Welcome!

We need as many stories about people doing things out of love and looking at what connects us all as a community. Here at TWO IN THE WORLD we hope visitors can come for a minute or five to just feel like they aren’t all alone. Together we will be exploring a multitude of ways in which we can foster kindness, courage, hope and justice.

This Little Light of Mine I’m Gonna Let it Shine

My letter to the Los Angeles Times Editor about singing this song while hand washing at home and in public was printed in the March 13, 2020 newspaper. Our family has decided to sing “This Little Light of Mine” each day at 5 pm PDT (Pacific Daylight Time), wherever we are. We stop and sing to feel and spread light as far as we can spread it. (I’ve started to sing it quietly as I do my mindful walk around the block and I can tell it helps me breathe into my tummy, which feels really good.)

And this is a very fun version we sometimes play at highest volume 🙂 with Bruce Springsteen’s band performing in Dublin a year ago.

Here’s my Letter to the editor: I’ve read so many versions and variations on hand-washing songs that help people make sure they are really and truly spending the necessary 20 seconds washing hands with soap and water to protect against spreading the coronavirus.

I’ve decided to embrace my public hand washing to spread a message of hope that we can work together, not only to face this virus, but to embrace a healthier future with a strong sense of responsible and caring leadership back in place.

So when I wash my hands in public, I am singing out loud “This Little Light of Mine,” a gospel song that came to be an anthem of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. People sang this and other spirituals during the civil rights movement as a way of expressing unity as they fought for equal rights and freedom for everyone.

We can sing to declare that we are going to get through this together.

Nice second verse: Wherever I go, I’m going to let it shine.

Pancake Chef Cheers Us

It turns out after knowing my husband Bill for 35 years, I (along with Natalie) have only recently learned that he is an amazing pancake chef. We wake up thinking about his pancakes. One night last weekend, I told him I was in the mood for his pancakes and guess what? Yes!! We ate pancakes at 10 pm, after watching a good movie. Any left-over pancakes are delicious to have with afternoon tea/coffee or for dessert with a smear of jam. Pancakes can be left out on a plate for one day on the counter, unless it is a hot summer day. Pancakes made with yogurt instead of buttermilk, olive oil instead of butter, topped with maple syrup and with a side of excellent applesauce, are uplifting for both tastebuds and spirits. Recipe below:

PANCAKE RECIPE

  • up to 1 1/2 cup of plain whole milk yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup wholewheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural sugar cane sugar
  • pinch of salt

Stir dry ingredients in bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to dry ingredients. Bill drops a small dollop of olive oil on our iron skillet, then wipes the dollop to lightly oil the skillet. Bring the skillet up to a medium-low heat. You know it’s ready when you flick some drops of cold water onto the skillet and they burble and dance around. Take a soup spoon of batter and plop onto skillet. It will melt into proper shape. Wait for bubbles to appear on top side, and then check bottom for lightly browned color. Flip. Wait a minute or two, then jiggle the top of the pancake with edge of spatula. If top doesn’t wiggle side to side separate from bottom, the pancake is ready. Caution: Monitor the bottom layer for over-browning, rotating and sometimes flipping pancakes an extra time or two to make sure pancakes are perfect.

Truth & Tubman

It is time for me to make a confession: When I noticed in my public library a slick “everything is okay” children’s biography of the current president shelved between Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, I pulled it out and hid it in the library where it will never be found. This president is a soul killer. Neither Harriet nor Sojourner deserve to have him divide them. Nor do our children deserve to be lied to.

I checked out the biographies of Harriet and Sojourner and thought about the issue of “electability” we keep hearing about. The United States is so ready for an intelligent, wise, forthright, caring woman president and we have someone like that in our midst. We need to shift the “electability” (We Aren’t Ready) discussion to WE ARE READY.

87 countries have or had women elected as heads of state or government, as of 29 November 2019.
WE ARE READY.

WHAT IF:
Each of us, once a day, says to someone/anyone/everyone:
The U.S. IS READY FOR A WOMAN PRESIDENT.

Say it for Greta, Ruth, Dolores, Harriet, Sojourner…
Say it for the sake of your daughters and grand-daughters.
Say it for the sake of the country.

Do not allow “We aren’t ready” to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. WE ARE READY.

