Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Home Sewn

It's been a while since I last posted and that's because blogging is fun, but sewing is MORE fun. The first weekend of November, I got together with two great friends, Catalina and Katie, and learned to sew on their machines. I'd been wanting a machine and wanting to learn for the last couple of years, but I was too intimidated by both the mechanics of it and the thought of actually creating something with my own two hands.

Cat is an old pro, having sewn for years and earning a reputation among our friends for her creations. Katie was a beginner, but she actually owned a machine, and thus was far further along than I was. When we all met at JoAnn to choose fabric, I was still thinking maybe I'd just opt out, browse the toys, and do a little Christmas shopping. "Maybe I'll just stay the morning and visit while you two sew," I actually said. But then Cat pulled out a prototype she'd whipped up. A couple rectangles, sew here, fold here, turn inside out, seam here, up the sides, et voila! Maybe even pockets and a wristlet...cute purse! She made it seem within reach, so I joined them in the fabric search. I felt so lost at the cutting counter, yard, half yard... what does that yield? I had no concept.

The next day Ethan watched our kids to allow me an uninterrupted chance at learning. Katie and I arrived at Cat's to see she'd washed and dried all of our fabric and made scones and coffee for us. We chatted about what we were about to do, I made a 3 x 5 card of step-by-step instructions for myself, and then we began. Over the whur of machines, the snipping of the scissors, and the pizza for lunch, I learned how to sew.

I came home with two purses to show for it, along with lots of curiosity and a need for a sewing machine. Over the next few days E and I researched and found a good machine, and purchased it as my holiday gift from him this year. I created a sewing folder on my desktop for all of the free tutorials I download, along with a running list of good ideas. I haven't yet used a pattern, (unless you count a couple shapes I cut out of paper bag I've used to help guide my cutting). Patterns still intimidate me at this point. I'm just figuring it out freestyle, making my own designs and finding inspiration in the vast resource of how-tos and crafty blogs I find online.

I've got many gifts already made and many more on a list to make. (December is a great month to start sewing!) Here are a couple I've already given, the ones that are safe to reveal. Pictures show a baby blanket for our baby cousin/nephew, a "Knit Night Bag" for Aunt D in Illinois, a couple of skirts and PJ pants I made for Harper, and a set of napkins.








Not pictured gifts I've sewn recently include a skirt for Harper's friend Avery, a hooded towel for Avery's new sister, Remy, and a reversible formal purse for Savannah's Winter Ball and her 15th birthday. Silly me, didn't take photos before I gave them! I also have a couple more gifts sewn, but they haven't been given yet so I can't share any more info than that. Obviously, having never sewn before Nov. 3rd, I've gone a little bonkers. Basically, every nap time and often after bedtime, I'm working on some project. I'm ever grateful to my fun friends who got me started. I think I'm going to enjoy this for a long while!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Turn it Up!

This was just too good. Had to share.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Halloween through Election Day





Sunday, November 2, 2008

Open Ballot

Here are my picks for this Tuesday's election (and condensed explanations of why for each).

President/VP: Obama/Biden (D)


Top ten reasons why they've got my enthusiastic vote:




1. We need change.
I don't need to spell out the many ways in which America is hurting. We're all watching the news, and we all feel it. We must change the course that we're on and McCain can't deliver the change we need. The old saying about you can't do the same thing and expect a different result comes to mind here-- McCain voted in support of Bush's policies over 90% of the time, so we can expect a virtual Bush twin if he's elected. To date, McCain has yet to spell out a single way in which he would differ from Bush's economic policies that have led us to this point.

2. Appropriate tax cuts, for 95% of working Americans.
This puts the money into the hands of "spenders" and stimulates our struggling economy. Consumers consume, businesses grow, we all benefit. As we've seen, trickle down economics (i.e. Reagan, Bush Sr., W.) doesn't work. Bottom up (i.e. Clinton) does.

3. Appropriate focus for the military: Afghanistan and Al Qaeda, not Iraq.
Like Obama, I have never thought the war in Iraq was a good idea-- from the lies about WMD and the urgency with which it began to the murkiness of where-we-are-today. I have always thought however that we did belong in pursuit of Bin Laden et. al. (because Al Qaeda actually killed 3,000 Americans). Aside from the principle of justifiability and the negative consequences of the Bush doctrine of preemptive war with which I disagree, this shift in military focus has obvious economic/spending benefits as well.

4. "New Politics" and Campaigning.
Obama's premise from day one has been that the "size of our challenges had outgrown the smallness of our politics". His campaign has been a reflection of that, often rising above the petty bickering and name-calling from the other side to refocus the voters on the issues that matter. He has built a grassroots movement that I am proud to be a part of. Although I couldn't drive to a battleground state or become an official organizer (which I would have loved to do), I did make phone calls to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida on behalf of the campaign. Obama's community organizer roots really show in the way in which this campaign has been structured and run-- it has been effective, efficient, and meaningful-- even inspiring. I am also excited by the smart use of technology in this campaign-- text messages, social networking at barackobama.com which enabled my calls to battlegrounds, and even just his basic website-- head and shoulders more informative and interactive than McCain's. Although this campaign has participated in the political spinning that is typical of modern politics and makes my eyes roll in disgust, a simple look at factcheck.org reveals that the McCain camp does it far more often, and far more egregiously (bigger stretches of the imagination, more damaging lies, more character assaults, more guilt-by-association...robocalls-- need I say more?).

5. Biden vs. Palin.
Wow, okay. This one's easy. I'm not going to give a detailed CV for each because Biden's would take me forever. The CV is only part of why Biden is a superior #2. For me, it's mostly because Biden can speak in clear, complete sentences, and Palin is not a thinker. When she was chosen as the GOP running mate, I was curious because I'd never heard of her. It was clear that her gender was a big part of the choice, an obvious appeal to disillusioned Hillary supporters, but when I learned more of her and she spoke more to the media (Gibson, Couric) I was pretty much horrified. I think McCain's "Country First" motto went out the window with this pick; he's clearly willing to put politics first and the nation at risk with Sarah Palin as VP. It also made me question McCain himself-- the man who so many admire for being principled and higher-minded. The Palin pick was a clear move to the right at a time when he should have been appealing to the center and reaching out to independents and centrists, where most Americans lie on the political spectrum. I know, I know-- she excited his base, but I think she also alienated (even scared) the rest of us, me included.

6. Joe Mensa vs. Joe Six Pack.
I think there's an ill-placed obsession with average in America and Sarah Palin is the symbolic hero of the "average" archetype. I am alarmed and concerned with this celebration of mediocrity and rejection/dismissal of the "elite" academic types. I think McCain's Joe the Plumber argument and Palin's constant colloquialisms are nauseating. I don't want the everyman President. I want the ridiculously smart, even-tempered, detail-orientation, contemplative and well-informed President. Give me someone better than myself. It's dangerous to imply that anyone could do these crucial jobs.

7. Restoring our standing in the world.
British columnist Jonathan Freeland said it much better than I can, so I quote him here. In an opinion piece published by the UK’s Guardian newspaper, titled: ”The world’s verdict will be harsh if the US rejects the man it yearns for.” He argues: “…Obama has stirred an excitement around the globe unmatched by any American politician in living memory. Polling in Germany, France, Britain and Russia shows that Obama would win by whopping majorities, with the pattern repeated in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. If November 4 were a global ballot, Obama would win it handsomely. If the free world could choose its leader, it would be Barack Obama. The crowd of 200,000 that rallied to hear him in Berlin in July did so not only because of his charisma, but also because they know he, like the majority of the world’s population, opposed the Iraq war. McCain supported it, peddling the lie that Saddam was linked to 9/11. Non-Americans sense that Obama will not ride roughshod over the international system but will treat alliances and global institutions seriously: McCain wants to bypass the United Nations in favour of a US-friendly League of Democracies. McCain might talk a good game on climate change, but a repeated floor chant at the Republican convention was “Drill, baby, drill!”, as if the solution to global warming were not a radical rethink of the US’s entire energy system but more offshore oil rigs. If Americans choose McCain, they will be turning their back on the rest of the world, choosing to show us four more years of the Bush-Cheney finger. And I predict a deeply unpleasant shift.” I concur.

