Saturday, June 27, 2020

Miser Family update: Mascots & alter egos

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser family household!  This week's family fun foto features personal mascots and animal alter egos.  And these are (in alphabetical order):
  • Bernese mountain dog (I-daughter is on Greta's shoulder, and then Greta is on I-daughter's shoulder, which is so cute);
  • Bridges, because my pedestrian husband wants to walk across All The Bridges (this photo is the Ben Franklin, but the George Washington was also traversed this past week)
  • Cows.  Because, cows.  Cow-culus.  You know.
  • Dogs, says L-daughter the elder, who fosters dogs at home and keeps dog costumes in her office at work.  She adds that people at her work at the VA might have pegged her as more of a honey badger, "cuz I'm ruthless l".  None of us disagree!
  • Flying Pigs:  Y assured us all, "This pig does fly! Can't believe I'll be a doctor in 10 months."
  • Llamas.  (Awwww)
  • Mule Deer, because L-daughter the younger is strong like that, people.
  • Octopus, says A-child, who used her many many hands to help me pick 26 pounds of cherries early this week (I love that chalk drawing/photo!)
  • Snakey, who has been N-son's companion ever since someone brought that creature home from the fair almost two decades ago, and 
  • Water, says K-daughter, who shared a photo from her wedding trip to St. Martin's.  
Me, I've finally gotten my fall teaching assignment; I'll be teaching calculus at 6:30 a.m. to a cohort of our students gathered in Shanghai (their 6:30 p.m.).  It's going to be a really interesting experience.

And my guy, his doctor told him he has a few screws tight.   His range of motion is coming along slowly, and so we're looking at a bunch more Physical Therapy, plus possibly a torture device to bend his arm, and if those don't work, loosening up those screws a tad.   None of the personal mascots above start with the letter X, but if anybody were going to trade "bridges" for "x-rays", it'd be my husband, who is beautiful on the inside, too, as these images below show.

I like to think I'm a teacher, but this week I got to learn something I hadn't known before, but wish I had, and just in case you didn't know it and wanted to, too, here it is.  This week, we had a theme of "Animal Alter-egos".   The theme started off under a different name that was suggested to me.  I've been learning A LOT about being white lately, and didn't have any idea that co-opting the term "spirit animal" could be hurtful to people . . . so.  I'm super grateful to I-daughter for carefully and gently letting me know about this, for saying "I'm not comfortable with taking a spiritual/cultural concept from the indigenous people of our nation and using it as a joke", and for sending me these links.

I keep learning more and more, even after 5 decades. Go figure.  I love this family I have. 

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours stay safe!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The view from my porch is the pits (and the cherries)

When we moved to this new place, I lugged along my super-fancy solar dehydrator, even though we don't have much of a yard.

And by "super-fancy",  I mean this "dehydrator" is a bunch of scrap stuff I cobbled together: a bottom board, an old window screen, and an old storm window, with bit of wood framing to act as spacers between these layers.  In other words, it kinda looks like a pile of junk -- and the only reason it's NOT a pile of junk is because it's useful.  

But, we have no area of our property -- with the possible exception of our roof -- that gets consistent sun, I've learned as I watch my tomatoes and basil plants struggle for existence.  And since I don't have easy access to the roof, I'm not drying cherries up there.

When four of my jars (2 quarts and 2 pints) failed to seal, I decided to go public with my dehydrating.  That is, across the street from my house there's a parking lot for a hardware store that went out of business.  It has lots and lots of open space with no trees, in the usual the way these godawful parking lots exist to be perfectly designed for making the most of the greenhouse effect by roasting everything inside a person's car, or even inside a pile of junk that happens to be a dehydrator.  
It's hard to see in the picture above, but my dehydrator was out there (at the base of a pole).   Up close, it looks like this:  kinda like a pile of scrap construction material.  
FYI, one side of this dehydrator contained my 6 pints of cherries, and the other side all of the cherry pits, which I'll make into heating-pad bags.

It feels a little edgy putting my food projects out into public spaces.  People walked by this all day long, and it takes two days to turn regular cherries into cherry raisins, so I really wasn't sure how this experiment would turn out.  But nobody disturbed the set up; frankly, no one that I saw even seemed curious about it.  

And so after two lovely, sunny days, my six pints of cherries turned into one pint of dried cherries, and I put the dehydrator back away.   


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Cherry stats, 2020

Cherry stats: last year, I picked 30 pounds of cherries, or so it says in my notes. 

