Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It is impossible...

... to explain everything which has transpired since last I wrote. Here are some of my learnings:

1. There is a reason they call it working FULL-TIME and going to school FULL-TIME. Doing both at the same time in one life results in a negative quantity of time and whole lot of half-assed assignments in both domains.

2. Our system for assisting those suffering with any kind of mental challenge and their families is one of the more broken things in our world. No one gets what they need without unimaginable pain and stress that does not let go. The only way to get through this is one breath at a time.

3. I love the boys I work with more than I ever thought it was possible to love children that did not come out of my own womb. They smell, they curse, they are involved in all sorts of destructive behaviors, they devour media whose benefit I cannot find, they only love you back when it suits them, and they have attitudes bigger than the whole sky... and somtimes things happen and they run away and I don't know where they are or if they are safe or cold or hungry or dead or injured or scared or sad or destroying themselves by some other means, and when they come home I realize why my heart was racing and I could't sleep and it makes tears in my eyes and I have to hold on to them for a few seconds and touch their faces to make sure that the peices are still attached. There are moments in every day I work there that are so fundamentally human that my heart literally hurts. Human = someone needs to listen to my story. Human = someone needs to be there for me to give my school papers to. Human = someone needs to hug me when I get home. Human = someone needs to laugh at my jokes. Human = someone needs to be delighted that I came back with both feet under me. That anyone could birth a child like any of the children in my cottage and ever give him away... ever consent to have him taken away... ever not be able to find the strength necessary to move heaven and earth for him... this baffles me. I am better able to interact with the bafflement than I have been in the past. The parents concerned cannot find the strength. Things have happened beyond their control. Most of them come from so many generations of shattered families that they do not know how to even think about being 1 of 2, let alone 1 of a whole family. The world is an ugly place, and foster care is another place where the ugly shows clearly. All I know is that if the universe conspires in such a way that I cannot adopt or have a son of my own, I think that my life will be incomplete. Seriously, I have sisters; I knew about daughters. I did not know about sons. Why didn't anyone ever tell me about sons?

4. I have the capacity to literally love anyone. This is both a blessing and a curse. I am still learning how to interact with this quality. Love is, after all, both blind and the answer.

5. EVERYTHING (from eye contact to tone of voice to words that are said to when to speak and when to not to what you say and how you say it and what color shirt you're wearing and more things even than that) about communication is cultural. There literally are different sets of rules for different colors of people, and an annoyingly small number of people are able to understand that people should be treated differently when they deliberately slight you than when they simply did not speak your cultural language.

6. The flu SUCKS. Seriously, that thing knocked me on my behind for 1 week and left me perpetually dizzy and exhausted to weak for another week on top of that. I lay there and thought, "Yep, I could see how someone could die from this. It wouldn't be that hard to die from this." Still firmly in this world, but it was truly awful.

7. I need curtains on my windows in my room. I have decided to go ahead and let this be a long, laborious process of picking some that I really love instead of settling for ones which will work but which I don't really care about. This is probably metaphorical, but for now it's about curtains. Stop judging me.

8. Speaking of judging, I do not know where single women even go to find a man. I am open to this possibility, and I feel like, despite #1, now is the time. There is a startling lack of options.

9. I hate school and everything it stands for. Who said this was about education? I've said it before, and I'll say it again; school getting grades which is about figuring out what the teacher wants and delivering it.

I think that's probably enough learning for now. I'm exhausted. My life is exhausting. I do, however, love almost everything I get to do. Who's complaining? Not me. :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


We were talking the other day, singing to each other about homes...

me with my voice
and you with your many souls moving, it seemed, from the trees...
called from the woods and the collective memory
of the battles you fought... the babies you birthed... the tears you cried... the pies you baked... the children you taught... the prayers you prayed... the songs you sang,
songs you sang to Him about the home you were building...
the home for when this earthly house decays...
the home for your soul because what was home now was so thoroughly painful, so systematically stifling, so all-encompassingly dehumanizing...

