Getting Ready For Year Two of the Resistance

It’s hard to believe that the Trump White House is about to enter year two – I’m reading Fire and Fury right now, – and remembering the early days. Just amazing we all survived the first year …. There are 3 more ahead of us?

I’m definitely a cope-by-doing type, so here’s a short list of how I intend not just to cope in year two, but hope to build on year one to make a bigger dent:

  • Give to charities that help those Trump’s policies hurt the most. This might be the easiest part. Last November, I signed up to give on a recurring, monthly basis to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, two groups actively helping those on the front lines of Trump’s policies. I’m going to continue in 2018. And guess what? It’s a wonder that I didn’t do this sooner. It’s easy – the money is sent automatically on a regular basis, so I’ve made the adjustment and don’t feel the dent. 2018 challenge: Look for other opportunities to help similar groups (there are so many); this includes supporting friend’s efforts, causes and fundraising drives.

 

  • Support progressive candidates, particularly women. Last year, I joined a group that supports women running for office. Our DC-area chapter defines our priority issues and candidates. I’m re-upping my commitment and increasing it with the 2018 mid-terms coming up. I’m also reaching out to like-minded friends to see if they want to join. 2018 challenge: Identify handful of progressive candidates running at the local level to support on a smaller scale. (I’ve been surprised at how many friends of friends are running for office, particularly those returning to red states or tilting red states where they grew up. Will my small donations and social support make a difference? It can’t hurt.)

 

  • First quarter moratorium. You know how people pledge to abstain from alcohol for the first month of the year, no I’m not doing that …. I’m continuing what I started last year – abstaining from buying clothes and shoes through the end of March. I think I made it *almost* to the end of March last year. Again, it was surprisingly painless. I’m going to buried in Winter until early March anyhow, then can get through the beginning of the transition before I determine what to do … In the meantime, that money I spend on stress online shopping can be directed to better causes (see points 1 and 2 above).

 

  • Increase in-person engagement. This one’s tougher for me, and I need to think through where this makes sense, particularly on the political front. In addition to my regular volunteer activities, I want to add more in-person outreach. For now, this means dropping off cold weather hats, gloves, coats and first aid kits to an area homeless shelter – rather than just giving a donation. Closer to the election, this might include a voter registration drive, or other grassroots efforts to support people and causes. I started last year with the Women’s March, and loved the person-to-person feel. I want to get that back.

 

  • Be more mindful. Does this one sound too new age-y? Along with so many other people I know, I struggled to cope with Trump Year 1. He dominates conversation – everywhere. I don’t want it to be the new normal, but I can’t let it drive me to distraction, either. (Easier said than done). Do you ever wonder if years from now we will see a spike in stress-related conditions – heart disease, high blood pressure, poor diet/obesity, alcohol dependency, etc., that correlates to this man’s Presidency? If social media is any indication, it’s definitely happening. 2018 challenge: find balance between engagement and enragement.

What else? How are others coping? What other activities should I embrace? And if you have candidates I should support – even if it’s local dogcatcher – send them my way.

Here’s to Year 2 of the Resistance.

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A Year of Escapist Reading

When reality becomes too much like (bad) fiction and (poorly-written) alternate history, maybe the best way to cope is to escape – to a different historical time or a different dimension all-together. Looking back at my reading list of 2017, I did exactly that. Should I be embarrassed that it was a year of reading books about magic – what’s more, that I enjoyed it? Well, if it helps me get through the day, week or year, then why not!

Six of Crows duology – I just finished this, so it’s fresh in my mind. A gang of six minor criminals in a 17th century version of Amsterdam set out on an impossible heist. In this multi-ethnic crew, each has their own skill and motivation, sometimes putting them at odds with each other. Much like the Fast & Furious movie franchise. Good plot twists, with our crew always trying to stay ahead of the bad guys. Just the right touch of magic. This is made for the big screen.

Court of Thorns & Roses trilogy – A trilogy about fairies, or faeries in this case, only not the Tinkerbell kind. These faeries are immortal, of course, but also deadly and some are sexy as all hell. The story centers on a human woman who finds herself tangled up with the faerie world and all its politics, feuds and internal and external threats. Naturally, she finds herself in the process and changes the outcome in the faerie world. Probably the most fun escapist read of my year – easy to truly immerse yourself and go with the ups, downs, drama and curveballs.

A Legacy of Spies – Weren’t things easier during the Cold War? Isn’t this what spy novelists and maybe even some of our international experts lament? A Legacy of Spies, a sequel and prequel of sorts to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, would beg to disagree. Things have never been clear cut, there’s always a good guy who skates too close to the line, and there are always consequences – and collateral damage, even with the best of intentions. I recommend reading or re-reading Spy, or at least watching the haunting and atmospheric black and white movie starring Richard Burton, before diving into this one.

Book of Joan – This is a short, but intense read, a disturbing, dystopian meditation on the consequences of treating the earth as a disposable commodity, the ease of falling into authoritarian rule, the gap between rich and poor and the need for self-expression, myth, self-actualization and (of course) love. It retells the story of Joan of Arc, set in the future, except it’s much more complicated than that.

