jeudi, novembre 24, 2016

garden meditation

Garden Meditation - via Heather Hatch McMurphy Kramer
Let us give thanks for a bounty of people.
For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds,
And the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.
Let us give thanks
For generous friends with hearts and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them.
For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and
As elegant as a row of corn,and the others, as plain as potatoes
And so good for us;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and
As humorous as Jerusalem artichokes;
Let us give thanks for serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash,
As persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini,
And for those who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see us through the winter.
Let us give thanks for old friends nodding like sunflowers in the Evening-time, And young friends, coming on as fast as radishes,
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite
Our blights, our wilts, and our witherings.
And finally, let us give thanks for friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their time that we might have life thereafter.
For all of these we give thanks

mardi, novembre 22, 2016

the good that's in us and the good we do will outlive us

This story is heartbreakingly beautiful. Christine Ennis, mom of 3 young daughters, including an infant, is nearing the end of her life due to Stage 4 breast cancer.

"The good that’s in us and the good that we do will outlive us." - Fred Dickey
Mother of three making peace with cancer and death
By Fred Dickey
November 18, 2016, 9:55 AM

I don’t want to write this. I really don’t.

But sometimes you have to swallow hard and do your job, because stories of courage and great decency are so infrequent that to ignore one would betray the journalist’s duty.


Such a story is Christie Ennis.

Christie has Stage 4 breast cancer. I first met and wrote about her last December. At that time, she was battling her disease while eight months pregnant. She impressed me, and a great many others, with her gentleness, strength and affection for everyone. That has not changed. But neither has the cancer, except to get worse.

Christie, 36, her husband, John, and their three daughters live in a small rental home in Clairemont. John works long hours in the restaurant business. He also watches over the kids and does homemaking chores after sleeping for a few hours.

Christie is a pretty woman. A bald head, a body bloated with water and eyes misted with pain and sorrow don’t obscure that.

She is also a lovely woman, but that emanates from who she is, not how she looks.

She is also a brave woman, and you will see why.

*

I walk into the living room where Christie is curled into a chair with a blanket around her legs. She looks up and smiles broadly and greets me with an outstretched hand.

It’s also present and evident, that damned disease, but she makes it unimportant, just for a moment.

I ask, lamely, how she’s doing.

She knows exactly what I mean, but does not falter. “My cancer has been growing,” she says. The smile weakens but doesn’t leave her lips, because she’s reluctant to spread her grief to someone else.

“We found out last week that it spread to my skull, and through my arms and ribs and pelvis and sternum and legs. It's everywhere. It's in my liver. It's done quite a number on the liver — consumed the right lobe, then affected the spleen, which causes more pain.

“That's all happening right now. It's very difficult because (the doctors’) hope is to keep me alive. Once you're terminally ill, it's very hard.”

John, standing nearby, says: “The conversation with the doctors is more about easing pain and making her comfortable. There's not a whole lot of talk about remission anymore.”

She says, “My tumor markers recently exceeded the maximum measurement, and after that, they stopped counting. I started to feel abdominal pain and have some swelling. I got a fever and I got bad delirium.”

Consequently, she has been put back on chemotherapy, her third session. The chemical is Taxol, and it is very potent. It is injected through a port in her chest. She says it seems to be stopping tumor growth, but no one knows for how long.

“Taxol is supposed to be great. They just have to find the balance for your body. At first, it was really strong. Too strong, like it-almost-killed-me strong.

“It left me writhing on the floor like death. I went to the hospital in an ambulance. People thought I was dying. The dosage had been way too high and it caused terrible side effects.”

John says, “When that happened, I thought we’d lost her.”

What are the side effects?

She looks into the distance, searching for the proper awful words. “It’s crippling. The edema. The sores all through your (gastrointestinal) tract. They start in your mouth, really gross, scabby things that go all the way down. It affects everything … the exhaustion … the neuropathy ...”

Normal cells are orderly and know their place and purpose. Cancer cells, for reasons mainly known only to them, are ones that go crazy and repeatedly replicate and spread. They take over and disrupt the body’s ability to function, and when allowed to run wild, will kill. Microscopic Frankensteins.

Taxol is a chemo drug whose purpose is to destroy those outlaw cancer cells by making them forget how to reproduce. Sometimes it works, often it doesn’t. It also plays hell with normal cells.

However, people who have Taxol injected into them to the extent of Christie are transported to a medieval dungeon where the side effects mimic the rack and iron maiden. If one were to make a list of side effects, the column would carry forward to a second page.

As we talk, daughter Vivian flits around the room, busying herself with 2-year-old things. Grace, 10 months old, sits on the floor nearby, probably strategizing about those first steps she’ll soon embark on. Alana, 6, is at school.

Christie’s lips quiver and her eyes mist. “I don't want to cry, but (chemotherapy is) really much harder this time. I’m having a really hard time.

