Haikus With My Daughter III: Girls Rights

My heart yearns for you

To live – equal – to your full

human potential.

It’s a challenge to raise a daughter in a society that innundates us with countless hidden messages about how girls should look and act, who they should be.    My daughter and I have been talking about this a lot lately, with the holiday marketing of “girls toys” and “boys toys” so in our faces.   So I was pleasantly surprised this week when she found a women’s rights message hidden in Captain Underpants and The Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers.

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Captain Underpants.

The bully battle begins!

(Secret feminism.)

You go, girl! You just go and go and GO!

This post, Haikus With My Daughter , Haikus With My Daughter II  and Thanksgiving are a response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge.

Haikus With My Daughter II

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“I wrote a poem about you today,” I said.  “Well, just a haiku.  But actually, I wrote two.”

This caught my 8 year-old daughter’s attention.  She put down her Monster High doll, the one she just bought with money hard-earned from chores like scooping the cat’s litterbox.

“What’s a haiku?” she asked.  Apparently, they hadn’t yet covered this in her third grade class.

“It’s a kind of short Japanese poem.  It has three lines, with a total of only seventeen syllables.  The first line is five syllables, the second is seven and the third is five.”

As she read my haikus, I said,  “I wrote about you, but  usually haikus are about nature.”

“Like about animals?”

“Sure.  ‘Animals’ is three syllables, so you need two more for the first line.  Then seven, then five.”

“Syllables, like beats in music?”

“Exactly.”

She didn’t even pause to think.  She launched right in.

“Animals live in …”

“You’re doing it!  You’re writing your very own haiku!  Now seven syllables. Where do animals live?”

“Jungle, forest and…”   She counted out the syllables on the five fingers of her right hand.   Then two more on the fingers of her left hand.  She had painted her fingernails in an alternating pattern with red and blue nail polish.  Red, blue, red, blue, red, blue, red, blue, red blue.

“City? Ocean?”

“That’s great!  Which one?  Ocean or city?”

“Nature everywhere.”

“You did it!  You wrote your own haiku!”

She smiled – a small, proud smile – and then she picked up her doll again.

“That was really good.  Let me write it down.   Can you say it again?”

She shrugged, engrossed in brushing the doll’s hair.

“I forgot it already,” she said.

“But I’m your mom and I will always remember,”  I thought.

Haiku by Eliza

Animals live in

Jungle, forest and city.    (or ocean)

Nature around us!

This post, Haikus With My Daughter , Thanksgiving and Haikus With My Daughter III: Girls Rights are in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge.

Haikus With My Daughter

IMG_0449I haven’t written a poem since I was in elementary school.

But today I wrote tw0- not one, but TWO! – haikus in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge.

My eight year old daughter was the inspiration for the first.

It doesn't have to be perfect to be sussesful.
It doesn’t have to be perfect to be sussesful.

Marginalia

Cleaning her backpack,

I found …my daughter’s wise words,

Scrawled  in the  margins.

She was also the inspiration for the second haiku of the day:

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To My Daughter, Who Is 8

Eight years old, full of

Joy and bold discovery.

Stay this kind and strong!

 

Next up – my daughter writes her very first haiku!  Haikus With My Daughter II

The Regular

Beauty's Special
Order up! Beauty’s Specials at Beauty’s Luncheonette in Montreal

“I’ve been coming here since the beginning,” he said conspiratorially, leaning towards me from the stool next to mine.

I had noticed the white haired gentleman earlier, as he was shouldering his way through the Sunday brunch crowd at Beauty’s Luncheonette.  He took a seat on the chrome-and-blue pleather stool next to me. As he carefully placed his folded Montreal Gazette on the formica countertop, he caught the server’s eye.  “Hi hon!” she sang out as she filled his coffee cup.

He didn’t even have to place his order.  In a matter of minutes, “the usual” was set in front of him.  Side of home fries, black coffee, and a Beauty’s Russian Black Special.  Most people who come to Beauty’s get the Beauty’s Special – smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, and onion on the infamous Montreal sesame bagel.  But The Regular clearly prefers the Special on on a Russian rye bread so black that  it looks like it is made of dark chocolate.

“You’ve been coming here since 1942?” I asked.

“Sure, I went to high school just down the street. I used to buy my school supplies here back when it was a stationary shop.   There was always a poker game going on back in the back room.”

