Monday, December 31, 2007

with 25% less fear!

I stopped making resolutions years ago - something about never keeping them started to feel like a real downer. So instead I use the time to reflect on the past year and renew my intentions in a more general way for how I hope to evolve next. So aside from our upcoming baby shower I've decided 2008 is the year of fearlessness. To say yes more often, with more courage, standing up and embracing the unknown and the known and the next right thing. Falling down will be okay too.

And I can't wait. Happy New Year, village. I can't wait to see what mountains we move next.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

warmth

I thought sharing some vacation warmth might be nice right about now, especially with all the snow falling everywhere on so many of you. Because no matter how great snow is, nothing is better than the warm sun.

I mean, who needs snow when you can swim in this?
Or gaze at this?
Or eat dinner on the beach watching the sun slip behind the Caribbean?
Or curling up reading here? Without a jacket? Or shoes?

Friday, December 28, 2007

eight years old

Eight years ago this month I helped deliver a baby, the first birthing I'd ever been a part of. The mom was living where I was working with her two children and one on the way. She was an amazing woman, she'd left a very difficult situation and was navigating life on her own with her kids, in poverty and alone and yet with extraordinary grace. She'd asked me to be present at the birth because there was no one else and I said yes because she asked and because there was no one else.

We never spent any time preparing for the birth, and in my ignorance I hadn't thought to ask what sort of help she wanted because to be honest she'd asked for nothing other than my presence. Now that I know what I know I'd have handled it differently but that was then and this is now and if I could go back in time I certainly would. She went into labor in the middle of the night and I went to be with her and 10 or so hours later she gave birth and I was there for all of it and I swore off ever having a baby and was completely humbled all at the same time. I remember going home from the hospital and sobbing for hours, great buckets of tears from exhaustion and marvel and admiration and fear. She soon moved out with her beautiful children into her own home and a new life. She stayed in touch for awhile, a bond had formed between us during the birth, something sacred and quiet that we never much discussed.

She called me on Xmas Eve, a few years have passed since we'd spoke and no news is good news, being forgotten is a good thing in the work I'm in. But she was in trouble for the first time in a long time, her housing had fallen apart and she was in a bad spot, she and her kids were in a motel. Time was of the essence because nothing sucks up your money faster than a nightly motel and I could hear it in her voice I know it's been awhile but I hope you remember me, you helped deliver my baby eight years ago and I need your help one more time. On Xmas I connected her with a colleague who I knew could help and that good soul came through yesterday and my old friend can move her children into her new home today. So I sat up late last night remembering for the first time in a long time the gift she gave me way back when as she showed me a new kind of courage, bravely birthing her child with love and with grace, alone with no visitors or flowers in a cold hospital room and not much more than a stranger beside her holding her hand as she pushed.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

yet another reason i love it here

Thank you all so much for your insight into my recent parenting dilemma. Even as I hit publish I knew instinctively what I wanted to do and your wealth of comments from all angles helped drive it home. Chani's thoughts came the closest to what I already felt but was trying to talk myself out of and yet hearing it from her caused something to click. It's all too easy for me to sometimes get caught up in what I think I should be doing versus what simply feels right, and so often right is influenced very heavily by western ideals and practices and it's important to remind myself there are many, many different ways to raise a family. So for now, it feels right to let M find her way, and if that means she winds up in our bed then we've decided to roll with it because in the end I think her feelings are right on - it makes less sense for her to be holed up in there alone sometimes. And as Den put it so succinctly, we are pack animals anyways.

So last night when she was getting ready for bed she proclaimed I not staying in my bed tonight mommy so I asked her to give it a try and if she wakes up and can't sleep later she knows where to find me. And then she slept in her bed the entire night. So I can't help but remember that having a choice means you can choose a lot of different things. It's the forever balance of treating your children like adults while remembering they are children and basically at the end of the day we need to do what feels right for all of us together. And how fabulous that I get to keep making mistakes and learning from it and then try something else and then succeed or fail and then do it all over again. It's one of the coolest things about being a parent, the continual evolution of thought and love and boundaries and most of all, letting go.

So thank you for your wisdom and community. You make a fine village.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

jen asks for advice

Alright internets, I need your counsel. And rather than consulting the many cross conflicting parenting books I am instead turning to the village.

Here's the deal: M has been a champion sleeper for the past 2 1/2 years. About two months ago she started waking in the night and refusing to go back to sleep in her own bed. Often I'd just wake up in the morning and find her next to me, J relegated to the couch. We've talked to her about it a lot and she claims to simply not like sleeping in her bed anymore. Nothing has happened, no nightmares, nothing scary, that we can ascertain (other than turning three). So night after night we are suffering with broken sleep and toddler feet in our faces and to be honest, we've let her manipulate us because she seems so entirely sincere in her pleading that she really needs to do this right now. And she's really adorable about it but then it's not so cute at 1am. We always make her go to bed in her room at bedtime (which is also a consistent ritual thank you very much) no matter how she pleads but she'll wake up and eventually find her way out. Have we shot the whole self-soothing mechanism to pieces?

I am left in a conundrum. Tow the parenting line and listen to her weep in her bed? Allow her this time to sort out whatever she is going through (and hope to freaking god she's not still in bed with us when she's twelve)? I've always strived to find the balance in listening to her needs and trying to meet them while maintaining a sense of order and consistency but this one has thrown us - mostly because I simply want to do the right thing and my heart says she needs this and my head says I am being worked over like an old car in one of those crushing machines at a junkyard, screeching metal and all.

So I am turning to you. Has this happened to you and if so, how did you resolve it? Does it resolve naturally? Do the little people sometimes simply need this closeness or are they cunning little wizards who dive into the weak spots? Where's the line? And where's the love? Give it to me straight.

Monday, December 24, 2007

so this is christmas

As with most holidays this one has snuck up on me, shocking me with it's imminent arrival. By design I keep things mellow, no big travels, no huge festivities. It ensures I dance around the holiday without ever fully succumbing to it, an art form I've long appreciated over the years.

But M shakes things up with her joyous exuberance over lights and friends stopping by with packages. She squeals over cookies and snowmen in windows. It's infectious, this simple joy. We spent almost two hours in a line of cars last night waiting to drive through a park that's been outfitted with holiday cheer, a wait we hadn't realized until it was much too late. But buoyed by her enthusiasm (and fearing her wrath if we bailed out) we sat and inched forward in the dark singing makeshift carols and groaning periodically about the wait. We finally got inside the park and M was out of her seat and in our laps pointing and screaming while the rest of us smiled at each other in awe of her wonder. When we finally came home she sat down at her table and proclaimed with a grin Mommy, that was the greatest adventure of my life.

And all I could think as my eyes glazed over with tears was how every single day she's the greatest adventure of my life and how honored I am that I get to share it with her.

Happy Holidays, friends. I'll be thinking of you and feeling immensely blessed by the riches your words and friendship have offered me all year long and I'll be looking forward to seeing what trouble we can get into as we continue to move forward together kicking life in the ass and using all of our superpowers for good.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

we'll see

There were four of them spaced somewhat evenly around the grocery store entrance this morning as I went in to buy a few things for a party I am already fairly sure we will not end up attending. Guys, I say. Hey. You staying at the _________. (It's winter, it's cold, and they are in the same city as the temporary winter program and I know they know about it because at least one of them looks familiar). Speaken Dutch? or something similar, one guy replies. Are you messing with me, dude? Cause if you are I'll keep walking. Wait a minute he says, english perfect and if I'm not mistaken a bit of a southern twang, so I smile and say It's going to be cold tonight, really cold. I work with the people over there and like it or not, you can all stay there if you want to. Think about it and I'll stop by on my way out. One of them tells me they need $150 for a place but it's in a city I am not sure how to help with, so I need a few minutes to think.

M spent the night puking, sometimes all over me. I'm exhausted and sort of annoyed, my too small house has extra family in it right now, everyone wants to help, bless them, but I just want to be left alone. Ho, Ho, Ho, to me. So I finish my shopping and grab some deli sandwiches for the guys (and one woman) outside.

