Wednesday, May 30, 2007

i hold this in my hands

I am not a good mother when I am sick. I am not as good of a mother when M is sick for an extended time. The irritability creeps up my neck and radiates out my fingernails. I feel ugly. I sometimes respond in a barely controlled voice.

And for what? I often wonder exactly what point I am trying to make. As if my irritability has any inference aside from confusion, those chocolaty brown eyes gazing up at me, wondering who this woman is, this mommy.

You are the best mommy, M says while crawling in my lap. Oh, baby, I think, I don't think so. I am really quite the bitch.

It's no one fault, sickness. It's a passing thing, a trivial mundanery, a pebble in a shoe. It's not what defines me, and yet it is. Because showing up on the hard days is sometimes when it matters the most. Anyone can be a mom on the easy days, the days of sunshine and playgrounds. But on days of wind and sorrow, gasping and sighs? It's only then that the measure is taken, the cord of wood split.

I wield the axe, heavy in my hand. I can build a fire, I think. Or I can build a fort around myself and hide under the walls. But no one will come looking, eyes turn away from dusty corners, sharp edges tend to wound.

It's the light that we cleave to, the brightness in their eyes. I am still me, underneath.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

breathing lessons

We spent the rest of our holiday like this:

And while sitting there, I took a picture of these:

Both images suck, but one for the obvious and the other because I was using a cell phone camera and hospital lighting is entirely unflattering, not to mention the poor choice of flooring. But since you asked, I thought it only fair to share the henna love.


Needless to say, we are exhausted. M is breathing better but still quite sick, and I've been coughed on enough to form my very own small germ colony. I anticipate joining the ranks in two to three days and somehow, I look forward to it.

The bonus is the hospital sent us home with Our Very Own Breathing Machine, so I can pretend to be a nurse in the comfort of my own living room. Which, I might add, would be accepted much better than the really mean nurse who made my baby shriek and cry for no good reason until I finally stopped the madness and asked her to Leave The Room Right Now. But more on that, later.

Monday, May 28, 2007

hanging around the spirit world

Seizing relentlessly upon the good fortune of grandparents, J and I head over to a wine festival in a small mountain town. There were six of us in all, wandering the streets, listening to music, drinking beer. We'd been up and down the length of it when at the far end we noticed a henna/palmist booth.

The three women wandered over, the men trailing with slightly rolled eyes behind. Ten minutes, we say. It'll just take ten minutes.

The gorgeous and aged Indian woman in the booth looked up at us and welcomed us in. She handed us a book of designs and my friends started perusing the options. I plopped down next to her and said just do what inspires you. She looked me in the eye for a long second, reached over and grabbed my hand momentarily and then said conspiratorially I've got it. Yes. And then as she grabbed my foot and gently placed it in her lap.

Oh, she said. Oh no. One toe ring? You only wear one toe ring? You are out of balance. You must fix this right away. She pulls me towards her and whispers this is very, very bad. Do you do this often? Yes, I replied, every single day. But you know, I can fix this right away. She shook her head and said something I didn't understand and also Before you go to sleep tonight, promise me. No problem. I don't know why, but I believe her, and will do as she says.

She paints an extraordinary design on one foot, and then, looking worried, talks again about her concern for my balance and as such, grabs my other foot and creates another masterpiece there. She asks me to wait and begins to tend to my friends.

While I am waiting I start talking to the palmist, an older British woman who has lightening bolts in her ears. She asks if she can look at my hands and as such, I hand them over, palms up.

Oh, she says. Oh. Quite a lot of karmic debt this time around. You work hard, very hard. But you are more than this. You are on this earth to be creative. To do something different than you are doing. And you are not yet listening. J, I call. Come listen to this. He walks over and she glances at him, says are you sure about this? And I momentarily panic. Perhaps she'll point to an affair on the horizon and these things are probably best learned in private. Two husbands? Four? It's endless, the trouble that might rest in my hands.

But no, nothing of the sort. She continues to talk about my lack of self care in my work, of not standing up for what I need. That this is not working for me. That it is time for something new. Quite a few personal items, nothing new, but all mostly right on. It's shiverish, this experience. Then she speaks of travel, of how I will make my home with little possessions wherever I am. And at that point she grabs J's hands briefly, and notes the same. Both of you, she says. You both have this.

I ask her if she shares the bad things she sees, and she tells me yes. That her code of ethics require it. But there is nothing bad to see in my hands, there is nothing bad here. Only opportunity. I smile broadly, as if I've done something to win this karmic lottery. I am proud of my hands, and I gaze at them adoringly. I am nothing if not a total dork.

She then asks what I do for a living and I tell her. She notes that finding people homes is extremely creative, and when I balk she says why do you Americans think the only creativity comes from paint? I laugh, and ask her if my karmic debt meant I was one hell of a slumlord in a previous life. Something like that. But that is for you to discover.

We share a connection, these lovely women and I. For a few moments my friends and our men fade away, I bask in the energy of these women. These women who know things.

Its time to go, my friends are sufficiently hennaed and the men are long out of beer. Those ten minutes have turned into an hour or more, it is time to go. As we say goodbye, hugs and kisses bestowed all around. And I turn back to the Indian woman and ask does the painting represent something? I meant to ask you your inspiration.

Of course it does, my dear. When I touched you I knew immediately what to do. It means it's time for a new beginning. It's time for you to listen.

And I couldn't agree more. Now I just need to learn how to get my brain to step aside and allow my heart to lead for awhile.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

and now i want to go to an ashram

With yet another installment of alternate grandparental types sleeping on my floor this weekend (we are nothing if not generous, welcoming hosts) I've had the opportunity to read an entire book in one day. In one day. This alone is akin to multiple orgasms and gigantic vats of guacamole.

I devoured eat, pray, love (you know the book, the one everyone else in the world read last year that I consistently ignored) and fell completely enchanted with Liz and her tale of self and spiritual discovery, one that took her around the world and back. Her story is remarkable, not only because of her travels but because of the spirituality she discovered simply by saying yes.

Yes. It's such a simple thought, isn't it. To realize we can choose something different, to turn defiantly and bravely away from the limits we've placed upon ourselves and decide that being happy, deeply, deeply happy is worth the pursuit.

And it made me think of my current stuckedness, my dreams of heading international and my desire to fall more deeply in love with myself and the world around me. And how I have the power to make that happen simply by saying yes.

A few years ago I practiced Kundalini yoga, something I found so powerful, so precipice-nudging that I ended up shying away from it's call, returning instead to the known, the predictable, the pieces I thought I could control. But as I read her journey I was reminded of how far I creeped out onto the edge before I turned back for the safety of the familiar, and as such shortchanged the energy I had just begun to discover. My teacher at the time told me to only focus on the door in front of me, opening that one door of possibility will allow for the next, but the next is a mystery, a delicious mystery and while unseen, trusting in it's obviousness was the most important thing I could do.

