Friday, June 29, 2007

ocho

Gill and Maypole tagged me to share 8 random things about myself. Am not sure why it's 8 rather than 6 or 9 or 12, but let's see how I do. 8 an even number and I like even numbers. Consider that a free random fact from me to you.

1. I love a cold Dos Equis but it must been the kind in the green bottle (so much better than the brown bottle) and it must have lime.
2. I was on a public bus in Cambodia last year and we hit a water buffalo in the middle of nowhere. The bus was totaled and we were stranded on the side of the road for hours in the middle of a Khmer village.
3. We own a Belizean lawnmower. It's sitting in a village there and used freely by others in our absence. It's not much but it connects us to our little piece of land and reminds us it's still there.
4. I touched Mick Jagger once. And I liked it.
5. I was "arrested" in Mexico and held in a cell for a few hours in my youth. I hadn't necessarily done anything wrong but it required a bribe to get out. I was scared shitless.
6. I love reading the Sufi poets. When we first met J would send me poems in the mail and it would make me feel swoonish.
7. I love spying on my kid when she is playing before she has a chance to notice me. There is something exhilarating about watching her when she isn't aware I am around.
8. I will one day have a foreign address. I will expect you to write. (ok, so that one isn't really a fact)

Part of this includes tagging others but I am not a tagger by nature so instead know that if you want to share 8 random things about you I will be more than happy to read them. I like other people's random things quite a bit. In fact, Hel did a fantastic job answering this today and it made me too wish I was a topless waitress reject. Perhaps there's still time.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

tug of war

I am not sure how to write this but am going to give it a shot. First, I wanted to mention that the shoe guy from yesterday IS staying at a shelter now, but I still consider him homeless because it's nothing long term and could change tomorrow.

Second, I want to explore something with you. When I read your lovely comments, the praise you so generously bestow parts of me feel awkward. I don't share these stories thinking I am going to get so much lovely feedback and it makes me wonder if I write in such a way that it somehow asks for it. If that is indeed the case let me state for the record that I Am Not Anything Special. (I mean sure, we are all special, blah de blah I saw Mr. Rogers I know the drill) but I share these stories because of them. Because that guy was so endearing and funny and human. I want to share bits of them with you because they touch me in such deeply profound ways.

I have said it before: I have never met more beautiful people than the ones I do through my work. Over the years I have endless stories of kindness and generosity. Of humor and resilence and faith. Of how I've been humbled a thousand times by the strength of a single mom, or an elderly man, or a guy with no shoes. Of how I have people sleeping outside tell me how much how God loves them. And they have absolutely nothing to be (in my selfish, jaded opinion) to be thanking God for and yet their faith is strong. One of many reasons I have so much to still learn and they have so much to teach.

And you know, the part of me that isn't hiding behind a rock loves your praise. I read your comments more than once. I start to believe you. But Ego is a slippery slope, and sometimes I can feel like I am doing enough when I am really not doing much at all.

So I also want you to tell me what my shoeless friend did, because there are still homeless people everywhere and maybe we are doing a shitty job. Because I agreed with him the other day. It's not enough, shoes and a nurse. A cot on the floor. It's nowhere near enough. They are the heroes, the ones who survive everyday life with little more than a nickel in their pocket. They are the ones who deserve the praise for simply making it through another day, a long day of being mistreated and moved in circles and being stepped over. I doubt I'd last a day on the streets, my middle class whiteness would certainly self-destruct.

And lastly, thank you for listening. For allowing me to again and again bring homelessness to the table. For giving me a space to talk about these encounters and experiences that I've never before had a forum for. It's meant more than you know.

Now tell me to shut the hell up and get back to work.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

curbside pickup

I notice him on my way in, he's got no shoes and his feet look horrible. Homeless feet. Swollen, cracked, purpleish-red. The kind that have walked too far for far too long.

Me: Looks like you could use some shoes.
Him: Fuck you.
Me: Dude. (I duded him with my special WTF? version)
Me: (trying again) did you just tell me to fuck myself?
Him: Don't tell me what I need.
Me: Ah..see, I wasn't so much telling you what you need as making an observation. Your feet look like they hurt. Do they hurt?
Him: Yeah, they hurt.
Me: I work here. I might be able to help.
Him: You must be doing a shitty job. I'm still homeless. Look around. Lots of people are still homeless.
Me: Dude, some days I agree. But it's a big job, homelessness.
Him: You should still do a better job.
Me: I agree. Want me to start with you? How about coming in to see the nurse. Maybe we can find some shoes. Or you know, I can take my half assed homeless helping self elsewhere if you've got other things to do.
Him: Sorry for being an asshole.
Me: We are all assholes sometimes. Now stop being an asshole and help me do a better job.
Him: I guess it's the least I can do.
Me: I'd say.
Him: I didn't really mean to say fuck you. I am just tired and sick and my feet hurt.
Me: I know. Let's see what we can do. And I trust you'll tell me if I do a shitty job at it.
Him: I suppose I can do that. (He's cracked now, a half smile even. I've got him. We're rolling)
Me: Good. Now get off your ass and come with me. I've got a reputation to work on here.
Him: (chuckling) You alright, girl.

We are both alright, friend.

Monday, June 25, 2007

breakfast with bill

Yesterday I had the good fortune of being invited to a small fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. It was at a fancy house high on a hill, political officials, wealthy democrats and a generous serving of secret service men all rounded out the venue.

