friends · Globe · intentional happiness · Past life

Miss Mayo

Have you ever donated blood? Until yesterday, I hadn’t. My only previous attempt was in the late ’80s, at a blood drive at my high school, when I was told my veins were too small. I’ve always assumed that there was no reason to try again, but yesterday I had three reasons to check that assumption:

  1. My mom, herself a regular blood donor, recently needed a blood transfusion following one of her chemo treatments.
  2. A new friend I met for coffee over the weekend, who was en route to donating platelets, shared with me a stunning story about a beloved member of her extended family surving a mass shooting thanks to donated blood.
  3. I’m actively looking for ways to find or (even better) manifest joyful things in my world that lead me away from hopelessness and into gratitude.

When I walked into the Red Cross donation center, I explained to the receptionist, a volunteer, that I had a 5:40 p.m. appointment. She looked on the day’s schedule but found my appointment time was blank–no name written there. “That’s OK,” she said, “I’ll write you in.”

I have an Italian surname that trips up most Americans, but as I enuncinated each letter after saying it, her pen was already moving one step ahead of me.

“I know how to spell that one,” she said. “I used to teach in a little town called Globe, and I had a student–“

I gasped and pointed a finger at her.

“Mayorano!” I said.

Her eyes lit up as it dawned on both of us that this was my fifth-grade teacher, whom I have not seen in nearly 40 years. She jumped up from her chair as I ran around to her side of the reception desk to hug her.

“Miss Mayo” used to teach math and didn’t suffer fools lightly. I don’t think I ever got caught in her crosshairs back in those days, but my memory is that she was not particularly warm, maybe even a little mean. She didn’t look much different yesterday except that her jet-black hair that used to hang down to her rump was now shoulder length and pulled back in a ponytail. “You’ve barely changed!” I said.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

We talked for a long time before I was taken back for admission, and her warmth washed away my nervousness. Then she came and held my hand while the young tech successfully fed a needle into my little Fisher-Price vein, her company keeping my mind off the blood flowing down through the tube. (He kept calling me Mary, which is my mom’s name, even after I’d confirmed several times that my name is Jenny. I didn’t realize why until I got home last night, when I saw that Miss Mayorano had inadvertently scrawled my mom’s name on my name badge when asking how my parents are.)

After I finished my blood donation, Ms. Mayo and I sat together in the post-donation fuel-up area, where Red Cross keeps the snacks and juice. We laughed as I recalled how she always had in her bottom desk drawer all manner of candies, which only the best-performing students were (sparingly) invited to shop. We exchanged stories about our paths in life and where others we both know have ended up, including my old junior high gym teacher, who remains one of her closest friends and whom she texted on the spot to tell about our chance meeting. We then commiserated about the heartache of divorce and making new friends at our age. She told me about her travels and work and how she spends her days now, and I told her about mine. I did the math in my head when she casually mentioned her age, and realized she was only 21 or 22 years old when she was my teacher: a baby!

On our way out, “Miss Mayo” slipped a scrap of paper into my hand. It had her name and phone number scrawled on it in familiar handwriting that I remember from a chalkboard in 1983.

“I’ve been really struggling with work and life and just feeling not quite myself these days,” I told her. “So, I’ve been doing an overhaul of sorts and being very intentional about finding something that makes me happy each day. I thought today it would be donating blood, but as it turns out, it was you. You’re my happy moment.”

There have been many days after days lately when my well has been empty, and I feel like I have nothing left to give after I clock out. It all goes into my job, which regularly spills over into weekends and evenings, into every conversation, and away from the things that matter most in life, like my relationships, caring for my soul, and being alive to the bigger world around me. What a terribly unfulfilling habit this has become over time, leaving me with a sense of having to scrape together bits and parts from what’s left inside me in order to show up for my life! Now happily, happily, I am rediscovering that not all giving from the well drains it. Some fills it up.

To donate blood, visit Red Cross Blood Services.

blended families · divorce · friends · husbands · intentional happiness · marriage

Prickly Pear Guestbook

“I am twice married but not a bigamist.”

For the past couple of years, I’ve been trying on different ways to say that my children’s dad and I are divorced and that I’ve since remarried but say it in a way that lays clear there’s no villain in the narrative. I don’t like saying “second marriage” or “second husband,” partly because it makes my spouse–someone I have known for 30 of my 50 years on this planet–seem like a comfortable caftan I’ve resorted to wearing after spilling something on my favorite dress. Or is a functional donut spare tire that will do the trick. Or he’s the Michael Gambon of Dumbledores, an insult in my book.

