Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Power of Hope

I've had so many topics to post on that I haven't even been able to write about my wonderful experience this past weekend where I was able to finally complete Creative Facilitation I, through Power of Hope. Their mission is to unleash[es] the positive potential of youth through arts-centered programs that value self-awareness, leadership, community and social change.
I had such a good time. Creative Facilitation I is all about experiencing the arts because you can't ask youth to do what you are unwilling to do, right? And so, I had the opportunity to spend two days being purely creative in a very immediate and oh so what if it is not perfect and perhaps even silly kind of way. Very releasing.

One concept that really stuck with me after the weekend was the idea of the social artist, someone who brings people together by means of the arts. This is what this workshop did for me. It gave me the opportunity to be creative with others as a participant and not as a facilitator as I am with the kids. I realized that I missed being creative and making art with people, but that is a story for another day. Today, in this post, I will concentrate on the fun I had with my group members and the very raw performances we created. The following is a group poem that R., S., L., Y., and I created. We picked our favorite lines and organized them into this poem:

I find my home in the laughing daisies,
It is going, that seed who grew up to be a jungle.
It is going, like salt, into the pot.

Fear can play on the outside and when I'm ready,
I'll come inside.

I know, I know, I know,
Like falling down,
It's like falling down and telling everyone to shut the fuck up,
Amongst black suits and blazers where pipecleaners are exotic and fun.

The baby has grown into a mouth with words that hurt like fists or daggers,
Slicing my ribs,
Making me wonder why my stomach hurts more than my heart.

Without ceasing to notice the sun or cookies that remain perched on my belly...
It is going in circles and cycles,
Sometimes trapped in corners and judgment
Yet always escaping through portals and wormholes.

Sing, she is whispering, and the notes fly.
A rock watching a tree grow.

They called him "Hey coffee eye," I remember
Short, stubbled rough gnawing
Her and Cindy, they are the same red and trapped.

Ultimately, the seed wins the war.

Another group that I participated in at the workshop, somehow convinced me to do percussion. I have no rhythm and despite my efforts to replace rhythm with a visual element instead or with me lying in the child's pose while everyone created rhythm, the majority opinion won out. And so dear sweet D. offered to guide me in the simple beat and encouraged me to look into her big brown eyes instead of at the plastic percussion tubes. The result was a collective in praise of the goddesses we all are piece where we were so busy looking into each others eyes and encouraging one another, the audience became secondary.

Y. was in both of my groups which may be why they were so musically centered. She is very convincing. I encourage you to check out her website.

L. also reminded us that our dear Governor G. signed the Domestic Partnership bill into law that day.

How proud I am to have a governor who gets excited about such events.

All in all, life is good and there is reason for HOPE!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


My little blog has been getting a little recognition recently.
A few weeks ago Heart included me on her blogroll on Women's Space/The Margins.

And then this weekend, Travels into the Unknown nominated me for a "Thinking Blogger Award."

Cool black beans with lots of hot sauce on them or a yummy bowl of foul!!!!

These two recognitions feel pretty good because they come from bloggers that I respect and that have something to say.

The award comes with the task of passing the torch to five more "Thinking Bloggers" thus further spreading our thought provoking ruminations across the blogosphere.

And my nominations are... (Drumroll...)

Mother Rising, one of the first blogs that I ever discovered. I love how she pushes me to remain creative and how she keeps me aware of what it is like to be a mom. I can be a mom of a small child indirectly through her. That's enough for me! Wendy, the author, is also not afraid to throw herself into social political issues that impact her. You are a brave soul, my dear Wendy!

Hopeful Beirut is another favorite. She doesn't write all that frequently and I am not even sure that she has ever visited my blog, but I appreciate hers. Through her I can experience Lebanon from afar.

I am also going to nominate Lucky White Girl. We have followed similar paths having both worked for human rights projects in Latin America and both being very dedicated to social, economic, and political justice everywhere. It's in our bones, our marrow, our blood, and our souls.

Another who writes sporadically but that I look forward to reading when she does is Pomegranate Queen. Why I like her blog so much I cannot say. Perhaps it is because she writes so infrequently and I am forced to read old posts and follow her links which allow me to see new universes, new wormholes as Y. who was in a workshop with me this weekend would say.

And as lacithecat did before me, I will forfeit my fifth nomination so that I can mention some other frequent haunts:

Sunday Scribbling

Out of the Blue

Frida's Notebook

Jaded Thea

Lingual X's 365 Project

and my beloved Laure.

Monday, April 23, 2007


I could use some help with this right now.
I've never been very good at it.

