The Side of Adam (and Eve) You Haven’t Heard


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Lucille Clifton has truly given Adam (yes, the one from the Bible that God created from dust and breath) a voice in her poem, “adam thinking,” from her collection of poetry called Blessing the Boats. I was never a fan of poetry until I took Pam Gemin’s Women in Literature class. She specialized in poetry at UW-Oshkosh and blew me away with the pieces she shared, such as the poem below in which I have dedicated this entry.

Pam taught her students more than just the messages behind the poems — the subtle clues between the lines — she also asked her students to study the poets’ background to enhance understanding of the words written. This is probably the reason I grew to appreciate poetry. She brought us into the troubled, tragic minds of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, but I will save their work for another day. For now, focus on Lucille’s brilliant poem through the eyes of Adam, or as Adam sees himself: adam. i. the unborn.

adam thinking

stolen from my bone
is it any wonder
i hunger to tunnel back
inside desperate
to reconnect the rib and clay
and to be whole again

some need is in me
struggling to roar through my
mouth into a name
this creation is so fierce
i would rather have been born

— Lucille Clifton

If you’re interested in more of her poetry, including the next poem “eve thinking,” pick up a copy of Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 from your local library or bookstore. It’s worth it.

Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don't believe that, watch an illiterate adult try to do it.”
- John Steinbeck

Literacy Education: From a Tutor’s Perspective


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I had my first tutoring experience today with a local literacy center, a wonderful nonprofit organization that trains volunteer tutors (ranging from university students to retired people) to teach adult literacy to people struggling with English in the surrounding areas.

Why Tutoring? For a long time, I’ve contemplated what type of volunteer work I wanted to do, and since I’ve recently become unemployed (although it feels like a century!), I wanted to make sure my volunteer experience would be with an organization that I knew I’d want to keep even after I got a paying job.

What I love about the literacy center is their passion to educate, because they recognize all the ways education enhances a community. It’s more than just a support system to the economy. It also provides growth opportunities for individuals who may not have the means otherwise.

My Path Back to Education. For the longest time, I never thought I would enjoy teaching, which is probably why I avoided the idea of tutoring for so long. But a part of me was excited about the idea of being in a school setting after graduation (I’m kind of a “schoolie;” ask my friends). When I applied to college, I wrote my application essay about my passion for Elementary Education, describing what I could bring to future children if they’d only accept me onto their campus. In high school, I prepared by job shadowing with a local elementary school teacher and working as an assistant child caretaker at a daycare center. But my mindset in college led me down a writing/editing path instead and I changed my major to journalism.

After years of struggling to find a career in journalism (which is floundering itself these days) after graduation, I started imagining a new career for myself. Where could I see myself? Well, I knew this much: I am a writer; I am an editor; I am a reader; I am a learner; I am a researcher; I am compassionate; I welcome diversity; I enjoy traveling. During my last job as a copy editor (working 90+ hours a week sometimes), I had time to rediscover what I wanted out of life. I no longer preferred a “behind the desk job.” I wanted to physically work with people, help them. And that’s how I changed paths, yet again, to seek employment with a nonprofit organization.

My Student. My student is 30-something years old with a thirst for knowledge. One of the first things she did was give me permission to correct her sentences as she spoke and she did not shy away from the blank pieces of paper when I asked her to write complete sentences. She told me she wasn’t just there for herself but for the sake of her children, so she can communicate with their educators and ask them what they were learning in school. She wants to have meaningful conversations with her coworkers and be able to understand the ones who speak too fast. She wants to earn her citizenship and get her GED so she can find a job worthwhile and feel useful to society.

This is not just my student. It’s a combination of all the students at the center. They are volunteer learners, just as we are volunteer tutors, which shows that there is some innate sensor in us that desires the ability to communicate with others. Something in us desires the knowledge to possess this skill — to learn how to say “frog,” and understand what it is, how it moves, where it lives, what it eats, how long it lives, where it sleeps, why it has webbed feet and a sticky tongue, how it reproduces, and –most importantly — who we can share this new information with.

The one difference between the already educated learners and the volunteer students is their emotional state:


These volunteer students lack the proper social skills most of us don’t even think twice about and, therefore, lack confidence. This struggle hovers over them — every time they go to the grocery store; every time they ask for directions; every time they fill out paperwork, every time they go to the bank, every time they take their children to the playground.

Read Good Books

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We are all Students. Anyone who picks up a newspaper or magazine, watches the History or Discovery channels, attends a community class, picks up a new hobby, travels to other parts of the world (or country or state), reads a book, works on a crossword or Sudoku puzzle, practices their faith, studies labels at the grocery store, etc., is exercising their brain. So, really, we are all students.

But it’s people like my student (and there are many like her) who I find so incredibly brave. It can be intimidating for any adult to say to another adult that they don’t know English (whether it’s trouble with reading, writing, speaking, and/or comprehending). No matter where she was born, what language she speaks, how she came to America, how much education she has — she will always be courageous in my eyes. It takes a special person to consciously leap into becoming an asset to their community. These students should be proud of themselves, not embarrassed!

In my opinion,
anyone who challenges themselves
to expand their knowledge
is already smarter
than the “average joe.”

He and I should not in the least agree, of course, in our ideas of novels and heroines;—pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked.
- Jane Austen

Psssht! Writers …

This scene from the film “Becoming Jane” shows a snippet of Jane Austen writing the first few lines of “Pride & Prejudice,” originally titled “First Impressions.”

About a month ago, I shared a picture with my boyfriend of the female author I was recently reading. It revealed her in yoga clothes with ruffled hair that didn’t look like it’d been washed for several days, and an exhausted smirk on her face (that said to me: manuscript finally completed and accepted!)

He asked, “Why do writers always look so tired?”

It made me giggle. Because it is exactly that — exhaustion.  Writers may spend most of their day behind a computer writing their brains out, but they also spend many restless nights imagining brilliant plot lines or creating clever characters. For me, most of my discoveries come while I’m behind the wheel. Not as a passenger, but as a driver. This was always frustrating having to replay my scenes over and over in my head until I got home to write them down. However, I recently bought an iPhone with Siri and all I have to do is tell “her” what’s on my mind and pray she understands me so I don’t get home with a bunch of jumbled words on my Notes app.

So, if you’re ever wondering why there’s a crazed woman with her nose in a laptop, you can probably guess she’s been up all night deciding whether or not Little Johnny is going to survive the end of the novel.

Discover how much your heart can hold."
- Dove Chocolate
Easy reading is damn hard writing."
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ideas Become Things

I received this beautiful journal as a Christmas gift from my friend Emi this year. Every 10 to 20 pages is a section break followed by inspirational quotes. I thought I might share some for those of us needing a little writing inspiration.

“With our thoughts, we make the world.” — Siddhartha Gautama


“It could be that there’s only one word and it’s all we need. It’s here in this pencil. Every pencil in the world is like this.” — W.S. Merwin

“Crazy just might work.” — Unknown

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authentically is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.” — Jim Jarmusch

“What is now proved was once only imagined.” — William Blake

“It shall be done, sometime, somewhere.” — Ophelia Guyon Browning


“Visualize this thing you want. See it, feel it, believe it. Make your mental blueprint and begin.” — Robert Collier

“Things are only impossible until they’re not.” — Jean-Luc Picard