"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The (Well Mostly My) Year in Review

It has been a long year. To give some of the pain of this year some redeeming value, I am trying to remember a quote from one of my posts, “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson”. Sometimes, it’s hard to see the lesson.

First the hard stuff. I have learned that a deep heartbreak can change you, make you a different person than you were before, not necessarily better or wiser, just changed. All this is supposed to get easier as you get older, but for me, it hasn’t. Deception and betrayal still hurt at 39 as much as they do at any age, older or younger.

I don’t recommend waiting until you are my age to deal with your childhood pain, either. But, so many people (evidently) don’t realize what they are hiding until later in life. I didn’t. It hits you when other pain hits you, and then everything comes out at once when you are good and weak. When it rains it pours. But better to weather the storm in one big blustery outing than to drag it out over years of painful drizzle.

Now, onto some of the better stuff. A great election year---finally! That HAS to be a sign of good things, doesn't it?

Another good thing: I have realized through all of this, well, actually I have been forced to realize, that I cannot let work be my life. I cannot give any company all of my hours, all of the days of the week, all of my passion and creativity. First of all, I have yet to work for a company that deserves or appreciates that, and secondly that is not a life.

I have discovered that the things that make me –well, me-- are some well hidden dreams I packed up and put in my virtual attic, and literally gave up on. Even though I said I wanted to be this or do that, the fact that I was doing nothing about it was just as good as giving up. Having started writing, taking pictures, and really spending time doing things I love recently, just being out in the world, and not working 24/7 has made me realize so much about who I am and who I almost lost in 2008. It’s easier than we think. No matter how fine we think we are, one thing can get out of hand, and then another, and then we feel overwhelmed and it is all too much. A friend of mine once told me that we all never know how close we are to our own borderlines. They can be closer than we ever dared think.

It is so important to do the things that make you –you. To keep in touch with the things and people that remind you who you really are and help you see the best parts of yourself. You can’t let anything get in the way of those touchstones, those reminders, that beauty. They are your rock, your stories, the music of your life.

Oh, and keeping a sense of humor, even in your darkest hours, is just the best medicine. I am so lucky to have friends that can make me laugh when it seems impossible and even inappropriate. Those times are the best!

All of this wisdom (and much of the pain) has only come to me in the latter part of this year, and I have not yet completely wrapped my heart and mind around it all. In other words, I have more to learn and more healing to do. But I think I have a clearer path ahead of me, and it is leading in a better direction. I hope and wish all of that and more for all of you—clear paths, happy futures, lots of love, lasting friendships, and all of your dreams come true.

Happy New Year to all of you!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Ten Year Journal

I was trying so hard last night to remember where I had seen this journal--it is a ten year journal, but you only have 4 lines for each day. You just write down small thoughts or occurrences from each day. It is advertised as "The Journal for Busy People". I finally found it through the magic of googling, and a fellow blogger's posting.

For me, I think it is just the only way I will journal. I know the importance of journaling; I want to be a writer after all! But, I have so many blank books and journals that I have started and given up on filling after just a few pages or maybe 1/4 of the way in. I don't know if it is the daunting task of so many pages out there before me, or feeling the need to write more than time allows, but I never seem to be able to finish.

I am sure I could adapt this process to one of my blank books, and only write a few lines for each day, but this particular journal does a nice job of simplifying the process. And it is the simple small things, the day to day happenings that make up our lives, the ups and downs, the lunches with friends, the movies we see, the places we visit. I love the concept of looking back and reading these small snippets and stringing together all of them at a later date to see where I have landed.

You can order the 2008 version and get it a little cheaper, which is what I did. I will be happy to put this year behind me. But I hope to get the journal just before the year ends so I can start with my words now at the end of a really tough year, and hopefully go into a better one.

