Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Best People In The World

Julia Child said, "People who love to eat are always the best people."

I'd like to expand the Best People honor to those who send books in the mail.  Because books are what I keep finding in our mailbox, and it makes me feel lucky.  Like, I know some of the best people in the world!

The books are not for me.  But because I live here, I get to read them too.

Last month, our friends from Connecticut sent C Clementine.   She arrived in the nick of time, because once you are done with the dozens of Junie B. stories, there is a little hole in your heart.  Clementine will fill it. 

This month, a friend sent Miss C two autographed books from the series Getting To Know The World's Greatest Artists

Frida Kahlo
Jacob Lawrence

The friends who sent the Clementine book are mothered by a woman who is a Good Mailer.  This means if you visit her and leave something behind at her house, she will promptly send it back to you.
While here over the summer, as she and her daughters were packing up to drive hours back home, we tore the house apart looking for flip flops.  Black flip flops.  When they were 30 minutes gone, I found the flip flops under a pile of dolls.  I have them all set in a bag to send along.  I am aiming to go from Terrible Mailer, to SubPar Mailer.  If I can get them sent before the year is over, I will have  made progress.  Who needs flip flops in December?  Doesn't matter.  Baby steps. 

The friend who sent the autographed artist books lives in Boston, home of adorable book shops.  Last year, she sent C a book called The Great Serum Race.  Miss C wrote the thank you note on her own:
Thank you for the book about diptheerya. 

Everybody needs a good book about diptheerya to cozy up with on a cold winter night. 

While reading about other awesome books, I found a website that supports all sorts of excellent children's stories.  Also, they sell  Frida Kahlo socks.  And, Zora Neale Hurston shirts.
A Mighty Girl.
Have you been to A Mighty Girl?  Next time you must buy something, stop by.  It is mighty wonderful and full of delightful books.  And did I mention, Frida Kahlo socks?

Frida Kahlo Knee Socks
Their Eyes Were Watching God T-Shirt
The Girl With A Brave Heart

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tis the Season

There is an organization called WomenArts.  Their mission is to "empower an international community of women artists and allies." 

It was founded by Martha Richards 20 years ago.
Today she turned 65 and WomenArts turned 20.  She wrote a post celebrating both and it inspired me, so I'm sharing a few excerpts:

I want to emphasize the point that WomenArts started with a small group of women gathering in my kitchen and talking about our dreams.  Once we started talking we were able to identify positive steps we could take to move towards our goals.
I encourage all of you to do the same this holiday season. Take time to think about what you would like to accomplish in the coming year and then figure out whether there are people who could help you. Maybe you will gather with friends to start a new organization as I did twenty years ago, or maybe you will create some ambitious new work or plan a spectacular event...   Whatever it is, please know that there are women here at WomenArts and all over the world who are rooting for you to succeed. 
I have one more birthday wish.  As you are sending out your holiday greetings, please take a few moments to contact your favorite women artists and tell them what you love about their work.  This simple action is much more powerful than you might think.  I have learned that you can often give someone the courage to keep working or try something new just by listening to them carefully, acknowledging their hard work, and finding kind, supportive things to say.

What a great birthday wish!
In the spirit of that idea, I am listing three women artists who have inspired me.  There are others, but their work is not online yet, so I am going to hassle encourage them to git on it.

My three merci:

Thank you Leah.
Leah  heals with her words as a story teller and writer, and with her touch as a massage therapist.  She gets inspired by ideas and then forms groups, she gets inspired by books and then organizes readings.  She makes things happen.  If you want to dive into your dreams, contact Leah.  She just finished a two year program.   About dreams.  How cool is that.

Thank you Alli.   
Alli selects beautiful fabric and goes to her attic to turn it into things.  She lives with all boys: husband, sons, male dog, male cat.  Her attic has been declared "penis free zone" and it is where she creates beauty and more beauty.  She kicks arse with a sewing machine. 

Thank you Christine
Christine paints and teaches and lives by intuition.  Twenty years ago she dreamed of living in Hawaii and now she lives and paints in Hawaii.  You can find her work at Maui Hands.

