Writing 101: Happy (Insert Special Occassion) ???

I thought about which special occasion I would talk about for today’s challenge, and I had trouble choosing one that would help me express my own voice. I come from a large, expressive family in a very traditional Hispanic Catholic sense. Our lives were a duality of experiences, and it seems like everyone has “story-telling” in the blood. I needed to chose one that came from me, my memories, and not heard from others so often it became my own.

I ended up choosing Thanksgiving, a time of food and laughter. Even harsh feelings don’t stand a chance in the face of succulent turkey and buttery homemade mash potatoes. Couple that with my mother’s song voice, and it becomes…bliss. Pure bliss.

Thanksgiving has been my personal favorite holiday for a long time, but no memory stands out so much as the first one I began to connect more with my family. As a child I was too wrapped up in my own world of books and writing, I didn’t really know my cousins and family that would come over. I was polite and courteous as my mommy taught me. I said hello and hugged family I hadn’t seen in some time, but I quickly turned back to my room or a quiet spot to bury myself in myself. I wanted to have peace, and tranquility; being the youngest of six with more than twenty cousins, aunts, uncles, and all of our padrinos and madrinas and compadres and comadres…I was drowning in a sea of faces. Yet Thanksgiving was a time of grace, thanks, and family conversation without the pressure of presents and being good.

When I began to break out of my bubble, I began to enjoy the time of crowds and loud conversations. My cousins were hilarious, and we all had a unique view on our parents. My nieces, Brenda in particular, were my babies in that sense. They were the ones who showed me the most, the fun of being a child. I had always felt like a mini-adult (albeit shy beyond compare).

Playing in and out of the house, flitting through various conversations as I travelled through the yard, patio, and common areas. The living room was by favorite. You could catch snippets of laughter, advice, complaints, and a variety of stories from both present and past.

The food was beautiful, and my mother carried that tray of turkey to the table with grace and a welcoming smile. We would all gather at my mother’s command, and make the most odd looking, wobbled “circle” as we held hands and said grace. Hearing my mom’s melodic voice praying el padre nuestro and santa maria followed by words of thanks is soothing, and my loud, rowdy family would calmly listen and pray along.

After the eating was done, and the coffee was brewing or the beers were being passed amongst the adults, my Tio Jose would start a song. Tio Jiame and Tio Juan would pick up the tune and my momma would join the fun. The accordion would come out, the guitar, sometimes even a mic or two. Last, but definitely not least, cousins were pulled out to dance and sing or laugh along. It was always my favorite.

Time has passed, cousins have married and moved away. Some aunts have passed away, and now its pretty much just us. Now, by no means are we a small group. We have merely replaced some of the components of our past Thanksgivings with new events. We still have prayers and our lopsided circle of held hands.

Me and my siblings (with their children, and grand children) now compose a group of more than thirty with our parents at the crown being not only grandparents, but also great-grandparents. I still get to see my Tio Jose with the microphone or accordion at most family gatherings, and now my children get to sing alongside me and my mother. My sisters and brothers, their kids and more, all under my mother and father’s roof. A house that was never a house. My parents’ house is and always will be a home. All of this love has surrounded me in the best and worst of memories, because my family for all its faults is supportive. Thanksgiving brings us together in a way that feels more sincere and genuine; it lingers in my heart and makes me smile for weeks and months after.

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I can’t wait. I anticipate it, as if clinging to the edge of a cliff on Mount Everest. I know the fall will be glorious and long-lasting.

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Writing 101: Point of View: Perspective

In a library…

She sits behind her desk and waits for the student to ask her about her friends on the shelf. She cleans, stacks papers, fixes the stapler, and sharpens the pencils. Meanwhile, all those young minds rot staring at one digital screen or another. Free wifi has become the bane of her existence.

From up top, it glances at her best friend fidgeting at her desk. It can feel the restlessness radiating from her anxious hands, and shuttering gaze. It is a book, only one of so many that is almost falling into the stage of deep slumber that so many of her neighbors have succumbed to. Book’s spine is stiff and brittle, while book’s pages hunger for a touch on the corner, as the reader turns to another scene, another twist in the plot.

“Excuse me,” the whisper leaves her thoughts before she can reign it in. Clearing her unused voice, she tries again, “Excuse me.”

