Thursday, March 31, 2016

"Why I Wrote?" -#Sol 16 -- Day 31

"Why I Wrote?" - #Sol 16 -- Day 31

Inspired by Terry Tempest Williams

I wrote because my colleagues invited me, encouraged me, coaxed me, and finally persuaded me to write every day during one of the longest months of the year.

I wrote despite my initial fear, concern that I would run out of words, run out of ideas, bore myself, bore readers. I wrote despite my fear that once the thoughts in my mind emerged into letters and words, I would not or could not stop.

I wrote against the fear that writing would take over as laundry and dishes piled up.  I wrote....

Poems visited me. The departed gave a nod.  Thoughts buried in my mind peeked from behind the curtain of my thoughts, and places I have not seen for many years traveled to me.

Memories long forgotten resurfaced...

A "Slice of Life" every single day: a glimpse of our day, thoughts, and feelings.

I continued to write as long forgotten memories resurfaced in the form of the red gate, the ice cream sundaes, the "deferred dreams" (Hansberry). I wrote because each evening I looked forward to enjoying captivating and poignant "slices" from my colleagues' lives and days. Sharing and receiving comments was fun! What a writing feast this "Slice of Life" challenge.  Comments gave me an incentive to keep writing as people were listening. I wrote as I realized the beauty of community of writers and readers. A community I want to create in my classroom.

I wrote because I could not stay quiet after reading fellow colleagues' entries that sharpened my mind, widened my horizons, and sparked questions for me to explore.

I wrote in search of joy.

When stuck, I followed any image that emerged and let it lead me to an unexpected piece and a welcomed peace.

I wrote because I can't give up.
I write now to wish you all joy and lots of reading and writing for the remaining months of the school year.
I write now to say goodbye.

Is it blog party time yet? Bring some tea. Bring some fruits. Bring your colleagues' captivating blogs and share!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Roller Skating #Sol 16- Day 30

Roller Skating - #Sol 16- Day 30

I love roller skating.  I remember my skates back in the 70s: a metal contraption with thick leather straps and grating wheels.

In the afternoon, the older girls would play double dutch. Since I could not master simultaneously jumping with two twirling cords, I would try to get the girls' attention by offering them cookies or putting on my roller skates and fighting my way against the bumpy concrete to "roller skate" up and down my block.

I remember later when I was older, my father bought me these beautiful skates: white with yellow wheels.

Vintage Roller Skates // White Retro Skates // Vintage Roller Derby Skates // Sure Grip Ridell Skates

These roller skates were my dream skates.  Skating round and round a rink while listening to my favorite 80's songs was my favorite. I think we used to go somewhere in New York called...Oh, well, I cannot remember the name...I am getting old.

When it was warm, I could also roller skate in Central Park. I was never a pro, but I just loved gliding along under a summer sky and slamming into walls when I could not stop elegantly. I never trusted those stoppers or "brakes" in the front. I always thought I would topple over if I tried to lift my ankle and use the "stopper."

Eventually, I outgrew these skates and went skating less.  The last time I went skating I rented skates and had fun trying to get back in the groove. I could not relate to the contemporary music. The kids were much quicker than I. Therefore, I stayed close to the wall and tried to glide around and around trying not to collide into anyone.

I still have fun! Hoping to go skating one day this summer!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ignorance -#Sol 16 Day 29

Ignorance - #Sol 16 Day 29

Since I have been writing about dreams, I will write a very short piece (since I lack knowledge anyway and have papers to grade) about my dream to live on a farm for a period of my life.

Okay, I will confess that reading novels by Willa Cather in high school or even more recently Roxanne Gay's An Untamed State where the rural setting plays a healing role has always made me yearn for a life on a farm. Yes, more confessions: I loved watching Little House on the Prairie with Laura Ingalls and her amazingly dedicated and loving dad.  Rural life seemed to be always associated with families and values and of course urban life offered another perspective on life.

 Please do not judge me. I am not trying to romanticize rural life. I obviously do not know anything about farming besides scenic walks on farms in Haiti or the typical apple picking trips in the fall.

What I do know is that agriculture and planting instills me with a sense of wonder: that a seed tucked inside the earth can become a corn plant, a mango tree, a banana tree....

This Sunday after church, I found out about a program called WWOOF-World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms 

The WWOOF  gives individuals the opportunity to volunteer in farms around the world. The writers of the website explain: 

"You may be asked to help with a variety of tasks like sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing, making mud-bricks, wine making, cheese making and bread making." (

This program looks interesting, but I wonder: will the host farmers be nice? Will it be safe? Okay, as an African-American woman whose ancestors were enslaved, I am a bit skeptical about volunteering my services to an unknown family and farm owners. Okay, I had to let that out....

I wish I had even considered to study agronomy in college. Then again, I was not so great in science.

The closest I have come

In 2nd grade when we planted a lima bean with a cotton ball and water.

