They Are Us by Cheryl Shainmark

I remember in the ’60s, being six or seven years old, and visiting my great-grandmother Teresa in a nursing home, shortly before she died at age 94. She only spoke Italian, and my Dad taught us a few words to say to her: Come sta? Bene; prego. Her son Henry, my grandfather, was bi-lingual; her grandson – my Dad – had a smattering of the old tongue, and now I had the four words he taught me.

My great-grandparents, Teresa and Antonio, came here from Italy at the turn of the 20th century because a representative from a Rhode Island textile mill went over to Italy to sign up workers and bring them here. The soap works, the silver factory, the coastal fisheries and the other mill towns in New England all did the same, though some went to Portugal, Hungary or Poland to get their workers. The immigrants all lived in the same towns, but had their own neighborhoods, churches, bakeries, and newspapers. My great-grandmother spoke Italian with the shopkeepers, the nuns, and most of her co-workers. Of course, once she had kids, they could translate for her as needed, because they spoke English.  Life was simpler then – everything was walking distance and Teresa didn’t have to get a driver’s license, sit on a jury, make a payment over the phone, or deal with Cablevision.  If she did, I think she would have had to “Press 2 for Italian.”

My mother’s side of the family got here in the 1700s and 1800s, before there was an Ellis Island or formal registration process. Much like the Pilgrims, they didn’t have documentation or anybody’s permission to land here. It was known around the world that America needed workers, and they were looking for a better life, or fleeing religious persecution, war, or famine. If they were alive today, they would have to press 3 for Swedish, 4 for Norwegian, 5 for French, 6 for Rumanian, 7 for whatever it is the Welsh speak, and, I suspect, but cannot prove, 8 for Yiddish. Good thing life was simpler back then, and that the children they bore in Virginia, the Oregon Willamette Valley, in Oklahoma, Nebraska and Idaho, all learned English and translated for them, too. It’s because of this history that I’ve always thought the whole “Press 2 for Spanish” debacle was as American as can be, and one of those “problems” that solves itself in one generation.

And guess what? America still need workers! My ancestors settled here and cleared forests, farmed, opened shops, built and founded towns. They worked the looms and machinery to produce cloth. Today’s immigrants work in the chicken houses in Delmarva, on the farms in Arizona and California, the meat packing plants in Kansas and Illinois, and in the kitchens of restaurants and for lawn care companies up and down the East Coast. Food is rotting in the fields right now and hurricane reconstruction is delayed in Houston because of a lack of workers.  If we were honest brokers when it came to immigration, we would meet the caravans at the border with a hot meal, visas and and a bus ticket to a guaranteed job.

Some enter legally, some illegally. To focus on that issue alone is mean spirited and short sighted. We need these new Americans. They are us – the us of 75, 100, or 200 years ago. They are our next wave of workers and innovators. Their children are the translators who will not need to press 2,3,4 or any other number. In the future their grandchildren will celebrate family occasions with one or two ethnic dishes from recipes that have been handed down through the family, and then send a saliva sample to Ancestry.com to find out more about “the old country.” They are us.

 

Photo credit: PBS

 

 

 


Qigong Meets Quantum Physics by Imke Bock-Mobius

| review by Cheryl Shainmark

Qigong Meets Quantum Physics – Experiencing Cosmic Oneness by Imke Bock-Mobius Review by Cheryl Shainmark Qigong meets Quantum Physics is a wonderful integration of the various principles of qigong, mysticism, and the natural sciences. In the best Daoist tradition, Bock-Mobius has surmounted the duality of any discussion of religion (or philosophy) and science, and outlined her compelling vision of how it all comes together.

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| by Cheryl Shainmark

Several years ago I dreamed I was outside my house as a giant windstorm approached over the horizon. Like the buildup to a hurricane, the trees swayed, and leaves and debris blew over the lawn and through the air. I knew that it was urgent that I find shelter inside, but I was worried about my son and kept searching for him outside. A part of my mind knew that the dream was echoing reality: it was a truly tumultuous time in our household as our son went through a difficult period, moved out, and struggled to live independently. Back in my dream, reluctant to give up, I stayed outside until the storm was upon me.

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| by Cheryl Shainmark

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| by Cheryl Shainmark

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| by Cheryl Shainmark

The Pudgy Squirrel is a marvelous little gem of a children’s book, written and illustrated by German author, Markus de Vries. Importantly, this slim volume tackles important issues of mental health, such as depression, anxiety and addiction, in simple language to which a child can relate. Through following the adventures of our hero Squirrel, the child is introduced to a variety of animal friends who are suffering obstacles until Pudgy helps them in small ways.

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Moved By Mountains

| by Cheryl Shainmark

Moved By Mountains – Several years ago I dreamed I flew as a hawk, high above seared mountains, gazing down on granite soil marked only by occasional stunted evergreens. In my dream I soared and twisted, riding the air currents until I actually felt dizzy and then, as soon as I thought, “This is too much!” I woke up in my bed. I remembered the details vividly, though I had never seen those vistas in real life. Last week I saw the mountains of my dreams, that is, the dry stretch of the Rockies where the rain does not fall.

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| by Cheryl Shainmark

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Peace and Where to Find It

| review by Cheryl Shainmark

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Deep Awake by Tim Freke

| review by Cheryl Shainmark

Deep Awake is a wonderful addition to the fields of consciousness and spirituality. The author, Tim Freke, has put together a deceptively simple guide for “waking up” and living consciously. Unlike most of the genre, the ego, with all its strengths and weaknesses, is not vilified, but embraced. For those who have failed at prior efforts to meditate and reflect, this unique approach may help them to succeed.

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