Saturday, March 31, 2007
I was sad to see how full the place was. Mostly because in the back of my mind all I can think is that these hundred or so people aren't going to have this place tomorrow. There is always a special BBQ on the last night, and there was a round of applause from the guests as they got in line to get their food. I wasn't eating but I clapped too, a forced cheerfulness that didn't quite seep under my skin.
I overheard several folks saying their goodbyes, swapping tentative destinations; corners or parks where they might find each other over the weekend. A few were trading belongings, the guy with two razors gave one to the guy with an extra pair of socks, and so on.
The mood was somber. It's not like the last night at camp where the mood is buzzing with what comes next and who's doing what, this was a reluctant sort of happiness; happy that they've got full bellies but behind the smiles was weariness. It's been a long season already, and it's not going to get any easier for most. It must be so exhausting. Each day must feel like years.
I was getting ready to leave when there was a bit of commotion. It seems that either facing the next unknown was a bit too much, or perhaps it was a last hurrah, and that mixed with heroin is a wicked combination. Staff called 911 while he was convulsing on the bathroom floor. An overdose, intentional or not still causes the same physical reaction; I've not seen it a lot but the few times I have it's sickening at best. I had M with me so when things went south I couldn't stick around, and besides, once they get in the bus we don't often hear how things turned out except for word of mouth.
Sometimes this place is no place for a baby, some might say it never is. There were one or two other kids there with their mom who didn't have the same luxury of having somewhere else to go. M didn't see inside the bathroom so there weren't any questions about why that man was on the floor. I was happy not to have to find an answer. Even still, we were both rather quiet on the drive home.
My mood was somber tonight and I still can't sleep; I lay comfortably in my bed with clean sheets, my child tucked in her bed and J nearby. I know where I am going to sleep tomorrow, and it seems that that alone should make me feel less unsure, but the truth is it all seems muddled, BBQ mixed with pain and suffering, potato salad on the side.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Cesar Chavez was a true revolutionary for the poor, the laborers, the hidden backbone of our country. He fought for the families who pick our grapes, our berries. The invisibles who provide bounty for our produce sections, our silent green thumbs. He brought folks together and lifted them up, and he did it with passion, intensity, and respect.
I've had the honor of knowing many migrant farmworker families over the years. I can honestly say I've never met more hardworking people. Families that rise before the sun and return after dark, hands calloused and dirty, nails never quite clean. I've eaten some of the best tamales in my life with these families, they never fail to share their food, no matter how little they have. These men and women who love their children fiercely, who want nothing more than a better life for them than they have lived.
Happy Birthday, Senor Chavez. We remember you and your powerful words:
The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.
"We are confident. We have ourselves. We know how to sacrifice. We know how to work. We know how to combat the forces that oppose us. But even more than that, we are true believers in the whole idea of justice. Justice is so much on our side, that that is going to see us through."
When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the fields is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding, sheltering and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick.
In this world it is possible to achieve great material wealth, to live an opulent life. But a life built upon those things alone leaves a shallow legacy. In the end, we will be judged by other standards.
A teacher, a mobilizer, an organizer, a leader. Your spirit lives on.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Look who has her very own big girl bike. I am devastated by how big she suddenly seems, and yet above all, joy abounds. Commencement ride took place in in pyjamas, and in the dark, no less.
Be. Still. My. Heart.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
But after all those years and thousands upon thousands of people nothing is getting better. Homelessness grows every year. It's getting worse. It's the lack of impact that troubles me, the terrifying notion that this has all been for nothing.
I am not sure how much longer I can do this. For years my entire identity was wrapped up in my work, was defined by it. With J and M things have changed. I am entirely grateful for that, to have something besides this to call my own, my home, my reason.
But a girl's gotta eat. And while I may be a hard worker, it's always been driven by passion. I cannot work to simply earn. I see the value in that, but I am too stubborn and too childish to do it. I can't bring myself to find a job. I've got to find a cause. Otherwise, I'll be fired in a week. I'd much rather be in Goa, Chile, Kenya. I'd be fired in a week.
So I sit here heartbroken. I'll be turning 37 in less than a month and I've spent my adult life working for a cause that is going nowhere. I am whining, a pathetic middle class angst, yes. I know. I know. But I have nowhere else to do this, nowhere else I can actually allow myself the space to heave. It's my blog, I'll write what I want.
Please, please, don't read this and want to make me feel better. You make me feel better all the time by all the support and community you offer. I don't need to feel better about this. I need to figure out what the hell to do. And it's okay to be heartbroken for a while.
If you finish a really big project and still get a D, does that mean the effort was for not? Or does it mean the project is incomplete? I don't really have those answers, either.
And there is an element of abandonment. Of giving up. Of knowing that just because I turn my face it doesn't mean it goes away. So that's worse, isn't it? Worse to give up before it's done. But it won't ever be done, will it? Perhaps it's the death of a long held ideal I am mourning, a belief that the world can actually be changed.
J has a theory that the government is thrilled by NGOs because people who are passionate about social issues work for them and spend their years spinning their wheels, and our attention and efforts go to the symptoms rather than the heart of the problems. We are safely tucked away whittling the years trying to plug all the leaks. But there are always new ones. And we are too busy with our fingers and toes in the other holes to notice, and before we know it the water has risen. And so we scramble to plug the new holes, never once thinking about how to stop the water on the other side.
And eventually everyone drowns. That's simple physics, right? Water will expand to the space it is given.
In the spirit of good blogging everywhere, I know I am supposed to end this post with an upbeat, I'll be fine! Really, just prattling on about nothing! Perhaps, I am. But who knows. So instead I'll leave you with this.
