Swim Team


Hands poised, hips aligned

The heat of the noon sun on his shoulders

The shrill whistle blows and

He flies

Weightless over the water

Aqua coolness

The cold shock ignored

Feet furiously kicking

His arms take turns with fluid movements

His face turns for needed oxygen

Then back to the water

The water is another world; one of his own

Because, for a moment

There is nothing else

No bullies

No confusing homework

No grownups with their endless expectations

There is only him and the water

He is a part of it as it is a part of him

Surfacing, he looks at me, his biggest fan

And smiles that toothy grin

The Soil in My Hands


The Soil in My Hands

I hold the soil in my hands

Dampened earth, black as night

Its coarseness scours my fingertips

Like so many words of regret

I hold the soil in my hands

The darkened days of yesteryear

When a smile of a lover was all you needed

To make you feel invincible

I hold the soil in my hands

This Southern soil, stubborn and unyielding

Much like Southern women

I’ve known before and hold dear always

I hold the soil in my hands

It’s a part of me, knit in my DNA

My toes connect with the earth

My sharecropper great-granddaddy worked but never owned

I hold the soil in my hands

The bitterness and stones cold as bones

Twigs and life interrupted

The winter sky is a witness

I hold the soil in my hands

It soaks up the sunlight; a thief stealing joy

Once, part of someone’s memory

That has been long forgotten

I hold the soil in my hands

Scooping up pieces of mortality

Futility, anger, grief, love

For these are a part of the soul

I hold the soil in my hands

Letting it fall through my fingers

Like sand in an hourglass

Too quickly forgotten

I hold the soil in my hands

Finally realizing the fragility of it all

I place it back where it belongs

In my garden of yesterday

Want to Publish With Chicken Soup for the Soul? Here’s Some Advice!

Ever wonder how Chicken Soup for the Soul finds all their stories? I know! Read here for advice on submitting and publishing with them.chicken soup TD


A Letter to Me at 17: A Back to the Future Sort of Thing

Did you ever see Back to the Future? I’m specifically thinking of Back to the Future 2, where Marty and Doc have to race both backward and forward in time, avoiding whiplash, to fix a bunch of crap they messed up the LAST time they went back in time. But then, Doc and Marty and (the new) Jennifer make everything okay again and spend the rest of their lives trying to forget how terrible 40 looks.

Meanwhile, I’m just wondering when the food rehydrator is happening. Where’s my tiny pizza?

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about that movie since we marathoned them on New Year’s Eve, and specifically what I might say to my 17-year-old self. You know, what sage advice I might give to myself and such. So here goes:

Dear Tina,

This is your 50-year-old self from the future–ure—ure. DO NOT PANIC. I just want to clear up a few misunderstandings and give you some awesome advice, so for Pete’s sake PUT DOWN THE TACO and come here for a second.

Did you just roll your eyes at me, young lady?

I know there are some concerns you have and I want to address them right now.

First of all, you will go to college–eventually.  I know you love your bass clarinet, but you will not be a high school band director, partially because you suck at music theory and, frankly, you are in no way ready to be a college student, and partially because … you aren’t THAT good. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. You know how you love writing and reading books? Just save yourself a bunch of money and time and major in English already. That’s right. You LOVE being an English teacher–and it turns out, you love writing. So the college thing will happen, It will just take about three times as long as you expected, like almost everything you do, because you always take the scenic route no matter what. This never changes.

This one might hurt a little but bear with me. That guy you think is IT? He’s not it. One day you’re gonna look back at that whole thing and say, “Wow. Dodged a bullet.” Incidentally, that Lee guy? Take another look his way. There’s a reason why you like his leather jacket and mullet. He’s a keeper. Even if he didn’t take you to the prom, you leave with him. Kind of forever.

I know one of the things that worries you is that once high school is over: you will never see your friends again. I can lay this one to rest, because you are still besties with Joy and Amy and Mac — and you get to see them on a regular basis. In fact, you all plan to raise some hell in the nursing home together one day. And there’s this whole future thing called the Internet that links all the computers in the world together so you can talk to them, and all your old and new buddies almost whenever you want. WOAH. Kind of like on “Lawnmower Man” but less sinister. And everyone has a tiny phone in their pocket that is 100 times faster than the computers at school–hold on– you are not ready for that. Don’t want to blow your mind!

Also, I know that Mom and Dad get on your nerves big time and that you can’t wait to move out of Springdale and be on your own. That will happen soon enough, but do me a favor. Spend a little extra time with Dad. In fact, spend a lot of extra time with Dad. Ask him questions about when he was a kid, and make him show you his military pictures. Tell him you think he’s a great father and a great man. Give him a hug. Tell him how much he means to you and how much you appreciate his working so hard. Memorize the lines in his hands and the color of his eyes. You don’t have to memorize his laugh, though. Because one day you will hear it in your son’s voice.

Give your mom a break too. Accept that you won’t ever understand one another but that understanding is separate from love. Just love her.

I also know that you have some pretty serious fears about motherhood. You think that you never want to be one, or that if you are you will be horrible and it will all end with an orange jumpsuit and a mugshot on the 5:00 news. Here’s the thing: you will be a mama (perhaps sooner than you think) and you will love it. So when you get back from that trip to Disneyland, and you can’t keep down a burrito to save your life and it hits you like a Chuck Norris punch that you haven’t purchased any Tampax in a reallllly long time? Just breathe. It’s all going to be ok.Being a mama is heart-wrenching and terrifying, almost on a daily basis, but it’s also wonderfully beautiful at the same time. You will screw up, but not in any fundamental 5:00 news kind of way. You’ll screw up in a human kind of way that everyone else does, but it somehow balances out in that you have put enough love into them they will forgive you. And your kids? You couldn’t imagine how great they are, even in your wildest dreams.

And they are very talented, especially in music, and at least two of them are music majors. The youngest one, the boy? Jury’s still out on what he’s gonna do with his talent. No matter what it is, you can bet it will be great.

Your very wildest dreams.