Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Not Back To School Year Begins

When I applied for the job of mother, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I didn’t improve the job description by adding home educator to the list of responsibilities. The past six weeks, I’ve been a single mother six days a week. (My husband is currently working on a contract out of state.) I’m beginning to look at this job I’ve signed up for. It has truly shaken some of my fundamental beliefs about what works for my family.

I’ve started to day dream about Kindergarten. For my own sanity, I’m allowing activities I previously deemed “not right for our family” - like more television. I have less physical and emotional space to allow the endless free roaming through parks. I am less patient than I was six weeks ago. Still, I think to myself, this is temporary. Many women do this without any hope of respite year after year after year.

It was getting downright depressing. I actually began talking about school with Winston. He did not like that idea one iota. Then, this morning, something wonderful happened. It was the kind of wonderful which makes me stop and say, Oh, that is why I’m doing this.

As many of you may remember, Winston loves all things science related. But, his passion is chemical reactions. We’ve done baking soda and food colour. We’ve done mixing of primary colours. We capture bugs and study them. We’ve hatched butterflies and ladybugs and set them free. For the longest time, his favourite bed time stories were The Rookie Read Aloud Science Books, “What Is Matter,” “What Is A Solid,” and “What Is A Liquid”. We find ourselves watching those mad professors from the University Of Nottingham. They make the Periodic Table Of Elements so thrilling.

After them, my science just isn’t cutting it anymore. Winston wanted to know “why can’t we get some hydrogen and balloons like the men on the computer?” Hard question to answer. So, I started hunting around for something else to do. I came across this science kit that had been stashed in favour of the outside summer.

“Scientific Explorer’s Magic Science” has been a blast. This morning we used purple cabbage juice powder as an acid base indicator. He had mixed baking soda into coloured water before. Nothing exciting happened until he added an acid. So, he wasn’t expecting much when he dropped the baking soda (base) into the purple water. Then the water turned blue. His face was priceless! He was eager to see what happened when we dropped the citric acid into the water. It turned red. Deep dimples and deafening decibel levels. Then, the last and most exciting thing. The creation of fizzing, foamy purple foam! “Let’s do it again!” He exclaimed. And so we did. Again and again and again.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Jiggity Jig

The firstborn is at her home. She has been released from the hospital. Pins anchor her arm to her hand. It's pretty bad. But, she's coping.

Epiphany for me has come and fled. Too much to share here. When I gain some distance, I'll share. Needless to say a critical review board has moved into my mind.

A good friend, David, said, "the rich kids are the worst of them all." What is it about privilege that creates black holes?

Friday, August 15, 2008


This is a standing order given to me by my daughter today.

Tomorrow, she will have surgery to repair the wrist she broke whilst stair surfing.


She and her many punk friends think she is so cool.


At least I don't have to show up at 6 AM to get her to surgery. Nor do I have to monitor her fluid and food intake after midnight.

I have been gifted with life and death decisions.

Standing order resembles my own personal choices. So, let's twiddle our thumbs

and hope someone notices.

I Love Folks With A Direct Line

Jiminy Cricket. Travesty Packet! Muck Bucket! This world is a tipsy top turvsey old crazy place. Check out my AfroSpear friends...they're talking about tasering, missing children, the elections, Darfur, every unimaginable subject that life has been delivering to the news.

But, today, I got word of a tragedy in my own community of African-American unschoolers. How much should my friend 'M" have to bear? Not a few months ago, her husband (and sole family provider) had a stroke. Now the firstborn has been in a car accident. I read her message and then prceeded to feeling sad, helpless and bound for some knee time.

Then, a wonderful sister for the African-American unschooling list chimed in with her prayer. She wrote:
"You are loaded daily with benefits and surrounded with favor like a shield!
You are being strengthened beyond measure for a greater cause.
You are a phenomenal woman! After this, when you open your mouth, many will receive healing, wisdom, encouragement, and victory because of the power of your testimony!
Thank God, He always causes us to triumph!"

Okay, so I think this is some of the best creative writing I've seen in a long time. Most of ya'll know that I'm a polytheist...if you will. I've always been about the enerey everyone's giving to the all powerful whomever is out there. But, this prayer caught my attention. Enough to say, please visit the author, Toni Hatton. Trust me my liberal and pagen friends, I wasn't sputterng for breath or holding my nose. It wasn't like the rabid lunatic fundamentalist Christians we've visitied with before. It was kind of fresh.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Seen & Unseen | Natural & Unnatural

Went to Falling Water today with my Norwegian sister and her son. Winston was not allowed in because he is five years old. So, he and his grandmother hiked around and did .... something.

What struck me the most was how manipulative and controlling Frank Lloyd Wright was. The whole house seemed to shriek, You must live my way. My vision is what is important! Our wet dish rag of a tour guide seemed overwhelmed by his genius. I think it flavoured my perceptions.