The librarian, startled out of her reverie, raises her eyes and smiles at this tiny, shy child. “Pardon me, was there anything I could help you with?”

The smooth melody of it’s friend woke it up, and energy tingled through. Could someone be searching for me?? Please, let me be what she requests, I pray to have a hand reach up. I can be a good friend…

“Yes, I was looking for a treasure,” at this comment shy would not be the word to describe Lily. No, the sparkle in her eyes came alive, already awakening because of the hunger for another adventure. “Yes, ma’am I would like a recommendation, please.”

“Of course, of course,” Mrs. Diaz tucked her hair behind her ear, “I have just the thing. Unless you’re worried it might be too much for you?”

“Never, books can only lead to another adventure, another exploration,” Lily whispered as if she were holding the key to a state secret. No one would call her dramatic, but her whispers carried more weight than all the chaos of her fellow pre-teens taking up the space at the outlets and computers.

Book stood at attention, trying to look intriguing. Book wanted to be picked up once more. Would Lily pick me? Mrs. Diaz, please help Lily pick me.

Mrs. Diaz smiled, like a kid with a plate full of chocolate cake, with Lily and led her to her favorite spot. Book perked up as the heels clicked closer and closer, before it knew what was happening a tickle went up it’s spine. Mrs. Diaz smiled and handed it over title facing down, and when Lily turned it over, there was a collective silent gasp.

Lily left with a new friend, and Mrs. Diaz was happy that there was still hope for the kids around her who seemed pale by the glow of the electronics.

Writing 101: Death to Adverbs: Sept 23: Blood on the page

(Okay, this day required a death to all adverbs, I have to admit they are my weakness. Instead of writing a new piece and going somewhere to observe strangers, I decided to attack an old piece and edit. Hope you like how it came out, I think I need to develop the story further for this protagonist.)

Flipping her bangs to cover her face, she rushed to her favorite spot at the back of the classroom by the window. Banging her backpack onto the chair in front of her, so no one would sit nearby. This girl loved her solitude, and being buried in her cyber world was more than a past time, it was a necessity.

Head down, eyes half-shut, she opened up her bag and retrieved her pen and spiral notebook. She didn’t make the mistake of leaving her spiral behind anywhere. Oh sure, she bore a spiral with her name on it like anyone else in class, but that was the decoy. That was kept up to date merely to amuse her teacher and maintain her common passing average.

With the strength that whispered in her soul, she clicked the pen and began to make the page bleed. Her drawings, her poems, her secrets spilled out of her onto the page. This spiral was no forgery, it was her, she was the paper and ink. Although more tattered and worn, it was more valuable to her than any diamond ring or stolen kiss.

On the page no one judged her, no one scorned her, no one made her cry. If she shed a torment of tears, she did so in the privacy of her spiral. No lock was needed on this treasure, because no one knew its worth.

Cindy glanced at the boy at the head of the row, and smirked. He was an ass, but adorable nonetheless. Good thing he was transferring to another school, their paths would never cross again. She would not be a “star-crossed” lover in a melodramatic play. She would be W-O-M-A-N. No longer the shy, overlooked child with a hesitant smile and blushing face.

This year is her year. She wrote, and never looked up as he stared at her one last time.

Serious Loss: Part 2 of 3

A loss of innocent seems inevitable in the harsh reality of the dirt we live on. I still mourn for my youthful naiveté.

A heart once torn will heal, and the scar tissue becomes a protective seal.

A second lasting loss in my life, in any young girl’s life, happened in 6th grade. I met and lost the love of my pre-teen life. I met RC, his smile endeared me. He would take second and third glances at me in math class. He became the soul reason for me to try in that horrid subject.

No one ever took a second glance at little mousy me. My timid nature did not draw the spotlight, and my hesitancy to meet another’s eyes put people off. Not RC, he smiled with a dimple and tried to help me with those problems that have numbers and letters. He even coaxed a few smiles from my blushing face. 

I never spoke about my crush, and I was not even a novice in the game of flirting. A blonde,  blue eyed vixen was added to the xlass, and I lost him. I lost him before I had a chance to hold his hand or get my first kiss. I lost my perfect first kiss, and another layer of innocence was pealed off.

