Saturday, January 21, 2017

Why I Marched Today...

Because from my position in life, it's easy to be complaisant.  I'm white, middle class, able-bodied--privileged.  I'm not the black grandma looking after her three grandchildren who has to put aside her pride to ask me for a few bucks in the grocery store.  I'm not the gay student who gets bullied in the bathroom.  I'm not the Muslim woman who watches her family be killed around her.  I'm not the undocumented Hispanic women picking the fruit that I eat for dessert--the one doing work that so many of us are too lazy to do.

The naysayers are right, my rights are not at risk.  At least not yet, but even under Obama not enough was done to protect black lives, immigrants, the Earth, even women.  And yes, we are at risk.  Republicans supposedly want small government and a free market, but they also want to tell me and others how to live as a woman.  They want to take away mandates that provide protection for women, the disabled, children brought here by immigrant parents.  So, yes, I march...I march to be part of the collective voice.

I march for:

  • Minority women who have to fight much harder than me.
  • Women's Health--specifically:
    • Easily accessible contraception
    • Well-women care
    • Safe abortions (preferably as the last resort)
    • Fertility rights--If my insurance is going to pay to treat your impotence, yours should pay to treat my infertility-- Infertility is a medical condition--treatment shouldn't be considered elective
    • Motherhood is a right for all and women should have the help they need to become a mom--It shouldn't be a luxury...Moms and Dads deserve to be supported by society
    • Better maternity care and understanding
    • Pregnancy is not a pre-existing condition
    • Equal coverage and cost for men and women
  • An understanding that Pro-life and Pro-choice can coexist--We can work together to prevent abortions
  • A recognition that immigrants enrich our country in ways beyond measure
  • Protection for all no matter their sexual orientation
  • A country that makes life easier for people with disabilities
  • A beautiful Earth for my nieces, nephews, and students to inherit
  • The end to rape culture
  • The courage for my nieces to know that "no means no" and that saying "NO" doesn't make you less desirable
  • The courage for my nephews to love and respect women--to understand boundaries and also that "no means no."
  • Science, Logic, and the room to increase our understanding (Science is Not a Liberal Conspiracy!)  Sure our Nation's Symbol is no longer endangered, but we should be worried to know some species of bumblebees are now endangered (our food supply depends on these pollinators)
Sure many of the things I march for already exist, and I hope and pray that they will always exist.  However, it's harder to find something again once it is lost, so I march.  I march so that my voice is heard.  I march because it wasn't okay for my male babysitter to get away with molesting me when I was five years old.  Something that went unpunished....Because he was never held accountable, he probably continued "grabbing pussy" until he retired.  I march to support the men and women who rallied around me when my boyfriend tried to kill me, kidnapped me, and raped me.  I march, because I kept it mostly quiet to protect him.  I march for the many friends who have experienced the same thing.  I march for a previous student who I couldn't protect from bullying and sexual abuse.  I march because I've always been a loud, outspoken women, who believes in a better world.

But I also march for my more conservative friends--those men and women who struggle with the changes I desire.  I believe there is room for traditional and progressive families.  I believe pro-choice and pro-life advocates can work together.  As Evelyn Beatrice Hall said, I may not agree with you, "but I'll defend to your death the right to say it."  The march is just a start.  We need to sit down together.  We need to find our common ground.  Even if you feel that being gay is a sin, you can still have compassion for the gay couple next door to you.  Even if you've never personally discriminated against a black man or women, you can recognize that "equal" is still often separate.  Even if your religion tells you that Islam is wrong, you can respect the commonalities between all great religions.

I will not stop marching, discussing, or acting until I know that I'm leaving this world a better place for my students, my nieces, and my nephews.  I am grateful for my place in life--I'm truly blessed and because of this blessing I must do more to help those who are not yet as blessed.  "It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."  Hubert H. Humphrey ( 

I know my answer won't satisfy everyone, but at least it is my reasoning.  Laugh if you will--I promise to not laugh at you, when passion drives your heart to proclaim why you march to the world, if this occurs in the future, as long as your voice comes from love and understanding.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Found some old poems I wrote during an art and writing class. Love these discoveries!

The Lady on the Wall


What is the purpose of one single cloud?

Not ashes.

Not stone.

Not mostly white.

