Three Things Thursday: my Library Card

I would like to tell you I haunt the local library and am vastly well-read, but that would be a big fat lie but, while months or even years may pass between visits, I always have a library card, because a library card is so much more than books. As if books weren’t enough.

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So, for Three Things Thursday (An Exercise in Gratitude), here are three totally random things I am grateful about having a library card:

Today I learned that if I were a very clever person and designed something, I could take the specifications, or design, or whatever it is one takes to my local library and they will print me a 3-D version of the thingy. I could literally imagine something, and the nice man at the library will make it real for me. Now, I often imagine cake, and I can (and far too often, do) make cake real, but I also imagine the Star Trek Replicator, but I can’t make a Star Trek Replicator. But if I could design a replicator, they could print me the pieces. That is definitely one of the coolest things about my library card.

Here’s another: once I went on a trip to New Jersey for a five-day, work-related class, in mid-February and concurrent with a large ice storm settling over the eastern seaboard and which hung out for most of my trip. Trapped in the hotel where the class was held, Friday dawned clear and bright and Newark International opened for the first time in 36 hours. I had a flight out Friday morning and nothing was stopping me being on it.

Except for maybe the ice sarcophagus encasing my rental car. The hotel was a Hilton Garden or something like, with no covered parking. In New Jersey! And all those days outside resulted in what looked like an economy-car-shaped ice sculpture.

With a key, I chiseled through the ice to the lock, then pried open the door. Once the engine was on and the defrost blasting front and back, I waited for a bead of moisture to appear between the windshield and the ice. Sliding my trusty library card under edge of the sheet of ice, I managed to lift it neatly up and off the windshield in a few large chunks. Repeat on the rear window and I was off, creeping down the road to a long nervous wait at the airport, where I shared a table and commiserated with a fellow traveler. Boarding hours past the original flight time and waiting, once boarded, over an hour while the plane was de-iced twice, a mercifully uneventful flight bestowed upon me the miracle of stepping into a bright, 70 degree Texas evening.

And lastly: consider the possibility that a woman from Southern California (that’s me) only understood how to get into her ice-cave rental car because of stuff she read in books checked out in various libraries throughout her life. I submit that it is not just possible, but probable.

Your library card: don’t leave home without it!

A Gift in Hidden Figures

hidden-figuresIf you haven’t seen the film Hidden Figures, go do so immediately. Also, if you don’t want any spoilers read no further but go see the film and then come back. Therefore be warned: SPOILERS AHEAD.

There, I’ve done my spoilery duty.

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It’s Valentine’s Day and I am grateful my valentine loves going to the movies as much as I do. We have a system worked out that grants me any kind of gooey, sentimental chick-flick or weird art house film in exchange for tolerating any of his peculiarities in the form of, oh let’s say, the Resident Evil franchise.

Hidden Figures is a remarkable film in every way I can think of: great (and long overdue) story, fantastic performances, excellent direction and storytelling, and for me, the gift of a revelation. It came in the form of that damn coffee pot.

Bear with me while I take a little detour. It’s weeks later, just this past Sunday and Paul and I got up, sipped our coffee and read the morning news. As the news lately has a tendency to do, it engendered lively discussion until I just couldn’t anymore and said I can’t talk about politics anymore. It wasn’t like we were disagreeing – we weren’t but I just couldn’t.

Before we headed out to church I apologized and explained that since the depression of the election lifted slightly, what I feel a terrible lot of the time since the inauguration is anxious, sincerely scared, and on the verge of tears. While I’m trying to keep my head out of the sand and stay informed and active where it is helpful, sometimes I have to call calf-rope on it and give myself a rest. For the first time in my life, I am truly afraid for both my country and personal freedom.

Later, while driving to church I wondered out loud to Paul, Do you think this weird anxious feeling I have so often now is what Black people feel like, oh, every time someone follows them through Walmart? Or pulls them over? Like, all the time. This is their reality, a low-level, sort of baseline anxiety? A need to always have one’s guard up, almost everywhere, lest one get slapped in the face with it again?  Paul agreed this was entirely possible; I’m thinking my Black friends will let me know if I am right or wrong, or somewhere in between.

