Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Said American Dream - by Jenny Talia

ECR humorously tasked me to write about The American Dream, or better stated, my perspective on The Said American Dream.

First, let's get a generally proposed definition for the subject matter at hand.

Wikipedia (the source for all things accurate) defines The American Dream as a subjective term usually implying a successful and satisfying life. This term usually implies financial security and material comfort, but can also imply a dream of fame, exceeding social, ethnic, or class boundaries, or simply living a fulfilling life. Perceptions of the American dream are usually framed in terms of American capitalism, its associated meritocracy, and the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Bill of Rights.

The term is not easily defined, and has subjective meaning to many who claim it. The American Dream is often associated with
immigration, as the dream of religious freedom, economic prosperity, and meritocracy has historically driven immigrants to the United States. The term is used by many modern Americans to signify success in life as a result of hard work (as in, "living [or pursuing] the American Dream").

Hmmm. I guess I can get behind the part about living a fulfilling life - but is my life truly fulfilled if yours is not? Is it ok that I am warm if it means you are cold? Fame and fortune, well, that makes me sit up a little straighter and start to itch. Then I get all prickly towards the parts describing capitalism and then laugh out loud when I read the part about it involving meritocracy, better known as a system of government or other organization based on demonstrated ability (merit) and talent rather than by wealth, family connections (nepotism), class privilege, cronyism or other historical determinants of social position and political power.

Ahem. If meritocracy is an actual part of The Existing American Dream, then I can shit tiny gold men and make them do my laundry.

PS. I do my own laundry.

(I shouldn't be so cynical. We are conditioned to embrace the ideals of meritocracy, and the practice certainly does exist, but concerning leadership in particular - status is exponentially easier to achieve through wealth, nepotism, class/race privilege, & cronyism than through a merit-based ascension through the establishment's rank & file. For every Frederick Douglas, there are 1000 George Bushes.)

I guess I'd prefer to re-define what we typically think of as the American Dream as Global Human Potential through Social Justice.

(Wiki-people) Social justice refers to conceptions of justice applied to an entire society. It is based on the idea of a just society, which gives individuals and groups fair treatment and a just share of the benefits of society.
Social justice is both a
philosophical problem and an important issue in politics. It can be argued that everyone wishes to live in a just society, but different political ideologies have different conceptions of what a 'just society' actually is. The term "social justice" itself tends to be used by those ideologies who believe that present day society is highly unjust - and these are usually left-wing ideologies, advocating a more extensive use of democracy and income redistribution, a more egalitarian society and either a mixed economy or a non-market-based economic model.

Social justice is also a concept that some use to describe the movement towards a socially just world. In this context, social justice is based on the concepts of
human rights and equality. So a very broad definition of social justice is that "social justice reflects the way in which human rights are manifested in the everyday lives of people at every level of society" It can be further defined as working towards the realization of a world where all members of a society, regardless of background, have basic human rights and an equal opportunity to access the benefits of their society.

Amen.

Now what does this all mean to me? I think people like C come to our country because we have acquired more of the world's resources, therefore making it easier to feed and clothe your family, and keep them alive than in many other parts of the world. But The Said American Dream comes on the backs of others. Unfair trade agreements, destabilization of other economies, and the ever loving desire to make a buck has crippled the world's (and our) economy. The Said American Dream lives on the backs of our domestic brothers and sisters - one in five children live below the poverty line in the US. Millions have no health insurance. There is not a city in the nation where minimum wage equates market rate rental housing. Tens of thousands of children go to bed hungry. In my county alone, there are 20,000 people who are currently unhoused. The average age of a homeless person is nine years old.

I have met hundreds of homeless or at risk of homelessness families who pursue the above with a vigor that startles me. They believe that with hard work, one can have anything. I think it is an honorable dream, and one that many of us have been fortunate enough to experience ourselves to varying degrees. But did it all come to us via our hard work alone? It didn't for me - money, stability and ethnicity all played a role.

ECR - Obviously this is somewhat sardonic and a bit scattered. In fact, I'd give myself a C-, or better, fail me for plagarism. I'll let you decide. Others, please feel free to disagree. That whole it's a free country thing does come in handy.

But if the argument is at least we aren't as bad as some other countries, I won't buy it. Because as the country with the most resources and wealth, we have the obligation and responsibility to be an example to others. To use our power for good. To stand up taller. To do the right thing. It doesn't matter if others are mucking it up worse.

So, in turn, ECR, and others - what is your perspective of the American Dream?

rising up

Sometimes people come back after their crisis is over, not as often as I'd like, so when I get the pleasure of hearing the "look at me now" stories I drink them up like sweet water. Yesterday brought one of those unexpected visitors.

C came to us with his son after fleeing Somalia in 2001. He was granted political asylum, but not much else. They were homeless, couldn't speak much english, and needed help. We were able to move him into to one of our projects and over time and with some interpreters, started to learn how we could best help.

C fled during the remnants of the civil war. He was only able to afford passage for himself and one son (of 5 children at the time) and missed his wife and family dearly. C immediately began taking ESL classes and looking for work. Not having any understanding of our social system or ability to speak the language was a barrier, but he took it in stride - all he cared about was getting his family out and safe. He took to our programs quickly, absorbed the help we could offer, was extraordinarily proud of his new place to live, and worked, worked, worked. He had to save $13,000 to prove to the US that he could support his family as well as pay for their passage. He also had to get all the proper approvals and visas and after 9/11, (his family is Muslim), things got considerably tougher.

Stories of all the domestically displaced Muslim families we housed in the years after 9/11 is another tale for another day.

C is so generous, surprising us with Somali delicacies, helping out when we needed some heavy lifting, and working hard to contribute to his new community. C would find other African immigrant families in trouble, and would drop them on our doorstep and translate their needs to us and implore us to help. He was a one man community builder.

C lived with us for over two years. We had committed to keep him housed until his family arrived and we could transition them together, because stable housing was one of the criteria he had to have in order to justify their arrival.

About two months before his family was granted aslyum, one of his daughters died. She had been sick, their village didn't have proper medical treatment, and food was scarce. In essence, she died because it took too long to bring them here. C was devastated, and yet he kept going. There were three children left to bring to his new home.

Finally, the paperwork was pushed and the stamps were stamped and authority was granted. His family arrived, and it was a joyous homecoming. His wife was so breathtakingly beautiful, I'll never forget the first time I saw her walking across the parking lot - orange sari flowing, her regal posture and shy and exhausted smile. His children were beside themselves, they'd had quite a journey and had spent a long time away from their father. Everyone was hungry, and needed to see a doctor, but were ok.

