Growing Pain

Growing Pain

Plants are my coping mechanism.

There is no better way to end a stressful day than repotting or deadheading or trimming a plant. There’s a rhythm to it. It’s repetitive in a meditative way, like watching waves roll in.

I picked up a habit years ago when my depression got bad that I would go out to the big box stores and look through their discount plant rack. I found the cheap more-dead-than-alive plants for 50¢ and used that as my focus point to drag myself back.

The habit hasn’t changed much. I’m more aware of my mindset and the Why behind my scooping up plants headed for the dumpster. I need them just as much as they need me. Emotions are not clear cut and easy and having something to channel all that chaotic energy into and seeing it grow and bloom is the best reward.

I’ve been vocal for a few years now about police brutality and killings, but George Floyd’s murder has scattered and enraged me in unprecedented ways. I thought perhaps I was better informed of systems of oppression, their history and their present state, and that was the reason for this visceral rage and pain.

Plumosa Ferns are also called climbing ferns and they’re having a great time

This is my oldest plant: Abbott. Abbott is a Kiwi Dracaena that was repotted last year with these Plumosa ferns and Pothos. Once upon a time, there was a Costello with Abbott, a Parlour Palm. Unfortunately, Costello did not survive repeated maulings from a cat named Griff. Parlour Palms have feathery foliage which is too much temptation for playful pets.

Dracaena are easy beginner plants. They need water about once a week if they’re going to be somewhere like Abbott where they get a lot of sun and a draft from the A/C. Dracaena will start to turn brown at the tips of their leaves if they get too dry or if they’re not getting enough humidity. Once they brown they don’t recover. It’s normal for this type of Dracaena to drop its spikes as it grows. Abbott’s roommates help keep the humidity levels up and balance the moisture levels in the soil so I don’t have to constantly check the soil or mist their foliage. I wasn’t sure how Abbott was going to do with his new friends, but they’re all growing at the speed of light this spring, so they’re happy.

George Floyd could be my dad. Or my dad could be George Floyd. We’ve all seen the accounts from George Floyd’s family and friends saying he was kind and happy and wouldn’t hurt anyone.

My dad’s neighbors call him Mr. Smiley because he’s always smiling and laughing. His optimism is relentless.

But the world doesn’t see my dad’s smile or his laugh or his unwavering optimism any more than it saw George Floyd’s kind heart or quiet voice. What the world sees in my dad and what it saw in George Floyd are Black men. George Floyd wrote a check and died for it. What happens if my dad pays cash for something and the cashier decides it looks counterfeit? What happens if someone sees him wandering through houses under construction in the neighborhood?

Vera also survived a fall from a shelf that smashed her first pot

This is Vera. Second oldest and a wonderful friend. Vera was divided last year and at the rate she’s going now, she might have to be divided again next year. Aloe Vera is my favorite succulent and they are super useful in the summer if you forget the sunscreen or if you’re active in the kitchen.

While Aloe is a succulent, it does require a little more water than the average Echeveria. Not a lot, though. Too much and it will rot like any other succulent. Vera is on a stand near Abbott, so she gets the same sun and draft as he does. I water her about every ten to fourteen days. In July and August when the sun comes in hard, it’s closer to the ten day mark. In the winter, she only gets water once a month.

Watering succulents in winter can be tricky because they’re not actively growing, just storing energy for warmer days. But they do need some moisture in the soil. Vera is in a 12” pot and during the winter I’ll pour a cup of water or less around her base. If you have a smaller pot, you’ll have to use less water and vice versa.

I managed to trace that livewire of anger I’ve felt for this week to its true root: Fear. George Floyd tried to buy groceries and they killed him for it. He did nothing wrong. He left his house to get food and he’ll never go home again. My dad could be George Floyd. What is it that separates my dad from George Floyd except the razor’s edge of Luck.

I’m scared.

And I’m angry. I’m so angry that there are still people more upset that Target burned. More upset that windows were broken and bottles thrown and graffiti painted on monuments than they are that a man was killed while people stood by and watched. A man was filmed being killed and it still took four days of fires and rage to even get one murderer in custody.

Figgy Pudding

I admit, I thought for years Fiddleleaf Figs were a ridiculous waste of time. But now I have two and my apartment wouldn’t be complete without them. Both are castoffs from the greenhouse. The larger plant is Fiddleleaf-on-the-Roof and stands about five feet and the small one is Figgy Pudding.

Fiddleleafs, like most Ficus, have a reputation for being difficult. I always tell customers when they buy the Fiddleleafs that they’re a bit dramatic. They’ll drop their leaves, edges will brown, they won’t grow for a bit. The whole nine yards of angry drama queen.

