Saturday, March 31, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Years ago, when I first came up with the idea of the Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network, I did a desperate search for resources. It is no accident that I ended up at the Multilingual Matters website! They specialize in books on bilingualism and multilingualism and are where you will find fabulous books for parents from Colin Baker, Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert and many more!
But for me, the books are only a part of the reason I delight in Multilingual Matters... it is because this publishing house is the "real deal." They were founded and are run by the Grover family and there is simply no kinder family out there than this one! Each member of the family I have had the privilege of being in contact with has been helpful, kind, generous and all-around wonderful. They have offered me advice and have kept me motivated in my efforts to continue spreading support for families raising multilingual and multicultural children.
Basically, there are not enough words of praise in the English language to express how I feel about everyone at Multilingual Matters. It was such a great honor to meet Tommi and I hope we will have opportunities in the future to meet and chat again. I also hope to have the chance to meet the rest of his family sometime in the future.
If you happen to be at a conference and you see the Multilingual Matters booth, make sure to stop by and say hello to Tommi or whomever may be at the booth! They will be delighted!
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
my dear friend,
I honor you with my existence,
I celebrate you with my art,
I call out your name and you answer,
no matter how low I have become,
no matter how stupid I have been,
no matter how far away,
I have run.
You never let me wander far from your patient gaze,
you protect me from myself,
you teach me to love again,
that which has always been within me.
Your loving hands,
which lift me up are
characters on a page,
so honest and true.
my dear friend,
as Rilke says: you “protect my solitude.”
You give me the space to be who I am.
How did you know that I simply needed
time to grow into my own flesh?
I can never thank you enough
for this journey,
for this path,
for sticking with me,
when I have nothing left to say,
nothing left to give.
All I can offer are these two outstretched hands
to thank you
for everything you give,
to thank you
for meaning so much to me.
In this whole expansive world
where do I belong?
Where is that little niche
carved out for me,
Where is that place
made for my heart to rest
and my spirit to dangle?
How can I know
when it is ok to yell to the world,
to let out a resounding laugh,
a full-bodied cry,
a complete and utter dance of delight?
How can I know
when it is ok to tell you exactly how I feel
without being ridiculed
Why does it feel that all others understand
the ways of the world,
that all have found their places in the world,
each with their circumspect delineation of space and time,
forever running in circles
one step spiraling onto itself
again and again
forever overflowing with questions?
There are times when all I want is to belong.
I just want to do what others do,
to feel what others feel,
to appear as if I know what is going on.
All I can be sure of is the touch of hands,
each upon the other.
showing me the way,
reminding me that wherever I am,
Friday, March 16, 2007
My kids love stickers. Being that we have three kids who ignore their mother's pleading to not plaster their stickers on...
- the chalkboard
- the wood floor throughout the house
- the linoleum floor in the bathroom and kitchen
- the chest of drawers their father so beautifully refinished
- in their siblings' hair
- or anywhere else which would make their mother's life difficult
they do it anyway when I'm not looking.
Be this as it may, I have to admit, I give a private chuckle when I see these stickers throughout the house, especially when they appear in strange places. I know how secretive the kids feel they are being when they paste a sticker on the underside of the sink or inside the refrigerator door. They convene in the back room and whisper about the great success of their goal to drive me crazy.
However, stickers can also be a parent's friend.
For example, the other day we were in a bookstore called Half Price Books after a walk to return a DVD to Scarecrow Video. Half Price Books has great deals on books and their clearance books can be purchased for a steal!
While there, we purchased a few homeschooling workbooks from the clearance section ($1 each). One on "Learning To Read" for P and one on "Learning Letters" for C. In the middle were two pages of stickers for some additional learning activities. I told the boys that we'd do the sticker activities after all of the other pages in the books had been completed. We all agreed that this made sense (albeit, after a little bit of whining and complaint).
