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boys’ club

the first time i was given a voice

i will never forget

my parents’ lengthy, messy custody battle,

and the day the judge asked me,

do you want to see your father?

“No.” 

a resolute 13-year-old girl

knowing right from wrong.

my father’s abuse, deplorable.

i was not safe with him and

my siblings were not safe with him

but, the judge didn’t listen.

i can’t imagine not having a relationship with my daughters.

he said.

a good girl would have said yes

he implied.

why even bother asking

when he told me what to think anyway.

that day, among many in a lifetime,

a man telling me he knows best,

was the first time my voice was snatched away.

Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA on Pexels.com
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the slow down

all spring I count down

10, 9… days until the endless month of march

all spring I extend gratitude to the earth for winter’s reprieve

8, 7… days until spring break

all spring I smile at daylight’s triumph over darkness

6, 5 … days until memorial day weekend

all spring I joyfully revel in the warm breezes of promise

4, 3… days until the end of state testing

all spring I cheerfully document nature’s gold

3, 2 … days until the final quarter grades are due

all spring I sit outside to read under the sun’s rays

1 day until the last day of school

all spring I count down for the slow down. 

Photo by Guillaume Hankenne on Pexels.com
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a moment i knew

i remember a time when

we were young and in love

leaving high school mid-day

to escape and eat lunch together

snow fell from the sky

like tears stream down heartbroken cheeks

i slipped on the icy walkway

you stood there ashamed

i struggled to rise, crumbling again

you stood there ashamed

i heard testosterone hollering, pounding on windows, mocking my misstep

you stood there ashamed

tenacity rumbled within

i found my own way up

i remember a time when

we were young and in love

you broke a part of my heart that day.

Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels.com
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To call me on my quiet

My dear friend came to visit at the end of January.  We taught together for four years total, punctuated by my decision to move to DC.  We went from seeing each other five times a week for four years to seeing each other for two hours in the past two years. Fortunately, our friendship’s foundation has been reinforced throughout COVID times by many phone calls and elaborate gift unboxing videos.

Our visit brimmed with casual chats in the guest room, shared appetizers before nightly feasts, neighborhood show and tell, museum galivanting, and Taylor Swift record-playing. A moment that resonated with me most, however, was our last few hours together. We had just finished a two-hour session of drinking oat milk lattes, critiquing delicious pastries (the brioche donut was *chef’s kiss*), and talking pedagogical shop.  Her presence sparks my passion- our past collaborations and current planning rewires my brain and jolts me alive.  As we shut our laptops and began packing up, I became swept up in my thoughts as I’m notoriously skilled at doing.  

Call it dissociation, call it inner reflection, either way, all I could think about was my anticipatory sadness of her departure and how long it would be until we saw each other again.  She has a busy life and even if we lived within a few miles of each other, I never would have been able to engage in so much quality time with her as I was able to this trip.  COVID reminded me that our friendship of candor and mutual respect deserved immense gratitude.

“Hey, are you okay?  You just got really quiet and I don’t know what happened,” she inquired.  I snapped out of my stress stupor.

“Yeah, sorry I was just thinking about how much I’m going to miss you.” As we continued to walk to the car, which would take us to our final agenda item, the airport, I was pleasantly reminded of how well she knew me, to call me on my quiet.

Casual chats with Bao, January 2022
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small lessons

Maybe it was the lingering effects of one summer cocktail too many from the night before.

I remember that warm July morning like it was yesterday. As we walked to the dog park for our usual routine, the DC summer heat not-so-gently reminded me that I needed to wake up earlier to beat the heat. At six months, Bao was just getting used to the dog park rigamarole, as was I.  Essentially, it goes something like this: we begin taking a walk, we round a corner that can only lead to the dog park, Bao pulls me with all of her might, and I mutter to myself that I need to invest in better training.  Bao will then excitedly approach the dog park gates, wait to be unleashed while furiously wagging her tail, run in, and find a buddy to wrestle with for the better part of an hour, all while I watch her adoringly and try to avoid making eye contact with the surrounding humans.

