Monday, December 7, 2009

The Benefits of a Hard Bargain

We live in a neighborhood that was the first all African-American owned neighborhood in Franklin. A sharecropper who worked this land bought it from the owner who drove such a hard bargain, the sharecropper named his newly acquired piece of land, "Hard Bargain." It certainly isn't a name that its whiter suburban counterparts would have chosen. Compared to Sherwood Forest, Cottonwood, Fieldstone Farms and Falcons Landing, Hard Bargain sounds like the neighborhood to avoid sending your children to birthday parties in. In fact, I think there has been some movement to change the name from Hard Bargain to Mt. Hope- named after the historic cemetery located on the north side of the neighborhood.

I wouldn't change it, though. I love the name. I love that when people ask where I live, I can say "Hard Bargain" with a straight face. People squint there eyes and ask, "Where?!" It is amazing to me that most residents in Franklin have no idea where this subdivision is, though it is one of the oldest established neighborhoods in this town.

But, it's not just the name I love about my neighborhood. Its the whole package. There is a diversity here that extends beyond race. There are the elderly and retired, who sit on their front porches and wave as I walk by. They all know me by now. I kinda stand out a bit. Most of them have lived here since birth and many are related to the original land owner, so they know the newbies (well, and, there's the whole white thing, too.)

The children all know each other. They ride bikes to each others houses. They run to the side of the street when cars ride by, holding their footballs until its free to start tossing it again. There are no sidewalks in Hard Bargain (will save my ranting about that for another article). But, the kids are free to play in the street. People expect them to be there, so they drive slowly.

There are a few Mexican families that have moved in. They don't speak English and they rent, so it's hard to know how long they will stay. It helps, though, that most of our neighbors will be here for life. It makes the pursuit of community so much more appealing. This is no transience to this group. Miss Laverne and J.J. will know my kids all their lives. Scott and Linda will watch my children graduate and will still be here when they return home from college. Demetria, Adonis and Devrick will all return to my front porch in twenty years to check in with me, have a glass of sweet tea and tell me how their lives are going. The only thing that will keep this from happening is our moving, our neighbors will not.

The biggest blessing of this neighborhood is the one that will affect the way my children see the world and their wealth. It is a challenge, but I believe an important call of parenting, to show your kids the level of financial abundance they have and the imperative of the gospel to love the poor. When living in the 10th most wealthy county in the US, its hard not to assume that we ourselves qualify as the ones who need the love. Many of the residents of Hard Bargain, however, are under the poverty level. Though a majority are employed or retired home owners, their incomes are barely enough to keep their one hundred year old homes maintained.

When we have children come to play at our house, their faces, if not their bold words, reveal their wonder at our wealth. "Wow, Ms. Sarah, that sure is a nice Christmas tree you have!" "Why do you have three computers?" "Does Ellie really have a DS and an iPod?" Of course, Ellie does and she makes sure to show the neighborhood kids her latest purchase or gift from her grandparents. "We don't get allowance," they say, as Ellie displays her ever growing piggy bank. Atticus, the dear that he his, takes his friends to his room and passes out money from his change jar. He has no self-preservation gene and therefore gives more liberally than the "You need to share" mandate necessitates. All the questions and comments make me feel uncomfortable. I feel embarrassed by our "riches."

Being uncomfortable is so important. It reminds me of who I am. It keeps me in the tension of "the now" and "the not yet". Why am I uncomfortable? Should I be? Why do I have so much more than most? Do I deserve this? These questions remind me of my own brokenness and how much I try to hide it or solve it with my wealth. There is not much difference among our neighbors in this not so beautified and street-scaped subdivision, those who live around the corner on West Main and Fair Street, and me. We are all broken people, longing for connection and for home. We all have a Creator who has come to us. I love my neighborhood where I do not have to hide this Christmas. I am broken and I need the One who has come and is coming.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

mr. turkey (inspired by ee cummings poem "little tree")

Mr. Turkey

you are so quiet

you are more like the blanket

that was folded on my mothers couch

you were warm and cozy by the fire

but i needed you

and you came

were you happy before you came?

are you sorry you are here?

you are here to save me

to save my family

we will share our table with you

we will hold hands around you and say how thankful

we are with god. he will hear us and be thankful too.

because of you we can remember

we are allowed to speak in poems and simple prayers

my uncle will pray and say things like, “We thank you, Lord.”

even though he says he does not believe

everyone smiles at each other

my mom squeezes my hand because we know he does not believe

but it doesn’t matter because he just said, “We thank you, Lord.”

now we share the secret of his salvation

because of you.

we thank you, Mr. Turkey.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Word Challenge: Your Creativity is My Motivation Continued

ANCILLARYserving as an aid
TYROnew to an activity
INCIPIENTonly partly in existence
ASPERITYharshness of manner
MORDACIOUScaustic, biting

Lets hear 'em!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Daily Dose of Diction

Todays Formidable Five:

1. Dearth- lack; scarcity
2. Inveigle-to win over by deception, coaxing, flattery
3. cogent- convincing
4. specious- seeming true, but actually being fallacious; misleadingly attractive; plausible but false
5. guy- (noun or verb) a rope, cord or cable attached to something as a brace or guide; to steady or reinforce using a guy.

