Thursday, February 28, 2008

Raising money by running a marathon

Support Amazing Guy's Run for Housing

Less than a year ago Amazing Guy weighed over 310 pounds. While he is 6'3", he was big. Gut hanging over the belt, several chins big.

Last spring he decided to do something about it. Now he weighs around 230 pounds and looks as amazing as he is. And the terrific thing is he owned this effort - I did not nag him (right honey?) because I'm not that type (except the kids and their homework but that's different). To just add more awe to this awesome effort, he's decided to run the Boston Marathon to raise money for a terrific organization.


The Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP) is a stellar non-profit that offers programs and supports which works to prevent homelessness, foster economic self-sufficiency, and ensure housing stability for everyone in the region. They provide help for homeless, elderly, disabled, and low- and moderate-income residents of Boston and 29 surrounding communities. As their materials say "we believe that everyone deserves a place to call home."

I've stood in their offices and watched young mothers searching for rental housing in a clean computer center with books lying around for their children. And the kids get to take the books home. They have inspectors who go out to make sure the housing their clients are in are safe. Perhaps most exciting is the initiative to help families who receive government rental assistance to create long-term goals to eventually become homeowners.


When I first met Amazing Guy he was working as a residential counselor at a boys' home. Eventually he went to graduate school to get his Masters in Social Work. Before all the breakthroughs in AIDS treatment, AG ran a house for persons with AIDS in a run-down second tier city north of the state capitol. Then he ran a statewide housing voucher program for persons with AIDS. And while he left the non-profit housing field to attend law school and eventually joined a firm, he hasn't forgotten the importance of safe and stable housing for vulnerable populations.


Amazing Guy is now up to running 17 miles on Saturday mornings. He runs 6-7 miles several times during the week on a treadmill but on Saturdays he runs along a part of the Marathon route, in the snow, cold and other lovely winter elements.

One of the ways MBHP raises money to support their work is by sponsoring runners in the Boston Marathon. That little 26 mile 385 yard race which includes a small incline called Heartbreak Hill. Runners agree to raise funds for the sponsoring organization in return for a shirt number in one of the most famous and difficult marathons in the world.

Amazing Guy's goal is to finish the race and raise $3000. His times are improving weekly and today he is 1/3 of the way to raising the funds. If you can, please consider supporting his run and a terrific organization working to make safe housing available to all in the Boston area. And while it isn't a prerequisite to continue reading my blog, it sure would endear me to you. Small amounts, medium size and big grand figures are all welcomed at

There is one problem though with his new weight. His rugby nickname has been "Big Daddy". Only he isn't so big now. Teammates often yell at him "get that man a hamburger!" And he just smiles.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

So, about Graceland

Paul Simon sings "for reasons I cannot explain, there's some part of me wants to see Graceland" from his 1986 hit. I felt the same way. I'm not a big Elvis fan and don't really remember him in the 1970's. But if I and the family would be in Memphis we needed to drive down Union Street and go visit his famous house, Graceland.

Which we did. And don't need to do again.

It cost $8 just to park in the parking lot. Then for the most basic tour of the house and grounds we paid almost four times what we paid to walk around Sun Studio, and that was much more impressive.

I think even the kids struggled with why this man was important. After all, we had spent the morning at the National Civil Rights Museum so really nothing short of a personal meeting with Nelson Mandela of South Africa or Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (Burma) was going to be very impressive.

The house was actually quite small (we only saw the first floor and basement). I expected huge rooms and high ceilings and while some of the rooms reminded me of that "Man Caves" shown the house itself was small. And the famed "jungle room" was really an enclosed porch off the kitchen and had some of Lisa Marie's stuffed animals on big wooden chairs carved with monkey heads. Definitely a weird vibe there.

I guess I can't see the hold he has on people. At one point a woman hurried by us on her way to one of the memorabilia stores (note I wrote "one of" - there were at least four that I saw) wearing her Elvis jacket and carrying an Elvis purse made of TV Guide covers. Now, I know some of you think I'm mad for Erasure but I don't own a purse with Vince Clark's image on it (yet) and actually rarely wear the t-shirts I own.

