Photo: Michael J. LeBrecht II/1Deuce3 Photography/SI
More good news! Alex & Van have a new baby... of sorts. Quick, go get yourself some Frost Heaves gear, man, so you can say you were in on it from the beginning!
D's too young to vote, but he's clearly not too young to help out at the polls. He was quite happy to help people figure out if they were District 3 or District 9.
That's our D, front and center in the Little Prince costume. Click on over here for the full story... part II included a much scarier costume and lots of running from house to house in Dunellen. More on that as details become available. (Our beat reporter is currently beat.)
D wanted to see his newly created boo-boo tonight, but since this is the back of his head, we were out of luck... until I remembered the wonders of digital photography.
D and friend A have connected, which is a good thing, but we could have done without D and the bottom of the UNLS playground slide connecting! ("Dat's made out of wood, you know, Mommy, and wood hurts!")
A tip of the hat to Treacy G, whose example I followed in comforting D after the event. FIRST, comfort the child. THEN figure out whether a trip to the hospital is in order.
Luckily, no hospital trip for us today. Just a cool photo op and an excuse for extra after-school chocolate.
The Philly-based Give and Take Jugglers at Sunday's PFS campaign celebration were terrific. D couldn't take his eyes off them, and waved his little hand in the air like crazy, hoping to be picked as the next "assistant." Finally, at the very end of the show, one of the jugglers admitted that he was hoping to juggle a human being, and finally D's diminutive size made him "just right" for the part. He could not have been happier.
Usually arch sings (a capella singing groups clustered in one of the stone arches on campus to dramatic acoustic effect) are too late at night for the hours we currently keep, but on Saturday (Oct. 8th) there's one just for us... at 4pm! Families throughout the greater Princeton area are invited to the first Cotsen Family Arch Sing at the Blair Arch on the Princeton University campus (pictured, behind the bookstore, email me if you need more detailed directions). The a capella groups volunteering their time for this first arch sing are dedicating their music to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Students from the Katzenjammers, Tigerlilies, Tigertones and other groups that will perform on this afternoon will solicit donations to rebuild the homes and lives of those affected by this national disaster. Come and listen, sip hot cider and nibble on donuts, and celebrate the great tradition of jazz, born and nurtured in the early part of the 20th century in the now devastated city of New Orleans. Bring a friend!
And if you want to make a day of it, see also this link from the Princeton Weekly Bulletin, which details all the cool family-friendly Community Day events going on at the University this coming Saturday.
While staying at Chris & Claire's house during the Solheim Cup, I luxuriated in a nap on their very comfy livingroom couch.
When I woke up, the light was at exactly the right angle to float this grid of golden squares on the wall. By the time I put my camera away, the image was gone.
I only wish I could have gotten a simultaneous picture of Dad's face, which I'm sure showed a similarly elevated level of bliss. Mr. D sure is lucky to have this special time with his grandparents!
Along with over 1600+ communities, we held a vigil tonight in Princeton in support of Cindy Sheehan's efforts to hold President Bush accountable. It was wonderful to see so many people come out, great to share it with some of my friends and family, and humbling to think that we might all play some role in the turning of a tide. For a national overview of the vigils, check out MoveOn's site.
Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq last year, is seeking a meeting with President Bush, who is vacationing in Crawford, to have some of her questions answered about the war. See the local paper or Daily Kos for the latest.
Sometimes people who have never been to Quaker Meeting ask me what we DO in Quaker Meeting. I try to get people to come and see for themselves. But even then there's a good chance they'll need to come back... the answer changes all the time. We sit. We pray. We hold our loved ones and our enemies in the Light. We listen for the still small voice. When we feel truly Spirit-led, we speak out of the silence. We sing. We daydream. We woolgather. We rest. We renew. We wait.
Sometimes, if during Meeting we are working with the children, Meeting for Worship looks like this.
