Friday, November 21, 2014

Quiet... too quiet.

Today's guest post is from my friend Calvin, who usually blogs in poetry and who tried (as I did) to use a bunch of hovertext in this piece, only to discover that you can code it right all you want; Blogger will just break your coding. Stupid Blogger. So, basically, if you see a term that looks like a link, hover on it. If you get some explanatory text, don't bother to click through because you'll just get an error message. If you don't, you can click through if you want — I think the only real links are on Cal's blog above, on "Dark Matter," and on the tweeted image. I think. Good luck, readers.

Earlier this month, I went to a gender conference, and it was OK.

The best part was the keynote, DarkMatter—a trans, South Asian performance/activist duo—who did a set at the close of the day that left us all awkwardly moaning for more. They tore apart Dan Savage and marriage equality and Harry Potter's white tears, and Alok's dress was covered in eyeballs!

The other best part was something I was afraid might be the worst part. I almost didn't go to the transmasculine caucus. I usually don't try to be around a bunch of other transmasculine people because...well...transmasc people say some entitled, misogynist, self-involved shit. Just like cis men! (Gasp.) But a friend who I was at the conference with reminded me that we have a responsibility to be in those spaces and interrupt the sense of entitlement that creeps in with masculine privilege, so we went.

And right away my angst melted a little because there were so many earnest-looking babies in the room. The conversation did, inevitably, meander into some "our monolithic trans male [sic] experience is way unique and important" territory, but there were quite a few folks in attendance who were able to bring some other perspectives. And then a thing happened where I realized I just rode in a car 150 miles one way to find out my dear friend and close neighbor is the smartest person ever.

One person was talking about being gendered by strangers on the street and hearing "ma'am" or "sir" and how the experience of being read consistently as male just makes things a lot quieter for him. And I'm all nodding and imagining how nice that would be, and then my friend goes, "And what do we do with that quiet?"

Glitter bombs have been going off in my head ever since, about the value (for me) of discomfort, of tension, of noise, the purpose that not passing can serve. For some, passing is a choice, and for some it is not, and for some it's a privilege, and sometimes that quiet can serve us well, and sometimes I think it's the noise that's going to ever change anything, if we can listen to it instead of run from it.

Poem of Gratitude for Noisy Times

Let me catch my breath,
Figure some shit out, and then
Come on, bring the noise.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Thousand Points of Lights & Sirens

Today's guest post is by my friend Mike, who is very good to have around in an emergency, whether grammatical or medical. Also, if you're looking for CPR training in the D.C. area, check out Takoma Park CPR.

Last night, closing in on 13 years as an EMT with my local volunteer fire department, I responded to my 1,000th 911 call. That is not, in my neck of the woods, a big deal – we have volunteers who run more than 800 calls per year. Still, it’s a nice round number that triggers some reflection. While I’m not claiming any sort of trophy, I will take the excuse for an Oscar speech. I’m grateful to:
  • Everyone who calls 911, for themselves or someone else. Either it’s a no-brainer obvious emergency, which requires somebody to stay calm and act decisively, or you’re not quite sure whether it’s the right thing to do. In those cases, it’s the right thing to do, and calling sooner leads to better outcomes. We like that.
  • The taxpayers, seriously, and donors — people who have hard choices to make about spending, and who recognize the value of well-trained, well-equipped emergency responders and of well-trained instructors at a well-equipped academy to teach us how to do what we do.
  • Each of the 149 EMTs and medics (yes, I counted) with whom I’ve responded — mentors, peers, proteges, volunteer and career. No one does this stuff alone. Dispatchers, too, though I don’t know most of your names or faces.
  • The seven chief officers I’ve served under. Nobody in the world has your back quite like your fire chief, and nobody gives more to your community. You have no idea.
  • Everyone who has trained and mentored me, and everyone who has come to me for training and mentoring. If I’m keeping the right attitude over the years, neither of those groups will ever be much bigger than the other.
  • Everyone who’s on duty when I’m not, because I’ve needed you, and my loved ones have needed you, not just in theory. Everyone who steps up to give some time and energy back to the community — as a volunteer or as one of the “paid” responders who can’t possibly be paid enough for the 24-hour shifts away from their families, the risks inherent in their work, the stress and burnout and politics that can take all the fun out of helping people. Thank you all for being there.
  • My local hospitals, ’cuz I’d feel pretty stupid bringing all these prehospital resources to people in distress and then taking those people somewhere less than reassuring.
  • Heather. My first firehouse mentor, Master Firefighter Tom Horne, likes to say that his wife refers to the fire department as “the other woman.” My wife, compared to whom there is no other woman, has been my first and steadiest moral support since I first applied to join the fire department, which was before we were even dating.
  • And you, bzzzzgrrrl, who did this stuff long ago and persuaded me that I could too.

Nobody is born knowing how to respond to medical emergencies or put out fires. It takes a commitment of time, but mostly, it takes training and training and training and training and training. I’m grateful for the opportunity to soak up that training, put it to use, and pass it on.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Boy howdy

Yesterday marked 18 months since RI and I first started dating. Our anniversary gift to you: pronouns.

He, him, his.

I haven't used any pronouns for RI here before now because when I first told you about him, he was out to me but not to everyone as transgender. But now, he's "he" to everyone in his real life and on Facebook, his legal name has changed — I could keep not using pronouns, but I know your brain fills them in anyway, depending on some cocktail of who you are, what you know or assume about me, and what you know or assume about him.

Everything else you know about him is still true. He's still wonderful and magical and sweet and funny and a good bowler and hasn't seen Moonlighting (but has now heard of it, thank goodness). But, yeah. Eighteen months. He, him, his.

Day 13 of our month of gratitude: I am so thankful to have RI in my life, neither despite nor because of his gender. I love our journey together, love all the laughter and hugging and playfulness and support — and learning and exploration, of many kinds, together and individually.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Even in Australia

This morning I fell down some slick stairs with a bunch of things and left my wallet and my book for book club at RI's house and my foot and hand still hurt from falling even though it was 10 hours ago and I hit myself in the face with my car door and I don't have any groceries in the house and my meeting went late and...

Day 12 of our month of gratitude: Today, I am firmly set on somehow being thankful for warm places to sleep, a wallet that enables me to buy things, my book club, fully functional (if sore) limbs, a car, the general ability to replenish groceries, and work. Forgive me if I grumble a little anyway.

How's your day?

Friday, November 14, 2014

I never promised you

Someone shared a thing on the internet today that said "REDHEADS are God's way of giving the world ROSES."

My reaction to that was not:
  • To think of the many redheads I know and love, and smile
  • To be delighted that the person who shared that has such a sweet way of thinking of her great-grandson
  • To be glad that an infinite and wonderful God, in whom I believe, has so many ways of expression.

No, my reaction to that was to think, "Aren't roses God's way of giving the world roses?"

What the hell is wrong with me?

Day 11 of our month of gratitude: I am so thankful not everyone is as cynical and snarky as I am. People's lovely thoughts are, in fact, lovely thoughts, and I am glad people are having them.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Getting mugged

Do you even KNOW that it's possible to make really delicious brownies from scratch quickly and in the microwave and in a coffee mug?

