Let 2014 Shine for Girls

I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to write about for a New Years Eve post for this blog. Several ideas came to mind while I was showering (where I do a lot of my creative thinking!), or changing the cat box or driving to the store but none of them hit the right chord with me since I didn’t really know exactly what it is I wanted to say. Then I saw a FaceBook status by an acquaintance, a fellow poet whom I interviewed for this blog a while ago, and I knew I’d found my post. Which is really her post that needs to be shared. It screams to be shared.

Sha’Condria Sibley (aka iCON the Artist) was sharing the fact that someone had left a racial slur, the N-word, on the YouTube video of her poem “To All The Little Black Girls With Big Names”. This pissed me off, of course. Another example of haters hating on people who are different than they, an avalanche that just won’t stop. But this post isn’t only about that despicable fact. It’s about Sha’Condria’s  powerful, inspirational poem and about the kind of role models little girls need. Role models like Sha’Condria  who has written this beautiful, empowering poem and performs it to perfection with grace and conviction. Role models who won’t stand for hate and name-calling, who use their talent for good and decent reasons, to share their experiences and their wisdom, to lift up, not tear down.

So, little girls and big girls, y’all listen up and make 2014 a shining year for girls with big names and big ideas. Don’t let the haters get ya down. And Happy New Year!

Happy Mother’s Day

I would like to take the opportunity to wish NOLAFEMMES’ founder Charlotte Hamrick a Happy Mother’s Day.

I think of you as a “mother” to all of us who post on this blog: you remind us to use tags, encourage us to post, you raise us up and you celebrate when we achieve “Freshly Pressed”.

Thank you for inviting me to post here and for your advice and support over the past 2 years. I would also like to wish all of NOLAFEMMES’ other bloggers a wonderful Mother’s Day.

Morgus the Magnificent

Anyone who grew up here in New Orleans should remember watching our beloved Morgus the Magnificent. For over half a century, Morgus prefaced the weekend horror movies with his own New Orleans style horror vignettes. Morgus, along with his sidekick Chopsley would entertain us with his weekly scientific experiments gone wrong, dissecting and poking and prodding various New Orleans B-listers, with the week’s story line progressing during the commercial breaks of Godzilla or Mothra, or Godzilla-Mothra-King Kong end of the world movies. I swear, Morgus’ dry, morbid sense of humor has affected generations of New Orleanians, claiming his rightful place alongside the satire of Mardi Gras and the unique New Orleans musical soundtrack of our lives.

Well today, the ever elusive character has proverbially come out from hiding – behold the man behind our Morgus!

Allow me to present Sid Noel Rideau, a.k.a.  Momus Alexander Morgus. Sheila Stroup of the Times Picayune wrote a beautiful article profiling Mr. Rideau with his latest contribution to New Orleans culture, the New Orleans Public Library’s Internet Story Club of America. What an admirable endeavor, and it seals the deal that future generations will have the privilege of being entertained and enlightened by Morgus the Magnificent, now publically known as Mr. Rideau. Thank you sir for all you’ve done, and continue to do for our city.

A Brief Meditation

Over an eighth night of Chanukah dinner, I got into a discussion about the horrible event in Newtown, CT, with a friend of mine who taught for many decades.

“Where are the emergency drills in local schools for this kind of thing? Why is the security at the schools here so lax?” she worried.

It was deemed a sad thing that lockdown procedures were even necessary at schools today, but some basic measures like keeping school gates and doors locked from the outside during school hours seem like afterthoughts here. I remarked that just after I learned about Newtown, I went to pick up my son from school and observed a school staff member head for her car just outside a school side gate, get what she needed from her vehicle, then head back onto school grounds without closing the gate behind her. It’s not like it couldn’t happen in New Orleans – it did nearly ten years ago.

“They do keep the main building closed from the outside, with the only access being via a buzzer and an intercom system,” Dan said, “but if you’re a kid or teacher in one of the portable classrooms, you’re on your own,” he finished half-jokingly.

