Trouble In Paradise

This school assignment required us to watch a short video and then describe the story.

Trouble in Paradise

The sun smiles down on a lonesome palm in the middle of the South Pacific. It’s rays playfully lick each leaf and dapple the small, sandy island in sunlight. Really, it’s nothing short of paradise, and that’s the way Chester, the crab, likes it. Now, you can see him kicking up the sand in a vain effort to expand his shaded home beneath the tree. Meanwhile, a coconut thumps to the ground behind him. Oblivious, Chester pokes his scarlet head out of the ground, grumbling. He hasn’t been having the best of days, but he hopes a stroll across the sunbaked beach will improve his mood.

However, it is not meant to be. Pivoting around on pointed feet, Chester notices an unwelcome visitor to his private oasis. He’s not quite sure what it is, but whatever it may be, it can’t be good. “This won’t do!” he exclaims in his throaty voice. The trespasser is a brown, round, and strangely hairy. Suspicious, Chester scuttles behind a sand dune and regards it from a distance. His mind races, devising a plan to get rid of this intruder.

Eventually, Chester decides that he needs to take this matter into his own claws. He carefully approaches the foreign object and extends his claw. Tap, tap. “Hmm,” he observes, “it sounds hollow.” He taps again, and this time the intruder rolls over, exposing three holes. Chester jumps in alarm. “It has to go!”

Dune after dune, Chester heaves the long, heavy object to shore. It’s a long and arduous process to be sure, but Chester keeps at it, determined to have the island all to himself. At long last, the intruder is lost to the waves. Satisfied with his handiwork, Chester looks on as the object floats into the horizon. Ready to start his long-due walk, Chester scampers to the heart of the island. There, an unwelcome sight awaits him.

There’s a new intruder, and this one doesn’t look like it’s going to move anytime soon.

Once Upon a Time: A Guide to Creative Writing

While I was in school, I did an ILP, or Independent Learning Project. We had to write a guided report and create a visual presentation on a topic we were interested in. I chose creative writing.

This is my essay:

 

The Question

Words march across the page like shiny black ants, their numbers growing by the second. As you type more and more letters, the colony swells until it fills 3…4…5 pages!  You continue to hack away at the keys like a mad pianist. The black symbols swarm in front of you, threatening to engulf you in nouns, adjectives, and verbs. But the story just has to get done! If you see yourself among these sentences, you are a writer, without the shadow of a doubt. Writing has always had a special place in my life. Even when I was still toddling about on stubby legs, I was being read the classics – Goodnight Moon and The Purple Crayon are just some. I even memorized a few and began to tell them to others. This love of storytelling has grown with me. Currently, I am in the process of writing and (hopefully) publishing an ebook with my twin sister. I also have a blog called DNA Wordshop, where I share my love of words (and my creative stories) with the world. In my book, any story is one worth reading.

Much of my love of stories comes from a podcast called Storynory. From an early age, I was listening to the adventures of Bertie the Frog Prince, Katie the Good Witch, and many more original characters. I listened more and more, until I was spending practically every minute of every day engaged in one story or another.

Through this, I unconsciously learned the elements of a good story. If I wanted to have any hope of creating a masterpiece of words, I realized, there were several things I needed. First: characters. Any good story (or any story, for a matter of fact) needs characters. My characters could be anything from an ant to an elephant, so long as they had personality traits. These are also very broad. No one ever said characters had to be likable. In fact, the villain of the story is called the antagonist, while the protagonist is the main character. Second: problems and solutions. I was quick to realize that each and every story I had listened to had an issue, which got resolved by the end of story. I knew that a story couldn’t be called a story without a problem and solution.  Third: dialogue. Every Storynory tale I’ve ever listened to included dialogue, and for a good reason. Dialogue moves a creative story along and gives the reader insight into what a character is like.  Lastly: voice. This is probably the most important lesson of all.  Natasha (the woman who read the stories) had a different voice for each story. She sometimes used serious tones of voice if the story was a solemn one, or talked energetically during more upbeat stories.  How does she know what to do? I wondered. The answer? Voice, ironically.  The voice of a story is how the main character views the world. Depending on the kind of story being written, the voice will be different. Over time, I have developed a voice of my own.

