Friday, August 22, 2008

Love more

I'm only emerging from our blissful vacation to honor my sons' 8th birthday. And as I did last year, I wrote each of them a letter. So this breaks my no-too-long rule for posting. But hey - it's their birthday today.

Happy Birthday son,

I've been slogging through Doris Kearns Goodwin's large and heavy biography about Lincoln. In fact when you had to bring it from the car into the vacation house you exclaimed "When are you going to finish this book?"

I have learned so much about America during the early to mid-1800's, Lincoln's life and events leading up to the Civil War. But I've learned something else.

You are a classic boy.

Early during the Lincoln family's days in the White House a family friend wrote in her diary a description of Willie Lincoln, one of the President's sons. Last month I nearly fell off the train seat as I read:

"Healthy and high-spirited, he had a blazing temper, which disappeared as quickly as it came. He was a 'merry, spontaneous fellow, bubbling over with innocent fun, whose laugh rang throughout the house, when not moved to tears.'"

That is you.

You continue to be incredibly generous (you gave your brother your gift certificate so he could combine it with his to get an insanely expensive Magic Kit), loudly mercurial and downright cuddly. I'm always a bit startled when you take my hand or even put your arm around my waist in public. I have to try not to tear up because I fear it will be the last time you will display affection in public.

And then you do it again a few days later.

I love you,

Happy Birthday son,

You are the family showman. You now have a Magic set thanks to your brother's generous giving of his gift certificate. You are determined to figure out how to hide a coin inside a sack locked in a box, pass the wand without it being seen in the hallow part of another box, or tell what number an audience member has chosen on a card. In addition to being determined to play in a band, star on Broadway, pitch professional baseball, illustrate books, win a gold medal at the Olympics and still live with me as an adult. Apparently part of your life plans involve your parents moving with you to where ever you go.

Your wide-eyed view of the world is inspiring. Your sense of what you can and will do is exciting. Your belief in the inherent goodness of people makes me wish the world was indeed the place you think it is.

By being here you make the world just such a place. A place where all kids regardless of their abilities are friends, a place where music is constantly played, a place where life has to be lived fully (and loudly) from the moment you wake up until the second you collapse into bed at night.

I'm not sure I'll be following you around in your twenties. But I'm sure having fun following you around as you turn 8 years old.

I love you,

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Haikus and vacation

Write a haiku now
Put your feelings into verse
Tell My Mommy's Place

Leaving for two weeks
Sun, sand, ocean and snuggles
Pure vacation bliss

While gone one post
will appear for the birthday
of two special boys

The twenty second
of August will always be
a day to rejoice

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Go see a movie: Trouble the Water

Trouble the Water film

Go see a movie. Not just any movie but a movie that will get you thinking. Click here to see where it is playing near you. And if it isn't, either ask a local movie theater to show it or get in touch with the filmmakers and ask them how to get it shown in your town.

I saw clips of Trouble the Water while I was in New Orleans at a conference earlier this year. There was a panel discussion afterwards with the actor Danny Glover (who co-produced this film), the film's directors and the two "stars" of the film - a couple from the 9th Ward neighborhood of New Orleans who managed to film their experiences during the storm and allowed a film crew to follow them around in the aftermath. Hearing them speak was incredible.

But what makes this movie even sadder is what hasn't happened. We are the greatest nation in the world and our government has completely abandoned New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. I saw it first hand during my visit in March. Some neighborhoods are clearly pulling themselves together while others are languishing. It seems to be based on which neighborhood has either a functioning organization or resident will-power to pull themselves out of the mess.

This shouldn't be based on who is lucky to have resources. There should be an equitable way of helping the entire city rebuild. That is why we have a federal government.

Which seems to be committed to rebuilding foreign counties in the Middle East. We should be asking why they won't commit more to rebuilding a great American City.

This movie could be to race and poverty what The Inconvenient Truth was to environmental movement. Please go see it. Then talk about it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hiding under the table

Last month I came up the stairs from the basement during a particularly loud thunder storm to find two little eyes staring at me from under the dining room table.

"Mommy?" the owner of those eyes asked, "Were you scared of thunder when you were a little kid?"

Yes I was and she was promptly invited to sleep in my bed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Baseball party and birthday CDs

This year the boys were lobbying hard for individual birthday parties. I was trying to stave off it off for one more year so I relented and allowed plan B. They invited every single kid from each of their first grade classes for a 4-inning game of baseball.

They had a batting order and a spreadsheet of where each kid would go on the field to make sure everyone played. The plans had to be revised since some families were either on vacation or had other plans.

But what was most touching was the thought by them that went into making sure the kids who are not very athletic would have a good time. One guy was particularly worried that a classmate who is known for not attending parties (his family can't afford presents) would not come. He bugged me every day after the invites were mailed if the friend had called. I finally called the family and asked if we could pick him up for the afternoon. We got him and his presence was the present.