"Give and Take" by Christine Waara
CW002 - Give & Take

Crayon purse by Allison Clark
Image of Crayon Wallet - Country Girls

A class taught by Leah, titled,
"Who’s Wicked? Taking Another Look at Rapunzel"

If you have someone you know who creates things you love, or someone you don't know who creates things you love, send them a thank you for creating.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Plastic Surgery Haiku

I came across Amy Poehler's book, Yes Please, and flipped open to several poems she'd penned about cosmetic surgery.  A sampling:

looks cool while cheek implants are  
less interesting

I have no idea
If you are angry or sad
Since you got fillers 

A face-lift does not
make daughters comfortable
when you chaperone 

Monday, November 3, 2014

30 Days Has November

November is National Novel Writing Month. 
Interested in writing a novel?
Go to NaNoWriMo.org

I will not be writing a novel this month. 

Instead, I will be doing National Essay Writing Month. 
Come visit me at NaEsWriMo
I'll be writing an essay a day.

You can read along, write along, or both.

The goal is: Quantity, Not Quality. 

After November 30, I'll be back here, with no more stories left to tell.  All essay-ed out.

Happy November.
See you in 30!

Friday, October 31, 2014


The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia has all sorts of freaky real things on display.  Many of them in jars. 
These are not the kind of things one would want to see in one's canning pantry.

There is a display of skeletons from a certain period of history where corsets were all the rage.  Like Malibu Musk of the 90's.  The skeletons are of the female variety.  And their rib cages do not look good.  They are a bit bent, a bit brittle.  In short, it looks like "beauty is pain" is clearly defined in their bones.  But hey, this is what it takes to make it appear that we, the female variety, have no organs!    What's that you think you see?  Evidence of a stomach, a spleen, a liver?  Nonsense. 
(The Mutter Museum is a great place to tour, should you ever find yourself in the City of Brotherly Love.  Their slogan: "Are you ready to be disturbingly informed?"  If you say yes, click on! )

Photograph of our hanging skeltons display

Corsets, are apparently, back.  It's called "waist training."
I have heard of dog training.
I have heard of marathon training.
But waist training, I think, results in the above photo. 

So, it is with great pleasure I present to you a cartoon reminder that having organs is not so bad.
These princesses, with organs drawn in, are not horrible!
Maybe beauty is having organs, and uncracked ribs and a good belly laugh at the idea of waist training. 

If you want to see Ariel with a stomach, Pocahontas with a spleen, and Aurora sporting a liver, click here.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spoiler Alert

My mom was spending time with Miss C the other evening while I ran an errand.  Later that night, with Miss C in bed, I got ready to read her a chapter of Anne of Green Gables.

We are close to the end, four chapters to go, and the rivalry between Anne and Gilbert has been going on three years.  Three years of intense silence, ignored apologies, grudges that seem Irish in their tenacity.  Because he called her Carrots.

( My siblings and I joke that when we spend time in Ireland, there is a list of people we are supposed to visit, and then a short list of people we are not supposed to talk to.  Because someone talked smack about someone else's cow forty years ago.  It's like honoring a grudge on behalf of deceased Great Aunt Mary McCreedy twice removed.  This is loyalty.  But because we often mix up the names on the lists, and because all Irish people look the same, we often find ourselves having tea and cookies with The Enemy.  And they make a good pot of tea.)

So I opened up Anne of Green Gables and Miss C sat up and said, "Nana said that Anne and Gilbert get married.

She was half distressed, half in disbelief. 

"Well, I don't know.  Right now she's only fifteen."

"But Nana said so.  That it happens later.  I wish I didn't know that."

"Well, even if they get married, there are so many other things we don't know."

"But they don't even like each other.  So that's a big thing to know."

"That's called a spoiler."

"What's a spoiler?"

"It's when you're part way through a story, and someone accidentally tells you how it ends."

"So Nana's a spoiler.  I'll let her know."

"No no no, that's not what I said.  I said it's a spoiler.  Getting early information.  It is a spoiler.  People aren't spoilers."

"It's a spoiler because you said Nana's a spoiler and I'll let her know."

I think I might be added to that short list.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Financial Abuse

Actress Kerry Washington spoke last month about a tactic in domestic abuse that is both invisible and common:
Finances are almost always a weapon of choice.  Taking away access to cash, destroying credit, jeopardizing jobs -- financial abuse leaves invisible bruises that can take decades to heal.
Melissa Jeltsen explains:
Financial abuse is a tactic often used by abusers to control and isolate their partners. It takes many forms: Abusers may drastically limit their victims' access to cash so they have no money of their own....They may sabotage their victims' ability to work, or pile up debt under their victims' names.

