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Our National Shame

Today I watched the chilling dash cam video of the Philandro Castile shooting.   I will be haunted for a long time by the image of his girlfriend’s young daughter slowly emerging from that car after seeing Philandro shot 7 times.  He was shot as he reached into his pocket to retrieve his driver’s license, per the police officer’s request.  While he was en route to the hospital, where he would die of his injuries; his girlfriend was (unbelievably) put into handcuffs and held in the back of a squad car.

Last week the jury acquitted the police officer, just as juries have acquitted a long sequence of police officers  for killing black men  and women.  But, This happened in Minnesota, not Missouri or Alabama. Minnesota for god’s sake.  It makes me ashamed.

Black. Lives. Matter.  As a white woman, I hesitate to co-opt that phrase; but I do so respectfully, to make the point that we are all diminished when men like Philandro Castile are executed for what appears to be ‘the crime’ of being black in America.  The history of race in America is incredibly complex–but there can be no doubt that implicit bias is alive and well in every state of the union, not ‘just’ the south.

Black and brown mothers and fathers all over American face the challenge of sitting their children down to have THE talk; a talk I didn’t need to have with MY children; THE talk about being deferential to the police at all times–how to speak (politely) and how to move (slowly); knowing the likelihood of a brown or black child being stopped and questioned is much higher than that of their white friends; and knowing that sometimes, even if their child does nothing wrong, the result can still be tragic.

Racism in America is one of our greatest national shames, manifesting itself in large and small ways in the pattern of our lives.  I see it at work, with a striking imbalance between the demographics of our technical teams and the all-white faces at the leadership level.  My home state of Wisconsin has one of the biggest (if not the biggest) gaps in high school graduation between black and white students.

In her excellent book, The New Jim Crow,  Michelle Alexander demonstrates that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. This effectively strips the right to vote from a large percentage of African Americans, who have been convicted of even minor drug charges.

I had hoped that having a black president for 8 years would have made a difference, but I was naive. Our current administration is a backlash –from those who felt threatened and disenfranchised by that very hope.  Make America Great Again is a thinly veiled slogan for white supremacy, contributing to a culture of white entitlement and acceptance of violence against minorities.

America cannot be truly great unless and until we address the blight of racism.

Lordy, I hope there are tapes

We are living in surreal times, where truth is treated as a variable and negotiable commodity. The D is unable to distinguish between what he believes (and wishes) to be true, and what is factually and historically accurate.  Unfortunately, his version of the truth is given credence by the gravitas of his position,  and by sheer hubris.  Our communication landscape is shifting:  He that dominates the conversation tends to be most effective, regardless of logic or facts.

I recently read an excellent  VOX Post that posits that the problem is NOT that Trump is lying (although he is); but that he is crowding out the truth by dominating and driving the conversation.   The article explains that liars try to replace the truth, which is hard; whereas bullshitters have the easier task of drawing so much attention to themselves that the truth becomes a backstory.  The media is forced to focus on the bullshit, and the truth is drowned out.  

This rings true, and is dismaying for those of us that grew up with a certain sense of fairness and justice– that working hard, doing your homework and being ‘right’ matters.  Today, the bullies are in control , and we  seem to have shifted to a new level of intellectual laziness from which we may never recover.  We hear and heed the loudest  and most belligerent voices: voices that drown out those of the more well-informed nerds, scientists and rule-followers, who have done their homework and anchor their arguments to facts.

This shift of attention from facts to belligerent bullshit is particularly detrimental  and disenfranchising to women.  It is virtually impossible for a woman to be assertive, let alone dominate a conversation, without being shut down and/or tagged with any one of the many derogatory labels we have for strong women (relatively kind examples are ‘bossy’, ‘nasty’ or ‘unlikable’).   Nevertheless, we persist.

Most schools have a no-tolerance approach to bullying, but those policies aren’t effective if the principal is the biggest bully on campus.  It begs the question: How do we wrestle the microphone away from the bully-in-chief?

