Friday, February 26, 2010

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave

What an impactful story.

The version of Frederick Douglass' autobiography that I purchased had a substantial introduction to it which was written over 100 years after the original writing. By the time I started the actual original writing by Douglass, I was more than halfway through the physical book itself.

I can understand why this writing was able to help turn the tide against slavery at the time. It is a relatively fast read, it's factual, and the pictures he can draw with the words he chooses are heart-wrenching. Not to mention that it was written by a black man, someone who, according to many at that time, was incapable of intelligent thought or emotion. It's amazing to think that this autobiography was published when he was just 27, and the experiences that he had lived through up to that point were well beyond what many of us could ever endure.

He makes a case for how slavery turned humans into brutes by their very treatment, thus making it appear to the slaveholders that they were indeed brutes who needed to be treated that way. He also makes a strong case for how slaveholding brought out the worst in those who had power over other humans, bringing both master and slave to the basest human condition.

He suffered his first whipping at the tender age of 6. That's my oldest daughter's age. Whenever I read something where the age of the children in the story is the equivalent of my children's age at the time, it's hard for me to not draw parallels.

The other night I was giving my oldest daughter a bedtime backrub at her request. She trustingly lifted up her pajama top to let me lightly use my fingernails on her back, knowing that I wouldn't tickle her. I cannot imagine what it would be like if when I saw her back she had the raised scars of whip marks at that age. Even moreso, I cannot imagine the state of mind of the adult who could inflict that kind of hurt upon a child.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has not yet read it. It's a period of history that is not even 150 years behind us -- that's about six generations ago. Perhaps that seems like ancient history to some, but in considering the span of human history, it's not long enough.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Frankisms by Marissa

I feel like I can't call them Marissa-isms anymore, there are too many posts under that name. So perhaps I will begin calling them Frankism's, because she's just so frank.

It started this evening when I picked her up from her school. There were two men walking down the hall away from us. One of them was very tall and broad-shouldered and he had as big an afro as I've seen since the 1970s. All you could see from behind was a big halo of curly black hair.

"Lookit that guy!" says Marissa loud enough for him to overhear, "He has super big fuffy hair." He turned a little bit, smiled, and kept walking. Thank God he smiled, that's all I have to say.

Then, while driving home, we saw a bicyclist biking towards us on the street. He was wearing a bright all-orange vest which reflected the light. Since it was dusk, it was busy reflecting the lights of our headlights.

"Whoa," says Marissa, "That guy is super bright!"

As with all things related to what Marissa says, it's not what she says but how she says it that's so endearing. Wish I could've captured these quips on audio.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lindsey's Loose Tooth


Homework: The "I Told You So's"

There are two "I told you so's" in this one: my own parents laughing at how my behavior as a youngster comes back to me as a parent of a child with similar behavor, and I told you you could do it!

A few nights ago Lindsey was working on her 1st grade homework: measurement. The homework pictured a single crayon which was the same length as three drawn paperclips, then asked the question, "If the book is two crayons long, how long is it in paperclips?"

Lindsey asked me for help; I gave her a method on how she could figure it out and she immediately went to work to on the problem. Two minutes later I hear her yelling, "I can't do it! It's too hard!" and the paper and the pencil go flying across the room.

At this point I can't talk her off the ledge -- she needs to get herself calmed down and I can't help her do it. So I let her sit there in a ball on the chair in frustration. All I could do is say, "Lindsey, I know you are a smart girl, I know you can figure this out." But she won't let me do anything more than that.

After a few minutes Wayne comes downstairs from helping Marissa with something. He picks up her homework that's on the floor and starts to read over what she's done so far. She says in frustration, "You do it for me!" and he says, "Oh, I'm just looking over what you did already."

He proceeds to read each problem that she's already completed as if he doesn't already know the answer, and then reads her answer as if he hadn't known that already, as if she's enlightening him for the first time. Then he finally comes to the question she got stuck on, and he asks her, "So Lindsey, how many paper clips long IS the book?" and she immediately answers, "Six." Her face lit up and she says, "Oooohhhhh!" You could literally see the lightbulb go off over her head. She runs over and picks up her pencil, then finishes the rest of her homework in about 5 minutes flat.

She then comes over to me, shows me her completed homework and says, "Mom, you were right! I AM smart!" and gives me a big hug.

