because this is what I do

It's what I've always done.  In times of great-freaking-out, I turn inward.  I tell you I am fine and I retreat. I stop writing, talking, commenting (have you noticed yes you have).  

Because I've done this to myself.  No one is making me move to the jungle.  But with less than three weeks at the only job I've really ever known, while packing up so much and taking so very little, trying to stay calm and present while ordering mosquito netting or cancelling subscriptions or unrolling canvas from frames or figuring out how to sell my car or you know, hey, any number of things.

I've never been good at asking for help. If you ask me I will say I am fine. Because I'm also terribly excited and life is really good.  Because we have no idea what we are doing and because we have a semi-decent plan.  Because I don't know what else to do so I do nothing because everything is done and there's so much left to do.  Because being quiet is easier. Because I want to drive off down a highway alone for hours on end. Because I am a chicken.  Because I am brave. Because I am both at a loss and full of myself.

So this is what I've always done.  Radio silence interspersed with hey everything is fine.  Liar, liar pants on fire but if no one is looking does it really count?  How will you know if I don't tell you.  Saying it aloud makes it so.  I am both amazon and little person.  I am purple.  I am circular. I am. Still here.

Because this is what I do.  

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strange rivers

It's amazing how much I've forgotten. As I sift through the piles of memories, letters tied with red ribbons just like in the movies, ancient mix tapes and photographs, ticket stubs and etchings. It's all there, a piece of every person I ever thought I loved was inside these dusty boxes.

Moving means boxes, but moving in the way we are moving means very few boxes at all.  So everything must go and what doesn't go is downsized, my parents have agreed to store three boxes in their garage in perpetuity so we decided to each take one and keep whatever memories we want and the other is for M.  

So my box is full of half finished journals and trinkets from around the world, silly pieces of paper that mean nothing to anyone but me. But it's also filled with the people who've helped to shape me, who'd claimed to love me, who I spent short or long periods of my life with. I've allowed myself to keep one correspondence from each person, something to mark the relationship and the point in time and the rest I will burn in a fire before we go. And in all but one case I've kept my promise. Maybe two. It's my box after all.  

But tripping down memory lane has brought both good and bad, the memories I'd installed inside my brain seemed incongruent with some of the letters, the acknowledgement that I'd not been as kind as I thought I was and the one or two bits I'd never really resolved and unforgotten now have left me pondering. The what happened to started creeping around my brain next to the man I'd forgotten about so I went as far as google, a voyeuristic way of seeing how people from 20 years ago have fared and in some cases I've smiled broadly at my discovery and others prove elusive even still.  

This served to remind me of how much life has come before, of how deeply things were expressed and how true we thought they were and in some cases only timing stood in the way. How we are always searching and ever hopeful that you will see me as I see you.

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it's coming on christmas

Each year I try to deny the effects of the holidays, holding tightly to my belief that we should be grateful and kind all year long and not just one week a year. And every year something happens that cracks that veneer wide open. I can't help it, for a while I can withstand all the toys and the carloads of clothes and the homemade cookies but as we get closer and even if it's only during the holidays, the extra energy folks put into helping others moves me every single year.

This year is no different, as we welcome many new faces through our doors they often come bearing gifts, ones they've made for people they do not know. This year it was the kids who finally got to me, the ones who came with little bags of toiletries, toothbrushes, soap and shampoo for all. The kids had written notes on each bag and I wanted to share two of them with you.

Dear Person, I hope you can get a job and get wealthy (rich!!). I felt bad when I saw someone that was homeless at the airport. I hope that you won't be. From, C. This kid is cool - focusing on long term goals (rich!!) and being empathic at the same time. Good job, kid.

This one was more to the point yet ever hopeful. This kid is a dreamer and we all need more of those in our lives: Dear Person, I hope this bag will solve all your problems. From, A.

Short and sweet but perfect. And for what it's worth, me too, kid. Me too.

And to all of you, the moms and the dads and the daughters and the sons, I hope you weave your own magic this week and I hope you know I am thankful for you all year long.

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and now for a message from your sponsor

I've got a story for you but no time to write it, so instead I'll attempt to spread some holiday cheer. I'm elfin like that.

One of the best things about holidays is when family comes into town. When family is in town, we leave our child with them and go to the movies. If you have a chance to steal away this week I wholeheartedly recommend Slumdog Millionaire. It's easily the best movie I've seen in a long time.

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It's getting close now.  In less than four weeks I'll be leaving the work I've loved for more than ten years and in a week after that we'll be saying goodbye to our little rented house, the one where we learned how to be parents and grew as a family.  Two weeks after that J will head out on the road, he and two others armed with a map, our earthly belongings and hopefully enough cash to bribe his way through.  Two weeks after that M and I will follow, she'll arrive wide-eyed and excited and I'll be a bit scared and we'll get there and we'll unpack and I'll freak out once or twice and then we'll wonder what comes next.

More often than not I am struck by the inability to really comprehend what all of this means, such massive changes piling themselves up on top of each other one by one.  

We've got a ways to go before then, we've still got way more possessions than will make the journey, our schemes to downsize are in motion but occasionally we stumble, I think we'll end up donating more than selling and fitting less that we think in the car.  But beyond the practical I find myself dwelling on the emotional, the last holiday, the last time we'll see so and so, the last time I'll walk through those doors.  I am excited and fearful, the unknowns outweigh the rest and all we've got is a rickety little template of hope powered by a gerbil and some string.

So we'll keep that gerbil happy, she's spinning and spinning and spinning, we need her to keep the juice flowing into the new year and if we are nice and never naughty perhaps her legs won't give.  

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We sat while they flickered, one candle for every death this year. We honor those we've lost every year in a ceremony with folks from all walks of life but mostly we do it because it gives those who lost a friend to the streets a place to mourn. We had more candles this year than last, more than the year before that. The table was full and they all flickered seperately almost as if each soul was right there telling us what they thought. More than 100 people came to pay their respects and in that moment like in so many moments all that mattered was this one thing.

