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Doug Ducey and The Flood

The past week

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This past week, Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey visited my school for his annual education tour of Arizona schools. The weeks prior to his visit, the school was buzzing with preparations. We had a select few classes and students to make glorious presentations for the governor – and it was a very exciting, yet stressful time for all teachers and administrators.Doug_Ducey_by_Gage_Skidmore_10

Needless to say, the visit was warm and welcoming and best of all, the students behaved and the governor was impressed.

[Insert silence here. Maybe a round of applause or quiet clapping].

Doug Ducey visited my journalism class. It was a topsy turvy effort that molded into a “mock press conference.” We had planned to ask the governor some poignant questions about Freedom of the Press for high school journalism students because last year the Arizona legislation markedly indicated that high school reporters did not have the same right as professional journalists. Other issues they wanted to know is why did he cut the education budget and pour more money into the prisons. My students did their homework.

Unfortunately, when the questions were sent to his office, they were changed or altogether replaced with “cute questions about what he does for fun, and his plans for the Teacher Academy to recruit more people in the STEM areas (and for those of you who think that STEM is the part of the apple or cherry…no…it stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics). Since our school is a STEM school, this question was relatable.

My students wanted to know why their teachers are not getting paid equally as other teachers in the nation.

But, we were quashed. We were silenced.

My students shined and smiled, and even had Ducey do some selfies with them, after all, they are teenagers. He was impressed with my group because we abided by the rules of the Ducey team. This wasn’t the time or place to get into controversial conversations, I get it, and they did too.

But to add to my chagrin about impressing him, our school became a beautiful sanctuary! The rain-stained ceiling tiles were replaced – the walls were painted and beautifully decorated with awesome positive quotes. Banners were hung with the various accomplishments of the school, and I walked into a place that was the beginning of something great! I’m not complaining about the beautification of the school…no…but it took a person who came into the governor’s office and placed Arizona’s state of education last on his list in order for us to make the school look better!

Not only that but for the past seven years, the road next to the school was pocked with potholes! Driving down that road every morning and afternoon was disastrous for tires and shocks on your car; however, weeks before the governor’s visit, the road was razed and paved to a smooth path! Some former graduates who dropped off their younger siblings mocked “Oh, now that I’ve graduated they paved the road – after all the damage it did to my car!”

Everyone can say what they want, but it was all for the governor. Everything we did was to show the governor that we are doing well despite his budget cuts. Although we are hurting on the inside, although teachers are struggling to make ends meet (or maybe that’s my personal issue), we showed the governor that he can continue to cut the budget because we’re surviving.

Arizona is ranked 43rd in education and 49th in education funding.

I will repeat the statement.

Arizona is ranked 43rd in education and 49th in education funding.

As we all know there are 50 states in this great country of ours.

My school is a charter school – a school of choice. Therefore, compared to a district school, the funding is lower per pupil. My principal said, in passing, that we lost about $300,000.00 this year due to cuts in the budget.

Now, I’m quoting from other sources, but Ducey is proud and repeats the top 10 best schools in the nation includes 3 schools in Arizona. That’s great, but those three schools are from the Basis Charter school system – the same Basis that now has a school in China.

When Ducey addressed the journalism students, he touted about how he helped regain the money (Proposition 123) to help increase teacher salaries.

I’m still struggling.

He is also proud of convincing other states to follow him in providing a high-stakes Civics Test for high school students. But, the quality of education is still poor, despite the wonderful efforts of my many colleagues in education. We have the passion to get our students to a level of understanding the world even if it spits in your face; wipe it off and keep fighting, is what I say.

So, in the end, Ducey was highly impressed with our students – and I am happy about that. I’m glad we made a great impression on him, and I hope that when he goes to sleep at night, he will dream about their little faces and presentations, and he’ll wake up one day and say, “I need to help our education system. They need more money!”

[Rolling my eyes].

