Mommy Blogs

Finding my calm

This morning before my doctor’s appointment, instead of rushing from dropping off my daughter to sit in the parking lot and steal internet from the doctor’s office so that I could work on things for school, I decided to take a moment for myself and go to the beach. It’s incredible how much a little salt air can refresh the soul. 

It’s been a long time since I slowed down and appreciated the world around me.

I have been stressed out worrying about finding a sub for my students, ensuring their lesson plans are ready, and wondering if they’ll be all right. All while our house has been under construction for longer than I wanted.

I allowed that to stress me out instead of letting go and just rolling with it knowing my husband was working the fastest his body would allow. We are still entangled in the kids participating in sports nearly every day of the week. I truly was having unrealistic expectations of what we could complete and it nearly caused a mental breakdown several times.

This pregnancy has been much different than my first with my daughter. I cherished all the small moments and let myself relax and enjoy what was going on while this one has seemed to be a strain on my mental and physical health. But standing here watching the sunrise over the surf rolling in has reminded me of the amazing little creature living inside me.

I’m excited about my maternity leave this time. Unlike with my daughter, I will not be working at all through it.

I’m blessed that Bennett is arriving in the fall, so we can spend more time outside, not sweating to death.

After recovering from surgery, I plan on spending as much quality time focusing on myself, the new little baby, and my family. Work will always be there, but little moments like watching the sunrise with my kids or just enjoying coffee alone will not always be there.

Mommy Blogs

Pregnant at 35

I’m not sure what’s going on with my generation of millennial moms, or maybe it’s just my group of friends, but I’ve noticed a spike in parenthood for women in our mid-thirties. Perhaps we’ve just all gone crazy and decided that we no longer like sleep, money, or the freedom to leave the house without having to tote along a giant bag filled with everything your little one could possibly need in life. But whatever the reason, maybe a bunch of us are starting the baby journey again.

    My baby brain didn’t just pop out of nowhere. Since I had my daughter five years ago, I have randomly discussed having another child with my husband. However, we were always at a different point in our lives each time I brought it up. First, we had just bought our first home, we were getting settled in with our daughter and son, and things were a bit chaotic. Next, we started potty training. We figured if we decided to add to our family, we would possibly do it when we only had one diaper expense. 

More time passed, and suddenly my daughter was no longer in diapers. She was out of daycare, and we could go on vacation anywhere we wanted without packing a nursery for the trip. You’d think I’d be happy with two wonderful kids and finally feel financially stable to enjoy life.  And I was, for the most part, but a small piece of me would come up randomly, not monthly. It was more than ovulation. It was an emotional tugging that my children’s smallness was ending. I don’t think I was ready for their independence, but I didn’t have any choice in the matter. Our kids grow up and will always need us differently; however, I still wanted the tiny finger wrapped around my hand, cooing and not back-talking me about something ridiculous. 

Throughout the last five years, I had gone back and forth, asking my husband to either get a vasectomy or a baby. He never got the vasectomy, not because of anything to do with his balls but because of the tiny mental breakdowns, I would have throughout the years, especially when one of my friends would get pregnant. He said he’s gone to war but was more terrified of what I would do if he actually took the choice of having a baby. Although I would joke around with the idea of having another baby, I think I only actually said yes, let’s do it once.

We both agreed that if it happened, it would happen. I kind of left it up to God and the universe and said by the time I reached my mid-thirties, he would probably get a vasectomy since we didn’t want to be in our mid-40s with a surprise child. I felt that was a fair compromise, and we actually tried. I wasn’t sure if I was pregnant, but I was late. 

I got extremely hopeful and excited. For about a month, I was giddy, thinking there might be a little one living inside me. I’m not sure why I allowed myself to be so happy, thinking it would only take a try to convince. It was probably because it was that easy with my daughter, but I was younger, and things tended to work faster. Well, it turns out I wasn’t pregnant. I sucked up my emotions and stuffed them down deep. My husband asked if I wanted to keep trying, and I told him no. It seemed like it was a message that we were just supposed to have two kids, not three, and I went on with life. 

A few months later, I got in a car accident. I ended up with a torn disk and a few herniated discs. To me, it was more of a message saying it was a good thing I wasn’t pregnant. Though it was a low-impact accident, I could have lost the baby if I had been pregnant. I know for certain I wouldn’t have been able to get the imaging I needed to find out how badly I got hurt. I spent months in PT trying to get back to normal. I went back and forth with the idea of expanding past the idea of physical therapy, getting more invasive, and receiving an epidural to help alleviate my pain.

Eventually, January rolled around, and five months after the accident, I was scheduled for the epidural. But what wasn’t showing up was my period. We had one small accident when I just so happened to be ovulating, and I was hopeful again but nervous. I didn’t take a pregnancy test, and I wasn’t going to waste the money when I knew that the facility I was going to would test me anyways. So for two weeks, I played the what-if game in my head. I knew there was a possibility that stress was causing my period to be late. But I didn’t want to be rational. Hope is a powerful drug. 

So the morning of my procedure finally came. For some reason, medical facilities were still under the covid rule of no visitors even if you were knocked out and needed someone to drive you home. My husband was told to wait in his truck, get breakfast, or do something at seven in the morning besides in the lobby and wait. We kissed goodbye, and I sat nervously in the lobby by myself. I hate medical anything, and waiting thirty-plus minutes by myself just let my brain think of everything that could go wrong. When I was finally asked back, the nurse asked if I might be pregnant, and I beamed, “Maybe.”  She was not thrilled because if I was, I could not go forward with my procedure. 

After being fully checked in, she handed me a cup. It now did or die. I was going to find out if I was pregnant or not. I peed in the cup, returned to the hospital bed, and waited. Not too long later, the nurse comes in with a big smile. “Guess what! You aren’t pregnant. We’ll send you off to dreamland in a few minutes, and you’ll be feeling better.” She shut the curtain and left. I texted my husband and said, “I’m not pregnant. You need to get snipped; I can’t handle this emotional roller coaster.”

When we got home, I was a wreck, shoving all my feelings and emotions down deep to where I didn’t have to deal with them. I didn’t realize how bad my hormones were and how bad I was PMSing. My husband made a comment that had been a running joke for the last five years about how the only reason he married me was because he was medicated, which was true. He was going through PTSD therapy, and the VA had him on a cocktail of drugs. Well, after years of joking and never bugging me, it did. I wrote him a note the next morning and left my wedding rings on his desk, saying he didn’t have to stay married to me because the only reason he married me was because he was overly medicated. It was our anniversary, and I was in the middle of a mental breakdown. Instead of talking about any of my feelings hiding, I was running away, partly because hormones do wonderful things to your psyche and partly because I wasn’t even sure why I was freaking out. 

I was teaching, and he was working from home. We spent the day texting, and I was also texting with a girlfriend about how I freaked out and was not even sure why I was freaking out. I was not stable, to say the least. I didn’t want to get a divorce. I was now sucking up tears, trying to sort my life out while dealing with the drama of nearly 100 middle school students while trying not to fall apart. Then finally, I sent my friend a text saying, “I felt so alone at the stupid outpatient place.  All my hopes and dreams were smashed, I couldn’t call anyone, and I was sitting there feeling like my world had fallen apart when he said he only married me because he was on drugs. I felt that alone again and wanted to leave everything.” She responded with, “Well, did you tell him that?” I answered, “No, I just figured everything out.”

I eventually told him. 

