Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Story of Stuff

One of the greatest benefits of the time I spent working at Sam's school in Chicago is that I met and became friends with Lucinda. Lucinda runs with the wolves. She is a wonderful, wise woman. She's a supportive friend who is loving, caring, smart, discerning and kind. She is also a yellow belt.

Tonight, Sam and I watched and learned from a video she shared with us called The Story of Stuff.

An excerpt of it is below.

Find 20 minutes to watch the entire video or Lucinda may come kick your ass. Miss you, Friend.

Monday, April 21, 2008

What do you mean, it moved its head?

Cam wrote a beautiful tribute to Broken Lizard, or Hooker as Sam came to call the lizard that made its way into our home and wouldn't get lost.

One morning, I opened the door to the dishwasher and in fell a lizard. I was a bit surprised but, certain it was a toy lizard, I picked it up and tossed it in the general direction of Sam.

A few minutes later, Sam said, "Check this out." I looked over and noticed the toy lizard wasn't laying where it had landed. Sam was staring at the lizard, acting as if it was alive.

I explained that I'd tossed his toy over to him. He pointed out that it moved its head.

I sort of freaked out. It hadn't occurred to me that the lizard I'd flung across the kitchen had been alive.

I'm not normally too squeamish but it weirded me out a bit. Cam got a dustpan and took it outside, releasing it. The even weirder thing was that that night, it was back. Sam held it and he and Cam made a home for it. I continued to get the heebie jeebies when I looked at it.

After the lizard spent the night in the Biosphere (despite the door being left open), I convinced Sam to move it to the front of the house so that it could get some sunlight and warmth.

Despite this attempt to help it survive, when Sam came home from school that afternoon, the lizard was dead.

Hearing about how my child mourned as he made a grave for this strange lizard reminded me of Brian from the story Hatchet.

I'm happy Sam has a heart as big as his smile.

My Flickr set of our lizard experience.

Cam's story.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


The other day, when I was volunteering, Sam and Cam dusted off a couple of remote control cars and took them for a spin. It looks like they had fun.

Cam has more photos posted on his Flickr.

First Patio Dinner of '08.

About a month ago, we had our first dinner on the patio this spring. We're so happy the sun is setting later.

The wind was a bit cool this weekend but we enjoyed soaking up some sun both days.

For more photos from our first patio dinner of 2008, check out this Flickr set.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why I'm bitter (and appreciate him noticing).

I am dismayed by the response to recent statements made by Barack Obama. Barack said some people in America are bitter. In my experience, he's right. Among other issues, many of us have watched communities flounder and children languish in poverty. These things don't seem right but we've felt powerless to change them. (photo credit)

The politicians who scare me are the ones who want to pretend everything is fine. Denying people's righteous anger is frivolous and dangerous. It offends me and leads me to believe that they are the ones out of touch.

I decided to write about a couple of issues that have made me bitter. In addition, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because we have a dynamic presidential candidate who is willing to acknowledge people's feelings of frustration and stand alongside them to come up with plans for a better world.

Rural America
I'm not from Pennsylvania but I grew up in rural America; Columbus, Kansas specifically. Long before my family arrived, the once-thriving coal mining community had dried up and died. When I lived there, starting in kindergarten, our town of 3500 was the county seat. We were the poorest county in Kansas. (photo credit)

Still, I remember a quaint town square surrounding the county court house where my dad would go for city council meetings. My family shopped at the local, family-owned grocery store (Charlie's IGA). My mom visited Charlie and his employees nearly every day. My dad was friends with the man who owned the bank. The daughter of the man who owned the hardware store taught me how to swim. I went to school with the children of the people who owned the local clothing store and florist shop.

My brother and I were invited into the kitchen where we could make our own pizza at Turner’s Dairy Bell. When we were sick, after doctor's appointments, my mom would take us to Evan’s Drug Store where we could have a root beer float at the soda fountain while our prescriptions were filled.

At some point; however, we also started driving to the shopping mall in Joplin, Missouri. It seems we went almost every weekend. Eventually, Pizza Hut, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and other national chains moved into my town and over time, most of the other businesses closed down. We weren't farmers but many from the community were and I know now that they were likely struggling.

When I was 17, my family moved to Newton, Iowa, a manufacturing town of 15,000 people whose livelihood centered on the fact that it was the home of the Maytag Corporation. As a high schooler, Maytag wasn't important to me. I appreciate that they gave me one of the full-ride scholarships they generously offered to kids from the community every year. When I was there, Maytag was known as a good place to work. Sam's grandfather worked there, as did three of his four brothers and some of their wives. Without college educations, they were able to support their families, buy homes and afford vacations to the lake with their boat or RV. (photo credit)

I don't know all of the specifics but I don't think Maytag operates there much anymore. They found cheaper labor and operating costs elsewhere. I can't imagine what has happened to all of the families left behind or all of the businesses that survived by providing goods and services to those families.

