Wednesday, December 31, 2008
They say you spend the next year in the same way you spend the first day. I thought to myself, I'd love a year of laughter. So here is my new year's moment.
Today, I mentioned disliking the show The Doddlebops to my husband.
Without missing a keystroke, he looked up and said, "They are a Minstral Show. Except with White people in Blue face." And kept on typing.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
"What will you do as President to restore the Constitutional protections that have been subverted by the Bush Administration and how will you ensure that our system of checks and balances is renewed?"
"Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor - ideally Patrick Fitzgerald - to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?"
"What do you plan to do to our food industry to make it more sustainable? Will there be changes to our farming policies?"
"Solar energy is in use throughout the world on an individual household basis for water and facility heating, as well as electricity generation. Will your admin. attempt to utilize the millions of acres available for solar energy collection?"
Okay, you know what to do. Go vote. Go ask. And remember, it's more than all right to talk back.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008
Well, I'm honoured to be in such excellent company. If you are nearby, please consider attending!
The Fifth Annual ACLU Bill of Rights Poetry Reading will be held in the Adamson Wing of Baker Hall at Carnegie Mellon University on Thursday, December 4 at 7:30 p.m. Ten well-known, Pittsburgh-based poets will read their original work in celebration of the Bill of Rights. The event is a benefit for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The Adamson Wing is located mid-way in Baker Hall. Parking is available in campus lots and at meters on Frew Street, directly behind Baker Hall. For a map of the CMU campus, go to: www.cmu.edu/about/visit/
The poets sharing their works will be:
§ Jan Beatty, the winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh for her first book, Mad River, directs Carlow University’s creative writing program, and Carlow’s Madwomen in the Attic Writing Workshops; she is the author of Boneshaker, Ravenous and Red Sugar. Her radio program, “Prosody,” appears on WYEP-FM on Tuesday nights.
§ Jim Daniels is the author of eleven books of poetry, including most recently, In Line for the Exterminator, and Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies. He has received the Brittingham Prize for Poetry, and his poems have appeared in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies. He is the Thomas Stockman Baker Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon and directs the Creative Writing Program there.
§ Angele Ellis is a longtime peace activist and educator, and co-author of Dealing with Difference: Taking Action on Class, Race, Gender and Disability; her poetry has been published in numerous journals, and she is the author of Arab on Radar.
§ Cvetka Lipuš was born in Austria. Having grown up as a member of the Slovenian minority in Austria, she writes poetry in Slovenian as well as non-fiction in German. She is the author of five poetry collections and has received several fellowships and literary awards. She has lived in Pittsburgh since 1995.
§ Peter Oresick is the author of Warhol-O-Rama, published by Carnegie Mellon in 2008. His other books include: For a Living: The Poetry of Work, The Pittsburgh Book of Contemporary American Poetry, and Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life. He is Associate Director of the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Chatham University, and also teaches publishing at the University of Pittsburgh, and the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon.
§ Richard St. John is the author of The Pure Inconstancy of Grace, published by Truman State University Press, after placing 2nd in the T.S. Eliot Prize competition. His poetry has appeared in Sewanee Review, Poet Lore, Carolina Quarterly and other periodicals. He is Executive Director of Autumn House Press, a non-profit literary press based in Pittsburgh.
§ Mike Schneider has written widely in Pittsburgh publications, including award-winning articles in Pittsburgh Magazine. His poetry has appeared in many journals, including 5 AM, Atlanta Review, Shenandoah and Poetry; and his chapbook, Rooster, was published in 2004 by Main Street Rag.
§ Ellen McGrath Smith teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and has been awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize, the Zone 3 Rainmaker Award, and the HyperAge Ascher Montandon Award for her poetry. Her work has appeared in the anthologies, For a Living: The Poetry of Work, and Living Inland, as well as numerous journals.
§ Christina Springer is a text artist who uses poetry, dance, theatre and film. She’s taught creative writing at City Lit College and The University of East London. Poems have appeared in Gathering Ground: A Cave Canem Reader, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Slam Poetry CD, The Drunken Boat, Janus Head and Callaloo and other journals.
§ Justin Vicari is the recipient of the Third Coast Poetry Award and the New Millennium Writings Poetry Prize. His first book, The Professional Weepers, and his chapbook, Siamese Twins of the 21st Century, are forthcoming.
§ Joan E. Bauer (emcee) won the Earle Birney Poetry Prize in 2007 from Prism International. Her poetry has appeared in 5 AM, Italian Americana, Paper Street, Poet Lore, and several anthologies. Her first book, The Almost Sound of Drowning, has just been published by Main Street Rag.
A reception will follow the reading, and a selection of the poets’ books will be available for sale. A program will provide further biographical notes on the poets, and will acknowledge a “Friends of the ACLU” Host Committee that helps make this event possible.
Those attending are encouraged to renew or initiate an ACLU membership for $20, checks payable to ACLU, or make a donation to the ACLU Foundation. Requested donations: $20 (regular admission), $10 for seniors and $5 for students. Free book for those making a $20 donation or $20 membership!
For more information or to RSVP, please contact the Pittsburgh ACLU office
at 412-681-7736 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
We came to Morelia to visit friends and the Monarch butterflies which migrate here every year. In spite of landing at 1:50 in the morning, Winston was eager to get going. And in so many ways, for Winston, this has been the best vacation. He is wide open to possibility. He is eager to experience adventure. He trusts us that everything is okay.
On Sunday, we rose early in the morning. Travel is slow through the small towns of Mexico. No main roads lead to Ocampo. Every half mile, there are bumps in the road which would rip the underbelly right off your car. Cows, sheep and dogs appear to contemplate suicide using the hood of your car as their tool. From time to time we had to stop for a chicken to cross the road.
