Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Uplifted

I've been asking myself all weekend--why isn't Inauguration Day a holiday? Then I remembered that I sort of skipped over the past two inaugurations without a qualm. I'm proud that power in America transitions seamlessly every four years whether or not the elections turn out as we hoped, but I don't find inaugurations exactly momentous. This one is different.

Everyone keeps saying it's historic. Yeah, it's historic to have a black president, I agree totally, even while I feel like he's got more than a little bit of the Melting Pot in his lineage. I also feel like it was a watershed because so many people like me got involved, believed, dared to hope, and were inspired. Tomorrow makes me want to sing all my favorite patriotic songs, dress in red, white and blue, and hug a Republican. I want to cheer and cry tears of pride.

There is so much positive energy emanating from D.C. that the country is vibrating from rocky Maine shorelines to blacksand Hawaiian beaches. Have you felt it? Excitement mixed with anticipation and hope? I felt this same energy on Election Day.

It's impossible for me to believe that this new administration is gonna be business as usual. I'm always getting emails from Michelle and Barack asking me what I think, letting me know how to get involved to help others, reiterating that democracy is a group effort. It's completely different from the political form letters I usually get when I contact my Representative. I'm opinionated enough to sound off, but skeptical that my views count. At least I was. I've reverted back to my pre-Watergate 60's beliefs that one goes into politics to do good and bring about change and fairness. There's idealism in the air. Dare to dream.

People may have made their usual egocentric New Year's Resolutions twenty days ago, but now we're making pledges of sharing and service to our neighbors, our communities, our country, our planet. Has any president since Kennedy elicited such a response? I think an outpouring like this, when so many of us are facing financial uncertainty if not downright hardship, is a tribute to the American spirit.

I'm curious what my neighbors and co-workers are pledging to do. Mine is to volunteer during summer vacation--either at the SPCA exercising and training dogs up for adoption or at the nearest year-round school as a phonemic awareness/phonics tutor for kindergarten and first grade. See? I've thought about volunteering before, but now I've committed out loud and in black-and-white. That's progress.

I've set this to post on Tuesday morning right as President Obama (wow! that feels good to say!) takes his oath of office. I'll be watching and hoping I get to hear most of his inauguration speech which I've been anticipating since November. After reading The Audacity of Hope I think I can anticipate some of President Obama's (feels just as good to say the second time) themes. I hope it's as memorable as FDR's and JFK's. I've got a good feeling.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Shared

Ben Franklin has thoughfully let me share this day with him for a few decades, more or less (okay, it's more not less, but this is not the time to go into that). Now I found out he shares it with Michelle Obama too. I'd complain about trust issues, but I'm struck by his incredibly good taste in the women he allows to share his birthday.

Birthday rules: do exactly what you want to do, all day long:

A frosty sunny morning walk with Kharma...check.

Sewing in the sunshine...check.

A three-day weekend...check.

Ordering the 2x2 agility DVD...on the list.

Heading out to Paperback Exchange...as soon as my car is cleaned by one of my resident males.

Scrapping some Christmas memories...very soon.

Happy Birthday, Michelle, I hope you're having as much fun as I am. Happy Birthday,Ben, you've always been my inspiration. And Happy Birthday to me!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If


If I lived in Laguna Beach, I would weigh 30 pounds less. Partly because I'd use up a fair amount of calories jogging on the beach daily. Partly because I'd have to park a half mile away from my destination (dang tourists) and so I'd be walking on errands. And my daily walks to visit friends would involve hillsides and stairs.

If I lived in Laguna Beach, my wardrobe would be totally different. I'd have unique dresses bought on a whim from the local shops (because I'd also be quite rich if I lived there--even the used-car lots showcase Maseratis). I would elevate window shopping to a new level. The rich fabrics would drape beautifully around my fabulously healthy body. My underwear would involve lace and luscious colors.

If I live in Laguna Beach, my hair would grow ten inches but I'd have it cut tres chic. And donate the excess to Locks of Love.

If I lived in Laguna Beach, part of every day would be devoted to painting and sketching. It would be unavoidable; I'd be so overwhelmed by the beauty around me each day that I couldn't resist the inspiration. I'd be on a first-name basis with every artisan at the Sawdust Festival and would have performed in The Pageant at least once.

If I lived in Laguna Beach, I'd have a tiny cottage overgrown with Heavenly Blue morning glories and Barbara Karst bougainvillea. It would have blue window frames and brick walks and a picket fence that needed painting. Vegetables would grow amidst the flowers. I'd breakfast on the patio with the morning paper and dinner would be accompanied by the distant view of a silver ocean and candlelight.

If I lived in Laguna Beach, my dog would love her doggy friends at the dog park in the canyon. And she'd probably have a little sister adopted from the cutest dog pound in the West.

If I lived in Laguna Beach, my stress levels would plumment and I'd smile more. Yeah, I love Laguna.

Okay, (deep cleansing breath) it feels good to get that out after my recent visit there. We now return you to my regularly scheduled life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The American Dream

It's Jack London's birthday! I would have never known if it were not for the calendar that our classroom received from Scholastic Books, thank you very much.




One novel that I never tire of reading and re-reading is his The Valley of the Moon, one of those classic stories that chronicle the pursuit of happiness. Because I just love a happy ending. And I have a partiality for authors whose setting is an area that I know well. For most readers, say "Jack London" and they think "Alaska".

But London was a California boy through and through, so this former California girl loves his local settings best--in this case, Sonoma.
And if you've never driven through the lush foggy Sonoma valley, past rounded motherly hills, while grazing Guernsey cows appear and fade like mirages...well, you've missed an experience whose beauty makes my heart sing. And visiting little Glen Ellen where London's ranch is located just makes the experience better. (Oh, and dropping by a winery here and there doesn't hurt either.)

I grew up in northern California and spent Saturday mornings in our Spanish-style library with warm sunlight pouring through narrow windows onto tile floors. A library that, happily, stocked the lesser-known but California-oriented books by some famous authors. Even if an author can make his or her setting come alive in my imagination, it's a bonus when the setting is already part of my experience.

The Valley of the Moon has an autobiographical flavor to it. It's not particularly intense or thought-provoking; just a simple romance--the search for the right partner to live with and the right place to live in. I love Jack's unintentional snapshot of the Bay Area in times past. A tawny California without freeways or dot coms, filled with little farms and ranches. A place that my great-grandparents would have instantly recognized. Hmmm, maybe it's that family connection that makes this story a well-read favorite.


Happy Birthday, Jack. I'm grabbing my book and heading off for a leisurely soak with some well-loved characters.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

Fresh snow, unused notebooks, empty closets, new school clothes--don't you love new beginnings?!

2009 is bringing change. And change is scary as well as exciting and inspiring.

The economic meltdown has made us refocus on spirit and family rather than consumer goods. A young and energetic First Family gives us all hope that we can accomplish good things together. I admit it, I can hardly wait to see what puppy comes home to the White House (I'm thinking goldendoodle). It's more fun to think about a puppy than how many people will lose their livelihoods soon. The soaring jobless rate is more than dry numbers. My heart aches for the folks who used to deliver Mother's Cookies for decades being out of work. We knew at our company holiday party that there would be many faces we would not be seeing because of heavy cutbacks. Sometimes these changes seem overwhelming and unstoppable. There is a huge human price that is being paid.

2009 is going to be the year that we need to support each other. Finding kindness in unexpected places might be the biggest gift we receive in this new year. Feeling the glow of helping a neighbor in need is better than getting a huge flat screen television on Christmas morning.

Family, friends, altruism, hope, environmental responsibility, renewed pride in our country's ideals, new beginnings. Change. Bring it on.