For more info on the Journal 10+, click here. Let me know if you order one, I am interested to see if this concept catches on with anyone else.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Wishes

Wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday with family and friends!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Maureen Corrigan's Best Books Of 2008

I don't often pay attention to lists like this, but last year, I found some real gems I wouldn't have read otherwise. I haven't read a single book on this list, although all of them are compelling. Most of what I read is non-fiction, and I am particularly picky about the fiction I read, but the choices here are definitely going on my 'to read' list.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Countdown

I know this post may come off as, um, bitter. I don't mean for it to, but I have to be honest. I would like to say I am in the holiday spirit, am up to my gills in eggnog and tinsel, but really, I am counting the days until I don't have to hear Christmas music EVERYWHERE I GO. I am yearning for the first day of January to arrive, so this holiday season is behind me. Even if I was in the holiday way this year, the commercialism and rude people I deal with every time I walk out the door would squash it for me. I honestly think that the rush to find the perfect gift and make the perfect holiday brings out the worst in most of the general public. I do count my blessings that I am no longer working retail. Working retail during Christmas was like some sort of prison, being tortured daily by the same Christmas CD playing over and over while the customers seemed to be competing to see who could be the most rude to those of us punching the clock to serve them. Bitter? Not me.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Party Pooper

young Adolph Hitler Campbell turns three this year

I was sure this story originated somewhere in the south. The rural south. But, no, Pennsylvania gets to wear this badge of honor. The printed story is about the fact that a grocery store refused to write Happy Birthday Adolph Hitler Campbell on a cake for a three-year-old's birthday. (who writes anyone's whole name on the cake anyway?) But the real story is the tragedy of the names these parents gave these kids in the first place. Read the article, and definitely read the comments by other readers. Gracious me.

Holland Township family angry that supermarket won't personalize cake for their son
by Express-Times staff
Sunday December 14, 2008, 12:16 AM

Express-Times Photo BRUCE WINTER

JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell and Adolf Hitler Campbell.
Good names for a trio of toddlers? Heath and Deborah Campbell think so. The Holland Township couple has picked those names and the oldest child, Adolf Hitler Campbell, turns 3 today.
This has given rise to a problem, because the
ShopRite supermarket in Greenwich Township has refused to make a cake for young Adolf's birthday.
"We believe the request ... to inscribe a birthday wish to Adolf Hitler is inappropriate," said Karen Meleta, a ShopRite spokeswoman.

The Campbells turned down the market's offer to make a cake with enough room for them to write their own inscription and can't understand what all of the fuss is about.
Adolf Hitler Campbell will be getting a cake from Wal-Mart this year.
"ShopRite can't even make a cake for a 3-year-old," said Deborah Campbell, 25, who is Heath's wife of three years and the mother of the children. "That's sad."
Others, such as
Anti-Defamation League director Barry Morrison, applauded Shop Rite's decision.
"Might as well put a sign around their (the children's) neck that says bigot, racist, hatemonger," said Morrison. "What's the difference?"
article courtesy of lehighvalleylive.com


Sunday, December 14, 2008

MILK the Movie

This movie is showing in ONE theater, count it, ONE in the Charlotte area. Probably all of NC. Grrrr. But, I was able to go see it. I had to drive across town, but oh well. I hope it opens on more screens here, more people need to see it. This was an amazing movie, a truly honest picture of one American's life. My review is below. Go.see.it.

Synopsis from the MILK movie website:

Gay Rights Activist. Friend. Lover. Unifier. Politician. Fighter. Icon. Inspiration. Hero. His life changed history, and his courage changed lives. In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into major public office in America. His victory was not just a victory for gay rights; he forged coalitions across the political spectrum. From senior citizens to union workers, Harvey Milk changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights and became, before his untimely death in 1978, a hero for all Americans. Academy Award winner Sean Penn stars as Harvey Milk under the direction of Academy Award nominee Gus Van Sant in the new movie filmed on location in San Francisco from an original screenplay by Dustin Lance Black and produced by Academy Award winners Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen. The film charts the last eight years of Harvey Milk’s life. While living in New York City, he turns 40. Looking for more purpose, Milk and his lover Scott Smith (James Franco) relocate to San Francisco, where they found a small business, Castro Camera, in the heart of a working-class neighborhood that was soon to become a haven for gay people from around the country. With his beloved Castro neighborhood and beautiful city empowering him, Milk surprises Scott and himself by becoming an outspoken agent for change. He seeks equal rights and opportunities for all, and his great love for the city and its people brings him backing from young and old, straight and gay, alike – at a time when prejudice and violence against gays was openly accepted as the norm. With vitalizing support from Scott and new friends and volunteers, Milk plunges headfirst into the choppy waters of politics. He also mentors young street activists like Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch). Bolstering his public profile with humor, Milk’s actions speak even louder than his gift-of-gab words. Soon, he is known all across the city and even beyond, but his persistent determination to be a part of city government drives him and Scott apart. While making his fourth run for public office, Milk takes a new lover, Jack Lira (Diego Luna). The latest campaign is a success, as Milk is elected supervisor for the newly zoned District 5. Milk serves San Francisco well while lobbying for a citywide ordinance protecting people from being fired because of their orientation – and rallying support against a proposed statewide referendum to fire gay schoolteachers and their supporters; he realizes that this fight against Proposition 6 represents a pivotal precipice for the gay rights movement. At the same time, the political agendas of Milk and those of another newly elected supervisor, Dan White (Josh Brolin), increasingly diverge and their personal destinies tragically converge. Milk’s platform was and is one of hope – a hero’s legacy that resonates in the here and now.

