Friday, December 24, 2010

On The Eve

I stand on the precipice of Christmas, and I can't help feeling this next step is a tumble and a trip rather than a forward leap. My faith teaches me to march forward, down a certain path, towards an end that awaits me with open arms. That path was first walked by Jesus, the living son of God, whose birth we mark with this holiday. I know my path, just like His on Earth, is not always clear, the march not always easy, and the end not always in sight. I'm with all that - dig it - I can handle that part.

My real worry is this: I'm not entirely convinced that I've headed down the right path - and now I'm now dragging my children along on this path. What if I mangled the whole path thing and now I'm skidding off to some forsaken end with no open arms and no chocolate? Ack!

If my faith is correct, this is just a test. I put my head down, fortify my soul with a good dose of prayer, and barrel on. On the other hand, if my faith is correct this could be a sign! And if I miss it I'm like the guy in the joke - the one where he's standing on his roof waiting for God to save him from a flood so he turns down an offer from a boat passing by, a helicopter rescue, and so on. When he gets to heaven he demands to know why God did not save him and God tells him -
'Wha'd you want me to do? I sent a boat, a helicopter, and you wouldn't allow yourself to be saved!' (In all my interpretations, God's a real comedian - I just have to believe that.)

What to think, what to do? Continue this life of mediocre 'success', building a little bit of goodness at a time, finding value and purpose in the few lives I touch, shrinking away from chances to do more on the possibility I might fail?

Or stop in my tracks? Find a need in the world and fill it? Really follow Jesus' path and risk every single thing in order to do some greater good? I'm chicken. I'm a total coward. I'm not sure I have the strength of character to do things like tell my kids we won't have gifts on holidays like these because we're off to Salvador to feed starving children and the real gifts for us are already here - good health, good humor, time together - so precious because we never really know when it all ends. But I'm chicken. And I like getting new slippers! Does that make me a total stinker?

I suppose it does when I know for sure that $48 could buy a desk for a child in an African school. I just saw that on the news last night.

So I'm literally lolling back and forth like a weeble wobble and I can't seem to reconcile and center myself.

But as I'm writing this I'm thinking that the whole thing is really much simpler than all this. A step back - maybe a few - and I can see that what Christmas offers me - what Jesus' life teaches me - is not the answer, but the possibility. And what I offer Christmas - what I offer God - is the genuine desire to take that chance to do more, be more, follow more closely in His steps down whatever path until I reach my rightful end - whatever that may be.

I may not get the whole thing figured out right now and that's o.k., because tomorrow I am reminded that the birth - the beginning - allows me a new beginning as well. And maybe each beginning brings me closer to the right place for me, the place where my abilities and my faith and my life all meet and matter.

So I stand on the precipice of this Christmas and I can't help feeling that my tumble forward is no accident, and not a pre-ordained step, but a choice. I choose this life and this path, flawed as it may be, with all my doubts and worries progressing along with me, firm in my belief that a faithful soul will find its way home, and so thankful for Christ's birth, because it offers me a chance, a hope for renewal and redemption and life beyond life.

Merry Christmas to you, and may God bless you and keep you always.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Hate That

As a public service and in case the post's title didn't clue you in, this is not one of my happy, warm 'n fuzzies. You are warned.

My holiday cards stunk this year. I've had a couple of good years back-to-back so the pressure was really on this year and I just epic-failed, like a slow-mow-bike-over-curb with kid-flying-over-handle-bar action thrown in to boot. I'm hoping most people won't realize it sucked because I put some extra distracting pictures of the kids on the front of the card, but chances are those who really know me will know. And I know. I hate that.

Produce shopping during the holidays should be video-taped and aired on late night t.v. as a blood sport. In the meantime, as far as I'm concerned if you're so old that you need to be bused to the store to shop with an attendant, you should be too old to ram me - intentionally - with your cart. So don't look surprised when I take your 4'2" self right to the holey-rubber mat with my own cart, sister. Two can play at that game and only one of us can win. You might want to gear up.

Speaking of - I've said it before and I'll say it again: dollar store sales clerks should receive combat pay for working the end-of-year holidays. These poor souls are so abused and hellishly overworked, they trade food breaks for cigarettes and Mountain Dew out of sheer necessity, and at mine in particular, they put up with me so many times a week I feel I should be paying rent. Of course, if I could afford that, I'd not be shopping at a dollar store, now would I?

So, as a giveaway, you'll note that I've been shopping. Ooooohhhh... spending? Garishly? Wantonly? Yes, for Pete's sake, yes! The 'holidays are too commercial nowadays' comment as a way of looking down one's nose at someone who's clearly in the throes has become so damn tired it should be comatose. I hate it! Buying gifts for people you love is not commercial, it's just nice. I've done all the modesty-adjustments I can, some re-worked things, home-made things, inexpensive things. But I'm still getting some stuff and that's it. I view it as an extension of kindness, a thoughtfulness, a gesture of acceptance and appreciation that - to me - is entirely in the spirit of the season. I'm not apologizing for it and I'm not feeling bad about it. Mostly.

Except in weak moments when I reflect on an acquaintance who has chucked his whole American life and moved to Haiti to teach children. So he is constantly blogging about the political unrest, violent weather, and other horrific circumstances that make it nearly impossible for him to get his kids to school much less teach them anything. All he asks for is prayers. GAAAACK! As I plod along the aisles at the dollar store looking for things that don't look cheap so that I can give someone some useless plastic thing as an indication of my love, I'm reminded that my acquaintance really gets it and I'm a complete clod. I hope he never reads this and realizes that I measure my own inadequacy by stacking it up against his greatness. Scratch that. I think I'll send it to him so he knows how amazing he is.

My husband's got a similar take on the whole thing - doesn't understand how coloring books and dolls and games mean we love Jesus - which intellectually I totally understand. But when he says it it sounds very scrooge-y and I hate it.

Moreover, I hate having to analyze my desire to celebrate holidays with some fanfare, some fuss and some material - shallow as it may be - pleasures.

Hating having to analyze it makes me hate the whole thing, which I really hate.

I always tell my kids not to 'hate' because it reflects poorly on them, rather than on the person or thing they dislike.

I hate when I can't or don't do what I tell my kids to do.

Speaking of which, are your kids ever quiet? Because my kids, no matter how often I tell them that movie-watching is not an interactive experience, can't contain themselves. At all. Ever. These kids talk non-stop. I've discovered this on day four of winter break. Truth be told, I discover it every time there are even three seconds of waking quiet in my house. Just thought I'd tell you. No idea where they get this gabbiness from.

So I'm feeling like this whole post is a bit of a downer. Perhaps some Nog'll fix me up.

Blech. Discount store Egg Nog is revolting!

I hate that.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thankful Thief

This isn't the house I dreamed I'd have when I was a small child. Still, my home is truly a dream-come-true. My husband isn't the man I fantasized about. But he is the man of my dreams. My children don't look anything like I thought they would. They are more beautiful, more magical than anything I could have drawn in my head. This isn't the life, not the job nor the body or the economy I had wished for. Instead, it is a real life, a challenging job, an accomplished body, and an economy filled with opportunity for better days ahead. None of my dreams have come true exactly as I imagined them. But I am immersed in, consumed with humility, blessed inside and out for the great fortune that has befallen me. I know I don't deserve it. I am a thief by default, taking what I know must not be rightfully mine because I am just little, undeserving me. Who am I to have such a terrific group of kind, generous, funny and interesting friends? What do I give that in return I receive such acceptance and love, such devotion and patience from my family? How is it that God with all of his pressing and more important duties finds time to devote Himself to me, to my petty little prayers about things that bear no consequence, really? It can only be that I am a usurper, living a life of grace that I surely must be stealing from some other more deserving soul. If I am to be redeemed at all for such an egregious sin I hope it will come from my expression of a most deep and abiding gratitude. I am thankful for the warm reception with which each day greets me. I am thankful for the teachers who devote themselves to me and my children with so much honesty and integrity, for the neighbors I don't know and those, especially, that I do, for the waste collectors who take away my refuse and look for my son to say a kind word or share a smile, for the parents - sometimes grandparents! - of my children's friends, who befriend me with open hearts and homes. I am thankful for my mom who leads in every way by example, no matter how weary she may be. I am thankful for the goodness that surrounds me, no matter how hampered it may be by the noise and futility with which it is confronted. I am thankful for the dignity that comes with being able to share a meal with my family. I am thankful that I can share these words with you and I am thankful. Simply, plainly, truly, today and every day I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Dash of This, A Pinch of That

The fall season is upon us, although you'd never know it from the near-70 degree temps outside. Nonetheless, my internal baking clock is ticking and soon the house will be held captive by the pungent perfume of cinammon and spices and whatever I've burned to an unrecognizable crisp each day. Mmmmm.... delish. While we wait for the smoke alarm to go off, let's discuss the issues of the day, shall we?