When we got home, we talked. Well, not right away because the kids had sports, we had to make dinner, and I didn’t want to fall apart in front of our kids. He asked me why I didn’t tell him I wanted a baby. Why did I keep pretending that I didn’t want one? He said he never got a vasectomy because he was terrified I’d kill him in his sleep or something.  After how I acted, I don’t entirely blame him for having that fear. So we decided to really try, not just a one-and-done type thing, leaving it up to fate but actually paying attention to my ovulation cycle. 

After the window closed, we ended up going to Orlando for vacation. We had friends from California visiting and thought it was a perfect time to see them. We joined them for a day at Universal, and the next day they were going to Disney, but before we even purchased our tickets for the park, I looked at my husband and said we should get year passes. He said, “We’re trying to have a baby.” I said, “Well, we don’t have that kind of luck to be pregnant right away.”  He shook his head as he handed the credit card off to the woman and told me. “I swear to God. You are going to be pregnant because you’ve finally convinced me to buy these stupid things.” So we spent the next day as a family riding roller coasters on a Monday with nearly no one in the park. I was super happy. 

The following weekend we ended up getting a kitten. Something my daughter and I have been wanting for years. As we brought the tiny fluff ball into the house, he just looked at me and said, “You’re going to be pregnant, and I’m going to have to clean this little box, aren’t I?” I told him no way. It didn’t take. I feel normal. I feel fine. He looked at me and said, “I don’t believe you.”

For the next month, I had no signs of PMS or pregnancy. At least, that’s what I thought. For the last week, I had left my classroom keys in my door. I was miss placing things and dropping things left and right. I felt like a space cadet and couldn’t figure out why I always felt drunk. Then I was helping my husband cook dinner, and I don’t know what I said or did, but he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “The last time you were this spacey, you were — have you gotten your period yet?” and I said no it’s supposed to show up tomorrow. 

We didn’t wait. I sent him to get a test, and thirty minutes later, we discovered baby brain hits a lot harder at 35 than it did at 30.

Mommy Blogs, Short Stories

Changes in Kindergarten

We sat in the long parent drop-off line, cars idling in the Florida heat. It was only 7:20 in the morning, but the sun was already making its presence known. 

“Do you want your sunnies?” I asked my daughter, who was standing up in the back seat.

“No, mommy, I’m good.” She smiled at me through the rearview mirror.

It was nice to see her smiling after the rough morning we had. She did not want to go to school. After weeks of adjusting from VPK to Kindergarten, I thought we were over our morning meltdowns. But just after a three-day reprieve, the tears began again, and she begged to return to her old school. The cause of this frustration was a letter sent home by the school informing me that my daughter was selected to join the newly formed class, allowing for smaller classroom sizes. 

“Mommy?” asked two sparkling eyes, still staring at me from the mirror. She liked to pretend she was a spy when she talked to me through the mirror. “Since I’m getting a new teacher, can I just go back to my old school?”

My heart breaks as she turns to face the blue dinosaur playground. Tail lights come on as cars shift from park to drive. I curse to myself, having to think of something fast before we start to move, and a safety patrol is opening her door, leaving her wondering.

“No, baby,” I try to say in the most reassuring way possible. “You’re too old and too smart to go back to VPK.”

She sighs, not taking her eyes off the playground. “What if this teacher thinks I’m too smart and moves me again.”

“That’s not going to happen,” I promise.

My daughter, who can hold a conversation with air, is silent once more. The cars begin to roll forward. I drop the sun visor down. Even my polarized sunglasses are no match for the early morning sun. 

“Are you sure you don’t want your glasses?” I ask, holding up her purple, sparkly sunglasses. 

She shakes her head and sits down in her brother’s spot, slipping on her oversized backpack straps. “I was quiet yesterday, so I earned a house for my desk pet.” She proudly before sighing. “I was really, really good, do you think I can stay with my teacher now? I promise I’ll listen better and not interrupt her while talking.” 

I gripped the steering wheel. I’m beyond fucking pissed, not at her but by how purely this whole situation was handled. A letter on Wednesday announcing she will be moved that upcoming Monday. There wasn’t a phone call from the school, the same school that has left millions of other non-important calls that could have been handled with a shitty copied letter. Nope, this was handled with a cold, black-and-white letter uprooting my kid just as she was finally at peace with her new lot in life. 

We’ve reached the stop sign now. The brake lights of the six cars ahead of me torment me. Their tiny passengers disembarking, ready to start their day. I can only pray that they feel better than my daughter does. 

“Angel baby,” I try to laugh off her worry, “You aren’t being moved because you were bad or talked too much. Just a lot of people were moved because the classes were too big. I’m sure your new teacher will be just as fun as your old one.”

We roll forward. She doesn’t say anything, just simply stares out the window as we creep closer to the little boy donning a bright green crisscross safety patrol belt. He opens the door and wishes us good morning. For the first time in these four short weeks of kindergarten, my daughter freezes instead of rushing out of the car.

I turn to the back seat and give her tiny hand a squeeze. “I love you, baby.”

For the first time in months, she doesn’t correct me, telling me she’s a big girl now. “I love you too, mommy.” And with that, she steps out of the car.  

I watch her readjust her oversized pink backpack. As the safety patrol shuts my door,  wishing me a good day, I overhear my daughter talking to a teacher. 

“My stomach hurts,” she tells the woman. “I think I’m going to get in trouble again today.”

woman in red long sleeve writing on chalk board
Writing

Teaching during the strangest time ever

I entered teaching at probably the strangest time ever. On my first day, I wasn’t standing in front of a classroom full of kids that I had no idea who they were, and they had no idea who I was. Instead, I wore pajama bottoms and a professional-looking shirt and had a steaming cup of coffee next to me as I logged into my computer. 

Everyone said that this would be the hardest thing I have ever done. In reality, starting teaching virtually where I wasn’t genuinely face-to-face with these kids was really easy and probably the more comfortable way of transitioning into this career. 

Now it’s my second year of teaching, and kids are at school for the most part. We have kids that are constantly being quarantined and missing out, but I’m not logging on setting up a Google Meet.  If these kids are truly sick, I want them home recovering, not worrying about school. 

What I do miss from that first year of teaching virtually is if the kids who didn’t want to participate in class turned the cameras off. They weren’t disrupting class. They weren’t being rude or disrespectful or screaming in the hallways or kicking my door. They just didn’t answer when I called on them. And sometimes, I would like to go back to not having those disruptions in class, which allowed those who truly wanted to learn the chance to learn. But there’s a catch. When they’re at home avoiding class, not learning, playing video games, or zoning out binge-watching TV, something is being missed, and it’s not just an education. 

Some students genuinely need their teachers, and it has nothing to do with what’s in a book. Teachers see your student every single day. We may notice something is off with a child before a parent ever does. Schools give kids a chance to learn and grow socially, whereas when you’re at home and have a device stuck in your face, you’re never going to do that. People are braver behind a keyboard when they don’t think anybody can see what they do or experience the hurt they may cause someone with their words. So while I wish I could go back to last year and not have to deal with some of these students who drive me up a wall, I wouldn’t. 

I have seen how much help teachers can give students. I have seen how much guidance teachers can provide parents who are lost and don’t know how to help their child. I have been an advocate and have seen other teachers be advocates for students who need help with learning disabilities that their parents don’t realize that their child may have.

When I worked in news, I turned off my computer and went home. I didn’t think about anything else. The show was over, and there was nothing I could do to fix it. However, you turn off your computer at this job, and things stick with you because sometimes these kids only have their teachers to take care of them, even if they drive their teachers crazy most days.

