Friday, September 28, 2007

Make Some Noise - Finding My Voice

It takes no genius to notice that the single thing that defines me is my hope for and my need to work for social change and social justice. Yet, at the moment, what I need to do is relocate my voice. I've been such an unsettled little bundle of existential angst lately, that I haven't been much good to anyone -including myself.

But things are starting to come together. There is much work to be done, even here in my own little nest, to say nothing of the rest of the world. But in the "can-do" spirit that's becoming important to me, here's some music for courage:

  • So She Dances; Josh Groban
  • How to Save a Life; The Fray
  • Some Things Are Meant to Be; Sammy Kershaw
  • Getting Back Up; Tracy Lawrence
  • Gentle Warrior; Lucie Forbes
  • Do What You do; Carolyn Arends
  • I Wanna Do It All; Terri Clark
  • Big Dream; Chyi Yu
  • Something to be Proud of; Montgomery Gentry
  • Powerful Women; elena

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Work-In-Progress Wednesday

It's time to report the weekly knitting, lest anyone think I've forgotten how.

The Something Red cardigan wants only a button and some blocking. There seem to be some button band issues. I do not allow button band issues (she said, sternly). I'll try blocking and if that doesn't work, we'll undertake some corrective surgery. But really, I think blocking will work. Here she is:

Then there are these no-brainer socks:

I spend a lot of time on trains these days, and these are a good train project. I suppose they are close to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's sock recipe, but really, they're just my sock recipe for my particular feet.

Then there is this:
What? You think it doesn't look like much? Sigh. I will explain. The local yarn shop, Finely a Knitting Party, is doing a charity knitting projects: chemo caps/pumpkin hats for the children's oncology unit of the local hospital. So... a proto-pumpkin hat for your viewing pleasure.

That's all I have this week. What do you have to show for yourselves?


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Moat Around the University

I've said this before, I know. The truth of that statement doesn't make what follows any easier.

The First Part of the Argument (Andrea gets on her high horse about PRINCIPLE): Universities are funny places. We separate some people, mostly for a short time in their lives, from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world, give them time and space to think about things, and reward all kinds of behaviors (thought, reason, reflection, as but a few examples) that aren't particularly rewarded in the rest of the world. As for the people who live their professional lives out at university, well ... it's one kind of institution or another, I suppose -and it would be awfully expensive to put all those professors away somewhere else.

I think we foster this separation because, on some level, we both culturally value thought...inquiry.... discovery and simultaneously believe that it's not the work of "everyman". "Brains" are special people and deserve special treatment. So professors lead lives of privilege. Not financial privilege, it must be said, but many other kinds of privilege. In the interest of full disclosure, I have benefited from this privilege for most of my life.

Some universities define a portion of their mission as to the community, but it's only a small part. And frequently, this part of the mission isn't terribly well lived out. Universities maintain the division between town and gown in some subtle and some not-so-subtle ways. Non-university people usually can't park at universities. Public events are frequently only advertised within the university. University buildings sometimes aren't marked with the name of the building, so how can visitors even find the activities that are there? In principle, there are public activities, but university policies don't always support the principle.

And think how much worse it must be for, say, poor or poorly educated people. How would they begin to sort out the intricacies of a university bureaucracy, perhaps to expose their children to the possibility of higher education? There might as well be a moat around the university.

Part the Second -in which Andrea has to get off her high horse and learn what it feels like.

I have said these things, but always ALWAYS with the certainty that I knew how to swim the moat. I wanted the moat to be drained (or whatever one does to get rid of moats), but it was for the benefit of those other people. The university -any university- is my turf. These are my people. Oh brother. I walked right into the swinging baseball bat on this one.

As you know, I suppose, I live within feet of Swarthmore College. It's a beautiful campus with a warm staff, a vibrant faculty, and bright students -a little slice of heaven, if one is inclined toward these things. But I am neither faculty, staff, nor student there. No matter, I figured. I am who I am; it'll work. Since the campus is so close to my house, I figured that I'd join the gym there. Dave and I could swim in the pool. We would go to concerts, art exhibits. The college would be a good way to meet new people.

