Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I'm sitting in my room, looking outside at a redwood tree. Perched on top of a mountain, there is a tumble of houses below me, intermingled with so much greenery I forget that my friends in Minneapolis are freezing.

I'm here to study craniosacral therapy and let me tell you, my chi is all gone rooted in the ground and I am one centered motherfucker.

I love this work, this learning. Yesterday, I sat with a 1,000 year old skull in my hands and noticed how, while smaller than most 1 year old skulls, it's still the same. The same sutures, the same holes where the cranial nerves go through, the same small bulges where the brain lobes rest, the same bones. All we've been doing for the last three days is anatomy: bones, nerves, blood, soft tissue of the brain/spine organ. Today is a day off and then tomorrow- Thursday - we start with the major hands on work. We've done a small amount already -hence being the centered motherfucker - but I swear, after eight more days of this, I'm going to be some new kind of Susan.

It's interesting to be in California. I haven't spent significant time here, aside from at conferences where you're surrounded by folks who aren't Californians either, since 1987. My focus is always East rather than West - East is where my friends and family are, it's where I lean when I have some free time, it's where I understand the streets and how people move.

California is different. Yeah, I know, thousands of late night bad California comedy jokes. Everyone knows California is different - but I've never quite felt it before.

The best way I can describe it is that there's a woman in the class who's from New York. The first time she opened her mouth and made a cheesy joke, the ground felt more solid under my feet and I knew where I was in the room. If you believe in things like earth/air/fire/water energies, then the East is way more earth and California is way more air. And so I'm floating around in it, not always sure of where I am in conversations with people, not used to the number of silences and the way responses are made, not quite sure.

I feel very midwestern here tinged with some East coast. Blunt, direct answers. I'm used to being the witchy-whoo-whoo one in my home community. Ha. Here, I feel like a four square barn, which is hysterical because I'm a city girl.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Invisible love lines

It's about 6am. Rocki and Luca are still asleep. I waver between wanting to stay cuddled up in bed with them and wanting to sit up, drink coffee and start getting ready to go. Today I am heading out of town and on Monday they leave for Brazil. This means we won't see each other for three weeks. That is far and above the longest we have been apart since Luca was born and, in the case of me and Rocki, it might be the longest we've been apart as well. In almost twelve years.

It's a funny thing about separating like this - I am excited by my adventure but there is also that physical ache. Part of it is for Rocki but way more of it is for Luca. What is that thing? Since having Luca, I've asked my mom about it. It's all been said before, but yeah, the invisible umbilical, the lines of energy connecting our bodies, the slow tear away to get distance.

I'm not someone who generally has disaster dreams. I leave that to Rocki. She's the one whose days consist of a whole side narrative that covers things like the car coming around the corner that loses control and smashes into our family walking down the street. The airplane that falls out of the sky. The piece of bread that lodges in Luca's throat and smothers her while we're upstairs cleaning the bedroom. Those sorts of maybes never occur to me - except when we're about to separate from each other.

Now, I can't keep my brain away from their plane that will crash, their car that will fall off a mountain, the gun going off in her mother's neighborhood. When I live in Brazil, I get annoyed by all of the US popculture about violence in Rio. I don't experience it. I don't see it. It's just a city. But now, the upcoming distance makes every newspaper article loom, italicized and bolded, in my brain.

It's the distance. When I physically imagine the geography between Berkeley and Rio, I ache. There's no rushing to touch them because I need to - or because they need me.

Love is a funny thing. It can be a downright pain in the ass.

Friday, January 26, 2007

My brother is so cool

Yep. This is an article by him about labor organizing - IN GERMAN. I mean, I speak Portuguese and all but that means that I'm comfortable ordering dinner and talking about basic things. I can even talk about more complex things if the person I'm chatting with is willing to follow my odd grammar and sentence structure. But my brother, Jeffrey, well he has been living in Germany for at least nine years now, maybe even ten, with his lovely wife Silke and their son - ahem, that's my nephew - Leo. Anyhow, I googled him on a lark and found all of these articles from him - IN GERMAN. Oh, here's something from him about an action in Frankfurt but it's in English.

Yeah, I know. My mother's asked the same thing. How come we both hooked up with foreigners?

