Tuesday, January 1, 2013

This Thing Called New Year's

I have never been a big fan of the dreaded "New Year's resolution."  Too much pressure. Too much judgment.  Too much expectation to be extra-ordinary - not with the veracity of the follow through, necessarily - just with the content of the resolution itself.  A "mine is better than yours" childish pissing contest that I tend to tire of very easily - no matter the subject matter.

I remember being mocked by someone for my response to the inane "what's your New Year's resolution?" question.  Like anyone that ever asked that gave a crap what the answer was.  Especially this particular time.  I was working for a small PR firm and an insufferable colleague of my equally insufferable boss asked me what my New Year's resolution was.  So I replied with what I felt was a very sincere response - much too personal for the complete tool I was talking to but I was feeling magnanimous.  "I don't actually believe in New Year's resolutions.  I believe if you want to make a significant change in your life - do it - regardless of the date on the calendar."  His tiny brain had trouble grasping this but I frankly didn't care.  I took the ridicule from him as I had on several other occasions - as part of the crappy $6 an hour job.

I still feel the same way.  Don't wait for January 1st to change the tide of your life. Don't think because January has come and gone that the window to start your own personal revolution has closed.  We really only get to do this once.  Live the life you'd go see if it were a movie, or read if it were a book.  After all you are the author.

Do great things....

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fix the Guard Rail

When you are formulating the solution to a problem you need to ask yourself:

Am I simply putting more ambulances at the bottom of the cliff or am I actually fixing the broken guard rail?

In light of today's horrific shooting at Sandy Hook, I can't help but think about this question.  I hate guns.  I have never held one in my hands.   I simply can't relate to this fascination, our national obsession.  So, I admit, regulating the damn things sounds like a good idea to me.  Then I ask the question - does it fix the guard rail?

Bowling for Columbine is one of the best documentaries ever made. Regardless of your opions about Michael Moore, he methodically tries to figure out why there are so many more gun deaths per capita in the US than there are anywhere else in the world.  Getting to the heart of that reason is truly fixing the guard rail.  Gun control might simply be putting more ambulances at the bottom of the cliff (please excuse the harshness of that metaphor.)

The ideal solution to any problem does both - it puts ambulances in place until the guard rail is fixed.  In my opinion that is what gun control is - ambulances at the bottom of the cliff - until we fix ourselves - get to root of our violence, our mental health crisis. But those ambulances are needed, several and quickly, because I am starting to think that the guard rail is not broken - it just isn't even there.

No more prayers, no more" hearts going out."  Pretend these are random terrorist attacks - because they are.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's Just Stuff

The recent images flooding in from Hurricane Sandy have brought back some rough memories.  Please understand, I can only relate in part to what the victims of this disaster are feeling but I think I have had some of the very same feelings myself.

My stuff.  It's gone.  It is a very strange feeling.  To go to the place where you kept your things to find them no longer there.  Or it's all there but it's, well, gone. Destroyed. Never to belong to you again. Never the same.

It's funny how our things can define us.  I don't mean in terms of status, although we all know that's true.  But slowly, over time, we assign memories, emotions to things.  Our things.  "See this?  We got this that time we went to that place and Uncle So and So laughed so hard milk came out of his nose? Remember?"

My freshman year of college I lost everything I had in the world to a dorm fire.  The fire started in the room next door in the middle of the night.  The fire alarm system did not work and we were all saved by a fast-acting security guard.

Once we were able to return a couple hours later it was the eeriest feeling I have ever had.  To look at my bed, now black like charcoal, with the sheets pulled back like I had just gotten out.  My pillow looking like my head had just been on it. The alarm clock inches from where my head was melted flat to the table.  It was all there and yet none of it, except for a few things, was salvageable.

I cannot describe the feeling. It is the loneliest most desperate feeling.  In that moment you feel like nothing will ever be the same. You will never own anything again.  All of your memories are gone -all of your things are destroyed. All I could say was, "This was everything."

And yet even as I stood there with this horrible pit in my stomach I knew my mother was en route from just a couple hours away to come take me back, well, home. I still had a home to go to.  A roof over my head to have - parents that were at the ready to prepare the insurance claim and take me shopping to begin replacing my things.  And just for the record it is not the "shopping spree" that one dreams of - there was nothing fun about it. "What do you think of this sweater?" "Sure I'll take one in each color. What's next on the list?"

The only thing I can offer someone that has or ever will "lose everything" is this.  It really is just stuff.  That experience made me less sentimental about things but more reflective about the passage of time.  That brush with death has, over the years, slowly crept in to my consciousness and has made me realize that it really can all change in an instant and all this stuff we surround ourselves with just weighs us down.

So it is only in this small way that I can relate to the victims of this tragedy.  No. You no longer have the thing you got at that place.  But nothing can change the fact that Uncle So and So laughed so hard milk came out of his nose.  So, just, remember.  It will take some time but you will get there.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What my 4 year old thinks of Mitt Romney and flying...

I spent a good chunk of my weekend cleaning out my children's play room.  Three piles - one for donation, one for  trash, and one for recycling.  I do this on a pretty regular basis - I am a bit OCD about keeping that room organized. It is amazing how many match box cars, coloring books, and lenticular puzzles these two little boys have.  And crayons.  Oh the crayons. 

At some point along the way we acquired a pretty cool replica of Air Force One.  It's about eight inches long and pretty heavy.  This clearly went into the "keep pile."  What was placed in the trash pile was a small plastic plane with no doors or windows and a broken propeller.  "This is Brock Omama's plane," Julian said as he flew the Air Force One through the air.  "And this," he said as he held up the Wright Brothers' reject ,"is Mitt Romney's plane."

True story.

