Thursday, April 25, 2013
I dashed out of work at the earliest opportunity this afternoon and headed down to the Crow Collection of Asian Art with a friend to watch visiting monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery in Tibet creating a beautiful sand mandala.
I felt a certain urgency since the exquisite artwork, which takes a painstaking week to create out of colored grains of sand, will be destroyed in just a couple of days, the sand swept up and poured into Turtle Creek, a startling and beautiful symbol of the impermanence of all things.
For a silent definition of irony, go stand there as the monks build this beautiful work of art grain by grain, calmly, unattached, knowing it won't last beyond its completion. And then notice the visitors--myself included--fighting the metaphor as we take our pictures, seeking to make the impermanent permanent...
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
(From Russell Brand's eloquent article in the Guardian on the passing of Maggie Thatcher)
I keep hearing retrospectives about how strong and wonderful our fearless leader was, but I remember covering the miners' and seamen's strikes as a young reporter. I remember picket lines and soup kitchens, angry rhetoric on both sides, violence, tears, stubbornness, and betrayal. Margaret Thatcher didn't just break the unions; she broke the people. A million of them never worked again.
I remember the cliché in all its ugly reality: the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and all of us got a little more selfish--even if we called it something else.
I also remember standing outside the South African embassy with protesters at a time when Nelson Mandela was still rotting in prison and Thatcher was steadfastly refusing to condemn apartheid.
A woman has died, and that's a loss for those who knew and loved her, so for the last couple of days, I've held my tongue and said sorry to the universe each time something snarky rose to mind. But I can't listen to this nonstop outpouring of flattering eulogy anymore without comment.
Does no one remember the hunger strikers that she actually allowed to starve to death? 10 of them? They had families too, but I didn't hear much about them. I only heard the Iron Lady was not for turning.
My point is not to celebrate Mrs Thatcher's death like those who are campaigning to get "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" to number 1 in the British charts. My point is to offer a little qualification to all the eulogizing, a few reminders of the way things were. Our society tends to clean up its dead and whitewash their history, and it's happening again, right before our eyes. The trouble is, if we don't allow history to be what it really is, in all its messy inconsistency, how can we learn anything from it? How can we do better next time a victorious leader offers us fast ways to climb to prosperity on the backs of the very poorest among us?
Margaret Thatcher came to power as I was turning teenage. She stayed in power long enough for her policies to be the focus of some of my work as a young journalist covering the miners' and seamen's strikes. I wasn't watching policies at play in those days. I was watching families go hungry on the picket lines, proud fathers who had been lifelong breadwinners become broken versions of their former selves--sold out both by their own leaders and their government.
It's true, as my friend John points out, that things couldn't go on as they were back in the late seventies. There was a need for more fiscal restraint in government if the country wasn't to go completely broke, and Thatcher turned a tide that likely needed turning. It wasn't popular, and it was probably, in some respects, pretty brave. But my problem with Thatcher's reign (and it was a reign) was a lot to do with the way that she did things--so harshly, so uncompromisingly, even cruelly. I wonder if some of that was possibly fallout from trying to prove herself in such a male world, even though she never admitted that was an issue.
I have been remembering back to those days of riots and strikes. I was the newest reporter on the Dover Express in the early eighties--and for a while the only woman in the entire office who was not a secretary. Some of those men put me through hell trying to find out whether I was up to the job, and it never occurred to me to complain about sexism or harassment. In those days, you just sucked it up and got on with it if you wanted to be in the game. That was the Thatcher way, and though I never saw her as a role model, I went about building my own career pretty much the same way: ask no favors, give no inch, win on merit alone. Though I was never much of a mover or shaker like Mrs T., who rose through the ranks of the Old Boys' Network with a speed and surety that angered and astonished them all, several of those men who put me through hell eventually did answer to me. The very faint parallels were certainly unconscious at the time, but I can see them today, however unwillingly.
Let's be clear: Thatcher never broke the glass ceiling for her sex, whatever the eulogizers may say, and she certainly didn't pave much of a way for the women of my generation in terms of equalizing legislation. What she did was simply refuse to acknowledge the ceiling was even there. She rose right through it like an unsmiling Mary Poppins doppelgänger on steroids, and whether you liked the Iron Lady or loathed her, you couldn't help but assume if she could do it, so could you.
