Monday, March 31, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 31, 08

We break bread, last night's dinner an act of resistance, an act toward peace.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 30, 08

Buds, buds, buds, I want to write, and the bluejay who took the pumpkin seeds.

I didn't know I loved trees, country of trails, switchbacks and meadows.

I didn't know I loved hiking, sound of crickets, hum of bees, summer

at twilight, butterflies and turtles, I didn't know I loved the time

of baby-asleep-in-her-cradle at Lake Lure, and the chickadees--

I didn't know I loved that they knew
where I'd place the handful of crumbs;

the red camellia--I didn't know,
buds nestled in the leaves like eggs.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 29, 08

Sign on Juanita Drive--school bus stop ahead,
roil of sunrise, clouds.

Catgut/seaweed at the pancake corral morning after snow flurries.

Saturday walkers with mittens gesture to Cordelia's flowers.

The past is the drive to La Honda in the VW van with Dad.

An Iraqi Doll

Ciena brings me her book, I am a Bunny, while I write to this Blog. I stop to point out the picture of a robin feeding a worm to four baby birds in a nest. Then I change her diaper and help her negotiate sharing a toy with her sister. The book's illustrator, Richard Scarry, has been around for over thirty years connecting to the everyday experiences of children, such as this morning, when Ciena rode in the stroller, wearing earmuffs and mittens because it snowed yesterday, and pointed to flowers and birds, cars and dogs, and said their names. Then we checked the mail and found a postcard from Michael with his promise to send the girls: an Iraqi doll, though it's hard to shop, getting late, write more tomorrow.

Maizie, at four years of age, tries to imagine what an Iraqi doll looks like. I Google Iraqi doll, find: with an article explaining how Iraqi boys want tanks and guns while girls prefer crying dolls. I know from my years in child development that children exposed to ongoing trauma either don't play, or, need assistance from adults and through the use of realistic props such as dolls who cry, to assist them with working through the discordant challenges in their midst.

For the quality of children's play is altered by war. Sara Smilansky's research indicates that toddlers, for example, benefit when adults model nurturing behavior (ie. adult rocks doll with blanket and feeds it bottle). And children need life-like props such as realistic dolls and baby bottles before they can imagine more creative applications (ie. child uses toothbrush to comb dolls hair or imagines he is stirring food in a bowl.) But the important thing is the research shows the value of quality adult-child interactions in the fostering of caring behavior.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Weekly Poem: When Will I Be Home? by Li Shang Yin

When Will I Be Home?

When will I be home? I don't know.
In the mountains, in the rainy night,
The autumn lake is flooded.
Someday we will be back together again.
We will sit in the candlelight by the west window,
And I will tell you how I remembered you
Tonight on the stormy mountain.

translated from the Chinese by Kenneth Rexroth and published in Sacramental Acts, edited by Sam Hamill & Elaine Laura Kleiner, Copper Canyon Press

American Sentences: Mar. 28, 08

Cold snap frost, the rime-on-cedar filagree of first thought/best thought lines.

I remember camping beneath the stars in the nave between the trees.

We were a family, our tent pitched on the precipice of Snow Lake.

The little ones clambered to the spot where the wild blueberries grow.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 27, 08

Where the diadora tree blocked, I see water and the Olympics.

Spring snow in Slaughter/Auburn; I think of Judy, the Muckleshoot tribe.

Woman wearing jeans, ponytail,
backs up SUV, loads boxes.

My daughter calls, Embassy in green zone hit, everyone in lockdown.

Mauve-blue glaciers re-emerge from cloud cover; nuthatch trill in ravine.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Poem is a Space

I try to hold on to the feelings as they arise, and there are so many when one has a family member serving in the U.S. military in Iraq; intense feelings that are real, immediate, conflictual.

Perhaps daily I go through a process of grieving in which I deny that anything has changed, bargain with what I could do to bring back the way it was, then become frustrated around how our lives are impacted without our having say....but I have not experienced acceptance and even when I mouth the words such as, take one day at a time, these are cerebral phrases with no connection to the feelings of acceptance.

I've been reading two poetry anthologies late at night--Daniela Gioseffi's Women on War: an international anthology of women's writings from antiquity to the present, Feminist Press, and
Carolyn Forche, Against Forgetting, Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, Norton.

