Ding, Dong the Bill is Dead

I dedicate this reposting to Republican Senators John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.  They are American Heros!

(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 Indept

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!

 

Beauty and the Voice

Tonight I put my name in the hat at the local Moth Story Slam.  The theme was ‘beauty’.  Anyone who is interested in telling a story puts their name in the hat.  They pull out names, one at a time; until ten people have shared their stories.  Unfortunately, my name was not pulled out of the hat to share.  While I am disappointed, I’m happy to have this venue to share what would have certainly been the best story of the night!

“Beauty and the Voice”. 

Recently some friends and I were discussing movies that are different when you see them a second time – movies with a ‘twist’ at the ending:   once you know the ending, watching the movie a second time is an entirely difference experience because you see the clues you missed the first time around.  When watching Sixth Sense for a second time – you may find yourself yelling to Bruce Willis – Hey Dummy, you are DEAD!

The winter and spring of 2013, I missed a lot of clues that in retrospect were pretty obvious.  Granted, I had been distracted by my own emergency appendectomy and the arrival of my beautiful twin grand-daughters .  My youngest daughter turned 16 that spring – her nickname is Guzzy; the name my Alzheimer’s stricken mother came up one day when vainly trying to remember her correct name, and it stuck.

When I looked at Guzzy that spring I saw a beautiful and intelligent young woman.  However, she did not see her own beauty… This is what she saw, and ‘heard’ when she looked into a mirror:

You are ugly, you are sad, pathetic and FAT!      

At this point in her life, Guzzy had yet to tip the scales in triple digits.  I later learned that her goal was to get so thin that she could wrap her fingers around the largest part of her thigh;  yet even once she achieved that horrific milestone– the voice in her head telling her that she was ugly and fat only got louder.

At the time, Guzzy told me she was eating at school; she told her friends she was eating at home.  The truth was… she wasn’t much of anything at all – mostly  dill pickles and celery drenched in mustard.  She would bake treats almost every day to take to school – which fooled her brain into thinking she had eaten, because she had touched, smelled and ‘experienced’ the food in every way other than consuming it.  She would watch cooking shows obsessively, all while pacing   or jiggling at the edge of her seat – making sure she burned calories even while ‘relaxing’.  The cold spring made it easier for her to mask her alarming weight loss with baggy full coverage clothes.

Despite all these clues, I didn’t connect the dots.  No one smacked me in the head and said “Dummy – she’s starving herself”!  While I knew something I was wrong, I was  gobsmacked with the diagnosis of severe anorexia.  This led to a terrifying summer of hospitalizations, doctors, meal plans, therapies and a crash course on eating disorders.

Her diagnosis led me to ponder:  What is beauty?  We live in a   highly appearance-oriented and judgemental culture that is toxic to positive self-esteem and positive body image.   I have since talked to young women who have been complimented on their thinness up to and (incredibly) DURING their admission to the hospital to save their lives from starvation.  These impossible and unhealthy standards of beauty are cruel and dangerous.

At the end of the summer in 2013, Guzzy continued to decline.  Knowing that 20% of those with her diagnosis do not survive, we admitted her on an emergency basis to an intensive in-patient program in Minneapolis.  She received talking therapy, aroma therapy, massage therapy, dog therapy, bunny therapy, baby niece therapy, puzzle therapy, and the most important medicine of all – Food!

After almost 4 weeks of hospitalization, we saw glimmers of her former self and she was out of immediate danger.   She was released to my care;  I was on leave from work and she was on leave from school.   It was my job to feed her and it was her job to eat.

I read countless books aloud to distract her from the very real pain of eating; we played cards and did puzzles together for hours on end.  There was a memorable afternoon when after eating yet another mandatory snack, Guzzy looked down in her lap, and looked up wide-eyed and announced “I Have Cleavage”!  That was a good day!