Margaret Thatcher was a woman from hell and a helluva woman. She ignored terrible truths and wrought miraculous change. Though many will speculate, no one but she will ever really know what drove her. People are complicated, motives are messy, and history is an inconsistent muddle. Let's pay it--and Mrs T--the compliment of acknowledging all of it.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Just to balance the equation, it should be noted that in the closing hours of 2011, Politifact presented a report card on the Republican presidential candidates. When the big prize goes to the guy who only lies 75% of the time, it's not exactly cause for celebration.
Don't mistake me. This isn't a partisan post, and it's not about shadenfreude. The problem's systemic. Will the face of politics change any time soon? Nah. As Eddie Izzard likes to say, it "tastes of human, sir!"
And that's the problem.
I'm a deeply political animal. I care about social justice issues. I still believe the old adage that the test of a civilized society is in how it treats its most vulnerable citizens, and I still agree with Gandhi who, when asked what he thought about western civilization, replied, straight-faced, "It would be a good idea!"
But I'm stuck. I'm stuck in the widening gap between my ideals and an unsustainable deficit, between what I like to think of as humanity and our all too evident humanness. I'm stuck watching the train-wreck that occurs when Nietzsche's warning is ignored--again, and again, and again. "He who fights monsters should see to it that, in the process, he doesn't become a monster."
It doesn't work to "take arms against a sea of troubles" if, in doing so, we abandon the very things we are fighting for. The need for expediency is, perhaps, the oldest of the "old lies": we must torture in order to get the upper hand against a regime that violates human rights; we must impose a death penalty to show that killing is wrong; we must lie and cheat our way into a place of political power in order to fix the mess that other liars created.
Really? And how's that been working for us so far?
In the classroom, I'm frequently faced with knee-jerk, sound-bite answers to complicated questions. The most challenging part of my job is opening spaces where students will dare to think, truly question, crack open the door of an inner prejudice just a little to let some air and light in, so they can attempt to work out complicated responses to a complex world for themselves. Why is it so hard for them to imagine nuance? Why is it so hard for all of us?
It's easy to point the finger at the pants-on-fire politicians and to rave about how bad they are. What's harder is to admit that the politician we disagree with has shown an admirable commitment to his marriage and family, the one we love and who had a great handle on the economy treated his wife like crap, and the one whose faith--or lack of it--we can't understand might have some ideas worth considering. When we refuse a complex world of nuance, we force our politicians into playing caricatures of their true selves--and then, of course, we beat them up for giving us the government we deserve.
I'm not going to stop voting. I'm not going to stop caring. And I'm not going to stop arguing for what I believe is right anytime soon. But I begin to suspect we can only change society as we change ourselves... and that happens slowly, haltingly, sometimes with laughter, sometimes with tears, as we return to the place of integrity again and again, remember who we truly are.
I was chatting with friends the other evening about my crazy youth, when I abandoned my career and flew out to Romania after the revolution, determined to make a difference, to change the world, or at least some part of it. Who did I think I was: Batman? Mother Theresa? The greatest thing I learned was that change is slow, and incremental, and grindingly difficult.
In 2012, I'm not looking to change the world through grand gestures or partisan politics. Instead, I'm going looking for it in all my favorite places: in the middle of lakes, through the wisdom of poetry, in the laughter of friends and the colors of sky, on empty, wooded trails, and in challenging poses on my yoga mat.
From those spaces, I hope to come back to engage in my complex world with just a little more balance, just a little more integrity each time than the time before... That's how I'm going to try to change the world in 2012. It's only a practice--I make no promises.
The last word of 2011 goes to T. S. Eliot in this extract from "Little Gidding" in which he tempts us with "A condition of complete simplicity / (Costing not less than everything)." Yes, please!
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
For the first time in my life, I'm beginning to feel some sympathy for my primary school teacher Miss Bland's preferred method of solving conflicts. She would haul arguing students to the front of the class, warn them that she was going to "smack heads together in a minute," finish her lesson, and then calmly do as she had promised.
