Thursday, January 31, 2013

Proverb Thursday

It's not what you call me,
but what I answer to.
-African proverb

This is my pre-birthday tribute to myself ... and I got thinking about it after I sat in on a class that was talking name stories.  

I am always surprised when someone doesn't *know* how his/her name was conferred.  How can you not know? How could you not have asked?

Name story to follow .... let this proverb sink in.

What do you answer to?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wrangling the Inner Teenager

One would think that I have too much experience wrangling my inner teenager. But it is rather like Holly Golightly's mean reds. It hits you and you are unable to understand why you feel this way until you remember.

Unfortunately for me, the realization usually doesn't happen until I am listening to a song like this:
Then I remember the horrible teen age years ... there is no hope there, no light; just reveling in the darkest corners of the heart. And that is where TFF takes me.
"Is this the start of the breakdown ... I can't understand you." I always think of this as the lightest of that first album ... the one I wore out on my record player: Now I listen to them and I remember those dark days, and pain is heightened ... but feeling is good ... feeling pain means I am still alive.

I am trying to use these memories to delve into the survival of the dark days... and to harness the anger and pain that I channeled into that survival.  I need to spin it into super productive days.

I am closing in on resetting the date for my qualifying exams ... reworking a study schedule and checking the attitude.  Need one that is set to work hard and be frustrated less.

Also closing in on the word of the year -- got to decide before the next new moon which is coincidentally the lunar new year: that of the snake... time to shed the old and welcome the new.

The inner teenager needs to let go and allow a productive adult to be free -- keeping what was constructive and resourceful and leaving behind the bitterness.

Send me some psychic support y'all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

UPDATED (AGAIN) News Round Up, true mish mash

Very cool picture...story was simple police blotter
If this story doesn't break your heart, then you probably don't have one.  This family doesn't need medals, they need their son back healthy and mentally whole.

This story belongs in the what were they thinking category.  Seriously?!  I am not sure if banning anything ever helps, but supporting the Big Gulp seems to be better left to the comedy of Jon Stewart.  Black and brown folks have lots of other fish to fry!  The other category I might allow it in:  Thumper's category.  That is to say, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.  AHA ... this morning (after the 5am publish time) I read this fascinating op-ed about this very same issue, the author titles it When Jim Crow Drank Coke.  It reads like history, but it is analyzed behavior so perhaps that is why it is in the editorial section?

I am not sure how to feel about this story.  This is the headline:  Sundance stars sound off on gun violence in film.  What do you think?

So, in the far-ranging whimsical to ridiculous category, a story about the gnome *invasion* of Oakland, CA ... there is everything here from the truly, lovely anonymous encrypted message to the bureaucratic response to the university professor's analysis.  Truly something for everyone! Enjoy. --UPDATE... the gnomes will not be evicted after all!

I first encountered the kohlrabi while "working" farm-share at what used to be called Los Poblanos Organics (now Skarsgard Farms -- don't ask because I don't really know why they changed the name).  I helped unearth any number of these -- in purple, as pictured, and green.  I swear I felt like I was helping birth little alien babies.  And then I took one home to eat it ... and they are as advertised in this article, yummy in lots of ways.

Seems like a lot of folks are changing their tunes... the congress about immigration, the scouts about their no-gay policy, and the military about women in combat.  Must be a pretty strong wind causing so much change... or better political strategists.

Monday, January 28, 2013


[disclaimer:  I did tag it stream of consciousness ... no time for editing, so enjoy.] 

Throughout our lives we come into contact with people -- people who change our lives by small or wide margins, by bumping up against our trajectory or by pushing us hard in one direction or another, by bolstering our resolve, or by putting up hurdles and obstacles -- hazards.

Often we remember the ones that seemed to thwart our progress, not always acknowledging that the change came, perhaps not as intended, but there is still change.

Sometimes we don't take notice either because we resisted or were not clued in to the subtleties of change.

It takes time and reflection.

