Wednesday, August 5, 2020

It’s All One Thing

Watching everything we are going through in the United States right now I keep being reminded of Ijeoma Oluo’s line in her book, “So You Want to Talk About Race” (paraphrased) - she recounts being asked “why do you make everything about race”, and her reply is “because it is”. The roots of everything we are seeing right now - from the aggressive incompetence in our politicians to the systematic defunding of our public commons since the Civil Rights Act and desegregation- all of this is rooted in whiteness and white supremacy. We (white folks) would rather have less than nothing ourselves than give up that visceral sense of superiority we’ve been taught is our birthright. In our ignorance and arrogance we would rather burn it all down than learn to share, and it’s devastating to watch. One direct example, told in the book “Broken Words”, is how the Evangelical Church became anti-abortion. Until schools were desegregated, they believed access to abortion was integral to being pro-family. Once desegregation became the law of the land, they needed a place to send their white children apart from black children, and so they took on the Catholic Church’s anti-abortion views in order to send their children to white Catholic schools.

Resmaa Menakem on racialized trauma: https://link.medium.com/A2xkANTIH8

Review of “Broken Words”: https://www.booksandculture.com/articles/webexclusives/2011/september/brokenwords.html

Review of “So You Want to Talk About Race”: https://www.thenationalbookreview.com/features/2018/2/1/pzq0lfjcpd3klmi89d5qinpawx15tr

Monday, June 8, 2020

Open Letter Demanding a People's Moral Budget

Today I fasted in support of the Poor People's Campaign's call for focusing on our demands for equitable treatment of Black and Brown people in our country. I've never used fasting as a tool for focus or awareness before, and it is very powerful... every time I felt hungry and reminded myself I'm fasting, I remembered the Black and Brown people who, due to systemic racism are more than twice as likely to be food insecure than I, a white person is. And many more times as likely to be harmed by police. That brings me to the demands I am making today, for equity for all of us in this country, taken from The Poor People's Campaign's list for today's Moral Monday National Day of Fasting and Focus:

1. There must be consequences for abuses of police power, and justice for families and commuities who have been harmed and terrorized by police violence must be a matter of law. We demand federal legislation that makes officers accountable and liable for abuses of their power through apprehension, investigation, prosecution, conviction and incarceration. This means:  
  • Any officer who abuses the power to kill with racial or discriminatory intent will be prosecuted for murder.
  • Any officer who stands by and does nothing against the excessive use of force will be prosecuted as an accessory to the crime.  
  • A city that hires officers who abuse their powers against a community will pay damages to the victims’ families.
2. Demilitarize the police. End mass incarceration and stop criminalizing the poor. This means:
  • End the 1033 program that sends military equipment to local and state law enforcement and end all programs that provide military training for local and state police.
  • Ban the use of force as a punitive measure or means of retaliation against people who are unarmed and of no danger to anyone but themselves.
  • Require police training in de-escalation and non-lethal techniques.
  • End cash bail, predatory fines and fees on the poor. When state and local governments are in fiscal crisis, they rely on cash bail, fines, fees and filling jail beds to raise revenues. This puts the burden of proof on poor people to prove their innocence, rather than assuming their innocence until proven guilty.
  • Instead of criminalizing the poor to raise state and local revenues, raise taxes on the corporations and the wealthy and direct federal resources to state and local governments for unarmed, civilian public health, mental health, EMT and social services emergency responders.
  • Stop locking people up for non-violent crimes and misdemeanors by replacing prison sentencing with community service and substance abuse treatment.
  • End the easy access to firearms that has contributed to the increased militarization and weaponization of our communities.
  • Decrease funding in federal, state and local budgets for the military, policing and incarceration, including ending the use of any resources for new prisons, jails and unnecessary police equipment, and direct that money toward the real security of our communities: quality public schools, universal health care and decent jobs with living wages.
3. Establish real security by taking care of our health needs in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond and address the poverty and disinvestment in our communities that brought us to this point. This means:
  • Ensure universal health care for all. Poor, black and brown people, including undocumented people and Native communities, are facing higher rates of infection and death with fewer resources and infrastructures. We demand free and/or affordable testing, treatment and hospital care for all. Everybody must have access to health care during a pandemic, without fear of the costs, incarceration, deportation or detention.
  • Reopen hospitals. Hospitals in black, brown, indigenous and poor communities that have been closed during this pandemic and the last ten years must be reopened.  
  • Expand Medicaid. Our government must expand Medicaid in every state.
  • Essential protections for essential workers. Black, brown, indigenous and poor people are disproportionately represented among the workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis, including in health care, childcare, elder care, grocery and big box stores, janitorial and cleaning services, public transit, fast food and other sectors of the economy. All workers must have paid family leave, paid sick leave, hazard pay, PPE, living wages and the right to form and join unions.
  • A permanent, guaranteed and adequate annual income/universal income. This includes rapid, direct payments to all low-wage, temporary, laid off and unemployed workers for the duration of this crisis and a universal income that provides economic security to us all. It also includes an income for care providers whose work is critical to our health and economy.
  • Secure access to social welfare and unemployment. Given the over-representation of people of color and the poor in hospitality, retail and other service jobs, social welfare programs like SNAP, housing assistance and unemployment insurance must be fully funded and expanded to meet the needs at hand.
  • Guarantee housing, water and utilities for all. Even during a pandemic, poor, indigenous, black and brown people are being evicted and losing access to water and utilities. All evictions must stop immediately, including encampment sweeps and the towing of vehicles of unhoused communities. Tax foreclosures and rent hikes must also end. Federal resources must be directed to open and prepare vacant and habitable buildings to house and provide adequate care for all people who are homeless. All water and utility shut offs must also be ended and late-payment charges must be waived. Services that have been turned off must be turned back on. We demand a national affordability plan for water and utilities to secure universal access to these basic needs and federal resources for expanded water, sanitation and utilities infrastructure.
  • Debt relief: The racial wealth gap must not be worsened because of debts that have been accumulated through this pandemic. Mortgages, rents, water, utilities and student debt that cannot be paid must be canceled.
  • Fiscal support: As the pandemic triggers a deep economic crisis, there must be an infusion of federal resources to state and local governments to prevent cuts to critical health care, education and other programs. Federal support must be conditioned on prohibiting any increases in state and local police and incarceration budgets, ending all evictions, expanding Medicaid and stopping all water and utility shut offs.
  • The right to vote: Instead of tolerating voter suppression, which specifically targets black, brown, indigenous and poor people, our votes must be encouraged and supported. This requires dedicated resources to expand voting rights in our communities in November 2020 and beyond.
  • Lifting military sanctions and ending endless wars: The militarism that is brutalizing our communities at home is exacted with impunity against poor people of color around the world. We must end all wars. We must lift all economic sanctions, which are keeping life-saving medication, food and other resources from millions of people in a global pandemic.
4. Working with frontline movements and impacted communities, establish a National Truth Commission on the violence of systemic racism. The “Truth Commission” model of truth-telling draws on the history of grassroots and community-based responses to state-sanctioned terror in this country and around the world. We demand that frontline and impacted families and communities’ experiences and insights direct federal policy on these injustices. This means:
  • A National Truth Commission that is organized around grassroots and community-based forums to lift up the stories of suffering from impacted families and communities and their solutions on how we right these injustices. Their cries of pain must turn into the power to transform and reconstruct our society. 
These demands are part of the Moral Agenda of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and reflect our policy priorities. They were first released in April 2018, have been delivered to Congress and state houses and read aloud in mass meetings, hearings, marches and bus tours in more than 40 states. Lawmakers and legislators — Republican, Democrat and independents — have been put on notice that the Poor People’s Campaign is holding them to account to this agenda.
We will not stop until we can ALL breathe.
Sincerely,
Katie Kadwell, West Seattle, 98106

