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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2003
After a long--seven art classes--enjoyable day at school, and a restful hour sitting in my scooter out by the lake, I found myself in an unexpected whirlwind of creative activity. About 7 PM I checked out my favorite alternative news source--commondreams.org--and discovered a wonderful article reprinted from today's Independent/UK about the U.S. Immigrant Worker Freedom Riders. As I read it, I saw that three of the five songs we Raging Grannis had planned to sing at this Saturday's rally and dinner for 135 of the Freedom Riders were not really appropriate. Nowhere in the article or on their web site were mentioned the Patriot Act or Ashcroft or unjust detentions. So I set to work changing songs so they would better address the Immigrant Workers' concerns. It's now 11:30 PM and I think I've done it. But before I share my three adapted songs with you, I'm going to sleep on it. Sometimes songs that sound great right after you've finished writing them, need more work in the morning.
I sure am grateful that I saw that article. It wouldn't have been too cool to stand up with ten Raging Grannies singing songs that meant little to our audience. These folks deserve the best we can give them!
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2003
Well, there wasn't too much to change when I looked at the songs I'd written last night for Saturday's Immigrant Worker Freedom Riders rally and dinner. The best news was that I found a way to use their rallying cry, "Si se puede!" ("Yes, we can!") in one of the songs. Here are the five songs we plan to sing.
In addition to preparing for the Freedom Rider's event, I had emails to respond to from journalists in Brazil who are doing a story on the Raging Grannies. We'd had an in-depth online interview several months ago, and now they're wanting more information and higher resolution copies of the photos I'd sent them to accompany the article. I've received at least six emails from Joanna of Globo Press - Editora Globo in the last two days. She says their deadline is approaching.
After a morning devoted to Raging Grannies business, I scooted a mile to have lunch with my friends, Joan and Brigitte, at a local restaurant. What intelligent, informed, interesting women! We first met at a water aerobics class three years ago and have been friends ever since. Their perspectives on things are often a shade different from my own, meaning I always learn something. The best kind of friends to have.
On my way home I stopped at Ed's office and invited him to join me at the new Italian gelato shop nearby. We shared a large cup of coconut and lemon gelato. Delectable! Ed then walked home with me. We took the lake route. Every moment outside now seems so precious. Autumn does that.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2003
Granny Kathy says I say this after every Raging Grannies gig, but I don't care. This was the most deeply touching event I can ever remember. And one moment in particular. It was soon after the Immigrant Worker Freedom Riders had gotten off their buses and joined the crowd gathered around a flatbed truck with a sound system in an open field in Dearborn, Michigan. There were three busloads of women, men and children who had left Chicago this morning on their way to Washington, DC and then on to New York. Flags were waving, people were smiling and everyone was cheering. The Raging Grannies were introduced and we began to sing.
Well. It is one thing to sing in front of crowds when you're up on a stage or marching on the street, and quite another to sing to people who are so closely gathered around you that you could touch them. I'd introduced our songs by saying how honored we were to be with them today, and that we had written these songs especially for them. Even though many of the Freedom Riders speak Spanish and very little English, it didn't seem to matter. Somehow they seemed to know exactly what we were saying (singing) and often stopped us with cheers, and smiled with the biggest grins you could ever imagine. When we sang the Saints Go Marching In--with lyrics written for them--everyone sang along. Granny Charlotte had had a great idea and that was to write each verse on poster board and have the Grannies hold each one up when it came time to sing it. It worked wonderfully well. After we'd sung our two songs--a new one by Granny Kim called "You've Been Loading Up the Buses", and the Saints song--countless Freedom Riders came up to have their pictures taken with us. Several women hugged and kissed us. One came up, hugged me and said, "I knew God was with us when I saw you Grannies giving us so much love."
I will never be able to describe the beauty of these people. But a few of the pictures I took--#1, #2, #3--give some idea. Their beauty was so much more than physical. Whenever you are around persons of courage and strength, especially those who are putting their lives on the line for a matter of principle--as many of these undocumented workers are doing--you can feel it. I would imagine the original Freedom Riders during the 60s looked and felt much like the people we met today. What a privilege it was to be in their presence.
I have more photos, but it is now almost 1 AM and I must go to bed. The story continues tomorrow...
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2003
My stories and photos from yesterday's Immigrant Worker Freedom Riders rally and dinner will have to wait. Today ended up being a non-computer day. I slept in, not surprisingly since I didn't go to bed last night until after 1 AM. Then our friend Bill Mackey brought over Tom, the carpenter with whom he works, to look over our outside ramp and inside stair-lift construction jobs. The good news was that Tom said it all seemed pretty straight-forward. But we'll probably have to wait for him to work us into his schedule. He said that he's been working 56-hour weeks, so time is an issue. But he certainly seems worth waiting for.
Soon after that, Pat Kolon and her daughter Emily came over for a late lunch visit. Today is Pat's 60th birthday so we had a lovely celebration. Here's her birthday portrait in her new earrings and jacket.
Next it was time for a good long nap. I woke up at 7:15 PM, spent some time preparing the Freedom Riders photos, and then watched part of a video with Eddie. It isn't even midnight but I'll soon be off to bed. I always need a lot of sleep after intense Raging Grannies' events like yesterday. They're exhausting, yes, but so much what I want to be doing with my time and energy. As I was slipping off to sleep this afternoon I recalled with gratitude that it was my mother who indirectly introduced me to Kathy, with whom I co-founded the Raging Grannies Without Borders last November. It was last October that I made an unexpected trip to Washington, DC to be with Mom who had developed pneumonia. And it was during that trip that I went into town for the large October 25th anti-war demonstration, heard the Raging Grannies of Rochester, NY sing, fell in love with them, met Kathy Russell from Michigan who was singing with them, and agreed to help her start a Raging Grannies gaggle in Detroit. When I think of it now, it has an air of wonder and mystery. And I ask myself, where would I be in these trying times without the Raging Grannies? I can't imagine.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2003
I haven't done so much "doctoring" since my head went through a windshield in 1966. Two doctor's appointments, two x-rays and one MRI in three weeks. Enough already!
Today I went back to the orthopedic surgeon to see how my broken tibia is healing and to get the results of the MRI. I also took the opportunity to give him a copy of my letter to the MRI clinic that put me through such torture, and a cover letter that explained the cost differential between getting an MRI at that clinic and the hospital clinic he'd recommended. I could tell he was dismayed at both pieces of information, but what obviously shocked him the most was that an MRI at his hosptial cost $1100 more than the same test at the other clinic.
I expect it's rare that patients question the cost of such tests, simply because their medical insurance covers it. So in this case, it proved to be an advantage that we had such a high deductible that we knew this was coming out of our own pocket. Not only that, but our willingness to comparison shop certainly paid off. Another interesting fact was that when Ed talked to the clinic about their cost, the woman to whom he spoke said she'd knock off $400 if we paid it outright. Interesting.
Regarding my ankle, the doctor said the bone had healed nicely, but he still wanted me to wear the brace for a few more weeks. By the way, I certainly am happy I didn't go to him right after my fall. He told me today that the normal procedure would have been to put on a regular cast for four weeks, a walking cast for the next four weeks, and then a brace for the final four weeks. What a nightmare that would have been! And I'm sure I healed just as quickly without eight weeks of casts. Actually today was the two month anniversary of my fall.
The MRI showed a healthy knee. When we discussed the possiblity of a knee brace, he said the only kind that would keep my knee from buckling would also keep it from bending. It would entail steel braces that would go from under my feet to mid-thigh, and would lock so that my knee couldn't buckle. We both agreed that would not work for me at all. I asked if he though physical therapy might help, and he wrote a prescription with a smile. "It's kind of like chicken soup," he said, "it can't hurt." So I'll try it.
I celebrated by swimming 26 lengths of the 25' middle school pool. My knees feel perfectly fine in the water, thank you very much. Wonder if I could become a mermaid?
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2003
Can you believe it is already the last day of September? Where did this precious month go?
I spent much of the day preparing the Raging Grannies/Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride photo album. The photos bring it back so vividly. That was an extrardinary event; one I will not forget. That feeling seems to be shared by Granny Vicki of the Rochester, NY Raging Grannies. She wrote the following in an email to me this evening:
Our rage this morning with "your" Chicago Freedom Riders was one of our more stirring moments as Raging Grannies. It was awesome to hear them exclaim as we walked in, "The Grannies are here!" Thanks to you Grannies Without Borders, we were familiar friends before we even met them. (Many thought we were one and the same and we had to explain that we hadn't followed their buses from Detroit....) I encouraged some of the women to start a gaggle in Chicago when they get home.
