December 31, 2006

Time to Change the Station

It's almost the end of the year, and at this point it couldn't go fast enough for me. After months of what felt like a largely idyllic existence, I seem to have suddenly fallen victim to some horrible voodoo curse related to all things mechanical in my life. My stereo receiver died. This was actually a good thing, considered in a certain light, as the receiver in question was the original "heading off to college" edition, and I had been eager for it to give me a reason to replace it. When it croaked at last, I spent months discovering that all stereo receivers are ugly. And then I finally found my fabulous Harmon Kardon receiver (pictured above, except it's way cooler in person), with free shipping, no less, from J and R.

Two weeks after the Harmon Kardon arrived, my CD player died, rendering the receiver mostly moot. My DVD player had already succumbed. One of the overhead lights in the kitchen is on its last legs. The lights in there take these circular flourescent bulbs that take two adults and a fifth of rum to replace. And I don't drink.

Once we'd all recovered from the cold from hell, T's car limped home and died in our driveway. As the granddaughter of a chauffeur, I expertly diagnosed the problem based on the symptoms she reported, called out the AAA battery truck, and had the car up and running in no time.
Since we'd been concerned about how rough the engine was running, I decided to drop the car off at the shop anyway. just to be on the safe side. Turned out the car was running on three cylinders. The mechanic took hundreds of our greenbacks and replaced a fuel injector. Two days later the car died again on the day before Christmas as my partner was running around doing her by-now-traditional last minute shopping. The initial issue had been with the alternator, not the battery, and the new battery had masked the problem. We signed over another paycheck and hoped we were out of the woods.

Two days later we piled into the other car for a trip to my sister's in MD. At the gas station on the way out of town some total stranger accosted us. What did this guy want? When we rolled down our windows and concentrated, it seemed that he was concerned about the non-round shape of our right rear passenger-side tire. Yep. Flat city. We loaded it up with enough air to get it to the garage (I think we're funding our mechanic's next vacation), transferred all our luggage and presents, and left it with instructions to please deal with the flat. Yesterday the aforementioned mechanic called to say that he couldn't find the key for undoing the wheel locks.

[insert whimpering noises here]

SO. These events have driven me round the bend. I have easily earned the "crazy" to qualify for membership in the "
Crazy Hip Blog Mama" ring. And while I generally believe that anyone who claims to be hip immediately voids any claim on the title by saying it out loud, I will gently refer any skeptics to my sidebar, which includes not only a Flickr badge but also an Upcoming badge. I even know what a favicon is.... and I have one, too. Not to mention the fact that I hosted the Running Fool earlier this month. I mean, c'mon! (I realize that all of these pieces of evidence may actually be tallied in the "geek" column, but I do have a trump card: I'm a gay American. Totally hip, right? Or at least trendy.)

The "blog mama" part of my qualification is abundantly clear to
anyone who's ever read this blog (hi, Dad!). We can simply stipulate and move on, n'cest pas?

All of this means that I can also drool over such bloggity items as a new site design by the fabulous folks at
Ciao My Bella.

Hope I win. I need to change the station.

December 27, 2006

Aging Haiku

A wall of old tools –
lit by the light of their time –
aching to be used.

We went on a lantern-light tour of some of the historical sites in Washington Crossing State Park last week. I love that feeling, of history simultaneously impossibly far away and yet tantalizingly close.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 26, 2006

Christmas Past

After living in New Jersey for almost as long as I lived in Philadelphia, the stars finally aligned this year to allow me to partake of some of the fabulous historical re-enactments of the events surrounding the battles of Trenton and Princeton.

I shouldn't have been surprised to discover that there are thousands of people who turn out to watch the annual re-enactments of Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware.

It's a great story (and I'm borrowing liberally from David Hackett Fischer's great account for my details), and watching the Durham boats make their way across in the same spot that Washington's forces did is spine-tingling theater.

There were supposed to be three groups of colonials crossing the river on the cold and stormy night of December 25th, 1776. Generals Cadwalader and Ewing were forced to call off their planned crossings; the river ice and rising storm made the task impossible. Only Washington was able to get across with both men and cannons, aided by local ferrymen who knew the river and men of a Marblehead regiment who knew how to handle boats in adverse conditions. The great majority of the army, like most populations in eighteenth century America and Europe, were unable to swim a stroke.

The secret pass phrase that night was "Victory or Death," and though I am a good Quaker, I am also grateful now for the work of those men then, without whose determination and passion our fledgling republic might well have foundered.

