a comedian!" Of course we have a couple of other genius comedians in Gabriel and Sofia, too! Read Kristinn's blog and you'll know what I mean! And we can't forget Khalil, who at 6 weeks, already laughs and coos and we could swear he's starting to talk sometimes!

Sometimes I wonder how it is that I got to be so lucky.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What a dog!

Sheena, our black lab mix wonderdog died over a year ago, but sometimes as I'm waking up in the morning, I could swear she's next to my bed. I wrote the following at my Writers' Group this week:

To Sheena

Our ritual-
Cold nose nudges my face
as morning intrudes
into my bed
I place my hand
on your soft head
You run for the door
and come back,
tail wagging as I
from dreams of sand
and twisted shells
I stretch,
pull on my empty pockets
up to my knees
and laugh
Wrong pants!
Quick change
and we’re off
to carve out
our walk
Along the sunflowered paths


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reunion time

What a wonderful few days we've had! Last week, knowing that Kristinn was coming in to town for a few days, I invited some of her high school friends to come over for a belated birthday party/reunion. Kristinn and I were both happily surprised when Luci showed up all the way from Brownsville along with "locals" Ricky, Kelly, Priscilla, and Jennifer, AND Casey from Houston. It was great fun catching up with everyone- you know how it is when you are going to visit with people you haven't seen in years, and when they finally arrive, it's as if time is suspended? That's what it felt like. All of these 30 somethings were my students back in middle school in South San Antonio and all very special to me because not only were they (and still are) amazing people, they were also Kristinn's friends and spent time at our house or on trips. Luci and Ricky went with me to the Y.O. Ranch to present a project we did in our GT class. All of the other presentations there were science projects, but ours was done in an English class- research based. Only a small number were chosen each year from the many applications, and for as long as the program continued, the kids in my little GT class were invited every year. It was especially wonderful to have my oldest daughter home for a few days, though it made me wish she and her family lived here permanently. With Alana moving home, I'm getting greedy! I now have four out of the six here in San Antonio. We'll all have to get working on Kristinn and Tim, Ryan and Vicki!

Monday, July 6, 2009

being bubbe

Is there any greater love than that a grandmother has for her grandchildren? Oh, I know there are many kinds of love, and each of them wonderful, but until I had grandchildren, I didn't realize how amazing it would be. With Gabriel (5 1/2) and Sofia (3) living far away in Virginia, I don't get to spend time with them as often as I'd like, but even talking to them on the phone, my heart fills up as though it could burst from the love inside. I wish they were here. I am fortunate that Rachel stayed in San Antonio, and I get my Bubbe fix through her three: Aden (3), Abram (2), and Khalil (1 week). I've found that I'm a much more relaxed bubbe than I was a mom. The stress is gone, and I can just have fun with the boys. Whenever I see them, they make me feel like a celebrity, "Bubbe! Bubbe's here!" they holler and run to hug me and kiss me hello. Tonight I stopped by and after their usual greeting, they climbed up into my lap. Abram asked me if he could "see my tongue," so I stuck it out at him, and he touched the tip of it, saying, "Ohhh- I touched your tongue- do it again, Bubbe!" This led to a sticking out of the tongue game that Aden quickly joined, and we laughed until I had tears rolling down my face. My daughter and her husband looked at one another and shook their heads, but pretty soon they were laughing too. From there, we had horsey rides on my knee, singing one of my grandfather's songs- "Pony Boy," over and over. As I got ready to leave, Abram grabbed a popsicle stick and said, "I got my sword to fight the skeletons!" and he jumped around swinging his "sword." "Come on Aden," he continued, "let's sword the skeletons!" and off they went to do battle. Khalil slept the entire time we played and laughed. I kissed the boys goodbye, and Aden said, "Don't go, Bubbe," with Abram repeating right behind, "No, don't go, Bubbe," putting his hands out wide to stop me. I scooped them both up and gave them big kisses, telling them I'd be back soon- to come and close and lock the door behind me so that no more skeletons could get in. They happily complied, saying, "I love you, Bubbe, I love you..." It can't get any better than that- well, except having Gabe and Sofia right here, too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Very Sad Day