Yesterday and today I worked on another most important job, and that was going through the papers that were threatening to take over my computer table...and it's a BIG table! But look at it now. That's about as organized as things ever get around here. I found something interesting down at the bottom of one of my piles--the first chapters of the book of journal entries that I started in June 2002. I'd forgotten all about that. If life slowed down I might get back to it, but somehow other things are more at the forefront of my attention these days. Among them, politics and how such things impact the world in which we live.
Yesterday I sent out another of my political group emails, this one about the "outing" of a CIA covert operative and how it appears to be the work of--or at least to have the stamp of approval of--the man in Bush's White House who, to me, is the most dangerous man in power, Karl Rove. Today I read another article--this one from Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now" radio show--that expands on the seriousness of this situation. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Did I ever show you my new photo collage that I use on my computer's desktop? If not, here it is. I make these to remind myself of all the wonder that my life holds. It makes me smile every time I open up my computer.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 1,2003
Except for tonight's swim, this was a day of tying up loose ends. I finally updated the Raging Grannies online journal with entries of two events I'd missed on August 3 and August 6. I sent out an email to the Grannies telling them of upcoming events and sharing with them about last Saturday's Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride rally and dinner. I explored hotel options online for the weekend of the mass march to End the Occupation/Bring the Troops Home Now in Washington, DC on October 25. Pat Kolon and I are driving together and will do as we did for the January 18 mass march against the war in Iraq. We'll leave Detroit on Thursday afternoon, drive five hours and spend that night at our old friend, the Cranberry Township, PA Red Roof Inn. After another five-hour drive on Friday, we'll arrive in Washington, DC in the mid-afternoon. I have a dinner date with my sister Carolyn that night, and then Saturday will be the rally and march. We plan to drive back home on Sunday. I found us a reasonably-priced hotel a half mile from the Washington Monument, which is the site of the rally. Granny Vicki and the Rochester, NY Raging Grannies will be in DC too, so we've already arranged where we'll meet on Saturday morning. So far, Granny Kathy is the only other Raging Granny from our gaggle who's planning to attend--she takes the overnight bus, heroic woman that she is--but maybe more will decide to go between now and then. Grannies Charlotte and Magi, who usually travel to DC for such rallies, will be staying in Detroit that weekend to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of the Michigan Grey Panthers. In fact, a good number of our gaggle will be singing at the Grey Panther dinner. But there are enough of us to go around.
I know I tied up some more loose ends today, but for the life of me I can't remember what they were. That means it's time for bed. Night night...
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2003
"Are you still working to end the war?"
This was the first thing Mohammed (not his real name) said as he sat down at the art table today. When I answered yes, he continued,
"My Dad says Bush just went into Iraq for no reason. He says he destroyed everything and now all the people are going to die."
Mohammed is Iraqi, but he's also only ten years old. Who says kids don't know what's going on.
I'm in a very special position in this classroom each week. Not a teacher or even a teacher's aide. Actually more like a grandmother, in age anyway. Not a Muslim or of Arab heritage but interested in learning whatever the kids want to teach me of their language and culture. Not a student but doing the same art assignments they're doing. Sitting there working side-by-side with kindergarteners, second graders and fifth graders, you're apt to hear interesting things...especially if you know when to keep your mouth shut. Like today when a fifth grade boy told the kids at our table that he has two Moms. Someone asked what he meant. He explained in a matter-of-fact voice that he and his brothers had been taken away from their real mother because of drugs and now lived with their aunt. And then there were the second graders who got to talking about how their parents fight. One little girl looked up from her drawing and said "When they do that, I just go down into the basement and turn up the radio real loud so I can't hear them fight."
You never know what's coming next. That's the best part about being with kids. They're right out there. So I always try to listen respectfully, speak truthfully and treat them as deserving of intelligent responses. Which they most certainly are.
Here are two pictures from school--the first of Susan the art teacher reading to the kindergarteners, and the second (filtered so the kids cannot be identified) of the little ones listening to her story.
When I got back home at 4 PM, it was too crisp and beautiful an autumn day to go inside, so I went off for a scoot. On the way I saw a squirrel enjoying a feast in a tree, and the spreading arms of another, much larger, tree out in front of the local high school. And it wasn't just my eyes that savored this beautiful day. My taste buds had a treat as well--Italian gelato at the Gelato Cafe that recently opened next door to Ed's office. A hardworking, friendly young couple, Peggy and Jeff, are the proprietors. They make the gelato every morning using fresh fruit and carefully-measured Italian ingredients. Every flavor I've tasted--lemon, coconut, caramel, banana, English toffee and black walnut--has been delicious. Lemon is my personal favorite so far.
My scoot back home took me along what I call the singing street because it is so wide and smooth that my voice doesn't shake as I scoot along singing. Once home I looked overhead and saw blue skes and clouds framed perfectly by trees. Do you see a heart in it, or is that just me?
My inbox was full of emails, one of which immediately caught my attention. Our youngest O Beautiful Gaia singing sister is Bethany, a high school student who is a gifted singer/songwriter in her own right. She wrote that she is working on a research paper titled "What Role Does Music Play in People's Lives." As part of her research she's asking people to write on "How Has Music Affected My Life." I knew if I put it off I wouldn't get to it, so I just sat down and started writing. This is what emerged.
Writing is such a mystery. It always takes me places I don't expect to go. I would never have imagined all those memories would surface like bubbles rising from deep waters. That's why I keep a journal. It's how I tell my story to myself.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2003
I feel the most encouraged about the state of the nation that I have felt in the years since George W. Bush took office as President. I can just see you shaking your head, dear reader, and saying, "Now she's gone and lost it altogether."
It's not that things are looking up in terms of the ongoing guerrilla war and ill-advised occupation of Iraq, the imperialistic US foreign policy, broken ties with former international partners, the failing economy and job loss rates to rival the Great Depression, the escalating rape of the environment, an epidemic of state budget cuts to education, the largest projected national budget deficit in American history, an acquiescent and often inaccurate media, eroding civil liberties for all, tax cuts that widen the already unimaginable gulf between the rich and poor in this country, a precious few checks and balances on the Executive branch by the Legislative branch, corporate control of just about everything, and an uninformed general public who still wave their flags and think Saddam Hussein orchestrated the attacks of 9-11.
So you see, I haven't lost it altogether. I still see what's going on. But even as all of the above continues to be true, something else is happening. And it is this that gives me hope.
The neo-con coup d'etat that pretended to be a democracy is unravelling like a ball of yarn in the claws of a frisky kitten. Bush & Co. are on their way into the history books. And what is the single most damning example of over-reaching that ushered in their demise? A column written by Robert Novak last July 14 in which he quoted "two senior administration officials" as saying that retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was "a [CIA] agency operative on weapons of mass destruction."
As you may recall, Joseph Wilson had written an Op/Ed article in the New York Times on July 6, in which he told how he had been sent to Niger by the Bush adminstration (Vice-President Cheney, to be exact) to investigate allegations that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from that country, presumably to build nuclear weapons. Wilson's report insisted that claim had no basis in reality. His findings reached the top echelons of the White House and were echoed by the current US ambassador to Niger and a Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces four-star Marine Corps General, but this erroneous claim still showed up as the famous "16 words" in Bush's State of the Union address months later. 16 words that helped get Congress and the American people behind Bush's long-planned pre-emptive attack on Iraq.
So Joe Wilson was obviously persona non grata in the Bush White House after his New York Times Op/Ed article went public. The official response was to issue a statement from the White House that the Niger-Iraq uranium claim should not have appeared in the State of the Union address. The unofficial response was to start a concerted smear campaign against the credibility of retired Ambassador Wilson. At the heart of that campaign were at least 6 cold calls made to journalists in which Joe Wilson's wife was "outed" as a CIA covert operative whose connections had gotten him the Niger assignment for which he was not qualified. Only one of the 6--Robert Novak--chose to go public with the information.
On September 28, the news broke that CIA Director George Tenet had asked the Justice Department to investigate the outing of Agent Plame. Under US law, revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent is a felony punishable by $50,000 in fines and 10 years in jail. Within two days, Karl Rove's name was coming up repeatedly in connection with this investigation. Karl Rove as in the political mastermind behind George W. Bush's unlikely ascendency to the most powerful position in the world. Karl Rove as in the unelected official who sits in on every foreign policy meeting, National Security Council meeting, Cabinet meeting and domestic policy meeting that President Bush attends. Karl Rove whose opinions rule the ship of state.
