Saturday, February 25, 2006

of birds and ants and other small things

meditation for the day

All good work is done the way ants do things, little by little.
-Lafcadio Hearn
(thank you to Seema and Ajay, whose holiday card featured this lovely quote.)

another one from Anne Lamott, a bit more contemporary:

”Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

sunset today

another day... gone.


Monday, February 20, 2006

so low

need to regain nrg

didn’t do yoga today
that woulda helped
started off the day in much higher spirits, is that because didn’t accomplish what i wanted to?
feel adrift alone
but am strong can create new circles. but so
getting old, i shall wear my trousers
yeah and i thought i understood that poem at age 17
i knew nothing at that age
am surprised now at how i even functioned back then
but then i realize
with dismay
i did better then than i do now, in many ways
what happened

Running to Write It Down... Weird where a thought can take you...

The other day I was talking to Blank and she mentioned that so-and-so (someone I don't know) was "nice, but Weird." Suspecting that she and I may have very different views on this topic of What Constitutes Weird, I probed a little.

"Hmm," I said, tentatively, wanting to explore it a bit more, but also not wanting to piss her off by starting an argument. (Blank and I can get into arguments like that.) "Tell me, what does he do that seems weird to you?"

"Well, one time a bunch of us were out at a bar--a loud, dark bar where people were dancing--and suddenly he stopped and said, 'Does anyone have a notebook? I just thought of something, and I need to write it down before I forget it!' Isn't that Weird?"

"Hmm..." I looked at her. She looked at me. We both knew what I was thinking. But I said it anyway.

"Well, I do things like that all the time."

"Yeah, well..." she said. "Well... that's because you're weird too... figures that you would think that's normal." Now this wasn't said with any malice nor did I take offense at this. In fact, if asking for a notebook to jot down a fleeting idea constitutes weird, then let Weirdness be my trademark, my motto, my mission. I wish I acted on my Weirdnesses more Often.

This morning, as I drank my much-needed and anticipated two mugs of heavenly ginger-chai (after having dropped Blank off at the airport at 4:30 in the morning) this incident must have been playing around in the back of my (weird) Subconscious. Because as I drank tea and read further in the logical and yet infuriating book, The Nurture Assumption, I came across an idea that brought me running to this computer, to this blog, right now. But before I share my Weird idea that I came to write down, I need to give you some background on this much-discussed book.

In The Nurture Assumption, through much of the book Judith Harris refutes the commonly held assumption that it is parents who, through proper nurturing and guidance, teach their children (or don't, in some cases) what they need to know to have a successful life. Although I am not a parent, I have been a teacher in the past, and it both maddens me as well as intrigues me that she may have a point there. I won't go into all of her arguments here, but what she basically says is that children learn how to interact in each specific situation-- they learn the rules of interaction as specific to that circumstance and are socialized to behave in certain ways that suit that particular environment. This means that while the child may have been taught to be quiet and polite and honest at home through parental conditioning, he or she MAY be (doesn't Have to be) very different at school.

Why or how would this happen? Well, according to Harris, the child adapts to each situation according to its own peculiarities. If the School environment causes Lying, Cheating and Stealing to be rewarded then the child will be likely to engage in these behaviors at school, even if he or she is quite honest at home. This concept--of switching behaviors to suit the environment--is called code-switching. A very common example of code-switching happens in the lives of children who are immigrants or children of immigrants--they quickly learn that although in the home environment they must speak their native tongue, they must speak in English to survive in the school environment. So they (mostly) do. I would suspect that the ones who don't are able to do this because so many of their peers speak their native tongues. (I have seen this happen in one of my ESL classes... but there is also more going on there--one sign of emergent language is understanding but not speaking the language. Oh my, I am digressing quite a bit.)

One area of influence, though, where Harris concedes that Nurture can have a huge societal effect is that wielded by teachers. She says it's not so much the content of what the teachers teach, as it is the atmosphere of belonging and groupness that teachers can (and yet so rarely do) create in their classroom that can have a huge positive impact on the kids who are part of that rareified environment. She gives as an example the story of an inner city school teacher, Ms. A, all of whose first-grade students continued to do well in school and in their careers, better than their peers from the same school, throughout their lives! Harris attributes this not so much to what the teacher taught them, as the fact that in her classroom these kids probably learned to love learning, and a safe environment was created for learning; thought and education were respected by the whole group. This is indeed very different from most classrooms, where the peer group makes it an Uncool Thing (at least in the majority of American public schools) to want to learn. In fact Harris found that students who weren't in Ms. A's classroom were positively affected by these values, if they chose to identify with them!

