Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love in the Everyday

There's love in the everyday
the everyday dish washed
the everyday table set
the everyday meal cooked

There's love in the everyday
the everyday bed made
the everyday diaper changed
the everyday hurt kissed

There's love in the everyday
the everyday encouraging word uttered
the everyday lesson taught
the everyday helping hand offered

There's love in the every day
the everyday load of laundry done
the everyday bath given
the everyday hand held in the dark

There's love in the everyday
the everyday book read
the everyday nose wiped
the everyday game played
the everyday bump and bruise, hunger and thirst nursed away

There's love in the everyday, I say!

It's powerful and monumental
Yet readily overlooked

It's a love that stays at home
Building, ensuring
Peace, Warmth, Stability

It's a love that knows how to give totally
Because it's one that doesn't exclude
You

It's a love that's true
That identifies with other truths

It's a love that's committed
Despite ridicule
Despite mockery
Despite everything

It's a love, I tell you
That manifests daily
Greatly
In the mundane
In the ordinary
In the easily taken for granted

It's a love that shines most brilliantly
through
with
around
and in
The Everyday.



Photo "Heart Candle" by Heartlover1717 on Flickr.com

Friday, February 13, 2009

Homeschooling Resources

So, after lots of thinking, weighing the pros and cons, it's finalized: we are going to be a homeschooling family. It's been a complex decision and I've had to take a lot of things into account. Negativity from friends and family has been one thing that has led to my reluctance to fully embrace homeschooling but I'm finally comfortable and secure in my decision. There are a myriad of reasons:
  1. I don't agree with the philosophy of public schools and I can't afford or don't have access to private/charter schools whose philosophies more closely match mine.
  2. I could overlook philosophical differences more easily if the public schools offered top-notch educations but in my town, unfortunately, that is not the case.
  3. I am willing (and able) at this moment to homeschool. We are able to make ends meet on one income right now and hope to be able to do continue. Utilizing relatively free resources (library and internet) and making wise curricula purchases, we can keep the budget for homeschooling low.
  4. I know I can offer my children the type of education I want them to have, maintaining their love and joy of learning and exposing them to things that they might not otherwise be exposed to (African and World Histories being a top priority).
  5. I can address my children's specific needs and honor their gifts and talents while maximizing their time and mine. I believe that way too much time in school is wasted. And while I'm devoted to my children, there are areas of myself I am looking forward to developing as the children get older.
So now that I've accepted that we are a homeschooling family, I just wanted to share some of the resources we've been using.
NYS is one of the strictest states when it comes to homeschooling: the kids do have to be tested yearly and I have to submit paperwork quarterly. I've already gathered resources to make sure I am doing things legally. I want to be on top of things.

I'm still hoping to find a homeschooling group for support and social stuff. I know I will.

One question: since I pay school taxes in my town, why is it that if I choose to homeschool my town refuses to provide services to my child (if he needs it) and refuses to allow him to play on sports teams (not that my town sports teams will actually exist in two to three years the way things are going fiscally for this town) or be involved in any extra-curricular activities? Maybe I'm missing something that would help me understand.


Photo Credit: "Homeschool" by ForeverSouls on Flickr.

I came home yesterday . . .

To find all the electricity had gone out. We'd had terrible winds all day and some power lines must have gotten knocked down. I immediately thought about two blog posts I had read in the morning. Needs vs. Wants: Do you know the difference? by BlackGirlinMaine and especially Drowning in Problems by Keep It Trill who in that post wrote that given the current economic excrement heap we find ourselves in, "a third to half of us may be lucky to have Internet service next year."

I so totally recognize so many of the luxuries we have been mindlessly enjoying living in America. When I came home to find out that the electricity was out, I didn't think about the food in the fridge spoiling or the boiler and water heater not being able to work (actual necessities)--I thought about THE INTERNET not working.

I had a good chuckle at myself. I hadn't thought about KIT's words until I came home and there was no internet. I *just* paid a HEFTY Con Edison bill (electric and gas). The last thing I was looking for was interrupted service. I almost got out my corded phone to call somebody and demand answers. So could it be that we could go on paying our bills, our taxes and just one day *poof* those services disappeared? Who could we talk to? What could we do? As it is, Con Ed has us by the nutsack. How can you dispute what they say? Can you physically go out there and fix things when they break? Nope.

