Reflecting on 2023

2023 Review: A few of my favorite things, moments, and people

Audio book: Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei Brenyah

Fiction book: same as above

YA horror Book: The Weight of Blood by Tiffany Jackson

Nonfiction Book: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jeanette McCurdy ties with LA Son by Roy Choi (2013 but new to me)

Poetry collection: Above Ground by Clint Smith 

YA realistic fiction book: We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds (2022 but new to me)

Children’s book: Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho (2021 but new to me)

Graphic memoir novel: GenderQueer by Maia Kobabe (2019 but new to me; top banned book since its premiere)

Song(s):

Janelle Monáe “Float

Olivia Rodrigo “Vampire

Rhiannon Giddens “Another Wasted Life

Sufjan Stevens “A Running Start” 

Album: The Age of Pleasure by Janelle Monáe

Performer/artist: Beyonce

Originally I had a ticket to see Destiny’s Child in 1999 during my first year of college. Well, those members of the Beyhive know that year was a tumultuous one for the group and they broke up. They cancelled their show at SVSU. And I did not get to see her perform. Fast forward 24 years and I am able to finally see the best performer alive! Renaissance was unbelievable. Claire went along with me to experience the greatest show I will likely ever see in my lifetime (outside of Prince performing red Corvette a capella in Lansing 18 years ago!). Another cool factor was watching Beyonce support and mother Blue on stage with my daughter next to me…so grateful for this experience and the angel who I refer to as Gabe on the People Mover that found my wallet on our way to the venue, and then helped get us back to our vehicle.

Person of the Year: the Palestinian press, most are in their twenties, staying to record so the world has evidence of this genocide. Children have taken up the camera and mic to help share their stories.  

Food: Tacos (anywhere in Flint-I don’t care just pls get me tacos after a tough day)

Drink: Clearly Canadian (itsssss baaaaack)


Fave MI spot: there’s a Lake Superior coastline apx thirty miles southeast of Marquette that I’ve stopped at a few times this year. It’s always stunning. 

Fave non MI spot: Blue Spring State Park to see the manatee (473! When we went last week. They come into the spring for the warmer water temperatures)

Reality TV: Survivor season 44 ties with season 45 AND Jury Duty 

Trash Reality TV: Selling Sunset ties with Below Deck

Animated TV: I recently discovered Bob’s Burgers thanks to Leo’s girlfriend so yea, it is funny and glib yet also accurate on so many issues. 

Drama TV: Rez Dogs (Watch it now.) 

Comedy TV: Abbott Elementary (new season Feb. 7!)

Most uncomfortable viewing experience (which also means badass writing & acting): The Bear, season 2, The Christmas episode titled, Fishes

Movie: I watched a few kid ones and scary ones but really didn’t see anything I’ve been meaning to watch yet…one I watched a few times that was fun would be Haunting in Venice 

Style icon: Katherine Hamadeh and Meg (Daphne) in White Lotus season 2 

Points of Pride

*A family that truly loves one another & looks forward to being altogether (even in a 18 hr car ride!). Claire is transitioning well at Tech and continues to explore what her life might begin to look like at a young adult. She also earned an internship for this summer in Kalamazoo! Leo has his first job as a dishwasher. He also is trying to save for his first car! Pearl is serving Student Council as a class rep. She continues to love room and home design! Isla acted in her first on stage community theater, Beauty & the Beast. She also rides her bike all over the new neighborhood! Paul continues to lead MTA into integrating equity, teamwork, and technology in all of their systems and practices. A badass! 

*Second publication, Wakanda: Opening the high school classroom to Afrofuturism 

*Two years alcohol free on January 14! Go me!

*Leading MCTE forward in our initiatives, membership, affinity spaces, and support of Michigan educators & students 

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LEO is 15!

15 Things We Love About You, Son

Leo, on your special day, your fifteenth trip around (our son) the sun, we wanted you to know how much we love you. Here are our most recent, top 15 things we love about YOU.

