Thursday, August 30, 2007

burning my eyes open

A few of you asked for more Burning Man stories and I will happily oblige because I know there are people who haven't had great experiences at the Man but mine were filled with magic. It's not an easy week, the heat is unbearable and you are completely responsible for your own resources and unless you are rich and go in an RV there is little escape. The days are spent recuperating under makeshift shade structures, but as the night falls the action kicks in.

We had found a campsite across from the Soylent Baby Camp. They had a conveyor belt where you'd place a can of food and it would go through some sort of motions and spit a baby out on the other end. The fact that there was a naked old man with a long beard and a bottle of scotch cranking them out sealed the deal and the baby was a gift. Baby in hand I began the long walk to the center of town where the most spectacular displays are featured. I'd been imbibing in the spirits so things were a bit vivid to begin with and as I walked through town I ran into Jesus and the Devil hand in hand. The Devil gave me a long hug and absolved me of my sins while Jesus smiled and nodded. The next stop was a walk down a trippy subliminal memory lane, and then we paused at a downtempo lounge where exotic women were dancing to their own groove. I caught a few fire handlers and encountered some strange, strange electrical squids. I was hugged countless times and by the time I was done my day glo body paint must have been shared with a hundred new found stranger friends.

It's no exaggeration that you are completely overwhelmed with creativity every single square foot of your journey. And everyone is welcoming. I was offered food and drink and gifts everywhere I went and by the time it's over you stumble back to your camp and fall asleep under the wide Nevada sky. And the next night you head off in a different direction and it's a whole other explosion of sensory delights. It's dehydrating and unbelievable and magical and freeing and out of this world because every single thing is okay as long as it's not hurtful to anyone else.

And I really think we are onto something with a Burning Bloggers Camp. We can do it, but it'll require commitment and organization. We can do communal everything and we can bring kids or not bring kids and it will all work out just fine. It might not be for everyone, but I think with a little letting go and a sense of adventure it would rock your world and change the way you want to live in it.

As we were leaving the festival we were one of a thousand dusty cars on caravan through the desert. The wind can bring serious dust storms and everyone and everything is covered in fine white dust. As we edged our way out we came upon a man with a sign that said he needed $100 to get home. We rolled down our window and went to hand him money and he replied that it was ok, he raised what he needed in 10 minutes and didn't need it. And that alone summed it all up because he wasn't taking more than he needed and in a few moments everyone who passed by lended a hand.

Three days after I returned from Burning Man that year 9/11 happened and the world turned on it's head. It was impossible to reconcile where I'd just been from the horror that was unfolding and the juxtaposition of the two is something that still confounds me to this day. That the potential for love and light and utopia exists alongside the capacity for terrible horrors and yet each day we soldier on and do what we can to move forward in this great big world of ours. And how a little burn could go a long way for all of us and might even change the world.

I've got a new review up over at my other spot so check it out before you go because I made a book. Or personalized a book. But still, it rocks.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

feeling the burn

Burning Man is under way this week. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it's a blessed out of this world festival deep in the Nevada desert. A temporary utopian community created out of sand and wind and heat. It's a difficult thing to describe if you haven't been there, but it's really something extraordinary.

Everyone is living out their fantasies, whether it's dressing up in tutus or being completely naked. The art and creativity is out of this world, the full on discos, the fire walking pits, the 24 hour lounges. I was a low-level burner, someone who showed up with a tent and a few costumes and trinkets. Others bring entire structures, giant elephants rise out of the desert, double decker buses covered in pink fur and disco balls careen through the neighborhoods. It's a non stop visual delight, groups of gorgeous women cycling naked, men on stilts, costumes, lights, energy, heat.

The cornerstone of the Man is kindness. You can purchase nothing at the festival besides ice. Everything else is barter. You trade or are given what you need and offer what you can. As you walk around the enormous festival you are assaulted with creativity and beauty everywhere you go. One night as we went exploring I ate roasted corn with some gypsies, drank absinthe with clowns, danced in the Sahara, watched a medieval play and saw the most exotic woman I have seen dancing for the world on top of an old fashioned popcorn cart. It's everywhere, this rampant over expression of divine creavity, sexuality and bliss.

One of the most memorable impressions I have from the festival (aside from vagina tents and downtempo safaris and women cavorting on trampolines) was really quite small. Two men on bikes ran head on into each other. A gigantic crash. I remember pausing and thinking oh shit, what is going to happen now but both men jumped up and hugged each other and got on their bikes and rode off in different directions. The kindnesses I witnessed should be the norm in a world where anger at strangers seems to be the common denominator. And it's combined with bawdy sexy off the charts self expression combined with intentionality. It is really an extraordinary experience.