My husband raised an interesting point this morning. (He does that a lot, I just choose not to give him credit as it disturbs the careful balance I've cultivated in our relationship, where I'm really awesome and he does everything wrong.) His point was that some people do not wish to pay for others' health care because it's not fair and poor people don't deserve benefits they haven't earned. (Inherent in this argument is the notion that poor people might game the very system that benefits them, this system that would be funded by good, hardworking and honest folks.) Oddly, the same people who do not wish to pay to heal the poor do not mind if we pay for the wealthiest folks in our country to keep more money in their infinitely deep pockets. Instead, they insist we extend tax benefits that the rich do not need (and in many cases do not want).

Interesting, isn't it? I wonder if any wealthy folks game any of our government programs - or any of our citizens - in their pursuit of those deep-pocketed pants? I wonder why some feel good about paying the wealthy, but bad about caring for the poor. I wonder, but I do not judge.

So casting aside any partisan rancor the mid-term election may have installed in my ideological camp, I've decided to stand with our president and move forward with further emphasis on compromise. To that end I suggest we agree with our limited government friends and reduce the government's work in January. Remove the extension of the tax cut item from the congressional 'to-do' list. Seems like a win-win. No?

More seriously (not by much) I have this question: are we serious? In my house, the economic shift of the past several years has moved us from Jewel to Aldi, from Marshall Fields (whimper) to Village Discount and from 'Don't worry about it' to 'We can't afford that this week.' Where is the parallel shift in my government? After all the resources expended to craft a health care bill that's been generations in the making (not months - not months - it's been decades!) who among us will tolerate spending additional millions in repealing it and replacing it with something else? Any effort in that regard ought to be met with the full, if dormant, revolutionary ire and indignant repulsion of the entire tax-paying population of this country. (Tea Partiers take note - I consider you an abomination and will not give you the dignity of even suggesting you represent the true revolutionary spirit of our early citizens.) We can ill-afford to re-build the house when we can hardly make our existing mortgage payments.

So we need relevant, pragmatic and intelligent leadership to solve these problems right? Then let's get something clear: red suits and glossy lipstick and a great flip do not make you any more qualified to serve in the U.S. Senate than do polyester pants, chapped lips and a bad bob. You don't get to change the 'historical trajectory' of anything in governance just because you have perfectly even white teeth. Snap out of it for crissakes! There are only 100 U.S. Senators in the world. The folks who hold those jobs should be among the top 100 most intelligent, well-read, educated, informed, and thoughtful people in the world. Ever. If a candidate does not meet that criteria - party and gender completely irrelevant- then you should laugh that candidate off the political stage. If she's a woman and you're a woman you should laugh louder than men. THAT would be a real step towards taking women seriously.

Just as women should be taken seriously on their merits so too should gay people of all ages, sizes, creeds and what-have-you. If our government, through its policies, actions, speech and representations models treatment of gays as second-class citizens, immoral citizens, unworthy citizens then it should be no surprise that the rest of our citizens would follow suit. And there should be no shock associated with the raging current that washes children from their intuitive acceptance of everyone and everything across the rational divide to a morality-barren shore where they will beat - literally or figuratively - the life out of another child. Those who do not tell - urge - compel - their representatives to ensure the law must protect us all equally are equally to blame for the degradation of our fellow citizens' civil liberties. Worse - we turn away from children who are in pain, afraid, lonely and tell them they deserve our indifference. We need to stop that.

On a lighter note, we must also stop this national obsession with the God forsaken McRib. That is not real meat, people! Real food does not simulate bone-in shape. You should be afraid of it, not dreaming about it and certainly not licking it off your fingers on the bus. It's gross. Really. Stop it.

Speaking of stopping - what is that incessant beeping noise? Mmmmm... and what is that smell? Maybe I should check the oven.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"I just hate that the kids' education is largely carried out by a failing agenda, a crumbling infrastructure and a legendary lack of intelligent leadership. I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just going to hate it.

"I'm worried sick about the economic situation in Illinois and across the country. Everything from production of material goods to distribution of credit to long-term fiscal planning is a mess and seemingly getting worse every day. I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just going to worry.

"My profession is becoming extinct as an income-producing member of the job species. There are no proper rules in place to guide the new wave of real estate sales that's dominating the market, so the object of the game is a moving - sometimes invisible - target. I'm working harder and harder but accomplishing less and less. I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just going to watch it happen.

"I'm alternately panicked and indignant about our national security and the assault on our civil liberties. I don't feel like anyone's carefully balancing one against the other to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy are protected as fiercely as our border or our airports. Cargo doesn't fall into a separate category, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just going to be panicked and indignant.

"It seems that radicals are taking over the public discourse, making me feel like if I'm liberal I'm a socialist and if I'm conservative I'm a bigot. I'm none of those things entirely, nor is anyone I know. The media, our politicians and public servants seem to be portraying a false reality. And some people are making very important decisions based on this false truth. I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just noticing.

"Problems abound, I feel sinking in the pit of my stomach as I watch vast national resources - ours and others' - tortured. My own hard work seems to be lost in the fray and my voice is hoarse from talking about all the things I think ought to be changed. My children are entering a world that I cannot compel to abide by some common system of morality, humanity, sanity.

"I'm not going to do anything about it. I'm just going to allow circumstances to bat me around like a ball on a tether. I won't protest, won't balk a bit. I'm going to stand stock still and watch the whole thing unravel before me, hands in my pockets, a faint shrug in my shoulders. I'm going to watch you, my neighbor, my country, my ancestors' work and all that has gone before me flail, flounder and flush because I can't be bothered."

Is that what you're going to do?

Not me. I'm going to vote.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Boss Blog

A sultry night on the city's river-front played softly behind the shimmer of an intimate wedding service this past Sunday, while a small group of close friends and family wondered in the power and magic - the endurance - of love. It was a most monumental occasion in the lives of those who know the story and a long time coming.

My old boss is a complicated man. He's an immigrant to the U.S., the youngest of two sons of Jewish parents, separated by 10 years from his older brother. A fair helping of triumphs and tragedies took him from humble beginnings in Chicago all the way to a big-shot job with a fancy law firm in the city when I met him some (mumble, cough, 23) years ago. At the time, I was an obnoxious, big-haired, smoking 19-year-old with a nice sized chip on my shoulder. (No wisecracks please.)

We clicked right away. And when I say clicked I mean he could not believe he hired me and I couldn't figure out how to argue with him enough. At a point, and I'm pretty sure just to make me mad, he made my 'desk' the same table as the one that held the photocopier. I would answer phones and take messages while my notebook shifted slowly left and then clicked right with the motion of the copier pad. I never said a word, which I think irritated him to no end and eventually I got my own desk. Years later, I got a coveted window office when we moved to new space. We were both worried that other employees might be a bit miffed that I was getting such a prized space, so I agreed to take the larger office with the huge post in the middle as a compromise. Having had a photocopier table as a desk makes a person really appreciate any stable workspace. An important lesson, well learned.

(In a fun little twist of fate, I managed to sit myself behind a huge post at his wedding, so I had a broad smile on my face with more than one meaning as I enjoyed the event!)

During the years that we worked together, we learned quite a bit from and about one another. I'm not sure either of us has or ever will acknowledge how much. I was with him during so many long days and nights when he worked himself to exhaustion only to bear the unbearable degradation of ungrateful and merciless corporate clients. I was with him when no matter what numbers he produced, the numbers were never enough to feel some rest, never enough to feel finished with chasing numbers. I was with him when he juggled his obligations to work, children, wife, mother, brother and - with very little room left - himself. Often, that juggling act left too many important players unattended, or at least feeling so - though rarely work, and never, ever if he could help it, children. I was with him when he learned - grudgingly - that he would have to trust others in order to take himself beyond what he could touch, to what he could influence. That was a terribly difficult step and he required quite a bit of reassurance. For whatever reason, on many the occasion, I believe I was the needed steadying presence.

Just as I was there for him, he was there for me. He was there, to gently - some times very harshly - but always with the intention of teaching - correct me. He was there to give me a chance, when it was absolutely ludicrous to do so, because he believed in me. He was there when I met my husband, to give him the once-over before he gave his seal of approval. And he was there to tell me with full sincerity that he was glad when I announced that I was having twins and would have to leave the office.

If all that - all the memories, lunches, trips, crossword puzzles, and conference calls in between are not enough - there is also this. My boss taught me (and along the way himself) one of life's greatest lessons: why work matters.

I had always had a good work ethic; he and I share the same value system about this from our respective immigrant roots. But while I worked very hard, long hours, I always knew that the work and the money didn't mean much to me if I didn't have my family, my loves, my time at peace with myself. I think he didn't have this all figured out when he started. He was consumed for a time with the competitive nature of his work, with the ticking in his head of a clock he was racing, and to what end I'm not sure he quite knew all along. And he was terribly lonely, though he would never tell you that openly, and I think he felt bad for it given that he was married and had a warm, loving family and small group of friends.