It takes space.

It takes humility -- something that our society doesn't prize -- to see how our lives are changed, moved, altered, impacted by others. To not feel self-made.

We almost never take the time to tell those people who caused that movement in our trajectory -- to let them know that we heard, were(not) listening, and(but) got it.  Sometimes we remember to angrily recall an uncomfortable impact to the person or to someone who will tell the person.  Too soon, we make a judgement about being wronged -- but rarely do we come back and recognize the "right."

Some professions fall more prey to this syndrome than others -- and teaching is one of them.

As teachers, we blow on the dandelion flower, spreading seeds that may carry for a long distance, eventually plant themselves and grow -- or wither on the hard, cold earth.  Later, it is hard to tell which of those new dandelion flowers came into existence with the help of our blowing.

That's the thing about teaching.  We nudge trajectories -- we don't cause earthquakes with seismic shifts.  And those trajectories are mostly controlled by the individuals we teach, not by our teaching.  We shape and mold and hope for the best -- we try to give shape to the beauty we see trying to edge its way out into the world.

We can only claim having tried to show someone something new ... we cannot ever claim to be the reason someone was successful or whatever adjective better fits this sentence.

And we hope ... we hope that we have fostered more good than bad.  We hope that our words hit the right note, that our admonitions did not wound, that our intention for bettering was noted, albeit subconsciously.

Mostly we remember the failures -- the moments when the look of hurt or frustration is so powerful ...

All the more reason it is so wonderful when a student returns via email or phone or in person to say that he/she remembers and that our work, as teachers, was appreciated.

Friday, January 25, 2013

astrological ... metaphorical ...

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): "Nobody can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it." So said the eccentric, outspoken and hard-partying actress Talullah Bankhead (1902-1968). Can you guess her astrological sign? Aquarius, of course. Her greatest adventure came from trying to keep up with all the unpredictable urges that welled up inside her. She found it challenging and fun to be as unique as she could possibly be. I nominate her to be your role model in the next four weeks. Your assignment is to work extra hard at being yourself.

Rob thinks I should be adventures, be myself, take the challenge.

I am struggling to think of a representative object and describe it ... who am I? What represents me... maybe Tallulah knows.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Poetry/Quote Thursday

And the day came when the risk 
to remain tight in a bud 
was more painful than 
the risk it took to blossom.

-A. Nin
I didn't have any photos of a flower -- but I thought these gashes in the earth could serve the same purpose...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

News Round Up, mish mash

Many of these stories are tinged with that lovable silver lining... but not all. 

I have a love/hate relationship with raccoons, so I read this story with interest.  Fascinating story about this terrible disease that is ravaging the raccoons ... and that might be highlighting an environmental danger.

On the silver lining side of life, I am always so proud of our human race when I read of those who were hurt by 911 doing something productive ... we can wallow in our grief, indulge in our vengeance, or work to help others ... these folks are taking the super high road

This may seem slightly odd, but it sounds like an important piece -- and given my family's recent scramble after my brother's sudden and unexpected death, I think it is of value ... indeed, get your shit together.

Here's another lovely StoryCorps -- this time about adoption

From tragedy, adversity and a strong sense of self, this woman is not content to have just straightened out her own life, she is helping others -- and by extension her society (which is also ours!).

We hear a lot of angry rhetoric coming out of churches on a regular basis, but here's one where they are, instead, preaching love [about loving your neighbor even when he/she is a stranger] -- really preaching, with bible passages and all!

This is the kind of baby shower I can get behind.  I like the way it acknowledges the abundance in their lives while it shines the lights on the needs of others ... beautiful. 

Here is a great piece of the series of pieces on Nina Totenberg's interview with Sonia Sotomayor.  All of the parts I have heard are good, but this one is my favorite so far...the title says it all:  "Sotomayor Found Her 'Competitive Spirit' In Gold Stars."

