Archive for the ‘america’

On budgets, taxes and priorities

March 01, 2011 By: dcgrrl Category: america

The end of winter is a hopeful time of year. I like seeing the bulbs in my garden breaking through the cold brown earth, promising bright daffodils and crocuses. It also means taxes are due soon, and that is no fun for most people.

But I look forward to the possibility of a nice fat refund, and I enjoy when I can say I’ve stuck to my budget and met my goals, like paying off a credit card or saving for a vacation or something like that. (I really dig for personal finance tracking.)

Doing my own budgeting, there are definitely some things I’ve had to cut out in order to pay down my debt, so when I look at the country’s debt, and the struggle for Congress to agree on how our national budget is spent, I sympathize.

Personally, I would rather see federal money spent first on basics:

  • Ensure Americans are healthy and educated,
  • Facilitate transportation of people and goods across state lines,
  • Defend our borders,
  • and Provide adequate crisis response.

Federal government agencies are also responsible for protecting our national parks, planning our energy strategies, regulating our prescription drugs and research, and deciding what level of emissions/litter we decide to call pollution. Importantly, the federal government also defends and protects the constitution, using all three branches of government.

We have a lot to accomplish, but we just need to set our priorities straight. And I think it’s important to remember that our government isn’t some crazy militant dictator that’s been sitting in a palace for decades. We have a pretty good system.

  • We could have had a lot more money to budget with if the Bush tax cuts hadn’t been extended. What’s up with that?
  • Arts programs may have to take a back seat, but, if they do, will citizens who got their tax cuts step in?

All my love to Tucson

January 14, 2011 By: dcgrrl Category: america, death, love, terrorism, Washington

Being a grown-up sucks. I am convinced it is especially hard right now.

I remember when I was guaranteed a raise of 5% each year, or it was pretty much expected that I’d be moving on to another company. So it’s fair to say we are living in tough times financially.

I remember when there were no scanners at the doors of government buildings. Or security passes needed to get into work. So it’s fair to say we are living in more fearful times.

As I watched the memorial for the victims in Tucson, I was reminded of the shootings that took place in the Washington DC area in 2002. The nonsense of it all was confusing. The closeness of it was frightening. The way that so many of us found that “it could have been me” brought our communities together. I felt that same close fear again as I heard that Representative Giffords was married the same year I was.

Episodes like this really put daily hardships into perspective, don’t they?

Just because we are living in a more challenging world, there’s no reason we can’t focus on living the best life we can, where we are, with what we have. We have to cling to the up side of the bad news. When it seems like we don’t have any good news, we have to be happy for other people. It isn’t easy, but we must pull through the cloudy days.

On the positive side, I am glad for Tuscon that their violence has ended, and that many of the victims will survive. There are so many people praying for them, sending hope and love their way, including me. It is energizing to hear of the heroism that was revealed in regular people that day, and to hear of the wonderful people that were lost that day. Although they will be missed, they were a gift to those who knew them.

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RE: The mosque/community center near Ground Zero

September 16, 2010 By: dcgrrl Category: 911, america, Christian, New York

This debate is driving me mad. I keep thinking of that famous quote:

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
— Martin Niemöller

This is America. We are allowed to worship however we want wherever we want. No matter what anyone else thinks of it. We’re even allowed to be atheists, Satanists if we like. There were Muslims, American and otherwise, that died at Ground Zero. Consider how the families of these people feel about this conversation.

We have American soldiers who happen to be practicing Islam while serving our country in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention numerous other stations around the world. Consider how these men and women feel about this conversation.

Al-Qaeda may have invoked Islam in their attacks on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon, but Islam did not put a contract out on America.

President Bush did not declare a war on Islam. We declared war on terror. Let’s think clearly, and remember what our country was founded on — personal freedoms, freedom of thought.

From our Declaration of Independence, which declares it to be “self-evident” that “all men are created equal,” to our constitution, which wraps things up by saying “…no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” it is perfectly clear that practicing Islam anywhere in New York is not, in itself, illegal.

In my opinion, telling a religious organization where it can build is one of the least American things we can do. If this were a church of any denomination, would we be having this conversation?

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Destination: Mount Vernon

July 25, 2009 By: dcgrrl Category: america, DC, family, garden, museum, president, tourism, Uncategorized, Washington


“It’s our duty as parents to take you to places like this, because when you’re grown up and you’re a garbage truck driver, you won’t be able to afford to do these things.”