I read to find between the lines the element of hope. I read to appreciate how the poem is a space where suffering is transcended. For example, Turkish poet, Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963), who wrote in prison and was released in 1951 thanks in part to the efforts of Jean-Paul Sarte, Pablo Neruda, and Pablo Picasso. In his four-page poem, Things I Didn't Know I Loved, written during the last year of his life, Hikmet compiles a list of those things he loves but didn't know until now, when his life is almost over, as he rides the train in the pitch-black night. Try to read it--a meditation on how, even in a life challenged with human rights abuse, one may stay open to wonder, a deepening awareness and appreciation for life on this planet--its rivers, clouds, snow and rain, and the flowers, not to mention the meanings behind these things. I particularly love the eleventh stanza: flowers come to mind for some reason/poppies cactuses jonqils/in the jonquil garden in Kodikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika/fresh almonds on her breath/I was seventeen/my heart on a swing touched the sky/I didn't know I loved flowers/friends sent me three red carnations in prison/

And what are the things I didn't know I loved? And you? Will I write a poem list, sketch a scene or weave a basket to contain these things?

American Sentences: Mar. 26, 08

Misty asks for my new blog link for the WIKI and we talk shop.

Okay, say my truth, invite others to comment, respond, dialogue.

The dog, on her haunches, smiles, content, like the sphinx, Mona Lisa.

One month after Michael leaves, red camellia buds in my window.

Phone goes to message before I can pick up, my daughter with the girls.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 25.08

To NPR reporter, Iraq's a war we should have known better.

Abe, an old friend with Alzheimer's, said to Bush on TV, How dare you?

Glint of the boundary, a hairline fracture like tractor tire grooves.

What is important but the need to clean the counter, gather the crumbs?

Arrange furniture, assemble the parts into a unified theme.

Monday, March 24, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 24, 08

Buried at Arlington, 4000nth
U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 23, 08

Crimini mushrooms, fettucini with sauce--
my forest habitat.

The colorist tints my hair dago red; gone the blonde of my girlfriend.

Haiku, to Welch, is sounds, not syllables, and the audience thanks him.

Rain and how it trumps the sun, exchanges the leaf's shine for rivulets.

Reading Levertov on organic poems I think of squash, yogurt, bread.

Stung by nettles, she cries and applies the underside of swordtail fern.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Details of Separation

At SoulFood Poetry in Redmond on Thursday, I listen to Marian Kimes and know that's how I want to be as I grow older--confidant, certain in my words and strategic with the microphone to utter the relevant sounds that draw the listener closer as I wear a long feather suspended from a twine necklace over the lovely blues of hand-dyed textiles. For now I chose blacks and browns and the darker wines like animal pelts to shelter and
protect me from the dismay of Iraq.

Last night Kirk asked if he could read to me from Shakespeare by Harold Bloom and the chapter on Hamlet in which Bloom addresses why writers write--to better understand a difficulty. Is this why I write about Michael's deployment? Feel the need to organize my thoughts regarding the families who are left behind? Grapple with how it is to disagree with the war yet find you have someone you care about who is there.

Today the grandchildren gathered to color hard-boiled eggs. Maizie orchestrated the party and hid the plastic eggs though the three toddlers quickly learned where to find them in the grass and how to crack them open for the chocolate. Maizie asked me to color eggs with her, like my Daddy does for Easter, and told me about the care package my daughter will mail to Iraq next week.

Before Michael deployed he took time to make keepsakes for the girls such as the pillow cases imprinted with a recent family photo, and the CD the Army filmed of him reading Maizie's favorite bedtime story. These are the details most people don't know, the details of separation, preparing for deployment--that word, deployment, that also means separation half way around the planet in a different time zone, etc. There's something else my daughter might order for the girls, a life-size photo of Michael. Some families find that posting the large photo can be a comfort.

American Sentences: Mar. 22, 08

Rhododendron petals like breath and windows,
snapshots and dust, stardust.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Weekly Poem: A Prayer in Spring (stanza one) by Robert Frost

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

from the collected poems, complete and unabridged, THe Poetry of Robert Frost, Henry Holt.

American Sentences: Mar. 21.08

At poetry open mic, the persistent sounds of water and salt.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Here's Why I Love Community Service

Here's why I love community service work:
Last night I was invited to the table for the first meeting toward forming a new family support resource center in Bothell. Those in attendance were passionate about supporting families and willing to explore options for how to proceed and take concrete steps toward action and making this vision come alive for families. Participants also realize they'll proceed in partnership with the families and need to understand what the families imagine for themselves. So it's not just about providing a need, important as that is, such as extra food at the end of the month when income runs low or a place for families to come to receive necessities. It's also a concept, an idea, for how families will be respected where diverse families become visible in terms of their unique identities and circumstances so that, together, as a community that includes the families in the planning and vision, we can think carefully about how our community sustains the families who come through the door. This larger vision means to be welcoming of diverse families, to know what's already available in the community for families (for referral, perhaps, or to work in tandem) and to problem solve and imagine together with families how to create a receptive, welcoming community. I'm so excited to be working with this team comprised of local residents and family support resource staff.