The only drills anyone runs in the schools here are fire drills, and those not very frequently. I suppose, and hope, a lockdown drill or two will be a part of the school year. The trick is trying to give the kids a sense of safety without it feeling like a police state.

At the same time, schools across the country are being so defunded that to jump up and throw loads of money at security for impoverished schools seems cruel and ridiculous. I’d prefer that the long-term solution be more money to education and the proper treatment of mental illness, and better gun control laws…

…but chances are, we’ll be debating this stuff until someone comes into an infant daycare and opens fire.

Invitation to Profiling?

I’ll admit it: I’m a slacker mom about many things, among them my son’s homework.

Well, considering his attention-deficit diagnosis, I’m not as much of a slacker as I’d like to be. I’m constantly having to remind him not only to do what he wrote down in his assignment book, but to stay in one place and do it. Bribes such as the eventual watching of MythBusters episodes, Angry Birds and Bad Piggies playing time, and dessert upon the completion of homework also enter the picture…but I’ve rarely been uneasy about the subjects he covers in school.

Rarely, I say…but not never. It has come up a couple of times. And I think we’ve been about due.

First of all, head here and check out pages 107-108. Take your time. Look it over.

Yes, you all read it right. It’s asking kids for a criminal description.

Okay. It doesn’t say what the crime is. It just says you caught someone doing something illegal and you need to write down a description of the perp for the police. In that imaginary vacuum where crime is a rare occurrence, this isn’t a big whoop, you just describe somebody.

However, New Orleans is anything but a vacuum crime-wise; in fact, this assignment could well be viewed as prep for when something happens. Much as I and many other parents I know do our best to protect our kids from it out there – whether it’s locking our house and car doors tight, making sure that no valuables (or anything that may look like it could hold valuables) are within view in either place, not doing too much alone after dark, or just not watching the local news – we still can’t keep our kids from hearing about it. Crime affects us all here in one way or another. Our neighbors have had things stolen out of their yard. I had a bicycle stolen right out of my foyer last year. Hearing gunshots is not an unusual occurrence, sadly. Trust in the police is a laughable concept. And that’s just addressing the likelihood that an assignment like this will become something more.

As to the actual description of a criminal: shouldn’t it be “alleged criminal,” first off, or does that point out how farcical “innocent until proven guilty” can be? Also, there’s a little something known as profiling that happens even with the best of us. My son chose not to do this assignment and got a zero on it (even after repeated reminders from my husband all through Thanksgiving week to do it), but when he did do it the second time around (which his teacher has him do as practice), he used this episode of one of his favorite shows as inspiration. Something makes me wonder if studies have been done on what types of people 9-to-10-year-olds describe as “criminals” and why. I’m sure if we could hold that mirror up to ourselves, we wouldn’t find it funny or charming…not even if the kids wrote beautiful descriptions of the teacher as a giggle.

I asked my son’s teacher about this assignment. Was she concerned about the content the kids would be writing in their criminal descriptions? Was the content discussed at all or were the mechanics of the essays the only focus? No, this wasn’t about my son’s grade – he didn’t do the assignment and suffered the consequences: a big fat zero (if the essay had involved describing airplanes or snakes, I’m sure the little guy would’ve been ON IT.).

Her answers?

No, she wasn’t concerned.

Yes, they did discuss the content some. The teacher felt that as long as a specific crime wasn’t described, the possibility of controversial content wasn’t an issue.

Apparently, I was the first parent out of all the students in all the 4th and 5th grade classes (this assignment was given to more students than just the ones in my son’s class – it’s prep for the state exam) to raise these questions. Which made me wonder if I was just being a busybody.

An opinion from another teacher? This assignment is inappropriate.

My opinion? The fact that I’ve been the only parent to bring this stuff up definitely says something. I just wish I knew what that something was…

…and why it makes me feel sad.

