Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stand Against Hate – A handy action guide

If you’re on facebook, or twitter, or you have access to any online news, you know that there is a lot going on right now in the work to prevent president-elect Trump from enacting the hate he campaigned on. Even as that work takes place, you also know that he is appointing known, active neo-nazis to his staff and to positions of leadership that do not require congressional approval. He is also nominating those same kinds of people to positions that will require congressional approval. This is a test. Will we, the people, allow our elected representatives to sanction these choices, or will we demand that they refuse and reject hate?

If you have access to news, you also know that the list of conflicts of interest in a Trump presidency are piling up because he has not divested himself from his businesses, nor has he separated his family and heirs from his political transition team.

If you have access to news, you further know that the evidence of voting irregularities, illegal voter discrimination and disenfranchisement is growing. If this was happening in any other democracy in the world, we would be pointing to a fraudulent, stolen election. We would be backing the people on the ground asking for recounts and vote audits. It is happening here. And we need to take these same steps to advocate not just for ourselves, but for the ideal of a free and fair democracy.

So – Here are some tangible actions that we can, and should, all be taking.

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First: Call AND email the Department of Justice and demand an audit of the votes. This is less work than a full recount but can help determine if there were voting irregularities that should trigger a full recount. This is a time sensitive action item. Do it first, do it now.

Call the DOJ at 202-353-1555 and tell them you want the votes audited. Even if it’s busy, keep calling. It takes a few times to get through because of all the calls being made.

Email, if you don’t feel comfortable calling:  voting.section@usdoj.gov

Also, sign this petition for good measure.

Second: Ask the Electors in the Electoral college to  refuse to cast their vote for Trump. This feels like a desperate act, but the more I’ve read, the more I’ve learned that this situation is exactly why our founding fathers put the electoral college in place. Perhaps reminding them of that isn’t such a bad idea… Here’s how:

You can join the 4+ million people and sign the petition.

There are also ways to locate and contact your state’s electors. I am not linking to them here because as much as I believe in the possibility of this, I refuse to do anything that even remotely looks like Doxxing and every list I’ve seen is just names, which means I could accidentally unleash people into petitioning (aka harassing) the wrong people. Nope.  That feels wrong.

Third: Contact your representatives. Every. Single. Week. Calling works best. Emails are skimmed by bots for keywords that are responded to with an auto-reply. Phone calls work because you will be able to talk to congressional aides who have to listen to and record your concerns. This is necessary regardless of your representative‘s political affiliation, they all need to hear from us.

Not sure where to begin? An amazing person set up this great tool just for us! Use it! Set a reminder in your phone and get to work.

Fourth: Call to demand a bipartisan investigation of Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest. Seriously. This is important. Everyday there is a new report of another conflict of interest that involves Trump lining his pockets at public expense. This needs to be investigated and stopped. Call 202-225-5074 and say: “I am ________ and I am a vote. I am calling to request a bipartisan review of Donald Trump’s financials and conflicts of interest. Thank you.”

Also call some of the members serving on that committee: Mark Meadows (NC) – Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations (202) 225-6401 and Jason Chaffetz (UT) – (202) 225-7751 and tell them you are a voter calling in support of a bipartisan review of Trump’s financials and conflicts of interest. You are gravely concerned about these conflicts of interest and believe they are of the utmost importance, as do many of your fellow citizens.

Fifth: Report Hate Crimes It is important to report hate crimes both to local law enforcement AND to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at: (202) 514-4609. It is important for these incidents to be recorded and investigated, especially as we continue to see a surge in such crimes across the nation in response to Trump’s “win.”

Sixth: Call Paul Ryan and register your support for the ACA. Speaker Ryan has set up a poll to hear what American’s think about the Affordable Care Act. Yes, you have to listen to some propaganda before you’re allowed to record your opinion, but it’s worth it to tell them that we like having insurance. Here’s the number: 202-225-0600. Press 2 to give your opinion, then press 1 if you are in favor of the ACA.

Seventh – Don’t forget – with the holidays just around the corner, it is time to make donations to the organizations working to support the people threatened by Trump. You can make your donations in the name of your loved ones and send them a card to let them know. You can also make these donations in Mike Pence or Donald Trump’s name and have the receipts sent to them at:

Office of Governor Mike Pence/State House Room 206/Indianapolis, IN 46204-2797

and

Donald Trump/ The Trump Organization/ 725 Fifth Avenue/ New York, NY 10022

(I recommend Mike Pence’s name for Planned Parenthood, Lilith Fund, AbortionFunds.org and any LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS organizations. I recommend Donald Trump’s name for the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, and any organizations helping immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, Jewish people, organizations working to end sexual assault, etc.)

I’ll be posting a follow up with a list of worthy organizations, but you can start with the above min-list.

Immediate Action needed – Stand with Standing Rock!! Don’t forget, Trump isn’t president yet – and while we’re all spinning out about what a Trump presidency might mean, the Standing Rock Water Protectors are being abused and tortured. They are being sprayed with water canons in below freezing temperatures, shot at with rubber bullets and tear gas, all because they are trying to refuse an oil pipeline that white residents already rejected. So, while you’re fired up and taking action – call the White House and demand an end to this militarized response to peaceful protesters trying to protect their land and water. Here’s the number to the Situation Room: 202-456-9431. You will get transferred to the main comment line and placed on hold. Stay on the line and leave your comment. It is important.

You can also donate to the people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

AND here’s more concrete action you can take to Stand with Standing Rock.

Last – Hold the media accountable. When the media refuses to call Steven Bannon a neo-nazi, or when they glamorize the “white nationalists” riding the Trump Train, we must push back. We must also hold them accountable for using their investigative skills to determine the truth, before reporting rather than after. We must be diligent and determined in our demand for truthful, unbiased reporting. (And note – unbiased does NOT mean giving equal time to lies. That’s part of what got us into this mess.)

So – write letters to the editors, call the media out on social media, refuse to re-share fake news. If we want a free press, we have to participate. In fact, this election is one big reminder that if we want a democracy, we have to participate, we have to work for it – not just by voting once every 4 years if the lines aren’t too long and our dream candidate is running, but every day, all year long.

If this feels overwhelming – just pick one action to do today. Pick another one tomorrow. Bookmark this page and anytime you have a minute, come back to it and pick another action. Commit yourself to one action a day for as long as it takes.

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Democracy requires action. It’s time to take some.

Note: You can find additional petitions online at Change.org, the Southern Poverty Law Center, The White House, etc.

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Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Uncategorized

Service Before Self

I started my day at an assembly at my kids’ school for Veteran’s Day. Both of my kids were performing, so I was there to see them, but also to support our veterans, and to check in with my community. My kids’ school is majority Latinx and many of the students come from mixed-status families. I wanted to be there for all of them.

