Monday, March 31, 2008

How do they do it? or 525,600 ways they amaze me

"Mom! There was an assembly today!" yells one guy from the back of the van.

"Really" I ask.

"Yeah! The kids in musical theater sang 5 songs!" the other one yells.

"They sang Under the Sea and that song from Annie."


"No the other one."

"Hard knock life?"


They grew silent as they tried to figure out the other songs.


Later in the evening we finished dinner and homework and were starting to mill around for the pre-bedtime activity when suddenly, in perfect unison, the boys started singing Seasons of Love from the musical Rent.

"What? How do you know this?" I asked incredulously.

"It was one of the songs at the assembly."

"Had you heard it before?"


I showed them this video. I just marvel at their ability to remember a song, perfectly, after only hearing it once.

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Moments so dear
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure - Measure A Year?
In Daylights - In Sunsets
In Midnights - In Cups Of Coffee
In Inches - In Miles
In Laughter - In Strife

Got a song that startled you? Do share.... and link back to me. That's part of the game.

And yes, I'm traveling again. Will be back later this week. Forgive my absence. I'm sure you all are writing wonderful things. It is my loss to be missing them.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Busy week

My organization held its annual Lobby Day at the State House yesterday. Over 220 people came to the capital to talk with their legislators about the importance of funding affordable housing production and preservation and small business support. Our folks work in the heart of neighborhoods and communities that struggle with violence, poverty and the foreclosure crisis. They work with residents to make their neighborhoods better places to live and work.

The Governor spoke at our event. It is always thrilling to have the head of our Commonwealth present. He spoke of how we are all addressing the foreclosure crisis in our communities but we all - government, financial institutions and community groups - still can do more.

Some of the folks who came to the State House had never been there before. I attended one meeting with a Senator's aide and nearly 10 people who work in community economic development. A group member, a community organizer, stood along the wall when there were plenty of chairs in the room. I had to keep encouraging him to join us at the table. He finally sat down with us.

I needed to leave the meeting early and as I stood, I leaned over and whispered to him "Always sit at the table. You belong."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A grown-up Friday Night

One of the stories I keep meaning to share with you all is about my last night in New Orleans. The conference was over, I had walked through the French Quarter visiting little shops that were always closed during my early morning sprints to get to the conference on time. And yes, I acquired some adorable things. And had my complexion complemented in a used clothing store.

I do love New Orleans.

After resting up a bit, Ambassador and I went to his beau's home (he will now be known as The Beau). I was fixed a marvelous cocktail and got to see how beautifully the condo was decorated (so this is how grown-ups without children live). Then we walked a few short blocks to a lovely restaurant to meet up with friends of The Beau.

This is one of those pivotal meetings. Similar to the meeting of mothers, siblings or pets, this is the meeting that can bring fear into the hearts of lovers.

The meeting of the fag hags.

The Beau has a dear female friend (now known as the Supremely Cool One) he has known since the early days of college in the 1980's. I met Ambassador while we were both volunteering with the AIDS Quilt in 1992. The meeting of the dear, beloved gal pals is hopefully a wonderful occurrence. One of giggles, warmth and lots of teasing of those men who are gazing longingly into each others' eyes.

Meeting The Beau's friend was all that and more. She was just terrific. And so was her partner. He was awesome.


[This is big so start a drum roll under your space key....]

The lovely, gracious and brave Painted Maypole walked into the middle of this to join us after a theatrical performance. She didn't know a soul, turned a corner to find 5 of us drinking and laughing, and plopped right down as if she belonged.

And she did.

She was funny, charming and everything you would think the author of a terrific blog like hers would be.

So the grown-ups started to peel away once we moved to a bar. First Ambassador and his Beau. Then an hour later the Supremely Cool One and her mate. Leaving me and Painted Maypole to talk next to a large picture window along a street until after 1:00 am.

A lovely grown-up night. Mixing old friends with new.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Gumshoe dancing at work

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

I work in a building full of non-profit organizations, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Folks work on a range of issues, including helping the food service industry be more green, saving animals around the world, working to make the US health care system more accountable to patients, and other issues to make our world more fair, equitable and just.

One group is South Africa Partners. They work to develop partnerships between US and South African institutions around education, health and economic development. They also sponsor the booksale I've been spearheading the last week. I'm pretty proud of the fact that between our church and an independent book store, we've together raised over $350 for underresourced school libraries.

Once a week in a conference room, a South Africa Partners staff member teaches a class in gumshoe dancing. After months of conflicts, being out with sick kids or travel, I finally got to put on rainboots at lunch time and head to the second floor. She explained to us the mine workers suffered from all sorts of foot ailments due to the water in the mines. Rather than create better drainage systems, the mine owners gave the workers gumboots, or wellies, to wear.