I enjoyed the evidence of subtle battles between Mrs. Kaufmann and Wright. The blinds she put in the guest room. The gorgeous freeform 14th century peasant chairs she had imported from Europe to use at their dining room table. The chair designed by Wright was on display in the guest house. I think Mrs. Kaufmann was correct in her choice. Her chairs represented a female element. Lovely naturally curvilinear wood perched on three legs - how pagan and earthy. Very unlike the controlled stiff straight lines that Wright imposed on nature. Wright wanted all the views unobscured. Mrs. Kaufmann wanted privacy in her bathroom. I loved the way she used potted plants as a natural curtain. The guest house also reflects her influence. It is more spontaneous and natural than the main house. The type of art hung, the cushions on the built in couches reflected a sense of colour and texture that Wright's designs don't use. Interestingly enough, the pool which Mrs. kaufmann loved and used frequently is easily accessible from the guest house. (I get the feeling she spent a good amount of time up there - even if nobody said so.)

By the end of the tour, I was also unimpressed by the sameness of every room. The way in which each bedroom and bath had only one method for occupancy. Edgar J. Kaufmann, their son, had a same knack for design rebelliousness as his mother. He made several untenable modifcations to his suite that would have thrown Wright into seething tantrums.

You can tell a lot about a family and the vision of the architect by what is seen and unseen. The kitchen was deemed unimportant” because only the servants used it And the servants quarters were now the administrative offices. In the words of the tour guide, they look just like every other room in the house, except instead of those little white buttons they had to call the servants, they have bells. The highest wall on the property was placed to screen the carports and servants quarters - effectively rendering them invisible. They don’t want us to remember the human price of grandeur and elegance.

It is truly stunning and innovative architecture. Here are some pictures and the wikipedia page. But, I’m glad I don’t live that way.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Help A Brother Do His Real Work

It happens to every artist. At some point, being hungry and poor gets old. So, you do a piece of work which pleases an audience. Or you take a commission which will pay your bills. Meanwhile, you keep on doing the “good work,” the stuff that feeds your soul. Invariably, that work you did to hook another gig; please an audience; or pay some bills comes back to bite you in the ass.

I have mine. Fortunately, you can no longer find it on the web.

But, my friend, Chris Ivey has finally gotten his. Those of you who have been following along may remember mentioning Chris Ivey when I was observing the gentrification of Hackney in East London. He had just released Part Two of "East Of Liberty"

Today, in an email he wrote:
“Okay... so the absolute ridiculous has happened.
A bar owner I know hired me to make a stupid movie about an overweight guy who practices rapid tai chi, stares into the sun for energy and claims he has the Guinness Book World Record for high scream....
So... The people at the LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN saw the clip and want him to appear this Fall on the show. The other day... NETFLIX saw the stupid thing and bought up 30 copies for starter. BLOCKBUSTER is now interested because NETFLIX is interested.”

The good thing is that if you rent the film from Netflix, they’ll buy more copies.

This will help Chris finish his important film, “East Of Liberty.” It is a three part documentary about the affects of gentrification on a predominantly Black neighbourhood in Pittsburgh. It’s great work. It’s important work. It is necessary work which touches people beyond the borders of Pittsburgh. So, go ahead. Put it on your queue. And as Chris says,
“I really don’t care if you watch it or not.”
The point is to really get them to buy more copies so he can raise some money to do his real work. Here’s the link to it on Netflicks. And here is a link to the movie, Chi Guy: Weapon Of Mass Decibels. (I can’t believe this made it to Letterman.)

Vote From Abroad

Okay, my expat friends, it's time to start thinking about November. No, I'm serious. The elections are coming up faster than you can imagine. So, you need to be prepared to participate.

My friend Adrianne over at Black Women In Europe pointed me towards this video. But, you could always just go here and get your absentee ballot. Believe me, it will make a difference.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Lazy Crazy New York

New York City isn't my first choice of vacation spots with a five year old in tow. But, considering that my husband is commuting here Sunday through Thursday for the next 10 weeks - I'll move it on up to the top of the list.

This week, we are tagging along. Winston needed to see where Daddy goes to work - ALL THE TIME.

So, here we are. Daddy gets up; puts on a suit and goes to work every morning. We have the city. And Winston is loving it! Life in London turned the boy into a big city kid. I'm a little weirded out about how naturally he has taken to life in midtown Manhattan. This morning we went to FAO Schwartz, walked down 5th Avenue and meandered around Rockefeller Centre. Then, we hopped home for lunch and a rest.

We ran into the Parrot People that we met last night. They are a lovely couple who frequent a cafe near our flat with their parrots. They've taken a shine to Winston. When they told him their birds names were "hard to say because they were Chinese," Winston said, "we'll I'm learning Chinese." The usual shock and awe. The usual explanation about home education. Needless to say, they were eager to teach him to hold the parrots. It kind of worked. Winston is very small. The two parrots - they come as a pair - are huge and medium. He may try again tomorrow.