The assembly was amazing. So much more powerful than I had anticipated, more than I was prepared for really. The speakers all seemed to realize that these students and community members were in need of inspiration and support, a path forward. I hope they heard the same message that I did.

Every speaker touched on the same core topics. The first is that America’s greatness is directly founded and dependent upon its diversity – the same diversity that exists within that school. Second was the idea of living lives of service – whether in uniform, or out. There was a strong call to serve each other. Last was the duty of the military, and all people with power, to uphold the constitutional freedoms guaranteed to ALL people residing within the United States of America.

The key-note speaker also offered the three core values of the air force for consideration. These are not military specific values, these are values that can be taken up by anyone, at any time.

  1. Integrity. He told the assembled students and community members that with this goes the pledge, “I will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate those who do.” In this way, he said, true integrity goes beyond being responsible for your own behavior, it also means holding those around you accountable for their behavior.
  2. Service before self. Note, this does not mean service at the expense of self! That said, he remind us all of Gandhi’s quote, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” He spoke about the many ways that people can serve their communities, the many ways that we can be helpers for each other.
  3. Excellence in all we doI feel this is self-explanatory. Even Bill and Ted got it.beexcellentAfter the assembly, I took my Dorkalope up to the hills for a hike with this song from my old friend Kris Drever playing through my head.

As this song played through in my head, I kept thinking about this feeling I’ve been having – of not doing enough, of not having done enough, which of course led me back to this idea of service before self and what that meant, what that looked like, what that created.

I come from a family where, even though we don’t name it as such, we tend to live this idea in pretty tangible ways. When I’m hurting the most, my initial response is almost always to think about how I can help someone else. By reaching out and doing something kind for someone, I almost always find that my needs get met as well.

As I hiked, I remembered this video that a friend posted in the midst of the election madness to give us all a reprieve from the fear mongering and shouting. At the time I thought it was sweet, but I didn’t reflect too deeply. I was busy and stressed and it was just a moment of relief, nothing deeper. But now, in the context of thinking about service before self, I see a powerful analogy. Give it a look.

Did you see that? Watch it again. Really. The words will still be here.

Okay, so here are these two cats. The grey one is drinking milk and the spotty one comes up and steals it away. So then the grey one steals it back. So begins an awkward cycle which puts them both on guard, to the point that at one point the grey one is so busy guarding the bowl it doesn’t get a chance to drink before Spotty steals the milk. So then – SO THEN – the grey one steals it back, takes a drink and then PASSES THE MILK BACK! And a new cycle starts up, one in which they drink, share, drink, share.

Game Changer!!

Okay, so how does this apply to us, to people, to this election, to service before self?

I see a couple of caustic assumptions that I’ve heard before being broken down here.

First – That if we are kind, if we are generous, we will be taken advantage of, and so we must guard what is ours, we must put limits on what others can have. Now, remember when Gray was so busy watching Spotty that Gray didn’t get a chance to drink before the milk got stolen again? Yeah, when we worry too much about guarding our stuff, first, we’re not able to enjoy it and second, other people might still take it.

Second – If we give people things (especially the basic things they need to survive, like food) they will become lazy and stop working for them. But notice – when Gray gives Spotty the bowl, Spotty doesn’t just lay down and drink it all before taking a giant nap, right? That’s because even though Spotty no longer has to reach for the milk, Spotty understands that the job isn’t done, it has just changed form. Now Spotty’s job is to return the bowl, rather than reach for it.

Still, it’s a risk, isn’t it? It’s a risk to offer something you think you need to someone else and hope that it comes back around. It’s a risk to be kind, because your kindness might be taken for weakness – you might get taken advantage of. (And now I have to insert one of my Youngin’s favorite songs.)

But fear aside – it’s necessary. We must be kind, we must be generous, we must give what we can, when we can. (Because remember, this is service before self, not service at the expense of self.)

Again though, what does that look like?

Here’s where I’m at right now –

When someone says they are afraid or hurting, remember it is not your job to judge the validity of their fear or the depth of their pain. Your job is to support them, comfort them.

I’ve been hearing a lot that people are overreacting to this election, that they don’t have any reason to be afraid. People have mocked those who are afraid and I just have to say – it’s not helping y’all. Meanwhile, there are a ton of people who are afraid of clowns in the woods – and no one is telling them to chill out, nope – we’re all like, “ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY!!! If a clown jumps out at you, that’s justifiable homicide, that is!” But when a presidential candidate directly and explicitly threatens groups of people, and then gets elected, and then violence against people belonging to those groups spikes, we tell people to calm down.

NOPE. So much nope.

When someone tells you they are afraid or hurting – LISTEN. Offer support, offer comfort. That’s the bare minimum. You do not have to agree with them in order to treat them humanely.

As for people expressing their hurt – what looks like a paper cut to you, might be the thousandth one that person has received that day. You don’t know. So don’t judge, don’t tell them to shake it off, grow a thicker skin, or ignore it. Believe them when they say they are hurting and then offer support, offer comfort. It’s the bare minimum.

We have these sayings about “death by a thousand cuts” and “the straw that broke the camel’s back” so we understand that sometimes small things end up being the things that we just can’t take,the things that finally do us in. So again – your job is to listen, to support, to comfort. To believe that their pain is real, even if it seems minor to you. They are not you.

Last – look for opportunities to reach out, to spread kindness, to help each other. Pay attention. Be open. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Today I stopped to offer help to a cyclist who was broken down on the side of the road. His friend was on the way to rescue him, but we still had a nice moment and he knew that he was seen and valued. I was able to provide winter gloves and a warm hat to a homeless veteran because I saw his sign and asked him what he needed. I went home and went through our extra winter gear and found a few items that fit him and served his needs. This was me doing what I could, when I could. I had time today. I decided the best use of that time was offering a little extra to two people I saw who looked like they needed it.

Yesterday the thing I was able to offer was hugs and words of support.

I don’t know what I will have to give tomorrow, but I know I will give what I can.

And I trust that it will come back. I trust that if I focus on service before self, it will come back around. I trust this because this semester has been brutally hard, but people have caught me and held me up and helped me out and carried me when I needed carrying. And now, it’s my turn to push the bowl back.

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Filed under Naive idealism, Things that work, Uncategorized

Picking a new boulder to roll.

It’s been a while. Nearly a year. So if you’re wondering, who is this person showing up in my inbox, on my feed, in my space – don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’ve been wondering the same thing, it’s why I haven’t been around.

Last year I took a few big, bold steps in a new direction. Even as I did it, I knew I was running from, rather than running toward. But it didn’t matter. I had to run and I was so overwhelmed and so buried and so completely at a loss that it didn’t matter which direction I was running – to or from – I just had to move. The status quo was not working.

There’s a quote from a book called Electric Brae by Andrew Greig about happiness, it goes something like, “The key to happiness is to love what you have and to know when to throw the stone away.”

