And how are the children? A true story.

The teenage girl first eyed the man through the concession window. He lifted the garbage can lid then set it back. He looked familiar to The Girl. Loaves and Fishes, she thought. The one who vacuumed the floor at the end of the night. Wore a green fedora hat.

His red bike overflowing with garbage, junk, and plastic bottles leaned against a column.

The Girl turned to her friend the Nordic Skier and whispered urgently, “He’s trying to get garbage.” Nordic Skier barely shrugged her shoulders. The Girl said with more emphasis, “Looking for food.”

Nordic Skier yawned. I’m not here for it, her tired posture messaged.

The man was grandpa-old. Wore a plaid long sleeve shirt, long jeans though it was a warm summer afternoon.

The Girl got busy with customers. She and her two friends worked at the refreshment stand. Ice cream, pizza, coffee and soda. Not much, really. Nothing you could find in the garbage except maybe pizza crust.

A chair scraped the floor, and the Nordic Skier was suddenly next to The Girl at the sink. Nordic Skier turned her body away, covered her mouth. “He’s drinking out of the containers.”

Finding no garbage outside, the man had moved inside to the garbage can in the corner. He had found melted ice cream in throwaway cups and bowls.

The Girl’s sigh was audible through the black face mask she wore. Her eyes threw serious shade. Like you woke now? She gazed over her friend’s shoulder to the seating area. The man was lifting a Styrofoam bowl and letting liquid drip into his mouth. “Oh my gosh, go offer him something.”

Nordic Skier’s eyebrows raised. “I’m the one that told you. Beside you’re the one that wants to help people.” She furrowed her brows. “That’s your career, periodt.”

They both turned to their other friend who was standing near the ice-cream display freezer. She was the smallest, youngest, and quietest of the three of them. A Cross Country runner. Not the fastest. Not the slowest. Observant. Steady. Strong. Formidable.

“You go,” said The Girl.

Their very quiet friend, responded, “I fully support your idea, but I’m not going to do it.”

The Girl barked at her.

The diminutive friend growled back.

“Fine!” The Girl dried her hands.

The man walked towards the door. The Girl followed him. “Sir, sir.”

He kept walking. Big Yikes. The Girl didn’t want the family who just came into the seating area to observe her struggling to talk to the man. She turned back to the refreshment stand. Nordic Skier was making a violent slashing motion across her neck and pointing forcefully to the man.

The family moved to the concession window away from The Girl.

The Girl steeled herself. “Sir, sir. Would you like us to give you some food?”

The man stopped and leaned his ear towards the girl, tapping his ear.

“Would you like some free ice-cream?”

He placed his palms in prayer.

The Girl dished out a scoop of rumba cherry because old people like rumba cherry, and a scoop of chocolate because everyone likes chocolate, and finally a scoop of rich and famous, cause, yeah, why not?

He sat down at a table. The Girl brought him his ice-cream. He bowed in prayer.

Nordic Skier said, “Oh my gosh. I’ve got the other half of the pizza I haven’t eaten.” Then she thought of the ten-dollar bill that she had found on the floor a few hours earlier. Serendipitous, for sure. She taped the ten-dollar bill to the pizza box.

While the man was eating, The Girl took a KIND bar that Nordic Skier had taken from her backpack and tossed away because the unopened wrapper had gooey stuff on it. “What are you doing? People need this. They are starving. Right here in our own town.” Nordic Skier and The Girl gave the man the KIND bar.

The man bowed in thanks.

A couple of days later, The Girl saw the man. He was waiting at the door. The Girl was tending to customers and couldn’t approach him.

The man came to the window. “She’s paying for me,” he said softly. He nodded to a woman. The woman shook her head in agreement.

“Three scoops,” the man said.

“The Usual?” The Girl asked.

He smiled.

Periodt.

 

Another Dog Story…

Crystel at 5 years old with Rosie

Was I afraid of other’s judgements, or did guilt keep me from posting the passing of Rosie, our beloved Bichon Poodle on Facebook? Four days after we put Rosie down, we came home with a ten-week-old puppy.

Neither Jody nor I were interested in posting these two life events.

Rosie had been with us for thirteen years. There were times that I thought she would last forever.

Bandit Rose was her ‘real’ name. The name on her vet charts. In time, she became Rosie. The kids were 5 years old when we got her as a puppy. Juan named her Bandit and Crystel said Rose and so it was. She was their puppy.

