Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Thanksgiving Gratitude List...

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — It can be tough to be a Pollyanna if you are in the news business. You know too much.
I try to limit my online and news channel time once I leave the office, but these days, I’m as likely to hear an in-depth discussion of the latest crises in the hot tub at the health club as I am in the newsroom. More likely, in fact. We’re usually so busy dealing with some aspect of the latest dilemma that we don’t have much time to talk about it all.
But maybe we should. From talk show pundits to purveyors of “The Secret,” many have told us that we should ignore and dismiss from our life everything that seems negative and all will be well.
I agree that it’s a good idea to accentuate the positive and be a cosmic cheerleader whenever and wherever possible. But it can be a delicate balance.
There are other maxims that mature and responsible adults should keep in mind: like the ones about not hiding your head in the sand, and, of course, the admonition so dear to conscientious journalists: “Don’t kill the messenger.”
That said, there’s a lot to be thankful about, this Thanksgiving season. It’s a great time of year to sit down and make some lists, with an enlightened attitude of gratitude and some realistic fair and balanced reporting. Here’s a sampling of what’s on my list.
I’m grateful that my family has had a pretty happy, healthy year, and glad I got to spend some wonderful vacation days with some members of the tribe I miss having nearby, like son Ryan, daughter-in-law Shannon and grandson Alexander the great, during a beautiful summer in Idaho. There were some fun surprises, too, like a visit from my long-lost cousin Jim Bernard, who toured the country with his charming wife Deb and perky dog Sheba and, as fate would have it, showed up in both Las Cruces and Coeur d’Alene for fun renuion visits.
I mourn all the wonderful persons, places and things that have left Las Cruces this year, but I’m grateful for the faith and experience that have taught me that nothing good is every truly lost, that for everything we willingly set free, we get something better, sometimes in a different form.
I’m sad that some of my dearest friends have moved away to places like New York and Santa Fe, but grateful that we’re so profoundly bonded and that we can keep in touch with visits, phone calls and e-mail.
I’m even sadder that so many loved ones and relatives of loved ones have passed on to realms beyond cyberspace communication this year, but when I reflect on what good lives they lived and the contributions they made to making this world a better — and far more entertaining and interesting — place, I feel very grateful to have had the chance to spend some quality time with them on the earthly portion of their journeys, and look forward to meeting them all again in the great beyond.
I’m sad that we live, in 2008, in a world that is still at war on so many fronts, that has experienced devastating natural disasters, economic collapse, global warming, worsening ecological problems, record home foreclosures, and such formidible challenges with issues ranging from global violence and homelessness to poverty and health care.
But I am grateful for so many signs that we are finally realizing that we are all in this together, that the entire ocean is affected by a pebble, that we must hang together or we’ll hang separately. That we are all our brother’s keeper... and our sister’s, children’s, neighbors,’ parents’ and grandparents’ keeper, and the keepers and custodians of life on this fragile planet.
And I’m grateful that for all the challenges we face as a world, a nation and a community, by some wonderful milagro, many of us seem to be moving into 2009 with renewed spirit and a sense of hope far stronger than in what many would have considered better times. Somehow, there seems to be a strong and growing sense that we can provide care and education and compassion and a fulfilling future for every soul, that somehow, we still have everything we need to make things work, if only we will.
I hope your own 2008 gratitude lists are long and pray that your prospects, strength and relationships all grow and prosper in 2009. Happy Thanksgiving.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, November 14, 2008

She’s with the band: It’s in the DNA

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — When I heard about my grandson’s new band, I flashed back to the day his dad Ryan, less than a year old, warbled “The Star Spangled Banner” in perfect pitch, though the lyrics consisted of just one repeated word: “Noodle.”
I have vivid memories of grandson Alexander the Great’s first fiesta in Las Cruces, a festive 10-month-old struggling mightily to stand up in his stroller and shake his maracas at a Cinco de Mayo gathering on the Mesilla Plaza.
A few months ago, I still had a few inches on Alex, who has since turned 12 and last week informed me that he and I are now exactly the same height.
With two six-foot parents, I guess I shouldn’t be shocked at his swift ascension, and probably by the next visit, I’ll relive that teenage moment when my rapidly growing “baby” boy Ry reached down to pat me on the head.
It will be right up there with another deja vu musical moment that’s already here: Alex, like his rockin’ prodigy dad, has formed his first junior high band.
And I have the pictures to prove it: three members of the Duct Tape Bandits, clearly ready for their album cover close-ups, stare at me from a scenic autumn Idaho landscape.
It seems like only yesterday that Ryan was attracting a motley crew of young musicians and fans for after-school jam sessions, then rotating through a bunch of Pacific Northwest “Lego” band affiliations that were ever changing and involved performances with many groups whose names I cannot use in a family newspaper. Finally, he was recruited by the Sweaty Nipples, a group that lasted more than a decade, got a contract with a major label, landed on regular MTV rotation, went on a couple of national tours, recorded some major riffs for Nintendo and other major advertisers and even landed a Grammy nomination.
I don’t know if science has officially identified the DNA markers yet, but there is no doubt in my mind that music, and various other kinds of artistic creativity are passed down through the generations.
And that includes what is know in our tribe as the family “congenital defect:” a passion and propensity for writing.
I was about 6 when I settled in behind my dad’s ancient Smith Corona and taught myself to type, which brought an immediate response from my parents.
“Look, Doris, she’s taken up the family instrument,” Dad crowed.
Dad was an enthusiastic poet and essayist, though he made his living as an aircraft engineer and most of his poems were about flying or fishing, as I recall.
But the writing gene was clearly dominant in our generation. My big sister just retired after nearly 50 years as a reporter and erstwhile editor and publisher. My brother was a sports reporter who defected to the legal profession, but after retirement has produced some award-winning short stories.
As the middle child, I tried to carry on the legacy of both literary Dad and musical Mom, a talented pianist who played with a dance band in college.
Unlike my sibs, I sang in chorus and played in school bands and picked up the guitar in college. I composed music for a couple of public service announcements and picked up a co-credit on my high school fight song — for lyrics, not the tune — but it became obvious that in my genetic legacy, words were dominant and music was recessive.
But it’s now clear that I’m a carrier and the dominant musical gene has simply skipped a generation.
It wasn’t until my 40s that I enjoyed the thrill of all-access backstage passes at clubs and music festivals, as I authoritatively dropped my son’s name and was ushered past the fans and groupies to the sweet sound of those four magic words: “She’s with the band.”
Now as the granny of a Duct Tape Bandit, I’m looking forward to a new era of perks and privileges. If you’re looking for an inside track to hot sounds of the new Millennium, just stick close to me.
I’ll get you in. I’m with the band.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Change the ways we celebrate

