Friday, November 7, 2008

Yes we did.

Three nights ago, history was made, the magnitude of which I will be lucky to see again in my lifetime. A huge victory was made for civil rights, democracy, peace, and for all Americans. For the first time in my adult life, I feel patriotic, in the way I think patriotism should really feel: not that I am amped up because my country is going out to kick some ass, but that I am proud of our democracy and of the minds of the people here who have been able to accept change and to change their minds about what is best for the country, and how we can achieve a level of wellbeing here that affects everyone. I am so unspeakably heartened by the support our country has given Barack Obama, by the respect that he has been given by (most) members of the opposing party, and the acclaim and love he has earned around the world. I am proud to have cast a vote for him, and I am inexpressibly happy that so many others did the same, that we may have him as our leader.

I may never get to have another experience like this in my lifetime, so I am trying to savour the feeling, even though it is still a bit surreal. I want to remember how election day felt, how America took to the streets to hope and pray and cheer and vote, and how I spent the evening with some of my best friends, eating and drinking and hoping against hope, and how when each blue state came through on the news, we jumped up and down and felt the possibilities get bigger and bigger. And how when the final call came through, and every news channel broadcast the banner of "Obama officially projected to win the presidency," the world laughed and cried and hugged, and those of us at Leah's apartment in southeast cheered and embraced, and lovers kissed, and we all settled down to watch John McCain concede gallantly in one of the best speeches I've heard him give. And finally, on this November night when we collectively changed the world, Barack Obama walked onto a stage to speak in front of 125,000 in Chicago and countless millions around the world. Champagne in hand, leaning on Matt and squeezing Bonnie's hand tightly, I watched a man who has inspired the world accept the presidency of the United States in the humblest of victories, reminding America and the world that this victory is only the beginning of the things we must achieve, and that we all must continue to work hard and stick together in these toughest of times. I feel incredibly lucky that I got to spend that historic moment with some of my very dearest friends, all so moved there were tears running down many faces. As Obama finished his speech and cheers rose up around the world, my friends and I drank to him and to America and to the future, in celebration of an event that our grandchildren will ask us about, and that has inspired the hearts of millions and restored faith in America and the things it has always meant to stand for.

Hopemongering has succeeded. We have elected an African American president, a man who 250 years ago would have not been considered a human being by most of this country. We have come so far, yet we still have far to go. This is what makes me believe that Obama is, as my coworkers say, real; he inspires us and makes us believe in ourselves, and at every stage along the way, has reminded us that electing him is a great victory, but that in itself won't solve everything. We have to stay committed to the things we want to help him achieve, and we all have to tighten our belts and do what is needed to help this broken country heal. He knows there is no overnight cure, but he knows where to start, and how to proceed. He has never given up hope, and has proved that that in itself can do much to help achieve what was thought to be impossible. Also, he knows how to express himself. He is incredibly educated, articulate, and can talk off the cuff like he's giving a well-thought-out speech, and can read off the teleprompter like he's making it up on the spot. He talks to us like equals, doesn't hide the challenges we face, and his good heart is not hidden by political pandering or jaded by failure; it shines through whenever he speaks, and in the smile that will now be preserved forever in history books on the face of the man who has broken through those racial barriers that still remain in America to win the hearts of the world and help us mend what is broken in the United States and overseas.

We did it. We spoke for change, we voted for it, and our voices were heard. We have together changed the world, and we will never be the same again.

"In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope." --Barack Obama

Saturday, April 26, 2008

In Memory

Some of you know that I lost my Grandma Stuart in March. She was a remarkable woman and my last surviving grandparent. I had the honor of co-writing her obituary, which was printed in the Gordon, Nebraska newspaper. It was an honor to be able to use writing as a tool to try and let the world know even a little about her full and adventure-filled life. Here it is in final form, a tribute to the woman from whom I get my name, eyebrows, and the inspiration to live a life filled with hard work and love and lacking regret and complaints.

Margaret Elizabeth Root Stuart of Rushville, Nebraska, died March 11, 2008 at the age of 90. She was born November 10, 1917 in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to Mark Root and Nancy Harrod Root. She graduated from Scottsbluff High School at age 16 and attended junior college for two years before attending nursing school in Omaha. She received her R.N. in 1940 and worked in a doctor's office and as a Red Cross nurse in Scottsbluff, early in World War II. She met Wilfred (Bill) J. Stuart, an engineer for the Soil Conservation Service, in the spring of 1942. After a summer courtship, they were married on September 10, 1942 and started a life together in Scottsbluff. In the next four years, two daughters were born to Margaret and Bill. The family moved to Rushville in 1947, and in the next three years a son and a third daughter were born. Margaret and Bill made their home in Rushville for the rest of their lives and were actively involved in the community and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

Besides raising a family, Margaret worked part-time as a nurse for Drs. Hook and Crum and at the Rushville Hospital during the 1950’s and 60’s. Over the years, Margaret was a member of the Altar Society and Bible Study. She also joined the Ladies' Columbian Reading Club, RSVP, and bridge groups. She enjoyed gardening and propogating flowers and was always up for an adventure and willing to try something new. She travelled extensively, and after Bill's death in 1983, she made it a point to attend all of her grandchildren's high school graduations, making it to the last one in California in 2004.