And in some ways, knowing this fact is very useful, because we picked those cherries on June 22, 2019, and on June 22, 2020 I opened the very last jar of cherries, so I know 30 pounds is a good amount for my household.    

Alas, when we headed out for cherry-picking this year, knowing that fact doesn't help much with planning . . . it's kind of like someone saying you should have "20 to 25 grams of protein after exercise".  Who the heck serves protein by the gram?  And when I take my family into the cherry orchard with me, how many buckets will I need?
B-child didn't pick any cherries at all.

So this year, I decided to take more careful, actionable notes, so next year I have a better idea of space, money, time.   How many buckets did we fill?  (Approximately one 5-gallon bucket in total, which is $66 for 26 pounds of cherries; this year's crop is less abundant than last years's).

A-child loves being in the trees. 
Heck, so do I.

Also a good idea to bring:  cold water.  Buckets with handles.  

How much time to set aside?   
  • Two hours for the picking expedition, and that includes driving time.  Also, now I know a better route to take from my new home to the orchard.
  • Two hours to decompress from picking cherries. 
  • Two-to-three hours for pitting cherries.  It helps to have a bunch of videos lined up.
  • Three hours for canning.
All of this goes into my tickler file, ready to ping me in early June, reminding me to check picking dates, because they fly by so quickly (this year our Pick-your-own orchard says sweet cherry picking lasts one week only.  It was now or next year).

Sharing a ladder. 
I love this orchard's 3-legged ladders!

I love going picking; being in the middle of the cherry trees is so much like being in a magic kingdom.  The sun is so hot, but the trees are shady and cool, and you just reach up and sweet food falls into your hands and into your buckets.   There are people all around -- but not close enough to see; we hear their voices, and the voices are so happy.   In my particular orchard, a lot of the other people picking were speaking in lilting languages I couldn't follow --- I'm guessing Vietnamese and Cambodian.  It was beautiful.  

So, now I have a bunch of jars of cherries, and also a bunch of jars of cherry juice.   I didn't set aside any cherries for drying in my solar dehydrator, but four jars didn't seal, so maybe I'll just work with those.  

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Family fun foto: favorite colors

Our Family celebrates
favorite colors

I just wanna say, I really love how colorful my family is.  That's the news from our family this week.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Rug weaving. Because why not?

My grasshopper friend wrote to me recently with links to a pair of DIY videos she had fallen in love with.  Let's make looms!  Let's weave rugs!  

She's got a really infectious enthusiasm for new projects -- a good kind of "infectious" to be, these days.  I caught her bug.  I finished up the set of masks I was sewing, and decided that I wouldn't start a new batch -- at this point, the hospital shouldn't need volunteers to cobble together make-shift masks anymore.  (I hope).  And so I set to building my loom.   I wrote back to her:

I haven't steeled myself to the point of going to a store (which is, of course, the hardest part of this entire project).   I have, however, made a frame out of scrap wood and other already-in-the-house supplies, and it's all ready to be studded and poled.   I have nails with wide heads, which I probably shouldn't use, but no finishing nails, and I don't know yet if I have metal bars.  So I might have to go to a store after all.  Dang. it.  I just went to a hardware store two weeks ago; rushing back right away like this seems frivolous.

Her response:
My first thought when I started plotting this project was "I wonder what MiserMom will find to use instead of buying new parts.." 

A flagpole (from a bicycle trailer) turned out to be serendipitously exactly one inch more than twice as long as my frame so I got my side poles taken care of.  And I bummed a box of nails off of the construction guys who were coming to my home to install new stair handrails and such (they assured me that since they use nail guns for everything now, they no longer need these "hand nails").  So I finished my loom with no store trips.  Whoop! 

I just want to say, hand weaving a rug is way more fun and absorbing than I would have imagined.  My grasshopper told me she kind of had to force herself to go to bed instead of staying up all night to finish it, and I found it had the same kind of attraction for me.  I am someone who has very little patience for videos, but combining videos with weaving has been great.   This summer, I'm involved in more webinars and zoom meetings than I can count, and this loom is a wonderful way to get myself through these meetings without going crazy.  This was the start of my rug as of Thursday evening

. . . and by Sunday night, I was done.  

I don't really need small area rugs; I don't really think I have enough fabric scraps to finish a second rug, and yet already my loom is set up and ready to go for the next round.  It's funny to think how quickly I can get hooked on a new project!

