Sunday, March 9, 2008

Citzenship - Jay-merican!

Today was a big day! Jay, Julie's husband, became an American citizen. We all went down to San Antonio to witness the big event.

We drove around looking for a parking spot for quite a while. The auditorium was packed. 1300 people were becoming citizens today - and everyone seemed to bring family and friends .

I had never observed this kind of ceremony before, so I was excited to see what happens. The actual process started before I really realized what was going on.

The Mayor of San Antonio began calling out the names of different countries, in alphabetical order. Luckily, Jay wasn't from a country that started with an "A"! So, we had a little time before The Lone Malaysian got to stand up. After they called out each individualized country,- 85 countries were represented - the speaker said, "And now, the country you've all been waiting for...Mexico!" And then 600 people stood and applauded!

Once all of the new citizens was standing, they were asked to raise their right hand and "swear in" as an American. Then we all stood and joined them for the Pledge of Allegiance.

At that point, the Mayor introduced several "distinguished guests" - representatives from the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, and there was also a man in a powdered wig - I could swear they told everyone he WAS George Washington.

One of the guests from Edgewood shared a video with the group. It opened with President George Bush congratulating them for becoming citizens. Jay loved that! There were also quotes from President Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." They played the song "Proud to be an American," and showed pictures of all the fallen heroes from Edgewood.

After that, they retired the colors and staff handed out certificates to all the new citizens. This was kind of disorganized. The citizens were in assigned seats, so the knew the general proximity for each one. But they just came over and shouted out the names - although they struggled with pronounciation and the ability to be heard. It was kind of like a substitute teacher handing back homework.

They were each supposed to get a small American Flag as well. Jay didn't get one because he had to step out of line to fill out additional paperwork related to his stolen passport. But he was ok with missing the flag. He though all Americans would be issued a bottle of Ranch dressing - since that's what he thinks is the most American thing we do!

After that, we all went to Maudie's for lunch. Jay later raced to the post office with his completed voter's registration card. This was the deadline day to be able to vote in the Primary.

Yay - Jamerican!

Katie's Party: Costume & Dessert Potluck

Initially, Katie wanted an Anime-themed party. But as her guest list grew, she opened to the idea of any costume. So, the party turned into a Costume and Dessert Potluck Party!

In keeping with her anime theme, Katie wore her pink Ichigo costume that we made for the Ikkicon last month. Pink hair, go-go boots and everything!
She baked a cake, brownies, and we bought a Boston Cream Pie (because it was ACTUALLY Ron's birthday and that's what HE wanted) and a decadent Chocolate Truffle cake. We made a punch with pink lemonade, sprite, and marischino cherries. The others brought candy and apple pie.

Here's how the evening went:
  • Katie Caskey from TexArts arrived. Because there had been a small gap in when the girls saw each other last, she was only told about it earlier that day! She came as "L". Katie's mom, Laura, stayed and chatted with me about Austin in the 80's, homeschooling, and texarts.
  • Laura Derrick brought Jackson, dressed as a tourist, and Sarah, dressed as an 80's Chick. Laura wasn't able to stay.
  • Ron brought pizza - which everyone ate all evening
  • Sky, Rachel, both dressed as Colonial men and Khunya (no costume) arrived
  • No sign of Rick, and Abby wasn't able to make it.
  • Hairspray was on downstairs
  • Dance, Dance Revolution was upstairs
  • Came down for desserts and Monty Python's Holy Grail
  • Katie got a hold of Rick, who said he wasn't able to get a ride, or find his keys...or something (lame) It only bothered Katie for a minute or two, then she was happy with her friends.
  • Kids back upstairs to put You Tube videos on the Big Screen T.V.
  • Danced to a Bollywood song, then shared funny videos they've seen
  • Came back down and blew out cake candles and opened gifts:
    • Jackson & Sarah got Katie a chocolate Godiva bunny and 2 link puzzle chains
    • Rachel gave her an I love Sweeney necklace
    • Sky and Khunya gave her a blue teddy bear, scented nail polish and a beautiful compact mirror
  • Katie Caskey's mom came to take her home
  • Kids went to the park to play hide & seek in the park
  • Laura & John came to pick up the kids
Katie had a great time!!!!

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Political Texas Two-Step

Texas has a very strange voting process. And, what really surprises me is that I had no idea we had this process! I'm guessing it's because we haven't had a really close race before.

For those who don't know, it's frequently called the Texas Two-Step. Voters go to the polls on March 4th - or they do the Early Voting. Then after all the voters have voted at 7 p.m., they can come in for the Caucus.

Normally, I like the idea of voting on the Big Day. It's always a little exciting to me. But this year, there's the chance of long lines at the polling booths. And, I, as usual, have a really packed day. Not a lot of time to spare waiting around. So, Michael and I ran over to Early Voting on Friday, when he got back from his classes.

Friday was the last day for Early Voting. At first, we went to the Assisted Living facility near our home. There was a note on the door telling us that they were no longer an official voting place. So we went to our second choice, the only other option in Pflugerville - the County Tax office. There were long lines. And they weaved all around the room in the most unorganized way. Doors were locked in an attempt to control the way the crowd entered. This was later remedied, but clearly they didn't expect this many people.

