it’s not about the flag

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It’s not about the flag. It never has been.

A few weeks ago (a month now, maybe?), Jon and I were lucky enough to receive free passes to a Nascar race at Sonoma Raceway. I say “lucky” because Jon grew up twelve miles from Talladega, in Alabama. Nascar is, at heart, a Southern thing.

It was my first race.

The weather was sunshine; the cars were flash. We didn’t even hit traffic. It was a good day. As we were leaving, though, we saw something . . . unremarkable. Well, it would have been if not for the commotion of the past few weeks.

The United States wants to do away with the Confederate flag. It represents racism and black oppression and all that is wrong with the world. So they say. Many Southerners — rebels, if you will — resent this. The Confederate flag is, to them, a part of their heritage, a piece of their past. It also does not represent racism. It represents their fight to preserve the states’ rights. They also “just like it.” So they say.

Since its beginning, Nascar has been associated with rebellion. The sport originated in the Appalachia with moonshiners and bootleggers during America’s Prohibition. Bootleggers needed fast cars to evade the police and deliver their “shine.” They modified their own for this purpose, and then, suddenly, one day, Daytona was a race as much as a place.

And Confederate flags were everywhere.

I am not a Southerner. I have never flown a Confederate flag. But even out in California (or should I say, especially out in California), I’ve seen them around. And when I’ve seen them, I’ve thought, “Ohhh, boy,” but I’ve never thought their owners were bringing our nation down.

Because, really . . .

Where have all the thinkers gone? What happened to A leads to B leads to C? The Confederate flag didn’t create racism, folks. People created racism. People in their narrow-mindedness created attitudes and perceptions and biases. People who lacked education or misused their education, who lacked love or embraced hate, who could not or would not see the humanity of their fellow man . . .

Yep, folks, racism is about people. The Confederate flag is merely a scapegoat. As such, you can do away with the “Stars and Bars” all you want — nothing is going to change. In fact, things are only going to get worse. In fact, they already have. Did anyone see the story about the former university cop in Cincinnati in the news today?

The only solution to racism is the opposite — acceptance. And love.

What happened to the love?
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The Confederate flag Jon and I saw at Sonoma Raceway.

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rainbow wars

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No, this post isn’t about various parties’ reactions to Friday’s ruling, though maybe it should be. Rather . . .
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And why a rainbow?

It occurred to me yesterday that I had no idea why, or when, a rainbow had come to symbolize gay pride. Growing up, and being raised Protestant Christian, I was taught that rainbows were God’s sign to Noah that he would never again destroy the earth. The next time the heavens would open — literally, anyway — would be when He returned during the Second Coming.

That’s what my Bible teacher said, anyway.

Rainbows, then, were a symbol of hope. They were a promise. “You’ll never have to go through that again, Noah. And, hey you — yes you, Man — I will return.”

Somewhere along the line, though, rainbows got mixed in with leprechauns and Lucky Charms, and then (I did a little research), in the 1970s, a man named Harvey Milk came along. Harvey Milk was the nation’s first openly gay politician, and, in 1977, San Francisco elected him to its Board of Supervisors. To celebrate, Milk challenged an artist friend, Gilbert Baker, to come up with a flag to symbolize the gay community. “The only thing they have to look forward to is hope,” he said. “We have to give them hope.”

And thus was born the rainbow flag. *”Hot pink stood for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit.”

And here I’d been thinking rainbows were about Bible stories and unicorns.

The story does make me curious, though. The gay community was looking for a symbol of hope. The rainbow is a symbol of hope. Makes sense, but . . . Why not come up with your own symbol? Something a little different, something new? Why borrow from something that — originally, anyway — has nothing to do with you?

Thoughts? Anyone?

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*Sources: A Brief History of the Rainbow Flag, milkfoundation.org
Image: Google
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the *real* shocker

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Wow. Even the banner at the top of my editor’s page is a rainbow.

So, today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to gay marriage. I learned of their decision this morning. A lot of people are happy about this; a lot of others are not. (Just sign into facebook — you’ll see what I mean.) But whether you agree or disagree with this decision, my question is: Are you really surprised? I mean, really? Continue reading

will we never learn?

m-2339Bloody Sunday. Selma. These are names, places, that ring bells in many Americans’ minds. My boyfriend grew up in Alabama. He says every Alabamian’s skin prickles when they hear these terms.

