Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Support All Faiths

Support all faiths

I grew up in a religion where part of our religious education was to go visit other churches (and a synagogue) to be part of a service and talk to either the leader of the faith and/or kids our age about what their religion meant to them. We were encouraged to embrace other religions as part of our larger community and not fear or hate other faiths.

I grew up and still am Unitarian Universalist.

The same faith that was targeted in the Knoxville, Tennessee church shooting on Sunday, July 27th. Two parishioners are dead and others are still in the hospital.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel web site, the gunman left a "manifesto" in his truck in which stated he "targeted the church, 'because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country.'" He went on to say that "he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would then target those that had voted them in to office."

I am a proud Unitarian Universalist and love the church where I am raising my family. I have never for a minute thought that this was an act of bravery, that there were fellow Americans who hated us so much that they would enter one of our churches - during a children's music performance - to kill us.

So now I ask you, all of you, regardless if you have a religion or are a non-believer, regardless if you are a liberal or a conservative, regardless if you live in the North, South, East or West, to consider writing a post about what living in a country that (is suppose) to support religious freedom means to you. Even if you don't practice a religion, or don't believe in a higher power, that right still applies to you. And put the above button up for a while. We all need to remember that our country was founded on the principle of religious freedom.

And that includes hearing children sing songs from "Annie" in a Unitarian Universalist church.

For more information:

Unitarian Universalists Association
Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church

Please consider sending them a card or note, maybe even from your congregation:

Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church
2931 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, Tennessee 37919

Monday, July 28, 2008

Everybody Sing Now: New York New York

Yup, this weekend I was back in New York City just 9 days after the Yaz concert. The entire family went this time to yell and ring cowbells for Amazing Guy as he ran the Half Marathon through Central Park, down 7th Avenue into Times Square and down to Battery Park.

I did my own marathon - getting three kids between ages 4-8 from the hotel over to Central Park to yell for AG then on to the subway to get to Times Square to yell again then back on the subway to Battery Park to find AG in a sea of over 20,000 people. All between 6:30am-10:30am.

I'm a bit tired so the photos will go up later in the week. But in the mean time I am humming a tune since this was little lady's first ever trip to NYC. And she really liked it.

Especially since she got two new pairs of shoes at Century 21 (the clothing store, not the realtor).

Do play along...

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yesterday's post is a Vox Op

I opened today's Big City paper and found part of yesterday's post in the Vox Op section of the Editorial Page.

What is weird is I didn't submit it. They just found me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

In the news: Facing foreclosure, woman commits suicide

The following was reported on the big city newspaper website the afternoon of July 23rd:

Facing foreclosure, Taunton woman commits suicide

By Michael Levenson, Globe Staff

TAUNTON -- The housing crunch has caused anguish and anxiety for millions of Americans. For Carlene Balderrama, a 53-year-old wife and mother, the pressure was apparently too much to bear.

Police say that Balderrama shot herself Tuesday afternoon 90 minutes before her foreclosed home on Duffy Drive was scheduled to be sold at auction. Chief Raymond O'Berg said that Balderrama faxed a letter to her mortgage company at 2:30 p.m., telling them that "by the time they foreclosed on the house today she'd be dead."

The mortgage company notified police, who found her body at 3:30 p.m. The auction had been scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Balderrama used her husband's high-powered rifle, O'Berg said.

She left a note for her family saying they should "take the [life] insurance money and pay for the house," O'Berg said.

The law my organization helped to pass back in November of last year makes the deceptive marketing of certain mortgage products and lack of clarity regarding terms and conditions illegal in our state. That means going forward all of these subprime mortgages won't be marketed in our state.

This law does nothing for the woman who killed herself with her husband's gun. It does nothing for the thousands of apartment-renters who are being kicked out by mortgage companies or other companies when the buildings are foreclosed - even though they had been paying their rents on time. This law does nothing for the neighborhoods that are struggling with abandoned houses that become hotbeds of crime, tagged with graffiti, stripped of the copper and other valuable items. There are other bills in the works in our state legislature that probably won't pass before the July 31st deadline (that is next Thursday).

Our federal government has bailed out large financial institutions but done nothing for the real victims of a deregulated mortgage market. Just like our president in the 1920's, Herbert Hoover, who didn't respond to the financial crisis. In his honor, shantytowns were called Hoovervilles.

Maybe we should start calling lines of homeless citizens "Bushlines". Perhaps homeless shelters should be renamed "Bushelters". If, heaven forbid, shantytowns start to appear maybe we should call them "Bushvilles".