We worked together for over thirteen years. Watching him grow in this sadness, watching him allow so much of his young life to crumble away while he worked himself so desperately was not an easy thing. And it made me ever so much more impatient for my life to be different. Of course, I wasn't quiet about it. I pushed him, nudged and nagged him, ordered him at times, to go 'get a life'! It was a long time coming, but with many signs and blessings along the way, he did.

So while many of the things that helped him achieve his success did not survive the trip, thankfully he did, and his children did - quite beautifully - and so did our friendship. He works now, but on his own terms, doing something he enjoys and far away from the hectic and hurry of the days we shared. He shares time with his lovely, talented girls and recently added a son-in-law to his family with much joy and celebration. I do hope that in some part, I was an influence in making this happen, but really, so much of it belongs to his new wife. On Sunday, I saw him wed his companion of the past ten years, a woman who simply radiates goodness and love for him. Their courtship has been a slow bloom, tentative at first, sweet, so down-to-earth and real. They are as natural together as sun and sky. That she has opened him up and made him really feel life - experience it with all the senses, even when its uncomfortable - is clear, and a joy to see. That he has given her the security, the steadiness and strength of a person who really gets it now is an equal pleasure. It was a long time coming, and not a straight-line path, but my boss found his way, and I'm so glad. Nothing but love could have made it happen.

And so it came to be that a sultry night on the city's river-front played softly behind the shimmer of an intimate wedding service this past Sunday, while a small group of close friends and family wondered in the power and magic - the endurance - of love.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's About That Time

Been away from this for far too long and realize the pent-up verbosity is starting to impact my ability to remain twitch-free during waking hours. So. Here goes.
My mother is driving me insane. She is unlicensed and has never owned a car, so that just tells you how the ride has been.
I'm driving my children insane. And so the legacy lives on.
Speaking of legacies an inside-operating, old-school-politicking, power-playing Chicagoan is vying for the top job in the city now that the beloved and beleaguered mayor is stepping aside. I know intellectually that I should be inclined to support a less Daley-esque figure for this position, but I frickin' love Rahm. And when I say 'frickin' I mean the finger-in-your-bare-chest-you-muther-effer version of the word.
Which leads me to Delaware. Obviously. There's nothing like a perky, cute, high-heel-wearing, tight-skirt-sporting, vernacular-using gal from some remote state running for a national office to fill up every conceivable bit of blank space in the world. It's got to make the Hillaries of the world just want to vomit. Call me Hillary from now on.
Now that I'm Hillary, allow me to look disgustedly at all my fellow progressives and lecture: Act your ages (hands on hips) and stop pouting right now, dammit! Don't let me come up there and see that look on your face again. Do you hear me? We don't always get everything we want; have you seen my life for crissakes? But that doesn't mean good things aren't happening. Democracy does not operate on 4G speed you spoiled, over-caffeinated, self-indulgent brats. Yes, you. Now march back to your position on the historic arc we've created to reclaim our nation's progressive identity and you tow that blessed line before I spank your bottom and send you to bed with NO healthcare.
On the off chance you opt to go to your room and fume silently, save for the grumbles of your un-fed, spoily-cat tummy, I've got something for you to ponder up there. Why is this country so bipolar?
We routinely expose ourselves as homophobes by not openly and matter-of-factly accepting homosexuals in our armies, our churches, our public offices. Then we wonder why our children are so driven to despair when they lurch into a reality that pits their identity against their basic safety. We all know gay people. So there's no question they exist. And there's no question we know it. The only question is: when are we going to stop killing them, either by commission or omission, whether in spirit or in deed? When?
We wonder why people are so disconnected that they wouldn't recognize the danger in exposing someone's intimate habits on the world-wide-web. Then we sit with our family members in a car or an audience or a waiting room and each click away at our individual electronic devices rather than bear idle conversation. I know the newspaper's dying, but just like there's something uniquely human about the tactile experience of touching that paper and hearing that crinkle and smelling that ink, there's something uniquely inhumane about experiencing everything in a virtual sense instead of a real sense. And that inhumanity is infecting our children.
We tout our devotion to equality, diversity, education in every venue with every version of a mic we can find. Then we vote for morons in lip gloss, grossly and shamelessly question the nationality of our president because of his color, and systematically decimate the systems, tools and resources we have for teaching our children anything but how to be the first to buy HALO for the best price. I talk about losing weight all the time. Not exactly committed to it in real life. The proof is in the pudding. (Are you eating that?)
Now that I think about it, I don't need you to think about it. In fact, scratch the question. We're not bipolar. We're just incredibly stupid.
And as a final thought? I offer this: Rick Sanchez may or may not have been right. Judge for yourself based on the entirety of the conversation.,0
But his termination was absurd, and as a Cuban-American myself, I'm quite comfortable accepting that he could view Jon Stewart or CNN or any other establishment in the U.S. as being bigoted (or prejudicial, as he later corrected himself - which did not make the news). I accept this because I blend quite nicely with Anglos and Jews on the surface and still when people discover my ethnicity they feel comfortable calling me 'amiga' or a 'hot-blooded Latin mama' or asking me to do a Charro imitation. (Granted, the latter of these was in the late 70s, but man it stung and I'm still carrying it with me.) I've been asked more times than I can count if I have a good recipe for salsa. I never ask my Polish friends for pierogi recipes, do you?
In the most academic circles people will greet me with 'hola chica' and I've had more than one person ask me if my fair-skinned children actually 'belong' to my dark, olive-skinned husband. Bigotry is quite alive and healthy in this country, certainly in media where even Univision's lead anchors are fair and have blue or green eyes. So if Rick is a little raw from a lifetime of dealing with that and has had it up to 'aqui' with Jon Stewart's nickering and teasing, I'll allow him a little leeway. Just like we allow Keith Olberman and Chris Matthews and Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh some room. Lots of room.
Oh that's right.
They're white.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Lesson on the Eve of 9/11

We are all the same.

Have you ever had a day when you felt the warmth of another person sitting next to you and wondered about them? Did you wonder whether they were feeling your warmth? Did you wonder whether or not they loved their moms? Liked the color red? Thrilled at the first steamed windows of a cold-weather day? I have.

Have you ever walked the streets of your town and, in the course of whatever business you were carrying out, caught the eye of a stranger and smiled? Have you seen the same person in a crowded place more than once and wondered whether they noticed you as many times as you noticed them? I have.

Have you ever had moments, in any qualifiable way no different than the moment before or after, when you felt as blessed as a body could be? Or had same moments with the opposite flavor? When all seemed to fail and flounder? I have.

I've had days of heat and ardor, days of pure cool. I've spent time thoroughly spent and felt time fly away from me before I could grasp its intent. I've loved and hated. More the former, and most often I've regretted the latter. I've grown tired and worn and I've been uplifted.

I've made my mother proud and disappointed her deeply. Hopefully more of the first and less the other. I have worked so, so hard only to see something fall apart and I've barely tried and been successful beyond my wildest imagination. (Ongoing apologies to my high school mates who most suffered at this in my sophomore econ class.)

I've lived a full and rich life and I've not yet lived at all in some respects.

We are all the same.

Those who lost their lives on 9/11, and in the terrorist acts that preceded it, and in the life-wasting exercises since were just like me. They wore jeans that were too tight, squelched nervous stomachs on the first day of school, drank an icy cold glass of water on a hot day. Those who carried out those acts and all others also had days of soaking in sun, or hurt feet in too-tight shoes. We've all loved someone, lost someone, screwed something up.

We are all the same.

As we threaten to hurt one another, carry out acts of antagonization, or otherwise march toward the demise of our commonality we must return to this concept with great purpose and seriousness. We are all the same. When I injure you, I serve only my own chronic pain. When I heal you, I enrich my own peace and bring myself closer not just to you but to my true self. I am a real, breathing, living being, so much like you no matter my different choices.

Those lost on a path that meanders - sometimes races- away from this truth toward ugliness, fear and despair must not direct us away from our righteous end.

Find in me, as I find in you, all that we share and I know you will see. We are all the same.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Danger of Democracy

There's a lot of talk right now about our democracy. I suppose that's not new. Americans have and inspire quite a bit of conversation on that topic. There's a lot of talk about racism and equality. That's not new either. It may never be new, I'm sorry to report. Despite the sensitivity of the subjects, these conversations are not inherently bad or inappropriate. They're uncomfortable, but not dangerous.

The impetus for the current discourse swirls in and around two topics: 1. the proposed Islamic center near the ruins of the 9/11 disaster in New York and 2. the proposed revocation or alteration of 14th amendment rights. Pundits and ponderers are batting the questions back and forth across cable news channels, over AM radio airwaves and throughout the paltry print that remains in any way relevant. No matter how elementary, these bluster-machines pretend their questions are massive, resounding elephants of truth tramping through the forest: 'Should the mosque be built there? In the shadows of the towers where Islamic extremists terrorized our country?' 'Should tourists be allowed to bring their pregnant women into the U.S.? Should Mexicans be allowed to do that?' No matter how unsavory or surreal the questions, our free society permits them - encourages them. There's no danger in the questions.