I read an article the other day that said they expect 20% of the teachers to quit by the end of the school year. I get that. I see how much these people love their job and love their students, but the shit that teachers deal with day-to-day would have most people quit their jobs. Teachers don’t just come to work and teach. Aside from creating their lesson plans participating in parent teacher conferences, they must also complete a variety of continued education courses and district-wide compliance courses. Some of it makes sense, and some of it is complete bullshit. Most teachers walk on a fine line about what they can talk to their students about and what they can’t. I have seen videos of teachers losing their absolute minds and being downright disrespectful to their students to the point where if it happened to my child, I’d be taking the teacher to court. However, at the same time, many parents allow their children to be disrespectful to their teachers, scream at their teacher, argue, and fight, and when a parent hears about it, their very first reaction is to blame the teacher. 

No adult wants to put up with this kind of mental abuse on a day-to-day basis. Many people wouldn’t last a week in this field. They would look at their paycheck and say, “Fuck this. I’m out.” And guess what? A lot are about to do just that. 

I used to joke and say, why do kids get so many days off school. Well, now I know they’re completely burnt out. A large part of the students’ education, crammed into their heads, seems to be solely for a test, not something practical. There are so many standardized tests that these children must pass and, half the time, it’s just reflecting on if the teacher was able to spit out what the district thinks the kids should know in that particular window. There is nothing that focuses on what the teacher has truly taught them or even if the kids are learning and retaining. Some kids are great test-takers while others aren’t, and those test-takers earn the school district a better grade. 

In these two short years, I’ve learned that those days off aren’t just for the kids, and they are there for the adults who have to watch your kids while you go to work and have free time away from children. So while these teachers and administrators love their jobs and want to take care of your kids to make sure that they become well-rounded adults, most don’t have the support from their community. They could be like Palm Beach County and have an entire school board filled with people who have never been inside a classroom making decisions for teachers. 

These are things that I would never have known sitting in a newsroom. These are things that I would never have known as a parent when my daughter enters kindergarten next year. 

Something has to change because the people who take care of your kids when you’re at work will be gone soon. And while I may still be here, six other teachers might be gone. Something has to change because we can’t keep saying that this is the strangest time ever to teach because eventually the strangest time becomes routine, and people don’t won’t put up with this kind of bullshit for long.

anonymous woman demonstrating burning paper sheet with title
Writing

Undone… My mental state, not the sweater song

For the last few months, I have felt as if I’ve come undone. 

I have always been the person who tries to see the good in what happens in life. That they are the reasons why I am the way I am today. But lately, it seems as if the strings of fate have been pulling me into a dark place. I have been lashing out at loved ones or just hiding away. It’s extremely hard to truly disappear, being a mom and teacher means you are always surrounded by people. But inside my head, I have felt alone. 

At first, I have wondered if it was a result of the pain I have been living with. It’s hard to get in a good headspace when everything hurts and no matter what you do the pain is still there. I hoped with my epidural I would start to feel better. I mean physically things have improved. I knew it wasn’t a magic wand to fix everything but I was hoping it would bring me to a better place. It’s still frustrating to know I am physically unable to do things I used to be able to. I watch my daughter, she is hyper-flexible like I am or was, perform an angel kiss with ease. My mom and I used to be able to do these kinds of things together when I was my daughter’s age. But unfortunately, I am unable to even push up into a small cobra stretch without pinching my back and leaving me in pain for a few days. I know it might not seem like much. I should be grateful that I am able to walk. But it’s truly ridiculous that I can’t even stand for a 50-minute class without my lower back spazzing out and my leg feeling like it’s been set on fire.

 I am only thirty-five. 

Thirty-five is not that old. 

So why do I feel like I am running out of time?

Why do I feel like every single day that I don’t spend writing I have wasted a day? But when I do sit down to write and not pay attention to my family, I feel like I have failed as a mother and wife.

Not a single person has told me I have failed as a mom or wife but that’s what my brain is telling me on a daily basis. It’s also telling me to give up writing. It is trying to convince me that nothing I write is worth it.

I can’t tell you how many days I did not open my personal laptop in fear I would delete everything. That the 10,759 words I wrote for book two would just disappear in a dark moment and I would later regret my actions.

When I was younger I would handle my depression with food, more like the lack of food. It was easier to control what didn’t go in my body instead of my emotions. But that doesn’t give me the satisfying feeling anymore. Now that I know what won’t poison me anymore, food is delicious, food brings me happiness. Why would I want to remove what makes me happy? Aside from food, I would also travel. 

I would literally leave wherever I was that was bringing me down and just escape for a little bit. It didn’t solve my issues but usually, it gave me a chance to breathe. 

I can’t do that right now. 

Fucking pandemic and parental responsibilities. 

So now, I am here every day. Working, pushing through the shit that fills my mind, and trying to cope to the best of my abilities. 

About a week ago I didn’t make it. I spent the day crying. I was at work and water was leaking from my eyes. That’s the best way to describe it because I wasn’t sobbing. Just the tears kept coming no matter how hard I tried. For the most part, my students didn’t really pay attention. A few caught it. Others noticed my mood was very different but for the most part, 

There have been outside things that haven’t helped my depression. Students don’t always understand or remember that teachers are human. How they talk to us matters. How they treat each other matters. It’s mentally exhausting to try and better 100 pre/young teens that most don’t want bettering themselves. I have spent many days trying to explain to my female students that they don’t need to rip each other apart, the world will do that to them soon enough. But they don’t listen, they just spit vile words at each other. 

It makes me sad. It makes pushing all my darkness aside to not give in to the feeling of giving up even harder. 

I don’t want this for my daughter. I hope by the time she is this age the mentality will have changed. 

That is probably one of the biggest reasons I won’t ever give into the darkness. Middle school is hard enough.  I don’t want my daughter to go through those years of her life alone, without having someone to relate to or talk to about all the shit she is dealing with.

I could blame a lot of my darkness on just that. Middle school toxicity. But even though I am sitting in a building surrounded by those who are going through their own mental shit, I can’t. I am an adult. They are children. Their problems are not my problems once they walk out of my classroom door. I know that I offer them as much help as possible. If they take it, that’s up to them. 

Now I must take care of myself. I have to be in the best mindset for my family, for my students but most of all for myself.

Compared to where I was a few weeks ago I feel better. I don’t feel like swallowing a bottle of pills to make myself permanently disappear. Now I just want to go to Key West for a few days to get my head straight. I can open my writing and not want to delete every word I read. My skin is no longer crawling every moment I walk into my classroom. So I call this all a win. I may not be fully better, but I’m getting there. 

Writing

Not a Waste of Time

As my last class of the day ended, a student of mine informed me that one of her academic teachers did not like my class. The woman’s words were, “That class is just a waste of time.”


I’m not going to lie; many snarky comments ran through my mind, and then I remembered that I teach middle school and what I say affects them. So my only response was, “that’s unfortunate.” What was truly unfortunate, aside from this woman’s thoughts towards my class, was that I’ve never had a negative interaction with her. I’ve never said anything bad about her, yet she was still trash-talking my class to the middle school students.


How wonderful is that?


What is even more unfortunate, outside a trash-talking adult, was that this adult was putting down the student. The student was discussing the upcoming project when the teacher decided to share her opinion.


After digesting my frustration, I stopped to think for a moment. I don’t believe this person understands everything my class has to offer. It’s not just a place for students to learn technical skills that can be used in a future career. It is a chance for them to express themselves where they most certainly would not have the opportunity to do so in an academic classroom.


First and foremost, video editing is no longer isolated to the broadcast world. When I was looking to switch careers, nearly all job postings asked for basic video editing skills. The main reason for this has to do with social media. Almost all companies now use social media to promote themselves. Employers are looking for people who understand design to drive business to their social media accounts, websites, or even better, their front door. So if I can instill a basic understanding of graphic design and video production into my students at a young age, I am giving them an extra building block they will need in their adult life.


