Wednesday, October 31, 2007

three

Speaking of not finding my bliss: Three is a pain in the ass. The temper tantrums. The whining. The incessant tantrums and whining. The 0-60 hysterics.

Truth be told, I might lose my shit.

I try reasoning but it's impossible. I try rationalizing only to have it stamped on and tossed out. I try discipline, the wussy-ass Time Out sort of discipline but she's got my number there too. And when she acts out in public, the throwing herself on the ground and kicking and screaming....let's just say I try and find My Happy Place but it's left the building. I actually find myself fantasizing about public buses in third world countries. You know, buses travelling far from here. Camels and sitars. Coke in a bottle. Ruins. See, I am doing it again now.

Everyone says it'll pass. I even believe you. But that doesn't make the moment any less annoying. And I try and find the humor, and often I do find the humor, but at the end of it all it's simply a hard job. It's a terrific job and I love my kid and I embrace the motherhood and all that blah de blah, but you know, it's still hard sometimes. I want to be a good mother. J says I over-indulge her (a pox on you, man) at times and she needs to figure some of this out for herself, that it's not helping her and it's exhausting me. I see his point, and yet I can't ignore it when she's having her third meltdown wailing for me at the top of her lungs. Or the fourth. And so on.

This sounds like I am whining but mostly I'm just saying what's what.

Happy Halloween, yo. I am banking on a certain Garden Fairy rocking the house in between tantrums and shrieking.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

state of eternal bliss

I always enjoy it when J invites a work friend over for dinner. His friends are an eclectic bunch, a group of counselors working with a difficult population and inevitably I find them to be an interesting group. E was no exception. He's a world traveller and a film-maker who just landed a full length documentary project. He's been enlisted to make a film about a guru who has a large number of disciples and a few ashrams in different parts of the world. His disciples are paying for the documentary, so of course I was wondering if there would be freedom in filming or if there would be pressure to film it in a certain way - a question on E's mind as well.

So being the inquisitive woman I am, I continued to pepper E with questions while plying him with wine. Apparently this guru dude was born in the states but said Jesus came to visit him when he was a little kid and told him some important stuff. A while later he claimed he had some other visitors, Mother Mary, Jesus again, some other spiritual bigwigs too. They made it clear he was the reincarnation of some other really important spiritual leader and the rest sort of spiraled from there. So today he's got a bunch of followers and a bunch of spiritual teachings on the oneness of us and God and you know, it all sounds ok enough because far be it from me to judge the spiritual lives of others anyways. E swears the man has an intense spiritual power, that in his presence you are filled with a constant state of bliss, a bliss so intense that you are unable to focus on anything else, even sleeping. (How he'll film the movie while in this state is yet to be seen).

To be honest, that's a bliss I've never felt but you know, it sounds kind of cool, too. So after E left I googled the guru and found some of his teachings and saw some of his disciples and some videos of his lessons and as I watched I was waiting for the bliss. The Bliss! But it never came. So I went to bed lacking the bliss and life continues on as normal.

But I can't wait to hear how this film project goes.

Monday, October 29, 2007

blackened skies

I've not talked much about the fires in California, mostly because it's hard to find the words. I grew up in one of the tiny mountain towns that has burned so viciously over the past week. A town of under 2000 people, a town of mountain men and snow and one or two roads off the hill. Seeing pictures of it burning, hearing that one, two, now three old friends have lost their homes, wondering if the home I grew up in all those years ago survived or if it too burned into the ashen sky.

Growing up in those mountains was a mix of redneckery, small town gossip, loyal neighbors and another kind of fire and brimstone. I hated it at the time, the long distance from the real world, the cold, the forever digging ourselves out of the snow. But it was something else too; small town safe, the place where everyone had to get their mail at the post office and the market down the road had the best candy. A place spent climbing trees and building forts, long school bus rides and four wheel driving. It's also where I learned to play baseball and where I learned to drive, where I had my first job and my first broken heart.

And now it's burned. It would be impossible not to know the names of folks whose homes have burned, even 20 years gone I still know. And in one week it's changed forever, the landscape blackened, the town grew smaller and wider still.

Posessions are just trappings. Clever disguises to keep us from knowing our ultimate selves. But they are also how we define our safety, where we lay our heads. We cleave to these things, to these tangible markers of our memories and then one day they fail us and gone, all gone.

And then we start anew. The courageous mountain men and women living there will find this as their beginning rather than their end. I know this because it's hardscrabble living in those hills and the weak wouldn't choose it. But clearing away the charred rubble of their lives until now is a solemn task at best.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

blue

M and I headed over to the hair salon I've been going to for as long as I can remember for her haircut yesterday. My hair person is someone I love, a wise woman who is as liberal and earthy as they come. She sets M up in the chair and very seriously asks her what she'd like to do.

I want blue hair.

We both look at each other. She asks M to repeat it and she says it again. She also points at my hair which currently has red and yellow streaks in it and says like mama.

So my lovely hair friend suggested she cut M's hair first and then afterwards we can see what's what as we both know minds change easily when you are three. So after M sits patiently through her haircut, a small miracle in itself and as my hair person finishes M says again but I still want blue, mama. My costume is blue.

So my friend looks at her intently then over to me and says I think we should honor her request. And in that moment I damn the earthy liberalism and as I am shaking my head no I say it is Halloween and her costume IS blue.

