Wednesday, March 30, 2011

the madeleine

Perhaps you have heard, I'm reading Proust's Rememberance of Things Past, Vol. 1 Swann's Way. Yesterday, I read about The Madeleine. The small shell shaped cake that had the power to evoke a flood of memories.

This is the most famous "thing" in literature. Little Marcel sits down to tea with his mother and takes a small bite of tea soaked madeleine....

"but at the very instant when the mouthful of tea mixed with the cake crumbs touched my palate, I quivered, attentive to the extraordinary thing that was happening inside of me."

Then he tries to hold onto this fleeting memory. This powerful, joyful thing.

I wish I had not known about the madeleine. I wish I could have tasted it for myself.

Friday, March 25, 2011

that's my heart in there

I've been writing a lot. But not on this blog. What I have been doing is finishing my thesis, for real. It went from being an impossible burden, to a list of things I'm crossing off one at a time. Sometimes I look at what I've written and it's strange to see nothing of myself on that page. Even if I squint, I can't see myself in there. I wonder if it is possible to put your heart into academic writing?

See this picture? This is me, in front of the library at my University at the start of my graduate program.
I love this girl. This non-mother person. This hard working, small dreaming girl.

I'm not that girl anymore. I have huge dreams. I have so much counting on me. But still, I can write a poem. And then another. I'm going to write a book. A text message. A letter. I'm going to write the thing that makes your heart sing, yearn, hurt, take refuge. I'm going to make you feel more like yourself. Because see, I'm writing my favorite story. And so are you. Get out a pencil, see if you aren't.

It is all wide open now. Let's wash a floor. Let's make some art. Let's make some heads shake.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

union maid

You know what's a bad idea? Taking this sweet blog about my baby and my spirit, and writing about politics. But I write this because watching Wisconsin this week has reminded me that I was taught to be a political activist. My parents were serious union people during the 80s and 90s. I know what to sing at a political demonstration.

My dad worked as an unskilled laborer my whole childhood and was paid a living wage because it was a union job. I was able to go to a state university and get a good job as a teacher. It's easier to raise your children well if you make a living wage.

Poverty is what's wrong with America's schools. My students live in poverty. I have sad stories.

You know what's not poor? The way we feel about our students. Honestly, I think my co-workers are catty bitches, but they are competitive and proud. The teachers at my school care about their kids and care about teaching well. We want to do well, because we want our kids to learn.

I have no idea who these bad teachers are that everyone talks about. They don't work at my school. Oh sure, I've seen bad teachers. But they don't last. This job is too horrible to endure if you do it badly. Did you know that half of all teachers don't make it to their fifth year? It's an unforgiving profession. If you aren't good at it, you cry every night until you either get good or you quit.

Merit pay? You can't afford us.

There is a bill being considered in Missouri that would recall all teacher tenure. My union will fight it. Teachers will fight it. I doubt we do a proper job explaining why we think it's important. It's pretty clear to me that this is about money. This isn't about getting rid of bad teachers. This is about making it easier to cut positions. This is about making class size huge. It's about shortchanging your child of their American right to the best education in the world (challenge me on that one....I'm ready). It's about breaking American schools.

And pay attention to where the money is shifted to. Pay attention to who's getting it. They aren't building roads with it and they aren't giving it back to tax payers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I see you

I took Ramona to an indoor playground for very little kids. When we walked in, Ramona was shocked and delighted. The stuff to climb on! The bright colors! and all those friends!

She stood in the middle, waved and shouted, "It's me! It's Monut!" But they all just whooshed by her, and she stood like a pebble in a stream. The friends were gone. She tries again, "It's me! It's Monut!" But she's alone.

I know in my head that I'm overwrought here. My daughter is growing up. That's life. But "it's me! It's Monut!" makes me tear up every time I hear it echo in my heart. It was the cry, the "see me, see me, friends" plea. It was the subtle look of surprise at being ignored that makes my heart ache.

I was standing back, observing, but from afar I smiled big, caught her eye and said "Mama sees you, Monut!" But it wasn't what she was looking for. She bounced to the next fun thing, whatever. But I did not. I did not bounce.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I reveal despair banishing projects, # 2

As I moped around my house during snow day number 8, I noticed the book More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin sitting on my bookcase and then I really felt bad.

When I was in my early 20s I had some very lovely ideas about domestic life. About making a home and being a mom. It's so strange to me now, but I never considered my career. At the time I was going to college to be a teacher, but I never saw myself as a working mom.

I glanced at the spine of this book and felt distain for Colwin and shame for myself. I opened the cover and for the first time I allowed myself to be taught by Laurie Colwin. I felt her warm love for the first time. The way she says in so many different ways that being a working mom is hard and that we must re-invent ourselves as cooks. She writes:

A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift. Both happy people and sad people can be cheered up by a nice meal. This book was written for the sustainers and those who will be sustained.

This isn't about to become a food blog. But I am going to re-read Colwin, do some shopping, do some cooking, and bridge that gap between a fantasy and seeing the world as it really is. With Colwin as my loving, kind teacher.
I think my first experience will be Colwin's black bean soup...