Friday, April 15, 2011

The Heartbreaking End of an Era

Yesterday, ABC announced that they are cancelling All My Children and One Life to Live.  I know this may seem silly to many of you, but I am completely heartbroken.  These shows have been an integral part of my life pretty much for as long as I can remember.   My mom has always watched the ABC soaps: Ryan's Hope, All My Children, Loving, The City, One Life to Live, and General Hospital have always filled our television screen. 
My tween/teen years were filled with my love of the soaps.  I used to devour my mom's Soap Opera Digest every month and knew all of the families, characters, and actors on almost every soap.  At one point in junior high or high school, thanks to the VCR, I was watching five soaps: All My Children, Another World, Days of our Lives, One Life to Live, and General Hospital.  Robert and Anna, Frisco and Felicia, Jack and Jennifer... the Quartermaine's, the Buchanan's, the Martin's... they kept me occupied for hours with the sometimes ridiculous sometimes sublime events of their worlds.

Any soap fan you talk to will tell you that their shows have meant so much more to them than mindless entertainment.  For me soaps have been a huge bonding experience with my mother.  My mother tapes her soaps every day while she is at work and watches them when she has time. We have laughed and cried, hypothesized on-going plot lines, and made up what we considered better ones.  Our soaps have been an escape from our everyday lives, a place where we can go and not think about anything but Llanview and Pine Valley. 

What saddens me the most about the cancellations is that they are replacing these shows with yet more reality shows, these two will be titled "The Chew" and "The Revolution".  Really?  Really?  We need more of these shows?  I personally do not care to watch yet another scripted reality show, another cooking show, another "improve yourself" program.  Also, I can already hear Barbara Walters throwing from The View, "Take a little time to enjoy The View, and now stay tuned for THE CHEW." Barf.  Part of me thinks there must be a way to save my beloved friends: grassroots campaigns, phone calls and letters, picket lines... Unfortunately, the other part of me knows that the production costs of "The Chew" will only be a fraction of what it takes to produce a daytime drama and that ABC won't care that they may have lower ratings for these shows than the soaps.

So I must say good-bye to two shows that have been on the air longer than I have been alive.  No more Tad Martin or Jesse Hubbard.  Farewell Dorian Lord and Bo Buchanan.  I know that soaps have come and gone in the past, most recently Guiding Light and As the World Turns, but this time it's different because they are MY shows!!  I keep reading that ALL the scripted daytime dramas will be gone within five years, but I have decided that I will continue to watch General Hospital (which if we are being honest, has always been my favorite anyway) until the sad day comes that they send that one off into the sunset too.  I also think I might start watching Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful in an attempt to show my support for this genre that has been entertaining me for my entire life. 

By the way, even after getting this all off my chest I am still heartbroken. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Adventures in Motherhood: Epic Fail.

Motherhood is truly the greatest adventure of my life.  As with any adventure you have ups and downs; good and bad.  Today was a great big ball of all of these mixed together.  Since my separation (and subsequent divorce) three and a half years ago, my son and I have lived with my parents.  Obviously this is not a dream situation.  I mean no twenty-something independent woman wants to put everything she owns in boxes and move back into her childhood bedroom.  However, at the time, this was the best solution for everyone involved.  I hadn't planned on staying longer than a year, but divorce recovery, the economy, and really just life itself have combined to make the situation a bit more permanent.

WARNING!! **Bad mom confession ahead**

Due to space and furniture issues, my son has not had an actual dresser to put his clothes in since we have lived here.  His clothes have lived in a large laundry basket in our living room.  When he was still mostly in onesies and other smaller toddler clothes, this was fine, but now that he's five, his clothes have long ago outgrown this handy little practice.  I was also starting to feel pretty guilty about the whole basket thing.  So today I did some rearranging in our (fairly large) bedroom and re-purposed a smaller dresser with shelves on top (which I had been using as storage/a bookshelf), and made it into a dresser for W.  This turned into a great rainy day activity for he and I: unloading the books and miscellany, cleaning it up, moving it into our room, and filling it up with this clothes.  We ended up turning the top shelving unit part into a makeshift entertainment center for our 13" TV and DVD player and some of our DVD's.  He was SO excited to help and so proud to have his own little spot for his clothes.