Rosie soon became everyone’s puppy and grew to be everyone’s dog – the people on the block, in the neighborhood, and anyone (person or dog) we would meet on our walks. She had a wag and a smile that softened your heart and made you better for the day.

Rosie and Buddy

On our walks, she would pull me crisscross across the street back and forth to meet her loves. She expected you to stop your gardening or yardwork to love her. And, you would. She had her own relationship with you. She was your dog in that moment and you were her world.

Rosie joined Maggie (Bichon Cocker) who was already part of our family. When Maggie passed away at ten years of age, we grieved for a year before getting a puppy to join Rosie. We knew it was time when Rosie initiated a game of tag with a lamb while we visited a farm. It was clear that she needed a companion.

Rosie and I grew old together. With two knee replacements behind me she was my dog to walk. Smelling the air together, sniffing at flowers, saying hello to her loves, we took our time. It didn’t matter how many blocks we walked or if we made it around Donaldson Park. What mattered was our unhurried pace and being outdoors.

While I walked Rosie, Jody ran after squirrels with Buddy our Papillion Maltese mix. Jody intentionally sprinted the opposite direction with Buddy when she saw a person or a dog coming her way. Buddy rightfully earned the nickname Trouble.

Crystel and Sadie

Rosie loved Buddy. How she could, I don’t know. He often nipped at her tail, stole her bones, and grabbed at her leash, pulling her this way and that.

Jody and I didn’t walk the dogs together, though we would leave the house at the same time and meet up towards the end of our walk. An enduring trait that Rosie had was running towards Buddy and greeting him like she hadn’t seen him in forever.  We all should be so lucky to have a Rosie in our life.

Sadie, our Bichon Shih Tzu puppy is a lot like Rosie. Everyone’s puppy, a lover of other dogs. Greeting Buddy like a long-lost friend. Sadie has even had a mellowing affect on Buddy. He is calmer and learning how to play with other dogs.

Maybe it was just that Rosie deserved so much more than a Facebook post. She needed an entire blog.

She was my girl and I miss her. We all do. Jody’s words have eased my guilt in getting a new puppy so soon after Rosie, “If we could still have Rosie with us, we would.”

Why Does She March?

Photo Credit to Crystel

I ask myself this as I watch her and her friends, all clothed in black, carrying cardboard signs down our street. The air has a strong scent of paint thinner and diesel fuel from the markers they used to create their signage. One sign says, Silence is Violence. I say a prayer that the teens lives this motto and that they never stay still when they witness or have knowledge of a violent act. This would bring me lifelong comfort for their safety as well as others.

The five 17- year-olds are walking to 494 and Penn where there will be assembling with others.

Is this a protest? A march? A gathering? Jody and I are not sure. The information we get is a jigsaw puzzle at best. We hope to God that they aren’t planning on walking onto the freeway. Jody and I wouldn’t support that. We tell her so. Yet, we also wouldn’t stop her.

Be Safe, Don’t Die. I want to holler after the teenagers. I stop myself, though this is not an unusual farewell that my family has given each other when we leave the house. I don’t need to heighten any uneasiness the teens may be feeling. How do they know what they are walking into? For certain, I don’t.

Why does she march?

The pandemic has allowed our family more time together. Jody and I take hour-long walks with Crystel. On these walks Crystel talks about how she wants to make a difference. She is particularly interested in making a lasting change in Guatemala, the country of her birth. She had a 3-week homestay and language school trip planned at Casa Xelaju Spanish School in Guatemala for this summer. COVID-19 travel restrictions abruptly halted her plans.

Jody and Crystel joined the mourners at 38th and Chicago where George Floyd was murdered. Crystel placed white hydrangea blooms from our garden at the memorial site. Days later, I accompanied her and her friends to George Floyd’s memorial service in Minneapolis. I wondered if there would be a food truck and porta potties. When I confessed this to Crystel, she gasped and rolled her eyes.

Why does she march?

Don’t ignore something Because it Makes you uncomfortable

Why don’t I march? The question intrigues me. Why her, why not me? Then, I remember why I joined the Peace Corps when I was 30 years old. I had that same feeling, the same drive, that I see in her. I wanted to make a difference.

I’m thirty-one years older now. Crystel asked if we could donate to her friend whose family business was looted at el MERCADO CENTRAL during the riots. She asked if we could donate food and supplies to the families affected by riots.