I remember learning when I visited Nigeria last that paying your bills was no guarantee that your electricity would work and that going to work was no guarantee that you'd be paid. Being in Ghana taught me that there is a fundamental difference living in the U.S. and living in "the third world": realness. In Ghana, when the electricity got caught off, I immediately thought about my food that would most likely spoil in the fridge. I noticed how little folks actually relied on the fridge. Food was cooked daily and hardly anything was stored in the ice box. I noticed that I started to buy food that wouldn't spoil easily and food that I actually intended on eating very soon. That's real. I noticed so many unfinished houses and rickety, hooptie cars. No, roads weren't filled with late model cars and I certainly saw no Hummers. But folks really owned what they live in and drive. In Nigeria, I learned, being wasteful with water would mean you were at the mercy of whoever delivered the water to cook, bathe, etc . . . real. That's what's lacking most living here: instead of being focused on real stuff, we worry about illusory things like the internet.

Anyway, I don't have cable. I don't have fancy clothes or many fancy things. In most ways, I'm very practical and I live as humbly as I can. I often think I'd be okay if my family and I had a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear and a little tiny extra to make life special sometimes. But I sure do love my high speed internet. I'm too attached to it. Even sometimes I think addicted. I need it. I know it would do me good to do a week long detox. Even the one day break I take on Saturday is not enough. I need to purge a little more than that. So that in the event that internet gets cut off, I won't have to go through forced withdrawal. I want to be able to take note, miss it, and go crochet or knit (activities that I often neglect in favor of the net). I feel the same way about my car but to a lesser extent because with small children, not having a car would really challenge my mobility especially in the winter. But still, every so often I walk a distance that is a little less than comfortable, that would be much more easily done driving, just to remind myself.

I don't really talk about politics too much or get too up in arms about what's going on in Washington. I know, though, that the "bail out" is not going to get us out of this. Certain things I just have always known and don't surprise me--like that they were going to try to do a bail out. When a ship is sinking, you have to be wise enough to put on your life jacket, blow up your inflatable raft and abandon ship. Sometimes talking about politics and personalities is just a distraction from getting your own stuff together--figuring out what to do now that you know the ship is really sinking; devising a good plan that will potentially work no matter who is in office or how hard others are bailing water and pretending the thing is not sprouting holes everywhere. Preparing for the worst while hoping for the best--even if the only best that can be hoped for is good food, clean water, a roof, and some clothes.

And the hubby and I agree: if things get so bad, if the U.S. turns back into a developing nation, we'll be on the first thing smoking back to Nigeria (or Ghana). Because without the opportunity the U.S. offers, there is nothing, just nothing for which to stay here. If the dreams of all these racist folks who hope Obama fails come true, they can certainly have what's left.

These are challenging times we're in and that means that we have to be willing to personally challenge ourselves? Are you up the challenge?

Suggested Reading: Poverty of Imagination.


Photo Credit: Playing on the Computer by fd on Flickr

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Affirmation for My Child's Health

I wrote this affirmation a few years ago. In that year, Z1 fell down stairs and broke his clavicle (collarbone). He also ran his first really high grade fever. To bring it down, I put garlic on his little feet. I guess I didn't put enough oil on his feet first and the garlic blistered them. The fever came down but he was so uncomfortable and didn't want to walk. No mother guilt--I was doing the best I knew how or else I would have done better. Anyway, the kids and I are all fighting off a cold right now (cough and congestion). We're taking our Vitamin C, Zinc, thyme/honey cough syrup but I'm also affirming our quick recovery.

