Sunday, November 29, 2009

la mujer en el apron verde

Tienes identificacion, por favor?
Idalys handed me a card, and it wasn’t a license or a passport. I tried to disguise my excitement as I handled her proof of permission to legally reside in the U.S.  I thought it was a euphemism, or some kind of legend that had evolved over the ages. But last Saturday I came to realize that green cards really are green.
Idalys was from Tijuana, Mexico, the card told me. I quickly punched in her numbers into the computer, confirmed that she was indeed registered for her free Thanksgiving meal, and sent her to the lady in the green apron.
Except that I don’t know the word for apron in Spanish.
Idalys was one of thousands of homeless or lower-income families in the Tampa Bay area that would receive food from Metropolitan Ministries this holiday season. And I was one of hundreds of volunteers who would help the well-oiled machine of goodwill to do its thing.
Marcel told me he hadn’t eaten in two days.
Jeanette, with her platinum blonde hair and well-groomed nails, asked me how old I thought she was. I skirted around the question with flattering clichés.
61. Don’t I look good for 61?
I got to hear all about Jeanette’s weight-loss journey, philosophies on diet and exercise, and how to take a good license photo.
Louis, a tall, athletic-looking father, approached my station with his children and wife in tow. He handed me his registration form and his ID. I punched in Louis’ number and asked him whether they wanted chicken or turkey. I punched in Laquanda’s number and tried to make eye contact with her. With eyes diverted, she may have eked out a smile from the left corner of her mouth.  Still not sure about that.  I punched in the numbers of the two boys, asked their grades and we talked about 3rd grade.
You’ve got FCAT coming up. You reading, right?
Yes, ma’am, Javonne politely replied.
And then that was it. Just four numbers. Louis, Laquanda, Javonne, Demetrius.  But what about the stroller? And the little girl on Laquanda’s hip?
Louis, are those your children also?
Yes, ma’am.
Louis explained to me that he couldn’t find their socials when he was registering his family for the Thanksgiving meal. So, without social security cards, they don’t count. I excused myself for a minute (masking one’s shock became a much-needed skill) to check with the volunteer supervisor. Was this truly the case?
I had a hard time when I returned to my station, wanting to apologize to Louis, but not wanting to paint this generous ministry as Uncle Scrooge. I thought back to my days teaching in the ghetto. My training with Ruby Payne told me how hard it was for those in the culture of poverty to adhere to middle-class codes of paper.
Louis graciously smiled and assured me he understood when I confirmed that we “couldn’t do anything” without his daughters’ socials. And then I sent Louis with his two official and two unofficial children on their way to the lady in the green apron.
Tabitha’s curly bobbed head barely made it over the work space of my station. When I looked up from the computer to greet her, I noticed a few tears pooled in the corners of her eyes. I set down her registration sheet and ID, and walked around the station to be near her. Nothing like comforting someone when there’s a splintery piece of plywood between the two of you.
I just get emotional about these things, Tabitha told me.
Well, do you need to talk to someone? Should I get someone for you?
No, I’m fine, she protested.
Tabitha blubbered something about a lady she just met in line that had battled cancer and was in remission. Something about her new friend’s courage. And to be honest, I was a little puzzled. I couldn’t figure exactly why Tabitha was emotional. I began punching in her numbers, having determined that she was Okay. Right about when I was supposed to usher her towards the green apron, Lady in Remission passed my station. Her frail frame was draped with a floral print dress.  Another flower laden scarf was piled atop her head. She seemed to move in slow motion, but any discomfort was disguised by a flowy-like gracefulness.  She embraced Tabitha as if they were childhood friends and thanked her for her help.
And off went the two. Both in need. And yet not too consumed with self to be unmoved by the other.
I just get emotional about these things.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

13 Reasons to Run a Half-Marathon

1. i'm 27

2. i'm not pregnant (although the rumor was floating through my neighborhood. it's always fun to be asked. if i had some cajones, i'd really mess with the are-you-pregnant Askers. but i don't.)

3. i've never done anything really physically competitive. i danced in high school, but never went en pointe. i trained with cross country over the summer, but didn't join for the season. never played team sports. my only trophy was for placing 3rd in a public speaking contest. The Giving Tree. it would have moved you too.

4. the race is local, the gasparilla half marathon, so there's no extra cost with gas or hotel.

5. i've been coveting a slick pair of sports sunglasses and a digital sports watch. i'd look for real then.

6. i'm going to use this race as an excuse to raise money for blood:water mission, an organization that fights AIDS in Africa by building wells. 6 of my friends have joined me.

7. rebecca from The Biggest Loser told me I could do it.

8. ripped calves and huge quads are sexy.

9. considering running in a skort. what do you think?

10. i want one of those super proud pics of me at the finish line holding my amazing son, Carter. he plans to run races with me later, he's told me in more or less words.

11. a full marathon scares me. really scares me.

12. i like the runner's sock tan. especially when i wear flip-flops.

13. if i had a bucket list, running a half marathon would be on it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

another tree-killing, time-wasting diversion in my mailbox

Dear J.Crew,

Please stop sending me your catalogs and incessant emails. I know there's a button for that somewhere, to make this request official and maybe I'll find it someday.

The thing is, I really don't need you sitting in my mail box, every 4 weeks or so, with some tantalizingly expensive sex-in-the-city-esque coat, worn by some pale twig of a female, begging to be purchased. If you knew where I live, you'd understand that there are 8.925 hours, total, in this part of Florida that would merit such a thick piece of cloth. If we were to break it down that's $112 $147 an hour (of course I included the boots and clutch). The second thing you should know is that I really cannot afford to rent a coat, albeit every Jackie-O-fanatasy-fulfilled, for $147 an hour. I don't walk the city streets to hop on the Metro, and I certainly don't hang out with Marco and his alpaca in the Andes (where your last shoot took place). So, of those 8.925 cold hours in Tampa, I'm indoors for most of them.

Another thing you should know is that you're really overestimating how trendy I am. While I covet your coats, you must be forgetting that I'm just a mom in the suburbs, working part-time as a teacher. I can't attempt to match the fashion templates your stringy-haired models demonstrate. Satin shorts with tights, high heels, and a boyfriend blazer? Not feeling that on the neighborhood playground with my toddler. I'll cut you some slack, though, because I'm pretty sure my closet will contain some of Jenna's a couple years. That's how I rock it.

Until I find that elusive stop-marketing-me button, I'll have to tread the line between harmless ogling and idolatrous coveting. But what do you care, J.Crew? You and Marco in the Andes, and Jenna with her picks, and Twiggy--you'll keep doing what you do. We'll keep up the pretense--that care you about my style and that I can afford yours. It's kinda fun.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ode to my Laptop

Just an HP
Before I knew Macs were cool
Bought you for 1000+
Forgot to send the rebate in

Took you to Mexico
and San Antonio
And you entertained my 18 month old
on the nightmare-flight to San Diego

You graduated me from pen and paper
to appointments color-coded
by Outlook
You lured me from my spiral notebook
to posting my thoughts in the blogosphere
You seduced me to Facebook
where I got in touch with old friends
and old now-I-know-why-we're-not-friends

Your fateful end was the meeting of
my three loves:
my son, my coffee, my laptop
It's gonna be hard to move on
Unless I get a flaming pink Mac
So, here's to you
and all the words we've shared