Canadian Mom Knows Best

Canadian Mom Knows Best

On washing dishes: “Wash them all.”

On cleaning up: “It’s never too late – or too early.”

On buying new clothing: “I look at it and think, what does this do for me?”


Happy Canada Day



There’s More to Be Said: Happy Blog Anniversary

As of today: Happy six years of reading this blog! For my new readers – I’m looking at you Filipino bots – happy one year anniversary! In honor of the occasion, here’s a conversation – or unsolicited advice – I’d gladly have with each of you:

Perel, discussing a colleague who uniformly flatters: He definitely does that to everyone.

Me: Treat him like the really nice guy he probably is –

Perel: You think so?!

Me: Yes. That way if he’s plotting you’ll have lulled him into a false sense of complacency.



How to Avoid Being Cantankerous

…That’s how we make an appeal to what is right and decent, and without anger. I did it for the framers of the Constitution, who intended that we would treat each other in a civil way. We call each other gentlemen to avoid being cantankerous. And no one person, Democrat or Republican, should ever call law enforcement on a colleague.

– Rep. Charlie Rangel from And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Hall of Congress

The Memoir I Won’t Be Writing

The Memoir I Won’t Be Writing

Special Correspondent Perel is convinced that one day I will write a memoir. She’s also convinced that I’d have a captive audience. I won’t. But since I wouldn’t want to disappoint, I’ve composed some chapter titles for her to enjoy instead.



You Didn’t Want Me to Say That Out Loud?


On my Hometown: Forged in the Valley of Steel

On Growing Up: Rhetorical questions aren’t my forte

On Dating: It’s not as though I’d mind if I never saw him again

On Career: Nowhere pays as much as here for what I’m doing

On Leaning In and/or On Food: I bought their loyalty with snacks

On Confidence: Sometimes people need to be threatened

On Friendship: I have 5 clown noses, and 1 person who could put them to good use

On Travel: You love me. I love you, goats, and ancient printing presses

On Raising Children: If they can get the WD40, they probably know what to do with it


How – and When – to Compromise

I tell them I can yield on a lot of in which my district is not particularly emotionally involved. The liberal part of my party might have an ideological problem with some of these concessions, but if you can exploit the glaring need for decent education and employment opportunities, I’ll take the hit as the price of politically practical consensus. Because as long as Republicans keep saying that education is not an issue for substantial increased federal funding, then I believe that it’s in the best interest of business to step up to the challenge of providing for an educated, productive workforce, because it will serve to increase their profitability, productivity and competitiveness.

I, for one, want American business to have a fair advantage over foreign business, so they’re not going to have a great problem with me on matters of trade. I’m ready to give something up, but they’ve got to give up something for the larger good in return.

-Rep. Charlie Rangel from And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress

Election Season Reading: #tbt

Election Season Reading: #tbt

Four years ago, I was sitting in a church in Brooklyn, listening to someone drone on about how to be a poll worker. In honor of Throwback Thursday, here’s what I wrote on the Terrifying Tuesday – election day – that followed:

Working the polls wasn’t what I thought it would be. I thought I would sit, greet my people as they ought to be greeted, hand them their ballots, and go back to my crochet or conversation. It wasn’t like that. It was trial by fire.