So here is Attorney General John Ashcroft heading an investigation that involves his old friend and campaign manager, Karl Rove. Is it any wonder that the latest polls say 70% of the American people want a Special Prosecutor assigned to this case? Will Ashcroft give in to their demands and to the growing chorus of voices from Congress who doubt his ability to be an objective investigator in this case? What slimy creatures do the decision-makers in Bush's administration fear would be unearthed if a proper investigation were made?
THIS is what gives me hope! Stay tuned, folks, the best is yet to come.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2003
The great news is that today Tom the carpenter and Bill our building contractor/friend started working on the ramp from our garage into the house! I haven't been downstairs yet to check their progress--Tom just left and it's 8:30 PM!--but Ed says the platform and ramp from the living room onto the screen porch--where the ramp will end--is practically finished. Ed is so cute. He says they told him he could help tomorrow afternoon. He was grinning like a kid when he said it.
It is going to be SO wonderful to be able to get into the house on my own again!! Since I fell and broke my ankle trying to climb our front steps on July 29, dear Ed has had to wheel me up our exceptionally-steep (temporary) ramp in my mother's wheelchair every time I've wanted to enter the house. That's meant my calling him at his office whenever I've wanted to get back in the house after having been out in the car or off on my scooter. He would then have to drive the mile and a half home, wheel me in, and then wheel my scooter in. Ed's been a real champ about it, but this has not exactly been the independence I was used to having. I hope I never take THAT for granted again!
After they complete the ramp and the two doors that require rebuilding--which Tom estimates will take at least four days--they're going to do the construction necessary to make our staircase from the first to the second floor (inside the house) stair-lift ready. After the stair-lift is installed, I'll be able to get up to my beloved bedroom and computer room without having to ask Ed "spot me" for safety. As I say, independence will be grand! But I mustn't count my ramps and stair-lifts before they're built. Tom has a day job so can only work on this project on the weekends. It might take awhile. But at least it has begun!
I was in Windsor, Ontario most of today attending a workshop on the globalization of water. Our O Beautiful Gaia group chose to spend our October meeting time in this way. Now that the CD is completed, we'd like to explore ways to learn about and act upon environmental issues. After all, that's what "Gaia" (the earth) is all about.
The centerpiece of this workshop was a talk given by Eucebio Figueroa Santos, a Mayan community organizer from Peten, Guatemala, and translated by Marcella Braggio, a Canadian who now lives and works in Peten with CIEP (the Center for Investigation and Education). They are touring Southwestern Ontario and Quebec for a month, with the intention of building strong partnerships between their communities and Canadian communities as they educate Northerners about their struggle (la lucha) for community sovereignty in Guatemala. From the information sheet handed out today, we learned that
"On the International Day Against Dams, March 14 of this year, Alianza por la Vida y la Paz de Peten (a collective of organizations of which Eucebio is vice-president) launched an information campaign, "Water, Corn and Land are Ours" (Water in opposition to the privatization of water and dam building. Corn for food sovereignty in terms of self-sufficiency, self-determination and against genetically altered corn. Land for just land distribution) which aims to build resistance to the Plan Puebla Panama. A major focus is the effort to stop the building of hydroelectric dams along the Usumacinta River which runs between Peten and Chiapa, Mexico. The dam would endanger a region of great biological vitality and cultural rlevance. There is also huge opposition to bioprospecting by seed, chemical and pharmaceutical companies."
In relation to water, Eucebio told us that 70% of the diseases in their village are water-borne diseases. The primary polluters of their rivers are multinational companies like Bechtel that operate oil drilling operations in the northern and central parts of Guatemala. We also saw an excellent video that showed the devastation that is brought to villages that are flooded when dams are built. As Eucebio and Marcella said, there has never been a dam that has performed up to capacity. They always fall short of the benefits promised. Besides, there are other ways to generate power. Their organizations are working on alternatives to hydroelectric power, things like solar panels and wind-driven generators.
Throughout the day, our Gaia group was invited to sing. We sang--and led the workshop participants in singing--"The River is Flowing", "The Blessing Song" (before lunch), "No, Nos Moveran", "We Shall Not Be Moved" and "We Shall Be Moved." After the workshop ended, we stayed and sang some more (photo #1, #2, #3, #4).
It was an honor to meet and learn from Eucebio and Marcella. Whenever I am with persons who put their lives on the line for justice--as both of them do every day in Guatemala--I am struck by the human capacity for goodness and truth and courage. They are the ones who give me hope. By the way, if you have questions, want more information or would like to explore the possibility of forming a partnership with Eucebio's and/or Marcella's organizations, you can email Eucebio Figueroa Santos at email@example.com or Marcella Braggio at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are ALL en la lucha!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2003
It's now 6 PM and Tom is still at work. I can hear him hammering as I write this. Or maybe it's Ed hammering; he's out there too. Tom has been at it without a break since noon. And this is a Sunday. I am in awe of his hard work.
And are things ever taking shape! Ed took pictures for me earlier this afternoon. At that point, Tom was just putting in the ramp from our screened porch up into the living room. By 5 PM when I went downstairs to check things out, there was the porch ramp, finished and waiting. Ona and I found it to be perfect! And the cement steps from the courtyard to the old screen door had been removed, the portion of the screen that will become the new door was gone, and the frame of the platform that I'll use to access the ramp from the porch was already in place. Ed's pictures had shown some of this work in progress. He also took a picture of Tom in our garage, his temporary workshop.
Do other carpenters work this hard and accomplish things so quickly? In our 32 years in this old house, we've only had a carpenter in here once before, and that fellow was not particularly fast nor did he do the job as we'd wanted it done. After only two days I can already see why our friend Bill, the building contractor, said Tom is the best he's seen in his years of doing this kind of work. If I remember correctly, he called him a genius. I can see why.
I sit here at my computer, listening to the sounds of saws and hammering--the porch and courtyard are below my window--and feel such deep comfort and gratitude. It's indescribable. There is something very special about knowing my needs are being addressed so tangibly. That's the sign that we are doing this job at the perfect time. Obviously I was good and ready.
To me, this sense of the timing of things is a key to living a disability with grace and good humor. If you get devices before you really need them, then you'll have to deal with feelings of loss. Same thing with making your home handicap-accessible. If you add ramps and stair-lifts before they're really necessary, you're not going to like them. All you're going to be thinking about is how wonderful your house looked before you had to "mess it up." But if you wait until you really need adaptive devices and/or handicap-accessibility in your house, when it happens all you can say is, "Thank you!" That's where I am now, and where I was when I got my first scooter three years ago. All I feel is grateful.
By the way, Tom worked until 8:30 PM! The entire frame of the switchback ramp is in place and some of the planking already laid. WOW!!!
MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2003
When I went out for a scoot about 3:30 PM, I first checked Tom's progress with the ramp. At that point, half of the flooring was completed. I couldn't get a very good angle on the platform where the switchback starts, but did the best I could. Tom wasn't there because he has a day job.
When Ed met me at the Gelato Cafe where I was having a late lunch/early dinner of a greek salad, roll and a peanut butter and banana gelato for dessert, he told me he'd just been home for a few minutes and Tom was already at work. This was about 5:30 PM.
When I returned home from swimming at 9 PM tonight, Tom was still at work! The platform that was merely a frame a few hours before was now completed. There were several posts already standing for the handrails, and he said he only had 10 more slats of wood to saw and hammer in before all the flooring would be done. He stayed until 10:15 PM to finish that part of the job. When I asked what time he'd gone to work this morning--he works for a construction company that has a big contract right now with the Detroit Institute of Arts--he said, "7 AM."
Can you believe this man???!!! And the work he's doing is exquisite. In fact, I never expected this ramp would be beautiful, but it is. It looks like that courtyard was created just for this ramp.
We're still having chilly weather, although the sun is exceptionally bright. You can see that in this picture I took of the high school women's cross country track team out on their daily run. I wore a coat, hat, scarf around my neck, and gloves on my hands on my way home from the swimming pool tonight, and was happy for every bit of it. Tonight's low is supposed to be 40 degrees Farenheidt. But tomorrow starts a warming trend that is going to put us up to 79 degrees on Wednesday, Ed's and my 37th anniversary! We plan to go to Ann Arbor to celebrate.
Yesterday and today I received two links to online articles, photos and a video of the Raging Grannies Without Borders. I hadn't known about any of them. The first is currently on the home page for IndyMedia.org. Under an article about the Immigrant Workers Freedom Riders are links to several videos taken at our Dearborn, MI rally last Saturday. One of these is called "Raging Grannies" and shows us leading the crowd in singing our Immigrant Rights version of the Saints Come Marching In. With my dial-up connection it took a long time to download, but was really fun to watch. The other was a July 31st article about our send-off demonstration in front of the INS for Sulaima and the children on the day they were deported. It was published (with photos) on the World Socialist Web Site.
