It takes a child to raise a village.

When our three were in high school, we had their friends in and out of the house daily. The Husband and I volunteered so much in their music and theater programs that we knew their most beloved teachers well and became buddies with their closest classmates.  Those kids were my kids, and I was honored that they liked us and turned to us for love and nurturing. We were the village that helped raise those children.

In the face of yet another horrific mass murder, it is now the Parkland kids who are raising us. 

They’re raising us impotent adults above our defeated, hopeless inaction about the idiocy of gun obsession in our nation.

Raising the conversation so it will be heard.

Raising our consciousness, raising our empathy, raising our morality.

I see these kids’ images and my heart stirs at the anger and resolve and courage on their faces.

I hear their words and I weep openly over their eloquence and their heartfelt demands.

I’ve never met the Parkland kids. I probably never will. But I love each and every one of them, as if they were the part of the crowd that used to hang out at our house for rehearsals, dinners, and laughter and in our van on the many road trips we took for auditions and performances.

These are our kids. We can’t fail them. They need us just as much as we need them.

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We cry out for change.

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I don’t ever. EVER. want to hear the phrase “thoughts and prayers” again.

I know I’m not alone in that despairing, yet angry, sentiment.

The thoughts and prayers of our NRA-owned lawmakers aren’t doing a damned thing for the ever-increasing numbers of human beings whose lives are permanently shattered every day by gun violence.

In a day or two the Florida school shooting will fade away, and Americans will collectively forget (with help from our lawmakers who insist “now is not the time” to talk about it) and move on to the next outrage. And then, in a week or so the next shooting will occur and the cycle will start again.

We’re clearly a broken nation. Our government “shuts down” on a regular basis – a glaring symptom of that broken-ness. If lawmakers can’t even manage to keep our institutions running, they definitely can’t tackle a problem as multi-faceted and powder keg-hot as gun violence.

I am convinced there is no one solution to our self-inflicted national shame. Blaming mental illness won’t do it (especially since that’s just a convenient talking point, with no intention of actually helping the mentally ill – who, by the way, are rarely the perpetrators of violence). Turning our schools and offices into heavily armed fortresses won’t do it. More restrictive gun laws alone won’t do it. Increased gun ownership sure as hell won’t do it, though the NRA and gun manufacturers would have you believe otherwise.

All of the commonly discussed (and routinely forgotten) options are technical solutions to one gigantic whopper of an adaptive challenge.

This kind of challenge obviously has no clear-cut answer. It requires listening and learning. It’s the work of many, many concerned people – not just the power-hungry people we elect to do the work of governing. It requires the ability to try new things, act experimentally. It will take a long, long time, in which we’d have to settle for progress rather than a quick fix.

In other words, the cure for our broken nation and its love affair with guns requires wisdom and intense effort on the part of every single citizen.

That prognosis isn’t merely daunting; it feels pretty much impossible. Quite honestly, I don’t think we’re up to the task.

But if I want to manage my own despair, I’ve got to do what I can. That starts with writing every single one of my local and national lawmakers to insist they work for change. Considering that my state has some of the most dangerous gun laws in the nation, that action feels rather futile. But it’s something I am capable of doing.

I have a small amount of disposable income that I can choose to donate to an organization such as Moms Demand Action or Everytown. I’ll contribute, though again it’s a gesture designed more to maintain my mental health than to actually create change.

I ask you, friends, in all sincerity: What will you do? Please share your thoughts.

 

 

I’m rocking that “Galentines” thing.

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I’ve never been particularly interested in Valentine’s Day – it really just feels like a non-event. Especially since I haven’t been responsible for three classroom sets of miniature cards with enclosed treats for quite a few years. My room mother days are long behind me, too – meaning no need to come up with clever heart-themed games and treats.

But I have to take some credit this year – especially as a rabid introvert with a solid case of Seasonal Affective Disorder – for being all over this “Galentines” thing I keep hearing about.

It wasn’t an intentional effort, actually. It just happened to hit me today that I was really out of touch with a couple of people I adore. So on the spur of the moment, I set up two – count ’em, two! – girl dates. One for tonight and one for next week, but I think they both count. I was even smart enough, knowing my severe shortcomings as an introvert who enjoys making plans but hates it when it’s actually time to follow through on them, to plan these outings immediately after work. If I allow myself any time to go home, I know perfectly well I’ll never drag myself back out again.

Happy Galentines Day!

 

 

FOMO

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Really, I think “FOMO” is second only to “YOLO” for annoying acronym/words.

But I discovered recently that I’m having some serious FOMO.

