Poetry Inspired by a Trip to D.C.

 Poems by C. Mattern

What Have I Become?

Today I spent

one fifty on a few drinks

and ignored homeless.

 

That Time I Crashed a Family Reunion

So I’m crying at Obama’s Inauguration speech,

encased in a glassed wall,

when a black woman walks up and begins comforting me.

She’s in a purple family reunion shirt,

one of the plethora that day

reading “2017” in varied fonts and colors.

I mean, we’re in the tomb of her history,

and she is here next to me,

telling me it will only get better.

She who has viewed her

ancestors’ pictures

in this place:

a family photo album

for the world to analyze.

She who was once

denied the right to vote

by my people.

She whose ancestors were

enslaved by mine.

She who once

heard stories of

her grandmothers nursing mine and

then were forced to

give

up

their

own

babies.

Milk good enough for mine

but not equal enough to sit

at a table together and

pour from a pitcher.

She who is not so much a visitor here

but a brick-

the foundation-

a family reunion

I’ve intruded upon

only to be

consoled.

 

That Time I Called Home to Check In

When I told you

about the emotions

I felt

while

walking

through the museum

you replied,

Imagine living it.

So I did.

It wasn’t

even close to anything

like

I was feeling.

 

 

 I was Silently Sobbing

 

When I heard you whisper

in your husband’s ear

loudly enough though

for us to hear

that the pic of

President Obama’s Inauguration

was photoshopped.

 

Then soon after,

“I think they’re

Ignoring us.”

We weren’t ignoring

you, grandma B. 

We were cursing you

Invisible-

putting an Evanesco spell

on both yours and grandpa’s asses.

Pretending we were Ron, Hermione,

and Harry and you were

merely fucking muggles:

Ignorant, rude, inferior.

We were fresh out the

Emmett Till Memorial

and you frontin like Carolyn Bryant

Up in here

Spitting lies

Wanting attention

Creating drama

that made us wonder:

Why the fuck you even visiting?

Shouldn’t you be

headed to New Orleans

trying to stop the destruction

of General Lee

or down to Florida to

visit your president,

Instead?

Poems by A. Sewell

Dear White Girl at Open Mic Night

 

I should have closed my eyes because

I did not really hear you.

I only saw you.

I cannot recount your struggle- your pain.

All I saw was the color of your skin,

and thought- what does SHE know about-well- ANYTHING?

 

I feel ashamed.

 

The cries of children should not be prioritized by color.

 

 

 
 
When I traveled to DC with a couple of girls & they accidentally gave me the experience of what it might be like to be a color other than my own. 
 
 
I watched their behinds as they walked in unison several steps in front of me.
Their athleticism reminding me of my extra extra swaying drenched in sweat.
My struggle to keep up was real.
 
They talked, as close friends do, and I longed to interject a few words
that wouldn’t come out sounding forced or awkward.
The relaxed countenance during their intimate conversations
changed unintentionally to a furrowed brow when they remembered I was there.  
 
I felt seperate but equal. Scratch that- I was not equal.
I was inferior, and I felt it.
Yet I didn’t want to act like someone else to balance out the distance between us.
I wanted to be myself around people who were not like me. 
 
I wondered if that might be what it feels like to be a minority.
Wanting to be a part of something- an individual in a myriad of individuals
connected by differences instead of similarities.
Craving to keep what makes them unique, yet similar enough to be included in the conformable moments of love and togetherness.
 
But inclusion is not acceptance- merely tolerance.
Who knew tolerance could be so painful?
If this is how minorities feel, then teaching tolerance
is simply a beautiful blade disguised as an open hand.
 
And when you are a minority and similarities bind,
there is no place to be but 5 steps behind.

 

 
Perspective
 
You see our founding fathers
The building of a great nation
A place people flock to for freedom
 
I see cold stone statues that cost more money to build than I will ever make
 
You see a signed paper giving birth to a nation
 
I see a paper picked apart and used like the bible to support corrupt agendas
while the true meaning of it goes ignored by those with the power
to give the document meaning
 
You see a memorial of a great man who fought to end slavery
 
I see another white man revered while the
MLK memorial is outside the circle and a struggle to get to
 
You see the White House
a place where your great leader resides
 
I see a large white empty structure
crying out to once again be filled with men and women of substance, character,
and a desire for change
 
You see a wall of names honoring soldiers who have died for our country
 
I see my existence
A wall covered in so many names
and thankfully not my father’s
But I see his stories, and wonder which names are people he knew
 
You see a tour
I see a sad history disguised as hope.

 

 
 
 
Poem by R. Zimmerman
 
 
 
Still
That white momument stands tall against the blue sky
You know the one
The one that reflects in the pool
The one that was built to honor our nation’s “most essential Founding Father”
That tall white monument 
 
But in stark contrast 
Nowhere near as tall
No reflection but that of its past 
Sits a squat colored building 
A building that houses history,
abuse, 
pain, 
triumph 
of a people who’s skin color shares the color of that building 
 
The segregation of what was supposed to be “then” lingers in the skyline.
 