I'm honored that we Grannies showed up on both of these web sites. It makes me feel that we really ARE making a difference.
Knowing this helped last night when I was dealing with a most unpleasant email encounter with one of the Raging Grannies from our listserv. This listserv allows Grannies from gaggles across Canada and the US to communicate, share songs, forward political articles and calls for action, sometimes brag a bit, and occasionally have intense discussions about Granny business. We've been in the middle of such a discussion of late and it has caused some hurt feelings. This doesn't happen very often, but when it does it can be quite painful. One of the Grannies put me right in the middle of it by writing me a couple of private emails late last night. I didn't sleep very well after having read them. Today an email from another Granny--the one the first Granny said she was "speaking for"--assured me that I had no reason to be concerned; I hadn't written anything that was a problem to her.
How I dislike such miscommunication. Especially intentional miscommunication when one person "speaks for" another, but in fact gets it all wrong. So I let the Granny who had started this whole mess know that I did not appreciate how she'd handled it. Better to say things directly than to stew and fret and hold grudges.
I expect to sleep very well tonight. Not only is that Grannies mess behind me, but so are 30 lengths of the pool. I am good and sleepy.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2003
I spent much of the morning and early afternoon creating a photo collage to give Ed tomorrow on our 37th anniversary. It was surprising how long it took me to find just the pictures I wanted to use, and then to resize and position them. When it was almost finished, I messed up. If I'd been more familar with Adobe PhotoShop, I'm sure I could have fixed it, but I just deleted it and started over. Everything went quicker the second time.
Before going off to his office this morning, Eddie took pictures of the ramp for me. He started with the view from our living room looking out the window to the courtyard. From there he went to the porch--through french doors in the living room--and stood on the platform looking toward the lane. Next he walked down the ramp to the switchback platform and took a picture looking back toward the house. He must have then walked down the ramp and through the garage door (which will be made 6" wider and a new door installed). Here is the view through the existing garage door looking back toward the porch. And finally he went out into the lane beside our house and showed what the ramp looks like from there.
Pretty thorough photographer, I'd say!
Today was such a beautiful day that I couldn't stay inside. About 3 PM I set off on Ona my scooter. A late lunch/early dinner at the Gelato Cafe--at which Ed joined me--was followed by a scoot down to the office supply store about a mile away. Even though most trees are still green, there are a few brilliant reminders that autumn is officially here. But the summer flowers haven't yet given up.
I took the lake route home and was treated to sights of sailboats and a tug pushing a barge.
It's 10 PM and I'm getting ready to go to bed early. Of course Tom the carpenter is still out there working!!!
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2003
I USED THE RAMP!!!!
When I got home tonight after swimming half a mile (!), Tom and Ed were in the garage working. Well, Tom was working and Ed was helping/offering support. Tom said, "Can you get through to get inside?" I answered, "Sure, I just go around to the front door." Then Ed said, "No, Tom means can you get into the garage so you can try the ramp."
Just two hours earlier, I'd stopped to say "Hi" on my way down to swim. At that time, Tom was working on the gate he'd promised to make for Ed. Early mornings when he goes off on his bike rides, Ed likes to leave by way of the porch instead of going out the front door. Tom had promised to make a spring-latch gate so Ed could have the access he was used to. That's one of the great things about Tom; he doesn't seem to mind making changes as he goes along. He's a real creative problem-solver. He's also a true craftsman. For instance, instead of putting up simple wood railings at the end of the platform where the gate would be, he used wooden spindles that make it look much more attractive. He takes great pride in his work.
Anyway, since he was working on the gate, I didn't expect him to get to the garage door tonight. But when I returned home from swimming, not only had he taken out the old door, but he'd widened the opening by six inches, and had already built the frame for the new door. Everything was ready for a trial run.
From the beginning, Tom had been concerned that the turning radius for me to get in and out of both doors, in addition to the switchback platform, was going to be too tight for me to manuver. Bill and I had both assured him that we'd checked it out with a masking tape test run in my living room, and knew that I could handle it. But I think Tom was still worried.
Well, I didn't exactly breeze my way up the ramp that first time, but it didn't take more than two manuvers to make my way through each tight spot. Tom was grinning from ear-to-ear, Ed was practically cheering, and I was jumping up and down in delight in my scooter. We all agreed this was a pretty fine anniversary gift! And then I turned around to try it again. This time I knew where to take wide turns and did the whole thing from up-to-down-and-back-up again without any extra manuvers. WHOOPEE!!!
After my test run, Tom put in the new garage door with its slightly elevated threshold. It's going to make it a bit harder for me to get in and out of the garage, but he has some ideas on how to remedy that. He asked if I'd mind waiting one more day. He wants to take tomorrow off and will finish this part of the job on Friday. Imagine! Tom wants a day off after working ten days in a row and three 15-hour days since Monday! Such a shirker!
Can I wait? Heck, I've waited for a ramp for so long that I just guess I can wait one more day. The main thing is, I DID IT so now I know it's going to work. And I was delighted that Tom got to be there to experience my first run. He was obviously delighted too.
Although the ramp was certainly the highlight, our anniversary was wonderful from beginning to end. And the weather didn't hurt a bit.
After more than a week of unseasonable cold, today was perfect. Sunny, warm (80 degrees F) with brilliant blue skies. Exactly the kind of day it had been 37 years ago when Eddie and I got married. So we celebrated in style. Surprise, surprise--we went to Ann Arbor! I'd like a nickle for every anniversary we've spent there.
Speaking of nickle, well, actually Nickel, we walked through the Nickels Arcade as we have done so many times before. But for the first time I saw its historical marker and learned that it had been built in 1918. Just after World War I.
There are many historical reminders in this city that is home to the University of Michigan. A lot of them are houses that now rent out to students. Ed was enthralled with this house, for instance. There was a "For Rent" sign in the front door. Wonder what the rooms look like.
We walk/scooted down to Main Street and stopped for lunch at my favorite Italian restaurant. It was just the day to eat outside. After lunch we went to a couple of stores looking for a gift for me (Ed's idea). We ended up buying an absolutely adorable--and not a little funky--pair of shoes. They make me smile every time I look at my feet. Thank you, sweet Eddie.
And now I must take my excited self to bed. Tomorrow's a school day.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2003
Today I received several emails from journal readers saying they LOVE my new shoes! In every case, they mentioned how hard it is for them to find shoes--even plain ones--because of their unusual shoe size or width. Well friends, I don't know the last time you tried to buy a pair of women's size 5s. It is well nigh impossible these days. Most shoe stores don't stock anything under a size six-and-a-half. In fact, until yesterday I owned a total of two pairs of shoes--turquoise Birkenstock sandals (my spring/summer/fall casual and dress-up shoes), and a pair of custom-made deep purple leather lace-ups (my winter shoes) that I ordered at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in August 2001 and received in February 2002. So having a pair of new shoes that not only fit but are great looking is extremely unusual for me. I'm also quite taken with the fact that they're slip-ons. Tying my lace-ups has never been easy, and even buckling my Birkies requires that I sit in a low chair or run the risk of toppling over on my head. Yes, slip-ons make a lot of sense. As you can imagine, Susan and the kids at school loved them!
School was lots of fun today. Susan the art teacher has this uncanny ability to come up with assignments that a 61 year-old enjoys as much as 5, 7 and 10 year-olds.
The fifth grade classes are exploring their "world views" during this school year in art. Our first assignment was to draw and then paint in watercolor the place that has the most importance to us. The students choices ranged from their current homes in Dearborn to their former homes in Alabama or West Virginia to their family homes in Lebanon, Palestine or Saudi Arabia to Cedar Park Amusement Park in Ohio to New York City and the Twin Towers. I chose a place from my childhood--the view from the front porch of our beach cottage on an inlet of the Chesapeake Bay. I'd finished my painting last week so was free this morning to join one of the classes in writing about my place, using all five senses and then telling a story about something that had happened there.
In the second grade class we were asked to draw and color the fish in the teacher's new aquarium. I'd started my magic marker drawing last week and finished it with colored pencil today. Then one fifth grade class and the kindergarteners were invited to draw and color the animal that they either already have as a pet or would like to have. I chose a tortoise. This was my preliminary sketch for the fifth grade class and my finished drawing for kindergarten.
I think you can see why I say I had fun today!