I've racked my brain, I can't help with the $150. If it was in another city, I'd know of a place who could help. It's alright, thank you for at least thinking about it, the guy sitting with the fake Dutch guy replied. I'm still not too keen on the fake Dutch guy but I also know it doesn't really matter in the end. The woman tells me they've stayed at the program and they can stay there again, it's a bit of a walk but they'll probably end up doing just that. They ask if they can have a bed for certain and I tell them yes because I know it's true. When it's this cold we'll pack them in if we have to. I hand them the sandwiches because even if some of them are hustling there's no free meals till dinner on a Saturday. Now we are all friends, me and these guys who've moved a bit closer while everyone entering the store gives us wide berth. I wonder what those folks think, me and a group of guys shooting the shit, the Please Help, I'm homeless and hungry sign at our feet.

I don't have much more to say, I'm still tired and still annoyed. I tell them again how cold it's going to be and that I hope they take care and take me up on my offer. I mention I have a sick kid and two of them wish her well. How old is she, the woman asks and I tell her. It's hard on the little ones she says. I hope you have a Merry Christmas. I am always touched by moments like this, blessings from the poor that are hard to accept and still feel okay about walking away.

Friday, December 21, 2007

eight is the magic number

I've recently started getting to know Nengaku (he's a semi-hermit type, and that's just one of the many reasons I love the blogosphere because I am fairly sure we'd never have met otherwise and he's a cool cat). Anyways, he tagged me with this big ass meme with lists of eight things (but I am not one for taking very good directions) so I abbreviated it (a lot).

Without further rambling, I give you My List Of Eight Things I Want To Do Before I Die.

1. Walk on the beach in Madagascar
2. Live in Laos in a small rented flat
3. Ride in a rickshaw in Calcutta
4. Eat warm bread from a bakery in Morocco
5. Plant flowers in South Africa
6. Go back to Cambodia and revisit the farthest reaching temples at Angkor, the ones that take hours to find and that still have the landmine warnings
7. Drink a beer in Bolivia
8. Volunteer in Nepal

Sigh. I can't wait. Now leave me one or two or eight of your own.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

sliding doors

I was at the grocery store last night and noticed a woman sitting outside panhandling. She asked me for some change so I stopped to talk to her and to give her a few bucks. She didn't have a place to sleep and was obviously struggling with some mental health issues. I asked her if she knew about our program and she did but didn't think she could stay there because she'd lost her ID. I assured her that wouldn't be a problem but she persisted, a long rambling dialogue about district attorneys and some other things I didn't really understand.

I asked her if she would be willing to go if I promised she'd get a bed and she said yes so I pulled out a card and wrote please give N__ a bed tonight on it and handed it to her. I realized that a better thing to have done would have been to drive her there myself but I didn't offer that, because I felt nervous for what was probably no good reason. While I was sitting on the curb with her a man stopped and handed me a couple of bucks. This isn't the first time I've been mistaken for a homeless person and yet I felt the urge to say Hey dude, I'm not homeless but instead I thanked him and handed her the money because it felt insulting to define myself so separately from her. She thanked me for passing on the cash and I got up and left her there sitting in the cold.

I felt like an asshole the whole way home for leaving her there and when I came in the house I told J about it and he said what do you want me to do, drive back and pick her up and take her to the shelter? Well yes, actually. I replied. But he wasn't going for it and I couldn't blame him because I wasn't comfortable doing it either. Sometimes the fear keeps me silent, keeps me from doing what is right. I think of M in those moments and my ultimate responsibility to her but it doesn't really assuage the fact that a woman was still out in the cold, her destination several miles from where I left her.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Just Posts: We're having a baby

It's been a year since the Social Justice Wedding that started the Just Posts, a year of much love, happiness and fulfillment. Yet like any couple we've taken some time recently to evaluate our relationship to make sure we are still giving it all we've got, making it the most it can be. We consulted our sister Just Post hosts Hel and Su, listened to friends and our Maid of Honor and it was there we realized what comes next for the Just Posts.

A Baby. Mad and I have decided to have a baby. But it's really a Just Post baby and it will belong to all of us. And we need your help.

Having a baby is often the next step in a relationship born of truth and love. Our wedding birthed a community, and now we are asking our community to birth a movement. A movement into action.

The Just Posts will continue and we'll continue to host all of the terrific writings for social justice in all shapes and sizes. But we are adding a baby and her name is Volunteerism. It's time to put all of our words into action. Collectively, separately. We are committing to writing and doing in whatever form that means for each of us.

And this is where all of you come in. A baby deserves a baby shower, and your gifts are your writings about what it will mean to give of your time, what extra steps you will take to give back to your community and to our world, and what commitments we can all hold each other accountable to and how we can cheer each other on as we go.

I'll go first. My baby gift to all of you is my pledge to volunteer 2 hours a month for a cause other than my work. By the time the Roundtable rolls around I'll have it sorted out and will give it to you proper. With bows. And earnest intent.

There were so many gifts at our wedding last year, and I realize we are asking you for more now, the precious gift of your time. But we can't have this baby without you. The baby needs her village, and our village is you. So share your gift with us before the 10th of January we'll add it to the registry at the Just Post Roundtable Anniversary Edition: The Baby Shower!

Let's put our time where our mouths are this year. Who's in? And who's going to plan the party games? And the food? And rub the belly? So much to do. So much to write. Join us.

In other news I tried my hand at a new printer recently - you can read the review here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

it's coming on christmas

Winters are hard when you have no place to live. It's colder and harder to sleep outside, you need to carry more belongings so you have more warmth available at night. And when you are sick it makes it so much worse. I've been noticing a lot of really sick people staggering in and lying down immediately. The fall asleep amidst the noise and the hustle, mouths open, arms clenched around a bag or two, so still in the middle of so much movement you stop and watch for a minute just to make sure they are actually still breathing.

But the Holidays bring out the community. Folks drop by with donations of blankets and old clothes, meals and good cheer. It's always an awkward balance, folks who come to visit are not always sure where to look because suffering is all around them when they walk in the door. They try not to notice the woman in the corner who is rocking and singing or the muttering guy huddled over his mashed potatoes. But someone is always there to welcome them and lend a hand to lift the parcels from their arms and hopefully thank them for their time.

A couple showed up the night before we knew the little girl's family had a place to go. They walked in laden with duffel bags filled with clothes and toys and towels and sheets. All new that they must have purchased that very same day. We brought you all of this they said to the mom so earnestly and kindly, if you don't mind we'd like to give it to you. The mom looks at me and pauses, she doesn't know what to say because it's so kind and yet she can't accept it, she's on foot with three kids and they can't carry another thing. Wow, I say that is so fantastic that you would do this. The problem is they can't carry it with them and have nowhere to go. But we are working on that so if you all agree I can hold onto it for them until it's sorted out.

The couple realizes their mistake in that instant, the thought of transporting the new stuff probably hadn't crossed their minds. Of course, the woman says, how silly of us. You need a home first. Yes, says the mother, but thank you so much.

No worries, I say and hand them my card. I promise I'll get it to them once they are settled. And we did just that, delivering these lovely new items along with the family when we dropped them off in their new temporary home. Items that will no doubt come in handy as the mom settles in and creates their new space.

As much as I fight it the holiday cheer seeps in, the goodness of strangers who make a point of reaching beyond themselves to help someone else, a feeling I want to bottle and then dole out all year long.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

two little girls, pt 2

Because I know her story now belongs to all of you:

I woke up cold yesterday thinking of her so I spent several hours researching options and phoning in favors. The kids are on the floor, it's cold. But this close to Christmas the rooms at the inns are already so full. No one's fault really, there are hundreds of little girls just like her already holding tight to the little some of us can provide. But after a couple of hours of scheming and negotiations I struck pay dirt, a room that can hold all of them in a program two towns over. A room they can move into tomorrow.

