Childhood Archeology

Sometimes writing is the cheapest therapy around. Sometimes the deepest, unvoiced battles can be waged on the safe space of a page. And then sometimes these words take shape into something that could potentially give a voice to someone who has none.

That’s what happened with this article, which was published this month on Mamalode, entitled: “Seeing through our eyes: Five things You Need to Know About Children With Special Needs Siblings”

This article was a deeply personal one and incredibly difficult to write. In fact, I think I initially wrote it purely as a means of sorting through my own thoughts and emotions. However, I came to realize that I have a unusual perspective as a grown up on the other side of a unique childhood. I think about how many children are growing up with a special needs sibling or a sibling with a chronic illness or medical condition. I want more than anything to be able to help the grown ups around them understand their unique struggles, fears and guilt. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share this perspective, and I hope that this can ultimately work towards helping children in this position

Hope from Beneath the Cloud

Buzzfeed recently published a wonderfully insightful piece called This is What Depression Looks Like. I will offer my own contribution to this list:

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This picture of Oxford during a sunny burst of rain acts as good metaphor for the confusion and paradox of living with depression. I also took this picture in the midst of my own battle.

I haven’t shared this with many people, but I was deeply depressed during much of that trip. Nothing about it made sense. There I was in the city that most inspires me living in a Harry-Potter like castle with so many wonderful friends and fellow English teachers, studying my favorite period of British literature. And yet, there were days when I used to mark the setting of the sun as a victory because it meant I had made it through another day. Despair in a situation like that leads to crippling guilt. You’re in Oxford. Living life with amazing people. Be thankful. Wake up and enjoy it. Over time my inner monologue softened into a kinder gentler tone. Good job. You took a step. Take another step. Breathe.

To this day, I’m not sure what happened. The content of the novel I was writing at the time forced me to relive and work through some issues of my brother’s death and the subsequent grieving process. (Or lack thereof) That may have been part of it. I remember some of the darkest days when diving into writing seemed the bright spot in the day, and then I remember the thrilling joy upon finishing a project of that magnitude.  I finished the novel at 3:30 AM and lay awake until 5:30 AM watching the sun rise out my window, because I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. Of course finishing a novel surrounded by all English grad students and many fellow writers is the perfect place to celebrate.

More than anything I remember the reemergence of hope into those days. While finishing the novel wasn’t necessarily the solution, depression’s grip began to slowly loosen around that time. Once depression lifted, I saw others around me with new, and more compassionate eyes. Truly, we can never know the inner battles people are waging on a day-to-day basis. Every day that I see the world with eyes cleared from depression is a day to be thankful. Living with depression is not a mark of weakness, but a mark of strength. If two people run a 5k, but one person is wearing a 50 lb weight, which one is stronger? The race may be harder for one, but only because the burden is heavier. So to all those living under the cloud of depression, take a breath and take another step. You’re doing a great job.

The Time We Made A Plan Part II: Beads and Beignets

Before I left for New Orleans, a few students cautioned me that maybe I shouldn’t do “all of the New Orleans things” because it was Holy Week. I am still not sure whether to be flattered or concerned by their assessment of my “wild oats”-sowing tendencies, and I’m also curious what they imagine my non-Holy Week behavior to be. Nonetheless, I managed to make it to New Orleans and in one piece with a clean conscience.

I most looked forward to this final stop on our road trip for the chance to see and catch up with friends, and spend two more days pretending Jess wasn’t moving. I never expected to be find the city itself such a place of inspiration. Few driving experiences have been as harrowing our first entrance into a land of rampant day drinking, high pedestrian traffic and no crosswalks. However, it’s hard to stay stressed when everyone exudes such a wonderfully relaxed spirit of celebration and life. We stayed in the middle of the French Quarter, and I loved how music narrates the streets at all times. Some of my favorite memories were just sitting on the balcony and listening to the sounds of the city.
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Art is infused into every inch of the city. Even the trees were sporting their best Mardi Gras beads.

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The city is alive and full of magic and life.

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I never expected to make this comparison, but New Orleans reminded me so much of Budapest.

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Obviously the flavor of each city is vastly different, but both cities exuded such a fierce spirit of artistry, inspiration and music.

IMG_2513 IMG_2542Art can be found in most cities, but both of these cities seem to be works of art themselves. New Orleans has joined the ranks of muse cities, and spending a few days there catching up with old friends was the crown jewel of a superb road trip adventure.

Publication Latest News

This month, a short piece I wrote about Timbuk Fitness is appearing in Heart and Soul Magazine. This publication is particularly sweet because Timbuk Fitness is the company co-founded by my former roommate, Rachel. I will always cherish the countless evenings with her and the other Ashley House roomies sitting around the kitchen table talking about our dreams. Rachel is a true visionary whose example of courage has been a tremendous encouragement and inspiration to me and many others.

