Seahorses and Cnidarians (NaPoWriMo)

Her eyes peeked out from within the veil
Of coral tentacles at the edge of the shelf.
I could just make our her lovely tail
Which curled elegantly around a stalk.
My jellyfish friend descended lightly
Where the current hit the coral reef.
To his fellow cnidarian, he waved politely;
The coral answered in rhythm with the waves of the sea.
I picked myself up from where I had been sinking
Deep into his soft, balloon-like skin
and slid down his side, carefully avoiding
His stinging barbs, which he swayed away from me.
I saw her lacy fin shivering between the stalks
And I shambled over to meet her.
Swimming was more difficult than I thought
It had been so long since I had bothered.
My thin little fin barely held me upright
While my nose pulled me down like an anchor.
From a short ways away, I could hear her delight
Though, I think it was more of amusement.
I puffed myself up as big as I could
Full of joy to finally see another.
She came out to greet me where I stood
And blushed into my same colors.
My jellyfish friends couldn’t stay any longer
The current was picking up again.
But I knew that I couldn’t leave her
She meant more than a new best friend.
With a twinge of sadness, I nodded goodbye
To the jellyfish drifting off.
My time with them, I wouldn’t wish to modify.
But a new chapter in my life just began.
Seahorse Love

The Ant and the Squirrel (in 50 Words)

“You’re not a butterfly,”
Said the squirrel.
“Those are leaves.”
He flicked his bushy tail.
“Haven’t you ever wanted
To be something other then brown?”
The ant straightened his wings
Which were drooping down.
The squirrel went silent,
Then darted off, but came back
As something new–
“I’m a peacock.”

Squirrel and Ant 001

NaPoWriMo is Here!

As the young ant drone marched over a stone,
He spotted a gold and scarlet flake drifting down.
His pinchers spread wide in a gleeful smile.
Autumn was here; it had taken a while.
“This is perfect,” thought the ant, keeping one of his eyes
On the leaf as it fell; it was just the right size.
He saw it land; and, with all the strength he found,
Scrambled over stick and stone to where it hit the ground.
“Just one more,” he thought, looking up at the sky.
A spot of deep orange and red drifted by.
It floated down through the branches into the garden bed.
Among the towering stalks, he could still see the red.
The little drone made a squeak of delight
And ran with one leaf in his pinchers held tight.
With both leaves now, he tied the two stems
Around his thorax and over his limbs
The leaves unfurled on either side
And he used his back legs to press them out wide
Until they looked just perfect, as if he could fly.
And he marched proudly on declaring, “I am a butterfly.”

Butterfly Wings

My Counselor

My chronic episodes of loneliness usually attacked me in the night when everyone I knew was out with the neon lights and world-erasing music.

But one time, I had an episode in the middle of the day. It happened some time after I had met the angel man in the middle of the night. This afternoon, the college campus felt more empty than usual as I made my way back to my dorm. I didn’t want to get there. There was nothing to do and no one to see. So I walked as slowly as possible on the longest route I knew.

It wasn’t long enough. And as much as I hated the emptiness around me, I was uncomfortable with seeing people. So after running into two or three strangers, I decided to get off the path. I ducked under some low branches to explore a little piece of the campus I had never seen before. It brought me to small, man-made pond. And following what must be some crazy instinct in me, I sat down next to the water’s edge and stared into it as if in a trance.

It was peaceful, but it wasn’t making me feel peaceful. The peacefulness was outside of me—all around me. While on the inside, I burned.

Every once in a while, I’d hear someone walking on the path nearby and look up to see feet through the underbrush. They passed me by without notice. I didn’t want them to notice me. But then again, if they did happen to see me, I wanted them to come running to comfort me.

Once again, I cried out to God for someone to talk to. Someone to notice me and say, “Hey, what’s wrong? Wanna be best friends? Tell me everything you feel right now.” Not that I knew how to put anything into words. Some sincere company would be nice.

“I don’t care who it is,” I told God, “I’d talk to anyone, just give me another chance! I need someone!”

There was a sound of something coming through the trees behind me. I started thanking God and turned around to meet my new best friend.

A giant turtle, big enough to ride on, slid down the slope behind me and came to rest within reach. He looked me straight in the face and then pulled himself into his shell. And sat there, unmoving.

“Har, har,” I said out loud to God. Where did this thing even come from? There was nothing behind me except a small group of trees and the sidewalk leading to the campus apartments. Surely, a turtle that big hadn’t walked across the cement path without drawing a lot of attention. Seriously, if I’d curled up into a ball, I’d be the same size as the turtle.

But then I thought, Well, maybe this was who God wants me to talk to. Maybe talking to this animal will bring me peace. …Or maybe God is laughing right now.

I considered the turtle. If it was God’s answer to my prayer, it could be therapeutic to talk to it. Or I could look like a lunatic. I made several honest attempts. I opened my mouth and then closed it again without making a sound—terrified that a real human being would hear me and laugh.

Finally I gave up. The turtle wouldn’t even poke its head out of its shell. It didn’t want to talk to me—or listen to me, rather. And as fascinated as I was at this giant (and no doubt ancient) turtle, I was starting to feel restless sitting there in what could only be God’s idea of a joke. With a small amount of anger towards the situation, I got up and pushed my way through the trees, back to the cement path, leaving my counselor behind.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. 

John 14:16-17

Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence (a.k.a. The Angel Man Story)

When I first started college, I was coming out of some of my worst years, emotionally and mentally. I wanted to make a fresh start for myself, but that hope began to fall in before too long. I’m not entirely sure what set it off. It was probably a combination of things. But in any case, it precipitated several nights of wandering across my college campus looking to be alone, or to be found.