I just got home from a funeral, and sitting there listening to numerous people talk about Shelley made me think. I wish I had taken the time to get to know her better. She was this amazing woman, a speech therapist in our school. We'd stop and say hello and talk a little every now and then, but I knew her more because she was the mom of one of my son's friends than anything else. About two years ago, Shelley resigned, and it wasn't until after she left that I found out she resigned under pressure- and probably unjust pressure. I saw her one day after that, and she told me she had thought about coming to me (I've been the union rep. since our school opened), but she really felt that everything would work out, and when it didn't, it was too late. I wish I had paid better attention to what was happening because I may have been able to help her. I'll never know now. She loved her job- she loved kids, and losing those sent her into a depression from which she never completely recovered. Last week she jumped off the top of a high parking garage, leaving behind a teenage daughter, a husband, a father and numerous other relatives and friends who love her. Today, as I sat in the church, I heard about how she graduated from college in two years and got her Master's in only one- both degrees with honors. I heard about how she loved to read, to attend live theatre, to travel. I heard about how much she did for others, giving of her time and herself quietly, without expectation. And I thought about how we could have been the best of friends-- not just colleagues. It made me realize how many opportunities are missed because we're always in such a hurry. We slam through our days, rarely taking a precious minute to speak to those who work with us, go to class with us, live with us. I am saddened that for every minute we're wrapped up in ourselves and in our own small worlds, we could've reached out and done something for someone else, and in the process, expanded our world and that other person's too. Shelley is gone, but the lesson she leaves behind will help me to be a much better person, and I am grateful to her for that.

I wish I had gotten to know you better, Shelley. You continue to teach us from your new world. I wish you peace.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Home from NYC

NYC was a whirlwind- never enough time to do all the things I want to do, but, at the same time, I'm always glad to go back home. There for a Theatre Conference, Linda and I stayed at an apartment owned by her cousins on the West End. It was a lovely place to stay- close to the Hudson and to Broadway! Heard two known playwrights speak: Israel Horowitz and Donald Margolies who were both fascinating. Unfortunately, there wasn't time to go to a Broadway production- we did see some local theatre which was very good- some newly written pieces. There is certainly a lot of talent among the playwrights who attended the conference. Had the pleasure of dinner with Diana Spechler who happens to be Linda's granddaughter and just published her first book, Who by Fire. I read it on the plane and was very impressed. Diana was giving a book talk while we were there, so we got to attend that as well. She's already started writing her second book and just turned 30 this week.

Got home and hit the ground running. Rachel is ready to have our newest baby any day now. Alana is in town to help out. Aden and Abram are both doing great- with Abram sleeping in his "big boy bed" with no problems.

I started working on my next play for Hanukkah. Had a brainstorm about a matchmaker while on the trip, so hopefully, I can get it done. Am also editing another play for our Selichot production which is turning out to be more work than I thought it would be.

Wishing I could be at the shore with the rest of the Rice gang, but will have to miss this one. Hoping we'll do it again in the not too distant future. Alan leaves for Mexico Monday for two weeks, so it will be Eli, the dogs, cats, etc. and I to hold down the fort. Eli is in two bowling leagues this summer- one a high school scholarship league and the other his regular local league, but they keep both of us busy.

Last, our theatre group has been asked to perform Darfur Calls once again- this time at Travis Park Methodist Church as part of a project to raise money for the displaced persons of Darfur. That will occur on July 19, so I have much to do to get ready. Most of our original cast will return, but a few cannot, so we have to find replacements, set up a rehearsal schedule, make playbills, and all that goes with mounting a production. It's exciting though- to see old friends and to continue the project that is very near and dear to my heart.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I had a dream that I re-wrote as poetry


Heart melting into tears,
pouring from inside.
A river forms,
carrying me
over and under
the rapids.
Current strengthens-
no more struggling,
I let go,
close my eyes.
and accept the end
to suffering,
to feeling the whole world’s sorrow
streaming out of me.

