The way the light attaches:
a long December.
Friday, December 14, 2012
Thursday, December 6, 2012
We ask that you come to us
Come to your world as King of the nations.
Come to the suffering as Saviour.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Out of the depth and quiet
of this chill, stark night,
a gnawing ache, a yearning
like a threatening wave.
The young woman trembles.
Every inmost part of her is
shaken, all comfort broken.
Her hand gropes for something firm to grasp,
but all that was certain has become
obscure, all encompassing,
racked with pain.
Scarcely able to catch her breath,
she feels each wave larger, more
frightening than the last.
And as the great wave breaks over her,
she is broken,
momentarily forgetting what she accepted,
what love she bears,
yet choosing to believe when all seems lost.
Suddenly and completely
she, still bathed in sweat,
enfolds love in her arms,
knows joy as one victorious,
sees clearly as one who has been
stretched and changed,
that peace is always
born of travail.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
the ones you can't capture in words
or even, in some cases, on film
the ones you try to recount to your friends later
as evidence of his love, her laughter, their interest
and feel silly doing so
because there aren't words for
the way he looked with another
that made you certain
he was (not) meant to be yours
the touch that lingered
the smile that betrayed
or led you to believe
you would never be alone again.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Last night, she was pointing out and naming the ornaments on my Christmas tree.
My grandmother gave me gorgeous crystal ornaments about a decade ago. Paired with white lights, it makes a very simple, but elegant, tree.
To the toddler, any bird that is not easily recognizable (chicken, peacock, flamingo) is a duck. My exquisite hummingbirds are "ducks." She mistook pineapples for apples, but, hey, at least it's fruit. Bells she got right on the first try. (I told you she's smart!)
She called one of my angels a "bumblebee," and I burst into tears.
Several years ago, my mother's godmother was diagnosed with cancer. She was in such pain that she refused food, and then water. She died very quickly, as one can imagine.
When my mother visited to say her final goodbye, she asked Margie how to still feel her presence, after Margie had moved to a world without pain.
Margie always loved butterflies, so she told my mother that whenever a butterfly floated by, my mother would know Margie was there.
You hear this a lot. For a period of time after a person dies, his/her loved ones see bunnies everywhere. Or hear a woodpecker. Or lights are turned on or off, inexplicably.
Anytime I see a butterfly, I think of Margie. She was an incredibly sweet soul. Her husband is one of my grandfather's oldest friends, which means that he and Margie were likely my grandparents' oldest "couple" friends. Both of my grandparents were devastated when she passed, so suddenly and with so much suffering.
So there are angels on my tree. Angels my grandmother gave me when Margie still lived. And here's a little girl, saying "bumblebee," and suddenly I feel angels present. I feel my grandmother's presence, decorating my home in warmth and light; I feel my mother's presence, loving me from 1000 miles away.
And I see this little girl, this shining, beautiful creature of goodness, and I am reminded of all things Christmas is meant to be.
And I weep tears of gratitude.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Icebreakers. Pretty much the worst thing in the universe, right? Suddenly, you're expected to tell strangers two truths and a lie about yourself. Or XXX number of unique things about yourself.
I'm tempted to list lies and truths and unique things about myself. And let y'all choose which are which. But I'll spare us.
So. "Pair and Share." I'm paired with another member of our staff (duh.), and one of the questions from the script we're given is "An experience within a New Orleans school that really impacted you was..."
Before I lived in New Orleans, I worked for the National Center for Educational Achievement, researching high performing, high poverty high schools. (Those of you who read my bio or have spent any time with me already know this.) I traveled the country interviewing district and school staff about what they thought were their best practices, and I wrote case studies.
So when I moved to New Orleans in September 2008, I had an idea of what high schools could (or should) be like.
Within my first week, I was interviewing high school leadership teams to be a part of a program that wouldn't have a name for another three months. As such, I needed to recruit high schools, which meant visiting them.
Now, let's be clear. High poverty, high minority high schools are quite often in not-so-great neighborhoods. I had spent time in three time zones, lost in neighborhoods I didn't want to be lost in, where I didn't speak the language(s), where I did not feel particularly safe.
