Phil’s Flip Flops

At the end of period five 

a well-worn pair of brown flip flops 

were left near the trash can

by my desk.

They belonged to my student Phil,

who wears the same brown

flip flops,

no matter the weather,

no matter the occasion.

Clearly Phil must have

kicked them off

during reading time

and never bothered to put them back on.

Was it forgetfulness?


A prank?

No matter,

I knew Phil would be back.

The boy needed his shoes.

But lunch time came and went.

And no Phil.

I was certain

he would rush into my room

complaining about having to wear shoes,

telling me that he left them in the room

because he felt like going barefoot,

insisting he liked the cool concrete floor 

pressed against his heels and toes.

Hadn’t someone stopped Phil in the cafeteria?

Told him he was not allowed in line

or at the table without shoes?

Hadn’t someone insisted that 

shoes be worn at all times,

or else?

The final bell chimed at 2:35.

Classes were dismissed for the day,

but Phil’s flip flops remained.

I could have picked them up

and deposited them in the lost and found,

but I thought, no

Phil will be back,

so I left them there, undisturbed

near the trash can

by my desk.

In the morning,

the flip flops had been rearranged 

into neat parallel lines.

The night custodian must have felt compelled to 

straighten them thinking they were mine,

that I had left them there.

I consulted my homeroom students

who somehow know everything about everyone.

When I asked why Phil never came back for his shoes.

They told me he had a second pair of flip flops 

tucked inside his backpack

exactly like his old ones

which were near the trash can

by my desk.

If We Were Having Coffee…

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m reading Lucy By the Sea and share how the fictionalized story about the early days of the pandemic is like reliving our collective trauma all over again. There are many parallels between Lucy’s early interpretation of the virus and my own. We both thought it would be over in a few weeks, until the images of refrigerated morgue trucks, bizarre presidential briefings, charts and graphs depicting steep rises in cases followed by even steeper rises in deaths on the evening news hit like a slap across the face. The impending isolation and despair is so relatable and easily relivable–it all lands a little too close for comfort. I do remain hopeful though that the ending of Elizabeth Strout’s novel is more cathartic than dread-filled.

If we were having coffee, I’d declare my 2023 summer goals: 1) strengthen my core; 2) improve my mediation practice; 3) schedule more time to read and write; and 4) spend as little time as possible doing school stuff. I’d then explain my reasoning behind my fourth goal, like sticking to the tenets of what contract employment means–teachers are not typically paid for hours worked outside of contract hours. The illusion of teacher-work accomplished between 7:30 and 3:00 pm each day is not reality. Only when teachers stop carrying so much of the workload into their weekends and summers, will the systemic problems associated with teacher pay inequity and burnout be addressed. 

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my daughter plans to move to New York City this summer to pursue the next chapter of her life. I would tell you how proud I am of her willingness to jump into new experiences with gusto and optimism. And how excited I am to have more reasons to visit NYC.

If we were having coffee, I’d talk about my aging pets and the exorbitantly high bills we pay to keep their systems running. We would laugh about how a simple pet check-up often reveals some new malady that needs long term treatment. 

“You can put your cat on an inhaler for that,” I’d repeat to you in the voice of my veterinarian. 

And you’d say, “Better your cat than you.”

“Touche. Touche.”

Thanks, The Dirigible Plum for the inspiration.

Word Play

Things I Like: honey roasted peanut butter, Blackwing soft lead pencils, The Bear (FX Series), truth, controlled chaos, runs with friends, oatmilk lattes, joggers, wide-ruled notebook paper, chukka boots, bucket hats, challenges, All Creatures Great and Small, Scandinavian design, University of North Carolina, solutions, cheese and crackers, foxes, wide sidewalks, routines, farm-to-table, blue skies, and thin wool socks 

Full disclosure, my “Things I Like” list is pretty lame but it accomplishes my goal: to create an example of a found poem derived from a list. At the end of the week, I’d like my students to do the same: Create a poem using items from their list. I’ll emphasize the importance of specific word choice and variety of categories.

Word Play: a Found Poem

The solution to this chaos

is not honey bears,

Carolina foxes, or

black-winged creatures.

The truth runs soft, like cheese,

runs contrary to the great design rule.

The challenge is with the friends you sock

not the pencil-thin ones you roast.

There is not a single university in the north

with enough wool 

to knit hats or Scandinavian skies.

It will take boots on the sidewalks

and joggers who rule

to chukka the farm back to its oats.

Power Struggle

Sleep tucks the duvet

under my chin

and presses his palm 

against my forehead.

It’s time, my darling, 

he whispers,

breath like lavender.

But I am not ready

I insist, an insolent child

with arms crossed

and feet kicking.

Just one more show, 

one more page 

one more hour,

I plead.

But his grip grows stronger

than my contempt,

and his embrace too warm to ignore,

and despite my best effort to 

hold onto a few more minutes of 


his hazy fog creeps in-

My eyelids droop.

