Sunday, December 6, 2009

Breathable Liquid- Who Knew?

I just finished reading the Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. The book was interesting. It brought up several topics of debate: faith, religion, America's early history, scientific advancements, technology and family to say the least. However, it ended a little flat.

There is one concep
t which I found to be absolutely fascinating- Breathable Liquid. I did some research and this form of respiration has been in existence since the late 1960's. Mice were used initially in these experiments and were made to breathe in an oxygen rich saline solution. The mice would live for several weeks after exposure but then developed pulmonary complications. The saline solution did not aid in the extraction of carbon dioxide from the lungs, thus resulting in severe lung damage.

Thank goodness that by the time The Abyss was filmed in 1989, scientists had found perfluorocarbons. It helped to avoid nitrogen build up (or "The Bends") when deep sea diving. Although, these perfluorocarbons are harmful to the ozone layer, they effectively dissolve both oxygen and carbon dioxide. Today, this amazing fluid is being used in addition to respirators to help with acute respiratory problems and may one day replace blood transfusion. Cool huh?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent Calendar

Image provided by:

I had never heard of Advent Calendars until last year. They are such great fun and a good way of counting down the days until Christmas. They are like little presents that prepare you for the big day. Here are some calendars that I follow:
  1. For those who like drabbles-
  2. For the computer tech in you-
  3. Just for kids-
  4. For the space traveler-
  5. An author a day for 24 days-
  6. For the bloggers-
  7. For Facebookers-
  8. This one is interactive and fun from Great Britain-
  9. Make your own calendar-
  10. Something for the whole family-
And yes, I know I am two days too late to post this but better late than never!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Foster Care and Adoption

Today, the students had a very interesting discussion. We are reading the book Things Fall Apart by Achebe Chinua. The protagonist Okonkwo is a fierce warrior, titled wrestler and immensely wealthy man who hates his indolent father, Unoka. His father represents failure and weakness, qualities that Okonkwo deplores. Okonkwo is a revered member of the clan, in Umuofia, and has a reputation for "ruling with a heavy hand." He also has three wives and eight children.

During a tribunal meeting, it was determined that a neighboring tribe would gift Umuofia with a young male and a virgin, in compensation for the death of a female Umuofian tribe member. The elders of the clan decided that since the young male belonged to the tribe, Okonkwo would care for him. This is how Ikefuma came into the household of Okonkwo. He lived with Okonkwo for three years as a foster son.

My co-teacher, Ms. S. asked a very interesting question: What is the difference between foster care and adoption? The students responded that foster care is where a child is in the care of a family but still a ward of the state. The child in foster care can still have contact with their biological parents. They then stated that adoption is a process in which a parent or parents are legally responsible for a child that is not their biological child.

Ms. S. then told her experience of foster care in which she had a seven year old girl, Valerie, come into her family when she was four years old. Valerie was taken from her biological parent because she was viciously abused by her mother's "friends." Ms. S. told of how her father would not smoke around Valerie. There was an incident where he went to light a cigarette and Valerie jumped back, begging him not to burn her. From that moment, Ms. S.'s father refused to smoke in the house. Sadly, the day came when Valerie was taken from Ms. S.'s family and returned to her own mother. It was the first time that Ms. S.'s father had ever cried. Sadly, to this day, Ms. S. has no knowledge of what happened to Valerie.

The students then began sharing their own stories. It was heart-breaking. They also debated with the issue of whether they can see themselves fostering a child in the future. These are the answers they shared aloud:
  1. It would depend on how old they are. I want a kid as a baby so that I could raise them how I am raised. Kids that are older don't really change and can cause trouble.
  2. I would foster a kid because I could bring them wonderful experiences like what it means to love or what it means to have a family.
  3. I would foster a child that is a teenager because they may have nothing but bad experiences and I think that I can show them a better life.
  4. I would adopt a kid if I wasn't able to have children. I think I would be a great mom.
  5. I wouldn't want to foster or adopt a kid because what if the biological parent wants them back, then I'll be hurt. I would love the child just so they could be taken away from me.
  6. I would foster a child if they were in my family. Like if you have an aunt that is on drugs and then you take their kids in foster care just so they don't lose their roots. Everybody should know where they came from.
I found these answers to be so thoughtful and to tell the truth, surprising. I did not think that my students cared that deeply. I guess they really understand the meaning of "Am I my brother's keeper?" They made connections between Ikefuma's experience with foster care and Ms. S.'s experience. I was impressed.