The same year that I read Electric Brae, I also read Shike by Robert Shae and there is a scene in that book which talks about movement for movement’s sake, about getting unstuck, unfrozen by simply starting to move – no purpose or direction required.

These two moments in the literary development of me converged last year. I was stuck, I didn’t know what to do or where to go, so… I threw the stone away and just started moving. I moved toward a thing that I knew made me happy, that I knew I liked doing – cooking – and I let that movement take me where it would.

If you were with me then, you’ll remember that I started a cooking business. I love cooking. I’m good at it. I wanted to share it with more people.

It worked. Sort of.

I got a few gigs and then got hired as a chef instructor at the local Sur La Table. Mostly because in my interview I said I wanted to teach kids, and they desperately, desperately needed someone who wanted to teach kids.

I ran all the youth cooking classes and camps after that, and filled in with adult classes when there weren’t any kids to teach. I got promoted within about a month of being hired. Everything looked good. I was moving forward.

Or…

Sideways.

Whatever, I was moving.

It turns out to have been a lucky thing because, in moving, I found myself again. I found my path, my calling, my One Thing – and I couldn’t have done it if I’d stayed still, pushing the same boulder up the same hill.

rolling boulders

Sometimes you have to let the boulder roll back down while you recalibrate.

I admit, when I walked away from Think Banned Thoughts, I thought I was walking toward my own restaurant, that was the pie in the sky goal, the dream…

But, you might remember, I am a fan of the Fail Fast philosophy of entrepreneurship and learning.

What I quickly realized was:

1. Restaurant hours SUCK. If you have a family, and you want to see them, working in the restaurant business is probably The Worst Thing you could do next to being a first responder of any sort or joining the military. (I am not bashing anyone who makes those choices or saying they are bad family members, in fact I have mad respect for all of them – it’s just not something I can or want to do.)

2. Cooking for other people is not fun. I mean, sure for some people it is, clearly, there are loads of chefs who love their jobs and love what they do, but… For me and what I was trying to do, it wasn’t fun anymore. Everyone has some sort of issue with food these days. They all want you to make wonderful this and that, but without any actual ingredients because of allergies or ethics or because someone shared a facebook meme that convinced them that food was going to kill them.

3. No one actually wants to pay for food. Again, everyone wants high quality, all organic, GMO free, allergen free deliciousness, but then when you remind them how much that actually costs to purchase and prepare – forget about it.

BUT – all was not lost because I wasn’t just cooking, I was teaching.

And as I taught I remembered that time I started my own cooking school for kids because I wanted to teach them how to cook, and eat, and enjoy real food.

And I remembered the time I got very, very brave and submitted workshop proposals to some writing conferences, and got selected to teach, and did well and got invited back and had SO MUCH FUN!

And I remembered the summer I became a certified sexual health educator because GOD DAMN IT SOMEONE HAS TO TEACH THESE KIDS THE FACTS, and tried to start my own sexual health education camp or lecture circuit or something that would allow me to help educate youth about sex and sexuality and consent.

And then my oldest gave me the quiz at the back of her copy of Divergent by Veronica Roth and determined that I was Erudite – the faction that loaths ignorance and blames it for all of the world’s shortcomings. “If people just knew the facts…”

And then one day after a couple of weeks of teaching the kid’s summer cooking camps and talking with the parent of one of my students to assure her that her son was doing well and was going above and beyond in helping others, especially the younger participants, my manager pulled me aside and said, “You’re really good at this. I love listening to you when you’re teaching kids, and the way that you can switch hats and connect with their parents too is amazing.”

I walked out on cloud 9, and got in my car and drove home and by the time I walked in the front door, I had a new plan.

I was going to figure how to become a teacher. A for real teacher, in a school.

I’d looked into it before and it always looked WAY harder and more complicated than it should be. I already had a degree, it seemed like I should be able to get my teaching certificate in less than 2 years, but everything kept making it look like I needed to start over.

I’d looked into the Teach America program and had even gone so far as to fill out the application before reading the fine print and realizing that I would be stuck teaching in a city far from my kids who were much younger then and who I felt still needed me around more than not.

But now I remembered what all of my dreams had in common – helping kids find their place, helping them feel better and do better and be more prepared for the world we’re creating for them… Giving them the tools they’re going to need and the skills and confidence to use them.

I ambushed my husband’s mom who is herself a retired teacher and told her what I wanted to do and asked her how to make it so.

She told me about a program for people who already had a bachelor’s degree and were ready to change careers. It sounded like something I could pull off. She also told me that I could start subbing even sooner and helped lay out those steps for me.

We went on vacation and the hubs and I talked about my new dream. The kids listened and joined the conversation. I was shocked and surprised by the level of support and encouragement I got from all of them. After all, this is my gazillionth new career since my hubs and I met 15 years ago – and this one requires MAJOR sacrifices on everyone’s part.

“Yes honey, but this is the one we’ve all been waiting for.”

With the support of my husband and kids, our parents and siblings and friends, I put my plan into action.

I inched forward.

I was moving again.

I’ve been subbing for a month now – and I love it. Even the rough days, and there have already been rough days.

I’ve been accepted to the teaching program I applied for and with a little luck, and a windfall of cash (anyone have a spare $20,000 they want to put toward closing the teacher shortage? How about $5 or $100? We are definitely in every penny counts land!) I’ll be a fully licensed (and employed) middle school English and Social Studies teacher in 3 years.

It’s a weird feeling, after running away from this path for so long, to finally be moving toward it. On so many levels it feels like coming home.

A friend recently asked my husband, “What took her so long?” and all we could do was laugh about it. I wish I knew.

That said, there is so much in this field that I want to talk about – so this is the big warm up post. The warning – conversations are coming. Because… part of me does know why this took so long, the same part of me that knows exactly why we have a teacher shortage. And, I’d like to talk about it, I’d like to work on solving it. I’d like to come together, you and me, and all of us and change the world.

I missed you.

Thank you for letting me take some time to find myself again in all the noise.

Thank you for your patience.

Let’s talk.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Unspeakable Things

I finished reading Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution by Laurie Penny aka Penny Red a few days ago but haven’t had time to sit down and go through ALL the sticky tabs and compose a discussion until now.

unspeakable sticky notes

A well stickied book

If you want the quick version, I read this book “out loud” for one of my twitter read-alongs and then storified the results. You can check that out here if you just want the highlights without the analysis.

Also, you can catch me reading “out loud” on twitter most Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-5 pm mountain time.

Okay, so diving in –

Unspeakable Things is a non-fiction book that covers a pretty broad range of social topics, all centered on feminist philosophy.

“Feminism is a process. Call yourself what you like. The important thing is what you fight for. Begin it now.”

I’m going to highlight just a couple of the topics covered in this book that really resonated with me.

The first is our idea of “Equal pay for equal work” and how very broken that conversation has ALWAYS been.

