Sunday, December 22, 2013


In 1983, my parents moved to Wilmington, NC. The family next door had a girl a year younger than me and then got pregnant with a boy who would be two years younger than my brother. The four of us were practically inseparable.

Then in 1986, a family moved across the street with a girl my age and a boy my brother's age. So I ended up with two "sisters." Our parents coordinated Santa: one year we all got dollhouses (which involved at least one bottle of bourbon and a Masters in engineering to construct, according to our fathers); the next year, all of us got bikes, which we would learn to ride in our circular driveway.

I truly know how lucky I am that my parents still live in the same house that I grew up in and that they are still married to each other and that they still like each other and that they are both still healthy. I know that one day they will downsize and move away, and the number that has been in my cell phone as "home" since the day I got a cell phone 15 years ago will go to someone who has not had AT&T long distance for more than three decades.

My parents never once switched during MCI vs. Sprint (the pin drop years). I wonder if, in their future locale, my parents will even be able to sign up for a phone plan that doesn't have call waiting. (Yes. You still get a busy signal if they are busy. As God intended.)

I guess what I'm saying is that I grew up in a place where not much changed. My childhood centered on reading/writing, playing sports, and exploring the world of our yards with my brother and our friends.

Of all these adopted siblings, I was the oldest (by six weeks), which I'm sure I took to mean that I was the one in charge, and I'm sure no one else was really allowed to question that. I also know that I developed a maternal mentality. None of these qualities have particularly waned through the years. What was "bossy" as a girl became "bitchy" as a teenager and became "leadership" as an adult.

That's how I tell it, anyway.

But my maternal instinct remains. I still feel responsible for other people. I want to "fix" them, like I used to "fix" skinned knees or vases broken from rambunctious behavior or a mistake. After years of therapy, I try really, really hard to not credit/blame others for my feelings or be credited/blamed for theirs.

But some people *do* make me happy. One "sister" came over for dinner tonight. We ended up going to different high schools and drifted apart, but she found me on Facebook a few years ago. So tonight she left her husband in charge of her two boys and showed up ready to eat in a home where she had once enjoyed many years of Nintendo. Daddy poured champagne and chopped up meats that had spent most of the day smoking. Three generations ate together. After dinner, we snuck away and spent hours talking about how parenthood has affected us, how our careers have come to be, how our relationships with our parents have evolved, why God matters, how difficult it is to come home again.

Her parents moved from the neighborhood when we were in college, and then they divorced, so returning to our neighborhood was bittersweet at best for her. As she said goodbye, we stood in my parents' (no longer circular) driveway and stared at her old house, pointing out rooms that had been "ours" and wondering where the new owner(s) sleep or watch TV or eat or cry.

It's like that Miranda Lambert song, The House that Built Me. (Go ahead: judge me for liking terrible country music.) And while I can't fix brokenness, I can start healing.

The house that built me
built me full of love and strength
gave me the ability to observe
gave me insight
gave me a sense of values, inquiry, stability
taught me how to treat others.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


(submitted to United Airlines' Customer Care online portal)

subject line (from the drop down menu): Alliance Flight Experience

To whom it may concern:

I understand that United Airlines is not responsible for the weather, for New York City's heavy air/ground traffic, and/or for Newark's single runway for departures/arrivals.

However. The experience I had flying with you yesterday went from dysfunctional to manic. Rapidly.

I was originally scheduled on flight 4212 on 12/8/2013. Blessedly, this flight was canceled well in advance of my trek from Manhattan, and I was automatically rebooked.

I arrived at EWR on 12/9/2013 to take flight 4292, scheduled to depart at 12:30pm. The first of 10 emails to arrive from United over the course of the day informed me of a delay. (I did not receive an email every time the flight was delayed or the gate changed; that would have increased my inbox by at least 15 more emails.)

I arrived at the designated gate (A25). 20 minutes before we were meant to depart, we had a gate change (A22). Zones 1 and 2 boarded, then unboarded. We were told of a necessary aircraft change. Some of the reasons given: it was too small; for our size/load, it would require between 1 and 3 fuel stops en route; it could not handle the wind.

We were told to board at A20. We boarded. Then the pilot announced that there was an engine leak. We waited to see if it could be repaired. Alas, no. WE ALL UNBOARDED THIS SECOND PLANE and were sent to A23 to await an arriving plane we could borrow.

We boarded this final plane (our 3rd) at this final gate (our 4th), five hours after we were scheduled to do so.

This experience was greatly improved by our crew. John B., our flight attendant, maintained a great sense of humor ("Welcome to flight 4292, nonstop, same-day service!") and offered unlimited alcoholic beverages and snacks for the duration of our flight.

The captains, as frustrated as we, kept us informed and made decisions that made us feel safe. Their honesty earned our trust.

Mechanical failures. Customer service success.

(my initials are EWR. curses.)

Friday, November 22, 2013


Eulogy given on May 19, 2010

In 2007, CBS debuted a new sitcom called the Big Bang Theory.  For those unfamiliar with the show, it centers on the roommate duo of Sheldon and Leonard, two socially awkward but brilliant physicists at a nearby university.  Their across the hall neighbor is Penny, an attractive young Nebraskan who has come to California in order launch her acting career.  While the show has had strong ratings, with my parents it quickly gained cult status.  Monday nights between 9:30 and 10:00 pm were off limits for anything beyond that week’s episode.  Despite being rather flummoxed by the technology, Dad quickly discovered how to DVR all the episodes.  When it came time to pick out a present for his most recent birthday, the complete series DVD set was my obvious choice.  If I talked to my parents on Tuesday nights, I knew the first few minutes would involve a recap of funniest jokes from the previous night’s episode.  Mom and Dad were such fans of the show that I felt I had no choice but to watch, for fear of no longer being to understand all of their references.  When I finally got around to watching the show, I realized why they enjoyed it so much.  They were not watching the Big Bang Theory, but rather, were watching CBS’s version of the Jon and Shirley story.

