I am her prototype

When I heard the story on the radio about Ray Rice beating the crap out of his wife, Janay Palmer Rice, I listened, even though I felt uncomfortable. When I heard there was a video of it–a video that people were watching–I felt sick to my stomach.

It’s really hard to talk about domestic violence. And it’s really hard for me to listen to other people talking about domestic violence from an outsider’s perspective.

That’s because I’m an insider.

Right now, my fingers are typing what my heart is saying, but my brain is like, “Stop doing that. It’s done. It’s over.”

And it is. Yet it isn’t, since our experiences shape us into who we are today. I have learned from my past and have grown up. There are four stages that women go through which constitute what psychologists call “The Battered Woman Syndrome.” (I’m not talking about the cycle of abuse, which is different.)
1. Denial
2. Guilt
3. Enlightenment
4. Responsibility

Janay Rice is not in the fourth stage. She may never get there. Many women (or men who are abused) never get there. The fourth stage is not called “responsibility” because you take responsibility for the abuse. It’s called “responsibility” because you take responsibility for your life and you choose to no longer live that way. You accept that your partner is not changing and is making the choice everyday to not change. And you decide that is his choice which has an effect on his life–but not yours. You reclaim ownership of yourself–your feelings, your spirit, and your right to happiness. Responsibility looks like courage in the face of someone who wants to overpower you.

I won’t discuss the details of my story, because I believe it is important to share your painful experiences only with those people who have earned the right to hear your story. This blog is public, and I don’t know every single person who is reading it, so some of those people have not yet earned that right.

But what I will tell you is this: people don’t want to believe that horrific things like a wife getting spat on by her husband or almost being strangled or choked to death can happen to people they know. People don’t want to know about such awful things because WHAT THE HELL DO YOU DO WITH THAT KNOWLEDGE? It’s gut-wrenchingly revolting.

And so people end up thinking thoughts that are more pleasing for them like, “He’s such a friendly guy or they seemed like such a loving couple…could that really be true?” or “Maybe he just has an anger management problem and needs counseling” or “Maybe she hit him back and it’s a volatile relationship” or even “What did she do? What did she do that started the whole thing?”

People don’t want to think about how an abuser’s mind works–whether it’s emotional or physical abuse.

The reason why all of this is hard for me to talk about–even with those closest to me–is because it’s a hole in my heart that never goes away. And oh, I am really a happy person. I am one of the happiest people you could meet. So I don’t like being identified as a “victim of domestic violence.” It’s a part of my past. It is an experience I went through, but it doesn’t define WHO I am today.

I wrote this tonight to tell you that odds are you know someone who has experienced abuse. And when you are an outsider and are trying to understand how someone could do such a thing to someone, what I want you to understand is this: it’s not about anger. It has never been about anger. It’s about power and control. It is about another person using subtle or not so subtle tactics to gain control of another human being. And what an abuser takes from his victim is valuable. When another person wants to dominate his partner, he uses threats, jealousy, isolation, and other tactics to break down his partner’s confidence, security, and belief that she deserves to be treated well. He tries to take away her very ability to trust herself and believe that her feelings have value. And that’s why she stays with him and that’s why it feels like her spirit will break into a million pieces if she leaves.

So now, in the words of Maya Angelou, “Now that I know better, I do better.” I’m thankful this Christmas for my life. I’m thankful for my daughter. I’m thankful that we live in a happy, healthy home and that I chose courage over fear. Because I’m her prototype and that’s kind of a big deal.

And I pray for and remember those who haven’t yet left. My heart is heavy for them during this season.

I leave you with a cheesy collage I made right after I was out of my abusive relationship. My favorite phrase on there is “turn out.” Because what I finally realized was that I was waiting for an outcome that wasn’t going to happen. It had already turned out. It was up to me to change my life. ❤️

2014/12/img_1038-0.jpg

In the spirit of the season, tonight’s recipe is “Christmas Morning Rolls” from Aunt Roxanna. So yummy, and I promise this is one thing that will turn out perfectly.

2014/12/img_1040.jpg

2014/12/img_1041.jpg

The Eyes of the Locksmith

I have 25,000 things I need to do before I go to sleep, but before I do them, I have to get this out.

My daughter went to sleep around 6:45 tonight. Right after she was asleep, I put on my pjs, which are basically a tank-top and shorts. I remembered that I needed to get my school bag out of the car, because it had some papers in it that I needed in order to complete an online “professional development bundle” that is due at midnight tonight.