Even if the White House DOES turn over tapes of The D’s conversations in the Oval Office; and even if those tapes paint him as a huge liar – will it matter?  Lordy, I hope so. 

A New Venture

A few months ago I wrote that we have an empty nest.  Having a 16.5 year gap between my oldest and youngest child has resulted in a longer-than-usual child rearing time-frame.  Daughter #2, aka Guzzy, moved out last October, and has not (yet) returned.

So – we did the logical thing, and rented out her room.  We dipped our toes slowly into the AirBnB waters… and now we regularly host a variety of guests who temporarily share our rustic (with A/C and other amenities) log home in the woods.   There is a young couple ‘napping’ (or whatever) in the room even as I write this.

It has been really interesting.  In the few months since we’ve been renting the room, we’ve hosted people from many states and countries of various races and multiple generations.  This experience has turned our home into a mini melting pot.

A few weeks ago we hosted a charming young man and his mom, on her very first visit to the States from China,  to see him graduate from the UW.  She spoke no English, yet her pride was obvious and it was endearing to see the young man dote on his mom.

Early one Saturday morning, we had a young and adorable Asian couple in residence.  After returning from taking Cleo from a walk, I heard a surprised squeal from the bedroom–the cause of which was immediately apparent.  Cleo had interpreted the sightly ajar bedroom door as an invitation to go in and ‘nose’ the young woman awake.  I sheepishly retrieved our overly friendly hound and shut their door firmly behind me.    Most of our guests really enjoy Cleo–but this couple did not appreciate her early wake-up call.

Another interesting couple spent several days with us exploring the area.  They live continents apart from each other;  but they regularly meet up at various locations in the US to explore together.   He was a talker!   We’ve had a model stay with us while she had a photo shoot in town (she was absolutely lovely — her legs came up to my armpits) and a surprising number of people stay with us for a one night stop-over in their travels.

Dan is an amazing host, and is generally more engaging with the guests than I am.  I tend to show them the basics and then retreat into areas of the house that are off limits to our guests, such as our den, which is where I am now.  We try to give our guests space, even as we share a space; and some prefer more conversation than others.  Dan tends to be more gregarious than me, and (unlike myself) he has the amazing ability to stay awake after 9:30 pm;  whereas, I am better suited for early morning conversation and engagement.

The extra cleaning and laundry is a bit of a hassle though.  Last night Guzzy spent the  night – but she had to sleep on the couch, because I had already prepped the room/bed for tonight’s guests. Of course, she is always welcome here — but she just might need to make a reservation ahead of time if she wants to stay in her (former) bedroom.

Circle Breathing

I had coffee with a friend last weekend.  We compared notes regarding our respective acts of rabble-rousing and resistance. My friend is a mostly-retired psychiatrist (in other words, she is WAY smarter than me); who had not been expecting to expend her early retirement energy in active political resistance; yet, here she is.  Here we are.

She and I are aligned in philosophies and have a shared sense of dread, grief, and horror regarding the current administration.   For us, this sensation is both a catalyst to action and a burden–a burden that often takes residence in our guts and minds, like an OCD virus that threatens our sense of inner peace and causes bouts of crankiness that are sometimes directed at innocent nearby targets, such as our husbands.

The past couple weeks have been a good opportunity to take a mental break.  The D is doing an excellent job of exposing his own incompetence and blinding narcissism–without any help from myself, his many detractors or the ‘fake’ media.   In my friend’s words:  “he is doing our job for us”.

The D’s  firing of FBI Director Comey is a clear obstruction of justice; the initial reason given was Comey’s revelation of newly discovered Hillary emails in the late days of the 2016 campaign; a laughable and ironic justification from The D regarding an act that he previously praised, and one that most likely tilted the balance of election in his direction.  On the heels of that debacle, The D shared classified intelligence with his Russian BFFs during a cozy photo op (for Russian press only). That may be one traitorous act too many, even in the eyes of Republican cronies — time will tell.

There is a rumor that several Republican’s are considering withdrawing support from The D  in a belated attempt to restore their integrity–or at least a facade of integrity.  This may be a window of opportunity for them to actually hear what their constituents are saying during the current Congressional break.