And so I opened one door, and then turned and came back the way I came. But after reading this book yesterday I became committed to returning. Because I, too, want to laugh in the face of divine. I don't expect it to be easy, but I do know how to get back to that first door. I've left it slightly ajar down the end of a dark and dusty hallway for far, far too long.

Friday, May 25, 2007

camp

I've interrupted my regularly scheduled blogging routine by enrolling in a six week fitness boot camp. I didn't want to tell you until I actually made myself go to the first session, because there is nothing I dislike more (besides W., corporatocracy, boy bands and mustard) than saying I am going to do something and then not doing it.

So instead of quietly creeping out pre-dawn to my darkened living room, making coffee and unfolding my laptop on the couch in the dark I am getting dressed and running around a park silently comparing my fitness levels to those around me.

This quietly competitive streak is entirely self-contained and somewhat uncontrollable. I can't be last to finish, I must do the sit ups until the bitter end even if I haven't done a sit up in two years. I found myself safely ensconced in the mid-fitness category today, others who kicked more ass and others who couldn't kick much which is enough to satisfy this latent streak of mine and force me to return. But for those of you who drop by regularly for an early morning waxing and shine, you might find my vibe off a bit until I've figured out where I get another free waking hour that doesn't include apple juice, toilet training, homeless people or now, push ups.

But let's hear it for the push ups, people.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

winds of change

There is a little girl in M's school (one of the aforementioned purse holders) who appears to have had a rocky road in her three years. She's been living with her auntie for the last year and a half while her mom has been away (either rehab or jail, haven't quite understood which). She only sees her mom very sporadically, every few months for a day or two (some sort of visitation). Lately when I drop M off or pick her up D runs to me and hugs me, and not only hugs me but holds on tight and I have to pry her fingers from around my neck when it's time to go.

It's interesting watching M in those moments, she watches D fling herself at me and sometimes then needs to be held as well, other times watches silently, and sometimes reacts strongly, telling D that this is HER mommy. Mostly though, she just watches.

Her auntie walked two days ago when D was clinging to my neck. She saw D in my arms and paused, then said quietly that D's mom was getting custody back in a month and that it was a very difficult time for everyone. I can only imagine what that must be like for D, her life has undoubtedly been uprooted before, and now after so long, she's facing it again.

As I untangled D's arms from my neck she looked at her auntie and said i want to go home with her. I want to go home with her NOW. She started crying and wouldn't go to her auntie and I saw tears in her eyes as well. I am not a significant person in D's life, I've done little more but hold her when she asks me to. And I don't have a relationship with her aunt.

It was awkward, and me being new at all of this said something about them coming over soon so M and D can play. Her auntie agreed, we are both aware of how close the two have become. But D was adamant. It needed to be now. It didn't seem to be about playing as much as coming from a place of sadness and uncertainty. Of wanting, maybe, to hurt her auntie because she is feeling confused and scared (see. Jen. project.) In the moment it continued to be awkward, but we left with a plan for them to come over.

Yesterday when I dropped M off D ran to me and clung. She said again that she wanted to come home with me, and put her head on my shoulder. She didn't move for several minutes, and the day care person finally came over and tried to take her, and there was an awkwardness again as if she didn't want D to impose on me. I told D in front of the day care person that I could tell she has a lot on her mind, that a lot was happening in her life right now. And that sometimes we need extra hugs and that was okay. She continued to hold on.

I feel for her; the confusion and uncertainty must be driving this, but as I am not friends with her auntie I am hesitant about what to do. I am sure it's a very difficult time for her, too. I am touched by the little person, her quiet eyes and sad embrace. I have invited them to come over, but I know it's short lived; once her mom gets her back all of this will disappear and D will be thrust into a new world full of changes. And she has no say in the matter. I might be looking for someone to save me, too.

I don't have any experience with this outside of the families I've worked with over the years, and in those cases my role has been defined. Here it is not, so I don't know what the best way to treat her and this for the next few weeks is. I am not trying to sound plaintive so much as asking for thoughts from those of you who've been through big transitions with toddlers (that aren't your own). It seems like an opportunity to do something right.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

clicking and spark

Otherwise known as two rights, a dumbassery, and a wrong.

Lately on the way to school M screeches my song, my song and as such I play Isobel by Bjork repeatedly, as it is the inspiration for her middle name. Today my lovely girl sang along and knew most of the words. Be still my heart, her twofullness singing Bjork.

Tonight we went out for family night (no, this isn't some long standing tradition, but rather something I made up, er, tonight) and M was screeching (she screeches a lot, yo) Me love family night, me love family night. I love that she loves everything even if it's brand new and fairly undefined. The wide open acceptance, the joyfulness of little things. I learn so much from just being around her.

And later as we were walking through the parking lot of a restaurant hand in hand, I turned and asked her if she wanted to see my sidekick. She said yes, so I reached behind her and lightly tapped her on the butt. She cracked up and turned around and said want to see my sidekick mommy? and then full on shin-kicked me. Hard. So totally my fault, right? But it was hysterical. We were hysterical. We were laughing so hard she did it again while I wasn't looking. Ouch.

But earlier, as I was hanging at M's daycare with her gaggle of friends crowded around in our usual morning routine (which includes multiple hugs and me oohing and ahhing over the content of their backpacks and purses because I have a thing for little girl backpacks and purses, not so much the container but with the things they put in them, and not so much that, but the reasons they chose that broken doll and the old piece of paper and that one sock fascinate me) when a boy I hadn't met before toddled over and as he did M promptly stated me no like him and her friends said me no like him either. Caught off guard as I was, I let them know that I Liked Him and that they were being Completely Uncool.

WTF, ladies? You are TWO. I was disheartened all day that the nastiness could start this early. I told J about it and at our Family Night (ahem, it sounds like a tradition already) we talked to her about it but I have no idea how much it mattered because she was too busy stuffing olives in her face to respond. But it made me sad. Like a emotional kick in the proverbial shin.

Is divisiveness so ingrained in human nature that it can't be helped, even in toddlers?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

bark at the moon

Many years ago I met a guy at a beer festival. He of the long hair and multiple tattoos, me of the boredom and hunger. We danced wildly hands gripping beers, drinking in the sun. Numbers exchanged at the end of the day, curiouser still. I notice the flame creeping up his leg and I wonder how far it goes.

A few days later he calls, we agree to meet up at a bar. I go there that warm summer night and share a few beers and agree to go for a ride on his motorcycle. He's bad, this man. And I was recently tired of being good.

