Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why we do this

Mr. Sillypants here, taking a few moments away from my coffee-making duties to add a few comments to my lovely wife's description of our Apple Store experience (detailed oh so beautifully below). 

I've had a chance to reflect on today's outing, both before and after it took place.  I think it's fair to say that each of us felt that kaliedoscope of swirling emotions beforehand - - - anticipation of the upcoming experience, excitement about the chance to make a statement about Conflict Free legislation, commitment to the idea of raising awareness of the unspeakable horrors which are commonplace to those innocents living in these war-torn areas of conflict . . .

I know I was also nervous about what kind of reaction we'd receive; I wondered if the store manager would be callous or dismissive, I wondered what reaction (if any) we'd receive from patrons or passersby.  As you have likely read already, our experience was very positive, and I find myself even more energized about the chance to do more, to make the most of those opportunities which are all around me.

In the short amount of time since my lovely Ms. Plum suggested and organized this effort (and served as our cheerleader and guide), I've had a chance to reflect a bit more, some of which occurred while our amazing Blueberry was running and jumping with wild abandon at the local splash park:

(Photo courtesy of Ms. Plum)

Since our outing this morning, I've had many chances to reflect of the amazing richness which has come into my life, largely because of the efforts and passion of those of you who share this global consciousness.  Although I celebrate daily the fire, compassion and sense of social responsibility which is a way of life for Ms. Plum, those of you who carry out these good works in your daily lives, who post powerful and often heartbreaking commentary on the work which is yet to be done, who offer guidance, support and perspective, well, you should know that your passion and fire is an inspiration to us, as well.

Truly, we are better in our lives because of the things you do in yours.  Thank you for this.

When Songbird and I got in the car after our trip to the Apple Store, we wondered aloud what would become of our letter to Steve Jobs - - - would it actually be "sent on to the appropriate people," or would it end up in the recycling bin as soon as the store manager saw us leave?  (For the record, I have a sense he'll send it on, just like he promised.)  Songbird and I both discussed our hope that "something good would come out of it."

Truthfully, "something good has already happened."  This effort has given me yet another opportunity to think about something bigger than my silly little life, something much more vital than the endless chores which face me every day or even the endless joy from mornings spent kicking a soccer ball with Blueberry.  This trip to the Apple Store caused me to set my sights again on suffering, on inequality, on priviledge - - - and on my responsibility to do what I can to change it, by doing the work I can each and every day.

So, even if our letter never makes it to Steve Jobs, the impact of our effort has been felt and my life has changed.  And, my life continues to change whenever I hear of *your* efforts, *your* good works.

Mother Teresa once said, "We can do no great things.  We can only do small things with great love."  Let us all continue to search for and act on those small moments, every day, when we can make a difference.

1 penny a day to "Guarantee Conflict Free"

We're a pretty typical family. I got up this morning, urged my husband to please make coffee as quickly as possible, cuddled my little boy, sent the dog down to wake up the soccer playing biggie, and watered my hanging baskets on the front porch while wearing my bathrobe. I made pancakes for biggie boy who was heading out early for a soccer tournament, said "yes" to one daughter's request to borrow the car for the morning, and directed another daughter's efforts to find a sleeping bag for her upcoming travels. I checked my morning e-mail, ate a bowl of Puffins cereal, and filled the dishwasher. I think I probably tossed a load of laundry in the washing machine and I took the clothes off the line that had stayed there overnight. My husband did much of the same; he made the coffee, poured the coffee, repoured the coffee when I mentioned the mug he gave me had a cracked handle, took the dog out for a morning round of "catch the frisbee", filled the bird feeders, and supervised the pouring of syrup on the little one's pancake. He rinsed out a very dirty garbage can, helped our little boy put water in the wading pool, and I think he played a little soccer with our 'up and at 'em' tiniest son.

But we're also a family who has made a commitment to care about the things we care about in the fullest ways we can. We're a family fighting for social justice. We can't act on all of our cares (believe me, we have many), but we do make it a point to dedicate ourselves fully to being the best stewards we can for those things we know and care about. Sometimes we do a better job than other times. Today was one of those days we did a pretty good job.

