I, Too, Fear

I, Too, Fear

By Heidi Campbell

I go in the direction I’m told.

I try, in mere minutes,

To harness a lifetime of unbothered wandering.

I go the wrong way once; 

the eyes above the mask 

tell me 

I’ve erred.

But did they tell me? 

Or is that the delusion of a plagued mind? 


I go in the direction I’m told.

Eyes meet.

Eyes avert.

Eyes, once so seemingly suggestive,

now fail me with their distance and fear.

“It was never the eyes,” I whisper to myself. 


I go in the direction I’m told.

Does the elderly man know that I’m smiling at him?

Does the young, frazzled mother see compassion in my eyes?

I grasp reality:

my eyes cannot speak.

They are helpless without their supportive sisters:

the lips.


I go in the direction I’m told.

I touch something without thinking.

I wonder, “Do I dare put this back?”

I, too, fear.


I go in the direction I’m told.

“How long can I linger?” I wonder, 

looking at the fine print.

Eyes hustle me from behind.

I feel them,

imploring me to proceed.

I look back.

What do those eyes say without lips sharing the tidings?

Are they happy eyes? Angry eyes?

Flushed skin betrays my unease.


I go in the direction I’m told.

Craving expression, I realize

the new exchanges inspire insecurities.

Eyes stare at eyes.

Emptiness replaces community.


I go in the direction I’m told.

“I want the lips back,” I murmur.

They are the trumpets announcing kings.

They are security,


and kinship.

They require no interpretation.


I go in the direction I’m told.

I retreat to my world,  remove my mask.

With tired eyes, I sleep,

Haunted by empty eyes.



Here is a story that I wrote for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2019. I came in 3rd in my heat, so I’m moving on to the 2nd round.  The assignment for the first round was to write a drama that involved a pet sitter and a fiance. The word limit was 2500 words.


The two dogs were barking and jumping at the door when Fiona, the owner (and lone employee) of Fiona’s Critter Sitting Service let herself into the dark house. She switched on the hall light and made her way straight back to the kitchen, where the two pups anxiously awaited their liberation. She quickly unlocked the door to the backyard and the dogs bounded off the creaky porch.

Fiona filled the food and water bowls before sitting at the oak table to read the lengthy note from Mr. Hart. His notes, written in loopy cursive letters on a yellow legal pad, got longer and longer with each visit. Fiona didn’t mind, however–the notes were filled with not only details about his travels, but also with little glimpses into his love story with Violet. He was completely smitten by this woman. He explained to Fiona that their love story was a most improbable love–not forbidden- just improbable, since he was considerably older than Violet, and society didn’t always look favorably on such love. Their story was, nevertheless, inspiring to Fiona, who was beginning to wonder if she would ever meet her own soul mate.

Fiona had been to the house many times, as Mr. Hart was gone for varying durations throughout the year. She felt like she knew Mr. Hart quite well now between his pre-travel phone calls and his handwritten notes. He was an expressive, passionate man who loved to travel and was deeply in love with Violet. Last month, he had called Fiona to explain a new treatment she would need to give one of his pups. At one point in the conversation he asked Fiona to hold for a moment. She imagined that he muffled the phone with his hand, because she barely heard him say, “I’ll be there in just a minute, my darling.”  

When he returned to the phone, he spoke in a more hushed tone. “Fiona. You cannot know the joy that is in me as I prepare for our trip to St. Lucia. I have arranged so many surprises for my Violet. We will be dining privately on the sand one night–enjoying the most sumptuous seafood and island drinks together. Oh, and another day we will behold the beauty of the island by helicopter. We will see the island’s lush rainforests and coral reefs, and even the Soufriere Volcano! She will never forget this trip! How wonderful life is, Fiona!”

Fiona often wondered if Violet appreciated Mr. Hart. She wondered how old Violet was. He said she was younger than him, but by how much? Ten years? Twenty? She never met Violet in the times she’d met with Mr. Hart, but she imagined that she was beautiful and probably intelligent, too. After all, Mr. Hart was a very smart man. Fiona knew this not just from the detailed notes he scribed, but she had often noted the hundreds of books he kept on the antique shelves in his sitting room. She had read through numerous spines and seen some of the most impressive penames: Shakespeare, Keats, Updike, Austin, Dickens, and Hemingway, just to name a few.

