I am a Public School Teacher. Give Me All the Refugees You’ve Got!




Come into my classroom any day of the week and you’ll see refugees.

That little Iraqi boy slumped over a book written in Arabic while the rest of the class reads the same story in English. Those twin girls blinking back memories of the Bosnian War as they try to underline possessive nouns on an English worksheet. That brown-skinned boy compulsively rocking back-and-forth in his seat fighting back tears wondering when his dad is going to come home from prison.

Every day, every hour, every minute our public schools are places of refuge for children seeking asylum, fugitives, emigres, exiles, the lost, the displaced, dear hearts seeking a kind word and a caring glance.

Some may shudder or sneer at the prospect of giving shelter to people in need, but that is the reality in our public schools. In the lives of many, many children we provide the only…

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When I was a young girl there was an amazing human in my life. Her name was Roxanne.

She and my mother were in a mahjong group together. If I listen carefully to my mind’s eye I can still hear the tiles as they would gently slide across the table and click slowly into place.

Four players.

Four women.

All of them bound by a unique organization called Hadassah.

The word Hadassah itself translates from the Hebrew word meaning: compassion. Which further explains the namesake of the organization that is run in Israel known as Hadassah.

With compassion I write tonight.

I thought a great deal about Roxanne this past week.

I had the opportunity to spend time with my thirteen year old niece who is a wonderful young lady.  It’s crazy for me to stop and look back upon my memories with her. We met when she was six months old, a tiny sleeping baby in a crib visiting her Grandparent’s and Uncle Andy with her mother. Now she is a tall, beautiful, smart, sarcastic, and quick-witted teenager making her way in the world.

I thought of Roxanne when I drove to pick up my niece that morning.

Her small stature. Her quiet mischievous grin when I knew we were about to embark on an adventure together.

The little girl with the long brown hair and dimple that flashed with glee upon entry to her home.

She was the mother of two boys, always wishing for a girl to dote upon. She later became an amazing grandmother to a lucky little girl who I am sure felt the same way I did when spending time with this woman.

I was such a lucky girl circa at the age of six.

I so admired her immaculate persona, the air of Chanel on her person, Gucci hanging from her arms, and the red nails like slippers donned upon each finger tip.

What I loved most of all about her was how she made me feel.

They say that what people remember most about you is how you make them feel. It is ever so true friends.

She always made me feel like a talented princess. Roxanne had this special way of creating a make-believe world in her basement with me. I would dress up and march around waving my imaginary scepter, and she played along as a royal subject. Pink cheeks, singing Disney songs, and bouncing from couch to couch.

Little did she realize that along with my parents, especially my mom, they all helped set the stage for my belief in the magic of the theatre. I was a tiny star in her living room creating a world of imagination and ruling the castle one couch at a time.

I can fondly recall upon one play date when her husband came home and threw on his Groucho Marx mask and wig. I was scared out of my wits and jumped into this tiny woman’s lap. She laughed and laughed and yelled at her husband Gary to take off the mask while I squealed into her chest.

Another special event took place on a gray spring Anchorage day. Dad dropped me off and went about whatever errands he and my mom had to take care of that afternoon.  I spent the day with Roxanne watching a Disney film, playing on the kitchen table while she prepped a meal for lunch. Then suddenly she looked at me and said, “Do you hear that? It’s the ice cream man!” She rushed me outside with her, she darted past the rain puddles and into a stream of sunshine. The rainbow sherbet pop wasn’t the greatest treat that day. It was the memory that became nestled into my brain instead. Now, I think of her when I see raindrops and sunlight touch, meeting again for a moment back in that afternoon sky.

Sometimes I think I can see her in a crowd.  That shoulder length reddish-brown hair with the crisp blunt edges swaying just above a black turtle neck sweater and Chanel-esque cardigan.

She wrote to me at sleep away camp in 1997.  I was in the grim years of my life, the early teens, the awkward age of 13. This time was marked by training bras, awaiting the time when I would finally become a woman…oh we ladies know what I am talking about…

My mom called and asked her to write because even back then, I had quite a mighty sword with my pen.

I wrote to my parents telling them how homesick I was. How alone I felt. That I had no friends and no one to talk to. This was all true the first of the three weeks of camp. I slowly fell into a rhythm and made a couple of friends. But this is a story for another blog post.