Although, to be honest, I do want a better picture of the gates. And I don't have to pay $8 to park on the street for 5 minutes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lorraine Hotel, 2008

In 1990 I visited Dachau Concentration Camp in Dachau, Germany. Opened in 1933 by the Nazis as part of their efforts to exterminate Jews and others deemed by them as "unworthy", it is now a museum. At one point I was walking along a path and heard a young boy around the age of 8 or 9 ask several times in English "but didn't they (the prisoners) know they were going into gas chambers?" He was clearly trying to wrap his head around both helplessness and evil. Pure, horrid evil.

At the end of the decade, in 1999, I went to Robben Island. Eight miles from Cape Town, South Africa it was the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years as a political prisoner of the apartheid government. Even in the summer the cells were cold and damp. The blinding sunlight glared off the lime quarry. Nelson Mandela has horrible cataracts in both eyes probably from being a forced laborer in the quarry.

I knew one of the places I wanted to visit during our recent family trip to Memphis, Tennessee was the National Civil Rights Museum located at the Lorraine Motel. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the 2nd floor balcony of the motel.

In some ways it felt horribly wrong to be standing so close to where he had been murdered. Where that photo I knew so well had been taken, of him lying on the balcony with someone pressing a napkin against his head.

But they did a terrific job showing the history of slavery in the United States and the subsequent struggles for equal rights after the Civil War. There were "interpreters" throughout the museum, people dressed in period clothes who either outright explained the area (e.g. a Montgomery bus with a statue of Rosa Parks sitting in the front, a lunch counter with statues of African-Americans sitting on stools while white men jeered at them) or actually acted (one woman played a reporter on a bombed bus while another sang a gospel song Mahalia Jackson sang at the 1963 march on Washington, DC). This had the intended effect of making it come "alive" for my guys. Little lady just wanted to sit on the bus and stare at the statue of Ms. Parks.

The museum has recreated room 306 where Dr. King was staying the day he was murdered. There is a large window overlooking the balcony where he was shot and a note explaining that the blood-soaked concrete had been removed. There is a noticeable square of clean concrete in its place. Amazing Guy had gone ahead with two of the kids so I stood there looking at the spot with one of my sons, barely containing the sobs that were growing in my chest.

My seven-and-a-half-year old son kept patting my leg, asking me to read something. I finally got through it with tears streaming down my face.

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"
-- Martin Luther King, Jr. April 3, 1968 (the night before he died)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Walking in Memphis

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Last week was February school vacation week. We went to Nashville, Tennessee to visit Amazing Guy's younger brother, his wife and their nearly one-year-old twin girls. On Monday we did a spontaneous trip to the Manmoth Caves outside of Bowling Green, Kentucky then on Tuesday we went to Memphis for several days. We returned to Nashville for one final night then had a joyous day spent in airports during Friday's snowstorms blanketing the Northeast.

For the hours of driving we were going to do in Tennessee (and Kentucky) last week, I made a CD with several songs (I know, be surprised). It had Tennessee by Arrested Development and Paul Simon's 1985 hit Graceland (everybody now "I'm going to Graceland, Graceland in Memphis Tennessee, I'm going to Graceland").

But the biggest hit by far in the rental van was Marc Cohn's Walking in Memphis.

Although missing from the video is how the song was usually sung in our van as we left Memphis.

Put on my blue suede shoes
["I have BLACK suede shoes" yells a three-year-old girl]
And I boarded the plane
["We took a plane to Tennessee!" yells someone from the back]
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
W.C. Handy -- won't you look down over me
Yeah I got a first class ticket
But I'm as blue as a boy can be

Then I'm walking in Memphis
["We walked in Memphis!"]
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
["We walked on Beale Street!"]
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel

Saw the ghost of Elvis
On Union Avenue
["We drove on Union Avenue!" was usually yelled by me]
Followed him up to the gates of Graceland
["We saw Graceland!"]
Then I watched him walk right through
Now security they did not see him
They just hovered 'round his tomb

["We saw Elvis' tomb!"]
But there's a pretty little thing
Waiting for the King
Down in the Jungle Room
["We saw the Jungle Room!"]