Here is a fascinating "where are they now" link -- actually about a movie Nancy Pelosi's daughter made about former NJ Governor James McGreevey.  Now here is some lemonade from lemons -- silver lining-ed to the hilt.  

I believe that this is what comes of everyone being armed.  It doesn't mean that no innocents will be harmed. It means that hotheads will prevail.  And... in other news, the NM Legislature in its infinite cowboy wisdom is considering making carry/conceal legal in bars.  Yes, you read that right ... because we need more bar brawls to turn into shootouts.  I think we ought to send all these gun-loving, gun-needing folks to a colony somewhere and see who survives.  They can have all teh guns and ammunition they want as long as they stay within their territory.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

News Round Up, RIP edition

I found this sweet remembrance of the woman credited with founding PFLAG.  This story embodies all the pieces of motherhood (parenthood, if you like) that I hope someday to emulate.  I didn't think anyone could do a better job at Ms. Manford's obituary, but this one brought a tear to my eye

On Christmas, we lost another powerful woman who stepped into the fray not for notoriety...but for the what she believed in.  I would have loved to hear her preach. 

Sometimes life calls you to do that which might never have imagined yourself doing.  Ms. Beate Gordon's obituary included these lines:
Had her father not been a concert pianist of considerable renown; had she not been so skilled at foreign languages; and had she not been desperate to find her parents, from whom she was separated during the war and whose fate she did not know for years, she never would have been thrust into her quiet, improbable role in world history.
And I love that she has an Oakland, CA connection -- as many great women do!  Resourceful, dedicated and talented, what a woman.  Why do I only learn of these ladies on their passing?!

I am not sure why I have never heard of this woman before -- but I loved this story about how she came to create a foundation specifically to keep/place social workers in San Francisco schools.  What a truly lovely woman with a wonderful sense for what children need and what adults can do to meet those needs!

I was tickled by this story of this powerful, thoughtful and innovative woman. It is not an obituary, but the book about her by a student seems like a tribute.

I thought this was going to become an RIP edition for only amazing women -- and it a way, this story is about amazing women -- 1 mother and three resilient young women -- who are figuring out how to keep going after losing their husband/father.  This is a well-written, moving story -- but it hits me particularly because I think daily of my sister-in-law and my niece and nephew who are having to find a way to do just this.   And it is important to keep remembering just how hard it is for all of us -- and that there is a way to move forward, even if there is not necessarily a way to make the pain go away completely.

Somewhere there is probably a better obituary for this man, James Hood - the one they called a student who challenged segregation --  we all -- all of us students of color and all those others who profited from being our classmates -- owe James Hood a great debt.  May he rest in peace.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration ... update

I cannot say I truly understand who would not watch the inauguration ... but for those who could not, here are some of the words you missed.

Mrs. Myrlie Evers Williams led the country in a truly beautiful prayer -- I can get behind this kind of praying.  [The link will take you to youtube so you can hear it for yourself.]

In my opinion, my president knocked it out the ballfield... big time.
Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
For more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune.
Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society's ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today's world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we'll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.
This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America's possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are na├»ve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.
That is our generation's task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.
For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today's victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.
You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course.
You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.
Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.
I cannot vouch for Ms. Clarkson --I turned down the sound in protest, that is for another blogpost -- but there was some good music... and a poem.  This is the only link I can find now to the text of the poem.  It will open up a pdf doc (if it continues to work).

I am baffled by why folks think this is important.


My president will be celebrating his second inauguration today. 

It is happening in the year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and in the year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Oh ... and it is MLK, Jr. day! On this day, doubtless there are many remembering words he saidSome are apparently debating how we should understand and use those words.  I think maybe Dr. King would just like us all to have the same opportunity to speak our minds on this.  Though, I think he was more pragmatic about wanting us to prize "the content of character" despite our learned biases.