Last year Mr. SillyPants, Blueberry, and I met the fabulous Tami in Chicago and participated in Lisa Shannon's Run for Congo Women. I wrote about the event here. Lisa Shannon has been an inspiration to families like mine all over the country--- families who work for social justice and who work to be good global neighbors.

Today we answered Lisa's call to action and visited our local APPLE store to deliver a letter to Steve Jobs asking him to support Conflict Minerals Trade Act HR.4128 AS WRITTEN (see letter). We felt like our support for Congolese women and Congolese families made this simple local action MAKE SENSE. It makes sense to end the deaths of an estimated 45,000 people per month in a country wrecked by civil war and a nation whose wealth of resources are being mined to fund death. Yeah, so we did it. We drove a mere 3 minutes to deliver what could be a lifetime to our sisters and brothers in Congo.

See it in pictures - and visit these sites to learn more:   
FB friend Lisa Shannon

(that is NOT my middle finger! I'm holding a jar of pennies oh so awkwardly!)

Telling the story.....

ETA: Some folks asked me about the mood of the event: it was very polite. We didn't enter the store yelling or chanting or with anger. We asked for the manager and he came right to us. We had a conversation. He listened. We left the letter for Steve Jobs with him. We asked him to assure us that he would make every effort to deliver our letter. He said he would do his best. We encouraged him to look up the legislation and we tipped him off that while folks now know about "Blood Diamonds" many don't know about "Conflict Minerals." We felt it was a very successful public action. Of course, we had rehearsed our "schtick" so that we all had something to say - and that's what we did. We delivered 300 pennies in a jar with a message that this was our family contribution to change the lives of 300 people from the Congo and to offset the costs of 1cent per product for Apple.

We'll be sending letters to our represenatives to support the Conflict Minerals Trade Act. We'll also be following Lisa Shannon's efforts to bring change to Congo families. We'll act when we can. We'll run again this fall  the Run For Congo Women .
You can e-mail your Representative here on the Amnesty International site or here at AmericanProgress site to urge their support of this legislation.

We're just an average family. You can do it too. 

Social Justice Saturday

NOTE - we are off to the APPLE store in our community with this letter in hand, a bunch of pennies, signs, and a compassionate plea for families in Congo. We're taking part in national effort to get Apple to "guarantee conflict free". We'll report back with details.

May 29, 2010

Dear Steve Jobs,

We, as Apple consumers, ask you to please make Apple the industry leader in compassion, not just sales. Please put your full support behind the Conflict Minerals Trade Act HR. 4128 as it is written.

We urge you to continue Apple’s unique and groundbreaking leadership in the technology industry by helping to stop the deadly conflict over minerals in eastern Congo. Advocating stringent trade regulation of tin, tungsten, and tantalum will help stop the deaths of an estimated 450,000 per year in Congo.

Estimates have placed the cost of this legislation at 1 penny per piece of technology. We know that Apple consumers would readily support this miniscule increase in cost to ensure compassionate trade practices around the world.

Thank you for your support of the legislation that will “Guarantee Conflict Free.”



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

French Open Champion 2030

This is how we roll on thundering evenings when little arms and little legs want to keep moving moving moving. This question is for the tennis loving Finns, how's he doin'?

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Familiaris Backyardias

These shots remind me of these - except another year and a few more "skills."
This morning's water fun was followed by a whole household trip to the Farmer's Market for a fabulous morning breakfast and the comment, "Woowd is stuck in my teef, hewp me pweese." After which Twinkletoes hand picked the best beef jerkey in the world (according to Waffles) from between Blueberry's teeth. Love.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Transracial Adoption: a family's experience and advice to those consider...

(This video clip is from . They have a whole series of video clips and an informative website about adoption)

I really can relate to this mom's experience and her reflections about "seeing the whiteness around her" as an important part of mothering children of color. She starts the interview off slow, in my opinion, but her words quickly gain strength and power. She "got me", of course, when she summoned the words "white privilege." Hello girlfriend!