Yes, my beautiful girl was slowly emerging from her Eating Disorder haze into a healthier and stronger version of herself.   For her 17th birthday that spring we we went to one of the most beautiful places on earth:  Hawaii!!   We were surrounded by beautiful nature:  miles of beaches, ocean vistas, we saw a breeching humpback whale and sea turtles on the beach.    But by far, the most beautiful sight of that trip was this:

My gorgeous daughter wearing a swimsuit, sitting on a blanket at the beach while happily  munching on a bag of potato chips.    Now THAT, my friends, is true beauty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Summer Inspiration

Summer is here in full force and I have the mosquito bites to prove it. (I seem to get tastier as I get older.)  June brings transitions as schools let out and schedules shift into summer mode.  For me, June means  outdoor music, outdoor tennis, and the Project Mar:a Art jam.

My USTA tennis team is in full swing (pun intended) and we’ve already had several matches.  We were short-staffed last week, and our captain was desperate enough to put me in on the singles court against a much younger opponent.  Gak – I had my misgivings, but was willing to give it a go.  We ended up having a great match, and after two plus  sweaty hours, I managed to eke out a close victory .  We were the last ones on the court, and our match was the decider among the teams.  Good thing i didn’t know that at the time!

Saturday night was an art jam  sponsored by Project Mar:a.  The use of the semicolon instead of an ‘i’ is intentional.  The Semicolon has become a symbol of a movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those struggling with a variety of mental illnesses.  “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to.  The author is you and the sentence is your life”  (from Project Semicolon)

The featured speaker was Dawn Smith-Theodore, author of “Tutu Thin” who spoke of her own struggles, and the pervasiveness of eating disorders among dancers.  There were some local performers and speakers, including myself–I spoke of my experiences as a mother and as an eating disorder advocate.

I was pleasantly surprised.  I had gone to the art jam last year, and it was a nice, but very small-scale affair.  This year, they used the High School stage for several performances, and had about 50ish people in attendance.  It  has been several decades since I was on a High School stage, and I had to fight the temptation to break into a song from Fiddler on the Roof.

After my speech, a lovely young woman approached me in tears, and asked for my phone number.  She’s been struggling for 15 years with anorexia and she wanted to give my number to her mom — so her mom could have someone who ‘understands’ to talk with.  We chatted a bit, and hugged.  You just never know what people are going through.

While I was at the art jam, Dan went to a live rock concert downtown – where he ran into several friends.  All in all, we both had great evenings.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Weekend Respite

Lately, work has been more of a grind than usual…  the weeks are long and the weekends bring respite: Mother’s Day weekend was particularly soul-replenishing and served as a reminder of how blessed I am — with MUCH to be thankful for.

That Friday afternoon I spoke at an annual professional event (making good on a promise / threat I had made a year ago to do so) – the presentation was well received and followed up by a few drinks with former colleagues.  A very pleasant ending to a rough week.

I was on the tennis court Saturday morning, with a standing group of tennis friends; followed by a quick shower and a brief journey north with Dan to attend a family brunch.  The food was amazing and we caught up with various family members.  On the way home we stopped for a nostalgic stroll at Devil’s Lake State park – where we visited the ‘brick’ commemorating our marriage there five+ years ago.  (Our brick is located 3 bricks down from the one labelled ‘Tinkles’).  The park was jam packed with families out enjoying the much-appreciated warm weather.

That evening, we had date night and went to a movie, which was hilarious.  I highly recommend ‘Snatched’ with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.

The next day was Mother’s Day.  #1 Daughter Kelly had already made a donation to school a third-world girl for a year in my name (awesome!).  Son Ben paid a visit to make us lunch and visit in the sun over lunch.  In the afternoon, I went to a concert with #2 daughter–by a choir she was a member of when she was in school.  My own mother had been a choir director, and her presence was strong as the chorale music filled our souls.

#2 Daughter and I finished the afternoon with a visit to my father, highlighted by watching the end of the Brewers game and an extended search for #2’s phone – which was eventually found in the cushions of a chair.

Lots of family, with doses of sun, nostalgia, tennis and music.  All in all, a most excellent weekend.

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.