Friday, December 28, 2007

The Sooner You Learn It.....

The Sooner You Learn It.... The better off you'll be.

My mother was notorious for saying, "Life is Hard. The sooner you learn it, the better off you'll be." And I now, finally, really appreciate it. I don't think it was what you want or need to hear at a young age, but I do understand it was coming from a mother who wanted me to understand that life was not a bowl of cherries. Contrary to what one might believe, I'm not a pessimist. I used to really worry about what people thought about me or why they didn't like me, and I've learned - it really matters not.

I think about this in the context of the 2008 Presidential election too. I have had some, well intense, debates about who is best positioned to run our government. There is no one who is a perfect mix of all I'd aspire to have, but Barack Obama comes pretty close. My real friends and I talk about real politics. Not the fru fru tea conversations about voting for the female candidate that people have all but ordained in December 07, but the real life conversation about who you want to represent you. There is something to my logic.

When my mother said life is hard - it was always cold to hear. It was the reality I needed to balance some of my tendency to believe that all people would like me, all life would be fair, yadda yadda yadda. I happen to believe that without a quality balance in nature and nurture, one can easily become a bit of a tart. "Why oh why do bad things happen to good people?" They do. Debate the reasoning or fairness as you will, my mother was right. Life isn't always fair. I think of it often when I think about the person I want to lead this country into effective change. I can stand up for my candidate as much as I want to - but life is hard, and all people don't share my enthusiasm. What has to happen - somewhere between realization and action - is that you have to decide, its worth the work for the end result I want.

So, I didn't run for class president - and I regret that I was so locked with fear that I didn't do it. Simultaneously, I became active in extracurricular activities, broke out of my shell in college and began to lead the life that I have today. Unapologetic for my choices and my values, I am the person I aspired to be at that time. *Well I'm still a work in progress, but I think you get my point. I want to vote for someone who can hear the hard words, get the harsh criticism, use what they've learned, and apply it to lead a country we can be proud of. I'd rather not support the silent mastermind of harsh words - as she quips about the latest polls of why women as a whole don't like her. Women know women. We know harsh words and the deep seeded insecurity that can easily unleash them. It's one thing to have harsh words, in a context of all the things you are trying to teach and communicate. (Thank you mother.) It is quite another to polish harsh words for a living, because you've spent your entire life planning to lead the free world. I wish some of her friends had offered her more harsh words.

I think all of the candidates need a little bit of my mothers frank spirit to guide them. Get over how hard life is, and work harder. Not to be all that someone else expects for you to be - but because we are all closer to our destiny when we are true to ourselves. Harsh words can be translated into a catalyst for being all that we aspire to be. I think someone in Obama's past must have unleashed that on him too.

Wondering about other harsh words that have touched a life? Visit the ladies across the way and share your thoughts too.

Learning about Barack

GETTING TO KNOW OBAMA ... Frankly, I hope you'll do a lot of reading, research and investigate Michelle Obama, too. They're certainly my pick!

I don't support everything about Barack Obama. I do, however, think he stacks up against any other candidate currently in the running. Iowa voters may be getting a little scared - the polls are a statistical dead heat right about now. But the power of momentum can change all of that. Check bill's history - winning every early state is not necessary. Winning the minds, support, money, energy and power of those who can impact change - in the community, in business, within genders, in families, that's what we need. Barack can do the job. He needs your support. (And maybe a few swift emails to his team, to remind them, let the leader lead. I'm all for a stronger end game at this point - because I think he has come w/thunder to close this final leg of the early race.)

Did you know?

During the April 2007 Democratic debate, Obama said that he trusts women to make their own decisions about whether or not to have an abortion "in conjunction with their doctors and their families and their clergy."

Obama says the death penalty "does little to deter crime" but he supports it for cases in which "the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage." While a state senator, Obama pushed for reform of the Illinois capital punishment system and authored a bill to mandate the videotaping of interrogations and confessions.

Obama says that he believes "marriage is between a man and a woman" but he wrote in The Audacity of Hope that he remains "open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided ... I may have been infected with society's prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God."

When he formally declared his run for the presidency, Obama said his goal is to implement universal health care, or government health insurance for all Americans, by 2012 or "the end of the first term of the next president." He has called the "belief in universal health care" one of the "core values" of the Democratic party.

Obama has said that he will "not support any bill that does not provide [an] earned path to citizenship for the undocumented population."

Since Obama was not a member of the U.S. Senate in 2002, he did not vote on the authorization of the use of force in Iraq. But he was an opponent of the war effort as an Illinois state senator and campaigned against the war in his 2004 Senate bid. In January 2007, Obama introduced the non-binding Iraq War De-Escalation Act with a goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008. The bill would allow a limited number of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for counterterrorism and the training of Iraqi security forces.