During her last visit, she had spent time looking at the photos on the mantle– there was one of Mr. Hart in front of the Westminster Abbey, one of him covering his white hair with a straw hat on a dark-sand beach, and one of him holding up a lobster at an outdoor restaurant next to a dock. When he called her to set up this visit she asked him why Violet wasn’t in any of the photographs. He replied, “Why, she takes the photos, my dear!”

When Mr. Hart interviewed Fiona, over a year ago, she recalled him being slightly agitated and nervous about having someone coming in and out of his house. She had assured him that she was a professional, and that she was bonded and insured. They talked about her experience, her hobbies, her family, and her schooling. Mr. Hart seemed pleased with their hour-long interview and he hired her. She found herself completely taken with Mr. Hart and his caring soul. He was the most romantic man she’d ever met, and she began to eagerly anticipate the adventures that Mr. Hart described.

Fiona kicked off her sandals and began to read the yellow note on the table.


Thank you for caring for my beloved pups. Violet and I will return late Sunday evening. Please be sure that you come early Sunday evening in case we get in too late. Remember to give the girls their chondroitin each night; their joints seem to be less achy when they take it. I left pig ears for you to give them in the morning. They love those. As always, also make sure they have plenty of water.

As I told you, Violet and I are staying in Paris this week with my sister. She lives just a few blocks from the Tuileries Gardens, in that magical city where I met my beloved Violet. I plan to take Violet to all the places that we went to when we first met.

I think that I’ve told you that it was love at first sight with us. I saw her sitting in a little cafe up in Montmartre. She was sipping wine and eating bread, watching the local artists paint the Paris skyline. I sat down two tables over and just watched her- completely awed by her beauty. Twice she caught me looking at her and I looked away. The third time, it became a game to see who would look away first. Finally, I got up and walked to her.

“Are you waiting on someone?” I asked her.

“No, cherie,” she answered. “Would you care to join me?”

I sat down with her and we talked until the chairs were stacked all around us and the wine had long been dry in our glasses.

“May I have your number, Violet?” I asked her.

She wrote it down on the bottom of an old receipt. I remember caressing the paper as though it was her cheek. She had touched it and now I was touching it. There was a kinetic energy that ran through every cell in my body.

I called her the next day, and found that she was free. We spent the entire day together, and I knew there was no turning back for me. We ended that day on a wooden park bench, eating crêpes “avec le sucre et beurre”.

“Could you consider loving me, Violet?” I asked bravely. “You are young and beautiful and I am an old man.”

Instead of answering me, on that radiant day, she leaned over and kissed me. Her eyes were closed and when our lips touched, I began to shake uncontrollably. She pulled away and smiled. “Consider it? I demand it!” she said, with a smile that positively ruined me.

I hope that you enjoy your week. I will miss my pups, but they know how much I need this special time with Violet.

Fiona left that night feeling wistful. She yearned for the kind of connection that Mr. Hart and Violet seemed to have–the stuff of fairy tales and fireworks and passion. Their story had reignited Fiona’s belief that such a love did exist. It was rare, but it was still possible.

Two weeks later, on a Monday evening, Fiona pulled in to Mr. Hart’s driveway for her scheduled pet sit. Oddly, there was a car in the driveway that she had never seen before. She went to the front door and unlocked it with the key Mr. Hart had given her. The light in the hall was on, and she heard a voice yell from the kitchen, “Hello? Who is it?”

“It’s Fiona,” She responded, as she walked toward the voice, “from Fiona’s Critter Sitting Service. I’m here to take care of the pups!”

An elderly woman sat at the oak table, going through a box of old papers. Her hair was white, and she had a striking resemblance to Mr. Hart. “Well, you won’t need to come here anymore,” she said, looking up from her list. “My brother’s dead. Thank you for your services, my brother trusted you.”

Fiona felt her cheeks burn and chills spread down her arms all the way to her fingertips. “Oh, no!” she gasped. “And you’ve come all the way from Paris! How terrible! What happened?”

“Paris?” the woman asked incredulously. “What would give you that idea? I’ve lived here in this town for over seventy years! My brother died of a reaction to a new psychotic medication he was given last week. His heart just couldn’t take it. Nothing has worked for him all these years, and the doctors thought this might. Such a shame that no one could help him.”

“B..but… I don’t understand!” Fiona said, bewildered. “What about Violet? Does she know?”

“Violet?” asked the woman. “Who is Violet?”

Fiona looked at the woman as she fought the realization that was slowly permeating her brain. “Oh, no. This is so tragic,” Fiona said in a whisper. “Violet was the love of his life. He told me all about their love story. It was…truly… breathtaking.”

