Home Depot Language Exchange


Mom’s a kitchen designer at Lowe’s. Sorry, Mom, I have been hanging out at Home Depot.

Every Wednesday afternoon, I head to the Home Depot parking lot for an hour of standing around with the people there who are waiting to be approached with offers of odd jobs.

I approached them a few weeks back to see if they would do an intercambio with me — the first half hour in English, the next in Spanish.

The other day, a conversation I had with a man named Daniel highlighted some of the challenges I face in this experiment. Primarily, he was willing to ask any question I tossed at him, but he blushed at the suggestion that he ask me some questions about my life. Some of this discomfort was that, in English, he was used to answering questions but not asking them. Even more he felt uncomfortable interrogating a strange woman.

I am wondering how long it will take before I am no longer strange (this has been a question my whole life).

Daniel complained at one point that I was speaking English too swiftly. I was actually not even on my medium speed. When it came time for me to practice Spanish, he definitely picked up the pace of the conversation. I thought about braking a bit, but I enjoyed the challenge. He asked me to reflect on Obama’s presidency. When I explained that history will answer this for us, he pushed me to make an evaluation today. He is a different person is Spanish.


Taber Ranch – Museum of Entropy


Before Karate Sundays, when I was much younger, my sister and I spent a lot of time scavenging at the landfill. Back in the day, we could find a lot of good stuff there. I can’t remember what that good stuff was now, except for a carrom board with a torn corner net. It didn’t come with any other pieces; they were probably somewhere in those stinking piles of refuse, but we didn’t have the parts we needed to play billiards, checkers, crokinole, or any of the other diversions this square of wood promised.

As an adult, I continue to enjoy scavenging — for clothing at thrift stores, for clues with my nieces, for the right words for poems. However, I am less likely to collect items from my local dump.

This display along the Taber Ranch’s walking path is a monument celebrating entropy, inevitable social decline and degeneration. I now know what to do with a carrom board, a spare toilet and picture frame, a collection of bunnies and a spare windmill. I’ll add them to the museum at Taber Ranch.











Taber Drill Class

drill classhh

On Friday, I went to a geotechnical drilling seminar in the Capay Valley. Lured by M’s promise that I’d not only get to wear an orange mesh safety vest but a hardhat as well, I was willing to be up and on the road before six.

By the time 10:30 a.m. arrived, I really needed a nap and regretted not taking one on the hour-long trip out to Taber Ranch, the picturesque location for the day’s events. But I hadn’t installed my helmet yet.

After lunch, I headed down to the rigs to listen to M’s lecture about different ways to collect and sample dirt. It took me a minute to figure out that the hat has a dial that I had to turn to make it big enough for my cranium. Putting it on, I felt stronger as if I could toss around large pipes and soil, as if I could put in a hard day’s work, relying on my hands.

But, at the end of the day, I had to turn that hat back in…




One time when I was on jury duty, we listened to evidence for more than eight days about a burglary where a man stole a jar of coins after breaking a kitchen window. After hearing the cases assembled by two attorneys with last names that were so similar the judge often confused these two words, we headed to the deliberation room.

Introducing ourselves, we learned about the man who led tours to Italy, the woman who works at the Hallmark store, the retired state worker who had been waiting for his turn at jury duty more than fifty years.

When I mentioned that I am an English teacher, no one wanted to write on the chalk board. They were too concerned that I’d correct their writing.

Of course, I will point out typos in signs, menus, magazines. I have even brought the spelling error in this mural in an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL multipurpose room to the attention of administrators on more than one occasion. Next time I visit, I am bringing a Sharpie to fix it.

But spoken English or brainstorming outside of an English class? I won’t even flinch (too much).

Take What You Need


I am always looking for rummage sales, garden tours, community gatherings.

The other day this sign appeared on the bulletin board at the coffee shop in my neighborhood.

The homemade tear strip and handwritten text caught my eye immediately, reminding me of a handmade valentine in a mailbox overflowing with store-bought ones. After taking in the quotes, I reached for what I needed, learned it by heart, and then folded it into my pocket.

A man pouring creamer into his coffee took note as I moved to peel away my fortune, and then he reached for his own.

American Doll Saturdays


My nieces and I try to celebrate Karate Sunday at least once a month. Karate Sundays involve a whole lot of judo chops and leaping punts to the air. Part of the sport includes stealth attacks, balance drills, aerial bounds over our own shadows. We wrestle on the living room carpet, in the park, and on the backyard lawn.

When I saw the girls last Saturday, they told me they now celebrate American Girl Doll Saturday.

I am much better at flying chops to the neck, back, air than I am taking care of baby dolls.



It is week four of the Spring 2013 semester, and I am holding on to what I learned on sabbatical as tightly as I can — tighter than when I’d lose a tooth.

The tooth fairy would come, leaving me a single quarter under my pillow, and I’d discover the coin on on the cool underside of my pillow and clasp it the rest of the night, or until I fell asleep and my grip slackened.

I might wake to the coin imprinted on my arm or lost in the covers, nearly forgotten.

I’m holding on to the blog and the regular practice of writing, to playing outside, and to making balance (if not in my days) in my weeks.

I have built some struts to help me maintain my commitments to myself. One of the things that inspires me the most is that the students in my Creative Writing course are blogging, too. They are sharing all sorts of enlightenment and beauty on a daily basis.

There are five groups with approximately seven group members to inspire us (approximately) seven days a week.


Follow them. I am.