Monday, April 30, 2007

love letter

To: Jenny Talia
From: SXXXXX MXX Student Loan Services

Dear Jenny;

Congratulations! We are happy to inform you that you have officially paid off all student loans under account number XXX XX XXXX. Your account now reflects a zero balance.

Thank you,

The Bastards Who've Throttled Your Once Tender Neck Without Mercy For The Past Nine Years Of Your Life.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

the other chromosome

I've never spent much time around little boys; the few friends outside of school that M has are girls. But this weekend I spent some time with The Mayor when I visited Jess and if I am honest, I left with a bit of a crush on him and of course the House of Joy in general. I was amazed at how truly effortless it felt to spend time in a home of a fellow blogger for the first time. K cooks fabulously. And Rooster Girl is delicious. But The Mayor stole my heart. Thanks Jess, for so warmly welcoming me into your home and giving me a slice of Joy.

And then last night we were sitting outside when a neighbor of ours stopped by, a mom with two kids, the boy a year older than M. We don't spend much time together but like each other a lot, so we hung out for an hour or so as the day winded down watching M and A chase each other around. A is a quiet kid, very polite and shy, in fact in all the times I've seen him he's barely uttered two sentences so yesterday was terrific, watching them have fun. But the best part was when they were leaving; all the requisite goodbyes and then as A got on his bike he turned back and yelled See ya, fuckers! Mom was mortified, J and I were quietly hysterical.

It was so ironic, and so perfect. And of course, so true. We couldn't stop laughing about it for at least an hour. It's very good to be home.

Little boys. I had no idea how delicious they are.

Friday, April 27, 2007

turbulence

Spending all day on a plane is no one's idea of a good time, but it's even less so when you have 12 minutes to make your connecting flight (run, Forrest, run) and then are seated in the very last row of the plane amidst two entire rows of an up and coming hip hop band on their way to a big show. Ahem, thank you, IN COACH. If y'all are such SUPERSTARS, why are you in COACH?
(Note the y'all. I've been practicing)

But they were first class all the way. Singing, rapping, promoting, yo. After the initial damn, finally, a female in the house comment they ignored me in a showing off sort of way for about an hour and then suddenly realized I was still there crammed into the back corner.

Hey, how old are you?
37
Damn, you look pretty good for 37. I thought you were 25.
Have I mentioned how much I love your music. I love your music, yo.
Why're you going to the South?
I work in some homeless shelters and I want to design a new one. Research, basically.
Damn. The homeless. I see a lot of homeless people. Proceed to list all the places homeless people exist. That takes a while. I nod like the hula girl on a dashboard.

So I figured I had nothing to lose by asking them if they ever give money away to the homeless, and surprisingly, it sparked an interesting conversation. They all said they hadn't, but by the end of the conversation one of the MTV'ers said Yo, I think I've come around on some of my views. I am going to give a homeless person money next time and see what happens.
It might not be a huge event the first time, so maybe you'll have to do it a couple times. You know, just roll with it.
Word.

So all in all, this 37 year old felt rather accomplished for a 25 year old. And she also scored a free ticket to the show. Not that I'll get to use it, but it's always nice to be asked.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

southern comfort

I am leaving in a few hours for a short business trip to the southern part of the country. It's part of ongoing research I am doing for a project I am working on. I've been to a few places already; Skid Row, before that, Denver. And now, the South.

The South. I've not spent much time in the South so I am pretty excited. New places, even if it's only domestically turn me on. That, and the fact that I get to stay in a hotel alone for two nights. Well that, and the fact that I don't have to be at work.

And aside from all of the things I've just mentioned, I've finagled an invitation to dinner at the House Of Joy. I consider this rather monumental because I've never met a blogger in real life. I'd like to wax on about feeling nervous, but in truth, I'm not (yet). And of course I'll snoop through her closets and such and report back. Because, duh, that's what you do when you meet a blogger for the first time, right? Snoop and report back. I think I read that somewhere.

She's never seen a picture of me (and believe me, have I got an outfit all prepared for dinner. Picture hooker-fabulous). I figured that will give her neighbors pause and it's the least I can do for The Mayor. I am also thinking I should hold up a big sign at the train station identifying myself.

You know, something like Fresh out of Celebrity Rehab or Serbian Mail Order Bride. Of course, other sign recommendations are welcome. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

the choosing

Is choice really an equal opportunity proposition? Julie gets us thinking again by allowing us to run wild with what I'll call the concept prior to choice. The choosing itself.

A few of you took friendly umbrage a few posts ago when I said no one chooses to be an asshole. And if we were dealing with only the present tense, I'd agree.

But our choice is never just about the now, and seldom ever about the situation at hand. I prefer to think of choice as a reaction to the sum of our lives. It's impossible to separate the choice from the choosing; from the external and internal reactions; the side it puts you on. For or against. Yes or no. A position is assumed. Consequences and pre-existing conditions abound.

Choice. It's a funnybugger, that one. Do we ever really freely choose anything? If I choose an apple, it's because I have memories associated with or have been convinced of the goodness of the apple. You may have had a different construct of the apple, and therefore may choose something else. Does that make either wrong? No. Different? Why?

So when we are faced with choosing to be an asshole. I'd suggest the same thinking. If I choose to be an asshole, it's because being an asshole has helped, protected, or nourished me in some way in the past. It's gotten things done, or kept me alive. If I choose not to be an asshole, perhaps I've learned in the past there are other ways to get what I need, or worse, am merely afraid of what you'll think of me.

I know and you know there is more to this. I'd like to think I am not often the asshole and it's not because I don't want you to think I am, but rather because that is not how I prefer to engage the world. Because I've had the luxury of not having to rely on assholery to survive. But truly, how do we learn to choose? A million variables come into play every time we choose something, especially a moral or social choice.

The Bible (can one use asshole and the bible in the same post?) talks about Free Will. That we are all born with free will and only by truly surrendering to God's Will can we be truly free. But how free is that Free Will? If we are born with it, where does it go? Does that mean we no longer can choose independently of God? Or does that become the eternal struggle?