 

 

 

 

Without the Majority 

 

 

Killing thousands upon thousands who had no voice

 

Oppressing thousands upon thousands who had no voice

 

Representing thousands upon thousands who had no voice 

 

Without the majority he had…

Control

Power

Money

Fear

Stormtroopers

 

The Only Voice

 

Without the majority.  

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DC on a Dime

This past weekend I spent my birthday in Washington, D.C. with friends. Originally we went for a teacher’s march, but the date was changed, so we still decided to go for a weekend getaway. I have been there twice, but each time it feels a little different and this trip helped me to define community. Here are the highlights and a few key pieces of advice if you are trying to travel on a budget.

FRIDAY

We drove through the night Thursday and arrived at 9am Friday morning. This was the perfect time to refresh and get to the city. We parked at our hotel in Maryland, then found the closest Metro Station. It was only about a fifteen minute walk there. Immediately we put twenty on a card and were on our way to the first stop: Smithsonian. At 6:30am that morning we had scored tickets to the African American National Museum. If you check the website they are “sold out” through October, but often you can secure a free time pass if you get online right at 6:30am. It is a free museum but you must have a ticket or time pass to enter.

Just prior to our museum entry we had lunch at a sandwich shop. On the way back we passed a farmer’s market only open on Fridays at lunch. It would have been a perfect treat. It is the Reagan Courtyard and good to keep in mind since the food trucks only seemed to line up there on weekends.

The museum was powerful. We waited in line for Emmett Till’s Memorial so I would suggest heading there first. It is on the second floor. The staff advises you to work your way up through time, but I would go get in line to pay your respects to Emmett Till first. Architecturally it is a beautiful building for such a tragic history.

We decided to decompress and check in to the hotel after the museum. Then we went to Hamilton’s Bar and Grill (not to be confused with the classy and expensive Hamilton’s downtown) and I had a few too many birthday drinks. Hamilton’s Bar and Grill is super cheap and smells like a frat house. It was the kind of place you’d meet girls from Ohio and play a drinking game at the table. Next door was an English pub, The Alibi, perfect for a cheap Scotch Egg or Beef Wellington appetizer to soak up some of that alcohol. Since we hadn’t slept yet, we got an Uber and crashed.

SATURDAY

Today would be full of art. We had time passes secured for the Holocaust Museum ($1 online), but decided to hit up breakfast downstairs with the Sons of Solomon biker club that took up our entire hotel first. It was their annual gathering. After eating we hopped the Metro to Blind Whino, otherwise known as the DC Painted Church. Inside is a free gallery and performing arts stage. There is no easy way to get to the church, so trust your map. We took pictures and made art, then used lyft to get us to the Holocaust Museum.

I had never been to this one, only the one in Bloomfield Hills. They are set up similarly, but nothing really prepares you for the depth of death you encounter. It was pretty emotional adding on that I still hadn’t fully processed yesterday’s museum experience either. After the museum we decided to hit up a recommended restaurant, Busboys and Poets, named after Langton Hughes. The story goes he was a busboy and left poetry at a table for a poet, then the next day he saw his work in the paper! When we walked in a couple was getting wrist tags so I asked what was going on. Best timing ever: we could attend an open mic for $5. It was to help the National DC Youth poetry slam team to their next competition Brave New Voices. While I cannot share video because they are competing nationally with the poems we heard, all I can say is I was inspired. It was the best $5 I have ever spent.

Bathroom breaks can be tricky in DC, so we hit up Capitol City Brewery for a flight and restroom. Three of us shared a flight for $8.50 and I received a sample for my birthday free of charge. The complimentary Bavarian pretzels and spicy ranch dip were an added bonus for this impulsive stop.

Getting back to the room a little later than we expected, only two of us went out for the night, but once again, opted for local joints rather than tourist traps. We took the train back to the city and explored a little place called Showtime. Our friend recommended this spot and she met up with us there later. It was super cheap ($3 Natty Boh), had a funky disco DJ, and some amazing people watching. Granny wasn’t performing, but it wasn’t Sunday night either so we made due. We even ran into a guy there that runs the Crim each summer!

SUNDAY

We had to switch hotels this day, but it was not troublesome. We even were able to check into the W downtown three hours prior to our check in time! It was beautiful; the decor was modern and full of painted lego originals as well as a Nixon graffiti bar.

We had been waiting for this day the entire summer…it was the day we would attend the Game of Thrones pop up bar. We took the metro to the Howard University area, walked a few blocks, and saw it: the line. It was not as bad as I imagined so I was happy. We only had about a half hour until it opened and the lady in front of us was sure we would be getting in (they only allow 70 and then it is come and go). Also, if you’re a Fed you and your girl get to cut the line so there’s that.

