Tuesday, December 24, 2013

NRU the light and the dark -- heavy on silver linings

I couldn't really bring myself to post something for the anniversary of Newtown.  I was heartened to hear that the news media was abiding by the city's wish to be left alone.  But then there were these stories ... some that moms and dads self published and some that were offered via NPR.  This story was particularly lovely -- I have been trying to take her message to heart as my eyes leak and my heart continues to break.  I particularly loved what she had to say about language -- and I am so glad she lit all 28 candles.  This family reminds me that there are those of us with the compassion necessary to turn tragedy to hope.  If only we could all harness these sentiments -- to harness our pain into hope that engenders innovating for peace.

And one more Newtown entry:  a rabbi giving a cure for hatred -- loving kindness.

StoryCorps hit a homerun again with this one -- siblings talking about how a baby saved a family from darkness.  There is hope ... we can change.  We have the ability to aspire to better and to make it real.

In a special Christmas miracle, same sex marriages go forward in Utah -- may be all be very happy!

Before we turn to the dark, my favorite Christmas story is this one about a family reaching out to those with less.  It demonstrates several key ideas: 1) those with the least are often the most generous, 2) working together as a family can be very powerful, and 3) for every story about delinquent immigrants, there are probably five like this.  Thank goodness for people who help others. 

I struggled with where to put this story -- it is heartbreaking and soul affirming at the same time.  The strength and love these parents find in their faith is truly inspiring.  But having so recently lost people dear to me, my heart also breaks for the man's wife and son.  I hope that those who killed this man and wounded his wife are brought to justice, but I also hope that his parents will be there to forgive the killers as well.  The Mennonite pastor asked those at the funeral for prayers for the killers "in hopes they'll come to understand the wrong they have done and experience a transformation in their thinking and their lives."  We have a lot to learn about life from forgiveness.

And then the dark ... this story broke my heart over and over -- how sloppiness and disregard did not just ruin one life - but allowed one person to ruin the lives of two other families.  The chances to stop this tragedy abounded -- and were disregarded.  When will we wake up?

The elected officials of this country continue to demonstrate the darkness in their hearts -- lowering the payments to those in need for food.  Clearly, they do not understand how the funds are used -- and what they can be used for.  NPR has been doing some reporting on what it's like to be poor in the US, I guess, just in time for Christmas.   This one was particularly poignant as it juxtaposes a part-time janitor's struggle to support his family with the splendor of his employer, Google.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I HEART Freecyclers/Freecycling

If you don't know what I am talking about ... you clearly haven't met me.

I learned about freecycling when I was preparing for my move to Albuquerque -- from a woman at the LDS Family Center, of all places.

I had been doing some family tree research and was stumped. I knew I needed to go to the LDS Center because they have the resources ... but it was at the time when the fight over same sex marriage was in full swing.  I felt like a traitor going to the home of the H8ters... but I needed the resources.

A lovely older woman was there helping ... she must have asked me five times if I was Mormon -- no, just here to look up the family tree stuff.  That is another story for another post -- I probably already wrote about it.

But, for some reason our talk turned to her foster child who aged out while in her care -- the woman's birth children hooked up the young woman with all the things she needed for her first apartment through freecycle.


What a find... I signed up immediately for the Albuquerque freecycle because I was taking very little with me ... and would need things when I arrived.  But I was cautioned not to sign up til I got here so that I wouldn't get so much email of things I couldn't claim.

The Albuquerque Freecycle is vastly different than the Bay Area Freecycle -- but it is a community I adore ... we are all not-so-secret hoarders ... with things that we keep because we might need them someday -- and can't bear to put them in the trash (Thanks, Dad, for that genetic trait).

There are three kinds of posts OFFER (what you want to get rid of), WANTED (the tag says it all), and TAKEN (what you say when it is off your hands and into someone else's).

But given the right impetus -- someone else *needs* it -- we are happy to part with all the junk that is clogging up our lives.

On the one side of my heart is the hoarder -- but on the other is the pain of remembering what I couldn't bring with me when I left NJ.

As a result, I give things away with abandon ... anything that I haven't touched in a while, I feel like I should offer -- I don't always, but the thought crosses my mind.

And, the truth is, I ***LOVE*** giving things away.  When a million people want the same stupid thing I posted, I wish I had forty seven, so I could give them all away.

Sometimes, I find myself rummaging through my things to see if there is something I can post.

It is some other kind of madness, I am sure -- the other side of the coin of the hoarder?

In any case, there have been very few times when I posted an *ask* that wasn't fulfilled -- and I have scored many other things that I didn't *need* but couldn't help myself.  I find myself throwing some of those things back into the pool now as I pack.

Hooray for freecyclers... may we all have what we want ...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


So, if you can begin to pack things *you don't need* weeks before the move ... doesn't that mean that you don't actually need those things? ever?  Like, do you have to move them?

As I packed said things, I really wondered why I was keeping anything that I either didn't remember, hadn't ever used, and/or had found actually useless in the past.

As the time draws closer, and the packing unit smaller, I may just have to decide what really stays and what really goes.

It gives meaning to the piles of things randomly left on the side of the road or dumped in the dumpster ... they didn't fit and no one could justify them anyway.

And where will I put all the books?  That is really the question ... between my own academic books acquired over the time here and the library books I need to take with me, ugh, it could be a whole trailer full of books in the end.

Umm... and I feel like I am putting things into a time capsule - with cassettes, vhs and dvds, I feel like a dinosaur waking up in the land of new technology.

Packing ... it's a life experience.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

in the well

I have spent the better part of the last two weeks inside of a deep, dark hole.

It would appear that in order to grieve, I need to stop, be very still and let emotions come.

If I go out of the house, I immediately pull on the "I'm ok" face - which is actually code for "I feel supremely vulnerable" -- and then the steel door comes down between me and my emotions.

I am afraid that this is not a good long-term solution ... and I am not sure what will work in its place.  However, it is where I have needed to be -- for as long as I could.