I decided to quickly run out to the car, which is parked in front of my building, and grab my bag. I ran back up to my porch and suddenly realized that MY DOOR IS LOCKED.

I’m freaking locked out of my house.

And everything important–my child, my phone, my purse–is inside.

I immediately ran over to my daughter’s window and started banging on it. I’m banging so hard that I thought I was going to break the window. “It’s your mommy! This is mommy banging hard! I’m locked out! Open the door!”

I was afraid I was going to completely freak her out with my banging, so I kept loudly reassuring her that it was ME banging on the window, by continuing to refer to myself in third person. “It’s Mommy banging! Mommy needs you! Open the door for mommy!”

After twenty minutes of doing this, I started to freeze. None of my nearby neighbors appeared to be at home. And I’m not even wearing a bra. And I’m actually dressed semi-inappropriately. I decided it was time to turn to the help of strangers. I saw a tiny light in a nearby apartment on and knocked on the door.

A young woman came to the door, and I told her what happened. I found out her name was Sarah, and let’s just say she is now my best friend.

Sarah loaned me a coat and gloves, and called the property manager on her phone and left a message, hoping someone would call me back. She got a little flashlight and kept shining it through my daughter’s bedroom window, hoping it would help. We continued with loud banging for another twenty minutes to no avail.

Then I was just like, “Sarah, I think I should just call a pop-a-lock place. Since apparently this new property manager we have is incompetent with returning emergency phone calls.”

We called a locksmith company and they said it would take an hour to get there, and it would cost me $79.99. “Sure, whatever, just come,” I said.

Sarah invited me in to her apartment, but I declined since I didn’t want my daughter to wake up and freak out that I wasn’t there. Although I couldn’t help but think of the irony in the situation. I’ve committed thousands of hours of my life trying to get her to sleep at night, and now the one time I REALLY JUST NEED HER TO WAKE UP, and she won’t.

Sarah offered to sit with me in the cold on my front porch to keep me company. Turns out, Sarah is a really cool person. Like I said, we are now freaking BFFs. We talked about the sucky rental company but also about how much we love Woodruff Place (our neighborhood) and her boyfriend, Steve, who walks his cat on a leash and writes obituaries for the newspaper.

Finally the locksmith arrived. I’m usually good at understanding people with accents, but I seriously could only understand 30% of what he said. Just at the EXACT moment I’m telling him to pick the damn lock, the property manager’s inebriated husband called me back (on Sarah’s phone) and said he would be right over to unlock the door.

I still had to pay the locksmith $35 for just showing up. After the inebriated guy who just came home from a Christmas party showed up to unlock the door, I needed to go in and get my purse to pay the locksmith who had patiently been waiting. I began digging in my purse for my credit card.

He suddenly said in his thick, unidentifiable accent, “Are you okay, madam?”

I looked up at him. His eyes looked concerned.

And suddenly I burst into tears. Not just quiet little tears, but sobbing, awful, loud, snotty cries. “No, I’m not okay. I’m not,” I blubbered.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I’ve been out in the cold, dressed like this… I mean my neighbor gave me a coat, but I was just so worried about my daughter…just so wo-wo-wo-worried,” I stuttered out loud sobs between the words. The locksmith’s dark eyes were just so comforting that for a moment I felt like I had known him for a hundred years.

“But it’s okay. Everything is okay. Your baby…she fine. She ok. You okay, too.”

“Yes, I know,” I said, taking in deep breaths.

As he was leaving my house, I asked him where he was from. “Israel,” he told me. “I have one month here.” Then he proceeded to tell me about how locks in Israel are different than the ones here, but I was too tired and emotionally drained to decipher what he was saying.

As he walked away, I followed him out the door to return Sarah’s coat to her.

“Wait!” he said. “Do you have a key?”

“No, but I’m just walking this coat over, and the door is open-”

“Ma’am. Take your key. The cats–they can…you know..close it. Cats push the door, you know?”

Thank God for the locksmith.

While I don’t think I’ll ever see him again, I will see my new BFF, Sarah. Maybe the whole point of tonight’s adventure was to remind me of the kindness of strangers, the power of a thoughtful question, and presence of people in close proximity who I only see in passing, but are actually really cool.

And just a personal note to my mother, who I know may have been hyperventilating as she read this story: If you’re reading this mom, remember what the locksmith said. Everything is okay. “My baby-she fine. I okay, too.” 😉

I did it!!

This is post number 30, which means I have officially completed the 30 day blogging challenge!