“There was no Violet, my dear,” the woman said more matter-of-factly. “My brother suffered from a diseased mind. He did have an active imagination at times.”

The woman realized that Fiona was deeply hurt by this news. She reached into the box and pulled a yellowed newspaper out and held it up for Fiona to see. “Here’s an editorial the local paper published when they first heard my brother was let out. The doctors found him responding well enough to the drugs to leave the ward. He was able to live on his own for several weeks at a time, as long as he took his medication. But oh, my brother hated the side effects of the medication. He spent his life making frequent plans to stop taking it. He knew, after years of treatment, that he would lose all sense of reality after a day or two,  so he would plan to leave his pups taken care of before he ventured out. We’d always find him down by the old bridge and bring him back to the ward to get himself readjusted and back on track.”

“But the pictures on the mantle?” Fiona asked softly.

“My brother lived alone with nothing but his books, and, in recent years, his computer. He became a master with photoshop. They do look impressively real,” she answered with a wishful smile.

“Oh, I see,” said Fiona, heartbroken. She held the article in her hands and read the headline. “No One Deserves a Psychopath Living Next Door”. She couldn’t bring herself to read the article. It was all too much for her to take in. She thanked the woman for letting her know and told her, once again, how sorry she was.

Fiona sat in her car, staring at Mr. Hart’s house for the last time. Tears rolled down her cheeks. His sister claimed he died of a reaction to a new drug. She couldn’t help but wonder, however, if it wasn’t a reaction to a moment of clarity- realizing that Violet would never be his fiancee.

“I hope you find her now,” Fiona whispered as she pulled out of the driveway.


p.s. In round 2, which is due tonight by midnight, I have to write a comedy involving a security guard and a test of strength. Not sure how this will go, but I’m busy at work now!

46 years old and suddenly allergic wheat, eggs, AND milk? Whaaaat???

I’ve done a lot of reading in the last few days about food allergies, after getting word from recent blood tests that I’m now highly allergic to wheat, egg whites, and milk, and moderately allergic to peanuts and soy. As a diabetic pescatarian with a kidney disease known as Focal Segmental Glomerulonephritis, https://nephcure.org/livingwithkidneydisease/understanding-glomerular-disease/understanding-fsgs/ )  this news felt like a sucker punch in the gut. For the sake of my health issues I’ve already thrown meat, sugar, and white-flour, carby-foods to the curb. How can I possibly live with all these additional food restrictions? French blood courses through my veins; bread and cheese are my go-to foods! I love bagels with cream cheese. And sub sandwiches on whole wheat. And eggs. And butter. And yogurt. I mourn for my palate, who now needs to enroll in a new graduate program…

Of course, I began reading. I’ve read scores of helpful blogs that reveal positive experiences and recipes with these dietary restrictions. Often in my life I’ve thought about how glad I was to grow up in a time without today’s modern technology, but what I’ve found online has actually made me thankful to live in this digital age- where we can access such a wealth of information. I’m amazed by the resources I’ve found and how many others in the world live gluten, meat, dairy, egg, soy, and peanut-free.

With tears freshly dried, I went to the “healthy” section of the local grocery store to explore the possibilities of my new food life. There are options aplenty for gluten free foods, but those options significantly decrease when one needs to be sure they are also dairy, soy, and egg free.  I did find, however, several products that I can eat, and I checked out with hope that these new morsels would not taste too horrific.

I’ve tried some of the items that I purchased, and I’ve not been as underwhelmed as I feared. I made myself lunch using a dairy & wheat free tuna tortilla, which was pretty good. The “mission” brand, gluten-free tortillas do not hold together well, but cut into quarters and used as a top and bottom to the tuna, it was not bad at all. With an apple and some celery sticks, my lunch was portable, filling, and tasty.