8. Historic Candidacy.
I am so excited to elect the first black President. I think it says so much about opportunity in America, about change, about possibility, about progress and the American Dream. If Obama is elected in 2 days, we can all feel proud that America has grown up so much since Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

9. Health Care, the Environment, Education... you know, Quality of Life stuff.
Besides the aforementioned Economic and Foreign Policy stuff I already described, Obama is right on the other issues as well. As Pres. Clinton recently said about Obama at a rally in Florida, he's got the right philosophy, the right policies, the ability to make informed decisions, and ability to execute real change. Here's the video of this great speech.

I'll take a Clinton endorsement over a Bush and Cheney endorsement anyday!

10. All of the above.
The fact that I can list all of these reasons and apply them to one candidate excites me. I am so happy that I'm not voting against McCain/Palin-- I have real, live reasons that I am voting for Obama/Biden. The sum of these parts is a new horizon for the country, and I'm ready to go there. Here's a recent "closing argument" speech from Obama. See if it turns you on.


Propositions

Prop. 1A: YES
This proposition is supported by the local Democrats, the LA Times, the SF Chronicle, and the League of Women Voters. Here's a bit about it (source: League of Women Voters). This $9.95 billion bond act would partially fund a high-speed train project between Los Angeles/ Anaheim and San Francisco, and possible extensions to Sacramento and to San Diego, at a total project cost of $45 billion, including the additional segments. Federal grants and public-private partnerships would be needed to fund at least half of each segment. Proposition 1A would provide a transportation option that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and lessens the need to expand highways and airports. This revised proposition addresses concerns about cost and financial uncertainties by requiring a new business plan, peer review, and other accountability provisions, and it allows bond funds to be used for the other segments if there is no negative impact on the first phase. Read more about the proposition here.

Prop. 2: NO
Although I am excited that voters get to take a look at ways that we can improve conditions for the animals that we farm (specifically chickens here), I don't think this initiative is the best way to bring the change we need. According to a study put out by the University of California-Davis, if Prop 2 passes, it is likely that it would force the state's $300 million egg industry to move out of the state or out of business entirely. The LA Times and SF Chronicle both advocate a NO vote, along with most other CA newspapers' editorial boards. Read more about the proposition here.

Prop. 3: YES
I'm pretty much always going to support a children's hospital bond (or a school bond, for that matter) because I believe it's a worthy place to send my cash. The League of Women Voters give this succinct thumbs-up for Prop 3: Proposition 3 authorizes $980 million in bonds to fund children’s hospitals. These regional centers provide specialized care for children with serious illnesses or injuries without regard to a family’s ability to pay. They treat the majority of California’s low-income children. Eighty percent of the proceeds would go to eight nonprofit children’s hospitals and 20 percent to University of California children’s hospitals. Prop 3 will address escalating construction costs and improve health care access for children who are indigent, uninsured, underinsured or eligible for government health programs. This one is also supported by the local Democrats, the LA Times, and the Fresno Bee. Read more about it here.

Prop. 4: NO
Proposition 4 represents the third time that California voters will have considered the issue of a parental notification/waiting period for abortion. The two previously unsuccessful initiatives were Proposition 85 (2006) and Proposition 73 (2005). Prop. 4 differs from 85 or 73 because it allows an adult relative of the minor seeking an abortion to be notified if the minor's parents are abusive. The LA Times encourages a "no" vote on 4, saying, "If this measure passes, some girls will seek out illegal abortions rather than notify their parents." The San Francisco Chronicle is also opposed, writing, "Family communication cannot be forged by government edict, and reckless teen behavior will not be deterred by merely making abortion more difficult." The League of Women Voters also rejects Prop. 4, arguing "Mandatory notification laws may sound good but, in the real world, they put the health and safety of teens in danger. A frightened, pregnant teen who can't go to her parents may choose an unsafe, illegal abortion, or even contemplate suicide, instead of seeking the counseling and safe medical care she needs. Parents rightfully want to be involved in their teenagers’ lives, but good family communication can’t be imposed by government." Here's a good pdf article with lots of statistics and easy to read analysis, put out the University of California at San Francisco about this issue. Other opponents to Prop. 4 include the American Academy of Pediatrics, California District, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, California Academy of Family Physicians, California Family Health Council, California Nurses Association, California School Counselors Association, and the California Teachers Association-- all company I like to keep.

Prop. 5: NO
Here's a good explanation, courtesy of the Fresno Bee, "When you go to the polls on Nov. 4, remember that Proposition 5 would: a) Give people accused of crimes ranging from auto or identity theft to domestic violence a get-out-of-jail-free card simply by attributing their behavior to an addiction. These folks would go into diversion programs with little supervision and no serious consequences if they started using drugs or continued committing crimes. b) Reduce parole time for methamphetamine dealers and other drug-related felons to no more than six months. c) Shift responsibility and untold millions of dollars in costs from the state to counties, which already are releasing inmates early because of jail crowding. d) Give addicted defendants a pass on their first five violations of probation or treatment failures; judges wouldn't be able intervene in a truly effective way until the sixth violation. e) Even drug dealers would be offered diversion. It's no wonder there's a wide spectrum of leaders lining up against this proposal, beginning with 32 district attorneys and including police chiefs and prosecutors to Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The California Judges Association, which usually is neutral on political issues, is speaking out against Proposition 5. One reason is that it would replace the successful Drug Courts with weakened rehab programs with meaningless sanctions." A no vote is encouraged by the CCPOA (Correctional Officer's Union), the LA Times, SF Chronicle, and most other CA newspapers as well. Five California governors (Arnold Schwarzenegger-R, Gray Davis-D, Pete Wilson-R, Jerry Brown-D, and George Deukmejian-R) came together on October 29 to announce their joint opposition to Proposition 5. Read more about prop. 5 here.

Prop. 6: NO
I think the League of Women Voters says it well, "This measure requires that nearly $1 billion annually in state general funds be used for designated local law enforcement and probation programs. This will mean an increase of $500 million a year for these programs and for operating prison and parole systems, and a $500 million capital outlay for prison facilities. The League opposes the further restriction on the ongoing use of general funds. Harmful policy changes in this initiative include prosecuting more 14-year-olds as adults and giving counties less flexibility in the use of drug and mental health funds for juveniles." Here's more good reading about this proposition.

Prop. 7: NO
Prop. 7 would require California utilities to procure half of their power from renewable resources by 2025. California utilities would increase their purchase of electricity generated from renewable resources by 2% annually to meet Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements of 40% in 2020 and 50% in 2025. [Under current law, investor-owned utility companies must comply with an RPS of 20% by 2010.] The problem is that it is so poorly written that it could hurt the cause of renewable energy in the state. It is opposed by both the California Republican Party and the California Democratic Party. This proposition has many flaws, including the following: It excludes small renewable power plants from counting towards the new requirements. Today, nearly 60% of contracts under California’s renewable requirements are with these small providers. Excluding small providers will eliminate a major source of clean power and thousands of jobs. It could also result in higher electric rates - a $300 increase per household per year by eliminating competition from smaller renewable providers and creating a seller’s market that forces customers to pay 10% above market for renewable energy. Prop. 7 will slam the brakes on renewable energy development. It locks into law many flaws that are currently stifling renewable power development in California and creates new roadblocks to renewable development. Prop. 7 arbitrarily shifts authority over the renewables market from the California Public Utilities Commission to the California Energy Commission, which could lead to significant delays, added bureaucracy and costly lawsuits. And if these weren't reasons enough, here's the clincher: Prop. 7’s problems would be virtually impossible to fix. No changes can be made without another vote of the people or an unlikely 2/3 vote of the legislature.