I am the type of person who eats the whole box of Girl Scout cookies right after buying them.

I want them all at once- to the point that I don't even taste them, I just savour their idea.

I am feeling impatient in almost all aspects of my life right now.
Work, romance, travel, goals, creativity...

I need to slow down but I have always had a heavy foot,
which may be why I often start ideas in midsentence.

Breathe in desire to have everything now,
Breathe out being mindful of each step.

Did it work?
No, but I'll keep trying.

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal by Naomi Shihab Nye

A. sent me this poem and I just love it! I have had similar experiences of giving and sharing and I have cherished every one of them.

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well -- one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew -- however poorly used -
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let's call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her -- southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies -- little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts -- out of her bag --
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo -- we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There [are] no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers --
Non-alcoholic -- and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American -- ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend -- by now we were holding hands --
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate -- once the crying of confusion stopped
-- has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

I'd love some mamool right now.

One possible indirect source of poem.
About Naomi Shihab Nye

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I want...

to be more than a nice idea
I want
the "to be loved" part of Arundhati Roy's quote
I want
someone to really want me
and not just the idea of me
without reservation,
and the ability to just put down the phone.

Pieces from Ascent

Today, I had some time to read some essays in one of my favorite magazines, Ascent. If you have never read Ascent, I recommend it. Today I read two pieces that personalize HIV/AIDS.

The first is by michael mccolly, an excerpt from his book The After-Death Room: Journey into Spiritual Activism. I'm not interested in summarizing his writing. I think he is worth reading. He forces you to really be present with people all over the world who are HIV+, including him. To entice you into reading the essay and me into reading his book, here is my favorite quote:

Everywhere I went, people asked me the same questions I'd been asked in South Africa- stay and help us. They did not want my money. They did not even want the words I was using to write about them. They wanted me- my physical body, my heart- to feel the suffering and the injustice that they lived with everyday. The story that they wanted me to tell wasn't only the story of this plague and its devastation to their communities, but the story of their fear of a world without compassion.

The other was a photo essay by Robert Semeniuk.

I recommend spending some time with Robert Semeniuk's photographs of people living with HIV/AIDS in Botswana. Even his words are powerful:

It is easy to go to Africa and photograph poor children with flies all over their faces. The mainstream media only gives us images of Africa that all look the same, and we are all bombarded with them to the point of indifference. They are stereotypical images that only tell us more of what we already know and comfort us in believing what we already believe. As comfortable as stereotypical images are, they desensitize us to the truth and prevent us from discovering what we don't know.

You can see more photos from his documentary project, "Personalizing the World Health Care Crisis," at his website.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sustainability through balance

I have started going back to yoga. Not only am I going back, but I am going back to my favorite place, the place I originally discovered when I moved to where I live now. I have always loved the studio. It sits on top of a hill, and when practicing poses I can look out the windows onto the view beyond. Right now, the trees are still mostly bare and the afternoon sun shines brightly in. It is a very peaceful and spiritual space in which to experience all that yoga can be for me.

This was the start of a new session and so the instructor asked us to introduce ourselves. We also briefly explained why we were in the class. I explained that I needed balance. That I tend to be passionate about everything I do, which primarily has been work. I have no balance, I work until I drop and then I am left depleted, burnt out.

After I said this, I quietly started thinking about how my passion is not "sustainable," that there has to be another way- through balance. Our teacher must have read my mind, because she mentioned how she had spent a weekend at the ashram and how they were asking everyone to consider "sustainability" in terms of the physical space of the ashram but also in terms of themselves. She asked us to reflect upon how to achieve "sustainability" in our practice and in our lives.

For me, the tree pose, vriksasana, is a wonderful pose in which to reflect upon balance or the lack of it.

I tried not to think about how much easier it was for me to do this simple pose a year ago and instead to concentrate on a point in the distance so that I would not fall. It was much easier for me to balance on my right side than on my left. I placed my left foot up inside my leg and placed my hand in the prayer position. Slowly, as I began to gain confidence and the swaying stopped, I raised and opened my arms, taking in the joy that is life.

The second time in the pose, I faced the window and looked at a slowly blossoming tree. This tree survives the seasons, I thought. It loses its leaves, withstands winter, and blossoms once again. It is balanced not only because of its roots but because it is sustainable.

I want this for myself. I want to not feel burnt out with my job and I want to ensure that the love that I feel now for L. will remain sustained and rooted.

