two years later – still hoping.

Nov. 5, 2008

For two years we watched as things went from bad to worse to I-don’t-think-we-can-dig-a-hole-much-deeper-than-this. We listened to both sides blame each other for our country’s failures. We watched as the economy imploded and financial institutions crumbled.

For nearly two years we heard about how change was coming.  Change was needed. And change did come – and not always for the better. So we took our chances on a relative unknown to catalyze this transition. Overnight our country invested in hope. Overnight barriers were brought down. Overnight we suddenly have a new chance at a better future for us all.

But I can’t help but wonder: Now what? … I know that there is still much to do even before we can begin moving forward. But I am straining to be patient. I can’t stop scanning the headlines. I can’t sit still. I find myself in a familiar place once again – waiting – for what is to come.

Nov. 2, 2010

Re-reading those words I wrote almost two years ago is a bit eerie. Perhaps not because of what has happened since, but because of what is about to.

What has come is this: the bleeding has stopped. We are in a period of recovery. And for many, getting better isn’t happening fast enough. So folks are back to talking about how change is needed. Change is coming. They didn’t get what they were promised, and they are cashing in their ballots for a new deal.

Last night, after the Giants won the World Series I finished my beer, high-fived a stranger in a bar, and then went home to read up about some of the ballot measures I didn’t really understand. I found that most of the California ballot was pretty tame. Then again, this is not an election about changing everything – it’s about holding ground. Prop 23 is a perfect example of trying to salvage the incremental progress we have made.

I showed up to the polls this morning because I like standing in a room with a group of people who all believe enough in something to show up at 7am and write it down. No matter who your candidate is, what cause you are supporting – Election Day is about hope. It is the one day you either say something, or shut up. And then hope that something good will come out of the experience. Maybe not tomorrow. Or the next day. Or even two years later. But eventually.

Growing up, my mom always took us with her to vote. We would be hanging from her legs, peeking from behind a heavy curtain as she marked off her ballot. When we were older, she would disappear behind the curtain and then not tell us who she voted for. She just wanted us to know that voting was important to do, and that it is your business.

“Did you  vote yet,” a coworker asked me this afternoon.

I answered by pulling back my jacket and revealing the red sticker on my shirt.

“I wish I was more excited,” she said. “I’ll never forget 2008. I cried standing in line. A lady actually had a heart attack at my polling station. I wish I felt that way now. But I should vote. I’m going to go after work. I already called and reminded my sons.”

I smiled. Because not every election is about making history. Sometimes it’s just about showing up because you have a voice and should use it. Because you are one of the privileged few with a choice. Elections should not always be about needing sweeping changes, sometimes it’s about giving eventually the time to work.  Because there is still much to be done before we can move forward.

now what?

Six months ago I skipped to the polls in high heels. I bounced down Jones Street to the SFGreenClean polling station to cast my ballot for historic change and what I perceived to be a new direction for our country. I proudly wore my red “I voted” sticker all day and into the next. And when it no longer stuck to my clothing I saved it for awhile on my dresser, uncertain whether to file it away somewhere and lamenting the day I would eventually lose or trash it. Yesterday was different. Yesterday I couldn’t be bothered to vote.

It’s selfish I know – especially since the right to vote is the foundation our country is built upon and the one time my opinion to legislators matters. But I can’t help but think this is partly what got California into this $22 billion debt in the first place. Voters are idiots. Look at how popular American Idol is and the talentless schmucks that make it through week after week because people feel bad for them. These are the same people voting on complex propositions about spending limits on a budget they don’t really understand. And frankly, I don’t have much faith in them or the California initiative process.

Yesterday I thought about voting twice – once before I left for work and once again when I got home. You know what I did instead? I went for a run. And it was a great run I might add. I saw one guy wearing a red “I voted” sticker. Did I feel like a jerk? Not really.

You see, like the majority of Californians who didn’t show up to cast a ballot yesterday, I am frustrated. For three weeks I tried reading the props to get informed. I pulled the booklet out at my coffee shop; I struggled to review them in bed and on the train. But each time I never got beyond page 13. It wasn’t because I couldn’t get through the language; it was because the whole time this voice kept repeating in my head: You want more of my money. I tried to remain open minded. But there it was again: You want my money! I give you enough of my money! Why do you need more?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other night. He said the government should not be run like a business. I agree with that. The government has a greater responsibility to its citizens than the CEO of a company. Yet … it can’t be one giant distribution center either. Maybe where the government falls short the people need to step in and help each other out. Or should it be the other way around? I don’t know.

