Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hail to the Chief

I have to be honest. I never really thought about Gerald Ford or considered his Presidency very much. I was nine or ten when he became President. I was actually rather more political than other kids my age. I remember I sent a letter to the White House complaining about the treatment of the American Indians. And, I sent a letter to Richard Nixon supporting his Presidency. Obviously I didn't understand enough about the situation because now I am appalled by what happened in that era, and by what is happening today.

Now, however, that Ford has died, I've learned about what he accomplished without a lot of fanfare and without a lot of self-promotion. Many people underestimated him and disagreed with his choice of pardoning Nixon. "But time has a way of clarifying past events, and now we see that President Ford was right," Sen. Edward Kennedy said. "His courage and dedication to our country made it possible for us to begin the process of healing and put the tragedy of Watergate behind us."

Ford went out of his way to promote openness and trustworthiness of the American government. Nixon had created a web of secrecy and corruption within his administration. Robert Gates, the new Secretary of State, described the Nixon years in part as "a time of secret deals and public obfuscation (and deception)". I wonder if he will remember those times as he begins his work in the Bush administration.

William Rogers, former attorney general and former secretary of state said "the public should view excessive secrecy among government officials as parents view sudden quiet where youngsters are playing. It's a sign of trouble."

I've recently started reading a book by John W. Dean called "Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush." I'm about a third of the way through the book and I am confused as to how we have allowed this secrecy, this loss of civil liberties to re-occur without fighting for our history, for our way of life. We have allowed ourselves to fall prey to the fear-mongering. We've accepted blindly the outright lies that have been told to us and we haven't dug deep enough to find the truth. Even the media seems to accept the bullying and the refusal to give information.

The first 40 years of George Bush's life are difficult to find out about. He has walked into the White House with less scrutiny than any other President of the United States; from what Dean describes, he would not be able to pass a White House security clearance check if he was applying for a job at the White House. His business experiences have been failures covered up because of his father's reputation and it is clearly evident that both he and Cheney have violated more insider trading laws than Martha Stewart. They have not gone to prison, however, but instead are defining our future. Cheney has openly lied about Halliburton dealings with countries facing American sanctions and his financial arrangements with Halliburton appear very questionable.
Taking a quote from Dean's book:
"In 1987, the late Justice William J Brennan Jr. (an Eisenhower appointee) lamented about the predictable nature of his country during war, noting, 'After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realized that the abbrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis came along.'"
Since 9/11, Bush and Cheney have done much to fan the flame of public fear. But what have they done to make America safer? In the days and weeks following 9/11, we had overwhelming support from the rest of the world. We've since alienated many of those countries and caused more turmoil in the Middle East. Our civil liberties are being eroded quickly, more so than we probably realize. The terrorists are winning: We have become less democratic. Our government has discredited itself and lost its claim to the high moral standards of liberty we used to stand for. We have sold our environment, our energy policies and our public health policies to the highest bidder, whoever contributes the most to the political campaigns.
I wonder how things will change in January.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy Birthday, Daddy

Today is my father's birthday. He would have been 64, but he was killed when he was 41.

Fred, my father, came from a small coal-mining town in PA. His grandparents had come over from Austria-Hungary. His father went into the mines when he was a young child and died of black lung in his early 40s. His mother, Evelyn, raised seven children on her own. She took her husband back into her house when he could no longer take care of himself. My grandmother was a strong woman who worked in a sewing factory doing piecework. I remember her well and hope that I have her strength, her independence and her sense of humor. I did inherit her ability to raise one eyebrow which annoys people greatly at times!

My mother, Anne, also came from that same small town. Her parents worked for the state. And, like my father, her grandparents came to the US as immigrants. In fact, her grandmother never learned English and her father was, for the most part, unable to speak with his mother.

My parents started dating in junior high. My mother went to the Catholic school in town. There were many churches in their hometown, mostly Orthodox churches. I loved going to their hometown - all the unique churches built into the side of the mountain with their copper-covered, onion-shaped towers on top of the buildings. My parents, to the best of my knowledge, did not date anyone other than each other.

They both left their small hometown to try and better themselves, but they maintained a long-distance relationship. My mother went to Wilkes-Barre to become a nurse. My father joined the Navy as an enlisted man. He took a test to enter the nuclear submarine program, but instead, he was placed into the Naval Academy. He was disappointed about being sent to the Academy. Lee, his roommate, became a life-long friend.

While in nursing school, my mother also made life-long friends and she lived with them after she became pregnant with me. She finished nursing school after I was born and while my father finished the Academy.

I was a Daddy's girl. Daddy had always wanted a daughter first and he had my name picked out long before I was born. My parents went on to have three more children (2 girls and 1 boy) and we went on the road as a Navy family. We moved often - Rhode Island, Georgia, California, Japan and Pennsylvania. My mother did not enjoy being a Navy wife, having to move so often, and being a single parent for the months my father was at sea. So my father left the service when I was in grade school.

Family was very important to my father. Also important to him was community and giving back to others. People often came to my father for advice and support. He served on town council for many years. As a nurse, my mother often worked second shift so he spent a lot of time with his children.