So when we are choosing the greater necessity, justice or forgiveness, I'd expect a whole filing cabinet of stuff comes along with making a choice, not the least of which is how we'll be perceived in the choosing. Even if you don't care what others think (and perhaps a few of us exist) we do ruminate about what we think.

Plato, at the end of his life and after many, many words put to paper, said something to the effect of I've never written what I truly believe. That's a gobsmacker, isn't it? I've never written what I truly believe.

Because knowing what you truly believe and then having the ability to put that raw emotion into words is incomprehensible, isn't it? And if Plato couldn't hack it, I won't pretend I am able to either. It would render all of us permanently inadequate to rely only on words to explain what we truly believe. And I'd say the same about the choices we make.

And yet we try. We construct our world and our beliefs and our own rules around our choices and how they compare to the choices around us. We try, ever vigilant, to get our two cents in. We express bits and glimmers of our naked selves through the choices we make and the ones we don't.

After writing this I don't feel it's as succinct as I would like. I've had my head lodged firmly up my ass lately but there isn't much to do about that right now. So scattered as this is, consider this my wooden nickel. And before you go (if you so choose, of course) tell me your thoughts about the strength and limitations of choice.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

peace

I've noticed quite a few people finding my blog lately after googling how to kill yourself. I know it's because I wrote a post a while back that was titled a safe place to kill oneself, but to be honest, every time I see another person finding me because they are searching with this phrase it cracks my heart.

So if you are reading this after having found me this way, please know I wish peace and light for you, and that this too shall pass.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

tarnished magnificence

J surprised me with tickets to a show last night; a concert entirely composed of two Beatles albums, Let It Be and Abbey Road. It was an intimate gathering, only a hundred or so people at best. It was a terrific night; great vibe, the energy was perfect, and J and I having a wonderful time.

There was a point during the show where the entire audience was singing together, voices grooving with the band on several songs in a row, J and I joining in. Singing words of wisdom, let it be.

I can't help thinking that if we all came together, to sit in community and sing, what a brighter world it would be. How in those few moments all one hundred of us (ride with me on the projection train here) came together in shared understanding of great music, of personal memories, and in that spirit created our own collective moment in time.

And I thought about how each of us is magnificent; and tarnished, and how beautiful that makes us. I wish we were more freely able to acknowledge our own magnificence every single day, and allow others and ourselves to rub our dull spots shiny again.

Today we shared several hours with good friends we hardly ever see. Sitting in San Francisco in outdoor cafes drinking bloody marys on a Sunday discussing books, film, politics, and the world.

How was it that I was given a toddler get out of jail free card this weekend, you ask?

Because it's my birthday tomorrow, and with a combination of efforts I was given an entire weekend of lovely gifts; time alone with J, seeing a rare show, a lazy afternoon with friends, even a movie. I've needed this entirely; I've suffered through some of the worst weeks of my professional career lately, so much so I haven't even been able to write about it here.

But as I sit here I feel so blessed. A bit more ancient perhaps, although J promises I look much younger than thirty seven would suggest and I promised to believe him. My tarnished parts, some old, some new, have come along on this journey with me for better or for worse, and the sum of my experiences has carried me forward. It's not always made sense, and it's not always been easy, but it's wholly mine.

And I'd not trade any of my journey for the place I get to be in today, tarnished parts and all.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

timing out

So I was sitting on the couch with my laptop working (whatever, blogging) when I peer over to M's table and notice she'd thrown her crackers on the floor. So I said dude, pick those up right now. And she said me no want to so I replied ok, let's show your daddy. Daddy, come here. So J walks in the room and said what is it you want me to do? To which I replied I feel like being one of those women, you know, the 'wait till your father gets home' sort of chick, the kind that puts the fear of god in her children by ensuring the wrath of their father is coming. So J, ever wrathful, said M pick that crap up, and turns around and walks off.

All the while, M is joyously smashing them into the carpet. J goes back into the kitchen to finish cooking dinner, and I am still firmly lodged on the couch. After a few minutes he asks from the other room is she cleaning it up? And I look over. Negative.

So he says, you need to give her a time out. Followed by the subtle You never give her time outs.

Whatever, friend. I just don't like time outs. In fact, I'd prefer to never give another time out. They are so punative, time outs. They bore me. Time outs are boring. Chew on that, daddy-o.

So I said you challenging me to throw down the time out gauntlet? I can give her a time out any day of the week, my friend. I just choose not to. Then do it, he says. Game on, dude.

Let's not forget M is listening to this whole exchange while continuing to smash crackers.

And I'd like to state for the record I am not usually this lazy.

So I look over at M, who is now on the floor on all fours mid smash and I say M. This is so not cool. Pick up the crackers. And she says It's ok mommy, I go time out. And gets up and goes to her room. I am cracking up. And I am still on the couch. I decide our carpet sucks anyways.

J looks around the corner and says where is she? She's gone to time out, friend. I am the queen of the time out, so put that in your pipe and smoke it. I can give time outs all day long.

A few minutes later M wanders back out. Time out over, Mommy? Yes, baby. Good girl.

I like it this strategy. Now if I can only train M to feed me the crackers instead of smashing them into the floor, life would be money.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

the unexpected gospel

A group of homeless men and women, eight in all, have recently come together to form a choir. I'd heard about them via the agency grapevine but I'd never heard them sing. I mentioned to one of the staff that it would be terrific to hear them sing at our next employee meeting and referred him to the person in charge of setting it up, and then (to be completely honest) it sort of slipped my mind after that.

So yesterday was our meeting, and when I arrived at the shelter that staff person said they are all ready to go. And I thought shit, they are not on the agenda. I asked him if he had talked to so and so in charge of blah and blah, and the answer was no.

But here are these folks, all raring to go. I immediately knew we needed to make this happen. So I hurried to make some adjustments and then went to talk to the head of the choir. Since they all live there and it was rather early, they were still in their pajamas.

So I check with the head choir woman, who was rather resplendent in a tattered pink chenille robe and a cigarette in hand, and asked if they could go on a bit sooner than they were expecting and she told me in no uncertain terms that that was not possible, they still had to get ready, clothes needed to be pressed, a practice run to be had. Ok then. I'll move things around some more.

