Work that is Real

             First, thank you to everyone who found my blog via Tapestry on CBC. I've received several emails from program listeners, and it's a pleasure to get to know each of you. For those of you unaware, I did an interview with Tapestry last year. They re-aired the interview today, and you can listen to it by clicking HERE.

             Blatant self-promotion aside, I've been thinking about this space again, and in honor of my Tapestry interview, I thought I'd bring back an old MCB tradition: explaining how I feel with a poem. (I mention a poem by Nikki Giovanni in my interview, and because CBC is awesome, host Mary Hynes contacted Giovanni and interviewed her as well. You should listen to that part of the interview. It's amazing.)

            Anyway, behold: a poem.

To be of useby Marge Piercy
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

I shared this poem with my friend Gurr last year. Gurr is probably the most non "parlor general" person I know. But it is a personal mantra for me too: I want to do the work that is real.

My job as a teacher is not glamorous. Every day I strain in the mud and the muck, and do what has to be done, again and again. The only thing getting me through the long days and the frustration is the hope that I am making something with a "shape that satisfies, clean, and evident." I am grateful for work that listens to my soul's cry for water to carry. At the end of hard days I picture the black heads of seals, and keep swimming.

Spiritually, it's been a long time since I shared anything particularly personal on my blog. My last "real" post on faith  hid a lot behind words of other people. I realized I was scared of saying anything real, of showing any part of my soul to a world that might respond unkindly. I've become more private, but less vulnerable, in the last few months.

I've  also felt ashamed of myself, somehow. Ashamed that things hurt me, ashamed of being weak in public spaces, and determined not to let anyone see the process of turning clay into vases and pitchers, pretending that I'm content to live as a relic in a  museum. Work is hard and messy, and it's easier to hide until the work is done, and you're dead, and no one can criticize you.

Reading this poem reminded me that I shouldn't be ashamed of my work, or my life. I listened to the Tapestry interview again today, and I realized that even during the saddest most difficult parts, I sound strong. I sound like myself. I sound like I harnessed myself to a heavy cart, and pulled through. I'm proud of myself.

The work of my life will continue to remain unglamorous, and most likely, I'll swim and pull and create relatively privately. But I'll do this without being ashamed of the work I've created, of the harvest I've sown,or of the mud I've shaped. My work-both in my classroom and in my soul- is real, and made to be used.

As always, thanks for following along.


Help provide clean water in Africa: WHOlives.org

As expressed in my previous post, I’m not much of a blogger these days. However, I am always happy to use my and social media outlets to support causes I think are important. Today’s cause is WHOlives.org, a nonprofit committed to creating clean and affordable water in South Africa. Caitlin Schille  is a Wholives representative and author of today’s guest post. Look for additional information on WHOlives and donation opportunities at the bottom of this post.

WHOlives.org: Water, Health, Opporunity

Burka Village Drill Team

WHOlives is a nonprofit based in South Jordan, Utah. With innovative technology and effective systems, we are working hard to bring clean water to Africa.

WHOlives differs from other nonprofits in the cost. Approximately $4 can provide a child with clean water for ten years. Ten years! For the cost of your morning coffee, or a couple of diet cokes, you can truly change someone’s life.

The W.H.O. stands for water, health, and opportunity, as we believe these things are interconnected.  Providing clean water lowers the risk of many diseases, improving health.

In addition to vastly improved health, these wells provide other benefits as well. Girls are primarily responsible for gathering water, and they typically walk several miles each way to a water source every day. When a well is installed, this frees up an enormous amount of time for the girls, enabling them to attend school. We have found that in each village where a well is drilled, school attendance greatly increases, especially attendance among girls.

The wells also improve the economic health of the village. Several people will be employed to power the drill every day, providing jobs. The drill is also sustainable- villagers pay a small and manageable fee of approximately five to ten cents to use the well, ensuring that there is money to repair the drill or purchase new parts as well as pay the drill workers.

To deliver clean water, we use the Village Drill, a Brigham Young University engineering capstone project. The drill is used to create wells, and it is much more cost-effective to use the Village Drill than traditional well drills. Each well provides clean water to thousands of people.

If you’d like to donate to WHOlives, please see the link below. Remember, the donation does not need to be large to make a difference. Even a one-time of donation of $4 will change a life.