Please enjoy these words in any creative or non-creative fashion. The ultimate goal, as selfish as it sounds, is to improve my GRE score. The personal benefits to your contribution are innumerable, not excluding tax-exempt status for your gift of time. Please contact my accountant for tax forms.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

For you Wordies (like foodies, people who love words)

diligent; persistent; hard-working

calm; sluggish; unemotional

exhibiting a fawning attentiveness

causing drowsiness; tending to induce sleep

disgrace; contempt; scorn

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vocabulary Respite

A passive activity for recovery purposes:

Vocabulary Quiz: Matching game. Drag the word to match the definition.

Keep those wheels greased.

The picture is just for pure goodness.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 5 of the Vocabulary Challenge that has become the Platform for Creative Writing Exhibitionists

Here are the words that must be included in your "piece":

1. spurious- (adj.) lacking authenticity or validity; false; counterfeit
2. mendacity- (n.) the condition of being untruthful
3. obfuscate- (v.) to deliberately make obscure; to make confusing
4. trenchant- (adj.) sharply perceptive; keen; penetrating
5. inimical- (adj.) damaging; harmful; injurious

Again, for your reading pleasure, click on the comments link to read the daily entries. Damn, my GRE score had better improve!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day 4 Vocab Challenge: 3 weeks to GRE.

5 more:

antediluvian (adj.) ancient; outmoded (literally, before the flood)

Cadge (v.)to get something by taking advantage of someone

irascible (adj.) prone to outburts of temper; easily angered

occlude (v.) to close or obstruct

peccadillo (n.) small sin or fault

Make sure to read the comments after each day's challenge. There are several great entries. Lots of creativity going on at the Juniper Tree these days.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day 3 Vocab Challenge

Okay. So I didn't give you much time before bed, but it is the Sabbath. If you get a chance, here are 5 new words. Create at your own risk!

1. RapaciousGreedy, ravenous.
2. VenalOpen to bribery; mercenary.
3.Ineffable Incapable of being expressed; indescribable or unutterable.
4. PenuryExtreme poverty.
5. TaciturnHabitually untalkative.

Choose your verbs wisely.

Friday, November 13, 2009

25 Day Vocabulary Challenge Continues: Day 2

Wow! I have some prolific friends! Please see yesterdays contributions by clicking on the comment link.

Thanks for facing this challenge with me. I wouldn't last two days without you! Too bad the $150 registration fee for the GRE isn't quite motivation enough. But, it really does underline my ideology in regards to community: we need it like water.

So, with no further ado:

Todays 5 Graduate Record Exam Vocabulary Challenge:

1. diurnal (adj.)-existing during the day
2. dyseptic (adj.)-suffering from indigestion; gloomy and irritable
3. effrontery (n.)- impudent boldness; audacity
4. equivocate (v.)- to use expressions of double meaning in order to mislead
5. adumbrate (v.)- to foreshadow vaguely or intimate; to suggest or outline sketchily; to obscure or overshadow

Again, please share an ode, an editorial, or any other genre of writing that uses these words in context (even 5 disconnected sentences). Why? Cause you love to exercise your mind and you love to help me study for the GRE!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Word Challenge: Your Creativity is My Motivation

There's really nothing like studying for the GRE to humble me. I think my first practice math score put me at 3rd grade mastery level. I have a little more than 3 weeks left to study, and I am avoiding it every chance I get.

For motivation, I thought I would put a little activity out there for my faithful readers to participate in. I can only think of something for the verbal portion, but if someone can come up with an inspiring algebra/geometry (TOTAL oxymoron) exercise, I'd be all ears.

Okay, here its is: Each day, for the next 25 days, I will list 5 GRE vocabulary words (and their definitions.). The best paragraph, poem (please, no haikus...that will absolutely not help one iota), or written piece of any kind that demonstrates understanding and creativity -and, ultimately, cements the definition of the words in my mind-, wins! So, you don't really win anything tangible, but the intangibles are limitless!

Todays words are:

truculent-(adj.) fierce and cruel, eager to fight
obdurate-(adj.) unyielding; hard-hearted; intractable
aver- (v.) to state as fact; to declare or assert
probity- (n.) adherence to highest principles; complete and confirmed integrity; uprightness
paean- (n.) a song or hymn of praise and thanksgiving

Hope you have fun with these words! And, don't forget, this is for a good cause. Be moved by Luther's charge: In all things charity!