(Apparently someone told one of these re-enactors
that the soldier he was representing hadn't owned shoes after all...)

We're already talking about next time.

December 21, 2006


(D and his best friend JT have been playing together in the livingroom almost nonstop for about six hours.)


Let's play pretend,
that game where you start
by saying let's pretend,
and then you keep going,
and anytime you stop,
the other person can say
let's pretend and get it going again.

Let's pretend
that I
have the powers of Lord Voldemort
and you
have the powers of Darth Vader.
we will be so bad.

Let's pretend
that this broom on the rug
is actually flying through the air
and that chair is a dragon
and we both have wands
but sometimes our spells
don't work right.

Then let's ask if we can
take our shirts off
so we can be pirates.
When we get thirsty
we can go into the kitchen
and ask for chocolate milk
except we'll call it rum.

(Thanks to the women of Poetry Thursday
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 20, 2006


As parents, we are conscious of the awesome opportunity and responsibility we have for creating meaningful traditions in our son's life.

We have a tradition of Forever Family Day (the day his adoption was finalized).

We have a tradition of Friday evening trips to the library (for new bedtime storybooks) and the bread store (for raisin challah).

We have a tradition of singing "The Moon Song" at bedtime. Every night.

All of these traditions came into being with some degree of awareness on our part. But sometimes a tradition just sneaks up on you. Apparently we also have a tradition of D cutting the netting off of our newly selected Christmas tree.

Glad we stumbled into it.

(Thanks to the women of Mama Says Om
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 19, 2006

Walk On the Wild Side

On an average day, we are presented with approximately 29 opportunities to put the proverbial parental foot down.

The Five Year Old Manual apparently includes entire chapters on "How to Dig In Your Heels" and "How To Pick Fights With Your Parents."

Thankfully, I am married (excuse me, domestically partnered and eventually may be civil unioned, arrgh) to a genius.

When Little Mr. Wonderful started kicking up a fight about the necessity of making the transition to long-sleeved shirts and long pants as the mercury dropped, my better half came up with a brilliant action plan.

She put him out.


Just for a minute or so, you understand. It went like this:

Tama: Well, sweetie, the weatherman thinks it's going to be pretty cold out today, but you're feeling like you don't want to wear warmer clothes, is that right?

D: Right.

Tama: Okay, maybe the weatherman was wrong about today. Here's the deal. You go out the back door in the clothes you think are warm enough, and run around to the front door. When I let you in, you tell me whether you were warm. Are you ready?

D (always happy for an excuse to run, and not quite believing his good fortune): Ready!

Tama: On your marks, get set, GO! (Opens back door and releases t-shirt and shorts-clad five year old into the wild.)

7 seconds later at the front door, D: Oh my gosh, the weatherman was wrong, it's not just cold, it's FREEZING, I need two jackets, quick, Tama, quick, before the frost bites me!!

Common Sense: 1
Foolhardy Exposure: 0

December 18, 2006

Go, Running Fool!

Would you give this man a ride in your car? How about a meal or a place to sleep? Nearly 300 people from cities across the United States and Canada are doing one or more of these acts of kindness for a stranger - who's a virtual friend - as they participate in the 2006-2007 Ze Fool Relay.

I'm going to try to get Luke Vaughn, aka Running Fool, aka the Human Baton, to slow down enough for a pit stop en route to NYC from Philly on Dec. 23rd.

Why? Because I love being the welcome wagon. And because it just seems like it would be fun. I don't know him well enough to know what might tempt him, though. And he's got a pretty busy itinerary.

So Luke, if you're listening, tell the DelVal Sports Racers what might make it worth your while... :-)

Storm Haiku

The birds were quiet,
their silence leaving space for
the song of the wind.

Afterwards, branches
laid on stunned earth, murmuring
hello's and goodbye's.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 16, 2006


Do you remember God's Eyes?

I had completely forgotten.

Now that D is old enough to be in the "kindergarten through 2nd" First Day School class, I am usually not with him until the rise of meeting.

Earlier this month, when I went to pick him up, he was halfway through creating his very first God's Eye, and I was suddenly flooded with memories of my own childhood hand-crafting days.

Remember the first potholder you ever wove? On that little tiny loom? Remember the boondoggle lanyard
– or did you call it gimp? – that you made at camp? Remember that super-cool popsicle stick birdfeeder?

