Monthly Archives: January 2009

My Inaugural Trip

I worked on a local Democratic campaign here in Texas last election.  My candidate lost, but Obama won.  I was so thrilled that I committed to going to the Inauguration and raised money to do it.  Here is my account of my trip.  Enjoy living the moment again – victory is sweet, ain’t it?


I arrived on Sunday and my girlfriend, Mary, picking me up. I wish I had gotten in earlier and attended the concert on The National Mall – that was definitely the mood I was in. Dancing, hollering, hugging strangers…a party. Not that I had much choice about it. I wouldn’t realize until the actual Inauguration how serious the ceremony is. Mary, James and I had dinner and then they put their two girls to bed. I sat in the kitchen and read emails, surfed the web. It was so nice to spend an entire evening with nothing to do. In those quiet moments, the word “vacation” came to mind. “So this is what a vacation is like!” I thought.

I made plans with Caroline, my other friends from college who lives in the D.C. area, for the next day and went to bed. Caroline met me in Adams Morgan for a day of MLK Day events. We picked a walking tour called “From Slavery to Freedom,” teaching us about the history of slavery in D.C. through the man who owned the land and his slaves. It seemed very loosely structured at first – anyone who knew anything about history of the area could come up and talk. This freestyle lecture style was the only thing “loosey goosey” about the event. The level of research this group conducted was outstanding. It really made me feel so far from any kind of academia. We got a list of the entire family of slaves associated with the land and how much the owner was paid after emancipation (a law was set in D.C. to pay the slave owners once slaves were emancipated). This information is almost 150 years old! Ends up that this whole walking tour is meant to build awareness about important landmarks in Adams Morgan that the citizens are fighting the government to save, like a cemetery with 7,000 graves that is now a city park. Of course, I gave to the cause. From Slavery to Freedom

Caroline and I

Once that was done, Caroline and I went to eat lunch and found a delightful Turkish restaurant.  (But not before running across this funny poster and a cool kiosk). Very swank, not kitsch, and awesome food.  I love cities!

Elelphant Bashing

After lunch, we headed to the National Cathedral for an MLK Day concert.  This is the cathedral where MLKjr. gave his last sermon before going to Memphis, where he was assassinated. A rapper was the MC (lead us in a vicious rap, too.  It was great!), we heard three spoken-word poets, a sixteen year old hip-hop violinists and a hip-hop choir.  The crowd was dancing, singing, celebrating.  A couple of times I wanted to burst into tears from joy, but I felt embarrassed.  it would have been the kind of sobbing that you do with your face in your hands.  I couldn’t allow myself to do it, though.

The concert lasted 2 hours.  Caroline and I were pretty spent so we grabbed some coffee before heading back home.  I used her phone to call Mary and check in when I got the news: Mary got a new ticket in the purple section so I got her ticket in the silver area!!  I was holding out for a miracle and it happened.  This meant that I would be in a secure area with a controlled number of people.  That night Mary and I picked up the tickets (given to us by her friend, the Chief of Staff for a North Dakota Representative), and mine looked more like an invitation – including an official seal.  I had a chance to thank our benefactor in person – he didn’t think it was such a big deal, but he works in D.C.  He didn’t realize I was representing all of you as well!

At 4:45am on January 20th, I arose and got ready for our day.  Mary and I caught the 5:30am commuter train, which was not at all crowded.  This train has fewer stops and you have to take the exact train on your ticket.  (I found out later that the parking lot of Metro station near Mary’s house was already full by 5am.)  I got off at L’Enfant Station, which was closest to the Silver ticket gate, and Mary moved on to her stop near the Purple ticket gate.  Here’s a photo of the dark streets, blocked off from all traffic except for buses and emergency vehicles:Dark Streets

The "Line"People were everywhere.  I knew that 2 million were coming but I couldn’t imagine what 2 million people looked like up close.  It looked like a mob scene.  Eventually I found the Silver ticket line and met up with three college women.  We stuck together the whole time, linking arms as we weaved through the crowd.  Our line wasn’t much of a line, as you can see here :

10,000 people were given silver tickets.  I didn’t want to believe it when I was told, but the number of people rushing toward the gate gave me a wake up call.  Our little group moved through security and ran into the open area where we planted ourselves.  It was 8:30am.