Unable to reach the family until we open the site back up in the evening I accept this program on their behalf, knowing all the while that it's their decision and all I can do is present them the option and let them decide. But feeling victorious, we tackle how to get them there at the appointed time if the answer is yes. So we arrange for the ride still knowing all the while it's not up to us.

I am waiting for them when they walk in the door. The kids aren't doing so well today, the cold is wearing them down, one is crying, M's friend is half asleep and her nose is running. Mom looks so tired. I might have been grinning when I saw them but if you ask me about it later I'll lie and tell you I was simply doing my job.

We sit down together at a table and I carefully share the news prefaced with the understanding that they are in no way obligated to accept and with apologies for not being able to include them in the process. They listened quietly, mom starting to cry. I shared all that I knew: a well reputed program, a private room, they can all stay together, it's free and they can stay up to three months, it's out of the cold, it's for families and it's better than here. I told them I'd let them discuss it as a family and I stand up to give them some space but the mom blurts out we'll take it, and the dad nods his head. Yes. But celebrations are mixed since the kids are sick. I watched M's friend have a meltdown, her little body exhausted from endless bus rides and drafty cold rooms, long walks in the cold and a lack of nutritious food. Her mom gently laid her down on her mat with a blanket folded up to make a pillow, the noise and the lights unwavering still. She looked so much like M in that moment, three year old girls are the same everwhere I suppose.

So today is a good day and a scary day, this family who will be placing their faith in strangers who will drop them off at a strange place with people they do not know. And these people will welcome them in and give them food and blankets and clothes and toys and they will work with them to find jobs and increase their income, to get the older daughter in school and to allow them some time to heal. And if the stars align it will stick and it will be the edge they need and they'll move from there into their own home and they'll never see the inside of one of these places again, but that's sometimes the stuff of fairy tales and we won't know till we know. But for now there's a happy ending, and we'll take what we can.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

two little girls

Every year we open our winter programs which provide a few hundred additional beds for folks who need a place to escape the cold. I breathe a sigh of relief every year because I know how desperately those beds are needed for folks who manage to survive in the elements the rest of the year. I make a point of bringing M to the site regularly during the winter. She loves to go to mommy's work and help put the mats on the floor and I love it because she gets to see my passion and expand her mind.

Tonight started off the same, running into some old timers and old friends. One of the staff came up and said I am glad you're here. We've had more children the last few nights. It's no secret to anyone that children in these places damn near kills me and they know it and I know it too. Just as she finished speaking a family walked in with three kids, the youngest looks the same age as M. M noticed her immediately and ran up to her and the little girl reached out her hands and M took them and as it is with little ones, friendship was instant. Poverty is irrelevant, social class and all the rest. Children are always so much smarter than the rest of us.

Her mom approached and we started talking. Her story is similar to the thousands I've heard over the years and no less heartbreaking and once again this is no place for children. It may be relatively safe but her kids are on the floor in a warehouse amidst a hundred adults, a seething, exhausted place where the lights never go out and the concrete never gets warm. They have no car, no phone, no money. They spend their days at the library and their nights here with us. She's afraid to bathe them properly because there are no private shower stalls. Her children are beautiful and well behaved. Everyone smiles at the kids, the sadness and the joy of it, the old timers and the punks. Everyone smiles at the kids.

I cannot bear that this is the best we can do for these kids two weeks before Christmas so after obtaining her permission I start calling in favors and pulling some rank. There are kids here tonight, I say several times to several people whose cell phones I call after hours and yet they pick up we need to find them a place to live. After a bit some of the best case workers I know agree to come down and see what they can do. It's this spirit that never fails to move me. We move into action together and each person will bring something; money for the deposit, the friendly landlord, an open unit in their system. We bring these things and pool them and sort them out and see which one sticks this time around.

While this is happening M and her daughter are racing around up and down between the huddled masses. There is no fear to M, the burly, filthy, bearded men step around them in amusement and probably some annoyance as they sing and hold hands and dance their way around the room. They are both three and in this moment it would be easy to forget how different their lives are, how this little girl will sleep cold huddled on the floor after M and I go home. I see M flop down on the little girl's mat, laughing, she kicks her shoes off. This is fun for her, I know she can't understand and yet it feels wrong for her to do this. In this moment the unfairness rages inside of me. But they are two little girls having fun.

It's finally time to leave; all that can be done tonight is done and I promise her I'll return tomorrow with some warm clothes of M's and a case worker or two. She walks us outside and to our car and leans over and hugs me. This is so hard, she says. I squeeze her tightly and hold on. You are so brave, I reply. It might not feel like it but you are so very brave. We can do better than this. We will do better than this. And I know I am promising this to both of us.

On the way home M is chattering about how much fun she had. She asked if she could go to her new friend's house sometime and I turned around and looked at her. Baby, she doesn't have a house. She sleeps in that big room on the floor at mommy's work. Oh, she says. Oh. But we have a house, mommy. Can't she get a house too?

And we drive home to the warmth, the unfairness of it still rages on.

And ironically given how I am feeling tonight, I have a new review up about a toy M played with recently up at my other gig. If you want something a bit lighter and certainly more fun, clickety click.

Monday, December 10, 2007

November Just Posts

justpostnov2007

Edited to add two fabulous posts that were mistakenly left off:

The ever fab Biodtl with what does need look like? and lovely Devra (we had her previous link wrong so here's the right one) with What about the other 9 months.

I often struggle with how to make a difference in the world. There are so many issues that need our attention: homelessness, poverty, education, the environment, health care, disease. So many things that it's easy to feel overwhelmed to the point of stagnation. Turning away is sometimes easier than rolling up our sleeves. Because at the end of the day, how much difference can one individual make?

And then sometimes it's simple. When you hear how our brothers and sisters are still struggling post Katrina, that after all this time there is still so much to be done. And easier still when you learn that there are kids there who need books. That we can each help to build a library. A library that will become the gateway for these children to learn about a world beyond their backyard, where they can become inspired, where they can learn, and where they can dream.

Jess recently travelled to the Gulf Coast and came back with a plea for all of us to stand with her to help build a library. After buying several books I realized that in the midst of so many sad stories it means so much to be a small part of a story of hope. The hope of allowing young minds who've already seen so much suffering locally to expand their minds around the world.

Public libraries are one of the best inventions of modern civilization. Libraries are places everyone can go for free to learn about anything they choose. But it's not a library without books. So if your finances permit it go to the Singleton/Hands On Library Wish List and help be a part of building a place for kids to go to open their minds and their hearts to what's possible in this world after already seeing so much of what is not.

The Just Post Writers
aimee with Where does your Candidate stand on Healthcare
azahar with Thought for the day
Beck with Welcome to The Macho World
BipolarLawyerCook with Your own best advocate
bon with Other Pictures
Chani with Blog Blast for Peace: If not now, when? Passing through the Gates, Horse Manure, and Gays in the Military
The Cool Mom Picks' Safe Toy Guide
Denguy with Bad Plastic, Bad Bad and 'Tis the Season
Erin with It's That Time Again
I am the master evil genius with What does need look like?
Jangari with Toilet culture, Exodus, and Four Corners on the Intervention
JCK at Motherscribe with We are all connected, we cannot be ourselves without community
jen with Power to the people who need it most, Tradition, Choosing and doing and going
jen at MOMocrats with Power to the People (who need it most)
jessi with Donorschooseorg--helping teachers across the country
Julie at Using My Words with Blog blast for Peace, Does the abstinence message for drug use work?, Let's Get it On: Abstinence only sex education is risky and ineffective, Does putting the arts at risk put kids at risk too? and Inconvenient Truth: A Transcript of my testimony to the EPA at the NESHAP Public Hearing
Kayleigh at Another Working Mom with I'm Dreaming of a... and Holidaze
Kevin at Life has Taught Us with Your signature does make a difference
Kyla with Healthcare is a bitch
Laura with A more important PSA
lori with Thoughts for the day
Mad with SOS? You can't be serious
Mad Organica with Tell Your Girls to Call for the Ball
Madame M. with Plan: Freezing butts, Stargazing and Retail (couples) therapy
Mary G with Charity begins at home
Mel from Actual Unretouched Photo with The Homeless
Pundit Mom with Do Republican Candidates Care About Women Voters?, You Know This Would All Be Different if Men Could Breastfeed and A Promise to American Women
Roy with Intersection of racisim, sexism and commerce
Sin with Seasonal Angst Disorder, Part 1
Suzanne Reisman on blogher with For a Good Time, Call a Feminist (Not that You'd Know This From the Media), No Smart Woman Left Behind and What's Bugging Women?
Thordora with Murders are Not Monsters; they're men
TIV with Post-traumatic stress disorder and ripples of trauma
Wayfarer Scientista with The Spilling of Oil

some of the many readers
Alejna
Crazy
Jen
Kiki
Lawyer Mama
Liv
Mad
Pundit Mom
Sin
Steph
Susanne