Such a thrill, to enter the world of making, to be able to create something that seemed real and recognizable and useful and grown up.

What do you remember? Tell me a story?

(Thanks to the women of Mama Says Om
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 14, 2006

The Ghanzi-Kang Road

For years
for lifetimes
the government of my country
has been trying to push me
out of my homeland.

Only one game reserve in the world
is larger than ours
here in the Central Kalahari desert.
Surely there is room enough
for hyenas, wildebeest, lions, gemsbok
and the San – my people –
in addition to the diamonds
everyone cares so much about.

Yesterday, in a courtroom,
we won the right to return.
Do you know that feeling,
washing off the dust
of Deception Valley
but still so happy
to have walked in it?

I'm heading for the Ghanzi-Kang road,
and from there my tracks are my own.
I am going home. I am going home.
It will be a fine story.
I am going home.

(Thanks to the women of Poetry Thursday
for their continuing inspiration. And to
the San, whose victory yesterday inspired this poem.)

(Click here for the story of the San's victory.)

December 13, 2006

We're Going To Miss You, Bob Lucid

My beloved sister called me in tears last night to tell me that Bob Lucid had died.

That little tiny picture is the only picture of him I could find, and I wish now, of course, that I had taken the time to get a good picture of him at Steve's awesome party this summer.

Bob Lucid was a guiding light in my sister's life, and my knowledge of him comes through her, so I am one step removed from the sadness.

Which makes most of you two steps removed.

So rather than talk about Bob himself, this guy I didn't know very well and who you maybe didn't know at all, I wanted to talk just for a minute about the Bob-sized hole he left behind.

Bob Lucid was the kind of person who believed in others. If you had a dream that seemed a little crazy to you, Bob would treat it as something that you were likely to be able to achieve. And somehow, buoyed by his enthusiasm, you would find yourself thinking that maybe your dream wasn't so crazy after all.

Bob Lucid was an elder with a long memory. If you were lucky enough to have been his friend for many years, he would keep parts of your history alive, telling stories from your life and his, binding them together.

And he believed in the power of language to connect people.

So that's part of what my sister is missing tonight. And it's not even the half of it. We're going to miss you, Bob Lucid.

December 12, 2006

Christmas Carol Tag

Nancy over at GenreCookShop tagged me with this request for my five favorite holiday songs. A nice excuse to have my head full of music; thanks, Nancy!

Stille Nacht (auf Deutsch)
I realized in putting together this list that I like this song in German not because I'm snobby about doing it in the original or anything like that. Rather, it's the fact that my German is a little rusty that makes me want to sing this song in German; I have to think just a little bit about every word, in a way that I never would in English.

O Little Town of Bethlehem
It's the small town girl in me, I guess; I just like it when a little town gets its moment to shine.

Oh Holy Night
Just can't resist this soaring melody.

Deck the Halls
C'mon, you know nothing says "holiday season" like GAY apparel!

Baby It's Cold Outside
Just love the playful overlapping lines of this.

Runners Up:
White Christmas
Pearl Bailey's rendition of "Five Pound Box of Money" (cracks me up every time)

Hell, no:
Little Drummer Boy
He can just pa rum pum pum pum right outta here, thank you very much.

Chelle, Sassafras Mama, Jaxter, Julie, and Cate, you've got next ups!

December 10, 2006

Haiku - Container

Solid in our grasp,
the box of things that matter.
Until all changes.

Hills and drifts of snow

bring us firmly to stillness.
If only briefly.

What contains us now?
Who and what do we contain?
Lines blur in the white.

(Thank you to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 08, 2006

Think Equal

Think Equal

Today's addition to my Christmas wish list?

A bunch of people supporting this ad campaign. Seriously. Got $5.00 lying around? How about $50.00? How much would you pay to join the fight for true equality for my family?

PS: Thanks, Juan.

Punishment and Reward

Punishment should be swift, but not unheralded.

Punishment should not establish a precedent for physical violence or cruelty.

Punishment should be tailored to the offending act whenever possible.

Punishment should pass like a summer storm; emphasize the possibility of redemption, not the likelihood of everlasting damnation.

Rewards should be lavished, not doled out in a miserly fashion. If a reward has been earned, get into that celebratory spirit and live it up!

Rewards should not contradict previously established rules. ("But I thought you said fried foods were bad for me!")

Rewards should not be offered for behavior that should be standard. (This is the famous "do not confuse rewards with bribes" corollary.)