And is our custom, every kid who joined us got a CD of the boys' favorite music from the last year. Every year I think it will be the last one we do. This year the boys themselves were plotting which songs to include on the CD, helping to compile them and eagerly handed them out as the party ended.

1. Tessie (Radio Version)- Dropkick Murphys
2. Get Up Off Our Knees - The Housemartins
3. Life Is a Highway - Rascal Flatts
4. The Lollipop Guild - The Wizard Of Oz
5. Born in the U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen
6. Good Morning Baltimore - Hairspray
7. Walking In Memphis - Marc Cohn
8. Tennessee - Arrested Development
9. Seasons of Love - Rent
10. Rosealia - Better Than Ezra
11. True Colors - Cyndi Lauper
12. Chelsea Dagger - The Fratellis
13. Lake Michigan - Rogue Wave
14. The Battle Of New Orleans - Johnny Cash
15. I Got It (What You Need) - Galactic & Lyrics Born
16. Love Stinks - The J. Geils Band
17. I'm Shipping Up to Boston - Dropkick Murphys

And the parents seemed excited about the CDs - especially with the Dropkick Murphys on it.

All in all a great day. The first sunny day in a week, kids in a great mood, an afternoon on the ballfield and new loot to boot.

Singing anything new lately?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Two years of blogging

Tomorrow, August 9th is my 2nd anniversary of blogging. It started as a little experiment for myself, to see what this blogging stuff was all about and how I could explain it to low-income, primarily homeless, women. I ended up leaving that job but I'm still blogging.

And while my first year was of experimenting, learning and fumbling through the blog-o-sphere, this second year was marked with something pretty radical.

I met several of you in person. One of you even agreed to multiple get-togethers. I met one of you while you played tourist in the big city. Another two agreed (in separate cities) to meet up for drinks (now Ambassador and Flower Child were present for those but they don't count - they've been friends of mine before email or text messaging).

But the big journey was traveling over the ocean to be hosted by Jenn in Holland and her family, who didn't know me except through blogging. It was the biggest act of faith and generosity shown to me in a long time. She even rigged a surprise day of play with Fourier Analyst who spontaneously welcomed us into her family. I still think I was the luckiest person in the world that weekend.

Then Jenn in Holland came to visit me and my family. It was such fun to show her my actual world, not the virtual one.

I have been laying low with comments these few months due to work, new found commitment to exercise and spending time with the kids. I continue to write and post and am grateful for those of you who keep leaving comments even though I haven't been around to visit you.

And, to celebrate my 2nd year, here is a list of a few of my favorites posts from the past 12 months:

Love (the boys' birthday letters)


Inspiration by Brown

Farewell to a bee

Got a call from Newsweek Magazine

Day to Read

A boy in the hospital

Lorraine Hotel, 2008

Happy Birthday (little lady's birthday letter)

We're just beaming here

Show and tell

Pink Hearts and Bad Connections

Am I missing a post or two that you really like?

And what am I doing tomorrow to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of my blog? Spending the afternoon with over 20 second-graders on an elementary school baseball diamond for two boys' 8th birthday party. All my sons want to do is play a baseball game for their party.

I knew you would understand why I missed the blog party.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Watching the half marathon

Amazing Guy left the hotel room for the New York City Half Marathon last month at 5:30am to be on time for the 7:00am start. The boys insisted on wearing their Red Sox shirts while little lady wanted to wear her brand new sandals purchased the day before. So now I had to hope there would be no mean words to little boys or blisters on toes.

We got to Central Park in time to see the leaders run by. It was very exciting.

We were also able to find Amazing Guy in the midst of the crowd. Much cowbell ringing, yelling and hand slapping ensued.

And several yells of appreciation from runners wearing a Red Sox shirt or hat.

Then after a quick ride on the subway to Times Square to find Amazing Guy again. The kids did their usual sticking out of their hands for runners to slap as they go by. It continues to amaze me that people will cross the street to seek out a hand to slap.

At one point, a tall man completely crossed the large street in Times Square, clearly seeking out the kids' hands. He got to one Red Sox clad boy and lifted his hand while saying "Oops", slapped little lady's hand, and then avoided the next boy's hand with the explanation "I don't touch Red Sox fans."

After yelling for Amazing Guy in Times Square, we hopped on the subway again and got to the finish line just a block away from where the Twin Towers once stood.

His shirt reads "Sikhs in America".

This was our third time seeing "Lobster Hat Man" as my kids called him.

This guy was juggling as he approached the finish line. Amazing Guy told us about one guy who dribbled a basketball the entire time.