Very shortly after he kept his commitment to us and prepared to move out. He worked several assorted jobs to make ends meet. He'd saved money, but had spent most of it bringing his family here. He still needed help, but again small miracles ensued and a kind landlord was willing to negotiate.

That was 2 years ago. He's always kept in touch, but it's been awhile. He came yesterday to say helllo and to kindly offer me blessings, saying without us he would not have been able to rise up. That he is in touch with others we'd helped at the same time, and we learned one family has bought a house, and another has a son in college. He is working with another family to open a restaurant. And he says they owe it all to us.

Believe me, I know that isn't true. I know the truth is that they helped themselves. That they made the most of every opportunity and never wavered. That they brought community and joy and love and life to our country, and they've blessed us in knowing them.

He brought another family with him today, one he's stumbled upon recently, who've recently arrived from Africa, and one of the kids has some issues. He is 11, but he cannot speak. C thinks the horrors he's witnessed has taken his voice. And of course, they need a place to stay. In the for-profit world, this might equal customer satisfaction and a strong referral base. In ours, it's akin to bailing an ocean with a thimble. There is never enough housing and our arms are weary. But still they come, each with their own stories of trauma and hard times, and each with their exhaustion, shame, and a glimmer of hope in their eyes.

I learned long ago that even when it's thank you, it's never only about thank you.

And I can live with that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

a little wooden ring


A couple of you asked to see - and unfortunately the picture kind of, well sucks. But here you go. Note the trekking through the jungle dirty fingernails.

And no, that was NOT me sipping a bit of rum punch while pregnant...what kind of woman do you think I am?

Probably exactly the kind of woman I am.

A sip, people. Just a sip.

Monday, November 27, 2006

joining the union

This one's for Chani, who got me thinking.

We hadn't been together for very long before M decided to join us. And getting pregnant didn't make us want to get legally married - we are both of the mindset that we don't need a judicial system to help us define our love and commitment so the idea of a wedding or marriage wasn't something that we'd put on the table as a result of M.

However, her appearance made us realize we wanted to do something to communicate to the world that we'd become a family. We decided that we'd both change our names to a name that fits how we want to live our lives. We labored for months about the right name, and at one point were fairly well set on an acronym for a phrase we like: Truth and Love in Action. Talia sounded like a terrific last name until I (thanking the almighty) said it out loud in a sentence.

Hi, I am Jen Talia. Or worse, Jenny Talia. Nice to meet you.

And we were THIS CLOSE to filing the paperwork. I'll wait till you are done laughing at our stupidity before continuing. Needless to say we went with another option.

Anyways, we were trekking around Central America during my 2nd trimester, feeling the need for a trip before our world changed. While we were in Belize J-Dog started acting a bit suspiciously - disappearing for a while, hushed conversations, etc. I knew something was up but I had no idea what.

One morning he said he had a surprise. We walked over to the ocean and a catamaran was sitting on the dock. He had rented it to take us out into the Caribbean, complete with two old and salty Belizean sailor types. The day was perfect. Water a deep turquoise, visibility for miles. J-Dog asked me to sit down and be serious. I started to giggle and fidget.

He pulled out a piece of paper and a small bag. He had written the most beautiful words about love and partnership and about how he was committed to making this life with me, about how much he loved me and the baby inside, and invited me to make a family with him, for better and worse. He opened the bag and had some wooden rings inside, a few different and inexpensive pieces, yet they suited me perfectly. He said I could wear or not wear them, but knew I liked variety and wanted me to have choices. They were lovely, his words were lovely, and at one point he asked me if I would be his life partner, and I said yes.

He then stood up and yelled to the old Belizean men "She said YES! She said YES!" and they whooped and cheered and brought over a plastic tub of rum punch and toasted our happiness.

Simple, private, and perfect.

We've realized since that while this has made us happy, at some point we might like to have a celebration of sorts - not sure yet what we'd call it - that our friends and family can attend. We'd like to wait till M is a bit older, so she'll remember it and can participate. For now, we have done exactly enough to suit us.

That doesn't mean we don't have to defend our decision to family, or that folks don't get confused when I call him my partner or because of our last name, assume we're married and call him my husband. And none of it matters, because he is all of those things to me anyways. It doesn't mean it'll always be this way, or that we won't choose something else later. It just means we're playing it loose.

He’s the warmest chord I ever heard
Play that warm chord, play and stay baby
We don’t need no piece of paper
From the city hall
Keeping us tied and true
- Joni Mitchell

Sunday, November 26, 2006

spending and sharing

A friend recently told me about how she teaches her daughter about philanthropy. I loved the concept and want to adopt it with M when she is a bit older. Every week her daughter gets her allowance and she has three jars to put it in. One for spending, one for saving, and one for sharing.

Her daughter understands she is to divide it up equally into the three jars. The spend jar gets to be used for whatever she wants, and the save jar is used for the really special thing she wants and is learning to save for. The share jar is for her to use when she learns about things people need. She can choose where to give it to, but she knows she is to use it to help others. She's purchased a blanket for a homeless person with her share money, and helped pay for child care for another woman who was in need. I know we aren't talking about huge dollar amounts here, but it's so very much about awareness and compassion and so much less about the amount itself.

I can't tell you how much I love this. Especially since her daughter is only six.

The other day she overheard her mom talking on the phone about the money troubles in her agency (she is also in non-profit) so she walked over and handed her her share jar and asked her to use it for her job "since they need money to help more people".

What a lifetime gift she is giving her child. I can't wait to start this same tradition with M.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

all consuming

I am not sure exactly what it is about consumerism that makes me want to weep, but watching all the people line up outside stores in the dark to be the first one inside, to get the best deals, to spend, spend, spend, makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry. Maybe its because it's a reality incomprehensible to the majority of the world who would give a limb to have the same small fortune that folks are willing to squander on the latest thing, or out of a sense of obligation to others, or to simply feel full.

There is something so incredibly sad about it. Or maybe it's just me.

Does anyone have any thoughts about the upside of consumerism? Because I can't seem to find it and am wondering what it must be.

Friday, November 24, 2006

familiar relations

Thank you to all of your thoughts for M. She is doing so much better - and once the infection is cleared, we'll focus on understanding what asthma means for her and what we need to do to deal with it. Of course I'd prefer that nothing was ever wrong with her, but as far as things go, this is treatable and therefore, it's ok. We'll figure it out.

