Friday, January 30, 2009

Fix You (Coldplay)

I can't recall the last time I went this long between posts... but I returned late Tuesday night from spending a week with my mom and have only now slowed down enough to process and record my thoughts - I already know this is going to be long, so settle in with a cup of hot tea (or join me for a glass of wine, which seems to take the edge off the telling)...

I've written here before that my 78-year-old mom has pulmonary fibrosis and kidney disease, both chronic, irreversible and incurable illnesses – at this point, it's a matter of attempting to slow down the progression and maintain her comfort level. When I saw her at Christmas, I could tell she was much worse than when I'd gone up for the Dar trip at the end of October, only a few months before – I felt the need to have a quality, one-on-one visit with her, outside the structure of our family holiday hecticness of so many people, so little time. Since I'm still unemployed (I continue to plead the blessing-in-disguise defense), I feel fortunate I had a window of opportunity in which to follow through – add to that a $150 round-trip deal, and it was the proverbial offer I couldn't refuse...

Mom has been on oxygen 24/7 since mid-September – her basic routine is to get up, make a pot of coffee and settle in to a corner of the couch in her living room, where she stays the majority of the day, watching television and napping, leaving there only to get something to eat or go to the bathroom or return to her bedroom at night. Breathing is more of a struggle when she moves around (activity also causes coughing) – it's therefore more comfortable (and comforting) for her to stay as sedentary as possible. Mom is so frustrated – her mind is still so sharp but her body is betraying her...

The first thing I did when I arrived was to head up to Publix and spend $200 on healthy foods to cook for mom – I planned a week's worth of meals, the most important of which was the Southern sh*tpot of soup, for which I used ground turkey and organic vegetables: carrots, green beans, onions, corn cut off the cob and rice (I had to use white because people with kidney disease can't process brown rice... nor whole grain pasta, wheat bread or any high-fiber foods). We had the soup for dinner that evening and I put up 8 containers in the freezer – I did the same for each subsequent meal such that, by the time I left there were 19 Tupperwares stockpiled for future use (2 of them contributed by my dear sister, who will continue the ritual... :-)

Another reason for going was to assess mom's 24/7 routine, as well as gauge how she's able to accomplish certain tasks (with or without help) and what tools/support she needs to make her life easier on a day-to-day basis – first of all, thankyoujesus for my sister Mari, who gets mom to all her doctor appointments and runs interference with the medical/insurance/paperwork world... and to my brother Brad, who stops in weekly or every other week to handle major tasks that mom cannot (grocery shopping, putting up/taking down her holiday decorations, changing the sheets on her bed, etc.). Mari and Brad each live about 30 minutes from mom, which is quite a consolation to me, 12 hours away – I do not take them for granted...

Then there is mom's secondary support group, the amazing angel neighbors of Rose, Claire and Ann – seriously, mom would never have been able to stay in her house as long as she has without their assistance. They are all dear in their own way... Rose sweet, soft-spoken and a great listener (she's a nurse); Claire strong, independent, outspoken; Ann judgemental, tactless, protective – Rose walks across the street and visits with mom each evening, and Ann and Claire call her during the day and, if mom doesn't answer her phone after a few attempts, one of them will go to the house to check on her. They will carry her laundry basket to the utility room so mom can wash clothes, take her garbage to the dump (no curbside pick-up in Flowery Branch, Georgia!) and bring in her mail – they are glad to run errands, do chores and buy anything mom needs while they're out...

Mom and I did a lot of heart-to-heart talking while I was there, which I knew was cathartic for both of us – one thing she wanted to do, which we split into two days, was to go through each room of the house, her telling me about various pieces of furniture, knick-knacks and photos. What could have been a sad experience was instead bonding and joyous, as mom filled me in on the history/backstory of cherished items, some of which I knew and others I didn't – it was lovely having her describe the pins on her hat when she was an Atlanta Olympics volunteer... and pointing out the myriad uncles/aunts/grandparents in the sepia-toned stills of Italian families on both sides. It wasn't about divvying up or tagging, but instead a walk through her past - I of course took copious notes, and will type up a document which I'll e-mail to my sister, who will print and have mom look over and make corrections, if necessary. Mom did, however, give me a silver necklace I admired when we were going through her jewelry – Ralph (her second husband, who was killed in a car accident 8 years ago) gave it to her for Christmas in 1999 and the sentimental value is priceless...

Friday afternoon I drove mom to her haircut appointment – she did fine up to a certain point (having her portable oxygen tank with her), but ran out of energy toward the end. Myra, her hairdresser, walked us to the car and sweetly told mom that, from now on, she'd be more than glad to come to mom's house and cut her hair (as she had a few other people she did that for) – we were so touched at her offer, and I've encouraged mom to take her up on it...

