October 23, 2008

Obama Mama

Alright, I've got 7 minutes left at the internet cafe here and sweat is running down my face in this little airless enclave, so this post will also read like a first draft.

Went over, got my hair braided, all the young guys left me alone once I sat down with Daisy. I ended up having a political discussion with an older guy over there. It was good. I bought a nice carved coconut. Felt silly for being afraid.

Came back to the resort, started mentioning Obama in my conversations with staff people. Eventually figured out to put on my Obama button. My vacation changed. I get smiles everywhere I go. The bartender invented an Obama Mama drink for me, instead of a Bahama Mama (get it?). People are being real and having conversation with me.


Sorry for any typos, times up.

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October 20, 2008


Well, here I am in Jamaica. I'm at an all-inclusive resort. So I'm feeling kind of removed from reality. Although the ocean is just a stone's throw away, most of the activity takes place right in the resort, around the swimming pools, the large cafeteria where people eat and of course around the bars. That feel kind strange, to be right next to the ocean and to pick up a feeling of disregard for it.

Yesterday my sister and I, with a combination of accident and willfulness, wandered over to the little tin-covered huts on the beach at the edge of the resort. We were a little curious and as we walked over, several Jamaicans approached us and beckoned us into their little shops. The security person at the edge of the beach, (and I'm not talking about a big beach, the resort was still easily in sight) asked for our names and room numbers, which we gave him.

It was a little unnerving to be the only people available who had any money to buy anything. We surrounded and guided from hut to hut and given the hard sell on many items. I hadn't taken any money, but my sister bought an anklet. The real reason I went over was to try and find someone to braid my hair, instead of having it done in the resort. A woman who seemed to be in charge gave me a business card. I told her I wanted to come back tomorrow afternoon when it was too hot to be out in the sun. She said ok. A young man persuded me to take a painting I really liked (drummers in the picture, music pictures get me everytime) and pay him tomorrow when I come back.

Well, that meant today. I have to confess that if I hadn't taken the picture I might not have gone back because I felt a little afraid. Another woman had stopped me and asked me to bring food from the resort. So today, I emptied all my ziplock bags, brought some food to my room and filled the ziplock bags. I took a shower so my hair would be wet. My sister, who is tired of traveling and feeling guilty and so just tries to avoid interactions like this (believe me she has given planty of food and money away) said she was going to take a nap. So I sucked it up and headed over.

TO BE CONTINUED (sorry, out of time at the internet cafe)

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October 14, 2008

Battleground State Report, as overheard

Two kids I used to take care of were riding along in the backseat. This is the conversation that passed between them.

Little Boy: "Well, who ya votin for?"

Little Girl: "Oh we're voting for McCain."

Little Boy: "McCain?!!? We're voting for Obama."

Little Girl: "Well, yeah. But it would be better if Sara Palin was President."

Little Boy: "Sara Palin ?!?!!!!!?!!!!!"

A few moments pass. Both kids are thinking their own little thoughts.

Little Boy: "Well Tina's voting for Obama."

Little Girl: "She is? Tina? Really?"

It's nice to be someone's last word. lolololol. Who ever thought I'd be a quotable authority figure?

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October 8, 2008

My Monday Evening

My very good friend (she introduced me to my husband) substitutes for me on Monday afternoons at my daycare. That's the only way I can make and keep doctor's appointments. I often do grocery shopping then. And I almost always have a late lunch with my husband on Monday afternoon.

This Monday was a little different.