I can't wait to hear Barack's speech.  In the meantime, here is what Abraham Lincoln said in his second inaugural address:

  AT this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
  On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.2
  One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."3
  With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.4

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gray Hair

One day, months ago (November, I think), I treated myself to donuts.  I had finished something *on time* and decided that I should try the donut-mart. It is an unassuming place ... the "mini-mart" of a gasoline station.  I had tested their wares before -- and so it wasn't a risk.  In case, I hadn't mentioned, I do not like disappointment.  I was looking for a sure thing on the pay off with the donuts.

Anyway, as I went to pay for the donuts, the man behind the counter said to me, earnestly, "Don't let anyone ever talk you into dyeing your hair!"  I smiled, and paid him the money, and said, something like, "don't worry."  What I meant was, I don't have the time or the energy it would take to pull off not gray hair ... I have had gray hair, that people were always trying to pluck out, since I was sixteen. 

The dreaded middle school students, who I LOVED, tried to take credit for the gray hair, showing me "before" and "after" pictures -- and begging me to dye my hair. Um, yeah, if anything, at that time, it was my ex-husband who was making my hair come out gray.

Actually, it is just plain genetics, as far as I can tell. I have the perfect mix of my parents' genes.  My mom was dyeing her hair to cover the gray at 35 ... my dad didn't have any gray hair until he was 54 -- and that was precipitated by a fair amount of stress.  I guess his mother was dyeing her hair by the time I knew her because she was at least 70 (when I can remember) and there was not a bit of gray.

I think that gray hair has a purpose -- and really I don't have time to get in front of how fast my hair grows to keep the gray at bay -- it softens the signs of age by lightening you up just where the wrinkles sprout.  Besides, I believe in aging gracefully -- as gracefully as possible when you are surrounded by teeny-boppers.

It wasn't another week that went by before someone else, a stranger, commented on my hair ... by the time she told me, we had been sitting together, on the train, for a little bit and had shared some stories.  She said, it was the first thing she noticed about me.  She loved the hair -- the wayward curls, the length, and the gray.

I was thinking it was just a crazy coincidence, but not two days later, I met up with a former teacher for a banana split (we used to get them when I was her student; when she saw the long face making an appearance, she would offer to give me a ride home, and we'd stop off first for Baskin-Robbins).  She grabbed a piece of my hair and said, "someday I am going to be brave enough to go gray."  She continued on telling me how good it looked on me.

I was wondering, what is all this talk about my hair?!  For years, all I can remember is members of my family saying not so flattering comments about my hair.  Or when they tried to make a "nice" comment, it always came out as a back-handed compliment.  I remember having to be strong and non-plussed at the same time.  Whatever... it's your opinion.

I had already decided to write about it, but hadn't had time, or energy.  Then, I took the flight to Las Vegas for Christmas.  The woman I was sitting next to went on and on about my hair ... she told me she was growing out her hair -- and that the first thing she had noticed about me was the hair.  She said it was "perfect -- so symmetrical" -- she was wondering ... how did I do it, could it be that her hair would turn out that way...

I don't know what it means... perhaps the universe thought it would be okay to let me know that there was this one thing about my life that was just fine the way it was... or it is just a weird coincidence that I would meet so many people who are really into gray hair ... you make the call.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Quote Thursday... I miss you, Greg...


...the soul is nourished 
by living and loving 
without defensive armor and 
by approaching death and loss 
with openness, courage and compassion.
-F. Walsh


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

News Round Up, two sides of the coin edition

There are days when you read some articles -- and you think, seriously!? Or other snarky thoughts.  Here are some that provoked those reactions.

Do you think this is why Lance will be spending time on Oprah's couch??

Bears need more friends with guns and less foes with them.

Despite the fact that the author of this piece seems to relish the irony, I am appalled by this story.  It is definitely on the list of things that I don't think we should be talking about - it does not advance the issues that we need to actually be discussing in my opinion.

Why is everyone so fascinated by this man's signature ... I saw this on the "world" news, the local news, and then the NYTimes.  Really? Is there no real news to discuss regarding who will be our new Treasury Secretary?!