While her theories seem very well-thought out and are cogently argued, I can sympathize with the parents out there, who reading this, might despair, or, more likely just reject her theory outright. After all, who likes to hear that they are pouring their efforts for their children into a black cauldron of Hmm... Maybe it'll Help? But my purpose here is not to disprove or agree with her perspective.

Just to say that as I pondered the wonderful Ms. A's of the world, and how I wished I could have been one of those talented leader-teachers who gave their students the gift of the love of learning... as I thought about this, one teacher came into focus. She was my 5th grade teacher, and I was in her classroom for only two days, as my family moved to another state right after school started. Her name was, I think, Ms. Werth and she changed my life forever in that day or two that I spent in her classroom.

What did she do? I distinctly remember that first day; I even remember that I sat on the right front side of the classroom and felt wistful as she outlined how things would work in her classroom--her teaching philosophy. I remember being impressed that she bothered to do this. (This was back in 1980, and things were fairly old school. Especially in NYC public schools.) In fact I remember knowing that she was going to be a great teacher even before I entered her classroom; her reputation had percolated through to the fourth grade, and I had been so excited that she was going to be my teacher, before the impending move turned everything topsy-turvy. One thing though, before my memory strikes you as strangely and unbelievably prodigious. If you were to ask me about her teaching policy today, I would be hard put to describe a single tenet of that philosophy.

However one memory is Crystal Clear. At one point she said, "Sometimes, you may see me jump up in the middle of a lesson to go write something down in my journal. Don't worry--it's because I'm a writer, and so when I have ideas, I have to write them down right away, or else I'll forget them. So don't mind me when I do that... In fact, if you have thoughts you want to write down like that, I welcome you to do it. It's what writers have to do!"

This stuck with me. And the thing is, she was such a leader, so respected by the kids, that instead of this somewhat strange behavior being a point of ridicule, this was actually a Cool thing about her. At least I believe it was--otherwise her reputation with the children would have been quite different. (Remember your teachers? Kids tell each other these things, and they don't mince words.)

At any rate, today, as I sit here reading The Nurture Assumption, my conversation with Blank comes to mind, as I ponder how we are socialized--or not--to accept Wonderful Weirdnesses as Welcome or Strange and Undesireable parts of Life. And I silently thank Ms. Werth. In two days she may have... I don't know. Changed my life?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

places I have traveled to for work

Yesterday I caught myself feeling a tiny bit jealous of my sister, cuz she is going away to an island for a lil mini-vacation, something she has done more than I have. (I've gone once, to Curacao, but that was it. Not that I'm complaining.)

But then I remembered that I have been so lucky as to get to travel to many interesting places for work. And while it was for Work, and so many times I was Too Busy to Actually see much and it wasn’t all that glamorous as it may sound, I was always very Curious, and tried to, whenever possible, explore and seek out the Adventure in each place I went. Even when I had a 101 degree fever and bronchitis, in, for example, Geneva.

so, here’s the list. please don’t be jealous. those who travel a lot for work know what i mean, no?

i will try to do this in somewhat chronological order, but memory may fail me. some of my favorites are bolded...

1. Chowchilla, California (in the Central Valley. Woo hoo!)
2. Visalia, California. (ditto)
3. Fresno (oh yeah)
4. Bakersfield
5. Reno
6. Tahoe
7. Sacramento
8. Los Angeles
9. Seattle
10. Portland
11. Spokane
12. Eugene
13. San Jose
14. the East Bay (back then, it felt like a foreign country to me)
15. Albuquerque
16. Colorado
17. Santa Fe
18. Taos
19. Riverside
20. San Diego
21. El Centro
22. Vista
23. Taft, Cali (hoo, boy)(please, no offense intended if you live in Taft, but… I never felt more aware of my race than when I was in Taft. People Stared at me.)
24. Imperial, Cali
25. Marin County
26. Eureka
27. Fortuna
28. Hoopa Valley, Cali
29. New Delhi
30. Bombay
31. Taiwan
32. Manila
33. Hong Kong
34. Singapore
35. Jakarta (though how does this count. Was there Less than 24 hrs!)
36. Bangkok
37. Honolulu
38. The Big Island
39. Maui
40. London
41. Paris (my hotel room had a Hole in the Door, the size of my Fist. What did I expect for USD50? Plus I got bronchitis here, which lasted me through the rest of Europe. Joy.)
42. Brussels
43. Geneva
44. Athens
45. Auburn, Cali
46. Davis
47. Mendocino
48. Fort Bragg
49. Point Arena
50. Willits
51. Clear Lake
52. Chico
53. Anderson
54. Shasta
55. Ferndale
56. Clovis
57. Grass Valley
58. Nevada City
59. Loomis
60. Marysville
61. Yuba City
62. Loyalton
63. Redding
64. Dixon
65. Fairfield
66. Cloverdale
67. Cotati
68. Healdsburg
69. Petaluma
70. Rohnert Park
71. Santa Rosa
72. Sebastopol
73. Napa
74. Vallejo
75. Portola
76. Lassen
77. Susanville
78. Chester
79. Quincy (near Feather River)
80. Tacoma