One cloud—angry or quiet

can not contain

this red woman dancing.

My arms are thrown

exploding in the sky

underfoot and dancing

red deeper in my breast,

my hair,

the curves of my legs.


Eyes can not see

          one cloud

when my head swings

          rhythm moving forward

a single wave does not know

whether to come or go.








Reflecting on the Bodhisattva

          Tracy Bednarick


My knees and calves know the aged worry

of thousands.

Where windows should be tilted down

I offer no repose, no harbor.


Jesus looked down from the cross forgiving even those

who betrayed and tortured


Yet I must stare—stone spheres in locked orbs

off in the distance

a weathering Himalayan mountain,

a garden,

the bedroom of a Geisha.


When praying hands rubbed my stone smooth

ropes draped over my arms—a weight I must hold

but if I could drop these ropes where would my hands go?


Would they hold a head?

Surround the tears of a parent who has lost a child?

Sneak coins into the pocket of a beggar?

What wishes would I fill?

Could I see the worries of all these hands?


But hands do not make miracles,

eyes dwell only in light.

Ripples of heart move through me with every fingertip’s caress

My heart is not stone.

Break this statue-

crack my insides.

Every touch has softened.

My essence has held the head,

soothed the sting of tears

brought fortune for work.


Eyes do not need to see when the body knows. 

I offer particles like slivers of mica.

Capture these pieces.  They are your wine, my blood, my body.

God did not craft me,

you did

and my eyes will be your heart.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Time Limit

On our second date, you asked,
"Is this weird?"
I hadn't yet held your hand and I already knew
when we would break up

I said, "live for the moment"
and called you my temporary boyfriend

But three weeks is not enough
even for a speedy romance

and I still want to hold your hand,
sleep next to you under flannel sheets,

three weeks ago,
I promised I'd leave you
three weeks ago,
I didn't think my heart would still be in my stomach
three weeks ago,
I wasn't dreaming of a picnic
after biking
sun kissing our kisses

I'm trying to let you go,
but the three weeks hold me here
of footsteps in the sandy snow
if you could have only
been something more

what a perfect picture

Our last date--swimming
you coming back to my door
for one more goodbye kiss.

we should have known better.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Oozing Jazz

My friend Jason used to walk around Hope College's campus in the mid-90's with a portable tape cassette player in his coat pocket.  An aficionado of jazz, he would literally have jazz oozing from his being.  See, in that time, it was considered too rude to walk around campus with your ear buds plugged in to your ears and your mind unplugged from the world.  (Well, it would have been headphones at that time.)  Now, we are accustomed to that, but during those days, Jason greeted us with the beats and swings of jazz music.

I think this is where my love of jazz music began in so many different forms.  However, when I love something, I'm not a good lover like some people are.  I'm also a movie lover, yet I am not the kind of movie lover who can tell you the director and actors of every movie she has ever seen.  In fact, I don't think I even really have a favorite movie.  So many movies have made me cry, laugh, and even feel waves of appreciation through-out my being.  These experiences I'm constantly in search of repeating through the media of movies.  Sometimes, I wish; however, that I took the time to remember every Wes Anderson movie or that Magnolia films made this or that movie.  I think it's part of being the Renaissance Girl that I am.  I love many things and do many things, but I'm not sure I do any of them to any level of expertise.

Jazz is no different.  If you asked me to name a famous jazz musician, I would not be able to.  Still my love of jazz runs deeply within my soul for how it makes me feel when I experience it.  I think so much of this is wrapped up in my early memories of listening to jazz.  Jason is just one of those.  At Hope, I studied English and creative writing.  Our college hosted literary readings and often we were able to pull in some of the modern greats.  I remember listening to Chaim Potok, Billy Collins, and Jim Harrison.  Before any literary reading, the colleges jazz quartet entertained the waiting audience. 

Most of our college days in Michigan were spent bundled in wool pea coats, hats, gloves, and knitted scarves as we scuttled from one class to the next.  Night and dark came early.   On nights of literary readings, we would walk the few extra blocks from our campus housing to the theater downtown, freezing in a way that kept us from saying more than a few words as we made the trek, but then always as soon as the warmth of the theater greeted our rosy cheeks, we were filled with a happiness that melted the cold away.  I, personally, no longer felt that I was in a little suburb in Michigan, but instead in a small artsy theater some where in New York and probably in a time separate from the 90's.  I just felt damn sophisticated.  While, I listened to the jazz and learned from watching others clap for solos, I wrote poetry in a wrinkled and bent spiral bound notebook that I had stuffed in my pocket.

