Accommodating

Cuba11 InbarAsi

Photo: Cuba, Inbar Asif

 

My immediate association to today’s word prompt of “Elastic ” was about the dire need for more flexibility. How important it is we be able to curl our mind around the bend of preconception so we can appreciate beyond “our idea of beautiful” or “our opinion of correctness.” It’s become fashionable to be rigidly unyielding, to confront instead of listen, to seek conformity instead of be accommodating.

As if acceptability lives by a single yardstick and Photoshop.

We cover over imperfections. We discard or deny any marring exists. We seek the shiny new. People get judged more by their circumstance of birth than by how pliable their hearts are or how truly resilient they have proven to be in holding on to kindness even in the face of oh-so-much that wasn’t.

As I wrote this a notification appeared for Steve McCurry’s post about the “Art of Imperfection” and the power of Wabi-Sabi — the Japanese practice of finding harmony and beauty in what is simple, natural, and modest, where transience and imperfection are part of the aesthetic. How perfectly apt.

Here’s to beauty in the marred.

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

A Tribute in Light

Tribute in Light DOD public domain

Tribute in Light — Photo: DOD

 

On the eve of 9/11

In this city that has been forever changed

As it had its core humanity

Revealed

In uncountable acts of kindness

Under devastation,

I revisit

The day

The sky grew dark

With smoke

And hearts broke open

With compassion.

 

 

For more information on tomorrow night’s Tribute in Light

For the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Don’t Forget Undies!

11070602_946461582054987_1318793829726090462_o

Sometimes remembering comes down to not forgetting about the small things that matter yet can get lost in the shuffle, even in times of much good will.

We’ve all heard of Harvey. Seen the photos of soaking-wet people wading through floodwaters, rescue-workers cradling drenched children in their arms, nursing home residents sitting in chest-high murky water awaiting rescue, the saturated city, the flooded shelters …

We in NYC know. We’ve been through Sandy, and we remember what is all too easy to forget: Evacuees need underwear …

Donated used clothing has been streaming in, and when evacuees finally reach ‘dry land’ and find shelter, they get something dry to wear. However, many times used clothing donations cannot and/or do not contain underwear. … Dry clothing helps, but underwear matters … It’s about dignity. About the small things that can make a difference in restoring at least a semblance of normalcy.

Its been days … Many girls and women are menstruating … Small children don’t always make it in time to the common bathrooms in the shelters. Older persons have accidents, too. Sometimes people just need fresh underwear … There is little in the way of comfort in flood shelters, but we can help preserve everyone’s dignity.

Here’s how you can help NOW:

Brene Brown is volunteering in Houston. She’s been affected by the floods herself (if you don’t know her you can check out her TED talks on shame and vulnerability). Check out her Facebook page to see her video and read her post about Undies For Everyone drive. She’s been handing out what they have. She’ll be handing out more as it arrives.

ALL categories of underwear are needed – for women (including maternity underwear), men, boys, girls, toddlers. In all sizes … from extra small to XXXL. You can’t go wrong. People come in all sizes and ages, and they all need undies.

Logistics?

  1. Click here for an amazon link is below. Make sure to choose the delivery address to the one for Undies For Everyone. I’ve done so this morning. It was easy. It’s worth every dime. (Please note: some items may appear out of stock, but a. this is due to the sudden surge in underwear orders and Amazon will replenish, and b. this need will there a while … so you can order now and people be handed underwear in the weeks to come. Or use the other ways to help, listed below).
  2. Prefer to not use Amazon? Want to have a drive in your school or neighborhood? You can collect new, packaged underwear and mail it to the address below. Please note: UFE does not process or give out anything but underwear! Mailing address: Undies for Everyone, 1700 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX 77005
  3. You can give cash, too, and UFE will purchase underwear wholesale.

Harvey recovery will take a long time. Little access to clean water has laundry take a backseat to drinking, cooking, and basic people-washing. Let’s help where we can and not forget the undies.

Here’s to dignity and the small things that matter. Like underwear. For everyone.

 

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

What is Friendship?

 

 

Today, July 30, is the International Day of Friendship. The day is designed to bridge the gaps of race, color, religion, nationality, and other factors that keep people from forming and enjoying friendships with one another. It is meant to encourage dialogue, acceptance, and understanding between people of different backgrounds. Friendship matters. It can prevent war and promote peace. Research shows it can keep people healthier, happier, and living longer.

Having friends is a good thing. However, what defines a friend? What is friendship?