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

more about being healthier...

Sat Feb 11
Worked out at gym for 1 hour (including stretching time)
Sun Feb 12
Shoveled snow (during Blizzard!) and took a walk thru the blizzard
Mon Feb 13
Went Sledding with J'ben and her kids... see photos below!
and, Shoveled Snow
Tue Feb 14
Wed Feb 15
Yoga first thing in the Morning - about one hour

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


why is two always company?
feeling abandoned by coupled up people.

seems things have to be in even numbers, the older you get.

Monday, February 13, 2006

the day After the Blizzard...

we went Sledding!

and... built a Snowperson... (we're not sure of the gender... but we know that he/she sure is friendly-looking!)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Valentine to my parents

Sometimes people misunderstand when I write about or podcast about my parents or other relatives. They question my motives, they imply that I do not love them, nor am I grateful for what I have been given.

I am indeed grateful. Grateful enough to understand that they are human, and not gods. And humans have flaws. And I would even argue that it is a greater act of love and courage to see your parents as people with treasures and faults hidden in their nooks and crannies, instead of hiding behind the "obey and cherish my parents blindly" rule that many follow. Because to understand them, and then to love them is the greater act of faith.

But today, I'd like to dwell on the reasons I'd like to give my parents a valentine:

Valentine to my parents

To my mother for walking the mile with me, every week, to the library, to take out exactly 10 books. That was the limit of what they allowed. And then, she read them to me, all week long.
To my father for working year after year after year in a job that wasn’t his first love, in order to do the right thing--the only possible thing as far as he was concerned--support his family
To my mother for teaching me the Navakaar mantra when I was three
To my father for teaching me to laugh
To my mother for saying yes
To my father for saying no
To my mother for taking such care of me when I had the chicken pox
To my father for sharing his gazhals and shayris with me, even when I couldn’t understand
To my mother for singing the Stavans and Stutis with us every day
To my father for telling us his tales of college mischief in Baroda
To my mother for her shy voice
To my father for his crooked smile
To my mother for my birth by the bank of the river Sabarmati
To my father for my life

being healthier

i have resisted writing about this because i felt i was doing too little… but in the spirit of “bird by bird” by Anne Lamott, here goes:

things I have done that are bird-steps on the path:

* eating a little less
* trying to stop when full (although this just does not work as well with Banilla Yogurt)
* substitute healthier (yet delicious options) when possible. Example: Banilla Yogurt instead of ice cream
* resist buying cookies at the store. It has been at least two weeks. Possibly more. Wow. I didn’t realize that till I just wrote it down. cool.
* trying to walk more. Some days I do great, and then others, NOTHING happens. But on Sunday I really walked -all the way from 112th street in NYC to 42nd st. !

Monday, February 06, 2006

oh yes, the voim...

Coined a new word, and submitted to Merriam-Webster's Open Dictionary

voim (noun) : the void within oneself, when one drowns loneliness in internet-related activies such as instant messaging and internet games
example sentence:
The voim got me playing yahoo games really really really late at night to forget the fact that my most important friendship was down the drain.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

shimmering white peacock day

new york did its
fractals of beauty,
shimmering white peacock imitating the fire engines passing by St. John the Divine,
most delicious pizza in the world,
impromptu job interview,
sweet room-for-rent across the street from Labyrinth,
Hungarian cupcakes and cider,
North Face sale in 35 degrees weather,
Times Square alight and well,
friendly strangers helping,
Whole Foods jasmine lotion,
Poet’s corner wisdom,
Riverside blue clouds and dogs
dance today.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

someone just reminded me of this great old song

Words-adapted from the bible, book of ecclesiastes
Music-pete seeger

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late