On day's when I feel that my students aren't listening and am distraught with despair, I'll look back at this blog and smile.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Emotions and Characters

Yesterday was a truly harrowing day. Not only did I have to take my daughter to work with me, half day of school and no babysitting, I also had my car towed by the ever popular New York City Police Department. My husband had forgotten to put out the parking permit, which would normally just warrant a hefty fine that must be paid within thirty days to avoid penalties (Oh yeah, Bloomberg is just racking up cash from middle income family households). But I digress, the car is not only ticketed but also towed. The city makes $185.00 from the tow and of course, $115.00 for parking in a Department of Education zone with no permit. Great! What does this have to do with writing you say? Well, I analyzed the range of emotions I experienced from the beginning of the day to the end of the day. This is what I came up with:
  1. Happy, content, relaxed (when I woke up)
  2. Worried, anxious (no babysitter)
  3. Relief (boss didn't have a problem with my little one traveling with me)
  4. Frenzied (running a program, teaching classes with daughter glued to hip)
  5. Stressed the hell out (Husband calls, car was towed)
  6. Anxious (had to figure out finances to pay to get the car out)
  7. Still Stressed (went to pound after work)
  8. Relief (car returned, drove home)
  9. Calm, Content (while cooking dinner, taking care of kids)
  10. Happy, content, relaxed (watched The Office)
  11. Emotionally exhausted (bedtime)
After this analysis, I applied the wide range of emotions that I experienced to the character in my mystery novel. These emotions added the precise complexity needed to not only move the plot along and create an interesting story, but also it added a different dimension to the writing itself. The story had more descriptive scenes, using a plethora of adjectives instead of just dialogue from one character to another, making it more interesting and drawing in the reader. The peripheral characters seemed to empathize with the protagonist which enriched relationships. This technique was a success. Some people say to write what you know. They also need to add that as writer, one must write what you feel also.

Now, I can't take credit for coming up with this writing technique. There are several writers/ authors who use this. Some blogs to check out for writing techniques are Mystery Writing is Murder, Confessions of a Watery Tart, and Linda M. Faulkner . . . On Writing. I have found these to be really useful when experiencing writer's block or misbehaving characters.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Midtown Rush

"Taxi!" I yelled with my arm raised high. Hailing a cab in Midtown during rush hour is definitely ill-advised. I walked to the next corner. It begins to rain. I mumble about meteorologists and faulty forecasts and it dawned on me that I forgot the holy grail in business- my flashdrive with the PowerPoint presentation needed for the meeting. Thank God for cell phones.
"Mandy, bring my flash drive to 39th and Park. I don't care how you do it. . . Yes, I know the meeting is in fifteen minutes. Just get it to me. Now!" Time for a new assistant.

Drabble(n) - an extremely short work of fiction exactly one hundred words in length.

Painting by Paul Kenton
Image courtesy of Cardiff Galleries

For a response to this drabble, check out Rayna's blog: Colours- Violet.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Rediscovery of Naps

Image from:

Today, I did something very unlike me. I took a three hour nap. I have not taken a nap since I was pregnant with my last child, six years ago. But you know what? It felt wonderful. When I awoke, I felt more relaxed than I have in a long time and managed to write another two thousand words. Yay! It's a great way of recharging your batteries and tackling the next challenge.

I felt guilty that I left my husband with the children and running the household. However, sometimes we just have to stop and take a break. Often we work ourselves until we are so bone weary. We forget to take care of ourselves since we worry about everyone else. Well, I am recommending naps to every cantankerous, ornery, mean, exhausted or overwhelmed individual I meet.

NaNoWriMo News: The target writing for today was 13,333 words. I accomplished only about 5,100 words. But you know what? My writing buddies, Tami and Tara, helped me realize something. NaNo is a way of getting myself in the habit of writing every day and making time for writing. I have written more in the past week than I have in the past two to three months. Write on my friends!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fairytale of New York

Fairytale of New York

Once upon a time in a land far away, there lived a young girl with big dreams. She was raised by a horrible stepmother in the poorer section of the city. She had to clean the roach infested apartment and made all the meals with paltry scraps of food.

One day, the young girl grew up. She met a wonderful man who wined and dined her. She felt like a princess. But now she sits in her tower. She is surrounded by beautiful clothes, furnishings and people. Isn’t it ironic that she narrowly escaped one prison to enter another.

Painting by Jeff Rowland
Image from Castle Galleries (

Drabble(n) - an extremely short work of fiction exactly one hundred words in length.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Confuzzled . . .

Forgive the randomness but I have little coherent thought left. I am progressing, although rather slowly, on my WIP. I thought I would be further along but thus far, there are twists and turns that not even Odysseus would have anticipated. I have written approximately 3,000 words so far, only the first chapter and prologue. Interestingly, while writing, I didn't think the kids would behave but I have not heard any dishes breaking or the screeching yelps of my youngest.

Writing this mystery has taught me one very important lesson: One cannot rush the story and the author must do his/her research. I had joined the whole NaNoWriMo thing to push my story along and finally get at least one novel done. However, in three days, I have only increased my WIP by 1,500 words. At this rate, I will never make the quota!

All joking aside though, I cannot focus on the quantity. I tried, I really did. Every time I begin to write, I always go back to the beginning, proofread, edit or revamp an entire section. I can't help it. I suppose that is the teacher and perfectionist in me but I am more concerned with quality? Is that so wrong?