For an abusive relationship to continue, it takes two mindsets: the abuser mindset (control, manipulation, isolation), and the victim mindset (resignation, shame, feeling of powerlessness).  The cycle is broken anytime one of these mindsets shifts.  Most often, it is the victim shifting from shame and powerlessness into survival.  It can be sudden, born of absolute necessity, or subtle, building over months or years.  Survival is one state, and once achieved, self-sufficiency is able to take root and grow.

Washington states,
I think people just aren't as aware of financial abuse.  If a woman isn't even aware of the dynamics of financial abuse -- what it looks like, what it is -- she may not even know that that's part of the tools being used to control her and manipulate her.. ...When there is more information around it, people can begin to identify it and then get the help they need.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Raising His Hand

It has been said that when one student in a classroom is brave enough to raise their hand and say they don't understand something, there are others who are sitting silently, also not understanding, but too embarrassed to raise their hand.

I'm linking here to a story I just read about a teacher in Pennsylvania.  She was charged with felony sexual contact with one of her students.  The discovery came about when parents of the student found inappropriate texts on his phone.  This discovery led to a bigger story unrolling about a  relationship that a teacher initiated with their teenage son.  After charges were pressed, another young man, a teenage student of hers, came forward.  But that was not the last of it.  More allegations were then made concerning "inappropriate activity in a classroom."  In short, the parents discovery brought forward the truth that their son was not the only one.

Misuse and abuse of power rarely happens as an isolated incident. 
It is a powerful thing when one person comes forward with their story.
It gives permission to those who have been sitting silently. 
It helps pave a path to the truth, so that corrective action can begin. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

More Stories Shared

Meredith Vieira is brave.  Here she tells of her own experience with domestic abuse, and why she stayed:

From working with victims of sexual abuse, I have found that one common thread is this: no one searches harder for fault or blame than someone who experiences something terrible over and over at the hands of someone who loves them.  Often the conclusion becomes self-fault, self-blame. 

The move from victim to self-advocate is such a very very vulnerable and fragile thing.  The work is mental and emotional before physical.  The leaving comes after the inner work has begun.   

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Thing She Carries

Emma carries her mattress wherever she goes.

Sometimes people help her carry it.
Sometimes they call her names for dragging that thing out in public.

She carries it anyway.

She carries it without expectation.  She carries it because it is with her always, anyways.

Emma is healing and allowing us to see her healing.

"It's been a week now, and it already feels a little lighter," she says.
"I’m getting used to it; I’m getting stronger.”

---from Going From Class To Class With Emma Sulkowicz And Her Mattress

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Even Elevators

The national attention on domestic abuse has been intense over the past few days, following a high-profile example playing out with NFL player Ray Rice and his now wife, Janay Palmer, complete with elevator video evidence and subsequent press conferences.

All of the dialogue around this issue is very useful.  All of it. 

Co-hosts of Fox and Friends have been denounced for this particular piece of commentary:

After discussing the latest developments in the Ray Rice situation — in which the star ex-Baltimore Ravens running back assaulted his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator — Kilmeade joked, “I think the message is, take the stairs.”
Doocy countered, “The message is when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera.”

This morning, on a local radio show, I listened to two men talk about how "the media changes everything."  That nothing is private anymore, there can't be anything that happens without someone documenting it with their phone, that "even elevators aren't safe."  They didn't mean safe for women, or human beings.  They meant safe from scrutiny.

At this moment, I am glad that we live in an age of information. 
That we live in a time and place where even elevators are not private, where moments that could typically be tucked away from public viewing are no longer tucked away from public viewing. I am glad that this particular type of "safety" is evaporating.  It forces us, all of us, to confront what happens behind some closed doors, and more importantly, what we believe about what happens behind closed doors.

One woman, Beverly Gooden, tweeted, "almost without thinking", why she stayed in an abusive relationship. 
“The overwhelming tone was, ‘Why did she stay?’” Gooden, a human resources manager from Charlotte, N.C., told The Washington Post. “I felt that people just don’t realize, asking ‘Why doesn’t she leave?’ is such a simple question for a very complex issue.”