Rewards can serve as a useful reminder when the task at hand is of a long-term nature.

This is what I believe. My actions do not always conform to my beliefs. Your mileage may vary. And Wendy Mogel probably said it better in her helpful book, Blessings of a Skinned Knee.

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 07, 2006

Cold Haiku

My eyes are tearing.
My nose is about to drip.
My pillow calls me.

December 04, 2006

The Dude in the Red Suit

D informed me in the car ride home tonight that he believes in Santa.

"Not everybody does believe," he clarified. "But I do."

"Me, too, buddy," I said.

But then I started thinking about all my friends for whom the Christmas season is basically one long slog through hell.

If you're one of those folks, or even if you're not, you might enjoy this gallery of Santa visits gone bad.

Sometimes we all need reminding that what's fun for us can be downright torturous for someone else.

December 03, 2006

Haiku Close Up

Not just almonds and
cocoa and egg and flour:
this is alchemy.

For years my Oma spent these early days of December up to her elbows in flour, making almond cookies and her famous German Stollen for everyone in our extended family.

Which was great. Except I never really liked Stollen.

When I started to feel bad about all the time and energy Oma was putting into my annual holiday care package, I floated the idea of telling her. My immediate family members' reactions ran the gamut from aghast to horrified. "You can't TELL her!" my sister yelped.

But I did. As nicely as I possibly could.

There was a brief pause.

And then my Oma kindly said, "Ja? Vell zen, vat shouldt I make for you?"

So, as the next generation holiday baker in our family, I make something I DO enjoy (aided by an annual visit from D's Aunt Chelle, who comes and scoops him up and takes him on all kinds of adventures so that I can stay in the kitchen for hours on end). Biscotti.

And my only request to my family members is that they TELL me if they'd prefer something else.

Which they do.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 02, 2006


When our son was small, we timed his crying.

Not always. And not for long. (If it went on too long, past our pre-determined idea of how long was too long, we swooped in to rescue him.) But during that time when he was figuring out how to comfort himself as he fought and eventually gave into sleep, the waiting was torturous. It felt like he was crying forever. One night we wondered how long forever was, and so turned on a timer to document eternity.

Eight minutes, as it turns out.

My relationship to time has changed dramatically since becoming a parent. As a stereotypically "punctlich" girl of German descent, I have had to adjust my ideas about time, both in my approach to my own activities and in my ideas about time as they relate to parenting.

For one thing, I try to leave myself more time. I start getting ready to leave WAY before I think we need to, because, well, socks will be rejected, jackets will be AWOL, bathroom visits will be declined and then suddenly demanded, and tempers – mostly mine – will fray.

And I try not to rush D without good cause. Someone pointed out to me that a child's life must sometimes seem as if they're simply being dragged from one thing to another, desperately trying to keep up on their little legs when all they really want to do is squat down and get a good luck at that dead spider.

This first weekend in December has become the traditional time for my holiday bake-a-thon. In order to help me pull this off, and because she enjoys hanging out with her nephew, D's Aunt Chelle comes down for the weekend and largely whisks him away. (T, of course, is stapled to her desk reviewing applications.)

For this weekend, I am suddenly "sprung" from what has been one of the harder parts of parenting for me... keeping track not only of my needs but also of D's. Since he was born, this has meant that I have a kind of low-level awareness of a secondary clock. Not just when I'm hungry, but when he's hungry. Not just when I'm tired, but when he is. As the old mom joke goes, "I'm cold; put on a sweater."

Today, when I needed to return a movie, I just went and did it. True, when I got back I had two timers going, to remind me of which racks of biscotti needed to removed or turned, but they were timers that I had set, so it felt different somehow.

Someday, I'll get a chance to sleep in again. But I'll probably have forgotten how.

(Many thanks to the women of Mama Says Om
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day

Support World AIDS Day

At my school, we start each day with an all-school assembly. I don't usually make announcements – it's more of a student thing – and when I do, they're usually of the "get your applications in" brand of nagging.

Today several students made announcements about World AIDS Day, and I was moved to speak about the need for our continuing attention to this ongoing humanitarian crisis as well.

I surprised myself by almost crying. Because I was remembering this:

The following press conference is the first public mention of AIDS in the Reagan White House. At that time 200 Americans had died of a new infectious disease. Reagan himself did not mention AIDS for three more years.


Office of the Press Secretary


October 15, 1982

The Briefing Room

12:45pm EDT

Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement ­ the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?


