Thursday, December 25, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Grandma promised snow for Christmas, and Grandma delivered.

Snowball fights, snowman building, sledding and snow angels have filled our Vermont days.

Here are a few of the photos. Molly is also getting into the holiday spirit, enjoying the snow and her Christmas presents.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The First Family - "We are growing up"

As an English teacher, who adores Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou, I was thrilled when Angelou wrote "The Pulse of Morning," the Inaugural poem for Bill Clinton and saddened when Morrison endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton earlier this year.

However, now as the historic election of Barack Obama begins to sink in, I went back to read Angelou's poem and Morrison's letter again. In today's blog entry, I wanted to highlight a few parts of Morrison's letter and give us all a chance to share Angelou's response to the election of Barack Obama, who truly is, with all due respect to Bill Clinton, America's first black President ...

Dear Senator Obama,

... of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it.
... Nor do I care very much for your race[s]. I would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it might make me "proud."
In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.
When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as "we," not "they"? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?
Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.
There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.
Good luck to you and to us.
Toni Morrison

It seems only fitting to bookend Toni Morrison's words at the start of Obama's historic campaign with Maya Angelou's words the day after his election. (The whole video is certainly worth watching, but Maya kicks in at 3:12 in case you're feeling impatient :-)

To echo my dear friend Mark's sentiments - I am more proud to be an American today than I have ever been. And that's saying something.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Modest Hope?

I felt the need to revisit my amberwaves blog this morning, to visit in my memory the many wonderful states where there are disappointed citizens awaking this morning. Maybe it was the fact that we took this amazing trip in the midst of the seemingly never-ending election season that enabled me to experience this election on a different level than those that have come before.
Or maybe it's the fact that, as I have gotten older and live in an increasingly complicated and complex world, I am not able to so easily separate those around me into red and blue, wrong and right. I have had more disagreement with people I love and with whom I hold the same political beliefs during this election than I ever have had before.
And, looking back, I realize this is because I have changed. Perhaps it was the trip through Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah - red states all - and the chance to interact with "those people" who are as skeptical of us as we are of them. Perhaps it is the fact that some of my dearest friends, great people of strong character, voted for McCain this year. Perhaps it is that my students fall evenly into two camps, each articulating its position with grace and clarity.
Regardless, I found myself arguing for Obama when I was among the die-hard McCain supporters, and defending McCain when I was among the die-hard Obama supporters. And I found myself more and more comfortable being able to take either position. Now clearly I have my opinion. I am a registered Democrat, contributed to both Clinton's and Obama's campaigns, wore the pins, donated my status, voted the ticket.
But I am proud today not that Obama won (which is wonderful) but that I talked to people during this election season. And I listened. I tried to be the change I wish to see in the world. It didn't always feel good, but it always felt right.
As I look at the photo above and reflect on all the Main Streets across this great nation, I have hope. I feel certain that Obama will reach out to every American. I just hope that every American is equally willing to reach out to one another.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

You can go to the 2:15 mark to hear the song, or you can listen to his intriguing and amusing intro. Despite the fact that there are well over a thousand YouTube videos made to this song, which was written by Randy Newman, this was the only one I could find actually performed by Randy Newman.

Those who know me well know the penchant I once had to play a favorite song over and over until anyone in earshot was ready to kill me. I haven't had that urge in years, but I've rediscovered it with this song. Something about Randy Newman's rendition of "Feels Like Home," a song I've loved for years, first when I heard it recorded by Bonnie Raitt and later by Chantal Kreviazuk, has utterly captivated me. I never felt this level of devotion for the song until Dana started playing Newman's new album and Randy's voice washed over me, making completely new the so familiar lyrics. Now I can't stop listening to it.

At various points during my obsessive multiple listens, I've decided I'm so entranced by it because it demonstrates what a near perfect songwriter Randy Newman is. How else could one song work so beautifully for so many different singers? My latest impression, however, is the one that has inspired this blog entry. I think in this season of bitter political debating, his interpretation of his own song is striking me as incredibly, achingly, simply hopeful. Each few minutes I listen to it offer a respite from all the white noise around me.

