The Five Minute Activist

If we learned nothing else over the last four or five years, it’s that we still have a lot of work to do to make the world a better place. However, if everyone does their part in making their voices heard, we’ll get the job done a lot faster.

The good news is that you can get it done in five-minute chunks. That’s less time than it takes to drink a tall latte. Try these:

  1. Call or email your elected reps. At the federal level, the Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Just follow the prompts to be connected to your senator’s or rep’s office. To email, visit https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm or https://www.house.gov/representatives and find their cyber-addresses there. For the state officials, go to https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/.
  2. If you choose to stop buying products or shopping at certain stores due to their support of things detrimental to the common good, don’t stop there. Shoot them an email and let them know why you are choosing to do so. Recently, we dumped our warehouse club due to their support of a certain pillow manufacturer. They needed to know why we were cutting ties with them, and when they decide to cut ties with that vendor, we’ll talk.
  3. Going back to 1…if you call an elected representative’s office and they give you the runaround or treat you rudely, let others know of your experience. There’s always Twitter. One of your local friendly news people might want to know about the incident. I am blessed and lucky to have Lauren Underwood for my rep right now. Before her, however…there was Randy Hultgren, ignorer of emails and purveyor of rude staffers. Like one named Brian who hung up on me. I wasn’t the only one. I heard other stories of the office door being locked and knocks going unanswered while staffers peeked through gaps in the blinds. I regret not sharing my experience with media contacts. Make sure you document time and names.
  4. Find alternatives for entertainment: used book stores, streaming services, good ol’ PBS, independent musicians, so on. So much of what’s portrayed on network TV in the US is poor quality or over the top violent.
  5. Make choices to support the environment. Buy whatever organic products you can afford (I know, pricy, but even a single tomato can help). Eat a few meatless meals a week, or if you can’t do veg food, do some sustainably raised fish or poultry.
  6. Be mindful of small things like water and energy consumption.
  7. Smile. You’re taking action, even in small ways. Be proud. You’re a drop of water in a river, a wave, and you’re doing your part to wash everything clean.

Reality Check

We didn’t get that much snow last night. We did, however, get enough wind to make it look as if a blizzard had landed and knock out the power for an hour. The roads are still slick and I’m sure the curve on the road that we take to the big park and day care has been blown in by the unrelenting west wind and snow traversing the open fields.

I decided not to take Oakley to day care. First and foremost, because of the weather and that the secondary roads we take are not that well tended. When I took Oakley out for his first potty run this morning, the majority of the drivers I saw on the main road were picking their way to their destinations with caution even though the roads looked plowed. It’s important that he sees his friends and teachers, yes, but I am not willing to have us risk hitting that one patch of black ice or snow and ending up in the middle of a field or a ditch.

The second reason was his hips. I’d taken him on Tuesday. I’d been home long enough to eat a bowl of soup for lunch when his teacher asked me to come pick him up. He was acting unhappy and having problems sitting and lying down. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he had diarrhea.

On my way.

What really amped up the suck factor was that this was the first session after Ms. L. had closed down day care for two weeks because two of the teachers had shown COVID symptoms. They’re both OK, thank the Mystery. I had hoped that the afternoon would give Oakley some fun and frolic and me some space to vacuum and tidy a bit, but that was not to be.

So I arrived. Oakley did not look as happy as he was when I had dropped him off. Ms. L. had videoed him struggling to sit.

I watched the video. I looked at Oakley as he leaned into my shins, his way of hugging me. And in the bright light of the reception area, I saw a lot of white hairs blending into the chestnut ones above his eyebrows.

Oh, my, God/dess.

Oakley is aging.

Just like me. It’s fine for me to get older, but Oakley, my companion, my guardian, my fur child? The bundle of legs and fur who’d put his head in the hollow of my neck and fallen into a snoring sleep on the way home from the adoption event where we’d found each other?

Yes. Him.