Hands reach out;
pull me to the bank
Two men- one I know and one
I do not
except from past dreams.
Each full of light,
Each smiling gently,
reminding me
of my purpose,
marveling at a river
made solely of my tears.
A new skin covers me;
A strong heart beats inside.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

All Children are Our Children

I just returned from the Consultation on Conscience in Washington, DC, and it was a wonderful experience. The highlight for me was hearing Marian Wright Edelman speak. A friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., she delivered the message to him from Bobby Kennedy, "Bring the poor to Washington," after sharing her frustration with Kennedy about the length of time it was taking to gain federal help for the hungry poor of the Mississippi Delta. King later told his wife, Coretta, " We should get people from all the poverty areas, from the South and from the North, people who don't have jobs or resources...It must not be just black people, it must be all poor people."

Marian Edelman founded the Children's Defense Fund and continues to take on the government daily to provide better care for the poorest among us. She spoke of a little boy who died when a tooth abscess sent an infection to his brain after his mother had gone to several dentists and had been refused by each of them because she didn't have insurance. She spoke of a 12 year old girl who had just given birth, and the new baby's grandmother is all of 24 years old herself. Teen pregnancy is on the rise again in this country. She used the metaphor of a family with six children where the five oldest receive all they need- good nutrition, clothes, activities, a decent education, etc., and the sixth child has none of these things. We are that family-a nation where 1 out of 6 children lives in poverty, and all of the children are OUR children. Why would we want anyone's child to suffer? She also said, "While thirteen million underprivileged children in the richest nation on earth are growing up in indefensible poverty without the most basic necessities of life and a fair chance to envisage a better future, millions of overprivileged children are growing up infected with the affluenza virus-- the spiritual poverty of having too much that is worth too little. Contrary to so called popular belief, the money to end childhood poverty is there. She said, "Every child could be lifted out of poverty for less than 9 months of the tax cuts for the top 1 percent and 4 months of the Iraq War. The irresponsible giveaways to our richest 300,000 Americans need to be reinvested in saving the futures of 13 million poor children. We do not have a money problem; we have a values and priorities problem."

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Her newest book The Sea is so Wide, and my Boat is so Small is a book of letters to parents, teachers, mothers/grandmothers, children, religious leaders, the government... and is worth the read. All proceeds go to the CDF, so that alone is a good reason to purchase it.

On this Earth Day, let's remember to take care of our great mother AND all of her children.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Broken Down Man

(This is completely fiction, based on a conversation had in the car with the two Linda's on Tuesday, March 10, 2009)kk

Broken Down Man

“I’m sorry, Lisa; I don’t get what you see in him. It’s not like you’re a 20 something anymore or that you need a man to take care of you. It’s not like you are desperate or can’t do any better.”

“What is that supposed to mean, Carrie? Why can’t you see the good in him?”

We finished dinner quickly because John called and wanted Lisa to come home immediately. She made her usual lame excuses, but I was pissed. This was the second time he’d interrupted our plans. Lisa used to be independent and sure of herself, but this man changed her into someone I didn’t know.

“Believe me, I’m trying to find some good in him. You’re my best friend, and I want you to be happy, but JOHN? I don’t understand at all,” I said, knowing we were heading for a fight.

”What’s not to understand? He is the most amazing man. Have you noticed the way he smiles at me? The way he’s waiting for me when I get home?”

I had noticed. How could anyone not notice? John was missing a tooth right in the bottom front of his mouth. The first time I saw him, he stuck an unlit cigarette in the empty space and talked in a bad southern accent with it hanging there. I thought it was disgusting, but Lisa giggled like it was the cutest idea ever. Blech.

“OK, Lisa-whatever. Go on home, and call when you find some time for me.”

Eyebrows raised, she looked up, reminding me to give John a chance. She knew I’d love him too eventually- just as long as I didn’t love him too much. “Heh, heh, heh,-it’s a joke, Carrie.” When I didn’t laugh, she put on her jacket and went out the door.

When we were younger, we fell for really attractive guys. I married one who turned out to be a big jerk and after five years of affairs (his) and breast implants (mine) in an embarrassing attempt to hold onto him, we divorced. No kids; just Dooley, our standard poodle for whom we shared custody the ensuing eight years and then blamed each other when he caught some strange disease that killed him. Lisa also married one, and their marriage was good for awhile, but six plus years into it, Stu realized he was gay and moved in with a guy from work. Lisa was devastated. She felt that she had somehow failed. She said to me soon after Stu left, “At least Paul left you for another woman-not a MAN!” as though this were some kind of competition. Over the years, we both dated off and on, but nothing ever lasted for either of us. Now here was John. I kept hoping she’d be over him so we could joke about how ridiculous he was.