So we figured it out and at the appropriate time I went to find them. I walked into the room and they were gathered in a circle in prayer, arms around each other. I stopped and waited till they were done with their prayers of gratitude, faith, and hope.

I brought them into the meeting after being carefully schooled by the choir mistress about the number of songs on the schedule, the proper way to introduce them, and the musicians involved (two absolutely gorgeous older gentlemen dressed to the nines with guitars in hand). It was a motley sort of crew; young and old, wheelchairs, canes, and a equitable distribution of races and genders. They looked gorgeous; each of them had ironed their clothes, some had ties and hats, and the women with makeup and heels. Battered second hand formal wear that was absolutely stunning.

They sang four songs in all; two choir gospel pieces (Oh Happy Day was one) and two solos with a bit of jazz. After they were done they received not only thundering applause, but a lengthy standing ovation as well. I heard one of them whisper, they are all standing. they are standing for US. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't moved to tears. We all were.

Beauty is everywhere. In the middle of a homeless shelter eight people of all backgrounds and experiences found each other through the commonality of poverty and rocked the house. Their love and passion and generosity in the midst of a terrible time in their lives was at once humbling and inspiring. The pride in their music was beautiful. They are proud of who and where they are, and adamant in the message they want to share; one of hope, one of love, and one of faith. They have nothing, yet are willing to share so much.

We should all be so blessed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

i choose neither

There is a roundtable discussion happening over at Julie's which simply asks which is of greater necessity, justice or forgiveness.

Try as I might, I am unable to discern a qualitative difference in value that might construe degrees of necessity.

I perceive justice as a social, political, & legal conceptual framework (a by-product of, and an important ingredient in, the perpetration & perpetuation of the illusory battle between the forces of good & evil) that is forever relative to context, culture, world view, and history. Justice, in juxtaposition to fairness, appears extremely difficult to measure, and its distribution oftentimes appears arbitrary. An eye-for-an-eye sounds easy enough, but a particular crime might warrant a 5 year probation where I live & a 20 year prison sentence elsewhere. So which penalty is more just (and should measures of justice be adjusted when prisons are under/over-crowded)? In this legal sense, justice oftentimes feels like state-sponsored revenge, subject to availability and/or fiscal opportunity; and while no two courts can agree on how much revenge is sufficient, victims & their families tend to agree that neither the amount nor the nature of the revenge is ever sufficient.

Readers of Plato's Crito know that Socrates would crush any one concept of justice within three minutes and ask three questions, the last answer to which would directly contradict whatever definition of (and justification for) justice was originally proposed. Justice is like a butterfly - the harder you pursue it the better it evades you.

I perceive forgiveness as an ego-centered decision-making process. The process may be healing as a self-soothing cognitive-behavioral psychology, but I believe it misses the greater mark. The act of forgiving (an other) appears divisive, judgmental, & ethically & morally authoritarian. Forgiveness uses subjective judgment to reconcile the pain of oneself with the guilt of another and, in the process, creates a critical distinction between self and other, between self & all. In forgiving, we may miss an opportunity to grapple with authentic suffering, understand the deeper/broader roots of the transgression and, worse, cheat the transgressor out of these opportunities for him/her self.

Besides, the hardest person to forgive is yourself. Even if someone forgives you of something, you & I both know it is meaningless until you learn how to forgive yourself. Forgiving oneself, in my experience, takes a lot of practice & self-love and itself necessitates a very forgiving experience. Nobody can beat me up quite like me. I torture my own guilt complex, know the perfect buttons to press, and nobody can relieve me of that but myself. Please, if you value forgiveness & want to practice it, practice on yourself. Leave forgiving others up to supreme beings, whose many teachings speak of the power of forgiveness and absolution, but mixed in that too is a forgiveness of self, a new beginning. Such an act is infinitely more valuable to the cosmic order of things than the assertion that we can free others from the machinations of their own tortured mind by informing them that we have decided to absolve their guilt.

So instead, I take the other fork in the road and choose compassion as the greatest necessity. Compassion does not suffer the amorphous framework of justice, nor does it suffer the ego-trap of forgiveness. To manifest compassion is to suffer with - to acknowledge the true nature of suffering, precluding judgment, and to experience one's fundamental sameness & interdependence with another - in essence, embodying love for all things, at all times.

Compassion exists with or without a transgression, whereas forgiveness & justice can only exist in response to a transgression. Compassion can prevent transgressions, whereas forgiveness & justice are retribution for transgressions. Compassion validates a person's experience of and response to pain, whereas forgiveness & justice punish a person for their experience of pain, and for the maladaptive strategy they devised for coping with that pain. Compassion is a state-of-mind, not a choice or a decision-making process. Compassion is a way of life, not a reaction. Compassion is communal. Compassion is opportunity.

However painful or joyous, I am you, you are me, and we are one. We suffer together. No one suffers alone. No one is exempt. No one chooses to be an asshole. Next time you meet one, ask yourself: What torment has this person suffered such that this heinous defense mechanism on display before me has successfully pirated a once innocent child's life for the pure & simple purpose of that child's survival? Doing this makes it hard to look at an asshole in the same way again.

Not that, you know, you ever looked at assholes in precisely the same way before.

In this view, innocence and guilt are arbitrary...but not meaningless. Forgiveness re-wounds the child (affirming primal worthlessness). Justice punishes the child (scorning the very mechanism that ensures the child's survival). Compassion acknowledges & joins with the suffering of the child. Compassion loves the child, not the act, and stands for the possibility of transformation, mindful evolution, a paradigm shift. In this view, compassion presents an opportunity, whereas both forgiveness & justice seek to bring closure - where there is none.