So my hair person goes off and comes back with some product. It's Aveda, she says. It's all natural and it'll wash out after awhile. So we debate and agree to two blue streaks. And as she's applying this natural blue dye made out of natural blue plant and flower juices (is that even possible?) all I can think is what the hell is J going to say about this.

But it's just hair, I decide. So I let it go and M walks out of the salon with two blue streaks and they aren't even that blue, more of an indigo than a royal. And I find myself wishing it was royal, if we are going for it then it should be all the way.

And when we get home there is a package waiting from sweet Liv. Inside we find an adorable halloween outfit for M and an unbelievably gorgeous necklace for me. M put the outfit on immediately and hasn't taken it off since, not even to sleep. The blue isn't noticeable in this picture, but I promise it's there. And Kiki might notice some long lost ponies too.

Friday, October 26, 2007

gently into that good night

From what we can tell he stopped along the railroad tracks on the way to the shelter sometime yesterday. Perhaps he was tired. Maybe it was too early for him to check in. Either way he stopped near the tracks, a slight incline, perhaps it was the warm sun.

He removed his jacket and folded it neatly under his head. He took off his shoes. Naps are always more comfortable without shoes. He took off his shoes and placed them close. Perhaps thinking if someone tried to lift them he'd wake up and notice. Either way he tucked them near.

He laid his head down on his jacket and went to sleep. He was found by one of our staff this morning during the neighborhood sweep. For a minute he thought he was sleeping but up close it was different, a days worth of difference at least.

Sometime between yesterday morning and the day before he died. No one knows why but hard living and sleeping outside takes it's toll. He looked peaceful, his eyes were closed. His head was still cradled by his jacket. A faint smile perhaps but that may just be wistful thinking and the hope for a gentle goodbye

And no one had tried to lift his shoes. Neatly tucked next to his side, his shoes were still there.

Rest in peace, brother. May you forever have soft pillows beneath your head.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

bump and slide

So we are determined to start watching Game 1 of the World Series as soon as possible (I always laugh at the "world" part of this baseball series but whatever America) and as such I'm heading out to pick up a pizza and J is taking M to run around the block so we can possibly maybe watch some of it in peace.

I head out the door and over to the pizza place and order one of those kinds that you cook at home so it's quick. I head outside because the waiting area was crowded and after a few minutes walk back in. As I enter the woman behind the counter walks around to me and touches my arm.

Honey, are you Jen?
I am dumbfounded but I nod.
You need to call home sweetie. Use my phone. She's okay, just go ahead and call home.
A brief moment of confusion and terror ensues.

So I call home and J tells me M took a major fall the minute I pulled out of the drive, one of those flat out pavement falls with gravel in the skin hysterics. And we need some really big band aids. I can hear the screaming in the background. Shit.

So as I hang up the phone the woman is standing close smiling the smile of a long time mother, one who knows the ropes. She pats me on the shoulder and hands me the pizza. I walk around the counter back to the waiting area and a dude says it's beer right? you forgot to pick up some beer. dude.

Since J's voice sounded fine I wasn't too worried but I ran and got some band aids and a teeny weeny i just got hurt and need a treat present that caught my eye on the way out. I head home to a still wailing child and somber looking man on the front lawn. You know, waiting. And I resisted the urge to utter I was gone five minutes people because I am cool like that.

She throws herself in my arms sobbing so I bring her into the kitchen to examine the damage. It's obvious she really fell hard but J had already done the hard work of cleaning and degraveling and medicining so we put on the band aids and she even coughed up a half smile at the surprise present.

We lay down on the bed together and she recounts the fall over and over until she's got it out of her system. And then she turns her wee precious body to me and says hold me tight momma and so I do. After a minute she leans up and says I love my family momma.

And my heart slides right in two. I love my family too, baby. I love my family too.

And the woman at the pizza place was really very kind too. Thank you, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

little boy lost

It was the first and last time I'd ever had the feeling that this child didn't belong to the woman who was claiming to be his mother. It was 1999, Prince was partying and I was holed up in a large street shelter. And something wasn't right.

Mikey and his mother moved in after claiming to have moved here from Florida. They had no friends or family in the area but the mom said she lived here in the past and wanted to come back home. From the beginning things seemed off - the parent child relationship seemes almost in reverse - Mikey was an incredibly bright six year old, far too old for his years. He spoke almost scripted about his love for his mother and his happiness in general. Mom's behavior was very odd, no photographs were allowed, the child was not allowed to speak with us unless she was there. Other residents started to report other weirdnesses, patterns of questionable interactions and behaviors that further raised suspicions on our part and far too uncomfortable to recollect here. The local school also contacted us - Mikey's mother would stand outside the fence of his school all day and during recess would silently watch him. They also indicated they were unable to get his records from Florida and asked us to assist. She would have preferred to keep him out of school entirely and dragged her feet in getting him enrolled and getting him to school.

We'd found similar issues during our intake process. A birth certificate that did not bear the name she called her son, and a last name different from hers. Things weren't adding up and to be honest, this level of digging wasn't the norm but something simply wasn't right.

After much discussion and a number of weeks his mother provided the Florida information along with a release and I made a few inquiries. It turned out that the school there had suspicions similar to ours in conjunction with a lack of previous records. Once they'd alerted the authorities she'd disappeared and they warned me of the same. I called DSS in Florida who also expressed concerns but lost track of him once a monitoring had occurred. But I learned along the way that she gave up public housing, the equivalent of a gold ticket to Wonka's place in the process. Abandoning a housing voucher is unheard of in my world, another red flag rising.