Gooden's goal was simply to offer support:
"I want people to know they are not alone and that there are people who truly understand what they have gone through," said Gooden. "When the overwhelming public voice is of shame, you can get lost in the guilt. You can feel voiceless. I want people to know that they have a voice! That they have the power. That's so critical, that survivors feel empowered."
Gooden's message resonated. Within a few hours, thousands of Twitter users were sharing their stories. 
--From 19 #WhyIStayed Tweets That Everyone Needs To See

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blaming the Victim: The Joint Apology for Getting Punched in the Face

Many people didn't really want to see that video. They wanted to believe Rice was attacked by Palmer and did something to warrant being punched in the face. From the moment part of the video became public over the summer until Monday morning, it was easy to put some blame on Janay Palmer.
The woman always gets the burden of proof and the burden of pain. The woman is always cast as the gold digger, the mentally imbalanced stalker, the inappropriate dresser. The woman is always the provocateur.
---from Culture of Blaming the Victim

When it takes video evidence to get the public to take abuse seriously, the power is in the hands of the people who have the videos — and decide whether or not to release them.
Without documentation, the victim's and aggressor's accounts become a "he said, she said" — and we know from media studies that people are more likely to believe accounts that confirm their prejudices. If people tend to side with the person they already know, like or trust — in this case, the star player — video evidence becomes one of the only things that can break that impasse.

---from  The People Who Have the Footage Have the Power

Thursday, August 7, 2014


I was contemplating the fruit flies that had appeared on our blueberries that we just picked when I heard this wonderful interview. 

This, the flies, was not at all what I imagined when I pictured us traipsing through the rows of bushes heavy with plump berries waiting to stain our eager fingers.
I blame my romanticized notion of berry picking on Blueberries For Sal, which we re-read last week.  I mean, who doesn't want to hang out with bears while gathering fruit?  

We weren't in Maine so our berry excursion had no bears.  There were some Amish women that Miss C stopped to listen to as they talked to each other, but that was brief because Miss C is a competitive berry picker.  This also was not in my imagined experience, but as soon as her uncle taught her how to "tickle" the branch so that maximum ripe berries would fall into the bucket, it became a competition.  Between her and everyone else who happened to be berry picking that day. 

Anyway.  Fruit flies.  And 17 pounds of blueberries.  And this awesome interview with the actress Helen Mirren.

The interviewer, Melissa Block, says,

"You have talked a lot over the years about roles for women, the paucity of good roles for women, and especially women who are older, at a different stage of their career..."

Helen Mirren responds,

"You know, I have to say I haven't talked a lot about that.  Journalists have talked a lot about it to me, but I have not talked a lot about it.  And I have always responded, for the last twenty years, with exactly the same response:  'Don't worry about roles in drama.  That's not your concern.  Worry about roles for women in real life.  Because as night follows day, roles for women in drama will follow.  And when you have a female president of America, which hopefully maybe you will very soon, when you have female heads of hospitals, of legal firms, of schools, of universities, you will have roles for women in drama.'  And that has happened.  That's absolutely happened." 

I think what she's saying is: Art imitates life, yo! 
With an English accent. 
The rest of the interview is here

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ann with an E

Miss C and I started watching Anne of Green Gables, which has led to me reading Anne of Green Gables. 

(Do not call her Carrots.)

I imagine that Megan Follows, who plays Anne, took 5 shots of espresso before filming each scene. 

Or as Miss C puts it: She is crazy. 

But she's the fun crazy. 
As I keep reading more of the wonder of Anne, I have concluded that she is the first character to demonstrate both The Positive Thought Movement, and a very real case of undiagnosed ADHD.

"Do you know," said Anne confidentially, "I've made up  my mind to enjoy this drive.  It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.  Of course, you must make it up firmly.  I am not going to think about going back to the asylum while we're having our drive.  I'm just going to think about the drive.  Oh, look, there's one little early wild rose out!  Isn't it lovely?  Don't you think it must be glad to be a rose?  Wouldn't it be nice if roses could talk?  I'm sure they could tell us such lovely things.  And isn't pink the most bewitching color in the world?  I love it, but I can't wear it.  Redheaded people can't wear pink, not even in imagination.  Did you ever know of anybody whose hair was red when she was young but got to be another color when she grew up?"    

---L.M. Mongomery

Friday, July 18, 2014

Yes They Do

I've got a perfect body
But sometimes I forget
I've got a perfect body
Because my eyelashes catch my sweat.