I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle! - Alice in Wonderland
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
But lately, we can't. The folks he's helping lately are too sick. Too ill to be on their own in any capacity and yet they have nowhere to go. Last night J came home and talked about a private meeting he had with some MDs at the hospital, docs who are freaked out and frustrated because they too can't help the people who need it because the requirements for inpatient have become tighter still. Simply, they can only keep folks who are assaultive or catatonic. Schizophrenia is no longer enough, Axis I out the window. They are just not sick enough. The MDs are scared, and when MD's get scared it scares me too. Doctors, see, they know things.
Shit rolls downhill. J's group is impacted with folks they really aren't designed to care for, the ones who previously would have been tucked in at the hospital. And then the ones they really want to help are unable to get into their program. Shit rolls downhill.
And then these cats end up at a shelter. You can't roll much farther than that. There are people making decisions based on money who cannot possibly ever take the time to see what is really going on outside.
It's a ticking bomb. And it scares me, because everyone's noose is getting tighter. I anticipate it getting much harder to continue doing this work, but at the same time I don't see a solution coming. People are not getting healthier. The government is not stepping up. It's a pushback to the NGO's to come up with solutions, and we can barely keep our heads above water let alone solve problems that we elect people to solve for us.
I often wonder how much NGOs contribute to the problem. We enable hospitals and providers by offering shelters and programs. We give folks an out to not fight harder for what is right. There is someplace else to put people. Even if that someplace else is absolutely wrong for the mentally ill woman who has no idea where she is, or the guy with end stage cancer sleeping on the floor.
But for how long? And much less importantly (but something I am thinking about more and more): how long can I?
Monday, March 26, 2007
Real moms take their kids to freezing cold beaches in the middle of winter.
And then real moms take real dads on vacation without their kids and swim in the ocean as the sun sets in foreign places. Real moms know we are only as good to our babies as we are to ourselves.
In other news, Neen emails me the other day and asks if I want to meet her at Blogher in July. I thought about it for about 2 minutes and decided, uh, yeah, I do. I mean, Jess is going. And I hear Bad is going too. And a heck of a lot of others. And others should come too, like you, KC.
So Neen, hell yes, I want to take a few days off and fly sans diaper bag to Chicago and shack up in a hotel room with you for two nights. If we are really terribly lucky, maybe we'll get Jess drunk and she'll pass out in our hotel room and we can take pictures of her in a stupor and use it to blackmail her later. You know, for free stuff. Like CD mixes. We can hold the pictures ransom until she makes us a CD mix. Or cupcakes. I like cupcakes.
In all seriousness, the other reason I am so interested in going is the focus on building community and effecting social change at this year's conference. Given the Just Posts and my passion for the underrepresented, I am excited to be able to see what more our own blogging community can accomplish. Sky's the limit, friends.
So between stalking Jess and collaborating on community as a vessel for social change, anything is possible for real women in Chicago in July.
EDITED TO SAY: Here I am trying to be funny, and it came across as exclusionary. Wasn't where I was focused when I wrote it and am sorry if that is how it was perceived. Humor aside, I am excited to have another way to get with a group of women from all over the place and talk about possibilities.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
I was showing someone around a site I am rarely at when I came around a corner and saw him, facing away, but recognizable (always) from a distance.
I actually stopped walking and before I could stop myself said Oh...I was so not expecting this...followed immediately by a silent and i look like shit. He must have sensed something from 100 feet away because at that precise moment he turned and looked, then turned again for a moment, standing still.
We both managed (always had managed) to play it off, even when we were involved no one at either of our agencies was remotely aware of it; but I'd be lying if I denied that my knees didn't all of a sudden feel like sand.
Perhaps some things may never change, and yet I walked past with a cool long time, friend, to with he replied yes, nice to see you. I walked into the office and took a few minutes to watch him through the window. He looks exactly the same.
It was always a visceral thing, a former life, a primal connection. He was the one in between others for a number of years, the one that was no good but I still couldn't shake. It was physical, with a minor in emotional, but from time to time I'd confused the two, and that was my downfall.
He looks exactly the same, a south american with a minor in cuban, a bit of new silver, but mostly, exactly the same. He is never someone I think of, no one I miss. But in those few moments it was if an invisible velvet cord wrapped in Neruda and red wine wrapped itself around my waist and pulled me close. The way a man places his hand on the small of your back while teaching you to salsa and guides you effortlessly around the floor. Omara Portundo singing in the background. A bit like all of that.
I took the high road and avoided him. He waited until there was a pause and came over, direct, subtle, exotic, saying I've often wondered how you are. Do you have a moment? Not really, my mind says Just a minute, I suppose, comes out of my mouth.
We wander off from the crowd and he mentions hearing that I've become a mother, he wonders how that is. I am trying not to fidget. I decide I don't really want to tell him anything.
It was always like this. And it was simultaneously very flawed. He was never truly forthcoming, he had too many wounds and was the opposite of what I needed all those years ago. And yet I dug in for far too long at the sacrifice of other things not the least of all myself. I'm still a bit irritated over the power he had, and the way even now, seeing him makes me feel.
After a few moments I tell him I need to go, people are waiting. He asks if he could see me, go to lunch, catch up, talk. No, I say, with my mind and voice this time, I don't think so. He looked taken aback, started to speak, then paused, gazed, nodded, and said adios, then, preciosa. If you change your mind....No, I said. I don't think I will.
I watched him walk away and stood still after he'd left, silent. It had always been like this. And it was the most it ever was. He was exactly the same. And thank god I am not.
Friday, March 23, 2007
-John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Everything you wanted to know about America's failure to end homelessness. The link to the report Without Housing will break your heart and infuriate your soul. It's a very long read, but an important one. If you check it out, let me know.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
The dinner was at a conference room in a hotel and idiotically, I assumed it had to do with affordable housing. I walked in and was directed to the room by a rather hot hotel boy. Everything's looking rosy until I got to the room. A room filled with professional networkers and staffing professionals. Immediately I started to itch. The hotel boy was suddenly nowhere to be seen.
