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December 3, 2005

Intimate Strangers

This morning's Star Tribune carried an article ("Intimate Strangers") about peoples' willingness to disclose private information to strangers, especially when they are in a situation (like on an airplane) when they are unlikely to see the person again. One focus of the article was about disclosure on the internet. A mom who was linked with 7 other women who were all struggling with parenting teenage boys commented, "Long before any of us were willing to trust the others enough to tell where we lived, we were willing to confess deepest secrets... Even more important were the little things that we never could have explained to a friend or husband -- irrational worries, trivial but trying spousal irritations."

This is consistent with our decision to use an interactive online chat format for interviewing young adults in the next phase of our research project. In pilot work, we found that people were willing to disclose more and use richer description over the internet than on the phone. There's not much formal research on this, but the anecdotal evidence is stacking up. (HrH and I are preparing an article on this topic.)

Unrelated blog discovery ... The December 1 issue of blog "Coffee Grounds" noted a new word, NIVAL, which means "of, growing in, or relating to, snow." Its Latin root (no pun intended) has to do with stems. Somehow NIVAL seems very relevant today - it's been snowing all day, and the white stuff is just piling up. It's nice to look at it out the window without having to slog through or drive in it. I know I'll have to shovel before dark, but for the moment I can mentally play with different uses of this newfound word.


Posted by hgroteva at 1:32 PM

December 4, 2005

Adoption and the New American Family

APA Mon Dec05thumb.jpg

The December issue of the APA Monitor, the magazine that goes to all members of the American Psychological Association, is about families, and one of the feature stories, "Adopting a New American Family," is about adoption. Here is the link to the article:
http://www.apa.org/monitor/dec05/adopting.html . The story quotes both me and Rich Lee (colleague from the Psychology Department at the U). Rich discussed his work on cultural identity issues in adoption. (See his blog entry here.) I talked about one of our MTARP findings, that among adoptive families having contact with birth family members, children from families where the contact was more collaborative tended to be rated higher on emotional adjustment during middle childhood than their peers whose family arrangements were less collaborative.

This special issue is noteworthy for several reasons: a) it talks about families (whereas the psychological lens is more typically focused on individuals); b) it addresses issues of racial and ethnic diversity, and c) it focuses on identity and how it is shaped within families. I was quoted as saying "researchers should be studying how to help children navigate their membership in multiple families and cultures." There's plenty of exciting work to be done. I'm appreciative that the author, Jamie Chamberlin, gave a plug for the Second International Conference on Adoption Research (ICAR2), scheduled for July 17-21, 2006 in Norwich England. The website for the conference is www.icar2.org.uk . Abstracts for presentations are due December 19, 2005.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:08 PM

December 8, 2005

Thursday Human Blogging

Greetings from me – Sadie. My human has fallen into that bad trap that many parents have – ignoring their youngest. He has already done great Friday Cat Blogging entries about my siblings (Pookie, Shadow, and MacKenzie), but WHAT ABOUT ME? So instead, I’m going to turn the tables and do my own post.

Mack Sadie on monitor2.jpg

First, here’s my picture (I’m the cute dark brown one on the right). But, just like an inconsiderate human, he got rid of this 90 pound, warm, computer monitor in favor of one of those new-fangled flat panel gizmos. He says it’s better for his eyes (which need all the help they can get), but I can’t sit on top of it and get warm! This is a serious problem in December here in Minnesota.

My typical view of him is his legs and feet. I kind of rub around and hum a bit to get his attention. But my favorite place is his shoulder. I don’t cuddle in the same way that Pookie does (he’s shameless!), but I like to perch on his shoulder and observe my domain. Every once in a while, I’ll spring from the floor to his shoulder to get his attention – it seems to have the desired effect. But that’s more for little kittens – I’m pretty grown up now.