---Regina Spektor, Folding Chair

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Body Love

I was reading some very well written articles in The Economist The Wall Street Journal People and Elle (because it was a long grocery line, and because E. Jean makes me laugh).

Two interviews, one theme:

First interview,  with singer Mary Lambert, exploring the subject of her poem titled Body Love.
The interview covers Lamberts style of writing, her survival of being gang-raped, then includes this sentence:

She mines both ends of the spectrum, serving grueling and confessional lyrics with the gentle, come-hither appeal of a plus-size Jessica Rabbit.

Second interview, actress Melissa McCarthy addresses the trend of describing powerful female artists in this "plus-size Jessica Rabbit" way:
A recent reference to her as "America's plus-size sweetheart" in an article did not go unnoticed. "It's like I'm managing to achieve all this success in spite of my affliction ... Would you ever put that in the headline for a male star?"

Good question. 

Many interviews, with male or female stars, include a description of what the subject is wearing, how they are postured, and their demeanor.
But rare is the interview that automatically equates a male star's body size with his sexual desirability.  

Like Diego Rivera being described as a plus size Desi Arnez.  Hard to conjure.

The trend of equating women's body size with their desirability is rooted in an old idea:
that men's greatest need is to feel powerful, and women's greatest need is to feel desired.

In this concept, power, for women, only comes if they are first desired.  And to be desired, their current shape has to match the current definition of desirability.  (That is only the first condition.  The physical one.  Then there are about 20 more that aren't connected with body.  Be nice.  Be polite.  Don't offend people with your opinions.  Raise your hand.  Speak when spoken to.  Etc.)

Lambert's version of this idea is: "I only know how to exist when I am wanted."

But she challenges this idea, and ultimately discards it, writing:

          Your sexiness is defined by concentric  circles within your wood
                                              It is wisdom
          You are a goddam tree stump with leaves sprouting out

Because some ideas are bunk. 
Some ideas need to be vetted, and when found false, can be released.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How To Breastfeed Appropriately

This highly informative article is a must-read for anyone considering nursing their baby.

So you've decided to breastfeed. Fantastic! Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to nourish your baby while establishing early bonding. Unfortunately, breast milk comes out of breasts so there are a few ground rules that we need to cover.
As you know, (female) modesty is a highly protected value in modern society. Unless you're a magazine cover model or in a music video, exposing your female udder flesh is entirely inappropriate. Science has proven that breasts are basically large vaginas. Only you and your partner should ever see them. Just because your breast-ginas are full of milk, doesn't mean you get to wave them around. 

Please, for the sake of all of us, read this before you consider using an obscene body part to feed your child.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Communing, Communicating, and Excommunicating

"How is it I can feel peaceful, glorified, connected in the literal presence of sharks? That next to them, I can forget to be afraid? And sitting still in the house of God, I feel myself drowning.”

---Nicole Hardy, reflecting on a swim with sharks, compared to a seat in the pew, in Confessions of a Latter Day Virgin

This morning I read an article about Kate Kelly, a member of the Mormon church. 
 Last night twelve men, church leaders, sat to review whether Kate Kelly, and how she asks questions, fall enough within to stay In, or are too far outside.
They met to determine if she will be excommunicated.

I am drawn to these stories right now.  Not because I am Mormon.  But because the stories are abounding and they are not just in the Mormon church but in many churches.

Some journeys are hard to speak of while we are on them. 
I've been moving from a practicing Roman Catholic to a practicing Cafeteria Catholic. 
Which means: I take what I like and leave the rest.  
For those who take Everything, the term Cafeteria Catholic is not a light one.   It is indicative of someone with commitment issues.  I guess that is now me.
Social justice and contemplative nuns and monks and Thomas Merton and the Jesuit tradition of asking questions and the Franciscan tradition of deep compassion?  Yes please.
Also, examining and acknowledging the history of all the good stuff, along with examining and acknowledging the history of all the shameful and wretched stuff.  Yes. 
One without the other means there is no healing and no growth.  One without the other is stagnation and continued secrecy.  Air and acknowledge the dirty laundry because it needs to see the light of day in order for any transformation to occur.  For those who were and continue to be injured.  And for those who did the injuring. 

Sometimes growth and healing is a big huge mess at first.  And religions are not exempt from this.

These two questions are coming up in churches of all traditions:

What are we going to do about The Women?
What are we going to do about The Gays?