When China invaded Tibet, the Dalai Lama called for neither justice nor forgiveness, but simply compassion. Sure, he would like to get the land back to reestablish an independent Tibet, but for the last 50 years all he has ever displayed or asked for on behalf of China is compassion. For what insatiable craving (the root of all suffering) would drive one political body (that already controls one of the largest pieces of land on Earth, that already governs one-sixth of the world's population, with uncontested rights & access to an enormous supply of natural & commercial resources) to invade a sovereign peaceful neighbor, pillage an entire society, rape nuns, torture monks, murder innocent women & children, imprison farmers & peasants, and systematically try to destroy & desecrate an entire ancient culture, civilization, psychology, esoteric tradition, way of life, and world view? The Llama's got a point, extraordinary as it is, that such an act calls for our love & compassion - for surely such an act is borne of tremendous dis-ease, and no act or acts of vengeance will eradicate such a disease but, in fact, may strengthen it. The Dalai Llama stands for the possibility that Tibet's destruction presents global opportunities for transformation, mindful evolution, and paradigm shifts.

In George Bush's America, I stand for that possibility, too.

Whew. So conceptually, I believe this to be my answer. Easier said than done, friends. Throw a stone my way and ask how I would feel if someone caused pain to my child. Would I want justice? Probably. Could I find the strength to forgive? Probably not. Could I practice what I preach & experience compassion for the person whose pain was so great that it lead them to harm my baby? A question I hope goes forever unanswered. But when I think through these options, justice and forgiveness ring hollow. Suffering, no matter how it is dressed & presented, does not alleviate suffering.

Intellectually I get it. Spiritually I must practice it. J and I talked about this for quite a long time last night, and he put his thoughts into this post too. If nothing else, it's a timely topic, Virginia ringing in my ears as I write.

Monday, April 16, 2007

noticeably absent

god has been noticeably absent these days. this world is perhaps too much; the pain and suffering of the everyday, the depression and addiction, the poverty and homelessness. this great big gift we've been given and then squandered. our pain perhaps the most toxic emission of all.

god has been noticeably absent these days, and we've all grown immune to the suffering, Iraq, Rwanda, Nairobi, Cambodia. In more places than we can count children live in suffering and die every day, we turn our heads, it is too much.

and then the unexpected, the things that happen on our way to class, leaving our dorm rooms, as we carry our books. we send our precious cargo into the world, this great big world of ours and we hold our breath and hope at best they will exceed our hopes and dreams and at worst will find this world a bit easier than we have found it ourselves. anything less than that is incomprehensible.

god has been noticeably absent these days. perhaps those of you that are strong in your beliefs, your faith, can take these moments and make sense of them, allow them to fall into some sort of context that is relegated to this world alone. i used to walk along you but i've lost my way, and the losing has made the distance wider. i don't know how to reconcile these tragedies and still raise a hopeful child. but yet i hope.

Virginia.

To the young, creative, and brilliant minds who were extinguished today for reasons yet unknown; my heart sits here next to me and we grieve together, tears sliding down my face. My child asks me why i am crying, and i do not have the words. There are no words for this.

Virginia.

so this is how it is

About three or four days ago M decided there are monsters in her room. Lights need to be on, doors open. Naptimes and bedtimes are a series of hellish experiences; one of us going back and forth constantly. Multiple night wakings and an early morning roll call.

I realize this is something some of you experience all the time. However, I am completely at a loss; so that fact alone isn't quite making it all better. This is not the way it's been for the last year of her life. If there is one easy thing about M, it's sleep.

Or not.

And I am at a loss where the scary monster concept comes from. I mean, we don't talk about monsters, let alone the scary ones. Must be that daycare gig. The same daycare where she's getting decked on a regular basis. That alone was annoying, but now, Oh, The Monsters.

I am feeling a bit put out about it. In fact, I'd write more but there is a screaming kid in the other room crying about monsters during my previously precious naptime hour. I shouldn't feel bitchy about it, but I do.

And that's my own monster to deal with, isn't it?

Edited to say: I just learned of the shooting in Virginia. I sit stunned and shamed by my own whining while others were experiencing unspeakable hell this morning. There are no words for days such as this. Virginia.

Oh, Virginia. It's dark outside everywhere today.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

cubism

I finagled some high powered pro bono legal counsel last year. God knows I teeter on the brink of lawsuits and there are other rather legal things we need advice on from time to time. So we were fortunate enough to have a firm offer their time, and I was fortunate enough to have the rather hot managing partner be the guy I get to work with. It's a Pro Bono Twofer.

These lawyers crack me up. They are so sure of themselves, so cunning, so smart. These cats have fat offices with parking spaces with their names on them and hot receptionists. Marble. I don't go there very often, but I spent a few hours there earlier this week hashing out some capacity and expansion issues, sitting in a fine leather chair in a spotless conference room. Someone brought me coffee. I'm eyeing the fancy pens. I could probably steal one. (And unlike Kurt's place, I'd feel fine about it).

I had to use the bathroom so I wove an interesting maze past the corner offices, my friend's (we've shared a few beers over the last year so I feel confident in calling him that) included. I'm a nosy girl, so I even peeked in past the silver name plate and noticed a bottle of scotch on the desk. People lose their bed over a bottle of scotch my way. I wanted to pour a glass but figured that was a bit too forward. Farther towards the back were the cubicles.

And those poor cube dudes have a view of the gilded offices, every day. I wondered if it was motivation or frustration. I watched them huddled over their desks and grimaced.

When I came back from the bathroom I said so how do the cube people get an office like yours? They probably won't, he said (he's arrogant, this friend of mine) So I said I see how it is, you smug bastard; you sit in your corner office making partner money and these poor cats do all the work. He paused, then smirked. I knew I was right. I'm a Cubist, he said. Obviously, I said. If that's true, then what about a Cubist Movement? You should think about it. Power to the people. I doubt he'll take me seriously, but he should. In fact, I should bill him for it.

It's hard to explain how much I love visiting the rich man's world sometimes. It's all so quietly deceptive and ridiculously on schedule.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

baby's left the corner

Thank you for all your kind words regarding the parenting skills exhibited over at Casa Talia. I spent a day or so strutting around like a fat peacock. But as such, you deserve an update, because god knows I can't leave you with the wrong impression. When I picked M up yesterday the teacher took me aside (oh, the asides!) and said that M used her STOP! NO! technique four or five times as needed until it was apparent she was not going to be listened to. And then she decked the kid.

My Inside Voice was cracking up. But then the teacher said and I couldn't even really get mad at her because she did use her words several times first.