No one has good recollections of Selma.

I won’t tell you all of the things that happened on Bloody Sunday. I myself didn’t know the story until recently. I was writing an article for the newspaper. A local man was there when it happened. He had his story to tell. So it goes.

So it goes that, back in the sixties, African-Americans weren’t allowed to vote — even though they legally were. In the South, in places like Selma, only two percent of blacks had been able to register. Because of this, and because of the senseless killing of a man named Jimmie Lee Jackson, protestors organized a march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965. They were trying to gain national support for their cause. They were trying to gain what should have already had: Equality. Continue reading

just say no!

valentines-day-2014-roses-hero-HValentine’s Day. For what it’s worth, I’ve never been a fan. As I’ve described in previous posts, it’s an over-commercialized holiday that demeans romance, not exalts it. There’s nothing more romantic than a grocery store teddy bear and a dozen roses with baby’s breath, right? No? How about eating in a crowded over-priced restaurant alongside everyone else in town?

It’s even better when you’re single, of course. Happy Single’s Awareness Day, anyone? Gahhh.

For those who have kids, Valentine’s Day takes on a different meaning. Suddenly Valentine’s Day cards are being made and bought and glitter and glue are everywhere. Valentine’s candy is being passed out. Pictures are being taken. Nothing wrong with that, but . . . Continue reading

children’s stories

chinese childI was trying to write a children’s story. I wasn’t any good at it.

My language was too dense.
My thoughts, too dull.
My words too extreme.
My heart, too full.

Because you see…

Life is hard, children. And we make it that way. We grow from you — so innocent, wide-eyed, full of joy — and turn into…? Monsters. We are monsters, children. Everyone one of us. Even the best of us. Monsters. Continue reading

bobbles

So, I wanted to finish this:

We are who we are
yet all we will be –
The people we touch,
the people we see.
The people we love,
the people who care,
The people ‘re strange,
the people who stare.

But, instead, I wrote this: Continue reading

little by little

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Chasing seagulls at nearby Bodega Bay

I’m supposed to be applying for a job right now. The open tab on my computer — “Children’s Fiction/Non-Fiction Writer” — is just to my right. I think I might actually have a shot at this one. I’ve been a teacher, and I love to write. The position is freelance, so . . . What more could they need?

Well, they’d need my application first.

I guess I forgot to mention that we moved. In all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and of packing and unpacking, and of apartment hunting and job searching, there was no time to blog. Continue reading

new year, new you . . . not!

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No, I did not take this picture. I was in bed last night by 10 p.m.!

As a teen, I remember counting down the seconds — ten! nine! eight! — to midnight on New Year’s Eve. I clung to each one, lingered over it, never wanted to let it go. Those seconds were portals into my future past, remnants of a beautiful year.

I was a nostalgic kid.

As an adult, little has changed, except . . . I’ve seen enough New Years to know that there isn’t some catastrophic, year-annihilating boom at the stroke of midnight on January 1st. 2014 isn’t a pile a rubble and ash to be sorted through and mourned. Rather, 2014 is what it is — the past — just as 6:30 this morning is now the past. Continue reading

the hope of christmas

IMG_0376ed2014 is almost over. Where does time go?

It hardly seems a few days since last Christmas, when I woke up beside a lake in Pell City, Alabama. I was welcomed with open arms by Jon’s family — Southern hospitality in full form — and spent New Years Eve beneath the stars in Santa Cruz. The past year has been a big one — full of changes and surprises, love and laughter. It’s been a sad one on a national and global scale — so much hurt and pain and anger; so many issues that make me sad. But, through it all — the good and the bad — one thing rings clear: HOPE. Continue reading

ungrateful and unaware

And what would you . . . ?

What would you do if a child from a privileged home couldn’t tell you what they were thankful for?

Not a single thing?

