I’m generally not a big celebrator of New Year’s Eve/Day, looking at it as just the next day rather than a new start. This year does feel a bit different, as I am grateful to have made it through the tumult of 2020 and have hopes for 2021 for improvements in the governance in the US and for vaccine distribution and better public health policy to finally start to tamp down the pandemic by spring.
Still, personal circumstances make it seem less like a new start and more a continuation of existing issues. My dad, known here as Paco, is expecting to move from the rehab unit of his senior community into the assisted living unit next week. I am busy with paperwork and packing to facilitate the move. It’s awkward because, with COVID restrictions in place, family is not allowed into the health care building where the assisted unit is, so we can prepare and pack but can’t help with the actual moving, unpacking, and arranging.
Ordinarily, I would be gearing up for Linda’s Just Jot It January and planning to post every day for the month. I cannot wrap my head around posting every day this January with so much going on, including the fact that I should get my second dose of shingles vaccine this month. The first dose made me sick for a week, so I expect a similar experience with the second dose. I’m not looking forward to that, but I’ve had shingles before and am anxious to do everything I can to avert a repeat occurrence. When I do post in January, I will link to #JusJoJan, but I am giving myself permission to post sporadically rather than consistently.
I am somewhat uncharacteristically struggling with words, both spoken and written. I think I am overwhelmed enough and exhausted enough that my brain can’t settle down to easily arrange my thoughts into cogent language. It’s not good for my blogging or poetry and it’s disconcerting for conversation, especially when I have to have so many phone calls and conversations to get things arranged for Paco’s care. I’m managing, but nowhere near the level I want to be.
I’m asking, once again, for your patience as I slog through this.
I should close now and make myself copy dates and commitments into my 2021 calendar. It’s a dreaded task every year and 2021 is no different in that regard.
Lately, some people in the US have taken to referring to a white woman who calls 911 on a black person without cause as a “Karen.” Sometimes, this broadens to any white woman who tries to leverage her white privilege.
While I think it is legitimate to call out destructive behavior, I wish people would do it directly, not by name-calling. If one is referring to a specific incident, use the name of the person involved. If it is a more general comment about white privilege or entitlement, call it that.
There are lots of people named Karen and they don’t deserve a negative connotation being attached to their names. Some of them are men. Some of them, like Congressmember and potential vice-presidential nominee Karen Bass, are black. Karens are our neighbors, teachers, business owners, and friends. Karens are beloved members of families, including mine.
So, please, think twice about turning a name into an insult. Use a few more words and say what you intend without resorting to name-calling.
Anyone who has taken care of an infant or toddler knows that their development is not a straight-line graph. New skills solidify over a few days, even though the child has been working up to them for weeks or months.
I was reminded of this again when ABC, who turned two earlier this month, returned home from several days away with her mom and aunt. She is suddenly speaking most often in full sentences. She had been using an occasional short sentence, but now she is making longer sentences and using them to explain things or ask for things.
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “favourite word.” Note how I am honoring (honouring?) Linda’s Canadian spelling, even though my US spellcheck is unhappy.
I first thought that I wouldn’t write a post because I don’t have a favourite word. In fact, I never even thought about the concept.
Then, it came to me that I should choose love. Love is the central organizing principle of my life. I will spare you all the philosophical and theological explanations I could give. It’s late and, seriously, no one wants to read pages of stream of consciousness on love from my tired brain.
I will say that one of the things I appreciate about the word love is that it is both a noun and a verb. I find it especially important to show love in action, to be loving.
What I don’t do as much as some people is say the word love. Among family and friends, our love for one another is so evident that we don’t feel that we need to say “I love you” all the time. I know some people find that odd, but it works for us.
This week in a meeting of my poetry critique group, I managed to say that I can’t write poems with cursing or profanity, which led to a lively discussion of the use of language, in poems and in general.
I was brought up to use proper English at all times and not to swear. Unlike today, where cursing, profanity, and slang is used frequently and is nearly impossible to avoid, when I was growing up, in a town of two hundred souls in rural New England, one seldom heard any colorful language – or backtalk. I do remember our first through fourth grade teacher literally washing out a boy’s mouth with soap once, but I don’t know what he said to warrant that reaction from the teacher. Actually, I’m pretty sure she could have gotten in trouble as corporal punishment was not allowed in Massachusetts schools, but I doubt anyone would have reported it.
Someone did ask me what I would say if I dropped a roast from the oven onto my foot and I were totally alone in the house. I would probably say, “Ouch!” or maybe I would just start crying.
One of the poets thought I should do an assignment: to write a poem with profanity, but that isn’t going to happen. It wouldn’t be true to who I am and I think that that would show. Plus, I wouldn’t be able to read it aloud. I find it difficult, if not impossible to say certain words aloud, even if they are on a page in front of me. Good thing I didn’t get to take acting classes because I would probably be bad at it. I would only be able to play characters who never swear!
I’ve just done something I’ve very rarely had cause to do – remove a comment from my blog.
Truthfully, I am not so inundated with comments that this is likely to be a common occurrence, but, for the record, I have a low tolerance threshold for coarse language and decided that I won’t leave it on my blog.
I admit that I feel badly for erasing someone’s opinion, but civility and respect are important to me, so I am making space for them here as I am able.
Our hotel gives us the Honolulu Star*Advertiser each morning. I was pleased to see a front page story this morning about poetry, “Poems give voice to students’ creativity,” by Michael Tsai. (I had hoped to share the link, but the paper has very strict access requirements.)
The article talked about the month-long residency of Hawai’i-born poet Laurel Nakanishi at Palolo Elementary sponsored by the nonprofit Pacific Writers’ Connection. The fourth grade class which is the focus of the article has 18 of 23 students who are English language learners, meaning that English is not their first language. The usually reticent students come alive when they write and share poetry.
I was especially struck by this paragraph:
Such indulgences in creative arts and the humanities were supposed to have become extinct from school curricula in the age of rigid standardized testing. But as a growing number of elementary school teachers can attest, every hour spent practicing the fundamentals of free verse returns dividends of creativity, expressiveness in figurative language and overall language sensitivity that measure well on current Common Core State Standards and other assessments.
I was thinking about the young poets who participate in the Binghamton Poetry Project both in the classroom and in extra-curricular sessions. Their obvious joy in poetry and using language in new ways mirrors that of the students who worked with Nakanishi in Honolulu.