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Contamination (aka diary of a pandemic in bullet points, or the things that go through my head…)

Contamination (aka diary of a pandemic in bullet points, or the things that go through my head…)

 

·         The internet gave me “the earth sent us to our rooms to think about what we’ve done” in reference to COVID-19 and I can’t stop thinking about what that means in so many dimensions
·         There’s so many people on this bus today but yesterday it was almost empty
·         I can’t touch anything and I feel contaminated
·         I am contaminated and the depth of contamination feels like we’ve all lost our souls
·         What is under that staircase oh geez two carts oh yuck wet cardboard and beer cans this is a nice spot crap it’s almost lunch time let me just get what I’ve got in the truck to the dump I’ll come back for the carts and those knocked over newspaper boxes
·         Fuck how am I going to fit everything in the truck what is this oh it’s a table ah I see against this tree it’s a makeshift bathroom oh thank goodness nothing much but dirty toilet paper
·         What’s the centering thought for today I think I fell asleep meditating again and are all the thoughts repeating a mantra even if they’re not productive
·         Crap I can’t get these newspaper boxes without a bolt cutter, they’re chained together
·         I think one of the saddest things is how no one will see the spring flowers this year we put out a lot of new bulbs in the fall and they’re so pretty now
·         Wow that tree is amazing, this is that Magnolia they planted last fall
·         I love this song
·         How am I going to stay six feet from them they’re walking toward me but that other person would be three feet from me if I move over
·         What do I do with that mail oh I guess I should do what we do at home I’ll do it tomorrow
·         I have to wash my hands again
·         Where is my lotion
·         My eye itches
·         Oh damn I don’t have a sharps container and that’s a lot of needles
·         There’s a cart with soil in it it’s full and should we call the police what might be in there besides just soil
·         Thanks for coming so fast no problem I was around the corner is there a place I can just dump this out yes here is good thanks oh man no dead bodies laughing but not really a lot of old trash and leaves with landscape fabric where could this be from
·         What is happening why won’t they back off I’m just trying to get off the train
·         Can I sit next to you no absolutely not do you know where a gym is no and if you see one that’s open you should probably call the governor
·         Oh my god what is happening and why am I feeling so reactive
·         I’m so glad and grateful to be home
·         This is a nice pace with the family at home
·         We can cook together and remember how to make things and do things for ourselves
·         What is money anyway and especially when you can’t even access anything, no way to get pick up or delivery
·         What is happening
·         This is nice all playing music together and now I have time to learn to play
·         Finally I understand the curse of interesting times I never understood why one might not like interesting times
·         Huh… pestilence is the first horseman of the apocalypse and it was originally a conqueror and sometimes interpreted as the return of Christ… disease as conqueror how interesting

Thursday, November 1, 2018

To Not Be Cruel: A Poem

Written in 1989 and revised in 2000. Publishing today for the first time.


to not be cruel

one morning over eggs and bread
I looking upon the smooth winter cold
he standing at the stove, spatula in hand

I do not want to be a man, he said
I passed the salt and wondered
how could I not be cruel
when I have never really wanted
to be one either

I don’t know
the impotent pain
the mute frustration
of seeing so many torn souls
and isolated body parts
lying at my feet.

but how could I not be cruel
when I know she dances every night
dark and quivering in her booth
above the army surplus
the lit up mannequins displaying
parkas, bombers, and other
war paraphernalia

and how could I not be cruel
knowing so many others
who want more than diapers
baby food
and stolen clothes?

and how could I not be cruel
knowing myself
the searing sting of being ripped open dry
bled into and
left to die
by those who would blacken our eyes and
break our bones?

but I don’t know what it is
to be unwillingly among those who
blacken the eyes and break the bones.

