28 February 2008

And So, Once Again...

“My heart is broken in the face of the stupidity of my species. I can’t cry about it. In a way I’m inoculated."
~Joni Mitchell


Joni wrote this piece in 1969, as a "friend of America" during the Vietnam era. Now, just shy of 40 years later, the words are, almost eerily, still relevant.

This is an a cappella piece; I've always liked it. Nothing but her pure voice and the lyrics, which somehow punctuates the gravity of the message itself. The musical intervals aren't what you'd expect, and it's no cakewalk to sing a piece like this sans instrumentation. But, she's Joni.

I hope you'll give it a listen. Lots of Joni's songs transcend time, but this piece is particularly fitting in today's political climate.

The Fiddle and The Drum - Joni Mitchell I guess Joni realized just how relevant this piece is, in current times. Last year she collaborated with the Alberta Ballet on The Fiddle and The Drum, a project in which ballet dancers perform to her music, against a backdrop of her art. The theme has to do with the warring nature of humans, and how we're affecting the earth.

16 February 2008

Love's Recovery

This post is a day late and a dollar short, which is perfect, considering the subject. Yesterday, February 15th, was Singles Awareness Day. It was also my former anniversary. I know, right? We didn't have rain on our wedding day, but really, one's former anniversary falling on Singles Awareness Day is even better. We were supposed to be married on Valentine's Day, but had to wait a day for the license. Every year people asked, "Why didn't you just get married on Valentine's Day?"

I think it worked out perfectly. Single's Awareness Day was just waiting to amuse me.

Lots of single folks bemoan the existence of Valentine's Day. The flowers, the chocolates, the jewelry, the surprise dinners, the chipped teeth from hidden rings in cakes and champagne. Even partnered people hate Valentine's Day. The pressure to think of something unique with which to prove your unflagging love. The unspoken competition to outdo your girlfriend's girlfriends' boyfriends. The whole thing seems a cunning conspiracy meant to torture partnered and single people alike, stamped with the Hallmark gold seal of approval.

Whatever. Valentine's Day does not find me tracing the tracks of my tears to the strains of old love songs. It does not find me lamenting lost relationships through the sad filter of a lone wine glass. Valentine's Day, these days, is just another day. If anything, it reminds me that I am strong, that I have choice, that there are many things worse than not having a partner. It reminds me that being alone does not have to mean being lonely. Singles Awareness Day falling on my former anniversary is just a deliciously ironic twist.

And you all know I love some twisted humor.

Back in the 80s, the ex and I -- soldiers both, in the service of Uncle Sam -- were dating. We met in communications school, after basic training, through a convoluted course of mistaken identities, which is another tale altogether. After a few months, our class came down on orders. His orders were for Germany; mine, Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Now those of you familiar with my sun addiction know that Arizona could've well been the best thing to ever happen to me. Being embroiled in the throes of young lust, however, we were devastated. So we made the only choice that kids who think they know everything could make: "Let's get married! Then we can apply for the Army married couples program and be together! Forever!" So we did.

My orders to Arizona were changed to Germany, and the course of my life was changed forever.

Three years later, the Bohemian was born, and not long after, Teen Demon made her raucous entry into the world. After a suitable time of recovery, the Male Offspring finished off the fruits of my labors. These are the positives I took away from 10 years of marriage, and the reason I can't regret the choice made on a long-ago February 15th.

The 11th year found me back in the States after discovering that the "forsaking all others" bit had fallen by the wayside along about the time I'd been laboring with Male Offspring. February 15th of that 11th year brought, not an anniversary, but a legal summons, informing me that the ex had changed his mind about our signed agreement. He now wanted full custody.

I came away with custody and a load of legal debt that took years to repay. The ex and I got past our differences, I went back to Europe, and we had a great co-parenting relationship for about eight years there. That was actually a best-of-both-worlds deal: the kids had both parents, and we each had a built-in babysitter for hot date nights or weekend trips. Those of you who know the rest of the story are aware that this, unfortunately, did not continue. The ex now lives 12 time zones away rather than across town, co-parenting has gone the way of the dodo, and he brings the follow-up wife, whom no one gets on with, along for his annual week with our kids.

All of this leading to the point that things change, and we get through. The Valentine's Day - February 15th combo has run the emotional gamut for me, over the years. From new love and happiness, to security, to devastation, to fury, to bitterness, to indifference, to wry humor. I came out the other side, and can laugh now, because time allows me to see that what I once believed was the worst thing that could happen to me, was, in actuality, the best. Once, I was devastated to the point of being unable to function. I couldn't comprehend how my heart could continue to beat, how my lungs could continue to draw breath, how my organs could continue to function minute by minute in the face of such unimaginable pain.