I then did something I'd never done before or since. I started searching the national databases of missing and exploited children looking for a match. While searching we were conferring with child advocates and other experts in the field. All the while it began to feel dirtier and dirtier, unfair of us to be feeling this way but our concerns for the child were stronger than anything else. And we didn't want her to run again until we'd figured out what to do.

Child Services received various reports and I tried to fill them in on the larger concern and our fear that if they came she'd disappear. They were concerned and agreed but then showed up and met with the mom and the son and said they'd be back the next day as further investigation was required.

In the morning they were both gone. Their room was trashed and they had disappeared. It was a horrifying time because while we had our assumptions no one was guilty. We contacted the police and child services again and while everyone agreed something wasn't right suspicions aren't enough for legal intervention and besides, we'd lost him now. It was too late.

Three years later I am walking through the adult shelter and I see her, battered and older with hair dyed a different color. I approached her and asked about Mikey and she claimed not to know what I was talking about and wouldn't acknowledge she had ever met me before. She didn't have any I.D. this time around and was simply a single homeless woman in need of shelter. We made inquiries to the police but there was little follow up. But there was no denying that it was her.

This was a difficult post to write. Part of me feels I had no right to pursue things as I did and the other feels I didn't do nearly enough. Intuition is not a reliable strategy in all circumstances but sometimes it's all you've got. Those of us on the ground make mistakes and are dealt a difficult hand all the time and there aren't always good or right decisions in times like this. And I will never know what happened to Mikey, whether he's okay or not, thriving or not. I just know that the woman who claimed to be his mother all those years ago claimed to have no idea who he was.

Monday, October 22, 2007

my first mothering

Today we saw one of the best and most disturbing movies I've seen in a long, long time. It was a brilliant film and J and I had very strong reactions to the content. On our way home I couldn't stop myself from re-telling stories about kids I've known over the years who were in trouble. Kids that haunt me to this day.

I still can't shake it, the movie or the kids both. I've decided to post about these kids from my past for a little while, a series of sorts. Some of what I will write isn't pretty, in fact it's damn hard so I am warning you now in case stories of wounded children isn't something you want to read. A graceful feel free to click away with no hurt feelings.

Peter came to us with his mom about seven years ago. He was five years old at the time, his mom lived hard, drugs and addiction, multiple husbands. She had a teenage daughter who lived somewhere else. Peter was a beautiful kid, a lonely kid. His mother was rough, she would often yell at him, her tone always harsh. He would wander into our offices almost daily and after awhile we became friends of sorts. He mostly just needed a safe place to feel some love.

We started to suspect his mom had started using drugs again but we were having a hard time catching her. Around that time she found out she was pregnant and simultaneously her neighbors were reporting a lot of traffic, loud men in and out all night long. We suspected she was selling her body for drugs and eventually proved ourselves right. I'd involved the authorities and as usual, they were disinterested at best. After four or five calls they'd go to her apartment, verify that there was food in the fridge and that Peter wasn't being beaten and tell me there was nothing else to do. Meanwhile, Peter was worsening, he'd come into my office and sit on my lap or he'd sit in the corner against the wall and patiently watch me work. He was dying for love, for nurturing, and his mom couldn't or wouldn't give it to him.

I'd keep reporting her to child services and they'd keep visiting and she'd keep yelling at me for reporting her. This went on for a long time and short of evicting her there wasn't much we could do and we feared the eviction would be worse for Peter, at least this way we were watching and doing what we could.

His mother continued to do drugs and somehow continued to have clean drug tests (we figured out how much later) so in every turn she managed to slip past the limit that would yank her chain. You have to remember we were dealing with the system, a tired and broken system who didn't give two shits about a poor kid living in homeless housing. In their opinion he was better off there than on the streets or in the shelter. His mom was convinced she was a good mom who loved her son. And Peter continued to be neglected and continued to live in sad and lonely pain.

And then one day something very bad happened. Peter was sexually assaulted by a teenage boy because his mom once again failed to supervise him properly. We were the first he told, before he told his mom. He came into the office and told me something that no five year old should ever know with such clarity it left no room for question. I called 911 immediately and when the cops came they took Peter to the hospital.

This was the only time I'd ever seen his mother nurture him in the entire time he was with us. The only time she held him and told him she loved him. It may not sound like it but I was an emotional wreck. I loved Peter and for the first time in my life wanted to adopt a child. I wanted Peter. I wanted to save him because I couldn't take watching him suffer any longer. I called social services and inquired about obtaining temporary custody. The worker took me half seriously and tried to talk me out of it at the same time. The damage, she said. You don't know what you are getting yourself into. The damage, I said, has been caused while you've sat and done nothing. Let me do something.

But in the end he was never removed from his mother, and trust me when I say this isn't something I take lightly. I've seen this many times from all sides and it's awful every time. This was her child, she was his mother. She was and he was and it shouldn't be easily disposed of. She left us soon after, her trust in me shattered and her hands full with a new baby too. It was so hard saying goodbye and harder still knowing how little there was I could do to make it better. To make his life better in the end because I wanted to so much.

Peter should be twelve by now. I haven't seen him in six years and have no idea how he is or how things have gone for him. There isn't a week that goes by that I don't think of him and wonder how he is, and if he remembers the love we offered him so long ago. I've met hundreds and hundreds of homeless kids in the past decade and I've seen all kinds of horrors and all kinds of beauty, but none of them pierced my heart quite the way Peter did. He was the first to make me want to be a mother.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Game 7

Gentlemen,

You looked fantastic last night. Everybody thought so. We all toasted you with our beers and cheered you all the way to the 12-2 Game Six victory. But Shilling, you looked a little tired. You should rest, we'll need you in the Series. And it might be the last time you play in a Red Sox uniform, so cowboy up. 41 isn't that old.

