Friday, May 30, 2014

On Connection

"Sibling relationships - and 80 percent of Americans have at least one - outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after quarrels that would sink any friendship. They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty and distrust." - Erica E. Goode

I think it is difficult to describe or understand connection.  Sometimes, I think we imagine there is only one way to connect; we know it when we feel it.  But the reality is that there are all kinds of connection that are equally close but look remarkably different.  I know that my connection to my siblings is both strong like diamonds and lethal like kryptonite.  And my connection to each of them is different, unique. 

I can say I felt closest to my older brother growing up and as an adult, but our connection was not about talking frequently or spending time together on a regular basis.  It is not the "best friends" connection that my sisters felt to each other.  It was not the connection my older brother and sister had borne of so many years so very close to each other; close enough to hurt each other so often when they were young.  The protective quality we three older felt for the two younger is as fierce as that of a parent but tinged with the knowledge that we don't have that kind of power over them.  My younger siblings seem to exhibit equal disdain for that authority and yearning for that protection.   

I have been thinking about that "parent" feeling versus the "sibling" or "aunt" feeling: the differences, the similarities, the privileges and duties, the spaces where the authority blurs and the where it becomes starkly clear that I have none.  It feels overwhelming and scary and confusing all at the same time. 

I spent what felt like the most fleeting moments with my niece this week on her birthday.  She is different, unique in her own way, and connection with her has a particular look.  She may not always read social cues, maybe never actually, but it does not inhibit her ability to connect.  She has what seems like a typical connection to her brother – that love, hate, protection, jealousy, no words needed connection.  She has the uncanny ability to channel her mother's emotions.  But she was never a hugger, and she always complains when I plant a loud, effusive kiss on her cheek.  In one of those moments this week, I responded to her complaint, and she denied feeling that way.  Ah, it is just what we do … since she had a big smile on her face while she complained, I knew that it was true. 

On our way home, I assured my mother how pleased my niece had been with her gift.  My mother remarked that she didn't ever know if she had connected with my niece.  Inside, I sighed … I know that frustration, but I also know if we look under and around we can see the connection.  And we have to keep remembering to impose our kisses and hugs in the place where my brother would have done it.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Poetry Thursday, RIP Dr. Angelou

Tuscany, May 2012

Maya Angelou went home to be with the Lord yesterday.  Luckily, she left us some beautiful words to remember her by...

Tuscany, May 2012

Passing Time 

Your skin 
like dawn

Mine like musk

One paints the beginning

of a certain end.

The other, the end of a

sure beginning. 

Tuscan sunset, May 2012

I posted other of her poems on this blog here and here.  Some other favorites are here and here.  And more and more...

Thank you so much, Dr. Angelou, for a treasure trove of feeling, resilience and inspiration.  May you rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

No Ordinary Love

 Happy birthday, Quetzalli
Greg's first born changed his life in many ways, but, perhaps, he was most altered by the pure love he felt for her from the moment of her birth. 

It was no ordinary love; it was fierce, strong and abiding. 

He was always protective with us, but also pushed us to new experiences and adventures. 

His love for Quetzalli was different, though. 

His sense of protection greater, his pride more abundant... it was like watching a small child wrap an unknowing adult around her little finger. 

And she didn't have to lift a finger to do it. 

She made his heart grow like the Grinch's heart, til it was bursting with the joy and fear only big love can bring.

Happy birthday, mija, know that your dad will never let go of that love.  I hope you will always remember that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Journal challenge, part 2

For now we’re only talking about them, and you’ll be thinking about the possibilities of growth. Journal about or answer these questions:
What would you being doing now if you had no financial barriers?
If I had no financial barriers, I would take myself on a long vacation somewhere beautiful, calm and far away.  It might even have no access to email or phones.  Maybe I would indulge in a long, say 9 nights, silent meditation retreat.  It must mean that I need some respite, with no input, to get my head straight.

Afterwards, I would just get back to my school work with no need to take time to make more money.

There are not a lot of things I want to do that require money except for travel.  I have friends I cannot visit in my car, friends I would like to see... and so money for airfare would be great.

I might get a new car ... but while this one is running, it is not a priority and would change my life very little.
How would you like your life to be different?
I would hope that after some time not worrying about work -- and some time in silence, I would be calmer, more patient, if that's possible.  I would hope that with security and solace comes a little more compassion.

Found, on the road, 2009

In five years what do you want your life to look like?
In five years, I want to have the dissertation behind me and the prospect of finding a job and a little more stability in front of me.  I don't think I would have already found a job, but I would hope to be o the job market in five years... fingers crossed, that is my *plan*.

