Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Never Enough

Becoming politically involved in 2017 reminds me of when I was striving to be environmentally active -- I could never do enough, I felt I was never doing it right.

In the case of the environment I would be proud of my overflowing recycling bins, and compost bucket, as well as my hardly used trash containers.

But it wasn't enough.

I was excited when the grocery store started collecting plastic bags -- mind you I had long given up using plastic bags, but now the grocery store also collected the giant plastic used to wrap bulk piles of toilet paper and paper towels (buying in bulk is better, right?).

But it wasn't enough.

I bought a fuel efficient car nine years ago and still drive it (not buying a new car should be good). I couldn't afford the extra $5,000 for the Prius.

But it wasn't enough.

The more I tried to be good for the environment, there was always someone a couple of steps ahead of me making me feel shame because I was doing wasn't good enough. Instead of recognizing we are on the same side, only they are getting A+++s in the class and I am only getting a B+, or on a good day an A-, I felt I could never achieve those extra pluses and lost my enthusiasm.

Sure, I still recycle. My trash bucket is only filled six times a year (not the 1-2 times a year of the overachievers). I drop off my rags rather than throwing them out (only to learn now third world nations are overrun with our good deeds). I recycle my plastic at the grocery store. No matter what I did, I didn't feel worthy of calling myself an environmentalist.

I bring this up now because I have the same feelings about activism. 

I marched with millions of others around the world. But our marches were non-violent.

It wasn't good enough.

I sign petitions in the past I would have deleted.

It isn't good enough.

I attend a prayer vigil.

It isn't good enough.

I work up the courage to call my representatives. Before I do, I learn it isn't good enough.

What is good enough in this age? Showing up to stand in front of my senator's office. It is only an hour a week (plus a train fare, train ride, and other incidentals). 

Even this needs taking it up a notch: invite the media; if they don't show up immediately send them pictures, videos, and information about the event and hope they record it.

Meanwhile, I need energy to build my business, to encourage Don to find a new job, to help Ashley with school. 

I was feeling zapped yesterday and thought "tomorrow I will take the day off from thinking about politics."

Wrong answer.

Being able to take time off from the fight just shows my "white privilege." Therefore by doing nothing for a day and recharging I am not doing enough.

I would love it if one of my posts would go viral. Please share with others. Now more than ever, we need to support each other.

Anything we do, especially if it is more than we used to do, is good enough. It is a step towards improving. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Robert Burns Night

When a friend invited me over midweek for a celebration of Robert Burns my first question was "who is Robert Burns?" followed by "why are we celebrating on a Wednesday night?"

My better educated friends recognize Robert Burns as the Scottish poet. And the midweek celebration was to fall on his actual birthday (January 25).

According to the official Robert Burns' website:

The annual celebratory tribute to the life, works and spirit of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). Celebrated on, or about, the Bard's birthday, January 25th, Burns Suppers range from stentoriously formal gatherings of esthetes and scholars to uproariously informal rave-ups of drunkards and louts. Most Burns Suppers fall in the middle of this range, and adhere, more or less, to some sort of time honoured form which includes the eating of a traditional Scottish meal, the drinking of Scotch whisky, and the recitation of works by, about, and in the spirit of the Bard.

These friends opted for something in-between, leaning closer to "infomal rave-ups of drunkards and louts" than "gatherings for asthetes and scholars." As it fell during finals week for Ashley, and the day before Don was going in for a routine procedure, I went alone. I reconnected with some of Stacy's athletic friends, and met new ones. 

I should have asked someone to take a picture of me. I wore my kilt.

Stacy made a haggis she procured from a Scottish shop that seems to exist solely for Robert Burns' Day. We did not discuss what haggis is exactly, but I can tell you it is tastier than I would have imagined.

Speeches and toasts were made. Candy did a great job reading in the original dialect, even though none of us speak Scottish. It added some flair to the event.

 Stacy served it with mashed potatoes, rhubarb, and plenty of alcohol.

Stacy's party inspired me. I have not entertained much in the past few years for whatever reason -- the house is too messy, it costs too much to entertain, would anyone really come, it is too much work. Stacy with her tiny house and her big heart showed me the fun outweighs the worry.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

All Four

There was a day last week when I worked all four of my piecemeal jobs.

