Archives for posts with tag: families

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I Am Passenger; He Is Driver
by Shannon Milliman

I am passenger. He is driver. He is scheduled to test for his driver’s license.
He has asked if he could drive the two-hour route, mostly freeway
And with light waning into hours of darkness.
I told him yes, he could drive but every cell in my being wanted to say no.
I am still waiting for the moment when the gift of agency
Feels triumphant.

Do you know what it is like to give up control in the seat of the driver?
To have uncertainty that the flesh and blood in your male mirror image has the practice and mental agility to drive in City conditions at night getting his sister and mother and self to safety?
In my mind I whisper that he wants to preserve himself, too.

There is no reason he would want to fail in this endeavor. He is equally vested in safety.
Is this faith? Is it the opposite of fear?
I breathe. I tell myself to breathe. I remind myself of the mechanics of what it takes.
Fill these balloon vessels with oxygen.
I remember when his balloon vessels first filled with air and he cried,
Arriving on planet earth, little, tiny 5 lbs. 14 ounce Moses, We gave him a name and a blessing
To live up to.
A name that assured he could do the impossible.
He could part waters.
He could drive us to Astoria, Oregon.

I hid my two hands, which stressed and wrangling one another like two chickens in a cock fight. I hid them in my husband’s blue knit FedEx cap.
I can’t believe Simon has kept this hat that long.
He worked at FedEx when Moses was about 2 years old.
I remember Moses rambling off on his own.
Slow to speak, quick to think, this little guy had a mission and left the safe quarters of our apartment complex and pitter-pattered his little patent leather shoes
All the way to the edge of busy thoroughfare, Glisan Street.
A police officer and a man swooped this toddling two-year-old up
And asked him where he should be. No words. He pointed home.
I did not even know he was missing.
Adrianna, his next youngest sister, was a newborn.
I had birthed my first anxiety attack wherein I thought I was dying.
Three was infinitely more children than two.
Embarrassed that I did not know my son was on the verge of death
And simultaneously grateful he was safe home with a stranger’s help.
All this while Simon worked at Fed Ex wearing the cap
Now on my hands hiding my presumptive grief when we all crashed and died.

We might make it
To Gnat Creek Campground where there are only four campsites,
First come, first served, it is a January Friday night.
How many suckers out there would brave the cold?
The odds are ever in our favor.
Moses had cheated death before.
Please may he cheat it for all of us once more?
I could imagine the three of us,
Rainbow age eleven, me age forty, and Moses age sixteen, setting up camp.
I watched Moses gather lint from the car and tinder
From the wrapped towel he brought along with plum hardwood
Trimmed from the tree in our backyard.
We let it dry by the radiator in Simon’s music studio for three days
But before that it was outside in a Pacific Northwest winter so who knows.

If you watch well enough the meandering road
And if you shift your weight enough,
And grip the rubber handlebar tight enough
And remind yourself to breathe,
You will breathe
And you will get there.
And there we were, us three around that fire,
Safely roasting a marshmallow
And smashing it next to a graham cracker
And a Symphony bar square.
Oh, the mellowness of chocolate melting in my mouth.
Safe, secure, together.

When we pull into the gravel campground
And find out we are the only people there
I look up at the infirmary of stars.
I had prayed heavenward.
God, please protect my little man child.
Were they blessing my boy Moses?
Leading him like they led the wise men to the Christ Child?
I tell my Moses I am sorry
I hesitated to let him drive,
That he did an excellent job.
He did.
His pace was steady,
His switching of lanes confident.
It is so easy to say sorry afterwards and so much harder to trust him when necessary.
Why, oh, why was it so, so, so, scary?

PHOTO: Crossroads by Ehrif, used by permission.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shannon Milliman is a playwright and performer who has performed her autobiographical, one-woman play, Not So Supernova, about the jagged edges of motherhood and marriage in Oregon, Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Idaho. She is writing her grandparents’ life story and has studied memoir at the Attic Institute (Portland, Oregon) and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Brigham Young University. Shannon has five children, a musician husband and is a Certified Professional in Talent Development and works as a Benefits, Disability, Leave Services Trainer at Amazon. Visit her at, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, and applepodcasts.