So, as you may recall, last night I got home with my delicious salad and enjoyed it very much, and then I was chatting with a friend online about other magical things and it occurred to me that I would like something sweet. And so I said, said I, to my friend, "I am going to make a microwave brownie in a mug, because I LOVE them. It just fascinates me that you can make a good baked thing from scratch in a mug in the microwave."

And he replied, "It seems like an accident, or an anomaly, or both."

And I said, "It does, or a miracle — but then I'm a person of faith."

Day 10 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for the tiny miracles of science — of combinations and temperature and things that melt in your mouth in three minutes.

What's that? You want a recipe? You got it. Those of you who are sticklers for accuracy in baking, be warned: It's more like frostingless chocolate cake than it is like a brownie. Who the hell cares? It's delicious.

Namaste

Today's guest post is by my college roommate, April, who's way better at walking than a two-year-old.

One of the sad truths that I've come to accept over the years is that I pretty much suck at all sports. The worst day of the school year for me was always the day we had to take the New York State Physical Fitness Test, a component of which was doing squat thrusts until your arms and legs forgot that they were attached to your brain and splayed out wildly, causing you to collapse on the floor. At least, that's what always happened to me.

There were no tennis courts in the town where I grew up, and I held out hope that tennis was my sport until I got to college, signed up for tennis lessons, and discovered that it was, in fact, not. I can swim well enough to save myself if I should happen to fall out of a boat, but it's not pretty.

I am good at walking. I can walk for a long time, for long distances, at a decent pace, even up hills (we like to call that “hiking”). And so, I had sort of made peace with the fact that my physical activity of choice was always going to be one at which many two-year-olds are also competent.

Then I tried yoga.

I love very many things about yoga. I love that the walls of the studio where I practice are painted the exact color of Chobani key lime yogurt. I love that the part of each class that my instructors insist is the most important involves lying on the floor and being completely relaxed, often with a lavender sachet over one's eyes. I love that we all laugh together when someone falls out of tree pose or the teacher mixes up her right and her left. I love that yoga requires me to attempt, over and over again, to clear my mind of whatever concerns, lists or ideas might be bopping around in there and simply be present. “Tell your thoughts to sit at the edges of your mind and behave themselves,” one of my instructors says. I love that.

Now, lest you get the impression that the reason yoga is a great physical activity for me is that it's not actually very physical, here are some other things I love about it. I love that almost every class uses some muscle I didn't realize I had. I love how the poses send blood flowing through all my muscles and organs and leave me feeling awake and exhilarated and, against all odds, graceful. I love that I can now get up out of bed without my back hurting and climb stairs without knee pain. I love that it's looking like I may learn to do a handstand at age 44.

Maybe the coolest thing about yoga for me is that it's communal, yet totally individual. It's about finding your own edge and pushing it just a little. It's about paying enough attention to your body to know when it's time to come down into child's pose. It's about learning to recognize the quiet space inside. And it's always just practice. The person in class for the first time is practicing; the instructor is practicing; the crazy people with their legs wrapped around their necks in Yoga Journal are practicing.

I'm thankful that yoga helps me care for my whole self, that it's changed the way I perceive my body, that it's always just practice, never a big game, and that I no longer have to demonstrate my physical fitness (or lack thereof) in front of thirty of my peers.

Salad days

Today was not a great day.

It wasn't a horrible day, nothing went catastrophically wrong, no one was hurt. But there were obstacles and missed calls and worry about deadlines — that kind of thing. When I left work at 8:05, I'd already been looking forward to dinner for hours — Wednesday is salad special day at the place that has my favorite salad, and it's so cheap and so delicious, I was sure it would salvage my grumbly mood. So I called on my way out the door.

"Hi, can I place an order to pick up?"
"Um... I'm sorry, but we close at 8:00 on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays now."
"Ohhhh."
"But — My salad station is still set up."
"Really? A salad is all I want." (Note: I might have said that with a little more desperation than is appropriate.)
"OK, and this is [my real name]?"
Stunned silence. "Um..."
"Oh, sorry, we have Caller ID now, too. What can I get for you?"
"Can you do half a Cobb salad with chicken?"
"Sure, I can do that. That'll be ready in about ten minutes."

And when I arrived there was a perfect salad waiting for me, and cheerful people happy to sell it to me, even after they were closed, even at a greatly reduced price. I left an enormous tip and was on my way, very much cheered up.

Also: That was only the first of two excellent food experiences I had this evening, but the other will wait for another post.

Day 8 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for great customer service, for people who are willing to go a little out of their way for me, for opportunities to think about how I could do the same for others, customer or not. And for really, really delicious salads. I love salad.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Peace

This is a selfish, selfish, selfish one.

I do understand the reason for the season, as it were, and I do honor veterans, for reasons both similar and dissimilar to Heidi's.

But also.

RI works and/or has school six days a week. The seventh day, we often-but-not-always get to spend together, and the last few weeks, we've had a lot of stuff happening on those seventh days: an extra day of training for RI, a high school reunion for me, a writing workshop for RI, a board retreat for me.

Today, thanks to veterans everywhere and the armistice ending World War I, we had time sleep late, to run errands, to have breakfast together, to spend some time individually connecting with family on the phone and together playing games. We spent some time outside in the beautiful weather and some time just hanging out indoors — some time in serious necessary conversation and some time laughing and some time writing. We had a whole extra glorious day.

Day 7 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for time to rest and time to spend with people I love, and double-thankful for time to rest with people I love.

Who It's About

Today's guest post is from my good friend and occasional commenter Heidi. There's more from Heidi on Twitter: @queerminister.

Anyone else want to get in on the guest-posting fun? Let me know.


Veterans Day is kind of a big deal at my house. This is a new thing for me.

I didn’t grow up in a military or government family (although my Mom’s oldest brother served in Vietnam). I did however marry into a military and government family. Have you seen that movie Meet the Parents? My father-in-law is Robert DeNiro’s character in that movie. People think I’m kidding until they meet him. Then, they discover that I’m not. He’s kind of a gruff, rough around the edges dude on first meeting. He has however discovered that I will bring him his favorite alcohol when I visit, and cook him requested dinners, so I’m in the circle of trust now. That works out well for me.

My father-in-law is also a veteran and retired from the United States government, having served overseas for much of his professional life. My mother-in-law is former government. My sister-in-law is a military wife. My partner’s grandfather was career military. The well runs deep.

It was a little bit of a treat for me to marry into the family. I love my country (a lot) despite all of its faults. I own a scarf in the design of the American flag. I sob my way through the National Anthem and patriotic songs fairly regularly. I still feel awed every time I go into a voting booth. You get the drift. But it’s not totally “PC” in my circles to love America as much as I do.

I’m a queer person, and a liberal, Christian minister. My circles are often full of people who are not only pacifist (which I am too), but deeply anti-war and anti-military. I get a lot of side eye from radical queers when I trot out the flag scarf, or excitedly discuss our 4th of July plans.

And I get it. I really do. I understand the frustration with war that seems endless and exhausting. I share it. I understand that people don’t know what to make of our intelligence work when the NSA is all over the news spying on people in inappropriate ways. I get that the military industrial complex is a real thing.

