What I Said at the Friendship Prayer Service

It’s funny that the God Squad asked me to give today’s talk about Friendship because it’s my job at this school to teach about argument and debate. I teach my students to anticipate what the opposition is going to say, analyze their weaknesses, and crush them in debates. Not very friendly. But we have a saying in my class and that is in argument, you must first seek to understand, then to be understood. If you release yourself of the responsibility of trying to change someone else’s mind, then you are free to try to understand the other person’s point…

Rad Romance: 5 Things That Happen Because I Have The Same Boyfriend at 46 That I Did At 17.

In high school, I was friends with a boy who was handsome, kind, strong, and the most intelligent person I ever knew. Reader, I married him. There are some interesting truths about having the same boyfriend since the eighties. 1. There is a written record of our relationship. On paper. Our romance began in 1987 before cell phones and texting were invented. In fact, though we went to the same high school, Jim lived far enough away that our calls were billed as long distance. There were a few years there when he lived in the mountains and I lived…

What I Was Thinking When I Wrote The Ghost Daughter

A few years ago I stood in the check out line at the grocery story, Casey Anthony staring at me from the cover of the People magazine. I don’t follow crime stories usually, but this one followed me. I couldn’t help it. I was fascinated.  A young woman claimed her little kid went missing a full month after anyone had seen her. The authorities found the thoroughly decomposed body of the child months later in a pile of duct tape. The prosecution was inadequate to the task of conviction and the judge let her go. Everyone thinks she did it. But…

Rerun: Army Dreamers

Steven, one of my former advisory sons, came by my classroom to visit after school today. He graduated high school four months ago. “I’m thinking of the armed forces,” he said. Steven is an accomplished soccer player and football kicker. He landed some poetic field goals in his football career. I cheered him from the sidelines while he did it. This is a young man on his own. He has no support besides what he can rustle up for himself. School was never Steven’s thing. He hates the thought of going to college. He graduated on time but sitting in…

What We Put Up With

When I was in fifth grade a boy I’d been sitting next to all year suddenly turned on me. He wore heavy boots to school and he began to make a sport of kicking me vigorously in the legs while I sat in my desk. His penis looked like a football helmet, he told me. He was going to ram me with it. The third time I stood to wait in line at the teacher’s desk to tell on the boy for hurting me, the teacher told me to please sit down. I needed to handle my own problems. Eventually the boy lost interest…

What Resilience Looks Like

Some of my favorite lines of poetry come from DH Lawrence’s “Self Pity:” I never saw a wild thing  sorry for itself.  A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. My students have stories that I sometimes never hear. We are busy people in the classroom. We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and talk about our feelings and cry. Sometimes, though, I get a chance to know the true resilience of the rising generation. Their stories evoke the tenacious bird of the poem, its gnarly little feet curled around…

Call Me Helicopter Parent One More Time

My husband and I make our daughters’ education a high priority, and we have always insisted they do their best. We get to know the parents of our daughters’ friends and drive them to their play dates. (Do you hear the whirring of the blades yet?) When my kids have been right, I’ve taken their sides, even against adults. When one elementary school wasn’t working for my youngest, we found another that was a better fit. I prepare separate meals according to my children’s taste preferences and cut off the crusts of the sandwiches I make for lunches. (I know you want to call me Helicopter…

We Weren’t That Resilient

In response to the bell ringing that kids these days aren’t resilient the way their parents were growing up in the Wild West of the seventies and eighties suburban American neighborhoods and schools: I call bullshit. We weren’t that resilient. Those of us growing up in the seventies and eighties were not tilling Victory gardens and whittling useful things out of sticks that we found on the ground. I know. I was there. I can only speak to my own experience, and trigger warning, I’m not prone to nostalgia. Yes, we played outside with the neighborhood kids until the streetlights came on….