Thursday, July 31, 2008
When I got home and showed M she told me immediately and not very nicely that it wasn't what she wanted and she wasn't going to have any and for some reason it broke me, I sank to the floor in the kitchen, bags scattered about as she stomped from the room.
I started crying then, a quiet sort of stoic little cry if there is such a thing and if not I feel the need to paint it as such, the romanticizing of it feels easier somehow. So I'm crying, not from the shitty attitude but mostly from the finality and the finiteness, I'm just a girl on a kitchen floor trying to figure it all out. Moving to a foreign place and leaving all things familiar and even all the things I rail against can lift and rattle all at once and sometimes the nakedness is powerful and other times I want to hide. We often talk about feeling like we are stepping into the abyss and sometimes I find myself having moments of weakness, of wishing we were already there and the journey was ironed out neat as a pin because getting dirty is good but it's dirty all the same.
And mostly, it's mostly that I fancy myself to be braver than I sometimes think I am.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Their website says composting toilets work by providing a enclosed environment for the natural process of aerobic decomposition. This is a really nice way of saying your shit lays there in a bucket. The same type of environment on forest floors which decomposes wildlife droppings and converts them into valuable nutrients for the vegetation to use. This is in reference to Bambi shit, because Bambi has NO BUCKET. Bambi also doesn't have to clean the nonexistent bucket. The forest does the work. Good forest. There are many different designs of composting toilets, but all carry out this basic process of aerobic decomposition.
Design variations enhance this process (what process? the shitting process? is someone on hand to bite my neck or blow in my ear?) and they include:
• air baffles for distribution of air into the pile baffles? is it like a day spa for your shit?
• heating units to keep the compost at the best temperature for when your shit is cooked.
• injected air for increased decomposition when you have to shit and run.
• mixing tongs to ensure full decomposition throughout the pile for those of you shit stirrers out there. or for a delicious shit salad. you decide.
• the addition of composting worms and macro-organisms seriously? you can actually feed your own shit? Will it thank me?
As you may notice from the website, some composting toilets look basically like any other toilet and others look like a bucket. Or rather, they are a bucket. But the main thing is there is no water to flush with. So while you can shit in a rather normal fashion, it's after that has me curious. I mean, what do we do with all this shit?
More educated and enlightened folks prefer to call this piece of the puzzle Humanure. You take your shit and put it in a heap with other organic materials and turn it into compost and eventually plant it in your garden. Gross, right? I mean, WOW, natural soil! Sweet! It's a source of much debate at home, with J saying 1.8B people in the world do not have running water and me saying yeah but if we are environmentally friendly in every other way can't I get a free pass and he says no this is important and I say next you'll have M send her leftovers to China to which he responds you and the toilet will get along famously. Great, now I'm dating my new composting toilet.
In the end I have no doubt I'll warm up to the idea and besides really I have no choice. In my brain it makes sense but my lily white ass still needs a little catching up.
Monday, July 28, 2008
I didn’t know San Francisco would be so cold a place. And I don’t mean the kind of cold you can combat by pulling on a sweater.
I stepped out of the taxi onto a crowded sidewalk in front of the swank hotel that had promised me a Heavenly Bed. (Later that day I’d discover that the bed in my room WAS heavenly. I don’t know what the management has done to achieve beds like that. I wanted to take it home with me.)
The sidewalk was jammed with people, people coming, people going, people sightseeing. And with someone who was neither coming nor going, who was most definitely not taking in the sights. He was sleeping. Or perhaps just closing his eyes against his own reality. His arms and legs were curled protectively around his chest. For warmth, for privacy, maybe for both. He was pressed as close to the wall of the hotel as he could get, but still, people were stepping over him.
Stepping over him.
I thought, How could people be so oblivious to their surroundings that they could walk over another human being? Without even hesitating? What does that say about how they overvalue their own lives and preoccupations? Because, don’t you know, they have places to go. And he so obviously doesn’t. No, from the looks of him, it’s been a long time since he had somewhere to go. A long time since he slept in anything resembling a Heavenly Bed.
You’ll think I’m naïve. But I’m not. I grew up in New York City in the seventies. Those were some of the worst years for the Big Apple’s homeless. Since then, New York has handled the problem of its homeless with clumsy but well-meaning hands. Things aren’t perfect there. Yet they are better, by a long shot, than they were when I was a kid.
Why can’t the same be said of San Francisco?
I wasn’t sure until the second day of the conference whether what I had witnessed at the entrance to the hotel was just an isolated event, however distressing.
That’s when I went to dinner a few blocks from the hotel.
