Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just vote

I try really really hard to not get too political on this blog. Mainly because I strive to understand both sides of an argument (as long as there's some intelligence behind it). And such is the case with a grassroots movement in MA - and probably elsewhere in the country - to change the voting laws to require the voter to show an ID before taking a ballot.

Now, on paper, that makes perfect sense. No one wants voter fraud. I'm sure it has happened in the past and we do need to find a way to ensure the validity of each vote.

I work as a precinct clerk in my town. I started out as a checker (the person who checks off your name and hands you a ballot) but moved up about a year ago. It's really a fascinating little job. The money is minuscule but no one who works the polls ever does it for the money.

The clerk and the warden in a precinct are the troubleshooters who handle the voters who somehow have fallen through the paperwork cracks but still feel they are eligible to vote in the precinct. So, we handle the detective work and get the proper paperwork filled out so that, if they truly are eligible, they can vote that day.

Our job is not just to ensure the voters' rights are upheld, but to also be the managers and champions of the checkers who face the front lines continually during the day.

Next week's gubernatorial election will be insanely busy as all big elections are. But even the not-so-big elections have their challenges too. Which brings me to my stance on the grassroots "Show ID" movement in MA.

At the primaries almost two months ago, a Show-IDer came to the checker's table. He immediately started with this bombastic, grandstanding rant telling the checker that he wanted his ID checked and why. This ranter happened also to be running for office (thankfully, he didn't get elected).

The checker who is in his late 70s and hard of hearing was very flustered. Before the warden could get over to the table, a voter behind this blowhard turned around and was starting to leave. He thought that he needed his ID to vote and didn't have it on him. The warden immediately diffused the situation telling the candidate that there is no law that dictates an ID be shown and then corralled the fleeing voter behind him and told him he was okay to vote.

So, what did that prove? And who really was influenced? No one. All it did was disrupt a polling place, confuse an eligible voter, and upset an elderly man who is just trying to be a good citizen.

Strangely enough, I was at a company reunion last weekend and bumped into an old coworker who was wearing a Show ID button. I pointed out that going to the polls and causing a scene to unempowered poll workers, was probably not going to help his cause. Nor will it change the law.

I told him that, if he wanted to effect change, he was wasting his time grandstanding at his local precinct. This movement will only work from the state level. I told him he needed to take up his case with Secretary of State, Bill Galvin, and let the poor poll workers do their jobs.

At a clerk/warden meeting yesterday to prepare for next week's election, we discussed this issue with the town clerk. She is going to contact Galvin's office and find out what we should say when this happens so that we convey a consistent message across all of Westford's polls.

Given that this will be a high-turnout election and the warden and I will be very busy helping voters, I am very concerned that voters like the man who thought he needed his ID will turn away before we or the checkers are able to tell them that they are okay to vote.

I hope the Show IDers will think about how their cause, even though it is a valid one, will disrupt the democratic process if not done correctly. After what I saw at the primaries, however, I don't hold out any hope that election day will not be used as a bully pulpit for this group. Let's hope I'm wrong.

Monday, October 11, 2010

All seasons under heaven

Me and Ron at our Vow Renewal service 10/4/2008

When Ron and I were married 22 years ago, we chose Ecclesiastes 3:1 as a reading. It wasn't a typical wedding reading yet it spoke to us. There is a time to be born, a time to die, a time to reap, and a time to sow. I also want this read at my memorial service when the day comes.

I've been thinking about this reading a lot lately. At first because of my mom's illness but now because of the change of seasons here in New England.

Today I started uprooting what's left of my summer annuals to make room for mums - autumn's flowers. I dusted off the fall decorations for the house and hung my decorative flag with its pumpkins and autumn leaves.

I love this time of year. Some look at it as the end of summer and the beginning of a long winter. But to me it's the beauty that is nature. The cycle of life. If I moved to California (never happening), I would miss this time of year. I'd also miss the spring.

Many times I've wondered if the reason California celebrities have such a hard time with the aging process is because they never see it in nature around them. What reminders are there in Hollywood's ecosystem that birth and death are all a part of life? And where's the joy in spring when you see signs of new life peeping through the melting snow?

Maybe that's why we New Englanders are as tough as we are. And also as accepting of the cycle of life that is in us and around us.

I love being able to snuggle on the sofa with a cup of tea at night, all curled up under my afghan. I guess I could do that in Hollywood too if I chose to blast the central air. I love to watch the snow pile up and listen to the nor'easter winds at night knowing that it won't last forever and that I'll be thinking about those moments in sweltering hot August.

When I look in the mirror these days, there are more wrinkles and more gray hairs. Lately I feel like the maple tree outside my window whose leaves are turning. But there is great beauty in those leaves. A beauty that comes from accepting the seasons and the circle of life.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Self reliance

It has been over a month since I've posted anything and I actually feel terrible about that. I've been doing some freelance work and also building up a sole-proprietorship business. It's called A Fine Line and the website is coming soon.

My mom told me once that as soon as I was old enough to talk I always responded to offers for help with the following proclamation: I'll do it myself! It's been a theme in my life, I guess. Until I gave in to the inevitable exhaustion of CFS, I wasn't a good delegator. Some of it was about trust, but most of it was about my own need to figure things out myself.

I think that working through frustration with a task is the best way to learn it. I often say that I write technical documents but never read them. It is rare for me to call tech support because I'd rather use my own analytical and problem-solving skills to reach a solution. And about 95% of the time, I do.

Now maybe some of that is my dad's personality in me. Joe always pushed himself (and still does) past the point of frustration. But he became a successful engineer and manager from that personality trait without ever getting a college degree.

We don't spend enough time digging into our complex minds and intuitive nature. Yes, we can't know everything and experts are there for a reason. But I never want to give into the need to ask for help before I've exhausted all of my brain power.

Maybe that's why my path to having my own freelance business was inevitable. I want to be in control of my own work, my own career, and my own time. But I also want to be able to figure it out for myself. I'm learning so much by taking this risky step, and it's not just about finances, and building websites and client relationships. I'm learning a lot about myself and my need for a challenge.

I've always bored easily in jobs. Once I master them, I start to lose interest. Every ten years, I reinvent my career. I started out in customer service when I graduated (1980). Did that for ten years, then I moved on to business systems analysis (1990). Did that for ten years, then on to technical writing and editing (2000). Now I'm starting my own business (2010). Every decade sees a new challenge and an opportunity for growth. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?