Nonetheless, I still like to play “chase? all over the house. I have to admit it – I happily incite Pookie to a good chase now and then. (It’s a public service – he needs the exercise.) I especially like to knock him off the climber on the porch. Sometimes the two of us get up there at the same time, but then he does his dominance thing and bites my neck. My human always yells at him for doing that, but I don’t mind it all that much. I usually end up on top anyway! So here’s a raspberry to my human for ignoring me. However, in his defense, I know he’s very busy. His consumption of “medium decaf mocha with no whipped cream but with an extra chocolate covered expresso bean? has definitely skyrocketed this fall. Rumor has it that he got one of those Caribou debit cards and it needs refreshing. Anyway, I’m glad I’ve been able to take over the keyboard myself. Fan letters are always welcome! - Sadie

Posted by hgroteva at 5:58 AM

December 10, 2005

Ending Homelessness

Yesterday's Star Tribune ran an outstanding editorial, entitled "Daytime Services for the Homeless" (read it here). The editorial praised the City of Minneapolis for allowing some homeless shelters to remain open during the day. This has the potential to solve a number of problems, including forcing homeless people to kill time in skyways and other public spaces until they can re-enter the shelter in the evening.

There are good models for how to serve the homeless -- they all require a multi-faceted approach that involves assisting not only with a place to sleep, but also education, job skills, and sometimes mental health and/or chemical dependency services. Intensive, coordinated services can work. Despite being one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, we allow homelessness to continue because we are stingy with our support of social services.

I am also keenly, personally, aware of how young people are falling between the cracks of our health insurance "system." My 20 year old son is moving to a new city soon. He will likely be working part time and going to school part time, neither of which would qualify him for health insurance benefits. He's too old to be covered by my insurance unless he is a full time student. So we are having to cobble together various approaches. Some young people just say - hey, I'm healthy - it's not worth my time to puzzle this out. All it takes is one major illness or accident to put them in debt for the rest of their lives.

Both of these examples, in my view, point to our lack of vision and caring as a society. I believe we should have universal health care (not tied to employment), accessible education, and social services that promote respect and dignity for each person served. Of course - it will cost; there's the rub. We want "no new taxes" and in fact, we want lower taxes --- but we're bothered at the sight of the homeless. We need to make the connection -- at least in part, our own selfishness is contributing to the problem. Maybe we'll "get it" someday, but I'm not holding my breath.

During this holiday season, maybe each of us can think a little more deeply about how we can be part of the solution rather than part of sustaining the problem.

Posted by hgroteva at 12:54 PM

December 11, 2005

New Orleans Needs Santa - Now!

I received the following letter today from a long time friend (from college), John Pope, who is a writer for the New Orleans Times Picayune. Today's letter seemed to merit as wide a readership as possible, so I asked his permission to post it on this blog, and he graciously assented. It's an eye-opener, one that should make us all think about our connections to one another. Although not planned this way, the theme fits quite well with yesterday's post on ending homelessness. -- HG

Dear friends:

In the first scene of John Patrick Shanley's remarkable play "Doubt,"
a priest delivering a sermon has this to say about the aftermath of a
traumatic event:

"Imagine the isolation. You see the world as through a window. On the
one side of the glass: happy, untroubled people. On the other side:
you. Something has happened, you have to carry it, and it's
incommunicable. For those so afflicted, only God knows their pain.
Their secret. The secret of their alienating sorrow. And when such a
person, as they must, howl to the sky, to God: 'Help me!' What if no
answer comes?"

That, more than almost anything else I've heard in the past 3 1/2
months, summarizes the way we feel in this part of the world in the
wake of Katrina, a ghastly storm whose malign, pervasive influence
will be felt for years to come in ways we haven't begun to imagine.
When I've been in other cities this fall, watching people going about
their daily lives, I've felt like an outsider, an emissary from hell
because so much has happened to my part of the world and no one I see
has a clue about what's on my mind.

And who cares? Everyone here worries about the answer to this
question. When President Bush spoke in Jackson Square, he promised
that this part of the world would see the biggest reconstruction
program ever. Well, we're waiting for evidence of this massive
commitment, and we can't help but feel that the concern about this
ravaged region died along with the generator-powered lights that had
illuminated him, Andrew Jackson's statue and St. Louis Cathedral,
where the hands were stopped at 6:35, when the power died as Katrina
swept through. (That detail continues to fascinate me, probably
because it reminds me of watches recovered from Hiroshima and
Nagasaki that stopped when the bomb hit the ground.)

I'm hoping that we all will be proved wrong, but I'm not holding my
breath, especially when national leaders question the wisdom of
rebuilding New Orleans -- no one ever said anything like that after
the earthquakes that rocked San Francisco and Los Angeles, even
though each sits atop the San Andreas Fault -- and much of the money
that should be coming this way is being poured into Iraq.

