Inaugural musings

Inaugural musings



A peaceful transition of power took place on January 20, 2009 at the Washington Mall on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. I sat in my living room with my husband and watched the 56th inauguration as our 44th president Barack Obama made history as the first African American man to lead the country. Not once in my adult or teen years have I been interested in politics. However, for the past two years I have followed the race closely and on November 4, 2008 when President Obama was elected, I may not have cried (emulating one woman quote in a newspaper “I knew Obama would win.”) but my heart was pleased as I remembered walks and marches, name calling and lynching my ancestors had endured for a moment like this: truly being respected for the ‘content of your character not the color of your skin’. So, as I reclined on the sofa, laptop in hand, I too was wrapped in blanket of hope, unity and change with the throng of people who stood in the Washington Mall and beyond on this freezing and windy day. As a journal-keeper, I scribbled quotes and snippets of the inauguration that inspired me. (Of course, I was thrilled to discover that Mrs. Obama had given Mrs. Bush the gift of a pen and a journal to write her memoirs.)

Here are a few of my inauguration musings as I sat glued to the tube from the moment the Obamas exited St. John’s Church met the Bushes for coffee and cookies to inauguration address and a glimpse at one ball.

This day is a moment of history among people, from grandmothers in fur to teens with nose rings and children with periscopes, who are united for hope and change.

Millions of young people will think differently in regards to their concepts and ideals.

Celebrities say: “He’s American grown. We picked the best man and I’m ready to go to work for him…and if he invite me to play ball with him, I’m there along with others most interested in playing the game with the president,” Irvin Magic Johnson entrepreneur and former basketball player. “It was a bit of a walk but a walk that got us here,” says Spike Lee, filmmaker, as his wife, Tanya Lewis- Lee, adds that she felt her ancestors walk with her across the mall.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, notes in her welcome, “…real and necessary change for this nation, this was the moment that the dream that echoed across this monument finally reached the walls of the White House.”

Rev. Rick Warren prayed for each member of the Obama household by name, what a sanction of protection; in addition to a plea of courage, humility and integrity for the new president.

I’m not sure if you heard it or not, but President Obama called the nation childish… “ scripture says it is time to put away childish things…” Wow! What a spanking to all of America across gender, race, religion, and social status. And he’s right we are a ‘me, me, me’ nation. How much can I have despite the cost (and that price in not always monetary)? At another point in his address, the new president was paying homage to our ancestors, “who carried us up the long rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”

It wouldn’t be possible to not mention the First Lady Michelle Obama’s stunning creamy yellow dress with matching overcoat. The commentators mentioned that the First Lady could not decide which dress to wear until the morning of the inauguration and what a bold and confident statement she made. I loved those leather green gloves and shoes, as well as her sparkling crystal necklace. And the Obama children were stylish in dress along with good behavior.

My inauguration tube viewing ended with President and First Lady Obama dancing in the red circle on stage. For me it was a symbol of the first wedding dance as a couple, only the Obamas were united with the country.

Historical tidbits along the way:

The evening before the inauguration I received my daughter's teacher NEWFLASH, an e-newsletter about what's going on in the classroom. He included a link to information about the inauguration. How many balls? The longest and shortest speeches? So it was quite interesting to watch the inauguration, knowing that each detail had been a well kept tradition; even the incoming and outgoing presidents riding in the car together. Did you know that the only two presidents that rode in silence, for 12 minute, were Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt?


As a matter a fact, FDR started the tradition of attending service at St. John's Church and Eisenhower insisted on the having lunch on the Hill in 1953 and Thomas Jefferson walked from the Capital to the White House and Jimmy Carter reinstituted the tradition.


George Washington delivered the shortest inauguration speech of 136 words and William Henry Harrison the longest of 8,445 words, in which he died 30 days later from pneumonia, according to Jeff Urbin, Educational specialist at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, who spoke at the Inauguration Celebration hosted by the AAWU , Poughkeepsie Branch on January 21.


Urbin also noted that FDR had the largest turnout of 500,000 people compared to Obama’s 1.4 million and he like Obama was inaugurated at war time and a financial crisis.