Too bad they aren't available for Mrs. Carlene Balderrama. She gave up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


He sat across from me on the train. He was facing in the direction of where the train was going. I was facing the direction of where we had been.

He looked to be in his late 50's or early 60's. Thin, tall, he still had a fair amount of hair on his head. He wore a proper light blue button down shirt, tan pants and sensible brown loafers. On his left ring finger was a plain gold band and on that wrist was a black sports watch. He sat next to the aisle and had completely taken over the seat next to him with his laptop, Blackberry, papers, newspaper and other items. He also wore an earpiece for phone calls.

During the first hour or so I tuned out the sounds of his phone conversations, either by listening to music or reading my book, or both. Then something caught my eye.

His wristwatch had moved up his arm to reveal three Gothic green letters spelling "Pam". These were not small letters but large enough to cross over the top of his left wrist.

I was transfixed. I would glimpse at his wrist whenever I could and wonder who was Pam. Why did he have her name tattooed on his wrist? He looked like the last person on earth to be sporting a visible tattoo, especially one that could pop out during meetings talking about the business strategies of well-known companies (which were the topics of his multiple and lengthy phone calls).

Was Pam a daughter? A wife? A lost love? Did he just love the cooking spray? I think such a drastic, permanent act is born from grief, or hope. Maybe she died and he wanted a permanent reminder that she really did exist. Maybe he promised to do this drastic act in order to prove something to a desperate person.

I went back to my book and after several pages looked up again to see the words but they were gone. Hidden behind the thick sports watch. Eventually the next station came and he got off the train.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On this day in history

On July 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln revealed to his cabinet (represented in the painting above) that he was considering a radical idea. The Civil War was waging, the Rebels from the South, bent on destroying the Union, were winning strategic battles and the North, determined to maintain the United States, was losing confidence.

I'm currently reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It is an exhaustive biography of Lincoln as well as the men who ran against him for the Republican nomination. And how Lincoln included nearly all of them into his administration, often in key leadership positions that could have undermined him.

What Lincoln unveiled to his cabinet on July 22nd is the Emancipation Proclamation, the document that declared free any slaves residing in states that didn't rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863. I'm not going to do justice to the document or the dynamics leading up to it or the fall-out since I haven't gotten to that part of the book.

But several points up to now have floored me. Kearns Goodwin, through multiple primary sources including letters and diaries from those involved, shows how part of the motivation for declaring the slaves free was for their labor. Up to that point they had been laboring, as slaves, for the Southern forces, allowing the white male soldiers to either not have to dig trenches or prepare the battle sites or allowing the white male soldiers to know that crops were being tended by slaves back at home. Lincoln and others decided to declare all slaves free so that they in turn could do the same work for the Union forces, for pay.

I find this ironic.

The second point is how caught up many whites were, including leading abolitionists, that once the slaves were freed that they should be moved en mass to another country (either in Latin America or Africa) since there was supposedly no way whites and blacks could live together as equals. Lincoln went so far as to host a group of freed blacks in the White House, the first time such a meeting had ever occurred in the building, to discuss the idea. That group actually left the meeting promising to promote the idea to black leaders in various cities. Once out of the White House the idea was resoundingly denounced by those very same black leaders. Why would they leave the only country they knew? They were Americans by birthright.

Kearns Goodwin alludes to the evolution of Lincoln's thoughts about this but, again, I'm not far along to know how it concludes.

None of this diminishes my admiration and awe of Abraham Lincoln. He was truly brilliant and while long, Kearns Goodwin's biography has these moments of suspense and drama that truly make it impossible to put down. I for one plan to honor Presidents' Day with a bit more reverence next year. It isn't just a holiday to get a deal on a car or an appliance. It is a day to honor and reflect on how fortunate the United States of America was to have Abraham Lincoln as our President during some of our countries darkest years.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pink hearts and bad connections: The Yaz Concert

So some of you may know that I went to a concert last week. In New York City. Near the piers. To hear a band that was together for 15 months in the early 1980's and never toured for their second album.

And it was at this concert that I learned I was not their biggest fan. By a long shot.

I was also suppose to go to the concert with one of my dearest friends. A friend since college. We hosted the 3am-6am show on the college radio station on Friday mornings our last semester. A friend who was in my wedding. Who tolerates my mommy life while she continues the kid-free adult life. Who rearranged her life to come to this concert with me.

