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The A to Z List of My Unique Life

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To some, my life is ordinary. Mother, wife, teacher, writer. In all those roles, I aim to be the best I can be, to be someone my son can one day proudly point to and say, “That’s my mom.”
My life is unique because it’s mine; my life is meaningful because my life is part of the larger story of human life. My life is a work-in-progress for I am a work-in-progress. In certain respects I’m the same person now (at thirty-six years of age) that I was at six (a person with ticklish feet, an affinity for avocado, and a dislike for tomatoes). In other respects, I have changed (I do now enjoy Chinese food, and I am no longer afraid to speak in front of a classroom). Generally speaking, I don’t think women really give themselves enough credit for their own amazing, unique lives. On that note, I share with you the “A to Z List of My Unique Life” and hope to inspire you to acknowledge the amazing-ness and unique-ness of your own lives!

A Astronaut; that was my “dream job” for approximately half of my childhood. I was going into space. I knew the names of the original seven Mercury astronauts. I knew facts and dates about the lunar missions. And I knew what I was going to do – I would be the first woman to walk on the moon. But, while in high school, I volunteered in an elementary school classroom four times a week. I worked with students on a one-to-one basis. Children that just needed some extra review time to practice their multiplication facts, their long division, or their English skills. And I changed my mind. I’d leave the astronaut training to someone else; I would become a teacher instead.

B Buses, as in Los Angeles public transportation. I utilized buses for almost my entire college career. I couldn’t afford a car, but I wasn’t going to let that minor detail stop me from pursuing my college education. I rode six buses a day, amounting to at least 3 1/2 to 4 hours each day. Consequently, I planned my college courses around bus routes and schedules.

C College. I am the first person in my family to graduate from college. And I did it – all on my own. Granted, I had to start my college career at a community college to save money. And from start to finish (and one semester off in the middle because I needed a break), it did take me 6 1/2 years to graduate. But I did it. I earned my B.A. in Liberal Studies, without undertaking any loans. I graduated from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) debt-free.

D Dewey Decimal System. I worked in a library for four years, and inevitably, I learned a lot about the Dewey Decimal System. I can tell you that Shakespeare’s plays will be found in 822.33 (although I never learned why they are shelved in the non-fiction section), and I can tell you that dictionaries are located in the 400’s, computers are in the 000’s, and travel guides are in the 900’s.

E Ear piercings. My mom wouldn’t let my sister and I get our ears pierced for what seemed like the longest time. I was nine, and older than all my friends, before I finally got the go-ahead. When I was twenty-one and dating the man who would become my husband, I decided I wanted a second piercing in my right ear. It’s one of the few things I’ve done in my life for no “good” reason. A second piercing served no real purpose. No one in my family understood why I’d want to start dealing with pain and rubbing alcohol. I did it anyway, simply because I wanted to.

F France, specifically Paris, France. Since I was in the fourth grade and had to write a country report, I had yearned to visit Paris. We couldn’t afford to travel internationally for our honeymoon. Yet I knew I had to see the Eiffel Tower before we became parents. So we did; in March 2005. I fell in love with bookstores on every block, charming light fixtures, and small neighborhood parks. I admired the French way of living – walking and enjoying your surroundings. Sitting and enjoying the company of your companions, the delectable meals, and the ambience.

G Grocery shop with coupons. I started using coupons out of necessity; my husband and I lived on a very tight budget and itemized every expense. We had no extra money to over-spend. Now, with a bit of a cushion in the savings account, I still rely on my coupons. Because even though an extra $1 spent at the market won’t make or break me, why spend it if I don’t have to?

H Handwriting. I have neat handwriting, both cursive and printing. I’m not boasting, I’m just sharing an observation that has been shared with me since I was in elementary school. My handwriting is so neat that my elementary school teachers often had me write out their attendance records for them. In junior high school, I would use my newly acquired calligraphy skills to write out student names on various certificates. And at age 22, I would address the invitations to our Valentine’s Day wedding.

I Ignore a child – I’m unable to. I think it’s a combination of the teacher in me and the mother in me to constantly be on the lookout where children are concerned. After years of teaching kindergarten, I am always vigilant when it comes to untied shoelaces, offering assistance if needed. I am the person who encourages a running child to slow down and be careful. I take it as part of my responsibility as a citizen of the human race to do my best to keep children safe.

J Just me. I’m just me. A mother trying to raise her son to be an honest, caring, engaging little boy. A teacher trying to teach the standards while also teaching lessons in respect and understanding. A wife trying to run a household and maintain some romantic moments within the daily we’re-running-low-on-coffee-filters-life.