I wanted more and a college has a plethora of budding musicians, so I befriended music students and realized I was falling in love with watching one particular bassist's fingers strum the strings of his guitar.  I followed him and his band to every one of their performances.  I stopped writing poetry, just so I could watch those long fingers, particularly the way the top of each phallange seemed to have one extra joint that enabled such intricate movement.  I'm pretty sure in my head I had a love affair with those fingers and the music that they created.

But then I left to Ireland for a semester, and I left those fingers behind.  A new romance with jazz began that semester on Sunday afternoons, in the orange hues of oil lamps, at a pub, in downtown Galway.  By the time my friends and I made it downtown to the King's Head Pub, we had already slept off our hangovers from the night before.  If one of us was flush with funds, we had had a full Irish breakfast somewhere greasy and warm by 1 pm.  If money was more dear, we ate Cheerios or I whipped together scrambled eggs for all my non-cooking friends: a spoiled rich girl from Boston, another rich girl from Italy, and a very fresh, still a child girl from the center of Ireland.  Not quite ready to drink heavy Guiness by the time the afternoon had rolled around, but now clear of mind and with some sort of sustenance in our bodies, we found Bulmer's cider on ice to be particularly delicious.  We sat more quietly than the night before, which often ended in drunken dancing at a disco, and just let the jazz of the live band wash over us.  These moments, partially saved me from my homesickness.  Right before I had left home, I had finally found a group of friends at school that stimulated both my mind and spirit.  I missed those friends I had left behind and on lonely walks to nearby villages, I questioned my decision to leave the United States behind for the first semester of my senior year.

Thankfully, the homesickness didn't last.  My cure came in the form of a tall Irish man from Cork who soon began to join me for the afternoons of Sunday jazz.  He didn't dance, but our nights were still often spent up late with me just listening to him spout philosophy in his wonderful Irish accent.  I idolized him and he became my world while I was in Ireland.  He taught me to drink warm port and as the days grew cooler, we sat huddled together in any pub with the kind of music that acted like a knitted afghan for the attraction we had between us.

Later, after that relationship had already ended, I still associated jazz with romance and future boyfriends learned to use this to their advantage.  Jazz  always turned my mood toward affection.

My Pandora station this Christmas is Holiday Jazz and it's amazing how content I've been.  Perhaps I identify with the way the music is arranged:  a true showcase of individuality wrapped together with the uniqueness of others' to create a beat of music that brings out the individual and makes it something even greater.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oxbow Inspiration

If you've never been to Oxbow, a summer camp for artists located in Saugatuck, you certainly must go sometime.  It's a magical place.  Just now, in my search for a chapter of my book that I wanted to work on, I stumbled across some notes for poems that I had jotted down one afternoon at Oxbow a few years back.  I think I need a second visit to actually craft these into more concise poems.

Sweeping the Porch

Artists pleasantly ignore the gentle sweep of her broom
slide, lift, sweep
slide, lift, sweep.
She dances their furniture over this ancient wooden floor.

Their giggles do not stir her from her task,
the song is in her head,
the rhythm is in her broom.
It knows the dance that moves her across the floor.
Her fingers rest in these lightened grooves—
microscopic fingerprints of paint left on generations of hands.
Her memories retire and join others
already dancing in every fiber
of this worn wooden broom.

The same broom,
the same dance,
a similar story,
almost the same rhythm,
swish, sweep, and clunk.

_____________ ________________________________________________________________________

Artists do not wear tennis shoes.
Ballet slippers,
flip flops,
converse high tops, rolled over, maybe.

Paint is better cold between the toes.
She wears it black and trailing down her leg
watery icing snakes around her calf
a sophisticated temporary tattoo.
It’s not her art,
only an infant of her creation.

She tips toes to the lunch hall, leather sandals in hand.
The paint dries under her arches
miniscule cracks spread with each movement.



