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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

social justice Archives

time passes, and then there’s change

One of my favourite musical groups is Playing for Change, a social action movement w/ music as its platform. When I’m blue — not infrequently these days, as I cull tangible memories (‘stuff’ to the uninitiated) — I listen to […]

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talking, listening, and pretending to engage

Yesterday I spent far more time than I’m comfortable confessing on the FB wall of a colleague (& friend). It was a discussion (as many are these days) about Baltimore. My friend had posted a piece by a young woman […]

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the importance of being artists

This is a love song to the power of the arts. It’s also a bit of a book review — in praise of a book so strong it will shatter your preconcieved notions and crack your heart open like an […]

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a long long time ago, or, updating our moral software

  This used to be the way America looked at women voting. And to be honest, some of these jokes are still around. But for the vast majority of Americans, we accept that women have the right to vote. Even though […]

religious extremism, and standing against it

Lately, with the Charlie Hebdo murders, and the massive French protests of extremist Muslims, there’s been a great deal of discussion of religious extremism. No single religion has a monopoly: there are many white Christians who advocate the genocide of […]

parenting as practice, or, mother as social justice warrior

As a child, I watched the monks come to the house each morning, as the sun rose in the sky. Sometimes the clouds were the same saffron color as the monks’ robes. The monks would pass their wooden begging bowls […]

day 25 of Thanksgiving month: gratitude in the wake of #Ferguson

Today, in the wake of Ferguson, my beginner’s heart is breaking. There seems so very little to be grateful for. I wasn’t even going to write. And then I thought — there is one sad, terrible thing for which I […]

vernacular scholars, pointy-heads, and regular folks: a tale of bewilderment ~

This is a story about what happens (far too often) when you have a PhD, or at least when folks find out you have a PhD (and I rarely confess to this!). It’s the sad story of a culture where […]

dream big, think hard: for #Ferguson

Sometimes, when I wake up in the small hours of the night (as I often do), I lay there thinking. Last night, I was thinking in part about how lucky I am in my two sons. How proud of them […]

life is complicated…

Sometimes I wish life was less … nuanced. Complicated, in other words. I wish I didn’t feel I have to vote w/ my $$ when companies aren’t ethical. Since $$ are all many US corporations seem to value, I’ve started […]

heartsick reprised

I use this image alot in my blog. I wish I knew who first created it — they deserve my undying admiration & gratitude. Because to me, this is beginner’s heart. It’s what I think of these days, especially, as […]

coherence of the heart

I love folks who question. To interrogate our beliefs is so very difficult. Believe me, I do it daily. Where’s the line on this? Do this and this cancel each other out? If I think this, how can I feel […]

the children are still hungry

In a country where we throw away edible food to the tune of 133 BILLION pounds annually, we still have 1 in 6 Americans hungry. And 1 in 4 of them are children. Little kids — like my adored (and […]

poetry, coloured sand, and changing the world

I love Tolstoy. And I especially love this very Buddhist saying. Because the writer in me knows that every time I pick up a pen, or sit down to a keyboard, I’m going to change. It’s inevitable, like the sun […]

the crime of poverty

It shouldn’t still be happening, but it is: modern day debtor’s prisons. At least in Alabama, where writer Jacob Denney’s story for the Southern Poverty Law Center takes place. A young man, first victimised by a shooting, then hit with […]

why it seems like open season on my cousin’s grandsons

My cousin Sally is white. Her grandsons are mixed race — their father is black, Sally’s daughter is also white. Each of the culturally sanctioned murders of black men lately is a bludgeon to Sally’s heart. As it should be […]

30 Days of Love: ‘calling in’ and room for compassion

“Calling in” is a new term for me. During the 30 Days of Love project, I’ve learned several new things — vocabulary is only 1 piece of it. I had to go to the original article, after reading today’s prompt. […]

