Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
-Mary Oliver

15 June, 2014


I am talking to one of the other teachers.

"Vivian is so bossy," she says, and rolls her eyes.

"Andrew is too sensitive."

I listen to her complaints.

Xavier won't keep up.  Adam doesn't like to play with others.

Over and over, she turns what could be their greatest strengths into weaknesses.

Adam doesn't like to play with others.  Adam is independent.

Xavier won't keep up.  But Xavier wants to stop because he's curious.  He wants to stop so he can investigate his world.

Andrew is too sensitive.  I love Andrew's tender heart because it's just like mine.

Vivian is so bossy.  Vivian is smart and ambitious and she knows what she wants.  And she's not afraid to ask for it.  I wish I was more like her.

I hear all this negativity and frustration and part of me understands that spending your day with a big group of one-year-olds is exhausting.

But mostly I'm just angry.

31 May, 2014

On growing up and leaving me. Stop it right now.

There are these kids who I babysit.  I've known them since they were 13 weeks old and started in the infant room at my job.  I love them.  I love how accustomed we are to each other. The kind of comfortable intimacy that only comes from spending so much time together.

How when I hold him, even though his body is so much longer now, he drapes so familiarly across me.  His face buries in my neck and his small hand sneaks across my collar bone and into my shirt to grasp my bra strap as it did so many times when I held him on my chest and sang him to sleep. He drifts off with the same soft grunts, lifting his head only once to look at me and smile through his pacifier with sleepy eyes.

Or her. How after her chirping requests for more stories end, her head finds its place snuggled underneath my chin and her right thumb still goes immediately into her mouth. She still twists and turns and talks and sings before she settles in to rest, but now instead of rubbing the back of her tiny bald head, I brush her bangs away from her eyes and tuck her hair behind her ear so I can kiss her temple. 

I think about how I won't be theirs one day. It's something that is well on its way to happening. Has already happened. But they will always be mine.

Even if they don't know it.

21 May, 2014

Personal Monologue

I had a homework assignment to write a thing.  So I wrote it.  And now I'm typing it and putting it on the internet.  I don't know why.  Well, actually, I do.  Anyway, this is pretty much it:

I sit down to write this on Sunday afternoon, but when words fail to magically appear from behind the blinking cursor on my computer screen, I watch an episode of "House" on Netflix instead.  I sit down again on Tuesday evening and face the same dilemma and at this rate will have worked through all eight seasons of "House" in no time at all.  Finally, at 11:48 pm on Wednesday, the day before my assignment is due, I crawl into bed with a notebook and pen and think "What the hell am I going to write about?"  I could tell them, I think, about my job related anxiety.  How I worry so for my kids when they aren't in my classroom anymore and how I'm quite confident that no one else will ever be good enough - appreciative enough - to take care of them.  But no, they'll be bored stiff.  I talk about work all the time and who wants to hear stories about some stranger's kids?  Ok, fine.  Not work.  What about this idiotic, unrequited crush I'm nursing right now?  Nope.  Nope.  No.  No.  No no no no no no no.  Noooooope.  No.  I'm actually just embarrassed that I typed that and I'm considering deleting it before I click publish.  We'll see.  Because that topic would be juvenile and ridiculous, and I'm a grown up, damn it.  I'm think about these things that I don't want to share with my lovely, attentive class and I wonder: why, when I think seeing someone display genuine vulnerability is one of the most beautiful things in the world, am I so hesitant to do that myself.  And then I think it's because everything I have considered writing about feels silly and inadequate.  And there are big, real problems in the world to keep my up at night (and they do), so I shouldn't waste my time worrying about these insignificant, irrelevant things.  And before I know it I am in full on existential crisis mode, struggling to find the balance between wanting to feel validated and important, but knowing that in the infinite, unfathomable chaos of the universe I am not.

14 October, 2013

A brief conversation on the zombie apocalypse...

Transcribed from a conversation I had with my sister.