Today, tomorrow and on and on until I finish, I will be packing and preparing for my departure.

There may be time for a little more wallowing ... or not ... but the backlog of grief is not something I want to face again.  So, I hope that I can learn to give myself space for this pain.

Holding it in is not an option ... and pretending to be "OKAY" isn't either.

But for now, I am trying to rain down compassion on myself -- whatever I need right now is all I can do.

Monday, December 16, 2013

NRU education edition

At some point we need to have a serious discussion about the charter school *experiment* and what it means that we keep charging down this path despite a lack of evidence that charters are really making a difference.  I think it is too easy, like the council person in this story, to say, no more charters.  Rather, we need to use this as the opening to discuss what we want from public education -- and learn from those charters that are providing what we want -- including how much it costs to do so.

This is a fascinating piece about what teachers (and schools) can do to better handle student outbursts by understanding how children deal with trauma.  Truly fascinating.  Once again, however, it demonstrates the complex set of situations teachers deal with -- and are expected to be expert at handling.

Here is a trio of pieces on the common core ... hope that the links last ... I believe the ap news reporters were trying to be objective by including one piece that present opposition. However most of the common core reporting has been biased to the intervention -- with opposition presented as belly-achers or paranoid teachers... what do you think?

For many years, researchers have been advocating that adolescents not get up early for school because they have erratic sleep patterns due to their physical changes.  Here's another round of that discussion -- sadly, no one says what we all know -- high schools start when they do in order to allow for sports programs ... blame the teachers if you like, but I am sure you could find enough teachers who want to sleep in, too, to work at schools that took adolescent sleep patterns into account.

Here's another interesting story asking whether or not the STEM crisis really exists -- and what would that mean to the many interventions set up to deal with that crisis?

Oh... and the band played on -- MOOCs failure to save the world and "low-cost" online education coming to those who we don't think are Ivy Leaguers -- low cost in quotes because the venture is for profit and led by someone that has capitalized (or tried to) on NCLB among other questionable educational endeavors.   Once again, all I can say is Harvard and U Penn were good enough for you, but not for those coming behind you... and just cause you're brown don't make it ok.

NRU more mish mash

Sometimes I wish I lived in New York

This article is super long ... and I would like to say, "worth it," but I was a little confused as to what I learned by the end.  Youth today feel how about online slurs?

I am not sure where this all will lead, but I can't say that I am unimpressed by this new pope -- seems like we finally traded in the Nazi Youth pope for someone with some integrity and good thoughts. 

Turns out that not all people whose health insurance policies were cancelled are outraged.  The right's ability to find people willing to say -- I want to keep my crappy health insurance that would have gotten changed and price increased anyway... boo hoo hoo -- does not mean that all people actually feel that way.  Call the waa-mbulance! 

God help me, I want to see the movie about making Mary Poppins into a movie -- even with Tom Hanks as Disney.

I think Amy Adams is one of my new favorite actresses ... I put her up there with Jessica Lange for acting ability -- especially her versatility.  She was awesome in Junebug!  I hope she is as good in American Hustle.

So happy that these six people were found safe after two days in the sub-zero weather -- these cold fronts moving all the way across the country have been brutal -- I am looking forward to 40 degree weather -- that's how cold it's been here.  I hope that those homeless folks will find their way to shelters ... six of them have already succumbed to the cold.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

NRU wow, just wow edition

There are times when you read an article and you just cannot believe what is being reported there.  Often, I am staring at my computer and shaking my head. I am thinking, "Wow, just wow."

There are no other words. 

Here are some of these stories.

The Young Conservatives of UT Austin were at it again ... but decided to shut it down.  I am so confused as to how they imagine having this game would have promoted dialogue.  And further flummoxed by the leader's reaction to the dialogue he did receive.  Did he think he would get love letters?!

Rampant racism is not confined to Texas, my heart breaks for the young man these three have been terrorizing. The article does not make it clear, but it seems like he had to live with this behavior for quite a while before someone decided to call the police. I wonder how the university dealt with it initially...

Will someone please tell me why this guy is still on the streets?  He has issues and should be locked up -- on principle, but the number of infractions is getting ridiculous.  Perhaps these charges will stick.

So...this story just keeps getting weirder.  First we find out the women have been held for thirty years, then the suspects are released on bail, and now it turns out that the women were involved in a cult.  And though this piece starts with the death of another woman, it seems like we never really get the full story on her fall.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Snow update...

I hid from the snow all day Thursday -- and when I had to be at my meeting on Friday morning at 10am, I realized I needed to start figuring out how to dig out.

At 6am, the street and sidewalk looked coated with ice or frost ... but as the morning wore on, other cars pulled out without slipping.  But there was at least three inches of snow piled on my car.

I started to scrape off the snow -- with the squigee my dad gave me many years ago -- and it came apart in my hands.  For some reason, I have no less than four left hand leather gloves, but no right hands.  So, I wracked my brain to remember where the fleece gloves were -- oh, yeah, in the trunk, under three inches of snow.

So, after my right hand nearly froze off - I ran it under hot water - then I turned the car on again, moved it so that it was under more sunlight -- and tried again.  This happened several times over forty-five minutes.  Then my car windshields were clear.

It never got over 36 degrees all day -- so, what little snow was able to thaw from the roof of my car then turned into ice in artful lines down the windshield.


Sunday morning, I woke to even more snow on the ground and flurries.

I rolled over and went back to sleep ... I hate driving in the snow, so I might just as well stay in -- turn on the oven and bake something to warm the house.  It's my own personal ghetto fireplace.


We expect the snow again today -- it's supposed to start at 7am and keep on through noon.

If only I didn't have anything to do outside the house -- life would be just fine.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Poetry Thursday, John Donne Style - one day late... oops

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee. 

From Meditation XVII from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

Remembering my cousin -- happy 44th, Michelle... miss you.