My brother is in town for a few days. My brother is a bachelor, a world traveller, a rather hunky sort of boy. Girls love my brother. And he's the kind of boy I'd not want my daughter going out with. He's used to his life, his way. He only manages to come see us once or twice a year, and so it's nice having him around. However, I think he's reconsidering the length of his visit. It's gone something like this:

Me: Since you are never around, seems fitting to get to know your niece. (We respond well to guilt in our family)
Him: Ok
Me: So J-Dog and I are going to the movies so you can have quality time together.
Him: Ok. But she better not poop.
Me: You better deal with it if she does. Kids poop.
Him: But she poops a lot. I mean, who shits 4 times a day?

Off to Borat, a completely outrageous and bizarre yet strangely hilarious experience

We came home at 9:30pm to find him sound asleep. Mr. All Night Partier out of commission. Asleep on the couch, toys everywhere, battle wounds visible. M's (fresh) diaper on backwards. But she's smiling in her sleep. M 1. Uncle 0.

In the morning M wakes at her usual 7am.

Him: Does she ever stop?
Me: No
Him: How the hell do you do this? I mean, she's cute, but cute gets old.
Me: Look at me. I am a mere shell of my old self. I am fatter and more worn out than ever.
Him: You're not that...
Me: Watch it.
Him: Still. I've been around other kids before. None of them require this much non-stop attention. Something must be wrong with her.
Me: Ok. What do you think it is?
Him: Maybe she needs medication
Me: You dumbshit. She's two.
Him: Maybe I need medication.
Me: If you get some, give me half.

Later...
Me: Wouldn't it be fun if Uncle took you to the park?
Him: Groaning
M: Yeah, yeah, yeah , park, uncle, uncle park park uncle park uncle uncle park.
Me: Can you honestly disappoint someone as cute as that?
Him: I am over the cute factor. I told you that already.
Me: I'll buy you beer. And I'll give you $20.
Him: Groaning, yet rising upwards.

I am totally exploiting him today, and I have no problem with it.
At all.
And it's not even noon yet.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

gobble

I am not sure why we require a holiday to remember to be thankful - and yet I know I can be as guilty of it as the next person - getting caught up in the daily grind, forgetting my everyday abundance of good fortune, and then feeling generally ashamed that I require a prompt to acknowledge the obvious. So instead of waxing on about my everyday richness, good health, a loving family, and so forth, I'd rather bring you this:

To the bevy of women (and occasional man) that I didn't know existed a year ago: You tremendously supportive, articulate, hilarious and powerful writers, you are what I am thankful for today.

I feel genuine love for so many of you. I eagerly clickity clack on over to you each day, excited to see what you've come up with, ways to learn from your wisdom, sending solace when you are aching, or laughing at your wit. I have become involved in your lives, and I find that what you do and say matters a great deal.

So, as I slyly tilt my head towards the right side of my screen and coyly, under half lidded eyes gaze in your direction I become increasingly wide eyed and captivated - you, and then more of you, is what I am thankful for today.

Thank you for shining light into dark corners, for your keen wit, your depth of beauty, and for your willingness to meet me in the middle.

It's come to matter more than you know. So I bring flowers in gratitude, all the way from a little spot in Cambodia, just for you.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

coming up for air

After a long and scary sleepless night we finally got to see a MD. When I got to the doctor's office I told the woman behind the counter that M was really struggling to breathe. She said, yeah, we see a lot of that lately. As I mentally grabbed her by the back of the head and slammed her face into the counter, I more politely said listen, she is having trouble breathing right now. I want to see a MD RIGHT NOW. I know, health care providers, that I am just a faceless number. But dammit, I need you to listen. to. me. or I just might go Wild Planet on you. I really just might.

M was taken back and learned that yes, her oxygen saturation levels were extremely low. Breathing treatment ensued. Another listen. Yes, it's walking pneumonia, oh, and probably, she's got asthma. Lots to figure out. KC, I wish you lived closer, and I wish you were my MD.

I can deal with all of this because I notice M now has color in her cheeks. 2 inhalers, no problem. prescriptions, cool. Because she can breathe again. Thank you.

And thank you for your wonderful thoughts and wishes. I was up all night, so re-reading your comments made me feel a bit less alone in the dark.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

deep breaths


M is pretty sick right now. Borderline driving to the emergency room sick.

She had walking pneumonia a few weeks ago, got better (or so we thought) and came crashing down today. Her breathing is so labored, I was almost in tears letting the nurse listen to her over the phone before finally collectively deciding we can wait till our appointment first thing in the AM, but only if it doesn't get worse. If it gets worse, we head to the ER.

It's one of those nights where you walk on eggshells, checking on her over and over, sleeping in her room on the floor in shifts.
It's one of those nights where you realize you've taken every healthy day for granted, and how you have no real idea of what it is like to worry for your child. While intellectually I know she'll be fine, it's still one of those nights and it won't stop till I know she's better.

So instead I take a moment to pour a glass of red and turn to all of you, and share a picture of her with lungs strong enough to blow bubbles.

It's one of those nights where everything feels a bit scary, when I realize how small we all are, how I am completely wrecked by love for my child, and yet how powerless I can feel if something is wrong.

brimstone and bologna sandwiches

My father's brother ran a homeless ministry. He was a fire breathing preacher, full of faith and gospel and god and he commanded the same of everyone around him. He was larger than life, my Uncle, when he walked into a room people gathered around him. He took that pulpit and made it scream. People loved him. Feared him, too. I always felt like he was God On Earth. His words WERE the holy commandments, and you better listen up.

He lived in the church office with his wife and kids. They lived onsite because they kept their doors open 24/7 to anyone needing a place to stay. Anyone could sleep on one of the pews. The only rule was you'd better be upright at 6am to get your fill of Jesus. Praying, bible study, church...you abided by all of it if you wanted a place to stay.

I cut my homeless baby teeth inside those walls. We'd visit regularly, we'd help cook meals, make sandwiches, go to church. It was unavoidable - my grandmother lived in the back of the church by then, and the rest of the family came and went as well. Running the church and the various programs was a true family affair.

They ran a summer camp for inner city kids. The camp was spartan - tents and outhouses, a lot of white bread and oatmeal. They'd round up hundreds of kids from deep inside L.A. and get them breathing mountains for a week at a time. My parents would send me, and truth be told, I hated it. Camp was hard. We were roughing it. And the kids, well, the kids were tough. There was so little money to spare that the evening activities mostly consisted of chasing one of the counselors around while he held a hershey bar in his teeth. Whoever finally caught him got the candy. I never won, not once.

My uncle ran things with an iron fist wrapped around a bible. From time to time city workers would hassle him - people were being housed illegally, overcrowding, pews were not meant to be used as beds. Nothing was up to code, food was bartered and begged. Folks did drugs. One guy from the Health Inspectors office tried hard to shut the place down. I remember threats of litigation and of closing our doors. I remember my uncle fighting with him and bringing it up in church, bible raised and voice thundering, asking God to intervene. The guy dropped dead of a heart attack the next week. I kid you not. This was how my uncle rolled.