You see, I was thinking about that damn coffee pot, as I have repeatedly since seeing Hidden Figures. While we were watching the film I knew the bathroom issue would be a plot device and it was. But the bathrooms and drinking fountains were big, ugly, institutionalized racism; the coffee pot…. that coffee pot was small, petty, and deeply personal. There was Katherine, her mathematical genius’ brain feasting on complex calculations towards a first ever goal, shoulder to shoulder and day after day and hour after hour with everyone in that room. One day, she needs a cup of coffee to fuel her efforts and all eyes are upon her, silently saying, oh no you don’t.

(At this point in the film, I involuntarily scolded them with an audible, Really?)

The next day she comes in to find a crappy old peculator one of them probably pulled out of a junk box and labeled, “colored” and they all turned again and smugly stared at her, to see her reaction as they showed her her place. Here, I literally flinched and Paul squeezed my hand and whispered, “Why are you surprised?” and I wasn’t surprised, per se, I was disgusted more than anything at how pathetic and small a thing it was to do. What did a cup of coffee cost them? Was it that she touched it? They didn’t eat at diners where black hands cooked their food? And Katherine, who I envisioned had maybe let her guard down just a little, if only because they were all working so hard on such ambitious, never-before-done stuff…. only to be reminded in the most classless way possible, if there is even a classy way to do such, that she was not and never would be quite accepted by them. She was tolerated, so long as she didn’t step outside their conception of her “place”.

When I worked at a High School with a large African American population, there would occasionally be a kid in trouble who’s parent took the tack it was solely because the student was Black, and was deaf to all evidence of behavioral issues in the classroom, even when the teacher who’d written them up was themselves, Black. It’s hard to work with them, because they arrive with a preconceived set of notions and expectations, and I imagine that it is hard to do otherwise when one’s own life has been one of repeated racist experiences. As the SRO on one campus explained, “I never look for racism, it’s more I’m just not surprised when it happens”.

How hard would your heart be if over your life you were subject to an avalanche of coffee pot situations?  It’s death by a million tiny cuts.

The gift I got from that damn coffee pot is the gift of making it personal. Invested as I was in Katherine, the filmmakers gave me the gift of seeing through her eyes and heart, as clear as if she’d broken the fourth wall and said directly to me, “This is what racism looks like, up close and personal. This is the tiny, niggling detail of racism rather than the flash and size of a burning cross, or a “Colored” bathroom. This is the day-to-day, soul-killing stuff.”

My gift to you on this Valentine’s Day is to suggest we’re in a time when attentive listening, careful watching, and unreserved loving is necessary. Listen to hear rather than to answer, watch for the truth especially in unexpected places, love unconditionally, and pray without ceasing. We’ve never needed it so much.

 

 

 

 

Hallelujah! It’s a mirepoix! A (post) Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I was worried last night – I seriously thought I’d jinxed the Superbowl for my beloved by waiting to buy a lobster tail. Lesson learned: if you want lobstah rolls for dinner (to compliment a Patriots victory), you need to secure one prior to the day it’s wanted. Unless you want a whole lobster.

If you’re disappointed in the results I am sorry, but Paul is an unapologetic fan of his Patriots and I am an unapologetic fan of Paul’s, and since I understand next to nothing about football beyond the intent being for each team to run the ball to the opposite set of goalposts, my support comes in culinary form. Every year I devise a menu to support Paul and whatever he is supporting.

Paul is South Boston born and bred so his teams are naturally the Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox, Notre Dame for college football, and the New England Patriots for professional. Considering what we’d eaten in Boston and Rhode Island, mostly seafood, with me ordering clam chowder everywhere I went and only once in a restaurant since then which was every bit as disappointing as I suspected it would be. So I thought, how ’bout some lobstah rolls and clam chowdah to cheer our Patriots to victory?

