Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Making Space

Making Space

Hi All, time swirling faster and faster it seems. I am reading a book, slowly, as is appropriate, called In Praise of Slowness. Actually, it was my reader present from my recent reading at Pegasus Books in Berkeley (thank you to all who made it). While waiting for people to arrive, I spied this little dark book. When I read the title, a strong feeling of relief washed over me. I think it came from realizing that the very existence of this little book meant there must be many other people who feel like I do, that they are being bombarded, sensorily, and who crave slowing down and doing one thing deeply. The book made me feel like this feeling was not crazy and that slowing down might actually be allowed.

Spell check is telling me “sensorily” isn’t a word, but I can’t think of the right one. You get the idea.

In Praise of Slowness
reminded me, yet again, of how I miss the time when I was deeply engaged with writing Love in Condition Yellow. I loved it because I was allowing myself to follow thoughts and ideas along a meandering course, and not rushing myself, but trusting that I will find an interesting insight or at least a nice shady place next to a bubbling stream where I might linger a while, maybe even have a picnic. In the book I described that feeling of deep engagement with an idea as “yoga for the mind.”

The thing is that it’s hard to allow myself to follow my little baby ideas in this beginning phase when I don’t really know what I want to write about. Because really - what hubris! Whose to know where it will lead? More likely it’s just a giant waste of time. It was much easier to do when I had a book proposal with a chapter outline, and then a book deal and a deadline and an editor tapping her fingers. Without those it is easier for the demons to get in, the questioners, the Critics, and start mucking everything up. Lately I have been ducking them by not writing and doing things like cleaning out closets. I think of it as Making Space. I am hoping the practice of making space in the physical world will allow me to Make Space for a little Room of My Own, if you will, only in my head, away from the grocery and to-do lists and recipes and real estate searches that seem more acceptable endeavors to the Critics. Plus I find closets are quite nice places: dark and quiet.

I did write a draft intro column for military.com but not surprisingly, the editor hasn’t written back (or posted it). I say, not surprisingly, because said editor has responded to roughly one out of every twenty of my emails. I could send him an email every day or two until I reach the twenty needed to get his attention, but I realize I don’t want to. I think for right now I'm just going to go slow and see what happens.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Purple America

And other meditations on Overcoming Differences, Relationships, Politics, Fear, and Peace.

I’m starting up blogging again with a vengeance. This is the new me. The blogging me. The blogging without fear me. I am going to try something new for the rest of 2009. I’m going to get over my need to polish my work before I publish it, if only for a blog. I know it might seem odd to y’all that someone like me, who has published a book about her personal life, would be reluctant to “reveal” herself, but there it is.

The truth is Love in Condition Yellow is actually a fairly polished view of my private life. By polished I don’t mean “gilded,” but rather that I worked long and hard to get it “right,” in the sense of tone and three-dimensionality.

But I’m not going to worry about that here! You will get to observe the process of me honing down to an idea I might write a longer piece about. (There is a saying by Confucius related to sausage-making that may apply here…)

But enough blowing smoke. The writers among you know that one way to figure out what you want to write about next is to do “morning pages.” These may or may not happen in the morning, but morning is a good time to do them. Actually anytime you can get your sorry butt to do them is a VERY GOOD TIME to do them. Morning Pages are a sort of data dump of your thoughts. You put on a timer for five or ten or fifteen minutes and then you type. There is only one rule. You are not allowed to stop typing. You cannot lift your fingers from the keyboard. You cannot let them stop moving. Even if you are typing, “blah blah blah.” Or “oh my god, who wants to hear this? this is so na├»ve, what are you thinking, going into the maw of American politics, and talking about Purple America, trying to explain the left to the right and the right to the left. Girl, they are going to chew you up and spit you out!”

From the blog I will refine a nugget or two for a column that I am hoping they will still want me to do over at www.military.com. The Editor invited me but that was back in July and although I notified him I couldn’t start till September, I haven’t heard back. ‘Course out of about twenty emails I sent Ed., he only answered one or two and both of our phone conversations got cut short because of calls from the White House. BTW, Ollie North will be my fellow-columnist. But (I'm pretending)I’ve got no fear. Purple America, baby!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fantasy Writing

Oh what a bad blogger I've been. Too many ups and downs. Too many urgent small things to attend to. But more than anything, I've been too busy desperately trying to crank my actual experience of publishing my first book over to the fantasy experience I've been subconsciously tending lo these years as an emerging writer. You know the one - where I go on Oprah and the book rockets to the top of the best seller list?