But here’s what else I know.

I know that my best friend from seminary (a military chaplain and officer herself) is facing her first Veteran’s Day with her husband deployed overseas. She is one of the strongest people I know.

I know that my friend M weathered 6 months of her wife’s deployment under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell with almost none of the benefits straight couples get at that time. Someone else was going to get the phone call first if her wife was killed in combat.

I know that my friend C has served 2 tours of duty in Kuwait and Afghanistan, her most recent alongside her father. People at a conference gathering for our denomination actively avoided her mom under the guise of pacifism while both her daughter and husband were at war.

I could go on and on with stories. But I’ll end with this. Today is Veteran’s Day. It’s not about you, or me, or our politics — unless you're a veteran. Today it’s about gratitude, and saying thanks.

Oh, and for the record? I’ve never met anyone as pro-peace as a veteran.

Day 6 of gratitude: Today, I am thankful for our military personnel, our veterans, and their families. I am grateful for their commitment to serve a country who often does not care for them as we should, and the sacrifices they make. I am even thankful for my sometimes cranky, always entertaining father-in-law, and the fact he does not own a polygraph machine.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Unexpect the Expected

Sometimes, Netflix suggests something to me that seems racist, horribly violent in the ways I dislike, or that I will otherwise obviously hate.

Easy. I don't watch those things.

Sometimes, Netflix suggests something that seems fantastic.

Easy. I do watch those things.

And sometimes, Netflix suggests things that seem so random and boring that I assume there must be more to them — there must be a real story that I will, somehow connect to.

Usually, that's accurate. Sometimes, it's really, really not.

Related: You can probably skip Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony. That subtitle is inaccurate. If the film is an accurate depiction of the adult fandom of My Little Pony, they are entirely expected. Don't get me wrong, I don't judge them for it, but there are no big shocks.

Although: If you were going to watch it anyway, and you are a viewer of Bob's Burgers, I really recommend watching it before watching "The Equestranauts" (Season 4, Episode 17). I understand that it is not generally worth it to watch a 90-minute boring documentary for slightly enhanced enjoyment of a 21-minute cartoon.

Day 5 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for the sheer quantity of entertainment available to me, any time, in so so many media. For movies and television shows and books and the internet and newspapers and magazines and music — for those that elevate and those that amuse.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hear me roar

A while back, someone I know who is definitely on the line between "acquaintance" and "friend" said she was starting a feminist book club. And I got immediately excited about the idea. Like, disproportionately excited.

And in thinking about why, I think it's that I miss, in some ways, having a community of women. I have plenty of women friends, of course, some of you among them — but I don't have (I thought) a women-specific community of women. I've had them before, eschewed them before, and finally settled on just listening to my own excitement, got the audio book, and listened to The Round House as I did a lot of driving around a few weekends ago.

Book club itself was great. Next time, we're reading Kate Chopin's The Awakening, and I'm pretty excited — not just because one of the other members of the group is a bona fide rock star and published author of a book I love. For a bunch of white women in a feminist book club in Vermont, we're pretty diverse, and the thoughts shared sparked new thoughts, and basically it was all very nice.

Then this week, I went to therapy. It's not a big deal; I'm usually in therapy. I like therapy, a lot, actually. But about a year ago, my therapist pulled together a group to do group therapy, all women, varying ages and orientations, and we get together and do therapy (which often involves more movement or psychodrama or whatever, rather than just talking) every other week.

But it is maybe not coincidence that I was missing a community of women during the period that my therapy group went nearly two months without a meeting.

And last night, to settle back in, we just talked — no movement, no psychodrama. And very quickly, it felt like what I like to hope feminist consciousness-raising groups were like. It was amazing, the points of commonality, the nods and gasps as we became increasingly aware of how alike so much of our baggage is.

Earlier in the day, I'd had a longer-than-expected dental appointment, because my hygienist and I are friends, and we needed to talk about politics and her kids and my teeth. As I left, she'd said, "We need to get together," and I knew she meant the two of us and the mutual friend who introduced us, and again, I was immediately and disproportionately excited.

Day 4 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for communities of women, the more inclusive*, the better. I am thankful for opportunities to talk about similarities and differences of experience, about socialization and its impact. I am thankful for quilting bees and daycare collectives and dental chairs and book clubs and my suite in my college dorm.

*It occurred to me late that I should be specific here. I mean, inclusive of people who identify as women, specifically including people with different body parts, ages, classes, races, family backgrounds, ideologies, abilities, and experiences. 

Bubble, bubble

And already we're playing catch-up. A lot of catch-up.

Last night, a friend asked about hidden talents: "What are your hidden talents (skills and abilities people would not normally associate with your employment history - e.g. a high school math teacher who is a trophy-winning race car driver - or social background - e.g. an American of Italian descent who is fluent in Xhosa)?"

I thought it was a fun question, so I played along, and posed the question on my own Facebook, and read lots of other people's fun answers.

My answer, at the time, was thus: "I'm not sure I have any real skills that people would find surprising, but I am competent at a bunch of things people seem to find surprising. Like, I'm a slightly better than average bowler. I'm a county-fair-honorable-mention-level jam maker. I can run a light board adequately (which is probably less surprising to college friends than to people who've met me since then). I am stronger than it seems like I should be, a little."

But I think I might have a better one, as of my morning-shower-thinking-session. I think they didn't occur to me because most people would not necessarily regard them as skills or talents, but I for real do: My queerness and my capacity for radicalism and my faith. All three of those things seem to surprise people about me, but they are, like, a lot of who I am and a lot of what I do. So, yeah. I'm going with that.

(Also, perhaps obviously, I am interested in hearing more both about your own hidden talents and about what you think mine are.)

Day 3 of our* month of gratitude: I am thankful for what simmers beneath the surface, in myself and in those around me.**

*Still open to hearing from those who'd like to contribute. Please.
**Wait. Is simmering a thing that can happen beneath the surface, in a literal sense? Isn't simmering about the whole temperature of the whole thing?***
***Also a hidden talent: Literalism, and, therefore, metaphor.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Home shopping

One night last week, I sent the following sequence of messages to RI:
i know you're already asleep
but i need you to have this information
on qvc, they have a line of what appear to be knock-off uggs
you would think uggs is the worst name for a thing
but these boots are called lamo
they pronounce it to rhyme with "camo," but i think we all know better 

Several days before that, I sent this sequence of messages to RI:
they are selling a fragrance on qvc
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO SELL FRAGRANCE ON TELEVISION?
Day 2 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful to have found QVC on my Roku after many years without cable, and to have a partner in this world who is capable of at least feigning amusement at the things that surprise or delight or amuse me.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Good

Oh, look! It's November again. And one reader loooooooves the Month of Gratitude, so I'm doing it again.

Here's a thing about me that many people who know me well do not know about me: I am terrified, like, total-panic-level terrified, of Doing It Wrong.