We went with crab cakes for starters, since we couldn’t get a lobster tail. I made a spicy horseradish remoulade to top them and they were not at all a disappointing substitution but, after the abysmal first half of the game I worried I’d ventured too far south with my cooking, gotten too close to the culinary Georgia border.

We had our chowdah topped with some spicy Cajun oyster crackers I made, and watched Lady Gaga turn in a beautiful, high energy performance, her only politics being a gorgeous medley of American anthems before literally diving into Born This Way. We had a plump slice each of the Boston Cream Pie I had planned as a celebratory dessert, now used to stun our sorrow into submission with sugar and transfats.

We switched over to PBS’s Victoria and felt a bit sorry for the poor young queen as she learned most of the men she’s loved in her life were all too human, just like Tom Brady, apparently.

But then, a last switching over to see how bad it is and what is this miracle? A victory snatched from the jaws of defeat! Paul’s nephew in New England screaming at the haters in all caps on Facebook! An excuse to eat another slice of Boston Cream Pie! (Which we didn’t, because we are Adults, and therefore Sensible, most of the time.)

If we were having coffee I’d pour you another cup if you were feeling a bit poorly after your Superbowl Sunday, whether that was caused by over indulgence or disappointment, and send you on your way with a slice of Boston Cream Pie for later.

Six Degrees of Immigration

The year I don’t know, but in the early days of the 20th Century a young man from a small village outside Kiev boarded a ship in Frankfort, Germany, crossed the Atlantic and, passing through Ellis Island, an anonymous agent recorded him under the Anglicized name, Bernard Gross. He married a fellow immigrant, a girl from the old country named Rachel. They became American citizens, owned and operated a laundry, and raised four children: Betty, Mildred, Harry, and finally, surprise! the baby upon whom everyone doted, Jack, “Jacky” to the family.

Jack played High school football and after WWII he followed his older brother west, tending bar and managing restaurants, eventually settling down with a pretty cocktail waitress, a single mother with a little girl. He didn’t live an extraordinary life, but worked hard for his living, bought houses, paid taxes, and raised another man’s child through fevers, stitches, accolades, accidents, and late-night ER visits, adopting her as his own and teaching her what is meant by unconditional love. His own father, Bernard, adopted her, too, with the less formal but equally binding ties of grandfatherly love.

That little girl was me. Only one degree of separation, a straight line linking a little girl growing up with a loving father and America opening it’s arms to a Russian Jew fleeing the pogroms of Eastern Europe.

There is no way to estimate what my closest associations with immigrants have meant to my life. Surely, I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t sat in a doting Papa’s lap during holidays and family gatherings.

My country was built by immigrants, but as a country we have a habit of being pretty ugly to the most recent wave of them. Recent events conjure shameful memories from High School in Southern California, when Vietnamese refugees were settled in our area. Then, I witnessed a subtler, nonetheless savage, form of welcome by my fellow students in the form of whispers and snickers in the hallways and a pointed distancing. When the locker rooms became infested with scabies, the blame was laid firmly at the feet of the Vietnamese students, and the rampant but previously quiet racism of the school’s corridors turned vocally and disgustingly scurrilous towards them. It all sounds so petty and small, but it was relentless. I was never savage, oh no, I was worse:  I saw it all and remained silent. Which is why I can’t this time, I can’t be silent and honor those immigrants who, in six degrees of separation or less, have shaped, loved, guided, educated, delighted, and enriched my life beyond measure.

Children Waving to Statue of LibertyIt bears remembering that most people don’t want to leave their home countries, their relatives, their places of worship, their familiar foods and surroundings. When one’s choice is leave or die, it’s an easy choice to make, and there in New York harbor stands a statue inviting “the poor, the tired, the huddled masses” to our shores. America has long been the beacon of safety, of hope, the promise of God’s grace for whoever named God and even those who don’t.  How do I wrap my head around even the consideration of not living into that promise? If we aspire to being the “shining city upon a hill”, deserving that honorific demands no less than offering shelter and succor to all people seeking refuge, the least, the last, and the lost.

