Friday, December 14, 2012


Hospitals. Winter.
The way the light attaches:
a long December.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

prayers of the people: December 9

Heavenly Father, 
we come to you as your people
your lacking
but faithful 

We ask that you come to us
that we may share in Mary's joy 
as people victorious
as people who clearly see who we have been
and what you have asked of us 
as people who are stretched and changed
as people who know 
that peace is always born of travail.

Together, we ask you to 
Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to your world as King of the nations.
Come to North Korea, where the government prepare for a long-range missile test.
Come to Syria, where the civil war continues.
Come to Israel and Palestine, where barely established peace agreements are threatened.
Come to Egypt, where people cry for a new constitution and for equality.
Come to the Northeastern United States, where Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts continue.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to the suffering as Saviour.
We pray that the sick will be restored
the fallen will be raised
the heartbroken, the survivors, the orphans, and the widows will be consoled.
We pray for the dearly departed,
especially _______
and those we name at this time.
May they share in your victory over evil and death.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to us as guardian of our souls.
Break into our lives,
where we struggle with direction:
we struggle to believe that here, now, is where we are meant to be.
Set us free to love and serve,
and may the light of God's coming dawn shine
on those who only feel darkness 
on those who live within the shadow of death
and on those who see the future through fog, as they try to discern next steps.
And allow us all to shine
so that you may find in us the completion of your redeeming work.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to us as a listener
As we name at this time
all we have to be thankful for
all of our blessings
and all of our gifts.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to us as shepherd.
As we gather gifts and decorations and lists
gather travel plans
gather comfort and kindness
Remind us to slow down
to find awe 
to wonder
to be.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


(written by June M. Schulte)

Out of the depth and quiet
of this chill, stark night,
a gnawing ache, a yearning
deepens, rising
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


it's all the tiny moments
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 denied
or confirmed
or led you to believe

to know

you would never be alone again.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I am dating a man who has toddler. She loves bacon above all other major food groups, and she's also incredibly adorable and smart and polite and all other things people should be. Basically, we could be (and are) friends with her.

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


Today, we had a staff retreat. I don't talk much about work, because you can read all about my work here, and from that website you can find my bio and a lot of other things that would make my grandmother proud if she knew how to use the Internet. Or, for that matter, a computer.


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

the unknown.

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
desired (?)
a calendar
of our
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
of good.

And to forget
les autres.

Friday, October 19, 2012

prayers of the people: October 18

At the end of the summer, World in Prayer asked me to join their writing team. This week was my first contribution.

It's edited some on their website; here's the original submission:

...we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Heavenly God:
Help us to rejoice in our suffering.
Help us to endure.
Help us to produce.
Help us to have character.
Help us to hope.
Help us to not be disappointed.
Help us to be filled with your love.

We ask for you to be with us as we watch those who suffer.
Especially as we watch those who are persecuted.

We share in the persecutions within our Holy Scriptures:
the Exodus
the Psalms
the Crucifixion

Help us to rejoice in our suffering.

As we see racism bubble to the surface
in soccer matches in Eastern Europe

Help us to know.

As we await the trial of US soldiers 
who have been arrested on the charge of rape 
in Okinawa
an area that has resisted what it believes to be occupation

Help us to endure.

As we learn of a resurgence in tuberculosis
resistant to our current antibiotics
immune to our current vaccines
what the World Health Organization is calling one of the most "ominous global health threats"
a disease that will be blind to color, creed, sexual orientation, gender, wealth

Help us to produce.

As we pray for the recovery of Malala Yousafzai
a 14-year-old Pakistani girl
shot in the head by the Taliban
for speaking out for girls' rights to attend school

Help us to have character.

As we continue to watch Syria
with refugees streaming to foreign lands
with 2.5 million people remaining in the country in need of aid, according to UN estimates.

Help us to hope.

As the Cuban government
lifts its foreign travel ban
so that its citizens may travel to other countries
so long as they are not
or other "highly skilled" professionals.

Help us to not be disappointed.

As the United States' presidential candidates
use women
(their pay, their work habits, their reproductive choices)
to shape votes

Help us to be filled with your love.

We pray for all the persecuted and persecuting, the victims and the oppressors, the outcast and the leaders.

Help us to rejoice in our suffering.
Help us to endure.
Help us to produce.
Help us to have character.
Help us to hope.
Help us to not be disappointed.
Help us to be filled with your love.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

the nearness of you

I wrote this nearly ten years ago.
I could not feel more opposite, now, than I did at the time.


the nights I sleep best
are the nights that
he does not
sleep beside me

are the nights
when I,
alone in my darkness,
have nothing to lean against
nothing to touch
no scent to inhale
or lips to seek

They are the nights when
all by myself
find peace

Oct 16, 2002

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012


On Friday night, I had just come home from a 60-minute walk/jog interval set with my brother. In houses built in the early part of the 20th century, two showers can't function at the same time, so I let Andrew go first.