But I found that the reputation is not quite the truth. Houseplants, like dog breeds, often suffer from popularity. In an effort to cash in on trends, growers will sometimes grow plants too fast which leads to weak plants. They grow plants in climate-controlled greenhouses with sixteen hours of gentle LED grow light, perfect temperature and humidity, they get watered with seventy degree water with the perfect balance of nutrients for optimum growth. Perfect.

And then it’s time for them to be shipped out.

They’re plucked from their rows, tossed in a paper sack and thrown into a refrigerated truck for shipping. They get locked in a dark truck until they arrive at a greenhouse where they’re pulled off the truck and thrown around before the paper sack is ripped off and they’re put on display. They get watered with cold city water and generic fertilizer, there are drafts and breezes with temperatures that fluctuate more than the stock market. Depending on the greenhouse and where they’re placed, they get anywhere from eight to twelve hours of unforgiving sunshine.

And these little pampered plants have a nervous breakdown. They shatter. Literally. That’s what it’s called when plants abruptly drop all their leaves. Fiddleleafs are notorious for leaf dropping and, really, who can blame them.

I wonder if any of the people who know my dad would stand in protest if he’s killed.

I already know the answer. It’s nothing but my dad’s optimism leaking through to even consider these suburban white people would demand justice. These people who have never had to question their comfortable, safe place in the world. These people who are so upset that insured buildings have been burned, that billion dollar corporations lost profit from looting.

They might post on social media or send empty messages of condolence, but they aren’t going to take to the streets. They’re not the ones who will stand outside precincts demanding those responsible be held accountable.

The newest addition: Persephone.

I’ve been thinking about getting a Venus Flytrap for a couple years, but I’ve always talked myself out of it. Carnivorous plants require specialized care. Everything from their soil, to the water, and of course their unique diet.

Venus Flytraps are bog plants. Bogs and swamps are not the same thing. When you visualize swamps you’re probably thinking of Louisiana. When you think of bogs, it’s probably Scotland or Alaska. Venus Flytraps are full sun plants and are happy to take eight hours or more of light, no need to diffuse it. They’re native to North and South Carolinas so humidity is a must. Good news for someone who lives in Indiana with its hot and humid summers. If your summer is milder, you might have to use a pebble tray or a misting routine to keep the moisture up.

As for soil, I have mine in two parts peat and one part perlite with a small layer of pebbles at the bottom of her unique container. Avoid using potting soil if you can. Potting soil is mixed with nutrients and fertilizer that can harm these specialized plants. Venus Flytraps need to stay moist throughout, but not in standing water. Since the Triceratops pot doesn’t have any drainage, the pebbles at the bottom will make it easier to turn the pot over and drain excess water without disrupting the plant.

 Water will be a bit trickier. I’m experimenting right now with the water I use for my Calatheas which is tap water I leave out overnight to allow chemicals to evaporate. But, if she starts showing signs of stress, I might have to pick up distilled water from the store until I can get a rain collection system set up.

Venus Flytraps only need to be fed once a month and you only need to feed one of the traps. This is one of the reasons fertilizer can be detrimental to Persephone. Carnivorous plants get their nutrition from their food, not the soil. I picked up a can of freeze-dried meal worms from the pet store and its got enough to feed her for probably the next five years.

The most unique need for Persephone is that she must have a 3-4 month dormancy period. This is the tricky part. This fall, she needs to stay outside until her foliage dies off, but she needs to be inside before her roots freeze. After I trim off the foliage, I’ll put her rhizome in an airtight bag and put her in the back of the fridge until spring. Then she’ll be rehomed and put back outside after the threat of freeze. During their dormancy period, Venus Flytraps work on their root system so that when spring rolls around they’re strong enough to send up new and bigger traps. You can skip this dormancy period if you keep they flytrap inside, but the plant will only live a few years before its root system will weaken too much to support its continuous growth and it will eventually die.

We all need periods of rest to re-center and strengthen our cores. Persephone needs a few months to get herself strong enough to emerge in the spring. I need a few days to find a way to channel the fear induced rage that’s had me on a hair trigger all week. It’s okay to take time away from everything. You have to. You must find joy in things, even if its just a new bloom or trimming leaves or picking up a new plant you’ve had your eye on. Coping mechanisms are how we channel the feelings that are too big and too tangled to put into words.


New Year, New Updates

New Year, New Updates

Well, it’s been a hot minute since we chatted, hasn’t it.

This post is an info-dump of updates on everything going on right now.

First off: I am back in the States. I don’t remember if I ever posted that. I’ve been back since April. But I got back and my blogging immediately fell off again so, sorry! But now that I’m back, I’m leaving again! I’m not going as far this time. I’m staying in the States but I’m heading to Alaska to work at a dog musher camp.

