A Conservative Estimate

The following poem embodies me completely – in one role in my life: that of mother. I’ve memorized it, one of few poems I know by heart. It succinctly captures my commitment to my three children, my absolute love for them, my chilling fears for them. The speaker somehow comes across as irreverent and fun (at some point past at least,) also realistic, maybe a little pessimistic, sometimes — and then tentatively hopeful; all thrown in together in seventeen short lines. Like I said: me. 

By the time my kids came downstairs this morning I was, frankly, hoping no one would mention the school shooting in Parkland, Florida because I’m needing-a-vacation tired, and I’ll tell you what: my heart is beating on the outside of my body today, raw and bleeding, and barely hanging on.

I’ve been selling the world to my children for 18 years, with the best marketing I can muster. If you asked them, they would probably tell you they think there’s nothing they can’t do, nowhere they can’t go, nothing they can’t experience. I wonder: in so doing, have I sold them an absolute shit hole and called it “great potential” the way a real estate agent might?

I feel like I’m focused on the mold around the edge of the tub, the peeling paint on the trim, the loose floorboards in the house that is our world. And not in an enamoring, fixer upper, way. The house is made, quite possibly, entirely of cards. Can they make this place beautiful? Can we?



Overheard in the 8th Grade

I don’t have to lurk. 8th graders forget there’s an adult nearby if their attention is on something else. I just have to show up, listen. Write it down. I haven’t changed a word. Enjoy!

Key — if there are two speakers, one will be in bold lettering. Also, names are changed for privacy.


  1. My head hurts. WHY? I ran into a door. But I did cut down a tree with a Sawzall.

2. I have to go back and read which of the commandments I’ve broken. What? Which commandments could you possibly have broken? Probably all the ones that begin with “thou shalt not…except the ones that could put me in prison. Not those.”

3. I knew it was wrong but there was no one there to tell me not to do it. So you didn’t jump? Oh, no, I did. Of course I did.

4. Does anyone want to do a peer interview? No? Welp, I guess I’ll just chew this pencil. All by myself.

5. Charlie, you don’t have to be the way you are.

6. I should do a song reading. It’s like poetry reading but pretending it’s real.

7. I wish I was Stephen Hawking. Why? He can write with his eyes. He’s basically a super hero.

8. I hate math. I love math. I hate math more than you love it.

9. Jenny, what is going on with you? What do you mean? Your socks match. It’s like you’re a fashion queen now.

10. Part of me is just done with all this adulting.

11. I figured it out! Hey, I’m a god!

12. I keep forgetting Swedish Fish. They stick in your teeth. You’d think I could remember them.

13. How many pages is this story? 12 pages. So. Many. Pages.

14. The only pants I’ve ever boughten (sic) that actually fit are from Canada. Canada has all the skinny people.

15. If I take geometry (next year) can I, like, drop it and take something easier?

16. Have you noticed we can’t do half the things our president does? Like, why are we even following rules?



Goliath, 2017

In some ways 2017 felt scary and unruly: chaotic, confusing, overwhelming, sad, appalling. Social media had its way with me for awhile there, making everything appear as treacherous water I was exhausted treading in. If I let myself travel down the narrowed, fixed view of the world offered me from outside, I was convinced we were all going under.


Many things in 2017 felt important and impactful: inspirational, breathtaking, funny, purposeful, good. My little family, my community, the school in which I work, the people I interact with every day – they were kind, helpful, thoughtful fellow travelers. And when I focus on them, my life seems downright charmed.

Every year is like this. We get to the end of one, and we have the absolute luxury of judging it as generally good or bad, do we not? When I look back at 2017, I’m fairly certain I’ll remember it as the year I took up my slingshot and took aim.

I’m a relatively well-read, well-informed person. Never in my life have I felt as powerless as I have this year over things that are bigger than me. Fine. Politics. I’m talking 95% about politics. This year, I’ve debated and argued with people I’ve known for years, I’ve written letters and emails, I’ve made phone calls and I’ve taken a tone with politicians I voted for and previously believed in. This year, I’ve understood as I never have before, that though I have a voice, I have no real say. This overwhelmed me for awhile, and then it spurred me on.

I can read and learn about big goings-on in DC and the world, and then visit a neighbor in the nursing home, bring her a cookie and talk for a bit. I shovel out my kid’s car so when he needs to leave he can do so easily. I snuggle up on the couch with my daughter and read side by side, our favorites. I let a stranger go in front of me in line at Hannaford when the lines are half way down the aisles. I listen to people when they speak to me, especially my students – our galvanized youth – that I spend my days with. They are listening back, and they’re paying full attention.

So 2017 can go now. He’s not a visitor with an open invitation to return. Yet because of him, I can’t help but know: there’s no authentic freedom without fight, no authentic joy without sorrow, no authentic knowing without questions, and no authentic truth without falsehood rearing it’s ugly, ugly head. This year’s complexities are going to bring about some needed growth. And it will be authentic and long-lasting.

Yes, 2017 it was so much bigger than I am: a goliath. But as everyone knows, you should never underestimate David.