               As those who knew them back then, or even just those who have seen the wedding pictures, can attest, the parallels are remarkable.  Mom and Dad met while the two were living the same apartment complex here in Miami.  Mom was the attractive and extroverted flight attendant from Savannah while Dad was the bespectacled professor of history whose social skills were no match for his intellectual ones.

With season three of the Big Bang Theory almost over, viewers do not know what the future holds for Penny and Leonard.  So far they have dated and subsequently broken up, but the pair seem destined to get back together.  However, for those of us here today, there is no uncertainty about how things turned out for Jon and Shirley.  The two were wed in 1971 and travelled the world, stopping in nearly every interesting place this side of the Arctic. 

Then, in 1980, I burst on the scene.  Not surprisingly, the round the world trips stopped soon there after.  While growing up, and completely lacking external responsibility, I remember trips to places like the mountains of North Carolina and colonial Williamsburg.   Conversely, in the summer of 2007, when I was a summer associate at Sidley Austin and unable to get away, Mom and Dad headed out to Italy for several weeks.  Tomorrow, while I was to be at my desk in DC, they were set to embark on a multi-week trip to China.  I sense a pattern.

Despite their hoarding of the exotic vacations, I could neither imagined nor expected better parents than Mom and Dad.  Both gave me every opportunity in life to succeed, and at times, I was able to capitalize.   But while they gave me the opportunity, Mom was not going to stand back and risk fate running its course.

Like most youngsters who attend a weekly church service, I was enrolled in Sunday School at a young age.  At Saint Andrew’s, as in most churches, Sunday School was taught by volunteer parents and the students were grouped by ages, with a particular teacher tasked to a particular set of ages.  Despite not being raised in the Greek Orthodox faith, but having converted for the purpose of marriage, Mom volunteered to teach on Sundays.  Her first assignment was my class.  She did her job with aplomb.  Later, it came time for me and my peers to move to up to the next grade level.  Our new teacher?  Mrs. Alexiou.  Mom decided that rather than put my religious education in the hands of others, she would teach the Sunday school class I was in, regardless of grade.  And so it was, that my mother was the only Sunday school teacher I ever knew.  I was never told how my Mom was able to ensure that she would always be my teacher, but as those who knew her well can imagine, once motivated, not much on either the temporal or ethereal plane could stop her.

When it came time for me to choose a place to go to college, Mom urged me to leave Miami.  While she wanted me as close as possible at all times (a desire that never ceased, despite my age), she recognized the benefits to moving away.  As a result of such prompting, I have been fortunate to live in a host of interesting cities over the years, twice now in Washington, DC, Chicago, and New York City.  For those of you with hyper-detailed knowledge of my resume and wondering if I left something out of this list, no Columbia, South Carolina does not qualify as “interesting.” 

During my time in these places, Mom was interested not only in how I was doing in each city, but also, what I knew.  When living in DC, she would often ask what the buzz on the street was regarding passage of a certain piece of legislation.  I had to regretfully inform her that Congressional buzz did not penetrate my dorm room walls.  Mom thought that my admission to Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service meant I would be privy to all State Department gossip.  No, I would tell her, Colin Powell was not actively seeking my advice.

Whether it was about foreign policy rumors or just life updates, Mom loved talking to me, and I quickly discovered why she was such a fantastic human resources director.  Unlike Dad, who was happy to spend the entirety of a 10 minute conversation discussing the first half of a Kansas basketball game that was at the half (which Mom often described as evidence of Dad and mine’s mutual obsession with anything involving a ball), Mom would seemingly have a list of questions to ask about various aspects of my life.  Certain responses were never acceptable.  I could never describe something as “fine.”  Mom thought it was a phrase with no meaning.  She would rather things be miserable than fine.  Together, we could fix miserable.  But fine, did not convey anything.  Mom also hated if I said nothing had happened that day.  Surely, something must have happened, she thought.  One of my great regrets is that Mom always thought I was hiding parts of my life from her.  Not true.  There were days that consisted of a Mad Men marathon interrupted only by periodic naps on the couch.  I tried to explain to Mom that I was not obfuscating, rather, I was just boring.

One of Mom’s lasting impressions on all those that knew her was her impeccable fashion sense and constant desire to look her best.  But this was not for reasons of vanity or superficiality, rather, it was a basic belief that people in a civilized society should take the time to look their best.  And Mom did her best to impart this viewpoint on me.  One day, the two of us were out for dinner.  Dad was on business and Mom and I decided to get some sushi.  In the midst of our conversation,Mom looked at me and said, “we are going to get your teeth whitened.”  This was not said in an insulting matter, but rather, in the same matter of fact tone that others would note the need to pick up toilet paper.  And as one would expect, several weeks later, I found myself in the dentist chair, being fitted for whitening trays.

The year after I graduated from law school, I clerked for a federal district court judge in the aforementioned Columbia, South Carolina.  The first time Mom came to visit, I brought her to Chamber to show her my office and what it was I did each day.  Upon meeting the judge for whom I was working Mom asked Judge Seymour (a woman who has the distinct privilege of having her job spelled out in the Constitution and makes daily decisions which impact the lives of many) if the Judge could have me do something about my long hair.  Judge Seymour chuckled and said she did not mind my hair.  However, I am convinced that had the two talked longer, I would have received an escort by the US Marshalls to the nearest hair salon. 

But it was Mom’s second trip to Columbia that provides the best illustration of all that she was willing to do for me.  In Spring 2009, I had a tonsillectomy and septoplasty.  Despite being far from home, Mom flew up and was there with me as I was admitted for surgery.  The first face I saw when I woke up after surgery wasMom’s.  She kept remarkably detailed records of my medications and made sure I took everything I needed to in order to recover.  And she did all this while sleeping on a twin-sized blow up bed in my concrete floored apartment.  She never once uttered a note of fatigue or frustration.