I’m excited and a little nervous. I’ll be giving presentations about the history of dogsledding to groups of tourists while I’m there and public speaking has never been my strong point. But people are on vacation and doing something new and exciting so that should make things a bit more relaxed. I’ll be heading up there mid-April and my blogging is likely going to fall off again because I don’t think I’ll have wifi where I’ll be staying. I’ll be close to Juneau, so I can take a bus to a Starbucks. That will have to be on my days off and, to be honest, I’d rather hike around glaciers than sit in a coffee shop. Nothing personal, I love you all.

From the initial interview it also sounds like the only two places I’ll have power in the cabin I’m staying at are in the kitchen and the bathroom. But that’s okay, I’ve got a stack of To Be Read books that are shoulder high. I don’t think I’ll have 24 hour sunlight, but I’m pretty sure it’ll still be something like 15-18 hours of light, so as long as I have a window I can read. This is also going to do wonders for my insomnia.

So that’s coming up pretty fast. We’ve only got a week left in January and February always flies by and March we’ll have spring coming through and April I’ll be running around like a maniac making sure I have all my stuff.


Other things: I opened my first Etsy shop, Photogenic Flowers, ( and I have a dozen photos up right now. I’ll be adding more in February, so if you want to drop by and take a peek or tell a friend, that’d be awesome. I’m really working this year toward becoming self-employed and having enough money and time to write.

I haven’t been writing as much as I did while I was in China. I was averaging about 40,000 words a month while I was in China. A lot of it won’t see the light of day, but I finished two or three fanfics and started Constellations which is at seven chapters and close to 100,000 words. I was writing a lot. And a lot of that was because for the first time since high school I was financially secure. My monthly salary was enough to pay for all my utilities and apartment and I was making enough I could save up and go on some cool trips.

And then I got back to the States and immediately fell back into the loop of crunching numbers to get my bank account on stable footing again.

Anyway, so I came up with some New Year Resolutions to help me break that cycle and push me in the direction I want to go. I’m working on becoming a better literary citizen by not just reading, but also reviewing what I read. Hence the two book review updates you got if you’re following this blog. I set my minimum at three books a month with reviews. I need to get the reviews written and posted, but I’ve finished reading five volumes of Transformers: More than Meets the Eye. So I’m doing all right on that one.

I’ve also put a minimum of 20,000 words to write for each month. I’m about 10,000 behind right now, but the whole job thing was a little shaky the first couple weeks of January. But I’ve got one now and hopefully when the first paycheck hits I’ll be a little less anxious and February will be an easier writing month.

I think those are all the major updates. I’ll be back in February with writing updates both for original work and fanfiction. But right now, I’ve got comic reviews to write and 10K words to crank out. So happy new year, let’s kick some ass.



Hey everyone, been awhile.

And while I wish I was here to tell you about more adventures, instead I’m going to dig into this Gabby Douglas thing. If you don’t know, Gabby Douglas was a US gymnast in the 2012 Olympics and she kicked all kinds of ass.

Just two days ago, one of Gabby’s former teammates, Aly Riseman, posted her own #MeToo story. Gabby found her way into the story by tweeting in response to Aly’s story that women can avoid sexual assault by dressing modestly.

That’s bullshit.

I know that. You know that.

But none of us were born knowing that. We had to learn it. Or unlearn it. All our lives, doesn’t matter if you’re boy, girl, both, or neither, what is the one thing that we have always been taught about sexual assault? Victim blaming. What was she wearing? What was she drinking? Why did she walk home that way? This has been the narrative All Our Lives.

Hopefully, 2017 will do this one thing for us and radically change that narrative and young kids growing up now will not learn to victim blame.

But as I said, none of us are born knowing what gaslighting is or microaggressions or victim blaming. We had to learn from others by listening, by actively looking for help to understand. No one is faultless. As a friend said, “If you can look back five, ten years on your life and cringe at the things you thought and said, then you’ve grown.”

I can think of quite a few cringe-worthy moments. I have one that I’ve been thinking about since Gabby Douglas’ tweet blew up. Six years ago, maybe even seven, I was in the car with my friend. She confided in me that she’d sent nudes to her then long distance not-quite-boyfriend and they’d had a falling out. He threatened to post her nudes all over the internet in an act of revenge porn.

And I know exactly what I would say now about getting a shovel and some lye and hunting him down.

But then? I asked her why she sent the pictures to begin with. Victim blaming. This-bad-thing-happened-because-you-didn’t-fit-in-the-box-of-modesty-I’ve-been-told-is-the-only-way-to-stay-safe.

I wasn’t supportive. I wasn’t a good friend. I was just another mouthpiece of patriarchy telling her that she was the one who had done the bad thing, not him.

That moment is when we started to drift further apart. There were other things going on and that would happen later down the line, but that moment in the car is when the divide started to open wider. We’d been friends and confidants since elementary school. But in that moment I wasn’t a good friend and it doesn’t matter how many playground secrets you keep if you can’t be the friend you need to be when it matters.

We’re starting to talk more again, but I doubt we’re ever the friends we were back then. Because I messed up and I didn’t even realize I was doing it until years later. I had to learn.