See, I’d been on staff of a large church for 13 years. The people I worked with (well, almost all of them) were my tribe. We’d been through incredible ups and downs together, both in our work and in our personal lives. These were people I could count on for a shoulder to cry on, for someone to share my joys. And I loved being that for them.

Plus we did awesome work together (well, almost all of us did). I’m super proud of the programs I started and maintained and grew. Our collaborative work was top-notch.

But for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which was my mental health, I had to leave my tribe behind for a different job. I still keep in contact with these people, and because that was my community for so long, I keep a close eye on what’s happening in ministry there now that I’m gone.

FOMO.

A couple of months ago I figured out by following some Facebook posts that one regular activity taking place in the church building was in violation of our Congregation Protection Policy. That was my baby – the first serious project I took on 13 years ago, and a cornerstone of our congregation. I made a phone call to my favorite ex-colleague with the bad news and he took care of it, but…ouch.

I had occasion to look at the website a couple of weeks ago and discovered that a program I had originated has gotten a new name and a slightly new focus. It’s a great idea; it’s even something I’d been kicking around in my mind before I left but hadn’t gotten to yet.

Last week a congregational success was posted in a Facebook photo; some of my good friends (and a couple of people who made my  life miserable) were celebrating in the office with Starbucks.

It hurts. How could they go on and do good things and be happy and have fun without me? I was a major contributor to the health and vitality of that congregation, and they’ve moved on without me. Yeah, I know how stupid and childish that feeling is. But it’s real.

And, I tell myself, I’m having good times and building a new tribe right here in my new place. Me and my new tribe have walked through some fires together in just the six months I’ve been here, and come out on the other side as good friends.

It’s just how life is. Losses and gains.

Right now the losses really hurt.

 

Man-cold, part 2.

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The Husband didn’t actually have to go to the emergency room. He did survive his man-cold (which he swore was the flu, but I seriously doubt it), and is back to work today. And he survived my wrath, mainly because he didn’t actually wake up and interact with me until he was back to behaving like a fairly normal human being.

In fact, yesterday he was up and about and running errands, because he was still to sick to go to work. I guess that was part of his recovery?

In fact, he was so back to normal last night he was up for a little joking, once I got home and went straight to bed, wiped out from a FULL DAY OF WORK WHILE HAVING A COLD.

Him: “There’s something I think you need to know.”

Me: (with little interest) “Yes?”

Him: “Yesterday while I was lying there, unable to move, I actually thought about clearing all my piles of junk out of the laundry room.”

I have to give the guy a little credit for knowing just how much a pain in the ass he is.

 

Man-cold leads to near death experience.

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Let me tell you about my weekend.

First of all, it was the first weekend in three weeks when I didn’t need to be at work for part of Saturday, without pay. Next Saturday I get to put in four hours, unpaid. So I’m really savoring two full days of home time, family time, me time.

With the long commute to my new job, I’m so tired by the time I get home on weekdays that almost nothing gets done around the house, unless somebody else does it. And that’s pretty hit or miss. So I made the most of my two full days – laundry, floors, dusting, groceries. Managed to cover the grey roots yesterday and even got a haircut this morning (one of my most hated tasks).

I realized last night that the cold Husband has been nursing by sleeping nearly round the clock for about 60 hours (with short breaks to moan and complain) was creeping up on me, too. And yet I got up this morning, ran to Great Clips, then came home and prepped three different meals so we wouldn’t have to eat cereal for supper all week.

By 2:00 this afternoon I was about out of steam. Rested with a good book for a while, and then forced myself to get up for the last chore on my list, cleaning the downstairs bathroom. It’s the gorgeous one that our son remodeled a couple of years ago, stripping it down to nothing and completely rebuilding and replacing. His sister and I did the decorating. I don’t use that bathroom much – it’s the designated shower spot for the two males of the family. BUT I’m the one who usually cleans it, and since I started the new job that takes up so much of my weekend time, no one else has bothered to clean that super cool bathroom. It’s been slowly turning into a filthy, disgusting beast.

So I’m down there, scrubbing spider poop off the dark grey paint on the walls. (At least that’s my guess – what ARE those whitish splotches that appear under spider webs? Whatever they  are it takes a hell of a lot o scrubbing to get them off.) I turn on the vacuum to suck up weeks of hair, fuzz, and God knows what off the floor. I scoot the vacuum out into the basement family room, where the husband has been hibernating all weekend. The vacuum noise has obviously disturbed his precious slumber.