I remember one time, my adversary and I thought we could outwit her, and we "made friends" quietly and worriedly as we waited by the blackboard where Miss Bland kept her long-distance missiles (otherwise known as chalks and erasers, objects which frequently found--and left!--their mark on student foreheads).
When Miss Bland finally turned to us to mete out punishment, we told her it was all over, and we had already said sorry to each other.
"Good!" she told us, and then whacked our heads soundly together anyway, leaving a ringing in our ears that lasted all through playtime.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating the whacking of children, but I'm starting to wonder about the whacking of politicians...
Picture of Harry Reid and John Boehner: By JIM KUHNHENN. Featured in Huffington Post article "John Boehner, Harry Reid Debt Ceiling Plans Create Stalemate In Congress."
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
"Well, I won't be one to tell you that torture never works. I've had friends who have given me examples of when torture did work, but I don't care because to me this isn't about efficacy. We have other things that work a hundred percent of the time like chemical weapons and flamethrowers. We don't use them.You can buy the book here. Thank you, Mr Alexander, you made my Valentines Day! ♥
"And the reason we don't use them isn't an efficacy argument, it's because it's against our morality, or because the laws of war have determined that they cause unnecessary human suffering, and we've outlawed them. And there's no exceptions to that.
"I think my big disappointment is the shift in priorities from an America that stands for principles to an America that stands for security. My oath of office, when I took it as an officer in the United States military, didn't mention security. It mentioned allegiance and defending the Constitution, which prohibited torture when we ratified the convention against torture and other provisions within the Constitution."
(Pictures courtesy of St. Martin's Press and via NPR.)
Friday, February 4, 2011
The cat that lives on our porch has been having a chilly time of it. After weeks of refusing all approaches and offers of food, it condescended to accept a blanket yesterday but is otherwise unmoved. Apparently, those big macho footballers in town for the Super Bowl are not quite as hardy as SuperCat. Playing outdoors at SMU was just too much for them to face, poor things! "It's a little too cold for me," linebacker Clay Matthews said (ESPN). Oh please!
Mind you, I'm staying indoors today after yesterday's little adventure saw me skidding down a hill, bouncing off curbs, and spinning 180 degrees before sliding to a stop facing oncoming traffic--I was narrowly missed by a truck behind me that also lost control but managed to slip past me onto the sidewalk. I've about had it with automatics. This wouldn't happen with proper cars with gear sticks!
Meanwhile, anyone else have a problem with the fact that bad weather and rolling blackouts meant two hospitals lost power this week but the stadium for the Superbowl was kept at a balmy 72 degrees?
Monday, January 17, 2011
"Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline." Thank you for your life and legacy, Dr. King. I hope enough of us are still listening...
Friday, December 24, 2010
It's almost time for my annual Boxing Day Bash. If you're reading, you're invited. Great company, yummy food and mulled wine, laughter, music, maybe stories and poetry, maybe dancing--it turns out differently every year, but it's always lovely.
Boxing Day is traditionally the day, back in the old country, when the lords of the manor would serve the people who spent all year serving them. It's a national holiday in England, but hardly anyone remembers why. For me, it's a time to celebrate my wonderful friends!
If you can bring one thing, bring your lovely self--and a friend or partner, of course. Two things? Add something for the table. Three things? Bring something canned for the North Texas Food Bank.
Boxing Day is December 26, 8 till late, but come and go as you please. Thank you for being part of my whirled.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Good Lord! Can you beat that? Aldi's egg box has a Bible verse inside it. ?!?
(I'm waiting for someone to quote Matt. 11:30: "His yolk is easy..." ) Seriously, though, folks, separation of church and supermarket much?
Monday, October 18, 2010
November 2--election day--is my birthday.
For my 42nd, you gave me a new president. Thank you ♥
All I want for my 44th is Bill White in the governor's chair.
Early voting begins today--when you vote early, you can vote at any location, so click the link below and find somewhere convenient near you.
I'm feeling lucky, punks. Make my day!
Friday, July 2, 2010
A repost from crooksandliars, Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:50 — BaScOmBe:
A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."
The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, "You're in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.
"She rolled her eyes and said, "You must be an Obama Democrat."
"I am," replied the man. "How did you know?"
"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct. But I have no idea what to do with your information, and I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help to me."