What was worse, she was genuinely kind and sweet. I learned to channel, quietly inside, my emerald gaze of jealousy. And although I moved onward and forward, I always regretted not expressing myself better or being more direct. A teenage crush, a big loss in a girl’s life.

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Writing 101: Sept. 22 GIVE AND TAKE

Frenemies, a relationship of give and take.

Hope and Despair can be more than opposing forces, they can at time be the best of friends. How can one have Hope in hand if they’ve never felt the nature of Despair?

Hope walked in with a swagger to her hips, smiling like a chesire cat, she said, “Well, well, well, I knew I’d find you here Desi.”

Despair’s shoulders sagged under that smile, whispering to herself, “Just my luck…the luminescent whore…”, then louder she said, “Of course old friend, I go and you walk in. It’s a tag team effort” sarcasm was an old threadbare comfort on her whipped back. The tattoos on her skin itched when she was faced with Hope’s beauty.

“I remember the Depression was a booming time for your little tricks, but now I’m here to raise the people once again,” Hope spoke with an iridescent bubble of happiness in her voice, ready with a hug for her best friend.

“Oh yes,” sarcastically Despair responded, “I get nothing but showers of tears and heartache so melancholic, that I burp them back up for weeks. You are smothered in ecstatic cheers and solemn vows to endure me and cherish you.” Dodging this woman’s touchy-feely crap was a 24hour job, ugh!

Hiccupping her tears away, Despair gathered her purse and paid for her drink. She slipped on her shoes and stumbled out the darkened bar room, not forgetting to toss a “Farewell Bitch” in Hope’s direction.

Hope, sighing with acceptance, began to turn on the lights and throw open the windows, with determination she uttered, “Today is a new day, and that kind of language is not to be repeated.”

Hope began to transform the dark, dense mood into one of light and tenacity. Singing and humming she began her tune, “Rain, rain go away. Come again another day. Rain, rain stay away, Desi says goodbye!” Laughing in the evanescent gloom, Hope continued to wash away the cobwebs from the shelves and the pictures of Joy, Love, Chance, and Serendipity.

Day 7: Writing 101: A Character Building Experience: Sept. 21

This person was the person who helped me with being an introvert in the midst of a middle school mine field. Mrs. Rodriguez had a mega-watt smile and piled up bleached out blonde hair. Her cherry red lips would often express an entire range of emotions within one class period, and watching her read poetry was like viewing the ever-changing tide of the ocean.

Her spindly hands were always shifting the breeze that came in through the window, as she gestured the events in the story or her outrage at a character that did the unexpected or dishonorable action. The one thing that stands out more than fifteen years after she graced my timid mind with her presence, is the way she sneezed. My God, this woman sounded like a mac truck driver that slammed the door on her adenoids. AAAHHH-CHOOOOOO with a slight whistle at the end, she would fix her hair and wait for one of us to say “bless you”. Her long graceful index finger would push up her tortoise shell glasses up her thin nose bridge, and she would smirk silently with those scarlet lips, and wait.

Allergy season was a jumble of nerves for all the little seventh graders who took English class with her. Her kind nature and expressive demeanor endeared her to me. It helped that she was the epitome of English Teacher fashion at that time, pencil skirt and blouses in silk with cravats.

She would walk with grace between our rows of desks as she checked our work, and the soft click-click of her low sensible heels on the wood floor soothed me. Her entire classroom soothed me, and thus began my love of literature. I was not the student who clicked with the loud coaches, ex-cheerleader style women, fashion divas, or strict dictators of science or math. I waited with unshed tears, from the atmospheres of those other scary subjects and teachers, and smiled instantly when I walked in and she sneezed at the chalk dust.

Mrs. Rodriguez helped me build my own self-worth and character. I blossomed in English and became more social, I even joined the UIL event she sponsored, Literary Criticism.

Day 5 (Sept 19) BE BRIEF

“I stumble upon a random letter…”

Cleaning up after the war has ended, means going through the things of those who passed. It’s not a fun job, but it hurts all the more when you come across something like an unfinished letter. Was Marie (the woman who wrote it) going to express her joy? Her pain? Her goodbye?

