Monday, September 15, 2014

The Low Lowdown

Before i studied abroad at the age of 20, the organizers of the program showed us a graph that was meant to enlighten us about the highs and lows of being away from home for a long time. It went something like this:

  / \
 /   \
/     \     __/\__   ___/\__ ad infinitum.
       \   /          \/

Basically, you start out your trip on a high note in which everything is new and all things rosy. That is quickly followed by a plunge into a low in which everything seems difficult and everything back home was waaay better than what you're now experiencing. Then there is an evening-out for a while, followed by less-profound spikes and plunges. Eventually though, you find your center.

Today, friends, is one of those plunges.

There is no one thing to pin it on. In fact, it's perhaps more due to what happens in my everyday job of writing how-tos for the masses -- and the snarky faceless editors that come with it -- than anything happening on this strip of land.

But today the plunge is punctuated by yet another child coming to the door asking to swim (meaning i have to supervise said kid who doesn't know how to swim), yet another ca-cawing pair of roosters at 4 am (who are not kept for making babies, but for fighting in cock fights instead), yet another loud motorcycle revving over the sounds of my phone call, yet another person interrupting -- yelling at me from the main floor up to my second-floor office where i am engaged in turning thoughts into cash, yet another sad attempt at explaining something in Spanish.

One more realization that we are outsiders and thus targets of much scrutiny and unwanted attention and many requests for money. One more sweaty set of clothing. One more sad wash of doubt about leaving behind one of the only creatures to grace me with unconditional love...

Clink clank crash, i fall into the low-lowdown loudly, like all the bottles of rum i've already consumed and left on the curb.

When i fall there, the maid, who's cooking my lunch, asks me "Estas enojada?" -- "are you angry?" -- and i cannot explicate my feelings adequately. Craaaasshhh.

Of course i am still enchanted by this town's colonial charm, its fruit sellers who come to the door with the day's harvest, the pool that gives my daughter something to do all day when school is out for three days for a holiday, the maid who makes my life easier by doing my laundry and answering the door in my stead. I am buoyed that my bank account is no longer diminishing and that spending $20 a week on groceries is an exorbitant budget. I try to remember these facts.

Meanwhile, the rebelangel also has her moments of low-lowdown, perhaps less-intricately described. Her, she erupts with "I need a hamburger!" when the monsoonish tropical rain, in its fourth hour of falling, is now combined with the twilight that comes at 6 pm.

To ease her woes i flick open an umbrella and thank the unseen stars that i can catch a cab to a store that stocks emergency doses of American food in large quantities. I buy a pizza -- the ready-made hamburgers seem still too disgusting -- and return to consume carbohydrates with her in the peaceful quiet of a house that is usually much less than.

We eat our feelings and hope for the upswing, which will inevitably come. Swoosh. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sports for Girls in Nicaragua: Get It Where You Can

As a child of the 80's, I grew up in a post-Title IV world. That meant girls sports in school, sport gear specifically for girls, including pink balls (lord, why only pink??), cleats and jerseys and sports bras cut for preteen girls' bodies. Teams for everything. Tournaments winter, spring, summer and fall. All this, we took for granted. 

When we arrived in Nicaragua last week, i started looking around for a girls soccer team for my daughter, and found only one, through Soccer Without Borders, a non-profit that uses soccer as a vehicle for engaging girls and helping them make healthy choices. According to the program's website, 28 percent of Nicaraguan girls are pregnant or mothers by age 18, and only 13 percent have played sports in any type of informal or formal setting. Compare that to the 40 percent participation in Varsity-level sports among American girls, as reported by the Women's Media Center, and you can see how Title IV has helped girls in our country not only participate, but reap the side benefits of sports, including being more confident, healthier and avoiding risky behavior such as drug abuse. 

I am thrilled to have my daughter be playing on the Mariposas team this year, however, i am a little sad for her too. It's a great program to have here, but it's a far cry from the weekly rounds of competition that she engaged in back home. While the program serves more than 150 girls in this town, there are not enough girls her age playing in Granada, a town of more than 117,000, for there to be regular games -- so that means practices and scrimmages are the name of the game. For competitive girls like my daughter, that takes away a big part of the sport. There's a big tournament coming up against teams from Managua, but after it's done, what's next?