Another reason why I love community service work:
This week provided the opportunity to link a student volunteer with an organization so that the student can learn how to provide a health-related service to a local resident who has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The organization, MS Association of King County, provides training to volunteers willing to work with individuals impacted by MS. The match works because the Cascadia student has the career objective to become a nurse and knows she will need community service in a health-related organization. The match also works because the volunteer coordinator at the MS Association was responsive and arranged to meet for an orientation and connect the volunteer to the client with a happy outcome. Community service provides a way to foster community building as we find ways to come together to solve problems.

Another reason I value community service:
Sharon Stultz visited us this week from Everett Community College where she works as their service learning coordinator. Sharon met with me and Bethany, our AmeriCorps Retention Project Coordination, and a Cascadia student who's interested in serving in New Orleans and this is the reason Sharon came--to talk about a way 20 students can fly to New Orleans this summer to spend one to two weeks involved in service projects while, also, earning college credits. Several Everett CC faculty have agreed to include a New Orleans service learning option in their summer syllabi such that students can incorporate their service project as a learning experience that will include the actual service work, reflection and dialogue. Cascadia will explore this service opportunity and hopes to make it available to students for summer quarter 2008.

And, lastly, one more reason from this week--partnerships are so gratifying when they come together. Briefly, Washington Poetry Association President Paul Nelson met with faculty Jared Leising and myself last summer to begin talking about a service learning poetry course that would embed an opportunity for college students to work alongside high school students to develop a poetry workshop....and this is coming together as students decided to host Cuban bi-lingual poet Jose Kozer and his translator, Mark Weiss. More about this later....but the appreciation is that it's coming together.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 19, 08

Sent by an American; this war, that desire, those old people.

Hamlet is the intellectual awareness of blood on our hands.

Where's phrase for our little planet baking in the convection oven?

Between the Cascades and the Olympics I raised the girls, wrote my lines.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 18, 08

Only massage, human touch, releases the knot
deep within the soul.

At the little mini mart--do you think they sell emergency things?

Bob Dylan's All I Really Want To Do--where the bear in us feeds.

Monday, March 17, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 17, 08

William Stafford twice found the rivers to transport his writing life dreams.

In Revise Your Life: ride to town's edge, spend the night on Cimmaron River.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Solidarity Assumes Equality

Today when I took the girls to Sunday School, Ciena (16-months) did not want to be left with the nursery room attendant so I stayed behind and together, with care-giver Joyce, we watched Ciena.

Though I missed Palm Sunday service, I sat on a child-sized chair by the window that overlooks Tent City 4 (their new location as of Feb. 9th) and thought about my students who helped organize a campus-wide donation drive for the 90 residents. They spoke with the residents on several occassions to build a list of necessities and wish-list items. Then the students made posters and presented at several classes so that students knew what to contribute, when and why.

Staying behind in the nursery gave me a chance to get to know Joyce a little better as she shared recent experiences of caring for a ten-old boy while his mother was on a business trip. I realize that Ciena needs time to adjust to this new space and Joyce and I will work together to gain her trust. When the hour was over Ciena helped put toys away and gave Joyce a hug.

We then met Maizie and gathered in the lounge for cookies and tea, Maizie decked out in her Irish Heritage Festival regalia--chenille shamrocks pinned to her sweater (from the art table yesterday at the Seattle Center), a tiara of shiny clovers and a button from the Irish Club in Seattle where Melissa Estelle, who teaches with me at Cascadia Community College, serves as the club's president. Melissa is involved with service learning as one of a handful of faculty who've taken steps to add service learning to their courses. For Melissa this means guiding students enrolled in service such as students who work with Habitat for Humanities to build houses.

This afternoon I found the essay, Rethinking Volunteerism in America by Gavin Leonard in a new anthology, Race, Class, and Gender in the United States, 7th edition, by Paula S. Rothenberg.
Leonard's essay explores two types of distinct volunteerism approaches--charity versus solidarity. Leonard sees it this way: charity means coming in and helping somebody, with little or no regard for what that person or group of people wants or how they want to get it. And there's an assumption that anything a volunteer does is helpful. It's a top-down process.

On the other hand, Leonard describes solidarity as, working with somebody to identify what it is that the people that are being helped need and want, along with how they want to get it. Solidarity assumes equality or at least recognition of a volunteer's privilege that leads to working more collaboratively and with respect. There's more and I recommend the essay that may also be found at

American Sentences: Mar. 16, 08

Dublin dancers: gazelle in flamingo dresses, shamrock clover shoes.

Change everything to tell the story, link to the invisible thread.

How to describe it to Janice, next to me at Irish festival.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Weekly Poem: Like You, by Roque Dalton

Like You

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.

