Sunday, April 27, 2008

Comedic Inspiration

"How do you know where the line is if you don't cross it?" - Dave Chappelle

He goes on to say, "The truth is permanent, everything else just falls by the wayside." Sometimes this moment in history isn't as important as what's going to last. Tim wrote this week about missing an opportunity to take a stand. If we all miss opportunties to take a stand, how will history change? Someone needs to be willing to cross the line and be thought of in this moment in history as "over the line" in order for the lines to move and the longer story to reach its destiny. History changes not by obeying the lines, but by moving them. What is it that I stand for? And am I currently standing way behind the line? What am I going to do to get back on the front lines in the fight on poverty and incarceration - the two issues that matter most to me and in reality are one issue intricately linked with hidden agendas and controlled by purse strings of the wealthy.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What would you do with a lot of money?

Someone asked me last night what I would do if I got a lot of money. "I'd give it away." They said, "Wouldn't you buy a big house?" I said, "I'd buy a space big enough for me and Elisabeth and give the rest away." In disbelief, the next question was "To who?" It's such an easy response, "I have five kids. They all could use some help. And if I were to build a big house, it would be for other people to live in. You know, that woman who lives under the bridge because her child is male and he's not allowed in family shelters after a certain age. Or the Black guy who did drugs and got caught, went to prison, has a felony drug conviction and can't get education funds, public assistance or housing assitance. The White guy he got arrested with got his charge reduced and was on probation for six months. Never lost his job. Or maybe the lady who thinks the only thing she has that's worth anything is her vagina. You know, that woman who sells it rather than having it stolen. The woman who was once a child who is now picking at her skin, selling her genitals for a hit of crack. She is someone's child." The conversation ended there. People hate asking me random questions. The problem is, no one thinks anymore. No one considers "what if"....So consider, what would you do if you got a lot of money? If your answers don't include your ENTIRE community, you need to think again. Because the choices you make, affect everyone around you. The whole pebble in the water theory. When you spend recklessly without thought to the prisoners who make your clothes and your license plates, when you drive to work alone every day rather than take the bus or car pool, when you would rather go into debt to carry a Coach purse than contribute to the well-being of someone in your community, you need to think again. So, what would you do if you suddenly came upon a lot of money?

Saturday, April 19, 2008


To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children ... to leave the world a better place ... to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. —Ralph Waldo Emerson"

As I struggle with being in the process of becoming, one of the greatest internal questions is what is success? Have I been successful? At this point, according to Emerson's definition, I'd say yes. But I'm not doing what I want. I do get to walk on the beach, in the rain, I'm laying in bed right now with an awesome dog, my kids love me (most of the time) and I think if you asked Pam Baze she'd say she breathed a little easier because she knows I truly care about her. I want to teach and write so much that for me I'm not yet successful because I'm not doing that. I want to make change in my world and not just maintain the status quo. I need to question authority at every opportunity. I'm still like a toddler asking why until I hit the void and there are no more reasons. My favorite question: What are you thinking? If a healthy partnership indicates success, I'm a complete failure there. I want a rock, an anchor, that will always be there for me. After I'm done trying something, changing my mind, making too quick decsions, satiating curiosity, sharing a drink with homeless people in the park, spending WAY too much time and money in the book store, I want them to still be there. To offer me the consistency that I can't provide myself. It's a lot to ask from a person and unlikely that anyone would willingly sign up for that.
I like living on the beach, but are there beaches where brown people live? The whiteness of my world right now feels bad - wrong - incomplete. It's like art that lacks color. So what does success look like? And how will I know when I've acheived it? It looks something like this:
- a partner at home who doesn't freak out every time I chase a new curiosity.
- a house on the beach in a community of diverse ethnicities, cultures and traditions.
- me teaching at a community college.
- me sitting in a chair on the beach writing.

Maybe I need to move to Mexico.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Life is Not What One Expects...