I want the world for my daughter and that's why i brought her here -- to see the world, in all its tropical, complicated glory. I am grateful that she has the option to play with girls in the neighborhood on a regular basis, and to have them as teammates and friends who splash around the pool and come to the door at all hours of the day. Yes, there's more to the sport than the sport.

But you can bet i will try to be recruiting more girls, as we meet them, so that there's the chance of more actual games...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We Get to Nicaragua in the Dark

Just when you thought it was all sadness and regret, someone speaks up and changes your mood.

I was shedding yet another tear as Managua came into view from the airplane, the capitol city's lights and baseball stadiums the only thing we could see. In the hours before, we said long goodbyes to countless beloved people -- among them the only schoolmates and close friends my daughter has ever known, not to mention my own beloved tribe. This, for me, meant tears upon tears, all day long as we flew across our country and then over the Caribbean Sea. Sniff.

But in the seat next to me, the little blonde pixie who sheds pixie dust wherever she goes whispered, "Thanks for doing this."

This, gratitude and awe from a 10 year old who's barely traveled outside her country.

This, a reminder that i am not crazy and that this is a good thing.

This, something that will sustain me when the heat gets too hot, the smell of garbage fires gets too intense, the thought of speaking anything but my muttersprache gets too hard. She was amazed and excited, and i should be too.

Shortly after, we landed in the night, when the unsavory smells of the developing world are the main sense to assault you. Burnt trash, charcoal cookfires, chile roasting in the night so no one has to endure it during the day. No sweet banana trees to remind you that you'll be eating sweet fruits in short order. No smiling baby faces, no colorfully-painted colonial buildings to enchant you. You might sleep a bit, but the roosters, who you have yet to see, will wake you early, early. The sound of countless horse's hooves clopping along, carrying people to work, will puzzle you, but you will cling to the breeze of your fan and just TRY to sleep, sleep.

And then you will wake to a swimming pool in your yard and the glint of a giant lake shimmering out your window, and the horses' hoof sounds will become full-blown beautiful mares, decked out with big ribbons and toting carriages full of people, as if cars deigned not to exist on this lonely street, just steps from Lago Nicaragua.

And then you, filled with doubts in the dark, will change your tune in the light, and under your breath you will mutter

"Thank you for doing this."

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Wonderful Year to Disappear

The drop of a box and it all gets lighter.
One box, two box, three,
light, lighter, lighter

On the eve of leaving it all behind
you're supposed to be doing it with joy --
so you try to remind yourself of joy.

O joy, that wonderful joy
o joy, that impossible joy
o joy, that wretched, guilt-ful joy
o boy, would that you could feel that joy

Yet the drop of a box and it all gets lighter.
one stack, two stack, three
lighter, lighter light indeed.


Title inspired by Nicole Blackman's "Daughter," a rager of a poem.

And this from her too:

"Girls have to go somewhere dangerous every now and then just so they know they can find their way home.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Who You Leave Behind

Last year we adopted a little white mutt who looked so much like the street dogs we've encountered around the world that his nickname became the "stray from east LA." He even has his own song, set to the tune of Cheech Marin's "Born in East LA."

We didn't mean to take on another dog, but our neighbor asked us to take care of her dogs for a while, and in the meantime, we fell in love with this nutty little foster dog. He came to live at our house the same day that our beloved big Akita boy Ascha decide to leave this earth. We took it as sign that his gentle giant spirit was still with us. It was just too coincidental.

Tonight i bought a little soft-sided zippered kennel, perfect size for a little white street mutt to fit inside while he travels in the cabin of the airplane down south. Meanwhile, my beautiful, loyal, 13-year old Akita girl companion looks on.

This, friends, is sticking point one in trying to move your family out of the country. A little white mutt to whom you've so recently become attached gets an airline traveling case, while the big reddish mutt you've loved all these years gets a new home. Or should i say, just a foster home?

