Songs of the Summer, Part 2

Christin

Lights- Journey

 This song reminds me of my favorite city. When I moved down to the bay area in the late 90’s, I fell in the love with San Francisco. The people, places, and the culture were what attracted me. Fisherman’s Wharf, The Golden Gate Bridge, the bay… it felt like my home away from home.

When the lights go down in the City
And the sun shines on the bay
Do I want to be there in my City
Ooh, ooh

 I had many firsts in the city by the bay. I tasted my first won-ton soup in China town. I also got inked my Pinky, a world-renowned tattoo artist whose little shop was snuggled in the Mission District. I enjoyed the best bread bowl clam chowder on Pier 39, not to mention the best tasting chocolate at Ghiradelli’s. My roommate and I would drive down and park, overlooking the bay on warm summer nights, we would talk about life, stupid boys, and our plans for the next adventure.

 So you think you’re lonely
Well my friend I’m lonely too
I want to get back to my City by the bay
Ooh, ooh

Anything was possible in the city.

It’s sad, oh there’s been mornings
Out on the road without you
Without your charms,
Ooh, my, my, my

 It has been 17 years since I have been back to my city. Ironically, my daughter is looking for colleges in the bay area to attend, which may or may not have been influenced by me.  I am looking forward to a trip down there within the next year or two, check out some colleges with her, and last but not least take her to my old stomping grounds, except the tattoo parlor, that one is not on the itinerary. She and I will sit, overlooking the bay, and she will tell me all about her plans for her life, maybe even a stupid boy and we most definitely will talk about her next adventure.

 When the lights go down in the City
And the sun shines on the bay
Do I want to be there in my City
Ooh, ooh

 

 Jennifer

 

Before Christin and I sat down to write this post, we spoke on the phone. It went a little something like this.

Me~ So hey, how about we do a song about Father’s Day since you know, it’s Father’s Day tomorrow.

Christin~ Hmmm. Let’s see, well, the fact that I DO NOT HAVE A DAD is going to hinder my writing.

Awkward, to say the least.

So, before I get into my particular song, I want to give a shout out to Christin. I will not tell her story, that is for her to do one day, but there were many years when she was both Mom and Dad to her children and even more years when Christin’s amazing mother was fulltime Mom and Dad to her children.

For me, Father’s Day always comes at the beginning of Summer Vacation. I have spent many years closing in on the last days of school with my own kids while trying to figure out what kind of dinner I will ruin for Joe on Father’s Day. Not always an easy task! In more recent years, it is to the point where Joe is like “Just pick up some lamb, but don’t cook it, I will cook it!”

Yeah, you get the point.

When I was growing up, it was the same thing. Not my horrible cooking mind you, Father’s Day falling right around the end of one school year, with Summer Vacation a few days away.

I have spoken about my own Father many times on this blog. If you do a search, you will see a bountiful of cheesy sentimental post, coupled in with some funny “Dad Stories.” Ironically enough, my dad has his own blog where he and my uncle share their own cheesy sentimental post coupled in with comedic gold about their very own father. You can check out their blog Here.

One of my father’s first loves is music. I’m telling you, check out his blog and you will see. Music has always and will always be a big part of our lives.

Now the song I have chosen for this segment is anything but a song of summer. There is no talk of summer air and breathtaking beaches. Boardwalks and summer vacations could not be any further from this classic rock bands lyrics in 1981.

However, just like the story goes, it’s never really about the lyrics, it’s about the memory the song evokes.

If you’re havin’ trouble with your high school head
He’s givin’ you the blues
You want to graduate but not in his debt
Here’s what you gotta do 


It did not matter where we were. In the car on a long car ride from Chesapeake, Virginia to Colonial Height, or in the cozy two bedroom second-floor apartment that had the prettiest bay window I have ever seen. As soon as my sister and I would hear the music coming from the car radio or the old fashion record player, all controlled by Dad, we would bust out in song as if we knew what we were actually singing.

We were so young. Both my sister and I not even knowing how to pronounce certain words. It did not matter though, that was “our song.”

Pick up the phone
I’m always home
Call me any time
Just ring
36 24 36 hey
I lead a life of crime

It would always be the chorus of the song where would sing to our lung capacity, missing baby teeth and all.

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap

We would sing to our heart’s content, even bopping along to the music while dad would be flipping through album cover, doing his own moves.

I told you, this was a far cry from a song of summer, but it was only the beginning. The beginning of a lifetime of memories with music being the bookends.

So Dad, if you are reading this, and you better be reading this being that you make up half of our readers, Happy Father’s Day. This one’s for you.

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Jen & Christin’s “Songs of the Summer” Series.

Summer Vacation is just around the corner. Both my kids and Christin’s are in the home stretch. Five days and counting! A shift is taking place. Late nights and lazy mornings will be here before you know it. Trips to the beach, the zoo, and for the one week in Summer when we hit 90 degrees, this is when we hit the mall basking in the glory of air condition. Breakfast at 10:00 am over coffee, juice, and bacon. Late night dinners because no one has to be up early. Each kid hoping that THIS will be a summer to remember. As Christin and I think back to our own Summers, some, not that long ago, we decided what better way to welcome Summer than with our very own playlist. The only rule, there is none. Over the course of the next ten days, we will each share a song with you that envokes a special summer memory. A song that when Christin and I hear it in the middle of October, we start counting down the days to Summer, remembering days long gone. We hope you enjoy this series as much as we enjoyed writing about it.