We stopped at a roadside stand to use the bathrooms. Winston was amazed that he had to pour water into the toilet so that it could flush. How amazing! How wonderful! How delightfully curious. Then, back into the car for more driving.
Morelia is not a top tourist destination. In comparison, Ocampo ranks right up there with a trip to the swamps of Mississippi. The road up the mountain is paved with bricks and stones. The bricks are where your tires should be. The stones are where you tires should not be. It looks and feels like driving for miles onto a mechanics lift. The side of the road is alternately a sheer drop off the mountain or a deep ditch.
After three hours of driving from Morelia, we arrived at Santuario de la Mariposa Monarca El Rosario. We pulled into the car park. Our car was surrounded by little boys brandishing souvenirs, bamboo walking sticks and songs. Here it seems, everyone wants a peso or five. We made our way through this mob towards the bathrooms. After spending 6 pesos for a wad of toilet paper and a receipt celebrating our eco-tourism, we felt prepared to head up the mountain.
Winston is so excited. He has this vision of holding a butterfly. I try to warn him that the butterflies might not land on him. He assures me that if he is still and patient, they will come to him.
Uphill and up the hill some more. Past singing children who think their songs are definitely worth a peso. Past wooden shacks selling souvenirs, food, water, soft drinks. We trudge up hill through the dust and wood smoke from the great metal drums which served as grills. Up and up we went seeking butterflies.
Finally, I see a great white building announcing that it is the butterfly sanctuary. On the mountain side, hundreds of butterflies are stream down the mountain. I think, we are here! Finally! Winston and his friend Ezzat romp through a small meadow outside of the sanctuary. Winston stand still. He is waiting for a butterfly to choose him.
“Wow!” I think. “The walk was totally worth it!” It will cost us 85 pesos to enter the Sanctuary. I’m ready for lunch. I’ve seen the butterflies. They were great. Bring on the cervessa and tostadas! We’ll sit around and wait for Winston to hold a butterfly.
But, no, the orange and black stream of loveliness is not what we came to see. So, we pay up, pass up through the building, and out onto the mountainside. We are given a guide. Suddenly, I am grateful that we paid our fee. Before we came, I was aware that the butterflies are endangered. Illegal logging has created a severe loss of habitat. Their numbers are dwindling.
Our guide seems to take his role very seriously. He will not let any of us lag behind. He watches us carefully to make sure we don’t touch the few butterflies we see resting in the plants or bushes along the path. He watches every time we remove something from our packs which might generate rubbish. He seems to serve a dual role - both protector of the forest and informative tour guide. This place in which his family has resided for generations has now become a viable means of support to him. Conservation is suddenly profitable.
As we reach the first cement staircase disappearing around a bend into the trees, our guide informs us that there are 600 of them. Okay.
So, up and up and up we climb. After the first 50 steps into the forest, it occurs to me that eco-tourism is not for me. (Not one single write up discusses the grueling up hill journey which awaits you.) I decide, I won’t make it. This is very different than hiking through Frick Park. This is a mountain. And there are 550 steps to go. Unlike the Cupola in the Vatican, there is no crowd pressing behind you. You have to do this on your own. You have to do it of your own free will.
Winston and Ezzat alternately race ahead and then double back to inform us they are tired. Then - off they go again. Only stopping only to carefully examine butterflies laying eggs, drinking nectar and resting in the shade.
I marvel at their youth and fitness. I am sure that I am going to have a heart attack on a Mexican mountainside where no emergency vehicles can reach me. After 200 more steps - with frequent rests while the children, my friends and the tour guide wait - I refuse to walk any further. I tell everyone to go ahead. I’ll meet them at the bottom. The tour guide reluctantly agrees. But, he insists that he will come back for me. Panting, sweating and with a racing heart, I sit on a bench.
Nobody speaks English here. Nobody believes I don’t speak Spanish. Old ladies with canes hobble down the mountain praising Jesus and urging me to get up and keep walking. Young women in heels pick their way down the steep hill. A stooped old man in a sombrero with cane limps past, a beatific smile on his face.
I realize that if I can painlessly give birth to two children, I have what is necessary within me to walk up a mountain. So I get up. I walk 30 paces. i sit and pant and rest. I repeat this for the last 400 steps. Finally, a dirt path snakes off up into the trees. I’ve made it!
With renewed vigour, I set off. A quarter of a mile later, I realize that I am not even close. I sit. I pant. I rest. I sweat. More people stream past me. The flow of butterflies has increased. Yet, the people walking down the mountainside take little notice of them. They all appear as if they have had some glorious and divine vision and the butterflies are but a residual manifestation of some more poignant experience.
I press on another quarter mile. I give up again. Suddenly, a family chattering in English approaches. I perk up. I ask them how much farther I have to go. The mother tells me, I’m almost there. I have to keep on. She points to a patch of blue sky.
“That’s the meadow,” she says. “Right there. So close. Keep going.”
Her teenaged daughter chimes in, “It’s awesome! Sooooo awesome!”
The teenaged son adds, “You have to do it. You have to.”
The father enthusiastically nods. (I’ll bet he was also worried about his heart an hour ago.)
So I press on. Suddenly the tree cover ends. The sun is warm and lovely. Brown grass, scrubby brush and the odd blooming flower look stunning to me. I make my way through the meadow. I don’t see many butterflies, but I keep walking. Up ahead, I see Norman, Winston and our friends. The guide stands off at a distance. He sees me approaching. The look on his face is priceless. He seems relieved, delighted and amazed.
I can only imagine what he thought of me when I sent them on ahead. Every morning to come to work, he walks up the mountain for an hour and a half. Then he spends his day walking tourists up and down the mountain. I must have seemed like every American stereotype - fat, privileged, wasteful and stubborn. (After all, the cost of my admission fee could probably feed his family for a month.) And he meant it that he was coming back for me. I’m sure he imagined having to prod me - with his worn walking stick - up the mountain like an old fat goat. The guides take their job very seriously.