I had been invited on a fluke - I am not a mover or a shaker, I have not contributed financially, I have not publicly declared my allegiance to her campaign. But a colleague who fits the above asked me to join him and I happily agreed because I am a big fan of Bill. He was the first and last president I believed in in my lifetime. He sparked my fascination in politics and gave me someone to cheer for. He showed us that the ordinary can become extraordinary. That perseverance can make a difference. Sure, he was villified by the conservative left and made a few stupid mistakes, but the sum of this man has always impressed me and inspired me to do more.

The environment was tense; everyone wanted a piece of him and to be honest, myself included. I feel strongly, as strongly as a young girl dreams about ponies, that I should come work for his foundation. The Clinton Foundation is doing tremendous work around HIV/AIDS in Asia and Africa and I've long wanted to be a part of it (and indeed I have tried, I've lamented before about not being able to find my path into international relief work.) And I've not given up, universe. I will not give up.

Sadly, I didn't have a chance to talk about that, another pony dream crashes to the ground. But I did get to stand with him and listen to him talk about why Hillary would make a good leader. About how leadership requires listening and bi-partisan support. About poverty and bridging the divide. That we have a chance to become someone the world likes again. Once again I am inspired to do more, to not give up. To believe change is possible. After his speech he was able to take 4-5 questions and I was fortunate enough for one of those to be mine.

I spontaneously raised my hands among the throng of others. I was very close to the podium (that picture isn't magnified) when he looked right at me, smiled and pointed. At me. Dude.

Mr. President, I've worked with homeless men, women and children for the past decade. You've talked a lot today about bridging the divide domestically and internationally. About poverty and illness. But you haven't mentioned housing. To me, all the health care policy in the world won't be effective without also addressing the lack of affordable housing. What are your thoughts on what can be done?

And he listened and nodded and said good question with a smile. His eye contact is spectacular, my knees were starting to wobble. He responded eloquently about the mistakes being made right now in regards to public housing and to the efforts he is personally making in New Orleans. To be honest, I was so in the moment with this man that I forgot the rest of his answer because for a minute those 200 or so other people disappeared and time stood still. And what I should have included was I would be happy to help you with this. But I didn't and the moment shifted and time moved on.

I am not a mover or a shaker. I am just a girl with a desire to do more. To work in Asia or Africa and be a part of solutions and policy and programs there. To see an end to homelessness. I don't want fame or fortune. But I do want to be a part of something bigger - that when all is said and done I can leave this world feeling like I contributed to it being a better place. I want to lead by example so M has something to believe in and hopefully, a better world to grow old in. A place where children live more equitably, in health and homes and schools.

And for a brief moment in time I felt that energy and it's potential. Standing in the face of extraordinary leadership can do that to a girl. And all that talk about charisma is exactly right.

Not bad at all for an ordinary Sunday morning in June.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

that time i fought back and won

Do you remember that show Fight Back with David Horowitz?

I think I was 10 or 11 years old and at the time a gigantic fan of shrimp Cup of Noodles. When I was allowed to have it I would lovingly prepare the water, steep the noodles, and wait impatiently for those three long minutes. Then I'd carefully eat the noodles and leave all the shrimp till the end, a sort of last course hurrah. But one day there was no shrimp in my shrimp cup, and the dismay, Oh The Dismay.

So my father, a consumer advocate and writer of letters encouraged me to write the cup of noodle people and let them know. I sent the letter off, wounds still raw and still unable to believe there is a world where shrimp flavored noodles arrive in your home without any shrimp. A few weeks later to my undeniable joy I received a huge box from the good people at CON. Inside was every product imagineable. Boxes of shrimp noodles. Boxes! And other flavors! Wonton soup! I didn't even know what that was! I hoarded that huge box, it lived in my closet and every so often I'd pull out a treat and lovingly caress each package, thoughtful in my decision of which to sacrifice, conscious that the box was slowly emptying. My younger brother would beg and plead and I'd eventually give him one or two packages, the vegetable flavor of course.

My father then suggested writing another letter, this time to David. So I wrote Dave a letter complete with purple flowers and mailed it off. A little while later we got a phone call. David Had Seen My Letter! I Had Fought Back And Won!

They aired the segment one ordinary weekday night, long before common folk had VCRs. My family crowded round the set, a scene right out of the 50's, mom and dad on the couch, the children getting radiation poison right up close. They showed my letter, purple flowers and all. They read my name and told my story, boxes of noodles filling the screen. And then David said the magic words: Jenny Talia Fought Back And Won!

Oh, The Fame!

The next day at school a classmate came up to me and said she saw my letter on TV. I remember being so proud. So proud. My words made something change. Pen and paper. It mattered. And I learned from the small but important lesson: our words matter. We can change things for the better by speaking up. So I've kept writing, sometimes successfully and other times not. But I learned we have a voice. A say in the matter. We can Fight Back. Noodles or Women's Rights or World Peace - we can stake our claim and have our voice heard.