Bao is extremely gentle, passive, and trusting when it comes to interacting with other dogs.  She is the type of dog that nearly every dog likes.  Sure she comes on a little strong when she launches her 80-pound self at other dogs to say excitedly greet them, but once she starts playing, she’s on her back, while the others jump all over her. 

But on that sticky July morning, Bao had yet to find a buddy.  First, she tried to run and chase the dogs involved in follow-the-stick-leader.  Then, she circled the outskirts of a tug-of-war competition.  No dogs were interested in her.  I watched her move her head from side to side in anticipation, tongue out from the muggy heat, jowls quivering from her observed exclusion.  Why won’t other dogs play with her?  She is the most friendly dog.  She is so loving.  She just wants a buddy.  As I teared up behind my sunglasses, spiraling and wondering how I went wrong as a dog parent, I dabbed my eyes and cleared the haze of self-deprecation to lay my eyes upon Bao happily belly up with another dog.  

Maybe it was the lingering effects of one summer cocktail too many from the night before or maybe I learned a small lesson in what it means to fiercely love a dog. 

#marchsolsc #bao

Bao, six months, July 2021.
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Transcending darkness

#sol22

Doubt tangles in your stomach

silence is better, silence is better

it is easier to mute your thoughts

press play on passivity

an insulated echo chamber of comfort

Doubt doubles down

silence is better, silence is better

fissures spread slowly

attempts to patch the discomfort

are feeble

cracks widen

insulation thins and crumbles

glimmers of gold peep through

guiding to growth.

Photo by Martin de Arriba on Pexels.com
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A doable Monday

The structure of Mondays (asynchronous days for students, endless meetings and to-do’s for teachers) is not how I prefer to start my week during this year of virtual, now concurrent/hybrid, teaching. Mondays are all about faithful follow-through from students and teachers alike.  A few students are “required” to attend office hours with me, others pop in rarely, and by the time office hours are complete, teachers tune into endless meetings with smiles concealing fatigue.  

I’d much rather start my week greeting my students’ initials over Teams, while they undoubtedly eye roll and begrudgingly answer my question of the day in the chat to start off class. Interacting with even a few unmuted mics makes the day worth it but alas, for the next 12 weeks of school, the meetings on Mondays will continue to plague the start of every week.  

Today, however, Monday didn’t feel so bad.  Perhaps it’s spring break planning to grace us with her presence or the warmth of spring cocooning me throughout the day.  Regardless, Monday felt doable, for the first time in a long time, and I’ll celebrate that small win for now.  

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com
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“Names” -Bao remix

I’m the only one in the family

with a name that has three different meanings

*Woof* Bao isn’t even a dog name.

I know, because my human parents told me.

It means: treasure (in Chinese) and protector (in Vietnamese),

It also means: steamed buns, a dish part of dim sum, 

something my parents love to eat.

And truth be told, that description is about right

because I am definitely a treasured protector to my parents

I just need to remind them I’m so much more than delicious buns.

My name labors out of some human’s mouths

in an awkward and painful way

I hear my parents tell their friends on the phone:

BOW, like take a BOW, not bo-ah.

I’ve learned not to bark when I hear their friends mispronounce it.

Mom says she thought it was an awesome name.

Gave me this gift of being a fierce protector and now curses

how well I herd the three of us together in the same room.

My parents probably wanted a dog who would sit in her crate

and chew on her kong while not barking when they left the room for a minute.

Instead, they got a loyal 10-week old pup who is just getting started,

unless they try to leave me alone in my crate again.

*inspired by Elizabeth Acevedo’s “Names” in The Poet X

Photo by Joan Tran on Unsplash
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Bao Oxford McWong

The warmth of spring 

brought our new furry family member 

a day earlier than planned

The warmth of spring

brought a day of new

for our adopted pup

new name to attune

new beds to sleep 

new parents to love

new noises to acquaint

new toys to chew

new nooks to nestle 

new harnesses to snuggle 

new neighborhood to traverse

new humans to observe

The warmth of spring 

brought a day of new

for our human hearts

Welcome to the family,

our new joy to love,

Bao Oxford McWong.