Post Away!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Habitat for Humanity Fall Build

Sunday, I spent the day with five students from the Vanderbilt English Language Center. All five students are women from Saudi Arabia, between the ages of 19 and 28. None of them had ever done any manual labor in their lives (besides the odd job around the house) and all seemed to have a positive attitude going into the day. Me? Not so much.

Since breaking two ribs a couple of months ago, I have tried to avoid strenuous activity, to the disappointment of my self-appointed trainer, Stacey Perry. I have avoided thinking about this volunteer activity I planned months ago, hoping that if I didn't think about it, it might just go away. I typically enjoy these types of events: large number of people, working together for a cause. Its enough, usually, to get me humming Kumbaya. This time, however, I dreaded the early morning alarm at 5:15 am, the 30 minute drive to Nashville in the dark, the taxi ride with students I have yet to really bond with, and then, of course, the 6 hours of hard labor. Happily, although all these things were present, I ended up having a wonderful time.

The best part of the day, for me, was watching these five women accomplish tasks they had never even considered setting their hands to. I loved watching their mouths form the new words as if the world depended on their learning them: caulk, roller, nap, five-way, wet-dry vac. They owned the room they painted. After finishing a portion, each would stand back and admire their work. They giggled at the paint on their burkas and helped wipe paint off one another's faces. Not once did they ask for a water break. These women were on a mission.

None of these women had met before coming to the US, though all of them are from Saudi Arabia. They are all either married or engaged and they marveled at the Fellowship Bible Church's Singles Group that were working alongside of us. The single's group actually consisted of all women around the same ages as my students. The Saudis tried hard to disguise their shock that not one of these other twenty women were married. What a sad lot for these poor American women who have to survive on their own without marriages pre-arranged for them! My students were bonded, instantly, by their clearly more successful cultural norms. Later, during a discussion we were having on the differences our cultures, the majority of the women volunteered that they were married to their first cousins. They smiled at one another, approving, one by one, her success. I just knew they were thinking: Maybe if American women opened their minds a little to the options their Saudi counterparts had- arranged marriage to first cousins, perhaps- they too might be able to snag a man.

I am certainly looking forward to my class discussion tomorrow! Kumbaya, My Lord, Kumbaya.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A New Discussion in Franklin

This past Wednesday night, in Franklin, a meeting was held at the restaurant La Hacienda called The Importance of New Arrivals in our Community. The forum was the brain child of Cecilia MeloRomie, a Latina Williamson County resident, who desired to transport the public discussions that are happening in Metro Nashville about the challenges and contributions of the immigrant community to her Franklin community.

The New Arrival population is growing rapidly in Middle Tennessee, both in number and in significant contribution. Inherent in this reality are countless challenges and obstacles that inhibit successful integration and limit contributions. Join us for an evening of reflection and conversation about the challenges New Arrivals face when assimilating into our community as well as participate in a dialogue about how we can assist New Arrivals to lead productive and contributing lives. The goal of this gathering is to begin a dialogue that will lead to the successful integration of New Arrivals and the creation of an open and inclusive environment that will embrace the many contributions New Arrivals make.

Salvador Guzmán, the owner of the restaurant La Hacienda and active Franklin citizen, graciously provided dinner for all attendees. Those present were the mayors of Williamson County and the City of Franklin (Rogers Anderson, John Schroer, and Tom Miller-former Franklin Mayor, respectively), several local clergy, (including Scott Roley-pastor of Christ Community Church, Jose Duran-associate pastor of La Casa de Mi Padre, and Neal Paez-Pastor of La Casa de Mi Padre), members of the several non-profit organizations (Nashville for All of Us, Coalition for Education about Immigration, Clergy for Tolerance, and Conexión), the general manager of Lowes Hotel (Tom Negri), a representative from the US Census Bureau, the editor of the Hispanic online resource Hispanic Nashville (John Lamb), the publisher and editor of the Tennessee Hispanic newspaper Latino Periódico, Jim Palmer from Channel 4 News, local members of the school board, and many other concerned Franklin residents. TIRRC (Tennesse Immigrant & Refugees Rights Coalition) was also present and sponsored the music and interpretation. Hola TN Director Alfonso Nieto, Latino News TN Regional Director Nere Vargas, Eliud Trevino from El Crucero News,Ramon Cisneros from La Campana. Jim Baumann, CET and Eric Alvarez, General Manager of Telefutura Channel 42 were also in attendance.

One of Melo-Romie’s goals for the evening was to re-create the dialogue that has been started by the group Nashville for All of Us, which is a non-profit group that was participated in the charge that led to the defeat of the English-Only Ordinance. The group began with three Nashville residents sitting around a table lamenting the negative public discussions they continually heard regarding the impact of immigrants on their city’s prosperity. They decided then and there that they were going to start a new conversation, one that would be based on facts and information about the positive impacts new arrivals have on any community, including the richness of diversity. Several charges were given to the Williamson County attendees on the importance of organizing for this cause.

