READER

Jesus A. comes to short-term intervention today dragging his jacket half off. He asks for tape.

“Why?”

He shows me the two slits in the sleeve with the lining fluffing out.

“Oh,” I say and find the Scotch tape. “How did this happen?”

“This kid was bullying me.”

I took the time to hear about the incident including a bruise from a kick on his leg and the clawing that ripped his sleeve while I patched up his jacket. Then I took a reading record with him.

“I am really proud of you, Jesus A. You are already moving ahead. You are doing so well in this level!”

He played a word game and I introduced a new book. Then our time was up. Packing his portfolio, he asked, “What, what um, level? What am I?”

I leaned in. “You are a human. Your level is being a person, right?”

He looked a little confused, then amusement played on his face. “Yes.”

Medical Bureaucracy

As I was reviewing my day for a story to post, I realized my mind was busily composing the letter I must write to give to my mom’s primary care doctor, who then uses it to initiate an appeal of the denial of coverage for a pre-authorized procedure that has already been done. (honestly reader, did that make sense?)

I’m familiar with this grinding history of my 90 year old mother trying to find relief from spinal compression caused by several factors. I’ve thought of several good quotes to pull from various doctor’s progress notes. I can build a case. However, what blogger wants to read a letter to appeal denial of medical coverage? Free advice: As you get older, make sure you can either still write and advocate for yourself, or have a loved one who will do it. It is a thankless task created by the self-expanding bureaucracy of IPA’s and health plan interfaces with Medicare.

Just thinking about it makes me tired.

Truth be told, after cleaning up flood debris and mud yesterday, then staying up late to do laundry for my flood victim daughter, and, after teaching a couple groups, I’m about done. I’m going to issue an authorization to stop thinking about all the things I need to do for the rest of the evening.

Love Team

Today at 7 a.m. I drove 99 miles up to Sonoma, to my daughter’s home to help clean up from the Russian River flood. Yesterday I was at the Writing Project Saturday Seminar almost all day, then went walking and out to dinner with a friend, so I forgot to blog.

But today, in it’s squishy muddy, overwhelming way was good. Two nurse friends and a chaplain drove up from Oakland, and a BFF friend from Maine arrived after navigating two mudslides. The morning was foggy and my daughter’s eyes were still swollen from crying.

She made us tea first, hibiscus. My first task was to begin on the side carport and sort garden and yard tools and place them against one side of the house. Things in cardboard boxes were of course soaked after almost six feet of water. We started the wheelbarrow trips out the front gate for the county trash pickup.

Every surface was covered with an inch or so of wet silt, very slippery and the most clingy substance. When the other women arrived, they brought fresh work gloves and love. We cooperated on heavy items, like each taking a corner of the chicken coop to move it out of the mud and into the newly cleaned space on the carport.

By three pm we were thinking of lunch and we had washed off the glass patio table and set up the umbrella. We dragged water logged wood chairs around and I brought down bowls of the gumbo I’d made. It felt like a party al fresco. We were all muddy and had strained at firewood, old desk drawers and wheel barrow after wheel barrow of things that simply had to be discarded. Yet, we were happy.

Finally, Alice requested we put in one more push to have one square of the back side of the yard clear, which we did in short order, except for the chair impaled in the fence. It was kind of a statement, so we left it.

One relieved daughter posing with chair impaled on the fence.

And mother brought home the trunk full of muddy laundry. She can hear her washer chugging outside the window, on double rinse. Tomorrow A.’s dad will pick up the clean clothes and take them up with the power washer and dehumidifier. Such a mess it was and so satisfying to all pitch in and bring some order back.

Layers

Sandra Cisneros refers to Russian dolls in her short piece, Eleven, in which she says, “Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one….”

You can listen/watch Sandra read this piece here.

Today I felt those layers, those tree rings, or those nested dolls while I was at work and doing errands. This morning my older daughter, J., texted me that my younger daughter, A., did not want any texts or phone calls because she was digging graves.

Today is the first day A. could get back to her home near the Russian River after the flood.