American War – At a time when the country seems more divided than ever, it’s easy to see how we could be headed to a second American Civil War. But this time, with modern weapons and new divisions. Yet the consequences in terms of human lives are still all too familiar. There are echoes of modern sectarian struggles, of the hopelessness afflicting too many young people – here in the US and abroad – and the ways that recruiters and spotters exploit those feelings to seduce people to their causes.

Grant – I haven’t finished Ron Chernow’s biography, but I think it’s one of the best books I read in 2017. He’s a great storyteller and spends a good amount of time chronicling the early life, struggles and failures of a pretty ordinary person. Then the Civil War comes along and propels Grant into the spotlight. You see how his experiences – in the Mexican-American War, in the American West, as a business failure, his exposure and evolving thinking on slavery – all put him in the right place to win the war and drive Reconstruction. Chernow’s book is particularly timely given the divisions we still face over race – in many ways, the legacy of a failed Reconstruction. Although even that isn’t really accurate. Did Reconstruction fail? Or did someone cause it to fail? The deification of Robert E. Lee and the Southern “Cause” comes at the price of Grant’s reputation. Will this biography change the narrative? To be seen.

The Golgotha Series – This is the year I really “discovered” Tom Shippey of the Wall Street Journal. He recommends the most random books in his semi-regular science fiction/fantasy column, but he hasn’t steered me wrong. That’s how I found this series which starts with The Six-Gun Tarot, set in the American West (of sorts), with classic archetypes – the sheriff, the deputy, the upstanding store owner, the widow, the young man escaping his past, etc., but mixes in a Mormon mayor, a Chinese gangster, a gambling saloon owner … and then angels (as in Milton’s Paradise Lost) and layers on Native American traditions, myths about good and evil from a number of cultures, folklore and more. And he makes it work.

Also of note:

The Kingfountain series. The series starts with an alternate history proposition: what if Richard III had won at Bosworth Field instead of Henry Tudor? His characters are loosely based on historical figures from the Wars of the Roses and early Tudor era. But again, with magic. Our hero finds himself “Fountain-blessed,” grows into his abilities and makes choices that define himself and the kingdom.

Queen of the Tearling – Emma Watson is set to star in the movie version of this book, which has been touted as Game of Thrones meets Hunger Games. There are certainly elements of both. An untested young woman assumes the throne and deals with politics, an impoverished kingdom, a deadly enemy and as the series progresses, the history of the “Crossing” which adds a surprisingly modern and dystopian element.

The Drive – In keeping with the escapist theme, this memoir by a friend chronicling her drive down the Pan-American Highway as an adult and comparing it to the trip she took with her parents some 30 years before as a child is a good way to travel through geography and time. It’s not my usual type of book, but the writing is very descriptive – and the photos help tell the story as well – and it addresses the question: what if I just packed up and left?

Happy reading in 2018!

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What’s It Werth To You?

Should I be alarmed? Building management had come by my office several time to “talk” to me. Then I got an email that I should contact building management when I was off my conference calls. Several colleagues mentioned that building people were in the halls looking for me.

Oh-kay.

Then this teaser: It had to do with a cleaning mishap. So I looked around my office and that’s when I noticed my figurine of Jayson Werth and his great dane were, well, smashed to bits.

Poor Jayson and Magnus … lots of broken limbs everywhere

I’m not sure how anyone could have broken the ceramic figure into so many pieces. It’s like they went back after the initial break to make sure it was truly smashed. Or as G notes, the cleaning person must have been a Phillies fan.

Was I sad? Sure, but hardly inconsolable.

The building, however, had other plans. The head of security came up with the building management. She had to file a report. They both insisted that they would replace my collectable. Then, they stumped me with this question:

How much do you think the piece is worth?

Um, nothing. I got in line early to a Nats game and they gave it away. It’s not “worth” anything. I didn’t pay for it, it was free. Although now that I think of it, I believe that I didn’t even go to that game – I was on vacation – but my colleague took clients to the game and gave me hers. Or maybe someone in the group didn’t want theirs. I think it was a condition of giving them the tickets, that I would get a collectable. But what is it worth? Still, really, nothing.

Jayson and Magnus back together again

That said, G went on eBay (thank goodness for eBay!) and purchased me a replacement.

So now Werth and pet are happily standing on my window sill again.

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We’re Still Who We Were in College, Just Exaggerated or More Polished Versions

This past weekend, G and I headed to Philadelphia where I went to my 25th college reunion, and he went to his 30th high school reunion. So strange to see people you haven’t seen in years, decades – and to see both how they’ve changed and how they haven’t.