My review:

This may be the most important movie you see this year, or next. I can't begin to say enough about the performance of Sean Penn, the fearlessness with which he leaps into this role, giving us a true picture of Harvey Milk. Sitting in the theater tonight, I was saddened to think that we haven't come as far as I would like to think where gay rights are concerned as the recent passing of Prop 8 and other incidents across the nation tell us. There are so many incidents, political and otherwise in the movie that are incredibly timely. The movie doesn't just portray him as a hero, but as a flawed, normal man, trying to make a difference, who does succeed, but suffers tragically for it. His flaws, to me, only made him more endearing, more human. One of the most powerful moments for me in the movie was when Milk was trying to rally more voters, and voiced the idea that all gay Americans had to come out, so that everyone would realize they know "one of us". Because once you know someone, care about them, and then find out they are gay, it would be harder to hate them, to vote against them, to not let them have their rights. I think that is very powerful and works for any minority or population struggling to be heard or given rights, because it is so true.
I think I was born liberal, much to my parents disappointment, but knowing gay men and women early in my life shaped even more my beliefs that we are all created equal, we are all human beings. We all have hearts and minds and hopes and dreams. And none of us of any other belief system has the right to take that away from anyone.
Harvey Milk was so brave in his fight to win a public office to change, to make a difference. I was awed at this persistence and ability to believe when there were so many adversaries winning around him. People wept in the theater watching this movie tonight, it was hard not to. It was an amazing man's life story, cut much too short.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Throwing Away the Key

Imagine for a moment that your spouse, that you have known since grade school, who grew up in America just as you did, is traveling internationally for business. He or she leaves, kissing you goodbye, heading for the airport. You wait for him or her to call, and days pass as you try the cell, the hotel, then the airline. There is no answer on the cell, and the airline can only tell you that your spouse made it on one flight but not another. Days turn into weeks and you know nothing, hear nothing. This person that you have shared your life with has vanished.

This happened to more people than we will ever know. These people were targeted by arresting officers of the US military, and without any due process, were arrested and shipped off to Guantanamo Bay to be held prisoner.

There are some people that were imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay that no doubt deserved it. But some were picked up without true justification, without any true fact checking, and if they were released, it was only after years of languishing in a horrible prison without any legal representation or contact with their loved ones.

For those of you that don’t know, no one in Guantanamo Bay was allowed legal representation. That means no phone call, no lawyer, no right to refute the charges against them; which may or may not have been fully explained to them. And although recently there has been a push to do this, it is in my opinion, too little too late. If you aren't upset you should be. America is supposed to be the beacon of light in a world where human rights and freedoms can get lost in history and suppression. I am all for anyone who is a terrorist seeing the hard end of justice, but I am not, nor will I ever be for our country or any other country for that matter, being able to pick up any person without just cause or reason and cut them off from the world as has been done to these prisoners. If they are guilty, then by all means, let’s try them, convict them, and show the world that a fair and just country can also capture and punish those that deserve it, and keep our dignity intact all the while.

Obama made some serious promises about Guantanamo and closing it as soon as he came into office. I think there are now complications about how fast that can be done to make sure that the truly guilty are filtered out of the remaining population. I am holding him to this one, though. We have to erase this blot off of our history, not so we forget, but so it never, ever happens again.