And he has the cojones to glare at me and moan as if he’d been beaten with a stick, “I would never do that to you if you were sick and sleeping.”

WTF!?!?!?!

I’m rather proud to report that I did not ram the toilet wand up his nose, dear readers. I used my words, as all good parents say to their grumpy toddlers.

“You wouldn’t do what? Clean my filthy toilet if you were coming down with a cold? You’re right. No, you wouldn’t. And if you don’t want to wake up dead tomorrow morning, I suggest you not say one more word about me disturbing you with housework when I’m getting sick.”

Tune in tomorrow to see whether he survives the night. Right now, it’s not looking good.

 

 

 

 

When the game isn’t fun.

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Circumstances have recently turned us into a five-car family. I just bought a new car. We hung onto my old car to give to our son and his fiancee – she’s moving in with us beginning this weekend until she gets a job and they find an apartment. Son has his own car. Middle daughter lives at home, so we’ve got her car. And then there’s my husband’s company van.

With an old house and a one-car garage (but, thankfully, with a double driveway),  twice a day now we engage in a really pain-in-the-ass game of Driveway Tetris.

It’s totally a first-world privilege problem, I know. And some part of me actually appreciates this daily annoyance, in that I’m hanging onto these last days of our son living at home. Soon life will change, permanently. That’s going to be difficult…painful, even.

But still, morning and evening every weekday, and sometimes more on the weekends, we have the mad driveway scramble. Who’s leaving first? Can daughter’s tiny car get out around the work van in front of it? I have to run a quick errand – should I take son’s car, or do we all go out and play Tetris?

And then I started adding another color of falling block to the game. My good friend and colleague, Kelly, lives just a few blocks away, and sometimes it makes sense – and it’s always pleasant – for us to do the long-ish commute downtown together.

Here’s what Driveway Tetris looked like this morning:

I knew Husband would be leaving early, and son always leaves for work super early. I planned to drive Kelly and myself to work today. No problem for me to pull my car out of the garage and for Kelly to slip into the driveway.

Except – ALERT! ALERT! – Husband woke up sick. Went right back to bed, practically delirious (his personal version of the “man cold” is a story for another day). No way he could move his van out of my way. What to do, what to do…

Son to the rescue! He wanted to drive my old car to work today, for reasons of his own. He was going to have to do a preliminary Tetris session before the sun even came up, to get my old car out. He’d leave all the colored blocks in a convenient order for when Kelly arrived.

Time for Kelly to show up. Daughter resorted to parking her tiny car in the YARD so Kelly could pull into the driveway without trapping the tiny car.

This particular game wasn’t significantly more difficult than it is every. Single. Day. Twice a day or more.

Once our boy and his fiancee do move out, I’ll probably look back on these days fondly. Really, I will. Every moment with him around is a treasure.

So I’m taking the good with the bad. And Driveway Tetris is really bad.

Do I look like a moron?

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But it’s what I asked my husband the other night at the dinner table.

We’re back to having family meals, now that our two youngest are both living at home again. I love that time to share the funny and interesting points of our days and make sure we’re all on the same page with the big and small details of a shared household.

One night this week there were a couple of minor points I needed to share, and the responses to both could have easily landed me in jail for spousal abuse. As in throttling my husband until his teeth rattled.

Exhibit A:

Me: “I’m about out of gas. We should fill up this time at Hy-Vee (our grocery store, with a gas station attached) because we have a lot of gas discount points saved up.”

Husband: “Well, you don’t want to use those points unless you’re completely out of gas. You want to get the most out of that discount.”

My reaction: Number one, DUH. I know how a discount works. Number two, he says this exact same thing every damn time I mention getting gas at Hy-Vee to use up discount points. GRRRRRRR.

Exhibit B:

Me, to daughter who shares the cooking duties with me: “We’re out of parchment paper, which is why the brussels sprouts are stuck to the bottom of the baking dish. I’ll put it on the grocery list.”

Husband: “Whoa! What list are you putting it on? You’re not going to just get that at the grocery store, are you? We can save a lot of money if we plan ahead and get it from WalMart.”

O.M.F.G. Number one, this was not a conversation he needed to be a part of. Believe me, this man has never used parchment paper in his life. Number two, we might save a few cents with that scheme, but it’s not worth the headache. We rarely go to WalMart, but we’re at the grocery store at least twice a week. Number three, this “we should buy absolutely everything at the cheapest possible outlet and in bulk, if possible” mindset is a recurring theme. Not that I’m opposed to saving money, but it’s a false economy when we have to coordinate several different lists, find time to run around town picking things up at the least expensive seller, and do without a staple while trying to find that time to do that running around.