The bar is unmarked-in fact, it is three bars that are owned by the same dude and he rented them out to this place called the Drink Company that puts on these Pop Up events all over. We waited for close to two hours with like minded fans which actually wasn’t terrible, and finally entered. Red leaves and a lone white wolf near the bar adorn the the first room signaling that you have entered the House of Stark, fitting for the many fans of Ned to begin in this room. If you keep walking towards the back you enter Mereen with a fire breathing dragon. It is smaller back there and a bit smoky, so we kept exploring. The House of Black and White ruled by the many faced god (over by the bar there is spot for your own head where you can take pics) is the next room. Look carefully enough and you can spot your bartender’s cask on the wall. Through the hallway graffiti’d with “Kill the Masters” you enter the Red Keep where you can pledge allegiance to your house and get a picture with Ramsey Bolton’s flaying device or Theon’s weiners. The throne room is located here so Jon Snow and Khaleesi may be easier to find in this room than the others.

If you go, sign up for the text message service to get a picture on the throne. Our wait for the pic was 150 minutes estimate, but less than that real time. Go with 3-4 people so you can taste the full menu and get shamed with the Tequila grapefruit drink. We got through every drink but two. I had to switch to Bend the Knee beer so I wouldn’t fall asleep. Yell out “The North Remembers!” every so often and eat prior to going because there are only a few bar snacks for sale.

After GOT we were starving and Oohs and Ahs was within walking distance. It is a soul food place that has been featured on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. I shared a chicken meal and also got to taste the catfish. Let me tell you: it is worth the wait AND the price. It may seem expensive for diner food, but there is so much of it, you can’t go wrong. I would order the grits again (w/o cheese) and also the Mac n Cheese as side. The greens were good but too spicy for my belly. The corn bread was a disappointment as it was dry but the seasoning on that chicken and catfish made up for it!

We most definitely watched the premiere of GOT then walked upstairs to the roof to one of DC’s hottest bars: POV at the W. It is known for its expansive views of the city and reminded me of NYC aside from the fact that you are literally looking down into the western lawn of the White House. Bring your money and leave your telescopic lens at home so you don’t get questioned by angry FBI agents who are on the lookout for snipers. After a few rounds and pictures at the photo booth, we were ready for a walk.

The monuments at night is the best tip I could ever give for DC on a Dime. The atmosphere is sweeter and calmer than earlier in the day with tourists everywhere. The feeling at each spot is in itself, monumental. This impulsive walk was one of the best memories I have of this trip: most of the monument can be reached within a three mile radius of downtown. Beware the rats-trash cans are usually filled up and not dumped until later on in the wee hours of the morning so they skitter about like Michigan chipmunks.

Traveling always reinvigorates me. There is a sense of community I found in DC that was unexpected. In fact, the more I reflect, the more I realize we were welcomed with open arms into a teen writing community, our GOT fan community, the local bar community, the African American community, the Jewish community, and even reintroduced to CA community by meeting up with a former student. This by far was the highlight of our trip: to come to an understanding that although our country is deep in the midst of a political nightmare, the people here are as open and connected as ever, and that cannot be broken, or purchased.

 

 

 

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Summer Reading

Each year I put together a list of books that I think friends and family will enjoy. This summer’s list is quite diverse, but all have special meaning behind the recommendation.

To begin we will go with YA book recently turned film: Everything, Everything by Jamaican-American author, Nicola Yoon. Illustrations are done by her husband which gives this story an intimate tone. It is your typical Shakespearean tragedy, with star crossed lovers and flawed parents, but there is no tragic death which is not a spoiler so much as it is foreshadowing. The protagonist, Maddy, can die at any minute IF she leaves her hermetically sealed home…like John Travolta was years ago in the Bubble. The boy next door moves in, they fall in love through their semi-stalking of one another and she plots her great escape along with her nurse, Carla. I love Carla’s character since she is the one who reiterates that life is about living not just existing. The writing is well done here, and the plot is redundant but a good redundant. Like eating another bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The book came highly recommended by my pre-teen daughter and one of my favorite students, so there’s that…how can you not love a book that ultimately serves as your daughter’s first love story?

The opposite of love is hate, and The Hate U Give is my next recommendation. This new novel by Angie Thomas takes newspaper headlines to YA fiction in a masterfully woven tale of a police shooting from the witnesses perspective. Thomas began writing it in college after the murder of Oscar Grant, but then life happened and she set it by the wayside like so many authors do. After additional killings by police, she decided the time was NOW and gives us the tale of a girl protagonist turned activist. Our world needs this novel. If you read anything this summer-it should be this book. If you listen to it on Audible, you will not be disappointed in the reading done by Bahni Turpin.

Another novel that needs a re-read, or maybe a first read, is To Kill a Mockingbird. I just finished this with freshmen and realized how this book resonates at any point in my life. For example, I used to connect well with Jem, the know it all of the book, and saw a lot of my brother in Scout. The latest read had me thinking a lot on Calpurnia. It may be because I read Go Set a Watchman last summer, but her strength and compassion for children, who weren’t hers, really inspired me this spring. The staying power this book holds is what makes it a classic.

Next on the list is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. This hilariously sad book comes from debut Scottish author, Gail Honeyman. Poor Eleanor is socially awkward and does not realize that her life is sad. She also has some sort of facial deformity which is reminiscent of last year’s children’s rec, (and again this year for those of you who have procrastinated) Wonder. She’s going through the motions and not really living it (similar to Maddy in Everything above) until she meets this stinky IT guy who appreciates her quirky nature. They sort of get into a relationship when they help an elderly man; so becomes a reason to actually live life…and LOVE life. The mystery surrounding her past unfolds with each new experiences she chooses to live. This book had me crying and laughing all on the same page but I am still hormonal so don’t let that hold you back from reading something fresh and meaningful!