1) Interviewed someone for a story for Community News
2) Edited a book for Open Door Publications
3) Substitute taught for half a day
4) Spoke with a freelance client about his family history

It was an eye opening day. 

I realized after having written over 500 stories over the past 4 years, I don't have the passion for writing for them as I did in the beginning. I interview a local business, try to find an interesting way to write about their business, hand in the story, have the editor grumble about something days after I hand it in (but they need the answer immediately for their deadline) and wait weeks to be paid. Repeat the following month. Sometimes no complaints. Rarely any praise or encouragement.

I realized I love working with authors to make their dreams come true, but also that I need to become an author someday.

I realized I enjoy subbing every now and again, but not enough to have my own class or to sub more than once a week. The pay isn't great enough and it takes away from my own business.

I realized I love talking to people about their stories, but that I need a different business model. I feel the fairest model is to charge an hourly rate with caps, but that seems to scare off most people. They hear "hourly rate" but not "caps" and fear this will cost tens of thousands of dollars. I've contemplated having them put a price on it and paying me what they feel it is worth, but that is a huge leap of faith. Can that kind of payment system even work in the real world? What is a fair price to put on preserving your family's story?

These are just a few of the thoughts I had on that day. The biggest one, of course, is what to do? What can I do in 2017 to make it a more professionally, financially, and spiritually fulfilling year? Can all three coexist? 

Writing and Running

Writing and Running have a lot in common for me, besides the obvious connection that they both start with the R sound. Both help me keep my sanity. Neither have I done in the past week.

The less I run and the less I write the less I can keep my focus, yet I can't seem to do either.

I can list excuses:
1) I have a cold
2) Ashley has finals
3) Don is still unemployed
4) It is windy outside
5) I just don't want to, and you can't make it

None of this solves anything. Even creating to do lists has no impact on my desire to get things done. I want to "bromate" like Sandy Dragon as the laundry and dishes pile higher, as I don't do what I need to do to grow my business, as I read more and more about the executive orders the new POTUS continues to issue.

I woke up feeling I needed to do something different, so I am starting with writing since it is still windy outside and running takes more energy than writing. Maybe a walk can lead to a run, as happened last Sunday. Maybe not. 

May I find the motivation I need. When I am filled with it, I find it easier for me to encourage others to be motivated, too. For now, though, the well is dry.

2017 Resolutions

January 2017 is almost in the history books and I still have not decided on or declared my New Years Resolutions. I feel as if my life is still on hold. I can't seem to find the push I need to move in a new direction -- any direction. These are a work in progress. I keep thinking of more to add.

After attending the Million Women March I see the need to be more involved politically, but am struggling with feeling overwhelmed -- which I suspect is the new President's master plan, wear us out so we can't fight him. All the more reason I need to do something.

Looking back on my 2016 Resolutions, I liked them. They didn't turn out the way I wanted them to, but I liked them. For instance I really wanted change. The biggest change I received was when Don lost his job and had open heart surgery. Meanwhile I still flounder with freelance and finding a purpose in my life.

I have started to keep a log for one place where I find God in my life each day. At the time I wrote this, I was only three days in, but I have kept up with this goal. Hopefully I can do better with this than I did with making my bed everyday. I'm hoping it helps to knock me out of my gloom.

Friends are posting concrete running goals, or number of books to read. I'm happy that both are solid parts of my life.

After some more thought today, I have come up with:

1) Join a parent group at Ashley's school and get to know more people at the school while helping out.

2) Give up on people referring to me as Jacquelyn, after trying for a year it is not catching on. Though happily less people have typed "Jackie" when talking about me, so some success. Maybe I'll just stick with "J" -- hard to misspell, right?

3) Add another country to my list of countries visited.

4) Try new low-carb recipes. That goal worked well with vegetarian recipes, well until I developed diabetes which the nutritionists say may have kicked in because I increased my carbs to compensate for lack of meat.

5) Write down one way I see God everyday. They don't have to be ways I would consider to be a "blessing" at this point, but simply how I see His hand in my world.

6) Try to stop wasting time. As I said at the onset, I feel as if I am waiting, which is precluding me from living. I need to find focus and run with it.

7) Donate blood. 

