Tag Archives: Lorena

Opening Scene

FADE IN:

EXT. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – DAY

The surrounding hills make Warbler Elementary School seem like a beacon of hope, a place to breathe fresh air and embrace young children.  Its sign glows like an invitation to come learn.

DISSOLVE  TO:

INT. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – ROOM B2 – DAY

Teachers sit in table groups.  The lights are off.  Only the glow of the Powerpoint on the SMART board illuminates their faces.

LORENA, fizzling out instructional coach,  desiring nothing else but a writer’s life, blindly staggers into the room like a drunk.

LORENA

Is this an empty..?

SCHOOL SECRETARY, 47, closes the door behind Lorena, its heavy thud announces Lorena’s arrival and indicates there is no escape.

SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, 52, bitter, struggling to stay above water, doesn’t check emails, drives home and bathes in vodka, only glances at the door.

SCHOOL PRINCIPAL

SST process will help us in finding support for students.  If you go back to the timeline, you can see that the process starts early, not too early, but early, it could be earlier, but it is early enough.  This early detection is going to be great, just great.

5TH GRADE TEACHER, 46, more bitter than the principal, scores every damn piece of paper her students produce.

5TH GRADE TEACHER

Why doesn’t THE distriiiiicct make the SST process start earlier?  This is a disservice to the kids.  By the time they get to me, they are soooooo LOW.

SCHOOL PRINCIPAL

So I said, that the process starts early, yes it could be earlier, but this early is early enough. Go back to the timeline and you see it is early.

KINDER TEACHER, nearing death in age, head full of thick, dry hair, the bitterest of the group.

KINDER TEACHER

This is just toooooo much work.  THE district is asking for too much.  I fill out the forms and then what? I sit and wait! No! No! No! I won’t do that.  Kids need help now!

5TH GRADE TEACHER

What? Did no one hear what I said? By the time THOSE kids get to me, they are so far, far, far below grade level.  They can’t add, they can’t read, and they can’t write!

KINDER TEACHER

That doesn’t just apply to you, that goes for all of us! We have too many kids who can’t do anything!

SCHOOL PRINCIPAL

And the district didn’t send anyone out to talk to us.

ALL, 28 teachers, sitting in a dark room in the late afternoon of a bright, sunny day, dreaming of making die cut pumpkins.

ALL

Hahahahahaha!!! (several snorts)

TO BE CONTINUED…

Life on Vacation

I spent the last few days away from work, an early October break.  Here is how it went:

I confided in a friend that I was secretly going to seek a position with the U.S. Post Office and that way, I could A.) leave my current position B.) focus on my writing life C.) still manage to make the house payment D.) have benefits.  That idea came burning down like a house of straw on fire as she confided in me that her boyfriend had read the works of a famous poet who had once been a part of the USPS.  Apparently he had referred to it as a “life sucking, trauma inducing, soulless place” or something like that.

I rented a car to  drive up two hours north of San Jose and visit my mom.  After all the paperwork, I was ushered upstairs to get the car.  I walked out of the elevator, handed over the papers from downstairs and was told, “you pick. Either the black one or silver one.  Keys are inside. Someone will help you on your way out.  The exit is that way.” Friendly. Real friendly.  I gazed at the two cars and chose the black Ford Fusion.  I got inside, grabbed the keys and…there was no key.  I looked around the steering wheel and saw it: a black button that said Push to Start. I did, the car then told me to step on the brake, I did and all the lights came on.  I didn’t hear an engine, but the blinking light indicated the car was ready.  Great. I tried to turn on the radio.  And could not figure it out.  All those damn buttons and knobs.  I turned up the volume loud, nothing, I adjusted the Tune knob, nothing. This car was too complicated for me.  I finally figured out how get the spaceship into Drive and began exiting the parking garage.  On the way out, I asked the attendant how to get the radio to work.  She didn’t answer me and instead requested to see my driver’s license.  Then just before sending me away, she mumbled, annoyed, “push the power button.”