Prop. 8: NO WAY!
I think I've written enough about this one. See below.

Prop. 9: NO
From the LA Times: "This is the centerpiece of a law-and-order campaign by billionaire businessman and engineer Henry T. Nicholas III and is called "Marsy's Law" in memory of his murdered sister. It qualified for the ballot on June 6 -- the day after indictments were unsealed against Nicholas for a variety of drug charges and for allegedly violating securities laws. Nicholas gave $4.8 million to the campaign but distanced himself after the charges against him were reported. Among other things, Proposition 9 would limit the number of chances for parole for many convicted criminals." This questionable Nicholas guy is the main (virtually only) supporter, while all major newspapers oppose the proposition, as well as California Teacher's Association. Here's a good, short article at the Fresno Bee about why to vote NO.

Prop. 10: NO
The League of Women Voters spells it out clearly, "The League favors the use of bonds to finance capital expenditures or the purchase of property for public purposes. The purposes of this bond are not an appropriate use for state-issued, bond-generated revenues." The Los Angeles Times editorialized against Prop. 10 on September 19, saying, "Spending bond money on something as intangible as privately owned vehicles is a terrible idea unless there is a clear public benefit." The SF Chronicle notes that prop 10 "funnels $5 billion in state bond money into subsidies for cleaner energy - namely natural gas, generating a windfall for its chief backer, oil magnate T. Boone Pickens." And The Fresno Bee says it best of all, "[Prop. 10 offers] an enticement ---nearly $3 billion in rebates -- to buy cars and trucks that use alternative energy. But there's a catch. This proposition would allocate the greatest proportion of those incentives to vehicles powered by natural gas. And where will the owners of these new vehicles get that gas? Well, that's where Pickens' speculation pays off -- he owns a natural gas company. There are other concerns. Along with short-changing buyers of electric or hybrid cars, it provides much higher incentives to businesses than to those buying passenger vehicles. And it has no provisions to keep people from getting rebates here, then driving to another state and selling the vehicle -- in effect negating any advantage."

Prop. 11: YES
"Proposition 11 would change the process that is undertaken once every ten years of setting (which sometimes means re-drawing) the geographic boundaries of the state's 120 legislative districts and four Board of Equalization districts. At present, the task of setting these boundaries falls to the state legislature itself. If Proposition 11 passes, that task would instead be given to a new, 14-member commission." (Source here.) The League of Women Voters says, "It is an inherent conflict of interest for legislators to draw their own districts to guarantee their reelection. Proposition 11 removes from the legislature the power to redraw district boundaries for the State Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization after each census. Instead, it provides for the appointment of a 14-member independent citizens commission to perform this process, establishes clear criteria for how the boundaries shall be drawn, and requires an open and transparent process with due notice, public hearings, and no communications outside of the hearings. This measure will hold politicians accountable and help stop the gridlock in Sacramento that keeps pressing issues from being addressed." I concur.

Prop. 12: YES
Supported by Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger and Senator Mark Wyland, R-Carlsbad, this proposition would help California's veterans achieve the American dream of homeownership. It would include Veterans who risked their lives in places like Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan to be able to buy a home like more than 420,000 others who have bought a home with a CalVet loan. It would bolster our ailing housing market in CA, and since loans are repaid, along with all program costs, by the loan holders, there is no expense to the taxpayers. Cal Vet loans generate thousands of housing industry-related jobs resulting in millions of dollars in annual payrolls. Good for Vets, and good for our economy.

Boy this is a long post. Happy Voting!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More Prop 8 Perspectives

The other morning I received this article twice-- first, Arlene clipped it out of her Times Delta and set it on my counter, and then I checked my email to find that Ethan had sent it, too. Both recognized it was such a good argument for a No on 8 vote and I am happy to share it here for others to read and pass on.

And here's a funny (but apt) video.


Here are a couple videos of Mormons urging their church to abandon the Yes position. It was heartening to find that there are Mormons who disagree with their church on this, and that they are brave enough to risk church discipline for the sake of following their conscience.




And here's another fascinating site where vocal members discuss homosexuality within the church and perspectives on Prop. 8.

And here's a place where you can sign a petition/letter to the Mormon church (will be delivered on Tuesday, Oct. 28th, so act quickly!), and also where you can read about the recent attempts to intimate No on 8 donors to donate to the Yes campaign.

Monday, October 20, 2008

RoboCalls

Check this for some DIRTY and desperate politics!

Friday, October 17, 2008

No on Prop 8


This post has two parts: first, I describe my conjecture about why the Mormon church has decided to involve itself so publicly in support of Prop 8 (conjecture based mostly on my personal impressions of this church via my history in it), and second, I discuss the misleading campaigning that the Yes folks are leading and a bit about why I'll be voting No on this proposition.
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This issue is one that is increasingly alarming me, the more I learn. Recently, a good friend of mine sent out a video about a family in MA whose kindergartner was read a book at school about families, and that book had a gay couple on one page. This family was outraged and proceeded to tell their story of how legal same sex marriage meant that our children will be forced to learn about it at school. I was also urged to visit a website, protectmarraige.com, to learn more about Prop. 8. Although I was dismayed at what I read there, I felt a bit lucky at the same time, because, to be honest, I never would have read about what "the other side" thought about this issue had I not been contacted and urged to do so. I would have remained curious and perplexed about why so many religious people support such a discriminatory amendment to our state constitution. Receiving this email directly invited me to look into this, and I am grateful for that.

Early on, I was surprised to hear and read about the Mormon church's prominent role in campaigning for Prop. 8. Here's a link from the Wall Street Journal about their financial contributions alone, which total up to 1/3 of the money for the Yes campaign (as of the end of September). I spent several years attending the Mormon church as a child and young adult with my mother, who is still an active member. Although I've decided it is not a compelling religion for me, I respect that church for its many earnest members, my mom among them.

The Mormon church has always had a very hard line against homosexuality and teaches that it is a sinful lifestyle (the standard "love the sinner, hate the sin", the suggestion that it is a "special challenge" to be homosexual just like a short temper or other tendencies, and that members "who are attracted to the same gender" should avoid sin by living in the closet and should choose to repress those "inclinations" and remain celibate for their entire lives. Here's a great interview with church leaders on the subject, including how parents should instruct their homosexual kids, their choice to support prop 8, etc. And here's another link, the story of Stuart Matis, a gay Mormon man who suffered the consequences of the church's strict stance).

Reaching into my history at this church, their doctrine against homosexuality was my only clue about why they might be involved. But it seemed odd to me that they'd thrust themselves so publicly into the political realm, not just because of Jesus' suggestion that we keep religion and politics separate ("Render that which is Caesar's unto Caesar and unto God the things that are God's"..."My kingdom is not of this world..") but also because, in the approx. 7 years I attended church there, I can't recall a single instance where politics was mentioned. It was always just understood that most members were Republicans. (I can still recall feeling surprised that a car in the parking lot had a "Clinton/Gore" bumper sticker on it. Really? Someone here is a Democrat? I suppose some politics must have played a part in church culture to prompt such a reaction in a young kid.)

