“Ask Me” a poem by Esther Elizabeth–and a Tribute to Ponong

 

“The noblest and the wisest thing to do is to cherish others instead of cherishing yourself.

This will bring healing to your heart,  healing to your mind, and healing to your spirit.”

–Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying

 

ponong009
In memory of Uncle Berto (pictured), Uncle Dionisio–and all the kind people who accepted me as an awkward visitor–and shared their lives.

We human being are a lot alike. Some build houses while others discover cures for disease, but anywhere we roam we’ll meet people trying to find happiness, love, and how to charm their way into a child’s smile.

The more we travel, the more we understand how much we are alike. One human being is a lot like the next despite how much we can feel (and appear) separate and different. I can remember thinking–super-naive–that people in other parts of the world must get along better than my family and people in my hometown: I imagined brothers and sisters working together, and was certain they would never go months or years without talking. In other countries, families stayed close and didn’t hold grudges like we Americans.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Continue reading ““Ask Me” a poem by Esther Elizabeth–and a Tribute to Ponong”

Inside Out & Back Again: An Immigrant Story in Verse

“We must learn to see the world anew.”

Albert Einstein

InsideOutandBackAgain

Lately, I read plenty of kid-lit, especially books for the “middle grade” readers. So many writers impress me with their poetic way of telling a good story, and not long ago I walked through Powell’s on Hawthorne as a writer-friend pointed to books she loves. She reached up and grabbed Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, and I was sold.

“A good immigrant story always gets me,” she said.

This story will bring any reader closer to understanding the pain of dislocation that many refugees suffer, and it’s the sort of read that changes you a bit–leads you into a world you didn’t know you didn’t know (the best kind of book!).

Awarded the 2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and one of the two Newbery Honors that year, Inside Out & Back Again is based in the author’s personal experience.

Hà, only 10, hasn’t seen her father in nine years, and now she’s forced to leave Saigon because of some war she doesn’t understand. Her family flees the comfort of friends and fresh papaya to meet  glaring eyes and lonely lunches in Alabama.

No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

Yet during this first year of upheaval, Hà grows stronger. With the help of her older brother she learns to control her temper and to defend herself. Some kids at school ruthlessly chide her, and even her teacher lacks the  empathy we’d hope to find in a classroom, but the “cowboy”–the family’s sponsor–helps.  Hà’s mom remains a kind and gentle pillar of strength as well.

While full of both grief and healing, the novel is unexpectedly funny.

Inside Out & Back Again is  an ideal read-aloud.  For middle-grade or even high-school students, it is an ideal choice for teachers trying to blend the studies of Language Arts and Social Studies or parents who want to help their kids better understand people from around the world while also growing to love a good story.

Lai’s novel fits with other superb literature for young readers by writers like Karen Hesse–also a  master of telling historic stories in verse. Hesse won the Newbury for Out of the Dust and other books such as Rifka and Witness. She was recipient of MacArthur Fellow in 2002. Continue reading “Inside Out & Back Again: An Immigrant Story in Verse”

The Outlier: A Poem by Peg Edera & Thank You to William Stafford

“I tell you, Chickadee, I am afraid of people who cannot cry.”

Alice Walker

 

Peg1Portland’s icy-snow is melting, and some of us are staying warm with words.

For me it’s been sitting on the couch with one book after another, but on Friday night some lucky poets gathered at the Newmark downtown to celebrate what would have been Oregon Poet Laureate William Stafford’s 100 birthday: Li-Young Lee, Mary Szybist, Kim Stafford, Matthew Dickman, Paulann Peterson and Tony Hoagland (Ted Kooser did not make it as planned) read their own work, some Stafford poems, and they each talked about the influence the late-poet had on their own lives.

I’m sorry I missed the event, but here’s a video worth checking out to take in some of William Stafford’s wealth of words and life, The Stafford Centennial: A Conversationan OPB production.

William Stafford is known as a poet who awoke early each morning to write. Everyday he would make poems, and when someone would ask how he does it, ask about those days when the muse didn’t seem to show up, he’d say, “I just lower my standards.”

We don’t gather at 4am in the morning, but a small circle of us meet several times a month and write poetry. During our darkest months, we gather as the sun rises, and that’s when Peg Edera wrote “The Outlier”.

Continue reading “The Outlier: A Poem by Peg Edera & Thank You to William Stafford”

Pippa Arend: Building Hope Through Relationships

 

“The more intimate you are with yourself,

the more intimate you can be with other people.”

Diane Hamilton, author of Everything is Workable

 

 

IMG_20140114_173723Soon after we moved to Portland last summer, our neighbors mentioned Pippa Arend, Development Director of p:ear (project education, art, recreation). They had attended a dinner-party at her Northwest-home–a fund-raiser for this non-profit that “creatively mentors homeless youth”.

“You should check it out,” Cam said. “They’re doing good work.”

Pippa, according to my neighbor, had turned personal loss into gain, had taken both her time and resources–not to mention her own “feral” youth (she would later tell me) and co-created a program serving homeless youth who struggle to find their fit–and to build hope for their future.

