I wish I knew you, when I needed you most

But you run away like a frightened child when you hear me approach

Tired and weary, feet dragging, dredging my way towards tomorrow

I need to hold your hand and fall into your arms

Instead I watch episodes of shitty TV shows I don’t care about

Instead I think of everything that could happen tomorrow

Instead I count minutes, I refresh Facebook, I watch the clock go farther…

ticking its way to the time I’m supposed to be up and refreshed and ready to take on the next day.

Sleep… fuck I miss you…take me back


Anxiety….a seven letter word I wish I never knew

If you are reading this, I truly hope you don’t understand what this word truly means.  I hope you’ve never sat crying in bed, surrounded by a million things you should be doing, with all the time to do them, yet shackled into bed, tears streaming, wishing you could just fall back to sleep another week or two until maybe then you’ll be better equipped to handle tasks like…the laundry… calling a person… washing your hair.

I hate the word anxiety, because of the way it tries repeatedly to steal my joy, to fill my mind with things that may never happen, to remind me of everything that has gone wrong in the past and everything I should have, could have, would have said or done that maybe would have made things better in the long run.

It’s days like this that are the worst.  I woke up from a bad dream, based on a strange mixture of past events and fictional fantasy, but one that struck me so real to leave me waking up covered in sweat and tears and and 6 hours later I’ve done nothing with my day except over analyze every single thing I’ve said and done or haven’t said and done this past month.

I know it is a mind trick.  I know that mindfulness and focusing on the present moment are so very important, but still my head is filled with thoughts so dark and sad some days that even the thought of controlling those ridiculous thoughts seems to be a joke.

My life has known many types of trauma… childhood, teenage, relationship, career, home, probably more than many other 34 year old woman may be able to list. Yet, then I look at the rest of the world and see a woman in a war ravaged country ruled by a cruel dictator with mutilated body  parts and starving children, and I feel selfish and wrong for allowing myself to be upset over what life has given me.   For every hardship, I have learned a lesson.  For every loss, I have gained something or someone knew.  It is I guess the cycle of life that we all must face.

We must all pain, we must all cry, yet some days I wonder how those who have things such worse than me could handle things with such a smile that you see still shine from deep withing their souls.

Today, my anxiety is trying to beat me up, gag me, and tie me into bed….but I don’t want to let it.  Today I just want peace.  Peace of mind.  Peace of heart.  Peace of love. Peace of home.   I hope if nothing else, I can find the strength to untie one of the chains anxiety has bound me with.

Her Tangles

If I’m not too careful, I’ll get lost in her sweet locks

Beautiful and bright, wild and untamed…

like wind, or waves, or little dust tornadoes in parking lots of abandoned buildings

It can be reckless I know, charting those ever-changing twisted, knotting, roads

But I cannot look away from this untamed mane in my site

She knows it too, how little hearts get tangled into her wild woman ways

How little can be done to get untangled once you’re caught in her beautiful web

Silks, and sweet kisses, and the scent of lilies tantalize me

I think I may be starting to grow into her, new roots twisting tight around,

coming together more as one, our foundation strengthening each day,

even when the wild winds blow our messy hair and eyes away..

Maybe I’ve fallen into a trap… but it’s sweet and sugary and I can’t keep away…..

You, my love are my favorite chaos, and also the calm in my storm

I’m lost in you, yet together we chart untamed wilds, and I’m fine with not being found

And this my love, is a beautiful thing.


Some days I wonder why my heart is missing such a giant chunk,

why nothing seems to fill the gap,

and then I remember that you held me while I cried, you sang lullabies to me even when I was far to old for lullabies, you never forgot to call, even having nothing to say

and even when you were at your darkest times, in your deepest pits of addiction and sadness, you never forgot to show me and tell me over and over that I was your world, your princess

And some days the princess would have to hold the queen when she was too weak to go on, because her demons had won  that day, but never did she feel unloved…

Incoherently you’d mumble your love for me, after one too many bottles of hidden empty bottles you’d think I wouldn’t find.  But you always held me

And finally, through hell and high water, after trial 746, it finally stuck and you were free, and finally back to being mommy.  And you held me and told me you loved me even more, until the day you told me more.

That after all the work, after all you did to get clean, that this bitch called cancer had come back again.

And this time there was nothing any doctor could do, except make an extra month or two.  And I watched as you withered again in front of my eyes. Shrinking faster than my arms could adjust, as each time I had to hold tighter to hug you just the same.

