Saturday, January 31, 2009

Writing to President Obama

Yesterday afternoon I spent some time visiting 5h graders at Driftwood School right here in Port Orford. The teacher and I had discussed in advance the various writing skills I could incorporate in my weekly visits as a volunteer.

I decided to show them the cover of the latest New Yorker, the one with the blended pictures of George Washington and Barack Obama titled, The First. The kids got it right away. They discussed how both of these men were the first.

The activity that followed was a letter to President Obama. The chatter was about how best to address him, Mr. or Mr. President, or President Obama, or President Barack Obama. Then, again, more chatter on wether to say black, or non-white, or African-American, or... Some more chatter about how much to say. How many sentences? Can we really send this letter? What is the address? Will he really read these letters?

After an hour, most of them had written a couple of sentences that were proud to show me, had looked up many words in the dictionary, and had stated their opinions on some political issues. Next week, we will polish the letters and send them off.

I will have to explain that they may not get answers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stop. Look. Listen

A friend of mine emailed this to me this morning. It is worth sharing.

Interesting story and a reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty around us!

Violinist in the Metro

-from The Effective Club

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip; a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist.

Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theatre in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people.

The outlines were:

In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

On my Birthday with as many words

Like the Sixes, I have run my course
at the Cape, on the Pacific, on friendly shores,
happy, unfettered, undammed,
my life smoothed by tumbles,
flowing westward, American dream-like,
gold and riches still to mine
stories and memories of two continents,
in whispers and shouts, daily
in songs, hymns, tears and poems.

I will stop when I tire and grow fat
with tangles and choking weeds.

Monday, January 26, 2009

SAG and ACADEMY Awards Thoughts

Last night I watched the SAG awards. I had not seen any of the movies, but I did have something to go on. It is a personal essay one of our Bandon Writers shared with us last week. Anne Mattingly is a long-term member of the Screen Actors Guild, American Mensa Society, and the Bandon Writers.

Am I Alone Here?
by Anne Mattingly

When did it become acceptable to watch people micturate, vomit and defecate on screen? Recently, I watched two of the most highly rated films of the season, Slumlord Millionaire and The Reader. In the former there was a lengthy scene of a young boy defecating then jumping into a pool of feces. In the latter, we saw the most graphic course of vomiting ever filmed. I find these bodily functions to be disgusting and difficult to watch.

I understand that films today are meant to be more realistic than ever before. Would the films be lessened in verisimilitude if the lead up to the act of vomiting were captured but not actually seen? Could we not be watching the sick boy's back? Or perhaps we could cut away to the empty street? As for the little Indian boy in the public toilet, could there not have been someway to give us the information without shoving our faces in the feces?

Among my favorite films are Cavalcade, Citizen Kane, and Gone with the Wind. Does anyone complain that these films were lacking because we were not treated to human evacuations? Did we think Kane less of a man because we did not watch him urinate? When Scarlett swore she would never go hungry again would you have preferred to watch her in the midst of the drive heaves which so often accompany starvation? In Cavalcade, when the sons grew up in late 19th century England, would it have improved the story if we'd have seen them sitting on chamber pots then observing the servants dropping the contents into the gutters?

The heroes, villains, and supporting casts of films need only make us believe they are who they are meant to be. They have many tools to accomplish this. They have their voices, their expressions, their make-up, their talent in breathing life into the words of the screenplay. The director has music and editing to add to his vision. Can we not merely assume that the characters micturate, defecate, and, on occasion, vomit? Do we really need to see it? ( February 17, 2009)

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Have you noticed that if you go search yourself on the internet you find all the traces you left behind on other people's blogs and public documents? You didn't mean to leave so much detritus. Maybe you did, at the time.

Now, you can retrace your steps. Even somebody who doesn't know you can retrace your steps. Your public persona left yarn threads scattered all over the world. What a mess we make now with our words. We are littering the universe with casual chatter. Chatter Clutter.

What if we were to limit our encounters and exchange to six words, or a word for each birthday, like candles.