Everyone else is surprised that I made it. But, the guide’s face was the best gift I could ever receive. It turns out that they had only arrived in this spot 10 minutes before I did. I remember at the beginning of the journey, he warned us to take it slow. He urged us to rest when we needed to rest. So, the fact that I came up the mountain at my own pace and in my own way showed that I respected what he had told us at the beginning.
He came over to talk with me. He seemed so disappointed that i couldn’t speak Spanish. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t speak Spanish. He wanted to say something to me - but he was not eager to have it translated. I’ll always wonder what it was.
I made my way over to Winston who was crouched at the top of a stream bed covered by butterflies - thousands of butterflies! They all had their proboscis stuck into the mud to get water. Patiently, Winston waited for a butterfly to notice him. The guide urged us onward. Apparently, we hadn’t seen the real deal yet. If this wasn’t what we’d travelled three hours and hiked two hours to see, I was sure curious about what was ahead. So, I urged the boys ahead.
Up and up some more. We stop at a marshy bit of land covered in thirsty butterflies. Then, into the thick Oyamel trees. I look up and the limbs are bent from butterflies too soporific from the shade to fly. It looks like a forest of Christmas trees covered in butterfly ornaments. It is staggering. There are millions of butterflies who have spent a month travelling from Canada to winter here. We find a dead butterfly. Our guide informs us to put it back where we found it.
“This is a cemetery. They must remain here. This is like a cemetery.” He says solemnly.
This holy place. This fragrant harbour. This refuge for a centuries old biological drive is sacred. Our guide watches us as we place the butterfly back down. It is time to return.
On our way back down the mountain, deep in the forest, on the top of a mountain, at the end of a five hour journey, Winston received what he had travelled so far to get. A butterfly chose his hand and stayed with him 500 feet until the sunshine warmed it enough to fly away.
And I realized, if I hadn’t made it, I would have missed one of the most important lessons life has to offer him. In one day he learned that patience and perseverance always pay off.
Taneka Talley worked hard for Dollar Tree doing extra shifts and aiming for advancement. She wanted a better life for her son. Her sights were set on sending him to college.
In March, she was victim of a hate crime during her shift at a Dollar Store in California. A man stabbed her to death simply because she was Black. An ABC News report says,
"According to a psychiatrist, the suspect woke up that morning determined to kill a black person, and Taneka was the first one he saw.How outrageous. Her biological make-up gave her a “personal connection” to an insane racist? Give me a break. This is corporate greed at its worst.
Now, Talley's mother is fighting to get her daughter's workers compensation death benefits, which, according to the family's lawyer, have been denied because the killer's targeting her as a black person established a "personal connection" that the company says releases them from having to pay."
The least you can do is not shop there. But, I'm going to send them a letter telling them why.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I was raised Catholic. But, I haven't been back to church in years. My soul could never reconcile the history and reality of the church with what I knew to be true about Jesus. Since the election, there have been renegade priests who attempted to deny communion to people who voted for Obama. It happened in South Carolina. And a woman in California was told to leave church and remove her car which was covered with Obama stickers before he called the police! Not wanting a big public hoo-ha, the Church has since corrected these men. But, it looks like to many shades of the past to me.
I often find myself pushing my feet back from entering the circle of judgement. It is so easy to point a finger at a priest, preacher, rabbi, imam or other holy person skewing reality to their twisted agenda. And then to point the finger and say, "Bad! Awful! Wrong!"
In these times, I have to invite myself to recognize their fragile humanity. To understand that they are in a place where they can not see the true teaching of so many prophets and wise men/women. Because - they are human.
We are so much smaller than divinity. Try as we may to understand the Power/s That Be is not what we were made for. We were made to exercise our free will in conjunction with the gift of knowledge about right action. We were given the ability to discern.
The other day my son said, "Do you ever think that God has us all on puppet strings and moves us around like toys?"
And I answered, "That's an idea. It sure feels like that sometimes. But, God made some rules. And he told us what they are. Then, he asked us to choose. That's called free will."
And he said, "But not everybody follows the rules."
"Because sometimes, the rules don't agree with the other rules."
"But there ARE rules."
"Like be nice, share, cooperate, solve problems nicely."
"And sometimes that's hard to do."
"So, we can always walk away when people aren't really doing the real rules."
"That's what God wants. We gotta follow the real rules."
"At least the way we understand them best."
"Does that mean people who don't follow the rules don't go to heaven?"
"Some people say heaven is being close to God. If you don't follow most of the rules most of the time you go farther from God. And to be near God feels sooooo good."
End of conversation. Children are very wise. I hope my interpretation of the rules gets me closer to God.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
As you prepare to address the agenda item of education, I ask that you take the needs of home educators seriously. Many universities, such as your alma mater Harvard, have been discovering that home educated students make some of the strongest students.
The home education community is growing. With it, are growing numbers of People Of Colour. (We now make up 26% of the community.) Many of us have chosen to home educate our children because we can no longer wait for change.
I'm very proud to feel as if I am raising a world citizen. I follow an educational philosophy with I call directed autonomy. It is a variation on a philosophy often referred to as "unschooling." Since, I allow my son to make some choices about what he wants to learn, I've been surprised at where he leads me.
Needless to say, this can get expensive. We manage. We are very fortunate to be able to afford extra classes. Not everyone can.
For this reason, I hope you will support S. 3076, the "Homes Act." As I am sure you know, this would relieve some of the financial burden of homeschooling families by providing a tax deduction of $500 per child (with an annual limit of $2,000.)
In addition, I hope you will also support S 3243 and 3244, the Education Savings For All Act. It seems unfair to me that only public and private school families have the opportunity to invest in a Coverdell Education Savings Account. I am sure you are well aware that this legislation would stop the discrimination faced by parents who choose to educate their children at home.