The only saving grace any of us have is that we did a lot of learning before social media became the beast it is. Gabby Douglas is young and she messed up. Unfortunately, she messed up on a massive platform. This tweet is going to stick to her for the rest of her life. Doesn’t matter what she does or where she goes, there will always be someone who equates her with what she wrote when she was 21 years old. I can’t and don’t want to imagine what horrible things people have been tweeting at her for the last 48 hours because the world is not kind to black women, period. But if/when they mess up?

I hope there are people in her life who are patient and kind and who are willing to teach her. I hope she’s willing to learn. I hope she looks back in five years and cringes.

Until All Are One

Until All Are One

I don’t talk about this a lot. Or ever. But seeing as the gates of racism and hatred have been thrown open in this country I feel it’s an appropriate time to talk about it. My dad is black and my mom is white. In facial features I could be my mom’s twin, but I got my dad’s color and hair. My sister can easily pass for white, I can’t. I’m usually mistaken as either Hispanic or Native American in the winter when I’m pale, but in the summer I get dark.

I come from a small town. It’s a very small white town in the middle of Indiana that still holds a Christmas parade and a parade to start softball season. When I was little we lived in a house literally maybe two blocks from the elementary school.

I walked to school with our neighbor and my little sister every morning. But my neighbor was a middle schooler and my sister was only in kindergarten so I got to be a big girl and walk home by myself.

When I was in third grade I was only four houses away from home when I walked by a house where two high schoolers were skipping school. They were sitting on the roof above the porch and I remember being a little nervous because they were being loud and I didn’t know them. They had cans I know now were beer cans, but at nine years old I assumed it was soda. But I could see my front door at the end of the street and knew my mom was home with my sister and Power Rangers would be starting soon and that was enough to keep me walking.

As I walked by the boys saw me. And suddenly they were yelling at me. They were yelling about how dark I was, how ugly my hair was. They picked up rocks and sticks and beer cans and threw them at me and called me a little nigger bitch. And I didn’t know what to do. I knew they were using bad words, but I’d never heard the word nigger before. But the rocks hurt and a hurled can didn’t miss me by much so I ran home.

I was so scared I didn’t tell my parents about what happened for hours. I don’t even think I watched Power Rangers that day. I remember feeling so cold, like someone had filled my stomach with ice and that something really horrible had happened but I didn’t know how to describe it. I had always liked my skin color, I thought I looked like Pocahontas, my favorite Disney Princess, but now I felt like something was wrong with it. I felt dirty, like I shouldn’t like how I looked.

I finally told my parents what happened close to bed time. I don’t know what happened after that. I know my dad went down to talk to the people who lived at the house, but I never walked home that way again.


I am furious that the Nazi Cheeto won.

And don’t confuse my fury with hate.

I feel like hate and fury are often used as synonyms. They’re not. The Nazi Cheeto hates. Hate is what makes people scream Nigger Bitch at a nine year old girl on her way home from school. That’s hate.

Fury is fuel. Fury is what gives you the strength to stand against those people and take their blows and push back. Fury is what gives you the courage to look at those people next to you talking about building walls and telling them to shut their fascist mouths.

I am furious. And I will remain furious. I will not live in a fucking world where another small girl will have to walk home afraid that someone will hurt her because they hate. Because right now in the US there are small children who came home in tears because their classmates were taught that hate is okay, that hate is acceptable. There is somewhere in the US another small girl looking at her skin and thinking something is wrong with her, that she is ugly, that she is not right. There LGBT middle and high school students terrified of going to school, afraid that they will be hurt because they have seen that even adults hate them.

So I don’t care if my fury offends. I do not care if my fury hurts feelings. Because in every person I see that voted for the Nazi Cheeto I see those two boys sitting on their roof screaming at me Nigger Bitch.

But this time I am old enough, I am strong enough, I am brave enough to walk down that street with every single one of those scared children. I will protect anyone who is afraid of those screaming boys. I will not let those rocks hit anyone else.

And when we get home we’re going to have a snack and watch Power Rangers.

Be Brave

Be Brave

The great dichotomy of humanity: Even now we’re searching and hoping to make contact with another intelligent alien species. But back on this tiny rock fifty people are killed for having the audacity to love someone.

We can’t even tolerate each other, acceptance is such a far off dream most people are just hoping for tolerance to happen in their lifetime. How are we supposed to present ourselves to a whole other species?

I mean, I’m an American in China right now struggling to explain why the fuck America is the way it is to Chinese citizens. Why do we have so many mass shootings? Why don’t we do something about it? Why are we always starting wars? Why is there such a large gap between rich and poor? Shouldn’t the public education system be better?