To me, friendship is a word as big as all relationships put together, yet as unique as any human pairing. In some ways “friendship” is as clear yet as ambiguous as the word “family”: Do you count only siblings or also cousins and nephews? Second cousins? Grand-nephews? In-laws? Third cousins thrice removed? Different people list family differently. Some define “immediate family” and “close family” versus “distant relatives” while others see all kin as kin. Can one argue that one person’s definition is more or less valid than another’s? Who decides who is or isn’t “family?”

Similar variability may be true for friendships, with different ‘kinds’ and types and closeness all jumbled under one rather all-inclusive word.

There are the friends you grow up with. The children of your parents’ friends, with whom you were ‘forced’ to spend time and sometimes had grown close to. The classmates and groups assigned by teachers. The bunkmates at camp, the teammates at sports. There are the neighbors you’d spent time with because they were the ones closest to toss a ball or take turns on the bike with after school. Among all those, some may have become your friends, some might have turned enemies, and a few may have grown to be as close as your own siblings. Maybe more.

Then there are the friends you make during life-changing matters: Military buddies you’d trust your life to; illness buddies who you know understand what other friends may not; the co-worker who had your back when a boss was unkind or another co-worker was out to get you; the neighbor who stepped up when the roof leaked in the middle of the night or who’d offered a safe place for you when they suspected you weren’t so in your own house.

There are also the passing friendships that may or may not continue beyond the moment of circumstance: Like the people you’d met on the cruise or were stuck in the airport overnight with during a storm. Or that single mom you’d helped give the bottle to the baby when the toddler had a tantrum and she hadn’t nearly enough arms for both. You got to talk, and sat together, and then exchanged numbers and never called each other but you still find yourself looking for her anytime you fly, and see her in every single mother flying with small children. She had become a friend. Inside your mind.

And friendships that turn into something more: Like the elderly man across the street on whom you checked after a storm and found out that he had no one to help him change a lightbulb and could no longer climb. And so you had, and stayed a moment longer while he shared a story from his life, and then you invited him over for dinner and he came wearing a suit and holding flowers from his garden … And he now comes to all your family’s holidays and get-togethers. Because he’s a friend now. Of the family.

And, of course, one cannot speak of friendships without those friendships that ARE family. The sibling who is also a best friend, the cousin one is close to, the partners one makes a life with and become both family and best-friends-for-the-real-forever.

So what are friendships? Maybe they are anything and everything we make them. With humans, with your furry friends. How we define them may shift and change, but the connection is recognizable.

How would you define friendships? What is a friend to you? If so inclined, will you comment below?

And on this day of international friendships and on every day: may your friendships be as fruitful and plentiful as you wish them to be. May they fill your life and heart with joy and meaning. May it be so and more.

Broken Tea (“Emilia” excerpt)

 

“…When the little girl was finally sleeping, Marion put her to bed and tucked her in and sat on the edge of the daybed for a long while, looking older and more tired than anything that could be attributed to her eighty-five years. Pushing up from the bed, Marion began collecting the child’s clothing to fold for the next day, only to toss the lot on the floor, swipe a book and a half-empty mug off the table, and storm out of the house. The mug lay shattered on the stone floor, tea stains splattered. KayAnne stared at the ruined cup, reluctant to clean up and somehow needing the brokenness to remain: She wanted to demolish something herself.”

Excerpt from “Emilia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

Lollipop-it

So there’s that child with diabetes. Another whose family only eats raw foods. A third family is strictly vegan. There’s the child who cannot have any food additives. The one whose mom swears sugar turns her angel to a dysregulated mess. The (not so rare) kid who won’t touch fruits, let alone vegetables. The family that wants to move toward less junkfood but hates to put a damper on healthy treats.

There are many different solutions, and different reasons why many would want to try. As you probably know (and fairs and carnivals had proven), most yummy things are instantly better on a stick …

Here are some of the creative ideas parents have shared with me and/or I had suggested over the years. Some we have incorporated into the session (for sequence, cause/effect, before/after, all manners of narrative), others helped desensitize finicky mouths and tender palates. Mostly, they were fun! Enjoy and maybe share own!

  1. Watermelon lollipops! Less mess, better grip, perfect yum.

Watermelon lollies

 

  1. Kiwi lollipops! Good with chocolate ganache, of course … but also as ‘naked’ frozen slices, or if dipped in sweetened yogurt and frozen, possibly with coconut flakes or cocoa nibs.
Kiwi Lollies

via showfoodchef

 

  1. Flower Fruit Pops – fun to make and super fun to eat. Cantaloupe, grapes, watermelon (also works with strawberries, apples, nectarines, firm blueberries … you get the idea!)
flower fruit pops1

Via LindsayAnnBakes

 

  1. Easy Fruit Pops! For another variation on the theme, which works wonderfully for birthday parties, picnics, and other lessen-sticky-fingers-everywhere events.

