Thursday, September 26, 2013

"He has no morals"

With a new regular walking route added to my repertoire come more people to meet and greet... and be harassed by. The other day, for whatever reason, I changed up my usual reproach to the "Hey, honey!" and "Ooh Baby!" which fill my ears as I walk with my offspring through the streets of this lovely city. The results were surprising.

A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men. It is the bread of the spirit, it clotheth the words with meaning, it is the fountain of the light of wisdom and understanding.

― Bahá'u'lláh

There it is. Plain as day. Speak sweetly. I definitely struggle with my vicious, malicious mouth and find it extremely difficult to button my trap when I feel provoked. Did I mention that I often feel provoked? So, ColmadoDude, like so many before him, tossed his sleazy line at me the other morning. And while I had a full line-up of sharp, carefully crafted comebacks to take him out at the knees, for whatever beautiful reason, the following gentile words came out:
"Please don't speak to me that way."

I kept walking, in complete shock at my own reaction. How civil and unlike you, Rebecca!
Having dropped off the kids at school, I turned around and headed back, fully expecting ColmadoDude to have a few things to say. Afterall, I'd responded so politely I must have been seen as a weak, easy target, right?
Nothing. Nada. He held his tongue and I moved right past (He has also held his tongue for the last several days since said incident).
Across the street, a toothless, aged man in raggedy clothes approached me, mumbling something. I paused to give him my attention, expecting him to ask for money.

"That guy likes to get fresh with people. He has no morals," Toothless shook his head.

Not ten minutes after congratulating myself on my kindly tongue (which wasn't even particularly kindly), I'm judging people. Is that like one step forward and three steps back?

"Uh-huh," I responded, surprised, "Well, sometimes you just need to tell people its not okay to talk to you that way." I guess, right? Since I've never taken that approach before.

"Yes. Yes, you do," he nodded and ambled past me. Toothless has greeted me joyfully and kindly each morning since. Stand up guy, he is and I'm glad he has now deemed me worthy of conversation.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Not All the Lights Are Out -- by Josh

Your borrowed light greets me
Through tattered shreds of banana leaves,
dancing in the breeze
These rays, which just hours before
Sent us skittering across the street during our walk to taekwondo
Much like our neighbors,
whom we greeted as they settled their plastic chairs into the shade,
opposite their homes, desperate for respite
And here it is, as we bathe in your cool glow on the now glorious rooftop,
Max wondering aloud about the mysteries that lie within and beyond you
Your silver gift shimmering on the coco fronds
Illuminating the Spiderman undies hanging on the line
Creating a sweet moment for father and son

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dang Dengue

Hydration salts remind me of my childhood in southern California. We would often visit my grandparents, who lived in Newport Beach just a few blocks from the Balboa Island Ferry. Grandma June and Cap't lived on the bay in a two-story ocean front beach house. There was a glass bridge to their bedroom, a bathroom with a secret door and--the coolest--a laundry shoot. My brothers and I, however, spent most of our time outside on their small plot of beach. Hours upon hours. And when we weren't on the beach, we were in the water. A weak swimmer (and non-stop talker), the ocean often rushed in my open mouth, just as I now am forced by my loving husband to drink these hydration salts.
My grandma would endlessly reprimand us for leaving wet towels on her wood floors. She'd bend her creaking body to pick them up, slowly, painfully. Now I'm that old woman, with a fierce headache just behind my eyes. My body moans in protest at every movement and however much my mind wants to be checking off to-dos from the list, the rest of me lies in bed, listless.

Apparently Dengue feels like the flu for a day or two: low-grade fever, achiness in your bones. Then there is a break. You think you're on the upswing. Boom. Your fever spikes and you spend a week in the hospital hooked up to an IV to keep you alive. Its a virus, so treating Dengue is more just managing its symptoms--the most dangerous being dehydration. Your platelet levels drop. If and when you suspect that you may have been gifted this lovely virus, get a blood analysis to determine your platelet level. The normal range is between 150-400. When Max was terribly sick two years ago, his platelets were 109.

After two days where I said things to Josh like, "If I'm passed out when you get back, make sure that I'm wearing pants on our way to the clinic," I began to feel better. So I prepared for the worst. Naturally, I walked my kids to their first day of school, then cleaned my house. Seemed like a perfectly good use of time considering I was planning on being in bed, close to death, for at least a week. I washed the last dish in my sink, turned to exhale as I looked at my clean house and it hit. Gross, but good timing, I thought. Dizzy, suddenly hot, cold, and aching all over, I made my way to a horizontal position and called for Josh to bring the thermometer. We had agreed that I'd go to the clinic when my fever came back. Here it was.