Thursday, December 05, 2013


As promised, it started snowing and then it didn't stop ... not sticking on the pavement or the asphalt, for now. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

NRU mish mash

Yikes ... so, if you happen to have an STD, but you cannot manage to get the courage up to tell your exes -- even though you may have infected said exes or been infected by said exes -- someone will help you.  Personal responsibility, where are you??

So, there are possibilities for careers outside of academia for me and others ... this is a little light we need to hold on to.

A nice piece on the Emery-go-round that was on National NPR.  I have never actually taken this free bus, but I have contemplated taking it several times.

I am glad that the powers that be have seen their way clear to at least exploring the organ donations this young man would like to make to his family members. Since I don't believe in the death penalty, it doesn't even bother me if it is a stalling tactic.  May he be allowed to share life.

Taking the award for crazy news is this piece on Andy Kaufman's brother believing that Andy was still alive and just hiding out being a SAHD for the past 30 years.  First of all, was this brother estranged from Andy during the illness? Did he not go to the funeral?  Is he in need of attention? Medical or psychiatric treatment?  In a follow up, though, he admitted that it was a hoax, just not that he was behind it.  Hmmm... this really should have come out closer to April 1 or December 28.

Words do have power, and I am so glad that these students are standing up for what they believe in -- and doing a good job writing about it, too!

I read Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook back in the early 1980s when I was a sad but curious pre-teen and teen... it was on a list of things a teacher once told me I should read.  As a dutiful student, concerned I would be outed as a philistine from south Oxnard, I diligently made my way through the list.  Much of what I found on the list did open my eyes to the world, and it often appealed to my darker brooding emotions at that age.  Since the main character's name was also Anna, I felt a strange affinity to it.  As I reflect on all I read at this time, I often come back to Lessing's book -- and wonder just how much of it went right over my head.  I think my earliest conception of communism came from that book.  As a result of reading it, I found notebooks of various colors and tried to keep them according to Lessing's character's code.  It was a treasure to read that book -- to escape into that adult world.  Thank Doris Lessing and may you rest in peace.

Despite the comments attached at the bottom of this story, it is so refreshing to see how youth deal with issues their generation faces.  They demonstrate much more grace, complexity and capacity for compassion than their adult counterparts.  It is awful that someone's clothing was lit afire -- with, of course, devastating results. However, to decide that this is about money or hate without hearing the whole story betrays the preconceptions of those willing to get it wrong regardless of what it might to do both actors and their families.  It seems to me that the youth quoted in this piece understand the weight of the incident while still being able to see that escalating the situation by calling it a hate-crime is less than useful in solving any problem.  I remember when the SF Chronicle first reported this story, they called the victim a transient ... so, it seems that jumping to conclusions is a common problem.  My hat is off to this reporter who actually tried to look under, around and inside this story for more depth.

For the hypocrite file, I bet Liz was sure at her sister's wedding and I bet she gives birthday and Christmas gifts to her sister's children ... but she needs those tea party votes.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Poetry Thursday, Happy Thanksgiving

cannot be 
traveled to, 
worn or consumed. 
Happiness is 
the spiritual experience 
of living every minute 
with love, 
and gratitude. 
-D Waitley 

May you all experience happiness as you share with family and friends the abundance of life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

NRU -- silver linings

I would much rather see young folks DO something like this than just *protest* (read bellyache) about what they do not like ... feels like these guys are being the change they would like to see.  Awesome.

I find hope in young people working towards their future -- and, so, though not terribly elegantly written, I like this story about high schoolers trying to save and resurrect a recording studio.  I like the way their project mixes a respect for what came before with a vision for what could come next.   

Let's hope that Mayor Brown is not just interested in Compton as a stepping stone to the senate or the governor's house.  Well, I guess that would be ok as well as long as she continues to do her best for these folks.  I think Compton is one of the least understood and most interesting place.

When Bob Woodruff got hurt while embedded with the military, it could have just soured him on the experience ... instead, he turned it into the opportunity to really appreciate and help soldiers who put it on the line every day.  Lemons and lemonade, my friends, maybe sparkling lemonade.

This story made me cry -- I am not pro-war, but I am deeply indebted to those men and women who go to war on our behalf, despite the fact that I did not/do not agree with war.  I love that the USO volunteer made this all happen in an hour. I love that the soldiers had no idea it was all for them.  I especially love those first-class passengers who gave up their seats so that the soldiers could all sit together.  I hope this story goes around and around the military -- so that they can see that, at least, the people appreciate their service.

What a lovely gesture to give these families time to remember their loved ones before the span is torn down.

Bittersweet - but lovely -- that a whole community could come together like this to give this young man his dying wish.  May you , Devin, rest in peace knowing you brought joy to others as they brought it to you.

This man's outlook on life should be bottled.  After being wrongfully convicted, he spent nearly all of his adult life in jail.  He was recently released, and this is how re described his equanity:
"Given his ordeal, it would be understandable if Register were angry. But sitting at a picnic table near the La Brea Tar Pits, he gave off an air of forgiveness and peace.

'There's a lot of devastating things that happened to me, but there's nothing I could do about it, so I had to accept it as it was,' said Register, a devout Christian who attended dozens of self-help workshops while in prison.  'Me being angry is only going to stagnate me moving forward.'"
I am no football fan, but this article about the high school football team in Washington, IL made me want to be one.  I wish them well on their game and thank those around them for stepping up to be good neighbors!

A special one for Thanksgiving, this woman is teaching us all what it means to be grateful and to appreciate the specialness in every day.

Friday, November 22, 2013

home sweet home

Heading out today to spend a week at home ... it is bittersweet.

I miss home ...

I just want to spend one afternoon at the beach, listening to the sea gulls, watching the waves come in, and closing my eyes as I feel the ocean breeze and the sun tickle at my nose.

I want to see my family, have a movie date with my nephew and a tea party with my niece and her dinosaurs.