Monday, May 26, 2014

NRU mish mash

For Memorial Day, here is a site from the LA Times documenting the war lost -- and giving folks a chance to add remembrances.  May we never forget those who have given their lives for us.
This one has been sitting open in my browser for several days.  The headline was provocative, or interesting, or something: "Scientists enlist border collies to clean beaches" -- it was updated later to say chase sea gulls.  I was taken aback with the chase sea gulls -- but it was a good one after all ... I particularly liked the part about the dogs loving their work.  If only we could all be that lucky!

Amazon and Jeff Bezos are becoming more like WalMart and Sam Walton every day.  YIKES.

A fascinating piece on the politics of being a cardinal or archibishop during the reign of Francis.  It appears that the NY cardinal isn't the darling he had been before the end of Benedict.  I am mostly interested in how the pope is moving his agenda.  Every time I read something about this, I am more convinced that Francis is serious about getting the church to be more like the one described by Jesus in the New Testament ... could it really be true?

This is another one that has been sitting open in my browser.  I already felt strongly about never letting any child I love play football, but this study seems to prove that the game is not worth the years of trouble it brings.  I do hope that other researchers will do the necessary longitudinal studies suggested by this report.

*******late addition
Here is a part of the prayer the pope offered from the Holy Land:
 “May we learn to understand the sufferings of others, 
may no one abuse the name of God through violence, 
may we work together for justice and peace!”
 I hope there are some folks down here listening as well as those in heaven.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

These should be happy days...

Someday, I hope, these days won't be so hard.

This day, twenty five years ago, we welcomed Veronica Rose into the world.

I stood by my sister's side and counted (as fast as I could) through her contractions and fed her ice chips when she could rest.

It hurt me to see her in so much pain even though I knew at the end we would have this precious gift.

Now, the pain of not having my sister here to celebrate her daughter's birthday is infinitely more cruel.

Someday, maybe the pain will subside and I can just celebrate the lives of both my beautiful niece and her mother.

Right now, though, it is just so painful.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Grief is ...

Grief is
much more than just crying 
and feeling sad.

It is anger
and sleeplessness
and hunger
and nausea
and loneliness
and anger.
It makes you numb
and prickly
all at the same time.

Sometimes you can't remember
anything but the aching loss
in your life, 
in your soul.
Sometimes the favorite memory
makes you laugh and smile
and sometimes it makes you
cry and cry.

It is shaking your fist at the sky
and crawling into the fetal position
and digging into the ground on your knees.
It is doing something you never tried before,
and hiding in a dark room,
and worrying when you will hit by lightning
or a bus or a car or if the big one will hit.

It makes you realize you need to live 
and it makes you feel like dying.

Sometimes all at once.
Grief is not just crying 
and feeling sad.

It is bigger, deeper, wider, taller, 
and more confusing
and frustrating.

And there is no way around it.
You won't find an answer
at the bottom of a bottle,
in cookies, cakes or pies,
in someone else's arms,
or by causing yourself harm.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

after the snark...

Alaska 2008
...may we all be at peace.

I am working on judgement. 

After yesterday's post, you might not believe it.  Sometimes you just have to get it out so that it doesn't cause you more pain.

It is not realistic to hope for a life without judgement.  We judge, assess, measure, attach meaning all the time, about everything.  Honestly, we couldn't make calculated moves if we didn't -- or move at all, in some cases.  Is that car too close, is it far enough away for me to change lanes?

You get the picture.

But there are other judgements -- you know the ones.

They are assessments but they signal more about how we feel about ourselves than they do about what move to make next.

Since I moved home, the judgement voice has been getting louder, and more shrill.  She is defensive beyond belief.  And I know it is because I feel judged, all the time.  So, I am trying to hear the judgement and recognize the plea with in it.  I try to apply compassion to that crying soul inside myself ... sometimes I succeed and sometimes I just hear more judgements -- this time of myself.

I bring this up now, the day after the snark, not because I had some wonderful, life changing revelation -- no, but I did feel guilty the whole time the snarkiness was oozing out of my fingertips.

I opened this piece on sympathetic joy by Andrea, aka one of my favorite people, and I wanted to share it because it did touch a nerve in me.

I want to release my judgement because I want to feel better about me ... reveling in others' success and happiness might be one way to do it.

I am going to resolve, here and now, to do my special metta mantras every morning as a way to start the day in compassion and love rather than in judgement.