I learned that I enjoy writing everyday. So, I will definitely continue the blog. I also learned that it is really, really hard to write every day. There were some days where my schedule or illness or life events got in the way of the process. During those moments, I contemplated posting something like a photo, just so I could say to myself that I posted that day, but decided that wasn’t really in alignment with the blogging challenge, as the whole point of this was to get me to write. So I just didn’t post on those days. (Sorry about that, creator of 30 day blogging challenge, whoever-you-are.)

I also learned what it felt like to make myself vulnerable. I believe that the only path to creativity is through vulnerability, so I told myself I needed to write about my life–even though it sometimes felt weird to open up like that. There were times I would post something, then power off my iPad and go to sleep. Upon waking, I reread what I wrote and thought, “What was I thinking?” or “Oh, that’s not even close to good writing,” or “Oh crap, there’s another typo.” But the toothpaste was already out of the tube, so to speak. And you can’t put that toothpaste back in.

(However, there’s never been a post that I’ve written that I didn’t go back and edit at some point. I almost always found mistakes I needed to change the next day. That bugged me.)

And here’s the other tricky thing. WordPress has this thing called stats, which are a blessing and a curse. I really tried not to look at my stats. In fact, I don’t think I knew they were there until WordPress sent me a notification to check them.

I’m already a research nerd to begin with. So the fact that WordPress was giving me graphs of how many visitors I had to my blog daily caused me to analyze which pieces of writing were deemed more interesting than others…which is a slippery slope that can slide one into a state of discontent.

I had to hit the pause button on the tapes in my head, and remember the reason I had started this blog in the first place–which was to get myself back into writing. I had to remember that I was writing not for others’ affirmation, but rather as a creative outlet to share with others.

Dita Von Teese once said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody that hates peaches.” (I can’t believe I just quoted Dita Von Teese, but anyways…) Miss Von Teese must be smart because that quote is the gosh darn truth. I’ve learned that lesson from job interviews, dating, and just about any situation where I have put myself ‘out there’ so to speak. I have been myself, but I didn’t win first place–whether it was a job I thought I wanted, or a relationship I thought I wanted, or a grant that I applied for.

So you might as well just be yourself anyways, since there will always be someone who doesn’t like you and it may not even have anything to do with you. He or she just might not like peaches.

And I wanted to find my recipe for peach pie, but I can’t find it, so my recipe for strawberry pie will have to do. I highly recommend making one’s own crust, but if you aren’t about that “make your own crust” life, it’s okay, just buy premade.

STRAWBERRY PIE–from my mom

1 c sugar
1 c water
2 T cornstarch

Cook until thick and then add
3 T strawberry jello

Stir to dissolve and cool.

Stir in
1 quart of strawberries
(washed and quartered)

Chill until set and serve with
whipped cream/Cool Whip

(I always found that 1 quart of berries was
more than would fill a pie crust.)

Sweatbands and Naturalizer Flats

So I’m here at my parents’ house in Kokomo, lying in the same bed I slept in twenty years ago in high school. I keep looking at this God-awful photo of me, propped up against the wall, from twenty years ago.

IMG_0654.JPG
Looks like a Sears catalogue pic. Like I would never naturally pose that way, slinging my Naturalizer flats over my shoulder.

And now that I’m thinking about it–Naturalizer flats for a high school student??? I have cooler shoes now, and I’m 38. Why did I even NEED Naturalizer flats–those are for people who are on their feet all day, and need to dress up. I probably just wore them to church or something.

All this talk about clothing reminds me of something that happened when I was teaching middle school for a year in Lexington, and all the students had a very strict dress code, which were basically school uniforms. I wasn’t very good at enforcing it, though. In fact, when I was hired to teach there, nobody mentioned the dress code to me. On the first day of school, as students were entering the building, I thought to myself, “Wow these kids all look really nice.” My second thought was, “Man, they are dressed a lot alike. Is this the Twilight Zone?” until my teaching partner mentioned there was a dress code.

I don’t even think I actually looked at the dress code policy until nine weeks into the school year. I was too concerned about my lesson plans and adjusting to teaching kids who had hormones and tried passing notes and cried at the drop of the hat. Enforcing the dress code was not at the top of my priority list.

So one day, a couple of my kids were wearing sweatbands on their wrists and around their heads (which apparently was a dress code violation), and the assistant principal walked by my classroom.

“Why are you guys wearing sweatbands? Is Mrs. Polanco working you guys that hard? Are you reading and writing so much that you’re breaking out into a sweat?” she asked them.