Oakley had been fine at home that morning, so it’s likely it was just one bad day caused by the weather. He’d torn it up with pups less than half his age at the last day care session. Well, some dogs age out of day care, and if it’s time to let the twice a week sessions go, it’s OK. No, it isn’t, but it is what it is as part of the aging process. Ms. L. reassured me that he will always be welcome on Ren Faire weekends or other occasions warranting a stay at sleepover camp.

OK, thank you. Go home. Give the homeopathic anti-inflammatory. Give the anti-diarrheal. No, baby. 1:30 is too early for dinner.

He went to his spot on the sofa and fell into a nap. I went on line and ordered more anti-inflammatory pills and another product by the same manufacturer specifically for arthritis. One of my friends had given it to her dogs with success, and I’m hoping for the same with Oakley.

If not, one of the vets at our clinic has experience in a couple of modalities that will help. We’ll figure out the best work arounds, like shorter but more frequent walks, herbs, cold laser treatments.

The arthritis pills will be here Monday, please Mystery.

Until then, short walks in the yard. Not a hard thing because of the wind chill. And anti-inflammatory pills every four hours.

And dream of warmer days ahead.O

The Work Ahead

February opens on a snowy note here in the soybean field. This last weekend’s storm dropped a bit under seven inches of the white stuff on us. We’re shoveled out and the roads are clear, so we’ll get out this afternoon when the wind chill dissipates a bits.

Until then, we have some things to check off the to-do list. Run the dishwasher; do a couple of five-minute organization blitzes; tweet, call and email Congress Rep. Underwood and Senators Duckworth and Durbin.

The last task is the most vital. I can always use paper plates and have no shame about eating out of pots. Piles of bank statements and magazines have been in their spaces this long and leaving them there a bit longer won’t harm anything. Those detract from the quality of my personal life, but those can be easily solved.

Preserving democracy, however, is another matter. It’s not just me or my cohort wave who would be impacted if the lines don’t get established in bold red strokes. It would mean that my nephew, my niece, their descendants, and generations to come would be in a struggle to survive under authoritarianism all because a large group of the gullible and the racist were pulled into a vortex of conspiracy theories, disinformation, and hate.

What, then, needs to be done to close the black hole?

One thing that would go a long way is reinstating the Fairness Doctrine and update it for the digital age. The Fairness Doctrine went on the books in 1949. It required broadcasters to present issues of public interest from different points of view. In 1987, the FCC repealed it. That lead to monopolizing of media outlets and a lack of diverse viewpoints, making it too easy for news to turn into propaganda. And making it too easy for right wing hate speech to take over the airwaves in some rural areas.

The other thing that needs doing is educating the public on critical thinking skills when it comes to media consumption. Finland (https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2019/05/europe/finland-fake-news-intl/ ) has a whole school curriculum that was developed in 2015 with the rise of trolls and bots to help students vet information presented on the internet. Could the same be done here for the current K-12 group, and could it be slipped into the adult population via PSAs?

Would it hurt to try? I don’t think so.

These are at the top of my personal list as well as bringing back civics classes so the populace actually understands how government works, and knows how the three branches of government function, and demand that they do so as intended.

And making sure that people get fed.

And housed, and…and…

It’s a long list. We’d better get started.

If you need me, I’ll be over here having my soup out of the pot.

If Only We’re Brave Enough To Be the Light: The Post-Inauguration Report

Oakley’s snores woke me up. He’d been at day care the afternoon before. That was Tuesday, so that meant that this was Wednesday. And not just any Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021.

Inauguration Day. The inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Kamala D. Harris was finally here.

That realization made me fly out of bed like a sugared-up toddler on Christmas morning. After four excruciating years, we were getting a new president. Make tea. Tend to Oakley despite his judgmental stare as I danced around the kitchen island while I mixed up his breakfast. Scrawl a few lines in my journal while watching the apricot and gold sun rise in the space between the blinds over the family room window.