I went to visit my very sick and elderly uncle with my mom.  It was early in the morning and as we walked into his hospital room, his eyes looked me over. I saw it.  He didn’t know who I was until my mom yelled out, “Look who came to visit you! Lorena!” Even then I am not sure that he fully understood I was the girl that he had teased so often.  I hung back, watching the way my mom cut up his french toast in little pieces and prepared his coffee then fed him.  I wondered if I would ever be able to do the same for my older brother.  I watched my uncle take little sips of coffee from the mug held by my mom. I saw how little he ate.  I decided to have a talk with my older brother just to make sure he was watching his health.

I saw Old Faithful for the first time.  As we walked into the park, Pete,  my mom and I saw the geyser blowing.  Jets of water squirted into the October sky.  Vapor came off it to show that this was HOT water.  We stood watching it for a good two minutes before it just sputtered off and went silent. We fed the smelly goats, lounged in practically all the cabanas, swings and patio chairs there were and read everything in the geology museum. We gazed at the water when it came squirting out and I decided that I had let too much life pass me by.

I took a long afternoon nap on my mother’s couch.  I hadn’t even realized how it had snuck up on me, but it happened.  The TV was talking softly in the background, my older brother was playing with his dog and the air carried that perfect warmth that just murmurs, “close your eyes, close your eyes, close your eyes.” So I did.

I made my own breakfast and then checked the mail.  Only four items in the mailbox.  One I could already see was some invitation to refinance the house.  I sighed and ripped it then tossed it into the recycle bin, refinance THAT.  The next one was an update about my retirement funds.  Woo-hoo, let’s see how that’s going! I couldn’t make sense of the summary.  I tried turning the paper upside down, thinking it would help, but it looked the same.  Anyway, I figured it probably was saying I did not have enough to retire.  On to envelope number three: an offer for a credit line.  I held it for a moment, then tossed it in the recycle bin too.  The last item left was a postcard sized invitation.  A workshop on Saturday from 9 – 11am and I would walk away with: knowledge about how to apply online, job descriptions to make sure this was the place for me, and job opportunities. I clipped it to my fridge magnets, it had to be a sign.  The invitation came from the USPS.

You are a Writer

You are a writer if…

5.) You think the characters you write about are real

You are sadly mistaken. MINE are real.  I eat breakfast with them everyday and they cheer me up when I get home from work. At night, we sip tea together and when I fall asleep with my laptop in bed, they tuck me in.

4.) All you see are stories.  And all the people you meet are like characters from a book or you think about them as potential characters for your stories/books

Hmmmm, this one is tough… Are you telling me that when I sit outside the coffee shop and “people watch” that I am actually looking at them as characters for a story? Or that I am thinking of stories to put these people into?  You mean that I am constantly humming up stories as life passes me by?  Are you actually indicating that I pay attention to the world around me and that I notice all the stuff going on like the way that lady’s hair bobs up and down as she walks or the way that old guy has a funny little limp cuz maybe he had a door slammed on his ankle when he was a child..?  What the hell are you getting at?  This is some freaky shit! No way in hell is my mind as convoluted as THAT!! Oh hell no, you did not just insinuate that my mind is a freak show!! The circus did not come into my town!! (Deep breaths, shake off some shivers, close eyes and rub temples, lots of sighs) But, yes, that does, happen, sometimes, here and there…on occasion, possibly… EVERY DAY, ALL DAY!!

3.) You read more than the average human being

Like how much more?  Can you please quantify that for me?

Like you don’t shower, eat, or get out of bed just cuz you wanna keep reading! You don’t cook, clean, or even leave the damn house so as not to interrupt your reading! You stay in your damn pajamas all day, barely even getting up to use the bathroom and that’s only because nature has really got a hold of you then!! You don’t answer the door, you don’t pick up the phone, you don’t text back, you don’t even click on the TV! You stay up hella late, reading, reading, reading and then you DREAM about it!  You go so far as if to feel like you are LIVING in the damn book! You neglect the world around you, you don’t think about your loved ones…(whimpers)

Mmmm, I see…well, I guess with that kind of description…CHECK!