The catch is, when the boys are "doing homeschooling" with any "homeschooling" books, they need to do them with a parent. They are not allowed to just rush through the book to get to the end. They are allowed to do as many pages as they would like to do in a given day since we do not usually limit them on these types of things. I firmly believe that much of our deepest learning and appreciation for a subject occurs during these times of being completely into what we are doing and having permission to shut off the rest of the world until we are done or have had enough.
Indeed, if there is any overarching problem that we seem to hear about continually in the news and from parent and teacher friends, it is about our children unable to focus on a task, to give it full concentration. But are we, as a society, not feeding our children mixed messages? We say we want our children to learn to focus, but we only permit them a specific amount of delineated time to do so and on tasks that are presented to them externally (think of the prescribed amounts of time for each chosen activity - time for singing, time for playing a game, time for storytime, time for playing outside). I worry that some of our children will lose touch with their own needs and abilities for self-actualization and self-direction, forever waiting for what the next task is, the next external direction telling them what to do.
But I digress...
While we are "doing homeschooling," especially workbooks, if we see that any of the kids are starting to get frustrated, if the material appears to be too difficult, if stopping the activity would be better, then we stop and take a break or move onto something else (often something totally different like going for a walk or running around in the back yard). And we talk to them about this process, help to make them aware of how we react in certain ways when we feel overwhelmed or tired out. Yes, our boys are only 3 and 5 but a discussion on their level in this way can be very insightful for all of us. It is amazing what they will share in terms of the things on their minds. P might share how he feels the same frustration when he can't climb the bars at the park. And C is learning how taking a break feels so good later when coming back to the same task.
So, the other day, when the weather was cold and rainy the boys begged to "do homeschooling" with their "homeschooling" books that they had just got the day before from the bookstore. I figured this was a GREAT idea. I mean, if your child is begging to learn about the letters of the alphabet or to read, who are we to say no, right? ;-)
Five or Six hours later, after breaks for lunch and discussion and the bathroom and playing with the cats and fetching the mail, the boys had each made it through their workbooks. We had talked about each page in each lesson and since the books were not extremely difficult, the boys were able to continue all the way through the books. C made a big jump in his recognition of uppercase and lowercase letters and sounds (he had to read each of the letters of the alphabet on the page in each language before he was "allowed" to color them). I was very impressed since before he had seemed to be fairly disinterested in such a task. He still has a hard time with separating the English and German letters which have similar names: W, V, E, I, A. P's book was a little easy for him but it still helped to reinforce some English vocabulary. To make things a little more difficult, I encouraged him to read the directions to each lesson out loud. It is amazing what a child can read when motivated!
In the evening, the boys delighted in their sticker activities (which, by the way, are simply more reading and letter learning activities.. hee hee). I cut some index cards in half and the boys stuck their stickers on each one to make them into "flash cards" for even more learning fun.
I cherish these days of learning and absolutely love being a part of it. More often than not, the choice of tasks come from the boys themselves. I pay very close attention to where their interests are during any given month and try to incorporate those topics into learning motivation as well. For example, P is still infatuated with dinosaurs and will make every effort to sound out the name of the longest dinosaur name because he is so interested in it. So, the more activities we have around that involve dinosaurs, the more requests come from him to "do homeschooling." And C is in complete awe of his ability to write letters and to create his own words which he demands I pronounce. So, I make sure we have paper and pencils around for him to write, write, write.
I stand in awe of this process and am honored to be able to share in it. For me, homeschooling is a privilege and honor.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Do you sometimes feel that you really DO want to live more earth-friendly lives but can't seem to find the products to do so? This documentary reminds us that many forces do not want us to live differently than we do. They want us to continue to be the consumers and polluters that we have always been to maintain the status quo (= money in the pockets of those who have something to lose if we truly start to live more environmentally friendly lives).
Be warned, you may very well feel hopelessly helpless after watching this documentary but it must be seen! We can make no change until we know what we are up against. And it does provide some hope for the future. Dedicated humans can change the world, one perception at a time.
When it comes to the Electric Car... who is guilty for its demise?
- Is Big Oil guilty?
- Is General Motors guilty?
- Are consumers guilty?