Good mommy feeling.  Right?

Fast-forward to a couple hours of later when I had to leave for a work-related meeting.  He knew beforehand that I had to go and wasn't happy about it.  He wanted to go!  I knew this was a bad idea.  He is five.  He would have been bored out of his mind and I would have spent half the meeting trying to entertain him when I needed to be involved in what was happening.  I tried to make a clean break for it when the time came.  No such luck.  It turned into a full-fledged meltdown, and my mother ended up having to pry him off my leg and hold on to his screaming little body while I ran out the door.  Now this would have been bad enough, but when I got out to my car I had a low tire.  THEN I couldn't figure out how to get the air compressor to work and had to call inside for help.  This prompted my dearest son to come running out, reattach himself to my leg, and cry, "Mommy!  Don't leave me!  Don't leave me!"

In case you aren't following me here -- BAD mommy feeling.

So I was late for the meeting (great impression I made I'm sure), and spent the whole meeting thinking about my little man and feeling like the worst mom ever.  The meeting went way longer than I had anticipated and I got home to find him sprawled out on his bed fully clothed.  My mom said he ran down there the minute I left and refused to come back upstairs unless I was home.  I roused him up (well, sort of), got him into his pajamas, and tucked him in.  I sat on the side of his bed for awhile stroking his hair and just staring into his face for no apparent reason.  I thought he was sound asleep, but even so started to say our "special words":

"I love you buddy; always and forever..." and  in his little sleepy voice he finished it by saying "all the way around".  It was totally one of those cheesy commercial moments, but I swear it happened!  My heart just melted.

Even though I have the built in help of my parents, I am still a single mom.  It. Is. Hard.  I always feel like I am not giving W enough, not spending enough time with him, not giving him everything he needs.  I have to work because I get absolutely no help from my ex.  Because I feel bad about working and sending him to daycare all day, I try to spend as much non-work time as I can hanging out with the kiddo.  THEN I feel bad because I don't really have any time for myself.  THEN I feel guilty because that makes me feel selfish!  It truly is a vicious cycle.

Motherhood has been the craziest, most convoluted adventure of my life.  My son is by far the best thing I have ever done.  I hope and pray that I am being the best mom that I can be for him, and that I am preparing him to spread his wings and fly out into the big, bright world on his own someday.  There are days like today when I am not so sure that whole idea is really going so well.  I just need to try and remember that I am only human and that I really am doing the best I can.  As corny as it is, it might also help to keep those "special words" in mind no matter what:

... always and forever and all the way around.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Idea! Hunger Games: the Congress Edition.

So as I was driving to work this morning, I came up with the solution to the United States' legislative problems.  I know it sounds unbelievable that I, mild-mannered librarian, could solve the nation's woes in one fell swoop, but I really think I've figured it out!  We need to turn Congress into a new Hunger Games.

For those of you who are not aware, The Hunger Games is an excellent trilogy of young adult novels written by Suzanne Collins.  The books are set in a post-apocalyptic society called Panem where North America is divided into twelve (well, thirteen) districts and governed by a central district called The Capitol.  Each year, there is a lottery where two children from each district are chosen to go to the Capitol and fight to the death in a televised competition.  It's kind of like Survivor without that crazy torch extinguishing thing... and Jeff Probst. 

Here is my plan.  First, we inform all of the current senators and representatives that they will be going on a month long furlough.  Without pay.  Then, each state holds a lottery of all of their registered voters.  For simplicity reasons we just keep the Senate, not the House.  Two people from each state (regardless of age, political affiliation, gender, etc...) are randomly chosen and sent to Washington D.C. for a month. 

Each person selected in the lottery would have their meals and accommodations for the month paid by the government.  They would still get paid their regular salary from their regular job -- kind of like they are on jury duty or military duty.  They are then presented with a list of national business that needs to be addressed.  They have one month to consider and debate all of the issues at hand and then vote at the end of that month on all of the issues.  Also, no lobbyists.  Just their own thoughts and opinions and the opinions of their fellow state residents.  People can vote for their favorite lottery winners and their viewpoints via Facebook polls, and American Idol-like phone numbers and text messages.  Hey!  Maybe we could get Jeff Probst to host! 