2.) You have stories inside you

Ha, ha, ha, ha! Nope, you are not getting me on this one! All I have in me right now is my breakfast: one egg, fake bacon, and a slice of whole wheat with peanut butter.  I drank some hot tea, but it warmed up me too much that I started sweatin’, feeling like I was starting to cook from the inside.  I thought the sweat coming out of me was like little tea drops, jasmine flavor because that is what I was drinking.  One of them slid down my forehead, like going down a slide and probably yelled, “Yippeee!” as it cruised off my nose and splashed on to my hands.  Then it waved at me with its little tea drop fingers curling up and down, a big tea smile on its face…Oh…FUCK…

1.) You neglect your hygiene when THE writing has a hold on you

Just so you know, you are really creeping me out right now

Oh, how’s that?

Neglect hygiene? REALLY?

Yes, really

I am a very clean person, you know that.  I can’t go without brushing my teeth

Have you brushed them today?

No, not yet, I just ate, remember?

Uh-huh, so when did you shower?

…I will get to it…today for sure

Did you know it’s almost afternoon and you are still in PJs?

They’re comfortable dammit! You think I wanna be all up in here wearing a suit?  A freakin’ power suit right now?  You gotta be kiddin’ me!!

Sure, so how’s your hair?  When did you last put on makeup? Have you thought about jewelry? Got a bra on? Are you still wearing yesterday’s underwear?

FUUUUUUUCK! How you bug!! Who the hell are you??

Only the voice inside your head

Well, get the fuck out! What the hell are you doing in there?

Just being the other sign that you are a writer

No, I am not! Get outta here! Take all your crap and get outta here!

You really want that?  You know what will happen if I go…

Yeah, I know exactly what will happen! It’ll be QUIET!!!

…Oh I guess it really left.  Wow, this is nice.  Silence. Now I can enjoy my own thoughts… Uh, hello, brain?  Are you there brain? Total silence, weird…Wow, can’t remember the last time it was like this…blank page on the screen…Hmmm, I wonder what I …

Should write about??

AAAHHHHHHH!!! You again!! Dammit, dammit, dammit!!

Accept it, you are a writer.

Born for It

There are people who live and breathe principalship. They wear the position as if they were born for it, which they probably were. I always admire them from afar, wondering if they like waking up early in the morning (which I hear happens around 4am) and then staying late for all those school events.  I always wonder how they keep up the energy to flutter around the school and deal with all the crap that lands on their laps.  How do they  resume a “normal” life after the school day has ended…doesn’t the position just consume them?

Anyway, I compiled a top ten list of why I admire school administrators:

10.) They can sleep at night, even though they know that they are in charge of hundreds of lives

9.) The complaints. From. Everyone. Students. Parents. Guardians. Aunts. Grandpas. Teachers. Teacher Assistants. Staff members. Community. Volunteers. District Office Personnel.

8.) The ongoing investigations of who hit who

7.) Managing the school budget

6.) Hard conversations with teachers (about their instruction)

5.) There’s no Administrator’s How-To Manual

4.) Sub shortage

3.) The real lock down

2.) They have to be great…EVERY DAY

1.) They don’t get a break or a lunch (and if they do, it’s the same stuff the kids ate earlier that day) and they never get to use the bathroom when they need it…

With that said, kudos to all you school admins, I am a big fan of yours and admire your spirit.  Keep at it, because if you don’t, there won’t be people like me to write about it.

It’s Been A While…

I think this is my first post in October.  And the month is practically over.  Today I was gazing at a colleague’s well manicured nails.  I hid mine beneath my books and wondered how she found the time to get her nails done, while I barely took time to eat lunch.

I think one of my other colleagues showed up in a new outfit.  Nice boots, crisp pants and a sweater that revealed it was fall by its orange color.  I wondered why I never seemed to have time to shop.