- Is my state of birth, California, guilty?
- Is the American government guilty?
- Is modern technology guilty?
If so many people were in love with the electric car in California, why were these cars taken off the market and destroyed?
Who is guilty for killing the Electric Car?
You can start by visiting the website: www.sonyclassics.com/whokilledtheelectriccar/ where you can also learn more about the different types of cars, a trailer for the movie, Q&A, links to responsible organizations and companies, and much, much more.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Before any of you think I have totally gone off the deep end, I just wanted you to know that I have simply been going through one of my identity crises. As you can see, poetry and music are really my only ways of communicating and participating in life during these times. These are not sorrowful, depressing times for me. These are days full of exploration and self examination. I truly honor and cherish these times (despite the fact that I spend the whole time apologizing to everyone for my "strange" mood). But I find I can not write in prose, try as I might. My sentences instead appear as long lines of poetic verse.
The thing is, when I "come back out" I am a different person in many ways. I feel I have traveled through my inner subconscious and revisited areas which have long been untouched and untapped. For example, my poem on "Americans are..." is long, long, long overdue and through a conversation with
The same with my feelings of inadequacy, guilt and insignificance. I yell them out to you, to the world, to myself and thereby become just a little more free. Is it not ironic that through sharing my embarrassing insecurities, I end up with a feeling of courage and self-assurance? I am no longer trying to be someone I am not, hiding my weaknesses in the hopes that no one will see.
As I recently told someone (who surprisingly became very dear to me during this time yet we have never met), the last time I went through a major identity crisis the BBFN newsletter (which ultimately turned into the Multilingual Living Magazine) was born. I am never sure what will come out of my inner turmoil (if anything) but I am now fully confident that it belong to my life and that these are precious times to be cherished and protected.
The downside from these times is that my friends and even new acquaintances (my poem titled Friendships With Gods) are the unfortunate victims of my pouring out of whatever is on my mind! And I end up feeling so inadequate, so small, when I compare myself to them. They appear as a gods before me and I a helpless mortal, always making mistakes and needing their guidance and support. Like in Greek myth, when a mortal going about his or her business happens to cross paths with another being. The mortal thinks the other is also fellow mortal but ultimately the latter ends up being a god or goddess, there for a specific purpose - the only give away is a slight scent in the air, a fluttering of wings, the glint of gold. Other times their godliness appears boldly and confrontational.
During this time, I was extremely lucky that I had people with which to reach out and pour out my heart and who didn't judge me. Some I know were with me each step of the way (even if they were a little worried) while others I hope I did not frighten off completely to be lost to me forever. I mean, if you haven't even met me and I share my life story and then go on and on from there, I will understand if you never want to communicate with me again! During these times I simply crave a deeper, more intellectual conversation and end up scaring most people away.
Someone I now hold close to my heart through all of this (although I know nothing more about him other than what he has shared via his soothing words on CD and via his books which I clasped tightly in my hand each day as I rode the bus to and from work) is the poet David Whyte. This man is a genius and has truly changed me completely, inside and out, simply through his words. He gave me the permission to let go, to fall, to dangle and breathe. His descriptions of soul-searching and poetry on his CDs are beyond comparison! I have been YEARNING for the sustenance of such words and fed off them daily, just sobbing from the release they brought me.
