Saturday, February 26, 2011


A year ago today I posted this for Poetry Friday, talking about how grateful I was to be alive.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Poetry Friday: A Quiet Life

In times of crisis, I appreciate the ordinary. So now, when my life isn't particularly in crisis, I am trying to appreciate the ordinary, too, instead of waiting until it is gone. This week as I read about the earthquake in New Zealand and hurt for those people, as I understood exactly what they were going through, I thought of how grateful I am for a quiet life. Baron Wormser's take on that concept is to focus on a properly boiled egg. (I posted this poem once before, in June 2008.)

For the people of Christchurch, I wish a properly boiled egg, and other features of ordinary life, soon.

A Quiet Life

by Baron Wormser

What a person desires in life
is a properly boiled egg.
This isn't as easy as it seems.
There must be gas and a stove,
the gas requires pipelines, mastodon drills,
banks that dispense the lozenge of capital.
There must be a pot, the product of mines
and furnaces and factories,
of dim early mornings and night-owl shifts,
of women in kerchiefs and men with
sweat-soaked hair.
Then water, the stuff of clouds and skies
and God knows what causes it to happen.
There seems always too much or too little
of it and more pipelines, meters, pumping
stations, towers, tanks.
And salt-a miracle of the first order,
the ace in any argument for God.
Only God could have imagined from
nothingness the pang of salt.
Political peace too. It should be quiet
when one eats an egg. No political hoodlums
knocking down doors, no lieutenants who are
ticked off at their scheming girlfriends and
take it out on you, no dictators
posing as tribunes.
It should be quiet, so quiet you can hear
the chicken, a creature usually mocked as a type
of fool, a cluck chained to the chore of her body.
Listen, she is there, pecking at a bit of grain
that came from nowhere.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is here, at Read Write Believe.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Year Ago Today

I wrote this post a year ago today, about aftershocks. I'm reading about the ones they are experiencing in New Zealand. The most recent aftershock I know about here in Haiti was January 31st, 2011. The metaphorical ones continue.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reading Update

Books #7 and #8 of this year were Confusion and Casting Off, by Elizabeth Jane Howard. These are the third and fourth books of the Cazalet Chronicle, an enormously entertaining and engrossing series about the Cazalet family in the years before, during, and immediately after the second World War. Howard's great strength is her characters, whom the reader comes to know. I also enjoyed her attention to the details of the historical period.

Book #9 was a YA title, Sarah Dessen's Someone Like You. Dessen's books are very popular among my middle school girls. Her characters are believable and motivated by the things that really do motivate teenagers. This book deals with friendship, the appeal of "bad boys," and teen pregnancy. I found myself groaning at the birth scene - it just screamed "teen movie." However, I cheered for Halley's growing awareness that "someone like her" is worth much more than she thought.

This post is linked to today's Saturday Review of Books.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Poetry Friday: Rain

I didn't post a poem last week, but I'm back today with a poem about rain. It's been raining every night here in Haiti - way too early for the rainy season. Everyone keeps saying, "Wow, isn't it good that it didn't rain like this last year?" There are still many people living in tents and in less than adequate shelter, but nothing like the millions who were sleeping outdoors last February. In French they use the expression à la belle étoile - under the beautiful stars - to talk about sleeping outside. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? The reality is somewhat different. Here's what I posted on February 11th, 2010, the first time it rained after the earthquake.

Today's rain poem has the perfect attitude towards the rain.

Before the Rain

by Lianne Spidel

Minutes before the rain begins
I always waken, listening
to the world hold its breath,
as if a phone had rung once in a far
room or a door had creaked
in the darkness.

Perhaps the genes of some forebear
startle in me, some tribal warrior
keeping watch on a crag beside a loch,
miserable in the cold...

Here's the rest of it.

And here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hello, Ordinary

A year ago today I wrote this post, called "Ordinary." I was longing for ordinary, for my daily life as I had known it before the earthquake. I missed my husband and my students, my home and my routines.

Today is a blessedly ordinary day. I ate breakfast at home with my family (we are out of propane, so I didn't get a cup of tea), came to work where I taught and graded and interacted with students and generally did my job, ate beans and rice sitting at a picnic table in our snack shop area. How beautiful all of that is!

Was your day ordinary today? Did you appreciate what a blessing ordinary really is?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day in Middle School

I have to admit, this is a day that I am often quite glad to see the end of. The massive amounts of sugar, the rose deliveries during class, the teddy bears which say "I love you": none of these things are conducive to great academic progress. Today as I was teaching eighth grade, there were serenades going on right outside my window during high school lunch. Eighth grade is a little more trying on this day than seventh, anyway; my observation is that for the seventh graders the holiday is still mostly about candy, whereas for the eighth graders, hormones have become a part of the festivities.

As often happens, Valentine's Day coincides with Teacher Appreciation Week this year, so we started the morning with a Teacher Appreciation Breakfast that was fabulous. After school I went to a Valentine's party. And in between there were several surprises which ensured that I had a great day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Yesterday it was thirteen months since the earthquake. I didn't write about it, on purpose. It was the first time since that day in January 2010 that the 12th came around without me obsessing about it for a few days before and thinking about it instantly the moment I woke up on the day itself. I thought about it early in the morning, but it wasn't my first thought. Is this progress?

Thirteen months. Everyone I talk to says both that it seems more recent than that, and that it seems a very long time ago. I can hardly imagine a time before the earthquake. What kind of a person was I back then? How did I see the world?

