Thursday, March 25, 2010

Speaking into the Silence

In the 2 full days since the newspaper story broke, there has been an eerie and disturbing silence in our district. NOT A WORD from our administration, from other staff members, or anyone. Nothing. The silence has been difficult for me. Speaking into the silence tonight was necessary. I went solo on this. I am reminded how the 50 students of color at my high school feel like they're "going solo" nearly every time they walk into the school, my classroom, the gym, the art room, the parking lot.

I pressed the send button and sent this letter district wide - to every working person in my district:.
Please leave a comment if you have resources I've missed. Or, add a comment with your own interpretation of events. I'm especially interested in learning how to be a good ally - feel free to add your own nudge. And, thanks for reading.

Dear Colleagues,

I'm reaching out to my colleagues in the district to encourage thoughtful and introspective consideration of the highly charged recent discussions of racial tensions in our school district.

In some instances, I have felt concerned that our community often recognizes only the most extreme and blatant actions as actually constituting "racism", excuses offenders as 'young ignorant kids', denies the problems that people of color present as their lived reality, and blames minority communities for the "problem." .

Some of you know that I have been working diligently during the past 3 years to become a better ally in our school community and our community at large.

I've taken several classes, participate in a number of online forums, read and continue to read about ways to resist racism, and dedicated myself to being an anti-racist parent.

I've scoured some of my favorite resources and included links to those I find accessible/readable/friendly/pertinent to the myriad of discussions happening in public and private spaces in
our schools, homes, and communities.

Here are some sources - I promise I've tried to keep them readable, brief, and powerful. I know we don't have enormous amounts of time on our hands to delve into resources. But, we must.

I hope my efforts help move our students and our own lives into spaces of increasing understanding, compassion, and dialogue. I hope that if you have resources you would like to share that you will add to this conversation with information to continue our community learning. I look forward to hearing from you.

Here it is!

This is an all time classic by Peggy McIntosh. It is an excellent exercise you can do in 15 minutes. Do it. Please.

My friend wrote this great piece on how to be an ally. Her piece focuses on why it is important for white majority people to understand our privilege and more deeply recognize the unearned benefits of our whiteness. The end of her article includes other awesome resources for self-reflection and processing.

This link references the program "NIOT" (Not in Our Town) which has become a national movement to combat bullying and racism in schools. I know there are many programs - this is one that has available resources for the classroom and community.
Discussion of NOIT with some video clips of parents and kids:

For those of you who are visual learners - a 3 minute discussion about how to talk about racism.

This is an interview with one of my heroes, Beverly Daniel Tatum. She has written many books about race in America. I highly recommend Why Are All The Blacks Kids Sitting Together in The Cafeteria and Can We Talk about Race. I wrote a 'book review' for a local class (Racial Healing) on Can We Talk About Race - feel free to ask for it.

Read anything and everything by Tim Wise. I particularly recommend White Like Me or his blog
for brief pieces.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Case against Camo

just puttin' this out there:

I'm buckling in - tomorrow is going to be a bumpy ride in the HS! 

More comments from me on this when I've actually been in the building and have a better sense of what's going on in response to this print. And for the record - the comments are really tough to take. My heart goes out to the kids who are the victims; the kids who brought their stories to the administration, the teachers, and school services. It's not a new story.

It's going to take a mighty effort to be an effective ally. Their efforts (and rights!) to be at the HS without disruptions to their education and without harrassment is a huge concern to me. I'm very concerned that my students of color will be threatened, bullied, and coerced into silence. Once again.

Listen Up:
Wearing camo doesn't make you a racist. And, racists are wearing camo as a symbol of their hate group identity.  The gang, "Hicks" (they've also identified themselves as CK or "Coon Killers"), have established the camo as a signal/sign of their gang membership.
Said another way:
If you wear camo it does not mean you are a racist. And, racists do wear camo.