Couldn't even get mad at her? Seriously? So my Outside Voice said I would hope not. And I would expect that you would either intervene before it gets to that point or understand that M has to deal with it in a way that works for her.

Well, said the teacher, they've had no problems since.

Nicely done, kid. I might only say that with my Inside Voice, but I'm thinking it just the same.

And it's worth saying that the friend who keeps going ballistic on her isn't a bully. I've spent some time with her and she seems to process things differently but I have little experience with organic differences so I am not going to speculate. And I've spent a bit of time with her mom and it's obvious she's weary and heartbroken because she is aware of the slowly emerging things that are going to make K unique (and lovely and perfect) in her own right. That doesn't make it any easier on M while she's getting pummeled, but there are always two sides to this sort of thing. In fact, her mom came up to me yesterday (apparently she's had her own share of Asides!) and said how sorry she was. And because I don't quite know how to navigate Conflict With Other People's Kids yet I co-dependently said Oh, it's fine, really. I think they are both participating. And her mom replied, No, I don't think so. She looked sad, and I felt sad too.

And I didn't know what else to say. So let's not get all excited about the parenting skills at Casa Talia just yet. We've still got a ways to go.

Friday, April 13, 2007

that one time i was in Kurt Vonnegut's brownstone

About 12 years ago during one hot July summer, I was in NYC with a friend of mine.

We had a free afternoon and so we headed over to see one of her friends, a woman I'd never met before. She was a personal assistant to Jill Krementz. We were heading out for drinks when she said she had to stop and drop something off at her brownstone. Oh, and by the way, she shares it with her husband, Kurt Vonnegut.

Slaughterhouse Five was a pivotal book in my youth; the irony and the conspiracy both. Vonnegut, while not achieving a premier place of idolatry, was certainly nestled solidly somewhere in the middle of my angst and admiration.

As we walked inside I was silenced with a mixture of awe and discomfort. I was not supposed to be here. It might have been legitimate, if he walked in the door while we were there I am assuming I'd have been issued a brief introduction and we'd be on our way. But his absence made the silence louder.

I touched nothing. But I did walk through the halls and look at the photographs, so many photographs, both professional and personal and taken by his wife. And the books. Oh, the books. I peered into the office and saw a pen resting on the desk near a stack of them, a few were his. I had a strong urge to touch the pen, to pick it up and grip it as if I were going to write a note. I touched nothing.

I remember feeling anxious; that this was the personal space of a public figure and it was unfair somehow to allow for my voyeurism. We were probably only there for fifteen minutes or so; her friend was doing her job, checking voicemail and sorting the post. There were a lot of both.

There were several floors but we didn't go past the first. I felt that was the least we could do. And I've always remembered those few minutes that afternoon; visiting a nondescript brownstone that housed a legend.

And so it goes. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

nobody puts baby in the corner

I picked M up from daycare the other day and her teacher took me aside. There's a bit of an issue, she said. M's friend K has been expressing her love for M in inappropriate ways. But not to worry, we are working on it.

I always appreciate the way the mighty women of daycare try and handle me. I understand it completely; they never know which parent is going to go ballistic over what issue. Careful dancing and prancing with Positive Adjectives is important. I get it. I don't need it, but I get it.

It turns out that M and K have started spending a lot of time together, and K is a martial arts karate chopping hair pulling death stomping little girl. And she's showing her love for M in all kinds of ways. In fact, I am gazing out into the group of kids while the teacher is talking to me and I see K grab M by the hair and take her down.

Ouch.

M starts crying, sees me, and cries some more. I thought she did an especially nice job of throwing herself in my arms in hysterics. Nice touch, baby. Way to drive the point home.

So My Inside Voice says keep that kid the hell away from M or there won't be a lot of Positive Adjectives in my future. See, M doesn't hit. We have a philosophy of kindess in our home and I've worked hard at this (stop laughing. It's my fantasy world and I am still living in it). My Outside Voice says all the appropriate things about developmental changes and toddler interactions and of course, group love. You know the bullshit I speak of.

M and I are driving home and I ask her about K. She tells me that K hits and pulls her hair and it makes her sad. I asked her what she does when it happens and she said I cry, mommy. Ok, I think, baby's done crying. Baby's going on defense.

So M and I talk about how precious and powerful and amazing she is, and about how she has every right to stand up for herself if she's being hurt. And how it doesn't matter who is hurting her, she has the right to tell them to stop, but she should use her words instead of hitting or pushing back (remember, I have a PHILOSOPHY, people). So we practiced yelling STOP! at the top of our lungs and M was laughing hysterically and screeching NO, K! STOP! all the way home. When we got home we talked to J about it and he reinforced what we'd talked about and we all practiced yelling a few more STOPS! Our neighbors probably thought we were nuts, or at the very least a bit afraid.

The next day I picked M up from school and one of her teachers said Wow, M really stuck up for herself today. Whenever K tried to pull her hair, she would hold her hand in front of her and yell STOP, K, NO! She was never aggressive, but she sure held her ground, and it worked out really well. My Outside Voice said all the appropriate things. My Inside Voice was cheering her ass off.

We celebrated the whole way home. See, mum, I am trying to raise a warrior in training, too.

And for other M related news, check out my latest review. It's all about diapers, the agony and the ecstasy both.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

March Just Posts

justpostmar2007
I thought it only fitting that I talked about the plight of migrant farmworkers in honor of Cesar Chavez. It's especially pressing on my mind recently after reading about the horrific conditions many farmworker families face daily while living in migrant farm worker camps. The LA Times recently did a story titled The Southland's Third World Slums, which chronicles the life in a migrant farm worker trailer camp in Coachella Valley. (I can't link the story because the LA Times charges a fee for non-subscribers, but if you want more information, email me.)
This is not a picture from the article.

This makeshift town on Reservation land (thus exempt from zoning laws) has over 500 hundred families living it with no running water, no electricity, no heat. They burn waste for heat which creates toxic fumes. They bathe and drink contaminated water. They sleep up to 30 deep in small trailers without running water or plumbing; kids often sleep outside on makeshift beds made of cardboard. The average income is $10,000 for a family of six. Children suffer high levels of pulmonary illnesses, coughs, infections and skin rashes.

