Archive for June, 2008
So I have to admit that I am a little bit obsessed with The Bachelorette this season. I fell into it, I like to think, accidentally when I was on the road so often with Hijas last fall and watched week after week of Brad Womack as The Batchelor in hotel rooms across America. I watched it like I watch scary movies, a grimace across my mouth, my hand guarding my face while trying to take in every last bit that I could see between my fingers. In the end, Brad Womack DID THE UNTHINKABLE in reality tv parlance. He let both girls go. And one of those women is this season’s Bachelorette so I just had to catch what happens next for her. Does she find her husband like she wants? Will they really stay together after the last rose ceremony? Will they get hitched– and join America’s favorite reality tv family– Trista and Ryan from the first Bachelorette- in forver bliss?
And just in case we are wondering why more reality tv romances don’t work out, a study in Communication Reports reveals that people who are concerned about their image are less happy in their relationships. I am sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that fixating on the impressions one is making keeps you from revealing who you truly are- thus leading to a superficial relationship. We can all see how that plays out on national television, but it almost becomes, I bet, a chicken and the egg phemomenon in everyday life– if I could just know this was the real thing, I would show him/her who I really am. But you can’t have the confidence of knowing that you are in the midst of what could be the real thing without taking a risk in the first place.
I just came across this article in the LA Times about a 15 year old girl who feels her mission in life is to educate her peers about making wise decisions regarding their bodies, their health, and their sexuality. I love seeing young women empowered already with a mission– especially a mission as important as this one.
At my Bronx reading a couple weeks ago, one of the women who participated in the research for Hijas Americanas attended wearing beautiful, eye-catching jewelry. Turns out she has launched a jewelry company, Cruz Avenue, inspired by her Latin American heritage. The jewelry itself is one way that she is deliberately embracing her culture, and I just loved that expression. The pieces are hand-made, and the materials are acquired from Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico. I thought some of you might be interested in knowing about her work so I asked her to share some photos of her work with me. You can learn more about the designs and designer at the Facebook page for Cruz Avenue or by emailing Stephanie@cruzavenue.com.
I saw this great blog meme on Fighting Windmills and had to do it.
1. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
2. Using only the first page of results, and pick one image.
3. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into Big Huge Lab’s Mosaic Maker to create a mosaic of the picture answers.
1. What is your first name?
2. What is currently your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. What is your favorite drink?
7. What is your dream vacation?
8. What is your favorite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. What is one word that describes you?
12. What is your flickr name?
These photographers deserve credit for their photos:
And bravo! to these fabulous photographers:
We don’t have HBO and so I missed the television movement that was Sex and the City. But because it was a movement, I can’t help but know who Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha, and Big are. I even knew about Aidan. And the dancer. And about Manolos and the nameplate necklace and you get the picture. So when the frenzy started about SATC: The Movie, I couldn’t help but tune in to the dialogue about it. Did it do the characters justice seemed to be a common thread of the conversations and, more globally, did it do women justice? Rapt by the dialogue, I asked a handful of women to share their throughts here. Below, you’ll find three reviews that show the range of reaction (read only at your own risk if you are spoiler adverse). Feel free to join the dialogue!
A few weeks ago, I told you all about the book This I Believe which is based on the National Public Radio series of the same name where Americans from all walks of life- famous and not so- read an essay over the radio that completes the thought that begin’s the book’s title. The essays are very brief capsules of a life that uniquely capture the essence of our lives…
From Sarah Adams: If I have one operating philosophy about life, it is this: Be cool to the pizza delivery dude; it’s good luck.
From Eve Ensler: I believe in the power and mystery of naming things.
From Rick Moody: I believe in the absolute and unlimited liberty of reading.
From Victor Hanson: I believe we are not alone.
From Brian Grazer: I believe in disrupting my comfort zone.
From Martha Graham: I belive that we learn by practice.
From Cecile Gilmer: I believe that families are not only blood relatives but sometimes just people that show up and love you when no one else will.
From Deirdre Sullivan: I believe in always going to the funeral.
I mentioned the book because I was about to teach a workshop for a group of Davidson alumni who were doing a four day retreat that revolved around this very book, this very premise of articulating what one believes. My job was to lead them to the water of their belief statements. To help them grab on to which story and belief they would share and then begin the drafting of that belief statement.
Their statements were remarkable– so much so, that I remember many still now:
I believe in the power of a Christmas carol.
I believe in the backyard garden.
This I believe… Nerds Rule.
I believe in the power of the underdog.
I believe in listening.
In preparing for the workshop, I toyed around with many of my own beliefs, reducing them to the one sentence soundbite that might later lead to my own individual belief statements about each.
Here are some of mine:
I believe in the power of voice.
I believe that exposure changes everything.
I believe that a little cupcake goes a long way.