Next week is my birthday. I will write a post with sixtyseven words.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Playing Along.

Thanks M. from for going along with the tag game. That's today's rambling thought: how we end up playing in the big playground called life.

I think most of our early decisions in life were to please somebody, our parents, our friends, our special someone. We were loved and appreciated when we were pleasant, cooperative. Our teachers' comments on the report card, plays well with others, were appreciated. As parents, we were happy when our little ones had friends, were invited to play and party, were popular, didn't give any trouble.
We are socialized to get along with others.

Most people I have fired were not incompetent, they were hard to get along; they broke rules they didn't like, and were difficult in groups. The organizational goals could not be met by these people. They will continue to have trouble because they look at getting along as a sissy game.

Well, it isn't a sissy game. It is a very important civil game, one that allows us all to cleverly reap many benefits. By cooperating, we build relationships and alliances that will ultimately give us all what we need. In this case, a bigger audience. Six times six, with one post, one stroke.

Let's play.


We all played this game as children. On the blogs, it is played this way:someone tags you, you talk, you tag six more people.

Crystal from Be The Change you Want To See tagged me. Here are my

1. I have visited every state in the union, lived in three of them for more than five years and Oregon, where I now live, is my favorite. The other ones were California and Florida. I much prefer cooler weather and less humidity.

2.I still have not fulfilled one of my life's ambition to become a writer. This is my last frontier, a task that keeps me hitting the keyboard every morning at six. Because of this hunger in me, I've become more humble and patient with myself, forgiving and encouraging as well.

3. When I first came to this country as a teenager I thought all of America was like California. When we lived in Florida I realized that there are many Americas, many different strands and cultural pockets.

4. When I was seventeen I could speak five languages. Now, I barely remember Italian, my mother tongue, and totally forgot French and Latin. If something is not practiced, it is lost.

5. I finished my bachelor in four years, majoring in English. Considering that I could barely speak English when I first arrived in America, it was a major accomplishment. To those people who work with children from other countries, my advice is simple, show them that you care. They will learn English faster.

6. My wish is to travel in every continent. I have just begun.

Rules for this activity:write six random things,link to the person that tagged you, post the rules,and tag six more people.

The people I'm tagging today are:

1. Matawheeze
2. Cheri
6. Ruth

Good luck, and hope to see your ramblings soon.

Friday, January 23, 2009


The blogosphere is full of interesting people with open hearts and generous spirits. I am surrounded by good-will and good-intentions all over the world. It is a new sense of universal causes that brings us all to the dialogue. A new world order.

I thought about how quickly I was linked up with people. One person responds, another finds a link, a third returns to tell me the first one sent her over. This is changing all the formulas. None of us are selling anything, or showing off any other wealth except the wealth of concern for the human condition.

I've been thinking that we could come up with a universal cause that we all push and connect, a cause like world hunger. How could we possibly live among so much abundance and tolerate HUNGER?

That's my proposal. Let's wear BROWN, the color of the EARTH, and add GREEN for clean air, and a touch of BLUE for clean water. Let's draw a banner, a pin, a scarf to wear and to wave. Let's SPEAK OUT- with one voice.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

The village we all live in.

Angela, from Letters from Usedom, talked about knowing her neighbors, feeling connected. The Obamas talked about becoming residents of Washington D.C. Most people fit into their neighborhood easily enough.

When we think about it, we move into a new neighborhood, and we take our cue from the neighbors. If they come over and invite us to their homes, we might feel immediately accepted by that gesture. In turn, we recipricate and soon we know everybody. It sounds easy enough.

In most communities, however, people are so busy that they don't know their neighbors. And if they get in their cars before dawn and return after sunset, nobody knows anybody. That was the case for many of us when we worked and juggled all our roles, afraid that if we put one more obligation on the list, everything would come crashing down.

