Monday, January 26, 2015

Not Parent

If I had to say which situation I have had to contend with over the past year was most challenging, I would say it was being the not parent. This is not a wholly foreign experience for me. As a teacher, despite the notion of in loco parentis, what you discover is that you are the not parent.

You care for your students, you spend an inordinate amount of time with them, in fairly intimate contexts. To me, learning , and especially the difficulties associated with learning, takes place in an intimate context: where feelings, raw and exposed, need to be analyzed and carefully handled.

Teachers often know their students very, very well. We know how their buttons gets pushed, and how to cajole, mollify, and inspire students. Not just the best ones -- teachers that is -- you have to be a pretty terrible, distant teacher not to develop these sensibilities about your students.

And while it is our job to do our best for our students, including reporting any potential danger from their home environments, our ability to truly affect our students' lives is limited. We are not the parent.

 Our influence only extends so far. We carefully juggle our emotions and our desired outcomes with this knowledge. We learn to build boundaries for our own well being -- careful to understand we are the not parent. We may be trusted adult, but we are not the parent.

As a tia, especially in our culture where all family adults are expected to care for all children, we practice not parent but with more privilege -- with back up. That is not to say parents don't some times rein in a tio or tia who may have acted more parent than not parent. Our line is another careful one - but not quite the not parent tightrope.

We give our nieces and nephews back gladly after spoiling them (or just hanging out with them) -- we usually don't have care as our job, just guidance as a trusted adult.  We have the right to spoil and cater to our niece or nephew as much as to discipline. But ours is a privileged role. We know both child and parent and our duties and responsibilities are limited and backstopped. So our sense of helplessness not nearly as great as when the teacher is not parent.

My role as tia has been hybridized with not parent this year.  I may never be able to go back to being just tia again.  Though I will never fill their lost mother or father's role, I have been thrust into situations that require more than tia.  I can't be their mom, in part because I was already the tia.  We already had an established relationship that clearly demonstrated my differences from their parents. 

The loss of my brother and sister, and the intense mourning of my in-laws, has pushed me into this uncomfortable role.  I have had to step in and provide parenting care, guidance, education advocacy, and support -- much more than what I would have ever given as a tia.  This is as deeply unsettling to me as it is foreign and necessary for them.

I can and have pinned my hope too often on certain outcomes for my nieces and nephews, only to have them dashed.  When I pull way back to tia land, I see their lives as their own, and hope I can be supportive.  No matter the energy I expend, they will and have to do what they need to do for their own lives -- that goes for my in-laws as much as for my nieces and nephews.  No matter how much I do, there are no guarantees.  This I think is what most parents must come to terms with as their children grow, mature and find their way in the world. 

As tia, I never worried.  I believed in my limited role, in my ability to apply a little or a lot of love as my life/schedule permitted.  I was sure my brother, sister and in-laws would always do their best, be there and call on me when needed.  So, I struggle to remember I can only do my best -- and I hope for the best as I try to release my expectations around outcomes. 

Friday, January 23, 2015


Dear religious extremists of all varieties (yes, that means you too intolerant Christians), when you threaten violence against a person, persons or institutions, that is terrorism.  We cannot counter terrorism with terrorism, we can only counter it with compassion.  That should be a no brainer for those who follow Jesus.  He said, turn the other cheek, he said do it over and over again (seven times seventy).  Oh, yes, I just quoted some scripture to you.  May you all acknowledge abundance.  There is enough room in this world for calls to the faithful of all persuasions -- there is enough room even for those who choose not to believe.

Proving that no one is perfect, the pope made a decision that I cannot endorse in any way.  The indigenous people of California were not converted, they were forcibly baptized (as were all other indigenous people in the moments of contact)... it was much more than forceful assimilation.  This is not something that we should celebrate, laud or shade with pink.  The LATimes, at least, did some work to present the opposite view of those celebrating this elevation.  Let's set aside the horrible events this man's presence brought to California, he is also not a saint as, even by the church's standard, he has not brought about the necessary TWO miracles.  I am not a fan of the whole process, but I have been particularly disheartened by the canonization of both Serra and John Paul.  For those that believe, I am guessing that there is a serious conversation in purgatory going on right now.

Ugh, how can you write a long, piece on Winslow, Arizona and not mention La Posada and the artist community that revitalized it?!  I love me some Winslow, but not just because of the song.  Yes, the first time I heard about Winslow was in the song.  But the first time I visited was because of a series of NPR stories about La Posada and Mary Colter.  And it is the reason why I have made Winslow my stop whenever possible between LA and Albuquerque.  I even try to wake up to catch a glimpse of it when I travel by train... huge miss by the Times writer, huge.  And I wasn't the only one to notice as it shows up in the comments.