Margaret lived the last few years of her life at Parkview Lodge Assisted Living in Rushville, where she enjoyed visits from family and was active in Parkview's social activities. In November 2007, family gathered from around the country to celebrate Margaret's 90th birthday.

Margaret was preceded in death by her parents and her husband, Bill. She is survived by her children, Nancy (Dave) Fairchild and Mary Cay (Tom) Burger of Denver, Colorado, John Stuart (Carol Mack) of Newport, Washington, Susan Stuart (David Brundage) of Santa Cruz, California, three sisters, Kathleen Root and Jean (Dale) Onnen of David City, Nebraska, and Beverly (Morton) Tiensvold of Rushville, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A wake service and funeral mass were held at Immaculate Conception Church the weekend of March 14-15. Burial took place at Fairview Cemetery in Rushville. Father Tim Stoner officiated. Pallbearers were Margaret's grandchildren Scott, Jeff, and Lisa Burger, Jon Fairchild, Jonah Stuart Brundage, and Elizabeth Stuart.

The family suggests memorials to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Parkview Lodge, or the Rushville Fire Department & Rescue Squad. Donations may be sent to Security First Bank, PO Box 550, Rushville, NE, 69360.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Life List

Everyone has one, here's mine:

  • Become fluent in Spanish
  • Learn to rock climb
  • Learn to play the fiddle to some level of proficiency
  • Buy and restore an old farmhouse
  • Live in England again
  • Sail on a bonafide sailing ship
  • Fall in love
  • Go to a masquerade
  • Become a published author
  • Buy a guitar and just play it for fun
  • Hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Hope

Last weekend, I had a conversation with a friend about how shitty this world is becoming. We talked about the stubbornness and ambivalence of those with the power to control our military, about how the greed and ignorance of a few is destroying the safety and stability of many, how denial and politics and apathy are putting our planet’s survival in jeopardy, and how our friends and countrymen are fighting a war they don’t believe in. As part of our conversation, my friend said that he has always wanted to have kids, but he’s not sure anymore about bringing children into a world that has gone so wrong. I can understand this, since for the last few months I’ve been following the news closely, reading about disaster after death after political fuck-up, and it’s been getting me pretty scared. Several times I’ve reached a point of despair thinking about the things my children and grandchildren could witness if things continue the way they are going.

After dwelling on all this for a long time, I realized that what has made me feel the worst is that I gave in to the despair. I have always been an optimist, but I gave in. Maybe because I’ve had a hard and emotional month on a personal level, maybe because things really are getting bad. But now I’ve had enough of fear and despair, and I’m going back to hope. What’s the point of living in darkness and fear and pessimism when there is still so much right with the world and when we can be putting our efforts toward that. Yes, crappy stuff is happening, and you know what? Crappy stuff has happened since the dawn of man. i know it’s on a different level now, and sometimes it does feel like the world is ending. But as long as we have the ability to love, laugh and have fun, and as long as there is clean soil and blue sky and flowering trees and wilderness, there is hope.

I don’t think I’m being an idealist here- I know the reality of what our world is facing. I see it in the news, I read it in papers, I hear it from people I trust, and I see it daily in my work with women and children who have experienced domestic violence. But there’s so much more: I read about a registered Republican protesting the war because he understands the economic repercussions it is having on our society. I see my fellow Portlanders selling their cars and buying bikes and transit passes to save money and cut down on the environmental impact of cars. I see my clients finding themselves again after abuse, connecting with other women and having hope again after years of being silenced and shut down. A black man and a woman are running for president of a country that has been dominated for 200 years by rich white men. There is still good in the world, and I think if we can see that and remember that, we can at the very least neutralize the fear-mongering and the despair. As I think about my friend’s worries about bringing children into this world, I feel his concern, but I also think that if we can raise children with awareness, hope, love, and a commitment to our planet and our fellow humans, then we are making a positive addition to the world. If we participate in a conscious and sustainable lifestyle, educate others when we get the chance, and don’t let the darkness in the world take us over, we can make it. This is my decision: I will acknowledge the awful things happening in the world, but I will not get dragged down by them. I will use them as reason to act, educate, and to hope for better things. I will be a hopemonger.

If I could tell the world just one thing,
It would be: we’re all okay,
And not to worry, ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these.

I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair,
I’ll gather myself around my faith
Light is the darkness most fear.

These hands are small I know
But they’re not yours,
They are my own,
And I am never broken.

-Jewel, "Hands"

Here I Am

After writing about my need and desire for hope in a world of chaos and despair, I realized that maybe if I put my writings in a public place, there is a chance that someone might stumble across a thought or reflection of mine that hits home and makes them feel like they are not quite so alone, or opens their mind up to an idea they hadn't really considered before. The idea of being able to connect with someone or positively impact someone through writing is stunning to me on a deep level. So here's a format where I don't inflict my ramblings on anyone, but if they happen across something here, maybe it can strike a chord or stir up some thoughts. Thank you Izarra for reminding me that this medium exists. I have been here before. If you're so inclined, check out my other blogs:

Londonliz -- prolific journaling from my semester in England, fall 2004
Kiwismee -- written from New Zealand, January 2007

Thanks for joining me.