Entries from March 2009 ↓

Baby Jo In Three?


The Baby Jo Project now has five interested parties: all people who understand that a first line of defense against the ravages of poverty, child abuse, addiction, crime and other related social problems is probably pre-natal.  I say probably because I’m not sure. 

A first step feels to me like widespride acknowledgement that the problem is everybody’s problem.  Everybody will never acknowledge such a thing, but if most people, or even a huge activist minority, recognize that a prime source of crime, addiction, and related social ills could simply be addressed by stronger partnerships with mothers and fathers, when fathers are present in the lives of their children, that might be enough.

It feels to me as though it will take at least three years to get this off the ground.  We will need a community-based group (five interested parties, at present, live in three different communities,) more interested people, money, a strong vision and organizational structure.  These are all doable in the context of the resources available.  Private inviduals will have to gather and make the first moves, but that could happen in the next few months.  The model would be similar to Youth Empowerment, a nonprofit I helped found in 1996 that seeks to provide a wide range of services to at-risk kids.  One key is the word “wide.”  If we do not address the needs of pregnant moms nutritionally, socially, medically, financially, in every way imaginable, we risk dishonoring these women who would have to be treated like partners, not recipients of our charity.   Baby Jo’s mama deserves the same chances as every other mama.

Jo is a Scrabble word, Scandanavian in origin.  It means sweetheart.  The object of the project would be to make very baby the sweetheart of a wide network of care givers and encouragers, so that Baby Jo will grow up believing he or she is capable of the best possible life.  Keep an eye here.  It’s a big dream.

This Rain Is Good

People say a great deal about who they are with their attitude toward rain.  When Nanci Griffith lamented “Trouble In These Fields,” one of her complaints was against city dwellers who hope it never rains.  At the risk of a huge, “duh,” if it never rains, we will die.

The beautiful Christine who cries at Rocky’s Automotive in Forest City every time she talks about donating her hair to “Locks of Hope,” smiled the other day and asked, “Isn’t this rain wonderful?”  In two years back in the foothills of North Carolina, there has not been five straight days of rain before now.  Crops have died in the fields.  Farmers have carried extra debt to feed their cattle.   Drought has dogged our steps like some monster.

Sure, it’s no fun to run from the car to the house or the office or the store dodging mud puddles and having to wipe our glasses after a down pour, but what is that compared to having our water supply threatened?  Last summer, city officials in Atlanta began looking for sources of drinking water hundreds of miles away.  Asheville has been in a state of drought for over a decade.

It is striking to me that there are so few Christines in the world, so many people who do not understand how good this rain is.  “Boy, I sure hope it’s pretty this weekend,” still echoes around with a slightly insane undertone.  Pretty weather is a lovely thing.  Rain is our life blood, at the risk of overstaing the obvious.   Bless your heart, Christine.

And how about we drive less, consume fewer carbon fuels, consume less of everything in the hope of reducing greenhouse gasses that cause drought?  Well, yes, that too.

Weekend of Dreams Come True


One of the toughest lessons I have learned: everybody I like doesn’t like everybody I like.  It has shocked me and dismayed me and discouraged me for more than 40 years.  I used to believe that by pairing up wonderful, creative, magical, amazing people, and pairing up those pairs and introducing those foursomes to other foursomes, that pretty soon we would heal the planet.

Now, as both my hair and teeth are falling out, and my hair has turned the color of snow, I’m seeing, for the umpteenth time, how wrong that can be.

But sometimes it can be right.

This weekend I spent Thursday night, all of Friday and Saturday, and a good chunk of Sunday with Ilana Dubester and Gary Phillips, two of my favorite people.  Gabriele, my beautiful and amazing girlfriend, made it a foursome.  We played cards and Scrabble, including a Saturday night card game with Gary’s son, Jesse.  We also participated in a fund raiser Saturday night for Family Violence and Rape Crisis, a Pittsboro group that provides basic services to one of our most vulnerable populations, women and children who have been beaten and/or sexually assaulted.  I don’t know yet how much money we raised, but I was able to give $100 out of book sales, covered my expenses, and we likely rasied several hundred more.