All of that combined meant I had a healthy fear of my uncle. He commanded and I responded. He told me what to do, what to read, and I did. I loved him very much. I also was just a little girl, and easily impressionable.

While I certainly learned about humanity, I struggled with the religiousity of it all. As I grew older, I disagreed that someone should have to augment their belief system in order to receive help. While I appreciate his passion, I don't agree with the approach. To be honest, I don't know how many folks were truly helped...did they end their homelessness, or was it just passing time? I know some people seemed to make miraculous recoveries...pimps became pastors, that sort of thing. Perhaps salvation IS the goal, eternal life certainly trumps this world if one is a believer of that sort, but at the same time, I think helping is helping, and it shouldn't come chained to the bible.

My uncle died quite a few years ago. He was out at dinner, looked at his wife, said it's time to go home, and died on the spot. We always felt it was a blessing that he died away from the church, because people saw salvation in him, and seeing him wheeled out in a bag might have been too much to bear. I recall his funeral - the church was filled to the brim and there were 200 or so more people gathered outside in the street. I remember a lot of wailing and crying. One woman threw herself on his coffin. I cried for a week. My aunt, though - she was a rock. She never did leave that church office, not for many years to come.

Without knowing, he gave me my start. I had no idea I'd end up doing what I do now way back then, but those experiences taught me a lot about perseverance and hope. About dedication and compassion.

But mostly, it taught me but there for the grace of god, go I.

Monday, November 20, 2006

forty eight

Every year I attend a funeral for the homeless who've died on the streets in our county. Every year the names are compiled of those who've died and it allows their friends, family if any, and the community to witness their passing and offer them some small grace.

This year I knew several of the forty eight folks who died, one whom I've paid tribute to already, and others who I knew less well, but mourn them just the same. Like the woman whose body was found on the conveyor belt of our local refuse plant, where she'd landed after her body had been carelessly tossed into a dumpster and unwittingly delivered, or the woman who died in the streets and left her husband alone, to weep today at what will be the only official tribute to her life. The morgue is full of unclaimed bodies, for even those who'd like to cannot afford to bury them, and so they sit.

It's always bittersweet because while I appreciate the acknowledgement of those we've lost, I can't help but wonder what this winter will hold in store for others. The nights are getting colder, the first rain is already upon us, and the medical system cannot keep the ones without insurance unless their condition absolutely mandates it, so the sick and dying are left to wander.

And then I wonder what it's going to really take to force our local and national governments to sit up and take notice. The horror of Katrina and it's aftermath certainly didn't - I was involved in resettlement for about 200 refugees that were displaced and sent across the country on greyhound buses so I got to see the bureaucracy that folks had to suffer through, and how it took a very long time and a lot of bullshit to get folks rehoused. And that was just a small piece of the total that were rendered (and still are) homeless.

I wonder how many more names I will hear read while we continue to fail those who need it the most because it is unsavory economically to do something about it.

Rest in peace.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Minced Metaphors: The Phoenix Shouldn't Throw the Baby out with the Bathwater if it Hopes to Rise from its Own Ashes

I invited J-Dog to write a piece for my blog - seeing as he's watched it take over a chunk of my life, I thought it might be nice to add his voice to the mix. Besides, he's the true writer in the family anyways.

His creation is below.

I was 5 years old when my parents divorced. The divorce was a bitter affair, largely the fruit of an extramarital affair, and was in some frames of reference, mine in particular, utterly unfair to me. Given these were my adoptive parents, the abandonment double-whammy has owned my shadow ever since. But in the wake of my dad's moving out, he would occasionally visit me, and I remember one visit above the others.

Being the type of man who throws money at his problems, forever hoping that material indulgence might absolve others' pain & his guilt, my father took me to this castle-shaped palatial warehouse called Toy World (long since buried by Toys 'R Us), and told me that I could have any toy in the store I wanted. Being 5, I ate that shit up - hook, line, worm, & sinker - and I vividly remember feeling like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, or Dorothy maybe, at the moment she opens her tornado-torn, sepia-hued bedroom door to find a Technicolor land of Oz & opportunity . . . You mean, any toy I want? I asked. Yes, any toy you want. And so I carefully, thoughtfully, methodically combed the magnificent aisles of promise, piously hedging my good fortune against the burden of choice, and the choice I finally made might confuse you, as it did me for some 30 years.

I chose a small plastic toy ark. It was a sea-worthy vessel, bathtub-worthy for sure, replete with miniature figures of Noah, Naamah (Noah's wife, who's name I admittedly researched for my own sake, given the predominant readership of this blog), 2 giraffes, 2 elephants, 2 tigers, and so on.

Now I wasn't particularly religious before, during, or after the age of 5, and I have no clear memory of relating to the toy in a biblical sense, but I chose what I chose, a humble ark, despite having license to own any manner of toy - a toy perhaps, of some pomp & circumstance, or adventurous scope & scheme. Being too young to engage much self-reflection, I only remember my father & I excitedly taking the toy to a creek, placing the figurines of people & animals on the deck, setting the ark afloat, & taking a picture as craft & crew traveled merrily down-stream.

Years then passed without so much as a second-thought about either the toy or the event, and its memory may have been lost forever had I not one day during my early 20's found that photo. A simple photo maybe, but I was struck by complex & powerful feelings. Not only by the clarity with which I was able to revisit that day in my memory, but by the emotional charge of those times, and the nostalgia I felt for having shared such a moment with my now more-than-less estranged father.

The photo instantly became one of my prized possessions, one of the few things I never lost over the ensuing years, and one of those private mementos that became a secret unto myself; not because I consciously chose to hide its import from others, but because such opportunities rarely presented themselves (save for the occasion when a lover & I chose to plumb such depths). Still though, I didn't really get it. Why did the photo mean so much to me and, more importantly, why the hell did I choose an ark? Why would an un-indoctrinated 5 year-old boy voluntarily choose an ark for a toy? Especially in the face of such grand alternatives. Was there ever a time when arks were considered fun things to play with? What the . . . ?

Well, it's been 30 years now, and I believe I can finally address the enigma in a light that suits my nature. The ark is clearly a symbol for the container that safely transports one from the garden that was destroyed - across, over, & through the floods, dangers, darkness, & crises that envelope the former world - to an unforeseen, undiscovered, & unexplored place of safety, stability, illumination, and new life. The ark is the vessel that carries you through the times that don't kill you. The ark is the shelter through the storm. The ark offers safe passage between tragedy & triumph. And though the ark might be lost, ravaged by the elements, desperate for a sign, and challenged in its hope that stable ground might some day be found again, the ark always stays afloat. The ark survives.