Bao Oxford McWong on March 20, 2021.
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Puppy prep

After hours/days/weeks of intense research and scouring of internet advice to prepare for our incoming puppy, we received our box(es) of supplies from the Chewy saviors (whom we should now start investing in) yesterday.  As the scissors sliced through the seal that held the necessities of the future, I excitedly lifted each lid and peeked in. Two red dog harnesses in XS & S, a non-squeaky-to-human-ears elephant, an already ear-splitting squeaky lamb and yellow duck, a red leash, a dog bed, an adjustable dog crate, puppy food and treats, an endless supply of poop bags, potty pads (our first regret-purchase after more research), a bowl set with a silicone mat, a puppy nylabone, and a few other intellectually stimulating toys.  I couldn’t help but think, Is this all it takes? To start off raising a puppy? Four boxes of “things”? What are we missing?! 

As a childless couple, with no recollection of my family’s dogs as puppies, this is the first time I have ever co-parented a growing creature and the weight of responsibility is not lost on me. We have quickly acquired which vaccinations are necessary at which ages, the prime puppy months for training (indeed, she is signed up for school immediately), the delicate balance of puppy socializing (“not too much in unknown territories but also be sure to socialize!”), how to handle nipping (yell, “OW!” and do NOT pull away), bell training, and how important routine is, especially in the first week.  As I typically operate when I am nervous (read: my equilibrium is best found vibrating within a ball of anxiety), I sift through endless research until I feel confident. What the research is not preparing me for is how this curious and energetic fluffball is going to totally shift our lives on Sunday, most likely for the better.  My heart is already telling me that it doesn’t matter how much stuff we have, as long as love and patience (and routine!) are at the crux of our intentions. Sometimes the head simply cannot research enough to prepare the heart for what lies ahead.

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A Return to Saturn

Romantic breakup. New job. Misguided friendship breakups. Another new job. Move across state lines. Extreme dissatisfaction and soul searching. While it’s easy to look back on my life around 27/28 and sterilize the changes I went through, at the time, my entire life felt shaken, whether I intentionally contributed to it or not. 

Amidst the upheaval I was experiencing during that time period, a friend suggested I may be in my “Return to Saturn.”  As a recovering astrology-reading addict, I was unaware of what my stubborn and loyal Scorpio traits had to do with a planet somewhere in the solar system.  According to Bustle.com, a Return to Saturn is described as, “It takes Saturn approximately 29.5 years to complete its full orbit around the sun, so the phrase “Saturn return” literally refers to Saturn returning to the exact place in the zodiac that it was when you were born. Everyone experiences their first Saturn return between the ages of about 27 and 30. These years are often marked by tons of upheaval — think break-ups or marriages, switching careers, moving to a new city, or generally coming to terms with changes you need to make in your life.” 

As a colleague was confiding in me yesterday about the recent tumult he is experiencing, I brought up the Saturn Return notion to him. Upon further reflection, we remarked that many people we know seem to be going through a lot right now, not directly tied to the pandemic either.  While this entire past year has exploded with Saturn Return fireworks, March 2021 feels especially Saturn Return-y to me. As I buckle down and forge ahead through this month, I am comforted knowing the other side of a Saturn Return is clarity worth consuming.

Photo by Shivam Patel on Pexels.com
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March’s Mystery & Mayhem Circus Show!

Come one, come all

to the greatest show of the year,

March’s Mystery and Mayhem Circus Show!

Our performances may not be timely, 

and they may be fueled by stubborn and peculiar oddities,

but they are sure to dazzle and delight!

You will find our teacher navigate her insurmountable anxiety in

Masters of mayhem Mondays

Defy all odds in

Nerves of steel Sundays

and train to be the sensation of the century in

Dancing and somersaulting Saturdays!

Be sure to marvel at it all, 

March only comes but once a year!

Photo by Golnar sabzpoush rashidi on Pexels.com
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Master of mayhem Mondays

Today you will see our teacher spend the day nestled at home, while students work asynchronously. She will spend her morning teaching intervention lessons, summoning students into her tremendous, strange, and curious Microsoft Teams office hours, meeting with magnificent colleagues, juggling endless meal preps while simultaneously feeding herself, attending more meetings of mayhem, and leaving the day with a stupendous mountain of stress!  At times, her cascade of to-dos appears to be a supernatural illusion, such as the act of swallowing a knife, so surely, you won’t want to delay in stepping into this show today!