8) Entertain. Use our china.

9) Find two causes to get behind and do so -- I can't solve the entire world.

10) Contact my representatives on a regular basis (maybe weekly) on any issue that touches my heart.

Long term:
1) Learn to swim enough to do a triathlon (eyeing up one for Special Olympics that only requires 1/10 of a mile for swimming).

2) Go south of the equator.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What's next?

I don't have an easy answer for "what's next." I wish I did. I am shocked at how quickly the new POTUS is issuing executive orders as he attempts to strip away some basic tenants of life I thought were secure. 

According to my Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, his list of actions during his first five days are: 

DAY 1:
- Repealed Obama's Federal Housing Administration insurance assistance which increases the cost of buying homes for working class and first-time homebuyers.
- Removed the LGBTQ+ section from White House as if LGBTQ+ people/community don’t exist.
- Removed Climate Change section from the White House website as if scientists made it up.
- Signed incomprehensible Executive Order to “scale” back Affordable Care Act
DAY 2:
- Sent White House Press Secretary out to lie about the attendance of the inauguration.
- Lied at CIA headquarters about the attendance of the inauguration.
- Casually suggested stealing oil from Iraq – this is a war crime.
- Banned the Department of Interior and National Parks Service from tweeting.
DAY 3:
- Sent KellyAnne Conway to defend Sean Spicer’s lies by calling them “alternative facts’ thus insulting our intelligence.
DAY 4:
- Reinstated the Global Gag Rule, threatening the lives and safety of millions of women worldwide.
- Instituted a hiring freeze on federal workers, including the understaffed Veterans Affairs Department.
DAY 5:
- Reiterated unfounded and absurd claim that 5 million illegal votes were cast in 2016 election.
- Banned the EPA from tweeting.
- Signed executive actions to push forward Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines thereby undermining federal environmental review process.

Pretty massive way to pull the carpet out from under many of our feet. Since then he has announced a plan to register Muslims, and build a wall between the US and Mexico (which the Mexicans will reimuburse us for, because that's what always happens). It gets more absurd every day.

How I plan to respond on social media:
1) Not say anything about his physical appearance
2) Not say anything negative about his wife and family (positive stuff is still allowed)
3) Call him out on his actions when the information comes from reputable sources, such as a member of Congress or Senate. Trying to not spread AltFacts or Fake News.
4) Highlight the actions I am taking to encourage others to join me.
To quote Ed Koch: "If you agree with me on 9 out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12 issues, see a psychiatrist." Friends who voted third party or voted directly for Trump, it is okay to disagree with him sometimes, just like it was okay for me to not always agree with President Obama, but when you do disagree please speak out, too. We are in this together for at least another 4 years. May these years not destroy our country as many of us fear it will. If we grow stronger (and by "we" I mean minorities and women, as well as wealthy white men) then I will be the first to apologize for being worried. The trends I am seeing so far have the hairs on the back on my neck standing at attention. 

I am willing to disagree with you politically, but I am not interested in reading insults about the former POTUS, his wife, or his family. Let's keep an air of respect as we disagree.

Waning optimism

I've noticed my optimism has been waning since about mid-October. I try to "look at the bright side of life" (homage to Monty Python), but it just isn't there.

In mid-October Don told me his department was told they could not work from home. His instinct? Impending layoffs. My instinct? Must be something else (software upgrade, perhaps). 

Who was right? Don, of course.

About the same time Ashley takes a big test and comes home saying: I don't think I did well on that one. My reaction? I'm sure you did much better than you thought.

Who was right? Ashley, of course.

The elections take place. I had an inkling they would be close, but there is no way an overwhelming number of people would vote for a reality TV star over a lawyer and former Secretary of State. 

Who was right? We won't even go there.

Last week my closest friend told me she thought her cancer was back. My reaction? That's not possible. 

Who was right? Sadly she is.

I'm overwhelmed by Don's continued search for a job. For Ashley's perfectly normal teenage agida (I'll get grief when she hears I wrote this). By how to build on last weekend's momentum and move forward politically. And by Carin's newest battle (for that, I mostly feel helpless as I want to fix it).