Or when we planted a classroom carrot when I was teaching middle school.

When I visit my parents' province in Haiti, I love to walk through the farms. Okay, I will admit as a city girl, I am not really into animal manure, but I realize how the latter makes the land rich and fertile. I love walking across the field. I love seeing the different plants growing. I never cease to feel so ignorant as people point out how "things" I eat every day do not sprout from supermarket shelves.

Oh, and I did spend one summer, travelling in the beautiful mountains of Haiti. My volunteering position was to visit different flower shops and some farms and encourage people to compost or buy this specific compost the organization was selling (Okay, I guess that organization had its own financial benefits). At least, I learned about composting that summer.

Thank you for reading.  After this post, there are two more posts. I look forward to reading your remaining posts.

Last Words
I will finish with one of the miracles of nature that I learned while visiting a banana plantation. To the farmers and scientists out there, please pardon my ignorance.

Once walking through a banana plantation, I noticed that each tree had a baby tree right next to it. Actually, the writers of this website that I am about to share say that they are not trees but rather "perennial herbs."   This is what the writers of this  informative website state, "A banana plant takes about 9 months to grow up and produce a bunch of bananas. Then the mother plant dies. But around the base of it are many suckers, little baby plants." (

Isn't that amazing that nature takes care of itself and makes sure another banana plant is growing?

"As a bunch of bananas ripen on one stem, a sucker (on the left of the plant’s main stalk) begins to grow from the base of the plant. When the taller plant is finished fruiting, the sucker will grow to take its place." (

Please feel free to send any corrections or clarifications of any of my "wrong facts" in your comments.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Frisbee Anyone?- #Sol 16 -Day 28

Frisbee Anyone?  - #Sol 16 -Day 28

I am not by any means an athlete, but there is one sport that I love (actually two, if you include floor hockey) and that is Ultimate Frisbee.

I remember the few times I had the opportunity to play Ultimate Frisbee in high school. It was the best! I've always enjoyed just tossing a frisbee back and forth on a green lawn on a lazy afternoon.  I bring the frisbee towards my chest and then just send it out into the universe. (Okay, I am obviously not a Sports Writer).

I love the anticipation of seeing where that same frisbee will head when it is tossed back to me. I run, I lunge, I reach, I jump, and then sometimes I catch.

Now, put that one-to-one frisbee tossing in an actual fast-speed team game, with interceptions, running, and a need to score a goal.  I found it to be the most exhilarating game ever.  I was actually surprised when I realized that I had enjoyed the game. This is coming from someone who actually wished she could be passionate about a sport. This is coming from someone who played defense for soccer games but more just stood there and acted surprised when the ball came my way.  Perhaps, I just can't handle a ball with my feet. Instead of kicking, my feet like a helpless noodle stick would twirl around the ball before another player quickly kicked it toward the goal.  (I am sorry!) Perhaps, I am better with my hands?

Believe it or not, I wish I could play Ultimate Frisbee again.  Again, this is coming from someone who dreaded gym class and was rarely chosen to be on a team. Usually, I stood there making eye contact with the ceiling as classmates were chosen by respective captains. Usually, I would be the last one left and would just walk to the remaining team: hardly chosen. I would try to walk with my head up high towards my side of the court as not to further humiliate myself. I did eventually improve in volleyball, and I definitely loved floor hockey in high school.

Now, floor hockey was lots of fun. Perhaps, the stick gave me a sense of a bit of power. Do not worry, I followed the rules.  I loved to actually play forward for floor hockey. I would put on that colored team shiny sleeveless shirt and forget my worries for the next 30 minutes.  School stress and other issues just melted away as I focused on my stick, the puck and the surrounding players. Oooh weee! I would feel so excited when I had control of the puck and just my stick's movement would send the puck sliding straight to a fellow teammate. I loved the thrill of chasing that puck. I loved the feeling of hockey sticks hitting each other and finding the angle to send that puck towards the goal.

As that Flashdance song says, "Oh, what a feeling!"

The last time I played floor hockey was in the beginning of the century during my first teaching job after I had earned my Masters in Teaching. My advisory group was assigned to do independent reading after lunch. I met with this group community-building activities throughout the week. This was during my early days of teaching, and some of the students still needed to develop a reading habit. Maybe because it was not a formal English class, I struggled to get the reading on board.  The students were restless one day. It was nice outside. Hockey sticks were just leaning idly in the corner of the hallway. So I challenged them to a floor hockey game. Yes, I did (during reading time).  I do want to to explain I tried all sort of strategies to engage the students in reading during that post-lunch advisory reading time: reading them chapter one of Richard Wright's Black Boy, having students share from their books.

So that day, we left our books in the classroom. Stepped into the school yard and played! The students were shocked that I could even play.   Now, I even surprised myself because I am one to stick to rules, but it was warm, and the hockey sticks were just leaning without a task. I think we played a couple more games that Spring and bonded into a group that would eventually consist of individuals who would sit down and "try" to read.