If we look beyond the technical aspect of my class and at what else there is to offer, you will see how vital the arts are to all students—especially those at the middle school level where they are trying to discover themselves.


When I started at this school, I was warned not to expect much from my students. They are young, and they probably won’t be able to handle everything I expected them to do. I listened. I assessed, and I decided that everyone was completely wrong. If we constantly tell our students they can’t do something or are too young to do it, they won’t be able to do it. But if we push them and give them the tools to climb the ladder, these kids have no clue that they “shouldn’t be able to do it.”


I have a group of 11-13-year-olds shooting live to tape news productions. I spent two weeks with them, teaching them how to use the Tricaster, line producer (basic line producing but still pretty hard), along with every other job in the control room and those in the studio.


Do they mess up?

Heck yes, they do.

But do they give up?

No.

It’s not in their vocabulary.



At the beginning of the year, I had a parent who wanted to pull her daughter from my program because she was scared her daughter wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure. I expressed to my guidance counselor that that particular student was fully capable of doing everything in my class. The only reason she had issues last year was she didn’t log into class until it was a quarter over and didn’t want to do the work. Five weeks into the school year, I knew if I needed to send out a student to get a news story or collect footage for a project, her hand would be one of the first to go up. She is now interested in either line producing or technical directing—two of the most challenging jobs outside of reading the newscast.


This student wasn’t my only shy student. Nearly all my classes have a handful of those who don’t want to be on camera. I get that sentiment. I hate being on camera. It’s why I’ve spent my career behind the scenes. However, I do not let my students hide. They are allowed to work through their anxieties, but they cannot succumb to their fears.


Last year, one of my strongest anchors was a boy who refused to turn on his camera at the beginning of the year. When he returned to school, he was very shy, so I tasked him with being my floor director. That meant he had to speak up and relay the messages from the control room to those in the studio. It may not have been his words, but he was finding his voice. About a month into it, one of my anchors was absent, and he asked if he could anchor. I very enthusiastically said yes. Every single student in the class was in shock. Students who had grown up with him said he barely talked. Let me tell you, that was no longer the case. His other teachers said they saw a boost in confidence that wasn’t there in his prior two years at the school.


Confidence.


Confidence is probably one of the most beneficial life-changing things that a student could take away from my program. Students gain confidence from failing while growing from their failures. I have students of all academic levels, from honor students to high functioning ESE. I hold them all to the same standards. Though I do not expect the same level of work, I expect them all to try their hardest and execute their best. Not everyone’s best will be the same. Thankfully, since I am not a core class, I know that I’m not forced to reach specific standards or pressured by a statewide test, and I have the chance to pause and work with my students.
This year my T.V. One students will be creating a 2-3 minute silent film that they have written. They will create a travel promotional project that expands their knowledge of different cultures and places worldwide. They will be making a text-based informational video about one of our 50 states, teaching themselves and classmates interesting facts they didn’t know before. The last project they will be creating is a 5 minute documentary on a topic of their choice. In making their documentary, the students learn how to research, analyze facts, and present a compelling narrative with the least bias possible.


But you know this class is a waste of time.


My second and third-year tv students are writing a 15-page script. I will be able to workshop with my students and review their work. I will be able to expand on what their ELA and Reading teachers are teaching in class. Because Lord help me, these students write like they are texting. The finished film will be about 15 minutes long. The directors, actors, crew, and basically every step of the production are under the control of the students. I am just there to help along the way when needed. Students are not only learning teamwork; they are learning time management and problem-solving skills.


Again this is a total waste of time.


This teacher was right. Students shouldn’t worry about my class. Their entire school experience should be about their core classes because those teachers can get in their standards while expanding on other necessary skills that young minds need to learn.


Or maybe people can see the value of having a well-rounded education and not judge what they do not know.

Short Stories

Rockview: The Seaside Escape

The early evening sun was beating down on the weathered dock, warming my slightly tanned legs. It was only two weeks into summer, and I hadn’t put on more than a swimsuit and cover-up—Chripchrip. The little cricket alarm on my phone sprung to life, informing me it was time to roll over. I silenced it and did as requested, rolling over and soaking up the last of the evening rays. I didn’t want to have a bronze stomach paired with a ghostly booty.

“I see the bad moon a-rising. I see trouble on the way,” the song rang out on my phone. “Hello?”

“You done cooking?” Jackson asked on the other end.

“Oh, come on? Am I that predictable?”

“Sittin’ on the dock of the bay,” he sang, “watchin’ the tide roll away.”

“Okay, Otis Redding, you’ve made your point.” I sighed as clouds covered the sun, leaving me only with a cool breeze coming off the water. “You should stick to drumming. You were off-pitch.”

“You know, I think singing is in my future.” Jackson laughed as he started to hum another classic rock song.

“Are we getting dinner still?” My stomach growled. I unintentionally skipped every meal basking in the sun, enjoying my vacation.

“Just waiting on you.”

“Cassie, you know I’m not leaving until you’ve showered, blow-dried your hair, did your makeup, picked out what you want to wear, and changed three times. And before you say anything, ” Jackson chuckled, his keys rattling, letting me know that he was already on his way to the truck. “Yes, my dear, you’re that predictable. Yes, I’ve made reservations. And yes, I’ll be there in 45 minutes. So get moving.”

I laid there for about five more minutes before picking up my book and heading towards the house, walking the worn-out grass path that led away from the dock to my front porch. The roof was about ten years old, but it was still holding. Secretly, I hoped a hurricane would do enough damage so the insurance would pay for it, but knowing my luck, that wouldn’t happen until after I replaced it. The windows probably leaked more ac than it kept in but survived more storms than any new builds down the road. Since they hadn’t broken yet, I figured we were safe. Especially since I knew we’d never ride out a storm this close to the ocean. The pillars that lined my porch’s facade were begging to be repainted and were next on my list of realistic things to do right after I addressed the squeaky screen door.

The house was old, two hundred fifty years old, built by my great grandparents when they left the cape seeking warmer waters. It passed onto my grandfather, who added an attached garage When automobiles came into fashion, and then went to my dad, who used it as a vacation house. Dad said he wanted it to be filled with grandbabies, laughs, and happy memories, not just as a hidden sanctuary from the world. Instead of waiting to die as his fathers had before him, he gifted me the house for my 30th birthday this past spring.

However, an old house does not mean old plumbing. Jackson and I updated everything we could afford during winter break, which meant a tankless water heater and a massive shower head. Jackson thought I was ridiculous for wanting something that both of us could fit under at the same time. I just wanted to feel like I was drowning in Hell’s waterfall when I washed away the day’s stink.

I didn’t pick the showerhead for us to share. I loved the idea of being wholly encapsulated in a water column that blocked out the outside world. Besides, the cascading waterfall was the only thing that could penetrate my thick curls. The saltwater always wound them too tight, and most dainty showers might as well have been throwing water at me with a Dixie cup.

As I was humming Bad Moon Rising, I heard something downstairs.

Not again, I thought. Last time some creeper came to the door uninvited Jackson… I didn’t want to think about it. Unattended, the shampoo was running into my eyes, wiping it from my face. I listened again, but all I heard was the constant cascade of running water.

“Fuckers,” I muttered to myself as I washed out the last bit of shampoo. “You don’t have to break my front door.”