Before the river started to recede

I met with intervention reading groups; coaching and cheering them on. Then, in between, I’d ache with the radio silence. I knew A.’s chickens, aka “the Girls” didn’t make it. And I don’t know how the turtles be okay either. And I knew how deeply this hurt my daughter.

As I pinpointed the ache in the center of my chest, there were other times, other layers, like when Alice was eight, or nine. The time when we discovered her beloved mice dead. Going up to the garage because I heard a wail, and finding Alice pulling the two mice out of their cage to hold them to her heart. Apparently being in the open, instead of in Alice’s room, caused a cat to stalk or pounce on the cage and the poor rodents had heart attacks. She crumpled to a weeping two year old.

Or, when Miriam, her hamster died. A. gave her some alfalfa pellets (which looked a bit off) and they made her sick. She was crushed and I felt so unable to comfort her, as she was three inside.

Or when A. came home from school (at her Dad’s) to discover that the heat of the day had killed her rabbits. I heard about this with tears on the phone, and I remember wondering to myself, “Why do we do this?”

Alice is a great-hearted, caring soul who not only loves animals, but connects with everything and everyone around her. As a child those pet deaths left her temporarily inconsolable.

The scenes floated up in my mind today on the drive home, in the aisle of the hardware store, and when I texted J. in the late afternoon for any word. I relaxed a bit to hear that the pet funeral was over.

There were more layers for me, of course. I have watched my youngest work so hard to change careers and earn enough to be able to buy a house in Sonoma County, (miracle) where she works as a nurse doing home visits for patients after surgery. She loves each and every one of her patients, too, no matter what their age or need.

The county is still recovering from the wild fires last fall. The blazes came within miles of A’s home, two months after she bought it. She feared she’d lose it. When I looked at the flood progress photos texted from neighbors in boats, or from the bridge, I saw rings of her her hopes, her hard work, and her gumption to turn that place into something lovely. It’s been a long three days waiting to know whether the upper floor — the living space — was flooded. Thankfully, it was not!

Some of the echoes of times when my daughter didn’t want to talk with me took me to rings in my mind, too. The teen years and times I was simply not reachable. Now that I know she is safe in her house, and that as a family we’ve made plans to get dehumidifiers, fans, supplies, etc. and help up to her, all I can do now is hope that the rain that is predicted for tomorrow skips over her town, or is very light indeed. It will be good to drive up to help on Sunday. And let the flood of sorrow subside.

And, tending to my heart today, I think perhaps it is okay to feel 10 inside, or 20 years old…sigh.

Catio

Until this week I didn’t know about catios. My daughter said she thought she invented them. There are websites to buy prefab or to purchase plans to build your own.

This post also serves the purpose to write for a friend follower the story of how I got my cat, since I was never going to have another cat after Mickey.

See why we named him Smoky. He came with his own furry blue blanket.

The backstory is that after having to have my last cat put down at the vets (read here and weep) I was not going to have another cat. I gave away all the cat accoutrements, even the carrier. And, after awhile, I stopped expecting to see that tuxedo cat waiting for me at the end of the driveway.

After a year, my 90 year old mother, who lives with me, began to talk about us getting a cat. I was explicit. “I do not want a cat.”

After hearing that for awhile, she changed her tact. “Well, I would like to have a cat.”

I made limits. It will be your cat. You are responsible for it. It will be an indoor cat so it doesn’t go fight and get injured or catch diseases.

Then, once my mind was open to D. getting herself a cat, things happened fast. I was at a friends for dinner and mentioned the mom/cat thing. “Oh, my neighbor works at a pet hotel and has to give away a female cat who was abandoned at work.” I sent a photo to mom and she and her “babysitter” were all set to go pick up the kitty the next day.

I was in a writing project seminar, when I saw the text from my friend. “The woman came for her cat.” I quickly texted D and M so they wouldn’t drive there and be disappointed. They went shoe shopping instead.