The Just Posts turned one this month. Last year today so many of us were madly celebrating a wedding born of yearning and justice and we haven't stopped since. And a year later, my lovely social justice bride has never looked lovelier. Make sure to stop by and see what she, Hel and Su are up to today as well and stay further turned as we gear up for the big Just Post anniversary bash next month too.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

mouthing off

Reported during the handing off of M at the end of our vacation:

Look Grandma, there's an Indian statue. The White Man took the Indians' land a long long time ago and that was really not very nice. Bad White Men, Grandma. Bad.

I've never been more proud.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

arrival

Ah, yes. It's me, it's this. I sit quietly in front of my laptop grinning in anticipation of what I'll find and what you've been up to. And yet a part of me is reluctant. I'm indoors now. The first time besides sleeping in the past 10 days that I've been in an enclosed space. The routine, my routine, it's back in a flash and here I sit.

It's easy to forget how much time I spend inside until I don't and then I do again.

The trip was really lovely. Lot's of quiet times and long walks, minor adventures and the hot sun. And I am glad to be home.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

uno momento en el sol

The Yucatan is by far the most touristed place we´ve visited on holiday. Something about the crowds sullies things, if vacation isolation can be any sort of prize. But crowds means infrastructure and it´s been an incredibly easy journey, no reservations anywhere and yet we´ve moved across the peninsula with the ease of wild dogs foraging for food and shelter each day with success.

We were visiting some magnificent ruins yesterday and after being commandeered by dozens of touts I finally said no compro nada in poor spanish and probably poorer manners and the man stopped and smiled and sat down next to me but i really want your money, see and as he spoke the truth the divide closed a bit and I said I know, and this entire thing really is unfair. But that´s life, he replied and for a few brief moments we sat together in the same patchy sun.

My mind is shifting back north, the knowledge of home just around the corner now. And that means I´ll get to see what you´ve all been up to while I´ve been away, too.

Friday, November 30, 2007

8 kilometers of sweetness

We´ve been languishing on an island off the coast of Mexico for the past few days. Every single thing about our trip so far has been smooth, from the bus rides to the water ferry, the finding the perfect hotel on a whim without reservations. We´ve spent the days on swimming in the caribbean and the nights in outdoor bars and restaurants people watching and talking quietly. It´s enough to make you forget you´ve come from something, enough to almost make you believe this is all there is.

But tonight as I watched the sun slip into the sea, cold beer in hand and book nestled in my lap I thought of so many of you and wished for a sunset gathering of our own where we´d all dance round the fire toasting each other in community.

I can´t come visiting as the connection is spotty and the smell of garlic reminds me it´s time to eat in the darkened corner of some tiny little cafe. But consider this your salty kiss on the cheek and the promise of warmer weather soon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

choosing and doing and going

Every day I wake up thinking about homelessness, and when it's cold outside, it actually hurts. I'll slip outside in the cold air and I'll wonder about the souls who are also just waking up from their hard cold places and how differently they rise to wake the dawn.

As I am preparing to leave on vacation, madly tying up loose ends and most certainly forgetting something I am conscious still of the luxury of vacation, of the money frittered away on holidays and the casualness by which I am able to live my life by the merest and grandest factor of all: choice.

I recognize my blessings every day and on good days I use them in service of others. In bad days I might wallow through my own stumbling blocks and obstacles, perceived and real alike. I'd like to think it's the sum rather than my parts that matter in the end but regardless I wonder about the wasted time.

I know we'll see poverty of grand proportions on our travels. We somehow always choose places ridden with suffering, perhaps a rude or at least perplexing fascination worthy of one or two psychotherapy sessions or at least a fierce group hug. And yet with all of it I stand content in my reality, regretting none of the choices that have carved my world view and yet mindful at the same time of a long lost shine.

I'll be travelling for a bit and as such will be missing the lead up to the Just Post Roundtable this month so the indomitable and lovely Mad will be rounding up our links. So make sure to send them to her at madhattermommy at hotmail dot com. If this is new to you visit one of the purple and white buttons to your right. Oh and think of me once or twice as I frolic through the surf realizing a rest I want to deserve that some will never reach.

Monday, November 26, 2007

like john denver on crack

We are getting ready to take off for some glorious sun laden adventures. I am running around ferociously packing bags, finding passports and quietly unpacking a few odd items M has put in her own case (she's off to the grandparents for a week or so of relentless adoration) and on top of it all have gotten sick.

Sick before vacation? A pox on that, vacation gods. But otherwise life is good. And some sun can't hurt, right? I'll squeak out one last post before we hit the friendly skies and then I'll be tossing internet capacity to the winds and will blow in and out and around (blogging in foreign places while holding a beer, anyone?)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

sounds of silence

it's a long journey, this life we all live. we rejoice, we falter, we mourn, we hope, we believe.

some days are harder than others, and when people i've come to love are hurting my heart hurts for them too. and the futility of this realm smacks me in the face, it smarts and stings, because i can't be who i want to be, to be the friend i would be if we were close. the one that comes round with wine or a soft blanket, the one who would hold you tightly and not try and talk.

Bon and Alejna, for two different reasons and yet sitting in the same center of grief, i am standing here faraway yet next to you. i am holding you close from here.


On Pain - Kahlil Gibran
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

the tao of M

Tonight before bed we were playing a game of pretend driven by M. She decided I was the baby and she was the mommy and we went through a series of complicated processes including her fixing me dinner (cookies!) and putting me bed (twelve times for about 15 seconds each) as well as describing her work (she apparently plants plants at her work) and my baby class where I like my other baby friends (for which I am grateful).

At one point something fell off the bed during the lamp turning off and on in rapid succession and when it fell to the floor it made a loud sound. She immediately looked at me and then popped back into character and said it's ok baby. i'll take care of you. and then she proclaimed sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. and that's okay, baby.

It just doesn't get any more zen than that.

Friday, November 23, 2007

random

Something about watching the people lined up to go shopping at those big box stores 12 hours before they open, the ones who spend the night on the cold hard concrete so they can be first inside makes me want to weep.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

grati-dude

I woke up thinking about Canada for some reason. That today in the US the world comes to a standstill and yet to our neighbors up north and elsewhere, those fabulous neighbors and friends whom I enjoy on a daily basis are probably rolling eyes with enough of the thankfulness already people....

So essentially, I am thankful for Canada for keeping us straight. And Europe for kicking us in the ass. And Asia for being really cool. And Africa, you bad ass you. Australia, you too. I am truly thankful for all of you who share bits of my world and allow me to share in yours too.

On a more personal note: my amazing child, my sweet J, the roof over my head, and a full belly when I need it, a sense of humor and a still curious soul. I have everything I need. My cup runneth over.

And to the rest of you Yanks....I hope you have a lovely, beautiful, meaningful day, however you choose to spend it. You make this country a better place each and every day simply by being you.

And PS. I am also thankful you all cared so much about the blankie. You astute and powerful women, you. You'll be happy to know M's recovered nicely. She's a trooper, my M.

Oh, and past but certainly not least, I am thankful to Beth the glamorous ex-pat chef who schooled me on my very first cornbread stuffing attempt and who cooks locally and sustainably all year long.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

tradition

I've spent more Thanksgivings at work than not since I've been an adult. First there were turkeys in domestic violence shelters in college, then ham in group homes for troubled girls in graduate school. Then came turkey and ham at the shelters, both families and adults at different times over the years.