Don has gotten some encouraging news on the job hunt -- no offer yet, but at least he is hearing something from companies. Ashley survived finals and ended up with a grade good enough to move onto honors chemistry next year, the one subject she was stressing about the most. Carin has a course of treatment and more optimism in her pinkie than I have in my entire body. It is her battle, she needs it more.

Politics? I find it draining. I used to be able to vote then move on with my life. Now I am getting a barrage of emails telling me (ordering me, bossing me) to sign this petition (click), make this call, donate just $x per month to make their lives easier. 

Oh, BTW petitions aren't enough. Phone lines are jammed, so that won't work, either. Post cards are better. Or personal heart felt letters. Even better is visiting their offices! Meanwhile I live in a part of the state where my Congresswoman votes the way I would most of the time. How can I make a difference with those others members of Congress?

The latest action thought to save ourselves from burnout is to choose one or two topics and stick with them. Which ones? Someone posted her two choices: People and Earth. Not sure what she eliminated with those choices.

Seriously, what can I do? 

One thought is I need to write more. I realize I have been keeping my feelings bottled up, or sharing them in spurts with friends, but not organizing them. Even typing a blog post like this is enough to free up some of my brain cells so I can do something else.

I paused for dinner and have lost my moment to write. Hate when that happens.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Million Women March

Image may contain: 22 people, people smiling, outdoor

So many thoughts are running through my head the day after the Million Women March. As I type, I am tired and wondering what my next step should be. I'd like to first reflect on what yesterday meant to me.

The March began because the day after the election a woman from Hawaii said she was upset and wanted to do something. She posted the day after the election she and a few of her friends were going to fly to DC to march. The idea behind the march was not to be a "protest" but to show the new President we are here and we are watching his moves. 

That one post on November 9 grew into 673 sister marches AROUND THE WORLD, with estimates ranging from 210,000 in DC (the official number released by the police department, but having been there, I feel is really low) to 500,000 on the Mall (which I did not reach) to 1.2 million if you include everyone trying to get on the Mall in DC alone. 

My friends turned out globally to be seen and to be heard. I did a FaceBook survey and made notes on FB posts, so the numbers could be much larger. I had friends marching in Washington, DC; Topeka, Kansas; Lansing Michigan; Trenton, NJ; Boston; Denver, CO; Philadelphia; New York City; Chicago; San Jose, California; Seattle; Ohio; Australia; and England. That's just me and my representation of over 600 FB friends (many of whom don't post). In the words of our new President, this was YUUUGGEE!

Early numbers I have seen say 20,000 in Phoenix, 500,000 in NYC, 6,000 in Trenton, over 100,000 in Boston (planned for 25,000), and 30 in Antarctica (researchers already there, but wanted all seven continents represented). Early numbers said 2 million globally, but if 1.2 million were in DC alone, that number is probably much higher. I heard Los Angeles had 500,000 and that Chicago was the second largest march in the United States. I heard there were more people marching for rights in the USA yesterday than marched against BREXIT (read on the BBC website). 

HERE is a link to a spreadsheet a friend of a friend created to show the various counts.

Some pictures. I don't agree with all of the signs, but as I opted to carry a camera and not a sign, I won't criticize. I'll let the day unfold via photos.

Our bus of 55 people --mostly women, mostly all with pussy hats, signs, food, and encouragement.

Wishing I wore my hat into the first rest stop.
I did at the last one, and heard someone else say she wished she was wearing hers.
At the wee hours of Saturday morning, I-95 was a caravan of buses. The first rest stop was packed, so we skipped ahead to the second one (the Chesapeake House) where the women outnumbered the men by about a 1:100 ratio. We commandeered the men's room (with the permission of the rest stop employees). Everyone was polite and energized, even for such an early hour. We found out later though we tried to rush, we were there about an hour (vs. 17 minutes for the much emptier rest stop on the way home).

 From here we hit a traffic jam as we crossed the Susquehanna River. There were buses broken down, unfortunately one of the the three busloads I was with broke down on the highway due to a loose radiator cap. Kudos to Starr Tours for having a repairman only 10 minutes away from us in Maryland who could get the bus back on their way.