An Easter Weekend Meditation from the Harlem Renaissance

The Crucifixion by James Weldon Johnson

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(source)

Jesus, my gentle Jesus,
Walking in the dark of the Garden —
The Garden of Gethsemane,
Saying to the three disciples:
Sorrow is in my soul —
Even unto death;
Tarry ye here a little while,
And watch with me.
Jesus, my burdened Jesus,
Praying in the dark of the Garden —
The Garden of Gethsemane.
Saying: Father,
Oh, Father,
This bitter cup,
This bitter cup,
Let it pass from me.
Jesus, my sorrowing Jesus,
The sweat like drops of blood upon his brow,
Talking with his Father,
While the three disciples slept,
Saying: Father,
Oh, Father,
Not as I will,
Not as I will,
But let thy will be done.
Oh, look at black-hearted Judas —
Sneaking through the dark of the Garden —
Leading his crucifying mob.
Oh, God!
Strike him down!
Why don’t you strike him down,
Before he plants his traitor’s kiss
Upon my Jesus’ cheek?
And they take my blameless Jesus,
And they drag him to the Governor,
To the mighty Roman Governor.
Great Pilate seated in his hall,–
Great Pilate on his judgment seat,
Said: In this man I find no fault.
I find no fault in him.
And Pilate washed his hands.

But they cried out, saying:
Crucify him!–
Crucify him!–
Crucify him!–
His blood be on our heads.
And they beat my loving Jesus,
They spit on my precious Jesus;
They dressed him up in a purple robe,
They put a crown of thorns upon his head,
And they pressed it down —
Oh, they pressed it down —
And they mocked my sweet King Jesus.
Up Golgotha’s rugged road
I see my Jesus go.
I see him sink beneath the load,
I see my drooping Jesus sink.
And then they laid hold on Simon,
Black Simon, yes, black Simon;
They put the cross on Simon,
And Simon bore the cross.
On Calvary, on Calvary,
They crucified my Jesus.
They nailed him to the cruel tree,
And the hammer!
The hammer!
The hammer!
Rang through Jerusalem’s streets.
The hammer!
The hammer!

The hammer!
Rang through Jerusalem’s streets.
Jesus, my lamb-like Jesus,
Shivering as the nails go through his hands;
Jesus, my lamb-like Jesus,
Shivering as the nails go through his feet.
Jesus, my darling Jesus,
Groaning as the Roman spear plunged in his side;
Jesus, my darling Jesus,
Groaning as the blood came spurting from his wound.
Oh, look how they done my Jesus.
Mary,
Weeping Mary,
Sees her poor little Jesus on the cross.
Mary,
Weeping Mary,
Sees her sweet, baby Jesus on the cruel cross,
Hanging between two thieves.
And Jesus, my lonesome Jesus,
Called out once more to his Father,
Saying:
My God,
My God,
Why hast thou forsaken me?
And he drooped his head and died.
And the veil of the temple was split in two,
The midday sun refused to shine

The thunder rumbled and the lightning wrote
An unknown language in the sky.
What a day! Lord, what a day!
When my blessed Jesus died.
Oh, I tremble, yes, I tremble,
It causes me to tremble, tremble,
When I think how Jesus died;
Died on the steeps of Calvary,
How Jesus died for sinners,
Sinners like you and me.

For more of Johnson’s writings, I highly recommend this book.

That Time We Made a Plan: Part I

Sometimes adventures are born out of passing comments. A four-day road trip can emerge from a late night chat over blackberry sangria and the difficult news of a cross-country move, and a casual “I would drive out with you if you need a travel buddy when you move”. This weekend’s grand adventure and bittersweet farewell grew out of just such a conversation.IMG_4763

This is my dear friend Jess, and I’m still pretending that she’s only visiting Arizona and will fly back any day. This past Saturday, after a bleary-eyed Starbucks run, we left Maryland under cover of darkness, and by the time the sun had risen, yucky congested metropolis had given way to rural Virginia loveliness. IMG_4738

Crossing into Tennessee became the first of many never-before-visited state line crossings. IMG_4742

The hills of Tennessee were completely charming and accompanied by the contextually appropriate country music. Billboards included moonshine, Dollywood, and a heavily advertized musical theatre extravaganza called Lumberjack Feud. As you might imagine these billboards featured lumberjacks waving hatchets at one another. I tend to associate singing lumberjacks with suspenders and a bra, so I’m not sure what these fellows’ deal is.

We stayed in Nashville at the Opryland Gaylord, a beautiful resort of gargantuan proportions next to the famous Grand Ole Opry.

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Yes. That is a river on the inside of the hotel. There was also an accompanying river boat, two gardens walkways, and numerous shops and restaurants, including….

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Jack Daniel’s is the name of the restaurant. Note the location of the apostrophe. No debauchery here, you guys. Also we discovered Jack and honey flavored ice cream.

The next state line we crossed the following day was [Sweet Home] Alabama. IMG_4773

I’ve never had strong feelings one way or the other about being in Alabama, but Alabama had several surprises. We passed near Huntsville where my dad’s family used to live and saw this:

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My late grandfather had worked on the Apollo mission with Werner Von Braun at the nearby Marshall Space Station. Seeing a monument to something he worked on, and next to a Korean War memorial no less, made me miss him more. I can add this to a list of many experiences I wish I could tell him about.

Alabama also turned out to be a beautiful state. The colors of the grass, the hills, and even the red soil were all so vibrant.

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And, of course, the soil isn’t the only red in the state of Alabama.

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Up next…

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Mississippi has its own charm, but we didn’t see much of the state before crossing into Louisiana, and on to the final destination.  I’ll give you a hint: it involves beads, a street called Bourbon and beignets. And it deserves its own post.