Reflecting on Inauguration Day

Talk about being a crybaby. I can’t help myself. When it comes to pomp and circumstance, I am a waterfall. Weddings. Graduations. Funerals (Funerals don’t count. A lot of folks cry at funerals.). A good book or movie can also bring on the waterworks. Sometimes when I am angry I cry Quasimodo ugly, but when I am happy, I shed tears of joy.

Yesterday’s Inauguration ceremony was a happy crying time. Like numerous other Americans, I had been looking forward to that day since November 3. After climbing out of bed and showering I brewed a pot of coffee. (Hazelnut, delicious!) Then, I turned the television on to my favorite all-news channel and hopped on my stationary bike. From 8 a.m. throughout the day, until near midnight, I watched all things Inaugural. My planned bike riding marathon lasted an hour.

As the reports of the activities and events leading up to the Inauguration were broadcast, I got weepy. It wasn’t the fact that the long-awaited transition of power was almost over that made me emotional; it was the beauty and solemnness of the ceremony. I can’t remember how many times I snatched a tissue from the Kleenex box.

Knowing that I have a hair-trigger emotional switch, I always fight to hold back the floodgate, but there are times when the safety lock fails. Take Tuesday evening, for instance. I was watching the commemorative service held at the Lincoln Memorial for the COVID victims and was doing well until Yolanda Adams sang one of my favorite hymns, Hallelujah. That did it. Crying time.

Then yesterday, my eyes welled with tears as the Bidens’ motorcade arrived at the Capitol. As the first couple exited the limo, joined hands, and walked up the steps (steps that on January 6 looked like a scene from Night of the Living Dead), I had a one tissue, two teardrops moment.

Seeing Kamala Harris and her husband descending the steps to be seated in the ceremonial area was a two tissues moment. More tears fell later when Kamala was being sworn in.

But before the swearing-in ceremonies began, when the Obama’s arrived and walked through the passageway and down the blue and red-carpeted steps leading to their seats, I lost it. The dam broke. I emptied the Kleenex box.

At one point during the program, MSNBC political commentator, Joy Reid, said that she was having a goosebump moment. Excuse me, Joy, but I had flash floods. I later learned from many of my Facebook friends that they also turned on the waterworks during the ceremony.

I know that there are some people who may not have shared the joy that so many of us felt yesterday. People have different ideologies regarding politics, and this not so “perfect union.” Some of the nonconformists are my friends. Like them, I am aware of the odious acts of violence and other racial injustices committed against Black and Brown people in this country. As many objectors do, I protest against it, speak out against it, and do what I can to try and bring about change. But I refuse to walk around every day feeling disgruntled about the status quo. Life is too short, and that baggage is too heavy to carry. Sometimes I choose to set aside the load and be happy, if only for a few hours. If only for a day. I heed the advice of Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Yesterday was a day to feel happy.

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Reflecting on My Time Spent on Capitol Hill

My first time going to the Capitol building was in the 1980s. I was charmed by the splendor of the place and was no less enchanted each time I went there after my initial visit. Unlike some of my acquaintances who worked in Capitol Hill offices, I did not, nor was I ever a tourist. And I certainly wasn’t part of a mob of homegrown terrorists like those that swarmed the place on January 6. I was there on official business.

For 13 years, I worked in the K Street corridor as a staff assistant for two different lobbying firms (or as the head honchos prefer to call them Government Affairs offices). For the majority of my ten years with the initial association, our office was located on the same block as what is now known as Black Lives Matter Plaza. In addition to other duties, my gofer responsibilities required periodic trips to the Capitol to deliver official papers or PAC checks, retrieve copies of bills from the Senate or House document rooms, and occasionally attend Congressional committee hearings.

After showing my work ID card to the Capitol Hill police officer and going through the security screening process, I would be allowed inside the building and, if necessary, given directions to the destination office.

Sometimes while walking past the rows of offices in the pristine hallways of the historic building, I’d think about the enslaved blacks who played a significant role in erecting the structure. I took pride in knowing that numerous black legislators, many of who may have been descendants of slaves, were holding positions of power in the Capitol, or they had been there and left their legacy.

During my years of working in the political arena, I embraced some notable lawmakers as my she-roes and heroes: Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, Bella Abzug, and Diane Feinstein. Representatives William (Bill) Gray, III, Kweisi Mfume, John Lewis, Bobby Rush, and Daniel Moynihan were also on my most admired politicians list. I never had the opportunity to meet any of those previously mentioned except one. When our Governmental Affairs office held its annual legislative reception, I met Moynihan, Senator Ted Kennedy, and others who slip my memory. I would eventually meet Speaker John Boehner, a good friend with one of the firm’s vice presidents.