And as we've undressed the issues, we've had bad diagrams drawn and boring scholars expound and unfortunate theories traded. For a visual representation of the mess, picture the last day of a nominating convention when confetti makes its way maniacally up and around a vast arena, with no real direction, no purpose except to excite and distort. It's beautiful and chaotic and overdone. But not dangerous. Right?

Right. We're agreed until we get past the topic, beyond the questions and over the media-induced frenzy. Then we may part company. Because when I see injustice it's not just my moral self that reacts, it is my American self.

As an American I believe it is shameful and embarrassing that nine years after the fact we are still not properly caring for relief workers who rained down upon the disaster site in New York like angels from heaven. I am even more betrayed by the fact that we have not erected any meaningful replacement for the towers, the gape in the landscape serving as daily congratulations to the terrorists who created it. My American sensibility winces with real pain at the failure to remember our unity in the days that followed that disaster so that we could use that unity for strength against any challenge.

But nothing ruins me more as an American than the thought that we might prevent Muslims from building a place of worship and congregation near the site of the 9/11 attacks, simply because terrorists wearing masks of Islam participated in those attacks. Nothing could serve as a more polished symbol of ignorance about our own fundamental ideology than doing that. Except maybe revoking the birth-right citizenship of persons born in the U.S. without regard to parentage.

Traveling so far from our well-reasoned principles to a place where fear and extreme reaction control our policies would be a terrific step backward in the evolution of the American democracy. How? Please take a moment to think about what it means to tell a Muslim, a New Yorker, and a natural-born citizen of the U.S. that his place of worship is offensive or impermissible. Replace Muslim with Jewish. Tell a Jew, born and raised in New York, that his proposed temple near a German-American museum insults the nation. Replace Jewish with black. You get the idea.

And while you're at it tell my grandparents, who entered through Ellis Island and on make-shift boats from Cuba with nothing but hope in their pockets , that their U.S. citizen children, U.S.-born grandchildren and God knows how many American great grandchildren might not deserve citizenship here. Need to check their brownness... er their patriotism... uh, I mean... we'll get back to you on that. In the meantime, just tell your fellow Americans that American ideals work for us but not for them. There's equality under the law for me but not for you. No danger there, right? Wrong.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

There is frightful danger. The power of democracy is its truth - it's freedom and justice - it's acknowledgement of the self-evident. The danger is the lie - the contraint and corruption - the suppression of the inherent right.

It is a lie that an Islamic cultural center near the 9/11 site insults the nation. The truth is it upholds and uplifts the fundamental ideals of the nation because in the United States who you are is as wanted and respected as who I am. It is a lie that those born here do not deserve the right of citizenship. The truth is, the coming together of my Italian-American mother and my Cuban father to create me here in this unique place on earth is what inherently makes me American. If my dad didn't have his papers in order would I be any less so? No.

I understand the fear that others might perceive us as foolish and weak. We must overcome that fear. Our very existence is proof that, once experienced, freedom, justice and truth have no competition. Terror cannot replace them. Bigotry cannot deny their potency. Fear is no match. The danger of our democracy is not that we might make ourselves vulnerable by offering too much liberty or fairness. The danger is that we may not use the power of our majority to ensure that the truth speaks louder than the lie.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Anniversary Post

It's not my anniversary today. Thursday. Thursday, August 5th, 2010 will mark 15 years since I fluttered nervously at the back of that church, eyes blurry, waiting to step across the threshold of my individual self in order to enter the domain of my shared self. Those who know me may think that moment was a challenging one for me. It was not.

I walked down that aisle with great confidence and my heart as completely full as it could be, on the arm of the man who raised me - to the extent that any man did - to reach the man who lifted me up. He still does. As I approached him I was beyond words - well past describable emotion and so alive in the moment of my dreams I could barely contain myself. He was too, although he'll swear until we're sharing the story in heaven that he did not cry. He did.

Our families were there, the friends who had brought us to that moment were there, God was there - no doubt - and outside, cheering crowds were there. Nothing like having your wedding at a lakefront church on the first day of the Air and Water Show to add a little background noise to your ceremony! It had been grey and dreary in the days leading up to our wedding day. We exchanged our vows with the gold and green of ancient stained glass played along the walls as the sun emerged full and throaty. I took some credit for that, as I had prayed most fiercely that God would welcome my marriage with a little sunshine. Early evidence in my adult life that with all His more important tasks, God hears every prayer. It was lovely, sweet, perfect - then and in my memory.

Despite its glow, the day was not without it's fits and starts, nor were the preparations, and certainly the days after have held their challenges. I'll greet my anniversary with fifteen years of experience, some of it magical, some of it most desperate. Days of dull, dishes and dirty socks together with moments of incredible splendor, discovery and communion have filled a life together that for me is always new and worthwhile and ready. I am not love without my husband. I submit because I choose (not often, but I do...). I am strong because he needs me. I am a mother because of His grace, but also his grace. I go forward because he holds my hand and I don't have to be alone, or fearful. He protects me and my children and makes us safe, no matter the danger. He is my best friend, my only champion, my truth, even when it hurts. My heart still flutters when I see him, and for whatever length of time we are apart - even now in this tiny little moment - I long for him.

I knew all of that would be true fifteen years ago when I took his hand on that day with that promise before God and familly. I knew it. I know it now. And if I can love him for all eternity, it may not be enough. Now, as then, when we sang softly (and completely off-key) to one another we show each other the world, shining, shimmering, splendid, taking each other wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under, on a magic carpet ride.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Keeping It Real? Uh. No.

Been having tantrums in my head for the past several weeks. "It's not fair!" I've stormed petulantly in my head. "I don't waaannnna," I've whined. "How come it's always meeee?" I mourn. Now, it could just be that I'm channeling the thoughts expressed around me all day long, as I juggle my not-in-camp-for-the-summer children, along with (Thank God!) enough work to keep us busy and the usual melange of stuff.

But it's not that. If I'm being really honest with myself it's not mimic tantruming. It's original. I own it.

Of course, if I were being really honest with you I'd say it's not that easy to be really honest with myself. It's easier to assert that I've scraped off enough levels of the protective ice coating (inside joke with myself - have you ever seen the move "Mother" with Debbie Reynolds? hysterical) to say that I'm being really honest. But that's bull. Real honesty is painful and leaves you raw and too open to attack.

Real honesty would include admitting that I'm addicted to things that are bad for me - take it easy slugger, I'm talking about food and coffee and things that come over the counter - because somewhere in there I don't think I deserve all the good things I have in my life. I'm afraid someone will tap me on the shoulder and tell me I've been standing in the wrong line and need to get my unqualified butt into the longer line with the misfit toys from that horrible Christmas cartoon. So I damage myself as punishment for my perceived crime. That's some crazy business, isn't it?
Real honesty would be saying that I write what I feel because no matter how vocal I am in real life, the fact is I hold back. I'm too chicken to fully express my less rehearsed self in 3-D. And I don't think people should listen to me because maybe I don't know what the heck I'm saying. So I put it on paper (even virtual paper) so it can be expressed but quietly so it can be ignored. Except I don't want to be ignored. I want to be noticed. But not really. And that's crazy too, isn't it?
Real honesty would be to finally cast my line, even if I don't catch my dream, just because telling my kids to do it isn't enough, I have to show them. I have to be fearless and confident so they can see that the pursuit is just as valuable as the catch. I have to do that but I don't. I am afraid, so I don't.

Yeah. So. That real honest thing? I'm not there yet.

So let's say, even at the qasi-honest level I know the tantrums are my own. The mom in me is also on a loop reprimanding me for my poor behavior, making the whole thing a sitcom in my head. It's no wonder my hair is curly. The follicles must be running in circles looking for an exit.

I can't say what I'm tantrumming about because part of my mission going forward on this subject is to show some restraint. I'm not off to a terrific start, but I am a strong believer in the pick yourself up, dust yourself off, etc. method of making progress. So I won't blather on and on about what it is. Suffice to say I'm so dang tired of the subject I've long run out of patience and diplomacy and willingness to have meaningful dialogue. I'd like everyone to just do what I say and agree that everything I think is totally perfect and great. In fact, I'd like everyone to just move over and let me handle it. I know I can't move things like global economies and governments at the wave of a hand, but I'd really like to. A lot. And my immobility and incapacity for making others move out of their obstructionist stances is making me dang cranky!

And I don't want to wait!

And I don't want to act my age!

I want what I want right NOW!

Maybe, if I'm being really honest, what I need is a nap. Does anyone have a blanky?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Da Daddada Dadda Dadda Da

That title's my ode to the Blackhawks. I've no idea how to spell that little ditty, but I'm hoping the best for them as some Chicago team has got to win something some time, as per that law of averages I've heard about. I wouldn't know for sure, because as a Cubs fan, the averages never seem to turn out the way I think they will. I've said before, I stink at math.