15. Your carefree spirit, riding your bike to school every day with no worry about temperature or ice or snow.
14. The way you curl up with the cats and seek them out for snuggle time.
13. How you call out the ignorance when gaming-and choose to leave games (or players) if they continue to use derogatory language or inappropriate concepts.
12. When you play hide and seek or a live version of AMONG US with the girls, even though you are tired.
11. How you know your friends, like really know them. It’s not just about their favorite candy and colors, but also their habits and idiosyncrasies. It really shows you care-and that they matter to you.
10. The love you have for your grandparents and the patience you exude when the ask you to teach them tech stuff or help them out with chores.
9. How easily you forgive, especially me when I made you watch Jaws with me at such a young age.
8. How big your heart is and how you are not ashamed of it.
7. That you choose to surround yourself with good people.
6. Your sense of humor ranging from dad jokes to The Office to puns.
5. The passion you have for history-accurate, truth telling history.
4. How your patience has grown for Pearl, through Isla.
3. The fact that you still need Second Dinner each night around 9pm.
2. How Claire will always be your BFF, no matter where you both end up in this one wild, adventurous life.
1. And finally, how last night, when you were biking home from Driver’s Ed, you ran into dad and I walking to Kroger and said, “Can I turn around and join you guys or is this a couples thing?” then proceeded to walk your bike alongside us, sharing your day and updating us on what you learned in class earlier that evening.

We love you, Leo.

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Isla is 5!

Dear Isla: You have said all year long that “being 4 is hard,” and while you most often say this after getting caught drawing on a wall or jumping on the couch, I couldn’t agree more.

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“It’s because you have grown and learned so much,” I would reply, and you would nod, full of the wisdom I wish I had at twenty that you already have at 4.
But that wisdom has come with a steep price.

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You have had fewer peopling experiences with family and friends.
You have had fewer outside experiences than most due to Covid.
You had to stop visiting Ms. Debbie, Ms. Katie, and Alexander because of Covid.

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You might not ever remember what life was before a mask. And now you question those at the store who are not wearing masks. Your eyes show a sense of curiosity and betrayal before the words pop out from behind dinosaurs or baby yoda covering your mouth: “Mom, why don’t they have a mask on?”

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So while being 4 is hard, it also is due to your daily learning. And you have learned so much this year!
You learned how to ride a hoverboard
How to put the flag up on the mailbox
How to share at school
That there are 26 letters in the alphabet
A few sight words
Learned to count
How to be a good friend
How to put away your sweater
How to draw a turkey and a pumpkin
How to get a hot lunch
How to pack a cold lunch
How to get on the bus
How to get off the bus
How to say good bye.

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And lately, Isla, you have said good bye more than you would have liked.
You said good bye to
Your playhouse
Your playroom
Your TV tray and watching spot
Your Meme
Your Papa
Your Carla and Steve…

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But 5 offers a lot of hellos.
You will get to meet your new cousin
See grandparents again in other states
Learn to read
Learn to ski
Learn to write a letter
Ride your bike without training wheels
Swim confidently without floaties
Sing your alphabet without messing up Q-Z
Entering kindergarten
Feeding Boo on your own
Flying in a plane
Riding in a train
Visiting Seattle
Stop sleeping with mom & dad (hopefully lol!)

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And while saying good bye is hard, even saying goodbye to a hard year 4, some day you will also understand that it is only hard because of the memories and loving relationships you’ve helped create. I hope year 5 brings you many more hellos than goodbyes, but I also want you to remember why goodbyes are also so powerful. It is what Winnie the Pooh taught me so long ago: “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

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Up North

One of my favorite memories of Claire is when she would yell, “Look it’s Meme’s favorite road!” This would happen when we turned left onto a narrow dirt pathway lined with trees in Harrison, MI. This would happen every weekend throughout the summer during her childhood.

Let’s back up a little for those of you who have never heard the story.

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When Claire was just a few days away from turning a year old, we hopped into the car and took a drive north. I was in a weird transformative place, married two months before, a huge reception a month prior celebrating us where all of our family met, and barely a year into a new home. Paul recognized this and said, “Let’s get away and spend time with your parents.” He knew they would help anchor me down a little bit and he knew we would both get a full night’s sleep if Meme was there to help. My parents had just bought a little place in Harrison, Michigan. This was close to a two hour’s drive from home. Keep in mind, 15 years ago, technology was not at our fingertips like it is today and we only knew what they shared with us a few weeks prior about the location and the area. We knew it was in a campground, but did not remember the name. We knew it was in Harrison, but were not sure if it was in town or on the outskirts. We knew it was a trailer on the water, but we were not sure what body of water. Looking back, we knew very little.

