what now?

IMG_4028It’s an afternoon in the office. My eighth afternoon, to be exact. I started the new job last week, and, so far, things have been good. My coworkers are nice; my boss is, too. Things have been slow and mostly low stress – a good thing since I’m getting used to a new schedule.

It’s been a melancholy start, though. Mellow and mild, a search for meaning. My long-term goal is still graduate school. This job – writing agreements and contracts at a water agency – pays well but isn’t what I’d hoped for. I want to teach.

IMG_4029(And yet you’ve gotta pay the bills. You’ve gotta start somewhere.)

My favorite college professor died, too – last Friday. I’ll write more about him soon, but my heart aches at the loss. I always looked to him for wisdom (believe me, he never held back), but now?

Now I have to rely on my heart, which sometimes feels so old and, then again, so young. Where will life lead next? What now?


Hqb3pRing around the rosies,
pocket full of posies,
Ashes, ashes,
we all fall down.

The delightful children’s chorus, one nearly all Americans learn as youth, has an insidious underlying meaning. Yes, yes, we’ve all heard the associations — the song dates back to the London Plague of 1665. (Well, some say it does. Others dispute this claim, tying the song to childish courtship games and pagan history.) I’m not here to argue for either case; rather, I am amused by the fact that something so appealing on the surface can actually mean something so somber. Continue reading

the search

bachelier-phantom-chamberAnd if I could inside me,
find all of me that’s you.
I’d bleary, eye the darkness,
then plummet down to you.

I’d through the winding tunnels,
across the creaking planks,
eschew the jaundiced suitors,
the lust of lesser ranks.

I’d scale the wintry mountain,
I’d swim the briny sea,
I’d fight the zinging cobra,
I’d crawl on hand and knee.

And, desp’rate, I would find you,
and headstrong I would be.
For there I’d find inside you,
your desp’rate search for me.

For an audio version of this poem, click below.


Image: Google

the man next door

shutterstock_103496906_copy_712_711The crazy guy next door moved out. Well, actually, he got evicted. I don’t know why, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with his personal hygiene — the man never showered. His clothes were always dirty, too, and, despite his friendly demeanor, he couldn’t hold a conversation to save his life.

“I see you exercise a lot,” he’d say, exuberantly. “I exercise a lot, too. I walk a lot. That’s how I stay fit.”

“I saw you running the other day,” he’d say the next day. “I exercise, too. I walk a lot. That’s how I stay fit.”

And the next day. “Is that your bike? That’s a nice bike. I have a bike, too, but the tires are rotted. But I exercise a lot. I walk a lot. That’s how I stay fit.”

And so on and so forth. I used to try to respond to his comments. To his, “I see you exercise a lot,” I’d say, “Oh, I try!” Or, “Well, I’m training for a triathlon, so . . .” But the conversations never went anywhere; they always ended the same. Continue reading

to help a stranger

Broken-down-car-drawing-in-inkShe came at me from across the busy street. I was sitting in my car with the door open, enjoying the breeze, listening to the rustling of the trees, preparing for my upcoming tutoring session. I watched her cross — alone and carrying nothing — and thought it odd, but I looked away. I didn’t expect her to stop.

“E-excuse me? Miss?”

I looked over. The girl appeared to be about my age and was wearing faded jeans and a baggy sweatshirt. Her reddish hair was pulled into an oily ponytail at the nape of her neck. “Uh, hi,” I said.

“Can you give me a ride?”

Umm . . . I looked at the clock in my dashboard. 5:45. “Where do you need to go? I have to be somewhere in 15 minutes.”

“My car broke down,” the girl hurried to explain. “It’s not far. My friend’s house. It’s about 5 minutes from here, off Rheem Boulevard.” She looked near tears.

Umm . . . “Uh, sure,” I said. What else could I say? “Yeah, I can do that.” I looked down at the textbooks and papers strewn across my lap and passenger seat beside me. My half eaten salad from Whole Foods sat atop the dash. “Hang on just a sec.” I grabbed the textbooks and salad container and tossed them in the back seat. The papers I gathered into a pile on my lap. “Come on in.”

The girl climbed in. As she did, I noticed — she had a faint odor, like stale sweat and body odor. I had to fight not to wrinkle my nose.

“Okay, so I’m not actually from around here,” I told her. Which was true. I travel nearly 160 miles round-trip once a week to tutor *Sophie right now. “Where are we going again?”

“Rheem Boulevard. It’s that way.” She pointed to a road on our left.