Rest in peace, Mr. Tijerina.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

poetry Thursday


Through the conduits of blood
my body in your body
spring of night
my tongue of sun in your forest
your body a kneading trough
I red wheat
Through conduits of bone
I night I water
I forest that moves forward
I tongue
I body
I sun-bone
Through the conduits of night
spring of bodies
You night of wheat
you forest in the sun
you waiting water
you kneading trough of bones
Through the conduits of sun
my night in your night
my sun in your sun
my wheat in your kneading trough
your forest in my tongue
Through the conduits of the body
water in the night
your body in my body
Spring of bones
Spring of suns

~Octavio Paz

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Scenes from my walking meditation

This is where I have been ... keeping to my two miles per day even if I don't actually get the two on one day ... been more like several 3 mile days and some 2 mile days and other 1 mile days.

The bottoms of my feet hurt from the barefoot beach and pavement walking.  My hips are screaming for some yoga.  The dog walking has put me in some life threatening (hers, not mine) situations.

But, the walking is good.  It really gives me the space I need to let go of planning, thinking, and worrying.  The subconscious processing gets to bubble up as I try to remember to repeat my mantras.

I get to notice the world around me.  The rollercoaster may not stop, but the ferris wheel slows down enough to see that is usually a blur outside the car window.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday mornings...

...the radio brings sweet (and sometimes bittersweet) treats.

This is dark chocolate, red raspberries and anything else you really like.

If you were wondering what love looks like, listen to this.

NRU and more

Looking for something fun and FREE to do on MLK, Jr. Day?  Well, looks like the National Parks are offering free entrance ... here is the LATimes top five picks that are close enough to Los Angeles to take advantage of the freebie.

Earlier this month, I attended a talk by the widow who forgave the woman who killed her husband by driving under the influence of drugs.  It was powerful ... not just the story because I had already heard about the act of forgiveness. It was powerful because she was not just talking about one event, she was talking about a movement.  At the heart of her calculations, she had two facts that screamed to her forgiveness as the right answer:  1) what her husband would want to come from his death, and 2) the cost of incarcerating.  It turned out her last job had been to calculate, literally, the cost of incarceration -- she can rattle off the monetary statistics in terms of jailing as well as catalog the other long-term costs to the person incarcerated as well as to the society at large.  These calculations, both the personal and the monetary, are important to all of us.   We live in a society that increasingly wants to warehouse people who make mistakes rather than even attempt restorative justice.  This despite what we know about the rates of recidivism.  This despite the fact that greater and greater numbers of people are unwilling to pay for social services.  This is a lose-lose for all concerned.  This is why Erin's movement is so important.  I was moved to write about this now because I read yet another story about not knowing how to treat people like people ... this story about a hard-working man's impending deportation is another heartbreaking story of our lose-lose mentality.

Another side of this coin is the way students (particularly those of color) are treated at schools... here's hoping this latest report signals a change in course for good on how to discipline students. 

It is too bad that this report on secular parenting was in the Op-Ed section of the newspaper because it makes it seem like it is a position piece, which in the end it may be.  However, the study it uses as its basis, or at least as its lead in, is a real study by Pew, which carries its own sense of less bias (I can't quite bring myself to claim anything truly neutral).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Poetry Thursday courtesy NRU

Found this lovely piece on the Navy's tradition of having the first log being written in verse.

This excerpt was too lovely not to have as the entry for Poetry Thursday.

Through heavy winds
and pitch and list
our thoughts encompassed
by those we miss.
As hours turn to days
and days to months
we think of the place
we came from once.
We think of the people
of our country.
We think of how thankful
we are to be free.
As we continue to send
Strength From the Sea.

- Jonathon Lee Wenrich, Philadelphia
Quartermaster, 3rd Class
aircraft carrier Carl Vinson

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Dear George Clooney ...

Dear George Clooney,

Once upon a time, I dreamed you would remake the movie Indiscreet, you know the one with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman?  In case you are unfamiliar, he pretends to be married in order not to commit to marrying any woman.  This, of course, does not stop him from being involved with women.  It just gives him a convenient reason to keep those relationships *private, * thus necessitating discretion.  Then, he meets Ingrid Bergman's character and their relationship rocks his world. 

I love that movie... and, well, you fit into the character so perfectly... at least you did.

I guess, I need to also remind you that I have also stated in the past that the only thing that could make you hotter was if you were to date someone your own age.

I think I may have misspoke because seeing you *in love* with your wife, her age notwithstanding, has changed my mind.

Apparently what makes you even hotter is being married to an incredibly brilliant, intelligent and accomplished woman.  WOW. Just wow... Congratulations on choosing well, albeit young... and the award, of course, and on being even hotter.  May you two long be happy together.

