Thursday, February 23, 2006

Idols & Olympians Beware

Published February 23, 2006

There aren’t too many shows on television I enjoy. I admit to a particular fondness for shows like 24 and CSI, partly because it’s these kinds of television shows that take incredible writing and research and turn them into entertainment that is gripping and leave you hanging on the edge of your seat. However, sheepishly, I must admit that I am now glued to American Idol. I guess it’s because I actually discovered it for the first time this season. I noticed a few contestants from Sacramento and started watching this month, partly to see what all the hype was about, and actually “got hooked”. There’s something about the underdog that always gets to me. I remember when the 49er’s were hardly a blip on the radar and when the Kings were that team from where? There is something hopeful in the unexpected win of an underdog contestant, a game show featuring someone like me who answered the million dollar question, a lottery win for the desperate and downtrodden, or a gold medal in the Olympics. I especially pay attention when the underdog sheds a tear in gratitude and humility, for an unexpected merit, or surprise performance. These things are what keep me glued to this pop culture show.

Our son competed in a district wide oral language competition last week and his verse choir recited an incredible oration about the history of the Pony Express. As I sat in the audience and watched Conor center stage with his team, I was particularly impressed that he didn’t allow the huge stage to swallow him up. He came down front, and smiled through the entire presentation, his gestures were in synch with his team and he kept his composure and poise throughout. It was essentially a flawless performance. As I listened to the competition, I just knew, this group was going to get awarded the gold medal. “Mom, I’m so happy to have made it this far. It doesn’t matter what medal we get, I’m just happy that we made it to the finals!” His words echoed in my mind as I watched his team exit the stage. I was so proud to be his mother. The little things have always meant so much to him and when the big things come have come along, he always manages to sponge every moment into his soul and then exhale it into his countenance as if it was the singularly best day of his life. It is the freshness of his youth that touches me.

As American Idol winds down the list of contestants from 24 hopefuls to 12, I have my favorites. They are the most humble of the group. I notice that they are the most expressive and emotional performers because I think they are just glad to have had the opportunity to be there for that one shining moment. So, I root for them because as they pulled themselves onto the national stage from virtual obscurity, they didn’t let the attention of the spotlight dim their personalities or their Yeah, I'm a huge Taylor Hicks fanuniqueness. Whether it’s the 16 year old soulfulness of Lisa Tucker or the little firecracker girl from Georgia, Paris Bennett, long after the season has ended, I’ll long remember how both of them jumped into the arms of their family members to share their happiness at having given their best to their inspiring performances.

I watched Conor waiting for the judges to tally their votes and I knew his team had won, but he wasn’t sure and the suspense was torturing him for those few minutes of waiting. When they finally announced the winning gold medal oral language team by the title of the speech they had delivered, I saw him fly five feet into the air and scream. As he walked up to receive his gold medal, I saw that he was crying from the sheer joy of being recognized for his hard work and dedication and from the experienced of having done his very best, and that was a red letter moment indeed. When Conor took the time to approach the judges to thank them personally for the opportunity to perform for them, I knew that JD and I, while we were very proud of the gold medal around his neck, we were more proud of the fact that he was our son. I realized that what I am saying is nothing new. Proud parents abound everywhere…whether you are the parent of an American Idol, or an Olympian, or just a twelve year old boy becoming a wonderful and delightful young man.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at

Thursday, February 09, 2006

For the sake of family

Published February 9, 2006

Fifteen years ago, my sister and her husband were married in our hometown of Petaluma, California. I remember the wedding because I was eight months pregnant with our first born Shannon Elizabeth. As the matron of honor, I remember thinking that there was no way the seamstress could possibly find enough bolts of fabric to make the dress that would cover my body for the blessed event of my sister’s nuptials. I should have sat down. Like a float in the Rose Parade, I walked down the aisle with the baby almost here and a dress only Omar, the tent maker could appreciate. Everyone said how beautiful the bride was and “Look at Tammy…how cute”. Satin and velvet with turned under hair and a little too much make-up. I shudder to think about it. The things we do for the sake of the family.

Terry and Kevin met and starting dating right away. I could see why she fell in love with him. He is handsome and quiet in a way much like our Dad. For the last fifteen years, I’ve come to think of him more as a brother, especially as the years have gone by. Some people are always the in-laws. Not Kevin. He just fit in and put up with us, probably because he never had sisters, we became his. Kevin is one of those members of the family who is able to fix anything….take care of a problem and see through a crisis. These last several months when Dad was hospitalized, Kevin cleaned the pool, mowed the yards, put together home health care equipment, dismantled a bed, pruned a tree and basically did everything my father would have been doing for the last several months had he not been bed ridden. He showed a lot of concern and had many good questions to field to us for the doctors. Kevin does a lot behind the scenes without calling much attention to what he’s done for you. He’s modest in a dignified way. I admire that about him. I know he does these things for the sake of the family.

Terry is organized in a way I can never come close to imitating. She runs her house like a well oiled machine. She has been with the same employer for seventeen years, a part-time job which is really full-time because she works from home, plus she takes care of her three sons, my nephews, while balancing everything she does with eyes in the back of her head. She is fiercely loyal and generous. There isn’t anything that she wouldn’t do for the sake of the family. During one particularly tense moment in the hospital last November with Dad in ICU, I remember a poignant moment when Terry got down into Dad’s ear and shouted “Fight Dad, damnit, FIGHT!” She would will that he come back to us because she demanded it and Pop apparently listened to her because by the end of the week he was essentially out of his coma. I’ll never forget how we all came together for Dad as a family.

They are a great couple because they compliment each other’s strengths and make up whatever else is lacking in each other’s weaknesses. They pulled together last year, when Kevin’s father passed away after a long illness. I was so sad at the time because there wasn’t anything I could say to Kevin other than to tell him how sorry I was that he lost his Dad. I flashed back to their wedding day, his brother was serving in Iraq in the first Gulf War, and he couldn’t make it back for the wedding, so they erected an American flag on the stage at the reception and a friend of theirs sang the National Anthem in his honor. Kevin’s parents stood up and I saw how proud they were, especially his father. There wasn’t a dry eye at the wedding reception. Kevin and Dad are similar in many ways. They enjoy a good smoke, a good game of golf, and time out in the garage with the “guys”. Kevin and Terry made sure Dad had all his football picks in each week and he, in turn, would be their babysitter when they needed one. Their little guy, Mikey became Pop’s favorite, because they took their naps together. When I asked Dad one time if he minded babysitting in his retirement, he said he looked forward to it each day. Some things are just done for the sake of family.

Over the last fifteen years, I haven’t seen Kevin cry except when it came to the time Dad was in the hospital this winter. I knew we were family even in our grief, and I appreciated the fact that he was my brother, not just my brother in law.

They are celebrating fifteen years of marriage this week, as well as completing construction on their third home. We wish them happiness as they venture into the next decade before their silver wedding anniversary and a long life together; And for selfish reasons, I pray for them in all their needs for the sake of the whole family.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at