KATE: When Nathan and I lived in Breckinridge, he developed this whole zombie contingency plan. Like, he knew where they kept the keys for the big trucks at the rail yard, so he was going to break into the shed and get keys for a big truck, so we’d have that, and then we were going to go to Mom and Dad’s house and get them…He had this whole list of people we were going to get and a plan for the safest places to get provisions and everything.
KATE: And I though he was just, you know, crazy, but then one night I was talking to Dad on the phone and he said “So, I’ve figured out a plan for the zombie apocalypse."
ELIZABETH: No, I know! He’s filled me in on his zombie apocalypse plan! We shoot ‘em from the top of stairs. They’ll bottle neck and we can thin them out.
KATE: Really?
ELIZABETH: Yeah. The upstairs, not the basement stairs obviously. Although, that was when the gun cabinet was in our old room, so the plan may have been revised since then…
KATE: Hmm...Yeah.
ELIZABETH: But, I mean, Mom and Dad’s is still going to be one of the safest places, I think. We might eventually have to leave to find somewhere less populated, like maybe Wyoming or something.
KATE: Yeah. That’s going to be hard.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, I mean, it’s doable, but there aren’t that many places that are less populated.
KATE: No. And, I guess I’m just concerned about finding provisions.
ELIZABETH: Right. But I think that in the event of a zombie apocalypse, we may have to revert to the ways of our ancestors and grow our own food. And by our ancestors, I mean, you know…Dad.
KATE: Yeah.
ELIZABETH: You know, one time I took a “How Long Will You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse” quiz and a “How Long Would You Survive in a Horror Movie” quiz, and I survive the horror movie, but I die in the first six months of the zombie apocalypse.
KATE: Oh, weird. I wonder why that is?
ELIZABETH: Yeah, I don’t know. I suppose it’s because I refuse to leave a man behind.
KATE: Hmm, yeah.
ELIZABETH: So, you might have to find a new zombie fighting buddy. I mean, sorry…
KATE: Yeah, I guess I don’t know. Maybe with both you and Talia, it’d be okay.
ELIZABETH: Sure. And factor in Lucas.
KATE: Yeah. I’d feel good about that.
ELIZABETH: I’d even say we’re golden
KATE: He would be a great zombie apocalypse buddy.
ELIZABETH: Absolutely. The best.
KATE: Nathan would too though, but his preference is sort of hand to hand combat, which…
ELIZABETH: Not really ideal for zombies, what with the biting.
KATE: Yeah. That’s what I’m thinking. But I feel like in the heat of battle, he would probably end up biting one of the zombies and getting infected.
ELIZABETH: That is SUPER GROSS. Eww. Can you get infected by biting a zombie? I sort of thought that being bitten by a zombie was the only way to get infected. Like, a zombie has to break your skin with its teeth.
KATE: I think that you get infected if zombie matter enters your bloodstream.
ELIZABETH: Hm. Okay. I mean, I don’t know. I’ve seen a lot of people get zombie splatter on them, and they were fine…
KATE: I know, but if you bite one, then you have pieces of it in your mouth, which is a mucus membrane…
ELIZABETH: Right…I mean, yeah, maybe that’s how it works. I just don’t know. I guess we’ll have to wait until it happens to find out.
KATE: Yeah. Might take a while.
ELIZABETH: Okay, so I just feel like I should tell you that Malakai checked my heartbeat yesterday, and he said that I didn’t have one and when he felt my forehead, he said that I was cold.
KATE: Oh! Shit! So…You’re dead?
ELIZABETH: I mean, it’s not looking good for me if I’m not already.
KATE: So you’re a zombie? You’ve been a zombie this whole time?

01 February, 2013

There’s rosemary.

I met a friend for coffee a few weeks ago.  It is a coffee shop that she and I go to pretty regularly, but we hadn't been there for a few months.  I parked my car, got out, and started walking, but then stopped in my tracks as I remembered the last time I was on that street. It was with a different friend.  That is exactly where I was parked I thought. And that is exactly where we were standing when we kissed.  And, yeah, that situation ended up differently than I wish it would have, but I couldn't help smiling as the details of it rushed back to me.  The urgency, the thrill.  The taste of the beer we'd been drinking.  The chilly, fall air counter-acted by the warmth of another person's body.  The stillness of an abandoned street at one a.m.  I relished in the memory of it for a brief moment, feeling at once both slightly giddy and profoundly sad, before continuing down the street to my destination.