But after it's over it's back to business, folks who came for the service climbed back in their cars but the ones who stay went back to their usual spots, wondering I am sure if one day they will have a candle too.

I remember the first year we did this, ten years ago now. I'd lost someone then, someone I'd loved who had nothing and no one to claim him and my inquiries fell on deaf ears because there was no one listening anyways There's no one to call. But that's okay because you are all my family now. But from his passing a tradition was born, one that honors in sadness so many each year but started because of him and because he mattered so much. So no matter what a part of me is with him on this day, I always picture him looking down on us and saying all that fuss because of me?

To which I say Yes Bob, all this fuss is because of you. And to everyone who has come since.

I still miss you, my friend.

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I'm walking in when I hear them.  Two guys going off, tossing f-bombs and I think, the N word.  They aren't fighting but I arch an eyebrow at them anyways when I walk by.  I've got a wicked eyebrow arch.  One of them sees me and immediately snaps to attention and apologizes profusely.  He makes me laugh because he seems so genuinely contrite, this gangster dude all hyped up ma'aming me with a grin that could charm the icicles off Alaska.

I tell him and I mean it I don't care what kind of smack you talk as long as you aren't saying it to me but i don't think he believes me because on my way out he apologizes again.  I touch his arm and I say with every bit of the 38 years of seriousness I can muster I wonder how your mother might feel if she heard you talking all this hype and I arch my eye again.  Now he's laughing too and he says probably not so good and we both go in different directions, like we probably have our whole lives but for that one moment we were exactly the same.

Edited to say: it was more about me wanting to prove that I didn't care how he talked than whatever he was talking about. There's a dance that happens, based on a hard edge and the limits of our surroundings. It's funny how we both were preoccupied with perception.

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you know we'll have a good time then

We are eating dinner when the song comes on.  Harry Chapin's voice always makes me pause.  The cats in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man in the moon and as she's taken to doing more and more M inevitably asks what's this song about?

So we begin to explain, we stumble around a bit but finally get to the point. It wasn't quite as hard as explaining Coming into Los Angeles by Arlo Guthrie, what are keys mama, who is Mister Customs Man and why doesn't he like him mama....but we still muck around, partly or mostly because I fear what she might say and she does. She says exactly that. 

But mama, you are gone at work a lot.  Sometimes you come home late. I don't like it so is that like in the song and in that space a million puppies died and chocolate milk ran out forever. J's silent, he's not helping out with this one, he thinks I work too much too and besides this song was practically written for him and his dad and he kills him every time it plays.  

I tell her I am sorry, that I know it's hard understanding why I have to go to work every day and how one of the main reasons we are moving is to change this cycle we are forced to be on in order to make ends meet. I think of how so many families work 2 and 3 jobs and how some folks don't want to spend time with their kids but others truly cannot because they are working so hard to survive. And then I think of the precipice we are on and if we can make it work and if we can sustain it and realize once again everything we know to be true is about to change.

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a sheriff a baby and some pants

I first saw them at the beginning of the week as they wheeled the stroller into the enormous room chilled to the bone. I hear him before I can see him but I'd recognize that sound anywhere. The sound of the newly born.

The parents are ragged and distrustful, but the journey to here no matter how many wrong turns doesn't mean anything to a newborn. We bring them in and start to get them settled when I see the hospital bracelet still on her wrist. How old is he, I ask. 4 days, she says. M is with me and she's antsy, we've been here awhile now and she's finished her various tasks. After a while I tell her it's time for us to go and the mom hears me. She looks up at the baby's father She's not staying. We are the only family staying here. Her eyes dart around the room and she sees what I see, a hundred or so folks from the street milling around and then there's her.

M immediately blurts out we can stay too mommy it'll be fun and in that moment I feel like the worst person ever, I would never want her to stay there all night and yet somehow I've rationalized that it's okay for others, a hypocritical line I've somehow learned how to cross.

Two nights later I return alone, the little family is there again and now the baby has spent half of his life in the streets. It's a complicated situation, one that requires more creativity than usual and so we assembled a team and after about three minutes assessing the situation one of them looks at me with what looks like tears in his eyes. I'm making it my personal goal to have them in a better place by Friday he says. And sometimes the stars align because he does exactly that, even beating his own deadline by a good 24 hours.

Across town I run into another little family, this time a mom and her daughter who's exactly the same age as M. The mom has 1 day left to stall the sheriff from locking her out of her apartment, the clock is ticking and she's desperate and it's not lost on me how young she looks herself. The little girl is sullen, I lean down and ask her if she's hungry and she nods her head. She's having a bad day, her mama says. We've been on the bus so long she had an accident and we don't have a change of clothes. Now I see it, she's not sullen but embarrassed and she will not stand up no matter what. Want me to try and find you some pants I ask and she nods.

While I'm off hunting down little kid pants the mom gets the help she needs and the eviction has been forestalled. She'll have her place for another month and if she follows a few other steps maybe she won't be in this place again next month. We even find some pants. It's moments like this that make the most sense.

Too much cold and too much work has left me sick just as I was supposed to get on a plane. Now I'm home instead of going away and I'm not happy about it but given the week itself it still feels like we've come out ahead and sometimes that's just the way things go.

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November Just Posts


It all started two years ago with a wedding. Six months later we all opened our hearts on our anniversary and six months after that we collectively birthed a baby and named her Volunteerism. In between we took the Just Posts global by adding hosts from other parts of the world. And always, always there was you, faithfully writing and reading and joining us month after month. Two years later (and on our second anniversary! Love you Mad!) we sit here still.

So it's with sadness and also joy that we are announcing our collective stepping down as hosts of the Just Posts.