The next day after his visit, Trump arrived in Phoenix. He held a rally and alluded to pardoning former Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio. After he left Phoenix, he made good on his promise, of course. Saturday Night Live created a parody of the rally in Phoenix, including the African-American man who held a sign that read “Blacks for Trump.”

Really?

And, the most catastrophic event that happened in this country is Hurricane Harvey that struck most of Texas, and it is still occurring.

The flood waters are billowing as the rain continues to pour. Since my parents came from Houston, Texas, most of the Watson family still resides there, and I am concerned. Thank God prior to the publishing of this blog, they’ve all sent a sign that they’re OK.

Ducey and the flood. It doesn’t really relate, but in my mind…it kind of does.

 

Why Can’t I Write?

I asked God this morning, “Why can’t I write?”

I have these brilliant story ideas in my head, and just before I sit up in bed in the morning, I am thinking about these excellent stories. But as soon as I open a Word document…nothing happens.

Why can’t I write?

What’s wrong with me?

I am so frustrated that I decided to pour out my frustration to you, my non-readers. My followers who really don’t follow me at all. So I am gutting myself on this blog to understand what is happening to my brain.

Sometimes, I am so afraid that I becoming forgetful. I am afraid that perhaps I have something that is preventing me from using my creativity. I want to pour out the stories onto the page and see a masterpiece, but what I see are primitive words that perhaps a nine-year-old could write. Even now I feel like a criminal for writing this piece.

I have a brilliant piece of writing about my father called “The Grieving Tree.” I want to complete it and published before Tucson’s Festival of Books. The Festival of Books is a beautiful event for readers and writers! It has a similar feeling of a child’s excitement when they enter Disneyland and see Mickey Mouse’s face on the sprawling green lawn. At least, that’s what the festival makes me feel like: I see tents across the University of Arizona’s mall filled with books! And, usually, I like to go alone because my meandering would make a person dizzy.

I love books.

Oh…that’s the answer. Books. I haven’t been writing because I haven’t been reading.

I am an English teacher, who is also working on her doctorate degree. My reading is limited to journal articles, nonfiction reading. Writing papers have dominated my time too, and I am behind on grading my students’ work. Therefore, I have no time to write!

And no time for writing is very frustrating for a writer.

So I am on a journey to help myself professionally, but I am not fulfilling the creative part of me. I cannot imagine a visual artist who doesn’t have time to draw, paint, or sketch.

I am also doing other grown-up things, like moving to a more inexpensive place to live; paying outrageous bills; and, finding ways to organize myself.

Oh, I cannot forget that I have another outlet: Chuy.

Chuy is my six-year-old Yorkie Poo. He is energetic and gives me kisses when I sit on my couch with my laptop and sob softly because I don’t understand how to write an assigned paper for my class.

Last night, while I looked at my overdue paper, he brought me his green ball, and we began to play. He is so attuned to me. He will look into my eyes when I am talking to him, and he stares as I explain to him how I need to organize myself so that I feel like I am not floating through time. Then I profusely apologize to him for not walking him in the morning, and I make promises that we will walk in the evening. I don’t do it.

But, that’s the beauty about dogs: they don’t care about promises. They don’t care about assignments. Chuy steps on my keyboard when he feels my anxiety level rise. He doesn’t care. He gives me kisses on the cheek and grunts, jumps off from my lap, runs outside, barks and barks come back inside, checks on me sit next to me and do the same routine over again until I get up and we take that walk. One of my friends suggested I write a children’s book about Chuy.

I can’t even write a children’s book about Chuy!

So…I’m writing about my frustration. Yes, I am taking the time to write this, but this is a rant, and I am releasing this anger and pain. I don’t want to talk to anyone about this because I don’t want to hear someone say, “You need to take the time to write. Just do it!”

Easier said than done.

Maybe, just maybe, after I finish this piece of writing on the wall, I can look at it and start fresh. I can reorganize myself and check off the duties I have: catch up with my grading; finish my overdue paper; pack; walk and play with Chuy; and, then relax by completing

design desk display eyewear
Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

my dad’s story and write some poetry. I believe that is what I need to do.