We climb on his bike, I've had several drinks now and am feeling no pain. He hands me a helmet with check out my tits stenciled on the back and I laugh in the face of it's absurdity. It has nothing to do with me so I slip it on my head and hold on tight.

We hit a few more bars and around 1am he talks about some of the darker sides of biker gangs. It's rather like a bizarre version of the learning channel. I laugh in the face of crime and subjugation and order another beer. I am reckless. I wear the helmet again on the way out.

It happens that his apartment is close to the bar of origin, so he offers to take me there on the way back to my car. It's dangerous and I know it and I say yes anyways. His badness has nothing to do with me, not yet. I am just visiting and beneath the devilry and the sexism he's just a guy on a bike.

We go into his apartment, half the night is gone by now. Candles stuck in skulls, another motorcycle inside. He shows me around, the last stop his room. A room that is almost solely full of bed, leopard skin and all. Something catches my eye and I turn my face upward. A complicated system of pulleys and leather and shackles hang from the ceiling, a whip looped through the cords. For the first time all night I am truly taken aback, this is more than I bargained for and it's more scary than absurd (although absurd it still is). He notices me gazing upward and says, all six feet of him with hair streaming down his back You should know I never have sex on the first date.

Immediately center rights itself again, his words warning me not to get my hopes up when instead I wanted to run for the door. I am thanking the gods and godless my intuition was right, that although he's bad, he's also good. We talk for another hour or so before I go. And when I do he says to give him a call if I am still interested, a chaste kiss on my cheek ends the night.

I never call this man again, this wildly dangerous man with a certain moral fortitude. But I'll always remember that night fondly, the dark and windy ride in and out of the badlands.

Monday, May 21, 2007

cut and run, pt 2

60 Minutes featured a piece about hospitals dumping homeless people to the streets and shelters last night. While I never pass up an opportunity to see Anderson Cooper talk about anything, it did leave me a bit frustrated because this is nothing new.

We've had ongoing frustrations with medical providers for a long time and I've seen many homeless people "dumped" from medical and psychiatric facilities over the years. I've seen people with horrible wounds and medical conditions lying on shelter floors. But this time it was caught on tape, and when it's caught on tape folks are pushed into action. Everyone was apologetic and sufficiently appalled. But I refuse to believe it was the exception, that one homeless person who slipped through the cracks. I heard the comments from the guys on the streets, saying they'd seen it for years. I wish they'd given them more airtime than featuring one talking head after another. Because those cats were ready to tell it like it is.

It appeared that some shelters were now installing cameras on the outside of their facilities in order to catch others who attempt to dump folks at their door. Good idea, if that didn't mean they'd just drop them off a block away from now on. Next you'll have to post security guards on the perimeter. After that, foot patrols. I wonder how many beds these additional expenses could have paid for instead?

Don't get me wrong; I have sympathy for the hospitals. Their mission is not to provide housing. So we can point fingers and blame them all we want (as the link above will attest my doing so firsthand) but the real issue is affordable housing. And we let our community leaders off the hook by blaming another spoke in a broken wheel. If we don't want hospitals (and shelters) pushed to desperate measures we should prioritize adequate discharge planning which should include the services necessary to assist in obtaining stable housing.

But is there political will for that? Sometimes the problem seems so overwhelming that there are no solutions. And yet each day or month or year we spend debating and philosophizing, people get sicker. Every day we ignore our housing crisis, people's lives are in jeopardy. But sometimes it's easier to talk and point instead of getting on our knees and getting our hands dirty. It's like that with a lot of social crises; the throwing of hands in the air. The feelings of helplessness. Of hoping that "they" will come up with a solution soon. But you can only dig a hole so deep and still be able to crawl back out.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

scaredy cat

my parents are in town this weekend, a blessing overall and yet sometimes not. our house is incredibly small, adding two more people inside it's walls reduces the space, air quality seems forced at a time when i need to be taking great giant gulps of air. on top of that j is sick, has been sick, sick all week.

i've retreated at the predawn hours on a sunday to a local coffee shop, stepping over sleeping people on my way out the door. work is filling my lungs from within, projects yet to be finished and sweeping changes in the process of being made.

and yet as i sit in this still small morning instead of using the time wisely my mind drifts to my child, this child of my heart and all the ways we teach them to fear.

we have some rules already; no talking about monsters unless in response to M's questioning, no joking about dark places. but fear is everywhere, used sometimes as a game while grandma pretends to be afraid when M puts on lion mask and chases her around the room. scary! she says. so scary! to which M says me scared too, gramma! mom, i say, the downer at the party, it isn't scary. it's funny, it's adorable, but it's not scary. i realize you are kidding, but she listens to your words and somewhere deep inside must wonder why this earns the label of scared.

you are right, she said, you are right. and stops. a small victory.

be careful, we holler, as M climbs down steps or rides her bike. you could fall, echoes in her ears as she races past.

there were monsters at school today, M screeches on our way home last week. monsters? I would have liked to meet them. I love monsters. in fact, they are my favorite. No mommie, they are scary! i scared! Scared? I say, did one of the monsters scare you? yes! she exclaims. How, baby? and there is nothing to say, a process in her head still to complicated to put into words, but yet it's there, the fear.

I want her to be fearless, to laugh in the face of monsters, to know she has all the resources in the world to keep herself safe, and yet i am achingly aware of her vulnerability. On the surface I can be diligent, aware, careful. I can screen out books that reference being afraid of the dark or fear of monsters. And there are practical things to fear in this world, the balance of that staggers me regularly, I can't pretend that isn't true.

But what about the fear I carry around with me every single day? The fear of failure, of insecurity, of vulnerability. Of making the wrong decision and falling short? Of not being a good mother, partner, daughter, human? How do I wear my fear and what bigger lesson do I teach M by it's presence?

And worse is the hypocrisy, because monsters scare me too, but it's the unknown ones around the corner rather than the ones under the bed.

Friday, May 18, 2007

a little respect

M and I were driving home last night rocking out to a little Aretha when Respect came on. Yes, it's overplayed, yes, I know. But as I was listening it reminded me of the work I did ten or so years ago at a group home for addicted throwaway jail destined teenage girls. We were a small house, six girls at a time with a therapeutic vibe, a tight staff and an intentionally loving atmosphere.

Some of the girls had been through more than others, by 14 some had been sexually active for a while, done a lot of drugs, spent time in juvenile hall. Most had been abused in one way or another. And whether gangbanger with blackened eyes or hardened little con woman, they all wanted love. They craved it. But they didn't know how to ask for it in healthy ways.