Wonder, a children’s novel by Raquel Jaramillo, under the pen name of R. J. Palacio, is a rec from last year, and is the children’s version of the above book. It is the most satisfying tale of empathy I have read. Schools should require this book. Here is the upcoming trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngiK1gQKgK8

Another classic children’s tale in my house is the picture book, When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach. Illustrations are from Davis Small. This hilarious encounter is a fun read for any age. The premise is as the title suggests, so one can only imagine the conflicts that occur when running daily errands such as buying groceries, getting a haircut, and even, as my favorite line suggests inside the doctor’s office begging: “I want a shot!” The larger than life illustrations take children into a world where dinosaurs don’t necessarily roam free, but are free. Read it to your kids, or to yourself if you are a kid at heart!

Not for children is The Handmaid’s Tale. I would urge you to listen to this on Audible as Claire Danes reads it. It is painful but necessary. If you need a visual, Hulu has released a series that documents the text quite well, but as a feminist reader, I suggest listening to it first. Margaret Atwood wrote it in 1985 but today, all I can say is, shame on us for heading in such a dystopian, evil direction.

In addition to this text, if you missed George Orwell’s 1984 in high school, or just read the Cliff’s Notes version, it should be on your to do list. Big Brother is always watching, and in this case, it is through the television screen. Albeit long, and sometimes tedious, I think a full read is necessary for an informed adult/YA today.

The last of the dark dystopias is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This brings the Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 together in a Shakespearean sense. It feels much further away than the two previous recommendations, which allows it to be much more entertaining. I mean, who wears birth control on their waistband, right?

Two books that I haven’t read yet but will be doing so in the next few days are: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children and Give a Girl a Knife. Both are new releases but vary in genre. Beautiful Music is about a guy who was born as Elisabeth and is coming to terms with his gender identity. Its relevance today makes it a must read for every teacher while Give a Girl is a memoir for foodies. It follows one chef from the Midwest to NYC on an amazing culinary journey. One can only hope for a female Anthony Bourdain!

This group of texts should suffice for a summer of education and entertainment balance. Let me know if you enjoy any of his year’s choices, or if you hate them. Either way, I love feedback! It lets me know people actually do still read  which always, always gives me hope for our chaotic world today. And remember, books are expensive but the library is always FREE.

 

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Thumper is…12.

Twelve years ago my boyfriend, PQ, and I went over to our friend’s house for pizza. They thought I was crazy because I  dumped Thousand Island dressing all over my pepperoni slice, but we chalked it up to being out of Ranch and called it a craving.

Afterwards PQ and I took a walk and went to bed early since he had to take one of my Brown City students, Mike, to Western the following morning for an early bird college orientation. PQ was his recruiter and Mike had no adult family to help, so it just made sense. In fact, they had to leave at 4am to arrive by 8am and with traffic, and who knew how long they could get stuck on 69?

So the alarm went off by 3am and PQ begrudgingly got up to head from Lapeer to Brown City to pick up this kid and then drive him over to Western Michigan University. After he left, I got up to use the bathroom, but I couldn’t stop peeing. It was an odd sensation-one I had never experienced before. Maybe this isn’t pee, I thought to myself. Then it hit me: this wasn’t pee! Oh my god I am going to have a baby tonight! I grabbed a towel as the fluid continued to trickle and called PQ. I am sure I was a cursing blubbering mess already but all he said was: “Carrie, you’ve got this. Get the to go bag downstairs and go to the hospital right now.” He told me he loved me and he would see me and “Thumper” as soon as possible.

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I wandered downstairs in somewhat of a fog until I saw the bag and thought: THIS IS IT. I am going to drive myself to the hospital and have this baby. There were still no contractions, but the fluid was still trickling out. I grabbed a banana and shoved it in my mouth, drank some milk out of the carton, and picked up the bag. There was still a towel stuffed inside my panties so it was awkward getting in my Jeep to drive, but I figured out how to balance just right without getting anything too wet.

Luckily the hospital was only a mile from our house in Lapeer, so it did not take long to arrive. Once I did, though, I wasn’t sure where to park. We took those classes, but they never really go into the important stuff….like where the labor and delivery entrance is and how to drop yourself off if you need assistance. Does that happen often? I finally stopped circling the place and followed this pregnant couple inside. I got on the elevator with them and figured they would know where to go. Getting off with them on the delivery floor, a raucous table full of overworked, underpaid nurses sort of greeted me.

“Are you delivering tonight?” one nurse shouted over the others.

“I think so….” I replied.

“You think so, girl, c’mon now,” she stated matter of fact.

“Well my water broke…I think….” I said.

“You think?” she replied.

Because it wasn’t the gusher I had seen in every movie, I really had no idea.

“Well let’s take a look,” she said escorting me to triage. One look and they confirmed my story.