It is not. It is not my place. I am not welcome there. I'm not pouting, really. There are other places where I am welcome. It's just interesting to note and observe the feelings. Faculty families technically CAN use the facilities, but they don't, apparently. Concerts, lectures, etc... aren't even advertised on the university website; you have to get the campus e-mail to know what's happening. The campus is so small that non-members are noticed even when just walking through the campus to get somewhere else.

Here's the thing. Colleges and universities send hundreds of volunteers and professionals out into the community every year -interns, student teachers, campus ministry volunteers. In part, this is an effort to heal old town-gown wounds. (Of course, that's not ALL it is. The community, the students, and the professionals all benefit from this relationship.) But, if the flow does not -can not- go the other way, if the "town" can't come to the "gown" occasionally, then class, privilege, and even race issues aren't healed at all. University policy suggests that the university has something to offer the community, but not the other way around.

What a loss, for everyone.

And it hurts my feelings, too.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Make Some Noise -Music of Social Change

"It's not my revolution if I can't dance to it."
-Emma Goldman

  • I Saved the World Today; Eurythmics
  • Change the World; Eric Clapton; What Can I Do?;The Corrs
  • Fanfare for the Common Man; Aaron Copland
  • What You Gove Away; Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow
  • I Need to Wake Up; Melissa Etheridge
  • Harriet Tubman; John McCutcheon
  • Where Does the Good Go; Tegan and Sara
  • Study War No More; Sweet Honey in the Rock
  • No Mas!; John McCutcheon
  • Oh Mary Don't You Weep: Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Price, Pete Seeger

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why Aurora Matters

Aurora, Illinois is a big-ish small town -west of Chicago and east of where I used to live. It's substantially more urban than my home town and more diverse ethnically and socio-economically. And Planned Parenthood is trying to open a facility there. Pro-life activists have staged fairly significant (by the standards of the times we live in) protests, and today a judge denied Planned Parenthood's petition for an emergency injunction, which would have allowed it to open.

Nobody's winning any prizes for "excellent reasoning in the face of passion", but the religious right is outdoing itself with absurdity. The fact is, Planned Parenthood did attempt to hide the fact that they were opening in Aurora. Of course they did. They did that to ensure that the law was followed, not to subvert the law. It is well-known that the religious right will mobilize its troops to personally harass construction workers, construction company owners (sometimes even at their homes and businesses), clog the neighborhoods with canvassers and protesters, and generally spread ill will and fear. Which of course is their stock in trade, and does sometimes "work" from their point of view -stopping or postponing construction of facilities that will offer abortion services.

And a prolife city council member wondered why Planned Parenthood would want to build its facility so close to a residential neighborhood. After all, he muses, they build these centers with bullet proof glass and bring in security staff. They must know they're dangerous to the community. Now seriously... can he mean that??? They are in danger FROM the community. It was a priest from Rochelle (not far from Aurora) who drove his car into an abortion facility and then started hacking away at it with an axe. Women have to be escorted into facilities around the country because they experience so much harassment -from community members- as they try to enter to receive fully-legal services. Security threats are routine in Planned Parenthood clinics around the country. I imagine (but don't know) that there were several today. It's hard to argue with any credibility that the community is in danger. It seems, rather, to be the other way around.

Where, one wonders, does a little town (or a big one) lose its right to determine its little-town character? There can be lobbying for more green space. Or less. More development. Or less. Quirky liquor laws or none at all. But, can a community really keep out fully-legal medical services, without bending existing laws completely out of shape? Go a little further. What's going on today in Jena, Lousiana is in part because there is apparently no law against hanging a noose in a tree. Freedom of expression is pretty important, after all. But intimidation -which was surely the intent of that expression- perhaps goes to far. Or not. Of course the Jena situation is bigger than I'm implying here. I do see that.