I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don't end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.

translated by Jack Hirschman, published in Poetry Like Bread--Poets of the Political Imagination from Curbstone Press, edited by Martin Espade

American Sentences: Mar. 15, 08

St. Patrick's Day green in my trees, shimmer of spring for my daily news.

Why hurry good days when I could pause, twirl and nod to leprechans?

Seattle Center festival with my grandchildren will bring delight.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Find Our Common Song

Today in my Human Relations class none of my students know who I mean when I ask if they saw the new documentary last night on public television about folk song artist Pete Seeger. I see it on their faces: blank stares and stifling yawns--the boredom that appears en masse when I've tried to connect us to a common experience that leaves 99% of them out of the loop.

But Pete Seeger, I think to myself, and what a privilege that he lives in my long-term memory--folk song archivist, banjo-playing fun-loving music teacher, passionate peace marcher and anti-war demonstrator, Vietnam War protestor and Civil Rights balladier who stood up to the Committee on Un-American Activities.

He's 89, still sings and plays banjo with his grandson at Carnegie Hall every year, and not too long ago helped organize to save the Hudson River. Am I the only one who remembers Pete Seeger? Next time, I'll play some of his music in class.

During the documentary, Seeger talks about song, how singing used to be the way people understood what they were working toward--
peace, civil rights, suffrage.

There's always been song, he says, to unify us in our common purpose across the differences. Seeger met Dr. Martin Luther King twice up at Highlander School where he gathered the students together to sing We Shall Overcome, the song that Dr. King later told Seeger kept dwelling on his mind.

What dwells in the minds of my students when they think about organizing?
What lyrics will sustain them for the long haul?
Does it matter that they are not familiar with the lyrics that sustained me? How do we find our common song?

American Sentences: Mar. 14, 08

Randomly prance the airwaves, wander the nuances of rave review.

Jose Kozer's poems written in Spanish arrive and I can't read them.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Today I Drive to Fort Lewis

Today I drive to Fort Lewis (my first time on the base) so that my daughter can keep her appointment with the on-base attorney (Army JAG) to help her with the mortgage. When soldiers deploy they may be eligible for a drop in the interest on their home mortgage.

We have baby Ciena, the stroller and a lunch box to keep her busy while her Mom is in the law office. But first we stop for the day pass that requires my auto insurance, registration, driver's license and soc #. The clerk at the window, when it's my turn, is a friendly young woman wearing red fingernail polish.

I watch the TV tuned to the weather station as she processes my pass that allows me to enter the gate where we are screened once again to compare my car plates with what's been recorded on the pass. I'm told to drive in the right lane only.

We pass the commissary and a Burger King with a long line of over 30 cars waiting to order at the drive thru. We notice a sign for the Easter egg hunt next weekend and my daughter wonders if it will be all single parents with their children. Beyond the open field on Leggett Avenue is a building that appears to be a child care center with brightly colored climbing equipment in the yard but no one playing outside. Near the parking lot is a stand of evergreens and the midday rain intensifies the hues of green.

My daughter runs across the parking lot with her portfolio of necessary papers while I remain behind with Ciena to eat the picnic lunch. Then we drag the stroller out and walk the sidewalk to feed the squirrel but Ciena prefers to walk. The squirrel is well-fed, accustomed to handouts, so I stand in between just in case, and show Ciena how to toss the squirrel her leftover bread crusts she's held tightly in her fist.

Ciena's also interested in the soldiers who walk by. Michael's been gone close to three weeks. This morning she pointed to a photo on the refrigerator. When I asked, Where's Daddy? she pointed to Michael. When Michael returns in 15 months, she'll be twice her age.

American Sentences: Mar. 13, 08

Secondary roads and telling the child
--these sticks will soon all turn green.

Fort Lewis clerk with red nail polish
checks my license for day pass.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dead-end Writing

Lacking opportunities for advancement, having no exit, is how my Webster's Ninth defines dead-end.

Today I'm thinking about yesterday's WIKI party to share the new site, 18000 Campus Way, and the conversations among faculty and students about why such a writing forum extends our writing.

I can imagine my students differently today because I've actually participated in the 18000 Campus Way WIKI to create a page with relevant links to me and my students.

I try to imagine how it's been for my students when I appear in class with the traditional stack of graded papers, marked, sometimes, with an X to note that their work has been reviewed with no way for them to example of dead-end writing.

American Sentences: Mar. 12, 08

My American Sentences have a bit of Italy in them.

Frontyard pines rally through the windstorm to mingle with the camellias.

Hand print smudges on wall, the door, the glass--toddler testing the limits.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Read One Another and Make Time

Gusts and whitecaps on Lake Washington when I drive to Barnes & Noble to buy a map to pinpoint our community sites for the participants in our service learning workshop this afternoon. We have over 20 sites and still adding.