Here they are in "I" form -- always start with myself as I widen my circle out to the world:

May I acknowledge abundance
May I allow love to flow to and from me
May I embrace my gifts and talents
May I feel beautiful and strong

May I see myself with love and compassion
May I love myself in failure and triumph
May I express my tender, whimsical self
May I open to all the love around me

Poetry Thursday, more from Mattie


Born of the 
Dust of humility
Spread on the 
Wings of pride,
Carried by 
Winds of hope,
I grow with the 
Ebbing life tide.
[January 2001]

One of Mom's many roses

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

there are reasons...[*snarky*]

...why I do not have a fb account, or to be more precise why I deactivated the account I had. These postings, however, demonstrate why I find fb not useful for either disseminating, deciphering or denoting so-called personal statements. The quotes that seem suspiciously not to have been uttered by the purported author are the least egregious, but still annoying.

I simple review of the internet should have alerted the literate fb user that this is not a quote from Hemingway.  Of course, who knows if any of those who *liked* and *shared* without checking have ever read Hemingway.  Anyone who had probably would have scoffed, giggled or, at least, investigated as it sounds nothing like the Hemingway.  

It is probably too much to ask that pithy pieces about popular culture be well-researched or cited.  But mixing together racist, liberal, libertarian and activist rhetoric should, like the purported Hemingway quote, have suggested to the fb user that reposting this would be problematic.

Are there really people out there who cringe at having to press 1 to *speak* English (something no person who actually speaks English has ever had to do) would likewise care about whether the homeless go without eating?  This, like to many other of these, ends with the blackmailing sound of chain mails of old.  This bit should make anyone tempted to *like* or *share* this think twice, unfortunately, it does not always.  I checked back on the person who shared this and noted that some friends swatted at him, though no one yet has read it thoroughly enough to pick up on the "speak English" weirdness.

I would take sentiments, such as those expressed in the photo below, seriously except that it is not being expressed by one person, rather it is being copied by another.  Also, can't you love that you are like your mom without taking swipes at others who may not have had the same relationship with their mothers.  Isn't there some positive way of expressing gratitude towards your mom? 
That's all for today ... better stay as far away from fb as possible as I obviously cannot find anything good to say about it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

NRU mostly education, long *sorry*

Fascinating article about the harm of using conspiracy theories as a tool for learning critical thinking.  I wish that the authors and the newspaper would have provided a link to the studies on which they based their reasoning.  However, I am not surprised by the finding. Now, if I could only get someone to do the research on what watching FOX news does to people's health as well as their outlook on the world.

I am glad that UC is finally looking, at the urging of the governor, at community college transfer rates, where they come from and where they go to.  I hope that this first cursory look at the issue is not the only look they will take at the issue.  It is a complex issue that is greater than just where people transfer -- it also involves the way that community colleges are funded, their varied and sometimes contradictory missions and the kind of counseling that these complexities breeds.

I am glad that someone is looking at the *test prep* issue within K-12.  Follow the money dear reporters and see how corporate interests are at the heart of the testing fiasco we all now bow down to in K-12 education.  For those who went into this with clean hearts, you know who you are, it is time to look at what 10+ years of testing has wrought within the educational systems.  The grim reports out from the NAEP should be ample quantitative proof that none of the goals we hoped for have been met.  Back to the drawing board on accountability -- and lock the corporate hounds out this time -- to see what we can do to fix this mistake.

And on news about the other failed experiment, charters, this NYTimes piece looks at the charters in NYC and the way that these so-called incubators are not producing healthy remedies for the schools that need them most.  It is sad for me to see that the only things that charters have bred successfully are competition and resentment.

I wasn't going to feature a piece on suspensions in a nearby city (coincidentally the same city where my father and his siblings were educated) -- the headline gave these pieces of info: overall suspensions down, suspensions of Latino students up.  In the article, the author points to the discrepancies in the number of students served and the number of students suspended by sub-group, but there is no analysis provided - beyond some self-serving "those kids" statements from one of the board members.  All I could think of while I read it was that some things never change.  I didn't want to dignify the lackluster article with a mention.

And then, I read this piece on Holder's commencement speech.  I so wish that our president had seen his way to let Holder do what he could have done as attorney general.  Holder is the very opposite of the first "Latino" AG that I was so ashamed of.  I guess I can only hope that this speech will go viral ... it deserves much more attention than most of the drivel that is *viral* -- no, it's not a cat video.  Here is the text of the speech.  The Christian Science Monitor was the only place I could find video - and it is not the right speech, just one minute from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund marking the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Ed.  There is something very wrong with the world when you can't find the video of this kind of speech, but the cat videos are on everyone's fb page.  UGH.