As we prepare to move our lives out of this country and to a warmer, sunnier one, we have so many loved ones we're leaving behind. Most of them though, we know we are going to see once again. My beautiful reddish mutt, on the other hand, i am not so sure. She's too big and too hairy to hack life in Central America, so what to do?

I've had her all these 13 years, her being born at my feet in the middle of the night, hours and hours after the rest of her litter was curled up, nursing in the torn up dog bed her mama had torn up for their arrival, just at the foot of our human bed. When we went to bed there were eight puppies; when we woke up there were nine, including a slimy little runt set right at the arch of my foot. I am a sucker for a sweet story, and so you know what happened next; she stayed with me forever.

If she were an elderly human i know she would say 'go, go, children -- don't stay on my account...' but i can hear in her relieved sighs when i return from a weekend away that she misses me beyond belief. It needs no words. It hurts.

Still, my daughter's education in the world will not wait, so i trust that she will be in good hands with beloved friends who love her and for whom she wags her tail when they come in the room. I hold onto that tail-wagging as proof that i'm doing the right thing, even when just looking at her threatens to choke me up and drown me with tears.

Dogs are our loves, our companions, our loyal friends when it seems we have not a friend left in the world. That's the reason we have them, in my opinion -- so i falter at choosing to give that up. But still, perhaps her love is as strong as mine.

The rest of our friends will be waiting for us when we return -- and i can only hope she will be waiting too...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Raising a Revolutionary Around the World

You look forward to moving to a new country to meet new people and learn a new culture. Your child, meanwhile, is really just looking forward to having her own pool.

So it goes when you raise a good old fashioned rebel; they tend to surprise you.

For years I have been kicking the tires on the idea of taking Raising a Revolutionary -- with its resident revolutionary -- on the road. Now that the tickets are in my hot little hands, i guess it's time to announce it!

We are moving to Nicaragua at the end of the month. We are not sure when we'll be back, but we have a pool and a guest house and that means we want visitors...

I've probably written a time or two about how important bilingual education is to me. Before kindergarten i bugged and bugged our target school's principal to take us off the waiting list and enroll my RebelAngel. A few sighs and a lot of emails later, we were in. This next step, then, is to go beyond the Spanish-immersion-by-day experience and into an all-day, all-night kind of immersion, for me and for her.

Why Nicaragua? You'll probably chuckle at the short answer: they have tacos. When i am in the midst of a Zumba session or riding my bike for way too long, the first thoughts i have are of my deep love for that most simple of street foods. I started reading blogs -- which included detailed budgets -- from people who are doing the expat thing in Nicaragua, and found that most of them were spending money at taco stands on a regular basis. With that kind of access to tacos, i knew i could survive. Perhaps they won't be the same as they are in Mexico, but i'll survive.

The second, and deeper, reasons are more complex. South America seemed too expensive to fly back and forth. Costa Rica has too many Norteamericanos for my taste. Panama -- been there, wasn't overly impressed. Mexico is always on the list of places to live, work, and play, but i wanted to go somewhere new. That left Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to consider... but with a young beauty in tow and the news rife with talk of human trafficking and refugees piling up in U.S. detention centers, i thought those places were best left as a trip for a brave solo journalist at a later date. (By the way, these trips are always about telling stories, and there will be many to tell!)

That, then, left Nicaragua, with its promises of surfing beaches, monkey jungles, treehouses, brightly-colored colonial towns, and houses that were cheap enough for this solo mama to afford one with a pool. And i've told you how well that one went over. Also, there's the fact that my child needs to live among people who aren't mostly liberal and generally entitled for a while. It's good for our characters.

So now it's time for packing, saying the long goodbyes to friends and loved ones, and leaving our beloved Pacific Northwest behind for a while. We know it is not forever, but with no end date in sight, we are careening toward our new home with little time to look back. We love you. We can't believe how you've supported us all, and how you've helped us grow.

Now join us here for a new journey -- starting right now...