One girl was especially tough. She'd been so damaged early on by abandonment and violence she had a hard time connecting in any sort of meaningful way. She was preoccupied with boys and her looks and rarely was able to dig deeper. And we required digging. There was a lot of processing. Reflection. Feedback. Buttons were pushed, mine as well. But I felt such a strong connection to her, this vacant little heart who so desperately wanted to be mothered.

One night I was helping her clean up the kitchen, working together in silence. I started singing spontaneously what you want, baby i got, what you need, do you know I got it....and so on, probably butchering the words when a small voice behind started singing just a little bit and so on, rounding out the song. We started singing together but I never looked at her, I just kept on cleaning. It felt big, this moment in the kitchen, her voice getting louder, until the end we were both loudly R-E-S-P-E-C-Ting and socking it to me over and over. It was innocent and impromptu and beautiful.

When the song ended we both started laughing and she fell into my arms, hugging me tightly. It might not have been much, that moment in the kitchen, but it cracked open the door and we became very close over the year she was there, this child of my heart. It didn't stop her from giving me an enormously hard time occasionally, but I always took it as a compliment because it meant she felt safe enough to let her guard down and know she'd still be loved.

In other news: my blog is 365 days old today. Happy Blog Birthday to me. And more importantly, thank you for making me feel so welcome. I can't tell you how much this has meant to me, getting to know so many of you. I had no idea a community like this existed, and now I couldn't imagine it not.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

therein lies the judging

Your comments (thank you) to yesterday's post had me pondering why I am reluctant to (publicly) pass judgments. Some of you commented that we all do it, and of course we do. A hundred times a day, from the overarching news of the day: Falwell is dead, see ya fucker (sorry, I couldn't resist the joke from a previous post) to the minute (that guy who just cut me off is an asshole) to issues such as how others parent, etc.

Of course we do. It's how we make sense of the world. I have my world view, and I need the things around me to fit into that construct based on my spectrum of morality and ethics and the like. But at the end of the day, what do judgments really get us?

I think it widens the gap rather than closing it. But I am not sure how we organize our constructs around the things we see without doing it, it's something we've all been taught early on. You are like me, that is good. You are not like me, that is weird, scary, confusing, strange, wrong. Entire tolerance movements have been driven by the judgment of others.

And of course, some judgments are right on and necessary and keep other people safe. But moving the judgment into action that results in a more positive outcome is the kicker, right? My armchair waxing isn't helping my neighbor, and neither is giving her the impression that I think her husband is a smuck. No doubt she already knows he's a smuck and doesn't need me pointing it out. So how does one express their judgment in a way that isn't alienating?

I know when I feel judged in a way I disagree with I feel compelled to prove why that judgment was wrong. I know I take deep offense. But if someone points something out that resonates and makes me want to try something different, or identifies a defense mechanism or behavior I need to take a look at, I am honestly very grateful. But it's an art form, delivering that nudge without alienating the individual.

It's early, this isn't well thought out (hey, no judging) and I am rambling. But I am curious:

How can we use our judgments to have a positive outcome? And what is the benefit to judging if there is no outcome at all?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

jen passes judgment

I have a neighbor I really like. She lives down the street with her husband and two kids. We've not spent much time together outside of random park encounters, but there have been quite a few of those over the past few years.

But her husband, see, I want to kick him in the shin. And yes, I am passing major judgment based on little information. He's from another part of the world. He's very good looking. Enjoys nice cars. He's got a great tattoo. And I've never seen him with his children. Never once alone, never once as a couple unless it's been in their yard at home. Never once.

She's with them by herself every single time. She's a terrific mom, very kind, patient, grounded. And overworked, tired, alone. Again, this is based on little information. We never talk about this. Even though every time I am with her I want to. And yet, the kinder thing seems to not pursue it. She's dropped small comments, nothing elaborate, it's told me enough. I've opened the door, and she's not walked through. The kinder thing seems to not pursue it.

I bet that before they had kids it was different, but now she's the mother, she has a job to do. And the game is on, don't bother me.

I am passing judgment. I might be wrong, I don't think so, but it's possible. And it's clearly none of my business. And curiouser still is why it bothers me so. This has nothing to do with me, impacts my life in virtually no way at all. And yet I care, I care because I know now what it takes to raise a child; the pain and exhaustion, the joy and laughter. If I had to do it alone, I would and I could. It's not about that. It's about having someone right there next to you who chooses not to do his part.

That's what makes me want to kick him in the shin. But more than that, it's interesting what my reaction says about me. Something very distant from my peace love and understanding frame of mind, and I am not entirely sure I like that, either. Perhaps I should be kicking myself instead.

On a different note, I had the chance to drive a fancy green hybrid this month. Check out my review over here and see for yourself.

Monday, May 14, 2007

wanderlust, that bitch

she's back again, this time only after a few months off El Sal. the urge begins, the rationalization, the what do you think abouts....the we really need to check on our land (um, yeah. it's land. you know, sitting on the earth. what is there to check?) the places we need to go before we end up in Belize.

the talks on our porch about a year on the road, the hows, the whens, the bargains we make with ourselves aching to escape the familiar and wander dusty food stalls and listen to a sitar on the side of the road. the things we want to teach M. climbing mountains. sleeping with bedbugs. foreign beer. warm water. beans. cold showers. old buses. backpacks. red dirt. curry. feeling most alive when we are slightly terrified. negotiations, compromises, guilt, acquiescence, passion, hunger, barter, desire. sacrifice, enlightenment.

dammit, wanderlust.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

jungle fever

We had a work friend of J's over for dinner last night and he's recently married a Brazilian woman who we've never met. I love gatherings like this, a bit of the unknown, wine, decent food.
A and S met and fell in love in an extraordinary way. S is a world traveler, a truth seeker, a man who vibrates on a non-material plane. He had been headed to the Amazon, and on his way through he met a girl, a lovely girl, A. A and S hit it off smashingly, in five days time had fallen quite towards each other, but S was off to the jungle, his nomadic spirit calling him. She wrote her number on a slip of paper, he shoved it in his pocket. Promises were made to call on his way back and off he went.

S trekked for several days from one intentional (experimental organic hallucinogenic) community to the next. He was traveling solo, but had made a few friends. He was hiking one early morning and noticed a bridge up ahead, and in that instant the world went dark.

He came to in a rudimentary hospital, where people he didn't recognize were sewing his ear back onto the side of his head. He had been attacked viciously and left for dead. Robbed. His skull was cracked open. A farmer found him floating face up in a shallow stream. He saved his life, this farmer. He loaded him into the back of a truck and took him to the hospital. Dropped him off and drove away. This man saved his life and S never saw his face.

A nurse found that slip of paper in his pocket while he was still unconscious. She called it and found A. She was informed of what had happened and asked to help. A immediately arranged for S to be flown back to the city, and after more time in a bigger hospital she took him home. He was battered, broken, and had no memory of what happened. She took two weeks out of her life and brought him home and nursed him back to health; spoon feeding him yogurt and sponge bathing him. She cared for him around the clock. She'd only met him the week before.

