Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We All Know One

A young boy, four years old at most, looked up at his grandmother, his tiny hands held one in hers and the other in the weathered hand of a Vietnam Veteran. He timidly walked down the center aisle, the three of them leading the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter to present two wreaths at the Alameda Memorial Day Ceremony. One wreath was a regular memorial wreath for all those who have served their country.  The other wreath was for the small boy’s father, a thirty-year-old Staff Sergeant who was killed in Afghanistan within the past year.

Members of other various veterans groups, gold star parents, wives clubs and other service organizations brought forward their wreathes to honor and remember the fallen. Most wreaths had red, white and blue flowers. The disabled American Veterans Alameda Chapter placed a wreath of light purple flowers.

Below the large flag pole with its half-mast American flag, a flag for each branch of the armed services snapped in the wind.  A ceremonial table stood to the front of the whipping flags.  Six empty seats, chairs folded and leaned against the table, places set for those who are missing in action, a place for each branch of the armed services, a hat from each branch resting on the plate in front of the folded chair. 

Rear Admiral Castillo stood at the podium, his strong words echoing from the portable speakers across the large crowd spread over the small park’s lawn.  The Rear Admiral’s address spoke of the Staff Sergeant, of the sacrifice he and his family and so many other service members and their families have given.  “We all know someone;” he said, “we all have friends or family who have been in the combat zones.”  Speaking to this particular crowd in this Coast Guard City with its decommissioned naval base and its museum aircraft carrier, he may have been right. 

I thought about the people I know: two uncles who were in the Navy, a cousin who currently is; family friends posted in Afghanistan; a sorority sister in the National Guard; a sorority sweetheart who was killed in Iraq, acquaintances from high school and college in the Marines, and probably more that I’m forgetting or don’t know about.

At first, the Rear Admiral’s comment struck me as odd. I’m so used to the loud anti-war, anti-services messages in Berkeley, that I forgot there are others in the Bay Area (and in Berkeley), who are still connected to those making sacrifices for the sake of the country, still honoring, still respecting.  It was a good reminder.  A good reminder of the humanity around me to which I am often blind, and a good reminder of what others have given for all our sakes, even the four-year-old boys who do not yet understand the sacrifice.

Photo: Memorial Day 2007 in Lowell, Massachusetts by Dick Howe Jr. CC-BY

Monday, May 28, 2012

Knitting Group

Tuesday gets short shrift.  It’s not near enough the weekend to have that “we’re almost there” joy of Thursday or Friday, and it doesn’t have fun alternate name like Wednesday.  No, Tuesday’s just thankfully-it’s-not Monday-day.  But my Tuesdays have something wonderfully redeeming about them: knitting group.

Every Tuesday, a large group gathers together at the same location in Richmond.  Organized by my knitting teacher, the group began as knitting lessons.  How splendidly it has evolved! 

In the past five months, it’s turned from a few knitters attempting to teach some interested women and children how to knit into a fun and relaxing yarn-infused craft night.  Knitting with needles, knitting with cans, knitting with fingers, crocheting with hooks, even coloring for the youngsters.  There’s still teaching going on, but it’s no longer just the few who came in as teachers.  It’s everyone helping each other, sharing techniques and ideas.  One of the best moments was one young girl wanted to try her hand at needle knitting and her older sister who had only recently learned herself said, “here, I can help you.”

The people change, in and out, who’s available, who’s around.  Mothers bring their children.  Fathers stop in to say hello and see the progress.  Children try and give up and try again, and the joy in their eyes when they finally finish their first project is wonderful.  One girl had started and stopped about 8 different times.  Scarves, purses, wash clothes, pink yarn, green yarn, multi-colored yarn.  And then one day she tried crocheting instead of knitting.  Within a few weeks, she had a beautiful crocheted little chick with bead eyes and beak.

As the evening draws to a close, the children get a special treat.  Picking through a large bag of books, the children pull out their selections for bed time stories.  As the stories are read aloud, the children pipe in with the parts they know and giggle at the silly pictures.