Writing is very important to me, so I know quite a bit about it. However, there is always room to grow. I’ve learned about writing strictly through personal experience and school assignments. In my pre-searching, though, I have found multiple websites that provide useful hints to hone my writing skills. You bet that these tips will be making appearance in some of my stories. I’m eager to start sharpening my pencil and refining my creative work. Through this ILP, I hope to become the best writer I can possibly be. My goal is to implement all of the things I learn during research in my everyday writing. In essence, I want to grasp these things: What are some things you can do to become a better creative writer? How do creative writers develop a good plot? What are some common creative writing mistakes? I’m interested to see whether I already practice any tips I’ll learn. I also can’t wait to know how to develop a plot, because this is not my strong suit. Mostly, though, I hope I’m not making any mistakes in my writing! Even if I am, though, the whole point of the ILP is to learn.

What I Learned

 So, what are some tips I can use to become a better writer? For the most part, all you have to do is write. I know it seems obvious, but so many people just don’t write! They assume that they can snap their fingers and they will become a writer, just like that. Not so. Creating a story takes effort. You can’t just slap together some words and call it art. It is important to write something every day, and establish a schedule that works for you. Maybe you can write for 30 minutes every day before you go to bed, or just after you read. It makes a difference! As Matt Blackstone, author of Sorry You’re Lost put it: “Write a lot, but it helps if you can train yourself to write at around the same time every day.” And, if you truly want to be a writer, stop procrastinating. Put away your phone and sit down at the computer to write. You’ll be surprised at what you can create with a little discipline.

I know you won’t want to, but revising is also an important part of writing. If you don’t revise, you may as well not write at all. Taking advice is always hard, whether it be from yourself or someone else. But if your creative side is nagging you to fix something, do it. “Be brave,” said Matt Blackstone. “Ignore the voice inside of you that says you can’t.” Blackstone also pointed out that in order to really bring your piece to life, you need to have fun with it. Write about what you care about, not anyone else. Keeping writing personal can propel you to the next level. While revising, also try to look for grammar and spelling mistakes that you make a lot. Scan through the piece and replace any weak words (especially verbs) with some fresh vocabulary. It can make all the difference!

My next tip? Read, read, read! You might be doing it already, but if you’re not, it’s time to get started. Reading is the key to success when it comes to writing. Reading can help you expand your vocabulary. You should read anything and everything! Reading a variety of books shows you what works the best for your own story. It exposes you to different writing styles and shows you what else is out there, according to Matt Blackstone. Mostly, it helps you build up a love of words. You can’t say you’re a writer unless you’re a reader first! In the words of Kate DiCamillo (author of Because of Winn Dixie and Tales of Despereaux) “Read, read, read, read, read.”

Through my research, I’ve realized that I am practicing many, but not all, of these suggestions. While I was researching, I found myself clicking link after link at the bottoms of pages. The more articles I read, the more I realized how much I could do to make my writing better. I found that there was one website in particular that had a lot of good information, Writing Forward. I read and reread her posts, learning more each time. I also emailed multiple authors, two of which responded. One of the responses was rather rushed, but the other gave long, detailed answers. As it turns out, typing a question into the search bar isn’t all that goes into research. I have also made it my goal to write more consistently than I currently do. Perhaps I will write for 20 minutes after I read each night, since my creative juices will already be flowing. I will also make a point to write about what I really care about. Sometimes I’ll find myself writing pages and pages of fluff — which is to say, empty words. The interview with Matt Blackstone really hit home for me on this topic, and I know now that fluff is not okay. As far as reading goes, I would also like to expand my horizons. I am stuck in the “Fiction Trap”, and refuse to read anything else. It’s about time I end all that. I have read one or two autobiographies, and have found them to be quite good.  I’ll try to start reading more of those. I hope to begin implementing these strategies into my daily life, and that my writing will be the better for it.