My soul felt called to attention by the legacy you left...
to the power you left soaked into an earth wet with your tears and blood and the sweat from your brow,
trees standing tall like strong arms holding up hope where hope might only be imagined,
air thick to stifling like so many judgment-laced glances,
so many assumptions
so many condemnations
to a place so dark that understanding only comes in lightening flashes, gone before I can focus my eyes...
so dark that my own skin means that I can only feel it from the periphery, feel it radiating from souls walking into and out of the room of my life...
so dark that color still colors everything like a red sock in the whites...

I asked you there what I could do.
I heard your voices join mine.
You moved my heart to a place where the only desire is more voices - where the only longing left was that of throwing my life down to build the path to Him Who is the Hearer of all cries, Singer of all songs

- where I loved so much that I could not breathe -

And I felt my heart cease to beat alone.
I felt my heart cease to beat alone.
I felt my heart cease to beat alone.


This memory sits fresh on top of love and more love like just enough pillows made of just enough smooth softness,
and I am among your little daughters again,
and in the quiet hours of the night when one of yours comes to me and her heart says, "Speak. Tell me what you saw,"

I tell your daughter to always know that she is born of love and of strength and of love and of faithfulness and of love.
We speak of drums and prayer and sounds and souls and dignity.
We speak of the fight against the forces that seek to cover her light over with darkness, to tell her, loudly and from all sides, that her light is, in fact, darkness.
We speak of remembering what those whose skin she shares lived and died for.
I tell her that if she keeps her mind open and the conversation with Above in the front of it, she will know when it's her heart speaking.

And I tell her heart that it will hear what mine has heard.

That you are all around, waiting to be hailed.

And that, baby, we none of us beat alone.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

too big

Last night was one of those nights in which I was completely over-whelmed with how GIANT the task I'm engaged in is. This job and the magnitude of what we're doing here are completely on the abnormal end of the scale.

NORMAL: Mom and Dad make baby. Mom and Dad raise baby to be contributing member of society, complete with random psychological issues inherent in the process. Baby turns into adult. Adult make own choices and runs (a part of) the world. Wash, Rinse, Repeat, right?

I mean, sure there are manifold variations on the theme, but come on...

MY JOB: 3 single women in their late twenties with very little administrative support and shockingly small financial resources take turns raising 9-10 teenage girls in varying stages of crisis. Women must fight against a society which not only objectifies women but praises them for objectifying themselves, drugs, gangs, their own hormones and the hormones of those around them, an education system which has forgotten them except when it comes to punishing them for the attitudes that they developed in response to their trauma, lack of positive role models, and the persistent lack of ability to connect meaningfully to anything meaningful, not to mention a spiritual structure which, obliviously of course, doesn't recognize the profound impact of culture on the language the souls in question speak because, let's face it folks, we don't all speak the same language.


I am over-come in such moments with the fact that there's a good chance that all I can do for them is pray, attempt to shed some light, pray, love really loudly, pray, and maybe hope that something Written sticks in their heads. If they get to college or a job and not prison or immediate pregnancy, the operation will be a success.

Which in reality would be among best-case scenarios if they were of the few who actually get 2 semi-functioning parents... so does that mean that the parenting is the problem? Our parents are also under-supported, under-resourced, and, likely, having a lot of the same all-encompassing questions I am, which are really centered around one big question:

Is it enough?

To which I'm pretty sure the answer is a resounding NO. It's not enough. Simply providing for basic needs and praying for the best is just plain NOT enough... NOT enough for anyone. We are not our bodies; it's not just a material world, and I sure as hell am not a material girl... which means what? I have some ideas of some directions from guidance I'm constantly striving to immerse myself in and an ever-widening scope of what it's not supposed to look like, but it's slow going. It's very slow going.

Where is the through-line? How much of this is just stepping out on faith?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

“when he went away/ the blues walked in and met me”

We like to have very PC conversation about men keeping women down, women’s ways of doing things and thinking about things as superior to the male approach, equality as sameness, and the like, but current neurological research shows clearly that there are a number of very importance difference between men and women which explain many of the stereotypes we’ve grown accustomed to accepting… men don’t listen, men can’t find things, men only think about sex, men aren’t in touch with their feelings, etc. Things I’m reading and thinking these days make me sit back and evaluate these thoughts in a different light.