And to JD Drew, no one believes the smack they've been talking about you all season. Nice job hitting that grand slam - that 70M was well spent after all. What? I'm just saying.

Francona, you are a hell of a nice guy and I love watching you handle the media when they interrupt your sunflower seed spitting during the game. Better that than the tobacco you were chewing a couple of games ago. Not so pretty all that spitting, but I understand. It's been stressful. And your peers are getting canned.

Manny, don't be a smuck tonight. It's not funny anymore and you just look like an asshole. When you hit a homerun, run, dammit. Don't stand and stare. Don't gloat. Just run.

And Papi. Hit the ball. Hard. That's all you've got to do. And run when you hit it. Stop acting like Manny.

Dice K - 103M. That's all I've got to say to you. 103M. You better cowboy up, too.

And to my favorite catcher, the ever-adorable and always hard working Jason Varitek. Nice thighs. Love you. Call me.

Play ball, gentlemen. And make us proud.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fair makes me happy

Lucia travels the globe promoting fair trade and occasionally (but not enough, Lucia) comes back and tells us about it. Sometimes she even talks about places we can go to purchase fairly traded items ourselves without even leaving the house.

So following orders I went online to this lovely place and ordered some fair trade coffee and a most delicious Advent Calendar for M for the holidays. It all arrived today and we had an early holiday, smelling the fairly traded Hope and Justice coffee blend and the Eithiopian Light Roast as well as oohing and aahing over the calendar made from cocoa beans from Ghana.

If we must succumb to holiday consumerism we might as well be Fair about it. Plus just about everyone drinks coffee. Their prices are the same as I pay in the supermarket and I feel much better supporting them over the coffee mafia types.

Go see for yourself.

Friday, October 19, 2007

finally

i took today off.

i caught up on my blog reading
i went to an actual bookstore. and browsed.
had a coffee.
went grocery shopping.
saw a neighbor's baby.
painted my toes.
did three loads of laundry.
wrote and mailed a card to a friend.

and i am in the process of:
making red skinned mashed potatoes. (CSA box!)
roasting a whole chicken. (i have no idea how to do this!)
opening a bottle of wine. (i am really good at this!)

and i just took the longest shower of my life.

now i shall go pick up my child and be the loveliest, most patient mother who has ever existed on the face of the earth.

let's hear it for making time for the small and big things.

hallelujah.

i feel you, sister

Note to the googler who found my blog by searching:

i tryed to pee standing like i was still a male

ouch, friend. ouch. i hope it all mends nicely. sitting while peeing may take some getting used to, but after awhile you'll forget you ever did it any other way.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

beeting the system



My CSA box arrived last night. I should say I am generally very proud of my CSA box, we always open it like an early holiday gift on our living room floor ooohing and aaahing over possibilities. M will often grab excess produce and parade around the house like a 4H superstar. I am far from an imaginative (or even good) cook, but pears, squash, eggplant...I can figure out what to do and it might even taste okay.

But when I pulled out these beets I was flummoxed. What the hell do I do with these?

And how?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

lions and tigers and bears

I've been working a lot of late nights lately, nights that keep me away from M. Last night I arrived home right at bedtime and M did me the honor of flying out of the house and racing barefoot across our cold lawn screaming my name joyfully. She throws herself in my arms and hugs me wildly before leaning back and saying:

M: Why you work so late mommy? You help people go sleepytime?
Me: I am sorry baby. I am sorry I am so late.
M: Because if people sleep outside they might get eaten by dinosaurs and monsters and bears, right? You help them mommy?
Me: I don't think they'll get eaten baby, but it is hard to sleep outside and we don't want anyone to have to sleep outside especially when it's so cold.
M: Yeah. It's cold and I think they might be eaten. You do good job mommy. Me no like being eaten.

Yeah baby, me neither. And thank you for understanding. I appreciate it more than you know and promise with all that I am to make up for all the late nights just as soon as I can.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

13 million reasons

I've written a review over at my other blog today about a new cookbook. I really enjoyed the book but the post here is more about the way it made me feel to have the luxury of being able to use it.

The book is all about pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into your kids' food. So as I am preparing to give it a test drive, shopping for fresh ingredients, firing up the blender, roasting the veggies I couldn't stop thinking about how lucky I was to be able to do it at all. I thought about all the moms at the shelter, moms who love their kids just as much but are unable to cook for their kids so instead they are forced to feed their kids food that is prepared or donated to them and that food is often starchy and processed and the veggies at best are often canned.

So I took my concerns to my work and I talked to a couple of moms about the book and about how they provide healthy food for their kids. The women I talked to were both defeated, they knew they could never make the recipes I described in their current situation, not only because of the lack of food choices but also because the supplies needed, the blender or processor were far out of reach. They clearly would love to be able to better feed their kids and saw it as one more thing that suffered at the hands of poverty and homelessness. They saw the wisdom in the book and yet had no practical way to utilize it.

And it's not fair. It's not fair that I can puree while others can't. That I can buy what I want for my child while others can only stand in the aisles and look. And the advantages that must offer kids like M must be extraordinary, and that isn't fair either. We should all have access to healthy food for our kids.

