Author Archives: Alysha Kaye Mendez

About Alysha Kaye Mendez

Author of THE WAITING ROOM, available now on Amazon! 9th grade English teacher, tirelessly trying to save the future from their/they're/there catastrophes (it could be ugly). Teaching writing and being a writer at the same time is harder than it sounds. New goal=be both, better.

My friend wrote a poem

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*Wrote this awhile back and just found it floating around on my laptop. Liked it better all these months later*

 

My friend wrote a poem today and read it to me over tacos and Big Red (in the bottle) and—well, that was all mine, his was a pecan porter and something called a chicken lollipop? His poem made me sad because I don’t want to feel better that other people are going through what I’m going through. I want to look at my family and friends and aspire to have what they have.

My friend wrote a poem today and it reminded me of how many times I’ve been heartbroken (technically three, potentially 3.5). It shouldn’t be that way, right? It should probably cap at twice, maybe even once.

My friend wrote a poem today and he’s going to read it aloud at a coffee shop in front of a girl he hopes will one day break his heart just as good as the girl-who-the-poem-about’s did. What a strange concept, to admit to someone you’re in Phase 1 with that you recently were in Phase 300 (Phases 5-300 are all just heartbreak in various forms including depression, self-deprecation, and gym memberships).

My friend wrote a poem today and it cut into me for some reason, as if I’d never read a poem so raw (I’ve read a million poems just like this, I’m sure of it). Why is that? Why can we go hours, days, weeks even without feeling that sick, gutted thing and then randomly feel it punching through our organs like (use Cookie Monster’s voice here, it works for some reason) “YOU THOUGHT I WAS GONE, BITCH?! THINK AGAINNNN!”

My friend wrote a poem today and we finished our drinks and food and complained about the flies or mosquitoes or sun or all of the above. We hugged goodbye and I found myself jealous that he was off to let someone new turn him down or stomp on his feelings or commit but then change their mind or fall in love with him and drive him mad, but in a good way, til the end of time. It’s probably time to be destroyed again, I thought, driving home through the humid traffic or trafficky humidity. I wrote a poem and then started swiping.

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Peter Pan Syndrome

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When did men become more interested in swiping right, gaze down than catching your eye at a bar? Peter Pan Syndrome got them in their late 30’s still thinkin’ they’re gonna be a DJ superstar, barista on the side, chasin’ every skirt in sight, 21 forever. Ever seen a balding guy trying to grind on women, slurring “You should smile more” and pounding Lonestars? You’d think he was a hobo and seconds away from getting escorted out except…you look around and the place is filled with mustaches just like him. You think, is this a nightmare? Is this some Twilight Zone shit? But then you remember that it’s 2018 and it’s Austin, Texas and 98% of all men here who are under the age of 45 believe in ACL/SXSW>stability and hipster beards>marriage.

No wonder women are settling for the kind of men they’re settling for…at least those men aren’t afraid of commitment.

Meanwhile, I remain team #nosettle and also team #gtfohPeterPan–therefore team #singleforever. Shout out to those of you who are in the same boat. Le sigh.

Admin Affecting Teacher Mental Health

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I’m getting a PhD, which yeah, is cool. But my writing time is pretty filled with research papers and Blackboard threads (ugh, Blackboard, I’d forgotten how much I despise you) instead of blogging or working on the second novel…

Becoming a professor was always the end goal though. I found a super old Word doc the other day titled “Life Goals” (way to be discreet, young Alysha) and at the top, starred and bolded, it read: “As long as you accomplish three of these, you’re good!” Ha! So three life goals, that’s all I need to be fulfilled. Going off of that list, I’ve actually already reached fulfillment. Getting my PhD, traveling the world, and publish a novel. Done!

I’m finally teaching at a school where I feel respected. My AP is an amazing woman who never belittles teachers in any way. My dissertation is going to focus on administrator behavior and how it affects teacher mental health and my new school is a shining example of how things SHOULD be in public education. Are there still kinks? Of course. There always will be in a K-12 setting. But it’s great to be in an environment where admin trust teachers to help with the kinks instead of an environment that simply blames teachers for the kinks.

Everyone is pretty weird about openly discussing anxiety and depression, but I hope to be able to break those barriers. Maybe one day soon I’ll post something more in-depth about my own personal struggles, but for now, I wanted to post about my dissertation topic. Teacher mental health is so damn important! Why is this not talked about more? More specifically, why isn’t it common practice for administrators to be trained on how they affect teacher mental health?

When I started this program, there were so many topics floating around my mind—topics I’d love to study. But the one issue that continued to pick at me was teacher mental health—and how administrators can make or break your entire experience as an educator.

I had an absolutely awful experience at my last school. I was bullied and demeaned until I finally applied elsewhere. It was traumatizing. The sad part is, I’m not alone. Countless teachers are treated this way, or worse.