So when I learned that this guy took it upon himself to desecrate the most sacred of events, the final burn of the festival, the one where all 25,000 beautiful people are gathered in an enormous circle with drums and lights and non stop funkadelic to welcome the burn I was angry. Angry that one dude would take it upon himself to be the anti-burner, the one who was thinking of himself and not the community and destroyed the Man too soon. But I also know it's a temporary interruption, that today thousands of folks are meeting at the center of that desert and doing what they can to repair the man using items from their camps and their general brilliant creativity. So all in all I am betting that this year's burn will be the most special of all because if there is ever a place where the community will triumph against the individual, it's at Burning Man.

And I wish I was there. And I wish all of you could be there too. Because it changes the way you look at the world, this one week in the desert living in a world where the answer to everything is yes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

the problem with two psych majors under one roof

Overheard while washing dishes last night.

M: Daddy, do you have a pen*is?
J: (pause) Yes baby, I do.
M: Why?
J: Because I am a boy. You and mommy are girls so you don't have a pen*is. You have vagina*s instead.
M: Why?
J: (longer pausing) because we are made differently, boys and girls. (another pause where I can feel the wheels turning from the other room) But you know, some people aren't born in the right bodies. Some boys are born in boys bodies and wish they were girls and some girls are born in girls bodies and wish they were boys. It's called gender identity disorder. I have a friend at work who...
M: Let's play airplane!

Monday, August 27, 2007

bedtime stories

Jennifer wrote this really terrific post recently about the beds she'd slept in. I liked it so much that I had to do a version of it myself.

1. Puerto Nuevo, Mexico. A hammock on a roof of a little house under the stars when I was 20 and fearless. I remember that night with such sweetness because it came unexpectedly after several years of really bad things.

2. Khao San Road in Bangkok. It's 3am and we'd just arrived in Asia. We are weary and stumble onto a little guesthouse made of teak and swaying colored lights. The vibe is beyond cool, hushed voices and smoke. Chill out music. We get the last room the size of a closet with a pad on the floor and we fall asleep immediately..

3. The Smoking Lounge (and I use the word lounge loosely here) in the Taipei airport. I think the title is sufficient enough.

4. Belize in two parts: A cinderblock cabana on a deserted island. There was nothing to do and no way to leave and we sat there for three days. Divine. And a treehouse in the jungle. I've never seen spiders as big as I did that night and they were in our bed at the time. Under the sheet. Dude.

5. A really nice hotel in Phnom Penh. I had my heart set on staying in the same hotel as the last of the journalists did before PP fell. I had read vivid descriptions of the courtyard and how it looked in the 70's and I knew I had to stay there and sit among the ghosts. Problem was it was one the most expensive hotels in the city. We stayed one night and after a few weeks on the road it was comfort (and hot water) beyond measure. We had a little balcony that opened onto the said courtyard and I was in heaven.

6. A really bad hotel in Phnom Penh. Bedbugs. Dirty sheets. Towels cost extra. Penance for the earlier decadence.

7. A log cabin on the Russian River. J and I stayed in this delectable little A-frame with the softest bed and the whitest sheets. We made good use of that room on that trip.

8. A writer's quarters in Suchitoto. The room was maybe 7'X9' and bright blue with a bright pink bathroom. The owner brought me cafe con leche in the morning and it was sweet and hot and delicious.

9. Tikal, Guatemala. We slept in a little room with howler monkeys in the trees overhead and they screamed all night long and we had too many beers. If you've never heard a howler monkey then you are missing out. Especially at 3am. Drunk.

10. Florence, Oregon. A side of the road motel on our way to meet friends for Xmas in 2003. We made M that night but didn't know it for another three or four weeks. Florence stands for Fertility!

Now it's your turn. Tell me a sleeping place that still lurks around in your memory.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

fluid

I woke up early and crept out of my still quiet house for an early appointment. I walked through the heavy wooden door and was immediately swaddled in eastern light and art and beauty. They speak in soft tones and guide me to a room filled with one of the biggest tubs I have ever seen. Marble covers the walls, a blue and green marble. Candles dance on the water.

I am alone in this room and I sink into the tub and I find deliciously hot water and I soak for a long, long time.

A quiet knock at the door. I slip my arms through the soft green robe on the door and pad barefoot up some wooden stairs. Another woman greets me, fairly pregnant and absolutely beautiful. She places her hands together in the universal namaste and leads me into another room, candles flickering against a large stone carving of buddha. She murmurs softly to me and I understand and slip onto the bed.