This little experiment has the potential to have many benefits:

1)  People will realize that it is harder to be in Congress and get things accomplished than they thought and stop complaining about them.  OR they will realize that is not that difficult after all and get more accomplished in that month than our current Congress does in a year.

2)  The extra money that will be saved from not paying the current Congressmen and women their salaries can go back into paying the federal deficit.  It would be kind of like a government shutdown, but would only impact our elected officials. 

3) The entire thing will be televised and C-SPAN will earn their highest ratings ever!

Let's be honest, our current government is not really getting anything done.  Unless you count name calling and fighting.  More people vote for Dancing With the Stars and American Idol than vote in political elections.  Now granted, the suspense of waiting for someone to be killed would not be there because we're not killing anyone, people.  However, it would be kind of fun to watch Lenny from down the street or your favorite high school English teacher work together (or not) to figure out health care reform or education.  At its best, this little social experiment has the potential to solve problems, educate, and promote involvement in the political process.  Will this ever, ever, ever in a million billion years happen?  Absolutely not.  But really, would it be any worse than what we've already got going on?  Think about it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Librarian Reads!

I find it highly amusing when people tell me they would love to be a librarian because "then I could just sit around and read all day!".  Ah, how I wish that was what my job entailed!  Librarians have almost zero time to read while working, and since I have a 5-year old at home, mommy reading time is sometimes kind of scarce there too.  When I do read, I tend to read in spurts.  I can go a couple of weeks, maybe even a whole month without reading an entire book and then bam! -- I read several back to back.  I just finished one of those episodes.  This time all of the books I read were really different from each other but equally great and a couple of them have lingered in my mind since I finished reading them.  I love when books do that...

The first book I read in my little marathon was The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.  I picked it up on a whim because it sounded interesting, but also not like what I normally read.  All of the reviews I read prior to opening the book called it a throwback to the "great Gothic novels"  and honestly that genre has never really been my cup of tea.  I decided to give it a shot anyway though, and was pleasantly surprised to become almost immediately hooked. 

The book starts out in the early 1990's when we meet the main character Edith "Edie" Burchill.   Edie lives in London and holds what I find to be the "literary cliche career" of working at a publishing house.  (Come on, you know I'm right on this one.)  Edie has just broken up with her live-in boyfriend, and has a tolerable but not particularly good or close relationship with her parents (particularly her mother).  Then a long-lost letter arrives at her parents' house, and Edie discovers there is a whole different side to her mother than she ever imagined.  Although she had never before talked about it, as a child, Edie's mother was sent to the countryside during the London bombings in World War II.  Now this in and of itself was not so shocking because it was a pretty common occurrence at the time, but where she was sent was the clincher -- Milderhurst Castle.  Milderhurst Castle was home to twin sisters Persephone "Percy" and Seraphina "Saffy" Blythe and their younger sister Juniper. Coincidentally, (or is it?) the castle is also the setting of Edie's favorite childhood story  "The True History of the Mud Man", which was written by the sisters' father Raymond Blythe.  This is where the Gothic element starts to bubble to the surface.

Edie discovers that Percy, Saffy, and Juniper are all still alive and still living in the castle.  She soon gets drawn into the lives of these women and the mysteries surrounding their pasts.  What happened in this castle?  How was Edie's mother involved and why has she never mentioned it before?  Where does the mud man story fit into it all?  Kate Morton does an excellent job of weaving this tale together.  Morton flashes back to the 1940's, and a couple of times even earlier, to fill in the back story.  Some people find this technique hard to follow, but I thought the time changes here were really quite effortless.  The pacing of the story was a little slow in the middle, but by the end she had wrapped up nearly every plot twist and unanswered question I had.  Was I totally happy with how everything turned out?  No, but then again being called a "Gothic novel throwback" doesn't really give off that sunshine and puppy dog vibe to begin with. 

The book kept me thinking about the Blythe sisters for days after I finished reading it.  The sisters and their commitment to each other and their family was haunting.  It really resonated with me and raised several questions; What would you do for the people you love? How much is too much to sacrifice in the name of family?  Is there such a thing as too much sacrifice?  I also thought that the dynamics of the relationship between Edie and her mother were interesting.  You mean our parents were people with lives before they were our parents?  There might be things that they haven't told us about themselves?  There were some scenes in the book that were a little corny, and a couple of plot points that were pretty predictable, but all in all The Distant Hours was a satisfying read.  Springtime is right around the corner (supposedly) and this would be the perfect book to curl up with during a long afternoon thunderstorm.    