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Thankfully, my husband was a logistics specialist in the military and knew how to use maps well, and in fact, loved mapping, so much so that he creates and uses maps daily in his work today.

Back to our journey north. We were enjoying the drive, pacifying a wakening baby when we realized once we got to Harrison, MI, we really did not know where to look. I was starting to get nervous and think, what a waste of a trip, but Paul pushed on. “It has to be away from town, away from the state park because it was a private campground,” he remembered. So we drove through town then decided to turn west onto Dodge Lake rd. There were so many dirt roads leading off this main road, and we tried a few, but no luck. Lots of different bodies of water nearby, but no private camping.

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We began looking for Campground signs to see if that might help. We drove through a few neighborhoods and discussed asking someone, but what do you say? Hello. My parents have a trailer on a lake somewhere up here and yeah, that is about all the info we have. We rehashed what we remembered. It was a campground, but they were on the water away from the busy area and there was camping above them, so it was a two level area. After a half hour or so we finally found a sign and knew it had to be the one: Cedar Shores Campground.

Turning down another dirt road I was excited but also trying to soothe a waking Claire, likely hungry and wet from her extended time in the car. I remember singing a lot of the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” She loved that I would turn around and tickle her feet as the spider climbed up the water spout. We drove into the campground and completely missed what would become Meme’s Favorite road. As we made our way into the park, Paul said, “This is it. It has to be. Look down there Carrie!” Down there was a small lake with a few trailers lining the lakefront. “I bet that’s where your parents are,” he said excitedly. Yet we had no idea how to get down there. We found an area that resembled a grassy parking lot and decided to park our car there. There was a restroom nearby so I cleaned Claire up a little while Paul looked around.

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After we got out of the restroom, I heard, “Come here!” Paul was pointing to a stairwell down to the lower level of the campground. This is it, I thought, this really is it. He found them! So the three of us walked down a little path that led to a stairway. We took the stairs two at a time and looked for their car, then their trailer-one we recalled at the far end of the lake with no one on the west side. And what would you believe, Meme and Papa were outside mowing the lawn. They looked up as we were coming down the stairs, awestruck and smiling. “How in the world did you find us?” Mom cried through her smile. “This guy,” I said, thanking Paul with my eyes. We hugged and Claire toddled around the yard, her first visit of many up north.

There wasn’t a boat yet, or kayaks, no makeshift stand up paddle boards or the real deal, no tubes to pull kids through the water, or knee boards and wakeboards to give us stitches and laughter, no bikes or a toy box full of sand toys and balls, not yet, but there was meme and papa.

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And there was Meme’s Favorite Road that we had missed, one that seemed so obvious looking back but one we completely bypassed due to our excitement. We would never miss this road again, and fifteen years later, we would still hear, “It’s Meme’s favorite road!” from a much smaller voice, reminiscent of Claire’s but known as Isla, as we revisit what our kids recognize as love, but what most Michiganders call Up North.

Claire, I know up north will always have a special place in your heart. Happy 16th Birthday to our sweet snarky sarcastic empathetic first born beauty. We love you. All photos courtesy of @clairemattern

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An Interview with an 8 year old

Pearl shared her insight and wisdom for this eighth trip around the sun.

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Fav. Meal of the day: Breakfast because sometimes it can be something small or a big meal for the family.

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Fave. Food: Cheese pizza, a medium

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Fav. Drink: Sweet tea no ice

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Fav. Place: The lake house

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Fav. place in our House: Bedroom

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Fav. place in the World: I can’t answer that question since I haven’t been a lot of places yet!

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Fav. Subject: I like math I Guess. Wait reading. Yeah. It’s reading.

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Fav. Book: I like non fiction.

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Weaknesses: Ok, um dogs that I don’t really know because sometimes I don’t know if they’re bad or good. Well actually, dogs running at me. It seems like they’ll run and bite.

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Fave game: Easy. Roblox.

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Fave show: I dunno. Bunkd I guess.

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Fave movie: I dunno. Pets 2.