It's impossible to reject everything in our society that can't be shared by everyone. It's difficult and unfair to your own child to stand in poverty because I have the resources to give her what she needs. But it's still not fair that M gets pureed cauliflower snuck into wheat flour based banana bread while other kids eat day old white bread and canned generic peas and some kids eat very little overall. If you haven't looked in the eyes of a hungry child and then watched the way they eat too fast and hoard their food then you are fortunate indeed because it will break your heart right in two. And it happens in America every single day. And that's just America.

A look at the United States reveals a wide gap between the goal of universal access to adequate nutrition, and the reality of hunger that plagues millions in this country alone. The number of hungry people in the United States is greater now than it was when international leaders set hunger-cutting goals at the 1996 World Food Summit. The pledges by United States government leaders to cut the number of Americans living in hunger-from 30.4 million to 15.2 million by 2010- are lagging behind. An estimated 35 million Americans are food insecure with food insecurity and the necessity of food stamps being experienced by at least 4 in 10 Americans between the ages of 20 and 65. That's 50% of Americans!

Meanwhile, the already burdened food safety-net program which was designed to alleviate hunger and food insecurity is under attack by the threat of reduction of funding and ease of enrollment by policy makers. With food expenses being the most elastic part of a family's budget, as limited funds usually get allocated to fixed payments first, such as rent and utilities, food purchasing has become the most compromised portion of the average family's budget. So far in 2004, 35% of Americans have had to choose between food and rent, while 28% had to choose between medical care and food. While others, forced to stretch their budgets further and further, are buying less expensive but often less nutritious food.


The most vulnerable - the children, immigrants, rural families - are worst affected by this epidemic. Despite evidence that hunger causes chronic disease development and impaired psychological and cognitive functioning in children, an estimated 13 million children are living in households that are forced to skip meals or eat less due to economic constraints. The worst affected are children of 6 million of America's undocumented immigrants: on a daily basis they go without such necessities as milk and meat. (Excerpted from Hunger in America by Anuradha Mittal)

So I will wrestle with this just as I wrestle with so many other poverty related issues because I continue to believe we can do more to be more equitable, that hungry children should be a problem for all of us and that I will not feel full while others are still hungry. And I will continue to join others as they stand against poverty too.

Monday, October 15, 2007

respect your mother

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Dear Mother Earth,

I am humbled by your majesty. The turning of the seasons, the rain and sun and wind, the natural wonders and all your creatures great and small. And yet I do not respect you. I do not respect you and I kick you in the shin. I use you. I climb your trees and walk on your mountains and breathe your air and swim in your oceans. And yet I do not respect you.

If I respected you I would not have bought those bananas today, bananas that came from Ecuador because bananas are all my child wants to eat and instead of teaching her to enjoy local produce I bought bananas that were shipped thousands of miles. My lack of discipline causes you to suffer.

If I respected you I would take public transportation. I have a million excuses about why I cannot take public transportation every day but the truth is I am weak, and my weakness causes you to suffer.

If I respected you I would grow my own food. I've tried to grow my own food in the past but I've become too busy and it's been too difficult to manage in the last few years. So I don't grow my own food because I am lazy and I don't prioritize well. My laziness causes you to suffer.

If I respected you I would never buy anything made of plastic. But I do buy things made of plastic, things that are often completely unnecessary like the plastic blocks I bought for M. She wanted them and I bought them. My lack of commitment causes you to suffer.

Forgive me mother, for I continue to sin. I continue to widen my footprint and live larger than I need to. I continue to blame others and point fingers and wait for Them to do Something. But something begins with me. I am sorry, Mother. I will miss the polar bears when they are gone and I will have no one to blame but myself. But I promise you yet again, one last confessional on the hill that I will try and try again to do right by you, to show you my respect.

There's a review up over at my other spot today too. A review of a product that comes in handy when I am taking long road trips. Forgive me, Mother, for the gas I waste on those long road trips. I am selfish and that selfishness causes you to suffer.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

it's something


dusting off the backpacks. arranging dates. searching the cheapest airfare. securing the time off. finding passports. researching ruins. excitement bubbling. pretending to brush up on spanish. the yucatan is calling. next month we'll go. we'll have to come back when it's over. but maybe next time we won't. there is always a next time. but this time is now. or next month. it's soon. travel is my remedy. a homeopathic balm for my soul.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

o-s-c-a-r

I was walking into the shelter when I cavalierly said i am really hungry to a colleague as I walked through the lobby into a meeting. On my way back out I noticed a man sitting by the door.

Hey there, he said, are you still hungry?
A bit confused, I respond yeah, actually, I am.
So he holds out a bag and says I went and got this sandwich from the kitchen because I was hungry too. But I heard you say you were hungry so I saved half of it for you.

And he handed me his bag and turned to walk away. Flummoxed, I stop him and try and hand it back. I can stop and get something on my way out and I'd much rather you have your lunch for yourself. He refuses and grumbles can't an old man do something nice for a young lady anymore? And he turns with a grin and shuffles back to the yard.

There's choices you make in moments like this, choices that honor a man's dignity while trying to balance appropriate work conduct and nothing screams inappropriate work conduct like taking food from the homeless. So I follow him out and try again hey, I've got an idea, let's split it and eat it together. And he turns to me and smiles and says ok but you take the bigger piece, it'll never split up even anyways.

