Thursday, October 30, 2008

Getting Out My Vote

(warning: this is lengthy)

I voted today. It took about an hour, which wasn't bad, considering how volatile this year's election is.

I hadn't been going to vote early, but then I realized two things. 1) Somehow it would probably be quicker -- better 1 hour than 4, and 2) if I voted early I could spend Election Day at home with my kids (who actually will probably be busy working on projects for school, but at least I can sleep late).

Overall, it was an interesting introduction to the civic side of life here in Fayetteville, NC.

I drove up to the voting place -- note: I learned today that this Early Voting is being classified as Absentee Voting here, so that, my official told me, they could be counted at the same time as the Absentee Ballots rather than in some other group. Okay. Anyway, I spotted the place easily because there were cars parked all along the roadside, political signs were clustered around the end of the sidewalk, sufficiently far away from the entrance, and there was already a line outside the building. And it had only been open 8 minutes.

I found a parking place in a grove of trees near the back of the property and walked across the playing field to the building, a local recreational center. It was sunny and breezy, thankfully. My spot in line began about 100 feet back, and the line wasn't moving yet. It wasn't encouraging that people were disputing whether or not the line had started to move, and some were talking about having been shut out of another polling place when time ran out. For a while I simply stood in line, then I pulled out a book I'd brought along to read. But athat was camouflage for my eavesdropping.

The couple in front of me, older, white, were quiet. He shifted from foot to foot; she ate an energy bar. Behind me were three or four young black women, and interspersed in the line were soldiers from the nearby bases, many of them in camo and berets. Cell phones rang and people reported on how long they'd been in line and whether or not they could pick up the kids later. I was glad to hear one young woman tell her friend he -- she? -- needed to come out and vote.

Some people behind me talked about what voting was like in other places, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Baltimore. One of the young women said she'd never voted before. She seemed dubious about the process even as she stood there. I never was clear on why she was voting now; she said that she wouldn't be surprised if 'they' said Obama didn't win whether he did or not. If that happened, she said, there'd be riots. Not that she' would, but a lot of people were born that way, she said, 'programmed' to react that way in that sort of situation. Her friend hoped that it wouldn't happen like that. She talked about what happened to Al Gore in Florida. Judging from her words and tone, she still believed in the value of the vote.

Soon a tall man came down the line with a small sheet of paper telling about himself and what he was running for. I didn't think it applied to me -- not my precinct -- but I took his paper anyway, even as I wondered if he was supposed to do that. I'm pretty sure he wasn't; later I saw an official talking to him and he didn't approach the line again. A few minutes later a woman with a petition attached to a clipboard came along. The couple in front of me listened attentively as the woman asked for their signatures on a petition to the Governor to explore creating alternative energy jobs, green jobs in the state. They listened but declined to sign. It sounded like a good idea to me, North Carolina needs jobs, and I've already seen signs of 'caring about the green' in Fayetteville. Besides, exploring a concept can never hurt, so I signed.

Another official worked her way down the line handing out slips of paper reminding us all that the 'Party Line' button didn't include the Presidential candidates. You had to vote for them separately, so be sure to press the ir button!

Once inside the building, the line was steered to the left. We'd been here long enough now that the first voters were coming back out. Some were young, some old, some black, some white, some male, some female. But every one of them looked satisfied. They had done their bit.

I was still alternating between watching what was going on around me and reading, but I started thinking about who we were. Some of these people had young children. Some were young adults, maybe working, maybe in college, several in the armed services. Some were older, maybe retirees, or workers on a late lunch break. No doubt all of us in line had some kind of problem or crisis going on in our lives. Right now that seems inevitable. But we were all here.

We proceeded to the room where the actual voting was. A young soldier was at the table ahead of us, waiting on his voting slip. The woman in the couple ahead of me passed by him to the next worker, glancing around as she did. Her husband waited just in front of me, alternating his attention between his wife and watching when he should move forward. Where were the paper ballots? they wanted to know. Why were the touchscreens in here?

The official explained that touchscreens were used for early voting; if they wanted the paper ballots, they had to go to their designated polling place on Election Day. Thus began a lengthy, not-too-noisy complaint from the couple about how the paper ballots were superior and how improper and inefficient it was that the facts about the use of touchscreens hadn't been publicized in advance. By this time the woman had been joined by her husband. The worker who was waiting on the soldier waved him on and me forward, keeping an eye on this couple at the same time. I also wondered if she'd have to intervene. The couple moved on; I think they chose not to vote today. I received my voting slip -- actually an application for Absentee Voting, so that my early vote would be counted -- and moved on myself. In just a couple minutes a worker was escorting me to and instructing me on the touchscreen.

I actually prefer the touchscreens over the paper ballot. The primary was the first time I'd ever used a paper ballot. In other states where I've voted, they used the old mechanical voting booths with curtains and levers. Tennessee had a variation on them. They had lighted buttons instead of little levers. However, all these other models had privacy curtains, something touchscreens could use.

I voted, trolling through the screens rather than using the 'Party Line' button -- I do prefer to make my own choices. Then I picked up my 'I Voted' sticker, and I left. People outside -- you'd almost think they were hired 'specially for this -- thanked me for voting as I walked around the building to go to my car.

I'd said to my daughter before I left the house that at least going out to vote was something I could do that wasn't going to cost me anything. Well, gas, but we'll discount that. For so many people right now, money is not only tight, it's choking the spirit out of them. Others have lost loved ones overseas, or they're facing separation in the near future because they're going overseas themselves. But here we all were, in line to vote. To do the only thing we could at the moment for ourselves and for our country.