I had such an amazing launch party: Kitty at Books Inc is a totally class act; there was a standing room only crowd; my talk went well. Kitty told me afterward that we sold more books in relation to the number of folks attending, than she has ever seen in her ten years of bookselling! The former Oakland Police Chief was there. Police and Army friends were there. My old friends from Stanford protesting days were there. I couldn't have felt more launched, and in a very post-partisan fashion.

Writers have a joke about the anticipation for one's book to launch: they call it "the calm before the calm." Which is not to say that I am calm. In my heart it's been more the storm before the storm. I have been waiting for the paparazzi to start banging on my door. I don't know how many people have told me I belong on Oprah. And I don't disagree. I think the book's story of a post-partisan love affair between a peace activist and a soldier/cop is particularly relevant right NOW in our post-Bush world. I think "love in condition yellow" is a great personal philosophy and not a bad basis for our foreign policy either. But Oprah, alas, is not calling back. She is in fact, on summer break. And here's the reality my book has launched into:

Many bricks-and-mortar book stores are closing their doors.
People are reading less books.
There are more and more books being published.
Newspapers are being shuttered.
There are fewer and fewer outlets for book reviews and features.
The internet is providing some outlets but it is more fragmented than in the days of yore.
The vast majority of books sell a small amount of copies (average: 2000 copies), while a tiny few sell an enormous amount.
There is almost no middle ground.

I have dutifully checked my NYT Book Review, and oddly, I am not on the best-seller list. The truth is, I don't really know how my book is selling. There are still hundreds of bookstores in the U.S. and they order books but can return them if they don't sell. So we won't really know for months the true numbers. The sometimes frustrating thing about bookselling, is NO ONE CAN PREDICT WHEN A BOOK WILL DO WELL. Some books get tons of coverage and nevertheless tank. Some books get almost no media attention and sell well through word of mouth. It's an alchemy no one can measure or quantify or dissect, and I realize I'm glad there is an element of magic and mystery to it.

When I evict my Oprah/NYT best-seller list fantasy, then I start to see how cool this has all been. First, like I said, I had an amazing launch. Then the book was selected by the American Booksellers Association as a June Notable Book, putting me in the company of talented writers like Walter Mosely, Andrew Sean Greer, Mary Roach, and Rick Atkinson. I did my first radio show, Mornings With Jeff Schechtman, KVON's public affairs show, (kind of a FORUM/Michael Krasny for the wine country. You can listen to it on my News & Events page. I've hit the blogosphere with a feature in Slate's new women's magazine, Double X and a blog post in MilitaryOneSource's BlogBrigade. And more exciting things are around the corner: appearances on KRON TV on June 21st, on West Coast LIVE on July 4th and a feature in the SF Chronicle Magazine on July 5th.

The wierdest twist is when I do get media coverage I can't say it makes me "happy" like it's supposed to in the fantasy. It makes me excited, for sure, but also kind of scared and nervous. I guess that's why they call these fantasies fantasies. They ain't real! The real thing is a whole hodgepodge of emotions. Like life.

What I try to focus on are the wonderful, supportive comments and encouragement of my family, friends, and readers, who relate to the book in so many different ways: A Marine dad came up to me at the launch and thanked me for disspelling stereotypes about servicemembers. He says his son is a Marine, and also a meditating vegan! Civilian women have written me about how they relate to overcoming differences in their marriages and families that have nothing to do with the military, but they related to the book. There was a comment attached to my last blog post (you can read the Literary Mama Q&A she is referring to on my site here) from someone who lives in a muslim country and found my ideas relevant. That's the real joy of this experience, connecting to other people who are sharing ideas and working to overcome differences. So thank you to all of you for keeping me grounded!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

From Iraq to Oakland

I feel like my family is beginning the healing process from the shock of the police shootings in Oakland. Of course the families of the fallen have infinitely deeper trauma and our first thoughts and prayers must go to them. But still, 3/21 hit B. and me hard, harder than when people he knew were killed in Iraq. That makes sense, of course, because everything that happened on 3/21 was “closer to home” in all senses of that phrase: B. was there, on duty when it happened, B. was close friends with two of the four officers killed. It hit me hard too because even I knew Erv and had met Dan, and because but for random chance, it could have been me standing next to a coffin with a flag over it. Have I said that a bunch of times? I'm sorry to belabor. It haunts me...