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2003
If you had told me last Friday that in only ONE WEEK I'd be riding my new ramp in and out of the house, I wouldn't have believed you. But it happened!!! Tonight at 10 PM we had the final test ride and it was magnificent! Bill, our neighbor/building contractor, just happened to show up as I was preparing to try it out. I must admit I felt under not a little pressure to "perform" as I drove down the ramp for the first time. There were Bill, Tom and Ed watching with keen interest to see how I would manage the tight turns and newly ramped garage door threshold. As was true on Wednesday, my first try was OK, but my second one was much improved. I can actually make those tight turns getting in and out of the doors and around the switchback platform in one try. Getting over the garage door threshold is a little bumpy but it works.
I think you can see by the expressions on Bill's and Tom's faces how they felt about the whole thing. And they weren't the only ones with smiles on their faces. I just have to say, Tom Sape is a master craftsman and Bill Mackey is the best neighbor and building designer/contractor one could ever hope to have. But the one without whom I could have done none of this is my own sweet Eddie. His gentle-spirited, tangible help and support during these difficult months since I broke my ankle has allowed me to regain my independence.
WOW!!! Am I happy!
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2003
The Raging Grannies met here this afternoon for our monthly gathering/rehearsal. What a glorious gaggle of women! I found myself looking around the circle--photos #1, #2, #3, #4--feeling such gratitude that they have come into my life. And I was gratified to learn during our eleventh month assessment--we celebrate our one year anniversary on November 9th--that they share my feelings. Not only that, but they expressed satisfaction with the way we organize, run our meetings, handle our gigs and make decisions as a gaggle. Jeanne's comment--"Why mess with success?"--was echoed by everyone in the circle. So, with a few minor adjustments, we will continue doing what we do as we are accustomed to doing it. A common thread throughout our discussion was the importance of bringing humor and song to the often deadly serious business of addressing what is out of whack in our world and needs to be changed. That's what we Grannies are all about.
What strikes me about our gaggle is how our individual gifts serve the common good. An example is songwriting.
Today GranMotoko brought an original song for the gaggle to sing to our ailing sister, Granny Helen. When she read my email last evening in which I invited our Grannies to stop by Granny Helen's house to sing to her after our meeting today, GranMotoko sat down and wrote the following song for us to sing to her:
To the tune of "I Dream of Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair"
I dream of Helen with
the light brown hair
Dressed in her Granny outfit with flair
I see her tripping where Injustices play
Raging as Big Business Corporations get their way
Many are the strong words her feisty voice does pour
Many are the boycotts she's led o'er and o'er
I dream of Helen with the light brown hair
Raging as a Granny for the causes we share
I long for Helen with
her day-dawn smile
Walking in silence with us single file
I see her sitting in that Methodist pew
Before we carried coffins along Woodward Avenue
Sighing for the victims of war-torn poor Iraq
Sighing for our troops whom we want safely back
I long for Helen and I want her well
Standing tall and singing loud our protests to tell
I wish for Helen who
can change what we write
Making words different, scanning them aright
I see her everywhere the Grannies rage
From Cobo Hall to Oakland U to the Wayne State stage
Many are the times she has stood for peace and right
Solid are the goals for which she'd fearlessly fight
I dream of Helen with the light brown hair
Raging as a Granny for the causes we share
Now, if you weren't feeling well, wouldn't this song perk you up? Especially as sung to you by women who love and admire you. That is true medicine.
GranMotoko, the songwriter, didn't stop there. During today's rehearsal, Granny Charlotte was leading us in songs the gaggle will be singing on October 25 at the 25th anniversary dinner of the Metro Detroit Grey Panthers. Granny Dolores, a member of the planning committee for that event, gave Charlotte several sheets of paper covered with information about medical care issues in Michigan. She said the Grey Panthers wanted the Grannies to make up a new song that addressed these issues and sing it at the dinner. We asked GranMotoko to see what she could do. She went into another room and within twenty minutes had returned with some word changes and a new stanza to an exisiting Granny song that would do the trick. Like magic!
Then there's Granny Charlotte who has written us two wonderful songs about domestic and foreign affairs. Today she asked Grannies Kathy and Emily to join her in singing a song she's written for Presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich, a song she'll be singing at a Kucinich brunch when he comes to town in a week. It cleverly helps people learn how to pronounce Kucinich's name by use of the tune "Doe, A Deer, A Female Deer" from the "Sound of Music"...but the lyrics are original. I think Kucinich will LOVE it!
As the last Granny left at 5:30 PM, our friend Pat Kolon was walking in the door. She and I used my ramp--YIPPEE!!--to go out for a walk/scoot on this beautiful day. We went down to the park and sat by the water in the late afternoon sun. Then we returned home with thoughts of food. After many ideas were bandied back and forth, dear Eddie made us sandwiches--Bulgarian feta cheese on multigrain bread--soup and salad. Pat and I were sitting at the table eating cake for dessert when I heard knocking on our front window. It was Max and Mary, neighbors whom we haven't seen in ages.
They were walking their daughter Elizabeth's dog and pushing their grandson Nicholas in his stroller. They'd seen our lights on through the front window and decided to stop in to say "Hi." Ed led them up the ramp so Nicholas could stay in his stroller--I'd never imagined it being used this way!--and we had a lovely visit. Of course, Grandma and Grandpa are enthralled with seven-month old Nicholas...and so was I. They stayed for about a half an hour.
It's now 10:45 PM and, as you can imagine, I am eager to go to bed. Night, night...
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2003
Ed has always said that close friendships, or even marriages for that matter, need distance as much as togetherness. I remember his saying that in 1994 when I broke off my 25-year friendship with Mary Kay. He was convinced, and has remained convinced for nine years, that it was not a permanent rupture, but rather an ebb that would eventually flow again. He was right.
My friend Mary Kay. How sweet that phrase feels in my mouth. My friend Mary Kay.
We first met in 1969 when Mary Kay was asked to write an article on me for the Detroit Receiving Hospital Service League newsletter. We were both volunteers at the old Receiving Hospital near Greektown; I worked in Pediatrics and she, as the volunteer newsletter editor. After awhile we were on the Service League Board of Directors together. If I remember correctly, our friendship developed partly in reaction to those b-o-r-i-n-g meetings. Mary Kay's wonderful ability to see the larger picture--and the humor in that picture--helped me survive eight years of dealing with a dysfunctional organization so that I could continue to be with the patients and staff whom I loved.
In 1971, Ed and I moved into a neighborhood not far from where Mary Kay and Chuck lived. Our friendship soon moved into the "best friend" category. It's not that we did everything together, but we knew everything that was going on in each other's lives. When my parents would come to town, Mary Kay would often be included in our outings. We shared our challenges, offered listening ears, spoke truth to one another, helped one another see things in perspective, found lots to laugh about, and celebrated successes, large and small. Our friendship was based not so much on our likenesses--we often did things differently and followed different paths--as on our sense of companionship along the way.
But by the early 1990s, our choices were so markedly different that it was becoming hard to find common ground. At that time, my life was undergoing change in just about every area. During a three year period, I became radically politically aware, strongly anti-war (the Gulf War), an on-the-street and artistic activist, an ardent feminist and a post-Christian. In September 1994, I wrote Mary Kay a letter saying that I valued our 25 years of friendship but felt that our paths had diverged to such an extent that we could no longer companion one another as friends.
That letter has haunted me for nine years. It's not that I regretted the choice; it's that I regretted the way I handled it. But I guess we do the best we can at difficult junctures of our life.
Although Mary Kay and I live only three miles apart and use the same community shopping area, I've only run into her once in the past nine years, and that was briefly at a local bagel shop. I called her twice after that meeting, but our conversation seemed forced, so I didn't pursue it. She never called me.
That brings us up to today.
This was such a beautiful day--warm and sunny--that I left home at 12:30 PM, merrily riding down my new ramp, around the switchback turn toward the garage, through the garage door and out onto the lane beside our house, from which I could admire Ed's new gate. I just wanted to be outside; I didn't much care where. As is my habit, I took pictures as I went along--of fall flowers, a maple tree, a maple branch on another tree, and a nest high up in a yellow-leafed tree.
I scooted down to the bagel shop--the same one where I'd seen Mary Kay years ago--had a split pea soup there and took a cream cheese-and-olive sesame bagel and orange juice to go. Then I scooted outside to a nearby park bench and sat reading Vandana Shiva's extraordinarily informative book, "Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit", until about 3 PM. My next stop was Ed's office where I hung out for awhile napping on his Dad's analyst's couch, and playing--and winning--one game of solitaire on his computer. I wasn't ready to go back home yet because I wanted to attend our weekly peace vigil in the community shopping area, but that would mean waiting around--or finding something to do--until 7 PM.