That’s what the mother behind me was telling her son as we were waiting in line for the tour of the Mount Vernon mansion. Her husband had been reading a Mt. Vernon guidebook to the family of four for the previous ten minutes. The pre-teen kids were rolling their eyes, but were laughing.

Mt. Vernon, the plantation home of George Washington, is in remarkably good shape. There are still original pieces of furniture there that our first president used. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has preserved the plantation the way it was about 200 years ago, so you can see the mansion, slave quarters, gardens and farm from 1799.

  1. You will need a full day to visit Mount Vernon. They have a nice food court and a full-service restaurant on site to make your day more comfortable.
  2. Before you go, check the Calendar of Events on the website to see if there is a special event you can take advantage of while you’re there.
  3. Start your visit at their new orientation center, then proceed to the tour of the mansion. During the summer, lines can be long to get into the mansion, but the tour isn’t long.
  4. Use your time waiting for the mansion tour to study the map. After the tour of the mansion, it’s up to you to decide what parts of the plantation you’d like to see, and it’s a bit spread out.
  5. There is LOTS of green space for kids with energy to run around, and the Mt. Vernon staff is pretty liberal about letting kids run. Enjoy.
  6. There are some fabulous views of the Potomac from the back of the mansion, a wonderful place for photos.

There are a couple of cruise lines that will take you there by boat, a trip which adds to the fun. We took the Potomac Riverboat Company from the Torpedo Factory dock in Old Town Alexandria. The open-air boat has plenty of seating, an air-conditioned level and a snack bar. Yes, there were even rest rooms on board. A tour guide provided a narration of sights along the river that corresponded with our visit of Mt.Vernon. The boat left Alexandria at 10:15 a.m. and returned at 5:30 p.m. Once you get to the dock at Mt. Vernon, you can either walk up the hill or take a shuttle bus. I recommend taking the bus, regardless of your energy level, since this will drop you off at the new orientation center, and you’ll be able to see a great little film that’s been put together about George Washington, and experience Mt. Vernon in the ‘right’ order.

Keep in mind that Mount Vernon is privately owned, and there is a reasonable admission fee.

Memorial Day is for remembering

May 22, 2009 By: dcgrrl Category: america, biker, DC, groups, holiday, nonprofit, travel, Washington

I may not strike you as the most patriotic type, but truth be told, I am proud to work in my nation’s capital.

flagThis weekend, in Arlington, my house will shake as Rolling Thunder starts to arrive on Friday night. These are motorcycles carrying veterans traveling to gather on Sunday at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in honor of POWs and soldiers Missing in Action. I have always loved this annual tribute, a real reminder that Americans will never forget their soldiers. Here in DC, it’s hard to forget the military, but Rolling Thunder puts a different face on who a soldier is, and really shows you what dedication to a cause means. Some of these people come across the country every year. And they have been since the sixties.

Our country counts on dedicated men and women who have put their lives on the line for the rest of us. That is what Memorial Day is about. I salute each and every soldier, National Guard, Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines that has stood between my freedom and whatever other alternative lurks beyond. Thank you. And thanks to your families. Happy Memorial Day.

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The Inauguration: Welcome to the District of Clusterfu@%

December 05, 2008 By: dcgrrl Category: america, DC, Inaugural, Inauguration, Obama, Washington

I have faith in our President-elect. Really, I do. I trust him, and his new administration, and I sort of trust the Presidential Inaugural Committee, but I’ve been in Washington for a long time, and I’m starting to feel the same old familiar doormat feeling. Welcome to your Nation’s Capital! Ouch! That’s my toe! And hey, stop crowding the Metro, I need that to get to work!

  • Inaugural planners have announced that the entire Mall will be open for spectators to be within history-making distance of Senators Obama and Biden as they take their oaths of office on January 20, 2009.
  • There are already dozens of Inaugural Balls and Galas planned for Tuesday and Monday night to celebrate the event.
  • Aretha Franklin is playing at the Kennedy Center, and if that’s not enough to create a mob of divas, she’s playing for FREE.
  • Diva alert #2: Oprah is landing at the Kennedy Center during Inaugural week, too.
  • In the highly annoying category, D.C. bars will be open until 5 a.m., so as I head home from work, they will party on. And perhaps as I get up for work, they will be heading home.
  • Meanwhile, Metro will be running at peak capacity, with many escalators turned off, for 15 hours. Tell me there won’t be an “incident” that causes a delay. I dare you.