Seriously. I wondered how my body didn't just die.

But it didn't. These days, what seems unimaginable to me is the thought of not going through that, of not knowing myself. We made a damn good go of it; we were 18-year-old, foolish kids from different cultures, from opposite ends of the country, who'd known each other three months. We made it 10 years and three fantastic kids on that platform, far from friends and family, with minimal support. We had a good run, and the kids, the lasting proof of that erstwhile union, are already making a positive impact on society. But the marriage was not the right place for me to be.

So Valentine's Day and February 15th aren't much more than a blip on the calendar for me these days. A toast to choices made. No regrets.

Hindsight is a clear-sighted bitch, y'all.

Happy love yourself day.

There I am in younger days, star gazing
Painting picture-perfect maps
Of how my life and love would be,
Not counting the unmarked paths of misdirection,
My compass, faith in love's perfection,
I missed ten million miles of road I should have seen

Indigo Girls, Love's Recovery

13 February 2008

GObama! The Speech and the Caucus

On Friday I took the offspring out of school and headed to the city to hear Barack Obama speak. For the kids to hear this man speak, to have that memory -- totally worth missing Biology lab. However this election shakes out, it's historic! I wanted them to experience history being made, and yes, to see that someone who looks like them could well be the next president of this country. So we scooped up one of Teen Demon's friends and headed downtown.

Key Arena was packed to the rafters -- not an empty seat in the house, and people standing in every entryway as well. The arena holds 18,000, but the Seattle mayor said it was a good thing the fire chief had the day off; I bet there were some fire code violations. Outside were 3,000 more people who couldn't get in, including a friend of mine, her 16-year-old nephew, and his friend. Senator Obama went outside with a bullhorn and spoke to those folks after his speech.

This pic shows probably 1/3 of the arena, when people were still filing in to find seats.

Our governor made a surprise appearance, and with her endorsement, came out as the "newest member of Team Obama". Apparently she'd been having a hard time deciding between Clinton and Obama, as had many people.

My favorite shot. As you can see, it clearly shows that the good Senator and I shared a moment. See? He's looking right at me. Yeah, Barack and I, we're tight like that. Hi, Senator.

These guys were working it. Their enthusiasm made up for the jerky awkward dance moves. These boys were serious supporters, now.

It was an amazing experience. And hell yes, it was inspiring.

And I'll tell you something, I'm getting tired of the generalizations that say Obama is all talk and Clinton is all specifics. I've been listening to the speeches both of them have been giving lately, and you know, Clinton isn't giving any more specifics in her speeches than Obama is. Which is fine. I expect them to have specifics on their web sites. I expect them to have specific plans for the issues, and I expect those plans to be available to the voters. I expect them to be specific during the debates. But when I take a day off work, take my kids out of school, and wait for hours to hear this man connect with his supporters and speak for 50 minutes ... I damn well expect to be inspired. I expect to walk away with some hope that day.

I don't believe that hope and specifics are mutually exclusive, that a person who is a good orator is by default an empty vessel of inspiration with nothing to back it up. I think that's just something to latch onto and make waves about.

Here's what Senator Obama had to say about hope last Friday:
People have been saying, "You know, Obama, he’s a talker, not a doer. He talks about hope all the time. You know, he uh, he’s so na├»ve, he’s so idealistic. He’s a hope monger." This is the argument I’ve been hearing lately.
You know, look, it’s true; I do talk about hope all the time. And out of necessity, because, the odds are, I should not be standing here. I was born to a single mom, my dad left when I was two. I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents. And all they could give me was love, an education, and hope. That was my inheritance.

And so, (cheers) and so, you know, we put hope on our signs ...

But in criticizing me, for quote-unquote “being inspiring”, (laughter) the implication is that I’m somehow not a realist, the notion is that my head is in the clouds somewhere. That, in Senator Clinton’s words, I’m “peddling false hopes”, and I need a reality check.

And, I have to, I have to say, you know, that’s not what hope is. Hope is not blind optimism. Hope is not ignorance of the challenges that stand before us. Hope is not pretending that those barriers that stand between you and your dreams will just somehow go away. Hope is just the opposite.

He went on to talk about the the changes he hopes to make in this country. And yes, I came away feeling hopeful. I was inspired. I saw hope in the faces of my children, as they watched this man speak, a man whose childhood is not so far from their own experiences and realities. I saw hope in my children's faces, and that is something I'll never forget.


The next day was the caucuses. Caucii? Whatever, there was some serious caucus action going down in Washington state. Record turnouts don't even begin to describe it. Main roads were backed up for miles. The caucus point for my area was a huge high school. Parking lots for the high school, middle school, and elementary school were already packed. People were parking out in the neighborhoods, streaming toward the high school on foot. Some folks parked over a mile away.