And then a dear high school friend of hers lost his dad to cancer. And the funeral was Thursday morning. But she had it all planned out. A 40 minute plane ride leaving at 3:20 would get her back to NYC in plenty of time to meet me at the hotel and ride the taxi to the concert. We planned to get there before the doors opened so we could be right up front.

4:00pm. Her flight still hasn't taken off. 4:30pm she calls to tell me she'll meet me at the show. 6:00pm I'm waiting for a cab outside the hotel and she calls to say she doesn't think the flight will ever leave. I get in the cab and the driver argues with me that the address I gave him doesn't exist. I hand him the actual ticket with the address printed on it and he repeats back to me exactly what I said and ends tersely with "Why don't you say that?"

She calls back. She won't make it in time. She's crushed. So am I. I promise to dance hard for her.

The cab driver turns a corner and the street goes under the expressway. There is a huge line, over 100 people, starting on one side of the street and then going to the other side due to construction. "Is this the club?" I ask. "I don't know" he replies.

I pay him, get out and ask folks in line if they are there for the Yaz concert. They were. Quickly the line stretches past me. It is half an hour before the doors are suppose to open. At one point a woman walks by and declares "Are we going to end up in f*cking Jersey?"

Everyone around me is with at least one person, some in groups. I figure I traveled the trains through Europe alone. I traveled through South Africa alone. I can see Yaz alone.

I learned that some of these folks had been standing outside the door for three hours. I thought I was so with it by getting there a half an hour before the doors opened. I finally get in, grab a beer (I needed some fortification) and realized the crowd at the stage was only 4 people deep and I was taller than all of them. I was in good shape. Now I only had to wait until 8pm for the show to start.

I was still standing at 9pm.

And then these young children, who clearly hadn't been born when Yaz existed, tried to cut ahead of me. Only two got by. I blocked the third. I wouldn't let him past.

A second one went back behind me (that's a good little boy, I thought) but the first one, the one who was so excited that he had cut ahead of us wouldn't budge. And he was just the right height to block my view.

By then the only other person who was clearly alone made some space for me. He said he felt bad that he was blocking my view. Chuck from Connecticut was my fill in gay friend for the concert. Not that he took the place of a best girlfriend but he made the remaining half an hour of standing around fun as we talked about Yaz, our favorite songs and other concerts we had been to.

Then, a little after 9:30, bliss began. Alison Moyet and Vince Clark came out in all black, she sporting to the cutest pigtails and he completely bald, and they played 19 songs.

1. Nobody's Diary (The crowd went nuts as the first notes were played.)
2. Bad Connection (How appropriate since my dear friend's plane never made it.)
3. Mr. Blue
4. Good times
5. Tuesday (which was only released in the UK and I was the ONLY PERSON WHO KNEW THE SONG!!)
6. Ode to Boy
7. Goodbye '70's
8. Too Pieces
9. In My Room (Alison sang this song from a comfy chair clutching a pillow with a video of a swinging light bulb behind her. She sang it with a crazed look in her eyes.)
10. Anyone
11. Walk Away from Love
12. I Before E Accept After C remix ("played" on a big reel to reel tape player as Alison and Vince walked off the stage for a short intermission. Once again, only the die-hards - like me and Chuck from Connecticut - knew what this was)
13. State Farm
14. Sweet Thing
15. Winter Kills
16. Midnight (Alison started to sing and then stopped saying "Sorry. Sorry! I lost the beat. I figured it would be terribly rude to continue and not be honest. Can we start again?" The audience insanely cheered for her and proceeded to sing with her louder than any other song up to then.)
17. Unmarked
18. Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I) (I told Chuck before the show that this was the one song I really hoped they would sing. When it started he turned to me and gave me a big grin along with a high five.)
19. Don't Go (We went collectively nuts.)

They then met at the center of the stage, hugged, then turned to bow. They walked off and the stage stayed lit and the club remained dark.

That's when I realized I truly wasn't their biggest fan. Large pink paper hearts were suddenly being passed from the very front row back into the crowd. I got one as did the folks around us. We weren't quite sure what was going on.

Alison and Vince returned and we all waved our big hearts over our heads. There were over 100 in the crowd. She just stared out and then said "We had nothing to do with this. This is lovely and I am overwhelmed but it would've been weird if we did this so I just want to make it clear that we didn't do this."

Only their biggest fan did. And I loved that whoever it was let me be a part of it.

Encore songs:
20. Only You (and yes, we swayed to the song waving the pink hearts high in the air.)
21. Situation (and did we DANCE!!)