As a keeper of the legacy, I may not have been physically in the hub of the multitude on the freezing cold 20th day of January, but like many I plan to unclench my fist and extend my hand as I “ask not what my country can do for me but what I can do for the country.” In the process, I will remember “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and hold strong to Obama’s appeal: “We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.”

A Writer’s Inspiration

In December, I read The Writing Class, a humorous and suspenseful novel by Jincy Willett. The novel had not been recommended; I just stumbled upon it perched in the new fiction section of my local library. (I love the library, an extremely practical source; and in today’s economy the library keeps my book budget balanced. You should see my desk I have ten library books stacked on the right hand side and five in my library bag for library return.) Since I’m a writer, initially the title, The Writing Class, captured me; especially since I’d been a student and a leader in dozens of writing classes for more than two decades. Then the cover design: 14 diverse writing instruments with 14 character descriptions adjacent to each one intrigued me. Which one was I: the kiss up with a sharp pencil point, the smart one with a blue Uni-ball roller, the pretty girl with a red Uni-ball or the class clown with a Bic? I wondered what I could learn as a professional writer, a journal-keeper, an adjunct instructor of English, workshop leader and a student of writing or what would affirm and confirm my career choice.

After meeting all the students in The Writing Class I realized, I could be the kiss up, the smart one, the pretty girl or the class clown. More importantly, many people desire to write stories in long and short form, truth or fiction and not all want fame and fortune. The second thing I learned a writer with passion will do anything to get a good story including: terrorize, threaten, and murder the competition. Yes, The Writing Class is a murder mystery. A good writing teacher will always engage and push her students and the students will interact and write more aggressively. If the students trust the teacher, they will be candid and their writing will be honest. A group of writers weave a web of trust. A writing teacher has doubts about her own work, but can never stop writing or teaching. Not all writing instructors teach and practice.

The writing instructor in this novel reminded me that new words create new ideas and you have to introduce them to your students by any means possible. In The Writing Class the instructor’s blog: includes a list of words and letters from the most important to the least. Which letter of the alphabet would you deem least important? “Z”

So if you’re seeking some writer’s inspiration besides a good book or the library try A.Word.A.Day daily newsletter, where a group of linguaphiles introduce their readers to the magic of words. Here’s a word or two I’ve added to my vocab: cohere: to be united or to work together, which was discovered in President-elect Obama’s book Dream From My Father and flummadiddle: something worthless.

What's magically about this newsletter is all the weekly words are themes. Guess this word theme: tenderfoot, dark horse, loquacious, sacred cow, loose cannon. You guessed it, or not, metaphorical descriptions of people. Hmm, when I'm a student I can be a kiss up whose loquacious and when I'm an instructor I remain loquacious, but with eloquence and willingness to know I'm not the smart oneJ


So, despite the color ink you choose, type of writing instrument you use, if you plan to write privately or publically remember a writing class or a writing group is cohere, fun and inspirational. Did fail to mention that I’ve got two workshops on the horizon: whether you’re a tenderfoot or expert join one of my writing classes:

Transforming Life into Stories

Tuesdays: One 6-week session, 7-9p.m.

March 3, 10, 17, 24, 31- April 7, 14, 21 (No classes March 17 and April 7)


Dutchess Community College, 53 Pendell Rd. Poughkeepsie, NY

Contact Community Services 845-431-8910 or register online @


Creative Journaling -Through My Eyes Only with Angela Batchelor
Clarify your thoughts and discover the hidden patterns of your life through journaling. Then transform your journal into a memoir as your write a slice of your own life’s story.
Thursdays: Two 6-week sessions: 1:30-3:30 pm
Series A:  Feb. 26; Mar. 5, 12, 19, 26; Apr. 2 ·
nm $145 m $135
Series B:  Apr. 16, 23, 30; May 7, 14, 21 ·
nm $145 m $135

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Parish House · Route 9 and Fisk Ave. Red Hook, NY

Contact Mill Street Loft: or call our office at 845-471-7477.


And all you need is a pen and a passion for story.