“It’s dark, very dark, really dark. It's a very awful place to be because you're all alone.

“The weakness. I can't even hold my baby. I can't physically pick her up. That makes me really sad. Somebody else has to do the things that I should be doing for her, like putting her in her high chair or giving her a bath.”

From your tone, I sense you feel guilty.

“Oh, I feel terribly guilty, and I feel helpless. I feel very sad. That's my world. That's my purpose. Raising my children is what I do, but now I can't do that. It resonates from such a deep chord that you can't take care of your own little cubs. It's very sad.”

She looks at Grace playing at her feet. “I can't pick her up when she's crying. It's really very tough. That's the part I mean about being alone. It's also tough on John.”

Her voice is sad but matter-of-fact as she talks about something that’s normal in her situation, but rarely spoken of.

“Oh, it's got to be really tough on him. It's really hard on us at this time. I feel like we're so divided.”

How do you mean?

“Now, he needs to be wrapped up in his job. He works so hard and tries to take care of the kids because I can't. I feel like he's angry, mainly at the disease, maybe even at me a little, which I know is normal. He’s very loving and supportive, but there's not any talking or friendship or the kind of stuff that happened before, that united-ness.”

She accepts my offered handkerchief.

“Thank you.” A short laugh that she doesn’t feel. “It’s better than my sleeve.” **

John talks about the difficulties of making do and getting by in their time of trial. He has a manager’s job at a new pricey steakhouse, and he works as a server at banquets part-time to pay their hefty bills. They have just met their $12,000 out-of-pocket insurance quota, but have found it necessary to employ a full-time nanny.

“Every month, it’s skating on thin ice,” he says of the financial burden.

Even so, the family has started a college fund for the girls, although thus far it’s filled only with good intentions. Both Christie and John are college graduates and want the same opportunity for their daughters.

Christie enjoyed a career working worldwide in the hospitality industry.

Through it all, she retained her Catholic roots and recently adopted a parish in La Jolla called Mary, Star of the Sea.

When you say, "Why me, God?" what comes back to you?

“I don't say ‘Why me, God?’ I just pray for peace, for courage, for strength, and to just keep going.”

I’m amazed at the number of people who care about you, who follow you on Facebook.

“Oh my goodness, it's so overwhelming in the most beautiful way. The prayers and the thoughts and the love that people are sharing … my goodness, all that kindness,” she says in wonder.

*

John and Christie had settled into what she calls a “solemn partnership” in lieu of marriage, but last summer on a Hawaii vacation, John proposed.

“He said he understood what the road ahead looked like, but that he wanted to be there through everything. He was on one knee by a waterfall. He was fumbling in his backpack and pulled out a beautiful ruby ring. He was so cute. I cried.”

Six weeks ago, John and Christie had a formal wedding in New Jersey. The whole family was there to celebrate with them.

But when she returned, the cancer was waiting — angrily.

*

Describe the pain, Christie.

“The pain is the worst because it's just such a physical reminder of what you're going through. It's excruciating: sharp and stabbing and dull and achy and sore.

Can you eat OK?

“Yes, give me a big pizza. But I can't eat what I want because there's no space because of the edema. Everything is so swollen, my stomach is so tiny, but I want to eat that whole pizza pie. My appetite is there. Just the ability to eat is hindered.”

Christie does not shy away from straight talk, but this is the question I don’t want to ask: At what point do you say, “No more”?

“It’s really tough. I sometimes think with my life reduced to this, like laying under a blanket ...That’s not a way to live. I know it’s very controversial ...”

What’s controversial?

Her gaze does not leave my face. “California is a right-to-die state. It's something I consider, because I don't …” Christie’s eyes fill at the unfinished thought. “The idea of death is sad for me because I don't want to leave my children, my husband, my family, but I'm at peace with it. It’s OK.

“But being consumed, turned into mush by this spreading thing. It's not something I want anyone to witness. I don't want to have to go through it.”

Speaking those bleak words is tiring, and her voice softens. “It's exhausting, but you just …The option is to lay down, literally lay down and die, but I’m not there yet.”

How would you like people to think of you?

The change of subject momentarily lightens her spirit, perhaps by thinking of friends.

“Wow. I would like them to think of me as positive and loving and kind. However, with the pain, sometimes it's impossible to be a nice human, and I’m not at my best.”

What do you want for the girls?

“I want them to just feel such love and have a solid support system. I want for them to be well-rounded, well-mannered, and good humans. They have to be good humans. They better not go out there and reflect poorly on me.”

Discussing the girls in a future that does not include her is a stab in her heart.

“I really want to get so much better because I ...” She pauses to dab her eyes. “You normally don’t see me cry very much, but I'm a crier these days. I just want to get up and walk around. The things that you take for granted, oh my goodness, the things you take for granted.