He takes the bag back and reaches gnarled hands inside and pulls out half of a bologna on white (how freaking predictable is that and I realize I really need to talk with our lunch cook for pete's sake because nothing screams homeless food like bologna on white) and tears it in half and hands it to me, the bigger half by an inch.

We stand outside the shelter amidst the smokers and the jivers, the wheelchairs and the sleepers, the workers and the readers and we eat the sandwich together making small talk about the weather. I find I like this man so much, a shelter is no place for him, no place for anyone really. And I bet if he could he'd invite me to lunch in his own home and he'd never serve me bologna on white in a paper bag, either.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

September Just Posts

justpostsept2007

I've had the toughest month professionally of my entire life. Agonizing decisions that affect the homeless, the community, people I love. The pain I've felt has been acute, I've never been able to separate my passion for the cause with who I am as a woman, a blessing and a curse all at once. But in the midst of the darkness there have been sweet moments of light, like yesterday when an old pastor from a community church, a true man of the people who has done a lifetime of good work called me and said sister, I hear there's some trouble. I don't know why no one cares about the homeless but the truth is they don't. Too many other things taking peoples attention away from suffering. God, see, he's sent you as his ambassador, and you are holding strong. You can't give up. Tears welled up in my eyes and I semi-jokingly said use that voice of yours, pastor, you've got that direct hook up to the top and we need it more than ever. He chuckled a bit and said I'm calling to pray for you now, girl, and we prayed for you in sunday service too. And he offered a lovely prayer, a cry to his beloved, asking for strength, for mercy, for wisdom, for supernatural intervention. And in those moments I realized again how much bigger life is than it's problems, how there is joy in suffering, and how this too shall pass. And once again I am reminded that this is a calling, and that we can never give it up and never for a moment forget why we are here. There is still so much work to do.

So read these posts. Read them and know we are all in this together and that collectively there is so much good. It matters more than we know.

The Just Post Writers
Alejna with Squandered and A Post for Burma
Ally at Zone Family with Rainsong
Andrea at A Garden of Nna Mnoy with The Green Family: All right, Ms. Smartypants, what am I supposed to do then? and Frances Friday: Faith
Be Present Be Here with love and truth
Biodtl at I am the Master Evil Genius with No Childs Left Behind and Hungry
Blithely Babbling with The Value of the Victim
Blog Antagonist with Solicitation and A Gift To Yourself
BlogHers Acts Canada
A Commonplace Book with Why Republicans Could Win the White House in 2008
Casdok with Have a Rant on Me
Cecileaux at Shavings off My Mind with What is to be done
Chris Jordan with The modern mother
Christine at Running on Empty with I'm all worked up!!
Crazymumma with Untitled, Marina and Mussolini and snowbirds/airshow
DC Metro Moms Blog with An Open Letter to the Presidential Candidates--from a Mom
Feministing with Fired pregnant woman was told to suck in her belly
Fortune and glory after a cup of coffee with "Paranoia strikes deep ...."
Her Grace with He may move slow but that don't mean he's going nowhere
Ijeomaublogcreativity with Sneak preview.... and More Food for Thought
Ismail Farouk with GreYeo: Community Based Internet Communication in Yeoville and Apartheid, The South African Mirror: Instuments of Racial Classification
It's Not a Lecture with Facebook's Worst Nightmare, part II
Jangari of Matjjin-nehen for Woolies and Welfare, Indigenous language education and indigenous rights, and UN votes on indigenous rights
Jenandtonic with Naked, naked, naked LOVE!
Jen M at Get in the Car with her Philanthropy Thursday series
Jen at One Plus Two with Brother Can you Spare a Dime, This is how it starts (jumping off), Jump, Shelter-(ed), Door to Door, Chasing Tails
Jen at Under the ponderosas with I'm an environmentalist/I'm not an environmentalist
Jenni of Girls for Glaciers with War is not healthy for children or other living things
KC at Where's My Cape with The Good Influence and Moral Spin, Mortal Sin
Karen at Needs New Batteries with Places I Love
Kellee Terrell at Pop Gumbo with Justice with a snap and Jena 6 protests: the media finally gives it airtime
Kelly at A Child is Born with Fuck off Facebook and Bill Maher
Kevin at Life Has Taught Us with Hip Hop Justice, or Yet Another Story You Haven't Heard About
Kevin Chanas with The Deadliest Item at Your Grocery Store
Latoya Peterson at Racialicious with The Gentrification Shuffle
Lawyer Mama with On Becaming a Lawyer and Facebook Sucks
Liv with something wonderful happened today
Marcella Chester with Sexual Violence in the Congo
Maria Niles on blogher with Learning the lessons of Ugly Betty: real women have curves
Mir on blogher with Everything I never wanted to know about breasts I learned from Facebook and on WCS with Our job is to teach them to suck it up
Mouse with Global Warming Wednesday Haiku for bak to school
Mrs Chili of Blue Door with Ten Things Tuesday (or Ten reasons why I’m an outspoken GBLT advocate/ally)
Painted Maypole with family values, Easy Philanthropy Thursday and Activist Philanthropy
PeterAtLarge / The Buddha Diaries with Acts of Courage: Burma and War
Pundit Mom with Iraq War Solution by Pundit Girl
Rachel's Random Ramblings with Protests in Burma
Radical Mama with Watch Me Point Out the Obvious
Roy at No Cookies for Me with Can I be a feminist?
Sagefemme with Will this be on the exam?
Shelly of Girls for Glaciers with The Elephant in the Room
Stumbling and Mumbling with Unions and Inequality
Susanne at Creative Mother Thinking with Mommy guilt is not personal and Wiping with cloth
Thailand gal with Are ideas dangerous
The Assimilated Negro with Clowns run Klan out of Knoxville
The League of Maternal Justice
Third Story with September
Thordora with Out of suffering have emerged... and When I Cry
Trudi at Hypergraffiti with Everybody's Got a Story That Can Break Your Heart
Under the Mad Hat with Little Green
Wayfarer Scientista with October 2007 Scientiae Carnival
Where ever ewe go there ewe are with Sunday Front Page
Womenspace with No Jena Six until the same to-do is made over the lesbian/New Jersey Seven
Writing as jo(e) with What we talk about at lunch