Later ~ out we went. Tried to fit the Central Park Zoo into our afternoon - before Daddy got off from work. We were rushing so we didn't take the tube. The stupid cabbie took us to Central Park West. So - the rest of our afternoon was spent trudging through Central Park in search of the zoo. But, we got to see the sound check for some unknown band mainlaining the "Summer Stage," observe a zither player, discuss algae on the lake. We made it to the zoo 1/2 hour before closing. Hardly worth the price of the ticket. So, we canned it and put it at the top of our agenda for tomorrow.

He didn't care. He decided he wanted his portrait sketched, instead. So, he posed. The man drew. We have a rather angelic, idyllic version of him. Maybe he will resemble it in 2 years. (The guy forgot his chubby dimple cheeks.)

Two striking things for the day:

1. He was largely uninterested in most of the toys at FAO Schwartz. He was given a budget. He chose three toys. He came in under budget. The two toys he loves he most are:
a. a telescope/microscope which looks like a pocket pen
b. Ball Of Whacks It has a lots of Rubix-type "puzzles." He has solved a majority of them today. But, it doesn't stop him from playing with it at every opportunity.

Regardless, he loved the adventure. It is nice to see him swagger confident through a city again. To quote myself from a poem coming out in The Drunken Boat shortly,

"What is it I'm not getting
about this antlered sunrise?"

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Periodic Table Of Videos

Before I head off to New York this morning, I thought I’d leave you with some entertainment. Those wacky professors at The University Of Nottingham - over across the pond in the U.K. - have found a way to make the Periodic Tables fun and interesting! (Hat tip to Natasha from PALS.)

In The Periodic Table Of Videos the mad scientists demonstrate the properties of elements in a manner which any adventurous child would appreciate. I particularly like the discussion about oxygen in which he says, "it can make for very energetic experiments." These are a must if you have a budding young scientist. (Or a child who really hates science.) Thanks to Tickle Tune Typhoon’s CD, “Singing Science,” Winston is particularly fascinated with atoms and dna. So far he has watched, oxygen, sodium, helium and phosphorus. His favourite was helium. But, he keeps asking for more.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Spreading The Word!

I have to give a major shout-out to my friend Deesha. You know Deesha, the lovely writer over at Mamalicious. She has just launched a lovely site - Co-Parenting 101. This exceptionally moving article, We Are Family, prompted me to invite everyone to read it. It doesn't matter if you are divorced, single or happily married. It brought me closer to my deeply held values of honouring the chidren.

Having experienced a nasty divorce. (My ex can't even say my name without retching.) Even though I am now enjoying a healthy, happy marriage, I look forwqard to stopping by here now and again for a little bit of refreshment.

Pay It Forward Exchange

My lovely friend Jax, signed up to do the Pay It Forward Exchange. She sighted it on her friend's blog, Home Baked Education. I remember seeing the film Pay It Forward. I distinctly recall feeling so grateful for having a phrase to describe how I was pretty much living my life. The movie was also incredibly well done. . The author of the book Pay It Forward, Catherine Ryan Hyde, believed so much in the concept behind her novel, she started the Pay It Forward Foundation.

And now, I've discovered this little meme floating through some of my British friends blog, I had to jump on board. But, I’m lazy. Below, please find a cut and paste from Home Baked Education about what it entails:

"Let me tell you about it, these are the instructions: “It’s the Pay It Forward Exchange. It’s based of the concept of the movie “Pay it Forward” where acts or deeds of kindness are done without expecting something in return, just passing it on, with hope that the recipients of the acts of kindness are passed on. So here’s how it works. I will make and send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment to this post on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I do not know what that gift will be yet, and it won’t be sent this month, probably not next month, but it will be sent within 6 months and that’s a promise What YOU have to do in return, then, is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog."

So, the first three people who comment and pledge to do their own Pay It Forward Exchange on their own blog, will recieve a lovely handmade gift from me. I wonder who it will be? How exciting!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Jackie Ormes: First Black Woman Cartoonist

There is a new biography of Jackie Ormes out. I'm looking forward to picking it up! Her work was published in my hometown's famous newspaper, The Pittsburgh Courier. What a tremendous wit she had!

In the above cartoon, the woman is holding a United Negro College Fund pamphlet. The falling cards are for pledges. The caption reads:

“Gosh—Thanks if you’re beggin’ for me—But how’s
about getting our rich Uncle Sam to put good
public schools all over so we can be trained fit for any college?”

Police Stop: The Sequel

Coming home today, I passed the same cops in the same location where I was pulled over. Three people - two White woman and a Black man - were sitting on the curb with their hands behind their backs. A White man was talking with the officer. All of the doors on the car were open. I assume the vehicle had been searched.

It just calls to mind how lucky I was. How being confident and aware can so change the outcome of a police encounter.

Visit Flex Your Rights to watch clips on how to handle police encounters. They also have good guidelines for traffic stops here.