I noted the other night we had a house full of teens and I found myself "counting color." It was an odd moment, but I was aware that my youngest son, who was in all his glory, was in the midst of a moment. I wondered how the room "looked" to him - was he seeing himself in the Little Tykes slam dunk contest, or the pick up game of home-run derby? Did the laughing faces look like the world to him? In fact, the house was filled with 7 people of color and 6 white people. (FYI: It looked like 8 English first language speakers and 5 English as a second language speakers).

I WANT Blueberry to feel the centered love and identity that this young man so eloquently articulates. I know (I mean I REALLY KNOW) that raising him with love and with opportunity isn't actually going to be "enough" - it's not enough if we don't talk about race and identity and adoption and belonging and being and becoming. It's not enough if we don't "see" our own whiteness in the context of his blackness. Or, his blackness in the context of our whiteness.

Of course, living in the midwest, I take the smart young man's words about "living in a diverse setting" to heart. I'm concerned about raising Blueberry in a neighborhood that is middle/upper class and mostly white. In fact, the non-white families in our neighborhood are mostly not black families. I'm accutely aware of this dynamic. Mr. Silly Pants and I think about what's next - and at the moment we think we'll wait to engage this question in a serious way until Waffles is well into his college life (he'll be a HS senior next year - so we have about 3-4 years).

So, yeah, this gave me a little tap on the back - a reminder - don't lose sight.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My "lens" - Beautiful Black Boy

Anderson Cooper on "Race" - This week's series.

There are important discussions happening around race - some are  instigated by a recent CNN series (AC360) on Race. Here is the link:

The title, "Study: White and black children biased toward lighter skin" hints at the outcome of a  test aimed to re-create the landmark Doll Test from the 1940s: it all too quickly yielded "white preference" results. It's 2010 folks. It's time to talk about these things instead of being so self assured that we successfully practice racially neutral behaviors - I include myself in this "we".

Anderson Coopers piece on AC360 (Monday night's episode) is quite shocking. I'm horrified, worried, and angered by our collective inability to anchor change in the deepest fabric of our culture. A friend of mine wrote on FB, "there is no such thing as a colorblind society and as white parents it is our duty to proactively teach our children to combat the images media bombards on us and to not be racially bias." I agree wholeheartedly.Let me add, this is hard and constant work - work well worth it, but it's not easy.  Vigilence is necessary.

Hit all the hot links from this video series on the link above- and check out the upcoming episodes this week:
The series runs all it! (At the moment you can't restream the first night's episode).

Soak it in...please.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Diamond Deal....

I don't usually write about particular events with students, but this is a goodie - because the image is so amazing!
I received an e-mail today from a student I had awhile ago. The note said, "Thought you might like this." Attached was this image ------>

I love my "diamond" lecture. I love hatin' on diamonds to engage some critical thinking.

Passion. That's what it's all about. I know I'm planting the seed when a person remembers... that's what it's all about.

These are the moments and connections that make me love being a teacher.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Feathers, Fridays, and Friends

I arrived home from work on Friday to 3 big kids and one little kid all 'game' for heading out for an hour of birding in the neighborhood conservation area. It's warbler season - birding is delightful. We texted Mr. SillyPants to pick up some pizzas on his way home with a plan to meet for dinner around 6:30. In the course of setting up our meet and greet for dinner, Waffles was encouraged to join us. He added 5-7 kids to the evening and an additional 3 pizzas. Done deal.

The sun was shining, our spirits were high, and we birded for an hour with Blueberry a constant source of entertainment , adding a touch of reality to any sort of serious birding. Such is life with a toddler. We arrived home to find 6 pizzas at the ready and carloads of kids unloading in the cul-de-sac.

Pizza on the deck was delightful. Mr. SillyPants cooked (Papa Murphy's - you can get 6 pizzas for a pretty good deal!) and cut the pizzas for the masses. I thought about his life - single and lived mostly in the adult realm....until he met me. Now, this is a fairly common scenario; he works a hard day and comes home to a full house and a certain amount of chaos, noise, demands (even if they are polite), and children's bodies. What endears me to Mr. SillyPants is his embrace of this - and the generosity of his effort. And what endears me to my life is the energy of 13 bodies in the house, and now one small boy who soaks it in.