fruit pops

 

  1. Veggie wands! For a savory alternative on a stick! Works well with ’rounds’ of sliced mozzarella stick, fresh mozzarella (pictured), or any firm cheese. Just as yummy with the whites of hard boiled eggs or cubed cooked meat. Also great with baked tofu cubes, for those who prefer vegan sticks.
sugarfreekids pop

via SugarFreeKids

 

  1. And … even the most incomplete list won’t work without frozen pops … Lollipops’ cool cousin! Make them with fruit, fruit and yogurt, and combinations galore! It works well to partially freeze in small paper cups or in old fashioned ice-cube-trays, then stick a craft stick or lollipop stick in when it is almost but not quite set.
frozen fruit yogurt

Via: Moncheriprom

 

As this list is by no means comprehensive, let alone exhaustive … Will you take a moment to share in the comments what your favorite ways and things are to lollipop-it?

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

Absolutely beautiful! Tribute Art — Steve McCurry’s Blog

Take a few moments to click on the link below to Steve McCurry’s blog and you will NOT be disappointed. This is a lovely, lovely tribute to his photography, and to the talent of the artists who’d sent in their arts-based-on-photo.

Marvelous!

It is a great privilege when other artists send us their own works based on my pictures. It is a wonderful affirmation of the strength and dignity shown on the faces of these people around the world. Nidhi Kakar, India Rukiye Demirci, Turkey Rukiye Demirci Unknown Artist Lana Frye, United States Rodrigo Caldas, Brazil Lana […]

via Tribute Art — Steve McCurry’s Blog

Her Whole Life in a Plastic Bag

three-clock-bears

Photo: threeoclockbears.com

 

Tamina attended first-grade in a Harlem public school. She was homeless most of that year. Her mother lost the apartment after she lost her job. Sometimes they stayed with relatives but mostly Tamina, her mother and her sister slept in shelters where they could never stay very long. They carried their belongings in thick black garbage bags, protection from the weather. Tamina used to have a teddy bear, but it got left in a shelter and her mother was ‘too tired’ to go back for it. Tamina never got it back.

Tamina had very little. Other children had a home, their own bed, place for their stuff, more stuff. So she stole. Mostly small things: erasers, crayons, hair-pins. Things she could hide in her pockets and later in her black garbage bag. If confronted, Tamina would furiously demand it “was always hers.” I suspected she often believed it and wondered if some items resembled things she once had and owning them was a link to a time when life was less overwhelming. Beyond an overall language delay, Tamina seemed confused about concepts like the difference between possessing and owning: in some shelters cots were ‘first-come-first-serve’ and while you had it, it was ‘yours’ even if it did not remain so for long. You had to ‘watch’ your stuff or have it disappear. Why could an unattended eraser not be ‘hers’?

 While children often crave things that are not theirs, Tamina’s stealing was possibly about unmet needs. Her mother was “always mad and cussing” and Tamina could not rely on her for support. Children whose ‘hungers’ are neglected seek other ways: become secretive, dissociate, numb themselves with substances, steal, hoard. These behaviors often further distance them from care and social support, when they in fact communicate confusion, loneliness, anger, loss, and shame.

[The above is an excerpt from “Communicating Trauma” Routledge, 2015]

Communicating Trauma-Yehuda

Homelessness does not necessarily mean neglect, but the realities and causes of homelessness pose many risks, especially to children. In addition to loss and grief, there are increased health and safety risks, along with reduced access to care. Children without homes suffer insecurity, and their caregivers may be too overwhelmed to attend to their emotional needs. Depression, posttraumatic stress, illness, disability, poverty, domestic violence and other life-crises are all too common among parents of homeless children. Any one of these factors can overwhelm a parent and reduce their availability, let alone when such factors combine.

Having no place to call home–in all the forms it takes–can be distressing and occupying. It leaves children anxious and unavailable for learning. Homeless children are often wary and worried, angry or withdrawn. They are three times as likely to require special-education, four times as likely to drop out of school, and almost nine times as likely to repeat grades.

Homelessness devastates. It is crucial we work together to understand it and resolve it as well as support families in crisis and address risk factors before they reach a loss of home, hearth, and heart.

 

 

New Beginning: Habit & Opportunity

opportunity

“He still won’t read.”

The mother’s voice held disappointment and frustration. Her son struggles in school and was required by teachers to read every day over the summer, but hadn’t.

“I did read!” he protested, pouted. Hurt. “I read two whole books!”

“Only because we made you read!” She retorted and turned to me. “Every day is a new excuse. He’s too tired, the book is boring, it’s too hard, he’ll read later, he hates reading, it is stupid … He’ll do anything to avoid it.”