A detour from the trail to the crow’s nest will lead to the chicken coop.
More roosters than chickens
They warble and coo almost like a cat’s meow.
One egg rests outside the window of the coop.
The window is covered in chicken wire.
How did the egg get there?
How long has it been there?


These goggles here hanging on the wooden bench
are for looking at white painted tree branches.

See nature and industry collide.

One would think, from first glance, these relics are simple paper birch branches.

Don’t be fooled.
Feel the texture.
Look beyond the surface.
The bark reveals their disguise.

This pile rests
decorated and discarded
with only the black locust tree
alive and standing guard.

Even so, the rain will trickle
and drip through these compound leaves.
Occasionally showers will pour through branches and run along the bark.
The bright white paint will fade and yellow.

A tiny mushroom will find a home.
Then another,
and another,
will set up camp at this forgotten oasis.

Ants and worms will crawl in the cracks of each branch’s virginal costume.
Soon only flecks of paint will dot this grassy soil.

But until the circus of events begins—
The black ant will wander confused
over the vast network of these white highways.

(Do you see him?                                                                            Use the goggles and look.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chris Dombrowski, Wendell Berry, and THE SUN

The other day, I received an advert to re-subscribe to the literary magazine, The Sun.  This was my first literary magazine and remains my time-honored favorite, due its progressive selection of though-provoking pieces of poetry, short story, and essay.  What stood out to me, however, was a haunting name amongst the samples pieces of writing meant to entice me to subscribe to their magazine again (which in all likelihood I will probably do very soon).  The name is Chris Dombrowski.  I went to Hope College with Chris.  I don't remember if I really knew him all that well.  I believe he was a few years ahead of me.  At the time, I'm not even sure that I knew he was a writing student.  Yet, I'm floored every time I see his name out in the world, not just in the writing world, but in the general, slightly marginal, public world.  If I was a writer, he would be a contemporary of mine.  I am amazed to see someone so close to my tiny world out there writing in the much larger, real world.  In fact, his writing shares the same postcard space with the likes of Wendell Berry.  Now, that is an accomplishment.

Seeing Chris's writing used as an enticement for me to buy a literary magazine has the potential to put me in a funk.  Why is this not my name and my writing here?  But then again, I still struggle with the concept of calling myself a writer.  I never really set out to become a writer.  I had no plans to study creative writing in school.  In fact, I had initially planned on being a nurse.  My perfectionism had the better of me in that pursuit and I settled on teaching, my back-up plan that continues to be quite fulfilling.  But two incidents prompted me to add creative writing to my list of academic pursuits.  At Hope College, in Holland, Michigan, you are required to pursue a liberal arts course of study in addition to your major field of study.  So the fall of my junior year, I found myself in Writing for Elementary Teachers, well on my way to clicking off the required credits toward my degree.  Heather Sellers taught this class and from the first day she became an inspiration to me.

As we introduced ourselves to the class, she told us to share what we would do on a typical Saturday morning.  Almost the entire class spook about how they just "hung out with their friends" or "recovered from the night before."  Instead, I shared that it was the one day of the week I would wake without my alarm clock.  If time was on my side, I'd ride my bicycle to the Farmer's Market and wander up and down the aisles looking for the perfect vegetables to make into my lunch all the while trying to avoid the "Bread Nazi" and his pushy tactics.  I would then spend the rest of the day studying or working one of my many part time jobs.  She called me out as the one person in the class who actually gave her some interesting information.  For me, it was just natural to tell her what I really did.  Throughout that semester, her constant encouragement and at some points relentless badgering pushed me toward adding the creative writing minor. Mind you, I was a junior already, I didn't see the feasibility of adding more credit requirements to an already full plate of English, Elementary Education, and General Science.  In the long run, the General Science minor ended up suffering the wrath of my creative writing pursuits.  Don't fret, though, I finished it later when I returned to grad school.

The other incident of writing inspiration came from Jack Ridl, also a Hope professor.  I had known Jack since I was in high school, thanks to a short May-December relationship I had had with one of his students when he was a college senior and I was a high school junior.  Jack knew of my interest in writing, thanks to the class Encounter with the Arts, another liberal arts requirement.  We were avid correspondents through the journal that was required for the class.  Well, one chilly winter day, I was just walking along the sidewalk back to my apartment, when a slightly beat up European car stopped in its tracks alongside me.  I believe this must have been my senior year.  Stepping out of his car, Jack approached me with the question, "What do you think you're doing?"  I was thoroughly confused.  I was walking and I said as much.