They've got catfish on the table
["Mama! You ate catfish!"]
They've got gospel in the air
["We heard gospel!"]
And Reverend Green be glad to see you
When you haven't got a prayer
But boy you've got a prayer in Memphis

Now Muriel plays piano
Every Friday at the Hollywood
And they brought me down to see her
And they asked me if I would --
Do a little number
And I sang with all my might
And she said --
"Tell me are you a Christian child?"
And I said "Ma'am I am tonight"


Put on my blue suede shoes
And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain

Walking in Memphis, Marc Cohn

Singing anything? Please share.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

I've been singing this song for weeks. Now I'm singing it in Tennessee.

As is my daughter. While sitting in my brother-in-law's house in Nashville she's been singing in a low voice "Tennessee, Tennessee... take me to another place..."

"Is she singing what I think she's singing?" he asked.

"Yup," I reply. "Arrested Development."

Are you making music today? Link below and be sure to link back to me in your post.

[I know some of you are complaining about my lack of attention. Between traveling, sick kids, sick me and work I haven't had much time to read and comment. I'll get back on the saddle one of these days.]

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Traveling again

Packing all our bags
Another journey ahead
Nashville, Tennessee

Meeting new cousins
Twin girls with happy faces
And tired parents

Visiting Memphis
The legacy of two kings
Tunes and civil rights

Visit My Mommy's Place for the Second Haiku Buckaroo Contest! You've got until Friday to enter your own poetry. And this time you'll win prizes. Including a photograph by yours truly.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine Haiku

Making Valentines
As we play the perfect song
J. Giels' Love Stinks

[And yes, "Giels" is two syllables]

Visit My Mommy's Place for the Second Haiku Buckaroo Contest! You've got until Friday to enter your own poetry. And this time you'll win prizes. Including a photograph by yours truly.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The ugly truth

It is with a heavy heart that I report something I learned while visiting Jenn and Fourier Analyst. It is just tragic. Something so sad yet must be exposed.

They are both liars.

Bold faced liars.

Now don't get me wrong. Fourier Analyst is truly one of the most generous people you will ever, ever meet. The woman offered to hang out with me in an airport for hours, with gifts in tow for my family, while I waited for my return flight. Jenn opened her home to a "blogging friend" which is really code for a complete stranger. With both of them we would talk for hours and I would feel like we had barely started.

And their families. They both have the families they write about. And those "d" in front of husband and daughters for FA are truly darling. The girls have smiles that will melt you on the spot and FA's DH was incredibly flexible as we kept her "for just a few more hours".

Jenn's family? Little man Andrew would point to me as we left and ask "is that girl coming back too?" It was his nice way of saying "does she HAVE to come back?" but he was too courteous to be so blunt. The older two were beyond kind to share their floor of the house with me. And could Don have been more flexible? We would leave for the entire day then come back and drink wine.

So how do they lie?

They have us feeling sorry for them because they write that winter is really hard in The Netherlands. I've been reading about viscious winds that push them off of bikes. Horrid cold that feels, well, horrible.

When I arrived in The Netherlands on Friday, the sky was crystal clear blue and the temperature was in the 60's.

It stayed that way, for the entire weekend. On Sunday we went to the beach and please note that people are walking around without hats, some without coats - there were even some children who were so giddy they were running around in the sand in their underwear.

But these folks were in the North Sea. In February.

So don't believe Jenn or Fourier Analyst. The Netherlands is very warm and comfortable in the winter. It saddens me to be the one but someone had to expose them for the liars they really are.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ain't no sunshine

Over a year ago, I stopped reading one of those big name blogs (I'm sure she misses me) because she had a real air of "isn't my life better than all of yours" which drove me insane. I know I have a very, very good life but still what she wrote - and how she wrote it - just rubbed me.

I desperately do not want this post or the subsequent ones to have that air. What I hope to share with you is that I had Christmas in February with springtime weather as a bonus.