We knew our neighbors only casually, waving at each other as we picked up our papers in the wee hours of the morning, coffee in hand, too rushed to stop and ask who and what and why. When the Northrigde earthquake kicked us out of our homes on the morning of January 24 in 1994,in bare feet and pajamas, we saw others in the same condition. We asked about people who had not exited their homes. Could they be trapped? Should we knock and see? Children felt much more at ease knocking and inquiring at strangers' doors and climbing fences to extricate dogs that had been trapped.

We met people who had just moved in; the old couple that had sold them the house had moved to Oregon. They had lived in the same house for thirty years. It was the first time many of us knew who lived where. This was Southern California, the San Fernando Valley. Our gardeners and maids knew the neighbors better than we did.

We needed a calamity to bring us together.

In my new state of retirement, I have to remind myself of those lessons.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Yesterday was twentyfour hours of celebration and national pride day. Even non fans were polite and respectful, amazed at the national outpour of goodwill and cooperation. We all need him to succeed. We all pray that this feeling lasts for a while, long enough for us to learn to work together and solve problems together.

Are we over our Obamania? No! We are celebrity worshippers. Especially celebrities that remind us of where we all came from, the struggle we all faced to achieve a modicum of success. Celebrities for us represent possibilities and hope.

We'll discuss his speech at lenght today. We'll find hard copies and keep them for our grandchildren. We'll memorize a few lines that resonate with us. We'll reassure each other that we made the right choice with every choice that he makes from now on.

Watching Michelle, the girls and the rest of the relatives, reminded us that every man comes from a family, that the family will be there in the most intimate moments when he can blow steam and admit to doubt and despair at trying moments.

President Obama is already at work this morning. We all should do the same.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dear President Obama,

You have the whole world to think about after tomorrow's inauguration. Every person in America, and in the entire free world, will watch your swearing in and will pray for you. We will gather with friends, in front or our television, on the web, and will let everyone know that we are proud of the person you are, and the president you will be. We are proud of what you stand for, and what you hope for all of us to accomplish. We are all on board.

Every person will hope for something to change in their lives. And we know deep in our hearts that you are the person who will deliver the change.

Most of us who grew up with no hope for success, were able to conquer our fears and our conditions because of teachers and educational opportunities that came our way. Without public education, those opportunities will disappear, and only a few will continue to nurture hope for a better future.

Do not let the rhetoric and the politics of accountability change the conversation. Every school needs to be saved and improved; every student and every family need to feel that the local school will prepare students to face the future proudly and prepared. Some people will tell you that some schools are too broken to keep open. Question their motives. Are they trying to stop supporting local schools? What have they done to solve the problems? Have they volunteered and rolled up their sleeves to keep the facilities clean and safe?

We know you have a full plate of challenges. But Melia, and Sasha, and the other millions of children cannot wait.


R.W. (a.k.a. Lakeviewer) from a small hamlet on the Oregon Coast

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Angela, from Letters from Usedom, was kind enough to interview me, after I sent her my request.

1. You said you were born in Italy and then moved to the United States at 17. Can you tell us more about your youth and how you came to take that continent- and life-changing decision?

There were no secondary schools in my home town in Italy when I lived there in the fifties. Relatives in the United States suggested I study in the U.S. So, I applied to college, and off I went to Los Angeles. My intention was to finish four years and return back to Italy where my family still lived. But love changed everything.

2. You were working as a teacher before you retired. Was that fun? What were your most impressive experiences, and would you do it again? (always trying to squeeze more questions in one!)

I started teaching in a Catholic high school, where discipline was not a problem. Many of our students came from Watts, the location of a major racial disturbance that put the place on the map in the mid sixties. That disturbance and the effect it had on students and staff opened my eyes. It pointed me toward a life devoted to educating those who needed education to climb out of poverty. Most of my teaching experiences from that time on, took place among immigrants and poor.

3. I read your last post entry “Speak Out” and found it fabulous. How did you develop this attitude in your life?

Each of us is most happy when we are matched to our jobs, our life work. I've been fortunate. Every day of my working life was treasured; I learned how hungry each of us is to be somebody, to be a change agent, to connect to the bigger world. We are stronger and more courageous than we know.