An Affirmation for My Child's Health
My child is a radiant, beautiful, spiritual light being
Housed in a healthy and strong body
His body has the awesome ability to heal itself
I know instinctively how to promote and encourage that healing
His immune system is supported by my powerful thought energy
It easily and effectively fights off dis-ease and illness
Jah within guides me on how to feed him, discipline him, medicate him
I listen.
I focus on nothing but his perfect health.
I block out all fear.
I don't base my reality on what I see but on what I know inside
My child is a radiant, beautiful, spiritual light being
Housed in a healthy and strong body
Four Hearts in One Picture by Nicole. on Flickr.com

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Perfect Health Can Be Yours!!

Or can it?

As I was leaving the library the other day, I caught sight of a book by Deepak Chopra called Perfect Health: The Complete Mind Body Guide. I borrowed the book not because I was deeply interested but just out of curiosity.

The first chapter starts:
"There exists in every person a place that is free from disease, that never feels pain, that cannot age or die. When you go to this place, limitations which all of us accept cease to exist. They are not even entertained as a possibility.

This is the place called perfect health."

I suppose Chopra believes his book will be the guide that will lead readers to that place.

I couldn't help the feeling. Bordering on anger but more so skepticism. Vigorous skepticism.

I haven't read through the book so maybe I'm not being fair. I'll accept that.

I need to know: are we talking about real perfect health physically where I don't have any ailments or issues or are we talking about experiencing perfect health in spite of our issues? Are we talking about perception here? I can get with that. But from the back of the book, it seems Chopra is talking about really transcending our "ordinary limitations" and achieving perfect health, i.e. actually having no disease/illness at all.

I thought to myself, why the skepticism? Don't you believe that you can be perfectly healthy?

And then I realized that I don't. This might be defeatist thinking at it's finest but I just don't.

The hubby thinks it's possible if you can figure out the foods you are supposed to eat and then go live where those things grow locally. He thinks where those foods grow is probably where you'd feel most alive and you'd be able to heal quickly and overall enjoy perfect health. I can get with that.

But I guess at this point I'm tired of the "gurus" telling me how to achieve this or achieve that. It seems too complex, human beings are so different and so unique that, it seems, there's no one way to health. Even though Chopra breaks down four different groups that we all could fall under, I found that I didn't quite fit neatly into any group. If he's basing his recommendations for perfect health on what group you belong to and I don't fit into any group, what then?

Okay, I haven't read the book yet so I might be unduly critical but still. Sometimes I feel this is all a game using people's desperation to be well to make these "health experts" wealthy. It's kind of a dark place for me to be in but I've been on this road to illusory perfect health for years now and, alas, I feel further from it now than I was when I started down the road.

Anyway, I don't know if there's such a thing as perfect health while we inhabit our human bodies. We don't live in a bubble. We live in a world that can sometimes be very toxic to us. Even the air we breathe. We contend with our genetics that pre-dispose us to certain chronic conditions. We have handicaps and disabilities. Would a wheelchair bound individual still qualify as an example of perfect health if he follows this book to a tee but never walks? Is that perfect health? What about someone who is deaf but never regains her hearing? Perfect health there? And furthermore, I tend to think that the set of challenges we face genetically or through circumstance help us to reach a higher place. In terms of reincarnation, if you believe in it, we work through and resolve issues to break the cycle. Is this higher place what Chopra means? Does he think we can experience that right now?

I guess I want to believe that changing diet and eating better (better for your own specific body) can reverse certain illnesses/conditions. Maybe I haven't found the right combination to make me truly believe. I don't have a testimony. What I can honestly attest to is that I.am.pooped. And almost at my wit's end. I almost feel like I just better learn to live joyfully and vibrantly in spite of the issues instead of obsessing about getting rid of them.

So I guess I don't believe perfect health can be achieved while in the flesh. I like to think we can work to try to get as close to perfect health as we can. And of course what I consider to be as close to perfect health might not be what another person considers perfect health.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Whose job is it to teach you what you need to know?

So I was conversing with my sistren on her blog entitled "I'm Confused" about the current economic times and possible solutions. As we discussed, she brought up a very valid point: "Our education system sucks. We don't teach financial literacy in schools."