I have never seen so many people on foot in the suburbs, y'all. It looked like The Birds, only with humans. Some people didn't get there in time due to traffic and parking issues.

Get me to the caucus on time.

I finally found my precinct in this room. This pic was about an hour before the caucus even started. By the time we got rolling, this room was packed, and it was only one room of many. Hundreds and hundreds of people - I'd bet it was into the thousands.

I live in a tiny precinct. I could easily walk the precinct borders in short order. We set a record for attendance, with 27 people, not including the six late-comers. More about that later; it got dicey up in that gym for a while. Folks from other precincts said theirs set records as well.

Surprise visit from the governor. She gave a pretty rousing speech for a skinny, little, white grandma. Girl is scrappy.

So we got down to the actual business of caucusing. It was exciting to see democracy in action at a grassroots level. I ended up getting more involved than I'd anticipated. All that research I ended up doing over the primary vs. caucus issue paid off, I guess. Our precinct captain was a very nice guy. He was also extremely disorganized, and gave the impression that he'd read the rules on his way over, while stuck in all that traffic. A few of us banded together, after exchanging some concerned looks, and became unofficial assistants.

Our group went Obama-24, Clinton-3. Clinton did get one delegate. Yes, a candidate can acquire a delegate by "rounding up", as you can't send half a delegate on a candidate's behalf.

After the tally, people had the opportunity to make a plea on their candidate's behalf. In our group, about five of us spoke for Obama, and I was actually disappointed that the Clinton supporters chose not to speak, because I'd been looking forward to that, and genuinely wanted to hear what they had to say. Some of the other precincts, however, did quite a bit of back and forth. I was impressed that everyone who spoke mentioned that both candidates were strong, both were respected, and both would be good leaders. No mud-slinging or nastiness. Go Dems! After that, people had the opportunity to change their original vote, but no one in our group did, so the tally numbers for delegates went official.

About this time the late-comers started showing up, and that's where things got dicey. According to caucus rules, you must be signed in with your choice by 1:30. The late-comers were already pissed and winded after parking in the next county and hiking over hill and dale to get there, so that news did not go over well. Debate ensued. Our precinct captain didn't know what to do. Some folks said we should just sign everyone in, regardless. Our not-so-fearless captain started to do this. I was concerned that breaking some sort of party rules could lead to all the precinct's delegates being invalidated. Several others felt the same way; we said we'd feel better if we had confirmation from the district chair before we made a decision. Our captain loped off to find the district chair.

Now the newcomers were looking at us like we were haters, and the "just sign them up" crowd was looking at their feet. Things definitely felt uncomfortable. I went and talked with the newcomers, I really did feel bad for them. I mean, we all had problems with traffic and parking, even those who got there early. I thought all the votes should be counted, and I felt the party should've better anticipated high turnout, and either had more caucus points, or run shuttles from various points in the community, along with getting the word out beforehand to get there early. Anyway, before our captain returned, everyone was friendly again, which was good.

Turns out the district chair said we could not break the rules, and that it would've been subject to objection if we had. However, the late-comers could still have the opportunity to be a delegate, so that was cool. One of them actually did end up being an alternate.

I got chosen to be a delegate, so I'm pretty stoked about that. Whoo-hoo!

I have mixed feelings on the caucus process. On the one hand, people are really involved on a community level -- it was energizing, and people were talking and connecting. I was very impressed with how the community came together, and everyone was very supportive and friendly. It didn't much matter who you supported, there was an overriding feeling of excitement just that folks were exercising their right to vote, to be a part of the process. I also think people tend to be more informed with the caucus as opposed to the primary.

On the other hand, people who work on Saturday, who don't have transportation, who may be disabled, the elderly ... those folks have a hard time taking part, and their voices aren't heard in numbers that reflect their place in the population. That's a problem, one that needs to be addressed. (Yes, there is a form to vote in absentia, but it only applies to three situations: religious observances, military service, or disability)

I actually think there may be something to the WA Republicans' method. They do both a caucus and a primary: they choose half of their delegates though the caucus, and half via the primary. This way, you get the involvement, but people who may otherwise not have a voice still have a way to be counted. I'm still not sure, though, as you can also do both with the combo method, and I'm not sure that doesn't skew things. Anyway. So I have mixed feelings on the caucus system, but I really enjoyed it, and more than that, I felt encouraged and hopeful in spending that time with my community working toward a change.

This was about half an hour after everything wound down. It took quite a while for traffic to die down. Way to go, Dems.

Fired up, ready to go!