But the Aurora situation isn't small either. People are being denied legal medical services -most of which have nothing whatever to do with abortion. And the disturbing parallels lead me to believe that small towns reflect quite a lot about our national character.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday Works in Progress

I've been knitting, I promise. The thing I can't seem to wrap my brain around is the digital camera. We used to have a nice simple one, but it got dropped off too many bicycle handlebars. Oddly enough, one day it just didn't wake up from that kind of abuse, and it got replaced with a fancy-dancy one that I can only work when Dave is standing over my shoulder. Which he isn't at the moment, so you have to wait for pictures.

The general idea is this:

It's the Something Red Cardigan from Knit and Tonic. If you like the pattern, it's not wildly different from Mr. Greenjeans from the new Knitty. The story about why I'm knitting this pattern is a little funny.

I'm on this knitalong on Ravelry where we read a Jane Austen novel and knit something that was inspired by the book. We chose Persuasion, which we have all read 40 times -which makes what ensued slightly sad. Someone got the idea to knit something red (not capital letters... just a red thing) because of the militia. I then thought of Something Red, and a bunch of us started knitting. A few chapters into the book we all felt like idiots. This book has the Royal Navy, and their uniforms are blue. There is no militia in Persuasion. Quasi-literate knitters that we are, we kept going. Sigh.

I'm hoping to be finished with this project this weekend, but we'll have to see. I have a date with King Tut on Saturday and we're hanging out with Dave's mom on Sunday. We'll see what happens. If Dave drives, I can knit. But if Dave drives, we may not get there. Tough call.

OK, Dave's home. Here's the reality:

It's a little disheartening at this point.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Make a Joyful Noise

Somebody... anybody.

Dave and I are looking for a parish in our new east coast life. Actually, that's not quite true. I'm looking for a parish. He looked last year when he lived here alone, and quit trying in frustration. So I go off to church on Sundays and report back. So far, the best I've come up with was "it wasn't horrible."

The music in particular has been unrelentingly, laughably bad. My first thought is "they can't be serious". Is this God's people in amazing mediocrity? Or is it that people feel like they aren't entitled to better music? Or the priests and liturgists don't know how to charitably get rid of Matilda, who might have had a lovely voice 40 years ago, but since her hearing loss it's been a little dicey?

I can't believe that music doesn't matter to other people. Seriously, as a recruitment tool (not that that's the first priority of a parish) music is the smartest place a parish can spend its money. If the "celebration" of liturgy becomes instead an excruciating "Oh please God, let it be over soon" experience, what are we teaching people? What are we saying about the God who loves us? What are we saying about our standards?

Sometimes when people rant about the state of music in parishes, what they really want to see/hear is a return to the austere (and beautiful, I grant you) music of another age. Polyphony, perhaps. Maybe Gregorian chant. Or maybe just any pre-Vatican 2 hymn, not that those were uniformly great music. That, it will not surprise you, isn't my agenda.

I want a joyful noise. I want songs sung at a sprightly (but still appropriate) pace. I want accompanists who actually studied piano. Different kinds of instruments would be nice. I prefer choirs to cantors, but I'm flexible on that point. I want music that enriches liturgy. I don't want a performance (which is where polyphony and chant would err); it needs to be participatory.

I guess I have to keep looking. St. Cecilia, where are you when I need you?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stepping Out

It's Wednesday, and Wednesdays are for knitting. Here we go:

The Horcrux socks. This is from the Six Sox Knitalong yahoo group. You have to be a member to get the patterns, but membership is free. You can't really see it from my lame photography, but there is a zig-zag pattern at the top that looks like Harry Potter's scar. Everyone else on the planet (it seems) was knitting these socks in March or April; I'm just now catching up. I tried the tubular cast on for the socks, which I've decided I'm not crazy about. For one thing, now the ribbing at the cuff and the ribbing at the foot don't match. (I know... nobody's going to call the knitting police, but still....) and for another thing, it's too loose. It looks sloppy and they slip down. I'll just be doing regular ribbing from now on, I think.

Then there are the Tulip Socks, designed by Isela Phillips: This pattern was written for loom knitting, but converting it is a no-brainer. It's actually harder to do on a loom. You can get the free pattern here: Loom Knitters Circle.

