My Real Life Modern Family

People of Nowhere: A Meditation on Syria

Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrive in Greece.

This piece of writing is a brief biography of Syrians. I refuse to use the word refugees throughout because I wanted to emphasize the fact that they are individual groups — they are people who have names and a country which they love.

Men and women who are suffering. Men and women who do not have a place to lay their heads. Men and women who cannot call a place their home, because their homes are taken and they have no refuge.

I offer this essay as a reminder of countless displaced Syrians thousands of miles away.

This Blind Man’s Life


University of Baltimore student Matt Harris is almost totally blind and partially deaf, and yet he attends his college classes, earns good grades, parents two young women, and finds a reason (almost) never to complain. Is he superhuman, insane or somehow wiser than most? Read on.

“What’s up Mattiac,” my neighbor answered, calling me by the nickname she had given me.

“Well. I have good news and bad news,” I said into my cell. “First, the bad. I ran over your son’s shoes with my lawnmower. The good news is his feet weren’t in them.”

The Little Cloud that Cried…Or How to Chill in July

image via pinterest
image via pinterest

University of Baltimore MFA grad Sue Loweree remembers her ice-skating contest/identity crisis. It’s such a cathartic read, especially in the Baltimore summertime, you’ll likely shiver.

The Omaha Convention Center is a big, cold building with ceilings as high as our new two-story house. I follow Mom and Miss Darby, the skating coach down the hall listening to them talk about Thursday night lessons.

21 Flowers: A Potion for Luck and Powerful Change


When University of Baltimore MFA grad Elisa Estrella returns to a botánica for the first time in years, she’s nervous as can be. She remembers feeling faint in just such a spiritual space as a child. As an adult, she’s desperately seeking change, so she steps inside.

I moved to Baltimore for a new job in the summer of 2008. About one month after I started work, the stock market crashed, and four months later, so did my new job. Thanks to a referral from a friend in my business network, I got a job working for a small federal contractor in the DC area. It meant a long commute from Baltimore and significantly less pay, but I was desperate.

I Wanna Stay Home and Make Gumbo with You, Ma


Right in time for Mother’s Day, University of Baltimore MFA candidate Tara Orchard writes about working with her mom in the kitchen. In the beginning, her mom taught her how to crack an egg and cook an elaborate meal, then the tables turned.

My mother’s kitchen is small. And in a small kitchen, there is one thing that you need to know: you need to dance—in a manner of speaking. Since my mother and I developed our own dance long ago, there is never a problem when we cook and there hasn’t been for many years. A hand to the hip—step to the side. A reach across—take a step back. Just saying a name: Get out of my way, woman, this pot is hot! Like many things though, this dance took time, and it had to start somewhere.

Over the Threshold


Writer Mariette Storr recalls coming of age in the Bahamas, where “the remnants of colonialism lingered like a dense mist.” This essay is part of her MFA thesis at the University of Baltimore.

Through the corner, around the bend and I was home. I pushed open the mesh screen door of our store to access the shortest route to the tiny hallway that led to the room I shared with three sisters. My breathing labored, I peeled out of my school uniform, grabbed a pair of white short pants and a blue blouse, my school’s track club ensemble, and escaped to the back yard. I stared up at the mango tree laden with plump, golden-reddish fruit. I propped my left foot against the lowest limb of this tree, the opposite hand gripped the closest branch, my right foot hoisted upward, and with repeat motion I finally perched myself comfortably on a top limb.  I seized a fat one and plucked it with both hands. One bite after another, the sweet chunks oozed streams of juice that ran down my arms, leaving a trail for my tongue to follow.

The Journey of Dementia


dementia image

My sister and I had traveled home to give my brother a break.  We were with my mother at her primary care physician’s, technically a licensed nurse practitioner whose manner is part game show host, part private investigator.  We all love her.  After the good news –physically Mom was in top form — Lynne shifted gears, getting to the real reason we were there.

Thank you, Siri



During a challenging summer, writer Muffy Fenwick finds support from an unexpected “friend.”

When I was young, summer meant searching for that perfect new friend, like discovering a sliver of sea glass among the speckled rocks.  She would become my winter pen-pal, long letters travelling between us during the long winter months.

The Next Room: Life After a Suicide Attempt


photo by Betsy Boyd

University of Baltimore MFA student Sierra Hallmen recounts her young love, lust, and suicide attempt, and what they taught her.

I have a thing for bodies. I love the way they look, what they wear, how they talk to me and to each other. I need to know what skin does when I can’t see it. I have a thing for the way bodies are when they’re doing body things, like legs crouching over public toilets or feet tiptoe jumping into skin-tight jeans. I love the shape of thighs, fatty handles, jaw bones, crow’s feet. Each a postage stamp of things done, undone or yet to be done. Each a howl in the dark night saying, touch me, I’m warm. Ask me about my body and I’ll tell you its story: the itches, the dry spots, the wet ones, the love, the languid slip between creases into folds or curves or bone jags, the rift between where my body ends and another begins, the unending parting.

Changing of the Guard


Hillers boys in Penang

On a hot night in Malaysia, Baltimore native Ann Hillers finds her sons are ready to be on their own. 

One July night in sweaty, humid Penang, an island off the coast of Malaysia, a seismic event occurs. Two actually. We’re dining on Kimberly Street at an open-air market surrounded by bowls of laksa noodles, a plate of grilled sparrows, and an omelet of oysters and egg. My eldest son Bo decides he wants “meat on a stick,” a throwback to our Thailand travel where every corner had a brazier of bamboo skewers threaded with grilled meat.