Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Secret Santa Poetry Exchange

I got a chance to participate in a poem swap this year. I thought it was such a great idea. We all dropped a poem into a hat, picked out another, and promised to post it to our blogs or Tumblrs or what have you. It got me to reboot this blog and maybe it will get me to start it up again in earnest. In the meantime, here is the poem I received:

Weight sources encounter problems
As the thrust sprinting elastic orbit
The horizon will cleanse
This calendar blank
Mucus in brisk crunchy grass
As mules kiss under grass

Wait sourcing for the believer milk
Turn the table orange juice and Oreos
Bowed cars filled with cocaine
Santa winks and puts a finger up to his lips

I love this time of year
I am so jolly
I am happy I love this year
I love this little baby year
I immerse myself in its unspoiled time diaper
And Bing Crosby compliments my sweater

I really like this. It has a very nice rhythm without being obvious and the imagery is witty and original. "The horizon will cleanse/This calendar blank" is so evocative. I think I got very lucky with my poem.

So here's to art and gifts and holidays.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

One Vote

Today I will vote.

That's a rather rare act on this planet. Only about 40% of this country votes regularly in national elections and that number often drops to single digits for local elections. In other countries, more people vote, but we have many people living in countries where either they have no vote or their vote doesn't count.

So I will be in the minority today.

I will have a voice.

I will be voting for marriage equality and the education reforms covered by the Dream Act. I will be voting for a President who I believe has served us well despite a recalcitrant and stubborn opposition. I will be voting for a Governor I respect and admire. I will be voting my conscience as I best see it reflected in my options.

I will be voting to honor the women (and men) that fought for my right to vote. 


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I Just Turned Gay All of the Sudden!

Cary Grant was one of those rather famous underground gays that most Americans loved as long as he never got too explicit about where his heart went. We have always tolerated gays, bisexuals, and trans (gendered and dressing) people as long as they kept it away from Christmas dinner and granny who probable knew more about "alternate lifestyles" than we give her credit for. But there is a movement in this country that we should really not ignore.

Gays are being granted the right to marry.

This is kind of a big deal. I certainly never expected to see it in my lifetime. And yet, I found myself living in the first state (Massachusetts) to grant that privilege. Not only that, but I lived in Cambridge which opened its doors at City Hall at midnight on the first day gay marriage was legal to welcome gay couples who wanted to make their relationships formal and public. The outpouring of support and sloppy romanticism was completely wonderful.

In a way, marriage is a rather silly thing to pursue: it's a dying art. Fewer and fewer people practice it. But in many other ways, it is one of the most important avenues toward equality that same sex couples have. Like interracial couples before them, they are fighting for some extremely basic rights. The right to visit each other in a hospital. The right to create a family. The right to have a partner who has more of a voice than a bigoted parent or sibling.

There are people in this country who have been granted civil unions who have found little benefit from that status. So marriage becomes a goal that perhaps has even more meaning than it might for straight couples in this day and age. Many institutions refuse to acknowledge gay partnerships and hide behind that one term that excludes them: spouse. 

That a person you chose to live twenty years with, to create a home with, and often have a family with, could still find doors slammed in his or her face if you were sick or dying is absolutely disgusting. It shames us as a nation.

This year, in a very close race between our two major parties, the GOP and the DNC have gone in completely opposite directions. The GOP has declared that all people deserve respect and the DNC has declared that a specific group of people deserve protection. That really isn't just semantics. 

Romney has declared that he would repeal DADT and would defend DOMA: one of the least defensible and most expensive federal initiatives in the lifetime of anyone alive today. 

There is a very clear difference in these two parties' platforms. Neither one pledges outright support for our LGBT brothers and sisters, but one of them pledges not to try to destroy them.

I know which one I will be voting for.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Breathe In Breathe Out

I've been breathing in more than breathing out lately. The writing part of my brain seems to have decided to curl up in a corner and take a long nap. But I have just finished a semester of tutoring middle school children in reading as a volunteer with the amazing Reading Partners program that has just expanded to Baltimore, and it has been one of the most moving and rewarding experiences of my life.

62% of our students are reading below grade level.

They are smart, their parents are engaged, they have wonderful teachers and administrators, but they are behind.