I often used this to my advantage, a reason I couldn't fly home for the holiday that no one could really argue with. And it allowed me to gracefully bow out of what was often an uncomfortable gathering. So tradition doesn't call for me because I've never really listened, something that while perhaps my destiny has always left me feeling a bit numb but in an okay sort of way. As I've grown older I've felt more conflicted about this sort of selfishness and escape. But it was for a good cause, not only did I actually have to work most years but Thanksgiving is a time to give back while giving thanks and I like you have been so richly blessed.

But this sort of thinking is fueled by society. For some reason we can let folks go hungry all year but we find it inconscionable that everyone's belly isn't full on Thanksgiving. That no matter what the circumstances are, the community generally rallies around feeding the poor tomorrow. While grateful, always grateful I am also frustrated because folks are hungry in January and certainly in March. Turkey tastes just as good to a hungry person mid-December and maybe even better in May. But tomorrow everyone who needs it will most likely be full.

And so it goes, this strange river. And tomorrow I'll make my own turkey and give M a day she'll remember with our small family and some friends and at some point we'll probably head over to work just to check in, to see how things are going. This year not because I have to but because it's the one thing that IS my tradition and something to pass along to my child hopefully in an eventual broader context about suffering and community response, about hunger and hope. Because while I resent that we only catch people's attention twice a year I can't help falling for it every single time, the extra food and good cheer and surprise visits, the people who come by to drop off food or to volunteer their time because it makes me feel hopeful that something will stick, that more of these folks will see it as a longer commitment, that they'll want to do more all year long, and that somehow something will magically shift. And I am buoyed by that glimmer of hope just as I am moved by the folks who will wait for it too, whose waiting is cold and lonely and hungry and yet hopeful, still.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

dude

you know, it's cool. i totally respect that you only get to see your grandchild a few times a year, so when you get off the plane with a load of plasticky crap and fashion model dolls i can deal. i've already hidden those fashion model dolls for ages 13 and up, but you know, that was easy and you didn't even notice. and it's fine that you take M to the farmer's market under the guise of buying veggies and load her up with cookies and cake. i get it. she begs and you cave. perfectly understandable, she's a manipulative little bugger. and it's fine that you took her out shopping and bought her a gigantic stuffed horse that will never again be touched and will take up about 1/4 of our small home. i get that too. you love her and you can't help yourself. and i even understand that you don't listen when we talk to you, that you are too vain to get a hearing aid and are most certainly almost deaf. i can't leave you alone with her for too long because of it but hey, get a hearing aid and let's rock. no problem. until then we'll just yell all weekend. i mean it, i can live with that.

but then as we were getting ready to take you to the airport after a long weekend, that moment when you leaned close and said i have a confession to make and you tell me that somehow on your walk today you lost her favorite possession in the entire world, her baby blanket that's been here since the beginning, the one she can't sleep without and has never parted her sweet little grip from for more than a few hours, the one that goes everywhere with us all the time, and that it's lost and you have no idea where it went?

well, buddy, you crossed a line there. some things are wrong. just plain wrong. so you just go and get on your little airplane and fly back to your little office and your little fancy car where no one will be crying their eyes out for hours plaintively crying blankie, my blankie. don't worry about me sitting here awake all night consoling a broken hearted child over her great loss. in fact, don't give it a second thought, gramps. we're cool. really. we are cool.

and to his annoyingly existentially minded son who casually said that this is a good lesson, that nothing is permanent and the sooner she learns that the better? you can take your Kierkegaard and shove it up your Nietzsche, buddy. Who's crying now?

i've got a new review up on a way to get yourself organized. i can't claim that it worked too well for me but i vouch for that being 7 parts user error, 2 parts small family and 1 part control freak.

Monday, November 19, 2007

power to the people (who need it most)

I often wonder what might happen if all the working poor, impoverished and homeless men and women in our country decided to back a candidate and use their voting power. Some of us have tried to harness this energy in the past, bringing polling places to shelters and holding voter registration meetings. But what I haven't yet been able to do is bring a candidate to the people, my offers to host a debate or a speaking engagement have fallen on deaf ears in campaigns past.

When I ask the folks on the street why they do or do not vote the answer is simple: they've been so marginalized and are so desperately living hand to mouth it's difficult to mobilize beyond a given day. Especially if it feels hopeless.

That's why I think it's critical this year that we reach these constituents and show them hope is alive. That there are candidates who want to improve the quality of life for those below the poverty line. Edwards professes this hope and has taken this message across America. But I often wonder if he is still missing the audience who needs to hear it most, the ones hardest to reach yet who have so much to say.

I invite John and Elizabeth Edwards (and all the candidates for that matter) to hold a town hall meeting inside a homeless shelter, one open and welcoming to the homeless and impoverished communities so they too can lend their voices and their votes. Candidates are forced to focus on raising funds for their campaign, an obviously important goal and yet one that can sadly exclude those who cannot afford the entrance fee and once again, their voices are lost. And what a shame, considering you'd get some of the most honest questions you could hope for, ones that aren't shiny and policy wonked, ones that come from the heart and where the stakes are high. We could all learn from those who are actually living the issues we are trying to fix.

I recently asked an old-timer if he was following the presidential races. He looked at me and laughed and shook his head. Don't have much reason to think those folks care what I have to say or will work hard for us anyways, can't see how it matters much to me.

Let's show him and so many others that this time is different. this year there is a reason to believe. That there is a candidate ready and willing to fight for the alleviation of suffering. If you could make time for us Senator Edwards, I'll promise you a packed house.

Cross posted at MOMocrats.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

there was an old woman

Walking yesterday we find an elderly woman lying at the bottom of her stoop. We quickly move to her, M and I. Or at least I do, M is somewhat curiously fearful and lagging behind.

A stream of words, scared harsh words in an eastern european dialect I do not understand. I move to lift her and she lets me, we stand her up. Standing yet gripping my arm she wobbles now and more words are spewed, I imagine she's cursing who left her or god himself but I have no idea. Her hands are like talons and I feel odd somehow, wanting her to stop.

A car pulls up and an older woman leaps from the car, more words flying through the wind. She smiles at me and takes the woman's arm out of mine. She moves quickly to open the front door and hurries the woman inside. She turns to smile at me, says thank you in english, then she is old. The door shuts behind her, the lock clickety clicks.

I stand there for a minute, M resumes her chattering and yet I can't quite hear her, the story is unfinished and yet it is over. I stand foolishly now, trespassing at worst. She was laying on the ground, I say. But no one is listening.

Friday, November 16, 2007

unbelievable

This makes me want to vomit.

And I am so very happy it's funny to some people. I really am. Perhaps next we can have a fashion show for refugee wear and a line of kiddie toys for abused kids. Or hey, how about a line of kitchenware for starving children?

These are human beings in suffering. They are not your commodity. Not for your production and consumption. And certainly not for your amusement. I am so glad everyone is being "really sensitive" to his needs and he's "actually really happy" but you know, how dare you.


Homelessness is not a spectator sport. Nor is it cause for celeb. And it's really not funny. It's human beings suffering. Human beings are suffering every single day because they lack adequate housing. Because they are suffering in poverty. Sleeping under bridges. In cars. Alleys. Alone. Cold. Hungry.

And yet even here capitalism reigns. Shame on you.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

getting to the root of it

I was talking to a woman visiting the shelter recently and as I walked her to her car we noticed her tire was flat. I suggested getting some manpower to change the tire instead of waiting for AAA so I went back inside and said hey, does anyone here know how to change a tire? which received zero replies from the ten or so men in the lobby. Rethinking my strategy I then said Is there anyone here MAN ENOUGH to change a tire? And I kid you not, four dudes stood up immediately and followed me out to the car. Bingo.