Now for my second question: How does a creative writer develop a good plot? When it comes to the plot of your story, a story arcs is a must. There are three main points that need to be addressed if you hope to keep your readers turning pages. First of all, there is the exposition. You might also know it as the introduction, but exposition is the proper term. This is the lowest point on your story mountain. In it, the setting, characters, and conflict are introduced, says Glen C. Strathy on his website, How to Write a Book Now. You’ll want to make your main character likable, so readers will root for them through the entire story. However, not only should your protagonist be likable, they should be lifelike. Get to know your character. Matt Blackstone recommends answering these questions: What does he/she like? How does he/she speak? What is he/she scared of? If you know your main character, you will also know how they will react to whatever predicament you put them in. This character must have a goal as well. This is what Strathy has to say: “The Story Goal is, generally speaking, what your protagonist wants to achieve or the problem he/she wants to resolve.” You should establish the things your character needs to accomplish before they reach this goal. To keep readers hooked, tell them the consequences if your main character doesn’t accomplish their goal.  

Although it seems a little backward, you need to decide on your conclusion before you go any further. Knowing where you want to go with the piece helps you on your journey to creating an engaging composition. According to Strathy, there are four different types of stories: comedy, tragedy, comi-tragedy, and tragi-comedy. (The last two are unofficial names.) This translates into four different types of resolutions. Comedies, despite popular belief, are not always humorous. A comedy, put simply, is a story with a happily ever after ending. The main character accomplishes his or her goal, and is satisfied with the results. As you may have guessed, a tragedy is the opposite of a comedy. A tragedy is basically a happy ending gone wrong. The protagonist (tragically) never sees his dreams come to life. A comi-tragedy is the ending when your character achieves their goal, but it is not all they hoped for. A tragi-comedy is the exact opposite. The main character fails to reach his or her goal, but realizes that things were better this way. Having one of these endings in mind makes your writing more organized and purposeful.

Before the resolution, there is the climax, which is the turning point in the story. This is the highest point on your story arc. This is how Strathy explains it: In the climax, the main character makes a decision about himself or his goal that changes the rest of the story. It’s the point of the story where there is the most tension. Your climax changes depending on what kind of resolution you’d like. If your aim is to write a comedy or a comi-tragedy, your character should either stick with a good trait, let go of a bad one, or take on a good one. If you want a tragedy or a tragi-comedy, then your protagonist should do the opposite. If you put all of this together, you’ll have yourself a solid plot outline.

Multiple times while researching this topic, I found myself thinking: Wow. I don’t do this. As bad as that sounds, I believe that’s a good thing. It means there is room to improve. Because of my extensive research, I now know how. I discovered a website, How to Write a Book Now, that gave step-by- step instructions on how to develop a plot. It sure was helpful! I also had good advice from experts. A detailed yet comprehensive response from Matt Blackstone allowed me to learn how the masters create plots of their own. From this point forward, I plan on making sure my setting, characters, and conflict are introduced in my exposition. I will also be more thorough when it comes to creating my characters, and answer the key questions Matt Blackstone recommends. In my stories, I’ll keep my ending in mind, so my writing is actual writing, not just aimless wandering. I hope to put these plans into action as soon as I possibly can. Hopefully, using these tips will help me make great strides on my road to writing a book with an intriguing plot.