I don’t know what it is
to be the blade
who wishes desperately to be
the challis.

so how
how can I not be cruel?

Katie Kadwell, written winter 1989, revised winter 2000.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Dusting Off and Beginning Anew

The last time I made a post on this blog was January of 2017, over a year ago. As I shed some commitments that have been taking my attention and time, I'm dusting off this old thing and will be posting more often. I'm a bit of a puppy in a park when it comes to life - "Look, squirrel! No, ball! OMG my person!... and tend to grab on to new commitments and Important Things To Do everytime I open up a little bit of space to create. Today, in the spirit of spring, and in celebration of the vernal equinox, I'm setting aside the next two years as "No New Commitments". I'm shedding the old and opening new space over the next two years to create and build the vision that is in me, those crevices and cracks inside filled with as yet unknown treasures.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

In My Arrogance

I wrote this on December 2, 2016 at 4:40 in the morning, unable to sleep, and revised it just now:




In my arrogance

Almighty Father please
Bury me deep
Deep beneath the dark, soft soil
Into the shadow life
Where the microbes and parasites can digest me
Bone, flesh, blood and all melting into
Primordial fecundity

For I have sinned so hard
By daring to shout my own name
Daring to take up space and hold the line.

Please,
Crush me beneath my own suffocating arrogance
I need to be broken into parts and pieces
Elemental substance.

Grind me to dust so that I can become once again
only stardust
coursing through the veins of the Earth
God herself
Filled with the choking shadow of my rage
my indignant molecules will roam freely then

Then.
Blood and bone
Flesh eaten by invertebrates
All the tiny underground creatures
Gathering in the darkness
They'll feast for days on me
Singing songs and dancing dances
Amid their finest splendor.

My arrogant refusal
My tearful shaking
Will enter the very veins of this place we call home
This place you treat as yours first and only
But though it is yours it is also ours and
me and my screams
All of our screams
And sighs and blood and flesh
All of this will melt as you bury me deep

Please, deeper.
Because we need to be compressed
Flattened so we can know
how big we truly are
Filling the veins of Earth
God herself
Black greasy veins
now exploding with the oil
coursing through your precious pipelines
More precious to you than the blood that runs
through the veins of even
your own children.

Almighty Father please
Keep spewing and sputtering
Give it all, all the hatred and fear
We need it, we crave it.
Because now I am Remedios
And it's the time when I smear my own shit
All over your palace walls
And all the walls
of every palace ever built or imagined.
That shit has all the shadow life in it
Everything for the primordial stew we need

You have rejected the natural world
All the eating and sexing and bleeding and shitting
lives beneath your notice
But it is
We are
Here.

Underneath. Crushed so small
Contents under pressure, 
keep away from flame.

But you dance with your mocking matches of
righteousness now, and the ground beneath your feet
is shifting.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Omran Daqneesh: My lesson in embracing samsara

From The Guardian August 19, 2016
Yesterday when I saw this photo I burst into tears. Then I collected myself, made breakfast for my two little girls, and went about my day, only periodically thinking about young Omran. One of the things I did think, when Omran's image would float into my consciousness, was that he could be my child. I have a girl only a year older than he, yet he has seen more horror in his five years than she is likely to see in five decades. As I thought about Omran I thought about how every move I make, the security and safety I and our children feel day to day, the ability we have to go to the store and buy things we want, to turn on the tap and have water to come out, to sleep at night without fear that bombs will rip our lives to shreds in a moment, all of these things are part of the same system that is currently making Omran Daqneesh's life, and the lives of millions of others, a living hell. This is not new. War is as old as humanity itself, and life does continue to improve for most people most of the time. I tell myself these things, and I believe they are true: That humanity is on a trajectory toward justice, that more people have better lives and more opportunities than in the past, that technology and spirit can come together to build better and more opportunities for everyone.

However, that doesn't undo the damage that we do every day by simply existing, those of us who live in countries not ravaged by war. Recently I finished reading the beautiful "Between the World and Me", by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In it he talks about slavery, and how for us looking back from the 21st century it is a piece of history, but for the slaves at the time, whose parents and grandparents had been slaves, and whose children and grandchildren were destined to be slaves, it is nothing but damnation. Just hell, unending. This is the truth of the misery we create; this is the responsibility we have to untangle and redirect our current systems of colonialism, resource extraction for profit, and white supremacy.

Am I suggesting then that we eschew these comforts and conveniences, drop our iPhones and laptops and cars and running water and go to Syria, or Palestine, or Appalachia, and start a new life of heroic humanitarianism? No, not at all. I firmly believe that the ocean needs every drop: That within the web of existence, each one of us holds a unique and important place, and that when we fulfill our dreams and desires within the context of what is, within the opportunities and places and contexts where we live day to day, that is when we are serving our highest purpose. We can help Omran and anyone who suffers from war by living in peace. Not only with our neighbors and co-workers, but with our spouses, significant others, and children. With the strangers who bump into us by accident, or almost run us over without looking. We can serve humanity by listening kindly, by letting that argument go, by keeping our unkind thoughts in our heads and turning toward discomfort. When we live in these ways, and at the same time work to fulfill our heart's desire within our specific context, we are helping undo the system that hurts so many people around the globe.