The man smiled and responded, "You must be a Republican."
"I am," replied the balloonist. "How did you know?"
"Well," said the man, "you don't know where you are or where you are going. You've risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. You're in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it's my fault."
Thursday, April 29, 2010
England and the US have been famously described as "two nations separated by a common language" (variously attributed to Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill, depending on which unreliable website you choose to believe). I think the cultural differences may actually run a little deeper than mere semantics, as I tried to explain to my friend Richard the other day on facebook.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Coming from Great Britain, an Imperialist country with a shameful history of colonialism, I'm not a supporter of invasions in general or the 2003 one justified by those elusive (some might say imaginary) weapons of mass destruction in particular. However, as I love to tell my students, I frequently learn most from those whose positions are very different from my own. This evening I learned some very positive effects that regime change had for ordinary Iraqis.
Hassan told me that prior to the 2003 invasion, groups such as his--which exists to safeguard human rights in Iraq and to lobby on behalf of political prisoners--simply could not have existed; they would never have been allowed. After Saddam Hussein was toppled from power, hundreds of civic action groups, small and large, organized and not so organized, began to spring up everywhere as citizens discovered a new freedom to take part in grassroots activism. Hassan, who is from Hawija, a poverty-striken area in Kirkuk Province which is a source of much terrorist activity, saw an opportunity to put his lawyer's training and deep concern for human rights into action, creating the now seven-year-old Human Rights Establishment.
Hassan and his fellow guests, Bashar Al-Mandalwy, founder and manager of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, and Hamid Hussein Safar, Director of Media and General Relationships at the Wasit Electoral Commission, offered us a fascinating perspective on what regime change meant for civic engagement in Iraq. More than that, they offered us the hand of friendship.
"See you WHEN you come to Iraq," Bashar the Iraqi journalist told my daughter Joy, the politically active US high schooler. All politics aside, such friendships forged over falafel and black tea give me great hope for our world...
Friday, April 2, 2010
I think it's probably best if we all just ignore the pink splodges, although I would like to mention that considering how fast it comes off your lips and gets onto the lid of your non-fat caramel latte, Clinique lipstick has amazing stickability once washed and dried with a load of clothes.
I always knew it was a good brand. What I didn't realize was that in order to get it to stay on your lips all day, all you need to do is apply it with liberal amounts of hot soapy water and then dry it with hot air for 40 minutes till it hardens and sets.
It's a great money-saving discovery. Do it that way, and you probably only need to apply it once more for the rest of your life. Helpful hint: choose a shade you can live with--for EVER!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
That's all I have to say about my front yard right now except that it's probably a good job that the sun went down when it did, forcing me indoors to confront the laundry. Joy tells me, apropos of nothing, that there's a reason people aren't supposed to cut their own hair. Meanwhile, I worry about Tree Top Joe's feelings next time he passes down my street with his shears. Perhaps there's a reason he charges $40 a snip, and perhaps there's a reason I can barely tell he's been. Perhaps that's the whole point!
Monday, November 2, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
President Barack Obama was announced Nobel Laureate for Peace today "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
"Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.
"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population." The Nobel Committee.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Please consider writing your representatives in Congress and asking them to send a letter of inquiry about the situation to the Vietnamese Government. It is vital that those in power in Vietnam understand that the international community is watching.
Find who to write to by scrolling down the left-hand side of this Blog and sticking your zip code in the "Hassle your reps" box. Whatever your belief or worldview, please consider giving 30 minutes to the cause of peace today. Thank you for being. xox
More on Bat Nha here: http://helpbatnha.org/
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Holy water, offering the sign of peace, kissing the Torah, ritual washing, and sharing of prayer mats all came under scrutiny.
A Jewish Rabbi is suggesting the implementation of "Buddhist bows" at his temple. What a delightful interfaith idea. Namaste!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
In my doctoral studies, we're wrestling with the interesting problem of how to be fair-minded critical thinkers. Many of us can argue a strong case about a subject on which we're knowledgeable or about which we're passionate, but to be fair minded means having the integrity not to skew the facts or give in to the temptation to select only the evidence that supports our own position. To be fair-minded also means I need to try to wear the shoes of those who offer differing views of the world from my own and to look at their ideas and data in disinterested (not to be confused with uninterested!) fashion.