Meanwhile a teacher friend of mine heard this exchange and quietly spoke up. “I think I have the cat for you.” I asked about it being gentle for an elderly lady and willing to be indoors. She keeps rescue cats until they can be placed. She shared this photo:

His profile photo.

Well, the next morning my friend arrives at my house before our seminar with a big, fluffy blue blanket, cat food, and this guy. She explains, “He’s a British Blue, or shorthair. They were bred to be street cats and they are notably friendly with people.”

She explained that her cousin had named him “The Dude” and that he got teary-eyed when she placed the cat with us. Over 16 pounds of cat with very soft short fur and a little quiet voice.

So that indoor cat thing went well for some months. We got string toys and a laser light, and catnip and scratchers, etc. When winter was letting up, however, and I was gardening in the yard a lot, Smoky started expressing his desire to be out, too. He got tired of string chasing.


This took a little time to train him to go out through the cat door and hang out in the backyard rather than heading down the driveway for the street. He went over the fence into my sculptor neighbor’s backyard, which is cat heaven. After an hour or so, I’d call for him and he’d come. He got a treat, so he was trained to come in when he felt tired and I’d lock the cat door and that would be our during the day outing. He wanted to go out in the early and late part of the day, but I refused because that’s when the other cats, some ferral, and the urban critters are out.

You may be laughing at how Mom’s cat so quickly bonded with me. Well, for one thing, I can run around the house and give him stuff to chase while Mom cannot. And he discovered I sleep with a big wool blanket that suited him. Smoky grew very fond of chasing things in piles of tissue paper.

Then, after procrastinating a great while, we took our rescue cat, with the clipped ear for spay and release to the vet at the animal hospital I used to take Mickey. They gave him vaccinations and tested him for kitty aids. They re-tested and he still was positive. So now, he isn’t supposed to go outdoors since he is immuno-suppressed. Also he would share the virus with another cat if they quarreled.

That explains this.

Plans for a redwood with wire structure where I can grow strawberries and Smoky can come and go via a flexible tunnel from the cat door,

Today was spring like and I did some yard work. Smoky was beside himself with jealousy. At one point he made a run for it when I was coming in the back door, so I had to capture him, lug his almost 17 lb bod back indoors. Then he mourned.

He thinks I turned my laundry room into a studio just for him.

If my handyman will get us on the calendar, we’ll have this catio up in no time. Smoky will be able to exit through that back door in the cat door, walk about 5 or 6 feet through a tunnel and open out into an 8 x 6.5 ft. enclosure with sleeping levels and lots of things to sniff. The ground there is dirt and granite gravel.

Porch watching, bird and dog watching.

Yep, he’s mom’s cat all right. I notice. He follows me around the house like a puppy, sleeps on my bed and comes to the front door when my car pulls up in the driveway. Guess I was ready for a cat, after all.

How One Could Think, “He’s God’s Man,”Is Not Beyond Me

A person can don a used world view by slowly exchanging his or her contemporary world view for a stronger story. This can be good like waking up, or, not so great. I took on a life redux in my post-divorce time of guilt. In the early ‘80’s I hefted on the big overcoat of salvation at age 30, desiring to be a perfect Christian wife in my second marriage, hoping to redeem my life mistakes, which were many.  T.S. Eliot wrote in Choruses from the Rock of those who “By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good…” I met people with tight biblical cosmology and they appeared happy.

Changing my perspective to a Christian view had different features. There was community and connection, new friends, meaningful work, outreach to needy people, drama and music and 1,100 acres of redwoods in which to live for a monthly tithe. 

There was a dark side to donning salvation.  A khaki, tailored thing with epaulets from another era.  One thing about this religion I didn’t know then, was that I was enlisting to be a soldier. I’d heard the tune, “Onward Christian soldiers” but thought that was a vague metaphor of long-gone days. The mission Bible church, where I was inducted, became an outpost of militant purity.  We were, according to our pulpit, more like the true church than the average. And, I am at heart, a peacenik, so I overlooked much of the language of domination for too long. Now it shouts on the public stage.