I have sincerely loved hosting our Roundtable every month for the last two years but after much deliberation and conversation with Mad and Su we've decided that each of us, for different reasons are ready to step away. For me, our upcoming move to the jungle leaves me uncertain, connectivity might be elusive and the commitment I feel in making sure the Just Posts are collected is great. These two variables together spells potential disaster, and as such I'd rather do the prudent thing and find this community a new home.

So we've decided collectively that our last Just Post Roundtable will be in January which means we'll have one more month to do it up right. If one (or two or three) of you is interested in keeping the Just Posts alive we'll be happy to hand our little village off to new caretakers, so many of you have been with us since the beginning so if it calls to you please email me and we'll talk about how great it is and how much we'd like to see the Just Posts find a new home.

I am sorry if this comes as a surprise to some of you, we've just wrapped our heads around it ourselves. But there is a season to everything, and sometimes fresh energy is exactly what a project needs to continue to thrive.

I hope this bit of news won't detract too much from the reason we all gather, the voices this month as always are loud and vibrant, spanning American politics to African ones and everything in between. And I'll have a chance to say it later but let me also say now what an honor and a pleasure it has been to be a part of the Just Post Community for the last two years. I'm a bit teary even writing this, what we've done here means that much.

Alejna with Making history and The bittersweetness of pants
Billie with Public Defenders under siege in Miami..and everywhere
Bipolarlawyercook with The guiltiest day of the year
Bon with The morning after
Chani with Don't let them take what's yours and Waging peace: Proposition 8
Defiant Muse with My hope for you and Equality for all
Em with What about this crisis? and Triple bottom line (TBL)
Emily with photos of a rally and Flying the banner
Emily with Resisting the urge
Erika with Equality is equality
Flutter with Helicopters make him cry
Girlgriot with Tannin', Tommin' and getting merry like Christmas
Gwen with A Hard Truth. A Soft Landing
Holly with Part of the main and Yes we can improve the health of our communities
Janet with Everything is connected and Something else for you to do
Jen with Turn of a phrase, mail call and A day like any other
Josh with What would it take, my brother?
Kyla with Heavy
Letters from Usedom with My African children
Mad with 1,385
Maggie, dammit with What are you Contributing with all that hate? and Violence Unsilenced
Magpie with Repurposed: hat and blankets
Mary with The Veterans
Monkeys on the roof with Summer cold
Mother Woman with Let them eat change
Neil with Another argument for gay marriage
Ngorobob House with Food for thought, mostly
Reya with The yin and yang of it all
Tanis with It's true: You can't put a price on stupidity
Zoom at KnitNut with Harm reduction in the context of real life

Mayberry Mom

I hope you'll stop and see how Mad and Su are sharing the news and if you are so inspired to take over hosting the Just Posts, please, please get in touch. And in between we should think about what kind of party we can have next month for our last Roundtable, if we are going out I aim to do it in style.

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spirity spirit

We were coming home close to M's bedtime when we decided to drive around a bit looking at the lights.  She sits in the backseat screeching stop daddy stop loooooooook every few moments as we careen through the darkened streets.  

Look mama, they have spirit!  The best houses get the moniker of Spirity Spirit!  

I suggest we drive through some nicer neighborhoods, assuming the richer folks will do it up. For what it's worth that was not the case, those fancy houses were bottled up tight.  Perhaps they save their cheer for the inside rather than the outside, I think as we drive. Or perhaps they are more energy conscious, the environment getting in the way of spirity spirit. In the working class neighborhoods, the ones near our house some folks have gone crazy, rooftops covered with Santa Landing Pads and bouncing Frostys and reindeer on the lawn with few baby Jesus' thrown in for good measure.  Our neighborhood, while not necessarily close does seem to do it up for the holidays. Halloween was the same, folks going all out.  It's kind of run down but it's perfect.  This outward display of emotion generates one of my own.

Our house isn't one of those.  We fall into the grinchy energy conscious camp with our one straand of low wattage holiday lights.  I wonder if it matters to M.  I consciously let that guilty thought pass.

The best house is the one where the folks have created a new version of the traditional two deer on the lawn.  This guy has ever so creatively placed one deer mounting the other from behind.  I can't help but laugh.  Now that's some Spirity Spirit. We drive past and I decide his house is my favorite one.  

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about last night

I attended a somewhat fancy thing last night, something geared towards raising some money for those less fortunate as part of my work.  The place and people were lovely, but no matter what I feel at best like a stranger or at most like the woman who stands next to your table with her bucket of roses.  Roses, I say. Flowers?  And the nice people at the table, they size me up and nod.  A yellow one or two red ones, sometimes a brief shake of their head.  You can dress it up however you want but it is what it is.

One of the women there ordered very fancy champagne.  Being unmuzzled, I noted that I'd never actually had champagne of that caliber before and obligingly albeit with a brief look of shock, handed me a glass.  I held it in anticipation, the little bubbles and the crisp scent. I stood there amidst the din of drinks and laughter. I tasted it expecting fireworks, waiting for diamonds to sprout on my tongue.  

It tasted good but not as good as my 38 years of waiting might have suggested.  I wonder if I am lacking refinement.  I wonder if anyone really thinks about the Rose Girl, how she got there or how she's getting home. 

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my girl is alright

Our seasonal program started this week same as every year. But it's my last time around the merry go round and as such I've promised myself to spend as much time there as possible soaking it in. It's my favorite week of the year, knowing we have a several hundred more spaces for people to come in from the cold and fill their bellies. For once, there is enough room at the inn.

M's been excited for weeks, she hears me talk about it and remembers her time there last year so in honor of it all I came home to collect her and we went back off into the night together to the big noisy shell of a room that we fill up with people all winter long. The first week is always a reunion of sorts, volunteers coming in with old towels and rain gear and other things they've collected and held onto till we are open for business. Then folks we haven't seen since last year file in like it was yesterday, some more ragged and some look the same and no matter what I'm smiling because it's not much but it's something and that matters a lot.