Photo of Granada, Nicaragua courtesy Adalberto H. Vega, Flickr

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tiny Tips: 2 Ways to Heal Yourself When You're Sick

O, homemade chicken noodle soup, how i love thee
sprinkled with coarse black pepper, so cheap and so good...

Then from the back room, "awwwww -- not soup again!" 
Soup in macro. Mmmm.

So this is how it goes: (There seems to be a food theme going on here lately. Suffice to say it's winter and all i think about is where my next meal is coming from)

You or your brethren are getting the sniffles so you boil up a big ol' pot of something so delicious, so nutritious, and available with very little fuss or rabbit-from-the-hat miracles in the pantry. Only garlic, onion, a chicken leg (not one of mine), some carrots and a bag of noodles, and it makes you feel like you're back in the warm arms of your mommy, thermometer in hand while you faked sick so you could stay home under the cozy covers... 

That's #1. That will get you through the first round of the sickies real good.

But like any well-meaning whole foods health-food parent, you make too much, and when you try to bust that meal out the next night, you start hearing those cries from the back room.

So then you do #2:

Pour half that mess into a big ol' container and stick it in the freezer. Put a date on it, and give it a name like "To the Rescue When I'm Too Damn Sick to Put Even an Easy Soup Together Soup." That's also called throwing yourself a bone. It's a real art.


Also try the wet sock treatment or these other great remedies. They've done me and mine a lot of good.

Image: Bobjudge, Flickr

Friday, December 13, 2013

Melancholy Arrives

In like a parade
the dreaded shadow comes;

not a parade for which children
flock to the streets, gathering the offerings
of beauty queens and Santa
but one in which innocents
fly under the covers
hugging their pillows tight chanting
not this time not this time not again.

It's the boots of an army,
heard far-off approaching,
the rumble of a truck
set to repossess your wares,
the snap of a lock,
the whipping-master is home.

Lo, you tried to prepare,
stocking up the larder,
squirreling away the liquid
sunshine of tomatoes and
spiritual food: how a blanket,
under an August spread of city-stars,
sounds when skin is
rubbed against it over and over.

You thought you'd be spared --
but at the first touch of thunder
the picnic is done.

First round the corner then down the street then here
The Shadow,
ever darkening the door.


As adults we abuse ourselves more -- so melancholy and despondency seem to hit us more. But we are not the only ones to feel it. Our children suffer seasonal depression too -- they just manifest it in different ways.

One day the RebelAngel is peppy and flitting around the house, hunting down her basketball shoes... the next she's angry, lazy and saying i just feel so sad, so sad... Unlike us adults, though, she doesn't have the vocabulary to recognize it for what it is. It's just a scary, ugly thing looming from around some dark corner.

Were i only able to take away her hurt, to rip this shroud of clouds off the sky and let the sun and warmth in. I would wallow in it with her -- both of us lying in the grass on the side of the house, paying no heed to the dog walkers, the speedy delivery trucks, the stares of our well-meaning nosy neighbors...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Family Dinner with a Millennial

You've probably heard it a few times: eat dinner as a family. 

They tell you it's important not just 'cuz you'll actually spend time talking to your kid, but even for big things like preventing drug and alcohol abuse. OK, done. Got it.

In a family of two, it could be easy to slap a plate of food in front of the kid as she watches her fifth episode of some Disney show, just to get the chance to kick back and sip wine uninterrupted. Even easier to make sure that food is a pizza or nuggets that require very little cleanup. But i don't. Grace me with the mom of the year award please, for actually steaming fresh vegetables and using recipes that include real ingredients. Yep, the kick-assery around here is palpable. 

Pizza, sometimes.
We eat those meals together and indeed, we do get to talking about a lot of stuff that probably wouldn't get brought up otherwise. But in this millennial-edition of the family dinner, there are other considerations. Like whether Netflix will continue to blast. Where her iPod and my iPhone will be stashed during said meal. Whether there will be dessert. Who will rinse the dishes and slide them into the dishwasher. Whether the little mutt we just adopted should be taught to beg at the table, like our other big mutt does.

In a post-analog world, family dinners go something like this:

Mother: OK, dinner's ready! Time to turn off that TV. (two minutes later, dinner is on the table)

Mother: I mean now! Come ON!

