On this day twelve years ago, my daughter was in kindergarten. Today, she is a senior in high school.
Our world changed that bright, sunny day in 2001. My daughter cannot remember a time when we were not at war in the Middle East.
I’m sad for all the people who died that day. I’m sad for all the people who have died fighting the people who were responsible for the attack and for the people who were sent to a second war that we had no business starting. I’m sad for all the people who have been deployed again and again and again, and for all the people who have returned home injured, only to face a bureaucracy that cannot seem to get its act together to give them the services that they have earned.
I miss my grandpa. Our last conversation was about the attacks – two days later, he suffered the stroke that killed him, just weeks before what would have been his 91st birthday.
I miss our old way of life. I long for a nation that was busy doing business, where there were plenty of jobs for anyone who wanted one, where the future seemed bright. When we all had a reasonable expectation that Big Brother wasn’t watching us. The one where reasonable people could disagree without getting ugly. The nation we lived in when our daughter was born.
My daughter knows no other world but this one. And that makes me sad.
We are voting for LA’s Mayor on Tuesday. Find your polling place here.
My daughter couldn’t wait to show us the YouTube video they discussed in her AP US History class last week. “It’s hilarious,” she said.
You know what’s not hilarious? We’re having an election in Los Angeles next week, and this guy is the Republican candidate for Mayor.
My understanding is that this municipal election will feature a non-partisan ballot; there are no party “tickets,” just a long list of candidates. Kevin James is the lone Republican on the ballot. There is also a Socialist and four or five Democrats (I’m not sure of the political affiliation of at least one of the candidates).
I’m not too worried about Kevin James winning the election, although I would feel a lot better about that if he’d acted like this at the one debate I attended. Instead, he came across as funny and only moderately conservative (even if I had a hard time making sense of some of his answers to questions about the environment). That makes sense when you are running in a city that skews blue. And when you read the positions of the candidates side by side in this terrific interactive tool published by the Los Angeles Times — there isn’t a whole lot of difference between all the candidates’ positions. Even those of Kevin James.
They all want to fix our city’s fiscal problems, our transportation issues, grow our tax base by eliminating excess taxes, and get rid of the massive red tape you encounter whenever you try to get anything done here. They all claim to support public education. No one is advocating the issues that make me see red, like teaching creationism or revoking Obamacare.
So when you’re facing a slate of candidates whose stated views are all pretty similar to your own — and without a lot of polarizing issues between them — how does one choose?
Unfortunately, I tend to focus on superficial qualities. I confess that if I’m given a choice between a male and a female Democratic candidate, I have always gravitated toward the female. For the last couple of years, my involvement with the MOMocrats has led me to associations with groups dedicated to electing more women to office, like EMILY’s List and Women’s Campaign Forum. I spent much of last year working on a project we call Run, Mama Run – which consisted of an interactive map showing female candidates in races all over the country.
In this year’s race for Mayor of Los Angeles, there are TWO highly qualified female candidates in contention: City Councilwoman Jan Perry and City Controller (and former Councilwoman) Wendy Gruel. So which one did I decide to support?
Neither. I’ve decided to endorse Eric Garcetti. And not all the reasons are superficial (although some are).
Let’s start with those:
Eric Garcetti meets MOMocrats SoCal Mom and Queen of Spain. Photograph copyright 2012 Daphne Brogdon
Garcetti’s campaign actually did some blogger reach-out over the summer, and I had an opportunity to chat with the candidate one-on-one over a fabulous lunch at the late, lamented Campanile. He impressed me with his understanding of the problems we face in this city (he should – he was President of the City Council) and his vision for fixing them. I learned that he was a Rhodes scholar and a professor at Occidental College (teaching diplomacy and world affairs) before embarking on his political career.
Most important: He really listened to my concerns, and even followed up with me by email after reading my post about it.
When I posted photos from the meeting to Facebook, I received comments from other political folk I know — all fans. “He’s the real deal,” one of them told me.
A political campaign is not all that different from marketing a product: a testimonial from someone you trust counts more than any 30-second ad.
What really put me over the top for Garcetti was learning that he was the candidate endorsed by NOW (over the two female candidates). The reason is his support of CEDAW, the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Garcetti is on the record as a supporter, and has vowed to implement the treaty in Los Angeles if elected.
I can’t find any mention of women’s issues in connection with the female candidates. Perhaps because they are women, they don’t feel the need to speak out on that?
At any rate: I’ve made my decision. I’ve made my endorsement public. I’ve even placed a sign on my lawn.
I have not been writing much. I blame tax season: it is just one more big task I have to juggle between all the other big tasks on my to-do list. I could handle any one — or maybe two — and do them well. If only I could focus on one at a time.
These days, my biggest goal in life is to pare that list down to something I can reasonably manage.
In the meantime, I flit from one project to the next; never quite finishing and never quite getting it right. At least, that is how I feel.