I don't want to have Thanksgiving.

I don't know when I will want to have holidays again ...

But for now, I will be home for a short while.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Poetry Thursday, more gratitude

No kind action ever stops with itself.
One kind action leads to another.
A single act of kindness
throws out roots in all directions,
and the roots spring up
and make new trees.
The greatest work that 
kindness does to other is
that it makes them kind themselves.
-Amelia Earhart

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Uncle or Swathed in Gratitude

I was seriously torn about what to call this post.

Last Friday morning, I was having trouble sleeping. I think I had been awake since 3am and none of my tricks for falling back asleep were working.

I was thinking about my sister -- and worrying about how we were all going to deal with her first birthday in heaven.

I tossed and I turned as my alarm started my radio at 5am.  I heard what sounded like a distant smoke alarm, but I reasoned it must be coming from the radio.

Then I heard a loud bang.  People are always using the dumpster that is right outside the back of my apartment to dump things early in the morning.  So, I thought it was just someone aggressively throwing something away.  Then the apartment shook as if someone had run into the building -- this sometimes happens when people are pitching things into the dumpster -- just a loud sound, not someone actually running into the building.

When there were two more of these louds booms, I decided to get up and see.  I looked out the front window first because I thought it might be someone really running into the cars.  Nope, nothing.

Then I walked into the other bedroom to look at the dumpster, but as I stepped into the room what I saw were flames. 

The carport was fully engulfed, and what I heard must have been something on the cars exploding -- either the windows blowing out or the engines or gas tanks exploding.

I realized I didn't have my phone near me and ran to look for it.  I fumbled with the phone worrying about calling 911 with an out of town number ... but I didn't have the fire department's number loaded into my phone.  Note to self.

I do have the police's non-emergency number.  But this was definitely an emergency. 

I told the woman who answered about the fire.

And then I was confused about what to do.  I decided to move my car.  I think I figured it would be in the way when the fire trucks arrived.  I ran out in my socks and pjs and moved the car to the next block.

As I re-entered my apartment, I could see the flames coming closer and closer to my apartment.  With no time to really think, the first thing I worried about was the irreplaceable data on my computers -- and the fact that most of what is irreplaceable is not mine.  I gathered three computers and cables and put them into my bag. 

I brushed my teeth.  Weird thing to worry about -- but there you have it.  And shoved my mouth guard also in the bag.  I grabbed the computer bag and my purse and started towards my car.

I realized I still didn't have clothes on or shoes -- but no time.  So, I took my cozy socks off, shoved some pants into my bag and pulled on some shoes.

As I got closer to my car, I heard a small child wailing.  It is a neighbor's daughter -- I have seen them but not really met them, so I didn't know their names.

The mom said she had called the fire department twice ... what was taking them so long.  The daughter wailed. I offered to take the little girl to my car so she could feel safe.  She took my hand and we walked to the car in the dark and cold. 

I loaded all my stuff in the trunk, fumbled for a blanket I have in there and tried to settle the little girl in.

Then it struck me ... MY TURTLE!

Never mind anything else, she was irreplaceable. 

I got the little girl to promise to wait in the car and I sprinted back to my apartment.  I grabbed the turtle and my grandmother's beaded necklaces and went back to the car.

The little girl and I talked -- she wanted to know if we were going to be homeless.  I told I hoped not... but as the fire fighters had still not arrived, I thought I might be.  We looked at the turtle and talked about other things.  I wanted to get her mind off of the scary position we were in.

When the little girl's mom finally joined us -- the fire fighters were arriving -- and I realized that getting some clothes for myself might not be a bad idea. 

Once again, I ran towards my apartment, not wanting to waste time.  I asked the fire fighters for permission since they were evacuating the building. 

This time when I entered the building, I could feel the heat from the fire was really warming up my apartment.  This could not be good. 

I grabbed clothes for two days and ran out of there ... not even stopping to put on the clothes.  As I exited my apartment, there were two fire fighters there to make sure I came out and that no one else was in the building. 

I saw another neighbor whose name I don't know come out of her house across the street.  I asked if I could borrow her bathroom to put some clothes on. 

She wondered if her place would be safe.

When I got back to the car, the girl and her mom were going into a house with another neighbor.  I grabbed my turtle and joined them. 

It was a lucky thing to be able to sit in a warm house and chat idly with someone rather than watch and worry about whether or not everything else I owned was going up in flames.

What a lovely thing that neighbors you have never officially met would allow you into their homes, trust you with their daughter and help you to feel safe in a very scary situation. 

I worried about the firefighters even approaching those cars engulfed in flames ... what if a car exploded?

About an hour later I was back in my apartment -- the cars were totaled, 16 in all.  But the buildings were safe. 

My apartment stayed warm until about 11am.  I can only imagine how hot it had gotten in there.

As I calmed down, I recognized just how fortunate I was to be safe, unharmed and relatively unaffected as my car did not burn. 

The thought crossed my mind, just give up ... it has been one thing after another for over a year.  What more could happen.  Should I just cry, "Uncle!" to the universe.

Instead, I decided to just be grateful.  I sent an email to my family to ask them to say an extra prayer of gratitude this day.  I sent out positive thoughts to my neighbors who had lost vehicles -- hoping they could also see a silver lining -- that they were safe even though their cars were not.

Monday, November 18, 2013

NRU - education edition

These days, most of the education articles get saved directly into the dissertation folder.  Some should also get shared, but with limited time for everything in my life, they don't.  Here's one that doesn't really fit into my study, but is interesting nonetheless.  It is a report on Bard College's latest changes to the admission process.  I applaud their attempt to make SAT/ACT irrelevant, to give students who haven't always gotten the best grades a chance, and to attempt to level the playing field.  Unfortunately, I think the NY Times hits on a few of the pitfalls.  Nothing is perfect, but thinking through different ways to evaluate college readiness in this era of standardized tests is a bright spot for us to all contemplate.  I think we still need to think about what education is for and how we use it -- honestly.  Opening up these discussions might help us to see our way to it.