Here's the [11:40] video on how to make the loom

And here's the 30-minute video on how to do the weaving. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Miser Family update, flags and all

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family.  This week, we've been particularly rich in flags and medical assistance.

Flags first:

I'd declared a "Flag" theme because June 14 is right around the corner.  My family took this theme around a corner of its own.  We've got flags from all over!  From the state of Terryland, a Nigel Mansell U.K. flag, a flag for the times, a flag from Israel, plus a flag of surrender and flags proudly celebrated by the Hounding Fathers.  Kudos to Y, who says, "there was no flag in the ICU, so I went outside and found a flagpole."

And Y's picture leads me to another one hidden in this collection, where you'll see "one of these things is not like the others . . . ", because somehow in this collage, we got a photo of N-son's new glasses (and "fresh cut").  The ICU and glasses allow me to segue along to the medical assistance theme:  N-son got new glasses!  He's been walking around practically belting out Amazing Grace, because he didn't realize how blind he was, but now he can see.  (And because of his haircut, he can see good and he looks good!)

Prewash got to visit the vet, which is fortuitously right around the corner from our home.  She is a good dog, but she's not a Miser Dog.  She came home with scads of pills --- allergy pills, anti-acids, and heartworm/flea prevention.   She's healthy (phew), but she stays that way with a lot of pharmaceutical aid.  

My own "medication" is much more palatable; I got a package of chocolate in the mail from my other kidney, which is sailing around in Florida with her other husband, and who says, "18years! Can you believe it? I am healthy as a horse!"  Happy anniversary, kidney!

I-daughter had her own shot-in-the-arm, so to speak (although the medical descriptions for her situation are all metaphorical).  She'd gotten progressively sicker of her job and was understandably concerned about getting literally sick of it as the town it's in reopens.   (The town is one that's highly likely to have people flaunting mask and social distancing rules; it's also a town which is antagonistic to people of color, especially of late. . . ).  So on Thursday I drove with her to pick up her belongings there, and she handed in her two-weeks' notice, and life seems to be feeling better already.  I'm really proud of her for taking action.  

And then there's my husband . . . oh, my husband.  He's still recovering from his May 9 bike accident, working with the physical therapy team to restore flexibility in his broken (now mending) arm.  Along the way, we got the lab results that confirm he has the beginnings of osteoporosis in his lower back and upper femurs, so he's decided he'll become a pedestrian -- no more bikes. Which is, as you can imagine, a mixed blessing in my eyes.   Being who he is, though, he does nothing halfway. This past week, for example, he walked 72 miles, got attacked by chiggers (and so now lathers up with lots of steroid ointment to ease the itching), and then got a sunburn. So I'm not entirely sure walking is safer than biking for him . . . but he's certainly living life to the fullest!

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy (and healthy) in our adventures, in which our energy never flags. May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Projects that start with the letter P

My 5-year-old grandchild, A-child, was with me this past weekend as her younger sibling, B-child, was being born.  This kiddo has a bunch of energy, both mentally and physically.   I figured she wouldn't want to do many of the things occupying my focus recently (projective maps and static dynamics?  hy-flex course development?  no?)

So I saved up a few more physical projects to deal with.  Very early in the weekend, A-child pointed out that "playing with Prewash" starts with the letter P.   It turns out, this whole weekend was brought to us by the letter P.   

Consider, for example, painting with pre-schoolers.  The previous owners had painted the whole house in various, trendy tones of gray.  In fact, a week or so ago I'd gone through the stash of paint cans in the basement, and the collection down there looked like the a rough draft of an E.L. James novel:  "A Dozen Shades of Grey".   So many different names for this color!  (My favorite name was "Elephant Skin".)  Well, as much as grey is a popular color, it's not a me-color.  At the end of last summer, I'd bought yellow and orange paint, and this past weekend, A-child helped me paint the living room.

So much help.
Note:  "paint" starts with the letter P.  Yeah, I'm guessing you noticed that already.

Also, we planted the "back 40".  This house I'm in, it has zero yard.  No grass, no dirt, just a paved patio out back, a second-floor balcony off my Command Center, and a (totally awesome) front porch.  Since the second-floor balcony faces south, I decided to attempt a container garden there, and who better to help me get it started than my very own A-child?!

She helped me plant a pesto garden in pots and paint cans.  (Note again the preponderance of P's).

I'm not sure this space is going to get enough sun for a real garden, which is why I don't feel even remotely bad for using paint cans and such in this beta-version.  If it goes well -- that is, if some miracle occurs -- I''ll probably spring for hardware to hang planters on the railing.  But I'm dubious at this point.  