Back in 1980, my personal hope was simply to be made whole. I was sensible of my wounded self and my fractured life.  I couldn’t afford a therapist. Like generations of penitents, I wept on my knees over my fallen nature — cringing in the light of God. My zero self-worth was easy to establish, as the firstborn of an abusive alcoholic father who grew up on a mission station in South Africa and of an unexpectedly pregnant mother who, even though she sang in the Methodist choir at 17, had no qualms about asking a doctor to remove me from her uterus.

In the teaching and in the company of others who had “repented” of being part of the human potential movement, I came to believe that I was “new in Christ”, so I stood on my feet and evangelized.  I got a system and worked it. 

Here’s how the view goes. God is in charge of the affairs of men, although not their conscience or free will.  And men are in charge of their women. A church with a woman pastor needed a “covering,” meaning a male.  My female pastor refused one.  The saved believe while their fellow humans are seen across a chasm. Eternally damned.  This connection to “the Holy Spirit” became a model of becoming deeply disconnected with myself.  My fellow church people and I often fearfully didn’t ask questions, suppressed anger and slowly began wounding our consciences as power was more often exerted in physical abuse along with the unending humiliation of emotional “corrections.” I am deeply sorry for my actions and inactions then.

Changing my view took time because one doesn’t throw a lobster into boiling water; one heats it slowly. That’s part of the recipe for delusion. It wasn’t a prayer to Jesus, but the practice that harmed. Living as a “disciple” in a fundamentalist church was a slow erosion of my self-referencing and conscience that went unaddressed. And once you’re immersed, well, you’re deluded. Taking on an identity that you soon fear will be ripped from you: By a word from a “godly” leader you may be kicked out and shunned by your fellows.

Roger McNamee wrote in a technology article in Time Magazine (Vol. 193, No. 3 2019) of the Facebook woes, “the business model depends on advertising, which in turn depends on manipulating the attention of users so they see more ads.  One of the best ways to manipulate attention is to appeal to outrage and fear, emotions that increase engagement.  [ital. mine]

One evening in the mid 80’s, I drove down from the Santa Cruz mountains to Los Gatos Christian Church to hear Jerry Falwell speak.  He was teaching the white grass roots, filling a wealthy church with expensively dressed visitors. He encouraged believers to get active in politics – for the sake of their values.  Indirectly, for God. He appealed to moral outrage and patriotism. At one point he mentioned the need for more women in Washington D.C. and a well-heeled lady behind me said audibly to her friend, “How come it’s always the women who have to clean up the mess?” We chuckled, but it was a moot point. 

The next day after the talk, one of the teaching pastors at West Heights informed me that I was now a fundamentalist.  “A what?” I asked.  He explained that’s what Falwell’s movement was about, and that I qualified because I believed the basic truths of the Bible.  I knew the nickname was not a compliment, as they never are when applied to groups, even though the he meant it as one.  But then, fundamentalists take insults as a badge of honor.  Which is how contemporary conservatives view the country.  They say “our” America like they bought it and no one else has permission to pursue happiness.

Now, 20 years removed from that religious cult, transformed by hard work and the love of family and friends into a fairly normal human adult, I can understand today’s religious conservatives being up in arms. It makes sense why a surprising number of Americans supported a demagogue at the polls.  Knowing how well the Moral Majority did their grassroots homework, it doesn’t seem like a big stretch.  Like a televangelist, Trump’s a political leader who seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument.  Now the megachurches provide him one big base for this emotion-based persuasion. What do these hundreds of thousands of American believers want? Protect our investments and take us back to [imagined] days of moral purity.  Don’t let the liberals make our government huge or expensive and don’t let them infect our children with their ungodly ideas.

Reader, please accept that today I do not judge or take issues with any person who names their source of life Jesus, nor discourage anyone from gathering to pray for peace and wisdom, whatever the faith. It’s your choice. 