 Many religious institutions come back with the same answer. 

This leads to a  lot of smaller meetings, starting with, What are we going to do about Kate Kelly?

Monday, June 16, 2014

We winned!


Tonight I took Miss C to an Irish pub to watch the US play Ghana on the big screen. 
We left at halftime, when the US was up 1 - 0. 

Driving home, I was all, How awesome is it that we could finally win!  Winning is the best!  Nothing in life matters except for winning!  (Just kidding about the last two sentences.  But seriously.  Winning a soccer game is noice.)

And she was coming up with ways to make the losing team feel more secure.

(My squirrel lovin' cousin has this theory about Irish parenting vs. American parenting.  It is this: American parents say, "Honey, you are wonderful and kind and amazing.  You are just great."
Irish parents say, "Um. You're a bit chubby love.")

So apparently I've been American parenting because to hear Miss C come up with alternative incentives for the losing team was like she wanted the reward for losing to beat the incentive for winning. 

Miss C:
What if whichever team wins gets to keep going in the World Cup, but the losing team gets to help with kids soccer teams, and visiting classrooms, and also fundraising?

Me, in my brain:
That would be so nice.  If Ghana could help with fundraising and stuff. 
Out loud:  Honey, you are wonderful and kind and amazing.  You are just great.

Miss C:
What if the team that loses could stay in the World Cup and not have to go home so soon and also visit classrooms and help teach soccer?

Miss C:
What if you could pick if you won the game or if you lost, but if you won you had to be in the World Cup forever, but if you lost you could go all around to schools and soccer teams and do all different things?

Miss C:
Well, what would you pick?  If you could pick yourself to be any team and pick if you won or lost the game?  Mom? 

This kid is Queen of Extremely Specific Hypotheticals.

I have to say, I would pick to be the team that kept going in the World Cup. 

Miss C:
But you have to be in the World Cup forever.

Would there be any breaks?

Miss C: 
No breaks.  For the rest of your life.

She just made the World Cup sound like punishment.  Like a factory job making shoe inserts until you die.

No matter.

I would still pick being in the World Cup.  But I'd like to visit the classrooms too.

Miss C: 
You can't do both.  Are you sure you don't want to just lose and do all kinds of cool things?

I'll think about it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Being Papa's Day, I wanted to post this encouraging article.

It shares the story of a family in which both parents are HIV positive, and through their dedication to treatment and their mutual support of each other, they have three children who are HIV free.

In a study conducted between 1999 and 2005, services that promoted male partner involvement in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV reduced the risks of conveyance by 40 percent when compared to no involvement from male partners.
When men are tested alongside their pregnant partners, it reduces stigma of the virus and strengthens male understanding of the child-bearing process. If fathers are in-the-know regarding early HIV treatment, their female partners are more likely to stay committed to a healthy pregnancy.  
           article by Robby Coach

Reducing stigma is one of the blocks to adequate treatment of HIV. 
Since women are more likely to be tested because it is part of prenatal care, they are often the visible or known recipient of the diagnosis.  Men have less incentive to be tested, and thus much of the stigma of being HIV positive falls upon women.  In some communities, women are shamed if they ask their husband or partner to be tested.  

Kudos to this dad for doing what should be done for every woman who receives this diagnosis.  He acknowledges his status, and they comply with treatment for the better health of each other and their family.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Honor Killing

A 25 year old woman was stoned to death by her father, brothers, and former fiancĂ©.
She had arrived at court to defend her decision to marry the person of her choosing, and a dozen men attacked her with bricks.  She suffered severe head injuries and was later pronounced dead. 

All the suspects except her father escaped. He admitted killing his daughter and explained it was a matter of honor. Many Pakistani families think a woman marrying her own choice of man brings dishonor on the family.
Around 1,000 Pakistani women are killed every year by their families in honor killings, according to Pakistani rights group the Aurat Foundation.
In honor killings, most of the time the women's killers are her family
Law allows them to nominate someone to do the murder, then forgive him.  
reported here by Mubashar Bukhari 
additional article by Anup Kaphle here 

This law allows the family to nominate someone to kill the woman.   This same law allows the family to then forgive the person after the killing is done.  In this context, "forgive" means that there is no consequence and any possible conviction is overturned by said forgiveness.