It's times like these that I realize how very differently Wayne and I approach problems, and how important it is that the two of us work together in parenting. I could have never gotten Lindsey to get to that solution on her own -- she just stays too emotional when working with me, or perhaps I focus too much on trying to calm her down. But when Wayne just focused on the work, she was able to put the frustration aside and get it done. What a great Dad!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's all in the ingredients

I've had lots of compliments over the years about my baked goods, with many people attempting my same recipes and getting different results. Not sure what the difference is, but I can tell you one secret: ingredients.

For example:

I made some brownies tonight to bring some in to work tomorrow as it's the Friday before Valentine's Day. The recipe calls for 2/3 C of baking cocoa. So I used 1/3 C of your regular old, run-of-the-mill Hershey's baking cocoa, and 1/3 C of a gourmet dark baking cocoa that a former co-worker of mine gave special from his stash. The stuff is expensive and custom ordered from the internet only, but is worth every cent.

Just look at the difference in color:

He warned me against doing a full substitute to the dark cocoa, because it's so rich it would overpower the entire recipe, thus my solution of half and half.

We'll see if my co-workers agree that my substitution worked. Lucky co-workers...

A cultural reference fades into history

It recently occurred to me that the TV series Seinfeld has been off the air for more years than it aired. It officially aired from 1989 to 1998, or for 9 seasons. It's now been OFF the air for 12 years.

There was a time when anyone in the country could say, "Remember that time that Kramer..." or "no soup for you!" or whatever the line was, and everyone in the room knew exactly what you meant? You could say that someone danced like Elaine, and everyone knew that was not a compliment. Or, if you live within my circle of the fundraising community, you could talk about supporting The Human Group, and everyone knew that was George Costanza's charity that he made up so he could collect donations at work and keep the money for himself.

Those days are gone. Think about it: this year's high school graduates were age 6 when Seinfeld went off the air. And unless their parents thought that Seinfeld was a great thing to expose their kindergarteners and 1st graders to, they probably never saw it in primetime.

What's the new show that everyone knows about, that everyone knows the characters to or the lines from? The only one I can think of which came up after Seinfeld is American Idol, but that one isn't really a story line, or characters that are consistent from year to year. I do know some people who can tell you about Lakisha from season 6, or can recount all of Sanjaya's hairstyles. Not the same as a comedy series which unites people around storylines, though.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Lindsey's Observation on a Superbowl Ad

Our family was glued to our seats while watching the Superbowl yesterday, moreso during the commercials than during the actual play, to be honest.

Lindsey watched the commercial with Jay, Dave and Oprah for the Late Show with more rapt attention than usual.

"Wait a minute..."she said, thinking. I thought for sure she was trying to place Oprah, who she sees on the cover of my Oprah magazine every month.

"Are they eating the same chips I am?" she finally asks.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Lindsey's Smile

Take a good look at this photo.

How many teeth has Lindsey lost on the top?

If you guessed anything more than zero, you would be wrong.

I am continually amazed at the human body. Lindsey has a front big tooth that is amazingly loose -- it should honestly probably be out by now, but she takes her time in wiggling the thing and we don't press her, so there it is still.

In the meantime, the secondary tooth has moved so far over that there is a gap between those two teeth now that is the size of a tooth. Clearly whatever front tooth she has in the works is a doozy, and will be taking up a lot of space in her mouth.

I think it's so amazing that her baby teeth are moving on their own, making room for the permanent ones.

I've heard lots of stories of friends and co-workers who put their kids into braces at ages 7 and 8, knowing that in 5 years they'll probably be putting them back in braces again. If you just look at the size of your kids' head when they start losing their baby teeth and growing their adult teeth, they still have so much growing to do, there will be plenty of room for those adult teeth once their mouth is full grown. And so far I'm finding that if you just leave the body alone, the teeth will find their own places in their mouth.

I had braces as a child; my husband didn't. I don't believe any of his siblings did. You can't tell. Truly, you can't. His families teeth are as straight as my sister's and mine, both of whom went through years of orthodontia. (Full disclosure: I know that one of his sisters got braces as an adult because their lack of straightness bothered her, but they weren't crooked enough for others to think "gee, look at the crooked teeth on that woman.")