My son-in-law, Jay, was ahead of us in line, waving at us as we entered and tried to find the end of the line. This is his first time to vote - he became an American citizen just in time to register to vote.

So, we all cast our vote and put our little caucus cards into our wallets. These cards would show that we voted - a requirement to participate in the caucus.

Tuesday Night....
I went to my local voting precinct at 7 p.m. There were still people in line to vote, although the doors were locked to more voters. Only caucus voters were allowed to enter. The cafeteria was filling up. Ultimately, there were nearly 350 people there! I live in a really integrated neighborhood. Lots of diversity. But the caucus was filled with primarily Black Americans - there were maybe 25 white people in the room. It was mass chaos, really. The woman in charge said that typically, they had only 4-5 people show up for caucus. But it's not like they didn't realize this was going to happen! At least the Obama camp sent food - pizza, cookies, and coffee. (smart move)

This was Michael's first year to vote for a President and he really wanted to participate in the caucus. Unfortunately, he couldn't find anyone to cover for him at work. So we tried to set up his lunch break so he could run over, sign in, and leave quickly. No such luck. He got there about 7:15, the time it was supposed to convene. Unfortunately, there was still a line for people who hadn't voted yet. And the caucus couldn't begin until they all had an opportunity to join us in the next room. Michael's 30 minutes passed and he had to leave, before it even began.

I stayed. Around 8:00, we began to move into lines to sign our name onto the sheets for our candidate. The room was overwhelmingly pro-Obama. By 8:30, I reached the front, gave my info and my candidate choice. Those who wanted to become delegates for the county convention, or those who wanted to vote on the Democratic resolutions were invited to stay. Everyone else could leave.

The room thinned out considerably.

I sat and spoke with a father & daughter. They were Clinton supporters. The daughter was a Senior at Pflugerville High. She was really enthused about the opportunity to be a delegate. We talked a little more about the comparisons between Clinton and Obama. We talked about reactions we had heard from others regarding the different candidates.

I called Michael on the cell and asked him if he'd like to be a delegate, since he wasn't able to actually attend the caucus. He thought it would be great.

So, by 9 p.m., the precinct chair began going through the resolutions. Clearly, she was not accustomed to voters who wanted to discuss the resolutions. She read the titles and if we wanted to know the Dem position, we'd raise our hands. People moaned and groaned, but she pressed on. We discussed a few proposals, took votes - all while the caucus votes were being tabulated.

In the end, 280 people actually voted that night. 222 for Obama and 57 for Clinton. This would mean that of our 26 alloted delegates, 21 would come from the Obama camp, and 5 would come from Clinton supporters. FYI, delegate numbers are determined by last year's voter turnout.

I was still sitting with my pro-Clinton friends. We were excited that Hillary actually got 57 from a room that appeared to be FULL of Barrack fans. This would mean that she'd have a good shot at being a delegate!

At that point, we separted into 2 different sides of the room, based on candidate choice. We were asked how many of us wanted to be delegates AND were available all day on March 29th. Twenty-six hands went up. A strong white-haired woman evidently decided she wasn't going to allow chaos to dominate any longer. She asked those who had "a burning desire to be a delegate" move to the table and find a seat. She started a couple pieces of paper, for delegates and alternates. I moved to the table for Michael to be a delegate. I offered to be an alternate, if that would help the process.

By then, it was after 10, and Michael was off work. He went straight to the polling precinct, and made it in time to sign in as someone with a "burning desire to be a delegate." Phone numbers and emails were exchanged, and that was the end. It was nearly 11:00 p.m.

Lisa Heyman

I hung up the phone with my friend Pam. She said that Kelly had just called her to tell her horrible news about Lisa. She died. At 47. Leaving behind Larry, Roxy and Fire. Pam had sent me an email on 2/17 saying that Lisa had been just diagnosed with Amyloidosis, a blood-borne disorder that could be very serious. The email sounded guarded but hopeful, as the family was exploring treatment options. I asked Ron about it, and he sounded less hopeful. But he added that he could be wrong, not being the most up-to-date on medications that could be available now.

And yet, 8 days later, at 12:30 p.m., she's gone.

I had told Alyssa that Lisa was sick. And when she overheard me talking to Pam on the phone, she realized that the worst had happened. After a lot of tears, we talked about our memories of Lisa, Roxy and Ruby.

We first met they Heyman/Gauchman family at the Live and Learn conference in St. Louis. Roxy and Alyssa became friends right away. Alyssa couldn't remember exactly how they met, but she remembered them spending a lot of time riding the elevators. And Lisa rode with them. Chatting & laughing. No indication that they should stop. The girls roamed the halls together during that conference. I hadn't met Lisa and Larry until that Saturday night. We were all at the Museum downtown. It was a FABULOUS museum. Pam and I joined Larry and Lisa at a table. We really enjoyed talking with them. As we were talking, Lisa and I realized that we were each the mother of our daughters' new best friend at the conference. That was a wonderful surprise.

