Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Day Well-Lived

So for some reason I have fallen into this groove where I feel like I must have something interesting happen to me or have some life-altering revelation in order to write a blog post. Today was a very "normal" day, one of those where I wouldn't have thought about writing a post, except for what happened on Twitter.

As I was flipping through the feed on one of my two personal Twitter accounts (yes, I'm THAT crazy), I came across the following quote in my Tiny Buddha tweets and I realized that this normal day is exactly the kind of day I should be writing about.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” ~Robert Brault

So, here are my "little things" from today:

My son has a cold and the poor guy has been coughing and sniffling for the past two days. Last night was particularly tough as he struggled to sleep comfortably and so at some point after 2am I brought him into the bed with me. He slept much better there and I was happy we each caught some all important shut eye.

Since he was coughing pretty regularly, we skipped church and enjoyed a lazy morning eating breakfast in bed, watching TV, and making each other laugh. With every AT&T commercial (and there's a lot of them while watching the Olympics), my son would point to the TV and say "AT&T". With every Geico commercial (and there's a lot of them while watching Cars), my son would point to the TV and say "Geico". Oh my. Time to turn off the TV for a few days.

After our lazy morning together, we went to my parents for some lunch. Everything was delicious and of course, once we were done, Grandmom and Grandpop had a brownies with whipped cream ready for dessert. I skipped it, in hopes of someday maybe possibly getting rid of my post-pregnancy belly, but the little guy likes just about anything with whipped cream so he had a great time. 

After a quick trip home to get my running clothes, I pulled out the iPad and put on the little guy's sleep time play list and laid down next to him in the living room. It didn't take long for him to fall asleep and a few minutes after that I was running in the park next door. It was hot and muggy, but I got through 3.2 miles. I walked about a half mile in the middle, but I still finished in just about the same time as when I ran my first 5k back in May. The random shuffle played some great Afghan Whigs tunes and the downward slope in the running path always seemed come up at the perfect time. When I returned to the house, I was hot and sweaty, but felt fabulous. And the little guy was still sleeping.

I had a few errands to run, so my parents agreed to watch him while I went to the store and stopped home to get ready for my Grandfather's 91st birthday dinner. By the time I got back to my parents' house, the little guy was awake and playing. I always love that moment when I walk in after being away from him and he smiles this big grin. It's the best. After a quick wardrobe change for him, we were off to celebrate Grandpop's birthday.

The family met at Cafe Graziella in Hillsborough and we had delicious food. (I had a wonderful cheese & spinach ravioli in vodka sauce in case you were wondering.) Grandpop had a great time and I could tell he truly felt loved. He got a little cranky when the kids were playing with his cane, afraid they would break it. He got misty-eyed when he blew out the candles on his cake, surrounded by his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. We gave him a card that played the chicken dance and oh, how his eyes lit up when he opened it. 

At some point during dinner, I got a text message that the Mets had won, a rare occurrence these days. Even better news, it was R.A. Dickey, my favorite pitcher, who took the win. 

When we got home, it was bed time for the Domonster and True Blood time for me. Even now, just getting to sit here and write my blog, I am recognizing how much I enjoyed this day.

I am realizing more and more that it's these moments that make up a perfect day and that, in turn, make for a life well-lived. It's high time I start recognizing them for what they are and live them up while they are happening.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Loss & Life

It was the action-packed climax to The Dark Knight Rises and I happened to notice that familiar light from my phone in my purse. Knowing that my son was with a friend, I checked it to make sure everything was ok. There was something wrong, but it had nothing to do with him.

It was a news bomb. And it was so shocking that I couldn't believe it and so sad that I don't remember much of what happened during the final 10 minutes of the movie. One of the giants of our Union, a man who I deeply respected, a brilliant strategist, and an inspiration to many, had drowned while on vacation with his wife in North Carolina. He had just wrapped up negotiations on a tentative agreement for workers at AT&T (yes, while he was on vacation.) He was in the ocean with his wife and in what should have been a happy, relaxing moment, he was taken from us much too soon.

I struggled to find more information and to confirm that this news I was hearing was really true. (How could it POSSIBLY be true?) I felt lost and allowed myself to make my way to his Facebook page. Friends had already started leaving notes in memory to him. The tears started to well up even though I was still in shock. I left my own brief note, amazed at how social media has become a comforting place for people to gather in grief.