Friday, June 22, 2007

this is who we are

we create. we struggle. we falter. we pick ourselves back up. we are outrageously witty. we are strong. we are soft. we juggle. we drive too fast. we bend. we stand up straight. we know what we want. we compromise. we explore. we laugh. we are hard on ourselves. we ache. We swing on the monkey bars. we are forgetful. we are merciless. we are merciful. we rush around. we remember. we learn. we eat bad food. we forge ahead. we scale back. we are sensual. we travel. we are colorful. we share. we are earthy. we swim in the ocean. we are nurturers. we are rockstars. we commune. we feel alone. we jump in puddles. we fail. we try again. we try our best. we show up. we protect our children. we are afraid. we are fearless. we create life. we watch life end. we get sick. we commiserate. we envy. we ruminate. we heal. we are curious. we are stubborn. we change our minds. we reason. we weep. we commit. we over commit. we fight. we make up. we do laundry. we challenge. we allow ourselves to be challenged. we love our planet. we never forget. we ask for help. we lust. we wake up early. we oversleep. we compare. we hold our babies. we discover unbearable joy. we need more rest. we swear. we know undeniable sorrow. we shout yes to the moon. we wait. we choose. we teach. we retreat. we come back. we groove. we hope. we hold on. we tilt our faces to the sun.

we write.


this is who we are.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

the dude abides

Christine made me laugh yesterday by pointing out my flagrant use of the word dude.

Dude.

It's the word that keeps on giving. But before I digress, let's start with a working definition.

The term "dude" is best known as a widely-used English slang word commonly used to informally address or refer to a person of the male sex. The word may also be used in the same manner when speaking to (or about) a person of the female sex. In informal social situations, it is not uncommon for young men to use the word "dude" to address one another, for example, "Mike Smith is one cool dude", or "Who did that?", "[The] dude with the red shirt did that". (sis). "Dude" may also be used alone in a sentence, serving as an exclamation; denoting a feeling of surprise, happiness, disappointment, amazement or anger, among other emotion.[1] The word might also be used practically anywhere in a sentence in order to convey such sentiments in conversation. The word's pluralization, simply "dudes," may also be used in the same manners. (Wikipedia, the source of all things accurate).

I was pleased to discover that I am using it in the right context. Dude to the chicks? No problem. Dudes to the masses? A-OK. Dude as an expression of tremendous joy? Right on. Dude anywhere in a sentence to convey sentiments? HA! See, I do that too.

Here are some others and of course, the inflection is critical. The tricky part is expressing that inflection in the blog world. Some examples may include:

Dude. Did you see that!!!
Dude. I am listening and I agree and I am so right there with you.
Dude. Are you kidding me? That rocks!
Dude. I love you.
Dude. Whoa. Wow. Nice.
Dude. No shit, really? That really happened??
Dude. Amen, yes, absolutely perfect.

I use the word at work:
Dude. Hey homeless guy, knock that shit off.
Dude. Hey, let's go get some lunch.
Dude. Nice going!
Dude. WTF? (this one comes with a specific facial expression)

I also use that word at home. M and I Dude each other all the way to school.

Me: Dude
M: Dude!
Me: Dude
M: Dude!

We'll do that till she points out that she does indeed have a real name and dude isn't it. She's still kind of uptight, though. I expect she'll come around. After all, she is only two. Dude.

And if I was as crafty as Alejna Id come up with an entire post replacing words in song titles with dude. Such as: I've been through the desert on a dude with no name (liberties on that one) or Dude on the run, or To dude, with love. But I am not as crafty as Alejna, so I'll leave that to her.

And my special whammy dude comes out when I am dealing with lawyers or cops or political types. I'll give a speech or hold my own in an argument, but then if the occasion permits it I'll insert a dude just to keep them on their toes. A girl's got to keep it real.

And more than anything, it's the irony that I appreciate. It's such a ridiculous word. All the more reason to toss it around.

In fact, the first person to leave a haiku in the comments using the word dude wins a special prize. What prize, you ask? It's special. It might even be candy. Dude.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

lameness is not a virtue

So it's like this: I've been failing boot camp. Not because of aptitude but because of commitment. I don't always go. I skip sessions. 6am is damn early, but I knew it was at 6am when I signed up. I am the boot camp black sheep; I get emails from the instructor asking me in a very nice way what the hell is wrong with me. I don't know how to respond because I don't know what the hell is wrong with me.

I used to be so committed to keeping my commitments. But lately I've struggled. I don't like that about myself but you know, it's true. I've said it. There. But the things I am letting go are things that are for me. I keep all the other commitments in my life. But the outings with friends, boot camp, bloggy book club (Kiki, dude, sorry). I can't seem to do it.

It's wrong, see. These small but important things are nourishment. But I can't find the energy. And I make excuses. And that is entirely lame. I want to do better than this, but the energy isn't there. And that's a vicious cycle, right? Because the energy comes from these things, these very good things we do for ourselves.

Make time, they say. Prioritize. You must. I know these things but it's not enough. I miss the dedication of my youth. I want to be the boot camping book clubbing produce eating girl. And yet the want is not enough to manifest the action.

Do I sound like I am whining? I hate whiners.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

sweet child of mine

Because I don't talk to you about her enough. Because I am still flummoxed by this mothering thing. Because she never fails to astound me, even when she is being wicked. Because she is beautiful. Because her brain and heart fascinate me constantly.

Because she is the funniest person I have ever met. Because I've never known the depths of a love like this. Because she challenges me beyond measure. Because time is so incredibly short. Because I look at her and my insides crack apart. Because sometimes she throws the most incredible bitch ass tantrums I've ever seen. Because I want her to know exquisite joy.

Monday, June 18, 2007

we are all children here

This is not a new war photo but it's new to me. I saw it for the first time yesterday and I haven't been able to move it from my mind since. Daddytypes said there are no words for this, and mostly I agree. But then I managed to find a few.

All I can think is what I am always thinking, how dare we allow this war to continue. How this man is also a father, also has a child. About how his son must have been scared, so scared. And has probably been scared for a long, long time.

And how unfair it is, as we tuck our children in at night and forget, we so easily forget, that it's not like this everywhere. And how helpless that makes me feel. This doesn't seem like freedom to me. Not for them, not for us. Not for We.