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Dancing and somersaulting Saturdays

Today’s events will be sure to please the eye with a fine ballet of beauty.  From wedding dress switches to one day dance her way into the spotlight, to somersaulting through YouTube videos and endless internet tunnels of advice on how to become a puppy mom soon, this teacher’s dance moves are sure to impress. Even more, her Saturday salsa of trying to relax yet preparing for future events has her mind simply spinning. You won’t want to miss this teacher try to process her first week of concurrent teaching while prepping for major life events.  We are exhausted just thinking about it! 

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Seasonal routine

The past year of pandemic panic has brought the staple of a morning routine into my life, a perception of superficial control to commence each day. Without consciously realizing it, my routine has shifted by the season. The summer roused with early morning roaming before the humidity blanketed the sidewalks, the fall moved by yoga and mindful meditation, and the winter awoke with a shower and immediate cocooning of blankets in bed while reading, sipping coffee, and a sun lamp burning optimism into irises to prevent seasonal sadness.  

With the start of reporting back to school this month, my routine is hatching a new facade.  I tried to maintain my early morning book immersion but the commute time does not allow for the ease of escape, no matter how much earlier I set my alarm. I cannot help but wonder what will become of my new morning routine, if anything at all. Life feels a little safer and I find myself tentatively optimistic. It may be time to bid adieu to a staple of the past year, shed a layer of armor, and take a small step into the realm of a festive future.

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com
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Shoshin, take two, action!

Last week I learned the word shoshin, which means a beginner’s mindset, a serendipitous lesson I applied throughout the week preparing for concurrent teaching.  Any time I felt a twinge of stress, I’d let myself experience the emotion and then remember I had a reset.  Oh yeah, there it is again, shoshin! I’d say to myself.  But today, this week, the remainder of this month, is where I REALLY need to apply shoshin. While it’s easy to parrot the definition, what does a beginner’s mindset really mean to me today, my first day of concurrent teaching?

  • As a perfectionist trying to distance myself from the label, I undoubtedly need to tell myself right now, Nothing will be perfect and that’s okay!
  • Stress will occur, and it can also be brief, it doesn’t have to frame the entirety of the day
  • It’s okay to laugh at my mistakes 
  • Change is uncomfortable
  • Growth because of change is uncomfortable
  • The feeling of being uncomfortable is brief, and again, it doesn’t have to frame your outlook of the day or week
  • Like the amazing educators I know, I am resilient and I will bounce ahead, eventually 

I might remember these declarations today, I might not remember them until after the moments of stress, but I am hoping to give myself grace and learn a lot as I jump into a new experience.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com
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Old habits, new thinking

Last night

I felt the need

to justify myself

My partner

told me

My life has been stitched together with explanations

Men do not feel 

anguish

Old habits die hard. 

*Trying out Suleika Jauoad’s Isolation Journals prompt for today- elimination/blackout poetry on my own quick paragraph (below). 

Last night I was composing an email to a foster puppy mom, stating my partner and I would like to adopt her foster dog after meeting it briefly earlier in the day.  In the original draft of the email, I felt the need to justify myself, explaining that although I wasn’t an experienced dog owner, I have faith in myself and my resources to give this puppy the best life it could have.  My partner, whose line of work resides in the business world, told me I did not need to justify myself, instead, I could state we would like to adopt the dog and that was that.  I was blown away- my life has been stitched together with explanations and justifications.  Men do not feel the need to sew their thoughts into emails as I do?  I just could not fathom how much anguish that eliminates. Old habits die hard.

 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
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Tire(d) teacher

During pandemic teaching, I inevitably reach a point of no return on Fridays, my brain’s wires short-circuiting after too much usage. Emails have lost their coherent response opportunity, students’ assignments sit to be graded in the Canvas ether, loved one’s texts are neglected until I can re-wire.  