Operation Hugs and Stitches

Every year, my husband and I set a goal: the coming year will be better than the year before. I have this fear, you see, of getting stuck in a rut, of perpetually struggling in this life while living it on pause. I’m not sure where this fear comes from. I suspect it has something to do with my previous marriage. That’s my theory, anyway.

This year has been an incredible year for my mister, Emily, and me. The love, kindness, and acceptance we have been shown – not just by those in our everyday lives, but also by total strangers – has been, in a word, breathtaking. I’ve long since held the belief that kindness, love, and compassion for one another is an important rule to live by, and to feel all of those things important to me ricochet off the universe and land right back on us further cements in my mind that these really should be virtues that transcend into a way of life. Those three things – love, kindness, and acceptance – really can change lives.

We struggled with trying to figure out how we could pay love forward, particularly during the holiday season when the universe laughs as it piles on unexpected bills, unrealistic expectations, and inconvenient truths, leaving people panicked and stressed while scrambling to maybe just survive the season, much less actually enjoy it. And finding the meaning of the holiday in all of that stress? Sometimes that is mission impossible.

Inspiration came when one of my oldest friends, Jen, shared a link on her Facebook wall. The link led me to this incredible movement, Helping Hands, where ordinary people posted their holiday needs and other ordinary people fulfilled them. It was the brainchild of Momastery, an incredibly honest blog filled with nuggets of wisdom and inspiration. I read each of the posted needs, wishing I could fulfill so many of them.

It hit me, the thing I could do to help other families.

I talked to Emily and asked what she thought about my idea. She was thrilled, and then went on to help me to expand on the original idea and that is when she came up with the name Operation Hugs and Stitches.

Earlier this year, my oldest friend, Robin, made Emily a weighted blanket. This blanket is so special to us, mostly because it was made by Robin while she was away from work, kicking cancer’s ass, but also because the blanket has brought Emily such relief from the issues she has had with sleep and when her senses are overwhelmed. Therapist and doctors recommend the use of weighted blankets for those on the autism spectrum because it is believed the blankets provide deep pressure input that their bodies crave. They are often prescribed, but rarely covered by insurance companies. And they can be spendy. When we first researched a weighted blanket for Emily, a full-size blanket averaged at $379.

I can sew. Emily loves crafting with me. We decided to make weighted blankets for families that otherwise may not be able to afford them, or at least afford them comfortably. We found 16 families to make blankets for, 21 blankets in all. I don’t know who these families voted for, what religion they adhere to, or what their occupations are. I can tell you that they are spectrum families that have kiddos ranging from non-verbal to severely autistic to the higher end of the spectrum. They live in different states. Some are single parents. Some are military families. They can all empathize with each other on how difficult it is to know there is a tool out there that can help their children, but know the feeling of not being able to afford it. For a parent, that is one of the worst feelings in the world. I’ve felt it. I’m sure to one extent or another; you have felt it, too.

When we told our friends about our plan for Operation Hugs and Stitches, they donated bags of material and scrap material. Another friend offered me the use of her sewing machine. I placed ads on Freecycle and the response was great. Today, I received a box full of fuzzy green material from someone in Ohio. I received an e-mail telling me to expect a box of material coming from Texas. These are people I don’t know, but who want to contribute in whatever way they can.

Emily has been busy designing blankets (and a line of zombie rag dolls she wants to try to sell to save for a camcorder and laptop – moviemaking is her latest obsession) and we came up with a pretty brilliant idea (if I do say so). Even after sending boxes of Mardi Gras beads to sick children in different parts of the  country, donating some to local organizations, and putting others away in her hope chest as keepsakes, we still have a lot of Mardi Gras beads from Emily Gras. Instead of using poly pellets for the weight part of the weighted blankets (on average 4 pounds), we are going to use the remaining beads from Emily Gras, giving everyone who receives a blanket a bit of one of the most perfect days we could have ever imagined. When we run out of those beads, we will get more, giving others, unknown to them, a bit of New Orleans, Mardi Gras, and the spirit of the city and the people that live here.