My heart broke for this father and his son. I have no idea what he did, or better said what we was accused of doing. But I do know he is a father. And I hope to god M never has to see her father like that. I sat crying today when J walked into the room. I silently handed him my laptop, he paused and looked then handed it back. This fucking war, he said. I nodded, unable to speak.

We are all children here.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

american beauty

A few days ago I wrote about a recent struggle we had with keeping one of our programs open. I had asked if there were a few clients who might be willing to speak on our behalf, no small request given the crowds and the pressure I knew would be associated with it. A few clients took us up on it and one woman in particular was so incredible I can't not share it with all of you.

I saw them arrive and noticed them hanging around outside. I walked over and thanked them for coming, all of them looking mildly petrified. This woman in particular seemed very nervous, chain smoking and panic stricken, and a bit rumpled in a hot pink linen blazer, the old kind with shoulder pads sewn in. Stockings on her feet, I noticed a run. Shoes were older but dress shoes just the same. She'd obviously pulled out all the stops and looked absolutely lovely. Heartbreakingly so, because of the reasons why.

You know, you don't have to do this I say. I want to. I have to. I just have no idea what I should say, and there are so many people in there, she replies. What should I talk about? Oh honey, I can't tell you want to say. Just speak from your heart.

The process moved along and eventually it was time for the public to speak. At a certain point her name was called and she glanced at me, still stricken, and walked down to the front of the room. She stood in front of the audience facing the chief and his council, and voice shaking as she began: I was a nursing assistant for 30 years. In all those years I never once considered I'd become homeless one day. But I stand here today homeless. I lost my job and slowly lost everything else. I had nowhere to go. And these people took me in and gave me a place to live. It may not seem like much, but to me it is everything. They saved my life. And they save people's lives every single day. They make sure you have what you need and help you find a new place to live. I don't know what I and so many others will do if this place isn't there for us because this is our home. People think of homelessness as a nuisance, but I am here to tell you it's much more than that, that we are people with lives and dreams and that this can happen to anyone. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. And then she paused, and looked each one of these important people in the eyes, and for a minute time stood still It can happen to each of you. So as you sit there, remember that.

And she thanked them and turned and walked back, meeting my eyes on the way up, the panic still ripe on her face and yet now it was tinged with relief. I realized I hadn't been breathing during her words and inhaled deeply, tears in my eyes. She was extraordinary up there.

And it drove the point home for me and hopefully for everyone in that room. We are a part of these decisions, sure. But no matter the outcome we go back home to our lives, our four walls and beds and food in our fridge. But to some it is a matter of life and death. It is their home.

I keep thinking of her and her disheveled bravery, about how much she cared, about how fiercely she stood up. I will never stop being humbled by the people, all the beautiful homeless people that I've had the honor of meeting over the years. They have so much to say and we still have so much to learn.

Friday, June 15, 2007

M to the first power

Otherwise known as my .02 about how blogging empowers women. Those Thinky Canadians are at it again with their latest installment of How To Make My Brain Hurt. I think I am getting in just under the wire but seeing as I am already going to Blogher and have purchased a ticket and everything it's just me waxing about.

For me, it's simple. Blogging empowers me (feel free to substitute enthralls, captivates, buoys, or strengthens as an alternative to empower) because it frees me. To you I am not your boss, your solution, your mommy or your partner. I am not the one with the answers and I don't know where you left your car keys. I don't do your laundry or give you a raise. I am not on time or late or right around the corner. I don't care when you go to bed or if you ate some vegetables and I certainly won't ever fire you. I won't evict you or turn you away for shelter. And if you have morning breath or forget my birthday it's perfectly ok.

I am simply me and you are simply you. And I get to talk about things that matter to me that I never get a chance to say when I am busy being all of those other things. And you listen, and you respond, and you fill me up with your love, humor and support. I've said this before but if you all weren't here I am not sure if I'd remain.

So blogging empowers me, but mostly because you are listening. Call it needy, but I prefer to call it divine community.

oh, and hey, pick up your shoes. ha! kidding! see, i don't give two shits if your shoes sit in the middle of the hallway for three days! It's empowering! See! I love this place!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

pulling rabbits

I haven't been around much this week and I feel it. I miss you. But I was busy working on something, a long shot of great importance. A crusade of sorts.

As are so many non profits we encounter difficulties paying for all of the critical services we provide. It's been a long haul the last few months figuring out what to do, what we can do, what we cannot. None of these are easy decisions; the agony wakes me up at night and ruins my dreams. It feels heavy and complicated. I often want to hide.

But this week we managed to make something work. Long nights at city meetings had us pleading our case with clients in tow who in turn most magnificently gave a face and a voice to our words, the weight of these decisions resting squarely on their heads. Messaging and strategy. Thinky things were said. Public speaking in front of important people and a packed room full of observers with multiple agendas and priorities, certainly not all of them ours.

But we stood up. We pled and shared and tugged at hardened hearts. We fought the good fight, and the homeless gods were smiling. As a result we are able to negotiate the funding we need to keep over 100 people housed that we were almost unable to do last week, and was certainly impossible next week. And now, sweet friends, we can keep them housed for the entire year.

