Small Village, Big Writing


As a single parent, much of my life revolves around Big Foot. Add the fact that I am a teacher, and much of my life ends up being about other people. However, I have finally learned that I cannot be good for anyone if I do not practice self-care, and therefore I am being intentional about nurturing myself as a person.

Writing is one of my most consistent passions, but it often takes a backseat to the responsibilities that come with the different hats I wear. I steal moments late after Big Foot goes to sleep, or early before he wakes up if I am not too exhausted, because I feel guilty spending time on myself while he is awake. On more days than I care to admit, I am so emotionally and intellectually drained from teaching that I can’t find the energy to pick up a pencil or open my laptop.

This year, however, I found the perfect compromise: The Kenyon Review’s Writers Workshop for Teachers. To make things better, the workshop was held in Ohio (where I’d never been), which meant a week away to focus on my writing in a new setting. So I silenced my self-critic, and went.

The security check at MCO was only mildly unpleasant: big crowd herded along by obviously disgruntled TSA employees, which is better than my usual experience there. There are no direct flights from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Columbus Airport, so I had to stop in Philadelphia. My flight from Orlando was on time, and surprisingly reached its destination about 10 minutes early… which would have been great if my flight hadn’t been about 45 minutes late. Thank goodness I really like PHL.

The workshop itself was amazing. First, the (really) small village of Kenyon, Ohio is just the right setting for writing. The buildings are quaint, and the campus is seamlessly blended with the village. Additionally, T-Mobile does not seem to operate there, so I had no cell signal whatsoever. This had two advantages: One, my usual phone-based distractions were completely absent. Two, I was able to experience the kindness of my classmates, as people whom I had not known until our arrival on campus were quick to offer up use of their own phones so I could call my son and wish him good night each evening.



In addition to the inspiring architecture, there is an abundance of trees and grassy areas as well as many spots inviting people to stop, reflect, and (in my case) write. From benches under trees to large branches in a tree, the campus was like a playground for artists.

Beyond the setting, the classes themselves were amazing. The teachers were obviously experts, both in writing and in teaching. The other participants in the group also challenged and inspired me in ways that are not accessible to me in my everyday life. I was exposed to writers I had not yet read and was able to have literary conversations with people who actually enjoy such things. Then, after I had been filled with artistic impetus, I had something that I am always missing: time to write, free of guilt. The meals shared with other writers (from my program and the other concurrent sessions) and the nightly readings by instructors and participants rounded up the experience perfectly. When time came for us to depart, I wished I could have just a few more days.

The flight back was pretty awful. It was about 20 minutes late, which was not that bad, particularly since I was able to wait with one of the friends I met at the workshop. However, we then spent about an hour on the tarmac, meaning that my perfect hour-long layover turned into having to be rescheduled on a later flight.

Still, overall the trip was well worth it. I had time to myself and time to work on my writing in a setting that allowed me to be interact with other adult who share my passion for writing, generate more new material than I have in a long time, receive professional feedback, and discover writing strengths I didn’t know I possessed. I came home physically, artistically, and mentally refreshed, which allows me to be a happier (hence better) mom.

Keep wandering,

       ~  Joëlle


Airport Review: PHL

In my pre-Big Foot days, I didn’t care much about airports. As long as I could find my gate on time and find a corner to sit, I was fine. Now, however, I have to take a preschooler’s patience threshold, bladder capacity, and short legs to take into account, so I find myself paying much closer attention.

On our recent adventure to Sesame Place, we flew from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). Today I’ll review PHL since it had a few touches I definitely appreciated.

First, I should mention that I managed to lose my driver’s license at Sesame Place that morning, which I didn’t notice until I was already at the airport. I was very glad that I had arrived at the airport a little over two hours before out flight time, and I braced myself for what I expected would be a difficult passage through the security checkpoint.

Boy was I wrong! No eye-rolling, huffing or puffing. The TSA officer asked me if I had at least two items with my name on it. Thankfully, I had my insurance card and a bank card that has my picture on it (although I was in my 20s when it was taken). The officer checked them, then told me I would have to wait for a female officer to come conduct an additional security check. During the five minutes it took for her to arrive, the original officer apologized several times for the wait.

I was then made to remove my shoes and go through the full body scanner before undergoing a pat down and having additional officers go through my bags. During the whole procedure, all officers involved were very polite and considerate; one of them even held my son’s hand and chatted with him, and once I was cleared and ready to move on, they even gave him a “junior security officer” sticker.

PHL Jr Officer Badge
Junior Officer Badge

Altogether, I spent about 20 minutes in the security area. Which is about how long it takes to get though regular security procedures at MCO with proper ID on any given day—if you’re lucky.

We arrived at the appropriate terminal with plenty of time to spare, and there we found another lovely surprise: an absolutely adorable airport-themed play area. Big Foot had a blast pretending to pilot a plane, man the control tower, and drive the luggage vehicle, and sliding down the wing of the plane. I had a great time sitting down and relaxing on the bench while I watched him play.

Right across from the play area was a cute little reading area with a book exchange box, some recycled planters with some greenery, two wooden rocking chairs, and a bench.

Reading Area at PHL

Once Big Foot was done playing, we shared some pizza from one of the several restaurant choices, then headed to the gate with a few minutes before the start of boarding. The attendants at the gate were very friendly, taking time to compliment Big Foot on his rolling carry-on.

I really enjoyed this airport as everything seemed well-organized, the staff was friendly, and they had some family-friendly touches as well.

Keep wandering,

~ Joëlle

P.S: I contacted the Lost & Found at Sesame Place, and thankfully my license had been turned in. They mailed it to me at no charge.