Sharing the love:
Alejna
Ally
bon
BubandPie
Carrie
Cecilieaux
Chani
Christine
flutter
Hel
Jen
Jess at Oh the Joys
KC
Lawyer Mama
Mary Murtz
Susanne
Tabba

This is by far our largest roundtable so far and we at Just Post Headquarters couldn't be happier about it. There are so many links this month that make me salivate and it's an incredible honor to host so many powerful voices. And Mad, Hel and Susanne have all cooked up deliciousness over their way as well so make sure you stop by before you go. And keep writing, and we'll keep hosting, and together we'll move some mountains.

Monday, October 08, 2007

over easy

They are amazing in their resiliency. So sick and then once starting on the mend, the bad parts forgotten. I don't as easily forget, spending the day and night ever watchful, looking for a sign that things are getting worse and refusing to believe they are getting better. But yet as swiftly as she was ill she has turned a corner and is making her way back to health. Not all the way better but yet not getting worse no matter how hard I scrutinize it otherwise. Her joy is returning and the horrors of the night forgotten completely.

I learn so much from her in this way. How her perception is so fully wrapped up in the moment and when the moment changes so does her reaction. The bad things slip away and make way for joy. I'd go far, I think to myself, if I walked through life like she does. Fully embracing the now. Not dwelling on the was. Enjoying the moment.

Thank you for your well wishes.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

i got the fever

Groggy, I wake up to her plaintive cries. I'm sick mommy, I so sick. I reach her and she's burning up, a piping hot version of my child, heat radiating a foot off her skin. I lay her down in bed next to me and she says My stomach, mommy. Moments later her little body is convulsing and I just barely made it stumbling in the dark to the bathroom. Her body shakes and gags, she cries but is so entirely brave. I don't stop holding her and her feet don't touch the ground.

Finished, I bring her back to bed and hold her, she is so hot and I can't get the goddamn newfangled digital thermometer to work right so I have no idea how hot exactly, is hot.

I hold her all night, she cries and sweats, medicine is promptly rejected by her stomach but I try anyways fearing the heat. I lay awake and my mind takes over. Every horrible illness I can think of comes to mind, dengue, malaria, things impossible to have where we live but the names float around my brain anyways. I map out the route to the ER, I set my mind to watch. I overreact in times like this, at least on the inside, the helplessness of fever.

The long night turns into day and we try more medicine again and this time it stays put. She's not well but I am not panicked, more resigned for a longer Sunday than I'd imagined twelve hours before. The helplessness of fever, the finiteness of mothering and how little we can actually fix runs circles in my addled brain.

Friday, October 05, 2007

oh to be in boston tonight

Our girl Chicky went and got herself knocked up recently and is feeling like crap. She deserves a little Red Sox Nation goodness so when the Sox took the second game of the playoffs tonight I tipped my beer towards to the east. Chicky, our boys are rolling. I even apologized to Manny because I'd been bashing his lackluster fielding and at bats all night long - so when he smacked that ball into a walk off game winning home run I ate my words and I promised yet again to be a nicer person.

I don't know if it's the Sox or the infectious heart melting way J watches them, but either way I sit there all teary every time they pull it off.

Who's coming to watch Sunday's game? Beer's already on ice. O'Douls for Chicky, and all the other mamas who've knocked themselves up lately too.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

brother can you spare a dime

True compassion is more than throwing a coin to a beggar. It demands of our humanity that if we live in a society that produces beggars, we are morally commanded to restructure that society. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and forwarded to me by Urban Urchin).

Awhile back Ally asked me how I respond to panhandlers. It's something I've talked about before but wanted to answer again (how sick are you of hearing me carry on about this? Go on, be honest I can take it).

Let me be clear that I in no way believe that giving a few dollars to a guy on the street ends homelessness. It's not strategic or life changing. It's not the end of the story or the happy ending. But to the individual it matters a great deal. When someone asks for help and it is given we are saying with our gesture I see you. I care enough to stop. It matters to me that you are suffering. That person, however momentarily, can accept our compassion and incorporate into his/her life situation. If that means he buys a hot dog, pays off a debt, or buys a fifth, that's not for me to judge. I think it's far to easy to get caught up in the I don't want that person to buy drugs, sex, drink and while that can/should be a consideration, then we should apply that thinking to all expenses. Because when I buy certain clothes I am most certainly fueling child labor. Or when I buy that gallon of gas I am supporting the nation's worst addiction of all. When I pay my taxes I am contributing to war.

Obviously some of those things we have more control than others. I can select where I buy my coffee more easily than deciphering the % of my income going to bombs and guns. And I might never know how the guy on the street will use my money. But if I am asked and I have the money then I share it for little more reason than the asking.