Here are some news items represent the other side of the coin.  I think we should spend way more time and ink (or recording) on:

global warming ... stop debating, start dealing in reality. I like this piece in the NY Times about the hottest year on record.  But, I also thoroughly enjoyed this discussion on Moyers and Company.

Sensible - as in get a grip - discussions about guns, gun control and mass killings.  Yes, it includes discussions about mental health and how we *treat* it, but it also includes talk about regulating guns. As my friend has pointed out, and others in the news, no one should be able to own a gun for less paperwork than it takes to own a dog (legally).   And in an odd turn of events, I was drafting this when I read a short piece about another school shooting -- this time in California and the shooter did not kill, only wounded, and was arrested.  The next morning, this story about how the shooter was talked into giving up the gun by the teacher was in the paper.   It is a (thankfully) non-lethal answer to all of LaPierre's not sensible suggestions.  One last entry here from the parents of the Sandy Hook children ... this is a response I can get behind.

And while we are on the subject of what we should be discussing with regard to mass shootings, I am in agreement with this opinion piece -- stop naming the assailants, stop glorifying their actions with so much media attention. If there must be media, focus on those whose lives were taken... You can disagree and I welcome the discussion about this issue ... discuss!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I forget sometimes that there are people out there for whom 1.15 doesn't mean Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday ... his birthday is not the third Monday of the month, we just celebrate it then.  This year, it will also coincide with the president's second inaugural.

I still hope that folks will use that day to serve their fellow citizens, but on this day, we should celebrate Martin's birthday -- with cake, if you like. 

I would like to celebrate it with facts.  For those who don't know, for those who want to remember, for those who want to learn more:

Here is a website that highlights MLK Jr.'s biography.

This is the Nobel Peace Prize's biography page for MLK Jr.

This is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument website from the National Park Service.

This is the King Center website.

Finally, here some information on a film called A Ripple of Hope. It chronicles the intersection of MLK Jr and RFK -- with particular attention to the night RFK addressed a crowd at a rally in Indianapolis -- and he delivered the terrible news to that crowd of MLK Jr.'s death.  You can watch it is six parts starting here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mostly Education News Round Up

Some of these are only tangentially about education ... but, you get the drift.

Here is one that horrified me ... and I will admit the first thing I wanted to do was wag my finger in front of all those people who keep trying to tell me that fb [and by extension all those other social networking sites] are not all bad. They are even kind of useful, they tell me.   In the middle of this piece, I literally wanted to scream, "what's redeeming about this?!"  If you can forgive the young woman the flat affect, you may find this as interesting as I did.  Of course, it is not fb's fault that people do this ridiculousness, but likes guns, when there is an easy way to shame someone, who doesn't indulge in it??

I appreciated this piece on how some college campuses are dealing with students who are diagnosed (and those who are not) with mental illness.  It is not enough ... and as I contemplate how to best use the last four sessions at my campus's counseling center, I marvel at those who need this kind of help to get by with the rationing that we must inevitably put in place.

I am including this not because it is a great piece, just that it is timely -- and it's important to know that folks are working on this.  When I worked at UC, I went to a voluntary "Active shooter training" -- thankfully, it was not a simulation.  It was informative in the extreme, but also very overwhelming emotionally.  In order to punctuate their main points, the officers played portions of the 911 calls from Columbine.  It was painful, but they illustrated the need to rethink our assumptions about what to do in these scenarios.  I am guessing that it should be mandatory -- on some level -- but that in its own way is horrifying.  It is a better mandatory, in my opinion, than the every teacher should be armed.  This piece does make good sense about why willynilly placement of police officers or armed guards would not be helpful in and of itself.

Yes, I read the paper[s] this week, too, but the radio links are just so easy.