Christin

Hot in Here- Nelly

This song came out in 2002, the summer I went to Mexico. Turns out even if it the locals didn’t know a word of English, they did know every word of this song. Every night we spent in the club dancing, sweating our asses off until late into the night. After leaving the club, we would find the nearest street taco truck and eat the best tacos south of the border.  The streets were filled with people dancing to music I didn’t know the words to. It didn’t matter. The locals were so friendly, I even had a few that tried to teach me some Spanish despite my inability to roll my r’s. A few late-night swims on the white sand covered beaches were the most memorable. Quite different from the ones here on the west coast. On a short trip to a nearby city, we sat in the back of a truck singing at the top of our lungs…

“I got secrets can’t leave Cancun
So take it off like your home alone
You know dance in front your mirror while you’re on the phone
Checking your reflection and telling your best friend
Like “Girl I think my butt getting big!”

It’s getting hot in here, so hot, so take off all your clothes
I am, getting so hot, I wanna take my clothes off
It’s getting hot in here, so hot, so take off all your clothes
I am, getting so hot, I wanna take my clothes off”

That was a great trip. It was the last summer that I would be uncommitted to anyone or anything. I was living in the moment, doing what most 22-year-olds do, not thinking about tomorrow. I didn’t know it then, but that would be the last of many things for me. About a week after coming home, I got really sick. At first, I thought it was all those street tacos I consumed or maybe the excessive amounts of Corona. Turns out this would be the last summer that I would be wild and free. I found out I was pregnant with my daughter following a very short relationship with a local military soldier. I would be faced with being a single mom, which changed my life in only good ways. You see, everything happens for a reason. 16 years later when this song comes on, you will find my free-spirited daughter and I with the windows rolled down, warm air on our faces, singing at the top of our lungs.

“It’s getting hot in here, so hot, so take off all your clothes
I am, getting so hot, I wanna take my clothes off
It’s getting hot in here, so hot, so take off all your clothes
I am, getting so hot, I wanna take my clothes off”

 

 Jennifer

Sofia was in the third grade. I was an active parent volunteer at her school. It was the last day of school. While the students were in their respective classrooms, doing final clean up touches on empty desks and bare walls, you could hear their excitement. Summer vacation was finally here.

Some fellow parent volunteers and I were in the school workroom cleaning it up, making sure everything was in place for when we all returned in September. Cookie ovens unplugged, a clean bulletin board waiting to see what next year’s theme will be, a coffee pot along with stale creamer packed up for the summer.

One of the parent volunteers had some “music” playing on her phone. I use the word “music” very loosely. It was not music. It was fingernails on a chalkboard kind of music, and she was singing along to every cringe-worthy lyric.

I opened the back door to the workroom to get some fresh air in there. There was a burst of cool breeze that kinda pushed the door out further than I had originally intended. A storm was coming. The sky was turning a deep shade of blue, you could hear thunder in the distance, and smell the rain that would probably be here at any moment. It was a nice change. Not your typical “Welcome to Summer vacation” weather, but my kind of weather.

As the three of us we standing there, chilly from the quick change of a mild muggy heat to a chilly fall breeze, the song changed on her phone. As soon as I heard the very first line, the other’s made their way to the phone to switch it.

“Don’t you dare change it, this is a classic!”

Here comes the jesters, one, two three
It’s all part of my fantasy
I love the music and I love to see the crowd
Dancin’ In the aisles and singin’ out loud

Both of them looked at me, then at each other. “What song is this? I don’t think I know it?”

I was dumbfounded.

Ignoring them, I walked outside, just as it was starting to sprinkle. I could still hear the music playing.

Here comes the dancers one by one
Your mama’s callin’ but you’re havin’ fun
You find you’re dancin’ on a number nine cloud
Put your hands together now and sing It out loud

“Yeah, that’s the point!”

 

I opened up my arms, welcoming the rain. Standing there, on the playground of a school that has at least five hundred students and staff,  I had not a care in the world. This was the last day of school. With open arms, I welcomed the rain. This was a perfect start to my summer.

Only when the song finished, did I make my way back inside. Hair damp with the first rain of the season, makeup borderline smudged, clothes, slightly wet. Perhaps I did not think this out fully. There was still the end of the year assembly to attend, and I looked like a wet skunk, but I will tell you, standing on the empty playground, taking in the rain as a sign from up above “You’re going to have a hot summer, but I will give you this.” it just set the mood. “Let’s go summer, show me whatcha got!”

And to this day, every time I hear Bad Company’s “Rock N Roll Fantasy” it takes me back to that day in the rain. And no matter where I am, I will be..