For all those haters who continue to say that Latino parents don't care about education, I hope they heard this story.  I really hope that these families are able to stay in their homes ... providing the kind of education they believe their families deserve. Or we could just give all students the kind of public education that is made available to those in Silicon Valley.

I am still trying to understand how gadgets will bridge the achievement gap -- I hope that they spent equally on curriculum planning and training time as they did on the "lease" from Apple.  As a stockholder, of course, I am pleased for these contracts; as an educator, I am dubious about the implementation and outcome.  May I be wrong about this....

I cringed as I listened to this as part of the problem ... I am not expected, however, to read anything in three minutes.  Perhaps it is another evil empire that is grading these tests.

When we look back on NCLB, I hope that we give plenty of space to the issue of cheating engendered by the drive for specific test scores rather than striving for learning.  Ugh.

Adult education is largely ignored, left to volunteers and night school ... and, as is confirmed in this story, years of special education often only leads to illiteracy and a life lived in the shadows.  Ugh, again.  But what a tribute to the resiliency of these adults.

I am really not sure if I should be inspired or horrified by this for-profit education plan for severely impoverished people in Africa ... it feels like McDonalds for poor heart disease patients.

Have you heard about the First Lady's new campaign? I hadn't either - somehow this is not as sexy as doing push ups or gardening? I am not sure how Arne Duncan could possibly fill into this plan as he focuses on teacher evals and testing -- that is truly not going to get anyone ready for college.  Also, I am not clear that her advice is truly useful:
 "'It’s your attitude,” she said. “It’s your commitment. You decide how high you set your goals. You decide how hard you’re going to work for those goals.'”
it is not just personal initiative that will get you to college.  How will that get you college prep courses or the textbooks you need to get you the preparation you need.   How will a focus on standardized test prepare you for college?

I am glad that the discussion on the usefulness of a college education is taking on more nuanced contours.  We do need to discuss this issue, but not as a simple black and white.  There are lots of factors to consider including the role college education plays in the growing wealth gap or the new ways to provide training and education (although this one is admittedly very different than anything we consider "college").

Friday, November 15, 2013

Remembering and trying to feel the joy rather than the pain

The deep pain that is felt 
at the death of every friendly soul 
arises from the feeling that 
there is in every individual 
something which is inexpressible, 
peculiar to him alone, 
and is, therefore, 
absolutely and irretrievably lost. 
~Arthur Schopenhauer

Missing my sister on her birthday. I hope she and Greg are celebrating together.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Poetry Thursday, trying to practice gratitude

This may be a repeat, and if it is, it is worth repeating.

If we are not happy and joyous 
at this season,
for what other season 
shall we wait 
for what other time 
shall we look?

I am working on creating some Thanksgiving/Holiday cards to send out, and this is one of the pieces I have been meditating on.

Monday, November 11, 2013

NRU bullying

Some will argue that it is thin-skin that makes this bullying, but I want to know -- when is it okay to make someone continue to feel uncomfortable?  I think that our culture of bullying is most evident when we talk about this situation as trying to understand "the gray areas between good-natured pranks and hurtful bullying."  I have been thinking about the pranks on The Daily Show -- the thing is that Jon Stewart is most frequently laughing at the joke that is being made by him.  As the producer of the show, it is fairly clear that he is in on the joke -- and on the show, it seems like he enjoys the jokes.  There is a huge difference between being in on it -- and therefore taking "good-natured pranks" or ribbing -- and continually being the butt of the joke because someone is "'easiest to scare.'"

While on the topic of bullies and being bullied, I can't pass up this article about Rand Paul and plagiarism.  One of the commenters made the most sense -- why complain about being bullied instead of just fessing up to not caring about giving others credit.  The fact is most people just don't understand plagiarism at all ... it is disrespect and it is laziness and it is being in a hurried.  But, it really only takes, "as so-and-so said so aptly, ...."

In case you were wondering if bullying is part of our culture -- one that we don't want to admit to unless we think it's funny, read this horrifying piece about a mothers' fb page that is an example of what we think of as benign when we are doing it, and bullying when someone does it to us.

I enjoyed listening to the Barbershop talk about the Incognito/Martin bullying case ... and Jon Stewart, too.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Difficult Conversations...

Several weeks ago, so many that I think it is actually months ago, I was faced with the situation of having to have a difficult conversation, endure passive aggressive wrath or just get over it.  At the time, I was dealing with so many other things, that, frankly, this prickly situation was the least of my worries. 

I let it go ... and it has somewhat worked itself out. That is to say, the animosity and passive aggressive behavior has diminished.  But, it is like a bruise that hurts like hell when you brush up against something.  And, for now, it is not getting better.

I still don't have the energy to dig into whatever it was that upset this other person so that it was necessary to behave in this way.  I still think the pressures that person faced caused the problem, and that the issues are not mine.  But, it is still a situation that I must deal with ... someday, probably within the next two weeks.

I stumbled across this piece on difficult conversations because it was included in a weekly missive from the provost (of all people).  And it did help to center me on not internalizing the emotional brutality and to try to summon up compassion.

This was the piece of advice that seemed most salient.
"If we're sure a conversation is going to be tough, it's instinctive to rehearse what we'll say. But a difficult conversation is not a performance, with an actor and an audience. Once you've started the discussion, your counterpart could react in any number of ways – and having a "script" in mind will hamper your ability to listen effectively and react accordingly. Instead, prepare by asking yourself: 1. What is the problem? 2. What would my counterpart say the problem is? 3. What's my preferred outcome? 4. What's my preferred working relationship with my counterpart? You can also ask the other person to do the same in advance of your meeting."
Ultimately hard feelings cannot just be dismissed because there is this internal dialogue that goes on and on -- even in the deciding not to have hard feelings.