Now, these socks are just an embarrassment. They are a generic sock, made from Opal yarn. They were tossed in with stash, forgotten for literally years. You know what was unfinished about these socks? It was huge. A really big chore. I had to weave in the ends. Yup. But I can take credit for them this week, right? Two years in the making (insert eyeroll here), here they are: the purple Opal socks:

I've just started a fitted cardigan, raglan, single-button, with elbow-length sleeves from red Cascade 220. I have no pattern. I clearly need to come up with a catchier name than that, too. But it may not even work out anyway, so we'll see. I've also decided to tweak the pink math shawl to make it better. Soon it will be available for public viewing ;) And I am SO VERY wanting to make the Salsa, designed by Kim Hargreaves:
But I don't have the pattern, the yarn, or the time. So it's waiting.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Meditation for Forgiveness

Rabbi Michael Lerner from the Network of Spiritual Progressives wrote this prayer. It merits reflection and repetition today, I think.

A Bedtime Meditation/Prayer of Forgiveness

Building on the writing of my teacher Zalman Schachter Shalomi, I offer a prayer for every night of the year. It is particularly appropriate for 9/11 as we pray that Americans can let go of their desire for revenge and move to a higher level of consciousness, abandoning the fantasy that somehow "homeland security" can be achieved through militarism and dominating others (as the U.S.
Administration and its hired guns in Iraq are trying to do).

Let us pray for the healing of the fear and trauma that guides the policies of the U.S. government and many of its leaders. It is also appropriate for Ramadan and for the Jewish High Holy Days, days when we search our deeds and contemplate how far we have strayed from our highest God place within. We know that each of us is deeply imperfect, and though we have been wronged by others, our spiritual traditions teach us to move beyond whatever anger we've experienced to a place of forgiveness. We must start that process by forgiving ourselves, also, for not being all that we wish we could be, and for losing contact with our holy God place within us.

Our injunction for this period is: "To thine own God self be true"--but this can only happen if we stop incessantly judge ourselves for how we have failed on that path. Ironically, self-transfsormation which is the goal of this period of inner introspection can only work if we forgive ourselves. But then we must move on to forgive others...even others who have not yet asked for that forgiveness. Imagine how blessed our world could be if that path of forgiveness became part of the reality of America's relationship to the world, Israel's and Palestine's relationship to each other, the Muslim world and the West's relationship to each other, the Chinese and Indian and Western relationships with each other. And from that forgiveness we would move lovingly to change economic and political arrangements that are oppressive or hurtful both domestically and internationally. Well, we may not be able to make all this happen in the next few weeks, but
one place we can start is by using this prayer every night of our lives before we go to sleep.

Many blessings to you, and I humbly beg your pardon for any ways that I have hurt, offended or otherwise transgressed in relationship to you!
Rabbi Michael Lerner

Y'hi ratzon mil'fanekha, Adonai Eloheinu velohei avoteinu, shet'hadesh aleinu shana tova um'tuka. (May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our ancestors, that you renew for us a good and sweet year) God's peace on the sixth anniversary of 9/11/01.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Music and Social Change

Right here by Swarthmore, there is I-476, commonly called the Blue Route. It was a planned (and then new) route when my friend Becky was a student here, and she reports that there was discontent about its development. I'm sure it destroyed homes and businesses and beautiful land. "We sang folk songs against the Blue Route," she reports. Well, THAT helped -insert eyeroll here! So, okay, we probably suspected that in social change, music is neither necessary nor sufficient.

But, it can surely make a difference. It can be empowering, even if it's just my (already plenty powerful) mother barreling down the freeway, listening to Helen Reddy singing "I Am Woman". (Mom's tastes got kind of frozen in the 70s. Give her a break.) Or there's the equally ridiculous fact that I would sing my baby son to sleep with "We Shall Overcome". Or, for some slightly less silly examples, there's Farm Aid and Live Earth and Negro spirituals....