I groaned and pulled my towels from the rack. I couldn’t find my tablet, which I usually kept close. With my hair wrapped up in one of the towels and using the other to dry myself, I glanced over at the alarm clock on our nightstand. Jackson was still 10 minutes out. Though always punctual, Jackson was never early. I peeked out my bathroom window, but I didn’t see his black GMC Sierra at the end of the drive. I grabbed my phone off the counter, annoyed that I never downloaded the security camera apps.

“Hey babe, where are you?” I asked when he finally picked up the phone.

“I’m about 10 minutes out. What’s wrong?”

“Can you get here any quicker?” I asked, silently thanking God for the massive mahogany door. Any lesser wood might’ve splintered by now. Immediately I heard his truck pulling off the road and onto the gravel. I looked out the window one more time to be sure. “Somebody’s banging at the door, and all I can see is what looks like an unmarked cop car.”

Jackson sighed, “Did you check the cameras?”

“No, I didn’t check the cameras. I was in the shower and —

“And you left the tablet downstairs?” He sighed. “I told you to download the stupid app.”

“No, it’s in my nightstand,” I corrected him as the security camera notifications rang out behind me. “I would have called you first anyway.”

“Cassie, first you check the cameras, then you call me,” he said, “I’ll cut through the Johnson’s pasture and be there in less than 5.”

Almost in perfect sync with each other, the banging stopped just as Jackson hung up. Whoever was at my door should have left if they were smart.

Annoyed, I marched across the room to fish out my tablet, which was shoved deep inside the nightstand drawer. Twenty-six notifications from the security app awaited me. Of the sixteen cameras arranged around the property, three of them were fixed on the porch. I enlarged the view from the doorbell camera. There were two men at the door, and they looked uncomfortable as hell with their dark blazers and dress shirts buttoned up to their necks.

Jackson was already on the way, and it didn’t look like these two were set on breaking in, so I decided to finish getting ready. With my tablet in hand, I made my way to the bathroom to blow-dry my hair. I didn’t have long. Jackson could drive across water if he thought I was in trouble.

I gave up after a few more passes of the round brush and the dryer on high heat. There was no chance I was beating the Florida heat. It was sweltering outside, and between my damp hair and the humidity, even wearing just a towel felt heavy. I thought for a moment about how I could pull off a swimsuit cover-up as a dress but remembered the last time I did, that I ended up throwing it away. Red wine stains are the devil. Before I could decide on an outfit, I heard the roar of Jackson’s V-8 pulling up to the house.

I checked the clock and laughed. “Three minutes. Good timing, my love.”

I yanked a soft pink Maxi dress off the hanger and matched it with a pair of golden Roman strappy sandals. As Jackson neared the house, he slowed, letting the truck amble toward the two men so they could sweat a little more before they could ask whatever dumb questions they came to ask.

I could see the fire in Jackson’s eyes before he ever slammed the truck door. Men in suits always set him off, and these two were no exception. He never understood why they willingly wore nooses around their necks, though it would be easier for him to hang them from the rafters after he bled them out.

“Can I help you, gentlemen?” Jackson asked, winking at the camera.

The tall one, with a shiny spot on top of his head, fumbled as he tried pulling out his badge. “We’re looking for the owners of the house.”

Jackson read the badge from the edge of his sightline, never breaking eye contact with the sweating agent. “I’m the owner’s husband. What can I do for you?”

“We were under the assumption that a Derek Morris owns it.”

“Don’t know who’s updating your records at Quantico boys, but I got the credit card debt to prove this is our house.” Jackson scratched his lower back, just above the bulge where he kept his Glock holstered on his waist. “Now, if you don’t mind telling me why you’re standing on my front porch giving my wife a show on the security cameras when I know she’s supposed to be getting ready for dinner.”

Damn it.

I closed the app and headed back into the bathroom. The humidity lingered, making my dress stick. I wiped away the fog from the mirror, watching the last of my metallic scales recede into my hairline.

“Finally,” I whispered. With my scales gone, I saw how my skin glowed from today’s sunbathing adventures. I decided to skip makeup and let my sun-kissed face be free. Grabbing my saltwater pearl earrings from the countertop, I headed downstairs just in time to see Jackson come through the door.

“You missed all the fun,” he teased, locking the deadbolt.

“Who were they?”

“If they’re legit,” Jackson said, watching the black sedan drive away. “Feds. I have a feeling their department is classified.”

“Thank you for saving me,” I said, wrapping my arms around his neck. “Again.”

He kissed the tip of my nose. Instinctively he wiped his mouth, expecting my makeup on his lips. “You sure you’re ready?”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “Don’t I look ready?”

“Cassie, there were feds outside, and you’re just going to go out there naked?”

“I’m not naked,” I told him, avoiding eye contact. I looked for my purse, but it wasn’t hanging on its hook. I turned around to see if I had left it on the kitchen table. “It’s fine. If I need anything, I have stuff in my purse.”

Jackson sighed. “I wonder about you sometimes.”

“Only sometimes?” I asked as my stomach growled extra loud as if it was threatening him.

“Yeah, sometimes I wonder, and other times I just know.” Jackson laughed as he picked up the towel I had used earlier, revealing my purse underneath. “Cassie, are you okay?” he asked, handing it to me.

“I think so…I don’t know. I feel like my head’s stuck in the clouds more than usual lately. I’ll get better, though.” I smiled up at him. “I promise to be perfectly normal once you feed me.”

“I won’t hold my breath,” Jackson chuckled, nearly falling over as he held the door open for me. “I know who I married.”

Giggling, I walked out onto the porch and toward the truck. “If I weren’t starving, I’d take offense to that.”

We drove along the coast, passing a few farms with fields of cattle resting in the evening sun. The pastures were what I loved most about our town. Because there were acres of land in-between each home, neighbors didn’t bug each other unless they genuinely needed help.

“Did you find out what they wanted before you scared them off?” I asked as I watched the setting sun glisten over the bay.

“They were asking questions about your great-granddaddy. Not entirely sure what the feds would want with a dead man.” Jackson turned left at a four-way stop heading towards the small downtown.

An intricately woven cast-iron archway stretched over the street announcing the town’s name: Rockview. Just to the left was Dolphin Cove Marina, the original landing site of the town’s settlers. Legend had it that a pod of dolphins guided their ships through a storm and safely into the bay, narrowly missing all the rocks hidden by the monstrous, hurricane spun waves.

“You still in the mood for surf and turf?” Jackson asked as we waited for a few overly sun-kissed people–obviously, tourists since the locals stayed tan year-round–to cross the street before we continued down the road.

“Surf and Turf? No, I’ve been craving Franks all week!” I squealed. “I can not wait to sink my teeth into an order of ribs.” I always slathered them with extra BBQ sauce, but tonight, I wanted to drink it from the bottle.

“You going to need a napkin over there?” Jackson asked.

Tourists were everywhere, and I loved it. They brought life– and money– to our sleepy seaside escape. Without the snowbirds, I doubt the town’s quaint architecture of this town would have survived the army of contractors set on turning our brick and limestone buildings into soulless clumps of glass and plaster. Small clothing boutiques and tourist shops that sold cutesy, beachy trinkets were closing up for the evening as restaurants began adding extra tables and chairs onto the sidewalks. Even the food trucks were out tonight hoping to steal away some of the guests who were unwilling to wait for the next available table.

“You might want to call them and let them know we’re going to be late,” Jackson told me, adjusting the rear-view mirror.

“Looks like those feds weren’t done asking questions.” I smiled at him. “At least I’m all dried up.”

“It’s Florida,” he reminded me. “You know what humidity can do to you.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do? Walk around with a fan on my face? Or should we move back north and dry out like the rest of my people?” The hunger was wearing on my nerves. “I can’t help what I am.”