Quentin Tarentino at the 2010 Oscars. Photo copyright 2010 by Donna Schwartz Mills
The Happy Hour
There have been some constants: Over on our InQuestOf site, my sister and I have been playing with Google Hangouts. We call it our Monday night Happy Hour, because we go on at 5:00 PM and pour ourselves some cocktails or wine.
It’s very much what we would be doing if we lived in the same town: hanging out in our kitchen and dishing about what’s on our minds.
Last night, we talked Oscars. Neither my sister nor I were all that offended by Seth MacFarlane’s performance — not as much as my friends. I can’t help but approach it from the viewpoint of a refugee from the TV writers room (as an assistant, never a writer). I understand the pressures of writing a joke, how hit and miss it is — and how one that kills with the dudes in the room doesn’t land with the female taking notes (which leads the dudes to conclude that she has no sense of humor).
I also remember how it was to work for immensely talented guys who were indulged by management despite engaging in immature, inappropriate behavior. Hollywood is a place where people with talent never have to grow up — as long as they are earning the studios money. I’m pretty sure that describes MacFarlane, who became TV’s youngest executive producer at the ripe old age of 24.
As for my sister: I think her views are colored by the fact that MacFarlane reminds her of her son. Me too, for that matter.
And then there was that awful misfired “joke” about adorable Quvenzhane Wallis, tweeted out by an Onion staffer. The word that person used is not one that should be applied to anyone, and even more offensive when used to describe a little girl. It is not a word any CEO would want to find in an official company Twitter stream, no matter the business. I was pleased to see the Onion apologize and promise to discipline the staffer. Without knowing who the person is, I stop short of advocating he or she be fired. Again, I think my experience working with comedy writers colors my reaction. Nine out of ten jokes fail — even those written by very funny and talented people. Putting them out live on Twitter is a high wire act. I want to believe that the person who used that word suffered from a brain fart. And I want to believe that the person has now learned that the word in question is NEVER OK, and if given a second chance, would not repeat the mistake.
Then again, if this is someone who persists in applying that word to women and little girls, they should fire his or her ass.
The sign is still on my lawn.
There’s a municipal primary election next week, and I’ve been trying to finish a post about the LA Mayor’s race. Yes, I am supporting candidate Eric Garcetti, as you can see from the lawn sign in our front yard. This is a first for us! We live in a conservative neighborhood, and my husband has always been afraid that displaying my political views to the world around us will make us a target of vandals. The sign has been up for two weeks, and the only damage it has suffered has been from the birds who like to perch on it.
I hope to get to that post today.
In the meantime, I still produce and host our weekly podcast each Wednesday, which can be streamed at BlogTalkRadio here or on Stitcher or downloaded from iTunes here. Tomorrow we are featuring Lee Fournier-Reyes of CoupleDumb.com, who will talk about her visit to Congress earlier this month on behalf of the Shot@Life campaign, , which is working towards eradicating deadly diseases throughout the world via childhood vaccinations. I am also trying to get a MOMocrats newsletter out before the podcast airs tomorrow.
Additionally, I am also still co-curating the MOMocrats Facebook page daily, as well as keeping our SheVotes Tumblr updated (although not as often as I did during the Presidential election — another task that needs more of my attention).
Engender Media Group
Earlier this month, Cynthia Liu and I updated the website for our little social media agency. I think it’s starting to look nice — a good thing, as this kind of web work is really, really time consuming.
Last week, I took on a brief VA assignment for my friend, Kim Moldofsky, who holds a monthly Twitter party on STEM education. It was one of those rare jobs where I got to learn something new and fascinating while I worked.
For the last few years, I’ve toyed with the idea of training for a 5K (as a walker! Please! I am not crazy). One obstacle has been the state of my feet, which suffered from twenty years of wearing five-inch heels. The result is a collection of calluses and corns and a tendency to blister; I cannot wear dress shoes for more than about ten minutes before the pain becomes insufferable. This is why you usually see me either barefoot or in cushion-y Skechers — but even those start to hurt after I’ve walked about a mile.
A friend who is a runner suggested getting fitted at the shop where she buys her shoes, and last week I took her up on that. She drove me to FleetFeet in Encino, where I met a nice salesperson who measured my sad little feet every which way and then made me walk so she could observe my gait. In addition to the corns, I appear to be compensating for last year’s broken toe, which now also flares up with arthritic pain in cold weather. This goes rather well with the arthritis I now feel in my knees.
Ech. Nothing says “I’m getting old” like complaining about your arthritic knees. Now that I have, I’ll shut up about it.
Anyway — I walked out of there with a new pair of grey Nikes plus inserts to counteract the problems with my gait. I also purchased three pairs of expensive, cushioned socks that promise to reduce the threat of blisters (“Cotton retains moisture,” I was told and these won’t).
So now that I have no excuse, I’ve begun taking a mid-morning break to walk. Only about a mile to begin with and will work my way up. That has to be a good thing, right?
Huell Howser at the Nisei Week Grand Parade, Los Angeles, California, 19 August 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My husband was such a fan of Huell Howser that he called me from work yesterday when he heard the news.
We both enjoyed watching the venerable human interest reporter with the seemingly endless curiosity about our local treasures.