We cannot be both Christian and Isolationist. God’s grace flows first not to particular borders but rather, into the human heart open and ready to receive it. Then we hold it but a little while, passing it on to the next in need while being ourselves replenished in the giving. In this way we are constantly renewed while repaying the debt owed to our immigrant ancestors, who paved the way for us.

In this way we live into the promise of being the “shining city upon the hill”.

Weekend Coffee Share: Women’s March Edition, 2017

 

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Home of the University of North Texas, Denton has a lovely old square conveniently surrounded with good restaurants and quirky shops. There is a stately old courthouse around which protests and events happen all year round, and here is where an estimated 2,500 of us gathered in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, and hundreds of thousands of others the whole world round.

There were signs from about every group the Trump campaign maligned, threatened, or insulted over the last year.

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Held by mother and daughter, this sign is a replica of the one the mother’s grandmother carried as a Suffragette. So here we are again.

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There was abundant patriotism on display.

There were priests, pastors, and holy people, including a small contingent of opposition which set up on the corner across the street. They prayed and sang and chanted, just like we did. I was sad that breakaway group from the Square surrounded them and it devolved into a cross-the-intersection chanting at each other. Still, it was peaceful. It’s important to remember that in America, all voices get heard. Even those with whom we disagree.

Beautiful, fierce Latinas leading us in both Spanish and English versions of chants, Yes We Can! ¡Si podemos!

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There were veterans, families with kids, straight couples and gay couples, men in support of their wives, daughters, sisters or just, you know, humankind.

I was impressed with the turnout by older people, and by that I mean people I assume are older than me, who clings tenaciously to an increasingly elusive “middle-age”.

Black Lives Matter joined us.

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Those for whom Black Lives Matter, and also donuts.

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This lady, with perhaps the best advice of all.

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Someone braver than I ever thought of being.

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The Fire Department cruised by and blew their horns hello; there were abundant police milling throughout the crowd, friendly, though they did tail a man with a long rifle closely for a while. This Sheriff in particular I think has a wonderful face, and he seemed happy to be there with us. Note the mourning strip across his badge; my town is grieving a fallen officer.

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It was very loosely structured and there didn’t seem to be a solid plan for moving forward. There was a great deal of “stronger together” overheard, and disparate folks engaged in conversation. All good. Great even. Anything that brings differing people together for good  common cause is awesome.

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But as wonderful a feeling as this gathering left with me, I worry that the momentum will lose steam as everyone gets back to their day-to-day lives. Now is when the work starts, and we can’t afford to become (again) complacent. We need to get out and vote. Know who our local, state, and federal representatives are, and their voting records. Get noisy and remain vigilant. Fact check everything we read and hear, especially anything we ourselves pass forward, lest we contribute to the confusion and division.

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Somehow, we need to keep this feeling of purpose and unity with us every day.

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It was a good day, ending in Chinese food with friends.

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Oh, Mr. Chopsticks how I adore you.

Now, the real work begins. Stay vigilant, my friends. For our daughters, our neighbors, our friends yet unmet, those who have no voice, the disenfranchised, those who turn to us – to U.S., for hope.

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Friday Five: Random @ 3:00 a.m.

The RevGals may not know what they’ve unleashed in asking for any old five things that have been on our minds.

Sometimes it’s my bladder, other times it’s Blanca’s, but 3:00 a.m. is an old friend of mine. Three a.m. has taught me how quick, agile, and completely random a brain can be, how full of unbidden thoughts; at 3:00 a.m., I’d be happy if there were only five. But I’ll pick five that came and stuck a little with me while I was padding around in the wee-wee hours, letting out animals and doling out treats when they came back in.