But at dinner, Lisa told me she loved him –that she hoped to make things permanent. All I could think was, “How could she do this to me? How could she hook up with this broken down man?” I tried to keep my cool, but she could tell I wasn’t happy about it. Why couldn’t she see what I was sure everyone else saw in John. He was obviously looking for someone to support him. He was a bum.

All of that got me to thinking about the past. Throughout the years, I’d look at couples and wonder how they ever got together. Oftentimes, they just didn’t seem to fit. Usually I’d find myself wondering how someone like HER could fall for someone like HIM or vice versa. One would be very attractive and the other NOT, or one would be very thin and the other NOT, or one would be an asshole. Lots of assholes out there. I wondered if anyone thought that of Paul and me, but then how could they? We were the perfect couple on the outside. We took care of our bodies. He played every sport in high school and several in college. I spent every spare minute at the gym. He didn’t act like a jerk outside of our home. He saved that for me. Our marriage had failed, but some of those odd couples were still going strong.

Now that I’m in my 50’s, I notice more of a person than just the outside. I’ve become picky about my friends and even more so about men. I don’t mean that I want him to make “X” amount of money or even have hair on his head. I mean I want someone I can talk to –someone who will listen. I want to be able to share my most intimate thoughts without fear of being put down. It’s not about looks and stature anymore but about finding value in another’s ideas and accepting him for who he is...wanting to know everything about him and finding out slowly with a certain amount of anticipation. I want him to be interested in the whole me, not just whether or not I’m beautiful or sexy or whatever physical attributes men look for in a woman.

As I left the restaurant still ruminating, my phone rang.

“Carrie, it’s me- Lisa. I wanted to apologize for earlier…” She was almost whispering, and my first thought was that John the jerk was listening in.

”No need- I understand-really. We’ll get together soon.”

”That’s what I wanted to tell you, Care! John bought us tickets for a cruise.” Now she was giggling like a teenager. I imagined him nuzzling her neck as she talked on the phone and nausea crept up my throat. The sooner this conversation was over, the better.

”That’s great, Lisa. I can tell you’re busy- I can practically hear John breathing down your neck. Call me later when we can talk.”

”He’s not here- your imagination is in overdrive. He went to the Burnett’s to help them with a plumbing problem. I mean, aren’t you even excited about this?”

“OK- the truth- no, I’m not. I think he’s manipulating you and has been since the beginning. How can he afford a cruise anyway? Odd jobs around the neighborhood don’t pay much. You support him, so my guess is he’s using your credit card to book this trip.” I said it, and I braced myself for her verbal onslaught.

“Carrie! Is that what you think? You are so wrong about John. I haven’t told you the whole truth because he asked me not to, but I hate it that you judge him the way you do, so here it is. John doesn’t have to work. His grandmother left him a lot of money (and I mean A LOT) when she died a year ago. He does odd jobs because he likes to help people. As a matter of fact, he gave up a good job in Virginia to move here and take care of his grandmother about two years ago.”

“Hmmm-interesting story. Are you sure it’s the truth?” I couldn’t buy it.

“What, do you think he’s a crook or something? Carrie, it’s all true.

“Okay, if you say so- I believe you. When do you guys leave?” I obviously wasn’t going to convince her.

“He bought the tickets for us- for you and me, not for him and me! He wants us to go and have a good time because he knows how important our friendship is.”

“You’re kidding, right? He wants US to go on a cruise- without him?”

“YES, that’s what I said. Just the two of us. Everything is paid for, but with you being such a bitch, maybe I should take Melanie instead.

Her words were beginning to sink in. John wanted Lisa and me to go on a cruise together. It was paid for. We’d talked about taking a cruise since we were in high school- just the two of us. We even visited a travel agency once, picking up brochures and spending hours poring over them, discussing possible destinations.

“Whoa- you don’t want to take Melanie. She’ll drive you crazy! I apologize for everything I ever said about John. Really, I’m sorry. Oh my, Lisa, you’re not kidding, are you?“

Lisa was laughing now, and she sounded like the Lisa I’ve known almost my whole life.

