Friday, May 23, 2008

Time Being

As I wrote before, it feels like I stepped on an escalator a few weeks back and the pace kicked into high gear. Perhaps more like an elevator, as I blasted through a glass ceiling and found myself in a whole new arena with a different air and altitude to adjust to. I am thrilled. I am humbled. I am inspired. I am empowered.

I am also exhausted.

Can't quite seem to keep time.

Adjusting to a whole new operating system, installing the drivers, new applications, re-formatting, re-selecting preferences, this is the post part where, staring at a blank doc in the wake of a meteor, I can't quite seem to be able to extract the words, let alone detailed nuances, to describe what I've just come through.

Mainly, I just want to linger over the pot of chicken soup, stirring, stirring, as warm steam wafts up into my weary bones, the smell of love and nurturing and all its heartiness extracted from left-over frozen carcasses and bones and lowly root vegetables immersed in a rolling bath of herbaceous water, transforming into a kind of magical goodness while pervading my entire wrung out self.

I know people are waiting to read reports. There are those who are still waiting for follow-ups on my experience lobbying up at the State Capitol, let alone the recent Motherhood and Social Activism panel I presented on in NYC or Wednesday's District Budget Town Hall meeting. There are action plans, and business strategies, updates and school activities that for the time being anyway, I'm afraid will have to wait. For the time being.

Right now it's about nurturing through the adjustment. Sweats, a glass of wine, and a big pot of chicken soup. Some crusty, rustic style Pain Rustique slathered with butter and sprinkled with Celtic sea salt. Curled up on the couch with a good book. I've got a good one I'm into now, drawing me into its quarters. Such a luxury to take in, not put out.

Then it will come.

After I spend some time being.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Heart The Big Apple!

Haven't had time to write about my trip. Yet. Been navigating a dead computer, installing a new computer, problems with the new computer, trouble-shooting and finally, a new new computer.

God I love the Big Apple.

Turns out I love Apple as well.

In the meantime, these pix will have to suffice...the city that never sleeps....the mom who never sleeps. Big Apple...Apple....Moms Who Rock...Rockin' Their World. I'm starting to see patterns everywhere.

Be the change and the change is reflected right back at you.

There's so much to catch up on...

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Need I say more!

It's been nearly a decade since I've been back and two since I left here. What a freakin' treat to walk by my old buildings and see in some cases nothing has changed, and yet everything has.

Speech tomorrow. Will post more later.

Cheers all, she says lifting a giant cocktail and taking a sip on life...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Smell The Roses

Our yard is exploding with fragrant color right now. Roses, varying degrees of red-pink-crimson, who've been here longer than I. Perhaps decades.

The pace these days is so accelerated I can barely remember to eat, let alone sleep or wax nostalgic over the deliciousness hanging in the air. Maybe these photos, silent visual beacons, will help me remember to slow down--if not stop, and smell the roses. Transport me from flurry into transcendent beauty.

Do we remember delight? Deliciousness? Frivolity and just because it pleases?

I stepped on an escalator recently and haven't stopped. Capitol, senators, assemblypeople, rallies, plane trips, talks, speeches, lunches, picnics, meetings, doctor appts, teeth wigglings, school functions, a speech to write, accommodations to procure, birthday parties to plan, Playbills and laminates to create, talking points, spreading info, a dead computer, Genius Bar, Dead Motherboard, the dreaded dead computer replacement purchase, extracting data, losing data, recovering some data, new operating platform, new systems, new installations, new touch, adjustments to make, transitions, lost time, lost sleep, flying by the seat of my pants, elevated platform, elevated expectations, elevated worries, no time to worry, just enough time to do, dead debit card, loss of access, to money, to internet, to files, to info, dead food in the fridge, rebooting, re-authorizing, reconfiguring, taking out the trash, cupcakes to bake, speeches to write, revisions to write, new frontiers to venture forth in....

Tonight I cleaned up the counters and cooked real food. A meal. A solid meal. More than a meal. (More about that another time. If I find the time.) I've always said food is more than food, more than taste. Good food heals. The food itself is almost irrelevant. It's what is done to it, and then transformed, what it does to us. That's its magic. Aroma, color, texture, taste. Love. Ahhh. Exhale. Enjoy. While I can.