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Fave song: I dunno.

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Fave season: 2020, ha, just kidding. I don’t really know. Oh a season! I like summer and I haven’t been alive for that long so I don’t have a favorite year yet.

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Lesson You have Learned in Life: I’m a good person.

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A Lesson You have Learned during the Pandemic: I’ve learned that it’s really not safe at all. I thought we were ok but then I heard more and realized that this is bad.

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What are Kids good at?: Playing

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How is it to have 3 siblings?: Annoying

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Advice to Adults: Don’t smoke. Wear masks and pay more attention about Covid.

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Future career: That’s difficult. I want to be a zookeeper, pet sitter, or babysitter.

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What are you looking most forward to in 2021: Covid being over.

IMG_3216Thank you Pearl. I think kids need to be listened to a lot more than we adults practice doing. We love you and can’t wait to see how much you learn and grow as an 8 year old!

 

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There Are a Million Reasons…but for today, 13.

leowen13. You are curious. You ask deep questions about the world and why it functions the way it does. Even more so, you are intrigued by the answers we provide-enough so to think on your own about what you make of everything.

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12. You find joy in the little things: like miniature twix bars and gummy bears and sour patch kids. All the little things that light your face up with joy.

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11. You are a natural helper. Whether it is helping your papa with technology or even kids on the slopes, you always make time to help other people.

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10. You are adventurous and enjoy trying new things, exploring different places, and finding fun in the mundane. You look forward to when we uproot our home and branch out to the west. You can’t wait for snowboarding and real mountains!

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9. You’re intelligent. Academics come easy, but you push further with technology, coding, and gaming. Keep elevating and expanding your learning opportunities.IMG-8750

8. You are sensitive. Your heart leads a lot of your decision making, and while that makes you vulnerable, it also makes relationships more connected, fulfilling, and intimate.

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7. Your love for Boo. This love you have for this cat is remarkable. I cannot explain it any other way.

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6. You are a good friend. Delivering birthday gifts in a pandemic, remembering their fave things, and thoughtfully purchasing presents is only a glimpse into how loyal you are to your friends.

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5. You’re growing more responsible, especially remote learning all year this year. We have noticed your response to emails with teachers and your follow up on assignments has really illustrated that you are moving further away from childhood and closer to being a young adult.

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4. Your love for Isla is so strong; the way you show her you care with snuggles and movies and wrestling.

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3. Your love for Pearl is genuine: playing games together and riding bikes with one another is so special.

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2. Your love for Claire-you two have a bond like no other and will always be best of friends even though it may not always feel like it.

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1.There is a part of you still longing to hold on tight to childhood-keep it close. We love this part of you so much and while we know we will miss the Little Leo that has brought so much joy to our lives, we look forward to what Leo Mattern is going to become.

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Isla! You are 4.

This gallery contains 16 photos.

My wish is that you get to experience concerts sometime in your life. Some of my best experiences have been with your dad, your oldest sister, and our friends at concerts listening to live music and becoming part of a … Continue reading

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MCTE #TeachGoodTrouble

Before presentations, I like to brainstorm here on what goals and objectives I have as a presenter. Tonight for the Michigan Council of Teachers of English, I hope to:
-honor time and energy of educators
-cultivate community within networks and beyond districts
-energize with ideas and reflections
-challenge w/resources and call to action
-acknowledge those who have taught me
Here is an overview of the presentation along with links to research that will be discussed and referenced this evening.

Making Good Trouble with Jessyca Mathews & Carrie Mattern

Cyclical STEPS of ABAR work:

Listen
Process
Reliable Research
Think
Act

ACTIONABLE STEPS

Put students first.
Interrogate your vocabulary. Use language that is not from deficit thinking (Wickham-Hurst) and language that is inclusive.
Decolonize your curriculum. #DisruptTexts
Discuss differently. Consider the noticings and wonderings but analyze critically (Ebarvia, Gallagher).
Reimagine what liberation looks like in your classroom for your students, particularly those who are Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ (martin).
Prepare to disrupt your colleagues who are rooted in the oppressive system of tradition (Parker, Nold).