So, bearing in mind the twin truths that we have to do a lot more than sing, and that singing can inform a culture, here are some songs for peace:

  • Those Three Are On My Mind; Kim Harris and the Magpies
  • Well May the World Go; Pete Seeger
  • He Was My Brother; Peter, Paul, and Mary
  • Flags of Freedom; Neil Young
  • Direct Action; Ani DiFranco and Utah Phillips
  • What Did You Learn in School Today?; Peter Seeger
  • What Made America Famous?;Harry Chapin
  • My Name is Lisa Kalvelage; Ani DiFranco
  • The Torn Flag; John Trudell
  • Lord Help the Poor and Needy; Kate Campbell

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Poverty of Nations

I didn't develop this quiz; the Friends' Committee on National Legislation did. I give something similar to students occasionally, as a conversation starter. See how you do. If you want more explanation of each answer, try this: Resources.

1. What percent of poor children are in families with at least one working parent?
a) 20%, b) 45%, c) 65%

2. About what portion of U.S. jobs pay too little to keep a family of four out of poverty?
a) one tenth, b) one quarter, c) one third

3. For large metropolitan areas in 1999, the number of poor individuals was split almost evenly between central cities and their suburbs. Since 1999, the number of poor individuals has grown faster in:
a) central cities, b) suburbs

4. If your income is below the poverty line in the U.S., are you most likely to be:
a) White, b) Black, c) Hispanic (of any race), d) Asian, or e) American Indian or Alaskan Native?

5. Which racial or ethnic group has the highest percentage of people living in poverty?
a) White, b) Black, c) Hispanic (of any race), d) Asian, or e) American Indian or Alaskan Native?

6. In 2005, 37 million people were officially considered “poor.” About how many of those people were living in extreme poverty – with incomes below half of the poverty threshold?
a) 15 million, b) 10 million, c) 5 million

7. About what portion of elderly people in the U.S. would be poor if they didn’t receive Social Security benefits?
a) 10 percent, b) 25 percent, c) 50 percent

8. About what portion of elderly people in the U.S. are poor, even though they receive Social Security benefits?
a) 10 percent, b) 25 percent, c) 50 percent

9. At the 350 largest public companies, the average CEO total direct compensation was $11.6 million in 2005. How long does it take the average CEO to earn the annual pay of a full-time minimum wage worker?
a) 2 hours, b) six hours, c) 1 day

See answers below. See more information on the answers to this quiz.

Answers to the poverty quiz:
1) c; 2) b; 3) b; 4) a; 5) e; 6) a; 7) c; 8) a; 9) a

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Shawl Saga

It's Wednesday, and I said I would post about my knitting on Wednesdays. Mostly it's for my DeKalb knitting pals, who no longer see what I'm knitting with any regularity. So here it is: the blue shawl I was working on when we left.

I didn't think to take a picture of it on the day we left. Instead, I packed it away and found a sock to work on in the car. There's always a sock to work on. We arrived in Swarthmore on a Friday. By Saturday, we were pretty grouchy with each other and the situation. So Dave suggested that I go exploring and find the yarn shop. Clever boy. And work on the shawl recommenced.

Here are the stages of getting it ready for delivery to its intended recipient:

First, the unblocked mess. I always despair at this point. This lace, I am sure, will be the one that doesn't respond to blocking. This lace will look like the dog's breakfast for as long as it lives, I just know. I will, finally, be revealed as the knitting fraud I am.

A close-up view, so you can fully appreciate the horror:

Well, I suppose I can't make it worse, so a-blockin'-we-go. Into the bath tub with your sad self. Imagine, if you will, how the bathroom now smells like sheep. Lovely.

I didn't have my blocking wires, so I threaded waste yarn through the border and pinned to that. It worked ok, but that's the purple strand that you can see at the edge of the shawl. That got thrown away, I promise. Here's the more or less finished product, drying in my furniture-free living room (I didn't think Dave would be wildly sympathetic if I pinned it to our bed, and we had to sleep on the floor. Knitters might understand. Mathematicians... not so much):

Apparently, the knitting goddesses smiled on me once more. The knitting rules still apply, and blocking cures all ills. The shawl has been delivered to my sister, with good wishes and hope that it warms her during her upcoming medical travails. Naturally, we forgot to take a picture of her wearing the shawl. I'll see if I can fix that the next time I see her.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Fair Trade on Labor Day

I'm still learning my new town. Truth be told, I'm still learning my new house. Resettling is very confusing, that's for sure.