I'm in love

I just found out that Alison Bechdel of Dykes to Watch out for has her own blog in which she also posts a sketch diary, kind of like scenes from a regular life ala Alison Bechdel.

Leaving town

I leave on Sunday morning for two weeks in Berkeley, California where I'll be studying craniosacral therapy at the fabulous Milne Institute. I'm excited, afraid, curious, hungry, and stunned to think that my "work" for the next two weeks is going to be staying present, listening, having people put their hands on me, putting my hands on other people, getting good rest, eating well, and then doing the whole thing all over again.

I've written a bit before about this - studying massage and bodywork. A friend asked me the other day if I was nervous about the training. With her question I realized that it isn't the training I'm nervous about. Instead, it's what happens after I get home. How do I make sure that I integrate this into my life - remembering to practice, to set up my table and lay a few people's bodies down on its fake leather surface? This is what frightens me. My day to day work life is so left-brained, so strategic and analytical. It always startles me how frightening it can be to set the analytical aside and just take space, just breathe.

I will probably blog while I am there in California, away from family. Rocki and Luca will be in Brazil, being in Portuguese, hot sun, Carnaval, and family. We've not done this before, this distance like this. When we had a kid, we said to ourselves, there will be times when our work and travels will take us in different directions. We said this would happen and honoring it would be a good thing. But three weeks away from them? I'm excited and scared.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Writing white

Last night I went to a reading and discussion surrounding the book Outsiders Within, an anthology written by transracial adoptees. There were about 25 folks who attended the event, most of them white and many of them with children they had adopted from outside the US or children of color adopted from within the US. In other words, many of them were the parents of transracially adopted children. A few were in the process of adopting. Most who had children already still had very young children.

Transracial adoption is such a complex subject and it's one that I have big emotions around. I know many many adult adoptees who are very articulate about their struggles, identity conflicts and confusions inherited from being adopted by white adults without the skills to teach them about racism, their birth country, or their specific identities. For the most part, I fall in the same camp as the anthology contributors: I believe we should work hard to make sure that parents all over the world have access to their basic economic needs and human rights and that no parent should ever have to give up a child in order to guarantee their own survival. I look at Luca and she is the same age as some of the adoptees were when they were adopted. She already has such a full life, full of so many relationships, I can't imagine her needing to uproot that completely and "become" someone else just like I can't imagine the emotional struggle involved in having to give her up.

But that isn't the point of this blog. During the discussion, a lot of questions were asked. A LOT of questions. It's clear that many of the white parents were hungry for suggestions from adult adoptees on how they can raise their children with compassion and integrity. It was clear that some of the questioners were used to talking about race and racism and some were a bit more awkward in their language. It is also clear that people were there because of how much they wanted to learn, to be good parents, to do the right thing.

At various points during the discussion, I got angry or frustrated or cynical. I was frustrated with what I felt was the ignorance of some of the white folks, the reluctance to look at racism as a system or to look at our collusion with white privilege and the way that this collusion continually props up racism. I wanted more direct conversation about our responsibility and accountability as white folks. I quoted a Cheri Register piece I read ages ago in which, in discussing her adoption of an African American child, she talked about realizing that while, on the one hand, she had "saved" her child from poverty and the foster care system, on the other hand she had burdened this child with her ignorance, put this child into a vulnerable position by not being able to give her (I don't remember if it was a son or daughter) the life and survival instruction and support for living in a profoundly racist nation. I was so moved by Cheri's willingness to sit within that place of contradiction, refusing to consider "giving up" her child, this piece of her life, yet also refusing to deny that her parenting would by definition bring some harm as well as some good.

This is what I wanted, practical direct conversation that starts with an assumption that white privilege exists and it informs our every action.

And so I got annoyed and then, yes, fell into the "better white than you" trap of white privilege. Meaning, I felt for awhile like I "got" it and "they" didn't and I wanted so desperately to talk with other white folks who "got" it and not with these people.


This morning I did the first group of a Mindfulness Politics course. And halfway through, I sat there cross legged on the floor and wept. This is not who I want to be, hard hearted, angry, self-righteous. Race, white privilege, this core of injustice, these things have been on my front burner for most of my adult life. This is the work I want to do. Last night, I forgot HOW I want to do this work. I forgot that sometimes, when sitting in the midst of that conversation, being brave means having compassion.

