Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Sports Blog That's Well Worth a Visit

Another member of my family has decided to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, as it were) and start a blog -- and it's definitely one worth visiting, particularly if you're a sports fan. Written by my youngest sister, it's a place where she gives her take on sports of all types, and often with a humorous slant (case in point: her most recent post -- entitled "Hey Tennis Players: Shut Up!" deals with her aggravation over how professional tennis players feel the need to grunt, groan or scream whenever they swing the racket). She's got a great sense of humor and biting wit, and has a real gift for writing (I keep trying to convince her to submit some of her short stories for publication; maybe one day she'll realize just how wise I am and send them off). Her blog is a perfect place for her to show off what she can do, and you're definitely in for a few laughs.

I hope you'll all hop over and pay her a visit; like A. with her recent start-up, this is my sister's first foray into blogging -- and I'm pretty sure that, based on her first few entries, it's going to be around for a while.

Visit Girls Like Sports, Too!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Planning for a Feast

Barbara over at Writing from the Inside Out does a great little series on her blog called "Friday Feast," in which she comes up with a menu of questions for folks to answer. This week's was really interesting to me, so I wanted to carry it over here and see what sorts of answers you have for it. I've taken the liberty of dropping my answers in right after the questions, just to get the ball rolling.

Be sure, too, to drop by her blog and pay her a visit -- always some good stuff there.

This Week's Friday Feast, courtesy of Barbara

Appetizer: Say there’s a book written about your life. Who would you want to narrate the audio version?

Well, I'll have to give two here -- had the book been written several years ago, I would have said Gregory Peck. However, if it's going to be written in the future, I'd say it's a tie between James Earl Jones and Alexander Scourby. David McCullough also has a good reading voice. Okay, that's more than two....

Soup: Take the letters from your favorite kind of nut and write a sentence.

Really don't like nuts, unless they're in cookies or brownies -- and that would make the sentence way to long if I took that into account.

Salad: If you could go back in time and spend one week in another decade, which decade would you choose?

The 1920s -- I've always wanted to experience what life was like in the "Roaring '20s" prior to the stock market crash. I guess, in particularly, I'd be looking for the Gatsby-esque lifestyle.

Main Course: Name a song that brings back memories for you.

I can't narrow it to just one -- every song brings back some sort of memory for me.

Dessert: Do you prefer to wash your hands in cold water or warm water?

Whichever is fastest, but ideally really warm water.

A Great First Week Under My Belt

No matter how hard I've tried during the past few days, I have yet to find an even slightly adequate way to express how great it is to be back in the workplace. The job that I accepted (and started this week) has been absolutely amazing, and is without question proof that there was a reason the job hunt took as long as it did.

From the minute I walked through the door this past Monday, the entire staff -- from upper management on down -- made me feel incredibly welcome, and it's very apparent that their input and suggestions on anything that takes place are welcomed and encouraged. Everyone really enjoys the job they do and the industry they represent, and are glad to be a part of everything -- so much so that the turnover rate there is extremely low; I've met some folks there the past few days who have been there over 15 years, which really says a lot to me about their opinion of the association and love of their jobs. I've come on board at a time where the group is really looking to expand their relationships with both the media (within the industry and in the mainstream sector) and with press staff on Capitol Hill, and I've been given the opportunity to really help mold how this plan takes shape and is implemented.

After 10 years in Congress, this is definitely a big step outside of my familiarity zone, but it presents a great challenge -- and I'm one that really loves challenges like this. It's been a great few weeks; A. has settled into her new position quite nicely and has made a great impression on her coworkers and boss. More importantly, she has also found an environment where everyone is glad to be there and comes in each day excited to work -- and not dragging through the door with a great sense of dread.

The breathing has finally started again in our house.....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Looking for a Good Movie? Try Bourne

With only a few days left until I return to the working world (yes!!!!), I decided to take advantage of some quiet time today while the girls were in preschool/daycare and go see "The Bourne Ultimatum." I had really enjoyed the first two parts of the Ludlum trilogy, and thought this one might be pretty good as well. I certainly wasn't disappointed, and in fact this film far exceeded my expectations. It clocks in at just under two hours in length, but it was moving so quickly from the very beginning that it didn't feel like the movie was half that long.

Early on in his career, I have to admit that I wasn't that big a fan of Matt Damon; his buddy-film with Affleck, "Good Will Hunting," really didn't impress me all that much (truthfully, I only watched it because George Plimpton was in it, and it was one of those times where A. and I could sit in a theater and say, "We know him!"), and I wasn't sure that anything he did further on in his career would catch my attention. The Bourne films, though, turned out to be a great vehicle for him, and he has definitely put his stamp on this role (I can't see it being the type of film that will successfully be remade in 20 or 30 years, a la "Ocean's 11").

I haven't read the Bourne stories in their original form, although I have one full shelf of novels by Ludlum (and the successors who assumed Ludlum's identity after his death) and think I'll dive into them soon. Despite any differences between the book and film, this one had it all: a great story, a great supporting cast for Damon (David Straithairn and Joan Allen, two of my favorites, were great as the two CIA honchos at odds over how to deal with Bourne), and action that didn't stop for longer than a few minutes at a time. All of it added up to a great afternoon at the theater, and a strong recommendation from me that you go to see this movie.