We can do that. I’m thirty-one years older. I march in a different way.

Celebrating the WordSisters

This month, the WordSisters celebrate eight years of blogging and sharing our love of words and stories.

Why a Blog?

The WordSisters name came from our longstanding writer’s group (Elizabeth, Jill, Brenda, Jean, Rosemary, Lisa, and me). Several of us were working on books and the first tagline, “In it together from inspiration to publication,” reflected the blog’s original purpose.

In 2012, Elizabeth and I had memoir manuscripts we hoped to publish. Experts recommended blogging as a way to attract agents and publishers. In 2016, North Star Press published Elizabeth’s memoir, House of Fire.

Create. Connect. Inspire.

Early on, Elizabeth and I were the primary bloggers. Attracting agents and publishers was our original motivation, but soon we were blogging for the pleasure of writing. We had things to say and stories to share. Plus, the discipline of contributing several blogs per month kept us writing. Some have been classic blogs; others are short personal essays. The blog’s tagline evolved to “Create. Connect. Inspire.”

 Since 2012, Our Circle Has Grown.

Through the years Jill, Brenda, and Jean have also contributed. Cynthia, author of five novels and coauthor of 40 Thieves on Saipan joined us in 2017. Bev, author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens added her voice this year. Now the WordSisters is a collection of voices—each with a distinct style.

The joy of writing brought us together under the banner of WordSisters. At eight years and counting, we’re still going strong.

Thank you to our followers (4,900 now). Your likes, comments, and support mean so much!

 

 

 

 

Interviewed by a 17-year-old

I got this all wrong from the get-go. I had prepared answers for how to begin a career in human resources. What special characteristics and capabilities are needed in HR? What are my favorite components of the HR role? Describe the HR functions that are under your leadership and control.

The teenager, a friend of Crystel’s, started her questioning easily enough. She asked me about my past. I immediately thought this was an interesting technique. Maybe the teacher taught this method to loosen up your interviewee. Ask the people something they know well. Soften them before the meat of your inquiry.

“What is the most significant event in your life? An event that changed you?”

This was my first inkling that my assumption about this interview was off the mark. My career in human resources was certainly not the most significant event in my life.

How easy it would have been to lie. To not give her true and honest answers. To keep this interview on the surface.

And, wow, how unsatisfying that would have been for the both of us.

I was surprised how easily the answer came to me. How it was right there, bubbling just under the surface, a living certainty.

Without hesitation, I said, “Same-Sex Marriage.” On May 14, 2013 Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota. The new law went into effect on August 1, 2013.

This law legitimized me, my partner, and our children. I was no longer afraid to talk about Jody at work. I didn’t have to hide. It was okay for two women to be raising children together. I could have a family photo on my desk.

“How did you come out to your parents?”

I had to think about this answer because overshadowing everything, greater than having a same-sex partner was the sexual abuse in my family. It would have been so simple had it just been about choosing a life with a woman. Mired in all this muck was the fact that I wouldn’t stay quiet about sexual abuse. I wouldn’t back down from my truth. Telling my parents about same sex marriage paled in comparison.

“Are you happy where you are in life?”

I thought I’d be dead by the age of 25 either by drugs, alcohol or suicide. And, I would have been dead because of secrets. Not having secrets changed the trajectory of my life.

I told her all of this and more. About having an abortion when I was 14 years old and a baby when I had just turned 17. The same age she is.

“Are you happy with your children?”

Crystel was not just a fly on the wall during this interview. She sat right next to her friend. She watched as I cried. Because of course I would cry. We were talking about my children.

Her friend should get an A+ for this interview, I thought. Same-Sex marriage, sexual abuse, abortion, a baby, and now tears. This might have been more than she bargained for.

I wasn’t done. I asked her to include, if even as a footnote, that teenagers need to use birth control. Condoms are not 100% effective.  Birth control pills plus condoms increase the effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. I wasn’t sure if I was stating this for her teacher’s benefit or the millions of teenagers, including my two, who might read this paper. I told her that I didn’t want Juan and Crystel to be faced with the same decisions that I had to make.

There were more questions. More tears. Through it all, the interviewer was present, serious, and professional.

I didn’t realize until later that this paper was a history project. I’m history. Or, herstory. A study of past events, particularly in human affairs.

My interviewer was rad. The interview wasn’t awks. It was dope, very possible GOAT and I’m HUNDO P.

The Gen Z’s are alright.