We got there when folks were still setting up and she immediately jumped in helping line up the sleeping mats. When she was done with that she moved on to making bedrolls with one of the staff, a process that with her intervention required extra patience and god bless him, he had plenty.

When she was done with that she sorted shampoo from soap and then helped the cook dish up late plates for people who aren't able to arrive till after dinner is over. Each person she worked with whether client or volunteer was so kind to her, they taught her the ropes and still made time to tease and play.

All along I'm watching her, regardless of my own comfort level I'm conscious of our surroundings and how things can turn on a dime but I also have faith in the goodness of people. Besides her being there is good for them too, not many kids come through here and for many of these folks human contact in general is in short supply. She's mixing with people of every color and age with one common denominator - each of these folks will call this makeshift project their home for awhile. And it's not lost on me that she's entirely happy here with people that most of us would struggle to look in the eye.

After a few hours she's done and it's time to go. We start saying goodbye and one of the guys asks us to wait. He guides her over to the middle of the enormous room and at the top of his lungs asks folks to listen.

Hey everybody listen up, this little girl here spent the last few hours taking care of us. She rolled blankets and sorted mats and helped with dinner and she's learning about giving back and we can all take a lesson from her so let's give it up for M and the room breaks out into applause.

She stands there looking at me with a shy smile on her face as the cheering dies down and a few folks come up and shake her hand or bump her little fist with theirs. I watch from the sidelines and I can't help but think this is one of the best moments of my life so far and she doesn't even know how amazing she is. I feel tears prick my eyes and she runs over and leaps in my arms and we walk out into the dark.

As we are driving home I tell her how proud I am of her. But I can't put into words exactly why because I realize in this moment she wouldn't understand anyways and if I make it a big deal then I'm the one calling it out. Because to her these folks are just like anyone else and she's just doing what comes naturally by lending a hand.

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whose woods these are

We drove through the cold and foggy night, winding down an unfamiliar highway through sporadic towns we do not know. The child was in the backseat happily ensconced in the magic that is the portable DVD player (judge me if you will but I couldn't care less, that thing is the moniest money of all) and we sat in front with the heater on low telling stories. You might think we'd be all storied out by now and to a large degree we are, as any couple who's been around for years we've already heard the good ones at least once if not four or five times. Tonight was different, we were telling ghost stories.

It's getting good and creepy when we come around the bend and the fog is thick. We see something off to the side up ahead and startled I say slow down and J hits the brakes. It's a person we realize but aren't saying out loud. A person standing so still he looks like a tree.

I'm scared now, my heart is racing and I lean behind me to push M's door lock down. She glances up from her video induced coma and lights flickering in her eyes she smiles and her eyes dart back to the screen.

Do I stop J says and we are just upon him now and I swear, I swear I see a knife. This man creature lifts his arm and it glints in the moon. I grab the phone and no service blinks back at me and I say what the hell is that we can't we need to keep going don't stop but J slows down even more as I am yelling at him to go. It's surreal in this moment, a premise for a bad slasher flick unfolds before us and I am just the girl in the car waiting for the guy not to be a cowboy.

The man is outside our window now, his face looks calm and eery, he stares right at me and lifts his hand and I start to scream. He grabs for the door handle and as he opens his mouth I see his teeth, they are filed to tiny points and am screaming go go go.

Ok none of that really happened. It's like April Fools around here. That's all.

PS. I told you we were telling ghost stories, one you might have heard had you been there in the car as long as we promised we'd be able to hermetically seal your child's ears with dvd earplugs before freaking each other out.

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northern exposure

We spent Thursday in the City with friends and then planning a bit of a getaway we drove off into the night. We were on our way to visit her and her brood, finally accepting an invitation that was long overdue. We arrived up north the next day and were captivated all weekend long by the smells and sights of the woods and the coast. We ate a delicious beyond description meal cooked with love and hard work and child dodging by Mr. Egg, went hiking through redwoods and creeks and ferns and sand, tended to exuberant children and in between snatched moments of adult conversation.

Our daughters were the stars of the show, racing around their lovely wooded home squealing and laughing and tumbling and shrieking while adults juggled wine glasses and beer bottles and tried to stay out of their way. We talked the spectrum, from childbirth to politics to travel, travel, travel, a mutual lust for us all and by the time we drove off headed back south we felt full and happy, M sobbed a good fifteen minutes for Monkey obviously knowing she was leaving too soon. It wad lovely to be welcomed so entirely and the ease of conversation and just being together was special indeed.

It's almost time for the Just Posts again, our Roundtable is on the 10th and all are welcome to participate. All you have to do is send me a social justice/social awareness post you wrote in November (or someone else's you appreciated) to me at girlplustwo(at)yahoodotcom by the 7th. If this is new to you click on one of the purple and white buttons on the sidebar to your right. Join us.

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a day like any other

The coffee place is crowded and there's no place to sit.  I'm meeting her in about 15 minutes and I'm a bit nervous anyways.  I always get nervous when I meet with people to talk about supporting our work and this time is no different, it always feels a little awkward, they know why I'm there and sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's hard.  Poverty politics.  So I'm casing the joint looking for a table or at least a chair that I can steal so I don't have to look like a total dork in 12 minutes or so.

I see him sitting at a table, he's reading the paper alone.  He's got some stuff on the second chair and I figure if nothing else I can probably borrow that.  So I wait till he looks up and I ask him if I could grab the chair he isn't really using.

He nods and tells me not only can I have the chair but I can have the whole table because he's getting ready to go.

I thank him and sit down, we are sharing the table now and as I peruse my new surroundings I start to get the sense that maybe he's from the streets, he's got too many bags and his clothes seem a bit worn.  He's got an old thermos and he takes it to the counter and I watch them refill it for him and I wonder if that's something he relies on or if it's just how this place rolls.

He comes back and we talk a bit, I wish him Happy Thanksgiving and he looks at me and smiles. I don't celebrate that he says, it's just a day like any other but thank you anyways.  I've got to go to the bus station now so you enjoy the table.