“Lise, just one question,” I continued. “If John is so wealthy, why on earth doesn’t he fix his front teeth? I mean, come on. He looks like a guy who just stepped out of the bowling alley! You don’t really think that’s cute, do you?

“You are so damn shallow! He has had two implants that haven’t taken. He kids around because he’s embarrassed about it. He sees a new specialist next week to either try another implant or to get a fake tooth. I thought you were beyond looks. You’re always talking about how it’s not about looks, but you are such a liar!

I felt like a pretty big schlub. She was right. I heard people in my head saying, “Her husband is such a nice guy, but she’s an asshole! How did they ever end up together?” I had made no attempt to get to know the man behind the absent-toothed smile. I ranted about judgmental people, and here I was right there with them.

“You’re right, Lisa. I’m an idiot. But, why didn’t you just tell me all of this before?”

“Maybe because you never asked. I know you well, but I still haven’t figured out to read your mind!”

We talked for another hour. She told me that the tooth bothered her at first, too, but John won her over. He’d drop everything to help her elderly neighbors, and when the Parker's across the street heard how handy he was and asked him to paint their house, he didn’t hesitate to help them, too. The more she talked, the more I began to understand what it was about John that lit her up.

After we got off the phone, I went home to my empty apartment. I opened my closet to hang my coat and noticed my old bowling bag, from a college class Lisa and I had once taken to get rid of a PE credit, on the shelf. We thought bowling would be easier than tennis and less embarrassing than ballet. Of course we turned out to be wrong on both counts, but that’s another story.

“Hmmm,” I thought, “a sign? Nah…probably not.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A New Direction

I decided sometime this week that I'd use this space to publish the stories I'm writing. The following is a fictionalized version of an incident from my childhood.

1960 in Georgia

Arms pumping, lungs exploding, I ran. Somewhere between the candy store and home, Sue let go of my hand, speeding off in front of me. I remember thinking that I’d never seen anyone move so fast. This must be what Mom meant when she said, “That boy runs like the wind,” as she watched footage of an Olympic track competition on television a short time ago. My sister, ran so fast, I thought she might disappear along with the wind, never to return.

Earlier that day, Sue and I, took the nickels Mom gave us for cleaning our room and walked to the store about a quarter of a mile from the house. Just a few weeks before, Daddy had moved us into a duplex in Warner Robins, Georgia, after the Air Force sent him there for a new assignment. I was five years old, and Sue was six- both of us still young enough to accept the move with little grief about leaving friends and the house we knew in Louisiana.

At the store, I wanted to pick my candy very carefully, so I walked up and down the aisles surveying each and every treat on the shelves. Sue knew what she wanted- candy cigarettes and wax lips, which she quickly picked and headed to the check out counter, entreating me to hurry up. As I turned the corner near the back of the store, I noticed a water fountain with a sign attached to the front.

“Susie,” I called. “Come ‘ere.”

Impatient with waiting for me, she came back to where I was standing, and told me again to hurry up. I was learning to sound out words at the time, and turning back to the water fountain, I said, “What does ‘No ni-nig-niggas’ mean?”

A nearby man, big and overalled with brown spit on the edge of his mouth, boomed, “What does NO NIGGAS mean? This little girl wants ta know what no niggas means! I’ll tell you what… ”

He didn’t have a chance to finish because Sue grabbed me by the hand, causing me to drop my nickel on the floor, and yelled, “Run!”

I didn’t know why we were running, but the urgency in her voice propelled me forward. She pulled away quickly and though I hollered after her to wait for me, she waved her arms and kept going. By the time we reached the house, tears rolled down my crimson face. Sue slammed the screen door, and I cried all the louder.

Hearing the commotion, Mom emerged from the kitchen with,
“Susan Elaine, what on earth is all the noise- and why is your sister crying?”

“Catch your breath and tell me what is going on- Carol Anne, are you hurt?
I shook my head as Sue began to explain.

“She said a bad word, Mom- right in front of people at the store, and this big man came after us.”

About now, Sue began to sob uncontrollably. Mom looked at me with a big question mark etched across her forehead.

“I read the sign…the sign on the water fountain. I just wanted to know what it meant- that’s all. I didn’t know it was bad, Mom.”