I was going to write a bit about A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness as well, but this post is getting kind of long and I need to go to bed.  Tomorrow maybe?  We'll see how it goes.  :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

O-o-o-o-scar time!

Ah the Oscar preshow!  Love it!  I am going to blog my Red Carpet reactions because this is my blog and I do what I want. ;)  I am a little late in starting but here we go.  I'm flipping back and forth between E! and ABC.  Tim Gunn is on ABC.  Yay!  I <3 Tim.

5:14: It is obviously the year of the glittery dress.  Amy Adams is wearing this gorgeous blue dress with a high neckline, but is wearing this necklace that while pretty actually kind of clashes with her dress. : \

5: 22:  P.S. 22 are adorable.  It's like Glee but authentic.  Their director?  Also adorable.  Can't wait to see them sing. :)
5:30: Holy crap Penelope Cruz looks amazing.  That dress is great.  Also her best accessory is Javier Bardem. 

5:35: I find it funny that people are saying that Melissa Leo is now not going to win Best Supporting Actress because of the for your consideration ads she did with this weird cleavage thing.  Is this an acting award or a best use of boobie award.  Ah, Hollywood...
This is from a little earlier, but Russell Brand totally looks like Weird Al.  They could be cousins.  Has anyone investigated this?  My friend Amy agrees and we are never wrong. 

5:42:  Ah!  Robert Downey Jr. is getting out of his car clean-shaven with a hair cut.  He is great... See people CAN tank their careers, go to rehab and come out on the other side!

So we started watching The Social Network earlier this afternoon and shut it off about halfway through.  Maybe I just wasn't in the mood, but I just couldn't get into it.  Loved Justin Timberlake though.  I don't know why.  Last night we watched Red and I have to say that one was super entertaining. Well worth the price of a rental. 

5:48: Anne Hathaway looks beautiful.  She is wearing a GORGEOUS red Valentino and the necklace is also amazing. Oh interesting! Mark Wahlberg is being interviewed simulaneously on E! and ABC.... is he a clone? 

I am really digging  the dresses tonight.  Penelope Cruz, Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon.  Guilana and Kelly Osborne really like Gwyneth Paltrow's dress.  I'm sort of like eh...  I'm also not sure about Nicole Kidman's dress.  Also, wavy hair worn down seems to be a trend. 

I am kind of hoping there are a couple of shake-ups in the winners tonight.  I always think it's kind of boring when the same people when at every show.  If there are any upsets, I think maybe it will be Annette Benning over Natalie Portman for Best Actress, Geoffrey Rush over Christian Bale for Best Supporting Actor, and Hailee Steinfeld or Helena Bonham Carter over Melissa Leo for Best Supporting Actress.  (Cover the boobies Melissa.... :(   )  Colin Firth must win Best Actor just because I love him. 

OK peeps.  Gotta get prepped for the big show!  I am excited to see how James Franco and Anne Hatheway do!  I may do a show recap later.   Enjoy the show and let me know what you think! 


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Attack of the Killer Carbohydrates

I have been overweight pretty much as long as I can remember.  It has been a life-long struggle and one that I have sometimes cared about and sometimes not.  My "growing up fat" story is pretty straight-forward, nothing you won't have heard on Oprah or Ricki Lake (Aw... remember the Ricki Lake Show?).  I endured taunts and teases all though school.  Never dated -- was never asked.  Sometimes I felt like my friends (some of whom are still my friends to this day) didn't want me to go out with them because I was chubby and that somehow detracted from their mission to meet cute guys and have a good time.  I even took Phen-Fen (you know, the diet drug they quickly took off the market).  It may have caused potential irreparable damage to your body, but man the stuff did it's job.  It was really only when I went to college that my weight became less of a liability for me.  That's not to say that it still wasn't a factor (it was), but I really started to figure out who I was, found my niche, made awesome new friends, and gained confidence in myself.  The confidence was the biggest thing I think.  I was still overweight, it just didn't matter to me as much anymore because I was comfortable with who I was.  I ate what I wanted, dieted some, but mostly just lived my life and enjoyed it. 