“I don’t sleep with John in the same bed. Our bed is physically too high, and so I’ve been sleeping in this front room where the bed is very low … Just things that you miss. Sharing that space with someone.”

John comes in and reminds us that the time nears for Christie to get ready to go to the hospital for her next chemo session. I suggest we stop and start packing up.

Her smile widens and she says, “Yes, please. Let's stop on a note where I'm not crying.”

**

Cancer is serendipitous. Willful. It can confound oncologists and let its victim survive for years. Or it might shock them by a sudden plunge to the death. But if the affliction is severe enough, it will eventually get to where it’s going.

If cancer doesn’t allow Christie to see her girls grow, loved ones won’t forget how she reached out through the pain and touched them when she could no longer hold them. How she cried at the buds she would not see bloom. And how her soul ached not to leave them.

It’s wisely said that the good that’s in us and the good that we do will outlive us. In years to come, Christie’s daughters will look at the picture on the mantle and ask, “Tell me again what my mother was like?” And the words will glow, and Christie will live.

Fred Dickey’s home page is freddickey.net. He believes every life is an adventure and welcomes ideas at freddickey1@gmail.com.

lundi, novembre 14, 2016

quotable

“We can’t expect the world to get better by itself. We have to create something we can leave the next generation.” Gwen Ifill, American journalist, television newscaster, and author (September 29, 1955 – November 14, 2016)

jeudi, novembre 10, 2016

all this i did without you

Tom Hiddleston, deliciously reading Gerald Durrell's love letter to his future wife, Lee McGeorge. I'm a puddle after hearing this.

 
Letter No. 028
July 31st, 1978
My darling McGeorge,
You said that things seemed clearer when they were written down. Well, herewith is a very boring letter in which I will try and put everything down so that you may read and re-read it in horror at your folly in getting involved with me. Deep breath.
To begin with I love you with a depth and passion that I have felt for no one else in this life and if it astonishes you it astonishes me as well. Not I hasten to say, because you are not worth loving. Far from it. It’s just that, first of all, I swore I would not get involved with another woman. Secondly, I have never had such a feeling before and it is almost frightening. Thirdly, I would never have thought it possible that another human being could occupy my waking (and sleeping) thoughts to the exclusion of almost everything else.
Fourthly, I never thought that — even if one was in love — one could get so completely besotted with another person, so that a minute away from them felt like a thousand years.
Fifthly, I never hoped, aspired, dreamed that one could find everything one wanted in a person. I was not such an idiot as to believe this was possible. Yet in you I have found everything I want: you are beautiful, gay, giving, gentle, idiotically and deliciously feminine, sexy, wonderfully intelligent and wonderfully silly as well. I want nothing else in this life than to be with you, to listen and watch you (your beautiful voice, your beauty), to argue with you, to laugh with you, to show you things and share things with you, to explore your magnificent mind, to explore your magnificent mind, to explore your wonderful body, to help you, protect you , serve you, and bash you on the head when I think you are wrong… not to put too fine a point on it I consider that I am the only man outside mythology to have found the crock of gold at the rainbow’s end.
But — having said all that — let us consider things in detail. Don’t let this become public but… well, I have one or two faults. Minor ones, I hasten to say. For example, I am inclined to be overbearing. I do it for the best possible motives (all tyrants say that) but I do tend (without thinking) to tread people underfoot. You must tell me when I am doing it to you, my sweet, because it can be a very bad thing in a marriage.
Right. Second blemish. This, actually, is not so much a blemish  of character  as a blemish of circumstance. Darling I want you to be you in your own right, and I will do everything I can to help you in this. But you must take into consideration that I am also me in my own right and that I have a headstart on you… what I am trying to say is that you must not feel offended if you are sometimes treated simply as my wife. Always remember that what you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts. But I am an established ‘creature’ in the world, and so — on occasions — you will have to live in my shadow. Nothing gives me less pleasure than this but it is a fact of life to be faced.
Third (and very important and nasty) blemish: jealousy. I don’t think you know what jealousy is (thank God) in the real sense of the word. I know you have felt jealousy over Lincoln’s wife and child but this is what I call normal jealousy, and this — to my regret — is not what I’ve got. What I have got is a black moster that can pervert my good sense, my good humour and any goodness that I have in my make-up. It is really a Jekyll and Hyde situation… my Hyde is stronger than my good sense and defeats me, hard though I try. As I told you, I have always known that this lurks within me, but I couldn’t control it, and my monster slumbered and nothing happened to awake it. Then I met you and I felt my monster stir and become half awake when you told me of Lincoln and others you have known, and with your letter my monster came out of its lair, black, irrational, bigoted, stupid, evil, malevolent. You will never know how terribly corrosive jealousy is; it is a physical pain as though you had swallowed acid or red hot coals. It is the most terrible of feelings. But you can’t help it — at least I can’t, and God knows I’ve tried. I don’t want any ex-boyfriends sitting in church when I marry you. On our wedding day, I want nothing but happiness, for both you and me, and I know I won’t be happy if there is a church full of your ex-conquests. When I marry you I will have no past, only a future: I don’t want to drag my past into our future and I don’t want you to do it , either. Remember I am jealous of you because I love you. You are never jealous of something you don’t care about. OK, enough about jealousy.
Now, let me tell you something… I have seen a thousand sunsets and sunrises, on land where it floods forest and mountains with honey-coloured light, at sea where it rises and sets like a blood orange in a multi-coloured nest of cloud, slipping in and out of the vast ocean. I have seen a thousand moons: harvest moons like gold coins, winter moons as white as ice chips, new moons like baby swans’ feathers.
I have seen seas as smooth as if painted, coloured like shot silk or blue as a kingfisher or transparent as glass or black and crumpled with foam, moving ponderously and murderously.
I have felt winds straight from the South Pole, bleak and wailing like a lost child; winds as tender and warm as a lover’s breath; winds that carried the astringent smell of salt and the death of seaweeds; winds that carried the moist rich smell of a forest floor, the smell of a million flowers. Fierce winds that churned and moved the sea like yeast, or winds that made the waters lap at the shore like a kitten.
I have known silence: the cold, earthy silence at the bottom of a newly dug well; the implacable stony silence of a deep cave; the hot, drugged midday silence when everything is hypnotized and stilled into silence by the eye of the sun; the silence when great music ends.
I have heard summer cicadas cry so that the sound seems stitched into your bones. I have heard tree frogs in an orchestration as complicated as Bach singing in a forest lit by a million emerald fireflies. I have heard the Keas calling over grey glaciers that groaned to themselves like old people as they inched their way to the sea. I have heard the hoarse street vendor cries of the mating Fur seals as they sang to their sleek golden wives, the crisp staccato admonishment of the Rattlesnake, the cobweb squeak of the Bat and the belling roar of the Red deer knee-deep in purple heather. I have heard Wolves baying at a winter’s moon, Red Howlers making the forest vibrate with their roaring cries. I have heard the squeak, purr and grunt of a hundred multi-coloured reef fishes.
I have seen hummingbirds flashing like opals round a tree of scarlet blooms, humming like a top. I have seen flying fish, skittering like quicksilver across the blue waves, drawing silver lines on the surface with their tails. I have seen Spoonbills flying home to roost like a scarlet banner across the sky. I have seen Whales, black as tar, cushioned on a cornflower blue sea, creating a Versailles of fountain with their breath. I have watched butterflies emerge and sit, trembling, while the sun irons their wings smooth. I have watched Tigers, like flames, mating in the long grass. I have been dive-bombed by an angry Raven, black and glossy as the Devil’s hoof. I have lain in water warm as milk, soft as silk, while around me played a host of Dolphins. I have met a thousand animals and seen a thousand wonderful things… but –
All this I did without you. This was my loss.
All this I want to do with you. This will be my gain.
All this I would gladly have forgone for the sake of one minute of your company, for your laugh, your voice, your eyes, hair, lips, body, and above all for your sweet, ever surprising mind which is an enchanting quarry in which it is my privilege to delve.

