Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yesterday I finished my

Singular Saturday

For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Setting the Thanksgiving Table

Setting the Thanksgiving table - Snoopy style.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Writing The Bee Tree

Some of you have been following a little project I decided to try.

I've been writing a 50,000-word novel in a month - 30 days to be exact. As the above graph shows, I've been writing almost daily and pretty close to finishing. Those two huge red days were when I spent a Saturday for my organization's biannual convention and when I had book group. I think that is a good reason not to write. I was talking about other people's writing.

My kids have finally noticed that I haven't been typing furiously while working on the blog. Lest you think I am getting solitary time to write - I have been writing while helping someone put shoes on her Cinderella, managing second graders' homework and listening with one ear as someone practices piano. In spite of this one little guy is getting excited that I am nearing the end. He seems to think it will be on bookshelves next month.

What I hate to tell him is that I wrote this for me - as both a personal challenge and a purge.

The challenge originates from NaBloPoMo 2007. I posted every day last November and would sometimes stumble on blogs in which the author declared there would be minimal posting since she/he was "doing" NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. It made me wonder if I could do that.

Then in January I left the kids for a mini-vacation with Amazing Guy. While thrilled to be away with him, the location was less than desirable for me. On the flight over I got to thinking how horrid it would be to die, leaving the kids, going to a place that I didn't really want to go to (it would be horrid to die period - but particularly egregious if it was going someplace wretched).

Fortunately I did survive the trip and spent the next 10 months thinking of scenarios, interactions and dialogue of three kids as they grew up without their parents. Things would pop into my head and I would overhear exchanges that just fit into the characters that were lodged inside of me.

So I started The Bee Tree on November 1st not sure if I would get to November 30th with a complete novel. I decided to write 1700 words a day and was surprised at how easily I could write. I'm not saying I've been writing well. The point of writing in a month is to create lots of quantity, not quality. That is what December is for - National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo).

A funny thing is happening as I near the last 5000 words. The characters are leaving me. They are saying goodbye and the ending is making sense. While I originally thought it would be a complete purge, I'm a little sad that they won't be visiting me anymore. It is as if they are finally out and will let me have that brain space back.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Psycho Killer

Psycho Killer by David Byrne at the beginning of Talking Heads concert film, Stop Making Sense. By far one of the best openings for a movie.

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Any music from movies that just thrill you? Feel free to answer that question in the comments. If you are writing about music, and linking to me, in your blog today please add your name to the linky love list.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Up early to make West African chicken and peanut butter


Singular Saturday

For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Get that shotgun"

I followed my four-year-old into the large box store to buy snacks for the kids going to the child care at the convention this weekend. She just strutted in, swishing her multi-layered skirt with her butterfly shirt and citrus-fruit rain boots. Her blond curls bounced as she held her head up high.

An older black couple were walking out of the store. The gentleman followed little lady with his eyes and just smiled. This big, huge smile.

The lady looked down, shook her head, then looked me in the eyes.

"Ooooooooo...." she said as she clicked her tongue. "You better get a shotgun right now!"

"Yes I do ma'am" I replied with a big laugh.

And little lady just strutted even more.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Instant legislators

My state isn't doing too well with legislators right now. There is a general pall over the General Court (as they are known) thanks to legal action being taken against two state senators (one involving assaulting four women while the other involves taking bribes) and increased scrutiny of the conduct of two representatives. Then there is that lovely fact that my state ranks dead last in contested races - meaning once someone is elected representative or senator they are rarely challenged in future elections. It is as if they are then handed the job on a silver platter.

At Saturday's convention I ran a workshop called Advocacy for Change! (someone else added the exclamation point). Usually at advocacy (aka how a bill becomes a law) workshops you have the range of folks - people who have extensive experience working in politics and people who didn't know they have both a representative and a senator in the State House. I wanted to do something different then the usual PowerPoint explanation of the legislative process ("the governor files the budget in January and then there is a hearing....).