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


What will it take
to sleep through the night
to not have knots along my neck
to be at peace?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

irene --> isaac

Last year at almost exactly this same time, Hurricane Irene ravaged the Northeast.

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.


For warning systems that work,
for people who heed the warnings,
for safe travels away from danger,
for all who flee,
and all who help.

For shelter for the displaced,
for all who keep order,
for food and medicines and diapers delivered.

For buildings that withstand the onslaught,
for resources to rebuild, restore,
for helicopters that reach where roads and bridges no longer go,
for people who lift fallen trees
and crumpled vehicles and torn up stones.

For those who braid together severed power lines,
and start running water trickling through pipes again.

For those, days later, still without electric power,
and those, days later, who are still shaken by finding they are powerless
against such forces.

For learning to let go of things we thought we needed,
and finding things we thought we'd lost.

For finding our inner selves intact
and healing
in the face of change and loss.

For new friends made, and communities strengthened,
and unexpected angels in unexpected places,
For heroes, and cowards,
the wise and the foolish,
children and grownups.

For discovering that the dead are still alive in our memories,
and life still treasured in our hearts.

For the assurance that You, O God, were there at our beginning,
are with us in all our journeys,
and will be with us at our arrivals...

For this and more, and more, and more,
We give you thanks, O God.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

small talk

(Backstory: for those nine people in Russia who read my blog who have no idea what tropical storms are: I evacuated New Orleans on the morning of Monday, August 27. I decided to make the beautiful and progressive state of Alabama my temporary home; I have two cousins and an aunt in Prattville, and then my brother and two more cousins in Birmingham, so I should not overstay my welcome anywhere.)

So. Today was a normal Tuesday in Prattville. My cousin's three children went to school. Well, except for her youngest, Andrew, who stubbed his toe really badly last night at the exact moment I arrived. (Screams are super welcoming, in case you wondered.) When his whole foot was swollen this morning, I confirmed my cousin's instinct to take him to Urgent Care. Turns out he fractured the growth plate in his foot.

After spending some time working a half-day, watching her youngest's foot put into a cast (temporary until they meet with the orthopedic surgeon tomorrow), collecting her girls from school, getting locked out of the house (my fault), knowing that her husband had a board meeting and would be working late, and dealing with an extra person in her home (Isaac's fault)... Julie decided that eating dinner out was appropriate.

Andrew protested. "Mama, do I have to wear these to the store?" [Do I have to use my crutches at the restaurant?]

She mentioned a Japanese place super close by that the kids love, and the next thing I know, I'm in her SUV  (with a go cup of gin, of course) headed towards Osaka Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar.

Yes. Sushi. 3+ hours from any major body of water. 87+ hours from any major body of cold water. 

Whatever. They have air conditioning, which is more than New Orleans can say right now.

I've recently joined Weight Watchers, and I have learned that sashimi is pretty much the greatest amount of food for the fewest points. So I ordered the sashimi dinner.

Then a platter of raw fish arrived, and my cousin's children completely freaked out. Apparently their father, who married into our family, is freaked out by anything raw. He eats his steak well done. You know the type; you probably aren't friends with him, unless you married him.

So, leave it to the middle child, always the attention seeking/crazy one, to be the only one to try my fish.

We started with tuna, because she recognized it.
Then whitefish, which of course she preferred.
She wouldn't even try the salmon, because I told her that I don't really love it raw (extra points notwithstanding).

Anna Kate bravely touched 1/10000 of an ounce of tuna to her tongue, certain that she's going to get salmonella or the plague or something that only comes after little girls who disobey their daddies.

"Wait. Do you have to be a certain age to eat this?"

(She turns 10 tomorrow. I think dying before she hits double digits was a serious consideration.)

Then, after some more talk of salmon, I suggested that I'd take it home as leftovers and bake it for breakfast in the morning. Andrew, who apparently listened better at dinner last night than we realized, rebutted: "But you hate to bake!"

When he started complaining that his foot hurt, which was approximately the same time I realized I'd taken longer to eat than I should have, plus had ordered a second glass of wine I'd have to finish because for some reason you can't take alcohol with you in lesser parts of the country... I told him if he drank some wine, he'd feel better. He had almost touched my wine to his lips in true Communion-with-Jesus, just-the-tip fashion, when Anna Kate yells out: "NOT IN PUBLIC!"

