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Love letter to life.

There are times in my life

when nothing is clear

and nothing is obvious,

but each moment has meaning.

Every held glance,

every touch on the shoulder,

every laugh with head thrown back

is leading to something.

Something big.

Though nothing is clear

and nothing is obvious,

each moment has meaning

as my heart remains open to all that awaits me.

 

 

 

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Who comes in.

January 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Who comes in

when we leave the door open?

What happens when they scan the walls,

look through the shelves,

and open each drawer?

What will they take,

and what will they leave

if and when they exit?

Heroes.

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:

http://www.serviceofchange.com 

https://www.facebook.com/ServiceOfChange

 

 

Three little ducks.

January 8, 2012 1 comment

We laugh and tease

 like little kids,

but we know when it’s time to listen.

“I honor her struggle.”

January 6, 2012 16 comments

Today is my mom’s 60th birthday. My mom, however, is not here to celebrate. In the spring of 2006, she committed suicide. As I’ve written before, I also lost my brother over a decade ago. For some reason, if the topic of family comes up with someone I just met, I can readily explain that my brother was killed by a drunk driver. However, if someone starts asking about my mom, I describe her death in a vague, abstract way, like “Well, it was kind of sudden, but she was sick for a long time.” Then I jump to a new subject before the person even has a chance to respond.

For the last few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I do this. Why can I say point blank, “My brother was killed by a drunk driver” but I can’t say, “My mom committed suicide”? I think that in the case of my brother, it’s easier to explain to someone how my brother died due to the universal sympathy that his death can evoke. He was young. He was the victim. Most people know someone either directly or indirectly who have been killed by a drunk driver. Most people can imagine what it might be like to lose a sibling.

Considering my mom’s death, it’s a lot more jarring to tell someone that my mother committed suicide. I think it can sound so violent and extremely upsetting. Depending on the other person’s beliefs and values, they might think negatively of my mom or start in on me about how they view suicide as inherently wrong. I know that suicide is a taboo in our culture. But am I holding back to protect the other person’s feelings for asking an innocent question, or am I holding back to protect myself from the other person’s reaction? Or, it is the case that I don’t want anyone to judge my mom for decision to take her own life, and therefore I hold back to protect her?

I can only conclude that it’s a combination all three. I don’t want to make someone feel bad for asking normal getting-to-know-you type question. I don’t want to feel bad myself for having to think about my mom when I don’t feel comfortable, and I don’t want to get into an argument about the morality of suicide.

The thing is, I’m not angry with my mom or ashamed of what she did. My mom really did try. She began life with one of the worst childhoods imaginable. That meant she never had much of a family support system. Her father and sister died by the time she was 35. My mom also had a chemical imbalance which greatly affected her functioning. She was severely depressed for about thirty years of her life. This made it very difficult for her to maintain healthy relationships, no matter how much work she put into herself. She went to therapy. She took medication. She volunteered. In her early 50s, she even went back to college. She explored all sorts of different spiritual paths. I think, though, that when brother died, something broke in my mom that she couldn’t repair. Unlike you or me, my mom wasn’t born with a good tool kit for coping, nor was she ever given useful examples from her family. I know she fought hard, but fighting makes you tired. Personally, I can’t justify expecting my mom to continue into her 80s never feeling secure, never feeling loved, and never feeling happy. I think she had every right to give herself a chance to rest.

I’m not going to lie to you: my mom and I had a pretty terrible relationship. However, I know that so much of her behavior was really out of her hands. And I also know that she tried as hard as she could everyday to change. I will never forget the words my cousin, Claire, spoke at my mom’s funeral. As Claire described what my mom and their relationship meant to her, she also spoke of my mom’s constant struggle to find contentment. Claire concluded, “I honor her struggle.”

I will do the same.

It was not a fair fight.

January 1, 2012 Leave a comment

It was funny,

as I watched him struggle to convince me

that all the work I’ve done didn’t matter,

his vain little jabs showed me that

he was no match for me.

Categories: love, poetry

Less reflecting, more living.

December 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Since I’ve been maintaining this blog for several months, I don’t feel compelled to write a grand reflection on my thoughts about 2011. All I know is that I’m ending the year with people I like a lot and I’m starting 2012 with judo and BJJ, also with people I like a lot.

Each year, we’ll find ourselves going through periods that seem impossible. I think that as long as we take risks, let the people we care about help us in the hard times, and always return the support, we’ll never walk away from a year’s end with regrets.