That's not so surprising when you consider that 25% of them are homeless. Many of them are dealing with some other instability in their family life. Substance abuse and crime are quotidian experiences for a lot of them. Just getting breakfast and eight hours of sleep is an exception rather than the rule at times. Parents may have to keep their kids at home if they want to make it to work since most of the available work is so far away they have to leave well before anyone is at the school to let the kids in.

And yet. These kids jumped in the deep end with so much energy and determination. They are mostly referred to the program by their teachers who are truly incredible. My favorite (shut up, I can have a favorite in here. Don't tell on me) Big D improved three whole levels in as many months. Their achievements humble me.

I don't remember learning how to read. It was a world that I couldn't stand not having access to so I broke down the door. My mother tells of me at a very young age trying to hide the fact that I could read once I entered kindergarten because I was so embarrassed by all the attention it invited. I would turn a book upside down whenever an adult entered the room.

Part of me was really worried that I wouldn't be able to help these wonderful kids as I have virtually no understanding of what they are going through. But the Reading Partners curriculum is so well designed that even an idiot like me can just follow the lesson plan and make a difference. It didn't matter that I had zero training in education, all I had to do was follow the directions and lo and behold, success!

Nationally, my kids aren't all that unusual. They live in a relatively wealthy state that was just singled out for the fourth year in a row for educational excellence, but they live in one of those pockets that exist everywhere. A little satellite of crappy schools, crappy housing, and almost no amenities. The closest grocery store is further than I could deal with and there are no corner stores to run to for milk or eggs. Transportation to the parts of the city that anyone might want to go to for culture or a job is iffy at best, and the population was purposefully shuttered away to one of the most isolated areas in Baltimore by planners who caved to prejudice at a time when African Americans were just beginning to make some headway in this country. The children of the Great Migration were thriving in the Northern cities their parents had fled to seeking things like the right to vote, or to graduate from high school, or just to see a paycheck instead of owing a sharecropper landlord money for seeds from the spring.

They face logistics I doubt I could navigate. And they are so isolated and cut off from the rest of the city, they must feel decidedly unwanted. Which, to be perfectly honest, they are. The police patrol their streets like an occupying force, never on foot, always in SUVs or helicopters like some sort of alien invasion. And some assholes think they should be banned from any area a tourist might visit. Assuming they could get there in the first place.

They have almost no contact with children from other backgrounds.

This is the thing that I find most depressing. Studies have shown that children who are educated in a mixed environment preform better. The kids with the greatest hurdles to overcome do better, and the kids that one would expect to do well do well without losing any ground academically and are better able to excel in social settings which expose them to people from different backgrounds, a.k.a. real life. The benefits of diversity in schools is one of those things that impacts outcome more than spending, classroom size, or almost any other measurable factor. It is simply the easiest and cheapest way to raise the outcome for all students at the expense of none that any community can exploit. But our schools are becoming, if anything, more segregated and our children less familiar with each other than they have been for generations.

I can't fix any of that. I can vote, I can write letters, but at the end of the day, the only real difference I can make right here right now, is to get in the trenches and sit down with a kid, one on one, and try to help him or her climb over that wall.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

American Woman

Today one year ago was the 100th celebration of International Women's Day. I wish I could say that things had gotten better. Perhaps they have, but recent events have me feeling as though I have been torpedoed backwards to a time when women had little say in their own lives not to mention the lives of those they were responsible for. My view is undoubtedly skewed as I am an American woman and this country is failing its daughters in increasingly absurd ways minute-by-minute and day-by-day. Perhaps reality has been kinder to my sisters in other corners of the world. I certainly hope so.

Here, however, the outlook is grim.

It frankly astonishes me that discussions about wealth inequality, access to healthcare, and social justice have been swept off the table to accommodate lunatics who view women as either broodmares or sluts and prostitutes.

And yet.

I am exhausted. I am sick to death of this fight. I shouldn't have to fight it. My mother already did. And her mother before her. I belong to the largest block of voters in the country. I belong to the better educated half of this country. I belong to the majority of this country.

And yet.

Here we are, fighting to protect women when they want to consult their personal physician on matters that matter only to them. Fighting to keep them out of poverty when they become mothers. Fighting the definition of rape. Fighting over who gets to testify before Congress about whether or not biology is destiny.