It was nice to find that simple place evocative.  Nice that a little, nondescript side street in Downtown Minneapolis made my heart beat differently for a second.  It made me feel a connection to these Cities in which I live and work.  It gave me ties --roots-- to this place.  After years of living here, and longing to be back in London or St. Joe or home on the prairie, they're finally not just random streets anymore. They have context and connotations now.

061 049

Because now I can walk past a spot on the shores of Lake Calhoun and remember how my cousin and I sat there for three hours naming ducks and imagining intricate stories about their complicated, scandalous lives, vowing to return and see Gregory and Patrice's babies after they hatched.  


Or I can drive past a restaurant and remember when it was a different restaurant and my mom and dad and I would go there for breakfast all the time because they had grapefruit soda from Jamaica and the most delicious sweet potato pancakes with papaya rum compote, candied pecans, and sweetened whipped cream. 

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So, yeah, with that guy, that night held more significance for me than it did for him and instead of being closer now, we're further away and I think that's a shame.  And we didn't make it back to see Gregory and Patrice's babies until they were already grown so we didn't get to see them as downy little duckings trailing behind their mama on quiet, reflective water.  And Caribe closed, and I can't find Ting anywhere but and that one Tesco Express in Covent Garden.  But still, it's nice to have remembrances.  They sometimes leave me with a happy heart, they sometimes leave me with a heavy one.  But still.


30 December, 2012


Disclaimer* I didn't mean for this to be such an incohesive, bleak post for what is meant to be a joyous season, but I guess this is what came out.  And I promise I wasn't just a mopey bitch all month.  I was fun sometimes too.

“Don’t squander joy. We can’t prepare for tragedy and loss. When we turn every opportunity to feel joy into a test drive for despair, we actually diminish our resilience. Yes, softening into joy is uncomfortable. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s vulnerable. But every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope. The joy becomes part of who we are, and when bad things happen—and they do happen—we are stronger.”
-Brene Brown, Daring Greatly


I know that I try to make you listen to Tim Minchin's White Wine in the Sun every year, and I'm going to stick with that tradition.  Listen to it and I hope you adore it.  I heard it for the first time about 3 years ago, and my affection for it hasn't diminished at all.  I don't think I've ever skipped it when it has come on.  Or if you're looking for a funnier and more offensive Christmas-y song, try his Woody Allen Jesus.


Christmas has come and gone, and soon we will begin 2013.  It's somewhat a relief that the holidays are almost over.  The pressure to have fun is too much for me sometimes.  We are relentlessly, albeit usually metaphorically, bashed over the head by people urging us to feel joy, love, and peace, and that, my friends, can be pretty damn overwhelming.


I always sort of feel like I'm doing something wrong around the holidays, because more often than not I'm feeling reflective and bittersweet and I am looking for quiet gatherings and meaningful conversations with one or two friends as opposed to big parties with music and loudness and social awkwardness (this is actually true of me all year, but I'm never really in a position to turn down a social opportunity).



It's interesting, and sad I suppose, how emotions become muddled together, less pure with age.  Moments of joy are tinged with grief.  Images of piles of gifts are punctuated by images of the homeless and struggling.  Giant bowls of leftovers are reminders of empty bowls of children across the world.  What should be the happiest moments are interrupted by remembering that others are suffering or they're missing their loved ones or you're missing your loved ones or any other of a multitude of worries that people in the world are facing.  And having this knowledge detracts a great deal from the joy.  As Stephen Sondheim wrote "Isn't it nice to know a lot!  And a little bit not."  Or if you prefer a more mainstream phrasing, ignorance is indeed bliss.