"No," he replied, "what are you doing taking the beginning poetry class?"

"What do you mean?  Am I not good enough?"

"Quite the opposite, young lady!"  He admonished.

"Oh, it's the only one that fits into my schedule."  It was always really hard to get a class with Jack.  They filled up so quickly; he is an amazing soul, teacher, and man.  People are just drawn to him.  "I was lucky to even get into that class."

"Are you sure you can't make the intermediate class work?"

I just couldn't, but it didn't matter.  That vote of confidence in my writing was what finally made me think that one day I just might become a writer.  I've been writing ever since college off and on for the past eighteen years, but I'm still not sure that I would call myself a writer.  In high school, I would write about a large apothecary style jar that would sit on my desk waiting to collect words, but at that time it felt so empty.  In my head, I believed that if only I could fill that jar, then maybe I could be a writer.  Now, I don't sense the emptiness of that jar and I've had the experiences to provide writing material for another lifetime, and yet, I still don't feel that I'm a writer.  Is it publishing that makes one a writer?  Is that what has put Chris Dombrowski in the same playing field as Wendell Berry?  I'm not sure.  For me, I feel that I have three jars now on my desk.  One filled with amazing words.  Another overflowing with experiences that have touched me, changed me, and continue to form me.  And lastly another, one that is more ethereal, and in this jar I must take my words and my experiences, place them in the jar bits at a time in a way that finds meaning and depth that I can then convey to a reader.  Only then when I master the use of this jar, will I truly be a writer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hawks and Patience

I'm pretty sure my totem animal is a hawk, but I'm rarely sure how to interpret the message God is sending me when I witness the presence of my totem.  At various points in my life I seem to see hawks flying across my path on a nearly daily basis.  Maybe this is just during a seasonal time of the year when they are more active, but it also seems to be at a time when there is potential for great change in my life.  According to Native American spirituality, hawks are supposed to signal a connection with seeing the big picture through the way they soar above the sky or a connection to an all encompassing spirituality.

I can see the spiritual connection, as I've reaffirmed my beliefs and my steadfastness in believing that God is in all things and all religions. Despite this not being a popular view, I feel solid in my faith and right about how I feel.  Perhaps, the hawk sightings are to signify that my path is acceptable with God.  He is showing me that my beliefs are still a way to honor Him.

However, I feel that the hawks are more related to a possible job prospect I'm waiting to hear back on.  I'd really like to explore this possibility--a new avenue where I feel I could really utilize my talents and creativity. But I've also not wanted to be too disappointed if I don't get the job, so I've had a hard time praying about it.  I've asked God to make happen when he knows is best for me--to lead me along the path that will give me the most fulfillment, but yet in my human heart I want the job.  What is the hawk trying to tell me in relation to this situation?  What is the bigger picture?  What should I be distancing myself from to see all the details?  As I ponder these questions, I incessantly check my email and my voicemail waiting to hear an answer to what path my life will take in the next few weeks and perhaps for several years into the future.  I move forward expecting no change from the current path, but harbor this little energy of excitement in my gut for new opportunities and new challenges.

The waiting is so hard.  We want things to happen on our schedules.  But like life, God doesn't work that way.  This earthly waiting, just to find out if my career path will change, is so similar to how we must wait for miracles in our lives.  Nothing is ever cut and dry and everything is an opportunity to bring us closer to God.  If I had known my answer the day after the interview, would I have spent as much time this past week in prayer?  Would I have noticed the hawks?  Would I have asked God to help me see the bigger picture for my life?  Would I have thanked Him as much for all my blessings?  Waiting slows us down, doesn't it?  There is only so much moving forward that we can do while we wait and in that space, in that silence, we have time that is so rare to just be--the be with ourselves, those around us, and the universe.  I am disciplining myself to not pray for the waiting to be over.  And this is the hardest thing for me to do, but instead I'm pushing myself to pray for God to reveal to me the wisdom to discover the best path for myself at this time in my life. I'm praying to make the most of whatever path I find myself on and thanking God for the security of knowing either way, I'll have a pretty awesome path, because of my love of God and His love for me.