* Eating Crow

I happened upon a really amazing parenting story yesterday via finslippy, and I am seriously humbled. To sum it up, it is one mother's account of her decision to put her son on Ritalin. And I applaud her wholeheartedly. But you really should read her whole story, because it's extremely honest and well-written and dammit, it made me cry.

Which makes me realize that I need to be aware of my prejudices and more careful about my judgments. Although I'm still not convinced that Hercules would be better off with Ritalin, that doesn't mean that there aren't children out there who have benefitted from meds, and many parents are experiencing a whole new level of joy in parenting because of it.

And now there's this nagging voice inside of me that is wondering if I am denying my son the benefits of a normal life by not considering medication. It's a shadow of a doubt, but it's there. When I look at all the progress that he's made without meds, I am encouraged. Then again, our struggles are far from over. In spite of all our coaching and therapy, the one thing that has not diminished whatsoever is Rio's absolute lack of impulse control. None. Zero. Zilch. That is why taking him to the grocery store is such a harrowing ordeal. Or why I would rather miss out on various social functions and local events than to try and bring Hercules along. Because it's just not worth the aggravation. And yes, I'm sorry to say that I do harbor some resentment for that and no, I'm not proud of it. And can I just say that I'm very, very tired of people telling me, Sure, just bring him along! There'll be other kids there! It's not a big deal! And then they are so, so sorry they ever said that. Because Hercules is just not like those other calm, cooperative, well-behaved children. And I really don't need another reason to feel like the worst parent in the room. And dammit, I'm crying all over again!

It seems that second-guessing goes hand-in-hand with motherhood. My objection to meds is that first, I suspect that ADD/ADHD are over-diagnosed and used as a crutch for lazy parents, overworked teachers, and pharmophile doctors (yes, I just made that word up). Second, I wonder if medicating a child teaches him not to take responsibility for his behavior, and to develop a life-long chemical dependency. I like to believe that Hercules will be more empowered in the long run if he learns to regulate his emotions and behavior on his own. I've already accepted the fact that this is going to be the more difficult option, versus meds, but I like to think the long-term pay off will be worth it. That remains to be seen.

However, I have already allowed myself the possibility that meds may be an option a couple of years down the road IF all our other interventions don't yield any measurable results. I'm still clinging to the hope that a lot of Rio's issues are related to emotional immaturity, and it's very likely that he'll grow out of it someday. But let me be clear, if he's 10 years old and I still cannot take him to the grocery store without, ahem, medicating myself first - you bet your ass I'll put him on meds.

I think the lesson to be learned from all this is that we all need to stop judging parents, particularly mothers, who may choose to do things differently than we do. Because there is no single technique that works for all children. Every child is unique, and some are far more challenging than others for a variety of reasons. So the next time you see a kid kicking and screaming on the floor in the grocery store, don't shake your head and roll your eyes. Instead, say a little prayer for the kid and the mom. They need all the blessings they can get.

* Breaking

I know this is a crappy photo, but it does show Hercules breaking a board with his hand. Yep! That's my Mighty Hercules! He took his belt test for his yellow stripe on Saturday, his first test since beginning Tae Kwon Do in the spring. He did great, although he did show some nervousness at times. At the end, all the students of every belt rank had an opportunity to get graded for breaking, as in breaking a board with either their foot or their hand, or both. Hercules was particularly impressed with one fellow who did a flying sidekick and broke 4 boards. Dude! I didn't actually expect Rio to try it, since this is not something that they've ever done in his class. But they gave him a shot at it, and of course Hercules wasn't about to pass up a chance to break something! With his bare hands!

While all the other students carefully did several practice maneuvers before they actually attempted their break, Rio had other ideas. Well, at first he was more careful about his kick, making sure his foot would hit the center of board. On the third try he actually gave it his full force and it snapped in two. I think that gave him such a rush that he saw no need to practice on his hand break. As soon as they set up his board on the concrete blocks, he gave it one swift CHOP! and it was history. Which is why the photo above is so blurry. I really didn't expect him to do it right that instant. Silly me.

