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MemoriesFor the past few days, I have been emailing colleagues about my departure from Fight for Philly. The Fight for Philly campaign is part of the Fight for a Fair Economy, an effort to organize and empower the folks hardest hit by the “new normal” economy. Powers that be decided to scale the effort back. As a result, my position as political director was given the heave-ho. Ironically, after throwing heart & mind into fighting austerity, I have become a victim of cutbacks! And, after working WITH Philadelphia Unemployment Project, now I am one of their members. At least my kids’ schools are still open :/ Kidding aside, Fight for Philly has been a great gig. It brought me to amazing people. But, I always knew it was a temporary campaign position. I expected it to be over at some point & here I am.

What I did not expect, was the very moving responses I received from coalition partners, colleagues and the network of volunteers. So much encouragement. Many emails and calls that detailed different things people recalled over the past years. Gratitude for the work we did, hope, assurances, confidence in me; it was overwhelming. Then, some emails were excited for me. Whoa! Wow! What’s next?!?! Like they couldn’t wait to see.  I was incredibly moved by the many words and shared memories. Thanks, friends. Stay tuned.

The best civic lesson my teenage daughter has experienced to date was #walkout215. The kids know they are being screwed through no fault of their own. Peaceful, non-violent, mass action cannot be underestimated. There is now a national spotlight on Philly’s leaders. Will they continue the maddening hypocrisy of supporting only revenue measures dependent on long-shot approval from a Republican-controlled Harrisburg? The maddening hypocrisy of lagging in tax collections for schools while claiming to support public education? Or, will they ask even our corporate community to share the sacrifice by voting for final passage of the reformed Use & Occupancy tax? These times are desperate enough for all of the above, including well-organized student walkouts. Call your Council member and ask them if they’ll Vote YES on Bill 130161 sponsored by Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez.

Elections matter. The more engaged our neighborhoods are in the political process, the more responsive our leaders will be. In Queen Village, I serve as a 2nd Ward Democratic committee person. Therefore, I feel obligated to do some homework. Some of the candidates below are also endorsed by the Democratic Party, by the Bar Association, or both. Many I know personally as highly competent and worthy of public service. So, please feel free to take this guide with you &  schedule yourself time to vote 7AM – 8PM this Tues 5/21.

City Controller: Alan Butkovitz 

PA Superior Court: Joseph Waters

Court of Common Pleas – Choose 6

#106 Timika Lane                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      #108 Joe Fernandes                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          #109 Daniel D. McCaffery                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         #110 Giovanni Campbell                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              #112 John J OConnor                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        #125 Sean Patrick Stevens

Municipal Court Choose 3

#128 Martin Coleman                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        #129 Henry Lewandowski                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                #130 Shoshana Bricklin

Traffic Court – While it may be abolished , we can vote with hope for 3

#147 Inja Coates                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  #161 Donna DeRose                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 #156 Robert Tuerk

Thanks for reading & have a great Election Day this Tuesday 5/21! Learn more at Committee of 70.

Dear Neighborhood Public School Parents:

SOSMeredithOur political reality is incredibly grim. The Philadelphia school district is not crying wolf, but their credibility is a barrier. We should speak out, like fellow mom Rebecca Poyourow has here, and engage in the political process. Elected Home & School board members or School Advisory Council members are powerful spokespeople for a Save Our School (SOS)message. But, really, we are OOO- On Our Own.

We should all start raising money from now until 2015 and maybe longer.  The powerful movement to privatize public education is currently winning in Philadelphia with a lot of help from Governor Corbett. Our dire need to directly ask for money on a regular basis will feel like tuition, a form of privatization. It is replacing the public investment in our kids for which there is insufficient political will at the city, state and national level. America spends over $8 billion on defense and under $1 Billion on education. Pennsylvania is a national laggard for funding schools fairly. Mayor Nutter is doing little more than posturing. City Council is tired of tough votes with no assurance the money will even reach schools or constituents.

Perhaps, if your school is lucky, you’ll fund the cuts by September. Many neighborhood schools are a great investment and excellent stewards of donations with the possibility for tax-deductible contributions. Others will sadly flounder because they are overwhelmed by high-need children and families. But, we are all OOO- On our Own. We lack cache for philanthropy dollars enamored with an unaccountable “reform” movement.  Reformers & their big donors care little if a successful neighborhood school & the quaint concept of walking to school become collateral damage. The education “reform” movement is also intent on destroying the teaching profession as it relies on “churn & burn” of young college grads to keep payroll and healthcare costs low.

Our needs are urgent and the situation dire. Elected Home & School representatives and more must speak out against all elected leaders willing to ignore our revenue needs. This Thursday, June 20th at 10:30 AM, you can advocate for a reformed Use & Occupancy tax during Council Session. The U&O reform measure shelters small businesses while asking large corporations to share the sacrifice during a clear fiscal crisis. Call 215-686-3420 to register to speak or just come hold a sign like Save Our Schools. However, more energy needs to be focused on making your public school behave like a private one – if that is even possible- because we are On Our Own.

