Sunday, November 30, 2008

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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Thursday, November 27, 2008

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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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

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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Monday, November 24, 2008


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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Sunday, November 23, 2008

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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Thursday, November 20, 2008


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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Monday, November 17, 2008

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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Friday, November 14, 2008

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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Wednesday, November 12, 2008


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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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

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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Monday, November 10, 2008

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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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

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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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

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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Monday, November 03, 2008

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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Saturday, November 01, 2008

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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