As if this recommendation weren't enough to get you to shell out a few bucks for the movie and some snacks (I opted for the matinee viewing, so I spent less on the movie so I could spend more on the snacks!!), I found this video on YouTube -- a remake of Moby's "Extreme Ways" set to clips from this film -- that should help make my case for this film even stronger.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Transforming Power of Mission Work

My blog friend Kelly, who always writes amazing, inspiring, and thought-provoking posts, has added a new one in the aftermath of her recent mission trip to West Virginia. In it she discusses how she was questioning (prior to her journey) whether her trip would really accomplish anything other than "assuage her liberal guilt" -- and how (after she returned home) she realized just how much she had given and gotten from being there. It's a great read, and I hope you'll all take the time to hop over and visit; it's a great example of just how transforming mission work can be, even if it's just in the next state.

You can read it here: The Basin and the Towel

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Time for Celebrating and Giving Thanks

So here we are -- finally! After sending out over 200 resumes over the past eight months, going to dozens of interviews, and not making the final cut at several places, I was offered -- and have accepted -- a communications position with an outstanding trade association here in D.C. The series of interviews I had with the executives and human resources folks there were outstanding, and I was amazed and humbled with not only how interested they genuinely seemed to be in me as a candidate but by how hard they worked to make an offer attractive enough to get me to say yes. Between this and my wife wrapping up her first full week at her new job, it's been a very happy week in our household.

My father-in-law pointed something out to me in a message this evening that I have never considered before: in the midst of celebrating my good fortune and having received an answer to my prayers for a great job at a great association, I should also take time to pray for the person who didn't get the job.

I've been on both sides of the "news fence" in this job hunt, having received my share of bad -- and now great -- news. I'm grateful he pointed this out to me, and I do pray the other person finds something that makes them happy and allows them to support themselves and any family they may have.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

More on the Child of Yesterday

(Note: This is the photograph to which I referred in yesterday's post. It is called "The Only Flowers of Her Youth," and it was taken in Warsaw in 1938 by the photographer Roman Vishniac. I won't make any other comment -- I think the picture speaks volumes for itself.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Being Haunted by the Children

As I get older, I think from time to time about certain things that I have done during my life: mistakes I have made; emotional hurt that I have inflicted on friends (accidentally or otherwise); episodes where I have done something to disappoint my family. I know that I have received forgiveness for many of them, whether spoken or understood, from family and friends and from God, and I tuck them away as part of my life's experience and move on.

Today, thoughts about the severity of things I have done were all suddenly and quickly forced completely out of the picture. I took the metro into Washington and made my first trip to the United States Holocaust Museum, and after two hours left realizing -- perhaps even more than I already did -- that anything I had done in my life paled by comparison to the overwhelming, almost indescribable tragedy of what happened during the Holocaust.

My impressions of my visit are still whirling through my head, and I haven't been able to make sense of many of them. But there is one thing that I'm haunted by, and that is the photographs of all of the children's faces. Pictures of children with their families; children with their schoolmates in class; children with their playmates out in their yards or in the streets of their towns; children whose greatest worry in life was how they would spend their free time, or getting their studies done so that their bar- or bat-mitzvah would be successful, or attending services on the next Shabbat with their family.

Children who should have been allowed to live as children -- but not to die as children.

There was one picture in a gallery of photographs that is burned into my memory, of a little girl for whom I started weeping after I left the museum (and for whom I am weeping again while I type this). She was a beautiful little girl, maybe three or four years older than MB, with dark wavy hair and a very shy expression on her face. She is sitting on a bed in her home, surrounded by quilts and blankets, and lookly calmly into the camera. There was no name or age or anything attached to the photograph; she was just a little girl who was happy and safe and secure -- and ultimately, perhaps, one who never lived long enough to think back on a happy childhood. There was nothing that should have made this picture stand out among the hundreds of others on display throughout the museum, but she quickly caught my eye -- and I haven't been able to forget her in the hours since.

The entire experience was overwhelming and emotionally draining, if for no other reason than there are certain things on display that put you right in the middle of that time. I've broken this list apart because, like walking through the museum, you have to take the time to look at each of these individually and be impacted by them individually:

The front gates from a Jewish cemetery where hundreds of people were taken, lined up, and shot to death among the bones of their ancestors.

A collection of hundreds of photos of Jews from the town of Eishyshok, Lithuania, where 900 years of history, tradition, and family ties were completely erased in just two days.

A reconstruction of a section of brick wall from the Warsaw Ghetto.

A railroad car which carried many to the concentration camps, and which you experience not from the outside but by actually walking into and through it, and seeing and feeling just a bit of what those families experienced during their final trips.

A reconstruction of the doors of two of the crematory ovens from the Majdanek death camp.

A room full of nothing but thousands and thousands of shoes taken from people as they first entered the Majdanek camp, while above them on the wall are the words of this poem written by Moses Schulstein:

We are the shoes, We are the last witnesses
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers.
From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh,
Each one of us avoided the Hellfire.

Then, as you pass through the last gallery on the tour, again, the children. A wall full of drawings done by children who were imprisoned in a ghetto for a time before being sent to Auschwitz, drawings that have names and birth dates and dates of shipment to the camp attached to each. Out of all of the ones I looked at, only two were listed as surviving the war.

So at the beginning, it was the children calling to me from their photographs, and at the end it was the children calling to me through their crayon and pencil drawings.

And the one little girl sitting ageless and full of life on a warm bed in her safe home.....