Dancin’ In the aisles and singin’ out loud

 

 

 

 

Rise Up

So, it’s me again, Christin. Two blogs in two days, I must be on a roll. Jen is working on a speech which I am sure she will tell you more about later. So tonight, you guys are stuck with me.

This last year has been so crazy. Mostly a good crazy. As most of you know, I got accepted into the human services program at WWU where I am pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree. If you would’ve told me 10 years ago I would be in college at almost 40, I would have punched you in the face.

 The truth is, 10 years ago my kids were 5 and 3. I was a single mom, working full-time, struggling to make ends meet. I felt a tremendous amount of pressure and guilt because my babies were in daycare while I was working hard to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Occasionally, mostly at night when they were fast asleep, I would think about how my life would be if I had stuck to the ole’ college thing.

 I had always wanted to go to college since I was a kid. Although not the best in academics, I pulled decent grades and graduated with an average GPA. I just didn’t have the understanding of what to do after high school to get into college. No one in my family had a college degree, so it’s not like I could go ask them. I did enroll in a community college a couple of times, but life always just got in the way. It wasn’t until I had a real reason- my kids- that I decided that when they were just a little older, I would pursue my dreams.

In 2014 that time came. I almost puked my first day of classes. I was nervous about not being able to catch on, being the “oldest” one, but mostly about failing. I didn’t even know what degree I wanted to pursue, I just knew that I had to do it.

3 years later, I graduated with an AA Degree.

Last year I walked across that stage, the first college graduate in my family. I will never forget my grandpa, a 2nd generation Mexican immigrant, sitting in the crowd, proud that his oldest granddaughter had an accomplishment that he himself, dreamt of when he was a little boy.

With doubt and reservation, I didn’t know what to do next.

And then I remembered my own humble beginnings.

 I was standing in line at the grocery store and wondering why my mom was paying for our food with weird looking money. Food stamps. Even at age 8, I knew that we were different. We were poor, even though I had the luxury of having grandparents that spoiled me, I knew that our food and apartment were solely provisional on HUD Housing and Food stamps. There were times I was ashamed that instead of the good cereal, I had to eat the nasty (no sugar) kind because that is all we could get with our Food stamps. “Government cheese,” well we had that too. If you don’t what that is, google it. It’s a cross between rubber and Velveeta, it tasted more like rubber.

At 22, I found myself in the office of a DSHS. I had just found out I was pregnant and needed medical for my unborn baby because she tested positive for Spina Bifida. I had to go to a specialist, which I couldn’t afford with my basic insurance. I had to ask for help, even though my pride was telling me to run the other way. Thankfully, the tests were wrong, and she was born healthy. At 24, I needed help with childcare assistance, because being a single parent with two kids in daycare, isn’t cheap or viable, at least on my barely above minimum wage income.

My point is that everyone needs help at some time in their lives. Some circumstances are unforeseen and maybe even unavoidable, such is life.

That is when I knew I wanted, maybe even needed, to give back in some way. I wanted to tell that single mom that it was going to be okay. Even if for now, she needed a little help, that eventually life would get better. I wanted to be a light in a dark tunnel when a family was needing some basic food help or housing assistance because they were living in their car.

I worked for weeks perfecting my essays to get into the Human Services Program. Without Jen’s editing skills and encouragement, I may have just thrown in the towel.

But I didn’t.

I sent those essays in and I waited. And waited. I got the letter that I was 1 of 25 accepted into the program. I probably cried for about an hour straight. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was capable of doing something important. Something important for other people. I had to do it for them.

Here we are a year later. I just finished my first year in the program and my internship. Both of which have been wonderful opportunities that are stepping stones to my ending goals.

I am taking the summer off to decompress and have a few adventures. I will be working with a pilot program in my community to provide lunches to low-income children. I am super excited about working with these kids because not too long ago, I was one of those kids. I know what they are dealing with and I know some of the hardships they are facing. I also know that they are resilient and that they will thrive.  They will rise up out of their circumstances.

Just like I did.

pizap.com15287794027211

So, Christin is mad…..again.

Christin: I know it’s been a minute since I have done any writing. Correction…writing for the blog. Let me recap the last 9 months.

·School

·Internship

·Kids

·Cat

I barely have time to do what I need to do. But after 4 years of college, I am done. Well, not done yet, I have another year to go, but done for now. Hello summer! After a particularly hard week of finals and finishing up projects at work, I was all too happy to see Friday come.

“Jen, I’m done! Finally!”

“Thank-God, now you can write more blogs!”

Is that all she thinks about? I won’t answer that.

It was Friday night, I was devouring a chocolate bar and she was (I suspect) doing the same to a glass of coke and vodka.

“So, I had a weird dream last night.”

“What? Is it that same one where you dye your hair and the next day it all falls out?”

“Umm no. It was about “Sid”.

I have changed the name to protect the innocent.

“Sid? I haven’t heard about him in a long time. Tell me about your dream”

I won’t go into the boring details of the dream with Sid but I will say we were in the kitchen cooking together, which was weird for three reasons:

1.       I don’t know how to cook.

2.       I have been banned from my own kitchen because of a recent incident involving oil and fire.

3.       I haven’t dated or seen Sid in 18 years.

That is all I am going to say about that.