These were my earlier years of teaching. I have to say that this year in my recent school the 10th grade has adopted a year-long independent reading commitment, students have been reading and excited to go check out new books from our great library. Librarians have even been emailing me to let us know when requested books have come in!  I think I have scored a goal getting students to read independently now in my 22nd year of teaching. Most students actually look forward to those 20 minutes when they can plunge into their choice books and enjoy their reading. I think I have scored a goal, but the running and sweating will not stop. The thrill and challenges of teaching will remain!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

JOY - #Sol 16 Day 28

JOY - #Sol 16 Day 28

My thoughts on JOY are inspired by my pastor's (S.W.) Easter Sermon. To quote, Pastor S.W., he advises that we need "to be on the lookout for joy" (S.W.).

As I near the end of my 40s and witness my father's fading memory, I work hard to be open to joy in the daily moments in my life. Often joy is buried beneath the dishes to be washed and the papers to be graded. Thinking of a joyful life is too big a plan in light of all my worries in a world where violence has unfortunately become a daily occurrence. 

So, I remind myself of the wise Bible passage that advises me to turn my worries into prayers. 

Philippians 4:6-7New Living Translation (NLT)
"6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. "

I have been tempted to walk and live in wary bitterness, but I would miss joy, kindness, and patience. So I have shaken off my garments of bitterness being careful not to trip over the discarded cloth surrounding my ankles. Stepping out from the puddle of bitterness, I put my hands to work ready to dig up any crumb of joy.

My son has given me so much laughter and joy. Books, good movies, food and exercise have filled me with joy. If I follow my pastor's advice, I will find joy in the soap suds as I wash dishes after a warm meal. I will find joy in a sentence, a thought written by a curious or hardworking student.

As I shared earlier, there are some days, it is hard for me to find joy (Am I whining?). After listening to my pastor's sermon today, I realize that I may have to actively look for joy just like the children hunt for hidden Easter eggs. I have to be willing to bend down, look behind bushes, dirty my fingernails and scrape dirt as I reach for joy in unexpected places.  Above all, I need to take the time to look joy in the eye and smile.

No matter how tired and overwhelmed or anxious, I have to be open to uncovering hidden joy in the mundane, the obvious, the habitual, even the trying moments. My pastor reminded us all that it is our spiritual connection to God that will free us to find joy even in trying times.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Confession - #Sol 16 Day 26

CONFESSION - #Sol 16 Day 26

I have a secret desire.

I have an urge to sit in a corner to memorize lines. Then to move on to rehearse and rehearse with a group of artists. Finally, I want to be part of a theatrical performance even if I just state a complete sentence, a fragment, or even just a life-changing word in the lives of the characters.

I am not hungry to perform because I want to be vain! Okay, I will admit, being on stage would make me nervous, but I would also love the attention. I can't lie. I'd take the bouquets of flowers too, but I cannot tolerate strong odors even good ones, so just smiles and compliments will make me feel happy. Okay, enough vanity.

I am hungry to communicate through an actual performance the experiences of humanity. I do not want to analyze human experiences through a thesis statement or supporting body paragraphs, I want to embody experiences through my voice, motions, and heart. Yes, on a stage! During the duration of the play, I want to leave myself behind and be a remove myself from the confines of my worries and dreams and embody the dreams and worries of a character. I want to communicate an experience to an audience instead of speaking about it.

I will even remember the advice I give to students during classroom performances. Advice I have found online or heard Performing Arts colleagues tell my students.  Years ago, two wonderful colleagues came to my classroom to perform a scene from Othello for my students. I remember scribbling notes as they gave advice to the students: "Acting is in the reacting" or no matter how many times you have rehearsed a scene pretend you are in this scene and reacting (to what is expected in the script) as if you have heard this information for the very first time not the 11th time.

Let's Do This Lesson Again (hopefully better this time...)

Wow! Sounds like me when I have taught a novel for more than a decade or when within a day I am teaching the same lesson for a second time. I make sure I keep my soul and energy excited and curious as I listen to students share their thoughts and ask questions even the ones I have heard many times in the last 22 years.  

The beauty of teaching is that there is always something new in the students' reactions and thoughts. In fact, whenever a student shares an original thought, I love to inform her or him with a bright smile of wonder that in all my years no one has made that observation. Every student comes with their own memories, experiences, understanding and make a text their own. Students notice parts of the texts that I may not have noticed. Student-centered reading is key.

Most every day, I remind students to notice what they love and pursue their interests in their studies and later in post-high school settings. I am always excited to listen to students' goals as I ready to write their recommendation letters. When students come back to visit, it is with excitement that I listen to their journey and wish them all their best with all their endeavors. 

I need to start listening to myself as well....

Shreds of Memory

I attended a small high school that did not put on school plays, so I did not have that opportunity.

