To String Near Misses (an attempt at poetry)

“…the chances we failed to seize, the moments of happiness we allowed to drift away. Today it seems to me that my whole life was nothing but a string of those small near misses: a race whose result we know beforehand but in which we fail to bet on the winner.” Jean-Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death

To banish the “near misses”

To be aware of the gifts revealed to us

no matter how tiny

To ignore superfluous detail –

the bullshit and posturing,

the maneuvering and manipulating.

To see what is truly a divine moment

and just “be”

in each breath,

in each heartbeat.

To reach out and embrace everything you already have,

even if it’s not quite what you’ve expected

but better, if perceived through the same eyes,

but a different lens.

To turn the “string of near misses”

into a necklace of precious gems

Moments transformed into memories.

The Potential That Lies in the Question

“…every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer.” Elie Wiesel Night

A question can be significantly more important than the answer. If we don’t question, we naturally assume the “truth” we are presented with is just that,
the truth.
Then acceptance leads to manipulation and ultimately, for lack of a better term,
mush for brains.
When we question, we inquire. We show inquisitiveness and don’t just sit through life passively like dough waiting to rise. Questioning means we’re alive. It means we have an opinion. It means cures for cancer. World peace. Nobel prizes.
Questions mean change. To respectfully challenge the status quo is our responsibility as human beings. It encourages accountability.
Three things I see lacking in the world. And sometimes in my own immediate vicinity.
We need to encourage inquiry in others and, most importantly, in ourselves. To not be afraid of throwing out a “why” and to be equally unafraid of catching one. We need to cultivate genuine inquisitiveness in ourselves. Excitement for learning. Sometimes a difficult thing to do through the exhaustion of the day filled with work and obligation.
But the excitement someone builds in herself about the process or even the mere probability of acquiring knowledge
is infectious.
How often do we see a friend learning to and successfully remodeling her own home, or acquiring a new language, or training for a new job? And we think, “I could do that.”
But we leave it there.
What we should be saying is, “I want to do that, and I will.”
Then go out and make it happen.

We Don’t Need to Know Everything

When we are young, when everything seems new and we’re open and curious to learn, we listen to those who know or can teach us skills to “find out” for ourselves.
How to ride a bike.
How to hold our pencil.
To skate.
And we listen with trust and childlike appreciation to those who will show us how and then to those who will show us how to do better.
But then, somewhere along the way, this trust and appreciation turn to frustration and impatience. As teenagers, we say, “who are you to tell me what to do?”
“Leave me alone.”
“This sucks.”
Eventually, we realize that we indeed do not know everything, at least not the things we need to know to succeed at a new job, make money, buy a house. All the “things” that come along in life that are new. So we listen and learn from the experts who will teach guide and us.
But then we stall. Again we think we know it all. We don’t want to learn because it will require effort,
or change
or, heaven forbid,
more responsibly.
We’re scared to fail. Or too proud to acknowledge a need for growth. So we muddle around in a rut expecting accolades for redundancy. Or again, to be left alone in a cocoon of unaccountability.
And we may resent those who try to teach us, and this time we think instead of say:
“Leave me alone”
or “who are you to tell me what to do.”
or “Let me do what I’ve always done…
even if it’s mediocre.
Because complacency is familiar. And doesn’t require effort.
And I think the only way to regain that childlike trust to learn from someone else is through humility. And the acknowledgment that someone else might, in fact, know something I don’t know. And if that person has my respect, then mentors can exist even for adults.
And I can learn above suspicion
with the same innocence as a child.

To Pull Out Our Brain

“If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes” Pablo Picasso.

I sometimes have the tendency to overanalyze.

Ok, I often have the tendency to overanalyze and question and stew, which ultimately leads me to doubt my interpretation and second guess my response.

At times it’s exhausting.

And I wonder,

wouldn’t it be wonderfully freeing to once in a while absorb information simply at face value?

It is what it is.

To view it as a manifestation of truth with no assembly necessary. To see something, just to see it. To see someone just to see them.

To observe without elucidation or analysis.

To experience without intention.