Some things cross socio-economic lines much easier than others.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

the losing

Julie asks us this week to talk about what we've lost. Perhaps prompted by the recent fires in California, pondering what it might mean to lose so much in one fell swoop - memories, pictures, homes. But as I thought about it I realized what most of us realize when musing on things like this - that it's not the stuff we lose, but the losing itself.

Of everything I've ever lost in my life, I miss my magic most of all. I watch M and her whole world is overblown with magical creatures and silly surprises and joy in the mundane and a great hearty chuckle in the backseat of the car everywhere we go. She has this magic and I must assume I had this magic once too.

Can you miss something you don't remember but only vaguely recall and pretend to emulate?

I do. I miss the magic in lollipops and the core assumption that everyone exists for my own good time. I miss being tucked in at night and rainbows dancing on the wall while I sleep.

I miss the freedom that rides on the back of magic. The freedom to see the world as an exploratorium, a confetti laden bonanza candy coated thrill ride. To laugh at buses careening by and to scream in joy at a big red fire truck. To make pretend tea with three sugars and then take my lamb's temperature. To feed pretend tea with three sugars to my lamb while taking my own temperature. Easy bake ovens with real cakes. Real. Cakes. And a simple cuddle can solve every single problem I have.

Ants wandering in a line. Dragons and caterpillars. The merest thought of ice cream.

I lost this magic, this utter precocious appreciation for every single color and every single thing. Rampant wild joyous magic. It's this loss I mourn the most. And I thank all that is holy that I have been graced with a daughter who is kind enough to show me the way back. Back to the magic, back to myself.

Monday, November 12, 2007

keeping it real

In passing at work:

Hey there, beautiful lady. I keep seeing you around and keep wanting to ask you out. You got a man? Because even if you do I'd love to take you out. And I'd treat you nice, real nice. A real date. In fact, I'd take you to Wendy's. You can order anything you want. How'd you like that, little lady? Anything you want. I'll show you a good time. Wendy's. And that's not the cheap stuff either.

Indeed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

submission and resistance

We had the opportunity while M was with a friend to get some early shopping done since we'll be on holiday soon and the thought of any sort of endeavor after Thanksgiving gives me pain (such a damn grinch i am). We aren't big consumers but we've still recognized we've got to figure out a way to blend our beliefs without totally destroying the wee and precious excitement M has over the things she's already being brainwashed about.

We had a few rules: nothing character driven, Dora and Diego and Disney characters in general were off the table (we are such depriving assholes). Minimal plastic. Toys that were interactive and creative. Realizing that no matter what we bought we'd still be supporting the mass production and consumption that we profess to disdain. How hard could that really be?

Holy shit. I haven't been inside a full on toy store in a long time. It's overwhelming in it's plasticky marketing. Everything seems to represent a TV show of some kind. Everything is plastic, whoa, the plastic.

Dudes. I Am Grinch.

So after a while of perusing we end up with Lincoln Logs. We decide if we are ever in a bind we can actually use them for firewood (although they are probably covered in some deathly chemical). And PlayDoh. A set that did not include Dora (that bitch is EVERYWHERE). And a game from the 70's, one we remember. There's plastic involved. It's unavoidable, this plastic. We have other toys that are plastic already, every time I look at them I cringe.

It's a balance, this mothering. This constant acquiescing of standards. And it removes some of the joy, the joy undoubtedly found by blindly purchasing whatever you want.

And then there's the spending of money on these luxuries at all. I read somewhere recently that "if you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy. And if you are reading this on your own computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who has that opportunity."

We've got all those things. And I can't stomach showing my gratitude by using it to buy my kid more crap and yet here I am. How does one balance allowing your child happiness while teaching the utter privilege in that? How do we show her this isn't normal when everything around her suggests it is? Makes me want to get to the jungle as fast as we can because at three, it already feels too late. Her programming has been swift and effective. And my guilt balloons. I am hypocritical in my convictions and I long for ignorance. Or to just lighten the hell up.

Friday, November 09, 2007

october just posts

justpostoct
There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.

Every month I promise I am going to talk about something other than homelessness. But every month I can't find a way past it. Past what I see every day, past the cold reality of people sleeping outside, of people struggling to survive. I realize it's taxing, that it might be a turn off for folks but I tell myself I have to write for me, and write for the cause. Yesterday I read an article citing that 1 out of 4 homeless people in the US are vets. I don't know if it's true, but I know what I see.

He fought in Viet Nam on one of the ammunition carriers. He was accidentally wounded and came back hurt. Tonight he'll sleep in a shelter, one of many in his life. We talked for a bit today when he showed up new, but old. Jaded, but relieved. A shelter is a shelter is a shelter but so far folks seem nice here. One thing about rock bottom is there is always room to go back up. Problem is I've been at the bottom for way too long.

He found his way to us awhile ago. He's old now, frail. But he fought in WWII. He defended his country all those years ago and will die soon in a shelter, homeless and penniless. He likes the nights we serve fried chicken and his pants are a little short. I don't need much and I get by okay little lady. One day I'm gonna take a real vacation.

He's just a kid, this guy. He was over in Iraq and came back and can't get a job. Benefits aren't working out, he's struggling. He joined the military because he was poor. He left the military poor. He's got his whole life ahead of him and yet he's with the old timers and the gangsters, the shakers and the jivers. He fought in Iraq. I just need to get a job and get up and outta here. I mean, I fought in the damn war for christsake. That should count for something.

I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound. Everybody look what's going down.

The Just Writers
Aliki with Affordable Guilt and on unreasonable expectations
Blog Antagonist with Not a drop to drink
bon with Dear Margaret Trudeau
Chani with Restorative Justice ... and when community comes together
Crazymumma with Untitled and i just left my yoga class
Get in the car with Philanthropy Thursday
Glennia with why poverty matters
Her Bad Mother with No Shame
Jen with Respect Your Mother, 13 million reasons, little boy lost and my first mothering
Jennifer with potatoes for dinner
KC with A physician's perspective on universal health care
Mary Alice with Philanthropy Thursday
Mother Woman with On the library strike
Painted Maypole with My Pink Ribbon and gratitude and giving
Slouching Mom with Smog
Sober Briquette with This pacifist gets all patriotic
and Sunday dinner left-overs
Susan Wagner with Wrinkle in Time, or Thoughts on Turning 40
Susanne with Art and creativity are pivotal
Suzanne Reisman on BlogHer with More Contraceptive Use, Fewer Abortions and with Combating The Stereotypes and Injustice Surrounding Male Rape
Thordora with Mentally ill lighter sentences
Maggie with Respect and Old Age and environment
League of Maternal Justice with Mission #3
It's Not A Lecture with something good in facebook for a change
Mom's Speak Up with American People = Bush's ATM
been there with BlogDay for Mothers ACT
From the front lines with Philanthropy Thursday
Cecilieaux with what makes pedophiles look good
A Commonplace Book with nooses: why now?
Snoskred with please help do what you can to stop internet scammers NOW
Jenn with do you know me
Julia with what's in a number
Thordora with It's not so easy being hard
Julie with Imagine, tie a red ribbon round my daughter's wrist and take me to toxic town
Biodtl with no child insured, either and why I can never vote Republican
Mimi with brave new boobs post
Jangari with another pseudo apology and more white exceptions to grog bans
Roy with let's have a wake! chivalry is dead
Mrs. Chili with shouting it from the rooftops
Mary G. with ouch that hurt and letter to danier leather
Alejna with hungry
Ancors and Masts with how would you deal with it?
Beansprouts with I believe
Fortune and Glory with Oneness and Bomb, bomb Iran
Riversands Feeding and Gardening project with Mothers who volunteer
Princess Mouse with The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
Permaculture in Brittany with Houston, we've had a problem
Small Meadow Farm with Reduce Reuse Recycle
The coffee house with Positive Thinking/
The chickens have escaped! with No eggs, just rats
Beyond the fields we know with Mama says Om - Divided
Trailer Park Girl with what if

Some of the many Just Readers
Izzy
De
Jess
Jen
Bon
Joanne
Mother Woman
Alejna
Jen
Mad
Susanne
Hel

None of this would be possible without the bloggity goodness of Mad, Susanne, and Hel. They've all written their own masterpieces this month and you can find them by clicking on their names just above. And see you next month when we celebrate an entire year of social justice bliss. As always, these monthly roundtables are open to anyone who wants to contribute, either by reading or by writing. Everyone is welcome.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

because this is how she rolls

Driving home after a long day:

Me: What should we do when we get home?
M: I know! I'll watch my show while you make dinner for me!
Me: Ah, I see. Is that how it's going to be?
M: Yes! Because we are team, right? This is TEAMWORK! I LOVE teamwork!