Shirley Raiford Alexiou was one of the bravest women I have ever met.  She stared down Stage IV malignant melanoma and fought the disease as hard as she possibly could, never feeling sorry for herself.  I tried to tell her that I loved her every chance I got, though in retrospect it does not seem like it was enough.  Had she not been my mother, I would have wanted her as a friend.  But she was my mother and a better one I could not have imagined. 

Things are not fine today Mom, they are actually rather miserable without you.  But know that Dad and I have each other and we will do our best to continue to make you proud. 


My oldest (longest to stick around) friend has watched her father die for the past six years.

He has been in Hospice since August. Today begins "final stages." He has days or weeks to live.

I don't think there's anything else to say. You can build an empathetic vision for what that looks and feels like, right?

Besides, it's not my story. His aren't my details to share. Her story is one I hope to never know more closely than from the prayers and emails and texts we've exchanged. It's a story I hope no one ever has to know.

I met a friend for lunch today, after a morning spent crying softly for her, for him, for mortality. My friend ordered me tequila, let me talk for fewer minutes about it than I thought I needed, and then said:

"Did her father make you laugh?"

God, yes! And he made my friend laugh, and he made her mother laugh, and he made all of our friends laugh. He was incredibly good-humored.

I started thinking of weekends in high school spent in her kitchen, her dad reading the newspaper while she and I pretended to know how to make pancakes. I started thinking of all the laughter that kitchen held.

Which, of course, was Ed's point:
Remember the times when you laughed.
Remember when things were good
when you and your friend didn't know how to measure dry vs. wet goods
when we worried about acne and boys instead of wrinkles, acne, and boys
when we felt completely loved and safe and warm
when we knew nothing about prostates.

I have been to a friend's parent's funeral every year since 2008. In 2010, one of my favorite friends was putting off writing his mother's eulogy (because of course), and his other friends and I suggested he write about the times she made him laugh. The jokes, the teasing. No one wanted to cry any more.

His eulogy was perfect. His dry wit echoed throughout a chapel full of people who had loved his mother, who had their own stories of laughter, who wept when he broke down but who laughed honestly when he cracked his gorgeous, crooked smile.

Parents do the best job when they teach us how to laugh and how to love. That is the legacy we remember and for which are most appreciative.

So. Remember the times we laughed, and know that we will again, sometime soon.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Bacon grease splatters
unnoticed across bare skin:
Trial by fire.

(last line is 5 syllables in the South)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

11/12/13, New Orleans

Turned on the furnace
Smelled last summer burn into
His house, our bodies.


A friend has asked me to help plan her wedding. She recognizes that I possess excellent event planning skills; have thrown more than a few fabulous parties; love spreadsheeting; and have the kind of attention to detail that is necessary to manage budgets, guest lists, decorations, transportation, etc.

Plus, well, I have the time to give.

But there's not much time. They want an outdoor venue in late March or early April 2014 in the greater New Orleans area. I think they are going for a more informal feel, but I need ideas and recommendations for everything: cakes and catering, photographers, flowers, makeup artists, invitations, bands. Applications that will sync lists between my android and her iPhone. Software or books to invest in. Websites or blogs to read.

Please don't simply say "Pinterest." The one time I was on that website, I quickly closed it. I don't think I'm girly enough, and I know that I am not crafty enough. The only do-it-yourself creating I have the talent for is writing haiku and cooking. I don't think they want to say their vows in haiku form, and I have no desire to begin a catering business out of my four-burner stove.

They've done the hard part: they've planned their marriage. Now all I have to do is plan the first day of it, and I'd welcome your help.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Sipping hot green tea,
I wish I knew how she is.
Cool breeze comes. Inhale.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

food, inc.

On Thursday, a girlfriend asked if I could help them make pasta salad for a fall festival/fundraiser at her stepdaughter's school. Knowing that she returns favors with cash and/or really, really good wine, I agreed. They had already bought all of the ingredients; they just needed me to follow a recipe.

Which was something like this:

14 oz rotini
2 finely chopped cucumbers
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
3/4 cup finely chopped olives
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup Italian-style dressing

I needed to multiply the recipe by 10.
And my girlfriend's husband had done all of the math/shopping.
Note: pasta typically comes in 1 pound (16 oz) packages... including the pasta he brought me.
I also think he bought 200 ounces of salad dressing (some of which was accidentally fat free), and I know there were only 18 cucumbers (the only thing I chopped by hand).

The Italian-style dressing's first two ingredients were soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup.

I don't care for raw onion in most of my salads, so I pulverized half of a (red) onion for every pound of pasta I made. Olives are pretty much the only food I cannot eat (because they are vile), so I left them whole, because I know a lot of other like-minded (correct) people who also cannot eat them. I also left the cherry tomatoes whole, because people are weird about raw tomatoes, I worried that the juice would interfere with the taste of dehydrated red bell peppers, and I had absolutely no desire to cut up tiny tomatoes into fourths.

Basically: it was the opposite of the kind of pasta salad I would ever consider making for myself, for people I love, for people I don't love, for strangers. I wouldn't give an enemy high fructose corn syrup... or anything else Monsanto.

So once I could get over that (which, clearly, I'm not), I had to figure out how in the world to boil 10 pounds of pasta in my non-commercial grade kitchen with an urban amount of counterspace. And then how to mix 10 pounds of pasta with soybean oil, pulverized onions, and cucumbers. (Tomatoes and olives stayed on top so people can pick/choose.)

I recycled pasta water and heavily relied on this NYTimes article, in hopes it was true.

I couldn't help myself: I added dried organic basil and oregano to the mix. I added Tony's, as you do.

I ended up using half of my house to accomplish the end result, which was 3 giant aluminum trays.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to clean my kitchen. While I do so, I will pray for a world where children do not have to choose between hunger and genetically modified foods.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I was asked to apply for an incubator-type group to further develop my ideas on education reform that could potentially build a non- or for-profit entity. They call the program "The Essentials." The incubators are super out-of-the-box thinkers (as you can see from their questions); I think it will be a really dynamic, interesting place to see what happens.