My title at work presumes I am something I am not. I am not a business woman. I have never nor will ever network. And yet here I am, a speaker for the dinner tonight, a dinner of 50 or so folks who were absolutely NOT there to talk about housing.
The organizer found me and launched me into the circuit. All of these very nice people were on the hunt for new business, for connections, for opportunities. I had an incredible urge to hug them. This doesn't seem like very much fun.
I am seated at a table with 9 other people for a very long meal. Everyone is lovely. A bit quirky in a best in show sort of way, outranking each other with wild staffing professional stories and the like, and very, very nice. I am the only space alien. I kept having to catch myself from doing something outrageous; swearing in any sort of context or introducing myself as if I were at an AA meeting. Hysterical laughter. I was clearly out of control.
And there wasn't even an open bar.
It's finally time to speak. I had no idea what I was going to say as I was walking up to the podium. So I flubbed my way through non profitisms in regards to staffing and professionals (see, I can't even do it here - I still don't really know what it means) and then opened up the floor for questions. There were seven. Seven. I couldn't have been too much of an asshole, either that, or it was purely out of sympathy.
On another note, thank you for your comments to my last post. You have no idea how much each of them meant. Being heard is a wonderful gift. You all give me hope. Thank you.
Before you go, take a peek over at my review blog because my first Parent Blogger review is up today. It's all about sleep, so unless you already get plenty you might want to stop by. I don't get paid for this, it's just another way I serve my fellow wo/mankind. Well that, and a free book.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The next day she was asked to leave. The birth was normal, they told her. It's time to go. You do have somewhere to go, right? (the answer to this question needs to be yes) and so she left. Alone, she left the hospital and waited at the bus station. Her clothes and the blankets from the hospital wrapped around the baby.
The bus came and she got on. There is a bus that rides all night long, it's infamous; a mobile shelter of sorts. She rode, and as she rode she got to know her son. She gave him a very big name, four different names with many syllables, so many perhaps, to cloak himself with. His name is very exotic, it's fit for a king. Her son and his very big name.
After two days of riding the bus she got off. Hungry and tired, unsure. A mother. Somehow she was directed to us, somehow she wandered in. Head down, voice low, she mumbled. A mumbler, I thought. Mumbling isn't good.
At her feet was a box, a box one might think is full of clothes, of a few belongings. As she waited at the counter the box made a noise. A noise making box, I thought. This also isn't good.
She reached down and lifted up the boy with many names. A baby is in that box, I thought. This is really, really not so good.
I am so tired of riding the bus, she said. I can't do it anymore. And nor should you. You must be hungry, let's get you something to eat.
She pushes up her sleeve when she sits down, medical bracelet still on her wrist. I notice then there is one on her son, it's still there too. May I hold your baby so you can eat? Only if I sit right there, and sitting right there is fine with me.
He is beautiful. A head full of hair, snuggled in sleep. He sighs and jerks. You must be exhausted, I say. She's yet to look me in the eye.
As luck would have it, we have room for them. After dinner she settles in, other moms swarm around her, advice brimming, useful and not. She sits quietly, head lowered. I imagine her wishing she could disappear. She holds her son to her chest.
In the morning she takes her baby to the makeshift clinic onsite. The nurse says he's fine, and makes sure she knows how to feed him. It's not often she gets to show someone how to do that, and she's kind with the woman, so kind. She finds a can of formula, just in case you need a break or he's still hungry after you feed him, she says. She also arranges to see them again tomorrow, and somehow that made things feel a bit better, at least for me. Please, I say. I know, the nurse says. I'll do all I can to help.
I met her three years ago this month, this woman and the boy in the box with four very big names. After six months we lost track of them, but I hope those six months mattered. She lived in the shelter, and she learned how to be a mom, perhaps not in that order, but together all the same. This boy and his mom, in a different sort of box, a kind not so easily disposed of. I remember this night like it was yesterday.
I can't help but think about how M was born six months after he was, and how they are so close in age and yet so far apart. I wonder how we can make that gap smaller, and not just for this boy in a box with four very big names.
Monday, March 19, 2007
I've got the mojo, friends. Touch me, I'm golden.
This has been long coupled with Mommy Do It. Others of you have occasionally spoken of this. I know I am not alone in having a child who only wants their mother to do any and everything. It's caused some strain but for the most part, we roll.
Perhaps we were rolling along a little too well for her two year old brain to manage, because this weekend, along with my previous post of minor woeful musings, brought this little morsel:
I no love daddy. I only love mommy.
We were at the grocery store this afternoon and M and I were traipsing (she rolls, I traipse) through the aisles when all of a sudden she says I no love daddy. I only love mommy.
Baby, I say, why would you say that? She was rather cheeky, words drawn out, a smile that could break glass. She wasn't upset, but rather working an angle (is that bad to say about my kid, because I swear, she was).
So I said honey, do you know it's okay to love us both? You don't have to choose, you can love us both and it only means there is more love. M started in on another topic so I let it go.
But when we got home she went up to J and said Me no love you daddy. Me only love mommy.
Ouch. I glance at J, and watch his face fall. He's been a trooper these past months; all the mommyness has been wearing on us both. It's worth noting that since we both work, we both take fairly equal responsibility at home; there isn't a lot of one doing more than the other. But M has made equality difficult lately, hysterics abound if we are both home and I am not the one to do her bidding.
He said, baby, I love you and you love me. It's okay if you don't feel it right now. I love you no matter what.
But I know it hurts. And while I want to respect her process, I don't want to reinforce this behavior, because frankly, it's kind of shitty. I did offer to go to the beach for a week and let them get on without me in the picture, but no one (besides me) seemed to think that was a good idea. I still think if that's the best idea we can come up with, I'll take one for the team.
Because I'm sacrificial like that.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
I am occasionally the mother I said I would never be.
I am away from M and I miss her entirely. My whole body propells the car towards home, inching over the speed limit, eyes lifted northbound. Home to M. Home.