Back to the original P:  our dog Prewash is sleeping really well this week. She's been snoozing basically ever since A-child left -- I think the kiddo wore her out!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

BLM: What I've been doing

The Grumpies recently posted this request/challenge:

The other thing I’d like to see more of is people posting what they’ve been doing.  It isn’t bragging.  It isn’t virtue signaling.  It is helping others to figure out what they can do and it is helping others feel like the norm is doing something rather than the norm not being doing anything.  When you’ve done something, post it in your blog.  Tweet it on your twitter account. Tell your IRL friends.  Come here and tell us about it.  When I see people doing this, *I* get more motivated because it reminds me that I’m not alone.  Every time you let people know you acted, you cause more actions.  Don’t keep it to yourself!

Since I often feel like I don't know quite the heck what to do in times like these, I very much appreciate the sentiment.  So in that vein, here's what I've been doing.

A week or so ago, I attended a downtown protest with my daughter (at her request, in fact).  We'd been hesitant to go because of pandemic, but then she saw pictures of one of her friends getting pepper sprayed, and she felt like she (a) couldn't not support her friend and (b) needed support herself, which is why she asked me to join her.  We walked downtown, serendipitously picking up a "JUSTICE" sign from a friend we happened to meet who was leaving, partly because of the pepper spray.  We didn't wade into the thick part of the crowds; we found a spot where protesters were socially distancing but still visible, and we hung out there.  

I figured my role was to be a calm, non-anxious presence.  I sat on the steps with my (uber-friendly) dog Prewash, and smiled at everyone.   I smiled at protesters, I smiled at passers-by, I smiled at the very uncomfortable-looking police officers standing across from us.   By the time we arrived, the pepper spray was gone and things were generally calming down.  There was another dude on our corner who was also going for the mellow approach; he'd brought a boom box and was playing music:  John Lennon's Imagine; Louis Armstrong's "It's a wonderful world", etc.  
After we'd been there a half-hour or so, the main group of protestors left, and so did we.   I waved thank you to everyone as we left.   We later learned that there had been some white agitators throwing things at the police (which didn't excuse spraying the whole crowd, including children, with pepper spray, but does show that the job of a police officer looking at a crowd is a really tense and tricky one).   In the days and weeks since, my city has continued to have protests, and they've all been peaceful, in many of which the police have joined the protestors.  

Since then, I've also used the time I had with my older granddaughter to construct and sew a BLACK LIVES MATTER flag for our front porch.  Now we won't need to last-minute borrow cardboard signs if we go to another downtown event.  

I've recently joined a book group at my College; we'll be reading White Fragility together.   I've wanted to read this book for a while, for one thing; for another thing, I love learning in community.  Getting a chance to hear how others think about this will help me think more deeply, so the book group aspect is a big deal for me.

All of this takes a bunch of space to write about, but to be honest, the main focus of my attention has been on other, less immediate aspects.   Like --- I keep sewing face masks for our local hospital, and I keep volunteering with our local soup kitchen.  I know those aren't directly related to police brutality, but they feel like an important part of supporting people who are the most vulnerable.  

And, the big thing: my fall classes.  It's easy to point to something I know very little about (policing) and say "you need to change".   But to me, this moment in time says that we really all need to think about what we do and humbly think about how we ourselves could do better.  And I've been trying to think about how I do (or don't) use my own professional voice to open up access for all of my students.

My main web pages have traditionally started with "here's my math research".  Now I start with "Why I teach", and include as part of that other civil rights activists (like Bob Moses) who have used math education as a platform for economic justice. 

I'm adding information in my syllabus about the importance of self-care, especially in turbulent times, and adding information about campus and other resources so that my students know these exist.  

I never write to my advisees during the summer, but this summer I'm getting ready to write and just check in to see how they're doing.  I hesitated doing this because I don't know them very well (they were assigned to me), but then I realized that's all the more reason for me to take the initiative. 

I'm trying to add the "implicit knowledge" information to my syllabi.   Many of my students have parents who guide them: ("get a tutor"; "'go talk to your professor").   But others of my students and their families don't know how college works, so I'm trying to be clear ("Tutoring on campus is free", "I like getting to know students one-on-one in office hours; you don't have to make appointments or to ask math questions.")   It's hard to put this together because, even after three decades of teaching (or possibly because especially after three decades of teaching), I'm not sure what assumptions my students and I don't share. 