I strongly support better schools. I look forward to better resources for teachers. Every child deserves an excellent education. However, as you know, change does not happen over night. And true educational reform will not occur in time for my son to benefit from it. Therefore, as you develop polices and actions regarding education, I hope you will remember that there are many families who prefer to educate their children at home.
Throughout the election, you repeatedly reminded us that we had a responsibility to part of the change. And when you won, you let us know again that we had just begun making change happen in this country. I applaud the way in which your transition team has used all available technology to open the lines of communication between your team and the American people.
It is exceptionally significant for a women like Michelle Obama to have become the First Lady. The early campaign days when they tried to swift boat Obama because of his spouse are very telling. “She angry.” “She’s unpatriotic.” These tactics were used because she is not the “preferred” image of a Black woman. (Read Lena Horne, Halle Berry, etc.) Michelle represents the “other Black woman” that America both reveres and fears.
She is the one who will not entertain you. She is the one competent enough to “steal” your God-given job. She is one people really worry about when they discuss affirmative action.
She is the revered no-nonsense lady who will tell it like it is. She is wise. She is the flip side of the woman Whites love and respect because someone like her was paid to raise them; was the only one they could rely upon; had a sense of her higher self and brought that sense to themselves. She carries all of that historic legacy.
I think the reason I always become weepy eyed when I see the first family is because it takes me to the Kennedy era. In spite of all of the compelling contrasts there are intersections between the two women. Where Jackie O represented the paragon of White femininity, Michelle O represents the paragon of Black femininity.
Jackie Kennedy was demure. Michelle is fierce. Jackie was fashionable. Michelle has style. Jackie provided support to her husband in matters related to the social networking, household and child-rearing. Michelle supports her husband by providing intellectual and critical feedback, managing the household, the children and her work. For Jackie O work was what she did for the family. For Michelle work is what she does to simultaneously fulfill her own sense of purpose and contribute to the financial goals of her family.
So, this has huge significance because it invites the nation to examine to different standards of womanhood. We have known the value of ours for centuries. Perhaps, the time has come for White people to learn from us. (Or rather - not just hijack the entertaining things - but to embrace the deeply ingrained cultural values that the recent media and corporate interests have tried to erase.)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
(I’m going to stick my neck out.) But comparing the scientific knowledge between kids at the zoo class with kids at the evolution museum classes, my guess about where they are all from is probably pretty right on.
Anyway....I’m usually one of the only mothers still sitting in on the homeschool classes that we attend. Most of the others have successfully separated. But, we’ve had several years of big transitions. So, if Winston is behind the separation curve, I don’t really mind.
I don’t like to waste my time. When I’m sitting in, I pitch in where I can. I compliment the children on their work. I do my best to be a supportive presence in the classroom. I listen and respond to the children. In some ways, the children have accepted me as part of their educational resource.
Yesterday was cold. So we all bundled up to trek through the zoo to meet Reptile Ray. We arrived a bit early so the kids were milling around. I didn’t bother to take my coat off. As the children were unencombering themselves, a little blonde girl looked up me. Her eyes went wide - almost fearful. She actually took a step back.
I cocked my head to one side and smiled.
“You....y...y..you supported Obama?” She asked incredulously.
“I sure did.” I said in a soft, gentle, smiling voice.
She took a step back. “We are for McCain,” she said nervously. (I knew what was racing through her brain - palling around with terrorists; killing babies; stealing people's hard earned money through taxation; killing babies; the fall of the government to socialists; killing babies; enslavement of the White race and killing babies.)
I smile. The teacher steps in closer. I feel the tension emanating from her body. The home schooling demographic has changed so drastically in recent years. These encounters between liberal and conservative homeschoolers could turn ugly.
I step closer to the little girl. I paste a huge, loving smile on my face. I softly say, “Well, that’s awesome! “
“It is?” she replies. Her eyebrows knit together. A timid frown quivers.
“It sure is!” I say. “You’ve made America a beautiful and strong place.” She looks even more confused. “If nobody could have different ideas, then nothing good could ever happen. We’d stay the same way forever and ever. We’d never grow. We’d never change. Nobody would think of new medicines or create the internet or anything.” I stop smiling. “That would be awful and boring.”
She just stands there looking mildly confused.
“Our forefathers made this country because they wanted everyone to have lots of different ideas. It is what has made us a great country.”
The teacher jumps in, “That’s right. We’re all free to think whatever we think. And we’re all free to talk about it. If nobody disagreed, then, nobody would ever learn anything new.”
I smiled. “And that is democracy,” I said. Everybody says what they think. And then we vote about which person has the best idea.”
Little girl looks confused and unsettled.
“So, you’re awesome for believing in someone you thought had the best ideas. You keep doing that.”
Then she ran off to play. And I was honoured to be invited to teach. I hope she gained a new way of viewing the world. If not, maybe a seed was planted for a later understanding.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
All of us are parents of young children. Many of us are home educators who also practise attachment parenting. Others are dynamic innovators in their field. (Like one poet celebrity guest who joined us.) Still others are out there in the trenches everyday healing people or teaching our nation's young. But, each of us were praying, hoping, working and doing whatever wa sin our power towards an Obama win.
We couldn't celebrate Wednesday. We delayed our celebration until a convienent time. So, tonight we gathered at my house. Norman got the fire pit burning bright. The children played. We had a little sumthin' sumthin' and some snacks. Then, using lovely paper, each of us wrote down a well wish (or five) for Barack Obama. Some folded their wishes into cranes. Others folded them into stars. One even folded their's into a box. We gathered around the fire and - one - by - one - we cast our good wishes out into the universe in support of the Obama family. Some of us spoke about what we'd written. Others just quietly tossed in their wish.