Let's not argue about whether wearing camo makes you a "Hick." Let's admit that "Hicks" wear camo. This is a compelling case against camo. The symbol is intimidating to students. Some students feel threatened by camo apparel.

Support your friends, classmates, colleagues, neighbors, and community members - KEEP YOUR CAMO IN YOUR CLOSET!

We need to stop admiring the problem and get to work!

Monday, March 22, 2010

When Daddy is away....

Mr. Silly Pants (known as Daddy) is away for 4 days. Yes, we're counting.
We've made it a good 4 days - although I now know that single mama's and pappa's must have a steady supply of uppers to keep on pace. Goodness gracious - I have forgotten what it's like to do it solo (and I've been a single mama!).
So, when daddy is not here.....we're up and out the door at 7 a.m.

We're looking forward to his return home

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Expansion and Immersion

I haven't blogged much about 'stuff'. Honestly, I've been preoccupied with my working situation. I'm getting closer to clarity about HOW to do what I need to do. But, there are 2 things on the horizon that are pretty exciting.

First, Mr. Silly Pants is attending a conference this week that is totally floating his boat. I expect to hear a lot of juicy details about health care in the US (it isn't a medical specialty conference - it's a medical admin conference). Mr. Silly Pants might be getting his butt kicked by long days of what he calls "heady stuff." I just have to point out that the past six two conferences he has attended he spent the mornings in sessions and afternoons hanging out at Universal Studios or DisneyLand or Dr. Seuss World or HarryPotterLand...whatever. I know he brought his son a Tigger and a Winnie the Pooh from 2 separate trips. I think this trip we might get a convention center note pad.  *grin*

Second, April 1 marks the start of my cultural immersion exercise. I'll be joined by a fabulous friend, mom of the wonder twins, and neighbor in the city of Chicago. (Her blog is private, otherwise I'd link you all to it). I think I will ask her to guest post some of her experiences on my blog for public reading.  I expect her experience in the city is going to be much different in some ways than my experience here in my University town.  I also expect that some of what we both experience will have common themes and threads in that we are both majority culture women. We're gonna have our butts kicked too. I'm so ready for the challenge.
I've got a lot of ideas. And, I'm going to face a lot of challenges actually immersing in minority culture in this community in which I live that has minority population that is small (statistics to come later).

I'm wondering if anyone would like to join us? Here is the idea (and it is yours to construct):
Immersion was levied as a challenge on a video that I saw while participating in the class, Racial Healing. A group of PoC leaders posed the challenge to totally LIVE/SUPPORT/IMMERSE in minority culture for a month as a way to gain a sense, however small, of the realities of the prevelance of majority culture. Immersion, for me, isn't about learning about minority culture experience. No. I think the best we (as in majority folks) can do is gain a deeper understanding of our whiteness. So, the thought is to read/eat/shop/sing/play/ completely embedded in minority culture as possible. So, for example, the only music I will be listening to is music by PoC. And, I'll only read media by PoC. And, I'll do my best to shop with PoC and buy/patronize businesses owned by PoC. You get the picture, right? That sums it up. Care to join?

Or, comment?

*Blueberry's focused attention on his big brother at an early Sunday morning soccer game*

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Perspective on suckage

I could feel the suckage happening at work today.
Decision making time is drawing near.
Letters of intent were distributed today.

...but I feel totally engrossed in the little guy behind the glass above...

I had a woman on my mind today.
She was in my tears last night.
He was brought into the world by her and through her.
He was loved by her - I imagine he looks like her

I grasped my husbands hands in bed last night and asked him to help me remember her
in word and out loud.

We spoke the things in our hearts.

Today, suckage be damned.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lavendar Booties and a 2 Year Old

I don't know how we progressed from "lavendar booties", to THIS big boy quite so quickly. It is hard, still, to see the image of our son as he 'waited.' His eyes looked wise, his lessons seemed learned too quickly and too deeply. I sensed he had started with love, and hoped to honor that which he knew with the steady and sturdy course of our family's love.  I can still remember the day I realized that 'waiting' and 'wise' look had faded to be replaced by the curious, joyful  look of our Blueberry.