A coach shared with us that it was “hell week” at her gym.  This meant something about hard workouts and harder diets.  I asked myself why I hadn’t made it to the gym in over a week.

Why is it the tail end of October and I can’t seem to recollect when it ever even started? Pumpkins just sprung out of the ground I guess. The costumes at stores? I thought those were just kids fancy dinner clothes…

Perhaps by the time I come up for air again, we will be well past Thanksgiving and careening towards Christmas.  Suppose I should sit back and enjoy the ride.

My Proclamation

I am fired up! So I am going to write it and not think twice when I hit publish!!!

I have felt the tightening in my stomach during the staff breakfast pot lucks, as I scooted about the school, feeling too new and as if I still had not yet penetrated the walls to be able to join in the merry conversation and sweet treats of a shared breakfast. But I did not let that stop me and I kept my presence in the school, smiling and saying hello to everyone.

I have had teachers tell me that they learned nothing from the time we spent together (five days). Time spent planning lessons, time spent debriefing, time spent observing, time spent reflecting and it had all come to nothing, according to these individuals. But instead of calling it quits and burying my head in the dirt, I woke up the next day, apologized to the teacher and asked if for the following month they could sign up for another coaching cycle so that I could try again to support their work.

I have had days when everything went wrong: I left realia at home and this realia was a crucial piece of my demo lesson. I didn’t bring a spoon so that I could enjoy my yogurt. I didn’t have time to plan my debrief, so I walked empty handed into a lion’s den. I deleted a key email and now I didn’t have a template that I promised to give a teacher. I wore the wrong shoes and my feet squished and compressed, are screaming. I couldn’t find the right handout for the PD session and then went 10 minutes over the time. But instead of seeking employment at an Oreo factory and fulfilling my dream, I stuffed a bag of realia in my trunk along with a pair of kicks, set a pad of large post it notes on my clipboard, and shoved a box of plastic cutlery into my desk drawer. I relived that day and made a decision that I would not let awful days ruin my spirit. That I would decide when my day would be bad and that I would not let it fade my smile.

I refuse to let others tamper with my desire to better education. I will not succumb to petty trifles as forgetting objects or not having enough handouts. My work is much more important than that. I am relentless and this perseverance matters much more than talent or intelligence. Because this ensures that I will not stay down. I will not let anyone or anything keep me from the things that I know are right and good for children. My effort matters more than anything because it is what will make me a better person, a brighter person prepared for anything, and a person to fear because I…will not…stop!

A Lesson from Childhood

Today served as a reminder of something I experienced when I was about ten years old.

My mother caved in to my longing for a cat. And one day soon after my birthday, in the heat of July temperatures that can easily hit 110, we drove to one of her friend’s homes. She led us to the backyard where there was a small storage shed. There, prancing and hopping beneath its cool shade was a group of little kittens. They chased and bit and pawed at each other. Bright eyes looking everywhere. I instantly knew which one I wanted. It was all white except for some spots of different shades of brown mixed with black. I would later learn that this type of cat was called a Calico. I took it home and my mom christened it Polkas.

A year later Polkas got really fat. It looked like she had swallowed a football. Her large, overblown stomach swung from side to side as she walked. I was too scared to touch her during those days, but still spent countless hours watching her lick the overgrown mass.

We were watching TV, cartoons shown in the afternoon, when we heard tiny screeches and little meows. We stared at each other, our open mouths revealing what we each knew was happening. Kittens! Polkas! We rushed to the sounds and found Polkas on my brother’s bed, pinkish blood staining his sheets as a wet kitten emerged. Polkas licked it vigorously and then lay her head down again. We watched. We said nothing. Life was coming into the world in front of us. Finally the last kitten came out, Polkas gave it three exhausted licks and lay down, closing her eyes, surrounded by that wet mass.

