About schoonersam

I am a new stay-at-mom, who left a life at sea for my wonderful husband, daughter and ever-loyal pup Betsy.

Hope for Boston

Today was a lovely spring day, with crocuses blossoming, buds emerging on the trees and the warm sun cutting through a slightly chilly breeze.  As I watched Amelia and Betsy chase the robins around the park, I felt relieved that the weather was turning and just happy to sit in the grass while they played.  That lighthearted feeling came crashing down only a few hours later when I heard of the events that brought the 117th Boston Marathon to an abrupt and violent end.

As I read the news, Amelia looked at me and said, “Mama sad?” And when I said yes, she pulled my head to her face and kissed me.  But I can’t explain to her why I’m sad, not simply because she won’t understand the words, but because I can barely form them myself.

I am not a runner, though like many Bostonians, I have my marathon memories. But that’s not really where the sadness comes from. It comes from a torrent of different feelings conjured up by this horrible tragedy – anger for the attack on my home,  longing to retrieve the innocence that has surely been lost, empathy for those caught in eye of the storm and even guilt for being so far from my home at such a painful time.

And when the “Why?!” and “How?!” and “Enough!!!” threatened to overcome my mind, I was grateful to bend outward to find relief in routine, and solidarity, wisdom and hope in the words of others.

There is no doubt that the healing properties of my daughter’s smile  – and her sweet kiss – helped buffer the shock of the news, but that smile often vanishes when it’s time to put down the crayons and go to bed.  But go to bed she must, and the myriad tasks that accompany bedtime, though mundane, served to remind me that life does go on.

And now, in the quiet house with the child fast asleep, it is the words of a friend, a comedian, an icon and a musical genius that are helping me claw through the darkness and find hope.

  • From the achingly beautiful blog post of my dear friend Martha: “I hope all of you in Boston can hear me, and feel my hand reaching out.”
  • From the pen of comedian Patton Oswalt: “…the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak.”
  • From the brilliant mind of the cherished Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers): “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
  • And finally, always finally, this song:”You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
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Photo credit: Village Photographer

Next week I will be taking my daughter for her first real visit to Boston. I can already see her joy at chasing the pigeons across the Common, making faces at the fish in the Aquarium and trying to take a swim in the Charles. And I can also hear John Lennon in my ear, soothing me as we traverse my wounded city and tugging me from despair and towards hope.

A More Perfect Union Called Marriage

Last week was a big week. To open it, we celebrated Passover by reading our Haggadah and eating our matzoh at a Seder hosted by my family.  To close it, we celebrated Easter at the lovely United Church in our neighborhood, a welcoming congregation that espouses kindness and tolerance (and had a great horn section).  And right in the middle were two Supreme Court hearings regarding gay marriage rights.  It was an interesting and stirring juxtaposition, that drove home the urgency of the issue and reminded me of just how lucky I am.

I remember how, as we planned our interfaith wedding three years ago, we ran into some religious dogma from institutions on both sides that gave us pause.  But for most practical purposes, few people now bat an eyelash at the thought of a Jew marrying a Christian. In fact, we had a lovely time sorting through hundreds of “humanist” and “interfaith” options online before finding a lovely celtic-inspired ketubah (the traditional Jewish wedding contract).

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But of course the real questions arise once the ceremony is over – how to give equal time to each others’ holidays and traditions, how to engage with new family members on subjects of religion or spirituality, what place those things may have in the household routine – if any – and how to impart spiritual guidance, learning and traditions to your children.  This is especially fraught if you question the nature of your own spirituality as I have touched on in this very blog.

But these issues are what being married, being in a partnership, is all about.  Successfully navigating the pitfalls as well as the triumphs of life together is what takes a marriage from the wedding day through countless anniversaries. As I listened last week to the arguments against gay marriage (some of which should never again see the light of day, such as the procreation stance), I heard two main themes, one regarding the honor of the institution and one regarding the definition.

