Thursday, January 31, 2008

war and teeth

M's been sick for a couple of days. After establishing who is more important at their work we decide J will stay home one day, me the next. My day was yesterday and M to her credit is feeling much better. She had the flu shot this season and it seems like every time she gets sick it rapid cycles in 24-36 hours and goes away. I don't know if the two are related but what the hell.

So I am home, a bit grumbly because she's not that sick and yet not all the way well and in that middle of the road whinefest. We watch too much TV and I sink into further self loathing, terrible mothering shit and the like. And besides this we found a princess dress the other day and now she wears it constantly and it's a struggle to get her to wear anything else. We've gone most places in the last week with her as a princess and even though I am the farthest thing from it it's kind of cute. But you know, there's a limit. Like sleeping and bathing. Or bathing at least.

So anyways, it happens I have a dentist appointment and these people at the dentist office, man do they hate me. They hate me because I hate going to the dentist, because I routinely reschedule, because I regress into infantile behavior and because I am a bad flosser. So I called today to see if I could wrangle out of it but the receptionist always takes a disapproving tone with me and I thought fine, you asked for it dental lady. So me and the semi-sick princess go to the dentist.

So there's no place for M to sit except on my lap. I'm tilted way back ass over teakettle with a princess sitting square on my bladder. It's dangerous because she never sits still and there's this chick with a metal pointy thing in my mouth. But since they hate me already I decide to let it ride and hope for the best. We finish intact (they may hate me but are good at what they do) and then the dental receptionist ice queen lady gets all gooey, goofing over M. But I have a reputation with these people so I don't cave in, it's all business. There will be no winning me over now, I rather like our years of almost hostility and parentification.

So feeling weary we head home, M cries the whole way because she's had a change of heart suddenly, she now wishes she had a snow white dress instead of her princess one even though she chose the damn dress herself without any interference from me. I want to put my head down on the steering wheel and cry, but then I notice my little dentist bag with 2 new flosses sitting beside me and for some reason that gives me strength, the not flossing in the face of new floss is at least something I can control.

It's all trivial and even amusing but somehow it's exhausted me, so much so that there's not even a proper end to my ridiculous little story.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

daydream believer

Jo shared this with me yesterday and it was too good not to share with all of you. A girl can dream. (thanks, Jo!)

Al Gore's State of the Union

John Edwards leaving the race

I woke up to the news that John Edwards is projected to drop out of the race today. While I can't say I'm shocked, I am definitely sad. Edwards kept his playing field focused on the issues and focused on the human beings who need his message most. He was the one candidate who specifically addressed poverty and his passion for alleviating poverty touched a nerve deep within me. Spending a decade working with the homeless and in shelters has allowed me to straddle the fence of the darker side of America, the one where many do not have enough to eat or a roof over their head. People, amazing, beautiful people who are forced to allow illnesses to go untended and can't feed their children. People who by virtue of poverty alone are systematically stripped of their basic human rights until they've lost everything, hope included.

And for a brief while we had our leader, a man who I was entirely convinced would address this worst kind of human suffering from one of the most important offices in the world.

John, thank you for bringing poverty and suffering center stage. I can't wait to see what you decide to do next.

This post is cross posted at MOMocrats.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

oh george, how i loathe thee

We watched the State of the Union for the party tricks. I admit I came to the party half drunk on bitterness and years of resentment the way a scorned lover might if I'd ever let you get that close. I do give you some props though, when you hijacked the election back in 2000 you couldn't get through a speech without tripping over yourself. There must have been a lot of public speaking lessons over the past years. I wonder who paid for them? But I digress.

I wanted to vomit when you told the citizens of this nation what we needed and what we deserve and how much you care. I wonder if the 43 million without health insurance or the 36 million living in poverty felt your warm embrace, were touched by your words.

You spoke of terror, of eradicating evil. You talked of your hate for evil men and our need to eliminate them. Your words of violence, of retribution, of war. This war mongering must stop.

The Democrats sat on their side, rarely smiling, clapping or standing. I was right there with them except for my clean conscience. I didn't co-sign any of your bullshit over the past seven years. That's their cross to bear. But we've all learned a lot, we can only move forward.

In between cursing at the TV and laughing out loud we daydreamed a bit. Dreamed of the SOTU address if this was the seventh year of Gore, about how we'd have lowered emissions and gone green. About how we were joining the world in saving our planet. But we didn't get to hear those words tonight. The environment was a wallflower, she's used to it by now.

You used the word empower over and over. Empower the American people, empower parents to get involved with their childrens education, empower workers to find new jobs. But we are less empowered than we've been and no speech will change that. We are in a recession, years of reckless spending and disregard for those who are suffering. And no tax rebate will salve us. It's an insult, that tax rebate, thinking we are such blind lambs to the slaughter that we'll take your rebate check and go buy a TV. I hope folks will bank that rebate or pay off debt. Invest it in retirement, that paltry sort of hush money that will never make up for the past seven years of hell, this blood money I want no part of and will donate to charity if it ever arrives.

