Sunday, September 13, 2009

We went to the library today and I got a ton of books.

The Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook from 2006.

Ancient China from The Nature Company Discoveries Library. The kids and I will look at this together.

Medieval Life from Eyewitness Books (I should say right now that I tried watching The Tudors via Netflix and I just didn’t seem to be in the right mood. Maybe I needed to give it more of a chance, but it got a little old . . . Jonathon Rhys Myers has sex with some chick . . . then he acts arrogant . . . then he has sex with another chick . . . then he makes a big decision, disregarding what his advisors tell him to do. Rinse, repeat. Eh.)

Beginner’s World Atlas from National Geographic

Baby’s very first colors book by Usborne (for Rian)

Counting Kittens and Puppies by ticktock Entertainment. Why do these baby books not have real authors? I mean, I get that it’s kind of easy to photoshop some cute dogs & cats and super-simple one liners . . . but shouldn’t that guy get author credit? Sheesh.

Animal Friends: A Global Celebration of Children and Animals BY MAYA AJMERA & JOHN D. IVANKO – Thank you! Finally a baby book with real people behind it. Those other guys were obviously robots.

The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids by Madeline Levin, Ph.D. At my library they have parenting books right next to baby books (as well as in adult non-fiction) . . . slick, right? Oh man there were tons, but of course this one caught my eye.

And so did: It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting Is Hurting Our Kids – and What to Do About It. 2nd Sub-title: Question the Experts, Trust Your Instincts, and Dare to Parent – in a Culture That Tells You Not To by Betsy Hart

The One Minute Cleaner: Plain and Simple with 2nd Sub-title: 500 Tips for Cleaning Smarter, Not Harder by Donna Smallin

And the kids got their own books, including joke books, American Girl books (oh lawd), SLUMBER PARTY SING-ALONG VOLUME 2 (a cd of the kidz bop genre – all songs are listed like this: “Best of Both Worlds (Made Famous by Hannah Montana)” i.e. there are just random kids singing these songs. Which has led to a fun game we play. “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & the Waves comes on the radio and Kori says, “Oh, this lady did this song too?” and I nearly drive off the road, screaming “SHE DID IT FIRST OMG STOP LISTENING TO KIDZ BOP!!!!!!!!!”

Can you tell I’m ready to pack up a U-Haul and head to Montana to live on my ranch on the side of the mountain? I really had to stop myself from checking out books on canning and dehydrating food.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I have to select an area Non-Profit to do my final project on for my current class. I have to meet with their executive director (or someone in a similar position), interview them, tour their location, and then present my project to the class. Tomorrow we have to come to class with 3 possibilities. I chose:

~ Crossroads which is based in the South suburbs and does anti-racism training for organizations.

~ Wings which provides shelter, education, guidance & support to homeless/abused women & children (I knew of them because a thrift store near my house where I shop sometimes is a Wings thrift store – all money supports the org)

~ Roseland Community “Good News” Daycare which has an awesome story . . . it’s run by a lady who was a pregnant teen years ago . . . she began providing childcare for local teens who were likely to drop out of school. She provided free care, food & diapers if the mom couldn’t pay. The daycare has grown into a great organization. My friend Alicia told me about her a while ago.

In related news, last week I sent an email to Leonard Pitts from the Miami Herald (a columnist I’ve read for years), nominating the Roseland Daycare as an organization he should profile for his “What Works” column. What Works is a look at programs around the U.S. that are doing good things for children in need, specifically Black kids. Of course I didn’t bother to read the DATES of the articles that highlighted great organizations, so I didn’t realize that he ran this series of columns a couple years ago (doh!) & they’re just posted as archives.

Anyway – if you’re interested in reading about some great nation-wide organizations that are doing great things, google Leonard Pitts Miami Herald and start reading. You may eventually be asked to create an account to continue reading but it’s free and took me about 30 seconds to do it. You have to opt IN for any newsletters/emails so don’t worry about getting spammed by creating an account.

Here is the text from his final article on the series, dated July 7, 2008. (Also - the Harlem Children's Zone has connections in both curriculum & training to the people where I work who are running an elementary school here on Chicago's West Side, the Garfield Park Preparatory Academy).

We Know What Works – Now Let’s Do It by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

This will be the last What Works column.

I reserve the right to occasionally report on any program I run across that shows results in saving the lives and futures of African-American kids. But this is the last in the series I started 19 months ago to spotlight such programs.

Let me begin by thanking you for your overwhelming response to my request for nominations, and to thank everyone from every program who allowed me to peek behind the scenes. From the Harlem Children's Zone in New York to SEI (Self-Enhancement, Inc.) in Portland, Ore., I have been privileged and uplifted to see dedicated people doing amazing work.

I am often asked whether I've found common denominators in all these successful programs, anything we can use in helping kids at risk. The short answer is, yes. You want to know what works?

Longer school days and longer school years work. Giving principals the power to hire good teachers and fire bad ones works. High expectations work. Giving a teacher freedom to hug a child who needs hugging works. Parental involvement works. Counseling for troubled students and families works. Consistency of effort works. Incentives work. Field trips that expose kids to possibilities you can't see from their broken neighborhoods, work.

Indeed, the most important thing I've learned is that none of this is rocket science. We already know what works. What we lack is the will to do it. Instead, we have a hit-and-miss patchwork of programs achieving stellar results out on the fringes of the larger, failing, system. Why are they the exception and not the rule?

