I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The time is now

The joke about UU's is that they are such bad singers because they are too busy reading ahead to see if they agree. Well, now we have a cantata that Jason Shelton wrote just for us.

Tomorrow we debut it with one of the two other valley UU congregations. We're doing it at theirs this Sunday and at ours on Mother's Day. The songs are different genres and different aspect of the UU experience. At our church, I have the solo on the humanist anthem, "No Other World." I love this, because it is my fave song in the program, maybe in the world right now. It just really speaks to me.

Dig these lyrics by Kendyl Gibbons:

I would live simply, and bravely, and nobly;
Let no illusion remain;
I would seek wisdom in human reality,
Even if wisdom be pain.

Sing me no pious amens and old canticles,
Let doubts and questions arise;
Tell me no providence hidden in prophecies,
But welcome the future's surprise.

The time is now, the place is here;
The good we know, the earth we share;
This day we have, this love we give;
No other truth; no other joy; no other life;
No other world.

Weave me no fairytales frosted with miracles;
Give me a light I can see;
Spin me no promise of heavens and saviors,
Teach me the truth that makes us free.

Create my salvation in earth's endless wonder;
Everything nature provides;
Let me be honest, and wise in compassion;
Make reason and conscience my guides.

The time is now, the place is here
The good we know, the earth we share;
This day we have, this love we give;
No other truth; no other joy; no other life;
No other world.

Beautiful universe, fathomless energy,
Myst'ries we struggle to know;
This is our paradise; dust is out destiny;
Cherish the years as they go.

The. time. is. now.
The place is here;
The good we know, the earth we share;
This day we have, this love we give;
No other truth; no other joy; no other life;
No other world

Friday, May 02, 2008

It was a star before it was Harry's godfather's name

Last night we attended a demonstration about star-gazing and, when it was dark enough, we all went out and looked at Saturn, Mars, Sirius, and Betelgeuse through some really great wide telescopes. I am personally so blind to the distinctions among any of them thangs up thar that I can't find the big dipper without help. So, I am always amazed that anyone actually can.

The evening was sponsored by our school district's gifted program. And I am grateful for it, even while I am increasingly embarrassed that our gifted program is the worst kind of gifted program.

A "gifted" designation should be handled like a handicap, by which I mean, high IQ should be accomodated in the same quiet, mainstreamed manner as another challenge. As much as possible, there should just be a subtle shading of complexity and volume without a lot of fuss. It's not a reward. It's not an honor society.

Here's what a gifted program should not be -- a chance for elite parents to perpetuate their own privilege by gobbling up the resources of the school.

Here's what it should not be -- carte blanche for kids who aren't necessarily any better behaved than their peers.

Here's what it should not be -- a chance for parents who spend a lot of time, energy, and money giving their kids a leg up to congratulate themselves on the native intelligence of their well-coached sweeties.

It should not be fun field trips that basically send the message you're so far ahead you can afford to coast.

And it should definitely not be your career track or the pool from which you are encouraged to choose your friends.

I remember at the orientation for my step-brother's gifted program, a student asked what should I tell my friends who have not been invited to participate. The man replied, "You could say, 'You're good at other things, like sports.'" Well, now, as my step-brother was one of a handful of Black students in a really old-school burg, h*ll if we were going to turn down the chance for him to stand out in a positive way. But it sure didn't feel good to perpetuate all that rot.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A good deed punished

I went with a neighbor to a naturalization interview today. This was a favor, as we are moms together. Her girl is in my scout troop. Girl has slept over at her house. Jones has gone to her daycare. I often sit with her at PTA and community meetings. I know her and her husband to be block-watching, whistle-blowing, field-trip-attending, cookie-baking, carpool-driving parents of the highest order.

There was an embarrasing moment when she had to answer questions about a "hit" that came up when the FBI ran her prints. Seems she was a foster parent and her ward presented with a broken bone. When she brought the child in she was questioned as a routine matter but exonerated and charges were presumably brought against the perpetrator.