In the Illinois Senate, Obama helped author the state earned income tax credit, which provided tax cuts for low-income families. Obama has supported bills to increase the minimum wage. In The Audacity of Hope, Obama describes what he calls America's "empathy deficit," writing that a "stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in favor of those people who are
struggling in this society."

Killing the Clinton Machine ... building Obama Momentum

So, my republican husband is blogging up a storm about Clinton probably winning the Iowa Caucus. And he came home psyched about a few people linking to his blog comments, a great treat after hosting 8 people in our home for multiple days. Meanwhile, I was psyched that I made my third donation to Barack Obama, and motivated a first time donor because of my matching gift. Two sides of a very different coin.

The Clinton Machine has started a full fledged commitment to negative campaigning, bringing up everything that can "slip upon" in public forums that will create doubt about Barack. In the latest article I read, they sited a poll that says given the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto people are more convinced that Hillary Clinton can lead. Direct foreign affairs. Be the decision maker.

Who do we think is making the decisions to imply that Barack sold drugs, that he is anything other than Christian, or maybe even that he fails to be qualified for the job. The American public appears to have a convenient memory. What qualifies you to be president, because you used to sleep with one. After all, if we considered all the women who slept with Bill, many more women are qualified to run the US than just Hillary. I guess failing health care reform, the staged "I was so surprised" about my cheating lying husband messing around with Monica, or even the Dash like speed of a move to go to New York - in pursuit of staging her promised political career when Bill was done. I feel like I should be scrolling back with a video camera in honor of Spike Lee, yelling to all women - WAKE UP.

As an educated, professional, Christian wife and mother - not to mention a proud African-American woman - I find Clinton for president to be a bunch of regurgitated mess. HOT MESS in fact. Bill Clinton was NOT the first black president - and the first black male to have the qualification, demeanor, audacity and appeal to truly run, we decide to question his viability. His experience. His ability to be elected. His blackness.

I'll be glad when someone, especially someone in Iowa, asks the question..."Who do I want to lead us through the next four years?" Someone who can't run her home. Someone who doesn't deal honestly with her marriage. Someone who solicits black churches and women's groups like a door-to-door salesman crossed with a used care salesman after 20 years. I present to you - Hillary Clinton. The woman poised to bring more shame to the gender than she already has. In a statistically sound poll of all the women I know, she does not represent us - at all.

When Iowan's go to the poll - I hope they think long and hard about personal character and integrity. I'm not an idealist - but my ideas on this one are strong. If you can not lead your household, the next best thing, lead the free world. NOT. If Obama can stay on top of his core beliefs, talk directly to people who are yearning for leadership, and offer that although he may not have all of the answers - he has the intellect, decision making ability, responsiveness and leadership to get the job done. If there is one thing that a community organizer knows - its that collective power and unity can be a catalyst for change. Clinton is not a change agent. She's more of the left overs that start to go bad on day 3. When you first warm them up, they're delicious. The second day they are filling, not quite as tasty though. The third day....they start to smell bad, and its time for something new.

Barack Obama is something new. And as for leftovers....I've had quite enough. Maybe I'll make another donation now.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Truth about Joy

I guess I've always known that true Joy comes from within, but it doesn't always play out that way in real life. I mean, sometimes circumstances give you a literal run for your money. I have had unwanted reminders for the last 30 days at least - that you have to bring joy, and not rely on it from external sources. Easier said than done I would say.

So, let's get our baggage out in the open. I'm a Jesus girl - which means I have no excuse for not having joy. Even when the world looks dim and cold, I know that the greatest gift of all was giving when Christ died on the cross. I know that - but when you look at me, I want people to KNOW that. I'm not a "smiley girl" - I'm a Jesus girl. Which means I have known God and accepted him as my Savior for nearly my entire lifetime . But, I'm sensitive to life - I mean, I don't have some amazing gift of rolling with the punches. Actually, I have to "think" about joy, to remind myself to take the scowl off. I'm serious by nature. I have been that way by all accounts since I came out the womb. But the pursuit of joy is a good one - I'm headed in the right direction.

When you see things in black and white, the gray area can be especially challenging. I like stuff to be "in a certain type of way" and that can be a challenge in general, for personal accountability standards. No, I'm not talking about what I hold other people to, I'm talking about the standards I hold for myself. I'm working on it. Uh... the title of the blog is " A work in progress." Isn't it obvious. I don't have it all together - but hey, I have episodes of sheer brilliance.

One of those not so brilliant moments came when I offered to be the "Room Mom" for the Thanksgiving experience of 20 3rd Graders. I love kids, I love food, I love Thanksgiving, I love volunteerism.....hey, a Win/Win waiting to happen. NOT!