You think I'm angry and you are right but it's my blog and I can write what I want, or at least until you revise the Patriot Act one last time. I am sick and tired of hearing your rhetoric, your misleading initiatives, your smug delivery. I am sick and tired of war. I am sick and tired of not caring for those in our communities, of watching good people suffer. But it's almost over now, the finish line is ahead.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Monday, January 28, 2008

den of iniquity

i was raised force fed on evangelism and by the time i was sixteen i was done. i've seen the extremes: folks casting out demons, writhing on the floor, sermons that went on for days and folks raising the roof. i've had my fill of good old fashioned bible thumping and i know all the hymns by heart. it wasn't a good thing for me, growing up terrified of evil and way more wrongs than rights. i've committed mayhem in every youth group i belonged to and heard i'm praying for you in the worst way you can hear it said. even so i was a pretty good kid convinced i was awful, on the escalator to hell.

as i grew up and sprouted my own head i learned not all of that was right or even okay. i spent many years wandering religion, studying different ones trying to find truth. i've talked to shaman and priests, gurus and saints. and in the end i've eschewed religion as ordered by man almost out of defiant laziness if nothing else. i can't wear the cloak no matter how many alterations i make. i can't make sense of limits, of retribution, or of ideas that make some people more and others not.

but i also deeply admire those who've got their faith nestled tight, those who believe without a doubt. i know it's not a simple thing, faith, but some people make it seem easy. and while i don't long for it i might almost covet it, the finishing of the search, the final frontier. but it's not in my heart, not now and who knows if it ever was. there were times in my youth i thought i knew and then everything got brighter and more confusing still. i'm not sorry but it's still there, so intentionally injected under my skin it became no different than mothers milk.

there isn't an end to this post or some newfound revelation. i'm not coming to conclusions or changing my mind. but it's one of the things that rolls around in my head when i wonder what to teach M, what i base my own spirituality on. and it's not yet finished but i don't know where it's going, either.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

bandits and princesses

It's dreary here but the sun peeked through a bit through the cloudy grey so we decided to walk to the outdoor market and get some air. M, see, she needs this air because she's contrary these days, everything is no, no with stomping, wailing, no.

So we walk. We walk and at one point practically have to drag M, her contrariness revived by the cold air. We walk through the market and out the other side and down around the block on our way to an actual store for necessary sundries and ah, in search of a princess dress. M, see, she's been wanting a princess dress for the longest time and against my better judgment and her overbearing contrary we decided to see what we could find.

So as we head towards a big box we hear something loud. A roar of sorts. Jen. I stop and look back and barrelling over is a guy I know from the streets. He crosses over and walks right up, I can smell him as he approaches, scotch, I think. Maybe whiskey. Ah, I say quietly, to J. I like this guy but he's kind of crazy.

He reaches us and says hello and I introduce him to J. I know this guy, he says and he punches J on the arm and grabs his hand. You've brought him around before. I don't think so but I am glad you guys are finally meeting now. Ah, that musta been another guy. And laughs and punches J again. The men talk for a minute but I soon interrupt, where you staying where you been how are you you look too thin. He looks at J and rolls his eyes. She's always meddling and wanting to help when some people just want to talk but then turns to me and is serious for a minute and says I'm sick of the shit over there and I've been pretty sick too. I'm still taking medicine and trying to figure out a place. I remind him of an earlier conversation, a guy who can help, I know, he says, we've just lost track. I get his voicemail number and stick it in my pocket while he plays with M. She's contrary, I warn and say more quietly, she's been a pain in the ass all day. She's a kid, he says, it's all she's got.

What are you guys doing over here, he asks and I tell him feeling sheepish now about the princess dress, feeling utterly pedestrian talking about things we don't need to buy with a guy who sleeps outside. I notice he needs a shave and really has gotten thin. Ah, I should take J with me then and leave you to it, we could go shoot some pool. J laughs and probably thinks that sounds better than today has been so far too but would never say it out loud. Well, you guys take care, you know J, I've known your woman a long time, ten years or so, probably longer than you. She's good people but I bet you know that already. I smile and look away, in these moments both worlds collide and it's never quite comfortable, his poverty and the disparity of all of it challenges me, especially out in the open on a Saturday.

J smiles and says ten years, man, that's great. I'm glad I've finally gotten to meet you too. They lapse into the universal language of men, football picks and the big game next Sunday. He's got to go so he gives me a hug and shakes J's hand, rubs M's hair and hops back on his bike. Too late I remember we have a banana, one I brought along for M. He rides off and I say aimlessly we should have given him that banana, he's probably hungry and J nods and says ten years? Yep, I respond, but he went away for seven of them on some bullshit charge and I remind him of the story he's already heard. Seven, he says, and we fall silent for a minute until M reminds us where we are supposed to be going with a stamp of her foot.