It does not, by any means, allow my job search to end... but it is a sizeable step forward.

Thanks to all who have been a part of this ongoing (and continuing!) process with their time, talent, support, and love.

And, above all, I am grateful to those who have made sure I kept my perspective enough that I could laugh... sometimes at myself, but always out loud.

What is the last article or book you read that totally rocked your world. Tell us about

I've been trying to lose weight, in varying degrees of effort/seriousness, for the past year. I've done Weight Watchers, yoga, Couch to 5K running plan. I bought a bike. I try to cook healthfully, limit carbs, and meditate. But for every two steps forward, there's one step back (plantar fasciitis is the latest, but living in a food- and drink-centric town is the penultimate barrier)... and that makes my scale fickle and unfriendly.

All of my motivation and effort changed two weeks ago after I read an article about a study from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia that found women with waistlines greater than 35 inches are at greatly increased risk of heart disease.

Heart disease?! But I need my heart to work! If there is anything in my life I need to function, it is my giant, giving, wide open heart. I need to be able to love strangers. I need to be able to hold friends' hands when their parents are diagnosed with terminal diseases; I need to be able to hug my boyfriend's little girl. Oh. And to hug him, too.

I need to make a difference! And I can't do that if I don't have a healthy heart!

So. I have begun a practice of clean eating. I make sure that I get 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week. I bike instead of drive whenever possible. I stretch my feet (which is really painful!) so that I can continue to stretch and move my body in ways that will help it heal.

And I will get my waistline to below 35 inches, one day at a time. It turns out that I just needed a number that represented much more than a scale or a dress size.

What is something you’re curious about that is not related to your profession? *

Why doesn't the NFL invest in breast cancer research instead of purchasing hot pink everything during the month of October?

Please share a "How might we" question that you've been asking or would like to begin wrestling with. *
How might we inform students and their families about post-secondary educational and career options?

Open Wikipedia. On the left hand side of the page click on the “random article”
selection. With the question you stated above in mind use the completely random
word and definition that pops up and make associations that help you redefine the
problem. Be creative on this one, we’d love to hear your thought process! (And please make sure to tell us what the 'random article' title was!)

1. BEER!
2. KEG PARTIES!!! Oh. Wait. They're kids, so, hmmm... I mean, it is New Orleans, but...
3. KEG PARTIES FOR PARENTS! Hmmm... while turnout may be great, it's not exactly the marketing message I want to send.
4. Fine. I'll read the article and see how I can tweak this into something legal for those under 21 and meaningful for all ages.
5. Smallest of eight Trappist breweries. Beer made by monks. I like this brand of religion.
7. The abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution. The Germans dismantled the brewery in order to salvage copper during WWI. What needs to be destroyed about "college and career readiness" so that we can rebuild? What can we salvage from the current systems? Will it require a major war, and, if so, who will be the soldiers? Who will be the rebuilders?
8. After an 84-year dormancy, the monks decided in 1998 to start brewing again. Proceeds support the monastery and charities. Well. In the past 84 years, we've largely been successful at keeping low-income and minority children from completing college. We've largely kept people born into poverty in poverty. What can we make or sell that would change this? What charities should or could be involved?
9. And can we drink delicious Belgian beer while we do it?

Please attach a picture of something you have made/built/created, even if you’re not incredibly proud of it. Feel free to add a caption to your photo in the space below.

Photo credit: Anne Berry

Food is one of my love languages. Since Thanksgiving 2010, I have opened my home in New Orleans to other "orphans" (those of us who cannot afford financially or emotionally to visit our families at Thanksgiving *and* Christmas and those who like having an excuse to avoid their families here). This is a picture from last year's Thanksgiving, before we served food to nine people I had spent at least three days cooking/prepping. I am incredibly grateful for my ability to feed others (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) and for the community/family I have created/belong to in New Orleans. 

Monday, October 7, 2013


A friend of mine once described the last moments of a romantic relationship as "the dance of death." You're swirling around the flush of a toilet, sometimes resistant and other times relieved, and you circle around each other until you succumb to the currents and recognize there's no more reason to resist or to fight.

When my last boyfriend and I were doing our dance of death, we went to couple's therapy. The first session informed us that John Gottmann's "love lab" research concludes three types of couples generally "make" it:
  • the avoidant couple, who sweep everything under the rug for 100 years and never really discuss whatever problems they have
  • the volatile couple, who always seem to be either fighting or making out in front of everyone
  • the validating couple, who try to see the other's point of view through an empathetic lens
I didn't want to be any of those couples. I am unable to let things build up and ignore them. I find volatile couples exhausting to be around, much less to be in that relationship myself, as I do not have the energy for mania. And while the therapist did a terrible job of explaining validation, I knew that I was more likely to change the direction of the earth's rotation than to change my about-to-be-an-ex-boyfriend into an empathetic person.

We decided to break up after our second session, during which we learned that at least on paper we weren't doomed from the beginning: I just needed to find a better suited mate. That consoled me, since we had been together for 47 months, and I needed to know my heart was capable of good decisions. I needed to know that my love could be enough. 

I needed validation. 

So, after what I believed was an appropriate period of mourning, I went on dates. And learned I wasn't ready to date again. So I waited some more. I didn't want to practice on anyone else's heart, and I certainly didn't want to be practiced on. 

Of course there was hurt, both from my ex and from these new adventures. There was not enough validation, there was too much volatility, there was a level of avoidance I didn't recognize within myself. However, there was also a lot of champagne and late night texting and... well, let's just say, good old-fashioned fun. (Remember: my grandmother reads this.)

And then I was ready. And then he was.

I probably have more heated discussions now than I have had with any other boyfriend. 
I also communicate better now than I have with any other boyfriend.
I feel like my concerns are understood, digested, and empathized with. I feel like when I'm being crazy, he's strong enough to say "you're being crazy." (And vice versa.)