I am in no hurry to straighten my kids' teeth. I think some parents hurry it up, thinking that it's a miserable thing to be in braces as a teenager, so they want to get them over with and done before the teenage years. I know that during my own development my parents put me in braces at the same time as my sister because it was convenient to have to trek the two of us back and forth to the orthodontist at the same time. I was in 4th grade. And I ended up having to have braces again as an adult because my teeth had moved so much in the interim.

So my kids might hate me at the time, but if they need braces they'll be getting them their junior/senior year of high school. Sorry kids. The good news is that photographers nowadays use Photoshop to erase them if you're wearing them when you have your senior picture taken.

Pokin' around Seward...

If you read my prior post about my small little introduction to the Seward neighborhood, you'll know that I must be (and I am!) VERY excited about an outing in Seward this coming weekend.

Lindsey has a 10 am class on Saturdays in Seward, at a place called Articulture. Through my prior post, I found that a friend of mine lives in Seward -- I had no idea!! She offered to take me on a little walk of the neighborhood and explore a few of the places that I've been only driving by.

So thank you, Laura, I'm looking forward to our outing, and thank you, Dad, for your encouragement to broaden horizons. Can't wait!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Bootstrap Neighborhood

I've recently come to the conclusion that my world is incredibly small, despite my living in a metropolitan community. I go to the same places, I drive the same city streets, I take my kids to the same our or five kid places for entertainment, because hey, they aren't tired of them yet, and I just haven't found new places to take them yet.

That's changed a bit with my job change, which requires me to travel to...dum dum duuuuuum!! The other side of the river.

That would be St. Paul.  You know, land of twisty streets since those drunken Irishmen made them (thank you, Governor Ventura, for pointing that out), capitol of our fine state, home to many a Fortune 500 company even though I can't think of any right now.

My commute to work is not much longer than my old commute -- about 30 minutes instead of 20, but in the opposite direction. Getting home, however, is another story, as I found that the city of Minneapolis is apparently in a perpetual rush hour, with both morning and evening traffic in to the city being the heaviest traveled. Since I have to drive in to Minneapolis from St. Paul to get home, it can take me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to get to my daughter's school to pick her up, much less home from there.

The interstate backs up to an imperceptible crawl, which has required some new exploration on my part -- on to city streets I go, winding through some St. Paul neighborhoods, some Minneapolis neighborhoods, and finding new routes and new sights along the way.

Which has led to my discovery of the Seward neighborhood.

Seward (pronounced SOO-wird) is just south of downtown Minneapolis, and I cut through it on Franklin Ave. It is an interesting, eclectic mix of old and new. There is a significant East African presence, primarily Somali immigrants, who have settled here, resulting in an amazing mix of grocery stores and restaurants. When I first get on Franklin Ave, I can smell the fresh garlic smell of one of the neighborhood restaurants. I haven't figured out which one, but I plan on finding out. Later on down the street, I pass the Franklin Ave Bakery, a two-story building, and the yeasty smell of fresh baked bread overwhelms the senses. The smell literally wafts through the vents of my car in this cold weather; I can't wait to smell it when the weather is warmer.

I go through a little retail area with lots of pedestrian crosswalks. There are lots of people walking here. They are waiting for buses, leaving work, walking to one of those grocery stores for some provisions before heading home. There's one building in particular that always has a lot of traffic when I'm going by, people visiting out in front, students coming and going. I finally got a closer look and saw that it's a branch of the library. It looked so vibrant it made me want to stop to see what that library had that other Minneapolis library branches didn't have.

There are some new buildings along this area -- those retail/residential mix buildings that are so popular right now. Yet you won't see many chain retail stores taking up the retail spaces, they seem to be mostly local or niche businesses.

Within all of this is a mix of struggle and success. There are several community outreach organizations operating in the area: an employment and training center, a Native American community center, a trade and skills center, along with a store to sell the goods that they trained people to make. And then there are the accompanying successes of those efforts: the locally owned artisan store, the immigrant owned grocery store, the East African pottery place.

The first time I drove through this area I was a bit worried about where I was at -- I was surprised when I checked the street signs and they all said "South Franklin," or "South 26th Ave." Here I was, 6 miles north of my Minneapolis home, and I was still in SOUTH Minneapolis. I need to get out more.

Recently Lindsey began taking a Saturday morning art class at one of the local shops there, a place called Articulture. She is loving this class, and I am loving that I get to explore a new neighborhood while she's there. Can't wait to expand my horizons.