Long and Winding Road

It has been a challenging winter since my wonderful mother passed away last month. She was the best person I knew. I am lucky to have art to turn to, as it always proves to be such a refuge. I practically run to board the train each week for art class in downtown L.A. Although I still enjoy painting, my latest refuge has been working with fabric — I’ve been creating a large piece that explores my family’s past.

Detail from new artwork

My father always warned me not to look into his family’s side, saying “you may find a horse thief.” So far no horse thieves but definitely some twists and turns. Turns out I am descended, in small part, from people from Benin and Ghana. My grandfather was one quarter black; my dad was an octoroon.

1720 was when Albert DeCuir sailed to America;
hand and machine stitched.

As I have learned, the DeCuirs came to the U.S. in 1720 from Macon, a town that was once in France but is now in Belgium following a few wars and boundary changes. In Louisiana, our newly arrived ancestors started marrying those already there….many were free people of color.

Riverlake Plantation was built by Antoine DeCuir in 1823.*

Apparently, Louisiana has a complicated racial and colonial history. Before Louisiana became an American territory in 1803, the area was under French and then Spanish control. Some of these free people of color were quite wealthy and even owned slaves themselves. (At the time, slaves could gain their freedom in several ways, by fighting for the colony or teaching the master’s children, for example.) I have a hard time getting into the mind of my slave-owning French, Black and Creole ancestors. I can’t help but think about how bizarre this is while I sew.

Checked fabric is French from the 1800s. Symbols are from those found on a grís-grís bag, worn by girls for protection. Note Islamic verses; this tradition traces back to Senegal & Ghana.

Using fabric from the present and the past, this new artwork uses as a reference point the area of Pointe Coupée, Louisiana, but rather than just copy a map, I have used it as a way to suggest many elements that come to mind: the much-divided plots of land for sugar, indigo, and cotton fields, the winding Mississippi, the mixing of French and African languages that became Kouri-Vini, the stolen lives of endless work, and the fact that I nearly lived my whole life knowing nothing about these ancestors.

Artwork so far…about 6′ x 8′

*Re. Riverlake Plantation: I opened The NY Times in December of 2019 to learn, to my horror, that author Ernest Gaines (Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman) grew up on Riverlake where five generations of his family had lived as slaves. About 20 years ago, he purchased the unkempt graveyard in order to be sure it would be taken care of properly.

Suzanne’s website is suzannedecuirfineart.com. Click here to watch “Life Jackets,” the 8-minute film by Pamela Beere Briggs & William McDonald featuring another of Suzanne’s recent projects.

A Teacher’s Perspective on Effective Classrooms, Part 4

The best learning environments honor the important connection between head, hand, and heart. I have made a list of what that means and what it might look like in a dynamic classroom where those three needs are honored and met. Here, then, is how a nurturing classroom recognizes that we are all unique learners:

Heart (Social/Emotional)

  • Teachers take the time to teach children how to care for others. Everyone helps each other succeed.
  • Teachers try to understand the challenges that children may be facing in their home life.
  • Teachers recognize that parent input is critical to their child’s success.
  • Everybody gets the chance to be a leader.
  • Student work is highlighted all over the classroom.
  • Children feel that they are part of their classroom and part of the school community.
  • Students are encouraged to be active participants in making their community and the world a better place.
  • The students and the teacher are joyful.

And, finally, EVERYBODY LOOKS LIKE THEY WANT TO BE IN SCHOOL.

A Teacher’s Perspective on Effective Classrooms, Part 3

The best learning environments honor the important connection between head, hand, and heart. I have made a list of what that means and what it might look like in a dynamic classroom where those three needs are honored and met. Here, then, is how a nurturing classroom recognizes that we are all unique learners:

Hand (Physical/Creative)

  • Learning is active and hands-on. Students should be moving around the classroom independently and actively engaged in the tasks at hand.
  • Teachers recognize that every child is gifted and talented in some way, and find ways for the students to share their talent.
  • Art and music are present in the classroom or the school. Is there a classroom library? A school library?
  • There is time each day for teachers to read aloud to their students.
  • Time is made for classroom movement breaks in addition to regular recess.
  • Teachers show children how to use classroom tools and time wisely, and then they trust them to do just that.

A Corny Curious Story About Sweet Corn

I love reading. I read every day. I actually don’t feel good if a day goes by without at least a little reading.