jeudi, octobre 13, 2016

the guest house

The Guest House  
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival. 
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor. 
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight. 
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in. 
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
-Rumi

vendredi, juin 24, 2016

quotable

History is a vast early warning system. -Norman Cousins, editor and author (24 Jun 1915-1990)

brexit

Thoughts on the UK vote to leave the EU:
  1. This is a wake-up call for the coming US presidential election. 
  2. Bigotry and isolationism have a huge cost financially and socially.
  3. Scotland is likely to push for a new vote for independence.
  4. Young people wanted to stay in the EU. That provides some hope. 

lundi, juin 13, 2016

late fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
-Raymond Carter

mardi, juin 07, 2016

family tradition

When I was a little girl, I remember being very excited to go to the polls with my dad after work. Our polling place was in a neighbor's garage. A large American flag was posted on the door and we would quietly wait until it was his turn to step into the booth with his ballot book and vote.

I'm missing my father today. It's election day in California and I'm planning to take my kids to the polls, just like my Popi used to. It's the first time that they'll be old enough to (maybe) remember what it's like.

I'll tell my kids that I'm taking them to the polls like my dad used to take me. I'll tell them how their papi grew up in the shadow of Uruguay's dictatorship, where it wasn't safe to talk about politics or to vote for many years. I'll tell them how I used to work the polls in San Diego County before they were born. I'll tell them about the first time I was old enough to vote. And I'll tell them why this photo in the LA Times gave me goosebumps and brought me to tears as a college sophomore in 1994:
People queued up to vote in the first free elections in South Africa, 1994. Most got in line well before sunrise.