There wasn't time to cover everything in the workshop but we did reflect on the practice of community engagement through the eyes of the students and faculty currently doing the work at Cascadia.

Bethany Such, our AmeriCorps Retention Project Coordinator, has been our mainstay in developing community partners to work with our students. Since fall 2007 Bethany's been visiting local high schools, community centers and elementary schools to propose ways for Cascadia students to engage in service. Some of the ways include mentoring high schoolers in math and teaching English in the ELL (English Language Learners) class. There's now a core of students from Cascadia as well as University of Washington Bothell who continue to work at sites long after their 11-week class ends. Some students have also chosen to enroll in the AmeriCorps Students in Service program to work 300 volunteer hours and earn a $1,000.00 education grant..

From the students' perspective, service learning provides real experiences not available in the college classroom as well as access to diverse people they might not have the opportunity to meet on their own. Service learning also allows students to connect what they're learning to course content. Sociology instructor Lindsay Custer requires students to write reflections as well as to connect their observations (practice) to assigned readings (theory).

It seems we're all trying to find ways, as faculty, to connect our students to the web. The new WIKI site, 18000Campus Way, is an interactive, collaborative site for students, faculty and community members from Cascadia and UWBotherll to interact and share through postings. I'm already imagining next quarter and how to build on what my students accomplished this quarter. I'll require that they sign up for the WIKI and create a class home page. I'll ask that they read our/my blog and post comments in which they interact with not only my posting, but one another.

There's ways to write for the blog I'm reminded by English instructor Todd Lundberg. And, for sure, the format/style needs to allow breathing room for ideas to tendril and percolate such that the writing doesn't suffocate in a stash of crumpled papers students never reread.

And perhaps it's the question: How do we develop websites (such as our WIKI and my blog) where writing can flourish, live?

I'm intrigued with the idea that we will read one another and make time to respond.

American Sentences: Mar. 11, 08

Connect to Leonard Covello,
my civic engagement role model.

Crazed broncos, stinging winds, chorus of wrens
hustling cowboys at round-up.

Monday, March 10, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 10, 08

Already, lists, when I walk the beat of the morning cage....and wonder.

How to structure joy, reclaim the writing life, stolen away by cares.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 9, 08

Salt & oil bird, stuff with bread crumbs, truce legs--turkey in the oven.

The Blues, he said, is the language of catastrophe spoken lyrically.

Birds don't understand daylight savings--where's my hour, my darling one?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Weekly Poem: RANT, by Diane DiPrima


You cannot write a single line w/out a cosmology
a cosmogony
laid out, before all eyes

there is no part of yourself you can separate out
saying, this is memory, this is sensation
this is the work I care about, this is how I
make a living

it is whole, it is a whole, it always was whole
you do not "make" it so
there is nothing to integrate, you are a presence
you are an appendage of the work, the work stems from
hangs from the heaven you create

every man / every woman carries a firmament inside
& the stars in it are not the stars in the sky

w/out imagination there is no memory
w/out imagination there is no sensation
w/out imagination there is no will, desire

history is a living weapon in yr hand
& you have imagined it, it is thus that you
"find out for yourself"
history is the dream of what can be, it is
the relation between things in a continuum

of imagination
what you find out for yourself is what you select
out of an infinite sea of possibility
no one can inhabit yr world

(published in Pieces of a Song, City Lights)

To Juggle Everything for Your Children

Anticipating my son-in-laws deployment, I child-proof the house, but I had forgotten 16-month olds leave a wake of dismantled objects on their way to the next glittering attraction.

And so, though I thought I had completed the task, last night, Ciena climbed on a chair to reach the glass lantern suspended just out of reach. As I watched from where I was playing tunes on the piano, she slipped to the floor, bottom first, just missing pillows I had strategically placed near the sharp edge of the fireplace hearth. So much for the pillow. And she's fine. But this incident reminds me of how vigilance requires the one caring be alert and mindful of the needs of her charges. (Please see: Caring-A Feminine Approach to Ethics & Moral Education, by Nel Noddings, University of California Press, 1984)

Somehow this experience with Ciena fits in with yesterday afternoon as I planned with Cascadia students a service learning workshop for faculty. Students will be part of the dialogue at the workshop to share their perspectives about service learning projects. I was intrigued by Chris's comment on how service learning is different from learning in other courses. Chris serves at Jubilee Reach Community Center and teaches youth how to drum. I thought his answer would have to do with music, Chris's talent the youth at Jubilee Reach enjoy, but instead, it was about how service learning provides a way to gain firsthand understanding of what it means to single parent and face unique challenges. So what does it mean? I asked him. It means to juggle everything for your children....