“Your baby’s got a ton of hair,” the delivery nurse said.

“Whaaaat? You can see hair already? Oh. My. God.” I reached for my bag and called PQ.

“Where are you? Call my parents. The baby has HAIR.”

He thought I had already delivered so he arrived moments later breathless and sweating.

“Where’s the baby?” he asked simultaneously with my, “Where’s Mike?” I couldn’t stop thinking about this poor kid who had no clue what was about to happen to his life as a new college student driving himself to his own orientation. Kind of a metaphor for PQ and I now that I reflect on our situation.

“I gave him the car. He’s gonna have to be a big boy today,” he said. Taking my hand he told me how proud he was of me and asked for the details. I wasn’t contracting but was still losing water so they thought it best if we begin Pitocin. I wasn’t sure I wanted any meds but the more I lay there, the more I worried my water would run out and Claire would not have anything left to swim around in so I consented and we began the induction.

At this point it was nearly 6 am and my parents had heard their message on the answering machine once they woke up. The both hopped in the shower to drive from Burton to Lapeer, and my dad apparently thought my mom was taking too long so he left her. While she was still showering. He didn’t want to miss it! He was speeding east on 69 and got pulled over so when my mom arrived, he wasn’t there yet and we were both in a delivery room reading. She walked in like, “Where is the baby?” while we said “Where is dad?” We were pretty worried about my dad after we filled her in on the labor prognosis. About twenty minutes later dad rushed in thinking he had missed everything and said, “Where’s the baby?” while we all replied, “Where were you?” He talked us through his police ordeal and managed to not get a ticket using Thumper as a true excuse. It was a good laugh and then things got real pretty quickly.

Contractions finally started and we were on our way to becoming a family. Little did we know then but this baby would unite PQ and I more so than any ring or promise. She was our union. When she finally arrived at 1:42pm, she wailed. Like a huge HELLO! And then a small, “Where am I?” We decided to call her Claire Elizabeth. PQ had to help the doctor with the cord blood donation after he cut it, so my mom filled me in on her ten toes and fingers. Finally they gave her to me and I was awe struck. This beautiful being was created from two naive, reckless lovers and she was absolutely perfect.

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As she suckled, we crooned over her. Then we heard someone knock at the door: a visitor already? It was my student, Mike, returning the car keys. He had a good orientation at WMU and had made it back safely. Then we introduced him to Claire. He said, “I guess you won’t be there for exams tomorrow, huh?” I smiled down at the greatest gift I have ever been given and realized not only did she get my dad out of a ticket, she got me out of proctoring exams!

Claire really has the best birth story.

 

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“The Body Says What Words Cannot”-Martha Graham

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Claire will turn 12 tomorrow and today presents a final look at 11. Although an introvert by nature, Claire shines when discussing her love for dancing. That shine resonates in the following images. Photos by Rachel Zimmerman.

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To the Girl Who Made Me An Aunt

Dear Mathia,

I met you when you had just turned 5. It was winter and we all met at Grandma and Grandpa Mattern’s house. You were full of joy and curiosity. You sat on my lap immediately and helped calm my nerves: you didn’t know this, but I was meeting your family for the first time. And I was 6 months pregnant. And we weren’t married. Talk about the pressure! But you, with your little blonde pigtails, and big beautiful smile…you made everything feel alright.

pigs

Later that day we were allowed to take you home and got a taste of what being a family was really like. You and Noah were in the backseat in car seats which we learned how to install properly with the help of your mother. And then our heat went out, in Minnesota, in December, so we bundled you guys both up and covered you with blankies. You both seemed to enjoy the adventure. We had to play Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boy” the entire way home-it was your favorite song. Two hours of that was torture, but we loved the feeling you and Noah gave us—the feeling of being more than just committed to one another, more than just responsible to one another, and more than boyfriend and girlfriend who were about to have a baby. You guys made us feel a part of something bigger. And that is when I realized I was actually going to be your aunt someday. This was a huge responsibility and I have not been there as much as I should, but tomorrow, when you walk across that stage, I want you to remember…

kids

Remember all the work you put in as an accomplished gymnast? You are more than an accomplished gymnast even though that IS A LOT. You are the work you put in every day for the past ten years. That work ethic is going to be necessary for the rest of your life and you will do well because of all you endured on the floor, in front of crowds on the beam, and flying back and forth on the uneven bars.

gym1

Remember the pain? It has not been too long ago, and it may still be aching, but always remember the pain. If you do, everything in life will be much sweeter. You won’t take as much for granted if you remember the pain of injuries and loss.

gym

Remember that time we took the paddleboards out to lake Melissa and lost track of time? Your dad was pretty worried-that and he probably needed a break from watching the little kids! Call your mother. Call your father. Call all the grandparents. Time is short and when we get caught up, we forget that time has passed so quickly. Texting is convenient but a phone call will be magical in the eyes of your family.

us

Remember how much fun we had tubing the river? Make time for fun. You work so hard and are so focused that you must remember to give yourself a break. Find a healthy escape. Go tubing! Go rollerblading! Go fishing! Have healthy fun.