Dinner was followed by some very silly slam dunk competitions around the Little Tyke basketball hoop, a backyard homerun derby, and a card game around the table. Finally Waffles posse headed out at 10 PM to another home. It was then that a text message arrived from Songbird to please put 4 towels downstairs for herself and her 3 friends who would be spending the night here after dancing..........

............and so it goes. Feathers, Fridays, and Friends. It doesn't get better.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tim Wise-The Pathology of White Privilege Part 1/6

I'm a groupie of this man - I love his work.
There is a school in the eastern part of our country where this ENTIRE Tim Wise film was just recently shown to a student group (You can find this film on youtube in 6 parts). A teacher/ally writes about the impact of this video. In an e-mail he says, "I'm continuing with an interracial dialougue group at our local high school...I'm helping coach student facilitators to lead the group. This week we showed [this video]. It sparked some lively discussion and seemed to especially have quite an impact on the white students."
This is the work I want to do - to take this colleague's model and bring it to my school. I have a ton of data about how to create affinity tables, how to form parent groups, how to address equity issues, and how to build alliances with our local school board. It's a matter of breaking through the data collection phase and working on the implementation of one idea - as a springboard to others.
I hope I can really tackle the great ideas that others have put to work in other districts - perhaps in my free time this summer. Uh-oh, did someone say free time? I need a crew to move this along. Volunteers?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Other Mothers, Other Realms

Mother's Day
It's a bittersweet day for me.
In our home we celebrate multiple mothers - our own mothers and importantly,
Blueberry's firstmom and caregiver.

This is Mr. Sillypant's mom. She lives in Washington state, on a beautiful island in a home overlooking the Sound.  We miss her on this Mother's Day and imgaine she is tending the plants in her garden, perhaps reading and enjoying the wildlife in her backyard as the salty breeze blows off of the Sound. She is the mother in our lives in this realm - Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Today my heart is linked in a special way to 2 courageous women in Ethiopia. Their love allowed me to be a mom to this lovely little boy. It's hard to know why Blue's firstmom couldn't care for him, but I know that deep love of her son brought him into a special person's tukul, where he was cherished, named, cared for, and tenderly delivered into our life. My prayer today is that Blueberry's firstmom knows somehow that he is a sparkling beauty whose energy and vigor reflects all that she must have dreamed he would be; may he shine his light in her honor. And, to Amarech, my hope is that she knows her care of our son brought him into our lives - she is the first caregiver whose face and smile we know. The words we were told, "She is amazing and strong woman" will be the legacy we share with Blueberry. We honor these women who through difficult circumstances and with odds against them, brought us our littlest son.
And, my mother, who is doing her work from the other realm, must know that every day I aspire to be the mom she was to me.  Her life is a testimony to the power of love for her family and her friends. The way she lived, even as she was dying, inspired me to be better, to do better, to love better. 
Mom, you would be so proud of the kids - I know you see their bright and shiny lives.We'll remember you today with talk of flowers - lilacs and forsythia - and with potted preschool plants and pansies. And there will be tea in  your teacups...and we will probably cry because we love you and we miss you.
 This image captures your essence - joyful mother and grandmother. 
Who I am and how I am is in honor of you, mom.
 ~You are ~
So beloved. So missed.
*there aren't words - and words can't speak the experience of being this woman's daughter, so please forgive how much I can't say with words*

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Miracle of Ms. Plum

And now, for something completely different.

Mr. Sillypants here, taking a moment to offer a guest blog entry, one which is actually somewhat clandestine, if you must know. (Ms. Plum is sitting on another couch as I post this - - - I think she assumes I’m doing my charting . . . mum's the word.) Although this is our family blog which details and reflects on the experiences of our daily lives, it is no secret that the brains, brilliance and passion behind this ongoing effort lies almost exclusively with our beloved Ms. Plum. And, on the Eve of Mother’s Day, I cannot think of a more appropriate thing than for me to jot down a few words about the miracle which she is to me, to our family and to so many others.