The camp resides next to one of the most toxic dumps in the area, citing more than 20 times the national amounts of certain deadly toxins. The dump, like the camp, is on reservation land but the EPA pushed to get it closed and has been successful a number of times. The park and it's inhabitants have stayed open; it's not deemed as dangerous as the pollution being emitted by the dump. No doubt because that pollution can enter anyone's lungs, even us white folks driving by. The latino families who have nowhere to go aren't quite as lucky.

Sadly, this type of living environment is all too common. And America is not alone in this. Canada has also long cited an immigrant problem and have been accused of mistreating MFWs.

"Immigrants are choking welfare systems, contributing to high unemployment, and many cannot read."(Art Hanger, Canadian Press, February 2, 1994)

Picture and quote courtesy of J4MW, a volunteer driven Canadian NGO/activist group.

Some might say these folks are here illegally, they get what they get. But I can't subscribe to this because if they are living like this while working 12 hours or more a day then it must be a lot worse where they came from. I also can't subscribe to this because I have no idea what it truly means to be desperate; to not have clean water for M, to work so hard for so very little. And we all eat the fruits of their labors, casually tossing grapes in our mouths without thinking how they got to our table.

And now for the March Roundtable. Thank you to all of you for sitting around our fire and making me think.

The writers:
Alejna at Collecting Tokens with Finding My Voice
Alice at And She Wrote with Simple Justice and Small Change
Alpha Dogma with Seal Deal
Andrea at Little Bald Doctors with A Blogger of Substance
The Atavist with Walking Talk
Blog Antagonist with No Hablas Engles
Bon at Crib Chronicles with Real Moms
Chani at Thailand Gal with wear your love like heaven
Gwen at Woman on the Verge with Ours Goes to Eleven
Jen at One Plus Two with circle game, Do We Ever Really Know What Time it Is and Boy in a Box
Jess at Oh the Joys with Warmth
Jill at Not so Sage Wisdom with Engendered
Julie at The Ravin' Picture Maven with Must Read Posts related to the HPV Vaccine, Normalizing Disabilities: Is it Right and Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones
KC at Where's My Cape with Blind or Need Blind and Thin parts 1, 2, 3, 4
Kyla at The Journey with Zen Shmen
Little Monkies with Insanity on Treadmill 29
Liv at Madness, Madness I Say with D-I-V-O-R-C-E
Mad Marriage with Is there No Justice and Lack of Justice in the College Admissions Process Magpie at Magpie Musing with Kristof Led Donations
Mary G at Them's My Sentiments with Blowin' in the Wind
Mary Murtz at Eleven with Part 3
Mother-Woman with Unsolicited Book Advice
Mouse at the Mouse's Nest with Global Warming Wednesday: Is it (Im)material?, BYOB (Bag that is), Bagging Plastic Bags, Cars
QT at Can we Kick the Bar Here with Any Soldier
Sandra at MommyBlogsToronto with Stop the "Eggs Stinking"
Slouching Mom with With Friends Like These Who Needs Enemies
Susanne at Creative Mother Thinking with March Just Post
Urban Urchin with Let Love Rule

The readers:
Alejna at Collecting Tokens
Bon at Crib Chronicles
BubandPie
Carrie at Third times a charm
Christina at fluttercrafts
Hel at Truth Cycles
Jen at One Plus Two
Jess at Oh the Joys
Jill at Not So Sage Wisdom
KC at Where's My Cape
Mad Hatter
Sandra at Sunshine Scribe
Susanne at Creative Mother Thinking

If you want to get on the mailing list for the Just Post Roundtables, drop me an email. We always have room for more. Speaking of, don't forget to check out Mad's end of the table.

Oh, and this just in: I've been nominated for this, which is supremely exciting. If you are so inclined, check it out.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

apparently i am an attention whore

Because I asked Jill to interview me even though I've already answered five questions for ECR. But I should state for the record that I only asked her to do it because I was so damn curious about what she'd ask. She, of course, did not disappoint. Without further ado:

1. You've mentioned that, when you were younger, there was another career path that you wanted to follow. Are you willing to give some details?

I had a do-over, I would have been a nurse. A nurse, see, can take posts in third world countries and do amazing work. Doing relief work has always been a dream of mine and have not been able to manifest it, and I'd have had an easier go of it if I had nursing skills to offer.

2. Are you ever overcome by silliness? What do you do when you feel that way? What's the silliest thing you've ever done.

Dude. Absolutely. I can't remember the silliest thing I've ever done, but I do recall in my youth I would routinely make up scenarios with friends and role play all night long. Lola the brain surgeon, that sort of thing. I am a wicked April Fools Day girl, one time I hired a stripper to pretend to be coming in for a job interview, and midway through interviewing with my boss she started taking her clothes off. Boy, was his wife pissed. I crack myself up if no one else.

3. Did you ever follow up on any of the musical suggestions that were given to you a few weeks ago? If so, what were they and what did you think of them?

I did. I followed up on one by Tab and learned we already had him on disc with Zero Seven and have listened to it a dozen times since. I've also ordered a Snow Patrol disc and a Sarah Harmer one but they haven't come yet. I'm pretty excited to check out what others find mindblowing.

4. "Kid, have you ever been arrested?"

Does almost count? I've almost been arrested in Mexico (scared the crap out of me, let me tell you) once for obstruction of justice (I wouldn't tell the cops where a homeless guy was because they were being dicks and this guy had an outstanding warrant for a failure to appear on something stupid like drunk in public - but they knew he was already in the building and got all coplike with me) and once for contempt (for yelling inappropriately at a judge in a courtroom when a severely mentally ill client was given jail time for something that he critically needed care for instead). There was one other incident but I'll save it as it makes for a better story over beer. If nothing else, suffice to say I am a political prisoner.

5. Does M ever hear you curse? Has she ever sworn, herself (that you know of)?

She has. We try to not curse but sometimes fuck is the only appropriate word for the situation at hand. I've only heard her swear once, but of course it was on the way into her daycare room. I had stubbed my toe on the door and said "shit!" and then M went running into the room yelling SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! Dirty looks from both the teachers and the aides that day. I think they've been onto me for a while now anyways.