I look forward to knitting group; it’s one of the highlights of my week. It’s so wonderful to relax with everyone, to just sit and knit and chat.  There are several people I look forwards to seeing each week.  I’m even getting the hang of teaching the youngsters. And, I am very good at singing along when it’s time for the ten-little-teddy-bears-sleeping-in-a-bed bedtime story.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Shoe Series: Brown T-Straps

P5071290They were one of my last pair of brown dress shoes.  I’d just been having such a hard time finding new brown dress shoes that I stopped trying and figured I’d make do.  The few other pairs I had before were gone and I was down to these brown t-straps I think I’ve had since undergrad and a pair of pumps I always forget about.

They’re cute and sort of retro in a late ‘30s, early 40’s kind of way.  Rounded toes with leaf cutouts on top and around the heel.  A medium brown with some color texture blending a little darker and little lighter in spots, making them ideal for matching with a variety of brown shades.

I last wore them with my fabulous stretch knit dress with the brown and  tan cane pattern over a white background and some olive knit tights from Munchkinhead.  During the work day, the right shoe started squeaking when I walked, the kind of broken metal rubbing on broken metal squeaking that is too familiar to someone who’s broken a few shoe supports in her lifetime.  I could feel the top piece pushing up into the shoe, rubbing against the sole of my foot.  I figured the shoes wouldn’t last long, but I wasn’t expecting what happened next.

While walking from my office to the train station, I felt like I stepped in a hole.  This isn’t unusual as the sidewalks have very large gaps between them.  But then there was another hole, and another.  I looked down and the left heel on my shoe was bent in half!  Severed from the back mostly through, it was fixable in the sense that I could bend it back into place.  So I did, and I kept walking.  Then, the hole feeling again.  I lifted my foot to fix the shoe again and discovered the heel was gone.  Completely gone.  So much for these shoes.  Good thing I know how to walk on the balls of my feet.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Too Many Choices!

menu in monzeWe talk about how much stress there is in our lives.  One of the main contributors to this large amount of stress is all the choices we encounter everyday.  Choices require making a decision, weighing factors, gathering information.

I loved shopping in Zambia.  Need toothpaste?  Get the only one available. Milk? Choose between Cowbell or Nido.  Want cheese?  Too bad; it’s too expensive.  The small corner stores were easy to get to and easy to navigate.  They may have only had a little of anything, but they had some of anything.  In a building the size of a hotel suite, I could purchase food, fabric, candles and even farm implements if I wanted.  In and out and no hassle.  It’s quite the opposite of our US stores filled with 100 different kinds of laundry detergent and half an aisle of toothpaste, not to mention the two aisles of soft drinks.

My adventures booking my flights for Angie’s funeral perfectly exemplify how much stress choices can induce.  On each side of the journey, I had three airports to choose from. Oakland, San Francisco San Jose and Regan, Baltimore and Dulles.  For each set, there was a preferred airport but there was more to consider.

For each airport, I had to gather information about ease and cost of transit to and from the airport.  This also differed based on what time a flight would depart or land.  For example, I would normally take BART to OAK or SFO, but if the flight leaves before 7am, that’s not an option.  San Jose (SJC) had cheaper flights, but driving there from my house can take between an hour and 3.5 hours depending on traffic.  There’s Amtrak, but then that’s another schedule, etc.  You get the idea.

Aside from weighing airports, I had to look at departure and arrival schedules for each flight.  And, as mentioned above, this could impact whether or not an airport made sense in terms of being able to get to it or from it.  That’s not even considering lack of sleep.

Then there’s the flight schedules themselves.  How many layovers?  How long are the layovers?  In which airports are the layovers?   This means also needing information about the airports, how far apart gates are, their reputations for flight delays, wi-fi and food options and such.

And of course, there’s also the factors by which airlines differentiate themselves. What’s the airline’s reputation for service and being on time? How much seat room do you get?  Where are the nickel and dime points? Etc.

Oh yeah, and cost.  That one’s so big it does the first narrowing of choices and then goes off the table.

Amenity considerations like airport wi-fi and airline reputations went out the window first.  There were just too many more important things to consider.  The cheapest flight was out of San Jose and into Baltimore. Two inconvenient airports.  After some research and math, I found that once transit costs to and from the airports where added in, the cost savings was marginal.  So I was at least able to narrow the list of choices down to my preferred airport on each side.