I would say I give money to folks on the street 4 or 5 times a week on average. Because I have the great fortune of being able to offer more than that when possible I offer a bed or a referral or a phone number too. Some folks aren't interested in more but I'd say most are. And what I glean from that, what seems to matter most is that I've stopped and listened. I've looked them in the eye and I've acknowledged their despair.

Because, and I want to scream this from the rooftops so please forgive me if it sounds preachy and bullheaded and what-have-you but these are HUMAN BEINGS IN SUFFERING. THEY ARE SUFFERING. It's incredibly simple to me in that way. How this country continues to turn it's back on poverty will never cease to amaze me. It will never cease to sadden and torment and challenge me. Because if one of us is suffering then we are all suffering. Because I am you, and you are me. It doesn't matter to me if your horse fell in a well and you are acting like an asshole and you deserve what you get and you goddamn need to get a job. All of that only serves to distract me from their suffering, from being in this moment with this person who is asking for help.

So that is a very long winded way of saying that I simply respond. And I hope with all that hopes within me that if I ever needed a place to sleep or five bucks or a bowl of food that a stranger would hear my cry and answer it too. Because we are all in this crazy tragic magnificent confusing unfair beautiful world together. And until there is no suffering we need to work all the angles, from the dude on the street to the policy dudes on the Hill.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

because sometimes i actually follow directions

I hear today is National Delurking Day. Or International Delurking Day. Perhaps even Inter-planetary Delurking Day. I don't often follow the crowd on things like this but I have to say, this one intrigues me. Because if I don't know you are reading me, I will never know how to find you and start reading you. And then we will forever be like two lonely people on the subway, two ships passing at night, two mismatched shoes. Ok, I'll stop with the melodrama now, because you get the point.

So give it up, internets. On earth or otherwise. Let me meet you.

heroes

One of the things I appreciate most about the blogosphere is the genuine support and love we choose to show each other, from the small and complicated parenting dilemmas to illnesses, relationships, and more.

And sometimes that more is more than any of us could imagine. Jenn recently lost someone, a man who was bravely fighting in Iraq in a war that most of us cannot understand. I may disagree fiercely about this war but I never for a minute forget that many brave men and women are carrying out the will of the US Administration with as much honor and integrity as possible and it's this work that is ultimately costing them their lives.

Today I ask you to go and visit Jenn and help me support her and her family as they come to terms with the most shocking loss of all. She's asking for our support by way of comments, tangible words she can share with her family and friends.

Heroes. It's a concept we discuss and debate, each has our own example and idea of what defines it. But for me, it's simple. To stand bravely in the face of adversity because you believe you are doing the right thing. Sgt. Matthew Blaskowski stood bravely and it cost him his life. And now his parents will stand bravely while they bury their son.

To the Blaskowski family and friends, I stand shoulder to shoulder with you in hope and anticipation of a world without war and peace for this great and tragic earth.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

losing caution

We had the opportunity to see Into The Wild this weekend, Penn's latest film based on the book by Jon Krakauer. The movie does a pretty good job of following the book, and from what I understood back when I read it, the book does a pretty good job of following Chris McCandless' life.

And it's already proven controversial in some circles because when we arrived home raving about the movie my mother stopped me short, tsking and frowning over the waste of a life.

What I think she really meant was what an ungrateful little bastard shit who didn't call his parents and went off and acted like a crazy person and still didn't call his parents and what about a real job and a real life and he gave all of that up and then look what happened, what a waste, and he never called his parents. But as one who's become remarkably adept at reading between the tsks I simply left it at that because I knew he was a concept that challenged her belief system so strongly that it was incomprehensible. And besides, he could have called his parents.

Truly bucking the system without a safety net is a terrifying thing. It takes a rare person to destroy all of your possessions and leave off alone trusting the divine to pave the way. And an even rarer person to run screaming headlong into that unknown knowing only that they cannot for one second more try and live a life not meant for them.

I saw Chris full of bravery and truth, a societal madman who knew the secrets we all keep. A being who knew his life didn't fit, knew it was an illusion, and better, he knew what he wanted and decided to pursue it no matter what. While I might disagree with his course of action or the nature of what bound him I cannot disagree with his passion. His ability to go against conventionality allowed him to experience a life that most of us will never experience and consequences be damned, that counts for something.

And it made me wonder what I would do if nothing scared me, if I could put conventionality and fear aside and charge headlong into my passion. Because I know it would mean I was somewhere other than here. I know that for certain and yet I soldier on carrying responsibility and caution and the necessary order of things along with me. And at the same time life doesn't get any longer than it is right this second. It's only shorter tomorrow. It just got a bit shorter while you read this post. A bit shorter again, while I clickety click.

What would you do if nothing scared you?

Monday, October 01, 2007

fall

Fall brings a mixture of emotions for me. A gratitude for the cooler days, a chill in the night air that reminds me of my youth, the need to gather things a bit closer. And of course, the promise of rain. Living in a desert makes it easy to long for the rain, a deep cleansing of the earth that nothing else can quite mirror.

Our September Just Post Roundtable is coming up soon. If you have read or have written a post about social justice this month send the link to me at girlplustwo(at)yahoo(dot)com and I'll send you the button. You and the post(s) you've shared will be included at our Just Post Roundtable on the 10th and will now be featured on four blogs across the world. You can also learn a bit more about how we've gone global here.

If this is new to you send me an email or click on one of the Just Post buttons over there on your right. See them? It's the one with the purple dove. All are welcome.