At our private school the Thanksgiving experience was scripted, as in, Dear Room Mom, here's what you need to do to cook the things we have identified, and for this end result. I'm a believer in following the rules - but this was quickly shaping up to be a not so good test of my strengths. I do love kids, my kids. I do love my cooking - Macaroni and Cheese, Turkey and Dressing with Oyster gravy, Greens - but, that wasn't what we were charged to cook. Oh, and by the way - all of your items must be donated from the other folks in the room - coordination of other people's interest in making said prescribed Thanksgiving dinner - to include succotash and marshmallow salad. (Two items I promise I have never had in nearly 40 years of life.)

What is a joy-challenged overachiever to do - cry. Cry a lot. The children are dressing up as Native American's for this, and we don't know the first bit of how to deal with diversity in this school environment. I mean, there are challenges abounding. I need more than joy, I need HELP.

And for this season, HELP cometh in the most unlikely of places. A mother that I don't know has offered to help with the "Gooey Rolls." This calorie enriched, carb filled treat - which basically is the equivalent of sugar, butter and bread. how can you go wrong, right?

Well, first of all - you must have a certain type of yeast rolls - and the ingredients for 2 recipes are coming from multiple people - and you have to let this stuff sit overnight before you bake it. Simple, huh? No, why would I write about joy and this experience, unless I really, really needed it. So, unknown mommy, has much in store for me. While I'm standing waiting for the items to arrive for the group cooking experience, I see that many of the commitments have not yet showed up. First lesson, secure all contributions in advance. No need to worry about the Gooey Rolls however, the mommy had brought ALL of her supplies, and extra! Joy is starting to rise up in me - but she's already got it.

In the classroom, we are by all measures, winging it. We are trying our best to address lack of preparation issues, and I have moved on to think about what I will do the next day to truly prepare for feast. I am in denial about the mistakes for day 1 and I'm already thinking about day 2. The entire class is actively engaged in the cooking experience - and in the corner, Gooey roll lady is simply smiling as a multitude of fingers are dipped in butter and butterscotch in pursuit of sweet heaven. She is seemingly unnerved by the madness. I have, in the meantime, written a five page mental manual about how to better do this in the future. Joy would be enjoying the situation as is.

When I come home late that evening, I have a somewhat odd voicemail and email, as I have not provided the Gooey roll mommy with baking instructions. The stuff is really swelling beyond the bundt pan - in part because I have given incomplete instructions, in part because the Gooey lady has put more stuff in the pans than any recipe calls for. It's 10p.m., the night before the feast, and I'm laughing hysterically. Mania over a 3rd grade cooking experience. And...I can hear the joy over the phone - I'm pressed. She's baking. A smart woman uses google, finds 3 recipes, and creates her own set of instructions. Mothers are smart. Who has time for all of this?

That's the joy I'm talking about. the deep in your body, little stuff isn't going to shake me, isn't life grand (even if its a bit of a pill for the moment), joy. My angels are really rejoicing because in the midst of this, I have had an ah ha moment. Who cares?

That's right. Who cares? In the bigger scheme of life, with the things that drive me crazy on a daily basis, who cares. We live a blessed life. For all that heartache, mistakes, bad decisions, mother nature and all the other ills of the world bring - we can still have joy. The rolls are delivered the next day, and they are an instant hit. The lines for repeat customers are growing every moment - sugar and rolls. And I take this opportunity to have a life altering moment.

What if - Gooey roll mommy had been a bit of a perfectionistic witch? (Like said writer.) What if we chalked good sense for following someone else's rules? What if, we waited for life to have joy? Danger Will Robinson, we all know better. So I decided that God had a higher calling than my desire to have things in black and white . I'm believing He wants, expects us, to not only have joy, but to bring joy. And further, the testimony of our life is not built on how well we planned each and every aspect of our world, but what we were able to accomplish with the ingredients we encountered. True Joy.

I think I'll get to baking.

Losing the Fight

I remember when Sammy Davis Jr. died - it was one of my first poems not about me. Up until that time, I had written mainly about things I could relate to. Something happened when we lost this entertainer and pioneer - it just may have unearthed the reality that we were losing jewels in our culture, in our society - and I wondered if we really understood what this meant. In many ways I think it was largely about a reality check that the people who were dying were people who had some impact on my life, great or small. No longer, when I read or heard about someone dying, was I able to just shake it off. Fast forward to today, and I realize - the losses are getting greater and deeper in my life.