By 4:40 PM I figured I couldn't wait any longer so I might as well go home. After I left Ed's office, I changed my mind and turned down a street I don't usually take. I decided I'd try to pass the time by scooting around the neighborhoods.
The late afternoon light was beautiful, so I just kept scooted along. As I scooted I started thinking about Mary Kay. It occurred to me that her house was only 5-6 blocks away, and why didn't I just scoot over there? Maybe I'd see her, or maybe I'd get up the nerve to scoot close to her kitchen window and give a yell. So I headed in that direction.
As I made the turn at her corner I saw someone's legs and feet standing on her lawn behind the tall shrubs. That's all I could see of the person--his or her legs and feet. When I scooted in front of her house, I saw it was Mary Kay. She was talking on her cell phone. She saw me--I was right beside her by then--smiled, and soon said to whomever-it-was, "I've got to get off now. We'll talk later."
Well. Mary Kay stood and I sat in front of her house talking for two solid hours. Can you imagine a check-in that covers nine years? We asked and heard about one another's families, activities, health, funny stories, quirky happenings--all of it--as though we'd never been apart. A couple of times she said, "You're the only one who could know why that was funny!" When I said how grateful I was that we had reclaimed our friendship, Mary Kay looked at me with tenderness and said, "I never felt we'd lost it. I've always known we were still friends."
My friend Mary Kay.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2003
I feel so strong these days. Swimming has a lot to do with it. Tonight I again swam 36 lengths--one half mile--with no problem at all. Just for the fun of it, I timed myself to see how long I swam. Would you believe one solid hour without stopping except to adjust my goggles for less than a minute halfway through?! And those who are regular readers know that the only stroke I do is the freestyle, arm over arm over arm. As I say, I feel strong.
It wasn't just my body that I exercised today; my mind got a workout as well. I've been working on a new group political email since last week. It addresses a concern that I've heard voiced by a number of progressive-thinkers of late. Whenever they hear someone say, "End the occupation/Bring the troops home now!"--the rallying cry for the upcoming October 25th demonstration in Washington, DC--these folks say we can't do that without putting the Iraqi people at great risk. They maintain that we (the U.S.) must stay in Iraq until some semblance of order is restored. It's taken me awhile to mobilize my thoughts on this issue, but this morning it all came together...mainly because I read an article from yesterday's Independent/UK, and the answer--at least to me--was there. I titled my group email, "Why we must end the occupation of Iraq."
But I couldn't stay on the computer all day; it was too beautiful not to be out there in the middle of it. So about 3 PM I scooted down the ramp, out the garage and onto the streets. A visit to Ed was followed by--surprise,surprise!--a stop at the gelato cafe. I then turned back towards home; at least I took the sidewalk going northeast along the lake. When I got to the old convent grounds, I turned up the driveway, drove across the lawn and parked my scooter beside a bench overlooking the lake.
This convent with its chapel was built in 1885. My friend Mary Kay went to their school and was taught by the nuns as a young girl, but for many years it has been a non-sectarian private school. The grounds are lovely and if I squint my eyes I can still make out black-robed figures taking meditative walks along its paths. There is also a small formal flower garden where today I sat with bees, a monarch butterfly, a gray squirrel and a wren. This white rose seemed to speak of hope.
My final stop was the lakefront park. I scooted out to the wharf closest to the water and let the waves wash me clean of worries and fretfulness. Best tranquilizer I know.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2003
I spent much of this gentle rainy day sitting in Ed's great-grandmother's rocking chair, reading Vandana Shiva's book, "Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit" (South End Press: 2002). My book group meets here tomorrow night and this is the book we will discuss.
As many of you probably know, Vandana Shiva is an internationally respected environmental thinker and activist. The winner of such awards as the 1993 Alternate Nobel Peace Prize (the Right Livelihood Award), Shiva is the Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Natural Resource Policy. She is the author of numerous books, including "Protect or Plunder? Understanding Intellectual Property Rights", "Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply" and "Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge." Before becoming an activist, Shiva was one of India's leading physicists.
I am reading her book like I used to read textbooks, pen in hand, underlining as I go. By now there are more words underlined than not. Everything she writes is important, and much of it is new to me. But one thing I did know was the quote with which she starts her preface: "If the wars of this century [the 20th century] were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water." (Ismail Serageldin, vice president of the World Bank, in 1995). And his words are proving true.
For instance, Shiva gives background on the role of water in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I'd like to quote some excerpts here to give you an idea of how important--and unnoticed by most of us in America and Canada--is the issue of Israeli access to water.
"The war between Israelis and Palestinians is to some extent a war over water. The river under contention is the Jordan River, used by Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the West Bank. Israel's extensive industrial agriculture requires the river's water as well as the groundwater of the West Bank. While only 3 percent of the Jordan basin lies in Israel, the river provides for 60 percent of its water needs." (pp.72-3)
"In 2000, 50 percent of the total cultivated area in Israel was irrigated; in contrast, Palestinian villages consumed only two percent of Israel's water. The water apartheid, demarcated along ethnic and religious lines, is fueling the already heated Israeli-Palestinian conflict." (p. 73)
"The 1967 war, which led to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, was in effect an occupation of the freshwater resources from the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and the West Bank. As Middle-Eastern scholar Ewan Anderson, notes: 'The West Bank has become a critical source of water for Israel, and it could be argued that this consideration outweighs other political and strategic factors." (pp. 73-4)
"Between 1967 and 1982, West Bank waters were controlled by Israel's military. Now they are controlled by Israel's water company, Mekorot, and integrated into Israel's overall water network. West Bank waters supply 25 to 40 percent of Israel's water; Israel consumes 82 percent of the West Bank's water, while Palestinians use 18 to 20 percent. Palestinian water use is controlled and restricted by the Israeli government." (p. 74)
"In 1999, Palestinians were allowed to dig only seven wells. In addition, Palestinian wells could not exceed 140 meters in depth, while Jewish wells could be as deep as 800 meters." (p.74)
Shiva's section on the importance of water in the history of longstanding conflicts between Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and the Kurds was equally telling. Perhaps our anti-war signs should have read "No blood for water."
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2003
In preparation for tonight's book group meeting, I finished Vandana Shiva's book this morning. After reading about the privatization of water across the globe--including many examples in the United States--I decided to do some research about water services in my own community. I had assumed they were still locally controlled, but now I wondered.
So I called my local Water Department in the City Hall next door and spoke with Ann. I wanted to sound non-threatening so I said I was doing research for a paper at school and had a few questions about how our Water Department operated. She was very forthcoming in her answers, and at one point even wrote down the title of Vandana Shiva's book--"Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit"--when I said I thought she'd find it interesting.
I am happy to report that our water collection, treatment and distribution is still locally controlled. Not only that, Ann said there has been no talk of privatizing this service. The water treatment plant (circa 1823) that I scoot by on my way to swim at the park is still treating our water, and the collection point is about a quarter of a mile out in the lake. We are so fortunate to live beside one of the five largest freshwater sources in the world, the Great Lakes. I was also pleased to learn that, in contrast to the massive water shut-offs in Detroit, in her 15 years with our Water Department, Ann has only seen the water shut off once for non-payment of bills, and that was for half a day. Delinquent bills--and, yes, there are delinquent bills in our affluent community--are placed as a lien on the property owner's taxes.
As they say, think globally; act locally.
But now that I'd completed my homework, the book group meeting was cancelled! Ah well, we'll discuss this book next month. That will give me time to read through it again. There was SO MUCH new information that I know I only assimilated a small percentage on the first reading. I DO recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand the issues of privatization of community services, dam-building, historical global water conflicts, the corporate takeover of natural resources, the part the WTO, World Bank, GAT, NAFTA, and the FTAA play in water issues, and the people's struggles--occasionally successful--to retain community control of their water. A most important book.
This afternoon I received emails from two regular journal readers, one of whom I know and the other unknown to me before today. The question posed by my friend was regarding my food habits, particularly my tendency to eat takeout food--mostly Middle Eastern--rather than homecooked meals. She asked, "Don't you like to cook?" This was my answer:
I thought I'd mentioned several times in my journal: I hate to cook so I don't. I cooked for the first 25 years of our marriage and didn't mind then. But as time went on, I became less and less interested in preparing food. So Ed now cooks for himself and I eat Middle Eastern food, or things like the veggie lasagna or macaroni and cheese that our local small grocery makes, or a special pizza they sell. Ed makes us a salad. It suits me fine. Food is really at the lower end of my concerns/interests. Of course when I lived in the Mission District, I LOVED eating at all the ethnic restaurants nearby. That's why I always gained weight in San Francisco!