(I'm not sure if the story is finished here or if I should add to it. For now, I'll leave it as is...)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bad Books are All Around Me

Until a few days ago, I was starting to think that nobody knows how to write anymore. Several months ago a student recommended a book to me- one she said was "the best book I've ever read." It's called The Shack. I bought it- after all this one was on the Bestseller List! I read it, and I have to say, I could not believe anything so poorly written could have gotten on anybody's list- except maybe one which I won't mention here! I do understand why a middle school girl might like it because it's one of those saccharine stories that tugs at your heartstrings and dares you to believe that there really might be more out there than what we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. The intention of the book is not bad- maybe even admirable, but where was this guy's editor? The sentence structure was atrocious -among other things. I also found some of it offensive. The best example was when the main character was talking to Jesus (yes, Jesus- the Lord- not Jesus, the cute boy in 3rd period class), and he (the man) tells Jesus that he's surprised by his looks. Jesus replies with something like, "OH, it's the NOSE, isn't it- well, you know I'm JEWISH." So let's keep extending those stereotypes, shall we? Maybe it was the author's attempt at humor- I don't know, but it really wasn't funny. I trudged on through this horrible excuse for literature and can't remember when I was so happy to finish something. Interestingly, many teachers at my school read it and loved it. Maybe they could get past the grammar, but I really couldn't. If any of you read it, please let me know what you think.

Next, I picked up a book about a teacher with Tourette's Syndrome. I think it's called The Front of the Class. It's autobiographical, and I was impressed with the author's desire to become a teacher in spite of his Tourette's, but there's something off-putting about an author with the "look how great I am" attitude. He writes about his awards, about how much he loves the kids- which is a good thing if you're a teacher, but there is not one anecdote in the entire story about what he actually does in the classroom that makes him a great teacher. He does mention bean bag chairs and computers, but what about strategies? What about how one gets that reluctant learner interested? What about how much our students teach us? And worst of all, to me, is that he says he's a great teacher, but he wants to become an administrator! Administrators often say that they loved teaching, but they become administrators to make change from the top, and that is such BS! I have only met one administrator in all my years of teaching who really cared about what's best for kids. 99.9% of them become administrators in order to 1. make more money or 2. to gain power or 3. to do both #1 and #2...and that's it.

So where am I going with this? I picked up a book a few days ago called A Private History of Awe, and so far, it is lovely. The writing is magnificent, and the author is not blowing his own horn. He is dealing with an elderly mom and a new granddaughter simultaneously, making observations about each and giving his history as well as our country's history during the 50's and 60's at the same time. This is the kind of writing I want my students to see and to hear- the kind of writing that I hope will help them become better writers themselves. It is so refreshing to have found something worth reading.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Friday the 13th and Valentines' Day!

I've always chosen to believe that there was nothing to all of the hype about FRIDAY the 13th, but today almost made me change my mind. Some of you know that about 3 weeks ago, I fell in front of an oncoming car after leaving a restaurant. Luckily, I didn't get hit, but I did manage to smash my knee up pretty well. After the initial shock though, the knee was fine- or I thought it was anyway.

Then earlier this week, it started hurting and my leg began to swell and turn red. I checked with the substitute school nurse since the real nurse was home with the flu (a lot of good that flu shot she tried to get all of us to take, did her!), and she said it was because I let it scab over and I needed to soak it and soften that sucker up, put some triple antibiotic on it and WALLA- it would be fine. I took her advice, but the next day, the redness had spread and it was difficult to bend at the knee. That was Wednesday, so I decided to bite the bullet and make a doc. appt.

I took the day off from school Thursday and called, only to find out my doctor doesn't have office hours on Thursday. You can probably figure out how often I see him since I didn't know that. I rested at home, and by afternoon, the swelling and redness were gone. I figured I'd cancel my appt. which was set for today at 5:15 PM, but first I called Ryan, my doctor son, and he told me I'd better keep that appointment and have my doctor at least look at it because I didn't want to get cellulitis. It sounded possibly serious, so I said ok, I'll go.

To make a long story longer (:)), I was sitting in the waiting room this evening when my phone rang. It's Eli on the other end telling me he had broken his finger while playing football with his buddies, and I had to come get him right now. The way he said it was, "The bone is sticking out," so I let the receptionist know that I had to go and told her why.

