Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Which is Worth More according to a 9 year old

During Sunday's service, our minister read a poem by Rumi, the Persian mystical poet who lived during the 13th century.

Also during this point of the service one of my rather tall 9 year olds decided the only place he would sit was on my lap. His back pressed against my chest, his head laying on my ear, he gave a running commentary as she read the poem (his commentary in italics):

“Which is Worth More?” by Rumi

Which is worth more, a crowd of thousands,
or your own genuine solitude?

"Solitude!" he suddenly uttered in a loud whisper.

Freedom, or power over an entire nation?

"Freedom." he whispered in a what-are-you-stupid? tone of voice.

A little while alone in your room
Will prove more valuable than anything else
That could ever be given to you.

"Alone in my room" he repeated, in a reverent whisper.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I never said I didn't like Madame Gaga

I continue to be amazed at what posts of mine generate comments months, sometimes years, after I wrote them. I just got a comment the other day from someone who, like my son in 2007, found herself eating a clementine with worms.

But I am starting to think the Lady Gaga post last spring will continue to generate comments for years to come. You may recall my tirade about 5th graders performing a talent show piece with Poker Face playing as background music. The comments that drove me nuts were those that clearly HAD NOT READ MY PIECE. I stressed I personally, as a then 40-year-old, had nothing against her music. I stressed that teens should be able to enjoy her. However, 2nd grade was too young to be listening to lyrics about getting drunk, bluffing with muffins, and love isn't fun unless it is rough.

So when I saw last week that I had another comment to this, I just waited for another "get a life" (Jake) or "god you're one of THOSE parents" (yes, Jordan, did you notice I am one of THOSE parents who teaches sex ed at my church?). So I was pleasantly surprised to read this gem from Lady:

I'm 10 and I listen to Lady GaGa,SHE'S MY FAVORITE,and I just don't bother asking so if your kid asks about something,just say it's adult stuff. I understand if your chil (sic) is in 2nd grade,of course but 5th grade is fine

I'll ignore the fact that a 10-year-old commented on my blog (my sons will be 10 in August and the idea of them roaming around the blogosphere gives me stomach pains) and just marvel at her very grown-up response. She agreed that 2nd grade is young but 5th grade is just fine.

Thank you, Lady.

And, Lady, don't tell my kids that my new favorite song is Bad Romance. You're old enough to get it.

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Friday, January 22, 2010

Six voters

My assigned task for the Martha Coakley campaign on Special Election day was to drive voters who could not get themselves to the polls. At first I only had three folks to drive, all southeast of my hometown, and figured I would get to return to finish the day holding signs or making a few last ditch Get The Vote Out (GTVO) calls.

The first voter, the note said, used a wheelchair. I arrived at the apartment building, Mrs. D buzzed me in, and I rode up the elevator to her floor. Turning down the hall I was immediately struck by the medicinal smell of a nursing home, although this was a mixed use building. Her door was all the way at the end and slightly ajar. I knocked and opened the door to find a tiny, frail woman sitting in a motorized wheelchair.

After switching to a chair I would push, and attaching Mrs. D's oxygen tank, we locked up and started down the hall. She proceeded to rail, in her tiny voice, about people in her building "who aren't even registered to VOTE!" She continued, aghast "Can you imagine?"

We arrived at my mini-van and she struggled mightily to get herself up into the passenger seat. As we started to drive I mentioned which polling station I was taking her to and she felt pretty strongly that she voted at another location. I suggested we go to the one I was told and run in to ask. She agreed.

I entered the large church hall only to find two precincts voting in that location. It became apparent I was asking for someone else and when I finished explaining Mrs. D's situation, a clerk declared "Well you should just bring her ballot to the car. Let me get one of the police officers to escort you". And like that I was able to bring a ballot and pen to Mrs. D and she voted in my van. It was an honor to have my dingy van be the site of something so important.

Another voter later in the day became a US citizen 35 years ago. Mr. A was born in Trinidad and Tribago but raised his three sons in the big city. He had a prosthetic leg, above the knee, that kept popping out requiring him to stop and either have me push it back while sitting in his wheelchair or he would rearrange it so he could stand. It took him 30 minutes to get out of his house.

While driving to the polls he talked about how the United States was the greatest country in the world and that voting was very important. At one point he declared "Let's get Martha elected!" with a broad grin and a clap of his hands.

Coming back he mused "maybe I should have gotten an absentee ballot" so that he didn't have to vote at the polls. "But then I would've never met you!" I replied.

It took 30 minutes to get him back into his house, through the garage and up a winding staircase. I left him at the top of his stairs, on a mobile stair chair waving goodbye.

I drove others that day. An 88-year-old woman who had never missed an election since she was 21 ("we couldn't vote until we were 21" she reminded me). A 56-year-old man living in an assisted living facility who had suffered a massive stroke and asked my help to fill out his ballot since he couldn't find the dot to fill in. One woman who told me about how she missed out on her chance to vote for McGovern (and declared with pride that Massachusetts was the only state to vote for him) because she had emergency surgery that day.

While I was on the losing side of the election (in more ways than one), I did win in other ways. I helped six people vote. Six people who each had very good reasons, and in some cases many of them, to not vote.