The point was that Roxanne was there when it was needed.

She even wrote me as a pen pal the first year we moved to our new lower 48 state home. I should dig out those letters sometime. I have them all still, along with all my other correspondence over the years with friends and family.

Taking my niece out for a girls date of coffee treats, mall shopping, and laughing made me ache with a desire to call my sweet Roxanne and say thank you.

Thank you for making me feel beautiful when I was an ugly duckling waiting to blossom. 

Sometimes life deals you these cards that are just glaringly unfair.

I wish there was a magic eight ball of time that I could shake and go back to that place and find her and embrace her and say all that is on my mind.

However, that’s not the case. It’s not possible. As much as I wish it were.

So instead, I laughed with my niece that day, and I looked at her with love in my eyes.  I hug those moments in time when we can laugh like I did with Roxanne and enjoy the simple things about being a girl.  Discuss the in’s and outs of life as we pass by glittering dresses we hold up for one another and joke about trying the ridiculous attire on.

Roxanne, you made me feel beautiful. Your spirit comes forth whenever I see a rainstorm pass over and the sunshine through the clouds.

I can only hope that one day my niece might think back and say, “Aunt Rachel made me feel beautiful and loved.”

Sparkles for Roxanne.


Hong Kong a year later…

Hong Kong a year later…according to my brain as of late

“Here and there and every where.

The bustle, the travel, the hustle, the flow.

The ebb of the tide, the flow of the roll,

the glow of this city’s lights.

Entrancing, never letting go.”

A poet, I am not. I shall leave that genre of the written word to my father, however, I may tilt my pen towards the muse of rhyme from time to time… 

“Reflections 365 days later…”

Life in this city was astounding, loud, noisy, enticing, invigorating, crowded, thrilling, overwhelming, amazing, and technologically fascinating.

The circumstances in which I went to Hong Kong were dire. Traveling to visit a loved one fighting the battle of a life time was so overwhelming, and humbling. I couldn’t wait to sit at my sister’s side, hold her hand, and give her hugs all…the…day…. long.

We did all of these things.

And so much more.

I provide for you a visual imagery of some of the things we saw, felt, touched, and experienced together.

Life is so precious. Remind yourself to appreciate the little moments. BREATHE, reflect, and appreciate.

Every day is a struggle, every day is a gift, every day there will be a whole bundle of tumult rolled into a package we call life.


When I arrived on Halloween, we wore matching wigs as a necessity of course. “Hi there, yes we are sisters, yessss….we are wearing wigs, thank you for staring. Good day sir.”


This view from a high rise building where I waited while she attended healing yoga for cancer patients astounded me. This is a really large city. I am jet lagged. I sat down and faced another direction because I got dizzy so quickly.


Hello peaceful turtles in Hong Kong park. 🙂 I did a little jig when I saw turtles, because I mean, TURTLES!


This is my beautiful nephew, we take selfies, yes he’s cuter than me. Shhh, don’t tell him though, it’ll go to his head. 😉 JK!


There was this waffle place, when one sees a waffle place, one stops to eat of course. He even posed for a photo patiently before digging in.


Photo session on the bus back home after synagogue. This took 3 photos to actually capture all of our heads, but I mean who was counting?!  It was so much fun. Except for the part as we went to get off 2 blocks before our stop, and we waited 12 minutes because of traffic….. 🙂 thank you Hong Kong.


After a long morning of chemo, we took a walk through the park to get sunshine and matched with our smiles.


What caught my attention was the first two bold printed lines. My brain role played back as follows, “Yes, you have my attention, awesomeness, I’m interested…”


My first panorama attempt at a fancy posh-y soccer/ dare I say football field. Thank you brother in law. 🙂


I like this quote today, “Don’t find fault, find a remedy!”


I took a lot of bathroom photos. My brother in law thought this was quite strange. What can I say? I’m pretty strange…that’s an understatement.


I was really interested in this pink wig option. She didn’t feel it was an every day look though…. Beautiful salon visit to help with a wig adjustment. Loved those stylists.


Colorful and lovely back drop of the H.K. smog-city sky line.

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These photos are included…just because they are funny and we were laughing. 🙂

The photo list could go on and on. I’ll reflect more later at some point. Sparkle on friends!