Thursday, August 31, 2006

the weather is changing

yesterday afternoon, when it was still sweltering, unlike this morning's jacket worthy cool, my children and i talked about our days. one of the questions that lingers in my heart from training for my new [artist-in-residence] job is [essentially] "why did you choose this job?" i watch my children drool over the things i report to them that i've learned and want to share with my groups of kids when i am with them. "it's A LOT of fun," i tell them. they look more excited with each detail. "can we come?" "tomorrow," i tell them. my son reports that math is SO easy and that he got a green today so i can calculate that [.50] into his good behavior allowance for the week. my daughter quickly and competitively remembers that she got a green as well. then she remembers...

(maybe someday in her own blog, my daughter will tell you the real names of the girls involved. until then...)

"...oh, so mommy, ally said she wasn't going to be my friend anymore because i gave jen a jolly rancher and not her. then she said if she ever saw kay do something she didn't like, she was gonna beat her to the ground. she thinks because she's bigger than everybody else, she can just be mean and bully people. THEN," (my daughter takes a break to crunch another funyun. "mena and aliyah were talking about starting a prayer club and they asked me to join and then i asked ally if she wanted to join. well, mena says, in a REAL nice way, mommy, that ally can't really join because if any non-Muslims pray with us then our prayers will be unpure." she crunches another funyun. "and then ALLY says, 'i'don't care. i'm going to have my own club anyway. and anyway, do you believe Jesus dies for your sins?' and mena says, 'no,' and ally says, 'well then you can't go to heaven anyway and you are going to h-e-double-hockey-sticks.' then she looks at me and says, 'um, i'm not going to be your friend if you are going to be their friend because they aren't going to heaven." then i ask, "well, sweetie, did you tell her you are a Muslim?" still crunching funyuns, she says, exasperated, "YES, mommy. she KNOWS i'm a Muslim. but aliyah was starting to cry and i got mad and i told the teacher and ally got in BIG trouble." "well, sweetie, you know lots of people believe a lot of things. and that's okay." more exasperated, she throws her hands in the air. "I KNOW! that's why i can be her friend even if she's a Christian. but i knew wasn't going to be her friend anyway. because that's dumb. she was going to not be my friend because i gave jen my jolly rancher." she rolls her eyes and turns to the window. "yeah, that's dumb," my son chimes in shaking his head.

i look at them and remember ally and understand, more clearly in that very moment, why i took the job.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

rush hour (the daily routine)

kiss sleeping faces pressed into my ribs. (stowaways) shake them gently. whisper the time. prod them into the bathroom. zombies. i flip on the light. eyes/bodies wince. want to drag themselves back to covers and dreams. clap hands to enliven limp, swaying limbs. squeeze toothpaste from tubes onto bristles. hug cold body, kiss forehead. clap to recover son sleeping on toilet. wipe sleeping face with warm washcloth; clear crust from corners of sleepy eyes and mouths. come, come now. listen to whines and whimpers of not enough sleep and how her brother is looking at her. raise voice a bit. this is taking too long. remind them of time. they brush. i prepare clothes and overstuffed backpacks. return just in time to defuse angst about who's going faster. it's not a race. i clap twice. remind them to focus. stomps out of bathroom. put clothes on. "remember when we were..." he picks up his gameboy as he talks. focus sweetie. we gotta get outta here. he puts his game down, finds his socks. complains that they are too big. the sock bag is too big and full with orphans so we fold the sock to a perfect fit. by now, she is waiting on the steps like we are taking long. she waits with a snack for her brother and one for herself. i make whole wheat english muffins. half with butter only. half with butter and black raspberry jelly. our favorite. they share a cup of juice and we scramble for the door as i realize the time. we hug, kiss, wish each other a good day. my son combs his hair all the way across the street. (i will later look for the comb for at least a solid 7 minutes before i remember it in his school bag.) they wave a final goodbye. I kiss the wind and they disappear into the school.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

thank God for cell phones!

i dialed his old boston cell number because he said he'd keep it even after their move to china. my youngest brother and his wife (for whom i performed the wedding ceremony last year, if you remember from a previous blog) moved to beijing in late july (early august, maybe). when i heard his voice, a wave of relief and love kept me from saying all of the things i meant to say. i was glad to hear that they landed safely, settled in and were untouched by the storms that ravaged [some parts] of beijing. he laughed and we offered our usual sighs of love and longing for less distance. i suddenly regret all of the drives we didn't take to houston when he lived there and appreciate all of the ones we did.

i last saw him at his going away party in san diego in late june. he sounds well, very well... nearly euphoric in fact, in a way that colors is usual monotonality into various octaves. he tells me the community he lives and works in there doesn't feel much different than his job as a teacher in other parts of this country or the world he'd lived in or visited for internships. (the stints in mexico and the netherlands.) the teachers are from all over the world. (none, save him, are black of course.) ok... rewind... there was one MAJOR difference... the vast difference and pay and respect he enjoys in as a teacher for children of the diplomatic community in china versus his former Teach for America or the boston unified school district teaching positions. there seems very little that he, his wife, or the children they teach, want for. the house they live in is bigger than the two of them need and the house keeper, he says, feels a bit excessive. he says he's been there too short a time, thus far, to accept of reject any of it as it is all still a bit surreal.