Child: Uuuuuuhhhh! Can't I just finish this episode?

Mother: No, and you're not turning it on after dinner either.

Child: But it's only 6 o'clock! What am I gonna do for the next two and a half hours? It's so BORING around here! Uuuuuuuhhhhh. (sits at table)

Mother: (knocks back half a glass of wine) You're so abused. Hey! Put that iPod away!

Child: Geez mom when did you get so strict? Stop! I'm just gonna turn on some dinner music.

Mother: (eye roll at the choice of the One Direction Pandora channel) OK, but you can't wear your headphones at dinner. Yes, i will listen to your music. Hey! Turn it down! It doesn't need to be blasting. (puts iPod on the other side of the table, away from child's reach)

Child: Hey! I want it near me! (stands up, starts fiddling with iPod)

Mother: No devices during dinner! If you can't stop fussing with it while we eat i'm gonna take it away.

Child: Uhhhh.

Mother: (receives text) OK, i have to answer this. Yes, i know i'm a hypocrite. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tiny Tips: 3 Reasons You Need to Write More

There was a time when i wrote on this thing all the time. I guess since i spend all day scribing for the masses and whipping out how-to's like nobody's business, there isn't much left at the end of the day.

Still, this:

1. Your child will thank you. If you leave her behind accidentally, like say you get hit on your bike or something and you survive but your mind is crunched up and twisted like an accordian that no longer sings its pretty tunes, she'll have some way to know who you were.

2. You may come up with some good ideas. And those ideas could turn into bigger ideas that turn into more paid gigs.

3. Your how-to editors are watching, to see whether you actually do anything else besides write for them. And other people who like your writing probably miss you and haven't visited this blog for a long time, seein' as how ever' time they do they see that same same picture that's been up there for a year.

Resolution: I. Will. Write. More. Even if i cracked that bottle of wine three glasses ago. Drunk dialing my blog, anyone?

Friday, April 5, 2013


All these days i am trying to protect you

to let you know how to act when
someone lies
gets married to someone who is not you

Funny thing is,
i'm not the expert
i've just been here longer than you

I'm learning how to wrap my
own arms around me and
how to tell you you're wonderful
so you'll remember it
when that time comes
when you think you don't need me

After all of these days
maybe there will come one when
i will also learn to do
all of these things


The man i think about the most announced his engagement on Facebook today. I often question why i don't just unfriend him. It hurts too much to see his happy pictures, yet i haven't been able to make that step just yet. Somehow i thought, in spite of his location about as far away as you can get in these United States, that he'd still be the one. And yet, if my own daughter was in this same situation i'd tell her to run... keep running until you're so far away and so tired you can't even remember his stupid name... 

And then run some more.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tiny Tips: 5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

1. Go back to your acupuncturist

Some day, my dear, we will be hooping it up again...sandals n all...
2. Double your intake of Vitamin D3. Trust, unless you live on a sun-kissed beach (in which case you don't need these tips) you're not getting enough.

3. Learn some new dance steps. Right now, Zumba is keeping me sane.

4. Find a group of people interested in things you want to do and meet them regularly. Check out -- they have it all. Ahorita practicando EspaƱol.

5. Walk around the block, even when the weather sings a shitty tune. Then walk two blocks. Then walk six, playing a new Pandora station you've never heard before. 


***Buy the makings of a dozen batches of chocolate chip cookies from the bulk store.  Then make a batch whenever things get reaaaally bad.

LAST TIP: The purpose of Tiny Tips is to get you to share your own tips. Share Away!  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

O Man: Failing Fathers and their Effect on Kids

I've always been concerned with the way my daughter is one day going to view men. Someday she's going to stop looking them as "grown-ups" and instead see them as "prospects." What will she see? What standards will she hold them up to?

I grew up with a strong dad, a military man, engineer, a pillar of our community and a mentor to many young people. I'm proud of him. I don't have to make excuses for him for why he didn't show up for me for some activity, why he didn't have money to pay for something i wanted to do, or why he doesn't lead the life he says he wants to lead. He never failed in any of that.