And found that – if you looked – there were lots of people sleeping on sidewalks. Or sometimes, sitting up or standing. As human beings, even the homeless, will do.
One man was rather jovially trying to assist all the lost tourists. Your hotel?, he’d shout. The hotels are over there! And he’d point left where a group of befuddled tourists had just decided to try right.
He was not misleading anyone. He knew these streets.
But instead of thank you’s he received withering, or fearful, or angry stares from people so far out of their comfort zones they might as well have been on the moon. That group of tourists? They went right. Idiots, I thought. Was I being uncharitable? You decide.
I thanked him on their behalf. I figured someone ought to acknowledge him.
No problem, darlin’, he replied. I like to get people where they need to go. Used to be a bus driver, y’know.
I wanted to stop right there and stay awhile. Find out why he wasn’t still a bus driver. I was sure that he’d been an excellent driver. Why had he ended up here, there, everywhere, nowhere?
But I couldn’t stop. I had somewhere to be, you see.
Later that evening, as I lay in my Heavenly Bed, it was not the doings at the conference that kept me awake.
It was the man who used to be a bus driver, who for all I knew had slept in a Heavenly Bed himself, in a life so far removed from his life of today that it might as well have been another life altogether.
Who sixteen stories below me was surely tossing and turning as well, trying to find the elusive sweet spot, the spot where the concrete didn’t rub painfully against his limbs, his back, his head.
I finally fell asleep, high above him, the lights of San Francisco twinkling, beckoning me through the sheer curtains on the windows in my hotel room.
But those beautiful city lights? The tragedy is that they beckon only some of us. For the rest of us, they’re just one more hindrance to falling asleep.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Me warning her not to fall warrants a: it's my life and i can do what i want! That one's rich, child. I can almost picture you stomping out of the house with a bag of coke and some loser boyfriend in tow.
Me asking her to stop kicking me in the head while laying together on the couch: I don't love you when you are mean, I only love you when you are nice! Ouch, kid. Now get off my head.
Me telling her to get her sweet ass into a time out for similar above behavior: No! You can't make me! What, a challenge? I love a challenge. Two time outs! Four!
Me asking her not to stand up in the tub: Stop telling me what to do! Only I know what to do!
Sweet. You can drive your happy ass to the ER on your trike later too. And I'm totally not forking over a princess band-aid either.
I'm in serious, serious trouble. If I didn't find it hilarious even more so.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
That said, we need to get it together and one way I do this is by compiling lists. These lists are the transitory sort, written on old receipts or the back of my hand. Our latest dilemma is how we get our stuff down there. Shipping is an option but it's complicated, and the whole point of leaving was leaving it all behind. So we decided to get rid of almost everything, throwing that last little bit of caution to the wind. We've decided we'll bring what we can carry.
Things I think I cannot live without:
1. One pot and one pan. It's possible to get these things there but I hear they are expensive and cheaply made. If I'm to, for the love of all things holy, homestead, I want a few pieces of relatively decent cookware.
2. Spices. See above.
3. Towels/sheets. These things are ridiculously expensive there (who knew?) and they take up a lot of room. So does a pot and a pan. But I digress.
4. Books. This was an issue until I got a Kindle. J's construction books however are not friends of the mighty Kindle. See #3 for obvious space issues as these are no pocket readers, these books of his.
5. M's most important possessions. This is a good time, seeing which of her belongings she's actually willing to part with. Right now she's adamant that her 3' long stuffed horse comes with her. This item needs to go on a separate list, the one titled how to cut off my own head in order to make room for the 3' stuffed horse list.
6. Important documents. That's an obvious one. Passports and medical cards and laptops and international drivers licenses and tax information and immunization records. Oh wait, immunization records, that makes me think of getting sick. We should bring some medicine, but what am I going to be able to find there? Last time I was there the little shack at the end of town had little bottles of gripe water. That may indeed be medicinal, but is it a cure-all? I know my village woman friend uses tree sap as some sort of remedy, but for what? I mean, what about run of the mill fevers? Cuts? Colds? Shit. Malaria? Good lord. Mosquito netting. Time for a new list.
7. Medicines. See above rant.
8. Clothes. This one is a bit freeing because we'll get rid of most of our stuff and only keep a few things each and I'll get ripped biceps washing all of it by hand. Every single day. Wait, maybe a few extra sets. Socks. Will we need socks?
8. Entertainment. This is easy because entertainment will be pretty scarce. We'll get used to playing with sticks and bugs, right? I love sticks and bugs. Wait. Anyways, we are narrowing it down to chess, cards and a few games for M. Oh and I like Scrabble. Scrabble is a good jungle game. I forgot about Clue. Who doesn't like a rousing game of Clue?