He stomped to the chair. Sat dejectedly. I patted his arm. “I’m glad you read two whole books,” I said. “Which ones?”

He brightened. Threw a “you see?!” look at his mom, and told me. We discussed what he liked about the stories, what he didn’t. What was hard, what wasn’t. We then went over a list of possible titles to follow.

I scheduled a time to speak with the mom. Her frustrations need venting, and she needs solutions, but we can talk about her disappointment without him needing to be present.

♦♦♦

Every child is different but the complaint is not unique. Children and parents rarely battle over things that are fun and easy. It is the stuff that’s hard, confusing, boring, tedious, or appears to be of import to one side but feels less so to the other … where lines get drawn in the sand and stubborn frustration ensues.

Parents cajole. They threaten. They withhold privileges. They might use shame as ‘motivator’ by characterizing the child as lazy or ungrateful, oppositional, immature …

Not surprisingly, these tactics rarely work to ‘motivate’ learning. Nor do they solve whatever problem underlies a child’s reluctance to read: difficulty decoding, difficulty comprehending, delays in language and learning, issues with processing and retrieval, attention issues, stress and overwhelm …

A new school year is seen as opportunity for new ways of learning, new progress, new habits. Parents expect their children to enter school with gusto after a summer’s break and to give it their all. They often expect improvement of whatever issues may have been present the year prior. They verbally and otherwise communicate their expectation that the child prove himself or herself as mature and hardworking, and overcome whatever habits held them back.

A new grade and new beginning indeed offers much new opportunity for doing things differently. However, for that to happen we cannot fall back on failed methods or less-than-helpful habits. If children knew to do better on their own, they would do so already. No child wants to fail. No child enjoys the negative attention of reproach if they can get the positive attention of pride and praise.

♦♦♦

“So what am I supposed to do?” the mother asked when we met. Exasperated.

“You did the best you could last year, and this year we’ll have to work together to do better,” I replied.

She was taken aback. She didn’t expect me to include her in the assessment of last year’s difficulties …

I did not mean blame, but I did mean accountability. Parents often do the best they know, but they are often overextended themselves, and some don’t quite follow through. They may want to follow suggestions but only do so sporadically, or expect the child to take full responsibility for remembering new tasks that they themselves forget … then feel pressed to blame or require … They may get discouraged at the first sign of difficulty (not unlike the child, maybe …) and not continue to work toward new habits when the implementation hits a bump or scheduling needs to be adjusted. They may balk at taking on more responsibility in a life that may already feel too stressful (again, not unlike the child…).

Parents deserve guidance. Shame does not work any better on adults than it does on children … Parents can use encouragement, not blame. Many can benefit from reminders and a pathway to setting new habits. It is not a weakness or poor parenting to make errors or get frustrated or not follow through. People aren’t perfect. We all need help in some areas.

♦♦♦

For this boy, now in mid-grades, and often argumentative and quite fed up with “everything being too difficult”–new habits will (hopefully) include less fighting and more working together, less demand and more playfulness, less critic and more problem solving, less rigidity and more predictability, less shaming and more understanding.

Practically speaking?

  • Setting a weekly schedule where one of the parents reads TO him every night or almost every night (on the benefits of reading check: How early? For how long? ).
  • Separating the child’s own reading for decoding and school, from the parents reading TO him for literary exposure and pleasure.
  • Taking care to not make a parent’s reading time an opportunity for ‘testing’ vocabulary or memory about the story (talking about the story is fabulous, quizzing is not).
  • For books mandatory for school (but too difficult for the child’s reading level), using audio books as accompaniment to printed/electronic book. This helps the child follow the written word and assist him with decoding and comprehension.
  • Placing reminders for reading-time and having a timer he can set to ensure he is reading long enough and can do this independently.
  • Scheduling daily reading (for school and book logs) at a time that is realistic, rather than opportunistic.
  • Providing assistance with homework and/or test preparation, so that the child is not left to manage what is too difficult on his own, and ends up too stressed and exhausted to optimally process information.
  • Incorporating narrative into the day to day and offering modeling of narrative instead of requiring the child to constantly answer questions.
  • Offering a model for making time for reading. Adults who read are more likely to have children who enjoy reading.
  • Setting the child up for success, not failure: rather than focusing on a day he didn’t read or what he isn’t doing well yet, offer praise when he does do his reading without arguing; remind the child what worked before and what he can try to do again; offer solutions, not reprimand.

♦♦♦

In this new school year, what old and less than desirable habits can your child replace with brand new opportunity?

What steps can you take to help?

If you need help to formulate a plan–it is okay to ask for it. That, too, is an opportunity.

reading-extinction-buzzfeed

from Buzzfeed.com