In 2008, I hit my highest weight ever (even beating my pregnancy weight).  I had just been through an incredibly painful divorce and moved back in with my parents. Food was my constant comfort.  My life had been blown to pieces, but I could always count on the food to be there when I needed it.  The worst was that summer when my best friend got married and I was the maid of honor.  I remember looking at the pictures thinking that I looked like a giant green upside-down cupcake.  I. Was. Mortified.  So I started trying to eat better, worked out a little, and the weight started to come off.  I felt pretty good about myself!  Losing weight is not really rocket science.  You just need to exercise and eat more good stuff, less crap, and really less in general.  We all know this in theory.  My problem is I really like food.  A big plate of pasta with bread sticks, Cool Ranch Doritos, fried chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy... I mean c'mon good stuff, right?

This past summer, I just didn't feel right.  I never felt like doing anything, was tired all the time, and wasn't sleeping well.  In September, I had finally had enough and went to my doctor.  They ran all the normal tests to see if they could figure out what was up.  When the tests came back, I was told that I have Type II Diabetes.  I have a potentially debilitating, progressive, chronic disease and I am 31 years old.  No one can say for sure what caused it.  Diabetes can be genetic and does run in my family.  More than likely it is a combination of those genes and my poor eating and lifestyle choices that landed me in this boat.  My doctor gave me a month to "drastically modify my diet and exercise habits".  She told me I needed to lose 40 pounds.  I had already lost around that figure and had no idea how I was going to lose that much more. I cried.  A lot.  I went home with a blood glucose monitor, a book about Diabetes management, and was honestly kind of terrified.  Thinking about my son was what affected me the most.  He is only five and deserves to have a happy, healthy mom who is going to be around to enjoy all of the milestones yet to come in his life. 

So being the English nerd/historian/librarian that I am, I researched and read everything I could about Type II Diabetes.  In fact, I probably OVER researched.  When most people think about Diabetes, they think of it as the sugar disease -- sad day, no more cakes and candy.  I won't go into the clinical definitions - you can google that if you are so inclined, but what Diabetes management is really more about is the carbohydrates.  Those were the foods that were going to be off limits from now on.  I discovered that all of my old friends were essentially poison to my body now.  All my favorite carbs: bread,  pasta, potatoes, even Dr. Pepper.... had changed sides and were all slowly trying to kill me.  It may seem a little extreme, but this is really how I had to look at them in order to let them go.  (I should point that you can not completely cut carbohydrates out of your diet.  They are important to help fuel your body.  You just have to find a balance and try to put the RIGHT kind of carbs into your system.)

Over the past 5 months, I have really had to change my entire life.  It is a good thing really, but I just wish it was something I had been able to do on my own rather than be forced into by a doctor's diagnosis.  Gone are almost all of the starchy processed foods I loved -- white breads, enriched pasta, regular soda, etc...  They've been replaced with more meat, whole grain everything, more green veggies, and stuff that I never thought I would like to eat.  I read labels on everything.  (FYI one serving of carbs = 15 grams.)  Once I started reading how many carbs were in everything I was eating before.... WOW.  No wonder I was sick. Tonight we had spaghetti (my favorite) for supper, but instead of pasta we had spaghetti squash.  It was delicious!  No, really!  Six months ago, I never would have said that. 

I am not saying that I am now a perfect eater/exerciser.  I have total meltdowns when I feel like there is nothing healthy for me to eat.  I cheat and have a scone from the bakery a few times a month.  My exercise routine was up to walking 2 miles a day and is currently in the toilet.  Some days are better than others.  For some reason, this past week has been especially difficult for me.  Before when I had a week like this, I would have eaten an entire bag of potato chips to make myself feel better.  If I did that now, I would probably get physically ill.  It is ironic that after a life-long love/hate relationship with food (love to eat it, hate that is sticks around on my body), I now have to think about everything I put into my mouth and decide whether it is going to make me sick.  Every day is a work in progress, but I am getting better.  I have lost 25 more pounds and feel better physically and mentally than I have in many years.  I am currently keeping my blood sugar levels low with no medication or insulin.  You will probably hear more about this saga around here as I work to lose those last 15-20 pounds or face down a rogue croissant at a restaurant.  Diabetes is something I am going to have to deal with for the rest of my life, and I would like for that life to be long and happy.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year....