I remember in 5th grade, our class put on an informal performance of Rip Van Winkle. I do not remember what part I played if any. I simply remember the excitement to share a story.

I also remember learning Haitian Folkloric dances when I spent the summer in my parents' province in Haiti. They were getting divorced, and my mom sent us to the countryside in Haiti. We packed our favorite toys and  left our parents and New York for the summer. 
I remember practicing Haitian traditional dance moves to drum beats on the local stage. I remember that the little boy assigned to dance with me fled because he did not want to dance with a "mazora" or toothless girl.

I remember playing the part of Mama during a class reading of  Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. I was not a popular girl in school, but that day many people complimented me. During that class, I was not the shy girl who liked sitting in the corner, I suddenly was Mama nurturing her plant and reminding the family of their priorities. 

Oh, I wish I could have met Lorraine Hansberry. Had she not died so young, she would have revolutionized our way of seeing the world.

I remember switching from a photography class to a Acting I class in college. I could not afford the photography equipment. I remembering memorizing a soliloquy from Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.

 I remember attending amazing performances directed by a fellow student, who is now a published author and famous director, Robert Ohara. I sat through Colored Museum and all his plays. I knew then Mr. Ohara would be blessing this world with amazing work. I hope to see his productions one day.

 Why didn't I audition in college? Why? I did not even think of it at the time. I was happy sitting in the dark experiencing a "Slice of Life" on stage.

Oh, I just remembered (I had completely forgotten)  modifying a Feminist Spoken Word piece that my friends and I performed at the Campus Center. It was so much fun. This poem asserted our pride as women of color! If cell phones existed back then, I may have had a video copy of our fun performance.

I guess deep inside the acting bug though dormant was starting to come alive.

Do You Have A Business Card?

I have periodically performed my poetry for two fundraising causes at my former church. For one event, I even got to work with an actor to prepare my performance. He gave me so much helpful advice. I take the time to thank him now. I remember the day of the performance.  I remember standing in the comfort of  the darkness under the light. I remember literally feeling my mom's warmth behind me. She was visiting from the Spirit World as I performed. My son and my niece, in the audience, were truly supportive. 

Recently, I signed up to perform a poem for an exhibit. Part of me was nervous and regretted asking to perform. I thought, "Natasha, just stay quiet in your corner." Another part wanted to perform my poem. In fact, I received a lot of warm feedback despite the fact that I fell when I got off the stage. The oohs and ahs came from my literally falling flat on my knees. I was in pain for weeks, but during the exhibit I was so happy to listen to other poets and receive warm feedback about my performance.

 One person shared that my poem did not seem compelling on paper, but when I performed it, she said it came to life. One fellow artist came to ask for my card (I had none) because she wanted to know my other performance dates (I had none). I could not believe it!

Daily Performance

For 22 years, I have been a classroom teacher. It is a pleasure to hear students' burgeoning thoughts and witness their growth as thinkers and citizens' of this world! I will not lie even one of my evaluators shared that I thrive on the performance aspect of teaching. I know teaching is not about me but the students, but there is always that moment that I read a poignant section from the readings or bring to life a discussion. It is clear that I would not be happy sitting behind a desk all day. It is just not me. Performing while teaching literature allows me to remind students that in our texts, we are examining true experiences of humanity. We are taking advantage of the luxury to study, so we can grow as human beings (not simply earn good grades) to create a better society.

My lesson plan is my script, and the lesson itself becomes an improvisation-led play as students share their inputs. Once that bell rings,  life happens! Most people do not realize the backstage work behind the curtains to make this performance/learning experience happen on a daily basis.

Mid-Life Career Choices

This morning I overheard in the midst of errands a woman named Barbara Hardly Hagerty.  The National Public segment caught my attention.  Ms. Hagerty had helpful advice for people who might suddenly feel a bit stuck in the same motion.  In fact, she has recently published a book entitled 
Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife. In her website, she notes, "There are concrete steps we can take to make midlife the best time of life. Bring novelty into your marriage, tweak your career to seek meaning rather than mere success, find a new passion, build your friendships -- essentially, engage those things that matter with intention and verve" (Hagerty).

If you are tired of reading this entry and want to hear from Hagerty herself, here are some links:

 Contrary to what many people think, Hagerty sees mid-life as an "opportunity."  She advises people not to try and "re-invent" themselves but rather focus on how to use present skills. You can read/listen more at:

I Only Have One Life (as far as I know)

 I wonder if one day, I will be able to join a small theater group to be part of a production? Why wonder? I need to start doing research and look for local acting classes and community groups.

I know it is crazy idea, but who knows if I will be back on this earth a second time. 

This will be a long way from the weekly poetry recitation I did in high school. In our school, we had to memorize a poem every week and stand in front of the class to recite. I used to memorize the poems, recite them to my mom (who listened attentively despite her tired eyes and nodding head), and then put my notebook under my pillow. I have no idea where this myth came from: if you sleep with your notebook or book under your pillow, you will remember the information. How many nights was I tempted to just put the notebook under my pillow, skip the studying and go to bed. 

