Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Life Refrain

Sometimes I imagine now, as “used to have been”, to

decide what I would miss most

I am currently reminiscing the buzz of carpenter bees

that seem to impossibly vibrate space

around lilikoi vines that choke

our rusted fence (the voice of its hinges like my children’s).


The dialogue of razor scooters and skateboard wheels in the street

and trucks that run on diesel songs,

--the ocean’s textured tongue pressing in the background--

All of it staying with us, a daily conversation in our living room.


I think, wouldn’t I miss this

mumbly breeze through our louvres that only close

when we’re gone

these silent panes of glass, shut, between outside and in

then (the future and past the same distance from me, here) and now

Would be final.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Insult Prone

If you’re a kid, you don’t have to eat the bread crusts on your peanut butter sandwich because they’re ew.

You can talk loudly in the grocery store about needing to go poop, emphasizing it with the doody dance.

And you can insult adults without worrying about hurting their feelings. 

You will, actually, hurt their feelings. It’s just that you don’t worry about it.

There is nothing in this world as critically reviewed as a teacher. It is the only profession, besides parenting, that people who have no training or experience in are allowed to have an opinion.

Every student who can read the English language will tell you, no matter how many copies have sold, how many people have read and liked and alluded and remade it, that this book you’re teaching is complete trash. Miss, I’ve read seven pages and it is sooooo boring. Can’t we read something good?

On the edge of my grammar book someone in a previous year wrote “This class sucks.” Just this week I noticed that someone recently added, “alot".

(Hopefully, said person will not be repeating my class, despite his/her grammar skillz.)

Even if you have 34 students who just love, love, love every second of your class, and eat up your words like adoring face-licking puppies, that one student who yells, “YES! FINALLY!” when the bell rings can ruin the whole day.

I like to make special projects out of students whose mission is to hate me. These are the kids that glare and roll their eyes when everyone else is laughing at my joke. They come see me about their grade and act like I am wasting their time if I try to talk to them. I like to kill ‘em with kindness, in my totally manipulative way. It helps me to remember to like them, too, so it’s not all about my entertainment.  I give them extra attention. I laugh openly when they scowl. I work them into my jokes about what will be reported from class back to parents out of context that night. I super high five them while they reel from the shock because they don’t know what hit ‘em. These are students that just make it part of their persona to hate anything that someone else likes, so I get that. They’re me. I’ve won over more than a few of these guys this way, by the end, so I like to think it works.

There’s a survey that asks students to rate the teacher on a scale of “Never” to “Always” according to about 100 statements. It’s part of the teacher evaluation system and is tied to teacher pay. One of the first ones is:

“This class feels like a happy family.”

Well, if you feel comfortable enough to insult your mother and expect to get a barrage of ruthless teasing in return while your siblings all laugh, I suspect I’ve got near perfect ratings.

Friday, November 28, 2014


My parents were pretty good about taking pictures of important days. There were a lot of of pictures of my dad eating.

Most of them exhibited one of the many genetic traits I received from him. Eyelids drooped and mid-bite just as the picture is shot. To say the least, not very flattering. Thanksgiving pictures were reenactments of that look, with different traditional and non-traditional foods on the table.

I didn’t grow up with many traditions. It didn’t feel dysfunctional to me. My mom clipped a new recipe from the newspaper and would try it out, we ate Japanese stew with konnyaku (not my favorite), friends invited us over for the real deal Stove Top dinner, we assembled turkey sandwiches in the parking lot of the ski lodge, we went out to the movies after a quick, early dinner. Every year was different. There were lots of memorable ones. I never once felt like we needed to revive what we had done the year before.

For some of my childhood, I think my mom was trying to figure out what basic American families eat. She did, eventually, know how to make turkeys and stuffing and apple pie. I think that’s what made us feel like we had arrived, as Americans—our understanding of the stereotypical American Thanksgiving and that we could recreate it. But, we weren’t tied down by that feeling. We didn’t have to do things that way.

It was a metaphor of growth for us. We could, if we wanted to have it, but there was no disappointment if we wanted a new adventure. I just spoke to my parents on the phone, and they went to a restaurant for Thanksgiving this year. I asked them what kind of food the restaurant specialized in and they said, “Creative.” I said, “No pumpkin pie?” My dad said, “Mom made a pumpkin roll cake.” Japanese sponge cake style. I know, some people just love Thanksgiving, exactly the way it is, and I’m not saying “Take it or leave it,” – I’m just saying I don’t have my heels dug in deep for how it should happen.

The only thing that stayed the same for us was that we were together and that food is part of our expression of love, so there was always plenty of that. Now we’re strewn far apart. I didn’t even talk to my parents until the day after Thanksgiving. Kegan lives in Japan (he’s probably the most sentimental about the traditional foods, ironically), they’re in Oregon, and I’m in the middle with a big in-law extended family. I still feel the strings of family and loyalty over those long distances even when we’re missing important days together.

I also don’t feel bad that this is our current Thanksgiving:


I’ll take whatever we’ve got with the people I love. I think that’s about all the tradition that’s worth saving.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Recent Discomforts


Waking up two hours earlier than your alarm because your husband is yelling loudly, wordlessly, in his sleep, sending adrenaline pumping through your body while you attempt to wake him.

Emailing the faculty that their computers do not have 739 viruses each and to not click to clear their computers of said viruses, because mentioning it is bound to make at least ten people vaguely remember something about this, and that they should maybe click on this because they’ve heard about it.

Having people who are much, much thinner than you compliment you on your weight loss, tell you that you don’t need to lose weight, and then pretend that weight is just a number while simultaneously mentioning something about eating carbohydrates on Wednesdays only, the exact tightness of their skinny jeans, and the precise number of ounces they have gained and lost since high school, charted like babies’ growth percentiles.

Asking the smartest kid in your class to repeat his mumbling in a more audible way, and having him refuse to tell you what he just said, and then asking the kid next to him to tell you, and that kid pretending to have forgotten what was just said.

Sitting in church and hearing the teacher say, “I did not prepare a lesson today because I want to give you guys a chance to talk.”

Hearing a large gaggle of drunk men outside laughing louder than the music you are playing in your own house, and wishing you had trained in judo, kickboxing, or at least joined the CIA.

Your husband asking you if you want him to start shaving his legs. and not laughing right away.

Texting/Saying/Emailing/Writing something you thought was funny, and waiting for a response, for far too long, and wishing that there was a text/speech/email/writing retrieving function.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Alone, Together


When we argue in the car


night air slips around our encased contention

the tunnel cuts the radio transmission

into a tune of electric chafe


the static

of silence




the wheels spinning over concrete

ridges of each slab connection

beat a hard rhythm





I’ve heard these pulses before:

~ We stood in a stiff wind

that pushed like tides against our rock faces

~ I was hiking ahead of you, heavy clouds hid

and escaped in my exhales

~ Your running soles scraped a lopsided thrum

against mine in the shadows between streetlamps


Now I watch you watching the lines on the road

making their paths out of the dark

barely chasing ahead of our lights


Being alone, together, crackles between us.