30 Days of Love: faith and social justice

Today’s 30 Days of Love prompt is to look at the social justice programs of another faith. Initially I thought I’d write about engaged Buddhism again, as many Americans are unfamiliar with it. But when I went to look for […]

30 Days of Love: prisons and opportunity gone missing

America loves prisons. “Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit […]

30 Days of Love: RIP, Pete Seeger

I have always loved, admired, and respected Pete Seeger. As a musician, as a social activist, as an influence on American folk music, he’s one of my heroes. He died last night, and the world will be the poorer for […]

30 Days of Love: or, why would we want to be multicultural?

As a little girl growing up in Việt Nam, I was the odd one out. Blonde in a sea of glossy black hair, dead white dot in a warm brown tapestry. But even before, living in Tulsa & then San […]

coffee and chocolate and cream and…multiculturalism?

I’m drinking what America should BE right now (bear with me: it’s metaphor time). Coffee from Africa, rich & fragrant. Chocolate from South America. Cinnamon from Saigon, cayenne pepper from who knows where, and milk from an organic farm coop […]

poetry, politics, and beginner’s heart

If changing the world is your fight, it will exhaust you. But if it’s just your way of being, it will be effortless! So promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. ~ Buddhist Boot Camp This is […]

a tracery of branches

I love the look of branches sheathed in ice. Especially when the grey winter light silvers them against the sky.This is actually a colour photo, taken out my breakfast room window — with winter a monotone of greys, silvers, charcoals […]

Remembering Nelson Mandela, and his shifting place in American history

The world will miss Nelson  Mandela. A man who saw that forgiveness was as large a part of revolution as upheaveal. A man who brought good to a nation riven by wrong. A man who was not afraid to love […]

family, socialism, and Thanksgiving conversations

Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK! And we’ll be having a LOT of family over for the big celebratory feast. As I’m sure many of you will. And if you’re like our family, not everyone is … well, in accord on lots […]

sharing stories

When you go to a national humanities conferences, you hear a lot of stories. Stories of the past (especially in Birmingham, 50 years later…), stories of what-if, stories of maybe and possibly and even stories about stories. And when you’re […]

no one loves a complex story, or, what no one is telling you about the Affordable Care Act

This is by way of good news. It’s also a counter-narrative to all the horror stories about the Affordable Care Act.Because once a journalist, always a journalist, I guess. And someone needs to put some honest facts into the conversation, […]

rape culture, reprised: how can we undo it?

Since my earlier post on the Daisy Coleman case, I’ve received many emails from women (& men) who wander — as I do — how to undo rape culture. How do we fight it? And I confess: I don’t know. […]

on Facebook and civil conversations

I love the idea that there’s a civil conversations project. Officially, I mean. Because it’s what I’ve been trying to foster — despite my lapses into ranting about racism & social injustice — on my own FB page. Today, I […]

Yes, America, there IS a rape culture

When I first read the story of Daisy Coleman’s rape, I was so horrified and angry I didn’t notice where she came from. It was only after I read it a 2nd — or perhaps a 3rd time — that […]

the 2nd best and most important job ever

Two of my favourite things — actually four, if you include the ‘zen’ and ‘pencils’ as material objects… :). Teachers & poetry. And if you include social activism on behalf of teachers? You have knocked that homer out of the […]

in praise of grandparents

I L♥VE this letter from a grandfather to his gay-hating daughter. The idea that there is shame attached to gender makes me crazy. I can’t imagine disowning a child for anything, and something as fixed as gender identification?? If it […]

the blame game, compromise, and windows

Yesterday I overdosed on politics. I read blog after article after news piece after FB post. Ugh. I was left more than slightly nauseous, and wondering how American politics came to such an ugly place. Of course I have my […]

mouthy middle-aged white chicks…

I freely admit I’m a loudmouth. AND political, to boot. Not to mention an engaged Buddhist, and a wannabe Unitarian. Which is to say, a total bleeding heart liberal with a big vocabulary. (As distinguished from a knee-jerk liberal — […]