It's raining and he doesn't have an umbrella. If I had one I'd give it to him but instead I sit silently, still not certain so not wanting to offend.  The words are on the tip of my tongue now, so where do you live or hey I know a place cooking up a turkey or simply, do you need a place to go tonight but my uncertainty quiets me and instead I simply watch him go.

The person I am meeting walks in as he's walking out, I see her and her umbrella, her warm coat and fancy purse.  He holds the door open for her and I watch him disappear into the city.  I am berating myself because I sat silent through what might have been an opportunity and as yet as necessity dictates I turn my attention to the reason I am sitting here in the first place while he lingers in my mind. I realize I should have risked offending him by inquiring, if he has a place to go then so what if some girl at a coffee shop offends him, right?

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

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mail call

M: Why did they send us that picture of that little boy?  

Me: Well baby, they sent it to us because they want us to give them some money.  The people who wrote that letter run the orphanage where that little boy lives.  

M: Why do they need our money?  

Me: Because it's expensive to do good things for other people but without them that little boy wouldn't have a home.

M: Do we give them money?

Me: We do.  Not as much as I wish we could, but we do. 

M: But not MY money.  

Me: No honey.  Yours is in your piggy bank.  But you can give them some of your money if you want to.

M: But it's MY money.

Me: I know baby.  But the reason we have money is to take care of ourselves and to help others. It's up to you, but I bet if you give some of your money you'll find that you end up with more money later.  That's how life works.  You never know what's around the corner but you can't let that keep you from doing the right thing now.

M: I want to give them some of my money.  She proceeds to open her bank and pour it out.  She walks over and hands me some coins.  Let's send them this.  

Me: Well honey, that's .36.  That's a good start, but if we are going to send them some money it should be enough to buy something they can use.  Your piggy bank has a lot more money in there than that, so why don't you think about it a little more.  In Africa food costs about $1 a day. Maybe we can give them at least a dollar and whatever you decide to give them I will give them too.

She goes off and comes back with a bucketful of coins.  

M: How much is this?  We sit and count.  

Me: That comes to $5.34.  

M: Will that buy them food? I nod. Ok, let's send this.  She hands me the bucket of change. Well, it's kind of hard to give away my money.

Me: I know, honey.  But if we have less other people can have a little more.  This is how you help others and let them know we are all in this together.  We all do what we can.

M: But what about that little boy? I read her the story, people we know run this orphanage so we know it's on the level.  His mommy and daddy died and he's living in a home now with other people who love him.  

M: But not his mommy and daddy?  

Me: No baby.  She sits on the ground and looks forlorn.

M: But that's really sad.  

Me: I know, love.  This is why it's so good you want to help.

M: Maybe when he gets my money he'll know I love him too.

I hope so, baby.  I hope so.  

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I see him on my way in and his smile turns wide. Hey Colgate Smile, he says with a grin. (He always calls me that and I rather like it mostly because it's not possibly true) We talk for a moment and I ask him how he is. I'm so blessed. I'm so blessed! I'm alive and I'm here and I couldn't be better! And he gives me a hug. I like him. I've seen him regularly for awhile now and every time it's the same. Well, I say, I can think of one thing that might be better, and that's you getting your own place and out of here and he looks at me and smiles. But I have this and for this I am blessed. Now you take care, Colgate Smile.

I watch him leave, his duffel on one shoulder and a bus pass in his hand and his hair a bit wet from the shower. His shirt is a little stained but it's clean and his pant legs aren't quite long enough, it's hard to find the right size when searching other people's castoffs. He's headed off in the hopes of finding day labor but he'll be back. He'll be back because this is where he lives.

Some people are indefatigable. They shine so bright I can't quite decide if I need to stand up straighter or bow really low. I can't tell if it's shame at my own whining or disbelief that they are not. They fill the dark spaces with confetti and their eyes set off fireworks. They are golden, they are stardust. They believe.

And we mortals can only hope to stand near the glow of such audacious hope.

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down the rabbit hole

So much of what I do now has the preface of the last time we do....whether it's the holiday meal we shared last night with friends to getting my hair colored by the woman I've been going to for the last decade.  Silly stuff and not so silly, all of it has an import I can't really understand and yet am desperate to recognize.  

Simply, the countdown is on.

I am leaving my work mid-January (for sure this time, date set and time certain) and we've given notice on our little house.  Our belongings are slowly disappearing and yet every so often we look at each other thinking what the hell are we going to do with all of this stuff and shake our heads in wonder.  

I'm watching M, she's starting to absorb some of this on her own, the latest is her loud declaration that she better never get bit by a mosquito.  I look at her and hold her, baby, we are going to get bit.  I'm sorry, but we will.  And it will be OK.

Our plans continue to emerge, we have a number of friends and family who are eager to make the drive to the jungle with J, they see it as an adventure and I see it as a necessary appendage of strength in numbers while navigating two border crossings and the entire length of Mexico. It's an adventure I'd rather be a part of yet recognize the impossibility of subjecting M to such an expedition so we girls will stay in the states and fly down once he's there (and has presumably figured out how to ensure we have hot water), a long shot but one I'll be ever hopeful for till the reality of the ice cold water hits my face.

As I peer into the void the path is long and dark.  I see questions everywhere and answers are cloudy yet we are primed to leap.  At dinner last night a new friend, one who immigrated from third worldedness himself learned of our story and looked at us in dismay, our journey a backtracking of his years of work to make the USA his home.  But why, he asked and as we told him ever aware of the naivete of our words and he slowly nodded his head.  Formally he replied Well then, I wish you luck.

I'll take it, I think and we'll need it.  The adventure continues to trump the unknowns even as I cling to what I know, prying it gently from my fingers on my way down.

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Saying I'm slowly becoming totally freaked out is probably an understatement. I've never done anything so untraditional before, this move that makes most people go wide eyed is almost here. We are jumping off into something and as with any major change I've ever experienced in my life I'm settling into panic. How the hell will we do this?