Confuzzled- being both confused and puzzled (yup, it's made up but not by me).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Good Day for Writing

This will be a short entry since I must work on my "Work in Progress" or WIP. I began writing a mystery yesterday. It was completely out of the blue but these characters wouldn't leave me alone. They had been swimming in my head since Sunday night and want to hear something crazy-- they would not stop badgering. I did not feel any relief until I wrote down their tales. It was the most satisfying feeling. Their thoughts and actions just flowed from my fingers and onto the screen.

Now I usually write short stories of urban life in New York City, science fiction or fantasy. This is my first attempt at something completely unfamiliar and it scares me. I am not really familiar with the mystery novel format/ formula. I didn't even know what a red herring was until I read it on Elizabeth Spann Craig's blog, Mystery Writing is Murder. ( I would provide a link but if you read my last blog, you would know that I am technologically challenged).

Well back to writing. . . my characters await.

Monday, November 2, 2009

For the Technologically Challenged . . . You are not alone.

Well, today was rather interesting. I really believe that there is some type of conspiracy where all technological devices are against me. First it was the Mac, that just did not want to communicate with my printer. I don't care if it was upset with the printer but I really needed to print some documents necessary for my job; my lesson plans.

Once I finally got the Mac and the printer to resolve their differences, the scanner began giving the silent treatment. I could not scan because the scan function on this all-in-one printer, was not communicating with the USB port. Now forgive my ignorance, but should it matter what USB port you connect the printer cable to. Well, I tried all of them to no avail.

Consequently, I abandoned the Mac and tried my PC laptop. It took me three hours just to download the driver software from the internet and install the flippin' thing on my PC. Then when I finally am able to scan the document, my PC alerted me to the fact that I had not installed the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader 9.2. Well excuse me. Adobe took approximately an hour and a half. It took me a total of 7 hours to scan one document. I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.

*bangs head on keyboard*

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Weight loss and Weight Struggle

So while most of my online friends are competing in the NaNoWriMo, I have taken on a different challenge. I want to lose weight before the holidays arrive and I really pack on pounds. I have struggled with my weight since I was an adolescent. I am tired all the time and have no energy for my children, once I come home from work. I need to change. Not I want to change but I NEED to change.

My plan:
  1. Change my eating habits. I realize that I don't eat very much. However, what I do eat are high calorie, high fat, high sugar foods that cause increased rapid weight gain. I will eat mostly from the fruit and vegetable groups incorporating high fiber carbohydrates.
  2. No more snacking at work. This is the worst. I skip lunch and then eat junk like potato chips or Ring Dings.
  3. After work, I want to exercise at least four times per week. I have an elliptical machine (which I think is just evil but will try it anyway), a Total Gym, Wii Fit, Wii Active and a Tai Chi video. With this variety of exercises, I can target both strength training and aerobics.
  4. Limit all eating and drinking until 7:00 pm. Afterwards, no more food.
  5. Get my husband to join me. I am no good on my own. I may have the will but not the motivation. I am better when someone exercises with me.
That's it. I plan to start today and keep a log of food and activities. I don't want to wait until January because if I don't get started now, I never will. I am already 36 and time is ticking. Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

My writer's group,, have created a little Halloween display of drabbles on the website. Check it out. In the meantime, here is my drabble:

Zombies, and ghosts and ghouls! Oh my!
Zombies, and ghosts and ghouls! Oh my!

Dark shadows and eery street lights cast elongated, shapes on the sidewalk.
Frightening pumpkins encase glowing candles that set an ominous mood to any dwelling.

Zombies, and ghosts and ghouls! Oh my!
Zombies, and ghosts and ghouls! Oh my!

Trick-or-treat bags are swollen with mounds of candy. Parents scour through the candy ensuring the safety of their children.
Children gorge on this delectable feast of sweets resulting in belly-aches and relentless moans.

Zombies, and ghosts and ghouls! Oh my!
Zombies, and ghosts and ghouls! Oh my!

(Drabble(n) - an extremely short work of fiction exactly one hundred words in length.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Essay Writing . . . My Worst Enemy

Today, I shared a very personal story with my students. I felt the need to not only make a connection with them, but also to have my students understand that we are not just "born" writers. Writing is a craft that is honed over time through practice. Writing is a process where we move the emergent stages in kindergarten and first grade to proficient and excellent writers in secondary schools.

In high school, I could not write an essay. I was absolutely horrible. My essays were generally three to four paragrap
hs with missing punctuation, poor grammar and no subject verb agreement. My introductions were unorganized and off-topic. My concluding paragraph was actually just one sentence. It is amazing that I passed the ELA Regents at all. I struggled with college admissions essays. I was in utter agony when I had to write my first paper at Long Island University's C. W. Post Campus. Needless to say, it received an F. I did not pass freshman composition with an A, instead I earned a D. I was put on academic probation for a low grade point average and almost lost my financial aid.