Now the only problem is that Hercules sees every flat, wooden object as a target. We took him downtown to the Festival of the Arts on Saturday and he was trying to take out all the sign boards with the handy maps. We quickly established some ground rules on the breaking of wood.

In other news, I got my first not-so-good report from Rio's teacher this week. He's apparently been rather "argumentative and disrespectful." Ah yes, the dark side of Hercules. He can be one defiant little sh*t, that little love of mine. I just finished a long email to her with some suggestions. But whenever I write those letters (because this was not the first, oh no), I feel as though my suggestions seem pretty weak. Like "try to approach him as an advocate, not an adversary", or "try to prevent his frustrated outbursts before they happen." Duh. And as if that were so simple! As if that didn't require constant vigilance! The truth is, I'm always humbled whenever a teacher asks me how to deal with Rio's herculean behavior, as if I had all the answers! HA! I've always been hoping that these professionals - teachers, principals, counselors - would teach me a thing or two. You know, a Magic Formula for turning even the most defiant, aggressive warrior child into a submissive, compliant happy learner! Hurray!

But then I realize, there is a Magic Formula. It's called Ritalin. And then I realize, I wouldn't change my Hercules for a happy learner EVER. Well, ok, maybe I've had my weak moments. But not today!

Oh, and one last thing. I had to share this bit of comedy, because you can't be too careful these days.

* Ideas brewing

A coworker sent me a link to this article today, and I just wanted to pass it along, since it seems to be a growing problem. The gist of it is that more and more children are being expelled from their preschools for behavior that isn't all that out of the ordinary for kids that age.

Although Hercules was never expelled from a preschool, he had plenty of problems during those years. In fact, the first place he went to when he was 2 was a home-based childcare arrangement, and after a few months the woman very politely asked me to find another place for Rio, saying he was just "too much" for her to handle anymore, and she had more infants in her care than previously. His next daycare gave me a lot of grief because he wasn't potty-trained on their schedule. It was highly reminiscent of this portion of the article:

Kyle DeNigris, 5, had exhibited some aggressive tendencies before arriving at Kangaroo's Korner a few years back. Mom Raquel says that at his previous center, Kyle was placed with younger children because he wasn't yet potty-trained. As a result, "he was bored, and so he acted out," she says.
Potty-training Hercules was a long, laborious process and no one wanted to see him out of diapers more than I did. But I was pretty sure that holding him back with smaller, slower, more fragile children wasn't the right answer. Fortunately, I moved away and we found a new preschool before the issue escalated. Unfortunately, his next preschool had their own way of dealing with discipline problems: pinching.

Rio's preschool years were extremely difficult, and I was often meeting with his childcare providers on ways to deal with his behavior (we moved around a lot, which probably didn't help). They were always asking me for ideas as to how to handle him, while I was always hoping they could give me some pointers. I mean, they are supposed to be the professionals! I'm at my wit's end here, people! His last preschool, a Head Start Center, was more willing than anyone to work on a solution to his problems. They also warned me that Kindergarten was going to be tough for Hercules. That turned out to be a prophetic understatement.

Hercules has come a long way since then, but we still have more obstacles ahead. My experience has caused me to question the expectations we have for young children in schools, and the environment/society in which we are raising our kids. All this has recently prompted me to consider a possible project for the future, which seems rather unattainable at the moment, but one that I hope to pursue someday, somehow, depending on how the universe unfolds in the meanwhile. But I have been thinking about starting an after-school program for kids with behavioral problems, such as kids with ADD/ADHD. It would be a program based on outdoor activities, with play-centered learning opportunities as the focus. But there would be NO television, video games, or any activity that involved sitting still.