But, there was still all this schedule stuff.  One flight had good departure and arrival times but had 2 layovers that were both only 48 minutes.  That means leaving one flight when the other is boarding, running through airports; if the first flight is delayed at all, possibly missing the second.  Another had better layovers but went through ATL.  That airport is a nightmare. Gates are far apart, flights are often delayed.

Trying to minimize the stress associated with the flight itself, I was getting stressed with the options to the point of almost just giving up.  I called a friend who I knew would understand both the frustration of trying to find the best flight option and the need to go.  She was super helpful.  By helping me prioritize the factors that had overwhelmed me, we narrowed the list to just two or three flights where schedule was the only meaningful difference.  Now I could easily decide which non-ideal was the least worst and pick a flight.  I decided that having to get up at 3:30am was a lesser evil than having short connections, and I was set.

Then the airline nickel and dimed me – all “free” seats were gone and I had to purchase special seats on 3 of my 4 flights – so I almost had to start over, re-comparing costs.  Luckily (I guess), the extra $100 in seat fees didn’t bring any other flights into the equation.

Had any one of the flight options been the only option, I would have taken it.  But having so many different choices required a whole lot of thinking.  It’s nice to have a few choices, but when I’m faced with a whole boat load of them, I really miss Zambia.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Meat and Potatoes Kind of Vegetarian

I’m getting completely spoiled by the Bay Area, all this delicious vegetarian food at practically any restaurant.  I’m starting to expect choices on every menu, entrée selections in addition to appetizers and side dishes.  Spoiled and snooty.  But I wasn’t always this way.

You see, I grew up in Wisconsin, in the Midwest, in the land of beef and beef and more beef – and chees and milk, of course.  Us Midwesterners we’re a meat and potatoes kind of people.  I’m a meat and potatoes kind of vegetarian.

Dinner at my family’s house was always fun and the meals were your Mommy and dinnerstandard, balanced meals: meat, a starch and a vegetable.  Daddy’s not much of a pasta or rice fan, so we usually had potatoes and some sort of vegetable.  And that’s what I ate, potatoes and a vegetable, with lots and lots of milk.  And it was fine.

As I got older and Mommy and Daddy started to decide maybe this wasn’t a fad, they began to accommodate my diet.  Mommy got some fake meat once back when fake meat was still an experiment.  - It was years before we tried that again. – She would separate out some Hamburger Helper to make for me without meat or leave the bacon sprinkles out of the Suddenly Salad.  Later, when Daddy started worrying about his health, he’d buy veggie burgers for both of us and even started making some of his signature casseroles separate for me, without meat.

Out in Cali, when people invite me to dinner or we’re going out to eat in a group, if they know I don’t eat meat, they ask a whole bunch of questions about what I’ll eat, what can they make, where can we go.  I tell them not to worry about it, as long as there’s something without meat, I’ll be fine.  “I’m not picky; I just don’t eat meat.”  I grew up making do, and even if I’m getting pickier in my spoiled veggie-controlled community, I can still make do.  After all, I’m a meat and potatoes kind of vegetarian.

my plate

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Quilt of Many Color(ful T-Shirt)s

Two years ago, Mommy was working on a Alfred and Nathy-Boo’s wedding [link] present, a t-shirt quilt made out of t-shirts they’d acquired growing up.  Not any old t-shirt, the ones from things like band, twirling, sports, 4H, etc. 

Mommy’d been wanting to teach me - or I’d been wanting to learn, something like that – how to quilt, and a t-shirt quilt seemed like a great simple way to start.  Then the office manager at work started to clean out the old supply shelves.  All sorts of old items for which the organization no longer had use.  Amongst the piles, some old t-shirts from the early days and past events.  I looked at those t-shirts, and I looked at the giant set of shelves filled with the current t-shirts, and I knew exactly what to quilt:

the history of Creative Commons in t-shirts.

quilt front


hole for the feet to go through


We had a lot of fun making the quilt: cutting pieces, laying out patterns, sewing squares, finding a backing, tying it down and being silly. 