I think that a lot of people mischaracterize disagreements as potential dangers to a relationship. Recently, I was counseling a girlfriend trying to decide whether to separate from her husband. She said, "But... the crazy part is? We don't fight!" 

I said, "But you also don't talk."

Something I tell myself and others with some frequency is that you cannot be happy with yourself 100% of the time, so you certainly can't expect to be happy with someone else 100% of the time. Gottmann will tell you that you need to be happy five times to every unhappy one time. 

I'm not sure who has time to do that kind of counting besides researchers at the University of Washington. 

Besides complicated math equations, another thing that makes relationships and marriages difficult is that a lot of people assume that if you're married, your relationship is fine. My friends ask with some frequency how things are going with my beau, but if I ask a married friend "how are things with Phil?", I often get a litany of his professional dissatisfaction, how crazy his mother is, his/their weekend projects or vacation plans, how sweet he's been to her during this particularly difficult period in her life, etc.

Then, if I'm close enough with her, I ask, "No, I mean, how is your marriage?"

And, if she's close enough with me, she answers honestly about how much work it is, how much compromise and kindness it requires, how parenthood has (not) changed or will (not) change things.

So embrace the dance of life and love. Know it will be hard but that all rewarding things are. Communicate with each other.

Or succumb to the dance of death, and be kind to yourself about it. You're not a failure.

But don't marry your rebound.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Threat of street flooding
New Orleans Saturday morn
Hauntingly quiet

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I'm reading a book that has a surprise twist in the first chapter, as a girl knocks on a woman's door and says, "I think you're my mother."

I can't stop thinking: are all darkest secrets about sex?

Abortion vs. adoption.
Sex: what/who/where you desire. what age it began. with how many.

As a habit, I don't write about sex, because I don't tweet, Facebook, or blog anything I wouldn't want my grandmother to read... and I regularly print my blog posts and mail them to her so that she can read what I write without having to learn how to use a computer.

But I'll see my grandmother next week, and I think it's worth asking. For example, did she have as many friends as I do who simply could not get pregnant? Is it because we're all waiting 10 years later or because we're all on hormonal birth control or because we all eat more fast food or, hell, more organic food than our parents and grandparents?

Or did she (or my mother) talk about these sorts of things with her girlfriends? Are we in some kind of post-Sex and the City freedom of speech era? Certainly nothing I could write about would be a surprise to my grandmother. She does, after all, have cable. (Not that you need cable to watch Dr. Phil.) (Not that I've watched Dr. Phil, so I'm conjecturing.)

The highest court in our land allows men to marry men and women to abort. We have clubs devoted to women taking off their clothes for money, men dressing like women for fashion, anonymous group sex for fun.

For better and worse, privacy is one thing that unites us all. Shame, guilt, or the freedom from either. Experimentation and experience, lust and love.

The point is: having secrets makes us human.

I hope that, whatever yours are, you find a way to make them lighter. Or at least to accept them.

Monday, August 19, 2013


I drive by her house
when I need a reminder:
she is alone. too.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


sipping coffee on someone else's front porch

daydreaming of
major and minor
shifts and twists
my life would need to take
to buy the antebellum home
for sale (for months)
then use its six bedrooms
six bathrooms
as a bed and breakfast.

daydreaming of
all the wedding receptions the home has hosted
and could host
the family reunions it could house
the refuge it could offer
to the bereaved

daydreaming of
what wines to serve at cocktail hour
who I'd hire to cook (or would I?)
and to clean (I would not)
what room rates would be
how expensive it would be to furnish

daydreaming of
my $88 per square foot
cypress and crystal home
built two centuries, a civil war, two world wars, and the advent of electricity ago
with the sweet money of sugarcane

with the hope that all who made the pilgrimage
(especially me)
could find solace and comfort and salve
in freshwater
in major and minor
shifts and twists
without current or tides

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bikram cooking

Love languages. I talk about them a lot. It's a theory that we all give/receive love in primarily one or two of the following five ways: acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation. We all give/receive all five, and we all need all five, but you tend to speak/hear fewer.

I think one of my primary love languages is food. I love to cook for people (give). I love to share meals with people (give/receive). And I really, really, really love to eat (receive).


My godmother's daughter will deliver some truly well incubated twins tomorrow. My godmother and my mother are in town for the occasion and to help out wherever possible, since Leslie is currently full of almost 13 lbs of baby.

It's a lot of baby.

And since I have the luxury of plenty of free time these days, I decided that I would cook for them. I plan to bring five dishes frozen, a box of produce from Hollygrove Market, my Crockpot/Cuisinart/Microplane, and all of my favorite cookbooks.

I started planning meals on Monday night, making lists which turned into one Google spreadsheet and one Google document. I went to three different grocery stores to get everything I wanted, and I started cooking yesterday afternoon. Pozole turned out much spicier than I intended, and meatloaf turned out much blander than intended. This morning, I made ribollita. My father's braised short ribs will come out of my oven when I finish writing this, and then I will start making his chili. The recipe calls for a (one.) beer, leaving me with five delicious Shiner Bock to partake of.

I've earned it.

For those of you who have houses with insulation or air conditioning that evenly cools your whole house, allow me to explain to you what it's like to be in my kitchen in New Orleans in August. Especially when the oven is on.

It's like Bikram cooking.

Additionally, when I say I'm using my father's recipes, you need to understand:
1. my father is a really excellent cook, and anything I make of his will merely mimic the original;
2. my father's recipes are crazy ridiculous in the amount of effort they take, from grocery shopping for ingredients the store clerks have never heard of to getting stew meat cut especially for you to using twine to hold together bacon, celery, herbs in a "bouquet."

All of these are demotivating factors, but that's how much I love my mother, my godmother, Leslie, Leslie's husband, and these giant twins.

Oh. I forgot to mention Leslie's husband. He doesn't eat produce of any kind, except for iceberg (if that counts) and fried okra (because Alabama). So I'm cooking a lot of meat for him and a lot of vegetables for the rest of his household.