I am exhausted. And while we haven't sorted everything out, we were victorious this week for these 100 brothers and sisters who would have otherwise found sleep under bridges and in parks and streets. But we scared off that darkness, and while nothing comes for free and certainly in not this sort of battle we know it is right. Anytime something this renegade is pulled off there is a later price to pay, but I'll pay it gladly, because sometimes those rabbits claw their way out of the hat, but the scratches can't take away from the soft fluffiness you get to hold in your hand.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

maybe the fumes finally got to them

Every so often I indulge in a pedicure. I sometimes can't resist those few moments of peace and acetone' plus it's clinically impossible for me to paint my toes red. Other colors I can manage, but red always ends up looking like a crime scene. So I decided to try a new place this time, a spot that opened near my home.

It was spectacular: posh seats perched high over gleaming footbaths complete with massaging chairs and yummy smelling water. It wasn't too crowded, there were only two other indulgers in various stages of repose. About halfway through the process I was lulled out of my revelry by raised voices behind a door across from my seat, an office or storage room perhaps which was making a lot of noise. The conversation steadily escalated and as it wasn't in english I couldn't tell what it was about, but the tones were angry and getting louder. I noticed the other employees starting to squirm, nervous glances and hushed tones when all of a sudden the shrieking was joined by slaps and thunks and thuds....alrighty then, ladies...we have a nail parlor brawl.

One of the other customers got up and left, and the two of us left were not so easily disentangled and besides, it was rather interesting. I am certainly used to homeless shelter fights but this was a whole new experience. I cast a look at my comrade in insanity and she offered me the universal gesture known as WTF?: an arched eyebrow chased by a smirk and I reciprocated in kind. As another minute or so passed the noise kept rising, a full on brawl was ensuing. The door flew open and both women tumbled out, one intent on attacking the other. The other women moved to break them apart while my comrade and I sat transfixed, feet surely waterlogged by now but neither of us quite sure what to do about it.

Since the entire transaction occurred in a language other than english, I can't say what the fight was about. But speculate I must. Perhaps one of the women slept with the other woman's partner. Or stole her tip money. Or took her customer. Or took her customer and slept with her/him and pocketed the tip.

Sex or money, friends? Because you just know it had to be about one or both. I can't think of much else that would lead to a back room nail salon brawl in the middle of a sunny afternoon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

opening our arms

When I decided to give Mad and all of the other social justice wedding brides an anniversary present to celebrate six months of Just Posts, I had no idea it what to expect. We set the goal of $1,000, thinking that that was quite a bit of money but also believing in what was possible. I had no idea how close we come. But as the week went on, I knew something amazing was unfolding.

Let us never allow anyone to downplay the power here. The collective ability to put our words into action, to come together to make a difference. In one ordinary week in June we managed to raise $1,555.00 for Open Arms and $1,170.00 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. An amazing grand total of $2,725.00. And all our money will go in the hands of people working directly with children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

There were over 38 donors in all - and I know everyone gave exactly what they could afford. I wish you could see me sitting here, looking at all of you beaming like a cheshire cat. We Did This.

We. Did. This.

I also want to thank so many of you who also took the time to write a post in support of our efforts. Your words traveled round the blogosphere encouraging and asking others to do the same. I can't thank you enough, truly.

Christine with open your hearts
Lawyer Mama with six month anniversary present
Karen with coming up for air
KC with a non cold call to arms
Mary with unjust world
Meno with in which i violate spirit if not letter
Gwen with look like angelina jolie with just one click
Mary with keeping darkness at bay
Slouching Mom with care to contribute?
Jill with open hearts and open minds and thembelihle
Alejna with putting my money where my mouse is
Bon with a plague of tone deaf locusts and a ladder to the stars
Bad with shark has pretty teeth
Neen with a postful of bloggity goodness
Hel with speaking our truths
Aliki with africa on our minds
Chani with not hand out but hand up
Flutter with open arms
Lucia with kudos to just posts
Julie with jon and julie go to a ballgame
Heather with worthy
Sin with just post
Kyla with just posts, open arms, and a moment of your time

You beautiful, beautiful Just Post partners. It is an honor. I'd marry all of you all over again if you'd have me. And Mad, you sexy librarian, you. Thank you for all the links and buttons and codes, humor and brains and love. You are truly the better half. Here's to another six months.

Thank you.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

May Just Posts

justpostmay2007
I could share all kinds of facts about the AIDS crisis in South Africa. I could talk about how South Africa has the highest infection rate in the world, or about how almost a quarter of the population is infected with HIV. Or how 250 babies a day are born HIV positive. But instead I'd like to share a story the good people at Open Arms shared with me a few months ago which summarizes more than anything the reason these children so desperately need our help.

Bob spends time in the townships in the area around Open Arms when he is in South Africa, often because local officials or activists have places they want him to see. One such place was a tiny, filthy shack that housed a mom and her two children. The babies were under the age of three, and both were sick. The mom was sick too, so sick that she was unable to care for her children. They lay dying, some extended relatives trying to do what they could. The little girl, she must have been one or so, was slowly dying, silently. I would imagine crying is futile, these precious beautiful children have learned long ago that crying doesn't bring solace, that there is no solace. There is only endless pain. There was a desire to bring this girl into the care of Open Arms, and Bob was doing what he needed to (there are legal hurdles to cross) and in the midst of the process the little girl died. And with the right care, she could have lived. It's that simple.

Bob carries her picture with him; when we were together he pulled it out and showed her to me, relaying the story. I'll never forget him saying This is why we do what we do. I do it for her. We couldn't save her. We need to do more. He had tears in his eyes when he spoke, his passion so evident I could taste it. He carries her picture everywhere he goes.

There are many stories like this, endless stories of the dozens and dozens of funerals that happen every single weekend, of children living silently and undiscovered with a dead parent for days on end because they do not know what to do. Of countless children living in the streets fending for themselves.