I don't know who thought of seedless watermelon, but I'm willing to bet whoever it was isn't a parent. Seeds are practically the entire POINT of watermelon. Either because you're having a seed spitting contest, or because you're worrying about whether the seed you just accidentally swallowed is going to grow into a watermelon INSIDE YOUR TUMMY! This gorgeous seeded watermelon was lovingly and organically grown at the Watershed Farm (okay, they renamed it Honey Brook Organic Farm, but I like the old name better), and when I pointed the tip of my longest knife in to start cutting slices, it popped open with a kind of whoosh -- almost like those Pillsbury Crescent Roll containers. Most definitely ready for eating. Moist paper towels all around, and watch where you spit!
I am a member of the "go out Friday night, get the most out of your weekend" club. Tonight, the treat was a picnic dinner at the gazebo in Hopewell, celebrating the fabulous Miss Amy's NEW CD. And the joint was most definitely jumping... look at these bouncing kids! The Wide Wide World CD has the Penguin Dance AND Turn the World Around AND the Austrian Yodeling song on it, what more could we ask?
If you don't have her first CD yet, I'll make you a deal: If you're a friend of mine, buy her first CD. (If you're local, Amy asks that you pick it up at Barnes & Noble in Marketfair.) If you DON'T love it, I will refund your money. (Trust me, this is a very low risk proposition.) Plus -- again If you're local -- you can find her event schedule and other goodies here.
Thank goodness for people who follow their dreams.
And a big "mwah" kiss to the fabulous folks at 22 Seminary Avenue in Hopewell, who graciously provided an emergency pit-stop for a certain young gentleman. We love happy endings.
For those of you who have lost track, Mr. D provides a clue (and some commentary via facial expression) as to the exact number of candles now required for Tama's birthday cake. (We gave up and went out for ice cream instead.)
Mr. D apparently felt that Tama hadn't truly EXPERIENCED the bay to the extent she might have during her six mile solo trip up the Cape Cod "arm" from the mouth of the Pamet River to Provincetown. Nothing a little watering can action can't fix!
For those among you who were skeptical of our stated goal of getting Mr. D to sleep in his own tent during our week of camping, here's proof positive that he pulled it off. Of course we had to make sure he had his new alligator squirter handy in case, well, you know, just in case.
One would generally expect a photo entitled "Jump!" to at least include the feet of the subject, but in this case... well, there's just not much point. Yet. Miss E was certainly TRYING to celebrate Independence Day by freeing her feet from good ol' Mother Earth, but it just wasn't happening for her. She does get an A for effort, and an A+++ for cuteness. Just LOOKING at that little smile makes me want to scoop her up for a snuggle. After first begging her Ladyship's permission and pardon, of course. Thanks for the hospitality, L, J, & E!
It is nothing short of a minor miracle that I managed to get these four to stay still long enough to all fit into one picture. Mr. D coudn't be coaxed away from a very important wave-jumping engagement, and Summer was catching up on her cutie-rest. (Similar to beauty-rest, but for sweetie pie toddlers.)
When I arrived at Skelly Field on Rutgers’ campus, I thought of my mom at Douglass and my dad at Ursinus, back in the day. I wondered if they’d be able to imagine the spot from memory if I described it to them. Was the small pond to the left of our route nicknamed “the Passion Puddle” even back then? When I signed up for the walk I thought I might try to walk with Jeff – and Gigi, the third DFA’er – but Terri and Mr. D and I spent the night before the walk at Stacy & [she whose name is no longer spoken] & JT’s house because our air conditioning was on the fritz. I hadn’t taken the time to go online, and so had not connected with Jeff or Gigi. I’d never met either of them in person, only emailed back and forth online, so I didn’t have cell phone numbers or anything, and as I drove down College Farm Road and saw the huge crowd of people milling about in a staging area, any hopes I had of finding them quickly dwindled down to nothing.