Once, I took a job representing farmers nation-wide. During my two years in that job, I spoke with individuals who were desperate, filled with panic (or bitterness) because they couldn't make a profit. They couldn't afford health insurance and didn't know how they were going to send their children to college. Many of them said that the work I was doing wasn't helping, that the big corporate farms, companies like Smithfield, had made staying in business impossible for them.

I hadn't known what to do about the things I'd witnessed. While driving along near-empty country roads, between one state association and the next, I wondered what would happen to the people in rural America. It seemed to be becoming more and more a barren wasteland.

In his book, Audacity of Hope, Barack talks about the struggle and plight of people from all walks of life. He has noticed. He is paying attention and better yet, he is offering solutions that could benefit us collectively.

Currently, I work as an advocate for children who are dependents of the court.

Many of the professionals who have dedicated their lives to working on behalf of these children are well-meaning and have the best intentions but they don't have the resources to adequately meet these children's needs. (photo credit)

The efforts of social workers, attorneys, commissioners, judges and teachers are spread too thin. Their case loads are too large. Funding for therapy for children who've experienced profound trauma, abuse and neglect has been cut. Other services such as transportation, visitation supervision and education aren't being adequately funded either. Group homes are closing. Meanwhile, we are spending over $340 million dollars per day on a war.

How can such a wealthy society allow children to languish in poverty?

I appreciate Barack Obama for paying attention and recognizing our pain (and bitterness). We are angry and he understands the reasons why. Denying the wrong that has been done and pretending everything is fine isn't going to fix anything.

We need a leader who is brave enough to see the problems, offer real solutions and give us hope. Barack Obama cares and is in touch with the American people. He will be an amazing president.

Yes We Can to justice and equality. Yes We Can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes We Can heal this nation. Yes We Can repair this world.

Nothing is standing in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change. We want change. I want change. There has never been anything false about hope. We will remember that there is something happening in America. We are one people. We are one nation.

Yes We Can.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Claudia.

Our friends, Edie and Claudia were in town to celebrate Claudia's 11th birthday last weekend.

We're happy they found the time to hang out with us. The kids had fun playing at Rodeo Beach while Edie and I exchanged stories, basked in the sun and appreciated the tiny green stones.

Afterwards, lunch at Joe's Taco Lounge, in Mill Valley was yummy too.

When they were gone, Sam ob-
served that he and Claudia didn't have much in common. I said that was true but pointed out that they were in the same first grade class and that their moms are friends. Sam agreed and said another thing they had in common was that they liked each other. That's a lot.

Here is a small Flickr post of our time with Edie and Claudia.

An Olympic Moment?

I have conflicted feelings around the Olympic torch relay protests. It seems too bad that the relay has been disrupted but if human rights are being violated, I'm glad the issue is getting attention.

I was impressed by the chutzpah of the people who scaled our bridge.

Below is a video I shot of some protesters proclaiming, "Free Tibet" near where the torch was supposed to have passed.

The woman leading the chant has a harsh yell. They were emphatic but it didn't seem to have much to do with the Olympics. Cam wrote about taking his class to the relay/demonstration.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Grown-up weekend.

This past week was Sam's spring break. While he was away, Cam and I had a grown-up weekend.

We're thrilled Sam's home but enjoyed being able to focus exclusively on each other.

Cam already wrote about the first day of our date day adventure. Here is a picture from the second day and I put up a couple of Flickr sets too.

Day I. Day II.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Flowers, snails and cat tails.

Recently, Cam taught me how to us the macro button on his camera to create unique photos of tiny things close-up.

I've enjoyed taking photos of flowers.

Check out this Flickr set for more photos taken w/the macro button.

He has taken some fascinating ones like this one of a snail he saw at the bus stop on his way to work one day.

This one didn't require the macro button but I like the shots he took of our neighborhood cat, Boots. As our cats are black and white too, when they see them, people sometimes think they've seen them near their home.

Boots is a wanderer and our neighborhood is his domain. When he sees you, he will greet you with a loud, Mr-ow and often will flop on his back, asking you to pet his belly. When he's had enough, Sam has explained that sometimes, he will scratch you to let you know. We don't know his owners but we know Boots.

He reminds me of the cat from Puss in Boots. Maybe that's where he got his name. Sam and I had fun reading the story together this morning. I remember hearing it as a child but I guess he'd never heard it before today.

Sam likes the threat, "Or you will be chopped up like mincemeat."