Opposition to homosexuality (and the belief that it is wrong), turns out, is the reason that individual Mormons have jumped aboard the "Yes on 8" ship. In my recent blog-surfing, I've come across some of their reasoning about about prop 8. Basically, it goes like this (taken directly from a blog): "The purpose of marriage is to procreate. If you define something else as marriage, something that by its very nature cannot possibly result in procreation, you have made a mockery of the institution." Side note, with an admitted tinge of my own mockery: it seems (darkly) humorous to me to think of marriage in these strictly utilitarian terms-- that committed, monogamous relationships are valuable insofar as they can produce babies. What pressure on the infertile! What loathing for self, to think that your value and the value of your marriage is measured in your children! What pressure on the children to perform dutifully and fall in line as a reflection of their parents' worthiness! What pressure on parents to make ever more children! What pressure on the single members, what pressure on divorced members, what pressure on children of divorce, what pressure on gay members... Ouch!

Mormons' (very odd) understanding of marriage's purpose may be a reason for individual church members to campaign for, and vote yes on Prop. 8, but that leaves the question for me of why, suddenly, the Church leadership wants to be publicly political: why it calls for en masse donations of time and money to this cause, why it is putting its name on this label. How does it benefit the Mormon brand to advocate for Prop. 8? And I've come to some conclusions, based on my research at the church's site, what I'm reading from members, and my own impressions of church culture as a child.

Basically, I think the church leadership has decided to be vocal about this political/cultural issue for two main reasons: the first, as a strategy to remain a competitive part of the church "market", and second, to gain legitimacy within Christendom as part of a coalition of concerned Christians all fighting a common enemy: homosexuality and secular tolerance.

One of the goals of the Mormon church is growth. An expected part being a Mormon is a duty to proselytize, or "share the gospel". As new members join up, the church increases their bottom line. When I attended, I remember the phrase "the fastest growing religion on earth" repeated often as a point of pride among members, and I believe this plays a part in the Mormons' involvement in Prop 8 campaigning. If same sex marriage becomes tolerated alongside "traditional" marriage, and our culture at large becomes accepting of gay marriages (gasp!), their message may become a harder sell. This would result in fewer converts, fewer members, as their doctrine seems ever more out of touch with mainstream consciousness. They may even lose their closeted, gay brothers and sisters when they are able to exit to a more accepting outside culture. Call me cynical, but that's how I see it. Strategy: Keep our message attractive by influencing outside culture to remain more sympathetic to ours. Basic religious business.

Anectodal evidence on the issue of retention: When I decided I was positively not-a-Mormon, I heard about it for a couple years. I received phone calls from well-meaning members, drop in visits, members checking on me and inviting me to return to the fold. I know their intentions were rooted in an honest concern for my eternal salvation, but they kept calling even after I asked them repeatedly to stop. I was left with a distinct impression-- it is hard to leave this church. The church is structured in a way to both retain and recruit membership to keep the numbers ever-growing (the "visiting teachers" and "home teachers", missionaries, and large families being the quickest examples of this). In the best of circumstances this is all done for the salvation of the world, and in the worst, it's about the big business of running a huge, centralized church.

Second, I believe the Mormons enjoy a benefit in being a part of a coalition of Christians who have joined together in support Prop 8. Mormons have a history of persecution (ironically, even connected to unpopular beliefs about marriage) and have been excluded from the category of Christian religions. Being associated with other Christian denominations in this collective fight lends them legitimacy via shared values and shared goals. They take a step closer to inclusion and recognition as a Christian faith.

While I can understand the Mormon church's self-interested role in this campaign, I think perhaps the most disappointing part of this saga for me, personally, is the way in which the "Yes on 8" crowd is campaigning. It is made up of the standard fear tactics and fallacious attacks that more voters should see through, but sadly (due in large part to the inherent bigotry associated with homosexuality), many voters do not.

Maybe part of the problem of why these lies are not more obvious is that they are coming from a source that many trust 100%. If you are sitting on a pew in a sanctuary and listening to your church leaders, who you believe have a direct line to God and receive revelation on a regular basis, and they tell you this proposition will have a variety of horrible consequences, it follows that you're going to believe that. However, this mix of religion in politics could backfire on the church if members don't accept their claims at face value, and look into this further. In fact, in my tooling around online I found a fascinating website, Feminist Mormon Housewives, where a writer posted a link about the misinformation that the Mormons are spreading out of concern that the Mormons' involvement would ultimately do more harm to the church than good-- it may ultimately damage the credibility of church leaders.

The basic thrust of their argument is that allowing same sex couples the same rights to marriage as straight couples threatens traditional marriage in some way, but they have been unsuccessful at honestly describing one. There is no actual threat-- no reason to deny gay couples rights to marriage other than discrimination. In fact, our family recently attended the marriage of two of our great friends, two women who've been together for nearly 12 years and are now (finally!) allowed to be married. Attending that celebration really brought this issue home for me: I saw up close the people who would be discriminated against if prop 8 is passed, and I also saw up close how their union has nothing to do with my "traditional marriage". It neither undermines, nor uplifts it.

Proposition 8 is all about altering our constitution to eliminate a right for a group of people. It is not about protecting what is taught in our schools, like that scary video with the family from MA suggested. Students have, and will always have, a way out of any instruction that parents decide is not appropriate for their child, contrary to the suggestion of the video I was sent. In fact, here's a recent Fresno Bee article about the Yes folks attempts to misrepresent this.

It's disappointing for me to see the Mormon church's involvement in this, especially spreading misleading and false information out there to try to persuade others. This law is fundamentally about discriminating (on the basis of sexual orientation) against a whole group of our citizens and denying them the same rights as the rest of us, not about the education of our children, and there is no threat from which heterosexual married couples need defending. Allowing same sex couples the same rights and recognition as heterosexual couples is about fairness and equality.

This post is in no way exhaustive: there are many points and counterpoints I've left unanswered here. But if you need a list of fact vs. fiction, the No on Prop 8 people have a good one to address most of the false arguments that the Yes crowd has put forward in an attempt to characterize same sex marriage as a relevant threat to our civilization-as-we-know-it. After that long-winded explanation of my recent research, personal history, and a little self-righteous outrage thrown in to boot, I urge everyone to vote no on Prop. 8.


Here's the entire text of the proposed law (prop. 8):
PROPOSITION 8
This initiative measure is submitted to the people in accordance with the
provisions of Article II, Section 8, of the California Constitution.
This initiative measure expressly amends the California Constitution by
adding a section thereto; therefore, new provisions proposed to be added are
printed in italic type to indicate that they are new.
SECTION 1. Title
This measure shall be known and may be cited as the “California Marriage
Protection Act.”
SECTION 2. Section 7.5 is added to Article I of the California Constitution,
to read:
SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized
in California.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tax Cut Calculator


If you click "view full calculator", it gets even more specific (dependent child care costs, mortgage balance affect the number). Our family will save an estimated $1800 with the Obama tax cuts for the middle class.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mothering Two, Mothering Me

So I haven't been feeling well lately. The other day, while prepping lunch for the kids, I stepped over to the laptop briefly to do a google search to self-diagnose. (I'm like most moms, often looking up whatever seems to ail my children only to read scary-things-that-could-be-wrong, work through initial panic, and then say a grateful prayer for my family's health.) At that moment, I felt so terrible that I thought, there's got to be a name for this, but when I placed my fingers on the keys, all I could think to type in the search bar was "feel like shit". I laughed at myself, and didn't hit Enter.

So what are the symptoms, really? Well, for one I'm thinner than I've been since high school. I weigh ten pounds less than my college and early married years. I don't really understand why because I am always hungry and always eating. Also, as my legs attest, I bruise very easily. I'm not sleeping well (the kids are a big part of this one), usually about 6 hours of non-continuous sleep. In sum, I feel sort of, generally, crappy.