“Women are more likely than men to perform labor that is socially necessary but low waged or unwaged.” And thus, women are also “more likely to need public services and welfare.”

Laurie Penny talks about this idea that we have of women getting paid less than men because we “need” flexible schedules, or because we reduce our hours to care for kids and take care of the home – and challenges us to flip that around and start talking about all that socially necessary free labor that so often falls on women’s shoulders. If we’re serious about equal pay for equal work, then we need to make sure that women are getting paid in some way for that second, and sometimes third, shift that they work.

This of course leads to questions about, “what work should be paid, and what is simply part of love and duty…” Because it turns out that the reason so much of the work that women do is unpaid or underpaid is because, “we think of it as ‘love’, as a moral expression of feeling rather than a practical task of immense and tangible value.”

This covers things like raising children, cooking meals, cleaning the house, washing the laundry – all those supportive care taking jobs that often fall to women by default and are part of the old, and outdated story that, “Men, in other words, are good at doing, making, building things; women are good at making life easier for men.”

Laurie Penny comes around to this idea again later in the book. She talks about the broken (middle and upper class) pact that the wage system once rested on, “whereby men were obliged to seek paid employment to support women’s unpaid work, and the labor of both would be sealed in a system of sexual bargaining.”

And as for the many women who are trying to raise a family on their own – forget about it.

“The millions of women raising children without a co-parent are spoken of in the same terms as beggars and thieves: they are a drain on the state, the scourge of hardworking taxpayers who must forfeit the proceeds of ‘real’ work to pay for the maintenance of these ‘broken homes.’

Laurie Penny reminds us, “In the United States, there is no male equivalent for the term ‘welfare queen’. Having a child alone and asking for support with raising that child – from her community, her family or the state – is considered uniquely selfish.”

And yet, we know that it is cheaper to educate a child, to feed a child, to clothe and house a child than it is to let them slip through the cracks into our bloated “justice” system. We know that we ALL benefit from having a generation of educated, intelligent, secure kids coming up behind us to keep the economy running, to pay into our social security, to have the skills and the know-how to take care of us in our old age…

But the idea of paying a parent to stay home and do the hard work of raising competent citizens – FUCK NO! Damn welfare queens should have kept their legs shut until they could afford to have a child.

And when we talk of raising the minimum wage so that all workers can afford to support their families without help from the state – FUCK NO! If they wanted to get paid enough to survive they should have gone to college (which we also won’t pay for, and which they can’t get into because they came from the wrong neighborhood and the wrong schools and had to drop out to get a job to help their family, or because they got pregnant because birth control wasn’t available and the nearest abortion clinic was 500 miles away or…)

And when we talk about making it easier for both men and women to work flexible schedules, or to increase spending for quality pre-schools, day cares and to expand the school year so that people don’t have to make a false “choice” between having a career or raising children – again, we hear a resounding FUCK NO!

There is no help coming. The village that used to raise a child has decided that children are now an individual choice and thus an individual burden.

“Of all the female sins, hunger is the least forgivable; hunger for anything, for food, sex, power, education, even love.”

So we won’t help them, but when they fail, it is all their fault for not trying hard enough. And when they complain about wanting equal pay for equal work, we refuse to acknowledge or even see how much free work they’ve been doing all along, because that isn’t real work, that’s just what women are supposed to do.

As Laurie Penny writes, “The best way to stop girls achieving anything is to force them to achieve everything.” or, later on, “Little girls, though, only ever get two choices: We can be the princess or we can be the witch. And everybody knows what happens to women who do their own magic.

witch burning

She’s a witch!

The second topic Laurie Penny takes up is the Lost Boys of modern masculinity, the other side of this broken pact.

Laurie Penny looks at men and what shifting expectations have done to their world view, and the contradictions that they are forced to try to navigate – the many, many broken promises that were made and that they are struggling to piece together.

Men have been told that they are living in “a brave new world of economic and sexual opportunity.” But really, where is the power that today’s young men were promised? Where is the privilege everyone keeps telling them have?

Our men are raised to expect dignified work that leads to financial security, but after years of recession and increased worker exploitation by employers, that dream is harder and harder to achieve.

Working hard is no longer enough.

These dashed dreams are what seem to be fueling so much of the male frustration and rage that we see enacted on the nightly news. “Violence happens when people are frightened that somebody’s about to take away their power.”

Laurie Penny reminds us here that the culprit is, and always was, patriarchy. And she reminds us that “Patriarchy does not mean ‘the rule of men’. It means ‘the rule of fathers’ – literally, the rule of powerful heads of household over everybody else in society. Men further down the social chain were expected to be content with having power over women in order to make up for their lack of control over the rest of their lives.”

She goes on to remind us that under patriarchy, “Most individual men don’t have a lot of power, and now the small amount of social and sexual superiority they held over women is being questioned. That must sting.”

But men are not allowed to talk about their gender and how if affects them. Instead modern masculinity seems to work much like Fight Club, “in that the first rule of Man Club is you do not talk about Man Club.”

Laurie Penny posits that modern masculinity is working exactly as designed by, “keeping men, particularly young men, in a state of anxious desperation, lonely and isolated, unable to express their true feelings or live the lives they really want, taking out their social and sexual frustration on women rather than understanding it as a systematic effect of elitism inequality.”

Which is to say, modern masculinity functions by never allowing men to question it, and telling them to instead blame their discomfort and insecurity on those uppity feminists trying to usurp their place in the pecking order, rather than examining the systematic forces of patriarchal oppression that hold us ALL back.

Modern masculinity squeezes men into a narrow bottleneck that no one is equipped to fit through, leaving the average man unable to express their desire to be taken care of, to be cuddled, to cry, to do creative work that will not make money, to be a full-time parent, to have their vulnerabilities acknowledged, to go into care taking as a profession, to play with makeup or clothing, to have women as friends… To want deep and lasting social change.

But here’s the “last great secret of the supposed ‘golden age of masculinity’ that’s been destroyed by feminism: it never really existed in the first place… there have always been men who would not or could not conform.” There has never been only one way of “being a man.”

Laurie Penny encourages us to be compassionate toward the men who are struggling to find their place in this bold new world where masculinity feels at once more constrictive than ever, while simultaneously being ever more open for those brave enough to challenge the old guard.

Part of the challenge is that, “Men grow up expecting to be the hero of their own story. Women grow up expecting to be the supporting actress in somebody else’s.”

But more and more women are demanding the space to be their own heroes, and many are even *gasp* asking men to step up and be their supporting cast. There are few acceptable role models for this – there is no available script for men to take that kind of role.

“Of course it’s going to hurt. But then, it hurts already.” Change is hard, and scary, and we all need help navigating our way through it.

“Social change happens when the old stories we tell ourselves to survive are no longer sufficient, and we create new ones.”