Combatting the excuses of why ABAR work is NOT happening
WHAT you prioritize Ss will learn.
HOW does ignoring this work continue to erase Ss and their intersectionality (Crenshaw)?
If there is time for announcements, there is time to implement ABAR vocabulary
If your dpt. makes ABAR work a goal=accountability
If your school board does not agree, research & present with a group of stakeholders
Black Lives Matter-ing is not political.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES

Twitter Communities

#DisruptTexts #ClearTheAir
#THEBOOKCHAT #LiberateandChill
#TeachLivingPoets #31DaysIBPOC
#EduColor #CARBTE

Books that Informed our Learning

Linguistic Justice, Dr. April Baker-Bell
We Want to Do More than Survive, Dr. Bettina Love
Liberatory Consciousness, Dr. Barbara Love
Hood Feminism, Mikki Kendall
How to Be An AntiRacist, Ibram X. Kendi
The AntiRacist Teaching Literacy Workbook, Lorena German
White Rage, Dr. Carol Anderson
Cultivating Genius, Gholdy Muhammad

Scholars that continue to teach us:

Tricia Ebarvia Jason Reynolds
Kelly Wickham Hurst shea martin
Kelly Gallagher Dr. Alfred Tatum
Tiffany Jewell Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw
Dr. Kim Parker Dr. Debbie Reese
Joshua Thompson Val Brown
Ann Giese Justin Schneider
Marian Dingle Hema Kedai
Alfred Tatum José Vilson
Yasmin Neal (Target Practice film)

Music

Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler) by Marvin Gaye
Strange Fruit by Nina Simone
Stereotypes by Black Violin

Cody Miller and shea martin for NCTE on Like A Love Story

NCTE Statement on Racism:

NEA statement on BLM

Dr. Kinberle Crenshaw’s Mapping the Margins

Racial Equity Tools Glossary

#31DAYSIBPOC Every piece posted.

Tiffany Jewell’s Book and other sources:

Lorena German’s Book:

Dr. Baker-Bell’s work
: and Linguistic Justice can be ordered here:

Marian Dingle “Will You Acknowledg
e?”:

Thanks to Jes for always including me in this work. It continues to be a ride I will never take for granted.

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What about the windows?

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It was just the beginning of spring, and I know this now because I think back on how surprised we all were to hear the famous jingle we share in our collective memory of childhood-the one that brings sweet treats throughout the neighborhood on the hottest days of the summer and well into the sweaty Michigan fall weather. But on this day, it was completely unexpected.
There were five or so of us in my classroom after school, our Empathy for All meeting had just wrapped up, and we didn’t want to leave just yet for one reason or another. So we were slowly cleaning, moving desks back to their spaces, eating up the last bits of bottom bag chips, and we all heard it-the ice cream truck. At school. It was as if we were all transported to childhood, yet I was still the adult in the situation. Everyone looked at me-their teacher-their EFA sponsor with wide eyes and furrowed brows. Was it what we all thought it could be?
No one said anything. We just looked at each other in awe-this sudden gift-a break in the norm of high school-a trip down memory lane.
And just as quickly as everyone looked to me, they looked to Kieran, who was bolting toward my windows that faced the front parking lot of the school, a direct route to Choco Tacos and Sponge Bob on a stick with bubble gum eyes.
Kieran was so quick that I didn’t have time to offer up a warning or encouragement. I just sat there, still shocked that we were about to eat ice cream from an ice cream truck at school, which is located on a highway rather than in any type of neighborhood.

As I pondered this, I watched him try to jump through the open window, no longer a child, but a man child, and break the crank of an already old window. His fellow EFA members rerouted as quickly as one does on the Georgia expressway to file out the other windows adjacent to his.
Kieran stumbled. Hard. But he didn’t fall. And he finally got his Sno Cone. Soon everyone came back inside still giggling, mingling a little longer trying to figure out how to fix the window. It is always one of my fondest teacher memories.

Until last night.
It woke me from a dead sleep.
I cannot open that window anymore. The crank still has never been replaced, and the windows on the other side now have the same issue from normal wear for fifty year old windows. I can fill out countless requests but the windows need replacing, not fixing.

And it hit me again.

I cannot

Open

The

Windows

Anymore.

I sat straight up in bed. Unable to return to any type of slumber I had summoned with exhaustion and wine.