Omran Daqneesh may not be my actual child, but as far as being responsible for him and so many others, I feel that responsibility. I cannot travel to Syria to help him or anyone else. But I can remember him, and treat everyone I meet with the tenderness his photo incites in me. I can remember him, and do what I can from my place to lift his story, and the stories of so many others who are hurting. I can remember him, and go donate to an anti-war cause. I can remember him, and move toward discomfort in whatever way that fits, whether that means reaching out to people who repel me, letting go of a few creature comforts like that slightly bigger home or slightly nicer car, or making a family day of volunteering together in community instead of that trip to Wild Waves: Whatever way fits for us, when we move through the world with love and empathy, we help heal Omran's suffering.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Donald Trump, triggers, and creating the space for nonviolent conflict

Recently I've been thinking a lot about how to increase peace and compassion on a day to day level. So many raw controversies hang around under the surface, threatening to derail whatever sense of tranquility we may be privileged enough to enjoy. Racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, all these things bring out the worst in us: Hateful vitriol on both sides and little understanding or progress toward solving the problems underlying all the angry talk. With all this on my mind, I saw an article in Waging Nonviolence called "8 ways to defend against terror nonviolently", and saw this:

4. Pro-conflict education and training
Ironically, terror often happens when a population tries to suppress conflicts instead of supporting their expression. A technique for reducing terror, therefore, is to spread a pro-conflict attitude and the nonviolent skills that support people waging conflict to give full voice to their grievances.
The idea of spreading a "pro-conflict attitude", alongside sharing the skills of nonviolent conflict resolution, excites me and gives me hope that we can give voice to intractable social problems. Though this article was about terrorism particularly, I think the idea of a pro-conflict attitude, and finding places where it's acceptable for citizens to discuss difficult issues with sincerity and depth, is one that could go a long way toward building a more resilient and less violent community. At the same time, I've been watching with disgust as Donald Trump continues to ramp up his racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic rhetoric. His assertions that we need to ban Muslims from entering the United States, and that we need to close up the Internet "in some ways" are both hateful and absurd. They reveal not only a deep seated irrational fear, but also a complete ignorance of how things actually work. That said, my question,  in the context of nonviolent conflict resolution, is how can we have these conversations in a compassionate and constructive way? Certainly many, many people are triggered and recoil with fear and horror at Trump's comments, and deservedly so. But how do we get beyond the vitriol and delve into the legitimate fears and complaints of the people who support him? According to RealClearPolitics, Trump supporters tend to be less educated, older, and earn less money than other voters who identify as Republican. They are also slightly more than half female. Certainly these folks probably have some bones to pick with how things are currently going for them. With less education and smaller earnings, they are likely feeling left out of opportunities and progress. Unfortunately, when we open up these discussions what tends to come to the surface first is angry, frothing, and hateful. Thus, we tend to want to squash the discussion altogether. The challenge is to create a space where disagreement is seen as desirable, and compassionate discourse is possible.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Introducing: The Eulogy Project

Over the past several years I've watched (and participated in) our country's debate over gun violence and how to reduce it. Personally, I would like to see fewer guns overall, and I think we have a lot of work to do in terms of keeping guns away from people who shouldn't have them. That said, I don't want to live in a place where personal gun ownership is outlawed, and I have utmost respect for people who use guns for subsistence hunting or other utilitarian needs.

As the debate has continued I've grown more and more concerned with how to have this discussion in a way that engages everyone and moves toward real understanding and an attitude of problem solving. I see people continuing to talk over and past one another, without much expansion of understanding of the "other side". Numbers, data, and statistics are quoted over and over again on both sides, and yet the more we focus on the numbers the less it seems we understand one another.

In the interest of growing understanding and finding a place to begin a deeper conversation, I've decided to share the stories of people who have lost their lives to gun violence, as told to me by loved ones they have left behind. Anyone who has lost a loved one to gun violence is welcome to contact me to share their story, from anywhere in the world. I will interview you by phone for 10-15 minutes, write the story about your loved one and how the loss has affected you, and submit it to you for approval before publishing it here on my blog. In this way I hope to open a new level of discussion regarding guns and violence in the United States, and around the world.

If you're interested in contributing to this project, please contact me at katie@katiekadwell.com. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Called to Compassion


“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”
 - Pema Chodron


Six days ago, on the 274th day of this year, we in the United States watched as the 294th mass shooting of 2015 unfolded. As President Obama said in his speech following the massacre, this has become routine for us. The shooting, the hand wringing, the horror, the discussion of what to do about it. Or what not to do about it. 294 mass shootings in 274 days. Mark Manson asserts in a blog post from May of last year that mass shootings are a form of non-political terrorism. As he puts it: "Terrorists use violence and mass media coverage to promote political or religious beliefs; school shooters use violence and mass media coverage to promote their personal grievances and glorification." When seen this way, our ritualistic responses (grief, rage, finger pointing, endless policy discussion about the details of gun rights or mental health systems) seem lacking in the extreme, almost narcissistic.

Last night I went to our younger daughter's curriculum night, where I heard her teacher talk to a room full of kindergarten parents, many of who are sending a child to school for the first time, about what he'll be teaching this year. He himself is in his fourth year of teaching, and brand new to our school. As fresh faced and eager as they come, he is wonderfully kind, attentive, and firm as a teacher. He talked about seeing one of his primary responsibilities to be keeping our kids safe during the day. As the conversation wound down and it came time for questions, a parent raised her hand. Acknowledging she felt a bit uncomfortable bringing it up, she asked, "About safety - how do you see your role in keeping our kids safe with everything going on out there?" As every parent in the room started looking around the room, looking down, or tearing up, she swept her hands a bit helplessly, indicating the dangers we all try to keep locked in our hearts and minds of "out there." She went on, "I mean, with the dangers we face every day, and we had a lock down during Jump Start, even before school started... how do you see yourself keeping our kids safe at those times? How do you talk to them about it and keep them calm as it's happening?"

