Saturday, January 27, 2007

T REX! Sue and Jane

Ben reaches out to grab the teeth of a T Rex at the Cleveland Natural History Museum. As the sign says, looking down the throat of what was probably the largest animal to ever roam the planet isn't something too many did and lived to tell about it during Sue's 20 years. She's traveling with her companion, Jane and stopped off here for a few growls. Last weekend we took the Lufkin branch and this weekend the Weist branch of the family to stand in awe.

Dinosaurs are the original rock stars. They are even older than the Rolling Stones, most have had a lot of work done, have had to resort to performing to recorded music and people still flock to see their bones having only a fantastical memory of how it was back in the day. Having died tragic, mysterious deaths just adds to their legend. They are totally and perpetually cool.

The biggest of the two, Sue, was probably about 20 when she fell into a pile to be discovered millions of years later. Jane was only eleven. Both had broken bones that had healed with lumps and no access to aspirin. Ouch. Below, Danny begins to get a grip how strong those jaws really were.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Beatnik Snow, Man

You can't get much cooler than a snowman in a beret and a yellow leopard shirt stickin' to the grey skies with uplifted arms. No sun? Who needs it.

Came home from South Carolina to find this cat jiving in the front yard, Frankensteined to life by none other than my stepson Frank. Dog food for eyes and half a wry smile, he was just hangin' out gardenside, getting his freeze on and welcoming me home sometime after midnight.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

White Knoll Middle School

White Knoll Middle looks like your typical school from the outside. Bell, flag pole, parking lot. You get the picture. But unless and until you go inside, you have no idea what a happenin' place it is.
And these kids, they are alive with poetry, writing, literacy, checking books out of the library and questions! Lots of questions. Questions are good, questions mean students are engaged in learning.

Here's one question that really got me thinking. It was posted to my blog and asked at an assembly: "If you had sons instead of daughters, would you still have written so much poetry?" Wow. I've been tossing that one around in my head for two days, sorting poems in imaginary piles of yes, no, and maybe. And I think the final answer is, yes, for the most part the poems were in me. They were unleashed by watching my children grow up, kind of my letters to them from the kitchen table. BUT, if I had had sons only, some of the topics of the poems might have been different. Boys can be just as upset about getting glasses and braces as girls, but they might be less inclined to want "red hair and ten pounds less of me by Friday." Some of the reoccurring themes of my poems would have been the same -- independence vs wanting to fit in, being honest about feelings and trying to decide what is really true, those themes don't belong to either boys or girls. Those are themes of human existence and of each of us trying to find our best way to live. For me, poetry as helped direct me on my path in life.

Thank you to Ruth Edwards and Nancy for working so hard to prepare the kids. The lesson plan Ruth developed was brilliant and certainly got everyone into investigative reporter mode, which lead to (you guessed it) most excellent questions.

This is truly a special school. After 9/11 the school raised (are you ready?) $500,000 to buy a new firetruck for one that was destroyed in NYC. Can you imagine raising that kind of money? And people think that kids just care about designer tennis shoes. Ha! Posted on the wall is a clipping from People Magazine quoting one student: "'We're all Americans," says 13 year old Chase Hilliard, explaining why he pitched in. "Being up there, you may be Yankees. But you're our Yankees.'" That made me laugh, being a yankee and all. Encased in glass in the lobby is a piece of the destroyed firetruck that White Knoll Middle School students worked so hard to replace. Wiow. It was chilling to see and and a heartening story to hear.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Dogs Ate My S.O.S. Pads!

This is a picture of Hector (big dog) and Suzi (little dog). They come from totally different hoods. Hector is from East 185th Street in Cleveland and has a lot of what you might call street smarts. For instance, he was homeless and looking for a place to hang out and when he saw a Home Depot he must have thought that that was the place to shop for a new home, because we met when he chose my leg out of all the other shoppers to lay his wet nose against while I was shopping for wingnuts, hence his name: Hector Wing Nut Rodriguez. He is a kind and gentle big brother to Suzi, who came from the other side of the tracks so to speak.