Unfortunately, that's not the case for my daughter. Her father does all of those things, and she makes endless excuses. I guess that's child-love, and it freaks me out. Fuuuucck -- why did i breed with this flopping disappointment of a man?

There's nothing to be done about that now, except surround her with other great people. I can't help that her self-esteem and sense of self is ever tied to this person who claims to live life outside of the realm of "regular" people -- some drug-addled version of reality based on a "deeper understanding" of the world, and being "conscious" enough to stay out of the fray of consumerism and career-driven stress.

I hold my own strong opinions about how we can all escape the matrix of wanting too much and caring too much about our careers, but i really think his approach is bullshit. In reality, i think he uses that rhetoric because he's incapable of doing the real work it takes to succeed in caring for a family.  Hear me there -- i didn't say he's incapable of succeeding -- but that he's incapable of doing the legwork.

I somehow thought my daughter and i would both be redeemed when i was able to bring some other great man into her life, to act as the father figure her own biological one just can't seem to muster. But i'm failing in that regard i guess too. Tick tock.

O wait, but then i have to remember that i, with that great father figure, still chose badly when it was my turn. So does it all matter? Are we doomed, as rebels, to do the opposite of what we are taught? And are the non-rebels just doomed to make the same mistakes as their forebears?

Another reason, i suppose, i embrace this little revolutionary, and foster her rebellious nature...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter is Long

A time comes in winter when the Vitamin D stores are exhausted and i just hit the wall. There's little to elevate me or excite me when the days are so short and the cycle of hours spins so quickly...

sun sun dark dark dark dark dark dark rain rain dark dark dark...

Oldie but goodie - I guess winter is good for some things...
Winter is really only 90 days, right? In any case, when i start to feel this noose of boredom and despair i long for new things -- to throw out old patterns and try different modes. I guess you could call it a need for spring cleaning a few months too soon. I find plenty of new things to try; the Spanish conversation club, dance classes, new sushi places... but eventually "doing something new" also means returning to things i've let fall by the wayside. Like writing on this blog.

 I bought one of those old black and white composition notebooks on a whim the other day and recalled that i really like the process of hand-writing journals. But i also get something out of doing this public-writing, however smarmy it makes me feel to "share my feelings" and how cheesy i feel when i admit to being "a blogger." Or the dumb smile i have to feign when someone finds out. Or how many better things you, dear reader, could be doing if you weren't reading this. But enough too-cool for now.

I understand that part of this renewal is turning back to old things. But good old things -- not bad old things or even kinda-good old things. I have this problem in the keeping-bad-things-around realm, and it would infuriate me to witness this in the RebelAngel. So there's work to be done to correct the cycles and work more in the spirit of totally new things.

 Right now i have a sharp need to berate myself for my lingering attachments of the heart. I just let them hang around and hang around, always having one of them to reminisce about. I think a lot of them made great characters; these larger-than-life boyfriends going on heroic, Kerouac-style adventures. The hitchhiker. The photographer. The doctor. The director. The widower. The man with the secret job. My fictions are so much more interesting when they have a caricature attached.

But for some reason this season has me in total renewal mode, and i know i have to leave alla those oldies but goodies behind. Pardon me while i quote Sex and the City, but i love the moment when level-headed Miranda realizes "he's just not that into you." Yeah.

To do the same thing over and over and hope for a new result is, as you've probably heard, akin to mental illness. So i could devise one more heroic scene for each of these characters, or i could clean the slate and write new ones in. So i'm gonna do the latter.

Meanwhile, my handwriting is getting more legible, now that i'm writing in that black notebook on the regular. Like i said, not all old things are bad things.