Story time

Laurie Penny talks a lot about “adjustment disorder” (An actual new diagnosis!) which rests on the idea that unhappiness cannot possibly be the fault of the system, it is our fault for failing to adjust to the straightjacket of society’s gender expectations.

“We were taught, all of us, that if we were dissatisfied, it was our fault, or the fault of those closest to us. We were built wrong somehow. We had failed to adjust. If we showed any sort of distress, we probably needed to be medicated or incarcerated, depending on our social status.”

If we are unhappy, there are drugs and therapy – anything to avoid talking about justice.

But the truth is, we are not broken – the system is. But we can only change it if we are willing to examine it, and our role in it and then do the hard, painful work of challenging it at every turn.

There are additional insightful chapters on sex, sexuality and sexism that I ran out of words for.

I appreciated Laurie Penny’s efforts to discuss the ways the current system hurts people of all genders. (I didn’t dive into that part of the discussion, but she talks a lot about the ways gender-non-conforming people are especially damaged by the current arrangement, but also how they are the vanguard of change because they are the ones pushing the hardest to open the doors of equality open ever wider.) I thought she did a good job of bringing in more perspectives and points of view than her own and widening the lens to help us all see beyond our own limited experience.

Laurie Penny encourages us to be suspicious of any program that seeks to restrict freedom in order to protect us. “It’s for your own good.” are words that should send a shudder of rebellion through us all.

In her final battle cry, Laurie Penny reminds us that in a system this broken, there are no rewards for good behavior. “The world doesn’t need another handbook for how to submit with dignity to a world that wants you to hate yourself.”

unspeakable things

You are not broken.

If you’re tired of being told that you’re the problem, and you’d like someone to pick you up, dust you off and prepare you for revolution, Unspeakable Things is a good place to start.

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Medicine vs health care

I have a cold and my head is doing that underwater whomp-whomp pulsing thing and every sound feels like someone driving an icepick into my ears, like typing right now is excruciating and I really should just go downstairs and hide in the dark and the quiet with my book and my sticky tabs, but…

An interesting conversation started (on twitter, where else?) and then my one in particular picked up a different thread of it here at home and now it’s all swirling with this other post I’ve been meaning to write. So, here in my virus addled state, I’d like to dive in, because why not.

I want to talk about Western Medicine and how it is NOT health care, and how if we want health care we need to a. change the conversation and b. change the way we do pretty much everything that we consider “health care” now, but which is really medicine.

Disclaimer – This piece is going to read like I am doctor bashing – I want to make it clear that I think most doctors WANT to help their patients, they want to help them to have healthy lives. However, the medical system we have created in America doesn’t have room for doctors to practice health, only to practice medicine and the two are VERY different. So please, understand I am not attacking individual doctors, I am attacking a broken system that incentivizes and rewards the wrong things.

This does NOT mean "Intervene at all cost!"

This does NOT mean “Intervene at all cost!”

Okay, quick history lesson – WAY back in the day, in China, people used to pay their physicians every month – but ONLY if they were healthy. When you got sick, you stopped paying. This created a culture where doctors were invested in keeping people healthy, because that was how they made money. It also created a culture where once people were sick, doctors were incentivized to make them healthy again so they could go back to earning. Doctors did not profit from illness or hardship, they profited from wellness and health.

Here in America not only do doctors not profit from wellness, they also don’t profit from many of the things that promote wellness and long-term health. They are incentivized to look for, find, and treat illness – not to actually improve health.

The conversation that started this morning was about how this woman used to be morbidly obese, and how when she thinks about those days and remembers what she ate compared to now, it’s like night and day. Now she drinks a glass of water every morning before anything else goes inside her. Her house is filled with fresh fruits and veggies. She cooks her own meals from real ingredients most days.

She is no longer obese or even overweight. Her skin condition has cleared up, her hair is healthy – She is healthy.

Her doctors did not do this for her. They did not recommend this course of action. I mean, yeah, sort of, they told her to lose weight and exercise, but they didn’t say – drink water, eat fruit and vegetables, go outside. They did not prescribe a healthy lifestyle.

What the doctors did was perform weight loss surgery, which ultimately would have failed if this woman hadn’t been invested in making these lifestyle changes and committing to living a healthier life on her own. There was no “physical therapy” or “food therapy” or mental health consideration in her post-surgery plan. The doctors simply took her money (or her insurer’s), did the surgery and sat back. Their job was done. What she did next didn’t concern them because they were not paid to follow-up, to create a nutrition plan, to develop an exercise routine… They were not invested in creating health because that is not what pays their bills.

This woman was lucky that she was able to make those lifestyle changes – not everyone is able to afford to switch from a processed food diet to a real food diet. Real food is expensive in this country, and it takes time to cook meals at home. Time and money are both precious commodities these days as the middle class shrinks and slides ever closer to poverty and the minimum wage refuses to budge toward a living wage, forcing people to work multiple jobs for inadequate returns.

But “health” insurance doesn’t cover vegetables. It doesn’t cover fruit. Or gym memberships, or the purchase of a bicycle so you can ditch your car and exercise your way to work. “Health” insurance covers medicine, surgery, intervention. It covers the things that Chinese physicians used to have to do for free to return their patients to health, those last-ditch efforts – not the first line prevention. And this is because health insurance used to be “Oh-shit” insurance. Insurance is supposed to be for when things go wrong, which is supposed to be rare. But for that to work, we need health care that focuses on health, not medicine.

There are a lot of things health insurance doesn’t cover, but the most important thing it doesn’t cover is a conversation with your physician. As a result, more and more physicians are being told to reduce the time they spend with patients.

We see the results of this in everything from my friend whose young daughter was just diagnosed with diabetes and who had to go home and learn what that meant and how to care for her child beyond the daily insulin checks and shots – She had to learn on her own how to cook for her child, what snacks were okay and what snacks were dangerous… Because that is not the doctor’s job. His job was to deliver the diagnosis and write the prescription for insulin. Educating my friend on how to keep her daughter healthy is outside his purview.

We see it in the three trips I had to make to the doctor to diagnose a skin condition on one of my kids because the doctor didn’t actually look at her skin the first two times!

We see it in my other friend whose son was diagnosed as learning disabled when actually he just had an ear infection that made it hard for him to hear, and therefore hard to learn to speak – when all the doctor had to do was look in his freaking ears!

My one in particular picked up the failures of Western Medicine in a completely different place – the recent resurgence of heroin use in our country.

Apparently this resurgence has come about as a result of the over-prescribing of opiates combined with a distinct lack of a plan for how to ween patients off of them when they no longer need them, combined with the fact that many patients are being given what amounts to life-long prescriptions of these powerful “habit-forming” (read addictive as fuck) drugs, combined with the fact that street heroin is CHEAPER than prescription opiates!

So, what is the solution?