I'd offer to interview others again but I am fairly sure that would cement the whole attention whore thing so I'll spare you. Although I am now dying to know if any of you have been arrested.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

native son

Baseball is an honorable sport. There are no cheerleaders, the uniforms are not sexy. The men don't gloat when they hit a home run, no prancing around in an end zone. They have honor, these men of baseball. It's a game that fathers teach their sons, that grandfathers share with their grandkids, not just the current, but that one time when.... The Buckners and the DiMaggios. The good and the bad. It's the spirit that moves men. Yes, it's become overly commercialized, stylized, branded. But that doesn't take away from the true pull of the game.

My own man of honor is a lifelong member of Red Sox Nation. We fell in love during baseball season, we had a baby during baseball season. J's love of the Sox is contagious, so I've fallen for them too. I know some of you know what I mean.

I remember 2003 when the Sox blew the playoffs. It was crushing. Heartwrenching. Awful. I remember at the time thinking it was better they lost; this curse is so important to the fans, the lore so critical. The Curse. If it went away it all might be lost. There could be no more whining. What would all of Boston do?

The Sox play the A's every year and we are at almost every game. We've driven to LA to see them play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (speaking of bad branding) too. I do this because it's fun, and because J's love is infectious. He loves this team. He knows this team. It's intimate and important, the beauty of baseball. It's part of his fabric.

We happened to be in Boston during the summer of 2004. I was 8 months pregnant at Fenway Park. We were sitting next to a guy who said this fucking team, they break your heart, they lift you up and then smash you to the ground. This fucking team. It was a defining moment, a universal truth. I knew exactly what he meant.

J is from Southie but you'd never know it. His mom and brother are the stereotypes, the language and attitudes, the wicked pissahs, the r's when there shouldn't be and never when they should. You'd never know J was from southie if it wasn't for the Sox.

M was born in September of 2004. Her birth coincided with the A's/Sox series; tickets that were bought after we knew my due date. He missed two games but caught the third. The Sox won the World Series that year, and we have it on video, J crying, the phone ringing off the hook, him holding up our tiny baby girl and telling her that his dream just came true. A lifetime of agony reconciled, batter up, run in, game over.

It's baseball season again; so once again I get to decide who is cute (Varitek) and who is a smuck (it's always Manny), I get to watch J throw himself headlong into his joy and relive his youth. If there is ever a time there is a smattering of southie in him, it's when he's yelling at the Sox, his wayward family who doesn't always live up to their potential.

Friday, April 06, 2007

bedlam

M's crib was given to us second or third hand. It served it's purpose for a year or so until last Friday. Last Friday M woke up with about nine bug bites on her back.

Needless to say, we freaked. J dismantled the crib and mattress and we cleaned out her whole room. We couldn't find any bugs, but we think they came from the mattress. We may have overreacted, because now we have no bed and bedtime is in a few hours. I'm just saying.

So we head to IKEA and pick out a big girl bed. It's pretty freaking cute, a faux wrought iron deal, adjustable so right now it's like a little box and later it can be more like a bed. In fact, I was waiting to post this till I could show you a picture. Alas, I still don't know how to download pictures (whatever) and baseball season has started.

Anyways, we get her bed and a new blanket and pillow and J assembles the bed. It's adorable. M is happy. She climbs right in it at bedtime and goes to sleep. In the morning she still calls for me, not yet computing that she can just climb out. Perfect. We are money, friends. This is a secret we are going to keep.

Day two is the same. And then came Day Three. M wakes up and decides me no like my big girl bed. me miss my crib. Repeat this fifty times. Naptime comes around and she decides to use this moment to exercise her getting out of bed free card. Repeat this fifty times combined with the above statement.

J and I both happen to be home and we managed to take all of this in stride, mostly because it was hilarious. But there is that one moment where you think We've ruined everything. Naptimes are over. We've ruined everything. I finally said dude, you are kinda freaking me out. To which M replied you are freaking me out too, mommy. And I realize she's probably right. She finally goes to sleep.

Day four is money. We've been fine ever since. But I'd be lying if I said it didn't break my heart just a little bit, this big girl bed in my baby's room.

Tomorrow is the last day to send us your posts for our fourth 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) and I'll send you the button.

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. All Just Posts will also be featured in The Whole Mom webzine every month.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

okay already

There are just some things I know about me. Like how I could never, ever say: It's time to make a baby. M came of her own volition, jumping over the birth control pills on her way in.

But then I think: wow, I will only ever have one child. One. And I wonder if that is okay. Okay for M, growing up without siblings, okay for J, and okay, yes, dammit...okay for me. It feels okay now. But will it feel okay later?

But I think it's the way it's going to be. I am turning 37 this month. I just think it's the way it's going to be. But it seems so final, this way that it's going to be. And I feel okay with it, except that it seems so final.

Now please tell me that is ok, this way it's going to be.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

old bill

When I was 28 I ended a long term relationship. Looking back, it was either that or get married, and while the man was a very good man, he wasn't the man for me. Or better said, I simply wasn't ready for a good man yet. I could have handled it better, so as when it was over I was the one who needed to leave.

Problem was, I was working in a homeless shelter in one of the most expensive counties in the nation. I could not afford to rent my own place, not even a studio.

A co-worker came to my rescue. Bill was a Vietnam veteran, a former drug addict, and had lived on the streets. He cleaned up his act years ago and was my mentor and co-worker. He had a small one-bedroom walk up smack in the middle of downtown and offered to let me "rent" his couch for $100 a month. I had no other options, so I gratefully accepted. Ok, warily, but gratefully.

I gave up almost all of my belongings in the transition. Everything I owned fit into the back of my car, and most of that was books and clothes. Bill gave me one drawer and part of the closet for my clothes. Everything fit. I kind of liked only needing a drawer.

We were a strange pair - an old black man and a young white woman breaking bread and sharing a bathroom. At night I would watch the hookers earn their money in the alley below his apartment. It was vastly different from my living environment for the past four years, and I was happy and scared simultaneously. I felt small and big all at once, alone and everywhere at the same time.