hungry children and politicians

I have never understood letting children go hungry. Children are our most precious, irreplaceable resource. NOTHING trumps feeding children, and certainly not politics. The American government — in the guise of the Republican house — just voted to let children […]

a child’s Labour Day: Right Livelihood –

Labour Day isn’t a Buddhist holiday. Although it seems to me to embody something critical to Buddhist thought: respect for our daily work. ‘Right livelihood’ is a basic tenet of Buddhism: that you will harm no one with your work, […]

worker bees and labour unions

I am a worker bee. Never been a real ‘queen’ of anything (don’t tell my husband & sons — they might disagree). Even when I was a director, I did the trash jobs: paperwork, payroll, receipts and mileage and complaints […]

humility, gratitude, and keeping on…

It seems almost a sacrilege to write anything about the “I Have a Dream’ speech. What is more compelling? I’ve used that speech so many times to teach writing, to teach how to marry passion and political practicality. My students […]

a bit of good news, for a change –

This is what corporations ought to be like. As an engaged Buddhist, I know that often how I spend my $$ is my best  ‘vote’ for social justice. For corporate responsibility. And believe me: if we had a Costco in […]

struggling for beginner’s heart ~

I saw this today, and flinched. Literally — a kind of internalised wince that shook me. I have been so angry lately … There are signs from the universe (I really do believe the universe talks to us — but […]

nieces, & soulless bastards ~

The Virginia gubernatorial candidate from the Republican party says my niece has no soul. My lovely niece, who is intellectually brilliant, wise and funny, and as kind and good as dawn. Because her partner is another woman — another lovely, […]

race & gender & class, or, how Trayvon Martin died for our sins ~

When I recently posted a blog concerning white privilege on my FB, a long-time friend & colleague asked, “At what point do we quit beating our chests?” Here’s my answer, and a warning: it’s long. But I did cite resources! […]

my own sangha ~

I don’t have a true sangha — that community of Buddhist believers who  journey with you along your spiritual path. I have fellow travelers, certainly, and I’d like to think my approach to belief is eclectic enough that my ersatz […]

what’s wrong w/ the Martin/Zimmerman ‘trial’ ~

It’s not okay to kill people. Ever. It’s sometimes necessary, but it’s never okay. We grieve — even when execution is, as the Dalai Lama said about the death of bin Laden, the only way to avoid more deaths. We […]

race in America, and the dilemma of forgiveness ~

I’ve never cared for Paula Deen. Didn’t watch her on TV more than once or twice. Didn’t buy her cookbooks. Don’t even care for her kind of cooking, these days. I also think that people need to NOT use the […]

a relatively restrained rant about education ‘reform’ ~

My grandson is only a week old. I can’t expect him to do much of anything yet. Eat, eliminate, emote. That’s about it. No amount of trying on my part will enable him to do what even a one-month-old can. […]

for love of boys: a letter from a friend & colleague ~

A friend sent me a note after my previous post. Her husband, she said, had grown up in a family  that substituted isolation and alienation for love, hard ‘discipline’ (most of us would call it verbal abuse) for compassion, and religious […]

looking to breathe ~

I sometimes pretend I’m a calm person…:) But during an election year, as a ‘bright blue dot in a very red state,’ it’s hard. People I know, even like, are filled with fear and loathing. They aim it at my […]

revisiting microagressions and social justice (and what white people get out of both) ~

 I spent most of June this summe, in a graduate Institute with teachers of all grade levels (k-university), in several content areas, and from varied backgrounds. The seminar lasts for three weeks. During week 2 we discuss cultures: what each […]

Girl Scouts, the ‘war on women,’ and a day in West Tulsa ~

I spent the morning recently w/ about 40 Girl Scouts, three Girl Scout staffers, and two C-level Girl Scout executives. It was wonderful. There was singing, there was visiting, there were gifts for the three of us presenting, and invites […]

a plethora of choices, a pocketful of joys; or, how to change the world one meal at a time ~