Friday night we watched the movie Young @ Heart, an uplifting documentary which Anne told me about when I posted Yes We Can Can for Hope and Change Week on Star Maker Machine, warning that a few of the elderly characters died during the making – we decided to go ahead with it, and were so glad we did, as mom truly enjoyed, despite the bittersweet nature of the film which celebrates the aging process, knowing their accomplishments were beyond her capabilities. The soundtrack was amazing and, even though my husband is a big Coldplay fan (as is my daughter), I've never really listened to their music – the song I used for this blog post title, Fix You, hit me in the heart as it began as a duo between two male characters and ended up as a solo...

My sister and brother came over Saturday night for a confab with me and mom, to discuss short- and long-term options – it was a great brainstorming session, in which we came up with so many options to expand her ease of operation around the house: Brad will buy and install a hand-held shower attachment for mom's bathroom; we will get her a LifeAlert necklace; I set up one of her spiral notebooks as a To Do List of Chores/Errands/Purchases so she can write down whenever something needs done (rather than having to remember it) when someone asks how they can help; I got my aunt's walker out of the garage and although mom stubbornly refused to use it most of my visit, she did try it out my last few days there and begrudgingly admitted it made things a bit easier; I placed a few of her dining room chairs throughout (calling them “halfway houses”), in which she could sit and catch her breath on her way from one room to another...

Saturday afternoon we (my mom, me, Mari and Mari's 12-year-old daughter Julia) played Scrabble – I kicked everyone's *ss (as usual!)...

Sadly, my sister told me a few weeks ago that she's getting a divorce... and thankfully so far everything's been amicable – the blessing in disguise here is that Mari will now be looking at houses with a downstairs bedroom/bath for mom to move in. Mom has informed us she wants to stay in her own house as long as she's able, and we agree – however, it's nice to know there's a Plan B when the time comes (as of this writing, Mari had put in an offer on a house which feels like a meant-to-be... and my purple candles have been burning non-stop)...

We also came up with lots of questions to ask mom's new pulmonologist, which she saw Wednesday, the day after I left – a full report on that tomorrow...

I brought my laptop and 5 books and was able to do a bit of work/play at night or when mom napped or showered, but didn't have nearly as much free time as I thought I would (getting through only 3/4 of one of the novels) – I didn't even walk while I was there, mostly because it was cold but also because I didn't want to leave mom alone for long. I concentrated on staying strong and upbeat when we were together, but allowed myself to fall apart in the car running errands... or late at night when she was asleep... or in the shower (like Glenn Close in The Big Chill) - it sometimes was too much to bear, as it still is when someone asks how she's doing and I feel so fragile I fear I will shatter into a million pieces...

One of the things I did when I got home was to set up an e-mail distribution group called The Connie Circle, consisting of me, Mari, Rose, Claire, Ann and my daughter Sarah – this way we can all keep each other in the loop regarding doctor appointments, visits and ideas...

I don't know who was more grateful for our time together, me or mom - she was so appreciative of my assistance and company... and I felt glad to finally be able to do something tangible instead of worrying long-distance...

To be continued...

here, here, here, here and here...

Fix You by Coldplay (YouTube video here...)

The Breakdown Lane by Jacquelyn Mitchard

POEM: For the Traveler by John O'Donohue

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

QUOTE: "Live with skillful nonchalance and ceaseless concern." ~ Prajnaparamita Sutra

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change You Can Believe In (Erik Balkey)

Don't faint! - two posts in one day. It had to be done - what an amazing, as well as historic, day... :-)

Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address
January 20, 2009

Following is the prepared text of President-elect Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, as provided by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

SONG: Change You Can Believe In by Erik Balkey (performed by Tom Prasada-Rao, featuring Beth Wood, Cary Cooper, Amy Speace, and Robin Cate, with Bill Kahler on saxophone)

The Inauguration of Barack Obama: A Photographic Journal by The Washington Post, Foreword by Ben Bradlee

POEM: Praise Song for the Day (inaugural poem) by Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

QUOTE: "We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right." ~ Rev. Joseph Lowery, Civil Rights leader and former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), delivering the inaugural ceremony's benediction

America's Song ( and David Foster)

From today's Writer's Almanac:

Today is Inauguration Day. The Constitution mandates that each new president take the following oath of office:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. George Washington also started a tradition of adding the line "so help me God."

Until 1937, Inauguration Day was March 4th. But it was changed in 1937 by the 20th Amendment, because there was no reason to have that much time between November elections and the inauguration.

The shortest inaugural address was the first one, delivered by George Washington. It was 135 words long. The longest inaugural address was by William Henry Harrison — it was 8,495 words.
There have been three poets who have recited at inaugurations. Maya Angelou read at Bill Clinton's first inauguration, Miller Williams at his second. In 1961, Robert Frost appeared at John F. Kennedy's inauguration. Frost wrote a poem specifically for the occasion, called "Dedication." It began:

Summoning artists to participate

In the august occasions of the state

Seems something artists ought to celebrate.