Here are some basic questions and answers about Guantanamo, provided by NPR:

Q&A About Guantanamo Bay and the Detainees
Jackie Northam
NPR.org, June 23, 2005 ·

The United States military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been holding prisoners from the invasion of Afghanistan and the war on terror since early 2002. The detainees, as they are most frequently called, are held in a legal limbo, with no clear future.
While some critics have called for the release of the prisoners, the U.S. government is upgrading the prison at Guantanamo with facilities that are more permanent in nature than the buildings used to this point.
NPR National Security Correspondent Jackie Northam answers questions about the situation as it now stands:
Q: How many people are being held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay?
At least 520, according to the Pentagon. But the military will not release an exact figure. Several Members of Congress have tried to find out the exact figure, but they haven't succeeded.

Q: Has anyone been released from the facility?
At its height, Guantanamo Bay held about 750 prisoners. The military has released more than 200 people from the camp -- most have been returned to their home countries. But the government says that as many as 12 people released from Guantanamo have returned to the battlefield to fight again against U.S. interests.

Q: Are new prisoners still being delivered there?
Yes, but it's slowed down to a trickle, only one or two prisoners at a time.

Q: Where did the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay come from?
According to the military, most were picked up in Afghanistan. The adminstration likes to use the term "captured on the battlefield." Their nationalities vary. Many come from countries such as Yemen, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia -- but there are some from Britain and Australia, too. The Pentagon says the detainees fought alongside the Taliban during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan or they have direct links to Al Qaeda. There have been repeated allegations that some of the prisoners were handed over to the U.S. by bounty hunters associated with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan -- a group which fought against the Taliban.

Q: Is that information reliable?
It's hard to be certain who the prisoners really are because the administration keeps much of the information about the detainees secret. Any information about who is being held at the prison camp has come out through documents that have been released through the Freedom of Information Act, by a small group of defense attornies, or through tribunals held at Guantanamo which are designed to determine whether a detainee is still considered a threat.

Q: How long have the prisoners been there?
Many, if not most, have been held there for more than three years. The U.S. started moving prisoners there in January, 2002. All but a few detainees have been held without any contact with the outside world, with no legal representation, no charges filed against them. At the beginning, they were interrogated fairly regularly. Some still are. But the Pentagon and military officials at Guantanamo have acknowledged that some of the prisoners aren't being interrogated now. They just sit in their cells day after day -- a sort of open-ended detentions.

Q: What are they charged with?
Only four detainees have been charged. Their trials -- which the Pentagon calls military commissions -- got underway in August 2004. But that process is stalled. An appeals judge said that the men had not been given proper due process. That decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the detainees had the right to challenge their detentions in American courts. A decision by the military on what will happen next to the four men is still pending.

Q: Why are they being held at Guantanamo?
The federal government hoped it could escape jurisdiction of the courts if the prisoners were held outside of the United States. The Supreme Court case centered on a challenge to that assumption. The issue is still not settled.

Q: Has Guantanamo ever served as a prison camp before?
No. It was a sleeply little U.S. Navy port, of dwindling importance, until the American government decided to use it as a prison camp. Now, it has thousands of U.S. military personnel, as well as civilians from agencies such as the CIA. A new prison called Camp 5 is up and running. It is a hard- walled prison, unlike the chain-link cells that have been used for about three years. Another prison is about to go up, construction is finished on an intelligence headquarters at the base and ground has been broken for a new hospital for the prisoners, one which includes a psychiatric wing.

Q: Who runs the facility?
A joint task force, or JTF, is responsible for running Guantanamo. For the most part, the Army had the largest contingent of people, and many of those were reserves. Interrogations are conducted by both the military and officials from the FBI, the CIA and others.

Q: Who is allowed to see the people being held there?
The press has been allowed on the base. I've been there six times. But the military exercises extreme control. They let you see only what they want you to see. On any of the tours of the camp, we can see prisoners being held in the medium-security section of the camp. These are the most compliant detainees who have more freedom than the others. They're allowed more recreation time, they live in more of a dorm-type building. But we can't talk to them. Every interaction between the media and prisoners is scripted by the military. The same restrictions apply to politicians who go there to investigate the conditions at Guantanamo.