I wish that the reporter had spent a little time investigating the rationale behind the move to lengthen the school year ... and the school day. Perhaps it is just parents lobbying for more babysitting time ... and that deserves some more digging as well.  But no where in this piece is there a discussion of how schools are funded -- and the ties to the lengthening or shortening of school years. This could have been a really interesting story.  

Turns out that the little trick California tried to play with the Feds on NCLB didn't work on the first round or the second round.   This is the way they are going to "fix" it.  You be the judge.  This is the statement, attributed to Torlakson, that gives me the greatest pause: "As a teacher, what's most exciting is that these new tests will serve as models for the kind of high-quality teaching and learning we want in every classroom every day."  I am hopeful that the Common Core will bring back instruction based on learning not mastery of exams -- but the emphasis on the tests makes me skeptical.  If, indeed, as is suggested by another's comments quoted here the test results will be turned more quickly (now students are tested in May and then the results are returned the following fall -- the earliest I know them to have been reported is August ... long after those students have exited the class where the teacher taught the content), then tests could be helpful.  But as long as these tests have no tangible results for the students, I am not sure what the data of the tests offers to the public or the administration in terms of truly assessing the learning of the students (or the teaching of the teachers). 

If you need more information -- and want to hear their rationale for why they are fixing the testing system (read: they are not copping to what I wrote in the first sentence of this paragraph), here's another piece. If you just read the list of all the tests students in California could potentially be taking, you would think, wow, there are no days when students aren't taking standardized tests.  Though the issue of the number of tests out there is worthy of discussion, this piece could be clearer about how many students are taking the number of "alternative" tests -- and whether or not they also take the others. It is only really noted that certain students who are ELLs will take both kinds of content knowledge tests.  And, for instance, it doesn't say that the EAP is only an additional 10 questions to the tests those students are already taking.  All I am saying is that the article is somewhat misleading or at least not ultra informative.  And if you read the recommendations carefully, it is not clear that the number of tests will be eliminated ... they may just be changed.

At some point, I may just have to devote an entire post to assessment and what isn't working about how we do it, and why our current data won't help to assess teachers' work.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Oracle

One of the *gifts* from Robin Posyn was a deck of cards she calls Remembering and Celebrations ... she says to use it by reading them whenever you feel, or as an oracle.  As in, pull one from the deck as your "remembering" for the day.

So, the other day, I pulled one.  After several days of feeling lower than low, and unable to turn off the spigot, I needed something, anything ... something to pull me out, to make it okay, to get me through.

This is the card I pulled:
When you're tired,
Even When
No Reason To Be 
And, Especially
When "There's
No Time For

Even now, the tears tumble out.  It was what I needed to hear and then some ... I have been so careful with my energy this "break" -- taking time out ... getting back in bed, sleeping in, and eating whatever and whenever. 

I needed it ... but I was feeling guilty, as if somehow my time is not mine. 

I got done what I got done.  I cried what I needed to cry. I slept what I needed to sleep.

And Monday is a new day ... the beginning of the semester -- and I will be there, in my own way, in my own time, allowing for whatever rest I need.

If you are needing more than this to convince you that we all need to do what we need to do for ourselves (before we can do for anyone else), read this.  I marvel at her strength, courage, vulnerability and POWER.  She is my superhero -- she has all the qualities I am trying to own, love and embody in this life.

Taking a picture of the sunset, I was angry, at the time, for the STOP sign being so bright.  It was the universe...speaking!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Poetry/Quote Thursday

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living.  We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon -- instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.
-D. Carnegie

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Idealism; Forgiveness Version

This is not the first time I have contemplated the notion of forgiveness, nor the first time I have written about it here -- marveling at the way some people find strength in forgiving.  As I wonder about the relationship between forgiving and forgetting ... and how forgiving relates to standing up for oneself.

I feel like forgiveness is one of the least understood actions/phenomenon.  It is a concept that I struggle with ... on a regular basis. 

Mostly because I don't believe in asking for forgiveness, and that I don't take well to people asking for mine.  For me, the more important issue is always compassion. Then I read this article.