There are so many things to do and most of them are unknown. I remind myself to breathe, that I am choosing this, but the 2am jitters have settled in.

I'm not writing much because I don't know what to say. Leaving my job, moving, resettling in a foreign place, all while the world seems to be crashing down around us and everyone else is hunkering down. We are either wildly courageous or ridiculously naive. Or both.

I think I need a hug.

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do or die

Can I be with you until we both die?

She asks me this sometimes and I never know quite what to say. Do I tell the barren truth, I'm sorry baby but no, because (god willing please all divine beings in the universe let me die long before you for the love of all things holy let this be true) I will die before you one day.

Or do I deflect, yes baby, well, we don't have to worry about that yet but one day we'll both grow older and you'll understand a bit more about how we grow and die.

Or do I say the thing I really want to (and if I mean it enough can I will it so?) Yes, child. Yes. We shall live together forever and always walk towards the sun. The grass will feel sweet under our feet and we will drink from the coolest springs. We will dance in meadows filled with flowers and will sleep on beds of ferns and we will never stop holding hands never not ever not even once.

The truth hurts, sometimes far before it's due.

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the turn of a phrase

It's that time of year again and the last carousel ride for me. The winter season always makes me a bit hopeful, the programs we aren't able to run in warmer months open in full force in a few weeks. Knowing almost twice as many people will be safe and warm soon fills me with an excitement I can't quite explain except to say it's doing what we do best and we get to do it in full force. In preparation for the season we are holding a number of orientations, ones geared towards outlining expectations and explaining new services and sometimes even philosophies and I had the pleasure of facilitating a session tonight.

I'm waiting for everyone to file in when I see him, a man who slept at our program last year because he had no place else to go. Tonight he walked into the staff meeting and sat down right in front. I see him and I can't help it, I'm grinning wildly as I understand what this means and yet conscious of things I stay where I am. He catches my eye and smiles and nods and the session begins. It's a lively group, one that ends with us making a collective commitment to each other and the cause to do all we can this season to help every person who walks through our doors. The excitement and perhaps a bit of apprehension fills the room and its tinged with my knowing that this is the last time I'll get to do this and I won't even be here to see the season end.

Folks are filing out when he comes up to me and he leans down and gives me a hug. I squeeze his arm and I tell him I am so happy to see him and he confesses he's a little scared being on this side of things. I talk a bit about the power in that, how he knows things some of us will never know and how much better that will make him at this and how much more others will place their trust in him, this man who has risen from their streets. I see it click then, his eyes light up you think so he says I know so and we walk through the great room stepping over sleeping bodies and walk into the night. I guess I'll head home he says and he turns and walks away and I stand for a minute watching him go because those five words have never sounded quite so sweet.

As I get in my car I glance back at the glowing light, I see bodies waiting in line and the folks at the desk. The smokers are filing out and someone's pushing someone else's chair. I see it all in this moment and I realize again what I've always known, this place and this work is the marrow of my blood and yet I am leaving and I wonder once again if anything can ever really take its place.

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It's getting close now, this move to the jungle. It feels like we took a hiatus from all of it since J came back and then the floods hit. But now, my head is filled with all we need to figure out.

1. International cell phone plans. Which is the cheapest, preferably something that doesn't bind me to a contract. One I can use either in the US or in Central America, but mainly for calls between countries rather than the local ones.
2. Earth friendly cleaning supplies. We'd like to make our own or at least not harm the planet in the process. However, supplies where we are going will be limited.
3. Canning. Who knows about canning. Can you can anything you want? Must google. Or ask her. Or her.
4. Medical things I need to take care of before I go. Is there a MD in the house?
5. Shit. Not literally. Remember, all we apparently need is a bucket.
6. Sorry, it's a bit stressful.
7. Spices. Must make sure we are covered. Beans and rice will get boring quick. Must figure out recipes that can be spiced up a little. Rustic low budget yet deliciously spiced meals. I am guessing she can help me with this one.
8. Non-pasteurized milk and cheese. Is it really such a big deal?
9. Solar powered charger(s). Ideally we'd like to use the sun as much as possible but we'd also want it to power our laptop. That requires more juice. Or more expensive juice.
10. French press coffee makers or whatever they are called when you don't have to plug it in. Which one is best? Same for a hand grinder.
11. This post is really boring.
12. Advice welcome.

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her first official thank you letter

And my proudest moment so far. I know what you are thinking. There has never been anything more perfect, right?

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October Just Posts

Nothing and everything has changed. All week we see people on the streets and there is a shared camaraderie, brazen smiles between strangers. We did it. The local taqueria, the one that usually has signs up for their specials was lit up in lights God Blessed America. Yes We Can! My father called in tears, saying that he hasn't been this happy since Nelson Mandela was elected President. My friends from France and England and Africa and Belize are over the moon. A newspaper reprinted a text message sent from a son to a mother:

Rosa Parks sat so Martin could walk,
Martin walked so Obama could run,
Obama ran so my children could fly

One of my closest friends is a teacher in Syria. You may have noticed the US launched airstrikes into their country recently and to pay us back Syria ordered American institutions closed and folks deported. My friend and her family were given 24 hours to leave their home and the country and they have no idea when they will be able to return. The day the school closed the children penned letters to Obama. She said they told her that now that he's in charge he can finally do the right thing. So they wrote him letters one day after he was elected while their school was being evacuated and asked for his help. My friend, she knows that the sentiments were right but their hopes probably too grand.

Skeptics say we need to guard against false hope, that no one man can fix everything. The rational part of me knows this but the idealistic part of me says it doesn't matter. We did this and we can do anything. We can do anything and we have to do everything. Yes we can.