Q: What did you see?
I was once allowed to visit a maximum-security cellblock with prisoners in it. The animosity between the guards and prisoners was almost palpable. The prisoners were just laying around in what are, essentially, open-air cages. A tin roof covered the facility. In contrast, there is some beautiful scenery outside of the prison. Blue-green waters of the sea wash up on the shore.

Q: How are the prisoners treated?
Physically, their needs seem to be met. They're allowed some recreation. The military says it gives the detainees meals that are sensitive to their religious and cultural dietary needs. But the mental health of many detainees seems to be questionable. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is the only aid agency allowed to visit the detainees, broke its silence and issued a statement saying that many prisoners are suffering mental deterioration. The open-ended detentions appeared to be the key problem. Dozens of the detainees have attempted suicide, although none has been successful.

Q: Where does the public's information about Guantanamo come from?
Mostly it comes from the U.S. government, and it has not been particularly open with supplying information. Most has to be pried out through things such as the Freedom of Information Act. Even then it took a court order to force the Pentagon, the FBI and the CIA to release documents. But, again, this is a very slow process. The CIA has yet to turn over one document. And there is some valuable information coming out in the documents that have been turned over, such as FBI e-mails that were released. The e-mails show FBI agents complaining about the harsh interrogation tactics used on detainees by the military, and questioned whether those tactics produced good intelligence.

Q: Critics have said the camp ought to be closed. Where might the prisoners would go if that happened?
No one knows. There are other far-flung military bases at place like Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and Guam in the Pacific Ocean. That could make it even harder for journalists and Members of Congress to get out to keep an eye on what's happening.

photo courtesy of The Big Picture- boston.com

Q&A courtesy of NPR.org


This American Life

Martha Miller (blonde, sitting next to Mrs. Miller) with her brunette siblings. Photo from Life Magazine.

If you are a regular NPR listener, then you are probably familiar with the stories from This American Life. I have driven around extra miles, or have stayed in my car in the driveway for ten minutes with the car running, because I have to hear the end of one of the stories. Ira Glass is the host, and has recently branched out into a TV version of the program. I personally love the radio versions, where your mind has to color in the pictures, and you listen more carefully to the actual words from the people involved.

If you haven't heard of This American Life, you are in for a treat. Check out the website here, and you can search through and listen to story after story, some funny, some sad, some so touching they stay with you. Because almost all of the stories are about real people, and true events, the impact is that much more powerful. One in particular has stayed with me for so long, a story of two babies switched at the hospital, but there is so much more to the story. I have never forgotten the twists in this one or the emotion and pain in all the voices of the women involved. More info below and a link to this one here.

On a summer day in 1951, two baby girls were born in a hospital in small-town Wisconsin. The infants were accidentally switched, and went home with the wrong families. One of the mothers realized the mistake but chose to keep quiet. Until the day, more than 40 years later, when she decided to tell both daughters what happened. How the truth changed two families' lives—and how it didn't.


Host Ira Glass introduces four characters: Kay McDonald, who raised a daughter named Sue, and Mary Miller, who raised a daughter named Marti. In 1994, Mary Miller wrote letters to Sue and Marti, confessing the secret she'd kept for 43 years: the daughters had been switched at birth and raised by the wrong families. This week's entire show is devoted to the story of Mary Miller's secret and what happened when both families finally learned the truth. (6 1⁄2 minutes)

Act One.

Reporter Jake Halpern tells the story of Marti Miller and Sue McDonald, the daughters who were switched at birth, and the many complications that came with learning the truth. Jake is writer whose books include Fame Junkies and Braving Home. (25 1⁄2 minutes)

Act Two.

Jake Halpern tells the mothers' sides of the story. At 69, Kay McDonald had to cope not only with learning that her daughter wasn't her own, but that another mother had known the whole time. And Mary Miller explains why she was tormented by her secret but unable for decades to share it. (26 minutes)


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas in New York

I have a list of a few things I really want to do that aren't really huge dreams or goals, just things I intend to do one day: see Vermont in the fall, learn to scuba dive, run a 5K, learn French, and see New York at Christmastime.