On the television Julia Carson is being laid to rest. Her political career had not interested me the way life long followers showed their dedication, because in many ways our politics are different. I am a late to Indy political junkie, and in recent months I started following her career most closely. I mourn today for a different reason - for what her life meant - to those born to out of wedlock mommys. Her mother gave birth at 16, after dropping out of school in 2nd grade. Julia being a representative of Congress, is representative of so much more than that. She was a fighter and a bit of a pistol, and she cared by every account for other people.

Her political stands are not mine, but if when I go people are clear about what I stood for - that's a crown jewel if ever I saw one. Julia Carson garners my respect for not being afraid to stand tall. When she was really sick during the last political cycle I remember hearing a reporter challenge her - she quickly took him to school about the number of elected officials who served with health challenges, and for that I took a lesson. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. She already knew the questions that would come at her - and she was incredibly prepared to respond - with a bit of finger snapping in her voice. Dear Julia - proof that a woman can rise to any occasion - rest in peace.

Then there's Ray Charles, and his legacy. The man owned his masters at a time when people didn't do much beyond give thanks for a contract. You saw the movie Ray, no need to go into details about his life - his family stuff is a bit hard to swallow. But check this out - he clearly outlined his intentions in his will - providing for ALL of his children equally, and leaving no questions about how he wanted his stuff handled. I respect that. Those of us in blended families know well that taking a stand would be a blessing.

This year has also been a time of family loss. My dear great aunt passed and she was one of the most thoughtful people - I still have memories of the care packages she sent to me at Purdue, or the way she remembered each of my children in some way. She will forever be missed. She opened her home to any and everyone, and she guaranteed you a meal whenever you crossed her doorstep. She had a heart wide open - and she didn't let "what I have, don't have, aspire to have" or anything else matter. She created feast after feast, from the abundance of her heart. I'm still trying to have a house warming, 16 months later.

Then my uncle passed this fall, a man of great character and family values. I traveled to visit his family in California shortly after I graduated from Purdue, and our relationships changed drastically. I gathered a greater understanding of him, based on spending time with him. He loved to cook, he wrote often and tremendously beautiful letters, he sent me ritzy magazines I could never splurge on, and he loved me. He was proud of me, and he told me so - often.

This past weekend, we learned of another loss. My dear Mr. Henry, a neighborhood father to the entire community, died on Saturday, December 15th. His wife, a community activist that hired my husband at the height of his decision to pursue development, wa s nice enough to call us and share Mr. Henry's thoughts. I tended to send letters, cards, and hand written notes - but her call will forever linger in my mind. She said, in the midst of her own loss, "Henry wanted you to know that he loved you. He was proud of both of you. He thanked you for allowing him to be a part of your life."

So - it is the holiday season. We will be gathering with family, socializing, doing our thing - but will we remember the many lives that were lost this year? My heart breaks for the homes that will be missing such an integral part of their lives. More importantly though - I have been prompted to think about those near and dear to me. Does everyone know what I think about them? Do my friends, family, neighbors have some understanding of what I value about them? Is love an action verb in my life?

Our lives are short. One day, each of us will lose the fight of hanging on to this life, to enter into the next. What will you be remembered for? What plans have you made for eternity? And...what will prompt others to write an entry into their hearts about the legacy you leave? In my last round, I'd be happy to have the character shown from these loved ones, live on.

Efficient Christmas Greetings - Huh?

The holiday season is such a special one, and I really do love Christmas Cards. No, not the politically correct - "Happy Holidays" - the tried and true, we're celebrating Jesus Christmas card. As in, "May God Bless you during the Christmas Holyday." However you do it, just know that I love Christmas greetings and the connection of friends and family. But I must say, folks have gotten a bit, well, LAZY. Yes, I'm calling out my friends.

I may with one post end my abundance of Christmas cards, but I have to speak out. What is the glory in labels on cards, and the same greeting put in each one. I mean, I know some of the folks are people I talk to every day, but hey....I don't get it. If it is important to connect .... write SOMETHING. My name, my address, we love you, miss you much, something. Signing your name like business communication on a holiday card is as chilly as last months snow storm. I just don't know what else to say on this one.

I like cheezy family photographs, a lot. I like evaluating card selection - ethnic, holy, politically correct, religious, funny, formal, ecclectic, culturally sensitive, true art (and should be framed), crafty, hand stamped - I love them all. But please, if you are going to send out greeting cards, make a special effort to actually tell folks what you think about them and how much you actually care for them. Efficiency isn't always the best thing. In fact, your timely cards are often a bit cold - not like the warm and fuzzy people you are. Labels, if they are clear I guess you can have a pass - but let's see that handwriting. I want to see the skills your 4th grade teachers were fighting for!

Here's to a Blessed, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year - in Jesus Name!

Love, ME!