By the next day, I noticed the first news article about his passing, posted by someone on Facebook: Labor leader Seth Rosen dies in North Carolina swimming accident. It was then that I realized how very real it was that my Union brother was gone. This wonderful man who could always think up a new organizing strategy, who was a true intellectual, who I knew truly cared about me and my life outside "the Union", would not be there at our next CWA Organizing Retreat or at our Convention in 2013 in Pittsburgh. There would be no more laughs over drinks or debates over organizing strategies or hearing about his music gigs. I cried and cried.

And I once again resolved that I would spend my moments living as if these may be the only moments I have left. It may be cliche, but I do like the way that changes my approach to life. It makes me notice the relationships that need to be reconciled, the people I need to reach out to, the places I want to go, and the things I want to do. But it also helps me recognize the importance of the work I do and how much every little thing can matter. Reading through the comments people have left on Seth's Facebook page and on his Memorial Page, I have been struck by the number of people touched during his many years working for justice. At that moment I tweeted this along with the link to the Plain Dealer article: "I am just so very sad to lose Seth. May I touch even half of the many lives he did."

On Saturday, Domani and I went with my brother-in-law, niece and nephew to the Mets game. We had a great time. I will not soon forget their happy faces and I'm thankful the Mets gave us a few things to cheer about even though they couldn't pull out the win (what else is new recently?!). That night, the little guy had a sleepover at my parents' house and I enjoyed a night out with my friend who was visiting from Buffalo. We went to see Hot Chip perform at The Electric Factory and then went out to a few bars. I danced and danced and danced - so much so that I ached in the morning. I introduced the New Yorkers to late night Wawa and I didn't get home until 4am. And it was perfect. I felt so alive.

The next day it was church and some mother/son nap time before we traveled up to a friend's house on Lake Owassa in Sussex County. Domani was not so interested in the lake once he realized he couldn't touch the bottom, but had a great time filling up the kiddie pool with water from the lake and splashing around. We had dinner, relaxed, and I even found some time to read a book. At the end of the day as I was lying in bed with very heavy eyelids, I was thankful. It had been a full weekend.

A fellow CWAer, Tim Schick, left the following message on Seth's page shortly after his death: "A visionary is someone who plants trees under whose shade they will never sit. Seth worked hard planting many trees. We will miss you." Indeed, Tim, indeed.

As I think back over this weekend, I am still sad, but I am also thankful to Seth for the moving example of what it means to live and love and... plant trees. It's a reminder to me that everything we do is building a certain type of life in a certain world. It's up to us to choose each day to make each of those the best they can be.

Early Saturday morning, I made my Twitter resolution: "Seize the day people. Seize the damn day. #youneverknow"

I hope to plant lots of trees, both personally and professionally. And while I hope that I have many more years of planting trees left in my life, my goal is to go bold into each day knowing that if it is my last I have lived fully, loved with all my heart, and left behind a witness to my faith which is what drives it all for me.

I know that Seth would at least occasionally read my blog and that when I posted my piece about organizing two weeks ago, it had landed on his radar screen. I know it because I remember smiling when I got a notification that he "liked" the post on Facebook. I had a lot of respect for Seth's vision when it came to organizing and always found him to be inspiring. It meant a lot to know that he had noticed what I wrote - I only wish he were still here to read about whatever comes next in my world of organizing.

Rest in peace, Brother Seth. You will be missed and never forgotten. As you would have wanted it we will continue to organize, organize, organize and yes, there will be music and dancing in our revolution.
CWA Press Release on the Loss of Seth

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bittersweet Memories from LBI

A year ago this week we were enjoying a family vacation at the beach. Our family of three was joined by all of our siblings, their children, and our parents for a lovely week in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. It was an unforgettable week and given what the following six months held in store for our family, I couldn't be more thankful that we were able to share such a special time together. It's hard to believe that a whole year has passed since we were there.

On our first morning at the beach house, Domani woke up early - before 6am! Since it was just the three of us we decided it was the perfect opportunity to take a quiet walk to the beach and check everything out. I wrote in my journal from that day that Domani seemed mesmerized by the waves and a seagull that decided to land nearby. I don't specifically remember those moments, but I do remember that I was mesmerized by how special it was to watch Joe holding Domani on the beach with the sun rising over the ocean. Thankfully, I snapped a photo of that moment and of the many that would follow over the next 6 days.
July 16, 2011

A sampling of my memories from that week...