Furthermore, the ark also contains the seeds of everything worth salvaging from the old world. When a safe harbor is finally anchored, these fertile seeds allow for a new world order to be cultivated & repopulated from the best of what the old world had to offer. While previously gained strengths are preserved, and wayward pursuits have been washed away, fresh perspectives emerge, novel approaches are employed, previous pitfalls are avoided, rebuilding begets awareness, mindfulness becomes practice, evolution becomes conscious, the gardener awakens and a new garden takes root. Like the seasons, the cyclical journey of the ark will persist throughout one's life. The ark transforms.

So, why did I buy an ark? Because an ark is precisely what I needed to survive my parents’ divorce & transform myself. Pretty smart for a 5 year old, but not all that surprising if you know any 5 year olds. And all these years later, I realize that I was and still am that ark. Populating the ark might be my friends, family, self-concept, dreams, faith, hope, passions, strength, love, un-deterrable destiny - whatever fertile seedling 'ark'-etypes I carry with me through the darkness - but I am, like you, forever the ark. And I am always reminded of this by that old photo that today lives on our refrigerator door.

So we must never forget, and need look no further than ourselves, for we are more powerful than we can imagine. Survival is instinctual, but choosing to engage the opportunity for transformation embedded within is paramount.

It is with gratitude that I have been allowed to share this story with you. The ark-I-am honors the ark-you-are. After all, were it not for the success of the arks-we-are, the paths of most-certain strangers would never have met here, and the opportunity to acknowledge our fundamental sameness, strength, & power may have passed unnoticed.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

spiders and moon

I always wondered what rituals I'd create with my own family - as rituals and magic and fun were somewhat lost on me as a girl. I knew I wanted to create something different in my own family, to make life as magical for M as possible.

I can't claim we have an ocean of creativity and wonder freefalling all around us, but we do have this:

Every night before bed, M and J-Dog go outside and sit on our porch. It's their time, and I choose not to invade it but every so often I hear lifts and lilts of their voices. This is something M looks forward to every night. Just as it's getting late she starts asking for spiders and moon and off they go into the dark majesty of the evening.

Last night I asked what it was they spoke of. J said they talk about sounds and bugs and cats and spiders and the moon and cars and sirens. And how she sits still in his lap and holds his hands in hers. And then we realized we'd created a ritual - one where over the years the talk will expand to feelings and friends and boys or girls and love and life and politics and travel....and that they'll always have that time together and she'll have that to look forward to, every single night. Her time with her father, where anything is open for discussion. In fact, they are outside again tonight as I type this post; M with her blanket and chatter and J-Dog with his parka and heart of gold.

And how very blessed that makes us, safe and warm and loving, in our own corner of darkness and light.

Friday, November 17, 2006

jungle fever


While the picture is overexposed and you'll have to take my word for it that we are not using forced child labor, here is a glimpse of progress on our two acre jungle paradise....our local friends cleared the underbrush and are tending the grass till we make it back and figure out how to stay. (I still can't believe it's ours. Oh, and that we own a lawnmower in Belize. A Belizean lawnmower of all things).

Can you see those itty bitty fence posts in the background? We now have a fence!

The second shot is the view facing the river, where one day I'll bathe M and wash our clothes. Alright, who am I kidding....we'll drag chairs to the edge and drink beers at sunset.


It's tough to really explain how wanderlust lives inside me. About how every day I dream of dusty backpacks and local buses. About food stalls and foreign beer. About discovery and challenge.

The only person I know who gets to make that sort of travel a reality on a regular basis is the lovely Lucia who travels the world exotic in the name of goodness.

Have you met her yet? If not, you should.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

the reality of perception

I was leaving the grocery store recently when I noticed a man panhandling outside. I usually stop and talk to the men or women I see doing this to see if they are homeless - usually because I can offer some information if they want it, a night in a shelter, a phone number, a connection of sorts. Sometimes they just want a buck, and I have no problem with that either, but I generally try to approach it with the goal of a longer term solution.

I was sitting on the curb talking with the guy about bus routes and shelter options when another shopper came up and handed me a couple dollars, quietly said good luck and walked away.

At first I was taken aback. I immediately thought I must look like shit and then almost said oh, hey, wait, I'm not homeless but I thought that might be an affront to the guy I was talking to, so I simply turned and handed him the money. He smiled and took it and mentioned something about how maybe I could hang out a bit longer.

As I left I was struck by the reactions that brought up in me - a sense of self-consciousness, a smidge of unintended fraud, and above all, the need to explain that I am not what you were thinking. Talk about some heavy lifting in those moments, coming from someone who purportedly spends her time and passion and intellect focused on the issue, on raising awareness to it, to proving that homelessness can look like any of us.

And yet so internally quick to defend that I am not.

It bothered me. Or better said, I bothered me. For practical reasons my reaction was normal, but my need to defend disappointed me. What makes me different? A roof, sure, but otherwise, we share skin and bone and love and fear. A choice here or there, certainly, but any of us can take a wrong turn and find ourselves lost. A battle lost, a lover scorned, a system broken.

We are all them, because we are all us. Next time, I'll just say thank you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

good answer, sister.

This week's TIME magazine featured a short interview with Nancy Pelosi. This answer made me stand up and cheer.

TIME Will your performance as Speaker have implications for Hillary Clinton if she runs for President?

PELOSI I'm not sure you would have asked a man that about another man. But since this is unusual, I will respect your question. I think it's really important for the people of our country to see that women can wield power and success in this rarefied and high altitude of power. I don't think Hillary Clinton, though, needs any validation from any other woman. She is an experienced Senator, articulate and a force in her own right.

Exactly. The simple fact that she is a woman should not set the tone for women everywhere. The question never would have been asked to a man. But the reality is it will be, time and time again. She'll be under more scrutiny for the simple fact of being woman.

Nancy, we are counting on you to keep reminding them that gender alone shouldn't be used to compare us, and it would be a mistake to let it divide us, or worse, to underestimate us.

Go, girl.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

the needs of man

J Dog came home with a funny story last night. As he's leaving work in a hurry (mostly because I've been sick the last two days w/ an offshoot of walking pneumonia courtesy of M and I called begging for reinforcements) a client approached him rather aggressively on his way out the door.