That is true for almost any It I do over the course of a day or a lifetime:

  • doing my job
  • getting dressed
  • accessorizing
  • being a friend
  • being a girlfriend
  • dancing
  • singing
  • stage management
  • staying in touch
  • eating
  • dental hygiene
  • feminism
  • antiracism
  • telling a joke
  • cooking for people
  • playing pool
  • coordinating an event
  • having people over
  • blogging

Some of you will want to reassure me that I don't do at least some of those Its wrong, because you like the way I do them. That is sweet, but not really the point.

Of course I'm good at some (many) of those things. I don't do a lot of them unless I'm nearly certain I can do them right. And even still, I screw up sometimes.

The most liberating thing a former colleague ever said to me was, "Sometimes, done is good." I don't put that advice into practice very often, but when I do, it is always, always a relief.

All of that by way of saying, some of why you don't get very many blog posts from me is that I am really really, often, afraid of Doing It Wrong — of not being funny or clever enough, of offending someone or making space for someone else to offend someone. And here is where I should say, "but I'm over all that. If people get offended, that's their problem. Maybe they needed to be offended." But I won't, because actually, I think concern for that kind of thing is one of my pretty good qualities, even if it is the flip side of one of the qualities that gets in my way most.

Day 1 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for friends and readers who are not usually as hard on me as I am on myself. I'd also be super, super thankful if any of those friends or readers wanted to write a guest post this month, à la last year.

Note: Lest any of you start worrying that I apply the same standards to others that I do to myself, I don't. First, I am too busy worrying about me to worry about you. Mostly. Second, if you're in my life, it's probably because you do at least one thing very well that I wish I could do so well. Nearly all of my friends share that. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Giving out

Apparently, today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Giving Tree, a book about which many people (including myself) have strong feelings. 

I will admit that my take on this much-beloved/much-loathed parable is maybe a little skewed by the fact that I first encountered it as a young adult, rather than as a child.

So... what's yours? Love it? Hate it? Ambivalent? Can't believe anyone gives it this much thought? Also: why?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Half-plus-seven

I recently read an internet comment (I know, never read the comments...) in which someone suggested that a relationship between a forty-something and a twenty-something is, if not doomed, then probably shallow, because what would they find to talk about? It is not the first time I have heard this suggestion.

I am 43.

RI is 28.

Also, the last two people I dated were 18 years older and 13 years younger than I. I have a little expertise here.

In case there are those who literally wonder what people with a more-than-ten-year age gap find to talk about, and who are not merely pearl-clutching as an accessory to judgement, I offer a partial list from my current relationship (list may skew to the recently-discussed):

  • Our days
  • Our jobs
  • Our volunteer work
  • Bowling
  • Laundry
  • Sleep
  • Politics, local
  • Politics, national
  • Politics, identity
  • Religion
  • The Office
  • Other TV shows
  • The Ramones
  • Other music
  • Movies
  • Playing games (card or board, not mental or emotional)
  • Our respective childhoods
  • How we feel about each other
  • How we feel about ourselves
  • How we feel about other things
  • Our friends
  • Our families
  • Our schedules
  • Social inequalities
  • The future
  • What we're having for dinner
  • What to do with so much kale
  • Money
  • Sex
  • Our deepest values, and how attached we really are to them
  • Our health
  • If this outfit looks OK
  • Yard saling
  • Prison
  • Stuff we read on the internet
  • Stuff we read in books
  • Jokes, heard or read somewhere
  • Jokes, inside
  • Jokes, nonsensical
So, yeah, kind of a lot of what we talk about is pretty surface level. And also, some of it is not — and I am not sure it is always possible to tell which, nor am I sure it always matters.

I can't speak for RI, but I'm pretty happy with the balance.

What do other people find to talk about?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Good to the last drop

Lisa's not the only one who can take a picture of a mug. Mug provided by bzh.

Welcome, Polka Dot Cottage readers! There should be some new stuff here soon, but it'll be about Plattsburgh, NY, so if you want to get up to speed around here, may I recommend you start with The Plattsburgh Saga from nearly three years ago? (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) To get a feel for the rest of what I write, click around on the labels over there in the left rail, according to your interests.

Regular readers, hey there! A much more popular blogger than I (who is also my old friend) featured me on her blog this morning! She writes all kinds of useful/interesting/fun things, and today, she posted an interview with me! Grab a cup of coffee and get to know your blogger better. I will be drinking iced tea. Or lemonade. Probably an Arnold Palmer, because I'm indecisive like that. But I don't drink coffee. That was a bonus fact for those of you who actually read CMC, whether newly today or all the time.

(Also, today is RI's birthday. Happy birthday, RI!)


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Appropriate

I've been trying to think about how or whether to write about this Robin Williams stuff, and had mostly decided not to, for a couple of reasons. And then I had this conversation this evening with a friend of mine whose mother has dealt with a whole lot of mental and physical health issues, and still does.
Friend: I have a question about online appropriateness.
You're very appropriate.
May I ask you?
bzzzzgrrrl: Sure!
Friend: So... with this whole Robin Williams thing... people are all like "Oh, suicide and depression and other mental health things!" and now "Oh Parkinson's"!
bzzzzgrrrl: Right
Friend: But... I haven't seen anything that's like... hey... Parkinson's can be caused by the use of psychiatric meds.
Or... treating long term mental health disorders is a really shitty road in this country and the way we do it often puts people in a situation where they end up with mental AND physical health issues as a result of their treatment.
And... clearly... I have a personal stake in that right now.
bzzzzgrrrl: Right
Friend: And I'm mad that nobody is making those connections.
bzzzzgrrrl: I mean, that's presumably because they don't know, because capitalism
Friend: But also, I'm kinda mad that people are getting all up in Robin William's business and making assumptions in the first place.
Right.
I know.
bzzzzgrrrl: Right
Friend: So... I kinda want to bring a little awareness, but also not be an assuming gawker.
bzzzzgrrrl: In your shoes, I might literally copy and paste a bunch of this conversation and share it on Facebook
Friend: Heh.
bzzzzgrrrl: Or also, in my shoes, I might ask permission to do the same and share it on my blog and then let you share the link.
Friend: You certainly have my permission to do that.
Here's the link that I think is helpful that I kinda want to share.
http://www.parkinsons.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/download/english/fs38_druginducedparkinsonism.pdf
Mom's had a crap ton of the drugs on the list in that link.
And she's almost certainly gonna land a diagnosis of secondary Parkinson's next week.
Which, frankly, we're hoping for because it would open up a lot of doors for services that you just can't get covered for mental health issues.
If you keep me anonymous in your blog, you can post any of this that you want.
FYI
It's just so infuriating to see people on my FB be like "Wow! I can't believe he had Parkinson's too!"
Like it's a damn coincidence.
I mean... maybe it is.
But.
The terrible side effects of those drugs just get swept under the carpet all the damn time.
So, yeah. I'm still not sure I have anything to say about Robin Williams. But I'm glad to give a platform to someone who does have something to say about something related to Robin Williams.

Feel free to make the comments a free-for-all for helpful information. Emphasis on helpful.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

I hit that

Hey!

Yesterday, I hit the jackpot!

(It's a spinning wheel with eight segments that I have been spinning almost once a day since November. Statistically, I should have hit it many times before now. But the wheel is fixed, so I didn't, until yesterday. Very exciting.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Only Water Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep

The other day, I had some pretty major (well, pretty major for me, anyway) dental work. I will spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say there are any gory details. I'm OK now. Knock wood.