Back at Christmas, Amazing Guy told the kids to hand me a white envelop off of the tree. Inside was a card in which AG explained he had been emailing Jenn in Holland and that my present was a weekend trip to visit her. I started to cry.

"These are tears of joy, right?" he asked nervously.

So in preparing for the trip, I made a mix of songs for my iPod and decided to put it on a CD for Jenn and her family. It included many songs I've written about or listed on birthday CDs.

One song is missing though. I picked Bill Withers' Lovely Day. However, I should've picked Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone because that is what a certain 14-year-old sang while vacumming the first floor.

And he was pretty good.

Making Music? Link here then link back to me on your post. And even if you are not writing about music today, leave a comment and tell me what you sing while doing chores or driving around.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Spending the weekend with Jenn in Holland is....


Singular Saturday

For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

We're out of the closet!

Hello everyone,

Thanks for your kind words and offers of adoption. SMID has taken us out of the closet. With her red suitcase fully packed (did you really think she had any other color suitcase?) and passport in hand, she's wearing us to the airport.

Where are we going? The kids and Amazing Guy are staying behind so this is a solo journey.

You'll have to come back to find out. Perhaps it will be singularly explained on Saturday.

Au revoir!
The (feeling-a-bit-giddy) Red Snakeskin Cowboy Boots

PS - If SMID told you already, don't spill the beans. We want to be surprised.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

"So, mom...."

"Do you have cancer?" my son asks as he struts across the gymnasium floor and slips his arms around my waist.

"Have you been worried about this all day?" I asked incredulously.


The kids have figured out how to play the messages on our answering machine. Not that it was very hard but now they do it every evening when we enter the house. They heard a strange woman reminding me of my appointment the following day.

"What appointment" each boy asked, multiple times.

"An appointment" I would say, each time.

"No!" one of them insisted. "We want to KNOW!"

So I then explained to them that I was now at the age where women get a regular "test" called a mammogram. I explained how it was done, how I had heard it could hurt, but that it would help make sure that if I had cancer it would be found early and I could get treatment to help me get better.

After I finished my lengthy explanation, one guy walked out of the room. He said over his shoulder "I hope you don't have cancer."

I received my letter with the lovely line "we are pleased to inform you that the result of your mammogram is normal." So all clear for this year. I hope if you are of the age to have a mammogram that you get one every year. If you are younger but know women 39 years old or older, please talk to them about the importance of mammograms.

Sure they are uncomfortable but only for a brief time. And I'll take a little discomfort if if means more time being alive.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mardi Gras Indians

One part of Mardi Gras, and New Orleans, that I just love are the Mardi Gras Indians.

The following is directly lifted from Wikipedia:

Mardi Gras Indians are mostly African-American Carnival revelers in New Orleans, Louisiana who dress up for Mardi Gras in suits influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel.

Collectively, their organizations are called "tribes". Many of the tribes also parade on the Sunday nearest to Saint Joseph's Day ("Super Sunday," not to be confused with Super Bowl Sunday), and sometimes the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

There are around 38 tribes. They can range in size from a half dozen to several dozen members. The tribes are largely independent, but a pair of umbrella organizations loosely coordinate the Uptown Indians and the Downtown Indians.
The last time I was at Mardi Gras was in 2003. At one point we were driving to another family's house while the boys slept in the car. We came upon a group of Indians on the edge of the Uptown neighborhood decked out from the top of their headpieces to their feet in feathers and sequins. They were a sight to behold.

PS - Those of you with primaries on Super Tuesday, I hope you all voted. Because this is what we're dealing with.

From Mad Magazine.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Carnivale in Venice

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

I spent my junior year of college in Florence, Italy. The program I studied with hired a bus to drive the students (all Americans) up to Venice the weekend of Carnivale, their celebration before Lent.

We were driven up in the afternoon in late February and told to be back at the bus by morning. We were expected to wander the little allies and piazzas of Venice for the night.

At some point in the evening I was seperated from my friends. It wasn't strange or scary. For some reason it seemed fine. I wasn't drinking. Although in the morning one of my classmates had to be brought back to the bus dripping wet since he fell into a canal.

