(This essay was adapted from a journal entry.)

Yesterday, I began the overwhelming task of packing my belongings to return home from Seville. I sifted through clothes, shoes, purses, kitchen supplies, photos, books, and some really random memorabilia.

Mixed in with the chaos that was my life abroad, I found the two New York City shot glasses carefully wrapped in newspaper. The cheesy American souvenirs were intended as gifts for friends of friends in Seville.

I don’t know why they never took the shot glasses, but they remained on a table in our apartment for the entire year. Maybe it was bad luck to accept such a gift. Perhaps they were waiting for us to offer a shot of whiskey, which we never did.

The shot glasses display the skyline of New York – the skyline of my youth, the skyline prior to the terrorist attack. I held New York City gingerly in my hands, and cried. I wept for the thousands of lives lost, others still missing, for the disaster occurring in my country, and for my guilt of being so far away.

It was all a blur, yet all so vivid. Everything changed that day. I knew it was time to go home. But now, I had two homes, two languages, two cultures, and two me-s.

Foucault and Nietzsche argue that our sense of reality is defined and structured by language. If this is true, then I regret understanding another language. Now the pain, the dolor is doubled because I feel it in English and Spanish.

I carefully packed the shot glasses. I know I’ll cry again when I unwrap them.

I’ll cry in English.
And I’ll cry again in Spanish.

(I’m submitting this post for the Yeah Write Challenge. It happens to be “family free” month. Thus – this badge that seems a little inappropriate with such a somber post.)

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I recently brought my winter boots to the shoe shop in my neighborhood. They wouldn’t clean them for me, but suggested I purchase a suede cleaner. I turned the bottle over to read the fine print. Every material but suede seemed to be listed. I questioned the owner. He looked at me with pity, turned the bottle over and pointed to the label:

SUEDE CLEANER.

In my defense, I had little sleep the night before, and hadn’t had coffee yet. Regardless, I felt stupid, and I hate that feeling.

This isn’t the first time I’ve run into trouble there.

Several years ago I was on my way to pick up a pair of boots that I had resoled. On the way, I ran into Jon, the Turkish hairdresser, who was on his way to the coffee shop for our English lesson. I explained that I was running an errand, and would meet him shortly.

He volunteered to come with me, and before I could say no, he was accompanying me into the store.

The man behind the counter handed me a bag with my black boots. I gave him my credit card, and he explained that (for reasons I don’t recall) they would not accept it.

I didn’t have the cash, and was a little put-off by this.  It really wasn’t a big deal.  But, I had a long day at work, I was tired, and frankly; I really wanted my boots back. I’m not a shoe girl, so I tend to wear the same couple pairs all the time. Plus, I really wasn’t so keen having my student with me.

Jon could see that I was frustrated. He reached into his pocket pulling out a wad of bills, his hands stained with hair dye from the day’s work.

He said, “I’m going to pay you later anyway, no?”

This as he held up my boots, and nodded with approval.

I felt myself blushing, imagining how this whole scenario looked. This older “foreign” man paying for my boots since he was going to “pay me later anyway.” I thought of that scene in Pretty Woman when the concierge refers to Julia Roberts as Richard Gere’s “neice.” I’m more Punky Brewster than Julia Roberts. But still.

I’m his English teacher, I wanted to explain. But, it wasn’t worth the effort.

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I’m over at Scary Mommy today with guest post about thank you cards, motherhood, and out-spoken distant relatives. Come check it out!

Gift Giving 101

A special thank you to Jill (a.k.a Scary Mommy). Jill writes about parenthood with humor and style. She’s also confident and kind enough to encourage new bloggers like me to submit guest posts. And, she admits to cursing at her children.

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Alzheimer’s has hit my family. First Grandmom, then my Great Uncle.

If you’ve spent any time in a nursing home, it’s easy to understand why so many people believe that the patients are like babies. Recently though, I’ve had somewhat of epiphany.

Maybe what I see my grandmother doing, deep in the throws of Alzheimer’s, isn’t necessarily acting like a baby, but rather treating everyone else like a baby. The sweet singing, the need to kiss everyone on the head, the clapping, the way she holds her hands up as if on a roller coaster and says, “hooray!”

I like to think that this is where her mind is stuck now – in her happiest memories. When she was young and wore stockings with seams, when her husband was still alive, when she took care of her babies, when there were so many cousins running around.

And the men, the way they flirt and make inappropriate comments to the nurses, perhaps they are living in their best times. Back when they wore a military uniform, and got away with the overt flirting.

It helps make it less frustrating, less sad, to think of it this way.

(Click here to participate in the Alzheimer’s Association Virtual CandleLight Rally.)

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I received an email from the woman who runs my farm delivery explaining that she would be relocating to Atlanta, and alas, would no longer continue her farm delivery business here.

Truth be told, although I loved receiving the fresh local produce, I was actually relieved. I had been toying with the idea of canceling it anyway. But, as with so many of my decisions, I had some doubts.

After all, I stuck it out through the cold months – the weeks of kale and other various mysterious greens, potatoes, turnips. Pretty boring stuff. Soon, the spring bounty would arrive, making the wait worthwhile.

Plus, Michelle seemed so nice, with her lovely Australian accent, and the quirky newsletters with fantastic titles like:

Beauty and the Beets!

Lett-uce Talk about Lettuce!

Lucky Garlic?

I imagined her to be a bit of a struggling entrepreneur, trying to bring convenience and farm produce to the “city” folk. I would have felt a little bad canceling, so I was glad when Michelle made the decision for me.

If only all of our decisions and relationships were so tidy. No awkward conversations, no one gets hurt, no regrets.