Her hands are strong and sure. She rubs tired muscles so completely I lose time and space. At one point her belly is against my arm and I feel a small kick. Hello little one, I think quietly and smile. I want to weep when she finally finishes but am simultaneously overflowing with peace and gratitude. She bows again and gives me a warm hug and a tall glass of water with cucumber floating on top.

I leave dreamlike and somehow navigate my way home to a quiet house where J is sitting contentedly. M is with my parents and will be back soon. Tonight we will go to a movie. A date of sorts.

Today is a very good day.

Friday, August 24, 2007

arms crossed wide open

I am back to searching. Dusty hot places. The sabbatical. It might not work. It has to work. The universe is shaking her head. There is still time. We need to go.

I am back to searching. International relief work. I can't stop looking. It's my porn. These postings are my porn and I am the lonely paunchy guy who can't get a date.

When I was in Chicago my palm was read. Secret things were said on the street with graffiti on the wall in front of me. Three women close by. I miss them. They heard these things too so I know I didn't dream them. She said my soul needed to leave this country. That it was time. I agreed with her. My hands told her these things. But we are still here. It feels like time.

The universe is shaking her head. I am stamping my feet. Negotiations run amuck.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

what a long strange trip it's been

A came to us eight or nine years ago as a hardened and complex guy with a host of mental health and addiction issues. He was battered and lonely and abused as a child, he was taught to hate and learned by example. He fought hard in Vietnam when he was 18 and came home and lived a bastard sort of life, cheating on women and fathering children he couldn't care for. He admitted once to killing someone and spent some time in jail. He smoked crack on and off and drank too much till his liver started protesting. He stole things occasionally or regularly, these things tend to blur. He was a con man but a good man. Nothing's ever simple on the streets.

By the time I met him he'd stopped most of the nonsense. He was still struggling with addiction and stole things out of my office once or twice. But he also took the new folks under his wing and took care of everyone. He'd root around in dumpsters and find all kinds of treasures and clean them up and share them with others. He watched my back even as he'd lie to my face. He'd give me a hard time and allow the same in return.

Several years ago we were able to help him get permanent housing and I remember him telling me that a suicidal homicidal guy like me trusts no one. black is black and white is white and you're white and you'll never understand. but you still helped me, an crazy old black man like me and that says a lot and I think I can make it this time. And then he turned around and hit the crack pipe and smoked all his good fortune away in less than a year.

He'd come around from time to time, hopping from shelter to program and back again. He'd always greet me warmly and give me a little shit. I'd ask about him over time and sometimes folks had news and other times nothing. I hadn't seen him for a couple of years when my phone rang yesterday.

Are you still sitting up in your ivory tower? Come outside and see who's come to visit.

It was A. I ran outside and there he was dressed in a suit, something I had never seen. And he looked healthy and a bit overweight which is something he'd never managed while doing drugs. I gave him a giant hug and prattled on about how great he looked and he stood there in the sun grinning ear to ear.

Turns out he got himself into another program away from us and this time something clicked. He's been dealing with his illness and getting help and staying clean and telling the truth. He's saving money and working and volunteering as a way of giving back and taking care of business. He's made amends with his children while knowing he has to earn it and doesn't really deserve it he's trying just the same.

And then just as abruptly as he appeared he turned and said he had to go. He gave me another hug and walked off down the street and never looked back. I watched him walk for the longest time, a million lifetimes inside that walk. Because sometimes people find what they need after they leave and while you can't understand you realize it was finally his time and you rejoice all the same. He'll never really know how much he helped me grow up along the way because at least as much as I gave to him he'd given back to me. I cut my teeth on this man and I tried and failed and he tried and failed and one day he stopped failing and I had no part in that success and yet it was mine all the same.

And he must know it too because he came to show me and didn't ask for a thing. With guys like A nothing is certain and who knows if it will stick but a girl's gotta believe in something.

And besides, he looked mighty fine in that suit.

Before you go stop by my other gig where I review something that has absolutely nothing to do with homelessness, crack or the streets.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

crossing fingers

It's easy to forget when your child is healthy that others are struggling. When you have no particular parenting fears that others are biting their nails. My ordinary day skips along without incident while others are treading over new journeys forged to bring answers. And on those days the world seems to come to a standstill. The unknowns and the soothing, the bitten back fears and kindnesses of strangers. The fact that as a mom, so much of it is up to you.

Kyla, I am standing next to you as you head into that hospital and seek the answers you need.

Your grace, your endless well of grace, will carry you through.