Our teacher nodded in understanding, tears welling in his eyes. "Yes, well... I... don't know," he began. My heart broke for him in that moment, broke for all of us in that room... for all of us in this country, where there are more mass shootings than days in the year. Where there are more guns than people, and where by many it's considered untoward, even offensive, to discuss gun control in the wake of a shooting tragedy. He went on to say that, with regard to guns and violence, he deferred to parents about how they talk to their kids and would love to hear ideas on how and what to talk about in a way that would be emotionally and developmentally appropriate. The woman who had asked the question, and her husband next to her, talked about how they talk about violence in their family, that we are all learning how to express our feelings in safe ways, and that sometimes grown ups don't learn to do that, and when they express their feelings in dangerous ways it's up to everyone else to do what they need to keep themselves safe, and that the caring adults will do everything they can to keep kids safe. She talked about how she wanted to be sure her children understood the need to stay safe, but also to invite compassion into the mix. This got lots of nods, including from our teacher, and it was generally agreed that the language she and her husband used would be appreciated by the rest of the families in the class.

Compassion. A room filled with parents of kindergartners talking about how to teach compassion for the people who might one day massacre them or their school mates, compassion for these terrorists, these people so alienated and alone that the only way they see to get attention is to kill people. They kill people like others climb mountains - because it's there. Or because they're Christians, or African-Americans, or women, or some other "other". But the one thread that is the same throughout, throughout all the killers, throughout all of our now familiar rituals of shock, grief, rage, and accusatory discussions, throughout the press coverage of the killings, and the desire for retribution, and the seeking of the death penalty - in the midst of it all is the common thread of lack of compassion, lack of empathy for someone different from ourselves. There we were, parents contemplating the deaths of our own children, grieving at the unspeakable loss of so many unknown parents, talking about how to teach our children compassion toward these killers. After all, they were once children too. They once had tiny hands, fumbling to tie their shoes, needing help with their sight words, trying to learn how to be a friend, how to have a friend. A few years ago, one of our preschool teachers told the parents one night at a monthly meeting, "There are no serial killers in this class." She was discussing how we as parents and as citizens can teach our kids how to be friends, how to have friends. We all know the child who doesn't know how to join a game, who knocks over her friend's castle instead of saying "can I play?" This teacher was telling all of us how important those small moments are when our kids are young. She was determined that we see how important it is to look for every opportunity for compassion, to let the other in, to teach our children that all of us are "others", and that none of us are "others". After all the words, all the discussion of religious persecution, misogyny, racism, and so many other ways we humans create to push one another away, we are left with a choice. Will we allow our hearts to crack open, and model compassion to our children? Or will we abdicate, throw up our hands, or even take up arms in the quest to protect ourselves and our families? The rights of gun owners aside, violence will never stop violence. Certainly sometimes "good guys" with guns do in fact stop "bad guys" with guns, and in that light I can understand the desire to own a gun for protection. But at the end of the day, that gun is an abdication of our evolutionary task, our task to find ourselves as one, to open our hearts to the most reviled among us.

When we insist that arming ourselves will keep us safe, we teach our children that, at the very least, violence is always a good back up plan for solving our problems. I refuse. I refuse to abdicate what Diane Musho Hamilton calls one of our "evolutionary assignments": To "reliably transform our conflicts into opportunity and creativity, and to develop methods for helping people around the world get along." I refuse to turn my back on those tiny hands, those little voices trying to be heard, trying to have a friend, trying to be a friend.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Garden Beds Need Blankets Too: Cover Crop Class Offering

Join me this Sunday the 21st for a class on the basics of cover cropping. Located at West Seattle Nursery near Morgan Junction in West Seattle.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Crowdsourcing Democracy? Musings on the Number of Representatives inthe U.S. House


Looking at the Federalist Papers for an unrelated reason, I saw #58, "Objections that the Number of Members (of the House of Representatives) Will Not Be Augmented as the Progress of Population Demands". It states that as we augment the number of representatives based on the 10 year census, that number "shall not exceed one for every 30,000 inhabitants." Given a U.S. population of about 318M people, at that rate we would have over 10,000 representatives in the House. Currently we can't seem to get along at the much smaller number of 435. I'm not sure how it would look, but maybe it's time to harness online technology and figure out a (constitutionally compatible) way to formally crowdsource our legislative process.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Not to mention, it's an untested idea, and why do we need to change the way we do things anyway? Well, in the 2012 elections House Republicans won the majority of the seats, at 234 seats versus the Democrats' 201. However, those 234 seats represent 58,228,253 votes, while the Democrats' 201 seats represent 59,645,531 votes. So even though the Democrats won many fewer seats, they actually received 1,417,278 more votes than Republicans. Of course we all know that one of the founding principles of our government was to avoid as much as possible the "tyranny of the majority", so who cares that the majority of seats represent a minority of votes? Because, when we created the two houses of Congress, it was the Senate which was intended to temper the tyranny of the majority, having only two members elected by each state, regardless of population. The House members, being loosely tied to population and elected by district, are intended to be the individual's door to influence at the federal level. Nearly 1.5M more votes being represented by the minority party would seem to demand some sort of revision to the process.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Getting Unstuck: A Year of Expanding Possibility

I created this picture with the Sketch Club app for iPhone.
The day before yesterday, Memorial Day 2014, I had one of my regular tantrums about the house. More specifically, a tantrum about my own housekeeping (or dire lack thereof).

I've always been challenged in this area, and consider it one of my greatest failings. It isn't that I don't know how to clean; I used to have a housecleaning business and am a very meticulous person. But this meticulousness for me has been magnified into a paralyzing perfectionism. A perfectionism which keeps me stuck deep in a mire of spiritual self immolation on an almost daily basis.

The image that came to mind earlier today was one of a car stuck in the mud, tires spinning but not gaining traction. Every so often, the tires of my life gain a bit of traction - just enough to skid haphazardly out of the deep hole they've made and land on solid ground. But then that pesky perfectionism spurs me to put my foot on the accelerator, shoving the car into a higher and higher gear until once again I've dug myself into a hole. A hole inches, perhaps feet, ahead of the last.