“Yes,” said Alejandro.

And for a minute, I was really proud, because I WAS working these kids hard. These were kids who had fallen through the cracks. Alejandro had been retained TWO times, which infuriated me, since he was now 14 and was in classes with 11 year olds. He was in sixth grade and could barely read–and I was determined to change that.

But everyone else seemed more worried about making sure the kids were wearing the “by the book” dress code.

Now don’t get me wrong here… I’m not saying I disagree with dress codes or school uniforms. What I’m saying is that when we get more concerned about making sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, than we are about the quality of instruction our kids are receiving–that’s a problem. And that was how I felt that day. Why aren’t you coming in here to observe ME teaching? I’m the critical factor here. I’m the one who is giving these kids instruction everyday–instruction that can make or break them. Come and watch ME. Give me feedback, because my role is important here.

What’s also important is that you try this recipe I made up. Well I took several recipes and adjusted them to make my own. It’s not a Thanksgiving recipe, so sorry about that, but haven’t you already figured out what you’re making for Thanksgiving anyways?

Sausage, Kale, and Potato Soup

Ingredients:

1 T. Olive oil or whatever oil you use
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, chopped (I used Aidells chicken sausage) … You can remove casings, but I didn’t because I didn’t have time for that crap
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 cups chicken broth or stock
1 pound potatoes, diced and peeled
3 cups kale
1/4 cup half and half

Instructions:
Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes.
Stir in garlic, onion, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir in kale until it begins to wilt, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in half and half until heated through, about 1 minute; season with salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_0648.JPG

Grandpa Sommers

My Grandpa Sommers fell out of a tree and died right before his 98th birthday. Yep, you read that correctly. HE FELL OUT OF A TREE AND DIED AT THE AGE OF 97. (With a chainsaw in hand, might I add.)

This happened in October 2010.

Now I could probably spend a good ten blog entries writing about my Grandpa Sommers, since he was an intriguing soul. He prepared people’s taxes in his home well into his 90s, and was a retired minister and farmer. He got up early and went to bed late. He sang beautifully. He was affectionate–not afraid to hold my hand or give tight hugs. He was soft spoken and only used rotary telephones. He answered the phone, “Sommers’ residence,” instead of saying a boring hello. He loved building things, gardening, and planning and completing projects around the home and outdoors.

He was thoughtful and frugal. He always shopped at Aldi’s and ate from the garden. He told me once that when he took his hand-saw in to get it sharpened at Menards, they were going to charge him 50 cents, and that was too expensive.

“I was expecting a dime,” he said. I tried to explain to him that it is natural for prices to increase over time, but he wasn’t having any of that.

Several years after my Grandma passed away, Grandpa started to date again. He mainly dated one particular woman. However, he broke up with her for a period of time, when she criticized his clothing choice. They were getting ready to leave on a date, and she said, “You’re wearing THAT??!” referring to a flannel shirt he had on.

Grandpa decided he was too old to deal with that kind of crap and broke things off. After awhile, they started dating again, but it was never the same.

Grandpa had standards. He didn’t let people push him around.

He loved life. He loved work. My dad would look out the window on snowy days at 5:00 am and see his father-in-law shoveling.

“Now why is he doing that? He’s making me look bad,” my dad would mutter.

Every fall, Grandpa liked to cut all of the tops of his trees off. He said this made them more beautiful when they would begin to grow again in the spring.

He mentioned to my mom that he was going to cut down the biggest tree in the front yard.

My mom all but begged him not to do it.

So, he instead cut the tree down in his back yard, and didn’t tell her about it.

At some point during the process, he fell. They lifelined him in a helicopter to Indianapolis. They operated on his legs.

He survived the operation, but once he woke up and realized the severity to the injuries in his legs, he let go of life.

Someone at his funeral said, “Clayton died the same way he lived. He died doing something he loved.”

Grandpa’s life wasn’t easy. He lost a son to cancer. He lost a grandson. He lost his father right before he was supposed to go to Depauw University on a full ride scholarship. He ended up not going to college, since his mother asked him to stay with her.

But I never once heard him begin a sentence with “I’m worried about…” or “I’m angry because..” He just didn’t have time for self pity. Grandpa believed everything happened for a reason, and that things were always exactly as they should be.

He knew when to let go. He didn’t hold on to his broken legs, begging for healing.