When in her late-20s, Pippa was thriving as artist and entrepreneur. After college in New England and a few love-sick years in Poland, she had worked with welding-artist Eric Peterson, owner of Unique Forms. By 28, she owned Tornado Creations, designing and selling high-end custom furniture.

“Life was fun but a little directionless. On the surface, it all seemed good, but my life lacked community and accountability.”

That’s when she met Joy “who, fortunately, saw something in me and asked if I’d volunteer teaching art to kids at The Greenhouse School where she worked.” Backed by The Salvation Army, Pippa loved this new work. But, after only six months, funding slipped away, and the school closed.

Continue reading “Pippa Arend: Building Hope Through Relationships”

Teaching from the Heart–in the Freeze

“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.”

~Lily Tomlin as “Edith Ann”

 

schoolinwinter

Back in Massachusetts for a winter-visit, my teacher-friends wake up early, lesson plans ready. Julie Bucceri meets her first group of 6th graders before 8 o’clock, and Stacey Hill leaves home by 6:45. She’ll pick up some neighbor kids and be standing in front of students by 7:10.

This week at Doherty High in Worcester, Stacey’s 9th graders talk about reasons for early puberty while her AP classes move on to genetics. But today, dressed in jeans and an “Envirothon” t-shirt over the layers, she and her team go on a field-trip (despite the below-freezing nip that reminds me why I no longer live in wonderful New England!) She’s happy for the change of pace since the days can feel repetitive. Continue reading “Teaching from the Heart–in the Freeze”

Allyndreth’s Move Toward Healing

 

If you can’t do anything about it,

why worry?

And if you can do something about it,

why worry?

 

“Do something!”

That’s what Allyndreth Stead, owner of the social business White Phoenix Acupuncture, says. An acupuncturist and Nationally Certified Herbalist, she provides treatment on a sliding-scale from her community-style practice in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland.

IMG_20131208_170916White Phoenix is a cozy place, and my first visit was unlike any medical experience I’d had in the United States: No big fancy desk for Susan, the assistant, and no private room for me. Almost immediately, I could see how many people were lying on a bed or sitting in a recliner, resting with eyes closed or talking quietly with Allyndreth–her ipad in hand as she took notes. Relaxing music played, and colorful cloths and lantern-balls softened the sound and warmed the atmosphere.

Though awkward and unsure during my first visit, I felt comfortable once I understood the set-up. I’ve never felt abandoned with needles stuck in my body, and if ever I need anything, Allyndreth or Susan respond quickly.

Unlike a typical doctor’s appointment where you show up at 1pm and leave an hour or so later, here the patient can rest for as long as she likes. No hurry, no worry. Patients are free to linger.

Continue reading “Allyndreth’s Move Toward Healing”

Celebrating Lives & 2014’s “3Ls”

ColumbiaRiver-h-crop1000This blog is dedicated to the celebration of people everywhere who are. . .

  • living with love
  • lighting up the lives of people around them, and
  • letting go of what they thought things should be in order to let them become whatever they need to become.

Years ago I wrote feature articles for a city newspaper. It was easy to find stories worth telling– inspiring people and projects to investigate. . .

  • Doug who discovered the Didgeridoo unexpectedly at a Saturday morning workshop in Seattle while on his way to ski the slopes north of Mt. Rainier;
  • Robert who taught writing workshops at the Mission in Tacoma and witnessed men finding new ways to approach their problems through words on the page;
  • Margot, an AmeriCorps Volunteer and all-around extraordinary woman, who met with Cambodian youth after school to help them learn and understand their native culture so they could get along better with parents–and thrive;
  • Pat, a chaplain in the oncology unit at Tacoma General Hospital, who worked to ease the pain for struggling cancer patients and their families.

Now, in 2014, a blog takes over to celebrate people, poetry, books, music and other ebbs and flows that light our lives.   

Some upcoming features:

  • Allyndreth began her studies at OCOM (Oregon School of Oriental Medicine) at age 48. She now owns the social business, White Phoenix Acupuncture, and is part of efforts  to make preventive healthcare affordable to all;
  • Pippa turned loss into a gift. Along with two other women, she co-created an organization in northwest Portland supporting homeless youth to find hope and better their lives.
  • Donna, like a cat with many lovely lives, most recently created the META Clinic in southeast Portland: While training new therapists through internships, this clinic offers counseling on a sliding-fee scale and an assortment of creative and relationship-building workshops.

2014’s “3Ls”

My dear friend, Stacey, asked the question that helped me to focus, “What about 2014? What are you up to?”

I settled on these “3 Ls” to bring me back when I’m losing my way:

o Love well. . .

    • what happens
      • the people in my life
        • from an open heart
          • with a willingness to let go

 o Light up. . .

  • lives around me
    • possibility
      • darkness
        • and let go of expectation

 o Let go

    • worry
      • wanting
        • a need to please
          • “trying” to get it right.

 

This blog will support the “3Ls”.

I invite you to check back soon–or subscribe. You can also interact and share your own motto or inspiration for 2014.

Thanks for the visit & may you feel ease & joy in your moments!