Author: lwalpuck

Curlies, Unite.

I have curly hair. It frizzes. It spirals. It is heavy. It’s voluminous. It is wild. It has a mind of its own. I love it. I hate it. It is a complicated relationship.

These curt, definitive sentences say a lot about my hair, but not everything. What they do not capture are the years I have spent trying to understand my hair and where it fits in with the world. They don’t capture the amount of money I have spent on hair products and conditioners, the hours I have spent in the CVS aisle, trying to find “just the right” hair product. They do not capture my middle school years, where I battled and agonized and fought with my curly hair, so desirous of that stick-straight, smooth, blonde hair that characterized “beautiful” in my mind, and still does too often in our society. No, those short sentences do not and cannot capture that ridiculous urge I feel to hug every curly-headed woman and girl I see on the street close to my heart and cry out in pride at being a part of this beautiful tribe.

Okay. So clearly my relationship with my curls is a bit complicated. But if you have curly hair, you know what I am talking about, and if you don’t, chances are you probably have someone close to you in your life who knows what I’m talking about. The truth is that my hair is as much a part of my identity as the fact that I am a reader or a sister or a person who loves to cook. My hair reflects my personality in so many ways, and it is a huge part of the way that I present myself outwardly to the world. I have a sense of humor about my hair too, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit how big it is in my life (both metaphorically and literally, har har). So when I caught wind of Elizabeth Benedict’s curated collection of short stories on women and their relationships with their hair titled: Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession, I was over the moon.

Here is a book whose central focus is unpacking women and their relationships to their hair — hair and its complexities, hair as identity, and hair as connected to race, culture, and ethnicity. I am only a few stories in, but so far I have only good things to say. Here is a book that is giving due time and words to a subject that is on more peoples’ minds than just this one curly-headed weirdo. Pick it up. Read it. And for all of you out there that have had at one point or another some kind of insecurity or question about those locks on your head (which I imagine is all of us), they are awesome, and they are you. Embrace them.

This is a story

This is the story of three kids. An oldest, a middle, and a youngest. They grew up together, playing school in the basement, dressing up, laughing, reading, having sleepovers, dancing around the kitchen, snuggling on the couch. They loved each other from the very start.

This is the story of three kids. An oldest, a middle, and a youngest. They grew up together, moving through elementary and middle and high school as siblings and as close friends. They gave each other advice. They looked out for each other. They grew older, and they stayed close.

This is the story of three kids. An oldest, a middle, and a youngest. They continue to grow up together, navigating the new triumphs and trials of early adulthood. This is the story of three kids. A teacher, a cheesemonger, and a computer programmer. They are so similar in some ways, and so different in many others, but they live life with big hearts. They have helped each other move into new homes, start careers, manage heartbreak, and make big choices.

This is the story of three kids.

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Sunshine.

It’s not sunny here today. It’s not sunny here at all. In fact it was grey, cold, and gloomy this morning when I woke up and dragged myself out of bed. The dreary coldness of the day was amplified by the fact that it was a Monday, and Mondays are hard sometimes. But we do what we do, I got up, got to school, moved through the day, and it was a good day. An ordinary day.

I went to swim practice this afternoon to coach, and we had had last week off as a transition from the short course to the long course season, and oh my, was there excitement in the air. It was less like we had been away from each other for a week, and more like it had been six months, the way the kids on the team were acting. They were overjoyed to see each other, to meet the new members of the team, and to see the coaches again. It was a magical moment. I am so happy to be right here, I thought. They splashed into the pool, and we started swimming and I gave them a set that produced some groaning complaints.

This is a normal and fair reaction to swim practice at times (I have certainly had this reaction myself), but I have found this year that many of my swimmers are all too quick to say “I can’t do this” and resolve themselves to a mindset that encourages negativity. Just as we encourage a growth mindset and positive attitude in school, this is the kind of environment I want my swimmers to be creating for themselves in the pool everyday. And I said something along the lines of this, a little reminder about positivity, and one of my swimmers said, “You’re like the sun Leah.” And I gave him a surprised look and he said, “What! You are. Everyone smiles when you walk in.” And I was speechless.

As an apprentice teacher and graduate student this year, I am embarking on a new journey. I am not new to the world of education, but this has been my first foray into full-time teaching and it has had its challenges. I have grappled with a lot of self-doubt this year, a lot of questions, a lot of deep inward looking at myself, and a lot of deep outward looking at the world. I have wondered if I am really in the right place, doing the right thing.

NO YOU ARE THE SUN! I wanted to say to him. YOU JUST MADE MY DAY. 

Because he did. And he is a ray of sunshine, frequently at swim practice, and was today, a powerful reminder, that yes I really am in the right place. This is the thing I should be doing. So this post, on a dreary late March day, is for all of those students and athletes and kids of ours that are rays of sunshine and remind us why we do what we do everyday.