You see, I want to be this man. I want to leave a legacy behind that has people talking about me for years. I want to get up every morning and do what I love. I want to serve others, yet never allow myself to be pushed around or devalued. I want to know that I am living in a universe filled with intent and purpose. I’m not just a bunch of cells colliding around, bumping into things and letting life happen to me.

I want to care deeply about each day. Because that is the point.

And the next point is that Grandpa loved cornbread. This was Grandma’s recipe:
CORNBREAD

1 c. yellow corn meal
1 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
4 t. baking powder
1 egg
1 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. shortening

Sift dry ingredients into bowl. Add egg, milk and shortening. Beat with mixer until smooth–about 1 minute. Do not over beat. Bake in 8 inch sq. pan at 425 degrees for 20-25 min.

IMG_0605.JPG

Things I will Never Do Solo

When I got divorced, well-intentioned friends and family members told me that I needed to get used to “being alone.”

“You need to go to the movies by yourself,” some of them said.

“Why?” I asked. “I don’t even go to the movies. Like I’m not even a person who does that with friends. I just watch Netflix and stuff.”

“Well, then go out to eat by yourself,” they said.

“Why? Just so I can say I did it? Just because you think I need to?” I thought that was kinda dumb. But maybe I just wasn’t ready to eat alone in a restaurant. Maybe I needed a little more time to face the fact that I no longer had a life partner.  Or maybe I just didn’t like people telling me what to do.

I did it eventually of course, and didn’t necessarily feel weird.  I don’t know how I felt…bored, perhaps, but the experience didn’t feel like a life defining moment or anything.

(Now the first time I went to a wine bar by myself WAS a defining moment, but that’s not what this blog entry is about. And besides, my parents read this.)

So I’m now accustomed to eating alone, going on walks alone, and having other solo adventures. However…there are still some activities that I will NEVER do solo. In no particular order, these include the following:

1. Go miniature golfing.

IMG_0603.JPG

I mean, that’s not fun.

2. Go to a Haunted House or Haunted Manor or whatever those Halloween places are called.

IMG_0604.JPG

That’s just awkward.

3. Go to a county or state fair.

IMG_0605.JPG

(I don’t like that I just used the wording, “that that” in the drawing. But, I don’t have time to fix it at the moment. #30daybloggingchallengeproblemas)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing any of the aforementioned activities solo. In fact, if you enjoy playing miniature golf solo–more power to you! It just wouldn’t be my personal cup of tea. That’s because those experiences are one hundred million times more fun for me when I’m in the company of friends or family. They are all “shared experiences” for me–activities that are much more enjoyable when shared with someone else.

And while I’ve become accustomed to doing many things alone, there are some things I just don’t like doing by myself. Like baking cookies. I think it’s much more fun to bake with my daughter.

I have a very unhealthy recipe for you. Please close your eyes now if you are afraid of Crisco.

This recipe, in fact, was taken from the back of a butter flavored Crisco tub. I have to thank my friend, Karla, for introducing me to it.

IMG_0606-0.PNG

IMG_0609.PNG

Please disregard the “nutritional information” above. Everyone knows cookies are not a nutritious food.

IMG_0608.PNG

Make these. Get the butter flavored Crisco–don’t substitute. Oh, and if you let the dough chill, they are even more scrumptious.

No Heat

I am generally a positive person. I view the glass as half full. I look on the bright side of things. I believe that everything is always working out for me. I believe that I create my own reality. I believe that I always have a choice. I believe that– okay, I’ll stop before I drive us both crazy with all the affirmations. You get the gist that I TRY to be positive.

But today, those affirmative statements weren’t even on my radar. It all started at the dark and early hour of 2:00 am when I woke up to a freezing house. After fiddling around with the thermostat for a bit, I realized our heater wasn’t working. My first thought was, “Oh, this will be an adventure like the pioneer days!” But that thought dissipated in about two seconds when my alarm went off at 5:15 and I thought that I had been teleported to Antarctica.

My daughter was in an unpleasant mood while getting dressed. She was  annoyed about the no-heat situation. She said she couldn’t even get dressed under the covers without icicles growing on her skin.

Next, I was carrying a lot of crap out to the car while wearing heels, and my klutz-like tendencies took over as I slipped and fell on the icy stairs off the deck. My daughter, who was scared from watching me fall, scolded me for wearing heels on ice. I tried to explain to her that they were the only shoes that matched my outfit , but then I stopped myself when I realized how ridiculous that sounded.

I intended to email the rental company about the heater right when I arrived to school. But my work phone was already ringing, there were little people called children who needed my help with learning, and before you know it, I had forgotten that there was a problem with my heater.