How the hell are we going to explain ourselves to another intelligent species? How are we going to say, “Oh, we won’t hurt you, we just want to be friends. Don’t mind the genocide, wars, and terrorism. That’s just…y’know, we’re working through some things.” How are we, not just one country, how are we as a species going to answer these questions? How are we going to explain that, yes, we know what we’re doing is damaging our climate but, well, it’s not that bad yet so we’re going to do it a little bit longer and then try to figure out how to solve it. How are we going to explain that through skewed and corrupted interpretation, there are people who want to kill other people because they think that’s what their particular sky god wants them to do? How are we going to explain the genocides—that are happening right now—where a group of people systematically slaughter other people because they don’t look/think/act/talk like them?




How do we, as a species, explain ourselves? Can we? I don’t think we can. And I think if there is any intelligent life lurking out there they’ve done their best to avoid this corner of the universe. We’re not ready to bring anyone else into this mess. We’re children. Not even well behaved children. We’re brats and bullies. No one wants to sit next to the screaming child on the plane, no other intelligent species wants to make friends with that child either.

But we’re capable of such amazing things. Voyager 1 was and still is an incredible feat. We’ve landed a probe on a comet for fuck’s sake. We’ve built a space station. There are people in space right now speeding above us. We’re taking Hi-Def pictures of Pluto and discovering new planets damn near every day. The feats of engineering our ancestors accomplished with nothing but basic tools are still wonders to behold. Stonehenge, Angkor Wat, The Great Wall, Pyramids of Giza, Athens, Rome, Aztec temples, and all those other wonders people still flock to today just to stand in awe.

So it’s time, Earthlings. It’s time to tip the scales in favor of the incredibly good things we’re capable of, not the awful. It’s time to be brave. If you see or hear someone spitting hate and fear, be brave. Tell them they’re wrong. Tell them after the flesh melts from our bones and archeologists dig us up all they’ll know is how tall we were, if our bone structure was male or female, how old we were, and if we had European, Asian, or African features. That’s it. No one will know the exact shade your skin was. No one will know what color your hair or eyes were. No one will know if you loved men or women or both or neither. No one will know what god, if any, you sent your prayers to. And certainly they’ll be curious, but you’ll be long past answering questions. You’ll be long past defending choices made. All that will be left is society as a whole. Who were we, not just you.

The longer the good parts of us stay quiet, the worse we’ll become. What’s that often quoted MLK line? “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

You think those people perpetrating genocide will stop on their own? You think those people who force children into sex slavery will stop by themselves? You think those people who preach hate and fear will shut up without another voice to shout them down? You’ve got to be brave. You’ve got to find the good parts of yourself and you’ve got to stand up. Even if your voice is quiet, let it be heard.

Make them stop.

Make us a species worth talking to.


If you want to help end genocide, you can donate to this group. They work to predict, prevent, and punish those who employ genocidal techniques, as well as those involved in human trafficking.

If you want to support those in the recent Orlando shooting, you can donate here.

If you want your congress representative/senator to tell the NRA to fuck right the fuck off, let them know. Send them an email. It doesn’t take long. Literally five minutes of your time. If you don’t know what to say, here’s a form letter. Read through and edit as you see fit and send it off. And if you don’t know who your representative is, you can find out here by putting in your zip code.

If you’re not part of the US, please, feel free to contact representatives as well. In fact I think it’d be rather amusing if these assholes suddenly got an influx of international correspondence. You can choose my home state if you want, Indiana.

And feel free to add that you’d like to see NASA’s budget expanded, too. There’s no reason we should be searching the deep recesses of space with a candle, but that’s all NASA can afford right now.



Not Even A Little Bit

Not Even A Little Bit


We interrupt this travel blog to give you this tirade.


I’m in Yan’an—more fun posts about that later—and as part of my contract hours I have this class I “teach” called English Corner. I put Teach in quotations because it’s really just a promotional class for the school I work with. I’m supposed to introduce the kids to four new words and a sentence, but it can’t feel like an actual class, it’s got to be fun. It’s lots of games and showing off the foreigner to the kids’ parents.

I dislike this.

My school informed me on Monday, that this week’s English Corner was going to be in a different place. Now that it’s warmer, English Corner will now take place outside.

In the public square.



So this week I really worked hard on what kind of games you can play with twenty and more kids outside in a public space where other people are also doing activities. I had a list of almost a dozen games, I had four words picked out, and I said “Fuck the sentence” because fucking hell, man.

When I do the EC, I have two Chinese Teachers who assist me. Now, the way I understood it as it was explained in training was that we co-teach like we do in the classroom. The Chinese Teachers teach the first part of the class—since most of these kids are beginner students to English—and I come in and we do games for the last half hour.

What I was told when I arrived in Yan’an was that I teach the entire hour and the CTs are just there as crowd control.

Again, Huzzah

I start to explain the games I have in mind to my primary CT and with each one she told me the ways she wanted it modified so the kids would be easier to control or “They’re not smart enough for this” (swear to the gods, this is a sentence I hear daily) or she flat out didn’t understand what game I was doing and told me not to do it.