Somewhere in there is the place where I have my regularly occurring tantrums. Sometimes I yell at Brent, sometimes at the girls, sometimes at everybody. It always ends in tears (hopefully but not always just my own). I think now that those tantrums come right as I've landed on solid ground. One might think they come right before the tires gain traction, but what I think happens is that I get situated, begin to see the horizon, and panic. It's just all too big and too overwhelming to contain, and I get more and more frustrated that I can't move faster and make it all happen now, perfectly, exactly the way I'm imagining it.

As I type this I see how childish this is. It isn't that I didn't know it before, but I'm seeing it now, in this very moment, in a different way. Not in a chiding way, but in a matter of fact way. A sort of detached "wow.".

So, Memorial Day night, after the girls had gone to bed, Brent and I resolved to get a bunch of chores done and make some progress digging ourselves out of the giant mess that had been festering for days. Piles of laundry (both dirty and clean), dirty dishes, toys, the works. As I was putting some laundry in the washer he made some innocuous joke about my lack of attention to my surroundings. My feelings were very hurt, and I proceeded to tear into him. I didn't practice mindfulness, I didn't take a breath, I didn't do all the things I know to do in those moments. Fast foward to an hour or so later, after the yelling and the tears (all mine, by the way). We were talking about the idea of creating a goal for me to have the house "perfect" 90% of the time. He asked me how long I thought that could take. My answer? "I don't know. When I'm 80?" I was only being partially facetious. I figured, hey, I've been struggling with this all my 44 years, so it could easily take that long for me to get out of it, right?

He chuckled slightly as he said "I don't think it could be tomorrow. Maybe a year from now? What do you think is realistic?"

I balked. My eyes welled up. I sat in pained silence, realizing that tomorrow is exactly what I wanted, and I knew damn well that wasn't even close to realistic. Even a year... well, maybe. But so long??? "I don't know," I said. "I definitely want tomorrow, but I know that's not happening. Maybe fall? By the time school starts up again."

"Not realistic", he said flatly. Of course deep down I knew this. So after a bit more balking, I agreed to a goal of a year, with a slight revision. Memorial Day 2015, my goal is to have the house "perfect" at some time during any given day 80% of the time. "Perfect" doesn't need to be defined, we both know what it is. And maybe I'll get there, and maybe I won't, but two days later I can already feel the ground shifting. And, I'm getting out of my car. I added a task today to my Atracker app, called "reassess". It's categorized under "self care", and I chose an icon of a person hiking. Hiking is a much steadier way of climbing a difficult, muddy hill than driving.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Folly of Continued "Growth"




"Economic forecasters exist to make astrologers look good. Still, the latest forecast from the Congressional Budget Office is sobering. Its economists anticipate a “new normal” average annual growth of only 2.1% (down from the average of 3 to 4% over the last half century), with job growth averaging only 70,000 a month (down from an average of 150,000 to 200,000 over the last half century). Some of this is be due to an aging American population, but some is surely the result of widening inequality. Since the start of the recovery, 95% of all economic gains have gone to the richest 1%, who spend only a fraction of what they’re accumulating. As a result, the rest of the nation doesn’t have the purchasing power to get the economy out of first gear. If this continues much longer, the “new normal” may be far worse than the CBO anticipates."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My First Petition

I have been fuming and festering about the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. The relative secrecy surrounding the exact terms of the proposed agreements, and the lack of ability for even elected officials to speak clearly about it, have been disturbing to me. So I created a petition to the White House to publish the details of the agreement online for citizen review and comment: http://wh.gov/lPVjg

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Self Satisfaction, Human Rights, and the Sochi Olympics

"Like the legend of the phoenix
All ends with beginnings
What keeps the planet spinning
The force of love beginning..."
 - Daft Punk, Get Lucky
This morning I opened a link that my husband had shared on his Facebook page and texted me to tell me it was "so funny". It was a link to the Russian police choir singing Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" for the opening ceremony of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Now, I've been following the unfolding of the spectacle that is the Sochi Olympics the way I follow most things: Tangentially, through short video clips, pithy updates on Facebook and Twitter, and a long form article here and there, usually guided by my husband, who is a much more avid reader of news than I. In addition, the Olympics has never held much interest for me, being that it involves "sport", the ignorance of which has comprised a closely held piece of my self image. 
However, the Seattle Seahawks going to, and then winning, the Superbowl this year has tempered some of that cultivated ignorance the past few weeks. I avidly watched the live stream of the Seahawks parade, surrounding myself with the intensity of a community joyously celebrating, together, the culmination of a huge amount of work done by the coach and players of the team. Of course there was the running social commentary in the back of my mind: The near complete omission of our city's female champions, the Seattle Storm; the concussions, violence, and brutality of football itself; the social justice implications of black and working class men performing for a rich audience; the feminist implications of the primary female presence being the Sea Gals cheerleaders. But this year all that was blown away for me by the sense of people coming together in joy, people from all perspectives and walks of life gathering peacefully in a world overflowing with daily displays of suffering and violence.

So it was in this afterglow of shared excitement that I watched the Russian police choir perform one of my favorite songs at a hotly debated Olympics opening ceremony. Russia's oppressive regime has been in the spotlight ever since Russia was chosen to host the Olympic games. Many people, including myself at times, seriously question the wisdom of holding the games in a place that is so hostile to the LGBT community, whose government imprisoned members of a protest band for what in the U.S. would probably be considered a harmless, if offensive, prank, and which now famously was not ready for the influx of reporters and other visitors ahead of the 2014 games. When I opened the link to watch the video of the police choir performance, I fully expected to have a laugh about the cute buffoonery I've come to expect from this year's Olympic spectacle. Instead, though I did laugh at first, within about a minute I burst into tears. Tears of joy, watching these men, some of whom were clearly extremely uncomfortable, sing a song symbolic of love, dreams, rebirth, and tenacious clinging to one's personal identity in a world that offers so many ways to leave it behind. I know, I probably sound overly earnest here. It is, after all, a simple pop song about "getting lucky", right? "I'm up all night to get some/ She's up all night for good fun", end of story, right? But as I watched Russia's police choir performing, in the context of both #sochiproblems and @SochiProblems, the recently released former Pussy Riot members' press tour, the pomp of the ceremony and the rubble it didn't quite succeed in distracting us from, the entire modern history of Russia washed over me and I just cried. Some of the men in the choir were into it, singing and grooving like veteran pop stars. A few looked like they wanted to bop a little but couldn't quite let go. And then there were the ones who looked slightly terrified, definitely ill at ease, and like they were just there to carry out orders. They seemed to me in those moments to be watching their country shift and change into something unknowable, a Russian version of Archie Bunker being ordered to sing "Staying Alive".