Which reminds me of my two most favorite quotes about what we do privately vs. publicly:

1. We want a lady in the street, but a freak in the bed. --Usher
2. No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked in the street. --Florence King, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady

The moral of the story is: life is about the journey. Laugh along the way, even if you evacuated out of harm's way into... Alabama.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

prayers of the people: August 26

Heavenly Father, you have assured us that you are to whom we should go with our questions, petitions, and thanksgivings. We ask that you listen to these prayers of your people: our questions, petitions, and thanksgivings.

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

our neighbor
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.
more work.
pelvic exam.
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:

LSU is proud to have the highest graduation rate of any public university in Louisiana.

(also, really? that's the picture of graduation rates you want to use for your students' profile?!)

the bank.
the DMV.

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


I position myself across the bed

Trying to fill a bed made for two people
eight limbs
two hearts

by myself.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

prayers of the people: August 12

My priest asked me to write the prayers of the people for tomorrow's service. Our readings have been full of stories of food recently, so that's how I came to this theme.


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


When I feel pushed away,
I leave.

When he feels pushed away,
he clings.

Monday, August 6, 2012

the cyclical nature of love

in my next lifetime i will count more stars get my hands a little dirtier establish peace in my life drink more slowly kiss more passionately

be allowed to love you

3 july 2000

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Olympics

Emmy, to the ladies: What makes a man think "I'm going to become a master floor exercist"? Do they need sex that badly?

Odette: They are short, strong, and their moms are afraid of contact sports??
E: Their moms should watch Rudy.

Brooke: I was JUST thinking, "I would never do a guy who said he won the gold medal in floor exercise." It doesn't excite me.
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.

Daniele: Maybe that's how one gets the ladies' attention in China or Russia?
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


Passionate kisses.
Coming home to us. Knowing.
(things I miss the most.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

fresh surface

she's the sort of friend
who already knows how you are
when she asks
if she doesn't
she truly wants to know

these days
i don't know how to answer

i could show her my recent nosebleeds
the first since my adolescence

i could give her
the sound of rain
falling cold and steadily
and peacefully and nonchalantly

i could tell her the story
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
we'd have a fresh surface for each other
as if trying to prove
we can do something right
as if
we can remove and create

i can ask her
where to put your pictures notes books letters clothes

i could recount you in numbers
of unreturned communication

i've got a whole wallet of receipts
with your last name

but none of that
says how
none of that
proves why
none of that
comes close
to measuring
or loss

-May 11, 2006

Friday, July 20, 2012


Every year of my childhood included Disney World. My grandparents' annual Christmas gift to me and my brother was a trip to Disney World. We often came again at Spring Break or during the summertime. (My grandparents had annual passes at the time, so this was not the astronomical expense it is today.)

I don't know how to talk about Disney World like it's an unfamiliar place. It would be like trying to explain to someone who didn't grow up with dirt or monkey bars or basketball courts. I'm not trying to sound like a spoiled brat; I'm simply stating facts. The place is ingrained in the recess of my soul. When I had nightmares as a little girl, my mother would tell me to think about the happiest I'd ever been, and I would always think about my time spent tucked away in this magical place.

At some point, we started staying at the Swan (warning: *terrible* music on that website). My grandparents earned Westin points, and, over the years, they earned super VIP status. We got upgraded to the penthouse one Christmas, where they had a tree decorated and set up for us. There was a baby grand piano and a full kitchen. My grandparents paid $99/night. 

When I found out this Spring that a conference I needed to attend was not only in Orlando but at the Swan, my heart soared. I knew my grandparents would come with me. I invited my beau. I thought that nothing could be more perfect than to share this sacred place with them, to reminisce about all of the memories we share, to create new magic.

Something you also have to understand about my grandparents is that they're the nicest people in the universe. Every time they visited, they brought gifts for the bellmen, valets, concierges. And because of whatever circumstance, the employees here remained the same, for the 15+ years we visited. 

Many of the employees are still the same. I recognized them immediately. We exchanged long hugs. They asked all about my grandparents, then gave me the royal treatment. 

After I checked in, I sat in my hotel room and cried for an hour. My mom "forgot" I invited her and my grandparents. My beau wavered for too long, so I told him not to bother. Spending time in Disney World alone is the opposite of any reality I've ever known. I simply don't know how to be here by myself, in this hotel I spent much of my childhood in, Eloise-style.

Today, after a particularly spectacular lunch conversation that led to new doors/possibilities/opportunities, I stopped by the concierge desk to talk to Leo, a beloved member of the Swan team. After filling him in on myself and my grandparents, he offered to pay for my--and my colleagues'--dinner tonight. The generosity of my grandparents was returned to me.

I joined my colleagues poolside, where I tried to explain to them about how much time my brother and I had spent in the water here. We had long conversations about our siblings: how we shaped them, and how they shaped us. We laughed at my brother's refusal to learn his alphabet or to become literate, because he didn't see the point, because I always read anything he needed. "Mimi do it," he'd say, his toddler mouth unable to pronounce the three syllables of "Emily."