We have finally come to my last question: What are some common writing mistakes? Many people think that writing a tale is as easy as pie. Surely, it’s impossible to mess up creative writing, right? Wrong. I hate to burst your bubble, but like with anything, mistakes in writing are inevitable. However, you can learn to tame your fears. It all starts with thinking positive. Sure, you’ll make some slip-ups in the process of writing, but you can’t let it get to you. View your blunders as opportunities in disguise, at least for the first draft. If you use too many adjectives, so what? You can do it better the next time. If you lose your document, what’s the big deal? You brush yourself off and get back on your seat. Now you know to save your work. Writing a draft is fun, so keep it that way. Matt Blackstone recommends naming revision files “recreation”, “playtime”, or other positive names. “Mistakes? No such thing.” he wrote. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Having said that, there are still a few common writing mistakes  opportunities to watch out for, especially during revisions. You can afford to become a little bit more picky the second time around. I can’t tell you how much I dislike a lifeless beginning. Readers don’t want to trudge through a stale exposition. No matter how much better the story gets, there’ll always be those readers who put down a book within the first humdrum chapter, or who will abandon a short story after one tedious paragraph. I’d have to say that a lot of the time, a creative story has a beginning that just falls flat. Melissa Donovan explains why on her website, Writing Forward. It’s because as we write, we get to know our characters and get into the swing of things. The best thing to do is write a shaky introduction to start, and revise it later, when you know what you want.

On a different note, you should also try to avoid verbiage. By definition, verbiage is an “overabundance or superfluity of words, as in writing or speech; wordiness” says Donovan. Using too many words is a problem many writers face, including myself. Sometimes, writers feel the need to use paragraph upon paragraph where a single sentence would do. On Writing Forward it lists some reasons why: perhaps you are trying to fulfill the requirements for a school paper, or maybe you just want to sound smart. Whatever the reason, verbiage is not something you should make a habit of.

As I did my research, I couldn’t help but think that I have made every single one of these mistakes. However, I am determined to put a stop to it. An email response from an experts yielded the best results yet. From it, I learned that failure is a part of writing, and that I should take it in stride and learn from it. After reading another really good article from Writing Forward, I was on my way to understanding mistakes real writers make. Putting myself down will become a thing of the past, and I’ll make sure my beginnings are always full of action. I’ll also try to limit redundant words, since those make up most of my pieces. Although it will be difficult, I know doing these things will develop my writing skills. Now that I know which problems to address, improving my stories will be a breeze.

How I Have Grown as a Researcher

I have to say, this project has really shaped me as a researcher. With each and every question I researched, I learned more and more. Now I know to read and re-read articles. The first time through, you are bound to miss some important details. As I learned, reading an article again insures I’m able to milk the source for all it’s worth. I also realized that note-taking is just as important to research as finding the sites to begin with. Taking notes deepens my understanding and helps me get my thoughts out on paper. Throughout the writing of this essay, I spent more time referring to my note sheets than I did actually writing! The last thing I realized was that it is good to have several go-to websites. When I find one, I should make sure to read any posts it has that regard my questions. It helps to click on any website links that may come up while reading; you might find an additional key source.

I felt that all of these areas were great successes, since learning is the best reward of all. However, I think I also did well in finding sources. I found several solid websites that provided practical information. These sites had many, many, posts that succeeded in answering all my questions and more. All of these things point to the fact that I was successful at the most important thing of all: choosing a topic. At first I had my doubts that there would be websites devoted to writing. As you have seen, though, that should have been the least of my worries. In the long run, choosing creative writing as a topic was a good move.watch full movie

Despite these successes, I had my share of failures as well. Next time I need to research a topic, there are a few things I’ll make sure to do. For instance, I will try to email more experts. Although I contacted five authors, only two responded. Out of those two, one expert gave little to no advice. I know now that extensive research on experts is a must. I should try to contact those people who will most likely respond, and email as many people as possible. Although five is a fair amount, I could have done better. The more people I reach out to, the more people will respond! I also failed to check my sources for reliability. In terms of the craft of creative writing, information can only be so inaccurate. However, in other cases, checking for reliability is extremely important. Outdated data can be your downfall if you are researching science or history. Luckily, I checked my sources when I realized I had not done so. However, that was after I had written an entire essay based on my sources. Image what a disaster it would be if you found your whole paper was based off of false information! Ultimately, the process of writing this paper was one I will never forget.