The conversation ended with Jen having to do her nightly facial routine and with me Netflixing and Chocolating.

I had forgotten about the conversation by this morning.

Apparently, Jen had not.

I get a call this morning from Jen, which is somewhat unusual because I know Jen sleeps in on the weekends and I am not usually functional until after 10 AM.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“I am trying to figure out how to use my new coffee maker.”

“Oh God, did you read the directions? Maybe let Joe or Vinnie, or Gracie put that thing together. You know how you are with assembling things…”

“No, I can figure this out. Trust me. So, I need to tell you something.”

Oh God. What did she do now?

Instantly, I am taken back to about 10 years ago where she did the unthinkable.

“Christin, I have to tell you something.”

“What?!”

“I set up an online dating profile for you…two days ago.”

“Two days ago? You did what???”

“I don’t even remember doing it (enter vodka) and a few days later I checked my email. I saw the email from the dating profile I set-up for you. Don’t be mad.”

I eventually got over the shock of having an online dating profile set-up WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE. I even left it up in hopes of maybe, finding a date. Didn’t happen.

Fast forward 10 years later, here we are again.

“I friend requested Sid on Facebook!” Jen said with a little too much enthusiasm.

“YOU DID WHAT?!”

“Well I thought maybe since you had a dream about him, it was a sign that maybe you guys should reconnect. You know, see what he has been up to.”

I thought about hatching a revenge plan. Maybe dig up some of her old boyfriends. Friend request them and see what she says.

Right now, I am contemplating a new best friend and staging an intervention for Jen.

Jesus take the wheel and the vodka.

Jen: Okay, now let me tell you what really happened!

1. My coffeemaker was a defective piece of crap. It had nothing to do with me. I switched it out with the best coffeemaker ever!

2. Old boyfriends? What old boyfriends?? It’s cute and a little complimentary how Christin thinks I have old boyfriends out there that she can stalk on Facebook. It’s like she does not know me.

3. The online dating profile, fine, I will give her that one. Totally vodka induced. Although in my defense this was many many years ago and Christin was working her way through Seattle’s best losers!

4. I friend requested Sid while I was on the phone with Christin and no vodka in hand. She just did not know it.

Sid. I feel like I know the guy. I feel like if I happened to find myself in California, and saw him in the local coffee shop, I would be like “Sid! What’s up, how have you been?!”

Sid would not reciprocate because he does not know me.

Let me put it in perspective for you. I have known Christin for seventeen years. We have a seventeen-year friendship and Sid has been there every second of it.

Sid and Christin have this history. Although not high school sweethearts, very close to being so. They go that far back. A history that I cannot relate to. I met Joe in my late 20’s, we created our history together. The only other person from my past who would come close to Sid and Christin’s history would be Ralph Macchio, but being that this was a one-sided relationship, we cannot exactly count that.

Christin and Sid, at one time, were each other’s “person.” They had intended on a life together, until, well life happened. There was no cheating, there was no argument, it was just life, life got in the way and they went their own separate ways.

Christin and I have spent many conversations talking about Sid. I know all about the letters, the ring, the box. I know the stories. I know how Sid always called Christin his Queen, and although life took them in different directions, Sid has never left Christin’s memories.

Christin and I have spent much time trying to look Sid up on Facebook. She just wanted to know that Sid is happy, much in the same way I wanted to know Sebastian Bach was okay when he got kicked out of the 80’s hairband group Skid Row. There is a puzzle piece to Sid and Christin, one last puzzle piece that has gotten lost in life.

Christin needs to find this puzzle piece.

As many of you know, Christin and I are pretty bad-ass when it comes to detective work. We are social media pro’s.

We found Sid on Facebook. A bit disappointing because his page is locked down like Fort Knox. Christin was never really able to find out if life had been good to him or not. Was he happy? Did he ever think about Christin? I am telling you guys, Sid and Christin’s story is a mix between a Lifetime/Hallmark movie.

The other night, Christin and I are on the phone. We are talking about Sid and of lost memories. While on the phone with Christin, I looked him up on my own personal page. It’s important to note, there was no vodka.

Now, I need you guys to picture this. I am at my desk, I have my desktop open while talking to Christin. I decided to throw caution to the wind and friend request Sid. He would either accept my friend request or not. I would then decide on if I would tell Christin or not.

Well, Sid accepted my friend request. He may have remembered me from “back in the day” when Sid, Christin and I had a not so good Facebook exchange, or he may not. Either way, he accepted my friend request. I felt a very small victory. We were in. We now had access to Sid’s pictures, Facebook post, and answers. I did not force him to accept my request. He did all on his own. No harm no foul.

Christin and I called it a night, and I decided to just sit on this information for awhile.

In the morning, I could not wait to tell Christin. I honest to God thought she would be happy. I was expecting “You’re in? Damn, we are good!”

Christin did not give me the reaction I was expecting.

After many many many conversations, I still do not quite understand why Christin is not happy. I mean with me being a Facebook friend of Sid’s, that means no more detective work. Everything is right there! In a way, a very unusual way, I found myself rooting for Christin and Sid.