4. Would you like to share a profound, or life-changing event that has happened to you? Was there a person who influenced you most?

I already mentioned the Watts Riots. But there is another influence, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart who ran Immaculate Heart College where I spent four years as an undergraduate and two additional years training to become certified as a teacher for California. They embodied the new spirit of an entire era. Sister Corita, one of the nuns, was an activist artist, a strong influence on all of us. She saw each of us girls as "Instrument of Grace", powerful tools against injustice and hypocrisy. There is a sad story about the nuns, however. Their outspoken behavior caused them a great deal of political trouble.

5. What is the nicest thing anybody has ever done to you, or (if you like to answer that) that YOU ever did to anyone?

The nicest thing was the opportunity to bring my baby to work, so I could continue to nurse him. One administrator gave me permission to bring my mom and my baby to school, set up a nursery in the lounge, move my classroom across the lounge, and that allowed me to nurse my baby every two hours. Plus, it allowed me time with my mom who had come to visit me and help for a few months.

As an aside, this month, the local school board is passing a policy, now mandated by the state, to provide a 'nursing area' for new mothers, complete with privacy. What was unusual and gifted, now has become a right for new mothers.

There are rules for this activity. If you want to be interviewed:1. leave a request.

2. I will send you five questions for you to answer
3.You post the questions and the answers on your blog
4 Include these rules
5. When someone requests to be interviewed you send them five questions and these rules.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Speak Out

None of us have the power to effect big changes. Only when we come together and speak in chorus, we are heard.

Retirees usually take up issues that involve them at this new stage of life, and rightly so. Health Care, pensions, the usual suspects. But we are in a great position to look back at the entire panorama of people needs, all across the globe. We have lived a full life and seen many parts of the world, and we have a unique perspective. We can lend our voices to issues that will improve lives not just for the now, but for future generations.

Joining groups, volunteering our time and expertise, lending a hand in our community, all of these acts go hand in hand with being alive, being a vital member of a community.

Look at President Carter and his wife; they have redefined retirement. Their global initiatives, their compassionate involvement in Habitats for Humanity, their travel and committment to improving the lives of so many people, have been an inspiration to all of us, young and old.

So, join your senior center, the sewing circle, and the garden club. But, don't stop there. Get on the web and join groups that sing your song, whether it is a song about environmental concerns or economic wealth, join and participate with all your heart and health and wealth. Leave a legacy of caring and speaking out; especially in areas where nobody is speaking out; especially in areas where most people fear to go. I'm talking about causes that get you up in the morning, causes that will affect children and others who are not strong enough to speak for themselves.

And stop complaining about the new technology, how it sucks up all our time. Use the same technology for the greater good. Join, and use any and all tools you are comfortable using. Walk to your neighbor's house and discuss common safety, talk to your grandchild about the environment at school, email your friends with updates on environmental sensitive areas in your state. Read, write, speak out. We are fully alive.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Jobs, jobs, jobs

People are beginning to move out from our small hamlet. Local schools keep tabs on who checks in and out, and they report steady decline, even more than they had anticipated back last June, before the economic downturn, before the news of economic troubles hit the nation.

California, south of us, has worse problems, slashing its state budget,forcing employees to take unpaid leave. In effect, all state workers in California will be taking a 3%-5% cut in wages and benefits. Unions are going to fight these cuts as unfair labor practices, as the pressure to save jobs and prevailing wages mounts all around us. Most folks remember what Reagan did to the traffic controllers back in the 80's and they are ready to fight back.

Everybody expects cuts to occur. But nobody expects the new administration to trash contracts and destroy union memberships. The temptation will be there for corporations and municipalities to stay solvent by all means. We hope that human rights and workers' rights are not slashed as well.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A walk in the woods

All around, pines, madronas, rhododendrons, azaleas, oaks, trees and bushes of all ages, grow tall and majestic, fed by an abundance of moisture. We love our green world, bordered by the blue-gray world of the Pacific, and the occasional white- snow capped world of the Coast Range.

