Category Archives: Politics

The Week That Belonged to Adam and Emma and Bob

Remember way back when our ire was focused on the pea-brained idea from the White House to replace food stamps by sending recipients a box of food?

That was last Tuesday.

Seems like an eternity ago, doesn’t it?

Since then, a few other matters have rightfully earned our collective outrage and attention. Yet another horrific school shooting occurred on Wednesday,  a Valentine’s Day massacre that was followed by the angry and determined passion from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, especially Emma Gonzalaz.

Friday brought the much-awaited and welcome news that 13 Russians have been indicted, complete with the detailed, sophisticated ways they stole our democracy right before our eyes. As someone said, their operation was infinitely more organized than the bumbling Drumpf campaign. Well, obviously. At this point, if you still believe and support this complicit, morally bankrupt Puppet-in-Chief, I’m going to assume you’re either a Russian bot or have had your brain (and soul) replaced by one.

And in the middle of all this ugliness, as a merciful salve to our souls, enter the beauty and Olympian confidence of Adam Rippon, someone who doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind, celebrating who he is, and giving hope to a generation of young LGBTQ people. The Girl and I have been captivated by him and, like many, transformed into instant Adam fans.

These weeks pass by in quadruple axel speed. Blogging feels futile; as soon as I can collect my apoplectic thoughts on any single event, the next wave knocks me asunder. Like everyone else, I’m exhausted and overwhelmed.

Take something as simple and inconsequential as these weekly posts, for example. They often take an inordinate amount of time to write. (I started this on Sunday. I’m finishing it on Tuesday morning, at 5:19 a.m.) That never used to be the case. Yet I feel the need to do what I can to capture and comment on these unprecedented, most-definitely-not-normal times. There are some who are doing Sisyphean  work of documenting every single one of these injustices, the eroding of rights, the trampling of our lives. I don’t know how they do it; it’s relentless.

Anyway.

Some other reflections from this past week:

Reading … a review book. Of course. It’s about “the women in the 20th century “who made an art out of having an opinion” so needless to say I’m all about this.

Listening … mostly to podcasts in the car, mostly The Rachel Maddow Show. I love watching her at night but it’s not conducive to a good night’s sleep. Much better to listen en route to work in the morning.

Writing … I need to spend some time this evening working on a book review. The Girl has a youth group meeting at church so I’ll be hunkered down at Starbucks trying to make some progress on that.

Watching … the Olympics, after initially not caring about them at all. Nice move by NBC to hire him Adam Rippon as a commentator to keep viewers like me who may have tuned out after the men’s skating and who will listen to anything he has to say.

Cooking … Some dietary changes are afoot in this house. The Teenagers are not happy about this. Last night we had a delicious Instant Pot Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato and tonight was an original creation, It was supposed to be a stir fry of sorts but I realized I didn’t have all the vegetables I wanted for that, so it became Brown Rice with Carrots and Chicken* in a ginger turmeric sauce. (*Chicken = Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Grilled Strips) It’s not the prettiest looking thing but it was tasty.

 

Planning … on going to yoga at least once this week. Hopefully tonight. We’ll see how the day goes; I’ve been awake since 3 a.m.

Anticipating … 70 degree temperatures today! I’ll take it, if only just for one day.

 

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Sunday Salon/Currently … In a Fog

It’s a foggy Sunday morning, as seen from our living room window. That’s a color photo, believe it or not, no fancy filters here. I’ve been up since 5 a.m., for no particular reason besides going to bed exceptionally early last night and sleeping in very late on Saturday. Maybe I’ve exhausted my sleep quota for the weekend — as if that’s possible. So far, my Sunday has consisted of reading the papers (Post-Gazette, Inquirer, and NYT) and a bunch of blogs. The grocery store is in my future and possibly a yoga class.

The Boy has a slight sore throat, he says, along with some congestion. I’m hoping its the typical winter crud and not the flu. This year’s flu season scares me and has me on high alert more so than usual; when I was 15, my never-took-a-sick-day-in-his-life father died at age 44 following a brief bout with the flu so these recent deaths (especially the children) are freaking me the fuck out.