Because the destruction was so massive, we need nothing less than a
strong national initiative -- a domestic Marshall Plan, if you will
-- and I just don't see evidence that this is going to happen, or
that anyone is going to emerge with enough charisma to get this done.

Paul Krugman wrote eloquently about our plight in yesterday's New
York Times, and a front-page editorial in The Times-Picayune a few
Sundays ago urged readers to lobby representatives and senators, even
providing phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Jim Amoss, our editor,
made a similar argument in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post.

If you feel like writing, calling or otherwise lobbying lawmakers and
other decision-makers, please feel free. As I've traveled around in
the past few months, I've gotten tired of being the object of pity
when I mention my hometown, but I must admit that we need all the
help we can get.

If this assistance doesn't come through, our city -- a place many
outsiders profess to love -- is going to become a ruined shell. The
French Quarter and most of Uptown, where we live, will be more or
less recognizable and inhabitable, but much of the rest will be a
dead zone because people who have fled to all corners of the country
will have no reason to come back and help the city rebuild. (If
Emeril Lagasse, who has made millions off this city, can't bother to
show his face here, what message does that send? He could do a lot of
good here, if he cared.)

Sorry about the blast of cynicism during what is supposed to be a
blessed, blissful time of year, but it's hard to be merry when one
lives in a city where vast regions are still dark and streets are
still lined with piles of Sheetrock, furniture, trashed cars and
ruined refrigerators bound shut with duct tape. Many of us have
developed scratchy throats from being in dust-filled areas; the
condition is called "Katrina cough."

There have been some improvements here and there. For instance, on
the micro level, I'm happy to report that two crews are looking this
weekend at our Eleonore Street home so they can submit bids on
replacing the roof, which has a hole over the dining room, where
Pinckley and I were married. Once that chore is done, possibly before
Christmas, we can welcome new tenants, who have vowed to help with
replacing Sheetrock that became infested with mold.

The farmers market, many of whose vendors were ruined by the storm,
has returned, with one market a week instead of four. This morning,
its annual Festivus celebration (inspired by "Seinfeld," complete
with aluminum tree and the airing of grievances) attracted a mob.
Pinckley, the market's immediate past board chair, feels especially
passionate about this enterprise because it has helped so many people
find markets for their produce, seafood and baked goods. It will do
so again, I'm sure. (Incidentally, there was an extra pole for
Katrina grievances.)

Pinckley also has become involved with helping the city's library
system, which took a major hit after the storm when virtually all the
staff was laid off. (You can expect to hear from her soon on this.)

Because there hasn't been much medical research to write about, I'm
doing more reporting on higher education these days, and I'm finding
good news: Impressive numbers of students plan to return to local
colleges and universities for the spring semester. (Unfortunately,
I've also been writing about massive layoffs at these institutions,
which have had to cope with millions of dollars in damages.)

More good news: Restaurants are reopening, and Pinckley and I, along
with hordes of other foodies, have enjoyed patronizing favorite
haunts again, not only to enjoy favorite dishes but also to greet
friends on the staff and among fellow diners. I can't help thinking
that it's a reverse version of the last scene in "The Cherry
Orchard," in which Madame Ranevskaya runs around her beloved home,
trying to absorb everything before being evicted. In New Orleans,
we're moving back in, and we're eating and greeting as we try to re-
establish contact with as much of our old lives as possible.

It's joyful, and very New Orleans. One pediatrician friend wonders
when people will start shaking hands again because the universal
social greeting here has become a great big hug.

Cheers,
pope.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:52 AM

December 17, 2005

Road Trip ... or The First Day of the Rest of a Life

I'm writing this from Liberty, Missouri. I'm helping Mark move to Austin, and we made it almost half way before the snow and trucks made us think it was time to turn in for the night. It's been a good day, although getting everything prepared for departure was plenty challenging. The poor cats sensed that something VERY big was afoot. Shadown climbed into the suspended ceiling above Mark's bedroom and broke one of the ceiling tiles. Sadie was staying very close to my shoulder. I purposely didn't pack my suitcase until this morning, because the emergence of suitcases from the closet throws them all into a tizzie. Since Susan has a few days remaining at home, they'll get used to our departure one person at a time. And then Ian will be there to spoil them, so hey, they're doing just fine.