Turn on the TV. There was the minor distraction of shipping President Biden’s predecessor off to Florida in his last flights in Marine One and Air Force One after a ceremony designed to give his ego one last inflation before taking off with the strains of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” playing as the plane taxied down the runway and rose into the sky.

And then the networks returned us to the quiet but troop-lined streets of Washington, D.C. and video of the Bidens attending a church service before heading over to the Capitol for the ceremony. Scaled back due to COVID and still open wounds from the insurrection on January 6, but just like the country itself, going on in spite of it all. No balls planned for that evening, not much of a parade except the motorcade from the Capitol to the White House accompanied by the Howard University and University of Delaware marching bands, but the day would be marked to forge the link in the chain of history stretching back to George Washington and the other founders of the the republic.

And considering the circumstances, that was OK.

We had a couple of snacks, and I plied myself with tea as we watched the Bidens, the Harris-Emhoffs, and the Obamas, Bushes, and Clintons make their ways to where they needed to be. There was a cutaway offering visual proof that the predecessor had landed, but not a long one. They quickly refocused on the Capitol and the history unfolding there as well as the fun bits, such as Dr. Jill Biden’s and VP Harris’ dresses and Michelle Obama’s pantsuit (damn, I’d wear that) and coat, and this historical tidbit and that bite of trivia.

And then, finally, here we were. A Marine escorted Lady Gaga (speaking of outfits–hers needs to be enshrined at the Smithsonian both for the sheer Gaga-ness of it and its nod to the ladies of the past with the design harkening back to the early days of the country). Took the mic, and oh, did I get chills when she performed “The Star Spangled Banner.”

And when she pointed to the flag when she reached the line “that the flag was still there,” I choked up. I usually don’t have strong reactions to patriotic music, but the relief of surviving the last four years without nuclear weapons getting brought into play and the prior fourteen days with troops in the DC streets due to the ongoing threats of insurrection part two had to come out sometime.

And then the tears welled again when VP Harris took her Oath of Office. Finally, a woman, a woman of color, was at that level. After the debacle in 2016 and the repressive sexist tones of that regime I didn’t know if I would ever see a woman in that level of government in my lifetime. But there she was with a strong supportive man at her side.

And then, finally, President Biden took his oath. Would we get through this, or would his predecessor send a nasty distraction from Florida? No, nothing happened. He took his oath, and somewhere between the fading of the last line, “So help me God,” and taking his hand off his Bible, and the applause, the world became a much brighter place.

I collapsed like a limp rag for a few moments, then put a pizza in the oven for our inaugural celebration. I don’t know what the Bidens and Harris-Emhoffs had, but I doubt that fast food was involved.

The ceremony ended with Amanda Gorman reading her poem “The Hill We Climb.” For there is always light/If we’re brave enough to see it/If we’re brave enough to be it.

I whispered a prayer thanking the Mystery for all the people who had stood up to the predecessor and his minions. Prayed that in the light of things that need to be fixed that I could be a light down these pocked and pitted roads.

President Biden started righting the ship of state that afternoon by signing a stack of executive orders and issuing a mask mandate running concurrently with his first 100 days in office. And that night, Jen Psaki, the press secretary, gave a briefing about the first afternoon under this administration.

As the day wrapped up with a show of socially distanced performances that closed with President and Dr. Jill Biden walking out onto the balcony and looking towards the Washington Monument, I felt for the first time in oh, say, four years that things are going to be OK. There’s a lot of work ahead, but if everyone can grab a rope, a dust rag, a laptop and get busy doing their part, we’ll get the lights that make us a beacon of hope back on sooner rather than later.

Infamous Days

The last few days have seen me with tea in one hand and one device or a remote in the other as I watch history unfold around me. This event, that resignation, and oh, yeah, the little thing that happened last Wednesday some call an “insurrection.”

Hubby and I kept the TV on to monitor the results of the Georgia runoff and the last formalities involved with declaring Joe Biden and Kamala Harris President and Vice President Elect. Hubby watched for a few moments, mumbled an unflattering remark about the Republicans, and left for his dental appointment.