How to teach family policy
by Dorotho O Rombo

To teach family policy is
To show that even if you are not interested in politics, politics is interested in you
To know ideologies, their roots and values
To debate both sides and even more
To question and understand underlying assumptions
To identify the stakeholders

To teach family policy is
To explain dominance in the construction of knowledge
To show the association between family theories and policy
To determine the negative unintended consequences
To connect functions and cause

To teach family policy is
To politicize problems and how they are solved
To show that it is a cultural expression, not science per se
To debunk the myth of neutrality
To appreciate the skills of persuasion, mediation, collaboration and confrontation

In the end, to teach family policy is
To center families
To ask how they are impacted
To ask how they can be part of the solution
To ask how they might have contributed
To infuse science into policy practice
To prove that all policies are indeed family policy

IMAGE: No. 112 (Woodblock print, 2003) by Funasaka Yoshisuke.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a course so dear to my heart and each semester that I teach it I strive to make it relatable to everyday life. It is in striving to achieve this goal that I have conceptualized a poem to capture the themes of the class. I share this poem with my students at the beginning of every class and have them react to it, and then have them read it again at the end of the course and ask again for their impressions. It is a learning tool and a way to motivate students to be curious about policy.

rombo copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dorothy O Rombo is an associate professor of Human Development and Family Studies in the department of human ecology, State University of New York at Oneonta. She holds a Ph.D. in Family Social Science with a minor in family policy from the university of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She has extensive experience in higher education, both internationally and in the US. Her research interest is centered on vulnerable populations, including international families, women, children, gender and sexual minorities. Her theories of preference are human ecology and family strength perspective. She has published on different topics regarding these populations. List of publications.

The Highway
by Uma Gowrishankar

I have said this so many times to my son
I want the front door removed
so that I do not have to answer the bell.
Then our home will become an open passage, he argued,
something like a road where everyone can walk by.
Isn’t it one already, I asked, not just a road, a highway?

My grandfather lived in a rambling house
dark and deep like the tunnel of memory,
divided into five areas of living and utility, open
for every acquaintance, he called family.
The front door made of heavy wood
was not meant to be closed during the day.

My grandmother a fragile asthmatic woman
could not move the iron latch weighing
five kilos from its tunneled slot — she depended on him
for that. Out of the open door wafted
the smell of food: she cooked pots of rice, simmered
lentils in juices of vegetables for those who visited —

an open door is an invite.
What if you remove the bell instead
my son suggested pulling me out of my thoughts.
Do not answer the door, pretend nobody is in.
I do that now most of the time, remembering the days
my grandmother shut herself in, mind sealed
behind the opaque cataract of forgetfulness.

Photo by Shiva Subbiaah Kumar.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As I wrote this poem I kept going to the thought of how the front door remains shut now, no one enters. We fear the invisible intruder as the news seeps through the walls of localities in the neighbourhood becoming containment zones. There was a time I longed to have my home for myself, not to have to open the door to share the space. Now that I am forced into such an existence, I recall the time when people like waves came through the door, and regret that I had foolishly desired for self-isolation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Uma Gowrishankar is a writer and artist from Chennai, South India. Her poems and fiction have appeared in numerous journals, including CityA Journal Of South Asian Literature, Qarrtsiluni, Buddhist Poetry Review, Catapult Magazine, Curio PoetryPure Slush, and Postcard Shorts. Her first full-length collection of poetry Birthing History was published by Leaky Boot Press.

door blankman
The Quiet Door
by Shelly Blankman

No one knocks at my front door anymore.
My house is an empty nest. My children
both grown, out of state, leading lives of
their own now.

I miss all the times they’d slam the door
so hard I thought the hinges would shatter.
Or the times I’d have to remind them
to close the door behind them so the cats
wouldn’t escape.

No more pounding by their friends to see if
they want to swim laps in the neighborhood pool,
or build forts in fresh-fallen snow, or trudge through
a muddy stream they’d just discovered.

My front door is now just a plain old, putrid-green, chipped-paint door now. A quiet door.

A painfully, eerily quiet door.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Blankman and her husband, Jon, are empty nesters who live in Columbia, Maryland. They have two sons, Richard and Joshua, who live in New York and Texas, respectively. Shelly and Jon fill their empty nest with two cat rescues and a foster dog. Following a career in public relations and journalism, Shelly has returned to her first love, writing poetry. She also enjoys making memory books and greeting cards and, of course, refereeing pets. Richard and Joshua surprised her by publishing her first book of poetry, Pumpkinhead, in December 2019.

