U.S. President Barack Obama signs the health insurance reform bill as Marcelas Owens looks on in the East Room at the White House in Washington, March 23, 2010. Owens lost his mother to illness before the healthcare legislation passed.
US President Barack Obama, surrounded by lawmakers and supporters, signs the healthcare insurance reform legislation during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 23, 2010.
What a day. It took a lot of work in the midst of a lot of noise, but health insurance reform is now reality. I never saw the President's endgame clearly, but what an endgame.
And like her or not, Nancy Pelosi deserves a long and thunderous standing ovation. She delivered what no man before her could.
FOR TWO years, they didn't have garden-fresh collard greens.
For all of my childhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, my father grew a small garden in our back yard that yielded incredible produce. We didn't call it organic gardening back then. There was no need for such a description. It was what it was: gardening. No chemical fertilizers, no pesticides.
Well. Almost. One year -- I can't remember how old I was but I was in elementary school -- the insects were so bad, my father chose to shake garden dust over all his yet-to-fruit tomato plants, which were being devoured by hornworms. He cried. He was afraid he would poison his family. Afraid that we would starve if we didn't have any tomatoes to eat fresh or can for later so he chose drastic action. But he left alone the collards and other leafy greens. "I can't shake no dust on those. They go directly into our mouths, so we're going to have to pick the bugs off with our fingers."
Summer 2009, I stood amidst my collards in one of the many gardens on our 25-acre organic farm in central Maine talking to my pregnant sister on the phone. I told Gina that my collards weren't growing as well as I'd like. That because of the unceasing rain the insects were winning.
That's when she told me.
In the last two years of our father's life, when the pancreatic cancer made him too weak to tend his garden, she and my mother had no fresh collards. The rose chafers, Japanese beetles, cabbage worms and whatever else loves this bittersweet brassica had devoured the leaves down to skeletons.
"He simply had no energy, Craig. And we couldn't help because it would have been an admission that we knew he was sick, and since he never told us, we couldn't let him know that we knew."
I simply could not fathom my family back home in Milwaukee went two years without Daddy's collards. Could not fathom why my sister had never told me about it till just then. Could not fathom why my mother had never told me about it at all.
I stood amidst my insect-infested collards and wept.
Losing my father on March 14, 2007, a month to the day after he turned 87, began the most transformative right of passage in my life to date. The man who taught me about discipline, respect, honor, dignity; about how to rise up after being knocked down; how to dream great dreams; how to love; how to live had left this world and left a hole in my soul as big as the lake on which my farm sits.
Two years later, in early spring, when I finally came up from under, I saw my father walk from the side of the road right up the gravel driveway and into our house. I don’t know if I was sleeping or awake, but I saw him nonetheless. Later that day, I stood before the unquilted stretch of land and told my husband of my plans to become a bona fide farmer. He thought I was crazy. Said it was too much. That I'd never keep to it.
Love a challenge. If you tell me I can't do something, I'm determined to prove you wrong.
Five months later, I opened a farm stand on the side of the road right in front of our house and began selling the succulent vegetables our land offered up.
Now, I'm addicted to growing things. I've turned a mere half-acre of our farm into a sweep of organic gardens. Composted manure from around the barnyard, a small tiller for cultivation, a few farm hands, a garden rake, hoe and pitchfork, a mosquito net as necessary (which is always, much as those critters love me), and as many daylight hours as the sun above can muster is all we count on to produce our harvest.
Now, I can't stop opening a new patch of earth to plant some new variety of heirloom tomatoes to round out the cornucopia from Annabessacook Farm: arugula, beets, Belgian endive, collards, kale, mesclun, mustard greens, romaine, Swiss chard, spinach, turnips, corn (the sweetest in the area, say my customers), carrots, celery, fennel, golden beets, radish, basil, chives, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, leeks, onions, scallions, blackeye peas, okra, green beans, soybeans, sugar peas, several varieties of peppers, summer squash, winter squash, gourds, pumpkins, cucumbers, eggplant, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, wild black raspberries, cantaloupe, honey dew, watermelon, and anything else I can trick to grow in this northern climate. Can't stop. As though all the energy my father didn't have at the end of his life has fueled me to work from sun up to sundown, planting, weeding, hauling, turning, picking, packaging, selling. Eating.