Until my prep period around 9:40, when someone mentioned that it was cold in the classroom and I suddenly remembered it was much colder in my home.

So, to make a long story short (oops, too late), I left messages for the rental company. They said they would “try” to fit me in, and would be in touch. I mentioned that I have a young child and that I really need heat. The secretary reassured me she would take care of it in some way, shape, or form.

Well, this evening I pieced together that there were some miscommunications between the secretary, the owner of the company, and the maintenance men involved. The heater hadn’t been fixed by the time I arrived home.

And it still isn’t fixed. But, I borrowed a space heater from someone, and Steve, the heater specialist reassured me that tomorrow he would “take care of the situation.” I’m kind of annoyed with Steve right now, but I’m trying to be nice to him because I want heat.

I don’t know why I told you all of this, except for the fact that I really wanted to write a different blog post tonight. I wanted to write a top ten list of the “things I would never do while alone,” with “play miniature golf” being number one on the list. I wanted to draw a picture of someone playing miniature golf by himself so you could all visualize why no one should ever play miniature golf alone.

But I couldn’t do any of that tonight, because I was thinking about heat. Actually I was thinking about eating apple pie, too, but I was thinking mostly about heat. When I need something, but don’t have it, it’s all I can think about at times. It’s like I have blinders on. When I ran a 5k earlier this year, I told my friends I was afraid I was going to get cold, and that I was going to get thirsty, and that then I was going to have to pee, but wouldn’t be able to find a place to pee, until one of my friends reminded me, “You’re only going to be running for approximately 30 minutes. You WILL be okay.”

And I was like, “oh, that’s right.” The blinders came off with that reality check. I had been so worried about my needs not getting met that I had forgotten the bigger picture.

And the bigger picture now is that we are safe and warm next to our space heater. We have food, shelter, and love. I guess my glass is kinda full.

IMG_0594.JPG

Why I did this

I have to do two blog posts today, since I didn’t write one last night. Like a student who didn’t finish her homework, I feel the need to explain why I didn’t get it done. After work, I did my leg workout at the gym, made dinner for my daughter, worked on a PowerPoint for a presentation today for college students from Ball State, and ended up falling asleep at 7:30. I suppose my body needed to sleep more than it needed to write a blog post.

This is day 20 of the challenge, and now that I’ve written almost 20 posts, I’ve been asked by a few people about why I chose to do a 30 day blogging challenge. The answer my brain has been saying is the following: “Well, I’ve written blogs in the past, but have never publicly shared them. I figured if I started sharing what I write and doing a 30 day challenge, it would hold me accountable and force me to write.”

That answer is true. But when somebody asked me the exact same question yesterday over text (as opposed to face to face), my heart had time to think about it, and my heart told my brain another answer. The answer was, “I don’t know.”

That’s because the reason I started is not necessarily the same reason I’m continuing to do it, day after day. Another way of saying that is that the reason I started it is not the same reason I am finishing it.

I started it to jump start the creative process. I was in a funk–and I’m not talking about a writing funk, I’m talking about a personal funk. During my fall break, I was given the gift of having two weeks off to recharge my batteries. But instead of recharging, I was letting that battery go dead. My battery was so dead that even those close to me who love me were starting to get annoyed that I had allowed my sparkle to go out. Instead of being one of those huge, awesome fireworks that are deemed “illegal” in the state of Indiana, (but that I always light anyways), I had allowed myself to turn into one of those little “snake” fireworks–the ones that you light and they grow into an ugly pile of ash. There’s not even a smidgeon of spark in those ugly-a** snake fireworks.

Perhaps I’m being a little dramatic with my analogies, but you get the picture. And this picture was no Picasso.

I wasn’t particularly worried because I knew this was just a season for me. Just like there are months or years of joy, sometimes there are months or weeks of crap. In the past, when I have felt crappy, I would look outward to get out of the funk. (I’m an extravert, and that’s what we extraverts do.) I would go on a vacation or spend time with friends, or go to the gym. All of those things are still positive things to do when in a funk. But they weren’t working this time in the same way.

“Dang it!” I said to myself. “I’m having fun, but I’m still not having fun!”

And then, like many of the ideas I get, this blogging idea came to me as I was reading about someone doing a 30 day blogging challenge. The idea came and I filed it. And it kept showing up. And then I spoke the idea out loud to someone. And that person affirmed the idea. And then after I had spoken it, then I had to do it, because it was now more than just an idea in my head. It was a goal.