There was one brilliant and charismatic politician who I admired above all others. Not only did I meet him, he graciously posed for a picture with me. He was the Illinois State Senator who would announce his intention to run for president within months after our meeting. He ran. He won. And I will forever treasure my photo taken with Barack Obama.

Few people know that beneath the seat of government, the legislators have a private subway. The Capitol Subway system connects the Capitol with Senate and House office buildings. I had the opportunity of riding the train a few times back then. Since then, the system has been significantly modernized.

My reflection of better times brings me to the shocking and disgusting event that occurred at the Capitol on Wednesday. I never thought I’d see anything like it in my lifetime, radicals busting through doors, breaking windows, climbing over balconies, hanging on the walls, and trudging devilishly through the galleries.

People worldwide watched the insanity on their televisions as mobs of MAGA cult members and insurgents breached the Capitol building. I could visualize Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Xi Jinping enthusiastically wringing their hands, grinning madly, and chomping at the bit.

I cannot end this post without mentioning something that has occurred to countless people, including me. I have expressed this on my social media page, as have numerous other people. We know, WE KNOW, that if Black Lives Matter or any other black organization had breached the Capitol as the MAGA cult did, the outcome would have been very different. I can imagine the Capitol columns blemished with red splotches and rivers of blood streaming down the steps. Instead of five dead white people, there might have been 500 black corpses scattered all over the property. There wouldn’t be enough body bags in the city to handle the carnage. My opinion on the body count may be extreme, but fair-minded Americans will agree with the premise. Even President-Elect Biden acknowledged as much during his news conference on Thursday.

For the rest of my life, memories of the times I spent on Capitol Hill will be tarnished by the horrific event of January 6 because I cannot erase the scenes from my mind.

My condolences to the family of Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick who lost his life during the lawlessness and mayhem on January 6, 2021.

 

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Reconciling a New Year, Old Resolutions, and Pet Peeves

Wow! A new year rising. Who would have thought after the last hellish four years that any of us would survive to see 2021? Many of us did. Sadly, numerous souls did not. They succumbed to various causes, including more than 300,000 deaths related to the COVID pandemic.

Enough about the dark side. I promised myself that my first blog post of the New Year would be upbeat so, let me get back on track.

First off, I wish good luck to those ambitious folks who are making a list of resolutions for the New Year. I don’t do it. For years, I tried, to no avail. Then, one year, I created what I determined would be my final list of New Year’s Resolutions. I wrote.

Number one. Win the Mega Millions lottery. Too farfetched. You have to play to win. I don’t play. I scratched out number one.

Number two. Find and marry an African Prince. What was I thinking? I’d rather be a queen than a princess. Scratch number two.

Number three. Nah. Too risqué. Scratch that one, too. (Oh, wouldn’t you like to know?) I balled up the page and threw it in the trash.

I could have stuck with traditional resolutions — eat better, exercise more, and swear less. They are run-of-the-mill but attainable. Instead, I got resourceful. I created a list of non-resolutions and combined it with my growing list of pet peeves (You know, those things that annoy you like an eyelid twitch.). At the end of each year, I evaluate my list of Peevelutions. (You are right. I made that word up. Peeves plus resolutions equal, you got it, peevelutions.) At each year’s end, I either applaud my successes or move a goal from a lower status to higher on the list.

Some of the Top 20 items below are carry-overs from previous years; others are works in progress.

In 2021, I will . . .

  1. Stop squeezing my butt into Victoria’s Secret undies and start wearing big girl drawers.
  2. Conceal my weight gain by wearing baggy clothes.
  3. Stop hoarding paper towels, toilet paper, and coffee in the storage locker.
  4. Enroll in a 12 step program for political junkies. The last four years took me to rock bottom.
  5. Learn another foreign language besides pig Latin.
  6. Stop fake-smiling during a Zoom meeting, even when it is as tedious as folding fitted sheets.
  7. Finish reading a book before starting another, instead of reading two or three books concurrently.
  8. Stop letting my audiobooks read me to sleep at night, forcing me, the next day, to rewind and figure out the point where I dozed off before I can resume listening.
  9. Stop procrastinating and work on finishing my book instead of playing online word games.
  10. Devote myself as enthusiastically to working-out at home as I did when I was going to the gym.
  11. Stop unfriending people on Facebook who get on my nerves; continue to ignore them instead.
  12. Stop grumbling when the person delivering my groceries arrives 30 minutes early while I am still in my jammies; better that I complain to him about being 30 minutes late. At least I will be presentable by then.
  13. Acknowledge that Smart Phones, Smart TVs, and other alleged smart devices are fallible and, when they malfunction, are dumb as soap.
  14. Have more tolerance for people who never contact me unless they want something, forcing me while cheerfully saying, “Oh, hello, there!” to think hypocritically, What do you want this time?
  15. Resist rolling my eyes when I hear corny phrases like, “wrap my head around it” and “it is what it is.” The first expression sounds like you are doing mental gymnastics, and the other one begs the sarcastic response, “And what if — what it is — isn’t?”
  16. Avoid reading a book before watching the corresponding movie; then I won’t gripe about what was omitted in the film.
  17. Avoid feeling pissed-off when someone does not reply to my email or text or acknowledge receipt of a gift I sent them. Who doesn’t know that it is fricking rude not to respond?
  18. Be more tolerant of people who sit down beside me in a communal place, like on a park bench or in a waiting room when I am enjoying some quiet time, and begin chatting with me like we are old friends. I’d rather they pretend that I am an insect repellant and bug off.
  19. When I am dining with someone who not only talks with their mouth full but keeps shoveling it in while talking, stop pretending that it’s okay and don’t resist the urge to ask him or her to please shut up and eat.
  20. Keep being the good-natured person I’ve always been and remember the words of William Arthur Ward, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.”