Reading …
January hasn’t even ended and I already have the first book for my Best of 2018 list. (I know I still have to finish the post about my favorites from 2017.) It’s a review book and I usually try and refrain from talking much about them until my review appears but I can’t help myself with this one. It’s Educated by Tara Westover and is one of the best memoirs I’ve read. She was raised in a deeply religious, survivalist family in the Idaho mountains and didn’t attend school until she was 17. It’s drawn comparisons to The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and deservedly so. Incredibly gripping writing and just an astonishing story. I’m recommending it to everyone. Publication date is February 20. 

Listening …
As much as I loved Educated, this week also saw my first DNF (did not finish) book of 2018: Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes and Cads by Shannon McKenna Schmidt. It seemed like a fun audiobook on the surface but quickly became overly salacious and tawdry.

In keeping with the salacious and tawdry theme, I’m currently listening to the audiobook version of Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff. (I’d add a photo but I’d rather not have that asshole’s face on my blog — and I’m not referring to Mr. Wolff.)  At the chapter six mark, I haven’t read any shockers that a) haven’t already been reported and b) most reasonable people didn’t already know or suspect.

Here are two podcast recommendations for your listening pleasure this week:

Caroline Donahue’s interview on The Secret Library Podcast with Chloe Benjamin, author of The Immortalists, another new book that I loved.

Katie Couric’s interview with Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for The New York Times and who has been covering the White House’s current occupant for many years.

Watching
Only thing I watched this week was This Is Us — and that was plenty, thank you. And there’s no way I’ll be able to handle the Super Bowl next week (EAGLES, BABY!!!!!!!!!) and an episode of This Is Us. No way. No how. Except everyone will be posting spoilers, so I don’t know what I’m going to do. This show is crushing my heart.

Anticipating
Did I mention the Eagles are in the Super Bowl?  We are beyond excited in this house. Yes, even though we live in Pittsburgh, we still root for all of our Philly teams. I’m starting to think of a Philly-themed menu for next Sunday … perhaps hoagies, soft pretzels, water (pronounced “wooder”) ice and Tastykakes.

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Sunday Salon … Reading Elf

That’s a photo of one of my favorite ornaments on our tree and among the oldest. I remember receiving it as a child — I’m thinking it was a gift from my grandparents, because it’s the sort of thing my Mom-Mom would have bought me as a kid — but I can’t remember how old I was. Maybe 10? Anyway, I love it. We decorated the tree on Wednesday (I had a vacation day from work).

It’s been a lazy weekend, which is fine with me. Other than grocery shopping, I haven’t done much of anything. The Girl and I had plans to go to the art museum and a craft fair yesterday, but I just needed a quiet day. I planned our meals for the week and prepped some chicken tenders for the kids’ dinners — that’s about it.

We have a mere dusting of snow outside, but nothing compared to what others have gotten. I’m planning to be a reading elf today. I need to write a review of a book I think is going to be a huge hit early next year (can’t say much about it yet) and I have to spend some time with another book for an author interview I’m doing on Tuesday. It’s a nice feeling to be heading into 2018 with several freelance assignments on tap.

This week’s reading included Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden which was everything I expected it to be — heartfelt, sad, real and honest. I’m planning a full review here on the blog soon, but one takeaway I had from this is while Promise Me, Dad is a memoir about a father’s (and a family’s) grief, first and foremost, it’s also a poignant and sobering reminder about how much we have lost as a country. While his son Beau was in treatment for aggressive glioblastoma, Joe was negotiating and managing world events in the Ukraine and Iraq. His recounting of those situations is like reading a national security brief. The depth of knowledge and understanding about the most volatile and complex regions, the familiarity and trust with global leaders … in a week that included the POSOTUS’s actions in regard to Jerusalem, it just underscores what should be apparent to any rational individual — that these fragile unprecedented times in which we live are being made even more so by the callousness and ignorance of the current regime.