“That’s why you have that make-up. To hide the fact that you’re a fish,” he teased.

I clenched my jaw. “I’m not a fish. I breathe air, thank you very much!”

“Okay, dolphin.”

“Do you want me to eat you?” I asked sharply. “Don’t take any detours. If they want to poke around for information, they can do it while I’m sipping on wine.”

Jackson snickered. “Whatever you say, princess.” I leaned over the center console and punched him in the arm. “Was that supposed to hurt you or me?”

I didn’t answer him. I kept quiet until we pulled into Frank’s parking lot. It was the only restaurant in town with valet parking, and Jackson refused to use it. He drove us around to the back, where the employees parked, and opened the door for me.

“Heaven,” I said, inhaling the sweet and spicy scent of BBQ ribs and brisket wafting from the smokers.

“If there’s a heaven, it probably smells like this.” Jackson peeked inside his uncle’s smoker. Jackson picked up the baster brush and took a swipe with his finger. After a second tasting, I grabbed it from him. “He needs to add more cayenne pepper.”

“He needs to do no such thing,” I said as I licked the brush. “Your uncle creates magic. Don’t you dare go changing anything,” I stuck the brush in my mouth like a tootsie roll pop and sucked the rest of the sauce off of it. Jackson stared at me appalled but slightly turned on and leaned in to lick the sloppy splotches of BBQ from my face and lips.

Before things could get scaly, we entered the busy kitchen, and as usual, not a single person noticed us. The intoxicating aroma of wine, garlic, and boiling onions danced alongside the savory smells of andouille sausage, corn, potatoes, and of course, Old Bay Seasoning.

“If it’s not my favorite little mermaid!” Uncle Frank’s booming voice erupted from the front of the kitchen. “You’re just in time.”

“In time for what?” I asked, trying to avoid getting caught in one of his sweaty bear hugs. I failed. Instead, his monstrous arms wrapped around my thin frame nearly twice.

“I was just about to drop the crabs in the pot. You wanna help?” Uncle Frank asked, releasing me with a kiss on the cheek.

Jackson lingered behind as we walked over to the live crabs. “Hi, Uncle Frank, it’s just me, your own flesh and blood. Your godson and the reason why you even know Cassie.”

Uncle Frank lifted his eyebrows, shoving his hands into the tank. “What’s got him all twisted?”

“Some feds showed up at the house asking questions, and he let them leave alive.” I leaned down to watch a few unbanded crabs take swipes at Uncle Frank.

“That would leave me all sorts of grumpy, especially since they were coming after you.” Uncle Frank chuckled, emerging from the tank with his chest half wet.

I looked at the ground, avoiding eye contact with him. “They might be in your dining room right now.” “What the hell?”

He groaned. “Cassie, why did you bring that rabble into my restaurant? I have to look respectable for the snowbirds.”

“I think as long as your food continues tasting like it does, you could walk around naked, and most wouldn’t mind.” That earned me a deep belly laugh.

“I’d mind.” Jackson sighed. “And I can see them. Sarah sat them at the bad table. That wolf is one smart kid.”

“That’s why I keep her around,” Uncle Frank bragged. “She needs to work on her people skills, but I don’t have to worry about security when she’s here.”

I dropped two crabs into the boiling water. I always felt conflicted about the idea of keeping creatures in captivity. I had no problem hunting for my food. It felt less like murder when whatever I was after had the chance to run away. I felt a little bit better knowing that most people believe that crabs cry when they get dropped in boiling water. It’s not so much they’re sobbing as it’s them cursing me a thousand different painful deaths. Maybe they shouldn’t be so damn tasty.

Elijah, a veteran server, came in and grabbed fresh bread from a basket. As he was about to leave, he made eye contact with me and pointed to his hairline. Shit, my scales! Playing with a boiling pot of water wasn’t such a great idea.

“Um, babe,” I ran over to Jackson, who was watching the two FBI agents through the small round window in the kitchen door. “We have a problem.”

“Yeah, I know, those guys aren’t the feds.” Jackson turned and saw how bad it was. “Holy shit Cassie. Your face. This is why —”

“I know, I know. I fucked up.” I can’t believe I thought I could get away with no makeup.

It was the main thing that kept me from, well, looking like a fish girl who forgot to grow gills. I wanted to scratch my hairline. It was painful to have the scales hidden under my skin for so long. Stupid curiosity was getting the better of me. I wasn’t a cat. I didn’t have nine lives. What the hell was I thinking going out in public without protection?

Jackson pulled me close to his chest, keeping his breathing level. “We’ll figure this out, my love.”

I’m not sure what was going on with me. I had never been triggered by steam before. Usually, it took a full-on shower for even the smallest of my scales to make an appearance. I had never lost control over my body to the point where I murried out in public.

Holding my arms tight against my body, I shivered from the pain of the finlets as they sliced through my dry forearms. “I swear if you stab me with those spikes, you’re going to be angry with yourself for ruining my shirt.”

He was right. I would be mad if I ruined his shirt, again, for the third time this month. Blood wasn’t the problem. I knew how to get blood out of clothes. What I didn’t know was how to sew.

Uncle Frank took one look out the swing door and quickly shuffled us away. “My dear, let’s get you into my office. Easier to clean up any spilled blood.”

“You’re a shitty liar,” I told him with a fake smile. “The feds have vanished, and my guys can’t track them.”

Uncle Frank said flatly, “And I have a restaurant full of paying humans that I’d like to keep happy. So dry up in here before we have more to worry about.”

“You act more like him than you do your dad,” I told Jackson as soon as I knew Uncle Frank was out of earshot.

Jackson shook his head. “You’re just lucky he loves you because anyone else would have been out on their ass.”

“Do you honestly think they were Feds?” I asked as my body started to get control over itself.

“You know the government loves to employ are kind,” Jackson reminded me. “Love, I saw scales on when he whipped the sweat away. There’s a possibility he’s Muir.”

“Fuck,” I whispered. “It’s been over 250 years. They can’t possibly still be holding a grudge.”

“You hold grudges if I don’t take out the trash on time.” He reminded me. “There are countless amounts of Muir that blame your granddaddy for abandoning them in the new world.”

I looked up at the ceiling, trying to fight back the tears. We weren’t immortal, but for centuries we were indestructible, taking to the sea when our bodies needed to heal. But our healing source has become contaminated. It wasn’t something that happened quickly or even done on purpose. It was a by-product of the carousel of progress, as humans and Muir like created new and marvelous things that no one can live without, came new ways to poison us. We didn’t realize what was going on until it was too late.

Jackson folded me in his arms. “Want me to call your dad?”

“No,” I said. “Let’s have dinner first and then call him.”

“Fine, but you can’t stab me at the dinner table,” Jackson said, rubbing his hands on my now recovered arms. “You know how Frank is about getting blood on the furniture.”

We left the office and made our way to Sarah, the hostess. She smiled a toothy smile before leading us to our usual spot on the deck. It was close enough to the water for me to feel the breeze and not to have to worry about the moisture triggering anything.

“Chris will be out in a moment,” she said, dropping off the menus and returning to her stand.

“Why is Chris working tonight?” I asked, opening the menu. I never actually ordered anything from the menu. Uncle Frank usually knew exactly what I wanted and had the cooks making it before the waiter took our drink order. But after the whole Muirring out in the middle of his kitchen, he might have forgotten.

Jackson flipped open the drink menu, scanning the long list of beers. I knew he was searching to see if they finally added red ales to the list. “He’s covering all of Janice’s shifts. Frank said that Janice just stopped showing up, so they sent a few people to check on her. Her place was cleaned out.”