Did I mention that my daughter counts her years on both hands now? Six. Half a dozen. More than half a decade.

Mom to me is now like a pair of broken-in jeans. She's in there like cupcakes between the tarragon chicken and Lacrima Christi Bianchi and high heels and power suits and lip gloss. As she grows, so do I. In ways unexpected.

The Mom Clogs have been hurting my feet lately. Plus they just look so dowdy. Time for a new pair of shoes. Not sure what suits me these days, or even where to go to find it, but I've been looking. Something between being comfortable and being a presence. Might need to look in not the usual places. Might need to venture farther...

Damn those are beautiful roses! Been blooming every year for decades. Long before I got here. Long after I leave. Remember to notice. Put a few in a vase so I can see them and take in their powerful magic, their wisdom, their fragrance, citrusy and voluptuous, abundant and abundantly clear. It gives me pause.


Not like I've had much time to do just that, just thought it'd be a good reminder.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Spiritual Approach To Lobbying

Or more appropriatel

Novice Approach To Lobbying
As Parent Activists Join the UTLA To Lobby the State Capitol Against Pending Budget Cuts

What did it feel like to be a Mom on The Hill?

I could talk about getting up at the crack of dawn, (actually pre-crack because at 4 in the morning it's still pitch black outside), and what it feels like to drive through LA without seeing any cars on the road. Kinda freakish actually.

I could talk about what it felt like to absorb as many names and faces and their respective committees into my brain as I tried to cram highlights of key players from a whole new universe into about 48 hours pre-flight. Brain freeze.

I could talk about what it felt like to don an expensive black suit and heels instead of my usual faded ill-fitting jeans and soccer mom clogs, the smooth black leather bag on my shoulder stuffed with a portfolio of notes and strategies, targeted State Senators and Assemblymen, and how it made me feel elevated, more grown up, and somehow more officially capable, even though I am quite the imposter in both scenarios.

I could talk about the feeling I got when I realized I had already pegged the "dog and pony show" we walked into two days before we even got there, (this being my first capitol hill experience), and the sense of victory I had when the research I stayed up collecting paid off for us since we ended up ditching the union's intended schedule and instead bushwhacked our way through the halls, knocking on doors, seizing any face time we could grab with the other side, exiting with the brilliant "leave-behind" flier my colleague created of the four of us highlighting our Herculean in-the-public-school-trenches grassroots-building efforts, our websites, our contact info, our mission, and most importantly pictures of us with our kids, because as parents-- not professional lobbyists or union agenda drivers--we were there fighting for the hundreds of thousands of kids and families we represent.

I could talk about what a relief it felt to have all my expenses paid for, for a change…airfare, shuttles, meals, everything…knowing that we would just show up and everything would be provided for us, (thank you UTLA), and that the good work we were doing, for once at least, wasn't costing us money.

And I could talk about the way I felt when surrounded with equally passionate, articulate, thoughtful peers, brilliant leaders whose work makes mine pale in comparison, where the inspired conversation flowed easily and effortlessly and I felt refreshingly smart and insightful, on par and in my element, not further along nor struggling to keep up. Where one person's insight spurred another's and on and on…like firecrackers, popcorn, little jewels exploding with light.

Lobbying up in Sacramento against pending budget cuts? Who would have ever thought I'd be here. A mom on a mission. Surrounded by equally passionate visionaries.

To say the least, it was a heady, heady experience. Quite out of body, yet we were fully in our element….making something happen where we had never gone before. Going for it assuredly, fearlessly, intelligently. And as a team. That is a high I want to stay in.

Here's the deal. The state's run out of money. We're in a budget crisis. It was put plainly to us that there will be no quick fixes this time.

As of August 1 there's no more state cash. The latest figure straight from the halls of Sacramento is that California is $20 BILLION DOLLARS IN DEBT! And the incoming tax revenues will be lower than expected. California. The 6th wealthiest economy in the world can't get its economic shit together. You know, incoming, outgoing, staying within budget, long-term planning, Economics 101.

All this to say that we've gotten ourselves between a rock and a hard place financially speaking.