So while I am still sorting out my anger and disappointment from other parts of the election, I am hopeful.

Because people vote.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Girl Elephant in the Room

I spent the last few weeks devoting all my free time (all 32 seconds per week) to the Martha Coakley campaign to represent Massachusetts in the US Senate. I missed both my chance to volunteer during the primaries, and celebrate her win, when I had an emergency appendectomy the early morning hours of December 8th. But that didn't stop me from voting. My father brought me an absentee ballot to my hospital bed and I proudly filled it out, hours after surgery.

So I jumped into phone banks leading up to the general election and drove people to the polls on election day who had no means to get there. I talked her up to anyone who would listen. I was committed to getting her elected.

It is old news that she lost. That she went down in flames. All the talk is about how poorly her campaign was managed. Few people are willing to acknowledge that something much more insidious was involved.


During the first hours of the polls being open, I stood with a large Coakley sign outside an elementary school. As young children walked on the sidewalk past me a man who looked to be in his 50's rolled down his car window. There was a sidewalk and an entire lane between us requiring he had to yell to be heard.

Very clearly he shouted "She's a fucking beast".

During the days leading up to the election I would call voters, asking them to vote for Martha Coakley and half the time they would say to me that they hated her negative ads. When asked about Scott Brown's ads they insisted he was never negative. And yet, several years ago during the Presidential campaign when Senator John Kerry ignored the Swift Boat negative ads, he was considered weak. So according to those callers a woman couldn't fight back.

Later, after the polls closed, I was at a town gathering unrelated to the Senate race. I was surrounded by Democrats, Republicans and unenrolled voters. I started talking to a man I know. He isn't someone I know well but we've interacted over the years. We got to talking about the Senate election and he made it clear he voted for Scott Brown in part for his position on abortion.

After a discussion of Brown's failed amendment to create a massive loophole in a bill to protect rape victims, the man suddenly said,"If my daughter was raped, she wouldn't get an abortion. Two wrongs don't make a right."

I thought I had been kicked in the gut. I started to cry, describing the hell of pregnancy - even when that pregnancy is a product of love - and asked him how he, sans overies or a uterus, could even think that he should have a say.

I returned home late election night, reeling from my bookend experiences. A man who felt no inhibition to yell such profanities in public and a man who would look a woman in the eye and say that a woman should be expected to carry a pregnancy from a rape. I cried until 2:30 in the morning. I awoke at 4:30 in the morning only to start crying again.

I would talk to liberal men about the sexism and be brushed off. "It was all about her bad campaign. It had nothing to do with gender" declared one young [male] colleague.

Yet every woman I spoke to agreed. Agreed that there was vitriol directed at a female candidate that would never happen to a man.

So why is it o.k. to diminish the impact of gender on this race? Why is it o.k. to yell obscenities about a woman candidate? Would the driver that morning have felt it was alright to yell a racial epitaph if the candidate was black? Why is it o.k. to be matter-of-fact about options for a female rape victim? Would the man at the party have said the same about denying treatment to the victim of any other form of assault?

I have no answers. I'm still too raw from Tuesday's results. Both inside and outside the polls.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Wicked Popular

In 2006 I wrote about how one of my sons and I sang For Good from the Broadway show Wicked in a musical review.

And how I barely made it through the performance without sobbing. Because I have been changed because I know him.

In 2009 I wrote about how a dear dear friend sent me a mix of songs which included Defying Gravity from that same musical. Which led to me lifting my daughter high in the air while we danced to this song and, of course, causing me to cry. Because I don't want anyone to bring her down.

So, incredibly, this past weekend, I finally saw a touring production of Wicked thanks to my fabulous sister-in-law. You would have thought by now I had actually seen it live and on stage. And we brought that 5 year-old girl I lift in the air.

Which led me to sob uncontrollably as Act I ended and Elphaba (the green witch) flies up singing "tell them how I am defying gravity". And led to my daughter to wipe my tears with her fancy party dress. And her winter coat. And then hug me. Causing many strange women around me to go "awwwwww......"

But that wasn't the song that grabbed my daughter. It wasn't the song that she sang over and over in the car.

No, that would be the song Glinda the Good Witch sings to Elphaba when she decides to "help" her.

I'll help you be popular!
You'll hang with the right cohorts
You'll be good at sports
Know the slang you've got to know
So let's start
'Cause you have a long way to go....

As she awoke the morning after seeing the play, literally the first words out of my daughter's mouth was "one, two, three BALLGOWN!!" as she waved a (practice) magic wand. Then she giggled and sang a little of Popular. Complete with hair swishing.

She made her aunt and uncle play the newly purchased cast recording on CD as she pranced around their kitchen.

"Someday she'll get the irony" my sister-in-law said in a slightly hopeful, with a tinge of concern, tone in her voice.

But I know she will. Because as the play ended the day before in this incredibly grand and old theater, my little lady in her fancy party dress climbed into my lap. Earlier in the day she had expressed concern about seeing Wicked because she was scared of the green witch.

Now she clutched my neck and hid her face. Because she didn't want to see the green witch die from the bucket of water.

The play begins and ends with the line "no one mourns the wicked".

Fortunately, a little five year old did. Even if she does want a practice magic wand.

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

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