If I had more credentials as a child educator, I would consider opening a full-time school for such kids, but I have none. Even my credentials in Outdoor Education are shaky at best, but I think I could make a pretty good case for it. The other catch is that I don't just want to make this service available to upper middle class families who can afford to pay for after-school care. On the contrary, I want to be able to serve low-income kids who are most likely to get the shaft when it comes to special needs and services in public schools. But I also would like to get paid for my efforts, so I figure I'm looking at grant funding. Which means I need some credentials. This could get complicated.

Not to mention the fact that all of this involves me quitting my day job, relinquishing my benefits and becoming self-employed. Which is actually a very real goal of mine, but not one that I expect to be able to pull off nearly as soon as I would like. And what happens when my husband is ready to start his business? Then who will provide our health insurance? There are a lot of complications indeed. I've got a lot of research to do. We'll see if anything materializes. Wish me luck!

* Dreaded Words . . .

New Do
Head lice. Yep. I got a call from the school nurse yesterday. Hercules had 'em bad. It was pretty gross. And humiliating. How could I have missed them?? I'm the one who washes his hair! But it never occurred to me to look for them, and you really have to be looking for them, the nasty little critters.

Anyway, Hercules is now sporting a new do, and he seems pretty pleased with the results of the whole ordeal. The treatment was successful, and he's back at school today lice-free. Now I've got some laundry to do . . .

Here's another pic of Rio with his mohawk. The first one makes him look like he has no neck, but he had to have those bunny ears, so there it is. This next one is rather dashing, me thinks, even if it is a little dark. It was so much brighter on my Mac, I swear! If only everyone had a Mac, the world would be a happier place;)
Tough Guy

* Happy Learner?

Yesterday while I was at the library I ran into the mother of one of Rio's former classmates. She asked about Rio and his new school (Rio is always well-known by everyone, everywhere he goes), and I told her the good news. The conversation progressed, and we talked about Rio's old school. I realized that she had no idea that Rio had been kicked out, and she was shocked when I told her. She then informed me that Jezebel, the other "problem child" in Rio's class, had been held back a year.

I wonder if they would have tried to hold Rio back, if he had stayed. Thank God he got out. Poor Jezebel.

This mom had a very high opinion of that school, so it was hard for her to believe my story. But her daughter is a Happy Learner (that principal's favorite buzz phrase - still makes me cringe), so she's never had any problems with the administration. She's never had to go to bat for her kid to keep her off meds or from getting expelled. But she did say that she has a son in preschool who's just the opposite of her daughter, i.e., more like Hercules, and she and her husband are already beginning to wonder how he'll fare in school. Let's just hope they teach him how to be a Happy Learner, or he won't last long, at least not at that school.

Meanwhile, young Hercules is still learning to resolve playground conflicts peacefully. Lately he seems to be suffering from a vigilante complex, in which he feels obligated to swoop in and rescue any child who's being manhandled by ruffians. Unfortunately, sometimes it's just a couple of kids playing around and no rescue is needed, so when Rio shows up all fire and brimstone, it's trouble. Even when the offense is real, Hercules hasn't yet mastered the art of nonviolent conflict resolution, either. Tact? No chance.

So when Hercules sees what he perceives as bullying, the perpetrator is usually wrestled to the ground in short order. And then Rio gets pretty pissed off when he's the one who has to sit out the rest of recess. His counselor and I have been teaching him alternative approaches, and slowly it seems to be sinking in. But it's going to take some time before Hercules learns to resist that instinct to whoop ass.

Not to mention what happens when Hercules is targeted by playground thugs. You know the type, they steal your ball away from you in the middle of your best game, they block the stairs to the playground equipment, they reek of anarchy! Yeah, thugs! And unfortunately, the thugs are wiser and more calculating than the very impulsive, though generally benign, Hercules. While the thugs never lay a hand on Hercules while they torment him ruthlessly, Hercules always throws the first punch. And those clever thugs, they go straight to the teacher. "HE HIT ME!!"