“Hm,” I said more to the menu than to Jackson. “I wonder if she started getting a body count.”

“Well, an Erinyes can only be good for so long.” Jackson folded the menu and looked around. Our server still hadn’t appeared and thankfully, neither had the feds.

“I told her working here would be hard, too many choices to snack on. A bar is the perfect place to find someone breaking their wedding vows.” I looked around at the other couples, wondering who was breaking their marriage vows. “Where’s is Chris?”

We watched as Jessica and Rachel walked by our table. Each of them smiled at us and kept ongoing. I didn’t blame them. Everyone was in the weeds tonight, which is probably why the new guy was so late.

Our usual server, Steve, nearly passed us but stopped. “Why don’t you guys have drinks yet?”

“Because Sarah sat us in Chris’ section.” I sighed.

“Why the fuck would she sit you with Chris? I got to talk to that girl,” Steve shook his head. “She just triple sat him. I think she’s punishing him for gambling way their rent again.”

Steve left the table without taking our order.

“Bring us a bottle of red!” I shouted at him.

Steve stuck his hand in the air to acknowledge me.

“Well, at least it wasn’t the middle finger this time.” I smiled at Jackson.

On the floating dock, a guitarist strummed a relaxing melody. I listened, trying to wash away my mounting fear. I watched couples sway back and forth on the dock bar sipping on drinks, not having a care in the world. I was jealous. I wanted to live in their world where monsters didn’t exist.

“So, Muir feds?” I rolled my eyes. “That’s new.”

“If they are actual feds, we’re fucked. I don’t know where else we can go that’s more off the grid than a town with two stoplights.” Jackson grabbed my hand and kissed it. “Wanna buy a boat and sail away.”

“As much as I loved the idea of disappearing from the whole world. Dad would kill us if we did that.” I laid my head on the table. “Where’s our wine?”

Jackson started to stand up but quickly changed his mind. “Don’t turn around.”

Of course, I turned around.

The tall, not bald federal agent was now impersonating Chris. His shirt was two sizes too small, Chris’s name tag was half hanging on, and the buttons were buttoned unevenly. The man was trying to carry my bottle of wine, but it was obvious he had no serving experience as it nearly fell off the tray twice. Even if I’d never seen Chris before, I knew, even at this distance, this man wasn’t human. Hell, I knew he wasn’t Muir. I don’t know how Jackson overlooked the bulging eyes and wide-set nose. All telltale signs of Salamander folk.

“Ugh,” I made a cat face to hold back the bile, trying to escape from my stomach. “Why do they always smell like the receding tide?”

Jackson laughed at me, but it seemed as though he was unaware of the approaching smell of sulfur and rotten eggs. The closer he got, the more overwhelming the smell became.

“They smell. How do you not smell it?” I asked in a hushed voice.

“You Undine are so weird?” Jackson shrugged.

I stopped as the bottle of wine came into my peripheral. “Where’s Chris?” I hissed as he uncorked the bottle.

“He’s unhurt. My partner gave him a sleeping draft and stashed him in the utility closet. It’ll wear off in less than an hour,” the waiter said. “I know, it was drastic, but we need to talk.”

“About what?” Jackson demanded loud enough to earn the glances of the couple at the table next to us. Their eyes flashed yellow, exposing that they weren’t human, making me worry less about the disruption.

I just hoped Uncle Frank wasn’t going to catch wind of all this.

“My partner and I should have handled this in private but, here we are,” he said, pouring Jackson a glass of wine. “I promise I didn’t poison it.”

Jackson locked eyes with the Salamander. “If you had, it would have been the last thing you did.”

“Sir, killing you would make our journey mute.” The Salamander looked around. “There are factions in the north talking about a Muir and Undine couple. They are saying the offspring’s blood will-.”

“You’re barking up the wrong tree, buddy.” I laughed so hard that I brought more attention to us from all the tables nearby. But the Salamander’s emotions never wavered. “I’m not pregnant.”

“At first, we thought they were speaking of your mother. Since she produced a hire so early in life, but now,” the man leaned in close, smelling me.

Jackson nearly flipped the table, getting out of his chair. Pulling the Salamander away from me, he growled. “Do you have a death wish?”

The Salamander threw hands up in the air, “I had to be sure,” he stammered. “But ma’am, you’re pregnant.”

“Cassie?” Jackson stared at me. “Is he- is there any possibility?”

“I’m still two days away from even thinking that is a possibility.” I stammered. “And even if I were, I have no clue what our child could do for the Salamanders.”

“It’s not just us.” He said, rubbing his throat. “Your child could save the aquatic peoples from all the human pollutants. Its blood is the cure. It’s the reason we left the old world.”

Writing

Moderna Vaccine and my body’s response

I never announced to the world that I got the vaccine back in May. To me, it was a personal decision, and it didn’t matter to anyone else. But things have changed. What I am writing some would probably consider oversharing, but it needs to be discussed. Unfortunately, discussing what goes on with a woman’s body is still taboo to many; however, it shouldn’t be. It needs to be addressed so other women who are suffering know they are not alone.


I got the Moderna vaccine a few months back. I didn’t have any strange reactions or feel like death, and I went to work the next day. I am a teacher and I spend most of my day on my feet interacting with my students. I took a risk not taking off the day after getting the vaccine, especially since some of my friends said they felt as if they had the flu or were majorly hungover. I felt fine and thought I got off lucky.
That was until a few days later when I was standing in front of my class giving a lecture, I felt this sudden sharp pain in my uterus.


A student sitting in the front said, “Mrs. Jenkins, are you okay? You look awful.”


I couldn’t answer right away. I was trying to breathe through it. I felt my insides squeezing and squeezing, and finally, it released. I finished what I was teaching and had the kids start working on their projects. The second I got someone to watch my class, I raced to the bathroom. My period arrived early, and the squeezing was pushing out an obscenely large blood clot. I spent the rest of my day teaching from my desk because things only got worse. The last time I felt pains like that, I was in a hospital, strapped up to wires, receiving an epidural. The blood flow was excessive, and I went through all my emergency products. This lasted five days, and then everything dried up as if I never had my period at all.


This was not my typical period, but I wrote it off thinking my body was just freaking out from the first vaccine shot.


I ended up having an OB-GYN appointment scheduled the day before my second shot. She seemed concerned but said I should just drink extra water, take a few vitamins because the vaccine pulls them from your system, and lay off the caffeine. She said I should be fine with the second shot.


I got the shot, and my period arrived early again. It was another rager repeating the same hell as the first shot. I figured this had to be a reaction to the shot, but now I was getting dizzy. The dizziness did not come with the first cycle. Again, I wrote this off as my body reacting to the vaccine, and everything will be fine come my third cycle where the vaccine will have been in my body long enough that things should be more regular.


That was not the case.


My third cycle followed the same as the first, but the dizziness was worse. Every single day I woke up, I felt as if I took sleeping pills the night before. I was dizzy, and I never felt fully awake. Aside from my dizzy spells, my blood was different. It was so thick that I could have sworn it was corn syrup. It was disgusting.
I have an appointment with my OB-GYN next week. I need to figure out what’s going on with my body.
I have started to do research and have seen other women having complications. I personally know women whose cycles have changed. Their cramps remind them of labor pains. One woman, who did not know I was having issues, discussed how she was getting pubic bone pain, the same pains she experienced during the final months of her pregnancy.


More women need to come forward. More women need to discuss what’s going on with their bodies so it can be documented.


We matter.


What’s going on with our bodies matter and should be studied.