And my brother, Thomas, uploaded one of my favorite songs of his titled "The Whole World" just in time – today! I listened to it literally
I think what has happened in the past year is that I have been racing along this path which keeps opening up before me, one step after another - totally magical! I have no idea where it is leading me much of the time but it beacons me and I know it is a good path - my heart is in the right place. But on March 2nd, after the most current issue of Multilingual Living Magazine was completed, I simply collapsed emotionally. Had it not been for the kind words of some very special people, I think I would have just thrown in the towel on the magazine completely. My husband listened to me sobbing at the dining room table days later saying, "I give up, I give up." I mean, after a year of extremely difficult and satisfying work by both
So, you few readers of my blog out there... the truth is I don't know WHAT to do but one thing I do know... I am not going to pretend that I do know and I am not going to put on a staunch, serious Editor-In-Chief face in the hopes that you will think that I do. And now I know that I don't have to. In fact, I know that I simply can't pretend I am someone that I am not (at least for not very long) without it slowly wearing away at my psyche. But on March 2nd, I didn't know I was doing this and I came face to face with the fact that I was scared to death that if I let down my guard, you would think less of me and that I would do the whole magazine, the whole BBFN group, a disservice. I thought that everything I had worked so hard to create would collapse. I must have believed that it was still standing precariously on the image that I had created in my mind a year ago. I had clearly failed to see that it is has really, truly moved on - it is now standing on a solid foundation of its own with dedicated contributors and subscribers who don't care if their Editor-In-Chief is having a identity crisis or not! You are the foundation upon which this all stands and you are steadfast.
The truth is, I am simply a crazy, neo-hippy who tries to live as honestly and true to humanity and the earth as possible. I am a kind person, I am not a greedy person, I am not competitive and I live my life through intuition and a true search for a higher consciousness. I adore the powers of humorous, intellectual wit, the kind which makes you delight in the fabulously unique constructs of images and use of words! The spoken and written word absolutely captivate me. You won't find me in a fancy suit (at least not willingly), I don't wear lipstick (or any makeup at all) and I am fiercely devoted to my husband and children. My plan was to become a Mediterranean Archaeologist out in the dirt each day, evenings with her head in some book or listening to the movements of the tide, but instead I ended up here and although I sometimes wonder what "here" really is, I wouldn't change it for the world. I do Multilingual Living Magazine because I have to do it. The time has come, the world is ripe and we must take this opportunity to help to continue making a place for multilingualism and multiculturalism in the consciousness of this world before it is too late and the opportunity wavers. We need to show the world how absolutely beautiful and magical and emotional multilingualism and multiculturalism are! I am not a graphic designer, I am not a website designer. I simply learn what I have to learn to make this magazine happen and Alice and I create this for us, for you, for everyone, for the world. I can not explain why I do this other than that.
And please know that when it comes to Multilingual Living Magazine, Alice and I are both very professional and expect professionalism on all levels from start to finish. This is one aspect of what often feels like a dual world but is really all about balance between the wild and crazy and the serious and stable. We take the process very seriously. We feel that we have a duty to ourselves, our contributors and, of course, our readers. We take great pride in this. This is why I am so frustrated when I make mistakes! You are paying for quality and we aim to deliver!
So, in the end, I am still here and whole and alive... in fact, I am certain that I am more alive than before. And from all of this, there is one thing I will try to never forget (and all of you writers out there, don't let yourselves forget this either): writers simply NEED to write, I need to write. It doesn't matter if no one is listening, if no one is reading, if no one is seeing what I (we) produce. No matter what, we need to keep creating. All of the glorious words and creative thoughts out there written and created by others cannot satisfy our own needs to write and speak our own words. We each have our ways of bringing forth great creativity and abundance from within ourselves. We must never, ever forget how important it is for us all to tap into that which feeds and waters our soul. Life is simply too short to let it pass unattended.
"The Whole World" which he performed on the radio yesterday.
Listen to it!
When we were growing up in our woodland paradise,
who would have known my brother was already a genius,
waiting to reveal his talents when the world was ready?
You rock Thomas!
Let's make this into a video!
Stop this war!
before you turn back to your own necessities,
and I to mine,
I hope you know
I meant no harm.
I simply meant to charm you
with my wit,
to delight you
with my eloquence,
to offer you a dance of words,
with outstretched palms.
I didn't mean to become greedy,
to expect more than you could give.
I didn't mean for you to feel compelled to listen,
to the libations of my mind.
I hope you do not think lesser of me
for overstepping my bounds.
When you took that first step towards me,
I knew it would be best to bite my tongue.
Your winged sandals gave you away.
Friendships between gods and mortals
were never meant to be.
