Resources to Dismantle Oppression, Racism, and White Supremacy in the classroom

(Post has been updated as of 8/6/19-see sources below for more info.)

I gathered most of this information for my presentation a few weeks ago at Michigan State University (Amplify the Silenced) and to inform my own teaching (which began a few years ago when I felt that I needed to address my own white privilege, racism, and lens thanks to the Women’s March and confronting white womanhood session), but now there is greater urgency to share, to resist, and to confront our own biases as white teachers.

It annoys me to hear what educators say that “(Whatever racist video/event/issue) makes me so mad but I just don’t know what to do about it. I hope I can raise my kids better. I hope I can guide young people better. I just don’t know what to say.” There is no hope. Quit placing any stake in hope. Or in sadness. Or your “shock” that these things keep happening. You MUST address it. You MUST do the work. You MUST address your own racism and micro-aggressions prior to doing the work. You MUST cite black women who have done the work. You MUST cite indigenous people who have done the work. You MUST cite the LGBTQ community who are doing the work. If you can’t, or aren’t willing to, please leave the profession.

This can be overwhelming and exhausting, but I am hoping to provide you with a start. Take one item, research it, read it, and see how you can apply it yourself. Stop saying you don’t know where to begin or you can’t figure out how to use this in your classroom-you are the adult-the classroom leader. Do the work. Also, most of you are the majority still today in classrooms across America-this is where the work MUST happen. Too many white teachers feel like they don’t have a place to do the work- in fact, it is your place. It’s not the job of other minority students, or even teachers of color.

Start with this literature for personal reading:

Move to following these organizations, educators, and community members on Twitter:

  • Twitter Groups: #ProjectLitCommunity #ClearTheAir, #TeachLivingPoets, & #DisruptTexts, #SeedingSovereignty
  • Social Justice Warriors: @ValeriaBrownEdu, @aprilbakerbell, @LittleMissFlint, @tanayawinder, @Triciaebarvria, @Katrina_HRM, @IamGMJOhnson, @JessycaMathews, @GeorgeTakei, @joshthompedu, @jarredamato, @juliaerin80, @ChristieNold, @Lyricalswordz, @TchKimPOssible,@MsPackyetti, @LadyofSardines, @DulceFlecha, @jthompedu, @chelsie_acosta, @MrJess_BHS, @CodyMillerELA, @jessthe5th
  • Indigenous writers, artists, educators: @debreese, @MicJordanMusic, @TallPaul612,  @FrankWaln, @LylaJuneLove, @xodanix3, @byRad, @HeidErdich, @cutchabaldy, @atachine, @NatalieGDiaz,

Bring in these poems to your classroom:

Bring in these videos to your classroom:

Bring these YA fiction books into your classroom library (no matter what subject you teach-you must have a diverse, engaging, classroom library):

Bring these articles into your classroom:

Still don’t know where to begin? How about here? Send this to your kid’s schools or share with your building principals and librarians. Thank you Jennifer Serravallo.

If you have concerns or questions, DM me. Views expressed are solely my own.

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T.H.U.G. Inspired Research

A few weeks ago my freshmen began a very difficult but rewarding project: they were going to Amplify the Story of someone who has been silenced by violence. The inspiration came directly from page 443 of Angie Thomas’ breakthrough young adult novel, The Hate U Give (THUG). On it, Thomas lists first names of actual people, rather than characters, who have died by police brutality or racist attacks.

My students were asked one question when reviewing her list: Who do you guys know about?

Well, they didn’t.

They recognized Emmett Till since I covered him early on in the semester, and a few knew of Trayvon Martin, but that was about it, from quite a list of names and stories that were covered in the media. This worried me.

For a few days I grappled with how to go about this task-it asked a lot. It was heavy. It was time consuming. It was necessary.

I decided to begin where the inspiration started: the names.

I asked them to find the last names of the victims to match the first names that Thomas used. Then I asked them to choose one name and find out what happened, but more importantly, who the victim of violence was before the tragedy.

They were engaged.

And angry.

And courageous.

I was proud of them and their focus on reading and finding facts. Then the work really began. We discussed reliable sources, and how to steal Wikipedia’s references at the very bottom of the wiki entry. We discussed what videos we could and could not trust. We discussed how to share this new information with their peers, and our school. We discussed creative genres to Amplify the Story of the victim they had chosen to research. We discussed the responsibility and honor we had with the re-telling of this person’s story.

We collaborated.

We were appalled.

Then one day, we weren’t.

It is sad to know that this group of students have never known a day without police brutality in the news. It is sad to know they have a distrust of police and always will. It is sad-but not alarming- given the facts. Police training must change, and it has in many states. We researched that, and we also brought in our school liaison officer to discuss our  fears with-and his reaction to reading THUG with us. That day will forever be one of my most memorable as a teacher.

Our projects are going to be further amplified the first week in February for Black Lives Matter in Schools. We are working through a few ideas on how best to educate our school with the artifacts that were created. A gallery walk in one hallway or a museum like environment in the media center. We are still brainstorming and will share ideas tomorrow with one another, but for now, I am content. I am proud. I am sad.

And mostly I am tired.

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2018 Reading Recs

When people find out I am an English teacher they say one of two things: “Are you going to correct my grammar?” and “What should I be reading?” This year I can answer the latter quite thoroughly. I’ve been able to read more than usual thanks to two things: a supportive community of book donors allowing for my students to read choice books and my decision to begin class every day with choice reading for 15-20 minutes. It’s not a tough teaching decision-if you get good books into students hands, and give them an opportunity to do so, they will read.

Thankfully I’ve read and conferred right alongside them. Here are ten recommendations, some new, some old, and some re-reads that were even better round two (or twelve). Also, aside from what critics will say, these are in no particular order.

Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: This book was a window for me (Rudine Sims-Bishop research) because it enlightened me on a culture different from my own-I learned more about the Dominican traditions and language while reading this book by a slam poet. It is written in verse and makes for a quick read. I also have always wanted to be at home on stage, and this was something more like a mirror I shared with the protagonist. If you like quick reads and Romeo & Juliet style love tales, this is for you.
American Street by Ibi Zoboi: Wow. Another window due to culture (Haitian immigrant) but also a mirror due to the Detroit setting. I adored this book! The characters were complex and lovable. The plot was moving. I was riveted with the idea of fantasy and the supernatural/spiritual also playing a strong role in the conflict because it reminded me of Toni Morrison’s work here. If you liked The Hate U Give, you will devour this book.
October Mourning by Leslea Newman: Another book in verse and also a quick re-read for me, but this year marked Matthew Shepard being laid to rest by his family in the Washington National Cathedral, 20 years after his brutal murder in Laramie, Wyoming. As tragic as his story is, it brought national attention to hate crimes, primarily those against the LGBTQ community. I re-read this on the day he was “welcomed home.”
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: Paul and I listened to this driving home from a weekend up north with my parents. We were floored. I listened to it again and decided it had to be taught. When I finally saw the text, another book in verse, I could not believe how beautiful each word was on the pages-some poems were in shapes, some appeared on pages alone, and I knew I had to share it with students. To this day, they are still ruminating about the ending!
Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser: Spoiler-Travis is my friend. That does not detract from this rec in any way since I keep re-reading this novel. Constantly. I love this story. If you appreciate Hemingway’s descriptions/language, have read or watched True Grit, and enjoy adventure stories, this is your book. It is set in northern Michigan and the protagonist is on a journey to find her addict mother, but finds many other “things” that contribute to her coming of age in the middle of a Michigan blizzard. What a read for a warm winter if you long are longing for a real snowstorm like I am!
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater: I book talked this after it was recommended to me by Jes Mathews and a student who read it in her class. WOW. They know me too well! I love how each chapter is a different genre and readers get all the viewpoints of the same story: how someone was burned alive on a city bus. The facts are stated and no judgement is made…until you, the reader, decide who is at fault and why. If you want to see unconditional love personified, this is your story.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone: My students made me read this. I was completely floored. Now I know why I heard so many gasps when kids were reading this one in class. Chapter 14 really shocks you back into reality. I also loved how this book ended since it wasn’t necessarily a “Hollywood” type resolution. It had work to do. So do we.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: A beautiful re-read in a time of Me Too. I met Anderson years ago after my first daughter was born. I told her that her story had me in awe in college. It came out 20 years ago, but the relevancy and power still exists-all of my children will read this when the time is right. It should be mandatory for freshmen.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain: I keep reading every Bourdain book I own in hopes of reincarnating him or something-it hasn’t worked yet, but I do think this one is by far my favorite. If you are as smitten with the culinary world and travel as I am, and love storytelling in its finest form, any Bourdain book is for you but this one is my Bourdain Bible. He’d cringe at that term, wouldn’t he?
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: My son made a reference to this book the other day while we were traveling and it reminded me yet again how this book is perfect for any age and any gender. I love Noah’s comedy, but with this tale, his memoir, you also get his heart. And it is a beautiful gift.

Current read is Becoming by Michelle Obama. Next up is Tiffany Jackson’s, Allegedly.

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Isla Rose is 2.


But many people think she is already three even though she is awfully short. She speaks clearly and in complete sentences and has to hold her own among three other kids so I figure that is why she appears wise beyond her years already.

29694742_10160293564545594_22358913866294920_nDebbie, her day care provider, thinks it’s because she doesn’t take crap from anyone. She is probably right.

IMG_3215Isla loves to read, too. She will bring you a book, and ask “What’s that?” even though she also has the answer, “strawberry” or “apple” or “rainbow.”

IMG_1057She also loves Moana and Coco and The Grinch. She will start yelling, “Where you are,” out of nowhere and “you’re welcome,” and it is her rendition of the popular Moana song. She will not say,”I want Moana,” until you figure out she is singing the songs. It is hilarious when you hear this game she plays with guests who don’t know her schtick yet.

24172725_10159725558830594_671135553855267293_oIsla also loves food which is a good thing in my book. She eats non-stop. Any berry, cracker, bread, but her favorite thing has to be cheese. She yells at the fridge for it while I am cooking dinner. “Cheeeeez, cheeeeez.” She begs me for it. She asks anyone walking by the fridge for it. She is such a fan of delicious goodness.


Isla really enjoys playing outside, too. In any weather you can find her staring out the window, asking, “Outside? Outside?” She loves going for walks on the nature trail in For Mar and enjoys playing ball with her siblings. Eating snow has become one of her latest passions.


Isla loves to give love, too. She does not share well, but every night we must kiss every family member good night and if someone is not home, she will say his/her name until I tell her I’ll kiss them for her.

IMG_1087Recently Isla has discovered the potty and enjoys the Potty Time app. She will take my phone and find the potty time app so she can sing along to the theme song, or call “Rachel” and get a pep talk (accident) or compliment (success). It really is adorable even though there is no going the potty yet-it is all about the app.


And Isla misses Sue. She goes to the patio door every so often looking for her. Pearl tells her straight up that Sue is dead while the rest of us cry or redirect her attention to the cat. Poor Boo.

IMG_3214We like to joke around that Claire is Isla’s favorite, but it really is true. She will go to her before anyone. Claire literally tiptoes around the house to avoid her if she is trying to get something done or leave for ballet.

IMG_1512A few weeks ago we were all in the kitchen listening to music and cleaning up after dinner and Claire was dancing with Isla. Claire began to cry softly. No one noticed but Paul. He nodded for me to look closer at them. Then I noticed. It was beautiful. A fleeting moment of tenderness. Then Claire said, “I can’t go too far away to college now. I can’t leave her.”


And this is why Isla is so special. We knew our family had a lot of love to give when we decided to have more children.

IMG_3216And when naysayers comment on such a large family, or how far apart in age the siblings are, they are clueless when it comes to the amazing experience that we were gifted. Happy birthday Isla Rose. May your gifts be as plentiful as you’ve made the Mattern Crew.


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Broke in Boston-Day 4

IMG_0467Since we had to check out and fly home, we wanted to make the most of our full, final day in Boston. After packing up, asking the hotel to hold our luggage, and scheduling a free shuttle ride to the airport, we hit the T headed toward the Science Center. Here we would board a “duck” boat/trolley for a land and water tour of Boston. So many people recommended this that I’m not sure why I was hesitant. Maybe it was the price tag ($40) or the fact that people had just drowned in Missouri on one days prior. I was just not feeling this tour. That all changed when we boarded our “duck” named Charley and met our tour guide, “Disco Dan.” He had on a wig, what bell bottoms, and platforms that had goldfish swimming inside them (fake of course, but still). He had us quack at red lights and yell, “Discooooo Duuuuuuck!”

IMG_0446The tour itself was amazing. We saw every famous Boston sight without having to deal with crowds, lines, and walking. What more could one want? Once again our tour was filled with “bad” puns, but there was also a lot of history, which I liked since I didn’t have to read it on some monument or sign. When we transitioned into water, it was absolutely fantastic. Disco Dan let the children on board drive once we were out in open water. I would definitely take my kids on this tour if I return and then head into the Science Museum. It was immaculate with an array of exhibits and hands on learning opportunities.