I was immediately struck by the celebratory feel of the gathering. Despite the wilting heat and the seriousness of our cause, it felt more like a festival than anything else. There was a huge stage from which the organizers periodically made housekeeping announcements, and in between announcements there was a live band playing upbeat, “you can do it” music. This was very different from the “Silence = Death” ACT UP activism of earlier decades. People were walking in a spirit of support, and the common ground was a given. The walkers seemed generally willing to have the fighting of the disease – and the societal forces that work against those struggling with it – remain an implied and understood backdrop. The other thing that made an immediate impression on me as I tried to figure out where I was supposed to sign in was how predominantly brown and black the assembled walkers were. It made perfect sense, thinking about how communities of color have been disproportionately affected by the AIDS epidemic, but since living in Philadelphia I don’t spend that much time in settings where white people are in the minority. Sometimes I miss it.
As I stood near a merchandise table, reminding myself that the last thing in the world I need is another t-shirt, a voice came from the side. “Hey, you’re Shelley!” It was Gigi, who amidst the hundreds of walkers had somehow spotted and recognized me from the picture I’d posted on my NJ AIDS Walk fundraising website. And with her was Jeff! I was so happy to connect with my fellow teammates, and when the walk kicked off a few minutes later, we stepped off side by side.
Jeff and Gigi and I immediately fell into a comfortable companionship… a little odd, given that we’d never laid eyes on each other before, but nice. We traded book recommendations while scoping out the other teams. We talked about our first political memories and our experiences around AIDS. A Rutgers grad himself, Jeff smoothly shifted into tour guide mode and regaled us with tales of Rutgers traditions and news. We tried not to talk about the heat. (On the drive to the walk site, I heard an ever-so-helpful radio weatherperson breathlessly exclaim “Highs today will be in the mid-90’s, but with the heat index it’ll feel more like the 100’s!” Who pays these people?) Clearly concerned about the safety of the walkers, the walk organizers had arranged for plenty of water to be available along the route; although it was stored in buckets of ice, the intense heat meant that it only got vaguely cool, and that only for a few minutes. When a fellow walker blithely tossed aside an empty water bottle, we reminisced about the “litter bug” commercials of our youth and wondered whether “these kids today” would even recognize the phrase. Much of our walk route led us along sidewalks or pathways; when we walked on roads, it felt a little bit like walking on a cookie sheet. In an oven.
Still, I didn’t see anyone fall by the wayside. The route was clearly marked, there were volunteer marshalls everywhere, and it seemed pretty easy to just get caught up in the tide and swept along. There were a few large teams (ETS and J&J were the ones who seemed to have the most participants), but most seemed to be smaller, more intimate groupings. I saw families walking together, some with small children who were being pushed along in strollers. There were some grandparental-looking folks walking. A few groups of young women who looked like they might be sorority sisters. And while the group did thin out a bit from the initially massed formation at the beginning of the walk, the column of participants remained impressively dense throughout the entire walk; I would love to know how many people there were!
The walk was tiring, but surrounded by all that determination and good will, we just kept on trucking. I poured most of my walk water over my head, and I can still remember the sound of the collective “ahhhhhh” that went up from the walkers when a rare breeze blew down the lines of walkers. Towards the end, conversation died out a bit as we concentrated on the task at hand, and we periodically catalogued our growing list of aches and pains. (Reminded me of the kids’ song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,” except that it went in the opposite order.) Finally, just as we were starting to wonder about our collective sanity, things started to look familiar and we realized we were almost back at the staging area. And then we were done.
The one aspect of pre-walk preparation that didn’t get covered in all the advice I received concerned my rings. About 3K into the walk, I noticed that my hands were swelling up in the heat, and managed to pull two of my three rings off. The last one was clearly on for the duration; my fingers finally got back to normal about eight hours after the walk. The ring I couldn’t remove was the one that Terri and I designed together, a celebration of the relationship whose beginning almost thirteen years ago was marked by a pounding heart and an AIDS test. Aching for all the right reasons, I slipped my ring back on with a silent prayer of thanksgiving.