I believe that our passion is our purpose.
I believe that powerful learning happens with an emotional connection.
I believe that life keeps handing us the lesson we need to learn until we learn it.
I believe that even when you don’t know what to say, you show up.
This past week was both breathtaking and heartbreaking. As it has always been, seeing my dear friend and her family filled my well. But grieving the impossible loss of my friend’s father, a man who so many respected and loved, is the kind of thing that will split you open. As her brother said in his eulogy, he would take this grief any day over not having ever known this man, his father. When we left the church, the procession streamed out onto the Mississippi streets, winding miles and miles out to farm land, and I was reminded about a beautiful custom that still happens in some smaller Southern towns (maybe it happens elsewhere, too– I’ve only seen it in Vicksburg, Mississippi and Charleston, South Carolina). Every car on the street pulled over and stopped for the duration of this incredibly long processional. People on sidewalks took off their hats, covered their hearts. No one looked impatient. Not one person was on a cell phone as I drove by. They were people of all ages, all cultures, stopped. I wondered for a moment if I would have known at 16 to pull over and show this amount of respect– the way I saw one shirtless teenage boy do in his pickup truck. For miles, we drove by stopped car after stopped car. After having spent the entire day before with the dozens and dozens of family members who were tenderly holding each other in so much love, after watching a visitation line wind through the church with people who waited three hours to tell the family what this man had meant to them, after one of the most lovely celebrations of life that was the memorial service, after all of this, riding down that long road with every car pulled over, every walking person halted, every police officer stopping traffic with his hand over his heart, I was so very humbled by the magnitude of what his life meant and also by the magnitude of what every one of our lives really means. In that spirit, I add one more statement to my list:
I believe that every life is worth stopping for.
So I set up posts to be published everyday while I was away but I just realized that it was a fruitless endeavor because none of them published. I promise all new posts next week- sorry for the curveball!
I know I have mentioned that my dad used to take me to the library every Saturday morning when I was a kid and let me check out however many books I wanted (and also let me take as long as I wanted). We would then go to the grocery store where he bought me a box of peanut brittle and I read all the way home in the car because I just couldn’t wait. I read while brushing my teeth (still do), read under the covers with a flashlight (still do when my bedside light puts BF over the brink), read in the car, tried to read at the table, read walking across the house. It was like a Dr. Seuss story really. I can read in the car, near or far, on the bus, despite your fuss, in the store, while doing chores. You get the picture. I give books to kids as presents all the time. It’s my thing, really, and I have a group of favorite kid books that get sent everywhere (and then I forget if I have given this book or that book to this child or that child or… again, another Dr. Seuss story could be written but I’ll resist the urge). Suffice to say: I love books, love reading, love giving kids books, worry about whether or not kids are reading enough, could kiss JK Rowling for making kids voracious readers again even if I haven’t read one sentence of a Harry Potter book.
So when I see the 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report come across my computer screen, I had to investigate. Are kids reading? Here’s the scoop:
68% of children think it is extremely or very important to read for pleasure
82% of children between the ages of 5 and 8 like or love reading for pleasure
55% of teens between the ages of 15-17 like or love reading for pleasure
90% of respondents believe that they need to be a strong reader to get into a good college
25% are “high frequency” pleasure readers (reading daily)
53% qualify as “moderate frequency” readers, reading for pleasure between one and six times per week
When children were asked why they do not engage in more pleasure reading, the top answer selected was “I would rather do other things,” followed in frequency by “I have too much schoolwork and homework,” and “I have trouble finding books that I like.” Boys outnumbered girls by 10% in all age categories in stating that they had trouble finding enjoyable books.
Parents who read frequently were found to be six times more likely to have children that read often, compared to those who read infrequently. Around one quarter of parents (24%) said they read frequently.
82% of parents responded that they wished their children read more for fun, with nearly the same percentage citing reading skills as one of the top three most important skills for their children to possess, along with critical thinking and math skills.
I have spent this weekend remembering and honoring great men– those I know and those that I don’t.
I was walking into my house on Friday night after a long day at the Alltel store when my cell phone rang. It was my husband calling to tell me that Tim Russert had died. The news made me so sad. I have had a long crush on the news men of NBC in general. It started in high school when I developed a wicked crush on Tom Brokaw. My economics teacher brought in a tape of the stocks portion of the nightly news every day. She always paused it while Tom was speaking, and he would be frozen in front of our classroom with his mouth frozen in an awkward place. The football player who sat behind me would say, “Do you still dig him?” at those moments. “It’s not just because he’s handsome,” I would reply, “It’s because of what he knows!” At the beginning of the Iraq war, when David Bloom, the Weekend Today Anchor, died of deep vein thrombosis while covering the war in Iraq as an embedded solider, I wept openly. I hated it for his family and hated it for the world of journalism and every one of us who trusted him to give us the news without filter. I felt the same way Friday night with this news about Russert.