After some talks with friends and my sweet husband, I've decided it might be a little anemia and lack of sleep. It got worse and worse in the three weeks that I wasn't taking prenatal vitamins, so I'm thinking there's a connection there. I restarted those and I do feel dramatically better-- less voraciously hungry, stronger. I also dedicated the next few days to nap-taking and earlier bedtime, which improved the quality of my sleep and returned some energy. Though I am feeling better, I still plan to call my doctor and set up a physical this week so that I can express my concerns and see if he has any ideas or pointers. I don't think this case is rocket science, though... I think my diagnosis is likely right. But I also know that if one of my kids was feeling that bad, I'd take him/her in to the doctor. I'm thinking I should think enough of myself to do the same.

Aside: I've also had a stiff neck this week which went from uncomfortable, limiting, and inconvenient to excrutiating, immobile, and frustrating, and after chiropractic adjustments and my friend Katia's deep tissue massage, I'm just sore but optimisic. I've got two more appointments next week to keep things limber and improving. This bit's unrelated to the other stuff; it's a recurrent injury from a childhood fall, but the timing wasn't so hot.

During the big talk with E about how I feel, what to do, I realized that part of the problem was that I'm seriously still adjusting to being an adult. I'm nearly 30 so that's a bit annoying, maybe, but I really was struggling with the "Where's my mom?" kind of feeling. I was wanting someone to mother me the way I do my own kids, and I felt depleted from giving so much energy to the little ones and so little to myself. While recognizing this and thinking about how to avoid another low point like that google moment, I'm deciding it's all about balance and perspective. I do want to be the kind of mom who "puts the kids first"; I just don't want to end up a martyr for the kids, a resentful giver. I need to refuel to keep balanced. Ethan is a good place to do that, but I can also do a little self-mothering. I can take myself to the doctor. I can remove toe nail polish and choose a new color. I can nap and take vitamins. I can look out for myself and advocate for my well-being. I can also take solace in the fact that kids are never as literally hands-on as these initial years and keep perspective that I will have more breathing room before I know it.

As I lie next to a little Jack tonight or comfort a scared Harper back to sleep, I know that I'm never as patient with myself as I am with my own kids. But my body is telling me that I can extend a little mothering to me from time to time and I think it's fair to listen.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Welcome, Emma Largoza!

Just a quick congrats to our good friends, the Largozas, on the exciting birth of their BEAUTIFUL baby girl, Emma Jane. (Click any of the images to view them full screen. She's quite pretty!)



Friday, September 5, 2008

Double Standard

Silly Season, huh?!

The video below is just to remind us to have a laugh at the talking head culture. I thought this segment was pretty typical of the crazy, transparent spin that's going on right now.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Haircut


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Free Obama Button

Want a free Obama button? MoveOn's giving them away totally free—even the shipping's free. Mine's coming soon, and I wanted to share the opportunity with you.

Click this link to get a free Obama button: get one

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Six Quirks

I've been tagged by Rachel Mantuano (see her blog at the link on the left here) to list and describe some of my personality quirks and as I begin, I'm having trouble thinking of any. Rach's blog started with title "Just 6 quirks?" and I'm feeling like it's going to be tough to finish this.

Hmmmm. Let's see.

1. I'm terrible about removing toe nail polish. Typically, I just let a color grow out. (I'm imagining a lot of grossed out people right now... hope your perception of me isn't tarnished too much!) It's really because removing-toe-nail-polish is pretty far down my list of things to do every day, and I just rarely make it that far. It follows feeding and dressing my kids, laundry, dishes, errands, enriching/learning activities, blah blah blah. I'm sure I'm not the only mom out there who neglects her toes; I'm just one of the few who still wears sandals with what looks like red tips-- is that a weird french manicure thing? Oh, no... that's neglect.

2. I am silly and I don't care who sees it. It used to be more of a closet thing-- I'd bust out impromptu dance recitals every Christmas with Carie's kids, choreograph it, and have the whole family sit on the stairs (they make perfect seating!) to watch the performance. Or I'd sing lovey songs with funny dances just for Ethan when we were young ones. But now, if a silly gesture and funny song elicit laughter from my kids (or other loved ones), I'm performing in the aisles of Target and I seriously don't care if others think I'm nuts. Sometimes I'll even stop the cart and dance around for them.

3. I'm pretty transparent about my feelings. I've never been able (or self-aware enough?) to censor my feelings-- they translate directly onto my face. I've been told I'm almost always wearing a large smile (generally happy person) and that my face has given away my disgust or disapproval (from time to time it happens). I also cry and laugh pretty easily.

4. I fiendishly love Peeps and Cadbury Eggs. When Easter time comes around, my mom and Ethan race to see who can get me the first Cadbury Eggs of the season. I used to have a ritual way of eating them-- insisting on shaking them up to get the syrup evenly distributed because sometimes they can be dry on one side and liquid on the other. About a year ago, I abandoned the method due to dubious effectiveness and growing impatience. Peeps are just fun. I buy them for myself as a special, childish indulgence.

5. I love politics. I love all the hallmarks of the election season: the primaries-- especially the nights when results come in, the polls, the attack ads, the scandals, the smears, the stump speeches, the analysts, the debates-- especially those, the process, the websites, the YouTube videos, the car paraphernalia, the phone calls from random celebrities on my answering machine, the act of voting, the "I Voted" sticker on my chest, the hope that things might change, the banter with friends and family...

6. I secretly love my kids' crying faces. When Harper or Jack get upset and start to cry, I feel tons of sympathy for them and of course I want to alleviate whatever troubles them. But part of me loves that expression just as much as I love their smiles. It's a glimpse into their souls at a vulnerable moment, and they are still young enough that my mere presence or my hug can solve any woe. It feels strange to say it, but I love their little sad faces; they're cute kids even when they're upset!

So I made it to six. Whew! Now it's time for me to tag others-- I'm calling you guys out-- Ethan, Katie/Mary Briemle, Katia Clark, Tiffany Aicklen, Mary Gendron, and Danielle Dutton-- let's hear about your quirkiness!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Open Pandora's Box

Check it out. Type in who you like and "Mix it up" to get a completely personalized radio station of artists you've named and other artists you are likely to enjoy.

Pandora Radio

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Story

It's a long story, but a good one.

Wednesday (after that last post) we traveled to Santa Cruz while our kids took their afternoon nap in their car seats. It was a good trip except for some traffic and impatience from little Jack as we forded the traffic nearing Santa Cruz. We arrived at Anya and Joe's house around 5:30 and visited and waited for my mom to arrive. It was so nice to see them and their place, and they welcomed us graciously. I performed my three songs I had ready, and their response was encouraging. After my mom came in, we ate burgers at a local brewery and chatted it up. We toasted to my good luck with some "Pelican Ale". I couldn't believe this was all happening after so much thought and practice.

That night, we arranged ourselves to sleep: Mom, Jack, and I were in Anya and Joe's room (thanks, guys!), E and Harper were on the air mattress in the living room, and our hosts took the bed in their guest bedroom/office. I couldn't sleep. Part of it was nervousness, but another part of it was my mother's snoring. My mind would race for a while, projecting scenes of the audition, images of myself dressed in my planned outfit, last-minute vocal lessons to myself (remember to support the sound, put a lot of soul into it, tell the story, make eye contact...) and then when the images would deteriorate and warp as sleepy thoughts do, I'd be yanked back into the moment by a loud snore and shifting legs next to me. Jackie would exhale loudly like even he was disturbed. I tried to block it out but because my mind was resistant to sleep as it was, I couldn't get past it. After a couple hours like this, I brought Jack with me to join Ethan and Harper.