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On our ketubah read the words, “We promise to work together…in this Convenant of Marriage… to create a harmonious relationship of equality,” and that seems like a fitting definition to me.  These words are followed by, “we will comfort and support each other through life’s sorrows and joys…we shall create a home filled with learning, laughter and compassion…” and if we can do that year after year, we will have done great honor to the institution.  That, I believe, is all we need to know. Any couple, gay or straight, who willingly pledges themselves to a lasting union based on love, respect and an understanding of the complexities and work involved, and who endeavor day after day to see it through, deserves to have that union acknowledged and honored.

And though the legalities are of the utmost importance, they are not really at the heart of this issue. It is the love that matters. You see, I was never a girl who dreamed of getting married, picking out every detail of the wedding day and spending my youth searching for the right man.  And yet, I found him and now cannot conceive of my life without him, nor of a life not married to him.  And now, three years in, we still get giddy when think about our marriage to each other.  I see the same youthful excitement in my parents after 51 years of their own bumpy but beautiful ride. And I imagine Edith Windsor, one of the plaintiffs in the DOMA case – would have been the same way with her partner, Thea.

In the future, I do not know how we will manage bat mitzvahs and communions, but I do know that I have a partner who will work with me on these questions and support me, as will for him.  As I watch my gay friends who have also found their life’s partner – some legally wed and some waiting for the day – building their lives together, raising children and facing hardship, how can I not take their cause personally?  Many detractors say that gay marriage will besmirch the institution, but they are simply wrong. It is, in fact, this prejudice – this inability to see that the love and commitment expressed is the same – that truly taints the institution and makes it so much less than it could be for all of us.

To those detractors I offer Depeche Mode – “people ARE people“,  to the LGBTQ community and allies, I offer Erasure…”don’t give up, together we’ll break these chains of love,” and to my daughter I offer Cyndi Lauper…may she always live her true colors and see them in others. I fervently long for real equality to arrive and for this issue to simply dissolve into the framework of a more just society.  Now is the time.

Spring and David Bowie

As I begin writing this post snow showers are gently working their way across a crisp blue sky.  But it is March 20th, also known as the vernal equinox or the first day of spring.  I would venture the first, more scientific title, is more appropriate as temperatures haven’t topped 25 degrees F today and ice is still securely crunching underfoot.

At any other time in my life thus far, this would not be a source of mild irritation to me. In fact, contrary to most people,  it would have been a source of enjoyment for me. But that seems to have changed now; somewhat to my chagrin, as my love of winter has always been something that fed my soul and was an odd source of pride for me.

As with many of my other posts, I am inspired to distill my thoughts onto the page by my interactions with friends or the activities in my life, and this post is no different.  The sentiments above were very succinctly penned by my friends at Modest Plans, and though the reasoning was different (the anticipation of the gardening season for a burgeoning green thumb), the feelings could literally have been plucked straight from my brain.  And that was immensely comforting and allowed me to assess my own feelings more fairly.

My frustration stems from my new life and the joys and struggles it now encompasses.  Much to my delight and relief, my daughter does love playing in the snow and does not seem to care a bit about a slightly runny nose and cold fingers.  Yet the process we go through to engage in this outdoor time is an arduous one which often results in mother chasing daughter around the house in order to don the variety of layers needed to make said outdoor time pleasant at 20 degrees F.

The occasional March snowstorm used to draw this reaction:Photo 52and now draws this weary one: Photo 56That bothered me, and it still does…but just a little. You see, another voice of inspiration pervades my soundtrack these days and that’s Mr. Bowie and his timeless classic, Changes, which has never been more pertinent to my life than now.  And not just in my seasonal ennui.

A few short years ago (and I mean SHORT), I led  a very migratory life, in which each day was different and generously populated with friends, co-workers and new faces.  To an extent, I had the freedom to do and go where I wanted, when I wanted. I saw my close friends and family on a regular basis. I had experience and confidence in my job and even had someone cooking all my meals for me.  I am now a homeowner and moderately insecure mother, living a somewhat lonely – at least for adult interaction – life in a foreign city. Apparently, I can now add the loss (hopefully temporary) of one of my most reliable characteristics to my list of ch-ch-ch-changes.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I love my family beyond words and there is no doubt that the rewards of this new life certainly outweigh the challenges. But that doesn’t mean those challenges aren’t met with at least a little bit of consternation.  I have learned so many things already from my daughter and this new life, patience being chief among them.