IMG_0495After the tour we were famished so we walked to a T station and passed the place I will stay if I return: The Liberty. Absolutely stunning. Convenient, modern meets old, and two patios that looked so inviting we almost stopped in for a cocktail. But Anthony Bourdain was calling. We hit up a spot in West Boston that he had visited before during his No Reservations Boston tour: Rondo’s Sub Shop. I was geeked for this spot. I was also really sad about it, but feeling gratitude that I could at least visit a spot he loved. So we ordered, and did not pay, and it was really odd that no one asked us to pay. I ordered what Tony had, the full steak and cheese but then added mushroom plus eggs. The girls ordered onion rings, a meatball, and Philly steak plus cheese. We snuck in a Sam Adams crowler to share and poured some out for Tony.

IMG_0518When our order arrived, we still didn’t pay, but gobbled up the goodness. The girls even got a few more sodas out of the cooler and no one said anything. Kind of like you are at home. The local variety that entered this establishment was the best people watching we’ve done in a long time…Tony hit a jackpot here. So and so dated so and so in high school, who divorced, then began dating so and so who was a cop, who got fired, and on and on and on. It was amazing to be a part of a community conversation while eating such delicious food.

IMG_0545And I finished my full sandwich; pics above is only half. It took everything in me, but I did do it. For Tony. When we left, we approached the counter and they asked us what we ordered, then finally paid, gave our thanks, and felt fulfilled paying tribute to the greatest food writer, and I’d argue, one of the greatest humans, of our time.

IMG_0548After food, it was time to walk. We took the T to Boston Common and enjoyed a few souvenir shops and then the Frog Pond. It was a beautiful day so we sat with our jeans rolled up and feet in the cool water. Then we walked toward Shakespeare in the Park’s stage and enjoyed a practice run of Richard III. Faran Tahir (Iron Man, Picture Perfect) was not sure of many of his lines, but I am sure later he was incredible! Bad practice, good game. I wished our flight was later so we could stay and watch the performance, once again, for free. If you are a “friend” of the program, you can donate $75 and get an up front lawn chair. Otherwise, bring your blankets, a low lawn chair, and coolers to enjoy the outdoor show.

IMG_0532After playing with pups and enjoying listening to some Big Willy, we took the T back to Somerville. One more stop at Mike’s Pastry, then coffee, then the airport shuttle. Detroit was calling, and we were ready to sleep in our own beds. Boston for my birthday was a quick, but action packed trip. I think I will return with my best traveling partner, PQ, in the near future. We will stay at The Liberty, lounge on the patio, check out the Science Center, watch Shakespeare in the Park, and live on the local lobster, bakeries, and breweries. Boston was not as expensive as one might think, if you plan ahead, find a few freebies, and have friends to help along the way. Thanks to Haley, the Rachels, Papa Z, Jon, my librarian think tank, and my family for such an amazing experience.

IMG_0557If you go: Research Parts Unknown and No Reservation eateries. They are usually off the beaten bath, but worth it in terms of delicious goodness. Also try to hit up a Diners, Drive ins, or Dives if you want local food with no frills. It really is the way to travel. Eat as the locals do and you’ll never go hungry—or broke.



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Broke in Boston-Day 3

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why this day was my favorite of the trip, because I missed our Chicago friend already and I went through something pretty momentous, but I think it has a lot to do with the neighborhoods we visited, and that most everything we did was absolutely free. For this broke teacher, that made all the difference.


Our day started with a recommendation from a Library Think Tank my friend had me join years ago. They said if you do anything in Boston, it has to be the mapparium. The mapparium is located in the Mary Baker Eddy Library. She founded the Christian Science Monitor. It is a gorgeous building that is adjacent to two beautiful churches. We arrived just in time for a tour (they depart every twenty minutes) and paid $6 for a trip inside a three story stained glass globe that was created in 1938. Pictures are not allowed inside, but I’ve attached one from the website here:
My breath was taken away-literally-as I forgot about my claustrophobia. I did this in the Statue of Liberty crown, too. Stupid. Well it took me close to ten minutes to calm down, but when I reflect, I think it also had a lot to do with me realizing that I was so very small in such a massive place that we call home. Being inside the Earth and able to surround yourself with every location possible was mind altering. I also heard the voice of a dear friend of mine whispering “just let it all go.” I’ve been carrying a lot with me-especially the last three years-and it has not been healthy. So I did. I let go. I realized that life is way too short to carry such anger and pain around daily. And being encased in such an amazing piece of art gave me a different perspective. The globe itself is magnificent. We gazed at the distinctions made within countries since the time it was created. For example, Vietnam was called Annam. Other places no longer exist. I couldn’t find Aruba because it still had a Dutch name. And, after playing with sound inside the globe, we exited, took a selfie outside of the room, and saw that tours of the church were also free.


The two churches we viewed still host services; one was rebuilt in the thirties, while the other has been in existence since 1894. We joined a tour already in progress and were awed by the millions of pipes in the mother church organ and the stain glassed windows in the older church. We also were pretty impressed that thousands of children Skype in for Sunday school and Wednesday evening classes through an international children’s program. After all the listening and walking, we were ready for food.


Doyle’s Irish Pub in the Jamaica Plains neighborhood was our pick since it offered affordable Boston eats, was the original tap for Sam Adams beer, and had a free trolley ride to the Sam Adams Brewery. We all tried different brews. Mine in particular was tasty: a black cherry (Guinness with Sam Adams Cherry Wheat). I finally had fresh calm chowder that I was seeking every time we sat down somewhere. And it was in a bread bowl: heaven. This may have been my favorite meal, and we ate very well on this trip. The lobster Mac was delicious, but so packed with lobster our friend couldn’t finish hers. The fish and chips were also tasty-not too greasy and just the right amount of fried flaky coating. Fries were delicious, but most of us didn’t have room the entree portions were so large. The trolley came every 20 minutes, so we ate slowly and waited in the sun.


We ended up waiting more than twenty minutes but it was nice out and then, a party bus pulled up. “Is this our trolley?” our eyes spoke to one another. People just kept coming out with glasses full of Sam Adams and smiles on their faces. Why yes. Yes it was. Children, a family reunion of sorts, men, women, all giddy with excitement to eat at Doyles. I was thinking we should have done this the opposite way, but then the “trolley” emptied out and we boarded. Alone. Ah air conditioning. Leather seats. A pole to…hold onto. And all free of charge.


