It’s a SentiMental Health Journey

Published April 3, 2019 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

It is now seven weeks before the end of school. We have a novel to finish, reports and dioramas to be created, a big combination of Science and Social Studies to work on a Big Question.

The Big Question is a combo of Classical Eduction and Socratic Method Lite.

In Social Studies the question is What effect is humanity having on our environment?

We have gone through several articles from the social studies angels. And we are following the TEKS for Science where we have learned about Biomes and Habitats.

We have just covered plant and animal adaptations. Next we will take a rock, observe it, take notes, then paint the rock to give it personality and an adaptation. Next we will take the rock out to a habitat in the school yard. Each day we will go and observe. Then we will do some creative writing, surmising what the rock is thinking as they go through the day in their habitat. When we’re not talking to rocks, we will be learning the scenic of the habitat changing. A few weeks ago they did some biome research. They also drew butterflies that would go in that habit. I want them to plan what they would would have to do to make their rock suitable for their biome. Ultimately, they will compile the notes and turn it into a picture book. ( I love my MacBook.)

I had a lot of things I wanted to say, but as my plan of self care requires me to go to bed early and the Ambien just kicked in.

I promise I’m not having a breakdown. Meltdown, maybe.

?

Published March 31, 2019 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

What would happen if someone went crazy and no one wrote it down?

I think it might look like a lava lamp eating a sandwich.

And we’re back.

Sorry, Jewel, ask Bradley how I feel

Published March 31, 2019 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

This time last year I was filled with just a smidge more optimism than I am this year. I was so optimistic I began to learn the song “Hands” by Jewel. I downloaded her version, the bluegrass version and the karaoke version.

A year later it shuffled through my play list and the lyric “we’re all ok” came out. I was in my car on my Saturday errands and I said, “I’m not ok, Bradley Cooper!”, harkening back to the day I ruined Midnight Meat Train for BatBeard. (I personally think that Bradley did a good job of that himself, but what do I know?)

There are certain things that are compromising my optimism. I’m exhausted. I spent all last week catching and keeping up with teaching and feeding myself and two cats. I think I have a cold and am praying it’s not the flu because I have to give a math test and a spelling test this week and drag my cherubs through the stages of their writing samples for their files. I also have to get them started on a combination science and social studies project that addresses the big question (that’s a whole blog of its own). The reason I was behind was that I spent the week after Spring Break trying to staunch my tears from missing BatBeard. I got spend four days with him and like Actor Boy says, it doesn’t matter how long the visit is, it’s never long enough. Seeing BatBeard only reminded me how crazy in love with him I am and that he is lucky enough to have a job where he gets to do what makes him happiest, acting. It is just unfortunate that he has to do it so far away from me.

So while tamping all of that down, I was rehearsing my theatre club kids for their first competition. There is a whole lot of detail that I will toss in to another blog. Suffice it to say that I was running on a stream of coffee and not so fantastic leftovers. I think I ate a cold steak finger as I was running from copier to copier to get everything ready.

After all of that, I did find three things that gave me a hint of optimism:

I have a student who is full of questions. Sometimes he’s a pain, but most times they are very good, thought provoking questions. He is the child of survivors of the Rwandan Genocide. He was asking me about how the political environment is affecting racism. (See, I told you they were good questions.) He seemed truly dismayed that he could be judged on the color of his skin. I explained to him that because he has dark skin some may equate him with people of color who have had unfortunate circumstances causing them to commit crimes and possibly felonies. This is because he is African and black he may be misjudged even though his parents would throttle him if he even thought about doing something criminal. It gives me hope that a child who has very few living relatives still finds the concept of racism baffling.

The other thing giving me hope is something I saw on my way back from the errands. Four small boys, probably 8 and 9 years old were walking on the side of the road eating ice cream cones. It was simple thing to do on a Saturday afternoon and it made me happy that, at least for today, it’s safe for them to do this.

And the other. Today a short story I wrote went up for sale on Kindle. I went to see the listing so I entered my name., Lynda Rodriguez into the Amazon search bar. A whole list of things came up. Eight of them were things I have written. Four short stories, two novellas, one play that is available as an audio book. So here I have been feeling that I am not capable of writing a good story. I have written eight.