I know that we don't all have the luxury of time to read long articles ... but this one is truly worth it in my opinion.   This piece takes a look at the action of forgiving, all the pieces and people required in the process from the perspective of restorative justice.  Gift yourself with the story of these two families learning to live with forgiveness.

Unlike other stories I have read,  this one acknowledges the deep, serious work that forgiveness requires.  It is not just, "I'm sorry," and, "Okay, I forgive you..."

It is just not that simple ... even if it is your culture to forgive.  If that is true, then there are a set of traits that are necessary to create the condition where the response to wrongs, personal slights, etc., is forgiveness.  For instance, a strong sense of self (that doesn't allow you to feel like you are responsible for others' wrongs), the ability to truly feel compassion for others, and the sense that all people deserve the benefit of the doubt. 

What I love about the super long article (it's the NY Times Magazine) is that it demonstrates that even though those conditions to not exist, we can still find our way to true forgiveness... by taking the arduous steps required to stare down the fear, the vulnerability, the self-consciousness, etc.

It reveals the complexity and the difficulty without making it impossible.  We can get there... I can get there.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

sleepy realizations

Sometimes all we can do is to appreciate what is.

That may include our imperfection or that of another.

Does that sound funny? Not ha ha, but odd... it does to me.

As I was sitting in the airport after Christmas, I had these interesting epiphanal (I made that word up - go with it) thoughts. I should have pulled out my notebook and written them down.  Instead all I have left is that first sentence, and the other one is what I think I was trying to say ... who knows?!

I was trying to figure out if I should "do" something about my little sister -- and our apparent inability to get along anymore.  

I came up with some good, practical "solutions" before I realized that 1) it was not my job to fix it, and 2) anything I did, said, wrote (etc.) would not work.  It would be like trying to lose weight by eating cherry pie ... yeah, I do that, too.  But this time, I put the card in my bag, but I didn't write it.  [True confession -- I am still carrying it around, but I am more and more convinced I won't send it.]

What therapy (only four more sessions before they kick me to the curb) has taught me so far is that boundaries are good... but they should be defensible if you set them.  I have also realized that I am doing a pretty good job of taking care of myself -- and I will do better as I learn to not indulge in self-judgment -- slowly and surely.

Most of all, I am confirming I that I am the person I believe myself to be ... and that is a pretty great outcome from therapy.

Just for is a song that makes me want to cry and sing super loud at the same time:

Monday, January 07, 2013

2013 outlook?

This is what Brezsny has to say about the new year for me.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): I’ll be bold and predict that 2013 will be a time when you’ll discover more about the art of happiness than you have in years. Here are some clues to get you started. 1. “It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” -Agnes Repplier. 2. “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things that are beyond the power of our will.” -Epictetus. 3. “For the rational, healthy person, the desire for pleasure is the desire to celebrate his control over reality. For the neurotic, the desire for pleasure is the desire to escape from reality.” -Nathaniel Branden. 4. “Our happiness springs mainly from moderate troubles, which afford the mind a healthful stimulus, and are followed by a reaction which produces a cheerful flow of spirits.” -E. Wigglesworth. 5. “Happiness is essentially a state of going somewhere, wholeheartedly, one-directionally, without regret or reservation.” -William H. Sheldon. 6. “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” -Charles Kingsley.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Special Edition, News Round Up

I loved this story about how Walla Walla, WA took lemons and made WINE!  Yes, that's right, they are better than those folks who can make lemonade -- it is a wonderful story about how to take an economic punch and give back better than ever...and at the base of it is EDUCATION.

scroll down for a fun extra

Not pictures of Walla Walla or vineyards ... but somewhat related.

It is bittersweet to learn of this woman only from her obituary ... but there is a joy in knowing that she existed ... RIP Dr. Gerda Lerner ... her story (and herstory, too) is inspirational for me at this moment.  I just want to get through the PhD right now, I am not that focused on what will come of it at the moment.  But, she is still a shining beacon for a student like me.