We are incorporating the making of the blankets into our homeschool curriculum, utilizing the math, geography, and skills involved in creating something out of nothing, sending them to different parts of the country, and every inch of fabric being essential to the final product.

It seems like such a little thing, making these blankets for those who will really benefit from them. The feelings we have for doing something for someone else, the memories we are making together, and knowing that our simple act of kindness will make ripples for others – you can’t buy that, not anywhere.

Dr. Andre M. Perry on The Consequence of Missed Opportunities

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Perry
The One Son Who Got Away

By Dr. Andre M. Perry

About a year ago, Ms. Chanda Burks met me in my office to discuss establishing a mentoring program for black males through her sorority Delta Sigma Theta.  Ms. Burks brought along her adolescent son Jared Michael Francis to take in the conversation.  One year later, just a few days ago, I bumped into Ms. Burks at a NOLA for Life event.  There, Ms. Burks informed me that her son Jared died from multiple gunshots in front of their home in the hushed neighborhood of Tall Timbers. He died September 15, 2012.  He was an 18 year-old senior in high school.

After hearing this horrible news, I immediately recalled the robust conversation we had about mentoring and staying in school.  I remembered how encouraged Ms. Burks and her son left the meeting.  Ms. Burks in fact told me during our recent encounter that our past chat made a positive impression on Jared.  But, deep down I knew a conversation wasn’t enough.  I missed an opportunity to save a son.

A balance of regret and responsibility motivated me to call Ms. Burks a few days later. I also wanted to get a sense of what happened in between the time we last met.  Ms. Burks told me that he lived the typical life of a middle-class teenager. She saw few negative signs. Ms. Burks acknowledged the presence of one peer that showed a penchant for trouble. No one as of yet has been charged with his murder.  I told myself that a few more conversations could have reached Jared and his troubled friend.  But ephemeral conversations are not enough.

I like many others have abdicated our community responsibilities to teachers, community based organizations and City Hall.  To a fault, we’ve placed undue responsibilities on police and prisons to restore order. Given the magnitude of our community problems, everyday citizens must unlearn how we made disengagement an acceptable behavior.

According to the report, Building an Inclusive, High-Skill Workforce for New Orleans Next Economy from the Greater New Orleans Data Center, 14,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in the New Orleans metro are neither enrolled in school nor employed. Disconnected youth is the latest tag used to describe this horrible state of anomie. It means that fourteen thousand youth in the New Orleans metro are adrift and disengaged from the social anchors that could instill the type of character that incite youth to fight injustice instead of producing it.

Jared did not qualify as someone who we deem as disconnected, but those we take for granted are receiving the collateral damage of socially dysfunctional communities.  We cannot escape ourselves.

The overwhelming statistics demand intimate and intrusive engagement that rises above fleeting conversations. But they’re reasons why we don’t get close enough to embrace a young man or woman.  We’re scared. The annual murder counts are more than alarming. Murder creates an environment of fear that facilitates a hands-free ethic of care. Consequently, even the best of us essentially drop in from our collective ivory towers only to helicopter out with deliberate speed.  We never become a part of the social milieu. We’ve become what I often refer to as arms-length advocates.

Arms-length advocacy can’t replace the strong hugs our children actually need. We can’t let fear or disengagement deny ourselves opportunities to prevent the unnecessary loss of yet another Jared. The community involvement we need is so simplistic it’s almost insulting to repeat. If more of us who care are fully present, murder rarely happens. If family members, neighbors and friends displayed the courage and love to take the gun away, report the crime and redirect the anger, we would not be our current situation.  If those who are not expected to save a son took every opportunity to act, the ongoing professional work could gain traction.

Ms. Burks and I simply can’t let another opportunity pass.  If the community character is not present, we must develop it.  Moral discernment must be taught, displayed and executed.  Therefore, we ask everyone who reads this to take opportunities to build our capacities.