However, my church experience, almost 40 years ago, became a communal study in delusion which I think mirrors a condition in our country that may be occurring large scale.  Fundamentalism is an adjective for the more specific word, extremism.  As in taking the Bible literally. Leaders’ power exerted in matters that are none of their business. When evangelicals stand up for a moral [note, not a civil] agenda in public, they call any negative reaction persecution – not disagreement.  If liberals disagree, their voice is dishonored or disregarded because liberals don’t conform to the biblical agenda.  But, has moral outrage become the purveyance of both sides? Sometimes lately it sounds like that.

And subtly, but surely human love was differentiated from “the love of God.” The split — the division of some pure theological love from ordinary human love paved the way for cruelty done in the name of God but with cold self-righteousness.

Some contemporary churches, particularly the mega churches, many of which are based on the prosperity teachings of Norman Vincent Peale (see POTUS prayer consort at inauguration), offered a comfortable salvation – belonging to the club — without worrisome issues like sin.  The main benefit, besides the music, hi-tech emotional experience and company, is belonging to the right team. The great team. [see red hats]

Here’s the obvious problem with dualism.  If there’s a “correct” side then the other is damned. And both the left and the right seem convinced that they are correct.  In the struggle for the moral/social/public advantage, only a few are addressing critical issues.  For example, the rapidly widening wealth gap. This is equality business that I think ought to be attended to for the well-being of all. It might also ease the climate change factor. When I reflect on the agenda and squabbles of leadership back in the fundamentalist cult it was, underneath the finer points of scripture, mostly about control and money.  I suspect the contemporary conservative stance is mainly about protecting monied interests in the name of taking the moral high ground. That is hypocrisy.


How dare the Dems deny a wall? Is it King Cyrus having another temper tantrum, the way he’s done business all his life? Or, I wonder, is the wall a red herring? Trump’s campaign revisited in his Tweeted video clip today was pure propaganda.  From here on out, it’s going to be only America first. “Every decision on taxes…. will be made to benefit American workers and their families.  I will never let you down.  We will bring back…we will bring back…we will bring back…we will not fail.  [My inauguration] marks the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.”

How, in the past two years, has he made “the people” rulers? He has incited mob violence, but that isn’t rule of law.  Besides the video clip’s stirring call to nationalism, watch it with visual literacy.  His claim of greatness is back grounded by military might, repeatedly through the frames. Look at the expansive scale of everything.  Let’s consider, too, how much the media corporations profit by this push and pull drama.  

The contemporary surge of liberalism mostly represents to me evolving human rights issues, better thinking and action for social and economic equality, understanding differences, establishing justice for peoples who have been disenfranchised, humiliated or murdered for their sexual preference or their skin color, or both.  I remember how we fundamentalists automatically judged those people sinners.

But even under reasonable presidents, have we noticed and dealt with the multi-billion-dollar corporations and banks, the federal contracts, dark money, the Wall Street gamers, gerrymanderers, lobbyists pumping billions into politicians – have we already let them steal the prospects of a livelihood for the next generation?  Have we noticed the escalating number of homeless people with heartbreaking addictions? The rise of child poverty numbers in a wealthy country and the under-funding of their schools?

Recently, one of my liberal women friends in a book club was shocked that I was reading David Brooks’ The Social Animal.  “He’s a conservative! she gasped.  It also happens that Mr. Brooks is a good writer and has articulated some complex ideas.  Was I really to worry that I would be tainted? This cultural war is not healthy pluralism.

I’m trying to apprehend how to live my civic life as a We thing, which is the gist of pluralism.  Our present institutions are mostly structured top down and American life is viewed as a power struggle within the factory model. Or a big triangle on the American dollar.  This does not need to engender demagogues and followers, but in the digital age, the way public “discourse” is proceeding, it has.

We face some tough problems that are being exacerbated by our positions of in-it-for-me – government continuing to operate in the clutches of big business, for example; or in it for “my team,” aka the politically correct agenda.  I’m interested in the view of work from the book, The Power of Positive Deviance, demonstrating that, while we know much about how to prevent the suffering and inequality in our nation (and world), we aren’t taking a We stance to do anything about it. The current POTUS thrives on division as he lines the pockets of his cronies and global pals.