This is easy to say and very difficult to do. Our perspectives are frequently so much a part of us that we don't see them. Let me offer a short story to illustrate my point.
Yesterday, I was driving in Dallas with my daughter Joy when she pointed out, "Oh look! A whole line of white girls in pony tails running!" She thought this sight was rather peculiar and funny. The world we live in is rich and diverse, and to see a group of only white girls who all looked the same was odd and somewhat amusing--they looked like a row of Barbie dolls bobbing up and down as they crossed the park.
For completeness, I should mention that Joy is a white girl who frequently wears a pony tail. What I pointed out to her was that seven years ago she would probably have said, "Oh look! A line of girls running!" The first seven years of her life were spent in a small village in Cumbria in the north of England. The population was entirely white--so white that it couldn't see the whiteness of itself.
This is parallel, to me, to those who tell me they don't have an accent or a cultural background. The truth is we all do, but when we live only with those who speak and behave like ourselves, we simply don't notice it.
Thinking with fair-mindedness, to me, begins with acknowledging my own blindness and struggling forward, hands held out, feeling for clues...
Friday, July 10, 2009
Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, said this: "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."
Be the change, people!
Saturday, July 4, 2009
On this day of days, July 4, when as a dual British/American citizen I celebrate my country's liberation from the tyranny of (ahem!) my country, I am reflecting on the double-irony that "My Country 'tis of Thee" is sung to exactly the same tune as "God Save our Gracious Queen." Perhaps if I simply hum, I can feel whole again!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
It's good to know the things we teach in the classroom are not only understood in terms of lesson material but useful in the everyday lives of our students. I've introduced Twitter in class this summer, and it's been fun watching the Tweets roll by.
My favorite student Tweet from last night: "Now I know how to use pathos n logos to get to date many hotties."
Ha ha ha
I have created a monster!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Question frequently asked by
students after missing a class
Nothing. When we realized you weren't here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours
Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 per cent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I'm about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 per cent
Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose
Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring this good news to all people
Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?
Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human existence
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
but it was one place
And you weren't here
by Tom Wayman
From: The Astonishing Weight of the Dead
Vancouver: Polestar, 1994.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Read Liesl's blog at http://www.clottedcognition.com/ If you're a student who liked me, you're gonna love her, so take her class already! One of these days, we're gonna get that learning community together, Liesl--maybe with a service learning component involving community gardens?
Saturday, May 9, 2009
...in a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire...
The poetry pants fade in the wash, but Joy re-scribes them in lessons if the teacher is being dull--the more boring the lesson, the more interesting the pants. Participial phrases always produce great creativity!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī
جلالالدین محمد رومی
Sunday, May 3, 2009
today, a five-year-old,
Happy Birthday, my beautiful teenage daughter--13 today. Wow!xoxoxo
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A little something from my friend Rumi with which to say goodbye to a year filled with:
This is love: to fly toward a secret sky,
to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.
First, to let go of life.
In the end, to take a step without feet...
Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Some favorite moments:
Fred singing a sultry rendition of Joni Mitchell's Twisted while we all clicked our fingers to the beat.
No, no, it wasn't a party. I had to cancel that, but somehow it didn't seem OK to let Boxing Day pass unmarked, so it was just a gathering of four or five friends, a little mulled wine, and yummy, quirky food including the newly invented Boxing Day Pie.
If all this sounds like your private idea of hell, you had a lucky escape, but if, like those who gathered, you think it just might have been rather wonderful, all is not lost. We're planning a redux evening with a reading of The Importance of Being Earnest.
"I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit. Touch it, and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever."
Download your copy of Oscar's masterpiece here, and choose your character. If you're reading this: you're invited!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Is someone trying to tell me something about the shape of my cranium? Hmmmmm?
In the middle of preparing for their own holiday, someone had an idea, put it together with great care, and snuck it onto my doorstep so it would welcome me on Christmas morning as I took out the trash. Whoever you are, your thoughtfulness and fun smiled my world. Thank you! x
It's been a tough old lead-up to Christmas in many ways, but it's also been full of little lovelinesses. My mum arrived from England only to end up in the hospital. I had never been inside the doors of Parkland before, and all I can say is I've fallen in love. Expect to see a post soon on how to become a "Friend of Parkland." I watched people off the street wearing blankets receive the same courtesy and care as the best dressed and sweetest smelling of patients (that's you, mum!).