And so we will wait for spring, both of us fit out in our fleece and woolies, and turn to our faraway friends and cultural tapestry to comfort and guide us until we can venture out with the chirping birds in jeans and a sweatshirt.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strain)
Ch-ch-Changes
Oh, look out you rock ‘n rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strain)
Ch-ch-Changes
Pretty soon you’re gonna get a little older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time

Throwing Caution to the Walkman

I have said before that sometimes the most wonderful things happen in the course of our normal daily activities.  I have also spoken of music as being a gift, and one of the most important gifts we can receive (if we are willing to accept it) is that of freedom.  Not in the bigger political sphere – though music has been and continues to be a powerful tool in that regard – but in the personal sphere.

It starts out with a simple walk…like we do almost everyday, a walk with the dog through our little neighborhood.  On this particular day we encountered a young fellow doing the same, only he was having just a little more fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love tossing Amelia up on my back and heading out with Betsy, but this boy, who looked to be somewhere between the age of 11 and 14, had something I didn’t.  He had a massive pair of headphones and a walkman (ok, it was probably an Ipod), and whatever music was being pumped through that system, he was happily and unabashedly rocking out to it as he jigged and sauntered down the sidewalk, utterly unconcerned with how he might appear to any passers by.

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Alas, my tried and true cassette walkman is long gone.

He did look a little goofy, but he clearly didn’t care, something all the more extraordinary given the fact that this slightly geeky looking kid (and I use that term affectionately) was likely heading into what might be considered one of the tougher phases in life – teenagerhood.  A phase that could potentially be more difficult for kids who unabashedly boogie down in public to music no one else can hear.

It was a beautiful thing to see, partly on it’s own merit and partly because, not only can I relate to that kid, I kind of AM that kid (or chick, or woman or Mom, pick your label).  I am that girl getting down in the driver’s seat of her car at the red light, clapping and chair dancing along with Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes” (yeah, that just happened) or The Police’s “Every Little She Does is Magic“.

And in case you think it’s just the oldies that get me going, think again.  All it takes is the right combination of beat, melody and maybe a catchy hook.  Indeed, the dog walkers at the beach got an eyeful just last week when I had a rare trip down, with the dog and without the child. Like my young comrade, I brought my very own Ipod – a notable occurrence as it is something I can’t do with Amelia along for the ride since toddlers and headphones don’t mix well, at least not if you want functioning headphones at the end of the day.  The dreary day was instantly transformed as my Ipod randomly shuffled onto Phoenix’s “Lisztomania” and this 40-something girl started bouncing down the beach. Betsy thought my behavior meant we were wrestling and I have no idea what the dog walkers thought, but the point of all this is that I didn’t care anymore than that boy on the sidewalk.

Some songs just stop me right in my tracks, like Toots & the Maytals’ “Bam Bam”  (especially the version with Shaggy).  I have that tune on a playlist I made for running (she writes nostalgically), and when it comes on, I  just dance in place right there on the sidewalk as if I was at the club (assuming I could remember what the inside of a dance club actually looked like).

When we allow the alchemy between rhythm, melody, brain and body to relieve us of our inhibitions, something wonderful happens.  Luckily for me, the result isn’t akin to Elaine on Seinfeld, though I like to think that even if it was I still wouldn’t care.  I’m sure that a scientist could talk about hormones and endorphins, but all I know is that when the right song comes on, allowing yourself to cut loose and rock out regardless of who’s watching feels great.  The freedom that comes from letting go of that judgement – by others and by ourselves – is powerful and joyful and I will work hard and play hard and boogie hard to pass that on to my daughter.

Music of another voice

I dropped the blog, there’s no doubt about it.  It’s no excuse, but the past few months have been fairly tumultuous, with a massive eastward road trip, the passing of a very dear  family member, and the misery of a first trimester.  What has gotten me back to the keyboard is, of course, music.

But not in the obvious way.  Music really does come in all shapes and sizes and conducts its therapy in the most unexpected, yet appropriate ways.