he goes on the tell me that beijing has about 3 times the number of people in it, within the same land mass as an overcrowded american city like new york or l.a. twice the number of skyscrapers. an exponetially higher number of bike riders. (he said he circled the shopping mall parking lot for a space to park his bike. REALLY!) and the street vendors... well, i was reminded of trips to tijuana in his telling of it. everything is negotiated/negotiable. people are peddling their wares for whatever they can get. you need a bootleg of maimi vice (yes, the jamie foxx version)? $1! a coach purse? $12! shoes, clothes, watches, purfumes, YOU NAME IT YOU BUY IT CHEAP! as a filmmaker, my political sensibilities want to scold him for even CONSIDERING the purchase of bootleg videos. how am i supposed to survive in an industry where even my family is buying bootleg? but, because television is censored there, they only get 3 channels. (HBO is somehow a lot less interesting with no curse words or partially nude scenes, ya know?) after the first 3 days of "friday the thirteenth" (which apparently is suitable for all audiences at all times of day), how could i blame him?

he finally told me that he also enjoys a bit of celebrity there as a nearly 6 foot tall black man with a large wavy afro. a man recently handed my brother his baby (which would have freaked my brother out) then held up his camera. he and his wife smiled and obliged the man but wondered what international star they might mistake him for. or maybe it was just a marvel to see him walking among them. in some spaces, he says kids smile and point only to have their hands swatted for the disrespect of acknowledging my brother's spectacle. in others, mostly in spaces with jaded by american culture, there are many smiles, secret glances and a quiet reverence for the possibility of celebrity.

i devour each morsel of his new life like popcorn and a bootleg flick. when he runs out of things to say, i update him on my life in this part of america. he likes hearing about the kids and how much they've grown since he saw them last. i really need to send him pictures.

i chop it up with his wife a bit. we laugh lots and agree that shopping helps bridge language barriers and quell homesickness. she has learned more mandarin taxi instructions than my brother has so far and she's proud of that. in the states, he learned spanish faster. (i realize how many languages i take for granted and find myself looking for my "learn spanish" cd. perhaps i will call my haitian friend who forces the french i refuse to speak, out of me. i should be a better equipped global citizen.)

i don't want either of them to stop talking because i realize, as the conversation hems and haws toward its end, how much i miss them. but they are tired and off to be. i am starting my day. we are worlds away. but, thank GOD for cell phones!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I's FREE!!! I's FREE!!!

it's been far too long since i've written here. (anywhere for that matter.) i know this mostly because i have a-thousand-and-one things my hands and eyes are too tired to report at this late hour. so i am certain to short change all of the wonderfully fantastic happenings of the recent past (like "nationals" where i got to hang with old and new friends like rogerandwammoandtracyandgeoffandcharlaandderrickandneosouldiers--who showed up and did the dang thang, along with denver, who won; nyc louder arts; detroit; and miami teams-- and all of my new myspace friends).

the biggest news of the day, which is a week old now (outdated by blog standards) is that i've finally found the right passage to FREEDOM FROM THE CORPORATE STRUCTURE! WooooHoooo! i thought the entire week of my new found freedom would be spent at a slower pace... you know... go back to sleep after i get the kids off to school, wake up when i feel like it, blog, write some more, do some freelance work and... NEVER HAPPENED! apparently, when you's free from "corporate," you's become a slave to a zillion other things. word. and not that i didn't LOVE my old job at that nameless, faceless corporate machine... okay, well i didn't love the job (so liberating to say that now) but i DEFINITELY loved the people. and i am certainly grateful for the many, many the moments that my mind still sucks and dissolves like lemon heads. (i will especially miss the gourmet coffee from the machine, the clunk and churn of the AC and the stench of cigarette smoke, perrenials and fertilizer.) NOT! but seriously, when asked what i am doing now, i lovingly answered that i landed in a job where i can say "mercury's in retrograde" without a heckle in return. kisses in the wind to my old coworkers and friends! until we meet again... at jazzercise... ;-)

i am currently in training for my new job as a teaching artist-in-residence for the theater action project (the other TAP in my life). it really is an amazing group of artists, all committed to creating a better learning experience for kids through art. but how could we not be amazing? we are under the fearless leadership of karen lashelle who hides her cape well. MAD LOVE TO TAP!!! but just when we thought we'd escaped THE MAN... that's a-whole-nother blog...
the other time in my days has already filled up with freelance graphic design work. yes, yes... i am FINALLY open for business. check out my new website for (of course) Groovenbuttafly Design. ( it's amazing because AS SOON AS i made space in my life for them, the jobs came. i am grateful. truly grateful. Allahu Akbar!

simultaneously, among other things, director extraordinaire laurie carlos is back in town to work on flo's "half breed: a southern fried tail (check one)" performance. (full details to come, y'all.) i am shadowing the lovingly fierce omi olomo oshun and performing a few small parts. flo is brilliant, which i already knew, and just to be back in the same universe with sharon (my other beloved mentor) and krissy and jacqueline (my sisters fro the other TAP in my life... the austin project) fills me up. LOTS of work but so much love. so much love.

PS--BIG LOVE to zell who's show i missed because my overheating car made travel this weekend impossible. but i KNOW there is always more to come from him so until the next one...

on the home front, we finally MOVED into a house where my mother, children and i can finally spread out, fart and scratch in our own spaces enough that we won't offend each other. the woman who used to live here is an artist and she painted each room a different color. it really is a lovely space that my mother and i are cultivating beautifully into our new home.

so creatively, i've been spending most of my time designing, less writing, though i did make my submission deadline for the month. (TORCH Magazine y'all! the deadline is August 31st. SUBSCRIBE and SUBMIT!!! i am hoping to come up with some kind of schedule that actually gives me time to get it all in. if any of you have suggestions/advice/wisdom/sayings from your grandmama you'd like to offer, holla. i need it all.

so, i think that's about all i can manage for now. i have to get up early and take my car to the shop, finally get my last name changed on my driver's license and work on one of the 2 design assignments i have currently going. SEE! but at least now i am doing what i'm doing out of SERIOUS love. the beautiful thing is... it all actually pays!