Sunday, September 30, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards Meets Some Bloggers

Yesterday afternoon I had the unique experience of listening in on a conversation with Elizabeth Edwards (yes, that Elizabeth Edwards). She was meeting in person with about 20 contributors to Silicon Valley Moms Blog, and some of us from Chicago Moms Blog and DC Metro Moms Blog were able to link in remotely by telephone. And it was clear as soon as she walked into the room that you can’t not like this woman. She’s a strong, appealing person with much still to give in her life. Hell, she doesn’t have to meet with people like us. But she did.

And I’m glad she did, because I’ve been feeling like I want to know more about all the candidates this time around. And because of her I do. You know, it takes a lot of time to be informed. You have to read a lot of articles and listen to a lot of debates and read a lot of websites and platforms. And because she accepted an invitation to talk with our group, I did all those things, and I feel much more informed than I was last week. For example, I didn’t know that John Edwards has a plan to pay for one year of public college for students willing to work a part time job. He woud finance it by restructuring the student loan programs we’ve been hearing about in the news lately.

You can read here how she answered all our questions, and she did so with humor and grace. But it was her final comments that hit me. As a country, she said, “We are on a bad path now.” I couldn’t agree more with that statement. She went on to say that to change directions we need people to engage. Writing a check isn’t enough anymore. “It’s really easy to get more of the same, but no so easy to change things.”

But I think we do have to change things, and we can do that if we all just try a bit harder. She made me see that I can do that.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Recess & CPS: Will the Cartoon Network Rescue Recess?

My two daughters attend different CPS elementary schools (K-8), one with recess, the other with a “closed campus” (meaning no recess and a 20-minute lunch period). I believe that closed campuses in Chicago started back in the late 1970s in an effort to keep schoolchildren safe from street crime and violence.

Back in the late 1970s, I was in elementary school myself, and that means a generation (or two) of Chicagoans has grown up without recess. My daughter has not had recess in more than five years.

But people are working on it. For example:

1. The Cartoon Network sponsors something called “Rescuing Recess”. This movement might be working for some people, but the Cartoon Network doesn’t inspire a lot confidence in me, what with its siren call to children to waste away in front of the boob tube in physical inactivity.

2. Parents United for Healthy Schools has organized more than 30 parent organizations to bring a “Recess” bill before the Illinois state legislature. The bill, which requires a 10-minute recess for all elementary schools in Chicago, passed the House in May of this year. As far as I can tell, it’s languishing in the Senate. And this doesn’t inspire confidence in me, either. Check the Illinois General Assembly Bill Status page for updates, though!

And while I may recognize the absurdity in situations #1 and #2 above, I do think recess will come back in this city. It’s time. And I would very much like to see—just once—a program that was cut from public education reinstated.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Who’s Worthy of a Police Escort?

Someone important was driving through my neighborhood yesterday, because the Kennedy was cleared to make way for a motorcade and police escort. I witness this occasionally, but this time I was the first car allowed on the highway afterward, and I thought about following them (hah!) Could have been Barack Obama or John Edwards, both in town speaking at the Change to Win conference. Or maybe it was the Polish President Lech Kaczynski, in town speaking to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

I always wonder, though, who’s heading in from O’Hare. . . .

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Recess & CPS: How Much Is Recess Worth?

So, Jordan—a mother with a second-grade son enrolled in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system—was blogging about the lack of recess. It pained me to read her words, because they are so familiar. After six years in CPS, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these same sentiments expressed by other parents. I’ve expressed them myself.

Usually, the talk begins with some parent mumblings on the school grounds. Then, concerns about the physical and mental health of small children get brought up at a local school council (LSC) or PTA meeting. But nothing ever happens.

Except that good people leave the system. One of my favorite school moms transferred her son from our recess-less school to a private school with recess. She stuck it out for two years, though, before she made the switch. I saw her, after the move, and asked her how the new school was working out.

“It’s fine,” she said. “But I’m basically spending 8K a year for recess.”

Monday, September 24, 2007

Another Great Free Lecture

Yesterday afternoon I drove down to Hyde Park to catch Wangari Maathai’s speech at The University of Chicago. It took me a long time to get there via Lake Shore Drive, but I found a perfect parking spot near the Robie House, and a great seat inside the Rockefeller Chapel. I was delighted to make it; thrilled to take in a bit of the “college town” feeling again.