And then after the struggle, it finally came.  And I raced to your home, and I raced to your door, but when I finally arrived, you weren’t there anymore.  And I wouldn’t go in, and I sat on the curb.. because it couldn’t be you, in there not saying a word.

And I never got to hold your hand, or hear I love you once more, and to this day it kills me that I wasn’t there.  And you held a stuffed dog, instead of my hand, and you went away forever my friend.

And ten years later, I still wait for your calls, for your hugs, for I love yous, for nothing at all.  And I beg for just one extra minute with you. And I search the whole fucking world not knowing what to do…. because you weren’t supposed to leave so soon after winning the battle.

You were supposed to hold my hand so many more times, and tell me you love me when I felt alone and I cried. And when relationships failed, as they sometimes do, you were supposed to be there to help me get through.

And when work sucks, and friends bail, and the world goes to hell… you were supposed to be there to tell me it will get well.  That I’m strong and I’m smart and you believe in me too… even when I can’t believe in my own self…

But you left… and I’m still here.. and I need you today… like so many times when I’ve lost my way.

Come back… please… because I can’t do this alone.  I miss you with every bit of my soul.


Lost Rain

And you slipped past my fingers, like an unexpected shower on a sunny day, my lips parched, my insides empty, and I grasped at air arm stretched ,mouth open, hoping for a taste of sweet hydration before you disappear into the horizon, winds blowing you farther. But that is life, chasing a series of Snowflakes and raindrops when you need them most and watching them slip away out of reach, while we just stand there, praying for the rain to come again. Until you leave the rain boots at home, give up on the hope, and drown in the flood waters that came too late, too quick, and sweep me away, until only distant memories replace the sweetest rain showers and alone I dry my tears and clothes, like all who’ve lost before me, and watch for clouds like shooting stars in skies too pretty for all the pain felt under them.

So you want to arm me….

So, you want to arm me?  Do you really? So,  you think this will change the harsh reality that is life as an educator in my country.

Today, as you march in D.C., in towns big and small across the world… know this… I hear you.  We hear you.  I cry for you.. I cry with you.. I stand with you…

I am a teacher and an American and I couldn’t be prouder to hear your young voices so loud and so clear through the noise.  We are proud of your courage to stand up against the government and people of influence that seek to silence you. Please keep standing up against the NRA, the politicians, the people who fight so strongly for their right to bear arms that they don’t care if your heart stops beating in Kindergarten before you even had time to have snack, or whether you make it out of 4th block to ask your friend for help with your homework, instead bleeding out in the history class with no time to say goodbye, or whether today is the day where the lock down drills becomes no longer a drill, or whether you’ll give your last breath so that they can keep their assault rifles just in case of a revolution again the country they claim to love so much.

Gun shots ring out in the distance, the distance of communities of all types, from the most affluent to the most impoverished… and dirty politicians with pockets lined with NRA funds…  cover their eyes…. purchase the best noise canceling headphones they can…  hide behind locked doors in gun-free zones… and tell you guns aren’t the problem…and it’s our constitutional right to have them… as if on some strange auto replay… a message from the 1700s playing on loop in their happy protected lives… a message written with quills and ink on parchment…. a message written with muskets in mind… a message written while women and people of color were thought to not even be worthy of a voice or vote or in some cases freedom.

White men wrote out a plan for this new place, this new country, new land.. they had a vision.. and a beautiful vision.. but some parts were flawed.. and some parts have changed… and they didn’t know that one day those words would be used to justify the innocent murder of children in classrooms, or principals in hallways.. or teachers shielding babies…  and I’d like to think that if they knew what destruction those words would bring to our lives and the lives of generations to come.. that maybe they would have been a little more specific.. maybe they would have chosen their words just a little more thoughtfully… more detailed.. about just what they meant.. and just how their words should be used in the future of our nation.

Because I don’t want to die for the constitutional rights that you’ve twisted to mean assault weapons belong in the hands on kids, of adults… on our streets, in our lives.. in our schools… shooting their way through our innocence.  Shooting their way through our home, our lives, our communities, our families… our hearts.

And I just can’t believe that our forefathers wrote those words knowing 5 year old kids would be hiding in cabinets hushing their tears while their teacher told the shooter they weren’t there…. bullets piercing her body, as she took her last breath protecting innocent babies hidden in cabinets.  I just can’t believe that they could imagine that one day fancy moving pictures could turn into places of massacre.  I just can’t believe that they wrote them knowing that one day joyous concert goers would drop like flies as hundreds of bullets descended down upon them from the sky.