Today’s one of those rare days when there’s just too much to write about! Should I share the great kid in the UK whose blogging (w/ photos) about her bad school lunches has changed school policy? How about the morning […]

when paths part: a contemplation on beginner’s heart ~

One of my students just unfriended me on Facebook. First, however, she sent me a lengthy email, hurt & angry that my posts reflect poorly on her political party, and her political hero. I fully accept responsibility there — as […]

privilege, education, and the emperor’s new clothes ~

So this is what learning looks like in America. If you’re middle class or wealthier, your children do pretty well. More than 80% of them will graduate w/ a 4-year degree(see below). If, however, you’re in the bottom quartile (the […]

‘even air is political’ ~

In my life, I’ve had a lot of jobs. But my current one — teaching at a state university — is by far the one with the most impact. And the one thing I’ve learned in the 20+ years I’ve […]

suffer the little children… or, the consequences to bullying ~

I will caution you right now: if you believe it’s okay (for any reason whatsoever) to be mean to children in the name of religion, you should find to do other than reading further. Because this is my bit for […]

beginner’s heart, moral outrage, & finding a balance ~

He doesn’t look 94, does he? And in fact, he probably shouldn’t even be alive. Much less 94. So I’m hopeful. Because Stephane Hessel is not only alive, but still outraged by what’s wrong with the world. And he should […]

poetry, memory & 9/11 ~

Sometimes only poetry suffices… When my mind refuses to comprehend hatred, murder, war and profound grief, poetry is a map to somewhere out of fire and ash. A map through the darkness to a light that may still be a […]

Labour Day, workers, and my grandmother ~

I love Labour Day. I love the history of it, the idea that we honour our working class roots. That we at least still pay lip service to those of us who work (hard) for a living. This is about […]

voting, anger, and finding balance ~

Voting is, to me, the ultimate American right. When I turned 18, you still couldn’t vote until you were 21. And like most of my peers, I wondered about the fairness of a country where you could be drafted to […]

‘Mom, you’re sooo depressing’ ~

On the phone the other evening, my beloved younger son told me that while he reads my posts on Facebook, I am sooo depressing. (And yes, there was drawn-out emphasis on the so. :)) It’s true. I post news stories […]

the Christian left, words of faith and love and hypocrisy ~

A short while ago, a Facebook page called ‘The Christian Left’ asked its members to help support a FB ad. There was an innocuous ad: Are you a Christian? Are you a Liberal or a Progressive too? Do you feel […]

‘speak truth to power’ ~

 It’s an old Quaker saying — one I’ve always loved. The saying hearkens back to the 1950s, although it has taken on a life of its own. It goes well w/ a poem I read today, “Albatross in Co. Antrim,” […]

Previous Posts

unexpected treasures
This is a bat house. While this one isn't the one currently in my garage, awaiting its move to Virginia, it looks much like ours will look in a few years: ...

posted 1:15:47pm Jul. 30, 2015 | read full post »

making friends with (at?) work
Because of the upcoming move, I've scaled back on many activities I love, including several non-profits. Friday, the head of one I particularly enjoy asked if ...

posted 5:49:17pm Jul. 27, 2015 | read full post »

temper temper
I'm probably going to get a LOT of pushback on this, but at least in my family, men have worse tempers than the rest of us. And they don't believe ...

posted 12:36:21pm Jul. 24, 2015 | read full post »

In Praise of Teachers Under Attack, reprised
I am so sick of anti-teacher ignorance that I could spit, as my Aunt Bonnie would have said. “It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.” No. No, no, ...

posted 1:52:52pm Jul. 23, 2015 | read full post »

moving toward light: opening up and letting go
Photographers have a term for when there's not light to shoot a picture. It's called 'opening up': you increase the aperture -- the hole through which ...

posted 1:42:11pm Jul. 22, 2015 | read full post »

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