Monday, August 20, 2007

talking heads

I was interviewed by a news producer the other day (ahem, I. Want. To. Share. But. Can't.) and during the course of her interview she wanted to know why I thought homelessness was a problem in our communities. The camera was on and I was of course simultaneously worrying about looking stupid and of course, whether my hair looked okay so I started to lose my train of thought. I started talking, babbling really, and replied with some sort of wingnut response about freedom. About how I can't be free if other people aren't. And she stopped taping and looked quizzically at me and asked what freedom had to do with homelessness.

And for some reason her question made me aware of this anger I carry. Anger that there aren't easier solutions. Anger that homelessness exists. Anger that we still keep asking silly questions. Angry that I feel angry. I meant what I said, but the more elaborate answer is something along the lines of homelessness is a problem because we are choosing to allow others to suffer in exhange for consumerism and capitalism. That we have purposefully set up a system where we need weak people to boost a few strong people. That we care more about our living room furniture than we do our neighbors. So I told her all of this with the camera off and she smiled and nodded and I asked her if she wanted me to repeat it on camera and she gently told me it wouldn't work but that she appreciated my position.

She turned the camera back on and we finished the piece with different questions and after it was done I asked her why people were so afraid of hearing what people really think and she looked at me and smiled and didn't have much of an answer. I figured it was either because a) she thought I was insane or b) didn't really care and was just doing her job. And either way I left a bit frustrated because I still don't know how to get my point across in a way that isn't so critical of everything else.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

the blog identity

i woke up, sheets twisted and slightly damp. mid-leap over a tall building, running. the bad men were coming....

the dream was full of all of you. an underground network of bloggers trying to save the world. some of you were not as lucky as others as the web of intrigue spun itself in circles all over the world. one of you was driving a car very fast. way too fast. another was making a hand off: a secret double chambered pocketbook (espionage yarns cannot use the word purse, people) went into the hands of the guy we thought was on our side but perhaps turned out not to be. one of you spoke perfect french and was as exotic a creature as i've ever seen. another of you lost a finger. that part sucked. sorry about that.

twisty curvy. some of you were fleeting and others in and out of my consciousness all dream long which felt like it went on all night long. at the end I have no idea if we thwarted the evil crime ring but I do know we were trying really, really hard. And we were pretty damn smart about it.

And we were hot. oh daddy-o....crimefighting bloggers are smoking.

Friday, August 17, 2007

rocking the house

We had a back to school party at one of our housing programs last night. We were able to outfit almost a hundred kids with new clothes which was a labor of love by many fantastic volunteers and donors. We had a ton of food and volunteers and I arranged for a friend of mine who sings reggae/calypso to perform as entertainment for the families.

We all ran around on the lawn, babies crawling everywhere, kids racing like maniacs, and parents hanging out together in a multitude of ethicities, ages, and beauty. I had the good fortune of seeing old friends and children who've grown. I had brought M with me so she could hang out and at one point while sitting on the lawn surrounded by children and parents a volunteer came up and offered M a gift intended for our kids. I gently told M that those were for the others and I sat back and smiled because being mistaken for a homeless family means we must be doing something right - that our kids are well and happy and fed and alive and indistinguishable from everyone else which is exactly what they deserve after suffering through so much hardship.

And mostly I was filled with love. Love for the kids and for the normalcy of it all. I watched the parents smiling and chasing their kids around, the kids devouring pizza, people moving in rhythm to the music. And the joy on their faces when they saw their new stuff - stuff that will help make starting a new school feel a bit more normal and a bit more like everyone else.

At one point my singer friend was really jamming and everyone was dancing and getting into the groove and it was glorious. A bunch of us formed a conga line, staff, clients and kids and we sang and danced our way around the lawn together and in that moment, with hands full of M and others I looked at the sky and soaked in a perfect moment when poverty wasn't an issue and appreciating great music didn't require any money at all.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

pinwheels

I went to a bar last night after work with some friends to celebrate a co-workers new job. As I looked around the table it struck me that I was one of the oldest people there and the only one with a kid. Their lives revolve around work, friends, travel, freedom. No one but me was watching the clock anticipating missed bedtimes and an overloaded partner, the hours between now and sleep and waking up to a toddler whacking you in the face. They talked about sports, dogs, beer, music. It felt foreign and comfortable all at the same time, like songs from the old eight track I keep under my bed. I looked around the bar and noticed all the other hipsters, drinking and carefree. And I thought for a minute about my old freedoms and my newer restrictions, my messy kitchen and toddler dervish.