Every once in a while I'd get a voice message from Bill asking me not to come home for awhile. That was one of our arrangements early on; that he'd entertain a lady friend (by the hour) from time to time and he wanted his privacy. We all need a little warmth sometimes, and if you can't come by it naturally, I'd imagine it would get lonely after awhile.

Sundays Bill would go to the neighborhood park and look for former friends from the streets. He'd round up three or four of these cats and bring them back for chicken dinner, because everyone deserves chicken dinner on sundays. I'd often come in to a group of guys playing chess or cards, drinking beer, listening to jazz. I liked those afternoons quite a bit.

After a few months I'd saved up enough to be able to rent a tiny studio in a rough part of town. We shared a last Sunday dinner and I moved out. Bill quit work the following year and I lost touch with him after that. A few years ago I heard things got rough for him; rumors of crack pipes and the streets. I could and couldn't believe it. I knew how lonely he was, but I didn't think he'd give up what he'd worked so hard to keep. I still don't really know. Some demons are too much for this world, and the old sly ones rooted in southeast asian wartime are especially tough to shake.

I will always love him, old Bill, for offering a girl a place to stay when she had nowhere else to go. His kindness allowed me to close one chapter and start another.

And I still think of those hookers in the alley and smile at the absurdity of it, working girls doing their best for most certainly not enough.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

hard on the outside

I am seeing more homeless folks around than usual and each time it's like a whack in the head. The grocery store had four or five folks strategically sitting at various entrances and exits. As M and I left we stopped to give some money to a woman holding up a sign that simply said: Spare?

After I handed her a couple bucks I asked do you have a place to stay tonight? She replied some might call me homeless. I was staying at a place that closed down, and now I have to make $37.00 a day in order to pay for my share of a hotel room or I am stuck outside. After I removed the knife from my head I said that's a hard life, friend - you know, I work with people who need housing. I might be able to help. She replied Oh, really? You think? You know, I can sing. I can even dance a little. I am a bit of an artist.

Sister, maybe I might be able to help. Give me a call if you want to try something different than this. I most certainly do, she said. Her voice was so beautiful, lyrical, sweet. A grandmotherly type of woman who you just know in different circumstances makes a nice pot of tea. I'd sure love to hear her sing.

Sometimes I feel like I could go ballistic...a renegade wingnut rounding everyone up in my old civic and taking them to a shelter, or better yet, to go scream at City Hall. It's this strange fiery brew inside of me that is in actuality a selfish clucking pile of limp spaghetti left out on the counter from the night before. I can't bring myself to transport anyone in my car with M in it because the one off chance of it going sideways is too much to risk. I am not yelling on the steps of our civic leaders alone or with others; I haven't done that in years. I am hazy and befuddled, angry in the wrong places. The knife stays put, wedged deep in my head. M asked what you doing mommy? Who is her? What you give her mommy? We gave her some money so she can sleep in a bed tonight, baby, just like you and me.

I wonder if M wonders why we leave people standing on corners instead of bringing them home with us. I wonder how I'll answer when she finally asks me why that is.

It's time for our fourth 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 April 7th 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. All Just Posts will also be featured in The Whole Mom webzine every month.

Monday, April 02, 2007

asked and answered

I am digging the five questions idea circulating around the blog world. So much so that I handed myself over to ECR last week. I like this idea, giving others the chance to ask you things you might never have thought to write about on your own.

1. What is your first memory?
I don't remember much before the age of seven or eight, something strange I know. So I suppose I'd have to say one of the earliest memories I have is watching fireworks in my backyard on the 4th of July while throwing up applejacks. (I used to LOVE applejacks, but I have no idea what the pukefest was about).

2. Do you fall in love easily? I prefer to say I fall in infatuation easily. I am fascinated by people that are different than I am, and in my youth, I called it love. I learned later on that I've probably loved only a few. So yes, I fall headfirst, but no, not into love. It smells like love, though. It's easy to confuse.

3. Where were you on September 11, 2001 when you first heard about the attacks? I was in Sacramento in a hotel room. I was there to watch an artist friend of mine from NYC do a performance at a school on racism and hate. He called my room and woke me up and told me to turn on the TV. The hardest part was going to the performance and watching him do his show not knowing yet if his friends and family were all ok. He improvised on the spot about hate in relation to what was happening all around us that fall morning and it was brilliantly and professionally done amidst 300 crying teenagers and many of their teachers. I didn't know anyone there, and all I wanted was to be with people I knew, so it was a strange experience.

4. Beer or wine? Ah. Well, that depends. Sitting in the bleachers at a Red Sox game? Beer. The drink of choice after a long dusty bus ride through foreign places? Beer. The sitting round the dinner table for hours after the meal is over talking about nothing and everything all at once? Wine. But it must be red.

5. You inherit 5 million dollars the same day aliens land and say they're going to blow up the world in two days... what do you do? (Extra points if you can identify the original source of this question) No extra points for me. I'd probably fly to Africa or somewhere else I've been dying to see to make sure I can see it before I died. But I don't need 5M for that, do I? I suppose I'd go to a shelter and give it away so as many people as possible can have a few hours of freedom doing what they want. For some reason this question made me sad, but I don't want to end on a bad note. It's just a question, for pete's sake.

If you are game for five questions from me, leave your email address in the comments section and I'll toss some your way. It's fun. And I promise to only ask one or two political/social questions. Really. I promise. Maybe.

In other news, the lovely Deezee and Deb nominated this post as a perfect post for March. It was one of the hardest posts I've ever written so it meant a lot to me that it meant something to you, too. Thank you both.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

freshly born

When M was born I asked to keep my placenta. The hospital didn't like that and said if I wanted to keep it, it had to be removed from the hospital immediately. I guess that was supposed to be a deterrent, but I sent J home bucket in hand while the rest of my organs stayed put. It lived in our freezer for a year.

We buried it under a new tree on M's first birthday, and the tree bloomed for the first time this week. Delicious white blooms that smell remarkably like a newborn. I don't know if it has anything to do with the placenta, but I'd like to think that it does.

It's time for our fourth 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 April 7th 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. All Just Posts will also be featured in The Whole Mom webzine every month.