I had spent a great deal of Sunday afternoon struggling with the computer, attempting to persuade the machine to allow me to design some tickets for an upcoming event we are planning. My local Progressive Democrats of America chapter will show a movie with a buffet dinner at the local Polish Natl Assoc hall on Nov 1st. The movie will be "Uncounted", a documentary about the voting irregularities in the last 3 presidential election. We will charge $15 per person. Last time we had an event like this, we got 85 people out, so we engaged the PNA, bigger venue, this time. We need at least 100 people to come. 125 would be better.
So we're working like mad. Right now I've been mostly focused on supporting other members of PDA, helping them figure out who to approach, brainstorming about the importance of getting everyone together right now . You see, just about everyone I know is working on the presidential campaign in one way or another. It might be as simple as talking to all their friends and family members. Other are working through the Union movement or with the Obama campaign to do phone banking and door-to-door canvassing. Lots of our people are making new contacts, working with people from their neighborhoods that they didn't know before. Getting as many of these people in one room together, eating and socializing and then watching a movie with relevant info in it, will go a long way toward building a progressive political community.
So, back to Monday afternoon. Although I was able to design the tickets on Microsoft Publisher, I was unable to number them. A friend of mine said he could figure that out. So Randy and I ate a quick lunch and headed over to his house. As we tried to find MS Publisher on his computer, his partner said, "It's a lot easier just to buy a numbering machine. We go through this everytime we try to make tickets." Well, we struggled and struggled. And we managed to get enough tickets numbered to take around that night, but the process involved putting each sheet of card stock in the printer individually. Then sometimes the printer would go reeeeal sloooow. And sometimes the software would skip a number for no discernible reason. So, a shout out to my friend's partner, she was right. The next day we numbered the rest of the tickets by hand.
That whole process took an agonizing couple of hours, agonizing for me because I'm in hyper drive and have list upon to-do list constantly scrolling through my brain right now. It was nice to see my friend though, and even nicer to know I have someone to back me up in my technological struggles, as well as my political struggles, haha.
With a small pile of numbered tickets, it was time to deliver them. We gave some tickets to our computer friend and moved on.
First we went to the home of a steelworker I know. He's a great guy. He has several kids, one of them handicapped. He and his wife are all about raising their kids well. I have been to meetings and such with him and his kids, and they are are great too (and not all kids can handle themselves at a meeting). He wasn't home, but just happened to be calling his wife as I knocked on the door. She handed me the phone and he told me how he managed to pass out fliers about our dinner/movie event at his factory gate that morning. He was excited. It was encouraging news. We left some tickets.
Next we went to the home of the president of the local steelworkers retirees organization. He and his wife are very active in our PDA chapter. They are Polish emigres, having come to this country in their teens. (This is the man who sang happy birthday to me in Polish at my birthday party, much to my delight). They are both extremely gracious people. They often host our meetings and feed us too. We sat and had a cup of coffee with them and gave an update of ticket sales. We left tickets with them too.
Then we were off to the home of 2 of our dearest friends. Although they live outside our congressional district and thus outside the range of our PDA chapter, we still have plenty in common politically. This couple regularly attends our weekly Peace Vigil in front of the Beaver County Courthouse. And they are gathering people to attend our dinner/movie. So they needed some tickets. Luckily for us, our friends were just getting ready to eat supper (actually I kinda planned it that way). So we sat down to a cup of herbal tea while we waited for the dumplings to finish cooking. Dinner was beef stew with home-made dumplings, yum yum. Not only were vegetables and potatoes in the stew, but also turnips and rutabagas. I LOVE to eat other folks' cooking.
By then we were pretty tired. We had traveled between 60-70 miles that day delivering tickets. We said goodbye to our friends, talked about when we would see them next and walked down their steep Western Pennsylvania front steps. I was tired but glad for all the good people I had seen. Those people are what keep me working so hard, and also keep me happy to do so.
Viva la revolution (or progressive political movement or friends getting together to make things better or whatever you want to call it)!
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October 7, 2008