“Just do it.”

Thanks, Nike.

The Wave of Grief

I hope my readers don’t mind, but the way I can cope with stressors in my life is to write. Right now, I have a lump in my stomach and it’s called grief. I have felt this before, many times before, and it has returned.

A few days ago, my brother was found dead in his home. No foul play, just natural causes. He was 67. A good man. A wonderful, loving brother. A football fanatic. If you mention his high school, he would light up and start talking about writing a book highlighting his exciting career as a Tucson High Badger. Besides his children and grandchildren, my brother loved his Badgers.  He would talk to me about co-writing this book, but unfortunately, I wasn’t as excited as he was. Oh, I love football…but I was not a Badger. I graduated from another high school across the city.

Anyway, the death of my brother was a total shock to me, not to mention my other siblings and his children. His oldest son, a very responsible young man, knew that something was wrong when he couldn’t find his dad. The result was ominous.

Yes, he is in a better place. He suffered from Diabetes, Type 1, which took both of his legs. However, my brother worked on an optimistic disposition despite his circumstances. After the death of our dad, my brother became a cornerstone for me. He kept tabs on me as much as he could; I sometimes did stupid things, and he came over and talked to me about situations and how to correct them. He tried to help me, and he did.

But, this grief…the grief I have comes and goes. I’m smiling at one moment and then the tidal wave wraps itself inside of my gut and lies there. It’s heavy and I feel like I’m going to throw up or pass out. I want quick relief: Tums, Pepto pexels-photo-568027.jpeg, something to relieve this bothersome rock. But, I thought about my brother’s smile whenever he saw me and he called my name and teased me about the distance of my home – “I have to pack a lunch when I drive out there” and then the flood happened. I melted. I bawled. Tears flowed from my eyes like a river and the ball of grief was released. Just like that, it was gone.

But, in time, it will return again. I know it will because it has been coming and going for a while now. Friends have been calling or texting asking how I am doing. Fortunately, when they contact me, the ball of grief is gone. But a few hours later, it decides to return – to grow. I cannot tell you when it will come, but it does appear again.

Losing a loved one is never easy. It’s inevitable. Within a few days, my family and I will say our final goodbye to my brother – it’s for us, the living, that we need to do this. In my Christian lifestyle, we believe in seeing our loved ones again. We believe that. I believe it, too. I have had dreams about my mother and dad to prove it. However, I have to admit, this hurts.

It hurts.

It hurts.

Losing my brother…feeling this pain…it hurts.

I hope he knew how much I loved him. He was my big brother.

The wave is coming. I have to go.

Confessions of a Lyft Driver: Part I

I took off my Lyft superhero cape when I came home at 2:30 one morning. It has been a long time since I’ve come home at 2:30 in the morning. At 52, it’s not necessary, unless it’s some type of emergency (God forbid), or I was with family during one of the get-togethers.

No. This time, it was different, and I felt like a superhero.

Last November, it was a big night around the University of Arizona and downtown Tucson. It was the homecoming for the U of A alumni (and although I am an alumnus, I did not get to participate in all the lavish festivities for the alumni…I was working), and for the students, it was a chance to celebrate Halloween too. Lyft gives hints to drivers what time to get out there to drive people around. Earlier, I drove a few people to their destinations, came home, and I went back out into the jungle around 4:00.

The U of A was a massive mess! The U of A mall (and for those of you who are not privy to the university set up, the mall is not a set of stores…it’s a sprawling lawn separating the various buildings on the campus) was as crowded as an NFL football game’s parking lot! The red and blue tents, people wearing red and blue, RVs, coolers full of beer was the decor of the day!

And then, you have University Boulevard (on the other side of the campus) are bars full of U of A students! The students don’t tailgate. “The old people tailgate,” said one student as we passed by the tailgating on Campbell Avenue. “Students don’t tailgate?” I asked. “No. That’s for the older people.”

