I’m tired of being tolerant

I’ve been a good little liberal Democrat.

When they go low, I go high.


I’m tired of tolerating

Racism, sexism, and bigotry

From the world

My friends…my family

They keep going lower, and lower, and I remain high


I’m tired of seeing some

Shocking, offensive meme

From someone I’ve known forever

And letting it go—

Not replying


When they go low, we go high.


I’m tired of so many  lies

Being passed as truth.

Even though debunking is easy,

Lies that fit agendas are preferred.

Of course, when they go low, I go high.


I hate the direction things are going.

I hate it to my core.

Except for “me too” and times up,”

We are sliding backwards

Down a very slippery slope

And I don’t imagine us rising to our peak again.

When they bring us so low, it’s hard to go high


I’m beginning to feel that tolerance

is complicity.

Racists misogynists, and bigots

Are not tolerant of me or my daughters

I can no longer be tolerant.

I will no longer be complicit.

I can no longer tolerate their low.


I am a card-carrying, Obama-voting, democrat,

RPCV, Americorps alum, feminist, human rights

activist, well-educated, single-mother

of two beautiful, young women of color.

If you didn’t know that,

You know that now.

I will try to keep going high,

But I will no longer be tolerant.






I am an illiterate foreigner.

I come from a country where,

Even though I am degreed and skilled,

I can’t make enough to feed my two children

And keep a roof over our head.


I am a teacher.

In many cultures, that is a noble profession.

Treated even higher than

Doctors, lawyers along with CEOs

Since teachers had to teach them.


In my native country

Teachers and education

Are no longer respected.

Intelligence and knowledge

Are shunned as “elitism.”


So I moved to another country

To take care of my family.

I don’t speak the language.

I can’t read signs or labels.

But I can provide a house and food.


But here, no one ever says,

“Go back to your country!”

“Speak our language!”

“Worship only our way!”

“Stop taking our jobs!”


Here in China, I am free.

I am living the American Dream.

The same dream being ripped away

From Dreamers and Americans alike.

Song of Myself


I was teaching Song Of Myself to my students and I asked them to write their own song, and promised them I would write mine too.  Here it is..

Song  of myself

I’m tired

I’m always tired

I’m mother AND father

I’m teacher AND student

Cook, mechanic, housekeeper

Cattle-herder, grocery shopper

Nurse, teacher, zoo-keeper


…in my free time.

I’m tired.

And excited.

I climb 108 stairs everyday

To see 120 sixth-graders.

When I walk in the room,

I hope they love poetry

As much as I do.

I have energy in the classroom

(I drink a lot of coffee)

I lose energy on the stairs.

When I get home,

I collapse on the couch,

Because I’m tired.


Sometimes, I forget I’m in China.

Sometimes, I feel like gravity doesn’t hold me

On this side of the world,

And I’ll fall off if I’m not paying attention.


Sometimes, I miss Cleveland.

I miss Lake Erie and pierogis.

Indians games and LeBron James.

Trees, parks, fresh air

and quiet.

I miss American Chinese food

Real Apples, and fresh sweet corn.


I miss driving.

I miss going to work

On the shoreway

Along the lake

Through downtown

Down Martin Luther King Blvd.

Between all of the International gardens

Gandhi waves at me

Past the columns of Greece

And the statues of Italy.

I don’t miss an empty refrigerator.

I don’t miss not having money

To fix my car.

I don’t miss not being able to buy

Shoes or Christmas presents for my babies.

I’m still struggling

But there is food in the fridge,

We all have new shoes 

–even me.

And I took them to Disneyland

–Which I couldn’t have dreamed of,

5 years ago.

It’s good to know

I’m in the right place

At the right time.

Even if I’m tired.




Quick History lesson


The Civil War.

The South lost.

The Confederates were not Americans.

They left America and fought REAL Americans

As traitors..

And they lost.

More than sixty years later,

Many cities started erecting statues to the Confederate “heroes.


Why sixty to a hundred years later?

The KKK and Jim Crow.

We might be the only country who erected statues to the losers.

(Thank the Daughters of the Confederation).

You don’t see Hitler’s statue in Germany.

In fact, you see nothing of the Nazis.

Does that mean they were erased and we can forget all about them?

We all know that if we forget our history, we are doomed to repeat it.

It means they are embarrassed that they let it happen,

And they will never glorify evil again.

You don’t see statues of Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden or Benedict Arnold.

We don’t glorify people on the wrong side of history.

And you have to wonder why Nazis are protesting this.

What do they have in common?

Because even the relatives of these confederates, want the statues to come down.

And we have to stay away from the rhetoric of “whataboutism”

It’s a weak and immature argument

That has no place in this conversation.

If you want statues to remember history, make a statue of

Harriett Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, or Henry David Thoreau.