Sometimes this is easy. Immersing myself in nature. Sitting on a beach looking out over the great expanse of the ocean. Inhaling the salty air deeply and listening to the lapping of the water.


driving through the mountains, the white peaks, the small trickles of melted water relenting to gravitational force and winding their way down the mountainside.

Watching fields of golden wheat dance in the wind.

No interpretation is needed.




It’s unfortunate such experiences don’t happen as often as they should. The life we create for ourselves, especially in adulthood, is crammed full of exterior stimulus of an electronic nature. The constant bombardment of information that needs to be processed and either stored or dismissed. Evaluation required.

Maybe we all have the eyes of an artist; we just need to “pull out our brain” in order to use them.

25 degrees

I live in a place of extremes.
This last week, my city had the distinction of being the second coldest place on the planet.
It has since warmed up by 25 degrees.
It is a welcome relief to finally have the walls stop snapping and the fog caused by exhaust sitting in the air dissipate. Still, I’m finding it difficult to figure out how Mother Nature wants me to behave. Do I wear wool or cotton? At night do I keep handy a heating pad or fan? Warm soup for supper or a refreshingly crisp salad?
And although I’ve gotten used to these extremes (albeit I find them somewhat annoying), I still look forward to peaceful spans of continuity and predictability.
In fact, sometimes, I long for them.
I’m not really talking about the weather. But, we all know, talk of the weather is usually a disguise for something else.
Something deeper.
Extremes in life are difficult.
Those surges of maniacal frenzy that occur at work no matter how diligently you measure yourself.
You plan and pace with perfect practicality, but they always seem to swirl upon you, and you fight to keep your nose above the swell. You usually do,
but not without the sleepless nights, moments of panic, and “medicinal” pouring of wine.
Or relationships where you are besieged by attention and obligation, sometimes welcome, other times…
not so much.
Days where you see and talk to no one about anything of significance and long for a passionate and intellectual conversation peppered with emotion,
you are emotionally and mentally drained and want to crawl into a hermit hole and watch all the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy
in one sitting.
I guess it’s true. Life is filled with ebb and flow. And we can’t appreciate certain moments unless we’ve experienced their opposite.
You can’t breathe a sigh of relief during the holiday unless you’ve lived through the chaos at work.
You can’t KNOW happiness unless your heart has been broken.

Life is all about 25 degrees of separation.

In With the New

I have really struggled this year, reflecting upon the past year and setting goals for this new one. No lie, this last year has been a tough one for me. I was all brave-like and heroic, espousing upon the positivity I found even in the time of a pandemic. And then, in April, not only did I crash and burn, I did so in epic proportion. It was a full-time job (on top of a full-time job) to maintain my physical and mental health. Now, those of you who suffer anxiety and depression like I do know that no amount of telling yourself “consider yourself lucky, other people are experiencing huge financial issues and death of loved ones or sickness themselves” made me feel better, in fact, telling myself this only made me feel guilty for feeling sorry for myself (yay for “Good Catholic Guilt” and honestly as I write this it sounds like I’m complaining which makes me feel guilty about complaining. Yesh).

Anywho, I’m better! Yay! But I’m fully aware that “better” ebbs and flows. 

That being said, I’ve rephrased “New Years Resolutions” to “Things I’m going to Work On,” and I thought I’d share them with you. 

There is only 2 this year:

1. Train and complete another ½ marathon in October.

2 . Reframe my thoughts and the things I say towards the positive. 

Does the second one seem silly, “Pie in the Sky” and a regurgitation of every wellness book on gratitude published over the last decade? Maybe so, but I’ve been practicing. And it’s been working. I feel better. I smile more. I hope I can keep it up. 

What “Things I’m Going to Work On” is on your list?

Have the happiest of Happy New Year! 

Memory as Metaphor

Memory is a funny thing.


It’s like a tiny alligator.  Lurking in shallow water leisurely swimming by moving it’s tail. You wade tentatively in life feeling warmth and security.  Going further out and away. When suddenly it grabs your ankle in it’s sharp pointy teeth reminding you it’s there. And then leaving little pointed pricks in your skin.

Prickly, pint points of blood. Distracting reminders.