This was four years ago. They engaged in a bi-country relationship for several years until getting married and then finally, the curse of american immigration processes lifted, A was allowed to come to the states.

After sitting captivated by their story I sat thinking about the cosmic forces at play, the world literally knocking S on the skull to alert him to this love, this path. And as I am thinking this J says wow, that's a lot of psychic shit to deal with as a couple, getting married after she saved your life. The cosmic weight of that must have a huge role in your relationship.

I railed against that at first, the true love, my heart screamed. The divine intervention that was needed to tame the nomad. All because of LOVE. And yet J is right too. But right in a way that doesn't feel quite as romantic. We talked a bit more about it, obviously something they've rattled around already over the years. And I realized again how much I romanticize the concept of love. And yet I can't help myself, this incongruity always present in my view of the world, a blessing and a curse both. And yet I choose to believe.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

bearing witness

I see you. Fierce in your love, devastated by their suffering. Unbelievable joy in their accomplishments, no matter how small. The weight and measure you give every decision, not only for them, but for yourself because all you do affects them now. You carry that proudly; shoulders bending but never giving. I see you.

I see you. Mothers of one, two, three, and more. You who so desperately want a child, first time mothers, the sages who've been around the block a few times, the grandmothers. I see the care you put into your homes, your relationships, your life. Because all you do affects them now, you feel that and it matters. You would stop at nothing. I see you.

I see you, protective tigress, guffawing rainbow, clouds of rain. I see your journey and your sacrifice. I see your joyous faces thanking the gods for one more day, and for the end of each one passed. The miles on your cars, your feet, your souls. I see your old wardrobes and the million things you do without because there is something more important now, the lack of personal space, the creativity you once mustered. All of that makes you even more beautiful.

I see you. The moments when you are alone at 3am, a crying baby and little relief. The work you do even when you are sick, the occasional or often credit you don't receive by the simple fact that everyone's needs are met. The sacrifices you've made to your career, your adult life. How you know it and are fine because you've found your new calling and it's exactly how it should be, even when it's not.

I see you. Bending in immeasurable ways, picking up thousands of toys, singing in your kitchens, traveling the world. Teaching compassion, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, and justice. Planting flowers and drinking invisible tea. Kissing bare bellies and grasping them close. Watching them sleep and cuddling them awake. Holding hearts and souls when others have tried to crush them. You want everything for them and you do whatever is needed. You show up. Simply put, you never stop showing up.

To some of the most outstanding mothers in the world, I see you. I see you and I celebrate the majesty of you.

Happy Mothers' Day, you gorgeous, gorgeous human beings, you.

Friday, May 11, 2007

turning the tables

M and I went to Whole Foods he other day to pick up a few things; a treat I allow myself to indulge in every few months. A fancy new one opened near where we live and let me tell you, it's pure money. The super deluxe model of all things organic and lovely.

As we are heading in M, while screeching for blue cookies (um, dude, this is WF. No blue cookies here. And stop saying that in front of all the organically correct green people lest they think I actually feed you blue cookies) sees the tables outside and says me want to sit there and have a snack. Ok. I'd not have thought of it, but why not.

So we indulge in some shopping, me wheeling M around (while she munches on an organic free range pesticide free locally grown apple) picking out far too expensive cheeses and the like. We also gather some snacks for our spontaneous table date. We check out and I load the single most expensive shopping bag of my life into the car and head back to the table. M climbs into the seat across from me and we sit calmly, snacking. Talking a bit about bumblebees, flowers, and cars. You know, girl stuff. No heavy issues, politics or whatnot. Just me, my kid, and snacks.

It's changing, this mom gig. It's getting better and better, my confidence in my own abilities have grown and matured. There is a companionship of sorts intermingling with the parenting, an exchange of giggles and dreams, of fantasy and make believe. I watched her from across the table, her brilliant smile and shining eyes and all I could think was how fantastically lucky I am to have gotten to meet someone as spectacular as her.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

April Just Posts

justpostapril

Just One.

As I pondered on my topic for this month's roundtable introduction, I thought about how we can only do good in the world if we are first good to ourselves. If our well is dry, we'll not look outside the walls of our own homes and into the lives of others. If we've lost our voice, we'll not be able to talk about what we believe in. And if we lose that, we lose everything.

I've experienced this lately, and the desire to draw inward has superceded my will to do good for the first time in many years. I can see how easy it is to turn off, to close the windows, to stop feeling the world. While I might visit here temporarily, I cannot stomach residing here. The colors are cloudy without the passion and determination for the things I believe in. Which is why when times of drought we have a community we can lean on and allow others to carry the water for a while. But only for a while, because we must be the change we want to see in the world, and that starts inside each of us and radiates outward.

So this month, for myself and for all of you, I wish for peace, I wish for determination, and I wish for compassion; for ourselves and for our world. And I challenge you as I've challenged myself: allow yourself to be moved by the suffering and the beauty in our world.

The writers of our April Just Posts have all done just that in a variety of ways; whether it's grieving over the tragedies of the past month, pondering the ongoing state of affairs, or being moved by unspeakable beauty or suffering. It's all captured here with many voices singing many different songs. And you've chosen to share that energy with others, and I have to believe that alters the vibrations on the side of good. Thank you for carrying my water.

Ann with an uneven playing field
Andrea with crime and punishment
Slouching Mom with we-could-try-not-going-gentle-into-that
Chani with forced-therapy-and-cho-seung-hui and you'll have to pry my multivitamins out of my cold dead fingers and gun control
Cecilieaux with information free society
Mad with because smart women turn me on
Bon with mercy in the world
Crazymum with woman-on-streetcar-i-saw-her
Venessa with i-have-been-thinking-about-this
Redneck Mommy with looking-for-a-hand-out
Neen with it's not too late
Bad with darkness-calls-me-every-night
Jen with hard on the outside, unexpected gospel and my friend bob
Gwen with this-little-light-of-mine
John with rockwell and ruby
Little Monkies with a new day is dawning, America
Alejna with last minute earth day gifts
Lucia with oventic
Julie with Justice and Forgiveness Pt 1, Pt. 2 and just reporting a tragic story
KC with getting to 2nd base and closed doors
Alice with spring flings and baby warriors and stranger in a strange land
Susanne with my son wanted pink shoes
Jenn Satterwhite with The Twilight Zone and teaching understanding of disabilities
Mouse with putting plastic on notice and natural vs. synthetic
Karen with At nearly 33 years old
Girl con Queso with I won't do this story justice
S. with blogging against disablism

Many of these posts were submitted by the women below. Thank you for making sure we didn't miss a thing.