Today is for my cause a day of days.

And his be poetry's old-fashioned praise

Who was the first to think of such a thing.

And it ended:

A golden age of poetry and power

Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.

But because the January morning was so bright, and the glare on his faint typewritten paper was so intense, the 86-year-old Frost had a hard time reading the poem he had composed. So he recited one of his poems that he knew by heart, "The Gift Outright." It was a great moment for poetry.

About a month ago, Barack Obama announced his inaugural poet: Elizabeth Alexander, a professor at Yale. Obama knows Alexander from the days when they both taught at the University of Chicago. And Alexander has been working on her inaugural poem ever since.

Some of these events have happened already... and some are yet to come - how exciting is all this?!? (rhetorical question... :-)

WASHINGTON, DC - The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) is pleased to announce the producers and initial talent lineup for WE ARE ONE: THE OBAMA INAUGURAL CELEBRATION AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL, the Opening Celebration for the 56th Presidential Inaugural, to be presented exclusively by HBO on Sunday, January 18 (7:00-9:00 p.m. ET/PT). The event will be free and open to the public, kicking off the most open and accessible Inauguration in history.

The special will be executive produced by George Stevens, Jr. (The Kennedy Center Honors), and produced by Don Mischer (Olympic Ceremonies) who will also direct the special, and Michael Stevens (The American Film Institute Salutes) who is also writing the special, and will be a production of The Stevens Company in association with Don Mischer Productions.

Musical performers scheduled for the event include Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher Raymond IV, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor,, and Stevie Wonder. Among those reading historical passages will be Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington. The Rt. Reverend V. Gene Robinson will give the invocation. Rob Mathes will be the music director and arranger for the backing band, which will support all of the artists. Additional performers will be announced as they are confirmed.

"Our intention is to root the event in history, celebrating the moments when our nation has united to face great challenges and prevail," observed George Stevens, Jr. "We will combine historical readings by prominent actors with music from an array of the greatest stars of today."

"This is a great opportunity to capture an historic event in a very meaningful setting," noted Don Mischer. "We will have the statue of Abraham Lincoln looking down on our stage and a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people lining the mall -- a tableau any director would relish."

"We have found that the great artists are eager to take part and each one is working with us to find music that expresses the optimism and hope that people bring to the Obama inauguration," said Michael Stevens.

Televised to the nation, the Opening Celebration will be a declaration of common purpose and new beginnings. The Sunday afternoon performance will be grounded in history and brought to life with entertainment that relates to the themes that shaped Barack Obama and which will be the hallmarks of his administration.

HBO will televise the event on an open signal, working with all of its distributors to allow Americans across the country with access to cable, telcos or satellite television to join in the Opening Celebration for free.

The 56th Inauguration promises to be the most inclusive in history, and the Opening Celebration is one of a series of inaugural events that reflect that commitment.

On Saturday, the President-elect, Vice President-elect and their families will journey to the nation's capital via train, holding events that are free and open to the public along the way. They will be joined by a group of everyday Americans they met along their road to the White House. On January 19, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President-elect Obama will call on all Americans to make an ongoing commitment to serve their communities and their country. A new website,, makes it easy for Americans to organize service events or find existing events to participate in. To date, nearly 5,000 events have been organized across the country. That evening, Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, and their families will host a free "Kids' Inaugural" concert to honor military families, broadcast live on the Disney Channel and Radio Disney.

This spirit of openness will continue on Inauguration Day, when, for the first time in history, the entire length of the National Mall will be open to the public for the swearing in ceremony. Local D.C. students have also been given the chance to receive tickets in front of the White House for the Inaugural Parade for themselves and their family members based on the submission of essays answering the question, "How can I contribute to my neighborhood through community service?"

On the evening of Inauguration Day, the first ball that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will attend will be the first-ever Neighborhood Inaugural Ball. The ball will be broadcast live on ABC and over the Internet, bringing together neighborhoods across the country in the spirit of unity and celebration.

The sum of these public events is an Inauguration that allows more Americans than ever before to come together as one nation and one people, united in our resolve to tackle our greatest common challenges and move this country forward together.

For the latest information on the 2009 Presidential Inauguration, please visit

P.S. I am leaving first thing tomorrow (Wednesday) morning to fly up to Atlanta to spend a week with my mom... so, although I'll have my laptop with me for sporadic e-mail checks, I may not blog much (or at all) - back Tuesday, January 27...

SONG: America's Song ( and David Foster)

BOOK: Yes We Can: A Biography of Barack Obama by Garen Thomas

POEM: Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen to you.