He pointed towards an open door behind the kitchen to a small room where they now store the mops and brooms and cleaning supplies.  (You can see it in the background of the photo above.)

“They won’t tell you THAT in the history.”

He gestured vaguely towards the blue and white menu, which contains a detailed history of Beauty’s.  How newlyweds Hymie and Freda Sckolnick bought the shop on the corner of Mont Royal and St. Urbain and started serving lunch to the garment workers from the  factories in the neighborhood.  The name “Beauty” came from Hymie’s bowling nickname.  It grew so popular that the workers started bringing their families on the weekend.  “And the Montreal brunch was born,”  to quote the menu.  Indeed, there was no mention of the poker game in the back room.

“I’m in my 80s,” he confided, “so Hymie must be into his 90s.  You met him when you came in, right?”

I had indeed met Hymie.  He was guarding the door when we arrived – literally standing in the inner doorway and quizzing the groups of Montreal hipsters queued up outside.  Since we only had two in our party, we scored an immediate seating at the lunch counter. “I like American money,”  Hymie told me as he resettled, ever vigilant, on his perch by the door.

“Hymie opened up this morning,” The Regular told me.  “That’s the son, Larry.”  He waved dismissively at a white-haired man with black frame glasses who was dashing about with a pot of coffee. “He just showed up now.”

We talked for a few minutes.  He told me how he grew up to be a lawyer and a politician.  He represented the neighborhood for a number of years before returning to private practice.  He lives downtown now, but he made it very clear that he is not retired.

“What’s your practice area?” I asked.  Corporate, I thought.

“Immigration,” he said.  “There’s always work and it’s interesting.”

“I know,” I said.  “I’m a human rights lawyer at a non-profit, but I started out practicing asylum law.  We always look to Canada as the better asylum system.  Even now in the debate about immigration reform, we are using Canada as the example of why we should provide counsel for indigent asylum seekers.”

“Well,” he replied, “It was a hell of a lot better before the Conservatives took over.  Now I’m not sure we’re a model for anyone anymore.”

As he paid his bill and gathered up his car keys and his black leather gloves, he asked, “What are you going to do today?”

“We’re thinking of going up to the top of Mont-Royal.”

“Mount Royal?  How are you going to get there? Do you have a car?”

“No, we’re planning to bike,” I said.

He looked at me for a few seconds, as if assessing whether I was truly insane.  Then he moved on.

“Well, you’re going to want to go to Schwartz’s Deli, so here’s a tip. Don’t bother with the line.  Go across the street to Main Deli.  It’s just as good, but without the wait.   We call it “smoked meat” here.   There’s no such thing as “pastrami” here in Canada,” he said emphatically.

“Thanks for the tip,” I said.  As a vegetarian, my interest in cured meat – whatever you call it – is minimal.

It struck me later that, based on the facts that he dropped,  I could easily pin a name and full bio on this guy.  It would just take a couple of quick internet searches.  But I have not chosen to do that.

As he said good-bye, I felt I had been privileged with a small glimpse into not just a life, but also into a unique time and place and people in this city’s history.  I saw in a flash the habits of a lifetime, traces of a distinctive community.  The institution of Beauty’s Luncheonette will certainly continue, but someday in the relatively near future it will be without Hymie and the others who were there from the beginning.  On this, my first visit to Montreal, The Regular had given me a rare, small gift.

He put on his long, black wool coat and headed for the door, threading his way through throngs of young people – young people  of all races and backgrounds, chatting energetically and switching effortlessly between French and English.  In the midst of this microcosm of contemporary Montreal, The Regular turned back, eyes twinkling, and winked at me.

“My wife is in Florida.  Don’t tell her I was here.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says this week hit right smack dab on one of my favorite hobbies.  Wherever I go in the world, I take pictures of interesting signs that I see. Here is a sampling of my collection:

Some are hilarious signs I have spotted in bathrooms.  (And it’s worth noting that I have been accidentally locked in a bathroom on every continent but Australia and Antarctica.)

Question:  To flush or not to flush?

To flush or not to flush?  That is the question.
To flush or not to flush? That is the question.
Kathmandu, Nepal

Answer:  DO NOT FLUSH!  DO NOT FLUSH! PANTHERS IN THE BATHROOM!