We expected the nonsense thrown in the road by the Republicans. What we didn’t expect was the angry mob overrunning the Capitol Police and desecrating the House and Senate chambers.

I texted Hubby. I knew that he would’t be able to respond right away, but it seemed the rational thing to do in the face of such irrationality. And it gave my hands something to do while I sat frozen to the sofa and staring at the tube in disbelief.

It was not unlike 9/11. Hubby had taken the day off so we could drop off refinancing paperwork at the bank and go out to lunch. I had walked Orion at the state park. When we drove home and I pulled into the garage, the TV blared though the insulated walls. Just as I was starting to tell him to turn it down, I saw the second tower collapse.

Oh. Well, I guess that a major landmark getting taken out by commercial airplanes is a good reason to crank it to 11.

This was in the days before cell phones, so he couldn’t have given me a heads-up anyway. But I used mine to alert him to the situation.

About an hour later, he strode into the house and greeted me with a hale and hearty “What the hell is going on?”

I gestured to the TV. That. I couldn’t find words for it.

I took Oakley out, made dinner for everyone. Listened to the commentary, witnessed events unfold. Wondered if the certification would be done that day.

Technically, it happened in the wee smalls of the next morning, but House and Senate got it done.

The fallout continues. Arrests, including 25 for domestic terrorism, have removed some of the insurrectionists from the street. The FBI is asking for help to identify more of them. Investigations into who and what and how unfold as I type. Two of the Capitol Police officers died as a result, one of head injuries, the other of suicide.

I had really hoped that 2021 would be calmer, but it’s not looking like it at all. Especially until we can get President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris sworn in safely on the 20th.

We have nine days to go at this writing. I hope that they will be a little less infamous than last Wednesday.

Liminal Space

Here in the soybean field we are less than 12 hours from evicting 2020. I will not be sad to see it go.

In our personal world, Hubby, Oakley, and I were pretty lucky. We stayed healthy (except for a rather stubborn bout of colitis in Oakley’s case) as did our families. No surprise expenses; no crises. For that we are truly grateful.

In the wider world, however…dear Mystery, when will this end? There’s the horror of COVID-19 unfolding in real time around us compounded by an administration that has no problems with the elderly and minority segments of the population dropping like flies while health care professionals and workers who come into contact with the general public lay their lives on the line daily. There’s the shock that so many of my fellow Americans have been taken in by conspiracy theories that defy any logic, and believe the lies of the ones who want to subvert the will of the people to keep the current occupant of the Oval Office installed. And how many want Civil War Part II. That frightens me.

Comfort came in rereading Emily Carr’s Hundreds and Thousands, a collection of her journals from the late 1930s into almost the end of World War II. She was an artist and writer who lived in Victoria, B.C. with her dogs, monkey, and a domestic rat or two. Her New Year’s entries remind readers that this high and wide pile of uncertainty and dread mixed with hope that we sit on this season is nothing new, especially the entries from war time. What will this world get itself up to next year, she asked more than once. She leaned on her faith, kept busy with her visual and written arts, and relied on the company of her sisters and fur-bearing companions to find peace in the tempest of war.

As I wait for the stroke of midnight to launch us into 2012, I find myself doing the almost the same thing. Phone calls to check in on the siblings and friends; journaling; walks with Oakley are what keep me sane these days.

So does the hope coming up over the horizon. In the not too distant future, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will officially take their oaths of office. Since their election, they’ve shown more leadership than the current hot wet mess of an administration ever did on issues related to the pandemic.

We still have 20 days until they take office. Until then, we need to celebrate survival, or at least bask in relief that we’re still here. On behalf of Oakley, Hubby, and myself, I raise my glass to you, Gentle Readers, and wish you a calmer, prosperous 2021.

How to Build a Bigger Table

When you have more than you need, build a bigger table, not a higher fence. John Pavlovitz.