And then I walk inside the door, and the mess and the whining and the crying and the No Ways!!! commence and I feel confused, turned around....wondering.
And some days are wilder still. The zoo looks promising, with the sun riding high in the sky and then we arrive, and it's a battle from start to finish. My quiet yet stern appeals have no influence, and I refuse, I simply refuse, both for M and for myself to turn shrewlike, haggardly, punative. I hear those things from other mother lips sometimes and I steadfastly refuse to join the choir so instead M runs roughshod, her steamrolling highness.
It's the balance, it's the intent.
But I don't always have either, and so I slip, slip from reasoning and explaining to games of take away, of counting, of time out.
I am trying, baby. I am really trying. I want to be an extraordinary mother, I want your life to feel safe and full and full of joy. I want the axis to come unhinged by your endless laughter every single day. I want mine to join yours, holding hands while discovering our new world.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
nick drake - five leaves left - time has told me is an incredible song. Anything by Nick makes sense..his haunting melodies, his funky rhythms. great music to fall asleep to.
leonard cohen - i'm your man. tower of song is just one example of his loveliness. he's groove, funk and soul all rolled into your chronically depressed grandfather.
dar williams - mortal city - iowa is a terrific car song...one you can belt out at the top of your lungs
ani difranco - little plastic castles - in particular, independence day. she sings one line that goes something like - building molehills out of mountains, basecamp at the bottom of a really big deal. it's perfect in it's denial-ability.
massive attack - pretty much anything by massive attack. over and over, one love, i could go on and on. massive attack keeping their political fires burning in a groovy sort of way.
zero seven - again, just about anything from them, but the when it falls album is sublime. they hook you almost immediately. another great background, chill out, long converation or falling asleep music.
that said, i've not explored new music in a while. pretend i am a radio, turn me on to something new (see, more folk). seriously, if you've discovered something new that speaks to you, tell me...i think i need some upgrading.
Friday, March 16, 2007
I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but I found the whole thing fascinating. The women had kids ranging from 5-20 years of age, and had from 1-6 kids each. All spoke of the same pressure - not having enough money to clothe their kids and the frustrations that caused them at home, and the humiliation the kids suffered at school.
dirty shelter kids. white-trash. loser. ghetto. fat, ugly, stupid.
It was appalling to hear the way their kids were spoken to. And it's not just about having new clothes, it's about labels and brands. Specific stores. One mom said her eight year old was upset because her friends had underwear from Victoria's Secret. Um, seriously? At age eight?
Others spoke of the expense of bras, and how kids at nine or ten were requiring them. Again, I was floored. I can't remember when I got my first bra, but I know I was in my teens.
Kids who, due to years of poor nutrition, were overweight and unable to find clothes their size. And are humiliated for it.
Kids who only had hand me downs, and would go to school and keep their jackets on no matter how hot it gets. Kids that cried and begged to stay home from school because they were too ashamed to face the others.
The moms talked about how painful this is for them - they want more than anything to keep their kids similar to others, but simply unable. About how they cry at night, blame themselves. The guilt. And it's not like these lovely women don't have bigger fish to fry, either. And yet it matters. We are all moms here. No one loves their kids any more or less. It matters the same.
When asked who was responsible, almost every mom said the media. That the media is so harmful in it's pressure to look a certain way, to be thin, to have the right clothes. And how far away from that reality they are, and yet it's in their face all the time.
The whole thing terrified me. I came home and told J we need to get the hell out of this country before M starts school. We need to raise her in the jungle. Without TV. She cannot ever be in the position to feel ashamed of how she looks. We must do this now. He nodded solemnly (no doubt thinking but kindly enough not saying that no matter what we do this will still happen) and we spent another endless conversation around how we can get to Belize, and how fast. And how it's not fast enough.
Because while this population had a specific set of extra challenges, the pain and suffering exists on some level for most kids. It's almost as if babies are born right next to god, go very far away after a while, and then spend the rest of our lives trying to find our way back.
How do we keep our kids from caring about superficial things when the rest of the world insists that they do? What can be done for kids who are defined by their appearance, and treated horribly if they don't meet the standard? My focus group reminded me of Julie and the fascinating discussion that spawned from her In defense of vanity post a couple days ago. I know it's not just the poor kids. I know it's the grown ups too.
But I still wish they got a free pass, because god knows they've got enough extra things to worry about as is.
(i stole the title to this post from a poem Em posted yesterday).
Thursday, March 15, 2007
What's up? I say.
We got a call, but I'm not going in that hellhole without backup, he says.
Backup? Isn't that what the gun is for? Hey, want me to be your backup? (I am almost always overcome with cheekiness in the presence of cops. I'm not entirely proud of it, but it's true).
You do what you want - you choose to work there, I don't, he replied.
And unarmed at that. I say with a grin.
Alrighty then, friend. I'll be inside when you are ready.
A few staff are crowded around the front desk. It's obvious a fight has recently ended. Two guys, one pissed, one hurt. I avoid the pissed one (there are bigger guys around for that) and walk up to the hurt one.
Hey there. Are you ok? Shakes head no. Want to come with me, we can clean up your face. He looks around and nods. We head over to the bathroom. Sit down, I say, and gesture towards the toilet. I grab some paper towels and wet them, a lot of them, and hand them to him to put on the wound on his head. It's a bit early for all of this, yes?
Thanks, he says. You know, I was just minding my own business.
I wasn't here for the fight. But the cops are outside (ahem, waiting for backup) and they'll come sort it out - for what it's worth.
Not much, he says. I nod in agreement. I am so sick of staying here, he says. I am so sick and tired of staying here.
Someone pokes their head in to let us know the cops are inside and want to talk to the guy. Alright, I say. We should go. Just be cool with the cops, if it wasn't your fault, they'll sort it out. Plus the other guy seems pretty pissed, so just stay cool.