My hope is that balance will help me achieve this.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Invisible lives: Iraqis in Lebanon

G. sent me the link to the following article.

Estimates for the number of Iraqis who have fled to Lebanon ever since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 vary. While the Beirut office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that approximately 40,000 Iraqis are currently in Lebanon, security officials of the Lebanese Ministry of Internal Affairs say they believe the number is actually closer to 100,000. Lebanon not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, many Iraqis do not register with UNHCR and live in fear of detention and deportation back to Iraq.

Read full article at Electronic Iraq.

Addendum: All this war, violence, and dislocation is leaving a very heavy feeling in my chest tonight.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


...her wounds


from the same source as her power

-Adrienne Rich

I am loving The Dream of a Common Language.
As L. sleeps, I make collages.
And, yes, I will probably need to invest in a scanner at some point if I keep this collage thing up.
I realize that my collage postcard is blurry.

And because I can, I am including some more reds. Two former bags that are now pillows.
I crocheted the one that says "Paz" on it by the way...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Excluded from the decision-making process

After setting up the stage with my power line photos, it is now time to see the source of all this power, The Grand Coulee Dam.

This dam is one of the reasons that the Pacific Northwest has thrived economically. I don't know anything about engineering and I am impressed.

Here's how Woody Guthrie it in one of his songs commissioned by the Bonneville Power Administration:

Uncle Sam took up the challenge in the year of thirty three. For the farmer and the factory and all of you and me. He said, "Roll along Columbia, you can roll down to the sea. But river, while you're rambling, you can do some work for me. Now from Washington and Oregon you can hear the factories hum. Making chrome and making manganese and white aluminum.

While I look at this dam, it immensity, how much water it is able to control, how ominous and everpresent it is as we eat our dinner, I also think about the not so acknowledged story, another perspective. The History Link cites that:
"Virtually no studies were done on the impact on fisheries," lead author Ortolano commented in an interview with the Portland Oregonian. "Communities of people were excluded from the decision process." The impact on the fish, and on the Native Americans who had built a way of life around them, was "nothing short of catastrophic."

The dam blocked the access of wild ocean-going salmon and steelhead to hundreds of miles of spawning grounds on the upper Columbia River. It devastated the culture and economy of tribes dependent on the fish. "One day we were fishermen, the next day there were no fish," commented Michael Marchand, a member of the council of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Oregonian, 2000). The Colville Tribes received some compensation from the federal government in 1995, in the form of a lump sum payment of $53 million and an agreement for annual payments of at least $15 million. None of the Colvilles interviewed by the researchers thought the payments equalized the loss.
The Colville Reservation is just on the other side of the dam and as I looked at the powerlines leaving the dam, very few were going in the direction of the reservation. I cannot comment about the current socioeconomic conditions of the tribe, but I can comment about one phrase in this citation that I hear over and over again:
"Communities of people were excluded from the decision process."
I witnessed this first hand the other day as I sat in a meeting with members of our local school district and youth serving agencies. An agency serving Native youth was excluded from a decision that was made, a decision that will affect their youth. Only those of color spoke against the school district's decision, even though I would not be surprised if others agreed. I made a brief statement in support of the agency.
I also thought about this when it was proving difficult to engage a group of Native youth. Why were they so quiet? Slowly as the day progressed, they opened up more. I realized that I too may not be as energetic and as open as I am if my opinions never seemed to matter.
Please think about the decisions that you make. Please take the people that you are impacting into account and ask for their opinions.
Postscript: Don't just ask people. INCLUDE those affected in the process.

A brave sister

L. sent me another article the other day that I am just getting around to reading.
Cheers and support to Lydia Cacho Ribeiro for her crusade against child abuse and pornography in Mexico and for standing up to men in high places despite the fatal risks.
Thank you, sister, for risking your life to protect those of others.

It's Child Abuse Prevention Month, by the way.
Together, may we create a world free of such horrors.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Power Lines

The number of power lines around Grand Coulee Dam shouldn't surprise me.

I took this one from the car. I find it eerie.

As I prepare to post these photos, I find myself pulling an old favorite, Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, from the shelf.

I reread the description of Ersilia, but was drawn to a different paragraph this time. Reading it after looking at these photos makes me appreciate it in terms of power and energy as opposed to human relations as I have always interpreted the description in the past.

In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain city's life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain.

Interpret as you wish...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Healthy Youth Act Passed the House!!!

Some of us in Washington State are very happy right now because


Basically and finally, school districts that teach sex education will have to make sure that it is comprehensive. This means that while abstinence will be discussed, contraception, safe sex, sexual orientation, healthy relationships will be discussed as well.