Mommy graciously offered for the backing one of the fun fabrics I’d mommy and me with quilt backbrought her from Nigeria. That seemed perfectly appropriate as I had applied to CC while living in Nigeria and worked closely with the CC Africa teams. Plus, the fabric’s bright colors went well with the t-shirt colors and the pattern incorporated a close approximation of CC’s signature green.

Now, the quilt lives in the couch room at the CC office.  Often, when the office is too cold, I find the quilt and wrap myself up in the coziness.

And it all started from this:

stack of washed t-shirtsA pile of t-shirts.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wedding Rules

People say there’s a certain age that’s the “wedding period” of your life.  The time where you are invited to a wedding every couple of months.  I’ve been stuck in the “wedding period” so long it’s the same people getting married again. So I’ve had to make a rule:

If I came to your first wedding, I’m not coming to your second.

DSCI0105Now, if I missed your first wedding, say because you eloped or I was living on a different continent, then I’ll come to your second.  I think there’s only one close friend who still falls into that category, and I highly doubt he’ll ever have a second wedding.

Luckily, none of my friends are giving Scarlett a run for her money, so I haven’t had to contemplate any weddings beyond the second.

My friend, Caitlin at her second wedding. I missed her first.

I wonder if I’d have this rule if I still lived in Wisconsin, i.e. closer to the people getting remarried.  If it didn’t take all day to get somewhere (or two days for these Iowa weddings) and didn’t cost more than the set of bridal party dresses to go, would I double-up?  Probably.  One of my recently divorced friends is thinking about moving out to the Bay.  If she should happen to find a new husband and get married out here, I think I’d go, even though I went to the first one.

Maybe someday when my school loans are paid off and my income’s a little higher, I’ll come to extra weddings.  But for now, if I’d rather take that day and that small fortune and actually visit my friends when I can talk to them and hang out and spend time with them.  For the second wedding, I’ll send a card.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Coming of Age in a Bubble

bubbles (5)A few weeks ago, I caught an episode of Frontline about the housing crisis and accompanying recession.  It answered so many questions that I had asked back when I was in college.

How it’s Supposed to Work

My parents raised us in a frugal environment focused on needs, balance and temperance rather than wants and extravagances.  We didn’t resent our classmates’ name brand clothing; we thought they were stupid for spending so much extra money for a logo.  We loved our quirky hand-me downs and our “Made with Love by Mother” labeled clothes.  Mommy and Daddy taught us to keep debt to a minimum, that there were trade-offs and wanting two things meant needing to make a choice and that sometimes you just have to wait.  They taught us the basic rules of living within your means and led by example.

And the Credit Flowed

By the time I was in college, I was questioning everything they’d taught me.  It was the turn of the century and the credit bubble was inflating.  The method of using business loan risk as its own investment product invented by young bankers at Chase had started spreading to other banks and other types of risk.  Credit was as free-flowing as water.

Mommy and Daddy had taught me that you needed to pay off the credit card balance each month or you would lose a lot of money to interest, eventually have a maxed out card and be unable to get more credit.  But life was telling me a different story. 

I was 20, a college student with a part-time job that paid barely above minimum wage and I had close to a dozen credit cards all with ridiculous limits. My Victoria Secret’s store card alone had a several thousand dollar limit.  (Who needs several thousand dollars worth of lingerie?)  Nobody turned me down. Nobody I knew was ever turned down.   Somewhere along the line, I stopped paying the full balance. Further along, I was only making minimum payments.  Whenever a balance approached my credit limit, I’d receive a letter in the mail telling me my credit limit had been increased.

I didn’t understand the logic of what Mommy and Daddy had taught me.  Why would anyone ever pay the whole balance each month?  It didn’t make sense when you could pay $30 – $100 each month and go out and buy as much as you wanted and basically never pay for it.  There was always another credit card to get, another limit to increase.   And there were no repercussions.  There was always more credit.

Luckily for me, the teachings of childhood were resilient.  Even though I couldn’t make sense of things, I believed what I was taught, figuring my parents must understand something I wasn’t getting.  So I started to work on getting rid of that debt while the bubble was still inflating.  During the summers, I worked two jobs, nearly 60 hours a week. I took a less-than-ideal job because it paid higher wages and I attempted to go bare bones on further spending.* 

Banking in the Bubble

That less-that-ideal job was as a loan collector for an American bank.  A bank that, while I was there, purchased a whole bunch of defaulted mortgages.  Again, life in front of me was going against my upbringing.  I phoned customers who were behind on their house and car payments.  I listened to their stories, and I couldn’t understand why the bank had made the loans in the first place.  People’s jobs had not changed; they just spent too much. 