“Okay.” I turned on the car and began driving in the direction of her finger. She didn’t say anything else as we went, and the silence felt awkward; I used it as an opportunity to introduce myself. “I’m Jessica,” I said.

“I’m Stacy.”

“Nice to meet you, Stacy. I’m sorry about your car. So . . . You just left it there?”


“Do you not have a cell phone or anything?”

“No. I mean, yes, but my cell phone is dead, and I don’t have any money.”

“Oh . . .” I was at a loss. Stacy seemed prone to lapse into silence between my attempts at conversation. But then she surprised me.

“You’d think people in Moraga would be nice, but they’re really not,” she said. I assumed she was talking about her car. I waited for her to say more, but . . . nothing. I understood what she meant, though. Upon my first visit in Moraga, as I’d watched Mercedes Benzs and BMWs drive through its hilly terrain, I’d felt a strong impression that these people were, if not selfish, very self-absorbed. No one made eye contact, and there was an intense “keeping up with the Joneses” type feel throughout the town. Thankfully Sophie’s family was an exception.

“I know what you mean,” I said after a moment. I looked at the clock. 5:50. Were we close? I didn’t want to be late . . . Then it occurred to me: Had I been foolish? After all, I knew nothing about this girl. Could I trust her? I glanced at her through the corner of my eye, but her face was blank; I could detect nothing. “Are we getting close?” I asked finally.

“Yes, it’s coming up soon. It’s going to be up here on the left. It’s . . . right there.” She pointed to a cul-de-sac twenty yards ahead.

“Gotcha.” I turned on my blinker and turned left at the street. “Now where?”

“Umm . . . It’s right there.” I did a U-turn and parked in front of the house she’d indicated. “Well, here we are.”

“Thanks so much,” she told me as she got out the car.

“Hey, no problem,” I told her. “Good luck with your c–,” but she was already shutting the door and walking towards the front door.

Well, that was interesting.

As I drove away — I now had five minutes to get to Sophie’s — I thought about my concerns on the drive over, and how sad it was that I even had to worry about whether or not helping a stranger was the right thing. I knew for certain I wouldn’t have helped Stacy if she’d been a man. Was that because it really wasn’t safe to help a man, or . . .? Or was it something else?

It’s a strange world we live in, but I, for one, want to be kind, helpful, and generous whenever possible, no matter what the risk or ultimate return.

*name changed
Image credit: Leah Whisenant


runHe turned to her, suddenly. “So you . . .?”

“Yes.” Softly. She couldn’t meet his eyes.

“So then . . .?”


“But how . . .?”

“Yes . . . I mean . . .” Her gaze faltered. She looked up.

“It wasn’t me, Drake.”

“Wasn’t you? But you just . . .”

Cecilia pointed to a woman — her mirror image — out the window, and ran.

I was searching for inspiration last night, and nothing came. And so I thought, Why not try something different? My favorite blogger Vincent used to publish fifty-word stories all the time. Could I? The above isn’t much of a story. It’s more of an intro. But when I reread it this morning, I decided, Eh? Why not?

Note: As a follow-up to my last post, you may have noticed I’m trying out a new theme. Nothing is permanent. This one needs work. But that’s why things shift, yes?

blog design, and other things


Blog design is a lot of work!

So, among other things, I’ve been contemplating updating the look of my blog. The other day Jon found an article about a guy my same age who’s been traveling the world since 2006. Apparently he started out teaching (like I did) but soon took a different path to make money: he started a blog and then, later, a digital media company. Jon wondered why I couldn’t make money with my blog (after all, who doesn’t want to make money doing something they love?), and I told him, “That guy isn’t just writing for the love of writing. He’s a ‘tech entrepreneur,’ and I don’t have a clue how to do that!”

But the discussion did spur something inside me. No, I don’t plan to start begging readers for donations. (I know bloggers who’ve done that. It isn’t pretty.) And I don’t hope to have advertisements spattered all over my blog any time soon. (In fact, I hope the opposite.) But it wouldn’t hurt me to start posting more and make my blog more of a priority. If I’m planning to apply for graduate school this fall (which I am), I’m going to need more writing clips to send in, anyway.  My blog is a good way to do that.

But what I wondered from you is — I’ve had the same “look” for my blog pretty much all along. Do you think an updated design is needed? Or . . . One thing I really don’t like about WordPress right now is that it’s not letting me preview my site in a new template before sending it “live.” Talk about annoying for a perfectionist like me. I want to be able to customize everything to my liking before presenting it to the public, but, right now, I can’t find a way to do that. Any tips? Thoughts? Advice?