I am so hungry for conversations about all of this, not just the talking analytical conversations or the mental masturbation as Vikki called it last night, but the scary practical conversations and strategies that help me think about how to parent and how to be as a white person.

This is something I am going to write about a lot more here - and on the antiracist white parent blog. I am also trying to drag the other adults and parents that I love into this conversation, asking them to do their own writing. And more than that, I'm going to use my daughter as a guinea pig. Meaning, I have never parented before. I haven't yet found any practical parenting books about raising white children and yes, I know there are books out there about taking your kids to multicultural events so they know that a diverse world exists, but I am talking about something very different from that. I am looking for help.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A call to white anti-racist parents

I've been skimming and browsing a website at for awhile. It's a good website in that it's one of the few out there that seems to be overtly for parents talking about raising their children within the lens of antiracism. It took me awhile to realize that the majority of the children were children of color and that the parents were a mix of parents of color and white parents (some with adopted children of color some with bioborn children of color). I'm not sure why it took me awhile - except that I think I was just so happy to see a space with an overt discussion of race, racism and parenting.

Anyhow, out of this space and out of some of the conversations on the website has grown a new blog called Literally just started - there is an introductory post and then I wrote something in the comments - it intends to be a discussion point for white parents raising white children who are thinking hard about race, racism and white privilege. A linked discussion to one that is taking place on but slightly separate as, hopefully, a pile of white folks roll up their shirtsleeves and try to think - together - about what it means to raise the children we love, with their joys and innocence, and who are already benefiting daily from their whiteness.

So join the discussion! Post something!!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Super stretchy differences

So, it's been three days in a row that I've done power yoga first thing in the morning. I have a new schedule. I set the alarm for six am, go downstairs and make coffee and Luca's breakfast, put the breakfast on the table, then start to streeeeeeeeeeeeetch and sweat. At one point, Luca comes down and gets her ready made breakfast, sits on the couch and watches me streeeeeeeeeeeetch and sweat.

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend. A friend who doesn't have kids. She was explaining how incredibly busy she is, how she doesn't have any time at all. I listened and then at one point, I had to do it, rather than just listen, I had to assert a comparison. I said, "You know, I know you are really busy, but when I had a kid - and I only have one, mind you - I realized that what I used to think of as busy wasn't really about having no time. It was about being very scheduled, but there was still such a great amount of space. It's amazing how different it is to have your own head to yourself in between times - even if it's only for ten minutes. There are some days when that can feel like a mountain of time. And I only have one kid." My friend insisted on her busy-ness, that I didn't understand, that you couldn't be more busy than she currently is, couldn't hear that there is context, that there is subtlety, and that being childless affords you a different kind of restfulness that you lose with small children. Sure, you gain lots of other things, but that wasn't the point.

The connection between these things is that my friend talked about how busy she was and that last week she only worked out three times. I was thinking about this while I was doing yoga this morning - something that is supposed to be meditative, focused on breathing - while Luca went between doing the poses with me (foot in the face, falling on my legs, asking for help) and sitting on the couch asking me questions about who knows what. Streeeetch. sweat. I remember when working out could feel like one of the things I had to do in a very busy day but how it was also time to connect alone with my body, with my strength, with my sweat.

Whenever I have a childless friend who is not open to hearing that there is a context, a comparison between a parenting life and a childless life, I wonder about what contexts I am closed to. I assume there must be some. It's the hardest thing about difference - it is almost impossible to imagine or understand those things which are really fundamentally different from yourself. It is hard to not try and sit with my own experience and then try to make comparisons when sometimes, there is just no comparison to be made.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cowboys and farmers and growing things

A friend of ours, Marquis, just came over to have dinner and hang out while his adult went off with Rocki to a meeting. Marquis came in full cowboy regalia and Luca met him at the door, also with a red cowboy hat perched on her head.

What is it about being a cowboy/girl, a farmer, a rancher? Luca is clear that she wants to grow things, take care of animals and have a big old horse perched between her legs. Marquis has told me he wants to be a cowboy or a rancher, he doesn't want to ride in the rodeo but he wants to ride ride ride over huge great fields and make the cattle run the right way.