Each year for my birthday (October 12) I try to give back.  I’m privileged. Service is the obligation of privilege.  My birthday always seemed like the perfect date to give back.  This year I asked Ms. Chandra Burks if we could become mentors and direct our friends to deeper mentoring opportunities.  She agreed.  Over the next week we are directing people to the New Orleans Kids Partnership Mentor and Tutor sign-up program < http://www.nokp.org/mentortutor/>.

New Orleans Kids Partnership has coordinated a variety of proven mentoring and tutoring programs across the Greater New Orleans region. NOKP made it very convenient for anyone to choose an organization that fits our busy schedules.  They also provide training and guidance on how to mentor or tutor. We can’t assume that everyone can serve as a role model.  Many “mentors” need mentoring. Nevertheless, NOKP and its partners make youth engagement a safe and organized process.

When you sign up, please indicate in the appropriate section that you heard about NOKP’s mentoring program through Ms. Chandra Burks.

As Ms. Burks and I meandered through our discussion, she could not keep straight the number of children she currently had.  She would say, “My three…I mean my two children.”  She may have lost a son, but she certainly gained a brother.  Hopefully, we will soon begin losing track of how many sons we have gained rather than from how many we have lost.

Andre Perry, Ph.D. (twitter: @andreperrynola) is Associate Director for Educational Initiatives for Loyola University New Orleans and author of The Garden Path: The Miseducation of a City.

dinner conversation

Last night I was at dinner in someone’s home and the following is the abridged version of a portion of dinner conversation. I say abridged because I was so mad that one, the guest had the audacity to discuss politics in a room of people this person had never met, save one, and two I didn’t want to go ballistic and embarrass the host so I left.

Guest: I was at the VA hospital today for (some random event) and was able to see the blueprint of the new hospital.

Me: Oh really, tell me about it…

Guest: Well on Banks street, the old oak trees were saved, and some of the buildings will be built around the oaks, so there will be a corridor down the middle – a shaded promenade with benches and such.

Me: That sounds nice!

Guest: While I was there today, some of the (nameless) dignitaries were discussing how the Charity Hospitals were being dismantled and they were looking at private corporations to take over the care of the patients.

Me: Oh really? Well after Katrina, when Charity hospital was closed down, all the patients had to go somewhere so they were seen at Ochsner, East Jefferson – it didn’t work well and those hospitals lost a lot of money…

Guest: Yeah, one of the doctors at (nameless hospital) was telling me how after the storm, a gun shot wound patient broke into some pharmacy storage area to take medicine, so that didn’t work out too well with “those” (emphasis guest) patients at the private hospitals. So its going to be difficult for “those” (emphasis guest) patients to find somewhere to go.

Me: I honestly don’t see how the state could possibly shut down the Charity Hospitals? What are they going to do with the new hospital? Sell it?

Guest: Well there will be no more Charity system, they are doing everything right now to close all the hospitals. It won’t be an issue especially if Obamacare is defeated in November when Romney wins.

Me: Its called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Plus there is no guarantee Romney will win.

Guest: Well if Obama is re-elected, there are ways to defeat the health care bill.

Me: Oh Really? You know, we really shouldn’t be going there (having political discussion with strangers) at dinner…

Guest: Well how do you think Obamacare is going to be funded? The federal government will need to put up $50 billion dollars they don’t have to pay for it…

At this point I excused myself and helped clear the table and began washing dishes. The guest continued carrying on political discussion with the others remaining at the table which I could hear from the kitchen. I did as much as I could to assist the host –  but very soon after when another guest excused themselves it was my cue to leave too.