This is not forgiveness.  This is a legal loophole.  It is not unlike ones that the United States has had, where some people were people and some people were 3/5ths of a person and some people were property.

Here is a link to Pakistani Women Human Rights Organization.
It states: We strive for HUMAN RIGHTS for Pakistani Women.
The right to live without fear of abduction, mutilation, honor crime, target killing, murder.

The woman who was beaten with bricks: her name was Farzana. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Extending April

April is National Poetry Month, and to celebrate, I have been assaulting Miss C with poetry every night.  Assault is not the right word.  More like, I will read to her after bedtime, but it has to be poems I want to read.
I've found that Mary Oliver keeps her awake because she wants to know more about each owl and river otter. 
Billy Collins lulls her into quiet.
John Ashbery puts her to sleep.

It's been a delightful time and I wondered why we haven't ended every evening this way, me reading poems in the hallway with her door cracked for light and listening. 

On her own time she's been digging into Shel Silverstein and Alan Katz.

Here is her favorite poem of the month, by Alan Katz.  She read it, laughed, and now likes to recite it to others to see if they will laugh too.

Hold the Punch, Please

When the conductor punched
Dad's train ticket,
Dad smiled from ear to ear.
But when I punched
My baby brother,
Dad said no TV all year.

Here is mine, which describes what the world feels like to me after a long winter. 

ps---I have the radio on as I type this and the newsperson just said "April is Jazz appreciation month!"
Wait wait wait.  There are too many things going on in this month.  I think I need another April. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Making a Place and Holding It

I am finishing a book titled In My Home There Is No More Sorrow, by Rick Bass.

In it, he chronicles ten days he spent in Rwanda, along with writer Terry Tempest Williams.
The two writers are there for many reasons, among them to teach a two-day writing class to Rwandan students.

At the end of the first day of the writing class, Terry Tempest Williams states, for a second time, that no women have shared their writing.  The class has forty-one men and four women.  She states that she wants one of the women in the class to read.  This is Bass's account:

She just stands there, waiting.  Arms crossed.  Letting the pressure build. 
Standing next to Terry in that increasingly awkward silence, I'm reminded of how much I dislike confrontation, how much I crave the serene.  It seems to me that it's not the forty-one young men who are shouldering the pressure filling up the room, but rather, the four women, and my overwhelming instinct is to back off---hasn't it already required enough of their courage just to sign up for the club, and to show up?  Why make it even harder and more unpleasant for them?  Why not trust them to come forward only when they are ready, and not before? 
The women---two in the front, one in the middle, one in the back---look deer-in-headlights petrified.  I cut a glance to Elizabeth---durable, beautiful Elizabeth with her practice in social situations, speaking all day, every day, to passing-through strangers at the memorials---but she looks no more ready or willing than the other three.  I'm almost about to make a request of her, to get me out of my discomfort; I'm just about to give her that look, that silent ask.  Instead, I lean over to Terry and whisper, How about if we just say that we want a woman to read before class is over?
Terry's so pissed at my suggestion that she won't even look at me.  No, she says, we're not going to do anything until a woman reads.  We have the time.  Her penetrating gaze moves from one woman to the next, to the next, to the next: summoning them all, and, I have to say it, communicating something to which I am not privy.  I don't understand why, if she wants to advocate for these women, and they don't yet want to speak---she is trying to force them to.  I am not seeing it clearly.  I can see that there is something between her gaze and theirs---it's a real thing, you can feel it; they are watching her, even as they are steadfastly refusing to say yes---but I have no idea as to the nature of it. 
As a result, no one is more surprised than me when the tiny woman seated at the very back stands up as if levitated, announces that her name is Anne-Marie, and begins to read.
You know that feeling when, while encountering a great story---when you are first in the thrall of what you are hearing or reading---you begin to make the transition from hope for its promise to full faith?  That magical lift you get when you first understand that the excellence you are experiencing is going to be sustained and even enhanced, all the way through?  A beautiful stillness enters the room, in such readings, and this is what Anne-Marie's is like; and though her voice is quiet in the beginning, it gathers strength as she realizes the spell she is casting.  When she finishes, she looks up at Terry, altered, no longer shy or hesitant.  If she ever was.    
Later on, I will confess my moment of weakness to Terry---how I couldn't believe what a hardass she was being, how uncomfortable it seemed like she was willing to make the four women in order to elicit a reading---but Terry will shake her head and say that it wasn't about that at all, that she was only letting them know that she was making a safe place for them, and that she would hold it there; that they were waiting to see if she would be able to hold it. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

4th Trimester Bodies Project

If you live on planet Earth and occasionally go on the Internets or walk past a tabloid, these phrases are not foreign to you:

Body After Baby!
She Shows Off Her Baby Bump!
Post-Baby Bikini Bod!