I laughed.

However, my superhero night began later in the night.

On University Boulevard, the crowd of students was amazing! I use that word amazing because students were lined up to go to bars such as Gentle Ben’s, Illegal Pete’s, and Frog and Firkin (by the way, my good friend owns Frog and Firkin). Girls were scantily clad in the shortest shorts possible, shirts showing their midriff and hanging off of their shoulders. The guys were wearing shorts with flip-flops and regular t-shirts. Most of them had the glow of their Smartphones reflecting on their faces.

I parked my car off to the side and waited. Sooner than I thought, I began to get notifications to pick up students.

One young man told me that he had been out since two in the afternoon (it was about 6:00 at this time), and he had no intention of drinking, but he did.

“I just want to go home and sleep,” he told me.

“Well, I will take you home, safely,” I told him. He smiled.

During our drive, I learned that he is a junior and his major is Chemical Engineering.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with that,” he said. “I have no idea.”

“You’ll find out,” I said to him.

“Yeah, I know what I want to do, but I just need the backing.”

I don’t quite remember what he wanted to invent something, but I encouraged him. I dropped him home and he thanked me.

The next ride was an eye-opener. I picked up a couple who were at a house party and needed to go their campus housing. The guy was completely out of it, but the girl was friendly. They were both drunk, so I kept the small talk to a minimum.  However, their conversation was atypical of college students. She wanted him to wait for her to change, but he wanted to go hang out with his frat brothers. She was upset because she asked him for this one favor. He refused. He wanted to go snort some cocaine with his buddies, and then he said: “I’ll come back and get you and we’ll go to…”

I was stuck on the “cocaine.”

He admitted freely that he wanted to sniff some cocaine! It was like saying “First, I’m going to go drink some water, and I’ll get you later.”

Wow! Cocaine. Our future, people. I dropped them off at a campus housing called “The Hub,” which I learned from other students later on that night that it costs $11,000.00 to live in!

I picked up another couple who were friendly and reeked of weed! They were young, funny, and bantered back and forth about how he got to pee and she didn’t.  That ride was simple and I’m glad…I drove back to the U of A with my windows down!

The next ride was a couple and their friend. The couple was married – the woman proceeded to tell me that they have a young child at home and they never get to go out. The guy had his window down in the back seat, and the wife went on about she had a good time and her friend kept assuring her that she needed to get out and have fun. While they were conversing with different people, I kept my eye on the husband in the back seat. His head kept bobbing…his eyes were closed too.  As soon as we got to their destination, he puked. Not in my car, but outside with the door closed. His wife opened the door and he proceeded to roll out on the ground. She profusely apologized (and of course, it comes with the territory that if you drive at night, you’re bound to get a drunk person who might puke). Anyway, I left and went to a gas station to rinse off the “puke.”

The next pick up was not at the U of A. It was at the Bashful Bandit. The Bashful Bandit is a motorcycle bar and as I drove I began to pray that it was going to be OK. The pick up was a young lady. She opened the car door and sweetly asked, “Is this Lyft?” I said yes.  She whispered, “Oh thank God” and then began crying.

I drove away from the parking lot and I asked her was everything ok. She said it was a terrible night, with tears. She explained to me how she went out with friends and they left her to her own device.  I took her home, which was in the Catalina Foothills, miles and miles away from where I picked her up.

In between that time and now I have not driven for Lyft. I am a bit apprehensive after a young man I picked up one night offered to [blank] me. I was a little afraid, but he was drunk and I dropped him off at a student housing complex. As I drove away, I began to think about was this worth it. I am trying to be of service to people who need rides, whether they can’t drive or are too intoxicated to drive. Most people have been very nice and the rides were routine, but then I began to think about the dark side of the job. The money is made at night. I’m a teacher, therefore, Monday through Friday during the day is out for driving for Lyft. It leaves me the weekends to do most of my driving to make enough money to make it worth my while. I am also risking the life of my car, the wear, and tear, and not to mention the insurance issues if there ever was an accident.