And this takes me to the ways we all can contribute--and our students do contribute every time they engage with an organization concerned with the needs of youth--to ease the burden, pick up the slack and do our unique part to share on behalf of improving the lives of children and families.

American Sentences: Mar. 8, 08

Near window rhodendedron, nimble towhee
nibbling blueberries.

Like cue ball, toddler spins to richochet
away from older Big Sis.

Morning dog walk, coffee, journal and pen
--how the day unfurls to write.

Friday, March 7, 2008

American Sentences: Mar. 7, 08

What to say when the hydrant backfires,
fills the plan,
the brook, the tires.

I crave English 101, syllables
in lines,
the sequenced stories.

The wetland's dazzle is the frozen
bare-leaf limbs
giving back the sun.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Be Kind When I Can't Find the Words

Change, and how we cope with change; it's ever present.
Today, on the walk in the rain, Kirk describes having to let go of things that come to mind and irritate--like the people who use umbrellas, something he would never do because he enjoys the rain and how wonderful it feels to pull on dry clothes and warm up again;
or the power-walkers who seem to taunt as they walk up from behind--move aside, on your left.
Yes, all this must be let go of in order to stay centered, enjoy one's moment, not let it be stolen away, become fraught with worry, the litany of what-if's we rattle off as the world does change before our eyes.

Late tonight my daughter calls about Michael's phone call from Fort Benning, Georgia, for he's not in Iraq, yet, but leaves tomorrow for Kuwait, and the week-long debrief before helicoptering to the Green Zone.
Michael tells her she'll need to bring papers to Fort Lewis to get the mortgage rate lowered while he's away, a benefit to those in active duty through the Sailor's Act. She's apprehensive....and so am I, about the drive, going to the base, but I don't say, and how will we do this? Nothing can be done over the phone, requires face to face at the base. If I go, I'll need a pass, ID. Already, I'm anxious. If I go, I'll prepare myself, stay calm, be supportive, normalize what is out of my hands, be kind when I can't find the words.

American Sentences: Mar. 6,08

Oh, singing like the tenor--the mouth of the morning star is open.

Is it the fog or yesterday's confusion building against today?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I'd Rather You Try to Imagine

There's so much to write about but what brought me to writing tonight is remembering the discussion today in Psych 101 with my students when I previewed the new DVD entitled: Help from Home--Deployment Support for Miitary Service Members and Families, developed by TriWest Healthcare Alliance for Veterans of the Global War on Terror.

This resource is also available on-line at and includes two 30-minute segments that discuss the issues related to Veterans readjusting to civilian life as they return to families and resume jobs, etc.
My students in this particular class wanted to argue that they would never find themselves in the military and therefore this information had nothing to do with them. One student responded to my request for critique of the film, in terms of the Cascadia Learning Outcome, to interact in diverse and complex environments, as not applicable to her because, again, she would never join the military. She asked if she should "pretend" that she was a Veteran and I said, no, I'd rather you try to imagine how this information might be useful to you, even though you believe you won't find yourself in a post-deployment experience.

Could it be, I asked, that you might find yourself working in a job with a formerly deployed soldier who is experiencing the transition to civilian life? Could it be that you may find a career path in service to Veterans? A career path that involves knowledge of psychology and strategies to support the families of Veterans?

Begin the Journey of Literacy through Trusting a Service Dog

Today turned out to be a great day!
Conversation Cafe made an adjustment after I heard, through Lindsay, the students' critique on yesterday's session.

Lindsay teaches Sociology of the Family and requires students to attend one Cafe session per quarter. Her students debriefed with her in class today and wanted her to share with me their recommendations for a more student-centered approach, one that would listen to their experiences at their service sites and allow for more dialogue.

So tonight we made time for hearing stories and engaging in dialogue as a way to reflect on experience. During introductions we each provided a recent example of a community service scenario in which we felt we were on our "cutting edge".
I began with my story from last weekend when Maizie, my four-year-old granddaughter, and I were at a church activity to talk with Leo, Tent City 4 resident and founder of the first Tent City in Seattle. Maizie told me she did not want to meet Leo and I shared how I realized that this was a moment when I could backdown and leave with my granddaughter, or, continue with my plans to meet with Leo, allowing Maizie to observe from afar. Though she resisted, at first, once she could see that I was confidant and comfortable in conversation with Leo, she joined in and began talking to both of us.

Here's a summary of what others shared:
1. Learning what it can mean to observe a "difficult" three year old show vulnerability and the need to be cared for gently.
2. Feeling really successful when community partner, college student and children work as a team to solve a problem.
3. Helping a child begin the journey of literacy through trusting a service dog.
4. Becoming aware that there are rules for safety around how to interact with children.
5. Becoming aware of the statistics on child abuse and why training is important.
6. Building a house with Habitat for Humanities and finding connections to the need for affordable housing, support to those who are currently homeless, and youth development as prevention.
7. Recognizing ways to help connect volunteers to a good match for service.
8. Working with an elder with dementia who spoke for the first time in a long time after hearing a story read by the volunteer.
9. Working to fundraise to keep projects going for youth.
10. Working to provide access to articles about our service learning collaborations.