Yesterday on facebook, while browsing my news feed, I came across this photo and quote from Humans of New York. Humans of New York is a popular photoblog created by a man named Brandon Stanton. The site features portraits and interviews of individuals in New York — and around the world. While some have criticized HONY, saying many of Stanton’s interviews must be staged, most viewers love the site. I myself like HONY because, to me, Brandon has done exactly what I’ve been trying to do all along: Show that people are people. Continue reading

killing the idealist in me

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Chattanooga’s waterfront, where the Chattanooga’s first Ironman took place

When words fail, what do I have left?

This past week Jon and I went back to Chattanooga for his Ironman. It was Chattanooga’s first, and Jon’s, too, and was something he’d been looking forward to since before we met. And…

It was good to see his friends and family, and good to be able to help him reach his goal. His training hadn’t exactly been what it should have been (for a lot of reasons), and I was proud of him for finishing. But… then…

Why was it so hard for me?

Why is everything so hard for me? Continue reading

the fire in my heart

It may be old news to some, or too distant to matter for others, but for me, the King Fire hits home.

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Placerville is my hometown. Pollock Pines is just up the road. I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven past this sign on my way home from Lake Tahoe. Continue reading

my prayer

San Ramon, California

San Ramon, California, where I work

Sitting in my darkened apartment, listening to the hum of traffic on University Avenue. It’s Saturday evening and my weekend has (finally) officially started. I’ve had thoughts all week about what to write right here. And yet, now, when I finally have the time . . .

the words,

the topics,

seem . . .

Misplaced.

Like me. Continue reading

when i grow up (or, discouragement)

Teaching in Taiwan

Teaching in Taiwan

Do you know what you want to be when you grow up? I mean, really?

I don’t.

I’m thirty years old, and I don’t have a clue. I used to joke that I wished I could get paid to write and read and exercise. Now I wish the same, only I’d add “travel” and “work with kids” to the mix. And you know what kills me? I can do all of these things, and I likely could get paid for them, except . . . Except I don’t have the degree. Continue reading

remember . . .

xray2How many drafts can I write before finally finishing a new post?

Seriously. I think I’ve written at least fifteen.

There have been posts about crazy people, posts about jobs, posts about love, posts about war. I’ve had thoughts on Robin Williams, thoughts on poetry (I haven’t written any in a while) . . . My most effective writing comes from what is closest at hand, closest to my heart.

I’ve had this week off and expected I’d get something written — anything. But then last weekend I broke my collarbone on a ride in Napa, and now tomorrow I’m having surgery. And now I’m no longer sure I can write at all: my mind is so scattered. Continue reading

teach them to read

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Thought for the day, and week, and month, I suppose, at the rate I’ve been blogging:

If you want children to write, teach them to read. If you want them to read, show them reading is fun. As a kid, I was a bookworm, but it wasn’t until I became a teacher that I realized how much reading had impacted my understanding of the structure of the English language. No one cares about adverbs and subjects and predicates and helping verbs. No 8-year-old wants to break that stuff down. What they want are action and adventure and ideas. What they want are the things of life.

Except for that one student. If you really think “will” + “not” = “willn’t,” we may have a problem . . . Except that, there, the study of grammar failed you, too. You wouldn’t have said “willn’t” in day-to-day speech. You were following a pattern, and “won’t” breaks all the rules.

— Miss Jess

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fate?

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Writing Camp, Summer 2014

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My favorite professor in college used to tell a story. As a young man, he’d been in a jazz band and then the army. He’d traveled solo around the world, dreamed of being a pilot, gone to flight school. After receiving his pilot’s license, however, he couldn’t find work. Times were desperate; money, scarce. One day, in a moment of frustration, he cried out, “Lord, please . . . What do you want me to do?!” Continue reading

no excuses

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Do you struggle with perfectionism — like me?

This is the first time I’ve opened my laptop in more than a week, the first time I’ve looked at my blog in more than that. The last two weeks have been busy. I’ve been teaching a writing camp at my new job, where I’m an instructor at an after-school learning center. Camp has been in the mornings; regular classes, until 7 or 8 at night. It’s been fun — tons of it — and has given me a lot of ideas about what to write right here. But when it comes to actually sitting down and finding the time to write? When I’m not exhausted?