I'm cool, he says. Thank you.
I decided to hang around and watch how it unfolded. I feel for the hurt guy. He's a lot smaller than the other guy, and the other guy is still really pissed. He's yelling, swearing, threatening. The hurt guy stays quiet. He's being cool.
I ask one of the guys what happened. He said It's the pissed guy. He's always starting shit.
Did you tell the cops that? I ask, Yes. Good.
Cops like to do cop things alone so they head out with both guys in cuffs and start phoning things in from the car. Without any sound it's still obvious that pissed guy is not making life any easier, so it's fairly easy to assume who's not getting back out of cuffs. After a few moments everyone gets back to whatever there were doing before this happened.
I wrap up the reasons I had stopped in and head back to my car. Pissed guy is sitting in the back of one of the police cars, and hurt guy is nowhere to be seen. I don't stop. As I am driving away I see hurt guy walking down the street away from the shelter. I slow down and roll down my window. Hey, you ok?
I am so sick and tired of this shit, he says. I can't take it anymore. But I'll be ok. I'll see you around.
I hope so. Take care, brother.
And I've wondered how his day has gone ever since.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I am still struggling with an answer to her current question. For a lot of reasons including I have no idea what the answer is. But thankfully, she also asked me what I wished for. Wishing feels easier.
Truly, if I could wish for anything, I would wish that everyone who wanted a home had one. That one in five children did not live in poverty in the US. I wish that local governments truly accepted the responsibilities given to them. To govern their community with all members in mind. And then I wish those cats leaned on the state, who in turn leaned on the feds. That from the bottom up we are building viable communities.
If wishes were fishes I'd dive in and never swim back.
But it's about money, isn't it. There's not a lot of money in homelessness. There is not a lot of capital gains to be had. Profit margins will sour. Redistributing wealth in a way that makes it more equitable for all doesn't seem like a lot of fun for the guys at the top.
So what can we do? It goes back to the bottom. If your community wants to build more ELI (extremely low income) housing, support it. Push for ELI over VLI or EL. The rents for the other two types doesn't come near affordability for the truly impoverished. Ask your city housing departments what plans they have for developing or expanding affordable housing. Attend city council meetings and ask them to do the right thing. Some mayors already have the right idea. Denver's mayor rocks it. He's an example for the rest of the country and his model is replicable and it's working. Other cities can adopt it. Some already are.
Support local charities. Ones that advocate for homeless rights or are building affordable housing. Take your kids and volunteer; allow them to come to know people who have no place to sleep and watch how it touches them. I promise it will. I already see it in M, the nights she's come to a shelter with me, she gets it, even in her two year old brain, she gets it. And it's nice for others to sometimes have kids around. Kids that aren't pulled away or gripped tighter as they pass by. Kids that can smile and laugh with them. Never do I take M to a shelter without folks offering her a small gift, a cookie, a picture from a magazine. It's consistently humbling; the generosity and kindness I've had the honor of witnessing.
I often try to imagine what it would feel like to consistently present as a homeless person. While we are all judged on our physical appearances to one degree or another, I can't quite fathom having everyone's first view of me as dirty, scary, avoidable, lazy, crazy, sad. I can't help but think it would only take me a few days before I saw myself that way too. And how that might change the way I interact in the world, and the cycle continues.
Be the change you want to see in the world. Stand up for the rights of others in front of others. Show that it can be done with consensus and not animosity. Visualize a community that cares for it's inhabitants. It may not seem like a lot, but all of that goodwill adds up. Peace starts with one. Inside of me, inside of you, and it multiples and spreads.
It isn't hopeless and it doesn't have to be this way. Change starts with us, and it starts with our children.
ECR, this may sound like a lot of platitudes. But I think taking on an entire government is a lot to ask of most of us. So I wanted to offer something more tangible, whether politically or soulfully, that our community can do to get involved.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
It becomes a negotiation. Hashing out who has what on their plate and who can let what go. I lost today, but I mostly lost because I simply cannot miss work tomorrow, and tomorrow might look very much like today. J's outlook was worse today, and a bit easier tomorrow. Negotiation complete.
My child's health is far and away the most important thing. But it's amazing how complicated all of it gets.
I am still working on the post to answer some questions generated from the last post. This too, has been derailed by illness. But I am working on it regardless. I am anticipating a long and difficult day after a long and difficult night.
I sound like such a whiner. Ugh.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Right off, I'd say that if that was the motivating force that kept you (Em, not YOU, bur rather the collective you that is in all of us) from offering spare change, then I'd ask you if you buy gasoline. Because I can't think of a larger collective addiction. And then I might question how else you spend your money. Do you buy clothes that were manufactured in third world countries, whether it Nike or Walmart or even the bananas we import, because you can bet that is off the back of someone else and most certainly feeding corporate addictions to money. Do you truly live sustainably, or do your purchases simply feed addictions out of the range of vision?
Addiction, see, it's a funnybugger. The highbrow kind, cloaked in marketing and media, telling us what we need to feel good, to get a good deal, feeds our collective addiction of production and consumption. Of greed. Money is the drug of choice for many. It might look like a hot guy in a suit, but it's still an addiction.
So it's a little hypocritical to get all flummoxed over that .50 that someone is asking for on the streets.
Now for the moral side of the coin. If you know that your actions will directly contribute to someone else's pain, and I count addiction in this, then it is awfully hard to turn a blind eye and help that person closer to the brink. Sadly I think our uninformed consumption does this all the time (diamonds are popular, yet often farmed in horrific conditions) but I think that offering someone money so they can go buy an eightball does this too.
How do we know that the guy asking for spare change is going to buy drugs? One way is if he told you when you asked why he wanted your money. And if he was to be honest, you could have an honest reaction. Chances are, though, there will be a lie or two involved. A lot has happened to that guy between the time he more closely resembled you and the time it's taken to make it to the streets.