  1. When one moves states and has to get a new driver’s license, one should automatically be granted enough time in the new state to drop however many pounds are required to produce a relatively decent photo. In my case this would have been six months.
  2. Exactly how expensive are heated toilet seats? Because the one at the ophthalmologist’s office yesterday was the absolute bomb.The Election has really had me in a funk, but I realized something this week when folks started boycotting the Inauguration: I think they are wrong, not in their ideals but in their absence, because I think this new Administration needs to know we’re watching, and that we will act upon what we see. I know I’ve spent too long with my head under metaphorical covers, not looking at what I don’t want to see.
  3. You only realize how brilliant an invention the Doggy Door was, and how much you miss having one, when you’re up at 3:00 a.m. trying to herd the dog into the house, praying none of the neighbors are up to witness the spectacle of one’s wild-haired, 3:00 a.m. self running through the backyard.
  4. “With great power comes great responsibility.” It’s a quote I associate with Uncle Ben in Spiderman, even while knowing he was simply riffing on Jesus. It’s a quote that pokes at me, in my life of relative ease and comfort, a life that can contemplate things like heated toilet seats fat-faced driver’s license pictures.

Many years ago I learned at 3:00 a.m. it’s impossible to lie to oneself, and the more serious of the 3:00 a.m. thoughts bear further, wakeful consideration. While crowds and noise and strangers are all things I avoid, tomorrow I march in support of the Women’s March on Washington, “In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

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Fortifying protein shake in Lent Madness pint glass. Even St. Brigid would approve a shot of vodka this morning.

Jesus tells us that however we treat the “least of these,” we treat him. While I have no great power, only a modest facility with language and the ability to communicate,  I do have an active conscience and a sense of responsibility. Tomorrow, I will march and take pictures, pay attention and communicate. It is what I can do, and as the mother of a daughter, as the friend and ally of LGBTQ folk, as a Christian human being, I would rather my lack of a doggy door have me up at 3:00 a.m., than the prickly conscience that comes of choosing the path of least resistance.

If you’re near North Central Texas, consider joining us tomorrow (January 21st)  on the Square in Denton.

 

 

The Purpose-Driven Jogger

Waiting for the signal to exit my suburban neighborhood, I wasn’t really looking forward to going out “among them English” as Paul and I quote to one another. I dislike shopping just anyway but Christmas shopping I loathe with frosting on it. However, yesterday as I stared into space at the light at Eldorado Parkway, someone jogged into my line of sight and changed up everything.

Unbeknownst to me, he’s a bit of a local celebrity. He wasn’t tall, or particularly good-looking; he was a fairly average, fit, pleasant looking African American man, jogging down Eldorado in athletic gear appropriate to the cool temperatures. But he bore a beatific smile and was waving at cars as they sped past, asking via a brightly colored sign he carried, “What is YOUR Purpose?”

He turned that dazzling smile on me as he jogged past and I couldn’t help smiling back and he jogged over, free hand outstretched and I took it, and we blessed each other and smiled and then he continued his philosophical jog down Eldorado. I waved again at him when my light changed and I pulled out onto Eldorado myself and waved once again, lots farther down the road, on my return trip. He was still smiling, still brandishing the sign and cupping his free hand around an ear to hear the answers.

He was just so full of light and yes, purpose. My Election Funk has lingered, but he reminded me we all have purpose and it’s a fair bet mine is not wallowing in bewildered outrage forever.

crystal-snowflakeIt’s the end of one year and we have a shiny new one ready for launch. For me and my fellow Christians it is Advent, a time of expectation and preparation, an excellent time to think of my jogging friend and consider for the new year, What is YOUR Purpose? My first reaction was: to Love, as in approach my fellow man from a place of Love, always. This is a lot harder than it sounds – I’ve been trying to master this for years and yet the Snark persists. I fail a lot, but I keep trying at what St. Francis put best:

Lord, make me an instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Is that my purpose? I have no idea, but I’ve always thought St. Francis’ prayer a fine place to start, despite my continual failures. It’s a reminder to live intentionally, purposefully, something my tyranny of schedules and lists can give the illusion of doing while falling well wide of the mark.

