Yesterday, I got on a bus and at the next stop, a woman barreled towards where me and my dog were sitting, and screamed, “Ahhhh move I’m getting off!” There was no where for us to move to, we were scrunched as far as possible into a seat; Kiva was well under it at my feet.

Before I could even react, she yelled, “Good thing you’re blind, bitch!” and hightailed it off the bus.

I was left perplexed and pissed, my body instinctively full of adrenaline. The other passengers, in their typical Seattle way, looked everywhere but at me. Their silence held all the desperation of trying to pretend they hadn’t had to witness the last 30 seconds.

Only the bus driver said to me as I was leaving several stops later, “That woman’s been off her rocker for years.”

I nodded in acknowledgement and thanked him for the ride. It took me hours to shake the experience.

I keep wondering what has gone on in her life to make her react that way to me, or to anyone. This incident is similar to others I’ve experienced on transit or walking down the street. I’m always left shaken and wondering why.

I imagine the majority of these incidents are way more about the other person, and about society, than they are about me. This doesn’t hold much comfort in the moment, but it is likely true.

I want some action step, some way to make the life of this woman better. I don’t know how to do that.

This is the thing I tell myself all the time: if I am fortunate enough, some day in my life, to no longer be poor, to not be lonely, to have the community and family I so want to build, to not pay for groceries with EBT, to have health insurance, to not have to compromise for love, to have easy days, I must remember what it was like. I must not be complicit in forgetting, no matter how seductive the thought of forgetting is.

I must remember her, because we are not that different. I must remember, no matter what happens, how struggle feels.

I must never forget compassion.

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Rocks

Rocks are what has been destroyed and rebuilt again and again.

They are what has traveled from oceans, or from space, or from the tired river.

You now hold a world in your hand

a smash of things broken and recreated

fragile and solid

like we are.

Build a sentence. Write another.

Make a family with intention and actions and so many words

Say them again and again, until they are as intimate as breath

Find home for the truths, let go of what will only destroy you

Find me a jagged river rock

Press it tight between our two hands

Palm to palm

Remember me, remember this, remember us.

Things I will do after I Graduate:
• Play lots more music. Private recorder lessons? Finally learn guitar once and for all, so I can sing songs to people? (Only with their consent.)
• Write poetry and not care if it’s bad, cause it will be bad.
• Sleep
• Go on dates
• Or, at least, make an effort to date people
• Long walks. Getting lost. Who cares? I’ll find my way back eventually.
• Figure out how to use my mishmash of skills to get a day job which pays my rent and student loans and allows me to do some fun things? Maybe?
• Get my splits and a decent tree pose
• Perfect my honey lavender ice cream recipe. Candied lavender flowers?
• Sit outside. Read books that are literary embarrassment but make my soul happy.
• Work on my bird listening skills.
• Sleep, more

What else should I do? I’m open to all ideas, I’m going to be so free!

Hi everyone.
So, you all know I’ve been crap at blog updates this year, right? My life is, frankly, in a state of overwhelm. I am now working fulltime, with a 90 minute commute each way. I am writing my creative thesis and lecture to graduate with my MFA in July, finallyfinally!! Last fall, I joined a recorder ensemble and though the music is fairly easy, there’s a lot of it and I’m constantly learning and memorizing new pieces. I’m working on editing a manuscript for a dear friend whose book-length project is way further along than mine. I am trying to do some activism, volunteer at social justice events, etc, whenever it’s possible.
My busy is a very strange kind, because it is quite isolating. Some days, I don’t talk to any humans outside of bus drivers and brief conversations with colleagues. I deeply miss having companionable friendships where we could work on our own things but still be around each other. I haven’t been in seattle long enough, I guess, to cultivate those relationships.
All to say, I think about this blog a lot, and how I’m not writing in it, and then I feel bad for not writing. So, I’m here today to officially put this blog on hiatus until after graduation, after which I will hopefully want to free write again, since I won’t be bogged down in word counts and numbers of pages and how many minutes is this lecture. The best thing about this blog is the freedom it brings, and the connection I feel to those of you who take the time to leave me comments. I promise I read them all and send every one of you gratitude!
So, until midsummer! Love and light to you all

When I was hired by a tech company a few years ago to work on software accessibility, I was thrust into a world of acronyms. It was alarming because every time I asked, “What does that stand for?”, (and believe me, I always asked because I am relentless, people), I’d get some variation of a blank stare and a, “Huh, I’m not sure. Maybe …” Sometimes the person would try to save face: “I used to know, but …” I know every field has their jargon, but it seemed to be nonstop there. And it appalled me how it seemed that my colleagues had literally forgotten that people on the “outside” have no idea what they are saying most of the time.

A few months ago, I got rehired at this company, and I was treated to a new acronym: “PWD.” I saw it first in an e-mail about me: “Lauren is a PWD and you can set up a one-on-one with her.” What the hell is that? I thought. If I’m an acronym, I’d sure like to know what it is that I stand for in Techlandia.