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Remember watching fireworks and singing Katy Perry? Sing. It doesn’t matter if it is in tune or more like yelling—keep singing.

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Remember how often it was just you and Noah out on the water? Or down by the river fishing? Or tinkering with something in the garage? Although he is grown, he still needs his sister. Don’t forget about him when you are away at college. Make time for him to come and visit. Visit him at home as well.

noah

Remember playing Uno, Dominoes, or Five Crowns at Grandma and Grandpa Davis’? You would get so mad Grandpa wouldn’t let you win. Never lose your competitive nature, and never forget the lesson he was teaching you: play hard for what you want, but it is not always going to end in your favor.

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Remember how I would always buy you a book for Christmas? Keep trying to find one that you actually like. Once you do, let me know the author and I will send you all his or her books!

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Remember hunting with your dad? Find that peace in your daily life. Find that quiet moment—recognize it, and smile. Too often we live in such a fast paced schedule that we forget about those quiet times.

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Remember attending Uncle Paul’s graduation? Well my dear, now it is time for yours. Walk confidently and capture this moment. You have achieved so much, but what we are most delighted to see is the fact that you have empathy and are a woman who will continue to do what is right even when the others choose wrong. Your choices are going to be more challenging, and you will fall, but you have the strength to pick yourself up and move forward. You will learn from these mistakes and they will help you grow. Do not be so hard on yourself.

thia

 

 

Janis Joplin once said, “Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” I had this quote hanging on my locker in high school, and then took it to college. The first line still rings true today but Mathia, know that your family is here for support. You do not have to rely solely on yourself.

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And I am still here, waiting to rock out with you in the car on some random errand your mother will send us on to find a kiddie pool or chicken nuggets. Maybe Avril Lavigne will make a comeback.Who knows where our next adventure will take us? I cannot wait to see what the future holds for you.

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Happy Graduation. Thank you for making me your Aunt Carrie.

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Pearl is 4.

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Every day I come home from school and see a little blonde girl with the longest, darkest eyelashes singing her heart out in the front bay window…then she jumps down and hides in the living room when I pull in so that we can play hide and seek. That little girl is our third baby, the “middle” child turned natural born leader.

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Pearl was named after the spitfire “imp” or elflike child borne of Hester Prynne’s adulterous act in The Scarlet Letter. People don’t often ask where we got her name-they just seem to say “it fits her.” I often wonder if we would have named her another name, would her personality have been shaped any differently? Regardless, Pearl lives up to Hawthorne’s character who holds her head high when walking through town alongside her mother while all the townsfolk children ridicule her. She has no shame in being her mother’s daughter. I presume our Pearl will be just as stubborn when she faces challenges in the future.

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Pearl was our first scheduled induction baby. I was suffering from polyhydramnios-where there is too much amniotic fluid in the sac being carried-so my doctor thought it best to take her early. We scheduled a Tuesday night and went out to Tia Helitas for the last good supper we would eat for a while. Claire and Leo were excited, as were my parents. In fact, everyone came up to the hospital around 8-9pm thinking after I was induced, she would arrive. My friends were even there watching my parents square dance. It was quite a party-until I had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics. I felt like ripping my hair out so then I received Benadryl and grew calmer. Afar a few hours everyone left and I was not getting anywhere soon. My water finally broke around 3 am, and then she arrived, “full of piss and vinegar,” my dad would say. She didn’t cry for a moment which terrified us all, but soon that shrill filled the room. Paul went over to talk to her and she immediately stopped crying. My mom will tell you it was quite a sight-a dad’s voice being recognized immediately. They share quite a special bond. She is Paul’s mini-me.

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This year she started Montessori school and has fallen in love with learning. Lately she has been coming home and teaching us sign language-she says she remembers it as a baby, too, then shows me the sign for “more.” Her teachers say she is the social butterfly and tends to play with the boys more than the girls in class. We hear about her special friend, Brooks, daily, as he is the name of every baby and stuffed animal on her bed. I cannot wait to meet this guy at her party!

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She has another special friend called Miss Carla. They’ve been inseparable since Pearl was almost 6 months old. Carla and Peal have tea parties, eat out to lunch, pretend, and enjoy doing art projects together. We have been so lucky to have Carla enter our lives when she did to care for Pearl.

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As a sibling, she loves doing what the older kids do, even if that gets her into trouble. She is mischievous but always asks for forgiveness after she realizes what she did wrong. Jumping on the trampoline is one of her favorite things to do with the big kids, but that ends in someone being upset or hurt, so bike riding has been her latest adventure in the neighborhood.

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When you ask Pearl what she wants to be when she grows up it she is definite and confident in her answer. “A fairy,” she states, putting her hand up as if to say stop, this is it, and I will become this creature no doubt about it. I am sure she will be a theatre major-her performances are outstanding! If you have not seen one, check our bay window-that’s her in the fairy wings, leprechaun headband, Frozen dress with wand, and ballet slippers. It’s likely she will be singing a self-written song about babies and school and animals. You should stop and listen if you have time or wave as you’re going by. Happy 4th Birthday, Pearl Marie!

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Leo is 9.

