Yesterday I turned out to join the Rev William Barbour, NC President of the NAACP and hundreds of other organizers and tens of thousands of other marchers to demonstrate in protest of recent NC legislation that brought national attention to our state – not because we are being incredibly innovative in solving issues, not because we have ended unemployment, or cured a disease – nope, because Jon Stewart found fodder for political satire and parody in the lunacy. Yes, NC is the brunt of national attention because of the litany of bills that were passed and signed into law in our state that set progress back fifty years.
My favorite sign at the march read, “Too many issues for just one sign.” That’s how I feel – there is just too much that went wrong in one legislative session to pick it apart. Rev. Barbour spoke for a five solid minutes just running down the list. But for me, it comes down to one issue: one point that so salient in my mind, and so offensive to my heart. One idea that conjures up every ounce of patriotism and passion in my soul.
America is a democracy. It is founded on the idea that the government derives its power from the consent of the people and without that consent, the government has no power or authority. When voting rights are infringed, in any way, it is an affront to our democracy and a call to action. Every single citizen in this country has a voice and that voice is heard at the ballot box. Every effort, every new law, every new technology should be used to make sure that each and every voice is heard without long lines, without government issued identification, without any obstacle between that citizen and the ballot box. That single issue is what got me to my feet, sent me out on a cold morning after a long week of work, and into the streets. If the politicians think they are representing the people, then make no move to block those people from the ballot box.
And people, get out and vote. There is a lot of work to be done.
I was sheltered - charmed, if you will. I was spared my first real experience with losing someone I knew well, someone I loved, until I was nearly 29 years olds. That was when we lost my father-in-law. Framing it as such – “my loss,” was and remains complicated. I was relegated to the shadows because it really and truly was and is still my husband’s loss. To lose one’s father – if you were lucky enough to have had a good one - is a huge, unexplainable, bottomless pit of a loss. I think it is second only to losing a spouse, or a child or maybe a brother or sister. So, for me to struggle to make sense of the loss of my father-in-law, to grieve for the first time as an adult dealing with death full on…let’s just suffice to say, I was a novice. Tears were plentiful but inadequate.
In the years that followed, I lost my grandmothers, my husband’s grandparents, an aunt. All of these losses were sad for me, and I empathized enormously with the children and spouses of the deceased. But nearly four years ago, I lost my father. That’s when I became an expert on my own grief. One can only hope to unravel their own grief as it is a different beast with each loss, for each person; therefore, having had a father with whom I could have a real relationship, the loss was deep and multi-faceted. There was the initial shock and heart-ache, the panic, the worry over my mother, the longing for one last conversation. It still creeps up on me and stings my eyes with uninvited tears from time to time. My dad was at times an ass, and a pill, but mostly he was a treasure, an icon, a dear, and I miss him terribly.
So, as I take a moment to appreciate the Day of the Dead, I am sorry for my Anglo-culture that pushes death aside and leaves it buried in the graveyard. I know I could create some ritual for myself and my family to purposefully and properly take note of those who have left us. Instead, I pick up my computer and muse hoping to strike a cord with my living loved ones who know the empty echo in their hearts created by loss. It is a weak and feeble gesture, yet a deep felt nod of appreciation for those who have passed on, for those who are gone but not forgotten. Now that I think about it, maybe I just need to add some tequila.
I think that when most people do something for the first time, they feel a little foolish, slightly hesitant, definitely self-conscious. I certainly felt all those things on Tuesday when I participated in my first Twitter book discussion, Teach Like A Pirate, hosted by Faith Howell. Tweeting is daunting for an English teacher who recoils at abbreviations and leaving out punctuation because of the character limit. Trying to be concise and still cogent and interesting, was a challenge. When it was over, Faith tweeted a reminder to me to use hashtags – that’s the pound symbol, for those of you who don’t Tweet, or the little Tic Tac Toe for those of you who are still using a rotary phone ; ) – The hashtags are supposed to ensure that my comments stay linked to the conversation and not just out in Twitter land where Tweets float. What I learned is that the hashtags will help (yes, help and not guarantee) that your comments get grouped with the right topic, but in order to make sure you see the entire discussion, you need to be following the all other participants. It was not until Faith listed the participants and I clicked to follow them did their comments show up in my feed.