She grabs the doctor, and he says he'll see me quickly (since it's Friday and I won't have another chance 'til Monday). He takes one look at my knee and says I have a good infection (what the heck is a "good" infection?), has the nurse give me a tetanus shot (ouch!) and gives me a prescription for an antibiotic and an antibiotic cream (both with all kinds of possible side effects although none said anything about a 4 hour anything- whew!- which is why I don't go to doctors in the first place) and tells me if there is any change for the worse to call him immediately!

I rush to get Eli, hit every red light possible and horrible traffic to boot. Eli's calling me every 2 minutes to see where I am. I call Alan- how dare he go out of town this weekend, and I have to deal with all this!! I get to Eli, expecting to see his finger hanging off the side of his hand by a thread, and there's no bone sticking out. My drama king son probably has a jammed finger, though I probably shouldn't say that because I suppose it could be broken, and I'll feel really badly tomorrow if it is. We put ice on it, and it was well enough for him to go to a concert with his friends tonight.

Oh, oh, and do you know what Alan asked? "It wasn't his bowling hand was it?" Argh! No, dear, it wasn't. He will live to bowl another day, and by the way, will you still love me if I have to get a peg leg after this flesh eating bacteria devours this one? Happy V-Day!

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's Groundhog Day and a great day all around!

I love the idea of a groundhog telling us that we'll have 6 more weeks of winter! Of course in San Antonio, we don't have to worry about it, but we faithfully read the newspaper to find out what 'ole Punxsatawney Phil has to say about the weather. I remember in middle school being jealous of our neighbor, Bobbie Sein, who was born on February 2, and got to share her birthday with Phil. By the way, I recently heard he's only accurate about 20% of the time, but I'd have to say that's better than our local meteorologists! No big chill, no snow, no ice, no sleet. I love it when they are so wrong.

Not only is today a great day because it's Groundhog Day, but I also got some cool news. The play I co-wrote with Michael H., Darfur Calls, won the Irving J. Fain Award, which according to our rabbi is the "premiere social action award for the Union of Reform Judaism." And Rabbi wants me to go to Washington D.C. for the URJ's Consultation on Conscience in April to accept it! Even cooler, is that Kristinn and family live up there, and I'll get to see them. I don't care about getting an award, but this will hopefully give our play "legs" and the possibility of being produced in other venues across the U.S. Now THAT would be very cool!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Big Chill

There was talk on the news yesterday that the "big chill" was finally going to make an appearance. I always have to laugh at the idea of snow here, where we go for years with neither snow nor ice. As a matter of fact, the last time we had real snow in San Antonio was 1985, and the big reason I remember when it was is because Rachel was born in October of 1984, and the snow hit right before her sister, Alana's second birthday in January. We had great fun building a snow "person" in the front yard- Alana had ziplock bags over her shoes to keep her dry.
But I digress...the "big chill" makes people crazy here. The kids get excited because of the possibility they might get a day off from school. They don't sleep because every 10 minutes, they go to the window to check out the snow that is surely falling by now. In the morning, they leap out of bed to check one more time, praying that while they dozed off for that final 10 minutes, a miracle happened and the meteorologist was actually right. The forecast last night was for sleet with a strong possibility of ice by mid-morning. Even the teachers were beginning to imagine a day off by the end of the day yesterday because it was really getting cold outside. I woke up this morning, and I have to admit, I peeked out of the window, halfway hoping to see that blanket of snow. (I always figure if it has to be cold, it could at least snow so that we can play in it!) I couldn't tell from upstairs if there was anything on the ground; I went downstairs and opened the door to see a completely clear sky and no sign of any precipitation of any kind. OH Maaaaaan. How is it that we get fooled over and over again? Then there's the number of accidents that happen when the roads are icy because nobody in this part of Texas knows how to drive in it. We recognize the Northerners by the chains on their car tires, but none of us would know how to get those chains to stay on ours. We secretly laugh at them as we go barreling down the road, pretending we know what we're doing until CRASH, BAM, BOOM, we run into a utility pole and total our cars as that New Yorker rolls by shaking her head. So, in the end, it's probably a good thing we only have snow and ice once every 25 years. We'd just have to make up the school day we miss sometime in June anyway, when the sun is out to stay, and who wants to be stuck inside when the beaches and parks are beckoning? Oh, that is so much better than building snow people and wrecking our cars...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Be the Change