Friday, January 25, 2008

oh, canada

i like the way you northerners think.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

and that's why they call it the blues

i'd by lying if i said things were fine. i mean, things are fine, literally. figuratively, it's rather bluesy. i'm bluesy, whether it's the time of year or the lack of words of the cold or the sick or the feeling essentially like i've got so little to ahem, fucking contribute! around here these days, i don't know.

i sat down to write something you know, cheery, but then the words get all knackered in the back of my throat. it's not the weepy blues but more an ambivalent shade of indigo or a self righteous midnight. i want a pleasant surprise, or a party, pity. something. natch.

(if you can't say something nice)

and don't even get me started on the primaries. those fools. stooping to nastiness when it's obvious to anyone that any one of them would be better than the current jackass in the big house if they'd just stand up tall and show us the way. i watched a live caucus over the weekend and saw folks screaming at each other, waving their ballot cards, bashing the other guy and thought it may not be the best, but it's democracy.

(don't say anything at all)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

15 minutes

i only stopped by for a few minutes.

the water in the shower is broken, turned all the way to hot. the men can't go in to fix it because one woman won't come out. she's barely visible through the steam, lathering away. the heat must feel amazing on such a cold night. others are angry. she keeps lathering. i understand.

folks are wet. the rain is making a mess of things and with the long weekend we aren't seeing the usual donations. a man is drenched, four layers soaked through. we give him a big blanket, it's not enough, we have no dry clothes. some folks start asking around, seeing who's got what. he's big though, this guy. we'll have to see.

he's new and he's angry. he's lost it all behind a relationship. he's never been here before and he can't believe he's here now. his voice is controlled and yet unnerves me. it's his first long night, a dark night of the soul. i wonder if he'll make it, but there's nowhere else to go.

the TV's on the blink. a bad night for no TV. about twenty guys are huddled around the snowy picture while a couple are tinkering behind. a cheer goes up. a horrible picture beats no picture at all. it goes back to snow. motherfucker, one says and stamps his foot.

she comes up to me in her wheelchair. it's raining, she said. can't we stay longer in the rain. it's not my call but i'm working on it i tell her, i am so sorry and i truly am but i've only got so much pull. she turns away, mutters, pissed. it seems like i should be able to fix it. i understand.

they've come to offer a bible study. have you worked with the homeless before, i ask. no, he says, but you know, i've been to prison myself, and looks a bit sheepish. somehow soothed by that i think it'll be okay, just don't push them, i say, folks can come if they want but don't force it. you'll be amazed by the faith here but don't push it on those who aren't interested. i hear you, he says, i am just the instrument. but aren't we all, I think and hope it will be okay.

she's fallen asleep early, lying on the floor in the middle of the din. folks stepping over her occasionally because it's a full house tonight and there's a long way to go. one stumbles into her, she rolls over, automatically grips her bag already nestled in her arms looks up and away and shuts her eyes. i notice her walker folded up next to her. as much as i try and see and know i still can't understand how it's come to this.

Monday, January 21, 2008

don't you know i'm talking about a revolution

We celebrate you, Dr. King. Your wisdom, your passion, your burning desire to open our eyes to injustices everywhere. Your actions and words moving a nation forward, a revolution cut short by the same violence you so fiercely defied.

"In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a Promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'"

As we celebrate the life of Dr. King I can't help but wonder how he'd feel about our society today. A man whose words regarding our involvement in Vietnam could be spoken again for our war in Iraq.

I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, "Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind." The world must hear this. I pray to God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.

I can't help but wonder if he'd feel sadness that 45 long years later we still have nooses in trees.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

And that 47 million of our children live in poverty.

It has played havoc with our domestic destinies. This day we are spending five hundred thousand dollars to kill every Vietcong soldier. Every time we kill one we spend about five hundred thousand dollars while we spend only fifty-three dollars a year for every person characterized as poverty-stricken in the so-called poverty program, which is not even a good skirmish against poverty.

That we still prioritize greed and money over peace and love.

"This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."
That we often fail to stand up for what we know is right because it is inconvenient and we are more concerned with self than community, with consumption over philanthropy.

"Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (All excerpts attributed to Dr. King)

Happy Birthday, Dr. King. May your dream continue to guide us, to shame us, and to keep us moving forward. Thank you for the challenge of your legacy.