So, after that conference, the girls emailed each other. Lisa and I wrote to each other a few times - primarily to help the girls stay connected. Unfortunately, they weren't going to be able to make it to Albuquerque for the next conference. Alyssa was bummed to not have Roxy there. She received a BEAUTIFULLY hand-decorated invitation to Roxy's Bat-Mitzvah and I really wished we could have gone. We were living in Wichita Falls at the time, and New York seemed so very far away.

Roxy and Alyssa were excited to hear that they'd both go to the Live and Learn conference in North Carolina in 2007. Both were interested in cheerleading, so Roxy asked Alyssa to be her assistant with her conference Fun Shop. Pam & Rosie picked up Alyssa and me at the Charlotte airport. Alyssa and Roxy were back and forth a few times on the cell phone, anticipating their reunion. Lisa's family had arrived a day earlier and Roxie and Alyssa were eager to talk cheerleading.

It was so wonderful to see and talk with Lisa there. She was so excited to give her talks. We talked about the girls doing the cheerleading funshop. She and Larry told me how proud they were of Roxy doing a cheerleading camp out of their home in the summer. They told me how she managed the money, the kids, the parents - all of it! We talked about how unnecessary textbooks were to living a real life. We talked a little about our support groups, her rabbi and how she tried to make all this unschooling make sense to him.

Alyssa also had a connection to Fire. Live and Learn offers Fairy Godparents to anyone who would like one. And Alyssa drew Fire's name. Alyssa went to the cabin to secretly plant a note. Lisa smiled and helped her lay it out on her clothes, so she'd find it right away. Even though Fire figured it out eventually, Alyssa tried to keep it a secret and got her a bracelet and a necklace. It was fun when Alyssa "owned up" to the fact that she really was Fire's Fairy Godmother. And, with one more interesting connection, on the last day, Lisa told Alyssa that she was Alyssa's Fairy Godmother. Earlier, I had mentioned to her that Alyssa hadn't received anything from her Fairy Godmother. I really doubt that she actually was, but she didn't want Alyssa to feel forgotten. Lisa was just that way.

I didn't realize until now that Alyssa had been to Lisa's talks. Roxy didn't want to miss her mom's talks, so the girls asked some other girls to run a portion of their Cheerleading Funshop. This way they could go together to hear her. And, to be totally honest, I was a little jealous. Roxy ADORED being with her mother. And, it was absolutely mutual between the two of them. It really was wonderful to witness their relationship. It's been an ongoing reminder to me, as a mother of 3 teens. Lisa was, and is, an inspiration.

Alyssa asked me if Roxy knew her mom was sick then, because she cried throughout the talk. I told her there was no way she could have known. She was probably just so incredibly proud of her mom and what she had to say - all of it glowing about Roxy and Fire. After 12 years of homeschooling/unschooling, I didn't attend the conference presentation. I regret that now. Alyssa said that what she remembered most about the topic was how important Lisa felt TIME was. Spending time with the girls was paramount - more important than anything else. What a wonderful remembrance that will be for the girls. To know how important they were to their mother. To not just know, but hear it announced for all to hear. I'm sure those tapes will someday be a great comfort to them.

As Pam and I were about to leave the conference. Lisa pulled a few of us aside. She wanted to share something about Roxy that we had to swear to secrecy - she called it Kvelling. I didn't have a clue what she was talking about. Paula Sjogerman was with us and she tried to help us understand a little more. They tried to help us pronounce it. They tried to help us understand it. Kvelling, loosely translated means rejoicing in your children's accomplishments... in a good loving way. It's Yiddish for gushing, and swelling, and delighted. Kvelling. What a wonderful word. THAT should be a conference in itself...a bunch of happy unschooling parents kvelling. ahhh.... THAT would be a wonderful Lisa-Legacy.

Lisa's passing reminds us again how important "time" with those we love is... how short it can be. Time. It really is all that matters. And an occasional Kvelling among friends.

The Problem with Dieting

For me, the problem has been all about my attitude. After successfully "doing" a few diets, I found myself preoccupied with the notion of no longer forbidding food. Even though I intellectually understood that making up for lost time would simply pack the pounds back on, that's what I was feeling. I wanted to eat the foods I had deprived myself of (sorry for the grammar here). I wanted all those foods I hadn't eaten. And, instead of simply saying, "Yes, you can have a little this week." or "try just a bite or two" or "get at to-go box and half this enormous plateful they're calling 'a serving'"- I just said "Go for it". And I did it over and over.

So, after a year and a half of an intense diet - and a weight loss of 68 lbs - I've put 50 back on. (And after this past weekend eating Mexican food in San Antonio, who knows how much more!) I haven't been to Curves in weeks. I missed the last WeightWatchers meeting. I blamed it on relatives in town, sleepovers, birthday parties, etc. Sure, it was a busy week - but what week ISN'T? This is what my life looks like, and I simply have to fit in time for HEALTH. That's probably how I need to phrase it. No more choosing a diet. Time to choose HEALTH.