And no, Joe Biden isn’t the author interview I have scheduled on Tuesday — how I wish! — but if I was so lucky, I know I’d be all full on Leslie Knope.

I could watch that Parks and Rec clip on a loop.  I love it.

Hope your Sunday is going well.

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Nope

Art project, by The Girl.

Shared here on the blog with her permission.

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One Year Later: Still Seeing Red, Still Resisting

I admit, I had zero intention of voting yesterday.

None whatsoever.

I had no inkling who was running or for what office. No clue about a ballot question about property taxes and school funding and what it all meant to my dwindling financial bottom line. Retaining judges? Hello, has anyone even heard of these people?

After the disaster of last November, I was convinced my small vote wouldn’t make one bit of difference, that turnout would be pitiful and, really, what did any of this matter anyway, given the bully in the White House tweeting his way to obliterating all of us from the face of the Earth?

And what’s worse is that despite playing a political analyst, pundit and prognosticator every day on Facebook, I. Just. Didn’t. Fucking. Care. And I knew how hypocritical that made me.

Until Facebook’s always-a-double-kick-to-the-heart On This Day feature reminded me that yes, indeed, I really did take the above photo a year ago, on November 7, 2016.

It really happened.

As if I could forget.  As if I – or anyone else – could forget anything about that bizarre, unimaginable week.

I wrote about seeing Hillary Clinton 48 hours before the election in this post (“Seeing Red”). I’ll always remember the glorious, bright blue sky and crisp fall day when she spoke at a final rally on the University of Pittsburgh campus and then crossed the street to say hi to the crowd where I stood.

She looked stunning, confident, resplendent in her red pantsuit.  We cheered wildly, equally confident that we were meeting our next President of the United States.

We were so close.

Election Night 2016 will likely be forever seared on my heart. As long as I live, I will never forget holding my then almost-14 year old daughter, both of us sobbing , my telling her I was profoundly sorry that this is the world she would be growing up in.

That no matter who was in the White House, I wanted her to know that I would always, always love and protect her and her brother.

That despite what people in positions of so-called power said, I will always accept both of you and work like hell to make sure both of my children have every opportunity to reach their dreams, no matter who is President, no matter who tries to make you feel less than.

That I wished so much this had been different.  That I was so very, very sorry.

My daughter still talks about what we refer to as “Mom’s election night concession speech.” As much as it is seared in my memory, I think it’s one of those moments that will be part of hers forever, too. (Which was my intent, so, #winning.)

So, yeah, last year’s ghosts were (and still are) looming large.

But seeing the picture of my all too brief encounter with Hillary show up on my Facebook feed (as I knew, of course, that it would) provided some kind of fuel to my flagging resistance that I didn’t realize or think I needed.

Hillary would want — no, she would insist — that I get my ass to the polls after my after-work appointment despite the dark and cold evening.

That if I was truly serious about everything I had been screaming into the online ether for the past 364 days and before, that this was what I had to do.

That voting was the way that, at least for today, I could still make my voice heard to protect the rights of my family and for others who are less fortunate than me.

Because — at least for today, I still possessed the right to vote.

So just as I did last year, I walked into the same township building, smiled at the same poll worker who was in the same spot from a year ago, and made small talk about the weather and the turnout.

“I hope you win something,” he said, referencing the slot-machine sound that played when he inserted the cartridge that sent my data to Russia made my vote count.

“Well, I certainly didn’t last year,” I snarked, receiving not even a half-smirk in response from anyone in our staunchly Republican town.

This is what resistance looks like, I thought, selecting a straight Democratic ticket and voting no on a referendum question. (And yes, I researched both issues on my lunch hour yesterday so I felt fairly well informed.)

This is still what democracy is.

This is why the fight still matters.

She may not have been on the ballot last night. But as I walked out of the same poll booth where I proudly voted for Hillary exactly a year ago, I knew that once again, I was #StillWithHer.