Many of you who read our blog regularly actually know Ms. Plum in another context, as a family member, close friend, acquaintance, coworker, fellow adoptive parent or as a fellow champion working for social justice. (Perhaps you fit in a number of these categories.) Others of you have come to know Ms. Plum solely through the things she writes here. This blog, her labor of love, as it were, is somewhat of an ongoing examination of those things within our lives which are powerful, meaningful and cause for reflection and discussion.

Today, I want to reflect on something else of vital importance, that is, the miracle of Ms. Plum.

Our particular love story is one of interesting twists and turns, of joys and struggles, of bliss and missteps. Above all, it is one of love and support. In the years we’ve been together, we’ve sold three properties and bought another, cried numerous times when children left for travel abroad (and cried even more in joy upon their safe return), sent two children to college, attended countless soccer games (outdoor and indoor), worked to train a frenetic Golden Doodle and trudged through the daily tasks which are part and parcel of building a life together.

We’ve also known the heartbreak of saying goodbye to a beloved parent and the ineffable joy of welcoming Blueberry into our lives. We know the rewards of raising a family and building a life together. We’ve had opportunities to struggle with critically important questions and even more opportunities to laugh at the truly funny things which occur every day.

In all of this, there is the miracle of Ms. Plum.

Loving, compassionate, intelligent, resourceful, caring, warm, ambitious, emotional, passionate, patient, kind, funny . . . these few words are accurate but actually do a woeful job of truly capturing the unbelievable person she is. An amazing mother with seemingly endless reserves of energy, patience, understanding and love, she has taught me volumes about what parenting is all about.

Her children love her for the mother that she is. I love her for the spouse that she is. All of us, readers included, love her for the woman she is.

Both Ms. Plum and I are pretty typical people in relationship, much like many of you who read our blog - - - we’re happy, functional and working hard to be good to each other and to those around us, yet we’re also imperfect, broken, damaged. Life has a way of doing that to the best of us.

Ms. Plum sees my brokenness, my imperfection, my faults - - - those warts which I cannot hide; rather than sweep them away or try to “change” them, she embraces them, celebrates them . . .

This is simply a way of life for her, embracing those around her for the people they are, without reservation or judgment.

Those of you who read our blog also know of her passion for examining and discussing issues of racism, white privilege, discrimination and inequality; you know of the “fire in her belly” which causes her to speak out against the injustices which are present no matter which way you turn. In this work, one which has become a way of life for Ms. Plum, she has been a source of growth, self-examination and change for me. I know that she has been this for many of you, as well.

Many times, her work for justice and equality has been less than popular. (You know, those of us with privilege don’t like hearing about racism.) But, rather than proclaim her observations and pass judgment from an “ivory tower” (as many in privilege are wont to do), she includes herself as part of the problem and asks those of us around her to join in the struggle to change the system and work for true and lasting equality for all.

Even though this is an unpopular stand for some, Ms. Plum simply cannot be silent - - - the issue of discrimination is simply too important to stand mute, even though the storm rages around her. This is another labor of love for her, one which reaches more and more people every day.

Truthfully, I’m absolutely wild about this woman.

When we first started to date and fall in love, Ms. Plum told me she wanted to be someone’s “perfectly imperfect woman,” describing someone who was both “real” and “magical.” She is exactly that, not only to me but, as a mother, sister, daughter and friend.

Happy Mother’s Day, Ms. Plum. You are truly a miracle.

Thoughts on language - Tim Wise's take on the N* word

I've witnessed some disturbing language among some young folks I care deeply about. I'm deeply distressed when I read this word, for instance, as part of FB exchanges among a group of young white teenaged boys.

I've done a fair bit of reading and thinking about who is using the word and how. I'm particularly worried about the ways white youth are using the word as part of their own local vernacular.

I've weighed in on several conversations in communities with whom I discuss these things about my feelings about the word, it's use, who uses it and how, reclamation, and avoidance. I think Tim Wise's position from a Boston College talk is pretty darn close to my position. Of course, he articulates it better. (Yeah, I'm a Tim Wise groupie). I am interested in his distinction between the written word and the spoken word - it's something I'm still thinking about myself.