I'm even making fresh cheese and yogurt and ice cream from the goat milk hubby massages out of our goat every evening after his day job. Baking breads and quiches and pies and cakes and hearty cereals. Preparing meals for B&B guests, private dinner banquets for neighbors and friends.
And we’ve got two new greenhouses. Can't wait to see what they can produce in winter. Before long, we’ll be growing our own wheat, making our own honey, and slaughtering our own meat.
I stand on my father's shoulders. He whispers music over mine as I open the earth, loving her--tenderly, deeply, desperately--and whisks mosquitoes away from my ears so I can hear his music more clearly.
He shows me the way.
I've never been more committed to anything in my life. Never been happier. There is simply nothing like living off the land and nothing simpler. Knowing exactly where your food comes from because you produce it yourself.
My customers appreciate every bag of spinach, jar of yogurt, crown of broccoli they get from here. And I appreciate them. Their concerns and requests, their own gardening triumphs and failures. Our exchange of ideas and recipes and tricks. I never would have imagined I would become such an integral part of a local food chain. Never would have imagined I could sell thousands of dollars of organic produce and prepared foods in a single season without vending at a farmer’s market or supplying a restaurant. Never would have imagined folks would stop by simply to thank me for doing what I do even though they buy their produce at another local farm. I think now of Michael Pollan's words from his must-read book In Defense Of Food, “In a short food chain… [f]ood reclaims its story, and some of its nobility, when the person who grew it hands it to you.”
So when I told one of our regular customers the story of my father's collards, my sister's recent heartbreaking confession, we all shared a moment of spontaneous silence in his memory. And I swear to God, within a week, my collards were on their way to the biggest, sweetest, greenest collards I'd ever grown.
BRILLIANTLY BLESSED are those who walk with courage through the depths of their own sorrow, for they will walk also through the greatest joy and their Spirits will grow exponentially; for them, a healing will come.
A conference sponsored by the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts April 29-May 2, 2010 Official Website
Anita L. Allen, Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs, Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania Law School. Allen’s work has focused on the law and ethics of privacy and data protection, race relations and feminist philosophy. She is the author of numerous articles and several books: Privacy Law: and Society (2007); /Why Privacy Isn’t Everything: Feminist Reflections on Personal Accountability ,/ (Rowman and Littlefield, 2003); /Uneasy Access: Privacy for Women in a Free Society / (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, l988) and /The New Ethics: A Guided Tour of the 21st Century Moral Landscape/ (Miramax Books/distributed by Hyperion Books, 2004). Ann Fessler is an installation artist, filmmaker, adoptee and author of /The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade . /(The Penguin Press, 2006) based on oral history interviews she conducted between 2002 and 2005 with surrendering mothers across the country. In 2008 Fessler received the Ballard Book Prize given annually to a female author who advances the dialogue about women's rights and in 2006 her book was selected by the National Book Critics Circle as one of the top 5 nonfiction books of the year. Hear Ann Fesssler on Fresh Air . Lynn Lauber, birth mother, writer, teacher, and book collaborator, has published three books with W.W. Norton. White Girls (1990) and 21 Sugar Street (1993), both fiction, that deal with the topics of birth families and adoption. Listen to Me, Writing Life into Meaning (2003), is part memoir, part exploration of writing as self-discovery. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times and a number of anthologies. She currently teaches personal writing workshops and is writing a memoir on her experience as a birth mother. Deann Borshay Liem is Producer, Director, Writer for the Emmy Award-nominated documentary, First Person Plural (PBS 2000), Executive Producer for Spencer Nakasako’s Kelly Loves Tony (PBS 1998) and AKA Don Bonus (PBS 1996, Emmy Award), and Co-Producer for Special Circumstances (PBS, 2009) by Marianne Teleki. A Sundance Institute Fellow and a recipient of a Rockefeller Film/Video Fellowship, Deann is the Director, Producer, Writer of the new documentary, In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee , which will be broadcast nationally on PBS in Fall 2010. She is currently Executive Director of Katahdin Productions, a