All of this is just part of life and the luck of the draw and individual circumstances, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier to deal with, especially when you add it to...just...everyday life.  Working and paying bills and trying to maintain relationships.  And while I'm not really New Year's Resolution Girl, maybe this year I should give it a try.  There are a lot of ways in which I'd like to improve myself, and if I succeed in these changes, I think I will have a happier life.  I mean, I'm generally a pretty happy girl, know.  I have a tendency to dwell on things I wish I could change and situations I wish I would have handled differently.  And believe me when I say I dwell the shit out those things, guys.  I'm always thinking about what I should not have said or should have done or how I could have communicated something more clearly, and damned if it doesn't mess me up a bit.  I'd like to learn how to let that go.  I think I need to be more present.  I think I need to enjoy moments as they come and not try to force them into existence, because inevitably, that leads to disappointment.  Which, I think, everyone could always use a little less of.


So I hope you all had a happy holiday season.  Happy New Year to you and yours.


15 November, 2012

Molding the future

So, I had this conversation today:

GINA: Did you guys ever see that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie?

ME: Yes!  I totally dug it!  It was...exactly what you would expect it to be.

SARAH: No, I haven't, but I really wanted to!  Did you see it in 3D?

ME: No, just in...regular movie D.  Which would be 2D, wouldn't it?

EMMA: Oh, my God.  Are you guys serious?  I had such a fear of Abraham Lincoln when I was a kid.  Like, I couldn't even be in class when they were talking about freeing the slaves or whatever. (sees the looks on our faces) No, you guys!  I'm serious!

SARAH: (cheekily) Really?  I have such a crush on him; he's my favorite president.  The way he freed those slaves?  Mmm, damn.

ME & GINA: (hysterical laughter)

EMMA: No!  Oh my God, you guys.  You take like my least favorite person ever and have him hunt my hero Edward Cullen? He was so tall and skinny and all he did was wear that creepy hat and chop down cherry trees and build houses out of logs. (pause) And free the slaves.

ME: Um, okay.  But, the freeing the slaves thing.  That was pretty big.

EMMA: He just totally freaks me out.  I'm serious.  With his top hat and his ginger hair and handlebar mustache.

ME: Wait.  What?  Who are you talking about?

EMMA: Abraham Lincoln!

ME, SARAH, GINA: (look at each other in silence)

SARAH: I don't think he was ginger...

ME: Yeah...

SARAH: And he didn't have a mustache.  I mean, he had a beard, but...

GINA: Yeah...

EMMA: Oh...Am I thinking of a different president?

ME: I mean, maybe.  Teddy Roosevelt had a mustache.

EMMA: Hmm.

ME: Or Taft?

EMMA: I don't know who that is.  I think Kennedy was my favorite president.  I like his jaw.  I would feel safe with his jaw.

SARAH: Yeah, he was handsome.

EMMA: Did you guys know Twilight comes out tonight.  Do you want to go?

ME: Well, I've not read the books or seen the movies, but if you really want someone to come with you-

EMMA: No, then you can't come!  It would taint your head for the rest of them!


Teachers, guys.  We're teachers.

30 July, 2012

I have a new job.

And I'm sad, guys.  Like, really sad.  I have worked at my current job for just about two years.  I love working for my bosses.  I love taking care of my babies.  I dislike pretty much everything else and I don't make any money.  So I was bummed, but figured it was time to move on.  And so last Monday, I went to a different daycare for a job interview.  And today, I got the job.

But now that I know that in three weeks I won't be at my current job, here's what happening.  I feel sad, I feel like I will miss the kids, I feel like I will miss my boss, but most of all, I feel guilty.  98% of the kids at my center are on welfare.  They get assistance from the county.  Otherwise there is no way their families could afford for them to go to daycare.  And if there are any kids in the world that need good teachers who care about them and who genuinely have their best interests in mind, it is these kids.  Because every single one of them is amazing and wonderful and valuable, and not one of them will ever get what they deserve to get out of life.  If they have the right combination of education, perseverance, and luck they might be able to rise above their circumstances.  But realistically, it is not very likely for the vast majority of them.  And yeah, that's pessimistic.  But it's true.  So I want to help them.  I mean, I know that my influence on their lives is incredibly limited, but I am quite good at my job.  They feel safe, they have fun, they learn and they know they are loved by me.