Suzette Creme Fromage is her full name, or Suzi Cream Cheese. (That name came from a Frank Zappa song as a suggestion from Michael and it fits perfectly). Also, Suzi was my mother's name. She has a long pedigree of champions, is only 4 lbs and believes she is not only a princess, but boss of the house and probably the world. Her breed is a papillon. Papillon is french for butterfly and that fits because she has butterfly ears and she thinks she's all that because of them. The word is that this is the type of dog that Marie Antoinette carried with her when she lost her head.
But as a perfect example of how different breeds, from different neighborhoods, indeed different countries, with different pedigrees and expectations do indeed have similar tastes, they conspired against the authority (me) pulled a box from under the cupboard and gleefully started sharing a meal this morning while I was brushing my teeth. All very understandable.

But S.O.S. pads?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Building a tolerace for fruitloops

I don’t think there exists a parent who has ever stood civilly in line at the grocery store who has not (at least) once sworn to abandon some obnoxious, not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, back-talking, self-conscious, can’t plan beyond lunch teenager while at the same time buying Fruitloops. Kick that lazy butt to the curb. Give up on the greedy, destructive self-centeredness. Why parents don’t give into these impulses is a mystery born less out of nobility than resign and exhaustion.

I think, the more one travels to visit the bedrocks of more established societies in places like Europe, China, Japan and the Middle East, one becomes more acutely aware that the USA is very much an adolescent society. We just can’t seem to get control of ourselves, voraciously hungry for more, more, more with no trained eye for where, where, where or how, how, how. Doesn’t matter. The world and its resources were made to serve us. We want what we want and we want it now. America is a spoiled brat that taunts anyone who is different than the Barbie Doll, G.I. Joe, J.D.Rockefeller ideals put in our heads as children.

When I was in treatment for my mother’s alcoholism, the woman who ran the center (whose initials were G.O.D. iconic-ally enough) said that “maturity is being able to accept that everyone is not like you.” In the U.S., we just aren’t there yet. And all these suspicions the collective harbors toward “others” appears to give us a justifiable excuse to bully them, warped as only the adolescent mind can twist reality, free of empathy and consequences. Here we too often see things in strictly black or white, not standing still long enough to see the truth hiding in the dusky shadows between.

But as the myths of adolescence prove to be untrue, so does the myth of “aged to perfection.” Forget it. Older societies are also imperfect. Why? Because they are made up of human beings who are in every way flawed. I have a line in a poem about adolescence that moans, “no one told us, who would settle, who would fly, and who, (and who?) would melt.” As a grandmother I still have not outgrown being annoyed by the fact that NO ONE TELLS US HOW THIS WILL ALL TURN OUT. Not at 15, 25, 35, 45, 55. How maddening is that? No wonder there’s road rage.

Way back when in ‘67, I thought I’d know by now. Surely, by 2007 I’d know. But I don’t. I don’t know which person or country will settle, fly or melt and to borrow from a more recognized and certainly more mature but no less self-centered poet, “it goads me like the goblin bee who will not state its sting.”

Ultimately, all we have is one another. Adolescents are obsessed with appearances; caught sitting next to the wrong person at lunch would be a horror worthy of an internal if not external chain saw massacre. Her table (team, gang, clique, school, town, nation) is the best and it is infuriating that the others exist at all and for SURE she can’t be caught associating with THEM.

But as we mature, knowing that there are other people and other ways doesn’t make us so angry. In fact, it’s pretty cool to travel independently and look through windows tasting of the nourishments prepared by others and then bringing home samples to share, clustered where we are most comfortable, with the ones we hold dear.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Too early in the year to be so far behind

And you know what? Even thought this blog "nags me like the goblin bee that will not state its sting" (thank you emily) I haven't found time to write. I don't even know what to write about first. Maybe first I better go back and catch up on the trip to Croatia, which was amazing. And the visit with friends Kathy and Steve which was rambling and enriching in everyway possible. And then there was the visit to the International School in Zagreb where the kids wrote moving poetry and performed but I didn't have my camera so I don't have any pictures :(.

So, maybe I'll post some pix from Croatia and hope that a few of them tell the story. I'll back date them to try and make sense out of things. But then, jumbled up is usually just as good. Memories are like fruit salad, it really doesn't matter what order you eat them in, just that you savor each bite.