non-profit documentary production company based in Berkeley and Los Angeles, California. Learn more about DeAnn Borshay Liem on PBS’s Point of View. Other speakers include Marla Brettschneider, Naomi Cahn, Maryanne Cohen, Marley Greiner, Meredith Hall, Craig Hickman, Margaret Homans, Liberty Hultberg, B J Lifton, Kate Livingston, Karen McElmurray, Marianne Novy, Joyce Maguire Pavao, Adam Pertman, John Raible, Lisa Marie Rollins, Elizabeth Samuels, Sarah Tobias. There will be a day of documentary films on Thursday, beginning with Sheila Ganz's film in progress Moms Living Clean. Panels later in the conference will cover topics such as: Secrecy and Policy; Lesbian/gay Secrecy Issues and Adoption; Complications of Search, Reunion and Aftermath; Transnational Adoption as Immigration Policy; Secrecy and Adoption: Historical Perspectives on the U.S., Europe, and Asia after World War II; Birthmothers: Agency and Activism; Biological Preference Critiqued and Analyzed; Secrecy and Openness: Legal Issues; Transracial Adoption in Contemporary American Literature; Adoptive Parents, Race, Difference. There will also be an evening of creative writing and performance on Friday, 4/30/10, featuring Lisa Marie Rollins; this evening and all keynotes are free and open to the public. All sessions free to MIT affiliates, and special rates are available for non-MIT students and the un/underemployed. For more information, visit our website or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org . Sponsored by Mass Humanities; MIT Office of the Dean of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, Literature Section, Program in Women's and Gender Studies; University of New Hampshire Center for the Humanities, College of Liberal Arts, Philosophy Department; Rutgers-Camden, Department of English; University of Pittsburgh Department of English
YEAH, I KNOW. The biggest headlines of the day are that a woman now holds an Academy Award for Best Director. And deservedly so. I was stunned to see her standing there with that gold thing in her hand. Kathyrn Bigelow, acclaimed director of The Hurt Locker broke that glass ceiling, defeating her ex-husband for the same award in the process, and took the statue from the hands of Barbra Streisand who many thought got snubbed for her work behind the camera in both Yentl and The Prince Of Tides. I'd say that was more true of the latter than the former.
But I digress.
Geoffrey Fletcher made history last night, too. And while Bigelow's award was stunning, Fletcher's award was downright shocking.
The 39-year-old New London, Connecticut, native was a surprise winner for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Conventional wisdom put the award in the hands of "Up In The Air" writers Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner who had won a Golden Globe for their work.
Fletcher wasn't even nominated for what has become an accurate precursor to the Oscars.
As Fletcher spoke, I moved to the front of my seat and realized that he looked familiar to me. More familiar than just a passing thought that I'd seen him somewhere before. Turns out he's the younger brother of Todd Fletcher, an a capella singer at Harvard when I attended, who's the younger brother of the renowned investment banker Alphonso "Buddy" Fletcher, Jr. I met the two younger brothers only once, which meant that I had actually shaken the hand of the man who would become the first Black writer to win an Academy Award.
One of those moments.
If only Spike Lee had been able to present him the award.
I didn't want a single frame of a single film nominated for a single award this year, but it was nice to watch so much history nonetheless.
And Mo'Nique was simply glorious. Paying tribute to Hattie McDaniel, the first Black woman to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Gone With The Wind 60 years ago, she delivered another emotional wallop of a speech. Mo'Nique even wore a royal blue dress and a flower in her hair, just as McDaniel did when she won. Mo'Nique who's performance as an abusive mother in Precious Based On The Novel Push by Sapphire was apparently so riveting, every single person who saw it quipped that if she didn't win an Oscar, they should just stop giving them out. She becomes the fifth Black woman to win an acting award. Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), Halle Berry (Monsters Ball), the only Black woman to win Best Actress, and Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost) are the others.
BACK AT HARVARD, when I was the music director of the Callbacks, my college co-ed a capella singing group, I was flipping through radio stations on a Sunday morning and I heard this tune. It was love at first sound. No group executes harmonies this tight. A first tenor myself, I couldn't even conceive of some of those high notes. What a finale.