Which always gets a much more passionate response than, say, "Teacher, those kids won't let me play on the equipment!" Or, "Teacher, those kids stole my ball!" Because we've been trying to teach Hercules to get a teacher involved rather than taking matters into his own hands. However, this approach seldom works to Rio's satisfaction. He wants the bad guys to go to jail, every time. And he's tired of taking the rap for the bad guys. We've also been teaching him to "use his words" - you know, talk things over. No need to resort to aggression, this is not an international dispute! Let's talk about our problem and try to come up with a solution. This is a great theory, but in practice it absolutely requires the intervention of an adult. And on the playground there's never an adult around when you need one. Have you ever seen two six year olds try to talk through their problem? It's kinda like watching a political debate on Fox News. It quickly devolves into a screaming fit of name-calling. No, six-year-olds (not to mention many adults) just don't have the maturity. Not that that will stop me from teaching young Hercules this approach, mind you. God forbid he should grow up to be like Bill O'Reilly. I pity his mother.

But I digress. Of course it's worthwhile to teach these skills to Hercules, even though he may not be mature enough to implement them on his own yet, we're laying the groundwork. And despite these playground conflicts, Hercules has made great strides at school. I'm just pleased that he's able to succeed in the classroom for now. The rest will come in time.

OK, this day is nearly over and the weekend begins soon! Did I mention that Hercules and I rode our bikes to school today? And it was his idea? I've been resistant, because there are a some tall, steep hills on the way to his school, and I wasn't sure we could get there in time for me to make it to work. But it seemed worth a try, and so I agreed. And we made it! That's one more way we can save on gas:) Hurray for alternative transportation!

One last note: About commenting - I thought maybe I'd finally hit the big time when I received my first comment spam(at this post), but the novelty quickly wore off. I am now receiving instant comment spam as soon I post a new entry. Therefore, I have turned on that option where you have to type the letters shown in a little box. I apologize for the inconvience. A pox on the spammers and all of their progeny! Carry on.

* Proudest Mama

I just wanted to announce that my Hercules has been doing exceptionally well in first grade so far. My Hercules! YIPPPEEEEEE!!

I ran into his teacher yesterday when I picked him up from school, and she went on and on about how great he's doing overall. He's getting his work done, he's writing stories, he's working quietly, he's an angel!

I never thought I'd see the day. At least, not so soon. I'm BURSTING with pride here, people!

In other news, Rio was up riding his bike before sunrise again today. But the best part was when he decided to clean it up. He helped himself to a rag and some soapy water and went to work on it. A little while later he came back inside and said, "Hey Mama, you can come and admire my bike now!" Which of course I did, and yes, it was shiny.

Last of all, I wanted to catch you up on the latest with K. Some of you have made some great suggestions, so here's how it worked out.

I never actually spoke to K's mom, but I did finally run into K. We talked about what happened and he told me his mother had grounded him for a few days. I let him know that I wasn't angry with him because I knew that it had been an accident. But I wanted him to learn from that incident and so we talked about why rocks are dangerous when hurtling through the air anywhere around humans or animals. He was very agreeable, and everything is back to normal, whatever normal is.

* 1972 Schwinn

1972 Schwinn
Thanks to Nana and Papa, Hercules got a new bike this weekend. Or at least, it's new to us. Because it is in fact one year older than I am. And it's the coolest bike!

Somehow we've suddenly become vintage bike collectors. It started when my neighbor offered me a bike that she never used, and I accepted. It turned out to be a 1976 English Raleigh in mint condition. It's beautiful and I've never enjoyed riding a bike as much as I do this one (and I have done a lot of biking). Then, as if that weren't enough, she pulls out another bike that she wants to get rid of - an old Schwinn Stingray, bright green and yellow with a banana seat. We gave that one to V, my middle stepson, because he was the only one without any bike whatsoever.

We had been trying for months to come up with enough bikes so that we could all go riding together as a family. After our neighbor gave us those two bikes, we had enough for all 8 of us and that was amazing! So we planned an afternoon ride on the MKT trail. All I had to do was to run down to the bike shop and get a new seat post for Rio's bike, which had been busted by his stepbrother. We had a seat for it, but the post was too big to fit in the frame and I figured it would be a simple replacement. But I figured wrong.