Or it’s like a shroud that falls over you when you’re going about your business. In the middle of routine.  And suddenly a smell or a taste or an image will act the trigger release of a safety catch. Letting drop a black and suffocating shroud. That settles on you for an hour, or a day, or sometimes a week.

Until you’re destracted by an occurrence or

a conversation or

a making of another memory that will not take it’s place but rather act as a distraction. Strong enough to put shreds in that shroud.

At times its like a Tuesday bruise on your knee on Thursday.  Not as sore and tender to the touch as the day you received it, but now dark and purple and obvious when you lift your pant leg to view it.  Only to cover it up again.  Then have it glare at you in the face when you’re in the tub, knees popping up through the bubbles reminding you that you fell.

A small injustice or failure.

And every once in a while it’s like a little spot of sunshine that moves about a room.  You have to consciously see it.  Move towards it.  Plant yourself in it so that you can have it warm you.  If even for a little while.

Like a cat.

Until it’s time to move on and out of the sunshine

and back into the momentum of life.

Only to experience new alligators, shrouds, bruises

and blessed patches of sunshine.

Books That Teach Empathy

This week I felt compelled to compile a list of book titles that can be used to teach empathy. Before I share this list with librarians and teachers in my district I wanted to share my motivation for doing so…

It is challenging being a teacher when traumatic events unfold. I taught 12th grade English during  911, and I had 18-year-old students worrying they would be drafted to fight in World War III. Hamlet had to wait. We had to talk. I had to listen and try to help them make sense of the madness. It was heartbreaking. Now with the act of domestic terrorism that took place in Washington last week, I am reminded of how important a teacher’s role is when our students are abruptly faced with the repercussions of cruelty and intolerance and our need to make them feel safe.

Now, as an instructional coach, I do not have a class or my own, so I was spared the conversations and fears that could have taken place. Instead, I took to Twitter. Not only did I want to witness the events happening in real-time, but I also wanted to see how teachers were navigating the upheaval. I was getting my news minute by minute, which is both a wonder of social media and a scourge.  Soon I began noticing tweets from teachers asking others how they would approach this current event with their students the next day. The overwhelming consensus was to approach it gently but truthfully. Teachers came together to support one another by both sharing resources and offering suggestions of approach. The networking was wonderful to witness, and every educator on my feed seemed to present the hope that they could promote positive change in their classroom (online and otherwise) and that the children they teach are well on their way to being positive, responsible citizens.

We live in Canada, but I know that an undercurrent of the same hatred and intolerance exists. I can’t help but wonder if it is too late to foster a sense of empathy and tolerance in young people. What can we do as educators to help foster a sense of empathy and inclusion in young people? Well, there is one little thing we can do, it’s the simple act of reading. Read yourself. Get kids to read. Read to kids. Studies have shown that reading fiction can increase a sense of empathy because it forces the reader to live through the eyes of a narrator or a character (Hammond 2019) helping us better understand and cooperate with others (Kaplan 2016.) 

Obviously, reading cannot serve as a bandaid for systemic racism or political unrest. Still, it can be the baby step we need towards fostering kindness and acceptance in those we teach.

Here is a list of books with direct links that may help in fostering a sense of empathy in individuals whether they be our students, our children or ourselves.  At the end of this list are websites citing research supporting how reading builds empathy.

Please feel free to share any titles you have as well! 

(I’ve “guestimated” division suitability but you can professionally determine what book would suit your kiddos). 

Division 1-2- 3

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena

Those Shoes  by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Z. Jones

You, Me and Empathy by Jayneen Sanders and Sofia Cardoso

Most People by Micheal Lennah and J. E. Morris

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice 

All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Every book from Kathryn Otoshi

I am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson and Tara King

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoet

Just Feel by Mallika Chopra

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee and Pascal Lemaitre 

How to be a Lion by Ed Vere

Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Camp[bell and Corrina Luyken 

Each Kindness  and The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis

Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox and Stephanie Graegin

Not My Idea by Anatasia Higginbotham

The Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Nicky and Vera by Peter Sis 

Division 3-4

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga 

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

The Star Outside my Window by Onjali Q. Rauf

I Am Alfonso Jones By Tony Medina

Illegal by Eoin Colfer

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Lilit Thwaites and Antonio Iturbe

Jr/Sr High div 4

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

There There by Tommy Orange

So you Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo 

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

This is my America by Kim Johnson

You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner

So you Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Do Better by Rachel Ricketts

Tell me Who You Are by Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi 

The Removed by Brandon Hobson

Word Problems by Ian Williams


Hammond, Claudia.(2019, June 2). Does Reading Fiction Make Us Better People? BBC Future.