I don’t believe that they would write those words, just that way, knowing that my first memory of seeing my teacher and principal cry was walking into the office, as a kid… their faces red… tears streaming down uncontrollably… these women of power in my school life strangely crumbling in front of my eyes.. my teachers.. my school… and I didn’t understand, when they told me that they were sad because they had just found out that in a school somewhere, students and teachers were dying.  And I can’t get back that memory…forever outlined in my young mind.. the day bullets made my principal cry.

Kids lost their lives in school that day, but they weren’t the first, nor would they be the last.

And I don’t believe that if they knew that those tears would come again and again from Columbine to Sandy Hook… from my elementary school years, through my high school years, through my college years… so many tears… the tears of my school leaders..the tears of my teachers….the tears of myself as a student.. until the day that the teacher crying became me.

The tears of me, the teacher… crying over the latest victim, another child.

And now, more than ever, I understand their pain.. the pain of educators watching, hearing, and learning, that students wouldn’t make it home today, or tomorrow, or ever.  I know all too well the pain of looking out at a sea of impressionable eyes, over an ocean of hopeful hearts and innocent lives and telling them what we need to do if we hear gunshots, what to do if we hear the words announced over the loud speaker “This is a Lock Down”,  why my classroom door can never be left unlocked, and why we hide in the darkness, practicing our “What ifs?”… praying that there never comes a day where the shooter is at our door.. looking for another life to take…

When I was in elementary school,  fire drills and earthquake drills and tornado drills were what we knew, what we practiced. Today we practice Active Shooter drills… we plan for what could come if death knocks at our school doorstep…. and our children will now forever have to have a plan.. and I forever have to have a plan… for how my body would be first and my children would be hidden, if the bullets began to fly… because no teacher I know wouldn’t go first, to shield the precious lives we are entrusted with each day.

Parents entrust us with their most precious gifts, their most prized possessions, for many hours each day, 180 days each year, 13 years of their lives at least.. and that is a whole lot of time and a whole lot of trust for moms and dads to give us.  And each year for 10 years I’ve signed a contract promising you I’d take care of that precious gift. That I’d teach, nurture, love, guide, and protect them under my watchful eyes… And luckily every child who has walked into my classroom has made it home.. but not every teacher has been so lucky.. for far too many… for far too many years.. parents have been met with the terror of hearing that their babies weren’t coming home.. that this was their final day of school.. their final day on Earth… and something’s gotta give.

So, Parkland WE HEAR YOU, Sandy Hook WE HEAR YOU, Columbine WE HEAR YOU.. and the countless other schools across the country from the 90s until now…

WE HEAR YOU, and we’ve failed you.. we’ve failed you all miserably..

And if you  are reading this and somehow don’t believe we failed.. take a look at those links… look how they grow… look how many parents, teachers, children’s lives were forever changed in just these last 28 years… look for yourself… and then stare a mother in the eyes and tell her again about how “guns don’t kill people” and gun regulations won’t change anything.

So raise your voices children and don’t give up, because our lives, your lives depend on it, and you have more power than you’ll ever know if you raise your voices loud and proud and never quit.  Even when you feel you’re losing your voice, don’t stop.  We can’t stop.  We need change.  You need change.  I hear you. We hear you.. and hopefully if we all yell loud enough “THEY” will hear you.. and if they don’t… “THEY” will hear the closing of the door behind them when you vote them out of the protected office walls they hide behind.

I’m a teacher.. and you say you want to arm me…

Ok..but only arm me with these things…

Arm me with hope for the future by properly funding public education… arm me with the comfort of knowing that it takes more to get a gun than a driver’s license.. arm me with the knowledge that an angry person can’t legally walk into a store and out with an assault rifle and gun down my kids… arm me with the fact that mental health services are ample and adequately available to children and adults of all ages, with or without health insurance, regardless of socioeconomic status or affluence… arm me with more books, more paper, more pencils, and more Kleenex to dry our eyes the next time a child dies because you did nothing…. because we are all out.