You see I am no longer in a first trimester…or a second for that matter.  This go round has reached a far too premature end, as have so many other pregnancies.  The other day I proceeded home from my first ultrasound visit having received the news that no heartbeat could be found at a gestational age when there most certainly ought to have been one.  Nothing to be done about it, but to make a choice…let it ride or turn to modern medicine to mitigate the unfortunate circumstance.  But it was a choice that didn’t need to be made immediately and so I was left with my thoughts on the subway-ride home.

It wouldn’t be entirely honest to say that I was heartbroken – having been through a miscarriage before (around the same time in fact), I approach the first trimester with skepticism (much as I did in Amelia’s case) and keep the “new baby” excitement locked away until a more appropriate time – like after a successful birth, for example.

But I was sad, disappointed and frustrated.  It was a welcome and remarkably well-timed antidote to the passing of my beloved aunt Annette. It assuaged some of the inherent anxiety that accompanies family planning for a woman over 40. And, let’s just be honest here, the only reason we can put up with the utter wretchedness that is the first trimester is that – conceivably – we will be rewarded with a helpless, but adorable baby at the end of it all.  Once that outcome is no longer possible, the morning (aka all-day) sickness and exhaustion becomes that much more brutal.  Especially when there is a toddler to entertain and simply sinking into the couch is no longer an option. Indeed, the cast of the Muppet Show have been playing babysitter for the last several weeks. “Mahna Mahna” is now firmly ingrained in Amelia’s verbal and musical vocabulary.

But back to my brooding subway-ride home.  I walked in the door of our house to see my wonderful mother sitting on the sofa with her darling granddaughter and my heart leapt.  I had only a sliver of a moment to sit down and fill my Mom in, before my daughter got comfy on my lap, gave me a kiss and started to laugh about something the dog was doing.  And this is the music I am speaking of;  the joyous sound of a 20-month old child laughing with mischief and glee. Never before have John Denver’s words,  “you fill up my senses”, held so true for me.  Her laughter was infectious and I reveled in her joy from head to toe. I literally forgot the sad news I had received less than an hour before and my whole being was engulfed in the beauty of the child in my arms.

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I did not compose this post for therapeutic reasons. That was clearly the realm of my daughter’s jubilant personality.  No, this recording is simply to bear witness; both for the simple appreciation of the brilliance that I see in my daughter even at the most trying times and for the possible benefit of other women or families who may be facing similar circumstances.  At the risk of diminishing the gravity of the situation, miscarriage – in all it’s varying methods – is incredibly common; more common than most of us know and that understanding is very powerful when you are the one facing that situation.

That knowledge, along with the loving support of my wonderful husband, the magic that is my daughter and  the warm companionship of our sweet pup, has enabled us to weather this small storm. Whatever the future brings, I am eternally grateful for this child and the music she brings into my life and I have never been more certain that music – in all it’s forms – is a living, breathing gift.

Guest Bloggers… My parents!

Ok, I know it’s a little early to be slacking off the blog and handing the reins over to someone else, but my awesome parents went to Charlotte, N.C. to participate in our democracy and wrote a bit about their adventures in politics.  Their words below touch on some of the highlights of their experience.

Their hard work and dedication, combined with that of tens of thousands of others brought about the results we have seen this week.  Many glass ceilings broken through, some hope restored and our fine President able to get back to work.

The happy couple on the convention floor.

 

Notes from the 2012 Democratic convention

By Susan & Martin Heyman (delegate & alternate)

It was, without a doubt, one of the most hectic and exhausting weeks of our lives. John Walsh did a terrific job organizing, to the minute, both the program and the coordination of our delegation. We awoke every morning at 7am for our Massachusetts Delegation breakfast meetings with a terrific group of speakers such as Governor Michael Dukakis, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Senator John Kerry, who gave us a real inside scoop on his role as chairman of the Senate budget committee during negotiations on the debt ceiling impasse.  After breakfast we would head immediately to the convention center about 3 blocks away to attend our choice of 3 to 5 caucus meetings from 10am to noon. We then had a second and third round of caucuses from noon to 2 and 2 to 4, all while trying to squeeze in some lunch. Here is a sample of the caucus meetings: African Americans; Hispanics; Ethnic Council, Native American Council; Women’s Caucus; Youth Council; Disability; Veterans & military families; LGBT caucus; Senior council; Small Business; Rural Council, just to name a few.