Now that I’m in a completely different environment, I’m having to remind myself that I AM a good teacher and a good person. I’m still getting over the terrible way I was treated at my old district. My coworker joked that I have PTSD, but it really does feel like that at times.

Teachers should never feel scared to go to their administrators, ask for help, or work with them toward a common goal. In these times especially, people should be uniting and working together toward a brighter future, not tearing each other down. I know one dissertation can’t change the total atmosphere of administrator-teacher relations, but maybe one dissertation will lead to another and another and another…until something does change?

P.S. I reached 3,000 followers today! Hollaaaa! Super cool. If you haven’t read The Waiting Room, I’m sending out free e-copies to willing reviewers 🙂 shoot me an email if interested: alyshakaye@gmail.com

An Open Letter to My Grandparents

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Dear abuelitos,
     I can’t believe you’re not speaking to me. I’ve called you multiple times and left voicemails, texted you, and I mailed you a letter. No response. The last time I called, you ended the call after it rang a couple times. I didn’t think you could “break up” with your granddaughter, but I guess that IS a thing. I thought “ghosting” was only something in the online dating world, but apparently, it’s not reserved to 20-somethings who don’t know how to be honest or have real conversations.
     I’ve been ghosted by my grandparents. It’s actually kind of funny. Or it would be, if the reason wasn’t so absurd, mind-blowing, and hurtful.
     I asked my dad to adopt me last month. He’s been my dad for 22 years–almost my entire life. It was such a happy moment and we all cried tears of joy, knowing that this was only making paper-official what has been heart-official for over two decades. We went to court, stood before a judge, and threw a small party to celebrate. Everyone was over the moon, sending us their well wishes and congratulations. Everyone except you, I guess. You decided to cut me out of your life instead.
     What confuses me the most is that we’ve talked about your son, my biological father, on many occasions. You’ve apologized to me for his actions and his absence. We’ve talked about his drug use, we’ve talked about his violence toward my mother, and we’ve talked about how he hasn’t made any attempt to reenter my life or get to know me in any way. If he was half a man, he’d thank my dad for doing his job for him.
     Despite my resentment toward him, I contacted him, to try to find out why you were ignoring me. He didn’t respond. I guess social media is the only way to reach you–that seems to be the way you found out about the adoption. You definitely didn’t talk to me about it. I can’t get ahold of you at all, so I’m hoping this letter makes its way to you.
     My dad has done so much for me in 22 years–do you even realize what he’s done? Your son never paid a cent of child support (which you said you’d do for him, but then never did). My dad is the reason I’m not in extreme debt–he helped me through college, he helped me buy a car, not to mention feeding me, clothing me, putting a roof over my head…you know, the usual Dad duties.
     More importantly, my dad has been my shoulder to cry on. He’s held my hand, hugged me tight, and bandaged my injuries more times than I could possibly count. He was there through both of my surgeries. He knows all my friends. He knew my boyfriends. He answers his phone every time I call.
      I am grateful for your son, for giving me life. I am grateful for his creativity, which I’m told he had much of–some people say that creativity is passed on, some say I’ve acquired it through my life experiences. I’m not sure, but if the former is true, then I am grateful. I am grateful to keep my last name, which connects me to my Mexican heritage. And I was grateful for my relationship with you–my grandparents–even though we didn’t have a relationship for years and I felt like you’d abandoned me just like your son did. But for the past few years especially, I’ve loved the relationship we’d formed. And now you’re gone again, like you never existed at all.
      How odd it is to only have half a family. It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life. Most of the time, I feel OK, I feel whole. Aunt Gigi helped with that–she, as you know, has always been an important person in my life. She stuck by our side after Mom decided to get a divorce. She’s never been absent from my life. And now you’ve taken her away from me too. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse–you blocked my number at her house. I used to talk to her on the phone almost every day.
     I didn’t know you could be so heartless. It astounds me that your blood is my blood; I came from you. We are the same yet so, so different.
     I will probably never hear from you again, and that’s fine. Well, it’s not fine, but if that’s your choice, then I will live with it. All I can do is hope that one day, you’ll realize the senseless pain you’ve caused. Or maybe, since you claim to be good Catholics, it will be God who helps you to realize this when you meet him at the gates one day. I have never wanted more for Him to be real.
     Sincerely,
your granddaughter

The Button

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If you had just taken that damn tag off of your button, maybe we wouldn’t be here, two years later, still splitting sour beers and smoking in your truck and kissing eagerly after a week of not talking. What a cycle we started, almost immediately. It’s almost laughable—what a witty piece I could write—almost. I could be sarcastic and flirty and go the whole Cosmo article route and shrug this all off as an unfortunate series of events—oh how I wish I could do that and end it all with something like, “At least I still have wine, am I right ladies?”