One of these nights, I was a little worse off than usual. It didn’t matter that I had caring friends that would have come if I had called. I still felt isolated beyond help, like the world was behind glass and I was locked away from it. I could see people congregate in the courtyard and imagine how I’d walk up and meet them. But I couldn’t make myself get near. By 10pm when the library closed, I was curled up under an arched bridge on campus. I was watching the turtles. At least that’s what I told myself. Shortly after, the college grew silent and the building lights went out. It was just me and the street lamps. And the turtles.

I don’t know how long I stayed there. I was losing my perception of time, even with the clock tower in my face. I wandered around the agricultural building and then followed the road off of campus. When I finally looked up to see where I was, I had walked into the off campus apartments. The ones that carried all kinds of stories of drug busts and murders. They were cheap living if you didn’t mind a little bit of risk.

I knew a guy who lived there. And maybe that’s why I had walked in that direction. I desperately wanted someone to talk to. But I didn’t have anything to say. And I didn’t want to listen to petty talk or even intellectual talk. To me, they were both just as shallow. So I didn’t go to his door. And I didn’t go home. I found myself stuck on the sidewalk. I looked at all the buildings around me and thought about how many people I was surrounded by, but none that I could say anything to.

I sobbed. In the middle of the night in a sketchy, poorly-lit street, I stood on the sidewalk and sobbed. I begged God to give me someone that I could talk to. Just anyone that would listen to me–really listen to me–and sympathize. I begged Him over and over again. And then I stood there. I don’t know how long I stood there. I was waiting for an angel to appear. Or maybe that guy I knew. I’d settle for him.

But an angel didn’t show and neither did that guy I knew. I was starting to shiver and shake–not so much for the cold, but for all the crying. So I decided it was finally time to crawl back to my dorm. If I could make it through the night, I thought, tomorrow would be a piece of cake.

I turned to leave, giving one last look over everything in case I missed the angel, and then I took a step towards the school. A dark car passed me and turned into the apartment complex–so close to me that I made eye contact with the driver. And not just a glancing eye, either. The man stared me down as he turned into the complex. I took a deep breath, hushing all of the rumors of danger in this area, and kept walking–faster.

I heard the car park and the door slam. Then I heard him walking. I was two blocks away from campus–and the campus police. I had the call stations mapped out in my head. “Hey!” He called to me.

I froze. I don’t know why I froze. Except that his “hey” wasn’t the threatening kind. So I turned around.

“Are you high? Or just depressed?”

“Depressed,” I said, trying to laugh at the thought of me being high.

“You wanna talk about it?”

I did. With every part of me, I did. But I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t even pinpoint what was troubling me so much. And then there was the practical part of me that saw that I was alone with a strange man in a bad part of town in the middle of the night.

“We don’t have to go anywhere. We can stand right here and talk about it.” It was like he was reading my mind. Or my face, more like.

But I still didn’t know what to say and the practical part of me was starting to scream. So I shook my head, “no.”

“Well, alright,” he said. But he didn’t turn away. I did.

I turned away from him and walked back to campus. He didn’t follow me. He stood there and watched me go.

By the time I was back on campus grounds, it hit me–he was my angel. He wasn’t shining with light and floating down from Heaven, no. He was dark and drove a beat up car. But he was everything I had begged God for. He had done everything right. And I had turned him down. I had walked away.

The original Writing Challenge Prompt:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

We finally got our first good snowfall of the season in NC and I’m excited for all the snow I get to eat!

Eating snow!


Pho of Love

Meet Mrs. Rochom:

She's the one in the middle between her two teenaged daughters.

She’s the one in the middle between her two teenaged daughters.

Mrs. Rochom (who’s first name I can neither spell nor pronounce) possesses a love that transcends language barriers. Each time I visit her house to talk about her daughter’s progress in school, she motions me to sit on the couch, insists that I take a bottle of water and a donut from the factory she works in (or a box of donuts), and then sits herself down the floor in front of me and spends the next half hour trying to express her gratitude and hope with the few English words that she knows.

Sometimes she tries to tell me stories from her home in Vietnam. She brings out laminated pictures–precious pieces of her childhood. She talks in broken sentences about how she was just a teenager when she got married and how she’s so excited that her girls have the chance at an education before having families of their own.

By the time I leave her house, she’s given me another bottle of water for the road and either donuts from her place of work or cleaning supplies from her husband’s place of work (another factory).

Then one day, she came into our school and insisted that she wanted to make lunch for everyone as a way to thank us. “One7 help my girl… they help my family… I make lunch here. Monday.”

So on Monday, we had a traditional Vietnamese lunch: pho soup with egg rolls on the side.


Tri and Kiet helped Mrs. Rochom serve egg rolls, rice noodles (for the pho), and salad (also for the pho) to our students. On the right, the student’s respective home countries are Thailand, Mexico, and Iraq, front to back.

It was my first time eating pho soup. I needed some instruction on how to do it properly. The girls put salad on my plate made with lettuce, cilantro, bean sprouts, and cucumber; and  rice noodles in my bowl. Mrs. Rochom poured the soup broth, meat, and quail eggs over the noodles. There was also fish sauce, sugar, and Sriracha sauce to go on top. “You can eat the salad on the plate or mix it with the soup,” Tri said. This little fact shed a lot of light on how our Vietnamese students eat salad and soup at school–they always insist on mixing their salad in with the soup, or even into their pasta dishes.


mmm. Quail eggs and various types of meat over rice noodles!

The soup was delicious! But also required a napkin.

Mrs. Rochom spent the lunch hour running around the room with more to fill people’s bowls and saying “Thank you, teacher.” ever time she passed me. She kept insisting that we take more and brought by every option to offer another helping. In very few words, she showed a heart full of love and thanksgiving to a room full of hungry girls and women.

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