The October Just Posts
Alejna with Blog Action Day
Billie with Registering the homeless to vote and Bolivia to USA: "Return Goni to justice"
Cecileaux with Thinking toward a new economy and Joe the plumber economics
Citymama with Letter to Wallie and Bunny before Election Day
Cyn at MOMocrats with National Happy Coming Out Day and No on California's Prop 8
Defiant Muse with Reprieve
Emily with How I know that I live in the South
Getting it wrong with Hippie girl days
Girlgriot with This and that one
Her Bad Mother with Angelina And Me, Our Bodies, Our Selves, Our CHILDREN'S Selves, and Sings The Tune Without The Words
Holly with Blog Action Day (After)
Jaelithe at MOMocrats with Blog Action Day: Education is the key to escaping poverty
Janelle with Wealth...
Jen with the flood pt. 4 - everything is still really bad and I am a real American
Jess with Redemption Song
Josh with Rescue package
Julie with River raft beds and other reflections
Kimberly with The ugly side of politics and people
Kyla with Joe the Plumber
Laloca with The intersection of poverty, psychiatry and the law
Lara with Gone a year and Were you bold? Did you wear red today?
LesbianDad with Oh the posts, they are coming fast and furious these days
Leslie with A perfect world and Proposition eight, proposition hate
Lia with Enriching Our Lives
Lisa Lam on CraftBoom! with Blog Action Day - Poverty. It’s helping, that’s what counts….
Maggie, dammit with Awareness, What are you contributing with all that hate and Please Help
Magpie with Healthy Eating
Mary with what women want
Mary Murtz with Reclamation
Maryam with Ethnic cleansing: Rwanda style, Rwanda and the 12 wishes and Rwanda and a colored place
Mir Kamin on BlogHer with National Mammography Day is October 17th
PunditMom with Taking our daughters to the polls
Rebecca with Trying to find the words, Donate to your local food pantry, Local food economies need local processing to thrive and Tax the rich: a rant about socialism
Social Justice Soapbox with International Day for the eradication of poverty and An apple for the teacher
Susan Wagner on BlogHer with DonorsChoose Challenge - Well, color me happy!
Suzanne Reisman on BlogHer with October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2008: The Best of the Worst Marketing
Tiny Mantras with The early voting experience
Whiskey in my sippy cup with Just say no
Wrekehavoc with Kill the poor

Just Post Readers

Don't forget to stop by Mad and Su's before you go and see what they are talking about at the other ends of the Just Post Roundtable. And thank you all for your writing this month, each of these posts are truly inspiring and it's because of you that this Roundtable exists. So if this is new to you and you want to join us please know you are welcome. All you have to do is write. Yes you can.
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the politics of hope

I got an email earlier from President-elect Barack Obama. He thanked me for my support and has promised to keep in touch about what's coming next. Of course, 5M other people probably got the same message but I never got an email from a President before. It feels like I'll still get to be part of something and ridiculous or not, it matters. It matters because it defines everything we've worked for in the past year and more. WE were a part of something happening here.

I can't stop crying today, seeing the clips from around the world, hearing others talk about what this means to them, seeing it in writing for the first time "President-Elect Obama". This election process, an event that came after 8 long years of deceit and war, of crumbling economics and ridiculous behavior that has left our country broken did not come without a price. The divisiveness of the politics, the ever-widening divide, the fear and hatred and everything else left many of us weary and fearful. We Americans are tired. We are tired and we are skeptical and we are most of all hungry. We don't want to live like this and we don't want our leaders making these mistakes anymore.

So in the wake of the most momentous and important occasion in my life I am humbled. Humbled that we made it, grateful that we did the right thing. I know President-Elect Obama is not our savior, that he cannot be expected to fix all our problems but I do believe he is the best chance we've got. As I sat in a room crowded with friends last night, friends from all over the map in terms of ethnicity and religious beliefs and yes, even a republican or two in the group a party that had been loud and irreverant for hours became quiet as church when he walked onto that stage. We sat huddled together, old and young, kids and dogs and everything in between and with tears rolling down our collective faces we saw history and as I looked around the room I reflected on the importance of this for each of these wonderful and earnest people in the room. At one point the tiniest child started talking loudly and her parents moved quickly to silence her and a voice from the back of the room said it's alright man, we did this for her after all.

We did this for all of us. And that is what will transcend the bitterness and the divide. And I trust that after time goes on that those of us who are wounded will slowly come to see it too and when they do we'll be right there waiting for them. Because the time has come and because there is nothing left to do. Because we can.

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yes we did

Yes. We Did.

And there was much rejoicing in the nation. More to come, but tonight it simply comes down to this. Yes we did. Good Lord Almighty, yes, we did.

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finders and keepers

I happen to be out front when folks are checking in. I hear staff talking and I hear them say we are full. There's still a line and it's already starting to rain. I weigh the bureaucracy and the rules against the humanity and tell one of the guys to let everybody in. He looks at me and his eyes light up for a second. He nods once and turns back. Good news everybody, we've just found some extra room. It'll be tight but we'll make it work. The line shuffles forward, a few folks clap. Everybody's coming inside.

He's wearing fatigues. His hair is shaved close to his head so close I can see his scalp. He smiles and opens the door as I walk past. Ma'am he says and smiles. I stop for a minute because it's not that often I get ma'amed. I haven't seen you here before and he says he just got back from 10 months in Iraq. 10 months and he's sleeping with us tonight. Thank you for your service to our country. I'm just sorry this is the best we can do to show you our appreciation. He smiles for a minute and tells me it's better here than where he's been and sadly enough I believe him and I wonder once again what the hell is going on.

He's sitting in the lobby with his kid on his lap, the little boy looks about the same age as M. He's leaning against his daddy and his face is dirty. I smile at them and lean down. Are you hungry buddy? He nods and turns his face into his father's neck. We've got some crackers and I hand them over. His dad looks at me and he looks tired. I don't know their situation but it can't be good.