Fundamentalist doctrine infers that a nation gets the leadership it deserves, that a healthy nation is upright, traditional, and thus, godly.  This is defined outwardly:  Does the president hold a prayer meeting?  Does his family go to church? Is he against abortion? That’s all it takes to be accepted by the conservative.

Here are some racial/gender/social issues to tackle if conservatives really feel the need to clean up society.  My list would include: educating and disarming good old boys in pickup trucks who are gun-toting racists who openly disrespect women.  It would be challenging religious fundamentalists – well-situated, white, and respectable in appearance who see themselves superior to those who are poor, different or who disagree.  I’m white and realize I’ve only been abused by white working-class men, by white people who sold me drugs, and by white religious fundamentalists.  My daughter was beaten up once by skin heads, a white supremist gang. In more recent years, the children shot in schools were shot by white boys. The children of color who were killed in their own neighborhoods were shot by white policemen.  What is with this white superiority?  How does race and income equal supremacy?

Self-righteous, rigid conservatives living in the evangelical bubble, staying safe from all the bad people, is a problem.  Their primary fault: their worst problem is that they usually cannot, or will not, call out a leader in error. The blinders are on.  Don’t touch God’s anointed.  I was a bystander, then a victim, then a perpetrator of religious bullying.  And the “love-of-God” they tout is separated from human love. Dangerous.

During my fundamentalist stint, my fear of wrongdoing made me behave the way a germ-o-phobic handles being around other humans.  I feared the porn shops, the drug dealers near my kids’ school, and the rise of crime in my city. Which didn’t change anything.

By the 90’s my view of home, community, work, state and nation had shifted to a deo-centric world, as a result of “being discipled” in a community that modeled itself on “the true church.”  My life became more and more about compliance.  I became rigid. In retrospect, I was using the childhood coping mechanisms for surviving an abusive, alcoholic father. Everyone at the cult, especially under new leadership, tried to maintain.  We tried to keep on the good side of the “anointed” leader, with little or no say.  It reminds me of Trump’s revolving staff.

Now, I notice and hear rigidity.  Could there be three, or more sides to our story? What if? I question the value of long term entrenchment in an uncivil war because, like it or not, we are all in this together.

A person can don a used world view, by slowly exchanging his or her current world view for a stronger story. This can be good like waking up, or not so great. I am working on a new view, a view of us, a We-View, as in we the people, and as in my fellow humans. I hope that history will show me some groups who survived nicely without the conquistador or monarch approach. Without slavery and cruel dominion.  Without a tantrum-throwing patriarch in the White House.  Self-aggrandizing lies. The Stock Market going up means that we don’t have rising poverty in our nation? Really?  The power of positive thinking is a business tool for the entitled and is the 45th president’s religion.

 I am led to wonder what political discourse would be like if we stopped trying to fix each other, or if we stopped standing across a chasm shouting with moral outrage? We may have a crisis in Washington that becomes a meltdown of government beyond a shutdown.  This isn’t a prediction of the end, just not great hope for a change for the better from this point.

The left and right see two different messes.  Two lenses. The conservatives see Trump as the Messiah [yes, Cyrus was called Messiah in his day] to clean up the Washington mess. Trump says he’s draining the swamp.  What will the gators do? Would it be possible for some thinkers and leaders to abandon party platforms – the glamour of power – and dig in to do something for the good of all? 

Would a nation of united people, united by respect rather fear, solve many more pressing problems than if we continue in our present polarization? The following quote spoke to my sense I am backing into passive, woo-woo position.  Yes, I admit my innate, trained “white moderate” posture comes easily. And I am not fearless. I aim to not let my fears paralyze me.

One passage of King’s response seems especially apropos to this moment. In it, he confessed that he had become “gravely disappointed with the white moderate.” Too often, he said, they were “more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice,” and preferred “a negative peace, which is the absence of tension to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice.”  -Op Ed. Miami Herald, Leonard Pitts, Jr.