QUOTE: "A leader is a dealer in hope." ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Monday, January 19, 2009

Up to the Mountain (MLK Song) - (Patty Griffin)

In anticipation of tomorrow's inaugural events:

'What I Want for You — and Every Child in America'
By President-elect Barack Obama

Next Tuesday, Barack Obama will be sworn in as our 44th President. On this historic occasion, PARADE asked the President-elect, who is also a devoted family man, to get personal and tell us what he wants for his children. Here, he shares his letter to them.

Dear Malia and Sasha,

I know that you've both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn't have let you have. But I also know that it hasn't always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn't make up for all the time we've been apart. I know how much I've missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me-about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn't seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential-schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college-even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.

I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you'll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other.

Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country-but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free-that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.

That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, reading me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something.

She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better-and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It's a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be.

I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you've had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so much-although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

These are the things I want for you-to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That's why I've taken our family on this great adventure.

I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every day for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House.

Love, Dad

P.S. SMM...

P.P.S. Thanks to Nelson for the song title inspiration (from his SMM Hope and Change post... :-)

POEM: What I Have Learned So Far by Mary Oliver

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don't think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of -- indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

QUOTE: "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Red Thread (Lucy Kaplansky)

From today's Writer's Almanac... about one of my favorite poets:

It's the birthday of the poet William Stafford, born in Hutchinson, Kansas, in 1914. He usually wrote poetry in the early morning. He sat down with a pen and paper, looked out the window, and waited for something to occur to him. He wrote about farms and winter, about the West and his parents and cottonwood trees.

He wrote,

In the winter, in the dark hours, when others
were asleep, I found these words and put them
together by their appetites and respect for
each other. In stillness, they jostled. They traded
meanings while pretending to have only one.

And about his own writing, Stafford said, "I have woven a parachute out of everything broken."

It's been an interesting (in the Chinese definition of the word) week - I already mentioned the full day of appointments for my friend on Tuesday... and Wednesday evening, Reba called and asked if I would come over Thursday to keep her company when the funeral home delivered Vic's cremains. We chatted while waiting, and went up to a local bagel place afterwards for an early lunch - I then picked up my friend for a follow-up doctor's appointment, at which point they removed her stitches and set up home physical therapy visits.

Somewhere along the way, I must have pulled something in my back (lifting her wheelchair in and out of my car), and I've been experiencing electrical twinges ever since - I did my walk yesterday which made it feel worse (and not better, as I had hoped), so I sat with the heating pad last night, took two ibuprofen last night before I went to bed and it does seem less painful this morning. Will do more stretching soon and walk again this afternoon - this cannot happen...

I've also been thinking about how wise the Universe is, in that every time I help someone else out, I'm paying it forward in semi-compensation and gratitude for those who are helping my mom - there are so many generous spirits in Georgia, doing what needs to be done to make her life easier... and I am glad I can be someone else's angel down here...

Speaking of my mom... I'll be leaving early Wednesday morning for a week-long visit with her, returning late Tuesday night - she was ecstatic when I called to tell her, especially after I emphasized it was spontaneous and not because of anything her doctors said (it's been full-disclosure all along, and will continue to be). I asked her to make a list of things she needs done around the house so I can help in that regard - I also want to do some cooking for her, and portion food out to freeze so she always has something healthy and easy on hand.

Then we'll just chill and chat and bond (oh my!)... with an evening reserved for a meeting with her, me, my sister and brother to discuss short- and long-term options - there are some tentative plans in the works I really can't divulge right now. I'm also bringing a few books and my walking shoes, so I can continue my vision of self-nurturing - as long as I'm still unemployed, I might as well take advantage of this opportunity to spend some quality time with mom...
P.S. SMM...

BOOK: Connections: The 5 Threads of Intuitive Wisdom by Gabrielle Roth

POEM: Ask Much, The Voice Suggested by Jane Hirshfield

Ask much, the voice suggested, and I startled.
Feeling my body like the trembling body of a horse
tied to its tree while the strange noise
passes over its ears.
I who in extremity had always wanted less,
even of eating, of sleeping.
Agile, the voice did not speak again, but waited.
"Want more" --
a cure for longing I had not thought of.
But that is how it is with wells.
Whatever is taken refills to the steady level.
The voice agreed, though softly, to quiet the feet of the horse:
a cup taken out, a cup reappears; a bucketful taken, a bucket.

QUOTE: "When you tug at a single thing in nature, you find it attached to the rest of the world." ~ John Muir

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Travel Well (Amy Speace, Jagoda, Tom Prasada-Rao, Cary Cooper)

I've written before of the monthly concert series I help present at our local UU church - it was an amazing show this past weekend, as usual, but I had to write in detail about a particular highlight:

When I arrived at the church Saturday early evening, Jud Caswell, Dave Potts and Friction Farm (Christine Stay and Aidan Quinn) filled me in - they had already been planning to work up a song together to do at the end for an encore...