If it is possible to just let go with grace and compassion, that is, of course, the best course of action -- but feelings take a long time to heal. 

In this case, the difficult conversation will come whether I like it or not because there is other business to attend to and this is a long-term relationship that needs to be cultivated or ended -- depending on how that conversation goes.

May I have compassion for myself and others in these difficult conversations.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Thursday Quote, courtesy of Daily Affirmations

Giving up 
doesn't always mean 
you are weak; 
sometimes it means 
that you are 
strong enough 
to let go. 
~Author Unknown

From our trip to Alaska 2008

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

I want ...

to watch a movie
take my camera for a walk in the fall colors
feel rain drops
not be in a hurry
sit at the beach and just watch the waves roll in and out
listen to the sounds of the world

-- I want to do all of these things in an unhurried way -- with nothing else to do and nowhere else to be.

I want to sleep and not have bad dreams.

I want to feel rested in the morning with energy to go work out.

I know that I have the strength to make at least some of this happen ... I am just so tired of being strong.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Los dias de los muertos

My siblings love Halloween ... all of them love it much more than I ever did.  But, I loved it with them. I wish I were home to see my niece and nephew dressed and ready to go out trick or treating.

I love to open the door to the children all dressed up -- and even the teenagers only pretending to dress up.  If only small children came to my door.

My brother was so into Halloween, he had an album of scary sounds.  He would set up the record player next to the window that opened to the front door.  So scary music led the way to the trick or treat. 

As an adult, he organized his neighborhood into have a decorate your house contest. Of course, he always wanted to win, but I am sure that mostly he wanted to get everyone to decorate and be into the season.

Whenever I saw this commercial ... it reminded me of my brother ... the last line, that's my brother.

We used to watch this show together every Halloween, along with the Wizard of Oz.  And for days afterwards, my sister would go around the house signing, "Ichabod, Ichabod Crane."  I just rewatched it and it isn't scary at all .... but in my childhood mind, it was the scariest thing ever.

I can't get into the day of the dead right now.  It's too soon.  And I remember them every day and it's painful not joyful.  Maybe memories will make me happy someday.  But right now they just make me sad for all the days we won't have and the future memories we will never have.

Monday, November 04, 2013

NRU - happy things...sweet things only

I love Lake Merritt -- not running around it, but walking, yes, and hanging out ... glad to hear that its waters are becoming more habitable!

NPR spent a week digging through their best StoryCorps recordings to celebrate its 10th birthday.  They were all really good ... there are a few I might have picked that they left out.  It was especially nice for them to go back and find these folks to give updates.  This story is bittersweet, with an emphasis on the sweet -- if we could bottle this attitude, we might be able to heal humanity's ailments.  Give it a listen.

Admittedly bittersweet, I loved this collection of stories of people commemorating survival with the Sandy water line.  This one is particularly lovely, and it tell us something about perspective as well:
"Megan Levis, a teacher, and Mark Levis, a marine engineer, had been in their house only six months. They were newly married. They were maybe 100 yards from the Shark River Inlet in Belmar, N.J.
When the water blasted in, they were evacuated by rescuers riding a bulldozer. With a marker, Mr. Levis designated the waterline on the dining room bar. “Whenever we have a fight, we look at the line and we think, well, we’ve been through that,” he said."
I think I am better at ferreting out bittersweet than sweet.  There is much to love about this piece ... the humility of the man, the vulnerability of the woman, the standing ovation from the high school kids, that this "saving" was done in community.  Sometimes we all just need someone.  And, as luck would have it, someone came by just when this woman needed someone.  Also love that he is still worried about her and that helping her gave him perspective on his own life.  May we all embrace abundance.

I think Mr. Odone's daughter best encapsulates why this story of death is a sweet tale of love.  May they, all three, now rest in peace together:  
“If you had ever walked into the room and seen how Lorenzo responded to the way my father and Michaela embraced him in life, wrapped him in love, you would see he was a living being who knew he was loved. That’s what they gave him, but it was very difficult.”
Sweetness seems to be coming to me in waves of bitter reality and dogged persistence.  So it is with this review of a documentary about a man's struggle with mobility, or the loss of it.  I am hoping some of this persistence and perspective can rub off on me.

An oral history project on African American males in Oakland ... priceless.

Female inmates in Vermont using writing to heal ... bittersweet release.

I thought it would take a long time to collect enough stories for this post ... but I was wrong.

Maybe it is the lens you bring to the reading, or just putting into your mind to look for sweetness.  I don't know.

The last entry for this round is about a man who loves street sweeping machines... he fell in love with them when he was four or five, and it turned into a loving obsession.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Quote Thursday

Don Miguel Ruiz wrote, 
“Death is not 
the biggest fear 
we have; 
our biggest fear 
is taking the risk 
to be alive -- 
the risk 
to be alive 
and express 
what we really are.” 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NRU - mish mash

In another life, my dissertation project would have been talking with the homeless... not surveys as this story suggests, but really getting their stories, including hanging out where they do and seeing what their lives are like.  But that would have been a great project when I was 23... alas.  Glad to see someone is talking to these folks instead of relying on the talking heads, even well-meaning ones.

I sometimes cringe when I find myself singing along to Katie Perry ... I don't know if it is that she is so appealing to tweens, or that she has made such ugly choices in very public romantic relationships, but there it is.  So, I was quite surprised to hear this interview with her on NPR... turns out she may not be that cringe-worthy.  First of all, she is from the 805, I didn't know that.  I guess I wouldn't mind having a drink with her and hearing out on her views on the world.  See what you think.

I could write a whole book on the issue of bullying... and I take issue with some of the ways the issue is portrayed in this article.  But, I guess I am glad that someone is talking about it.  I am not sure that *watching* kids online is the answer to bullying.  I am not sure what is ... but I have a gut feeling that it is more interactive on a human level, more about creating relationships, infusing value in life and fomenting open communication and respect.   I don't see how monitoring will do any of those things.