So I sat for a minute and pondered, and suddenly I had it: “person with a disability.” In this e-mail, being introduced to someone I did not know, I wasn’t a screenreader expert, skilled at providing constructive feedback, or knowledgable about accessibility best practices and testing standards because I have a web accessibility certification. Nope. I was merely a person with a disability.

And then, it seemed like “PWD’s” was everywhere. The acronym bounced around my workspace like a little kid with a secret. I have not had occasion to hear it used by another person with a disability, only by able-bodied folks, and I find myself flinching slightly every time it’s uttered.

I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a negative reaction. Certainly, I am a PWD. Presumably, the people using this acronym have good intentions. But it nags at me. I find myself drawing a comparison to the phrase “people of color” and its sometimes abbreviation to “POC.” An abbreviation that I have used on occasion for advocacy purposes, and because my fingers were apparently too lazy to type out all those words.

In the context of the e-mail mentioned above, I believe my chafing has to do with my unmentioned skills. For the most part, I don’t feel that my professional skills are taken seriously. They may be comparatively meager to most people who work in tech, but they still exist. I still add value, not just because of my disability but because of the knowledge I have worked to acquire, simply because of my innate curiosity, I might add, not because of any professional development offered to me. I know that I have value logically, but I do not see it reflected back at me in the world, so it’s hard to remember it day to day. Being summarized simply as a PWD makes me feel one-dimensional and overlooked, and reenforces my general feeling that that is all I was hired for. I wonder if “POC” leaves a similar bad taste for those who are reduced to those three letters, and I feel uncomfortable with that realization. Discomfort is how we learn, so ultimately, that is ok. I’m glad for the opportunity to rethink how we commodify people. My conclusion is that acronyms are simply not cutting it, and will never truly be enough.

Clementines: they’re called mandarinas in Spain, and when I was studying there in the fall of 2006, I picked a glut of the sun-warmed orbs from a tree in the mountains of the Alpujarras. I wore layers of scarves, because even though the sun warmed one side of my face, the wind knifed its way down the back of my neck. I was raised in the Midwest, so had no experience picking anything off a tree but the occasional late-season, squishy apple; so even though I tried to act blase about the whole thing, I eventually plopped down right under the mandarina tree and peeled away the rind of a particularly heavy fruit. The peel came away easily, smelling like a winter flower. I listened to the shriek of an unknown bird as I ate the segments down to nothing.

I am February cranky, sun-starved, craving warmth, looking for spring. It hasn’t been the rainiest Seattle winter I’ve experienced, but by February, even four months of intermittent rain starts to drag on my spirit. So I eat mandarinas and cling to the memories of sunshine of the past. I stand over bubbling vats of lemon marmalade. I water my anemic bamboo and daydream about lush growth. I run my hands over citrus displays at the co-op, forcing whoever is shopping with me to stop and wait while I heft pomelos, too big to fit in my hand. I succumb to buying out-of-season strawberries, and feel a knee-jerk urge to cry when they taste dry and woody and of nothing. Even though I know the outcome will be this way, year after year, I can’t help it.

What do you do to create spring when it seems so far away?

There’s a woman crying on the bus. She’s trying to hide it, but the breathing gives it away. Not the sniffles of a persistent cold, or the snortiness of laughter, but the hitching gasps of a good sob. A sob that is straining forth, wanting to break free, but she denies it.

This is Minnesota, we don’t cry in public here. We come from sterner stock, virtuous stoicism in our Nordic blood. The thing is if we cry in public, people will look, and wonder why, and maybe think that we don’t have it together: we aren’t making enough money or we think our partners don’t love us or our partners really don’t love us and have been gone a year now. Or we haven’t had a date in a decade and there’s no cure for being so damn lonely. Or it’s mid-April and snowing with no whisper of spring.

I used to be afraid of crying in public. I held my tears in, clenched my teeth to stay quiet, bit the insides of my cheeks so that I could taste only physical pain. Years ago, on a night plane back from Vienna, leaving my girlfriend, I sobbed into a tissue until it disintegrated, waving away the flight attendant who tried to offer comfort. Don’t acknowledge me. Don’t validate my pain or right to exist.

Now, I let everyone see it: let my face scrunch freely, not hidden behind my hands; let the tears run without furiously wiping them as quickly as they can fall; let the snot bubbble from my nose like someone really uncivilized. Go ahead, look. Stare. Speculate. “What is wrong with that lady? Why doesn’t she go home and do that? Why doesn’t she have anyone to help her? Should I help her? I’m probably too busy, I have my own problems.”

If you’re crying in public, I’ll offer you a tissue. I’ll put my arm around you, if you want, I’ll ask you where it hurts. You can tell me, or you can tell me to leave you alone, or you can say nothing and just let yourself be held. You lay your sorrow on my back, I will bear it. It’ll be me who needs you tomorrow or next week or years from now, after all.