Never in the history of my life had I walked into a high school with a metal detector. That honor was awarded to Joseph S. Clark High School in September 2008.
Immediately, I felt unsafe. I felt like the front entrance indicated that the focus of this school was not on student learning.
Since September 2008, the school has been chartered. Probably close to 100%* of the school staff have been replaced. (*I am guessing at this. But if we had access to that kind of data, we'd know I was right.)
In August 2012, I once again visited Clark. I did not walk through metal detectors. I observed an Advanced Placement classroom. I fought back tears of gratitude for the opportunity to make this kind of difference in the lives of children.
My partner, who has done lots of work with opportunity youth, visited APEX Youth Center this summer. She said that the woman who runs it claims that it is different from other programs because they do not have entrance requirements.
"The only barrier is the front door."
So many times in my life
the only barrier has been a front door:
parties where I expected to not know anyone
offices I desperately wanted to employ me
restaurants I was scared I was not ____ enough for
planes that would take me to another country
classrooms led by professors who intimidated me
But the door is open
so you leap
and the next thing you know
your focus has changed.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Even if I wanted
I wouldn't synchronize it
(the good dates, the bad dates, the ugly dates)
I wouldn't synchronize us.
I'd rather us
the days, weeks, years
And to forget
Friday, October 19, 2012
It's edited some on their website; here's the original submission:
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
I could not feel more opposite, now, than I did at the time.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
I called my friend Kyle back. Kyle and I have been friends since college. This means that, for better or worse, we've known each other for approximately one decade. We've watched the other make atrocious academic, professional, and romantic choices. And we still love each other.
(I'm pretty sure he's the only guy besides my brother who does not, nor ever has, misinterpreted "I love you" to mean anything other than "Thank you. I mean it.")
The only time in the history of my life I have ever left a bar tab open?
Walked right out of a bar, to my car, and left my credit card behind?
The night Kyle called and told me his mother had died.
That's the kind of friends we are.
So. Friday. I call Kyle to chat. He asks about my recent attempt to regain healthiness, and I describe my workouts/menus/failure at sobriety.
He tells me that he's been Paleo for 18 months, which automatically makes me question my loyalty, since I'm pretty sure that a life without dairy is a life not worth living.
And then he tells me: "However you recover from your last workout affects your next workout. So eat, even if you're not hungry."
"However you recover from your last ______ affects your next ______."
Heartbreak. Confession. Credit card bill. Job loss. Meditative session. Failure. Lie. Workout.
Eat. Even if you're not hungry.
Date. Even if you feel like being alone is the best solution.
Spend time with whatever God can or does or will mean to you. Even if you can't trust or don't know how to have faith.
Pick yourself up and move along. Even when you're sure it will kill you.
I love you. Thank you. I mean it.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Thursday, August 30, 2012
The prayers of the people at church that Sunday were from World in Prayer, which disappointingly completely forgot to mention the Gulf Coast this week.
They are applicable to everything I feel right now.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Please respond to each verse with "Lord, hear our prayer."
We ask you to protect all people in the path of Tropical Storm Isaac. We ask that neighbors are able to help each other, especially the elderly or infirm, as we prepare for bad weather. We ask for homes to remain intact, for rain and wind and flood to be minimal, for all our loved ones and strangers to find shelter. We ask that help, food, and clean water is able to reach any who need it in a timely manner.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Conversely, we ask for rain to reach the middle of our country. We hope that our nation's cattle and crops may be sustained and that one day no one is hungry.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We seek your guidance at the beginning of this school year. Grant relief to those parents who suddenly realize a more empty nest. May all parents and families believe that their students are increasing their knowledge and improving their communities. May all visitors to this church know that this congregation is committed to our young people.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We ask your blessings upon all persons in a state of transition:
those leaving home for the first time
those moving into a dormitory for the last time
those who are between jobs
those who are recovering from an illness or from surgery
those who are welcoming home a newborn
those who are unable to conceive
those returning from war
those who are divorcing
those who mourn
Lord, hear our prayer.
Let us pray for our own needs and for those of others.
Turning to page 837 in the Book of Common Prayer, let us thank God for our blessings in this life.