  • Some people here look 15 years older” – That was G’s observation on Friday night at my reunion welcome event. It was true. For the most part, the women looked similar. I guess we can wear makeup, get our hair colored and get botox? Women looked like slightly older versions of ourselves in college, but with updated looks. Gone are the baggy, oversized sweatshirts (what were we thinking?) and weird 80s/90s hair and makeup. The men? Some looked good, but there were quite a few who had gained weight and gained gray. I mean, a lot of both. I hate to say it, but a head of mostly white hair, made some otherwise age-appropriate guys look 10 years older.
  • Some people have long memories for slights – As a joke, one of G’s friends mentioned that there was one guy from high school he was really hoping to see – to kick his ass. That was only half a joke. Some people were very friendly and forthcoming, just wanting to connect after so much time. Others seemed to still remember some definitely forgotten slight or fight. I guess once a bitch, always a bitch.
  • We haven’t changed our cores, just how our core selves manifest – Awkward people are a little less awkward, I guess life takes care of that. Neurotic people got more neurotic. Again, life shaped them in that direction. But the girl who always seemed so sweet and docile? She’s edgier and not such a pushover. I guess life intervenes and her true self is a bit more apparent. We’re both smoother and sharper versions of ourselves.

The years pile up even if it doesn’t look obvious – Of a gathering of 8 college friends, two had mothers with advanced Alzheimer’s and another two had their mothers pass away in the last 2-3 years. That’s a harsh reality on Mother’s Day Weekend. And a preview of what’s to come for the rest of us, alas.

What else? From G’s private high school, a number of folks had made their way back to Philadelphia. Maybe it makes sense that local folks are over-represented at reunion. But it was also a statement about Philadelphia. It’s still a small place and people tend to stick around. From G’s class – everyone was married, or had been. I think I recall one single mom and a single dad, each divorced. Almost everyone I talked to had kids – from the older mom or dad with a 3-4 year old, to the ones who had kids heading to college in the next year or two.

That’s a sharp contrast to my group. Three of the women have never married. They’ve all been in long-term relationships, just for a number of reasons, never got hitched. Another 2 or 3 of us don’t have children (I’m not certain about one of the gals). A friend turned to me and said, “I always thought I would have kids, but as things got closer to decision time, we decided we liked our lives too much.” She has 2 cats. Exactly. So the traditional family – married parents, kids – was the minority in our gathering. Unscientific sample, of course, and many of the other sorority sisters in our cohort are married with kids. Even still, we outliers aren’t such outliers here.

 

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Sand in the Hour Glass

A friend at work is having a typical puppy experience – adorable photos, punctuated by stories of chewed up socks, and of course, the inevitable waking up in the middle of the night to take the pup out to pee. Although *I* never had to deal with the waking up in the middle of the night part, I say to myself smugly.

Bing, surveying

After all, Bing was the smartest (and best/cutest/most adorable/insert your own superlative here) puppy and he’s still the BDE (best dog ever). He figured out potty training in a snap. We would take him on his last walk around 11:30 or midnight and then at 6 or 6:30 am, when I sat up in bed, I would see that he was already awake, sitting nicely – and quietly – at the door of his crate, just waiting for me to take him out. Big smile on his face.

There was the time we gave him his first bath … and he ran, dripping wet onto the new rug, stared up at us and peed emphatically. Pissed off.

Other than that, for about 16 years, we could count on one hand the number of accidents in the house. That just didn’t happen. And proud dog mom that I was, I secretly lorded it over my friends who had puppies who weren’t as quick to potty train. I even secretly lorded it over the new dog(s) that came along to join our pack. Bing was simply superior in every way.

Lately however, my elderly gentleman, about to turn 17 at the end of May, has started yet another new medication. This one makes him pee. He’s already taking one that makes him thirsty. You see where this is going.

He’s come full circle and as an old dog, has to be watched and taken out on a puppy’s schedule. So while I never had to wake up in the middle of the night to take him out when he was a puffy puppy, now that his blonde hair has turned white and soft, we take him out a few times a week in the middle of the night. If he’s awake, he has to go. Although isn’t that true for everyone?

Now, I take him out one more time just before I leave for work in the morning. I take him out after he eats. I pretty much take him out whenever I think of it, or pass by his napping form. The good news is he always goes. He understands why we’re outside.

And when I think about taking him out, but don’t, invariably he makes a small puddle. I’m annoyed for a fraction of a second. 1 – he can’t help himself and 2 – that’s what Nature’s Miracle is for. I have jugs of it – advanced formula, of course – and spray bottles of the hard floor formula. That and paper towels. Just keep buying them in bulk.

Mostly though, I’m sad. Sad for my sweet, smart, fastidious, super neat puppy …

The other day, I had this flash of insight. No matter what, each dog is destined to pee a certain amount in the house in their lifetime. Whether it’s a tough housebreaking in puppyhood, routine backsliding from a dog who never really gets it or a senior dog where age finally catches up … each dog is destined to pee a certain amount on your floors. And when that pre-ordained quantity is gone? Is it like the Fates in Greek mythology or the Norse Norns spinning then cutting the thread? {gulp}

… sand in an hour glass, dribbling away a little at a time. And there’s less left every time I look. As Uhtred says: Fate is inexorable.

 

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