How all of the above and most likely more is going to equate into the things we shall carry is a bit lost on me right now. In fact, I'm starting to revert to the beginning of this post: We have no idea what we are doing. And don't even get me started on the composting toilets. That's the topic of a future post.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
But the best and perhaps most sacred time this year was when Jess, Tanis and I left the conference and went to a naked bath house. We waltzed into the old Victorian and for some reason hadn't really thought through that in a few short minutes we'd actually be sitting naked in front of each other in a big tub in the middle of the day. In fact, the moment that will last with me for the rest of my life was when the woman made it clear: all your clothes come off HERE ladies and Tanis' face registered a look of fucking horror. I think I fell over laughing then but I can't quite remember. But as we sat across from each other naked inside and out in the bright light and too hot water it summed it up perfectly: At the end of the day we are all simply naked. We are women and we were naked this weekend, both in and out of our clothes. It's not always pretty and sometimes it's more beautiful than you can imagine but either way it's real. And so while the weekend was one of mixed emotions sitting here now I am so very happy I went. Meeting women I've only read and emailed with and reconnecting with women who've come to mean so much more than I'd have thought possible two years ago is part of the garden I'll plant around me this year, your words and laughter and wisdom and truth will continue to keep me company as it grows.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
One of my long time friends is back, he was at the hospital for awhile and he's come back older. He's got a cane now and it doesn't seem right. He's come to define this world for me, this man and his smile and his back and forth, it's been a decade now and nothing has really changed. It's tragic and senseless and I will always root for him and every time I see him he asks about M. He asks me every single time because he remembers the before and the during and now he sees her grow.
I'm getting ready to leave as he's coming in. He sees me and comes running over, his hug lifts me clean off my feet and his laugh is rich and deep. I ask him how he is although he's clearly beaming. I am so good. I am so, so good. I think I've found a place to live. His smile is electric as he tells me all about it, gesturing wildly and occasionally pausing to greet others on their way inside with a slap on the back or one of those man hugs, the kind where you clasp each others hands and your chests bump. I like watching those man hugs and his happiness is infectious. You are doing it, man. You are on your way.
I walk to my car conscious I'm leaving for a few days, my mind ponders the irony of where I am heading and what I am leaving, that poverty can live alongside whimsy and somehow there is room for both and it seems wrong, a preternatural coexistence of sorts. But then again so many things seem wrong when I walk in and out these doors.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
And on the less drinky but still kicky end of things, I'll be speaking about our Just Posts on Saturday at the Beautiful Blogging panel. This little soiree is moderated by Kyran Pittman from Notes To Self and will also include Krystyn Heide from the Hope Revolution, Alyssa Royse from Just Cause It! and Lucrecer Braxton, and her Art Slam initiative, all new writers to me with really amazing blogs. If you haven't yet discovered them you should go check them out, each blog is full of love and hope and art and goodness.
And on the still kicky and more thinky side I've got a new review up about educational resources and learning activities for little ones, a very cool thing for us parents with kids ages 4-8.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
When I get home that night I ask M, so I hear you went to mama's work yesterday. No, she says firmly. I did not go to your work. That alone isn't that surprising, this project is geographically inconvenient from our house, M has only been there once or twice. I think you did, baby. Didn't you see all the beds and all of our friends? No, she says. I was with Auntie at HER work and we had oranges and bananas and bread. I am laughing now, I tell her it's my work too but she clearly isn't buying it.
No, she says. You put people to sleep. Auntie feeds them. It's NOT the same thing. Yesterday we helped people have food but we did NOT help them go sleepytime. I drop it because really, it's no use trying to convince her otherwise but between me and her Auntie, she must think we travel in odd circles sometimes or perhaps hey, it just is what it is. A little while later Auntie calls and says that she forgot to tell me they stopped in with a load of donated food, double checking perhaps because the program is a bit rough on the edges and wanted to make sure I didn't mind. I didn't and I don't as long as she keeps a close eye and I know she does but I admit it did throw me for a minute. I told her the story, both the confusion and the funny bits and she was laughing, laughing. It does take a village, doesn't it she said in reply.
Monday, July 14, 2008
And now onward, in a few short days a whole other sort of giddyness will commence, more late nights and dearly missed friends, am counting the hours till I can sip mojitos next to you in the dark. But in between J and I will revel in another sort of loveliness, one where our child is safely swaddled at her grandparents and we will enjoy a few quiet and glorious summer nights to ourselves. Can you see my beaming face? Because it's beaming all the way from here.