Happy New Year!

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Keeping the Merry in Christmas

While radio and television programs are broadcasting Yuletide carols and reminding us to be jolly, COVID is sucking the merry out of Christmas. That sad reality is the reason why this usual glass-half-full optimist is fighting the pandemic blues. I am not alone. I know this because many of my friends tell me that they feel it, too. We compare our symptoms. Short tempers and long-lasting anxiety. Mood swings from hopeful to hopeless. And the WTF (where’s the food) all we can eat syndrome.

Since the pandemic began ten months ago, it has dragged on from season-to-season, and the set of new rules to live by has become old. We’ve all got the instructions memorized. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Avoid large gatherings. Socializing with family and friends at birthday parties, reunions, holiday get-togethers, even weddings, and funerals is a no-no. I imagine that some employees are not too happy that this year’s Christmas office parties are zooming. Who doesn’t feel like screaming, “WHAT THE ELF? ENOUGH ALREADY!”

As an (often mild-mannered) spiritual person, I wonder if the global pandemic is a Biblical prophecy and punishment is being levied on humankind for our sinfulness. I suppose that atheists and scientists would dispute that statement; it is an ever-lasting argument. So, I’m going back to talking about Christmas. Foremost, December 25 is a day held in reverence. It also happens to be my cousin Jo Jo’s birthday (a shout-out to you, Cuz), and for wide-eyed children everywhere, it is the day when Santa Claus makes their day.

Unlike Scrooge, I don’t need spirits to show me Christmases past, present, and future. I remember, and I envision.

In my mind’s eye, I am about seven-years-old. My mom and my siblings, and I are cheerfully jockeying around the live Christmas tree in the living room. Dad is seated on the sofa, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, clutching a Kool cigarette between the index and middle finger of his right hand. He is all into watching a John Wayne western on the old black and white TV set as I am into hanging my made-in-school decorations on the tree. Occasionally horizontal line interference forces dad to leave the sofa and walk over to the TV. He sticks his cigarette between his lips, takes a long drag, and then removes it, exhaling a puff of white smoke before tightening a small piece of aluminum foil that is wrapped around the tip of the rabbit ear antenna. The picture clears up and dad returns to the sofa. As he is sitting down, he glances toward the tree at our handiwork and nods approvingly. We continue hanging decorations. Simple ornaments created with Popsicle sticks, Elmer’s glue, pipe cleaners, colored beads, and a red and green chain garland made from construction paper share space on the spiny branches alongside store-bought string lights, shiny, fragile bulbs, and long strands of silver tensile. Some years, we add tiny candy canes – and then we wait. Christmas morning is only days away.

During the evenings leading up to the big day, mother sometimes lets us stay up past our 8 o’clock bedtime to watch televised seasonal specials about Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Old St. Nick. On Christmas Eve, she doesn’t need to tell us to turn-in. We eagerly hurry to bed because we know that the next day will be magical when we awake. In the morning, the joy and laughter of enchanted children fill the air as we gush over the gifts that Santa left under the tree. Our family’s meager income prevented us, four kids, from getting many presents. And often Santa didn’t bring us precisely what we asked for, but we always got a few things each, and for that, we were thankful. Mother’s lessons of expressing gratitude for everything were not lost on me even to this day.

The sweet scent of fresh pine needles lingers in our apartment for days, and it seems to take forever before every stubborn spike that lodged in the rug or slipped into a crack in the aging wood floor bordering the carpet has is gone.

In the postwar era, many parents observed – and children believed in – the long-standing tradition of Santa Clause. Some of today’s contemporary parents feel that deceiving children about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and other fictional characters hinder a  trusting relationship with their children. So, they don’t adhere to any of the rituals that created beautiful, lifelong memories for their grandparents and parents.