I think my search for a “new” view must sound ridiculous, childish.  Kids often just want parents to get along and be nice. We want people fighting wars to just stop. Or it might sound like I’m saying everybody move back to the middle, like the Centrists, which I’m not. I am not asking everyone to sit down and be quiet as in parental order. Change is messy. My inkling – as inarticulate as I am about it — is closer to something I could work for, better than hiding in my house, hoping without evidence for better news, while a greed-committed political world continues to abuse a heat-stricken planet, and another generation grows up who are vulnerable.  Trying to be perfect, to do it all right.  They may be likely targets for demagogues, as many conservative and uneducated voters were in 2018. 

I long for a positive peace. I will speak up for that. A person can don a new world view, by slowly exchanging his or her current world view for a stronger story. This can be good.

I want to continue to change my view in order to get something done for the good of others.  Currently we’re not promoting e pluribus unum, one out of the many, because the many aren’t having helpful conversations. Who has much of a voice today unless making headlines or Tweet storms?  But I conclude:  This nation will never be homogenous again.  Well, not ever without ethnic cleansing…

There really isn’t any going back – bringing back, as the POTUS says – the real America – unless you want to risk that attempt at greatness being enforced, as in, swallow the propaganda and lies [and forget to remember Hitler]. This is another area to pay attention.  I suspect that the current deepening of division of the American people makes us more vulnerable to the rise of a totalitarian leadership that none thinks could never happen here. 

*******************

Background note:

When Trump was elected, an article in The Guardian by Martyn Percy, a Church of England priest and the dean of Christ Church college, Oxford explained: 

“…Trump’s political rhetoric can be traced back further, to the specious singularity of his religious roots. Norman Vincent Peale, the pastor of New York’s Marble Collegiate church, was Trump Sr’s pastor and presided at the wedding of Trump and Ivana in 1977. Peale’s bestselling 1952 book, The Power of Positive Thinking, manifestly shaped the world of the Trumps. The book also launched the motivational thinkers’ industry, and its practitioners are businessmen just like Trump. Marketed on confidence, pragmatism, expectations of exponential growth and realising your dream, ambition or vision, it also shaped numerous Christian evangelical and fundamentalist ministries.”

Percy also wrote, “Graham, in signaling that Trump was a kind of Cyrus, was simply saying that evangelicals and fundamentalists could now rid themselves of a once dominant, centralising liberal hegemony, and reclaim their religious freedoms. They could do this even by voting for someone who manifestly doesn’t share their evangelical faith.”


Inspiring.

While renewing the domain on WordPress the other day, I stopped to think about the name we chose when L1 and L2 began co-blogging.

Inspiringteacherstowrite. That sounds to me (still) like a pretty big task for one little blog. I even feel guilty of hubris, like who thinks they can move overworked teachers to do anything? I will say in LSquared’s favor that, in our roles as teacher coaches and in professional development for the writing project (SJAWP), we have moved some to enjoy teaching writing more and have given them a taste of writing for writing’s sake.

Why did we hope to inspire others? To inspirit, to cause to breathe life in…I love the first entry in the online dictionary:

1.fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

When you see the way that writing contributes to your own thinking and self-awareness, that’s reason. And when writing in a group causes you to know and understand a colleague and become deep friends, that’s reason. When a friend is completely ripped up by an injustice, then you can write alongside after you’ve heard her story, raw, fresh and out loud. Writing has meant so much more though than filling another with desire to do something creative, to do a bit of their own writing.

Like reading, writing is about meaning making. Making sense of difficult subjects like writing instruction. Difficult things like finding one’s voice. Making sense of the way education is managed in a locale and then teaching in a way that reflects my values and beliefs about what’s best for students. Without writing I never would have known the wise and true things others have discovered and established in practice along these lines.

With writing and reading we don’t have to stumble along in the dark on our own. Well, mostly not and not for long, if we are curious enough to learn.

The real task at hand is not inspiring others, whether they be teachers or students. Inspiring myself to write, to just start somewhere and renew the daily habit of getting some lines down, is really why I’m here today. Sitting in Crema. Which removes me from the bazillion distractions at home and which has the patina of happy memories of actually writing and talking about writing.

