Cactus Panda Mule

For my birthday this year, my sister took me to a Plant Nite. It’s like Paint Nite, where a facilitator walks everyone through creating a painting but with a terrarium instead of a canvas.

Amazingly, I have kept two of the three little cacti dudes alive. This is a story about the panda that lives in the glass bowl with the two plants.

It was an ordinary Tuesday. The man brought the things to the box on the house, and even though he does this a lot, fur friend jumped on the window, leaving smudgie nose and paw prints on it as she arfed.

Then she lay on the chair’s arm and yawned. “What’s up, little dude?” she thought to herself as she looked at me through the glass. I actually have no way of knowing these were her thoughts since she can’t talk, but I’m guessing it was something like that because she looked at me and smiled, her tiny nub tail wagging.

I smiled at her through the glass. This is what we do. It’s not a bad life, honestly.

Today, though, after fur friend lolled herself into a morning nap. I began to think about China and the cool mountain air. I pictured myself ambling through the damp forest, stopping occasionally for a bamboo snack.

Okay, friends. I don’t know where I’m going with this. I’ve been visiting my brother and have not been keeping up with my writing, so I am trying to get back on the horse. However, this piece of writing is a mule. It’s a hybrid and lacks fecundity. But here’s a picture of the plant that acted as inspiration.

I think I want to explore this idea some more. I was thinking about what it might be like to be living as an object in my house or anybody’s house. And then I wondered if it’s so different than our own experiences. And then I considered what my life might look like from the perspective of the plastic panda in my terrarium.

Writing is such a strange endeavor.


After seeing yet another negative meme on Facebook, I think we teachers need to start a movement. We work the most closely with this new generation, and as such, we need to set the record straight on Millennials. I’m so tired of the Millennial-bashing memes, news stories, and just snide remarks.

When I tell people that I am a teacher, they often look at me conspiratorially and ask, “So is it just our imagination, or are kids today really different?” And when they say “different,” they mean “worse.”

I have so many responses to this. My first is that everything they say about these kids is exactly what the principal in the Breakfast Club said about those kids. In 1985, we WERE those kids, so perhaps what’s different is not this generation. Perhaps it is us, and we have forgotten what it was to be young.

But that’s kind of an easy answer, and I don’t think it’s entirely true. In reality, these kids ARE different because the world is different. Sociologists rightfully suggest that our culture is going through a paradigm shift that is as radical as the paradigm shift from oral to print culture. When the masses began to read, it led to an increase in linear thought, which led indirectly to the scientific revolution and the age of reasoning.

We have no idea what this shift to digital learning and living will do, but I see no reason to assume it will be devastation.

We have given this generation a bum deal in terms of the economy, healthcare, the environment, and other institutions. Their response has been a little bit whiny. But honestly, we were whiny at that age, too. That is part of being a teenager. Becoming an adult is no fun.

My observation, however, is that after a day or two of whining, these kids tend to actually try to DO something. I give them props for that.

The other comment I hear from older adults is that this generation is so “entitled.” That is ludicrous. They have no more of a sense of entitlement than any other middle-class teenager has ever had.

The working-class kids have always understood that life is work. Middle class kids, however, have lived a pretty easy life usually, and it’s hard to accept that someone else was making it easy. I remember when I started doing my own laundry at college, and I realized how many towels we four teenagers had left for my mom to launder every week back when I was home. I felt like a jerk.

These kids have the same realizations. The difference is they have social media, so they complain about “adulting.” Then the Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers roll their ideas, saying, “Welcome to the REAL world.” Do you really think our parents didn’t roll their eyes at us? The only difference was in privacy. We were able to make mistakes in private. These kids do not have that luxury.

And speaking of media, I would like to address phone usage. People love to bash millennials because they’re always on their phones. Here is what I have noticed. Every time a student’s phone accidentally rings or beeps in my class, it is because a parent is calling his or her child during school. The parents are the ones who make their children check their phones between each class. I’m not saying kids are not on their phones, but they certainly aren’t alone! Our whole culture is glued to a screen.

I began this rant– and I apologize because it has become a rant– saying that we as teachers need to set the record straight. Let’s post what amazing things we see this generation do. Instead of complaining when they act like the children they are, let’s praise them and laud their efforts publicly when they act like the adults they are becoming.

I like these kids. They have the potential to change the world, and they might just do it.


I’m endeavoring to accumulate new words into my vernacular, and it’s problematic because I’m an English pedagogue. I read voraciously and always have. I utilize my didactic skills to guide students as they expand their lexicon with those hundred-dollar, SAT words.