...or at least not what I expected. Every time I think I figure one part out, it switches up on me. What I have learned through it all, is this: I can really do what it takes to make things work. My day started today with an almost 2 hr. drive to Portland for work, and 1/2 way there - a blown out tire. Which I changed by myself on the side of the highway, in a dress and boots. Yes, all by myself. Something has happened in our world, very few people care enough to stop and help anymore. A DOT worker - Dan - stopped right as things were finishing up. But trust me, this is only the second time I've ever changed a tire, I was there for a while as dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people passed me by.
On to my meeting with the head of HR and the VP of a multi-million dollar, multi-state corporation. Our meeting was about the patriarchy, oppression and unfair treatment that the females in my office experience. I wish I could say I was shocked at the outcome, but unfortunately, I was right. The outcome of being called a bitch, having work maliciously undone, having (male) subordinates flat out tell me no when given clear instructions: I'm being too sensitive, perhaps I'm misinterpreting, perhaps it was a mistake the document was password protected preventing me from doing my job (by a guy who just took a typing class because he didn't have computer skills, but he accidentally went through all the steps to place a password on a document!), perhaps I need to use a different set of skills (although none were suggested). My day ended in the HR office being told "when people say something you don't agree with, change the subject." No lie. And that bitch from a patriarchal male old enough to be my father could be a term of endearment. Again, no lie. This from the head of HR.
For anyone who knows me - even slightly - telling me to just "change the subject" when someone says something offensive, racist, bigoted or privileged is just a joke. Are you kidding? The female who said this to me is Jewish - do you think her ancestors just "changed the subject" in order for her to have the opportunity for this position? Indeed, our society will never improve, relationships never be enhanced and those being oppressed freed from oppression if we avoid hard topics. Can you imagine telling poverty advocates to change the subject instead of fighting? Can you imagine homeless advocates "changing the subject" when yet another apartment complex is destroyed in the mighty condo sprawl? I would love to have had the spirit of some early feminists in that room with me today. Elizabeth Cady Stanton would not have changed the subject. She would have stayed on the subject until everyone listened.
I ended my day with my baby girl who is 14 today. We went to pizza, had cupcakes, played video games and now we're gonna fill our heads with American Idol babel. She will NEVER change the subject, be a subject of discrimination silently, subject others to oppression, or sit idly by why tough subjects are avoided. She has a mom and older sisters who have taught her to speak up, stand up and don't settle.
When I asked Elisabeth what the best part of her first 14 years was, she responded: knowing Dre. Her biggest goal for the next 14 years: graduate high school and go to college. You go get 'em Lis. I love you and am so blessed to be your mom, listen to your incessent phone calls, watch you change into a strong, articulate, beautiful human who is full of compassion and grace. You have made my past 14 years better than I ever imagined. Thanks for all you do to challenge me to be the best possible woman I can be.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Somehow, I changed my settings and the previous post was translated into Hindi. Although I have no idea how it happened, I"m leaving it as is.

गोइंग Back

हाउ बिज्ज़रे, थिस इस ट्रांस्लातिंग इन्तो सोम क्रेजी लंगुअगे! इ वोंदर इफ थिस इस हाउ आईटी'स गोइंग टू लुक व्हें इ पोस्ट थिस! इफ आईटी इस, इ कोउल्ड से अन्य्थिंग। वहत लंगुअगे इस थिस? एंड वही इस आईटी दोंग थिस? अन्य्वय, इ'म गोइंग बेक टू सिएटल। अस मच अस इ लव थिस एनवायरनमेंट, इ कैन'टी वर्क फॉर कार्पोरेट अमेरिक्क्का, इ कैन'टी लाइव लिके इ दोन'टी गिव अ सहित। इ दो। एंड इ वांट टू लाइव माय लाइफ विथ पुर्पोसे एंड इंटेंशन।

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Unexpected Friends

Today I sent out a spontaneous e-mail to several friends in Seattle asking them to be crazy and get in their cars, drive to Oregon and BBQ with me. One of them did. Tim brought Mica and Kay, we BBQ'd, watched the sunset on the beach and had amazing conversation. I'd forgotten how much I missed talking to someone about encampment protocols, drugs, music (The Emotional Crisis Soundtrack - exactly the soundtrack most of our lives are lived to), I've missed sharing passion with someone about something that matters. I feel more rejuvenated tonight after sharing conversation with Tim than I have in weeks. Tim's blog is full of juice, great topics, opportunity for feedback and much more meaningful than my diatribe. Tim wrote to me the other day "Life is too short to live like you don't give a shit." I do and I am. Thanks Tim - for the drive down, the spontaneity of your life, and for reminding me what matters.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Profound Sadness

I am so sad this evening. Frustrated - overwhelmed. I moved here to the coast of Oregon to escape the sadness and busy-ness of the city. What I'm experiencing is so much more profoundly sad than working with homeless, previously incarcerated, mentally ill individuals. This place is beautiful in its natural beauty but the people are narrow minded, shallow and epitomize what I believe is wrong with our world. Money seems to be the driving force in every decision. Patriarchy reigns supreme with oppression of every kind being tangible. I truly hate my job. The un-just treatment of the female employees is overwhelming and blatant. It is perfectly okay for the "guys" in the field to call us bitches and expect that our entire job is to be there "for them" and to make their jobs easier. This work is truly the most meaningless, dis-satisfying choice I've ever made. And the peace that marked my home-coming after work each day was shattered today. Jakobi had been outside playing and stepped in dog shit, tracking it all over the house. He and the dog are having a battle of the wills over whose territory this is. I've not experienced this level of grief for quite some time. My work day was frustrating and I tried to overcome with kindness. At the end of the day when I answered phone without overwhelming enthusiasm, I got a called a bitch by the man on the other end. Last Friday, I had a customer who was coming in to pay his bill reach over the counter and pinch my cheek -- like his long lost niece. That behavior is expected and I'm expected to not only tolerate it, but keep smiling. I cannot any longer. I don't know what the next move will be, but I won't be long in this place of patriarchal control.