 

 

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the thing with feathers

It’s funny, isn’t it,  how sometimes the smallest things — like this gorgeous sky over Pittsburgh this morning — are able to lift your mood, even for just a few moments.

I was dropping The Girl off at a workshop this morning and the leader hadn’t yet arrived, so we were waiting in the parking lot. Normally, I would have reached for my phone to check Facebook — undoubtedly to be greeted by a fresh barrage of bullshit —  but something made me look up.

“Wow, check that out,” I said to The Girl. “It looks like a feather in the sky.”

She thought it resembled a surfboard. Feather, surfboard, whatever. The point is, I was filled with a momentary sense of wonder, delight, and hope — elusive emotions for me lately, if I’m being completely honest.

Maybe it’s the anniversary of when we realized how dramatically the world had changed and remembering how optimistic we were feeling this time last year, certain that we were on the verge of electing Hillary Clinton as the first woman President of the United States. My Facebook memories from a year ago are almost unbearable; like many people, I had been hoping that, despite a deeply divided electorate, that goodness would prevail and that the high road wasn’t the dead end it turned out to be and yes, that love would trump hate.

Obviously, a lot of us were wrong about that.

The last few weeks have seemed particularly exhausting. Resistance Fatigue was high; I felt powerless, worried, and resigned that nothing was going to make a difference. It didn’t matter if I called my despicable Senator Pat Toomey 100 times every day; he wasn’t suddenly going to do the right thing and do something already that actually benefitted the people he claims to represent. Quite the opposite.

(I will say that #MuellerMonday certainly helped put a spring in my step. As I frantically refreshed all my news sites this past Monday, I did so with hashtags like #BestMondayMorningSinceNov7. And it was, for a lot of people who have been feeling the way I have been.)

Emily Dickinson famously wrote that “hope is the thing with feathers.” I think the feather in the sky was a reminder that hope still exists, that there are still good things in a world gone so very wrong, if only we remember to look and not be distracted. Case in point: my plans while The Girl was at her workshop were to write (maybe prep some blog posts!) and read. Instead, several friends mobilized online to do what we could to help one of our mutual friends. Another friend posted a photo of a wallet she found on the street — and it turned out to belong to a colleague!

These are the little big things that will sustain us amid the many difficulties and challenges of this world.

These are the little big things that will keep us looking up.

 

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She Persisted: 13 Women Who Changed the World, by Chelsea Clinton

“Sometimes being a girl isn’t easy. At some point, someone will probably tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams are impossible. Don’t listen to them. These thirteen American women certainly did not take no for an answer. They persisted.” 

So begins She Persisted: 13 Women Who Changed the World, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, a picture book for readers of all ages.

The book was inspired by Senator Elizabeth Warren’s impassioned, vocal opposition to Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation for Attorney General in February 2017 — and the resulting backlash and instant meme from Senator Mitch McConnell’s response to her. (“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”)

For each of the 13 women highlighted in She Persisted, there’s a brief biography (“she persisted” is included in every description) and a poignant quote accompanied by soft, inviting illustrations. While some of the most famous names in history are included (Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Oprah Winfrey), there are others whose accomplishments might not be as well known (Clara Lemlich, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin). All represent diverse individuals who have made groundbreaking achievements and discoveries in fields such as medicine (Virginia Apgar), journalism (Nellie Bly), politics (Margaret Chase Smith), sports (Florence Griffith Joyner), education (Ruby Bridges), science (Sally Ride), the legal profession (Sonia Sotomayer) and more.

There are, of course, countless more women whose tenacity and dedication resulted in remarkable, life-changing contributions to our world — which is exactly the point of this book that celebrates “all women who persist every day.” For young people, She Persisted serves as both women’s history lesson as well as motivation for dreaming big dreams and staying determined when those ambitions seem difficult or are met with backlash from others.

For grown ups, it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come — especially when current events seem otherwise.

Click image below to purchase She Persisted for yourself or to encourage a young person to dream big and never give up. (As an Amazon Associate, I will receive a very small commission from your purchase to help to support this blog and its content.) 

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