Friday, August 24, 2012
went for a jog along the main drag of palm springs
realizing that i'm in much better shape in the desert
where it's hot, but the air is dry enough
that you can breathe.
brunch: huevos rancheros + bellini
at a five-star diner
because life should be delicious
headed to the grocery store with my mother
upon our return, my father had entered the beginning stages
of anaphylactic shock
and asked that we take him to the emergency room
(my father is a physician.) (he is never ill.)
immediately upon checking in, he was admitted.
my mother and i sat in the ER waiting room
fearing the worst
("really, God? i come to vacation in california and my father dies of an allergic reaction to something we cannot identify? before he's 60?!")
we were called back
just as his veins were filled with benadryl and pepcid
mom and i sat and read
once we realized that he was out of it
he was tired of being fussed over
and his monitor had stabilized
on the other side of the curtain
was an elderly gentleman who had fallen and broken his hip and arm
his partner read an article to him about julia child
in the kind of loving voice
that you want to have in your life always
but especially in the twilight of your life
because it means you hopefully spent forever
with someone who loves you
four hours later
we went to the pharmacy
and then home for a simple dinner of grilled meats and roasted broccoli
i skinny dipped in the jacuzzi
and a star shot
jogged to the house clark gable shared with carole lombard
drove around on a self-guided architectural tour
drank a martini before dinner
at a restaurant that hasn't changed its menu since 1975
PSP --> LAX --> MSY
fixed leaky tires at the tire store.
therapy: focused on relaxation techniques.
breakfast at a place that used to be ours
school site visit to the first school i ever visited here
sept 2008: metal detectors
aug 2012: AP classes
social media presentation
a conference call with a woman who believes in my work as much as i do
drowned in email
happy hour: sat a a girlfriend's new house
she and her fiance found together
drank veuve. snacked on crudites.
celebrated her birthday and her engagement
and laughed honestly
work meeting at starbucks.
impromptu overnight visit to baton rouge.
meetings in the capitol
trying to support a state whose policies are inconsistent with practice
where the flagship university has a 58% six-year graduation rate
but at least they can proudly boast:
(also, really? that's the picture of graduation rates you want to use for your students' profile?!)
my bed, for a glorious two-hour nap.
to the house a girlfriend is sitting
long talks about relationships, work, transgressions
and why not to give up
and i realized that the past five days epitomize
why to keep fighting
what justice looks like in my world
how to love.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Saturday, August 11, 2012
When we say the Lord's prayer, we petition our heavenly Father for three things: to feed us, to forgive us, and to lead us.
Our prayers of His people this week will focus on these three petitions.
We will conclude the following prayers as a congregation, saying, "Feed us, O Lord."
We ask that you nourish our bodies: grant all people access to clean water, to fresh produce, to markets like the Carrollton pantry that replenish our communities and stabilize our diets.
Feed us, O Lord.
We ask that you nourish our minds: provide literacy for all ages, bless our teachers, broaden our perspectives to include our enemies'.
Feed us, O Lord.
We ask that you nourish our spirits: lighten our loads so that we may enlighten others', give us time to relax and to embrace wellness, grant us the inner peace that comes from knowing all can be resolved or redeemed.
Feed us, O Lord.
We ask that you grant us solace for all we grieve, whether dreams deferred or people who taught us what love should be.
Feed us, O Lord.
Let us pray aloud or silently for our own and others' needs for daily bread.
We will conclude the following prayers as a congregation, saying, "Forgive us, O Lord."
We ask that you forgive our insistence on worrying, knowing that our energy could be better spent finding favor in your sight, loving our neighbors, helping the weary among us to rest, shielding the joyous, laughing among the living.
Forgive us, O Lord.
We ask that you forgive us for those things done: lies and betrayals, harm to those we may or may not profess to love, failure.
Forgive us, O Lord.
We ask that you forgive us for those things undone: the unkept promises, unreturned communications, ungiven time or faith or kindness.
Forgive us, O Lord.
Let us pray aloud or silently for our own and others' trespasses.
We will conclude the following prayers as a congregation, saying, "Lead us, O Lord."
