Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jenn Joins a Horde

I just returned from Washington D.C., where I joined tons of people at the Rally to Restore Sanity. Truthfully "tons of people" doesn't even come close to the description. It was throngs of people. Legions of people. The mall was abundant with humanity.

We got there about an hour early and the crowd was already way back at 7th street and the sculpture garden, which was (as I understand it) the outer limits of what had been reserved for the Rally.


People continued to pile in behind us and the very-cool-young-men-in-a-tree behind us informed me that they couldn't even see the end of the crowd. Once I took a look at some of the aerial photos of the event, it was obvious that the crowd spilled out from the mall into the streets on the side and  way back to the end of the National Mall.

Rally for

I think I'm in this picture, but if I am - it's near the front of this crowd (the part furthest away from the reflecting pool) - which is still very far away from the actual stage. This is just the back half of the crowd.

At any rate - I was surprisingly pleased to be part of a horde for the first time in my life. After the rally, we all left slowly, tightly, with me holding on to my husband's back pocket the whole time so he wouldn't lose me in the mass of humanity. Along the way, I kept pointing out posters so he could get pictures of the great ones.

Once clear of the National Mall, all the rally-goers were marching down the surrounding streets, holding our signs and smiling at each other. It somehow felt historical and really, really great - like I was speaking up for something - even if it was something as mundane as just treating each other with decency. You know...using manners, not making assumptions about others, and appreciating the fact that Americans can disagree and not think it's the end of the world as we know it.

So...ok, it wasn't exactly the civil rights or women's rights marches my mom participated in during the 60's (I consider myself blessed that she and others fought those battles for us) but it was a semi-spontaneous march that mattered to me in 2010. I'd say it was a march for my generation, but that wouldn't be fair or even accurate. I was surrounded by people my parents age (and older) as well as people much younger than my 39 years. (The guys in the tree were clearly not only in great shape but most of them were almost certainly in their twenties..except for one really old dude who was rather overweight. I seriously think he might have teleported himself into the tree. But...I digress.)

I loved the trip to D.C. for a bunch of reasons. Saturday was the ultimate experience of going with the flow. I'd asked some friends for restaurant recommendations. That turned out to be quite we quickly realized we were walking down Independence Avenue with 215,000 other people. We crowded into the Metro - which was packed like a Tokyo subway - and departed near GWU. We beat most of the rest of the crowd to that part of town by about 15 minutes, which meant we only had to wait 45 minutes for a table at a surprisingly good Italian restaurant. It wasn't on any of the lists I'd collected, but I enjoyed a glass of their house sangiovese, ate roasted garlic with spinach, and enjoyed the fact that I wasn't standing up anymore.

I loved looking at everyone's signs and I thought Jon Stewart's final statement was fabulous. I can't BELIEVE I got to hear Yusef (a.k.a. Cat Stevens) sing live. I was in pure heaven singing "Peace Train" and swaying. (Maybe I was channeling the 60's just a bit...)

I clung to my husband as if it was 1963 (or...really...1973, since I should at least reference a year in which I was alive...) because so many people were using cell phones that the system was pretty much down. My cell phone was about as useful as a paperweight. I couldn't get texts or calls to go through until I hit Foggy Bottom. I was holding onto his back pocket like it was my lifeline because I knew if we got separated, it would be a while before we'd reach each other on the phone.

When all was said and done, we made it back to the hotel where we purchased exorbitantly expensive glasses of Jameson's and worked on this slideshow of all the great signs we'd seen. (Mine is the one that says "Chill!" in case you're wondering.)

I learned a few things this weekend.
1. It's great to spend a few hundred bucks to take an irrational trip every now and then.
2. There's a totally cool couple from Iowa (about my parents' age) who are the only people in their social circle to watch The Daily Show. (You go, cool Boomers!!)
3. There's a really, really bad Tex-Mex knock off restaurant in the Charlotte, N.C. airport that charges WAY too much for watery margaritas and nauseating nachos.
4. I may vote Democratic in many, many elections - but I'm not "a Democrat" - I'm an American. And a mom. I appreciate artistic outlandishness and conservative stability. Oddly - that doesn't strike me as contradictory.
5. My husband is the same stable and reliable guy that he was when he led me around D.C. on our honeymoon in 1993. Thank goodness I'm with someone whom I can trust to consistently point me in the right direction. know...find me a good red wine at the end of the day.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Praying for Dwayne

There's a guy who hangs out near my Walgreens and whenever I have a dollar I give it to him. For some reason I started thinking about him a lot, worrying about him you might say and I wanted to meet him. I don't know why - I know that in the lingo of the church where I was raised, one would say that "the Spirit was speaking to me" - but I don't use that lingo anymore so I don't really know how to describe how I felt.

I just know I wanted to meet him.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be stopped at the red light so we had more than a second to visit. I asked him if he needed anything else - he indicated anything was welcome. I clarified that I was wondering if he had the phone numbers to call for places in town that helped people who didn't have a home. He said he didn't, I offered to bring them and he said that would be great.

Last night I pulled together some numbers - it's not as easy as you might think - even with a semi-decent internet connection. I grabbed some quarters and a water bottle, then my son insisted that I include a bag of Chips Ahoy. He wasn't around yesterday evening and I was oddly worried. I saw someone else's sign by the side of the road - abandoned - and I started thinking about all the rough things that could happen to him. And of course - how many others were out last night? It wasn't just my friend in danger.