It made me think about a couple things. We as a society have come such a long way in recognizing that the troops need our support whether or not we agree with our country’s foreign policy. But the immense outpouring of support after the Oakland shootings notwithstanding, in many circles, the respect for the difficult dutiful job of the soldier in wartime has not been extended to the difficult dutiful job of the police officer every day.

I am not trying to say police officers are perfect and never make mistakes, or are never mean and scary, or even that blatant misconduct doesn’t occur. And I – shamefully – understand better than most the flat, cardboard cut-out view of the police because while I was an activist in college and the years after, I largely shared it. In Love in Condition Yellow, I describe my attitude “Barrett is part of a monolithic bloc of impassive guys with bristly mustaches and mirrored sunglasses that I generally try to avoid.”

What I’m trying to say is it’s worth digging under that stereotype to the rich complexity underneath, and it would be worth it for our community to do that vis a vis the Oakland Police Department, just as it’s worth it to dig below racial stereotypes to the rich individuality.

What I find particularly upsetting is the notion that by humanizing one side, we are somehow against the other side ie. by humanizing police officers, we are somehow in opposition to low income communities of color. This is not right. In fact I think it is just the opposite: the gentler we are with ourselves, and with others, the more impact we can have for positive social change.

I dug around a little on-line and found an interesting article about how back in 2003, the Madison, Wisconsin police force invited Thich Nhat Hahn to provide a five-day retreat for the city's emergency workers. It was called “Protecting and Serving Without Stress or Fear.” How cool is that?

The lady that organized it, herself an officer and a practicing Buddhist, was drawn to action because she saw the day-to-day toll police work took on officers and their families: higher than average rates of divorce, higher than average rates of suicide. I wonder if I could contact her and find out how it went. That led me to poking around to see if there are any organizations to support police families much in the way there are to support military families. And the brief answer is: virtually none. When a police officer is killed, the Oakland Police Officers Association stands by them and advocates for them. In fact, Renee Hassna of the OPOA is incredibly dedicated hard-working lady and I take my hat off to her. But I’m talking about day-to-day support, networking, community-building for families of working officers.

When I get a chance – because book promotion is taking almost all my time right now – I want to interview a few people to get ideas on how to translate some of the military family support ideas to the police. I also want to explore how we might better equip our police officers – and their families - from a mental health perspective, to manage the challenging emotional aspect of their work. I would love to hear your ideas!

Now, for Love in Condition Yellow news: the book is shipping from Amazon, and should be hitting bookstores any day! If you are inspired, I need Amazon, B&N, Indiebound, and goodreads.com reviews.

I am excited to announce I will be participating in a Book Club roundtable on Slate with two lovely and talented military spouse writers: Lily Burana and Alison Buckholtz!
Got a glowing review in the magazine ForeWord, but it’s not quite out yet, so I can’t quote specifics. I look forward to seeing Bay Area people at the Book Launch party at Books Inc. in SF on Friday, May 1st. I am deeply grateful for your support!
To go back to my main website home page, click here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Post 9-11 Moment for Oakland?

You have all probably guessed the reason I have not blogged for a rather long time. Let's just say it wasn't the ski trip I took with my son on March 19th and 20th, which was lovely Mom-and-Niko bonding time. That ski trip seems like a hundred years ago now, in a totally different era. Which of course it was, the pre-3/21 era, before four Oakland police officers were shot and killed. My husband knew all four men; even I had met two. Erv Romans was an old friend of B's; Dan Sakai was one of B's patrol sergeants. Our emotions related to this are so raw and difficult that I don't even care to delve into them here. I do thank all my dear friends and family for their calls and support. Our thoughts and prayers go to the families of the fallen.