I am not saying don’t get the vaccine, but I am asking you to do your research.
Be aware of what might happen to you.


Weigh the risks.

Writing

Writing update

I just wanted to give an update on everything!


I have been working on two new short stories while teaching full-time. It’s exhausting. However, after spending years with Maggie and Liam creating new worlds has been the break I needed.


I felt stuck writing Ravenmaster Part two. I was frustrated with everything I wrote; nothing was making me happy. I knew I had to step away from those characters and bring to life new ones, giving me the chance to breathe.


I was right.


My first attempt at a new short story was messy. It has taken a lot of work to clean up those five pages, but now I don’t dislike the story I’ve written. I am almost comfortable with releasing it and hope to have it out shortly.


My second story, that one I am having fun with. I am eight pages in and nowhere near stopping. It’s about a side character named Molly. I created her a decade ago. She’s fun and full of life, and it’ll give the readers her back story as to why she becomes a broken shell of her former self.


I can’t wait to release both of them and write a few more blogs as the school year wraps up.


I’ve also changed where you can purchase Ravenmaster. From now and until July 8th, maybe longer depending on how things go, you can only pick up Ravenmaster on Amazon. That means that Ravenmaster is a part of kindle unlimited, and I was able to set a special sales date.


From May 11th to May 18th, you can own an electronic copy of Ravenmaster for just .99 cents! I thought it was worth seeing what happens with the price change.


That’s all for now. Happy reading!

Writing

For the love of food

I hate cooking. I look at my food and think if I don’t eat, I’ll turn into a hangry beast that no one wants to be around. Sometimes I wonder if Hangry Alex could eat a human. I wouldn’t put it past her. I’m not entirely sure where my deep-seated hatred of cooking comes from. My grandmother was a great cook, and so is my mother, but anytime they asked me to help out in the kitchen, I would either watch, steal whatever I could to nibble on, or help my dad fix whatever was broken around the house.


I used to think my disdain for cooking came from my negative outlook on food. Before I found out I had celiac, eating was painful. Eat, get sick, repeat. It makes sense why I find no joy in preparing food that makes me ill. But even after all the doctors finally figured out I had spent a lifetime poisoning myself, I still hated cooking.


No one ever explained that the most challenging part of being an adult was figuring out what you were going to cook–every day–for the rest of your life.


I now understand why so many people just eat out.


Unfortunately, I do not have the means for such a lifestyle, plus having celiac and eating out is risky. The only choice was to adult up and make dinner.


In college, it wasn’t that hard because I ate whatever I wanted. A loaf of bread and a pound of asparagus? Sure. Chicken wings that have lived in the fridge for so long that I didn’t remember ever ordering them– Go ahead, They’re fine. I’d destroy a pint of ice cream, along with my stomach and the noses of anyone sitting next to me the following day. Not my problem. Sadly I no longer have an indestructible 20 year old’s stomach. Now in my mid-30s, just reading about my dietary choices makes my body hurt.


Not only do I need to be careful about what I consume, but I also have two little people I care for. I now need to start crafting the same healthy meals my mom did for my brother and me. Only I don’t have the same love for food that she does. I wonder if my kids can taste it? I know I can. It’s like there’s a missing ingredient.
I do not like planning meals. Grocery hunting is already a chore, and searching for the substitutes I need to make my meals g-free just makes things worse. I get resentful for having an autoimmune disease and being forced to abstain from so many foods other people take for granted. But worst of all is the feeling of isolation from my family while I’m cooking. My kids run around having fun while I’m trapped in my closed-off kitchen, hidden from them by walls. Pre-pandemic, my husband would be walking through the door the moment dinner was finished.


Because of the lockdown, my husband no longer commutes to work every day during rush hour. Since he started working from home, he has been helping me in the kitchen by planning out the menu for the week, finding new flavors to explore, and different methods of preparing our food. What I saw as a chore he found immensely pleasurable, and quickly our roles began to shift.


I became his sous-chef, dicing, prepping, making sure everything was ready for him to cook while he took the lead on the meats and sauces. Food started to taste different. Maybe it was the love he put into his cooking. We started food shopping together to gather all of our ingredients and a million other things we shouldn’t be eating but would snack on once the kids were in bed, and shopping no longer felt like a chore. Cooking was now something I got to do with my best friend.


About three months ago, my husband talked with his mom, and she told him she had signed up with Hello Fresh, the meal-kit delivery service. I’m not going to lie; we were skeptical about the idea of food being shipped to us in a box that wasn’t pizza. Our recent cooking collabs made us very discerning about the quality of our ingredients, especially our meats. We weren’t looking for prepackaged, ready-to-eat dishes, but his mother assured us the meals were nothing of the sort. It was literally a box of ingredients.


I did like the idea of avoiding the store where we constantly got suckered into buying things we didn’t need. But I still had questions like, would they offer enough variety? Or were the vegetables going to be fresh? We pulled up the site and went through the recipes. That alone had me ready to sign up. There were so many things we would never have tried, primarily due to one offshoot ingredient that would be too expensive to experiment with randomly. What finally sold me and made us both agree to give it a try was the price. We’d be saving a lot of money and time.


When our first box arrived, the first thing we noticed was how they conveniently organized everything. There were brown bags labeled with each meal’s name that held all the produce, spices, and starches. The meat was kept separate, which was much appreciated. I always keep my produce and meat separate in the fridge in case of leaks. Next was planning the order of our meals for the week. I liked knowing that everything was already there, and I wouldn’t have to run to Publix in the middle of cooking because an ingredient I thought I had was missing.


Having the recipe cards has improved our timing, so the side dishes and entree get completed simultaneously. It has all the steps like a standard recipe and has detailed instructions on when to start making the side dishes, so you don’t get overwhelmed or confused. My daughter, who will be 4 in a few months, likes the cards because they have pictures alongside the directions. She mainly uses the pictures to tell me why she won’t want dinner and instead will need a “peanut butter with bread.” She still gets dinner, but I can’t fault her for trying.


After making our first Hello Fresh meal, I realized two things. When my husband plates food, it looks like the picture and the proportions were smaller than what we were used to. Though there are four of us in our family, I tended to prepare enough food for dinner plus three days of leftovers and still have some for the freezer. It took food delivery in a box for me to finally master cooking proper meal proportions. This meant less food waste, and for that, I am forever grateful. But the downside of appropriate proportioning is the lack of extra noms. Let me tell you; these meals are sooooooooooofuckinggood.


Meals like

  • Balsamic Fig Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Mixed Greens
  • Sweet ‘N’ Smoky Pork Tenderloin with Apple Carrot Slaw, Mashed Potatoes & Cherry Sauce
  • Beef Bulgogi Meatballs with Roasted Carrots, Ginger Rice & Sriracha Crema
  • Chicken Sausage, Kale & Sweet Potato Soup.

tend to make me want 2nds and 3rds. They have the kind of flavor that makes you want to overeat and regret it the next day. But that’s not an option.


One evening night, while we were cooking, my husband turned to me and said, “You know this is my favorite part of the night.”

I was confused. “What is?”

“This, us cooking together. We get to talk about our day and spend quality time with each other.”

I felt my face flush, and I kissed him. When I went back to chopping onions, I thought about what he said. Just a year ago, I had dreaded making dinner. The planning, shopping, and chopping alone in the kitchen isolated from my loved ones was an unwelcome but necessary chore. However, now I get excited when a new box arrives. We plan our meals out as far as it would let us go that sometimes I forget what we’ve ordered but know no matter what, they will be delicious. Thanks to the magically little box, what was once the worst part of my day has become my favorite nightly routine.