This was the fourth and last in this series of appointments, and by far the biggest deal. But the appointments have been over the course of a few months, so there's visible change in my mouth, in a positive way. Naturally, this has my friend who is also my dental assistant very excited.

She's a generous-of-spirit type anyway, as evidenced by her calling in to the dentist while we waited for my local anesthetic to kick in: "[bzzzzgrrrl] is one of the coolest people I know." The dentist looked at me, seemingly in disbelief, and I said, "To be fair, [assistant] hath a limited thothial thircle." (He and I then got into a big conversation about wines. About which I know nothing. Nonetheless, it went slightly better than our last wait-for-the-Novocaine conversation, regarding his theories on the JFK assassination.)

And a while later, when he was done with me and her part of the appointment was beginning, she showed me some Water Pik videos.

"You should do a Water Pik blog," she said.

I laughed appreciatively.

"You're probably the one person I know who is cool enough to do it," she said. "Here, I'll print out your before-and-after pictures. Look how good that looks."

It may be that she has a different idea of what "cool" means than a lot of people do.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Unplanned

Someone recently asked me how blogging fit into my daily life, and I responded with something like, "I WISH blogging fit into my daily life."

And you all know that's true, that for me blogging is mostly a way of staying in touch (though I love all my internet-only buddies here, too), and that I love staying in touch.

But also? I am just filled with gratitude for my life right now. Like, people ask how my weekend was, and I say, "busy," while rolling my eyes and almost out of breath, but the fact of the matter is, I choose my busy, because my life is filled to brimming with fun stuff and I don't want to miss out on any of it.

I've had this problem before; in college, I'd stay up late and get up early (sometimes), just because I didn't want to miss latenight conversations or shenanigans in the hallway of my dorm, and if I could get myself up in time, I didn't want to miss breakfast with a different group of amazing people.

For example, this weekend was the first in a long time that RI and I didn't have any plans — and we have a lot of heavily planned weekends coming up. In this unplanned weekend, I:

  • Went to a lecture on "The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity"
  • Visited with my parents and some old family friends
  • Went yardsaling
  • Hit the farmer's market
  • Took a nap
  • Started a new book (reading, not writing)
  • Watched a documentary
  • Had a date night out at our favorite Latin American restaurant
  • Played a new game
  • Set up a screen tent and a queen-sized airbed on the deck and fell asleep watching the fireflies (and woke up hearing birdsongs and the neighbor kid practicing violin)
  • Went to church and heard my dad preach a really excellent sermon on the child refugees
  • Took another nap
  • Had a spontaneous ice cream double date with some friends
  • Went to the supermarket
  • Played with my niece and nephew
  • Saw the very end of the World Cup final
  • Read with my niece and nephew
  • Had dinner with the family
I did not:
  • Go to bed as early as I planned
  • Get the laundry done
  • Do a little writing for work
  • Blog
...but I wouldn't have missed any of it. I mean, right?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hello Muddah

An old summer camp friend of mine has a friend whose (12-year-old) kid is going to camp for the first time and was looking for advice, both for mom and kid.

I suspect I was asked because I was online at the time she had the question. And because I have worked at or attended about a dozen camps, as camper, counselor, division head, drama specialist, dorm parent, costume designer (OK, that was a theater camp), maintenance person, kitchen crew, arts-and-crafts director (very briefly and in a pinch), office administrator, and director. So I know pretty much everything.

But so do a bunch of you.

Here is some of what I said.

For mom:

  • Even if you feel sad or worried about your kid, DO NOT emphasize that. Tell her you'll miss her, but not how much, and then let her go have fun — if she's homesick, let it be on her own terms and not because she's worried about you. 
  • Don't  hang around a long time after you drop her off. Get there early so she can get a good bunk, help her settle in quickly and then leave.
  • Write. Letters from home are some of the best parts of camp. Do it even if your kid is terrible about writing back. Do it on paper, not email, even if camp lets you email.
  • Have fun while she's gone. If she is an only child (or her siblings are also at camp), have grownup fun that it's harder to have without her around, and tell her about the appropriate-to-share but boring-to-her parts, in your letters. ("Edith and I went to the teacup museum and saw seven hundred different kinds of teacups. It was so fascinating.") If not, obviously you will have special fun with your other kids, but encourage them not to brag about it until she's home and can brag back.


For kid:

  • Make friends with as many interesting fun kids as you can and also at least one kid who doesn't seem to have very many other friends. 
  • Try as many things as seem fun to you, even the ones you're afraid you won't be good at. 
  • Eat as many fruits and veggies as you can, even if they're gross, and at least a little protein at every meal. That will help avoid whatever sickness winds up going around. 
  • Write to your parents, at least once every week but no more than once a day.
  • Come armed with a couple of legitimately funny jokes, and then don't tell them right when you get to camp. There will be a moment when you will be glad you have them. 
  • Bring one nice outfit (not fancy, just, like, clean and makes you feel good) and save it (maybe in one of those big plastic Ziploc bags) for towards the end of camp, when everything else is kind of dirty and cruddy and gray and gross. YOU WILL FEEL SO AMAZING.
So, my many, many other camp-expert friends, including the ones I know from summer camp: What do you say? What's the best advice you've gotten? What's the smartest thing you've seen done?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

...and Taking Names

One day last week, I:
  • wrote a letter I'm really proud of
  • made a delicious dinner
  • rearranged the living room with my partner in a way that pleases us both and incorporates all of our furniture (including a foosball table)
  • made really good cold-brew iced tea (thanks to Lisa at Polka Dot Cottage)
  • got some work done
  • half-wrote this post

So, you know. Calling it a win, overall. It's amazing, that feeling yielded by the combination of creativity and productivity, right?

What are you getting excited and making?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Trapped indeed

Kind of a lot going on around here. The Romantic Interest (RI) has moved in for the summer, which has been just really blissful, actually.

Plus, I am learning and growing every day.

Here is how you can tell: I just wrote the following phrase, in seriousness: "In retrospect, among the most striking things about [R. Kelly's] Trapped in the Closet ..."

Also, any of you who have actually watched some or all of Trapped in the Closet should admit it right here in the comments, because OMG why have we not all seen this? I mean, aside from that R. Kelly is basically a monster.

If there is sufficient demand, I will write a post on many of the striking things about it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hint, hint

I read too many advice columns. That is just true, and I'm OK with it, basically.

For those of you not in the know, "Hints from Heloise" is a column of household hints. On average, one a day involves a new use for vinegar. For me, it contains a mix of:

  • useful tips
  • tips that fill a need I don't currently have — often regarding opening jars with arthritis or handling pet issues
  • tips that are so obvious it's hard to see why anyone would need to ask an advice columnist about them.

We're going to talk about that third category today.

Yesterday morning, the first letter to Heloise was as follows:
Dear Heloise: 
Could you please reprint your hint on how to create NEW FOLDERS ON YOUR COMPUTER for those of us who need a little extra help? 
-- A Reader in Illinois
Is that possibly real, that someone would want to do such a thing and not know anyone, socially, familially, or professionally who could help them in real life, to the point that Heloise is who they would ask?