He has grown. I have learned to celebrate and and delight in the giggles of my biggie children, the gentle kindness and enduring love of my husband, and the absolute joy of sharing it all with our littlest, Blueberry. We have come together in ways I did not anticipate - and we are stronger in our family bond together with "Blue."  I feel such gratitude for the presence of my 4 children and our friends, and our family. I  am working to live with more awareness of the goodnesses that infuse my days.  This birthday set of events (playgroup birthday and then family birthday) provided many opportunities to celebrate and appreciate my family and our friends.

Blueberry's "Big 2" with his little friends and with our family. In pictures:

Big brother Waffles gave him his first chocolate candy bar

He blew out his candles on his angel food cake

He watched the biggies and some friends build an awesome block tower

He tried to hang on for a sibling photo

He spent the morning outside with his friends, splashing in puddles

more puddles :-)

cupcakes with not enough sprinkles (D's sprinkle method still eludes me)

twirled and whirled with glee

and ..... well, THIS image is the one that reminds me of the fullness of our lives when the little one is in bed and there is still so much "kid" energy filling our home. 'Tis a good life.

March 15, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Maasai 'go to work'

I'm teaching my favorite 'project' this week. My students are each assigned an 'indigenous people' and then after quite a bit of research they write a rather intensive 'journal' in which they imagine themselves a teenager in said culture. The list includes Maori, Maasai, Ainu, Kayapo, Mongolian Herders, Ibo, Yanomami, get the picture.They have 8 topic choices (economy, religion, social life, education, etc...) and choose 5 on which to write. Writing in first person, and writing with a strong sense of cultural respect is a great excercise for 14 year old kids. It's a good project and while the writing is a bit informal, it is also creatvie and extensive. Plus, I like to teach it. I like to grade it. My students come back to me year after year and "remember" details about their aboriginal people. The outcomes are strong for this project. And, let's name it - this is ONE place where I really get to engage a topic with  cultural relevancy for my students. I'm VERY thoughtful about who is assigned which culture. Finally, I've found this a really strong way to teach how enormously flexible culture really is - I dismantle ideas of the static, unchanged, primitive people. I'm not interested in reinforcing notions of unchanging and "isolated" people. Don't even get me started on cannibalism! (As in, "Ms. Plum, can I study cannibals?")

One of the days I teach I always remember to wear the jewelry I bought in a Maasai village in Kenya. Guess who likes the necklace? I tell the story of paying $20 bucks at the 'gate' and of the singing and clapping as the Maasai women performed their "Maasai-ness" for the benefit of the travelers who pulled up in the jeep - for the benefit of their dollars, quite honestly. This IS authentic. This IS Maasai. This IS the Serengeti today in this place that is part of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve where wealthy white people enjoy safaris in Land Rovers with guides and platform tents with toilets. And yes, the men were out tending the cattle. The village was full of old men and women and children. And the...I could go on and on. I should pull out some pictures and post them too. Later, with student permission, I'll post some journal entries.
Cool stuff.....
*top pic is a self portrait that Blueberry and I took - weird angle, but there it is*

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Coffee Jar and My Bosom

Ample room in my bossom for carrying this *lovey* when I visit my favorite friends. Invite me anytime - I'll squeeze it into my bra and be there with bells on and a good attitude about vacuuming, should there be a pressing need.
(BTW, the jar was a buck at St. Vinny's - it's rather lovely, isn't it?)

Per my sister's question (and correction of my poor spelling), this is, in fact, an inside joke referencing the weekend camp-in among friends in Wisconsin.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Biggies told me *THIS* was a Spanish Conversation Table...