So with my brown concert shirt in my bag, I left the dance club with the crowd, talked to Amazing Guy on the cell phone the entire time it took me to find a cab (over 3 long city blocks) and desperately wished my friend was with me. I had no one to talk about the concert with.

Pink hearts and a bad connection. The bad connection in the song was about a phone call. Hers was a plane.

Bad Connection sung by Yaz at Terminal 5, July 17, 2008. Dear friend - how I wish you were with me.

Tell me a music story. Anything you want...

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Going Singular for Thursday, Friday AND Saturday

Singular Saturday

For more Singular Saturdays go [on Saturday] visit Jenn in Holland.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stopped for some fun

My organization is heading into the end of the legislative session and one of our most important bills is in a do-or-die situation. However, we all took a step back to reconnect as a group. There are days when I spend more time with my colleagues then my family. It is a good thing that our boss puts a premium on us having fun together once in a while.

So we closed the office for the day and everyone - including the grad school interns - went to a museum and sculpture park deep in the leafy suburbs. We had a picnic and played lawn games.

And Dominican Dominoes. That was a brutal game.

Monday, July 14, 2008

While riding the Eurorail

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

In May of 1990, while riding the Eurorail through France, Germany and other parts of Europe, Lisa Stansfield was all the rage on the radio.

The radio of every cafe, youth hostel and newstand was playing Lisa Stansfield. It brings me back to a time when I traveled with 2 changes of clothes and everything I needed fit into a small backpack. I just looked at a train display in a rail station and picked where I wanted to go. It was a month of bliss.

Does a song just bring you back in time? Or is there a tune that makes you smile?

Do share.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Today we're going to be


Singular Saturday

For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Can you find me?

(photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe)

Yup, this photo ran in the big city newspaper yesterday under the headline Support shown for state's immigrants.

One of the things I do is attend other groups' events to show support and learn what they are doing. According to reporter Maddie Hanna, "the goal of the 'Welcoming Massachusetts' campaign, which organizers say is backed by more than 60 groups and 40 elected officials, is to promote tolerance and signal that support exists for legislation benefiting immigrants."

"The truth is that the political environment has been completely and totally poisoned by the loud voices of a few," Maria Elena Letona, executive director of the Latin American organization Centro Presente. The question of how the United States should handle illegal immigrants, a debate that has escalated in recent years, has at times provoked anti-immigrant sentiment in cities across the country.

Organizers must first detoxify that environment, Letona said, or efforts to enact legislation will fail. "That's what this campaign is about," she said. "It's about demonstrating that most people in Massachusetts are hospitable, are caring. We're created equal, no exceptions." In between chants of "Yes, we can! Si se puede!" and "Today we can, tomorrow we vote," speakers at yesterday's press conference focused on equality.
I've written in the past of how horribly our nation treats immigrants. I took my children to a rally in support of the over 350 workers who were rounded up last year in a raid of a manufacturing plant making, no joke, backpacks for armed forces in Iraq (just think about that for a minute). This week I was proud to stand as part of a heart on the Grand Staircase of our State House to show support for immigrants.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Not exactly calming bedtime music

Nothing like watching a kid dance an Irish jig to the Dropkick Murphys* Shipping off to Boston.

In the tub during bath time.

Or over my head in his bedroom. With his brother. It's amazing the ceiling hasn't fallen down in the kitchen.

* They sing a certain song I've written about that is popular in Red Sox Nation.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Consider me gone

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

I'm finally doing something about my less then stellar cholesterol levels. I'm doing something after several years of pleading from my physician to start getting active.

For the last week I've been getting up at 5 in the morning and walk three miles. The first time out I decided to do something my body really hates.

I jogged. I hate jogging and running. But Lake Michigan by Rogue Wave was playing in my ears and I couldn't help it. I also couldn't run for the entire 3 minutes and 13 seconds of the song. That is how pitifully out of shape I am.

So after more walking (and gasping for air) I decided to try running during Hilary McRae's Consider me Gone towards the end of the outing. I figured I would run until the end of the 4 minute 18 second song or until I got to a particular street. Whichever came first.

Here is a play-by-by of my thoughts during that run -

You were wrong from the start
Cheating your way while we were apart
You took from me more than you gave
Same old story
Too little, too late

Not bad. Nope not too bad.

Wasted time was spent throwing it all away
The pleasure's never worth the pain

Pain. Yup, starting to feel pain.

I know that you ain't gonna change
What made you think that things would stay the same?
And what will you do when you're on your own?
Won't be long
Consider me gone

Crap. Where is that street?