I’m into this new thing called a “learning mode”… you know, attempting to approach things in life, the universe, and everything with the idea that I have something to learn from an experience. It has been an exercise in humility, and I think that, as a strong and fiercely independent woman, humility is called for here… here being not just my wee life but search to find ways to understand and serve in God’s grander movement of humanity towards peace and prosperity.

There is a reason that clichés and stereotypes have become clichés and stereotypes. It’s not that they’re always true, but there’s a reason that things stick in our collective head. Apples, for example, do not tend to fall far from the tree, what goes up does tend to come down, and I don’t know about you, but I have found, at least so far, that the rains turn to pours in my life at a moment’s notice.

It leaves me wondering about what else is true, or at least indicative of a predisposition in a certain area. The differences in our brains are interesting. For example, I am told by most of the men in my life that there are times that they’re actually thinking nothing. Nothing. I am fully prepared for this never to be a reality for me. I can safely say that there is never a moment of silence in this head of mine, nor do I know any women for whom this would be false, except in moments of highly practiced meditation, during which I’m sure there must be some sort of thinking going on… mostly because I cannot actually imagine it being truly quiet. Peaceful, yes. Softer, sure. Empty? Thinking nothing? What does that even mean? Freedom from rolling over in the middle of the night to hear some random song from the day playing in your head (this morning it was T-Pain singing “I could put you in a mansion/ way up in Wisconsin/ said it’s nothing you could change your name T-Pain what’s happening”… SO troubling)? Wow. The experience in a body in which that’s not a reality would be so different. I think it’s why I can’t sleep with music on. It’s NEVER quiet in my head, and I always want to sing along, too. Who cares about sleep when you could be singing?

Anyway there are better examples I can think of once my head isn’t so full of other things, but what I’m trying to say is that strengths and weaknesses differ. What would happen if we actually looked at the stereotypes being thrown around and tried to see if what there is to learn... like what if "men don't ask for directions" might also indicate an inherent tendency towards individual initiative and individual investigation of truth. What if we looked at that as a natural predisposition to a strength instead of putting it down? Perhaps we would get farther not always jumping to emasculating our men. I'm not sure how that works, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't look like our current system.

Empowering women isn’t about disempowering men. Something in my wonders if we’re failing our men… like the standard for them must be re-evaluated in light of changes in balancing the wings, but it doesn’t mean that our men become dispossessed of their inherent strengths and skills to which they are predisposed. There has to be a way to empower both wings. Surely God created us complimentary.

Friday, May 8, 2009

something I wrote a while ago

I want to start by apologizing.

I realize that it’s ridiculous.

Ridiculous that the rain always seems to make me feel as though the drops must be the hope in my life, falling from God’s grace, to be mixed with the shit on the road and run over by my tires.

Ridiculous that I become a walking question mark, italicized backwards to be always downward-sloping, always a singer of sad songs, a crier of loud tears.

Ridiculously frizzy of hair and short of patience.


and so far from above ridicule from me and myself
(as I sit snickering in a corner… any corner… all corners…)

But it is truly so terribly real in those moments

I really do hurt like a hangnail,
like a limping sprained ankle,
like hair pulled during the deepest of headaches.

And the



that I don’t actually want you to leave me alone.

Despite how sharply I prick you when you ask to help,
how wildly my arms flail when you look at me in that tone of voice,
And how many times I insist loudly that I am strong,
that I can handle me.

I can.


It’s dark, it’s cold, and I want you to hold me, whoever you are, and let me have my moment.

update of sorts

I'm so entertained by the previous/first post. Once I get past the typos (there are few things that bother me more than typos in things I’ve written and put out there, only to find them, I find them… *sigh* … flawed) I've already moved some on the inside... not that I won't make more typos... just that some things have moved and shifted in the not so much time already passed. I remember the events surrounding that message, and it’s interesting to see the progress and lack thereof.