For a weekend breakfast option, I’m really impressed with Vans gluten-free and dairy-free waffles with dairy free (Earth Balance) butter spread and blueberries. I used syrup with no added sugar or corn-syrup, and it was quite tasty! It was odd to crunch down on some sesame seeds, but my palate said, “yes, ma’am.”

vans waffle with syrup and blueberries

I made a dinner using the ONE loaf of bread that I found that did NOT have egg whites, wheat, dairy, or soy. It is a brand called “Ener-G”, and the slices are the size of playing cards. I used the dairy free butter and I found some vegan “chao” cheese (this DOES contain tofu, so I’m not sure I can eat much of this one- but the tests showed the soy allergy to be moderate- I’ll learn more in the coming weeks about what that really means).  I made a tiny little grilled cheese sandwich to accompany my beans and blueberries. I was impressed that the butter melted and the texture of the bread was not crumbly- it held together quite nicely. While this new diet requires very specific shopping and planning, at least I can see ways to appease my cranky palate.

grilled cheese

Today, I used the Gluten and dairy-free tortillas to make a pizza. I doubled the flimsy tortillas together to make a more sturdy pizza crust. I spread tomato sauce over it and covered it with the vegan cheese. I baked it in the oven for 15 minutes, then took it out and ate it. While the cheese didn’t melt into that mozzarella melt that strings for miles, it was warm and mixed well with the sauce.

pizza possibilities

I’m on my way to figuring out how to replace my comfort foods. I eat plenty of greens which I’ve not bothered to talk about here; my broccoli crowns, asparagus spears, and salads are not going anywhere. They are just now betrothed to new partners.

I hope that by blogging about these dietary discoveries, others in similar situations might find some new ideas or suggestions. If you are reading this and have ideas or suggestions- please leave comments for others to see! If you are reading this and know anyone who might benefit from any of this- please share it!

For the next few weeks, I plan to keep myself busy so that I don’t sulk and think about all the foods I’m going to miss… I’m saying my silent farewell to my guilty pleasures: macaroni and cheese, Collossus pizza, REAL cheese, and whole wheat anything. I will miss all of you like a lost friend. But, as they say in show business… “the show must go on!”



Uncovering Hawaii: Oahu, part 1

Uncovering Hawaii: Oahu, part 1

Aloha! That word always seemed like one of those words I only heard in Elvis movies, yet from the moment I stepped off the plane, it is the word that begins and ends every sentence in this beautiful state. I was reading an article about Duke Kahanamoka, considered the father of surfing, and he said, “Aloha means ‘with love’. People meet you with it and send you off with it. I believe in it and it is my creed. Aloha to you!”I like that.

We rented a Jeep at the airport and headed to our hotel- the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort in the Tapas Tower. This place is considered a resort, but I call it a city! There must be 20 restaurants, over 100 stores, and five pools- it is massive and sprawling!

Since we were caught up in the time-change funk, we rose at around  4:30am. After the ultimate parking challenge, we went for Saturday breakfast at the Hula Grill, a chain popular throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The view was fantastic, and the breakfast fare was all Hawaiian- and delicious! I ordered eggs Benedict with Hau’ula tomatoes and spinach on a toasted bao bun, and fresh papaya & pineapple. This was a far cry from my normal nutri grain bar! Delicious.

The next stop was the Diamond Head Crater. We got there by 8:30am, but the lots were already full! Realizing I left my nitroglycerin tabs at home, (I have a slight heart condition that does not appreciate strenuous hikes) I opted to drop off Jim & the folks we were with and go find something solo to do in lieu of a mega hike up. The ancient volcanic crater, however, was beautiful even from the ground!  Here are a couple photos from the top taken by my husband Jim. Breathtaking comes to mind!?

While they hiked, I tooled around and happened upon the local KCC Farmer’s Market, which was organized by the Hawaiian Farm Bureau on the campus of Kapiolani Community College. The campus was beautiful and I wandered through their cactus gardens before hitting the market.

The market was both entertaining and delicious. People drank fresh pineapple juice right out of the fruit.  I listened to a local musician play his original songs, I talked to a local farmer, and I sampled some amazing local honey! My favorite samples had to come from the macadamia nut table where I sampled over 15 different flavors! I bought the onion garlic flavor- but I could have gone NUTS! The market is open every Saturday. Brandi-Ann Uyemura reviewed the market for Hawaii.comand said, “this market is like a shopping mall for the foodie and a hotspot for Saturday brunch.” Totally agree, Ms. Uyemura!

Once I picked up the Diamond Point hikers, we headed to Tantalus Road to make the Round Top drive. We took the top off the jeep for the ride- not the least bit easy- and set out on the steep, curvy jaunt to the top. We stopped at a beautiful lookout spot to take in the views on the way up. We had a great view of Diamond Head, the Punchbowl Crater, and downtown Honolulu. We continued up, and the open jeep was amazing… until the rains came! Without any more pull offs, and crazy, cliff- hanging cottages lining one side, all we could do was embrace the rain until we got to the top!