What B and I have both acknowledged is that this event is like 9/11 for Oakland. It even has a catchy date: 3/21 or "three-two-one." The post-9/11 moment of unity, as we all know, was squashed, squandered and frittered away. But let's hope the post-3/21 is not.

I often wonder about applying the lessons I've learned from my marriage - that even vast differences, of beliefs, politics, and culture - can be overcome and conflict replaced by deep respect and understanding. Note this is not the same as agreement. Without even agreeing, respect softens the space between parties and builds a solid foundation for problem-solving. Obviously larger conflicts are infinitely more complicated.

One of the elements of overcoming differences is both sides have to be willing to listen, and both sides need to express themselves civilly. That may leave out certain extreme elements in this particular conflict. Still I'm trying to imagine. A community discussion between the Oscar Grant protestors and police supporters - what would that look like? I know that Thich Nhat Hanh conducts something along these lines at his retreat center, Plum Village, in France. It also might be something like the Truth and Reconciilation process in South Africa. I promise to learn more about this and report back here.

Of course there would also have to be a leader. Mayor Dellums does not seem up to the task - whether due to age or infirmity, I'm not sure. Some have called for Obama to come, but the economy seems to be keeping him pretty busy. Keith Carson? Barbara Lee? You and me?

I haven't reported back on our meeting with my son's teacher related to her singling my son out for criticism in front of the class and criticizing the portrait of his father in Iraq. Bottom line it went well. The hardest part about it was the anticipation and imagination of things going bad. In the 3/9/09 New Yorker(little guy in big suit on cover, a line from David Foster Wallace's most famous work, "Infinite Jest" was quoted. The character Don Gately thinks "everything unendurable was in the head, was the head not Abiding in the Present but hopping the wall and doing a recon and then returning with unendurable news."

So it was with the meeting with the teacher. When we got there she agreed to stop singling him out, tried to explain it as a technique to exert peer pressure when he had not followed initial instructions, but when we insisted, she apologized and backed down. As far as the art, she explained that early in the school year, my son had told her that he was "a terrible drawer," and she had responded by saying, "I can teach you to draw." And that's what she was trying to do.

While this exchange didn't make everything absolutely perfect in the classroom, it is again, amazing how much it softened things when the teacher 1)responded to our request re the singling out; and 2)gave a reason for the art criticism that wasn't meanness or spite. It's also interesting to me how VITAL it was for my son that we go through this process, how important it was for him to see that his parents listened to his hurts and addressed them. All I'm saying is sometimes the process of communication goes an amazingly long way to solving a conflict. The actual solution part is almost EASY once their is mutual respect and understanding.

I got a nice review of Love in Condition Yellow in Kirkus where they said: "Besides a clear understanding of who she is and what she wants, Raday has a solid sense of humor, an ear for dialogue and an eye for telling detail."

I have seen an actual advance copy of The Book, so it will soon EXIST! Please mark your calendars for the May 1 launch party at Books Inc in San Francisco.

To go to my website home page, please click here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Art Lesson

In an earlier post I talked about one of my seven-year-old son’s drawings, a picture of his father, which his teacher had criticized, saying “Does my torso look like that?” The drawing was an in-class assignment to illustrate a homework project called “the personal timeline.” For every year of my son’s life, he wrote one sentence describing something important that happened.

My son’s drawing is on a small white paper, about two inches square. Back in January, when he first showed it to me, he unfolded it from a tiny tight little bundle, as if he had tried to make it as small as possible. After I’d reassured him I thought it was a very good drawing, I asked if I could keep it. When he agreed, I tucked it among my credit cards.

A week or so ago, I pulled it from my purse to show a friend who directs an arts education program, while telling her the story of his teacher’s reaction. She shook her head, murmuring, “but art is about creating meaning…” She looked at the drawing intently, noting the simple figure, the flower-like hands, the black shoes, a long neck, a round head. A sun in the corner had been erased and then enlarged to take up about a quarter of the paper. “Did you ask him what it is?” My friend inquired.
“It’s his father.” I said.

“But what does it mean?” she said. “Look, the clothes are colored green. Do you think it’s a military uniform?”