Q: Over a third of them have died. It's known as "gay plague." (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it's a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?

MR. SPEAKES: I don't have it. Do you? (Laughter.)

Q: No, I don't.

MR. SPEAKES: You didn't answer my question.

Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President ­

MR. SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)

Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?

MR. SPEAKES: No, I don't know anything about it, Lester.

Q: Does the President, does anyone in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?

MR. SPEAKES: I don't think so. I don't think there's been any ­

Q: Nobody knows?

MR. SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.

Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping ­

MR. SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he's had no ­ (laughter) ­ no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.

Q: The President doesn't have gay plague, is that what you're saying or what?

MR. SPEAKES: No, I didn't say that.

Q: Didn't say that?

MR. SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn't you stay there? (Laughter.)

Q: Because I love you Larry, that's why (Laughter.)

MR. SPEAKES: Oh I see. Just don't put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)

Q: Oh, I retract that.

MR. SPEAKES: I hope so.

Q: It's too late.

This transcript was quoted at the beginning of Jon Cohen's book, Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine, 2001.

Support World AIDS Day

November 30, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: In the Last Hour

  • In the last hour I have presided over bathtime and books.
  • I have avoided the laundry, the dishes, and our bills.
  • I have changed into play clothes and cursed the slow-draining tub.
  • I have wished for better radio reception.
  • I have been happy for Miss Amy getting air time on Kids Corner!
  • I have been sad for C, who lost her job.
  • I have been outraged that anyone, even someone who mostly works online, could be fired by email.
  • I have been pleased to think about Grammy and Grampy being back online again.
  • I have put lotion on my hands, which have been handling paper all day.
  • I have called my sweetie, to urge her to head on home.
  • I have dreamed of buying a few books online before my coupon expires.
  • I have wondered if I could write an entry without using the word "I" once.
  • And I have planned unearthing our Advent Calendar. While simultaneously looking forward to Leslie's.
(Thanks to the fun women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)

Likely Edward Gorey Death

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?

Apparently, my fate is to be sucked dry by a leech. I should stay away from swimming holes, and stick to good old cement. Even if it does hurt like hell when my toe scrapes the bottom. But I LOVE swimming holes!
Take this quiz!

Poetry Thursday: Blue Walls

Blue Walls

The last thing we did
before he was born
was to cut down a huge tree
that was in decline.
Old life making way
for new.
The room burst wide
with sunshine.

When he was born
sleep became a dance.
He led; we followed.
We tried having him sleep
in the room with us,
but I woke with
every hiccup, every movement,
So across the hall he went.

My back still remembers
the leaning in,
the careful laying down
of our small bundle of boy in his crib.
We brushed the blue walls of his room
with a yellow night light
and delighted in the new lullabye
of his deep steady breaths.


One day when I was seven
I suddenly noticed
that my bedroom walls
were pink. The next day
we went to the paint store.
Maybe someday soon
he’ll notice that his walls
are blue.

We’ll explain that we chose
blue not for boy
but for wide open sky,
for a view newly freed
of an old growth tree.
But he might ask
to head off to the paint store
(Many thanks to the women of Poetry Thursday
for their continuing inspiration.)

November 29, 2006

Today's Reuters Iraq News

I am led to bear witness today. US military engagement in Iraq has now overtaken the length of America's involvement in World War II. The pain of this endless stream of broken hearts and families is difficult to comprehend or describe. We must wage peace. Emphases below are mine.

SAMARRA - Six policemen were killed and four wounded when a car bomb exploded near a police station in a town near Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad. Militants briefly occupied the building. A daylight curfew was imposed.

ANBAR PROVINCE - A U.S. Marine died from wounds sustained in combat while operating in western Anbar province, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber targeting a police patrol killed a policeman and wounded seven people, including three policemen, in southwestern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.

BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber exploded near a police patrol, killing a policeman and wounding five civilians in al-Nidhal street in central Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.

MOSUL - A suicide car bomber targeting a police station killed one civilian and wounded 23 in the northern city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded on Tuesday when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle in Salahaddin province, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed two policemen and wounded seven people, including two policemen, in Baghdad's al-Nahdha area, an Interior Ministry source said.

NEAR BAQUBA - The U.S. military said its forces killed eight insurgents and two women in an early morning ground assault supported by an air strike on a village near Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad. Iraqi police said a U.S.-Iraqi force killed eight civilians. Police said the dead were a man and his three sons and a neighbouring couple, their son and daughter.