I have frozen or will freeze the soups in one cup portions. That way you don't have to heat up an entire pot of chili when you just want a cup of soup. I made the meatloaf in a muffin tin (that I had to borrow from a friend, because that's how little I bake), so they are also in single servings.

Knowing that the twins' helpers might have allergies or that the twins themselves might develop them, I have labeled each of the ziploc bags I have frozen: name of dish; whether it contains egg, dairy, or gluten; and SPICY across the pozole.


I like to think that food is a love language I speak well, and I hope the twins first days at home are filled with the kind of love they'll live their whole lives knowing.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I am really lucky: my last job search was five years ago. I basically stalked my boss until she gave me a job, and my second day she said, "Here's $1.6 million. Build your program."

I built my program. I improved schools. I changed children's lives, for the better. 

But, sadly, the money has run out.

So I am job searching, but everything about job searching has changed in the past five years. And I hope that y'all will have feedback: what I should be doing differently; whether I'm doing something right; when I can start working for you, your company, your cousin, or your cousin's company; etc.

1. LinkedIn

So, it's not just creating a profile for yourself. You add in companies you've worked for and BAM!, their logos just appear, like magic. You can add in descriptions of these jobs, which I copied and pasted from my resume, so it reads like a boring/showoffy/concise paragraph. I knew to use a professional photograph of myself (thank you, Julia Pretus). And then I let them access my email account to make initial connections (which are "friends" on Facebook and "followers" on Twitter). I was selective, since not everyone in my address book can speak to what I do professionally, but I got enough connections to feel like I was doing it right.

Then you add skills, so that anyone who cares will know what you believe your expertise to be in. Then people "endorse" you for these (or other) skills. I have been really surprised by what people think I do well.

Then, within two months, LinkedIn had found every person I've ever known in the history of my life... not through my email. A girl I interned with, and our boss, in 2006. People I interviewed but didn't hire, and people I interviewed with but who didn't hire me. People whose names (first and/or last) I'd forgotten: brief romantic entanglements, girls who have performed in burlesque shows I've been to, my cousin's ex-sister-in-law, my ex's ex-wife.

It's overwhelming.

2. Email

Of course email was a thing in 2008. But so were thank you notes. In my previous position, I hired at least 20 people, and only some of them knew to thank me for the interview. By the last round of hiring, all of the thank you notes I got were electronic.

So I asked some friends about this, and I was told to send a follow up email the day of my interview, thanking the interviewer(s) for his/her/their time and clarifying/repeating anything I thought needed saying. Like why I think I'm a great candidate.

3. Negotiation

Five years ago, I negotiated a start date. I was living in Austin and had to move to New Orleans, which meant moving my life after finding somewhere to live.

Now, I know that there is much more to a job than a salary. There are holidays in New Orleans that do not correspond with the federal holiday calendar. So it's important to know whether you'll be expected to use vacation time for Mardi Gras. Which is more than one day. 

Health insurance: are you eligible from your start date? is your family? how much does the company pay, and how much do you pay - and is this percentage or dollars?

Retirement accounts: are you eligible from your start date? what's the company willing to match - and is this percentage or dollars?

Travel: will you get a company credit card for your expenses, or will it be out of pocket? will they pay for your parking or for part of your insurance? are you expected to attend a certain number of trainings per year, and, if so, are those trainings offered where you live? does the company pay for them?

It's also important to understand a company's (or a particular manager's) policy on flex/comp time, working from home, doctor's appointments for yourself and your dependents. I once had to take two hours of sick time when I woke up with pinkeye, because I went to the doctor first thing in the morning and then went to the pharmacy so I wouldn't infect my coworkers. Other places would have made me report nothing. Other places would have required me to work from home, while taking a whole day. It's nice to know what kind of environment you're getting into so that everyone'e expectations of your time can be managed appropriately.

4. The Louisiana Workforce Commission

Don't get me started on how many hours I have wasted finding and inputting and saving information for my online account... hours that I could have spent reading job listings or figuring out how to live on $247/week.

I have to input three different employers/jobs each week in order to collect unemployment:
  • I have to list three persons' name and official business title. 
  • I have to list three companies' "record of address."
  • I have to choose the job title I talked to these people about via a drop down menu that basically doesn't include any titles belonging to anyone in the nonprofit sector. 
If I apply to a job online, I do not have a person's name and title. In some cases, I don't know whether to list the national organization's "record of address," or the local/state affiliate. I'm worried that I'll get in trouble for applying to jobs "outside" of Louisiana. 

Also, this is not the way to get a job. It is mostly about who you know. It is about having regular, consistent conversations with who you know. It is not about a specific job at a specific company. It's often a specific job or a specific company, but it is rarely both. The universe doesn't work that way, because life is unfair.

I will talk to at least three people about any given job I apply for. I want to make sure it's a legit org that can offer strong leadership and kind support and opportunity to make an impactful difference. I want to make sure the people who work there are happy, and I want to know why the people who left did. 

That's a much better way of tracking how many people I contact a week, State of Louisiana. 

Monday, August 5, 2013


In my continued
effort to boycott New Orleans
during the month of August


I decided that it might be fun to go camping.

Not the kind with a tent or hookups:
the kind with an air-conditioned cabin
and decently appointed kitchen
and maybe a lake breeze
to minimize mosquitoes
and to maximize comfort.

Then I realized
that a room in a charming bed and breakfast
(you know, where breakfast will be provided for me)
was less expensive.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Today, I cleaned off the top of my chest of drawers.

To most of you, this is probably a matter of putting pairs of earrings/cufflinks back into their compartments or putting a hat back on a shelf. Where things belong.

My best guess is that the top of my chest of drawers has not been cleaned since the summer of 2011, and I only know that date because that is when the mail towards the bottom of the pile was postmarked.

It does not belong here. It belongs in my file folders or in my recycling bin, circa 2011.