Some of the more provocative statistics that were shared during the meeting included:

-11.8 million undocumented workers in the US

-of these 11.8 million, 57% are Mexican, 17% are Latino and 26% are from the rest of the world.

-So, 43% of undocumented residence are not from Mexico and the majority come in from the Canadian border. Which means that, although almost half of these people crossed into the US from the North, the US government has committed most of the funds to federally combat illegal immigration to patrol and build a wall along the Mexican border. Which raises the question: Why aren’t there efforts to build a wall along our northern border?

-Undocumented workers in the US pay taxes. In fact, these workers actually pay more taxes per capita than their American counterparts.

-More than 700,000 jobs are created each year in the US. However, the US has fewer and fewer citizens entering the labor force yearly. In fact, there are only enough workers to fill half of these jobs. Again the question that must be raised is: Why are there only 5,000 work permits given each year to New Arrivals, when there is such a need? Why do undocumented workers continue to come to the US? Because of our need. Why do they stay? Because of our need.

Another conversation started last night surrounded the new law 287G, which basically allows Homeland Security to authorize local and state law enforcement to perform duties of immigration control. This arrangement has been adopted by the Nashville government. The speakers of last nights forum were urging the local elected officials to vote against this agreement with the Sheriff’s Department of Williamson County. The law, in essence, was initiated in order to help support the expedient deportation of undocumented criminals in our country. However, the implementation of this law has not been as effective as anticipated. Many undocumented workers are being deported for minor traffic violations and other non-violent crimes, in effect, separating families who have lived in the US for decades. Since any child born in the US is given citizenship status, American children are being left parent-less and are entering into our foster care system over broken tail-lights.

An important call to action was made by the representative of the US Census Bureau. A new census will be done soon and the government needs all the local support possible. Many undocumented citizens do not get counted. Their understandable fear of the government keeps them from filling out the survey sent to every household. However, when they are not counted, our area is not given the funds necessary for public provisions, including education. The Williamson County School System is dependent on federal and local funds that are calculated based on accurate numbers. Citizens can help by encouraging everyone to fill out the surveys and by organizing to promote a faithful count of our population. The bottom line is: More people counted= more money allocated.

Hispanic Heritage Month is being celebrated nationally. President Johnson initiated the national recognition Hispanic Heritage week in order to promote awareness of the contributions that Latino-Americans have made to our country. President Reagan extended the celebration to one month. Last night, Nashville lawyer and Williamson County resident Gregg Ramos shared the statistic that over 300,000 Hispanic-Americans fought in World War II, including his father. As a Mexican immigrant during the depression his father voluntarily joined the US army. He learned English in France and Germany. Ramos shared a deep love and respect for his father who fought for the country that he loves. To shouts and applause, Ramos quoted the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Another speaker reminded the attendees that the Statue of Liberty is a patriotic symbol that reminds the American of the character quality we, as a nation, possess: hospitality to those who are tired, weary and poor, to those who are looking to create a better life for their families, or at very least the freedom to pursue it. If those engaged in the dialogue from last night want to help continue to build that character of our nation, the leaders of the meeting encouraged them to communicate often with their elected officials. They also encouraged Franklin's Latino residents to run for public office so their voice would be heard. The final charge of the evening was given in Hebrew, “Shalom – Go in Peace.”


Some sources and helpful resources regarding NewArrivals and the statistics shared:

*United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington , D.C *TN Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Employment Security Division, Research and Statistics *Migration Policy Institute, *Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (This is an amazing resource for churches who are looking for ways to reach out to the immigrant population in their community. It includes an enlightening powerpoint presentation about the history of immigration in our nation.)

For more information regarding future meetings and ways to volunteer in Franklin, please contact Cecilia MeloRomie:

“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the stranger. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you. You shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Movie Review: Time Traveler's Wife


I'm bummed cause I dont get to go to the movies all that often. I really should have seen Julie & Julia, but thought that since I just finished reading Time Traveler's, well, you know...strike while the iron's hot and all that.

It was lame. Of course I didnt expect it to be just like the book, but High Fidelity succeeding in communicating the goings on of John Cusack's (cant remember the title characters name) mind. They could have at least tried to incorporate the characters' wrestlings with fate, free will, predeterminism, etc. Brad Pitt was the exec. producer. You'd think he'd want to at least take a stab at being deep. Oh well. I'll have to save my quarters for movie night next month. Any good recs out there?

Conversations on Race: The Race Card

Last week, in an interview with Brian Williams, Jimmy Carter accused Joe Wilson's comments, and the current political tenson, to be racially motivated.
"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African American," Carter said. "I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shared the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans," continued Carter, who is famously from Georgia:

"And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it's bubbled up to the surface becauseof the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply."