One month later, I came home from school and eagerly searched the floor of my room. I found Polkas and what remained of her brood beneath the rocking chair. It seemed that she could not find the best spot for her young family as each day I came home, I would find her in a different place. I examined the kittens from afar and saw the tiny black one laying at Polkas’ feet. It looked very weak. Each of the previous few days I had come home to find a dead kitten. One was dying every day and it looked as if this one might be next. Wanting to help, I gently moved it closer to Polkas’ belly. The tiny thing just raised its head and opened its mouth in an effort to meow, but no sound came out. I lifted its little head, but it did not go near the nipple. I tried to angle his mouth and put his face into the belly, but the kitten would not respond. Desperate, I shoved one of the other fatter kittens away. It meowed in protest and Polkas glared at me, but I didn’t care. This kitten was going to make it and I was going to do whatever it took to keep it alive. I held his head, practically shoving it into the nipple and did not let him go for quite some time. All I wanted was to help. To help keep this little life on Earth. Help. Help. Help.

The next day, as soon as I came home from school, I ran to my room. I found Polkas beneath my bed with three kittens. I slowly stood up and searched the rest of the room. The tiny black body was in a corner of the closet. Lifeless. Cold.

I learned a lot from this life lesson. A lot about life and a lot about me too. The way I coped with this pain was that I didn’t have another pet. Years later, my older brother gave me a kitten, again for my birthday. But, knowing what would eventually come, I let my other brother take care of it and it became his cat. This way I didn’t have to carry as much emotional pain when it got hit by a car and died during the night, alone in his cardboard home. I am not cold or emotionless, but sometimes it is just what has to be done.

Behold! The FIVE Paragraph Essay!

Beware readers that the following was a response written to a piece about the importance of teaching the five paragraph essay to students. This writer could not restrain herself from writing the essay below and hopes that you take it with the amusement that overcame her in writing it.

Have you ever thought about how badly students need structure in their writing? Well, I have and I am going to tell you about it. Students need instruction on how to write an essay and you need to teach them.
First of all, students never have anything to write about because they don’t do anything and they don’t ever think anything either. So you need to tell them what to write about. For example, the students only write about non academic topics such as skateboarding and friends. There is nothing there that is interesting or of higher level thinking, so assign them the topic. Giving assignments like finding the theme or main idea, is more academic. Furthermore, assigning them that topic is really going to help them so that the next time they have to write, that teacher will have to assign them the topic too, proving that students don’t have a brain of their own. This paragraph was all about students never having anything to write about.
Next, when students write, it is all out of order. It is messy and hard to read. As you know, English teachers know all about what makes good writing so if they can’t make sense of it, it is an utter failure. For example, when I write and don’t follow the five paragraph structure, it doesn’t make any sense and no one gets my point because I didn’t put it in the first paragraph. Also, students should not be writing if they don’t know what a paragraph is. I learned about a paragraph in third grade with colors. The colors were green, yellow and pink. If you had a lot of pink, it meant that you had a lot of details. I bet there is a lot of pink in this paragraph. This paragraph was all about students not having writing in the right order.
Last of all, students need to be taught how to write an essay because there is only one way to do it. We live in a five paragraph essay world where everything we read is in five paragraphs, with a catchy introduction and thesis statement in the first paragraph. If I don’t learn how to do this, I won’t be able to apply for college and I won’t do so good. Furthermore, English Learners have to learn this kind of writing and as you know their writing is awful and really hard to read because of all the spelling mistakes. If you teach them how to organize it with this five paragraph model, it will be a little bit better. They might not be thinking of other ways to organize the writing that might be more interesting, but they shouldn’t be thinking anyway. Students need to be taught how to write a five paragraph essay to get to college.
All in all, I love the five paragraph essay, don’t you? Some of you might be thinking that there are other ways to write, but you need to remember, students can’t pick their own topics, their writing is messy and there’s only one way to write an essay. The next time you are assigned an essay, think about the five paragraph model.