Our first impression of the event was that it was very well organized. Parking at RFK Stadium at 10:25 AM was easy. Heidi, our organizer, pre-reserved our parking. There were plenty of empty port-o-pots and lots of cheerful volunteers. As we walked the two miles to the march crowds were flowing. As we got closer to the mall we found out the stage from the day before was still set up (it was supposed to be down by then).
We were diverted to Independence Avenue, a move from which we were not able to recover. Barbara, my buddy for the day, was trying to meet up with her sister, Katie. Cell phone service was spotty. Turns out Katie's phone was on its last bit of battery life when we finally met up with each other. 

Pictures from the March:

Heidi and her mom Carleen. Heidi organized our Hopewell group.

Some signs referencing Hamilton quotes.


I made it! Didn't make it to the front.

Bet they walked in that order all day long.

Perhaps my favorite!

This was about as close to the Mall as I got. We stood in front of the Department of Education at 6th and Independence for nearly an hour waiting for the actual March to begin. We could see the Jumbo-tron, but could only catch a few words here and there. The mood was a little tired, after all most people had traveled quite a distance to get there, yet also festive. we were near food trucks. The lines for the bathrooms were very, very long. At 1:38 a general chant of "March! March! March! March!" went out. Enough of standing, time to start moving. Unfortunately it is really hard to get up to 1.2 million people out to start walking at the exact same time.

Out of the mouths of babes (her mom encouraged us to take her picture)

After and hour of standing around we moved closer to the Mall. The first street we turned down we were told as only for medical needs, not to get to the Mall (though we could see it). The second street (where this was taken) was also blocked off. People started marching in the opposite direction just to move. We could see the buildings, but we couldn't get there. Others were telling us they heard the "march" part of the March was cancelled because there were way too many people to fit. I can believe that.

When Barbara and I started the day we knew we would need to allow at least an hour to get back to the bus by 3:50. We signed waivers saying if we were late, the bus would leave without us at 4. Kate and her husband, Kent, offered to drive her sister home because Barbara had to preach the next morning. They had room in their car for me. It was good to have a back up plan, but that would have been a huge inconvenience for Kate and Kent. By 2:30 we realized the march wasn't happening. We were in front of a building where Kent worked. He knew there was a subway station across the street. As we crossed that street I saw this band of people marching. I really wanted to join them, but I also knew it was safest for me to stick with my buddy. Barbara was ready to meditate on the day and prepare herself for preaching in the morning. We had no idea even with the subway how long would it take to return to the bus (mind you, we were told earlier taking the subway to the start would be an hour, and others had told me similar tales of woe with mass transit from that day). We timed it right, and made it to our subway stop in 15 minutes. We even had empty forward facing seats for the ride. 

Before boarding the subway, I saw this sign:

Thank you to the women of Hawaii for starting this incredible movement. I am glad I can always say I was there.

The mood was calm and peaceful. Women vastly outnumbered men 100:1 (look, it is a total guess on my part). The atmosphere reminded me of when I do women's only (or womencentric) races. Sure we bumped into each other and stepped on toes (it was very crowded) but people apologized and made sure the other person was okay. The sea of pink hats was amazing! Someone tried to equate Trump supports' red "Make America Great" hats to the pink pussy hats. The big difference is the red hats were made in China and were sold. The pink hats were lovingly made by women and distributed for free.

Back at the bus I spoke with some of the others. Many had similar experiences to ours -- as much as they tried they could not get to the Mall, and wanted to be back on time. Some did make the Mall (yes, I am so jealous!) and also made it to the bus an hour after us (still on time as we were over an hour early to the bus). They also walked back, which I wish I had felt I could do, but was afraid of not making it back in time after swimming upstream for two miles.

Heidi did an awesome job organizing the day. She prepared goody bags for us with pins from Penzey's Spice, homemade breakfast bars, hand and foot warmers (thankfully not needed), extra pussy hats (gratefully accepted and worn), and a Ghiradelli dark chocolate square that was much appreciated on the ride home.

The big question is now that we have acknowledged there is a problem, what can we do about it? I've started by signing online petitions. My next step will be to call my representatives to both tell them how I hope they will vote (they are not mind readers) and to THANK them for the times they have voted the way I want them to. I've met Bonnie Watson Coleman, so instead of calling a stranger, I'll feel as if I am calling a friend.

One final thought, one of the participants said "Today feels like the beginning and not the end."