I’m standing on the edge 

of Sleep’s dark abyss.

He leans in closer,

and using his index finger and thumb,

closes my eyelids,

like he’s the coroner 

and I’m his corpse.

Trash Collection

I wanted to be an archeologist when I was younger. The thought of digging up clues to our past fascinated me and was the motivation behind my first collection, rocks!  I come from a long line of collectors. In our family, collections are defined by three characteristics: affordability, ease of acquisition, and interesting subject matter. That is to say, we are not collectors of fine art or vintage cars.

Over the years, our collections have included vintage hats, Fiesta ware, vinyl albums, wooden spools, milk glass, vintage paint-by-numbers, egg cups…you get the idea.

My grandmother owned over 100 pieces of pewter, a poor man’s silver, acquiring many of her wares from the local garbage dump. Red Rose Tea includes Wade figurines in their tea bag boxes–my mom, not a tea drinker, has been collecting the figurines for years, most purchased for less than a dollar from yard sales.  

But Dad trumps us all with his trash collection. He spent a year collecting detritus he found scattered along the streets of his town. He picked up fake vampire teeth, a broken compact disc, Visine, a retainer, receipts–discarded bits and pieces of people’s lives–clues that tell the stories of our more recent past.

“We’ll be shirts. You be skins,”-says every guy who ever played pickup basketball against a girl

For much of my life, I identified as a basketball player. I learned to play in eighth grade, and once my coach helped me take my game to the next level in ninth, I was hooked. Girls didn’t have access to play on elite sport teams outside their high school programs like they do today. 

To find more competitive challenges, I played pickup. As a girl and then as a woman, playing pickup basketball means most of your teammates and opponents are guys. Some players were tentative at first until my skills convinced them I could hang with the big boys. If there was a court, I was there. This was true whether I was on vacation, at work, or in school. Even the guys I dated needed to prove themselves on a court first. One-on-one to a game of 21 would usually be the test. 

The last time I played consistently was in a men’s league in Atlanta. I was 30. And that is if I don’t count my Thursday pickup games with co-workers while living in San Francisco, pregnant with my first child at 32. 

Ultimately, motherhood put the kibosh on team sports. I struggled to find time and the energy to play organized ball, a perennial problem for many women athletes. I never made the decision to stop, life just happened.

While out on my morning run, I passed an outdoor basketball court. A full game was in progress. There were no girls or women playing–just dudes, many of whom could be dads with partners watching their children play on the adjacent playground. I wondered how many of those sidelined moms grew up playing basketball like me. How many still fantasized about lacing up and calling, “Next game!”

Tonight’s Menu: A Quick and Easy Slice in 15 Minutes

When time and brain resources are limited, try this simple weeknight recipe.


Take out your writing from this morning. The best ideas should have risen to the top by now. Carefully scoop the meaty part onto the page and shape it into the desired form. Remove the fat but be careful not to overdo it. Some fat is needed to enhance the flavors. Sprinkle on your favorite seasonings to taste. Metaphors and irony work well.  Remember the goal is to enhance the meaning, not overwrite it. However if this happens, simply use a sharp serrated knife to slice off the crusty edges. Rich layers of voice should remain. Remember, the goal is a consistent tone, one that will leave your readers asking for more.

What are you cooking up tonight?

I Draw a Line at Dumpster Diving

This poem was inspired by a To Do list found on the sidewalk near my house.

I am a thrifter 

a repurposer

a flea market surveyor

I wear secondhand store garb

and our furniture is

salvaged from the curb

I bring home books from the library

and raise rescued pets

our home is a

one-of-a-kind treasure trove

of other people’s stuff

with one exception

I don’t dumpster dive

there is a hierarchy 

in the animal kingdom. 

and I am a proud card-carrying

Homo sapiens

a fire starter

a descendant of farmers

a utensil user

I’m not a city rat

feral and opportunistic

this is where I draw the line

between predator and


Breaking up with March

We’ve never been a compatible couple. You with your mood swings. Me with my grass is always greener… 

But lately, you have become unbearable. 

Your behavior is unpredictable, unreliable, and honestly, at times, downright oppressive –vacillating between a beast, whose roar rattles, and a fleecy embrace.

Our origin story began with a promise of warmer days and a bright future. I thought we’d blossom together. Thought you’d be my shining knight, not my god of war. 

Your toxic friendship with the Irish prankster, the one who chases rainbows and insists on wearing green, was an early clue that something was off. You’d return home after a night of debauchery, and I’d be left to endure your wrath, your icy words and whipping accusations. 

It is time.

I am breaking up with you.

No more chamber of gloom.

No more somber love songs.

You’ve stolen my time and now I’m claiming it back.

I’ve boxed up all your belongings–the tailored suits, the cashmere coat, your wellies–and placed them at the curb. 

Good luck.

I’m moving on.

Thanks to Nerds Beget Nerds and Ms. Chiubooka Writes for the inspiration.