Mark clearly sees this as a transition - the possibilities are very exciting. What kind of job? What to study in school? Where to live? Whom to meet, and where to meet them? There's something very liberating about leaving one's childhood home, high school friends, and customer service job for a new world ahead. What will the long-term future hold? Who knows, but it's wonderful to speculate. Austin will be an exciting, yet vaguely familiar springboard for exploring new opportunities. It's a joy to be along for this part of the ride.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:29 PM

December 19, 2005

Landed

At 5:05 pm yesterday, we crossed the border from Oklahoma into Texas. It's so strange how each state on the way down had its own climatological feel:
Minnesota - didn't notice; was too eager to get on the road (sorry, MN)
Iowa - sunny and bright, stingingly cold
Missouri - nasty snow and cold - snow came at us horizontally, lending to feeling of disorientation
Kansas - snow had largely stopped, but car and windshield took on 3 tons of slush - grit, sand, salt - and all the gas stations we stopped at had run out of windshield washer fluid
Oklahoma - still pretty cold, but skies clearing; nice to see the sun again
Texas - warmer (40s), clear big skies

There were plenty of noticeable cultural differences as well. The latest rage -- putting a custom painted mural on the tailgate of your pickup truck - one beauty had a herd of wild mustangs chasing across the tailgate; another featured the Virgin of Guadalupe. People here in Austin are just friendlier. They just are. I notice it every time I come back here, and it always takes me by surprise. At the grocery store, I asked someone in the bakery section where their gluten free breads were, and she personally escorted me over to the place, then we talked about various alternatives, which ones we liked, etc. It was a delightful conversation. Granted it was the Whole Foods world headquarters (a truly amazing store), but everyone, from the people behind the counters to those checking out, had kind words and smiles to offer. It is a noticeable difference. Maybe a little of that personal warmth would help Minnesota winters seem less grim. Garrison, where are you?

It's about 45 degrees at the moment; Christmas should be 65 and sunny. Fine by me.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:49 AM

December 20, 2005

In Memoriam, Jeremiah Fain Epstein

Even though I've lived in Minneapolis-St. Paul for over 15 years, many days can go by when I don't run into or hear about a familiar person (except of course at work or at home). But whenever I return to Austin, familiar people make themselves known immediately. On my first morning back in Austin for the holidays, I opened the newspaper to find the obituary of my favorite anthropology professor from undergraduate days, Dr. Jeremiah Fain Epstein.

I minored in anthropology and loved every minute of it. I took two exciting courses from Dr. Epstein: the Civilizations of Ancient Mexico and The Mayans. His specialty was archaeology of Mesoamerica, and he excited us with the mysteries of ancient civilizations and the research that he and others had done to try to figure out the many puzzles left behind by these enigmatic people. I still remember the paper I wrote for the Civilizations of Ancient Mexico -- it concerned the migration myths of the Aztecs. I remember spending many mornings in the Latin American collection of the library, finding source documents in Spanish that had been written by the Spanish friars of the 17th century. I recall that one focus of the paper was Huitzilopochtli, the national god of the Aztecs.

Huitzilopochtli.jpg

Of course, my Spanish was extremely limited, but it was exciting to experience what he called "primary research" - not just rehashing what others had already rehashed, but finding source documents and making them give up their secrets. I am sure that his love of research and encouragement of a humble undergraduate contributed to my seeking a research career. In fact, he was one of the three faculty who wrote me letters of recommendation for graduate school.

Obituaries are always fasincating for what they reveal about people we only knew in one dimension. The paper noted that in addition to his career teaching at UT for 34 years, "Jerry was a man of many passions - he embraced life to its fullest and never lost his curiosity. He was an accomplished squash player, saliboat racer and flamenco guitar player, as well as a recognized metal art sculptor."

