|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
family (71 posts)
So I am overwhelmed just reading about Lou Xiaoying, the Chinese rubbish collector who rescued more than 30 abandoned babies over the course of her life. Although she lived in poverty with her husband and her own children, Lou personally raised 4 of the children and found homes for the rest. According to the Daily Mail, Lou said, "The whole thing started when I found the first baby, a little girl back in 1972 when I was out collecting rubbish. She was just lying amongst the junk on the street, abandoned. She would have died had we not rescued her and taken her in. I realized if we had strength enough to collect garbage how could we not recycle something as important as human lives."
She adopted her youngest child when she was 82.
Now, according to the Huffington Post, Lou Xiaoying is dying of kidney failure, and trying to raise money to help support her youngest children after she is gone. She is being hailed as a hero in her community, and no wonder. Any mothering has echoes of the heroic in it, but when you add extreme poverty and an even more extreme altruism, when you think of the children whose lives had no value to anyone but Lou, well, it kind of makes you want to rise to the occasion, to find the bit of Lou Xiaoying in all of us.
(Read the whole article to learn more about how China's policies have likely contributed to the large number of abandoned babies and about how you can contribute to Lou Xiaoying's family.)
The Controversy Over Older Mothers
The Baby You Have to Give Back
The first photograph dates from 1982, when the five teenagers decided to pose on a fence, showing off "dark and mysterious faces," shirtless torsos, and a pet cockroach in a jar. Though the friends went their separate ways, they regrouped for a reunion vacation five years later. Someone had the idea to recreate the photo and a tradition was born. According to CNN, "The guys all agree that this trip has been the glue that has allowed them to maintain their friendships." "I look at the photos and think of the relationships I went through. Wedding rings come and go, if you look closely," one of the men told CNN. "We plan on doing this for the rest of our lives, no matter what. Up until there's one guy just sitting in the same pose! Even then, maybe someone will take a picture of an empty bench for us."
That mental image of the empty bench gives me shivers. Think of the empty jar, sitting there, containing all of eternity instead of a cockroach! For as much as we love our photographs nowadays, as much as we all love to immediately gaze at our digital memories of a moment ago, a photograph becomes all the more eloquent when telling a story that's over, documenting a life that's changed, or gone. And the almost-extinct posed photograph has a certain evocative nature all its own. The curator of Who Were They? knows this: the blog is a moving tribute to the stories photographs tell. These pictures are kind of the negative image (to use photographic terms) of the Five Year Photo guys. Here we have the image only, and as Who Were They? blogger does we must imagine or hunt down the life story it tells. "Mrs. Marvel" writes of a grand old dame, "She has the hard face of a woman who has lived a lot of years and the sad expression of a war widow." Or sometimes Mrs. Marvel's photo collection helps to fill in a family's genealogy: "I got goose bumps when I read that Clifford had been searching for a photo of his great-great-great-aunt for 30 years. And I had one. Wow." As she writes on her blog's "About" page, Mrs. Marvel is looking for "a glimpse of those who came before us." Strange to think that some day, we will be someone else's photographic mystery.
When we capture every moment of every day, we think we're seeing more. But are we? What stories do your photos tell -- intentionally or accidentally -- about your life?
Wet Grass Photographs Prompt Thoughts on Life
How Everyone Can Be a Great Photographer
For more information on why birth defects are up in Iraq, how Preemptive Love is connecting kids with surgeons who can save their lives, and what you can do to help, visit Preemptive Love's website.
Providing School Supplies for Iraqi Children
Healing in a War Zone
The Deutsch Blog shares an email from Max's mother, in which she writes about how Max (who is also a junior ambassador of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where he has been treated since birth) was not only scared, "He was also very sad that summer would be in rest in recovery instead of playing baseball, golf and traveling. Around bedtime he asked if I would stay up with him and talk. He wanted to make a 'CAN DO' list. So we wrote out all the things he can do so he could focus on those. Then he said we definitely had to 'Fun Up' the house." You have to read the whole email for this family's list of ways to "Fun Up" their house -- surgery or not, these are some seriously amazing ideas. And I love the idea of a Can Do list. Instead of grumbling about how we don't have any friends inviting us to summer in the Hamptons (seriously, people, where are you?), perhaps we could all do to make our own Can Do lists. What's awesome about this summer? About this life? If you can't see the world before August, can you arrange for a visit to the sprinkler? Can you bravely conquer a reading list? Can you "fun up" your own house/office/existence? It's a pretend question. You can. You know you can.
And don't forget what Max told his mother: "I don’t have a choice. I have to go through it. I don’t like it and it’s still scary—but I have to. So I think I might as well go through it with a good attitude." We should probably all say this to ourselves every day. We should scrawl it on our front doors, to remind ourselves as we go out into the scary world every day: "I might as well go through it with a good attitude."
(PS - By all reports, the surgery was a success, and it looks like Max is going to be enjoying a pretty rocking summer in his Funned-Up House.)
How Positive Energy Can Change Your Life
Maintaining an Upbeat Vibe
A musician and teacher, Bert Dince was an ordinary man, like most of our fathers, and like most of our fathers, also the most important person in the world. After his death, his son found himself calling all of his father's students to tell them the news, and "throughout each call, I heard stories about how my dad had influenced so many lives. About how he helped his students uncover their natural musical abilities. I learned that my dad was not only a teacher to his students, but also a mentor, a father figure, and an extraordinary example of unconditional love. I know there’s an old adage that says, 'You can’t be all things to all people,' but Bert Dince was." (Read the rest of the blog post for the moving story of what happened at the memorial service.)