From 4pm to closing around 11pm we were on the floor for the official program, the events you might have seen on TV. And it was a wonderful show…we especially loved President Clinton’s brilliant speech and the performance by the Foo Fighters, much to our daughter’s delight.

Then the receptions and partying began around midnight, carried on until the wee hours, were followed by a few hours sleep and we were on to the next day.

Charlotte was very receptive and the people very kind and helpful, they seemed to enjoy having this tumult in their city, where 40% of the downtown streets were blocked off and police and firefighters from all over the state patrolled all day and night. Traffic was rerouted and often at a standstill but they seemed to take all in stride.

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We discovered the whole country loves Massachusetts. They admire our politics and our politicians, past and present (including our current governor), and they loved Elizabeth Warren and committed donations to her campaign. . During the screening of a film about Ted Kennedy eyes were wet all over the arena. They also admire our health care program, and our education system. Everyone seemed to be saying that the seat formerly held by Kennedy should continue to be a high profile progressive seat and not be held by a follower like Scott Brown.

We celebrated the role of women all week and they were fabulous: Debbie Wasserman-Scultz, Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Jennifer Granholm, Sandra Fluke, the women of the U.S. Senate, the women of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nuns on the Bus, Gabby Giffords, Donna Brazill, and the list goes on and on.

It was a great opportunity for us to be able to sit and converse informally with important political figures, to whom we(one)could(can) not usually get (gain) toaccess. and that certainly gave us a sense of some importance, but our real take away from the whole week was one of great inclusion, participation and warmth; everyone seemed to be hugging each other. We asked an MSNBC columnist to compare the two conventions. He said we could not quote him, but the Democrats were having much more fun and so was he.

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Nature’s Many Faces

Yesterday my daughter discovered what her new rubber boots were for.  While walking Betsy at the creek, she tromped through a puddle and found that her feet were still dry and that a delightful splashing sound accompanied each step.  Her face read like a book, first recognition, then understanding, then realization of the fun that could be had. That small, murky puddle may as well have been the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to Amelia as she proceeded to gleefully splash around in it for the next twenty minutes.  And I stood in a gentle rain watching my daughter begin her lifelong relationship with her new friend, Nature.

It embodied everything that childhood is about and was a joy to behold. It also did much to lighten the load of the previous days’ events.  You see, that innocuous little puddle was a remnant of the driving rain flung across the city by Superstorm Sandy, the massive storm that pummeled the Eastern Seaboard, and reached all the way inland to our city on Lake Ontario. Much like Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, the awesome devastation of the storm lay not just in its attack, but in its aftermath as well, and as I write, the death toll climbs, people survive without electricity, streets and homes are underwater and many roads and trains are useless. The pictures range from horrifying – like the views of the Breezy Point neighborhood in Rockaway flattened by flood and fire that consumed over 90 homes –  to jaw-dropping – with shots of water pouring into the NYC subway and tunnel systems, to the sublimely beautiful satellite photographs of the entire storm covering our corner of the blue planet.  It was and continues to be a bitter lesson both on the evolving science of climate change and meteorology and on the sheer force of Nature’s dispassionate power.

Hurricane Sandy Viewed in the Dark of Night. Image acquired by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on the Suomi NPP satellite around 2:42 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time  on October 28, 2012. 

And amid an event marked by one disaster after another, those of us of the maritime profession (present and past), add also the keen pain of the loss the HMS Bounty, her Captain and one crew member.  Though my two years away often feels like much more, I join many of my colleagues in expressing conflicting feelings of despair, anger and profound sadness for the souls lost, their family and friends, and their ship now lying at the bottom of the Atlantic.

This melancholy tune has been with me since this all began.

In 2001, three days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, we began our sailing programs again on Clearwater, up the Hudson River from Ground Zero.  The fourth graders who sailed with us expressed the same enthusiasm at hoisting a sail, the same giddiness at their interaction with the fish they caught and the same thrill in helping steer the ship as those that came before them.  Their excitement was palpable and for the adults on board, all part of a grieving New York community, it was a much needed antidote to that grief.