It was a privilege to have been one of his students; I'm sorry I never had the opportunity to tell him I had passed on his excitement about research to my students. Maybe he'll be reading this...... Thanks, Dr. Epstein

Posted by hgroteva at 6:06 AM

December 21, 2005

Christmas Presents for New Orleans

Dear Friends - Earlier this month, I posted a note from my friend John Pope in New Orleans about the very real needs that his city is facing. I just received the note below from pope and his wife Diana Pinckley, containing some concrete suggestions for people who might want to support New Orleans. I hope you will take it to heart. - HG


New Orleans has many needs, and there are many very specific things you can do right now to help preserve our culture and our people. Here are just a few that we can wholeheartedly recommend. We’ve even included a New Orleans shopping site that you’ll love. Your investment in us will pay off – in our music, our food, our history, our architecture and all the other parts of New Orleans you have come to enjoy.

Thanks to all of you for your amazing love and support!


New Orleans Public Library Foundation
www.nutrias.org
Only three of 13 libraries are open, on a severely truncated schedule. You can see damage to some of the buildings on the library’s Web site – www.nutrias.org. Floodwater and carpets of mold have ruined the collections in the eight destroyed branches, and books were seen floating down the street. More than 90 percent of the staff has been laid off , and the entire system is now operating with only 19 employees. Amazingly, most of the Louisiana Division’s irreplaceable documents and artifacts survived undamaged, despite being housed below ground. The loss of these collections would have been devastating to scholars across the nation and the world.

More than 1,000 people a week are using the library and its resources – books, Internet access and staff expertise. The New Orleans Public Library has always served a high number of reference users, but the nature of their inquiries has changed. A librarian has reported: For every patron asking for directions or the phone book, there are three more trying to locate loved ones or seeking recourse from rent-gouging landlords. …We have found that during these times, the public’s need for information about community and government relief services is great. It is gratifying to fill this vital need.

The library desperately needs money, though donations of books are also accepted. The books will likely be sold at a weekly Wednesday book sale in the portico of the closed Latter Library, with revenues going to help support staff and rebuilding needs.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana
http://no-hunger.org/
Since Katrina made landfall, Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana has distributed more than 27 million pounds of food and supplies to people in need in the hurricane-affected areas. This distribution is already 46 percent more than the entire distribution all last year, and this figure is a few weeks old. The demand will only grow as individuals exhaust other government-sponsored resources early in the year.

Stephen Ministry
www.stephenministries.org
Stephen Ministry is a program that trains members of congregations, crossing denominational lines, to provide one-to-one Christian care to those in personal stress or crisis – people who are bereaved, hospitalized, terminally ill, unemployed, relocated, or facing another life challenge. In short, it has never been needed more desperately by more people than now, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. For information about New Orleans activities and how to support them, contact Leila Schumacher, leilasch@bellsouth.net

New Orleans City Park
www.neworleanscitypark.com
City Park, at 1,300 acres, is the largest park in New Orleans and one of the 10 largest in the U.S. It lost 1,000 of its 14,000 trees; all but 11 of is 260 employees were laid off in budget cuts. About 90 percent of the park was under as much as 10 feet of water, often for several weeks. The salt water killed the grass on the golf courses and many of the plants in the Botanical Garden. Nevertheless, the park has mounted a brief version of Celebration in the Oaks, a tradition of lights and joy for New Orleans families. And, yes, Mr. Bingle is part of it!

Crescent City Farmers Market
www.crescentcityfarmersmarket.org
We love going to the market - for wonderful Meyer lemons and the marmalade that Jeanette makes from them, for Jim Core’s fabulous produce, for Kay’s shrimp and Jeannie’s catfish and Mary’s pastries and Mrs. Chauvin’s pies. And Mr. Clarence’s plants, of course. It’s a meeting place, a mentor and a model. The farmers and fishers of the area have taken a blow, and now the market is mobilizing its community and its resources to help them. You can, too. To get involved in our new “crop circles? giving program, and to find out about how the market can help in the rebuilding of our community, contact Richard McCarthy IV, Executive Director, mccarthy@loyno.edu

Louisiana SPCA
www.la-spca.org/education
The organization evacuated hundreds of animals safely to Texas before the storm. Its Lower Ninth Ward building was destroyed, so staff is operating from temporary quarters in Algiers. Just after the storm, staff and dedicated volunteers did an amazing job of rescuing animals and reuniting them with their owners, while taking undeserved heat for the over-the-top actions of rogue “rescuers.? The work continues. For those of you who know her, our calico cat Emma was an SPCA resident before she came to Wilow Street

Best Friends Animal Society
www.bestfriends.org
This group has worked diligently to reunite pets with their owners, wherever either might be across the nation. It worked with other groups on a reunion web search this weekend that – by the number of cars parked on the neutral ground outside the Garden District Hotel – attracted hundreds of pet owners.