Tonight, over cocktails, I proposed a toast to Leo.

One of my colleagues said, "And to Mimi!"

In that moment, I knew I was no longer alone. I'm sharing this place with the people I love the most, through their memories, the laughter that remains, the hope of what may come.

And that’s exactly the kind of moment that makes this place so magical.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


arrived in The Garden State on Sunday
got on the turnpike
going the wrong direction(s)
to the point where my GPS started sighing:

(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

then alone
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.)

Nassau Hall
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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


We have become the
couple I hoped (wanted) to
believe I deserved.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

the moment

My beau bought me a book, The Moment, in which 125 writers and artists (basically none of whom I've ever heard of) describe a moment that changed their life: when you knew it was time to leave him, when you first felt like an independent person capable of making decisions about your life, when you decided to come out to your family, when you first kissed her, when you almost died and realized how much you had to live for.

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.

My moment:

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:

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

any given Tuesday

by the time his alarm went off
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.
started learning.

at lunch
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.

finally: home.
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:
removing stains
changing sheets
wringing out dirt

I bathed.
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.


Nate's father died two weeks ago. Nate's father and Nate's uncle did not speak for several years before his father was diagnosed with cancer in April. But then they realized that life is short.
            Nate's family put together a DVD photo montage of Bobby's life. It was really fun to see pictures chronicling his life, although it was difficult to watch Uncle Ray witness and realize all he had missed.
            I couldn't help but think of what we all might miss if we continue our silence. I know you've been to Birmingham and Napa. I know Andrew [my brother] has a new girlfriend. Y'all probably know that I was laid off. Maybe you heard I've learned to drive a manual transmission, my friend Kerry came to visit for July 4, I have tried to like baking, and I miss you some days more than my heart can hold.
            You do not know that I was diagnosed with cervical precancer in late June. I haven't told anyone because I didn't want y'all to feel emotionally obligated to speak to me. Additionally, my doctor doesn't seem too concerned, so neither are we. Nate drove back from Houston within the hour of my doctor's call of abnormal Pap results, without my prompting and despite my resistance, so that he could hold my hand while a vinegar solution was applied to my cervix. Because life is short.
            When Andrew and I were little, and we would fight, we were forced to kiss and make up. This taught me a lesson that has become integral to my soul: You must forgive and love people, even when you don't want to.
            So, here I am. Testing the water. Saying I'm sorry for hurting you, and I love you, and I would like to kiss and hug you both. Because life is short, and I don't want to miss yours.


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.

Monday, June 11, 2012


I wrote this last week, when I didn't know how the story would end.

I'm publishing it now because the story hasn't ended; Cait is still beautiful and patient and kind in ways I cannot fathom becoming, so I will strive to be more like her.


I'm in Pensacola for a friend's mother's funeral.

The death was sudden. The cause is unknown. Most likely, the cause will remain unknown, as her primary care physician, the one who will sign her death certificate, overmedicated her for years. If he doesn't call for an autopsy, one won't be performed. (This is how I understand it. I'm sure someone else can fill me in on Florida legal procedure.)

It's kind of like how I imagine Michael Jackson might have died, except she wasn't famous, and she is survived by my friend.

My friend's father also passed suddenly, in the fall of 2006, so she is now parentless at the age of 33.

And she doesn't know why. And she probably won't.

If any of us found ourselves in this circumstance, we would probably throw a pity party. We would be entitled to scream our anger, sadness, rage, relief, frustration, guilt, and hurt from the rooftops. All of our friends and loved ones would understand our grief.

My friend is not doing any of those things, despite the fact that she's feeling all of those feelings, trying to deal with four estates (because both sets of grandparents' and both parents' estates are in the one house), and, for kicks!, raising a seven month old.

The grace and dignity she is showing in the face of incredible defeat is more inspiring than I can begin to describe.

I helped my friend edit her mother's obituary. I will listen to her give the eulogy later today, as I listened to another friend give his mother's eulogy 25 months ago. She intends to write it as though she's writing to her daughter, telling the stories of her mother she intends to pass along to her daughter, and, in this way, keep her alive.

And I will hold her hand when she needs it, or bring her ice cream or a case of wine or some Kleenex once we get back to New Orleans. I will laugh with her good times and listen during her bad times. Because that's what friends are for.


My all-time favorite quote, and one that has become my mantra, was published in Real Simple in May 2009. I cut out the thought and put it on my office bulletin board during a month when I met Ray Nagin after facilitating AP exams for 76 students, when I got pneumonia, when my parents weren't speaking to me.

"Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you." --Elsie de Wolfe

I'm still alive. And so is Cait.