It wasn't until I was approximately 23 years old that I learned to write a coherent and effective five paragraph essay. I had a wonderful professor at Bronx Community College who took the time to break down the rules of writing an essay. I had never used transition words before and then they suddenly became my best friends. She provided me with a grammar book that helped with subject-verb agreement, run-on sentences, fragments and rules of punctuation. I remember thinking to myself, why didn't I learn this in elementary, middle or high school. Why is it that I am a grown woman with two children and just learning to write properly? I had no answer.

Needless to say, my students w
ere shocked. They couldn't believe that a teacher could receive such bad grades in high school and college. I explained to them that they need not see where they are right now, but instead focus on where they want to be in a year from now. I wanted to be a good writer and with a supportive teacher, I was able to accomplish that goal. I had them set their own goals, what steps would be necessary for completion of these goals and write out their hopes and dreams. They now have a plan and will, with support, possibly achieve these goals.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When We Reminisce . . .

Today was the first time, in many years, that I rode the subway. My journey began in Greenwich Village, West 4th Street, where I boarded the D train northbound to the Bronx. I began thinking about the times I rode this same train, but in reverse, to my grandmother's house on 96th Street and Central Park West or to the Museum of Natural History on 81st Street with my 5th grade class. These memories were very positive and brought that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when reminiscing of good times.

The train moved on
from 59th Street and went express to 125th Street in Harlem. I remembered the crowded platforms of yesterday. There were also the blaring radios that crooned smooth R & B music or poetically profound Rap songs. Girls wore "door knocker" earrings in those days with bright red lipstick, stone or acid washed jeans and asymmetrical hairstyles. Those who were into techno, grunge and alternative music were ensconced in black. Some individuals danced on the train platforms to the tunes of Stevie B, Noel, Cynthia and Johnny O. Free-style dance music was all the rage.

The train then by-passed 135th Street. This is where A. Philip Randolph Campus High School is located. I call it "my castle on the hill." Years ago, and I will not mention how many, this was my home. My friends and this school were my safe haven from my hellish home-life. I had stopped getting off at this stop because one had to walk through a very dark park with a never ending staircase. I had my necklace snatched by a crackhead and decided that I would no longer place myself in that type of danger ever again.

The D train pulled into 145th Street. I remember walking ten blocks to my high scho
ol every morning. My friends and I would all meet up, with precise timing, and accompany one another on our long arduous journey through the streets of Harlem. We walked from St. Nicholas to Convent Ave and then on to 135th Street. It didn't matter if it rained or snowed, we trekked through the urban jungle all in the name of education. Okay, maybe not education but definitely for social interactions. I no longer keep in contact with many of my friends. The only regret I have is not keeping in contact with Rodney Robinson. He is that friend that had your back in good times and bad. He moved to California about 18 years ago. I have not heard from him since.

When the D train pulled into 167th Street, my stomach began to knot. This is where my story begins. This is my birthplace, my roots and my "hood." This is where as a child and a teenager I dealt with my father's alcoholism, family drug abuse, child abuse, my mother's schizophrenia, the parental neglect of my siblings and suicide watches. I was the observer, care-taker and the only one with any ambition. There were good times also but these were overshadowed by my family's flaws.

The train moved out of the station and I immediately began to breathe easier. Is it any wonder why I can't go back to the Bronx? To any other person, it's just a train ride. However, for me, it was an emotional roller coaster of memories.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life Gets in the Way

I really wanted to plug away at the keyboard and possibly get some writing done. Well, life got in the way. My daughter is at a stage in her life where going to the right high school makes all the difference in achieving future college and career goals.

I am really proud of her. She is in Arista Honors Society, has a 93 average, is on the basketball team, takes cooking classes after school and is part of a program where Middle School students go to elementary schools and read books to the little ones.

For the past two weeks, we have gone to several open houses looking for the best possible high school placement. Yesterday was the Staten Island High School fair. It was very productive and she even became interested in a high school that is based on a college campus. The students at the school are able to use the college facilities which include swimming pool, tennis court, racketball and libraries.

Today, we ventured into Manhattan. She looked at several schools and asked many questions. I am a little scared. I know she is growing up and wants to come into her own but I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about my little traveling on public transportation. She would have to take a bus to the ferry and then a train once on Manhattan. I am not sure if I am ready to let go.

However, she is a smart girl and I know that she will make the best decision possible. Still, it is so hard to let little girls grow up.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Latino in America

This week on CNN, there was an interesting segment by Soledad O'Brien. What does it mean to be Latino in America?

I asked myself this question and it was very difficult to come up with a coherent answer.