Arm me with more freedom to teach skills beyond the test and help me foster the development of young minds that are far more capable than any test scores could ever begin to show…. arm me with resources to help my students make it out of poverty and into a brighter future… arm me with a school filled with counselors and social workers  with enough time to reach every child in my room when they need help or someone to listen… arm me with a salary that matches the professional skills and countless mini miracles we teachers perform every day at public schools your very own children probably don’t attend because you are wealthy enough that you don’t want your children getting “just a public education”…

Arm me with a nation with smarter gun laws to keep us just a little bit safer and lower the chance of me or my students taking a bullet at school just a little bit more please….  arm me with the ability to witness you show me through legislative action that your selfish concerns are not more important than the life of my students…

Arm me with the confidence that finally….this time…. something will change

Arm me with the knowledge that you’re finally going to do more than send thoughts and prayers when another child dies.  Arm me with the strength to keep teaching, keep guiding, keep helping every single child I can, for as long as I can, when mentally the exhaustion of practicing hiding kids in closets and imagining taking bullets gets too much to handle…

Arm me with all of these things and more… but don’t you dare tell me to put a gun in my drawer or on my waist or in my closet.  Don’t you dare tell me guns are the answers in schools where the very foundations of their communities bleed from the destructive nature that guns can rain down on everyone around.  Don’t you dare tell me “guns don’t kill people” when I’ve dried the eyes of countless children who have lost family and friends because of a bullet from a gun, when I’ve listened to far too many stories, and comforted far too many kids with broken hearts and homes, whose parents sit locked behind bars and concrete because of choice they made with a gun.  Don’t you dare tell me more guns are the answer to the tragedy of gun violence in our country…

Don’t you dare tell me that gun laws won’t do anything to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys, while you pass law after law that you justify is necessary to keep everything else out of bad guy’s hands.  The hypocrisy of your arguments have not gone unnoticed . You say laws are absolutely necessary to stop every other kind of thing you find important, whether it be drugs or abortions or whether a baker can refuse to sell me a cake in my home state when I marry my bride, but for some reason you just can’t use the same logic with guns.  The logic that if those laws are needed to prevent those things from happening… so are gun laws…even if we all know laws aren’t 100% effective… even if addicts can still find drugs, women still get abortions, and I can still find a baker who isn’t a homophobic asshole to give my business to on my wedding day.

Because if gun laws won’t change things, why keep any laws then?  Why bother having laws at all if your logic is bad guys will still do bad things?  I bet you aren’t getting rid of any of those other laws anytime soon, so maybe start changing the argument, or listening to the million crying out for you to be just reasonable in how you react to the massacre this time.  Loosen your grip on your gun, and listen.

And let’s pause for a minute there to realize, that you found it important enough in my state to pass that bill, to take that time… to protect your religious beliefs and deny LGBT people services like housing or healthcare, but you won’t take the same time to protect a bullet from entering a child’s head by passing stronger gun regulations or smarter laws regarding the sale of guns.  We see where your priorities lie, and it spits in the face of grieving citizens nationwide.

And if you really don’t see it, see your ridiculously stupid arguments for why gun laws won’t work… just look at the statistics of our country vs. the world.. where laws are in place already.. where change has already been made in response to acts of violence… where numbers have decreased or vanished completely…. or even the statistics of the difference between deaths in our own nation with and without the assault rifle ban.  Wake the fuck up. Please.

Today you marched on Washington, you marched around the world, you raised your voices.. and for that I salute you and I know millions worldwide do too.  Radical change begins with people like you willing to stand out in the crowd and not let your voices be drowned out by money hungry politicians or lobbyists trying to steer the conversation elsewhere. The illusion of care, and the action of ignorance from the people in power.

So, to you, people in power please please listen, because children are begging for their lives… teachers are begging for you to care.. parents are begging you to help keep their children alive… victim’s families are begging you to finally do something this time so that their children did not die in vain… to finally listen.. to finally make change… to finally act like you care for the lives of every person killed each day from gun violence in our nation… survivors are crying and have been for years, for this to be the last… this to be what it takes..  Wake up! Please! Listen!













The Yellow Submarine

It started as a night, a night filled with anticipation of good time and a show I knew was going to be great.  Tested time and time again as I traveled across the country, from the floors of Tipitina’s to the mountains of West Virginia, and million places in between to hear their sweet funky tunes.  Their distinctly New Orleans flare, the beats that forces my legs to move, hips to sway, arms to flail, uncontrollably at the mercy of the beautiful sound that are the tunes Galactic brings to every place they touch.  Finally, blessed with a show in little old Biloxi, Mississippi, a town reserved for casino shows or coliseum tours… yet here they were, gracing us with their presence, a night to groove with them like so many times before, but here in a little place in Mississippi.

It started like any other night, filled with friends and laughter, and this other band I didn’t know, which soon became a connection too strange to comprehend.  The universe guiding two souls into position for their ultimate encounter.

But it ended like no other… as the show progressed, the night flowed, this girl in a Yellow Submarine t-shirt with long flowing hair, my mermaid as I first said, and arms covered in bangles and tattoos had joined our group.  She’d come alone, yet knew my friends, and would soon be joining us for Voodoo Festival in a month or so, but I’d never seen her before.