Friday, January 18, 2008


for the first time in perhaps a year and a half, i have very little to say. there is nothing particularly wrong, i am a bit sick, but it's really nothing but a cold. i don't have anything funny to report, no stories of tragedy, no endless musings to share. i can't muster up the energy to talk politics or social woes, or even kid stories. i am simply out of words.

i expect it will change, maybe even soon. but as i sit here now and have sat here earlier, eyes squinting at the screen i come up empty. i expect it to pass, i am sure it's a phase. but it's odd, this lack of words thing. i am somehow at a loss.

and on top of it my reader is fuckered up. my computer crashes every time i access it, i can't see your new posts and can only find you by my extremely outdated blogroll or by following your comments. and even then i feel silent. i am watching and yet not speaking. it's an interesting feeling, this way i feel. out of character, one might say. and yet it's sitting here with me and so perhaps i should honor it.

i'll most certainly be back as soon as i've got something to say.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

back in black

or not so in the black. more red than black.

i had a fantastic time on our impromptu soiree. i was carded a couple of times, gambled in almost every conceivable fashion, stayed up all night and drank bloody marys for hours. i laughed so hard i cried and then cried from the laughing. and then i said goodbye to a few people i've loved for years, cheering them as they walked off out of the flashing lights and into the sun.

but now that i am back i am freakishly busy. i don't have time to visit quite yet but i am mindful as my reader plumps up and i wonder how you all are.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

minus the fear and loathing

i used to cut loose. it's been a long while since i've truly done that, wild adventures and losing track of time. i can't say that i will ever truly experience that again in the way that i mean, the consequences are higher now, it's impossible to carve the freedom from the risk, older makes you softer and childbearing has made me wiser, or better said cautious and that's all right with me.

but giving all that the finger, arched ever so rebelliously towards the sky i'll head east to where the sun shines hotter and the artificial lights pulse round the clock. come east, they chant, come east, they sing. i'll leave momentarily the sippy cups and responsibility, the car seat and the halved grapes and i'll board that plane with four others, friends I've gone in and out of battle with shoulder meeting shoulder and we've come to a fork in the road, a fork taking us in different directions and yet the core remains. and no better way to commemorate the closing of this chapter than twenty four hours in the city that never sleeps.

i'll be back before you know it, but i hope it'll seem like longer to me. and besides, what happens in vegas should probably stay there, nicely nestled amidst the barren wasteland of old money and newly lost, heartache, seduction and the blues.

Monday, January 14, 2008

hear me roar

i'm done being courteous, i say, lips smacking on Saturday night. we are sitting on the couch watching an old Al Pacino movie while M looks at some books. done how?, J says. i'm done worrying if everyone is okay. if i want to take a nap, i'm doing it. if i want to go shopping, i'm doing it. i'm a new woman, dude. a woman who does what she wants.

how is that different from now, he replies. you are kidding me, right? i kill myself with this courtesy shit. up, down, up, down. mommy this, mommy that. i'm done.

you go, girl. he says. it's not like anyone was stopping you besides you, reaching over to tickle me and i bat him away.

what's mommy talking about? M says, looking up. she's just telling us stuff we already knew but she's still figuring out. besides, if the mama isn't happy, nobody's happy. J replies. oh. she says. good mommy, you want a star?

it's starting now, people
i say, feeling spry. M, go get your pajamas and put them on. she looks at me in horror. whaaaaatt? talk to your old man, little girl, there's a new sheriff in town and off they go. and the next day I slept in and went shopping alone. without a watch. i am woman.

In cleaner parts, I had the pleasure of reviewing a pretty cool organic soap this month for ParentBloggers. the scrub a dub's over in my other crib.

coming up next: jen's taking a little road trip.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


it's been such a nice weekend. some beloved friends who moved away a year ago were back in town for a few days and we had them over for dinner, rapidly picking up old traditions of ordering our favorite take out and a few bottles of red but this time their son, their adorable son whose birth i was honored to witness is closer to two now, he and M got along famously, the adults reconnecting as well. it made me miss them all the more but it was so lovely having them here for one night.

then yesterday we went to a birthday party for M, a party held by cool yet somewhat unknown parents a bit of a distance from here. we spent longer than we thought we would connecting with parents whose kids are in class with M, something i've never been good at and yet at the same time it was really quite lovely. we all napped when we came home, later than usual for M but lazy and good.

then this afternoon we'll make a little trip to the library, one of our new favorite places where we will all pick a few books and come home and read. i am reminded again of how lucky i am, how blessed i am to have this family, this very good man and this adorable child lighting the way.

Friday, January 11, 2008

a sign someone might be spending too much time at my work

Mommy, when i grow up i want to go to jail. i told my friends at school today that they could all go to jail too, but my teacher said that wasn't nice.

Nice, baby. Real nice. Way to keep it real on the playground.

And on the other side of the tracks, KC got some really fantastic news yesterday.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

December Just Posts

This month we celebrate the first year of Just Posts. When Mad and I threw our social justice wedding last year I had no idea then how the relationship would unfold. Would we get along? Would it last? Not surprisingly, it's been a year of social justice bliss. As the year unfolded we went global and added some aunties to the mix, raised a bit of money and even had a house sitter once too. And all of you, many who've been here since the wedding who faithfully write and read and send the links. It's only a roundtable because of all of you and it's enriched my life in so many ways. And recently, after some prompting from our maid of honor we decided it was time to take it to the next level: we decided to have a baby. More of a birthing than a baby and we've called her Volunteerism. And in the spirit of the wedding that started it all we decided to throw a baby shower where gifts were commitments to volunteer. Birth to a cause, birth to a supportive community movement. For anyone who wanted to join us.