Friday, January 09, 2015

NRU, including some snark

I think this book review proves that it is not always a great thing to be mentioned in the New York Times. OUCH! I don't know if I would have been tempted to pick up this book as I have so much other reading to do, but this is certainly a persuasive treatise on why one should not.

As I write this, not on the day it will be posted, it has been a day of "wow" and this piece on "The Wizard of Watts" fits neatly into WOW.  I probably won't watch it because I am fan of neither adult cartoons or musicals.  But, I sure will be interested to know how others liked it.

Sometimes, I stumble on to something that is just a good read.  This is one ... there are probably a million things I could say, relate to or disagree with here, but I just wanted to share it.

Maybe it is just the strong memories of passing that drew me to this story, I don't know.  But I read with interest.  A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I didn't want to be buried in the ground at the cemetery with my paternal grandparents.  We were there to take my brother a christmas tree my mom had decorated for him.  We didn't realize the cemetery had been affected by the mudslides.  Instead of a quiet visit to the headstones, I spent the time cleaning off my brother's marker, then digging out my grandparents, great aunt and uncles' headstones.  My grandmother and great aunt had big rocks over the two inches of mud that was already sprouting.  The others had no rocks but another inch of mud.  My body ached for days after scraping off the mud.  It occurred to me as I crouched over their graves that I could not expect anyone I know to do anything of the sort for me.  I am the last of the grave visitors in my family.

Jean Jullien

There are no words that can truly soothe the people of France (or anyone who believes in the freedom of speech or that does not see the value of intolerance) for the actions against Charlie Hebdo this week.  I searched around for something in the media, but the most salient seemed to be Jon Stewart's Nazi Cows...
Of course, comedy and satire require an answer in comedy and satire.  But, within that satire, there was a kernel we can take away... we cannot meet the killers intolerance with intolerance of our own.  Rather the only thing we can do is practice compassion ... even when it seems like the most difficult thing to do for the people seemingly least deserving of compassion.  That is the thing about compassion, it does not ask first, do you deserve needs to be piled on indiscriminately, like love.

Finally ... there is activism for all people, apparently, as the Yarn Bombers (yes they are a thing) are planning their own reaction to murder in lieu of civil protection.  It will appear in LA on Monday... 

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Poetry Thursday

i will wade out
                        till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers
I will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air
                                                 with closed eyes
to dash against darkness
                                       in the sleeping curves of my body

Shall enter fingers of smooth mastery
with chasteness of sea-girls
                                            Will i complete the mystery
                                            of my flesh
I will rise
               After a thousand years
             And set my teeth in the silver of the moon

e e cumming 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

world keeps turning NRU sort of....

I finally made it back to meditation last night ... I made plans to go to a Latinos from the Ivies mixer tonight ... I made some progress on my paper yesterday.

I was feeling ... not exactly *upbeat* but like my head was above water and that no one was pulling on my toes.

And then I saw this.  Wow, I feel like I have been so out of touch to not even know that she was ill.

My heart breaks... I cannot believe the pain and anguish for Anthony (I know he goes by Antonio now, but he was Anthony to me for all those years in grade school where I was not the me I am now, either).

To be clear, I didn't know Michele ... she was from my hometown, my dad knew her uncle, and she was in my good friend's class at high school.  So, I might have actually met her at some point.  But, I don't know.

I reached out to her several years ago ... many, at this point, before she met Anthony, before she got married, before she found out that she had cancer.

I cannot even remember why I wrote to her ...but I did.  We connected, became facebook friends, when I still had a fb account, and I bought all her books ... to be supportive of her work.

And then I dropped out of fb and didn't keep up with her... and now this.

The world keeps on turning and things keep happening and I am just trying to keep up and keep my head above water.

This felt like another punch to the gut.

But, I don't think that Michele would want me to take it that way.

I am going to try to feel this as a not so gentle reminder to LIVE... get out there, life keeps turning, you gotta keep up.

Monday, January 05, 2015

A graduation story ...

Graduations are not just important for the accomplishment that they celebrate, namely graduating from this program or that.  They hold much more importance for the families of those who accomplishments are contained within robes, tassels, caps, hoods and hats.

My sister died just one month shy of the graduation celebration where she would have gotten her master's hood and medal for graduating with honors.  Though she was a late bloomer academically, my sister had the drive and work ethic of a horse.  Once she put her mind to it, just get out of the way.

I wish I had that kind of certainty or fortitude ... I may be good at some things, but my mind wanders into the abstractions too often to be truly focused as she was.

In the wake of her death, and the circumstances so tenuously aligned with any reality we could understand, that she could not participate in the graduation became our focus.

I started to work on the powers that be as soon as I could, finally getting folks to agree to allow my niece to fill in for my sister.  There were highs (meeting, albeit via internet, her colleagues and people in the administration of her program) and very low lows (last minute denials and changes of plans).

