Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

a penny for your thoughts

I poured 18,953 pennies out of six different containers into the counting machine at Air Academy Federal Credit Union today. Ok, so there were a few nickels and dimes, but for the most part, people did as my students asked and only put in pennies.

Back in September, my students and I began reading Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Journey to Change the World...One Child at a Time, the Young Readers edition of Greg Mortenson's bestseller. It has everything a Pre-GED diverse adult education class could ever want: perfect reading level (6/7th grade), the power of persistence, a hero, family, the value of education, religion, current events, foreign lands, guns, war, hope. We have had some amazing class discussions this semester. There were many times when I just let them go and listened....

After watching some videos, my students became ever more interested and inspired to do something. So I let them.

Pennies for Peace is deceptively simple: collect pennies and donate them to help build more schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the lessons learned by those who plan and carry out and participate in the penny collecting go deep. My students range in age from 17-54, and they are either immigrants for whom English is their second language, or native speakers for whom the system simply never worked. For most of them, philanthropic giving is the absolute last thing on their minds. Some of the other teachers were even leery of the idea of a penny drive at first, because they didn't want to impose upon the already economically fragile lives of many of our students.

What I found, however, is that having the opportunity to be the GIVER is so very empowering! Remembering that someone is struggling even more than you can be a great motivator to not give up yourself. Alone, we can't do much, but together, we can. I know it sounds cheesy, and it is, but it's REAL. Just like the Velveteen Rabbit.

And organizing a campaign is a way to learn all kinds of real-life, valuable skills (NONE of which I wrote an objective on the board for, mind you).

Tomorrow, the "Pennies for Peace Committee" will make an on-line donation to the Central Asia Institute for $189.53. A drop in the ocean. Their drop. Who knows how far the ripples will travel.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


it was only a
lymph node, but it was enough
to ruin my day

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

the future and the past

I taught my 10-year-old son how to text last week. I figured it was "time". It took him about 2.3 seconds to learn, of course. By the time he had played with the new phone (it's not his, it's the home phone) for about 10 minutes, he had installed a photo of BB as wallpaper, and entered three contacts (Kaiden, Mom, Dad).

Yesterday evening, John and I were in the kitchen, grinding spices and julienning onions respectively. Red Lentil Dhal was on the menu. I knew Grant wouldn't eat it, so I offered him the choice of grilled cheese sandwiches or cheese and crackers (which we would all have with our soup).

Suddenly, my phone chimed. I read the message, and sat down to reply. For the next 10 minutes or so, Grant and I had a conversation via text messaging, even though we were in the same house! I'd see him sitting on the couch, cross-legged, the phone in his hands and a look of concentration on his face. A few minutes later, I'd wash my hands, sit in the kitchen chair, and start tapping the keyboard. It was like having our own private conversation in our little house!

What follows is a transcription of the text conversation between Grant and me. It may not seem as hilarious to you as it does to me, but here it is anyway for your entertainment:

hellom mom may i have grild chease for dinner?
p.s. cani also have cereal with them

GriLled cheese aok!
dubliner or cheddar?

1 whole cheder, 1/2 dubliner.what about cereal? can i have cereal to?

Ok but only if u try 3bites of soup. please??? and if also if u use the correct version of the word *to*
check your last msg to me.

Which version of the word*to*? I will try 1 bite of soup. If I like it, I will have 2 more. then I will have cereal.

No deal. sorry. :) at the end u should have the word *too* as in *also*.
love u!

OK! Love you too! 'Bye.


After dinner, I found him on the floor, writing a pencil-and-paper message to his brother. In runes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

coloring mandalas with my boys on a snowy sunday morning

"Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: 'Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal recreation'. And that is the self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions” (MDR 195-196).
-Carl G. Jung

The Master of the Mandala quotes Mephistopheles!

Faust [inspired]. Good! Gripping it, I feel new strength arise,
My breast expands. On, to the great emprise!
Mephistopheles. When you at last a glowing tripod see,
Then in the deepest of all realms you'll be.
You'll see the Mothers in the tripod's glow,
Some of them sitting, others stand and go,
As it may chance. Formation, transformation,
Eternal Mind's eternal re-creation.
Images of all creatures hover free,
They will not see you, only wraiths they see.
So, then, take courage, for the danger's great.
Go to that tripod, do not hesitate,
And touch it with the key!


In the Preface of the book that Ursen gave to Bennett for his 9th birthday, the author/artist says: "When coloring these mandalas children intuitively know what to do: they easily choose a design they like and the colors they want to use. By the time we are adults, most of us have lost this spontaneity and often ask: what should I do? My answer is to forget your 'shoulds'."


While forgetting my shoulds, I also shunned my duties and ignored my lists. I had hot coffee, a kitchen table littered with colored pencils, and my two boys. 'Twas lovely.


I was amazed not only by the meditative state-of-mind I found myself in, but also by the lines of communication that were suddenly opened up between myself, Grant, and Bennett. We talked about life, the universe, and everything in a way we never had before. Maybe it's because they're getting older, (and therefore, let's face it, more interesting to talk to!), but I have no doubt that some of it was due to the magic of the mandala.

After our mandalas were cut out and taped to the walls, G and B walked to the Farm Crest by themselves for the first time (in the snow!), and bought a dozen eggs.

There's a correlation there, I swear.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

i do like visiting graves...

You're The Canterbury Tales!

by Geoffrey Chaucer

You are extremely old. Somewhat lyrical in your approach to life,
you prefer that most things are said in rhythm. At the same time, you are known for
using words that the common people would know, rather than speaking in a more
elaborate tongue. This gives you credibility with the working class, who you would
give an equal voice alongside the wealthy or powerful. You like contests, long walks
on the road, and visiting graves.

Take the Book Quiz II
at the Blue Pyramid.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You know, sometimes it's good to question statistics. To closely examine the method behind the numbers. To be a critical thinker. But when somebody I love (Hi, Nancy!) sent me these percentages recently, I just took them on faith. Sadly enough, they just felt correct.

During my father's years on this earth, our nation was at war 13.5% of the time.

During my years on this earth, our nation has been at war 17.5% of the time.

During my son's years on this earth, our nation has been at war 37% of the time.

During my grandchild's years on this earth, our nation has been at war 63% of the time.

To think that our nation has been at war for almost two-thirds of my children's lives is just so..... so..... so..... fucking crazy! And now Obama is committing more troops to Afghanistan. Thirty billion dollars and a year and a half later, where will we be?

As many of you know, my husband spent much of his childhood in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the son of a diplomat. I love to sit at his mother's table and listen to her and John remember. I marvel at the adventures of a young family in a foreign land. Unpronounceable (to me!) names of people and places roll off their smiling tongues and then, somewhere between the first and second martini, it all turns into one gigantic sigh.

I experienced this same phenomenon last month, when my family and I went out for dinner at Rumi's Kabab to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. By the end of the night, Shams (the owner) had pulled up a chair, and the boys and I listened to more stories of the glory days of Afghanistan. Again that happiness, as John and Shams shared stories of markets and travels and mountains. And then, eventually, that same heaviness, the profound melancholy of something lost.

I know we can never get the Bamiyan Buddhas back, but I just hope, one day, that the people in that region will know some sort of relative peace. And when they do, I am fairly certain that it will have nothing at all to do with us.