Well if the goal is to create improved health as opposed to simply treating pain, then I can think of a few – first, if someone has chronic pain that will last them the rest of their life and the goal is to manage the pain without reducing health, why not look into less addictive treatment options?

Lets start with massage which can greatly reduce all kinds of chronic pain. Acupressure & acupuncture have also been shown to be highly effective and less harmful treatments for chronic pain than prescription opiates, but these are not covered by most insurance plans and are not considered/prescribed by most doctors. (Thanks to Veronica below for reminding me to include these options! Stupid cold.)

If those low risk interventions fail to help the problem, Cannabis has been shown to be incredibly effective for many types of pain and is non-addictive in its natural form. (Don’t get me started on the shit-show that is synthetic cannabis.) But for doctors to be able to use that, we’d have to get the federal government to change its classification, we’d have to start allowing more research to be conducted into the medical benefits of this drug, and we’d have to go back and dig up all the previous research that got buried in the height of a racially charged fear campaign against this plant.

Second, for patients who are not using these drugs forever, doctors should be creating plans to help patients wean themselves off these potent and addictive drugs once they no longer need them. They should not be cutting them off cold-turkey. And this plan should be discussed in advance with the patient.

We talk about a patient’s right to know, but when it comes to these drugs, it’s up to us to read the warning label. NO – doctors need to sit down with their patients and tell them about the risks of these drugs and create a plan to mitigate those risks. It should not be up to the consumer. The doctor should not be off the hook as soon as his or her pen leaves the prescription pad. (And no, I’m not advocating for more malpractice lawsuits, I’m talking about returning to a time when doctors had a relationship with their patients.)

Last, prescription drug prices should be regulated and reduced. Before anyone screams “But capitalism!” at me – most of the funding for new drugs comes from government grants anyway, so once again we are socializing the cost and privatizing the rewards. Let’s stop that.

These are just two tiny examples of places where medicine trumps health in our culture. There are a bazillion more.

We could talk about the medicalization (not a word, I know, roll with me, I’m sick) of pregnancy and the resulting insanely high rates of cesarean sections in the USA compared to other countries and how in other countries healthy pregnant women who do not require intervention have midwives or nurse midwives as their primary attendants which reduces cost AND improves outcomes!

We could talk about how many kids are being given high potency ADD and ADHD drugs rather than a prescription for better nutrition and increased exercise. I’m not saying that some kids don’t benefit from those treatments, I just don’t think they should be the first option.

We could talk about the number of doctors prescribing antibiotics for viral infections, even though they know better – but their patients have gotten so accustomed to getting some sort of medicine that doctors no longer feel like they can say, “go home, drink herbal tea with honey, eat some chicken soup, watch bad TV, rest.” First, that takes too long and doctors aren’t paid to consult, and second prescribing health doesn’t pay, prescribing drugs does.

We could talk about diet pills and mood pills and the number of unnecessary and often invasive procedures done on patients who do not need them.

We could talk about the ways doctors are trained to look for ailments to treat rather than look for health to boost.

We could talk about the increase in allergies, both food allergies and other allergies and what that means and where that is coming from and how we are treating the symptoms rather than the causes…

We could talk for DAYS about end of life care that promotes quantity of breaths over quality of life.

Pick any area of “health” and you’ll soon see that it has become an area of medicine, often at the direct detriment of actual well-being.

Doctors get paid per action – per prescription, intervention, surgery, shot… They do not get paid to sit down and talk about what is happening in their patient’s life that might be causing poor health. They are not paid to talk about diet and nutrition and exercise and stress and work and all the other things that feed into who we are and how healthy, or unhealthy, we are. They are not paid to promote or create health – they are paid to treat illness, disease, pain and trauma.

And… Even if they were – out here in the real world, outside their offices, there is little to no support for people who try to make that shift on their own. It’s not like fruit and veggies cost less for people on food stamps. Whole grain bread isn’t cheaper than white bread. There’s no system in place to help someone who is already struggling just to eat make the leap to eating well. And I don’t know about the rest of you, but every time I take out my calendars and start color coding my days I find that I have way more things to do than time to them. Imagine if I was working two jobs while raising children without a partner – where in the world would I possibly find the time to exercise or cook from scratch? And how would I learn how to cook? There is no support for that. No one is stepping in or stepping up to help people balance their life better, because that costs money and we’re all broke.

So, we need to change the conversation. We need to acknowledge that when we’re talking about medicine, we aren’t talking about health. And health is where it starts – with reducing stress, with increasing nutrition, with making sure that EVERYONE has time to go outside and take a walk (and that they can do so relatively safely).

We need to make sure that doctors have follow-up plans with their patients after procedures and after prescribing drugs. I keep hearing that homeopathy and naturopathy don’t have the backing of science because in blind trials those treatments are no more effective than placebos – and yet in study after study in the real world, they actually do work. Why? Science says it’s because those practitioners SPEND TIME with their patients, they talk, they create wellness plans, they do the work to promote and create actual health rather than just treating ailments and allowing their patients to resume poor habits that create bad health again in an endless (but highly lucrative) cycle.

If we want better health outcomes, we need to smash this broken system all the way down to the ground and rebuild it from scratch, centering actual health and wellness (including helping all people access healthy food and active lifestyles) and pushing medicine back to the fringes of last resort where it belongs.

 

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Remembering the cost of war

This post has been building for a while, but as we creep into our third middle-eastern war, I mean conflict, I mean police action, I mean… bombing the shit out of another nation or two… it seemed like a really good moment to stop and reflect.

It probably doesn’t hurt that I picked up yet another novel about World War II last night (This has been the year of WWII novels for me. There is a lot to be learned there…) and was reminded about The Way Things Were.

So, let’s take a minute and talk about war – and the cost of war – and the potential benefits of war – and the way we used to balance these things versus the way we appear to be balancing them now – and then, let’s see if we can’t all get together to riot in the streets a little bit…

As I was starting this new novel last night I suddenly realized that my country, our country, has been at war longer than I have been married! And that’s a really long time, like a third of my life long! My children have never lived in a nation that wasn’t at war.

Never, not for one single breath of their lives!

And yet… Most days for most people in the USA, it’s really hard to remember that.

As my friend noted this morning when she woke up to my late night twitter rant on this subject, if you’re not part of the 1% that is fighting these wars, there really isn’t anything being asked of you. There are no reminders. There is no sacrifice.

We still aren’t being shown images of caskets coming home. We aren’t having our goods rationed. Our taxes haven’t gone up to pay for these wars. Uncle Sam isn’t asking us to buy war bonds, or drafting soldiers or even asking anyone to enlist. He’s just stop-lossing the people already enlisted and recruiting people with “prison or war” deals.

America has been at war in two nations for over a decade and the majority of our citizens haven’t been asked to sacrifice a single thing.

Or… have we?

