Sunday, September 29, 2013


Two years ago, one of my students - a charming, awkward, and a bit excessively good looking kid named Anthony cornered me at my desk and, stumbling and bumbling his way through it, asked me why I wasn't married.  He said that I was unusual - not in a bad way, but that there was something about me that was different.  Like I didn't need a man.  Didn't I want children?  Didn't I want to get married?

And yes.  Of course I do.

Looking back at my life so far, there were paths I travelled that could have included marriage.  But they weren't right at the time.  I chose me over that particular brand of 'we'.  There were so many missteps along the way.  Things that I probably should have and could have done differently.  But I don't believe in regret.  I did what I thought was best at the time.  That's that.

I remember telling Anthony that I wanted to be sure.  That I wanted to make sure I didn't make a bad choice.  That my happiness was important to me.  And that I wanted to have children who could have a happy life as well.  I'm not sure Anthony really understood my answer.  To be fair, I'm still not exactly sure I understand the big picture of what he was asking.

Anthony is one of my most favorite students I have ever had.   Not because he was my best student.  He was not.  Eloquent, he was not.  But ballsy?  You bet.  Here was a kid who after just a few months of knowing me, looked me straight in the face and asked a most personal question.  In front of the entire class.  Not because he was trying to be disrespectful, or intrusive,  but because he was interested.  In the course of a few moments - awkward and unexpected though they were - Anthony cut me to the quick and called me out on something important.  And I have the utmost respect for him for that.  Anthony is someone I miss every single day.  He's one of a select few kids I want to go back to Virginia to visit.  I want to see who he grows up to be.  I'd love to have a kid who turns out just like him.  Even at his worst, most awkward, most fumbling and bumbling.

Today at lunch, I watched a family of 6 - two parents and four very young children - get their seats at a restaurant.  One of the children was screaming.  The dad tried to appease her.  The mom, was not pleased with his efforts or her screaming.  When another child spoke, the mother stated - loudly and with such scorn in her voice, that the kid was "just like your father.  Just another worthless liar."  The boy was maybe 5.  The father was right there.  Despite the initial horror, more than anything else, in that moment I felt so very thankful.  Thankful that I didn't grow up in a family like that.  That I have people around me who would NEVER speak to each other, their spouses, or their children in that way.

But surprisingly - or perhaps not so surprisingly - it made me want nothing more than to transport myself back to Virginia and back to Anthony.  I'm so thankful for him.  For being someone in my life - if only for a brief time, who can remind me that it's ok to be a bit different for the sake of my own happiness.  Who reminds me every single time I think of him why I am a teacher, and why, despite all the ugliness and contempt and bitterness out in the world, I do still want to get married.  Why I do still want kids.  I want the kids - students and my own - who ask the questions all around me.  Who put me on the spot and ask the tough questions - especially when others are watching.  Who maybe stumble on the words and who sometimes don't make any. flipping. sense.  But who care enough to raise their voice.  Who care enough to climb on a lap a tell a story from their day.  Who care enough to remember that I am a person with very real wants and needs and desires. Who care enough to show that they are confused or concerned.  Who want me to be happy.  Even if I am single.  And in my thirties.  And perhaps a bit feistier than is altogether helpful or necessary.

For Anthony, I am so very grateful.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Good Morning, Good Morning to You!

Morning person, I am not.  Given my druthers, I'd far prefer to enjoy an afternoon delight (I love lamp) than an early sunrise walk in the park.  But hungry girl?  Yes, yes I am.

I get up early each working day, cursing my alarms (plural, indeed), and bumble through my morning routine.  I like to think I'm the kind of girl who is going to eat breakfast every single day.  But let's be honest, I'm lucky to blunder my way to the car in a timely manner.  Since becoming a full-fledged adult I have learned many things about myself.  Not least of which:  if breakfast isn't ready and waiting for me, it doesn't get eaten.  And I am a girl who NEEDS her breakfast.

The solution?  The Breakfast Casserole Muffin.  It is tiny, and most tasty.  Not as whole foods friendly as I'd like, but according to the Weight Watchers' gods, it's downright good for you.  One of these days I shall sub out the processed stuff for real food, but today, we go for the recipe as written.  Either way, it is delightful, easy, and a fantastic start to the day.  Blundering notwithstanding.

Breakfast Casserole Muffins

2/3 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 onion, finely chopped
2 small cans sliced mushrooms (stems and pieces)
6 oz. Turkey sausage links (I prefer the Jimmy Dean variety, but do you)
1 T. parsley
olive oil (enough to coat your pan)
 1 small carton Egg Beaters (~1 3/4 cup)
1 c. milk
3 whole wheat English Muffins
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. freshly ground pepper

Spray two muffin tins with a generous amount of Pam.  (Don't be stingy.  If you don't spray enough the scrub-out process will last for.ever.)  Crumble up the English muffins to a fine crumb and divide evenly into the bottom of the muffin tins.  In a large saucepan, heat olive oil.  Saute onion and mushrooms until onions become translucent.  Add sausage links and cover until sausage is cooked through and onions are browned at their edges.  Crumble sausage, onion, and mushrooms together.  (I use a hand-held potato masher - works like a charm).  Remove from heat and layer sausage, onion, mushroom mixture evenly atop the English muffin crumbles.  In a medium-sized bowl, mix together egg beaters, milk, cheese and spices.  Evenly disperse the eggy goodness into the muffin tins.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 mins.  (I prefer my eggs a little bit browned, so I tend to go more toward the 25 min. mark).  Delicious served with crisp, green grapes and the breakfast beverage of your choice.  


