Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai massacre

The killings have shocked the entire world - the children, families, women, Jewish couple from Brooklyn, American father and 13 year old daughter - the list goes on.....

The siege has ended, according to Indian officials - and now comes the daunting task of assigning blame. Just who are these terrorists? Are they really just a small group of individuals? An aberration, an anomaly? How on earth did they manage to hold under siege the busiest and most prosperous city in India.

I am sure that many will be wondering these same questions.

My prayers are with those who have lost loved ones and for the Obama team tasked with addressing this situation.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday and a salute to volunteers and mums around the world

Today marks my third experience with Black Friday. For my friends from across the pond, that would be the day after Thanksgiving, when Americans get up at a ridiculously early hour in order to procure presents for the holidays at bargain prices.

I have found Pokeman cards for my kids, large screen TV's and today - the piece de la resistance - a Kitchen Aid mixer for my dear mum. Mum is amazing - she raised five wonderful daughters - led us by example and we are all productive members of our society. Mum gives to so many charities, I cannot keep count - even as her 401k and retirement funds are diminishing in the midst of this economic crisis, she maintains her commitments.

Some weeks ago, at her church - St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Hartsdale, NY - she volunteered to bake cakes for a fundraiser. She took orders, anticipating that she might make 10 cakes or so - that number quickly grew to 28 cakes and still countin last I knew.

These are not any old cakes - oh no - they are traditional Jamaican rum cakes - they are prepared with love and a huge time commitment. She is always looking for Jamaican rum to soak the fruits in for weeks, even months ahead of time, and deals on dried fruits to put in the mix. It is amazing to see what happens in preparation of this event.

As she has made this commitment, one thing is clear - she needed a better kitchen mixer in order to devote the hours necessary to preparing these cakes with love.

This morning, I was awake at around 5.oo a.m. I called a nearby Kohl's department store and was advised that they did indeed have the desired mixer, at a reasonable sale price and the store had been open since 4.00 a.m. and would have quantities to last until they ran out (I love really useful salespersons). Hey, I worked retail through a couple of Black Fridays myself - I know what good customer service is and can surely tell what bad customer service is, conversely.

We readied ourselves and set out for the store. It was full of eager shoppers. The lines resembled Russian food lines in another era, and I wondered again why it is that civilized people will stand for hours in a line to spend their hard-earned monies. I made the mistake of not taking my cell phone with me. Fatal when shopping with someone else on such a day as today. Mum could not find me in the huge store and tried to have me paged, only to be passed along, from one sales associate to another, all passing the buck, claiming that it was not their job to page guests. We finally found each other and I was guarding what I thought to be the desired mixer.

True to form, mum stated that based on the horrible feeling in the store, poor customer service, et al - she had no desire to spend her money there. I love that about mum - she really puts her money where her mouth is. This mixer cost a pretty penny. We were not going to stand in line for over an hour at a store where our business appeared to be unappreciated.

I called a local Bed, Bath and Beyond - no crowds, extremely friendly staff and their beloved 20% off coupon was being thankfully honoured in the store on Black Friday - the one day of the year when it is honoured without actually being in the hands of the guest - we saved a pretty penny on that mixer - enough that mum could purchase her long coveted stainless steel flip top rubbish bin for the kitchen in her condo. We found a few more things, stopped at another store - Home Goods - again - excellent customer service, no crowds and pleasant shopping, ate breakfast and came home.

Mothers are the ones who get things done in this world - yes, men do too, don't misunderstand me, but there is something about a woman who takes charge of situations.

I love my mother - she is my most-admired woman. Formidable, intelligent, with a strong conviction. I don't know if we got the best deal on that mixer today, and I suppose, it doesn't really matter - what I do know is that my mum has class and will only do business with those who have earned her respect. A good lesson for all of us.

Now off to make those 28 cakes - in 2 or 3 shifts, methinks. Either way, infinitely faster because we have a wonderful new mixer to help us along.

Happy Thanksgiving - or should I say - Happy Black Friday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kristallnacht and the LDS Church continues to baptize Holocaust victims

I read the story on CNN on my mobile device earlier today.

Yet again, the LDS Church is being called to task for baptising Jews - specifically, Holocaust victims.

The practice of baptising for the dead is mentioned in the New Testament by Paul as an aside. The LDS faith believes that every mortal who has lived should have the opportunity to be baptised into the LDS religion in the event that they might change their minds about their chosen religion and want to be LDS in the life hereafter.