Once again a fun day. Although now little lady has asked both Amazing Guy and me, "when do we get to cheer for mommy in a race?"

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New York Waterfalls

The last weekend in July the family and I went to New York City to support Amazing Guy's run in the half marathon. The day before the race we played tourists which included a short ferry ride around the East River to see the latest public art installation. The New York City Waterfalls are four large metal towers which spew out water.

There is one under the Brooklyn Bridge.

By Pier 35 near Rutgers Street.

By the Brooklyn Piers.

By Governors Island.

It was a lovely little tour, especially after we nearly missed it due to many subway delays. Nothing like dragging three kids down multiple blocks of Fulton Street, which is completely torn up due to construction. But we made it and split up because there was no way little lady was leaving the air conditioning. And there was no way I was going to try and take photos through dirty windows.

Amazing Guy graciously sat inside with little lady and one big man while I sat outside in the back with the other big man. I rarely get time with only one son so it was another treat on top of a lovely little tour.

At one point he turned to the older women next to us and on his own said "We're from Boston." He then talked to them about our visit, why we are there, what we had done and asked them questions about their own visit. I was speechless and floored as my son showed conversational skills and social grace I didn't know he had.

The cherry on top of the treat on top of a lovely little tour.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sunday service

As I've written, there was a shooting last week at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN. The shooter wrote in a letter that he wanted to get "liberals and gays" and specifically targeted this congregation.

Most UU churches do not hold services during the summer. Growing up we would joke that God went to the Cape for the summer (as in Cape Cod). When telling that story as we moved into our new town seven years ago, I was corrected that here God goes to Nantucket, a much more exclusive island off the coast.

Back in the spring our church decided to experiment with summer services organized and led by parishioners. Yesterday's service had been completely planned by a woman who then graciously put aside her efforts to help create one that responded to the Knoxville tragedy. But as often happens when you suggest an idea, you have to do it.

Which is why I ended up leading the service. Here is what happened:

I. Prelude - usually our music is performed on a huge organ by an incredibly talented woman. This summer our music is being played on a piano by an incredibly talented high school student. He is not Unitarian Universalist but still attended a candlelight vigil in the big city on behalf of the victims of the shooting. I encouraged him to chose the prelude and postlude. He picked several lovely songs, and kept playing until we had settled down a few minutes later than planned.

II. Chalice lighting - every UU service includes the lighting of a chalice. My daughter was the only child in attendance and I asked her to come and light the chalice in honor of the children who witnessed the violence last Sunday and our resolve to provide a safe, affirming space for all children.

III. Unison Affirmation - all UU churches have their own affirmation. Ours is:

Love is the spirit of this church
and Service is its law.
To dwell together in peace,
to seek the truth in freedom
to serve humanity with love
is our covenant with
each other and with God.

IV. Reading - Mark Twain in Innocents Abroad wrote a powerful piece about the universality of grief and loss based on a visit to Pisa.

V. Hymn - May Nothing Evil Cross This Door

VI. Reading - Annette Marquis of the Unitarian Universalist Association wrote her reflections on the days following the shooting and included a moving description of what the children who witnessed the shooting wanted. After practicing their show for months, they wanted a chance to perform. Her description of the song "Tomorrow" from Annie will bring tears to your eyes.

VII. Brief words - Last October I wrote about one of my son's first-hand experience with the death of a bee. Alex Elliot suggested I turn it into a sermon. I did and in it drew comparisons between my son's shock and dismay at death and my own shock and dismay at such blatant hatred against "liberals and gays" and yet if anything this man's actions have only strengthened my Unitarian Univeralist faith and to love all, even if they hate.

VIII. brief Quaker-style meeting - Quakers do not have minister-led services but sit in a circle in silence for the duration of the service (or meeting) and if someone is moved to share something, they tell a story or observation. After explaining the tradition, our UU congregation sat together in silence for about 15 minutes. One member got up an spoke of his shock and horror at the events of last week and the pride that the parishioners disarmed the man and saved so many. Another got up and spoke of being a proud UU.

IX. Closing hymn - We Shall Overcome

X. Postlude - Our high school student pianist picked yet another lovely song to end the service.

It seems appropriate is to end this post with part of the lyrics from the first hymn. There were many tears shed as we sang this...

May nothing evil cross this door, and may ill fortune never pry about these windows;
May the roar and rain go by.
By faith made strong, the rafters will withstand the battering of the storm.
This hearth, though all the world grow chill, will keep you warm.
Peace shall walk softly through these rooms, touching our lips with holy wine,
Till every casual corner blooms into a shrine.
With laughter drown the raucous shout, and though these sheltering walls are thin,
May they be strong to keep hate out and hold love in.

May we all remember, in the face of hate, to hold love in.

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Is there a song that provides you solace? Do share....