Every time we drive to church we pass many signs for a school called the Life Goes On Institute. I don't know how good the school is, but I know that its name speaks truth: Life Goes On. It doesn't stop just because everything falls apart. Life has gone on for the past thirteen months. We took a strange road today and my husband said he just wanted to try it; the last time he had been down that road it was impassable because it was full of rubble and tents. Now there was some rubble, but no tents; those people have moved on. Other places in the city are still crammed with tents. For those people, too, still living thirteen months later in a way that might be fun for a weekend but not at all for month after month, life goes on.

This time last year, Haiti was observing three days of prayer and fasting, replacing Carnival. This year, preparations are on track for Carnival. The theme this year is An'n Selebre Lavi: Let's Celebrate Life. (Carnival is much later this year than it was last, not until the beginning of March.) Let's Celebrate Life. I do, every day, because it does go on for us, though not for so many others.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Poetry Friday

It has been months and months -- I think more than a year -- since I missed a Poetry Friday, but somehow I'm just not feeling it today. Maybe I'll be able to get my poetic fervor back later in the day, but meanwhile, plenty of other people are posting. Here's the roundup.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Grumpy but Grateful

A year ago today, it was four weeks after the earthquake. I wrote this, reflecting on how I had changed. Of course, it was a little early to say that.

Today, I thought about those days a year ago, when I was so desperately missing my job and my students and my classroom. Today I yelled at my eighth graders (not just raising my voice to be heard above them, but yelling, which I do about once a semester and hate myself for immediately afterward). The other day I commented to my seventh graders that it seemed they were having a hard time listening, and one of them said, "We're behaving better than we usually do." Another one added, "Yeah, you're just in a bad mood."

I took a moment, while I was on lunch duty and policing the playground, to be thankful for meaningful work, for papers to grade, for reading and writing. (This time last year I could hardly read a book.) I also thanked God for my students, for who they are (noisy, maddening, lovable), and for who they are becoming. I wish I could say I won't ever yell at them again, or ever be in a bad mood again, but I know that's not realistic. The earthquake didn't turn me into a flawless teacher or a flawless human being. But I can promise that I will always be grateful; I will always remember, if not every moment, at least every day, to thank God for my life, for my work, and for the young people in my temporary care.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Life Goes On in Haiti

Every day when I ask my seventh graders for prayer requests in the morning, I hear, "The elections." These seem to be the most drawn-out elections in history. The first round took place in November. The second round is now officially to happen in March.

Emily Troutman wrote this very good article about the mood in Haiti right now. It begins:
"After exhaustive delays, Haiti's electoral council announced today that presidential candidates Mirlande Manigat and Michel Martelly will go forward into the next round. The candidate promoted by current President Rene Preval, Jude Celestin, was scrapped.

By now, though, many seem too tired, and too sad, to care."

If you're looking for political information, this blog is always great for that, as well as amazing photos.

I'm just going to work every day and trying to teach my middle schoolers some things about being literate citizens. I hope that makes a difference some day.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Poetry Friday: The Road Not Taken

What choices have "made all the difference?" Who knows? When I was choosing my path, "both that morning equally lay." I thought I might come back, but you never do.

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Thursday, and Five Kids in Middle School

So we have more problems in Haiti. Yawn. What else is new? This time it's the announcement of the official election results. (Yes. The election was in November.)

The announcement was supposed to be at 8 last night, but it didn't happen until nearly 8 this morning. And it's as expected: Martelly and Manigat will be in the runoff in March. The question is whether Celestin will accept this gracefully or whether he will get his supporters out on the street. N'ap we. We'll see.

Meanwhile I have three seventh graders here and there are two eighth graders. The math teacher took them all for first period and I'll get them all second period. Time to break out the games.

And yeah, I haven't written about Baby Doc being back in Haiti, or rumors that Aristide is coming back too. Sometimes I just don't know what to say. The sheer craziness is too much to believe. So let's just play Taboo and not think about it.

If you want some actual political information, this blog is always very informative.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Why it Matters

I have been having difficulty blogging lately because of internet problems at home, but I wanted to link to a post by Jess responding to a book I recommended, Francis Chan's Crazy Love.

Jess wrote (in this post) about Chan's quote of his wife's grandmother, who went to see a play and then said, "Oh honey, I really don't want to be here right now. I just don't know if this is where I want to be when Christ returns. I'd rather be helping someone or on my knees praying. I don't want him to return and find me sitting in a theater."

Does life have to be virtue OR art, Jess asks? Can't it be both?

On this subject I love Sara Groves' song "Why it Matters," in which she describes her view of art, which she considers "small ramparts for the soul."

Why it Matters
by Sara Groves

Sit with me and tell me once again
Of the story that's been told us
Of the power that will hold us
Of the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters.

Speak to me until I understand
Why our thinking and creating
And our efforts at narrating
About the beauty, of the beauty
And why it matters

Like the statue in the park
Of this war-torn town
And its protest of the darkness
And the chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters

Show me the love that never fails
The compassion and attention
Midst confusion and dissension
Like small ramparts for the soul
How it matters

Like a single cup of water
How it matters

Why does reading matter? Why does art matter? Why do drama and painting and all those efforts of narrating the beauty of God's world matter? God put some of His own creativity in us. We don't create ex nihilo like He does, but some of us do our best to fight against the chaos around us by writing, or drawing, or making something. When we exercise the talents God gave us, we honor Him. We bring "compassion and attention" to His world. And the art we produce really can be "small ramparts for the soul." For our own souls and, sometimes, for the souls of those who read, or listen, or look.