Parkland is your basic Ford model of hospital, not your Honda Element. The wheelchairs are metal and have no cushions, and my mum spent most of her first day alongside rather a lot of inmates from the county jail who were chained to their trolleys and wearing nifty striped gear.
The eventual journey to a shared wardroom was a hoot. Mum was parked on a clearly labeled "launch pad" to begin her trip, and as Joy explained, grinning, to her Gran: "In a few minutes, they'll push a button, and you'll shoot up through the ceiling!" The journey was, thankfully, a little smoother than that.
Here are some Santas--secret and not so secret--that I want to thank this Christmas:
The doctors and nurses of Parkland. Mum is safe at home, having a snooze after the Christmas morning unwrapping, thanks to you.
My daughters. Joy and Lizzy, you have been incredible, shopping till you dropped on Christmas Eve and helping get the house warm, welcoming, and Christmasified for Gran's return. You worked all day after hours spent at the hospital the day before. Not a complaint was heard though I know you were exhausted. Your silly jokes, nutty songs, kindness, and endless patience with the process kept us all going. You are the two most beautiful people I know.
Our secret policeman. I don't know your name, but you snuck Lizzy and me the secret way from Parklands emergency room through to Children's Medical Hospital ER and out the other side because their canteen was open late, and they had cheese! (Texas hospitals--and not just the public ones--are where vegetarians go to starve!)
Anne Savidge. My hero, my friend. You stayed with mum all day Christmas Eve so the girls and I were free to get ready for Christmas. Joy and Lizzy didn't get Thanksgiving on the right day because I was in a different--posher!--hospital with a dear student. Though there was never a word of complaint on either occasion, I was determined they would get their Tofurkey dinner on time this time. Thank you for helping make it happen.
Though I run the risk of going on and on and on and sounding like a very bad speaker at the Oscars, I have to say thank you as well to all the lovely friends who stayed in touch with me through some of the scary times during the last few days and who sent messages and made offers of help. You are all my Christmas.
Finally, to my lovely secret santa, whoever you are: THANK YOU X
"O, O, O: Merry Christmas!"
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
This speech will be talked about for decades to come. It will be taught in universities. It will be remembered as a pivotal moment in a country's history. I hope it is remembered as a road taken, not an opportunity missed. The transcript is here, and an extract is below:
"We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
"We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. That is one option.
"Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, 'Not this time.'"
Take the road less traveled this time, America, because here is the astonishing news: "At 11:00 on a Tuesday, a prominent politician spoke to Americans about race . . . as though they were adults" (Jon Stewart).
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
From "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
When I grew up, I moved to live near the sea and later to the beautiful English Lake District. From an early age, my children played in, around, and on the water too. I used to walk them home from school via our river where we would often stop to paddle or mess about with mud and sticks. In the holidays, I would take them camping by the beach at Whitby or rowing on Ullswater or Buttermere.
When we came to Dallas just over five years ago, we brought very little. You cannot carry a house on your back when you cross an ocean. There were the children’s toys, some clothes, a few of our most treasured books—and a small yellow dinghy that has been gathering dust in the garage for far too long. It’s hard to say why I would bring a dinghy to Dallas, but there it is, a message, a reminder.
Today, I unearthed it from its dusty hiding place and took it out to White Rock Lake with Lizzy who is always good for a lark. Joy rolled her eyes and stayed home; at 13, she is both too old and too young to mess about in boats.
Finding my dinghy, rowing out onto the water again, was like unwrapping a present sent to me from a younger—and perhaps wiser—self. Life has been a little choppy of late, and there have been days and weeks when I have felt the water has been almost over my head. I have felt that I was, as Stevie Smith put it so well, “not waving, but drowning.” It has been hard to breathe at times, and I don’t fool myself that there aren’t more of those times to come. But today, in the sunshine, with cold, wet pants, bare, muddy feet, and laughing birds wheeling overhead, I remembered that water has always been my friend.
The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, ‘How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
While round in our Sieve we spin!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.