Nicely done, kid. Very smooth.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

you have to wonder

I was reminded of it last night. That every single day I get asked for help. And I am not even on the front lines anymore. It was worse then. Dozens of times a day, from the mundane needing to use the phone or needing some formula for your baby to the desperate having no place to sleep. Every single day. Help.

Yesterday a woman called me, freshly battered by her husband. Three kids and nowhere to go. Help. A colleague called. She'd found a homeless man with an eight week old baby. Mom split. He holds him like a football she said. They have no place to sleep. Help.

Every day I am asked for help. For ten years and counting. Help. Need. Help. Today I will get asked for help.

You have to wonder what that does to a person, running across all this pain. What it does to one's soul. And no wonder I often think everything is fucked. Or not. Sometimes it's beautiful, all this suffering. Help.

I forget to notice until I remember. I remembered last night. I felt it deeply for the first time in a long time. It's my job. All this help. I'm not complaining, just wondering. Lots of us go through this. Doctors, every 15 minutes. Teachers, non-stop.


How do you get asked for help?

Speaking of, it's the last day to send me your Just Posts. Our Roundtable is coming up. Send them to me at girlplustwoATyahooDOTcom. Help.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

the last vestiges of cool

Awhile back I called the front office at M's daycare and the young woman who answered the phone when trying to place who I was casually said oh yeah, that's right, you're the cool parents. The amount of pleasure I cleaved from those few words borders on the absurd. Being cool, see, is the last vestige of a former life. Of a life unwilling to bend. Who will still bravely go out into the world sans baby items. Or who will take her child to faraway places and breastfeed at the tops of ruins. Or whose partner had dreads, for god's sake. Cool, see. All was not lost. Breeding CAN be cool.

And then as the years go on I find the cool slipping. Little things seep in like inexplicable giddiness in the face of people dressed as cartoon characters. Or singing along with CDs filled with teapots and wee spiders. But I monitored the cool, monitored the slippage. I was still in control. The balance hadn't tipped.

And then the unthinkable. The thing I said I would never do. Could never do. That all but defined the very loss of cool. And the worst part is that I caved in fairly easily, after years of resistance, tonight I caved in almost silently. The slippage. The loss. The pain. I feel it still.

Without further ado I give you this:
The shopping car cart. And there I was pushing this creaking behemoth filthy wretched vestibule of a grocery container, dodging the teetering old folks who'd blandly smile and the gangster types who looked on and away with appropriate disdain. One man looked on with definite sympathy and as I went by I muttered dude I know, I can't believe I'm pushing this pile of shit either only to hear him chuckling as he passed.

But if you look real close you'll see six amber tips nestled in the back. And that can only signify one thing. Micro brews are in the house, er, cart. So take that, you cruel robber of cool.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

getting on the bus

Many years ago I was a case worker for a diverse group of people. Often, they were the ones who'd slipped through the cracks of others. Needless to say we were a wild and varied group with myself as the pied piper of sorts, attracting lost souls referred by other lost souls. One lovely woman was severely mentally ill and deaf to boot, our communications consisted of long rambling letters on large white boards, a situation that could take hours on end. Another woman was convinced that rubbing butter all over her body was her only measure of protection so in between coaxing excess tubs of liquid gold out of her hands I'd be assisting with massive loads of laundry. Another, a man who is still dear to my heart was an honorable feeder of trees.

The other man I got to know during this time was a young guy, a Christopher McCandless before his time. A good looking man who had travelled the nation, hopping freight trains and camping, hitchhiking and squeaking by. Troy ended up in California after a bad patch, he'd been beaten up and his meager funds had been stolen. He showed up filthy, ragged and hungry. He had stayed in shelters on and off in the country and avoided them when he could in favor of finding day work and sleeping in parks. But it was winter and it was harder to do that and harder still since he'd been recently robbed. He started living in the shelter and cleaned up a bit and started getting day labor work. His goal was to save enough money to buy a bus ticket east, to head through the Rockies and end up on the other side. There was a part of the country he'd yet to see, a place he'd heard about that smelled like promise.

He was reticent to share much about his life but from the bits he offered it was clear that his family situation was a tough one, that he'd been all but orphaned. He was a dreamer and very bright, he had strong feelings about society and what being a good human means. He was also tender hearted, his loneliness was obvious even as he denied it was there. We fell into a routine of sorts, he'd wait for the rest of the folks to clear out and we'd spend an hour or so a day checking in on his status, his savings, his goals. I tried connecting him with more local resources but he was pretty clear leaving was his only option.

Winter wore on and my caseload grew larger, at one point there were 15 or so folks no one knew quite how to help, least of all me. But my interest in creative solutions coupled with a strategically placed office (in the middle of the sleeping area) managed to get a lot of game and kept the wheels turning, some times more successfully than others.

Troy started making plans. He had enough money saved now to hit the road again. We'd talk at length about the life he was choosing, one with less options and one with more. I admired his courage and acknowledged his sadness and waited to see how he'd go. One day he came in my office and sat down and told me he was leaving. And as he talked he reached into his back pack and pulled out an envelope and slid it across the desk and nodded his head. I opened it and pulled out not one but two bus tickets, the long haul greyhound type. He looked at me and said I got one for you too. So you can come with me. I was completely taken aback, nothing in our discussions had suggested I'd be interested nor had he ever made an untoward advance. And yet somehow in all those hours of talking and listening he'd crafted this plan without my knowledge, a plan where he'd spend his hard earned money on something impossible.

I looked at him carefully, knowing the risk this must have been and the pain my answer would cause. But I told him definitively that I could not go, that I did not want to go, that I had work to do here. And more so, how we could get his precious money back. He sat stoically as I talked, a glimmer of sadness behind his carefully disguised eyes. He seemed almost surprised that I was not taking him up on his offer and I realized then it may have been a question of a differing reality in more ways than one. We talked for a little while longer and he took out a small plastic robot and sat it on my desk. Then he picked up his back pack and walked out of my office, out of the shelter, and I never saw him again.

I remember being taken aback by that for a long time, how he'd perceived a reality so different from what reality was, and how living that way must open you up to so many more possibilities as well as so much more disappointments. And even now I wonder if he's still on the road or if he's eventually found a place to call home.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

showing up

Choosing a political leader to support is a personal decision. We all need to weigh the pros and cons of our choice against our own beliefs, our own ferreting out the bullshit from the grace, the media representations from the platforms.

Awhile back I decided to support John Edwards. And recently I was asked to join Momocrats along with a fantastic group of women who are all dedicated to the same belief: John Edwards is the one candidate who is truly speaking for the poor. I believe in his compassion, his deep commitment to the working poor, to alleviating poverty. He's the only candidate talking about poverty in a meaningful and tangible way so there is no other reasonable choice for me to make.

The choice this time around is so important, so important for our country and for our reputation in our world. Every candidacy means change, but this election seems especially critical. Our future depends on making the right choice. And we all have the luxury of getting behind someone who speaks to us and to our perceptions of what we need to move forward in the best possible way. And I believe in changing the socioeconomic balance. In recognizing the importance of alleviating the suffering brought by poverty and homelessness. In acting like a community who is concerned about all of it's citizens.

And I believe with the right leadership it's possible to see that change.

Friday, November 02, 2007

flower power

I noticed a couple of the women carrying them, these small somewhat wilted bouquets of flowers wrapped in plastic. The cheap kind, some fern, carnations, perhaps a daisy, that white stuff, some odds and ends. So after seeing three or four women walking by, one or two smelling their flowers but all of them carrying them proudly I noticed a man with a bucket walking towards me.