She wants to do a song first.

Fucking hell, fine, if I have to.


She doesn’t like the idea of 4-Square, mostly because she doesn’t understand the instructions.

Hopscotch? Too many students—a valid point, but what if it’s modified—still no.

Sharks and Minnows, took me ten minutes to explain it but I got a yes.

When I started to get the kids set up to play Sharks and Minnows, modified to Crayons and Pencils, she decided that instead of having all the students rush forward she’d just do five at a time because “easier to control.” How about you just let the five year olds run around for ten minutes? How about that.

Fine. Whatever. I’ve got enough games to get me through the rest of this fucking hour.

And I did. The kids had fun, most of the thirty or so of them that attended probably learned a word or two, and even some of the parents played for a moment.

Now, Fridays we have our staff meeting. And by that I mean I have to go to the school at two o’ clock and sit for two hours while they speak Chinese about everything that’s going to happen over the weekend.


Today, the line manager took a couple minutes from the—no doubt interesting and informative—Chinese staff meeting to ask me how I thought English Corner went.

I thought it was fine.

“You thought it was fine? Well no. No it wasn’t. Foreign teacher supposed to lead English Corner and you didn’t. See, so no. It wasn’t even a little bit okay.”


Go on, I’m listening.

Not even a little bit okay

Not even into the third week and they wanna play this game. Fine. I put up with your “suggestions” and ways to change games because I wanted to play nice. I figured, you know the students better than I do and these “suggestions” are ways to make the games fit the students. So I put up with it.

Honeymoon’s over, buckle up.








You want me to lead English Corner, fine. We’re going to play the games I want to play and we’re going to play them how I want to play them. I don’t care if you think the kids will be too hard to control. I don’t care if you don’t think they’re smart enough to figure it out. I don’t care if you can’t figure it out. This is my fucking lesson and we’re doing it how I want.

I’m not your fucking show pony. You want a figurehead out there for the parents to ogle while you tell me what you want not only the English Corner lessons to look like but my regular lessons as well. The last teacher might’ve put up with the bullshit, but this one isn’t.

You told me it was my show and now it fucking is. And I don’t think you’re going to like it, not even a little bit.


The Killing Fields

Disclaimer: This is my post about the Killing Fields and it is not a happy one.


I went to the Phnom Penh Killing Fields a week ago Sunday and I’ve probably started this post a dozen different ways. I thought about doing a step-by-step of the experience, what it was like driving up and seeing it for the first time, listening to survivor stories. But that seems really clinical and detached. There is nothing cut and dry about the Killing Fields and what it takes for humans to do that to each other. It’s a messy experience full of chaotic emotions.

But I’m not going to write about the Killing Fields. There are some horrors in the world that are too great for words. There simply are not words that can convey the spirit crushing horror of The Killing Tree and the Magic Tree. There’s nothing I can say or write that will make you understand what it’s like to listen to a recording of what was most likely the last thing people—children, men, and women—heard before they were hacked to death with hoes, scythes, bayonets, and axes.

You can still see clothes coming up from the ground as erosion continues to bring more victims to the surface. Scraps of t-shirts and jackets and blouses tangled in roots.

One of my classmates found a skull.

I found a femur. Part of a femur at least.

There are teeth and bone fragments everywhere.

So no, I could flip through a dictionary for days and still not find the words to explain to you the terrible horror of the Killing Fields so I won’t try.

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According to the audio tour, the children were killed in front of their mothers before the women were raped and killed.

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Most likely, the victims found here were in the Khmer Rouge army and killed as an example to keep others afraid. They were buried in their uniforms.

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When this killing field was discovered there were still bits of brain and bone clinging to the bark. The bracelets hung on the tree are spirit offerings.

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The caretakers collect the clothing and bits of bone that come up once a month and preserve them. The purple shorts on the left side belonged to a small child.

All the skulls that have been found. So far, 5,000 victims reside in here.

Forensic Anthropologists did a study on the bones to determine the sex, age, and manner of execution. None were killed with bullets because bullets are expensive.

Five Thousand skulls. And there are more still in undisturbed pits under a lake.

The people killed were doctors, teachers, lawyers. People with education and their families.


Someone’s t-shirt coming up from the pit. The mass graves were dusted with powdered DDT to kill anyone who might have survived the initial execution

Adventures Abroad: Cambodia, Cities & Sickness

Adventures Abroad: Cambodia, Cities & Sickness

Saturday I went to the mall for the first time with a couple other people. The girl who took us had only been there once before but she got us there no problem. The traffic here is crazy. There may be lines on the road, but they can’t even be called guidelines, they’re just decorations. One way street? Only if you don’t have to go that way. I swear there are only about six road signs in this whole town. I don’t even know if there’s a speed limit.