As she grows I will teach my daughter to respect the beauty, complexity and power of nature, but this week she was the teacher.  Frolicking in that puddle, unaware of it’s origin, she has filled the role of antidote this time. Her joyful discovery snapped my jaw up off the floor into a wide smile and showed me that though Nature can be terribly awesome, she can be wonderfully so as well.

Poems for my daughter, or…

The Ecology, Part 1

I’m an outdoor girl, always have been. My parents weren’t the most hardcore environmentalists – we didn’t sleep in tents – but they got me outside; walking, hiking, skiing, swimming or just sitting in the grass and hanging out.  In every season, in the city and the country and in our own backyard, we found green places, rocky places and sandy places to spend our time; and we “carried out what we carried in” before the phrase was coined.  And I brought that love of nature into my adulthood, managing not just to carve out a career in the outdoors, but to embark on so many remarkable experiences – on water and mountains, at parks and beaches, in forest and desert – experiences who’s feel and taste are etched into my memory.

At Sedona, AZ: the photos from the visit were lost and only the poems remain

I have also managed to surround myself with others who not only share this love, but couple it with a passionate knowledge that has allowed this very unscientific girl to glean a deeper understanding of the natural world in which we live.  My friends Tara, Ally, Chris, Sean, Brian and Maija (among others) all combine the creative with the scientific in unique and inspiring ways. They maintain a joyous awe of the natural world, but can distill the information into a shape and form that speaks to everyone and leaves young and old just a little smarter than when they started – sometimes without even realizing it.  I consider them to be among the ranks of more well-known figures of whom you may have heard:  like Rachel Carson, who’s “Silent Spring” audiobook was my companion while driving cross-country – her chapter on soil is still one of the most intriguing and beautiful pieces of prose I’ve ever seen; and E.O. Wilson, who said, ” Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.”; and indie-pop stalwarts They Might Be Giants, who were not only clever enough to write us a song about The Sun, but were respectful and creative enough to write a follow up when they found out they were wrong.

Today we simply took the dog for a walk at the local creek, but the day and the smell was pure autumn, a true delight.  And I like to think that my friends would be proud that I was cognizant of the fact that detritus – the organic matter left over from the decaying of the leaves falling from those gorgeous autumn trees – was the reason for that rich and timeless scent in the air.  There will be more blog posts forthcoming on this cherished subject, and I believe that it is this attitude towards nature that allows us to find the extraordinary moments in our ordinary routine amidst the urban and suburban landscape.

Without beating a drum, my parents and my friends planted a seed, fed it with care and taught me respect  and understanding for our outdoor spaces that has grown into something much more profound.  I hope that I may pass this on to my daughter as seamlessly as they have done for me.

As Mr. Wilson states, it may be the closest thing to religious spirituality that I know.

At Redwood State Park, Crescent City, CA

Go Figure

Perhaps attitude is everything.  Perhaps mind over matter really does work.  Perhaps all it takes is a change in mood.  And perhaps one song can do the trick.

As my mother and I headed over to Georgetown, the afternoon’s goal was to find me a new pair of jeans. For many of us “Baby Got Back” girls this can be a frustrating effort, it certainly has been throughout my life, especially being 5’3″ as well.  Add to that a little more baby weight and a little less yoga and the task seemed daunting at best and truly hateful at worst.

Though I was enjoying the beautiful day walking around D.C. with my mom, my mood was one of low expectations.  My skepticism only grew as my mom innocently suggested we check out the sale at American Apparel.  While I respect the ‘Made in the USA’ label of the company, I have long known that the apparel is for Americans of a much slighter and taller build than this Boston girl has ever possessed.  And that’s ok, it just compounded my  belief that I would not be strutting home in a new pair of jeans.