All of the men were unable to bring their families and therefore lived in large dormatories with other laborers from the same regions (in part to ensure that language barriers remained unbroken). To socialize with each other, they created this intense dance that doesn't involve musical instruments and would compete in weekly competitions.

Let's just say that less than half an hour of this and I was whiped.

Got a tune that exhuasts you? Do tell. And when you write about it, do link back. It is only fair...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SMID goes to Washington

Well, I'm actually going to Washington, DC on March 31st. But I just want to give everyone in the Metro DC area fair warning.

And let you all know that I am making Tuesday evening, April 1st, my night on the town.

So come join me, even if you have never, ever commented on my blog before. The evening is being organized by the talented, compassionate and very funny Flower Child. Go to her site and leave a message (you should probably include your email address so she can reach you).

Looking forward to meeting more of you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Letters and books

Dear K
My name is S
I am 8 years old
I like to watch TV
I would like to know your name
Write back to me
Your Friend S

Dear J
My name is I. I am 9 years old. My favourite sport is rugby. I even like soccer too but I don't like soccer that much. Please write back if you can.
from I, your friend.

Dear: M
Hi My name is P. I am nine years old. My favourite animal is a dog. I want to be a television presenter. I like to play net ball. My favorite meat is a chicken. I would like to be your Africa friend. Please write back to me.
From P

Dear J
My name is L. I'm eleven years old. I am doing grade six. My favorite animal is a cat and my favorite movie is generation. I like to play netball. I am a beautiful girl. My favorite food is bread and meat. I like to sing and swim.
Please write back to me.
From your friend

Dear J
My name is B. I am 11 years old. I am in Grade 4.
My favourite animal is a cat and I like dance. My favorite story is Goston the Giant. I like to play Black toti. Write back to me please.
From B

Dear A
My name is L. I am 9 years old. I like to play rugby. My favorite food is samp and beans. Tell me what you play and what you like.
Your friend L

After months of waiting the children at our church finally heard back from their South African pen pals. These new friends have beautiful names like Soyama, Lutho and Bongi. This weekend we all wrote letters (I too have a very lengthy handwritten letter from the teacher) to our pen pals and organized a book sale of South African children's books. The proceeds from the sale go to buy books for under resourced school libraries in South Africa.

I hear the Easter Bunny likes to give books. Visit South Africa Partners to learn more about the initiative. And maybe buy a book or four.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Evacuation Day

Today, March 17th, is a big day in the capital city of our Commonwealth. The public schools are closed (only in the city, my kids have school today in their suburban district) as are city offices and those state offices that are in this particular county. Which means the State House is closed in honor of those brave Revolutionary War soldiers who helped to break the 11-month seige on Boston on this day in 1776.

Oh, and it is also St. Patrick's Day. And the Red Sox are in spring training. In honor of all these things, here are the Dropkick Murphy's singing Tessie, the 1903 rallying song for the Royal Rooters who eventually became the Red Sox.

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Any other holidays we should be celebrating today? Or just some music you want to share? Do sing along!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

How I feel when someone hurts and I can't fix it


Singular Saturday

For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Friday, March 14, 2008

So wrong

Special thanks to Alex Elliot who made sure I saw this on So Sioux Me.

NOTE - THIS VIDEO IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN. But then as Tracee Sioux writes, neither are Bratz dolls.

As I've mentioned before, I do not buy products with characters on them. If my guys are going to be pirates, it's their own vision of pirates, not from a movie. If my daughter is going to be a princess, she's going to be one from her imagination, not from Disney. And then I encourage my daughter to be a pirate and my sons to be princesses so it is fair for everyone.

What are we as a society teaching our children - daughters and sons - about what it means to be a woman with Bratz dolls?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bloggers take over

A pretty standard part of large conferences are smaller panel discussions. The conference I intended had sessions about the foreclosure crisis, how to better use data to make the case for more thoughtful regional planning (don't yawn - it is interesting stuff) and how to better support boys and young men of color.

One session I was particularly excited to attend was the one about blogging. The description implied the topic was more Blogging 101 but one of the panelists was Liza Sabater, the creator of both Culture Kitchen and The Daily Gotham. The other panelists were talking about blogging within the context of larger organizations or campaigns.

I really wanted to learn how do these larger groups use blogs for their advocacy work. I find organizational blogs painfully dull. And while very nice people, the other panelists were talking about blogs that just don't excite me.

However, Liza did not disappoint.