An emergency clinic is a 3-block walk from our house. It looks much bigger on the outside. We squeezed inside the emergency room with a screaming kid, an elderly lady with a head injury and several people with unidentifiable (to me) problems leaning against the walls and one another since the three chairs were taken by staff members presumably there to check people in. Blown up pictures of lab equipment hung on the walls. My favorite was the 4x4 foot photograph of blood-filled vials.

Ready to get my blood taken, I looked down. Yup, someone had been there before me.
Freezing with fever and sporting my hair in what I call, "Three-day bed head."
I felt a bit better when we returned home, Tylenol and Gatorade coursing their way through my system. (Side note: one of the acetaminophen brands they sell here is called "Dolfenol." It has a dolphin playing with a soccer ball on the package and the byline is "Healthy as a dolphin". Is it wrong to buy drugs just because they make you laugh?) Josh passed by the clinic an hour later while I stayed in bed, attempting rest.

217. That was my magic platelet number.
"Well," the doc said, "it might be dengue, but it's highly unlikely."
With that, I drank two huge cups of coffee and went about pretending I was never sick. My massive headache went away and my muscles began to feel significantly less ache-y. Dengue? Did I mention that just before I fell ill, I had painted walls for three hours? My final verdict: a dramatic, wholly out of shape caffeine addict who happened to get a fever for a weekend.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Current Gig

Background information: my resume.
I sorted moss, was a carnie*, and worked for a moose selling nachos with the fake cheese poured atop. I mentored middle-school girls and their mood swings. I worked two whole days at Hollywood Video and probably triple that at a burger joint.
I earned a high school diploma.
I taught kindergarten in a village in Honduras. I managed an FDA medical device case study by morning and flipped and rented apartments by afternoon. I taught Mexican immigrant kids to read in Spanish so they'd have a foundation to work from in their regular English classrooms. I designed and sold greeting cards.
I graduated with my bachelor's degree.
I was a "stay-at-home" foster mom Monday through Friday to 6 teenagers who went to four different schools. I administered state reading tests in elementary schools. I kept company, fed and bathed an aging woman. I ran an after school program for middle-schoolers.
I earned my master's degree.
I substitute taught on the first day of school and somehow mysteriously became the teacher in that same room for several years. I sold stuff on Craigslist. A lot. And translated newsletters.
I moved to the Dominican Republic.

*carnie = funfair employee should you be sophisticated and therefore unfamiliar with the term

While I think we can both agree, dear reader, that working for a moose is awesome, my current gig is the best yet. Its easily the worst paying (yes, less than even sorting moss into piles), but I am the absolute happiest. That is saying something, because I never stayed in a job I didn't think was wonderful for at least one reason (please see Hollywood Video job). So I have enjoyed my varied employment. Honestly.

I am not a librarian, but I go to a small, community library every day. I work with kids struggling to read. I fix, paint, sand, rearrange, organize, clean and problem solve. I'm a matchmaker: shy 8 year old, meet Hugo Cabret. Rambunctious boy, this is "Ferocious Reptiles." Teenager, allow me to introduce you to the beauty that is Isabel Allende. I teach parents how to support their kids' reading at home. And I struggle with the fact that to a person, parents end up confiding in me a laundry list of relationship/job/life problems to which I have very little to respond considering I am neither a counselor nor terribly experienced at life.
The learning curve is more of a sheer cliff. I often turn to Josh, "I'm tired," and he nods knowingly. It's the kind of exhaustion that a good night's sleep or caffeine won't fix. But we enjoy it all the same. Slivers of light are breaking through as we experience small successes. We're overcome with gratitude and awe any time we look back on our journey from there to here: from the hundreds of hours logged in late night conversation to individuals the world around who have contributed a few bucks, a few books, and bunches of emotional boosts.
I like to come in early, hours before we open. There is always so much to do. Some snapshots taken during one such morning:

Our youth & adult section.
Announcement board and upper-elementary & middle-school section.
From the front door.
A recent acquisition: enormous world map. It has already sparked many conversations with patrons about the world and it's immensity.
If you need a new gig--even a short term one--consider this one. The internet says Gandhi once wrote, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Come and get lost.