P.S. A friend sent this to me ... sharing with you even though it is not "news"

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Quote Thursday ... again

Live each day
as if it is your
first, last or
only day.

-Mother Teresa

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

For the new year...

One of my favorite people, Andrea, decided to make a video log to help folks put 2012 into perspective and dream for 2013.  Here are the videos.

I am still working my towards finding my word for 2013.  When I get to the end of this journey, I will turn to this other lovely lady for my new necklace. I am hoping to be wearing it for Chinese New Year...

Andrea encouraged us to share this in community ... hoping this counts.  I am not sure if I have ever actually but this on the blog before ... here it is, uncensored. I wrote it as I watched the videos.

What can I celebrate from 2012?
 [these are the questions Andrea gave to help us organize this celebration:]
What did you create this year?
--I made a video for a class about my grandmother's school
--I decorated my office and set it up so that I could do some work there
--I tried new recipes ... and made some up ... just for me.
--A plan for finishing graduate school... put together committee, specials lists, dates for exams, etc..

What obstacles did you move through with grace? [How were you brave?]
--I gave myself a lot of room to grieve when my brother died -- not initially but when I realized that was what I needed ... I asked for help, I gave myself a break when my brain wasn't working right ... and now, still, I allow myself to cry and rant and be sad and bereft and angry -- whatever it takes when the grief moves me to feel ... I just go there with it.
--I stood up for myself to others ... and to myself.  After many long years of practicing self love, I feel like I finally turned the corner on that.

What practices did you put into place?
--I tried new coffee shops -- building the number of places that I feel safe and comfortable here
--The one I am working on the most ... being compassionate with myself.

How did you choose to take care of yourself?
--I gave myself permission to not be perfect and to not beat up on myself for not being perfect.  In practice this often meant forgiving myself for not turning in perfect papers -- even mediocre papers, with notes in the margins to whomever read them that they were unfinished projects.
--I gave myself permission to sleep more and take days off even when I had piles of work to do.  It turns out there will always be piles of work to do.
--I did battle with so-called medical professionals to figure out what was going on with me -- and why I wasn't getting adequate health care.
--I asked for help -- perhaps the biggest one.  Not unlike the repeating question exercise at the meditation retreat, I am finding that the deeper I go into these questions, the closer I get to the "answer" *wink*.

How did you deepen your relationships?
--I am here trying to practice compassion as well ... and to let go of the shape of relationships past ... and leave room for them to become something different.

What can you acknowledge and let go of?
 [these are the questions Andrea gave to help us organize the letting go:]
What was the hardest thing about 2012?
--Without exception losing my brother was the hardest thing about this year.  Not only losing an important person in my life, but watching my family grieve this loss knowing that there was nothing I could really do to help them.  It is what ultimately made me realize that I needed to focus on helping myself ... so that I could have the strength to stand up for them, too.

What is there to grieve about 2012?
--Losing my brother also through a big monkey wrench in all my time sensitive plans for grad school which I am still trying to recover from.  It forced me to get very real about what I can do ... what I can't do and what I can -- and forgiving myself for anything that doesn't get done.

What were your disappointments?
--I had this idea that I could open to love and that someone to love would magically appear.  I gave my heart, somewhat tentatively, and got it stomped on ... more than once.  Ah, well... still sad about that and really disappointed. 

I am not really ready to choose my word for the year ... stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Gifts from the Universe

Not so long ago, I related a story about a card I bought many years ago, and the card I sent as a follow up.  Then, I went to my mail box a few weeks ago, and there was a package waiting for me. 

 The thing is we think that we are islands ... and we are not.  We only have to reach out in order to find the others who will support us ... who will understand us... who will let us be. 
 Dr. Posyn sent me a lovely card, a deck of self love cards and a list of her other cards and artwork.

 It was a beautiful and thoughtful reminder.