And yet….

Occasionally a word like “anfractuous” will cross my path–my winding, curving, anfractuous path.

Today, I learned the word “puissance,” and already, I do not like it. It’s difficult to pronounce, and I cannot get a grip on it. It’s slippery. It doesn’t sound like what it means.

Moxie. Now THERE’S a word. I would much rather have moxie than puissance.

But enough of these ambling, rambling, frolicking, meandering thoughts. (Frolicking is a neat word. It takes on a “k” in its progressive form like a boss. Frolicking is a word that has moxie.)

I love words, and while adding new diction might be a challenge at this stage in my life, it’s fun. Any new words are likely to be uncommon and interesting. These words have stories, and I want to hear them.

Be here now

Congestion clogs the left nostril only. My forehead feels fluid, like wax bubbling in a lava lamp. A scratchiness behind my eyelids.

Cars travel left to right, right to left, across the picture window smudged with nose prints. They send slippery icy sludge spraying from the tires as they pass.

The street light flickers on, sending glimmers dancing across the fresh, heavy snow.

On my lap, the feet twitch almost imperceptibly under the little furry body that expands and rises with each breath and then rhythmically falls. Her toys are her pillows and the colors match my leggings.

Exchanging Good for Great

I started using a bullet journal in January. I admit, it was mostly because I thought it was pretty sweet-looking, and I like to doodle. However, it is meant to track habits. And I have some habits I would like to instill in myself, like writing daily, for instance.

I found, though, that the bullet journal in and of itself has to become a habit. And I had to exercise. And drink water. And eat vegetables. And meditate. I was becoming overwhelmed by the middle of February.

My doctor then made a comment that changed my perspective. He said, “Don’t sacrifice good for great.” I think we do that a lot. We tell ourselves if we can’t do something “right,” then we will put it off until we can.

So my new resolve is to just do what I can when I can. And when I do, I make a check in the bullet journal. There are some blank spaces, but I’m okay. There are some spaces that are checked.

Irish Soda Bread

Every year, I patiently wait for “the season.” It’s a weird season that I believe I may be alone in celebrating. For the few weeks before St Patrick’s Day, the local grocery store makes Irish Soda Bread. (I understand that in Standard English, this is not capitalized, but….)

To say I anticipate this time of year is like saying dogs sort of enjoy sticking their faces out windows. I love this stuff.

Most people at this point will ask, “Why don’t you just make it yourself?” Well, that would take away the magic of the season. And I’m not great in the kitchen. And I’m pretty lazy. And I would be pretty obese if I could eat this stuff throughout the year.

I eat about three loaves in the week or so it’s available. Yes. By myself. And I am not embarrassed to say that I like to pretend it’s lembas, the elf bread that sustains the fellowship on their travels in The Lord of the Rings.

So today, at the grocery store, I spotted my first loaf of the season. It has begun. An rud is annamh is iontach.


Recently, one of my favorite former students and her two sisters lost their mother to a heart attack. Watching them plan her services, stand by her coffin for hours as hoards of well wishers passed, read beautiful, stoic, and emotional eulogies they had prepared, and grieve as the lantern that they had released next to the hearse rose out of sight in the evening sky, I was moved by their grace and I was proud. I was also slightly ashamed because, at 51-years-old, I do not think I could respond to this situation with the dignity that they have shown.

Today, I received a text from my sister-in-law that served as a test of my steadiness. My brothers both play hockey in an over-50 league. Yesterday, one of them was hit and went down. He did not get up.

Some quick-thinking players on the opposing team started CPR and ran for the AED.  My brother had had a cardiac arrest. The players worked on him as my other brother looked on, waiting for the EMTs to arrive. The stars aligned, and they were able to bring him back. It was statistically unlikely that a hit in a hockey game could stop his heart, but it did. It was even more statistically unlikely that anyone would be able to start it again. But they did.

I could easily have been—in an instant—coping with my brother’s death. The thought of losing my funny, loving, generous, and genuine brother is devastating. My gratitude is beyond measure.  At the same time, I feel guilt. Why was my brother spared? Why am I, at 51, able to hug my brother while these three teenagers are dealing with a horrible grief?

I am trying to simply accept life—the good and the bad—-as it comes. I am so thankful for every moment. And while I know that I will need to face tragedies In the future as every human must, I am grateful for the model of faith and decorum I have learned from my three students.