Those who have disagreed vehemently with Obama's policies, particularly those regarding health care reform, denounce these statements with equal vehemence. They have called Carter's comments ridiculous left-wing rhetoric that bubble up from his "sanctimonious guilt". Glen Beck, not surprisingly, took it one step further and touted that Jimmy Carter's comments were analogous to terrorist attacks:
BECK: Nobody is saying we’re blowing children up or anything like the Taliban. But this is the same kind of tactic being used now in America. You can’t get your agenda, so you unleash the hounds and point the fingers, and everybody is a racist.

I have read several op-ed pieces that call out Carter for pulling the "race card".

What do you think? Do you- my white, black and brown friends- think the fervor demonstrated regarding politics today has anything to do with Obama's being black? I think it is interesting that the White House spokesperson stated that Obama does not feel that the opposition to his policies are racially related. Do you think that is really true or is he just trying to stay above the fray?

I find it interesting that Jimmy Carter is even considered to have a race card. He is white, and therefore, seems excluded from the right to even carry one (Of course, he could, theoretically, have a white one, but certainly can't have one a black one in his deck, if he is, in fact, not black. But, this would also bring up the matter of whether or not a white race card even exists). I think Obama is right to disagree with Carter's assessment of his opposition's motives because he himself is black. He can't say he's being discriminated against. People will assume he is just pulling the race card and dismiss it. But, Jimmy Carter, precisely because he does not have a (minority) race card, he is able to call it as he sees it. He thinks its time to discuss this issue.

These conversations on race are critical at this time in history. It is an ideal time to talk publicly about the state of race relations. Our children are growing up in a culture that communicates openly about the value of all people, regardless of race, gender, age, etc. But, they see something that is altogether in conflict with those messages. They hear adults say they refuse to vote for a man whose middle name is Hussein. They see people of color without jobs. They see the media filled with pictures of dark criminals. How can they be called to value people of other races when their parents have not had opportunities to show them? Well, we have one now. What next?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Time Travel Possible

So, it seems that time travel is theoretically possible, to the future at least. UConn physics professor says so, so it must be true. Also, I read The Time Travelers Wife and it seemed pretty convincing. Not that Doc Brown didn't already have me half way there. Though, the prof from UConn said it would take too much energy to travel to the past, but if you used enough speed, you could go to the future. I'm kinda confused by that. I mean, didn't we already know that?Like, if I were riding my bike, and I left my house at 4:15pm and when I was done riding, it was 4:45pm, I'd be in the future right? Apparently, it took several physicists in Texas with a laser beam to figure that out (I couldn't find any reference to this on the web, but someone at a Bible study told me so; so again I say, it must be true.)

All I know is, in The Time Travelers Wife, Henry, the main character's husband, mostly time- traveled to the past. The future was much harder. The opposite of the theory the physicists are trying to explain. I'm not convinced. I saw what travel to the future did to Henry. It really took at lot out of him. And, I'm not really sure these physicists really understand how emotionally draining this whole time-travel thing is. I mean, Henry really could have used a therapist. All this back and forth, and the nakedness. The nakedness seemed exhausting. I don't know how the UCONN prof will suggest we handle the nudity, but, I am very interested in finding out how Hollywood handles it. Looking forward to it, really.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jesus Storybook Bible

Currently, my favorite book is The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally-Lloyd Jones. My mom bought it for my kids, but I help myself to it regularly. Its the best children's Bible I have ever read. Most children's Bibles contain disconnected stories from the Bible, highlighting the characters of each story, along with the "lesson" to be learned.

The Jesus Storybook Bible approaches these stories a little more holistically. The book connects each story to the Christian meta-narrative: God made a people for himself; his people destroyed that relationship and consequently all these became broken; God is relentless in his pursuit of these people, and because of his great love for his people; God provides a way to restore that relationship through the life, death and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ; one day all things will be righted, all brokenness, pain and sickness will be healed and God's people will live with him in peace. Each story reveals the main character to be Jesus. Underneath the title it reads, "Every story whispers his name."

Sally Lloyd-Jones writes the most artistic and poignant versions of the stories I have heard from the womb, stories that I could tell in my sleep with absolutely no emotional connection. But, reading them from this book, I am surprised by hope each time. My children become curious when I am weeping reading to them. They want to know what it is that has touched me so deeply. I have never been so moved by the story of Adam and Eve.

In my opinion, this book deserves the Caldecott Award. The illustrations are phenomenal. An interview with Jago, the illustrator, about the book can be read here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Change of Title, A Change of Heart

I decided to change the title of my previous post "Permission to be Exposed to Bigotry and Ignorance" to just "Permission to be Exposed". The reason for my change: A few of my friends have vehemently challenged the presumption that this controversy has anything to do with race. Because I respect these friends vehemently, I wanted to change my title. It does not change the fact that I am saddened that my child had to be exposed to the permission slip sent home, the permission slip that caused her to doubt others' value of Obama's words based on his race. (Yes, she did assume that it had something to do with race.) But, I also am saddened that my friends might think that my title accused them of being bigots and ignorant. I titled it to grab attention, but that attention is not worth making others feel belittle by me.