So…right now…I still have my Lyft stickers on my windshield and back window. They send me texts to please update my registration with them so I can get back on the road. I’ve gotten great reviews from passengers, but I don’t think I can do it anymore. Unfortunately, I don’t think Ducey will follow through with giving teachers more money anytime soon.

If you’re looking for a job, and you have a good running, newer model vehicle, I’d  recommend Lyft. It is a good company and they do pay very well, plus the tips you receive from customers are great. If you’re a night owl, with great communication skills and you’re not afraid to talk to people, Lyft will give you that lift towards a purpose.

 

I’m Going to Write this Down…

Hello.

I don’t know if you know this, but I’m a blogger. I haven’t written anything for awhile because when I think about something to write, I think about you. Yes. You. I wonder if you’ll ever read this blog and do you care enough to read it. But, I have to remember that I was given a gift of writing. Writing is important to me although I do not do enough of it. It’s almost as if I’m denying who I am because I am afraid of what you’ll think of my writing.

It has been said that too many people air their “dirty laundry” on Social Media. Do you know why people write out frustrations about friends and family members? It’s because it’s a forum of strangers. Also, it’s a safe place to call out people and you can delete the backlash if anyone dares to comment. My blogs are not to air dirty laundry or call people out (unless you’re a politician), but to share my random thoughts (the title of my blog).

Perhaps I’m not an interesting person and right now, you’re probably bored with this blog, but I have to keep writing. It doesn’t matter if you read this or not, I am going to keep writing.

I am currently reading a book titled Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian female, award-winning writer. This book is a National Bestseller and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.  It is a fantastic read and I am enjoying it immensely! I’ve never realized that “Non-American blacks” (a name she refers to in the book for African people living in America), have the same revelations about America as the African-Americans. The character in the book processes a lot of traditions, customs, attitudes, and personalities the same way as I do…which is incredibly interesting. The book is an experience and gives me pause to look at myself to find that I need to find my voice and talk about such experiences.

With this book, I am finding that I need to continue to use this forum – WordPress.com to continue with my writing. It’s January 2018, and I have something to say. I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a very long time, and I have some interesting conversations to share with you.  I am hoping that as I simply write my random thoughts, I do not offend anyone, and I am hoping to entertain, educate, and forge opinions that run deep below the superficial world. I have some enlightening conversations with my family that I’d like to share and sometimes, as I peruse the channels on the DISH satellite, I find startling shows that suck me in and I want to ask you a few simple questions about them.

Anyway, this is an open invitation to you to read my blog from time to time. I am hoping that you will find something intriguing and decide to follow me. In the meantime, stop airing your dirty laundry on Social Media. We have a president who does that and we really don’t need any more garbage out there.

Cherish is the Word!

I’m sitting up in my bed right now. It’s Christmas Day, 2017 at 9:55 p.m. Today was a day filled with excitement, anticipation, laughter, and tears. The last part of my sentence, the tears that were shed today, is something I will cherish for a long time.

You see, the tears weren’t sadness, but of gratitude…being thankful for relationships. In our family, like most families, we have lost loved ones, and each year that we realize our loved ones have left something for us, specifically during the holidays, we become closer and closer to each other. For example, I spent the day with my sister, her husband and their three sons and their significant others. Our oldest sister and her daughter and grandson spent the day as well. As well laughed and ate, and reveled in the beautiful giving process of gifts, we began to talk about how relationship building is important in a family.

The moment we begin to cherish the family and build a relationship with one another in the family, the better a support system will help us in the long run.It is dangerous to separate yourself from your family. The holiday season’s reason isn’t meant to just give gifts, but it is to give of yourself to those that you love. The family participated in adopting two families for Christmas – families we did not know. These families are struggling because they are either starting over in life, or they need extra help. Both families have small children, but the beauty is that they are trying to build a relationship with their children. One mother told me that despite her sordid past, she is trying to do better by her children, the right way. She sat them down and told them that the “easy money” to give tons of Christmas presents was no longer a reality. The reality was that she couldn’t afford Christmas presents, but they were to get some help and support. It is times like this when we see the strength of the family unit.