Dancing Dot of Light

Dancing Dot of LightLast Friday, on her 93rd birthday, my paternal grandmother passed peacefully into the unknown. Marie “Dot” Gemmell (nee McGovern) mothered 9 children, had 20 grandchildren and 18 great-grand-children. Her teenage years were during the Great Depression. She married during World War II, on Thanksgiving Day because everyone had off from work. Upon it’s end, she proceeded to birth a mini Baby Boom generation. My father was born in 1945, and his youngest sibling was born in 1963. I am the first grandchild.  Her 20th century life  both boggles my mind and reminds me how fleeting all of our lives are. We are all little dots. But, if we work on it, we can be dots of light in the face of everyday darkness, fear, negativity.

Over the past several years, my visits to her sun-drenched living room were calming. Her age, her distance from the hectic business of busy life birthed these knowing insights about me, my children, our lives and routines. Her sharp-wit made conversations with her wonderfully restorative, treasured. She did the puzzles in the paper until Tuesday, days before her Friday passing. Her eyes were lucid and the bones of her face expressively strong until the end. She died with the afternoon sun on her face.

She was unafraid. She had been facing down the companion of death all of her life. Responding to the small deaths of negativity & fear with positive kindness, prayer. She conquered the loss of her husband 33 years ago with determined independence. She faced the loss of her son to cancer caused by his time in Vietnam. She has conquered the pain of watching her children suffer addictions, anger, heartaches. In it all, I have never heard a bitter word.

My fondest memory of her was watching her whole 75 yr old body ignite when the surprise guests arrived at my wedding.  A string band in full feathers inspired her to do the strut like nobody’s business. She was born in 1920 and she could dance.  My father says she expressed, on her death bed, an urge to get up and run, run, run. They shared a memory of running together when he was small.

Yes, it’s okay, you can run & you can dance. You can go dance with Pop-Pop now. You, the strength and essence of you, your dot of light, your soul, are free.

...What is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? … and when the earth shall claim your limbs, then you shall truly dance.”   – Khalil Gibran 

She’s Alive!

Alive2013Sadly, Annethensome was comatose in 2012. It was a wonderfully wild year. But, I learned how hard a mom of 3 can work. She can work so hard her house was a disgrace & her kids threw tantrums about her phone use. She forgot to eat, make doctor’s appointments, buy clothes, get kids to practices and even go food shopping.

The 2012 presidential re-election effort involved 7 days a week, 12-14 hrs/day from late September to the big day. This mom was NOT essential personnel either. Essential personnel did not sleep for 6 months and carried RedBull around. It was successful. So much, accusations of voter fraud were tossed & Mitt Romney received ZERO votes in 59 divisions.  The experience was incredible teamwork like none I have ever been privy to before.

But, my exhaustion was deep. The sirens were screaming to me from  The Art of Wellness. At my nutrition consultation, there were awkward silences. I was not eating enough and not the right things. My adrenal glands were running on fumes. Reasonably priced supplements were handed to me like life rings to the drowning. I listened to their nurturing advice. Now, things bother me less, from the wildly unjust to the two-bit annoying. I am a better mom and even my house is a little cleaner.

Moms, activists, artists, everyone: if we are not taking care of number one, nothing of importance will ever get done. If we naturally creative humans do not establish boundaries to allow for personal health and loving relationships with family, friends, lovers;  we will never reach our full strength, power or truth. Ironically, it requires hard work to love ourselves well. It is through creative, restorative acts that we gain the strength, clarity and energy we need for simply living our truth well. Writing, is my pleasure, my creative, restorative act. For this reason, Annethensome is alert & alive again. Thanks for reading.

Here in a Manger

Yesterday, my kids and I joined my sister and her family for the re-telling of Jesus’ birth. Please do not take offense, but I think all of this focus on Jesus is misguided. It’s not about one baby thousands of  years ago. Christmas is a joyous reminder of the sacred power of love. My most profound experience was giving birth to my first born. Through Isabelle’s birth, then Harrison’s and Eva’s – their need to be loved, their ability to show me how to truly love –  has made me new again, again & again.

But, by the way, toddlers are easy. As Isabelle plants herself stubbornly into her teen years, she brings ever greater lessons for me. As I see her flash the things I despise about myself – impulsiveness, disorganization, lack of focus, despondence, love for risk- she shows me the mirror. It is exactly why I become so frustrated with her – because she is forcing me to understand and love the hard-to-love parts of myself. It’s deep and infinite. Their actions and our reactions have the potential to bring true, clear, meaningful love.

Then my mind takes it all to scale. After all , our world has two axis – love and greed. Lets blow this love stuff up for all and tamp down the greed when we can. Recall the child found, a few hours old, in an empty lot in Philadelphia just a few days ago? This is nothing short of a miracle. What happens from there for this child and many others, is up to all of us. As child poverty climbs, and greed runs rampant, the challenge before us all is real. Baby Jesus is cool, but the children we all see around us every day call us. Christmas sings to me and motivates me to help create a safe, loving society for us all.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.