This Friday, however, has left me feeling like a neglected, punctured tire. One reason my depletion is more present than ever is today is the final Friday before students come back into the building.  Endless decisions have been processed, executed, and debated this past week.  Rooms and demeanors are expected to be sparkling and joyful to greet our bright-eyed students Tuesday morning. 

The pressure is on to patch and inflate, to roll with the potholes of the newly resurfaced road ahead.

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Ullassa

sun rays warming new morning routines

flower buds emerging for another year of bloom

glistening lakes cradling a rising sun

mourning doves signaling weekend’s ease

orange and pink wisps in a slumbering sky

ullassa is 

a Sanskrit term

an appreciation for small treasures in nature

what I used to refer to as a slice of joy

I now know is deemed

ullassa

A moment of ullassa on February 17, 2021.
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Homemade Decision-Making

I always know I’m on the brink of making a big decision when I yearn for my favorite recipe, the ingredients unfailingly readily handy, stored away in the back of my pantry, waiting to be utilized.  

Recipe for Megan’s Homemade Decision-Making

2 cups chopped stomach-lurching

1 heaping cup acute heartbeat quickening

3 tablespoons of sweating palms

1 teaspoon of self-assurance

Combine all ingredients in a glass mixing bowl of emotion.  Blend until a smooth consistency- one to two weeks. Pour into loaf pan and refrigerate for six days. Serve with a glass of gut gusto. 

Photo by Nicole Michalou on Pexels.com

Goodbye’s goodbye, 2022

Goodbye of 2022 awoke with disdain for a forced departure

and simultaneously, 

she also awoke with awe. 

Awe that this month passed in the blink of an eye,

awe with the opportunity to read slices by her friends

and favorite slicers, near and far.

These slices stuck with Goodbye.

These slices planted seeds in Goodbye’s neurons, 

infiltrated schemata, and forced Goodbye’s hand at writing risks.

Goodbye is proud of herself.

She knew that in order to successfully complete this challenge,  

she’d have to lift the weights of perfection.

Goodbye of 2020 made sure to craft each slice for far too long,

perfecting, thesaurus-ing, re-reading but

Goodbye of 2022 didn’t have the capacity for fine-tuning.

Goodbye of 2022 just wanted to make sure she showed up every day.

Some days she had the headspace to be more creative or vulnerable than others,

and some days she considered editing after publishing but, eventually, she had to conserve her energy.  

Goodbye is grateful for her creativity mentors and this incredible slicing community.

Until next year, and possibly next Tuesday,

Goodbye thanks you times a million, Slicing Community!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Before that

Throughout this month of March, I have found that I cannot sit at my desk downstairs and write because my proximity to Bao is not close enough for her liking. Her whines become irritatingly impossible to tune out and I am forced to write upstairs in the daybed so she can excitedly bound up the stairs to the daybed and lay beside me.  As I browse other slices for some writing inspiration (thank you, Sally!), I summon the writing flow spirits my way.  

Before that, I sat at my computer downstairs while Derrick made dinner, soaking in the scents of daily hard work and love.

Before that, we took Bao to the dog park and joked about: the guy who gives us the heebie-jeebies, the people whose physical features slightly resemble long-distance loved ones, the way Bao’s tug-of-war strategy is relentless and successful. 

Before that, I drove home and admired my beautiful neighborhood and the cherry blossoms that are no longer peak bloom yet still awe-inspiring. 

Before that, I attended our department meeting and shared about Language Field Guides, hoping to inspire others to try some inquiry-based vocabulary instruction.

Before that, I supported my hard-working sixth and seventh graders as they hone their interests and passions to research and compose persuasively.

Before that, I watched my students participate in a parent-led ideation community building lesson to brainstorm ways they can become better learners. 

Before that, I left my home, surprised to see frozen slush lining my windshield but grateful for the warmth of this morning compared to mornings’ past.

Before that, I worked out and completed my 365th consecutive day of mediation with my Calm app.

Before that, I set my alarm for 5:20am, but not before browsing new mailboxes on my phone because *adulting*.

Before that, I ate a delicious dinner of turkey meatballs and pasta with homemade tomato sauce prepared with hard work and love. 

Before that, I sat at my computer, then went upstairs to lay on the daybed, to post yesterday’s slice with Bao whining ever-so-slightly beside me.