Oh, and I almost forgot, I've got a new review up about environmentally friendly toothbrushes over here. Who doesn't love their teeth and our planet? Go see for yourself.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
M and I are headed off for a girls weekend of sorts, two girls on a plane and then my baby goes to my parents and I get to spend a weekend with my two best friends, women I see just once a year. We plan this weekend all year long, the one time all three of us are in the same country. This year we've decided to sit poolside and not lift a finger all weekend long. We'll catch up on the politics in the Middle East and who has travelled where and how long our hair has grown, one friend comes from Syria and the other has amusingly turned into something of a socialite so her house is like a fancy spa. But she's good to us and she'll pretend not to notice when we use all her fancy face cream on our legs and put our dirty feet on her expensive couch just like we always do because again no matter how old we get we are all still 12 years old.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Community: 1: a unified body of individuals: as a: state, commonwealth b: the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly : the area itself
In a week a number of us from our online community will gather together at BlogHer. We will connect with old friends and meet new ones for the first time. It's a collision of worlds, BlogHer. One that pulls us out from behind our keyboards and into the light. We discover things we did not know, we are perhaps taken aback by previous assumptions, we are pushed and broadened and enriched and moved. Others in our community will stay behind and continue communing with others the way we do all year round, through emails and posts, comments and groups.
The Just Posts are another form of community, one where individuals find a crowd, where issues can join us, where pain and suffering and joy and light can open our eyes. It's a place where everyone is welcome, all we need to do is write. We all see with different colored lenses, but it's the way we allow the light to shine and bend that draws others around us. We do this with words, with images, and with heart and soul. It's an ongoing joy to be a part of all three of these connected worlds, month after month it's a priviledge to gather here and it means nothing without all of you.
Just Post Writers
Andrea at Punk Rock Mommy with Planting the seeds of my own garden
Andrea with The burden of perfection
Averagebean with Freedom of speech?
Blog Antagonist with Speak English Me
Chani with Wellness Wednesday: take back your time
Christine Kane with Making Friends with Songs and Food
Defiant Muse with The mommy myth
Flutter with I am an omnivore
Girlgriot with Gotta do more than holla and We can, I mean WE can
Hel with Afternoon in an urban footgarden
Her Bad Mother with Joy, And Pain
Identity Theory with The weapon of rape
Indigenous people's issues today with Five key indigenous people's issues
Jen with Where the streets have no name, the middle way and the shattered ceiling and what it means for our children
Julie with Kids and sex?
Kaliroz with indifference to me, is the epitome of evil
KC with Wheels
Mayberry Mom with 20 lousy pairs of scissors
MOMocrats with Moms need help in California family court system
Moosh in Indy with the healthcare of stereotypes
No Caption Needed with High Noon in Sadr City
The Expatriate's Kitchen with World Refugee Day
Toddlywinks with The powerlessness of three
Tossing Pebbles in the Stream with To laugh or be outraged
Susanne with Corsets, coolness, caps, and cosmetic surgery
Suzanne Reisman on blogher with Banning the Pill Kills Women. Period. and "Third Genders" in Societies with Rigid Gender Roles
WhyMommy with Thank you, AmVets
Just Post Readers
Don't forget to stop by Mad's and Su's before you go. We are here every month collecting posts about social justice from around the blogosphere and around the world and everyone is welcome to participate either by writing or by sending posts you've read. If you'll be at BlogHer next week you can also find me talking about the Just Posts here. Make sure to say hello (and no throwing tomatoes either).
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
It's wrong. It's more wrong than there are words for, the suffering some people face in our world today while we sit idly by. Save the Children, a UK charity is working to help the kids in this particular slum and you can learn more by clicking here. Kroo Bay, where these beautiful people live is built on a pile of trash. Their homes are built on filthy refuse. There are no words for this. If you are compelled to donate to this cause let me know and I will do my best to match your donation. I have to believe every little bit helps somehow.
Monday, July 07, 2008
First thing I notice as I sit outside the room in the viewing area is that M is the only one not wearing a little dress. She's got on sweats, J had supervised the dressing, this is what she always wears, he said.
All the other little girls are in little girl dance dresses. Ribbons in their hair. I notice but since M's never once said anything about needing a dress, not having a dress, I figured it was no big deal. One of the other moms sits down next to me. Which one is yours, she says. That one, I point proudly at M, her wild and unruly hair flying everywhere. Oh, she says. No dress then?
Three little words, no big deal but somehow they are. Well, I say, I am never the one to bring her, I had no idea everyone else wore a dress. She's never mentioned it. I suppose she would, she says. That one's mine. Adorned in dress and ribbons. She's cute, her kid.