A few years ago, during a difficult time at work, a wonderful friend suggested, “Let’s put this in a box, and put the box up on a shelf for later.”

She had listened as I revisited each conversation, each decision. It wasn’t just that we had students to teach, or that she was probably growing tired of my over-analyzing, but more importantly; she knew that the ruminating was dangerous.

It’s true. Obsessing over things, running circles in your mind, will never bring happiness or peace. I realize this now, but maybe not so much back then.

Still, I loved the concept of putting my issues away and taking the box down later to analyze. By the time I was free to focus on the problem, it usually didn’t seem like such a big deal. That’s the point, of course.

I’ve used this method a lot over the years, but always have a difficult time visualizing what my boxes would look like. Now I see them perfectly – vintage wooden farm boxes.

This essay has been submitted to the YEAH WRITE #70 SUMMER CHALLENGE. Check out their awesome website, YeahWrite. Contests, essays, humor. It’s fantastic.


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When friends talk about community service, I find myself saying, “I used to volunteer a lot before I became a teacher.”

What does this say about my profession? On the positive side, we feel fulfilled in our daily contribution to the community.  On the negative side, we don’t earn enough money, so we feel as though we are essentially volunteering at our job (and are a little bitter about it); or we have second jobs that fill our free time.

Teaching is hard. I’m not sure how it was once seen as a lazy career. Perhaps because it used to be mostly women, and the men assumed it was easy work.

Nobody becomes a teacher today because they think it’s easy.  Educators need to be innovative, and able to collaborate with others. More emphasis on test scores means more meetings, more expectations, more pressure. Most of us hold Masters degrees and continue our education through coursework, workshops, and professional publications. We are just as capable as the engineer, the CEO, the lawyer. So why should teaching be treated as a lesser profession?

True, the workday is shorter than many jobs, but the day is not over when students leave. We stay late for meetings, special programs, and our own lesson planning. We eat lunch while mentoring or tutoring students. We bring our work home – not just the planning and grading, but also the emotional baggage. We carry with us the burdens of our students, who come to class hungry, who are in danger of losing their homes, who are left to care for younger siblings. It is for them that we continue our daily “community service.”

Given current events, the budget issues states are dealing with, and the negative publicity of teacher’s unions, we might not receive our pay increases any time soon, but a little respect would be sufficient for now.

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January, 2011


When my husband and I were dating, he invited me to a Super Bowl party. I was very enthusiastic about going with him. After all, I do enjoy the snacks, the beer, and the commercials.  It wasn’t until the following football season that I was busted. While complaining about watching another football game, David looked at me, and said, “Do you even understand the game?” I think I surprised him with my candid reply. “No, I have no idea what is going on.” So, he tried to explain it to me.

I was able to pick up some of the rules, and at least understand that there is more to the game than really big men, a ball, and a huddle.  But, it’s still a struggle for me to follow. And all of that commentary and background noise on the television distracts me from my other Sunday afternoon sitting-on-the-sofa-tasks like reading a magazine, solving a sudoku puzzle, or daydreaming. It’s a little bit like math for me. At some point, the rules confuse me, so I either make up my own, or pretend to understand. Then, I can get back to more important things like solving world hunger (or daydreaming).

Despite my lack of interest and inability to focus on the game, I have actually enjoyed the two live games I have been to.  Perhaps this is because David is such a huge fan, and his excitement is contagious. Or, maybe it’s the atmosphere of the stadium – the get pumped up music playing as you walk in, the smell of popcorn and hotdogs, the common bond among strangers cheering for the same team.

It’s difficult not to get excited at the stadium – so many fans, such lively enthusiasm. I can see the players on the field in all of their bulky and overweight glory. But, more importantly, I can see the sidelines. I can watch them warming up, taking a drink, or talking to a teammate. I like to watch the kicker practicing. I wonder if he wishes he made it as a big time soccer player instead. Some of the players warm up on stationary bicycles. Does the opposing team travel with stationary bikes also, or does the stadium provide them? I can’t imagine all of the work that goes into preparing for these games.

I look at the size of these men, and wonder what they eat for breakfast. Do they even eat before a big game? Maybe some of them, like me, have a nervous stomach. I picture them sitting in a hotel, eating runny eggs. I wonder if someone has an earthy girlfriend who packed homemade energy bars. Probably not.

And on and on it goes – my mind wandering and churning with dozens of questions not at all relevant to the score of the game. It’s no wonder I don’t know whose down it is, or how many yards are needed for our team to score or get control of the ball again.

But, soon enough, it’s time for my favorite part of the game – the kick off.  I love how graceful and choreographed the players look as they run across the field. A peaceful moment in an otherwise aggressive game. I find my focus and stare exactly where I’m supposed to – at the players on the field.  I watch the game. It is my moment of football Zen.

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You DARE to release yourself from procrastination and perfectionism and write anyway.” SARK

After much procrastination, and a strong inspirational push from my brother, I am taking the plunge to begin my Writing Life. Finding the time and energy for creativity is always a challenge. Learning to stifle insecurities is even harder.

I can think of a hundred reasons why I should not start a blog. The top five: I don’t have a niche to write about.  I don’t have the time to write. I’m too tired.  I have to do the laundry. I have to do the laundry.  (Those with babies understand why this is listed twice). Oh, and then there’s my eight-month-old son and his needs. Yes, I realize this should be first on the list.

Of course, the deeper issue is that my work will be judged, or worse yet, ignored. But, in the words of the great Hillel the Elder, “If not now, when?” So today, I launch my first blog post.

Check back here for essays and musings on ordinary and extraordinary things that inspire me to put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard). In the meantime, I challenge you to take a creative plunge.

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