We ask that our paths may be wide enough for all people to walk with us. Please help us to be your servants to those strangers who live next door, those infirm in body or spirit, those who are addicted, those who are outcast. Remind us they are your friends, made in your image.
Lead us, O Lord.
We ask that you give us the strength to go and do likewise, showing mercy and grace in our anger or annoyance or apathy.
Lead us, O Lord.
We ask that you send us into the world in peace and grant us strength and courage to love.
Lead us, O Lord.
Let us pray aloud or silently for our own and others' deliverance.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Monday, August 6, 2012
Monday, July 30, 2012
E: Their moms should watch Rudy.
E: I would do a gold medalist in anything. I need to add that notch to my belt.
B: You can have my portion of floor exerxists. I'd gladly do a swimmer. Or tennis player. Or any other gold medalist. good luck!
E: Ping pong! Beach volleyball! Lunge! Slalom! Figure skating!
B: I said ANY OTHER. Just not floor exercise.
E: Communism trumps everything!
D: LOL. All these guys are super short. Perhaps they had to resort to leaping and flipping just to get noticed?
E: I noticed. But I am certain that I have nothing to offer them. Except for my perfect breasts. Which all people, of all orientations, notice.
D: And all political/economic philosophies!
E: They are the great equalizer.
D: You (they) should probably sit in on the next round of Mid-East peace talks.
E: Alas: cleavage is unholy to Allah. Rude.
D: Oh come on. Is a little hijab really all it takes to neutralize the power of your breasts?
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Sunday, July 22, 2012
when she asks
if she doesn't
she truly wants to know
i don't know how to answer
the first since my adolescence
the sound of rain
falling cold and steadily
and peacefully and nonchalantly
of how on our last night together
you spilled red wine
because it gave us something else to do
we focused and vacuumed
and sprayed and poured salt
as if the carpet symbolized us
and if we could remove the blood-colored stains
where to put your pictures notes books letters clothes
of unreturned communication
with your last name
none of that
none of that
Friday, July 20, 2012
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
got on the turnpike
going the wrong direction(s)
to the point where my GPS started sighing:
RE. CAL. CU. LAT. ING.
(New Orleans has ruined my sense of cardinal direction.)
took two students to dinner on Sunday evening
at a restaurant with a farm-to-family option:
3 courses, $19 a person, all locally sourced.
(They also had 20 wines for $20. Done.)
drove to Princeton Monday morning
my first time visiting
since I was the students' age
hoping that my reach school
was within reach
observed high school students' courses all day:
writing workshops. biology class. sociology.
ate in a cafeteria
for the first time in close to a decade
returned to Sunday night's restaurant
sat at the bar
befriended the bartendress
(who is fluent in five languages)
a man who might have been 118 years old
(who went to "a small college in New Haven," then worked for Merrill Lynch)
a man with whom I shared some of my $20 wine
(who used to be a lawyer for the Mafia)
and the former governor of New Jersey
(who ended up following me back to the hotel, just to make sure I made it safely)
today, Tuesday, included more classes--
literature, personal development, college admissions--
and another lunch from the cafeteria
students read from their essays
"Why I want to go to college"
I found myself fighting tears
as I listened to teenagers describe
the soft bigotry of low expectations
got a migraine.
closed the curtains of my hotel room.
took aspirin, a nap, a bath as hot as I could make the water.
met the program director for dinner
shared stories, ideas, enthusiasm
I walked around the borough
magical in the summer twilight
(I forget that some places are safe enough to walk alone
but none of them are the neighborhoods the students described in their essays.)
illuminated, glowing, inviting
children playing in a square
while fireflies danced
wandering further down
this tiny little slice of non-reality
where many places lack air conditioning (??)
because the summers are that mild (!!!)
I found Eastern Relax
where for $1/minute
any lingering moment of migraine
was massaged out
towards the end
all ninety pounds of my masseuse
leaned onto my back
the closeness of a stranger
breathing into me
moving into my breaths
was all that I needed
to exhale pain
to inhale acceptance
to be grateful.
Friday, July 6, 2012
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Monday, June 25, 2012
They're all short, and I find the shortest ones are the best ones. I also may have a very short attention span, so the 1-3 pages of each entry is perfect for the time I'm willing to give strangers describing very intense moments of their lives.