I was in the back part of the Silver area but once they opened up the gate to let more people in front, our group made a run for it.  That is how we got close to the reflecting pool.  It is funny because we moved around a lot, trying to get a decent view of the capitol bldg while also being able to see a jumbotron screen.   That is why that tree is blocking the building in the photo above and also how we ended up surrounded by a seriously raucous group.  They knew who everyone on the screen was.  When Joe Lieberman come up on the screen we booed. When Ted Kennedy came up on the screen, we cheered and chanted his name.  Judge Thomas got booed, and someone yelled, “Hold on, everybody.  We still got Scalia!” and people cracked up.  It was like being in the Coliseum!  We cheered for all of the Democratic Presidents, of course Clinton getting most of the love.  We sang, “Hey, Hey, Good-bye” when Cheney showed up in his wheelchair, and I admit I sang it loudly.  (Some might say that is disrespectful, and, well, I have to say I agree.  Which, basically, is why I did it.)

As you all know, when the Obama family was shown, the crowd went wild.  When Obama himself was on the screen, when he walked out of the Capitol building, we went out of our minds. We all laughed at the Oath Gaffe because we thought he messed it up due to the sound delay.  And when the Oath was done, the crowd simply erupted.  For days I was waiting to weep but when the time came we all just screamed our heads off.  I hugged everyone in the area.  It was pure joy.  I stayed for the rest of the Inauguration but it was hard to hear because people were leaving.  When it was done, I moved along with the crowd back to the edge of the Mall, and in a final moment of victory, I got to see George Bush ride off to Texas in his helicopter.  We waved and sang that same “Goodbye” song with great satisfaction.

The moment went quickly, that public acknowledgement of Obama becoming our President.  I wish we could have had a band there to dance in the streets.  Instead 2 million people wandered the streets near the Capitol Building looking for food and a place to warm up.  It got a little scary when I didn’t think we would find either but eventually Mary and I got our bearings straight and got what we needed.  People were generally helpful but certainly everyone was taxed.  I saw several people who needed medical attention (and got it) and the police walked through a building calling out for a missing 9 year old girl (don’t know if or when they found her).  The city wasn’t prepared for us as evidenced by the garbage all over the city – not all of it was simply dropped in carelessness.  They didn’t have enough garbage cans.  That was sad.  However, we waited in line patiently and made room on the floor to rest.  We smiled at each other knowing that we shared a special moment together even though we are strangers.

And when 5:15 came, Mary and I made our way back to our train and rode home tired, chilled and gratified.  Our country did the right thing and we were there to witness it.

Capitol Building Capitol Building and Me

UPDATE: Wax On, Wax Off

My SIL sent me this article, I thought is was perfect for the Wax On, Wax Off post theme.  It is very funny.

Bush Is Back! by Lisa Germinsky


Sing Praise, but Softly

Note: This post might seem like just another parenting question, and in some ways I guess it is.  That said, input is not exclusive to parents.  If you are someone without children, I invite you to read and comment.  While you might not be a parent right now, you are a child to somebody, and so you have experience being parented.  That alone is qualification enough to have a worthwhile opinion about what I should do.

I’ve been thinking a lot about praise.  You see, my child (I call her L) is really pretty.  She is also our only child, and while I would like to think that my adoration of her is because she is All That, apparently I am devoted because she is my only focus.  (So happy to know I truly, truly am only as good as Pavlov’s dog.)  Given that she is exceptionally beautiful and our only child, my compliments are basically free-flowing, without restraint.

cakeI have heard a bit about a more constrained approach to praise, a movement started because, apparently, kids nowadays were so overpraised that they have unrealistic expectations about themselves and the world.  They expect, for example, just by showing up they need to be acknowledged.  What is considered baseline participation is elevated to effort.  Worse yet, they resent their parents for setting them up so poorly (alas, parents never get a break do they?).  I read this, which is an article about why overpraising is bad and how to praise in a way that works.  Most important is to hold back, don’t do it all of the time. for everything.

I want to say I think the article is a bunch of silly psycho babble but some of it made sense.  Given how hard we work to get L to persevere through frustration and to make positive choices rather than throw a tantrum, I can see how this doctor would say praising the effort over the result works.  I don’t have an issue with that.

I feel resistance, though, when I consider holding my tongue to compliments of her looks.  It might seem silly or petty, but when I look at my child, in certain moments, I am overcome with love.  I might say, “I love you,” and I might say, “You are so lovely.”  Sometimes I greet her with, “Hi, pretty.”  I will even hold her like a baby in my lap and softly say, “Look at that sweet face,” before giving her nose a little kiss.  We are an affectionate family and we don’t hold back on affection, ever.

Now I am having second thoughts about that.  I mean, who would have thought that doing the above meant I was practicing bad parenting?  I talk to my child like my mom and dad talked to me.  Yes, I can relate to the doctor’s report that children discount their parent’s compliments:

“I can’t tell you how many children and teenagers have noted to me that they are skeptical of their parents’ praise because, ‘It’s just my Mom saying I’m pretty. She has to say that because she’s my mother.'” – Ruth A. Peters, Don’t Turn Your Child Into A Praise Junkie.