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Nine years ago my water finally broke and I still wasn’t contracting. I was livid with Genesys for not admitting me a few days prior, so I decided to be stubborn and take Claire to visit the Easter bunny with her grandparents like we had planned that Sunday morning. After all, my water wasn’t gushing out so it didn’t matter, right? After Claire cried in line about sitting with scary bunny, we decided to leave and eat at Applebee’s before I would not be allowed to eat at the hospital for some time. I still wasn’t contracting so a hearty lunch seemed like a smart idea. I texted Paul in Arizona and my parents that it would be awhile, then went to eat with my mother and father in law. We told the servers to make it a rush order, and my Fiesta Lime Chicken never tasted so good. On our way back to the house I made a couple of calls and got together sub plans with a friend, and only then did we race to the hospital. Still no contractions.

My parents met us there, my mom racing from a conference, and also my dear friend Wendy. It was all excitmen and eagerness for our baby to arrive until the nurse (she debuts as hairy mole rat in the book, Welcome Little Leo) yelled at me for prolonging the labor. I told her that he wasn’t ready or I would have started contracting plus I wanted a good meal before eating disgusting hospital food. She clucked her tongue at me and so began the pitocin. My water still hadn’t fully broke yet, so the resident broke my bag (apparently there are two layers) by hand without an warning and she became my new arch nemesis-meaner than hairy mole rat. Thankfully my primary nurse told everyone to leave the room and she would be in charge from now on. It was pretty smooth after that…my mom, mom in law, and bff all helped welcome little Leo into this world and he was surrounded with love from his sister and papa soon after. It was nothing short of amazing to say the least.

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If you have not been around this kid lately, he has gotten his own You Tube Channel this year where he opens up Pokemon packs LIVE and details what is inside. He plans on doing more behind the scenes stuff and even videoed me last week at school teaching…undercover…not sure his plans on that footage just yet. You can follow him at: Sojourner IV.

He has also become quite the Gamer. Lately he has been on a Destiny kick and really enjoys his new set up from Santa and Papa: a TV in his room with video gaming chair and headphones. Now we can use the television in the basement to watch movies, but we still hear him above us jumping around like he is in the video game himself. I am sure he is not too far from getting some Virtual Reality stuff to make his experience even more realistic.

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Leo also has become a big brother again…to another sister…he was bummed a first but is quite smitten with Isla. She is the first person he looks for each day to kiss good morning and his last kiss at night. He wants to hold her as much as possible but hasn’t changed a diaper yet…I am working on that venture!

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Reading is is favorite subject this year because well, no math wars in 3rd grade. He has really enjoyed the “I Survived” series by Laura Tarshis. His favorite is I Survived The Nazi Invasion. He cannot get enough of these books and still loves Pokemon and Minecraft Guide Books as well.

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His humor can get us all giggling and he loves Fail Videos on You Tube. He met with the Breakfast Club at Carman a few weeks ago and said, “Mom. I think I found my people.” They  are all artists and gamers and I think he is right. I told him to start a club with Tammy Trombley next year at Gates. She is going to love him.

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His chattiness is always something I usually love to listen to; mostly it is a solid reminder that I need to slow down and be patient! If you are around Leo, he is very much like his dad in that he explains everything in full detail. At dinner when we ask Leo about his favorite part of the day, he gives us his entire schedule from the moment he wakes until what he is eating for dinner (which we can plainly see) along with who said what at lunch and who was on yellow or purple at school. He is looking forward to becoming an engineer but I think he may talk too much for that profession…we’ll see.

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We are so fortunate that this guy is a part of our family. He is my favorite son. I tell him this so often he gets annoyed! I know I am grateful for his testosterone and hugs, his empathy and willingness to try new things, and most of all his love for his sisters. He protects them fiercely. Happy 9th birthday! I love you more than ice cream.

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Dear White Friends,

I’ll start with this: I am no expert on race or relations, but what I have to share is from researching historical systemic racism and must be put out there since I continue to read ignorance and see nonsense from you on a daily basis even though most of you think you are trying to help.

Here are some tips on how you can actually begin helping the problem instead of continuing to be a part of it.

1. Stop saying all lives matter. This is redundant. We know all lives matter but we aren’t showing it. What we do not see is any importance devoted to black lives. We continue to see black men (and women and children) killed and we use their name for a few days, and wouldn’t you know it, another name takes their place in a tumultuous cycle of pain, fear, and intolerance the very next day or week. What we need to understand is that by saying this and believing in it, we are taking away from a movement called Black Lives Matter that is extremely necessary and important for us to share. Us being people of white skin. So maybe those who need to hear the importance of this movement will actually listen because white people are listened to. They have been for centuries. Supporting this movement does not make you anti-police or anti-government, it makes you pro humanity. If you think supporting this movement makes you anti-cop, refer to tip #2.

2. Quit watching the videos and posting about how it makes you feel. Your feelings don’t matter to those who have been murdered in front of their families and friends. Your feelings don’t matter to most of your “friends” on social media either. Instead, post about how people can help. We all feel helpless and angry and distraught and scared after watching an execution from the comfort of our own homes. So do your research. Post what can be done if you feel the need to post. Share references and books and organizations with your followers.