It was the summer before eighth grade.
My mother and I were in her stationwagon, in the grocery store parking lot.
She was very angry at my father over something related to money.
Well: more specifically: over something related to financial freedom.
(My mother has not worked since I was born.)
She slammed her hands against the steering wheel.
"Emily: I want you to remember ONE THING!"
With every word of the next sentence, she slammed her hand, accenting her lecture:
"SHE. WHO. MAKES. THE. GOLD. MAKES. THE. RULES!!!"
At that moment, I realized that I never wanted to live by anyone else's rules.
So: I needed to make my own gold.
I became the first female in my family to go to graduate school.
The first female to be unwed at 27.
The first female to be childless at 30.
The only one still working, except for a younger female cousin I suspect won't work after she becomes a mother. Which I suspect will be before 30.
But I make my own gold.
I don't have to follow anyone else's rules.
And I am really proud of who I've become.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
we had both been awake
for half the night
mean dreams tangling us within our sheets
too groggy to think,
I took my vitamins on an empty stomach
so by the time I got to the school
to learn beside my principals
I was vomiting.
then drank coffee. ate a ham and cheese croissant.
the conversation centered around
veteran vs. new (TFA) teachers
pre-K and post-K
black vs. white
autonomy, unions, whether a non-teacher could be a principal
charter. public. traditional.
I learned that the one person
in this with me
from the beginning
may be about to lose his job
because his students are doing so well
they apparently don't need him any longer.
I reviewed budgets.
I solved problems.
I gained respect.
Then: to happy hour
with local beer and deep dish pizza
to discuss the state of public high schools nationwide
with the country's best AP teachers
who are proud to be part of my work.
I drew a very hot bubble bath
because even on very hot days
my muscles need soothing.
I put in a load of blended laundry:
wringing out dirt
I shaved my legs.
I styled my hair.
I removed my contacts.
I folded laundry.
And I wait for our date to begin
for him to come home
for things to change.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
I have long believed that apologies cannot start with "I'm sorry if..." or "I'm sorry, but..." My father often apologized this way, and it drove my mother crazy. (So much of what any of us learn about love and relationships begins at home, n'est-ce pas?)
You're not in fact sorry if you're sorry if. Or if you're sorry, but. You have to be sorry that.
One of the many important lessons I have learned in therapy is to neither blame or credit other people for my feelings nor to accept blame or credit for theirs.
You make me happy.
You make me feel guilty.
You make me disappointed.
Nope. I'm not responsible for any of that. Your happiness, guilt, disappointment? Yours. Not mine.
A recent voicemail (paraphrased): "I'm sorry you hurt me. I'm sorry you ruined us. I'm sorry that this is hard for me. I'm sorry if I lashed out at you. I'm sorry, but, I'm just so upset!"
These are not apologies. At all.
I should start over. My parents were high school sweethearts. Then they went to colleges in the same city, and then my mother broke my father's heart. Then he went to graduate school in a different state, where he had the audacity to do just fine without her. Then she "came to her senses." (Divergent recollections of their story exist.)
They have been married for almost 34 years.
Most days, they have made marriage look easy. They complement each other really well. They share the same values systems and the same idea of fun. They are affectionate, they take care of each other, and they have an incredible partnership.
But it's work. Their relationship is still work. They still have to apologize. And mean it.
When my brother and I were little, and we would get into a fight, Mom would make us hug and kiss each other, say we were sorry, and say we loved each other. It didn't matter who was at fault, who was the victim, who was hurt. We both had to say, "I love you."
I explained the effect of this in a letter I wrote my parents in August 2008, when they had not spoken to me in nearly 10 weeks. (Nate was my boyfriend at the time. He gave permission to reprint with his name. "Feel free to post. My name is really auxillary to the whole thing.")
I used a blank card with a black and white photo of a girl's feet dangling from a pier, barely touching the surface to create a ripple.
For the record: I don't remember a time in my life when I tried to like baking.
My point is this: You still have to apologize, and mean it. And you must forgive and love people, even when you don't want to.
Or, as I am apt to remind myself and others: Be gracious if it kills you.