And now, I have to shift to a googledoc to brainstorm a short PD session for K-5 teachers on informational writing, to be given, alas, on the day the teachers return from winter break. How will I inspire them?

Giving UP

Not writing.  Anne Lamott says, “Stop not writing.”

So, with my morning window whittled down to a half hour before I am in the dentist’s chair to complete a root canal (my second in a month) I am going to write.  

I’m looking for the tunnel to get back into my wealth inequality project I began to envision last year at the Ralston Writers’ Retreat. It excited me because it included cartooning and research with writing.

I think unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Given that truth, I have been watching my reactions to the ever widening wealth gap in my local view and what glimpses of the national scene I find the guts and attention to view.  And I have been informed that many people who come to America to thrive here in Silicon Valley do not donate to local poverty issues:  They send money to international organizations who provide relief for war torn refugees and victims of famine and large scale catastrophes.  

It makes the scale of poverty for those in America look, well, like a first world problem.  However, the increasing number of malnourished children and the decreasing ways OUT of financial disability in our country are on a rapid rise.  

And I have challenged myself to read what conservatives who write for social policy say try to understand the views of both poles of current political thought.  

One thing I observe is true is that the rising American inequality contains every  urgent social issue and it is affecting every community, school district, health, and civic engagement.

I tried one piece, a large sheet “info comic” on how the wide, wide wealth gap affects the health of a child.  

The Escalating Rift Between Worth and Want

Crema

Between bites of fluffy crust spinach-packed Quiche and laughs with L1, I have finally opened the blog and posted a title.  Crema.

This is the coffee-house where several years ago I came to meet up with a small group of women who wanted to write.  I was so excited I showed up a day early, and sat outside at a table with my tea, a YA book and my journal, feeling the slightly familiar tug of rejection as I realized no one was coming.

L1 laughed when I texted and she explained the writing group would meet the next day.  So I showed up that afternoon too. And the two of us, L1 and L2 decided to blog on the theme of “inspiring teachers to write.”  That was a huge noble-sounding idea, of which I will not evaluate the efficacy.

There have been times when we wrote for long stretches and shared a bit; times when we talked extensively and got a bit of writing down; and times when we wrestled with the clock and collaborated on how a weekend of professional development would fit into the session hours.  We even spent some coffee-house time working on an outline for a book proposal on how to best teach writing for EL students.  One time I got the idea for a comic page called “Your Brain on Writing.” Sometimes we ranted, sometimes we asked hard questions, and sometimes we told stories from our lives. Once, we collaborated on L1’s handwritten story in Spanish and I drew illustrations with my watercolor markers.

Good times.  That’s why I like the feel of this place.  And seeing L1 writing in her notebook now, working on a model piece for coaching a unit of study, I am truly content.  In spite of the shock that she had an unexpected baby and that her career maybe was going to send her to NYC, I still have a writing partner.

What is it?  I find there are people I share an internet easily with in terms of thoughts and attitudes.  L1 is one of those.  So I can write whatever I want or need to get down and expect to be understood and accepted on some level.  A trusted listener, a trusted reader is a treasure for a wanna be writer.

The concept of a coffee shop has always pleased me.  Chairs, tables, wi-fi, caffeinated drinks and pastries.  People visiting and people focused on their screens or journals.  Sometime ago, after a trip to New Orleans I wrote an ode to coffee shops.

Today’s ode is to the think space shared by putting a meeting at Crema on our calendars.  I like the sound of the espresso machine scalding the milk, the smell of roasted beans and the pleasant chatter of people around the comfy room. But what I like the most is that we can talk about writing and the writing project and our lives seamlessly.

My third of a century career in education was largely aimed at the question, “How do we teach writing?” And now that I’m retired, I’m still interested in the education angle, but more so, how do I develp as a writer, now that I’m not working time and a half?

Why write?

I must write it all out, at any cost. 
Writing is thinking. 
It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.   
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Laura & Lorena: Inspiring Teachers to Write