So, with nothing really ahead of me for Christmas plans, I thought about seeing New York this year. I have hotel points and frequent flier miles, so the travel portion would be free. I am pretty broke right now, but I really want to go just to walk around and take in the atmosphere, the decorations, and the time of year. Oh, and of course, take tons of pictures. I figure I can eat cheaply and enjoy myself for a few days. The one thing I would like to do is score a cheap ticket to the play All My Sons. I have always loved that play and the cast is stellar right now (John Lithgow, Diane Wiest, Patrick Wilson, Katie Holmes). I know there are places to get cheap tickets to shows, so I am looking.

So, I actually booked my trip, and look forward to crossing this one off my list. Big Apple, here I come!


Monday, December 8, 2008

Entree Vous

One of the biggest bad habits I can fall into is not eating well, and as much of a foodie as I am, it is as painful for me as it is for my doctor, who constantly is hounding me to take better care of myself. I love to cook, and so often I will buy the ingredients to make something, and then never find the time, and I just end up eating junk or fast food.

My newest solution is Entree Vous, which is one of several franchises that has popped up offering ready made meals to pick up and pop in the oven. What differentiates this one is that they don't make you buy a minimum amount, and they don't charge you extra for them to prepare it. Chains like Dream Dinners and others really prefer you prepare the meals and package them. At Entree Vous, I walk in, see what's available, choose a few and head home. The prices are great, the cost is actually less than I would spend on the ingredients to make the dishes, and the food is delicious. You can also place orders online ahead of time.

They offer all kinds of choices, and everything can be purchased frozen or ready to cook. They also offer great sides and desserts. I have been doing this for a few weeks now and I am only buying salad stuff and drinks at the grocery store and I swear I am saving money. I am eating regular meals now, and I feel better. An example, tonight I am having Southwestern Chicken Casserole (chicken, rice, pureed black beans, salsa and cheese baked together--yummy!) for dinner with a tomato and cucumber salad. Normally, I would probably have a hit a drive through as busy as today was.
I can't recommend this enough for those of you juggling jobs, kids, and all their sports and extra curricular activities. You'll thank me if you have a location in your area!


Sunday, December 7, 2008

A new take on Onion Dip

I am such a fan of Heidi Swanson, I have her recipes delivered to my inbox as soon as she posts them. I especially love when she creates new versions of old favorites that are always more flavorful and healthy. Every recipe of hers that I have made has been delicious.

With the holidays coming up, I know a lot of you will have visitors and parties to take yummy things to, so this might be a nice unexpected offering.

Caramelized Onion Dip Recipe

If you have a hard time finding onion powder (not the same as onion salt), feel free to use crushed dehydrated onion flakes. Just add to taste.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large yellow onions (about 1 1/2 pounds), finely chopped

3/4 cup sour cream (low-fat is fine if you like)

3/4 cup Greek yogurt (low-fat is fine if you like)

3 teaspoons dehydrated onion powder/granulates (salt-free, natural)

very scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large thick-bottomed skillet over medium heat saute the chopped onions in the olive oil along with a couple pinches of salt. Stir occasionally with a wood or metal spatula and cook until the onions are deeply golden, brown, and caramelized - roughly 40 or 50 minutes (see photo). Set aside and let cool.
In the meantime, whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, onion powder, and salt. The important thing is to add whatever onion powder you are using to taste. Add a bit at a time until it tastes really good. Set aside until the caramelized onions have cooled to room temperature. Stir in 2/3 of the caramelized onions, scoop into a serving bowl, and top with the remaining onions. I think this dip is best at room temperature.
Makes about 2 cups.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

In Dreams

Having a rough couple of days and dreaming of Paris at Christmastime. I enjoyed a Paris Christmas in 2001, and have never forgotten the feeling there, the magic of it all, the decorations, and how happy I was spending the holiday in my favorite city. I saw this picture today and my stomach actually dropped, I had a longing to be there I can't even explain.
I am off to buy lottery tickets...