The question raised by the other reader was about my having written in my Sunday, October 12 journal entry that in the early 1990s I'd become "post-Christian." She was curious about what I meant and how I'd come to that place. By the way, it helps to know that this reader is a faith-filled woman in her early 20s. This was my reply:
First, let me send you to one of my web pages that I think answers--at least in part--your questions about what I mean by "post-Christian", when it happened and how I would describe the process. It is called "A Crone's Credo" and can be found at
I am grateful to hear that your faith is sustaining you through hard times. Mine did the same for me when I most needed it. Not to get into an age thing, but you and I are at a very different stages of life. I'm now 61 and have come into a place and time in my own development that I would characterize as "free." I am free to be myself, free of concern over what others think of me (usually), free to see the truth even if it is painful, free to believe in the goodness of humanity even as I see its flaws, free to find my own spirituality apart from organized religion, free to criticize the country I love.
Believe me, I was nowhere near this degree of freedom a decade ago, much less when I was in my 20s. I think each decade of life has its own tasks to accomplish, and the succeeding decades are built upon the things we've learned along the way. And for each of us the path is unique.
I do love hearing from readers. It makes this online journal-keeping more of a dialogue and less of a (YAWN) monologue. So please write whenever my journal triggers questions, comments or reflections. I always respond.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2003
I know it's hard to believe, but I have very little to say tonight.
School was good; in two of the fifth grade classes we worked on writing our sensate memories and a story having to do with our favorite place (that we'd just painted in watercolor). In the third fifth grade class we started our construction paper collage of the animal we'd most like to have as a pet (or the pet we already have). I worked on my friend the tortoise. In the two kindergarten classes I got to read them a wonderful book called "A Fish Is a Fish." We then drew and colored a picture of a frog on a lily pad and a fish swimming in a pond. I read the second graders a book about a cat called "Skipper's Nine Lives." We then drew a picture of a cat lying on a carpet with a border of patterned designs. The final fifth grade class had an assembly so Susan and I got to go home early.
There was one synchronistic occurrence today, and it had to do with crab seasonings. When writing about my sensate memories of the Chesapeake Bay beach cottage of my childhood, I'd mentioned the smell of the special seasonings Mom used when she'd boil the crabs we'd caught that day. After writing about that unmistakable smell, I'd said to Susan that I should buy some crab seasonings just to savor the smell. Then I came home to a casserole from my friend Pat Kolon in which she had used...guess what! Crab seasonings. It was called Tilghman Island Stew (vegetarian style). Tilghman Island was one of the places we used to go on our sailboat, Harem, when I was a kid.
Now I'm going to have to admit that my friend/journal reader Rima had doubts about the veracity of my statement yesterday that "Food is really at the lower end of my concerns/interests." She says I often write about food in my journal.
OK, Rima. You win!
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2003
I am in a harbor in Australia. I've come in on a mammoth ship where I met a couple with a baby girl. She is perhaps 3-4 months old and wears her wispy blond hair pulled tight in a tiny ponytail on top of her head. I think she is their foster child. I am allowed to take this little girl for a walk. She fits snugly in my arms as we set off to explore the ship. She seems content. Every so often the rubber band falls out of her hair and I have to stop and brush her hair into a ponytail and twist the rubber band around it. She always cries when I do this. But that doesn't stop us from exploring. We follow many paths, both inside and outside the ship. At one point I am carrying her with one hand and grasping the guard rail with the other as I make my way over a dangerous patch, a place where, were I to lose my balance, we would be plunged into the tumultuous sea. Somehow I know I must stay focused on where I am going and not look down or worry about the dangers that surround us. We make it safely across. By then I am growing tired of making this baby cry in order to fix her hair the way her foster mother likes it. I let it lie and realize that she looks dear whatever one does or doesn't do with her hair. I start thinking about the possibility of seeing if I could adopt this little girl. But my journey isn't over yet. In order to take her back to her parents I have to turn around and traverse the same territory all over again. It is harder and more threatening on the return journey, but we make it through.
They say when you dream of a baby it symbolizes something new coming in your life. I wonder what this little girl represents? Is a new path opening up? If so, have I already begun the journey without knowing it? One thing I recognize is the need to let go of other people's expectations, ie., the baby's tight ponytail that I saw as so essential to maintain. It was the only thing that made her cry; otherwise, she was happy and content. Another important lesson was the need to stay focused on my goal and not let fear of the dangers I encountered have any power over me. Keep looking ahead even when it seems like you might not make it.
Fiddle music. What is it about fiddle music that sets my foot to tapping, my head to nodding and my heart to singing? Is it my Scottish-English roots? Or does this kind of music catch everyone by the heart-strings? It's Friday night at 9 PM and I'm listening to Ottawa Valley fiddler April Verch, her husband Marc Bru on percussion (bodhran, spoons et shakers), Kyle Kegerreis on bass, and Hans Holzen on guitar on a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) Radio Two show called "In Performance." The broadcast is of a live performance they gave on July 1, 2003 at the outdoor Amphitheatre at the Lanaudière Festival of Music. In addition to the music, the host Eric Friesen just conducted a live interview with April Verch. She was on the road at a pay phone at some Montana truck stop on her way to a gig in Washington State. You really have to LOVE performing to live that kind of a traveling life. But I can hear that kind of love in her music; it's what captures me.
Tomorrow I know I am going to be captured BIG TIME by a performance of live music! Our children from the school where I help out are going to perform using Arabic drums, song and dance at a free indoor Music Festival sponsored by the DSO (Detroit Symphony Orchestra) at their new Max M. Fisher Music Center connected to Orchestra Hall. If you live anywhere near Detroit, come down to the festival tomorrow (Saturday) at 12 noon and I promise you will see a performance you won't soon forget!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2003
I was so tired when I got in last night at 12:45 AM that I totally forgot to put up my journal entry! I think it's only the third time that's happened in the three and a half years I've kept this online journal. It wasn't until I was waking up this morning that I remembered that I'd forgotten. That's just how tired I was. And no wonder! Pat Kolon and I stayed at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra-sponsored "Day Of Music at the Max" for 13 solid hours yesterday!!!
We saw and heard an amazing variety of music, starting at noon with the Arabic Music Drum Ensemble and Chorus made up of children from the school where I help out in Dearborn, Michigan, and ending at midnight with the Professors of Jazz from Michigan State University where there was a surprise appearance by the jazz saxophone star, James Carter, who had performed with the DSO earlier in the evening. In the intervening 12 hours I heard two other jazz combos--Mecca Gibson's Trio, and the Jeff Haas quintet with guest Marcus Belgrave on trumpet--a group of Detroit Symphony Orchestra's percussionists who call themselves Mostly Mallots, Southeast Asian-inspired instrumentals by Xenharmonic Gamelan, East Indian classical music by a husband and wife duo called Sitar Magic, a Latin dance band called La Inspiracion, a hip hop group known as the Black Bottom Collective, and world pop music from countries like Eygpt, Turkey and Albania played and sung by the Immigrant Suns.
Now, is that enough of a variety to capture your interest?!
And my list doesn't even include all of the performances that were offered. By the way, everything was free of charge between 10 AM and midnight during this initial Day of Music at the brand new Max M. Fisher Music Center and the beautiful old Orchestra Hall in downtown Detroit. I had to miss 13 other groups because I couldn't be in two (or three) places at once. And the free Day of Music at the Max continued today, from noon to 9:30 PM. I think all of the musicians performing were Michigan-based.
For me it was an opportunity to see friends as well as hear music. In addition to Pat Kolon who stayed with me for the entire music marathon, I saw my art teacher/friend Susan Briggs, other teachers and families from school, Bill whom I see at every music festival in Detroit, and my jazz-loving friends from Ann Arbor, Miki and Akira. I also reconnected with Charles, a friend of the jazz bassist Rodney Whitaker, and Randy Gillespie, the jazz drummer, both of whom performed last night with the Professors of Jazz at MSU. If you remember, I met these fellows after Wynton Marsalis's performance at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor on my birthday last June. It was Charles who introduced me to Wynton.
Now let me tell you about the children's performance. They were superb! Very professional, excellent musically and sensitively directed by their music teacher, Cathy Prowse. Their concert was in the new state-of-the-art performance space, the Music Box. It was standing-room only for these 9 and 10 year olds...and not just their families, I might add!
I was able to speak briefly with and take pictures of (#1 & #2) the drum ensemble before the performance began. I could tell they were nervous, but it certainly didn't show up in their playing. Their teacher had rehearsed them so thoroughly that no amount of nerves could have stopped them. By the way, the fourth and fifth grade students who performed yesterday--ten drummers, a percussionist, six dancers and the entire Fifth Grade Chorus--have come to school at least a half hour early to practice every day since school began in late August!