Singlehood has left the building. The invisible velvet cord tightened around my waist and as I watched the pitchers empty I realized that I wouldn't want to go back if I could. That doesn't mean I don't miss the fast lane, the dates and spontaneity, the bars and the heat. But I also don't miss the obsession I had with myself. I used to think I was so important, that my incidentals were the crux of it all. But when a child is in your balance it's no longer about you. It's about bedtimes and special blankets. Milk in the fridge and sandy shoes.

And I am more and more okay with that. As my friends spoke in lilting and foreign tongues I turned my ear to catch it, to smell the Saturdays I can't quite recall. And then I realized the truth: I have a secret and I can't share it with them until they know it for themselves. For better and better it changes you. My expansiveness startles and settles all at once.

And there is no pub crawl that can satisfy me now that I know what I know. I was the first to leave amidst muffled ribbing for leaving so soon, for being so practical. For not having one more. And as I walked the city streets back to my car I noticed the others in fancy restaurants and outside patios enjoying a warm summer night carefree and alive. And I smiled to myself as I went because I finally understand where my place is in this world.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

neighborly relations

We were taken by surprise last week when we got an email from a friend in Belize alerting us to the fact that we have a new neighbor. We'd dreamed inactively about purchasing the acre next to ours in Belize for about a year bur never pursued it because we didn't have the money and didn't think it would sell for a number of years.

But apparently we were wrong. I got an email asking for an introduction from a woman who just purchased the land in what must have been a considerably easier transaction. And that alone makes me feel a sense of ownership over something I have no rights to at all. When we first met the "owner" of our land several years ago he was in actuality the leaser. Citizens can lease land from the government but cannot own it without ponying up the additional cash - something not very many folks are able to do.

We met Jose accidentally as he was driving a collectivo that we had jumped in to ride into town. He heard us talking about land and casually mentioned that he indeed had some he wanted to sell. That is an all too common experience and one with varied outcomes for success. Jose was leasing 20 acres outside a small village near the Guatemalean border and three of those acres were on the river with the rest inland which was where Jose and his family had made their home for many years. The issue with buying leased land is that the owner needs to own it first and in order to own it first he needed our money to buy it. Not a lot of money, but enough money to give us pause. We consulted some folks and they were of varying opinions but the general theme was that this was a risky proposition. Some even advocated for attorneys and whatnot to protect our interests and ensure a higher degree of success. J and I sat in a cafe and pondered our options and decided to take a leap of faith without bringing the western (agressive) style of business into the equation because indeed, we were the visitors here.

In the end we decided to trust Jose. We agreed in broken spanish and bits of english about next steps and worked with a local broker who agreed to transfer the title once the land was in his name. The realtor made no promises, if Jose decided to take our money and buy the land and then sell the land to someone else we'd have little recourse. We went with Jose to his tiny particle board house with his thirteen children and assorted chickens and goats (all of which were in the kitchen) and listened as best we could to him telling his wife that he was going to sell us a part of their land. She turned to us and gave me a long warm hug and invited us to sit down and share a meal. It was lovely and awkward and after we left we looked at each other and decided that even if he screwed us over we'd be okay with it because we would be hard pressed to survive his level of poverty and if a bad outcome for us still meant something good for them we knew we could live with it.

Many, many months later the deal went through exactly as we'd planned and we finalized the deal on a return trip. Jose picked us up to take us to the broker and shook our hands and called us his neighbor. Our purchase not only allowed him to own all 20 acres for the first time in 50 years but also made it possible for him to send most of his kids to college, something we were unaware of at the time because Jose simply offered a price and we agreed to it without bartering or negotiation. As far as we were concerned it was his land and his deal and if we could figure out a way to meet his price we would do it and in the end we got a very good deal. But learning later what that sum meant to his family gave us another another reason to be happy to be a part of it.
So it's a long way of saying that I covet that piece of land and a little part of me cracked when we realized we'd missed our chance but a larger part of me is excited about having someone to share the fence with once we finally are able to come home to roost.

Monday, August 13, 2007

chasing waterfalls

We took M to a place full of gardens and flowers and kid friendly natureish things yesterday. There was a gigantic manmade (although very natural looking) waterfall with a path that went around and behind the waterfall and during one section it allowed for much wetness. M and I went along the path and when we got to that part we ran through it quickly with heads down to avoid the water hitting us directly in our faces. As I looked back I noticed everyone else running through that part too, heads down. I turned to M and said you know, that's the part when we should be looking up instead of down because I bet the view is amazing. M agreed and so we went back around and when we got to the brink of the falls I picked her up and said ok, now look up into the water. i bet everyone misses this part. And we stood in the middle of the downpour with people running around us in a hurry to move through and we looked through the falls into the sky with water crashing down on our faces and M laughing hysterically. She loved it so much we did it two more times and were completely soaked.