Many of us who care deeply about human rights wish the International Olympic Committee would only choose countries with "good" human rights records. Countries that allow free speech, that don't discriminate so boldly against a variety of marginalized groups, countries where mayors don't proudly declare about LGBT people "... we don't have them in our city". Setting aside the truth that human rights is an issue in every country, including the United States, let's think about that for a moment. Do we really want the IOC to exclude countries deemed unworthy by some set of self satisfied moral standards? For an event that, in ancient times included the calling of a truce between warring states so that athletes could travel and compete in peace? Or, can we instead allow the events to open us up, crack open all that grief and rage, all the old wounds we all carry and inflict on one another, opened to be healed if even for a moment? After all, as the song goes, "We've come too far to give up who we are/ So let's raise the bar and our cups to the stars".

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Design

I saw this bench outside Trader Joe's in West Seattle today. I love the simplicity of the design. A comfortable bench, made to let the rain fall through. It also looks like it would be pretty easy to make.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tuesdays at the Park

Yesterday Grace and I went to the "nearby park". We walked home through the P-Patch. It was a bit of a tough walk, since she is giving up her nap and so was wanting me to carry her.



Thursday, January 3, 2013

Reading

Grace took this picture while playing with my phone yesterday. I often let her look at my camera roll while I'm reading to Willow. The book shown is Moonsilver, Book One in The Unicorn's Secret series, by Kathleen Duey.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Winter in the Garden

Last year I vowed I would do more winter gardening. Winter work in the garden, especially weeding and clearing, has huge benefits. Of course unwanted plants take longer to grow back, but also they are drastically weakened because the plant has stored most of its energy in the root system, so when the roots are dug in winter any left over will have a harder time re-establishing in spring.

Though I haven't been out there as much as I would like, (no surprise there) I have been out there more than I was this time last year. Which was not at all. So here is a picture from today, a good image for what it's like in a Pacific Northwest garden in January.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Embarassing

The other day we went out as a family for poboys. When I ordered the waitress suggested I might want a half sandwich instead of a whole. For some reason I felt the need to say I had skipped lunch, which was true, but I felt a bit embarrassed because I do tend to eat a lot in any case.

Anyway, while we were waiting for our food Brent went with the girls to look at the fish tank and I sent him the text pictured below. But his phone was laying face up on the table, which I didn't notice until the after the waitress had brought our sodas... the whole rest of the evening I kept wondering if she had seen it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tuesdays with Grace

Now that Willow is in Kindergarten and we're settling into a new routine as a family, I"ll be spending a lot more time with Grace just the two of us. I love this, because I'm noticing how much I don't know about Grace and I feel like I'm just getting to know her in so many ways.

Mondays and Fridays will be my days to work hard in the garden with her, and Wednesdays and Thursdays are her mornings at preschool, so Tuesday mornings will be her time at the park. Brent will be taking Willow to school that morning and volunteering in her classroom, and Grace and I will go to the park. My goal is to have gone at least once to every park in the city that has a play ground with her by the time she is in Kindergarten. I don't know why I'm fixated on this, but I am, so I'm going with it.

This past Tuesday we walked to the place we call "The Nearby Park", since it is mere blocks away and it's a really perfect walk for a two year old. In the picture below Grace is on the "wiggly seat", which is a seat that hangs from cables, with a rope ladder going up to it. Grace loves it, and loves to be wiggled on it, but is not yet ready to climb up the rope ladder all by herself. (Though she is now very adept at climbing up the ladder at home into her sister's top bunk!)


Monday, August 13, 2012

Slip Slidin' Away: From the First Day of Summer to (Almost) the Last

For almost the entire summer, I've been thinking of the Simon and Garfunkel song, Slip Slidin' Away. Grace is really fully a child now, no longer a baby. It's Willow's last summer as a "little" kid... in less than a month, she'll become a Kindergartener, entering into her journey as a school age kid. Years ago I had the idea that we might go to every single park in Seattle with a playground before Willow started Kindergarten. But when I found out there are 140 of them, the idea kind of faded away for want of a plan. As kindergarten looms, and Grace loves playgrounds too, the idea has come up for me again. Let's see... a little math.... 140 divided by 3... 47 visits per year... one visit to a new park each week with five weeks off. And then there is the garden, and yoga, and taking the kids to various classes, and just hanging out and playing, and time with my sweetie, and and...

Children mark time, as they grow and change, learn to talk and walk and ride bikes and get taller. We're in Atlanta visiting my in-laws right now, for the first time in two years. They've come to visit us several times in the interim, so the girls know them well and are developing strong relationships with their grandparents, but realizing the other night as we rode from the airport to their home that we hadn't visited in over two years was one more reminder of how quickly time passes.

And now it's our last night here and we've had so much fun. Time at the water park, walks around the community, a short bike ride for just me and Brent, a canopy zip line tour... but tomorrow we go home, say goodbye to nephews and cousins and grandparents for another year, or two, or...