Jud is friends with Amy Speace and, synchronistically, she, Jagoda (her percussionist), Tom Prasada-Rao and Cary Cooper had just finished writing (in Dallas) a song for Vic Heyman (it started in a noodling session) - when TPR and friends heard that Reba was planning to be at Labyrinth, they e-mailed the song to Jud, and he and Dave learned it that afternoon, teaching it to Friction Farm at the UU...

When the fourth (last) round was over, and received with enthusiastic applause, they gathered on-stage to sing this amazing song, called Travel Well... Jud on lead, Dave on harmony and Christine and Aidan providing back-up vocals and instrumentation - it was stunning, mentioning Rachel Bissex (bringing the wine!)... and the last verse was about Vic leaving his heart (Reba) behind, and their friends promising to take care of her.

First time performed in public... live at the Labyrinth Cafe - it was already a magical night... but that was the proverbial icing... :-)

On another note, I was with a friend from 7:00 this morning until 7 tonight, taking her to various appointments (doctor and otherwise) throughout the course of the day - what could have been a long, stressful experience was made calm and relaxing... because I brought my book with me, and had the opportunity to read off and on all day, uninterrupted and guilt-free, finally finishing it...

P.S. More SMM here and here...

SONG: Travel Well by Amy Speace, Jagoda, Tom Prasada-Rao and Cary Cooper (lyrics as yet unavailable... but you can listen here...)

A valley and above it forests in autumn colors.
A voyager arrives, a map leads him there.
Or perhaps memory. Once long ago in the sun,
When snow first fell, riding this way
He felt joy, strong, without reason,
Joy of the eyes. Everything was the rhythm
Of shifting trees, of a bird in flight,
Of a train on the viaduct, a feast in motion.
He returns years later, has no demands.
He wants only one, most precious thing:
To see, purely and simply, without name,
Without expectations, fears, or hopes,
At the edge where there is no I or not-I.

QUOTE: "It is better to travel well than to arrive" ~ Buddha

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Just Like That (Rachel Bissex)

The article below is based on an obituary posted on WFDU-FM Ron Olesko’s blog site and used in the FolkWax e-zine with Ron's kind permission - my personal commentary follows...

Vic Heyman passed away on Tuesday (January 6), leaving the Folk community to mourn the loss of one of the most supportive individuals to have graced this international "family." To the thousands who knew Vic and his wife, they were only ever referred to as ‘Vic and Reba’ – one and indivisible.

Committed folkies, they were SO much more than enthusiastic supporters. For a number of years they ran a very successful concert series in the Washington D.C. area, but their love of the music AND the people who make music took them to all corners of the globe. Vic and Reba attended every Folk Alliance conference as well as many regional events. Vic was a former board member of the Kerrville Folk Festival and they attended numerous festivals across the country each summer. Vic and Reba also wrote reviews for Sing Out! magazine.

While the foregoing could be described as their tangible public contribution, behind the scene, Vic and Reba became "parents" to numerous musicians in the Folk community. In nurturing these "children" they helped those artists gather the courage to go out on a stage and realize a dream. The through occurs that their encouragement, maybe, helped those artists write better songs. It has to be said that, in the Folk community, their support and endearing friendship was legendary.

Vic has been in poor health during the past year. Vic and Reba didn’t make Kerrville 2008, Vic was hospitalised at the time, but they attended Falcon Ridge a few weeks later and were at NERFA in November.

At this sad time, the Folk community sends its sincere condolences to Reba and "all’ her children.


It is hard to remember a time when I didn't know Vic and Reba Heyman - I first met them in February 1999 at the Albuquerque Folk Alliance. I was curious about this larger-than-life, dressed-alike husband-and-wife duo who everyone acknowledged and credited... and who even had special seats, front and center, in each major showcase room. I can't recall who introduced us, but we had a chance to chat multiple times over the course of the conference as, having similar taste in folk/acoustic performers, we found ourselves crossing paths quite frequently - at one point, I was in a Standing Room Only situation when Reba caught my eye and patted the empty seat next to her, motioning for me to join her (as I found out later, Vic was napping... :-)

We met again at the Kerrville Folk Festival in May of the same year... and again in July at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival - that was my only Kerrville experience, but for a while, I knew I could count on their delightful company twice a year (at FA and FRFF). Vic and Reba then began attending our South Florida Folk Festival, with which I was very involved... their visits at first for a week at a time, and then extending for two, three and now four-month intervals - what began as an acquaintance quickly blossomed into full-fledged friendship, as we met up for dinner (restaurants or my/others' homes), chatted on the phone and carpooled down to the (now-defunct) Main Street Cafe in Homestead (will never forget the time Vic brought his new GPS, which had us laughing the entire trip, because I could have driven that route blindfolded!).