Friday, September 21, 2012

President Jimmy Carter

I have always had a soft spot for the peanut farmer from Georgia.  I find his gentle southern drawl soothing and his steady way reassuring.  I also associate him with one of my earliest, most vivid memories.

I was sitting in art class with my friend Lisa.  We were both born in January so we would have been 7 in the fall of 1979.  Lisa asked, "Who do you want to be President? Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan."  Before I had a chance to answer (typical Republican) she blurted, "I think Ronald Reagan should be President - he's rich and he's from Hollywood so he knows a lot of famous people."  Even at seven this seemed odd to me.  "Well," I said - almost afraid to disagree with my friend - after all it could very well have been my first experience with having a real opinion, "I think Jimmy Carter should be our President.  He has a little girl so I know he would never want to start a war."

And there you have it. The reason, if I am going to be honest, that I perhaps still vote for anyone.  Not that they never would - but that, at their core, they do not desire conflict.

Much like President Clinton, President Carter has had an exemplary post-White House life.  He and Rosalyn have been involved with Habitat for Humanity since 1984.  The Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project is one of the most high profile aspects of the organization - its focal point is an annual build blitz - one week of this blitz frequently results in the completion over 100 homes - from the Gulf Coast to the Mekong to West Philadelphia.

Many years ago, the Work Project brought President Carter to a home on Stiles Street where my mother grew up.  My mother's cousin stood with President Carter in the basement of her childhood home and told him stories of how my Great-Grandfather used the basement for wine making.

I have always hated the way people have spoken about President Carter.  You can say what you will about the Carter Administration, the Carter years.  They were what they were and, no, perhaps they were not very good.  But when the criticisms of the administration turn to insults and treat Jimmy Carter like a punch line that's when I get my back up.  At the most basic level - the difference between Jimmy Carter's helicopter crash and Barack Obama's Black Hawk crash?  Seal Team Six had a back up helicopter.

Romney has practically made disrespecting a living President a hobby.  Maybe not anymore.  Not only is revenge a dish best served cold but it is also best served by your grandson.  Just ask James Carter IV. People are praising him - but he simply did what any of us would have done to protect our loved ones from bullies.  Regardless, we should thank him - I thank him, and his grandfather.

Hey Mitt, like the best spokesman for truth and peace warned, Instant Karma's gonna get you.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Betty White's Rebuttal

In the wake of what may go down in history as the most ridiculous display of histrionics ever on a convention stage, there was an almost immediate call for a DNC rebuttal from the incomparable Betty White.  Funny?  For sure. Over the top? Potentially.  But not if it's done right.  (Read: Not if the DNC does it my way.)

I am not interested in answering the RNC as much as I am in sprinting right past them.  So picture this. The place - Charlotte, NC (hopefully without the Greek columns.) The time - the slot immediately before President Obama takes the stage.  Yes.  Immediately before.

She should walk on the stage  (crowd goes wild, laughter, etc since all have been a-buzz about the possibility of her appearance.)  Then a few moments later, while she is still soaking in all the adoration, someone brings out a chair.  She looks at it  (more uproarious laughter.)  Then she sits in it and says "Well, what else was I supposed to do with it?  I turned 90 this year.  I need to sit."

Then she should talk about those 90 years - as an American, and as a woman. What has changed, what has gotten better.  And yes, what has not gotten better.  She should talk about what a twenty year old Betty would have thought about walking on the moon, the right to choose, smart phones, gay rights, equal pay and yes, an American President with a name like Barack Hussein Obama.  Did she ever think she would "live to see the day" to see any of this?

Think about what Betty White has seen in her lifetime.  If this were my full time job I would come up with an incredible list of some of the less-obvious things that have happened in and to America in the past 90 years.

Actually maybe we can all come up with a list and you can write one (or several) in the comments.

What her talk should leaving us feeling is equal parts of pride and anger - pride in what we have all built and anger over the things that are still unfinished, always neglected.

It would be a slam dunk and hell, I'd pay to see it.  Obama would have his work cut out for him following Betty White.

Photo By : Pete Souza, White House photographer

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Side of Bigotry with your Outrage?

So I have been thinking a lot about this ICK Fil A thing.  I call them that because it is garbage food that no one should be eating anyway.  I saw a piece on them a while ago and was shocked at how long it took the GOP to embrace them.  Here is my stance and you better sit down.

Let them do what they want.  The most powerful tool we have against bigotry, hate and, yes, stupidity is our almighty dollar.  If you do not agree with their politics do not give them your money.  I think we would be shocked at what business owners support what causes. I do not like what Walmart stands for so I do not go there.  But I do go to other big box retailers that have changed the landscape of our retail environment - no more mom and pop stores, the loss of the American Main Street.  Does it make me a hypocrite?  I suppose, but I cannot fear being called a hypocrite so much that I do not act in the small ways I can.  No act of boycott any of us ever engage in will ever be perfect but we have to do what we can to exercise the expressions of Free Speech that are available to us.  And remember, according to our Supreme Court money is speech. So spend your dollars wisely.

I am reminded of the quote that I have always loved - I believe it has been credited to Thomas Jefferson.  "I do not agree with  a word you say, but I will die fighting for your right to say it."  I did not look up the actual quote - I just went from memory since it is perhaps more important how it lives in my heart than how accurate it is.  I do not want any bigotry to exist in our society.  But I do not think that the way to eradicate bigotry is to in turn be a bigot.  My Twitter profile says that I am trying not to be a bigot for The Left - some days I am better at that than others.  The quote is from Annie Hall and you can see the clip here.

The implication in that scene is that Woody Allen's character is a bigot , but for the left, so it's OK  (clearly the point was that it's not OK.)

The Left will win this battle for equality but if we are not careful we will trip over ourselves on the way the promised land.  I say we we welcome everyone.  Keep them close - they might learn something - who knows maybe we will too.