We held Domani's hands as he stepped in the ocean. Again. And again. And again.
We watched as Domani explored the sand and its shells, the water and its seaweed, and every nook and cranny of the house where we stayed.
The kids flew kites on the beach.
We played Uno in the living room.
Uno with Dad

Joe and his brother took hours driving all over looking for a charcoal grill and rye bread so we could make szalonna.
We became big fans of Tiki Taco.
Domani ate and ate and ate and ate.
He also walked and walked and walked and walked. (He had just gotten the knack of it before we left for vacation.)
New shoes for walking!
I slammed my finger in our car door. It was bleeding and gross, but of course Joe drove us back to the house full of his usual "Joe Cool".
We all made smores and watched movies.
We played lots of skee ball.
Domani was fascinated with the seagulls and the seashells.
We went to Fantasy Island where Domani went on his first ride ever with his Dad and a train ride with me.
Fantasy Island Amusement Park
We spent more money than we'd probably like to admit on games in the arcade, but in the end Joe won a Mets bear and an Elmo for Domani so it was worth it.
Finally the crane yields some prizes!
We took lots of family naps and they were wonderful.
Domani wore his Dad's hat.
Wearing Dad's hat on the Mets blanket
We cooked out on the grill and relaxed with drinks.
We bought Domani his first pair of water shoes.
We ate at The Chicken or The Egg and Domani's cousin fell asleep with her forehead on the table.
Domani's cousin takes a snooze.
We built sandcastles and dug giant holes.
Some of the kids thought it would be fun to bury themselves in those holes and some of the parents thought it was fun to help.
We splashed in the waves.
With Aunt Naomi waiting for the waves

Domani declared his independence by chomping down on the whole pancake instead of the little pieces his Dad broke apart for him.
We sang "I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas" at the kitchen table in the beach house.
Domani posed for a picture with his face in the middle of a giant clam.
Ever since D's photo at Cooperstown, we can't resist these...

Thinking about all of these memories this week is hard. The truth is it probably would be less painful to slam my finger in the door again. I've been thinking a lot about that week though and how different all of our lives were just last summer. I am reminded though, that the reason these memories are painful now is that they were so happy then. And I think the best thing to do with that is to remember and to keep creating amazing moments. None of us know how much time we have here so why not live in the happy of the now while we have the chance? I'm glad that's exactly what we all did this time last year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Doing That One More Thing

It's what keeps me going day to day and what keeps me awake at night. It's the source of that righteous anger that wells up inside me and the giddy excitement I feel when there is a victory. It's the thousands of workers over the years who have told me the all-too-familiar and all-too-heartbreaking stories that come with the territory of having no voice on the job.

Young workers being asked to perform potentially life threatening jobs without proper safety precautions. Caregivers for the disabled who are working until they die because their calling of caring for others has provided them no possibility of retirement. Workers of color who face racial slurs from their supervisors and deaf ears from management. Single moms whose employers deduct money illegally from their paychecks and only occasionally pay them fully for the hours they worked. Loyal employees about to be outsourced by a disloyal employer just so management executives can pocket some big bonuses and look good for their investors.

Organizing is my life, not just my job. And recently, the aggressive concentration of corporate power has made my life much more challenging. This is a blog post I have been mulling over for quite awhile and I feel like it needs to come out now.

These days I am spending most of my days in airports. Sounds glamorous except that I very rarely fly anywhere. Mostly, I am there meeting with union supporters who are active in the organizing effort for American Airlines agents to join CWA (the Communications Workers of America). I do spend some of my time talking with agents who may still be on the fence about unionizing, but the truth is that much of the workforce there has come to the realization that the only way to protect themselves through a difficult time at the company and advocate for a strong future is to join together collectively in CWA. They want the ability to negotiate over the sacrifices they will make during bankruptcy and to reach a binding agreement with their employer that will guarantee they share in the future profitability of the company.

As I struggle alongside these brave men and women who are fighting just to have a voice, I realize more and more how difficult it is for workers to effectively counter the corporate power that is choking our democracy. Workers at American Airlines have been through the ringer, the least of which has been a near constant anti-union campaign since they first tried to organize almost 18 years ago.