And inevitably, you bond.  Especially with a baby you have taken care of pretty much every day since he was six weeks old, and now he's sixteen months old and making him laugh is like magic and he loves you and you love him and he runs to you in the morning and he cries if you have to leave and him crying makes you cry.  

And, well, shit. 

Someone please come over and convince me I'm not a horrible person for leaving them.


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Wow, Elizabeth.  Seriously?  Co-dependent, much?

18 June, 2012

A poem for a beautiful Monday

By Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers


and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,


the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,


blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?


Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?


11 April, 2012

The Rainbow Connection

One of the more interesting aspects of my job is...hmm...well, let's call her Judy.  She is the devoted grandmother of one of my babies.  This particular baby comes only once a week, on Mondays, and Judy always picks her up.

Interactions with Judy are always unique.  She has a very...dominating...demeanor.  The volume of her voice is permanently set at a level that sounds as though she is trying to have a conversation in a crowded bar on a Saturday night.  When she's not talking, her face looks like she's trying to get peanut butter off the roof of her mouth with her tongue.

Like I said, unique, but this most recent Monday, we moved to a whole new level.  Judy arrived at about 4:30.  She was talking on her cell phone when she flung open the door and yelled "Where my baby at?  Where my baby at?" She saw her granddaughter, and came into the room, leaving the door wide open, oblivious to the fact that three babies were crawling rapidly towards the newly discovered escape route.  She stopped in the middle of the room and started raising the roof with her hand that wasn't clamping her phone to her ear.  "It's Granny!  It's Granny!  Granny's in da house!  Granny's in da house!  Granny's in da house!  Hey, girl!  I'm picking up my grandbaby.  Hey, Boo!  Come here, Boo!  My God, y'all got babies up in here!"

Having a strange woman suddenly standing in the middle of our room screaming was, understandably, startling for some of the babies.  One of them started to cry and crawl frantically towards me, her eyes pleading and wide.  Judy's response was "Oh, you shut up over there, crying for no reason."  I, with much restraint, replied "I think you startled her."  I was ignored, as Judy had decided to continued with her phone call, bark orders at my coworker, admire the other babies in the room, and make nonsense noises at them.

So what follows is pretty much verbatim.

No shit.

"No, man, no.  Where her pacifier at?  I don't know.  When you coming?  You coming, right?  When you coming?  Oh, you on Facebook?  I don't really know how to do that.  Oh, look at these babies!  Look at that little Chinese baby over there!  They even got Asian babies in here!  Look at you, girl!  Doo doo doo da da blah blah blah!  Deedeedeedeedeedeedee!  My name be Kitty Katrice on Facebook.  I be too scared to put my name on there.  I ain't got no pictures or nothing.  Where's her pacifier?  Nothing on there.  Kitty Katrice.  Yeah, man, I be on there, but I don't know what I'm doing.  Ooooooh!  Look at that little black-ass baby over there.  Just black as he can be!  Hey, man!  Hey, man!  Deedeedeedeedee!  Are all her bottles in there, girl?  I've got three friends on Facebook, man.  Look at that little black girl trying to get away from me!  She saying 'Who that loud woman over there?'  Oh, girl!"

At this point, one of the other parents enters, to pick up her "little Chinese baby". 

"Ooooohhh, girl!  That your baby?  She so cute.  Ooooh, you tiny, girl!  I be talking to her, making her smile!  She so cute!  She so little!  They got Asian babies in here!  They got black babies in here!  They got everything!  It be a rainbow up in here!  Yeah, man, you look me up on Facebook."

She, having had all of her granddaughter's items diligently collected by my coworker, buckled the baby into the car seat and made her way towards the door.  Since we have a no shoe policy in the baby room, the other parent's shoes were by the door.

"Girl, look at these little shoes!  That shoe disappears when I put my foot over it!  These your shoes, girl?  Little Asian shoes!  Oh, my God, it be a rainbow up in here.  Bye all you babies.  You all have babies everywhere in here!  Y'all have a good week ladies!  Bye, now!  It be a rainbow in there, man."

Then, in a whirlwind of blue flip-flops and black weave, she was gone, leaving us convulsing with the laughter we were trying so hard to hide.