Christmas wasn’t the only day that held magic. I was a curious child. Whenever I would shed a tooth, I would place it under my pillow before going to sleep. The next morning I would wonder and sometimes ask mother how the tooth fairy could lift my pillow and replace my tooth with a shiny coin, usually a nickel or dime, without waking me. Mother played along, leading me to believe that she was as perplexed as I was. I treasure those memories, and I think that mother enjoyed the games as much as we children did.

I know that it is the parent’s prerogative when it comes to observing traditions with their children. Still, I’d bet four calling birds that some of the same parents who say that they don’t want to lie to their children about imaginary characters don’t hesitate to fib to them about other things when it serves their purpose. As I see it, our parents fooling us with myths about the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and the Easter Bunny may have been telling us lies, but they were good lies.

Sometimes, when I am stressed and longing for a temporary respite from everyday living’s harsh realities, reflecting on traditions involving make-believe activities that my family observed during my childhood makes me happy.

Christmas present is eight days away. I doubt if many folks would disagree with me when I say that the best stocking stuffer all of us could receive would be a miraculous, immediate, and complete disappearance of COVID. I’m not promoting fake news, I know it’s not a reality, but nevertheless, that’s my wish for this Christmas.

My visualization for Christmas future, 2021, and all years after that is for love, brotherhood, joy, and peace in the world. That, along with good health, is my wish for my readers and all of humankind.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may God bless you all!

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Contemplating Normalcy

Today I should be happy. Since I wrote my last post, the orange man lost his job. It was the first time I’ve seen people after a presidential election rejoicing over the defeated incumbent by dancing in the streets. In addition to the national celebration, folks in places worldwide joined enlightened Americans in jubilation. After four years of what many of us considered purgatory, we went – as my cousin Anita cleverly expressed it – from “hell to hallelujah.”

In a couple of months – 62 days to be exact – let’s hope that things will return to normal. WAIT a minute! There is that word – normal. It’s a red flag pop up for me. I don’t like using the word, but sometimes it slips into my vocabulary surreptitiously. There is nothing normal about normal; even the definition is complicated. In my opinion, the word should be banned from the English language.

Speaking of opinion, I am reminded of a Washington Post article where esteemed author and National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates said, “The need to have an opinion on everything at every moment corrupts thinking.”

Coates may be right. However, I don’t have an opinion on everything (Surprised?), but I have plenty to say about normal. If the word surfaces in my mind while I’m composing something or slides off of my tongue during a conversation – my awareness screeches to a halt like tires on asphalt.

Normalcy is like beauty, it is in the eyes of the beholder. What some people consider normal, others do not. Opinions differ. Sometimes I want to climb up on the rooftop and scream, “Somebody tell me what is normal!” And someone is sure to point to my dark silhouette against the light blue sky and say, “That’s not normal behavior.” Do you see what I mean?

The concept of normalcy is complicated. We all have different ideas and viewpoints on what we consider normal.

Five will get you ten that if a news reporter randomly stopped adults on the street and asked them to define normal, even the most intelligent ones might rack their brain to come up with a sensible answer. Some might say that normal is an acceptance of societal and cultural standards defined by the general public. Others might say that normal means average and widely accepted. A smart-aleck (sometimes spelled ass) might say that “Normal is whatever I say it is.”

The smark-aleck’s answer may not be too far from the truth. We live in an anything-goes society where some people believe that normal is overrated; others will tell you that there is no such thing as normal.

Carolyn Gold Heilbrun, an American academic and author of numerous books, was said to have strong opinions on many things and was considered brilliant by those who knew her. Her friend Judith Resnik, a Yale Law professor, described Heilbrun as “a person who was inventive and energetic and gutsy.” Heilbrun, wife, and mother of three grown children, once said, “Normal is absolutely my least favorite word.” On October 9, 2003, the septuagenarian who had no known physical or mental ailments committed suicide. Do you think that what she did was normal?

I don’t know how many times I have heard people say things like, “Normal people don’t act like that.” “There is no such thing anymore as a normal day.” And here’s my favorite, when my doctor says to me that something is “normal for your age,” I bite my tongue to keep from telling him, “Dying will also be normal for my age at some point.”

Wry humor aside, just as many of us grown folks believe we have a handle on the old normal, a paradigm shift in the social order propels us into a so-called new norm.

I wish that we could all get on the same page and determine a precise definition of normal.

I would close this entry with a traditional greeting, “Have a good day.” But as sure as I do some cynic would ask, “How would you define a good day?” That would be easier for me than defining normalcy. But everything is relative.

 

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