As a child, I made it clearly known that I was Puerto Rica
n, "Boriqua", Latina, Hispanic. I took pride in my culture, music, food and customs. Every year, I went to the Puerto Rican Day Parade and waved the Puerto Rican flag. My grandmother would comment, “Nosotros somos ricos hoy,” (We are rich today). It was the one day in which we were economically prosperous since the parade was, and still is, held on Manhattan’s posh Fifth Avenue. Consequently, it was a cultural wealth versus a monetary wealth.

Interestingly, as an adult, I still hold on to my roots but I don't flaunt the fact that I am Latina. I feel that it is one part of me that should be apparent without my having to proclaim, or wear a tee-shirt saying “Boriqua,” that I am Latina. Whether at work, home, on the street or simply shopping in the mall, I know that my ethnic background is a big part of how I perceive myself and also is the critical lens through which I see the world.

A significant part of our identity as Latinos is our food. Food is more than just sustenance to us. Cooking and preparing food is a way for the family to get together, talk, relax and reconnect those strong familial bonds. It is a way for us to feel accepted, loved and comfortable in a safe haven.

I remember visiting my grandmother’s house on the weekends. Novelas, Spanish soap operas, would be blaring from the living room’s television. I could smell the sofrito, adobo, sazon and various other Spanish seasonings, sizzling in the kitchen. The radio in the kitchen would be playing a song where Tito Puente kills it on the drums. My mother would be smoking a cigarette and moving her hips to the rhythm of the music. Kids would be running back and forth in the hallway and some adult would yell at them, threatening a beating. This is just a glimpse of what it means to be Latino in America.

Music is very important to us Latinos also. Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Bolero, Tejano, Reggaeton, the list goes on and on. Our music is the part of our identity that connects us to our ancestors. We are of African, Native American and European descent. The rhythm of the drums links us to our ancestral tribes. Again, it is a way for the family to connect. It is also a way for sending a message. It is part of our sexuality and gives us a release from our every day toils.

Spanish, our language, is another facet of our identity as Latinos. I found it interesting that in the CNN segment, there was an American woman, who felt that all Latinos should learn English. I do not dispute that in order to function in today’s American society, the learning English is essential. However, many of us who are not economically well off, must work. Some Latinos work twelve-hour days and then go home to take care of their families. It is very difficult to find time in the day to learn a new language when providing and caring for the family. The family was considered more important than the individual.

Another interesting issue, which I can closely identify with, is the generational barrier between those who have just immigrated from a predominantly Spanish speaking country and those who are born here in the United States. The CNN segment stated that there is a significant rift between Latino mothers and their daughters. One reason is the language assimilation of the children to that of the American culture. I found that my grandmother and all of her children experienced this same conflict. My mother only spoke Spanish with her mother. My mother would speak English the rest of the time.

There is also our religion, Catholicism, which defines our character. My mother never really pressured me to go to church. At the age of seven, I asked her if I could go Sunday school. I went alone and completed my communion, second of the seven holy sacraments. Next when I was sixteen, I completed my confirmation. My saint name is Catherine. However, as an adult, I broke away from the church. I discovered that the people who attended that particular church were very hypocritical and required my then rebellious adolescent self to conform.

With adulthood and logical reasoning, I “came out” of the closet and told my family that I did not believe in their version of a benevolent God. Well, needless to say that I was a pariah, blasphemer, and every other name they could throw at me. Abuela (Grandma) would start quoting scripture in Spanish. My aunt would scold me and tell me “Don’t say that!” or I would get “You don’t really believe that.” So, I did what every other Latina would do in my case, I lied and said that I was just kidding, that I did believe in the Roman Catholic God. It is very difficult for my family; I will not speak for other Latino families, to consider that there may be a different reason for our existence here in this universe. Perhaps God is really change. Perhaps there is some supernatural force out there that does not care whether we believe in it or not because IT just IS. I don’t know, but as a Hispanic female in a fanatically religious family, I choose not to speak about religion or just disappear whenever the topic comes up.

Will I really ever know what it truly means to be Latino in America? Perhaps not. But I can definitely delineate what it means to be Latino in New York City.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Executive Decisions

The intention of this blog entry is to release the growing anxiety and tension that's been building up for a month. I have not written a single word in two weeks. Hopefully, this will clear some of the mind clutter and writing ruts.

Have you ever had to make a really hard decision, knew what course to take but because of the uncomfortable consequence of the decision, you just want to take the easy way out? It's kind of like editing a novel. You have to make the difficult decision of removing a paragraph here or chapter there. Perhaps you may even need to eliminate a character altogether. Well, this week I have had to make a really difficult decision in how to best serve the needs of my students.

I have several students who need immediate intervention. My students have severe emotional disabilities, travel with paraprofessionals (teaching assistants) and will probably be on medication for the rest of their lives in order to manage the hormonal imbalances in their bodies. One student, who resided in the Bronx last year and now lives in Manhattan, is particularly disrespectful, cuts school, is gang affiliated, and regularly disobeys his parents. I have made phone calls, had a conference with the parent, delineated the various consequences of his behavior, made checklists, late sign in sheets and threatened to put him on a school bus!