All it reads at this point is,

“Dear Andrew,

I write this with my heart truly bursting…”

Closing up her writing desk, and packing up her home hurts when I don’t know if she was to marry Andrew or if Andrew knew she was writing him a letter. I hope her parents in Texas can help this letter, this note, find it’s way to Andrew…if he wasn’t another fatality in the war.

Day 4: SERIOUS LOSS

I am blessed to say, I haven’t had much loss in my life that didn’t teach me something. My heart grieved, but grew stronger in the process. I’ve had this approach to life longer than I can remember, loss is a part of life. Hatred should not be.

I regret my loss of innocent bliss. I had this image in my mind that my family was perfect, and that everyone’s home life was perfect. We weren’t rich, or without drama, but the love felt overshadowed those defects. As I grew older I saw my friends struggle with the idea of parents getting divorced, drinking, suicide, drug abuse, and self-hatred. I couldn’t seem to conceive the concept of a parent NOT being the support system for their child.

When faced with the hatred in their eyes, residue of the latest bull fight with their mom/dad/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, I would physically cringe. How could I help? Would they want my help? Do they need my help? Is my help enough? My mind still has trouble coming to terms with those out there who hate so deeply it mars their soul.

How could anyone hate a child? a parent? It broke my heart to discover the truth of the world at large, but although I have loss that innocence I have not lost my faith. Faith in humanity, faith in the survivalist spirit, faith in myself and others. Death is not the worst thing that could happen to a life, hatred is. Death can take you away from the mental, physical, emotional pain that one endures; but, hatred lingers and can breed more hatred and discontent.

Day 3: Writing 101: COMMIT TO A WRITING PRACTICE

For day three I have to write about three songs that are embedded in my soul, and commit to a writing practice. So let me set my alarm on my cell. I am new at this, and I don’t want to over extend myself as a mother, teacher, publisher, editor, and writer (along with being a daughter, sister, friend, and wife), so I will commit to 15 minutes a day at night when the house has gone to sleep. I’ll type as I hear the dryer going and the washer finishing.

SONG ONE: “Lithium” by Evanescence

This song reaches down into the depths of my most darkest moments, when I felt my life was falling apart. It takes me back to where I was at the beginning of my marriage, in the middle of possibly losing my college scholarship, and becoming a mother. I was lost and adrift in so many ways, and I found my anchor in life. I almost caved in to numbness, and I thank God every day I didn’t.

SONG TWO: “This Little Bird” sung by Jewel and her mother

The lyrics tug at my heart and the duet of mother and daughter pulls me into the moments in which I have sung with my mom. She is the one who taught me to have a voice, and not let my shyness incapacitate me. She sings like an angel, and every Sunday I looked forward to church in order to sing alongside her.

SONG THREE: “I’m just a Girl” by No Doubt

One of my first favorite songs on my very first CD. No Doubt’s music altered my perspective on what it was to be female, what it is to be strong. More than ten years later and I still have the album (now downloaded) and I belt it out every chance I get as I clean, shower, or exercise.

Day Two: (Sept 16) A ROOM WITH A VIEW…

The whisper of the grass outside my open window calls to me. I want to feel the blades of grass tickling my tiny toes, and peer into the shadows with that mixture of fear and suspense.

My ten year old self loved that bedroom and its adventures. Although often times my body trapped me in places I didn’t wish to be, you might call it being anti-social, my mind could always take me where I wanted to go. I would escape, but I never needed to escape that bedroom. At night, when the house of eight was finally quiet, this little baby girl would tiptoe to that window and suck in the fresh air. There was no pretense, no suspicion, no derision, and definitely no social pressure in that one perfect spot late at night staring into the darkness.

You would think that I would not want to regress into the past, but at ten years old I had no big worries. I had worries that seemed big, because I had nothing to compare them too. My mother, my foundation on which my present womanhood has been molded to copy, always caught me when I fell. And when she was running around with one of the other, older, kids I had my books, which I would stash underneath that bedroom window.

The world seemed huge, but adventurous. Now, sometimes, the world seems huge but oppressive. I would want my old bedroom view, with the breeze lifting my hair, the cicadas lulling me to sleep, and the darkness hugging me tight. That is my “room with a view.”