I come to every class, she says. Are you fucking kidding me, woman? I think and instead I just say I'd love to but I have to work. I want to stupidly elaborate. I work in non profit. People who have no homes. Mmmhmmm, she replies and I look at her. I tell myself I'm going to be blogging this later so bring it on, chick. I bet you drive a gas guzzling SUV.
The class starts and let's just say ballet is never going to be M's thing. But she's having a great time and that's all that matters. After a few minutes the mom says do you practice with her outside of class? As she's talking I watch her kid, she looks like she belongs in some 70's era Maoist state run school, you know, the ones where they force the kids into these camps and work them 10 hours a day? Exactly like those kids. No, I reply. We don't really practice.
We practice every day, she says. Touche, I think and say well, she's only three and a half. (Her kid is obviously even younger but what the hell, I'm starting to get annoyed). Oh, mine just turned three, smug, she is. So I say I figured she was older, seems like wanting to practice every day would be something that might come later but maybe that's just me. My kid prefers you know, to play. If there was the equivalent of a kick in the shins I've just offered it, I'm petty and besides, you've been pissing me off for 10 minutes and if I had a gold star I'd give you one, your kid is so totally better at three year old ballet than mine and she's got a dress on too. That must feel really, really good. You've just won this bullshit competition. Like I said, I'm petty like that.
We don't exchange another word for the rest of the hour and that's just fine with me. But there was one point when a teacher didn't notice immediately that her kid's shoe was off and this woman almost came unglued. She's talking to the teacher through the wall but of course there is no sound. Fix her shoe, fix her shoe, she's agitated and coincidentally within seconds the teacher happens to notice and does. I lean farther in the other direction and wonder why I'm feeling so defensive, why I'd let any of this matter to me at all.
Part of me still stings so when the class is over I say to M I noticed everyone else has on a dancing dress and she says yeah and I so I ask her if she wants one and she says no, that's ok. But when I get home I tell J about the woman and I can't help saying it's worse than a reality show in that viewing room, the competi-mommies are hardcore and he replied I'm usually the only guy there so they all just sit in a pack and leave me alone. But you should have told me about the dresses, I reply and he looks at me sideways but I can't help the urge to make sure M is mothered in all the ways she needs to be and yet at the same time I realize this is more about me or better said more about others than it is about her and I wonder again why I let it matter, even for one minute, what someone I do not know decides to think about the way I parent my kid.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
She lost her battle today, this brave and brillant woman who's endured so much and now her loving, amazing family is sad and suffering and again there are no words, they are strong and beautiful and broken hearted and cancer is horrible and I am so, so sorry for your loss.
Rest in peace, Andrea, I hope you are finally resting in peace.
Friday, July 04, 2008
M is growing, leaps and bounds. The princess phase seems to be abating a bit, thanks to all things holy and good. I'm watching her perceive the world with more expansion, both good and bad, she's starting to take note of cruelty and injustice and also mystery and magic. Roots and wings. We can't shield her from all the confusing stuff but we can do our best to offer her roots and wings.
The Just Post mailbox is still open for business. Send me your links by Monday if you please. girlplustwo(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Remember this guy? And this one? Both are on the verge of moving into their own places for the first time in a long, long time, a lifetime of longing and life in the streets. They are doing really well and are well on their way. I had nothing to do with this goodness aside from being lucky enough to watch others work their magic but it's the best kind of magic I know.
It's Just Post time again and that means I need you to send me the posts you've read last month that speak to you and speak of justice or mercy or goodness in the world big and small. I have the pleasure of talking about our lovely Roundtable as a panel speaker at BlogHer in a few short weeks and I plan on highlighting this month as an example of our community so I'm counting on you to help me by sending your posts or others you've read to girlplustwo(at)yahoo(dot)com. If this is new to you email me or check out the little purple and white buttons to your right. As always, the Just Post Roundtable is on the 10th.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
I don't know the woman next to me. She's older, in her late 50's maybe and just as I'm thinking it's time to do some bouncing myself she looks over it looks like so much fun. I ask her if she's ever been inside one of these things and she shakes her head oh no, I can't even imagine it, I'd feel silly.
Silly is relative, I say. The question is, do you want to bounce? She looks at me for a long minute and smiles. Yes. So we climb in, me and this woman I do not know and we start jumping amidst the kids, the little ones tumbling all over the place from our weight. We are jumping and I see her laughing, her face is full of joy and she's going from tentative little jumps to great big ones and she throws back her head in laughter. Now this, she says, this is really fun.
And I think she's so beautiful in this moment and I'm reminded yet again how precious this life is and simple it can be if we'd all just let ourselves bounce.