I'm hoping that today's visit to the polls creates a habit and a sense of responsibility. For now, it is an opportunity to talk about raising one's voice in discussions, and participating in making decisions that affect them.

I owe my sense of civic duty to my parents, who spoke of current events and geopolitics every night at dinner. They worked the polls for years in my hometown after retiring. They were also die-hard conservatives who encouraged me to find my own political voice, even though it was diametrically opposed to theirs.

I want the same legacy for my kids and hope that voting and a passion for debate and politics carry on in the next generation the way they have for me. I'm pretty confident that my family stories, along with those of their father, will impress upon them the privilege and responsibility of being informed voters.

So when I step into the booth, clutching my voter guide and asking my kids to be respectful of people around us, this maudlin politico will probably have dewy eyes and her heart in her throat. I'll be thinking of my father, who would've found the lack of civility in this year's elections particularly disturbing. I'm certain that my Popi would've been proud of me for carrying on the family tradition and teaching my kids that democracy means showing up and exercising one of our most precious liberties -- the right to vote.

mardi, mars 22, 2016

brussels

Horrified by the news; buoyed by the #PortOuverte offers by strangers to provide shelter to those in need.

jeudi, mars 17, 2016

quotable

Friends of ours recently lost their beloved dog. Here is a quote shared by another friend.
We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives even more temporary than our
own, live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan...

Irving Townsend

lundi, février 15, 2016

dimanche, février 14, 2016

samedi, février 13, 2016

mercredi, février 03, 2016

quotable

"Needing approval is a cultural female disease, and often a sign of doing the wrong thing." Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road

mardi, novembre 10, 2015

quotable

"None of us get out of life alive, so be gallant, be great, be gracious, and be grateful for the opportunities you have. We don't know where we might end up, or when we might end up."
- Jake Bailey, 18-year-old student from Christchurch, New Zealand to his graduating class, after being diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma and given 3 weeks to live.
Cancer-fighting student defies doctors to deliver emotional end of year speech 
BY JACOB GILLARD 
An 18-year-old student from Christchurch, New Zealand, has defied all odds to send off his school year, delivering a speech to roaring applause at his high school after being diagnosed with cancer. 
Jake Bailey, who had been given three weeks to live by doctors if he did not get treatment, took the stage at Christchurch Boys High School's Prize Giving ceremony in a wheelchair to celebrate the end of his high school career, after being released from hospital to take part in the event. 
In late October, the teen was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, according to New Zealand Herald, an aggressive cancer which can kill if left untreated. "They said, if you don't get any treatment within the next three weeks you're going to die. Then they told me I wouldn't be here tonight to deliver this speech," Bailey said. 
Reminiscing on the final year of high school — one of the most important times in any teenager's life — Bailey focused on commemorating his year's history, achievements and thanked his friends for all their support. He remained resolute throughout the speech, telling the hall the speech "isn't about what's to come, [but] it's about what an amazing year it's been." 
"None of us get out of life alive, so be gallant, be great, be gracious, and be grateful for the opportunities you have," Bailey said. "We don't know where we might end up, or when we might end up." 
After the emotional speech finished, Bailey's cohort banded together to perform the haka for him. "I wish you the very best in your journey, and thank you for being a part of mine," Bailey said, as he finished off his address.

dimanche, novembre 08, 2015

quotable

The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible. - Salman Rushdie

lundi, novembre 02, 2015

'home' by warsan shire

I first time the Syrian refugee crisis became real for me was listening to the BBC on my commute to work. I had just dropped off my own children at preschool, when I heard a dispatch from Lampedusa. The story left me with chills, as the journalist described the overturned boat swamped by the waves, and the ongoing search for toddlers drowned at sea.

I began to follow the crisis and months later, I sobbed when I saw a photo of what looked like my son's best friend Mateo from the same preschool. The precious boy had washed ashore, dead, on a beach in Turkey. His name was Aylan Kurdi.

Today, I heard this poem spoken in an impassioned plea by Benedict Cumberbatch. The poem is by the Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire. I have not been able to get her words out of my head. As a mother, as a woman, as a daughter, as a human being, you have to understand/ that no one puts their children in a boat /unless the water is safer than the land.   Here is the complete poem.
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well 
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back. 
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied 
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough 
the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off 
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces. 
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important 
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

dimanche, octobre 11, 2015

my renewed pledge on national coming out day

On National Coming Out Day, I renew my pledge to teach my son (and daughter) what I didn’t learn at home:
  • That the greatest family value is valuing all families.
  • That home is a safe place to be yourself.
  • To embrace your identity and the identities of others.
  • That there is no normal ... there’s who you are and that is wonderfully unique.
  • To speak up for those who are afraid to use their voices.
  • To stand up for those who feel powerless.
  • To be a friend those who feel alone and are most at-risk for checking out of this world.
  • To fight for a world where there is no need for closets because there is no longer any reason to hide.
  • That love is love, and that loving families come in many shapes and sizes.
  • That they are loved by me and by their father, period.

lundi, octobre 05, 2015

quotable

"So much of the media is shouting matches and ideological food fights. It's very hard to have the kind of reasoned discussion of these big ethical questions without creating opportunities to do that." -- Michael Sandel, Harvard professor and rock-star moralist

dimanche, mai 31, 2015

joe biden's address to Yale grads -- poignant, powerful, and true

As Vice President Joe Biden's son was dying of brain cancer this spring, he delivered a speech at Yale that addressed to his own losses and talked about how important his bond with his children was to him.