Ultimately, The D’s cluelessness and blinding narcissism will be the primary reasons for his seemingly inevitable downfall.  The House of Cards is starting to crumble; the cracks in the orange veneer are getting more obvious.  As much as I’ve enjoyed a week or two ‘off’, watching events play out; I/we cannot return to the not-my-problem complacency that allowed the D to be elected in the first place.

I used to sing in a choir.  For long-sustained notes, we used a technique called ‘circle-breathing’: each chorister sneaks a breath at a different time, so that the audience hears one seamless long-sustained note, without a perceptable break.  Circle-breathing depends on teamwork, recognizing that each individual needs to occasionally catch their breath.

To my persistent friends–take a breath when you need to and protest loudly when you are able.  Collectively, our voice is unbroken and undeterred.

 

 

 

Spiraling

Well, well.  We may finally be getting an answer to the question I posed just a few days ago: Is there any act that is too outrageous, unlawful, unconstitutional, self-serving, embarrassing or cruel  for Trump to be held accountable by the Republican’ts?

Given recent events, we are seeing the faintest glimmer of hope that a few Republican’s are being reintroduced to their spines:  the edges of the dark cloak of loyalty are starting to fray.   Mere obstruction of justice (firing of Comey) wasn’t compelling enough:  But–the casual sharing of highly classified information, for purposes of self-aggrandizement, to his Russian buddies just may just have crossed a line that even the Republicans won’t (or can’t) defend.

This post is short – by the time I press publish, there will no doubt be new plot twists and revelations to consider.  You just can’t make this stuff up.

 

Tweeter in Chief

The latest SNL Skit nailed it.   Alec Baldwin, as Trump, freely admits he fired former FBI Director, James Comey, because of the Russian Thing.  The interviewer looks surprised and asks as an aside: ‘Wait, did I finally ‘get’ him on flagrant obstruction of justice’?  Only to realize:  “No, it doesn’t matter – nothing matters anymore”.  Trump/Baldwin then further demonstrates his absolute power by beckoning his lapdog, Paul Ryan, with a little bell to serve him ice cream.  Unfortunately, The parody is spot-on.

The Republican majority has given Trump a blank check to run roughshod over our Democracy.  There appears to be no act that is too outrageous, unlawful, unconstitutional, self-serving, embarrassing or cruel  for Trump to be held accountable by the Republican’ts.  

Trump has been given free reign to spew his incendiary lies and tweets; to obstruct justice; to use his position for profit; and to flaunt his outright contempt for our Constitution, our laws, the media, the judiciary and civil rights.  We tell our children that actions have consequences;  yet that is clearly not true for our Tweeter-in-Chief.

Democrats, and much of America;  are relegated to the role of bystanders watching a catastrophic runaway train wreck playing out in front of us in slow motion.  Despite our screaming and waving our arms, donations, appearing at town halls, signing petitions and other energetic forms of resistance–the casualties continue to pile up, and the stench increases.

I was a teenager during Watergate.  While I had little political consciousness at that time;  I remember being affected by the message that even the President has limits to his/her (still hopeful) power; no one is above the law or the Constitution.  We are now at an equally critical crossroads in our democracy.  Is our democracy still stronger than a corrupt President?  Will checks and balances finally kick in–or will we continue our slide down a dystopian slope?

While we don’t know yet how this will end; We do know that without an active, engaged and vocal resistance, things will get far worse.  While it sometimes feels like spitting into the wind, we  must continue to fight — putting up as many roadblocks as possible against the runaway Trump train.

Trump must be stopped.  Our Democracy and way of life depends on it.

 

 

Time with the grands

I recently took a break to spend a few days with the just-turned-4 twin grand girls. Usually Grandpa and Auntie Dee Dee accompany me on weekend trips, which translates to a total of five adults doting on the darlin’s during our visits; one of those adults being their momma;  who is (understandably) their favorite go-to person in almost any situation.  This generally means that the girls are wound up over all the extra attention, and it is difficult to carve out some quiet one-on-one (or one-on-two) time with them.