I wonder when parents send their children to school what they think the school is responsible for doing. I had a professor once who likened school to an emergency room. You, the injured person should not have to be a doctor to get world class, professional treatment. Likewise, parents shouldn't have to do anything special to get their children a world class education. Back then I totally agreed. These days, however, I am more inclined to think that school is more like going to your regular doctor and not the emergency room. I personally believe that if you are ill, you should have at least some idea going about what it could be. When you are diagnosed, you should be very aware of the treatment options and the side effects of each option. You should be free to say this is not working or I'm not comfortable with that treatment. And you should be free to go to another doctor without penalty or guilt fairly easily. You should have a say and power in your own health and treatment.

The same goes for education. Most of us don't vote on curriculums or dictate what should be taught. Even though so many of us agree that having Black history relegated to the shortest month of the year is an affront, we can also agree that unless we're willing to go to Albany with a brand new curriculum we drew up, that's not going to change. If you want your children to know Black history or any other history aside from the standard spiel, you're going to have to do it. Now, I will say that many parents do take an active stand to ensure the quality of children's education. In poorer neighborhoods, however, this is rarely the case. I know, I know, these parents sometimes work 2 and 3 jobs. Many mothers are single and all that. I get it. But I'm going to be a little hardline here and say one word: priorities. You may not be able to make every single PTA meeting but you can make some and you can call and ask for the minutes of the meeting. You can drop in every once in a long while or call or e-mail to let the teacher know, "Look, I'm busy but I care." My local school here of over 500 students has a hard time pulling 25 parents for the PTA. Will my sons be going to that school? No way. But I digress.

What exactly do we expect schools to teach our children? What did it teach you? Yes, I learned to read and write but not everyone who graduated with me could. Did I learn to think critically? No. Did I learn any valuable life skills? No. I graduated from high school to go to college. Graduated from college to get a job. When I didn't get a good enough job, went back to school to get another job. Even graduate school where I was supposed to be getting trained specifically to be a teacher did not prepare me for teaching. I would have been much better equipped to have spent those years learning from a master teacher. Because there's more to teaching than curriculum and lesson plans. How does your child psychology class translate to when you're in front of 30 kids?

So, it's safe to say that school kind of prepares us to get jobs. That's it. The rest, well, it's up to you.

I'm not the originator of that idea either. If there's nothing else I got out of graduate school, it was that public schools were originally conceived as places where everyone could get blended into the fabric of American society, in other words, Americanized. Get with the program. Being Americanized meant embracing the American dream, the idea that you work hard, so hard and then you enjoy. We all know that's not necessarily true but it keeps the system running nicely. Keeps those on top securely on top and those on the bottom securely on the bottom. School has always served a political purpose. And politics go hand in hand with economics.

So why would schools then start to teach us financial literacy? We can't even get schools to teach the histories of all peoples, to empower students in that way. If schools all of a sudden started teaching people how the economy really works, how to be financially literate, how to make sound money decisions, who would this system prey on? Whose blood could it suck? If we all knew a couple of years ago what a bubble we were in and all decided back then to remove ourselves from the bubble, start spending real money, start sowing in order to reap, it never could have gotten so out of hand. But we didn't. Most of us have never learned because that's not what school was set up to do. And we've never critically looked at the school structure to determine exactly what the point is, to realize what it can't and won't do for us.

I don't believe that school truly educates. We learn there. We learn facts. But we are not educated to become thinking, critically thinking adults. It's why Fox News exists. It's why all news that shamelessly distorts the truth or makes glaring omissions still exist. And why most of us suck it all in without a second thought. We've never been educated to understand that everything, big and small, needs a second thought.

I'm certainly not anti-school because my sons may need to go to school one day. I'd prefer a charter school or another type of private school with a different focus and a different, clear mission that I agree with. But if it is that public school ends up the only option, I know that I have my work cut out for me in terms of educating my sons. I tend to think that folks who never did well in school didn't do well because they couldn't be boxed in, couldn't get with factory schooling, i.e. put "x" into a child and get "y" out. For young Black boys, especially, this formula has been failing over and over again. I cannot simply depend on schools to teach them what they need to be successful in this world. No one should, really.