Got your number, there's no doubt
How long did you think it'd take me to figure it out?
If I know one thing that's true
Won't waste another day depending on you

Wasted time was spent throwing it all away
The pleasure's never worth the pain

I know that you ain't gonna change
What made you think that things would stay the same?
And what will you do when you're on your own?
Won't be long
Consider me gone

Oh no. A musical bridge. When is this song going to end?

A million words I could write
But you'd still be wrong
Why don't we just stop holding on?
If I can't be strong
Then I'll go back to where I started from!

Oh NO! An instrumental solo!

This is when that little "you are such a wimp" voice suddenly woke up and started fussing at me.

"You rowed three miles in the Head of the Charles when you were 19 years old. That was pain!"

But I was 19, I reply to the voice. I'm 20 years older.

"So? You've also given birth WITHOUT AN EPIDURAL! Now THAT was PAIN!"

Wasted time was spent throwing it all away
The pleasure's never worth the pain

I know that you ain't gonna change
What made you think that things would stay the same?
And what will you do when you're on your own?
Won't be long
Consider me gone

I got to the street. The song was still playing.

I kept running.

Seven days later I ran 1/2 a mile, walked 2 miles, then ran another 1/2 mile for a total of 3 miles.

And the "you're a wimp" voice isn't quite so loud during Consider me Gone.

Got a song that inspires you to push yourself? Or just makes you smile? Do tell.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The 46664 Concert

I was so excited to watch the recording of the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday concert with my kids. Held over the weekend in Hyde Park, London, we just couldn't jet over for the show. We already had plans and our private jet was in the shop for repairs.

The newspaper coverage specifically mentioned that Annie Lenox, Peter Gabriel and Johnny Clegg were performing. So with much excitement we sat down on the sofa Tuesday night to watch the 90 minutes version on VH1.

There was no Johnny Clegg. Perhaps one of the most famous South African musical performers. Ok VH1 is culturally insensitive.

There was no Peter Gabriel. The man only wrote and performed Biko since 1980 in honor of 30-year-old anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko who was murdered by police while in custody. Ok. VH1 is historically ignorant.

There was no Annie Lennox. Annie Lennox is Annie Lennox. Now VH1 is f-ing clueless.

And there is no good footage of her speaking or performing at the concert. Please bear with the sound being a bit off from the footage I could find on YouTube. Her words and the children's performance should have been seen in the United States. The concrete story of a little girl with HIV regaining some health after only five months of simple treatment including medicine, food and nurturing care should have been heard. It makes real the difference our donations can make in the lives of people.

Instead we got three songs with Amy Whinehouse, including her butchering the 1984 protest song Free Nelson Mandela. This led the boys to keep asking me why she was even in the concert, what was wrong with her and that she couldn't sing. I could not have agreed more.

Annie, however, even with footage that is out of synch, is simply stellar.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Finally freed from CD tyranny

Want another reason for why my dad is amazing, terrific and downright wonderful?

He got the permanently logged Housemartins CD out of our minivan player. So now we can listen to Neil Diamond, Annie Lennox and Papa Grows Funk to our hearts' content.

When I excitedly asked him how did he do it - with visions of tools, complicated body contortions and some swearing in my head - he replied simply,

"I hit a button and it came out."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Should bring her more often

I have made it clear that I don't like to shop. Particularly for clothes. I don't pay attention to what passes for fashionable and don't want to try to fit my given-birth-to-three-kids body into styles that are meant for anorexic 13 year olds.

There is actually one place I do love to shop. It is only open three weekends a year, the clothes are organized by color and the changing area is a big space in the middle of the place.

I go to a warehouse sale for a clothes company near our house. Early last month was the big weekend for the spring/summer clothes. The next one isn't until November. I had to bring my 4-year-old daughter with me and planned to strategically bribe placate her with food praise during my excursion.

What I didn't realize is what an asset she would be.

Less than a minute in the warehouse, she charged a stranger who was holding up a skirt against her legs and assessing the look in a mirror. She asked nicely, "Can my mom have that skirt?"

I nearly died. The woman very politely explained (to a 4-year-old - what is it with this kid that she gets adults to rationalize with her?) she was considering it for herself but if it didn't work she would find us and give it to me. A little later she appeared and handed me the same skirt. "I liked it but was worried there were only a few left. I went and got it for you."

Little lady was thrilled when I put it on. I got tons of compliments from the other women also trying on clothes and many queries as to where I found it in the racks.

For $25, it was a steal. And I think only the beginning of my daughter telling me what clothes to buy.