Vic and Reba returned to Florida a few days before our John McCutcheon Labyrinth Cafe concert on December 13 and, upon spotting me, he said protectively, "don't hug me - I have a cold"... to which I replied, "too bad - I haven't seen you in six months and I'm hugging you anyway" - so glad I followed my intuition...

Vic had Parkinson's for 14 years, with his mobility becoming more limited in the time I knew them, segueing from cane to walker - he fell a few times the weekend before Christmas, was admitted to the hospital, all seemed fine... and then he took a turn for the worse. At that point, their four children visited over the course of the next week, sitting vigil by his hospice bedside - as I posted on Star Maker Machine last week, I stopped in for a visit, "brought them tangerines, stayed a few hours chatting and had an opportunity to say my goodbyes, staying strong while there and weeping all the way home"...

Vic had a wicked sense of humor, an abiding-yet-innocent love for the ladies (he did give the best hugs)... and an unlimited spirit of generosity, especially concerning folk music. Reba will remain in Florida as scheduled, and we will do whatever we can to support and keep her company during this most difficult time - I've spoken to her on the phone quite a few times, and she knows I'm available, whatever her needs.

As Phyllis Barney, past-present of the Folk Alliance just posted to their list-serve:

"Please join me in thinking of our most wonderful folk angel Vic Heyman. He passed peacefully away tonight (Jan. 6), leaving behind his beloved wife and best friend Reba, their four children, and scores and hundreds of all the rest of us - touched by his light, his generosity, his love of life, and love of folk music. Tributes will come, and they certainly should. He was a tireless supporter of folk music, folk musicians, and Folk Alliance. But tonight, I just want to remember my dear friend."

I second the emotion - R.I.P. dear Vic (now seated in a comfy chair in that Great Song Circle in the Sky... :-)

SONG: Just Like That by Rachel Bissex (Rachel wrote this song about Vic and Reba... and Dar Williams covered it on Remembering Rachel, a tribute put together after Rachel's death, which Vic produced/assembled/publicized)...

Death: The Final Stage of Growth by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

POEM: For Freedom by John O'Donohue

As a bird soars high
In the free holding of the wind,
Clear of the certainty of ground,
Opening the imagination of wings
Into the grace of emptiness
To fulfill new voyagings,
May your life awaken
To the call of its freedom.

As the ocean absolves itself
Of the expectation of land,
Approaching only
In the form of waves
That fill and pleat and fall
With such gradual elegance
As to make of the limit
A sonorous threshold
Whose music echoes back among
The give and strain of memory,
Thus may your heart know the patience
That can draw infinity from limitation.

As the embrace of the earth
Welcomes all we call death,
Taking deep into itself
The right solitude of a seed,
Allowing it time
To shed the grip of former form
And give way to a deeper generosity
That will one day send it forth,
A tree into springtime,
May all that holds you
Fall from its hungry ledge
Into the fecund surge of your heart.

QUOTE(S): "I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived." ~ Willa Cather

"Hope is grief's best music." ~ Author Unknown

"We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love." ~ Madame de Stael

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Box of Visions (Tom Russell)

At Star Maker Machine this week, the theme is babies and childbirth (ah, the Circle of Life after last week's In Memoriam topic), which has me thinking of my own amazing family - the photo above (click on it to see larger and sharper) was taken the week before we left on our trip, blown up to 5 x 7 size (cropped and with red-eye removed) and framed as gifts for those we were visiting...

I adore my spouse and kids and attempt never to take them for granted - after experiencing a week in the car together, not to mention cramped accommodations (motel rooms as well as lodging at various relatives homes), we lived to tell about it. Sure, there were flare-ups... but there was closeness too - I believe we all gained a renewed appreciation and respect for each other. It's been good to get home, stretch out and retain the sense of wonder that permeated the holidays - my three babies have turned into young adults right before my eyes... and I am so proud...

~ Daughter S, 27, has a great job at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel, planning events and taking on major responsibility with grace, style and enthusiasm - she's an asset to anything she's involved in...

~ Son R, 24, has taken on more cooking duties in the household - he definitely has a flair for creativity as well as good taste, and we're always delightfully surprised by each new concoction...

~ Son E, 20, whose 6' 2" frame encloses a heart of gold - prime example: I asked him to go to the grocery store for me the other evening (I wanted grapefruit)... and it took him longer than it should. He finally walked through the front door, telling about an older man who had tripped on the curb and fallen - as people walked all around, ignoring the situation, E stopped to help, gather his groceries and walk him to his car. I told him later I thought my late-night craving was a manifestation from the Universe - E was meant to be there at that time and place to care for the elderly gentleman...