Shame. That's a whopper. Imagine slowly losing everything, whether to addiction or poverty or to a couple of bad turns. Chances are by the time I found myself on the curb I'd have fallen pretty far down the rabbit hole. I'd have a lot of regrets. And I've had a lot of opportunity to be treated like shit. So I am going to want to make it sound as plausible as possible. Money for the bus (that means I am leaving your town soon and that's a good thing for everyone) food (who can argue with an empty belly); or clothes for that job interview (god knows you think I need a job).
I've worked with A LOT of people who've probably asked other people for money. They don't ask me - I think it falls under the premise that you don't shit where you eat. But I've certainly seen a scam or two (or twenty) selling prescription meds for a dollar a pill, making sweet with the older lady to get their hands on her disability check. And probably telling you they need money for the bus so they can go out and get high.
And even with all that, I still give money regularly. I don't walk around with a wad of cash and act like a wannabe Hefner at a strip club, but if I have a couple bucks and someone asks I give it to them. I don't ask what they need it for. Some folks want to tell me, but it isn't my business; I am doing it because they asked, and in the hopes they can take care of themselves. And I have the lucky bonus of extending a bit more - a night in a shelter - a place to go if they want it.
Back in my green years I would pass out my card all the time. I'd even set up a time to meet. I was sure they'd show up. In reality perhaps 1 in 5 actually did. But those one in five meant it. The others, perhaps it was a lie to get some cash. How different is that from the corporate deceit of inflated profit margins and promises of rebates? Free trade and fair wages? Of lower emissions and Made in the USA when only the label gets sewn on here?
Charity is also known as Almsgiving, and wiki defines that as the act of giving money, goods or time to the unfortunate, either directly or by means of a charitable trust or other worthy cause, is described as charity or charitable giving. The poor, particularly widows and orphans, and the sick and disabled, are generally regarded as the proper objects of almsgiving.
I tend to think of charity as a conscious practice within myself. The moment I decide to give money, I give up the right to my attachment to it. If I give to organizations, I do some research. I want to know how much is going to overhead, who their funders are, perhaps who sits on their boards. I want to know the mission. I can learn that and make a donation. If they use my money to pay their phone bill, so be it. I gave to the cause.
If you give to a person, less research is possible. So I give because someone in trouble is asking. I can't be that attached to what they do with it once I do, because see, it's a gift. I am offering a gift, perhaps under persuasion, but I am still offering it nonetheless.
So, Em. This is a long way for me to say that I think we spend our money in other ways that should give us greater concern. That we'd have to really work hard to ensure no one is doing something you don't want them to do with your money. The government went to war (to feed our addiction) with my taxes the last three years, and beyond voting the bastards out of office there is little I can do.
At least when you give to the guy on the street, it's quite possible you are actually helping someone. The unknown quantity is probably better odds towards the side of good than most of our spending. Besides, it's a nice thing to do. Your humanness will matter. Almsgiving is a virtue.
I welcome your thoughts. And for what it's worth, I don't own a single diamond.
But hell if I didn't fill my tank up yesterday.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
I don't know if homelessness exists in every city in the states, but I am going to assume it exists in most. I often watch other people's reactions when walking by someone who appears to be homeless. Some pick up the pace and stare straight ahead. Some look at the person and offer some sort of smile, a compassionate something or other. Spare change. Some folks are cruel, get a job.
What I know is that it's hard enough to be in this situation without other people passing judgment. What I know is that each one of these men and women are in a difficult place. What I know is that for the grace of god go I.
It's easy to feel helpless. The reality is there isn't much you can do in the moment to assist someone in this situation - it's more about legislation and policy to get at the big picture, anyways. But the one thing you can do is be kind.
Kindness matters. Taking a moment to look the person in the eye, to offer that inconsequential bit of spare change, to exchange a few words. It matters. It makes one feel human.
Imagine if everyone avoided you, all day every day. Imagine if you felt invisible. Alone. And on top of that, you slept in a doorway.
If you have a moral objection to offering spare change, I can understand that. It doesn't work for everyone, and I am not saying it has to. I don't always have money to give. But if I don't, or if I just don't want to, I still answer them. I'll look the person in the eye and respond. I won't just ignore their pleas. I also realize you need to be mindful of personal safety, and if a situation ever feels sketchy, no one is asking you to channel Mother Teresa. But more often than not, it's not fear that makes us look the other way.
Because if I was the one pleading, I'd want to be answered.
I realize there is more to this, and not everyone has the same views on personal and social responsibility. That's ok. We don't have to agree and this doesn't need to be a dissertation about the right way to deal with this societal crisis. God knows I carry on enough about the societal implications of the lack of truly affordable housing.
But I think we can agree that kindness matters, moreso in those moments when it is least expected. And for the grace of god go we. If we all can stand being a bit more uncomfortable, I wonder how much more comfort we can share.
This month's Roundtable is terrific. So many beautiful and passionate voices about so many different issues. You all made me think a bit harder this month. And made me want to try a little more. And don't forget to walk over to Mad's end of the table too.
Those who spoke:
KC with how does your garden grow
Alice at And She Wrote with several posts all linked with the tag About Human Rights
Julie went social justice crazy this month...all of her posts are linked via this portal post but we've also picked a couple of whamdoodles to highlight here, including
think it's your body, your choice? and parenting prison
Sin with looking closely and langa means sun
Alejna with grammaticality judgments
Sass with i will never leave you
Green Parenting with ten reasons
Joy with it's still tits
Mouse with on marriage
Mouse keeps rocking it with her Global Warming Wednesdays: Pulling our Heads out of the Sand; Valentine's Edition; Mouse the Vampire Slayer; and Polar Opposites
Slouching Mom with they never expected this
Amber with happy looooove day
Deb with connectedness
Chani with social justice on line safety
Jill with commentary
Andrea with mrs. jellyby
Ann with playing with fire
Danigirl with code blue for daycare
Jess with cary and isaac
Hel with i dream a better future
Antique Mommy with Good Nurse, Bad Nurse
Jory DesJardins of Pause with On Dying Well
Those who listened:
Susanne at Creative Mother Thinking
Mouse at The Mouse's Nest
Alejna at collecting tokens
KC at wheres my cape
Kari at katronika
Kiki at sticking to the point
Kat at mama tulip
Andrea at athena dreaming
Mad at Under the Mad Hat
Jen at one plus two
Join us next month. If you write or read about social justice in it's various forms, send it our way. We'd love to have you join us around the fire. We are officially now part of The Whole Mom
webzine as well, and we look forward to more voices joining us in the future.