Arriving at the brewery just in time for the famous free tour we were subjected to “bad puns” like “This is Jack, say Hi Jack. It’s ok. He won’t bomb you,” but it was all worth it once we hit the tasting room. I am not sure what I expected except for a free glass and one pour, but the pitchers just kept coming. I think we tried four different beers. We must’ve spent at least forty-five minutes in that room alone, and luckily, we had the best seats in the house: three stools closest to the bar. We let out a whoop when the Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat was poured since the cherries hail from our Great Lake state. We also had a lot of fun with “Yas Queen” and wished the fabulous five had joined us on this tour. After the tour, and a few purchases to go, it was most definitely nap time.


For our night out we decided to start at the recommendation of a friend we had met up with earlier in the week: Lawn on the D. It is free with live music, lawn games, light up swings, concessions, and drinks. The night was perfect for this type of fun, and the band was playing a sped up rendition of the White Stripes as we entered. I was happy. We walked the premise to take it all in, grabbed a few drinks, then got in line for swings. Let me give you a tip if you are living under a rock: people are ruthless. If you are there with a group, get in a bunch of different lines because these lines do not move quickly. At one point I was hoping for a Disney Fast Pass. Then a girl tried to snag our swing and well, we can’t have that. Burton Carrie emerged for a brief moment to take care of business. Finally we got to swing and take pics, then it was life size connect four, and off to the Blue Dragon for Ramen since one of our friends (GASP! The Horror!) had never eaten it before. Well it was nearly closing time at the Dragon and Ramen is only on their lunch menu, but the fish tacos were great. They also had Shorts on tap so that was cool. Ramen will happen next time.


Back to our River Bar near the hotel. Tonight we sat at the bar and enjoyed people watching. The local brew, Grey Lady, was my choice for the night. It’s made by Cisco and has a cool teal mermaid can. When the Seinfield theme song came on we knew it was closing time and felt like locals even though I still asked everyone to repeat everything to me: I understood, I swear. I just really like the accent. After drinks we had a hankering for truffle fries that we knew were still available at Earl’s so we wobbled back, eager to eat off some of our delicious buzz.


If you go: Take a blanket and group of friends to the lawn. Get a good spot early (chairs are available first come, first serve) to play the maximum number of games (ping pong, jenga, bocce, checkers) since it closes between 10-11. If you want to swing, be sure to get in line around 8:30-9 so your pictures are lit.


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Broke in Boston-Day 2



Since our Chicago friend had been to Boston before, and also had to leave two days earlier than we did, Thursday became our trip to Salem. It’s not far and if you are a literary or history buff, worth the T ride (Charlie pass) and transfer to the train ($7). Little did we realize, our trip to Salem was on the exact date of Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Goode’s hangings, which are both profiled in Arthur Miller’s, The Crucible.


Our excitement was pretty high given being out so late, and it grew as the train pulled into Salem Station. When we saw these witches get off the train with us, we were beyond excited to see if Salem fit our expectations. We began walking from the station toward the Witch Museum. It had decent reviews, and when we entered, it was spooky. The next show was in twenty minutes, but we decided to not watch a re-enactment of something we were upset about int he first place, so we goofed around outside to lighten up the idea of women being executed, then took a walk toward the historical area of town. History turned tourism.


We checked out really interesting shops and had fun reading about the curse and remedies for different ailments. I bought a voodoo doll for Claire, so stay on her good side! Then we stumbled upon an art festival that bought local vendors to the city every Thursday. It was amazing to see that people actually live in Salem—it’s not a ghost town. It is diverse, it is vibrant, and it is pretty hip. We tried local mead, local wine, viewed beautiful artwork and crafts, then visited a top spot on my restaurant list: The Lobster Shanty.IMG_0241

What do you order at the Lobster Shanty, a naive visitor might ask…a Lobstertini of course. It was featured on the Food Network so you know me, had to try it. It was probably not my smartest decision ever, but it was worth the twenty-four hours of Lobster burps that accompanied this crisp, summer drink that was more like an appetizer plus beverage than cocktail. Of course, the fried haddock sandwich was a great pairing, but an absolutely huge portion for the price. I liked the choice of tater tots instead of fries, but pass on the fried pickles. They weren’t a hit. The mac and cheese (add lobster for just $9) was also a hit at our table. The Pearl wiener, which initially caught my eye, was also satisfying, but we really missed our Flint Koegel hot dogs.


After a delicious lunch, it was time to find Gile Corey’s grave…or so we thought. After passing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home on accident, we noticed all the houses that had historical nameplates signifying who owned it, what year they lived there, and his/her occupation. It was fun reading where people created history and wondering how the current occupants feel living in such prestigious homes. Once we arrived at the cemetery, we noticed many headstones missing names. They were sold old, and had no upkeep, so many were broken or falling onto one another. Google map had Giles Corey marked in this particular cemetery, but the more we researched, the more we realized it was where he was pressed to death.


Once we figured that out, we found the cemetery where he had a memorial, along with mostly women who were burned at the stake, hung, and stoned to death. There we saw other historical markers, and visited the gravesite of a person who came to America on the Mayflower. It was nearing dusk, and the rules were forcing us out of the cemetery, but there was so much to see.


After honoring those lives we had read and studies about, we needed something lighthearted. We decided to visit the Hocus Pocus house (Max’s) before returning to Somerville. Lyft was the quickest (and most affordable) way to do this since the home was on the ocean, a few miles out of the way of our return trip. Once there we met a few other tourists and took some pictures, trying not to bother the grumpy elderly couple swinging on their porch.


Back in Somerville we had our daily nap then decided to try local restaurants and bars near our hotel. It was a good choice. We had sushi, tuna, garlic and truffle fries with July’s drink of the month, Sangria, at Earl’s Kitchen and Bar. Apparently bars in MA cannot do Happy Hour but they can do drinks of the month. Our server was born in Salem. He called himself a warlock. He wasn’t much of a server though. Next up was River Bar where we were treated to gin and tonics by a few bartenders that reminded us of our favorite Boston duo: the Boondocks Saints. We closed the bar and walked back to our hotel, full and content with another traveling memory made.


If You Go: Download the MBTA ap for the best rates and purchase as many tickets to Salem from Boston for you and your companions. Just show the conductor your phone. We took the T and then only rode the train in, but the sights were pretty cool-a few graphic artists and bodies of water we would not have seen in a car. Plus we sat in a group seat and enjoyed each other’s traveling stories and memories of Meghan. It was her third anniversary. RIP Megh.


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Broke in Boston


Boston was never on my radar. I mean, if you know me, you know I love city travel and seafood, so I have no idea why it never made it to my top places to visit but luckily enough, I was invited to see the Pre-Broadway Run of my favorite movie, Moulin Rouge, in the oldest theatre in Boston, Emerson Colonial Theatre. Tickets were purchased in the spring and plans began to formulate.