This is how I felt when my mom complimented me, too.  Do I know that it is because she praised me too much or is it simply something kids go through with their parents?  I had an interesting situation with my mom that L won’t have with me: my mom was a model (locally, doing runway work and some photography) when I was young and into my teens.  Before puberty we had the same body but then I got boobs and hips.  I looked at my mom and thought that if she was a model then how she looked was the standard.  Once I deviated from the standard, I was no longer pretty.  I kept this secret, even from myself, until I was mature enough to deal with my insecurity.  This had nothing to do with my mother saying I was beautiful when I was little.  This was something she could never have controlled.

So, the question is: can I compliment L too much?  My husband and I talk about the context of being pretty, like we tell L that being pretty is not a way to introduce herself.  I also use Cinderella as an example of how being pretty on the outside isn’t enough – being a good person is what wins over the animals who eventually come to her aid.  However, I worry that she will focus on the beauty, or what if we don’t keep the compliments up for some reason and she thinks, “Am I no longer pretty?”  She wouldn’t ask us – it would be a conclusion she would draw on her own, like I did with my mother.  At the same time, I can’t see cutting back and not expressing myself.  I don’t want to remove one of the great pleasures of parenting – reveling in the beauty (in and out) of my child.

So tell me from your experience, whatever that experience is, can I compliment my child too much?  Or is expressing myself fully the right to path to take?

About the Bikini Line

Thanks everyone for your advice, and for the links! I’ve decided to go with a boyshort bikini, even if I have to wear them over a one piece. I hate bikinis!

J and I haven’t had a chance to go to the gym together much and I don’t know how often I’ll be able to dip into the tub, but it sure will be a good bathing suit to have for the summer when I am getting close to that waxing appointment!

Thanks, again!

Hangnail Friendships

So, I’ve moved a lot in the past few years.  From the West side of Los Angeles to Thousand Oaks, CA (more north than the San Fernando Valley).  From Thousand Oaks, CA to Northern Illinois.  From Northern Illinois to Texas.  All within 3 years.  As you might imagine, moving has wreaked havoc on my friendships.

Most friendships are tested with a move.  When I left Detroit for California, I had to work to keep connections going.  Most of them didn’t survive, but with no hard feelings.  Relationships sometimes fade away.  Fewer things in common, fewer people in common, less to say.  I learned how to keep friendships alive, too.  The first step is to recognize that the connection is getting weak and then commit to keeping it strong.  My girlfriend, Elizabeth, and I had that very conversation.  It was hard.  She could have rejected the idea of putting more time in, scheduling phone calls once a month, responding to emails in a reasonable amount of time.  Thankfully, she didn’t.  At times it was tedious.  I didn’t always want to have a long conversation at the day and time we picked.  But I kept my appointment, and our friendship bloomed anew.  Today she is one of my closest friends and I don’t know how I would have gotten through many situations without her.

When I left California, a handful of friendships were already a bit on the rocks.  For years, I volunteered with a large organization and so developed many close relationships through that.  Then I had a child and moved out of L.A.  I volunteered less and eventually left the organization.  I couldn’t keep all the connections I made going as strong but a large handful seemed to be okay.  But then life happens.  Some friends had kids, some moved away, I moved away.

And now I am at a crossroads of sorts.  I’ve got a few hangnail friendships, I call them.  People I am connected with on Facebook, let’s say, and we used to be really close but now seeing their messages to others, or simply their picture on my profile page, makes me sad.  Like a hangnail, I don’t think about it much but when I am reminded, Ouch!  One person I specifically asked to be more active as a friend said, “Yeah, yeah, I will, I will!”  Then nothing.  Others just disintegrated even after I made efforts to stay at least somewhat in touch.

My practice, mostly, is to get complete with people.  Getting complete means to say everything that needs to be said, without any intention other than to have what is said be heard.  The people I am thinking of in this post know how to do this.  But is it worth it?  Is it worth it to call so-and-so and say, “Hey.  We haven’t talked in 6 months and I thought we could just get complete.”  That would be odd.  And perhaps what I REALLY want is to say, “You are a bad friend.  I’m through with you!”  Which isn’t getting complete at all.

I know I need to feel centered about this. I’m not so good at letting go of friendships and yet I clearly need to snip these hangnails.  What kind of rituals, practices or actions have you taken to move on when you are not able to or unwilling to speak directly to the person you are letting go of?  I’m open and ready for that manicure…