In other words, S.T.F.U.!

Maybe we’ve been married so long I’ve run out of patience with hearing the same old tune, like a killer earworm.

Maybe it’s the intense irritation stirred up by menopausal changes – look it up, it’s a thing.

Maybe he came just a little too close to mansplaining (which was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary, thank you very much). I put up with that crap from our “head honcho” at work all the time, so I’m quick to call it out at home.

Actually, such obnoxious comments are probably more to do with my husband than with me. He’s cranky due to some situations at work. When he’s cranky he gets critical and pissy. And then his OCD tendencies (not a rude euphemism here; it’s a true diagnosis) tend to get the better of him.

Whatever it is, there better not be any more of it tonight. Because dammit, I’m not a moron!

 

 

 

Hobby? Or avoidance strategy?

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It’s extremely difficult for me not to curl up into a ball of utter despair over what’s happening in our nation. I am convinced by careful perusal of many different news outlets and study of government documents, memos, and testimonies, that the American experiment is near its end.

45 has flirted with constitutional crisis for over a year now. The fact that he signed a bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress but is now refusing to enforce the law? Full-blown crisis, friends. What does that law address? An incredibly convoluted scandal involving murder, money laundering, and Russian and U.S oligarchs – a scandal that directly benefits 45 and his billionaire kleptocrat buddies. A tip for those who hadn’t heard: “Russian adoption” – the ostensible topic of the pertinent meeting that took place in 2016 –  is actually code for this scandal, 

This complete dismantling of our constitutional democracy is only one of the many evils being carried out by this poseur of a president. Just a little reminder: The “us” first, anti-immigration, nationalist vitriol spewed by this man and his supporters is exactly what brought about every war across the globe over the last 150 years. 

Tonight is the annual State of the Union Address. I feel compelled to watch, and yet I’m truly afraid it will trigger another crying jag like the one brought on by the November 2016 election. I’m not sure I can do it.

And so, I’m knitting. Handwork has always been a joy for me. Now it’s an escape. A therapeutic, all-absorbing act of pushing down the despair. Before Christmas I turned out 10 scarves that went to guests of my organization’s Christmas Store (in which friends from our urban neighborhood shop for gifts for each member of their family, free of charge). Since Christmas I’ve produced a few more scarves. And as ugly news report piled on top of ugly news report, I craved something more challenging. After several disastrous attempts, I’ve finally mastered a mitten pattern.

When temperatures dip, as they have frequently this winter, we set a box of donated gloves, hats, mittens, and scarves in our waiting room for our neighbors. My goal is to contribute a couple of pairs of mittens to that box each week.

I march. I donate. I write. I post. Yet my influence on the fate of our nation feels negligible.  So I distract myself with tiny efforts on the side of good.

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply,, he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”

“That Would Be Enough.”

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Summer 2017 was big. “Hurricane” big. “Blow Us All Away” big. HAMILTON IN CHICAGO big!

Yes, the whole fam piled into a car and drove north for a long weekend in Chicago to finally sit in the audience for the musical we’d been listening to and singing along with “Non-Stop” for over a year.

My heart started racing the moment the theater sign came into view. Our seats were nearly as high up in the balcony as it was possible to get, but we we were so excited we didn’t even notice all the stairs.

Aaron Burr stepped onto the stage with the words “How does a bastard, orphan, immigrant, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean, by providence impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”

And for the next 3 1/2 hours I scarcely breathed. Literally on the edge of my seat, with tears in my eyes at every moment, I took in the movement, the costumes, the  lighting, the rhyme and rhythm, the intensely touching music and instrumentation, the deftness and piercing accuracy of word choice. All this, coupled with the heartbreaking beauty of seeing our U.S. origin story told by people of color; people who have been historically and systematically dis-included from the American dream.

I’m definitely a musical genre buff. But “Hamilton” is much more than a musical. I’m certainly not original in considering it a cultural phenomenon, a perfect expression of the zeitgeist. The line that in every performance makes the audience shout for joy, “Immigrants – we get the job done” are words of defiant healing in the face of dangerous nationalistic sentiment.

It was a life experience that will be forever a touchstone.

The importance of this event was, in part, due to my joy in sharing it with the four people who mean everything to me. Knowing that it meant as much to them as it did to me. Even as my children age and naturally drift further away, this experience underscored that we’re soul mates.

It’s horribly painful to live in these days of the demise of democracy. The genius that is “Hamilton” helps us find the courage to say, “Look around, look around…at how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

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