And there are no sidewalks.

So, you just kind of step into traffic and hope the scooters, motorcycles, cars, and trucks are nimble enough to miss you. It’s kind of exhilarating. Although, I am concerned about how this will affect my judgement once I return to the states. It’s been three days and already I just give a cursory glance to see if someone’s coming before stepping out.

Anyway, the mall is four stories, well, three and a half. The top floor has two restaurants and a play area for kids so it doesn’t really count. But the other three floors are packed with things. Really cheap things. Super cheap things. You guys, I can get a full knife set for about ten bucks. I could take five dollars to the store and get enough food to last five days.

But my fridge doesn’t work and a couple people have reported finding ants so since I am bug free I’ve decided I’ll just eat out while I’m in Cambodia and start actually cooking when I get to China.

We didn’t do much while we were at the mall, mostly because we were still fighting jetlag. We just walked around, got ice cream—$1.40—and by then we were tired enough to head back to the hotel. We did get lost two or three times on the way back. But we made it in time to meet all the people that chose Saturday as their arrival date.

Pretty much all of us went to the hotel pool that evening to chill and wait for the $1 tequila shots and, for me, free popcorn. I met a couple of Brits, one of the girls and I really hit it off. We swam around for a couple hours talking about London and bats and cats.



Sunday morning sucked. I woke up with a headache, cough, congested chest, and off and on nausea. So I stayed in bed until about noon trying to sleep and drinking water before dragging myself downstairs to meet the rest of the group for the city tour.

I thought it was a walking tour but to my surprise and relief we got to do it via Tuk Tuk. A Tuk Tuk is a motorcycle with a small carriage attached to it and is the Yellow Cab service of Phnom Penh. It’s also like being in a real life version of Mario Cart except someone else is driving and you have no control.

So glad I made myself get up. We got to see an old Buddhist temple, absolutely beautiful architecture, with murals and monks. And we got to wander around the grounds for an hour. It’s right next to a busy street but it was so quiet and peaceful, surrounded by massive trees and flowers in full bloom. I loved it.

Then we went to the Royal Palace. I’ve seen castles, but this palace trumps them all in sprawl grandeur. It was huge, the inner gardens alone were probably two or three acres. And it was painted in bright gold and white and silver with ornamentation everywhere. A lot of places they prohibited photos, which I don’t understand, but whatever, it’s their palace. The murals on the temple ceiling depicting the Generous Prince, Garuda, and Buddha were beautiful. Eavesdropping on a guided tour, I found out the original palace was built in 1806 but was destroyed by flooding. So in 1917 the Royal Palace that’s there now was built.

Within the grounds of the royal palace, in an adjoining courtyard, were stupas. A stupa is…it’s an intricately carved stone mound with a turret on top. It was built for the king and princes. They’re really neat, I stared at each one for at least five minutes trying to figure out how anyone had the patience to carve the details in them.

The Silver Pagoda is the center of this courtyard. And I wish, I wish, I could have taken pictures. I even thought about sneaking one, but the place had security at every corner. The emerald Buddha was just gorgeous. It sits atop this pyramid of gold and smaller Buddha depictions in wood and stone. It glowed. He’s about a foot two feet tall sitting lotus style. It was the most beautiful thing. It’s polished to a pretty spring green with darker veins of forest and emerald green throughout.

Standing in front of the emerald Buddha’s pyramid in a glass case is the gold Buddha. Six feet of solid gold and adorned in literally thousands of jewels and precious stones. And they weren’t big gaudy chunks either, they were tiny little pieces meticulously placed in his skin to catch the light and around his neck and wrists like jewelry and in his robes as adornment. He was magnificent.

And about that time, after wandering in the heat and sun for four hours, I started to feel terrible again. Luckily, that was the end of the tour and we headed back to the hotel. I slept until about six-thirty and got up again to go to the formal introduction dinner. It was pretty nice, I would have liked to try the soup but my stomach was still threatening hostilities.

Anyway, we got just a little rundown on Dos and Don’ts that for everyone who had been there for a couple days was old news. That finally ended about eight and I dragged myself to my room and drank some nighttime cold medicine and passed right the fuck out.

Fading Friends

When I was in sixth grade a new girl moved into the neighborhood—we’ll call her B—and within a couple weeks we were pretty well attached at the hip. We were best friends through middle school and high school. We had our fights, but nothing world ending.

And I wholly admit, I needed her a hell of a lot more than she ever needed me. As shy, insecure, and anxious as I am now I am galaxies away from where I was in school. She’s one of those people that can walk into anything and make friends. She was my safety blanket. We went to our first concert together, we went to each other’s family gatherings, did sleepovers, went through boy trouble, went through friend trouble.

After high school we started to drift. I lived on campus and she went to a local beauty school so we didn’t really see each other. But in the spring we hit up greenhouses and nurseries and in the summer we did lunch and went on a couple road trips together.