So I feel I've been away from this page for too long and, Chicago sports fan-dom aside, my ire has built up beyond capacity. Where to begin? A tasting menu, should do it:

For those who are concerned with privacy and Facebook, I have this: you are idiots. Facebook is on the internet. The internet is a global publishing device. It's a place where you've agreed to be public, not private. If you are trying to be private, don't blast your inane interests and fuzzy photos and unnecessary diatribes disguised as blogs all over your FB page. Stop whining and get on with your glitter charms or farm animals or whatever else it is you're doing instead of being private. On second thought, maybe you should be hiding some of that stuff. Yeesh.

For the CEO of FB: you're a twit. Your successful business model, which has made you into a lauded boy-genius and a mega-millionaire, failed to include one small detail - payment. I don't know how that one got past you, but if advertisers on your site don't make money from being there, they will leave. The way to keep them there is not to make your users, their audience, leave. That's one of those if A=B and B=C then don't mess with A or B or C because they'll get together and kick your behind. Maybe you should have thought it through a bit more.

On the issue of BP and the oil spill: America, wake up, we are to blame. BP is a sideshow to our epic performance of GREED RULES. If we weren't so desperate to guzzle oil and make tons of money and have more crap than a body should know what to do with, all sold at some remote Wal-Mart that we have to constantly drive to and from, none of this would be happening. We are spend-a-holic, drive-a-holic, future-mortgaging, instant-gratification junkies. It is our fault. Our fault. Own it first, then you can fix it.

On the issue of BP and the oil spill plus Fox News: (and here I'm borrowing from my good friend Jon Stewart) GO F&*K yourself! Are you out of your cotton-picking minds? The oil spill is the result of environmentalists efforts to improve safety in drilling practices? That's funny. I thought it was a consequence of the systemic deregulation of drilling practices and the oversight carte-blanche the industry was given to monitor itself during the Bush-Cheney administration. To be clear, you employ someone as a consultant who not only espouses the 'environmentalists are to blame' theory, but also says BP is not to be trusted because it is a foreign company. Uh, seriously folks, you need to check your microphones because I think you have the perverse cousin of autotune messing with your sound - autoidiot. Microphone check? Check.

A bit further into the wild: Israel and Palestine are at it again. There's a shocker. To my Israeli friends, when you are wrong, you defeat your own cause by insisting you are right. To my Palestinian friends, seriously? You know you're standing in a puddle of gasoline - why light a cigarette? You are both looking like volitile, unstable ex-boyfriends who need to be properly diagnosed and put on a med regimen. I believe this is why we broke up in the first place.

For my beloved Barack Obama, President of the United States: not as easy as it looks, huh? Don't let that break you. You're a smart man with a good team of people behind you and a willing citizenry to support you. Now gitcher considerable butt in gear and get to that spill. I know you've been doing a lot of great stuff, and I love you for it, but being President is like being a parent, except with more diapers. You can't rest for a minute because if you do the smell will take over the house and while you're trying to clean that up your next door neighbor will start a fight over the height of the hedge between his house and Fred's next to him. You need to keep on it. Sleeping is for sissies. (By the way, the grey makes you look even sexier and I dig that you and your wife are still making time for one another and your children. Keeps you relatable.) Now get back to work!

I have more, but apparently, the bottom has not dropped out of the buying market and I have work to do. Sing it with me: Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelu oooh oooh oooh oooh oooh jah!

Monday, May 10, 2010

So Hot

On the one hand, if you get the Mother's Day thing right, you are the hottest man on the planet. On the other hand, juggling the possibilities - and not just for your wife but for your mother-in-law and your own mother - can feel like a real-life version of hot potato. Chances of getting burned? Pretty high.

It starts about a week out. You start assessing the options. Take them out one at a time and give them your full attention. Yes. Wait, no. Then you have to leave two of them alone while you take the other one out - bad idea. Hot potato.

Take them all out at once! Yes! NO-Jeez, what were you thinking?? Hot potato.

Have them all over to the house. You can set the whole thing up. It'll be cheaper and they'll appreciate the personal attention. Wait - wha? Who let a tornado through this house? Do we usually keep a stock of legos in the bathroom? Uh, never mind, nothing here. Hot potato.

AHA! (Light bulb!) Ask them what they want to do and then do that! Wait, no. No, no, no. Fallen into this trap before. Then they think you can't think of anything and can't plan anything for them the way they ALWAYS plan EVERYTHING. Definitely not asking them a damn thing. Hot potato.
Mental pacing back and forth, back and forth. What to do. What to do. What to do.

In the meantime, it's gotten to be Saturday. Kids have prepared loving homemade gifts and original pieces of art, wife has assembled series of small gifts for friends and family, neighbors have dropped off little somethings that make your wife tear up, your mom has dropped hints the weight of the average anvil, your mother-in-law is flushed and excited about the 'big day'. Everyone's ready except you.

'For the love of GAAAAAHD,' you think to yourself, 'why do they invent these torturous holidays?!?'
In a mad dash you pack the kids into the car, mumble something about AutoZone to make sure your wife tunes out (not realizing that your wife knows damn well you're not going to AutoZone with three kids dressed for a party) and rush to the nearest department store in a full sweat and increasing panic. You bluster from predictable display to predictable display, not wanting to be that guy who buys his wife the green apple bath set because he doesn't know what to get. The kids pant behind you as you rush up and down escalators, across lobbies, through carpeted odes to tack and glam. Then it happens! You remember your wife said something about socks yesterday and there before you, rising out of the 2nd floor atheltic wear department like a Vegas-style water display, is the glorious socks-on-sale pyramid. God loves you! It'll be thoughtful, it'll be practical (how many times has she said, 'But I don't even need a wrench set'?) and it's on SALE! Wooo hoooo!

You are done, brother. Forget the mother-in-law, your wife has that covered. Forget your own mom - she loves you anyway. You have scored the big TD. Add some flowers and a card to this puppy and you've just rung the bell, son. You may very well get some personal attention of your own later if this all goes according to plan. Home you go, barely able to contain the grin. You prance around the house all Saturday night feeling just so good about yourself. Of course she's getting excited too. Anticipation is key, as our friends at the Heinz company well know.

Sunday arrives - the big moment is here - she opens the lovely card - sniffs the lovely flowers - and then gently peels back pastel tissue paper from a floral gift bag to reveal.... socks! Yesssss. You're smiling ear-to-ear. But wait, she's got a face - not the right face - the completely wrong face. God Bless Moses, you got it wrong. You got it all wrong. It's the wrong face. She's trying not to make the kids feel bad so she smiles and giggles and says 'thank you' but it's wrong, wrong wrong. You have not been favored with the tear-and-pressed-gift-to-chest. Instead, you have been relegated to the set-aside-gift-bag-and-return-to-kids'-cards. Loser. Again.
The rest of the day goes on with a fog over it. You check to see if maybe you misjudged - hand on the small of the back as you walk through the door - extra long laugh when she laughs at a child's joke - but you're getting no eye contact, no hand snuck under yours to squeeze. You know the face, there was no misjudging. You blew it, blew it blew it. And the next chance you get to do this again, you'll be starting with the deficit of this disaster. The sky is black.
But guess what. You didn't blow it at all. If your wife is brand-spanking new at this whole married thing, then maybe she doesn't see it that way. But us gals who've been at it for a while see the whole thing and love you for it. Love you for the fretting and wanting to get it right, love you for the strain of going outside your area of expertise to do something you'd otherwise avoid like poison ivy, love you for giving us a reason to celebrate this most glorious of holidays. We love you and appreciate you and are glad for you every day and especially this day.

As for me personally? I awoke to the scent of a delicious cup of coffee - bedside - the Sunday paper (my fave), fresh roses, and the sound of my husband vacuuming. I made a brunch at home with my daughters and my mom while my husband and son tended the garden and planted all our flowers. I went shopping a bit in the afternoon, came home to a gorgeous yard and clean house, freshened up and went to my mother-in-law's house for a dinner of delicious homemade tamales. It was lovely and wonderful and my husband made it happen.

And that was so hot.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Status Line Blinking

What's on my mind? What's on my mind is that our state is failing to fund education because it's trying to plug its budget deficit with my kids' future. Of course, what the what the well-paid club members in Springfield don't realize or don't care about is that public schools anchor neighborhoods and directly affect property values. Property values control economic stability and serve as the stream of tax revenue we need to cure our financial ails.

Further, consistently strong property values create stable neighborhoods. Stable neighorhoods translate to healthy local economies and boost consumer confidence. Consumer confidence drives consumption. Consumption equals more tax revenue. Therefore, in the short term, damaging schools is a direct hit to our revenue, something we clearly cannot afford.

In the long term, an uneducated generation of children, followed by another and yet another is not likely to create the type of local or broader economic health and stability that we need to sustain our preferred way of life. Uneducated people become dependents and subordinates, not independent thinkers and leaders. Is school the only place to become educated? No, I'm living proof of that. But is it necessary to give our children a collective kick in the shin on that lifelong race to success? No.