And so many of you did. So before I unwrap mine let's open yours. Gifts from the heart from many outstanding writers who decided they too felt ready to get it on and birth some change. So without further ado or even a party game:

The Beautiful Baby Shower Gifts:
Jenn with Let's change the world, shall we?
Omaha Mama with Giving more and Teaching to Give Back
Andrea with Enough, again.
CCE with A words: Altruism and Asceticism
De with Oh baby,I can help
Sage with Birthing in chains
Karen with Baby shower treats
Alejna with Gifts and thanks
Jennifer with New Year's resolving
Reality Testing with Project Snuggle and Flutter's original idea in 2006 there once was a girl
Aliki with Newton's third law
Painted Maypole with Unto us a child is born
Sin with Win-win

And De and Flutter set up a trust fund for the baby, a fabulous idea to inspire philanthropy (or penalize bad behavior) but either way, it's fantastic.

This was so humbling, witnessing us digging deeper and pushing ourselves a little more. To choose to volunteer and/or to support others who are. So many courageous calls to action, so many new ways to support our individual communities. The gifts of our time and conscious intent. It is truly an honor to be a part of this celebration of justice and action.

And now for my baby gift to all of you and in honor of our Mad Librarian: I pondered for a while as to the perfect gift for the occasion, one that would show my appreciation for the Just Post community while also supporting a worthwhile cause. And I think I've found something that fits both: I have signed up to volunteer at our local public library. They have a volunteer group who does a variety of things including fundraising, book sales, drives, and outreach as well activities to enhance learning and programming for kids. And I signed up to join them, to give my time each month to volunteer for a cause closest to Mad's heart in honor of her year long commitment to nurturing the Just Posts, to being willing to reach, and for teaching me things I'd not have learned otherwise. And I never would have done this had it not been for all of you. So this is my gift and my way of saying thanks. Thank you for opening my mind beyond poverty and beyond my work and allowing me to explore ways I can get differently involved.

So here, eat some cake. We've even got some champagne. The baby's out now so we can all drink and toast the goodness that this sphere can bring. Hearts and minds coming together earnestly, to make the world a better place, one cause at a time. Brava, friends. Brava.

Here's to another year of the Just Post Community. (Can you hear the glasses clinking?)

The Just Posts
Laura at Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference
Lawyer Mama with Christmas in Omaha
Magpie with 13 Ways to Help
Painted Maypole with God loves Fags
Reluctant Memsahib with it's the corruption that's the problem
Victoria with Give
The Chick with AIDS facts you should know
Jeff with Bless the invisible children
Mir on blogher with Dutch Diplomats, a Korean Adoptee, and the Unthinkable
Suzanne Reisman on Blogher with Dec. 17 is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers and When Will We See Some Female Geeks?
Chatoyance with Books will fly through the air for children
Jenn with full circle
Sin with 28
Frieda with What I would pray for, if I prayed
Hearts in SanFran with Only the good die young
HearthTalks with Putting it in perspective
Liz with AIDS: No longer your friendly neighborhood appetite suppressant
Chani with Sanuk is not a four letter word
Veronica with Give
Jen with it's coming on christmas, two little girls, two little girls, pt 2
Lost White Kenyan Chick with Electioneering and corruption
Laloca with Joseph Heller couldn't've come up with this
City Girl with thinking out loud
Ida with Gay and Homeless: The numbers to back it up
Quaker Dave with There are no words
Denguy with Everyone should eat
Jangari with Intervening into the intervention
Emily with Lazy mother's guide to saving the planet
The Individual Voice with Christmas in Iraq and Afganistan
Babylune with it's series of posts culminating with the generous december group writing project
MauiGirl with No more death penalty in New Jersey
Reya with What's important
Samsara with giving to organizations and if you can find money to kill people

Some of the many readers:
TIV: The Individual Voice
Painted Maypole
Mayberry Mom
Pundit Mom

It goes without saying that you should check out the celebrations going on at Mad's, Hel's and Su's. Thank you again for joining us. If you are new to the party, we are here every month on the 10th, celebrating writings of social justice in all shapes and sizes. And sometimes more.