Forget Christmas.... it's award show season! I love award shows. I have no real explanation as to why, but I do. The dresses, the movies, the "oh I'm so happy for you (daggers in my eyes)" reactions when people don't win.... Tonight is the kickoff party to the season-- the Golden Globes. I am watching E's Red Carpet pre-show as I type and the catty comments are already flowing from my mouth. (FYI: The one shoulder dress and the big bow on one shoulder (sometimes in conjunction) has yet to go away. ) The Globes are known to be more low-key than the Oscars or other shows mostly because everyone is sitting at tables and drinking profusely. I totally buy this theory because the more they drink, the more loosely they talk, and the more fun it gets. It. Is. Fabulous. Ricky Gervais ( or as my son calls him "the Night at the Museum guy) is hosting again and spent most of last year with a glass of scotch in his hand, so I expect this year will be just as entertaining.


HELENA BONHAM CARTER HAS COME IN CHARACTER AS BELLATRIX LESTRANGE HAIR AND ALL. Ok, so I don't think she did, but holy buckets she looks like a trainwreck including non-matching shoes. Rock. On.

See! Entertainment at it's highest!

So instead of giving you my winner predictions (which are almost always wrong), I am going to tell you who I want to win instead.


Best Picture Drama: Don't really care but I am leaning towards The Social Network.

Lead Actress- Drama : It's a tie between Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams. I think Natalie Portman has a better chance, but I gotta give Michelle my Dawson's alum love.

Lead Actor- Drama: Colin Firth. I love me some Colin Firth.

Best Picture Comedy: Alice in Wonderland

Lead Actress- Comedy: I like Anne Hathaway, but I don't think she will win.

Lead Actor- Comedy: Johnny Depp for Alice. Although he is nominated in the same category for the Tourist as well.

Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3 will win and rightfully so, but I loved How to Train Your Dragon.

Supporting Actress: This is a tough one, but I really want Helena Bonham Carter to win now just so I can see her ensemble again.

Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush


Series- Drama: Since LOST isn't nominated, I don't care, but let's give it to the Walking Dead zombie show just for fun.

Lead Actress- Drama: Julianna Margulies.

Lead Actor- Drama: Michael C. Hall, but I do enjoy looking at Jon Hamm.

Series- Comedy: Modern Family. That show never fails to make me laugh. Did you see the flash mob episode? Glee can be the runner up, but (sorry to my friend Amy) it is starting to get on my nerves a little because it just tries too hard.

Lead Actress- Comedy: Lea Michelle because everyone else ALWAYS wins. (Does that make it a little better Amy?)



Lead Actor- Comedy: Jim Parsons. Runner up: Matthew Morrison's hair. (Totally stole that from Sue Sylvester.)

Mini-Series: Don't really care.

Mini-Series Actress: Claire Danes will win, but I really loved Romola Garai in the new version of Emma.

Mini-Series Actor: Dennis Quaid. He played Bill Clinton in The Special Relationship. If you haven't seen that movie, you should.

Supporting Actress TV: Jane Lynch, but would be equally happy with Sofia Vergara.

Supporting Actor TV: This one is TOO hard. Scott Caan, Chris "Mr. Big" Noth, Eric Stonestreet, Chris Colfer, and David Strathairn?!?! Not picking.


Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas are on! Do not believe the Enquirer. He looks great! AND just said he's cancer-free. Yay for him.

OK. I could probably do this all night, but I will stop now. So here's to the beginning of award show season. May you all be blessed with bowls of popcorn, Snuggies, a bottle of wine, and your remote in hand.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What the World Needs Now is Love... and Harry Potter

I just finished watching the memorial service for the victims of the Tucson shooting and President Obama's speech at the service. I have to say that I was extremely moved and actually got a bit teary during the speech. I know a lot of people will say that it's all political, that Obama is using the tragedy for political gain, blah, blah, blah.... but many of the points that he touched on really resonated with me.