While I love the book, and think Dave Burgess is contagious, I found the experience of trying to have a discussion in Twitter less than satisfying. I had the feeling a few people were in the same room with the host and they were having the pleasure of talking in person. As an extrovert, I prefer to be in person. Then it was confirmed that because I had failed to use the hashtag a couple of times, some of my comments were not seen until the discussion was over, I felt a little embarrassed. In retrospect, that might explain why I felt like I was on the periphery of what was happening. I am very glad that I had the experience and finally broke into Tweeting. It has helped me form my opinion: just because you can have a discussion in Twitter, doesn’t mean you should. I think a group skype call, or a threaded discussion within a blog would be easier to access and follow. That being said, since TLAP is inspirational, and we teachers need as much inspiration as we can muster, I think we should Tweet about our revelations when they hit us and also try to have a support group that meets for 5 minutes at either the beginning or end of each day to remind ourselves that we do have kindred spirits close by – we are all teachers because we love our profession and figuring out how to do it a little bit better each day makes it all the more fun.
23 years ago, I became a mom for the first time. It was the first and only time in my life that I recall feeling 100% sure that every single little thing was as it should be. This tiny little person was absolutely perfect and I could not have loved him one ounce more than I already did. Being Aaron’s mom has been quite a ride. I have agonized over him, ignored him, over-indulged him, and threatened to have him arrested. I think most of it comes with the territory of being a parent – but he definitely brought his personal set of challenges. We dubbed him our “complex carbohydrate.” He has taught me a lot about kids and growing up – stuff that has helped me help other parents who are stumped by their kids.
Being Aaron’s mom, has affirmed for me that love wins. Love prevails and it is the single most important thing that we give to our children – unconditional, unending, unhidden love…not money for bail or booze, not approval for any and all shenanigans, not permission to be a jerk – but love that demonstrates kindness and respect. The kind of love Steve and I were both lucky enough to grow up witnessing. Here’s to my baby being able to create it in his future.
It’s the Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving and I am still in my pajamas. Not back in my pajamas – I said STILL in my pajamas. That’s because Thanksgiving wore me out. It wore me out just the way it’s supposed to. We (there were ten in all around my table) enjoyed a home-cooked meal that included three casseroles, two vegetables, two kinds of cranberry sauce (not including the mandatory pink stuff which has nary a cranberry in it), mashed potatoes and gravy, oh and a roasted turkey with a side of ham. Did I forget to mention the deviled eggs? And pie – of course there was home-made pie. Pie day happens on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Pie Day includes myself and a dear friend wearing crazy aprons while we churn out four pies – two pecan, one pumpkin and an apple. It is one of my favorite holiday traditions because she and I don’t get to see each other that often, but we count on Pie Day. All in our, including Pie Day, our feast took about 20 man hours to prepare. It was worth every second even if it is a heck of a lot work.
The preparations start with lists and food shopping, stirring and baking, and then peeling and chopping, and roasting and timing, and washing a mountains of pots and pans. There’s china and tea cups and a real tablecloth. There are pounds of butter, pints of cream, and more pecans than I can count. I absolutely love Thanksgiving because it is THE holiday steeped in traditional recipes indulged in the company of family and dear friends- a full day set aside to give thanks, share memories and make new ones. And it has nothing to do with shopping.