I set up a role play where folks were assigned jobs. I asked a woman with limited English to be the "first" Spanish-speaking Governor of Massachusetts. I "elected" a young woman with a bright red do-rag the Senator who was also Chair of the Committee. People were assigned the role of business owners, residents who opposed and others who supported affordable housing (clearly that last one wasn't a stretch).

We held a mock State House hearing complete with a head table, "Senators" and "Representative" cards, a table to testify from and a clear mandate to give keep the testimony to one minute. I had given those who were testifying a fill-in-the-blank testimony sheet. They just had to come up with 2-3 important points to justify their support or opposition of the issue before the committee. I asked those who were the legislators to pose tough questions and at times seem disengaged (once when I testified before the Senator now facing bribery charges she loudly opened her mail. Although to "my" newly appointed legislators' credits - none of them had the heart to be mean or rude during the 8 minute hearing).

There was a worry that we were putting people on the spot to perform. To do something they wouldn't be comfortable with. I figured I could coach people through the exercise if it got really painful but it was worth the chance.

As always we were running out of time for the session. The "Governor" went first to speak and I was running around trying to line up the subsequent speakers. Suddenly I heard the young woman with her hair covered in a red cloth say very loudly, "Yes Madame Governor but WHY do you SUPPORT this? How will it help our communities?"

I shot up in the back of the large room and then nearly fell over. She and her fellow "co-chair" kept each testimony at one minute (often with a terse "your time is up!"), grilled people about their positions and gave people a real taste of what a hearing is. Neither of them had been to a hearing of any kind.

But who was the "Senator" in the do-rag? She is 18 years old and only recently got her GED. She desperately wants to go to college but because she doesn't have a traditional high school diploma she can't get financial aid for college. I am going to figure out how to get in her college.

Because in 5 years I want to run her campaign. For whatever office she wants to run for.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sporting their tutus

This past Saturday morning I was up at 4:45 to shower and get ready to pick up a colleague at 6:15. Good thing I was up by then because she was calling me at 5:30 am to make sure I remembered the children's movies.

Saturday was our biannual convention. Two years ago several of the gubernatorial candidates came to speak to our members. They are community organizers, builders of affordable housing, youth leaders, non-profit board members, housing counselors at the forefront of the foreclosure crisis and advisers to small businesses which often provide the only jobs in distressed neighborhoods. Some of them bring their children to spend the day with other youngsters playing games, reading and watching movies. Two years ago we had the largest turnout to one of our conventions - 650 - due in large part to people wanting to see the Democratic Candidate, Deval Patrick.

This year we thought we would be lucky if we broke 500. We weren't sad about that but had planned accordingly. An amazing thing happened - we kept getting more and more registrations even though our big "star" speaker was on of our Representatives in Congress. He is in the thick of the market meltdown. We surpassed 650 and it kept climbing. At one point we had over 40 kids signed up for childcare. Suddenly we were facing a convention with more people than the space could hold. More people than we had bought food for. As staff, we had to promise not to eat or take a seat.

We were packed up against the walls. But the energy stayed positive thanks to two dance performances. There are no videos or songs to post so please use your imagination. A hodge-podge of hip-hop, old school rap and funk played throughout a posh hotel ballroom as teens of different races and ethnicity came up to dance their hearts out. These were kids from two cities hardest hit by foreclosures in our state. They know families thrown out of their homes, walk past boarded up buildings that are being gutted by arson, and watching what were once lively, vibrant neighborhoods disintegrate before their eyes.

And they danced. And several of the girls wore tutu skirts over their leggings or pants. It was a wonderful image. The splash of pink or white tulle as the arms and legs were flying, as the faces hardened then brightened, as they danced.

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Please join in Music Monday. Just remember if you plan to use little Mr. Linky below then write a post about music (you can even just post your current favorite song) and link back to me. Music always makes Monday a little bit easier.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Half-way through my

Singular Saturday

For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obscenities Part II

Thanks so some kids in aftercare, "sucks" has become a regular word used by my 8 year olds. With the perfect tone they say to their little sister "that sucks!" as she tries to tell a story they think is silly.