When I got home I goggled joggers on Eldorado Parkway and found my guy, Mr. Jimmy Lee Robinson; he’s been part of the Frisco/Little Elm scene for a couple years now, with a variety of signs, making people smile and think. God Bless you, Mr. Robinson, and I’ll be looking out for you along Eldorado, wondering what other good advice you have for me in the new year.

Weekend Coffee Share: Rolling up the Sleeves edition

I’ve been in a funk since the election.

It didn’t go my way.

The Wednesday after, I allowed myself to wallow, neither listening to nor watching any news. It would all still be there when I was ready to hear it. Instead, I Netflixed the day away on the couch in my sweats, with my critters. There may not have been a shower taken that day. Paul called from his job site in England and talked me off the ledge.

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He talks me off the ledge

I texted with my daughter, who also was not doing well with the election result, and we commiserated. I gave thanks for the supportive work environment she’s now in, where apparently nothing got done that day, but they all took care of each other.

Thursday, I watched Samantha Bee’s post-election show and was comforted, first by her righteous anger, then the exhortation to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Work: this is something I understand, and we surely do have a lot of work to do in figuring out how the Democrats got it so very wrong. This election has resulted in an outcome requiring much soul-searching, most particularly in figuring out who we are as the American people, because that picture has clearly changed over the last several decades. Lots of work to do.

 

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This fabulous woman makes me laugh, hard.

While the bewilderment remains, the malaise lifts. My daughter came for Thanksgiving week and we did not much of anything but commiserate, watch movies (definitely go see The Arrival, wait until Nocturnal Animals shows up on cable), and laugh. Few people make me laugh as hard as Charlotte. We cooked a very successful Thanksgiving dinner and followed that with a mini-Sloth Day on Friday. Perfect.

 

Now we hurtle through the Holiday season towards a new year and a new President. I am lucky to belong to the RevGalBlogPals, and in this time when my faith in my fellow man is shaken to the core, I am inspired by their writings reminding me there is a power bigger and stronger than I can imagine in control and that eventually, everything will be alright. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. They also remind me that this is not an excuse to stay mired in the funk, trusting others to do the work but rather, now is a time for prayerful consideration on my role in making the world a better place. Because we all have a role.

I believe the next four years will be a time when thoughtful people, whatever their political affiliation, must be vigilant in fact-checking and holding to account our public officials and the media. We will need to be sharp and attentive to preserve our democracy, this great experiment of American Freedom.

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Ornery Cat
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Notorious Sock Thief

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff and I used to talk about the condition of our homes as metaphors for our emotional states and I do believe it is time to fill my home with light, color, and the aroma of baking goodies. It is Advent, the time of preparation and expectation and a spray-tanned president with a bad comb-over is no excuse to forget the coming of the One. For this weekend I am going to nestle in with my sock-stealing dog, ornery cat, wisely wonderful husband, and listen to the rain while bringing out Christmas.

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Come January, there is a lot of work to be done.

 

Weekend Coffee Share: Election Edition

If we were having coffee, I tell you that looking back over my many years and several election cycles, I cannot remember one where my heart has been so heavy, about which I felt such dread, quadrupled on Friday when FBI Director Comey injected himself, once more against all policy and procedure, into the mess.

On the one hand we see a capable woman with a ton of baggage, sadly a lot of that baggage is more her husband’s than her own. Unfortunately as full of hubris as her husband, she is not a particularly likable candidate. But she is smart and capable, measurably more honest than she is created for being, and I don’t think she will run the country off a cliff. I do believe she can continue the incremental changes we need to make our American society a fairer one, where folks of every color and creed have a shot at success.