Guy: I am a man, and I like to c*ome. (Humor the edits, I am saving weird googlers the disappointment of not finding something better to read)
J: Excuse me?
Guy: I am a man, and I like to c*ome. (I am on the floor by now, picturing this and J's face)
J: I am confused why you are telling me this, because it makes me feel uncomfortable (good one, J). Are you saying you are like to e*jac/ulate?
Guy: I am a man, and I like to c*ome.
J: Ok, Guy, you obviously need to talk about this but I am not sure how to respond. Are you saying you like to c*ome or you need to c*ome?
Guy: I need to.
J: Ah, ok. So that is different. I am hearing you say you are having trouble c*oming. Is that true?
Guy: Yes.
J: Ok. There are many reasons that might be occuring (synopsis of medication contraindications and so forth) How about we talk about some other things you can try safely and privately so that you are able to take care of yourself?

Bless him. I think I might not have stopped to try and flesh (pun intended) this one out, if it were me. But he saw it as a treatment opportunity and took it.

And then I wondered how many therapeutic moments we all miss in the course of our daily lives where kids/friends/co-workers/clients reach out tentatively (or otherwise), and we don't take the time to allow it to unravel because it makes us feel uncomfortable? I am betting I do it more often than I think - and something this overt is a good reminder.

Monday, November 13, 2006

mountain men and the lack of maid service

We lived for a while in a small mountain town. Maybe 1000 people, rather remote, everyone knew everyone. There weren't a lot of homeless as the weather was harsh and services distant, but a few took up residence from time to time.

I was 11 or 12 at the time, so my awareness was much more focused on Prince or Shawn Cassidy but I recall bits and pieces of the conversations I'd overhear my dad telling my mom, about how he was trying to help Don.

Don lived out in the woods. I never saw his encampment - my father never brought me when he'd go visit. Don had been homeless for a long time, wasn't connected to the system, was off the grid. My dad was trying to help him get some assistance. Don would come by from time to time, perhaps for money or some food, and my dad would always talk to him on our porch and give him what he needed.

One day we came home from the long commute from the city and our house was not quite our house. Things were out of place. I remember my mom freaking out, calling my dad, screaming. I remember angry conversations, and I never saw Don again.

Don had come over when we were gone. Doors weren't often locked, so it was easy to come inside. He was in need of some help, and to Don's credit, he only took what he needed. A warm jacket. Boots for the snow. He also tried to do a load of laundry and broke the machine. He put a frozen pizza in the oven, box and all, and burned the inside black. He took a shower and used a lot of towels and left them filthy on the floor and in the washing machine. And I think he slept in my parents bed. I think he might have taken a pillow with him when he left.

At the time I didn't understand my mom's reaction. It seemed to me that Don was just trying to take what he needed, and wanted a bit of time feeling clean and warm. Of course he'd want a shower. And a nap. Hungry? Of course. But working an oven and a washing machine probably escaped him. If you've not used one in god knows how long, it would probably escape you too. And the sight of a warm and comfortable bed - who could pass that up? And he had tried to clean up. A shit job, but he tried.

I understand my mother's anger at being violated, and her need to protect her home and her children. But I don't think Don was threatening any of that. Perhaps he didn't follow social convention, but he didn't take what he didn't need. Our VCR, my mom's bits of jewelry, it was all there. Nothing was intentionally broken or damaged. He even tried to clean up. And he didn't force his way in.

Like I said, I never saw Don again. I know my mom pushed my dad call the police, and while my dad (bless him) refused to do that, he did go and tell Don he couldn't come over any more, and that he couldn't help him any longer. And our doors were locked after that.

I've never asked him, but I am betting that pained my dad. I know this because I am who I am in part because of him. Because of the homeless mission his family ran while I was growing up, the place where I first cut my baby teeth. But that is the meat for another meal, so I'll stick it in the oven (without the box) soon.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

inspired

Right after I wrote my last post J-Dog took M to the park and to ride a train and left me alone in the house for a few hours. I realized in that moment how lucky I am, and how blessed. And how rich life is. A father who loves to spend time with his daughter. A daugher that never, ever fails to throw herself in my arms screeching mama, grin as wide as the sun.

I've reflected on my posts lately, and yes, something is trying to come out. And it'll make it's way. But it's easy to push aside the joy, the most simple and beautiful joys that come from each and every day. Metro Mama posted about this, and it inspired me and the truth was blinding.

It's often easier to sink than rise. Gravity, be damned. Sometimes we need to stop looking and just enjoy the view.

What was the grace and light in your world today?

Mine was when I noticed M trying to imitate me in the mirror - she reached up and patted her hair and tossed her head (who's the vain mum here?) I hadn't even realized I'd done it till she did it too and then looked up at me, grinning ear to ear, saying "like mama, like mama".

I gobbled that up and am entirely full.

comfortably numb

Lately I feel as if I've been on autopilot. The lights are on, the motor's humming, but nothing is really happening in between. It's the state of getting by that has nothing to do with getting to.

I am not sure what it all really means - but it feels awkward and delicate and sort of plastic. Like the artificial me - where things are bouncing off rather than soaking in, or fizzling instead of popping. Whatever function this defense mechanism is serving I've been riding with it - the rest feels a bit too challenging and that feels a bit like bullshit. But I am numb, my fingers and toes aren't sensing things like they should. The back of my throat feels dull. My brain is like a ping pong table.

I am dropping things. Forgetting things (and I usually have a brain like an elephant). Or wait, is that the animal that has a long memory? Or is that an ostrich? Maybe that's a long neck. See, this is exactly what I mean.

Does this sound familiar? The calm before what storm?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

sacred spaces

Lil approached me weeks ago to collaborate on a site with her. She has a vision for a site where she and others can air out their stories - the ones that have made us stumble, rise up, scream, or weep along the journey.

She's created a place where we can gather and bring some of that to light. It's over at the only way out is through and the door is open to anyone who has a story they feel they'd like to share. I know she is dedicated to respecting the privacy of others, so submissions can be anonymous.

It feels like a warm and lovely place already - mostly because Lil is so pure of heart in her choice to birth this and also in her willingness to create space for the rest of us.

A couple of you have already inquired, and I know Lil is working to get your story on the site in the next few days. I look forward to hearing what you have to say - especially given the strong reaction to some of my recent posts - I know there is a lot brewing under the surface for many of us, and sometimes the things we hide keeps us stuck.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

breaking the girl

I fell in love with the wrong guy when I was 18. I had a crush on him for years - he lived down the street from me, he was on the football team in high school, a few years older, devastatingly good looking....you know the rest.