I ended up alone in a small square at 2:00 in the morning. Entering from another street was a group of costumed musicians and dancers. They all had on powdered wings. The men wore fancy britches and coats while the women were in flowing ball gowns. There were probably 20-30 of us in regular clothes watching them.

Suddenly, the musician began playing a waltz. And a man in a wig and britches took my hand.

I danced a waltz at two in the morning in Venice, under the stars.

Have a musical memory? Why not share it? Oh, and be sure to link back to me. Because if you are going to get some linky love, you should give it back.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Groundhog Day

As I heard what the blog exchange topic would be, I was immediately reminded of Bill Murray’s movie entitled Groundhog Day. How day after seeming day, Bill’s character, Phil, kept waking up in the same bed, same Bed and Breakfast, in the same town, and it was ALWAYS Groundhog’s Day.

At some point, Phil asks, “Is God really omniscient, OR, has He just been around for so long, He knows everything?” And this becomes the theme of the movie: With enough time and experience would a person be aware he/she IS creating his/her life and already living it? And if that person has that awareness, would that person become a conscious creator of that life choosing differently so the outcome would be different?

My son isn’t a particular Murray fan, however, I cannot tell you how many times he’s seen this movie. Since it’s not the actor he’s so passionate about, I believe it’s the topic he finds so intriguing. Me too. To be an aware creator of my own life--what a concept.

The main character begins as a very superficial person. One of his lines is something like “Enough about me. Now, what do you think of me?”

Like the several steps a terminal patient goes through when told death is inevitable, Phil, who is trapped in this unending Groundhog Day cycle, begins going through fairly well-defined “steps” of personal growth. He first finds ways to amuse himself at others’ expense, which is very similar to how he‘s been conducting his life already. Next he tries to see how life looks without consequences, which allows him to push the envelop on ways to amuse himself.

The “games” soon grow tiring, though, so he begins to see if he can set “larger” goals for himself--trying to make a conquest of his co-worker, whom he’s not been able to gain any ground with previously. Try as he might, it does not go from better to better, to winning--instead it begins to get worse; he loses ground, and finally realizes, he’s not going to be able to get the gal through trickery.

There is a saying that goes: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. Phil finds out rerunning his old “tried and true” gags over and over again, really doesn’t get him where he wants to go.

Stripped of all he used to count on and thought he knew, his next “step” is depression. Not thinking he has other options, he decides to end it all.

However, at the “end” of every death scene, he once again awakens, back in the same bed, same life. So he discovers, not even Death is the answer.

Then he’s left scrambling. He’s tried looking inside of himself, and none of that worked--so he finally has to start looking outside of himself. If he finds no happiness doing things for himself, then perhaps he will find happiness making someone else happy. If he can’t change his life, perhaps he can make a difference in someone else’s.

He finally realizes the only meaning his life holds is what meaning he attaches to it and how he chooses to live it. He must make the most of the day he’s living, even if he’ll have to live that one day for eternity--it is, after-all, the only day he’s got. It’s a bit of a twist on “Live today as if it is the first day of the rest of your life” to “Live today as if it IS the rest of your life”.

If something in life has value, it’s because value has been placed in it. If a person wants respect, that person must give respect. If a person wants friendship, that person must be a friend. And if a person wants a life worth living, then that person must live it worthily.

Groundhog’s Day--there's more to this movie than might first meet the eye--it is a repeat treat that can be shared more than once a year!

Wholly Burble is hanging with SMID today. Normally she writes at Rocking Chair Ruminations, and that is where you’ll find SMID today.

Wholly Burble is a student of Life, and hopes she’ll get to keep on learning for years to come. Oh yes, and occasionally she teaches, writes, and plays with her four dogs.

Check out other Blog Exchanges here.

** Hostess note: I didn't give Wholly Burble my best piece. I've been sick (the throwing up kind) so I feel terrible that she hasn't gotten both the attention and quality she deserves from me. Go commend her for joining the Exchange. And for tolerating me.