A math major, my father moved into the computer field working on the Navy supply systems. Lee, his roommate, joined the Air Force and remained there his entire career working with the aerospace program. After the Navy, my father went into the IT field. I eventually followed him into the computer field and also into the Supply Chain area. I remember going to his office and seeing the card-reading computers.

In 1982, my father's sister came to live with us with her two children. Her husband beat her for years and she finally left him. Her estranged husband came to visit the children and kidnapped them, taking them to South Carolina. My father and my aunt went to SC for the custody hearing where he tried to kill both of them. He protected his sister, but lost his life in the process.

His nieces grew up to be beautiful strong women. His sister was able to raise them. My sisters and brother grew up to be successful and independent with their own families. Our values were instilled in us from an early age. As children, we did not get in trouble if we told the truth, but if we lied, that's when we got punished. We knew that family is important. We knew that education was a never-ending process. And, we learned that life is precious and shouldn't be wasted.

I am sad that my children will never know their grandfathers. Both their biological grandfathers died before they were born. My father would be so proud of his children and his grandchildren. Christmas is always a sad time for my mother because my father was so excited every year at Christmas. It was his favorite holiday and he enjoyed it more than the kids.

With Christmas birthdays, we both got 'cheated' in our presents. Mine is four days before Christmas and his was three days after. We got lots of combo presents. :-)

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Eve in Pittsburgh

Went to Pittsburgh Saturday with another family to see the Pittsburgh/Baltimore game Christmas Eve. It was a Christmas present for the kids. We told the kids Thursday night so they would have time to tell their friends before the holiday break. The boys were so excited when they found out!!

We arrived in Pittsburgh in the afternoon. Our first place to go to was Heinz Field. It was a short walk from our hotel. After exploring the stadium, we spent Saturday evening at Station Square in Pittsburgh and rode the incline up to top of Mt Washington. Here is the view of the city from the Overlook. Two men were setting up candles in a large heart-shape so their friend could propose to his girlfriend. So, we didn't linger long at the top of the incline. We didn't want to interfere with the Christmas romance.

The three boys and my daughter and her friend were thrilled to be in Pittsburgh for the game. As a parent, it is wonderful when you pick the gift or trip that makes your child happy - not just for the moment, but for the longer-term. I think this will be a Christmas memory they will hold in their hearts for a long time.

Even though the Steelers did not play their best and lost to Baltimore (since it was Baltimore, the defeat was more painful!), we had a great time at the game. The city which had seemed empty and quiet the night before was alive and full of energy from early in the morning until about 3/4's of the way through the game. Only the die-hard fans like ourselves were still there at the end of the game. Others had gone home to console themselves with Christmas dinner.

We enjoyed ourselves on our trip. And, even today, my son is still thanking me for taking him to the game. And, my daughter, while disappointed with the reality of Heinz Field (to her, it looked better on TV), was also happy that we went on the trip. And, as some of you know, pleasing a teenage girl is not the easiest thing to do!

Hope all your Christmas dreams came true this year. And, that you will meet your goals and expectations of 2007.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

Had a great day today. Just looked out on Wikipedia to see what happened in the past on my birthday.

Watched the show Medium last night. In this episode, Allison re-lived the same day over four times, making different choices each time that resulted in very different consequences. The first time, she lost her legs in a car accident. The second time, an innocent man was killed. The third time, one of her best friends was killed. And, the fourth time, they arrested the bad guy and prevented anyone from getting hurt.

Question is:

Would you want to go back in time and start your life over at any given point in time and if you did, would you do anything different?

I'm not sure that I would. Even when bad things have happened to me, I have learned so much from the experience that I'm not sure I would avoid the painful part. And when I look back at those times when I thought it was the worst thing that could happen to me, it turned out to be the very best. Sometimes, we have to be thankful for those unanswered prayers!

Happy Holidays to everyone. I hope 2007 is everything you are looking for in the new year!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bumper Stickers

As I was thinking of the Ten Things I Would Never Do, I thought about bumper stickers. I've been given bumper stickers by people in the past and have never put them on my car. Like a tattoo, I always wondered what I would want to have on my car "forever" and have never used them. What would I want my car to say about me for a long period of time regardless of where I was and what part of the country I was driving through and where it was parked?

Now they have magnetic bumper stickers so they're no longer as permanent. I've put two bumper stickers on my car recently. (Another upsetting event for my 17-year old daughter who is constantly questioning me about my new behaviors! ) Regardless of the permanency, I think I could stand by these statements forever.

I often wonder what Christ would say to the person who is using his name and his words to tell someone else what they should or shouldn't be doing. You can substitute Buddha, the Prophet Mohommed, etc... for the name Christ. I do not think God (in whatever form) is pleased with how his children are treating each other and definitely does not want his name used as a reason.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Been Tagged

Metalchick tagged me - 10 Things I would NEVER Do.... I've been trying to think of things I would never do and it has been really hard. So many times in my life, I've found myself doing things I had once sworn I would never do.

I'll probably have to do this in stages as I continue to think of things.