On the other hand we have a spray-tanned narcissist who has campaigned as a friend of the common man, despite abundant evidence to his status as the ultimate insider (the privileged upbringing; “small” million dollar starter loan from his wealthy father; the unpaid contractors; the multiple adulteries; his continually availing himself of US bankruptcy law; the thinly-veiled racism;  misogyny; the gross advisers; the bromance with Vladimir Putin of all people, St. Ronnie preserve us). It is easy to poke fun at his supporters, casting them as fools in his likeness, but I think that is both unfair and largely incorrect. True, the guy shouting “JEW-S-A” while making KKK hand gestures is not his best representative; however, Trump has tapped into some very real unrest and anger among decent folks for whom the economic recovery has not worked. Their jobs went overseas and they’re not coming back, and the jobs they took to make ends meet don’t allow them to provide for their families in the manner they were accustomed, and to which we Americans feel entitled. So we cannot dismiss them.

But I really do fear what a Trump presidency would do to Women’s and Minority rights, not only from Trump himself but from the Alt-Right who surround him, notably Mike Pence. Pence’s record in his home state of Indiana and during his 12 years in Congress sought to turn back the clock on women’s rights 50 years at least.

What really drags at my heart is this: there is a surging undercurrent of anger in our country. Some is from women, and it’s about damn time that we collectively stood up and said we’re done, so very done taking 3/4 of our due. But the other portion of that anger lives among our minority brothers and sisters and it is absolutely equal in righteousness and long overdue. If we don’t do something to correct the areas that very much still exist, holding them back from equal citizenship, it is going to turn violent. It’s going to run up against that violent undercurrent at Trump rallies and bring out the worst in all involved. People will die and nothing will improve.

Through all of this ick I keep praying, knowing God hears me. I know I am not alone, I know so many people who are praying for Love to win the day, and I try to remain open to it being in some completely unexpected manner. Holy Spirit is nothing if not unpredictable, and so much wiser than I ken.

I feel helpless and I hate it. So I walk about the world trying to be loving to all those I encounter, making eye contact, being sincere rather than reflexive in the usual exchanges of “How are you?” “Fine, thanks.” I’m paying compliments, letting folks go ahead of me at the store, and tipping well. Does any of that make a whit of difference? I don’t know, but aside from supporting my candidate and voting in a thoughtful, prayerful manner, I just don’t know what to do.

This I can  do: I appeal to women, and all my brothers and sisters of color to be of good cheer and VOTE. Our system works when we work it, when we get off our butts and to the poling place certainly now during the election year but also and especially during the off-years, the congressional and senatorial elections where the real governance is done. Let us band together in vigilance, sending a clear and unmistakable message that representatives who do not represent us will be voted out. Every. Single. Time.

Together, we can make a difference. I will be praying for you, for us and please say a prayer for me, too, because I think without our votes there is a flood coming, or maybe it’s a fire, and I fear there are not enough of us acting out of love to weave a fabric stout enough to stop it.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I just can’t wait for it all to be over.

#weekendcoffeeshare

(Be the) Candle

img_5389-2My daughter earned her degrees from the great University of Texas, Austin and one is a Bachelors in Women’s and Gender Studies. I love our conversations, even when her clear-headed feminism dispels my own long and closely-held bullshit. Maybe especially when she dispels my culturally ingrained, but ultimately diminishing, bullshit.

I was raised to expect praise, get validation for being pretty, skinny, funny, and amenable. Don’t make waves. Don’t call attention to myself. Don’t be a tattletale. Don’t be a party-pooper. Go along to get along. Don’t take abuse, but understand that if I dressed too provocatively, or was in the wrong place, abuse might find me and it would be my own damn fault.

My daughter and some years of counseling have been as candles illuminating the unintentionally sick thinking my mother instilled. I don’t blame my mother and have long since forgiven her, for how can one blame another for being a creation of his or her culture? How can I blame her for dying young and never having an opportunity to understand the myriad ways we institutionally blame women for the sins of a male-dominated society?

Now a harsh candle shines brightly on one of the most odious men to walk the planet, a man so entitled and privileged he claims his wealth and celebrity enable him to do anything without permission to any woman he deems attractive. I’ve listened, stomach churning, to the bile generated throughout this caustic campaign cycle but along with the far more eloquent Michelle Obama, something the Republican nominee for President said yesterday shook me to the core. It was when Donald Trump said of People Magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff, who in company with several other women has accused him of sexual assault or at the very least, unwanted sexual advances, “Look at her. Look at her words. I don’t think so.” No woman could mistake his inference.