Well, the only thing I didn't try was changing the teaching assistant who travels with this student. I have avoided taking this action for the simple fact that it would cause a very uncomfortable rift amongst the team members (the coordinator *me*, the three paraprofessionals, nine students). Well, today I let one of the paraprofessionals know that I would be placing her with this difficult student. She replied that this is unfair because we need to get rid of the paraprofessional who is ineffective with the students. I explained that the NYC Department of Education will not send me a new teaching assistant and I have to make do with what I've got. From that moment, she has refused to talk to me so we can resolve the conflict. I thought that we could both separate friendship and our duties as educators. It was something that I had to do because it was best for the students. I am baffled that she did take it personal. She even walked away and ignored me as I tried to reason with her.

Well, I can only hope that Monday will bring a fresh start and better disposition. As I haven't finished my book yet, I wonder if it's easier to edit a book than it is to manage people?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Quiet time

Quiet Time

I fled from the house, angry with my wife and went to the local bar. You looked at me with those smoldering eyes and bought me a drink. We talked late into the night. You took me home. I never meant to cheat on her but I needed what you offered me. Warmth and understanding. It was a one night stand but will haunt me for as long as I live. As I sit here contemplating this letter, I realize you were a mistake. I should have gone home.

How do I tell my wife that I am HIV positive?

This drabble (story told in exactly 100 words) was inspired by brother who lost the battle to AIDS on February 2, 2007.

Arwork provided by Washington Green Galleries. Artist is Hamish Blakely.

Many more drabbles can be found at

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Beginnings

Well, summer has come to a close. Tomorrow, I begin the new school year. I am anxious to start anew but also apprehensive since I do not know what is in store for me this school year. I plan to teach Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Orwell's Animal Farm, Weisel's Night, Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, and if time permits Achebe's Things Fall Apart. I know. This is quite an ambitious undertaking for 10th Grade English but I have faith that my students will step up to the plate.

I am hoping that by revisiting the classics, my writing will have more imagery, conflict, contextual relevance and great character development. Perhaps, situations experienced during the school year itself will provide the "meaty" material needed to kick start the creative juices when I get stumped.

On a side note, I am planning to go back to school for the 2010 spring semester. I have a master's in Education but am looking to study something different. I am interested in development disabilities and would like to study the neuroscience behind it. Another ambitious undertaking. Yes. As a special education teacher, I want to know how the minds of my students tic so that I can design a curriculum that best suits their way of thinking, processing and communicating information. I have wanted to go back since I graduated in 2008. I almost get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Moving Forward

Today, I have turned over a new leaf. I was absolutely stumped yesterday when writer's block smacked me across the face. I put my current "work in progress" aside and decided to revisit some of my other ideas. I met with success. As I perused a WIP that I put aside two years ago, I was invigorated to revise the plot and write several pages of the prologue. It was refreshing. I cannot explain the elation I felt when I reviewed the number of pages written.

Do not think that I came up with this on my own. I must thank my good friends, The Watery Tart- Hart Johnson, Rayna M. Iyer and also author Elizabeth Spann Craig. Reading their blogs has been that jump start, and kick in the rear end, that I have sorely needed. Thank you ladies.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Writer's Block Drabble

No two words are more evil to a writer than "writer's block." I had thought that I was over that hump, since for the past month or so, my writing has progressed slowly. I believed that my writing would jump start once I purged my feelings onto this blog. Unfortunately, I am still staring at the computer screen, drawing a blank. It is so frustrating. I look at the outline that I have written and try to drag myself back on track. It is no use. The source of this writer's block eludes me.

However, I will not give up.

Drabble: a short story/literary work written in exactly 100 words.

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Outlines and Time . . .

After a long day of coordinating an off-site school program, covering classes for absent teachers, performing lunch duty and completing all the administrative paperwork that goes with such school site; I sat down at the computer to create an outline of my book. I figured a chronological timeline of events would work best.

However, there was a dilemma. I was physically, emotionally and mentally tired. Dinner had to be made, husband needed attention, kids wanted to spend time with me, friendly phone calls needed to be returned and even the cat was whined at me. I was so exhausted that I meant to take a thirty minute nap and ended up sleeping for two hours, leaving my husband in charge of the household.

I often wonder how do you make time for your writing? Where in the day can you fit a good block of time to spend on your writing without having to sacrifice family and friends? Although summer school ends in approximately two days, the fall semester will begin on September 8th. I will have to learn to manage my
time and incorporate writing, for a decent block of time, into my already hectic schedule. It sounds so easy and yet it is one of the biggest obstacles that I have to hurdle every day. If anyone has suggestions, please feel free to help me out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Death and Stunted Writing

Lately, I have felt like my writing has been a long lost friend. Except for the occassional drabbles, I had stopped writing approximately two years ago. The death of my brother was an obstacle that I just couldn't seem to get hurdle over. I am not sure if the cause of writer's block was a combination of guilt or merely that I did not have time to grieve and heal. Family, teaching and school had consumed all my time and energy. The loss of my brother was put on the backburner until there was time to go through the process of grief.