After making our way back down, we drove to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl Cemetery, because the site sits in the crater of surrounding volcanoes. In Hawaiian, the term “punchbowl” is “Puowaina” which means “Hill of Sacrifice”. This is a befitting name for this beautiful, solemn resting place of over 13,000 soldiers and sailors who died in WWII. There are also 70 generic “unknown” markers for the graves of soldiers who died at Pearl Harbor.

As we approached Lolani Palace, my attention was momentarily interrupted by a drunk guy who was dancing and waving to me on the palace lawn. This palace was once the original residence of the King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani, who were the last monarchs of Hawaii. Also on the grounds is the famous gazebo, which was built for inaugurations, and is now used for local concerts and weddings.

Down the street from the palace sits Kawaiahao Church, which is the first Christian church built on Oahu in 1842.  The church is sometimes referred to as the “Westminster Abbey of the Pacific”. The coolest part of the church is that it was built by missionaries using 14,000 pounds of coral slabs from ocean reefs. There was a bride and groom getting photos taken when we arrived. The groom looked about 65 and the bride in her twenties. We thought it might be a father daughter until they kissed. Nope. Definitely a couple!

We ate lunch at a place called Hank’s Haute Dogs, which was featured on the Food Network’s Diners Drive-in and Dives. This place is not exactly a vegetarian dream. Their menu consists of mostly “haute” dogs and hamburgers. When I asked the guy what the best vegetarian option was, he looked at me like I was from Venus, and suggested the Truffle Macaroni & Cheese. Now truffles are interesting to me. I once watched a documentary on the underground, highly sought after truffles and remember that they are often hunted by trained dogs and pigs, especially in France, where they are considered a delicacy. Looking closer at the menu, I asked the order taker about the “Lobster Haute Dog” which listed sausage as one of it’s ingredients.  The order taker said that the seafood was wrapped in a pork casing. Then he asked if I wanted that with some beef fat fries. Smart assery was evidentially his schtick… The truffle Mack and cheese was pretty good, though…

Our day ended with the conferment ceremony for the 2016 CPCU designees- the reason we were flown to Hawaii! The Hawaii Conference Center was the biggest my eyes have ever witnessed; 15,000 people awaited the start of the event. The keynote speaker was journalist  John Quinones, the host of “What would You Do?” and numerous other award-winning pieces. His message was powerful: we must model integrity and kindness. He was at once inspiring, funny, and heartfelt, and his own story was one of struggle and hard work.  I videotaped several tidbits to share with my newspaper students when I get home.

After the ceremony, Jim’s CEO put the Crawford & Company people on a shuttle to Duke’s Restaurant, where we were escorted out past the pool to a private dining area directly on the Pacific. Tiki torches lined the walls, and a gorgeous Laie was placed around each of our necks. We had cheeses and shrimp appetizers, all the Mai Tais we could drink, and a beautiful buffet of Hawaiian fare including fresh caught Mahimahi.  And to think… this was just our first full day… more adventure awaits!

That makes me cringe

Originally published on Tumblr, September 2013. This one met with a great deal of criticism. Apparently I sounded too preachy, and I didn’t utilize the proper term for the “gauges”… (I purposely named them with my own lingo). So, this one is for folks age 30 and up I suppose…

I have been teaching for a while. I have seen loads of fads over the last 20+ years in American High Schools. I have seen the pale girls sporting black lipstick, I have appreciated all hues in hair color, lots of shaved heads & Mohawks, and I have seen boys who wear their pants at their knees. I have seen kids who pierce their tongues, and kids who wear pajamas. These mavericks are expressing themselves. I get it and I appreciate it.

Eventually “Paula the Punker” and Mr. Baggy Pants will mature and realize that they no longer want to look like caricatures. When this epiphany strikes, it will be easy for these kids- they can simply change. They can realize the party is over, throw away their costumes, and become civilians. The blue hair follicles will welcome the chestnut brown hair dye. The size 78 pants can easily be replaced with a 36 for the “sagger”.
No big deal. These fads are ephemeral.

I cringed this week to see the upsurge in a different fad. A fad that is impossible to “drop” without surgery. A fad that permanently disfigures these young, foolish kids. The fad is the practice of upsizing “ear bracelets”. I call them this because I do not know their proper name. I used to see them on only the most radical of kids, but this “practice” is honing in on the mainstream. For those who still don’t know what this is, I will try to describe this odd and scary practice.