From down the block, I picked out the polling station by the line of people lined up down the street. That line lend me around the school building, through the front door, past the PTA coffee&tea table, down the hallway, and into the gym. Inside the gym were – I later learned – six districts, each with its own table and a heart-sickeningly long line.
My fellow stand-by worker – how I came to be a stand-by poll worker is a story for another time – and I found our Poll Coordinator, Randy. Randy, sunglasses propped on his head, papers in hand, and bold red shirt, was barely holding on to control. Needed everywhere at once, Randy greeted us as generously as he could – he gave us two seconds of his time. An efficient man, who believed in delegation, he told us each to man one of the two most overwhelmed tables. I took the one with a single person and an extra chair. As I sat, the harassed poll worker who had been on her own turned in Randy’s direction and demanded, “Does she know what she’s doing? I CANNOT have anyone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.” Randy, without knowing my name, muchtheless the fact that I’d been trained a day earlier in an abridged session that skipped much of the usual content, said, with authority, “She’s a pro.” It seemed safer not to contradict him.
My fellow poll worker told me the tables’s Electoral District, Assembly District, and which number voter and ballot we were on. I filled in the voter cards, she checked in the people. Fifteen minutes later, she’d judged me capable and left me alone at the table as she took her first bathroom break after four exhausting hours on the job. It was 9AM.
The voters were a delight, if utterly baffled by the lack of levered machines and excess of paper ballots. Apparently, voters hide under a rock between presidential general elections. Most were happy to be there, if utterly confused on how to vote, and some were flat-out thrilled that they could have a ballot of their own. Despite the wait in line – over 30 minutes when I arrived – they were courteous and generally kind.
The only people who had trouble were the affidavit voters, and that blame falls squarely on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The day before the election Gov. Cuomo announced that anyone could vote affidavit [absentee voting from a polling site] – but he didn’t discuss this with the people running the election. In the normal course of events, your vote cannot be counted unless you go to your polling station. What Cuomo tried to say was that if you cannot reach your polling station because your home, neighborhood, or polling station has been devastated by Hurricane Sandy, you can vote anywhere via affidavit. Practically, it meant that people showed up because they were in the neighborhood already and didn’t feel like going to their polling station later. One person, when I explained that she’d have to go home to Long Island to vote, even though she attends college in the neighborhood, demanded a further explanation. When I clarified that only people affected by the hurricane could vote by affidavit, she wanted to know why she couldn’t just claim to be a hurricane victim for voting purposes. It was the first time* I’ve ever had to tell someone “I cannot advise you to commit a federal crime.”
That was bad enough, but then we began to run low on affidavit ballots. Randy, the voice of authority, called the Board of Election. We were promised ballots; none came. We ran out of ballots; none came. The clock clicked closer to the end of the polling day, and nervous voters – some of whom has been sent to us by other polling sites without ballots – sat around. Then one of those earnest voters came over to my district table and demanded to know why the woman next to us was doling out an affidavit ballot to her daughter when she wouldn’t give him one. Randy, who had kept his cool with angry voters and a recalcitrant Board of Elections during that harrowing day, swooped down on the table live an avenging angel. He seized all of the poll worker’s affidavit ballots and demanded to know who she was saving them for. She claimed that she had just happened to find them at that moment. Randy glared in silence. She said she hadn’t realize no one else had any of them. We had been talking about little else since the polling station had handed out ‘the last one’ over 30 minutes prior.
Randy gave the ballots to those who needed them until they ran out too. He kept a close eye on that poll worker for the rest of the night.
Despite such hiccups, the poll workers were a dedicated and hearty bunch. From 5AM-12AM we worked the polls, making democracy happen. As we closed down the poll, the news came through the wire: Obama wins in preliminary polling. With a shout, Democrat and Republican poll workers embraced. It was a draining day, and it was a beautiful day. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back.
*Not the last.

How to Beat the System

He said he wasn’t supposed to tell me, but the problem was determining exactly where I lived. I said, “Judge, there must be something else to this. Take my word for it, I have been very honest with them about where I live, because I have never lived anywhere else.”

…My worry was disrupted near the corn of 132nd and Lenox. There was the usual crew…they turned around, looked at me, and said, almost in unison: “Where the hell have you been and what the hell have you done? The FBI’s been looking for you for over two weeks. We told them we didn’t know who you were, and we knocked on every door on this block to tell these people to tell the FBI that they didn’t know you either!”

…I will never forget knocking on all the doors on my block and saying, “I’m Charlie Rangel, Charlie Wharton’s grandson. I’m not in any trouble; the FBI wants to help me.”

…As far as the FBI is concern, it was then that I realized it’s not nearly as efficient as I’d always assumed.

– Rep. Charlie Rangel from And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress


How To: The Series

How To: The Series

Most people in powerful positions – and lots of people in powerless positions – must undergo a background check between being offered a job and being given a contract to sign. But some of the most powerful people in the world don’t give HR anything but their social security number before their start date. Those people are politicians, and for them a background check is nothing more, and nothing less, than their constituency’s scrutiny.

In my generation one of the largest and longest-lasting figures on the national stage has kept his seat for over forty years. Between elections – of which he won a 23, consecutively, – Baby Boomers came of age, the Greatest Generation faded away, and Millennials began voting. His city burned and was rebuilt. His district moved – geographically stretching north and demographically expanding to include people who didn’t look or sound like him. During that time his district went from being a drug-dealing stronghold to a bastion of economic development to a gentrified neighborhood. Yet, through it all, his district hold one thing to be true – Representative Charlie Rangel was the right man to represent them. A junior congressman, a friend to the civil rights movement, a leader of the most powerful congressional committee, or a man censured by his colleagues, Rangel held his seat and helped his people. Want to know how he’s done it? He’ll tell you about it with his signature smile. Or you can read selections of how to do things so that, like Rangel, you’ll never have a bad day.