Archive for November, 2008

a musing

The view from my position as a new mayor is frequently odd. Many, many times when greeted by friends or strangers, they gently touch my upper arm in a gesture of sympathy and ask “how are you doing?” in such a way that one watching might suspect I had just lost a loved one or I’d just been told I’ve only 3 minutes to live.

I wonder how many of the male mayors before me were queried so plaintively.

The truth is, I love my job. Better yet, I LOVE my job. I have yet to have had a job that offered up so much opportunity to utilize my talents, exercise sound judgment, act with discipline and direct change. It’s crazy busy and crazy good.

Of course, sound judgment is a bit subjective, but again, I am being given the opportunity to trust my instincts and the incredible people that advise me. I am surrounded by exceptionally intelligent, experienced and (added bonus) witty people that take their jobs seriously and share my delight in the daily battle for good.

The hard part is not listening to the nay-sayers, or know-it-alls, or digs by those that think I should have had our problems all wrapped up with a pretty ribbon yesterday. The greatest challenge I face is not responding in kind. It is everything not to give into my desire to joust, which is pretty deep-seated for the eldest of five. Many a night, I triumphantly slay an opponent or two in my head with a tongue as swift as sword, in order to grit my teeth the next time I must face someone in person. This ultimate opportunity for self-discipline is the truest test I have been given and has reaped me my greatest rewards.

So, don’t underestimate my angst, my anger or my pleasure the next time I smile benignly from the dais. Sometimes, when I lightly handle the gavel, I am not thinking of hurling it at someone’s head. I am waging war with myself.

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Veteran’s Day speechifying

Veteran’s Day Remembrance Ceremony 11.11.2008

WWI Veteran’s Park, Amsterdam, NY

I am always humbled and moved by the men and women that have chosen to give so freely and completely of their lives to serve this country we all love. They give of their talents, their intellect, their bodies and souls to defend our freedoms and to promote justice and democracy around our world.

And unlike the many good soldiers, having made the ultimate sacrifice, whose names are memorialized on monuments across the country, these men and women – our veterans – have survived unimaginable circumstances; long, arduous trips away from home and families and all that they hold dear; grueling physical conditions, frightening conflicts, sometimes boredom, sadness or loneliness, and often great loss and heartache.

And yet, these boys and girls that had gone off to serve with commitment and pride return to us as men and women that have met adversity with courage, and sacrifice with honor. They have returned to us true patriots – having conducted themselves with discipline, strength and dignity. Our veterans are deserving of this day that honors them for the gift of freedom we have all been given.

This leads me to a critically important point. What these men and women have given so freely deserves continuous compensation. As citizens of this great country, we must ensure that each and every Veteran gets the respect, support and attention we so certainly owe them. We must advocate for financial and medical resources they need if they struggle, be they age 19 or 90. On an individual level, acknowledge their gift with gestures of kindness and compassion. Help to get a young veteran returning from the Middle East a job. And I encourage you all to contact your representatives the in State and Federal government to make certain that our Veterans are well cared for on the home front.

In closing, I’d like to quote a veteran’s day prayer by Mark Roberts.

God of the ages,
We thank You for all who have served in the armed forces of this country.

We thank You for the freedom their sacrifice has earned and guarded for us. Help us to prize this freedom and use it well.
We ask You to bless all living veterans in a special way today, as well as the families of all veterans.
Comfort those who grieve for those who gave the last full measure of devotion.
Strengthen those who bear physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds.
Stand with those who provide care to them.
Move us to reach out to sisters and brothers who are veterans, or relatives of veterans, or who currently serve in the military.
We pray for the day when no one needs to serve in the military. Help us to live now in anticipation of that day, as people who long for peace, who pray for peace, and who seek to be peacemakers in this world.

Thank you, all of you that are veterans.

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11.09.08 broken hip

The wall
that is reality
I so willingly avoid
day-to-day for years on end
is not dulled
when life goes
slapping up against it
at the most normal of moments
standing in line at the mall
ordering a hot pretzel
when the call comes.
Mom’s fallen.
She is lying on her side
strangling on her words
in pain and the space
that is the mall
closes in to my breath
in and out of the receiver
and the racing heartbeat
slamming the walls of my chest.
An hour later, I stare at the white
walls of an emergency
room that have taken all
of those striken with
moments like this.

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This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night,
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
were born at a good time. Because you were able
to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
stopped when you should have and started again.
So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

“Starfish” by Eleanor Lerman, from Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds.
© Sarabande Books, 2005.

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I read with interest an editorial in the Schenectady Gazette regarding the Walter Elwood Museum and it’s possible relocation. I divert in thought from ideas expressed by the author in a few ways.

I agree that all challenges come with mixed blessings and that this may be an opportunity for the museum to reassess its collections and pare down to what is deemed “essential”. I also believe the collections should be carefully looked at in terms of its current mission and vision before they are parted with, which are not specifically about preserving local history.

WEM Mission

The Walter Elwood Museum is a gateway to learning using the past to illuminate the present. Utilizing local experience, stories and artifacts, we examine history and culture in all its dimensions. We offer educational programs, unique collections and creative activities to enrich understanding of ourselves and each other.

WEM Vision

As a cultural center, the Museum inspires curiosity, creativity, and understanding of our past and present. The Museum promotes a dynamic, rich, unified community that values its heritage.

As you see, the illuminative mission of the museum is to interpret all history and culture through local experience, not the preservation of local artifacts. This allows for the utilization of the diverse collections (which have origins from around the world and through time) in new and unique ways that inspire pleasure, curiosity and reflection.

The museum’s collections should be very carefully evaluated before they are offered up for auction, with an eye toward mission and creative usage. A critical challenge for the Walter Elwood Museum has always been the interpretation of its permanent collections, which include not only local history materials, natural history collections, and Native American collections, but other cultural materials from around to the world. Elwood himself acquired some of the objects, and for over six decades, local residents responding to Elwood’s passion for object-based learning contributed many others.

With this potential relocation, the museum may create new exhibits focused on the qualities of its namesake Walter Elwood: teacher, explorer, collector, tradition-bearer, naturalist and prominent community activist. Delving into his passions for traveling & collecting, his drive to understand global culture as well as personal and local history, his commitment to education, and his dedication to community service, the museum may offer global perspectives that go beyond the reaches of our City limits.

They may also spotlight the contributions of other individuals in our community that exemplify these qualities. In this way, our community is given the chance to celebrate the attributes of individuality, commonality, and creative pursuit that bring color and life to all people while also attracting an audience with interests outside of the immediate area.

By interpreting the collections through the kaleidoscopic personality of Walter Elwood or the stories of local experience, the museum has an opportunity to feature exotic and varied items that have been sequestered away for decades. It would serve everyone to design changing exhibits in the new location that combine objects on display, storage, studios, archived materials, and play space. That way, the balance of the collection could go into storage and be circulated out according to the curricular needs of the schools, season or in response to current events.

Ultimately, the vision of the museum is to create a strengthened community through the understanding and acceptance of history, art, the sciences and culture. May it always be so.

The museum is a valuable resource for students and families and is vitally important to the revitalization of Amsterdam. I encourage all of you reading these local blogs to provide for the museum with your time and/or financial support. As is true in every situation, it’s the individual contributions of each person that make the difference.

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In with the “in” crowd

Hello all.

I am diving into the world of shared thought. I’ve found myself logging in every day to the cacophonous voices of others in my community and feel compelled to blather a bit myself.

So hear I am and will be. I’ll chime in when prodded by pundits, puritans or pirates.

I look forward to this.

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