I find it extraordinarily disturbing that there is a subversive political process going on which is hell bent on obliterating health care for the poor and uninsured in Louisiana. There has already been a loss of thousands of state jobs, and this current round will result in 1500 more people out of work. How does this contribute to the tax base, the spend and growth economy, putting people out of work, regardless of the fact that these are hard working and dedicated state employees?  Where are all the students of health care, physicians, nurses, allied health, going to go for training? Not to mention all of the sick, sick patients and not just the victims of and perpetrators of violent trauma: there is no plan in the foreseeable future for the state to pony up through Bayou Health or any other fee schedule to reimburse the private hospitals that will wind up caring for the uninsured poor. And once these private hospitals begin to see red, what will happen to the patients? Will they just start dying in the streets? Where is the social justice in that?

There is a call to action out there, let your voice be heard. Representative Jerome Richard from Thibodaux has called to convene a special session to address the recent bulldozing of healthcare, among other things. Contact your state legislators and senators, and demand they go to special session in November to reverse the evisceration of health care in this state. You the citizens elected the legislators and they answer to you, compel them to do their job and do what’s right by their constituents and not the special interests.

*****UPDATE***** This link will take you to an online petition through Change dot org requesting the legislature to convene a special session to find out what in God’s name is going on with the railroading of health care in Louisiana – please consider signing it – thanks

A Look Back

Over four years ago, I starting taking pictures of a number of the abandoned, rotting public school buildings of New Orleans.

I didn’t intend to, it just happened. There was an initial effort to connect some dots, when I was urged by a fellow local blogger to see what community input into the School Facilities Master Plan meant. I learned that it didn’t mean a hell of a lot - it was window dressing for plans already in motion for areas of the city caught in a Catch-22 situation of New Orleans recovery after the events of August 29, 2005: utilities and city services would return if certain numbers of people came back to stay in these ruined areas, but more people would be more likely to stay if they were assured of those services right off the bat. New Orleans East, the Ninth Ward, Gentilly, Pontchartrain Park, and Treme were frontiers in that respect. Return and live here at your own risk, the city seemed to say. And nothing screamed that attitude louder than the ruined schools.

Two years into our second period of living in New Orleans and here I was, climbing through the wide-open shells of buildings that had been under water or had been boarded up despite their lack of damage from breached levees because there weren’t any plans as of yet for the hastily reorganized and heavily charterized Recovery School District to use them or demolish them. Beyond that initial foray into what happened with Lake Forest Montessori, I got curious for two reasons: the realization that there were many more school buildings that were going to face bulldozers without much say from the surrounding communities, and the blanket acceptance by so many I knew that the charters were going to be the cure for what had long ailed New Orleans’ public schools. The latter assurance by friends of mine that bluer skies were around the corner for public education here made no room for my questions and doubts – in fact, I was roundly scorned. Things had been SO BAD under the old OPSB that any idea that charters might not be the cure was instantly interpreted as a longing to return to the bad old days rather than an honest critique. I was also seen as a hypocrite because my son was currently attending a charter – if I dared question charters, why didn’t I just pull him out and send him to a traditional public school?

At the time, I guess I was looking for clues that some of these buildings could be saved. That the surrounding communities’ input would be taken more seriously if the schools that were beyond repair had to be demolished. That people’s lingering grief from events that happened nearly three years previous wouldn’t be used against them. That, despite the crimes the old OPSB had inflicted on the children and the facilities of the public schools pre-August 2005, the people actually entrusted with educating the kids had tried.

I discussed this some with Megan Braden-Perry a few weeks ago when I joined her on one of her trips on the RTA bus lines, but I could only articulate how heady a year 2008 was if one was a blogger in New Orleans. There was a feeling of urgency, of needing recovery in the city to move one way or the other…hopefully, it would move in a direction that would benefit those who called this city home no matter what part of the city they were in. I caught that fever and dared to think that the pictures I was taking might change some things. I look at those photos now and wonder who that person was.

No, I didn’t manage to take pictures of all the schools, but I did go through 33 of them. I had to stop when I discovered evidence of someone staying in the upper floor of one of the schools, at which time I felt like I’d seen far too much abandonment for my taste…for anyone’s taste. But I had to see it for myself.