It was all in the tone, and I think most women have known that guy. The guy who flirts with you constantly but never in public, never out in the open, because you’re just not fine enough for him, for who he believes he is: better than you, cooler than you, more popular than you. He wants you, but is almost embarrassed by the wanting, because you’re less-than. This usually happens in Middle or High school. The vast majority of men outgrow it; the ones who don’t become predators.

My first was in Middle school. He was tall and blonde, one of the popular boys. While pretty, I was unmistakably Uncool. But he flirted with me all the time when no one else was around and one day, when we’d stayed after school to work on a theater set, he shoved me up against a wall where no one could see and without my consent, felt me up. And of course I never said anything because who would believe me? Who would believe the handsome Lothario of Stacy Junior High School would want to be with plump and terminally uncool me? And what was she doing alone with him between buildings anyway?

The second happened on a Friday night during High school, at a party I should not have attended. A guy who held me down tickling and groping me until I screamed, until I managed to plant my feet in his chest and hurl him against a wall. And everyone laughed. “Oh look, she’s maaaaad!” Like it was funny. Like it was ok for a male to continue touching a female who has said, in no uncertain terms, STOP. I couldn’t count on my sister females to support me any more than I could tell him to go fuck himself for doing that to me, lest they as well as I be forever consigned to the Mortally Uncool. Because the most important thing was being seen by Male Dominance Culture as Cool, no matter how skeevy it made you feel, no matter how much in that moment you desperately need a brain-bleaching. You see, this is where it starts, this is the foundation of women keeping their mouths shut because to Say Something might ruin their chances of promotion, of being able to support themselves or their families. This is the start of culturally gaslighting women, perpetuating the sickness and imbalance of power in male-female relationships of all kinds.

 

Donald Trump is simply rich male privilege writ large. This stuff has been happening forever, and women haven’t spoken out about it in the decades since they gained the right to vote because we worked too hard to gain a foothold in the workplace and in the voting booths to risk it by calling out men on their bullshit. (And yes, I know it’s not all men, not even most, but it is still a too-large proportion.)

What kind of bullshit? The bullshit that results in light sentences for male athletes when they assault incapacitated women behind dumpsters after frat house parties. The bullshit that silences young women on our college campuses, giving male athletes a free pass to use them for their own gratification. The bullshit that a male celebrity can portray himself as America’s Daddy while drugging and raping women. The bullshit that says “She was asking for it” because she wore a short skirt. The bullshit of school dress codes that send girls home from school for wearing tank tops and somehow makes them responsible for the thoughts of boys. The bullshit that confers upon women the moral responsibility for society while constraining their rights of control over their own reproductive systems, and charges them more for maintaining their health.

So this is my rallying cry: Sister Women, the bullshit stops now. Let us be candles for each other, casting our flames upon the slime wherever and whenever we see it, making it shrivel, dry up, and blow away. Let us compete with each other less and bond with each other more. Let us be the reflector of each other’s candlelight. Let us be each other’s safe place in the train car or sidewalk to and from work, in the workplace, at the clubs. Let us teach our daughters and sons to respect women as equal human beings. Let us sing the praises of the legions of parents, male and female, who have raised respectful men who call out the lie of “locker room talk”. Above all, let us speak up, speak out and let our candlelight shine on the bullshit wherever we find it.

I am here for you. I have your back, and I’m counting on you to have mine and most especially our daughter’s and granddaughter’s backs. The bullshit stops here, replaced by the warm glow of our collective candlelight shining on a more just world where all God’s children may flourish, where no girl or woman need stay silent out of fear of reprisal in all it’s nasty, diminishing, bullshit ways.

Women, we are the candles. If we won’t light the way, who will? Stand up, speak out, and shine, shine, shine!