 

Works Cited

Blackstone, Matt. Interview: 2 May 2016

DiCamillo, Kate. “Writing Tips.” Kate DiCamillo. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2016. <http://www.katedicamillo.com>.

Donovan, Melissa. “8 Common Creative Writing Mistakes.” Writing Forward. N.p., 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 21 Apr. 2016. <http://www.writingforward.com/creative-writing/writing-mistakes>.

– – -. “The 22 Best Writing Tips Ever.” Writing Forward. N.p., 8 May 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2016. <http://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/the-22-best-writing-tips-ever>.

Gutman, Dan.  Interview: 5 May 2016

Strathy, Glen C. “How to Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps.” How to Write a Book Now. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2016. <http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/plot-outline.html>.

– – -. “Plot Development: Climax, Resolution, and Your Main Character.” How to Write a Book Now. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2016. <http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/plot-development.html>.

 

 

Sea Perch

Recently, my sister and I finished the SeaPerch robotics competition. Our team (4H SmartBotics) built an underwater robot. Our task was to create a bot that could maneuver a hoop obstacle course, and collect and move different sized balls that we had to release by engaging a lever.

2016-03-22 Sea Perch WaterProof Motor 2                              2016-03-22 Sea Perch Waterproof Motors

The robot was comprised of PVC pipes, 3 thrusters (motors with propellers),  netting, and ballast (washers). In order to waterproof our thrusters, we covered the motors in electrical tape, then coated them with toilet bowl wax (Eww! – that’s what we are working on in the above pictures) and placed them in plastic canisters.

We worked long and hard on our robot – the adults are not allowed to do any of the work. In the picture below we are soldering the electrical wires to the motors.

2016-03-22 Soldering Sea Perch

Below is a pool practice before we painted the ROVs orange so that they were easier to see in the water. This was Ariana’s first try at navigating.  It’s not as easy as it looks!

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The regional competition was held on Rowan University’s campus. We used their pool to complete our tasks. Our teams were the Sharks (I wanted to call us the Hammerheads) and the Cyclones. Each team had two “navigators”. One handled the robot’s cable and the other handled the controller. To cheer them on at competition, our team wore matching green tees and made posters. Our parents were the leaders, so we got to do a bunch of behind-the-scenes stuff, too.Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 9.41.20 PM

In the end, we ended up winning 1st and 3rd in our category (Open competition, middle school), which was just about the best we could have done. Both us and our parents could not have been happier.

 

In the videos below you can see one of our robots in action!

Our team members were in the nj.com news…way to go Smartbotics Sharks!

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Hatshepsut: The Queen Who Was King

Without a doubt, Hatshepsut lived up to her title of King of Egypt. Despite popular belief, she made advances in trade, built the country peacefully, and did things her own way. In fact, Hatshepsut led a very successful trading expedition, which was perhaps her most famous accomplishment. Although she was shamed for having “stolen” the throne from her stepson, Thutmose III, Hatshepsut did it for the greater good. This strong leader never let cultural expectations dictate her actions. She proved that women could be good leaders through her actions as pharaoh. Hatshepsut was one of the most caring and successful pharaohs Egypt ever saw.

Hatshepsut was anything but a bad leader. Actually, she helped Egypt in too many ways to count. First of all, she led a trading expedition to the Land of Punt, Egypt’s southern neighbor. Hatshepsut sent caravans full of scribes, soldiers, artists, and attendants to the Red Sea. There, they loaded 5 wooden cargo ships with surplus goods from Egypt. These included papyrus, golden jewelry, and bronze weapons. Two years later, the ships returned laden with “ivory, ebony, gold, leopard skins, and incense.” (according to  the History article) They also carried back government officials from Punt. Hatshepsut also tried to engage soldiers in non-violent activities by sending them on trade expeditions. This bettered Egypt greatly, and it was all thanks to Hatshepsut.