I fear my memory may not remain as strong. Caring for my dad (who has Alzheimer's) right now will impede me from taking an acting class right at this time.  In the meantime, I am always excited to recite lines from Macbeth as students tell me, "How do you remember all the lines!" Oh, all these years of teaching Macbeth, I have had no choice but to learn some famous lines. I also have students toss lines (an activity from Shakespeare Set Free) and enjoy seeing students grab these thematic lines as anchors to understand better the characters and their motivations.

Will I one day act? Yes, I will make it a life goal to take an acting class whenever possible.  I can. I will plan to do one performance before my memory starts to fade. Even if I only state one word...(I know I already mentioned that thought...Enough talking...I need to start acting!)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Water Bottle -#Sol 16 Day 25

Water Bottle #Sol 16 Day 25

Participating in this challenge has been the best experience for me. Taking time to express my thoughts in writing has invigorated me on so many levels. It has been a pleasure to look forward and sit down and read others' insightful blog entries.

 I find as I approach Day 31 that my entries are not as deep. I think of what I want to write, and I think too deep, too personal...I could blog about my approach to teaching Macbeth (which incited great class discussions), or my classroom management techniques, but I actually want my entries to take me away from what consumes my entire day: planning, grading, teaching...

So I have decided to write a very "corny" piece about my Water Bottle.

I need my water bottle like a baby needs his or her milk bottle.
There is no weaning me from my grey clear bottle with fading measurements.
When I curve my index finger around its small plastic hook, I am ready for the day's work: teaching, listening, grading, sorting, photocopying. I am hooked.

I always fill my dear water bottle in the morning
and during the day if I have been disciplined about drinking.

On a day filled with stress, when I have forgotten to take my
water bottle from my bag, I pull out a filled bottle from my
bag at night and shake my head...

Afraid I might be reverting back to my early days of teaching
when I went to work with no breakfast in my belly,
met students in the morning to help them with college essays,
met students at lunch to help them with homework.
 I would skip eating my lunch.
When I first started teaching, I sometimes
did not even take the time to go to the restroom.

After 22 years of teaching, I now realize that teaching with a hungry belly
and a filled bladder did not make me a better teacher.
It simply made me a hungry teacher who really needed to
go to the bathroom.
Actually now, the first stop when I arrive to school is the restroom and
then I gulp some water after going up all the flights of steps.
God has placed my classroom not far from the restroom, so if needed
between classes and definitely at lunch, I go to to the restroom.

I once lost my bottle for a couple of days.
I felt lost and disoriented without it.
My water bottle.
It helps me in so many situations.
It saves me money when I go grab a bite to eat. No dollars spent on expensive
 juices, water, or soda.
My water bottle stands proudly beside me.

When I am traveling home, I dig into my bag, and there is my water bottle
hopefully with a little water left. I am more than
delighted to drink the remaining drops.
Oh, yes, I spoke of loss.
When I did recover my bottle, my life seemed to have been restored.

If I am in a room where people are venting and inadvertently
sharing criticism about everything and nothing,
I can always take big gulps and pretend I am
too busy drinking and swallowing to participate...
Drinking water helps me
Stay hydrated
Save money.
Stay out of gossip.

My water saves me from
an end-of-the day headache.
It keeps me from using the
disposable water bottles that pollute
our environment.

Thank you for being there for me, water bottle
for many years now.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Imaginary Friends - #Sol 16 Day 24

Imaginary Friends -#Sol 16 Day 24

Okay, growing up in a traditional Haitian household, I was not encouraged to have a favorite teddy bear or any imaginary friends. My mom would not entertain such childish desires.

When I grew up though, I developed so many imaginary friends through my readings.

I remember the summer I read Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina, an emotionally wrenching novel. Like the main character, I decided to drink lots of sweet sweet ice tea and listen to Gospel Music. In fact, I remember standing in a moving subway the moment I was about to finish the novel about a young girl nicknamed Bone who endures such horrifying abuse and rejection.  As I excitedly and reluctantly reached the last few pages, I  looked around the train station at all the strangers around me. I decided that this sacred final moment between the narrator and me should be shared alone. I thus gently closed the novel and hurried home to read the final pages and end in the privacy of my home a friendship I will never forget.

I have many more imaginary literary friends. I am divorced, so I am entitled to my imaginary literary husband, Joseph from Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory. He is gentle, kind, patient and artistically talented. I read this novel  long ago, so English teachers do not ask me for a specific example. I know that Joseph received Sophie Caco into his home. I know that he was patient with her regarding her emerging sexuality and conflict with her mother.  My goodness, I remember buying Danticat's novel and just sitting literally on a bench right on Queens Boulevard. I was so happy to find a novel that addressed the life of Haitians in the United States that I almost read the book in one sitting on that very bench in the middle of a busy boulevard. It is only when the sun set that I dragged myself home.