And if I were a kid and I were at all paying attention, I might think that all the pompous grown-ups going around telling me how to behave were a bunch of hypocrites and liars. 'School is very important,' we all tell our children. 'I'm the education fill-in-the-political-office-blank,' we hear candidates intone over and over again. When the truth is, we not only don't put our money where our big fat mouths are, we don't even get off the damn couch to complain in person when given the opportunity. If it's more than a click that's requried from us, we're just too damn lazy to care.

That's fine for us. We're as smart as we're going to get. I'm just wondering how we feel about our kids bumping into walls for the rest of their lives because we couldn't be bothered with giving them a sense of direction. I suppose we care as much about that as we care that a state in our country is racially discriminating against people in order to comply with a law or as much as we care that there is an entire industry - with it's own street in New York, no less - robbing us blind every day. The fact is we don't care. We don't care and that's why we're in the mess we're in. Maybe we're the ones that need to go back to school.

Too bad we can't afford that.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Dozen Already?

Usually when I ask that question it relates to donuts - as in, 'I ate a dozen already?' But today, it relates to the number of years since I experienced the most powerful moment in my life. That moment was on April 28th, 1998, when I delivered our first child. (Oddly, the second most powerful moment I ever experienced was on the same day, a few moments later when my father-in-law walked in the room before everything was.. er.. done.) The day was so remarkable for the obvious reasons, but also because my daughter's birth let so much truth into my life, truth that has given me much peace.

The first truth I experienced on that day was that, in fact, there is a God. He may not be what we imagine Him to be, or what we write Him to be. He may not be at all what we want Him to be. But He exists and my daughter quelled any doubt I might have had. In my view there can be no holier moment than sharing the birth of your newborn child with your parents and partner, expressing in vivid color and raw emotion the continuity of life, the flawless intent of nature, and the perfection with which a power much greater than ours executes the most complex of tasks. In every way Lucy was born into love and acceptance and joy and she has radiated that beauty all of her life. That comes from God. I know it.

Further to the continuity of life thing, on the day of my daughter's birth I was, myself, born into the knowledge that my life is a bond between those who came before and those who come after. As I held my baby girl and looked into her brand new face, I saw my grandmother as plain as if I were looking at her directly. I saw my father, whom I'd only seen once and cannot remember, but I know I saw him (see him) in her face. I saw my husband and me and I could feel my aunt's heart beating in my baby's chest, warm and excited and loving. I heard my mother-in-law's voice, felt my brother-in-law's spirit. I found my child's newness as if it were a story I'd heard a million times and loved for it's familiarity and comfort. She was meant to be because she'd been planned by the coincidence of our shared history and she would carry forward the life of our ancestors just as we all have.

As such, it became true for me that my purpose in life was to bring forward this little life. Nothing greater waited for me because this was great beyond comprehension. As I held her in my arms on our way to the recovery room I was consumed with fulfillment, more than I thought I could contain. I was humbled, realizing that at such a young age my life's purpose had been realized - and with a splendor and magnitude the likes of which I could not have aspired to much less achieved had I really been trying. Still, it was no accident that my unworthy self created this precious creature, it was instead what gave me worth and meaning, even before I knew it.

With this meaning I could see clearly for the first time. Which is why on the day my baby was born I loved my body for the truth it spoke to me in a language I had not heard since I was a baby myself. For most of my adult life I had loathed at least some part of my body, if not all of it, for its misshapen qualities or lack of some feature, or abundance of others. But on the day Lucy was born my body was beautiful. It was perfect and flawless and lovely. And what joy that gave me, what song in my soul. (Of course, that song has had a few choruses mumbled between then and now, but I know the words and I can belt it out if I need to.)

Lucy gave me truth and truth is peace and because of her and my Sam and my Sara I am a complete person.

That said, and in the interest of fairness, I feel it's important to share with you a few other truths that have become evident to me since Lucy was born. I think you'll agree every see has its saw.
  • there is no greater fear in life than having a child. if you mess this one up there's no going back. for this reason all children should remain plastic-coated and carefully bubble-wrapped until the age of majority
  • children object to being plastic-coated and bubble-wrapped, some quite vehemently
  • apparently if you feed children they grow, a lot, so pace yourself
  • the toddler shoe manufacturing business is designed to make shoes that are either too small or too big, but none that fit, forcing you to constantly buy toddler shoes to see if you can catch your kid's foot at the precise moment when the shoe will fit
  • it never does
  • pining for the day when your child learns to speak your name is no match for ruing the day your child ever learned to speak your name
  • at about year six you learn to pine for the day when your child forgets to call your name for at least thirty seconds a day
  • at some point you will once again pine for the day when your child calls out your name
  • that point won't be when she's stomping off in a huff declaring that you 'don't understand ANYTHING'
  • your child knows everything
  • this becomes especially true the closer she gets to teenage years; if you doubt, ask her
  • this rule does not apply when you ask 'God bless it - who left this here in the middle of the damn floor?'; at this point your child knows nothing
  • your child will repeat herself a lot
  • your child will repeat you a lot too
  • the latter hurts more
  • your child will grow and learn and mature at a rate that is alarming, at best
  • her friends will grow too, learn other things, and mature at an even faster pace
  • the latter hurts more
  • your child will tend away from you in order to become herself as she gets older
  • fight it, but not too hard
  • eventually, she'll win that fight
  • that's what you want
  • even if you don't

I hope this assessment of the last dozen year's knowledge is helpful to you. It's certainly been knowledge that's been hard-learned for me, but well worth the expense of the education. The time has flown and, really, it doesn't feel like it's been twelve years since I held that warm, soft, breathing baby in my arms and felt that heat against my body and knew the truth of love in as intimate and personal a way as possible. I was overwhelmed then, as I am now, with the enormity of the task in front of me as much as I was with the sense that everything was right and all my life made sense. It seems really like it was just moments ago and yet seasons have danced by, days of smiles, rains and play, years of sorrow and joy and work. It's been so long and seems so quick. The definition of bittersweet, isn't it? And so if I'm left with one prevailing thought, it comes from a little ditty my son was singing to Lucy for her birthday. Set to a cheerful, bouncy tune, it goes

This is the birthday song.

It isn't very long.

I quite agree.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Have you seen the version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnnie Depp as Willie Wonka? It's a little odd, but then the original is odd too and both are equally enjoyable. One of my favorite bits in the movie is Wonka's response to a certain child's persistent inquires - many of which are logical, but terribly annoying. Depp's virtuoso "What? You're mumbling. I can't hear you!" is at once juvenile and genius. I love it for it's complete disregard for what's right and proper. So I'm using it all the time now.

The furnace is leaking again.

"What?" (straining)

Mommy, a boy asked me 'out'.

"You're mumbling." (absent minded look)

I've lost 8 lbs. How about you?

"Huh? I can't hear you!" (loudly, confused)

We need more volunteers.

"WHAT??" (hand cupped behind ear)

It might be the onset of menopause.

"STOP MUMBLING! I CAN'T UNDERSTAND A WORD YOU'RE SAYING." (exasperated, but completely rational and NOT behaving like an olympic gold medalist in the bipolar competition)

See? It's an all-purpose answer. Now you try.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'm Just Not That Into It

I'm breaking up with my news media. Seriously. I can't stand it anymore.

We used to get along fine, but somewhere along the line, my relationship with the "news" soured. I think it started with OJ. Remember that maelstrom and how it shifted the paradigm for determining newsworthiness? Fast forward and arrive at Tiger Woods. What do these two stories have in common? The obvious, yes, but after that? Neither one has one damn thing to do with me, that's what. I don't care about men with juice for names any more than I care about people with first names that double as upholstory prints. Football is an excuse to have parties where you eat fattening snack foods in front of witnesses and golf is an excuse to change the damn channel. I don't care. DON'T CARE.

The latest in the brigade of unnecessary stories marching into our living rooms is the one about Justice Stevens. He might quit. He might not. Some of us think he will. Some of us don't. Some stuff might happen after that. Other stuff might not. As reported today by NPR - when he leaves, if he leaves, there may not be any Protestants on the Supreme Court. Whoa - run for the hills folks, Armageddon must be next! Oh wait - that was last week - when the stalked non-story du jour was the passage of healthcare reform. (Passage of the reform was a story. The orange-faced arse who claimed it would invoke Armageddon was not.)

Sot that's it. I can't stand it anymore! Get a life, media, and let me get on with mine! It is over between us. You may think Stevens and Woods are in different categories, but they're not. There's nothing substantive being reported on Stevens, any moreso than there was on the Woods story. Both events, after their initial introduction, have become eye-tearingly boring and a galactic waste of my time. I can't listen to you blather on any longer, nor can I go over to your folks' home and listen to them repeat everything you just said, but louder and in more biased fashion, wearing hopeless plaids and worse hair.

You need to move on and forget about me. Some day, maybe we can be friends again, but for now, I want you to lose my number. Just assume I'm shampooing my hair and can't answer your recorded messages. I'm sorry.