Here at Home
by Dylan Ward

Take care, my precious son
Days blend together
In a different reality
Green colors our landscape again
Spring afternoons warm your carefree heart
The edge of the yard, woods beyond
Where your soul soars
Where your imagination runs wild and free

I see you
Fingers search for the center of the earth
You marvel at crawling critters
You wonder at the heavens in dappled sunlight
Rays of light to light your light
Your laughter is a treasure to behold

Ghost handprints upon the front door’s glass
Small affirmations of your presence
Small attests of childhood in a weary world

Happiness emits from your orange-peel smile
Cookies crumble in the corners of your mouth
Milk coats your upper lip in a mustache
Your joy makes my heart full

Be sad for lost soccer practices
Be sad for missing swim lessons
Cry for your friends at school
Cry for a time that makes little sense
Your sadness makes my heart ache

Here at home, I welcome you
When sun rises, when sun fades
Here at home, you are safe
Here at home, you are loved
I hold you in my arms
My precious son

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I don’t write much poetry. But these are strange times. This began as an essay that took on the form of a poem. My son has expressed a whirlwind of emotions over these days and weeks. This was my way of expressing our grief and joy. And it’s a small way to remember my son and his altered childhood during our shelter.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dylan Ward lives and writes various things in North Carolina. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in One Person’s Trash, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Split Rock Review, and elsewhere. He contributes as a reader for Flash Fiction Magazine. When not writing, he’s usually reading something with a strong cup of coffee, pondering the mysteries of the world, or dreaming of writing. You can find him online at and on Twitter @dylanwardwriter.

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Entry Door
by Mary Langer Thompson

I wash down my son’s new
front door with its distressed
finish and rain glass.
Who will knock on it?
Who will come through it?

He’s lonely. Needs a new woman
since his girlfriend left
on his birthday.
His cat sits upstairs, curled
in her cathouse.

He places white shelf paper on
shelves in the kitchen.
His father hooks up his dishwasher,
gets rid of putrid black liquid in
the old drain hose.

We laugh together.
I need to let him go to answer knocks
on this door, without my being here
to watch it, to guard it against enemies.

I can. I can.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Langer Thompson’s poems, short stories, and essays appear in various journals and anthologies. She is a contributor to two poetry writing texts, The Working Poet (Autumn Press, 2009) and Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching (McFarland, 2012), and was the 2012 Senior Poet Laureate of California. Her children’s books How the Blue-Tongued Skink got his Blue Tongue and The Gull Who Thought He Was Dull were published by Another Think Coming Press. A retired school principal and former secondary English teacher, Langer Thompson received her Ed.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. She continues to enjoy conducting writing workshops for schools, prisons, and in her community of the high desert of California. Visit her author’s page at Amazon.

The New Room
by Tamara Madison

When Dad came home the front door slammed
and the house shook. After a scotch and water
he’d settle down. When we built the “new room,”
Mom took that slammed door, covered it
with mosaic tiles, gave it some legs, put it
in the center of the room – a coffee table.

I used to dance on it, in spite of the unfriendly tiles.
The “new room” had a bigger door and a cold entry
with a terrazzo floor that echoed the slams
throughout the house. With the music up loud,
the old door was my dance floor. I could be

a go-go girl until Dad came home from another
angry day at work. I’d jump off the table,
turn that music off as soon as I’d spot the pickup
trailing a cone of dust up the driveway,
and brace myself for another wall-shaking slam.

AUTHOR’S CAPTION: This is what remains of the house that was first entered by the door that later became a coffee table. It was on my family’s citrus farm near Mecca, California. The corporation that bought the property ripped out all the citrus trees and later they razed the house where I grew from small.

coffee table
AUTHOR’S CAPTION: This coffee table is a little bit like the one my mother made from our front door. It was bigger and had some kind of thick blocks for legs and a more chaotic, colorful mosaic pattern. This is the closest I could find online.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers, and two full-length volumes of poetry, Wild Domestic and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, Your Daily Poem, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac, Sheila-Na-Gig and many other publications. She has recently retired from teaching English and French in Los Angeles and is happy to finally get some sleep. More about Tamara can be found at

Author photo by Sharon De La O.