I was in Tennessee when someone called me to tell me that my niece could not participate in the honors ceremony.  It hit me hard, like losing my sister again, and I endured the disappointment of my brother-in-law like my heart being wrenched from my chest.

Ultimately, after an impassioned letter from my brother-in-law via email to the university, my parents, my brother-in-law and niece were allowed to sit in the VIP section and my sister was mentioned in the university president's remarks at the honors ceremony.

And she walked the line with my sister's classmates (who all wore pins with my sister's graduation picture on them) to get the diploma.

My brother-in-law told me afterwards he hoped it would demonstrate to my niece the importance of getting her degree.  After a long year at home, she has applied to two colleges (received an acceptance) and is working on her statements for another four as I type this.

It is the smallest of victories that I don't even have the right to claim. But she applied ... she understands that a bachelor's degree is necessary for the next phase of her life ... she sees the value of believing in herself ...  and these are her victories, not mine.  I have held her hand, cajoled, threatened, and given many lectures.  The rest is up to her.  

I will always be here, cheering her from the sidelines.... wishing my sister were with me.   This journey is hers, and hers alone ... and that is how she will remember it, as a personal triumph.
Here is another story that demonstrates the greater importance and significance of graduations -- it's not just me, I promise.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Those three words...

I think we say them too often ...
...and not often enough.
All at the same time.

Just like the kisses,
we shower on babies,
but withhold from adults.

Sometimes we say it heartfelt
... on accident or on purpose.
Sometimes we say it robotically,
quickly responding to someone else.

Sometimes it is a quick quip
at the end of the conversation.

Some people contemplate for a long time
before those words escape the lips.
Others blurt them out
like an explosion of the heart.

Does it mean the same all the time?

Does the meaning change
depending on intent
or how it is received?

Is it like Spanish where
you can love with
different words and significance?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Poetry Thursday

Let yourself
be silently drawn
by the strong pull
of what you really love
it will not lead you astray.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

NRU short and (mostly) sweet

...but not necessarily a year end round up.

This one might seem like a year end round up because it is sort of an end piece to the first season of Serial.  Even though it is Fresh Air, and Terry Gross's voice irritates me, it is still fun to listen to, if you were obsessed with the podcast like I was.  Or you could just read the "highlights."

This is still incredibly heartbreaking... I hold these families in my heart. I cannot imagine the pain of this loss, as it must redouble every day with no chance for closure.

Interesting piece that intersects my interest in California history and cemeteries...

Wow... 25 years since Field of Dreams came out, I remember it like yesterday... and apparently, so do many others.

Feeling a little under the weather, but this piece on Father Greg gave me a little hope ... and reminded me of purpose.  Hoping to get it together myself in 2015.

When we put our minds to it, we can make quite a bit of difference ... I wish we could find it in our hearts to do this more often, for many more causes.  Merry Christmas and happy new year, Addie and family. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Red Tailed Hawk

I remembered to bring my camera so I could take it with me on the hike (Christmas day).

As I was walking, I noticed a hawk circling above me.  Since I had the telephoto lens with me, I just kept shooting ... I hope opening these photos to see them in "FULL SIZE" will work so that you can see the detail a little more clearly.

I chose the photos randomly from the sequence, I hope one shows you the gleaming red tail... and the notch where the missing tail feathers tell stories of the life of this bird!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas, southern California style

A little hiking ... a little bird watching ... and a mountain drive... these are scenes from Christmas Day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

NRU for Christmas

I decided to watch for articles that made me smile about Christmas ... it is still hard for me to do that, so some of these stories made me cry first.  Sometimes I find I need to tap the sad, that is let it run, before I can reach for something else.

Here is a story about someone who knows hard times, so he helps others so are going through hard times.

If you can't find tears of joy and gladness in this story, then your Grinch heart needs some TLC.  I am going to have to remember to volunteer for this next year! I wish I had known about it sooner.  For those that need reasons to believe in Santa, here is one for you.  I found it long and unsatisfying, but I am a "Yes, Virginia" fan with no reservations.

In case you missed it, some David Sedaris and the Elf Diaries for your entertainment.

Okay, this has nothing to do with Christmas, but it made me truly happy to know that P-22 is feeling better.  I totally love this photo shoot of him enjoying a late night dinner.  I would sure love to be inside his brain.  What kinds of thoughts to mountain lions think?!

This is also not related to Christmas... just a great story about a reporter trying to get the inside story by giving away free "taxi" rides in China.  Priceless, indeed.

This one also made me chuckle... I am not sure whether to be more impressed by the rollerblading or how he made his way to college at a time when Mexican Americans in Delano were "only" field workers.

I think you should check out the video of Frank rollerblading!

Last one, here is a place it would be great to visit for a late night date.

Monday, December 22, 2014


...on the Polar Express (in Fillmore).