Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I was in the back seat
of Great Aunt Nell's

my face nearly pressed
to the window
on some back road
in northeast Mississippi.

I turned to speak to --
you weren't there.

I forgot
this was the status quo.

There are places you will never go,
where I will venture, alone.

Another argument with my brother,
twenty years coming out to play --
a side of me I don't want you to see
because there are too many sad,
angry moments haunting the scene.

I will cradle a raw
vulnerability that I will give to you
to have and to hold,
hoping you will
love and cherish
these wounds. please
don't shy away
when I flinch,
I promise
it's a reflex -- a protective measure
I will fight for you.
These are my oldest friend,
and they have never
been exposed

one day my womb will grow,
and even though that baby will
be ours,
motherhood will dig
her claws into me
when you won't see,
drawing out tendons drenched in tears,
marrow filled with martyrdom,
an anatomy made of anxiety.
marring me from the woman you knew
to this new beast: a mother,
a mystery.

I stared out the window,
watching the Mississippi landscape.
an emptiness spread in as
the future stretched out before me.
a ghost I knew;
a ghost I hadn't met.
not yet.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

teaching tuesday: moments to remember

There are things that I want to remember from these days of teaching. I try to grasp them in my mind as if this won't always be the life that I have, -- though I can't really see anything else for me -- as if by holding onto them tightly, they can shield me against the cold, hard days.

Yesterday during Nepali club, we tried to run an organized meeting with an agenda where we DECIDED THINGS. No one was interested and you could hear it in the fading pleads for attention from my leader. I could feel it in the weariness of my own looks around the room.

So, a small group huddled around me -- I was sitting on top of a desk in the back of the room -- and we discussed what she had wanted to discuss. It was productive while the others did homework or played on their ipads.

A student sat next to me on top of the desk as I teased another about a music video that he starred in with a certain girl, which premiered at a Deepawali celebration on Saturday. It opened the door to tease him a little bit more as he told me who his actual girlfriend was -- a different girl who was in the room, but about as far way from him as she could get. Then we talked about why I didn't take a seat of honor at the celebration -- reasons that were as much from embarrassment as they were from not wanting to make another thing about me, a white person. That, too, involved a little teasing as there was miscommunication that caused me to not understand what was happening at the celebration.

Then I asked questions -- mostly about how it was that they came to be refugees and if they considered themselves Nepali or Bhutan and what all of that means. There would be an explosion of language flying around me, and maybe eventually an answer came my way.

More than most other things we have tried to do in the club, this felt worthwhile -- they have stories that are worth knowing and are beautifully complicated and take time to unravel. I see them once every other week for an hour and often it can feel like just another thing to do on my overwhelming list. But, they don't have a lot of other adults in the building to support them the way that other groups have leaders or liasons -- as the advisor of their club, though most of the time I feel a little lost and very humbled, I have the special privilege of listening to them, of being a connection that makes the school feel a little less big.

It was a simple string of moments, sitting on a desk, surrounded by a huddle of students.
It was probably insignificant to the students involved, but for me, they put so much of the humanity into teaching. It reminds me that we're not work-producing machines -- any of us, and that sometimes a moment to breathe is all that really matters.

These are the moments to live for, to celebrate, to cultivate.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


To love anyone is
to be at once
invincible and
more vulnerable
than you ever
will be.

it is a change of state
from which you cannot
one that does not end.

In fact, it gets worse.

To love -- once -- is
to open yourself up
to all possibilities
of love –
a constant slow,
subtle prying of your ribcage
so your heart has room to grow.

You begin to notice things
that pry at the recesses
of your soul.

The little golden retriever who
toddles over and whose overeager
licks leave you sopping,
giggling a high pitched noise you didn’t know
you could make.

That elderly neighbor
with a twinkle in her eye
and a creak in her voice that carries
you through
a lifetime of stories.

A child in the park
you pass by who
runs with reckless abandonment;
the world nearly in his pudgy grasp.

You discover too late that you were a Grinch,
whose heart was three sizes too small.

And what they never tell you –
where the tale never finishes,
is how much
more room
this new heart has.

how the Grinch cries now
that he can feel;
there are days where
this new heart is
an empty cavern,
not yet filled with anything
strong enough to stay –

That at the end of the day,
you are still the Grinch
at the top of Whoville,
so far
from the twinkling
village below.