The children got caught up in the idea. One wrote, "I hope he will bring and end to the war." Another wrote, "I hope he will make the country great again." Pre-literate children made lovely drawings. Some had us write words like "hope," "peace," and "love" on their paper. Then, they ran out to cast their wishes into the fire.
We had a lovely dinner. The political banter continued as the children got caught up in their games again. And suddenly, it was bed time.
Here's a lovely video which encapsulates our evening.
Friday, November 07, 2008
I should be glowing with excitement. But, this has been incredibly difficult for me. I prefer a more natural, organic approach. I’d like to form letters with dough; draw them in the dirt; dance their pattern on the floor while we said their sounds.
He is not interested in a single idea of mine. (And until we met the most wonderful librarian, Miss Leanne, he was a reluctant reader.) I was puzzled. My only back up for teaching reading was to read to him; talk about the concepts when the opportunity presented itself; attack the infrequent work sheet; and trust that he would eventually pick it up.
But, in two days, Winston has learned more than I have been able to teach him for months. The program kept urging him to stop. It praised him for working so hard. It said, “we’ve done a lot today.” But, he just wants to keep going! It is the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen. Suddenly, I am confronted with actually practising what I preach.
This child will draw letters in the dirt. He will dance the patterns on the floor. He will use the worksheets I’ve gotten for him. But, he craves the fun and adventure of a game and the neutral privacy it provides him. He has preferences about the way in which he prefers to learn.
And facilitating those choices is what I believe in doing. A long time back, I posted a quote from a teacher I admire. (I think it was Kit Crawford from The Antioch School. ) She says, “Learning begins where the learner is.” It made so much sense to me. And it still does.
But, here I am...he wants to learn in a completely different way than I prefer to facilitate. But, then just to back her colleague Kit Crawford up, Jeanne Felker adds this other favourite bit of wisdom, “We have to move out of the way, so knowledge can move in. We have to make space for learning to happen.”
So, now I’m on a mission. I'm looking for other game-like educational resources. I like Study Dog because they did an initial assessment of his skills; tailored the game to his level; track his progress, and gives me detailed assessment. The only thing I don’t like is that none of the characters I’ve met as non-white. (But, they have this other bonus of letting him use the points earned in his game to order little toys as a reward.) So any tips would be useful.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Craft - Peace Sticks
Using string and a stick, we are making Peace Sticks. Thoughts on peace have been written down each week. Then they are being wrapped with coloured string.
Movement Meditation - Walking The World
Today, we practised all of the different ways we walk in the world. We took big giant steps, itty bitty tiny steps, sideways steps, turtle steps, stomping steps, goose steps. Everyone contributed ideas about how to go from one place to another.
A. Get in Circle
1. Love Grows
2. So Glad You’re Here
3. Wind The Bobbin Up
The Three Questions, by John Muth. (This is a remarkable book. Okay, all of the books we’ve been using have been remarkable books. In the story, Nikolai needs to find the answers to three questions: “What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?”)
Discussion - we discussed circles today. The Earth is a circle. The day is a circle. The year is a circle. The seasons are a circle. Our lives are a circle. And when we are able to sit calmly in the centre of the circle, we can see the way the world moves around us. And we are able to take good action.
Wreaths - We decorated grapevine wreaths with feathers, raffia, acorns, buckeyes, seed pods, pom poms, and bits of felt (hearts, lightning bolts, triangles, etc.)
V. Undirected Play
It was a lovely Autumn day, so we too the children outside to play. They burned off some energy and were ready to suggest organized games they would all like to play together. Some wanted to play “Together Tag.” Others wanted to play “What’s The Rhythm Mother Earth.” We discussed voting. Then we took a vote. It resulted in a wonderful game of “What’s The Rhythm Mother Earth.”
We did more circle discussion. They were really keen on the importance of circles.
The Librarian Of Basra: A True Story About Iraq by Jeanette Winter with discussion on how she was able to remain calm and peaceful at the centre of the circle of life. (Another remarkable book which tells the story of Alia Muhammad Baker's book rescue mission in Basra, Iraq, in spring 2003.)
“The Little Girl Named I” from Fairy Tales, by e.e.cummings. Lovely laugh out loud.
And...we ran out of time!
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
You may or may not know that I can handle Barack alone. But, every time I picture his family romping across the White House lawn, I get all weepy eyed. Every time I witness M'dear Obama being her family's bedrock, strength and power, I get all weepy eyed. Everytime I imagine them in their new home - with their LOL! puppy - I fall to pieces.
Ready, Set, Hankies Ready.....
On another note, thanks to my Funky Cheeky Mamas and Brigit from African-American Unchooling list for pulling these few words out of me.
I'm still kind of shocked and numb. I have deeply entrenched faith tempered by cynical self-preservation. My cynicism was greatly challenged today. I hope I am strong enough to let it go. I want to give in to hope. I want to release my self to belief. I want to be free to dream wildly. I also need to keep my head space intact.
Funny, Winston seems almost nonchalant. It makes me adore him even more. Ah! The unshakable faith of children! When Mama says we have to make something happen...it does. But, I am so not looking forward to the day when that is tested.
I remember Imani working her tail off for Acorn when Kerry was running. It was the first election in which she could vote. She was pumped! She out-performed every other worker at Acorn. They even gave her an office job - she was so excellent. Then Bush won. She was so sad, it kind of broke my heart. She totally did not commit to this election. She had lost her faith.
Today - she was completely shocked and delighted about the Obama win. (But, she wasn't part of it.) I hope she sees this as a way to regain her momentum.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
We woke to a gorgeous, warm Autumn morning. My husband, Winston and I walked into the sunshine filled with excitement and optimism. Our polling place is in the park one block from our house. It is a small, grey cinder block building which used to be Westinghouse's laboratory. My son only knows it as "the voting building."
Approaching the polling place, we encountered sign after Obama sign. There was not a single McCain sign in sight and one sign for Nadar/Gonzalez. (WTF? How did I miss that?)