1.) I would never eat any of those disgusting things that people do on Fear Factor.
2.) I would never purposefully cheat someone, either for money or for some other reason. Trust is very important to me and being considered trustworthy is something I value.
3.) I would never run in a marathon. I like exercise (don't do it enough...) but I don't see the benefit of running that many miles at one time. I don't get the goal other than being able to say that you ran a marathon.
4.) I could never live somewhere that doesn't have the seasons. I get excited when we change seasons - when Fall becomes Winter, when Summer becomes Fall, etc.. Of course, with global warming, we are having really mixed-up seasons these days. Today, December 15, was almost 60 degrees!
5.) I could never stop loving my children, no matter what.

Will have to add five more items as they come to mind.

Cold in Chicago

Once again, the Attic show lived up to expectations. We arrived in Chicago around 8:30 p.m. Friday. After spending a few hours at the hotel, we ventured out into the blustery cold to meet up with some new friends. By the time we headed out, it was Saturday, but that's not a problem. Bars in Chicago don't close until 4:00 am. We had a wonderful time getting better acquainted with some people we met at prior concerts. Breakfast turned out to be superb burgers from room service in one of their rooms.

Returning to our hotel room around 6:00 am, we slept until it was time to meet some new bloggers at a restaurant down the street from Martyr's. Luckily, we found out there that the Meet & Greet was actually before the show this time, not after. We could have missed the M&G because neither of us took our computers. We shivered in line but once inside, the warmth was evident everywhere from the fellow bloggers we met, from Mikey, from Pete and especially Rachel. Simon was exceptional performing as was Mikey. I think that this Attic show was the best performance by Rachel that I have seen. And, I enjoyed hearing Joe Purdy and Alexei Murdoch for the first time.

Again, after Martyr's, we went out for a few hours, but not staying out until the breakfast hour this time! Weather in Chicago was freezing, but I understand the temperatures warmed up after we left. Today in PA, it was almost 60 degrees!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Photos from Joe's Pub

While I didn't take many photos at the last Joe's Pub, many other bloggers did. Here is a site that has a number of great photos from not only the show on Nov 29, but also the first Joe's Pub show in September.

Thank you, Jon!

Joe's Pub, Take 2

There are a lot of other bloggers who have described the second Joe's Pub concert much better than I can. It was an awesome time. Our seats were one of the best tables in the house and we could see all the artists very well. We were about 5' away from them on stage. And, once again, it is like having a party in your house with people just playing music in your living room.

Rachel with Steve (Barnes and Noble) and Dave from Pennsylvania.
(Blogger wouldn't let me arrange the photos as I wanted to!)

I didn't take many pictures. I thought about it during the show, but I wanted to just enjoy the music. After the show, Dave and I went to the M&G and were able to have Mikey, Rachel and Pete sign our photos from LA. Didn't take too many photos at the M&G either. Lots of press photographers there this time. You can see in the photo below that Pete is just swarmed by the M&G folks. The room was small, crowded and hot. But Pete was gracious and charming to all.

I saw Roger at the show and also heard that David Bowie was there in the audience as well. I half expected Roger to get on stage at the end, but he didn't. I wonder what he thought of the show. As a performer, I would think that he would be somewhat jealous of the fun the artists were having. I view the Attic shows as a place where musicians can do what they want to, not necessarily what they think the audience wants to hear. For example, at the recent Who concerts, Pete and Roger continually apologize for their new material. They worry if the audience will be upset if they play the new songs. It's such an intimate setting at a place like Joe's.

Almost as good as chocolate?

Saw my fourth Who show in Hershey, PA, not far from my home. Had the pleasure of spending the night with two young Who fans, Emma and Laura. While only 10 and 11, they've gone to more concerts I think than I have! We alternated watching the show from box seats and down in the stands. Again, we got to say hello to Pete before he went on stage. Little did he know that he had to walk the gauntlet before making his way to stage.

Once again, the band was great. I think my earlier impression of the Who was due to the fact that it was the beginning of their tour. I had always enjoyed their music but found my first concert to be somewhat ho-hum in terms of the band's apparent excitement and enjoyment about being on stage. They have found that excitement now.

Watching from the box seats was not as good as being in the stands. I found that as well with baseball games. It just does not feel like going to a concert or a ballgame, when you are sitting in comfortable, spacious chairs with a refrigerator and chafing dishes full of food behind you. Not that I'm complaining about having the opportunity to sit in the box, but it was not a true concert atmosphere there. No one standing and dancing (or moving) to the music. No one pushing up against you. No excited chatter about the band or the songs.

It was still a great night!

Getting Lucky in Atlantic City

No, I didn't get lucky at the slots. We got lucky in our assigned seats at the Who concert at the Borgata in Atlantic City. The show had been sold out, but we put in our request for two tickets from a section that was being held for later sale. We weren't sure if we would get the tickets until a week or two before the show. Then, even after we got the tickets, we had no idea where they were. Our seats were 5th row, center! What a surprise!

It was an awesome show. The band was hot and totally into it. It was my third Who concert and it was the best concert, I've ever gone to. I know now why people follow them around the country. I have to admit the first two concerts I went to this year would not have encouraged me to follow them around. But, they were early shows in the beginning of the tour. That probably had a lot to do with it.