I’ve had Fourth of Julys spent huddled under desks with Oakley and Orion that felt more like end of the year celebrations than this season has. Holidays and I don’t get along really well to begin with, so forgive me for sitting this month out except for New Year’s Eve. I look forward to the books being closed on this plate of lutefisk with a colonoscopy prep chaser of a year.

In the personal world, the holiday get together with my family has been postponed. There’s no way Sister and Brother in Law can get down here safely, and they’re both in risk groups. Brother and Sister in Law are in risk groups. Hubby is in a risk group because of his age. Trinkets and tokens of affection will get exchanged somewhere along the line, I’m sure, though, but in person is contraindicated until further notice.

For now, anyway, it’s time to put the focus on what can be done, especially in the wider world. As we’ve seen, there’s a lot that needs doing. As I write, we have 31 days until President Biden and Vice President Harris are inaugurated (I know it’s technically -elects, but they’ve been acting more presidential than some occupants of the West Wing I can name). Even with the incoming administration, the damage done in the last four years and exacerbated by the pandemic this year is not going to be repaired overnight.

Just like the best way to wash a stack of dishes is to grab a plate and start washing, the best way to help with the mess caused by COVID-19 is to pick an issue and take action. For us, making sure people eat is first and foremost. “Appalled” didn’t begin to cover our reactions to the videos of people waiting in lines for hours to get food. Hubby and I donated to https://solvehungertoday.org, the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

In addition, I’ve been spending more time on Twitter retweeting articles on food insecurity to my elected reps and articles detailing what the populace can do to help their neighbors who may be in dire circumstances. For ways to help in your area, please go to https://www.feedingamerica.org.

If you can donate, great. Even a dollar or five can help (they can create eight meals out of every dollar per the food bank). Even an extra can of tuna or jar of peanut butter means an extra sandwich or two. And don’t forget soap, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and masks. Those are not covered by SNAP.

Another way to donate is to buy a gift card and leave it with the cashier. That way if someone comes up a bit short at checkout, the cashier can use it to discreetly help the customer.

Everyone can contact their reps at the state and local levels. Email. Call. The US Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. If you have a rep who’s not responsive, support another candidate in 2022.

In the meantime, wash your hands, wear a mask, watch your distance…and here’s to gathering at a larger table next year.

And Yourself?

Hi there…been a while since I wrote anything here. Thanks for your understanding, but the COVID-based need for isolation has caused the days to smear into each other in grey tones. And there are so many times that one can write about gratitude and simple joys and all that before it sounds as if one had been smoking Hallmark cards.

Except for one. Election Day, 11/3/20. That was one for the books. Both Hubby and I voted early, so we just sat back and ate pizza. I made an election cake from the recipes that dated from colonial times when voting was a cause for celebration. I don’t know what happened, but it turned out really dry. Basically, it’s a yeast-levened spice cake that is traditionally soaked in brandy. Maybe that was the problem, but since Hubby doesn’t do alcohol, that was a no-go. The cake was OK, but not worth the hassle.

However, as the counts tricked in, I could have used a snifter or five.

We both exhaled when the results were finally called by CNN at about 10:30 on the following Saturday. Hubby drove around and leaned on the horn as he drove past houses in our area displaying signs and flags signaling support of the current occupant of the White House. While he was out, I quietly wept in relief, then made a celebratory lunch for us.

The countdown to Inauguration Day is on. I’ll likely fix another celebratory meal. Don’t know quite what yet, but it will be on the elegant side.

First, though, the holidays or what there is of them this year. We had our usual turkey while watching the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving. Christmas gatherings are cancelled for us. Between my siblings, our spouses, and the niece and nephew benign various risk groups, any in-person gathering would amount to a suicide mission.

If it means I can keep my siblings and sibs-in-law around longer by sacrificing this year, I’m fine with it. I’m not hugely in to Christmas, anyway. Except for the cookies.