Because while there aren’t any fuel lines at the pumps, and no one is being asked to grow victory gardens, the money for these wars IS coming from somewhere.

In World War II, the conservative congress agreed that the war had to be paid for and they agreed that in order to pay for it, they would have to increase federal revenue – that meant taxes. LOTS of taxes! The top marginal tax rates were 81-94%. Yeah, you read that right. And yet, World War II is often credited with pulling us out of the Great Depression – because with all that money, the government created jobs. We manufactured airplanes and bombs and parachutes and uniforms and guns and everything else our soldiers needed for war.

Soldiers come first in war time.

Soldiers come first in war time.

Meanwhile, not only were tax rates increased, but the minimum income for having to pay them was lowered meaning that more people than ever before were required to pay federal income taxes. So everyone felt the squeeze.

But that wasn’t all.

Production of durable non-war goods like cars, vacuum cleaners, home appliances, etc. were all stopped until the war ended.

And then the rationing of goods – like tires, food, and gasoline. Families were given 3 gallons of gas per week. That’s it. That’s all. So… No driving ya’ll. And as for the food rationing – the soldiers got first dibs on food, so families were asked to grow “victory gardens” to supplement their rations. Neighborhood gardens popped up, not because it was trendy or because fresh veggies were for food-snobs, but because without them people wouldn’t eat. Of course, it wasn’t sold that way.

Are you doing your part to help the war effort?

Are you doing your part to help the war effort?

In World War II, everyone was required to pitch in to the war effort, it was considered unpatriotic to engage in certain frivolous activities and leisure spending. We were at war, and everyone was expected to participate in whatever capacity they could. As part of that, people were asked to save money, preferably by buying war bonds which fueled the government and then, when the war was over, provided a nice savings windfall that helped truly rebuild the American economy as everyone rushed out to buy new housing, new cars, new clothes and other consumer goods.

Yes, there was A LOT of propaganda fueling WWII, but there had to be, because they had to pay for the war, they had to convince the American people that war was worth sacrificing for, because EVERYONE was expected to sacrifice.

Fast forward to the Vietnam war. For people of my generation, we think of the war and we think of protests and hippies and counter-culture. Even my father-in-law who is a Vietnam veteran returned home from the war and joined the protests. My uncle served in the war at the same time his family helped deserters and draft dodgers escape to Canada, because while they respected my uncle’s “choice” to join the war effort my grandparents were both veterans themselves who knew that war is Hell and did not believe anyone should be forced into it.

My parents’ generation talks about the lines at the gas station that would stretch for miles and take hours to get through. They talk about bread lines and canned goods lines and grocery stores simply running out of food. During the Vietnam war, as in WWII, many factories that produced consumer goods were retooled to produce military goods to support the war. This created a drop in consumer spending which, combined with increased war spending not balanced by increased tax revenue created huge deficits and a national budget crisis and economic slump. Times got tougher for everyone.

WheatlessKitchen

One of the biggest war costs we hear about is the draft because the Vietnam War wasn’t seen as a “good” war by so many, or at the very least, it wasn’t our war. It wasn’t something that had anything to do with us or that we needed to fight and kill and die and sacrifice for. The draft was no longer seen as a patriotic duty to submit to, but a government intrusion to be railed against.

The draft was one of the biggest symbolic “costs” of the war. It was one of the big reasons people protested. And those protests are one of the big reasons America did away with the draft. It’s harder to rail against a war when the people fighting volunteered.

But… Have the people fighting our wars volunteered?

My uncle fought in Vietnam. He served for two deployments (which is less than many of our soldiers are serving now). He wasn’t drafted, but he didn’t exactly volunteer either. He was arrested for some misdemeanor drunk and disorderly type of offense and given a choice between jail time and a permanent record or one deployment overseas to fight in Vietnam. He chose a clean record, VA health care and the promise of a VA loan for a house and school when he came back.

He got the clean record, the rest of the promises never quite materialized, despite serving for an extra deployment beyond his plea deal.

Fast-forward to present-day.

We don’t have the draft anymore. Nothing to protest or get upset about there.

We want to think of our all volunteer military as the best and brightest and most patriotic – and certainly those soldiers exist. But many more enlistees join up out of desperation – they see the military as their ticket out of now-where-ville, or a way to escape a bad family, or a way to avoid jail time. We lure them in with promises of decent pay, free health care for life, housing loans, student loans, debt forgiveness, job training and placement… But after two wars stretching over a decade, that have gone largely unpaid for, the money isn’t really there to deliver on those promises.

We don’t have rationing, price fixing, wage fixing, tax hikes, or war bonds.

rationing_points_article

The gas prices at the pump might be a little high, but they are still lower than everywhere else in the world – and we are allowed to purchase as much as we want. There are no shortages, no lines, no riots. My grocery store is fully stocked day after day. This February, I’ll still be able to buy fresh strawberries if I want to. And guava. And avocados. And tomatoes. And… And that’s in the dead of winter after a decade of continuous war. I don’t have to stand in line to get a ration card to buy bread, or rice, or pasta, or canned goods. I can still buy clothes. New cars are still being made for consumer use. And new washing machines and vacuums and dishwashers and ATVs and leaf blowers and lawn mowers and… No one in my family has been drafted for the war efforts or recruited to work in factories or on farms to produce goods for the soldiers or the war effort in general.

Speed limits haven’t been dropped to increase fuel efficiency, we don’t have curfews on lighting to save energy – in fact any efforts to encourage or require people to conserve energy is met with shouts of “impeach the commie pinko socialist!” perhaps because the requests are being made in the name of global climate change science instead of patriotic war mongering? (Even though we are at least partially fighting over oil ie; energy… and conserving here would make war less necessary over there…)

My taxes haven’t gone up, Uncle Sam isn’t shouting at me to buy war bonds or support the war effort. In fact, Uncle Sam has been awfully quiet about these wars almost from the get-go, as if he’d rather we forgot we were in them at all…

I look around my house at all the waste – at the truly ridiculous and frivolous amount of stuff that fills every nook and cranny and then I think about a decade of war, I think about the nearly 14,000 American lives lost (roughly 7,000 soldiers and 7,000 contractors) and the 875,000 Americans disabled by their service in these wars, the 200,000 Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani civilians killed, the 3,000,000 Iraqi refugees this war has created, the THREE TRILLION dollars already spent on these wars, and the trillion more that is obligated for veteran care – and I wonder… If it isn’t coming from me, from us, where is it coming from?

How are these wars being paid for?

And then I remember… The federal budget cuts for schools and cuts in the safety nets and cuts to entitlement programs and shrieking over deficit spending that can only be solved by eliminating every pathway of hope that poor people in America have for a better life outside of joining the military.

And I remember the cuts to the VA programs and the news that our soldiers are going off to war without proper boots or armor or equipment and that their pay is barely above a poverty wage and I realize that none of those trillions of dollars actually went to people, to our soldiers.