I leaned over to look at the drawing with her, an uneasy feeling growing within me. It had been weeks since my son came home, eyes downcast, and handed me this picture, “do you think this is any good?” Weeks since we lay together at bedtime and talked about his feelings of anxiety in his classroom.

Why had I never thought to ask him what the picture meant?

I didn’t think to pursue it further. Why? I guess because… I thought I understood enough to know what action I needed to take. My son had drawn a loving, innocent portrait of his father. I saw my own seven-year-old self drawing and being criticized. My son was vulnerable and I needed to protect him. I thought that’s what was important, that I protect my son.

“Maybe it’s his father coming home,” my friend suggested.

I realized another reason I didn’t ask. I didn’t like to think about the fifteen months my husband was gone, the days of anxiety, the pretending I was okay, the occasional vortex of panic – the day my two-year-old turned off my cellphone ringer, and I ended up with six voicemail messages, the first only a jumble of voices screaming “call 9-1-1! call 9-1-1!” I didn’t know it, but my son had punched his hand through a window, and was bleeding profusely. The next message was my mother telling me she was riding in the ambulance with him to Children’s Hospital. Another time when our car battery died during a snowstorm in Tahoe and the car couldn’t be jumped because my keyless remote battery was also dead, and after hitching a ride with the tow truck, they closed the highway back and I thought I’d be separated from my children. Or the day I saw a newspaper headline, through the vending machine glass, a headline that yet another police station in Iraq had been bombed, prompting me to call my doctor’s office sobbing, “I need valium! I need valium!”

Later, after my friend had left and my three-year-old daughter was down for the night, I asked him. “Sweetie, what’s that drawing about? Is it for Daddy coming home?”

“No, it’s for 2003.” My son had had trouble coming up with an event for that year, and I remembered that I mentioned that was the year the Iraq war started. So that’s what he’d used, “2003: The United States invades Iraq.”

“See Mom,” he explained, happy to be asked. “Daddy’s in the desert all alone, and this is the sun blazing down on him.”

I remember when my son read us all the elements of his personal timeline, 2003 upset him. “Stupid Iraq,” he fumed, his face screwing up in an effort not to cry, “Why did Daddy have to go?” A reasonable question, and one his father answered soberly, “Because I am a soldier.”

For many of the families whose loved ones died, or whose loved ones came home physically or mentally disabled, and even for the lucky families, like mine, who merely suffered from the deployment’s separation, we ask this question:
Why did he have to go?

What does the war in Iraq mean?

It’s hard to listen to someone struggle with a question like this. It may be a lot easier to comment on how the proportions in their drawing aren’t accurate. Or to supply our own answer. But each and every search for meaning should be honored. And each and every answer, no matter how different, should be heard.

To go to my website home page, click here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My New Ski Buddy

Hi All
I thought I'd post some photos of Mommy Sophia and how she skis now, which is to say, backwards on telemark skis. Not to be fancy, but just so I can see the little one behind me is faring. Above is a shot from a few years back as I was getting him ready to go.




And here's how we'd travel down the hill in those days. When I had to hike uphill to rescue him, it was (and still is) a lot easier when my heel is free. ("Free your heel, free your mind," we telemarkers like to say. "Half a binding, half a brain" is the standard retort.)

These photos were from over three years ago. So the video below, from a recent trip to the snow, shows how the little guy is gaining confidence:

video

Little Guy takes after his father: no thwack-thwacking.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Alley Oop!

It’s time to really blog. Actually, with Love in Condition Yellow coming out this May, it’s actually past time. I’m late. So I’m going to start. ANY MINUTE NOW. I am on the very BRINK of blogging. I am putting my toe over the edge. I am doing what skiers do before sliding over the lip of a cornice into a steep chute. I am taking off my skis, venturing toward the edge and whacking my ski pole over, to see if the edge will hold or crack.

Thwack. Thwack.

It’s just that… that… I’m not sure what will happen. Even though my writing group has given me no less than THREE MILLION good ideas on what to blog about, something is stopping me. One expert blogger said, “It’s simple. You blog three times a week. Monday about your marriage and family, Wednesday about politics, and Friday about the process of writing and publishing a book.

Sounds great. In theory.

