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Archive for the ‘Around the D.C. Area’ Category

I have to admit, more often than not I am critical of our government system, of the political infighting, of the motive for power or money that seems to drive those within the Beltway, of the inflammatory rhetoric you often hear in politicians’ rants. Every so often something makes me stop and realize how proud I am to be a part of this nation and tonight was one of those moments.

President Obama has just finished his memorial speech in Tucson. I found myself applauding and rising to give him a standing ovation along with all of the others in the audience. I found tears in my eyes at his descriptions of those that died, of those that were injured, of those that rose above themselves to be heroes.

I wrote an earlier blog, “Reactions to Tucson” for AAUW covering my initial reactions to the events in Tucson that found Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot along with 19 others, six who died. Now I find myself compelled to write again — not about the violence of the action, of the issue of gun control or politicians finding themselves needing to blame whomever, but of our President whose speech I think I will print and post somewhere to keep me reminded that a positive attitude, an inspirational message is better than all the excuses or anger put together.

The New York Times has posted the entire text of the speech, take a moment to read it or see a YouTube version once it’s up. Think I’ll just list some of those comments that hit home with me.  Thank you, Mr.  President:

“Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned – as it was on Saturday morning.”

“But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions – that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires.”

“I want us to live up to her (Christina Green) expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

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It’s not often that I go from cheers to jeers within minutes as I did this morning reading two separate news reports. The first was a post from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz “Give women every chance 2 fight off a killer.” She pointed out that 1 in 8 women in America has a chance of developing invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. She goes on to describe her own story, telling of those seven surgeries as she fought her own cancer. She then describes her disappointment in the “FDA’s decision last month to pull the metastatic breast cancer indication from the Avastin (bevacizumab) label” and why.

My sister fought for eight years against breast cancer and tried every kind of treatment she felt would work for her, whether through advice of her doctors, other cancer survivors or those into natural remedies. She lived far longer than was originally expected and attributed that to her choices. That’s why when I read Wasserman-Schultz’s post, I felt hope — hope that a representative in Congress “got it” and that maybe women would be allowed the right to choose, in this case medications that have a proven track record for some. Guess that gives “pro-choice” a broader meaning!

A few minutes later, I ran across this headline, “Scalia: women Don’t Have Constitutional Protection Against Discrimination.” What the hell?! And I quote: “The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not protect against discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation, according to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.” This, coming from a U.S. Supreme Court Justice whose work impacts everything we do in this country, more than, I would suggest, any other “job” in America.

Fortunately the article does refer to the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, “any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,”and commented,  “that would seem to include protection against exactly the kind of discrimination to which Scalia referred.”

Others will argue for or against the FDA ruling and for or against Scalia’s opinion. I, for one, am once again strongly reminded of the impact of those individuals we elect to represent us. Whether they take action themselves or appoint others to take action for us, the fact they make decisions that impact my life, my family, friends, all of us in this country should make each and every one realize the importance of voting. And then of holding our representatives accountable. I’d rather be cheering then jeering any day.

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We just received an email from the front desk offering anyone free “point setters” if they pick one up by 11am. I love spelling/grammar mistakes that make me laugh, especially first thing on a Monday morning. You don’t see that many any more with spell check being everywhere, but those words that while spelled correctly mean something entirely different still sneak through.

I had an awful experience once, with a simple misplaced *. I was doing the Annual Report and back-in-the-day for that association, an * next to a name meant the person was deceased. All was quiet for months until at the next board meeting, a gentleman stood up and said, “Contrary to what has been published, I am alive and well.” OMG.  Not knowing who was alive or dead,  I had had our senior exec staffer proof the report and felt safe…until that moment. The gentleman in question was truly gracious but my boss yelled at me forever over that one. Obviously I’ve never forgotten!

Back to those “Point Setters,” no they don’t chase after dead things falling from the sky. They are lovely poinsettia’s left over from the holidays and our Exec kindly offered them to any staff. I didn’t take advantage of the offer, I do better with either the silk or dog variety 🙂

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase “…in the Beltway” when someone is describing their love/hate relationship with those in Washington DC, especially politicians. Usually, these days, it’s said with mixed feelings or unadulterated (is that a word?) hatred.

I’m definitely an “outsider” as I’m not a politician and my thoughts of Congress, especially with the “new Congress” about to begin, is not so much centered around hatred as it is disappointment, fear and sometimes a faint sense of hope when certain bills get passed that may actually help the American people.

And yet I am a Washingtonian, one of the few born there and although I have lived far and wide since my birth, I have returned like a homing pigeon to my roots. I returned when Bush 2 controlled the Beltway and I couldn’t figure out why people weren’t truly frightened of him and what he represented to the common folk in our country. I still don’t understand to be honest, especially as the repercussions of his actions on behalf of big corporations and his own ego (militarily) are never more evident than they are now. And yet the current head of the “Beltway”, President Obama, appears to be getting the blame for actions taken long before he was on the ballot.

Now it’s my turn to watch with bated breath as Obama faces the second half of his first term. He made amazing gains and some incredible mistakes during his first two years, but I truly believe he does have the American people (as in all the people, not just the wealthy) in mind as he decides his course of action. He faces a strong opponent (as in the Republican party) and will probably make compromises that will hurt those of us with equality in our hearts. Here’s hoping he receives timely and wise advice when needed.

Meanwhile, my focus “in the Beltway” will be in trying to determine what the truth actually is. Factcheck.org helps, especially when any politician of any party quotes statistics or says something is “proven”. Reading blog posts, such as Nicholas Kristof’s recent “Equality, a True Soul Food”  http://nyti.ms/dLr8HU will help keep me focused and yes, I’ll even try to be open-minded to the new Congress…

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A beautiful day yesterday, now only in memory as the summertime starts up with humidity hitting the airwaves.  I’ve learned the trick of adjusting (somewhat) to the DC metro area. Make sure to spend a bit of time in the humidity and not just hide behind an AC somewhere. The more time you can spend outside, the more your body becomes adjusted and the next summer you find you can last a little longer before the “enough already” sets in and you run into the nearest building. If you are a tourist fortunately there are plenty of museums, free ones at that, which offer coolness and even refreshments to help you cool down.

But then there are those nights that you want to brave the humidity and get caught up in fun and rhythm and music to keep your toes tapping or even dancing. Not too far from DC, on the Maryland side is a town called Silver Spring that offers great music for free from June through August. A few examples of the types of live music being showcased this summer include: rock & roll, oldies – 50’s and 60’s, Celtic, jazz, blues from Spain, salsa, reggae, pop, funk, soul, bluegrass, West African, rock and zydeco. Phew, I am mopping my brow with a smile on my face already.

In addition to the wonderful music, the offerings include SilverDocs, “an eight day internationally recognized film festival that celebrates independent thinking and generates global media attention.”  The other thing about the SilverDocs movies (over 100) – you are inside in the cool AC, so if the heat or humidity is too high, and you want to see the unusual, this event is for you.

Downtown Silver Spring has a bunch of other activities, from books to booze (there is a relationship in there somewhere). I know most folks spend the majority of their time going to the beaches, driving hours in congested traffic, waiting in airports, in hotel lines, or even on the spare couch cushion at your cousins. But if you are in the DC Metro area or are just visiting, get away from the usual “spots” and go visit a fun place that’s only minutes away.  I know I will.

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Swine flu media blitz influencing the youngest generation?? I don’t know if the author this particular story, Little Pig is Missing,  was subliminally impacted by the recent massive media coverage of the swine flu… but I do know this story made me smile widely. Written and illustrated by Quinn, an intrepid five year old, I was given this as a gift and recognize it for the treasure it is. Couldn’t resist sharing your story and some of your illustrations – thanks Quinn!

Little Pig is Missing    Written and Illustrated by Quinn

pig-is-missing

Little Pig and Daddy Pig

Little Pig and Daddy Pig are swimming in the jungle water .

 

 

 

 

tiger-and-rhino1

Tiger and Rhino

The Tiger and the rhino came and they were talking to Daddy Pig. The rhino stepped on Tiger’s tail and he ROARED!

 

 

 

 

Little Pig got scared and ran away.   And then he was lost forever….but the parrot brought him home.

Parrot in Little Pig is Missing by Quinn

Parrot saving Little Pig

 

And Little Pig and Daddy Pig swam at slug-o-rama in the sluggy water.

 

                  THE END

 

 

copyright 2009 Quinn C

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I grew up with mom spending lots of time in the various gardens she created in whatever house we were living in at the time, Army family that we were. I remember lovely smells, bright colors and her pride. I also remember weeding in the hot sun and pushing an un-motorized contraption called a lawn mower, mainly because my dad and sister had allergies and my other, older siblings were never home.

Many years have passed since those days and living in apartments or city houses, I had the luxury of either watching others do the work or didn’t have the need except to trim the occasional hedge. Now that I’m a home owner watching my third summer looming, I suspect that “gardening” is not really a term for “being one with nature”, but rather a description nurtured by companies who cultivated suburbia long ago, ensuring homeowners give up the good fight and contract with a weekly service.

I had this lightbulb “conspiracy theory” moment as I waited in an incredibly long HomeDepot line this weekend, cart filled with a small amount  (if the loads being pushed by others were any indication) of top soil, weed and feed and  two types of seeds (shade and direct sun). Getting home, I needed to recover from the shopping, so it was late morning by the time I got to the yard.

My plan? To churn up the three feet of soil around my dogwood tree in the front yard as it usually becomes mostly dirt patches with a few green weeds as the season progresses. I tried organic last year, leaving nature to do it’s work… and the only thing that I saw happen was a takeover by the few weeds, not in the dirt patches but throughout the rest of the yard. Churn I did, the goal – once around to break up the soil, once around again to mix in new top soil, seeds, another thin layer of top soil, water and be back inside to be ready for my House Manager role at the one o’clock performance of the SkyDancer Sunday matinee performance.

Well, half way round the first circle of the tree, the rake broke, the prong part just coming right off. I looked at it, at the handle in my hand, sighed, but popped it back on and went back to work. Three passes later, the rake popped off again. So every fourth action, I had to stop, put the rake back on and continue at an odd angle for maximun usage before pop-off again. At one point, I event tried one of those three-prong things you use in your hand – however even broken, the rake worked better.

Sweat pouring down, 3/4’s done, a friend came by, took pity and helped me finish. Of course, I had also miscalculated the amount of top soil needed (no wonder those folks used pallets back at HD) and “spread thinly” became about as sparse as those chocolate chips found in today’s cookies. I finally ran inside, covered in dirt, with only minutes to spare to help set folks up for the show (more on that later).

Later that afternoon, I returned to the task master called lawn, struggled with the bag of weed and seed and poured an undetermined amount into the green thing that spreads it around as you wheel it about. Of course there is some algebraic formula you are supposed to use to calculate how much gets spread at a time. I tried, but of course the bag I got didn’t match the name-brand of the spreader so, no hope. I simply guessed, started pushing and off I went. We won’t talk ab0ut that one corner I took too fast and dumped a whole pile of the stuff…

All of this effort to grow some decent grass. I don’t even need it even like the commercials, I just want it green and somewhat plentiful. Barely able to move my arms or back today, I look anxiously at the sky and hope for that rain they promised us. Another task now added. Flowers you ask? To be continued….

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