Archive for December, 2013

Haikuesday 12.31.13

December 31, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ll leave this year right.

So I’ll do the things I like

with people I like.

Categories: poetry Tags: , , , ,

Haikuesday 12.24.13

December 24, 2013 Leave a comment

He is an old dog,

but he teaches me new tricks.

My dad is awesome.

Categories: Learning, Life, poetry Tags: , , ,


December 22, 2013 1 comment

Twenty two years ago, I hated Dennis. I met him when I was ten years old. I was sitting alone in the middle of my bed, my bedroom door closed as I read quietly. No music, no television. Just me and written words. I knew my older brother, Scott, had a friend over. It was someone I never met, but whose name I heard before. Dennis Nappi. Scott and Dennis were hanging out in Scott’s room. We shared a wall. I could hear this new person’s voice from my room. “Oh, you have a sister?” That got my attention. I was curious now about my brother’s new friend.  The next thing I knew, this short, skinny kid exploded into my room. I remember short dark hair and wild, mischievous bright eyes. My brother followed. The next thing I knew, I was pinned to my bed while the boys quickly bound my hands and feet with judo belts. They flew out of the room, and I could hear that little imp cackling as he exited. I was indignant. I was enraged. I hated Dennis Nappi.

But as time continued, Dennis changed. So did I. He graduated from high school with plans to enlist in the military and study criminal law in college. As I prepared to leave high school, I wanted to become a journalist. In 1998, we both lost my brother. I don’t believe in a hierarchy when it comes to loss. I believe that my brother’s closest friends felt his death as I did. We were cheated. We were angry. We were lost. About a year and half after Scott’s death during a summer break from college, I was hanging out with Dennis and the guys outside on our friend’s patio. We goofed around at first and then the conversation turned serious. Dennis was very serious then. He and I were talking as he lounged on a lawn chair. We admitted that it was hard to be around each other. Dennis told me that I looked too much like Scott. I made the same faces. It was painful sometimes. I felt the same about Dennis and the guys. They had their own language and their own jokes that radiated my brother’s essence. I felt alone. I couldn’t even turn to the people who could comfort me most. There was Dennis, saying the same. I moved towards lawn chair where Dennis rested and curled up next to him. I missed my brother so badly. Here I was, next to this young man who reminded me so much of what I lost and what I missed. I would have crawled inside him if I could just to be closer to my brother. But Dennis understood. The hatred I had for Dennis dissolved a long time ago. I now cherished him.

Dennis grew from a smart-ass little gremlin into a man. He is a homeowner. He is a husband. He is a father. He is a veteran. He is an educator.  As a young man, Dennis committed himself to a life of service. Less than a month ago, he released a memoir documenting his path from the army to law enforcement, and finally to public education. I ordered Dennis’ book the day it was released and finished it a week ago. It was an emotional experience for me reading Dennis’ book. I knew him through all the parts of his life he shared, but I didn’t really know what his experiences meant for him. I knew he served in Bosnia and it was intense, but I didn’t know why. I knew he worked as a police office in Wilmington, Delaware, but I never realized how much danger he was in every day. When he changed careers and became a teacher in the Philadelphia public school system, I felt Dennis and I become allies. He’s seen in children what I see as a social worker in the adults whom I serve — how violence, neglect, and poverty thrive in broken systems and create broken people, and how hard it is to help these broken individuals see that they are capable, they are lovable, and they are human. Dennis has been on the front lines in our own country, fighting for our people in destructive systems which hinder our growth more than they help.

When I was growing up, all my heroes were  so far away from my own reality, they may as well have been imaginary. In my adulthood, my heroes are my peers and mentors. Dennis is among my heroes.  In his life and in his writing, he embodies service. He shows us what it takes to lead. He has beliefs. He takes action. He takes risks. Dennis is a fighter and a protector. He will never place himself above you; rather, he will work beside you. I admire his ability to confront fear and do the hard thing. As I grow as social worker and a person, I will continue to look to Dennis for strength and inspiration. I no longer feel alone as I did that summer night all those years ago.