It begins innocently enough, from what my students have told me. A kid has a thick earring stud crammed into their existing earring hole. After enough time has passed, the kid has the thick stud replaced with a tiny circular ring. The ring is pushed, flush, into the hole to expand the hole. The earlobe stretches to fit around this tiny disk. The earlobe has now welcomed a new shape- a perfect circle that a pinky finger could poke through.

This disc, after a bit more time, is what seems to become the challenge. These kids begin to salivate and dream of a bigger disc. They want an upgrade. In a society where bigger is better, a society where kids smoke banana peals to get high- these kids want more.

And they give in to their desires. They upgrade. As soon as “Floppy- ears Magee” knows his circle is ready to stretch, he goes back to the piercing gurus for a bigger circle. The tiny little discs eventually become bracelet size, and the once petite earlobe becomes an extra ping ping paddle. There is no escape from this permanent disfigurement.

As I watch the “toddlers” of this trade pass me in the halls I cringe. I know where they are headed. They have dime sized holes now, but by the year’s end, they will have a set of handcuffs hanging off their noggins. It is a new addiction and they just can’t get enough.

I feel embarrassed for these kids, especially when I think about their day of epiphany… the day they decide they don’t want to stand out anymore. They can take out the bracelets but they won’t be able to hide their rebellion of yore. They are stuck with flappy Dumbo ears until they have the cash to hire a plastic surgeon.

I wonder what will be next? An implant that will grow a third arm? Hmmm… I might try that…


Is anybody alive in there?

Originally published on Tumblr, October 2013.

I was at the grocery store tonight and I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Everywhere I turned, there were people talking on their cell phones. These were not teeny-boppers with their OMGs and LOLs. These were not teenagers who were talking to their heartthrobs. These cell phone junkies were middle aged folks like me. They were products of the 70s and 80s who weren’t RAISED with the cell phone appendage! These people tonight were so disconnected with their environments that they had no idea what was going on around them. The cell phone zombification has struck my generation…

One woman had me blocked in behind the apples. I gently said, “Excuse me!”

She didn’t turn around or even flinch. She was completely involved in her conversation. Before I said it louder, I looked her over. She was tall and thin. She appeared to be older than me- perhaps mid-50s. Her attire was dated, like an 80s business lady. I again said, a bit louder, “Excuse me?”  I saw a guy to my right chuckle. Still nothing. I was feeling trapped and anxious.  I leaned around my buggy and swung my arm in the air- right where she should have seen it, and she still didn’t move. I had no choice but to bump her ever so slightly with my shopping cart. I instantly felt guilty, and thought to myself, “Maybe she’s deaf?” But then I remembered, she was talking on the cell phone.  She finally turned, after my bumper cart nailed her softly on the behind. She looked irritated and inched over… just barely. I squeaked past her and she kept talking.

Now, I have to add that I am on a pretty strong steroid inhaler for some wheezy bronchial stuff today, so I am a bit jittery. But as I left the veggie talker and moved toward the meats, I passed another mobile phone talker who was in an angry conversation with his significant someone. He was so embittered by his exchange that I honestly don’t think that he remembered where he was. I heard him say, “I can’t believe you are saying that to me. You don’t even LISTEN! No!  I am SICK of this!”

He was holding his cell phone on his shoulder as he spoke loudly in to it, holding his cart with one hand, and roughly rifling through the pork chop packages with his other hand. He looked to be about 45. His clothes spoke a different message than his phone voice- his clothes were laid back, tan shorts, a white, well-washed, Nike t-shirt, and uncombed hair. This was a misnomer. He was not laid back. He was mad. I veered away from the meats, as I suddenly realized he could totally lose it. He could start throwing ribs. I had kids to raise. We would just have to go without meat this week. It was probably healthier anyway.

As I turned up the next aisle, a huge man in all black was leaning against the Little Debbie shelf updating his Facebook status. A mother further down was pushing her buggy down the aisle. Her two kids were yelling, and trying to climb out of the buggy. She bopped them on the heads with a package of rice cakes and shushed them. She told the person on the other line how terrible her kids were acting. In the freezer section a 30-something woman was complaining into the phone about how cold it was. She was wearing a slinky tank top and cut offs. In her buggy she had a 12 pack of Molsen Golden and a box of corn dogs.

I have never had such an overwhelming sense of cell phone overload. Ever. And I teach high school kids. I see them on their phones. Regularly. For some reason it seems normal for the teenagers to be consumed with their phones. They are like pacifiers for them. But I realized tonight, that adults who are tuned out to the world and on their phones in public causes me a different stress. If the kids aren’t paying attention, and now their parents aren’t paying attention… is ANYONE paying attention to the world anymore?


Too cruel to be kind

Originally published on Tumblr, December 2013.

The tone shocked me. It was a giant ball of rude, condescending, mean, and totalitarian all wound tightly and thrown at a kid. This was not the student’s father, his prison guard, nor was it his boss- this was his teacher.

He yelled so loudly I had to step out of my room. When I saw the owner of the voice another shock zapped me: this was a teacher I had heard GOOD things about.

I recall another mad man yelled a few years back. He yelled with such force I imagined blood vessels bursting in his violet cheeks. He was so out of control I contemplated calling for paramedics.

There are many jobs in the world where a cold, angry, uncaring nature would be completely acceptable. There are plenty of jobs where a daily show of power might come in handy, and antipathy for kids would not matter. Teaching, however, is not one of those jobs.

Kids deserve better. Kids deserve a pool of teachers who care about kids.

I’m forming a list. A list of folks who need to find a new career. Until they do, I’ve incorporated a few helpful coping mechanisms into my days…

I have infused my own passive-aggressive techniques for dealing with these meanies. I may or may not put extra junk mail, found in the recycling bin, into their mailboxes. I may or may not walk past them and chuckle to myself just to make them wonder. I may or may not slide articles about kindness under their classroom doors. I may or may not take the last cookie when I see them behind me in the lunch line.

I’m not moving mountains, but sometimes staging your own mini-protests against things can do wonders for the soul.


That’s what you get…

Originally published on Tumblr, January 2014.
That’s what you get!

There is a strain of vile people that our communities need to expunge. These serpents are penetrating the ears of our youth with their venomous tongues.  We must find a way to stop feeding these folks, stop giving them air time, stop even glancing their way, and stop up their noxious voice boxes.

One such nitwit spewed his poison at a recent “nine and under” boys lacrosse game. The kids in the game were 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders. Babies. This was the first game of the season, and the first game ever for many of these boys.

The score was 3-0. Our orange team was beating the red team. A red player suddenly tripped an orange player, sending the orange player to the ground, hurt. A flag flew from the fist of the officials, and the red player was penalized.

As the hurt orange player struggled to get back in the game, the father of the tripper said, “That’s what you get for running up the score!”

I will let the “running up the score” portion of the comment go, although I will point out that we were only up by a mere 3 points.

What I can’t seem to shake were the first four words: “That’s what you get.”

“That’s what you get.” Perhaps that is what Joan Crawford said to her daughter after this “mommy dearest” beat her sweet child for using wire hangers.

“That’s what you get.” Perhaps that is what Jeffery Dahmer said when one of his victims resisted his soup de jour.

“That’s what you get.” This is a new low in sentiments of rotten role models for kids. How does that red player stand a chance to grow into a compassionate, kind adult?

I am a high school teacher with nearly 20 years under my belt. I see these kids who you modeled on the fields in their days of youth. They come to my classroom as young adults. The impact that you had on them glares me in the face each day. I feel for these misguided kids.

Let me just tell you, Mr. Red Jersey Dad, just what YOU are “going to get”.

You are going to “get” a kid who takes no responsibility for anything that he does.

You are going to “get” a kid who bullies his peers and can’t find happiness in the world around him.

You  are going to “get” a kid who spends much of his life trying to impress his dad and it will never be enough for you.

You are going to “get” a kid who will eventually put himself first; he won’t care about you when you are old.

You are going to “get” a kid who never respects authority.

You are going to “get” a kid who taunts kids on the bus, cheats, and makes fun of kids with disabilities.

You may, if we are all lucky,  “get” a kid who will one day have an epiphany and realize that his dad is a bully… and tells you before it is too late.

That’s what I HOPE you get.


We live in a world of blame

 Originally posted on Tumblr, February, 2014…

William Wordsworth said that poetry comes from the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” This perfectly describes the point at which I become compelled to blog. I allow the powerful feelings to build up over hours, perhaps days. The feelings begin to interfere with my ability to think about anything else, and I’m left with no choice but to sit at my laptop and write.

As I snuggle inside, enjoying another southern snow day, I cannot help but react to the news blips I have heard over the past few weeks in not-so-Hotlanta. The snowy debacle of January’s Snowpocolypse was a true testament to the layers of blame that our community piled on our local officials. Atlantans blamed the DOT, the Governor, the Mayor, the weathermen, and even the south for the horrible conditions here a few weeks ago.  Each of these individuals and groups were placed on the stand and forced to testify. Not surprisingly, they all had someone to blame.