So, right now, Jewel, I’m Ok. Be sure to tell Bradley Cooper.

Well, what do you say to that?

Published March 28, 2019 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

So Jerry Seinfeld made me feel guilty so I’m trying to eke out some words . Today those words are eking.

As you may know (if you have heard any of my cries and screams) I spend most of my time teaching and/preparing to teach fourth graders. And just like any other teacher at this time of year,I feel like I’m insane.

On an average day, just like all of my harried brethren, I have to teach five different subjects and “Get all of my minutes”- This means an hour of reading, an hour of writing, an hour of math and an hour of either social studies or science. That’s four hours right there. Students also have to get half an hour of P.E. They also have to have Half an hour of music or language. Oh and twice a week they have to have a technology credit. They also need to eat (45 minutes a day) and get from class to class.

So there’s six hours a day, not including the moving from one place to another because no one has figured out a safe way to catapult children from one spot to another. Then there’s the half hour before and after school. Plus at my school I also teach a religion class that means for about nine hours a day, I’m in front of a bunch of nine year olds who not only need constant reassurance and guidance, they also have home lives and baggage that they can’t exactly tamp down on a daily basis.

So I have a relatively small class, but with 11 kids x 5 classes x the equivalent of 2 pages of lesson per class, x 5 days a week= over a thousand pages to grade every week. I also have to plan the next weeks classes with my minutes in mind. I also have to communicate with the parents the dates of any tests or projects or reports that are due, and being the only teacher for my grade I sometimes have to assign and grade two major projects in the same day.

A necessary evil, unfortunately, in each teacher’s life, is the lockdown drill. This is on top of everything else we are doing. I am grateful that at this point it is only a drill. Post drill, it is hard to shove the genie back in the bottle. Today’s drill happened right at the beginning of the day, which was in the middle of reading. We lost 15 minutes because of the drill and then the other 45 trying to get everything back to normal. While I was musing that I would do anything for my students, one of my more challenging cherubs said that he could not do math today because he didn’t like how I make my 5’s.

Seriously.

Well, if Jerry says, it must be true.

Published March 26, 2019 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

According to Writer’s Inc., Jerry Seinfeld says you should do as he does, and schedule a block of time to write even if it’s just for an hour.

Well, here’s the thing Jerry, if I had an hour without a specific focus, like teaching, herding cats, building props, buying food or cleaning my filthy apartment, I would probably be asleep.

I really am trying to write more,especially since it is the side gig that helps me pay for food, because I’m a teacher and I don’t make enough money and I’m too tired to drive for Uber because I’m old and oh yeah, I had a stroke, and if I don’t want to have another one, because, lets be honest, another stroke will probably kill me and I would probably have to die immediately because I only have one sick day left. I have that day left because the TWO times I went to the ER for illness and horrifying head pain, I didn’t take the full amount of time I was entitled to because we don’t have enough subs and I would get even farther behind on my grading.

This whole thing I’m writing now is in the five minutes I have left on my “planning”. I only have five minutes left because I had to make copies and then try to find a diplomatic way to tell a parent that reading has to be done every day.

But, Jerry, if you want me to write, send me some of that Seinfeld money.

I will probably squander it on food and school supplies.

Thirty

Published February 10, 2019 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I’ve been watching my brother die since I was nineteen years old.  

That’s putting too fine a point on it; I’ve been in the audience watching my brother die.  

My brother and I used to be very close, especially when we were children

Even when I was kind of an embarrassment, like when we were new at All Saints and I peeked into the Seventh Grade class window and everyone laughed. He looked out for me when we were the only Hispanic kids at Casa Manana.  Seriously, we took acting classes and I think we were the only Mexicans some of these kids had seen outside of the garden.   He looked out for me when we went to high school.

My brother was the best big brother.

And then he wasn’t.

Sometime between my sophomore and junior year in high school, my brother started drinking.  

I’m not going to waste time explaining how easy it is for underage kids to get alcohol. (It is.  It is very easy. In fact during my junior year of high school, one of my classmates died while driving drunk.)

I do not know when my brother’s drinking became a problem.  I do know that when my homecoming date was walking me to the door, my brother was also being dropped off. My brother was drunk and had a concussion after leaning out of the car to throw up.  

We were slightly less close after that.