Coincidentally, one of RAR's original posts has to do with both 1. leaving a legacy to help my daughter learn who i was and 2. the "characters" i create. So i turn back and thus learn from myself -- do you do that too? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

After the Clamor

By the end of the day
the sound has mounted to a Clamor

Its two big hands clapping around us
noises so much and so many so
four walls are pathetic protection

On occasion it's the blast of lawnmowers or
the tinkle of the bottles in a grocery cart or
the yelling that results in cop lights or
the angry flash of the dick trucks or
the dog against the mailman or
the blast of the heat vents or
the dadumm of hip hop or
the cars that park here,
bring some love, then
stop coming

But whatever it is

when it is over

when the clapper has done its clapping
and all that clamor has died clean away

there is just my
two arms around you, and
four eyes, staring into the space that is

now so quiet


This is the reminder that no matter what the situations i put myself in, whatever calamities befall me, i am mandated to both gain and give protection to this wonderful child in my life. Where would i be after all these little tragedies of the day, were it not for her?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Love Notes in the Treehouse

In this treehouse, little girls leave behind the world of adults --
they who proselytize the clock, they who bow down for the greatness of piano practice and niggle over every cookie --
simply cast out, refreshingly replaced by hidden journals, little secrets, kid rules stashed in the boards

As this proselytizer of time, i welcome all of that
but i still sneak in to write reminders on the four parts of the roof,
round and round in four lines, read in no particular order...

I am the powerful, wonderful me
beauty in all I see
I will be what I want to be
and I shall know indeed

I am the powerful wonderful me

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Revolutionary Discomfort

The thing about revolutionaries is that they're usually at their best when they're pushing the envelope.

Webster's definitions for the word "revolutionary":

Image courtesy Newtown Graffiti
a : of, relating to, or constituting a revolutionb : tending to or promoting revolutionc : constituting or bringing about a major or fundamental change 

The first two definitions use the root of the same word... so that's kind of useless... but pay attention to the third definition and you'll get an idea of what i'm talking about. Revolutionaries are doing something to shake the fundamentals of society, in the effort to make change.  That effort to shake other people out of their everyday is just going to make some people uncomfortable -- that seems pretty certain, right?

But another part of the equation just occurred to me today. (Forgive me, fellow naysayers and protestors, all ye change agents and questioners of the status quo who may have already verbalized this in a way i haven't been able to before this.)

The first mental hurdle in being a change agent is to know that you're going to make other people feel uncomfortable.

The next is to realize that you -- as the change agent -- are also going to be made quite uncomfortable during this process of making other people uncomfortable.

It's something of a softball toss; you throw out an offhand lobber about poverty and access to adequate medical care or equitable education in the wrong academic or business setting, and you're likely to have a crackin' fastball thrown back at you in other ways. But damn, those are the places where the game needs to be played... 

At the medical clinic where she works, a friend of mine has no problem speaking truth about the concerns of homeless and and low-income mothers. The mothers with weird hair colors and unwashed clothing are barely tolerated by some of the other student midwives, but those moms ask for my friend by name.  For this mentality of treating the mothers with equality, and displaying her commitment to that in other ways, my friend has been the target of much scrutiny for every little detail related to her performance. She's shed the light on certain iniquities in her profession, and in turn she's facing those bright lights for making people feel uncomfortable -- for making others feel slightly bad when they do remember, for just a second, that those mothers are human too.

It's easy to chalk up the conflict that's now arisen to personnel conflicts or her alternative appearance or any number of other nit-picky things that my friend may have done, but the truth is that she's committed to her job, and that others don't face the same scrutiny for similar infractions that may occur.

I told her that it's ok to make people feel uncomfortable, because change never really feels comfortable and it's just going to be like that. But for some reason this is feeling so profound to me tonight -- this idea that though you, as the revolutionary, have embraced the change that should be in this world, and thus already gotten over that uneasy transition-feeling, you have to experience it all over again, in the blowback from others who aren't quite there.

This notion now, for me, requires some shoring up of new reserves. Things are just never so easy as they may seem -- they require more strength and perseverance than is possible in one of these corpuses that we have been given.