Chani
Anne
KC
Susanne
Lawyer Mama
Jess
Flutter
Alejna
Hel
Kim
Catherine
Mad

Don't forget to stop by Mad's end of the table to see what's rattling around in her soul this month. If you want to get on the mailing list for next month's just post roundtable, email me at girlplustwo(at)yahoo(dot)com. We're here every month on the 10th, and it's our sixth month anniversary next time, and as such I expect to pull out all the stops.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

the (internal) commune

Between the comments to my last post and Chani's piece I've been daydreaming about what it would mean to truly have a vibrant community around me in the physical form. It's a place I drift to sometimes since finding all of you, imagining a neighborhood where to the left, right and across lived strong and amazing women (and men) who strive to connect in an authentic and tangible way.

How rich our evenings and weekends would be; how full the lives of our children. So many of you have left your imprint on me, of course I want to share that with M, so that she, too can grow up feeling supported by a diverse and stimulating choir of voices. And I know we'd pull each other's trucks out of the mud, literally and figuratively as often as needed.

It's one of the reasons we are eager to move to Belize. While I obviously romanticize the possibilities, I can't help but think how different life would be if it were a bit slower, with less media influence, more time to live in community. Harder in some ways, but richer in others.

The last time we were there we were talking to some of our neighbors, some boys in their teens, and I asked them what they thought was most important. Just like that, an open ended question. One of them immediately replied to be conscious.

And that's how you all make me feel, too. More conscious. That's one of the many gifts of this community. And in that spirit I am taking a bit of a hiatus from my storytelling (not from blogging, just the recent dredging I've been doing); I had hoped it would make me feel less like drowning but it was having the opposite effect. And the next stories on my mind are darker. I am sure I'll return to it, but for now I am going to spend some time wandering down other paths and see what I find there.

Monday, May 07, 2007

this is good

A lovely friend comes over and cooks you a delicious meal and after everyone is full you are sitting outside on the lawn when a neighbor walks past who invites you over for a drink so your family walks down the street and sits and talks about travel and children and the world over glasses of red as the sun goes down, kids dirty and happy; strawberry juices streaking down naked bellies....

Summer, old friend. It's nice to see you again.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

purple dragons

Around the time D was preparing to leave us, we moved another family in who was about to give birth. They'd been living in the mountains camping for the past year with their two year old daughter. They were worn and weathered and from a clinical perspective, a bit nuts.

The mom was pure granola. The dad didn't say much of anything, head facing the floor. Their daughter was incredibly beautiful. When we asked about the baby, the previous prenatal care (of which there had been none) and the birth plan, she told us I don't need no one but Jesus to have this baby. Jesus will deliver my baby just fine. And respectfully I replied That may be true, but Jesus isn't delivering a baby in my house, friend. Jesus needs to deliver that baby at the hospital. (note: I am fine with home births, of course. But not in a situation like this. I think Jesus would push for a midwife too. I'm just saying).

And then she pulled off her knit cap and Cheetos cascaded to the floor. Her hair was full of them, some fell out of her hat and others were still resting in her hair. She reached up and grabbed one and popped it in her mouth and handed another to her child. And I could tell in that instant we were in for trouble.

I need to make sure we are clear. A home birth is not an option if you want to stay here.
Ok, she said. Right.

This family was trouble from the beginning. Things disappeared around the facility, she got into arguments with other residents. She continued to near her due date, still refused to see a doctor. We tried to get social services involved, but the county wouldn't come out based on the lack of prenatal care. The legality of abortion means a longer rope for pregnant moms. Even women using drugs during pregnancy could get away with it as long as the child isn't born with it in their system. So we tried, but again, we were on our own with this. We all were holding our breath.

I came to work one morning to find five or six police cars on site. One of them said they were searching for the husband, he was last seen running naked down the middle of the street. They said they had a warrant out for his arrest. They didn't know where the mom or daughter was and they wanted into the apartment. They had their guns in their hands. Cops don't tell you everything so the guns told me enough.

I opened up the door and saw that the apartment was trashed. There was a decent amount of blood on the floor and when the cops saw that they pushed me aside and searched the unit only to find it empty. The cops then told me I needed to talk to the fire chief, they were here last night and he could tell us what happened.

I called the fire chief and he said we've seen a lot of shit, young lady, not the least of which comes out of your place, but last night took the cake. What the hell is going on over there? We got a series of 911 calls from that unit, but when we'd call back no one would answer. We knocked and knocked for almost half an hour until finally the door opened up. We were this close to breaking it down.

But then we saw the little girl. That little girl answered the door in a barney costume. Why the hell was she wearing a barney costume at 3am? We yelled inside the unit for her parents, and her mom came to the door, naked and covered in blood, a newborn baby in one hand and the placenta still inside her, umbilical cord still attached. She had that damn baby in the bathtub. We delivered the placenta right there on the floor. And seriously, what the hell was the little girl doing in a barney costume in the middle of the night?

There is a bit of unspoken camaraderie when we all deal with something so off kilter, so he didn't expect me to have an answer as much as needing to get it off his chest. Obviously the costume was the least of it, but what it represented was the worst. But at least part of the mystery was solved. Mom and daughter and baby were at the hospital.

The cops came back and wanted back inside the apartment. They'd apprehended the father at a park down the street and he was sitting in the back of their car. He was being arrested and they wanted to take some things for evidence. We only learned later what he was charged with, and I am deliberately not repeating it here because it is too disgusting to recount.

Mom lost custody of both kids in the hospital. The baby was going to be ok. We refused to take the mom back, she'd already caused so many problems in the short while she was here. We extend ourselves a lot, too much, for many. This time we drew the line.

But I'd be lying if I said the little girl didn't haunt me. I wonder what sort of madness she's witnessed and how she came to find a small measure of protection in an old barney costume.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

under the bridge (girl on a corner)

I've been using this place to work through some shit lately, but what I am working through isn't what I am writing about, so instead, I am remembering. I am remembering the reasons why, the road I've taken to get here, the once bright fire within me. I am remembering faces, times, situations, and people I've loved. I am trying, desperately trying, to find my way. But what does that mean for you? I wondered that last night, if you might be wondering how long I'll carry on moving backwards. Or at the very least some of you are onto me. Hel see, has already called my bluff.

The illusion is worn, the hole deeper. My choices have greater impact, decisions weigh so much now. And I don't know how to deal with it, so instead I am reaching out and back, to find the place I started so I can find the place I need to go.

There might be a few more stories yet. Bear with me, as I am struggling to bear with myself.