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One of my favorite pastimes is planning vacations so I made a Pinterest board for both Salem and Boston, then asked my friends for 3-4 places where they wanted to go. After researching thoroughly on librarian think tank websites and people who have visited prior, I established our itinerary and even though I knew we wouldn’t stick to it thoroughly, it’s nice to have a plan. After the itinerary was created, I mapped it out on Google with help from my husband. I will do this from now on for any trip-it was simple and saved me loads of time when looking at transportation. He also scored us Charlie Cards in the mail which leads me to the first tip: use public transit as often as possible. We paid $21.25 for a week long use of the T, Boston’s subway system. We also hopped on a train to Salem which I will get to later, for only $7.50. This beats Uber and Lyft prices any day. In total, we probably spent over $35.oo each on the subway (which is well over the price of the week pass) and we were there for four days. We did not hop on a bus, but they were all included with the Charlie Card, as was a ferry. Sidenote: It’s called a Charlie Card because legend has it some schmuck called Charlie did not have the nickel it took to get off the subway when it was first established so he just rode and rode the train throughout the city.


Another tip: stay outside of the city for a better deal, but if you can afford it, stay at The Liberty. It is absolutely stunning and near the Museum of Science, where we did a duck tour (I’ll discuss later), plus it’s close to two different T stations. We stayed in Somerville. Near Legoland. I would definitely stay there again. It’s close to a T, and also had two fabulous non-touristy locations that all tourists in the city line up for: Mike’s Pastry and Legal Seafood. Since we were four stops from the original locations, we never had to wait. In fact, we went to Mike’s for cannoli, twice.


Day One

We arrived quickly in Boston and found the free shuttle to the T station (look for Blue or Silver lines) then waited for our Chicago friend to arrive, tapped our Charlie cards after loading them with the affordable week pass, and we were on our way to Somerville to (hopefully) check in early to our hotel.  Our room wasn’t ready at 10am, but they held our bags and we went to the shopping center nearby for supplies. At 11am we got the call and checked into our room, then promptly walked to Legal on The Mystic for lunch. Tip: Get the expensive lunch to save money. We splurged at Legal with two types of Lobster Rolls, a Haddock Sandwich, an appetizer of clam dip, and crab cakes. I preferred the Connecticut Lobster Roll since it’s warm with butter although the traditional cold mayo was delicious. Since it was lunch we opted for water because we learned there was no happy hour in Massachusettes-anywhere! Bars and Restaurants can have a drink of the month but no happy hour. We spent a good deal on lunch, in fact, this was probably our most expensive meal, but we had just arrived and the sea was calling.


After lunch it was nap time. We had a show to see at 8pm and that was the reason for the trip so we snuggled in and enjoyed a siesta. After a rejuvenating nap, we began the primping and pre-party for the musical. We must have sang our way through the entire Moulin Rouge soundtrack and two bottles of wine! It was decided that we would go early to meet the star of the show, so once we were ready, off we went to the T.


Now I am not sharing how to meet the star because then everyone would know, but if you ask me in a message, I’ll fill you in. Once we found the theatre we patiently awaited for the star to show, and he was pretty late (7:15 for an 8pm show) but also pretty, goddamn pretty, so it was worth it. Off to The Tam we went for a pre-theatre drink at the coolest dive bar (I thought) in Boston for a super cheap drink (like $6-half of what most places charge), and then we waited in a line that wrapped around an entire block to see the most spectacular musical I have ever watched (and I have seen quite a few). When we walked in, I knew this was going to be a magical performance. I did not care what the reviewer’s had written-all I cared about was the ginormous blue elephant and MOULIN ROUGE heart shaped stage. It was breath taking.


I will see Moulin Rouge again in NY-it was that amazing. I loved the set, costumes, new music additions, and even the acting. Not everything was as expected, but it was visually stunning. My favorite scene had a new song that started as Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, mixed with the White Stripes, Seven Nation Army (one of my karaoke go-to’s), then climaxed with Brittany’s, Toxic. I was grinning and leaning forward in my seat the entire show-it was captivating.


After the show we found the best dumpling spot in Chinatown for pork fried dumplings, chicken dumpling, scallion pancakes, and Sapporo beer. No saki this time-I learned that lesson the hard way years ago. After dumplings we headed back to The Tam to meet our friend since the other close spot, Jacob Wirth, had closed due to a fire. As we approached The Tam it seemed edgier now-not like that dive we had fallen in love with hours before. The bouncer said, “We done here.” What does that mean, you ask? Well, we did too. And didn’t get an answer. He repeated himself. “Like are you at capacity?” I inquired. No response. So odd. It was 12:30am. Apparently places in Massachusetts close at 1am on weekdays unless they pay a hefty fee to get a license to stay open until 2am. Our other friend showed up and he was floored also. We hemmed and hawed about where to go and if we wanted to walk or Uber, and finally decided on a dance club. I don’t know who decided this but it was definitely not our first choice. We are not really dancers or club kids, but ay, when in Boston, do Boston.


We arrived at Storyville and it was hopping. Us girls got in line, but the boys said to wait so we stood there aloof. Apparently it was a $20 cover-and only one another hour. At this point we are thinking, ok, we just spent a lot of money to watch people dance and sing on stage who are professionals-we don’t want to spend anything to see a bunch of drunks twerking to God’s Plan. So we expressed our opinions and impatiently waited for some guy named Jeff. He finally came up and met us a half hour later, and we were in. For free. Walking down the stairwell felt like Fight Club meets Gatsby with the recent film’s soundtrack. There were VIP tables with bottles of Hennessy and Cristal in those really nice hotel ice bucket things. I was smitten with the people watching. Once at the bar we ordered drinks and then hit the dance floor. Well, not really, it took awhile to get us going, but we tried to represent Flint. The music turned to 90s rap and I finally felt at home. Then this older, shorter version of Jackie Chan came up to me and said, “We dance. No contact. We both married. See?” and showed me his wedding ring. He started free styling and street dancing and I was out. The lights came on and it was closing time.


Our night didn’t end there. We had to hit up a convenience (not party) store for bandaids due to ailing feet and then an after party at a very barren apartment/dorm. We finally hit the sheets close to 4am and as everyone was telling me good night, I was already asleep. It was a great first day in Boston. Bonus- I only spent $20 since it was my birthday.


If you go: The Theatre District and Chinatown are really close and in a super cool area just outside Boston Common. Hit all three in one day for the best experience. Also there is a CVS nearby if your sandals break. Be sure to get to The Tam by midnight because, “We Done Here,” translates to you are not getting in no matter how cute you are. It is totally worth it though with super nice bartenders-just one really nasty bouncer.