I'm formalizing a set of "math-ographies" (mathematical biographies) of cool mathematicians I know and admire, from a bunch of different backgrounds.   A few years back, in an upper-level math course, I started every class with a 3-to-5 minute introduction to one of these people.  I figured that talking about living mathematicians ("he just got married!"; "she has a cool TED-X talk!") would make this a bit more inspiring to my students, and I was right.  Also, focusing on live mathematicians makes it easier to showcase a diverse group of people.   I think I need to do this in all my classes this year, for at least two reasons: (1) because we know that these kinds of stories help students see how they can belong, and (2) because I'm likely to be on-line teaching again, and I need a way to personalize my teaching to draw students in to the math.  

For similar reasons, I'm adding to my collage of office door photos, where I've been putting up pictures of former students.  Mostly, for obvious reasons, I have photos of math majors -- those are the ones I work with one-on-one.  But the majority of students I teach are in calculus; they're not majors.  And so I'm starting to add photos of students who took my math classes but are now headed to law school, art school, or the workplace.  This could be you, too; I want to say, and I care about what happens to you, even after you leave my class.  

I'm also reading other people's blogs and seeing what kinds of actions they are (or aren't) taking, and trying to get good ideas.   Let's keep up the sharing, people!

So, that's what I'm doing.  

Finally, here's what I'm NOT doing.  This part below is taken verbatim from an email I got from a friend of mine (who is black -- this is relevant) and who runs racial healing institutes.  She writes:

Subject:  Dear White people/ people of European descent

Frantic messages to people of color with half-baked ideas is very wearying.

Hold off on those projects, scholarships, concerts.

Requests that we come to speak now to your organization without you first taking an assessment of where you are and how a training fits into a larger context of justice and equity are tokenizing. If you want the expertise, pay for it.

Instead I have a few suggestions:

1. Do your work. Focus on uncovering your hidden racial bias. Build emotional resilience so that you can be with uncomfortable truths and stay present. You have a lot of work to do before initiating efforts to help people of color. If you'd like some guidance in uncovering your bias, go here.

2. Talk with other people of European descent. If you are silent or ineffective, no shame in that--but get training. Come to the preview call to find out about our Stop Being Afraid: Transform your Conversations about Racism course. Details here.

3. Look for ways to share power, wealth, access--every day. Put it on your to-do list or add a post it to your screen. Ask yourself it you did it every night.

Will you take this on? Please reply to let me know.

Going to bed now,

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Miser family update: shades and bling (and B-child!)

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  I'm going to start with two pieces of very happy news.  One: B-child!  Born earlier today.  

K-daughter and my second grandchild, B-child, 
side-by-side instead of one-inside-the-other.

Two:  J-son got a job, with no help at all from the many mothers in his life, but entirely of his own & his friend's volition.  Whoop!  

With that awesome news leading the way, let's unveil this week's Family Fun Foto: Shades and bling.

No surprise, given today's events, that there's no K-daughter in bling this week.  I've been having fun having A-child over here this weekend, she's "helping" me paint the living room.  Meanwhile, J-son and N-son schooled me in the new lingo:  J-son has got drips.  Which is like bling, but . . . it's drips.  Kinda like the bling/drips that Y is rockin' there.   L-daughter the younger has a different kind of drips; she's on a boat (that's a wake in the water behind her).  N-son is sporting a Spidey-blanket knitted by a sister who says, "You wanna see jewelry? I got jewelry!"  (That blanket is mad needle skilz right there.)  Speaking of skilz, I squeezed in two pics of L-daughter the elder because the dress is too blingy to omit, but also:  who teaches dogs to wear sun-glasses and all look at their trainer all at once?  Like, how?  And my husband has the most expensive bling of anyone here, right there on his arm.  (He can straighten his arm 5 degrees more than the previous week, but he's still got a lot of work to do on flexing it.)  

In this exciting week, it's good to remember that we all have a chance to use our mad skilz to work for Justice that is long overdue.   I owe extra gratitude to I-daughter, who does social media (which I don't), and who therefore knew about, asked me to join her at, a socially distant corner of our city's protests last week.

I've also been overhauling my own classes --- even though my fall classes are months away --- because online teaching adds its own heaviest burden on the students who are already likeliest to face discrimination and injustice elsewhere, and I feel like I need to take the chants for justice as a personal directive, and not a distant police issue only.  So prepping for a "hy-flex" fall is what's filling up a bunch of my days.  