However, lately I feel a renewed sense of urgency to write. I was on the bus this morning thinking of all my old friends from high school, college and those I have acquired throughout my many jobs. My writing fell right into that category. Right around 23rd Street and 5th Avenue, I began to reminisce how often I would write and how I truly missed it. Writing has become my new best friend. So no more procrastination and contemplation. . .

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Book Review: Thirteenth Tale by Diana Setterfield (Contains Spoilers)

This is a book selected by my Book Club: The Thirteenth Tale by Diana Setterfield.

Here is my book review:

I found this novel to be quite enjoyable. It is a great mystery novel. I especially enjoy the "who is who?" as far as the twin's identity, Adeline and Emmeline. It was fun trying to find out whether Vida Winters was Emmeline or Adeline Angelfield. I found Vida Winters, the main character, to be a wonderfully mean and ornery old woman. She was plagued with disease, old age and sorrow; but as evident in her vibrant green eyes, she was full of life. I liked her character the most.

Second place goes to Hester. She was a scientific genius who unfortunately was way ahead of her time. She was governess, mistress of the house, care-taker, psychologist and so much more. She provided the discipline the twins needed that was sorely missing in their chaotic, care-free lives. Together with the town's Doctor, Hester produced an experiment determining the effects of separation between twins. This experiment did not go well. I knew that a loving relationship between Hester and the Doctor was blossoming way before they did. It was obvious that two people with so much in common would come together in matrimony. Too bad that they had to wait for the Doctor's wife to pass away. I suppose divorce was taboo during this time and not an option for the Doctor.

I absolutely abhorred Isabelle, the twins mother, and Charles, the twins uncle. Their relationship was truly disturbing and detrimental to all those around them. Just like the association and companionship between the Doctor and Hester, the amorous relationship of these siblings, Isabelle and Charles, was apparent in the harmful interactions between the two. They led violent, psychotic lives. It was expected that their end would be just as brutal.

I enjoyed the ever present themes of death, loss, family, sisterhood and love. The use of the "wolf" as the metaphorical representation of death was a very clever. Vida made a deal with the wolf, her disease that was slowly eating her body and soul. The agreement was that the wolf would let her tell the twin's story and at its end, the wolf could claim and consume Vida. It was brilliantly written.

Similarly, the agreement between Vida and Margaret was interesting. I am one of those individuals who interrupts and asks questions instead of just listening to the entire story first. It was interesting how Vida was adamant about telling the story from beginning to middle to end, in that order.

I almost forgot Aurelius. I loved him and found him to be absolutely delightful. He was one of the second biggest mystery and secret of all, compared to Vida. I was constantly trying to figure out what was his role in the story. How does his piece of the puzzle fit into the entire scheme of the story? It was a wonderful subplot and woven very well into the entire novel.

The twist at the end was truly unexpected. I thought that Vida was Adeline. Then I thought, well maybe she is Emmeline. The result was a big surprise. I will not post it as it is a spoiler and am not sure if all have finished the book.

The only portion of the book that I did not find enjoyable was the trials and tribulations of Margaret's character. I found her to be very weak. I just didn't really feel her pain compared to the agony that Vida had endured during her lifetime. Margaret's loss seemed to pale in comparison. I think that maybe since I am not a twin, I cannot empathize with the loss of a twin sibling. Or perhaps it is really that I cannot understand how you can feel the loss of your sibling if you never knew that individual. Margaret's twin died at birth and she never grew up with her. So I cannot understand how she feels this vacuum in her life where her twin should be.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


When getting together with my girlfriends, I was asked "What makes a successful marriage?" These are my thoughts on that topic.

Marriage is nothing but work. Please do not be fooled. If anyone tells you that marriage is all roses, sunshine and happiness - walk away. Many people wonder what is that magic ingredient that makes a marriage "work." It's not a secret at all. Most people know the answer but prefer to remain in denial. To obtain a successful marriage, one needs an equal portion of love, understanding, compromise and time. The word compromise should not be taboo. It does not mean that you give up your identity. It does not mean to be subservient. It definitely does not mean that you always must put the needs of your spouse first. Compromise means that each party negotiates for the benefit of the whole. Give a little and take a little. It is a precarious balance that requires much attention, time and energy.

Please understand that this is not easy, especially for individuals who are "independent," selfish, little experience with successful marriages or have lived alone so long they do not know how to live with someone else. I see it time and again. Two people with completely different goals in life, marrying one another for the sake of not having to be alone anymore. These are people who are in love with the idea of being in love.

