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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Friday, March 30, 2007

I Am Not Coming To Class Today

My students will not care.
They will revel in the time off. Listen to their IPods. Lay on the beach. Drink beer.

Like Billy Collins, I stand staring out the window this morning.
Billy says that’s what poets do.

I believe him. Who can doubt a Poet Laureate who steals lines from Ferlinghetti
and writes about the trouble with poetry?
Billy says poets stare out windows.
I want to be a poet today, not a teacher.

From my windows, I see

grey and brown tree limbs sprouting small, scarcely noticiable green niblets.
Shy and unassuming, they push their little heads above the moss-covered branches that quiver just a tad in the wind.

I want to burrow past those fresh bumps, taste the dark marrow of those trees on my tongue.

I see

the new garbage man. He wears wraparound sunglasses and his teeth shine as white as the high-quality, 8 ½ x 11 bond paper that rests in the paper tray of my printer waiting for the sharp bite of black ink.

I would like a bite from the garbage man.

In my kitchen, the light filters through the dirty window and screen,
casting gritty, grainy shadows on the counter top
cluttered with smeared banana and the careless trail of oatmeal flakes.

I will not come to class today.

I have odd lines to scribble and scratch in my notebook.
Squiblets and niblets of words to track across the page.
I must watch the sky, as its shades of blue shift and waver in the passing day.

I have dirty windows that need cleaning. I will use amonia and old newspapers.
The smell so sharp, my eyes will sting.
I’ll leave streaks across the glass that refract the light,
sketching strange patterns on the dark cherry wood of my dining room table.

I will not come to class today.
I am entirely too busy.
I have windows to stare through and poetry to write.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Child Care and The Pop Media News Analysis

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) released its study on early childhood day care centers this week, and the pop media is having a field day. Morning DJs and talk-show radio hosts have taken a trauma & drama approach – bemoaning the horrors of day care centers while romanticizing the life of stay-at-home moms and exaggerating and demonizing the normal behaviors of children who indeed must be socialized. Children do not spring forth from the womb with an automatic understanding of the norms and values of the culture to which they are born. Yes, proper behavior is socially-constructed and varies from society to society. And apparently, day-care centers are hopelessly inept at conveying our society’s cultural norms for child behavior.

Clearly then, if day-care centers are so horrific, women should forego work and stay home with the children. Yes, if only women would do their duty and stay home – all would be well.

How about examining the quality of the day care centers instead? The study itself points out some of the benefits of day care, as well as how the high child-to-adult ratio and lack of skilled, trained personnel affects the increase in disruptive behavior.

The study authors suggested that the correlation between center care and problem behaviors could be due to the fact that center-based child care providers often lack the training, as well as the time, to address behavior problems. For example, center-based child care providers may not be able to provide sufficient adult attention or guidance to address problems that may emerge when groups of young children are together, such as how to resolve conflicts over toys or activities.

Perhaps we should improve the quality of care at day care centers. You know – set higher standards, demand a higher level of training and education for day-care providers, mandate a lower child-to-adult ratio, provide more federal, state, and local funds for quality day-care centers, and pay day-care providers more.

I’ll be the first to admit that my gut instinct tells me that children are better off at home, in the care of a loving parent(s). Of course, there are dangers with that approach as well – the primary care-giver becomes larger than life and there’s no guarantee that a parent is better-equipped to deal with the vagaries of child-rearing than day-care providers (indeed, perhaps on the whole the day-care providers, many of whom have more experience and training than parents, would make superior care-givers – if they weren’t burdened by that high child-to-adult ratio and were paid a wage that allowed them to be financially stable).

I preferred to stay home with my children when possible. With my son, as a single parent, I took a sabbatical from work for the first three months – until financial need drove me back into the workplace. And I’ll admit - though I did often enjoy the leisurely pace of staying home with an infant, I missed the adult world. Later, after I had remarried and my daughter was born, and in consultation with my former husband, I made the choice to stay home with my toddler son and infant daughter. Yes, I stayed home when my children were quite young, for the most part, although they both spent some time first with private babysitters, and then in preschools as I went to school part-time. But my children’s hours in the custody of a care provider who was not a family member were minimal. I should add that my son has always been a behavioral problem and my daughter has not. Yet they spent the same amount of time with day-care providers.

But I was lucky when my children were young. At the time, I was a member of a privileged class – we had ample money to provide a rather high standard of living. Chalk it up to a husband who made big bucks.

Of course, what all the pop news media are missing is a thorough examination of the report. The pop media presents this report with myopic exaggeration, and as such, gives us yet another assault on women (why are we leaving our children in the hands of such horrible caregivers? What on earth is wrong with us? Oh – but I ask: what on earth is wrong with a society that so devalues its children, parents, and the family we cannot or will not provide a high-quality support system for parents and children?).

Yet the supposed scourge of day care centers actually has – according to the study - a minimum effect on our children (the risk of increased behavioral problems is only 1%). And, surprise, surprise, the impact of parents is the key factor in the behavior of children.

The effect was slight, and well within the normal range for healthy children, the researchers found. And as expected, parents’ guidance and their genes had by far the strongest influence on how children behaved.