Only problem there was that the mattress was on a hardwood floor and every move, I mean every one, made creaky sounds as the plastic stuck and unstuck to the floor below. It was still an improvement however, because at least there were some minutes where none of us moved and there was silence enough to drift off. Inevitably (especially with little ones) someone would move and we'd wake out of it. Finally at 2:00, Ethan took Harper in to sleep with my mom as it was too uncomfortable to have all of us on that queen size mattress. E and I got our first and last hour of sleep then, and we woke up at 3:15 to get ready for the important day ahead of us.

We arrived at the Cow Palace at about 5:30 AM on Thursday, a much more colorful day to be in the crowd. Everyone was dressed up, made up, and bundled up in the cold, still-dark SF morning. I found myself scanning wrists to see who was performing and who was a support person (they wore lavender wristbands). People were in high spirits, the hope was palpable. There were lots of smiles and laughter, a few voices singing from time to time, mostly too far away to really listen. I was kicking myself for not buying some coffee on our way since there was so much waiting. There was some comraderie, some sense of common experience, but there was also a lot of elevator eyes and silent judgment going on. I met a girl from Danville, CA whose name was "Shermay" (not sure how to spell it). She said she does a lot of musical theater and that she'd auditioned last year in San Diego and was told to come back not so Carrie Underwood-ish-- to work on her look. She came back this year looking preppier/trendy and planning not to sing Bonnie Raitt again.

There were tons of media coming by the crowd, newspapers, radio personalities, still photographers, and TV news people with their camera men. We were in line about 10 feet behind a dude with a hideous blonde wig and bad acne who was clearly aiming for some camera time. It worked; every media person who walked past made a stop at him, and at some point I overheard him singing (speaking, really) a "Hannah Montana" song and saying he was from Fresno. Wonderful. At some point during the morning, I was on the phone checking in with my mom to see how my kids were doing when a TV news woman from channel 26 (our local FOX affiliate) came by. I shouted, "Hey, I'm from Visalia!" more from impulse and surprise to see them there than a desire to be interviewed. It was Alysia Sofios, and she interviewed me. I was a ball of nerves and unprepared for it... I ended up saying all the wrong things. When she asked me if I was scared of Simon I said, "No" (because I'm not) and when she asked me if I'd be upset if I didn't make it, I said "Not really, because I don't have all of my eggs in one basket..." something lame like that. She asked me to sing for the camera and I did, but not all that well. I basically bombed the entire thing. Finally, she asked me if I was the next American Idol, a question I find particularly lame and a statement I think is super dumb to make. I said, "Yeah" or "sure" or something unenthusiastic like that.

She moved on to interview other crowd members who were from the valley. I tried not to beat myself up about it too much, tried not to imagine people seeing any part of it at home and recognizing me. I hoped that it would be cut up and edited and to my luck, I've found the clip that aired Thursday night/Friday morning online and it has been cut. There's only a short bit of me and I am ever grateful to FOX 26 for that. Whew! I still look like a dork, but if you want to see it, here's where it is. You'll also see the dude in the wig I mentioned.

http://www.kmph.com/Global/category.asp?C=126246&nav=menu612_2_8



It was 8:30 before the line started streaming into the stadium, and as we followed the stream of thousands of people, I saw someone I recognized-- Danny DeSimas from high school choir. It was so great to see a familiar face; I was hoping I would. He was always a super nice guy and I wished him the best as we left to find our seats inside. When we finally parked ourselves in our section, we began doing the crowd songs with everyone else. We had to sing "Get Ready" by the Temptations and "We Built This City" by Starship. They did lots of takes with the wide angle lens of the crowd singing and then ending with lots of "Woo"s and hand-waving. Ethan and I often didn't shout at all, only lip synching our screams and laughing at ourselves.

Then some guy from the show began explaining how it would all work, where to line up, what form to have with you, how to be processed, where "non-winners" would go, etc. They began by auditioning winners of local affiliate Idol contests first, then there were lots of people there who had apparently gotten a special Snickers bar with a wrapper that allowed them special auditions. After that was done, they took section by section down to the floor of the stadium and groups of four stood before each judging table (of which there were 12). I was in section 13 of about 36, so we were able to watch a lot of auditions from our seats (although you couldn't hear much of anything). I did get to see Danny audition and I felt disappointed as I watched him walk through the non-winner exit.

When my section was taken to the floor, my heartbeat accelerated. I took off my glasses and put on my more fun but less comfy shoes and headed down. I was assigned to table 3. The two judges there were both women who looked to be in their mid-thirties. They listened to auditioners unenthusiastically, seeming disinterested. Perhaps they wore their poker faces to keep things respectful, but I was a little disappointed because table 2 next to us had some judges who were having a good time and smiling back at auditioners, even grooving to the beat of their songs. I realized while I stood there that my pal Jen who I'd met a couple days before was about to audition for table 2. I watched her back as she sang (couldn't hear a thing) and it looked like they'd asked her to sing something else. After the judges took a moment to whisper back and forth, they excused the group and Jen left a non-winner. I was bummed for her as well.

Finally, it was my group's turn. I was third to sing in my group of four. The two girls who sang before me were clearly untalented. I approached the judges with a smile, and I performed well. I remembered everything I wanted to do-- supported sound, soul, story-telling, eye contact with judges, feeling the words. As I finished the last line of the first verse, the hand popped up, cuing me to stop. I did so, feeling disappointed that I only got a short amount of time. Judging by the video we'd previously made, that's about 20 seconds of singing. Then the last member of our group sang. He was fine but not extraordinary, and I heard a couple nervous mistakes. They asked him to sing something else. He did. Then they took a moment to whisper and called us all up. The brunette said, "Girls, we're sorry, but you're not what we're looking for." and I think they gave a pass to the dude next to me.

It was anticlimactic. I took a couple steps and my wristband was snipped off. It felt like something was missing. I was disappointed but not really upset. It was sort of like tasting something yucky. Part of it was that I didn't like being called a "girl", and I also didn't like being lumped into or associated with the other two girls I was dismissed with. They weren't taking any time to explain reasons of course and I wasn't expecting one, but it just ended in such a blah way.

As I left, I saw Tanya standing outside waiting for someone. She was a non-winner too. I asked her what she sang and she'd done "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and felt like she didn't get enough time to show them anything. She's probably right. I felt the same way about my 20 seconds.

I am very glad I had this adventure. I would've regretted not doing it for forever and always wondered what could have been. I learned a lot in this process and rediscovered the singing side of me that I'd neglected for a few years. I move on without losing anything, with only a great story and a lot of gratitude. I definitely don't feel like my rejection has anything to do with singing ability. I didn't take it personally because-- how could I? There's no way to reject someone on 20 seconds in any meaningful way, really. Their choice was made so quickly and I am sure there are other agendas at play than just a talent search,i.e. who makes good TV, gender, your "look", your age, etc. Ethan and I noticed as we watched before my audition that it was definitely a 2:1 ratio of guys getting through compared to girls. Maybe there was a focus-on-the-dudes plan for San Fran? I don't know, but I do know that the process is not as egalitarian as the show likes to bill it. And I don't think it's sour grapes to say so either. They are allowed to have agendas and shape their show how they see fit. For some lucky singers, it is a fun opportunity, but I do think luck plays a significant role.

As we drove back to Santa Cruz, I made a few phone calls to family and it was sweet to hear their disbelief. At that point, I felt relieved more than any other feeling. I felt glad it was over, glad I could remain in the moment rather than living in anticipation. I was glad I didn't have to think about how I am perceived any more, what a person might think of me. I was glad I didn't have to think about how to wean Jack before I really wanted to, glad that I didn't have to put off playing with Harper so I could practice. I don't think any children were harmed in the making of this story, but I do feel glad that this story is concluded.

We said goodbye to my mom when we got back to Anya's house. (Thank you soooo much, Mama!) That night we opened the champagne and celebrated the story over really good pizza. Anya kept saying it is so good for us to do things that don't make sense, that are out of our normal routine like this. She and Joe had just climbed Mt. Whitney less than a week before and she is a very adventurous, brave person. She was totally right though, that as inconvenient as it was to arrange and execute with my two little ones, the whole thing was invigorating.