I'm just not that into you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Vote and The Painted Soccer Ball

Still going in circles over the Democratic leadership's efforts to garner enough votes to pass the health care reform bill? By hook or by crook? Oh yeah. We all are.

The assessment in today's New York Times is that there will be enough votes to pass the bill. What's troubling to me about this is that the conversation appears to have turned. We are no longer collecting the most votes we can get based on the merits of the bill, just the bare minimum. The reasoning? Democrats are determining which members of Congress can be absolved of the responsibility to vote for the bill since it's expected to be the kiss of death during mid-term campaigns. Really?

So during the era-defining legislative battle of their lifetimes, our congressmen and women are standing firm and tall, carrying the mantle of justice forward with dignity and a sense of historical perspective, propelling the democracy into a new period of greater health (pun in tended) and sustainability, right? Uh, no. They're slouching and shuffling their feet, flailing, grinning creepily in front of microphones, and edging away from what they consider to be political quicksand. 'Honor and duty be damned. If you can get it done without me, please do, so I can keep my job.' Classy.

So I'm walking the kids to school today and my son sees an old soccer ball along the side of a building.

"Oooh! Soccer ball!! Can I go get it?"
"No," I tell him.
"Why not?" with puppy eyes.
"It's not yours,"
"But Maaaaamiiiii. You can tell nobody wants it," he pleads.
"Forget it. Not yours. Plus we're running late," I reply in standard Mom 'quit it' voice.
"But Maaaaaammmm. I'll go quick!" the volley.
"No," I say. "And why would you want it? You already have soccer balls," I remind him.
Slowing down, digging in, "It's a good one."
"No, Sam. And it's filthy."
"I can wash it," he offers cheerily.
"We're not washing it. And it's pink for crissakes. Why would you want a pink ball?" I march on.
"I could paint it!"

I smiled at my boy. Every obstacle had a path around, over or under. There was no deterring. He wanted that ball and he was going to challenge and overcome every objection. He is nine, after all.

Now, you and I both know that painting a soccer ball is ridiculous. It wouldn't work, first of all, and even if it did, it wouldn't last. I could have told my son that and he would have either been completely defeated or he would have kept up with a barrage of new arguments for his position.

This scene plays out on a much larger scale when it comes to health care. Some of us think its a great idea. Others, not so much. Our history tells of other occasions when this has been the case.

Famously, a few starving, ill-equipped farmers thought they could beat back the British army to take over a whole country. Sounds - what's the word - familiar? No, the word I'm looking for is ridiculous. It sounds ridiculous. Except it turns out they could and they did. However improbable, some of the most unlikely things in history turned out to be some of the greatest things that ever happened. Funny thing is, cowardice did not play a helpful role in this little battle for justice. It didn't help at all.

So having reached the tipping point in the arguments for and against this major reform of health care in the United States, some are arguing against and some persist forward. I'm tired of hearing how one political party is simply using tactics and maneuvers to get things done - all of which the other side has done plenty of times. I'm equally tired of this party or that serving not as real representatives of the people, but as sycophants, retreating or allowing others to retreat from truth and fairness in order to save individual asses. It's all shameful and embarrassing.

Our representatives need to give voice to the truth, however they see it, and then suck up the consequences no matter what they may be. And they need to hear you telling them to do so. Call your congressional representatives and tell them to do good for good's sake, and reassure them that we're willing to stand together to take the hit on the off chance we're doing something phenomenal. Tell them to have a sense of morality so that keeping their own jobs is secondary - at least - to protecting the people. Tell them to be Americans in the action sense of that word. For the love of Pete, tell them to stop being such cowards!

And for the record, I'm taking that darn ball home and painting it a flaming bright blue, just to show faith in the notion that we can instead of that we can't. I may be ridiculous, but I'm no coward.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's Complicated. Or is it?

Opened up the big, family-sized can of worms this week asking an open question about the Holocaust and some rumor that Muslims were protesting its inclusion in curricula in Europe. Apparently there have been some pretty well-known Muslim leaders who've proclaimed that it never happened. The Holocaust, that is. Never happened. Right then. Fries with your crazy?

So when I got this note about Muslims being 'offended' by the inclusion of false historical data in classrooms and their attempts to have references to the Holocaust removed from school books, I kind of figured it wasn't true. Even so, I was intrigued. It was the total lack of sense in the message that made me think it might be real. I put a question out to some friends to see what people knew about it. And, boy, did I get answers. I am a Cubs fan and I've been to some of the cross-town games so I know a heated exchange when I'm the instigator... er... when I'm in the middle of one. Now, as in those instances, the particulars of the argument didn't matter as much as the tone, the energy, the conviction, the aerodynamics of a Bud Light... no... wait...

I'll admit I'm not super invested in the Middle East thing. I've read some books, had some pretty interesting conversations, kept abreast of basics - but I'm no expert. The truth is if you asked me to pare it down to its simplest terms (and those of you who know me have already heard this from me), I'd say there was enough crazy to go around. There is no greater good coming from the existing policies, nor has any come from policies prior. Clearly, still, there is no peace.

That said, Muslims are not re-writing history for European schools to eliminate the Holocaust. Also, the Holocaust happened. Those are the simple truths.
The more complicated ones sound a little like this, to me at least: Jews are still in pain over what happened. The entire world betrayed them, whether by act or omission, for a long period, and they are still suffering the effects. They do not trust. With reason, they do not trust.

Their Muslim brothers have become the 'evil-doers' du jour. The violence of some against others has been broadcast on every channel, in every language, in high definition, for years now. This loud, brazen campaign dressed in the colors of faith, has forced peaceful people to defend their manner of intimacy with God, as if it were perverse rather than pure. The world allows it, in some cases rises and applauds it. One could argue the world is once again betraying a people and creating - nay - soliciting, begging mistrust.

Both sides - and all who defend in their names - seek answers.

Who among them is the evil one? Who is the more holy, the more deserving of God's grace? Neither. They all sin. And they are all blessed. Knowing this could give each the peace they so desperately desire. Instead, they are distracted from truth, driven by their pain instead of healed by their faiths.

As a Christian, I have been taught that the call to respond to sin does not require one to respond in kind. Instead, a call to the devil is an invitation to turn to God and find His strength to carry on His work. I believe this is true for all people, across all faiths. I believe it is not so necessary to force another to submit to my truth as it is to live my own life of faith.

And what of evil? What of my enemy? My enemy is not my brother. Whether his faith is not my own is irrelevant. My enemy is the devil that calls me to hurt my brother in the name of my God. I keep a respectful distance from this devil, knowing he is there, but choosing to allow him his business as I tend to mine. And when I am called to defend my faith, my right to exist in my faith, the history of my people, I do not do so with armaments, but with arms - extended, reaching.

I cannot touch you with my truth if I do not reach out, after all, can I?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tales From The Dark Side

During my grey, I'm pleased to find I still have my wit (if not my wits) about me. A few observations, if you'll indulge me:

Apparently, homeowner's insurance does not cover business losses incurred at home. That makes sense. Business insurance does not cover business losses effected in one's own personal residence. OK, I get that. I have substantial homeowner's insurance and pay hefty premiums for business insurance - twice, since both my husband and I are in the same profession. None of my losses were covered when I was robbed. Makes me think - if A=B and B=C then... and here's where I get lost... D= screw you we're just taking your money and running. This must be why I was never good at math.

The Department of Motor Vehicles must install body spray machines or some sort of emergency sprinkler system that will deodorize folks who've been sitting there so long they're beginning to petrify. Really, people, ethnic rules allowed - you must bathe in the quarter-year before you go to the DMV.

The gal at the DMV who said "I'm assuming you're changing your height and weight on here, right?" probably should have taken a look at the expression on my face after hour three of waiting to get in line with her. I looked like my photo. That was not a good sign.

The White gangbanger and mini-Puerto-Rican gangbangerette couple who entertained us all with their constant prancing, phone calling, tatoo revealing and related absurd and inappropriate behavior are to be thanked. It was kind of like watching an MTV show, but live. Unfortunately, I can only take about three minutes of those MTV shows before I want to club someone with a lamp. Lucky for us the DMV has no lamps.

I ordered all new credit cards for myself and have been enjoying the irony of having an empty wallet while card after card shows up at our house with my husband's name on it. In case I wasn't feeling non grata enough, thank you very much.

In the week or so since this all happened, we've had a good bit of fun trying to regularize ourselves. And when I say fun, picture raking your face with a broken fork. However, a few moments of really hysterical laughter provide tons of hope for the future. Latest incident?

"Sara, why are you wearing two different socks?" (Mommy stance, hands on hips.)

"I don't know. I can't find the pairs..." (Light bulb, big eyes, curlyness in full effect.) "Maybe the guy took them!!"

This has become household a favorite.

Found myself hesitating when entering the house a couple of times. Worked myself up into a good lather before I keyed the door. Marched in all "AHAAA!" only to find myself alone in my foyer with my children behind me, eye-rolling at breakneak speed. My dorkness, apparently, knows no bounds.