Next up: Day Two

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Parts Unknown: Flint

Parts Unknown: Flint                          Will air Tuesday, June 25: Happy 62, Tony.

8am Coffee-Flint Crepe Co.

8:45 Breakfast-Krystal Joes

10:00am Flint Coney-Starlite

11:00am Steak n’ Onion-Big John

12:00pm Local Beer-Red Baron

1:00pm Taco-La Familia Morales

Maybe fit in a car nap?

2:30pm Eclaire-Pestos

3:30pm Slice of pepperoni pizza- Sicily’s (cash only)

4:00 Ice cream-Banana Boat

4:30 pm Ribs-Charlie’s at the Flint Farmer’s Market

(Homeboys is closed on Tuesdays-they’re cash only)

5:30pm  Pho- MaMang at the Flint Farmer’s Market

6:30pm Burger-Torch (Halo Burger if it’s too busy)

7:30pm Fried pickles-Soggy Bottoms

8:30pm Whiskey Cocktail-Churchills

9:30pm Stromboli-White Horse

10:30pm Wine-The Cork                                                Times are apx give or take a half hour.

For years I have fantasized that Anthony Bourdain would come to Flint for CNN and do an episode of Parts Unknown, or maybe have a layover in Detroit and do an episode of The Layover in Flint since he’s experienced Detroit previously. Or maybe kick it all the way back to No Reservations and just show up at local establishments with a camera man and me, his beautiful, introverted but fun loving adventurous guide. We would hit Flint Crepe Company for coffee first. I’d go with a Peanut Butter Mocha. He would think that is ridiculous and get a black coffee with a shot of espresso. He’d also order an Egg n Cheese Crepe even though breakfast would be at our next stop. He’d start by asking me questions about where I ate growing up here and I’d tell him we were poor so I got frozen fish sticks and mac ‘n’ cheese. On a special occasion we would go to Ponderosa, the local buffet where I’d fill my plate with fried chicken wings, cottage cheese, and turn my cup into a sundae container and fill it with vanilla soft serve, chocolate sauce, and M&M’s. If my Grandma Shay was feeling well enough, she might take us up to Mickey D’s for a burger and fries. But this really was the extent of eating out as a kid. I’d never eaten at a formal restaurant until I started playing travel softball in Grand Rapids and then later, traveling to Europe, D.C., and Hawaii with my school. Then Tony would rave about the crepe and say, “Can’t I get another?” and I would have to tell him “No,” practicing for the busy day ahead of us.

At Krystal Jo’s I would tell him about my friend Wendy and her thieving coffee cups and also the bike give-away. He’d want to meet Tony and shake his hand. We would order the Ginormous Breakfast and he would not want to share but I’d say: “Look Tony. we’ve got a whole day of eating ahead of us. This is gonna be packed.” He would relent and we would divide the stack of pancakes and the eggs and bacon. Then it would be smash time. On to stop three…

Starlite has the freshest coney sauce so it beats Angelo’s. Take me to my grave on that one, but it may seem like Angelo’s gets the victory here since they’re “original” but Starlite just does it better, and Tony deserves the best Flint offers. Tony would ask about the difference between the Detroit coney and Flint coney and I’d inform him that in Flint you must use a Koegel’s brand hot dog. That is then served on a steamed bun with Coney sauce, onions, and mustard. Flint style uses the dry, loose meat Coney sauce and not chilli or red sauce. No beans, no ketchup,no sauerkraut-no extras. He’d dive in to his (since we each got one) and be transported to heaven for a moment. “Life is good,” he’d say laughing. He would chug his Coke down and want to order another but I once again would have to say a firm, “No.” On the way to our next stop I would have to run into Rite Aid for Tagamet or Tums because I would have forgotten mine. He would oblige me by coming inside and wonder why the drug store sells sundresses and beach hats and we are in Flint. I’d tell him about the gentrification and local lakes but then the conversation turns to water and I tell him about Bluebell Beach where you usually can’t even swim because of E-coli. None of the water is safe. “Irony man,” he’d say walking out to the car.

Big John’s is next where we go inside to order and get an Original. He’d also want a bottle of the red Sauce for dipping. We watch the steak sizzle and Tony takes a few pics with locals who think they know him but why the hell not get a selfie if there’s a film crew? Flint, man. It’s the little things. I call the owner at Red Baron and he said we could bring our food in, since it’s Tony, so we head down the street to the bar. He wants a Guinness but I talk him into something similar but Michigan brewed. I have him try: Dark Horse Brewing Company Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th, Founders Oatmeal Stout, and New Holland Brewing Company Dragon’s Milk. Surprisingly he goes with Plead the Fifth but I think it’s because he really liked the name. I get a Dragon’s Milk and make a really bad mother of dragons GOT joke and he laughs politely. I watch him open the sandwich and the aroma from the steak and onions fills the bar. A patron whines, “Why does Tony get to have all the fun?” He smiles and takes a huge bite of his half. I remember our stop at Rite Aid and grab a pill from my pocket to down with my beer. My stomach is not happy with me but we have a full day ahead of us. I’d want another beer but this time he’d say, “No. Tacos are calling.” We would get in the car and head downtown.

La Familia Morales is the place to get tacos in the city. We order three: one soft, one medium, and one hard shell. He piles on the hot sauce. I take it easy. I love the medium shell so I give him a bite then let him devour the other two. We eat indoors and he says he feels like he’s in Mexico and I say nothing because I have been transported to heaven with this taco. After a moment I come out of my trance and he asks for another. “No,” I say then he follows with a, “Where to?” At this point the beer and food have made me sleepy so I tell him it’s nap time. We drive over toward Pesto’s and I pull in but don’t get out. “Power nap,” I say kicking on the air conditioner and putting jazz on the radio. He pulls his hat down over his eyes and we rest.

Pestos isn’t super busy when we wake since it’s the middle of the afternoon so we are seated quickly. “Now this place is it. You know it’s homemade when you enter places like this.” One of my former students greet us and I can’t recall his name, but I act like it and Tony says, “That happen often?” I giggle. “All the time. It’s shameful but I’ve taught for fifteen years.” He shakes his head and says, “Does this place serve alcohol? You need like 15 shots.” I laugh again and we order dessert to split; the infamous eclair. It is to die for. Tony asks me about food and well, I have a lot to say. I’ve always been a picky eater but then things got a little obsessive. Like turkey sandwiches for an entire year. Like no meat for nine years. Like a little weird when it comes to habits. “I love food. I love trying things now, but man, it took a long time for me to appreciate everything that goes into cooking.” He nods. He understands. He gets up ready to hit our next stop and his head almost breaks the chandelier he hits it so hard. He is just that tall. He looks at the camera breaking the fourth wall: “Happens a lot,” he says then turns back to me. “Tylenol then pizza, in that order.”