It looks more like a bar, am I right? In fact, it looks exactly like the Rathskeller at UW!
(and I stalk them all on facebook, and this image I STOLE from Twinkletoe's facebook "random" album. Random, yeah, right *wink*)

Rear View Mirror

We need some groceries big time around here. Somehow the weekend came and went without a meal plan and without the efforts of Mr. Silly Pants to stock the shelves with goodness and nutrition. Thus, Blue and I made it a Whole Foods Whole Paycheck day. We were driving in the sunshine after having played outside on our deck in our fleece sweatshirts and boots - a welcome spring event. We even trudged over to the park bench and had a "sit"; scooping up melting snow we giggled and laughed and watched the warm snow melt in our hands.

I looked into my rear view mirror and had one of those breath-taking moments; I saw his perfectly deep brown almond shaped eyes looking right into mine. *Gasp* I thought,


We grabbed a cart and enjoyed shopping and talking...somewhere near the pasta, I paused, overcome. I looked at Blueberry, leaned into him, gently kissed his cheek and whispered, "I couldn't love you more." Right at that moment a mother wheeled around the corner with a matching 2 year old in her cart, witnessing my intimate moment with my son. Caught red handed loving my little one - she gave me a tender and delightful smile. WE both proceeded to shop, not a word between us - but a knowing look that spoke volumes. 

*My cart is full* 
I wanted to record this because it was so simple, and so sweet and so absolutely PURE and TOTAL.


ETA: Job situation -
Thanks for all the great comments. I wanted to say that because of structural/institutional stuff at my HS, job sharing isn't an option. Our department has had staff reductions and my personal bid for part time isn't going to get supported. It's really an all or nothing question for this particular gig - this year, anyway. In a time of budget cuts (big ones this year, bigger next year) the scenario isn't good for part time work UNLESS the FTE's fall just right. This year they don't. Your thoughts are good ones, friends. I'm all over the friendly advice, and I really appreciate the empathetic "me too's" in the crowd. Thank you.  
(photo is of Blue practicing his "surprised" look - an eyebrow lift Songbird taught him)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Waffles won't....(I have no idea why this moved from 2 weeks ago to today's post?) But it's worth restating!

Waffles won't be doing THIS in......
June to August, 2010 - He got his assignment today in the mountainous region of La Paz, Honduras. The volunteer headquarters are in the city of La Paz (population 17,000) but the volunteers themselves are located in the very rural mountainous communities up to 4 hours outside of La Paz. Summer days are warm, and nights are cool. It is the rainy season.

Sunday Snapshot

Lalibela, Ethiopia - AlemTsehaye's backyard
* a look and a wave to a young teen aged girl in this backyard was the beginning of a lovely friendship between my children and an age-mate in Ethiopia*

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Right back where I once was....

I'm in the middle of some pretty BIG personal/professional decisions. It's been an intense week. I have felt the love and support of my family - Mr. Silly Pants, Waffles, and Songbird have been around all week and their bright and shiny spirits have kept me afloat during a week I might have really gotten annoyed, discouraged, and aggravated. Oh, add frustrated and pissed OFF to the list.

I've got some decisions to make about what direction to take professionally. I *think* I am going to have GREAT difficulty negotiating for half time work for another year in my school district. The truth is that I really love working half time. The split between my family and my profession is just perfect right now. I feel like I am at about the top of my teaching game with a 40% work load. And, my home days with "the Blue" are superb. I love the balance right now. Blueberry loves the balance too - he's happy happy happy with his babysitter and it is oh so good for him to have other stimulating social environments with other kids. It's so damn good to feel like my parenting and my profession are in great balance. It's a hard place to figure how that would change if my ONLY option is to return to work full time. The dilemma is the ever changing landscape of Blueberry's needs - and my ability to meet them with enthusiasm and energy.  My biggest fear is making the WRONG decision. My sense is that years ago when I was in the midst of family building and a young marriage, I did a very poor job of strategizing for my own needs. I'm a much better advocate for myself now; I'm older, wiser, more centered, and more relationally secure and mature. But, hell, I can still make some doozie mistakes.  And I've got some road rash to prove it. Yeah yeah, don't we all?

 But really, I left my first marriage with NO professional experience and made a mad dash for a teaching certificate with an 'OH CRAP! I have to get a job and start a career!" I had been crafting a mini-career out of going to graduate school and changing my research topic with each gust of wind. I was LUCKY LUCKY LUCKY to land a job in a district that has cultural anthropology as part of their social studies requirement - the job is a perfect fit for me. Except, um, I HAVE to teach US history if I am teaching full time. And, the truth is I'm not a great history teacher (I am a great anthro teacher). Plus, I don't like the idea of leaving my 2 year old son for my full time job. Nor do I relish the thought of going to a job that isn't 9-5; teachers bring home piles of work, have oodles of homework to grade, and lessons upon lessons to rework/recraft in order to maintain superb teaching. I mean really....I fear that the combo of teaching full time is going to make Ms. Plum a ROTTEN TOMATO!

I feel an eerie and uncomfortable parallel with another time in my life - and this just feels like a huge decision and I don't entirely trust myself to make the best decision; one that honors the covenant I feel with my little Blueberry, and one that helps me maintain my sense of balance and power, both privately in my marriage and publicly in my intellectual and professional life. C'mon sisterhood, I know you hear me on this one! He just turned 2! My mama stuff says don't work full time. My self preservation stuff says don't give up this good gig.

ahhhhhhhhhh, so in the meantime we're slashing our budget (making a car trade this weekend, we think) and examining the "hows" and "whats" of a lot of changes in the fall. Did I mention my child support for my 3 kids ends in the fall, and I have 2 kids in college for the next 6 years? Yeah - work can't be off the table.

*putting it all out here is a little risky since I'm pretty sure colleague/kids have access to the blog and I don't want to say things that might inflame a certain situation*

Thursday, March 4, 2010

WI Doze-n

Last weekend in lieu of landing in La Guardia, Blueberry and I drove a short hour to the "east coast" of Wisconsin and spent the weekend with a cool crew of kids and mamas. I was lucky to be invited to hang out with these friends - and let me tell you, I knew a good party was in store everyone! Knowing this, I begged their pardon as a two-timing, double booking, loser friend and groveled for re-admission to the weekend  "par-tay." Admission was granted providing I brought adult refreshments; a case and a pound of coffee helped my cause.

I counted on my fingers (math is not my forte) and there were 12 kids at one time: J, B, M, E, E, I, M, L, B, F, T....wait, that's only 11!!!! See, math isn't my strong suit. Neither was personal hygeine that weekend! But, we did have a blast. And, I sure hope we didn't spread the ring worm!!!! 

The highlight for Blueberry was the unexpected birthday bash - celebrating his 2 year old birthday. He LOVED the cake decorating - using a rather Jackson Pollock method he and baby Og decorated the cake with abandon....and the kitchen floor too. D is a maniac superstar for her tolerance of chaos and fun. It seemed like no amount of sprinkles were too many! (Or Pringle chips, or popcorn, or pancakes). And, there was Lucy. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Lucy kiss Blueberry" from Blueberry this week. Gator, I think Blueberry might be a little Casenova! And, seeing Blueberry and Og in one place gives you a pretty good visual, huh? Speaking of Og, his goodbye gesture got a lot of play this week, "Og push Blueberry." Yep, a kiss and a shove, that pretty much sums up the fabulous weekend!

Finally, I'll leave the snarky comments to the Queen of Snark.
And she's in good company with the other mamas.
I'm getting out the therapy jar, just in case.
I can't wait to camp-in again next year!
*and yes, I tried to make a cool title sort of like Mama Papaya would
...and yes, I know I failed*

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

*Thanks to a certain someone  (student)  for reminding me to post for "Wordless Wednesday"*

Monday, March 1, 2010

Big Sister Songbird

My bookends - first and fourth