I'm off to cross the Grand Coulee Dam tomorrow. I plan to listen to Woody and stop to take photos. Hopefully, I'll have some to share.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Follow the Women- Women for Peace

L. just sent me this link to a Daily Star article.
250 women from all over the world biked from Sidon to Beirut, a 50 kilometer ride, today.

For peace.

Makes so much more sense than jabbering over coffee and tea in board rooms making sure not to damage anyone's ego...
Yes, I am having my own issues today.

Here's to women organizing at the grassroots level!

Monday, April 09, 2007

For my Dad

I like to send my dad pictures of boats in water, especially when I know his isn't.
Now that all the children are on the West Coast, they should really consider moving.
Sailing is year round- hint, hint.
Plus, as far as I am concerned, the Pacific Northwest is the most amazingly beautiful and livable part of this country called the U.S.A.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I'm off for a less than 1 hour flight time trip tomorrow to visit the person that means the world to me hopefully forever (my lifetime at least).

And I am packing, which at this point in time instills many emotions, many of which are political and reactionary.
I can take how much? Up to a one quart zip-lop bag full of liquids? And now I am weighing whether to take my facial moisturizer or my deodorant.
Yes, I have previously lived with none of these Western amenities of futility. I know that others do, every day.
Darfur, Guatemala, NYC, Puyalup, ...
I remember when this current scare tactic started. I was at a conference in Oregon. We went with toiletries but returned with fewer. I cannot even remember what happened to my coworker's perfume. I was too preoccupied with who was getting grant funding and who wasn't (long story).
Does one group's actions in reaction to the global take over of some over others warrant my having to carefully think through which toiletries to take on my weekend extravagent in the eyes of some excursion to visit my loved one?
Crap, my current dilemnas are pathetic in the light of things but hopefully as long as one or two of my blog readers are one step closer to the conscienticization that leads to action this commentary on the blogosphere will have meaning.
May there be some purpose in deciding which toiletries to take on a very short yet emotionally imperative journey.

ASWAT: Lesbian Palestinians Break Social Taboos

Lesbian Palestinians Break Social Taboos
By Brenda Gazzar
WeNews correspondent

R. didn't intend to reveal her sexual preference but she acknowledged she was lesbian to a newspaper reporter writing about her poetry. Although R., a Palestinian Arab in Israel, lost her job working with at-risk youth shortly afterward, she has no regrets. "When I came out in 2003, I thought I might be killed or displaced from the community," she says, acknowledging she received anonymous telephone threats and that her car was damaged after word got out. "I'm still alive and I'm not displaced."

R. is the general coordinator and a co-founder of Aswat: Palestinian Gay Women. Aswat means "voices" in Arabic, and is the first and only group of Palestinian lesbians in the region. On March 28, it held in Haifa its first public conference. The meeting, which R. said was attended by as many as 350 people, marked five years of the organization's existence and the publication of a new book in Arabic about lesbian and gay identity. "It was empowering. It was exciting," said S., who heads the Aswat board and asked that her last name not be used. "It was a big opportunity for us to estimate and value the things we have done in the last five years."

See full article

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Our mentors and teachers

Tonight has been one of those nights where without even consciously thinking about it, I have written my two favorite professors MTH and E.

As an educator myself, I know how important it is to hear back from my students or mentees. Everytime I am asked for a reference, I glow. This is why we do the work we do, so that the next generation can continue on the path to creating a more just and equitable world.

Sometimes it is hard to keep up and get back in touch with our former mentors and profs. However, I urge you to try. They really appreciate it. I know this personally and I know this from my sustained relationships with MTH and E.

Thank you M and E. Thank you to all that have crossed my path and thus influenced me. I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for you.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Life is blossoming, growing, living,

and I want to take pictures of all of it!


I went out to the "country" with my friend A. yesterday to share an eclectically delicious potluck meal with some simple living mindful type folk and to learn more about the Bioneers.

A. is so inspired by the Bioneers that she has just been calling friends up and inviting herself over! This is what community organizing is all about. It is coming from within.

Along the way we stopped to look at the view and so that I could take a pic of my red boots. Now that winter is officially over, I will soon need to put my boots away. I will miss them. They help get me through the winter.

After, we visited a really incredible woman who has had breast cancer for six years and has not gone through chemo or anything. Her diet is very particular, she takes herbs and vitamins, and says mantras. An amazing spirit. We were privileged to enter her creative lair where she collects sumptuous fabrics of bright colors, textures, and designs and transforms them into various wearable pieces of art. The colors that left the most of an impression on me were a deep golden yellow and a magenta pink.

The sun is shining and I want to live my day to the fullest and so I will leave you with a quote that my dear L. sent me the other day:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.

-George Bernard Shaw