The drum ensemble was the first onstage. They had several group pieces, and one that allowed each child to take a solo. Cathy Prowse introduced them by name and managed to treat each as a professional worthy of applause and respect. For me it was wonderful to see some of our fifth grade boys who are a handful in class become the consummate musicians, respectful of their sister and brother drummer's solos and attentive to their teacher/director.
The next to come onstage were the dancers. I'd seen our girls dance in the Arabic style when Susan and I had asked them to in art class last spring, but seeing them dressed up in exquisite costumes--made by their mothers, aunts and grandmothers--and dancing with such poise and obvious delight was one of the biggest surprises of the day...at least for me.
Soon it was time for the Fifth Grade Chorus to take the stage. As they assembled, Cathy gave our youngest drummer, a true prodigy, his own special time in the spotlight. This youngster is only 9 years old and already plays with the expertise of an experienced drummer. When he plays, his hands move so fast they become a blur. I first saw him drum at the School Assembly last June--when he was 8--and had trouble believing what I was hearing. It will be interesting to see how he uses his talent as he grows older.
The chorus sounded wonderful, and I enjoyed looking closely to see all the children whom I know and love (#1 & #2). There were solos by some of the girls and boys, and again, there was such respectful listening by the whole group while each individual was singing. During many of the songs, the chorus was accompanied by drums and percussion, while Cathy Prowse's husband played the piano.
Everything our children did onstage reflected their Arab heritage. All songs were sung in Arabic, and Cathy Prowse, who is not of Arab extraction herself, introduced the songs in a storytelling manner that gave everyone, no matter what their heritage, something to think about. And if you look at some of my pictures, you'll see how beautifully the stage was set with vases, artifacts and oriental rugs (on which the drummers were kneeling), all of which I'm sure were loaned by the families of our students. Everything about this performance served as a wonderful counterbalance to the anti-Arab prejudice so often seen and heard in our country since September 11. Our children and their teacher were true ambassadors.
The performance closed with more drumming by the ensemble in the form of, what Cathy called "drum conversations." Two of the drummers would "speak" back and forth on their drums, improvising the whole time. That was when we saw how deeply this gift resides within them. The conversations were followed by a short exhibition by the percussionist, and then there was a finale with drums and voices.
They received a well-deserved standing ovation. Can you imagine what this experience must have meant to these children, Cathy Prowse, the principal and vice-principal of our school, the teachers and families of our students? And I suspect this is just the beginning.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2003
It's nice to know I was missed. Ramonajane, a charter member of my FRC (Faithful Readers Club), emailed me today saying that if I hadn't put up my journal entry by Sunday, she was going to get worried. Thanks, Ramonajane.
Today was a lovely low-key day. I finished reading Neemah Ellis's "If I Live To Be 100." This book is based on her PBS series of interviews with centenarians. It's a wonderful book, full of wisdom and life...not just the centenarians' but Neemah's as well. By the way, the picture of me reading in Ed's great-grandmother's rocking chair was taken a couple of days ago, but I looked much the same today.
I also made a sign for the front of my scooter. It says "Raging Grannies Without Borders of Detroit" and has a drawing of the Grannies logo, a feisty old woman brandishing an umbrella. I made it in preparation for this weekend's huge "End the Occupation/Bring the Troops Home Now!" rally and march in Washington, DC. Pat Kolon and I are driving together, and Granny Kathy Russell may also join us. We'll start out from Detroit on Thursday afternoon and do as we so often do--spend the first night at the Red Roof Inn in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, and hopefully arrive in DC by early Friday afternoon. I've got a room for us at a hotel a half mile from the Washington Monument. That's where the rally will be held on Saturday starting at 11 AM. Granny Kathy and I plan to meet up with the Raging Grannies from Rochester, NY at 17th St. NW and Constitution Ave. at 10 AM, and from there, we'll sing and march together all day...much like we did at the mammoth anti-war rally and march last January 18. That's why I made my sign: the Rochester Grannies have a big banner under which we'll all be marching/standing, but I want people to know that our Detroit gaggle is represented too!
After receiving a group email from MoveOn.org about the upcoming Senate vote on the joint Energy Bill, I knew I had to send out another in my long list of political group emails. This bill is a disaster for our planet and must be stopped. Even the New York Times called for a Senate filibuster in a September 29th editorial. Sometimes I have to wonder how the Bush administration can do so much damage to so many people, services, ecosystems, and the earth as a whole...and never seem to give it a thought. Like we're a different species with a different morality, language, culture and definition of truth. It's hard to imagine our two realities ever meeting.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2003
Every so often I have to watch "The Fantasticks." There's something about that magical tale of dreams/disillusionment/maturity that touches me deeply. I guess it doesn't hurt that it was my favorite play when I was a young dreamer in the mid-60s. The video we have is a treasure. It was made sometime in the 1990s and has Joel Grey as the girl's father. Set in the plains with mountains in the distance, it is whimsical and tragic all at the same time. I love it.
I guess I relate to "The Fantasticks" because it resonates with my own path to maturity. Not that I'm there yet, but I'm getting there. At least my current dreams are grounded in the hard realities of life and not in the stuff of fairy tales.
Today I had two examples of this reality-based way of being in the world. I had uncomfortable exchanges with two women who mean a lot to me. Instead of sticking my head in the sand and saying everything was OK, I took the time to communicate my concerns with them. Very different from my old way of doing things. Difficult as this truth-telling might be, it allows for a clean exchange of feelings and perceptions. It helps to keep the smog of misunderstanding from settling in. I'm beginning to get the hang of it.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2003
Occasionally I forget that I'm enrolled in the College of Lifelong Learning. Until something happens to remind me, that is. Usually that "something" is not easy. Last night and this morning I was made uncomfortably aware of this fact.
I tossed and turned, turned and tossed last night, until at 3 AM I got up and sent an email to a friend telling her I couldn't do something that I'd said I was going to do. I had acted in good faith but had come to realize I couldn't live with my original plans. After a few more tosses and turns, I finally got to sleep.
This morning Ed helped me work out a compromise. And, oddly enough, I helped him work out a compromise over something totally different that had kept him awake.
My compromise didn't take away my friend's hurt feelings, but I'm hoping we can make our way through. Now my task is to let it go. When you know you've done the best you can, that's all you can ask or expect of yourself. Even if the situation remains unresolved. That's one of the most important learnings of all.
Friends, this is my final journal entry until Tuesday, October 28. Although I will return late Sunday night from the "End the Occupation/Bring the Troops Home Now!" demonstration in Washington, DC, I expect to be so tired that I'll fall immediately into bed. I will then awaken on Monday morning to a visit from my dear San Francisco (now San Diego) friends, Scott and Phil. They'll be staying with us Monday night and will leave for home on Tuesday. I don't expect to have a spare moment during that precious time to journal or even look at my computer. So Tuesday it will be.
May I ask you to keep
my dear friend, Jack,
in good healing energy as he recovers from pneumonia and a serious
staph infection that have kept him in children's ICU for the past
ten days. His mom Amy just emailed to tell me the good news that
they took Jack off the respirator today and he is resting comfortably.
May his healing continue.
I just received the following email from Granny Vicki of the Rochester, NY Raging Grannies. She is the kind of person who makes things happen. Get this!
Subject: WE'RE SINGING FROM THE MAINSTAGE IN DC!!!!!!
I just got word that we will be SINGING FROM THE MAINSTAGE in DC on Saturday, and will be carried live on C-SPAN. Therefore, I need to know RIGHT AWAY if you will be joining us, and if you know of any other Grannies who will be coming. We will be allotted exactly three (3) minutes, and we MUST keep our gig to under those 180 seconds!!! I'm going to play with a few songs tonight to see which one(s) might work and carry the most bang for the buck in that short time. In the meantime, please dust off your hats, shawls, and aprons!!!!! This is the BIG TIME!!!!
Big Granny hugs,
PS: IF YOU PLAN TO SING WITH US, YOU MUST MEET US ON THE SOUTHWEST CORNER OF 17TH STREET NW AND CONSTITUTION NO LATER THAN 10 A.M. ON SATURDAY MORNING SO THAT WE HAVE TIME TO REHEARSE. WE HAVE TO REPORT BACKSTAGE BY 11 A.M.
She told me that she'd informed the organizers about my accessibility needs and had insisted they must find some way to get me up onstage. I'm sure they'll manage.
Fame & Fortune here we come! Well, 3 minutes of fame anyway...
© 2003 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.