So whose job is it to teach you what you need to know? It seems like today we are realizing quite painfully that ignorance is not an option anymore. Each one of us is responsible to a very large degree for getting and assimilating the information we need to make it. We know we've been used as pawns in this system. And we've allowed ourselves to be for the promise of the American dream. But today we have to refuse to be victimized anymore, look at everything with intense scrutiny, open up our minds and for once, not be afraid to think. Not be afraid to embrace critical thought. Even if it's painful and even if it hurts our pride.

It's our job to teach ourselves what we need to know to survive.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Book Review: Fledgling by Octavia Butler

Fledgling* was a great read. Certainly not the best from Ms. Butler, in my opinion, but definitely a masterfully written book. I don't know that I'll do a very good summary of the book because of time constraints so I'll direct those interested to read the Amazon.com reviews of the work in addition to what I write here.

As usual, Octavia Butler tackles the issues of racism in unique and thought-provoking ways. In this book, racism crosses over species in that vampires are a completely different species than humans but still have the same human problem of discrimination against darker-hued people. But I think the issues of racism and species purity got conflated a bit. Shori, the main character, is a genetic experiment who through genetic modification has darker skin and therefore can be awake and alert during the day. This is bothersome to pure "Ina" (vampires). And I couldn't say I blamed them. If it's true that the fittest survive, Shori represented the ultimate "evolution" for the Ina and in time, I could see how Shori's offspring could eventually wipe out pure Ina. As an Igbo girl, I grew up knowing that my folks would like to see me with an Igbo man so that the tradition, culture, language and Igbo understanding could go on in my children. By marrying an American, there is no guarantee of that. Now, the fact that the modification is that she is Black, I think, complicates things in an interesting way. This aspect of the story stays true to Ms. Butler's style and motivation. And honestly, it is quite nice when the protagonist is Black but doesn't really need to be for the story to potentially work.

I guess this is the question that begs to be asked: Is Shori really Ina? She's been genetically altered, her genes mixed with human genes? What percentage of you has to a certain thing for you to qualify? Half? 1/3rd? 1/8th? This question has been posed time and time again in U.S. history as African-Americans have struggled to find their place in this society. And as this society struggles to place (or displace) those of African descent, i.e. Black people. How do you perceive and categorize someone who is a mixture of races? Especially if your treatment of people depends entirely on how you have perceived and categorized them?

I liked the story for other reasons: Ms. Butler works hard to break up the mythology of vampires and re-makes them as the victims of bigotry, hatred and misunderstanding. It's interesting then, that any Ina would then engage in the same kind of thing toward a darker Ina and I wonder if Shori had been pale like most Ina yet still had the same ability to be alert during the day, would the Ina still have objected so violently? I think so. It's also interesting to note the varying attitudes the Ina have toward their symbionts, that is, humans who they have bitten and need in order to stay alive. When humans become symbionts, they live much longer than ordinary humans and also do not get sick or hurt as easily. Symbionts, in my opinion, do not get a real choice because once bitten, most get hooked psychologically by the Ina venom and then eventually they get hooked physically. If their Ina dies, they will most likely die too. It seemed to me a form of slavery where the enslaved didn't seem to mind too much because of the pleasure and perks they derived from being symbionts. However, some Ina are condescending to or think nothing of symbionts and this brought up many issues and questions in my mind. This is what I love about Ms. Butler.

There were two little things that bothered me in this novel though I must say. Shori supposedly looks like a pre-pubescent girl. Yet grown men are sleeping with her. Now, I know she's Ina and actually 53 years old but still . . . a little disconcerting to me. The other thing that really annoyed me with this novel is that is poorly, poorly edited. There are missing words galore. Well, maybe not galore but to me, it was enough to get an eye roll.

All in all, this was an excellent (and quick) read like all of Ms. Butler's work. I am yet to be disappointed although I don't think I ever will be. I'm even recommending it to the hubby who is not a reader but loves vampire stories (he's a Blood Banker too which is hilarious and also a little . . . ummm . . . )

*I've linked to the full text of Fledgling. Also, check out Bloodchild and Other Stories. Bloodchild was the first Octavia Butler work I read.
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