Kaplan, Sarah.(2016, July,22.) Does Reading Fiction Make You a Better Person? The Washington Post.

Schmidt, Megan. (2020, August, 28). How Reading Fiction Increases Empathy and Encourages Understanding. Discover Magazine.

Seifert, Christine.(2020, March 6.) The Case for Reading Fiction. Harvard Business Review.

Reflecting on 2020 and setting goals for 2021

Welcome, 2021!

Last week I reflected on my year of reading. The titles, the genres, the authors. Around March last year, I had to take the reality of my “COVID mindset” and my inability to focus into consideration and set a milestone much lower than I usually do at 50 books. As an English teacher and book blogger, this felt like a failure. This year, however, I am confident I can air higher than 50 soooooo I’m thinking 60?

So, what have I learned about myself as a reader?

  • I read more non-fiction (yay one of the goals I DID meet)
  • General fiction made up the bulk of my titles (mostly mystery and fantasy)
  • I included graphic novels.
  • A handful of audiobooks made my list (mostly non-fiction)


fiction-  Mexican Gothic (review to come) by Silvia Moreno Garcia

non-fiction- The Heart and Other Monsters by Rose Anderson

audible- Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

YA- Legendborn by Tracy Deonon

Graphic novel: Long Way Down based on the novel by Jason Reynolds artist Danica Novgorodoff 

Fantasy: The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo(review to come) 

Reading goals for 2021

  • 60 titles
  • Increase Science fiction and poetry. 

I need your help, my fellow book addicts, please send me titles of your favourite Science fiction reads and poetry books (preferably contemporary!!!

What was your favourite read of 2020? What are your goals for 2021

Happy reading!

Purging in Purgatory

You know that place you sometimes go where you feel all itchy and unsettled inside. Like you don’t know if you should go out and run a mile

or just sit down on the floor in a puddle and try to cry?

You’re feeling something but you can’t quite name it? You’re not happy, you’re not sad, but somewhere in between and it’s definitely not content. You’re just feeling displaced and well,

feeling as though you’re visiting purgatory.

I visit the purgatory, in no way under my own volition, whenever get a little stressed or feel slightly out of control. And when I’m here, I feel the need to clean my house. To be the mistress of my domain. Participate in something, even if it’s something as insignificant as washing my kitchen floor, and feel as though I’ve facilitated change.

Accomplished something tangible.

Completed a task.

Success I can see.

When I linger in this purgatorial emotional space for a bit longer than usual, I start purging. But unlike Dante’s purgatory where time is spent purging sin, I purge articles and objects I’ve accumulated. I toss out plants that annoy me for needing more than water to survive. I pack up and donate clothing to the Salvation army (in one purging zeal, when I concluded that I had far too many black boots, I threw out several pairs, unintentionally including an expensive pair I had bought a month before…Now I’m a more discerning purger).

I will determine who, er I mean what will stay and what will stay within the walls of my sanctuary and what will go.

Today, frighteningly enough, I even tippy-toed my fingers through my three bookcases in an attempt to weed my library (almost two-hundred volumes) settling on only two that I could part with. So I must not be too far past the threshold of purgatory to feel compelled to part with my beloved books.

Fortunately (unfortunately?) I don’t visit this “purgatory” very often. At least not often enough to keep on top of a collection of shoes and magazines and club soda cans that accumulate at a rapid rate in my home.

But when I do, the mindless organizing

and tossing

and cleaning

takes my mind off the unsettledness inside and as an end result I have a spotless abode free of some clutter,

and a mind blessedly free of a bit of clutter as well

if only for a little while.