Biden's first wife and his daughter were killed in a car accident right after his first election to the Senate, when he was 30. In the speech, he downplayed his reputation for resiliency.
"There are countless thousands of people, maybe some in the audience, who’ve suffered through personal losses similar to mine or much worse with much less support to help them get through it and much less reason to want to get through it," Biden said at Yale: Six weeks after my election, my whole world was altered forever. While I was in Washington hiring staff, I got a phone call. My wife and three children were Christmas shopping, a tractor trailer broadsided them and killed my wife and killed my daughter. And they weren’t sure that my sons would live. Many people have gone through things like that. But because I had the incredible good fortune of an extended family, grounded in love and loyalty, imbued with a sense of obligation imparted to each of us, I not only got help. But by focusing on my sons, I found my redemption. I can remember my mother — a sweet lady — looking at me, after we left the hospital, and saying, Joey, out of everything terrible that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough for it. She was right. The incredible bond I have with my children is the gift I’m not sure I would have had, had I not been through what I went through. Who knows whether I would have been able to appreciate at that moment in my life, the heady moment in my life, what my first obligation was… And I began to commute thinking I was only going to stay a little while — four hours a day, every day — from Washington to Wilmington, which I’ve done for over 37 years. I did it because I wanted to be able to kiss them goodnight and kiss them in the morning the next day. No, "Ozzie and Harriet" breakfast or great familial thing, just climb in bed with them. Because I came to realize that a child can hold an important thought, something they want to say to their mom and dad, maybe for 12 or 24 hours, and then it’s gone. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. And it all adds up. But looking back on it, the truth be told, the real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me. Some at the time wrote and suggested that Biden can’t be a serious national figure. If he was, he’d stay in Washington more, attend to more important events. It’s obvious he’s not serious. He goes home after the last vote. But I realized I didn’t miss a thing. Ambition is really important. You need it. And I certainly have never lacked in having ambition. But ambition without perspective can be a killer. I know a lot of you already understand this. Some of you really had to struggle to get here. And some of you have had to struggle to stay here. And some of your families made enormous sacrifices for this great privilege. And many of you faced your own crises, some unimaginable. But the truth is all of you will go through something like this. You’ll wrestle with these kinds of choices every day. But I’m here to tell you, you can find the balance between ambition and happiness, what will make you really feel fulfilled.

jeudi, avril 16, 2015

quotable

“I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History and Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.” -John Adams, writing to his wife, Abigail, in 1780

mercredi, avril 01, 2015

quotable

When you part with a friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in her may be clearer in her absence,
as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. -Kahlil Gibran

mercredi, mars 18, 2015

gratitude

There are moments where we pause to reflect on life and to take stock of how lucky we are.  Today is one of those days.

To my family -- Leo, Sebastian, and Lucia -- you are my everything.  Life is so much better with you.  The world is more beautiful, the sun shines brighter, music sounds better, and even food is more delicious when I'm sharing it with you.

To Leo -- I immediately fell in love with your mind and your heart.  Your sense of humor, commitment to equality and social justice, and our chemistry have been more than I ever could've hoped for in a partner. You challenge me, support me, and make me feel so incredibly loved. I cannot imagine life without my media naranja.

Seba and Lulu -- I am so proud of how smart, loving, funny, and absolutely amazing you each are.  I love raising with your father and hope that you grow up to be curious, creative, and compassionate people. More than anything, I hope that every day, you love yourselves and dream bigger.  Seba, you are my beautiful, empathetic boy and I can't wait to see the wonderful man you will become.  Lucia, you are my gorgeous, spirited girl.  I know that you will make your mark on the world.

To the Astons -- I'm so grateful to have decades ahead of us to strengthen our ties and make memories as a family.

To my friends -- you have made this time so much richer and so much more rewarding than you'll ever know.  I am proud of the enduring ways our relationships have morphed and grown. I'm grateful for the wisdom you've shared and the arms you've extended to propel me as a person and pick me up when I've fallen down. You are my community and, in many ways, my family.  I love you all.

To my colleagues, classmates, teachers, and mentors -- you've made our life's work so much better. Thanks for laughter and hugs and for teaching me to think differently, to stretch myself, and to give back to others.