Today on the way home from school, Luca was frustrated about forgetting to bring a drawing home. In her frustration, she said that she was planning on throwing a tantrum. When I told her that wasn't a good idea, she said that the problem was, she wanted to hit something or someone. "I don't want to hit a pillow, mama, I want to hit something that would break." she explained.

While we talked about why breaking car windows was not a good idea, she shifted her thinking and said she just wanted to get out of the car and run run run run without telling any grownups where she was going or without having to come home at any special time. "I just want to have all of the space for myself, mama, I don't want anyone else to live in Minneapolis, or to be on the street or to be in the houses. I want it just for us."

Ok, so this didn't seem like a conversation about privilege (all mine mine mine said the white middle class girl) so much as a conversation about longing and expansion and the individual. Yeah, the very things that leads and has led to colonialism but probably started just like this, as a feeling. Grown ups always telling you what to do, wanting to just kick and push and own all of the space. And so, god damned it, I'll just take all of this and make it mine and keep on making more and more of it mine. Without end.

I thought about this while Marquis and Luca were giggling madly about riding horses for days and then going to their farm and picking their food and milking their cows and then getting back on their horses. A dream of power. A dream of control. Of life without all of those annoying boundaries and limits. The two of them in their cowboy hats, Luca maybe still wanting to break things but instead, breaking open space into something that is limitless in imagination.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Proud mama

Last summer, Luca had the idea of raising dollars to help endangered animals (a word she still sometimes mispronounces as ingendered). A combination of factors - a fundraising mama, two parents who are slightly obsessed about what it means to responsibly raise a privileged child, reading the book Alex's lemonade stand, and multiple trips to the zoo led Luca to consider raising bucks for animals. In this case, the Hyacinth Macaw - an endangered bird living in the Brazilian Amazon.

So, rather than explain it all here, the zoo did a story on it. Go here to Zoo Tracks, download it, and read page three.

And yeah, we're so very proud and it is embarrassing to be this proud. I haven't felt something like this before - I mean, I'm proud of Luca, but this kind of public "look at my kid" pride. I always feel a little bit squeamish, a bit embarrassed or uncomfortable when people say too many nice things about Luca. Because I certainly don't get that from my mother and because I am certainly far more transcended and child-separated than to assume that kind words about Luca are kind words about me (snort), I usually just assume it's some ancient Sicilian ancestor, drawing a grimace and holding her fingers up in the horn, croaking "mal occhio, mal occhio." You know, bad luck to draw attention to a child because then someone will zap her with the evil eye.

But here I am, doing it. So if you're going to send the evil eye somewhere, send it at me.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Seven months later and survival

Some people call blogging an addiction. I don't think it's an addiction for me, it's more like a vacation. I love reading my friend's blogs. I love having people comment when I'm blogging but for the last six months, I haven't missed blogging. And the fact that I am writing today doesn't mean I will write tomorrow.

Very honestly, a friend told me about a friend of hers who had just read all of my blogs. And because I forget that the internet knows no secrets, I also forget that while I'm not writing currently, I still exist with who I was all of those months ago. A wee bit of pride made me reconnect for a minute.

My work these days is writing. I am working as one of those paid consultant types who does fundraising, organizational development, etc. I am making more money than I've ever made before. In a few weeks I go to California to study craniosacral therapy and you know what I spend my time thinking about? How if global warming comes tomorrow, or if someone continues to respond to our out of control imperialism with their own brand of rage on an even bigger scale, or if our inflated economy crashes, I can't help but wonder how I would care for our family. I mean, let's get real, my work isn't "real work," it's a way to help organizations exist within capitalism, to help these grassroots struggling places to get their piece of the pie so that they can continue to do their good and righteous work which often means empowering individuals and communities who have been victimized by capitalism. Phew. Mindfuck.

To me, "real" work means practical skills that in some way support the basic needs of people's lives: building things, growing food, taking care of children, providing health care. So I was thrilled when Rocki, my partner, started carpentry and, while understanding why she stopped doing it, sad that she couldn't rebuild our house if a plane fell on it. I used to work as a gardener and have some of those skills. I like studying craniosacral therapy so that I have a "real skill" and Rocki keeps reminding me, we can ALWAYS take care of children.

Still, I want more. The older I get, I discover this little survivalist residing right behind my chestbone.