They wanted to put their mortgage payment on a credit card.  Interest on top of interest.  But who cared when those cards came with unlimited credit?  A doctor whose mortgage was in default yelled at me that I didn’t know what I was talking about when I told him he could lose his house if he didn’t catch up on the mortgage.  “I filed bankruptcy before and I’ll just do it again before they take the house.”  Even a bankruptcy history didn’t stop the credit from flowing.


When the bubble burst, I blamed the spenders.  The people who didn’t follow Mommy and Daddy’s rules, the rules of the depression and previous recessions.  The people who did exactly what seemed to make the most sense.  The people who relied on the banks and credit lenders to make responsible business decisions.

I didn’t understand why the banks would make so many bad loans. It was downright stupid lending to people who couldn’t pay, people who already had mountains of debt.  I thought banks couldn’t survive if they made bad loans.  But I didn’t realize, the banks weren’t considering the risk of each loan because the banks had no plans to keep the risk.

By the end of the Frontline program, I still scorned the spenders for attempting to live beyond their means, but I also pitied them some and I was mad at the banks.  I was mad at the banks not for taking advantage of people, not for encouraging the lavish excessive of the ‘90s, not even for being lavish themselves.  No, I was mad at the banks for being so incredibly reckless that they weren’t even paying attention to their own best interests.  They broke the market.


*Honesty disclaimer: it took my college fund helping before I was fully bailed out.  On my income, I wouldn’t have been out before the bubble burst. And note, that said “attempted;” I have this thing for shoes.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Got a Hat, Hat… Or a Coaster

There’s this adorable holiday tune by Bob and Doug McKenzie, truly Canadian rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas that includes many items as baffling as the original song’s activities.  (Why are those lords leaping? What on earth is 2-4?)

Recently, thanks to a lovely Canadian, I finally learned what those “fi-ive go-lden toques!” are. And once, I knew they were just those adorable hats with the pom-pons on top, I had to make my own.  So, I set out with a set of size 5 knitting needles and the most golden yarn I could find.

And I wound up with a coaster.


Oops. It’s a very lovely coaster. In fact, it’s now my favorite coaster. I’m debating about making more so I have a set, but I’ve other knitting projects to finish first.

I used a hat loom to make the golden toques.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Lord’s Newest Super Angel–Part II

The sweet notes drifted through the sanctuary as the saxophonist began to play.  God joined in on the thunder, perfectly befitting the somber, yet joyous people gathered below Him.

It sounds odd to describe people at a funeral as joyous, but there was joy.  There were tears; there was laughter and stories and sadness and celebration, but most of all, there was peace.   One look at her mom standing proud in the front row and you immediately saw where Angie got her strength.  Her father, brother and fiancé were holding up well, too.  But her mom, her mom was solid; grieving, but not despairing. 

Many services for the departed claim to be Celebrations of Life, but this was the first one I attended that truly lived up to the designation.  It was also the first time I’ve heard people pay their respects without any exaggerations.  Angie was so incredible, it would have been impossible to exaggerate and be even remotely believable.

The celebration was beautiful.  People from throughout her life’s journey shared their remembrances.  Everyone who spoke praised God for the gift she had been to their lives.  There was no anger, at least not here.  No demands, no “why, oh why” pleas.  Just peace, and love and celebration.

Our tears flowed.  Even the friend sitting next to me who promised herself she wouldn’t cry had to dab at her eyes with her tissue from time to time.  We mourned.  But we also celebrated.  And I think that’s exactly what Angie would have wanted.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Congratulations Roger and Katie!

Katie and I met when we were ten years old.  As she tells it, we met at the park where I was jumping off the swings and landing on my head. She thought I was so crazy, she just had to meet me.  I don’t have any recollection of this, but I disagree. I was very good at swing-jumping and there’s no way I would have been landing on my head!