Never mind that Heloise's specific advice would absolutely not work on my computer. Turns out, the 63-year-old vinegar queen is not an IT guru. Who knew?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Striking a hoard

Two possibly relevant pieces of information before we begin our story:
  • The expected high today where I live is 43 degrees.
  • I am really, really not into hickeys. Don't want to give them, don't want to receive them, never have, for reasons probably both good and less-good. We'll plumb those depths another time.

Now that that's out of the way...

Last night, I was just sitting around, watching Hoarders, maybe a little judgmentally, like everyone who watches Hoarders.

And then, it was time for bed.

So I got up and immediately tripped on a pile of clutter in my own home (because hubris. Or karma. Or both.).

Fortunately, I did not break my laptop, which I was holding at the time.

But I did land both painfully and awkwardly, collarbone first, on the railing to my treadmill.

All of which is to say, thank goodness that it is appropriate to wear this turtleneck (technically, cowlneck), because bruisey:


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Another True Story, Just More Disgusting than Adventurous

About 20 years ago, I decided to (mostly) stop drinking sugared drinks. No more regular soda for me, or juices with a bunch of sugar added — all diet soda, all the time.

About 15 years ago, I stopped drinking coffee (mostly iced) because it was wreaking havoc on my guts.

About three years ago, I decided it was time to quit artificial sweeteners. I was drinking sugar again. I kept drinking soda (only one a day) (but it was an enormous one), just the kind with sugar (usually high fructose corn syrup) (but real sugar when available). I have not had any artificial sweeteners since.

About six weeks ago, I decided to see how long I could go without regular soda. There was no big blanket "never again!" this time, just an awareness of how much sugar is in a high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden enormous soda. I can't avoid all HFCS, but I can avoid one giant dose of it. I switched to un-pre-sweetened iced tea immediately for my caffeine fix. And even as much as I like sweets, I'm never going to add as much sugar to a glass of iced tea as is already in a soda, for two reasons:
  • embarrassment, and 
  • solubility.
That's been going great. I can even procure my iced tea from the same location I was procuring my soda, for nearly the same very low price.

Until, SIGH, I had reason to send this letter to the customer complaints address of a certain convenience store chain this morning:

I regularly visit both the [my town] store and the [RI's town] store.

A few weeks ago, I went to buy an iced tea in [my town], only to find a long, mucouslike glob (of mold, I assume) dripping from the spout. There was a store employee cleaning nearby, who saw me react, and immediately agreed that it was unacceptable, poured out the full urn of tea, reassured me that they do clean the urns frequently and that he would reclean that one, and offerred me a free fountain soda, coffee, or hot tea. I was completely satisfied with his reaction, and have returned to that store several times since then, though I haven't been able to stomach the thought of getting iced tea there again.

Saturday morning (4/19) at about 10:30, I stopped in [RI's town] for an iced tea. There were no visible issues, but after I left the store, I discovered the iced tea tasted rotten. It was undrinkable, and I poured it out (but did not complain, because I'd left the store, and essentially forgot about it). I have had [store's] iced tea often in the past with no taste issues.

This morning, at about 5:45, I stopped into the [RI's town] store for an iced tea again, and was startled to find what looked like a dried-up version of what I'd seen in [my town],  again, coming from the iced-tea spout in a long thread. Again, there was an employee in the area cleaning. I pointed it out to him, and he was dismissive, and just picked the crud off the nozzle. I left the store without buying anything, and will certainly think twice about buying anything prepared at that location again.

To have the same experience in two stores in such a short period of time suggests to me that the cleaning process for those urns (or maybe the design of the urns themselves) is problematic. I hope you'll work with your stores to find a solution, and I hope you'll let me know when you do, because I'll miss having such a convenient, inexpensive option — but I'm not likely to buy iced tea at any [store] location unless I know the problems have been rectified.

Thank you for your attention.

It is now about 8 hours later, and there's been no response from the store, and I still feel as sick to my stomach as I did first thing this morning. Gross.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A True Story That Really Happened (mild cursing because I am that cool)

Sorry for my, er, inadvertent vacation from blogging, and for my abrupt and inexplicable return.

BUT.

THIS HAPPENED.

Last night, I was in Bennington, Vermont.

There are not a lot of places to buy gas between Bennington and West Brattleboro on Route 9 (about a 40-mile stretch). There are enough places that I should not have been in danger, but I am also an idiot, and that is relevant.

So I was extremely low on gas. And when I was about 5 miles from the next gas station (according to my gps) — my car stopped. I tried to start it again a few times, with no luck. Which was unfortunate and inconvenient, but, whatever, I thought. It wasn't too horribly late at night, and I have a number of friends who live, say, 6 or 7 miles from where I was stopped."I'll text people. One of them will be around, and they'll come bring me gas, and it'll be fine."

So I wrote said text.

And hit send.

And... no service. Not even enough to send a text. So, that's no good.

But, you know. I was on the downhill side of a mountain.

I decided maybe, if I put the car in neutral, I could roll forward enough to get a little cell service and then the text would send itself. It did not seem to me to be the smartest idea I'd ever had, but it did seem smarter than hitchhiking in the dark with no one knowing where I was.

So I put on the hazard lights and I tried it.

And I rolled (without power steering, because the car's not on, or power brakes, because ditto). And I rolled. And I rolled. I rolled, in fact, for about three miles and only stopped because someone was behind me and it made me nervous.

Sadly, the place I could pull over was flat enough that I couldn't just continue to roll in neutral from a stop.

By then, the text had actually sent. But also, by then, the last fumes of gas were willing to cooperate a little better and so I managed to start the car and drive the last little bit to the gas station across from the other gas station in West Brattleboro, at which I filled the tank and texted my friends back that I was OK.

From there, I drove home and got on Facebook and sent a very similar version of that story to the one above to the two friends I'd attempted to text.

They were, understandably, very impressed with, I think, mostly my storytelling but also my badassery.

I allowed as how, as it was happening, I kept alternating between thinking, "[Our friend who is also a mechanic and a daredevil, previously called Special Guest Star on this very blog] will think I'm such a badass!" and "There's probably some reason this is terrible for my car, and he's going to give me hell about it."

So, naturally, I checked.

In case you were wondering, he responded thus: "You are, indeed, a badass. ... not likely to be bad for your car. Rolling in neutral isn't the best for an automatic transmission, but that's normally a problem when you're towing a car long distances or something. Brakes and steering, as you noted, lose their assist, but if you press super hard on the pedal you can still stop pretty quickly. So I hope you were at the ready with both feet."

I was indeed.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Just Cause (Part 4)

And continuing 40 Days of Worthy Causes... I'm highlighting a cause a day for each day of Lent. I hope you'll find some of them worth looking into, even supporting — and I hope you'll tell me what some of your favorites are, too, in the comments.

Day 16: Breast Cancer Action. I first heard of BCA from a person who's had breast cancer who dislikes a lot of other breast cancer awareness organizations. She has a pretty good rant about it, that I couldn't possibly top, so I'm not going to try. From BCAction's site: "...they are the only national breast cancer organization that does not accept funding from companies that profit from or contribute to cancer. Because they can't be bought, they tell the truth about important issues concerning our health, like toxins in the environment. Their work affects all of us, not just those with breast cancer."