Ms. Maathai had just one hour to share before she hopped on a plane to her next destination. One hour in which to make us laugh, persuade us to plant trees, educate the educated, and sum up her life’s work. She did that, of course, and I don’t know how she was able to pack so much into such a short time. It seems she packs a lot into her life every, single day. She practices this way of living—models it—and in doing so makes me believe that we could all do that if we wanted.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Farm in Trouble

Instead of our box of organic vegetables, on Friday we received this letter from Farmer Renee. It’s filled with bad news, and to me, it’s very sad on a number of levels. Please take the time to read it, as it provides insight into the small farmer’s precarious situation.

Also, this article from the business section of a Madison, Wisconsin, newspaper The Capital Times discusses the surprisingly large role small southwestern Wisconsin farms play in the huge organic foods economy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

For Chip Chan, 1978-2001

On September 11, 2001, my daughters had been in kindergarten for one week. I had just returned home from dropping them at school, when my sister called and told me to turn on the television. Immediately I called the schools to see if I should pick up my daughters (which is what I wanted to do). I felt that we should be together. But I was persuaded not to do this. The professional educators did not want to scare the children, and they promised to help the children understand what was happening in the world.

One of my twins was enrolled at a public K-8 school with a dream principal. She brought all the children in grades 1-8 into the gymnasium for an assembly at which she spoke. She did not feel the kindergartners would be ready for this, so she talked with the kindergarten class separately, with their teacher. I cannot imagine a better person to talk to these children. (She has now retired from the system). My other daughter was enrolled in our local parish school (also K-8), also with a dream principal. She gathered all the grades together and they prayed as a community. I cannot imagine a better person to pray with these children. (Sister Sarah, the principal, left that school, as well).

I believe the schools were right to keep the children that dark day. I would have scared them, surely, had I brought them home. Because I sat in front of the television, crying, trying to understand, worried about my friends, worried about the world, worried about my children, and so angry that we seem destined to live this way.

When my daughters did come home that afternoon, my husband and I tried to answer their questions. Such questions as, “If they saw the building right in front of them, why didn’t they just steer the plane around it?” Five-year-olds, generally, don’t understand suicide or terrorism, and my five-year-olds certainly didn’t understand the magnitude of this event. There was no context for them. I don’t remember if they even knew much about New York City at the time.

Of course now, at age 11 and in 6th grade, they know all about those things. They've got nothin' but context. They’ve spent time in New York City, and they've been hearing bad news in the background of their lives for as long as they can remember. And yet, today, my husband and I still have difficulty answering their questions. Such questions as, “When is this war going to end?”

I still cry, still try to understand. I still worry about my friends, the world, my children, all children. I am still so angry that we seem destined to live this way.

Fatigue has set in, for myself. And, as I suspect, our youth.

Cross-posted at Chicago Moms Blog.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Shareholders Social

Our neighborhood escaped those heavy rains at the end of August, but the farm we subscribed to this summer got hit. Crawford County in southwestern Wisconsin, where our farm is located, was declared a disaster zone after days of unrelenting rains. Farmer Renee suspended delivery for one week so she could assess crop loss. In the meantime, a social was scheduled at our pick up site.

So we dropped by on Saturday to meet a few of the other shareholders—one of whom organized the whole site and has been communicating with us about deliveries—compared CSA experiences, sampled fair trade coffee, and tasted a watermelon from this week’s box of produce. Halfway through the 2007 growing season, I’m happy to have met some like-minded food people, and they psyched me up for more chopping/grilling of vegetables! (But no more tomatoes—they were all lost in the storms.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Mothers & Politics

Over at Chicago Moms Blog, Kim Moldofsky extended an open invitation to Barack and Michelle Obama to meet with some local mommy bloggers and talk politics (but not the politics of breastfeeding). This is an interesting request on behalf of the 25 mothers who contribute to Chicago Moms Blog (and not just because I'm one of them).

It's interesting to me because it's within the realm of possibility. After all, last October, Elizabeth Edwards met with moms from our sister site, Silicon Valley Moms Blog. Kim's request is most interesting, to me, because she's asking mothers to engage more fully in the political process.

I can do that. Even if I don't get to meet the Obamas.