It's a collection of bills (long since paid), financial statements (unopened), magazines (now in a pile to be donated to a school for their arts program)... and one thousand other things. Scraps of paper, letters, picture frames with(out) pictures, nail polish, 3 pairs (!) of earphones, one (1) AA battery, the black and gold feather boa wig I'll need for football season, business cards from people I've forgotten... all with clean, folded laundry from months ago (anyone's guess) on top and some really cheap (but sentimental) earrings I was certain I'd lost at the bottom.

The favorite things I found:

  • a thank you note from Anne Berry for hosting our annual orphan Thanksgiving dinner, where she thanked me "for making New Orleans feel like home"
  • a picture from my senior year of college, snogging my gay best guy friend, due to the effects of (a lot of) fermented beverage
  • the invitation to my and Brooke's one-year anniversary party: Champagne at Sunset
  • pictures of me and my college roommate, who is now expecting a son, at parties or in our jammies in our dorm room
  • pictures of me and my best guy friend from high school, with whom I traveled a great deal in the 5ish years after high school, and who is now expecting twins :)
  • books I meant to give as presents or to read or to just have sitting out to look fancy
  • a note from one of my dearest friends: "Thank you so much for dropping everything and coming down to Miami for my mother's funeral."
  • love notes from my beau, when we were beginning
  • a haiku a lobbyist wrote me when I was working in the Texas legislature, on one of our designated "haiku Thursdays"

All of these are messages that I belong
that I have the exact love I want
that my friends have added richly and deeply to
my definitions of kindness, grace, beauty

I belong to this gratitude
and to these memories
and, for now, to a fresh clean surface

where I will lay new words
frame new pictures
place old earrings and bobby pins

and find renewed pieces of myself and others
to belong to.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


There's enough ugly
in the world. I do not need
to be friends with it.

Monday, July 15, 2013


The meditations in last night's yoga class were from The Dao of Pooh.

One of the thoughts triggered memories of the below poem. 

I hope for an end to ignorant armies clashing by night.

Sea of Faith
by John Brehm

Once when I was teaching "Dover Beach"
to a class of freshmen, a young woman
raised her hand and said, "I'm confused
about this 'Sea of Faith.'" "Well," I said,
"let's talk about it. We probably need
to talk a bit about figurative language.
What confuses you about it?"
"I mean, is it a real sea?" she asked.
"You mean, is it a real body of water
that you could point to on a map
or visit on a vacation?"
"Yes," she said. "Is it a real sea?"
Oh Christ, I thought, is this where we are?
Next year I'll be teaching them the alphabet
and how to sound words out.
I'll have to teach them geography, apparently,
before we can move on to poetry.
I'll have to teach them history, too-
a few weeks on the Dark Ages might be instructive.
"Yes," I wanted to say, "it is.
It is a real sea. In fact it flows
right into the Sea of Ignorance
Let me throw you a Rope of Salvation
before the Sharks of Desire gobble you up.
Let me hoist you back up onto this Ship of Fools
so that we might continue our search
for the Fountain of Youth. Here, take a drink
of this. It's fresh from the River of Forgetfulness."
But of course I didn't say any of that.
I tried to explain in such a way
as to protect her from humiliation,
tried to explain that poets
often speak of things that don't exist.
It was only much later that I wished
I could have answered differently,
only after I'd betrayed myself
and been betrayed that I wished
it was true, wished there really was a Sea of Faith
that you could wade out into,
dive under its blue and magic waters,
hold your breath, swim like a fish
down to the bottom, and then emerge again
able to believe in everything, faithful
and unafraid to ask even the simplest of questions,
happy to have them simply answered.

Friday, July 12, 2013


The History of Love is one of my favorite books. The author wrote it concurrently to her husband writing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and if you read them back-to-back, your life will change.

I mean, your life will change by reading either, but the both of them together--in either order--will haunt you.

You're welcome in advance.


This boy I like asked me last month if he could take me somewhere all I needed was a passport and bikini bottoms. I accepted. Next week, we travel to St. Martin.

Tonight, he announced that his beach read is The History of Love. We've never discussed it. He explained to me, not knowing anything about my history with it (one of the only books I have read thrice): "Yeah, so. I read the reviews, and everyone said that it was this beautifully haunting and intricately woven story with complicated timelines..."

I said, "I know."

He said, "Wait. Have you read it?"

According to interviews, Jonathan Safron Foer and Nicole Krauss were not familiar with the parallels in their stories or storytellings. I don't really care if that's true. They both wrote masterful, honest depictions of super difficult topics.


History of love:
spaces delineated,
misunderstood, blurred.


"Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend  his whole life answering." --Nicole Krauss

May we all be so blessed.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


My best guy friend from high school bought me Frances Driscoll's The Rape Poems in college. Driscoll journaled her way into healing, and I think Bryan had the same hopes for me, too.

In the thirteen and a half years of therapy and yoga sessions since then, I am often asked to describe or to go to my safe place. Sometimes one comes easily: a hot tub under a black sky of diamond-like stars, a hammock strung between trees on a beach, Saturday morning cuddles while sunlight streams over crisp linen.

But, always, I think of this poem (Driscoll's) first.


Market Research

My thermal carafe coffeemaker comes
with a 16 page instructional manual and a survey.
Do you or anyone in your household
own or plan to purchase:
a cordless handheld vacuum, a smoke alarm, a rechargeable light.
To help us understand our customers' lifestyles
please indicate the interests and activities
in which you or your partner enjoy participating
on a regular basis:
vegetable gardening, fashion clothing, casino gambling, group therapy.
Please check all that apply to your household:
support health charities, purchase items through the mail, train dogs.
My answers will be used anonymously in market research.
My answers will allow me to receive mailings and special offers
that relate directly to my specific interests.
The survey doesn't ask:
Do you have difficulty retaining domestic help.
Do you believe the following are your fault:
your son’s math grades, the dog’s skin condition, failure of the ERA.
Do you open your windows.
When someone knocks, do you open your door.
The survey doesn't ask:
Do you ever anywhere anytime believe yourself safe.
The survey doesn't ask:
Are you in a woman in America.