Apparently, talks between leaders of the Jewish faith here in the U.S. and Lance Wickham, an elder in the LDS Church broke down over the weekend. I fully understand that someone of the LDS faith with Jewish ancestors might want to give his ancestors the opportunity to be baptised into the faith, but to arbitrarily gather masses of names and submit them for proxy baptism at any one of the numerous LDS temples worldwide indicates a lack of respect for our Jewish brothers and sisters.

Proposition 8 and the LDS Church

I received a petition in my inbox last week. A friend was asking me to sign on to have the IRS review the non-profit status of the LDS Church. It seems that some think they have gone (again) too far (they claim to be politically neutral) this time. They are not the only church who galvanized their flocks to speak out against gay marriage. Many other conservative churches cautioned and advised their followers to vote against proposition 8.

There have been a myriad of protests in California, even in Utah - my former home - at the home of the LDS Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, some 3,000 protestors led a march against the LDS Church, asking them to recognize equality.

I am not here to tell any church how to lead their affairs, what I am here to do is to remind us all that in the 60's it was illegal for Barack Obama's parents to be married in many of the 50 states.

This issue will continue to be a divisive one for many of us. I read a great open letter on the UCC Church's website on this topic recently. The complete letter can be found at this link:

The struggle will not be over, as long as any of us are marginalized - be that women who do equal work for less pay than men, gays who cannot legally marry, and so on and so forth......

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday after the historical election

Well dear readers,

It has been almost a week and I just can't get enough of the talk, pundits, politocos, analysts, all sharing their opinions about how and why President Elect Obama was able to "pull this off" so to speak.

Around the world, American expatriots and foreigners alike are rejoicing. One American living overseas said that for the first time in 8 years he felt like he could be a proud American again. Remember those classes we were encouraged to take prior to traveling overseas? No more hiding ourselves and our nationality - finally a chance to breathe and be proud Americans again.

May God continue to bless President Elect Obama and his family - and of course, God bless the USA.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How we voted based on our religion......

Catholics voted for Obama, Protestants for McCain - 78% of Jews voted for Obama.

I find these numbers quite remarkable, in that I was lunching today with a Jewish friend and we spoke of Hitler's atrocities and slavery's atrocities - reparations not given - why she felt uncomfortable in Austria - same as I felt living in Germany during the rise of the neo-Nazi movement in the early 1980's.

Jews and blacks have a shared and very sad history together - it is not surprising that we voted along the same lines based on our heritage, race and religion.

Bishop Jakes spoke with Chris Matthews about us coming together in spite of our differences - he made a point of saying that we need to respect one another regardless of how our opinions might differ.

A lot of work is ahead of us - let us not forget from whence we came, and no matter who we voted for - President Elect Obama is going to be the President of ALL of the United States. One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Out of many one people.

A new day has dawned

I sit here with tears streaming down my face. My fingers tremble over the keys of my PC.

I dared not hope that he would really win - could he? Would he? Were the polls wrong?

We did it! We did it! We did it!

I am overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. For years, my sons went to school and saw only teachers who did not look like them - and now, they can look to the President of this - the greatest country in the world - and see someone who looks just like them.

For years, I hoped that we would see this day come - a black President of the United States. I had hoped it would be Jessie Jackson - then Colin Powell - and now we have the most eloquent, intellectual and remarkable man we could have ever imagined - a man who was born to do this thing - this job - this calling from God - to lead our nation and heal our hearts, our minds and our homes.

God bless President Elect Obama and his wife, Michele - their children, Sasha and Malia and God bless America.

Election day buzz

I can hardly stand it!

The returns are coming in.

Until almost 7 p.m. EST, I was doing phone banking to Wisconsin - desperately trying to do my part till the end. I was supposed to be at my local train station, but at 3.00 p.m. 50% of my precinct had already cast votes, instead of by 6.00 p.m. - we were so far ahead of the game, they didn't even bother to send anyone to bug weary commuters.

I checked my email via my mobile device and realized that there was still GOTV calling to be done. I sat down at my PC and pulled up the familiar website - it was electrifying - I spoke to so many voters who had already voted - some had called family members and convinced them to vote for Obama.

This is a historical day. It is fitting that his grandmother went home to be with his mother and forebears to celebrate - there is much to be rejoicing over.

We did it - the change is coming and we are all a part of it. More tomorrow, or even later when I pop the champagne.