We entered and were happily signed in by our neighbor. As she gave me my card to sign, Winston proudly stated his name and looked on eagerly, as if she would produce a card for him. A late middle years African-American gentleman guided me and Winston to our voting machine. He gave Winston a short tutorial on how to use the machine. Winston nodded and listened, then stated, "Just like last time, right?" This generated a chuckle.
As I pulled up the ballot, I asked Winston if he wanted to push the buttons. He said, "No." I think he was really worried that he might mess it up. He seemed to understand how high the stakes are. Instead, he offered to push the next button.
Finally, it was time to push the flashing red button, which he did with great concentration and controlled excitement. As we left the booth, the elder shook his hand and thanked him for voting. We walked back out into the sunshine and played at the park.
It occured to me that he will remember this election for the rest of his life. It made me realize this would be a story he would tell his grandchildren about one day. And I can't think of any better civics or history lesson that I could offer. Then again, this is why we home educate because life is filled with so many beautiful lessons.
so Martin could walk,
so Obama could run,
so our children can fly.
- quote flying around the internet.
Go vote! And if you have any trouble, report it here at Voter Supression Wiki
Monday, November 03, 2008
Between 4 and 5 AM, one day before the election, Madelyn Dunham made her transition. She did so in an increasingly rare manner in modern America. She died the old fashioned way - peacefully, at home. From the way in which Obama talks about her, I believe she can do more for the election in the destination of her choosing. It gives me comfort to believe this is why she chose this moment for her transition.
And while John & Cindy McCain expressed their formal condolences, their party was busy at work maintaining the detestable shenanigans for which their party has become known.
At 1:30 today, the GOP firmly cemented and proved that they have a unique ability to consistently make poor decisions. They filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission claiming Obama violated federal law when he made one last visit to "Toot Madelyn Dunham." They stated:
"Obama for America violated federal law by converting its campaign funds to Senator Obama's personal use," the release stated. "Senator Obama recently traveled to Hawaii to visit his sick grandmother. This was the right thing for any grandson to do -- at his own expense -- but it was not travel that his campaign may fund."Of course, the Obama's want to create change. They issued this statement to direct well-wishers to take a positive action:
"Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer."Dear "Toot" Madelyn Dunham, may your transition bring you every reward in the place you imagined yourself going. May your passing motivate others to find a cure.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
tiny wire sprung cinnamon milk
chocolate woman hunted dirt:
under beds, above
on the cook top.
deep into the toilet’s infected bowels.
from fabric or shag,
extracted hidden detritus -
strands of untamed kink,
sloughed dry skin.
teary-eyed smiled at
my brother spatula spanked
by the Irish nanny screaming
about his dark skin
and the devil.
slipping his 2nd grade beer can
into the outside trash. until
she got fired for drinking.
try to make fried baloney
and butter onion spinach.
I can eat tender brown love
and taste a perpetrator's guilt.
I had done extensive psychotherapy years ago. It was tremendously helpful. Now, when therapists ask about my mother, I say, “She’s the one I got. So, I’m thankful for everything she’s done for me. She did the best she could for us with the resources she had at the time. And more importantly, I’m damn glad she is the real maverick she is rather than the phoney ones we see on t.v..” And..........I actually mean it.
Nothing transformed my life more than my ability to accept my mother for who she is. Now, I find ways for us to have a comfortable connection. I know what she is able to do. And with this understanding, I don’t waste time with a lot of disappointment about what I think she ought to be doing. I harness the what she can do and revel in how delightful the results are for all of us.
Until my husband was on the road all of the time, I didn’t need a therapist. He is one of the healthiest human beings on the planet. When I would go crazy with family dynamics, he would shrug. Then, he would make some profound proclamation. And leave it up to me. If I chose to swim in unhealthy behaviour, he would patiently wait for me to start drowning and save me. Never a “told-you-so,” only observation and questions. If it impacted our financial matters, he put his foot down. Rightly so. And he didn’t care if he was cast as the bad guy. (He’s a lot like my grandfather whose motto was “we three and no more.” Well....only when it pertains to bank account issues.)
But, with him on the road, I’ve suddenly realised that I must create my own internal boundaries. So, off to therapy I go again. And I’m experiencing some visible truths I had not seriously acknowledged for a long time.
Recently, I read this piece of humour. Wealthy Teen Nearly Experiences A Consequence, on one hand, I was rolling on the floor. On the other hand, my eyes went wide, my mouth made a huge O; and my brain catalogued the outcome of several of my daughter’s prep school friends.
So, what does this have to do with therapy? When asked to say “who nourished my soul and spirit,” I thought first of my father - when he was home. Then, I could only come up with a list of my mother’s best “maids.” (And since my daughter broke her wrist and has become a hostile, antiestablishment punk - with my Mother’s Godsend of a maid to tend to her three times a week - it suddenly clicked. We have allowed others to do our “dirty work” for several generations.)
But, the other “aha!” was that by agreeing to the terms established by wealthy persons of European descent, we open ourselves to a sickness which has permeated the owning class for many years.
So, this time around, when I attachment parent without apology; allow self-weaning; home educate; give up professional gains which support some external idea of self-worth...I am breaking a cycle. I am breaking the cycle of the sick and privileged.
And I am beginning to think.... now, this will be an interesting journey. And I begin to understand, every conclusion is the preface for something new. We never get to the end...until we get to the realend.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Then it was revealed, that the people with children in the line were approached by campaign volunteers and ushered in to a "child area." I literally hit myself in the head and exclaimed, "why didn't I assume this from this man, this presidential candidate, this thoughtful human!" Everyone laughed. And I felt so heartened and simultanously kicked myself for not showing up.