It's impossible for me to truly conceptualize this sort of existence. I have no real way to understand what this hell on earth must be, how people are able to move forward each day in the face of such horror. So all I CAN think is how glad I am there are people trying to do something about it, just as Open Arms is trying to do.

That is why we wanted to turn up the heat this month, to celebrate the six month anniversary of the Just Post and to prove again the power of this place to come together as writers and seekers and put our money where our mouth is. And in true blogosphere fashion we've done something miraculous. We've raised over $1,300 for Open Arms and the Stephen Lewis Foundation. And our fundraising project extends until Monday so if you haven't yet been able to make a donation you have one more day. You can read all about the project here and here. On Tuesday we'll be back to share the grand total as well as thank everyone who participated in getting the word out as we continue to celebrate the six month anniversary of Just Post.

Speaking of, please take a look at all of the beautiful voices sitting around the table.

The Just Writers:

Alejna at Collecting Tokens with a tale of two buildings
Alice with the rise of infant mortality
Andrea with interpreting hate
Bon at Crib Chronicles with Riddle me this
Bangkok Dazed with Behind the Shootings
Chani at Thailand Gal with The more things change... and I am so against censorship
Cinnamon Gurl with Passing by
Crunchy Chicken with low impact week update
Emily at Third Story with Baltimore Stories
Flutter at Fluttercrafts with Talking in Sentences
Jen at One Plus Two with Mistakes were Made, Cut and Run, pt2, Knocking on Heaven's Door, i hold this in my hands
Jennifer at Faking it with Thank you
Jennifer at Under the Ponderosas with Pond
Jess at Oh the Joys! with Fly
Jill at Not So Sage Wisdom with It's in the Blood, pts 1, 2, 3, 4
Julie at The Ravin' Picture Maven with Human Rights? Are they humans? With rights? Or just ex-cons?
KC with medical advice monday commencement
KittenPie with Undressing
Mad Hatter with I am Woman Hear Me Meme and Swervice
Mary Murtz at the Eleventh with Light and Shadow
Mouse with Blogging for LGBT Families and her ongoing Global Warming Wednesday Series
Nakedjen for Your Support for a Marathon Effort
Phantom Scribbler with Steal this Idea
Sandra at Mama Karma (MBT) with Parents for Children's Mental Health, Standing on Mother's Day, and How Old is a Mother?
The Silent K with Mad Spirit Pride
Slouching Mom with Port Authority, the 1970s
Susanne at Creative Mother Thinking with Why it was right not to buy pink shoes
Tabba at Stretched to the Limit with Watching a Rose Bloom in Reverse and Wide-eyed Idealism
Thordora at Vomit Comit with Please tell me this isn't what I think it is
Urban Urchin with What I would have said

Those who keep spreading the wealth:
Alejna
Aliki
Bon
Chani
Cinnamon Gurl
Christine
Flutter
Hel
Kiki
Jen
Jess
KC
Lawyermama
Liv
Mad
Neen
Sandra
Susanne
Tabba

This is our largest Roundtable so far, and we can't do it without all of you. Every month I am humbled by your generosity of spirit (and this month, wallet) as we move forward together to shine a light in all sorts of small corners in our world. Thank you. Without community this wouldn't amount to much of anything, and it's the community that drives it month after month. And the best part is everyone is welcome.

And don't forget to see what Mad has cooked up over at her end of the table before you go.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

bits

Tabba had a scare yesterday and it reminded me of how vulnerable we all are. About how every day is precious. It's a good reminder to have on hand when your child pitches a baseball at your skull. Somehow it helps a little bit. Not as much as it should, but baseballs do hurt.

Seriously Tabba, I am glad everyone is ok.

I am inspired by Alejna and Neen and so many others about being more committed to sustainable living. We went to our local farmers market today and loaded up for the week, and the really cool thing is that there was a community butcher there for the first time. Finally, a way to get local meat. Rock on.

If you haven't had a chance to donate to our Just Post Fundraising Project yet there is still time. The drive goes on through the soon to be unveiled (ahem, as in tomorrow) May Just Posts.

Friday, June 08, 2007

tuning in

One of the things I appreciate about the blogosphere is the many different ways of expressing creativity. For some it's pictures, others, it's art or fiction, and to others, music. Since I don't feel gifted in any of those areas to any particular degree I am always fascinated by those who are. Recently I've gotten into psychedelic zen guitar and I am really enjoying the mix. Check it out.

In other news we had Family Night for the second time last night. We walked downtown to check out a new restaurant and after we were done the table next to us made a big deal over how good M was. She sat in her chair the entire time and ate, you know, like a normal person. No crying, no food on the floor, no refusal to eat. We were both aware of it and commented on it but when others point it out there is some uncontrollable need to make sure they know that this. is. not. normal. I am not sure why I feel the need to do that. I should have just said Hell Yes People, My Kid Is Perfect. Enjoy Your Meal. Next time.

After we ate we walked around downtown, a streeet dotted with small town bars at eateries. M ran abruptly into one such bar and proclaimed loudly hey what are you guys DOING! to the dudes at the bar. They all thought that was pretty funny and for a minute I thought beers were going to be on the house. If only we'd remembered the sippy cup.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

home of the brave

Our second baseball excursion was much less eventful. The Sox lost (blah) and we didn't see a single fight. I did see the churro man though, and I smiled at him broadly and thought of all of you.