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Begin, again.

For 87 days, I have been actively re-learning Spanish

For 87 days, I have been taking weekly small-group Spanish lessons

For 87 days, I have been practicing Spanish daily on Duolingo

For 87 days, I have been building schematic connections through repetition and context

For 87 days, I have been re-training my brain to memorize endless vocabulary

For 87 days, I have been questioning Spanish grammatical rules

For 87 days, I have been wondering why I didn’t start re-learning Spanish earlier in life

For 87 days, I have been admiring how exhausting and vulnerable it is to be a student again

For 87 days, I have been served heaping humble pie slices, with whipped nostalgia on top

For 87 days, I have been slowly building something from nothing

For 87 days, I have been better than where I started on day 1

For 87 days, I have been grateful I decided to begin again.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Right Now

*Today’s slice was inspired by Read & Write with Sally & Just for a Month

Right now I am...

:: laying on the daybed in our guest room with Bao slumbering away at my feet. She is tired from a fun, yet frigid, jaunt to the dog park. 

:: trying to ease my Sunday scaries and wondering why they are persevering.  After all, the eighth graders took two of their three state tests last week, shouldn’t that lighten my worries a little bit?!

:: listening to the warm air forced through my vents on this unseasonably cold day.

:: sipping vanilla rose tea and imagining sunlit days ahead.

:: attempting to manage my anxieties and craft today’s slice. My writer’s block is most definitely correlated to my acute anticipatory anxieties. 

:: planning to book tickets to Spain to view a dear friend get married in July. I hope the Spanish I have been relearning for the past three months will continue to build on itself and be put to good use! 

:: appreciating reading friends’ and strangers’ slices who have inspired so much writing and creativity this past month.   We are stronger, together. 

Right Now, March 27, 2022.

Reclaimed

As a child, the best part of the Christmas season was not Christmas Day but Christmas Eve. I anxiously awaited Christmas Eve Mass because I knew what would be next: a few gifts dropped off early from Santa’s sleigh as soon as we arrived home. These early gifts always involved new pajamas and slippers with a VHS to watch together while we enjoyed our Christmas Eve hors d’oeuvres. Christmas Eve was love, innocence, harmony. 

When my parents divorced, the Christmas season became unbearably painful. Cozy traditions instantly evaporated, the warmth of the holiday vanished.  Unfortunately, the insufferable ache for past amicability was ever-present every year. This past year, I decided I had grappled with the pain of grieving Christmas for far too long.

Determined to rewrite the narrative, I secretly ordered Derrick, Bao, and myself matching pajamas.  I found shirts that said Bao Obsession, socks adorned with baby bao print, and red and black flannel pajama pants to tie it all together.  As we were enjoying our Christmas Eve hors d’oeuvres, I let Derrick know that Santa had dropped off some gifts early.  Glimpsing a perspective from Santa of years’ past, I giggled with gaiety as Derrick unwrapped the pajama set. While the humans enjoyed the pajamas more than the canine, Christmas became harmonious, overtaking the years of tear-laden grief. I am now looking forward to new chapters of matching pajamas, sweet surprises, and loving laughs on Christmas.

Hooky Apology

March 22, 2022

Dear Megan’s Morning Routine,

I know, I know, I know. I can’t believe it either.  I didn’t think she would. Past behavior indicated that she would never abandon you. She has abided by the comforts you provide for years now: wake up, meditate, work out, and sip coffee while armoring for the day.  You have been there for her time and time again.

But today, well, today was something else.  She really surprised us.  I know she has been wanting to see us for years after her brief stint discovering our dawn dewy demeanor in 2016.  And we love someone with some solid resolve. How else will you navigate our crowded gawkers?  This was the first time she felt comfortable seeing us after that whole pandemic situation.  Our splendor, our ever-changing beauty, draws many eyes. What more can we say? Please don’t be mad at her.  Although she let you go today, to quote one of her favorite poems, we are only so an hour.  I know you will always be there for her.  She will run back to you tomorrow.  And the day after next.  She needed some novelty. Take good care of her for the remainder of the school year.  Promise?

Love,

Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms at Sunrise

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