We live in the sphere of CYA  (cover your a*&). Everyone has to CYA in order to avoid the proverbial finger pointing. Alibis and justifications are more important than fresh fruit. We fear decision making as it brings impending censure.  When decision makers decide in error, they are crucified by those around them, which causes them to lash out in blame-game desperation. It becomes vicious. Rapidly.

This blame game doesn’t live exclusively in city politics- it plagues our schools, too. Communities blame schools and teachers for low test scores, low grades, and low self esteem. Teaching in the modern world is a daily CYA workout, where hours are spent determining ways to reteach, intervene, help, nurture and placate our youngsters in a way that will offer the least resistance from parents. Everything we do must be justifiable, or there will be blame.

We are going to back ourselves into a corner where no one will be willing to be the decision maker. Who would want the responsibility? Our pool of leaders will eventually dwindle, as no one will want to risk the blame. Only true CYA geniuses will fill these slots; those with the true power to self-vindicate, yet these may not be people that we should trust. We will run out of city leaders, teachers, and school administrators, who have tired of the sport of CYA. Our worthy leaders will seek shelter in safer careers; careers not so badgered by blame.

Folks need to start a grassroots “STOP THE BLAME” campaign.Blame is a bully who has to find a victim.  If we don’t hurry, there won’t be blankets broad enough to CYA adequately. Blame is not a food group; we do not need it.


Confessions of a list hoarder

 Originally published on Tumblr -August, 2014:

Someone laughed at me the other day because I make lists. I am a list maker. I may even be a list hoarder.  I like to see my responsibilities mapped out- with bullets and stars.  I am not sure if this grew out of my need to remember things in my crazy, three-kid-work full- time world, or if it is my deeper need to feel a sense of accomplishment when I can scratch items off the list(s). When life gets hectic, it’s nice to know that, although the laundry didn’t make the cut, I did pick up my oldest child from practice, and I did email the mom of the kid who seemed depressed. These are things I can hang my hat on as the moon rises.

I have lists all over the place.

I have lists on sticky notes that I attach to my work laptop.These are the urgent, must-finish-today things. These are the “CYA” things. These are jotted in nearly illegible scratches. The residue left from the trashed sticky note makes me happy; I accomplished. I dodged a bullet. Or two.

I have lists in my “notebook-o-lists” which I keep visible on my desk. Here I scrawl tasks both large and small, albeit not tasks with the same imminence as the sticky-note cousins. I draw lines through finished items. If a page has too many scribbles, I move to the next page and put the unfinished items at the top. Its a fresh start. I feel bad for the items who keep getting bumped along. They eventually get my attention out of this sense of pity.

I have lists written under each day in my calendar of the activities that need pick ups, drop offs, snacks, and/or fancy clothes.

I have lists of my favorite books: books I want to read, books that folks recommend to me, and books I hated. I keep these lists on my favorite book-nerd app, my soul-calming app: Goodreads. This app also allows me to view the lists of all my reader friends. Yes, I like to look at the lists of others- a sure sign that I have a problem.

I have “lists of lists” housed in the “NOTES” app on my phone. These lists are all over the place.  I keep lists of blog ideas, lists of gift ideas, lists of cool quotes I find, lists of who paid dues for things I collect, lists of cool snippets I think of that I may want to use somewhere, lists of ideas for my novel, lists of songs I hear that I want on my ipod, and lists of my dreams.

I have lists that I don’t have time to write down. These are the lists that rattle around my brain at times when I can’t write them down. These lists are often fleeting, thus frustrating. I need these orphan lists to find their forever homes.

I buy books of lists. I’m drawn to them. The English Teacher’s Book of Listsstares at me from the right, and 10,000 Ideas for Term Papers, Projects, and Speeches watches me from the left. I have David Letterman’s books of “Top 10s”, and they crack me up.

Even as I disclose my lists, I feel annoyed at myself-  I should have pre-written a list of my lists, to order them and make sure that they flow properly. Alas, I cannot allow it. What I can do is try to understand my list lunacy. I can realize that my lists are therapeutic in my life. They make me feel good. I work best when I have lists. Lists bring order to a life of confusion. Lists take away the fear of forgetting.

My name is Heidi and I am a list hoarder.