I am not an economist and I took like two political science courses in college. All I know is that right now the system is broken, right now we need to make serious cuts to the budget. In my mind, the props were only going to get us halfway to fixing the budget crisis. And that wasn’t really fixing the problem was it?

I realize I probably shouldn’t be venting about a budget I don’t really understand or more simply because I didn’t care enough to vote yesterday. But maybe the only thing that will get people like me and the rest of the state to wake up is if the shit truly hits the fan. Or maybe people will just vote to change the politicians in office, rather than actually fix the problem and it will be more of the same shit, just a different fan.

regressing in the recession

I hate scary movies. As a child I recall screaming and crying in the back of the family station wagon while my parents and older sister calmly watched Gremlins on the big screen at the local drive in theater. Throughout the entire film I covered my ears and stared out the back of the car praying for it to end and pretending I was somewhere else.  (Yes, you read that right. I am old enough to remember drive ins.) But perhaps even  more troubling is the realization I had today that I am regressing to the coping strategies of my childhood.

I used to buy the morning paper every morning for my commute on the train. However, since the Inauguration in January I have fallen off/jumped off the wagon. At this point I can pretty much predict what the headlines will read anyway: stocks fall … again; another newspaper crumbles; politicians still arguing over earmarks. It kind of feels like our country fell in one giant sinkhole and emergency crews are taking their sweetass time getting to us.

Now I will be honest, my decision to stop purchasing the paper is not because I am employing money saving strategies during these financially troubling times. Hell no. I fully admit that I  have reverted back to covering my ears, shutting my eyes and pretending it will all go away soon.

Out of habit I log on to several local papers’ web sites, Boston.com and Nytimes.com just to skim the headlines. But I haven’t actually made it all way through a story about the economy in at least a month. The only news source I religiously still visit is ESPN.  That is how I learned that Nomar Garciaparra is likely signing with the A’s for a one year deal.

While I am not expecting much from the A’s – really, can anyone name the more than two players from the A’s starting lineup this season? – the addition of Nomar to the team will definitely bring me – and my money – back to the ballpark. That is the first smart financial decision I have witnessed someone make this year. Maybe we can jumpstart the economy one hotdog at a time.

Obama tag cloud

obama-tagcloud_1243148c

I watched President Obama give his inauguration speech from a computer screen at work yesterday. Due to the high amount of Internet traffic, the streaming video paused nearly every seven seconds for a duration of about three seconds. Those frequent interruptions made it especially difficult to process his speech as a single unit, instead it read like  segmented sound bytes. I recall thinking that one word seemed to linger in each portion of pause: prosperity. I remember thinking it was a strange word to use during these economic times. I remember thinking I needed to listen to his speech again to understand the true weight of it.

Today I researched his speech and came across an interesting article in the Telegraph. The above tag cloud is Obama’s speech boiled down into the words he mentioned most – the bigger the word, the more times he repeated it. I found comfort in the words highlighted. This  form of data organization is not only pretty, but powerful.  From the words jumbled on the screen I pulled out those that stuck out most to me:

new nation
every people
less america today
must let time work now
whether world crisis
know greater things come

For the complete article, visit:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/4299886/Barack-Obamas-inauguration-speech-as-a-tag-cloud.html

Inauguration Day

There are days that seem to blend into eachother. Days when nothing worth noting happened and you can’t really recall where you went or what you did. Today was not one of those days.

Today was a day that people wore T-shirts and buttons touting the name of the man who promised America change. It was election day all over again. Today people gathered around TV screens and computer monitors in bars and office cubicles nationwide to witness the historic changing of the guard.

Like many people, I had a person in DC today watching the events unfold firsthand. My dad. But he was not there to celebrate. He was not there for the Jumbotron or the parades or even the speeches. He was there to serve.

You see my dad is a volunteer with an emergency medical response team. He has been deployed to hurricane zones and other national emergencies to care for the sick and injured. His team was deployed to DC just in case. They set up a makeshift hospital and were prepared for anything and hoping for nothing.

I spoke with him at sunset east coast time. They were taking down the tents and he could still see the lights from the parade winding down the streets. From his station he could hear the two million people singing and cheering in the distance. And oh, what joy.