We walked in and manoeuvering the stroller amid the tight layout of retro clothes did nothing to assuage my concerns.  And just as I was starting to feel my patience waver, the music changed and it was like a cool breeze blew through the boutique. I am fairly sure that the young, hip staff minding the store were my daughter’s age when P.M.Dawn was making music and they certainly betrayed no knowledge of the song that proved so soothing for this cranky mom.  But they gave me a friendly smile as I visibly let go of my stress and started grooving to “Looking Through Patient Eyes”, a gentle and complex song with a great beat.

In the very talented company of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, P.M. Dawn was an early practitioner of the melding of Hip-Hop, R&B and Rap, accompanied by the sampling of some very excellent pop tunes. They were definitely the most mellow, with sweet mixes to soothe the savage mom, a task which I never envisioned necessary when I heard their first single, “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”, so many years ago.

And just like with all good music, it holds up all these years later.  We walked out of American Apparel in a light, happy mood bound for another throwback to my youth, Urban Outfitters, and found a great pair of jeans. That fit.  Perfectly.  Skinny jeans. That fit.

Mind – no, music – over matter.  Go figure.

Time to Get in the Game

Once again I stayed up late in my quiet house, way past my bedtime. I blame my parents, despite the fact that they are almost a thousand miles away and Bill Clinton, despite the fact that I have never met him.

You see, my Mom and Dad have done a great many amazing things in their lives and now, when they have every right to just hang out on their deck drinking iced-teas, they have chosen and, in fact, worked quite hard to become delegates for Massachusetts to the Democratic National Convention. Though I might have tuned in anyway, their presence there ensured that we got through bedtime and clean-up and hustled down to the TV room to catch a bit of the action. And boy, was there action and just like the slogan goes, I got “fired up”.

Sue & Marty Heyman
Lookin’ sharp at the 2012 DNC

I was just in time to see Elizabeth Warren and her speech was straightforward and no-nonsense, and she closed with passion and heart.

And then came Bill. Oh Bill. I’ve spent a long time with bittersweet feelings about our erstwhile President. He was the first President I ever voted for.  His knowledge, charisma and dedication made me feel empowered and inspired to believe that government and public service was an honorable calling, but his fall from grace has nagged at me since.

Watching President Clinton’s speech the other night, I felt that inspiration return. With wit, intelligence, and respect for the audience, he expounded on Barack Obama’s achievements, his character, his plan for the future and the difference between the parties (and yes, there is a huge difference). It felt like I was sitting in on the country’s coolest Political Science course, with…like…the best Professor ever! But seriously, he made me, the viewer, feel smart and excited and informed.  He made me believe that, just maybe, government could reclaim its position of honor.

Many often ask, “why bother with a national convention for the incumbent when you know exactly who the nominee will be,” obviously no one was going to challenge President Obama for the Democratic ticket. The point, the pundits say, is to mobilize the base, inspire everyday people into democratic action; registering new voters, spreading the word, getting involved in local races, etc. Well, it worked, at least for this new mom.

I have a million little chores that eat up my days; no doubt this is how the first year of a baby’s life disappears in the blink of an eye. They are mundane, though not necessarily unimportant, one must feed one’s child after all. But I will not allow another week to pass without logging into the Obama and Warren phone banks and making some calls to do my small part to help their campaigns achieve victory in November. And if you read this, you should too. It is not enough to exist inside this democracy, you must work to maintain it, otherwise you will get exactly the government you deserve. Around the world there are people who would die for the chance to cast a vote. My late grandmother Fay told me stories of the time in our own country when women were not allowed to vote and it did not seem like so long ago.

My parents taught me to respect and engage in this profound responsibility. As I watched Day three of the Convention unfolding in Charlotte, I felt exhilaration and pride that they were in the thick of the event; meeting people, sharing ideas, bearing witness to great oratory, and of course, rocking out to the Foo Fighters. Indeed, even the musical lineup reflects the wonderful diversity and inclusiveness of my chosen political party, including James Taylor, Mary J. Blige and a captivating rendition of our National Anthem from Marc Anthony.

Now, while I stave off the sleep that is stubbornly advancing over me, I think of Amelia as I listen to President Obama’s bold and brave words. I will strive to emulate her grandparents in their passion and conviction in participating in our great country’s democracy. I will do my part and teach Amelia how to be a citizen, of the United States, of Canada, and of the world.