If you are interested in Dennis’ book, “Service, A Soldier’s Journey: Counterintelligence, Law Enforcement, and the Violence of Urban Education,” you can check it out here.

If you are interested in Dennis’ movement for social change in our communities, you can learn more here:



Haikuesday 12.17.13

December 17, 2013 Leave a comment

There’s just one record

that I’m determined to break–

it’s the one I set.


December 14, 2013 Leave a comment

I remember this time last year,

Each day was grey and quiet.

I couldn’t get home fast enough.

I couldn’t be alone enough.

I was a part of nothing

and I let no one be a part of me.

It was fascinating to see

just how far I could go.





I let my hair grown long and my breath grew short.

I’m not that girl though.

I don’t let myself hide for long.

Tonight, I walked through the grey and the quiet

beneath the screen of artificial orange street lights,

and I let the hail hit my face,





It was fascinating to see

just how far I could go.

Categories: poetry Tags: , , , ,

Haikuesday 12.10.13

December 10, 2013 Leave a comment

I have a routine.

But it’s my life; I chose it.

I do what I love.

Categories: poetry Tags: , , , , ,

Strength in numbers.

December 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Something exciting is happening in the women’s grappling community where I live.  Since this past spring, I’ve seen more and more women from the various jiu jitsu schools reach out to each other to build a network of super women. Jiu jitsu, and my other love, judo, are male-dominated sports. And on one hand, I don’t see anything specifically wrong with that. I love the guys I train with. My guy instructors and training partners serve as my BJJ and judo dads, uncles, watchful big brothers, annoying little brothers, and partners in crime. So I am grateful they are in my world. On the other hand, there are indisputable physical differences between men and women. When I compete, I don’t fight men. I fight women. For me, it’s beneficial to get a women’s perspective on training and get a feel for the physical differences in their approach to the game. In addition to the physical aspects, there is simply some mental comfort that comes from having other girls on your team. When you’re the minority, you can’t help but get a little excited when you meet someone else like you who can understand your experience.

I’m pretty lucky at my club. I’m not the only girl and I never have been. As my club gained more female members, we thought it could be fun and helpful to have a training night for women only. We also thought it would be cool to invite women from other clubs so we could get some variety in our training partners. As my club began to reach out to other female BJJ practitioners, we realized that several other clubs in the area had been offering women’s classes for some time. Soon, all these different clubs carved out women’s open mats, welcome to all girls. It’s felt incredible to show up to a room full of other girls of all ranks and body types, ready to work hard and have fun.

Undoubtedly, jiu jitsu is an individual sport. Sure, you belong to a club where others train, but it’s your responsibility to get to class. You are in charge of your practice. However, when so much self-determination rests on your shoulders, motivating train partners are essential. Since I’ve had the opportunity to train with all these other girls, I’ve experienced a surge of excitement and dedication in my training. I’m learning so much from these fantastically intelligent, disciplined, enthusiastic women. What I appreciate the most from this network we’re building is the spirit of camaraderie that drives us. Although we compete against each other in tournaments, the desire to keep women training and develop a welcoming environment for new girls takes precedent over grudges. We all want to win, but we realize if we are cold and exclusionary, we might not have any girls to compete against at all.

This past week, my club offered our monthly women’s open mat. We had eleven girls and we trained 10 six minute sets. I think we could have done more if we didn’t have pesky adult responsibilities to mind. We even had a female judoka join us, which made me happy because I hope this network of tough girls extends to the judo community.We also had two women from Delaware join us. Neither of them have any other girls at their club, and the one women had a three hour drive each way to train with us. That really floored me. After we wrapped up, I thought about how unique and extraordinary this things is that us girls our doing.  It might not seem revolutionary in comparison to other movements we’ve seen in the world, but I’m still proud to be a part of this little grass roots adventure.


Silly girls, friendly girls, tough girls.

Silly girls, friendly girls, tough girls.


Some other good reads about women’s training in the Tri-State area: