Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Day, First Night

2008 is going out on a very frigid note. It’s been snowing all day and now the temperature is just 4 F (-15 C), with a wind chill estimated at about 20 below zero F (-29 C)! Brrrr!

I hope you all have/are having/will have happy New Year’s Eve celebrations and that 2009 holds peace, joy and contentment for us all!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Calling All Worcester-ites

When the Bamboo Hut restaurant on lower Main Street in Worcester closed (just for remodeling? permanently???) we began looking forward to its re-opening. As time has ticked by, we’ve noticed a number of other Vietnamese restaurants, including some in the Stafford Street/Webster Square area. My question is this: Do you have any recommendations for a really good Vietnamese restaurant in Worcester?

Just let me know via the comments and thanks in advance!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pomegranate Sighting!

Well, actually, pomegranates are widely available right now. My excitement is because we found Al Wadi Pomegranate Molasses at the Shaw’s Supermarket near Webster Square in Worcester! Last January I wrote about the challenge of finding a replacement for Trader Joe’s Pomegranate Glaze. We found Al Wadi’s product to be an excellent substitution. But up until now, we’ve only found it at Whole Foods and (not surprisingly) at a dear price. Shaw’s has priced the Pomegranate Molasses much more affordably. You can find it in their international foods aisles - which is a pretty darned interesting section of the store.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

We Love Our Subaru, But...

Remember our new generator?
Turns out, if we owned a Toyota Prius or any other hybrid vehicle, along with an inverter, we could have used the car as a generator to power our home!
Really. A family in Harvard, Massachusetts did just that during the power outage following the big ice storm. You can read about it here and read more and watch a news video here.

Now if Subaru would only hurry up and make a hybrid Outback wagon...

Friday, December 26, 2008

It Was A Furoshiki Kind Of Christmas

A week before Christmas, I discovered Furoshiki via Alabama Chanin’s blog. Furoshiki refers to a traditional Japanese fabric cloth used to wrap and carry things. A sort of highly functional origami, if you will, that can be used carry home items from a store or wrap a gift. I was immediately intrigued and set out to learn more. The more I learned, the more determined I became to wrap the few Christmas gifts we would be bringing to Carrie and Al’s home on Christmas Day, using the Furoshiki techniques.

I began with this downloadable PDF which includes illustrations of 14 different wrapping techniques. I then discovered a site devoted to Furoshiki. From there I watched a few videos including this 30 second(!) one which shows how to wrap a pair of wine bottles.

Furoshiki cloths were traditionally made of silk, but now are made out of a variety of fabrics. Some cloth squares are lined in contrasting colors and patterns to increase the strength of the square, as well as to heighten the visual interest of the final wrap. For this Christmas wrapping foray into Furoshiki, I cut out several different sized squares of holiday themed cotton fabric. I didn’t even bother to hem the fabric. I wrapped pairs of wine bottles using the Bin Tsutsumi “two bottle carry wrap” technique. I also wrapped selections of fruits, cheeses, crackers and other goodies using the Suika Tsutsumi “watermelon carry wrap” technique. One tip I found along the way was when wrapping a collection of disparate sized and shaped items, lay your furoshiki square inside a shallow bowl or basket to corral your things. This worked very well and I didn’t have fruit rolling this way and that as I tried to tie the square!

It was quite successful. The packages were very easy to carry and looked both interesting and attractive. Some recipients gave me the “Lee/Auntie Lee/Lee Ann has come up with another oddball thing to share” look! But nearly everyone absolutely loved the two bottle wrap style and declared it a vast improvement over those little paper bottle bags or sewn fabric bottle sacks. I printed out the PDF to give to folks so that they would have a starting off point to explore Furoshiki on their own. I look forward to sewing some Furoshiki squares, hemming the edges and making some lined ones as well.

Here are a couple of photos:

Suika Tsutsumi “watermelon carry wrap”

Bin Tsutsumi “two bottle carry wrap”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s not just my favorite movie, it is hands down, bar none, the best movie ever made. Call me sentimental, I’ll claim the title proudly, but dang I love that movie!

Friendship, loyalty, a finely tuned moral compass, folks working in unison to achieve a common goal, well intentioned, warm, funny individuals - It’s A Wonderful Life has it all.

Every single time I watch it I come away with a deep sense of gratitude for things big and small.

So as Chuck and I sip our eggnog with a splash Gosling’s rum from Bermuda, Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and here’s to you Frank Capra, Clarence, George Bailey and the citizens of Bedford Falls - miracles all around!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hold A Good Thought...

Please hold a good thought and send some healing energy the way of a member of our family. Tomorrow, Joe will be undergoing quintuple coronary artery bypass surgery. Many thanks...

: : Update: Joe is out of surgery and in the ICU. I don’t have all the details, but a quintuple bypass was changed to a triple. I can’t even tell you if that is good or bad. All I know is that Joe is off the respirator and coming around.

I do know it was a comfort knowing folks around the globe were sending Joe their good wishes. Thank you so very much.

: : Update Two: Joe is home and continuing to recuperate. This is definitely a tortoise and the hare situation, where slow and steady will win the race. Thanks again for all your care and concern!

Surveying The Damage

When we heard the weather forecast for warmer temperatures and rain over the next few days, we decided we’d best get some snowshoeing in today. It was in the 20s F (-5 C), but because the air was still, it felt quite mild. We didn’t go far, just out to the back part of our property. Even though we shouldn’t have been, we were still surprised by the amount of damage the ice storm wrought. The photos below show several large trees tumbled to the ground with their root balls exposed. What had been comfortable paths to snowshoe along last winter, were interesting obstacle courses today. But the last photo shows a shallow stream turned into abstract ice art; beauty amidst the destruction.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Chanukah!

In addition to today being the Winter Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere (the shortest day or the longest night), it also happens to be the first night of Chanukah. But after three days of snowfall and snow removal, we’re feeling more fatigued than festive. So tonight was limited to candle lighting and singing. The latkes and applesauce will have to wait for another evening...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Speak For Yourself Honey!

The night before the storm, which knocked out our power for nearly a week, we ran a slew of errands. One stop was at a CVS pharmacy. Chuck had looked in their weekly flyer and noticed some items we use were on sale. Because the discounts were pretty steep, we went in and stocked up. We checked out at the register and headed for the car. My arms were loaded with packages of Scott toilet paper and Chuck had a reusable shopping bag filled to the brim with containers of Sunsweet Bite Size Pitted Prunes. As we walked to the car, I suddenly realized what an unfortunate juxtaposition our purchases made! I told Chuck and he began to laugh as the penny dropped. He then announced that this particular purchase cemented the fact that we are now both a couple of A.K.s (Alter Kakers). I immediately rejected his pronouncement. I may be a lot of things - including 50 years old - but I am most certainly not an A.K.!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Silence Is Golden

The silence of the electricity flowing to our house from the grid is a beautiful thing and very refreshing after the comforting, yet relentless noise of the generator. It’s so much easier not to have to think as hard about what electrical items we want to use and when. But I can’t quite shake the feeling we were somehow “cheating” by using the generator. Having been nearly a week without power, I’m absolutely certain we made the right decision to buy the generator. But much of the creativity and problem solving was lost.

For example, several years ago we did not heed the warnings in advance of a summer thunderstorm. As a consequence, our tub was empty when the power cut out. But the heavens were still pouring sheets of rain down upon us. All that rainwater was going to waste. I looked out at the gutter downspout from the barn. It spills out beyond a stone wall which serves as a retaining wall for the driveway to the barn. I thought about it a bit and then I got a rope and a bucket. I tied one end of the rope to the handle on the bucket and the other end to the handle of one of the barn doors. I placed the bucket under the downspout and swiftly collected a bucket of water. By now I had a somewhat bemused and amused Chuck caught up in my scheme. I hauled up the full bucket and dumped the water into a larger container, which Chuck gallantly ferried up to the bathtub on the second floor. It was a really good solution to a vexing problem. With a working generator at the ready, I have no reason to do that again! Heck, I’m not even sure when or if we need to fill the tub in preparation for a storm. Yes, I am lucky to have such a nice problem, but I still need to wrap my mind around the tectonic shift in reality!

Anyhoo, about a foot of snow was forecast for our area today. The temperature stayed quite cold and so the snow was very fluffy and drifted easily under light to moderate winds. Chuck thinks we actually received closer to just eight or nine inches. But that was a sufficient quantity to allow him to rev up the new snowblower and take it for a test drive. I’m wearing sunglasses, indoors, at night, right now, because Chuck is grinning from ear to ear and it’s blinding me! That is one happy snowblowing man!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It’s Baaaack!

We are once again getting power from the grid!!!

I’m not exactly sure when it happened because we were away from the house at the time, but we’re guessing it was about 3:00 p.m. That’s six and a half days or 157 hours. Of which, we ran the generator for just 50.8 hours. It was the perfect amount of time to keep the house comfortable, the refrigerator cold and the water pumping up from the well as needed. But it is an enormous relief to have electricity flowing silently to our home and available with just the flip of a switch.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tick Tock, Tick Tock...

: : Nearly all the holiday cards are out the door and safely in the mail. There are just a few we need to confirm addresses for.
: : We chose the “Celebrate” stamps.
: : Still no electricity from the grid. Sigh... But the damage assessment teams came by earlier today doing their “bird-dogging”. And later, the tree crews came down one side of the street, but never made it back up the other side as we had been told they would. (But if you’ve been following me on Twitter, you already knew all that!)
: : As of this posting, National Grid is reporting 17,425 households in Worcester County still without power. Today’s snow and ice slowed things down and complicated the repairs. The new estimated restoration for our town has been pushed to just before midnight, Thursday, December 18th.
: : Over the years, we’ve had many different headlamps. They used to be heavy and awkward with enormous battery packs you had to clip to a belt. Now we have Petzl headlamps. They are super light with extremely comfortable headbands. Chuck’s is the Tikka XP. Mine is the older TacTikka Plus. Both have very bright, easily adjustable lights. We recommend them.
: : Our generator continues to plug away and we are getting quite used to the constant thrumming and roar of its engine. But whenever we shut it off, the silence is welcome. We also remain very grateful that we happened upon it and were able to buy it. We’ll tip over the 144 hours without electricity mark overnight at 2:00 a.m. Without the generator, we would have been sunk.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Odyssey Continues

Day Five.
Overnight, at 2:00 a.m it will be 120 hours that we have been without electricity from the grid. National Grid’s “Outages by County” webpage still shows 26,362 households in Worcester County alone, still without power. They are targeting tomorrow evening, just before midnight, as the estimated time for restoration to be completed. Having driven through a number of towns, we’ve seen that all of the crews have been doing an amazing job of undoing the damage Mother Nature wrought in just a few hours. Tonight, as we did last night, when we shut down the generator we will switch the main back on. We’d hate to miss the power being restored! (With the main circuit breaker off, there is no possibility that the electricity created by our generator, can flow out over the lines and into the grid, thereby putting utility line workers at risk.) But if all is still quiet in the morning, we will carefully shut off the main and switch the generator back on.

This afternoon I suddenly realized that Christmas is just a week and a day away and Chanukah begins at sundown this Sunday the 21st! Yikes! Between the two week visit to Washington and this most recent adventure, the holidays have been very far from my mind. So this afternoon, with the aid of the generator, we began printing our holiday cards. With any luck at all, the post office will have some bright and cheerful stamps left and we can get the cards on their way. After that, I need to make a list - a long list I fear, of things still to be done!

Monday, December 15, 2008


They say it was the worst storm of its kind in fifty years.
I cannot disagree.
All that dense, lush foliage, thankfully in its dormant winter stage, suddenly encased in dazzling, icy beauty.
But beneath the beauty, there was so much damage and destruction.
Never have I seen such havoc, except in photographs and news footage from places very far away.

Late Thursday night the storm had picked up in intensity. The temperature hovered in the narrow band around the freezing point, which allowed the incremental build up of ice on every leaf, twig, branch and trunk. By 2:00 o’clock Friday morning, we were beginning to hear cracking sounds as the weakest branches gave way under the icy load. Around the same time we lost the electricity. Throughout the night, ominous sounds woke us, leading to a fitful sleep. Come morning, the sleet and freezing rain had slowed and we emerged to survey the damage.

It did not look like our property. It seemed a cruel imitation; an echo of something lovely, relaxed and natural, contorted into something strange and ugly. And the noise; like gunshots or perhaps the sharp report of a shotgun, as thick branches snapped and crashed to the earth, hurtling through lower growth, multiplying the damage.

We wandered about, trying to take it all in. Calling out the names of trees and shrubs as we recognized them in their new humbled forms: the mock orange, the lilacs, the rhododendron, the birches. Everywhere the white birches were bowed to the ground. Through all four seasons they are bright streaks of white shooting up through the dense growth around them. We hated to lose so many, so suddenly.

Our street was drivable, but only as one long, alternating, zig zag lane. Folks drove by slowly in cars and trucks, many stopping to talk, compare notes, share news of how widespread the storm had been and pass on rumors of when the power might be restored. One group of neighbors had taken on the task of making sure our road was clear enough for emergency vehicles. They went along in a big truck until they spotted a downed tree. Then they would hop out, rev up their chainsaws, make quick work of it and move on to the next impediment.

We went back indoors to collect our thoughts and touch base with family members. (Wonderfully, with the exception of about 15 hours, we have had uninterrupted land line phone service. Cell phone service has also been remarkably reliable, periodic overloaded circuits notwithstanding.) As Chuck and I pooled the information we had gleaned from neighbors and our niece Kate who, via the phone, provided us with online news from the utility companies, we came to terms with the notion that this outage would be of unusually long duration. (It was Kate who left the update in the comments of my last post. Thank you Kate!)

Friday went by in a blur. Family members offered to open up their homes to us, but we were determined to stay put. While we had filled the tub with water to be available for flushing the toilet, we were worried about having enough potable water on hand to last us. So we drove over to the high school which was being transformed into a shelter. The folks there were happy to allow us to fill our five gallon jerry can with water. With that and the gallon jugs we had on hand, we felt ready to get through the next day or so.

While I prepared a meal by candlelight and a head lamp, Chuck got our Aladdin lamp fired up. Its classic late nineteenth century design sends out the light of about a 60 watt bulb and, on a cold winter day, a delightful amount of warmth. Come bedtime (an unusually early bedtime!) we left our three season down quilt on the bed and layered our big, poofy winter down quilt on top of that.

The next morning we headed west out to the Pioneer Valley, which had been left unscathed, to pick up a few supplies. Along the way we discussed our options. The comment we had heard from Massachusetts Governor Patrick in which he said having power restored by Monday was “ambitious”, had given us pause. Our biggest fear was having our pipes freeze. We began discussing generators. But because thousands and thousands of citizens were also without power, we figured our chances of finding one were between slim and none - and Slim just left town! As we drove down Route 9 in Hadley, we suddenly saw a brand spankin’ new Home Depot. We sat in the parking lot while Chuck phoned our neighbor Dave who knows a whole lot about a whole lot of things and asked him about generators.

When we went inside the Home Depot, Arthur at the service desk was on the phone with a customer who could have easily been us. We eavesdropped as Arthur shared that there might be a few generators on a truck, driving up from down south, later that afternoon. Arthur advised us to check back around four. We returned at three! By that point they knew there were 100 generators - of unknown size, brand and price arriving between 4:00 and 4:30. If we wanted one, we should get a number from the manager. We became number 6. Whatever the sixth generator off that truck was, it was ours. As we lined up near the back of the store, employees wheeled flatbed carts out with a generator on each one. Numbers were called out and we cheered each one with : “Congratulations! It’s a bouncing baby generator!”

Chuck placed a call to one of our neighbors who is an electrician. We asked if we could hire him to help us get the generator hooked up properly. He agreed. We also asked him what else we should purchase to facilitate that process. List in hand, we completed our purchase and headed home. By 9:00 p.m. Saturday the gasoline fueled generator began to roar and lights came on around the house. Soon our refrigerator was refrigerating, our well was pumping and our furnace was heating! It took several hours to get the indoor temp of about 39 F (4 C) up to our usual overnight of 54 F (12 C), but it worked. We shut the generator down for the night and headed wearily but happily to bed.

Sunday morning we shut off everything except the refrigerator and managed to take showers. Wow! A hot shower and a flushable toilet - bestill my heart! Clean, we then drove down to visit my Mom in Rhode Island and felt as if we were back in college as we walked in with two loads of laundry to wash and dry! Today, with the ice melted by 50 F degree (10 C) temperatures, we spent much of the day pruning and carting off debris. I’m happy to report that a surprising number of trees and shrubs have bounced back up and despite heavy losses, the yard looks a little more like it did before the storm.

We are still without electricity from the grid and still have no date certain for when it might be restored. But we are safe and sound and surprisingly well powered - all of which leaves us grateful. Thank you for your good and very warm wishes. We felt them before we could even read them!

Looking to the woods, over the clothesline

Our road, looking east

Our road, looking west

A birch encased in ice, against Chuck's hand

The damage which lies beneath

Canada Geese on a nearby pond

Sharp contrasts could be seen by the afternoon

Our Aladdin lamp sheds light and warmth

Our own private utility!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

When I stepped outside to take some photographs of the ice which had been accreting on all the foliage, it was near 4:00 p.m. and the light was already fading. At that point it all looked very much like the the photos I took last January. But with even the slightest stirring of the air, the sound was startling. A breeze would set off an eerie sort of tinkling as the frozen droplets broke free of twigs and branches, then scattered against the icy foliage below. A slightly stronger gust of wind changed the musical sound of the icy bits falling, into a cascade, punctuated by the sound of small branches breaking and crashing to the ground. All of this was hours before the worst of the storm was expected to peak.

We have electrical power and therefore heat and running water. We’re safe and warm inside our home, which happily has a brand new roof keeping out the elements. So with the temperature still hovering just below the freezing point, all is well.

Umbrella Theory

Meteorologist Matt Noyes of New England Cable News is predicting a serious ice storm for central Massachusetts and heavy snow in northern New England, over the next 24 hours or so. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is in agreement with Mr. Noyes.

Following the logic of “carry an umbrella and it won’t rain” we’ve filled the tub with water and are as prepared as we can be. But the memory of a severe ice storm in Maine back in 1998, with lengthy power outages, leaves me concerned. Perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to have the kind of ice storm I posted photographs of back in January of 2007. That storm was brief, lovely and left no lasting damage.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Catching Up To Ourselves

We began flying home a week ago tonight. I am almost caught up with the laundry! Happily, paying bills during our two week absence was very convenient due to our on-line banking. Enduring thanks to all of you who encouraged us to take the leap into the 21st century last year! Other than purchasing perishables locally, I’ve been cooking out of the pantry and the freezer for the last week. Chuck’s sister and her family welcomed us to their table nearly every night for dinner, but breakfasts were at the hotel breakfast bar and lunch was mostly “to go” soups and salads from grocery stores. So cooking at home has been a pleasure. (Chuck wants me to point out that the pleasure has been his as well!)

Today we made our first major foray to the grocery store and ran several other errands. It felt good to be out and about in our home territory once again. But we were both struck by how incredibly convenient and accessible nearly everything under the sun had been to us out in Washington State. Our commute from the hotel to Chuck’s Dad’s place took us by Safeway, Top, Fred Meyer and Trader Joe’s grocery stores, along with myriad gas stations, drugstores, restaurants and shops. It truly was an embarrassment of riches. Our little town here in central Massachusetts has everything one could need in a pinch. What it doesn’t have is vast variety and super low prices. So while we dine and shop locally, we also schlep for big grocery shopping and other bargains.

This evening, at the end of running around, crossing many things off our to do and to buy lists, we went to Chopsticks in Leominster for dinner. Oh it was nice to look at the menu and know exactly just how yummy something was going to taste before we ordered it. And yummy it all was. And friendly. The staff at Chopsticks is always very cheerful and they greet us warmly whenever we stop in. Tonight we calculated that Chuck and I have been going to Chopsticks for 23 years - Chuck even longer than that. When we walk in the door, it’s not exactly like on “Cheers” to the sound of “Norm!” (well, “Chuck and Lee!”), but it’s close enough to feel like a wonderful welcome home.

Monday, December 8, 2008

It’s Our Money!

The United States Government recently gave vast amounts of money to financial institutions, including Bank of America, in an effort to get the money in the credit markets flowing again.

Under the U.S. Government’s plan, Bank of America took 15 billion dollars.

Republic Windows and Doors, founded in 1965 in Chicago, Illinois, wanted to access their existing line of credit with Bank of America.

Bank of America said no.

Republic Windows and Doors, who once employed 700 workers, but due to economic downturns, now employ 300 workers, ran out of money to pay their employees. Last Tuesday, Republic told their employees they were all going to be laid off. And in violation of Federal law, workers would receive no severance pay and no vacation pay which had been accrued - all this on just three days notice, which is also illegal for a mass layoff.

Republic employees, some of whom have worked there for decades, took over the building. They are keeping vigil around the clock in their shuttered company as they keep an eye on the remaining assets the company possesses.

If you want to lend your support to the employees of Republic Windows and Doors you can go to the website of the union which represents the majority of the workers, The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. If you would like to send an e-mail to Bank of America you can go to Jobs With Justice and sign on.

December 10, 2008 - UPDATE:
CNN via the Dow Jones Newswires is reporting some progress in the negotiations between Republic Windows and Doors, the employees, the union, Bank of America and state and federal officials.

Thank you for speaking up for the workers!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

On December 7, 1941 the Empire of Japan attacked the United States of America at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before the United States Congress and to the nation on December 8th. Within minutes, Congress declared war on Japan, bringing the United States directly into World War II.

Here in the United States we have Memorial Day and Veterans Day, yet December 7th is inextricably linked to World War II. Not simply the attack and our active involvement in the war, but December 7th has become emblematic of the entirety of the wartime experience. Hard on the heels of The Great Depression, the attack on Pearl Harbor roused the United States from its isolationist complacency and rallied it to pull together. The overwhelming cooperation of and enormous sacrifices made by what has come to be called “The Greatest Generation”, both on the battlefields and on the home front, continue to inspire. I have no doubt, they always will.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Eight Random Things

While we were out in Washington State, George tagged me with the meme: “Eight Random Things About Me”. I knew I couldn’t focus on the task well enough until we returned home. Now we’re home, so here goes:

: : I went to Catholic school for grades one through eight. Then I moved on to a public high school. But for college I returned to a Catholic school - all girls on campus, mixed gender in the classroom.

: : I’ve worn glasses since I was two years old. I tried contact lenses in college, but always felt like I had something in my eyes. Ummm, I did! Plus, I felt not enough like myself and somehow under-dressed without my glasses on.

: : As a young child, I loved the Bobbsey Twins series of books by the pseudonymous Laura Lee Hope. I then became hooked on the Trixie Belden series. My preteen romantic favorites were the Janet Lambert series about the Parrish Family, especially Penny Parrish. Swoon and sigh...

: : Truly good bread and butter and other savory delicacies will always trump sweets for me. Although chocolate - really good, dark chocolate - is a major food group. Really.

: : For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of the dark. But as I’ve aged, the fear continues to diminish. However, we do own many flashlights and I do dearly love my salt lamps which burn around the clock.

: : My grandmother, Gagee, hoped I might become a nun. But I never, ever felt the calling - not even a teensy pull - as so many young Catholic girls do. My cousin became a nun, so Gagee had that, for a time. My Cuz left and is now happily married with children. Different callings for different times.

: : “It’s A Wonderful Life” is my favorite movie, ever, bar none. We watch it every year and every year it’s fresh and new and deeply, comfortingly, familiar.

: : Several years ago, I jumped through a few hoops and now, legally, my name consists of what I consider my real first name: Lee, followed by my maiden name and then my husband Chuck’s last name - no hyphens thank you! My parents named me Lee Ann (which someone in my family still spells incorrectly!); middle name Marie. But when I went to high school, I signed all my registration documents “Lee” because I liked the way it felt. I still do.

Now I’m supposed to tag eight people, but I’d prefer to keep this open ended and ever so slightly loosey-goosey. So you’re all invited to share “Eight (more or less) Random Things About Yourselves”, in the comments or on your own blog, or Twitter one thing at a time!

Thank you George. This was fun!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tweet, Tweedly-Deet

Lord love a duck, I’m on Twitter!

Thanks to George and Morgan I could no longer resist. So I took the plunge and signed up on Twitter. You may already be twittering(?) or tweeting(?) yourself. But if not, Twitter’s own one sentence explanation of their site is: ”Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

I’ll still be blogging here at Pink Granite via Blogger, but now you can also find me over on Twitter. Plus I’m now feeding my latest Twitter Updates into my sidebar. With a 140 character limit per update on Twitter I’m forced to keep it short and sweet.

Do you Twitter?
Well then, check it out via my Twitter page...

JetBlue Comes Through Again

We’re home safe and sound!

Our flight began in Seattle Wednesday night after eleven p.m. and we arrived in Boston yesterday morning just after seven. Along the way, the JetBlue crew did another excellent job of taking care of all the passengers with cheerful good humor. The trip was mostly smooth, but punctuated with significant turbulence. However, during each round of bumpy air, the captain calmly explained it and accurately projected when we would travel into less eventful air.

About two thirds of the way into the flight, the captain announced a medical emergency and the need for any doctors, nurses or emergency medical personnel to press their call buttons. Two buttons rang out immediately. Apparently, an older woman, seated just a few rows in front of Chuck and me, had suddenly lost consciousness. The three flight attendants behaved calmly, efficiently and quietly as they worked with the folks with medical training, to assist the passenger who had taken ill. After a flurry of activity, including the administration of oxygen by mask from a tank, the initial fear and tension dissolved as we noticed some smiles begin to emerge from those involved.

Shortly before arrival in Boston, the woman and and the gentleman sitting next to her were moved to the front of the not full to capacity plane. Their carry on luggage was also relocated. Before landing, the captain notified us that we might see emergency vehicles and personnel in evidence around the gate and not to be alarmed. He also informed us the passenger was feeling much better, but that she would be met by an ambulance. The flight attendants asked us to remain seated until she was safely off the plane. Chuck and I were seated near the back of the airplane and as we emerged at the gate several minutes later, we saw EMTs with a gurney, along with police and security officers all quietly in attendance around the passenger. As we walked by, we heard a Massachusetts State Trooper radioing in that the passenger was well enough not to need transport to the hospital.

I commend JetBlue and their wonderful crew for handling it all so beautifully. Heaven forfend I ever find myself as an ailing passenger, high in the skies over North America. But if I did, I would want it to be a JetBlue crew attending to me so warmly and efficiently. We’re writing a letter to that effect today.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What’s Next

Just a few weeks ago, we thought Chuck’s Dad might be very near the end of his life. That’s what prompted our earlier than scheduled return visit to Greater Seattle. But Dad has continued to rally and have some good days in amongst the increasing number of lower and slower days. We are grateful that we have had these nearly two weeks with him. We are especially thankful that there was that one lovely moment when he knew who we were and was able to communicate that so clearly.

So it is with mixed emotions that we will be heading home later this week. We are looking forward to sleeping in our own bed; cooking our own food; tossing a load of laundry in without checking to see if there is a line in the hotel’s “Guest Laundry”. But our hearts will be heavy knowing this may well be the last time we see Dad before he passes. While no one has a crystal ball, in his final days, we wish Dad peace and comfort and dignity. And perhaps most importantly, the knowledge certain that all his life he acted out of love as he cared for his family and is loved in return.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Change of Pace

We spent the late afternoon and early evening out on Chuck’s sister’s and her husband’s 60 year old Grandy boat. A daylong, heavy, dense fog lifted enough to allow us to cruise across Lake Union, moving through Portage Bay to Union Bay then out onto Lake Washington. We then headed over to Cozy Cove, just off Kirkland and dropped anchor. The boat floated gently in the still water as we ate our dinner. As the sun set, the Christmas lights bedecking the homes on shore and the boats moored nearby, all began to glitter and twinkle.

A sea plane about to land on Lake Union

The Space Needle across Lake Union

The often elusive Mount Rainier in the distance

Cozy Cove at twilight

A Reason To Celebrate

We’ve visited Chuck’s Dad a total of eighteen times since we’ve been out here in Washington State. Dad has had good moments and not so good moments. There have been smiles from Dad which we treasure. There has been laughter and yes, tears. This afternoon, as Chuck and I stood beside Dad’s bed, B. who takes amazing care of him, asked Dad: “Milton, who’s that man?” as she pointed to Chuck. “That’s my son.” replied Milton. “And Milton, who’s that lady?” B. asked as she pointed to me. “That’s his wife.” said Dad. That was the first time in nine days that we really knew for sure that Dad actually knew who we were.

The photo above shows Seattle’s iconic 605 foot tall Space Needle decorated for Christmas. Well, that’s what they tell the public. But I’m pretty sure they trimmed it out in celebration of the wonderful gift the 94 year old patriarch of our family gave to Chuck and me today.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The day started out wrapped in fog, but by late morning the scene above is what we enjoyed. Here in Greater Seattle it’s still Wednesday, but back home it’s tipped over into Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating in the United States. Best wishes for peace and prosperity to everyone around the globe.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two Years!

Happy Anniversary to Pink Granite! Today is its two year anniversary!

As I wrote last year, the most wonderful thing that has happened since launching this blog, is that I have “met” so many warm, kind, funny, intelligent and well intentioned people from all around the world. It is no exaggeration to say that this virtual community has broadened my horizons and enriched my life. Without the folks who read and leave comments, Pink Granite would just be me talking to myself! Thanks for making PG a fun conversation, rather than a monologue!

: : Here’s to Pink Granite readers - you rock!

Tech Note To My Blog Friends

While we’ve been away, we’ve continued to have access to the internet. After I check and respond to our e-mail, I’ve tried to stop by and visit a few blogs. Unfortunately, when I begin to leave a comment on some Blogspot based blogs, the hotel’s computer access alerts me that I am on a “fraudulent website”! If I go ahead and comment, it slows my internet access to crawl! Reading what’s happening in your lives is always interesting and these days provides a lovely distraction. So I’ll keep up with your feeds and comment when I can.

Up & Down

On both of our visits with Chuck’s Dad yesterday, he was very subdued, withdrawn and sleepy. Because of that, it was the toughest day for us. Then, on our visit this morning, it was as if we had been transported back to the spring. Dad was downright chipper compared to yesterday, enjoying his beverages and interacting with us - including some big smiles. But after about a half an hour, Dad’s energy ran out. There’s no way to know what we’ll find when we visit with him this afternoon, but we felt so lucky to have been there with him during that bright spot.

Monday, November 24, 2008

T.J. Maxx & Milton

Many years ago, a chain of discount clothing stores called T.J. Maxx had a commercial jingle which went like this: “...never, ever the same place twice...”. Since we have been out here visiting Chuck’s 94 year old Dad, Milton, that song keeps running through my mind. You see, every visit with Chuck’s Dad is a little different from the one before. We last saw Dad back in the spring. In the intervening seven plus months he has declined a great deal. On this trip we visit him twice a day, as was our custom in the spring. But whereas last March and April there seemed to be a certain rhythm to Dad’s condition and his energy level and comfort throughout the day, as well as day to day, this time it feels random and unpredictable.

Visiting and attending someone who has lived a full, long life as he nears the unknowable end, leads to a welter of emotions and thoughts. I can’t help but think back on my Dad’s final months with Alzheimer’s Disease. Chuck thinks about his Mom in her last months, succumbing to the same cruel illness. Chuck and I find ourselves discussing difficult practical matters such as ordinary vs. extraordinary means, as well as philosophical questions about the meaning and purpose of life. The practical matters were addressed and resolved earlier this evening in Chuck’s sister Carol’s and her husband’s living room, when we weighed the pros and cons of all sorts of comfort care vs. active intervention care.

The philosophical questions still hang in the air, awaiting further conversations. But one thing became clear to me this afternoon: even as Dad’s capacity to interact and his abilities and health diminish, he is still influencing and driving this family. Without the prompt of his circumstances, Chuck and I wouldn’t have moved reviewing our health care proxy and medical directive forms and letters to the top of our to do list when we get home. Without Dad’s current condition, Chuck and I would not be back out here so soon, spending time with Dad as well as Carol and her family. Without Dad’s health, well being and quality of life constantly on our minds, Chuck and I wouldn’t be wrestling with issues of mortality and love enduring.

Even though Dad is no longer able to instruct us directly, he is still guiding us; he is still leading us; he is still teaching us. Thank you Dad.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Heading West

Chuck’s Dad, who is 94, has been under hospice care since late summer. He still lives in the same wonderful Adult Family Home, but receives additional services. Lately, Dad has had some medical ups and downs which made us feel we needed to go out and visit with him, as well as Chuck’s sister and her family. We’ll be leaving tomorrow for Greater Seattle, but don’t yet have a firm return date.

I’m not sure when I will be posting next, but I will stay in touch. Knowing my regular readers, I thank you in advance for your good wishes and kind thoughts.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Little More Buttoning Up

While the meteorologists said today would be the warmest day of the week, we still had a few tiny, tentative snow flurries this afternoon. Of course these arrived just as Chuck was climbing the ladder to clean the gutter on the front of the barn. Because our barn is old and swaybacked, even after extensive renovations, our fairly new gutter has a matching dip in it. The gutter guys who took the installation job were none too pleased with our obvious contentment with a less than rectilinear structure, but gutter us they did. The consequence is that every autumn, after the last oak leaf from the tree next to the barn has drifted to the ground, Chuck climbs up the ladder and empties the troughy part of the gutter of its accumulated debris. If for some reason Chuck does not climb the ladder, come spring, little green shoots will start sprouting up in the lowest point of the gutter; a jaunty spring green feather in the barn’s cap!

Another task we tended to today was checking the drain in our cellar. Late this summer, we noticed what we initially thought was just the opening of a chipmunk tunnel in our driveway. But then it got bigger - and deeper. Luckily it got smaller and eventually disappeared. But during the expansion, contraction and deconstruction, we began to have a nagging worry that the hole might just be over the approximate line our cellar drain runs along. Considering the excitement we had last September with our waste pipe, we vacillated between the narrow range of out of sight, out of mind and putting our heads firmly in the sand. Today we pulled our heads out, dragged a hose into the cellar and ran water through the cellar drain. The important word in the last sentence was “through”. It worked. No puddles formed at my feet; another bullet dodged!

Hmmm... I think I’m beginning to understand why people move to condominiums...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

”Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Mom
Happy Birthday to you -
and many more!

My Mom, Dorothy, is celebrating her 85th birthday today!
Yay Mom!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Ocean

Standing on the ocean floor - the tidal bar which connects Mount Desert and Bar Islands at low tide

I have always loved the ocean and been drawn to it. I love its beauty and its constancy. I respect its power. I never liked swimming in the ocean after dark. The few times I have, I’ve felt as if I were overstepping my bounds, intruding on the ocean’s privacy. I’ve always felt comforted at the ocean’s edge. Walking along the sand, in and out of the lapping waves, at any time of the year, in any kind of weather, I have always felt safe and warm. Living about two hours from the ocean is the only thing I wish I could change about where we live now. But to magically transplant our home and land within walking distance of the ocean or better still, in sight of it, would financially put it impossibly out of reach.

But right now I wish we were closer. I would love to listen to the surf, the gulls, the wind. I would love to smell the ocean; the crispness of high tide, the pungency of low tide. I would love to feel the power of the ocean and be comforted by it once again. Right now I’m feeling a little overwhelmed - perhaps one too many spinning plates. At the ocean’s edge, all the plates come down off the poles; any problems I may be facing are forced into perspective by the ocean’s vastness and its deep, ancient rhythms. I need that perspective right now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Under Two Bucks!

For the first time since May of 2005, we paid under two dollars a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline. We bought it for $1.959 a gallon at the BJ’s Wholesale Club gas station in Leominster (off 2 & 12).

On a related subject: we have yet to receive our first home heating oil delivery this autumn. But with the current price of oil, we sure think we made the right decision not to lock in over the summer. Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Row Of Autumn Trees

You may remember a photo I took last spring. A couple of days ago, Chuck came home and said: “You’ve got to see those trees. They’re amazing!” He was right. What’s interesting is that many of the trees around here are already stripped bare by wind and rain. But these beauties were still in all their autumn glory.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Think Cool Thoughts Kiddo!

They’ve recently had some snow in northern New England, but it has yet to snow in the hills of Worcester County - - - this season. The photo above was taken December 14, 2007. And no, I’m not trying to jinx anything and bring this much beauty on prematurely! I uploaded this for Morgan in Australia, who is not fond of warm weather.

Is That Dap In My Hair?

The recent excitement around our barn and the attendant expenses, while extremely reasonable (Thank you Roger!), have put our home improvement plans on a less ambitious timetable. That means that our elderly mature home will not be getting its windows replaced this season. So we put some time and energy into repairing and re-glazing some rickety tired windows and old fashioned, wood framed, hang on the outside of the house storm windows. Eight windows and far more Dap 33 Glazing than any professional worth their salt would be caught dead using, we no longer have an active MIT Wind Tunnel in our house!

Yay us!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Proposition 8 Follow Up

California’s Proposition 8, which proposed to amend the state constitution to limit marriage to unions between a man and a woman, was approved, via a Yes vote, by the voters on November 4, 2008.

During the Proposition 8 campaign, the Roman Catholic organization The Knights of Columbus was one of the biggest contributors to the “Vote Yes on 8” side. However, individual members of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, at the behest of their leadership, contributed over 14 million dollars to the “Vote Yes on 8” campaign.

While it was Republicans and groups on the religious right who worked hard and poured millions into the “Vote Yes on 8” campaign, post election the approval of Proposition 8 has been repeatedly linked to the high voter turnout in the African American community, due to the enthusiasm for Barack Obama. People For The American Way, PFAW, has released a detailed statement which debunks this divisive rumor.

As I’ve written before, one of the most specious arguments against Gay Marriage has been proffered by a number of socially conservative groups, including the Roman Catholic Church. The legality of same sex marriage in no way intrudes upon who the Church, or any other religious organization, allows to marry. Yet they continue to inveigh that same sex marriage is an attack on the family and undermines the sacrament of marriage. In our experience, nothing could be further from the truth. Allowing more couples to publicly affirm their commitment and enter into legal marriages can only serve to strengthen our society.

I urge you to read the PFAW Memo which sorts truth from fiction.

Friday, November 7, 2008


The new website is up! is the new online site for the transition of President-Elect Barack Obama and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden. You can find all sorts of information there, as well as share your stories about what this election has meant to you and share your vision for the future!

On History

I haven’t written about the historic nature of Barack Obama becoming the 44th President of the United States of America. He is the first person of African descent to achieve the highest office in the land.

I grew up during the Civil Rights movement of the late 1950s, 1960s and beyond. But I was a white kid, born into a country where a great deal of privilege was automatically afforded me because of the color of my skin.

I’ve written about my gratitude for the decision my parents made to break the chain of prejudice within our family. I’ve been able understand intellectually what it means to be a person of color in America and I believe I have had empathy. But at the end of the day, I am still a white woman.

So I’ll turn to some of my blog friends who have written eloquently this week about what having Barack Obama as our President-Elect means to them:
Renee and her husband Kent both place this election within the context of their personal history and experiences. And George has expressed his feelings in a moving letter.

I thank them all.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thoughts After November 4th

: : I’ve had lots of feelings since Tuesday night. Those related to the results of the presidential election have been almost exclusively positive - especially after I got over the sense of disbelief! Deep down, I really expected we would be holding our breath for hours, if not days, as we had to in 2000 and 2004. Watching it all unfold beginning at 11:00 p.m. eastern time was stunning - thrilling, but stunning!

: : In the midst of the joy, bad news rolled in. Most disappointing was the approval of California’s Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to limit marriage to unions between a man and a woman. This came after more than 18,000 same-sex couples have been legally married in California. Florida and Arizona voters also passed preemptive bans on same-sex marriage.

: : If the John McCain who gave a gracious concession speech Tuesday night had been the “Candidate McCain” on the campaign trail, they might still be counting votes. And if the information coming from the McCain campaign staffers about Sarah Palin, to Fox News’ Carl Cameron is remotely true, we were incredibly fortunate that it was the 2008 version of John McCain who ran for president.

: : President-Elect Obama spoke about the need to end division and partisanship in his election night speech:

“In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

That is still difficult for me. I expect that it will be for longer than I would like. My anger remains deep and hot over the lies promulgated by Senator McCain, Governor Palin, their staffers and the Big Republican Machine, especially post conventions to the election. But what has left me more depressed than angry has been how many people believed the lies. When such individuals are known to me, there are additional feelings.

: : The post election maps drawn by political analysts show a country with more blue than red. (We still don’t have final numbers, but the most recent information has Obama-Biden at 53% and McCain-Palin at 46%.) That is cause for excitement and satisfaction. But I worry that all those pointillistic red dots, spreading into red counties and red states represent people who may be feeling as upset and dismayed as I felt in 2000 and 2004. I hope they can hear President- Elect Obama’s sentiments I quoted above. But if I, as a voter for the winners, am struggling, I have to believe folks who voted Republican are also challenged by his words.

: : Despite significant increases in registered voters, the voter turnout still hovered around only 60-61% of people eligible to vote.

: : Lastly, the number of spinning plates the new Obama-Biden administration will be facing is enormous. Watching the national and international reaction I do not believe I am overstating it when I say that many people are expecting that this election will somehow lead to the healing of an ailing world. Folks may not believe intellectually that is possible, but it seems to be a widely held hope.

I hope that President-Elect Obama will ask for our help in tackling these myriad and difficult tasks. Look what happened when a young State Senator from Illinois spoke at the 2004 Democratic Convention and sparked a movement of millions who stated: “Yes We Can”. We have come this far. We can go the distance. Together, yes we can...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our 44th President

Here is the video from earlier this morning of President-Elect Barack Obama’s speech.

“If there is anyone out there who doubts that America is a place where anything is possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

“And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand. What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.
This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.
It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.”

- Barack Obama
November 5, 2008

Click to read the entire transcript of Barack Obama’s speech, including the story of Mrs. Ann Nixon Cooper, age 106!

At The Polls Yesterday

Chuck worked at the polls yesterday afternoon and evening as an election official. His assigned position was at the ballot box. The crowds were steady and heavy for our little town - nearly 80% of all registered voters! Chuck has worked many elections before. He said the mood has never been so ebullient. It was not a landslide for the Obama-Biden ticket. As is often true in our town, we were fairly evenly divided. But there was a sense of excitement with the high voter turnout, including many first time voters.

As parents walked up to vote with a child in hand, Chuck asked if they wanted the child to slide the ballot into the optical scanning machine. All did. Every child evidenced delight! Chuck also shook the hands of voters, thanking them for voting, as they turned from the ballot box to leave the polling place.

At one point, a gentleman came in to vote, but there was a problem with his registration. This gentleman, an acquaintance, is someone with whom Chuck has had some spirited political disagreements. As other election officials worked with the man to try to get the situation resolved, Chuck continued at his ballot box post. Eventually, the man filled out a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are secured, but not scanned into the ballot box. Before he left, the gentleman walked up to Chuck and said he had watched him shaking the hands of the other voters and he did not wish to leave without shaking Chuck’s hand.

It Is True!

President-Elect Barack Obama just spoke to the nation and the world, from Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes, I Believe It Is True!

Senator John McCain just delivered his concession speech. He was gracious and generous and urged all Americans to unite.

I Think It’s Really True!

All the major television networks, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and BBC America, have called the election for Barack Obama and Joe Biden!

I have no more words...

If The World Could Vote

I know I have a lot of regular readers from all around the world. Many of you have left enthusiastic and encouraging comments about this campaign, which I very much appreciate. Now you can cast your own vote about the United States Presidential Election online at If The World Could Vote. Then you can click on the “Results” tab to see what the world is thinking about this important election!

Thanks to Jeff over at Wormtown Taxi for the heads up.

How’d You Make Out?

If you want to report on your experience at the polls, you can go to My Fair Election to register and fill out a very brief form.

If you have any problems voting call the Election Protection Hotline:
1 (866) OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).

If you want to look at some photographs (or upload your own) you can go to the Polling Place Photo Project. It’s very cool!

Number 607

607! That was the number that the voting machine clicked to as my scannable paper ballot was drawn into the ballot box this morning. We live in a small town in Central Massachusetts. Sometimes only a couple of hundred people turn out at each precinct. To see 606 other people had already voted was amazing.

There was a short line, but it moved along smoothly and steadily. The election workers were well prepared and there have been no glitches in our little corner of the world.

I wore my Obama ’08 - HOPE bracelet, but had it tucked under my sleeve. I wore my Obama-Biden pin, which I have hanging from a cord, but it was tucked in beneath my top. I had my photo ID (my Massachusetts Driver’s License) at the ready, but I did not need to present it. Once I had my ballot, I stood in a little two sided, triangular kiosk and carefully filled in the oval circles next to the names of the candidates I wanted to vote for. The Statewide Questions always take me a few extra minutes to focus on. Because of the way they are phrased, I often worry I am going to make a mistake!

Until today, I would have stated unequivocally that the most exciting election I ever participated in was my very first election back in 1976. I was 18 years old, away at college and had to fill out an absentee ballot for Rhode Island. But today, my excitement far exceeded that day 32 years ago. After eight long years of the Bush-Cheney administration, the possibility that our nation could get back on the right track was exhilarating. The possibility that we could elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden to be the next President and Vice President of the United States had me holding my breath with anticipation.


If you did not participate in Early Voting, go to the polls and VOTE!

To be on the safe side, do not wear political garb - or be sure to bring a jacket to cover it up. In some states it it is considered “electioneering” which is not allowed within the polling place.

To be on the safe side, bring a form of identification with you. According to the Help America Vote Act: “There are two approved forms of ID -- photo and non-photo. Any current and valid government-issued photo identification fulfills the photo ID requirement. A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document with the name and address of the voter fulfills the non-photo ID.”

Bring a friend or family member or neighbor to the polls.

Bring your sense of humor and your patience!

If you have any problems voting call the Election Protection Hotline:
1 (866) OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).
The Election Protection website has a wealth of voter information.

And here is some advice from Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Air America:

Today is the day!
Turn HOPE into reality. VOTE!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ignore The Polls

Do not become complacent.
Do not pay attention to the polls.
Go and cast your vote tomorrow.

Here are a few words to keep you motivated:

“There is a new wave of change all around us - and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination - not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation.

And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans.

And so with Barack Obama -- for you and for me, for our country and for our cause - the work begins anew, the hope rises again, and the dream lives on!”

- Senator Edward Kennedy
from his speech at the Democratic National Convention
Monday, August 25, 2008

”By following the example of a brave New Yorker, a woman who risked her life to shepherd slaves along the Underground Railroad.
And on that path to freedom, Harriett Tubman had one piece of advice.

If you hear the dogs, keep going.

If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.

If they're shouting after you, keep going.

Don't ever stop.
Keep going.

If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

Even in the darkest of moments, ordinary Americans have found the faith to keep going.

I’ve seen it in you. I’ve seen it in our teachers and firefighters, nurses and police officers, small business owners and union workers, the men and women of our military – you always keep going.
We are Americans. We're not big on quitting.

But remember, before we can keep going, we have to get going by electing Barack Obama president.

We don't have a moment to lose or a vote to spare.

Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hang in the balance.”

- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
from her speech at the Democratic National Convention
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

“America, we cannot turn back.  Not with so much work to be done.  Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for.  Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save.  Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. 

America, we cannot turn back.  We cannot walk alone.  At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future.  Let us keep that promise - that American promise - and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.”

- Barack Obama
from his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention
Thursday, August 28, 2008

“People died so you'd have the right to vote.
Self-government — voting to choose our own leaders — is the original American dream. We are heir to a centuries-long struggle for freedom: the American Revolution, and the battles to extend the franchise to those without property, to women, to people of color, and to young people. 

This year, many will still be denied their right to vote. For those of us who have that right, it's precious. If we waste it, we dishonor those who fought for it and those who fight still.”

- from
Monday, November 3, 2008

Live your values.
Love your country.

Rest In Peace

Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham, Barack Obama’s grandmother, has passed away. She was 86. I’m glad she saw the heights her grandson had reached. I wish she could have lived to see him elected President of the United States of America.

"It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure.

Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer."

- Barack Obama & Maya Soetoro-Ng
November 3, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Determination Leads To Inspiration

I am so impressed and inspired by one couple’s determination to vote in the presidential election on Tuesday. Citizens of New York State who are currently living abroad in India travelled 9300 miles just to be able to cast their votes November 4th! They had followed all the proper steps to get an absentee ballot, but when it did not arrive in India, they headed home.

Please read their story. No matter where you live in this country or the world, their belief in democracy and deep desire to cast their votes and participate in the political process will inspire you.

Turn HOPE into reality. VOTE!

I’m Officially Frosted!

In our little two person household, which has a very modest household income, both family members have made contributions to the Obama-Biden campaign.

Here’s my message to the sitting U.S. Democratic Senators:

An explanation of my frustration with the aforementioned senators can be found here!

psssst...Do Something!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Grumpy Old Woman

During this long campaign, some comedians have described Senator John McCain as a Grumpy Old Man. You know, the kind of cranky old guy who yells: “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!” Turns out, the grumpy quality wasn’t just being picked up on by comedians. Some McCain supporters recognize their own inner crankiness in Senator McCain. On Halloween night, one McCain supporter took cranky and grumpy way past curmudgeonly, all the way to obnoxious.

Meet Ms. Shirley Nagel of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan:

UPDATE: I have to give John McCain his due. He was very funny on tonight’s Saturday Night Live. The QVC bit with Tina Fey was a stitch!

Wealth & Society

I haven’t gone near the whole ugliness of “Joe The Plumber”. JTP is the guy who currently lives in Ohio, named Samuel J. Wurzelbacher. He approached Barack Obama on a street in Toledo, early in October. Mr. Wurzelbacher then proceeded to present a fictional version of who he was and what his hopes and dreams were.

Yet even as JTP was spinning out his tall tale, likely a premeditated one, Barack Obama took the time to carefully and honestly answer all his questions and respond to his concerns.

George Packer has a brief, thoughtful and insightful piece on one aspect of the original encounter between Barack Obama and JTP in his latest post in the New Yorker.

May this be the last we have to hear of JTP.

The Knee Bone’s Connected To The ...Rafters?

Roger, our barn miracle worker, along with his son and another colleague, managed to get the workshop floor sorted out and the main structural support beam under the barn sistered and restored to its proper form. What a relief! But, like the old song: “The knee bone’s connected to...” or a string of dominoes laid out in an intricate pattern, additional structural problems emerged up the front of the barn all the way to the rafters! Yikes! No worries though, Roger and Company, sawed their own beams and boards; brought them over to our house and, after much sawing, chiseling, hammering and winching, put everything to rights. Yay!

People like Roger (and his late partner John) deserve all the praise in the world. Roger always treats every building with the utmost respect. He treats the homeowners the same way. When we first began looking into restoring the barn eleven years ago, only Roger and John truly appreciated the history and residual integrity the barn still possessed. They never even thought of tearing it down. Instead, they listed off its good points and triaged its problems. Other than the installation of the cupola in 2000, this is the first time in ten years it’s ever needed any additional work. Not too bad for a reincarnated barn that’s better than 100 years old.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Devil’s In The Details - Part VI

The Washington Post has a chilling article in today’s edition entitled: “ A Last Push To Deregulate - White House to Ease Many Rules ” - “many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment.”

A flurry of activity at the end of a presidential administration is not unusual. But some of what the Clinton administration attempted to do at the end of their term, had not gone into full effect by the time George W. Bush was inaugurated. So the new Bush administration was able to stop or undo many of those Clinton initiatives. With that in mind, the Bush-Cheney administration is taking steps to ensure that all the changes they want to make will be completed long before inauguration day. Worse still, many of these changes can typically “be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.”

With a nod to my previous post: Oy vey is mir!

Thanks to Papamoka (and Michael Boh) for the heads up.

psssst...Do Something!

A Yiddisha Take

The National Jewish Democratic Council, NJDC, has released a quick and clever video which draws a sharp line between Barack Obama and John McCain. Most of the Yiddish words spoken in the video are in common usage. But if you need a little clarification, I’ve listed the translations below, as provided by the NJDC.

Meshugener = crazy person
Meshugeneh! = It’s crazy!
Shmendrick = fool
Yutz = clueless person
Kishkes = guts
Tsores = trouble
Farblondzshet = bewildered.
Schlepping = dragging
Bupkis = nothing
Nudnick = pest
Dreck = dirt
Shonde = a shame, disgraceful
Oy gevault! = Oh for heaven’s sake!
Shtick = comic performance

Mensch = a decent person; a person of integrity and honor!

The NJDC has also released a more serious video, in which the grandchildren of Justice Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice, speak about Barack Obama in relation to their grandfather’s legacy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Best Defense...

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
President Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

Having lived through the distressing and discouraging national elections of 2000 and 2004, I am relieved that the Obama-Biden campaign and many other fine organizations are working hard to ensure that every registered voter will be able to vote in this vital 2008 election. Unlike 2000 and 2004, efforts are already well underway to head off problems at the polls, rather than trying to fix the problems on the fly on election day or, worse still, after the polls have closed.

Here’s a list of organizations and coalitions where you can get accurate information about voting, report problems with voting or get involved in helping to make the 2008 election the exciting, positive, empowering experience it can and should be!

: : Perhaps the biggest clearinghouse/coalition is Election Protection. This is the one with the special phone number: 1 (866) OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683). The website has a wealth of information. And if you experience any problems with registration or voting, you should call the phone number to report the situation.

: : Common Cause and their special project: Protect The Vote

: : People For The American Way Voting Rights Information

: : from the League of Women Voters

: : Project Vote Smart Voter Information by state

: : The American Civil Liberties Union’s Voter Empowerment Program, including access to downloadable Voting Rights information cards for many states.

: : Also The American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, which was established in 1965, has lots of useful information.

Turn HOPE into reality. VOTE!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Did You See It?

Barack Obama’s half hour program this evening was terrific. If you didn’t have the opportunity to see it, you can watch it here. The United States has been blessed with great presidents during other challenging or perilous times. Let’s keep working hard to bring another great administration to the White House.

“Everybody here’s got a story. Somewhere you’ve got parents who said you know what, maybe I won’t go to college, but I know if I work hard, my child will go to college.

Everybody here’s got a story of somebody who came from another country. They said maybe my grandchild or my great-grandchild they’ll have opportunity, they’ll have freedom.

Everybody here’s got a story about a grandparent or great-grandparent who worked in a coal mine, who worked in a tough factory, maybe got injured somewhere. But they said you know what, I may not have a home, but if I work hard enough, someday my child, my grandchild, they’ll have a home they can call their own.

That’s the story of America...

...I am reminded every single day that I am not a perfect man. I will not be a perfect president. But I can promise you this: I will always tell you what I think and where I stand. I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you when we disagree. And most importantly, I will open the doors of government and ask you to be involved in your own Democracy again.”
- Barack Obama

as heard in “American Stories, American Solutions”

Facts vs. Spin

The news is abuzz this morning with a statement from the McCain-Palin campaign claiming that the mainstream media is working on behalf of the Obama-Biden ticket. The McCain-Palin campaign has accused the Los Angeles Times of “intentionally suppressing” a videotape from 2003, of a farewell dinner for Rashid Khalidi, which Barack Obama attended.

Because the facts seem to be getting lost in the fabricated, eleventh hour brouhaha, here’s a link to the L.A. Times’ response to the McCain-Palin campaign’s accusation.

And here is the L.A. Times’ original report on the evening, published April 10, 2008.

UPDATE: Seth Colter Walls reports on The Huffington Post, that while John McCain was chairman of the International Republican Institute, the group funded “several grants to the Palestinian research center co-founded by Khalidi, including one worth half a million dollars”.

Shall we move on now?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Like A Freakin’ Rug

My oh my! Have they no shame? Apparently not.

Last month I mentioned my frustration with the McCain-Palin ticket, their campaign staff, their spin-masters, their mouthpieces and the entire Big Republican Machine. My anger and frustration has not eased. In fact, it seems to increase in direct proportion to their level of desperation and concomitant mudslinging.

Case in point: all the talk about Barack Obama as a tax and spend liberal, anti-small business, a Socialist/Communist/Marxist/fill-in-the-blankist and now, direct from John McCain’s lips: “Redistributionist in Chief”. Every time I heard one of these ridiculous attacks I used to just mutter “Lying Sacks of @#%$”. Now, I launch into a chorus of “Lying Sacks of @#%$” - sung to the tune of “There’s a Tavern In the Town”, perhaps better known as “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” - to which I’ve added the verse: “Liar, liar pants on fire”. It’s very liberating. Feel free to join in.

So, since most of these attacks are on Barack Obama and his tax plan, here’s a link to the Obama-Biden Tax Calculator. You can quickly key in your facts and see the truth, not the spin from the BRM, et al.