Thursday, September 11, 2014

The light in September

If I were a poet, I'd write a whole collection about the light in September, which at the moment is at its golden, hazy best. The flowers in the back garden are fairly glowing in the afternoon light, the bees are buzzing around what's left of the lavender and oregano, and the sun is warming up our modest apple harvest, which should be ready for picking in another day or two. 

Oh yes, and it's also the most beautiful time of the year for playing demolition derby with a balance bike and a giant, yellow ball. Kids are weird.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Talking 'bout iGeneration

Isabelle turns six on Monday. Six! Our baby has turned into a big girl. While I'm excited about her birthday and looking forward to this new chapter in our lives, I'm also extremely nervous about what the next years will bring. In the terrific teens, Isabelle will have to make a lot of choices that never would have occurred to me, and the consequences will have implications not simply within her circle of family or friends, but within the context of our globalized, interconnected society. And let's be honest, that's a bit scary.

So I was excited to learn about a survey of 2,000 members of UK's iGeneration (kids aged 8-14 years old), commissioned by Fun Kids Radio this June, which revealed that kids of that age take more control of their lives than we (their poor, beleaguered parents) are aware of. No way? Yes way. Every week the news is full of stories of parents worrying about issues affecting their kids, but Fun Kids Radio actually asked the kids themselves what they thought about topics ranging from money to social issues to politics. 

And you know what? They think the same things we do, and it's awesome. One in ten says overly sexy pop videos make them feel uncomfortable, and a third of them think pop stars should set a better example for the kids who admire them. A third of them know they should turn off the Playstation and spend more time outside, a third don't care if toys are labeled for boys or girls, and a whopping 85 percent of them think toys should be gender neutral (yes! throw, throw, throw away those stupid pink garden tools!). And most importantly, when asked about what is important to them, kids would rather be happy, kind and have a loving family than be popular, famous or pretty. 

On the basis of finding that children as young as eight are well-informed, mindful of their behavior and have strong opinions, the report highlights how key decision makers in kids' lives should consider giving this unrepresented demographic more of a voice within society, and more autonomy when decisions concerning their future are made. 

But I'm going to put the challenge out there to kids as well: just because you are underrepresented doesn't mean you don't have a voice. Turn off the TV and talk to your parents, make them understand you have opinions about things, and that those opinions matter. Nobody is going to rock this world like you can, so let's get down to business. 

To learn more about this survey and read the full report, visit the site at Fun Kids Live.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I love you, public library

Call me dorky, but the one thing I'm looking forward to almost more than any other activity on my summer vacation to do list, is our visit to the Joliet Public Library (downtown branch, please. none of that bland West Side shopping-mall-esque architecture for me). In the words of Eloise, I just love love love the public library! All those books sitting there so calmly, waiting to be read by ANYONE. And you can take them all home, twenty at a time if you want! You can take them all home and read them in the hammock or the bath or on the beach, and it doesn't cost you a penny. Nothing, nada, zippo, case closed thank you very much. It is amazing! Libraries. Surely you must have heard of them, yes? They are one of the best inventions EVER.

Someone else who loves libraries is Robert Dawson, who has just published a fantastic book filled with pictures of libraries all over the United States (sadly, the Hiawatha mantelpiece of the Joliet Public Library does not feature among them). This is a hopeful yet wistful reminder of the majesty of the greatest institution, like, ever, as well as a warning of what might happen should we allow this bastion of democracy and learning slip to the bottom of the pile of cultural priorities. Why, lawmakers, when money is tight, do you choose to focus your guns on libraries, of all places? Seems to be the case in England as well as America, and in both countries it is a lamentable philosophy of thought.

Accompanying Dawson's photographs are reflections on the subject of libraries by such celebrated minds as Isaac Asimov, Anne Lamott, and E.B. White,  topped off by a magnificent introduction by Bill Moyers, a longtime advocate of reading and self-propelled learning. From architectural gems such as the Los Angeles Children's Library (pictured above) to the teensy little free libraries popping up on front lawns over the globe, the remarkable range in Dawson's book reveals humanity's elemental need for libraries as sanctuaries of learning, as centers of the community, as living records of civic identity, and above all as a testament that information and knowledge belong to everybody-- not corporate behemoths, government agencies, or the privileged few, but to the people.

image via here

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fly away in the morning

On Thursday, a friend of mine was killed in a horrific auto accident just two days before her 36th birthday. To lose someone in such a sudden and tragic way, with so much of life still ahead of her seems like the work of an unjust God. What makes the loss worse was that her five-year-old daughter survived the crash thanks to a miracle and her car seat. While the little one's minor injuries are healing well, she and her dad must now follow a difficult road without Mommy, just at the moment Mommy is most needed.

Four difficult condolence letters later, I have been thinking about finding oneself in the position of grieving for a friend, or perhaps grieving for the people my friend left behind, and what loss can mean when you are not in the immediate circle of the bereaved, how ripples of grief can course through friends of friends and connect us even thousands of miles away. The Village Voice published a wonderful blog recently on coping with the death of a friend. The writer Andrew W. K. offers some advice to a young man who has written to him on the tragic death of his best friend, and this part I really loved:
"Lastly, remember that all of our experiences in the world ultimately occur in our mind and soul. When your friend was alive, you looked at him with your eyes and heard him with your ears, and those senses formed impressions and thoughts in your mind. Now that your friend is dead, you are still using your mind to think about him and perceive him, just as you did when he was standing right in front of you. He really is still here. He still is where he always was to you: inside your mind. This is what people mean when they say someone's spirit will always be with you. They really always are with you, it's just a different version of their presence than when they were alive -- but it's just as real and it counts just as much. Never doubt that or let anyone try to make you think otherwise."
So wherever you are, know that I am thinking of you, and maybe you are reading this and thinking of me, and that is the magic of human love. I love you, I miss you. Forever.

Photo: a double rainbow outside my back window, early June

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