Two hours and two bikeshops later, I came home with a very sad excuse for a seat post. It turns out that seat posts and frames come in a bazillion sizes, and matching them can be very difficult if the parts are not manufactured by a major brand. Naturally, Rio's bike was a cheap department store variety (we got it from freecycle some time ago) and the parts were non-standard. The first bike shop couldn't help me, but they referred me to a used bike shop that just opened in town, and the kind gentleman there did his best to help me out. He at least found a post small enough to slide into the frame, but it was a loose fit and the seat rotated. I desperately asked him if we could just duct tape it or something so it would be good enough for now. So he shimmied the post with some aluminum from a soda can and then taped the rest. I brought it home to Rio, wondering how long it would last.

Well, the seat came loose about 10 minutes after we started our ride, when Rio attempted to navigate a steep downhill path with a sharp turn. He didn't make the turn and went flying into the underbrush. He emerged tearful but intact, and his seat was all askew. We straightened it out as best we could and he managed pretty well for the rest of the ride. But it was not a long-term solution.

I was getting very enthusiastic about our family bike trips, so I really wanted Rio to have a bike. And the one good thing to come out of my search for a seat post was my discovery of that used bike shop. The owner of the shop collects, sells, and trades vintage bikes, and he had some beauties. While he was messing with Rio's bike that day, I was telling him about our newly acquired classics and he oohed and aaahed appreciatively. And I had a chance to browse his selection, which included some very reasonably priced children's bikes.

Convincing Papa that Hercules should have a bike of his own was easy, but it took a little more persuasion to convince him that a Wal-mart bike was not the way to go. He was agreeable, though, and in the end even more generous than I hoped. Which I should really come to expect from him, since there's nothing he won't do for his Rio. So on Saturday we went back to the used bike shop and sure enough, we found the perfect bike, a 1972 Schwinn. In fact, we ended up buying 2 that day, one for Rio and another one for his next-oldest stepbrother, H, whose bike was much too small for him. So now Rio, H, and V are all sporting new classic bicycles, and they are beaming with pride. Now they want to ride their bikes all the time, which is great and I'm happy to encourage that activity anytime! In fact, this morning Rio was out of the house at 6 am, riding his bike in the empty parking lot across the street before I was even dressed.

Here's a pic of the boys on their bikes. Are they badass or what??
Bike Gang

* Follow up

I wanted to follow up my last post with some more thoughts on the situation in my neighborhood, in general, and the situation with K, specifically.

Immediately after I took Rio inside to clean him up, one of the boys came to the window and told me that K's mother had showed up looking for him. I stepped outside to see if she was handy, but I only caught a glimpse of K on the sidewalk out front. Rio was still inside, wailing and bleeding, so I decided to deal with K and his mom later.

Later I became angry, not at K, but at his mother. K didn't mean to hurt Rio, it was an honest accident. When K's mother showed up I'm pretty sure the other kids filled her in on the incident because that's what kids do. Lots of blood impresses young boys and they love to retell that sort of story, especially when they're not culpable:) So I'm angry that she didn't immediately try to find out if Rio was okay and make K apologize. That's what I would have done, at least. And I think that's not too much to ask. Maybe she's afraid of getting sued, and she doesn't know me so she has no reason to believe that I wouldn't. Still, even if I were the litigous type, I think it would have benefitted her defense if she had done either of those things.

But it's a done deal now and Rio is fine and my anger is subsiding. I considered knocking on K's door and asking him to apologize to Rio myself. I think K needs to be taught that that's what you do when you hurt someone, intentionally or not, rather than fleeing the scene. I understand that he was scared, and I also understand that he doesn't have the mental capacity (or maturity) to make those sort of judgments on his own. I went looking for him yesterday, but I stopped short of knocking on his door. Because I'm not really sure what I want to say after I get my apology.