So even though I did not have an imaginary friend to visit my home, or to sit at my dinner table, my life has been filled with so many friends from the literary world.

Okay, I have so many literary friends who are now raising their hands to be included in this blog. My friends, I am tired. My time to sleep has come, but since you all have kept me company during lonely times and even helped me  survive sleepless night hours, I will call on one of you before I retire for the evening. Oh, this is so hard. This predicament reminds me of my first year teaching middle school. I went to sleep that night and dreamed that several dreams sat in front of me at students' desks. All the dreams were raising their hands. They wanted me to pick the dream I would have that night. I did not know which dream to pick, so I had a pretty stressful night.

To close this piece, I will call on a character I still worry about even today.  My students think I am bizarre when I tell them I think or worry about a character. I will call on__________________ tonight:

Pecola from The Bluest Eye: the last time I remember reading about her she had gone completely mad with the illusion that she had blue eyes. She was talking to herself and picking through trash. Abused, Pecola took refuge into a double-identity world ruled by the illusion and worry that her new eyes were not the bluest;  Pecola, I pray that you find the beauty that you already possess.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Thank you...#Sol 16 Day 23

A little Gratitude --#Sol 16 Day 23

Note: I have a lot of grading to do this week. I find I do not have enough energy left for blogging.

I apologize for such a light post, but I need to finish grading.  Thank you. I will be back with more life tomorrow!

Even though, I was exhausted most of all last week, here are things that made me happy:

1. Having tea and homemade yummy cookies with a new friend, a retired professor, who also loves writing! (Thank you for the delicious cookies!)

2. My toddler niece repeating, "Hi, Tatie" on the phone. Her cute little voice makes me melt.

3. My father's (albeit the Alzheimer's) health and ability to get up and go to the memory-impaired center twice a week.

4. Students in my 10th grade English class truly following the structure of the five-paragraph essay for their Macbeth final assessments.

5. Students in my Creative Writing class taking the leap and writing captivating short stories.

6. Students taking the time to read and praise each other's short stories during Writing Workshop.

7. Sharing dumplings and good conversations with a friend I had not seen since the summer time.

8. Colleagues' insightful Slice of Life entries and their taking time to read my entries...

9. The beautiful sunshine that woke me up on Saturday morning.

10. My son's and family's health and safety.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Low Impact -#Sol 16 Day 22

"Low Impact -- #Sol 16  --Day 22

It's been a while since I have played a group sports.  As an adult, exercise has consisted of working out on the elliptical, the treadmiill, taking a power nature walk or taking an exercise class. The latter has been the closer I have come to a group sport.

Whenever I can, I love to do the Zumba Class.  I have not taken one in a long time. "Muevete, Muevete," the instructor says.  Even though my moves are not as smooth and fluid as the other members, I shake and I sweat to the Latino and Caribbean beats. I never forgot two summers ago, as I jumped and twirled during a Zumba class, my knee suddenly just gave away. Sweating, I stopped for a moment. I had been having so much fun. I even thought I was dancing under a Caribbean sun. As I looked at the young members, jumping away, I decided this felt too good to just stop. I took it low low impact: no major jumping, no major kicking. Putting emphasis on my moves and working hard to stay on beat, I kept up low impact as to give my knees a break but still enjoy the moves.

The last two weeks, I have felt amazingly exhausted:  planning, grading, keeping up with house chores, commuting...I obviously cannot give up. I have to keep it moving.  I hear the instructor's voice in my mind, "Muevete, Muevete." Perhaps, I can take matters to a low impact level. I can complete all my tasks but tone it down a bit. I am always the one who thinks I can create miracles: i.e. that the students who comes late every day might come in early 5 days straight, that the student who does not like writing will suddenly write. Habits take time to change. I need to focus on the impact that I can realistically have in the moment. The student is here. The student is working on his or her body paragraph. The student is focused on taking notes not chatting.

Though the impact that my classes are having in the moment may not have a life-changing impact, the "low impact" that it has in the moment is worth noticing. I always tell students who are laid back that they are preparing for the future of ones who do yet exist but will depend on them.  Behind each student, there is a whole generation to come whether it is direct children or nephews and nieces. Hopefully the "low impact' will create a domino effect rippling into future generations and instilling students and their descendants with a deep respect for others, kindness, a love for reading,  reverence for diligence, and a determined effort to write, write, write...whether it is stories of their lives to be passed down, or letters to defend their rights, or simply letters of endearment. Low Impact is better than no impact. I will keep it moving!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Empty...#Sol 16 --Day 21

Empty...#Sol 16 --Day 21

I have nothing to write about...All the topics that come to my mind I either don't like, or do not feel comfortable sharing. I have not made any original observations or reached any epiphanies today.
Feel free to stop reading. I understand.