Well, that and painting the living room with the help of my 5-year-old granddaughter, now a big sister.
And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours stay safe.  

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Chopsticks, jigsaws, cordless drills, and soap: Thinking of you in the bathroom . . .

Let me explain this thing in the picture below.

I wrote to my friend the Grasshopper recently, saying,

"Thinking of you in the bathroom . . . "

. . . specifically, every time I open the bathroom closet where we store shaving stuff, extra toothpaste . . . and three bars of soap you made.  (The fourth is on the counter).  My bathroom closet smells so good now, and whenever I open it, I get a wonderful whiff, and think of my friend.

My friend makes soap (if you can't tell), and I'd bought four different flavors (if that's what you call them) about a month ago. mmm, but they smell great. She wrote back to say, in part,

I am so glad you like the soaps!  They will last a good long time if able to drain well; do you have a soap lift, those little silicone bumpy things?  They really, really help!

So, no, I don't have a bumpy silicon thingy.  Alas.  I do keep the soap in a square orange bowl that mostly keeps the soap upright (and hence, largely dry).  But I heed the advice of my lather-wise grasshopper, and I've jonesed over my sister's wooden soap rack for a bunch of years.  So I decided to make myself one. 

I was fortunate to have a couple of extra pairs of chopsticks lying around (I'd rescued them from somewhere -- I'm trash-averse enough that I bring my own metal pairs to restaurants, so not exactly sure where these came from).  For the support bars, I first tried to cannibalize paint-stirrers, but they split apart whenever the drill touched them, so after a few tries, I gave up and went to bed.  
The next morning, I located another small-ish scrap piece of wood that didn't mind the cordless drill as much (and after all, it's an awesome cordless drill!)  So I made the holes first, and then jigsawed the two even-smaller blocks off the smallish, hole-y scrap.   And then I squeezed everything together.  

This lovely little soap rack fits perfectly in the bottom of my orange bowl (phew for measuring correctly!) And so now my soap -- which smells sooo good -- has its own breathing space. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Tassels of happiness on a curtain of gloom

There is a lot that fills me with dread out there.  I don't want to add to other people's sense of dread -- not only for kindness' sake, but also because it's hard to take good action when we feel low.*

So, while acknowledging that there's a huge curtain of gloom draping over the country right now, I'd like to share some small tassels of happy news.   They exist; they're not the main story, but they are there.  

You might have inferred that, of all my children, J-son has had the largest roller-coaster of a life.   In recent years, he could have won any family prizes we would have given for what one might euphemistically call "adventures": economic adventures, legal adventures, pharmaceutical adventures.   Heck, even just thinking residentially, he's had more addresses than any of us.   

Throughout all of this, I've tried to carefully walk on the balance beam of support without enabling, of being a non-judgmental resource while not condoning self-destructive acts.  What I just wrote there sounds lovely in theory, and of course it doesn't work so nicely in practice.  But there it is.

So here's a little tassel of happiness.   J-son just texted the family to say that he's got a job.  

Actually, this is three tassels of happiness:  the first is that, in spite of all the odds stacked against him --- the pandemic, potential racism (he's in a predominantly rural, white area right now), his current living situation, his past "adventures" --- in spite of all that, he's got a job.  The second is that, he did this himself: it wasn't me or his former foster mom or any other adult leading him by the hand and making connections; it's him, showing initiative.  This is the first time he's applied for and gotten a job without a parent helping him.

The third, and the one that most warms my heart, is that when this happened, he texted the family.  All the bridges that could have been burned during these adventures: they're not burned.  He's proud and he knows we'll be proud of him.   It's a frilly little tassel of joy for me: he texted us that he got a job.

The family texted back with lots of congratulations.  And J-son writes,

Thx everyone means a lot ❤️
Miss u all

I miss you, too, kid.

* It's hard to take good action when we're overwhelmed with dread, 
because we don't know what to do.  We shouldn't have to say 
"police should protect citizens, not murder them"; 
we shouldn't have to say that bigotry and xenophobia are sins 
against our neighbor (and against God, if you believe as I do). 
How do we stand up and say what we shouldn't have to say?  
And who do we say it to?   I did attend a rally downtown with
my daughter over the weekend, and I revised my professional web pages 
to describe not just what  I teach, but that I teach it for reasons of social
and economic justice for all people.  I'm still casting about for more
meaningful and effective responses.  Suggestions welcome.