However, trade wasn’t the only thing Hatshepsut was known for. Staying true to her pacifist nature, Hatshepsut built the country through non-military means. She instead focused her energy on trade and agriculture. Although much evidence of Hatshepsut’s reign was erased by Thutmose III, her magnificent buildings still stand today. According to the History article, “Her greatest achievement was the enormous memorial temple at Deir el Bahri, considered one of the architectural wonders of ancient Egypt.”

Hatshepsut also commissioned granite obelisks. She even built religious temples and fixed up those that were in disrepair. Although she ruled after a long line of warriors, Hatshepsut’s harmonious reign was a successful one. Lastly, Hatshepsut broke cultural boundaries by becoming pharaoh. Many people frowned upon Hatshepsut for being a female pharaoh, but she tried not to let her gender get in the way of her ruling. To gain credibility, Hatshepsut was depicted as a male on many images and temple walls. In these pictures, she wore the regalia of a male, as well as a fake beard, which was traditional of male pharaohs. She was also buried with her royal father.

Hatshepsut was discredited for the means by which she took the throne as well. Many people thought it was a coldhearted bid for power, but that wasn’t the case. You see, when Hatshepsut’s husband, Thutmose II (who was pharaoh at the time), died, the throne went to the infant Thutmose III. Thutmose III was Hatshepsut’s stepson, as he was born to a secondary wife of Thutmose II. Clearly, Thutmose III was too young to handle the responsibilities of being pharaoh, so Hatshepsut stepped in as his regent. A regent is someone who takes over duties for someone of a royal bloodline who is either incapacitated or too young.

Over time, Hatshepsut began turning herself into a pharaoh. First, says “The Woman who Would be King”, “…she took on a ‘throne’ name…Hatshepsut’s throne name was Maatkare.” She also called herself “King of Upper and Lower Egypt”, and began showing herself as Thutmose III’s equal on temple walls. Recent studies suggest that this may not have been due to greediness, but a political crisis. Perhaps there were threats from another branch of the family. Hatshepsut was only trying to save the throne for her stepson. Still, this was a bold and unprecedented step that makes Hatshepsut stand out in history. In the end, Hatshepsut made Egypt highly prosperous.

Although Hatshepsut was king, she proved that she was much more than that. She should be remembered as a strong, king leader. To this day, Hatshepsut is associated with trade. She was a non-hostile person, and didn’t depend on violence to expand Egypt. Hatshepsut showed the world that things could be done differently. We can all learn from Hatshepsut’s peaceful reign. Today, we all think that violence is the answer to everything. Hatshepsut’s rule is testament to the untruth of this. She showed that violence isn’t necessary for success, and that message will carry on for generations.

Volleyball

2015-Group-CherryHill-Volleyball

My sister and I played with the Cherry Hill Volleyball Club last year.  I just noticed they posted this group photo.  We’re in the front row! Look for my sister with the crossed legs and you’ll find us!

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If you click the image below you can see it bigger (and clearer).  Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 1.39.05 PM

Abuela Invents the Zero

In school, we had to write a story we read in another person’s perspective. This story was originally in Constancia’s perspective, and  our assignment was to re write it in Abuela’s. You can find the original online here: “Abuela Invents the Zero“.

Abuela Invents the Zero by Daniela Velasquez

Just because you see a frail, huddled lump engulfed in a coat when you look at me, it doesn’t mean that’s what I am. Sure, I may be a sorry sight and my old bones might be small and brittle, but I still have feelings. Mi nieta, Constancia, seems not to understand this. From the very first time she laid her wide, youthful, eyes on my frizzy gray hair and deeply wrinkled face, I could tell she despised me.

You would think that raising ten children on la isla should warrant some respect, but not from little Constancia. She thinks that I don’t notice how she regularly ignores me, how often she sends disgusted looks my way, how she pretends we don’t know each other, that I don’t exist. I don’t understand Constancia. She acts as if I’m barging into her life without reason. I’m only here in New Jersey to experience the magic of snow I read about as a child. It’s been a lifetime dream, and I’ll be gone before long.