We had various reasons for why we voted the ways we did. Some people weren't voting 'for' a candidate but 'against' another. Some people I'm sure did vote 'Party Line' else why would that be such a big deal on the ballot? I know my mother-in-law tended to vote that way. I'm sure some people voted for a candidate because they were a 'first' or because they were a match gender-wise or racially. Some people studied up on candidates and their positions. Probably all of us either watched the debates or heard the reports on them. And, because I know I did it myself for a few races, some of us voted for names we recognized or whose sound we liked. Ideally everyone should make an intelligent choice, but the fact that so many people are concerned enough to make a choice, and that we can... these are facts that matter.

We're trying to take control of our lives and our country. We are trying to act responsibly as best we know how. The simple act of voting, using our brains and making a choice about how we want to live, costs us nothing, yet it can be one of the most important things we do for ourselves, our community, and our country.


Monday, October 20, 2008

On Wisdom

My husband and I were walking down by the creek when we were summoned by one of our daughters ringing the bell by the back door. This is an iron bell with a clapper that you pull on and bang against the bell to ring it. We purchased it years ago to use for exactly this purpose, but it has taken until Blackwater to make effective use of it.

As we were walking up to the house, I told Dave that I thought it was cool that something we bought so long ago is finally being used the way we intended, ie, the ‘right way’.

“That’s how wisdom’s supposed to work,” he said.

Wow. That about bowled me over.

Yet I started to laugh, because how often is it NOT the way things are? We are supposed to grow wiser with age, and trot that wisdom out and put it to use. But, do we? Or do we continue to muddle through life making up answers as we go along?

I’d love to be thought of as wise, but I don’t feel wise. I feel as na├»ve as a newborn. Any etiquette more complicated than making sure the other person feels comfortable stumps me. Financial choices frighten me. New concepts, art, movies, music, and styles overwhelm me. Sometimes I think wisdom is a tag put on our thoughts by people younger than us who simply haven’t encountered them before. Someone says wise, and I say, “Who, me?”

I guess I’ll have to go along with it, though. Let them think I ‘m wise if they want. Just so long as I remember not to believe it, too.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm beginning to understand how the pyramid builders felt....

If you’ve read any of my Twitter posts lately, you’ve seen reference to the digging we’ve been doing to fill in the mighty crevasse by our causeway. And if you’ve read any of this blog, you’ll know that said crevasse was a product of heavy rains and a swollen stream eroding out the area where creek bank meets concrete causeway.

Well, we’ve been making progress. It was with a great deal of satisfaction that I tamped down soil this morning on what is the first completed section stretching from bank to causeway. It was a significant section, too, because it was the deepest – ranging from top to bottom of the 5-foot structure, and about 3 feet from bank to concrete. Unfortunately, it’s only about 18 inches wide, and the whole thing is more like 10 feet wide. Still, it is definitely progress. At least the rest of it isn’t that deep.

I like working with dirt. Provided it’s loose enough to dig. It’s good exercise, and there’s empowerment in altering your environment that permanently. ‘Course, you may say that anything that can be dug back out by racing waterpower just isn’t that permanent. Sigh.


Friday, October 10, 2008


I've been given pause, this week, to think about 'community'.

There's community service, the community we live in, the school community, the community of believers, the writing infinitum.

We've had evidence of global and national community in the headlines as the price of a commodity here affects the sale of another there. and the whole economic community shifts about in a writhing mass of interconnectedness.

We've seen national community portrayed as town meeting in Presidential debates, where we try to fathom how one group can do a better job of connecting and protecting us than another. For regardless of the side we take, or who wins, our actions will (please note usage) have an impact upon others.

We live in specific geographic areas, which we help along by serving others who live there: neighbors, people down the street, people nearby. By supporting one another, fewer falter, and the whole is strengthened.

But, what's been my personal community experience this week?

I've had people whose help I've sought assist me, sympathizing, empathizing. Rather than belittle me, they've helped me see where I can help and support them in return.

I've had people reach out to me to help with their cause, thereby making me part of a group, seeking to reach a common goal, and providing companionship in the process.

I've laughed with others who share some of my goals, people who -- knowing the same enemies that I do: boredom and lackluster performance -- shared ways to outwit those enemies. They've shared freely, congenially, and without excessive use of adverbs.

Okay, some of these people have been in the writing community I find online. Others have been people at my children's school, or people in business I've dealt with and hope to befriend.

What it all has meant, tho', is a chance to communicate, to share, to become friends -- and as someone who still feels a bit of a newcomer in a strange place, that is the world to me. It is too easy to fall into a mode of isolation. Such isolation comes first of necessity then remains out of a sort of perverse, proud independence. If left too long, it becomes a cancer of its own, eating away at the social spirit we all have to some degree.

These last couple weeks have brought home to me that my social self needs feeding, and therefore, it is now PARTY TIME!


Friday, October 03, 2008


hope is the

Honor of all things good and righteous that come our way regardless of our deservedness.

hope is the
Opportunity to return the good favor to others who cross our path each day.

hope is the
Presence of the Spirit of Goodness about us, planning delights for us and waiting for us to notice.

hope is the
Eternal well-spring, which, despite a dry spell or two, will come back to draw us into, through, and beyond our human existence.

---- rjm
August 2004