As I am scrolling through his page, I just get a vibe, a good vibe, like okay, this is a good guy. He made some mistakes, he openly asks for help and guidance, and well, I now find myself rooting for him.

HOWEVER, Chrsitin did not see it the same. So, I did what any good friend would do, and deleted him.

Now we are back to square one.

I know, one day, Christin will have her answers,

and just between you and I have a feeling she will be happy with them all.

sid

“Who Says”

Friday.

I am at the school with Mia, baking cookies. Our tiny workspace does not offer much room. It’s hot and stuffy thanks to our two cookie ovens in which we will bake about 400 cookies.

I open the back door that leads out to the large, welcoming playground. Seattle is being generous by gifting us a nice cool rain. Rain or shine, these kids have recess. Rain is a staple here, learning how to play in it, even more so.

Mia is busy cleaning and counting cookies. I stand in the open doorway, waiting for the influx of kids that will soon be on the playground. Some will play on the monkey bars, some will play tetherball. Some of the girls will take cover under the archway, making sure not to get their hair wet.

A few teachers will come into our tiny working space, asking if it is too late to buy cookies. Mia and I never turn them away.

The overly high pitched recess bell is just about to ring. A couple of teachers allow their students to exit the very doors that will lead them to fifteen minutes of recess time. In a matter of seconds, it will be a madhouse.

Standing in the doorway, oblivious to the fact that Mia is doing all of the work, I take my jacket and wrap it tight around me. It’s colder than I thought, yet, it feels good. You can smell the Seattle rain mixed in with the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

In the distance, I see one class is already out.

A boy and girl are racing. You can tell they are racing. The girl who is in the lead keeps turning around to see if the boy is catching up to her. They are both running, running so fast, with their end goal in sight.

The basketball court.

This faceless girl, she has amazing form. Even from my faraway vantage point, I can tell she not only has the making of a track star in her, but the confidence to go along with it. I cannot take my eyes off of her.

The girl and boy both reach the basketball court. The girl won the race. There does not seem to be any hard feelings.

If you listen close enough, close enough with your eyes, you can hear their laughter.

Seconds later, they are greeted by fellow classmates. A group of eight are sharing the ball, making baskets and missing. Throwing the ball without a care in the world. I am still watching the girl, the only girl. She is making these boys look bad, bad in a good way.

Mia comes out.

“What are you doing?”

I take a step away from my own archway that was protecting me from the Seattle drizzle.

“Look at those kids, the ones playing basketball. That girl, she is pretty badass.”

Mia comes by side. She is holding a pan of freshly baked cookies while looking in the direction my eyes are telling her to.

Mia and I stand there is brief silence, watching this group of eight play basketball. None of them have a care in the world.

Mia, ready to head back inside to get the cookies bagged up, she looks at me.

“I told you so.”

The girl just made another basket. I can tell by the high fives the boys are giving her.

“What??”

Mia looks at me, laughing.

“I told you if you just let Sofia be, she will show you who she really is.”

I am, confused.

I look closer at the group of kids playing basketball.

Slowly, I take about ten steps towards the basketball court, trying hard to make out the face.

Mia was right

Sofia.

It was Sofia.

And, just like Mia said,

it had been Sofia all along.

 

 

 

Into the Deep

I spent my morning watching Vinnie perform in a play that his college theatre class was putting on. Vinnie never gives me a whole lot of details. In fact, I just found out about the play this week. I wanted to go, but more importantly, he wanted me to go. If he did not want me to go he would never have given me the invitation.

As soon as I got to the campus, I texted Vinnie “I am here” while trying to find “Building 7.” I am walking the campus trying to fit in with the college crowd. Coincidentally, Vinnie and I meet up at Building 7 right at the same time. I was a bit early, he went inside to make sure their final practice was wrapping up so I could go snag a good seat.

I was only waiting about five minutes before Vinnie said it was okay to come in. I follow Vinnie into a nice size auditorium. Immediately, I knew I was in the right place. Everything felt right. The rows and rows of elevated seats that were also used as a desk, the actors, dressed in all black, with a few berets and top hats thrown in there. The acting teacher, dressed in a whimsical floor-length black summer dress, with black leggings on underneath, and tan wedge sandals. The actors were all huddled in a circle going over last minutes notes. Quietly, I make my way past them, determined to get the middle seat in the third row.

As soon as I sat down, I hear “Welcome, Vino’s mom.” “We are so glad you were able to make it.” Look, I have no idea why Vinnie calls himself Vino, but he does, and everyone in this class knew him only as Vino, and me, as “Vino’s Mom.” It was a nice, warm welcome, one that put me even more at east than I already was.

We had about ten minutes until “show time” so I just sat back taking it all in. For me, it was just magic. There is no doubt at all I was meant to be there.

A middle-aged woman, I assume a parent of one the kids, came in and sat in the row in front of me, on the very end. I tried to make eye contact, but it was dark. I do not think she saw me. Also, if she was anything like me, she was taking on the nerves that her son or daughter had.