California, 6th wealthiest economy in the world. California. $20 Billion dollars in debt. Governor. Calling for The Year of Education. Governor. Ready to slash $5 Billion dollars in public education funds. $500 million dollars in our district alone.

The Dems want to find income streams (progressive tax reform, fees, raise taxes, create new taxes, close tax loopholes) so they can keep funding public services, and the Reps want to be fiscally responsible, won't budge on new revenue streams, and want to slash 10% of all state-funded services across the board, (lateral cuts as opposed to prioritized cuts), of which education is a biggie.

Then there's Prop 13, about to "celebrate" its 30th anniversary, which severely limits the amount of home assessment/tax valuation which configures property taxes, therefore greatly reducing income for the state. So a million dollar home bought 10 years ago for 275K is still only taxed at 275K, thus allowing the long-term homeowner, particularly the elderly, a way to afford to stay in their homes. (Under this Prop, property values never assess at market level until time of sale or a major remodel, and this tax assessment is inheritable.) With our housing market tripling in the last decade, this is surely an important issue for state income.

Back to the Budget Cuts. Dems have a pact to not cut education. Reps have a pact to cut spending ie. public services including education, and to not raise taxes. Neither is budging from their party solidarity. We need a 2/3 majority vote.

We started our first scheduled meeting with Democratic Assemblyman Mike Feuer. Schools are his priority. His kids went to Castle Heights Elementary. He doesn't want to make cuts, but we're in a tough position, he said. It was preaching to the choir, as was to be expected. No point lobbying to the converted. So then we got out our list and kamikazed a few meetings with Reps. Gotta say, they had a point about not wanting to keep funding a broken system. I wouldn't buy a cheap product over and over if it kept failing me either, especially if I was going broke doing it. They politely listened to us. We listened to them. We saw the complexity. We at least were received. We made our points.

Back to rock and a hard place.

This is where we changed tactics. Since we were non-professionals, yet were the conduit if you will to thousands and thousands of families (never underestimate the power of being a layperson with a brain), we turned things around.

How can we help you? We can reach the people. We are part of a groundswell of grassroots activism with our own issues with the district, even with the teachers union, but nonetheless working hard to make things better in the public system. How can we work on this together? This will be where we might make some headway.

Pulling back the focus, I see the conflict: I've got something you want but am not going to give it. You want what I have but you can't get it. You want to raise taxes. I want to cut spending. You want to pay for everybody including those who can't help themselves. I want to reward those who worked hard and made their pile already, those who don't need my help not those who suck me dry.

Elevating higher, beyond the play yard politics reminiscent of a preschool toyfight, I see the game. The roles. We all have our piece. We all play our part. It gets dramatic. Billions of dollars and livelihoods and lives are at stake here. Human lives. Neighborhoods. Cities. The future of our country, our children, our teenagers, our future workforce, our future tax burden, our future economic fallout. Cycles.

And yet, it too is illusion. We are all part of the One. All creating this drama for some higher intent. If you look in a non-detached kind of way, its all ants scurrying around a picnic table fighting over crumbs. Not enough to go around. Hear me, what about me, what about this, did you think about that, don't cut that, cut this, not me, them, how can I convince you otherwise, what do you need, what have you got, what can we trade, buzz, buzz, buzz, scurry, scurry, scurry….

Old systems falling apart. Old archaic systems long outdated. And somewhere in all this, this too shall rise. This too shall elevate.

And so my take away is this. There was a special opening for the four of us to be there, myself included. We represent local change, big picture ideas, light, healing, building bridges. There's a lot to digest. It was thrilling. It was eventful. Surely this is the beginning of more to come. But I am full. I shall rest now until next steps present themselves. This is the only way I know to walk onward since I've bushwhacked far into the woods. But there's a reason I've made it this far. And I'm not alone.

Oh, and there is still a speech to write for my upcoming NYC trip. Motherhood and Social Activism: "Rocking The Public Schools."

What a blessed, incredible opportunity.

I am grateful to feel so full.

The LD 3 Parent Team:
Kelly Kane, President WPEF
Bill Ring, Dir TransParent and all-around activist
John Ayers, Uber-FOB Dad
me, founder