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Blame my grandmother’s basement for making us travelers

When I stayed with my Grandmother White, I shared a double bed in the upstairs bedroom with my sister Kelly. We were both afraid to stay up there unless the two of us were there, snuggled together. The lonely bedroom was reached by a steep flight of wooden stairs lined with faded portraits of unknown family members in ornate frames, one of the sepia-toned, posed photographs being a woman reputed to smoke a pipe.

My grandmother’s house was perfect, in my mind. A wide porch swept across the front like a smile, with a wooden swing on one end. There…

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Photo by Tom Strecker on Unsplash

My most enduring memory of the pandemic is and always will be that skinny, reticent, unemotional man who saved me.

My daughter needed me, so I decided to make the long trip from Alabama to Miami. Stupid, probably, in the first stage of the coronavirus pandemic. Hard to believe it was just a year ago.

I brought along yellow latex gloves, two dingy face masks retrieved from our garage, and an industrial-sized bottle of hand sanitizer. I thought I was prepared.

The long trip progressed as planned. I passed through Columbus on the Georgia-Alabama border, then angled south past the tiny town of Plains, hometown of Jimmy Carter, and past acres of pecan trees. …


Artwork by Natalya Kochak

Sometimes, journalists are like priests. We hear confessions.

I met the woman years ago. She was old beyond her years, one of the rural poor who collect in small towns all over the country. She lived in the little Alabama village of Loachapoka. The woman was destitute, seeking aid because her old trailer, the only thing she owned, had burned.

I worked for the local newspaper in a nearby college town, and she hoped I could help. She told me her story, then paused. Tentatively, she told me something else.

“You know, my husband was in the Klan,” she said. “On his deathbed, he confessed he was one…


Artwork by Natalya Kochak

Unaccompanied minors will continue to come from the Northern Triangle, like drowning people fighting to board a lifeboat.

It’s happening again. Thousands of unaccompanied minors are crossing our porous southern border, raising legitimate concerns about where to put them all. U.S. policy allows children under the age of 18 to enter the U.S. while their claims are processed, so they can’t be abandoned.

What is going on? And what can we do about it, since nobody I know actually advocates open borders?

First, an important distinction is in order. These kids arrive at the U.S. border without a parent or guardian, but they aren’t 3-year-olds being pulled sobbing from their mother’s arms. The largest number are between 15…


Photo credit: iStock

My twin brothers were famous for their fearless shenanigans, from climbing the TV antenna to playing in ant piles.

It’s been a scorching Kansas summer day, 103 degrees in the shade in the days before air conditioning. You can’t get in the car wearing shorts because the vinyl seat is too hot, and you can’t walk barefoot on asphalt or cement or you’ll be sorry. If you are out in the country, you’ll see water shimmering where the highway meets the horizon, but you know it’s a mirage.

Better to be outside than indoors, though, because in western Kansas there’s always wind, sending tumbleweeds scuttling down the side of the road. I’m not talking about a timid little breeze…


Photo by Laura Seaman on Unsplash

This is the matrix in which I was made, a harsh land of short-grass prairie and endless, sun-bleached sky

When people think of Kansas, they think of the staid Midwest, but western Kansas is on the High Plains stretching toward the Continental Divide at the summit of the Rocky Mountains. It is a harsh land of short-grass prairie and endless, sun-bleached sky that is closer to Amarillo than Kansas City. The land isn’t flat; it curves softly like a woman’s body. The colors tend toward shades of gold for the land and shades of blue for the sky, accented by an occasional field of vivid yellow sunflowers. …


This is about millions of women who need family-friendly workplaces in order to balance the demands of children and work.

I’ve got a bone to pick with an archaeologist at a nearby university. She annoyed me so much that I impulsively unfollowed her on Twitter, but I’m an archaeology junkie so I’ll probably be back.

What could this bright, funny young academic possibly have done to annoy me enough to forswear feeding my addiction to daily snippets of archaeology news? Nothing much, except tweet one sentence, accompanied by clapping hands. …


You can insist that sexism exists only in the perfervid imaginings of old feminists, but our language tells a different story

Photo by Louisedoeslife on Unsplash

By Jacque White Kochak

I’ve been thinking about pejoration lately.

I’m glad I haven’t used the word “Oriental” in years, because when I wasn’t looking this formerly innocent word morphed into an offensive term for Asians. I was unaware of this inexorable shift, as I tend to think of Oriental as meaning Eastern.

Occidental has not undergone such a shift, so I was taken by surprise. Fortunately, my consciousness was raised one afternoon as I listened to NPR and an earnest young woman talked about her father’s Chinese restaurant. …


My daughters and me (several years ago)

Does this mean we are vain and shallow? Maybe, but it also means we’re realistic.

By Jacque White Kochak

I’m looking at a snapshot of me with my three adult daughters, and I’m laughing. We’re all dressed up. We are primping for a party in Palm Springs, California, and I am dressed in uncharacteristic finery — elegant black pants and tank top with a spiffy hand-me-down jacket from my sister, a fashionista before the term was popular.

The jacket is also black and see-through, with cut-out leather leaves sewed on to make the design. I had to shed the outfit as the evening wore on, because Palm Springs is located in the desert, and even…


Artwork by Natalya Kochak

I am separated from Paula Matabane by a mere five generations. We both know the sad history that made us distant cousins.

By Jacque White Kochak

I do my best thinking about people when I’m sitting in a choir stall at St. Michael’s Catholic Church on a Sunday morning, gazing out at hundreds of mostly white faces. I’m euphoric as my choir mates and I sing, but then my mind wanders. I know I should be minding Father Bill’s pithy homily, but the temptation to ruminate about people and their foibles, with such a wealth of examples laid out before me, is irresistible.

I watch a trim, handsome widower as he links arms with a young woman who once attended Mass with…

Jacque White Kochak

I have been writing for years but more recently transitioned to writing grants. I have published extensively in the past and am just getting up to speed again.

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