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Kathmandu, Nepal

USE THE TRASH CAN FOR ALL PANTHERS! I REPEAT:

Taj Mahal, India (the less glamorous part of the Taj Mahal, that is)
Taj Mahal, India (the less glamorous part of the Taj Mahal, that is)

At times, signs can be very clear and direct.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
You do want your clothes to be CLEAN, right?
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

No Grown Ups! Accra, Ghana

CAUTION!  GROWN UPS!

Accra, Ghana

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Relax.

Minneapolis, MN USA

 Other times?  Well, everyone could use a good editor.

What does this even mean? Zanzibar, Tanzania
What does that even mean?
Zanzibar, Tanzania
Monrovia, Liberia
Monrovia, Liberia
Indira Ghandi Airport Delhi, India
Indira Ghandi Airport
Delhi, India

But my favorite signs are those that inspire me.

Kathmandu, Nepal
In the library of a women’s empowerment organization
Kathmandu, Nepal

 

In the pre-kindergarten classroom of a schoolYaounde, Cameroon
In the pre-kindergarten classroom of a school
Yaounde, Cameroon
Raj Ghat Ghandi Memorial New Delhi, India
Raj Ghat Gandhi Memorial
New Delhi, India
Minneapolis, MN USA
Minneapolis, MN USA

One Day in Zanzibar

House of Wonders and Stone Town waterfront, Zanzibar
House of Wonders and Stone Town waterfront, Zanzibar

A little more than 10 years ago, I had a rare moment of clarity.  I was sitting with my second child, who was 9 months old, on my lap while my 2-year-old danced and swayed around me.  Everyone else in the Mommy and Me class was singing – with gusto – the Barney song “I Love You”.  Glancing at the clock, I realized that the week before – at exactly this time – I was being interviewed live on national TV in Peru about that country’s truth and reconciliation commission.

The stark contrast made me realize that I had chosen a life in which there might never really be a “typical” day.   Setting aside the insipidity of Barney, I realized that these small moments with my young sons were as important and valuable as the other, more high-profile moments of my career, which often takes me to exotic locales.  I learned not to compare my days.  Not to sift through the experiences of each day and measure the worth of one against another, but to see them all as a whole.  To acknowledge that each endeavor for work and for family gives me strength for the other. To realize that I am fortunate to have these varied experiences, which, woven together form the rich tapestry of my life.

So for the Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in the Life, I am choosing to share one day that I recently spent in Zanzibar for work.  As I write this, my daughter is sitting beside me, looking at the photos and talking about them with me.  One day in Zanzibar, one day of spring break at home. Days and experiences, knitted together – so many days to be thankful for!

 

(See more Weekly Photo Challenge entries here.)

Marriage Equality, Through the Eyes of a 10-Year-Old

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With the Supreme Court hearing arguments in two cases related to same-sex marriage, much has been written – and said and thought – this week about marriage equality in the United States. No matter how these particular nine justices rule (and there is speculation that, unlike the Warren Court which in 1967 issued a sweeping ruling on the unconstitutionality of state bans on interracial marriage, this court might actually punt), I am convinced that it is only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is a recognized as a right in this country.

This week, I re-read Hockey Moms, a post I wrote last summer about my 10-year-old son and his discussions with his hockey team about marriage equality. It was a lesson to me at the time about the importance of engaging people in the conversation about same-sex marriage. In re-reading it, however, I am struck by how much forward movement there has been in just the past six months. Not only was the proposed amendment (which would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman in the Minnesota state constitution) that Simon was lobbying against defeated last November, but it was defeated handily. In fact, it went down in flames. Even my 98 year-old grandmother voted NO! In a huge reversal, this year there is a real chance that our Minnesota state legislature will pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. The number of states with same-sex marriage jumped on election day in November when three states – Maryland, Maine and Washington – legalized same-sex marriage through popular vote. Recently, it seems like politicians have been “coming out” in favor of marriage equality on a daily basis.

The momentum in favor of same-sex marriage appears to be increasingly rapidly and there are signs that the trend will not be reversed. I asked my 13-year-old what he thought about the recent ABC/Washington Post poll that found that 81% of Americans aged 18-29 supported legal same-sex marriage, he said, “Well ,that makes sense. Although I am disappointed in the 20%. At my school, there are only two kids who oppose same-sex marriage.” They didn’t poll Americans under the age of 18, but anecdotally at least, support for marriage equality may be even higher among his peer group.