Today he was back at his corner so I walked over to him. Two other guys were with him so it was kind of crummy that I didn't have a bag for everyone, but I at least introduced myself and got into a mini-discussion about the proper pronunciation of Caritas. (Now I'm really wondering....)

Here's what I learned: my friend's name is Dwayne. I'd always noticed that he had a wolf t-shirt that he hung over his backpack and I told him how much I loved it. He pointed out that the reason he liked it is that the wolf has green eyes with dark fur and he told me to look at his eyes - they were blue. Blue, blue eyes against his dark skin - very cool.

Anyway, we talked for a while about how some people can treat you like you're nothing - I told him it happened to me too but that he just needed to remember he was a blessing. (Because he is.)

The reason I'm telling you this is that "Homelessness" is so big and overwhelming - it seems hopeless. The big huge social issue of homelessness and all the other social issues that are intrinsically tied into it ARE huge and I can't do a darn thing about them by myself.

But now we all know Dwayne's name. If you ever pray or even if you just think about people and hope for the best, then you can think about Dwayne by name. I gave him the numbers for a bunch of places here in town - including Caritas and Front Steps. I gave him cookies and water, and three quarters. It's just a start, but love will take him further.

So maybe tonight, just tonight - if we all pray for Dwayne - he'll see a new direction and a new hope.  My son asked me last month why I pray so often. I told him that it's because there are so many things in life over which I have no control. When I pray, I send my love out - sometimes that's all I can do. I guess I'm still Baptist enough (deep down) to believe it makes a difference in the world. I know it makes a difference in my heart.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Top Ten Funny/Crazy/Goofy Things

Top Ten Funny/Crazy/Goofy Things That Happened in the Last Year:

10. I turned 39.

9.  My son beat me in arm wrestling, which means that I now officially have the wimpiest arms in our family.

8.  I started cleaning the house...sort of....and realized that I enjoyed it....kind of...sometimes.

7.  I sewed myself a skirt. Which is, now that I think about it, a blog topic in and of itself. It's the ultimate proof that mothering soaks into your system, even if it takes decades to reapper. (My mom was always an incredible seamstress - apparently I learned some things after all.)

6.  I tried to organize my life by creating daily lists. I'm still finding old lists in odd cubbyholes and nooks in my purse, car and linen closet (don't ask).

5.  I found that the lost lists weren't really helping, in my stubborness, I just made more lists. I realized that if I wrote something down enough, I'd eventually do it.

4. Ramona and Beezus became one of my favorite movies of all time. I cried like a baby both times I saw it and appreciated the fact that my family didn't make me walk five steps behind them when we left the theater and I was still making those weird little hiccup noises and wiping my nose on my sleeve.

3. I became the mom of a middle school girl and was initiated into that head spinning feeling you get when your pre-teen looks at you the same way you used to look at your own mom. (You know, like when she would try to talk to you about s-e-x...awkward.....)

2.  I went to work half-time and filled all my "free" time with kids' activities as if volunteering for school, scouting, and church was some kind of Olympic event and I'm in the final push before the trials. That would all be fine if it wasn't for the fact that I tend to inadvertently promise that I'll be in two places at one time. I still haven't figured out how to accomplish teleportation so that's been a minor issue - especially since I dumped my Blackberry, which used to keep me on schedule back in the day...

1. Number one is a placeholder for all the things I've forgotten, but will jump back into my mind when I'm driving my daughter to theater rehearsal, reading Harry Potter to my son, or washing my hair with hotel shampoo and wondering when I'm going to get the guts up to buy the $90 shampoo/conditioner set I want from Sephora.

Thanks, M, for pointing out that my posts have been focused on my angst. I'll always have it - it's part of me - but it was a lot of fun to remind myself about the goofiness.

Friday, October 1, 2010


On Tuesday, I turned 39. Interestingly, I found myself wishing it was my 40th - but that's because I'm secretly convinced that I'll have it all figured out personally, professionally and physically by this time next year.

It's a rather tall order but I'm determined to do it - and here's my plan...

Instead of changing a bunch of stuff about me, I'm going to begin accepting as much as I possibly can. Only if I find something completely unacceptable will I attempt to change it.

For example, instead of thinking that I'm only going to accept a crazy-skinny size for my body, I'm going to ACCEPT the fact that I'm probably meant to be a size 6/8 and I should just be focusing on finding some kind of movement I can enjoy every day.

Easier said than done, but I've got a year. I'm thinking I'll have more energy for the important things in life if I stop expending it on self-critical behavior and ask: "Can I accept this about myself? Or do I really want to change it?"

Most of the acceptance needs to come in the personal area of my life. My personality isn't going to change. I'm always going to be very sensitive, very emotional, and I'm also going to need a WHOLE lot of love and tenderness. There you go. Not a whole lot I can do about it so I might as well stop wishing that I could be a tough-as-nails woman who needs nothin' from no-one because it ain't gonna happen.

Funny. I'm smiling as I write this - this radical "self-acceptance" concept is incredibly liberating. I think it's going to be a good thing.