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


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


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


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


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


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.


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

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
Mother Woman

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.