Disclaimer: I was in no way compensated by WHOlives.org in promoting their non-profit organization. Please use individual discretion when donating to nonprofits. 


If I ever write a memoir, all my major life events will be described in relation to which season of Gilmore Girls was playing in the background at the time they occurred.

I don't really blog anymore. I recognize this. Honestly, I don't even know HOW to blog anymore. The rules have totally changed since I left the game. Everyone is a lifestyle blog now. But I have a sinus infection and some really, really, important thoughts about Gilmore Girls- a show for middle-class white girls that ended back in 2007- and I feel they need to be recorded.

Gilmore Girls is on Netflix now, but I didn't think I would watch,given that it is now officially fall and that means all my real-life shows are back. Plus, I tried watching one of my Girls DVDs a few weeks ago, (not that Girls show, dummy. Remember, we are back in 2007, when blogs could be ugly and text-heavy and Lorelei's slip-dresses and sparkly cardigans were considered high fashion. Gosh, I loved 2007.) and I couldn't finish an episode.

I've been destroyed by Netflix and instant streaming and the idea of committing to the four episodes on one disc was just too risky. What if three of the four episodes are annoying? I'll have to get up and pick a different disc. What if I've finally found the right laptop-screen-to-head-ratio in my bed and getting up ruins it? What disc has the episode where Lorelei compares dating Luke to being dragged behind a truck for miles and miles and just wanting Luke to open the door and let her ride in the truck next to him, just let me in, that's all I'm asking, because I CANNOT watch that episode. I cannot risk getting accidentally emotional during my binge-watching. I have shit to do.  I also need to be able to skip an episode the INSTANT I see show-ruin-er April. I hate April. I place full responsibility on April for the demise of Gilmore Girls and I will never, ever, forgive her.

Thus, I decided I would focus my TV efforts on keeping caught up on The Mindy Project and trying to find a way to watch The Bachelor: Canada without downloading a scary virus.

Lies.  I've Netflixed  my way into season two of Gilmore Girls in a matter of days. Who are we kidding? The minute Where you lead, I will follow you....played through my perfectly arranged laptop speakers I resolved to neglect my family and re-establish my priorities. Maybe I'll even make it through an April episode this weekend when I've inevitably binge-watched my way into season seven. Anything is possible.

I started with season one and nearly died from a nostalgia aneurysm. OH MY GOSH 2000. I loved that year too! The fashion is incredible. Time erased my memories of all the weird things  the year 2000 did to a woman's body. Everything is either shrunken or oversize and I keep wanting to pull everyone's pants up. So many contradictions. Why are people wearing chunky sleeveless turtleneck sweaters? If it is cold enough to want a chunky turtleneck, why are you exposing your arms? Why are flare leg pants cut just above the ankle? Everything Rory wears looks like it spent too much time in a hot dryer, yet I distinctly remembering watching the episodes as a high school sophomore and coveting her jeans. And her boxy sweaters. Lorelei wears a lot of tie-dye shirts with odd Asian symbols on them, and everyone needs bangs. Also,  IRONIC GRAPHIC TEES. MAX MEDINA. 1,000 YELLOW DASIES.

Beyond acting as a sartorial time-capsule, watching Gilmore Girls takes me back to every phase in life when I relied on Lorelei and Rory to get me through hard times. I watched Gilmore Girls after break-ups. I watched Gilmore Girls every day after class my freshman year of college, and it was probably the only consistently positive thing that happened the entire year. Spouseman and  I watched Gilmore Girls the weekend after I finished grad school but didn't get a job offer. The opening title sequence sends Spouseman into a post-traumatic fury because I frequently left the TV on the menu screen with the same thirty minute music track playing on endless repeat. (I didn't notice, since my ADD allows me to block out things I don't actively want to see or hear.)

I've never watched the final episode because 7 years later I'm still in denial about the show's last-minute cancellation. How was this show not picked up for an 8th season? Where is the rumored movie? Rory goes off to work for the Obama campaign, and how will I know who wins the election without neurotic-Rory reading her articles over the phone to Lorelei in her high-pitched baby voice? Oh, wait. It isn't 2007, it's 2014.

Anyway, welcome to Netflix Gilmore Girls, you were my first TV love, and having you in the same place as The West Wing means I will probably never do anything meaningful with my life. Turns out, Girls, where you lead? I will follow you. Because I love you, you idiot.

I still hate April.