My friends' reasons to shield their children from Obama's speech may, in fact, be completely ideological (which I still have issue with. AND many parents weren't boycotting the lesson plans, they were boycotting the speech itself.) However, I do ask that my friends also consider how my child, and all other American children, have the great privilege to be encouraged by a our first minority president. For most children, this is the first minority role-model who is not an athlete or entertainer. The reason why my child, and many others, might assume it has to do with race is not hard to understand. Never has America chosen to put itself under the leadership of a person of color before (brown, black or purple.) Now that it has, people are refusing to let their children listen to him. Its not a huge stretch. My 9 year old made it.

No, I do not think this is only about race, nor am I the one making it about race. However, it is, in part, about race. I just would like my friends to acknowledge that part, to know that I am understood. That my child's assumptions and fears are understood.

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Vision for Grad School

12 Steps To Getting Admitted into Colleges & Universities in the United States: Playbook on Applying to Colleges and Universities in the US">Im reading a book called 12 Steps to Getting Admitted into College... I will be teaching a course this fall called Academic Orientation: Application and Admissions. The class aims to help international students in the application process to undergraduate and graduate schools in the US. Coincidentally, I will be applying for grad school at the same time I am slated to teach this course. So, all the work I do for my application will actually be count toward my time lesson planning. What better way to lead students than to experience something first hand with them?

Step 1, as encouraged by this book, is to have VISION and PASSION. The chapter encourages the reader to think about what initially motivated them to think about college or a career. The author relates an experience in high school with see a photo of a cyclotron in his middle school physics book. The inscription below the picture said -Courtesy of MIT Nuclear Laboratory. That one photo and that 5 word phrase birthed something in him. Now, I don't know what a cyclotron is, but I get it that it excited him. From that point on, MIT was his destination.

So, what is my vision and where did it start? These are great things to think about. I have always thought it would be fun to be a writer, but it never really occurred to me as a career choice. I don't really no why not. I am always writing little humor columns in my head, re-wording jokes, sequencing events to make the best story-line possible. But, it wasn't until recently that I considered it an option to pursue. What flipped the switch?

Three things really: 1. David Braud. 2. David Sedaris 3. David Bonales.

David Braud is my husband. This summer, Dave and I were discussing grad school. I have mentioned several times this year that I want to go back to school to get a Master's Degree. As Dave and I were discussing different practical options that would further my current professional track, Dave asked, "Why dont you study something you will love to study about, not just something that will help you once youre done?" So, I had to ask myself if the study of urban leadership, social work and ESOL would light my fire. I know the actual jobs that require those degrees and skills would be really exciting, but not necessarily the studies of those things. Anyway, my brain started spinning. Figure drawing? Another foreign language? Writing?

Once I thought it, once the word "writing" scrolled across the screen of my mind, it was done. I wanted to be a writer.

Oddly enough, during the same week Dave gave me the inspiration to do something that excited me, I was given David Sedaris' book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I read the first chapter, and again, it was done. I wanted to be a writer. Sedaris' story, which I am posting here for your enjoyment, included all the things that I believe make a great story: personal experience, provoking thoughts about the human condition and poop. I read it and thought, I think I can do that. I think I want to try.

And then there is David Bonales. He is a third grader in my daughter Ellie's class. She has a bit of a crush on him. I think he is cute and think he probably poops. He hasn't really had anything to do with my vision for grad school, but his name is David and I like to work in three's.

Permission to be Exposed

On Thursday, September 4, 2009, as part of our fall curriculum, we are sending home a permission slip that notifies parents that they will be watching a live televised address to students from the President of the United States. Parents will need to sign this form if they do not want their children to participate in this event.

If you do not want your children to see the permission slip and then have to explain why people won’t let their children watch President Obama, please sign THIS form.

______________ ____________ __________________

Name of Student Grade Parent Signature

Reason you do not want your child to know about the permission slip (please check all that apply):

rI’m afraid of the unspoken message my children might hear: There are many parents who don’t want their kids to be influenced a black man.

rI don’t want to have to explain to my children that parents of their classmates won’t let them listen to others they disagree with.

rI don’t want my children to think that it is legitimate for the Public School System to spend tax money (let alone our precious environmental resources)on all the paper and ink for all the forms sent home making sure to give parents every opportunity to choose something that could potentially harm other children’s faith in humanity.

rI do not want my kids to know that parents in my community, who I am teaching them to trust, are afraid that our elected officials might try to manipulate and brainwash them to believe scary and dangerous PG-13 things.