I'm not sure if K will be welcome at our house anymore, and I'm really wrestling with this. It would seem wise to say no, because I just can't supervise him constantly to make sure that he doesn't do something else equally foolish and dangerous as playing badminton with rocks. However, turning him away doesn't feel right either, because when he's not here then no one is paying attention to him at all, and jeez! The poor kid!

So then I wonder if I should call Family Services. I've wondered that before this incident, just because the kid is so obviously neglected. But then I wish I knew more about his mother before I make such a drastic decision. It's entirely possible that she's not around to keep track of K because she has to work two minimum-wage jobs just to make ends meet, and her useless live-in boyfriend is obviously not a reliable babysitter. It's entirely possible that she loves her simple son very much, but she doesn't have the means to pay for special services or after-school care. And it's entirely possible that if Family Services got involved, he would end up in foster care that isn't much better. There are no guarantees. The decision to yank a child from his home and family, however flawed, should not be taken lightly in my opinion.

On the other hand, it is just as possible that his mother could care less. Maybe she resents her son for being slow, and is embarrassed by him. Maybe she's an alcoholic and she drinks away her small income, special services be damned. Maybe she thinks it's just fine for her kid to wander aimlessly around the neighborhood, walking into people's houses uninvited (he's done this a number of times). Maybe she sees him as a burden, and she punishes him harshly for his errant ways. Maybe she's abusive.

Who knows? I wish I did.

I would like to offer to help. I've thought about having K come to our house after school, so he's not on his own. Trouble is, I can't take him with me everywhere I go. On three days of the week Rio and I have somewhere to be after school. It would seem kinda shitty to make K tag along for Rio's Tae Kwon Do class while he sits and watches and can't participate. I sure as hell can't afford to enroll him, and I doubt his mother can. And it would hardly be appropriate to take K along to Rio's counseling sessions, either. My hands are full (and bank account empty) just providing for my own son's needs. And even if I did have more time and money, I would at least try to use those to benefit my stepchildren.

I feel as though I'm forced into a Darwinian stance in which I have to utilize my scarce resources to ensure the well-being of my own family, at the expense of the other families in my neighborhood. And since I suffer somewhat from a Savior Complex, it goes against my grain to just ignore the problems of the people around me, especially when they are children. I have this crazy idea that I should make a difference in their lives. Crazy!

I am processing a lot of ideas right now, and I have a lot more to come on this and related topics. Stay tuned.

* The Village Model

The Scooter
Man, what a day! Sundays are always devoted to housework (what day of rest?) so the fact that I vacuumed the house, bathed the dogs, scrubbed the bathroom, and washed four loads of laundry was nothing remarkable.

However, while I was scrubbing away in the bathroom, Rio was playing with some neighborhood kids. There were three other boys, one Rio’s age and two fourth-graders. One of the older boys was K, who’s a little slow or something. I’m not sure what the clinical term for him would be, I just know that he’s not all there. He’s a good kid, but he completely lacks good judgment. And strangely, he roams the neighborhood unsupervised all the time. He’s kind of the lost puppy on the block, and he ends up at our house quite a bit on weekends.

So today Hercules and K and the other 2 boys were hanging at our place. While I flitted about doing my housework, the boys played cards, rode bikes across the street, played ball in the backyard, and built lego spaceships. In the midst of my chores I would check on them periodically, and I marveled at how smoothly they were all getting along. I was just beginning to fantasize about being the Village Mother, and how I would never have to worry about Rio at other peoples’ houses if I just made our house the coolest place to be in the neighborhood. All the kids would flock to our house, and we would have good, clean fun and I would be a radically good influence on all the little lost lambs in my rather low-income neighborhood. We could plant gardens and put on plays and organize soccer games!