A Tale of 3 Rugs

Last week I bought 3 new rugs.
Recently we've done some home remodeling ourselves. I'm sure the story of that process will be the topic of future posts since the remodeling is still ubderway and a huge part of my daily activities. Today it will suffice to say that we replaced the floor. We took up a ratty old carpet and replaced it with wood laminate. So I needed some area rugs.
In my typical fashion, I obsessed online over what to buy. I looked at a lot of rugs. You see, for one thing, this remodeling process has been the culmination of my awakening to color. For the first time ever I have color on my walls. My floor is a beautiful pale maple color. And now that I have the color on my walls, I can really feel what other colors each room is calling for. And the cool hardness of the floor needs some softness and warmth.
I'm still afraid of making color mistakes though. So I spend a lot of time online looking at color, and then walking into the room and seeing. And then imagining. And then trying to let the colors, both of the color of the prospective rugs and the color of the walls, just hit my eyes and go past all my words till I just feel the right color to chose. Sometimes that works.
And all the while I'm very worried about spending too much money. I was raised by a grandmother whose sole income came from Social Security, so I have money issues that I'm sure you'll end up reading about that at some point too. I don't have a lot of money now, for that matter. So I'm looking and looking, wondering about color and constantly looking for a better deal. And aking "Where's that web site?" You know the one, the one operated by people who have really figured out how to grab business online with great prices and selection. There's always one like that, no matter what you're buying online.
So finally I end up at eSalerugs. ESale rugs has beautiful wool rugs that I can afford, along with beautiful antique rugs and such that I can't afford. These are high quality hand knotted rugs. So I succumb and order 3 rugs. One is small, thick soft and pale blue. It looks perfect in my daughter's room. The long runner for the hallway is faded pink with peach flowers and green leaves to reflect the green I chose for the walls. And, most beautiful of all, a deep blue for the living room with a unique but unobtrusive pattern in it, so soft I went in on Friday and found all of the daycare kids snuggled together on it. What a cozy domestic scene, huh? And I'm responsible for creating it, lucky me.
However, where did these rugs come from? Tibet and Chna is where. So how much misery did I buy with those rugs? How much misery did I bring into my home? If I could afford them, it's likely someone was badly exploited to make them. And I can't forget that. It stays with me. I know the world economy has to keep functioning, and that generally it's good for a country to have functioning industry and to sell products. Still I can't kid myself. I can't leave the misery behind. With everything I buy, I carry that misery, I know.
So what to do? Humans, to some degree, must consume. And I think it's important for me to consume only what I need. Then the question arises, how much beauty do I need? And how do I acquire that beauty. Yes, I do create some of it myself. But as far as what I buy? Should only the wealthy have beautiful hand-crafted items? Don't the children I care for deserve the same asthetics that the children of Sewickley Heights deserve? As you can see, I often wind up in this circular mind trap with conflicting values and desires, feeling foolish for overthinking the most mundane of items I'm trying to purches.
I've talked to others that have these some problems with the consumer choices we're given, though. It's not just me.
I guess all we can do is keep trying to further human evolution and human consciousness, while making each individual choice as well as we can. It's just I get tired of everything being so difficult. Can't things just be easy sometimes?
Here's hoping that someday we can all share in the beauty of handmade rugs in a healthy world.
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October 3, 2008

The Vice Presidential Debate

In the past year, I've been lucky in that I've made several new friends. One of them invited us to his home last night to watch the debate. Actually he was kind of insistent. I think he views it as a patriotic duty to watch the debates. So my husband and I went over and watched.

Ordinarily we wouldn't have seen the debate. We don't have any network tv in our house. We only watch movies on dvd. My opinion of the debates differs from my friends. I think the debates are an exercise in propaganda. I do think the study of propaganda can be useful. It can tell you things about what direction the powers that be are moving. It also can be helpful in political organizing, to know what the people around you are being exposed to. But I'm so busy that I don't usually have time to add that detail of knowledge to my schedule.

In the back of my mind, I knew I'd need to write about viewing the debate here, on my blog. Driving to my friend's house I was thinking about what irritated me most about the Republican message, especially in regards to Palin's speech at the Republican convention. What bothers me the most (and believe me, that's a long list to be at the top of) is the meanness.

Let's be honest, that's what really stood out in her convention speech, what was the most appealing in a sick backward kind of way. As a former defiant bad girl, I found myself responding to her tone of tell-it-like-it-is sassy-girl hostility even though I knew what she was saying was a misrepresentation. And I was disgusted. And I was worried. I thought she was showing a remarkable ability to induce people to bypass the frontal lobe, higher level, logical part of their brains and stay in the atavistic, more primitive region. She looked sincere. Her body language was sincere. She hit the right notes. I feared the Republican party would be able to do something with that.

The Sara Palin we saw last night was very different. Most of her speech patterns sounded as if she was reciting memorized passages. And that was the the better part of her performance. When asked questions at the end of the debate, questions that were not so easily predicted in advance of the debate, her answers were gobbledy-gook (to use early childhood terminology). And it seemed to me something was terribly off in her body language. I can't put my finger on it, but her body language gave me an uneasy feeling.