If we know what works, why don't we simply do it?

Nineteen months ago when I started, I asked Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone why anyone should pay to help him help poor kids in crumbling neighborhoods. He told me, "Someone's yelling at me because I'm spending $3,500 a year on 'Alfred.' Alfred is 8. OK, Alfred turns 18. No one thinks anything about locking him up for 10 years at $60,000 a year."

Amen. Forget the notion of a moral obligation to uplift failing children. Consider the math instead. If that investment of $3,500 per annum creates a functioning adult who pays taxes and otherwise contributes to the system, why would we pass that up in favor of creating, 10 years later, an adult who drains the system to the tune of $60,000 a year for his incarceration alone, to say nothing of the other costs he foists upon society?

How does that make sense? Nineteen months later, I have yet to find a good answer.

Instead, I find passivity. Save The Children, Marvin Gaye exhorted 27 years ago. But we are losing the children in obscene numbers. Losing them to jails, losing them to graves, losing them to illiteracy, teen parenthood, and other dead-ends and cul-de-sacs of life. But I have yet to hear America -- or even African America -- scream about it. Does no one else see a crisis here?

"I don't think that in America, especially in black America, we can arrest this problem unless we understand the urgency of it, " says Tony Hopson, Sr., founder of SEI. "When I say urgency, I'm talking 9/11 urgency, I'm talking Hurricane Katrina urgency, things that stop a nation. I don't think in black America this is urgent enough. Kids are dying every single day. I don't see where the NAACP, the Urban League, the Black Caucus, have decided that the fact that black boys are being locked up at alarming rates, [means] we need to stop the nation and have a discussion about how we're going to eradicate that as a problem. It has not become urgent enough. If black America don't see it as urgent enough, how dare us think white America is going to think it's urgent enough?"

In other words, stand up. Get angry. Stop accepting what is clearly unacceptable. I'll bet you that works, too.

Friday, September 11, 2009

i attend north park university which is a teensy christian college heavily focused on service . . . the campus looks straight out of a movie but it's plunked right down in the middle of chicago.
i'm in the non-profit managment bachelor's program (in a cohort of adults who work and are returning to finish their degrees).
i recently decided that when i'm done with my bachelor's degree, i'm likely going to try to get into their grad program for non-profit administration. so, there, i said it: i think i'm going to go to grad school.

4,000 words

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The ol' Partisan Poison Dart

I read the Obama school speech transcript. I think it was good. My kid's school didn't show it it: “There are many reasons, including MAP testing, instructional blocks, and the inability to show this with our current technology resources.” It’s not a huge deal to me – there isn’t anything in there that we haven’t already talked to our kids about. However, they like Obama so it will be good to sit with them & watch the speech, it will be exciting for them. I remember as a kid hating to watch stuff with adults talking about adult stuff . . . I’d try to watch presidential addresses but would quickly lose interest. I think it would have been really cool to see him talking right to me on my level.

As a parent, I’m not concerned that he would be trying to indoctrinate my kids. I wasn’t a Bush fan but if there had been a presidential address like this I would have thought nothing of it – I would assume, as I have with Obama, that the speech would be kid & education focused, and I wouldn’t expect there to be any sort of partisan poison dart that would shoot out of the TV and infect my kids and make them become a big, bad (insert political party). If one speech from the president would override everything I’m teaching in my home, then I’m not doing much teaching in my home!

As for the kids who don’t get the teaching at home, I don’t think there was anything but encouragement to work their hardest in the speech. And Obama being able to share stories of how he identified with not having a perfect life growing up will be meaningful to those kids – this is one more reason that I do like Obama even though I disagree with some of his policies – he is a different face, a face that some kids will be able to identify with for the first time. Him mentioning difficult times in his childhood is another way of telling the kids who don’t have much support – try anyway, you can do it. The truth is many of them won’t do it, even with him as an example, because all our problems as a society don’t go away just because we have a Black president. But it’s one barrier broken down – having never seen a Black face in that office. I truly, truly didn’t think I’d see a Black president in my lifetime . . . and the unabashed racism that has come to the surface since he became a candidate is why I didn’t think it would happen. Just because it’s under the surface doesn’t mean it’s not there! We have a loooong way to go, and I guess because of my Christian worldview, I don’t believe we WILL ever get there, not until Christ returns.

Which leads me to something I hadn’t intended to write about, but I struggle so much with balancing the beliefs of the human sinful nature vs. the work the Holy Spirit can do in our lives . . . balancing knowing things will probably only get worse before Christ returns vs. continuing to work TODAY to make improvements. I guess sometimes I just look around and think, “What’s the use?”

Trying to balance a *worldly* viewpoint, which to me is that we actually believe that one day we will get “there” where things are just great for everyone. But as a Christian I don’t believe that’s possible here on earth. But then I have to think from the worldly viewpoint of the worth & value of the lives that are here right now, that can be improved . . . and that lines up with Christ’s mandates to his church.

Sometimes I get so tired of trying to figure out the answers and then hitting a wall & remembering I can’t know all the answers, it’s not possible. I get tired of caring so much and not being able to fix the things that ail people and hurt them. Sometimes I wish I could just be a robot because it’s overwhelming to see so much pain in the world and to have so little power to take away the pain. There are times when I’m physically overcome with the knowledge of the ways people suffer. I can either become a basketcase or I can turn off the TV in my head and do the little I can do. It just never seems to be enough.

So, was that depressing enough for you??
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