I couldn’t understand at the time how so many could put their hands in front of their eyes and see nothing. Something in me still doesn’t understand…but I do know that whenever I feel the urge to give in to that same impulse in myself, I think of these places and I remember. I question. I critique. And I do my best to do it constructively, knowing that all that will be left if I and others don’t dare to do so will be something equivalent to the acres of crumbling schools I saw, moldering shells that accused us all of having stood by idly when their lives were on the line.

Assignment

“He really acted up today,” was what I’d been told the day before.

I intimated that it might be more than just post-hurricane, out-of-school-for-far-too-long restlessness to the school administrator, contrary to what my husband wanted me to say to any of the school higher-ups this year. The office assistant told me it would stay between the two of us. I hoped so.

This afternoon threatened to make that conversation the least of my and my son’s problems, though. The little guy had recovered from his rusted-out frying pan of bad behavior only to be cast into the flames of the bad behavior of his entire class. Although his day overall had been “better,” his mind latched onto the injustice of removed recess privileges (no one was quiet, no one was listening, so those were the consequences for everyone) and worried over it like a dog with a bone during the car ride from school. Initially, I wasn’t too worried, myself. This had happened a few times before the previous year and was a common complaint that he let go of once he got home.

We unlocked the door, climbed up the stairs, and, once the after-school snacks had been devoured, took a look at what was in the homework folder – “Oh, I see the behavior flow chart you had to fill out,” I said, signing it. There was a note from the school asking for payment for a small instrument for use in the kiddo’s music instruction; okay, will send a check with him to school tomorrow, I noted. “Is there anything else?” I asked.

The little guy’s face fell.

“I have to write an essay about my day,” he said sorrowfully.

I sighed. From the tone of his voice, I knew what was coming. What would normally be forgotten, dropped at the door and allowed to waft away in the early September warmth, was now etched in his brain. Attempts to get him to recall anything other than that missed recess would prove fruitless; in fact, further questions and calm admonitions to get him into a better frame of mind only made things worse. He wandered off to his room in a teary huff, looking for his own brand of calm as far away from a blank page as he could get and still be indoors, while I called my husband.

“Please kill me,” was what I wanted to say.

Instead, I poured out my frustrations to my husband and got a different kind of slow stiletto to my heart.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “I guess you can tell him to just use the pain. Write out what he’s feeling, whether it’s in his notebook or on a scrap piece of paper to get it out and clear his head so that he can write something good about his day.” That advice felt to me what I’m sure my admonitions to my son felt like to him – like boiling water on a fire out of control. Now there were two people in the house that needed calm.

After a bunch of internet games and some reading to take my mind off it all and thrive on the quiet, I gave the subject some thought. I whipped up dinner, called the kiddo to the table, and we ate together, chatting of other things. We cleared the table, and then it was make or break time.

I broached the subject again. The little guy started crying. Again.

I fought the impulse to yell in frustration, instead giving him a hug we both needed. “I know this is hard. I know this is hurting you to remember…but you know what? Sometimes, that’s where writing can help.” He sniffed, looking at me questioningly.

“You want to leave these feelings behind? You’re really sad that this assignment wasn’t more specific than ‘write about your day?’ Guess what? You can use that,” I said, warming up a little more, kicking my own recent writing frustrations into it. “Go ahead and write what you’re feeling, right here and now. Leave it on the page. Just write it all out, kiddo.” There were some more sniffles.

But he turned back to that page. He confronted its blankness, stared its taunt in the face. The pencil began to scratch the surface. The redness disappeared from his cheeks. Even though the teacher’s work was meant to get the kids to do longer pieces of writing, the little guy stood up after two sentences. “I’m done, Mom.”

Some time after the kiddo went to bed, my husband came home from his rehearsal. “How’d he do?” I was asked. I gestured to the still-open notebook on the table. Dan looked it over. “Two sentences?”

“Sometimes, that’s more than enough,” I said.

For today, it was.