But now
your three-sizes bigger heart,
pressing against your ribs
can feel every
and mile
between you
another beating

you’ve never felt more alive
and so terribly alone.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

my oona poem

I found this un-marked, un-attributed poem after a coworker pulled it up to teach it in her class. I was astounded at how good her writing was -- not that I don't expect my coworkers to be good writers, but this poem really resonated with me. Then as I read more closely, several of the lines felt eerily familiar. I thought, "We have really similar writing styles."  I read through the poem again. Then I thought, "I think I've written some of these lines in a poem before." I googled the lines to figure out who the author was -- it didn't come up anywhere. Then I searched folders on my computer and realized that I wrote this. It's nice, sometimes, to be impressed by yourself, and I hope that doesn't sound too pompous -- I don't fancy myself much of a writer. It was a pleasant surprise. 


The sway of the flowers reassured her.
She could breathe here.
Surrounded by springing grass,
She made for herself a pillow
And let her sorrows flow away.

A light buzz was in the air,
The bees hummed, yes,
but too, the energy grew.

It was May.
The clues were everywhere.
No longer would this grief
intertwine with the tenacious sun,
a discordant existence
strangling her soul.

Breath after breath,
She took in fresh air,
and it filled her veins with hope.

She could begin anew.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

what I am proud of

We're practicing tone words in two of my classes.

Today's quickwrite gave a couple of options to talk about music with a zealous or tranquil tone. If they didn't want to listen to music, they could write about what makes them proud of themselves. I thought they'd like the music prompts so I assumed they wouldn't really write anything.

Then I made them share with the entire class.

Almost every student in both hours shared something they were proud of.

Once again -- for the hundredth,
the thousandth time, I am
surprised and
pleased and
humbled by
these students.

I don't really know
what I'm doing,
but I think it's working.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Musings on Striving

There are many times when I walk away from a group situation and bite my tongue. I reflect on the evening and it seems things were so utterly dominated by me; I inserted myself into jokes or turned the conversation toward me a few times too often. With a sad shake of my head, I kick myself for not being more apt to listen and less apt to run amuck. Sometimes I realize that domineerance comes because I am feeling insecure or needing affirmation; other times I am just having fun. In either case, I always wish I would have made room for others.

According to Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge, "A woman who is not at rest in her heart... [is] 'Like a fountain troubled,' as Shakespeare said, 'muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty.'" In contrast, a woman at rest helps others to relax; she affirms that all shall be well.

Sometimes I wonder if women spend so much time striving because they don't believe that God is a near, intimate Father. Who is very present in the day-to-day doldrums of life, the high points, and the rather-never-be-mentioned-again moments. The Eldridge's book would seem to affirm this theory.

On Sunday, the Lord drew me to the familiar passage of Psalm 139. Verses 5-12 say,
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light of the world about me be night,"
even darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

I love the reminder that God's hand is on me, that he has hemmed me in behind and before, and that even in the farthest parts of the sea -- the darkest, murkest moments of this life -- even there, His hand leads and holds me.

There are many moments where I am not a woman at rest, but I am knowing God more than before, and in that knowing, I feel my soul settling, sighing a breath of relief. Maybe one day I can be a means of grace like that to others.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

writing wednesday: happily

He watched her.
A smile crept into the corner of his lips, a small admittance. He found her surprisingly enchanting, this awkward woman who had been so quiet at first.  The quips came like rain. Sometimes they clamored a little too loudly, a bit off key. But the muttered, stifled ones spoke the mostly deeply of brilliance -- a mind that observed much more than it let on.

Then there was the laughter.
The first he heard was a chuckle -- a breathy, politely amused two-beat laugh with a smile that was bit back.
The second was a disbelieving gasp, followed by a "no!' or some other generic exclamation, usually expressed with a hand on the other person's arm and a wry, disbelieving look. It wasn't even a laugh and yet it radiated like one, goading the speaker on to higher levels of amusement.
Third, a gulping loud laugh that erupted, rallying others in.
Fourth, a mildly villainous collection of short, sharp sounds coming from a closed mouth and a morality that knew better than to laugh.
Then there was a second, gulping loud laugh. Was it a giggle? Sometimes it cackled. It was full.
He liked the sixth. One eyebrow raised, a hand covering a controlled smile. Her shoulders shook as their eyes met. Words had been whispered just for her; this laugh was just for him.
Her giggle slayed him, awakening an impulse of protection over this silly, lively creature.

He knew in that moment that he may never know all of her ever-evolving noises of joy, but they were true and free and this woman, incandescent. He'd spend the rest of his life beckoning the different laughs to abide a while, happily.