The moderator was a university professor who was also hawking a book at a later session. At the start of the panel he said one of those "I'll do introductions then get out of the way" type of lines. After the initial panelists' comments the moderator started talking about how traditional print media is dying, stocks are falling for their parent companies and they are cutting writing staff. He was taking the discussion off the topic of how to use blogs and into how blogs are hurting newspapers. While certainly a worthwhile discussion (and it isn't just blogs that are changing the nature of news), it wasn't the point of this session.

Liza got up from her chair, seized a microphone, interrupted the moderator, walked off the raised platform and took control of the session. She was funny, engaging and flexible. She tried to bring in the other panelists but they stayed at the table.

At one point the moderator left the room. He eventually returned but when the session time ended all he did was say a curt "Thank you" with no acknowledgement of the panelists, a thought about what was said, or encouraging us as community activists and policy advocates to expand the tools we use.

His book seemed interesting to me. But after he was such a big baby of a moderator I found another session to attend.

Liza of Culture Kitchen though? She rocks.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Do you know what it means?

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? I know the feeling. It is also a song written by Eddie DeLange and Louis Alter. According to Wikipedia, it was first heard in the above clip from the 1947 movie, New Orleans, where it is performed by Louis Armstrong and sung by Billie Holiday.

I miss New Orleans for many reasons. The smell, food, to-go cups and music. But I particularly miss a friend. A friend of nearly 16 years who nurtures my spirit, makes me laugh and lets me be quiet. A friend who walks along with me and sees colors, shapes and stories waiting to be captured by a camera.

A friend who gives great hugs. When I think about missing New Orleans, part of what I miss are those hugs.

Please join in the music. It always sounds so much better when there is a choir.

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Please bear with me. I've still got stories to share from visiting The Hague last month and now a whole new crop of tales. I'm still recovering from Saturday night's extremely turbulent flight. The one that involved the little white bag that is in the seat pocket.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Happy International Day for


Singular Saturday

For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The smell

I walked out of The Ambassador's apartment yesterday and was instantly hit with it. The smell of New Orleans. That smell of damp air, lush plants and, and... something else. And no smart alecks, not the bad things you all are thinking about.

New Orleans is a beautiful city in a beautiful region. It is full of smart, talented and caring people. The sun shines bright here. The trees, bushes and flowers just burst here (so do mold and cockroaches but let's ignore them for now).

After a breakfast of cafe au lait and beignets (pronounced ben-yays) in the French Quarter I boarded a city bus with a couple of my colleagues and brought them to my old neighborhood. During the early 1990's I lived on Magazine Street in the Uptown section of town.

Guy's Po-Boys is across the street from the house I lived in. Yesterday I got a small shrimp po-boy, dressed, and one bite brought me back to my early 20's. An amazing time in my life. In part because I met Amazing Guy while living in that house and eating Guy's po-boys.

After giving some colleagues my personal New Orleans tour, I boarded a big bus with other convention folks to visit the Freret Street neighborhood. We spent the afternoon with the staff of a neighborhood non-profit that is working to rebuild this wonderful section of an important city. They are doing it by restoring homes, helping folks buy homes, supporting local business and creating safe spaces for residents to congregate. They have helped bring a monthly farmer's market to the neighborhood, something the residents identified as a significant need.

A glorious first day. Today I will be in a hotel all day, learning about issues and meeting new folks. I'm so glad I get to walk out of Ambassador's door and take a deep breath.

Monday, March 03, 2008

On the Road Again

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Another trip. I'm packing my bags again. This time for a conference. I fly out tomorrow afternoon and return Saturday evening.

This song is in my head (for obvious reasons) and while not the best sounding version, I love that Elvis Costello, Steve Tyler and Kris Kristopherson are all on stage with a bunch of other folks doing something like singing with Willie Nelson.

And where am I going this time? To hang with Ambassador, in his home, for 4 days. Four glorious days.

Oh right, and go to a conference. With my entire office. Boss included. But they are all staying at the hotel and I'm staying with Ambassador.

The Cheshire Cat's grin pales in comparison to the smile on my face.

Is there a tune that perfectly captures your mood these days? Please share. And please, if you are going to link here, obviously link back to me. It's part of the game.


Be sure to visit Looking Into this week, the joint photoblog I share with Jenn in Holland. Jenn and I are turning the site over for a couple of days to Flower Child. Don't worry, there are still hundreds of our photos in the queue (you think I'm kidding?) but we wanted to share the space with others. Got a photo you want to share? Let us know at lookingDOTintoATyahooDOTcom.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The feeling I have from all of you who pledged your hard earned money for Amazing Guy's marathon run on behalf of housing...


Singular Saturday

For more Singular Saturdays, visit the day's creator, Jenn in Holland, at
Something to Say: About Life in the Netherlands.

For more information about my husband's run (there is still plenty of time to contribute to the cause), click here.