**LATE ENTRY:  I heard this piece this morning and love the moms and kids who talk about not necessarily limiting their children's use of technology but teach them how to deal with the conflicts that may arise.  Love it.

I enjoyed this story -- it was about the difficulty of communicating when your body is not cooperating.  But it was about the poet Ntozake Shange.  It got me thinking, again, that in reality one awesome work is enough ... we ought to figure out how to pay folks who write one work of art so that they can live off of it ... rather than demanding more brilliance from them.  It's like a shooting star, it only has to be breathtaking once.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Resting Place

On October 20th, we hiked up this mountain to find my sister's resting place.  It turns out that peak she loved so much is the highest point of the Santa Monica Mountains.

It has always just been Old Boney to us.

Though my uncle told me that the Boy Scouts named it Alan's Peak, the park service calls it Sandstone Peak.

As we climbed up away from the parking lot, we looked back.

From where we were, we could see the road winding down towards my uncles' ranches and the Pacific Ocean.

In the distance, among the clouds is the ocean, and the islands.
About half way up the 1.5 mile trek to the top of the peak, we found a flat area. 

From there, we could look down on either side ... one points towards the ocean (and Ventura County), the other side points towards the valley (and Los Angeles County).

We decided it was the perfect place scatter Chila's ashes.

We found a rock under the larger outcropping.

It is far enough off the trail that it probably won't be trampled.

It is close enough that we can go and visit without having to scale the entire mountain.

We held hands in a circle around the ashes and cried and prayed.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done to let my sister go.

 I thought nothing would be harder than watching my brother's coffin placed in the ground.

This was infinitely harder.

Veronica cued up my sister and brother-in-law's song, and Kevin went up to the rock.

I followed far enough in to place the flowers Angelique had brought.

While Kevin scattered the ashes, I chiseled pieces of the rock for everyone to take back.

I guess I need to start training since hiking up this mountain will be the only way to visit my sister.

Friday, October 25, 2013

NRU - mish mash

This is a heart-breaking yet fascinating piece on a man who returns to Alcatraz fifty years after having been an inmate there. His reflections span the time there, his life since and whether or not he'd go back and do things differently if he had the chance.  The park service let him stay the night ... with the reporter.  This is the kind of story we need NPR for ... who else would do this?

More heart break, I am afraid, though there are other feelings to attach to this piece about a father honoring his son and the grief at his loss by trying to walk across the country.  I can imagine the relief that comes from your outsides feeling like your insides ... with the aches and pains and blisters of the long walk.  It seems like gut wrenching grief should come with physical manifestations, so that others can see your pain as plainly as you feel it.  I am beginning to understand the Jewish tradition of wearing the torn cloth.

I share this family's wish for something to be done without monetary award ... I love that they were able to make a deal that honors their father's loss and salves their souls a little.

I love this effort by the bikers to make their own reputation rather than to have one thrust upon them by others.  It is also a fitting group to help abused children -- tough on the outside, human on the inside.

I love ghost stories, here is one in my hometown's backyard.

I respect the people of Newtown for doing their best to keep the school razing private and as far out of the media and crazies reach as possible.  In a world where I am sure they find very little under their control, this is something they can do, for themselves and the children.  May they find peace.

Looking forward to this fall season of movies, and hoping I will have some time to go see some... here's one I am looking forward to even though it seems it will be challenging to watch.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quote Thursday ... courtesy of Daily Affirmations


The cure 
for anything 
is salt water
or the sea. 

Isak Dinesen

Looking forward to getting to go home to be by the sea. In the meantime, trying to ground in the sweat and allow the tears. 

 [Photos from my train ride along the California Coast, 2010]

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And the sky did not fall

As I sat on the plane, these thoughts raced through my head about the weekend.  

Truth telling with people who know it's okay not to be okay.

Lots of hugs and kisses.

Consoling Veronica about petunia.

Beauty of the mountain.
Our special place.

My broken heart. 
The ache in the center of my body.
Restocking the kitchen. Cleaning out the unhealthy choices. 
Organizing support for my parents. 
Outing my mom to her doctor. 
Setting doctor appointments. 

Achy and sore muscles. 
Splitting headaches.


Bad guy. 
Good daughter. 

Asking for help is a family stumbling block. 

Laying bare your soul to light the way for others.

Running for the train.

Dad celebratory coffee. 
Dad & mom celebratory kiss.

The relief, tension and fear of going back to ABQ.

Monday, October 21, 2013

NRU - silver linings

I decided that I needed to start lighting my own torches at the end of the tunnel.

Here is one that I think is almost radiating golden linings...it is about a guy in New York who heads out each day to take portraits of folks, and then asks them a couple of questions before posting his "mini story" online.  It's called Humans of New York.  His work has garnered him a book deal and spawned others to take photos in their cities.  Lovely...

I haven't had time to go through my folder of DailyOm gems to post them here, but there are two that I think deserve to be shared in the silver lining edition, even if they aren't news.

As is often the case, the DailyOM is reading my mind.  This piece is about constructing a surrender box.  It is a little like having the Guatemalan worry dolls under your pillow or the penas that they burn in Zozobra.  I am making mine right away.

When you are in the middle of the kind of uncertainty I feel in my life right now, concrete steps to take to move forward are very necessary and super useful.  So, once again, the DailyOM, sensing my need, sent me this piece on staying conscious with ten concrete steps.  One foot in front of the other ... that is the silver lining: this too shall pass.

I decided to catch up on StoryCorps -- it is ripe for silver lining picking.  This story made me cry -- I think I heard it when it came out, but I needed to hear it again.  I needed to hear that families can stick together when times are tough, and that things can get better.  This is another great one I heard some time back about helping others. I think NPR did a story about this guy wandering around looking for people in need.

It may seem morose to include an obituary in the silver linings editions, but I think once you read it, you'll agree.  May Sister Antonia Brenner rest in peace, she has already toiled for so long.