My day was much smaller. I stood crammed into a tiny office with six other colleagues and watched the inauguration in streaming video, a process that took twice as long due to the Internet traffic. And like many of the best conversations I have had lately, the most interesting of the day occurred on public transportation between a bus driver and a Vietnam War veteran. Both men were black, both were in their sixties.

VET: It was just beautiful – the sea of all the people.

BUS DRIVER: His whole speech was about unity. He didn’t separate one from the other. He knows that is what it’s going to take. He knows without that it’s going to be difficult. It’s a hard task anyway. But the economy, it will take awhile, but it will be fixed. What he said about working with other countries … let’s come together. Let’s come together and work it out.

VET: [upon exiting the bus] Yes we can. Yes we can. God bless you.

My sentiments exactly.

now what?

For nearly two years we endured all the presidential campaigning. For two years we watched as things went from bad to worse to I-don’t-think-we-can-dig-a-hole-much-deeper-than-this. We listened to both sides blame each other for our country’s failures. We watched as the economy imploded and financial institutions crumbled.

For nearly two years we heard about how change was coming. Change was needed. And change did come – and not always for the better. So we took our chances on a relative unknown to catalyze this transition. Overnight our country invested in hope. Overnight barriers were brought down. Overnight we suddenly have a new chance at a better future for us all.

But I can’t help but wonder: Now what?

I find myself antsy today. Just hours after last night’s historic win, I am revisiting photos from the celebrations, photos from the campaign trail, in an attempt to savor the moment. I know that around the country today people in headquarter offices will be removing signs and taking steps to shut down the respective campaigns. I know that there is still much to do even before we can begin moving forward.

But I am straining to be patient. I can’t stop scanning the headlines. I can’t sit still. I find myself in a familiar place once again – waiting – for what is to come.

election day

It was still dark when my alarm went off this morning. I looked outside and saw nothing but streetlights reflecting off damp asphalt. My throat was on fire. My glands were swollen. My head was stuffy. But I rolled out of bed with purpose: I had to vote!

While traveling from the Richmond district to North Beach this morning I saw polling stations flooded with early voters. Lines wrapped around buildings and down the sidewalk and it wasn’t even 7 a.m. Experts predict a record turnout as more than 130 million voters are expected to visit the polls today. I cannot tell you the enormous surge of pride and excitement I felt when heading down to my polling station on Columbus Avenue. I think I actually skipped in my high heels.

When I arrived in front of the SFGreen building there were already dozens of voters stretched out the door. I took my place and immediately texted Emily.

“Happy election day! I am standing in line to vote. The line is about 45 deep.”

Twenty minutes later I had a large coffee and cranberry muffin hand delivered to me while I waited. Emily was among the first in the city to cast her ballot. I was the 370th person at the polling station to cast mine. Despite having to wait upwards of an hour to vote, (in heels), I don’t think I will ever vote absentee. For me, waiting in line is part of the election process. It’s the last minute gut check. It’s a sobering time spent considering what do I stand for today?

A little boy and his mother waited in front of me in line. She brought him with her so he could learn about the voting process before going to school. It brought back memories of my own childhood when my mother would take me with her to vote at the local high school after dinner. As we turned onto the school grounds there were typically swarms of brightly colored signs boasting the names of candidates I had never heard of, clouds of breath dangling between them. I remember wondering who are all these people? I remember thinking they all looked frozen. I remember wondering what could be so important that it was worth standing out in the cold yelling about.

Twenty years later, I understand. Somehow this election is different from the previous two presidential elections I have participated in. In the past, I always felt I had to vote. This year, I wanted to.

When I was little, I watched as my mom checked her name off a list of registered voters in town. She would enter a privacy booth to make her selections while I waited outside. To this day, I cannot recall my mother ever sharing her choices. Looking back, I am proud of that fact. I think it allowed me and my siblings to form our own opinions. (Unlike the gal behind me who dialed her dad to find out which candidate she should vote for. The voices in my head battled between turning around and telling her just where she could stick her ballot and simply keeping my mouth shut. Silence won that round.)

My feet had long since gone numb by the time I breached the doors of the polling station. The space heater inside did little to thaw them while I marked by ballot. I triple checked my selection, afraid that somehow I had screwed up and voted for the wrong candidate, before inserting it into the machine. I watched as the count clicked ahead one number and smiled.

“Do you want a sticker,” the woman at the door asked?

As I was leaving I called my mom to let her know I voted today. And I am still wearing my red “I voted!” sticker. Eventually I will take it off. Eventually someday it will get discarded. But not today. Today, I think it is one for the books.