Our friends came and went, getting drinks, going to smoke, doing things that people do at shows that people go, and slowly I realized I couldn’t stop noticing the way this girl with the Yellow Submarine shirt moved, the way she smiled, the way her hair bounced with the music, her laughter, her nervous chatter.  Alone, with friends off smoking or drinking or wherever they may be, we danced together as new friends.  We chatted awkwardly about things to pass the time while our friends had gone, but I couldn’t get her smile and her style and her image out of my mind.  Break Science and Galactic grooved away, funky as ever… truly bringing the music full force for a ride of music and joy and undeniable good times.  We swayed, we shook, we shouted, we laughed, we danced.  And I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

So, when the night ended, and the after party time began, we asked her to join us for the fun.  I hoped she would.  I didn’t know her.  I barely spoke to her.  But I didn’t want her to be gone so quickly.  Delighted, she joined us, not having any real plans for what where night might end, what adventures would await with this relatively new group of mostly strangers.  But she came, she joined us as we moved the party to Ocean Springs, to the courtyard of some little bar, where the bands had come to relax as well.

I didn’t know her, but I needed to and I didn’t know why.  And I nervously found the courage to ask my friend who knew her, if she happened to like girls, and well…then my heart sunk a little to hear that no, she’s pretty sure she doesn’t.  So, with her still in the back of my mind, the image of her dancing in her Yellow Submarine shirt, the thought of her glow etched in my mind, I carried on making friends and conversation with members of Break Science, but I didn’t really care about this famous guy who seemed so eager to share conversation, because all I saw was her, all I heard was her, all my mind could imagine was a lifetime of hope crushed by the response…”nope… I’m pretty sure she doesn’t.”

And then it happened, my friend, rushed to my side, pulled me towards her and told me… WAIT… I was wrong… she does… she does…. she does like girls.

What? Could this be?  Could this mystical creature be someone who I might have a chance of noticing me?  But she probably didn’t and she probably won’t, so I’ll just try to keep cool and keep trying to focus on the conversation with the musicians I should be stoked to be hanging with…  but she had noticed, and she had wanted to join me.. and she did.

And suddenly, it was just us… me and the girl in the Yellow Submarine shirt… surrounded by a blur of people, ushered around being introduced to musical legends, who I couldn’t even notice… It was just her there.  With her beautiful smile, and her gorgeous vibrations of energy wrapping me like no one else existed…the whole world disappeared… except her.. and her bangles… and her tattoos.. and her laughter.. and her smile… and her hair… it was just her.

And that’s how it began, September 27, 2014, in a small venue… in a small place… in this giant world.. where somehow two distant souls found each other again.  Because as we would later discover, this wasn’t the first time, and wouldn’t be the last time our souls united… both made from the same distant stardust.. reunited once again. And everything changed.

galacticFast forwards three and a half years later, through love and life and laughter and tears and overcoming so many obstacles to see our love is so much stronger than the world ever thought that it could be.

That girl, became my girlfriend, then my fiancé, and my business partner as we ventured into strange and unfamiliar territory of finding the courage to make a business doing what we loved most, listening to music, selling things that people like us love…creating art.. creating costumes… creating headdresses…. creating giant leaps of faith that maybe, just maybe someone might like the things that we create…. and it turns out that they did… and this has been moving at paces sometimes too fast for either of us to follow… moving towards this beautiful life, sharing love and art and exploration… traveling… laughing… adding to our scars and tattoos… building a brand, a business, a life we love, daring to throw our anxieties, of which we have many, to the wind for the chance at something bigger… and then it happened.

This morning I checked our business email, to find something that made my jaw drop, my hands shake, my heart race, tears streaming down my face.  This….


Our company… Three Moons Designs… has been asked to be vendors for Disc Jam Music Festival… and here’s why it’s so incredible…