It's finally time to go and as I'm leaving he's walking in. He's got his caseworker with him and he's agitated. Every time I see this guy he's agitated, sometimes wildly so. His mental state is off the charts, his hair is wild and his eyes are too. You better get me my money bitch he says to me as he walks past. I glance over at his worker who looks at me and shrugs. He used to be a pimp and the irony of it all makes me smile. God knows what kind of life this dude lived once but he's sure as hell paying for it now.

We are our brothers keepers. We are our sisters keepers. This hope and change business better happen soon because for folks on the street the gap is as wide as ever and words don't fill their bellies and keep everyone warm.

Let's do this thing and after we are done making history, let's get to work putting it into action. There is so much to do and we've lost eight years now screwing around.

See you at the polls, friends.

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one more day

I can't believe it's finally here. Tomorrow we will finally do the right thing. It won't be easy, but I've never been more sure of anything in my life. Tomorrow we will elect Barack Obama as the next President of these United States.

The 2004 election was devastating. We liked Kerry but his campaign was dogged and he was drawn and quartered any number of times. We had a party then too, but we sat grimfaced all night and later and drunker still, we watched it all go to hell and it's been going to hell ever since.

This time is different. There is something happening here. It's never felt like this, this feeling of opportunity, of change, and yes, of hope. Tomorrow I will hold my child in my arms as she watches her first election and sees a man of color become the President. She will see his daughters on the stage and she will see the cheering and she will watch her parents and their friends crying tears of joy and redemption while we toast each other loudly and hold each other tight. She will not know the reason for all of the tears tomorrow but one day she will and because of tomorrow she also will not. She will grow up seeing our world differently because of so many who have come before her and the simple knowledge of that truth brings me to my knees.

We watched Slacker Uprising last night (and so can you, it's free and streaming online) and it brought so much back, the rage, the hubris of the Bush Administration, the despicable war. The anger of 2004 and the subsequent depression of our society has finally given way to hope and I believe just as they did in 2004 that the youngest among us (voters) will lead the way in record numbers.

For those of you not in the States, I know how agonizing all of our carrying on must be. I know we are full of ourselves, we talk of nothing else. Bear with us a little longer and thank you for bearing with us still.

PS. Thank you for your slogan help. We spent hours making labels and Painted Maypole's one about drunken lipstick made it on our bottle of Mavericky Red. All of them had us laughing and made me wish you were coming over too.

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three days to go and i need your help

We are three days away from the election, after two years of grueling coverage and divisive politics the day is finally here. We've voted already and helped nearly 100 others register to vote too and on Tuesday we'll bus them to the polls. MOMocrats kicked ass all year and getting to be even a small part of those dynamic women saved me from the brink time and time again. We've done all we can and now everyone simply needs to vote.

At home we are preparing for a party, we've invited everyone we know to come over to our grubby little house and spend the night watching the returns, drinking wine and betting on the exact time the other guy will concede and who will take Pennsylvania. We plan to stay up as long as it takes and have offered floor space to whoever wants it. We are working on party favors and are in the midst of making wine labels to mark the occasion. So far we've come up with these as slogans for the bottles:

It's about fucking time
Pairs nicely with dead moose
Mavericky with a hint of oak
Wine we can believe in
This wine fights terror
Socialism means more wine for everybody

Clearly, I can use your help. If you have a great 3-5 word phrase fitting for an election party wine bottle leave it in the comments. If we go with yours I'll even send you a bottle. The wine is cheap but the sentiments are rich.

It's Just Post submission time again. If this is new to you every month on the 10th we host a Roundtable featuring writings about social justice or social issues on three blogs in three different countries. You can see last month's roundtable here or click on the purple and white buttons to your right. All you have to do is email me posts you've written or read from others to me at girlplustwo(at)yahooDOTcom by the 7th. All are welcome. It's easy and it feels great. Join us.

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the ongoing evolution of our southern migration

Plans as plans go are often made for modification. When I first shared about our upcoming adventure we thought we'd be gone by now, heading south to the jungle through the friendly skies. Since I wrote that last post there have been 3 major developments.

1. We weren't able to leave when we thought we would. We are now leaving in late January. At least it's a real date this time, an honest to god this is when we are leaving date. It's equal parts terror and exhilaration.

2. We've had to rethink how we'll get there. When J was down earlier this month it became abundantly clear that buying a car there was going to be much more expensive and quite a bit riskier than doing it in the states so we decided to buy a car here and drive down. Believe it or not it's only a 5-6 day trip. Two borders and the possible shenanigans of customs officials not withstanding.

We aren't yet sure who will do the actual driving, whether J and I will drive or if J will go with a friend and M and I will fly down after he gets there. Something about three countries and a four year old makes that particular part of the equation unappealing, but it's contradicted by the notion of wandering down the entire length of Mexico by car, a journey I've long fantasized about making.

3. The recent flooding. Our delay actually turned out to be a saving grace, the house we rented was flooded and the family who rented it to us is in even worse shape so they need to use the rental for a while until they can repair the damage at their place. If anything, we'd have been in the way over the past few weeks. Everyone seems to think that by January things will be better but it's still hard to say. Sometimes this causes me great anxiety, it seemed adventurous enough without compiling it with a natural disaster but at the same time we've come too far to turn around now. Life is what you make it after all.

But it's settling in now, our belongings continue to shrink and we continue to loosen the ties that bind. It feels truly as if we are teetering on a precipice, we have no real idea what we are getting ourselves into and no real clue as to how we'll make it work over the long term. This tends to cause me anxiety while I strive to balance it with the desire to try.

About four years ago I was talking about this very dream to my yoga teacher, a goddess of a spiritual guru, and she said something that's always stuck with me It's one door at a time, child. You only get to walk through one door at a time. So as I reflect on the past four years of doors and how they've opened I can't help but think this gets to the heart of it, the not knowing is the journey and also my awakening, my refusal to cross the threshold is both my choice and my limitation, and fear is the only obstacle because nothing, not even vast amounts of unexpected water have caused one to slam in our face so far.

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