During the dark days of the holiday season in 1986, my mother was in a coma. She had a leak from an aneurysm in her brain. I remember one cold night, my father gathered us in the middle of the living room, had us all hold hands and told us, before he prayed, that if there is a weak link within the family, we need to repair it at that moment. A weak link. We were emotionally weak, but my dad was speaking on a higher level than the obvious. He was a God-fearing man, but he was determined to strengthen us in order for our prayers to be heard and strengthen my mother.  I cherished that night because it is something I ask myself whenever there is a difficult situation that faces me. I strengthen that “weak link” inside of me either through prayer, meditation, or just talking to someone who is stronger than I am at the moment.

Yes, today, the gift I truly cherished was not wrapped up in a beautiful holiday-themed paper, or colorful Christmas bags — it was the unity and togetherness of family during Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day.

The true meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown?

Cherish your family. Cherish the love. Cherish the joy. Cherish every aspect of the family unit!

Love Until Her Dying Breath…

When someone says they have fallen in love with someone, one often doubts that the person has truly fallen. We doubt this because we’re not so comfortable in defining true love or being in love. We go into these long explanations about “falling in love” or “being in love” because we are trying to justify what love really means. I believe in the power of love. Love has many levels and many feelings, and we cannot (and should not) keep love in a jar sealed up with a labeled definition.candles-168015_1920

I want to tell you about this young woman who has fallen in love. I truly believe that she is in love with this man. It’s been two years and he has not noticed; however, she still feels for him.  She doesn’t wait by the phone; she doesn’t bother him at all. She patiently awaits him and learns about him and falls deeper and deeper. His actions, his likes, and dislikes are all duly noted; she finds that they have more in common. Many men have her name on their lips, but her thoughts are on this one…her only one.

He’s never seen her. The real her. He doesn’t know that she believes in the same things as he does. He doesn’t know that she believes in him as a man and as a person. She’s read his poetry and hurts along with him. His written words have come alive in her heart and the biggest challenge she has is sacrificing her own traditions and family just wanting to be with him.

She has dreams about him – dreams that she tells him how much she loves him. The dreams are realistic, yet haunting. She notices how other women flaunt and flirt with him, and how she cannot do that – it’s not for her to be so public – yet she wants him to just notice her silence and her quiet admiration for him.

He’s over there…somewhere else and she longs to be with him, in his heart. It doesn’t have to be a physical presence, but the spiritual connection that love brings to two people. She is walking along a sacrificial path in hopes that one day, in an obscure way, he’ll notice that she has been there – in his corner, cheering him on.

Yet, she cringes inside. As she goes about her daily routine and betters herself, she’s dying inside. Her laughter and smile is often masked with questions like “Why doesn’t he like me?” “What have I done to him?” The painful questions plague her. Although she wants to move on and forget everything about him – give in to the fact that it’s never going to happen – she still loves him. Deep inside of her being, she loves him.

I know the difference between a crush, infatuation, and love. Love makes you see beyond the physical. Her story is immortalized in a novel that is forever etched in words, imagery, and dialogue. Love is real. At first, she did not want to admit that she loved him, but each year, the torch burns brighter and brighter.

One day, she will reach out to him, and as a woman, she will utter the words that she loves him. She is hoping that these words will engulf him and make him realize what true love is all about – it surpasses time; it tears down walls; and, it heals the wounds. However, she never suspected that love would hurt so badly. She had never imagined that love would kill her inside. She is dying inside…every time she sees his smiling face, hears his voice, and reads his words.

And, in the midst of her breaking heart, camouflaging as love, she asks him “Give me a chance.”

Romeo and Juliet have nothing compared to her.