We started dating at a time I was feeling a bit lost - I was taking a few courses in college, working full time, and enjoying the lack of rules and structure. At first we hit it off famously. And we drank a lot. And then after a while I noticed that he drank a whole hell of a lot. By this time I was living with him, out of co-dependence rather than necessity. I NEEDED to be around him just as he needed to drink. I gave up my sense of self and climbed right down the rabbit hole. And in retrospect, that made me an awfully easy target.

It started off slowly - fighting, yelling, derogatory behavior, but again, youth and passion and drink all made that somewhat normal. And then it got worse. He started to endanger my life, driving while guzzling pints of vodka, threatening to run off the road into a tree, by forcing (yes, I know, no one really forces you) to drink much more than is a good idea, so much so that one night it almost killed me. And then it got even worse. He pushed me out of a moving car. He hit me. He forced me to have sex with him, once in front of his friends, once so bad it's not worth repeating, and some other times, too.

It's insidious, this type of abuse. Because by the time they wear you down to a point you might do things you never thought you'd do, you are confused and depressed and sure you are going crazy. And I was such a little girl at the time, with so little experience to draw on. I was trying to escape my childhood, and I ran straight into hell.

And the funny thing is I wasn't one of the women who truly have limited choices. I had a home I could go back to if I had to. I had friends I could talk to. But since I was enduring it, it shamed me and I had to keep it a secret. I could tell no one, because there was no one who would understand. I wouldn't have been able to explain it because I didn't understand it myself.

Slowly I began hating him and hating myself. I stopped talking to friends, and I lied to them when I did. I put myself again and again in a position to be abused. I remember feeling like I was watching a movie while floating on the ceiling. I remember being so upset I would throw up.

And in between the nightmare he worked a sick magic, proving and showing why I couldn't leave and why I could do no better. I knew he was full of shit, but I couldn't make my limbs move in the opposite direction no matter how hard I screamed inside.

And then one night I walked in the door and saw him sitting in a chair, a smoke in one hand and a pint in the other, and as he turned in his chair to face me and the face of pure evil looked back, I heard a voice inside that said you don't have to do this anymore. I dropped my groceries in the entry way and I turned and ran as fast as I could to my car, drove to a friend's house, and I never saw him again. I never went back for my belongings, I never spoke to him again. It was done.

And still, I never told anyone what happened. Yes, we broke up, yes it's over...yes yes yes. But never about what really happened, about the torture and abuse. Never because in my mind I had chosen to stay. I had CHOSEN to stay, and I had a CHOICE.

When I went back to college full time I switched my major to psychology. I wanted to learn more about how this could happen, and what I could do about it. The DV shelter came from this, doing good to replace something bad. It took several more years to focus that work inward instead of outward, but right before I had a nervous breakdown I did something about that too. That's a song for another day, this has exhausted me enough.

This isn't a story to incite pity. I realize there are much worse stories to tell. This is simply a glimpse into what shaped me - this cornocopia of bad choices sparked a life path I had might not taken otherwise. Or perhaps it was in me all along. But that would mean going back even further.

the dawn of possibilities

The House and Senate have gone blue. While I realize it's not a miracle cure, it's got to be better than what we have. And I've not felt so encouraged in years about what might be possible.

And California passed 1C, which is a major achievement for homeless providers in the state. Now maybe we can kick affordable housing in it's ass.

I am done waxing on about the election. I'll get back to my regularly scheduled programming next, or better termed as that early bullshit that changed my life.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

a thumping

We gathered around the radio today to listen to Bush's address. We all collectively decided amidst the massive cheering about Rumsfield's departure and laughing at the inane hiring practices and courses that must be stayed - is that while we have no idea why this cat is the leader of the free world, he might actually be fun to drink a beer with.

1 Senate seat to go. You fabulous people of Virginia, don't fail us now.

What an incredible power shift. The people have finally spoken loud enough to be heard.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

choose or lose

We are damn close to taking the house, and a bit farther from taking the Senate. It's going to be a long night.

I've cracked open some red and even smoked a cigarette....it matters THAT much. M is wondering why I am yelling at the TV, but it's all good on election night so far.

America, don't fail me now. A regime change is in order.

Edited to add at 8:10pm: Bagged the House. Rock the fuck on, America.

And please do know that when I say We, I only mean anything other than They. Green party, through and through in this house. But we fit better with We than we'll ever in a million years fit with They. We's got some work to do, too. And we'll be watching.

that one time someone had a gun

My first internship was in college. I had asked for a placement at a domestic violence shelter that my college had not previously assigned students because it was in a particularly dodgy area of town. I had a reason I wanted to intern there (another story, soon) and so I got the director to sign off, begged my professor, and was off and running. I had no real idea of what I was in for, other than convinced I would change the world. Green as a frog on Sunday.

I was assigned mostly to playing with the kids and co-facilitating some groups. I don't think they felt I had skills beyond that, and I am certain they were right. I had 2 evening shifts a week, and I loved every second of it. This shelter was pretty rough - the neighborhood was terrible, a crackateria next door, and women earning a hard living on the corner. Inside the shelter women were coming straight from their abusers, and the kids were out of control, angry, and traumatized. There wasn't a lot of money to provide extras - we used government rationed food, relied on donations, and everything had that distinct smell of old mops.

One night I was in the community room holding a 3 day old baby. The mom had a few other kids so her hands were pretty full. I remember thinking I had never held something so small in my life.

All of a sudden I heard what I thought was firecrackers. I didn't think much else until one of the women screamed someone is shooting at the building and everyone in the room fell onto the floor. Remember, I was green, green, green - I'd never heard gunfire in real life before....it's almost embarrassing now to think of it but I was doing the best I knew how. What struck me later was that the rest of the women knew what gunfire sounded like, and also exactly what to do.

I laid down on the floor on top of the baby still cradled in my arms, and single file we crawled on hands and knees out of the windowed room into the windowless hallway. There were about 10 of us, plus kids. I was the only "staff" person there, and someone had to go into one of the offices to call 911. So I did, on all fours, and then came back. There was one moment I had to stand up level with the windows and thought maybe this is it...but nothing happened and it quieted down soon after. We could still hear an occasional gunshot, and we didn't know who was doing the shooting. Many of the women had escaped violent situations, and some felt certain that their man would try and kill them if they found them. One woman in particular had been shot three times by an ex-husband who'd followed her through half a dozen states. She was an artist - and her work still hangs on my wall today.

After two long hours there was a knock at the door, followed by: open up, it's the police. Just as I did there were more gunshots, and what I will forever remember as a woman's death scream. It's was one of the most horrific sounds I've ever heard. The cops quickly told me to shut the door and they'd be back when they could. Another hour passed before they came back. That's a long time in a windowless hallway. They'd caught the man with the gun, the man who was not shooting at us in particular but at the building nonetheless.