Right there up top…. headlining the festival, Beats Antique and Galactic…. two of my all time favorite bands… but most importantly… the band where I first met the girl in the Yellow Submarine t-shirt… the band that we first danced alone together in the crowd, grooving to their funky beats… the band I’ve traveled across the country time and time again to see at sold out shows and festivals.  And Beats Antique… my inspiration… Zoe Jakes… my idol… the queen of all things headdresses… the muse to so many of the things I make as I strive to achieve the greatness of her incredible headdresses she wears to perform, to grace the stage with her shimmies and shakes, and her fierce female force… the woman that commands the attention of everyone in the room and all have no choice but to obey… that woman that hypnotizes crowds across the world with her beauty, her style.. her strength… her power…

beats antique

And we’ve been asked to join them as artists…. as vendors… as creators… as a welcomed guest of a festival they are headlining.. there are no words to describe how humbled I am to be asked to sell headdresses at a place with Zoe Jakes… to add to the vibe of a festival headlined by my favorite bands.. no words… only disbelief.. and gratitude.. and uncontrollable emotion of where our love and art has taken us…. from the floors of a tiny spot in Biloxi, to the grounds of a massive festival in New York.. as artists… with my favorite musical artists and inspirations…


These Hands

These hands,

They ache,

Scarred from getting burned again and again

You’d think I’d learn,

That the glue is hot,

 and the lessons painful,

Yet still I spend hours meticulously manipulating materials

Turning a menagerie of misfit objects, into what some might call art

Is everything art? Are the scars upon my hands art?

Each scar a tiny reminder of my journey here,

to this point in space and time.


From my first messy pieces,

glue dripping,

hands covered in glue that never stayed 

To the finer things I’ve finally figured out

how to treat more delicately,

avoiding as much pain

Yet still I miss the mark from time to time,

sizzling skin reminding me of my mistakes.


Little lessons learned through every new pain, every scar

The glue drips hot and burns deep, flesh melting

like rice paper dipped in hot water

Is it worth it?

The wounds that take years to fade, lasting memories of painful mistakes


But then I see it,

in the distance, from afar,

the little smiling girl

She twirls around and around

Obliviously to the sadness, enraptured in innocent bliss

her head adorned with the piece upon which scar 19 was formed.


And suddenly the scar turns into a medal of honor,

awarded by a dancing child

And then renewed, reminded,

rewarded by her smile…

I go on to make my newest scar

And another day in the life of a girl between worlds goes on



Why I Cried

candle light backgroundToday, for the 2nd time in my 10 years of teaching, I cried in front of my students.  Both times have been this year.  Both times I had gone past the point of keeping it together and not showing weakness, past saving the tears for the drive home, past hiding in the bathroom wiping back tears, as I try so hard to remember why I do what I do.

I teach.  I love to teach.  But my heart is breaking this year.

See, us teachers are meant to be superheros on a regular basis, and that’s okay most of the time.  I wear my many capes with pride as I teach, nurture, listen, plan, care, act as a mentor, a friend when needed, a second mom, all of those things.  I know the challenges I face.  I know what may face me any given moment of any given day, because I’ve been entrusted to educate 75 unique children, each with different needs, each with a story, each with things outside of my control that inevitably trickle into the classroom from their homes and communities.  I became a teacher, because in my heart I wanted to help, I’ve always wanted to be a helper.  I looked up to my step-mother who was an amazing Special Educator, and as I went through college, more and more the universe guided me into helping careers, from a Bachelors in Family Support Services, to my Masters in Elementary Education.

My entire career, both while still working with my Family Studies degree, and the ten years I have dedicated to teaching, I have worked with populations of children and adults that often need the most help, the most love, the most compassion.  The ones that many others wouldn’t work with. The ones that some people avoid at all cost. However, to me it’s all I know.

I started off working with homeless people, at-risk youth, and IV drug addicts to help test them for HIV and teach them about practices and services that were available to help them prevent the spread of HIV and other diseases, while helping to provide counseling to people already living with HIV or AIDS.  I listened to their heartbreaking stories, I hugged them when they needed someone, I sat and counseled terrified people who thought they were at risk of having HIV as we waited for test results to come in.  I saw first hand the stigma that others had towards them and their diseases.  I wouldn’t change a minute of the time I worked there, because it taught me more than I could ever imagine about compassion and care and how often people who are homeless, addicts, or living with HIV are treated less than human on a regular basis.  It taught me not to judge.  It taught me how to listen.  It taught me not to fear.  It taught me the difference a simple hug or smile can make in a person’s life, which many of us know nothing about as we place judgement on others.  I listened and I learned, and some evenings I cried, wishing the world wasn’t such a cruel judgmental place for some of the very people who need love most.