Here’s all I think about lately: my son’s teacher, the fact that she hurt his feelings on a Thursday back in late January when she questioned the proportions in a drawing of his father. The next day, when I phoned the school office to ask for an appointment, I learned she’d gotten rear-ended on the freeway. I squelched my decidedly unchristian feeling of relief, when I heard she would be out for at least four weeks. This week I heard she will be back, definitely, in two weeks. And while I am glad to hear she is doing better, I am TERRIFIED. Because this means I am going to have to follow through on the appointment and talk to her. What if she gets angry and hostile? What if she can’t see my son the way I do? What if I have to transfer him to a new class? What if I have to take him out of school, start a letter-writing campaign, give speeches in front of the School Board? I’m looking over the edge, What if it’s icy? What if people don’t like my blog? What if people don’t like my book? What if people don’t like ME?

So you stand there while the wind comes up the ridge in swirls and you yell something to your buddy, “are you going?” and he nods and yells “just about” in a garble and takes a turn at Thwack, Thwack. This is supposedly checking for avalanche but really it’s just a cool way to stall. To be honest, I feel a confidence and freedom on skis that I have never felt stating an unpopular opinion to another person. The fear at the edge of a cornice is not nearly the shaky gut-sick feeling I have imagining telling someone something that might make them angry.

Maybe that’s why I married a police officer/soldier with whom I hardly agree about anything. So I can practice. Also because I love the way he is not afraid of interpersonal conflict, the way he stands up and says, “STOP! Or you’re going to have to deal with ME.”

Through our marriage, I’ve come to see that it’s not differences that are the problem but rather, the way we express them. We don’t have to agree. We both just need to be heard. I got a neat email today from Kidpower, about communicating with integrity, about overcoming the tendency to speak badly to other people about the person you are in conflict with, instead of confronting the problem directly. So I’m not the only one who finds this difficult! My husband is kind overall about my fears, but occasionally gets frustrated. “Troop!“ he steamed today, “That meeting’s going to be fine. And if it’s not, we’ll handle it. For godsakes, wrap your shit tight!

Another way to say, “Wrap your shit tight!” might be the way Ambrose Redmoon put it, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."

I have a memory that sparkles around the edges: a bluebird day, sunny skies, fresh dusting of snow. My friend Ethan and I tucked off the Alpine Bowl chair, stayed high along the ridge, and hiked up the knoll to where we could drop into Keyhole. Two young men were standing at the edge just below us, skis off, thwack thwacking. I’d seen the conditions when I traversed the ridge, and everything looked perfect to me. I saw the beautiful run I was going to have, pictured it in my mind. And I didn’t even take my skis off. I didn’t even stop. I just launched right over.

When Ethan caught up, I pulsed with calm exhilaration. “What about the landing?” he asked. “Weren’t you worried you’d miss that first turn and hit the rock?” I told him what for that split second I had understood: that I could make a conscious choice to look toward the possibilities, instead of toward my fears.

I talked to the principal on the phone today, and she is arranging the meeting. Here’s to embracing it as an opportunity. Who knows, maybe the book thing will go well too. Maybe I can even blog. Two, even three times a week. So no more thwacking. I’m walking back to my skis and clicking in. I’m giving the thumbs-up sign to my buddy as I re-arrange my goggles. Deep breath, the snow is perfect wind-blown, a push and a half-skate to get some momentum, and here I go, flying over the edge.


To go to my main website home page, please click here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Inauguration Blues and Reds

I was delighted to be asked to post at the blog of my publisher, Beacon Press, on Inauguration Day. I promise to post some photos below, from my trip to Ohio in October to volunteer for the Obama campaign, the dancing at the Inauguration Party, and if he lets me, my husband looking glum...

I'm curious to hear your ideas about overcoming differences, political or otherwise, in our important relationships, and how Obama inspires you or not. Enjoy!

The following is reprinted from Beacon Broadside. The original can be found here.

To go to my main website home page, click here.