After another quick drug store stop for Tylenol we head through the entrance of Sicily’s which is through the kitchen. Tony eats this up. He talks to the cooks while I just watch them talk and work, their hands kneading and tossing, and oiling the pans. This place has family history. Sicily’s was my Grandma Shay’s favorite pizza joint. She would order it on special occasions. Usually her birthday. My mom and dad went here on their first date. And nothing has changed since the 70s. You must bring cash, you must expect no frills, you must wipe down your own table if you like it real clean like me, and you must have cash. Tony catches up to me in the front of the restaurant and we order two slices of the original, little pools of grease made by tiny pepperonis are my favorite part, but the thin crust is exceptional because it still is chewy and light. We take our pizzas to the booth and I tell him my parents love story. He is impressed. He reveals that he’s a bit of a hopeless romantic but things haven’t worked the way he ever planned with the loves of his life. “I just want to do well by them all,” he says, “especially Ariana.” Things get a little emotional so I ask him if he wants to head out back to the Caboose for a cheap beer. $1 Domestics on Tuesday. He’s on board.

We grab a Bud and sit at the bar. An old man next to me begins telling Anthony about what Flint used to be like, even before my time. “All these bars,” he says, “were for the shop rats. We worked hard then did over time then drank until we were too tired to head home to the missus, but we did anyway then woke up to do it all over again the next day. When those truck and bus plants closed, so did our opportunity to provide for our families.” Tony nods but I see he’s getting antsy so I say, “Next stop, Banana Boat.” The barkeep tells us to order the black cherry chocolate in a waffle cone. We both thank him, say goodbye to the drunk, and hit the road.

Banana Boat’s line wraps around the building. It’s hot, sunny, and Flint loves its ice cream. Tony takes pics with babies and kids and teens and a few workers as well. We eat our cones on the way to the Flint Farmer’s Market. Even though we both got small cones of hand dipped goodness,  Banana Boat serves you double your order. We decided to park where we will end the night, The Cork on Saginaw, and walk a little of the ice cream off strolling down the bricks. Flint’s claim to fame. Well, one of them. The Market has two spots for us to hit today: Charlie’s Smokin BarBQ and MaMang. Since we can grab and go at both spots, we order our food then head up the stairs to Market Tap and sit outside with beers and food. At Charlie’s we ordered a half slab of ribs with brisket and greens. At MaMang we get the pho, banh mi, and duck buns. The Market provides local brews and domestic. We opt for a lighter fare this time with Bell’s Hopslam and hazy Old Nation M43. I dive into the pho first and it is spicy but beautiful. The ribs come next and fall off the bone. Tony is diggin’ the greens and duck bun. He states: “Worst food memory,” like we’re about to play a game of  “I never” or something. I divulge. I was a junior in high school in DC. We went to a famous Soul Food place, sat down at a table with a bunch of teens. I didn’t know what to order so I asked for a Turkey Sandwich. The server was so nice, he didn’t blink an eye, just repeated my order and left. After our meal, our guide for the week came by and asked everyone what they ate and if they liked it. When he came to me at the table, I told him. He was incredulous. I said “It’s my favorite.” He was like, “Carrie, you missed the point of eating here. Come here.” He took me back to his table where the adults all were and gave me a piece of cornbread and a bite of greens. “See?” he said, “that’s why we are here.” Tony kept eating, now onto the brisket and just shook his head. He took a swig of beer and said, “Damn humiliating. Good lesson.” We looked out over Flint and I pointed at different buildings and gave info on different stories I had heard throughout the years. We walked over to Buckingham Alley and peeked in on an art museum and yoga class. Then hit up the most famous food in all of Flint: The Torch Burger.

It comes with everything. It’s a half pound. It is better than any bar burger in the area-probably even in the state. It is the grill-they say-that makes it so special. With our burger-I only need a bite at this point, we each get a shot on the house. “A Special for Tony,” they say. We say cheers and drink up then I look at him and say: “Worst food memory.” Time for him to spill. He shakes his head and says, “Can we get another shot?” We wait, we drink, we talk. “Ok, that’s easy,” he replies. “Hakarl.” I remember the episode in Iceland. He says, “It was the single most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. Shark fins secrete ammonia so that is the smell that hits you first. And it’s fermented, so add that aroma in and you can only imagine the taste.” I cringed. “Apparently it’s a delicatessen but only old people and tourists eat it there now. They got me with that one.” After he devoured the burger, we walked over to Soggy Bottom’s but I had to introduce him to my friend Oaklin first. He bought a GoodBoy hoodie and we moved on down the alley.

Tuesday is jazz night at Soggy’s so Tony is feeling it. He mentioned his love for punk rock but there’s also a place in his heart for Jazz. John Douglas and Ramona Collins are on the mic tonight. We decide to get an order of fries and fried pickles with two painkillers: a summery mix of Rum, Pineapple, Coconut, Orange, and Nutmeg. I remembered that Malcolm X snorted nutmeg in prison. “I thought it was cinnamon,” Tony says. “Whatever it was, it must’ve been desperate,” I reply. He nods. “Desperate people do stupidly desperate things.” I didn’t probe further. We listened to the music and then the food arrived. A plate of perfection with golden pickle spears and a huge bowl of homemade shoestring fries. The music was a gift and this moment would be one I would cherish.

After listening for a little longer we walked to Churchills for whiskey flights. He loved the quotes on the wall. My friend Jaime served us and we really enjoyed the atmosphere. It was a mix of young and old, black and white, male and female. The whisky almost did me in, but I was able to get him to talk about one thing that I really wanted to hear about, his tattoos. He said he gets them for locations and people and more so, for experiences. The one in the jungle, hand tapped, on his sternum hurt the most. He revealed that he felt remorse since he didn’t keep his promise and return each year to Borneo like he promised and the chief passed away. It took him nine years to return to the Iban people for festival. “I wanted to see if I had worked my issues out,” he said. “Well, did you?” Smiling he took a drink of whisky: “I think so.”