If were to open the windows, you can no longer crank them shut, so what has happened in the past, is that you send a kid or two outside to push in from there and then try with all your might to latch it shut from indoors.

But not with new security systems in place because of school shootings and ALICE training.

And kids touching more doors aside from mine.

And kids not being able to social distance if they did this together-one holding the side door open (security breach), one go outside and push (security breach), another (or myself) try latching from the inside. Then sanitize everyone. Repeat at the end of each day.

It is just too risky.

And so is air inside the classroom.

What was once a beautiful memory of high schoolers behaving like the children that they still are has turned into a nightmare. And if that isn’t a metaphor for what we are asking of students when we return back into classrooms, I don’t know what else is.

My windows will have to remain shut.

Is that safer than putting 2-3 other students at more risk? Safer than putting our entire building at risk breaching security due to school shooters?

I cannot open my windows anymore.

And it is getting increasingly hard to shut my eyes every night, too.

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The World is Burning and My Baby is 15

And I’ve never had to worry about her not seeing her 16th birthday because she’s been murdered by police due to white privilege. Usually I write these birthday posts for family and friends-to connect and catch up. I think about how maybe the kids will reflect on them in the future when I am gone, but today is different. And since Claire is on Facebook, this post is for her.

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Dear Claire,                                                                                              June 2, 2020

Happy birthday. Happy PRIDE. F*Trump. F*the Police. F*Quarantine. #BlackLivesMatter.

That sums it up, maybe?

You are a lot like me, yet so very different. And I grapple with that daily.

I see that quiet rage burning inside you. Some of it is beginning to shape into marching and protesting and posting calls to action on your social media. I look forward to how you will contribute to the future with your desire to change this world. I am glad you don’t hesitate to join me in marches against violence, and protests for women’s rights and #BlackLivesMatter. In fact, I love that you care about ally ship just as much as I do. Continue to interrogate your privilege and decenter your whiteness. It starts within.

There are, however things we do not have in common which is interesting.

Like reading. Pick up a damn book. I give you the best ones. Or writing? You know it can help work through things. Or avocado. Just eat one. I swear they’re so good for you.

Speaking of food, during quarantine I’ve learned that you get really mean when you are hungry. That must be dad in you! LOL. I’ve also learned that you absolutely despise multiple sounds and conversations happening all at once. Dad, again? You hate being late-even for a zoom. Dad. Again. Ha. Maybe we are the same person.

But damn, are you funny. I have noticed your quick wit ever since you were little, but that off kilter joke about Sue was hysterical. I would never had told you this at the time it was a so offensive to animal lovers, but I love hearing your mutterings and even more, hearing your laughter.

Watching you with Isla is another beautiful thing. You two have always been so close, but the way I’ve been able to hand her off to you during my meetings, or how she calls for snuggle time with you is so special. I am lucky that I get to witness your love for one another.

Now is the time I should give you advice. That’s what we do as parents, even if you choose not to listen.

You are driven and determined, but do not let that overshadow the fun. There has to be a balance or you will make yourself sick striving for perfection.

Eat more leafy greens.

Practice self care: unplug, disconnect, get outside.

Splurge. You work way too hard (school, dance, dance assistant) to never treat yourself. You deserve the best, so give yourself the best things. Don’t go looking for someone to do that for you.

Speaking of that someone…continue to work on finding the balance where friendship and love intersect. It isn’t an easy space, but navigating it is tough and you are doing so well.

Practice loving your siblings in different ways because they are unique in their needs. Figure out the ways that you need to be loved rather than someone trying to figure it out for you in the future.

Research: Fact check. The world is rapidly shifting and my hope is that more journalists continue doing the hard work. Follow those, especially Black women, that keep questioning authority and seeking truth.

Dress like AOC.

Channel your great grandmothers in the kitchen. One was known for ribs, one for homemade chicken nuggets, one for homemade butter noodles, and one for her Krumkaka. Learn and practice these recipes so you have something to serve with your famous chocolate chip cookies.

Call your grandparents. Messages are nice, but a call is love in action.

I love you with all that I am.

Thank you for making me a momma 15 years ago. I hope this fire inside you continues to rage until there is actual change in humanity and systemic oppression.

Love,

Mom

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