And the thing is, I don’t want my blog to be all about me, or, worse, less than my best work. The key to successfully engaging an audience is to have something interesting to say, and to say it well. But great writing requires a fresh mind and time to follow through. It seems like every time I sit down to write, I’m in a hurry. Today I’m headed out to meet Jon at the marina where he is tootling around on the bay in our new kayak. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do together for a while now, but, well, when has there been time for that, either?

The good news is that this next week I have a little time off, and I intend to utilize that time to do some of the things (write and ride, and maybe swim) I’ve been putting off. I also know that many of the world’s greatest writers have finished their best works while working other “real” jobs, however. A busy schedule is no excuse.

So stay with me, please. Soon to follow are letters from students, thoughts on homelessness, thoughts on futures, gay pride (the San Francisco Pride festival is being held in the city this weekend; it feels weird to live in so liberal a place when both Jon and I come from much more conservative backgrounds), and much, much more.

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!
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See that head poking out of the water? That’s me swimming. :)

outshine the stars

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Riding the Berkeley Hills (Dad, me, and my brother)

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Today is Father’s Day. Well, was. It’s almost over now — 10:30 p.m. here on the West Side.

My dad and brother came to visit us today. We rode our bikes, chatted, got Thai food. Overall, it was a great day — except for my dad and brother who spent more than two hours driving in traffic . . .

But . . .

Hopefully, it was worth it. I made pound cake, which we ate after dinner. Jon had everyone laughing with his stories about growing up in Alabama. And I . . .

Remembered my poem from last Father’s Day, which I’ve decided to post again, here. I hope you don’t mind . . . I hope you enjoy . . .

Happy Father’s Day, everyone!

 

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Let’s dive! (My dad on the right as a little boy.)

Path to Immortality

We start out mere mortals,
’til “Father” turns son.
It’s then our potential
“forever” is won.

We live through our children,
and they on through theirs.
So what will we show them?
How say, “Daddy cares”?

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Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Two kids in a tub.

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It’s here I’m no expert,
but look to the best.
My father’s my hero—
he far passed the rest!

With love and compassion,
through fire and through ice,
he gave with devotion,
and never thought twice:

My dad as a baby with his dad

My dad as a baby with his dad

He did what he had to,
and then he did more.
No matter the duty,
’twas never a chore.

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“Da-ddy. Da-ddy. A spider!” my plea.

From start until finish,
from dawn until dusk,
pushed past human limits,
he still wasn’t brusque . . .

But rather was patient,
and kind without end.
All people who knew him,
his worth did commend.

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“Lo-vely. Lucky!” they always told me.

Swimming in Lake Tahoe when I was a kid

Swimming in Lake Tahoe when I was a kid

But of my dad’s story,
they only knew half.
I wasn’t just lucky:
My dad’s off the graph!

For me and my brother,
he’s always been there.
‘Twas never a question:
“Does our daddy care?”

Love you. Love you. I know that it’s true.

From cycling, to skiing,
to talking in depth,
my father has shaped me,
and that is a breadth!

So Daddy, I thank you,
for all that you are.
You’re no longer mortal:
You outshine the stars.

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Jon, me, and Derek

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Sour cream pound cake — my dad and brother’s favorite. :)

thrive

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It’s funny how it hit me: Tonight, I had to write.

I’ve been putting it off for ages, trying to find my voice. Writing is my passion, but there is never time, never the place. There are always things in the way — things of higher priority — and there are bills to pay. Blogging doesn’t help much with bills.

And then there’s topic. What on earth do I want to say? My little brother got married a few weeks ago. I cut my finger so deeply I could see the tendon. I started a new job working with young kids. Traffic is insane in the Bay Area. The weather is different here. Homelessness is everywhere here. And, and . . .

People are people. It’s what I keep coming back to. Here in Berkeley the population is incredibly diverse. There are black people and white people and red people and yellow people. There are people wearing saris and turbans and skullcaps and blue jeans and pant suits and rags. We are all so different, and yet . . . forever the same.

And that’s why I love you . . . and you and you and you (especially you, hatted boy). I love you because I am like you. I breathe and cry and laugh and try and fail and try again just like the rest of you. I am sick when the world is evil but thrilled when love calls my name. (Thank you, sweetie…)

I am human, and I will thrive. Until my dying day, I will thrive.