Also, gave up cursing for Lent. Talk about stupid. I wish I could describe how dumb that was in more colorful detail given the current state of affairs but I'd have to break my vow to do it. Expect technicolor in 35 days.

Have yet to buy a wallet. If you knew how much trouble I have with wallets, you'd know how particularly cruel it is that I lost this article. I'm as fussy as a gal can be on the subject. Has to be the right size, width, have a certain number of folds - no more, no less - have to be able to fit all my stuff in a certain order (according to use, importance, sentimental value, etc.). So instead, I have everything clumped up in baggie, tucked into a spot that's very hard to get to in my purse - for security reasons! Hah! So, to be clear, I haven't bought a wallet because I have to get one that's perfect. So instead, I have a baggie and am miserable. Must find the sense in that...

Maybe the guy took it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Thank You To My Thief

Last week our house was robbed. I'd like to thank whoever did it. You may think that's an odd reaction. I agree. It is odd. But it is one of the things I've been feeling very strongly since this happened.

I won't say this has been a good experience. It's been awful. I'm still somewhat sleepless and restless. I do not feel safe, despite my husband's and brother-in-law's valiant efforts to fortify the house against all evils, foreign and domestic. But then those toils, with hammers and ladders and Home Depot receipts galore - along with my brother-in-law's most generous gesture to help us pay for some of the expenses when he himself is in less than favorable conomic conditions - remind me how truly lucky I am to have such strong, loving, capable men to care for me and my children. I couldn't design them any better if I tried.

The kids have been putting on brave faces, with small exceptions made for tummy aches of unknown origins and quiet moments when the weirdness of it all seems to sink in. The dull and steady throb of guilt over how this has hurt my children is soothed, if at all, by the fact that snuggles and hugs have been plentiful - even moreso than usual - and mommy does seem to make things better, even though she's no idea how. I remember, in ways I hadn't for a bit, how delicious it is to sleep all in a bed, hot, tangled, touching and together.

I've mentioned this only to a handful of friends, really preferring not to answer and then re-answer all the 'how are you' type questions that are perfectly normal in these types of situations. The truth is I'm sick and petrified and wary and worn and I want to run, run, run away from all these screaming, railing, shrill problems that seem magnetically drawn to me of late. I want quiet and softness and vastness of solitude. I want the sun to soak into my face and the breezes of a wave in motion to rock me to sleep for a long, long time. I want away and over and none of this. That said, who among us could ask for better friends than those who rush over with smiles and gifts to distract from the gloom? What more could one want than just an understanding hug, and then a linger in the hug to make sure the reassurance was real enough to be felt after the embrace had ended? No more. Not for me. That was more than I could hope for.

Still, I am so sad and unsure. It has never been in my nature to dwell; I've always had a natural bouyancy so this period of mull and malaise is new to me. I have no practice in lifting myself up, only in lifting others. I'm afraid I just need some time this time. With that, I know I will find my new place, one experience richer and still hopeful. (cue organ music?)

My thief has provided an opportunity to re-learn, to re-discover, to renew. I am taking that in with some gratitude for the respite it provides from choosing not to see what is right in front of me. For that, and for granting me great confidence in my center - reminding me of something I have always known - that my greatest treasures are those that breathe softly and giggle profusely and sleep soundly (some whilst snoring quite loudly) in my bed - for all that he took that meant nothing and the great abundance he left behind that means everything, I thank him.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

She Asked For It

And asked for it and asked for it. And now I must respond. I've tried to demur. I've tried to tune out. But no matter my efforts, she keeps asking for it. She asks by her manner, her deeds, her presence. And she asks by her persistent insult to my intelligence, my patriotism and my honor. So here goes.
Sarah Palin is treasonous, vacant and a harmful enemy of the state. She threatens to destroy more than just a political party, she is an infection that without treatment will sicken the entire democracy. She is vitriol dressed in tight skirts and snark in high heels. Lipstick, indeed. Gentlemen, turn off those engines before you run over your country.
And before you serve the standard volley, allow me the following: I've nothing against beautiful women; I am one myself. I've nothing against conservative women; I am in many respects more conservative than she. I've nothing against powerful women; ask around - I'm a pretty powerful gal. Further, I will do well, and you would too, to keep God out of the conversation. His judgement shall be entered regardless of our pouts and pants on the subject so I shall leave that part of it in His good hands.
Instead, I shall focus on the areas where she continues to call me out - in matters of state, love of country, love of self. In each of these areas she has tortured me for far too long without my retaliation. The latest in the injuries has come as part of her participation in the 'Tea-Baggers Convention' of last week. And before I go into detail, please forgive the smirk I wear, when I refer to these self-titled "tea-baggers". It's just that I can't help wondering if the Palins and Bachmans of the world know they are representing a group that in most circles outside their protective bubble refers to men who will dangle, dip and place their bare testicles into the open mouth of a waiting lover - usually also a male. That is what tea-bagging is you backassward, no-nothing, foaming idiots! It's a homosexual love-making act! You are running around wearing t-shirts and silly hats and 2-dollar-silver-inlaid pins proclaiming your inclusion in the testicle-dipping convention! And you're all about bringing like-minded people together to change the tide in Washington, right?
But enough about gay marriage.
This week, Sarah Palin has been getting all kinds of press about her closing remarks during the Tea-Baggers Convention (smirk). The liberal media (also known as 'the news') has been going on ad infinitum about the nonsensical nature of her discourse, the irony in her sarcasm about the president's use of a teleprompter when she herself had written some notes on her bare hand, and the frustration of many that she continues to have a voice in the national political arena.
I honestly don't care about any of that. There are wacky conventions all over the place and people I don't agree with talk at them all the time. It's a wonder to me that no member of the Star-Trek convention has ever thought to run for elected office. He or she could run against the housewares convention chair. There're a ton of those 'trekkies' and the City of Chicago makes a ton of money off of those housewares guys when they're here. I bet that'd be a race to watch if it ever happened.
So if the tea-baggers (smirk) want to get together and wave flags and flap around about the issues that matter to them, so be it. God bless 'em. That's an exercise of the freedom we all pay so dearly for in this country.
The problem is when the qualities of this one particular speaker are elevated to become qualities to which I or my daughters should aspire. The problem is when this one speaker is held out to be an icon for women in this country to admire and for men to take seriously. The problem arises when this one speaker dons the aparatus of a hero when she is, in fact, a coward and a traitor. Then, we have a problem.
Sarah Palin is not the keeper of any quality that I wish to possess. She is neither refined nor intelligent - she has proven this again and again. She is not dignified or careful or diligent. She works in spurts, ineffectively, and then quits before investigations can reveal her inadequacy. She has held herself out as a model mother, wife, social servant, but in each of these areas when the truth peeks through, she is found to be lacking. It's fine to having failings in your life, that's natural, human. It is not fine to yourself promote, or allow others to promote on your behalf, the idea that others' failings or differences make them socialists while yours make you a beer-drinkin' good 'ol hockey mom. It is not o.k. for you to tell the President to 'listen' to you when you won't shut your mouth long enough to hear what anyone else has to say. It is not o.k. for you to wink at me, as if we're in on some secret together when, in fact, we're not even in the same hemisphere of thought. It is not o.k. for you to take your small-town self-promotion plan from village to state to the global stage purporting to care about your country when really it means you are putting my country in jeopardy. When foreigners see my country and see you and think you represent me - even in a tiny way - they hate you and they hate me because of you and then they blow up buildings here because of you. And people die.
See how ridiculous it is? If you read that quickly enough, it all seemed to flow nicely and make sense, didn't it? But of course it does not. No one is going to die because Sarah Palin is an idiot. At least I hope not. Unfortunately, the same irresponsible, slanted, stupid logic I used to get myself from "Sarah spoke at the Tea Bag Convention" (smirk) to "People Die" is the same reasoning she uses, if you want to call it that, when she says that the President of the United States is not caring wisely for our country. He wants change. He preaches hope.Therefore he is a socialist. 1-2-3.
To be clear, Ms. Palin does not believe that 'hope' and 'change' are good for our country, unless they are terms she spews along with a few 'betcha's and 'em's. I'm not that stupid, Sarah. In fact, none of us are. If some of us like your spunk and your willingness to take some punches in order to be famous, its for the same reason we buy People magazine with Heidi Montag on the cover. (I don't, but I know some folks do.) Just don't kid yourself, and don't think you're kidding me. You're a national joke. International, even. The political Paris Hilton. You're getting alot of attention now because you're the flavor of the month. We've had these before. Remember when Colin Powell was the 'it' man in your party? Black, military, conservative - flippin trifecta!!! Guess what? Colin voted for Obama. And he had one thing you don't - an intellect.
So I hope you're enjoying your time on the stage. I hope you're getting plenty of mileage out of that lipstick line because pretty soon, the lights will dim, the crowds will fade, and what will be left is you. Empty, accomplishment-less, contribution-less, value-less, and fame-less you. I hope its worth it. You can't say you didn't know it was coming. In fact, you asked for it.