Glorify the heroes.

I have a hobby…genealogy.

I can spend hours researching,

And it’s fascinating to me, because it reminds me

that my history is our history.

I found out that my great, great, great, great, great grandfather

On my maternal  grandfather’s side

Was a Patriot of the American Revolution,

And although he could not fight, he provided food, including beef for

General Washington’s Army.

Later, President Washington recognized him as a patriot,

and there are statues and parks named after him.

His great-grandson Robert, in Fredericksburg,

fought in the Civil War,

As a confederate.

He was captured by the Union, and released when the war was over.

He paid $10,000 to the American government for an official pardon

For fighting on the wrong side of history.

He later became a minister and wrote books about spiritualism.

And he was related by marriage to Robert E. Lee,

and they both pledged their allegiance to the Union.

120 years later,

after my dad served in the Air Force in Viet Nam,

And my brother served in the Navy in Bosnia,

I served in Peace Corps,

Because, that’s who I am.

I know all stories have two sides,

But rarely do they have two “right” sides.

When you think about these things,

Decide what side of history you want to be on.

How will you be remembered in a few hundred years?

Cubist eye


Glancing behind me
There’s a blurry Monet
Sweet smelling summer sunshine
followed by the
dark, dense, details of Rembrandt
and the disturbing over-tones of Gougin.
I’m searching for peace
somewhere between Rodin and O’Keefe,
but I’m stuck in the puzzle of Picasso.
Pieces of life
sectioned off
and divided by
those dividing moments:
joining Peace Corps,
realizing I was pregnant,
the day he walked away,
getting cancer…
And everything changes.
I mean EVERYTHING changes.
Divides into moments
of before and after.
Each and every cell
recreates itself
with the pieces twisted
like some unfinished Rubic’s cube
until the person I used to be
can no longer
recognize the face in the mirror.

Vicious Circles


Some days I get a bad case of the “poor me”s.
I can list every problem
Every little thing I wish was better
Every frustration
Every worry
It’s so over-whelming that I want to scream or cry
And the list seems to grow
And even get worse.
Sometimes I do cry.
More often, I scream.
Sometimes I feel so inadequate
And I wonder What the hell am I doing here?
Or even just, What the hell am I doing?
Sometimes I think I’m doing a disservice to my daughters
Sometimes I think I try too hard.
Sometimes I over-compensate for all that I think they are missing.
Sometimes, maybe, I set my expectations too high.
Sometimes I think I’m doing what’s best,
And it turns into something horrible
Or I trust too much or too easily
And it’s sometimes the wrong people
Who take what little I have
And crush my spirit into a tailspin of disbelief.
Sometimes, I think too much.
Sometimes I look at my daughters swimming in a pool
Yelling, “Watch me, Mommy!”
And I’m proud.
Oh yeah, those two adorable, very good swimmers are mine.
I made them.
I get to keep them forever.
I see them in the park, running and happy,
And I see Rumi’s bad foot.
But it doesn’t stop her.
And I don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner.
I see Raine learning to write
And her eyes light up when I show her new ways
That make more sense to her.
I walk to work over the white, stone-carved bridges
Watching men fishing on the banks of the rivers
Lined with weeping willows and colorful flowers.
A man might be standing on a flat boat
pushing it quietly along the river with a long pole.
I get to my desk, and create new projects and lessons
With helpful co-workers for enthusiastic students.
I have free time to be quiet and creative,
and money in my pocket for a good lunch.
Then I get a phone call,
“We had such a good day today, mama!
We went to the playground and played with our friends.
The nanny made delicious food.
And now I’m doing the writing pages you made me.
Raine is doing her math.
And you won’t believe this! When we went to the store,
We got to feed some rabbits.
Did you know rabbits love carrots and lettuce?”
Then I walk home with my co-workers
Across the stone-carved bridges,
And I walk in the door to, “Mommy! Mommy!”
I’m tired.
I want to sleep.
I wish I had more energy and
I feel inadequate
Like I’m not good enough…

Free Dumb Reigns


I have never been afraid to fly

At nine, I flew in a

150 year-old stunt biplane

Open cockpit,

Leather helmet

Flowing white silk scarf


My second flight ever

Was at age 17

In the pilot seat

Of a Cessna 172

My dad was the co-pilot.

I flew …

before I could drive.


As I got older

I started collecting stamps

On my passports,

And riding elephants

Through ancient cities

and up Asian mountains

People share pictures of their

Grandchildren at birthday parties

And their pets sleeping

I have pictures of my preschoolers

Eating meat on a stick

And giving Santa directions

To our new flat in Shanghai.


So when you tell me

I don’t fit your definition of what

a divorced, middle-aged, American,

cancer survivor, teacher,

single mother of two

(Insert label here)

You are right.

And I’m ok with that.