I let it go. I had no way of knowing. Many Western societies ignore their children or make it difficult for them to be present in our grown-up intellectual lives. Then, I read this article. It seems that Obama wants all of us to be heard. Of all the letters sent from Solomon Schechter Day School, only Obama replied.
The list of recipients was impressive: Yankee third basemen Alex Rodriguez; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Olympic gold medalist Mark Spitz; Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. John McCain.
But, it wasn't just any schmalty reply. He replied, thoughtfully, respectfully and with attention to age-appropriate communication.
Obama's three-page letter to Aron described Flat Stanley's visit with him and his staff in Washington, D.C. It chronicled their busy day together, which included coffee with constituents, a Senate committee meeting and a trip to the gym. It also had historical facts about the U.S. Capitol, details of Obama's job and a confession from Obama.And, once again, I got a little teary-eyed. Because, it is hard to find a person who approaches even the smallest things with intense thought and focus.
"Sometimes I get a little nervous before talking in front of a crowd, but Flat Stanley helped me practice the speech," Obama wrote. "He made me recite it in front of him and then even gave me some advice so the speech would go smoothly. Flat Stanley is really a great coach."
Nine are for Obama. Two of the shamans are for McCain.
Oh, Lordy, Ms. Palin must be having fits. Here are nine "witches working against her." Is she all right with the two working on her behalf? Wouldn't it be nice if the news media bothered to ask her?
I'm wondering if she can figure out a way for the GOP to pay for that African preacher to be called in again to step up his prayers protecting her from witchcraft. (Watch her being protected from witchcraft here. NOTE: You have to skip past the sermon. The video tells you how.)
But, then again, even elephants are defecting from their party. This one chooses Obama. So, Ms Palin, no need to worry about witchcraft! Even nature is against you.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Craft - Peace Sticks
Using string and a stick, we are making Peace Sticks. Thoughts on peace have been written down each week. Then they are being wrapped with coloured string.
Movement Meditation - The Wind
Today, we were both the wind and objects which encounter the wind. We were light breezes,tornados, flashing gusts. Then we were leaves, dust, raindrops, trees, ocean waves, and fire.
A. Love Grows
B. So Glad You’re Here
C. Wind The Bobbin Up
D. Follow Follow
Harvesting Hope The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull (modified for pre-school)
Banners - Muslin, water-colours in spray bottles, leaf stencils, ribbon and sticks. We lay down a square of Muslin. Placed a leaf stencil on the muslin. Using the spray bottles, we lightly mist the fabric. When we remove the leaf stencil, we have an imprint and the leaf is a lovely colour! When the banner is dry, we glue the banner to a stick. Tie on a long piece of ribbons so it can be hung.
V. Snack with Story
A.Owl At Home by , Arnold Lobel. (the winter story)
B. Jonathan and His Mommy by Irene Smalls
VI. Moving Meditation
We adapted the game of “Mother May I?” to incorporate the way Jonathan and his mother use different ways to move through the world. Each child took turns asking to take different kinds of steps. They tried to move together as a group. When they finally got close - instead of tag, we had a great big group hug.
This week we will do toning with a didgeridoo. We did the different vowel sounds, a,e,i,o,u. We combined the vowels in different ways - “i,u,e,” “i,u” “i,e” “a,o.” We examined different ways we could move our mouths to get different sounds.
A. Seed Meditation
We were seeds waiting in the ground through the seasons. Then we grew into shoots. We grew into flowers. And we found uses for our seeds including helping animals cary them far and wide. Then we became seeds again nestling in for the winter.
B. Song - “My head Is In The Sky”
We finished our craft, so we didn’t get time to read our story, Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Now, it seems that all a searcher has to do is request “Arab terrorist costumes” in order to get costumes which imitate traditional Arabic clothing. This is still unacceptable to me. However, at least the search no longer yields links to pictures of Barack Obama. In this one small correction, I am satisfied. But, I’m really not.
I have this taste in my mouth.
It is maybe the flavour of:
rancid fruit, pickled
lynching remains served
58 years later at a BBQ
whose kindling was made
from archival lynching postcards;
blood on an arm after scratching
a new mosquito bite; scabbed
by dust from a global Trail
of Tears to Al Shifa
bombed. I might add
pustules - poorly lanced
or starving bloated
aneurysms of wrong action
silently exploding. and in
my mouth - twitching pointing
rage fingers swabbing
my dna screeching
different bad different bad;
acidic adrenaline sweat
after scenting the smoke
of supremacy; the vitriolic spit
of old White women
at Palin rallies.
by most accounts
I am not human
but will give candy to
Indians, ghosts, demons and Arabs
More about the "Am I Not Humans?" blogging campaign here:
There are many benefits to shopping locally. If I went to a local bookseller, I could always bring a reusable bag to carry home my purchases. I'd be putting money back into my community in the form of jobs and tax revenues. But, I've never quite brought myself to doing it.
Online shopping is easier for a person with a small one in tow. It is easier to compare prices; the search engine knows the products better; and there are no lines with impulse items at check-out. So, I dutifully recycle all of the cardboard boxes and hope it is enough. Well, no more!
At least not Amazon.com. A huge fire has been lit under me. Imagine my surprise when I discover through an LA Times article that the Obama masks are listed under the heading "arab terrorist costumes." They have a screen shot to prove it. So, I headed over to one of my favorite retailers and typed "terrorist costume." I tried to get my own screenshot, but, am not that tech saavy.
I vote with my dollars. I do not give my dollars to racists and I encourage you to do the same. What is worse is that they make it very difficult to call or email them. In fact, they don't give you a number, they ask for yours. So, spread the word.
UPDATE: I had them call me. As soon as I clicked the button, my phone rang. A lovely woman with a strong Indian accent asked what my concern was. I explained the issue succinctly. "I'm calling because there is a mask of presidential candidate, Barack Obama under the heading of terrorist costume." She didn't understand and asked again what my problem was. I simply repeated myself. She then asked for the item number. By the time I toggled back to that screen, the website had been fixed.