I know I’m kind of talking in circles, but that’s what I do best. And as I’m writing this circular blog post, I realize even more my reason I have continued to do this challenge. And that is because when I write about everything I have experienced, it gives a purpose to those experiences. If I can find meaning in my experiences, then it just feels good. It makes me sparkle again. I’m working on getting my sparkle back up to the illegal firework level. It’s a process, but I think the fact that one of my students told me “I was on fire” today was a good sign.

So I want to thank you for letting me sparkle with you.

And if you want to really sparkle tonight, make this recipe for sparkling jello. My friends and I made it in college because we were poor, yet still loved sparkly things.

Gelatin Sparkle
1 package- 4 serving size jello
1 cup boiling water
1 cup COLD carbonated beverage (Sprite, ginger ale, club soda, etc)
Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add beverage and chill until set- about 4 hours.

Try: Lime jello with ginger ale, cherry jello with cola, strawberry or lime jello with Sprite.

The Bicycle Boys

I’ve had a lot of flat tires in my life. I don’t truthfully know enough about cars to know what that says about me, but I am going to assume that it means
a) I need to learn more about tires, and
b) I buy cheap tires.

Out of all the flat tires I’ve had, the one I got in Chicago late one summer night takes the cake. I had accompanied my then-husband to Chicago one weekend, while he was working on a music project. I was driving my Dodge Intrepid (go ahead and laugh at my choice of vehicle), and was trying to follow the car in front of me that my husband was driving. The car that he was driving was not his own, and there were other people in the car who were giving him rapid-fire directions on how to get downtown.

Turns out, the people who were giving him directions didn’t know where the heck they were going either. So, I was basically following a car with a driver and passengers who didn’t know where they were going, and kept changing their minds by making quick turns.

It was hard to keep up. I rounded a corner hard and busted my right front tire.

I’m sure I probably swore loudly. I was on a dark street. At midnight. Somewhere in Chicago. The car my ex-husband was in sped off, not seeming to notice that I had bitten the dust.

The good news was I had a cell phone. The bad news was that this was during the time period in U.S. history when people didn’t have smart phones. There was no GPS. To make matters worse, my ex-husband wasn’t answering his phone.

I managed to pull off to the side of the road into a small parking lot behind a building. I realized then that my ex-husband’s phone may have been dead.

So I sat in my car and waited, as if I were waiting for some miracle of God to happen. It was summertime, and there were a few people here and there walking around, but I just remember feeling afraid to move. I was in unknown territory late at night and was imagining all the possible crime-oriented scenarios that could possibly happen. After unsuccessfully trying to call my ex a million times, I looked down at my phone and saw it was almost dead, and I didn’t have a car charger.

Oh crap. I guess I better call the other man in my life–my dad.

When my dad answered the phone, he of course was alarmed, given that it was almost 1:00 in the morning. When I heard his voice, tears flooded my eyes, as I was finally feeling some relief in talking to someone who loved me.

He got into practical mode and told me to get out of the car and find the spare tire in the trunk. Pretty much the moment I stepped out of the vehicle, I spotted a group of young, college-aged guys riding bicycles. Unlike other Chicago neighborhoods, this particular neighborhood didn’t strike me as a neighborhood where people biked, so I noticed them immediately.

As I was popping open the trunk, one of them pedaled right up to me. “Need some help?” he asked.

“Yes, yes, yes!” I said. He motioned the other guys on bikes over, and they changed my tire for me, working as a team. When they were done, I started crying again.

They looked at me like I was cuckoo.

“It’s okay, don’t cry. Everything is fixed,” one of the bicycle guys said.

“I know! That’s why I’m crying. I’m just so glad!” I managed to say, while gasping through tears. (I gasp when I cry, and it’s highly unattractive).

One of them gave me an awkward, but well intentioned, stiff hug. They then explained to me that they were actually from the suburbs and had decided to randomly ride their bikes up to Chicago that night.

They wanted to still help. Just as they began discussing options with me in terms of finding my ex-husband, I saw one of my ex’s acquaintances, who was working on the music project, walking down the opposite side of the street. I shouted his name, which was Chiquis. (I know, weird name–probably not his real one).

Chiquis came over and explained to me where my ex and everyone else was. Turns out, they were only two blocks away. I sadly left behind my new group of biking boys to drive with Chiquis to find my husband.