Celebrating the Inaugural in a Bipartisan Marriage

At various points during Election Day I briefly let myself think that Obama might actually win. If he did, I was going to do something BIG. I was going to run naked down the street with an American flag streaming behind me. I was going to dance (clothed) with throngs of people— all shades of brown and black and white. I was going to kiss random strangers. But at some point in my imaginings, about when the tears started to form in my eyes, I always stopped myself, not sure it was time yet to let all the frustrations of the past eight years, the voicelessness, the demonization, all these bottled emotions come gushing out. Not yet. Not until it was sure.

I knew my husband would not share in the festivities. He is no Obamaniac. The way I feel about Obama, he feels about mmm... Ronald Reagan, maybe, or better yet Theodore Roosevelt, whom he refers to simply as “T.R.” I have become accustomed, in my bipartisan marriage, to not sharing the same perspective on electoral politics. But still, my husband encouraged me to go to Ohio in October because he knew it was important to me to volunteer for Obama in a battleground state. On Election Day he humored me by taking my photo at the voting booth, my grinning face next to the big check mark by Barack Obama/ Joe Biden.

But around 6 pm, as Ohio was declared for Obama and I opened my front door and whooped like a banshee, my husband seemed annoyed by my joy. He chided our seven-year-old son and three-year old daughter who were taking my revelry as a sign it might be a good time to start leaping off our furniture. My husband’s reproach was almost churlish, which is very unlike him. After putting our daughter to bed, my husband did the same, at his usual time of 7:30 pm, before the victor was even announced. He gets up at 3:15 am to start his shift as a sergeant of police in nearby Oakland. He is also a West Point graduate and a colonel in the Army Reserves. He returned from Iraq this past May after fifteen months separation from our family. Politically, he is what I call “a Republican like the Republicans used to be:” fiscally conservative, small government, pro-defense. For a while my husband supported John McCain. But McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin completely disillusioned him.

At eight o’clock, when CNBC announced Obama had won, I opened the front door and whooped again. There were some other whoops but no one running, naked or otherwise, on our street. I proposed my mom, my son, and I drive to the nearest Obama office to find some strangers to kiss. But my mom insisted we watch the acceptance speech first. My son consented to doing a crazy dance with me on the couch. Unfortunately, after the speech, my son began exhibiting the classic signs of being up way past his bedtime: verbal jabs at his mother. I don’t like Obama anymore! Enough about Obama!

Once my son was asleep in bed, I didn’t know what to do. I suddenly felt dog-tired, and besides, I had no one to go with. My mom was already in her jammies. My sleeping children might wake up and need me. My husband needed to rest. I stood in the kitchen and felt the moment slip out of my grasp.

Thousands of people danced in the Berkeley streets just a short drive away from my house. I missed it. There will never be another Election night like the one when Barack Obama got elected. I cried, telling my husband this a week or so later, as we stopped to rest during a walk along the San Francisco Bay. I missed it. I got left out. I asked why he hadn’t recognized how important the occasion was for me, and helped me to take part in it. We do this for each other: I go to the police promotions and the Army ceremonies; he to the book readings. I asked him, didn’t he understand how important the election was for me?

He said he was sorry. He had known how important it was to me, but he hadn’t been just tired. He said the election was really hard on him. He felt disappointed, deflated, lonely. He said, “The kind of guys I usually admire... in this election, they just turned out so lame.” Talk about feeling left out. I took his hand, and suddenly I didn’t care so much about missing the party. The party isn’t always where I think it is. Sometimes it’s just between me and my son, doing a silly dance on the couch. Or sitting with my husband, watching a tiny Vietnamese fisherman expertly casting his line into the Bay, and hearing what it’s like for one Republican at this historic moment in time.

For me, this is the hope for unity that Obama represents, that we might reach out individually, and as a country, to listen to those who are different from us. I don’t think we realize as a society how powerful being heard is, how it softens the differences between us, and builds a foundation upon which solutions can be constructed. We all so much want to be heard. Some of us want to be heard so much, we write memoirs, for goodness sake.

I’m having a little party on Inauguration Day after school lets out. The guests will be other parents and their small children. I will play over and over the countdown in Grant Park to the CNN announcement of the Obama victory. Then we can re-enact the hugging and the kissing and the dancing in the streets that I missed. My husband will work on the streets of Oakland, and when he gets home, we will sit quietly together and tell each other what it was like.

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