"Each man's life touches so many other lives." So said everyone's favorite angel, Clarence Oddbody. (You know, from the Frank Capra movie "It's a Wonderful Life." ) He was talking about George Bailey, but he was also talking about Bert Dince, and he was talking about my dad, and yours, and everyone's.
Remembering a Crazy-in-a-Good-Way Father
A Digital Fatherhood
Last year, Lisa Bloom's book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World came out, and started a nationwide (and Internet-wide) conversation about how we talk to our little girls, and how simply saying different things to them (and encouraging reading and thinking) can help them grow up to be smart women. Boys, presumably, were doing okay. After all, men have it easy in today's world, right? I mean, they never have to wait in line for a public bathroom. How hard can their lives be?
Well, guess what. Bloom's new book -- Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness, and Thug Culture (can this lady rock a subtitle or what?) -- is out, and now she is telling us that our boys are in trouble too. (I know. Bummer.) Apparently, we are not expecting enough of our boys, and in this way, undermine their early development. Bloom writes for The Huffington Post, "The new cultural trope is that girls naturally mature faster, that they have better innate verbal skills, and so pushing young boys to read is unrealistic and vaguely unfair to their boyness...Boys today do worse on national reading tests compared to their own gender a generation ago." And what's more, "Poor readers -- mostly boys -- struggle to read textbooks and tests in all subjects. They get suspended, expelled, flunk out and drop out at alarming rates - the majority of our African-American and Latino boys (who have the lowest reading proficiency of all) drop out of high school, with white boys faring only slightly better."
I admit to a sinking feeling of guilt upon reading this. My son is only 14 months old, but I already hear myself saying things all the time like, "Oh no, he doesn't really have any words yet. His sister did by now, but you know - boys!" As if I accept -- even expect -- that this smart kid is nothing more than a hammer-, truck-, ball-obsessed little caveman. How can our low expectations begin so early? Knowing that kids rise to the expectations (or lack thereof) we set out for them?
Thankfully, one of Bloom's solutions is, you guessed it, reading to our sons. "Make your home a reading mecca," she writes. "Kids with parents who read for pleasure are six times more likely to do so themselves -- and their grades shoot up." This I can handle. As soon as my little caveman stops hitting his sister over the head with that board book.
Lisa Bloom on How to Talk to Little Girls
The Bond Between a Mother and a Son
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* Just in time for Father's Day, there's a sweet new StoryCorps video featuring Samuel Black as he remembers his father, a janitor who worked 16-hour days to provide for his wife and 11 children. (RauchBrothers.com)
* And here are six more lovely recollections of dads by their daughters. (O Magazine)
* Brighten your day by checking out what an adventurous toy Storm Trooper is up to. (George the Trooper)
* It's hard not to feel like a winner while listening to the special guest that makes every member of this wedding party sound like a champion. (YouTube)
My husband once told me that he pictured my mind as a frazzled guy with a butterfly net, constantly running around and trying to swoop things up into it. It's true. Sadly these are not butterflies of Profound Big Thoughts. It's more like -- fwoosh -- there goes a Thing I've Got To Do butterfly. Flit flit -- that's a Thing I Forgot To Do butterfly. Oh, and look -- the rare Thing I Read Somewhere Once or Heard on NPR and Partially Remember butterfly. And look who's back! Email I Meant to Send butterfly!
But Mr. Rogers, eternal font of tender wisdom, has ambitions for the crowded butterfly pavilion between my ears. See also: this sweet "Garden of Your Mind" video, remixing everyone's favorite neighbor. "You can grow anything in the garden of your mind," Mr. Rogers says. I mean, auto-tune-sings. A garden is good. A garden is ordered, cared-for, a safe and productive place for growth. Here you can still have the butterflies, but they serve an actual purpose. After all, we're always telling our children to be creative, to think big thoughts, to be kind to themselves and others -- but how many of us grown-ups remember to follow that same advice? As always, Mr. Rogers recalls all that is innocent and good. And now, you can dance to him.
Jim Henson's Surreal Meditation on Time
Bill Simmons, possibly the most thoughtful sports fan there is, wrote an essay on crying about sports for the site Grantland called "The Consequences of Caring." He writes about the first time his daughter, a Kings fan, cried over sports: "I remained sympathetic while being secretly delighted, like she had passed some sort of 'Fledgling Sports Fan' hurdle or something." This is an essay about caring really an extra lot about sports. (Simmons writes, "Of the 75 greatest moments of my life, sports were involved in at least 20 of them") But it's also an essay about a father and a daughter, and about really caring about something, and about caring about what the people you care for care about. (Got that?)
Simmons wants to share his love of sports with his daughter because it's such a big part of his life. He doesn't even care if she latches onto a rival team, because after all, "Sports is a metaphor for life. Everything is black and white on the surface. You win, you lose, you laugh, you cry, you cheer, you boo, and most of all, you care." He just wants her to care, like he does. And when he realizes that she cares deeply enough to cry, he knows that on this level they understand each other.
Whether you and your father root for the same team or for mortal rivals, how nice, how lucky, if you can share an interest, whether it's sports or politics or rococo frescos. Everyone should have something they care about enough to cry over. And having someone who understands that beloved something can be one of the greatest gifts there is.
The Best Father's Day Gift Idea
Women Remembering Their Dads
I think NeverSeconds can inspire some change not just for the school system but for each of us. Lunch should be something delicious, a potentially-photogenic pause in the middle of the day, a chance to refresh and nourish and reboot. Lunch should be, in other words, something that would make Martha Payne proud.
Some Inspirations for Non-Depressing Lunches:
The Ultimate Guide to Non-Boring Brown Bags
Our Favorite Sandwich Recipes
Take Back Your Lunch, Take Back Your Life
Photos of School Lunches from Around the World