WWOZ
www.wwoz.org
WWOZ is the voice of New Orleans music – a listener-supported, volunteer-operated radio station that just returned from exile – first in New Jersey and then in Baton Rouge – back to studio space in the French Market. The station says it best itself: “ Playing blues, jazz, Cajun, zydeco, gospel, Latin, Brazilian, Caribbean and a whole lot more, WWOZ keeps the music and heritage of the Crescent City alive and loud.?

Tipitina’s Foundation
www.Tipitinas.com
The legendary music club’s foundation provides the music community with the resources its members need to survive, including clothes, gigs, instruments and housing. A great many options for support are available.

Preservation Resource Center
www.prcno.org
The Center promotes the preservation and renewal of New Orleans neighborhoods through its architecture. Its staff and specialists have been especially active in offering seminars on navigating the bureaucracy, mitigating the mold, and leqrning general issues of dealing with all aspects of bringing back damaged houses, not tearing them down. They’ve also been handing out buckets and mops and clean-up kits – very handy in the circumstances.

I-10 Witness Project
www.i10witness.org
The project collects oral histories of Hurricane Katrina from citizens, public officials, soldiers, health workers, shelter residents and at least one reporter that you all know well (though his interview isn’t posted on the site yet). The recorded interviews are available on the Web site and will be archived at local universities and public libraries for widespread public access.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation
www.FoundationsforRecovery.org
The Greater New Orleans Foundation
www.gnof.org

Foundations for Recovery provides resources for immediate needs of evacuees in the Baton Rouge area, and it will contribute to the rebuilding of human services in Greater New Orleans. The Greater New Orleans Foundation offers the Rebuild New Orleans Fund focused on excellence in education, economic expansion, job training, affordable housing, neighborhood development, race and equity, and sustaining and developing nonprofit capacity.

And finally, just for fun…and for ways to get a little retail therapy for those post- (or mid-) holiday blues…

www.shopforneworleans.com/

A Web link to New Orleans shopping. We can especially recommend Blue Frog Chocolates and Louisiania Music Factory, among many, many others.

Love, cheer and gratitude!

Pinckley and pope

Posted by hgroteva at 6:39 AM

JSB on the BBC

Thanks to "Music Notes" for the reminder this morning that BBC3 is currently broadcasting the entire works of J.S. Bach, running from December 16 through Christmas Day. The special web page for the extravaganza is here. It also includes contests, trivia, and the place to tune in. Enjoy!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:46 AM

December 22, 2005

March of the Penguins

Rented "March of the Penguins" on DVD last night. The movie is amazing on so many levels. The stars of the show, of course, are the Emperor Penguins of Antarctica. In fact, they are the whole show (along with Morgan Freeman's perfect narrating voice and a "busy" but supportive soundtrack.) But oh, those penguins. I won't go into detail here - I'm sure there are many thorough reviews online - but if you haven't seen it, I urge you to do so. It is an awesome tribute to life, a wonderful statement about the non-incidental role that fathers play in families, and a vivid lesson in Darwinian evolution. We were spellbound; no one moved until the end of the movie. On the DVD, there's also a special feature narrated by the French guys who made the film, showing how they did it and what their lives were like for the year during which they were filming. I'm sure we'll be viewing it again during the holidays.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:09 AM

December 25, 2005

Today

Today's editorial from the New York Times, entitled December 25, says it all. Here is the link. The article is reprinted below.

You don't really have to be in the mood for the Fourth of July. No one ever talks about having that Memorial Day spirit. Even Thanksgiving can be distilled, without too much disrespect. But Christmas is something different. Feeling is the point of it, somewhere under all that shopping. To think of Scrooge is to think of his conversion, the cartwheeling of his emotions after his long night of the soul. But the more interesting part of the story is his dogged resistance to feeling the way everyone thinks he's supposed to feel - about death, about charity, about prize turkeys hanging at the poulterer's.