So excuse me if I'm not feeling particularly festive today. I'm too busy fighting.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


To be thankful requires some distance. A hangnail can derail the most mindful existence and most of us face more hardships than that on a daily basis. To be able to ignore the worst and appreciate the best in our lives is something of a gift in itself. The oldest and best advice humans have been sharing with each other always involves some variation on how to do this:

Be in the moment. Count your blessings. Don't sweat the small stuff. Live, laugh, love, learn.

We are approaching that particular time of the year when many of us take inventory. My inventory is looking pretty good.  I have work that I enjoy doing. I have loving arms to come home to attached to a head and a heart that keep me entertained and inspired. I have a mam and a brother who are as devoted to me as I am to them. And my friends are a constant delight. King Dutch teaches me every day how optimism works. And I have a safe and happy home thanks to a very generous soul.

Thanksgiving is often the beginning of a season many people would rather skip. Family dynamics, logistics, money, travel, stress. It can be horrible. I see people I dearly love who are frankly about ready to kill themselves and everyone they know because of this. I wish I could take them to where I am today.

I want for nothing. I am enormously lucky. I love you all. Thank you. You make each day a blessing.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Worker Bees and Beasts

For a brief time, I worked for one of those soulless corporate giants that returns to its shareholders a very pretty profit which ensures that the executives will get a big fat bonus and that its clients and employees will regret their relationship with them. Or some will, anyway. I did. Ours was the highest-earning store in a very high-earning region. And I was one of their highest earners (I had a friendly competition with another girl for top sales every month which was funny for us since we all shared our passwords and often closed for each other when we were ready to go out back and smoke.) We had a FU attitude toward most of the rule book because we could. They were actually a little afraid of us. HQ was in one of those parts of the country that is about 17 years behind the times, and their edicts reflected that. But for the most part, they left us alone.

Some of the rules were just laughable: gentlemen associates could not have hair that touched their collars and lady associates could not wear a skirt higher than three inches from their knee. Mind you, we were selling glasses. In the early 90s. To men with long hair and women with hardly any fabric covering their crotches.

Some of the other rules were just awful: we could be terminated for meeting outside of work if more than three of us were present. We were denied lawful compensation for travel times to mandatory conferences that we went to from the store. But the worst of all was that we were asked to lie to our patients. We were told to sell them things they didn't need, and that were not in their best interest. It was horrible.

Our parent company purchased stock in a company that made equipment to process a particular lens that is medically appropriate in a few cases but only a few. We were told to sell it to everybody. It's a shitty lens. It causes halos and distortion and visual anomalies, but that was where the company saw its profit, despite the fact that we refused to sell it and made them more money by selling designer frames. They had a business model and they were sticking to it. And we were very naughty. They swooped down on us with exhortations, bonuses, displays, demonstrations, and punishments for the reluctant. And yet we refused to sell it. We still made them a ton of money, but all they could see was lost revenue because we weren't selling this one product. What they didn't see, and what few corporations ever see, was that we had a relationship with our customers. They trusted us. Our subculture was to make sure that our clients walked out of our store looking amazing but more importantly, seeing well. That's why they came back to us and brought the people they cared about in with them. But our corporate culture was 180° in the opposite direction and they won. They fired our General Manager, replaced her with a lovely but terrified young woman who could no more handle our patients (some of Hollywood's biggest names) than she could handle us (a group of really pissed off sales people.)

She was forced to fire a bunch of us. She cried when she terminated me. I ended up comforting her.

It was an interesting lesson in just how bad the corporate world can get. When the people at the top really have no idea what the people at the bottom are doing, they get suspicious and nasty. They start to assume that their employees are up to no good, because that's their MO. (To be fair, one of ours was stealing designer sunglasses to sell on Venice Beach, but Loss Prevention went after the Latino lab rat and not the white sales guy who was actually walking off with bag after bag of frames.) Can you say "projection"?

I recently Googled my old employer, and let's just say the news isn't good. I'm not particularly happy about this. They have a lot of lives in their hands and I would rather those people be secure and happy. But little seems to have changed since those days.

I can say that they are better than these folk.

I don't even know what to make of them. Halloween is a foul mess this year.