DIWANIYA - Police said they found the body of a teacher with gunshot wounds in Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad. Gunmen had kidnapped him on Tuesday.

November 28, 2006

Thanksgiving - Extended Dance Mix

I am thankful for our little house, with its modest demands on our time and its sturdy promise of warmth and shelter at day's end.

I am thankful for my health. D & T are both sick at the moment, but they'll get better, and I'm thankful for that, too.

I am thankful for new easy recipes that make me feel like a culinary wizard. (This year Chez Alice removed Carrot Ginger Soup from their holiday catering menu, and I was so disappointed that I decided to try to make my own. I don't think I'll ever need to have it catered again.)

I am thankful for shelves of poetry, there when I need it.

I am thankful for the family dealt to me, and for the family I have chosen.

I am thankful for the excitement of imagining presents carefully chosen and joyfully received.

I am thankful for cold evenings and covers to burrow into.

I am thankful for you, reader who shares a little warmth with me here in this new world we create with our words and imagination.

I am thankful for a good night's rest.

November 27, 2006

Haiku - Legacy

Towel on shoulder,
sink steam rising as you work:
third generation.

My favorite kinds of legacies are the ones you don't realize you're leaving. When my mom is working in the kitchen, she almost always has a dish towel hanging over her shoulder. To me, it signals readiness to create. At some point in my adult life, I realized that I, too, drape a towel over my shoulder while cooking. Whether I make use of it or not, I feel incomplete without it. This past week, in the run-up to Thanksgiving, D requested a towel for his shoulder as he stood on a chair by the sink helping with the dishes.

None of us planned this. It just happened. And we couldn't be happier.

(Thanks as always to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

November 26, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Arch-Enemy

The line pictured above is the work of my nemesis.

It's a line of people waiting to buy the new XBox game system. Last year, I think, or whenever the latest version was.

My nemesis is the mindlessly consumerist culture we live in here in the US.

I fight it every day. And the battle intensifies for the month leading up to Christmas.

Gotta get my game on. And I don't mean XBox.

(For more arch-enemy action,
head on over to Sunday Scribblings.)

November 25, 2006

Insider's Guide to Our Thanksgiving

All 40 RSVP's actually showed up. And a few brought a friend. We had one non-Princetonian, one US resident, and a whole bunch of grateful and hungry undergrads.

We didn't go out. (Except to snag some last minute provisions this morning.)

Instead, we spent our whole day inside, opening our home to as many international Princeton undergrads as we could possibly squeeze in.

Early on, it seemed as if Princeton maybe hadn't gone co-ed after all...

But soon enough, there were boys. And more girls. And standing room only.

In any given year, about ten percent of Princeton's freshman class comes from someplace other than the continental US. Because Princeton's financial aid policies are so incredibly generous, it is sometimes the case that these students come from families of very modest means. A ticket home for a holiday that is a non-event in their home country may well be an unaffordable indulgence. And what IS Thanksgiving, anyway? Not having grown up celebrating this particular holiday, the students who are left on campus are left pressing their noses up against the metaphorical windows of American abundance and excess.

In what has become our Thanksgiving tradition, we tuck them under our wing and try to offer them a "traditional" American Thanksgiving, while at the same time explaining to them how we've tweaked it to include them and a whole bunch of side dishes neither of us ever had growing up in upstate New York.

And the pressure is totally off. They're so happy and grateful, if I mess something up, we just laugh it off and make a note for next year. Ran out of ice cream. Could have skipped the crudites.

D has never known any other Thanksgiving. And his list of helper duties gets longer every year. Last year, washing the potatoes. This year, washing and MASHING!

There's not much left. But if the doorbell rang right now, I'd be the first one to invite whoever was standing on the stoop inside. There's still a little pie.

(Thanks to the women of Mama Says Om
for their continuing inspiration.)

November 24, 2006

Helping Hands

(Pie making, 20 lb. turkey, shoulder towel, recycling)

As of this writing, the RSVP's are clocking in at 40 people from about 20 countries.

Every year for the past six or so years, we have invited international Princeton students, who are often too far from home to get back there, over here for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. It started out with a small gesture towards a few students T found headed for the Wawa on the day after Thanksgiving. It has become something quite a bit larger.

Our house is on the small side. (Unless you live in Manhattan, in which case we live in relatively palatial decadence.)

Some folks who have been here and who have just now read that RSVP number are, I can reliably report, thinking, "Are they insane?"