We also discussed what we think it means to change the world through community service.

American Sentences: Mar. 5, 08

This works because the world arrives, blooming, when I open my eyes.

Where's Elmo? they howl from the rim of El Capita-- then firefall.

Like my American Sentences, dog at back door scratches, wants out.

Last night on farm, brandy in flask, or was it grappa from Old Country?

Am I doing it right, writing to morning, perpetual morning?

Sore throat better, cybernet helps, when voice can travel without effort.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Connect to Yourself as an Agent for Change

Tonight I spoke with Misty on the phone (after her children were in bed), about the upcoming service learning workshop planned for next week, and what our outcomes will be. And it all depends, I believe, on how the participants engage with the multiple layers offered in service learning.
This will be a nuts and bolts workshop to acquaint participants with service learning opportunities based on community partners we've developed through the grant from Learn and Serve.

We'll discuss definitions--and there are hundreds--but the one we'll focus on acknowledges that service learning is a strategy for connecting learning to community action within a framework that allows both the student and the community partner (and the people served by the community partner) to mutually benefit through this interaction.

Misty and I also discussed the Conversation Cafe session we attended this afternoon. Conversation Cafe provides a forum, four times each quarter, for students, faculty and community partners to gather for pizza and to dialogue about community needs and ways to work together.

Misty wonders whether tonight worked for the ten Cascadia students who are enrolled in Sociology of the Family. The students are required to attend at least one session of Cafe and Misty suggests that perhaps the students may not have felt it a safe space to freely express. I don't know if I agree, however, I feel she's perceptive in asking, though perhaps our students found themselves listening because it was of interest, and maybe they held back in order to hear what others had to say. And who knows, maybe the students, (because they are new to participating in service), need more experience with their sites before they can connect what they're doing to the principles and theories. We decide to ask them how the session worked through either an interview or questionnaire.

But I can see that at these sessions it's evident that some of us are more experienced and passionate and it may be intimidating for new attendees to take the risk to explore their questions and divulge what they don't know. I believe it's important to acknowledge that not everyone is coming from the same place or even from the same relationship to the work of activism and social justice that Ron Krable spoke of at the meeting. Ron teaches at University of Washington Bothell and shared that he became a teacher because he already was an activist and wanted another forum to spread the work, and that teaching within the context of service learning deepens the dialogue in the classroom. So, yes, maybe our students are trying to understand where they fit in to this picture of activism work. I mean, it's one thing to find you're in a service learning course that requires eight to ten hours of service in the community and quite another to connect to yourself as an agent for change in the world based on that service. That's a big leap....and I'm not sure students can get there in one quarter. But Conversation Cafe is an important tool to provide us with role models, time to reflect and to listen as we attend with others who are pondering similar questions and trying to leap forward, too.

One student who recently moved to Washington from California mentioned he'd never taken a service learning course before and enjoys his work at Jubilee Reach Community Center due to the additional benefit he finds in working at a site where other Cascadia students also participate. This provides much needed comaraderie in which to discuss the children they work with, build friendships and deepen relationships.

American Sentences: March 4, 08

Nina, the new bank teller, will give me a pin to check my balance.

Hot flashes when I write American sentences, trying to rev.

Dog with sutures wears Elizabethan collar to deter biting.

A Piece of Charcoal to Write with in Her Diary

What my students remember is that Anne Frank's Diary was the second best-selling book until Harry Potter.

This we also learned from the Living Voices presentation yesterday: That Anne had a friend who give her a piece of charcoal to write with in her diary. A friend who perceived Anne as a writer. A friend who knew that to write was how Anne saved herself. A friend from the time, before hiding, when the two girls made art together in the park beneath the trees.

In their reflections my college students consider the story of Anne Frank through the lens of their own young lives....and well they should. And for me, it's also the story of the surviving father that I will read about--how one goes on.

....95-year old Ann Camijend, my former neighbor in Redwood City, California, lost her son last Monday. My mother lives a few houses down and remains Ann's friend through raising children, the ups and downs of retirement and their husbands' illnesses.

For close to sixty years they've lived on St. Francis Street. Mom, always there for her friends, checks in with Ann who doesn't drive and takes her shopping and helps bank deposits and making out the monthly checks to pay the bills.