Shortly after, a group of four college kids came and sat right in front of me. Two African American beauties, and two “hipster” young men. They were talking and looked perfect, so I was already annoyed. One of the young ladies asked one of the young men to sit next to her. So instead of boy, boy, girl, girl, it was now boy, girl, boy, girl. Oh to be young again. With the cute clothes and the world as your oyster.

The acting teacher and her assistant came on to the stage. She introduced herself, making sure to mention that these kids wrote all of their lines. Everything we are about to see, everything we are about to experience, are these kids true stories.

She then introduced her assistant. “I am a gay man with mixed ethnicities. I have dealt with prejudice, stereotypes, and labels. I had a vision, and these guys brought my vision to life. We all have stories, stories that need to be told.”

Not five minutes in and I am holding back tears. It was powerful. Listening to the teacher and her assistant speak with wonderful beautiful honesty, not ashamed to hold anything back.

The lights quickly dimmed, the actors, a perfectly mixed group of nine, all took their place on the stage, in various positions. Vinnie was in the middle, surrounded by his fellow cast. Music started to play. Lovely, folk music accompanied by a beautiful mysterious voice. I follow the voice quickly seeing that there is yet another castmate, at the keyboard, singing while her fingers find the ivory keys with ease.

Vinnie has the first line. “Yo, Vino up in da house!” He does some sort of fist bump while the folk music is playing perfectly in the background. His fellow castmates change positions while working with the beat of the music. A young, pretty girl, looks at him. “You’re a distraction!” She is mad, she is annoyed, and then they fade to black.

We meet a teenage mother who at 16 had to quit school. Some of her teachers thought she was a lost cause.

We meet a lovely young man whose faith in God is his number one priority. He talked about the judgment when he chooses not to go to certain parties with his friends. “Why we going to invite him, he is all about the church?”

We meet a lovely, broken young lady who at the age of sixteen tried to kill herself. She struggles with depression.

We meet a typical “white guy” who one would think is popular and gets all the girls, never knowing the definition of what it means to struggle. Little did we know he is from Ukraine and has seen struggles like no one else.

We meet Axel, who came from Mexico and has been told to “Go back where you came from you piece of shit. No one wants you here.” Little do they know that while in Mexico at the age of ten he was working the fields for his parents. His parents are no longer living because they wanted a better life for their son.

We meet an overweight gentleman who has been called all sort of horrible names, just because he is overweight.

We meet a young man, who upon looking at him you are not sure what race he is. He fits in nowhere. One day while grocery shopping with his mother, he got jumped by security because they thought he was stealing. He was not.

We meet Vino, a class clown who always got sent to the principal’s office for being a goof-off when all he wanted to do was make his fellow classmates smile. You see, Vino is worried, that his sister, who is special needs, will run the risk of being bullied in school. So, in his own way, he tries to fix it.

By the end of the play, we learned that the teenage mom will be graduating college next year.

The young man who is a strong Christian, he will be going on a mission trip.

Our young lady who tried to kill herself at the age of sixteen is working closely with her therapist. This play is the first time she has spoken publicly about her suicide attempt.

Our friend from Ukraine is settling in nicely while teaching his parents how to speak English.

Axel, well, he will not be coming back to college. He found another job. This will be his third. He sends money home to his siblings.

Our overweight friend, he is living his life not based on the opinions of others, and he is pretty damn happy doing so.

The young man who was jumped while shopping with his mom, he too will also be graduating next year, while working with at-risk youth.

And then we have Vino, Vino who struggled. Who never had a role model, Vino is now a role model for the very sister he is worried about.

Vino, well, he will prove us all wrong.

As the play wrapped up, the actors took their final bow. Vinnie disappeared from the stage, returning with chairs. He set up ten chairs around the stage while his fellow castmates and teachers took a seat.

“This is the part where we let the audience run the show. If you have any questions or comments now is the time.”

Just about every single hand in the place went up.

One of the African American beauties that were sitting right in front of me, raised her hand, proudly relating to our church guy. She said all this time she thought she was the only one, the only one that had to find a perfect balance between Christianity and college life.

The parent of the teenage mother stood up. “That is my daughter, she has worked so hard. So hard, it is not easy, but my daughter, my daughter, she makes it look easy.”

Her daughter, who is sitting in her chair on the stage starts crying. I start crying. I held it in for as long as I could, and now I am done.

A mother behind me stood up. She spoke to the young lady that attempted suicide at sixteen. “I can relate to you. My daughter can relate to your story. I just want to thank you for being brave enough to put it out there.”

Yep, the tears are coming. I look like a raccoon.

Parent after parent, student after student. Hands were raised, everyone in that room thanked the cast for being brave enough to put it out there, and after the thank you’s, we heard their own story.

From the mother of the lovely lady with the mysterious voice: “I just try to smile. No matter what I go through, I just smile. Because when you smile, you are welcoming, and when you welcome, then you are being kind, and when you be kind, then you smile, so, I always try to smile.”

I don’t know about you, but I could learn a lot from that.