I had my first and last blood test for HIV in 1992. At the beginning of a relationship that felt like it might be going somewhere, I wanted to make sure to start things out right. To my mind, that included both of us committing to taking the test. I had to talk my doctor into it, because to an external observer, there was no reason for me to be taking this test; my identity as a monogomous lesbian put me in one of the lowest known risk groups. At the time, amidst all the talk in fundamentalist circles about AIDS being a punishment from God, the joke in the lesbian community was, “If AIDS is a punishment from God, then lesbians are God’s chosen people!”
But I prevailed, and on a crisp winter morning walked to my doctor’s office in West Philly to have my blood drawn. The results would come back negative. I knew they would. And my doctor’s office was only six blocks from my third-story Cedar Avenue walk up. So why was my heart pounding?
So much has changed since then. A different century, a different world, a different life. Same partner, though. And still the spectre of AIDS, menacing families and communities. The power of AIDS to make my heart pound stayed with me. When Ronald Reagan passed away and the news was full of rosy-tinged remembrances of all he had done for our country, I seethed. I was suddenly flooded with memories of my college years, during which Ronald Reagan remained silent on the subject of AIDS for years while the death toll inexorably rose. The daily undertow of fear and sadness that was the aftermath of the September 11th attacks reminded me of nothing else so much as that time in the mid-80s, when everyone I knew was waiting to find out which of their friends had been sentenced to die. AIDS is now less of a death sentence than it once was, at least for some people – e.g. those fortunate enough to live in America and have healthcare coverage – but its power to disrupt and destroy remains undeniable.
The last time I had truly engaged the AIDS epidemic in a personal way, was when I was living in Philadelphia and singing in the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir. One spring, a small group of us sang at an AIDS Hospice. It wasn’t a very large facility, but every inch of it felt sacred. The residents of the neighborhood had initially fought tooth and nail to prevent the hospice from opening, but it had since become a kind of accepted oasis. The patients, all in the end stages of AIDS-related diseases, were busy with the hard work of making peace and letting go. Not everyone was interested in having a bunch of strangers seranade them. In one room, though, we discovered that the Gershwin song in our repertoire was an old favorite of the man in whose room we were singing it. He struggled to a sitting position and quietly sang along as tears streamed down all our faces. In the intervening years, friends of mine had participated in events designed to raise funds and awareness in the fight against AIDS. Hearing about the upcoming NJ AIDS Walk made me wonder… was it my turn again?
As anyone who knows me could tell you, I am not a particularly fitness-oriented person. In grade school, I was truly talented – at sit-ups. While working at Penn, I played softball on a C-league team, C-league being Penn’s euphemism for “no skill required.” Since then, pretty much nothing.
Although I do come from good walking stock – if you visit my parents, good luck keeping up with them as they embark on their daily constitutional! And I live in an eminently walkable town. I heard about the NJ AIDS Walk at about the same time that DFA (Democracy for America) was calling on its members to give back to their communities in June; the more I thought about it, the more the walk moved into “I should do this” territory. When I heard about fellow NJ DFA’er Jeff Gardner’s commitment to make the walk, and then learned that the graduation ceremonies at Rutgers Preparatory School were later the same day and just minutes away from the walk site, the stars seemed aligned. I logged on to the awnj.org site and signed up.
So it was that I found myself soliciting my more athletic friends and family members for advice about how to prepare for the NJ AIDS Walk. They really came through for me. Stretch your achilles tendons and your hamstrings. Drink lots of fluid in the days leading up to the walk, but don’t over-hydrate on the day itself. Smear Vaseline all over your feet, taking special care not to neglect your toes. Check, check, check.
As the day of the walk approached, I was relatively confident of my ability to do it physically. It’s just a 10K, after all. But my heart was pounding again. I’d only ever seen pictures of events like this. And heard or read my friends’ accounts. As I’d been talking with family and friends and soliciting their donations, the reality of the enormity of the cause started to sink in. Not knowing what to expect, I set a fundraising goal of $200… my friends and family blew through it in just a few days. Every donation added to my sense of responsibility.