Howser was such a presence on local public television that most Angelenos may have forgotten that he started in LA on CBS owned and operated Channel 2. At first glance, his “aw, shucks” manner did not seem to fit into the jaded, life in the fast lane aura of 1980′s Los Angeles — but his wide-eyed curiosity, enthusiasm and love of people were infectious. He became a local icon after he found a permanent home at public television station KCET.
I remember a Los Angeles magazine profile proclaiming with an envious tone that Huell Howser had the “best job in the world.” He made a career out of just talking to people — regular people, not celebrities. People who were passionate about what they did. And Howser was just as passionate. He was as fascinated at a trade show for owners of pizza restaurants as he was when he got up close and personal with the Hollywood sign. He visited parks, highlighted obscure people and history — and always seemed to have a good time doing it.
What Huell Howser did so naturally is what I have tried to do here on this blog (that is, when I haven’t been gazing at my own navel). My favorite posts are the ones where I’ve explored something new: a city, an attraction — something that piques my curiosity until I get some answers. I cannot think of a better role model.
Last night, I tuned in to Howser’s show, which KCET continues to air in reruns. I watched him ooh and aah over a music college on Hollywood Boulevard (who knew?) There was an on-air acknowledgement of Howser’s passing at the end of the program (shot two years ago), and no indication that the station would let a little thing like death get in the way of their programming — so we lucky Angelenos can continue to enjoy this man who never lost his wonder of people and the world around him. The rest of you can still view some of his old shows for free on iTunes and on his website here.
Friday was a minimum day at my daughter’s school, as she wrapped a week of finals before the annual holiday break. I usually bitch and moan about having to quit work at 12:00 to drive to school and get her, but not this time. By then, I knew what had happened in Newtown, and I could not wait to see my kid and hold her close — which has been my inclination whenever the nation has been touched by tragedy.
It is what I did after Columbine, when she was just a toddler, and what I did in 1999, when white supremacist Buford Furrow shot women and children at the Jewish Community Center a couple of miles from our home (after we got the hell out of the neighborhood while the police were conducting a manhunt). It was how I handled my shock and disbelief after the fall of the World Trade Center her second week of kindergarten. I hugged my daughter after each and every report I heard of a child who was abducted… or harmed… or killed. I held her close and I wondered if there was any way to ensure that she would always be safe.
I got the news of the massacre in Newtown the way I learn of all breaking events these days: from my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I had ceased working anyway by the time I needed to leave for school — but without the audio and visual cues of broadcast coverage, I had been able to stay somewhat detached from the horror. In the car, I heard the anguished voices of the people of Newtown… and the President’s speech, where he choked up talking about the babies who had been lost on Friday. And I started to lose it, too. I could not wait to hug my baby.
And then, school was out.
My daughter threw her backpack in the trunk of the car and slid into the passenger seat.
“Can I drive?” she asked.
Did I mention that she is 16 now and has her license?
I was not in the mood. I just wanted to get us home.
“The movie is at 5:00,” she said. I vaguely remembered telling her I had no problem with her seeing a movie after school with her friends. This was no longer true.
“I’m not sure about that now,” I told her. “Did you hear what happened today?”
She had, and she did not think that an event that happened at an elementary school 3,000 miles away had anything to do with her ability to go to the movies that night with her friends. She said it wasn’t fair.
My daughter’s study load doesn’t give her much time for a social life, so on the rare occasions when she wants to get out with some friends, I am all for it. But now, all I could think of was those families in Newtown, and the people who were terrorized at the mall in Oregon earlier that week — and the massacre in the Aurora movie theater just six months ago.
No, no, no, no, no.
“You’re right,” I said. “It’s not fair and it’s not logical. I just don’t want you going alone to a movie at a mall tonight. I don’t expect you to understand that now, but maybe some day when you have kids of your own, you’ll look back on this and get it.”
One thing was certain: she did not get it now. We argued a little more and drove the rest of the way in silence, and when we were home she went straight to her room and shut her door.
I did not get my hug.
A friend called me later that afternoon to talk of the horrible events of the day — and our kids. I asked her if she thought I was being unreasonable.
What I actually said was, “Am I crazy?”
“No, Donna. You’re not crazy. I absolutely would not let my kids to to a movie theater tonight! What if someone decides to pull another Batman? I bet the other kids’ parents feel the same way.”
Maybe. One of them is the child of two schoolteachers. I bet this hits even closer to home.
I felt better about my decision – but not about the world we live in, where a parent has to be afraid to let her kid go to a mall, a movie theater or even to school. The rational me knows that I cannot lock my daughter safely away for the rest of her life; I want her to be out in the world and to feel strong and unafraid. But no one is immune from random acts of violence, none of us is 100% safe. But at least, for this one night, we would all be together.
I knocked on her door and peeked in. She had fallen asleep.
By the time her dad got home, she was up and about and was no longer sulking about missing the movie. We had a nice dinner and a pleasant evening. And when it was time to go to bed, I asked her for a hug.