To my children's caregivers, especially Hortencia and Elda -- thank you for the love and care you've shown Seba and Lucia.  They are who they are in large part because you have treated them like your own children and given them room to be themselves.

To my doctors, nurses, and those who safeguard my physical and mental health -- thank you for keeping me healthy and being vigilant about all of the remarkable things that happen to my body.




jeudi, décembre 11, 2014

modern love: an extra angel on top of the tree

Another gorgeously written piece in the Modern Love series...
Modern Love: An Extra Angel on Top of the Tree
DEC. 11, 2014
By JESSICA STRAWSER


I told myself I wasn’t being rude when I bowed my head and ignored the man standing outside his pickup truck next to what I assumed was his child’s grave. After all, cemeteries are not for socializing.

This was several years ago on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the kind of bone-chilling, dismal Ohio afternoon that makes you dread the bleak winter to come. But I hadn’t even thought far enough ahead to be dreading the long slog of winter. I was too busy dreading Christmas.

Any other year I would have been in full holiday mode by then, singing along to carols in my car, rushing out for seasonal beer and pre-spiked eggnog and nagging my husband to be first in line at the Christmas tree lot.

But not anymore, and maybe not ever again. Because the previous Christmas Eve, my best friend (college roommate, maid of honor and the closest thing I had to a sister) had been killed in the middle of the night by an abusive ex-boyfriend who attacked her in the house where she lived alone.

Only hours earlier, she and I had been baking Christmas cookies and sipping riesling in my kitchen. Her ex- was a man I had never much cared for, but had welcomed into my home more times than I could count; served food and drinks on the very plates and glasses I still had to use myself; and even, one day after playing doubles in tennis, gently assisted with a bandage and ice to heal a fresh wound.

Other than him, I was the last person to see her alive, which placed an extra weight atop my grief, almost a responsibility. “How did she seem?” people asked. “Was she in a good mood? What did you talk about?” I played the day over and over in my head, fruitlessly searching for any small thing I could have done or said that might have changed what happened.

Holidays can be laced with emotional triggers even when no trauma is involved. In my case, as the first anniversary of my friend’s Christmas Eve death approached, I could barely stand the sight of twinkling white lights, the sound of Frank Sinatra or, worst of all, the very idea of a Christmas tree. Local news reports had described the crime scene in detail: her own festive tree toppled during the assault, ornaments shattered across the floor. And just like that, all my merry Frasier fir-scented memories were replaced with that one horrifying picture.

The year I graduated from college, I bought six silly matching Hallmark ornaments for our tight-knit group of friends. They were mice peeking out of stockings, three with the word “Friends” stitched on them, and the rest stitched with “Forever.” I knew they were embarrassingly cheesy, but I didn’t care. I was feeling sentimental about leaving my roommates and heading out into what we, in our little college bubble, referred to with trepidation as “the real world.”

Back on campus after the holiday break, in the living room of one of the adjacent three-bedroom apartments we shared, I dispensed the gifts, and my best friend, who cried regularly at Oprah Winfrey’s show and sometimes even at commercials, became teary. We teased her mercilessly.

The senselessness of it would strike me later: It was that damned ornament, and not any of us, that was with her when she died.

If we had had any way of knowing how things would turn out, what would we have done? Would we have kept each other closer? Would we, for instance, have been bolder in questioning the character of one another’s boyfriends? Would we have reached out more persistently during bad breakups? Would we not have become quite so wrapped up in our own lives? And even if we had done things differently, would it have mattered?



I wasn’t the only one who had morbid thoughts about that little stocking-dwelling mouse. When the funeral came, a few days after Christmas, another of our college group drove across state lines to the gathering at my house bearing a new set of matching ornaments. They were glass angels with little halos, one for each of us.

After my houseguests returned home, I discovered someone had forgotten to take her ornament. For weeks I nagged my friends, trying to figure out who had accidentally left her angel behind. Each insisted she had hers, until finally I realized what no one else had ventured to point out: Our friend must have bought six out of habit.

I carefully wrapped the extra, alongside my own, in tissue paper and put them together in my bin of decorations, unsure when or if I’d ever have the heart to take them out again.

By the time I visited the cemetery that bleak day almost a year later, signs of Christmas were already inescapable. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the month ahead. Christmas at my house had been all but canceled. My husband and I would exchange gifts, we supposed, but we wouldn’t decorate, or celebrate, or sing.

But we had extended families who were not going to cancel theirs, of course. Not to mention office parties, nonstop radio and television commercials, the cheerful lights adorning our neighbors’ houses and the reality of setting foot into any store at all, even just to buy groceries, where the aisles brimmed with holiday-themed treats like red and green Oreos.

I wanted to crawl under the covers and hide until it was over.