It’s also that I do not wish to portray myself as a bag of leftovers, a treat consumed at a late hour by someone who wasn’t at the main event but finally got the munchies. Even if it’s the kind of leftovers cradled inside shiny foil squeezed and bent to look like a swan, I would prefer a nicer impression. I don’t know why I care. Branding? Vanity? Neurosis? Protectionism?

Anyway, I got married for the second time a little over two years ago, which was about eight months after we’d intended, thanks to COVID-19. We were tired of waiting for health departments to decide when we should tie the knot but didn’t want anyone to croak in the name of our nuptials. Once vaccines debuted, we gathered up our immediate family and a very tiny group of our close friends, and we tied the knot in an old adobe chapel in an historic part of town. I live in Tucson, and unlike many others here, I don’t think it’s the most beautiful place you’ll ever see, but I do really love me some pretty prickly pears, saguaros, and desert blooms. And I’m an Arizona girl, born and bred. That’s what gave me the idea for this unusual guestbook that, unlike most wedding guestbooks, isn’t tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

The guestbook is comprised not of signatures but of the thumbprints of each of our guests. My mom sketched out the start of the prickly pear plant in light pencil. Then I left a little inkpad out next to the paper at the entrance to the chapel along with instructions for people to add their thumbprints to the sketch. My mom later went in and used watercolor pencils to shade them a bit and turn the cluster into this beautiful little piece of art that now graces our foyer. It is matted and displayed inside a double-window picture frame that also includes a group photo with all of our guests, and it still gives me JOY.

Not pictured: One giant thumbprint nowhere near the plant, presumably left by one of the handful of men in attendance, but we were easily able to cover that up during matting and framing. I won’t name names here, because I really love my father-in-law to pieces

advice · friends · motherhood

Bitty Buddha 101: How (and Why) to Make a Mean Person Your Friend (from the Momplex Blog archive)

I can’t count how many times someone’s called my first-grader a little Buddha. He’s an insightful little fart, often boiling down life’s tough stuff into the simplest terms from the backseat of my Hyundai. And he’s always unusually happy, even when his nose is bleeding like a scene from the Colosseum. One could argue that all first-graders have a happy nature, but that’s simply not true. I know, because my sixth-grader came out of the womb with her cup already half empty. (Boy, did THAT hurt. Rimshot!)

As a result of the constant flow of weird and wonderful things that come out of my son’s mouth, something awful happened: I became One of Those Annoying Moms Who Quotes Verbatim Conversations with Her Child on Facebook, like this one:

“Mom, I love you more than you love me.”
“Impossible. I love you times infinity.”
“Well, I love you times googol.”
Then, after much back and forth about I LOVE YOU googolplex, googolplex plus one, infinity plus infinity, he says, “Just kidding. I actually only love you about 10 percent.”

And this one:

“Mom, I think sometimes it’s better to be a kid than a grownup, because if you’re a kid and you punch someone, you just get in trouble. If you’re a grownup…JAIL.” 

And this picture:

Dodge Ram

With this caption:

“I think that guy really wants you to honk at him. It says, ‘Big Horn’ right there on the back, Mom.”

Look, I’m not saying he’s a total wizard, but he’s kind of growing on you, right?And sometimes he does make some amazing observations, about which I post things like this:

Playing a silly game of “what’s your favorite…” at bedtime, I asked my son, “What’s your favorite booger?” He said, “The not-bloody ones.” And when I laughed, he said, very seriously, “I’m not kidding. They’re gross. The blood tastes so bad on the booger!”


I could go on, but I won’t, because starting today, I’m just going to put the virtual microphone right under his chain. Today, Bitty Buddha wisdom, as dispensed to me from the back of my Hyundai and repeated to me for transcription when we got home–because he thought “we should probably put that on Google, to help people.”

I agree. Without further adieu…


Hello, everybody. This is how you make a mean person into your friend. The reason you want to make them into your friend is because it’s hard to make friends with people who are mean. It’s really hard, because you think they’re so mean. That’s what most people think, so then the mean person doesn’t get friends, and they become sad. Try to make friends with them, so you don’t get hurt. But be careful, so you don’t get hit. These are the instructions:

First, you need to make friends with them.

Then, you need to help them become good, because friends normally obey each other and like to have fun, so he might obey you and be nice and be a good person.

Also, this is all how it started. Because I had a bloody nose at school, because another boy slapped me in the nose on accident. We were playing cops and robbers. He gets in a LOT of mischief almost every day. After the nosebleed, since I didn’t want to lose him as a friend—because it’s hard to make friends with people that are naughty—I had to make him better. I plan to stay friends with him so I can try to do that.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.