Day 17: Sea Shepherd. Sea Shepherd first came to my attention after Bindi Irwin decided to associate herself with Sea World. Paul Watson, of Sea Shepherd, had some great things to say about both why Sea World is terrible and also why that's not the fault of one fifteen-year-old girl. They do incredible work and have the best logo for a nonprofit I can think of. From their site: "Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species."

Day 18: Families Against Mandatory Minimums. I saw The House I Live In this week, and it left me with lots of feelings and thoughts and plans for action (if you're interested in watching it, it's available on Netflix). One thing that was very clear to me is that mandatory minimum sentences aren't helping anyone — and from even the least sympathetic, most mercenary viewpoint, they're costing us a ridiculous amount of money. From FAMM's Mission: "FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization fighting for smart sentencing laws that maintain public safety. FAMM sees a country where criminal sentencing is individualized, humane, and sufficient to impose fair punishment and protect public safety."

Day 19: Autistic Self Advocacy Network. This is another organization that's important to someone who'se important to me — and one that's specifically helping a population that's often talked about by others speak for itself. From the mission statement: "The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. Drawing on the principles of the cross-disability community, ASAN seeks to organize the community of Autistic adults and youth to have our voices heard in the national conversation about us."

Day 20: The Root Social Justice Center. The Root started as a coworking space, but has become so much more in such a short period of time. It's rare for me to go two weeks without attending some event there, and every time, I'm just impressed with the simplicity of the idea of having a space where important social justice work of lots of different kinds happens under one roof. From the "About the Root" page: "The Root SJC provides a physically and financially accessible space to support and bring together communities working for social justice. We operate collectively to sustain a space that strives to be free of oppression, harm, and injustice."

Day 21: Invisible No More. From the home page: "Invisible No More is a peer run group representing the Trans* community, based in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. We exist for the purposes of Support, Advocacy, Education, and Celebration." INM's on this list because they supported a really wonderful production of "The Naked I" this weekend, which arguably counts toward all four of those purposes.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Just Cause (Part 3)

It's time for a continuation of 40 Days of Worthy Causes. I'll be highlighting a cause a day for each day of Lent. I hope you'll find some of them worth looking into, even supporting — and I hope you'll tell me what some of your favorites are, too, in the comments.

Day 11: Planned Parenthood. Probably, you all know what Planned Parenthood does, but if not, it provides health care, of many kinds, to people who need it, and takes a lot of heat for doing so.* I still go there because I have insurance, and they took care of me when I didn't, and now my insurance dollars fund something I believe in. From the "Who We Are" page: "Planned Parenthood is one of the nation's leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, and the nation's largest provider of sex education. Planned Parenthood also works with partner organizations worldwide to improve the sexual health and well-being of individuals and families everywhere."

Day 12: Heifer International. HI is one of the first three charitable organizations I can recall raising money for, as a child** — there is something tangible and easy-to-understand about giving animals that can feed, clothe, and otherwise sustain people. From "About Heifer": "We empower families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity – but our approach is more than just giving them a handout. Heifer links communities and helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty. Our animals provide partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market. When many families gain this new sustainable income, it brings new opportunities for building schools, creating agricultural cooperatives, forming community savings and funding small businesses." Also, I would swear that there was a bit on The Office where Kevin described HI's work as "a great prank," but I can't find it, for the life of me. Anyone else remember that?

Day 13: Sylvia Rivera Law Project. From the home page: "The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence." Seems important, right?

Day 14: Bike and Build. I first heard of this group a year ago (two?) when they were doing a bike clinic with kids at the church of a friend of mine when I was staying at said friend's house. From the home page: "Bike & Build organizes cross-country bicycle trips which benefit affordable housing groups. Specifically, we fund projects planned and executed by young adults. Over the past 10 seasons we have donated more than $4.5M; built for more than 160,000 hours; pedaled over 7.5M miles; and engaged more than 2000 young adults in spreading the word about the affordable housing crisis in America." And hey, if you're interested, they still have 2014 rider spots available.

Day 15: Camp Rising Sun. People who know me well know I believe in camp, generally. This camp helps kids with cancer. I first heard about it from a former coworker, one of their volunteers, who used to (perhaps still does?) go back every summer, and when she came back to work she just shone with the joy of that experience. From their "Who We Are" section: "It is our mission at Camp Rising Sun to provide a safe nurturing environment to kids who have faced the diagnosis of cancer, so that they may grow and learn from their experiences to become the best they can be."

Day 16: National Park Foundation. Maybe it's just because I'm sick to death of winter, and ready to get out and hiking, but our national parks are awesome, and I support them. "The National Park Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service, enriches America’s national parks and programs through private support, safeguarding our heritage and inspiring generations of national park enthusiasts."



*Also, unrelated to Planned Parenthood, but related to what PP gets a lot of attention for, which is abortion: If you have a chance to see After Tiller, I hope you will — I saw it a few weeks back and it really moved me and shifted my thinking about some things. I saw it with the only other person who I know saw it, and she is probably bored of hearing me talk about it by now. You can watch it through Amazon, if there isn't a screening near you.

**Other early favorites were:
  • Unicef, because children
  • What was then the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief, now Episcopal Relief and Development, because church
  • The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, because competitive reading. Anyone got a kid doing the MS readathon? Or any other readathon?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Right Said Fred

Why should I write a post when my friends do it better?

Here is what my Facebook feed said about the death of Fred Phelps today. I think it is pretty safe to say that none of these people would have been considered pro-Phelps, or even Phelps-neutral, while he lived. I did not cherry-pick these responses. This is literally every response I saw.

Rev. Emily C. Heath: I pray that Fred Phelps finds in death the peace and love of God that he never found in life.
"Do not repay evil for evil..." - 1 Peter 3:9

Heidi Carrington Heath: Prayers of healing, peace, and reconciliation for Fred Phelps. Fred, may you be surrounded by the infinite mercy of God's love that loves all of us. May you find the peace in death you could not find in life. May your family find comfort as they grieve your death. Go with God.

Patrick Hagerty: I know that the man, while alive, espoused a hate-filled agenda. I hope, now that he is gone, that he is at peace and all the conflict and pain he caused can now start to heal. In the end we should treat even those who despise us with compassion, although they would not do the same for us. It's what makes us different.

Sonora Chase Snyder: Farewell Fred, and may God heal you before you get reincarnated.

Beth Zacharias Hunt
can’t help but wonder where Fred Phelps finds himself this afternoon.

Erik Marino: Fred Phelps is dead. My bracket is ruined. 

George Takei: Today, Mr. Phelps may have learned that God, in fact, hates no one. Vicious and hate-filled as he was, may his soul find the kind of peace through death that was so plainly elusive during his life.

Mary Lambert: Don't practice what Fred Phelps preached. A death is a death is a death. My wish is that he is met by the beautiful souls he hatefully picketed and learns compassion, empathy, and true love.