~ Husband R, 56, who loves me when I'm completely unlovable, is the primary breadwinner of the family and rarely has an unkind word to say about anyone - this past September we celebrated 32 years together, and I can't imagine going through life with anyone else...

~ Dog Rocky, almost 14, whose hearing and sight are almost gone... but who reverts to puppy status as soon as he sees me don my New Balances, confident that I will walk him as soon as I have taken my own 3-mile trek around the neighborhood - it's a good cooldown for me, as his insistence on peeing on every tree gives me the opportunity to take long, rehydrating sips from my water bottle...

P.S. My SMM contributions so far are here and here...

P.P.S. Just got word that Vic Heyman passed, after being in hospice the last two weeks - my heart goes out to his beloved wife Reba, their four children and the extensive folk family they've nurtured and supported for so many years...

surprising as unplanned kisses, all you haven't deserved
of days and solitude, your body's immoderate good health
that lets you work in many kinds of weather. Praise

talk with just about anyone. And quiet intervals, books
that are your food and your hunger; nightfall and walks
before sleep. Praising these for practice, perhaps

you will come at last to praise grief and the wrongs
you never intended. At the end there may be no answers
and only a few very simple questions: did I love,

finish my task in the world? Learn at least one
of the many names of God? At the intersections,
the boundaries where one life began and another

ended, the jumping-off places between fear and
possibility, at the ragged edges of pain,
did I catch the smallest glimpse of the holy?

QUOTE: “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” ~ Jane Howard

Saturday, January 3, 2009

This Will Be Our Year (The Zombies)

What the h*ll - how about one more New Year post... before we move on to the business of living it (instead of writing about it... :-)


Thoughts, recollections and a satirical cocktail recipe on the year’s most alcohol-laden day, kindly offered by various Op-Extra contributors:

Suzanne Vega, Measure for Measure:

New Year’s Eve and drinking. Sometimes they go together, but not always. I have spent many austere New Years Eves alone re-reading old diaries, making resolutions and not drinking, but I will admit those are not the most fun.

The most fun was in 1989 at a party given by the band They Might be Giants in Brooklyn. Still the best New Year’s Eve party ever. Given in an apartment over a funeral parlor. I went with my sister and my then-boyfriend. We drank and danced. My boyfriend got mad and went home early. I stayed. I danced with my sister, and we stepped on the plug to the jukebox plunging the whole room into darkness and silence for a minute. What fun! Then she went home, then John Flansburg who was throwing the party went home. Then everybody else went home, and I was the last guest to leave. The sun came up gently as a car came to get me at 7 in the morning, and I said goodbye to John Linnell’s sleepy, smiling face. What a nice memory. A lovely ride home over the Brooklyn Bridge.

The second most fun was New Year’s Eve 1999. Remember Y2K? What a scam. I bought a black silk ball gown for the occasion in case the world fell apart that night. Seemed like the right thing to do. My sister and I went to my ex-boyfriend’s house (the same man that had been my boyfriend 10 years before!) and we drank a lot and danced and had a lot of fun, until I sent her flying into the radiator under the window across the room. I let go of her hand by mistake. She hasn’t danced with me since. She says it’s because I always do the Hustle and date myself. Whatever. I still remember the snowflakes softly coming down at 5 am as I caught a cab home in my ball gown.

Well, none of us drink the way we used to since we lost our brother Tim to alcoholism at the age of 36. Lately when I go out with my husband on New Year’s Eve, some of the nightlife looks scary. I watched someone who was so drunk she lay down in the crosswalk on Houston Street while her friends tried to get her on her feet before the traffic started up. I didn’t watch to see what finally happened. I suppose moderation will be the key for me for this New Year’s Eve, and that is O.K. with me.

* * *

Glenn Eichler,

Recipe: “The Blurry Zeitgeist”
3 parts Champagne
1 part vodka
1 part strawberry brandy
1 part smugness over past year’s accomplishments
1 part regret over realizing past year’s accomplishments were actually failures
1 part momentary burst of resolve followed immediately by 1 part deflating inertia
1 part nagging fear over possibility of … what was it again?
1 part self-congratulation over successfully keeping pre-New Year’s resolution to avoid marketing exec neighbor at current party
1 part cautious optimism over Obama cabinet picks
1 part bitter disappointment over Obama cabinet picks
1 part utter disbelief at Caroline Kennedy
1 part inexplicable anxiety over not remembering what earlier nagging fear was about
1 part dawning awareness that marketing exec neighbor is approaching
1 part fleeting concern over possibly forgetting to TiVo “The Biggest Loser”
1 part sinking realization that earlier nagging fear was about odds of contracting early-onset Alzheimer’s
1 part self-pity over getting stuck conversing with marketing exec neighbor
1 part self-congratulation at not being marketing exec neighbor
1 part euphoric recollection of definitely remembering to TiVo “The Biggest Loser,” thus reducing likelihood of early-onset Alzheimer’s
1 part self-loathing over TiVo full of “The Biggest Loser”
Shake well and serve with metaphysical hangover.
Happy New Year!