My kids are part of a generation which, although it doesn’t have an official name yet, is already saying, “Of course same-sex marriage should be legal. Why was this even an issue?” They have grown up with favorite teachers, beloved camp counselors, trusted neighbors, friends and classmates who are openly LGBT. They go to school and church with kids from families with parents who are in same-sex relationships, some but not all legally sanctioned by state law. Men kissing men, men kissing women, women kissing women – my kids don’t care. Frankly, it is disgusting to them when ANY adults kiss!

I’m sharing an excerpt from Hockey Moms to illustrate my kids’ perspective on marriage equality, a peek into the future.

***

My 10-year-old son comes out of the ice arena, swaggering despite the heavy hockey bag that he carries like a giant backpack. His hockey stick and water bottle he wields before him like a rod and staff. I’m sitting on a picnic table in the sun and, yes, I am facebooking on my iPhone. His cheeks are flushed, his bright ginger hair is damp-dark with sweat. He has an announcement to make.

“I’ve got everyone but one kid on my team to be in favor of same-sex marriage.

AND two of the coaches.”

He beams at me. I can feel my jaw as it drops.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a terrible hockey mom. I hate almost everything about the sport. I’ve got two sons who play, so I did put a decent amount of effort into learning the basic rules and terminology. My biggest problem is that I grew up in the Deep South, so my natural impulse when winter strikes is to hibernate. The whole concept of driving (in the cold) to sit (in the cold) to watch a sport played (on ice, in the cold) boggles my mind.

Going inside to watch hockey on a cold winter day is one thing. Going inside to watch hockey on a beautiful summer day is completely inconceivable to me. But here in Minnesota, hockey is a year round sport. Serious players play AAA from March to September and, unlike the regular season, players are not required to play where they live. There are kids on my 10-year-old’s team from throughout the Twin Cities Metro and even some kids who travel here for the weekend practices and tournaments from as far away as Florida and Texas.

But my two sons are way, way into hockey. They LOVE this sport! I respect that, so I suck it up and wash their stinky gear and drive them to the rink.

Until last winter, I went into the locker room when I took my boys to hockey – even though I have been banned from years from tying their skates because I (quote, unquote) “don’t do it right.” When my oldest son moved up to PeeWees, however, there was an unfortunate incident. I burst into the locker room, my 6-year-old daughter (wearing a pink jacket and sparkle ballet flats) in tow, only to find a gaggle of 12 year-olds in their underwear listening to loud music and talking trash. “Mom!” my son hissed. “I’m good.”

Given my locker room banishment, I was completely floored to hear that the hockey team was having a discussion about same-sex marriage while putting on their pads and breezers. Here is the story, from the perspective of my 10 year old: “One kid brought it up. He said it was gross, a man with a man or a woman with a woman.” So I said,

“ARE YOU CRAZY? That’s their choice who they love. It doesn’t affect you. Why does it matter to you? No one can tell you who to love.”

That launched the discussion which later led to the purported locker room conversions. It is a timely discussion in Minnesota, where there is a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota?” VOTE NO signs have sprouted throughout our neighborhood; they line the roads on the way to the hockey rink.

Simon had been late getting to practice (my fault – more evidence for the Worst Hockey Mom title). A coach came in to hurry along the stragglers and Simon asked, “You’re voting NO on the marriage amendment, right?” “I don’t know yet,” he admitted. Simon laid out his arguments again, to which the coach responded, “You make a good point. I think I probably will vote No. Now get out on the ice.”

My son can be like a dog with a bone, so he brought it up again at the next practice. This time he was on time, so when he brought it up in the locker room, everyone on the team was there. One kid, a player who Simon describes as a “tough guy” got really upset when the other kid described same-sex marriage as “gross”. He stood up, half his gear on, and said,

“That’s my family you are talking about! I have two moms and they are married. It hurts my feelings when you say that my family is gross!”

Well, that sure got the team’s attention. According to Simon, he was too emotional to say much more but Simon was able to pick up where he left off.

See? He’s got two moms. So what? Why should his family be treated any differently than yours?

***

The US Supreme Court justices, who appear to be gnashing their teeth about the appropriate timing of a ruling on marriage equality, could benefit from the point of view of my 10 year-old.

People are just people; we are all equal. People love each other and benefit from loving, committed relationships.

We should all be able to marry who we love. Families should all be treated the same.

Marriage equality, through the eyes of a 10-year-old, is just not complicated.

Love

As the United States Supreme Court considers cases related marriage equality, you can read more – including the Top 100 Marriage Equality Blogs – here.