Monday, August 3, 2009

21st Century Children

My mom is always admonishing me on my parenting. "You are too hard on her," "All she needs is a good spanking," "Dont go giving her excuses for her behavoir," or my personal favorite, "MY kids never acted like that." (As if I wasnt sitting right there, proof-pudding that her parenting style clearly didnt work out as intended.)

She, along with many other grandparents of her generation, do not get the analogy:
apple : oranges :: parenting in the 20th century : parenting in the 21st century.
Okay, so its only been 30 years, give or take a few, since she's done it, but that whole change of century thing is more impactful than she allows. For instance, since she has parented, there have been a few key societal changes, discoveries and inventions that might have altered (just a wee bit) our ENTIRE way of life, let alone the particular job of parenting. Let's see, there's...
1. the desktop comupter (let alone laptops, cell phones and the all-important DS Light)
2. the chickpox vaccine
3. the ADHD diagnosis
4. other remedies for female problems besides hyterectomies
5. gummy bear vitamins
6. the Wii
7. surround sound
8. "time-out"
9. spanx
10. equal rights for women (okay, maybe we are still working on that one)

So, it goes to show that the parenting axiom "spare the rod, spoil the child" may not actually be helpful in the current society where spanking is either illegal or, at the very least, cause for a quick call to DCS. For our generation of parents, the advise our moms give us can be a constant source of angst and confusion. I can almost audibly hear my multiple personalities arguing:

The orthodox/old fashion me: There is NO way a child of ours will behave like that!
The progressive/newly enlightened by current pyschology me: But, is our desire to control our child overpowering our call to love her? What is really at work here?
The redneck me: Damn skippy! That chil' needs to be reigned in fast 'for she's old enough to beat our ass senseless!

And, we (er, I mean, I) do this every time there's a call for parental wisdom. Understanding the needs of today's children is beyond me, and certainly beyond the 1970's model.

Just last week I had a situation come up that called for that very thing wisdom I seem to lack. My 8 year old had a sleep-over. Both girls were very excited and looking forward to a "late" night filled with Mellow Mushroom, Webkins and Poptropica. (See, I already lost most the grandma's out there.) At 9:30, the lights were out and both girls were satisfied with the evening festivities. However, a few moments after I crawled into my pj's, Ellie was at my door, telling me that her sleepover buddy was making too much noise.

Now, its important to know that Ellie is what the older-generation would call paticular. She likes the lights completely off, doors shut, HVAC set between 68-71 degrees (but, she's flexible) and lavender scented eye-mask securely in place before going to sleep. Did I say "likes"? I mean, "needs", as in, "I will not fall asleep even if you threaten to pull out all my eyelashes unless these demands are met" needs. So, when Ellie came to me with this delimna, I was not surprised. Conditions were not perfect for slumbering. I went upstairs and smoothed down the emotional ruffles and re-put the girls the bed.

Not five minutes later, Ellie comes back downstairs and tells us in a slightly higher decibel that she hates her previously christened "best friend in the whole world" because she won't stop moving around in her bed, which she is doing on purpose just to be mean. My husband takes this one (tag-teaming seems a good defensive strategy in the evenings) and proceeds to give Ellie some reasonable options. Could you sleep on the couch if her noises are bugging you? Could you wait for her to fall asleep first before you even try? Why don't you put on a CD and listen to a story? Ellie, so completely offended by this flexible line of reasoning, gives us both a good dose of the stink-eye and stomps off for presumably another go.

Dave and I go back to our books and begin holding our breaths for the next knock at the door. This time, however, the visitor was not Ellie. It was her guest.

Miss Sarah, my OCD is really acting up tonight and Ellie can't handle it.
Come again?

Ha! Bet my mama never heard those words. This calls for the new millennium parenting:

Me: Um, so, what do YOU think we should do?
21st century slumber partier: I think I should just go home.
Me: Do you want to try sleeping on the couch or having Ellie sleep on the couch?
21st century slumber partier: No, I think I'd rather just go home, if you don't mind.
Me: Well, okay. Let me get on some pants and I'll drive you home.
(enter, Ellie)
Ellie: WHAT????!!! She's leaving???? NOOOOOOOOO!!!!! But I wanted to have a sleepover!!!!!! YOU promised me a sleepover!!!!! YOU CANT TAKE HER HOME!!!!
(Dave has to physically restrain our 8 year old)
Me: Ellie, calm down! She just wants to go home. We can get her in the morning and even have her over for pancakes!
Ellie (sputtering and gasping for breath): NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
21st century slumber partier: I know this great therapist that could really help Ellie with her tantrums.

Come again?

Its true. And, in an effort to help Ellie cope with the tragic loss of her sleepover guest, I try to explain to her the OCD disorder in elementary terms.