On Saturday morning, I turned on my television just as Weekend Today started a tribute to Tim Russert. I poured my cereal, ready to take some of it in. And then I happened to glance at my e-mail. And the first sentence of the first email in my inbox undid me. My college roommate and one of my dearest friends wrote a late night email telling me and a handful of her other friends that her father had lost his valiant fight with cancer. What I see next in my mind’s eye is not from my own eyes. It is removed from me, I am the proverbial fly on the wall watching the girl in the grey t-shirt move. My Blackberry dropped from my hand, hitting the tile floor in the kitchen, skidding, but I didn’t realize that then. I turned from the kitchen, ran outside, gasped for air, my eyes darting everywhere and nowhere. BF rounded the corner of the house. “What’s wrong,” he asked, running towards me. I told him, but then I spun round and round on the porch. “I don’t know what to do.” It was too early to call my friend. I had gotten up early to run before the mercury crept too high. I walked round and round the house, waiting for the clock to creep up to a decent hour to call my girl. I cried. Later, I found the cereal floating in its bowl, the Blackberry across the floor.
Mostly, I spent yesterday thinking about her great, amazing father– a former lawyer turned farmer with a passion for education and civil rights who had gone from school board member to state senate chairmen of education. I had met him before ever meeting his daughter. And I had liked him so much, I knew that I would like his daughter when she later walked on to our freshmen hall and moved into the room next door. We would become fast friends and the farm that she grew up on would become a place where her parents always welcomed us– treating us as their children, feeding us bountifully, asking us about our lives and dreams, taking us out for 6 am horseback rides and mid-afternoon skeet shooting. Her dad knew that my dream was to be a teacher and he and I could talk education tirelessly– before I ever became a teacher and long after my secondary education teaching career was done. He was a liberal man with a mind that was expansive and a heart that was even bigger. And he asked the hard questions, did the hard things, led the right way, even when anything else would have been easier. The rest of the day, pain stung my nose and throat, tears rolled down my eyes without my realizing they were there. I booked my ticket to Mississippi, packed my bags, rented a car, downloaded directions. My parents called to say not to worry about driving to South Carolina to see them for Father’s Day because they wanted me to have more time before leaving for the farm, but that would be the antithesis, really, of what these moments remind you about life. So we enjoyed a great Saturday night dinner with my father-in-law for Father’s Day and then jumped into the car Sunday morning to drive to South Carolina to celebrate my dad with my family. My friend, her brother, and their families had spent the last seven weeks with her family in Mississippi, honoring her father’s life while it was still being lived. That’s an amazing thing, isn’t it? To have the chance to tell a person that has mattered so much to you absolutely everything you have loved about them over time and to be given the chance to just sit and hear their advice, reflection, and wisdom.
I am on the way to the most beautiful place in my world to be with some of the most loving and passionate people in my world in order to celebrate a great man who lived his life with conviction and passion, compassion and purpose, wisdom and a sense of justice. I am broken open by my ability to see my dear friend and to just hold her and listen. I am humbled already by the stories that I will hear, the love that will be shared, the sheer beauty and strength and wide open love that is this family. What do I cherish is the question that I posed on here this time last week. Tonight, that answer is both so long and so short. I cherish good fathers.
I love reading non-fiction, especially memoir, and especially memoir that just spills it and in really lyrical language, too. Perhaps it reminds me of the moment when my first MFA advisor, Jamie Manrique, told me that he thought I needed to dtich poetry and write non-fiction.
“I’ve heard you tell a story and you are good at it,” he said, squinting at me.
“I can’t write non-fiction,” the terrorized twenty-something in me replied.
“Why not? I know you have something to say,” he responded.
“Well, yeah, but it would piss my mom off,” i answered.
He looked at me, unfazed. “”You need to write like your mother is dead,” he said. I recognized those words. Maybe Alice Walker had said them in some memoir I had read of hers?
“Yeah, but my mom’s not dead and she’s a strong-willed Puerto Rican woman,” I answered.
Ultimately, Manrique lead me to prose like a horse to water and the pieces of my work that I most love are the ones that I have written when I have forgotten who might read it and just said what needed to be said. There’s something to the beauty and urgency and realness of memoir– the reminder that all of our otherness captured in writing just offers readers the company they thirst for, the perspective that feeds their hunger. They remind us that we live, really, not so that we can be solitary creatures in our purpose but so that we can share.
So, given that I love memoir, imagine my delight when I came across this clever list on the Entertainment Weekly web-site that tells you what book lets you go along on the adventure of “eating every thing possible in China” or “being a hip hop dancer”. Check it out and choose a book to read on a topic you never thought you’d pick and see what happens.