There is just no hanging on to time. Each moment passes, and the next one follows, and on and on as we slip and slide our way through life. A week or so ago Willow said "Sometimes I don't need a camera because I can take pictures in my mind!" Yes. That's what I want. To relish, to remember, every single drop of life that comes my way.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vacation

We are in Georgia visiting Brent's parents. Having a really wonderful time and enjoying time with the Auntie, Uncle, and cousins as well.

Just finished a 2 hour marathon bedtime with two very tired girls, and Grandpa said "Good job". I said "Yeah, it sucked", and he said "Yeah, reminds me of the tough ones". His youngest is 42. I said "You don't forget, do you?" "Nope," he said.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Curiousity and Inspiration

Just think of all the years of work, the culmination of which we can see here.

Source: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/watch-nasas-1st-npowered-rover-lands-on-mars/279064-2.html

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sharing: Tina Zucchero's Thoughts Regarding Chick-Fil-A

One of my favorite people in the world is my close friend, Tina Zucchero. Her last name derives from "sweet" in Italian, as I understand it, and this well describes her. She is wonderfully kind, and sweet, and heartfelt. She posted a very sad but also inspiring and heartwarming note yesterday on Facebook, again about the Chick-Fil-A kerfuffle. Is kerfuffle too whimsical a word? I don't know... read on and decide for yourself.

"A Note from my Soapbox" by Tina Zucchero

I was called the “N” word again yesterday.  I was boarding a bus when a man suddenly decided he wanted off the bus, pushed past me and said, “Out of my way you fu*king N- b*tch!”  The really cool parts of this experience were the few people who rushed to my defense.  Strangers I never met yelled at the guy and encouraged me to ignore that “ignorant ass”!  One older man looked at me and said I was his “sister under God”.  That made me smile!  It was a really cool experience, especially because in the past I have witnessed passivity or the bystander effect from people on the bus when things are not comfortable.  I have seen a lot of looks from fellow passengers that said, “If I ignore it, it will go away” or “This is none of my concern”.  So to have not one but several people boo at the guy and offer encouragement truly felt good.

This is not the first time this has happened of course and it more than likely and unfortunately will not be the last.  Most of the time I let it roll right on by because I know right then and there that it is a ridiculous statement and hate will not prevail.  Like last year when the guy came into my store and wanted to return something he purchased four years prior.  He was not happy with my ‘no’ and so, rather cowardly in my opinion, left the store and called back to leave me a message calling me some pretty derogatory names.  I laughed out loud and to this day still poke fun at the whole situation.  My friends and coworkers jumped to my defense there too which again, felt good and proved my point that hate will not prevail.

I am a woman of mixed race. Of what races, I am not exactly sure because I was given up for adoption at birth and I have no personal information other than the date and place of my birth.  I was adopted into a very white family with an Italian dad and a white southern mom in Philadelphia, PA.  This was 1969 and it was still a time when pregnant girls were sent away to have their babies and friends were told they had gone to visit ‘family’.  This is also just two years after Loving vs. Virginia, when Mildred and Richard Loving, a mixed race couple won their right to be married.  While anti-miscegenation laws were beginning to be over turned, a person’s race could and would still play a key role in the judgment of individuals.  The family I grew up with refused to acknowledge that I was anything but white.  I had aunts and uncles and grandparents that were very comfortable using the N-word (not at me, but around me).  Until I got brave and started asking them not to. There were many family rumors about my adoption.  One in particular said that I was given up for adoption because my mom was white and my dad was- not.  I often wonder if racism is the main reason I have never known my birth parents.

Today I keep thinking about having just been called the n-word again. Now, I am not thinking about it in terms of having been victimized. I am stronger than that.  Nor do I hate the individual that called me that.  Rather, I am thinking of it in terms of this country and how as a people we always seem to find someone to hate and fortunately we can twist words in a bible and suddenly have God on our side of the hate line.  At least that is what it looks like from where I stand.  When anti-miscegenation was coming to an end in the 60’s, there were people carrying signs of hate and quotes from the bible that spoke about the sin of mixing races.  People of all types shouted their opinions on the radio and television and in newspapers.  Jerry Falwell preached that allowing mixed marriages could destroy the white race forever.  When the judge sentenced Mildred and Richard Loving to a one year prison sentence for entering into a mixed race marriage (which was suspended for 25 years on the condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia), he used God in his reasoning: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”  In this man’s interpretation of God, I should not exist.

So by now we have all seen “Gods reasoning” in being for or against gay marriage.  We have heard and read the passages in the bible twisted just so to fit either side nicely.  That’s our prerogative.  That is up to our own individual definitions and interpretations- our own opinions.  But what happens when opinion becomes a tool in which to hurt another individual?  What happens when it hurts a whole race or group of people?  Where is the line that defends what is right vs. what is opinion?  No one on that bus last night looked at me and said, “Well, sorry lady, but the guy is entitled to his opinion.” which is an absolute truth that I will not deny.  Instead, they did what I hope I would have done in the same situation.  They saw that someone’s outspoken opinion could have brought me down and they worked to counteract that and build me up.

When the Westboro Baptist Church pickets funerals and high schools and other public events, they have free speech on their side and they are most certainly entitled to their own opinions.  But it doesn’t stop other individuals from putting up barriers between the picketers messages of hate and the families.  Those individuals that use themselves as shields against such hatred are building up.  But hatred is not always as clear as a WBC picket sign.  When it is subtle, we can pretend not to see it.  When it is opinion we can forgive it. We can avert our eyes and hope that someone else will do something.  But can we really allow ourselves be taken over by the bystander effect?

How many bodies from those that have been pushed down do we have to step over before we look down and realize that we are the ones to do something?

I will not support or vote for a person, group or company that uses God as a tool to spread hate and keep others down.  I hope you choose the same.

Tina
Feel free to share note where you think it may spark good conversation.