You can read about their fight to organize by visiting, by viewing their videos on the same website, and by following @cwa4aa on Twitter, but here is a quick summary of what has happened since they filed with the National Mediation Board for their government-run union election in December 2011.

The company packed the eligibility list with hundreds of ineligible voters. Even though workers had gathered signed cards from more than the 35% required to get an election, it took months to resolve the issues with the list submitted by the company. During that time, American Airlines joined with other airlines to lobby Congress to change the rules for airline union elections. In an unprecedented move, Congress legislated standards for airline union elections by tacking them on to the FAA reauthorization in February 2012 (previously the rules and standards for such elections have been set by the appointed Board members of the NMB after open comment periods, not legislated). The legislation raised the requirement for signed cards to 50% of the workgroup just to get an election - although during debate on the floor, it was made clear that the new standard was not to be retroactive.

Once the National Mediation Board resolved the issues with the eligibility list, it issued an order for an election to take place. The voting was to begin on Thursday, May 17 and end on Tuesday, June 19. The company was ordered to provide a list of employee addresses so that the NMB could mail the voting instructions to all eligible employees. For weeks, the company claimed it was having technical difficulties producing the list. Then, at the last possible minute, American Airlines filed a lawsuit in Federal Court challenging the right of the NMB to conduct the election. Apparently, the only technical problems were with the speed their attorneys could file their lawsuit. Their reasoning for the lawsuit? The law passed by Congress in February and the new 50% standard that came with it should be applied to the petition filed by the CWA in December. In other words, the workers and their Union should have had a crystal ball to know what the required threshold would be two months later (forget that the company and the NMB objected to allowing the Union to amend its petition with additional cards after the December filing).

In the midst of all of this, the company began announcing its plans to make cuts during bankruptcy. Included in the cuts was the outsourcing of hundreds of agent positions. Workers with years and in some cases decades of loyalty to their company were being tossed to the side and not even allowed a chance to vote on the question of union representation.

After more than a month of waiting while the company cooled its heels claiming it was waiting for the lawsuit to proceed, the NMB finally decided to move forward with the election using a list of addresses provided by the Union. There was a legal precedent for this approach and the union election was scheduled once again, this time to begin on Thursday, June 21 and to end on Thursday, August 2. This time the company responded by filing for an injunction. Even though AA agents who attended the court hearing were convinced that the NMB would prevail and the election would move forward, the Texas judge who heard the case had something different in mind. On June 22, Judge Means sided with American Airlines and ruled that the NMB could not move forward with the election. The NMB is expected to appeal, but in the meantime workers have already started losing their jobs under the company's bankruptcy plans. CWA and the agents at AA are convinced that if the election were to move forward, it would be proven that a majority of agents want to have a Union.

Amazingly, even in the midst of the company's tactics, there is a strong committee of workers at AA who have vowed to do whatever it takes to win their Union. Any time I speak with them, it's like a shot of adrenaline in my arm. If they can fight, then so can I. If they refuse to let the company win, then I must also refuse. So with every last bit of strength I can muster, I do that one more thing. I do it because the alternative is a country where individualism wins out over the collective spirit of community and where corporate greed wins out over fairness for workers. That's not the country I want for my son and so even in the face of an appeal at American Airlines that could drag on for months, I am all in for working on the quickest way for agents to win their Union.

I wish I could say that this organizing effort at American Airlines is unique in the frustrations workers face when trying to organize, but it is not. In the United States today, there is just not a genuine, democratic process for workers to freely choose whether or not to join a union. I have encountered similar frustrations while organizing nurses, call center reps, child care workers, public workers, direct care staff, sales reps, clerical workers, you name it. I am heartened though, that this doesn't stop workers from trying and that even when faced with the most impossible odds, the human spirit can prevail and workers can still stick together to win. I am encouraged that all of us together are part of a resistance movement, a group of ordinary people who fight back against the abuses of power and stand united for justice. (For more on this, visit That is what keeps me going day in and day out, through the mundane tasks and the most disheartening setbacks. The people united will never be defeated, at least not in the end. It is my faith that convinces me of that and it is the twinkle in the eye of a worker who sees hope ahead that makes me grab on to it and keep pushing forward.