Living to be 100

Did you know 85,000 centenarians live in the United States? I wasn’t surprised to hear the news; after all, my grandmother is 92. Yet, I was stunned to discover a book and a workshop, in which a motivational speaker, in the medical profession, is crusading across the nation teaching people how to live to be 100. My spouse went to the health seminar. As soon as he told me he had received a complimentary $39 ticket from his chiropractor, the first thing I thought of … marketing scheme or book sales. Book sales, it is.

When I think about today’s centenarians, I can’t imagine how someone could scribe their efforts in a book and sell them. Centenarians have lived a very different life than we do nowadays; we have modern medicine, plastic surgery, personal trainers, special diets and a mishmash of vitamins and minerals. Meanwhile, centenarians have lived through: World War I and II, a depression and a recession, women receiving the right to vote, and a tumultuous civil rights era, to name a few. Also, 100-year-old people have less stress, less medical expenses, free of cognitive disorders and some are uncommonly healthy.

I’ve never thought about living to 100, but I guess if it’s a possibility I should imitate those who have come before me with:

  • Have good longevity genes (my great grandparents also lived well into their nineties)
  • Learn to respond not react- increase my emotional resilience
  • Become and remain self-sufficient
  • Remain intellectually active
  • Have a good sense of humor (OK this is going to be tough!)
  • Maintain religious beliefs
  • Keep strong connections with other people
  • Keep a low blood pressure (Piece of cake, hopefully that will outweigh my deficient sense of humor.)
  • Appreciate simple pleasures and experiences
  • Have a zest for life
  • No heavy smoking and drinking
  • Uh, Oh, I’m in trouble, many centenarians play musical instruments (I neither play an instrument nor sing.), female centenarians are known to have bear children after 40 (This shop is closed.), and they eat an anti-inflammatory diet (Does that mean eventually giving up the chocolate and salty Doritos?).

BTW, my spouse did not enjoy the seminar: old news, different spin and said he plans to live to be 100, I guess it’ good I’ve made a list.

Text message etiquette

It’s the fifth day of the new year and already time seems to being flying by. This Monday morning my girls have returned to school and the question hot on their agendas, along with their friends is “What did you get for Christmas?”. Wait a minute it’s a new age, for those close friends that information was exchanged during the past two week’s vacation via text messaging. I haven’t really mastered the text messaging, I’m slow, it’s cumbersome, and it takes too long. My youngest daughter reminds me I have a dinosaur phone. (Since I was born in 1404 what does she expect?) What I’ve noticed about text messaging is those who text have little respect for people around them. Last week my eldest daughter had a friend stop by and during the visit my daughter played Sims and Pop Sing Star while her friend pretended to play, but was more engaged in a text message conversation with a friend. She laughed and shared the joke with my daughter (who was not impressed at all).

That same daughter will sit at the dinner table with her Voyager, ready to respond. More often than not, I have to repeat the rule: “no texting at the table, it’s family time.” However, for the new year I have to enforce one of the new parental behaviors that Dr. Kevin Lehman stresses in his book, Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child’s Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days, don’t threaten, follow through. In other words, the next time she thumbs messages during a family mealtime, I calmly confiscate the phone for the rest of the evening and say without anger or annoyance in my voice “You cannot have the phone for the rest of the evening, you did not follow the rules”.

This book is informative, easy to read, accessible to parents with kids of any age from terrible twos to still at home thirty-twos, and tough on parents. Yet I must say, I no longer threaten, I just enforce. One of my worst habits was to give sixth grader three warnings to get up and get ready for school. Now, she gets one warning or suffers the consequences: arriving to school late or staying home to clean the house. On days we leave the house simultaneously, or I leave minutes before her, she sends me a text message to let me know she’s on the bus. Of course this is good, yet leads to unacceptable texting:

  • Sending a text message to a parent, or anyone, while they are, or you are, driving is dangerous.
  • Composing a message while in a face-to-face conversation with someone is as rude as taking a voice call.
  • Sending or reading a text message in class, impolite.
  • Delivering bad news by text.
  • Expecting someone to read a text that’s more than 160 characters, make it short and sweet.
  • Using indecipherable codes or messages that can be misinterpreted.