photo courtesy of http://cedric-paris2e.blogspot.com/


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The World Was Watching

I often wonder if the word hero gets overused, especially with the ever present media, chomping at the bit to find the next big story, and when their isn't one, sometimes creating something out of thin air. But, I also believe that each person's definition of a hero may be different, and with our economy and state of the nation (thanks to Bush) as it is, we might need as many uplifting stories as we can find.
I read this piece tonight, about a very brave man, who I think embodies one definition of a hero. Maybe there is a better word for someone who sees a terrible wrong or injustice, survives great loss and peril, and who gives his life to enacting change to ensure those who come after him will not suffer the same fate. All of this without seeking one ounce of glory.
Raphael Lemkin was all of these things, and literally devoted his life to preventing future genocides like the Holocaust. In fact, Raphael created the word genocide. To read this piece and see all he gave for the betterment of mankind, for really no reward except his own satisfaction and peace in his heart, is heartbreaking. But, it is all the more reason to post this piece and make sure that as many people as possible remember the name Raphael Lemkin, what he stood for, and the sacrifices he made.
I think it is also scary that we all look back on the Holocaust with such shame and a feeling that it seemed so impossible that no one did anything to stop the killing sooner. It seems baffling that the world could just stand by and "let" this happen. But, the scarier thing is, history repeats itself. And just because it isn't on German soil, doesn't mean genocide isn't happening in our world today. And I wonder, will future generations look back on us now with Darfur and other areas where this is happening and shake their heads in the same way? We have plenty of problems in the US to worry about, but we do, all of us, humankind, have to stand together when such things are happening.

Raphael Lemkin dedicated his life to this very ideal. We all need to pick up the baton and finish this race for him, and for the people that will be lost to future genocides if we don't.

Polish Jew gave his life defining, fighting genocide

(CNN) -- Paris, 1948. In the shadow of the Holocaust, the fledgling United Nations meets to adopt one of its first human rights treaties.

Raphael Lemkin asked, "Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of a single individual?"

Applause shakes the room, cameras flash -- and at the center, a single, tired, unassuming man: Raphael Lemkin.
It was, at last, a victory for a tireless crusader who had fought for his entire life against genocide -- and coined the term that describes the world's most heinous crime.
"This new official world made a solemn pledge to preserve the life of the peoples and races of mankind," Lemkin later wrote.
Sixty years ago this month, the U.N. voted unanimously to adopt the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It was ambitious, serious, far-reaching -- and largely the result of Lemkin's lifetime of effort.
Watch more about the impact of the Genocide Convention »
A Pole and a Jew, Lemkin had watched in horror as Hitler nearly succeeded in his plan to exterminate the Jews. Six million Jews -- including 40 members of Lemkin's family -- died at the hands of the Nazis.
Today, we call what happened at Auschwitz and the other death camps "genocide." But at the time, there was no name for the Nazis' crimes. The word "genocide" did not exist.
In 1944, Lemkin wrote a book about the Nazis. In it, he combined the Greek "genos" for race with the Latin "-cide" for killing:
Genocide. Lemkin had named the crime he spent a lifetime trying to prevent. Watch more about the importance of the word »
As a child in Poland, Lemkin was inspired by the stories his mother told him at the fireside -- stories of history and heroism, of suffering and struggle. As a Jew he witnessed cruelty and persecution firsthand: from the bribes his parents were forced to pay, to a pogrom that killed dozens nearby.
From his mother, and from his circumstance, Lemkin developed early a strong desire to better the world and protect the innocent and the weak.
"The appeal for the protection of the innocent from destruction set a chain reaction in my mind," Lemkin later wrote. "It followed me all my life."

As a teen, Lemkin learned through news accounts that the Turkish government was slaughtering its Christian Armenian citizens. The government claimed it was putting down an Armenian revolt. Over 8 years they killed a million Armenian men, women and children in massacres and forced marches. To this day, Turkey denies a genocide took place. Few of the perpetrators ever faced justice.
"I was shocked," Lemkin wrote. "Why is a man punished when he kills another man? Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the killing of a single individual?"
Lemkin didn't have an answer to the question. But, as a young man, he devised a bold plan. He would write an international law that would punish -- and prevent -- racial mass murder.
By October 1933, Lemkin was an influential Warsaw lawyer, well-connected and versed in international law. At the same time, Hitler was gathering power. Lemkin knew it was time to act.
He crafted his proposal making the destruction of national, racial and religious groups an international crime and sent it to an influential international conference. But his legal remedy found little support, even as anti-Semitism was becoming Germany's national policy. When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Lemkin knew his worst fears were about to be realized.
"Hitler had already promulgated ... his blueprint for destruction," Lemkin wrote. "Many people thought he was bragging, but I believed that he would carry out his program."
Lemkin fled Warsaw with only a shaving kit and summer coat. He survived months in the forest, traveling furtively, dodging falling bombs and fighting for the Polish resistance.
He managed to reach his parents one last time -- only to say goodbye.
"Do not talk of our leaving this warm home. We will have to suffer, but we will survive somehow," Lemkin said his parents told him. "When their eyes became sad with understanding, I laughed away our agonizing thoughts, but I felt I would never see them again. It was like going to their funerals while they were still alive."