So, for this trip, I strategically left Grandpa Dan and Auntie Dee Dee behind, and babysat the girls for a few days during the work week. We played with play-doh, we sang songs, we went on bike and scooter rides outside, we played on the swing set (going REALLY High), we read books, we played Hi-Ho Cherry-O (remember that one?), we did chalk sidewalk drawings, and so on.  A couple times I turned on a Peppa Pig video when I needed some time to prep for lunch or clean up a mess.  They adore Peppa Pig!

At one point while we were playing outside little X2 said I was a flower and pretend-watered me.  I spread out my arms like I was growing, and she gave me a radiantly beautiful smile.  My heart melted.  Little X1 made dozens of play-doh pasta pieces for me to ‘eat’, chattering and narrating every step of the way in both Spanish and English.

We made cookies; using both chocolate AND butterscotch chips and had great fun dumping in the ingredients, stirring, taste-testing the batter and randomly glopping the cookies on the cookie sheets.  Then… grandma made a mistake.  Grandma forgot that their gas oven burns hotter than most.  Grandma forgot that the extra dose of chips in the cookies means more sugar in the mix – and melted sugar tends to burn.

When the smoke alarms went off – both girls started howling and one wet her pants. I tried to console them, but had no idea how to turn off the smoke detectors.  Luckily, poppa Luis raced up the stairs (he had been working in his lower level office) to open windows and shut off the alarms before helping me console the traumatized girls.   Eventually the girls calmed, and Luis was able to get back to work.

Little X2 went upstairs to her bedroom and was sitting quietly in a corner by herself. It occurred to me that she was still scared and when I asked “do you want to sit in grandma’s lap and have a cookie?”  she quietly nodded and reached up to me.   She was sitting sweetly in my lap, munching a crispy cookie, when she wrinkled her nose, looked up and me and said “This is disgusting!”   We all had a good laugh over that!

The following day after a long walk, X1 climbed in my lap and I read her several books while she nestled into me sleepily, and my heart melted for a final time  before hitting the road back to Wisconsin.  It is just those kind of ‘small’ moments that I came for, and I was not disappointed.

This grandma gig is pretty sweet – even though I won’t be baking cookies again for awhile.

The TrumpCare Shit Sandwich

A warning–I am cranky this morning. If you are allergic to strong language or opinions, move on.  There are lots of pictures of kittens on Facebook.

With the latest Trump Care bill, The Republicans just fed us all a shit sandwich that they won’t eat themselves. They made sure to exempt themselves from the Amendment that they just passed–without even acknowledging the utter hypocracy of that stance.

In March, the original TrumpCare bill was pronounced Dead on Arrival and was rejected by Doctors, Hospitals, AARP, and anyone with a knowledge of how our health care system works. It lacked support to be put up for vote because (as it turns out) Republicans determined that it was not cruel enough.

The Republicans fixed that problem: the revised Bill / Amendment is cruel enough to bring a smile to the lips of even the most malicious tea party dude. The ‘old’ bill only cut coverage to 24 million Americans, early predictions are that 129 Million Americans will be uninsurable under the new bill — primarily those who are ill and/or elderly.  Some people with a history or heart disease or cancer, or even acne, heartburn, back pain, asthma, hay fever or hives could be rendered uninsurable for life. (A factoid is from the LA Times).

Why are they doing this???  It clearly isn’t because this plan provides such great health care for the American people (some Republicans admit they didn’t even read the damn thing).   There appears to be two motivations, the first is to repeal and replace ObamaCare (ACA) at ANY cost, because they despise anything and everything associated with Obama; and secondly because the bill results in a significant tax break — for the wealthiest Americans of course.

In other words: The Republicans are providing a tax cut for the wealthy by gutting health coverage for millions of Americans.  If that isn’t a shit sandwich, I don’t know what is.