Watching this group of amazing young actors, students, people, well, it was powerful. In Building 7 on the Highline Campus, they are doing big things. Big, beautifully broken things, and I had the privilege of being there to witness it all.

I raised my hand, stood up with pride. “You guys are amazing! I fully believe without a doubt that God uses the beautifully broken, he uses them to do work, and in this room right now, you guys did some life-changing work. I could not be any more proud of my son, this school, and the strangers, who by using their voice, they made an impact.”

The lights came on. Another standing ovation.

I am wiping tears from my face. A young lady who was sitting behind me comes up.

“Are you Vino’s mom?”

“I am!”

“I just want you to know you raised an amazing son. He has changed me. He has given me hope. His story about his sister, it spoke to me.”

Again, I am holding back tears.

“Thank you, truly, thank you.”

There was magic in that auditorium. Life changing magic. Magic that began with a vision, and ended with our young kids finding their voice.

Find your voice, and tell your story. Big, huge, beautiful broken things will happen when you do so. Find your voice, do it for our kids, our next generation. Be proud, and when you are into the deep, realize that God uses the broken-hearted, he uses them for moments like this.

deep

 

The Last Laugh.

This was a story that I never got around to telling. It happened the day Blink passed away. Up until now, it was just too hard for me to revisit. That’s the beauty of time though. In time, things do get easier.

 

It was a horrible weekend here in the Vodka Calling household. As most of you know, we lost our beloved cat unexpectedly. It was a huge, sad loss. One that will take us some time to recover from. I would not trade a day that I had with Blink, but you guys know, losing a pet, it hurts us to our core.

I always referred to Blink as the OG (original gangster) of our cats. He did what he wanted to do when he wanted to and how he wanted to, but he was super smart. I believe most cats are pretty smart, they just like hiding their smartness from us. Not Blink. Blink always knew our schedules. As soon as we drove up into the parking lot, Blink would come strolling along giving us a look “Finally, took you long enough.” He was a pretty badass cat, one we will never forget.

Saturday we lost him. As I said it was unexpected, but forgive me for not being able to share the details. It is too hard.

During the course of this living hell, Blink accidentally bit Joe while at the vet. it was not intentional. Blink was in tremendous pain, Joe was trying to calm him. We were quickly informed that Joe needed to go to the ER as soon as possible because Blink bit the joint on Joe’s hand, and who knew, apparently that is a big deal?

Joe, Vinnie and I knew we had to do one of the hardest things ever. We had to put Blink to rest. He was in pain, and there was no hope, even though the three of us wanted nothing more than to cling on to hope.

Blink quickly passed. We were all able to say our good-byes.

I am home with the kids, Joe is in the ER and everyone is just done. Our mourning period had begun.

Joe called me from the ER and told me that he was going to be awhile, the place was packed, and apparently, they do not take cat bites seriously, even though our vet told us that if a cat bites you in the joint of your hand, an infection can quickly spread. Also, Joe spent 3.00 on the debit card to buy an elderly woman a bottle of water from the vending machine. As I am writing this, I still have no idea how it came about that he spent 3.00 on his debit card for a bottle of water, but that’s my husband for you.

I decided there was no way in hell I was cooking, yet I needed to feed the kids something. They had a long hard day, there was no way I was going to force my cooking on them. Otherwise, they may have joined Joe in the ER.

Pizza it is! I called in my usual order and took my place on the sofa. I was multitasking, and by multitasking, I mean crying while stuffing my face with chocolate.

Ten minutes later Joe comes home. They gave him a tetanus shot and a round of antibiotics. Joe jumps in the shower, Vinnie was in his room devastated, the girls were in their room asleep, I was still on the sofa crying….and eating.

While Joe was in the shower. There was a loud, annoying knock at the door. I forced myself up, wiped the tears from my face, the chocolate from my mouth and opened the door. It was the pizza guy.

This was a new guy, or shall I say, new kid. He was tall, very tall, but young. Like does he go to school with Gracie young?

Pizza Guy~ Hi! I have your pizza, but do you want to see something cool?

I am thinking to myself that maybe I racked enough points to get a free pizza.

Me~ Umm….okay. Do I have enough points for a free pizza?

Pizza Guy~ I have a video on my phone of me skateboarding. You got to see it!

I am confused. Maybe I heard him wrong? I am not myself, I am on the verge of a state of depression and perhaps I am not hearing things correctly.

He grabs his phone.

Pizza Guy~ This will just take me a minute.

Okay, so I guess I did hear him correctly.

I have my foot propped on the door so the cats will not run outside. I quickly turn around to see if Joe, Vinnie, hell anyone else is there to make sure I am not losing my mind, and also hoping that I have some extra hands for what I hope is a free pizza.

There was no one. And, by the looks of it, there was no free pizza.

Of course not.

Pizza Guy~ Check this out, I made this move up on my own.

He then turns himself so he is standing in front of me, am almost shoulder to shoulder next to him. He has four pizzas in one hand, his phone in the other.

Me~ What???? So, there is no free pizza?

Pizza Guy starts to scoot backward. Making sure his phone is in my view, but he is getting a little too close to my door.