I cook every day. Some people think I love cooking. But I don’t think I really love cooking. I think I love eating. I cook good food so that I can eat it. What I love about cooking is that I can choose ingredients I love to eat. So I read books about food and cooking.

Some years ago, I cut out and kept an article titled “Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food” and I stuck it into one of my cookbooks. I have read it a number of times since. The article was written by Jo Robinson, the author of “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health.”

I learned from Jo Robinson how “we’ve reduced the nutrients and increased the sugar and starch content of hundreds of fruits and vegetables.” Corn is the best example of this. Here is a story about corn that is both fascinating and shocking:

White kerneled corn “was born” in 1836, the creation of Noyes Darling whose goal was to create a sweet, all white variety without “the disadvantage of being yellow.” He succeeded.

But the story becomes strange and more than a little disturbing. Supersweet corn was born in a cloud of radiation. Beginning in the 1920’s, geneticists exposed corn seeds to radiation to learn more about the normal arrangement of plant genes. The corn seeds were exposed to X-rays, toxic compounds, cobalt radiation, and then, in the 1940’s, to blasts of atomic radiation. Then the seeds were stored in a seed bank for use in research. In 1959, John Laughnan, a geneticist who was studying some of the no-longer-radioactive seeds, decided to pop a few into his mouth. He couldn’t believe how sweet they were. Lab tests confirmed they were 10 times sweeter than ordinary sweet corn. The radiation had turned the corn into a sugar factory.

Mr. Laughnan realized people would love extra-sweet corn and he spent years developing commercial varieties of this corn. In 1961, he began selling his first hybrids. And within one generation, the new extra-sugary varieties were selling more than the older varieties. Today, most of the corn in our grocery stores is extra-sweet. The sweetest ones contain 40 percent sugar. The disadvantage of white corn is that it lacks nutrients. If you want more nutrients in your corn: choose corn with deep yellow kernels. It has 60 times more beta-carotene, which turns into Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A helps vision and the immune system. When baking, try blue, red or purple cornmeal.

While you are at it: Eat some scallions, aka green onions, which Jo Robinson calls “jewels of nutrition.” The green part is more nutritious than the white part, so use the whole plant. I’ve discovered I LOVE green onions cooked with mushrooms. I slice up an entire bunch of green onions and cook them with mushrooms in a generous amount of olive oil and a dollop of lightly salted butter. Sourdough toast or brown rice is a wonderful accompaniment.

A Teacher’s Perspective on Effective Classrooms, Part 2

The best learning environments honor the important connection between head, hand, and heart. I have made a list of what that means and what it might look like in a dynamic classroom where those three needs are honored and met. Here, then, is how a nurturing classroom recognizes that we are all unique learners:

Head (Cognitive)

  • A thriving classroom “meets students where they are,” which means not all students should be working on the same task or at the same pace. Some students will be working independently, while others will work with partners or in small groups supported by the teacher or a student leader.
  • Learning is collaborative, not competitive. Teachers make sure that students have time to think and voice their ideas without being interrupted. Classmates learn how to listen when other children are talking.
  • Teachers take packaged curriculum and revise lessons to make learning meaningful and accessible to every student. If a child is not developmentally ready to tackle an assignment, the teacher will pre-teach the lesson or send the lesson home for pre-teaching. Expectations will be modified.
  • Teachers diverge from prepared lessons to address student questions and follow paths of inquiry that are interesting to students. Teachers make room for students to pursue their passions.
  • If students don’t understand a lesson, teachers re-teach the lesson in a different way.
  • If there is homework, it should be necessary, reasonable (no more than 10 minutes added on for each grade level) and modified to make every student feel successful.
  • Required textbooks are supplemented with interesting, age appropriate, up-to-date resources from a variety of media.
  • Teachers are always looking for ways to integrate learning across the curriculum.
  • Teachers employ a variety of methods to assess whether a student understands new material.

Foundation and Framing

When in doubt, go to the library.

J. K. Rowling

The foundation for the downstairs garage/upstairs library has been poured and our message to ourselves and any future inhabitants has been permanently recorded via a nail as my writing instrument. Bill realized that once the walls go up, we will have to read our message upside down, because it’s in the front corner facing the street. Well, maybe that is okay. It will add an extra detail to the story, plus a bit of laughter.


In the meantime, our Little Neighborhood Library is as active as ever, with readers picking up and dropping off books each day. Sometimes, we even find a note like this one with a new book deposit.