And as a perfect end to the party, I'll be hanging out with Bon, Mad and Andrea tonight at 6pm PST talking about Just Posts, social justice and probably little people too. Go here if you want to join in on the fun.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

morning has broken (pt. 4)

I headed back to the site yesterday morning and immediately spotted the mom, sitting up and looking okay. Apparently she was in some sort of distress related to the stressful conditions she's been living with but she and the baby were okay and they sent her back. I speculate as to whether she'd have been released had she had insurance but perhaps all was simply okay. Relieved, we turned to the task at hand, finding a better place for them to live. I had placed a few calls over the weekend and one of them called back a little while later, offering an interview and if they were accepted, a room. A room that others desperately needed too, this family was not the only one. The woman on the other end made a point of explaining that but also listened to their story, the difficult conditions, the baby, the little girl. There was less surprise than compassion, for them or for my pleading, I'd take either one if it helped.

She told me they needed to arrive in a couple hours, if they were late they'd miss their chance and they'd go to the next in line. I frantically called till I found them and knowing the bus was a tricky option for folks who didn't know their way around, negotiated a ride. The beauty of that was the folks who stepped up, a couple of old timers volunteered their battered cars to transport them, one with the family and one with their belongings, a jalopy caravan of strangers meandering across town.

I got a call just after the scheduled time, the woman who set the appointment called to let me know they arrived and then her boss, the one I'd appealed to earlier called me back to let me know they'd been accepted and brought into the warmth of their program with a spanish speaking counselor and an open day care slot for the little girl. Mom needs to rest awhile, we'll take care of her the woman said and I could tell this family moved her as they'd moved me, the simple essence of their need spoke volumes. I gave an inappropriate Whoohoo! Hell Yes Thank you! to a peer that I've mostly sat across from in community meetings, woeing the state of funding and yet for a moment we shared some of the juice, the reason we both are here. That little girl didn't need to be sleeping beside all your bums, she said, hey now, woman, I replied and she laughed and we hung up smiling.

So it's over for us but not for them, their journey is far from done but in our business small victories mean a lot. When I picked M up last night she wanted to go see her new friend but I told her she was gone. Why, she whined, I wanted to play with her again. I remind her this is good news, they are in a better place now and she says that's good mommy, that's good.

Monday, January 07, 2008

trouble (pt. 3)

I brought M to work with me late in the afternoon. We'd selected a Spanish book of hers to share as well as some snacks, we'll make this a playdate if it kills me. We walk in the door and it's crowded but through the mass of people I saw them sitting in the spot we reserve for families. I notice the little girl is fast asleep and then I see her mother. Something is wrong.

I pick M up and walk over fast, mom is sitting on the floor, she's crying and wrapped in a blanket. As I get closer the blanket falls down and I realize she's holding her stomach. I go to her and she motions to her belly, a man nearby says it's hurting her a lot but it's not the baby, it can't be, she's only seven months. Men, I think as I grab my phone because who knows what month it really is and what does that matter anyways. Ambulancia? I ask and she nods so I call 911 and within minutes they arrive. In the meantime we lay her down and put a pillow under her head. All the while her daughter is still sleeping and I am wondering how she'll wake, during or after her mom is already gone. Shortly paramedics flood the room and start peppering her with questions: how far apart, at how many weeks did you deliver last time, has your water broken? She's looking at me and I stop them. Spanish. They need to speak Spanish but none of them do so a client steps forward and translates. By this time they've loaded her on the stretcher, her husband has to stay behind because kids can't ride in the ambulance. Her daughter wakes up as she's being wheeled out of the building, I see her sleepily watching the tail end of the action and wonder if she'll cry.

I hand the paramedic my card and ask him to give it to the doctor. She won't know how to get back and her husband won't know how to find her. You must have them call us. They nod, eager to go.

The little girl is awake now, she sees M and gives her a shy smile. M looks at me and smiles and tugs me over. She sits on her mat and opens the bag she brought and brings out a book. She hands it to her and they start reading side by side. One of the staff brings them some chips and I want to interfere but I don't. M realizes immediately chips, she says and beams at me. Just one, I say, futilely and I know it. Three, she replies and turns back to her new friend, mouth already full. Her father is standing in the corner, two countries and an ambulance between him and everyone else. I realize then mom is the rock and without her there, I worry even more. He doesn't even know where the hospital is and he's not asking. I realize he's staying here and she's on her own.

We stayed for another hour and then came home, the girls giving each other shy hugs as we leave and M asking to come back tomorrow, this chips still fresh on her mind. There's been no word since, no word on if the baby's coming or if it's something worse but no matter what she's lying somewhere alone in a hospital while the rest of her family is on the floor. If there's no news this morning I'll go to the hospital, either way the story goes on.

Today's the last day to send your Just Posts to me at girlplustwoATyahooDOTcom. There's still time to join us at the Roundtable as we celebrate the first year of Just Posts.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

where do the children play (part 2)

I was haunted by the little girl I mentioned yesterday so I went back to see what we could do. I walk in and see them immediately, mom sitting watchful over the sleeping toddler on a mat on the floor. I quietly inquire and learn that one of the staff found them on a street panhandling and hungry, and they can't speak english. I round up an old timer who's able to translate and go and sit on the floor next to the mom. After some back and forth I learn that the husband had work for a while but it's gone with the weather, they are unable to get any sort of governmental assistance as no one has papers and they have literally no money at all.