Finally, because I am posting this first thing tomorrow morning, I am going to go ahead and include this piece about *trigger alerts* and college campuses.  I was ambivalent about posting this because it is difficult to take a position on it.  I rant and rave about many things, and there are pieces of this that are cringe worthy, but I think there is an important piece to this puzzle that is not being discussed.  It was not difficult for many to take a stand -- but I am conflicted.  As someone who has spent some time of late on a college campus, I can attest to the cry baby syndrome and the real sensitivity issues still ignored on campuses.  So, here it is ... yes, these students are adults, but in an era when we have seen so many school's become the targets of senseless violence, why would we not consider this issue?  The many people coming down against these students take a very cavalier position on the sensitivity -- especially when we are encouraging so many veterans, many with combat experience, to come to campus.  We want their money but not their issues?  Um... wasn't there a deluge of headlines about the fact that sexual assault on campus is *still* not taken seriously on campuses?  PTSD as a result of trauma is part of the world that we live in ... and looking for a solution should not be spat on.  I will admit that I did not read all the *recommendations* so I cannot attest to the viability of taking all the sensitivities into account -- but what I heard was a group of students asking that professors simply bring to the syllabus a note when triggers might happen.  I don't see how that inhibits a professor -- it may force someone to consider what others might find difficult to deal with -- and if we have to think about others' feelings, would that be the worst thing in the world?  It may take more time and thought -- isn't that what we are at the university to do?

I read a blog -- and occasionally they post *trigger warnings* - it doesn't stop the blogger from writing what she (invariably it is a woman's voice on this blog) wants to write; it doesn't stop me from reading any content.  Where is the harm? Where is the foul?  I think it gives the reader/viewer the opportunity to prepare mentally for the content or to decide that he/she cannot be prepared for this at this moment.  I think that is helping people take personal responsibility -- I don't think that it is removing responsibility, I don't think it is making people weak or insinuating any responsibility on others.  Ok ... that's enough ... it's off my chest...

Friday, May 16, 2014


For some reason, when I tell people I was a Girl Scout, I get raised eyebrows.  Maybe I am not the picture of a Girl Scout, but not unlike these girls, thanks to a wonderful leader, it was an incredible experience for me.  I am so glad that these adults have taken such a proactive approach to helping these girls have a lovely and productive childhood.  I wish I had the time to devote to young folks like this, but I am not sure I am Girl Scout leader material.  Maybe some day...

I truly loved the movie Malik Bendjelloul directed and I am sorry we won't be gifted with other treasures.  My heart breaks that this young man was so depressed that he found no other way outMay he rest in peace.  May we be more mindful of those around us that we might find a way to offer hope when there seems to be none.

I had the privilege of seeing Angela Davis talk in Albuquerque a few years ago - it was a highlight of the time I spent there.  If you get the chance to see her while she is in Los Angeles, it will be well worth it.  Intellectuals of her caliber with the moral compass she possesses are rare treasures.  I am so grateful she never hid her light under a bushel despite the many attempts of others to silence her.

It is no secret that I do not believe in the death penalty, and that I feel our *justice* system is closer to vengeance than rehabilitation.  I don't see the purpose of our jails except to keep in someone who we truly cannot help to become a useful part of society -- just who fits that description best is, unfortunately, not something upon which we all can agree.  This opinion piece on the near-execution of a mentally impaired man in Texas reminds us of the very real biases that masquerade as policy.  I only wish the author had pursued the arguments for why we crimes are committed by people like the man whose execution was stayed.  It is patently unfair to deny full access to citizenship to the mentally impaired and then execute them when they turn to crime.  If you don't understand what I mean, attend one class period of special education at the high school level and judge for yourself whether or not we have helped to equip students with these kinds of disabilities with what they need to survive in the *real* world.

Here is another education piece which I feel missed the boat.  It is about the gap in skills possessed by high school graduates and desired by those in business.  Unfortunately, the fact that all students need high quality education that is not measured by tests but by skills was completely left out.  Another important fact not addressed is which students need these skills ... there is no recognition that in the world we live in now college-ready is career-ready.  The same skills students will need to tackle college will be needed in almost every job, not the least of which is being able to read and understand something more complicated than a text or fb status.  Ugh... reality check? I don't see one here at all.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Poetry Thursday

In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet, it is only love
which sets us free.

-Maya Angelou