Friday, March 09, 2007
I remember sitting outside with her and out of nowhere she said: It's the little things. I miss ice cubes. I should be able to have ice cubes whenever I want. Kitchens are locked in homeless shelters. It's just one of those things.
She was working behind the deli counter. It took me a minute to place her, and my practice is to never acknowledge a client in public unless they first acknowledge me. It saves them having to answer the how do you know that chick? It's not like we were at summer camp together. I am not often a memory folks want to have.
I am pretty sure she recognized me but she didn't make a move so neither did I. And it took a damn long while for the other woman to make two sandwiches. A damn long while.
And now for the sweet:
Metro and Madame Chick know funny. So it was no real surprise to hear that they were taking over the honor of memorializing the posts that make us laugh out loud all month long. MOTR and Izzy were the brainchildren of the whole affair, and this recent branching out just sweetens the mix.
So there was no way I was going to be able to resist NOT passing along Laurie's good love gone bad post. Sister, you outdid yourself with an audiovisual carnival ride of a post.
Hence, duh. The ROFL award. I may not be funny, but I damn well know funny when I see it.
Or hear it. Or both.
And come back here again tomorrow for our third Just Post Roundtable, yo.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
clickety click tampontification and facilitate (it's free, yo) a donation to a sister in need today.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
But sometimes I am just left thinking: What?
Like when I read this article about an abortion lawsuit.
All I can think of is how this whole thing will make her child feel. Or about how she feels already. Am I overreacting?
I trust you to tell me the truth.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Today we walked over to our neighborhood park. It's a great park with three different play areas and plenty of room. It was more crowded than usual with moms in their playgroups, kids on bikes, boys and girls generally going crazy. It's a diverse group; the neighborhood is home to a lot of eastern european, latino and asian families. It's common to hear 5 or 10 different dialects flying around. I like that about our park.
Today M and I were crawling around in the sand playing with someone else's discarded sandtoys when I paused and looked around. Everyone else's mommy seemed to be talking to someone else. I was the only unaccompanied adult around.
I have very few local friends with kids. I don't have other mothers to talk to, to laugh with, to lean on or commiserate with. I shy away from playground mommies, the tedium of small talk over ages and allergies, of forced sharing and cheerfulness.
I've still not come completely around to this.
I was asked this week how I would define myself as a person aside from being a mother. I had to think for a while because I am not entirely sure I would first define myself AS a mother. It's certainly evolving; I love her more than anything and always have, our bond grows each day, I think of the way I missed her on our trip, about how much more present I am. It's good, but it's not all.
So perhaps I am indeed a mother; just not one of those mommies.
Could that be it? What exactly do those mommies do? What do they talk about? I am going to bet they mostly talk about the same damn things I do. So what is the problem then?
It's not you, it's me.
I am not all the way there yet, this journey into motherhood. And somehow that resistance is keeping me separate. Different. Alternative mommy. As if I don't talk about the color of M's shit just as much as everyone else. But it's okay for now, because it's evolving. For now, I'll keep it on the straight and narrow while I continue to figure it out.
Everyone carries things on their heads. Food, wood, clothing. All of it. It's an art, and it's amazing.
This is the cafe of a guesthouse we stayed at for a few days. All of the cafes are open air, but this one was on an orchid farm, and much consideration went into it's ambience. It was quite lovely there. I think I liked staying here best of anyplace we visited. It was a really beautiful spot high atop a mountain.
This was the entrance to a guesthouse we stayed in for a night. Each of the rooms are named after an El Salvadorian poet or author. The rooms were incredibly tiny - ours held a double bed and barely enough room to walk around one side of it. We sat in those chairs drank beer and played chess one afternoon.
Below is the Parque Central in Suchitoto, but most towns are organized the same way with the church being the center of town and everything fashioned around it. This was a particularly lovely spot, and for an extra bonus we got to hear Sunday mass (from outside, while drinking coffee).
And as a reminder, it's time for our third Just Post Roundtable. If you have a post of yours or one you've appreciated that was written by someone else, please send them my way (to girlplustwo (at) yahoo(dot) com) by March 8th.
We'll link all posts and anyone who refers one (or more) in our Just Post Roundtable on the 10th. If this is new to you, please feel free to check it out here.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
But then sometimes you find yourself doing something so egregious that you simply can't believe it was you. Yes, I know it's already obvious. I am talking about Pony Rides.
I mean, pony rides? I can't even drive by one of those places without feeling sick. Those poor ponies, ones who should be free to run and play and scamper are instead rendered joyless, consigned to walking around in a circle, the same circle, every single day.
It should be illegal.
We found ourselves yesterday at a place with the aforementioned social ill, and M was insane to ride one. Me ride horsey, me ride horsey, peeeas Mama peeeas! J and I glared at each other through sunglassed faces, already in a mental game of not it. I can't be a part of this, I say. To which J nods his head in solidarity. But M prevails, and we get in line.
The whole business left me feeling dirty. I feel like it's officially open season on my ethical standards. Next I'll be wearing mouse ears or something. May god help us all.
Please note that if you happen to be an owner, operator or fan of pony rides, that this is solely the personal opinion of the author (and for the love of god, everyone elses), i mean my opinion only.