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — I’ve been dreaming of a minimalist Christmas and a laid-back New Year.
Whatever your views on the outcome of a long and exhausting presidential campaign, 2008 has been a very tough year on many levels. There have been a lot of stresses and strains, from national gas price wild rides, rollercoaster stock markets and other global economic and ecological disasters to local changes that include deaths of beloved community members and closures of some of our favorite restaurants, shops and galleries.
In efforts to counter hard economic times, there is a national trend to push the holiday merchandise even earlier and more aggressively this year, and many of us are having trouble getting on board.
It’s hard to get excited about decking your halls when so many of us feel we’ve been thoroughly decked ourselves.
But I think it’s time to celebrate change ... and consider changing the ways we celebrate.
I’m advocating a minimalist holiday in 2008, but I’m all for over-the-top excesses when it comes to singing, learning, being creative and artistic and joining forces to help and share with others.
Even though gas prices now seem to be in a downward spiral, in this frenetic year, many of us will have trouble mustering time, gas or airfare to get over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving ... and many working grandmothers, like me, won’t be able to travel to see the grandkids.
When we’re still embroiled in a conflict that has lasted longer than American involvement in World Wars I or II or our own Civil War, it’s difficult to sing about peace on earth and goodwill toward men.
And that, of course, is exactly why we should. And I’m all for singing. It doesn’t cost a thing but a bit of breath and has the potential to generate good cheer and rejuvenate weary souls. I’m officially encouraging singing at home, at school, in the shower, in the car, at your place of worship, in community groups and at your workplace. Maybe you can learn some traditional holiday songs of different cultures and faiths, if you have an ethnically diverse circle of friends and colleagues ... or especially ... if you don’t.
You can learn about celebrations and customs for everything from Christmas to Hanukkah, Kwansaa and Hajj and Al-Hijira, the Islamic New Year, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, if you’re cybersavy, or if you’re not, consider a little research with friends, libraries and multimedia stores.
Downplay the red and go green this year. Recycle ribbons and wrapping paper, or better yet, make or buy cloth sacks that can be recycled year after year. Or pack gifts in sturdy cloth totes and inexpensive canvas bags that can be used for groceries and other purchases throughout the year, giving a gift to the earth of more trees and less plastic in her landfills.
I also think it’s time to reclassify re-gifting from the category of social faux to socially responsible blessing. And recycle those family heirlooms and consider bequeathing long-admired works of art, jewelry and collectibles to friends and family members who would enjoy them.
When you do purchase gifts, think local. Support both the local economy and ecology by buying things produced close to home.
And at a time when the stock market is iffy at best, it’s hard to beat art as an investment. At the very least, you’ll support a creative artist and you’ll have an energizing and rejuvenating hyacinth for your own soul; something you love to look at or listen to or read that will give you much more pleasure and less stress than trying to keep an eagle eye on your 401-K.
This year, it goes beyond cliché to survival strategy: Remember the true meaning of the season.
Simplify, simplify. And whatever your holiday plans, think homemade, ecological, economical, and do-it-yourself.
In the words of the late, great Tenny Hale, “When you feel most like giving out, give outward.” Ask friends and coworkers if they would be willing to skip gift exchanges and take up a collection to give to a needy child or family.
Instead of big, elaborate parties, consider neighborhood and office potlucks or caroling groups. Or plan a little get-together with tea and cookies or a stroll around the neighborhood with a few close friends or family members.
Which is what the holidays are all about anyway: giving thanks, sharing with others and generating memories and good times with loved ones.
Happy simple, minimalist holidays to you.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at