Lizzy looked down at her damp feet and, for the first time, questioned the efficacy of the pinky paper all folded neat. We agreed it probably hadn’t worked very well.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Senator Dodd is a lovely, gently spoken, inspirational figure who reeks of integrity. He thanked us all for our work and told us a little about why he's supporting Barack Obama. He congratulated me on my first vote as a US citizen.
Both Senator Dodd and Governor Napolitano let us know we get to rest for a day after the primary, but then it's back to work for the long, hard haul to the White House. Anyone who thinks the next step is going to be easy is fooling themselves, they told us. When the Democratic party gets together around Obama's candidacy, THAT's when the big guns will come out.
I believe it, but I'm also encouraged by the way some moderate Republicans (Obamicans, they call themselves!) have been reacting to our candidate. They see him as an inspirational leader that America needs. And they didn't just tell me that. My two new Republican friends told countless voters too as we phone banked together through the day.
In other news, it was slightly disconcertibng to be followed around a Fiesta parking lot by CBS news this morning who stuck a mike down my shirt and listened in as I talked to voters and flyposted leaflets--before being asked to leave by the manager who didn't disclose who he was supporting in the primary! The guys told me the segment would be on the news this evening. I don't know whether it was, but I enjoyed my chat with the reporter once the mike had been removed and I could once more think straight. He hasn't voted yet but will be doing so on March 4. He's not sure whether he'll go back in the evening to caucus. And no... He didn't tell me who was getting his vote!
Saturday, March 1, 2008
We have been volunteering locally at weekends for the Obama campaign and received an invitation to help at the Fort Worth Convention Center rally where thousands of people were expected to come and hear the Senator speak. We arrived six hours before the event, as requested.
Joy and I got separated from Lizzy early on. She called us gleefully from the main floor where she was acting as a runner and helping seat disabled visitors. Joy called her sister a "punk" under her breath; she and I were stuck outside helping get satellite trucks parked and keeping others away. Told we would not be forgotten and then (it seemed) promptly abandoned, we stood in the exhaust fumes of ABC and Faux news vans with two other volunteers and did our job faithfully for hour after hour.
Now, I'm a campaigner for hope, but I think I'm a realist too. My new friend, Ada, was adamant someone would come back for us eventually, but I began to try to let my co-workers down gently. "You know," I said, "I'm sure they mean well, but they have hundreds of volunteers to coral, and thousands upon thousands are pouring this way. The number of jobs they're working on in there will keep multiplying. We need to face the fact that we might not get in. Heck--the four of us are the only volunteers here who haven't even been able to get our credentials. We have nothing to prove we're in any way connected to the campaign--and now they've locked the doors for the bomb sweep."
But even at hour three, Ada was adamant. "The press director said he'd come back and get us. We're gonna be just fine. This is a campaign of integrity," she told me firmly. "They'll keep their word."
I had no doubt Brandon, the busy press director who left us with the trucks, meant to keep his word, but he had a lot on his plate, what with the Secret Service (who I tried to wave away at one point thinking they were visitors parking in my Sat truck spots--whoops!), the growing press crowd, and the sheer volume of logistics he had to juggle. I wasn't holding my breath that integrity alone would reach as far from the center of action as a side road full of trucks and cables where four slowly roasting volunteers waved on the traffic and dreamt of the possibility of a restroom sighting somewhere in the distant future.
...which all goes to show that I have a lot to learn about hope...
All in all, we had an incredible day, and of course being so close to our hero, Obama, was pretty cool, but it's sometimes not the obvious things that have the most impact. Lizzy had particularly enjoyed petting the Secret Service sniffer puppy and working the elevators, and Joy told me it was Brandon (pictured left) who was her new role model. We ran into him picking litter in his suit after the event was over, and Joy got her photo taken with him. He seemed surprised that she singled him out; it was a shame she never got to tell him why. He was in charge of so much, she told me, but he remembered the little things--like us! That's the kind of person she wants to be when she's all grown up and working in the White House.
In the picture at the top of the post, Lizzy (11), is standing in the middle at the back in the brown T-shirt. Joy (13) is to her right, and I'm to her left. Oh, and the cool-looking dude in the foreground... That's the next president of the United States of America!