Langlois Mountain to the North and Humbug to the South remind us that Winter is hovering up there. Our ancient pines have thrived for millenia in this weather.

Visit for a beautiful description of all this green.

Monday, January 5, 2009

What we talk about when old people meet...

Looking forward to new things and new experiences feels natural to most of us. But not to old people. After a certain age, everything feels the same, the same neighbors, the same arguments, the same food. Only our maladies feel new, rushing in or sneaking up, aggravating our daily routines, keeping verve and enthusiasm at bay.

Looking forward to springtime used to help us fight winter blues. Soon, new buds and new growth would remind us of the rhythms of nature. Now that we are old, we talk about our mortality, the end of our rhythms. How can we plan when we could die tomorrow? How can we look forward, when we don't know if we will be there?

The early buds on the camellia reassure us that life is all around us, and we must heed its rhythms, rather than be frightened by them.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Finding the right note

The economy is going to be on our mind for quite a long time, as things around us will change, from our favorite coffee shop, to the commercials we get on the tube. I swear if I see Willie Mays sell one more product, I will throw something at him. Advertising will get nastier and more deceptive. We got to keep our wits about us and remind each other, that this too will pass. Just look at the bigger world around, how it survives and adapts to the ravages of time and weather. We have made this mess; we need to learn how to fix it, or adapt to it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Economy, environment, education: The Three E's

The conversation is no longer about what the Democrats want versus what the Republicans want, rather, what our priorities must be. Among the big iterms, economy, environment, and education, how do we balance the plate and move ahead; what will drive our economy may not be good for our environment, may have only short term gains because we do not have a prepared work force. Our challenge will be to gain maximum perspective,to understand how everything is interrelated.

In education, the lack of money from local taxes will directly affect funding for schools. Families' instabilities and anxieties will contribute to school readiness. The inability of a city to maintain and protect the health and welfare of its citizens will directly affect the mental health and the civic adaptations necessary to live in an orderly society. Gangs and civil disobedience will grow both in the streets and in schools. Educators will have fewer tools, and fewer opportunities to enrich children's lives. Did we think the urban schools were the ones having difficulties? Now all schools will.

When the economy is good, and parents have jobs, whether they believe in early childhood education or not, they will deposit the child in a pre-school. There, the child will be challenged, nurtured and socialized. He may even get his first toothbrush and his first dental exam. He will learn about food groups, about washing his hands and avoiding unsafe situations, and will acquire the vocabulary to address present needs, and prepare him for reading and writing tasks.

At the opposite spectrum, with jobs waiting for the high school graduate, and with scholarships and opportunities for specialized training available to him, he will continue to stay in school, connect with the society he is entering and hopefully be mentored to enter the work force with enough tools to get his first job.

Education does not end with the first job or the last one. Education is a life-long pursuit and a life-long connection to our welfare and cultural trust. Without a policy to insure life-long educational opportunities, a culture fractures, loses its history and its pride, and must reinvent the wheel again and again.

President Obama understands this interconnectivity and understands that investing in education is not an isolated expenditure. The challenge for him and for us is to plan thoughtfully and long term, and focus on our EEE.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Caught in a bubble

A cave to rest in, a beautiful beach to meditate on: life is a beach, to enjoy, to appreciate it.

Tomorrow might bring rain or snow, or blow your house away. What we have is the bubble of today. Happy New Day.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

The skies are clear in our old stomping grounds of Southern California as the Tournament of Roses flows through Pasadena. We spent many New Years at the parade, all dressed in coats and warm mittens, always fearful that the rain might dampen the parade spirits, amazed at the elaborate workmanship of each float, being entertained for hours and hours. Later in the day, we'd watch the parade on television, revisiting the floats and the bands and the crowds.

It is not that way anywhere else. The evening before, thousands of people would take residence on the route, building fires, dancing, mixing with other people who might have travelled from another part of the world, all forming a special community of revelers to greet the new year. At the end, tired and dirty we returned home to veg-out for the rest of the day, too excited to do anything else.