And you will, too.

I know it.

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leave it to me . . .

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Sometimes I feel like this guy: bumbling along, never knowing what trouble I’ll trip into next . . .

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To build my blog and then abandon it because life has just gotten too dang busy.

To finally get a job I love but for that job to only be part time.

To get a part-time job I love and for that job to be more than thirty miles away. (Gas is more than $4 a gallon.)

To get a ticket for talking on my cell phone in my car for two seconds. Why can’t you go after the real trouble-makers, cops? (My co-worker’s bike was stolen from right in front of our office the same day.)

To have a clean apartment but never spend time relaxing in it (writing my blog) because I’m too busy cleaning (thinking) and exercising (thinking).

To break my boyfriend’s beautiful glass thermometer because I was trying to clean it.

To cut my finger so deeply (I could see the tendon) that I need stitches because I broke my boyfriend’s thermometer.

To cut my finger so deeply I need stitches on the weekend my brother is getting married in Tahoe. (Love you, bro!)

To be lucky enough to have a dad who’s a doctor who, it just so happens, will also be at the wedding in Tahoe this weekend.

To want to clean my car because I just can’t take the dirt anymore, despite the fact that I need stitches and my car is just going to get dirty this weekend, anyway. (We’re driving it to Tahoe.)

To want to ride my bike today because that’s just what I love to do, even if I do have a cut finger!

To beat myself up for the mistakes I’ve made, and then to just make them again.

To never give up despite making the same mistakes over and over again, because that’s just how I am — stubborn as hell.

To have just written an entire draft of this post and not saved it, then pushed save, and for it to have been deleted.

To miss reading your blogs and connecting with you (you know who you are) but to be unable to catch up with everyone right now.

To miss you all and know that someday soon I’ll be back — blogging regularly, loving endlessly.

Promise.

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Pictures from my brother’s wedding to come. I hope you all have a beautiful weekend!

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writer’s lament

writer's blockI’ve been trying to write a post all morning. Trying to reach deep within and pull out something deep and meaningful to which you might all relate. I’ve been thinking about black and white and gray and how I don’t believe in gray and how that is why I know religion doesn’t matter: We all know right from wrong. But instead of flowing like a waterfall, my thoughts are congested spillway blocked by matters of immediate importance: I’m stressed. Interviews and new tutoring positions (I’ve recently been signed on as a kids’ tutor at several companies in the Bay Area) are on my mind, not to mention bills and dreams and exercise things. It’s harder to ride my bike in Berkeley. I miss it.

And so I reach and fall and try and bail and am reminded of a poem I wrote more than a year ago:

I’m reaching and falling.
I’m hemming and hawing.
I’m trying and failing.
I’m rowing, now bailing.
Stop.

Another day.

And I wonder if this ever happens to you? And I wonder how authors do it? Writing comes so easily to me when my subject is on my mind. But when it’s not? Writing is like pulling teeth, only worse, because I want SO badly to do it, and do it well.

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thoughts on god

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I couldn’t think of a post today. Honest, I tried. I’ve been getting into something of a rhythm lately, finding a theme. I know you haven’t been able to see it yet, but it’s there. It’s coming. But then Easter came and sort of plopped down in the middle of it, and . . . I couldn’t think of anything to say.

What is there to say (without sounding preachy) about a religious holiday to an international audience? I learned in Taiwan how greatly perspectives can differ.

And so I hoed and hummed. I typed things and erased them. I went for a ride and cleaned my apartment and tried to forget that I wanted to write a post. But I couldn’t. I do believe in God. I do care . . . And then I got an idea.

Below are a few quotes about God and religion. Can you sense a theme? Guess which one’s my favorite? What’s yours?

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“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis

“I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.”

Oscar Wilde

“God has no religion.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

“God save us from religion.”

– David Eddings

“Without God all things are permitted.”

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“God is the same everywhere.”

– Leo Tolstoy

“I have to believe much in God because I have lost my faith in man.”

José Rizal

“The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”

G.K. Chesterton

“God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.”

Voltaire

It matters not the path on earth my feet are made to trod. It only matters how I live: Obedient to God.

Clark

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