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Grateful for…

A home cooked meal.

An afternoon spent grocery shopping, getting things ready for the week.

Checking things off my to-do list.

A morning spent stolen in sunlight in the kitchen.

A visit to my favorite bookstore of all time.

A human being that keeps my heart light.

Hearing my sister’s voice on the phone.

A new day beginning tomorrow.

The month of April starting so soon.

A trip with family on the near horizon.

A space to write, and have others listen.

Questions Today

It’s a cold, rainy, grey Saturday and I have spent the bulk of my day lesson planning and catching up on homework for my grad school classes. This means that I have a lot on my brain. I have a busy brain (as all teachers do, I presume) and I tend to meditate on things a lot. I wonder, I worry, I wonder some more.

I always want answers. I always seek meaning. This is why I want to teach, no doubt — to help young hearts and brains (and okay the rest of the human attached to those thinking, feeling things) along their journey through life to see, inquire, and understand the world in meaningful ways. But it’s heavy sometimes, because the truth is that I seek meaning and answers, but there are some things in the world that are perpetually un-answerable. I think this is simultaneously one of the most beautiful things about the world, and one of the most frustrating. We can seek in earnest and strive to learn all there is to learn, but still, always, there are some things that do not have easy answers, or may have no answer at all.

I guess what I mean to say, in this roundabout way that I always speak and muse and write, is that I am reminded today, especially, that I am a teacher but mostly I am still a learner. I am still seeking meaning and answers. I am still striving to understand many of the same things as my students, and I am still learning alongside them. This is the incredible thing about our communal humanity — young or old, teacher or student, regardless of race or gender or sexual orientation, we are all seeking meaning and understanding. When I find hopelessness in my ability to have the answers to these big questions, I turn to literature to find solace in something that is shared, and I turn to writing to release those questions from my own heart and let them rush out on the page.

Sprinkle of Life

I spent today home sick, glued to my couch, pj’s on for the entire day. It was good to be home, to sleep in, and to get a little work done. And to end the day, we made something really exciting and delicious.

This evening’s cooking adventure: cream-cheesy, buttery cookies covered in sprinkles. They were a dream. I have always loved ice cream and especially love putting rainbow sprinkles on my ice cream, so when I heard about this recipe from a friend, I fell in love instantly. It is a Smitten Kitchen original, another cooking blog I love, and use regularly.

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So that’s all. Not much more to say today, while my brain is still fuzzy and tired from being sick, but my tastebuds are certainly happy for these joyful little rainbow cookies of goodness. If you like cookies and you like sprinkles, you should make these. They are tangy, buttery, and melt in your mouth. And they’re just so happy looking, aren’t they?

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On Nesting

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This has been a really busy week, and yesterday was a particularly busy day, and I moved through it step-by-step and reached the end of the day and went to bed. And then I woke up this morning and realized — I forgot to slice yesterday! Completely, utterly forgot about it. It made me a little sad realizing that I had forgotten, and that this meant that I wouldn’t “successfully” complete the entire month-long challenge of writing everyday.

But, that is the way that life works. Sometimes we have time and sometimes we are so busy that other things get in the way of what we hope to accomplish. I am telling myself this, and I know it is true, but still, a little sadness.

So I’m back today. Hello, world. I taught today with almost entirely no voice because of this cold I have (which was interesting to say the least), and now I am home and delighting in that late afternoon sunshine and cooking up some roasted chickpeas in my kitchen. I love home so much. I love its familiar rhythms and smells and corners of light. I love the way our things fill up the spaces just so, and the way that colors and patterns play off of each other. I love that we have books stacked in all kinds of places, and a kitchen that is always busy.

I grew up in a bright yellow house with a blue door and it set my life on course irreversibly. I lived in that house for my entire childhood, through high school, and it was the home I returned to throughout college. It is a magical place, and it is full of patterns, colors, seashells, books, cooking pans, ceramic chickens, inspirational quotes, patterned rugs, and collected assortments of old knick-knacks. It is full, a house brimming. And it is certainly full of life. Our parents instilled in us at an early age a love of home — the physicality of home and the essence of home, what it feels like, what it means in your heart. And each of us (I am the oldest of three), have taken that sense of home with us and carried it into the new spaces we’ve carved out in our lives. It manifests itself differently for each of us, but for all three, I know that we have created and shaped our homes in ways that feel familiar, comfortable, warm, and true to ourselves. I have an unreasonable affinity for the material things that make up my home, because they were chosen with such care and because they have meaning.

So today, on a day like many others, I am sitting in my kitchen and feeling grateful for all of these little things that I come home to everyday. And today, I wanted to share some of those little pieces and slices of home with you all. Here it is, my nest.

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