So, it was with great triumph that I found the Trader Joe's grocery store. It's in Media, the next town over, and there's a sign on the door of the store that says that Media is the first Fair Trade City in the United States. Roughly it means that there is an official commitment to serve fair trade products at official gatherings, that there is a fair trade advisory committee at the city-government level, that fair trade products are readily available at local establishments... You can read about it here: Media.

Here's some stuff that social workers know. Globally, women comprise 70% of the 1.2 billion people making less than $1 a day. They provide for most of the needs of their families with food, health care, education, clothing and a safe place to live. They work an average of 60 to 90 hours a week, mostly as unpaid labor. And when able to generate income, women use a greater portion of their income then men towards the well-being of their family, paying for their children's schooling, better nutrition, and medicine.

Moreover, about 80% of fair-trade artisans are women, and most of them have children. Their income is used primarily for their children's needs, and their participation in a fair trade cooperative improves their lives and their status as family members and community members. Fair Trade is one of few activities that has successfully helped women and their children out of poverty

It's not without trouble and a need for nuance. Fair trade is not without its detractors. The concept, though, is so simple: to create a sustainable and just global economic system through fair trade (Fair Trade Federation). It makes my decision simple, too; it's worth the trouble and expense. The World Fair Trade Day website claims ‘Coffee, cocoa (chocolate), bananas, oranges and sugar are among the food sectors that most exploit child labour.’ Most of these products have a Fair Trade alternative.”

In the past two years of blogging I've talked myself into purchasing fair trade coffee. It's not that much more expensive than regular coffee, and I would know. I drink a boatload of coffee. I was worried that the switch would be a painful one. Seriously, it wasn't. Give it a shot. Now I'm moving on to fair trade chocolate, sugar, bananas, and oranges -starting with sugar and bananas, since that's what we purchase most frequently.

What else should I be doing? I'm open to suggestions.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Kids: They Grow Up and Leave You -the Little Ingrates!

The first year students are here and wandering around in wide-eyed wonder. Their parents are wandering around in a stupor, facing the parenting-music. Their children are taking yet another step toward independence. I wrote this little precis for my yoga buddies who are enduring this gut-wrenching transition, and they encouraged me to put it here. Bless their hearts, it makes for an easy resumption to blogging!

OK... listen up.... here's what you do. (I've taken two kids to college and -by the skin of my teeth- survived the experience.)

On the ride to college - It will just feel like dropping the kid off at camp or something. That part won't be bad.

When you get to the "hauling 18000 pounds of crap/valuable stuff up three flights of stairs (it's a law... they ALL live on at least the third floor, apparently) start distracting yourself. Marvel at how old and unfit all those OTHER parents are. Remark on how clearly gifted and stunning your child is compared to all the other students. Regular parenting stuff ;)

You'll need at least one trip to Target for the things you forgot and the storage things that will make that 18000 pounds of stuff fit into a small room with only one outlet and that's under the bed. That's like a puzzle. Engage with the puzzle. Do NOT think about why you have this puzzle to solve. No good can come from that.... you should have considered this that night 19 years ago when you conceived this child. Just buy power strips.

Now it gets hard and you just have to punt.

Go back to the room. Plug in a few things. Leave. Really. We tried the "let's go to lunch with your new roommate" thing. Don't. The college has things planned for them and they need to go to those things.

NB: They can not see you cry. They know you're crying, but if they see it, it gets them off-step and they're already nervous. "All" you have to do is smile, give hugs, tell them you're proud (don't lose it here) and high-tail it for the stairwell where you can cry all you need to.

And now you get to figure out who you are without daily parenting tasks. That's chapter 2. I haven't written that chapter yet ;)