And it struck me then that I spend a lot of time looking down when I should be looking up and I wonder how many waterfalls I am missing. And while it was a very small thing it made me want to try harder with M in those moments, to show her the other way around. It's easier to avoid the wet parts out of a desire to stay neat and clean and dry and I've decided I've missed so much beauty. And if it's taken me 37 years to unlearn this then I have to get my shit together now so M can learn to be free.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

three and holding

We went on a marathon 2.5 hour walk yesterday and M walked almost the whole way which was pretty incredible. She passed out soon after we got home which was a major Saturday night coop. The unfortunate thing was that we failed to make the most of it and passed out too.

Before she went to bed she came up to me and threw her arms around me tight and said You are my best friend, mommy. My best friend EVER. And my heart cracked wide open and ran all over the floor in crimson puddles of love and joy and warmth and knowing. I still don' t technically consider myself a kid person but I truly had no idea how head over heels you could fall for these little people that come in to your life and turn every fiber of your being upside down. Even if they do spend most of their waking hours whining their asses off.

And of much more importance, three women need our support right now. Jenn as she wrestles with her body, Mrs. Chicken as she wrestles with her mind and Orange as she wrestles with God. I stand shoulder to shoulder with you all.

Friday, August 10, 2007

july just posts

justpostjuly2007
I had a whole other topic to write about this month and believe it or not it was about something other than homelessness. But then I saw something yesterday at the shelter and I can't stop thinking about it. I had headed outside to get a coke from the roach coach. The only other customer was an elderly client, a guy who has a few physical ailments. I am not sure what is wrong but he doesn't hear very well and shakes quite a bit and is rather frail. As I got my coke his order came up. Burger and fries. He said he'd been looking forward to this burger all week and offered me a fry. I took him up on it and he called me a pretty young lady and I admired his shirt.

I walked back over to the door and stopped to sit outside and make a call. I saw the old man sitting on a curb a ways away. He's hunched over that curb carefully eating his burger, alone in the sun and for a second my heart cracked a bit at his smallness. A couple of men walked out of the shelter, men I didn't recognize. One of them threw something at the old man and hit him in the head. He dropped his burger on the ground and looked up and then quickly down. I started to rise up and head over, angry. I was so angry. As I stood up another man ran over and started yelling and hauled off and hit the one who had hit the old man in the face and a fight broke out quickly and was quickly dispensed. While I never condone violence I loved that man in that moment for standing up for someone who could not.

I reach the old man, his burger all over the ground. I sat down to help him and he looked at me and asked what justice is this? with the weariest look I have ever seen. And I was at a loss for words at his homelessness and his lonely meal and his food on the ground and I thought of all of our writing and our appeals for social justice and I wanted to lie on the ground and weep because the futility was overwhelming. But then he leaned over and said I can still eat this, it's not that dirty so don't you worry. And that too made me want to cry and it also made me want to try even harder and do a little bit more for him and for the rest of us because it's up to us to bring kindness and hope and justice to our worlds as much as possible every single day.

So thank you for writing and for caring and for being just in this world.

The Good Writers
BlogHers Act Canada
BlogHers Act
Alejna at Collecting Tokens with Big Fears and Small Hopeful Faces
Cecileaux with Why Don't We Solve Problems? and Street Cents and Uncommon Sense
Chani at Thailand Gal with Something else, No More TV!, Parallel, Acceptable Prejudice, This
isn't about immigration and it certainly isn't about Thailand

Crazymumma with How We Live...
Dana at Principled Discovery with Brand loyalty in the absence of television
Ellie Bee at What Now? with Mommy Guilt
Jen at One Plus Two with To whom it concerns, norma dies, fresh off the lot, and rowing the boat
Jenny and Kevin at Life has taught us with C3: Carbon Conscious Consumer
Julie at the Ravin' Picture Maven with The Law of Natural and Logical Consequences, aka Karma and Is the Internet the Rainbow Connection?
KC at Where's My Cape with An Illness Narrative on Independence Day
Leah at LeahPeah with Mental Health Revolution Health
Maddie at My Little India with Making the World More Personal
Mouse at the Mouse's Nest with Global Warming Wednesday: Strength in Numbers
Pundit Mom with What Kind of President Do We Want?
Sage with Sage goes green
sagefemme at Mommy Blogs Toronto with Incens(ationalized) and One of a Million
Snoskred with Snoskred made 5 Million Dollars online
Stephanie at Speaking Life with Hardship
Susanne at Creative Mother Thinking with Children and Responsibility
Urban Urchin with Mom vs Mom

