Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ira Goes to Moscow with a Clean Heart

Mikaela says:
A link on This American Life.org sends you to Yahoo's Babel Fish (Yay Douglas Adams fans!), which translates literally from Russian into English. The blurb describes Ira's upcoming trip to Moscow to speak about the power of radio. That's not the fabulous thing.

The fabulous thing is this line, which needs to become a poem immediately:

Here is man,
which speaks before you
from the clean heart -
there is nothing better
than this.

Voces 2009

Mikaela says:
Another year, another successful wrap-up to Voces: Writing Institute at the NHCC. This year's challenges? Teaching with a baby on your hip while corralling 26 (!) creative minds to think past cliches in expressing your deepest feelings.

Another change this month was the introduction of a blog by the kids, for the kids, put together with the help of dynamo Kenn Rodriguez, who in addition to being a great poet & performer brought his journalism and technological skills courtesy of Americorp. You can see blog entries, poems, and performances here. Pretty cool window into the creative world of Voces!

My friend Lisa came to the final performance, as she has each of the past 4 (?) years. Listening to 2+ hours of teen poetry can be a bit trying at times, but Lisa seems to see past the occasional groan moment to get charged up with the energy and passion these young folks shower on the crowd.

My daughter didn't last past the first two applause moments. She's not big on whistling, it turns out. Daddy whisked her home, so Momma got to go out for a well-deserved cider after the show! Woo-hoo! There, she caught a glimpse of the famously fabulous Gene Grant, who applauded seeing me "out" late on a Friday evening. Gene was a part of Voces again this year, taking part in a journalism panel with Kenn and a young woman from the Alibi. The kids adored him, of course.

And me? I didn't get much writing done this year. Between caring for an infant, editing 26 kids' poems (up to 4 pieces each turned in each Friday and returned each Monday), and working on another consulting gig report also due at the end of June ... I was pretty tapped out. I did get a good dose of writer's guilt, though. A certain little lady in Texas needs a certain wedding present poem that's been brewing slowly since April. At this point, the poem will probably have the gestation of a real baby, and the labor will probably take about as long as Umea's: a solid five days. Such is the price of life, I guess!

I also got a happy dose of pride in this program. So many of the kids mentioned how much the program has meant to them personally and how influential it's been in their lives, showing them a world where they can be honored for who they are and what they think, not for their stereotypes or their "cool" factor. As one of our success-story kids told me: "It's so sad that not giving a shit is cool." Well these kids learned that caring and succeeding can also be cool and feels a lot better, even though -- and maybe especially because -- it's hard work.

That same student came to Voces three years ago unable to read or write. He just won the state Slam competition this year. He now goes to the schools with Carlos Contreras -- mentor of the Voces program -- and performs his poetry to inspire other students to share their voices, too. For him, the knife edge of his previous life -- slinging and gangs -- is always there, but he tries to remember how much better it feels to be a poet than to be "hard," acting the badass to intimidate others not to fuck with you.

He told me his story over lunch one day. We both had tears in our eyes, and I felt for a moment how high the stakes were for him, how much he clung to the world opened to him through poetry, how much he appreciates the window of opportunity Voces provided him. All I could say was that the work had all come from him. All we did was set the expectations and encourage him that he could do this: speak with power. The rest was all his voice and his bravery and hard work to use it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sophie's (Job) Choice

Mikaela says:
I don't know about you guys, but I find myself thrust into a decision between 1970 and 1990.*

(*I admit I don't truly understand that choice, but I've heard two super-smart friends make that distinction, so if you'd like to quibble - take issue with them!)

  • Do I keep (or try to keep) the security of my full-time job with some health insurance and a 401K, despite the fact that it's not really what I want for myself personally or professionally?

  • Or do I throw caution to the wind and risk a part-time job that could give me just enough income to cover personal expenses and the cost of adding myself to my husband's health insurance? This isn't really what I want to do with my life, either, but it would only be a part-time waste of my life, leaving more time to try to fill in the blanks with gigs, paying and no, that include things I love.
I recognize that I'm lucky to even have this choice. Both have risks, and either one would ultimately be okay (probably).

It's been a fun opportunity to think about what skills I have that I'd like to use more, and what services I could put on a personal business card (no longer an oxymoron):
  • Meeting planning, facilitation, & recording
  • Technical & creative writing
  • Teaching & training
  • Desktop publishing
  • Visioning & planning workshops
  • Project management
(Am I missing anything?)

I'd love to be an ad-hoc consultant for any of these in alternating months, with home as my base from which to work.

Do you think it's possible? Do people pay for these things? Can you get hired just to be a smart, organized person?

Any advice?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mommy Moment

Mikaela says:
A flash of understanding:

  • Drive-throughs are not for lazy people, fat people, or shy people. They're for people with small children. I totally get this now.
Drive-in grocery stores? I'm all over this, suddenly! I find myself avoiding stores with no drive-throughs and seeking out establishments that cater to my less-mobile lifestyle.

Barring drive-ins for every daily need, I'd settle for a car seat with wheels.