But still i told my friend that, indeed, she has to suck it up and keep trying, until she can't anymore, and then perhaps one among them will have heard one thing that they'll remember...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Not a Have-Not

Someday baby,
we'll bust out of this town
we'll blow so hard
we'll nearly knock the walls down

We'll come up against ropes
and cut them, each one
then, baby dear
we'll head back to the sun

We'll be rich in the rumba
dance merengue for bread
have-nots here in this world
in that world,


I am riding my bike in the rain, trying to save a few bucks on gas and parking permits. I'm riding through a pretty lane filled with overgrown permaculture gardens and houses finely painted in the latest hip tri-colors -- the kind of neighborhood I'd live in if i had my 'druthers and could pick not based on economics. I'm looking at the happy bouncy kids coming home from school in their safe, dry Volvos and Subarus as i'm wiping a drooly mix of rain and leaf-slop off my helmet.

I dream for a minute about seeing my own daughter running up the path of that beautiful garden yard, its Dr. Suess trees and blueberries so inviting. I get jealous. Then in my head's this monologue, one sentence long.

"I am not a have-not, I am not a have-not," the words drifting through my mind in time with the pedaling. It gets harder to do so now, the hill starting to slope upward, not in my wet favor.

"," i go on, not missing the irony of the fact that it gets harder to convince myself of this sentence as the slop continues and the hill climbs. I feel a bit stunned that i am starting to think i'm enough of a have-not that this monologue creeps in. I should know better, what with the traveling i've done all my life and that i KNOW there are many, many who suffer far worse than me. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Free education. Health care. I have these things -- far more than many people.
I've seen 'em. I know 'em. But i still need convincing i guess.

So this poem is part that, and part my lament about how i keep going back and forth about moving out of this country. Most of you can imagine a reason or two to get out of these United Sad-States at the present time; me, I keep kickin' the tires on that idea because of 1. the experience for my child and 2. the experience for me and 3. the overall reduced cost of living anywhere I'd pick.

What with the added benefit of the sultry Caribbean air and the dancing, i should find myself downright rich, never again pedaling and having to remind myself so pitifully with that monologue. I may not have that pretty tri-colored house, but i am still not a have-not.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


not having
consumed any
spiritual food

she expired

'cept, then there's always the modern-day spiritual... food-like...

Sunday, December 4, 2011


She is resplendent when she's like this

positively glowing, talking
of the hanging of these lights
pulling them up and over her head

the lady Madonna herself.

I am the interloper when it comes to this

sulky as a teen, sniveling
around this house, pouty
that it's come around again,
so fast

the hunkered Scrooge-face herself.

Then she reminds me that she knows
it's not about all those things,
the presents or the stockings or
hanging perfect lit-up balls

"It's about family,"
she says, "that's all."

So maybe it's true that i have done all right managing the annual questions that come up this time of year. This year, with people occupyin' streets and parks and houses in the name of economic justice, i naturally walk around wondering if i've taught the rebelangel well thus far, seeing as how i've often let the consumerism run away with her. Then she says stuff like "it's about family," and i'm a little more settled. A little.

In spite of the regular Scrooge-face i wear this time of year, i could perhaps admit that this holiday comes around at the right time. When there's so little light and the landscape of the northern hemisphere goes monochrome, we need something to look forward to; something to give back the light -- so we fling ourselves into this holiday to keep from flinging ourselves off bridges.

Back in the way-back dizzy this holiday was the festival of light, the celebration of the return of longer days. Some believe this to be the reason that Jesus' birth was deigned to be right around now -- to give the Pagans a little more enticement to jump ship and go Christian. We've got a celebration like yours, right around the same time... so you don't have to give up nothin'....

Those are questions about this season's purpose that i've never quite reconciled. In any case, the return of the light does seem to me to be a good thing to celebrate. And of course, the reminder that at least once a year we will remember our loved ones and call them often, to talk of Christmas oysters and who will put the star on the tree and what size shoes the little ones are wearing.

We will remember, as we so often forget, that we have people in the world, and that they're thinking of us on this very day.

They're writing our names on sugar cookies
kissing our packages before they go off in the mail
they're laughing at the ornaments we made in kindergarten
they're sipping egg nog and wishing it was the kind we make
they're wishing they were hugging us and making fun of us in person...

They're knowing that if not now, then soon again
since at least once a year, we will think of them...