Over the past week there has been a lot of finger pointing about why this happened and where the blame belongs. Is it the fault of Sarah Palin, the tea party movement, or conservative political pundits whose rhetoric sometimes touches on taking action accompanied by violent imagery? Do we need stricter gun control laws? Do we need to arm our congresspeople and random civilians so potential shooters can be taken out before they cause extreme collateral damage? We can go back and forth all day placing the blame, but let's remember that at the center of all of this are six innocent people who died. They died, as Obama pointed out, exercising their First Amendment rights of expression of free speech and to assemble peacefully. In the end, this isn't a Republican or a Democrat issue, it's an American issue -- a human issue. Why were John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, or Mohandas Ghandi assassinated? Why do people do what they do? Who is to blame?

Maybe instead of playing the blame game and wondering why, we instead need to focus on what we can do to make things better? This whole discussion really made me think about Harry Potter. That's right, I said Harry Potter. ** WARNING: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ HARRY POTTER AND DO NOT WISH TO KNOW PLOT POINTS, DON'T READ FOR AWHILE... ;) ** Throughout the entire Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling focuses on the power of love and how that power in turn empowers those who embrace it. This theme of conquering love is a common one in literature, but I think it is especially important in Rowling's books. Harry is protected by his mother's love when she is killed by the evil Lord Voldemort, sacrificing herself so that Harry will live. When Voldemort then tries to kill Harry his curse does not work and actually backfires upon Voldemort himself. As the series progresses many people that Harry loves are hurt or killed standing up for what they believe in and protecting the people they care about. In the series' climax, Harry has to face Lord Voldemort again, this time as an adult, and defeats the "Dark Lord". Why? Like his mother, Harry is willing to sacrifice himself to protect his friends and loved ones. This sacrifice, this capacity for love and the humanity of it all is something that Voldemort doesn't understand and it is ultimately his downfall. Just love -- what a concept.

The late 1960's and early 1970's were a turbulent, volatile period in the history of the United States. A seemingly endless war was raging half a world away. People were upset, angry, protesting (sometimes peacefully, sometimes violently), and not even trying to listen to what others had to say. Sound familiar? The music of that era was a huge format for communicating social and political messages. The slightly cheesy but extremely popular song "What the World Needs Now is Love" was written in 1965. Just love, man. Just love.

If you want to go there, almost all major religions acknowledge the power and importance of love. The Bible (the book of my chosen religion) says in 1 Corinthians 8-13:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. but the greatest of these is love.

In his speech tonight President Obama said the following:

"Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.

"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.

"And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, it did not, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation, in a way that would make them proud."

Well said, Mr. President. You know what else I think would help a lot? Just a little bit of love.

Monday, January 10, 2011

And So It Begins....

I have been meaning to blog for awhile now. No, really! I've even had a couple of "practice blogs" where I create the page, post a few times and then let it fall into cyberspace oblivion. This time I am determined to do better. I guess this is all part of my 12-step New Year's Resolution Uber-makeover plan. Ok so maybe it doesn't have 12 actual steps (yet), but I really want to start doing a few things just for me and this blog is one of them.

As I was trying to come up with a blog address earlier, I wanted something that would sort of reflect what this page is going to be all about. The problem was I wasn't exactly sure what this page was going to be all about. The address I chose, "expeditionofexpression" happened for a couple of reasons: almost every other combination I chose was already taken, my English degree gives me the unofficial right to use big words, and the big one -- my whole life really seems to be a journey of words. Most of my interests and passions revolve around words, communicating, and expression. I was an English Literature and history major in college. I am currently a librarian. I love to read. I love to write. I love to talk. I love stories whether they come from books, movies, or history.

If I keep this up (and if you stick around), I will probably be talking about my family, particularly my 5-year old son and the ups and downs of single parenting. I recently found out I have Type II Diabetes. At 31, this was kind of an life-changing, earth-shattering diagnosis. I am learning more and more about it each day and adjusting to my new way of living, so you can bet there will be a little about that. I will probably post some book reviews or at least thoughts on things I have been reading. I may even fill you in on some of my genealogical findings because even though it's mostly my family I will talk about, some of their stories are kinda cool (and if they aren't I'm sure someone will tell me... ;) ).

The other purpose of writing this blog is to get me to do just that -- write. Writing is something that I have always loved to do and something that (like a lot of things I enjoy) I have let fall between the cracks. I am hoping by just writing on this blog each day or so it will help me get back into the habit of writing regularly. So here goes nothing! Let the journey begin.