The fact that the holiday has become so focused on the deal hunting crazy antics of shoppers and retailers makes me beyond sad. I’m mournful for all the people who cannot enjoy the holiday because they have to work in order to open the stores earlier and earlier – cutting all the way into the day of thanks that is supposed to be set aside. C’mon America, why not Black Saturday? Then we could all enjoy our holiday, recover, enjoy a few leftovers and then venture out to shop – if we must. At least that would allow the retailers to breath and close long enough for a full day off. I wonder if Nate Silver could make a prediction about the positive effects of the country taking a pajama day…
Election Day 2012 has finally passed and I think I speak for many when I say, “Hallelujah it’s over!” My stress level from October 3 – November 6 was through the roof. Actually, on November 5th, I had a very clear vision about what would happen if Mitt Romney won the election. My vision actually gave me a lot of peace of mind because I realized that if the Republicans took the Presidency, Democrats would most likely win back the House and keep Congress and nothing much would change – at least nothing would change very fast. I also remembered my thoughts about Mitt-ens years ago – thoughts that were very similar to my current thoughts about Chris Christie. “That guy is pretty moderate and doesn’t seem likely to be a crazy, gun-blazing conservative.” This country stays up and running thanks to a balance of power and once again, the country has voted to keep things in check. Several states went Blue for Obama and then sent a Republican to the House. Go figure. I hope the next election cycle brings out more productive debate and discourse about real issues, based on facts, not sound bites. The American public really needs to process and comprehend some of the extremely complex issues we face. As we teachers are learning, the best way to really comprehend something is to talk about it. Speaking of complex issues….
Let’s take legalizing marijuana, as one example. Way to go Colorado, Washington State and Oregon – way cool, dudes! One of the last conversations I had with my dad before he passed away was about the logic of legalizing marijuana, the wasted money spent on catching growers and millions of dollars funneled to drug lords mostly in Mexico, that could be taxed. He likened the laws against marijuana to Prohibition and was completely in support of legalizing the sale of it. Dad never stopped surprising me especially since that was not at all his attitude in say, 1979 – ’nuff said.
Locally, Alamance County, in my blushing Red State of NC, voted down a referendum to add .025% sales tax to increase the county’s revenues, yet passed the referendum to expand the campus of the community college. Hmmm…wonder how they think that will get paid for? This takes me back to one of the main frustrating points of the presidential divide – so many people who benefit from the services the government provides – health care for vets, medicare for the elderly, social security, even the use of roads and airports run by the FAA – balk at paying taxes. Where do you imagine the money is going to come from? People speak of it as “I don’t want to give my hard earned money to the government.” Yo, dudes, wake up – the government is not some separate entity. We are the government. “By the people, for the people, of the people.” If you want to control the money we collective contribute to form a perfect union, run for office – go ahead. Personally I am too tired and busy, but I am thankful there are those who aren’t too tired, who are called to do it. Complain about them all you want, but from the looks of all of us fat and happy Americans, so far, so good.
My heart goes out to the residents of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Densely populated areas don’t often have to deal with the mad wrath of a hurricane, let alone one mixed up with an arctic cold front. So, when I heard our President offer his help and support, I wondered how all this would play out given the recent Republican stumping and stomping the Governor has offered to Romney. In his remarks today, Chris Christie won back my respect.
He had lost it with his remarks that “Obama is blindly searching for the light of leadership.” Honestly, I don’t think Barack was “groping in the dark” when he made the call to take out Bin Laden – a move I happen to disagree with, but one that showed incredible resolve and bravery when making the call. Leaders make the call. I don’t think Obama was “lost in indecision” when he negotiated the largest health care reform law in recent history – again, I personally believe he should have held his ground a little more to keep the mandate stronger, but it was a step. Leaders step. And I don’t think he was “the worse leader in history” when he decided to help the American Auto industry – though, I really wished he had crippled the banks and hope like hell there is litigation to bring the financial institutions to justice for how THEY caused the recession. Ah, different rant.
So, when Christie took all these opportunities to berate and belittle my president who I think has accomplished much and stands for even more, I was put out with NJ’s Gov.
But this week, Christie stood up to the reporters and gave praise where praise was due, put partisan politics aside, and said that the people of New Jersey come first. When he said he doesn’t “give a damn right now about a presidential election, and if you think I do, you don’t know me! ” – he won me back – just a little.