My Life Force
by Vincent Van Ross

My prized possession
Is not the gold chain
I wear around my neck
Nor is it my collection of gems

My prized possession
Is not the sculptures and paintings
I have collected
Over the years

My prized possession
Is not the money
I have in my cash box
Or in my bank account

My prized possession
Is not my house or my car
Nor even the thousands of books
I have in my collection

My prized possessions
Are two frames
That hang from the walls
Of my living room

My prized possessions
Are the two pictures
Of my mother and my father
In those two frames

My mother and father
May not be with me anymore
But, they bless me from that wall
They are my life force which keeps me going

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My father A Van Ross (left) and mother Treasa Van Ross (right).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I lost my mother in 2001 and my father in 2015. But, they are still alive to me. I feel their presence in their photos that are hanging from my living room walls. I still kiss them and seek their blessings every time I leave my home as I used to do when they were alive. I feel as if they are peeping out of those pictures and keeping a watch over me and blessing me all the time.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vincent Van Ross is a journalist and editor based at New Delhi, India. He writes on national and international politics, defense, environment, travel, spirituality, and scores of other topics. Apart from this, he dabbles in a little bit of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and humorous writings. Vincent’s articles and features have appeared in over a dozen newspapers and magazines in India and Bangladesh. He is also a renowned photographer and an art critic. His poems are littered in anthologies and journals across the world and on numerous poetry sites and facebook groups on the web.

Sonnet to my Sister: For Minnie Mouse
by Caroline Johnson

A tattooed man hugs a cobra at Disney World.
Jugglers balance on chairs and bottles of wine.
Later, Chloe dances in the sand as waves swirl.
Jacob searches for hermit crabs in the brine.

Their mother leaves footprints along the Tampa beach,
a sister looking for answers after a bitter split.
They stop, turn around, feed seagulls, make believe;
build castles, play freeze tag until the winds quit.

Jack Skellington almost stole Christmas that year.
Despite his ghoulish plot, Minnie collected debris–
feathers, shells, rocks, and silent tears.
All these and more she took from the sea.

Bread crusts slip from young hands as the salt stings.
Just like birds, children love their wings.

SOURCE: Previously published in Encore magazine.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My sister, Brenda, with her two kids Jacob and Chloe in Jamaica. Another vacation with Aunt Caroline, with cornrows.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I don’t usually write sonnets, so I labored on this one. My sister went through a traumatic divorce and this poem came to me when I vacationed with her and her two kids in Florida one year. It went through many revisions to get to this final form.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Caroline Johnson has two poetry chapbooks, Where the Street Ends and My Mother’s Artwork, and has published poetry in Lunch Ticket, Uproot, Chicago Tribune, Kind of a Hurricane Press, and others. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she won first place in the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row 2012 Poetry Contest. She teaches community college English in the Chicago area.

st. joseph mo pool
Municipal Pool
by Mike Dailey

I remember my mother and her long auburn hair
She wore it in pig-tails way down to there
We’d head for the pool, my sisters and I
Along with our mother when we were small fry
I would turn left cause the boy’s locker’s there
The girls would turn right and they all had to share
I’d get my own basket to store all my clothes
With a safety pin numbered to keep track of those
I’d walk through a shower that I couldn’t avoid
I’d be cold and all wet and a little annoyed
Then I’d meet up with mom and we’d head for the pool
And hope that the water there wasn’t that cool
She’d jump in the pool then coax us all in
We would jump to her arms with a face full of grin
And if we were good and she thought it all right
We’d grab a pigtail as she dove out of sight
We’d hold our breath as she swam towards the drain
And then shoot to the surface like a runaway train
When your turn was up, another held on
And rode with our mother till her strength was all gone
Then we sit by the pool and listen to her
As she told us of stories before we even were
When the pool was larger, much larger by far
And she’d sit at the pool about right where we are
And the boys would show off on the high diving boards
And give her rides home in their Model A Fords
Then when we were tired and our strength was all spent
We get up, get our things, and back home we went
With the promise from mother we’d do it again
My sisters and I end the day with a grin

IMAGE: Vintage postcard of municipal swimming pool in St. Joseph, Missouri.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I love a challenge. When I saw the call for submissions I was thinking this was one that I would have to skip as I had nothing in my archives that touched on memories of pools or beaches; at least none from my youth. But I sat here at my computer and thought back on the days when we would go to the big municipal pool in our town and the words just came to me. I hope my sisters read the poem and have the same memories and feelings of our days with mom at the pool. I grew up in St. Joseph, Missouri,  where the Pony Express started and Jesse James ended.  The pool was one of three or four public pools in town but by far the largest.  Even saying that, I have seen pictures of the pool when my mother was a young girl and it was about twice the size.  I guess it became too large to manage efficiently so they filled in about half of it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Dailey lives in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. He is a teller of stories in rhythm and rhyme. He has been writing poetry most of his life and has three published books of his poems with a fourth on the way. He leaves the introspective, deep personal poetry to others while he concentrates his poems on the interesting and often odd happening stories that most people overlook.