Either way, Katie and I met that summer before 5th grade and became fast friends. She’s been one of my best friends ever since. And while we’ve both had other best friends that have come and gone, Katie now has a new permanent best friend, her husband Roger.

Roger and Katie on the dance floor

Of course, everything about the wedding was beautiful. Though I have to admit, this trend of going to Iowa in April for weddings is getting a little old. It’s cold there folks!

P4281173P4281161I loved the men’s colors, orange vests and yellow ties with their black tuxes.  They matched my shoes! And Munchkinhead’s tequila sunrise.

Katie and Roger are both engineers, so there was lots of fun, hands-on stuff around at the reception.  Plastic wind-up robots that went gshzzz-gshzzz-gshzzz  as they wobbled across the white tablecloth linens, cardboard robot kits, even crayons and a coloring book. The coloring book had two robots on the front and then a whole bunch of blank pages. Munchkinhead and I had a great time filling the book with images of Katie and Roger as all sorts of things: fish, astronauts, beers, old people.

And of course, there was plenty of dancing.  Mommy and Daddy danced to their song.  Munchkinhead and I rocked out to Don’t Stop Believing, which is pretty much Munchkinhead and whoever’s around’s song.  We polka-ed, we funky chicken-ed, we YMCA’d.  The DJ even played the song Mommy and I dance to at every wedding.

P4281196My second-favorite part was when the lady sitting next to me turned to the bride’s mom and started talking about these shoes she saw at the ceremony that she really liked, “yellow with black polka-dots.”  “Hey, those are Munchkinhead’s!”

I also really liked seeing Katie and her family again; it’s been a few years.  But my favorite, absolute favorite part was seeing how happy Katie is and how much Roger adores her. 

Here’s to a long and happy life together for both of them!P4281137

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Neighborhood Trademark Infringement

tm signJust in time for INTA

Walking down the street to get some quarters from the bowling alley, I passed a sign taped to a lamp post.  It caught my eye, and I had wait for the light to change before I could cross the street, so I took a closer look.

“A new gym in the neighborhood.  Awesome!  Maybe I’ll check it out; it would be nice to walk instead of BARTing or driving to the gym.”  Then I saw the logo and became slightly puzzled.  “Is this a subsidiary of 24 Hour Fitness, or related in some other way?  If it is, maybe my 24 Hour membership will work there and I could start using it now without any extra fees.” 

The fact that this question even came up in my mind – is this gym related to another gym I know – raises trademark concerns.  Here is a closer view of the logo on the flyer:

tm sign

And here is one of the 24 Hour Fitness logo:

Same colors, same use of a red circular shape, outlined in blue with white text in the middle.  The fonts are different, the names are different and the word “fitness” is in a different color, but there’s still a lot of visual similarity between the two.

The standard for trademark infringement is whether a mark is confusingly similar to another mark.  I was confused.  Mr. Trizzle wasn’t.  “They have different names.”  What do you think?  Would you wonder if the two were part of the same company?

After looking at the poster in more detail, I decided the gym is likely not related to 24 Hour Fitness, but I’m still not sure.  In either case, I think the new gym is trying to use 24 Hour’s reputation and strong presence in the area to its advantage, which is still a problem.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

It’s a Bird; It’s a Plane; It’s a Tuning Slide!

High school marching band is the source of many wonderful memories for me.  Some of the best parts of my four years of high school come from band rehearsals, competitions and camps.  I loved marching band, but then, it’s hard not to love something when you’re the best at it. Of all our competitions during those four years, there was one in which we did not take 1st place, State my freshman year, when we took 2nd place by .03 of a point. 

imageFrom all those great memories, one that remains an easy favorite is from the Burlington High Chocolate Festival my junior year.  It was our first year at this particular competition.  Our old assistant band director, Mr. Mannisto, had left Cudahy High School to become the main band director at Burlington High.  He invited our band to compete at his new school’s invitational.

The first piece ended with a nice double forte.  We held our instruments high, blasting out our last note.  In unison with the drum major’s arms, we snapped our instruments down to attention, holding perfectly rigid, heads held high, in perfect formation on the field.  One of my section mates, Will, snapped his horn down a little too hard.  Something flew over my head, the glint of light reflecting off the shiny brass catching my eye.  It was his tuning slide!  Plop, it landed in the grass some feet in front of me, just behind another of our section members.