We all have trigger points:

anniversaries pass
her scent wafts by
a noise startles us
nightmares awake

I sometimes wonder
if I will ever again feel safe
if love's comforting arms will ever stop feeling like they are about to collapse
if unconditional love exists

if any of us ever really heal from 
the worst moments of our lives
the worst people we ever were
the worst memories we have

and I have to believe so
because I have to believe in forgiveness.


Last night, I met a friend from college for a drink. He was home (here) for a funeral. We hadn't seen each other in a decade (since I visited New Orleans in August 2003, a few lifetimes ago).

He introduced me to his best friend as "the girl who's responsible for me having taken the LSAT."

I can't remember ever talking anyone into going to law school. I try my damndest to prevent anyone from going to law school, for several good reasons:

1. I don't know anyone who enjoyed a minute of law school.
2. I don't know anyone who enjoys being a lawyer.
2. a. Most of the people I know who finished law school and passed bars no longer practice law.
3. It is six figures of debt. To pay this back, you will need to bill about 2200 hours/year, leaving you about 87 hours in your year to live.

Fortunately, Kevin dropped out of law school, Day 2. I guess trying to impress a pretty girl only goes so far.

It made me wonder about all of the other tiny moments or offhanded suggestions I've made throughout my life that have affected others. I often say something like, "take all my good advice, I'm not using it," because it's so much easier to tell someone "don't go to law school, leave the person you no longer want to love, move across the country" than to do it yourself.

Except. Wait. I have done all of those things. Um. Wear sunscreen? Damn. I do that, too. Hmmm.  I am not great about brushing my teeth. I am really terrible about flossing. But I'm not sure how important those things are, in the grand scheme, since I was born with great teeth, the way other people are born with a genetic predisposition to low blood pressure.

When I was in 8th grade, I was sitting on the plane next to someone who said, "You're from the South, right? Never lose your accent."

To me, it felt like he was saying "Never forget where you come from: a land full of amazing music, magnolias and live oaks and azaleas, an uncomfortable economic history, and fantastic literature. Never lose the flavor of your life. Love your parents, your brother, and all of the other people who made you into you, meal by meal. Always remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Other advice has been haphazard or sincere: Don't marry the first boy who asks. Become a professor (I get this one all the time, still). Consume 10 fat grams or fewer each day (bless my 14-year-old self's heart). Have babies by the time you're 35. Wear a helmet when you bike. Read. Get __ minutes of exercise __ times a week. Don't kiss and tell. Drink coffee. Don't drink coffee. Drink 1 glass of red wine every day. Drink 8 glasses of water a day.

I guess we can all agree: peeing is good for you.

And law school is bad for you.

Monday, July 8, 2013


It's summertime, which means white or pink wine season for me.

And people around me these past few days have been drinking chardonnay.



"do you prefer red or white?"
he asked politely
genuinely inquisitive
"either, as long as its light"
was my honest response

the waiter brought
an unfamiliar bottle
to our table

and as I swallowed
the thick, buttery tones
with hints of grapefruit

I guessed he knew his wines
about as well as he would know
my bed.

5 June 2003

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I waited for you.

I waited for other girls to pass through your life
to stop gloating about the flowers you send
to bore you.

I waited for all of our morning coffees
our afternoon laughter
our midnight conversations

to evolve into something
or someone
you recognized.

I waited for the right interlude

to lean in and kiss you
to lean in and assert my place beside you
to lean in
and feel you recognize

that I was different
that we could be different.

I waited.

And we were worth it.

--3 July 2013


This past weekend
while playing with sidewalk chalk
during the time of day when the heat index
hasn't yet reached ninety degrees

I ruminated on childhood
and wonder
and discovery

Sidewalk chalk is as fun as I remember it being
although since all of my artistic ability
came in the form of words
I started thinking of poems
song lyrics

and I as remembered
maggie and milly and molly and may

I thought to be grateful for playtime(even in the humidity)
and for you.


maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

--e.e. cummings

Sunday, June 23, 2013


it was a relief
not to come home to someone
I no longer loved
didn't know how to love again
and wasn't sure I could

moving her out felt right
we packed together
carefully rewrapping fragile wedding gifts
padding boxes with linens
upon which we had once made love

dividing our things
not truly grasping
we were dividing a life.

we were dividing a life
we'd stood in front of our parents friends God
and created. and promised to upkeep.

that's when it got harder
when the immediate relief was over

I realized I was separate
from that life

and the house we'd shared
got very, very quiet
and full of ghosts

she wasn't there to fold the laundry

to turn the washing machine on
to ignore the dryer signal buzz

or laugh at my attempts to cook

to bang pots around
to blend, to chop, to advise

or cry at those dumb commercials meant to make certain women cry

during shows certain women watch

or to yell 
up the stairs
"can you bring me my ____?"

the sounds of her movements
the presence of another
opening the door in a rush
to retrieve a forgotten item
reminding me of weather changes
of air filter changes
of our cycles and patterns

the creaky, almost loose stair
remained unfixed
and the ghosts of children
I had expected to climb the stairs
got really big

They grew up:

I had expected to scold children for sliding down the banister
and to mend hurt knees
when they did

to carry them upstairs to their bedrooms
when they'd fallen asleep

without these sounds
of the life I had intended
--of our life--
I had to leave.

I spent lots of nights in bars,
where other patrons became like family
and lots more nights working late

(a euphemism for nothing
since trying to find sex
or anything resembling romantic love
has been divided.)

some days,
the quiet is tolerable
or I turn on music she wouldn't like
and make monstrous sounds in the kitchen
or turn on the television

or turn on the bath faucet
and watch the water run
watch it fill the tub
I always loved more than she did.

climb in.
sink my head underwater.

try to drown the guilt
the disappointment
the sense that I betrayed everyone
myself most of all

try to balance the mourning
of separation
with this new life
I vowed to never want.

--February 17, 2012