My first marriage was based on a non-existent foundation. We had married too early, too young and too quickly. We were in such a rush that we forgot the most basic principles of marriage: get to know your significant other's wants, needs, financial goals and dreams. We had a very different philosophy on life and a very different ideal of family. A short four and a half years later, our marriage was over and beyond repair.

However, with that lesson learned, my second marriage has been very successful and fulfilling. We have known one another for approximately 12 years. We were dating for 2 years and have been married for the past seven years. It is funny how the lessons from my first marriage became an invaluable resource to draw upon for my second. My husband and I communicate with one another about everything: sex, love, family, dreams, goals, kids, work, etc. It is not very often that you find that one person in the world who completes you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bittersweet Symphony

The bells no longer ring.
The halls are empty.
The boards are blank.
No laughter in the cafeteria.

No flitting of pages in notebooks.
No bodies pressed tightly going up and down the staircase.
There are no chairs scraping against the floor.
And no desks decorated with grafitti.

As a teacher, one is happy on the last day.
However, I see it as a bittersweet symphony.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I find myself confused. It is the last day of classes. The final review of material before students take their state exam, the Regents. Why are the halls empty? Why are the classrooms at a quarter capacity? I shake my head and wonder, "Was I like this when I was a teenager in high school? " Of course, as a teenager, I liked school. It was my escape from the chaos and insanity at home.

I asked my colleagues. Some gave the typical cynical answer. "These kids don't care about their future, so why should we?" Some said that the students have working hard all year long and one day of rest won't really make a difference. I believe that we have failed them, if in fact, they "don't care" about their education. Today should be that last push, that one last chance to study/ review for exams.

At times, I truly believe that we as a society do not place enough emphasis on education. I look at other countries where schooling and educators are revered. I then compare it to the NYC high school where I teach. There is no comparison. I often appalled at the lack of respect for education and teachers. But how do we make it better? I am already counselor, mother, friend, teacher and everything else under the sun. What more can a teacher do to ensure that her students take education seriously, especially in this economy.

So here I sit, planning lessons for today and no students to teach.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

Perhaps when I was younger, times and attitude were different. I remember taking care of my younger siblings. I recall ironing their school clothes on Sundays, feeding them breakfast in the morning, taking them to school and picking them up afterward.

This afternoon, my older daughter asked if she could have ice cream. I explained to her that the freezer had defrosted and she must check to see if the ice cream is edible. My younger daughter skips after her and asks if she could have ice cream. My older daughter yells, "No. Get out of here. Leave me alone." Of course, as all little children do, my younger daughter ran to my room and asked for ice cream. I was perplexed to say the least. I had to call my older daughter and explain the idea of "Am I my brother's [in this case 'sister's'] keeper."

This was a daunting situation. I had to explain to my older daughter, in great detail, that the younger one is only five years old. She must have everything explained to her. Would it have been too difficult to tell her, "I am going to check if the ice cream is good. If it is, I will give you some. If it's not, then it must be thrown in the garbage." I discussed this issue with my older daughter. Her expression told me all. Not one ounce of what we discussed entered her brain. She feels the victim.

I had forgotten how self-centered teenagers can be.

Friday, June 12, 2009

First Kiss

I wrote this four years ago. It was an early memory of a difficult time in my life. Here we go . . .

Bronx Tales: First Kiss

The kiss itself was not all that memorable. It was the consequence of the kiss that I will never forget. Apparently, a boy named Kemone in my second grade class, wrote a note about kissing me after school. I remember happily skipping home from C.E. S. 90x (Community Elementary School) on Sheridan Avenue in the Bronx. My building was only half a block away, but I felt as though I was gliding in slow motion. I could feel my heart beating underneath my blouse and that sudden elation of giddiness one gets when you‘ve acquired what you have been waiting for. The world seemed bright and the possibilities endless. I was thinking, “Does he really like me? Is he my boyfriend now that he kissed me? Does it matter that he’s not Puerto Rican and doesn’t speak Spanish? Will he ask for another kiss?” While all of this ran through my mind, I hadn’t realized that I was only seven years old and shouldn’t be kissing boys.

My grandmother lived on the second floor and my mother often told me to go there after school. I was busily doing my homework at grandma’s kitchen table. You could smell the fried chicken, rice and beans permeating the entire apartment. I left everything at the table and went to use the bathroom. When I returned, to my horror, my nosey cousin read aloud the note which said “Shaharizan, do you like me. Check yes or no. If yes, meet me after school for a kiss.” My mother just happened to come into the kitchen. She had a look which was a mixture of exhaustion, shock and anger. I was rooted to the spot. I calculated how long it would take me to reach the front door of the apartment and escape into the street. I took too long. My mother grabbed me into grandma’s living room. She spanked me so hard, I couldn’t sit properly for two days. I didn’t kiss another boy until fifth grade. Oh and my cousin . . . Well let’s just say her hair was mysteriously cut one evening and she ended up with a short page boy rather than the long locks she was accustomed to.