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reclaiming Sunday

The days fly by, do they not?  And somewhere in the pursuit of the perfect job, the perfect body, the perfect wardrobe, the perfect mate and friends and social life and cup of coffee and manicure and photos and hair and.... Somewhere in the midst of the chaos, in the pursuit of the imagined calm, successful, happy, I've lost my balance.  

Sundays used to be a most favorite, and a most productive day.  There was much yoga and Target shopping trips and laundry and cleaning and kitten cuddles.  Eventually the bliss and domestic productivity waned into bad television and schoolwork, but in the end, it was always relaxing.  Always too short.  But satisfying in a way that only a truly productive, quasi sweaty day could be. 

I need my Sundays to be relaxed and productive.  I need them to be quasi solitary.  
I love my family and I love that we can spend time together nearly every day.  I love my church family and the friends and lunch dates that go with it. But sometimes a girl's just gotta hole up in her room and make things happen.  

Today, I am reclaiming my Sunday.  For me. Sitting in sweatpants and with hair piled messily atop the head.  Kitten nestled in a box (?!) in the closet, slumbering nearby.  Windows open, my room filling with the scent of fresh air and slowly drying laundry.  Freshly vacuumed floors and a bear of a to-do list looming for the week.  But taking the time to work it out, in the quiet almost-fall breeze puts a girl at ease. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Three Questions


three questions | by Caitlyn Siehl

My mother tells me
that when I meet someone I like,
I have to ask them three questions:

1. what are you afraid of?
2. do you like dogs?
3. what do you do when it rains?

of those three, she says the first one is the most important.
“They gotta be scared of something, baby. Everybody is. If they aren’t afraid of anything, then they don’t believe in anything, either.”

I met you on a Sunday, right
after church.
one look and my heart fell into
my stomach like a trap door.

on our second date,
I asked you what you were afraid of.
“spiders, mostly. being alone. little children, like, the ones who just learned how to push a kid over on the playground. oh and space. holy shit, space.”
I asked you if you liked dogs.
“I have three.”
I asked you what you do when it rains.
“sleep, mostly. sometimes I sit at the window and watch the rain droplets race. I make a shelter out of plastic in my backyard for all the stray animals; leave them food and a place to sleep.”

he smiled like he knew.
like his mom told him the same
“how about you?”

I’m scared of everything.
of the hole in the o-zone layer,
of the lady next door who never
smiles at her dog,
and especially of all the secrets
the government must be breaking
it’s back trying to keep from us.
I love dogs so much, you have no idea.
I sleep when it rains.
I want to tell everyone I love them.
I want to find every stray animal and bring them home.
I want to wake up in your hair
and make you shitty coffee
and kiss your neck
and draw silly stick figures of us.
I never want to ask anyone else
these questions
ever again.

Unceremoniously stolen from here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Choose Love

Every year on this day, people all over this country draw upon their collective memories to rehash a most unpleasant morning.  As a collective people, we cling to these memories - the where were you's, the I remember when's...  But when we do this, we also make the conscious choice to forget.  

We forget that this was one day.  One of only two days in our history of its kind.  
We forget that maybe, just maybe, the families of the victims couldn't care less about where we were when their near and dear ones evaporated from their lives.  
We forget that on Sept. 10, 2001, few and far between us had a flag on our porch.  
We forget that this day brought out the ugliest side of us, too.  
We forget that we use this day to continue to judge others who come to this country in search of what we have.  
We conveniently forget that we are so lucky compared to almost every other country in the world.  
We forget that drawing up these moments of terror over and over again maintains a level of fear.  A fear that begets more rash action, more fear.  

We draw up our flags and call for pride.  For love of this country.  But love is not meant to be boastful or puffed up.  It is not meant to be defensive or gaudy.  It is meant to patient and kind.  Understanding. Full of grace and gratitude.  

In the wise words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  Perhaps this is the day we should put away our collective negative memories and be thankful, not for what was taken away, but for what we have.  

On this day of days, I am grateful and thankful for my breadth of experiences that have allowed me to step back from America and see it in a different light.  I am grateful for my beloved kitten who drives me crazy, scratching at papers when she wants me to get up and feed her.  I am grateful for my health. For friends near and far.  For the ability to choose how I want to spend my life, which whom, and where.  For the ability to choose not to act my age.  For the ability to know that not putting out a flag or spending 15 bucks every year on a new Old Navy flag t-shirt does not make me unpatriotic.  For the ability to work in a job that I love.  With people who are supportive and creative, if not a bit more subdued than I'd love them to be.  For a church family that truly supports and welcomes questions and doubt, instead of preaching "truth."  For forgiveness, and fresh flowers, and shockingly red nail polish, and happy pants, and (eventually) the fall and winter seasons with their crisp air and requisite scarves and sweaters.  For violets that actually bloom.  For books to be read and music to be listened to and sex and dreams and new opportunities and new faces and new adventures.  And for love.  

Because I believe perhaps our national motto should adjust.  Not with the times, but back in time.  When our national pride was perhaps not so stubborn and reactive and puffed up.  But when we were encouraged to take a deep breath and press on.  Sir Frankin was right.  Fear is the worst of us.  Fear is the killer of dreams.  

Jonathan Larson said, ever so wisely, "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation."  But there's more.  The opposite of fear isn't calm.  It's love.  And today, I choose love.  
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