Want some flowers? All ladies deserve flowers.

So after politely declining in deference to others I asked him where he got them. He told me that he saw a man was throwing them away as he was on his way back to the shelter, day old flowers from a convenience store. The man said he could have the lot of them and so he carried them back to the shelter to pass them around.

And as I walked through the floor past the bunk beds and grey mattresses, bundles of old clothing, standard issue blankets and bulging plastic bags there they were, scattered on beds like little rainbows glowing under relentless florescent lights proving us hopeful against the tide.

We will not surrender, those flowers said. We matter, they declared. We are beautiful, they cried.

And for a small moment all was right in the world.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

perfectly good

I used to throw the best Halloween parties when I was single. A great crowd, a fully decorated house, artistic friends who'd take it over the top. And yet this year the simple joy of watching my hellion fairy go door to door and then sit in wide eyed excitement over her ever growing candy bucket was about the closest thing I've experienced to heaven on earth.

Chani is working on a roundtable called Accentuating the Positive. She's compiling links from anyone who wants to share their own stories of positive interactions and influences so I offered my shared lunch as a perfect example of kindness in unexpected places. Stop by and wish her well - we can all use as many reminders of goodness as we can get.

Also, I'm doing a little nominating of my own - Glennia wrote a brilliant post on poverty this month that spoke volumes about the complicated nature of poverty and why it matters to all of us. It's a must read. And don't forget to check out the rest of the Perfect Posts too.

And lastly, it's that time again. Our Eleventh Just Post Roundtable is coming up so now's the time to forward me links about social justice in all shapes and sizes to girlplustwo(at)yahoodotcom by November 7th. You can send us a post you've written or one you've read which means everyone who wants to can participate. All of the posts will be featured on four blogs in four different parts of the world on the 10th. If this is new to you email me or check out the Just Post buttons to your right. All are welcome.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

three

Speaking of not finding my bliss: Three is a pain in the ass. The temper tantrums. The whining. The incessant tantrums and whining. The 0-60 hysterics.

Truth be told, I might lose my shit.

I try reasoning but it's impossible. I try rationalizing only to have it stamped on and tossed out. I try discipline, the wussy-ass Time Out sort of discipline but she's got my number there too. And when she acts out in public, the throwing herself on the ground and kicking and screaming....let's just say I try and find My Happy Place but it's left the building. I actually find myself fantasizing about public buses in third world countries. You know, buses travelling far from here. Camels and sitars. Coke in a bottle. Ruins. See, I am doing it again now.

Everyone says it'll pass. I even believe you. But that doesn't make the moment any less annoying. And I try and find the humor, and often I do find the humor, but at the end of it all it's simply a hard job. It's a terrific job and I love my kid and I embrace the motherhood and all that blah de blah, but you know, it's still hard sometimes. I want to be a good mother. J says I over-indulge her (a pox on you, man) at times and she needs to figure some of this out for herself, that it's not helping her and it's exhausting me. I see his point, and yet I can't ignore it when she's having her third meltdown wailing for me at the top of her lungs. Or the fourth. And so on.

This sounds like I am whining but mostly I'm just saying what's what.

Happy Halloween, yo. I am banking on a certain Garden Fairy rocking the house in between tantrums and shrieking.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

state of eternal bliss

I always enjoy it when J invites a work friend over for dinner. His friends are an eclectic bunch, a group of counselors working with a difficult population and inevitably I find them to be an interesting group. E was no exception. He's a world traveller and a film-maker who just landed a full length documentary project. He's been enlisted to make a film about a guru who has a large number of disciples and a few ashrams in different parts of the world. His disciples are paying for the documentary, so of course I was wondering if there would be freedom in filming or if there would be pressure to film it in a certain way - a question on E's mind as well.

So being the inquisitive woman I am, I continued to pepper E with questions while plying him with wine. Apparently this guru dude was born in the states but said Jesus came to visit him when he was a little kid and told him some important stuff. A while later he claimed he had some other visitors, Mother Mary, Jesus again, some other spiritual bigwigs too. They made it clear he was the reincarnation of some other really important spiritual leader and the rest sort of spiraled from there. So today he's got a bunch of followers and a bunch of spiritual teachings on the oneness of us and God and you know, it all sounds ok enough because far be it from me to judge the spiritual lives of others anyways. E swears the man has an intense spiritual power, that in his presence you are filled with a constant state of bliss, a bliss so intense that you are unable to focus on anything else, even sleeping. (How he'll film the movie while in this state is yet to be seen).

To be honest, that's a bliss I've never felt but you know, it sounds kind of cool, too. So after E left I googled the guru and found some of his teachings and saw some of his disciples and some videos of his lessons and as I watched I was waiting for the bliss. The Bliss! But it never came. So I went to bed lacking the bliss and life continues on as normal.

But I can't wait to hear how this film project goes.

Monday, October 29, 2007

blackened skies

I've not talked much about the fires in California, mostly because it's hard to find the words. I grew up in one of the tiny mountain towns that has burned so viciously over the past week. A town of under 2000 people, a town of mountain men and snow and one or two roads off the hill. Seeing pictures of it burning, hearing that one, two, now three old friends have lost their homes, wondering if the home I grew up in all those years ago survived or if it too burned into the ashen sky.

Growing up in those mountains was a mix of redneckery, small town gossip, loyal neighbors and another kind of fire and brimstone. I hated it at the time, the long distance from the real world, the cold, the forever digging ourselves out of the snow. But it was something else too; small town safe, the place where everyone had to get their mail at the post office and the market down the road had the best candy. A place spent climbing trees and building forts, long school bus rides and four wheel driving. It's also where I learned to play baseball and where I learned to drive, where I had my first job and my first broken heart.

And now it's burned. It would be impossible not to know the names of folks whose homes have burned, even 20 years gone I still know. And in one week it's changed forever, the landscape blackened, the town grew smaller and wider still.

Posessions are just trappings. Clever disguises to keep us from knowing our ultimate selves. But they are also how we define our safety, where we lay our heads. We cleave to these things, to these tangible markers of our memories and then one day they fail us and gone, all gone.

And then we start anew. The courageous mountain men and women living there will find this as their beginning rather than their end. I know this because it's hardscrabble living in those hills and the weak wouldn't choose it. But clearing away the charred rubble of their lives until now is a solemn task at best.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

blue

M and I headed over to the hair salon I've been going to for as long as I can remember for her haircut yesterday. My hair person is someone I love, a wise woman who is as liberal and earthy as they come. She sets M up in the chair and very seriously asks her what she'd like to do.

I want blue hair.

We both look at each other. She asks M to repeat it and she says it again. She also points at my hair which currently has red and yellow streaks in it and says like mama.

So my lovely hair friend suggested she cut M's hair first and then afterwards we can see what's what as we both know minds change easily when you are three. So after M sits patiently through her haircut, a small miracle in itself and as my hair person finishes M says again but I still want blue, mama. My costume is blue.

So my friend looks at her intently then over to me and says I think we should honor her request. And in that moment I damn the earthy liberalism and as I am shaking my head no I say it is Halloween and her costume IS blue.

So my hair person goes off and comes back with some product. It's Aveda, she says. It's all natural and it'll wash out after awhile. So we debate and agree to two blue streaks. And as she's applying this natural blue dye made out of natural blue plant and flower juices (is that even possible?) all I can think is what the hell is J going to say about this.

But it's just hair, I decide. So I let it go and M walks out of the salon with two blue streaks and they aren't even that blue, more of an indigo than a royal. And I find myself wishing it was royal, if we are going for it then it should be all the way.

And when we get home there is a package waiting from sweet Liv. Inside we find an adorable halloween outfit for M and an unbelievably gorgeous necklace for me. M put the outfit on immediately and hasn't taken it off since, not even to sleep. The blue isn't noticeable in this picture, but I promise it's there. And Kiki might notice some long lost ponies too.