I'll likely have a new theory after a few dozen more listens, but I figured I'd share his rendition of the song with you now, as it is my very favorite thing of the moment. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why, Yes, it is, in Part, about the Parts

Because this is not some black or white, left or right, right or wrong duality. It is about both policy and history. And anyone who can't see that, has either never been on the short end of the history stick, or simply doesn't want to open his white, christian eyes. I just turned 41, and the closest I have ever come to seeing a woman anywhere near the Oval Office was when Geraldine Ferraro was chosen as Walter Mondale's running mate. We all know how that went. We were thisclose to changing that this election year, but my party chose to go in a different direction. A direction I am certain that has Black Republicans wrestling with the decision they will make this November. Now McCain has brought gender back into this campaign, and by doing so, ensured that history will be made, regardless of which candidate wins, this election year. Is that a political move? Of course it is. But it is also a move that taps into the powerful yearning my generation has to see that glass ceiling shattered.

And the thing that will drive me to help my fellow Republicans shatter it is if one more male Democrat tells me I'm being played. Let's just add being condescending to the list of mistakes the democratic spin doctors are making since McCain's announcement. Unlike some of my fellow Democrats, I am able to consider the whole picture and make a decision that is informed by both my philosophical leanings on policy AND my respect for what it means to finally have a woman in the White House, in a role other than that of First Lady. If I believe that McCain/Palin will lead this country in a manner that will do damage to the institutions I hold dear, then, of course, I will not vote for that ticket. So stop insulting me by suggesting they're insulting me by choosing Palin as a running mate. HOWEVER, if I'm not convinced that McCain/Palin will undo the very fabric of democracy in America. If, instead, I am intrigued that the first veto Palin exercised as Governer was to insure that gay couples had same-sex benefits and if I believe that her pro-life position is a hell of a lot less political than that of the men in her party, and that McCain is fundamentally a good man and far from George Bush's twin, then you better believe I am going to be influenced by the fact that voting for McCain/Palin on November 4th will be making a long overdue entry into the history books. The fact that the 2012 election would likely be Palin vs. Clinton doesn't hurt this narrative a bit. Will I make that choice come election day? I honestly haven't yet decided. But the Democrats in my party (save Hillary Clinton, who made the one relatively intelligent comment I've yet to hear) are so far playing their part to push me in that direction.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

That's Right (You're Not from Texas)

We've been having a spirited conversation over at Meet me in Montauk's site about new music vs. old music, why we love the songs we love, CD vs. digital, and other such things. All of that "chatting," along with my increased opportunity to listen to MY music this week (driving back and forth to work sans kids -- which ends this coming Monday), has given birth to a new thought/theory: the musical litmus test.

If you could pick one album that would provide insight into your musical compatability (and probably your overall personality compatability, as well; who are we kidding?) with the various people in your life, what would it be? For me, hands down, it would be Lyle Lovett's Road to Ensenada. I've said many times that Lyle would be my desert island artist, for nobody else comes close to capturing all the moods I'd want to tap in my solitude. This album demonstrates his ability to effortlessly go from the most free-wheeling, funny songs (such as "That's Right") to the most enigmatic and haunting ones (such as the title track).

If a potential friend were to listen to this album and think "eh," I would know immediately the chance of our friendship deepening was slim. On the other hand, when somebody listens to a song such as "That's Right" and immediately "gets it," (as Maddie and Daniel did when I first played it for them, and they insisted that I play it again and again), then I know it's all going to work out just fine. I adore Lyle Lovett for his voice, his wry sense of humor, his full musical sound (horns and fiddles and pianos and guitars) and his compelling lyrics. For all these reasons and more, if we're going the musical monogamy route, he's my musical life partner. And this album is my musical litmus test.