Reluctantly, Lemkin left his family to their fate and became one of the lucky few to reach the United States, where a friend arranged a job at Duke Law School. Though now safe, Lemkin remained anxious.
"I had not stopped worrying about the people in Poland. When would the hour of execution come? Would this blind world only then see it, when it would be too late?"
Troubling letters arrived from home. His father said they were surviving on potato peels and nothing else. His mother assured him, "What counts is that we are all together, alive and healthy."
"Something ... told me they were saying goodbye," Lemkin later wrote, "in spite of my parents' effort not to alarm me."
Days later, the Nazis took eastern Poland -- a death sentence for Lemkin's family.
By 1942, the U.S. had entered the war, and the Germans had accelerated their deadly work. Concentration camps ran day and night, like assembly lines. At Auschwitz, more than a million perished.
Even though word of the slaughter was reaching America, it seemed of little interest to the press and politicians. Lemkin was outraged.
"The impression of a tremendous conspiracy of silence poisoned the air," he wrote. "A double murder was taking place. ... It was the murder of the truth."
Lemkin tried everything he could to stop the killing, even writing to President Roosevelt.
Roosevelt responded, urging patience.
"Patience," Lemkin wrote. "But I could bitterly see only the faces of the millions awaiting death. ... All over Europe the Nazis were writing the book of death with the blood of my brethren."
Jewish groups pressed Washington to bomb the camps or rail lines. The Americans refused. Although Allied planes took photos of Auschwitz in 1944 as they scouted nearby targets, the U.S. didn't want to divert military resources from winning the war.
Frustrated, Lemkin decided to take a different tack. He would use the Nazis' own words to prove their depravity.
Taking hundreds of pages of Nazi laws and decrees, Lemkin wrote a comprehensive book that laid bare the Nazis' brutal plans. And he invented a word for the crime the Nazis were committing. Genocide.
With the crime named, he hoped the world could no longer turn away. But no help came.
Even the Nuremberg trials were a grave disappointment for Lemkin. They did little to codify genocide as an international crime -- and did nothing to prevent it from happening again.
But Lemkin knew he must keep trying. He revived his 1933 proposal and set his sights on the fledgling United Nations. He hoped this new world body, born out of the ashes of World War II, could create and enforce an international law against genocide.
Lemkin put everything aside and made the passage of a genocide convention the focus of his life. He wrote and rewrote the text of the convention, lobbied delegates, wrote to leaders worldwide in their own languages -- Lemkin was fluent in more than 10 -- to gather support.
On December 9, 1948, the U.N. met in Paris and voted unanimously to adopt the Genocide Convention.
Watch more about Lemkin's work at the United Nations »
Days later, Lemkin fell gravely ill and was hospitalized. For nearly three weeks, the doctors struggled with a diagnosis. Lemkin finally offered one himself: "Genociditis," he said, "exhaustion from working on the Genocide Convention."
A decade later, Lemkin would die from a fatal heart attack, penniless and alone, having given his life to the fight against genocide.

article and videos courtesy CNN


Monday, December 1, 2008

November Challenge Success

I didn't announce this at the beginning of November, because I didn't think I would be able to do it. There was a challenge set by this website, National Blog Posting Month, for bloggers to post every day of the month in November. I did it! It was challenging to not babble about nothing (which I did sometimes--but at least not EVERY post). It also reminded me how blogging sharpens my writing skills, and it was fun to search for new topics to post. I can't say I will continue posting daily, but I will probably post more regularly than I did before.

I know some of you that read my blog also participated and succeded. Congrats!



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