The Kind Readers
Alejna
Carrie
Chani
Hel
Jen
Jennifer from Faking It
Julie
KC
Kiki
Lawyer Mama
Liv
Mad
Susanne

It's a lovely roundtable considering it's in the middle of summer. Thank you for sitting at our table this month. No burgers on the ground here, not a single one. Mad's back in the just post house and has something going on at her end of the table too so check it out before you go.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

teaching fish to swim

I was always taught not to make too much of myself. Don't make too much noise. Don't upset others. Don't cause a fuss. Put others first. Nothing wrong with some of that - manners are important and there is nothing wrong with a well behaved child. But there was a point when it became clear that the needs of others were more important than mine. That my role was to accept things as they were. To not stand up for what I wanted. Easier that way and besides, who was I to deserve it anyways.

The pros of this upbringing is that you are generally thoughtful of others and make friends easily. You keep your commitments no matter how hard it may be. You think of others first and put their needs at the front of the line. Nothing wrong with some of that. Nothing wrong at all.

Except it also made me feel small. And by the time I realized my smallness it was already so ingrained in me it was no easier to separate it than it is to isolate the red part of the rainbow apart from the rest. It's just not a rainbow without the red.

Suffice to say this has had both a negative and a positive impact on my life. I've had to learn how to get my needs met in relationships the hard way and it's still a work in progress. My 20's were a fierce struggle of individuating and reprogramming. I still hold things in. I peacemake more often than I should. It's still evolving and this is no sad lament. I like who I am, the bumpy parts included because trying to find myself has been hard won and that alone is worth a lot.

But I am determined to teach M differently. To say stop if someone is bothering her. When she hurts herself I don't try and shush her. I hold her and let her wail and I tell her to wail some more because it hurt, dammit, and she has a right to it. If she's angry I give her a pillow and tell her to whack it. Nothing wrong with whacking a pillow. And if she's upset over not getting what she wants I validate her reaction even as I hold my ground. She's allowed to react and her feelings matter. Things don't always go her way and I don't think they should but she's allowed to not like it and she gets to find her way through it too. And she needs to know she is always most important even when things are ugly. That she is safe with me and she is safe with herself.

I fear I may be overcompensating but so far it seems okay. She tells me when she's sad and she comes back to tell me when she's better. She apologizes for being an occasional brat and will ask me how I am doing and if I had a good day. She doesn't always want to share and I don't always push her. I tell her what I think and how much I adore her and when I am upset. We will talk about it with her in my arms and when she's not ignoring me it feels like it's sinking in.

And sometimes we make way too much noise in public. Harmless toddler noise but noisy all the same. And I deliberately choose not to quiet her because she's got a lot of important things to say. Because I want her to be a warrior no matter how she chooses to define it. My job is to give her the space and breadth to scream yes to the moon and roll naked in the surf.

Monday, August 06, 2007

pulling teeth

Awhile back Flutter asked me to answer the meme that Blog Antagonist created in order to force herself to share 10 things she liked about herself. It's no easy thing to write an entire post celebrating yourself and as such I promptly ignored it. I filed it under "I am not a memer" and shut the door. But then I went back and thought about it and decided anytime I feel this strongly about something means I should get off my ass and do it. Ugh. My stomach hurts. Fine. Whatever. Feel free to skip to the end.

1. I am a kick ass mother. (I am already wanting to qualify this with except for this and only if that but screw you, Jenny Talia's insecurities. Screw you)
2. I make myself laugh and I find other people hilarious. I am twisted in my humor and that pleases me immensely.
3. I don't take things too seriously. I certainly have my work to thank for that but at the end of the day if everyone is healthy and we've got a place to sleep I feel pretty satisfied. The rest is gravy. We've only got this moment and on good days I can remember that.
4. I fall in love with other women easily and love being in your cheering sections. I believe in our community and am committed to it thriving.
5. I have definite political and societal views that are ingrained as a part of what I consider to be just and honest and important in our world and I am not afraid to talk about it.
6. I am proud of what I've been able to do with my career. (SCREW YOU, SELF DOUBT. SCREW YOU)
7. I notice the small things and appreciate them. Like a trail of ants or glitter on my kid's face. Like mismatched socks on a homeless dude. Gold teeth.
8. I am thankful all the time.
9. I am unafraid to laugh in the face of the american dream and sell it all and hit the road. I am committed to satisfying my wanderlust and showing M a bigger world.
10. I just might be a little crazy.

