Fire Station Underwear

I decided to go with something lighter after last week’s post. I’m ready to laugh again, so let’s talk underwear. It’s PG-13, by the way.

Since us firefighters live with our teammates for 48 hour shifts, we all end up folding each other’s laundry, whether we want to or not. It only takes one time of coming back to a folded pile of lacy thongs, along with the friendly harassment that comes along with it, to realize that there is a certain level of strategy involved in choosing which underwear to wear at work. At first, you may be tempted to wear your nicest underwear.

(Below: Typical underwear a lady might wear on a typical day)


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(Below: Typical underwear a man might wear on a typical day )


(Picture from—hot-pink-63-p.asp)

If you wore either of these, you would subject yourself to endless harassment.

“Hello, beautiful! Love the shiny panties.”

“I folded your…um…belt. Does your mother know you wear that?”

“Hey, Victoria Secret!”

If there is anything worse than that, it is the poor embarrassed fellow who attempted to fold your underwear, realized that it was descriptive, and then purposefully tossed all the folded laundry back into the dryer, hoping you will think he never saw your precious underthings.

So, you may instead be tempted to wear something a little more conservative.

(Below: Conservative lady panties—Your mom would be so proud)


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(Below: Aged briefs worn by the semi-retired or the divorced dudes, both who’ve been wearing them since they were hired)


When these arise in the wash, you can be guaranteed that NO firefighter will ever comment on them. At least, he will never comment on them to YOU. Instead, you might see a nice photo with a homemade caption, semi-permanently affixed to the washer for the next month, at which time it will transfer to the bathroom stall. Or it might be sent by interoffice mail to the secretary (this did happen).

So, there is a Goldilocks formula for finding the just-right pair of underwear for fire station wear. For women, it is conservative, but not too much so. For men, it is clean and new, but not too suggestive.

(Below: The perfect lady panty for the firehouse)


(Below: The perfect Man brief-Okay, so maybe this isn’t it, but a girl can dream, can’t she?)


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Cynicisms of a Polymath

Please feel free to respond. I’m passionate on this one, but motivated by benevolence. I want peace as much as my some of my opposition, but I just don’t understand my opposition. 

I’ve been called an Old Soul as long as I remember, even before I was ten years old. People rarely surprise me, which is why I’ve spent the last few days reeling from the election results. That Trump exists and has support was not surprising. That he had enough to win floored me. I was naive.

I can’t let it go and for good reason. I’ve even…gasp…unfriended people on Facebook, to which I’ve been told is completely unproductive and divisive. And so, I wanted to devote a post to why I’m making these decisions.

By now, very few people can deny that Trump has bragged about:

I can go on, but you already know these things. I attached videos of him saying these things, just in case you don’t.

When someone says he or she supported him anyway, what I hear is:

I’m not a racist but…

I’m not a sexist but…

I’m not a bigot but…

…but I support one and want him to lead America.

Since his win, his supporters have finally felt the entitlement due to them. The attacks are mounting, and here are many that have already occurred ( My black friends and family have been attacked and also threatened. They are scared. If I am true to my morals, I stand up for these victims. In all fairness, violent protesters have attacked Trump supporters too. That is equally vile.

Now, some of the Trump supporters who I know are telling me that we should come together, unite under the rule of Donald Trump, be pals. I admit that I was naive, and I know that I’m missing something important, but if I were to unite and be pals I’d be doing a disservice to women, people of all races and colors, people of other religions, gays, differently abled, my own personal morals, and America. I’d be saying, I’m not a racist sexist bigot, but…I’m going to unite to support one.

I don’t get it. I still feel that most people are not sexist racist bigots, but I don’t understand why they would support one. Naive again. I understand the protest vote, and I can find peace with a vote for Stein, Johnson, nobody, write in, or even oneself. I don’t understand voting for a person with a proven record to support the things people are voting against. 

It’s happening, I’m still talking, and everyone wants me to finally just shut up. The subject isn’t cozy. I’m still talking because when things have gone wrong in otherwise good nations, the survivors have told us that we need to keep talking. Don’t let people forget. And besides, I am working through grief and searching for a hidden answer. So, I’m still talking, and for anyone who is listening I’m wearing a safety pin to show minorities that I am on their sides.




The Missionary

I’m not a poet. I’ve only recently started reading poetry, and I’ve only written one poem so far. It still needs work. I wrote about a very dear friend. A short version of her story follows. To preserve privacy, I’ve changed names. I attached photos I took while visiting her in Kenya, but the photos are of people who are not involved with the story.

The Missionary: Poem

Frail body homes hollow birdie bones, conquered and malnourished

Schools crumbled, monies squandered, children lost, objectives never flourished.

Now daughter gone and husband’s betrayal, you return an unsmiling shell,

Depressed and weary, wary and done, and doubting that you served God well.


We once were so alike, our curly hair and curvy hips, on a mission to save the world of sinking ships.

And then you left, built a school, saved a baby, smiled bravely as your parents pursed their lips.

All the while you called me hero, though myopic eyes expel

I wept from haven far away for you, who served God well.


Now returned, fractured heart with cast of wisdom

Of minute oppressors shaking hands for an edge on freedom.

Back to school you work again, with cautious tale to sell

Because intent by one alone is enough to serve God well.



(Above: Here is a crumbled school. She helped the village to build a new one, since every time it rained school had to be canceled.)

The Missionary: Story

Sharon said one long prayer, while silent tears fell to the floor of her stone apartment. The prayer was to hold back the tears when it came time to give up her six year old daughter, Mae. If she ever hoped to get her back someday, she could not look weak today. No tears.