All of this fun, and at my office, Inauguration Day is NOT a holiday. I had been thinking about taking the day off to celebrate the Obamanon, but what to do? Camp out for a good seat on the parade route? Fight the crowds to be one of the million on the Mall? So I can see our proud brown dot on the white marble staircase? When I see all these tourists (I know, you are Americans, too) littering our fair city, staring at Metro maps and wearing fanny packs, I don’t know if I want to be trampled, or frozen, into the American ice sculpture. I could see and hear it all better from the TV at work, and get paid doing it.

But there’s the next dilemma. If I try to get to my downtown DC office to get paid watching the Inauguration on TV, I STILL have to go through all the crowds and hassle. I won’t be able to drive to work, because I work a short distance from the parade route. Roads will be closed. Chances are garages will be full. I will still have to ride the subway to work with the elated Inaugural masses and probably give directions all the way. (Because Washingtonians are friendly like that.)

Some readers may laugh at my quandry. At least I don’t have to pay for a hotel in the area, if I could find one.

It’s just that the rest of the year, we hear the motorcade coming, we pause in our travels, and if it’s the President – Washingtonians know how to tell – we glance at each other and nod, “Hm, he must just be back from Kyoto.” We know how to deal with Presidents in D.C.

But this one, grand, celebratory day, the REST of the country is invited to come by and make a big fuss of things. It would be so much simpler if it was a nice, quiet tea party somewhere in Georgetown, but we did ask for Change, didn’t we?

I’m thinking that somebody sent out too many invitations for our little garden party, but luckily I’m not in charge of baking the cupcakes or ordering the folding chairs. Change is good, but scary. And I’m a bit scared that some flowerbeds may get trampled.

So, America, if you’re visiting your Nation’s Capital for the Inauguration, welcome to Washington. Please consider your hosts. Wipe your feet before you come in. Try not to litter. Ask for directions. We really are glad you came. Really.

DC is just giddy!

November 07, 2008 By: dcgrrl Category: america, DC, election, Obama, president, Washington

Really, no one in Washington knows quite how to handle this.

Keep in mind that Washington, D.C. is largely Democratic. It has been for, well, forever. This place was known as Chocolate City at one time. And true Washingtonians do still lovingly call it that at times. It’s a liberal town.

According to the 2006 census figures, Washington has about 581,530 residents. About 20% are under 18, less than 13% are 65 and over. And less than 39% are white. Over 56% are black, the rest being Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, etc. It’s a young and colorful town.

And we’re pretty middle class. In 2004 the median household income in Washington D.C. was reported at $46,211/year, which is really hard for me to believe, because my rent for a one bedroom apartment was at least $1,500/month, and that $46k only works out to about $3,850/month.

Washington is a strange place, because D.C. is the Nation’s Capital, but not everyone’s life focuses on the business of the government. We all support the government in a way, but when you’re working at a restaurant or a theater or a school, you don’t think of yourself as a government contractor. And then there are all of the non-profits that are based here, doing good work, and it is beneficial to be headquartered close to the seat of power, but they are certainly not working FOR the government. So we end up with all these special interest groups, artisans, chefs, teachers, waiters and entertainers mulling about this city that was founded only for the sake of running our government. How strange!

Stranger still, we odd fellows have come to love this town, to own it, and we feel we’ve earned a dedication to it more than the politicians that come and go, at the whim of their electorate.

George W. Bush was not at all like us. But this Obama, we feel like he is like us. There are Kenyan sons dancing in nightclubs in Adams Morgan. There are Kenyan fathers driving taxi cabs. And there are young couples like Michelle and Barack at Howard University. And at Georgetown Law School. And doing community organizing in Anacostia.

Some of us Washingtonians were beginning to wonder if there were enough people like us out there in the rest of the country any more to send us a President that understands the city he is sent to live in. Or would we only be happy in the perimeter world of ethnic restaurants, NGOs and grad school programs?

Well, it has happened! America is finally as young and colorful as its capital. We can’t wait to welcome Obama and his family to their new home.

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