-by Corey, mortal
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
that what really matters
is the color of lipstick
(I don't even wear any)
or the big sale at Macy's,
just to make you like me.
I'm tired of only
the daily demands for
sustenance and repose,
because I worry about my health.
I'm tired of feeling guilty
for not accepting the claim
that power and money will bring true elation,
although its what we're told.
I'm tired of thinking I am the one who needs to change,
to become someone else than who I am,
to stop speaking my mind
and to shut off my thoughts,
because I bore you needlessly.
I'm tired of the idle chatter
which leaves my heart empty.
You write such elegant lines,
your words forming crusty edges
of well-worn experience.
You feed me,
you fill me whole,
so why am I still hungry?
Is it true that the writer will starve
if not fed
at least occasionally
on her own words?
Has it been so long?
But MY words sound so bland,
They walk so limply,
they laugh so quietly,
they sing so off-key.
My words frighten me,
they betray me,
they reveal my lack of confidence in myself.
They remind me of how tiny and insignificant I feel
when standing face to face with you.
When I try to speak
I am reminded of my pettiness
in the face of your knowledge and worldliness.
Where are you my neglected muse?
Have you forsaken me out of spite?
Has my love affair with the words of others
made you turn against me?
Help me find my strength again,
my inner strength.
Help me find my soul,
the one that has deep pockets of sustenance.
Help me throw away my feelings of inadequacy,
How to win you back,
just for a day
or an eternity?
Perhaps it is time to go barefoot again?
Save shoes for another day!
Sunday, March 11, 2007
simply biding time.
I feel as if I have given too much
and am now empty,
a shell worn thin
by the sands of of the sea.
What happens to the giver
when there is nothing left to give?
As the gods would have it,
these moments, hours and days of emptiness
are simply a human's way of
shedding the old ways of being.
Underneath the layers
of empty chatter
and the struggle for
appears a skin so smooth,
While we weren't looking,
while we were distracted,
our true selves were busy
preparing their entry.
Sometimes it takes the words
of a poet to remind us to let it all go,
that the depths of the soul
are meant to be stirred from time to time.
Yes, David Whyte,
we ARE meant to become allergic to ourselves
when the time is ripe, aren't we?
And yes, David Whyte,
Brother David was right, wasn't he, when he said,
"The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness."?
And yes, David Whyte,
we are hungry, I AM HUNGRY.
It IS the time of loaves and fishes.
And as it just so happens, YOU are
the one good word which has fed me a thousandfold!
Friday, March 9, 2007
Your words were meant for someone else.
But they hurt just the same.
"I don't mean you," you say.
But sweeping generalizations cannot be minimized
by your personal wishes.
If you do not condemn me,
then you still condemn my children,
my aunts and uncles and
my still unconceived grandchildren.
You condemn my reality as I know it,
the circumscribed lines which delineate my existence.
"But it doesn't mean anything,
it's just a stereotype,
it's what people say," you indicate.
In my eyes, you have merged into the masses,
and I begin to grieve my loss
of what I had hoped would become a friendship.
We all search for uniformity,
to place people and events and things into boxes,
with little labels attached.
I thought you understood that humanity is complex,
that Americans are not all the same,
that a political system does not reflect
the depths of each individual's soul.
Not all Americans were raised with silver spoons in their mouths.
Some of us remember winter months
huddled before the fireplace with mother and brother
because we couldn't afford the cost of heat.
Kind friends having donated wood.
Not all of us had the privilege of free time while
attending high school and college.
We worked low-paying jobs during our off hours
to help ensure our family could buy food and pay the bills.
Not all of us know what it is like to dine in fancy restaurants.
But we do know what it is like to stand in line for food
at the food bank,
and to feel the embarrassment of
paying for groceries with food stamps.
We worked hard to earn the right to dream,
to delight in our successes.
So when you think you are being funny,
are making a well-accepted statement,
are saying something that is deserved,
instead you are condemning me.
You are encapsulating my existence
into your limited ability for compassion,
Despite all of this,
I do understand you.
And I wish you well.