This is a conversation I think is best left to the community who has suffered at the hands of white oppression. It's not my conversation except to pledge: I will NOT use that word. Ever. Period.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cranes -- No Heavy Lifting Involved

Every once in awhile Mother Nature honors us with an extra special look at her beauty.  Blueberry and I had just said goodbye to our much loved playgroup moms and kids  and as we entered our playroom there were two Sandhill Cranes strolling along our back bank of windows. They made their way across and around our yard, settling in for some nibbles in the front yard. Blue and I settled on the front step and had a lovely interaction with the Sandhill pair. I wish I had the stronger lens on the camera - but these will have to do.  We were more interested in the experience than in documenting it with the best lens.  I love these graceful birds. Now Blueberry does too.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Garden Gnomes - big and little

Clementine and Blueberry - two fruits!
p.s. this would be an argument for having kids when you are young - this 21 year old with 'guns' has oodles more energy for wheelbarrow silliness than I could ever muster - plus he's a native Spanish speaker (we value languages in our home) - and he's the apple of Blueberry's eye!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Mundane and The Momentous

I have a lot on my mind, but not enough time in my day to keep a record of the many things I am thinking and the many ways I am trying to keep the important things in my life front and center. Sometimes front and center looks like this - - -

Like a watch battery...mine has not been working for 2 months.
And picking up the special laundry detergent I need to wash cloth diapers....our supply was low.
And hoping the Cavs beat the Celtics. GO CAVS!
And kicking the soccer ball around the yard with Blueberry.
And planning summer fun - our family plans are slow to gel - individual plans are pretty well set.
And picking lettuce in C's hoop house (green house) for our dinner salad tonight - OMG, YUMMY!
And rocking Blueberry and singing songs to him while the laundry dries in the sun on the line. Fresh.
And reading Good Night Moon for the 5th time today - just because he loves it.
And hugging Mr. Silly Pants when he arrives home from work - just because he loves it :-)
And anticipating having all 4 kids home this Sunday night. Because I do so much of what I do for my family.

I have been in a good and productive conversation with some people I greatly respect regarding moving my learning along. I've got a lot of work to do as I learn to be an ally and and advocate. I don't "do" my work  well all the time. But I try - and while my effort is imperfect, I've made a pledge to allow myself to be perfectly imperfect in this work, I've given myself permission to ask a lot of questions, to be open to mentoring, and if I make a mess, to clean it up the best I can and move on.

One insightful person wrote to me today and said, "We could talk more about .... what it means to be an ally - and how one's intentions/approach get called into question... suffice it to say, I have an understanding of this....Unfortunately, it's an additional symptom of the larger dis-ease that exists with the virus of oppression..".

I was most interested in using the words "dis-ease" and  "virus of oppression." I must consider how these words influence how I think and act on this journey. Because that's what I'm doing.....making the journey.  The concept of  "dis-ease" sort of brings my mind into a gentler frame - I think that's a good thing. A gentler framing of where we each are, and how one might encourage movement, and acknowledging that none of us knows what we don't know. Words can become ways for me to remember how to affect myself and how to work for the good of my community. So, I am mulling over how "dis-ease", in particular, informs what I say, how I say it, and when I say it.

Finally, if you haven't read Tim Wise's recent piece on immigration, it's here. Go and read it. Tim has a very good grasp of the issues surrounding immigration (and Arizona) as they relate to racism. I'm furious about what is going on in Arizona. I'm furious and so is Tim.

And then there is that damn BP oil spill. I LOVES ME SOME BIRDS!!! (Migration is in full swing - the warblers are here, the warblers are here!).   My binoculars will be out in full working order this weekend.

It's a lot to digest - I crave line dried sheets and soccer balls and garden grown here's to more of that!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Snapshot

Twinkletoes in Ecuador, 2009

Update: Twinkletoes and Songbird will be in Ecuador in June.
Songbird will be there the whole summer.
Waffles will be in Honduras most of the summer.
Mr. Silly Pants will be in Ethiopia in June.
I'll be home - holding down the fort so we can do the things we all do.