We think every year about not doing it. For a few minutes. And then we get an email from a senior who's been here every year and hopes to make it "four for four." Or from a tentative freshman wondering if there might be the possibility of pumpkin pie for dessert.

Like many people, our Thanksgiving tradition has become an "all hands on deck" kind of event. And it gives us great joy to be able to include D in the work, something which he, too, is excited about.

He remembers scrubbing the potatoes last year and this morning eagerly asked if he could have that job again. You betcha, kiddo.

November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Haiku

Now come to the feast!
Such vast abundance requires
elastic waistbands.

(Sometimes I just need to poke fun
at my wanna be profundity.)

November 21, 2006

Your Mission

Got an email the other day from Damali Ayo, an artist whose work I am grateful for.

She says:

your mission, should you choose to accept it, is:

send me your list (note: Damali's email is damali (at) of:

1) five things white people can do to combat (eliminate) racism/improve our current racial dynamics

2) five things people of color can do to combat (eliminate) racism/improve our current racial dynamics

i'm going to review, and compile these and send them to the list, post them on my web site, and make them a part of my presentations to schools and communities. (if anyone has an "in" with a billboard company, please let me know- i've always wanted to do a billboard project, and this would be perfect.)


because people are always asking me to tell them "what to do?!?!" and to come up with solutions to the problems i illuminate. and i firmly believe that the more of us who are involved in creating those solutions, the better chance they have of working for all of us.

so have your voice heard, and disseminated, ayo-style.
a now-art project will follow to help disseminate these solutions, and there may be t-shirts, and interviews. maybe we can start a movement....


Okay, this is Shelley again. Here are the five things I sent to Damali as my ideas for what we white folks can do:

1) make a conscious decision to consider racism "your problem"
2) spend some time in situations in which you are seriously in the minority and reflect on your experiences
3) commit to confronting racism when you see, hear, read, or experience it
4) actively seek out the perspectives and insights of those who are doing "the heavy lifting" with regards to fighting (eliminating) racism
5) if a friend shares their experience of racism with you, LISTEN. Resist any urge to jump in and minimize or excuse their feelings.

Wanna help?

November 20, 2006

Senses Haiku

The warm smell of bread,
a dark room lit by laughter:
thigh becomes pillow.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.
And, if you're up for a silly haiku-style suggestion for tonight's dinner,
pop on over to Bill Keagy's What's For Dinner site.)

November 19, 2006

Fire is Primal

The "we beat Harvard and Yale" bonfire was originally scheduled for Thursday night, but Thursday night brought heavy rain and tornado warnings, so Princeton wisely went with the Friday night option.

The bonfire was slated to start at 6pm, so D and I joined T on campus after school. He was worn out, as he so often is on Friday evening, but absolutely determined not to miss the fire, which we'd explained to him is an unpredictable and rare occurrance.

The pyre was huge; the flames shot higher than the tallest trees surrounding Cannon Green. We stood in the shadow of West College, and could still feel the heat.

Doesn't he look a bit devilish? Mwah ha ha hah...

November 18, 2006

Sunday Scribblings - Heroes

I wrote a pretty extensive "Heroes" entry for Mama Says Om back on November 5th. I figured I would probably need to skip this Sunday Scribblings on account of what else would I have to say?

I figured wrong.

Here's the one thing more I have to say. The thing that really gets to me about heroes? Is that they rarely think of themselves that way. And that they usually don't go out looking for anything like attention or glory or accolades. They just stay where they are and act on their truth. Because the Earth matters. Because some people can't speak up for themselves. Because they need to sit down. Or stand up.

I think you might need to be the hero of your own life before you can be the hero of anyone else's.

(More thoughts on heroes at Sunday Scribblings.)

November 17, 2006

In Search Of

(ill.the fabulous Richard Bell)

The problem with reading incessantly is that I forget where I saw things.

Sometimes, I have the presence of mind in the moment to realize that something is making enough of an impact on me that I should make a little note about where to find it again.

But it is more often the case that something makes a deep impression on me slowly, sinking down into my consciousness and percolating until I finally realize that it's here to stay.

Except for now I don't know where it came from.