The computer print-out merely says that she was released. You have to have the actual court records to see that she was exonerated and that in fact she is the one who reported the problem. There was a scramble through all the papers, but we did have the court records, so it didn't hold her up.

The interview went well and she burst into grateful tears. When she apologized for blubbering, the officer demurred. No, she said, it is gratifying to see someone take citizenship so seriously. So many people take it for granted.

I always find these scenes of gratitude a little bit uncomfortable. Because often the person has had to tolerate a lot of indifference and bureaucracy to get to this point, and the humility just emphasizes that power differential.

I was still dwelling on the FBI "hit". Why is the burden on her? How begrudging, how indifferent, how bureaucratic was the investigating officer not to simply make a note in her computer file that she is the good guy here? She is the person whose impulse to mother, to volunteer, to speak up, to advocate for a child brought the abuse out in the open and the perverse result is that she gets stuck with a "child endangerment" label for the rest of her life?

It makes me think back to all of the times that as an involved mother I have had to agree to a background check -- volunteering at the school, as a girl scout leader, as a camp chaperone. I fully support the background checks, of course, but how awful would it be to have to explain the alarming note on my file every single time?

My hope for her, as for many of my naturalization clients, now that they are citizens, is that they prove their American-ness by getting a little more uppity.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Being an immigration lawyer, I work all day with people for whom absolutely everything is alien, and so it is no surprise that they do not suffer from (don't have the luxury of)the insecurity (complacency) that I see so often in the native-born. They are some opinionated (decisive) folks.

I'm not going to say that this is always good news. Life in the US is super super complicated and expert advice is often necessary, else my job wouldn't exist. But I have a healthy respect for the Shoot-first-ask-questions-later school of decision-making, especially when compared to the decision-making paralysis that I often hear from my neighbors.

I especially loathe when somebody armed with a handful of soundbites and statistics can just shut up a whole room of smart people. This just slays me. Americans are supposed to be so feisty, so revolutionary, and we are so easily intimidated by even the intimation of authority.

It makes me glad that, as a lawyer, sometimes I get to counter authority with authority. I have a friend who is clergy and we have the same speak-softly-carry-a-big-stick orientation toward our respective titles. I won't strike first, but I will whip out the law degree if provoked.

When I was at college I studied under (crushed on) a wunderkind bioethicist whose one-word name Magnus could not help but command attention. It seemed then that he was always off picking fights with creationist school boards, which is how I got started thiking about these things. Well, that and I think every public policy type secretly wishes she'd gone into lab science.

Creationists, sick of looking like know-nothing yahoos, are organized now. They are often armed with zingers -- questions that take the discussion out of the shallow waters of don't you think monkeys kinda do look like us straight into the depths that give even the practicing biologists pause. Most people are so ill-educated on the matter that they will bare their neck to the alpha dog who whips out a couple of these.

One that used to absolutely shut my mouth is that for evolution to happen there would have to be a change not just in the quality of DNA but the quantity. I have to admit that my primitive monkey brain had no answer to that objection.

But now that there are science blogs in the world, there can be such glories as this accessible explanation of how chromosome numbers can change. Oh brave new blogosphere, that has
PZ Myers in't.

Quiet Time

Stepmother's coffee bean of the day puts me in mind of the wisdom of this furry zen master to his mouse student.

Bear: Well you're tired
You're feelin' kinda low
Put down the cheese
You don't have far to go
It's time for some quiet time

Tutter: But time is exactly what I haven't
got - Bear
I'm busy, busy, busy
Can't stop to chat!
I gotta push this cheese
Across my welcome mat

Bear: Just take some quiet time

Tutter: But Bear

Bear: Time for some quiet time

Tutter: Now how can I possibly take
quiet time?!

Bear: I can see you're out of breath
You barely drag yourself along

Tutter: But I'm not even tired, Bear!

Bear: If you just take
some quiet time
I know you'll soon be feelin'

Tutter: Now that you mention, Bear
I think that I'll just rest my head
here for a little while
And take some quiet time

Bear: Quiet time

Tutter: Time for some quiet time

Bear: Quiet time

Tutter: Time for some...snores

Bear: Quiet time (Shhh!)