This has been getting progressively worse and then on Monday I hit the breaking point. I was informed that one kid with a much older brother says that sucks isn't that big of a deal.

I got little sister out of the van, turned to the boys and described in graphic detail what exactly sucks means. I asked them if that was really what they wanted people to think about when they said that word.

They haven't said it since.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


"Reflection" by Bob Staake. A beautiful New Yorker cover reflecting a incredible time in our history.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Went to a hockey game, Part II

Really, you would think after the July, 2007 post I learned my lesson. But my Virginia cousin's kid is on some elite team based in New York state. She came to the northern part of our state this past weekend to watch his team play in a tournament.

My dad and I brought the boys to watch their cousin play in a tiny, cold and really smelly rink. At one point a puck flew over the protective walls. Fortunately no one was hurt and my guys got to keep the puck. I was thinking this wasn't going to be as bad as the game that was called due to excessive fighting (just think about that for a minute).

Then the shoving started. The pushing, the tripping, the smashing against the boards. Something happened so that a player from the other team was ejected for the rest of the game.

He was escorted by a referee off the ice. As he stepped over the threshold onto the floor he turned to the ref and loudly yelled "I'M GOING TO FUCK YOU UP!!!!!!!!"

My 8-year-olds, who are not allowed to say "butt" around me, were 5 feet away. They turned around and walked over to me and my cousin. One said,

"Mom, what does fuck you up mean?"

When will I learn?

(I explained it meant a horrible fight but that it was a really gross word.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Farewell Mama Afrika

I turned on the radio Monday morning and came in on the middle of a piece by the stunning Ofeibea Quist-Arcton about Miriam Makeba. I became very aware that Ms. Quist-Arcton was using the past tense which meant only one thing.

Miriam Makeba died early this morning after performing. It couldn't be a more fitting way for you to pass away. You lived in exile from your beloved South Africa for decades, singing the songs of your homeland. You made sure the world paid attention to the horrors of apartheid. And you did it with song.

This song is Pata Pata. In the interview I heard this morning, Ms. Makeba explained it is traditional wedding song. The English-speaking Africans called it "the clicking song" because they couldn't make the Xhosi sound. I've tried on number of times to make that sound with the back of my tongue up against the back of my mouth. I sound like a drowning badger.

Farewell Mama Afrika. You truly made a difference with your music.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What are you listening to?

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Really. What are you listening to these days? Tell me.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

So proud

"When results confirmed what many had only dared to hope, celebrations erupted and many reflected on the implications of a black man elected to the highest office in the country, the same country that less than 50 years ago denied blacks the right to vote.

'They were hung, honey. Their homes were burned down,' said Merlene Jackson, a 65-year-old poll worker at Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan, referring to violence she heard about as a girl growing up in Valdosta, Ga. Today, 'they're coming in and no one is hurting them, no one is shooting them down. I never thought I would see this. It's just joy all down my soul. When you are down so long, you don't think you can get up, and this is the unreachable.'"

Boston Globe, November 5, 2008

I walked into my office this morning and a colleague, a 50-year-old African American woman got up from her desk to hug me. She started to cry. So did I. I don't know the depth of the pain, the suffering. But I am proud to be a part of change.

Hail to the Chief, President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama. January 20, 2009 cannot come soon enough.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Go Vote

We've been holding signs in opposition of Question 1 - a ballot initiative in Massachusetts that would eliminate our income tax. While my kids can't vote, it is important to have them participate in the democratic process.

And to have them come with me when I vote. It is our duty as citizens in a democracy to cast our ballots. It is my duty as a mom to show them I believe it is important.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Make him a punch line; vote NO on Question 1

Tomorrow let's make McCain and Palin a punch line in the history books.

And everyone in Massachusetts DON'T STOP AT THE TOP [of the ballot]! Vote NO on Question 1!

Everyone singing This Land is Your Land today?

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Saturday, November 01, 2008

What I will be doing this month

Singular Saturday

For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.