* * *

Jim Atkinson,

This New Year’s Eve will be the fifteenth that I will pass completely sober. I celebrate the New Year booze-free because I’ve long since quit drinking at all. But might I suggest to the majority of Americans who still do tipple — especially on New Year’s Eve — that they consider passing the last holiday of the year stone cold sober as well? After all, this is nothing if not a time for considering new paradigms, and 24 hours spent in sober reflection on — instead of Bacchanalian escape from — what we should have learned in the previous year might be just the right way to bring in the new one. Especially this year, when we need desperately to remember that while we ignored history and allowed it to repeat itself, even amidst the rubble left by the Second Coming of the Great Depression, we somehow managed to make history too, by electing an African-American president. Both are matters of sufficient import to be recalled and appreciated in the absence of stupor.

* * *

Peter Holsapple,
Measure for Measure:

By the time I had moved from Los Angeles to New Orleans in 1993, probably the drinkingest city in America, my own alcohol problem was enormous. But I just thought I was having a lot of fun. The band I moved there with was a fine excuse to get together with five close friends, a case of beer, a few bottles of champagne and tequila, and make some music: New Orleans was a perfect destination to continue the party, which we did. After the band broke up, I moved upstairs from a bar I played at so the commute home wouldn’t be quite so deadly.

My charmed life went on, immersed in boozing, unchecked by concerned friends or myself, escalating exponentially until I ended up charged with D.W.I. one night on the way home from a show where I had only drunk about three glasses of red wine. I spent a night in Orleans Parish lock-up in a room with 25 of my newest friends and a drain in the middle of the floor. The humiliation was more than I could stand. I drank cautiously a few more months, slowing to a crawl, until I decided that New Years’ Eve 2001 would be the end of it.

I moved after Katrina washed my home and a lot of my past away, and I now live with my family in North Carolina, where I grew up. New Years’ Eve now means breaking out a bottle of Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider and trying to stay up for the changing of the years, not always making it through, either.

Sometimes I think I miss the conviviality of hoisting a few with my fellows, but as I raise my glass nowadays, I toast the rebuilding of my shambolic life over seven years and look forward to the next 365 days, which will come at me one at a time. That, I can handle.

* * *

Darrell Brown,
Measure for Measure:

I am an adult child of an alcoholic. There are a lot of us out there. I was never a drinker. My job in life was the designated driver, the designated shoulder to lean on, the designated superhero to clean up the mess whenever it was needed. I do have a very strong and benevolent shoulder I inherited from my mom.

Finally, last year before New Year’s Eve, I made the long-delayed decision to let go of a few of my dearest addict friends. I was tired of feeling like the bad guy all the time. To paraphrase the song, I didn’t have time for the pain anymore. Not in 2008. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It hurt. But that’s what happens when you betray your own addictive behavior — it rebels and squirms. I thought my heart would die.

A year has passed since then. I survived. I’ve healed some, and my health and sanity has returned. With this distance in place, I now feel I can again love these people who were so dear to me. I can look back with fondness and smile at the memories of most of our time together.

To another year of health.


P.S. Thanks to Scott at Pretty Goes with Pretty (via SMM) for the heads-up on the song which prompted today's post!

Everyone has two birthdays
according to the English essayist Charles Lamb,
the day you were born and New Year's Day--

a droll observation to mull over
as I wait for the tea water to boil in a kitchen
that is being transformed by the morning light
into one of those brilliant rooms of Matisse.

"No one ever regarded the First of January
with indifference," writes Lamb,
for unlike Groundhog Day or the feast of the

this one marks nothing but the passage of time,
I realized, as I lowered a tin diving bell
of tea leaves into a little body of roiling water.

I admit to regarding my own birthday
as the joyous anniversary of my existence
probably because I was, and remain
to this day in late December, an only child.

And as an only child--
a tea-sipping, toast-nibbling only child
in a colorful room this morning--

I would welcome an extra birthday,
one more opportunity to stop what we are doing
for a moment and reflect on my being here on earth.

And one more might be a small consolation
to us all for having to face a death-day, too,

an X in a square
on some kitchen calendar of the future,
the day when each of us is thrown off the train of time

by a burly, heartless conductor
as it roars through the months and years,
party hats, candles, confetti, and horoscopes
billowing up in the turbulent storm of its wake.

QUOTE: "New Year's Day is every man's birthday." ~ Charles Lamb