Most of us know how we want to feel this time of year, whatever holiday we are celebrating. We want to feel safe, loving and well loved, well fed, openhanded, and able to be moved by the powerful but very humble stories that gather in this season. We would like to feel that there is a kind of innocence, not in our hearts, since our hearts are such complicated places, but in the very gestures and rituals of late December. We would like to feel that we are returning to something unchanged, some still spot in a spinning world. Whether you believe with an absolute literalism or with a more analogic faith, whether you believe at all, whether you are Christian or Jewish or Muslim or merely human, the word we would like to feel most profoundly now is Peace.

It's easy enough to be cynical about the things we would like to feel here at the dark end of the year, to dismiss them out of hand as if they were only the battery-powered, sugar-coated, marzipan dreams of a child's holiday. Life is too tough, too embattled for such sentimentality. That is Scrooge's point exactly: no use pretending the world isn't exactly the way it is. One of the reasons we love to hear the story of an old crank like Scrooge is that he seems to embody this cracked old world, made whole in one night by regret and repentance.

One night will not do it, nor will one day. Peace does not simply appear in the sky overhead or lie embodied one morning in a manger. We come into this season knowing how we want it to make us feel, and we are usually disappointed because humans never cease to be human. But we are right to remember how we would like to feel. We are right to long for peace and good will.


Posted by hgroteva at 9:03 AM

Optimism

This morning's Austin American Statesman ran a section about "Quiet Generosity: These central Texans give their time and talent to make, keep our region beautiful." I was drawn to the article about Steve Bewsey, LifeWorks director of housing and homelessness. Mr. Bewsey helps street kids, many of whom have aged out of the foster care system, with their transition to adulthood - finding a place to live, a job, a person who cares. "Kids believe in him because he doesn't judge them and doesn't give up on them." It continues, "Does he get discouraged? 'Yes, but it goes away fast. I just don't have the time for it. Optimism is fun.' " Steve, thanks for the inspiration - Let's hold that thought in the year ahead!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:15 AM

December 27, 2005

81 and Sunny

It hit a record high of 81 here in Austin yesterday. 83 is forecast for today, and then a "cold front" blows through, bringing the highs down into the 70s. Sigh! We head home tomorrow, back to the cold (although Mpls seems to be experiencing a "warm spell" in the past week - it's all relative, isn't it?)

Today's American Statesman included an editorial that fits with some of my recent posts on homelessness, health care, and social justice issues. Read the full editorial here. The article discussed a major effort being undertaken by Austin clergy to address social and economic disparities. It drew a useful distinction between charity and justice. "Charity is private, individual acts. Justice is public, collective actions. Charity responds to immediate need. Justice responds to long-term need. Charity provides direct services such as food, shelter and clothing. Justice promotes social change in institutions. Both charity and justice are needed." It quoted Dom Helder Camara, the late Catholic bishop of Recife, Brazil, who said: "If I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist."

This makes me think about the new Family Policy interdisciplinary doctoral minor at the university as well as some of the emerging efforts of the university's Children, Youth, and Family Consortium. I'm optimistic that some of the insights that grow from these efforts will ultimately be used to further social justice. And it seems quite fitting that one of the "themes of distinction" of the newly re-configured college that will combine the Department of Family Social Science, School of Social Work, General College, and College of Education and Human Development is "social justice and diversity." Let's make it real.


Posted by hgroteva at 10:06 AM

December 28, 2005

Farewell to Austin

We're returning to the frozen north in a few short hours - Mark and I went to Zilker Park tonight (after taking Drake for a run and swim at Town Lake, playing ball with Reid in the back yard, and eating barbeque at the County Line) to see the famous Zilker Park Christmas tree - it was worth the trip. Enjoy, everyone - and wishes for peace in the new year.

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Posted by hgroteva at 12:23 AM

December 30, 2005

Winter in Minnesota

Memories of the 75 degree days in Austin are quickly fading as Minnesota becomes covered in snow. We've had steady snow for over 12 hours now since about midnight, with no end in sight. By the time the snow stops (this time), we will have accumulated almost as much as we got all of last winter (which was way below average.) Since Minnesota always strives to be above average, this is pay back time. But I have to admit, when I don't have to drag out into the traffic and shovel my way out of the driveway, it can be quite beautiful and peaceful. These two shots are from a tree by our driveway and a view of our back yard.

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Posted by hgroteva at 2:10 PM