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Showing posts from 2009

Confessions of a Hugger

For a thousand different reasons, I’ve been removed from the banquet schmooze circuit for quite some time. I recently attended an awards reception for a local women’s organization and was instantly glad that I’d changed my mind about bailing at the last minute. I had a chance to reconnect with past colleagues, introduce myself to future program partners and hug a long-lost mentor or two.

I’m back! I thought to myself. Time to re-insert myself into these worlds.

One of the faces I hadn’t seen in a few years belonged to a woman who runs a mentoring program for up-and-coming community organizers. I can’t say I know her particularly well, like we hadn’t “done lunch” or coffee or cocktails together, but we once had earnest ambitions of working together and it was good to see her after such a long time.

Our paths crossed, literally, as I was leaving the wine bar and she was moving toward the ballroom foyer. As we acknowledged and approached one another, I stepped in to greet her with a h…


I teach at a writing camp for middle school students in the summer. Boys. Girls. Black. White. City. Outskirts. Comfortable. Underserved. All enamored with the sparks of magic between their pens and lined paper.

For the past three summers, Samantha has been one of the half dozen perennial students in the class. My first year, Sam’s name was one that I never forgot. Partly, because I’ve always thought boys’ names on girls was super cool. Mostly, though, it was her satirical humor and irrepressible spunk. Small enough to fold herself in two within the slim perimeter of table edge and plastic chairs, the small knots of her knees would peek above the table to balance her composition notebook. Above those pages, her brown hair dipped into a voluminous bob just above her ears and her large, dark eyes.

Sam was excited to share the industry happening inside her head, always asking questions to carve permissions for some outlying idea. She talked fast too, her S’s leaking through the …

Connecting Dots

I’ll admit this: it started as a coping mechanism. In the same fashion of woosah, gopher, and nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the phrase tucked itself beneath my tongue as a quickly dissolving serum for any moment of ramping panic.

Everything happens as it should.

As much of a truism this phrase has come to be in my life, the words have not always been lovely in the trenches. Instead of a melodic serenade or pulsing theme music to signal hope and rescue, the words come through gnarled, wadded and torn. At those critical moments, I had to chew through them and grind them down with my back molars, waiting for a slow release of calm.

Honestly, the mantra didn’t have the industrial power to soothe every flaring anxiety. Eviction notices, emergency rooms, conference room combat, phone numbers hidden in back pockets, black dresses and somber limousines. The chant did not temper every edge.

But I kept saying it.

I said it aloud to someone else, recently, smiling to myself as I offered over my homema…

The Honest Truth

"You can't catch me! You can't catch me!" a preschooler sings in front of the house next door. I can't see her, but i remember the bouncy pitch of that age. Words still a gooey in some spots.

"You can't catch me...!"

I walked away from the screen door and picked up the dustrag I'd left on the floor. I oiled and wiped and oiled and wiped, mindful to "clean under and not around" the frames and figurines and such. My mother had to remind me of that often as a kid. After a while she took to emphasizing "around" by stretching the vowels all the way out. "Arouuuuuuuuund," like this was the part of the directions I wasn't getting. Well, I learned that having to re-do chores --in a word-- sucked. So I stopped making my mother stretch her words out of shape and, now, I still clean under the knick knacks.

Truth be told, cleaning always feels more satisifying when you've done it well. Especially since I usually only…