After that was a long ass walk to The White Horse, another older Flint establishment mostly visited by lawyers and nurses and teachers on Friday Happy Hour afternoons or early morning shift changes. Tonight was different-tonight was karaoke night. We sat at the bar, ordered a pitcher of Oberon and a stromboli to share. There was a lot of country and a lot of Kid Rock happening until some Kettering kids brought it home with The White Stripes, ACDC, and The Shins. Tony liked the place. The beer was fitting after that whisky flight. We weren’t too tipsy yet, but we felt good and the singing wasn’t bad so that tells you something. The food was delicious: chewy bread, solid mix of meat and cheese, and the Ranch dressing was homemade. Tony shook his head at the Ranch thing but he’s not midwestern so whatever. Nachos, since they are baked, are another good pick there but we couldn’t even finish the stromboli. The last stop of the night was just another walk away and I didn’t want it to end. Tony was exactly like he was on television-everyone who knew him said that, but seeing my icon, spending time with him, this was beyond priceless and I was guilty of wanting more time. Wanting more Tony. Wanting more of his writing, his quips, his laughter, his stories, his ability to put people at ease, his open minded sensibility, and his stubborn sense of adventure. I wanted more.

When we enter our last stop, The Cork on Saginaw, word was out that Tony was in town and chef Marge was livid with me for bringing him to her place, last. Shannon, a dear server, said, “She prepared food, Carrie. Be ready.” I took him back to the circle booth and we used my wine card to get drinks from the wine dispensary. Marge was not having that either. She came out of the back with a platter of cheese and a bottle of 2006 Sichel Bordeaux. Now I don’t know wines well, but I know enough to know that, that one is expensive. She tossed our dispensary wine in a server’s tub and grabbed fresh glasses from under the wine dispensary. “Let’s do this right,” she says. Before I know it Shannon is bringing out scallops and crab cakes and calamari. We begin to feast. I listen in on the chef’s bantering about how to correctly cook all the things and I realize how fortunate I am to be in this place. I am in awe of the knowledge about food and culture that surrounds me. And all this coming from freezer pot pies and tater tots. Our friend, also a server there, Michael, showed up and he told stories of teaching his students and the water crisis and then Shannon brought out duck and filet and Tony said, “I thought this was our wine stop.” I laughed, sneaking a quick glance at Marge. She smiled and nodded, understanding that we only had a day to spend in Flint and maybe she was slightly buzzed from the delicious vino. “Tony, I’d eat here every day if I could afford it,” I said. Marge scoffed-dammit, mad at me again. He laughed and said, “But you’d miss out on all the other places left to explore.You’ve got to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the (Flint) river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody.” And with that, he excused himself to the restroom. Shannon, Micheal, Marge and I were smitten. “Holy shit you guys,” I said, “That’s the first time he’s pissed all day.” We laughed and laughed as I recounted our day’s adventures but he never returned. He just left. We didn’t even get to say goodbye. I guess that’s how he wanted it.

RIP Anthony Bourdain June 25, 1956 to June 8, 2018




This is a work of fiction. All thoughts and ideas are my own. Some quotes are published Anthony Bourdain quotes. Some people mentioned do exist and are highly respected but were not interviewed for this piece. I hope, however, that they enjoyed reading it.

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13 Years…


When I was 21 my cousin, Caylin,  was born and I was allowed to be in the room during my aunt’s labor. It was long and painful and beautiful and mind altering. When my mom and I left to get some rest after being awake for my aunt’s 24 hour delivery, I distinctly recall telling my mom, “I am never having kids. Never.”


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Flash forward four years to age 25 and I am in the delivery room with my boyfriend, Paul. My parents came as quickly as possible, but our sweet Claire didn’t show up for about 12 hours. And when she did, I knew that I was meant to be a mom. It sounds completely cliche but it is the only way I can describe this new sense of purpose. I knew that what I had said years prior was out of fear and naivety. I knew I had a place in this world bigger than my own space.

Claire has taught me many things in the last twelve years and 10 months carrying her. Some of the highlights would include:

1. Being an older sister is tough and special. Only other older siblings recognize this dichotomy. Bringing little Leo into our family of three was the most challenging thing I could ever imagine doing to a precious three year old. We had to open our hearts further. And ask her to share our love. And herself. It is a big task for a toddler but she amazed us.



2. Being comfortable is much more important than matching or looking cute-Claire did not wear jeans for years and still only owns two pairs! She “marches to the beat of her own drum” in terms of fashion and loves soft comfy clothing more than dressing up formally.


3. Being silly is necessary in this harsh world. I was looking for lighting for our bedroom when I heard, “Mom! Mom. Mom. Ohmigod Mom.” Knee deep in mismatched lamps and shades at a Florida flea market, I turned around and there she was. We both laughed and laughed. Later I reflected on her childhood innocence and hoped it would stay with us longer.


4. Photo opportunities exist everywhere and traveling is necessary, especially if that means taking a pontoon out into the middle of the Gulf for a sliver of sand called The Sand Bar. Grandpa had only been to this hidden spot once and wasn’t completely sure of the location so it was kind of scary but then we saw Hulk Hogan and he yelled from an enormous jet ski, “Not today, brother!” after posing for a few pictures.


5. Friends, Dawson’s Creek, and Grey’s Anatomy still resonate today. These two and their shows! I love that she can share her thoughts with me about some of my favorite old shows and then share them with her friends but I was baffled when she hated the pilot episode of My So Called Life.


6. Dancing should happen daily. Claire has a passion for ballet. She prances around the house. Constantly. It happens in the store, at the lake, at school, and even at the tattoo parlor yesterday when I was getting my nose pierced. I asked her to take a picture while she was pirouetting in front of a haze filled mirror because an apprentice vaped along to AC/DC.


7. When you feel like you need a breather, water helps. Lake Michigan is the best. Claire’s escape is water. It calms her, nourishes her soul, and gives her comfort.


8. Sleepovers are not for sleeping. Since ten or so, these girls have been enjoying numerous sleepovers where we hear tales of headstands and backsprings, see remnants of musically videos, and often find empty bags of crackers and cheese scattered around the basement.

9. Being an ally is one of the most valuable gifts you can offer. Claire asked if I would lend her money at a flea market up north. I did and she bought a PRIDE flag. When we returned home, she hung it in her bedroom window as a proclamation. I didn’t notice it for a few days after and when I did, I went in and gave her a hug. Her birthday occurs on the second day of PRIDE month.

10. Compassion doesn’t always come with a smile; sometimes it comes with grief and pain. This has been a tough one for us to wrap our minds around, but we are learning to feel and then let go. To use our voice and be able to defend it. To offer a hug instead of a critique.

IMG_8722Happy 13th birthday, Thumper. We love you more today than ever before and look forward to what this year will bring. Thank you for your beautiful gifts. Keep sharing them with the world. It is a much better place with you in it.


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