Flow

And it was like a dream. It just came out of nowhere, something entirely unexpected, without warning and it felt utterly surreal. We were about 11 writers seated in lime green chairs with black wheels that would help us scoot next to a partner or scuttle across the room. We were nearly done with our open discussion of selected passages from Elbow’s Vernacular Eloquence, when our attention was brought to a section in which “flow” was brought up.

I had read this passage and hadn’t thought much of it as I had struggled to just gather some meaning from the book. Sure, my mind had tried to make sense of it, but I let it go. Now, here we were in our circle discussing this miracle. For some of us, finding yourself in “flow” was scary as it meant avoiding family and neglecting personal care and just being utterly consumed in the writing, in “flow.” For others it meant being with the writing, finding yourself in there. This is when I thought I was having an out of body experience and realizing suddenly that I was not alone.

Yes I had felt “flow.” I feel it whenever I write and yes, it happened to me when I was just toying with an idea while walking. But I never knew this also happened to others, that others experienced this. How was I supposed to know? How would I know that this was what other writers experienced? I had never thought to ask someone. How would I do that?
Me: So, I have a question for you.
Friend: Yeah? What is it?
Me: Ummm, so when you’re writing, do you… uh, do you ever get lost in your writing?
Friend: Lost? What do you mean?
Me: Yeah, like you are in there, like everything around you is forgotten about and you don’t even realize you are you and you feel like you’re with your characters or the words whisk you away…Like you are not you, but rather living in the writing.
Friend: (squinting, lips turned down, eyes looking at me oddly) hmmmm…
Me: Yeah, I don’t know what to call it, but you just get lost in your writing. And it happens even when you are just thinking or coming up with ideas. You could be walking down the street and you’re not there, but rather in the writing.
Friend: (still frowning)
Me: (feeling like an idiot) Ummm, I was just wondering, so let’s get some coffee…

But now, I know that I am not the only one. How comforting to hear that my fellow writers feel this too. That they have experienced flow and that they knew what it was like to live in the writing. It gave me chills, because now I am convinced that I am in the right place after all. That I am indeed a WRITER.

Plugged

I just brought this laptop back to life. I had it shut down for five days and not once did I miss it. But its soft black keys that caress my fingertips do feel comforting, welcoming almost. I wonder if it missed me.
I never thought of it as I ran errands on Friday and packed my stuff to visit mom for the weekend. Then Saturday morning was the drive up to Sonoma County. All was going well until just before Petaluma (famous for cows) where 101 goes from 4 lanes to 2 and your car moves from 70mph to 15. The traffic is not because of the lane reduction, it is all due to the large casino located in Rohnert Park. Admit it, you have seen the commercials and are planning on going any day now. Graton. Casino resort. Gambling. Food. Gambling. Food. Gambling. It is all there. So I sat in traffic for a great 45 minutes, crawling through until getting past that exit for the casino. Laptop was home and well out of mind.
Then upon arriving at moms, the onslaught of attention that only a mom can give began. And I loved it. I loved how I sat at the kitchen table and mom served me a heaping plate of home made goodness. And she never once asked if I could wash the dishes – it was official, mom no longer saw me as her slave, but as her guest. And she brought out a small cheesecake because she knows I love the stuff – oh this was heaven. What laptop?
Sunday was lazing, and eating. Eating at a buffet for brunch – waffles and salad anyone? It was the perfect combination of breakfast food with lunch food – so delicious. I ate about 5 plates and stole a few cookies on the way out. Then just a few hours later, mom ordered pizza. I haven’t eaten pizza in years. But this was a treat so I allowed myself to have two pieces – yummy! Was I missing anything? In the evening we sat outside and stared at the stars. It is a scene that you cannot view from San Jose because of all the light pollution. At moms, you can see many many many stars.
Monday – the 4th. Big brother made a spicy breakfast of sausage, ham, eggs, and strong coffee. Felt just like that opening scene in Charlotte’s Web, but without the pig drama. The day was foggy and I knew it would burn off at midday to reveal deep blue sky and endless possibilities. Oh this was vacation.