However, I am into New Year’s. I look forward to this year of lutefisk followed by a colonoscopy prep chaser going out the door at midnight in about three weeks, and I for one will not be upset if the door hits it in the butt on the way out.

Notes to My Younger Self

two adult women beside each other
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Here I sit, about a month give or take before my next birthday. It doesn’t end with a five or a zero, but it is significant for an astrological reason. It’s the end of my Saturn return 

What is a Saturn return? Astronomically, Saturn takes about 28 years to complete an orbit around the sun. Astrologically, it returns to the sign where it resided when you were born and sits there for a couple of years. Saturn has to do with all things involved with being an adult. It has to do with taking responsibility for your life choices while forgiving yourself for past failures and mistakes. And death, not necessarily your own, but that of people you’ve cared about, and what no longer serves you. 

In the throes of my first one, I completed my master’s degree, had a “normal” job. My father and maternal grandma went on to the next life within six months of each other. I realized that the job wasn’t right for me, and began living an artist’s life. 

As I wrap up my second one, there are many regrets that I wish that I could rectify. Not Oakley and Orion, never ever. Before them. I wish I could advise my younger self about boundaries (it is OK to say no to positions in groups; it is OK to leave circumstances that sap your soul). Your dreams are yours. Do not change them to appease and placate others.  I wish I could tell her that the relationship advice in magazines like “Cosmopolitan” is not healthy and actually is pretty detrimental. Career wise, it is OK to have an honorable job that supports you, even if it’s not what you were expected to do by your parents and other influences. And that the tremendous pressure about attending church, especially the one she went to in order to appease her family, is not about grace and salvation as much as money and controlling women. That she is her own best authority on her body and to listen to it, and listen to it well, especially in matters of what truly nourishes her and the size her genes dictates. Most of all, it is fine to be single, and if the guy in question does anything to cause discomfort, it is OK to take off in the other direction. 

And now I look to the future. The adulting has to do with accepting and preparing for my next return by making sure I have a will and related paperwork in order and managing finances to secure my later years. 

Once done, it’s time to create and play.

And develop a new set of dreams. 

 

 

 

There’s Always That One Storm….

Image courtesy of https://thegraphicsfairy.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Fall-Landscape-GraphicsFairy.jpg

Thunder followed by rain pattering against the window woke me up at 5:30. I closed the windows and dozed for an hour or so, listening to Oakley snore from the comfort of his new bed.

In any other time, I would have been picking him up after sleepover camp at Ms. Lanette’s. Hubby and I should have been at Ren Faire yesterday, but fates and COVID-19 said otherwise.

It is what it is. And what it is in this case is The Storm. The storm that marks the transition to cooler fall weather. It’s usually the week after Labor Day, sometimes the holiday weekend itself. It sounds different, slower, as if taking its time to give the earth a good soaking.

We’ve had two of these storms announcing fall’s arrival (even if it’s astronomically the 21st or 22nd of September) when Hubby and I have been at Ren Faire. Usually, it starts raining late afternoon as we debate if we want to see another act, go to the book store, or start heading home. When that happens, we usually bid a fond seasonal farewell to Bristol and head home.

One arrived mid-afternoon. We squeezed into a pottery shop next to the stage where the band we’d planned to see was scheduled to perform. No matter. The band squeezed in with us and did their set and some more to boot.

When the storm tapered off, we walked the rain slicked lanes through the last sprinkles to do a bit more shopping, see maybe one last act before we parted for the season. Too wet to sit anyplace, so we stopped at another pottery shop before heading home. I found soup bowls and salad plates, substantial weight, dark green with a design inspired by pine boughs and cones.

Those became my go-to for cool weather meals and pasta dishes year round. When I pull them out of the cupboard, I revisit that day, how the wind played the music for the leaves’ dance, how the band put a little something extra into their performance, and laughing at myself trying to navigate the muddy streets in my Birkenstocks.

And I smile, remembering.