I always struggle with the American national anthem. It's a strange feeling because I feel all resistant as it starts and then I get all choked up during. I've never been a huge fan of red rockets glaring and the like. And I am always confused at the end by the land of the free and the home of the brave....everyone goes nuts during that part and I always wonder what identification with this bravery means. In the historical context there have been many instances of incredible bravery, but bravery costs, if not us, them. Or us and them. We. And it feels sullied with wicked wars and capitalism, fear and greed. Individuals are brave, we endure, we stand up. But we as a nation seem rather afraid of a lot of things. What does it really mean to be brave in the west today? How do we demonstrate our bravery in the midst of so much fear?

justpostgiving4
Check out these apples. I don't know if it's brave, but it sure as heck is beautiful and generous and kind and just. If you haven't had a chance to get in on our Just Post Fundraising Project then be sure to check it out becauase we've got a few more days to raise the roof. We plan on featuring the grand total next week right after the Just Post Roundtable. Makes me feel all warm inside, just thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

take me out to the crowd

Every year we look forward to that one week when the Red Sox come to the Bay Area. We get tickets to as many games as we can, we steal out of work early and head to Oakland to watch the game. I've talked before about what it means to live with a Bostonian, and this is part of the package. I secretly like the A's (don't tell Chicky). I like the A's because they are scrappy; they have a crappy stadium in a crappy part of town, their payroll is small, they lose guys constantly to bigger teams. And yet they keep winning. They have spirit, those guys.

Our ritual includes avoiding paying for parking by parking nearby in a lousy area. We invariably get hit up for money on the walk to the stadium every single time, last night included. There is always (as you can see from my lousy camera phone picture - by the way, Chicky, that's Big Papi at bat) a ton of Sox fans in the park, almost seeming to equal the A's fans. It's always loud, always fun, and almost always, a fight breaks out. Last night was no different, this time the mini-riot was nearby and took multiple security guards to disassemble. It's painful to watch a guy bounce down some stadium seating; a Sox fan at that. Dude. Respect the home team advantage.

I generally get along with everyone because I can go either way. If the A's made a good play, I cheer. Same for the Sox. I'm equal opportunity. It probably annoys J but I remind him that the A's payroll is microscopic in comparison to the Sox. We both love the underdog. The A's won last night and in final analysis I decided that was fine by me. They played a great game.

But even though last night's game was awesome, an 11 inning extravaganza at that, what I was most struck by were the hawkers. The malteds and the churros, the pizzas and the peanuts. The men and women of all ages running up and down the aisles selling their wares. That looks like a shit job, hawking. And I know enough to know the pay is shit too. And they get yelled by drunks. Those boxes they carry on their shoulders don't look fun either, all those ice cream sandwiches and cotton candy inside.

There was one old guy in particular who broke my heart. He was easily in his 60's, running up and down the stairs selling churros while looking so tired. He must need the job badly, as it seemed hard for him to do. But he kept smiling. I noticed how he cheered when the A's scored a run. You know how sometimes you see someone and they are instantly in your heart for no tangible reason? It was like that with this guy. But he was busy and there was really nothing I could do but notice.

In other and much more exciting news, our Just Post fundraising project is doing so, so well. Mad's nifty thermometer shows we've already raised $1,145 and we still have 5 days to go till the 10th. I can't thank everyone enough who's given money and written posts about our project. We've already raised enough to pay all the expenses for all eleven kids for one whole month. Blogosphere, you rock. Don't stop now.

justpostgiving3 I, on the other hand, suck at photo placement so I don't know how to get rid of all that dead space up there next to the thermometer. But so it goes.

Monday, June 04, 2007

dude

i don't know this man, this man who walked into the room and headed straight for me. i don't know this man, this incredibly gorgeous man with dark hair and enough stubble to hurt my face.
i don't know why he lifts me onto the desk or why he starts kissing me without even speaking, but i know that in this moment i want these kisses, this man, more than anything i've ever wanted in my life. i float outside the embrace and see the pairing, delicious, slow, restrained in a way that is merely marking time, the ferociousness of it won't allow the restraint for much longer, this man, who is this man, who gives a shit who this man is as long as he doesn't stop.

in the background i notice a noise, distracted but still full of this man my mind drifts, i recognize this sound, a whimpering that rises louder. i push this away, this distraction from this man, but it grows louder. i see myself pausing, the embrace gains some distance as my mind works to place this sound that doesn't fit into this small room with this dark haired man, his hands....

mommy, MOMMY, wake UP! help me! WAKE UP!

dammit. the man fades as my consciousness rises. my child is awake.

five more minutes would have been really, really nice.

There is still plenty of time to donate to Open Arms Home as part of our May Just Post Roundtable. As of today we've raised over $915.00! (Mad has a giving thermometer going over her way that shows $650 as the total for last night but that will be updated today with our new figure). Thank you to everyone who has given so far, it's amazing what we can do in just 36 hours.

Also, don't forget to send me your Just Post links by the 7th to girlplustwo(at)yahoo(dot)com. All of the posts for Open Arms and the Just Posts will be featured on the 10th.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

open arms

This month celebrates the sixth month anniversary of our Just Post Roundtable, which as I shared in my last post was an idea that sparked spontaneously from a wedding proposal. And as such, I wanted to celebrate our union with a gift of more than words. This month, I want to put those words into action.

There is this little place in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, a tranquil place set high on a hilltop. And this place exists solely to allow children orphaned by AIDS to have the chance to grow up and thrive and become future leaders, mothers, fathers and inhabitants of their village, a village that is being ravaged by AIDS in a country being ravaged by AIDS.