The next morning we took Harper and Jack to the Monterey Aquarium to celebrate her upcoming 3rd birthday. We met Susan and MaryAnn there, along with their grandson Enzo. They gave us the tour since they are regulars at the aquarium. Harper loved it and I loved it too because my mind never wandered from the moment, my heart never raced from fear of the future. I'm probably not the best candidate for stardom anyway. When the cameras are on, I answer all the questions wrong, and I really just like my life the way it is. I want to be a singer not out of some intense drive or ambition, really... it's more about having a cup that runs over. I have so much joy and contentment in my life and I want to share it. I hope that's not too corny.

My plan now is just to sing more. Simple as that. It makes me happy, and I want to do it more. Maybe that means community choir, or maybe that means I hit a studio and record myself singing children's songs for my kids... or perhaps I can coerce my big brother to start a band together or something and "we'll take over the world" (as Danielle says). We'll see!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Got the Wristband!


Here it is, the official wristband. Ethan and I left our house yesterday at 3:30 AM, and arrived at the Cow Palace in San Fran at 7:30 AM. We stood in line for only 2 hours (surprised us, we'd planned on an 8 hour wait) to get our wristbands. While waiting, we met a couple other auditioners, Jen and Tanya. Jen was from Oregon and Tanya from Petaluma, and both described their vocal range just like I'd describe mine: 1st tenor to 2nd soprano. They were both nice people and I was comforted by the fact that Jen was the same age as me and she had a baby at home, too. Curious later, I wish I'd asked what audition songs they were singing... or even better, heard them sing! Jen is a vocal teacher and Tanya is fresh out of college, planning to begin teaching HS history after she finishes her credential. They were normal people with normal back stories. Talking to them helped the time pass more quickly and also eased my nerves. Seeing the crowd and knowing that about half of the people there were going to be doing the same thing as me: singing their hearts out for a short window of time, daring to dream out loud, gave me more courage. I guess the thinking is something like, if they can do it, so can I (and hopefully, I can do it better!).

I return Thursday morning (they say to arrive at 5 AM) and who knows how long that day will be. Jen, who had auditioned in Seattle a couple years ago, said she was there for 18 hours because she was in the unlucky last section of the stadium. She also said they'd clearly met their quota of talent (which she estimated 20 people), and were putting through all the freaks. I hope I have more luck than that! Please send me your prayers, well-wishes, and most positive thoughts on Thursday!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Audition Concert

First of all, thank you so much to all the friends and family who came over this morning to listen to me sing and give me some constructive criticism. One of the hardest parts of this process so far is choosing the right song. I had seven songs on my list of possibilities this morning and I've narrowed the list down to three as a result of your comments. The original list included: A Change is Gonna Come and I'll Take Care of You (as you saw), Dimming of the Day (Bonnie Raitt), Samson (Regina Spektor), Summertime (from Porgy and Bess), Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers), and Crazy (Patsy Cline). I've decided to focus only on A Change is Gonna Come, Crazy, and Samson for auditions. This means I can put my efforts this week into polishing them up! That's a big help.

It was also good for me to face some of my nervousness and sing for a crowd, albeit a friendly crowd. Singing (especially a cappella) can feel very vulnerable and I definitely feel like there's no place to hide when I am being heard. A wrong note is very obvious; a weak phrase sticks out. It is a challenge for me to open myself up in such an exposed way. I am learning to trust my body and expect the notes to be there, and it gives me the confidence to push through this anxiety. When I think positively and trust myself, a calm softens my whole body and the notes are so much easier. I have to remember that on audition day.

This concert/party came at the right moment for me. Last week, Ethan and I made the important decisions for our travel plans and child care, so those concerns were laid to rest. But I was still feeling overwhelmed with song-choice. With a narrower list, I can spend the next week "working them into my voice", which is how I describe the process of singing a song so repeatedly that it becomes a part of my bones. When I have the lyrics and phrasing "worked in", I can start thinking about the emotions and meaning of the song, its message, the most important part! I am looking forward to getting these songs to that point, where the songs are a part of me. With that done, I can sing from inside each note rather than anticipate the next chorus or lyric. This is the focus of my next week, a tedious path toward the important.

I had a great time this morning sharing a few songs, some mimosas, coffee and Ethan's amazing Danish and scones. The hugs and well-wishes felt great, too. I feel very loved and supported, and I am so grateful that I have the incredibly loving family and friends that I do. I am having a blast following my dream! Thank you for encouraging me to do so!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Vote for Belty Song

Here are two videos of me singing the two "belty"/loud songs I'm considering for the American Idol audition. I will also be posting the two soft/controlled songs soon. Please watch both videos and vote for your favorite by leaving a comment. Bare in mind that most auditioners only have between 10 and 30 seconds to wow the producers. I look forward to your input.

video

video

Ethan and I recorded these in a fever while Harper and Jack were momentarily distracted by a Baby Einstein video in the living room. In fact, you can hear Jack squealing while he scoots down the hall in the Dixie Chicks' song. Unfortunately the video camera is not the most amazing sound recording system, but we wanted to get something up so we could hear your thoughts.

Further consideration: It has been tossed around the blogosphere that one should not sing a Dixie Chicks song for Fox producers. (Remember the Dixie Chicks caught a lot of flack from their conservative fans for their opposition to the war, and Fox has a reputation for being a conservative network.) Any thoughts? Also, last season, Syesha Mercado received quite a bit of praise for her rendition of "A Change is Gonna Come" and it can be a dangerous game to set yourself up for comparison. Any thoughts?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh My Goodness... Three Weeks?!

http://www.americanidol.com/news/view/?pid=1367

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fear and Gratitude

Everyone says that having children changes you; even Johnson & Johnson has a commercial on TV right now saying as much... I believe it's phrased "Having a baby changes everything." This cliche is repeated because it resonates. Since I've had my children I have changed... but actually I think the most important changes began when I married Ethan. That was the beginning of my "attached" life.

As a teenager and young adult, I never really felt the invincibility or impulsiveness associated with this phase. I was aware of my mortality and I was intentional. I was never reckless with my body or my health, and I appreciated my life and opportunities, but I was never afraid of losing it either. In fact, I had heard that many fear death, but I didn't really understand why one would fear what is inevitable. Maybe I took life for granted. I felt a lot of freedom and enjoyed those years, the feeling of being "unattached", and all of the possibility that implied. Retrospectively, this period is marked by fearlessness and independence. But when I compare myself now to then, I really appreciate where I am now: I prefer being attached.

When E and I married, fear and gratitude became a part of my life. I began feeling much more fear. All of a sudden, I have someone I could lose and whose loss I'm not sure I could actually recover from. At the same time I've felt afraid, I've also felt lucky. I have someone I don't want to loose, and I am so grateful for who-Ethan-is, the unique set of characteristics that he possesses. I know no one else on earth could suit me the way Ethan does. While appreciating my husband, I have felt at once the deepest fear I've ever known, and also the deepest gratitude.

At first, I worried about just losing him, especially and specifically losing him without ever having our children. I knew that I wanted to be a mother, and that I wanted Ethan to be the father of my babies. His gentleness, insight, careful consideration, talents in the kitchen, patience, sense of humor... I wanted my children to inherit these traits and have his wonderful influence in their daily lives. The thought of that dream being robbed of me would have me gripped in fear sometimes, and then I'd shake myself out of that daze and remind myself that I could actually just look forward to this instead of worry about it not happening. I'd come back to reality feeling so grateful that I had such a loving husband and future-father.