Heartbreaking and beautiful... this story of a bride and her cancer-stricken parents walking down the aisle together.  May they all be blessed for as long as possible with life. I think this is the perfect ending to this collection, really more gold trimmed than silver lined.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Me & Chila on the Alaska Cruise, 2008

Greg, me & Chila, circa 1971
Tonight, I will get on a plane to take my parents home. 

We need to leave today because this weekend, my brother-in-law has planned to have a celebration of my sister's life and to scatter her ashes.

The family, Easter 1972

I wish I could explain the depth of the pain it causes me to write those words.
Sisters on D Street, circa 1973

I can barely keep from crying when I have to say what I have been through in the past 13 months.

This month's 19 will be hard... there isn't any 19 that isn't hard, last month was one year since we lost my brother.

But, this is somehow more painful.

It might just be my inner-teenager trying to protect me, but I have resisted saying goodbye to my sister.

The family, October 2009
When we were ordered to say goodbye to her in the hospital room, I just wanted to scream, "I'm not ready!"
You can't force someone to say goodbye, can you?

Sisters, May 2010
I wanted to wait for a miracle.

I wanted us to join hands in a circle around my sister and not give up.

I wanted a miracle.

I knew that was the only way that she could come back to us.
The Family, July 2, 1994
 When we had the memorial for her, I think I was still in shock... and busy.

Planning, worrying, making sure everyone was okay and had what they needed.

I didn't have time to feel or process.

And, I didn't feel safe.

I don't know if I will find a safe space to mourn my sister this weekend.

The past few weeks have been so full of stress and anxiety.

I barely started breathing again yesterday, and now this...

The Fab Five, October 2009
We will all gather at the place we love so much.

The site of so many parties, weddings, and horseshoe playing.

We will put up a plaque to my sister in this place.

And then we will hike to the top of the mountain to let her go.

If only letting go were that easy.

Pray for us.

It seems unbearable to me right now.

Rest in peace, Chila.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Poetry Thursday, on invisibility

Should his heart break 
and the grief pour out, 
it would flow over 
the whole earth, 
it seems, 
and yet, 
no one sees it.
~ Anton Chekhov

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

no time to write ... here

I am slogging through my exam rewrites ... slowly, but, hopefully, steadily.

I saw this on a break, and thought I would share it.  Hoping you were celebrating contact for the good aspects -- and sending peaceful thoughts to those who through contact found only death, violence and savagery. 

There are two sides to every coin, and sometimes we need the less deplorable side to shine.

So, thanks to contact the world has tomatoes and llamas and pow wows and many other things... it's a little bit of a silver lining.

Monday, October 14, 2013

NRU, a little outrage is necessary

I continue to be shocked by what we allow to happen in our society -- and call it justice.  Rest in Peace, Mr. Wallace.

Sadly, when you want to be a little outraged, there is no shortage of stories to feed the need.  This one is egregious in many ways: 1) it is such a clear demonstration of the lack of respect people in Mexico have for the indigenous -- in that not to be outdone by other nations way; 2) it is funny that any one in this country could be so outraged given that it spends so much time and effort demonizing the indigenous people who come here from Mexico to do our dirty work (I know that they don't call them indigenous but their ignorance about the ethnicity of many workers from Mexico does not soften their words); and 3) once again, women and children get the short end of the stick. You see, so much outrage for one little story.

We were still raw from my sister's hospital experience when I had to take my mom to the emergency room almost two weeks ago.  We were lucky to be blessed with very professional and competent nurses and doctors. However, even in that atmosphere of competence, it was clear that they all had so many things to keep in mind.  Things could go awry -- patients could get the wrong medicine, food, treatment, unless everyone was on top of their games -- including the patient and patient family. I know it is a luxury of sorts, but, please don't leave your loved ones in the hospital alone.  This story demonstrates with fatal consequences that our loved ones need us with them in the hospital.  I have no doubt that the hospital staff is sorry and horrified, but the patient is dead.  There are jobs where there are no take backs, and medicine is one of them.  Only people who are willing to give 110% should be in the profession.

I am not the only one feeling like a little outrage is necessary ... though I am not sure I can muster outrage for the lost adulthood of America or the imposter service dogs, I see the point of these authors ... more importantly, I understand the need to vent a little.  Though these stories do remind me a little too much of Andie MacDowell's character in Sex, Lies, and Videotape malenting over the garbage mounds in the ocean.

[As a side note, I think I learned to hate and avoid Andie MacDowell on the basis of her annoying character in that movie ... I rooted for her skanky sister throughout, she was more appealing.  Tells you something about the sympathy level the characters evoked.  Good movie though.]

It's hard to know where to start with the outrage for this story about adoptive parents of international children putting kids up on a listserv when the parents find they can no longer handle those kids.  In essence, this report is talking about another way children are sold into slavery and the sex trade.  I know it was not those adoptive parents' objective, but it is an unforeseen byproduct.  Sadly, the folks in this interview are unwilling to go out on that limb.  I wonder, if these folks had birthed children that they couldn't handle as teenagers, would they have dropped them off with sexual predators in a trailer park?  The outrage need not end with the irresponsible adults adopting children and then attempting to give them back.  Adoption over age 4 is hard for anyone from anywhere.  With all the money that private, international adoption agencies collect from prospective parents, those who often are unwilling to go through the background searches that domestic adoptive parents do, you would think those companies could afford to train the parents or offer other after care support.  How about once you have allowed a child into the country, and presumably sanctioned the adoption in some legal way, how is it the government has no record of these children? And no responsibility?

On the silver lining side of outrage, this piece details how some states moved on gun control after the Newtown shootings.  It may not all work out, but if enough states in the country can maintain the outrage, perhaps we could finally convince our federal government to make some substantive changes.  Perhaps we could start to think about more trainings about spotting mental illness and come up with some helpful ways to intervene.  One can always hope.