Friday, January 20, 2017

Prayer Vigil

As the latest man was inaugurated to the highest job in our country, we attended a prayer vigil at Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton hosted by our congresswoman, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Dr. Rev. Darrell Armstrong.

I have no idea how they were able to pull it off so quickly. The church was filled. Rather than spending a lot of time researching details, I'm going to write tonight and hopefully find some good links in the next few days. I'm hoping to find a news story about the vigil, and a link to the service. Bear with me.

Seventeen different religious leaders spoke from a wide variety of religions -- Hindu, Baptist, Lutheran, Islamic, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Episcopal. Looking at the list I am surprised I do not see any Jewish names on the list. They prayed on a wide variety of topics from unity, to our leaders, for healthcare, immigration, education, and environment (and more). Their choir sang patriotic tunes. The Pledge of Allegiance was spoken. It was incredibly moving and powerful.

I tried to take a few notes, which is hard to do discretely while also praying. It is how I listen.

 Our congresswoman for the 12th district opened by by encouraging us to "leave here with hope and feel unity. Today we shall pray tomorrow we shall march!" She is planning to march in Trenton tomorrow while I am heading to DC in only six hours. She wore suffragist white and in the lobby as we entered her staff handed out purple unity ribbons for unity. Shiloh Baptist Church is her home church. She serves as a Deaconess. Her husband, William Coleman, is a retired pastor from Shiloh.

Next up was Rev. Armstrong. He spoke about building bridges not walls. He also told us their church regularly meets at noon on Fridays, and we are invited back next week, too. "There is no religious litmus test to be an American," he stated emphatically. May it always continue to be so.

The Pastor at Union Baptist Church, Rev. Simeon Spencer, was tasked with praying for our leaders. "Out of the minds of those in charge leads so much to our own feelings of being unsettled. God we believe you are able [to make changes happen? should have taken better notes] even as we are afraid."

Though the preachers did not seem to repeat scriptures cited, or  situations (which is amazing with 17 people being asked to speak at the last minute) and overarching theme was that God is in control. We can't sit back and do nothing, but ultimately he is in charge. 

When Rev. Mark Broach, the pastor at Trenton Deliverance Center, spoke about education, he said "the President may change, but our God remains the same."

Bishop Earl Jenkins from True Servant Worship and Praise Church led us in the Pledge of Allegiance before praying for justice. "Liberty and justice for all, regardless of who is in charge of the nation." The choir then sang "My Country 'tis of Thee."

Rev. J. Stanley Justice, pastor at Mount Zion AME Church, prayed for workers protection. "It is good to gather together, better to scatter where the real work" needs to be done.

Rev. Delores Watson, Pastor, First Congregational Christian United Church of Christ, prayed for healthcare. She reminded us that "health care has always been important to God the healer," then she cited situations (including Namaan the non-believer) when Jesus healed people.

Rev. Mark Johnson, from St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Trenton (where we once attended a meeting about gun violence) encouraged us to "tear down the barriers others build around us and give us the strength the strive for equality and reason." He spoke for equality, but said it was hard for him to find examples of equality as he kept thinking of situations of inequality.

Bonnie Watson Coleman's husband Rev. William Coleman led the final prayer, the prayer for our nation. He was followed by Rev. Armstrong who said a friend of his told him to pretty much get over it and stop spewing hate from the pulpit. He said he was going to report back to his friend that no hate was spewed, in fact the new President's name was only spoken a couple of times at the end, instead we gathered together to pray for everyone. "Our actions will speak louder than our words." He added "this was not an admonishment, but a prayer that God will endure.

Our congresswoman ended with "I am hoping we are leaving more uplifted than when we came." Indeed I was more uplifted, but stepping into the cold rainy day it was easy to feel down again. The past few months have been draining. Don lost his job. He had open heart surgery. Ashley seems to have lost her confidence. I feel like I spend much of my time cheerleading and encouraging others around me. It was uplifting to hear someone else be the cheerleader to me (and a huge group of people).

The enormity of tomorrow is catching up with me. I hope to blog about tomorrow's march in the next couple of days. I'm not bringing a sign. Instead I'll be armed with my camera and a pen and paper. Pray for our safety.