Oh, and hey, it's the last call for our fifth Just Post Roundtable. If you have a post of yours or one you've appreciated that was written by someone else, please send them my way to girlplustwo (at) yahoo(dot) com by May 7th and I'll send you the button. Go on. It's good for the soul.

We'll link all posts and anyone who refers one (or more) in our Just Post Roundtable on the 10th. If this is new to you, please feel free to check it out here or at the JP buttons to your right.

Friday, May 04, 2007

mistakes were made

About seven years ago we opened a state of the art program for homeless families. The facility combined apartments and a community center; services and housing in a gorgeous setting. It was the first time I'd had the lead on opening a facility. There was a team of us, all young, idealistic, and extremely dedicated. Those of us who are still left remember that time as the golden age. And it was. Extraordinarily good work happened during those years.

But that doesn't mean we didn't make mistakes. Some of the units were subsidized by the county, they would refer hard to place folks to us and they could stay for several years. D came to us via that program, her very severe mental illness had through medication, transformed her from an incoherent street person to a competent, albeit quirky woman. And she'd just had a baby, fathered on the street. Her pregnancy was the catalyst, months of care had helped her regain what she'd lost. The county had invested a lot of time with her, they were very proud of her stabilization and felt this was the next step, as living on her own with her child was not yet a comfortable option.

For a couple of years it worked. D, as with many other long timers became part of our fabric and we became an extended village for their children. We'd often be working at our desks with children in our laps, under our feet. Snacks offered, breaks taken to color pictures or play a game of chase. It was always, always chaotic in the best sort of way.

We started noticing changes in D. Her affect was becoming more volatile, her eyes lost their clarity. And by then her son was a toddler; 0ur concerns for him on the rise. We appealed to the county, who refused to intervene until she'd fully decompensated. We called for welfare checks, both from the county and the police, desperate for someone to declare her holdable. No one would. D had been around this block before and she'd perform magnificently in front of them and they'd leave blaming us for wasting their time. This is all too common, we'd made many welfare calls during those years for different reasons, and already knew that only 11% of calls actually turned into open cases. The system was already too full.

Things continued to decline, and worse, D had lost trust in us, bringing in the outsiders increased her paranoia. She withdrew, her visits to the office less and less common. We were increasingly scared for her son, and we had gotten the message loud and clear from the county: we were on our own in this until she fit the criteria for a hold (demonstrated in front of them as there are laws protecting the mentally ill. A hold that doesn't meet criteria could result in a lawsuit. Asses needed to be covered).

We knew she'd stopped taking her meds and for awhile we convinced her to let us monitor her, we'd each take shifts and go to her house and watch her swallow. We were not designed for this, nor did we have the expertise. We were the renegade social workers out of our realm and very much on our own. This went on for a couple weeks but things were not getting better. Typically a month or so is needed to achieve true stabilization, and time was not on our side.

I went to her door one day to check in on her, she reluctantly opened it, wild eyed and manic. She pulled me inside, ranting about the president, the FBI, she was being watched and it was my fault. Her son strapped to a high chair watching the show. The apartment was a disaster, pictures torn from magazines covered the walls, the eyes on every single face had been blackened out.

I asked her to come with me to the office, gathered the staff around. I sat next to her and told her how much we all loved her and her son, how worried we were. That we needed to make sure she was taking her pills, that even with us watching her we suspected she still wasn't taking them. She listened quietly and once I stopped she looked up, her face contorted and in a voice I'd never heard before I am the lord jesus christ and you are persecuting me. my son is the son of god, they want to take him and I will kill him before they can find him. he will die for all of your sins. We collectively gasped, the men moved slightly closer, the women slightly back. I'll bet good money that no one there that day has ever forgotten those moments. A window into someone's hell had opened and we all had first row seats.

We knew we had to call the police and we knew how bad that was going to be. We placed the call and told them she'd threatened her son's life, knowing it was one of the few things they'd respond to. They came and finally agreed to take her to the psychiatric ward, and when they told her she attacked them and tried to attack me. We were separating her from her child. She was being taken away. No matter what she'd done thus far, she loved her son. She loved her son a lot. She was just so tragically ill.

Her son had been in her arms, wrenched out of her grasp by the police and handed to me, they took her down and handcuffed her. She son was hysterical, I was crying, she was in the back of the police car by now kicking at the windows. Screaming. It happened in moments, her son saw too much. He had already seen way, way too much.

She had no family, no one willing to take her son. As such, there were no options but the shelter. He still hadn't let go of me, so the police asked me to come with them, they'd bring me back when it was done. I rode in the back of the police car with him, his three year old hand clasped in mine. The children's shelter processed him, took him from my arms, another child entering the system.

It took months for all of us to really recover. We'd visit her son at the shelter and try to get info on D. She'd been involuntarily committed and had lost custody of her son. It would be near impossible to get him back.

There were many, many mistakes made; ours included. We did our best, but we weren't equipped for this level of sickness, interventions needed to happen sooner, chains yanked. We did our best and we lost, we all lost. I am a mother now and wasn't then. We made mistakes then I wouldn't make now.

Her son was placed in permanent foster care; by all accounts he was thriving in his new home. We lost touch with him after a while, he was sucked into the system's vortex. D's fate was even less clear, in fact years went by without us ever knowing what happened to her.

About a year ago J and I were driving to the movies. At a stoplight I noticed a woman on the corner, ranting and swaying, dirty. I looked, then looked again. It was D. Holy shit, it was D.
J asked if I wanted to stop the car, I shook my head and we kept driving.

We just kept driving.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

bob

Seeing those women a couple days ago reminded me of an old friend. Bob came to us about eight years ago while receiving chemotherapy at a local hospital. He was in his seventies when I met him, a dapper and slightly wizened man with thinning white hair and excellent posture. He was staying in the nightly program but after awhile we were able to guarantee him a regular bed for a few months.

Time rolled by. Every morning I'd go to work and see Bob sitting out front with a hello young lady as I walked past. Bob never complained, back and forth to the hospital for treatment on the bus, recovering from the chemo at the shelter and never once did I hear him say one cross word.

After a period of time he achieved a sort of status; he'd counsel the young guys about how to navigate the programs, how to stay out of trouble, who could get what done in the easiest way. He was always charming; would notice if I wore something new, or if we'd made some sort of minor change to the facility. He had a keen eye and would offer suggestions in an easy way that made everyone want to take him seriously. He put effort into his appearance; his clothes were old and worn but always clean, a smart hat perched on his head. He'd carry chewing gum for the ladies.

After some time we noticed Bob getting sicker. Frail, a bit of a stoop to his back. The nurse on site told us that things were declining, that he probably didn't have much more time. She started talking to him about hospice and he refused to hear it. This is my home, he'd say. This is where I live. You are my family. This is where I live.