Shards of Bare Mute Blackness

I keep journals.  Journals possessing emotional streams of consciousness.  Travel journals.  Journals that read as an itemization of my day.  Journals with ideas and impressions from anything and everything.  But I also have a journal filled with quotes. Quotes from novels.  Lines from poems.  Dialogue from movies.  Chains of words I find especially poignant and sometimes beautiful in their conciseness or imagery.  One such quote comes from Brian Morton’s novel Starting Out in the Evening:

The world, the human world, is bound together not by protons and electrons, but by stories.  Nothing has meaning in itself:  all the objects in the world would be shards of bare mute blackness, spinning wildly out of orbit, if we didn’t bind them together with stories.  – Brian Morton

Stories are inextricably a human thing. We are entertained by them. We are lulled to sleep by them.  From them we not only learn about others, but more importantly we learn about ourselves.

Living a life that serves as a basis for our own stories.

My fear is that young people are indifferently coasting through life with no stories of their own to tell.  That families aren’t sharing anecdotes about growing up.  That there are no more tales starting with  “when I was your age” told around the supper table:

“What did you do today young man?”

“I dunno.  Played my video game.”

“What else did you do?”


“Nothing?  You must have done something else.”

“I dunno.  I can’t remember”.

What if we looked at each day as a story to be told?  Would the sky be bluer?  Would the people we work with be more interesting to behold?  Would what we say be more scintillating?

Everyone should go someplace somewhere all alone if only for a day.  Someplace new. Someplace never before seen by your eyes.  To discover and meet and smell and taste a new environment.

Be a new character in a new setting.  With a wide-eyed curiosity that is stronger than insecurity and indifference.

To take bits and pieces of information.  Data colored by emotion.

A life’s tapestry that is more than a history.

And string them all together

to form something

exclusively our own.

Corpora vs Spiritus

“The day of the corpora is the night for the spiritus.  When the bodies cease their labour the spirits in man begin their work.  The waking of the body is the sleep of the spirit and the spirit’s sleep a waking for the body.”  (Paracelsus cited in Lawrence Durrell’s “Justine”)

Well, this explains why I’m so tired some mornings.  My body may be at rest but my spirit is partying it up with the other spirits!

I find this passage fascinating.  If you only knew where your spirit goes when your body is recharging throughout the wee hours of the morning.  Does it soar in and out of the earth’s ether touching down only at places it’s never visited before like select iridescent cells of the Brazilian rain forest or the Monet-esque sunflower fields of Provence.  Or does it meet the spirits of others have also left their “corpora”, those we never see, those far away, those who have died?

A way to bridge distances if only with your imagination.

I also find it intriguing that the quote mentions that the spirit has “work” to do.  Could this mean righting wrongs, healing hurts, strengthening my own sense of spirituality with my God?  We are taught to say prayers before we go to sleep.  A preparation, perhaps, of a deeper communion with God.

If during the night, while we are asleep, our body healing and resting from the day in order to work to the best of its capacity when conscious it only goes to say that we should also take time out, even if it is at night, to restore and strengthen our spirit.

Maybe our spirits too have places to go, people to see, things to do.

If our spirits cross paths in the night be sure to wave “hello”!

A Meditation on Thornton Wilder

“There arose a perfume of tenderness, that ghost of passion which, in the most unexpected relationship, can make a whole lifetime devoted to irksome duty pass like a gracious dream” (pg. 74)

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder.

I have fallen in love with Thorton Wilder because of this quote.

How wonderful would a relationship like this be? Having to get close enough not only in physical proximity but emotional proximity as well, to one person and stay there long enough to inhale that “perfume of tenderness”

where your first instinct would be to wrap your arms around this person and hold them close.

Tenderness without forethought, without premeditation, without an agenda.

No pretension.

To be pleasantly surprised at a love that grows where you didn’t expect it to grow. And you look upon it in wonder, finding it near impossible to believe that it truly exists in you,

the most unlikely of places,

or so you believed.

Where obligation and duty never really existed in its denotative form. All business-like and astringent.

No boundaries set by written laws or verbal promises but rather

a fidelity that is unexpected and natural.

Some of us have found in our relationships some such a manifestation of Wilder’s love

and some of us are still waiting.

Whatever the case I hope we recognize it as such

and hold on to it as a dream come true,

feeling blessed.