 I guess I now feel like my students who are stuck in a void...stuck in front of blank pages. Ideas hop in and out of my mind.  I will need to grab one and just write...

I still need to finish grading short stories for my Creative Writing class. So, I need to take a deep breath, and let words slip from my fingers.

Okay, since I am stuck, I will allow images to lead me:

I see a dirt path
It takes me to a well
made of stones.
Sitting on the well
like a flaunting mistress
is a new silver pail
and a new coarse rope
gathered by its side 
loyally by its side.

I want to grab the rope
and feel its straightening pull
as the silver pail plunges into 
the dark water.
It takes longer to hear the 
I almost have nothing left of the cord
When I feel the new silver
pail hit the water.

I try to maneuver the cord
to pull water up 
up I pull and the silver
pail emerges from the darkness
with splashing water from side to side.

I take the pail,
look into it to see a wobbly
reflection of my New York smile
against a moving sky.
I did it! I did it!
I got some water out of the well 
without any help.

And now I will pour this water
into an open-mouth bucket
to wash myself in the open air
pouring yellow cups of water on 
my body parts as I make sure
no one walks into the yard.
Fighting suds with little cups of 
Missing the feel of my hot U.S. showers.

New York girl used to locking doors
visiting family outside the Haitian Capital
Bathing with the wide touch of the hot
sun on my back...
even as I shiver from my chest's and toes' contact with 
the outside air, the spread of the sun 
rays on the skin on my back 
feels like a warm blanket fresh out of the dryer.

The dirty water gathered in the open-mouth bucket
I pour down the narrow open sewer
that lines the periphery of the yard:
the dirt washed from my body floating in the water
Little oily flecks of brown patches
floating on the well water.
swirling down the grate-less sewer 
outside the gates of our cousin's home
down the main streets.

Landing by the province's church to 
rest and mix with the dirt of others
the aimless litter of pedestrians.
Where does this dirty water end up?
I dare confess I do not know.
well 2013    A Year to Learn Self Reliance
A well of water whose depth 
I will never know
Water tainted with the dust of my body
ending up 
I have never bothered to know.

(I USUALLY REACH AN EPIPHANY or A PLAY OF WORDS AT THE END OF MY POEMS. THERE IS NOTHING...NOTHING...Thank God I do not write Poetry to pay the mortgage. Though I feel discouraged now,  I know words will show up at my doorstep tomorrow.)

I think I will end here because truthfully, I have no idea where this poem is leading me.
I am empty tonight, but I will sleep with the knowledge that there are wells out there
that are nourishing long lost brothers and sisters back in Haiti.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Friday Night Videos --# Sol 16 --Day 20

Friday Night Videos -- #Sol 16--20

Why Am I still Up?

Okay, this is the latest I ever have posted. Normally, I am in bed by now. It has been a busy day, and no, I am not waiting for the "Friday Night Videos" show because first it is not Friday, it is Sunday night. Tomorrow is a school day.  I should be in bed.

Second of all, videos can be found at anytime nowadays. Wow! Ironically, I no longer watch them. The art form when I last checked seems to have metamorphosed into mostly women jiggling body parts and men flashing dollar bills. I know there are quality aesthetically beautiful music videos with great artists sometimes communicating a story, but somehow in the past 10 years, I have not had much time to view and sort through the new "stuff."

Here Is What I Have For Tonight...Not the best...

When I was young, I used to stay up vainly to catch the coveted "Friday Night videos" show to catch the latest Janet Jackson, Lionel Richie, or Michael Jackson videos.

Most Saturday mornings, I would wake up only to realize that once again I missed the show and would have to wait an entire week to catch Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" video or Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" or Culture Club's, "Karma Chameleon" videos.

I remember spending Saturdays in my mother's room. No, not cleaning up? But rather dancing the day away in front of her dresser's mirror. We would play all our favorites.  I would rap along with Sugar Hill's, "Rapper's Delight": 

"Singin' on'n'n'on'n'on on'n'on,
The beat don't stop until the break of dawn
Singin' on'n'n'on'n'on on'n'on,"

Or, I would try to dance like a real dancer to Flashdance's theme song. Sometimes, I would even run and put my tights and pink leg warmers on. I would then have to dance on my mom's bed, so I could check out my leg warmers as I danced. A little vain, I know!

I vividly remember one moment: I was dancing around my mother's room.  I was shaking "it" side to side and holding my fist as a microphone. At that moment,  I remember thinking whether when I was "old" I would still like and dance to Janet Jackson's, "Pleasure Principle", Control" or Madonna's "Let's Get Into the Groove."  

Now, four years away from 50, I still love to dance. There is more fat to jiggle and the knees do not allow me to jump as high while kicking my legs side to side to the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" or singing to the Go Go's "Our Lips Are Sealed." 

You Tube? Oh Yes!