Since marrying Ethan, I've begun praying again. It may be ironic to say that, considering Ethan is not particularly religious, but the joy our marriage has inspired definitely makes my cup run over and I often feel compelled to thank God in these moments. My most common prayer is one of simple thanks. I silently thank God when I have a moment and I am thinking of how lucky we are to have each other, how our happiness continually grows and I always feel like I am happier than I've ever been, how confidently I can face an unknown future because I have a wise husband who I can trust and who values me.

Now that we have Harper and Jack, my fears have not subsided; they have changed. I still worry about losing Ethan, and I wonder how could I manage the two kids without him? But my greater concern is now how my kids would manage if either one of us were not here. In the course of three years, I've got two amazing people who really rely on me and Ethan. I fear death in a way that was completely alien to me at age 20. In fact if 20 year old Ruthie were to see me now, she wouldn't recognize this new part of herself at all.

Being attached to my wonderful family has brought with it a fear of losing any one of them, and also a fear of how they'd cope if I weren't here, but I am learning to not allow myself to tarry in those thoughts. As soon as I have the "What if..." imaginations, I have learned to say "Thank you" to God for giving me such joy and feel instead the warmth of loving my family rather than the thought of losing them. I've learned that fear and gratitude are incompatible. When I choose gratitude, the fear runs away. I've never had to so much to lose, but then again, I've never had so much.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

American Idol

Since the season finale of season 7, I've been researching and remembering songs that suit my voice. Those who are close to me or who've known me since the high-school-solo days know that I have fancied myself a singer and that music moves me, more than any other art form. A close second is words/literature, specifically the conciseness and subtlety of poetry... but see, music can marry the two-- tune/melody with words, and thus, for me, its power is unmatched.

I am reminded of my little son, Jack. Over the last month or so he's begun bouncing to rhythms, both musical ones (a new song on the stereo) and ambient ones (two blocks struck together). His lullaby soothes him. He's only 8 months old, but he is sensitive to sounds. They clearly please him and comfort him. "Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast" (Shakespeare), I suppose. Even Harper remarked the other night while I sang to the two of them, "Mama, I like when you sing that song because it makes me feel calm." Music must just be a part of our human nature: the desire to make and hear beautiful, organized sounds, just as we attempt to beautify and organize our surroundings.

As I weed my garden and plant new flowers, I am gratified by the changing shape of our yard, the way it begins to feel cheery or functional, bountiful, tame, or comfortable. Gardening is satisfying in similar ways to music and singing for me; both change the way I feel, both improve my well-being, both satisfy, both make me feel more like myself.

I haven't been singing enough over the past few years. Since college, I haven't been involved in any formal or organized singing group like a choir or a band. As a result, singing has been left to the spare moments, moments I have fewer of as I've had my children. I used to sing on my commute to work as a teacher. The half hour to and from afforded enough time to sing with my favorite songs. But since I've been at home I haven't had a commute to myself. I'm never alone. Trips to the grocery store are with my kids in tow, Harper narrating and questioning, all of us singing along with kids' music. Kids' songs don't have quite the sweeping power of grown-up tunes. There are no notes to hold or phrases to belt, no differences in dynamics whatsoever. The words are often just-for-fun, joyful, or didactic-- never the gritty stuff of adult music. I've actively missed music, and as I've begun carving out some singing time the past few weeks, I've realized that it's not something I want to leave behind anymore.

Over the course of this season of American Idol, I've begun to imagine myself a singer again, as far removed as it is from my day to day. This fall (season 8) is my last chance to actually audition because I am 28 years old. Knowing this is my last opportunity for the show has infused a little urgency and excitement into my thinking. I've always wanted to pursue something musical, and this year, I am going to do it. I know its bold to say this publicly, but I am going to go ahead and dream big, and I am going to practice and prepare. I am making some time for my lofty dream.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Getting Crafty





I didn't really know I had it in me, but over the course of a few days, I've become a hot glue gun junkie.

The other morning, I visited Erin Largoza and the kids played together while she showed me her latest obsession, making hair clips for her unborn daughter. After having two (beautiful) sons, she is expecting a girl and she's very hip on the idea of another female in the house. She had her supplies out and was tinkering with how to make it all work and what ribbon and buttons to pair together to make the cutest clips. She had a few already made and she made a couple while we visited. Harper left her house that morning with an Erin Largoza original hair clip in her hair, a very cute one with a blue flower on it. Harper wore the clip all day and I admired it, and then in the evening we had the Clark family over. Katia complimented Harper's clip and it occurred to me that I could make them, too!

So while I composed my own designs, I sat there thinking, why had I resisted this crafty concept? I concluded that I hadn't jumped at the idea because it feels so out of my personality to be buying ribbon and buttons, browsing the scrapbooking section of the craft stores. It feels like another kind of mom, inconsistent with the dirt under my fingernails. Since the only jewelry I wear consistently is my wedding ring and the bobby pin in my hair, I don't think of myself as particularly girly and I suppose I was thinking of the hair clips as a girly, feminine thing-- fun and attractive, but completely unnecessary. (Yikes, is that what "girly" conjures for me?) Added to the inherent girliness of the clips themselves was the girliness of the act of making clips as well: taking the luxurious time out to create something beautifying.

Irresistable side note: I remember when I read The Great Gatsby in high school, E's favorite book, and the character Daisy described what kind of daughter she wanted her little one to be-- a "beautiful little fool". As frightening as this was to conceive, that a mother would want her daughter to be nothing more than a shell of a person, existing for others' pleasure rather than her own, the sentiment mirrored my own conceptions about beauty and smarts: that they are incompatible. I realize I am entering into murky feminist territory here, where there is much to say and I really don't want to flesh it all out... I merely want to point to the fact that I have focused rather on my brain than my face. (No judgment here for the face-focusers. Ok, maybe a little.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I realized this week that I could be girly and submit to my visions of cute hair clips for my daughter, beautifying her without making her into a fool. Truth be told, I do want Harper to be beautiful. In fact, I think she already is and it's something about her that I appreciate. And beauty doesn't have to just be for the benefit of others. I think Harper will someday enjoy her own beauty (if I don't mess her up with some complex and society's definitions don't impose too much). And as for her mind, she's already proven to be a smart girl. She's two and a half and reading. We spend time learning together, more time than we do slipping clips into her hair.

And so I reconciled my concerns about beauty and brains: that both Harper and I could spend a little more time on the girly, fun beauty stuff like flowery clips and grograin ribbon and that doesn't lessen our smarts or tenacity, strength or cleverness. It simply means we can be beautiful and smart. Why not put the cherry on top?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In Beginning...

Once Ethan and I went to a God class at the synagogue. I wasn't raised Jewish, in fact I was raised Christian/Mormon, but I've always been curious about Judaism, and I've always been attracted to Jewish culture, not the least of this curiosity includes falling in love with a certain tall, dark Jewish man named Ethan Isaiah. So we went to this class, which had an interesting premise: attempting to infer some of the traits of God through his actions in the Bible. It began with Genesis 1:1, which is most often translated as "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." It was claimed in the class that the more appropriate translation of this verse would actually be "In beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...". This minor difference of losing the definite article has interesting semantic ramifications.

"In the beginning..." suggests a void before, a definite starting point to which one could point and define a start. It could suggest even a beginning to the universe or God himself, placing a limit on what we normally conceive of as infinite. Sans 'the', the verse suggests a more fluid start, less defined and less exclusive. Perhaps God existed but was static, and then at some point began to create; among the first of his creations was the heavens and the earth.

Why am I writing this out? Well, I'm starting this blog today, which definitely didn't exist yesterday, but represents merely making more concrete (typed words) my abstract thoughts and feelings, which predate the existence of the blog itself. In beginning, I'd like to say I've already begun.