The little girl wakes up while we are talking, she is radiantly beautiful with thick black hair and chocolate eyes. I smile at her as she clings to her mama, a shy smile peeking through. After obtaining her permission to see if we can find room at a family shelter we make some calls and come up empty but weekends are tough like that and I wasn't surprised. I then ask if they need anything and the mother says they have no diapers or warm clothes beyond what is on their backs. That's easier to manage so we quickly call a co-worker and arrange delivery for all of it (thankfully with holiday generosity our supply closets are full). I can't help but notice the little girl's fingernails, they need trimming and they are black with dirt. I can't imagine how she keeps her kids clean the way they are living and even though I've seen it a thousand times I am getting soft in my old age, or better said my mothering age and I feel lost sitting there because it's still going to take a few days to find something else and this is no place for kids.

The mom stands up and as she does I realize she's not only pregnant but hugely so. She already looks young, terrified as can be, and now this. The old timer translating didn't know either, he looked at me as she stood and his eyes widened. Shit, he said in english. Embarazada, in Spanish. She nods quickly and looks at the floor and my mind is reeling. I ask her how far along and she says seven months so I ask if she's seen a doctor and she shakes her head no. I am gripped by this, this young woman terrified and homeless, about to give birth without any prenatal care sitting in the pouring rain with her child and a hundred street folks. I gently ask if she'd like to see a doctor and she nods her head yes.

Her daughter is two but acts much older. She doesn't leave her mama's lap, she doesn't fidget or complain. She sits that way for over two hours, something M could never do in a million years. She's so well behaved it breaks your heart, as if she's learned to expect so much less in such a short time. Her mom is so good with her, tender in the best sort of way, a way I fear I might not be able to muster if I were in her shoes. I am curious to know how they ended up here, how or if they crossed the border as a family, how they've survived till now but it's a dangerous topic and besides, we've only just met. I tell her in broken spanish that I have a little girl too, perhaps her daughter would like someone to play with and she nods her head yes, a smile on her face. She tells her daughter and she smiles broadly at that so I promise to return with M tomorrow and let the girls play.

I leave shortly after, on the way home I remember I need to stop at the store. I am standing in the produce section mindlessly choosing organic fruit over the other when all of a sudden I start to cry. I am looking at bananas in tears because it's fucking audacious and incomprehensible that I drive away while she sits with her daughter on her lap in a cold room on the floor and I get to choose fruit without thinking of the price. I almost want to do something crazy like throw myself on the floor and wail amidst the tomatoes, the vine ripened and the romas, the fancier ones that were probably imported from a million miles away but instead I finish, head down and purchase things we could most likely do without while a woman just like me has absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing in this world to call her own but the family around her.

Occasionally some of you ask me how I do it and today I don't know. Today I am haunted by this woman, this girl. Today I hate poverty and I hate the unfairness of money and chance and luck and lineage. I hate borders and hunger and the priorities of our nation. Today I am shamed that our house only has three people in it and we have money in the bank and food in the fridge. Today I will bring my child to a play date at a shelter because I don't know what else to do.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

wet and shiny and full of illusion

I've been busier than a one legged girl in an ass kicking contest. See, it's raining and it's raining a lot. California doesn't quite know how to handle an actual storm so there are flash floods and power outages, downed trees and accidents everywhere. It's our genetics to fail at weather. You northerners and easterners, you can laugh all you want. But I wear flip flops year round, so mock me, I can take it. But I digress.

A storm like this is hard on folks with no place to sleep so we started working overtime to open projects for additional hours and larger numbers. Processes that require getting government types here to plead our case to government types farther up the food chain hoping it will eventually trickle back down to us. These good people went the distance for us over the past 48 hours and amidst middle of the night calls and incredible feats of teamwork we ended up successfully offering additional safety nets for folks opened on a dime. Feeling victorious last night I headed over to a church where more good people opened their doors for our makeshift operations. I arrived right before mealtime where several church members were preparing to open the food line, a line with maybe fifty or more already at attention between the piles of bedding on the floor. A woman holding a spatula was calling for attention to bless the meal. Immediately our folks, hungry and probably tired of that line started that hushed yet really loud sort of whispering shut up, shut up. they are saying grace, shut the fuck up I heard one guy say and head bowed I couldn't help laughing. The meal was blessed to a resounding AMEN and a round of applause and in no time at all everyone had a hot meal.