Someone died that night. I'll never know who she was, but I know I heard her spirit leave her body. The college tried to pull me out after that, but I refused, begged, threatened to drop out. I knew it was an important place for me to be, and I knew I had so much to learn.

What happened before will come next. It's a trickier story, one with less guns but a lot more bullshit.

Monday, November 06, 2006

walking guilt

As might have been obvious, J returned home w/ M, 4 pairs of tights for a 6 year old, and a set of boy's PJs. Really. No, really. No, seriously.

That aside, I am full of maternal guilt. M has had a cough for a few weeks, a bit of a runny nose, but no other symptoms. I put off taking her to the MD out of a) the fear of over-reacting and b) wasting time hearing it's just a cold, and c) because I am obviously a horribly selfish person.

We took her in today because something very small deep inside me told me to.

She has walking pneumonia. And has for a few weeks. And I did nothing until today.

It's rather hard to describe the immense guilt I am feeling in this moment.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

timing issues

Is it just me, or does the conviction and subsequent death sentence for Saddam Hussein coincide quite nicely with Tuesday's elections.....

it's probably just me.

And for the less controversial side (at least globally) J-Dog has declared M's wardrobe to be a fashion disaster and has taken her shopping alone, for the first time in two years. I, on the other hand, think she's an icon in the making, top to bottom.

You decide.

Friday, November 03, 2006

mojito wobbles

After a gratifying and challenging day exploring possibilities and limitations in strategic partnerships and affordable housing we hit the town for Cuban. Two mojitos later and the conversation veered into the personal - about the strength and validity of love and commitment and personal philosophies about what is feasible to expect over the long term combined with biology and selfishness and the lack of control over all things changing.

One opinion was that no relationship can truly last "forever", that it's an unrealistic expectation and a farce of society. Others held truer to love trumping all, and the notion of beating the system. And above all else rose the notion of having integrity in relationship, and being brave enough to call it quits when quits is due. And how easy it is to wax on about relational ethics over mojitos and cuban.

I've generally fallen back on a simple tale, one told by the magnificent Barbara Kingslover in one of her earlier books, either Bean Trees or Pigs in Heaven, I can't quite remember now (blame it on the mojitos) the one w/ that kid Turtle, and the lover, Jax. And how Jax described secrets as taking a raw egg into bed with you, and instead of telling your lover about the egg, you roll and tumble and shield and do everything not to crack the egg, when the really honorable thing is to hand the egg over and let the other decide what to do, whether to scramble or toss or put back in the fridge. But at least you've let them in on the secret, because you respect them enough to know how to handle it from there. And if you don't, eventually, one of you is going to roll over onto it and all you'll have left is a big mess in your bed.

And as is more and more common lately, my thoughts turned to you, and I wondered what your philosophy is on love and it's sustainability, and whether or not we are all just kidding ourselves. And more importantly, how you separate the wheat from the chaff and decide what's worth keeping versus being simply sacrificial or largely afraid.

to thrive delicious

Hope this will keep you warm on a colder Friday. Deep gratitude to everyone who contributed to it - I so love how it unfolded, mysterious, scarlet, vivid and strong.

A crimson stain spreads round her feet
She hastily, franticly gathers the layers of her billowy skirt
as if the stains are hot embers burning through her,
confronting her with power and pain
Or at least it seemed that way to the observer.

She backed away from the spreading putrid stain and
stifled the scream rising in her throat,
filling her with deep red peace.

But a scarlet dove will never fly, and so grounded,
must teach her mind to soar above the anchors
that weigh her heart to the living road.

Thus, a prayer soared from her red ebb and flow;
this last anamnesis draining
with life and earth clenched in her fists,
she cries to thrive delicious through her flowing vein.

Time never seemed to move so slow, as he watched her,
unable to comprehend, unable to emphathize,
he thought the red sun center might scorch him.

Amen
Hallelujah
Fin

Thursday, November 02, 2006

hideaway

It's very rare that I get to travel for work, and then when I do, I am travelling on a day trip to Skid Row or the Tenderloin to connect with other housing providers so my days are often full of shelter visits, SRO rehabs, hotel conversions. Glamorous, the lot of it. But I like it because it's a new face of homelessness, with a different style or rhythm, and it energizes me and keeps me alert. I like seeing how others are making this crazy thing work. Because it's hard won, no matter what community we are in.

This week I am in the midwest - researching best practices before we begin pre-development on a new housing project. Same sort of scenarios, but the most excellent thing is I have my own hotel room for two entire nights. I shouldn't be gloating about the personal time but hell yes, I am gloating about the personal time. It's 5p and I am in for the night, perusing the room service menu, the movie options, ignoring the gym downstairs, and in general, settling myself in for a virtual carnival of blogs - to get to really sit and read what others are saying, while not having M beat me on the head w/ a spatula, or jump on top of the keyboard, or eat a magic marker because I am shirking my parental duties. I am leaving that for J-Dog tonight. (Baby, I am loving you in this moment).

It's amazing how selfish I feel now, but over the smallest things. How much more protective I am of myself, and what I am willing to do, and what I am keeping close and tight. And tonight, that is all about my personal space. I am happy to go out for beers tomorrow night, and shoot the homeless shit with others in the field, but tonight, I am in a cocoon, and I'll be floating over your way.

And the poem is cooking up nicely. I'll give it another day and then compile it. I must say, it's given me chills so far, the way some of you turn a phrase is delicious.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

sitting around the poetry fire

I love the idea of a freeflowing exchange of creative and soulful thoughts...and thus came my poetry roundtable idea.

Juices flow best if left to their own devices, so please know it's more about speaking to what moves you in the moment, abstractly or otherwise, and less about rhyme or syntax. I personally think those two things interfere with poetry anyways. Perhaps it's more of a story than a poem, or a story told via this medium, or what have you. It's wide open.

I see it evolving like this: I'll post the initial line of the poem below and if you are so moved, add a line in the comments section. After a day or two I'll compile it all, title it based on what we've collectively written and post our creation in all it's glory.

Game on, sisters (and you too, occasional brothers). We can keep each other warm.

A crimson stain spreads round her feet


perfectly still

I am stunned and honored to share that Organized Chaos and Mama Drama have nominated me for an October Perfect Post award for this over at Petroville and Suburban Turmoil. I must say I've never linked that many people in one post so that alone is a feat of fortitude.

What an honor from the lovely Deb and Jen, and I must say, it is a tremendously lovely tribute to my friend.
I wonder if he is aware of this blessing, and that makes my heart swim upstream.

Thank you both.

PS. Don't forget about the poetry roundtable - it's coming round the bend.