Can you feel the electricity in the air? The hope? I feel so fortunate to be a part of it. What an amazing time! During my conference period today, my phone rang. I usually turn it off when I get to school, but I had forgotten, so I answered it. Kristinn was on the other end, telling me that 3 year old Sofia had something to say. Sofia got on the phone and said, "Hi Bubbe, I am watching President Barack Obama!" I heard 5 year old Gabriel in the background saying, "We're watching the inauguration!" We (teachers) were able to see the swearing in and President Obama's speech before we had to get back to class. In San Antonio yesterday, our MLK March was once again one of the (if not the) largest in the US. It was very moving to see the joy on everyone's faces- to know that a dream few expected to ever happen has come true with this inauguration. People of all ethnicities and religious backgrounds marched arm in arm, and it truly felt like a new dawn is here- a new age of more than just tolerance but acceptance and even (dare I say it?) love. Only a few times in my life have I known I was witnessing a historic event, but today is a day I will never forget. Let's keep the dream alive until we are all truly equal.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today is my mom's 78th birthday. She's a pretty amazing woman, I must say. Soon after she married my father back in the early 50's, she found herself far away from her NJ home-overseas, in France, due to Dad's Air Force career. She raised two daughters and two sons, while Dad worked, often leaving his family for weeks or months at a time on TDY (Temporary Duty) assignments to places like Turkey and Cameron Bay. We traveled from New Jersey to Louisiana, to Georgia and Germany, back to NJ and on to Texas, and it was Mom who kept it all together. She raised us to be self sufficient with strong work ethics, and though she had not gone to college herself at the time, we all did- and so did she after Dad died. She raised a MSW, a Master Degreed teacher, an RN, and a businessman/owner, eventually earning her own Master's degree in Social Work. Mom began her career at a time when her peers were thinking about retirement and then worked for many years, developing and running the HOPE Program for widows and widowers in and around Camden County, NJ. She's retired now, but keeps up her busy lifestyle visiting her children in Alaska, Texas, and Wyoming and helping care for her grandchildren in NJ. Her friends know she's there for them and so do all of us. Happy birthday, Mom. May this be the best year yet! I love you.

Monday, January 5, 2009

My son has a girlfriend...

My youngest son has his first "real" girlfriend. They're both 14, and with as many times as I've been through this, you'd think I'd be used to it AND have all the answers, right? Not exactly...it's sort of like giving birth- you forget about the pain as soon as it's over. Don't get me wrong- his girlfriend is a sweet girl, and so far things are going smoothly. BUT being the mom that I am, how can I not worry about the first big fight or OMG, her breaking his heart? For Hanukkah, she framed two pictures she painted and gave them to him- very nice. He burned her some CD's with "their" music on them for Christmas. He goes over to her house, and she comes over here. They go out to the movies, and she's even gone with him to his traveling bowling league-now that's real love. Bowling alleys are still some of the most interesting and often bizarre places you'll ever go. Last week, we had to stop at Crispy Creme because my son overheard his girl say she had a craving (NO, not that kind!) for a doughnut. He bought a dozen and went to her house. Sunday, he decided he should bring breakfast tacos for her family. Really, what 14 year old thinks of doing things like that? When I dropped him off, a little boy (her brother) ran out and wrapped his arms around E's legs- and E. didn't kick him off- I actually saw him SMILE. Her parents LOVE him and were even thinking about having him spend the night on New Years. We said no to that, and it ended up not working out anyway, so all was good. Of course, first we had to listen to him talk to us about trust...interesting conversation I must say. This whole thing has brought back somewhat vague (ha) memories of my first "true love." His name was Bobby - and we were 14, too. Bobby never brought me doughnuts or tacos- he just wanted to make out. I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised when after 3 months, I caught him making out with my supposed best friend. He broke my heart- that kind of pain you don't forget- even when you're a 53 year old grandmother- that kind of pain you want to protect your kids from but know you can't. You also know that somehow they'll survive and probably live to break a few hearts of their own, but it doesn't make it any less painful for them or their moms when it happens.
What about y'all - what memories do you have of first love, and what did you learn from it?