Hello! Welcome to Coffee Stains. My name is Danielle, but mostly I answer to ‘Ms. Smogard’. I grew up in Texas, went to college in Minnesota, spent a hot second in D.C., and then had the time of my life in India. Now I live in Boston. By day I am teaching 5th grade, and by night I am getting my Master’s in Teaching. I also sometimes pretend to be a writer. Everything is changing, but little by little I am learning about the world and sorting it out in words on the internet. Blogs have a lot of categories, and I was never sure which category mine fell into, but then I read the introduction to Neil Gaiman’s new book. I loved it so much that I stole it. In describing the pieces of his book (a collection of his non-fiction), he says: “Some of them are serious and some of them are frivolous and some of them are earnest and some of them I wrote to try and make people listen. You are under no obligation to read them all, or to read them in any particular order….There is writing in here about things and people that are close to my heart. There’s some of my life in here, too: I tend to write about things from wherever I am standing, and that means I include possibly too much of me in the things I write”. The things I wrote four years ago are pretty embarrassing. Some of what I’ve written in the last two years is enjoyable. All of it is honest. Thanks for reading.

(if you leave having only read one thing, it should be this)


Maybe because I wanted to get back into writing, but mostly I just wanted a project. A place to document ideas, a space to reflect. Ultimately, this blog is a way to keep myself creative, focused, and inspired. The site layout was designed by Monica and developed by Melissa. The lovely logo was designed by Kirsten Louise Design.


That is actually what my first post is about.


Before I got to D.C. I had lunch with a woman my dad met at work who had just gotten back from volunteering at this school in India that was doing some pretty amazing things for children living in poverty. My dad thought she and I would have a thing or two to talk about and—looking back—I guess I owe this whole experience to him because that lunch was how I found out about this place—a school that provides a free, high quality education to children of India’s lowest social class. In deciding what to do after D.C., I knew I wanted to work with children and I needed to go to India and see this country for myself after thinking about it every single day for a year. Everything converged in a miraculous way and I have had the most life changing experience. Shanti Bhavan will always have my heart. Everything I wrote about my time in India can be found here.