And I realize WE ARE PAYING for these wars, we’re just paying in ways that we don’t see. We don’t see the connection between cuts to federal service programs and an ever increasing pentagon budget. We don’t see the connection between the insistence that entitlement spending is out of control and the truth that WE HAVE BEEN AT WAR FOR OVER A DECADE WITHOUT RAISING TAXES. We don’t see the connection between a decade of war and our crumbling roads and bridges and the continued blocking of a federal jobs program that would put people back to work, including the veterans coming home from war desperate for a job that pays a living wage. Because government doesn’t create jobs, at least not without raising taxes, which we won’t do, even to pay for a four trillion dollar war.

So we pay in other ways.

We pay in services, we pay in security, we pay in lost opportunities for growth…

The only way to pay for a decade of war without raising taxes is to steal that money from somewhere else and convince the people that war is free, or better yet, that war will save us money – war will keep our goods cheap, our gas prices low, our refrigerators stocked… War isn’t the problem, programs that help people, they’re the problem. They’re what’s bankrupting the economy.

But history shows us that even in times of war – programs that help people – HELP PEOPLE and help the country grow. And history shows us that wars are expensive and have to be paid for. Look at the difference between WWII and the Vietnam war – one was paid for and pulled our country out of the Great Depression, the other was put on credit and plunged our economy into a deep recession. Granted, the Vietnam war was a hard sell based on lies and fear mongering, so maybe we shouldn’t have gone in to begin with. Sound familiar?

So… If you’d like to have schools and roads and bridges and job training and health care and safety nets (a large percentage of military families – both active duty and retired – rely on food stamps and other social wellfare programs.) and retirement… Start fighting to pay taxes, start fighting to figure out how to pay for these wars in honest ways – or end them.

We can’t have it all, we can’t use tax cuts to fund war, and we can’t balance a growing war budget without increasing revenue.

It’s easy to forget that we’re at war, they’ve removed the cost from our daily lives, sheltered us from the grim realities, convinced us that the real problem is all those service programs that help keep people out of poverty… But we’re about to start a third war. That money has to come from somewhere. The boots on the ground have to come from somewhere. If you’re not willing to pay, to contribute, to sacrifice some of your comforts to the war effort – then you better get your butt to the streets and start marching, because the war drums are beating.

I’ll be there with my food not bombs sign.

it will be a great day

 

 

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Surviving February

It’s been a month!

An actual whole month since I’ve posted here.

I was originally going to just flat-out blame February – but it’s not really February’s fault.

I like to joke that February is universally THE WORST month. And that it’s a good thing it’s short or we’d all turn into homicidal rage machines.

But the truth is – February is just a month like every other month – doing its job, ticking off the days and trying to get us closer to where ever we’re going.

February does one other thing really well though. At least for me.

It reminds me to focus on the important things – the things that make me smile, the things that make me laugh, the things that help me not become a homicidal rage machine.

She Hulk Smash

“Let’s burn February to the ground!”

Yes, in February, I get a little Hulk like. And, during that month it turns out that Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is right – the secret is that I’m ALWAYS angry. But…

It’s all in how you look at it, isn’t it.

That’s the secret to keeping “The Other Guy” in check, at bay, in his fleshy cave.

You can wake up every morning and think “UGH, why bother, it’s February!” (Which I did choose to do a couple of days, just for the feel of it. Sometimes it’s good to wallow in UGH!) OR – you can wake up and focus on all the amazing stuff that is happening and that is coming and that you want to do, can do, are doing and all the amazing people who are part of it. (Which I also chose to do a few days – and those are the days that saved me.)

It turns out, even in the midst of THE WORST month, there is so much good to focus on, you could for all intents and purposes, never be sad, upset, frustrated or go HULK at all.

Things like a friend FINALLY getting the book deal we’ve all been waiting for! Things like my new business getting its first clients and learning so much so fast and pulling it off with a last minute hail Mary pass from my husband and partner. Like learning how to make my own delicious ketchup from scratch! Things like spending time with great friends and amazing family.

Last night I had dinner with an old friend who I haven’t seen since middle school. It was one of those rare amazing nights where you have no idea what to expect, because all you have to go on is an outdated idea of who this person is – your brain and heart keep telling you that you should know what to expect, you know this person, but… then again, they’ve changed and grown and who knows who they are now.

Except, in this instance – he was still exactly himself.

After that first initial slightly awkward hug, everything was… smooth.

We talked, laughed, the kids showed off, we talked some more, we got deep and philosophical and kept coming back around to, “Yeah, but if you look at it through this lens…”

Fresh look

Fresh Lens

We talked about how coming face to face with your own mortality is so liberating. It reminds you that you HAVE TO live every day to its fullest, that we really don’t have time to half ass it. We talked about how much we love doing what we love – and how totally hard it is to do in a culture that would really like us to just get a job and punch in, punch out and go home to our big screen TVs, but how totally worth it it is to keep pushing the boulder up the hill, because with that one small act we are creating the world as we want it to be – a world that has room for artists, a world that values risk takers, a world that relies less on drones and more on scouts…

I spent February oscillating between, “Who do I have to kill to get this month over with?” and “Oh my goodness – this is the BEST. LIFE. EVER! And look at all these AMAZING people I am privileged to share it with.” It was very schizophrenic and crazy making (especially, I think, for the people around me.) But… It was a matter of perspective. The days that “sucked” – didn’t suck. That amazing life I have, and those amazing people I share it with – they were all still right there. I was just looking through the “February sucks” lens and choosing not to see them.

Why? Some of it was definitely habit. This year I realized just how entrenched and habitual my disdain for February is – but that also helped me see how completely undeserving of my wrath February is – how innocent February is. I mean yes, the weather is NUTS in February. It’s cold and bitter and grey and yuck – EXCEPT… on the days when the sun comes out, or we get the first rain of the year. And those cold, grey days – it turns out they were PERFECT for cooking and reading and cooking. Things I LOVE doing, and things I feel guilty doing on really nice sunny days. So really, you’d think February would be my favorite month.

So this year – though I joked, loud and long and often (and sometimes moaned and whined and griped) about February and it’s epic suckage – the real lesson I learned was that… February only sucks on the days I let it.

Life only sucks on the days I let it.

And… I think I’m done letting it.

This year, I want to focus on the things that make me smile. The things that make me laugh. The things that are really important. I want to work on creating THAT world – the world where happiness is expected and sought after and cherished.

A world where the days are punctuated with shouts of “Yatta!

yatta

“Yatta! I did it!”

A world filled with moments of joy and laughter and excitement and even the moments of tragedy can be put into the bigger puzzle and be seen as moments that helped bring us closer to ourselves and the people we love.

A world without all the useless shock and awe and outrage over things I can’t control – and more acceptance and love for the world as it is – February included.

Yatta!

 

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