K Keep credit card statements. I have the credit card bill that reflects the first futon my husband and I bought, the charge for our honeymoon to Maui, and our son’s stroller. I don’t scrapbook. I keep these receipts as little mementos, an unconventional way I have of documenting the past.

L Look at butterflies, bright stars, sun rays cutting through the clouds. I can look at all these natural wonders and smile. These sightings re-affirm the fact that there is beauty throughout the world. There are miracles and magic aplenty, and I am most certainly a part of all that beauty.

M Mommy. I’m a mommy to a four-year-old son. That fact by itself is pretty amazing. I am co-creator and co-responsible for this new life on our planet. When my son was born, I stared at him in awe. I was (and continue to be) in a state of utter disbelief, endless gratitude, and a fierce desire to protect and love my son until my last breath.

N Never have I smoked. My rationale is pretty logical – I’m asthmatic. Through no fault of my own, my lungs struggle enough. Why make it worse?

O Ocean is my sanctuary. A day by the water where I can close my eyes, breathe in, breathe out, and feel my soul being inflated like a balloon. The ocean centers me. I find tranquility and contentment that is sometimes (honestly, often times) missing from my daily life. The ocean reminds me that I’m a part of something larger. The ocean reminds me that things will be okay, even if I’m not sure what “okay” is supposed to look like.

P Preamble to the Constitution of the United States. In fifth or sixth grade, Mrs. E. assigned our class the task of memorizing the Preamble. And in the weird way my brain works, I may not readily remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday, but I can still recite that paragraph. The only time I use that knowledge is during September, when my students learn about the Constitution. We hang up the poster for the Preamble, I turn around, and they check me as I recite the famous “We the people…” paragraph, word-for-word.

Q Quit. I quit my part-time job at the flower-shop when my boss criticized my acne-prone face, again. I just couldn’t listen to the criticisms and put-downs any longer. I knew I wasn’t the prettiest girl there, but I tried to be the prettiest me. I knew what was on my face. I didn’t need my boss telling me that the reason I didn’t have a boyfriend was because I wasn’t pretty enough.

R Reading log. Since July 2003, I have kept a reading log – a journal with hearts on the cover. After every book I read, whether fiction or non-fiction, I write a brief synopsis including the title and author’s name, the date I completed the book, and my thoughts about the book.

S Stick-shift. I can drive one only because I had to. My parents each owned cars with a manual transmission; if I ever wanted to borrow their cars, I had to learn. I didn’t like it then, and don’t like it now. I foolishly thought a stick-shift was merely one extra pedal. The first two were no problem, why would the third one be any different? I was wrong. I’d never purchase a car with a stick-shift, but there is a certain respect I have garnered, from men in particular, when they learn I know how to drive a stick.

T Text; I don’t. In fact, if I receive a text message on my cell phone, it costs me an extra twenty cents to read each message. My parents are the only other people I know who don’t text. I suppose many would call me old-fashioned. I admit it – I am. My phone is used as a phone, and that’s it.

U Understand that you can only really teach fractions to fourth graders when you show them how they are used in “real life.” Hence, there are many discussions and examples involving pizzas and pies. Some teachers use “manipulatives” – a fancy term that refers to some hands-on cubes or blocks designed to help make an abstract concept more concrete. I bring in tortillas, and we cut them up to prove that one whole is the same as four-fourths, and one-half is the same as two-fourths.

V Visit favorite breakfast restaurants, favorite coffee shops, and a favorite park bench on a regular basis. Hope to visit national sites including the Statue of Liberty and Kennedy Space Center. Wish to visit international destinations such as Italy and Japan.

W Whistle; I can’t. Although I continue to try. My fourth grade students are always reassured to learn that their teacher cannot do something seemingly so simple, something they can do effortlessly.

X X’s and O’s. I will hug students who are missing their parents. I will kiss students on the tops of their heads when they tell me they remember the quesadillas I made for them on Cinco de Mayo. And I will come home, blow raspberries on my son’s tummy and toes, and tell him that Mommies never run out of hugs and kisses.

Y Yearn for knowledge. I wonder about little things, like the differences between jelly, jam, and marmalade. I will pause when reading a novel to look up an unfamiliar word in my World Book Dictionary, a tome so extensive it requires two volumes to house its collection of words.

Z Zero – the number of times I use the word “hate.” In my classroom “h-a-t-e” is a bad word and is not allowed. We do not hate things (spinach) and we do not hate people. It’s my rule, not the school’s. I first began enforcing this rule during my early teaching career. It seemed so incongruous to hear young children speaking so passionately about how much they hated someone. How could anyone with such limited life experience feel that strongly? There’s enough hate in our world. My classroom will not contribute to it.

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