After the prayer, she filled a pot of warm milk and placed it on the stove. They would have tea first and a plantain each. When reaching for the plantains, she remembered that there was only rice and peas for dinner tonight. Perhaps she could convince Sean’s sister and their housekeeper, Trudy, to bring her a piece of fatty pork in exchange for a little beer. Pork could be added to the rice and peas to make pilau.

“Maewati, come here. Your tea is ready.”

A shorty, stocky dark girl came sulking into the room. Her eyes yellowed from HIV, and her tightly braided hair kept it from needing washed more than once a week.

Sharon handed her a mug of scalding milk with a tea bag placed inside. “Drink, and don’t sulk. You don’t want your dad to whip you, do you?” It was cruel, but she had to prepare Mae. She wasn’t going forward into a good world. The tears started to well up again, but Sharon remembered her prayer for strength and placed a plantain before Mae.

How did she ever come to live in this country with this life? Only six years ago, she came here to build schools. To save the world, that is what she thought she was doing. It was funny to even think about it, especially since now she saves money to bribe the police just like the rest of the citizens. The kids who get an education take off to America, never to return. Why would anyone return, when they had food and money and luxuries for working much less?

She came here and found a baby. The baby looked alien. Ten months old and ten pounds, the skin stretched across the bones of that tiny, ugly thing, with large eyes bulging from the sockets. She fought for an explanation and got one. The mother died from AIDs, and the baby, also sick, was considered cursed. The father and grandmother stopped feeding her. When Sharon took over, the baby ate voraciously, vomiting every time. By the age of one, she was instructed by the doctor to hold food back from the baby; she had become too fat in the last few months. At first, Sharon cried every time Mae cried for the bottle, but when the other mothers told her she showed too much emotional weakness to care for a baby, she forced herself to laugh instead. She even sent a video of the fat babe crying for the bottle.

Six years later, and now that Mae was healthier, the dad and grandmother wanted her back. There was a small chance that Sharon would get her once again, and she was prepared to fight for that chance. The agency said that if the natural family cannot attend to the medical needs of the girl, she would be given up. The family couldn’t. She wouldn’t be able to either if she hadn’t received special help from the states. Mae was slow, behind the rest of the kids. She was often sick, became injured easily, couldn’t hear very well, and needed regular medications. That family couldn’t afford it. They won’t, and she’ll suffer. Oh God, my poor baby.

Be strong. Sharon sipped her tea. Mae watched her closely. She had asked some questions a minute ago, but Sharon didn’t remember answering them. Focus, stay focused. You will not get her back, if they think you are weak. Where in the hell is Sean? Please don’t make me do this alone. This is your country, not mine. Please.

“Why do I have to go to that man?” asked Mae.

“He’s your natural dad,” Sharon replied in Kiswahili. She better get Mae used to speaking Swahili again. She’ll be able to talk English all she wants in school, but at home it will be Swahili.

“I thought Sean was my dad.”

“He is. You have two dads. Eat your plantain, or you’ll go hungry until tonight. Now, I won’t have you showing weakness. You need to be strong, okay?” Jesus, please make sure she doesn’t go hungry tonight.

“Yes, Ma.” Mae wrapped her arms around Sharon’s neck, without crying. Sharon recited a memorized poem in her head in order to ignore to divert the tears. She can cry again when she returns. Sean has seen her do it before and will be alright with it. But not now. Now, she has to be strong for her baby.


(Above: The view from Mae’s home before leaving.)

A Grown-up Pianist

As a kid I was also a polymath. I wanted to do everything, but we had no money. My imagination soared because of lack of money, so I’m not complaining. I remember the other girls dressed their Barbies in fancy clothes, drove them around in the pink Barbie-mobile, and paraded them around Mattel Mansion. When they visited, it took some time to explain how my dirty clothes made the borders for the “bedroom,” and that my plastic and hollow Barbie-like creatures were not naked because I was a nine year old perv, but because the dog ate the original outfit. Luckily, I didn’t get too many visitors.

Although my imagination probably outdid the others, our lack of money held me back in some areas. I wanted to do gymnastics, but always had the classic Generation X parent response, “When you grow up and get a job, you can pay for your own gymnastics classes.” I did try this, I should add, but the gym said that their insurance company wouldn’t cover people my age. I also wanted to take piano lessons, so instead I taught myself to play on a tiny Casio. It didn’t have 88 keys, so when I outplayed the keys I’d just air-play the bits I missed.

When I grew up I found that insurance companies will allow adult students in piano lessons, a slightly less hazardous activity than gymnastics. Buying a keyboard and taking lessons was a divorce present to myself.

I attended my first recital at the age of 34. The room filled with people dressed in nice clothing, and some of the parents asked me which kid was mine. I’d shove a chocolate chip cookie into my mouth so I wouldn’t have to reply. Then, the first musician entered the stage…a four year old. She plucked Mary Had a Little Lamb quite gracefully. Next, a five year old played Chopin. Then, a bunch of other six and seven year olds happily banging the keys to some well-known Mozart or Beethoven tune.

Then, I went up and tried desperately not to notice the murmur of the audience. I started playing, but then my legs shook. They shook so hard I could barely keep them on the pedals. Then my hands started shaking too. Before I knew it my whole body was shaking and I couldn’t wait for the song to end. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one. I skipped the repeat, bowed quickly and ran off stage trying not to laugh. Afterward, a few moms approached me and talked to me quite slowly and with small words. I realized that they thought I was differently abled, and I laughed some more as I left with a handful of cookies and apple juice.

I’ve done several recitals since then, and the parents have gotten to know me. Their five year old Chopin players come up to me afterward and say, “You sounded good. I didn’t even notice your mistakes.” I hadn’t told them I made any.

The best part about becoming a grown-up pianist is learning to laugh at myself. I’ve never been good at that, and I find it liberating. So, as I prepare for next week’s first solo recital, I’m posting a photo of me laughing at myself. Wish me luck. Cheers!