Instead, in the absence of a best friend to confide in, I ended up at her headstone, as I often did when life got to be too much. I knew, by then, the identities of those who occupied most of the neighboring plots — all relatively new arrivals. The one that made me the saddest was a grave marker in the shape of a fire truck, custom-made for a little boy who had died of cancer. His picture was carved into the side. Grass hadn’t yet covered the earth where he had been buried. It was hard to look at.

On this day, a pickup truck was parked next to the boy’s grave. A man (his father, I presumed) had his windows down and the radio tuned to an N.F.L. game. He was standing near the truck bed, tinkering, humming, just hanging out with his son, I guessed. I couldn’t imagine what that would feel like for a parent, facing your first Christmas without your young boy. Here was someone who had every reason to be dreading the holidays more than I, and yet here he was, out in the daylight.

I felt small, ashamed of my grief.

So I gave him his privacy. I put my head down and carried my bouquet of flowers and steaming latte to my friend’s grave site, one row over. I lowered myself to the ground companionably, where I sat hidden behind her headstone, my view of the man blocked.

I tried not to listen as the football game droned on and the man continued to tinker in the bed of his truck. I tried not to resent that I couldn’t talk aloud to my friend in the way I sometimes did. I tried not to cry. I simply sat with her for a while, feeling helpless. And when my coffee was gone and my bones were stiff and cold, I put up my hood, got to my feet, turned my back and trudged to my car.

As I pulled away, I don’t know what made me look in the rearview mirror. The gravel road that curved around the edge of the plots was hardly a road at all. No one else was on it. There wasn’t traffic to watch for, and any approaching car would have made a racket bumping along behind me.

But I did look. And when I saw what the man had been doing, my foot went to the brake and my hand to my mouth.

A short, plump Christmas tree had been erected on the little boy’s grave. All that time the man had been decorating it with round, colorful, glittery ornaments, and now it stood sparkling with cheer, a lone, defiant bright spot on an otherwise gloomy hillside. My friend’s final resting place had a front seat to the best kind of holiday display there was, one made from selflessness, love and hope.

I watched for a while, peering through tears into my rearview mirror, unable to move forward or back. It wasn’t shame I felt this time, but something blissfully less self-aware, more pure, closer to awe.

Later, I would wish I had turned back to talk to the man. To thank him for showing me what moving on might look like at a time when I was unable to see how on my own. And to let him know what a gift that was.

Jessica Strawser, the editor of Writer’s Digest magazine in Cincinnati, recently completed her first novel.

jeudi, décembre 04, 2014

“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”

"For My Daugher" was written by Sarah McMane, a poet and English teacher in upstate New York with a two-year old daughter. Clementine Paddleford was an American food writer and journalist in the early 20th century.

FOR MY DAUGHTER

By Sarah McMane
“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” – Clementine Paddleford
Never play the princess when you can
be the queen:
rule the kingdom, swing a scepter,
wear a crown of gold.
Don’t dance in glass slippers,
crystal carving up your toes --
be a barefoot Amazon instead,
for those shoes will surely shatter on your feet.
Never wear only pink
when you can strut in crimson red,
sweat in heather grey, and
shimmer in sky blue,
claim the golden sun upon your hair.
Colors are for everyone,
boys and girls, men and women --
be a verdant garden, the landscape of Versailles,
not a pale primrose blindly pushed aside.
Chase green dragons and one-eyed zombies,
fierce and fiery toothy monsters,
not merely lazy butterflies,
sweet and slow on summer days.
For you can tame the most brutish beasts
with your wily wits and charm,
and lizard scales feel just as smooth
as gossamer insect wings.
Tramp muddy through the house in
a purple tutu and cowboy boots.
Have a tea party in your overalls.
Build a fort of birch branches,
a zoo of Legos, a rocketship of
Queen Anne chairs and coverlets,
first stop on the moon.
Dream of dinosaurs and baby dolls,
bold brontosaurus and bookish Belle,
not Barbie on the runway or
Disney damsels in distress --
you are much too strong to play
the simpering waif.
Don a baseball cap, dance with Daddy,
paint your toenails, climb a cottonwood.
Learn to speak with both your mind and heart.
For the ground beneath will hold you, dear --
know that you are free.
And never grow a wishbone, daughter,
where your backbone ought to be.

mercredi, décembre 03, 2014

quotable

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. - Nelson Mandela

i can't breathe



I'm horrified by this outcome. Officer Pantaleo used an illegal chokehold and killed a man.  The video is clear that he cannot breathe.

A Staten Island grand jury on Wednesday ended the criminal case against a white New York police officer whose chokehold on an unarmed black man led to the man’s death, a decision that drew condemnation from elected officials and touched off a wave of protests. The fatal encounter in July was captured on videos and seen around the world. But after viewing the footage and hearing from witnesses, including the officer who used the chokehold, the jurors deliberated for less than a day before deciding that there was not enough evidence to go forward with charges against the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, 29, in the death of the man, Eric Garner, 43.