In watching the debate, I wanted to just let my emotional reactions emerge and try to gage how the rest of the nation might be reacting to the performances, instead of analytically listening to the words. I've always had the tendency to take a strong emotional reading in any given situation. Lately I've started to wonder if maybe I can use that tendency as a strentgh instead of bemoaning it as a weakness and struggling to keep up with my uber-analytical husband (not to mention other rising family members, I think you know who you are or which ones you're raising).

I know that the greatest influence on most people's decision-making process is emotion. And I know that as social creatures, humans are very sensitive to body language and tone of voice. Under that criteria alone, poor Sara didn't do too well, did she? And add to that the fact that she was up against Biden, who is clearly a master political debater, I feel bad for her. She's way over her head.

My prediction (lol), Obama wins the election by a healthy margin. The American public realizes that meanness is sooo over. We usher in a new era of kindness and respect, while fighting the good fight for a new New Deal in a good way. We are all much happier.

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October 1, 2008

Another day, another dog bath

Last week I gave my dog his last outside bath of the season. It's an event laden with emotion and excitement for the daycare kids, full of comedy and pathos.

I have a silver standard poodle named Pierre. I give him a bath every couple of months. The daycare kids love to help.

First, before we even go outside, I gather the materials needed, the Dr. Bronner's soap (I mix pappermint & tea tree, my dog smells good), and the dog towels. While I'm doing this, Pierre usually gives me a baleful look and hides behind the couch, especially if I use the word "bath". I must confess that I usually do use the word, just for fun. I know, I"m cruel. Pleae don't report me to Animal Friends. Usually at least one kid picks up on this activity and starts a chorus of "Can I help? Can I help?!" This only adds to Pierre's resigned low-key distress.

So then I gather up all the kids and we tumble out the door. By this time Pierre is pretending to himself that he misheard me and no bath is coming. When I walk around the side of the house to pull the hose out, he turns his head away so he doesn't have to look at this distasteful behavior I'm engaged in. He really hates the hose so he's in serious denial by now.

I grab the soap. The less water-challenged kids are, by this time, gleefully dancing around me. The more water-timid are hanging back, not wanting to miss the show, but no more fond of the hose than Pierre.

Now comes the fun part. By now the kids and I are talking about how Pierre doesn't like baths. Maybe one of them is even old enough to start remembering the last bath, and initiated the discussion. Pierre's physical manifestation of his dislike is really quite memorable.

I call Pierre over. His head sinks to the ground. I use my command voice, "Pierre, get over here." He stands up. "Pierre, heel", I shout in a really mean voice. Pierre lowers his head, sticks his tail was between his legs and slinks over like a cartoon dog.

I hose him down. Yes, I know the water's cold, but he's a dog, for goodness sake.

Then we lather him up with the sweet smelling Dr. Bronner's. Sweet little kids stand on each side of him and I place a glob of soap on his fur in front of him and the smoosh it around. Or they barely touch it with one finger. Or sometimes the give one rub and then stand and stare in amazement at the soap on their hand. You can tell a lot about a person from the way they wash a dog, lol. Sometimes a particularly observant child will intitiate a conversation about peepees and poopie holes (sorry if the graphic daycare language offends) as I wash Pierre's not-so-unmentionables.

Then another round with the hose, this time with the bolder children trying to venture close enough to get a little spray themselves. And more discussion about soap and water and skin irritation since my job involves explaining why I do everything I do at some point or other. (I have to be careful when I'm around grown-ups that I don't just unconsciously go off on a little spiels explaining all my movements and motivations,lol).

All this time Pierre has a look on his face like a long-suffering kidnap victim who has come to accept the humanity of his captors, but still doesn't understand their compulsions.

Then at the very end I turn off the hose, rub him quickly down with a towel, then jump back and say, "Go!". Pierre gives a joyful leap and bounds away. He stops about 10 feet away from us and gives himself one of those marvelous full-body dog shakes. He's usually just close enough to get us a little wet. The kids laugh, even the ones who at first look a little uncertain about the water-flying-through-the-air-unexpectedly thing. They squeal with delight as he pioroettes through the yard, leaping and jumping and dashing about as if he's just been relieved of a heavy burden and won the lottery all at once.

Have fun while you can, Pierre. Next week you have to get your ears cleaned. Read more!