“Don’t move,” I could hear one of the first trombone’s mutter through gritted teeth from behind me.  But the guy in front of me either didn’t hear or didn’t listen.  While we were all standing straight at attention, waiting for the drum major to start our next song, the guy in front of me bent down and picked up the tuning slide.  He stood up, staying nearly at attention, holding the tuning slide over his shoulder as if expecting someone to take it from him. 

When the drum major called, “Band! Horns up!” to begin the next number and no one had relieved the poor guy of the tuning slide he never should have picked up, he dropped it and brought his horn up to play.  His first move was diagonally backwards,  exactly in the direction of the discarded tuning slide.  With the precise movement of a skilled marcher, he took a firm step backwards and marched right onto that tuning slide.

For him, that was the end of the tuning slide incident; the show went on as normal.  But for our two first trombones, it was only the beginning.  Without a tuning slide,2012_03_02_22_01_020013 it was not only impossible for Will to play, it was difficult for him to even hold up the horn.  Trombone tuning slides also contain a weight that balances out the heavy bell from the front of the horn.  But Will was big and strong even then, and he held the horn up and moved his slide as if he were actually playing.  Our section leader was left to carry the entire first part by himself, covering for the silent Will.  He pulled it off nicely.

At the end of the show, as we stood together at the side of the field, listening to our band director tell us what we did well and what we did wrong, our assistant band director approached the trombone section.  “Did anyone lose a tuning slide?”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Lord’s Newest Super Angel - In memory of Angela Holland

She was like Elle Woods; one of those people who’s so amazing she makes you feel like you can do anything.  And I hate that I’m talking about her in the past tense.

Everyone gravitated towards Angie. You couldn’t help it. Her bubbly personality, her enthusiasm for everything, the sincere compassion that just oozed out of her being.  The only bad thing you could possibly say about her was that she was always so busy doing 1800 million incredible things that she’d probably be late to the 1800 millionth and one thing she was going to do with you.

Teach for America, Street Law, and probably scores of other projects I don’t even know about, Angie was always giving of herself.  And she was so smart.  She chaired the academic program for BLSA (the Black Law Students Association), and she wrote onto a journal (instead of getting on through the normal competition) and became Editor. For anyone who’s been to law school, you know how difficult it is to get on a journal, and she did it the harder way.

No matter how down and out you felt, Angie would lift your spirits.  When you felt excluded, she’d make sure you were part of the group.  And when you felt overwhelmed by all the things you had to do, you spent 5 minutes talking to Angie and felt like you had all the free time in the world.

Somewhere out there, a new angel with a big smile on her face is walking up to a someone in need, “Hey girl.”

ang fam and dorian

Mr. Trizzle, Angie and her family/fiancé at VULS graduation 2008



(I almost got to see Angie just a few weeks ago. In DC for a friend’s birthday, I went to house warming party for another friend and Angie was likely to come to that party. Whether she went to the party or not, I don’t know. I had to leave pretty early to catch my flight back to California. I figured I’d see her soon enough at the Vandy reunion in a year or two. I was wrong. And now I’m on my way back to DC…)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: Wanted

I enjoy Amish-set fiction immensely.  These books always make for a nice break in between some heavy non-fiction. The ones I’ve read are usually pretty similar, love stories where one of the lovers is grieving the loss of their previous spouse or beau or and the other is struggling with their past while trying to win the grieving person’s heart. The focus on community and God are constant and one of the reasons delving into the books for an hour or two can be such a calming experience.

In Wanted by Shelley Shepard Gray, the main character is struggling with accepting her own behavior during her Rumpspringa. Her heart is set on a widower who is still grieving the loss of his wife in a buggy accident. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for these books, but it is a delightful read.

Apparently, this book is part of a series called Sisters of the Heart, which focuses on different characters during different books. I got the impression that this is the second book and that the first was about this main character’s older sister. I vaguely feel as though I may have read that book, but I honestly do not remember. That just shows it’s easy to pick up the book without needing to know about others from the series.

Good, simple, wholesome fiction. It’s like homemade apple pie for your soul.