I try to ignore her, to gain strength from my faith. I say the rosary, read bible verses, and sing old spanish hymns at the top of my creaky voice. Although mi hija, Elena, has come down with the flu, sickness won’t stop me from attending Sunday mass. I need something to ground me, inspire me, so I can regain my peace of mind. Back on la isla, going to mass always soothed my soul; hopefully, here in la Polo Norte, it will be the same.

I request Lucas, Elena’s husband, to escort me to church on Sunday. Unable to leave his wife alone, however, he decides that the responsibility of driving should be Constancia’s. I just hope she is compliant, because I can’t go without assistance.

When Sunday comes, Lucas helps me hobble my way down the slick pathway to the car. It pains me to see the sickened look in Contancia’s eyes as she takes in the mass of fabric that’s my body. My bun feels too big, my back too hunched, and my hands too dry under her scrutinizing stare. There’s nothing I can do about it, though. Constancia is my only way to church, whether I like it or not.

Before I know it, we’ve arrived at church for the Spanish mass. Huffing and muttering, Constancia leads me up the steep, crumbling steps. I don’t understand why she still thinks that I’m blind to her repulsion.

Stepping into the church is like meeting a lost relative I never thought I would see again. I slowly pad to my pew, making sure it has the same view of the altar as my spot at La Isla Inglesia (The Island Church). I wedge my way past the people already settled there with enough muttered “con permisos”  to write a book.

It’s like I’m already in heaven. I sing hymns to the Lord, even though my voice has long since gone hoarse. I pray, because my time is almost up. And I smile like there’s no tomorrow. The mass flies by, and soon it’s time to take communion. I poke my head out of the missalette and unsteadily get to my feet. At a snail’s pace, I make my way toward the front of the church.

I accept the eucharist like an old friend. The familiar feeling of the wafer in my mouth warms me to the core. I move on slowly, savoring the moment.

My eyes dart around the room, searching for Constancia. She’s nowhere to be found. How can this be?  I am lost in a place that had just started to feel like a second home. I imagine everyone can see me clear as day, poking my feeble head out of my oversized coat like a turtle in it’s shell. I hear titters from the pews, and my face burns with embarrassment. Where is Constancia, the one who is supposedly looking after me?

Finally, a woman helps me to my seat. I cannot grasp why Constancia has abandoned me. What have I done to deserve such contempt from my own nieta? How dare she treat me with such disrespect?

On the drive back, I stifle my outrage, hoping Constancia apologizes on her own. But we sit in silence. I realize that her confession will have to come the hard way.

The minute I step into la casa, I let loose my bottled up storm of emotion. I raise a knobby, gnarled hand, shaking, and point to Constancia. I fix her with a steely glare, and say with conviction what I have been thinking since I arrived.

“You make me feel like una cero, nada.” I declare, then tromp to my room, inflamed. Constancia seems to forget that one day she will be old, that she will someday be in my shoes. She seems to think that I am worth nothing, worth less than the dirt under her feet. Yet I am her family, her grandmother.

I warble my favorite hymns, hoping that in some obscure way, they would connect me to la isla and calm my spirit. I pull out my bible for comfort. A yellowed slip of paper flutters to the ground, and I pluck it off the floor. It’s a letter to me, and an old one, too. I unfold the creased paper and read the words faded with age.

Sabrina, it reads.

Of all the hurtful things you can do to a person, the worst is to make them feel like una cero, nada, like you did to me, your very own Abuela. But always remember that everyone can make mistakes, especially children. So when your own time comes to feel like una cero (and I guarantee it will), remember this day.

And I do remember. Maybe I’ve been too hard on Constancia. Maybe I need to reach out to her. Maybe I am the one who owes an apology.