But I can’t do that. We’re so past the silly, ridiculous point of me being able to do that. Now we’re here and I’m split and splintered and shattered and suffering and every heart-wrenching s-word you can think of; I am that.

I think about that button a lot though, and how it was cold that night and I saw a tiny glint of white silk popping out of your collared shirt.

“Did you buy a new shirt for our first date?” I asked coyly.

“What? No…” you looked down and pulled your jacket to the side and noticed the white. “Oh. I thought you were supposed to leave these on.” You toyed with the small tag around the middle button.

“What?!” I was incredulous—half on purpose, half actually incredulous. “Of course you’re not supposed to leave it on!” I laughed and took another sip of the sour beer you’d bought us, pretending to like it.

“Well take it off then,” you said, leaning towards me. I knew I liked you then, after only 15 minutes, because if I didn’t, I would have scoffed and told you to do it yourself. But instead I leaned closer to you than necessary and took off the button tag more slowly than necessary, smiling up at you as if I was fixing your tie for the hundredth time.

If only every human came with a list of warnings, like medicine does.

Male, aged 30 years. Much like the bullshit biblical figure he is named for, Adam is amazing at reaping all of the benefits of the earth while his companion sins and is blamed and undergoes great hardship. He will be messier than any person you’ve ever met, yet he will not trust your dishwasher and will re-wash every dish and glass offered to him. He prefers dinner no earlier than 10PM and he will never try to not wake you up when he gets up earlier than you, flicking the bathroom light on before shutting the door like some sort of animal. He will introduce you as a friend and he will smell so good, but he will never, ever know how to communicate. He will be the first person you want to tell things to and you will always want to feel the tiny gray hairs hidden on his head but he will be absent when you most need his Tejano music and giant breakfasts and giggly existential conversations so you will be forced to tell someone else all the things.

Consult your therapist before accepting this human into your life, as this is not the suggested course of action for all willing participants. Side effects may include love, regret, heartbreak, death, or in some cases, all of the above.

Let’s be real though, I still would’ve taken that pill—I still would’ve leaned toward that stupid, fucking collared shirt. That’s what we all do, right? We’re warned and warned and warned—every day, about everything! And we still do almost everything that “could be” harmful or “could be” dangerous or “could be” the worst decision of our life. You could’ve been the best decision of my life. And now you’re just last night. Now you’re just text on a page. A button in a whole box of buttons.

Mama K & The Shades

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

 

Mama K & The Shades are definitely a local must-see with their jazz-soul-R&B-funk combo of high-energy sound of a 10-piece band you have to see to believe. If you’re a night owl, catch them on the SXSW schedule: Maggie Mae’s Rooftop Bar on March 15 and Half Step on March 18, both at 1 AM.

White Light Exposure - mama k and the shades-1Mama K & The Shades have been together for almost three years and range from ages 22 to 62. Lead singer Kelsey Garcia says that they are much more than “just bandmates.”

“It seems like we’ve known each other forever—we’re family,” she said. “We’ve been playing together for long enough now that we’ve really developed our own true sound. We’ll always be influenced by 70’s and 80’s funk, but we’re not a replica; we’re our own thing entirely.”

Who exactly is this dime? Well, the vocalists are the leading —and only— lady Kelsey Garcia and Willie Barnes. The instrumentalists consist of: Johnny Storbeck (guitar), David Thacker (keyboard), Lee Braverman (bass), Chris Barnes (drums), Wesley Gonzales (percussion), Joseph Morrow (trumpet and flugelhorn), Dustin Hunter (tenor and baritone sax), and Donald McDaniel (trombone). Whew. Yeah—it’s a lot. Which means—big sound! Big sound does not always mean great sound, but in this case, it truly does. Somehow, they make ten people on a stage look and sound like every band should follow suit.

mama k -4Their first album, “Honey Made,” is dedicated to David McKnight, their original sax player who passed away two years ago. Their second album is in the works and will be out next year.

“He was the creator of the band, my best friend, and roommate,” Garcia said. “Whenever something was going really well, he used to always say, ‘Ooooh that’s honey made!’ [hence the album title]. Those were big shoes to fill, and we went without a sax player for a long time, but Dustin is incredible.”

If you’ll be at home avoiding the SXSW craziness this year, they’re also really excited to open for Big Freedia and The Soul Rebels at Mohawk on April 1. Or hey, need a vacation? Mama K & The Shades will be heading to Denver for their first out-of-state gig and the start of their first tour April 20! You get it—you have a ton of opportunities to check out these awesome local artists on their race to the top of the charts.

“Everyone’s passion is the music,” said Garcia, “and we just love sharing that with whoever we can.”