This week Mom's watching the house while Ann flies to New Mexico to attend the funeral. Before leaving Ann visits her husband in the nursing home where he's been a resident for ten years. He uses a wheelchair and has pneumonia. Mom says Ann will decide when to tell him about Joey. What is it to keep back the news, bear it alone, decide what can be born by another?

I try to imagine what Anne Frank would have written had she been able to keep her journal with her after the Nazi soldiers discovered her family. Would the diary have been burned, or thrown into a pile, as objects were at the camp, and lost to us? As the true account reveals, her diary was left behind and found on the floor months later amidst Anne's other writings, for she also wrote poems and plays and essays.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Work Still Holds Meaning

This blog is helping me to write. Who would have thought? And the instantaneous quality of having what I write "published" on this blog intrigues and drives the writing.

Tonight I posted photos from my trip to New Orleans when I had the opportunity to accompany students over spring break to assist with gutting and repairing houses. One year later, and the work still holds meaning. Only eleven Cascadia students were able to attend and several who missed out ask if we're going back. Next week I'll meet with the service learning coordinator at Everett Community College to plan ways to keep this work going. Our students benefit as much as the people they assist in the Gulf Coast.

For now, please share with me your responses and I'll write back in my daily blog.

Moved to Cry by Music

This is the way I'll try to write: Every morning publish to the blog. Send it to those I care about, this material that has to do with relationships.

Write to reflect on poetry, service, family, art and how I cried last night with my daughter Christy at the refrigerator to the refrain of The Blooming Heather on the Celtic Hour radio program.

Write about what I told Maizie, my four-year old granddaughter, when she asked, Why are you crying Mommy! I want you to STOP crying NOW!

Write that I told her: We're lucky to be human, to be moved to cry by music when it reminds us of people and places we miss and love.

Think how he must feel, my daughter goes on about her husband, Michael, who left last Monday for Iraq--alone, with a reaction to the smallpox vaccine.

All night, sound of rain and the dream of swallowing what cannot be swallowed, metaphor, perhaps, for the film, Through the Eyes of a Friend, ( my students will attend today as part of Diversity Week at Cascadia Community College. They'll write reflections in response to the film and dialogue and we'll return to class to share and read aloud and I'll participate as well, to honor Anne Frank (1929-45) and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl (Man's Search for Meaning).

American Sentences: March 3, 08

Will this be like yoga, a fad of stretches my body cannot do?

Pileated woodpecker near my window mars early morning dream.

Last night, Three Trillion Dollar War convinces you, but it's too late.

Blog, blogging, blogged, I will have blogged--just another way to future tense.

Relationships are between the pages of the torn magazines.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday Night and the Feeling

Sunday night and the feeling I'm trapped within the context
of our current war I thought I could prevent with a poem
written to my former Sequoia High School buddie,
Ken Claire,

after losing him to Vietnam.

Though close to forty-two years ago,

I have not forgotten the motorcycle
ride on the backroads as we cross
the Pacific Coastal Range in half-light,
giant conifer shadows, deepening,
as we wind toward San Gregorio,

Half Moon Bay.

The poem is to remind me of what persists:
waves breaking on the shore,

sandpipers running the rim of the ocean
as though to stitch and restitch

what has torn,
and memory that does not vanish
with the dawn.

To Persist, like the Clarinet

I walk the beat in downtown Kirkland and listen to the gulls and the hum of the breeze that carries my thoughts, made transparent, when I remember the daily walk.
I decide to write one American sentence a day like Paul Nelson to keep the demons at bay and to persist like the clarinet in the spiritual, Steal Away, discussed on St. Paul Sunday today on 98.1, Classic King. The arranger of the piece attended Boston College and studied with a teacher who taught embellishment--my word to describe the sound of the clarinet as it dips and descends, almost to despair, before the upturn rise like the swallow or the lark ascending in flight, or any flock of ordinary, synchronized birds adapting to the shift in wind currents.

The Tent City 4 homeless walk in pairs down to Heritage Park near the bus stop on Market with cigarettes and disposable cups of coffee. I recognize a few of the men from helping with their move to the new location at the parking lot of the United Church of Christ near the police station....and these homeless men are the only ones who respond to my good morning....not the home-owners walking their dogs who jog by, engrossed in the sounds of their i-pods, and can't hear me.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

First Camellia, Day after Michael Leaves for Iraq

This blossom is alone, as though propped within the branches,
petals grazing the rung of limbs within the saturated space of the deciduous saplings, bare-leafed and channeling the sun like the underground roots I cannot see, but was told last summer by the arborist,
extend the circumference of what is visible.

Perhaps I notice this first red bloom because I listened to Mom, last night, when she tried to soothe with the future, said spring is around the bend, flowers, birds, the children running in the garden.

So why this grief in the morning when the camellia appears as though to declare: Hold on. You, my daughter, will see him again.