Pizza Guy~ Look, did you see it? It’s really cool…also, we do not do free pizzas.

Now I am getting weirded out. I am telling you, he keeps scooting back. Inching closer and closer to me and the protection of my front door. If I did not have my foot firmly in place, homeboy would have been inside my apartment showing me his skateboarding moves in 3D on my hardwood floor.

My mind starts going. I have the girls in the bedroom. Joe is in the shower and Vinnie’s room is too far back for him to hear me. I do not like this. This is a news story waiting to happen.

Me~ Okay, you are weirding me out, what’s going on, can I just have the pizza….and maybe recheck your points, because I think after this I have earned a free one.

Pizza Guy~ I’m sorry I did not mean to weird you out, I just thought you would want to see my video.

Well, now I kinda feel bad. Did I hurt his feelings? I mean he is pretty proud of the skateboarding jump he did in a half an inch of snow……wearing a t-shirt.

He then turns around so he is now facing me, and took a step back.

Pizza Guy~ But you gotta check this move out.

He shows me his phone…..again.

It’s the same exact move.

Me~ Oh yeah, that’s great. So, just to be clear, there is no free pizza?

I am seriously wiping tears from my eyes, while once again checking to see if Vinnie or Joe has made an appearance, and yet I cannot get the idea of a free pizza out of my head, because you know food, especially if it is free, makes everything better.

Pizza Guy~ That was a cool move huh? It was in the snow!

Me~ Yeah, can I just have the pizza, please, and maybe some breadsticks? This order alone gave me 20 points.

Pizza Guy~ Why would you get free breadsticks?

Me~ For the same reason you are showing me a video of you  in the “snow.”

Pizza Guy then realizes he forgot the receipt that I need to sign.

Pizza Guy~ I’m just going to take the pizzas with me to my car while I grab your receipt. Be right back!

Yeah, because I am going to steal four pizzas with a wannabe Tony Hawk at my doorstep.

I closed the door, locked it, ran to Vinnie’s room.

“Vinnie! You need to come out here, Pizza Guy is weird, just stand with me when he comes back.”

Vinnie jumps up. He is a mess, tear-stained eyes, just a mess. He is hurting. But, he gets up. He follows me. As soon as we pass the girls’ room, Vinnie opens their door and locks it from inside.

“Do not come out until we come to get you!”

I was confused, but whatever, I just needed him by my side dealing with the pizza guy.

Vinnie, me, and the pizza guy all get to the door at the same time.

Pizza Guy~ Just sign this then I can give you your pizzas.

I sign the receipt.

Pizza Guy~ Here ya go. Enjoy your pizzas and tell people about my video! Who is that?

Pizza guy is looking at Vinnie as Vinnie comes to grab the pizzas.

Me~ Umm, that’s my son.

Pizza Guy~ Do you think he would want to see my video?

I look at Vinnie with my “See, I told you so look!”

Vinnie~ I’m good bro.

Pizza Guy leaves, a bit disappointed it seems.

I close the door, looking at Vinnie. Vinnie looks at me.

Me~ What was that?!?!

Vinnie~ He was trying to game you.

Disclaimer, I have no idea what “game you” means.

Vinnie then gets the pizzas situated. Joe comes out of the shower (Finally!) and I proceed to tell them my story about how the pizza guy wanted me to watch videos of him skateboarding in the snow.

It was all just so, strange.

Joe and Vinnie make a plate of pizza while I am pouring drinks.

My phone rings. It is my sister calling to check on me. I make my way out to the balcony to talk to her. We talked and I cried. It just sucks, ya know?

After about twenty minutes, we say our goodbyes, I pull myself together, and go back inside.

“Where are the girls? They did not want to eat?”

Joe and Vinnie look at me with blank stares.

“Usually they are out by now.”

More blank stares.

“You know, Gracie and Sofia, your daughters and sisters.”

Vinnie snaps himself out of whatever trance he had himself in. “Oh crap!”

He quickly makes his way to their room, with me not far behind.

Vinnie knocks on their door, “Hey, you guys can open the door now!”

Sofia opens the door. “Finally, I smell pizza and you said not to come out!”

And, there you go. We can file this under “The time I forgot about my children #539”

Remember, Vinnie locked their bedroom door from the inside and told them not to come out until someone came to get them? A pretty genius move if I say so myself. What was not so genius was us forgetting about them. #LessonLearned.

The girls are finally able to enjoy room temperature pizza. Joe, Vinnie and I make sure to tell them they did exactly the right thing by not coming out. I explained to them we just want to always make sure they are safe, and sometimes by making sure they are safe means they have to be very quiet and not come out. It sucks, but that is how it needs to be.

As we are all enjoying pizza, reflecting on Blink and his time with us, questioning on if we did the right thing, yet knowing there was no other way, there was a comfortable silence.

Vinnie~ That was weird Mom. The pizza guy and everything, it was just weird.

*Long Pause*

Me~ I will tell you what it was…..it was Blink, trying to get the last laugh that’s what it was.

Little Bastard.

And for the record, the Pizza Guy forgot my damn soda!

pizza