Friday, March 02, 2007
I started blogging last May. A few months earlier I had noticed the blog phenomenon and began as a reader. No commenting or writing, just checking it out.
And then as I read I kept thinking that I had some things of my own to say. I found myself moved by some of what I was reading while simultaneously realizing my own valley had become a desert. I felt foggy, dried up, vast. So I started writing. No one read what I wrote for months. I remember when I got my first comment and was completely freaked out. You mean people are reading this? I hadn't thought that one through.
And then slowly I started finding you while some of you started finding me and that caused the whole thing to stand on it's head.
Community. I had no idea you existed.
I don't consider myself a writer. I can think of many others who have the gift, the way to turn a phrase. A vocabulary and a penchant for the craft. That's not me. I know full well I use too many commas. But I like commas, and that's just the way it's going to be. I almost never research a post, or spend time writing, re-writing or editing. I simply sit down and spill. It shows, I know. The lack of the craft. But that's ok. I don't think that is the muscle I am trying to exercise. Putting my soul to paper, yes. The craft or art behind that, not so much. I am okay with that. I leave that to BubandPie, to you, Julie, to Sage and Deezee.
I have a hard time being funny in my posts. Believe it or not, in real life, people think I'm funny. I don't think that comes across here, although that would be interesting to hear from you if it does. Either way is fine, but I don't think so. At least not in the way KC or Jess or Chick or Shannon are funny. But again, that's okay. I can be funny in real life.
I don't consider myself overly creative. I don't use many pictures or artwork. Again, I leave that to others. To Sin, to Kiki. They create with images, their pictures. I love that.
So as I continue to narrow the path I will say that I blog because I have something to say about our society, about pain and suffering and the beauty that rides alongside it. About my family and how I fit or how I sometimes do not. About things that move me and things that make me stand still. Flutter and Neen come to mind here. Many more. The thinking bloggers I linked a few days ago, too.
I blog because I believe our collective voices can make a difference. That sitting around the fire with so many of you can teach me many things. That there are places I can go and learn, or laugh or be inspired. Where I can go to fall down or stand in the cheering section.
The community is what makes this what it is for me. That is very different from the number of comments or readers, links or views. It's the face behind the makeup that I crave. The way the waitress sits at the end of the night with shoes off and sore feet taking a drag of her cigarette and telling me the truth. I learn how to mother from Meno, or how Mama Tulip reminds me my own mom is still alive and there is still work I need to do. Elder wisdom, whether the woman is my age or older - I can learn just by reading your words. Chani, Mad, Bad, Crazymum and Z. are just a few of you who do that for me.
Simply put, if everyone packed up and left I am not sure I'd stay. I don't know what that means, but I think I am okay with that too. Without knowing it I was looking for community. And I've found it, and I am blessed.
When I started writing this post I didn't realize I'd be doing so much linking, and now feel a bit self-conscious about it because there are many more voices and words I love and the above isn't representative of all that's in my heart and mind. But I am going to leave it, because as I wrote your voices popped into my head, and I think the way my process unfolded answers the question, Julie, as to why I blog, better than anything else I could say. It's the village.
Thank you for being my village.
Speaking of village, it's time for our third Just Post Roundtable. If you have a post of yours or one you've appreciated that was written by someone else, please send them my way (to girlplustwo (at) yahoo(dot) com) by March 8th.
We'll link all posts and anyone who refers one (or more) in our Just Post Roundtable on the 10th. If this is new to you, please feel free to check it out here. Our posts will be featured in the newly redesigned and refocused The Whole Mom webzine, which is pretty freaking money.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
A long time client of J's died while we were out of the country. He learned of her death this week and has been deeply saddened. It's not often I see him like this - he sees a lot in the course of his work, and generally is able to reconcile his role in it, but sometimes, it's too much.
And sometimes it should be. A came to J's place years ago with a long and horrible history of sexual abuse, psychiatric disorders and anorexia. It was the latter, no doubt fueled by the former, that finally killed her.
Months ago we sat outside on our porch and debated the treatment decision J needed to make. A was in and out of his facility and others for a number of years. It had become increasingly evident that all of her dependence on the system itself was hurting more than it was helping. They ended up making the difficult decision of denying services to A, and J was to be the one to tell her. I remember him telling me that he would do this, that he knew she was going to die one day, that their decision might facilitate that, and his team struggled long and hard with it and still knew it was the only therapeutic decision that could be made. I am summarizing a lot of conversations - the situation/decision was much more complicated and full of history than I can do justice here. Suffice to say it was a long and winding road.
He sat with her one last time and explained why they had made the decision they had, and typical of J, tried yet again to reach her on a deeper level. He told me he said A, let's cut the bullshit. From one soul to another, from someone who cares for you very much, you have to believe all we are giving you is a safe place to kill yourself. And that is not enough. If there is anything I can do, it would be to make you believe that this world is a beautiful place, that you have so much left to see, to feel, to do, that life is so much more than how you are living it. That you can choose something different.
A listened. She made the decision to check herself into residential treatment the next day, and she never left. She made terrific strides in the past few months, gained some weight, seemed to be improving. But it was already too late. A heart can only take so much.
I asked J last night if he feels responsible for her death. He said he didn't, and I almost believe him. Because while I know he wasn't responsible, I also know how hard these decisions are and how hard it is to watch someone's path unfold, even if you saw it coming.
The problem is we are still idealistic enough to believe that we can help people. And when we don't, it's hard not to wear that around our hearts.
I can't believe it's almost time for our third Just Post Roundtable. If you have a post of yours or one you've appreciated that was written by someone else, please send them my way (to girlplustwo (at) yahoo(dot) com) by March 8th and I'll send you the button. Go on. It's good for the soul.
We'll link all posts and anyone who refers one (or more) in our Just Post Roundtable on the 10th. If this is new to you, please feel free to check it out here.