Woman in the Snow

This was a school assignment to take the point of view of someone else in a story we read.  We had to rewrite the story from that person’s point of view.

Woman in the Snow

Having a baby was harder than I expected.  I was constantly on edge, making sure my precious bundle of joy didn’t suffer any harm. That’s how I was with my Jada.  She was a ray of sunshine in my disaster of a life:  no money, no education, no peace of mind.  It was my only job to make sure Jada stayed happy and healthy.  I had failed.

It was hard to believe how tranquil it had been just two days ago.  Jase was looking for work, but Jada and I were happy as can be.  Strolling through our little garden she scratched herself on something – now I knew it must have been a rusty nail in our collapsing fence.  I’d rinsed the cut, but didn’t give it a second thought otherwise.

I show have.  After a day, Jada’s symptoms were beginning to show.  After two days I was mortified.  She was ashy and burning up with what felt like a 104 degree fever.  With no insurance and no transportation, things were looking bleak,  But, going to the hospital was the only hope.

Forging my way on foot, through the bitter cold, Jada wailed in my embrace.  She was hot as coal with each step I was fighting icy pinpricks of sleet.  It was all my fault.  My fault that Jase was out looking for work, my fault that Jada was suffering, and my fault she wasn’t at the hospital. I had to fix it.  Jada would not, could not die.  Suffering my way across the road, I heard the rumble of a bus approaching.

Seeing me, the driver slowed to a halt and climbed out.  He was a rotund white man in a dull grey uniform.  His face told me he was all business.  As he made his way toward me, I wrapped my jacket more tightly around Jada and I.  I wished for the thousandth time that I had grabbed something heavier than a blanket and windbreaker on the mad rush out the door.

“Look here,” he told me gruffly.  “I’ve closed down the route.  I’m taking the bus in.”

I was hysterical and made sure he knew it. “I need help, please, ” I pleaded.  “My husband’s gone to Memphis looking for work, and the baby is sick, real sick.  She needs to go to the hospital.  I know she’ll die if I don’t get help.” I explained through racking sobs.  By now my bare feet were numb, and Jada almost too hot to touch.

After an eternity, the driver Grady (it said on his name tag) signed.  “Well, I got to go by the hospital on the way back to the garage.  You can ride that far.  ” He crossed his arms and nodded to me for money.

I was then I realize that along with shoes, I had forgotten to grab my purse.  My heart sank into my stomach.  “I-I don’t have the fare,” I mumbled.  “But if you let me ride, I’ll bring it to you in the morning.”

He snarled, “Give an inch and y’all want a mile. You know the rules.  No money. No ride!”

Hot tears welled up in my eyes and sob stuck in my throat.  Anger roared in my ears, Jada, my baby, was dying, dying! Why couldn’t this insolent man see that?

“Please!” I cried, “Feel her head. She’s burning up.” Grady did nothing.  I searched myself in a futle attempt to find something to pay with.  All I had was my golden wedding rind.  To save Jada, I had to let it go.  The driver refused it, and snapped something about me over-reacting, but I had already despaired.

The wind howled in time with my heart.  Jada was slipping away from me with every passing second.  Watching the bus rumble away was like losing the last of your breath underwater; helplessness and horror overwhelmed me.

I couldn’t give up though.  Jase and Jada are both counting on me.  So I summoned what energy I had left, and trundled on, past the bakery, past the library.  As I grew more numb and sluggish, Jada grew more agitated.  I was nearing the hospital at last when I felt myself slipping away.  Jada was now cold and still.  As the darkness enveloped me, I knew we were dying.  If only I had noticed the cut sooner, if only I had money, if only the driver had shown us kindness…

 

Halloween

This year we didn’t get dressed up for school–we got dressed after school and went trick or treating with our friends, Angelina and Shay.  We went alone–without Mom and Dad!  We got lost, but we managed to make it back home.  Here are some pics…

2015 10 Halloween 2015 10 Halloween AND