It's easy to delude oneself in those moments, spirits are high and the mood is good. It's easy to overlook the tragedy, that each of these people have no place to go and all the food in the world doesn't change that for a minute. I spot a little girl, maybe three or four, her plate piled high. Her hair is a mess and I am temporarily broken. She looks up and smiles. I crack a bit on the inside but also know it's the best she'll do tonight. An old timer, a guy I haven't seen all season comes up. girl, look at you. where you been? where have you been, old man, I haven't seen you all year. He looks at me then away. I think I know. Ah, what for this time around? A fight. I can't seem to help it. It was only for a few months. He has a few less teeth than I remember but a bit more weight, three hots and a cot have some benefits. He stands close, eavesdropping as I am meeting with a couple of folks strategizing how to transport folks in the morning to our new spot, one they can stay in all day and out of the cold. He's smiling when I am done. You a big shot now, girl? Sitting at the big table? I smile and shrug. But you are still here. You can take the girl outta the shelter but you can't take the shelter outta the girl. Something like that, I say, I like this guy and I've liked him for a long time, his bullshit included. He asks for a hug and I give him one, hard and look him in the eyes. Anytime you want to change things, J, you let me know. Too many years of this shit will kill you. I know, he replies. But it's all I know. You still married? I smile at him again, some things never change no matter how much hard living comes in between.

Friday, January 04, 2008

out and about

There is so much going on in the blogosphere at a given time it can be hard to keep up. As such, I wanted to share some of what I am paying attention to in the last week or so because it's too good not to share. Sin's selling some amazing pictures and donating some of the proceeds to charity. I bought a gorgeous picture she took in South Africa today. Speaking of the African continent, reluctant memsahib is talking about the crisis in Kenya from a voice of experience and passion.

I am waiting patiently with the growing less patient every day with very good reasons KC as she prepares to have her beautiful baby. (Here's hoping you are in labor as I type.) I've been loving Liv's joy and happiness after a very tough period of time and she's shining so bright. Peter's recently launched accidental dharma, a collaborative site that is open to anyone who wants to share their story and the lovely P is regaling us with stories from her exotic trip to India.

There's been live blogging in Iowa and some waxing and making of waves over at Cecil's. CCE is making me laugh and Deb's kicking ass and heading back to school. Mrs. Chicken is knocked up and Bossy's little one is on the mend. Krista has rounded a corner and is looking fabulous, Janet has a pox in her house and Chani's going to Thailand. And this is just a sampling of the what's going on around us every single week.

And it's a distinct privilege as well as a true pleasure to be a small part of it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

the last and first day

It's not my story. From two degrees away I've known her, the intense decline of someone else's friend and valued employee to the brink of madness. It's not me who watched her decompensate, going from helping others to desperately needing help, seeing her fall through the rabbit hole, the lengthly hospitalization, the medications, the despair. It's not me who watched her climb up on a tall building not too far from here on the first day of this new year, the anniversary of her birth. It's not me who watched her jump and fall. But her death has touched people I care for, folks who had tried to pick up the pieces for awhile now and this final rebuke cuts to the quick. The constant replaying, the grasping at straws.

I want to be less morose, full of joy and introspection. I really do.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

words, action, community (let's get this party started)

Words are power. They can cut and cleanse, strengthen and wound. Kind words can ease sorrow, intricate words spread joy just from their existence. Course words can smart, in good and bad ways. Vitriol can spoil but sometimes shows up, thankfully much less so in our village than other parts of the sphere. We writers of words understand these things, we wield them willfully and carefully, we drop them off or wrap them around each other. Sometimes we hold back or say too little. Or our lack of words might speak louder in their absence. Sometimes we let it roar.

The Just Posts try to gather a lot of these words; words of harmony and pleading, yearning for change and anger at the present. Frustration, sadness, joy, hope. Going back and reading so many submissions remind me of the intrinsic power in each and every one. We write because we hope. We hope for change. And often that is enough. Peace, like so many things, begins with one. One word, a thought, shared, assimilated, neurons kick and mull it over, tides pull. Change.

And so much of the past year of nurturing the Just Posts have been about this simple power. The power to share stories and have others respond. Sometimes with words, sometimes with action. But we respond. Our neurons rise up. They stretch. Change.

That's how the baby came into being. Reading so many of your words about what you feel, what you long for, what matters now and what should matter more. That's when it struck me that I can do more. That I want to do more. A birth, a call, and I hope an inspiration for you join us as the Just Posts come together to add another place at the table. A space to talk about volunteerism and if it matters, why it matters, and if there is something you are called to do. To commit. To support those commitments. Words, action, community.

It's coming on the anniversary celebration of the Just Posts so please send us writings about social justice big or small, yours or another to girlplustwoATyahooDOTcom before the 7th and you'll be included at our Roundtable on the 10th. And if you write a post for the Baby Shower, send us that link too because this month is special and we are celebrating it as such with a baby named Volunteerism. We are birthing a movement and all are welcome to join as fits for each of you, words or action, both, or simply in the cheering section. Change. Words. Action. Community.

If this is new to you click on the the link above or on one of the Just Post buttons to your right or feel free to email me. We want to celebrate this month, justice in words, justice in action. It all radiates. And all are welcome.