I got an email asking if I was satisfied with customer service. I clicked the link for "No." Here is my response.
"It was inappropriate for the website to include a mask of presidential candidate Barack Obama under the heading of terrorist costumes. Nor is it acceptable for Amazon.com to show traditional Arab clothing under that same title. The call center failed to understand that racism is not good for business. Until this problem is fixed and denounced, I will not be shopping with Amazon. Furthermore, I will encourage my friends and associates not to shop with you. I do not support racism in any shape or form."
I encourage you to have them call you and then send a follow-up email. Calls and responding to email complaints cost money. Show them that racism is never profitable. Thank you.
Friday, October 24, 2008
This video with Obama visiting his Grandma brought me to tears. "First, I'm going to give her a kiss, and a hug, then I'm going to look around the house to see what chores need to be done."
I support that man because he reminds me of my grandfather, my father and my husband...so calm, so cool, so assured, so ready to lead wherever goodness invites them. But, more importantly, he reminds me what people ought to be.
In the wake of attacks by the GOP for taking time off...I can only wonder if they are going out of their way to make all of us Obama supporters so comfortable that we become complacent enough for them to steal the election. Or perhaps, they've just given up. (Let's hope.)
Regardless, Time Magazine, seems to have already called the election by printing this awesome article entitled "Why Obama Is Winning." It's a durn good read. But please, don't stop here. Do visit with Opie and Richie Cunningham below!
I look back on the shows of my childhood with cynical amusement. I have this clear memory of loving The Beverly Hillbillies. They were forbidden. I recall Miss Shaw - my ancient, Irish Catholic nanny - declaring loudly that she "would not allow us to watch White Trash on television." I didn't know what that meant, but, as far as I could tell it meant they were exciting and funny - like the "dirty, immigrant gypsies" I was not allowed to play with either.
I recall Lassie, Bonanza and The Andy Griffith Show. Miss Shaw, loved these programs. In the instance of Bonanza, I came to understand through Hop Sing that not all immigrants are dirty. I suppose these television programs exemplified the "real America" which Palin still celebrates today.
This morning, I awke to discover that Ron Howard is "desperate"to get the vote out for Barack Obama. So in the video below, Ron Howard dresses up as Opie to talk with Sheriff Andy (Andy Griffith) to talk about Obama. Then he dresses up as "Richie Cunningham" from Happy Days to talk to Fonzie (Henry Winkler) about Obama.
This intriguing ploy re-invents and re-contextualizes that peculiar and bizarre White American nostalgia. These characters symbolize everything McCain and Palin have attempted to cater to. These characters represent the "real America." In many ways, Happy Days was a bizarre show. Post-integration, it celebrated and revered the same racist "real American middle class" which was happy to lynch Black men, bomb churches and terrify children in the process of trying to obtain their court-given right to an education. And that is what makes this video so effective. Because it states clearly that "the good people of America" want change. Perhaps, my friend Tami says it better here: Middle Class Americans Are Not Just White, Christian, Working Class Folks.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
From The Associated Press article:
The message, posted Monday on the password-protected al-Hesbah Web site, said if al-Qaida wants to exhaust the United States militarily and economically, "impetuous" Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is the better choice because he is more likely to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This requires presence of an impetuous American leader such as McCain, who pledged to continue the war till the last American soldier," the message said. "Then, al-Qaida will have to support McCain in the coming elections so that he continues the failing march of his predecessor, Bush."
If you click through to taxcut.barackobama.com You'll be able to enter more data. This will give you an even more clear picture.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Get "Yes We Can"by DJ Green Lantern and Russell Simmons
Now, everyone is calling for health records from all of the candidates:
Suddenly, it is revealed that Obama has trouble quitting smoking cigarettes!
Egads! But, in his speech at the roast, he comes clean and let's us all know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is superman. So, should we really worry?
Oh, I hope we don't loose this election because Obama tries hard not to smoke cigarettes! (I mean, c'mon America! A man fit as a fine fantasy vs a 72 year old with cancer. Is this really an issue?)
I. Welcome Craft - Peace Sticks
Using string and a stick, we are making Peace Sticks. Thoughts on peace have been written down each week. Then they are being wrapped with coloured string. (They are starting to look gorgeous, maybe I will capture a picture nex week.)
A. Get in Circle
1. Love Grows
2. So Glad You’re Here
3. Wind The Bobbin Up
To Be A Drum, Evelyn Coleman (modified for pre-school)
IV. Toning - we made harmonies with our voices.
Using recycled containers - such as coffee tins, oatmeal boxes, cornmeal tins - we will made drums. First we wrapped the drums in the water colours we made from the first class. Then we added jewels, stickers etc. to make them our special drum.
VI. Snack with Story “Whoever You Are” by Mem Fox
VIi. Movement Activity - Earth My Body
Squatting, pat the floor, chant, “ Earth My Body.”
Squatting, pat the thighs chant, “ Water M Blood”
Squatting, pat the chest chant, “Air, My Breath”
Rise up and move your hands in a big circle and sing
“Fire my Spirit!”
When everyone has figured it out , speed up. Then slow it down.
Lay on the floor and feel the earth’s beat.
VIII. Meditation - Living Drum
After all that activity, their hearts will be beating fast. We’ll lay down and feel our pulses. Drum it on the floor.
Then we got our new drums and our peace sticks. Everyone took turns making a rhythm which others could copy or add their own rhythm. We experienced the sound of everybody doing their own thing. We also experienced the sound of everyone listening to each other. Finally, we experienced the sound of unity.
Martin’s Big Words, Doreen Rappaport - adapted to pre-school
X. Hands (5 minutes)
A. Pass Phe Pulse
B. “Hands” = something we are thankful for today.