I used the adverb “sadly” because I really didn’t want to leave them. I felt safer with a group of strangers whom I had just met, than I did with my ex-husband in that moment. The reasons for this are complex and cannot fully be explained in a blog entry. However, I will say this: I feel that those guys were sent to me at exactly the right time. Had they come right away, I might not have fully appreciated their act of kindness–because the act of waiting for help had caused me to feel frightened that no one was coming. I had begun to lose hope, but finally had the clarity of thought to call my dad. And just then–the moment I had decided to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get the spare tire out of the car–hope showed up in the form of boys on bicycles.

It’s like everything comes to you at the perfect time. When you least expect it, have begun to let go, but are ready to push forward and do the work. That’s when it–whatever it is–shows up.

And I’m still super thankful for the bicycle boys.

“Yo hablo español.”

When I was 23 years old and living in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I rented an apartment in an older home. The landlord of this apartment was a retiree in his 70’s named Ray.

I had NUMEROUS issues with this apartment, but loved the hardwood floors and tall windows, so I was willing to overlook the poor insulation and the fact that animals like opossums would crawl into the basement and somehow get into my ceilings and then punch holes in the ceiling with their claws. One night, I called Ray to let him know that an opossum had made an appearance again, and asked if he could come over RIGHT AWAY because I COULD SEE THIS OPOSSUM’S CLAWED HAND POKING THROUGH MY CEILING FAN.

Ray was a soft-spoken calm man. “Don’t worry, I’ll be right over with my ladder,” he said.

When he arrived, he began to get to work at patching the ceiling with silver duct tape, which he assured me was not a permanent fix. While he was doing that, my home phone rang, and I answered.

It was my mother-in-law, and my then-husband was not at home. I began to talk to her about how she was doing, when I noticed that Ray abruptly turned around, and almost lost his footing on the ladder.

“What are you doing?? And.. What is that?” he stammered.

I didn’t understand what he was talking about and was worried about his mental sanity.

“What are those words that you’re saying?” he asked.

“Um, those words are Spanish…I’m speaking Spanish. Like I’m speaking another language, Ray.”

“Oh. Wow. That’s wild,” he said.

My ex-husband was from the Dominican Republic and his mother did not speak English, so I was speaking with her in Spanish. I speak Spanish nearly everyday on my job as well, with some of my students and my students’ parents. So it didn’t feel strange or weird to me at all that I was speaking Spanish.

I realized in that moment that bilingualism sometimes shocks people.

And I’m not sure I understand why. Or maybe I do, but I just don’t want to think about the “why” behind it. Most of my students are bilingual. When they speak English, nobody is walking around saying to them, “OH MY GOSH! YOU SPEAK ENGLISH!” So it seems that people are shocked by bilingualism when it’s a non-Hispanic American speaking a foreign language.

This summer I was teaching summer school to general education students. Some of my English Language Learners were there, but most of the students were not dual language students. One of my non-Spanish speaking students forgot to take his Adderall that morning, so his mom brought it into him. I’ll call this student, Josh. I was walking Josh down to see his mom. I introduced myself to his mom as her son’s summer school teacher, but then I saw one of my Spanish speaking parents standing behind her, waiting to talk to me as well. I greeted her in Spanish and told her that I would chat with her about her question when I was done talking with Josh’s mother.

Josh’s mother overheard me speaking in Spanish and said, “Girl, you got some mad skills!” I thanked her for the compliment, but I also realized how unusual it was for her to see a non-Hispanic teacher speaking a foreign language.

It’s even weird for my students.
Last year, my sixth grade students asked me, “Are you white?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Are you Mexican?” they asked.
“No. I just studied Spanish and learned it.”
“But are you Hispanic?”
“No.”
“That’s weird.”

Bilingualism is “weird” in our culture because there are so few native English speakers who have chosen to learn a foreign language OR have been given the opportunity to learn a foreign language. Honestly, I would not be nearly as good of a Spanish speaker if I hadn’t attended Goshen College. At Goshen, going abroad for a semester is required in order to graduate. If you can’t go for whatever reason, then you have to take a semester’s worth of courses in “international education” at home. That’s because Goshen College has valued bilingualism and having a world perspective.

Although I received a great education from Goshen College, this is not an advertisement for Goshen College, and I’m not saying everyone should go there and blah blah blah. What I am saying is that I hope someday, mainly for my students, that it’s not such a weird phenomenon to see a native English speaker speaking a foreign language. And that my students can begin to see their bilingualism/biculturalism as a gift.

I definitely have felt the blessing that comes with being able to communicate with two cultures. I would love for a massive amount of people to experience that blessing as well.