It took the magic of bringing together people who may not like each other, but decided to work together for that one night.  Patty Dorian and her husband, Eino, were there.  Patty has been one of the sheroes of the women’s movement, and her presence there, along with Eino’s, didn’t just swell the crowd, but it brought her special brand of class and compassion.  The Sacrifical Poets, a Chapel Hill poetry team, were there, and Cain, C.J. and G. for George certainly rocked the house.  Young musicians: Austin McCall, E. Baldwin, and Ben Pates brought a special brand of energy to the evening that kept it high and glorious. 

Gary and I anchored the show with reading and singing that seemed to please the crowd.  FVRC co-directors Cathy Hodges and Jo Sanders added their presence, work, and love, along with other staff and volunteers from the agency.  Melody Troncale, who has left the agency to become a United Methodist Minister, gave of her time and energy in ways that lifted the results far beyond my expectations.   W.I.N.G.S., a group of Women In Nice Gowns, opened the show with dance and movement that left the crowd begging for more.  It could not have been wonderful for me, and others echoed the sentiment.

The following day, Gabriele and I sat with Carrie Bolton and Jock Lauterer to talk about a project to launch a new community newspaper to serve another at-risk population , a project Jock is shepherding.  Bolton is a veteran community organizer and community-based minister who has impacted the lifes of young and old through summer camps, day care services, and other outgrowths of her church work.  Listening to the two of them talk, I was stricken by the similarities of their dreams in using their talents to benefit the community at large.  Each is a larger than life character who has given nearly a lifetime to raising standards of community co-operation.  The same can be said of Dubester, Phillips, Dorian, Sanders, Hodges, Troncale, and a dozen other people who crossed my path this good weekend, this weekend of dreams coming true.

Allowing May Be The Key

Does life happen to us or do we happen to it?  Are we masters of our fate or ping pong balls on the ocean of life?  The conclusion I keep coming to makes no logical sense.  It feels like both to me.

Gabriele and I drove around in the aftermath of the big March 1 and 2 snow.  We discussed Neal Donald Walsch’s idea, shared by many, that we make our lives happen.  We not only choose our parents before birth, but we create, in concert with those around us, the scenes of our lives.  The New Age language contends we “draw to us,” the circumstancs of our lives.  As we were talking about “drawing to us,” the circumstances, a giant chunk of snow fell from a tree and smashed into our car.  Gabriele laughed as if to say, “There you go.  You drew that chunk of snow.”

But Byron Katie and my beloved college professor, Dr. Earl Crow, hold to the other camp.  Life happens to us.  We are ping pong balls on the ocean of life.  We could no more draw a chunk of snow off a tree than we could fly to the moon, based on our will, our desires, our subconscious thoughts.  We are pin cushions for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Holding to that second idea, it feels to me as though I (and I am not recommending this for you, unless it feels good to you,) would do well to do more allowing and less willing, desiring, checking my subconscious thoughts for evidence of elements that might draw snow chunks.  Snow chunks happen.  My allowing creates a space within my emotions to neither resist the snow chunk nor celebrate it, but rather to “just be,” in the wake of its crashing and splattering all over my car.  Gabriele likes to call herself, “the queen bee of the just be cause.”  Early on in our getting to know each other, I would say that I needed to figure something out.  She would say, “don’t figure anything out.  Just be.”

That is what allowing feels like, letting life be as I am myself, just being.  It feels like a lack of resistance.  I sell what books I sell, do the gigs I do, sell the ads I sell, take the care I can of Luke, Gabriele, my parents, my friends, whomever, whenever, whatever.  Life in such patterns is not a check list.  It is more a ride on the waves.  We let it happen rather than making it happen.  It happens to us.  We do not happen to it.

Twenty-seven years ago I said to a friend, “All that is needed is provided else all that is would not be.”  He said, “How can you believe that and run around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to care for your family, battered women, your job, your books, doing whatever to save the world, and I have an aunt who believes it and sits on a couch and waits for somebody to take care of her?”  Maybe there was something in both of us that was just allowing whatever, whenever.  Who knows?  What do you think?