I studied abroad for three months while in college and if there’s one thing that will boost independence and self-confidence it’s being in a different country with minimum adult supervision. The professors were still there, of course, but I took weekend trips to different countries by myself. And, while I didn’t feel much different when I got back, I know I was. I was less “Hey, I want to do____, do you want to come with me?” and more “Hey, I’m doing this, you can come if you want.” I learned to own myself, who I am, my opinions. And…I don’t know. We just stopped talking.

It’s weird.

Middle school me would never have guessed this would happen. Even high school me wouldn’t have known. We spent evenings planning a road trip to California. We considered getting an apartment together after high school. It’s so strange how quickly someone can drop out of your life when they were a constant for so long.

Last year as I scrolled through Facebook her name popped up in my feed. Someone I didn’t know had commented on her wall, something like “So excited to have a nephew!”

It was kind of like running face first into a wall. I knew we hadn’t talked in almost a year, but I hadn’t realized the gulf had widened so far she wouldn’t call or text or even DM me to tell me. It’s no secret I don’t like small children or babies, but that’s still big news.

I didn’t say anything, maybe I should have? But I thought she would text me since it was out on Facebook. She didn’t. Then I thought maybe I’d get a baby shower invite. And I didn’t. I saw the pictures and comments from the three different showers she threw.

And that really fucking hurt.

So I put on my big girl panties and sucked it up. Clearly we weren’t even a fraction as close as we used to be. I let her do her and went back to figuring out my life.

And then one day, another girl we went to school with posted she was on her way to the hospital to deliver her second child. Even in school I wasn’t super close with her, we knew each other because we both knew B.

I was on my way out the door for work and commented “Congrats!” and didn’t think anything else about it.

Another girl I’d known since grade school had DM’d me. “So just real quick I wanted to let you know that your best friend since 5 th grade is pregnant and you haven’t congratulated her and then you publicly congratulated [Other Woman] in my opinion that’s the worst fucking thing imaginable you cld do. Like how heartless are you that you can’t congratulate [B] on her baby?”

I’m still pissed about this. Had I known at the time where this woman lived I would have fucking gone to her house and beat the ever loving shit out of her. If I see her on the street, I will beat the ever loving shit out of her. She had to contact me via Facebook because the bitch doesn’t know me well enough to know my number. I blocked her and I haven’t spoken to B since.

But B is at the local mall right now. It’s fifteen minutes from where I am. I thought about going. I still have her Christmas/birthday present from three years ago. It’s in my trunk. There’s a card in it I got after I saw her baby news. It says “Congratulations!” and a note that says I want nothing but the best for her and though we haven’t talked I’m glad we were friends.

Last week, her name popped up in my feed. Apparently she’s pregnant again. And I found out about this one the same way I did the last one; an offhand comment on some pictures.

There was a time when I dropped everything to help her, to make sure she was okay, and that she knew no matter what someone was there for her.

I didn’t say anything.

Be Nice

There are a great deal many uncomfortable and cringe worthy words and phrases in the English language (see: Moist) but there aren’t many that can get my hackles raised faster than “Be Nice.”

I’ve been hearing it all my life. Be nice. Be nice. Be nice. It’s been used as a warning for upcoming events. Be nice, she’s new here. It’s been used, more often than not, as an admonishment. Be nice. And I hate it because it implies that I’m being mean. I’m not. I’m being me and whether you like it or not I’m often moody, standoffish, aloof, and irritated. I like to be alone. I don’t like talking to people. I like silence. I like being left to do my own thing and those that interrupt that are often met with silence or an unamused stare. I’m not trying to be mean, most days, I just rarely care or have a stake in anything that’s being said or done. I don’t care.

By whose standards are we being nice? I often wonder if I was male if I would hear that phrase so much. Should I be watching June Cleaver and taking notes? Should I fake laugh and carry on conversations with people I don’t like because it’s not nice to not talk to them? Should I feign interest in someone’s child because I’m a female and that’s the nice thing to do?

But still, I hear it. All The Time. BeNiceBeNiceBeNiceBeNice. Hold your tongue. You could hurt someone’s feelings, don’t say that. Don’t do that. Be happier. Be gentler. Be softer. Be positive. Why are you so angry? Why don’t you smile? Why don’t you talk?

Why Aren’t You More Like Me?

My sister gets away with not being nice because she’s funny and that takes a hefty dose of the sting out. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone tell her to be nice.

I’m a cinderblock wall embedded with blades. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m not being nice. It doesn’t occur to me that not laughing at someone’s stupid joke or carrying a conversation isn’t nice. I don’t see a point in presenting people with a façade that isn’t true to who I am. If they’re not going to like me I’m not going to come up with a more palatable mask. Why should I?

If that’s not nice then I can’t help you. That’s your problem.