So when I came across the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, I smiled so big at the beautiful images and the mission of this art:

dedicated to embracing the beauty inherent in the changes
brought to our bodies by motherhood, childbirth and breastfeeding

The description next to each participant is not about what they ate or how quickly they started working out, but about their pregnancy, their birth process, their hopes.

I can think of the many times I received comments on my body during and after pregnancy, and also the many times I've participated in noticing or commenting on the same for others.   It's a human thing we do, we notice. 
But the best part of being human is we get to notice what we notice.  And we can dig a little deeper to the less talked about and less apparent stuff that comes with the major change of motherhood.

Most women who have experienced any length of pregnancy will report that it comes with intense emotions.  Joy and fear can be two of them.  Wonder and worry. 
Along with this come the funkiest things the body does.  The wonderfully weird stuff our bodies do!  Oh, sorry, you don't want to hear about the PUPPS Rash?   Don't google that image. 
Sexy Baby Bump!

Kudos to Ashlee Wells Jackson for expanding the art of noticing and sharing the more real stuff. 

4th Trimester Bodies Project

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dress up box

I was looking through winter garage sales for an old chest to store Miss C's dress up clothes. 
 She doesn't want a dress up chest.  Her reason: "I like the clothes in the middle of the floor so I can just see what I want to wear without having to open a box."

While I haven't found an appropriately sized box yet, I did find this in my in-box, from the wonderful Brian Andreas.  Maybe Miss C told them to send this one today to remind me not to inconvenience her dress-up by organizing it.    Because opening a box is highly interruptive to the creative process.

this is a dress-up box for the future...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Breaking it down

“It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.”
― David Foster Wallace

Here's a game Miss C and I sometimes play, to make maneuvering through the grocery store a little easier:

How do I feel when I see this?
What does this ad/display want me to feel?
Did it work?
What does the feeling make me want to do?

Most of the time it works. 
It makes me feel: I want. 
It makes me want: to buy now.

I don't know if playing the game helps her, but it helps me.  She reminds me, "We came here for blueberries, remember?"   And I put back the two utterly unnecessary things that are not blueberries.  Then promptly forget that I needed them as soon as I exit the store. 
We go home and eat blueberries and they are utterly delicious. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

More on the Majesty of Squirrels

"The most prestigious award in children’s literature was awarded this year to a book about a plucky girl and her sidekick, a superhero flying squirrel who can type poetry." 
-article by Husna Haq

Earlier this week I was recollectin' my cousin's affinity for squirrels
It's like I have ESPN or something.

Now I know what to get her next birthday:

Flora and Ulysses

Sunday, January 26, 2014

8 Picture Books That Make Us Wish We Were Kids Again

In honor of the 76th Caldecott Award to be given tomorrow, NPR took an informal poll of titles readers thought could receive that shiny circle.   The article, by Nicole Cohen, show lush illustrations that make me want to leap into the story.

Journey by Aaron Becker is being added to my library list stat.

As I was reading the article and drooling over the artwork, Miss C climbed on my lap and read the title. 
"Well, I don't wish I were a kid again.  I already am a kid."

So: 8 titles that make some of us wish we were a kid again. 
Or, 8 titles that make us feel like we're a kid again.
Or 8 books that will make you want to roll around in paint and paper and see what happens. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Majesty that Surrounds

This morning while making breakfast, I watched squirrels spasmodically chasing each other up and down and around every tree.  I thought of my sister, who shudders at sight of the creatures, then I thought of my cousin who came to visit from Ireland for the first time in 12 years.  One morning she looked out the window to our back yard and observed the squirrel activity.

"They're just so...majestic," she'd breathed. 

Say who? 

"They're squirrels," I'd said. 
Same category as pigeons and sea gulls. 
No shortage of them, and no majesty either.

"No, they're just perfect," she sighed.   "I'd like to take them all home."

She also determined that flavored Oreos and root beer are majestic, but only the Oreos got through customs.