Me: Your friend has what is called Obssessive-Compulsive Disorder, which means that she is super-worried about some things and then does certain actions or noises to help her not be worried. She cant contol it.
Ellie: Does it come with gas? 'Cause boy did she have some!
Me: Oh boy. Ellie, I am explaining this to you so you can love your friend better. If you understand what she is going through, it'll be easier to care for her. Do you think you can maybe imagine what it would be like to have OCD?
Ellie: Well, I think I might have OCD, too. But only if it comes with PWP.
Me: And what is PWP?
Ellie: Problems with Parents.

I DEFY any and all grandparents to give me the proverb that'll help with that!


PS. If there are grandparents reading this and are interested in learning the delimnas of post-modern parents, I suggest asking for a reading list. Some current parenting books that are on my list are:

How Children Raise their Parents by Dan Allendar
The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross W Green
What to do when Your Brain Gets Stuck by Dawn Huebner

Of course, due to the fact that I am still completely at a tragic loss about how to parent my 21st century children, I am readily accepting book suggestions as well!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mystery Solved

What the hell smells like Burger King?? - This has been the question of the month for me. Actually, for the last 5-6 months. Mostly, I ask this question while in my car.

For the first month or so, whenever at a stop light, I would look around my car for any evidence of an actual hamburger. Were there any tell-tale yellow wrappers with an orange sticker shouting, "extra pickle"? Rolled up white bags from my childrens' last happy meals? A trail of leftover barbeque sauce packets that would lead me to that criminal half-eaten Whopper, Jr? Huh-uh. Nada. So, again I ask, What the hell smells like Burger King??

It had to be Dave. What else could it be? My husband had to have farted. Okay, so I smelled that smell when Dave wasnt in the car several times, but maybe he left it there. Maybe his fart was stuck in my car seat. I saw in some movie that when you smell a fart, its actually microscopic pieces of fecal matter floating through the air into your nasal passages. Maybe Dave's fecal particles were prisoners in my seat, unable to escape due to the micofibers locking them in.

One afternoon, as the entire family was in the car, I smelled it again. There it was. Burger King. Of course, initially, I did my whiplash look around to see if, in fact, we were passing a fast-food joint. Nope. So, then, I queried my family, Does anyone smell Burger King?
Them: Huh?
Me: Dave, baby, did you fart?
Dave: No.
Atticus: Mom said fart!
Me: Seriously, who farted?
Them: Not me!
Me: Do y'all not smell that?
Them: Smell what?
Me: You know, Burger King?
Them: Huh?

My quest continued, as did the mystery smell. Until one night while putting Ellie to bed I smelled it again. There it was. Clear as day. No mistaking... Burger King. In my 8 year olds room. Except, this time, I wasnt the only one who smelled it. Ellie did too. Whew! Mom, you stink! It was me? No! But, there, I saw it. A sirloin fog emitting from under my arms. I see in my head all these green squiggly marks coming out from under your arms, like in a cartoon, Ellie noted in a very concerned voice. I smelled my pits just to verify. Yep, it was me. I smelled like Burger King.

The most interesting thing about that revelation was, in the instant I had it, I had a flashback of a critical moment of my past. When I was about 12 years old, my family was vacationing with our best friends in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. As a day trip, we went to Sea World. Sea World was great, except that we chose the hottest day of the summer to go. All 7 kids were piled into the back of my mom's Volvo station wagon (back in the day when there were no seat belt laws limiting this kind of uber-fun). Stacey, who happened to be smashed right next to me, curled her lip and asked in the most accuatory way, "What the hell smells like Burger King??" Then she looked right at me and declared, "You have BO. You reek!" My day at Sea World was ruined. All I smelled all day long was my BO. And it did, in fact, smell just like Burger King. Puberty had hit and it hit with a beefy stench and I was mortified.

So, why in the world, at age 36, I am now again smelling like a BK Broiler? After all these years of body odor, why is it suddenly changing back to my pubescent scent? Are my hormones changing? Are my chemicals unbalanced? Is this menapause?? Why the hell do I smell like Burger King??

As I was lamenting these questions the other night at dinner with some friends, one of the dinner guests noted that she, also, had experienced her own recent rankness. However, hers was at the hands of a deoderant. Tom's Lavendar Deoderant, that is. The same exact kind I have been using for the past 6 months! Praise the Lord! I'm saved! The mystery has been solved! Its not me! I dont smell like rancid ground beef! At least, not without help! Several other women at the table concurred. Tom's Lavendar Deoderant actually left you smelling much worse. Like rotten lavendar. I cant tell you how relieved I am.

I have stopped using my healthy, aluminum-free, non-cancer causing deoderant. I am back on my aluminum saturated, pore-blocking, toxic building, cancer-causing antiperspirant and loving it. I am burger-free.

I guess the new mystery is, why, after all this, do I still crave Whopper, Jrs. with extra pickle?