I may have more complicated feelings later, but right now, I'm hardly thinking about Fred Phelps. I am thinking about how lucky I am to be in a circle of folks who are so loving and hilarious and unhateful. I am pretty excited that these are the people I have surrounded myself with, or been surrounded by, over a lifetime.


Note: All quotes are used with permission, and attributed by permission, except for the ones by celebrities who already shared the sentiments publicly, so, seems OK. I don't actually follow either Mary Lambert or George Takei, but my real-life friends shared their words.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Just Cause (Part 2)

Sometimes, things happen, like not having the internet at home. But now, a day late, we have a continuation of 40 Days of Worthy Causes. I'll be highlighting a cause a day for each day of Lent. I hope you'll find some of them worth looking into, even supporting — and I hope you'll tell me what some of your favorites are, too, in the comments.

Day 5: Green Mountain Crossroads. GMC is an LGBTQ community organization for southeastern Vermont, southwestern New Hampshire, and northwestern Massachusetts. It was founded by a couple of people who are simultaneously really incredibly lovely and very very dedicated to their community. From the Facebook page: "Green Mountain Crossroads is a nonprofit organization working to increase the connections among the LGBTQ communities. We maintain a community events calendar on our website, and assist in organizing events, workshops, performances, and support groups. Our website also provides resources and referrals for health and well being."

Day 6: Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund. I have a friend who's on the board of this organization (they have 16 days left to raise $10,000 on their indiegogo campaign, if you're into that), but I also just love the idea of supporting student activists, specifically. From their "about the fund" page: "The Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund provides grants to students actively working for peace and justice. These need-based scholarships are awarded to those able to do academic work at the university level and who are part of the progressive movement on the campus and in the community. Early recipients worked for civil rights, against McCarthyism, and for peace in Vietnam. Recent grantees have been active in the struggle against racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression; building the movement for economic justice; and creating peace through international anti-imperialist solidarity."

Day 7: Justice in the Body. I got to know this organization (and one of its founders) when I crashed on its floor (organization, not founder) about a year ago. If you're in the Portland area, check it out — I find myself frequently wishing it was closer, or actually just more widespread. They're doing great work in so many seemingly disparate but widely varied ways. From their "About JITB" section: "Justice in the Body is a socially responsible education, training, and movement center devoted to integrating well-being, love, justice, and liberation with individuals, groups, and social movements." The founder I met had a practice of asking people who asked about JITB: "What would justice in your body look like?" I've been carrying that question around for a year now.

Day 8: Academy of Hope. My first job out of college was teaching adult ed at AoH, and that experience was totally formative in so many ways. It changed how I thought about teaching, and learning, and privilege, while I was at the same time living in a group house that was changing how I thought about faith and community. Big year. When I moved back to DC a few years later, I volunteered, and am proud to have also participated in their adult spelling bee, which is among the best fundraisers I've participated in. From the "Mission and Values" page: "Academy of Hope's mission is to provide high quality adult basic education in a manner that changes lives and improves our community. ... Since its beginning in 1985, the Academy of Hope has been powered by adult learners, volunteers, donors and staff who are dedicated to building one of the most respected not-for-profit organizations in the Washington, D.C., area."

Day 9: You Gotta Believe. An old friend is adopting a 19-year-old young man through this organization. I can't think of any reason why most of you would know that the adoption (or fostering) of older youth is, like, A Thing for me, but it is. From their mission: "You Gotta Believe is one of a precious few organizations in the U.S and the only organization in the New York City Metro area that solely limits its practice to finding permanent parents and families for young adults, teens, and pre-teens in the foster care system. We were founded with a mission to find adoptive parents for pre-teens, teens and young adults before they age out of the foster care system and run the extremely high risk of becoming homeless."

Day 10: Yes!And Collaborative Arts. Did you know that March is Youth Art Month? Neither did I. But I do know that having artistic outlets, early, made me comfortable in many of the things I am today: weird, silly, a gifted problem-solver... Those outlets also gave me the friend who suggested this nonprofit to me. From the "About Y!A" page: "Yes! And... equips children and young people with the tools to be better learners, to believe in themselves and to realize their dreams through the work of creating collaboratively with peers and professional artists. As educators, we practice and teach a different way of interacting with kids, with each other and with the world. We believe that children learn best when they are given the opportunity to engage with one another, classroom content and their own ideas in the context of a safe, affirming and specific environment – this we call Tribe Centered Learning, a unique brand of Collaborative Arts Education."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Just Cause (Part 1)

So now we embark on our 40 Days of Worthy Causes. I'll be highlighting a cause a day for each day of Lent. I hope you'll find some of them worth looking into, even supporting — and I hope you'll tell me what some of your favorites are, too, in the comments.


  • Day 1: Episcopal Relief and Development formerly The Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief). ERD is one of my go-to organizations, mostly because it's well-managed. From the "What We Do" page: "Episcopal Relief & Development works with Church partners and other local organizations to save lives and transform communities worldwide. We rebuild after disasters and empower people to create lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease. Working in close to 40 countries, our programs impact the lives of approximately 3 million people around the world. ... Our four core program areas [are]: Alleviate Hunger and Improve Food Supply, Create Economic Opportunities and Strengthen Communities, Promote Health and Fight Disease, Respond to Disasters and Rebuild Communities."
  • Day 2: JDRF. When I started asking around about people's favorite causes, I was surprised by how often this one came up, because I didn't immediately recognize the acronym. But it did come up, a lot. From the "About JDRF" page: "JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D. ... JDRF is currently sponsoring $530 million in scientific research in 17 countries. In 2012 alone, JDRF provided more than $110 million to T1D research. More than 80 percent of JDRF’s expenditures directly support research and research-related education. In 2012 Forbes magazine named JDRF one of its five All-Star charities, citing the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness."
  • Day 3: Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department. TPVFD is mostly on this list because of the good work frequent commenter Mike is doing with them, both as a volunteer and through partner efforts for community CPR training. From Mike's comment on this post, "I got a grant for my volunteer fire department to teach a CPR instructor class (CPR instructor training is surprisingly hard to get and very expensive) for free to people who commit to teaching a certain number of free CPR classes for the community over the next few years. Next we'll be looking for funding to do an instructor class for bilingual Spanish speakers, so we can offer CPR classes in Spanish, and ASL speakers so we can offer classes in sign language. (You'd think that would be available already in these parts -- D.C. -- thanks to Gallaudet University, but even they use interpreters and non-signing instructors.) Disclosure: The training is provided through the donated labor of a small business Heather and I started to teach CPR and first aid, so we will also be able to employ some of these new instructors. But we are not making any money from the grants. (Like us on Facebook: Takoma Park CPR.)"
  • Day 4 (also International Women's Day): Girls on the Run. This is another one that's dear to the heart of several who are dear to me. From the "Who We Are" page: "We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. ... We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. Girls on the Run honors its core values. We strive to: Recognize our power and responsibility to be intentional in our decision making; embrace our differences and find strength in our connectedness; express joy, optimism and gratitude through our words, thoughts and actions; nurture our physical, emotional and spiritual health; lead with an open heart and assume positive intent; stand up for ourselves and others." I'm not really doing it justice. It's a phenomenal curriculum that incorporates physical health with confidence-boosting and leadership and other good values.