Years ago, while I was dancing in the living room an older tune came to my mind. I asked my son, "Where is that CD?" I was sweating and was about to run to switch CDs, when my son grabbed the computer and typed the song's title. I suddenly felt so silly. Instead of dancing, I explained to him how during my siblings' dancing marathon in the 80s, we would stop to "put the needle on the record" ( from "Pump Up The Volume") whenever we wanted to hear the song again or the entire record. Eventually, we got a fancy record player where the needle automatically lifted and settled gently on the record. There was no jumping around the record player for fear of scratching the record.

I Did It! I am Still Awake!

Going back to Friday Night Videos, on the nights we did stay awake, Michael Jackson's dancing and singing "Beat It" would wake us up from our commercial slumps when sleep threatened to pull us to the other side.

Today, one can watch video 24/7, but unfortunately last time I checked I was not pleased. I am sure there are good videos out there.  Oh, and I guess, I could google them, but I do not have much time. I could always search for some positive Hip Hop artists such as Mos Def and Common, but I will not lie, I find myself googling the old stuff such as Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" or  Hall and Oates' "Private Eyes."

Wow! The thought that I no longer need to deprive myself of sleep to see Madonna's hip dancing and singing "Over the Borderline!"  And there was always Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for her Money." On that note, I better go get ready for work tomorrow. I can always re-play those videos on another day: there's You Tube?

Who would have known?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Papaya - #Sol 16 Day 19

Papaya- #Sol 16  -  Day 19

After bacon, mangoes
Are my second favorite
Miracle of life.

A third love has
entered my life.

I never liked Papaya.
I thought it had a funny smell
Not to mention in an entry
About food
I also thought it actually 

Tasted like soap.

Recently, I found out
Papaya is a gem of
Vitamin C.

This year, 
I noticed at the supermarket
A pile of Papayas.
I spontaneously picked one that gently
Gave to my touch.

At home in the kitchen,
I unexpectedly fell in love with first
And foremost the sight
Of the shiny slimy black
Pearls ensconced in
The womb of a beautiful
Deep orange coral
Meaty flesh.

That first re-encounter
I scooped out the tiny
And without fear of a "soapy taste"

I relished each cool
Bite of Papaya
Not too sweet
Smooth and gentle
On my tongue.
I no longer sensed
The stinky smell
Or taste of soap.

After the earthquake in Haiti,
A papaya tree rescued
My great-aunt, nephew, the maid, and helpers
In Haiti, papaya plays several
Roles. On a good day, papaya
Is mixed with meat and vegetables
To make a legume or delicious
Papaya vegetable stew
After the earthquake, my great-
Aunt cooked the papaya
With the dwindling meat and vegetables
Eventually, they were eating only
Papaya and rice 

and then headed to the open park
even though the house
was still standing
to sleep under a sky roof
that could not crumble.

I have yet to explore
All the wonders of papaya.
Recently, I have added
Slices of papaya to my
Green Spring mix
The taste of the gorgeous
Papaya drizzled with vinaigrette
And the rich leafy green
Has made me so happy
I even convinced my
Son to have a bowl.

No recipe led me to this mix.
The papaya's rich taste
inspired me.

As I get older, I feel at times
My taste buds fading
I also realize the urgency of
Daily Healthy eating
I want to thank
Papaya for being a tasty
Companion in
My struggle to make better
Eating choices.


Friday, March 18, 2016

This is all I have left in me--#SOl 16 Day 18

This is all I have left in me this week---#SOl 16- Day 18

I need to confess.
I am exhausted and tired.
This week has been long.
My responsibilities have been many.

Tonight, I feel like a failure.
I physically, mentally, and emotionally
Have little energy to invest
In this entry.

I am so tired, and I have had a
Headache for the last two days.

Okay, you do not need to
Hear me complain.

I can’t wait to sleep tonight.
To just close my eyes
And let the world melt away
For the next few hours.

In my culture, sleep is the inter-
Section between the living
And the dead
A space where the dead visit
The living in dreams
Sometimes with cryptic advice and
Sometimes just to make
Their presence felt again.

I remember when my mother
Had died she visited me in
My sleep
She looked much older
Her hair was completely gray
She looked at me and said,
“You need to accept this.”
A dream of reassurance

Back in the fall I was on the bus when
I heard a Haitian woman
Yelling as she got off the bus.
From that point, I just grabbed my
Phone and wrote the following poem
Who knew this poem would
One day allow me to go to bed?

Wishing you all a good night, day or afternoon
dependending on when you read this entry.

Here it is:

“Map rele ou,”  the woman says as she gets off the bus
I will call you.
“Mwen gen yon boul pou ou.” (I have a lottery number for you.)
Numbers swirling in dreams
In the guise of symbols
Gifts from the dead
Whispering numeric combinations
in your dream
to be played
Played like a game
releasing dollars
to light the house
warm your neck
fill your children's belly
A boul bolet
A ball tossed from the world of
the dead to the living
The dead's feeble attempt to help
From afar

From within