No one had the heart to tell him anything different; so instead we broke our own rules and kept him in the program, rationalizing it was the right thing to do. That no one could care for him better than we could. True or not, we did our best.

As he continued to decline, a wheelchair replacing the walker that had replaced the cane; I felt more compelled than ever to see if there was anything more we could do. He claimed to have two sons, but didn't want them to know he was dying. Years had passed and he said he'd done some things wrong. He didn't want to bother them and refused to let us intervene. His pride and decorum was part of who he was and there was no swaying him. I tried hard to convince him but he wouldn't budge. I can honestly say I loved him as I loved my own grandfather. I still do.

He kept getting sicker. The doctors decided there was nothing else they could do. He couldn't eat, had trouble sleeping. The nurse arranged for hospice care, she too cared deeply for him and pulled strings to find him a bed. I was with the nurse when she told him about the hospice bed; and it's the only time I ever saw him get angry. No. Please don't make me go. This is my home. I live HERE with all of you.

We were all crying that day, the day we all realized he needed more than we could possibly offer, even after the meals we brought to his bed, the other men assisting him in the bathroom. He needed around the clock care. We were never sure if he'd be alive when we got to work.

Bob moved into hospice and I visited him there the next day. He said he was left lying in bed since he arrived, that it was a horrible place to be. I hate it here. Please take me back home to the shelter. I helped him up and wheeled him out into the sun. We talked again about the past, about his life, I told him I loved him. He said it was the last time I would see him, he didn't want to live in this place, without us and his home he didn't want to live.

Bob died the next day. The nursing home called us and I went with another person to say goodbye. I smoothed what was left of his hair, we kissed his brow and tucked the blanket around his feet. I cried like a baby, my co-worker and I clutching each other sobbing in the middle of the nursing home.

We held a memorial service for him at the shelter and we made sure his remains (in a pauper's burial) were given a name and a space at a local cemetery. I needed to make sure he was remembered somehow, and at the time that meant a lot to me. But I know now it meant little, because he lives in my heart. He'll always share a room there.

Seeing those women reminded me of Bob, and the majesty of an old man who ended his long life in a homeless shelter; changing our lives. I hope he knows how blessed I was to know him, how his example, his quiet dignity, changed me forever.

It's time for our fifth Just Post Roundtable. If you have a post of yours or one you've appreciated that was written by someone else, please send them my way to girlplustwo (at) yahoo(dot) com by May 7th and I'll send you the button. Go on. It's good for the soul.

We'll link all posts and anyone who refers one (or more) in our Just Post Roundtable on the 10th. If this is new to you, please feel free to check it out here or at the JP buttons to your right.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

knocking on heaven's door

There are four of them. One of them walked the halls with her walker in front of her; another sat quietly at a table, alone with head bent. The third was a bit more wily, outside with a cigarette soaking up the sun. The fourth was waiting to see the nurse; patiently sitting on the chair outside the door.

They were all women, all in their 80's (late 70's maybe, because nothing ages you like hard living). Three had walkers. All were alone. White hair, one perhaps in a wig. Clothes are rumpled slightly, yet purses proudly on their arms. Lipstick, I think. Clip on earrings for one. Sensible shoes, except for the one who only had on socks.

Grandmothers, at least one or two of them. Perhaps one was childless. Maybe the last has adult children who've died. I don't know their stories, but I heard through the grapevine that one of them has a son who calls and checks in on her, the nice son that he is. I can only imagine dialing the phone to make that call Just wanted to make sure that my mom is fine sleeping at that big shelter with her walker. Send her my love. And hey, sleep tight!

If there is anything that breaks my heart in two it's elder homelessness. Kids, see; they've not lived yet, they have time to recover. It might even seem normal. I've found enough ways to rationalize that over the years. Right or wrong and much easier before M, I could make that fit in my head and do my job. But the elders, they know what hell they are in, that after living a whole other life this is how the curtain falls. Just passing time waiting to die. Full of wisdom and maybe bad choices. Ungrateful children and bad luck. Alone.

Even now, after all these years and so many grandparents it still brings tears to my eyes as I type. I don't know the stories of these beautiful women yet. But I do know that this is no place for them. Their vulnerability suffocates me and again I question the reality we allow each other to live in.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

here's to all the lonely people

In the course of the project I am working on I've had the opportunity to visit homeless projects in several different parts of the US. The thing that has struck me every single trip was the vastness of the crisis. So many people are homeless. Men, women, children. So many people.

And so many providers are doing their best to alleviate suffering, to bring people in from the streets, offer them hope and other tangibles. But in every city I've been in, it's the same.

There is never enough money. There is never enough political will. Communities struggle to welcome these projects in their neighborhoods. And there are never enough resources.

I always make a point of talking to the people receiving the services; I want to hear what works and what doesn't from their perspective. One man wanted to make sure I knew they were putting illegal vitamins (would that still mean they are vitamins?) in the food. Another thought this was the best of the ten or so shelters he's lived in so far. And most want to you know that they are doing their best and they are grateful for the help they receive. And you know what else? Kids look like kids whether they are homeless or not. It's amazing how that works.

The place I visited last week was tough. It was in a very difficult facility with very spartan amenities. Lots of rules. Jail cell conditions. And yet the people running it were terrific. They had passion, wisdom, expertise. And they were between a rock and a hard place with the community, law enforcement, and funding. So they did the best they could. But if I had to live there, I'd hate every minute of it. Every single one.

Maybe that's good. I've often had critics tell me folks shouldn't get too comfortable or they'll never want to leave. And I always wonder how to answer that question. Do I say you're right. We really should treat them like shit so they hurry up and leave. We're doing them a colossal favor anyways. Or do I say I'd hope to have a safe, clean place to stay with my child should I ever need it.

Because sometimes we all need a little help. And until this society gets it's head out of it's ass about the need for affordable housing, we'll keep creating unsustainable and undesirable projects to fill the housing gap. And we'll have to keep them underfunded. And sometimes we'll have to close down because we run out of money. And we'll strip away civil rights in order to keep our parks clean and our street corners empty. And we'll keep putting people in jail. Note to they: jails cost a hell of a lot more than affordable housing. I'm just saying.

Because that's what happens when you treat the symptom rather than the cause. It's nothing but a bunch of holes in a creaking dam. And the water's rising, swirling deeper around legs clothed in worn denim and wet socks.

The Original Perfect Post Awards – April 2007

And on an entirely different note, go read Redneck Mommy's post titled looking for a hand out. Red (must I abbreviate everyone's name?) writes poignantly about how the charity collides with the cause in an incredibly beautiful (and yes, painful) way. I can't begin to fathom what it means to lose a child. Red, you are one of the bravest women I know. You can check out all the perfect posts here and here.