We went to the same college and had the same major.  My brother threw parties that were legendary because of the happy chaos.   

It was still fun to watch him be the life of the party.

He was an incredibly gifted actor. He won several awards and the respect of his peers. As our school competed in American College Theatre Festival, everyone was eager to see what he would do.  The roles he played ranged from the Mayor of Tobiki  to a guitar playing snake handle.  He played a depressed suicidal outcast, the devil himself and one of the  most overlooked underdogs in Shakespeare’s  Much Ado about Nothing.   

That last role took all the way to the stage of the Kennedy Center.   

From there he went on to a conservatory program where he wasn’t allowed to smoke or drink, just train and perform.  Even though I didn’t see him for that whole summer, I think this is the happiest he was. 

But he came home. Things started up again. He worked, drank and went from one toxic relationship to another.  (I don’t blame any of the women in his life, except possibly the first one.)

His acting career continued to be impressive. He drank, but when he had a role to focus on, it didn’t seem as bad.   

And then it was.  There was a long stretch of time where he would go to rehab, go home, be ok and then it would fall apart.  The time I remember his sobriety.  The best was  a three year stretch where he was sober and we able to work together.  I produced and directed him in Of Mice and Men and in the Grapes of Wrath.  I think this was the finest directorial work I have ever done or possibly will do. He was sober the whole time.  

I remember when he started drinking again.  We were watching a band. I saw him go to the bar and order a drink. Then he gave me his wallet because he didn’t want to spend too much money.  I then left because I just couldn’t watch this happen again. 

After that it was up and down. I kept hoping he would sober up and be my brother again.  Then my grandfather died. 

My grandfather was a saint on this earth. My brother was the first grandchild and only grandson. He and my grandfather were very close.  My grandfather’s death is where we started to lose my brother.

This talented, hard working actor and artist began to unravel. It started with him sleeping on my mom’s couch because he didn’t want to go home. Then it got to where he couldn’t really take care of himself, so he lost his home. Then he stayed in my mother’s spare room. He kept drinking.

This was sixteen years ago. In that time, he has been to detox innumerable times. He was in court ordered rehab once. He’s been on probation twice.  He is now a diabetic and dependent on insulin. He is also diagnosed as bi-polar.  He has had numerous warnings and health scares and has been on life support.

Yet he still drinks. I have spent every weekend for the last six months waiting for my mother or father to call me and say that he’s in the hospital again. The last time gave him a permanent scar on his face. I hear that he as a black eye now.  I know my mother is weary. I know my father is heartbroken.  My soul feels like someone kicked it in the stomach  (Yes, my soul has a stomach.)  There’s nothing I can do but wait. In five days it will be the sixteen years since we lost my grandfather. I’m feeling tense and sad. I’m waiting.  But I won’t be surprised.

Because I’ve been watching my brother die since I was nineteen years old.

If I were a panda, I would be terribly interested.

Published January 6, 2019 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

As I have mentioned, I get my news from a variety of sources. Sometimes I just can’t stand CNN and Huffiington Post anymore (Nothing against those sites, it’s just I feel like I’m trapped in the words episode of Black Mirror and I’m supposed to stay calm.)  So when I just can’t take it anymore (Day 14 of shutdown, anyone?) I go to either Bored Panda or Buzzfeed.

I kind of like the idea that a bunch of panda’s sat around trying to figure out what to do with their free time. (I’m assuming this is after they have finsished their meal prep. Seriously, if all they eat is bamboo, why are they so girthy? I don’t have anything against girthy, but if I am going eat salad all day and stay chunky, I would rather have the fun of cookies.)

So the Bored Panda Board generally has a good balance of truly intersting, wow, I didn’t know that, and how dumb are people? That’s enough to keep me fairly entertained so I don’t want to poke my own eye out so I don’t have to go back to work on Monday.

I think every teacher everywhere is feeling the same way. Now, I truly love my job and genuinely cherish my students.  I’m getting a new student and there’s still a lot of balance that is needed after the addition of the last new student, but I digress (Quelle Surprise!).

Right now, I’m avoiding working on the last article I’m working.  It’s kind of like avoiding homework, except someone is paying me.  I do realize that it’s kind of pointless to avoid writing by writing. It’s nuts.   But then again so am I. Not sure about the pandas.