Open Arms was founded by an American couple. A couple who instead of using their life savings in any sort of way poured it instead into this piece of land and from that land built a home. I had dinner with Bob and Sallie, the founders of Open Arms a few months ago and had the good fortune of learning their story. They'd always been dedicated to children, in fact, several of their kids are adopted. But that never felt like they were doing enough, and when Bob travelled to South Africa and saw firsthand the crisis he knew he had to do more.

So they formed a non-profit. They have a volunteer board of directors and none of them, including Bob and Sallie, draw a salary. All the money they raise goes directly to the Eastern Cape, and everyone they employ with the exception of one person is from the village there. So not only are they helping the kids but they are also helping the village. They pay fair wages to their workers and provide health care. And one of the things I liked the most about them was their intent and desire to keep those kids in the village. They will not adopt out the kids in their care, although they get inquiries from the west all the time. They send them to the local schools and community activities and are raising money now to make sure they can not only raise those kids but send them to college. Because these children are the future of their village. There are few elders left, the life expectancy rates are dropping every year (by 2010 it will be 36.5 - imagine being the oldest person you know). There will be few left to lead, to provide a historical context, to recall customs and traditions. Bob and Sallie know this, and they are doing their small part to keep this culture and community alive. They are truly two of the most inspiring people I have ever met; engaging and funny, dedicated and passionate. We were all moved to tears during the course of our meal, me from sitting in front of such obvious goodness and they from their burning desire to do more.

I don't have to tell you how bad the AIDS crisis in Africa is. About how there are millions and millions of orphaned and infected children. How these children grow up without the love of a family, without someone to tuck them in and feed them dinner, to hold them close and love them entirely. Bob and Sallie have changed that for eleven kids, and they want to change that for many more.

This is why I wanted to do more than write this month. I want to be a small part of the magic happening amidst the heartache. To gather all of us together to share some of our good fortune with them so that they can continue doing this important work. It costs on average $100 to raise each child per month, and right now they have eleven kids in their care.

I know there is skepticism in charity; and that we are each called to give to places according to our own beliefs. And this might not be the place that pulls you, and as such, I wanted to offer one other option, a place more well known, and a place that is close to Mad's heart.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation is a well known Canadian non-profit also working to help children in Africa. I felt it important to offer a second option, (not only for the Canadians in the house who prefer their exchange rate), but also because each organization is working towards the same goal: a better life for Africa's children. Mad has written very eloquently about the SLF over her way, and in true librarian form has included all sorts of heartbreaking facts and figures that are impossible to ignore.

So this month I am asking you to join us, for the small entry fee of $20, and support one of these two charities. Because we are unable to track the donations given to SLF, we won't be able to provide a grand total unless you email us and let us know. If you donate to Open Arms, enter Just Post in the company line of the online donation form. I will ask Open Arms to give me a tally after the 10th of the month, so we can see for ourselves what this small group of sisters and brothers are able to do.

Some of you mentioned wanting to write about this on your sites and we welcome that. And since we are voicing this as our collective song for our May Just Post Roundtable, the goal is to get the word out before the 10th and then we will also include the posts you have written in support of our Africa efforts in the Just Post Roundtable. So if you do write something over your way, let us know.

The wider we cast our net, the more we can help. We are asking you to join us. Let's move a mountain for some gorgeous, beautiful, amazing children in South Africa.

Friday, June 01, 2007

comfort and consultation

Those lovely blogrhet women started something fierce recently when they issued the call to answer the whys and reasons to our blogging evolution. And while I am really not a meme-fan, I am fascinated by the ins and outs of the journey to here. So when Lawyermama and Kyla hit me up I decided to answer one of the questions instead of them all. I am nothing if not contrary.

3. Can you point to a stage where you began to feel that your blog might be part of a conversation? Where you might be part of a larger community of interacting writers?

I had been blogging for about three months when I did a series that explained how one plused two. It started with this and after the series ended I started to notice a change; I had told my story, and that started the embers glowing. And then I took it a bit further, sharing my pain and angst about things in our world and I realized once more people are listening because they felt that pain and angst too. My words mattered. And that was wholly mindblowing. But I sort of pushed it to the side and kept on writing what moved me, whether the mundane or the societal, whining or hollering or just simply sharing.

But then came the social justice evolution. The words here resulted in a proposition that turned into a wedding, and from that the Just Posts were born. And six months later, they are thriving still. Every single month I am humbled and honored to see the crowd that gathers around the fire to share our collective voices, bringing issues out in the open, nudging each other along. And then I realized it: We Are Community. We Are In This Together. And there is freedom in this - to be challenged and awestruck and amused and moved to tears by words alone. Sometimes it's easier to consider this realm less real, but in many ways I think it is more.

There is so much power here. And to prove that, I am going to push it this month, because for our May Just Post Roundtable I am not only asking you to sing, but I am asking you to pay for your supper. It's ballsy, I know. But there's a grassroots organization that is helping, housing, and loving children orphaned by AIDS in South Africa, and we are going to raise some money and help them. They need our spare change more than we do. It's that simple.

I'll tell you more about this amazing place over the next week, but be so kind to set aside $20 (or whatever you can spare) because we are going to raise over a $1,000 this month. We are, because I believe in all of us and I know we can do this. I was always lousy at math, but if 50 people give $20, we're money (literally, for once). I am getting all tingly just thinking about it. And That Is How I Know I Am Part Of A Larger Community Of Interacting Writers.

It's time for our sixth 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 June 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 at the Just Post buttons to your right.