The silver lining (although I realize shit sandwiches do not have linings and that I have mixed my metaphors)… will be a harsh backlash against Republican House Members in the 2018 elections.  When the healthcare bill passed in the House, Democrats sang “na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, hey, hey, goodbye” to GOP members facing reelection in 2018.   It is upon all of US to ensure that this prediction holds true.

This is the time for engagement and action.  Use your time, your talents, your energy, your dollars and your votes to assure that this bill does not pass the Senate and that sanity will be restored in 2018.

 

 

Eating Right

I entered a 14 day challenge where I work out, to adopt 10 healthy habits for 14 days.  This includes drinking water (LOTS of water), no alcohol, no soda, enough sleep, eating 6 servings of veggies a day, exercising, stretching, keeping a gratitude journal, and NO sugar.

Somewhat surprisingly, the toughest item for me has been ‘no sugar’ .  I already exercise and journal regularly;  I’ve gotten used to the water (and peeing all the dang time); and so far, have eliminated soda and alcohol from my diet, while adding more veggies.  I am regularly scoring 8 or 9 out of the 10 point scale.

However, my sweet tooth is a well-deserved legend in our household. There have been a couple days I’ve especially gone overboard with the twisted logic of “You’ve already blown it for today, so go ahead and splurge!”   A more healthy response would be:  That was a yummy muffin; instead of:  “Dang, I blew it already today, so I might as well go ahead and have the jumbo bag of M&Ms too”.

I have concluded that for me the threshold of zero added sugar is counter-productive and unrealistic, and I am done beating myself up over it.

Looking through another lens: as an eating disorder advocate, I am  skeptical of dietary restrictions; even when given with the best of intentions.  The very act of restricting can be triggering for anyone with a history or tendancy towards excessive restricting or binge eating.   My own response is on the ‘binge’ side of the spectrum.

Studies show that dieting for weight loss is unsustainable and unhealthy; leading to yo-yo results and counter-productive metabolic changes.  The truth is, what is a healthy weight for one person, is not necessarily healthy (or sustainable) for the next person.

There have been a several occasions where I’ve encountered so-called experts giving advice on how to reduce calories; with the assumption that ‘everyone’ is interested in losing weight. I try to diplomatically challenge their views — with mixed results.  Many people are completely entrenched in the believe system that ‘everyone’ should be skinny and that skinny = good health.

I recall a conversation with a young woman who was hospitalized several times for being severely underweight.  Even when she was close to dying, she continued to received a barrage of compliments on her figure and attention from men.

It is a very disturbing reflection on our society that a woman who is severely underweight and near death is considered the epitomy of attractiveness.

As an eating disorder advocate, I have heard versions of this story many times.  The pervasive attitude that skinny = healthy is also a barrier to recovery, as sufferers are reluctant to lose that identity.

The notion that we should all be skinny is not realistic or desirable. We should not all aspire to be size twos.  I will never look like Gwyneth Paltrow, no matter how many 14 Day challenges I do.  My short, curvy body is strong and healthy and is just right for ME.  We should focus on our own health and wellness, without comparison to or judgement of others.

It can be good to challenge ourselves to improve our habits; with a goal of being a better version of ourselves.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to walk the dog and then have a yummy spinach salad:  right after I take a pee.

 

Ding Dong, The Bill is Dead!

(Sung to the tune of Ding, Dong! The witch is dead–from the Wizard of Oz)

Ding, Dong! The Bill is dead. Which old bill? The Trump Care Bill!
Ding, dong! The wicked bill is dead.

Wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Bill is dead. It’s gone where the Crap bills go,
Below – below – below. Yo-ho, let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong’ the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Bill is dead!

As a legally registered voter, in the country that we all love
I welcome this failure most regally.
But we’ve got to verify it legally, to see
To see?
If the GOP; Is morally, ethic’lly,
Spiritually, politically,
Positively, absolutely
Undeniably and dangerously Inept.

As a pundit, I must opine, I thoroughly examined them;
And the GOP’s not just inept, they are really most sincerely inept.

Then this is a day of celebration for all who Care.
Yes, let the joyous news be spread ; The wicked bad BILL for now is dead!