I then had the opportunity to work on a refugee resettlement study that a professor at my university was conducting to learn more about the needs and experiences of  refugees who had ended up being placed in New Hampshire.  Although, I mainly transcribed the interviews, I also went and helped conduct some myself.  As I listened and transcribed the recorded interviews of the refugees, tears fell as I heard their struggles, their stories, their hardships that they had overcome, and most importantly the incredible amount of gratitude the families had for being given an opportunity for a new life safe from the countries or situations they were fleeing.  The in person interviews were always at their homes, and families who had nothing, would welcome us with huge feasts of their native foods, and share their stories.  It was hard to hold back tears in person, and some times we all cried together as they shared sometimes horrific stories of what led them to becoming a refugee in the first place.  Once again, I wouldn’t trade those tears or those experiences for the world, because it reminded me that what truly matters most in life is our family and our communities.  It reminded me to be grateful for all that I have, even though I had just lost most of my own possessions in Hurricane Katrina only a year before.  I learned how beautiful people of many different diverse cultures and places are, and how important it is to get to know our neighbors and our foreign community members.  Life in the United States was better, but they still struggled through so many obstacles like language barriers, adequate housing, transportation, and adjusting to life in a foreign place where little resembled what they knew.  Once again I heard of the cruelty and judgement they faced on a regular basis due to people’s fears or lack of care. Yet, they held their heads high, they showed pride, they worked hard, and they were amazing stories that taught me to face challenges, no matter how difficult they may be, with love, strength, and confidence that even the worst things that might happen in life can be overcome.  Sometimes I cried, feeling selfish, that I complained about losing everything in Katrina, after knowing I could have lost much more like the people I interviewed.  Then I remembered we all have a story, and we all have the right to mourn for our personal losses, this is not a competition, it’s just a world trying to live the best lives they can have with what they have been given or been able to make themselves.

Then I found myself in the Peace Corps in Micronesia, in a small village community school.  The teachers had no training and some days never bothered coming to school. The children had little guidance and very few resources.  The people had so little, yet did not complain.  They lived in homes with no indoor kitchens, sometimes no electricity, sometimes with nothing more than a blanket on the floor to sleep.  They had no hot water or refrigerators or grocery store stocked with whatever you felt like getting.  They were rich in the most incredible fish, taro, and other native plants, which many younger generations were starting to reject.  They were in a battle to maintain traditional cultural values and norms, while dealing with the result of U.S. aid  and influence that over time turned into them depending on non-native processed foods and Budweiser, which now has caused a crisis in diabetes and alcoholism that never was such a bad problem in past.  I cried when I saw how much the students really wanted to learn, but had very little to help them.  I cried when I saw alcohol fueled domestic violence.  I cried when I thought of how the teacher I was supposed to be helping to train, took my being there as an excuse to stay out all night drinking and not come to work, leaving me to teach alone and removing the lasting aspects of one of my main purposes of being on my assignment in the Peace Corps.  Ultimately, I cried, when I had to make the difficult decision to leave early because my life became threatened by a community member stalking me.  I cried because I felt like I had given up.  But once again, I wouldn’t change it, I wouldn’t make the decision to not go.  It taught me once again so much more about the world, cultural values, beautiful traditions and not so good traditions that are still the norm in some places.  It taught me how U.S. aid to places in need, can sometimes be detrimental to the very places we are trying to help, and it reminded me once again of how much we take for granted on a daily basis.  More things than I could ever list.  It taught me to always try my best to be grateful for whatever I have and whoever I have in my life, because a large portion of the world lives in conditions you can only truly understand if you’ve lived there yourself, experienced it first hand.  It also taught me that students are like sponges, ready to soak up whatever knowledge they get, if they are given it in a manner that’s reaches them personally.

Then, I ended up back in the U.S. teaching first in New Orleans East and then in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, two communities that were still very much recovering from the lasting impact of Katrina, an epidemic of violence, and a huge amount of poverty.  I worked for five years teaching some incredible young students, many of whom were pushing forward trying to overcome more obstacles than I could ever imagine having to deal with as a child.  Parents incarcerated, being removed from family members homes, living in foster care, being 10 or 12 and having to take care of all of your little brothers and sisters, dealing with gun violence in their neighborhoods and sometimes their families.  I started most days with a Morning Meeting, where students had an opportunity to share with the class anything that they wished.  The things I heard would break the strongest of hearts.  Sometimes we cried together as I comforted them, loved them, worked with them, and ultimately made it my goal each and every day to create an environment that they felt safe, loved, and confident in themselves.  Not all students came from bad situations, but every one of them needed compassion.  All of them needed to feel like we cared.  We cared.  In fact, the teachers I worked with in New Orleans were some of the strongest, most compassionate and resilient people I’ve ever worked with.  They taught with all their hearts, and if they reached the breaking point where they knew that they no longer were in the best place to be a teacher in such a high needs community, many of them continued working in helping careers like non-profit organizations working towards social justice and educational reform.  It was not easy.  It was not all great.  But I learned more those years than I ever imagined that I could.  I learned the importance of knowing each of my students, and knowing them well.  I learned to understand that the anger or defiance sometimes came from places people never bother asking them about.  I learned how important it is to never give up, even on the most difficult student in the most difficult situations.  Sometimes you’ll break, sometimes you need a fresh start or a fresh prospective or a new method, but it’s worth it in the end, because those babies need us…. My students are my kids, they always will be, and I was blessed to experience those trying but incredibly valuable teaching and learning experiences.