I hope someday you will be able to broaden your mind,
to avoid sweeping generalizations about other cultures.
Despite what you tell yourself,
despite your justification for the lack of carefully chosen words,
despite the fact that you attack me for not being more understanding,
for simply accepting,
despite all of this,
I am still American.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Whew, the March-April issue of Multilingual Living Magazine is out! It took an "all-nighter" and a final completion at 5:00 AM on March 2nd to get accomplished but sometimes that is just what it takes. (The photo above, taken the morning after publication, shows where I do my part of the magazine work.) The only unfortunate part was that this didn't give Alice enough time to do her final editing magic, and I was too sleep deprived to do a good enough job in this area. Thus, a million and one editing errors made it into the magazine. Please forgive this unprofessionalism and check back in a day or two for the newly updated version with errors fixed.
When this happens, I feel like a total failure. I reprimand myself for being so unprofessional and swear that next time I will do better. Alice and I convene to discuss how we can be more efficient (between loads of laundry), more streamlined (while kids are screaming in the other room) and more professional (while dinner is boiling over on the stove). I guess it is just a lot of work for two women who do this all on their own free time for absolutely no pay.
I'm not sure how many people know that Alice and I do the magazine purely as a volunteer effort. None of the subscription or advertising dollars go to either of us. Those dollars go to pay for the website servers, the post office box, the photos we may need to purchase for the magazine, software to create the magazine, and anything else needed to keep the website and magazine going. We do not have enough paying subscribers and advertisers to do more than simply cover expenses and we only have a little extra in the account for unforseen expenses.
We dream constantly about how this will change in the future but for now, Alice and I stay up late into the night and plan during trips to the supermarket to make Multilingual Living Magazine a reality. Of course, we couldn't do it without the fabulous submissions from people around the world, who are also volunteering their time and their gift of the written word. And each of you who are subscribers, have donated your time and money, and who are sponsors are making this all possible!
I have to admit, there are times when I just want to throw in the towel. After working a 10-hour day at my paying job (totally unrelated to magazine production or website creation or publications in any way shape or form), reading books with the kids, getting dinner on the table, brushing teeth, getting kids to bed, the last thing I want to do is work on Multilingual Living Magazine. My husband and I sometimes find ourselves passing in the hall like roommates in a college dorm with term papers due, complete lost in other thoughts. He in his office grading papers and I at my desk or the kitchen table with my little laptop doing the magazine. I cross my fingers that the kids will stay asleep. Or during the day, that the kids will stay focused on their activities long enough to give me the time to accomplish a few pieces of the magazine. As in the photo above, as I work on the magazine, often the kids create their wooden train world or some other construction project or even homeschooling activities. We all sit at the table and "work" away.
At these moments, I ask myself... for whom am I doing this? Does anyone really appreciate it? And if they don't, would I do it anyway? Why do I spend hours on this when I may never see any financial return?
When those moments happen, I often stop everything and start reading through your articles, and essays and columns again. I let myself savor the beauty of your words and images. I let them speak through me... your words spoken with my own voice. You understand what a multilingual life is all about, what a multicultural life entails. You appreciate the intricacies and complexities inherent in being uprooted and bare, groping for an identity which is all your own. You know what it means to be different, to be considered strange and perhaps a little odd.
It takes courage and contemplation to write for Multilingual Living Magazine. You contributors must dig deep into your psyches to put to words unique and personal thoughts and emotions. Or, at the very least, you must be able to put complex ideas and concepts into words that the non-expert can understand, yet without a kind of empty simplicity intended for the disinterested masses. This is no easy task.
So, when I feel completely empty and exhausted and want to throw in the towel, I am reminded of why Alice and I do this, why you contributors do this, why you subscribers take the time to pay your $12 a year. It may mean staying up all night every now and then and I may turn into a sleep-deprived, cranky woman the next day and my husband and friends may need to remind me that it is all worth it... but sometimes that is just the small price we pay for our dreams.
And then when it is all done,
I take the kids to the park...