Anyway, I was talking about blogs with a friend of mine who has recently started one, and I decided that I would like to try again. I work a job which presents some interesting confidentiality issues from time to time, but I think I’ll just have to work around them. There are things I’m learning which I’d like to put out there into the world. Additionally, there is the ever-present need to be heard… something which, although dancing around that button where the defensiveness about my capacity to handle my life lies (“I depend on me”), I can’t deny. I needed my sister to read the statement I had to write for the job promotion I’m up for at work. There’s still some bit of something about this that’s just about being received.

Speaking of the job, I got the one I hinted at. I work at a group foster home as a direct care giver to 10 high school-aged girls. They are amazing and wonderful, and I there’s something fire-like about how much I love them. I do not get paid nearly what I should here (no one does, system being what it is); I recently calculated and realized that I work 50.5 daytime and 32 night-time hours and thus make significantly less than minimum wage. In other words, there are reasons that I feel poor and pressed for time. This job is also plagued by those problems inherent in top-down administrative systems which generally make me furious, as I have so very little patience for such things. It’s a recurring theme these days in a few areas, people making decisions affecting others without the benefit of consultation. I have no idea why people would want to run an organization like this without true consultation. It sounds exhausting… and actually looks exhausting. Honestly they’re trying, working with limited resources, and have the best intentions at heart. Otherwise I’d have bounced long ago… but I haven’t. It’s been hell on wheels for long stretches of time, but changes were made, and everyone is the better and wiser for it. All of this by way of saying that, while I love my girls madly, this is surely not the last job I’ll ever have.

I’ve always loved diversity and learning about different cultures, but I have developed what I would explain as a somewhat child-like love of this particular segment of Southern black culture… child-like because I am so very ignorant and shamelessly inquisitive and openly delighted with the unending poetry of speech and action. Examples, examples… there are so many… my 4.5 billion questions about what my girls are doing to their hair and how and why… how amused I am at being affectionately referred to as “Ms.Bahiyyih with her big ole head” and being accused of “cake bakin’” (flirting) and hearing boys they don’t like told to “go sit down with all of that”… the looks on their faces when I turn up the radio for a song they expect me not to like… and then there’s what happens when we go to the devotional gathering on Tuesday nights.

I have kids I thought I was never really going to connect to. They responded with a massive attitude every time I said anything to them. They refused to speak to me except when absolutely necessary. They essentially pushed me away as hard as possible, and I couldn’t find an in. I took the last of them to Tuesday night dinner and devotions the other night, and they watched my brother kill that drum and me sing until my vocal cords were done (I think we were still popping from Sunday morning at Louis Gregory… more on that later). They shouted along with the songs, smiled their little faces off, and have been absolute peaches since then. They’re glad I’m around. They want to ride when I go to drop others off. They say good morning when they get up and good bye when they go to school. It’s not over, but the door is open. Prayer works.

You know what else works? LOUD prayer. When the volume is turned up on negative influences in life, the spirit has to be louder to even be heard. The noise of the break-down of the world is almost deafening. Baha’u’llah says, “A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love.” I think that applies.

The world has dealt these kids hands that would make me throw in the cards and retreat into a corner of myself. They have not resisted most of these pressures necessarily, but my girls are not squashed. They are powerful. They meet the pain with over-flowing joy and/or a great big “f*** you” delivered with back straight and head held high. I live in a pretty permanent state of awe. It’s something that the rest of the world needs. Diversity is so healthy…

More on all of that later…

Thursday, May 7, 2009

prayers, please

Rebecca (Young Sister 4 of 5) is in the Philippines trying to get home, and a typhoon may have shut down the airport. Unless her swimming skills have improved significantly, this means that she may get slowed down. Things have been hard enough for her there without this.

Please pray.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


On days like today
In moments like this one right here

I am so in love with You
that there is hardly room for air, hardly space for what gushes forth from my every pore, barely with feet touching what surely is only a physical ground because every ounce of anything which might even at all be me is
spiralling upward
flung into bliss
spun into mad joy at You.
and where I am.
and whom I serve.
and the actions You have caused to fill my days and nights.

I love You with my bones.
I am cut open and bleeding love for your creatures.

I cannot hold You close enough, and there will never be enough words.