And then I came home…. to my little town that got wiped away in Katrina… because I was being pulled back to my roots, pulled back to my home, and that’s where I’ve been for the past 4 years.  It has been a time of challenge, a time of growth, and a time of working hard to become a good leader, while also overcoming some of the most challenging times in my personal life I’ve ever had to endure.  This school too is working with high-needs students from a culture of poverty, but I welcomed these years with a open heart and mind always wishing I can do the best for my students.  Each year has had its different challenges, but this year has been more than I physically and mentally am able to manage at times.

The strategies that were so successful with so many other groups, are simply failing.  The new things I’m trying seem to be failing as well.  The work I’ve spent 10 years building up feels like it’s crumbling around me, and it’s breaking my heart.  I’ve never heard or experienced so many students being so cruel to each other, their teachers, and even themselves.  It’s breaking my heart.  I’m scared for them.  I’m sad for them.  I’m worried for them.  I wish so much to be able to form a stronger classroom community for us all, but so many are opposed to even being there.  I’ve questioned myself, my teaching abilities, my strategies, my career even… because we all are human… and sometimes we break… sometimes we lose the battles we are fighting so hard to win.  Today, I felt like I was losing.  I hate raising my voice, but I did.  I tried so many things to help my students today, but nothing worked, and once again there was a lack of understanding that I want so desperately for them to be successful and kind and on the path to leading amazing lives.  I cried today, because it hurts my heart to watch students be cruel to each other, calling each other names of all sorts.  I cried today, because I wanted so badly for them to do the right things so we could have some time for extra fun activities, but I had to take that away.  I cried today because I gave them a test to redo that many of them did incredibly poorly on the first time, so I retaught, I reviewed, I gave them as much as I could to try and give them a second chance to comprehend, and some of them didn’t even care. Some students said they turned in tests half finished, they said they were sick of work, sick of writing, sick of being in my class.  It hurts so much hearing a child tell me “I don’t care, give me an F”.  I want better for you baby, I want some much better.  I want you to take pride in learning.  I want you to understand how valuable each of you are, and how far off track as a grade level group many of them have gone.

I cried, because at that moment, I felt like giving up.  I disappointed myself when I have feelings like that.  There has got to be something, some key missing piece, some strategy, something to help my kids this year want to learn, want to be in my class.  I cried because there are students in each of my class giving it 100%, who I know are losing valuable learning experiences because of their classmates distractions and disruption.   I know my frustration and sadness is beginning to show, and I know it needs to change.  I don’t like feeling this way.  I don’t like even beginning to think of walking out on a class of kids that need me the most.  For this group of kids, their past 2 years they have had multiple teachers leave during the school year, so I don’t want to be the 3rd year where someone couldn’t take it anymore and left.  They deserve better than that, and I wish with my whole heart that these remaining few months of school I can find the strength within myself to smile, to remember the importance of compassion, to keep pushing myself to try new things, and to do what is best for my students.

I wish they understood how much they matter, how much we all want them to succeed as a group, how much we want every student to feel loved and welcome and I wish they understood how painful their words are to so many people for so many reasons.  We are all human… some of use younger… some of us older, but ultimately we need to come together as a class, as a community, and as a country.  Maybe it’s the changing atmosphere politically and socially, maybe it’s what they have come to expect since other teachers left, maybe they are pushing to try and get me to leave.   I don’t know.  All I know is, every morning I ask the universe for guidance, patience, and love.  And far too often I end up driving home in tears, trying to figure out what to do the next day.

I love them, and they’re breaking my heart… but I will not quit…. I will not stop caring… I will not give up… I’ll pray and I’ll plan and I’ll try again each day to reach even one student in a better way… I’ll remember to smile, and I’ll try hard to keep my sadness I move onto a new week.. doing what I love to do (teach).. in the most difficult year of my career. I know their greatness within themselves… and there has got to be a way for me to help them shine…

This is why I cry….

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