Start with these books:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/16-books-about-race-that-every-white-person-should-read_us_565f37e8e4b08e945fedaf49

http://www.bustle.com/articles/144531-18-books-every-white-ally-should-read

Plus Arc of Justice, especially if you are from Michigan, and The Warmth of Other Suns!

These articles:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/12/24/dear-white-america/?_r=0

http://www.tolerance.org/article/racism-and-white-privilege

and the organizations listed here: http://www.heartsandminds.org/links/racelinks.htm#Anti%20Defamation%20League

This podcast: There Goes the Neighborhood (start with episode 1)

This play: “A Raisin in the Sun

This video: What is Systemic Racism?

These resources should be a good starting point for research.

3. Join a movement. Vigils and protests are happening all over the nation, so if you want to be active, don’t say, “I wish I could help.” Go help. Show up. Bring treats. If there is not anything happening in your hometown, organize a discussion at the local church or school or community center. Picking up the phone and asking to use a space and calling a few representatives may take you a day or so of planning, but will open the eyes of many and provide an outlet that people in your community are longing for.

4. Help the children in your community. If we do not start there, this cycle will continue. Volunteer at the YMCA, be a camp counselor, serve food at a shelter or church, become a Big Bro Big Sis, visit a summer camp and drop off books, better yet, volunteer to read. The more we are able to reach our young community, the better our future will become.

5. Get involved politically. There are low key options as well as more committed positions if you look. First of all, be an informed voter. And turn up at every vote-not just the “big” ones. Keep in mind that we also vote by choosing where we spend our dollars. Spend locally. Then check out our mass incarceration rates. Compare those to our literacy rates. See the correlation? Our Geneseee County Corrections Facility does not have a library. If you find that hard to believe, contact me and help me create one there this year as part of my graduate thesis. Become an advocate for equality by sharing information on social media instead of spouting feelings or regurgitating someone else’s tweet that you favorited earlier in the day. Get ahold of your state rep and see where he/she stands in terms of public transportation, housing, education, gun reform, and funding of jails. Take an informed stand but then you must take action.

6. Shut your racist friends up. It’s not worth debating with people who have no ground to stand on.

7. Video any policing you see with an African American. Know you rights and how theirs differ from yours.

8. Educate your children, but not just about asking the cop to see the radar gun as my dad taught me. They should know their rights as a driver and a citizen. They should also know what to do in case they are pulled over and it is a diverse group of friends. My students of color have to act differently than my white students when pulled over. Think on this then educate your family. If you do not know what white privilege is, you are naive and have experienced it your entire life and you are lucky. Know what it is NOT and share with your children so they are aware and empathetic and activists.

9. Have the tough conversations with your friends of other races but do not look to them as experts-they have no answers for the atrocities our world is facing.

10. Most important, be an ally or an accomplice or associate for the black community. Remember, you’re white, so people will listen to you without pulling a gun first.

Sincerely,

Your concerned friend Carrie

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Surrounded by Sisters

“Don’t ever lose your sense of imagination.”

I stopped pulling wallpaper in the other room and listened carefully to my 8yr old son speak to his 3yr old sister.

“I’m serious Pearl, don’t ever lose it because it is super important,” he continued.
At that moment, I felt hopeful, like my kid gets it. And he’s 8.

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Often we do lose our sense of wonder and creativity because we grow up and even though we want to stay forever young in Neverland, we are faced with challenges beyond our reach. Challenges that stop us in our tracks when we least expect them. Issues beyond our control that our parents cannot shield us from or help us with anymore.

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Leo has probably started figuring that out a little, and he was giving his sister a warning that it is tough…growing up is hard. He continues to laugh and play and run and be a nuisance to his older sister, but he also ask deep questions about death, and other kids’ lives, and watched a classmate lose his mom this spring. The adult stuff is coming, and I hope we protect him from it as long as possible.

But with technology in his hands, it is tough. He has an email address, and he is a gamer who plays games against his buddy in Ontario. We can only hope to allow him to continue to use his imagination when the world around him begs to bring reality closer and closer to the privacy of our homes.

My parents have told me time and time again, Insulate don’t isolate. When you isolate you cause bigger mischief, but if you keep your kids as safe as you can, and as knowledgeable as you can, they will have the power to choose to do what is right when faced with a world that feels like it is crumbling beneath them.
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claire

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Leo’s world crumbled a little bit last week. Now it wasn’t terrible news by any means-he didn’t lose his papa or break a bone or get a video game taken away. In fact, he gained a sibling. A sibling who will be a better person because he is such a fantastic big brother. A sibling who is our rainbow child even though the kids have no clue what we went through this fall. A sibling who will complete the Michigan Mattern family. A sibling who is…

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carlasteve

…another girl.

As many of you know and probably guessed, Leo was dying for a brother, but he took his gender reveal cupcake and bit into it and still put on a brave smile. And days later he was giving his youngest sister wise words that she will be sure to follow because they came from her best friend, her big brother. I hope he heeds his own advice and that you do too. Happy Independence Day from our family to yours!
3kids

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