Here are a few of the things that are bubbling up that I wish I could find:
  • What book of Cornelius Eady's includes the poem "The Wrong Street"?
  • What book (fiction) includes the concept of social "ascendency," the idea that we are always striving to assess ourselves in relation to others with regards to dominance?
  • What book (utopian fiction) includes the idea that we had evolved to the point that people were selecting their cultural affiliations, independently of their families of origin? (This is hard to explain, but was explained beautifully and appealingly in some book I read.)
Got anything you're trying to find again? Got any leads on "my" stuff?

November 16, 2006

Poetry Thursday - They Lie


These shoes said they'd never give me blisters.

My backpack swears there's a working pen in here somewhere.

This paper plate claims to be made from 100% recycled paper.

The phone's blinking light refers to a message that requires no action on my part.

The carpet promises to hide any stain.

The missing shirt button is plotting a prodigal return.

And the calendar proclaims the glory that is Friday.

(For more lies, check out Poetry Thursday.)

November 15, 2006

Real Beauty

This image was taken from Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty. The accompanying video is worth watching... you can just click on the underlined text above.

I'll wait.

I've never really worn makeup. Somehow I instinctively knew, long before figuring out my non-majority sexual orientation, that I was never meant to swim in this particular main stream.
In the beginning, it was less a principled stand than a gut-level aversion.

Now, it's a decades-old decision that enables me to model a counter-cultural option for my nieces, as well as one that saves me time and money.

Although I have to admit that Sassafras Mama's occasional glitter makes a good case for a little self-celebratory flash.

November 14, 2006

Outside and Yes

The days were still long. The light was luscious. And on our way home from school I was remembering some of the best parenting advice I've gotten yet:

Say yes as often as you can.

So as we made ready to drive past the Mercer Oak (actually Son of Mercer Oak, but that's another story), and D asked me if we could stop and play outside, I was primed.

I said yes.

We walked along the fence talking about split rails and the original oak and what people mean when they tie a yellow ribbon and whose shadow is taller and then he asked me if he could climb on the fence.

I said yes.

Outside and yes. A great combination.

(Thanks to the women of Mama Says Om
for their continuing inspiration.)

November 13, 2006

Friends and Companions Renga

The rain slips through our
careful defenses while we
try to hide our skin —

treading this trail into winter,
we are not walking alone

~ Shelley Krause and Cate Kerr

Cate graciously responded to my invitation, and we are both so pleased to be able to start our week with this kind of creative sharing. We've never met, but it scarcely matters; we are still friends and companions.

For extra credit, surf on over here to see a renga I helped birth almost ten years ago (!).

(Thanks as ever to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration, and to Meera Viswanathan,
my teacher from many years ago, who first introduced me to renga.)

Geek Poet Seeks Collaborator

Apologies to those of you who stopped by to see today's haiku... we interrupt to bring you this partial screenshot of the fun free new toy available over at

An incredibly customizable webpage with drag-and-drop functionality, courtesy of the good people at goowy media.

End of geek outburst.

Meanwhile, back at One Deep Breath, the call this week is for a renga, which is a collaborative form of poetry. (See posting for details.)

I have a starting haiku. I have a call out to a friend. But if anyone else out there is feeling brave (Becky? Karen?) send me an email or drop a comment and maybe we can team up, too!

November 12, 2006

Sunday Scribblings - Ackerman

"I don't want to be a passenger in my own life." (Diane Ackerman)

The prompt from Sunday Scribblings this week asks us to respond to this quote.

I decided not to be a passenger in my own life a long time ago, so for me to think about this means remembering those days when I was still in the stage of becoming the captain of my own ship.

When I was falling in love with a woman for the first time, I was young enough that I didn't truly understand what was happening.
This lack of knowledge was both my saving and my downfall. It saved me because it kept me from fully experiencing the fear of what lay ahead. It doomed me because I didn't know enough to be obsessively secretive, and so was soon exposed to the world's condemnation and abuse.

My parents wanted to protect me, but were largely powerless to do so. And some of their ideas about protection would have "protected" me out of what was to become my life.

So I made a decision. Faced with the possible loss of my family of origin, or with the slow erosion of self that denying my identity would cause, I chose to follow my heart forward. Even if it mean losing the family who had been my safe harbor for my entire life leading up to that point.

As it turned out, I was one of the lucky ones. My family's understanding grew along with my own, and I got to keep both my birth family and the family I now make my life with. I have been truly blessed.

The only sense in which I am a passenger is the sense in which we all are. There is one boat, and we are all in it together.

Which leads me to one of my favorite quotes, by Jane Addams of Hull House fame: "The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain – until it is secure for all of us, and incorporated into the common good."

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)