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.