Okay, this is hard. In fact, it kind of sucks and I feel like I am sitting here naked. Like a big naked asshole. Do me a favor and in the comments tell me one thing you can't stand about me. All of you. For the love of god. Do it now.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

a musical rendition

The most lovely Susanne turned me on awhile back to her husband's blog psychedelic zen guitar and as I started following his posts he impressed me with his ability to write music to fit a variety of moods and scenes. I've been quite taken with how it teases my brain so a month or so ago I mused in his comments section wondering if he could write a song about homelessness.

Gary graciously agreed to give it a go on one condition: that there was a story to go along with the music. He crafted a lovely piece of music and I set out to get a story from someone who's living on the streets. My post yesterday was inspired from that conversation, and Tom's story is over at Gary's blog along with the music and a photo that Gary took to go along with it. Go check it out and let us know what you think.

I can only imagine what fun it must be to hang out with this couple. All music and creativity and fabric and heart and color and soul. Thank you Gary, for making some magic and teaching me to open my ears.

It's not too late to send over your Just Post. If you have a post from you or someone else that is about social issues or social justice big or small we want to know about it. Send me the link at girlplustwoATyahoo.com by the 7th and you'll have a seat at the table. Everyone is welcome and if you have questions, please ask.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

side by side

I am working on a little collaboration and it involved me having a conversation with someone currently living in the streets. I wanted to be able to get his view of things for this project I am working on (and that part is coming soon) but what really struck me during our conversation was the normalness of his life and yet how not normal it really was. Of how the reality you exist in is normal to you but when you've truly lived through alternate realities it's the memories of the other shinier ones that makes it the hardest to reconcile.

One of the things he brought up was missing being touched. Not necessarily getting laid (he made sure I noted the difference) but just the simple act of touching. That people act afraid of him or put off and give him a wide berth instead of coming close and he can go for weeks or months without ever coming into human contact with another person. As he mentioned that I was sitting across from him with a table in between and so I asked him if I could sit beside him, to just sit, not to do anything weird (I made sure he noted the difference) and he said it was alright by him. So I moved across the table and we sat in the sun for awhile and watched the birds and talked about his view on things. When our conversation was over I thanked him for giving me some of his time and he thanked me for listening and I made sure to hold his hand for a moment as I would do with anyone I feel close to or appreciate because I felt both sitting there with him.

And I walked back out of his reality and back into mine, one that has money in my wallet and a food in my fridge and a fridge itself and it seemed so fundamentally wrong in that moment to so easily be able to walk away and know that I'll be touched a dozen times more before I go to sleep for no good reason at all except because there are people in this world (my child most of all) who want to make sure I am still right here and how I never even consider that the luxury that it is.

Friday, August 03, 2007

i dub you

We had the great fortune of seeing Lee "Scratch" Perry this week. I am a new fan, J is one of the oldest. Lee is a righteous old dude, also reputed to be a crazy old dude, the man who created dub and sparked a generation of music including Air, Massive Attack and Zero 7 which are three of my favorite modern dub bands. The crowd was intimate, maybe a hundred people or so and everyone was mellow and raucous and smoking out in their seats. Lee came out rocking, singing songs about rainbows and ganja and pussy(cats) and his love for all three. Peace is an experiment and I love me some rainbows. Lee is the man.

The house was rocking. His legend preceded him and adoring crowds danced in the aisles. The dude is old yet wickedly spry, prancing his reggae self around resplendent in gold from his shiny hat to his shimmering shoes. I couldn't take my eyes off him.

I love nights like this when the air is warm and the crowd is happy. Good music and a few beers remind me of my youth when babysitters weren't on the clock and I could stay up as late as I want. Lee reminded me of all of that, freedom and free love, peace and children of the mountains.

I am a god man, I am a mad man, I am a rad man. Yes, old man, you certainly are.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

ch-ch-ch-changes

My child went to school today without a diaper for the first time in her life. In fact, I returned from BlogHer to a mostly toilet trained child and still haven't been quite able to wrap my arms around how that happened in just a few short days and without Her Mother Being Present but I'll gratefully acknowledge that it is indeed not all about me. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit I have a smallish ache for Another Baby For The First Time In My Life. Holy shit. Maybe I should put her diaper back on. Seems easier than having another kid. Kidding. I Am Not Going To Have Another Kid. Really. I think. Whatever. Dude.

It's time for our eighth Just Post Roundtable. After a brief hiatus Mad is back in the saddle and our Just Post co-hosting has resumed as usual. 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 August 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 at the Just Post buttons to your right. Everyone is welcome.