Perhaps we should:

  • Improve our healthcare system so that pregnant women and children receive the quality health care all members of a just society deserve.
  • Improve the training and education of child-care providers and pay them not only a living-wage, but one which demonstrates with what high regard we hold their work.
  • Develop and implement ways to make the workplace friendlier to both mothers and fathers.
  • Encourage fathers to stay home with the children (which will require aggressively reducing the pay disparity between men and women so that women have a better shot at being the financial providers).





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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Another Offensive in the War Against Women

The great state of Missouri (or rather its venerable Governor) has withdrawn state funding from Planned Parenthood to conduct free cervical and breast cancer screenings. The reason? The state simply doesn’t want women going to Planned Parenthood – because Planned Parenthood usually provides a full array of women’s reproductive health services – including abortion. The state will only provide funding for cancer screenings at anti-choice/pro-life clinics.

Of course, the Planned Parenthood clinics that had their funding revoked do not even provide abortion services. (Little known fact: less than 30% of Planned Parenthood offices provide abortion services. Planned Parenthood’s main focus is NOT abortion services, rather their focus is reproductive health in general. By providing birth control, Planned Parenthood contributes the decrease in abortion demands, and by providing health screenings, the organization contributes to women's health and longevity).

But Missouri is simply out to punish Planned Parenthood for its pro-abortion stance. And in the process, the state is punishing women as well.

Sources to check:


Friday, March 23, 2007

The War on Women

Clearly, the War on Women is experiencing an escalation (or as our sistah Condi would say - an augmentation).

Two key signs that indicate a sharp surge in this agressive effort against women:

1. As an “unintended” result of the Medicaid prescription drug overhaul, the cost of birth control pills is rising – sometimes doubling and tripling. Unintended my vagina. No doubt, this is just the thing the former Republican congress would do to pander to their Christian fundie base.

2. Africa’s Ivory Coast, home to the largest cocoa producer, has suffered a drought – which in turn will affect the cocoa orchards and the market. (C’mon Senator Inhofe – even a prick like you can now agree – global warming is a serious threat!) Although the current cocoa crop is not affected, chocolate prices are soaring and a shortage is anticipated – just in time for the end of the Lent and Easter Sunday – perhaps the impending chocolate shortage is not just part of the War on Women, but a part of the War on Easter as well. Could it be that the Christian fundies and feminists have a cause in common?

Girls, we'd best stock up on birth control and chocolate!

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Migratory Habits of Arctic Terns

The migratory paths of arctic terns have long been somewhat strange to humans. The birds simply don’t take, what is in human terms, a direct path from the north to south pole.

No, terns don’t move from Point A to Point B in a linear fashion. Terns loop back and forth, practicing an almost revisonary method of flight, moving up and down longitudal lines and across latitudes in helixical patterns. Their internal sonar, (which is sometimes compromised by the vagaries of civilization) and the power of magnetism pull them, push them, compel them in their flight patterns. Yet any little wind can often blow this small bird with its enormous wing-span, this avian marathoner covers more territory than any other migratory creature on the planet, off course.

Terns just can't seem to take a direct route to any where. Sometimes this penchant for side-trips and aerial loopy-de-loops is a delight as it brings unexpected vistas and new possibilities never considered to the tern.

Yet other times, these often spontaneous flights can lead to disaster – can distract the tern from her true goal. She flies here and there, first pursuing this direction, then that, following one pull, then another. She is never sure which direction to take. She starts off north, then turns southeast, only to turn west and loop back north again. Then she may suddenly stop, in mid-air, and float on the currents, pondering which direction to take. As she hovers in mid-air, she may search the sea for clues, and then suddenly – she swoops off to the west again - flap/flap/flap - and gliding again, she drifts off toward some ill-defined destination - guided not by goal or direction, but some mysterious pull that even she cannot identify. Or sometimes, she is guided not at all, but is merely moving at the whim of the air currents, allowing external forces to dictate her path.

Of course, terns are also quite ferocious and persistent when actually focused on a goal (for example, a juicy piece of fish, particularly shrimp – a tern favorite). And when they are sure of their purpose, they are swift and accurate.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

To Blog or Not to Blog

That is the question. Or perhaps not.

Of late, fortune's arrows have me chasing a much coveted turn of events. And so I flit, and flutter, and swoop and swoosh. I am creating something in the material world - and it is a heavy task, yet sweet. And fraught with care and concern. This work doesn't leave much time for blogging.

Sky is wide and I am not sure where I will land. I am on a long flight; I know the coordinates of my landing, but not the destination.

Last week, while driving to one campus at which I work, I chased an illusive rainbow. It was a double rainbow at that, and each time the curve in the freeway brought me closer to its two arcs, another curve would take the rainbows further away.

The sky is not a solid blue, nor is it empty. It is restraining in its seeming infinity - but we should never be deceived - there is a limit. And I have beat my wings against one outer limit, only to swoop and turn and wing my way toward other sectors of space and time.

Earlier this week, I flew off to the Pacific Northwest. Coming home, I again saw a rainbow. This time I was above it.

The material world has beckoned in substantial ways, so I have neglected my blog, neglected the cyberspace community which I have felt so strongly in the past year. This world seems less compelling these days, in comparison with the flesh and blood needs of those around me - and of myself. And yet, this world is familiar, has a pulse, and bloggers for whom I care.

When I started blogging, I had two questions I wanted to answer:

Can one build community in cyberspace?

And if so, what does it mean - what is the nature and quality of that community?

I have answered the first question with a definite "yes."

I have not yet answered the second to my satisfaction.

Can you answer it?