Alas, my little vision was abrubtly shattered just as I was finishing up in the bathroom. I had the window open because the boys were right outside and so I knew immediately that something very bad happened when I heard Rio scream and then wail OH MY GOD OH MY GOD repeatedly. I rushed out the back door and he was sitting on the ground holding his neck and he was covered in blood, more blood than I had ever seen come out of one person. He was wearing only shorts, and his head, neck, arms, chest and stomach were a bloody mess. His shorts were soaked in blood. With all that blood I figured right away that it was a head wound, even though Rio was insisting, between his wails of OH MY GOD, that he was bleeding from his neck.

Sure enough, the oldest boy quickly filled me in on what happened. He said that K had launched a rock at Rio’s head with a badminton racket. He did not mean to direct it at Rio, but it sure did hit him hard. K was already gone, so I ran into the house to get something to clean up Rio.

When I finally cleared away all the blood, I found the cut in his head. It wasn’t really that bad, and it wasn’t bleeding anymore, either. Relieved, I had him lay down on the couch while I fixed his dinner.

So our little Hercules survived his bloody ordeal fairly well, and so did I. But my idealistic vision of being the Village Mother has taken a hit. I mean, there’s a lot kids of in my neighborhood with hard luck stories, and I feel especially inclined to look out for K because jeez, somebody needs to and his mother apparently doesn’t seem to bother. But this is not the first problem I’ve had with K, it just happens to be the most injurious. And my own child’s safety has to be my first priority. I need to somehow reconcile my desire to open my home to the neighborhood kids with the need to set boundaries in my house.

I’ve wrestled with this before, and the answer I usually arrive at doesn’t satisfy me. But the reality of the whole village model of child-rearing is that there can’t be just one Village Mother, but rather a whole village of mothers who are all pooling their resources to keep everyone’s children safe and happy. If there’s just one mother trying to raise everyone’s kids, you may be able to help some of the kids some of the time, but you also get one harried, exhausted, stressed out mama.

Which, incidentally, describes me pretty well when my 5 stepkids come over. Which really calls into question my qualifications for the role of Village Mother, I might add. Hercules plus the four boys and their uptight, control-freaky sister can really, really bring out the bitch in me, at least when I’m pre-menstrual. There’s a reason why the Native Americans had a separate teepee for hormonal women. There’s about one week of every month when I wish I had my own teepee. And so does everyone else.

* A Helping Hand

Here's a quick post regarding the recent disaster in the South. It's difficult to imagine what it must be like to lose everything overnight, to have no access to food or water, no plumbing or electricity, and then in your struggle to survive you find yourself threatened by violence, rape, and carjackings. It's even harder to believe that this is happening in our own country.

I will bite my tongue, though, and spare you my political diatribe and instead direct you to some places where you can contribute whatever you may have to help those who have lost everything.

First, you can always donate to the Red Cross.

You can also donate items such as food, clothing and blankets. Although many agencies prefer cash donations to goods due to (very good) logistical reasons, I still think that if that's all you can give (because we don't all have money to spare) then by golly, it's worth something. Here's one resource that I found on the Katrina Help Wiki:

A food bank in Louisiana is coordinating all donations of food, clothing, and personal grooming items (toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, etc.) for the entire region. They specify the best type of food to send is something that is ready to eat, like canned chili. No microwave, no stovetop. And, of course, canned or boxed is better, and they won't accept anything home-made.

Ship stuff here:

Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana
2307 Texas Avenue
Shreveport, LA 71103

You can phone them at 318-678-2400, or e-mail to info@foodbanknla.org

And if you're like me and you want to do more but you're broke, maybe can you offer a spare room or empty bed to someone who just wants to get the hell out of dodge and start their life over again someplace new. You can sign up to host hurricane victims here or here. We've registered at both of these sites, so we'll see if anyone responds to our offer.

And finally, there's a fund-raising photo auction going on at flickr over here. I've donated one of my own photos to this cause. There are some stunning photos up for bid, I encourage you to browse and make a bid or two. Not only can you add some fine art to your decor, but you can also support a good cause.

If you'd like more information about how to help, the Katrina Help Wiki is an excellent place to start. They have lots and lots of links and information.