Retain your complaining rights! A “nag you to vote” post featuring Alice Cooper, Mom’s 3¢ postage stamp, Tuki & Ward 201

 

DqNCYP5WkAEJjQe
This display is currently up in my library (minus the book on the left, which got borrowed and replaced with one about the Bill of Rights). The 3¢ stamp is real. I scanned and enlarged the image in the service of democracy.  I found it in a packet of stamps Mom (z”l) bought and never used. (Thanks, Mom!)

I was in the middle of an anxiety dream involving my mother, peanut sauce and Wales when the sound of a door opening jarred me awake.

It was Sweetheart, with our morning coffees.

After I attempted to describe the dream (Sweetheart: “Peanut stew? That sounds terrible!”), I said, “It’s Election Day!”

Then, I started to sing. “Electehhhhhhhd……Selectehhhhhhed…….Hallelujah……..”

Sweetheart just looked at me. After more than a decade together, we’re pretty used to each other’s quirks. One of mine is breaking out in song. Sometimes before coffee.

“Alice Cooper!!” I said. “You’ve never heard ‘Elected?’ ”

Sweetheart is a metalhead, so even though I was in eighth grade when I bought “School’s Out,” and “Billion Dollar Babies” (“Elected is on the latter) mostly because I had a slight crush on Lee Rubin and he was all about Alice Cooper, I was a little surprised he hadn’t heard it. But then I remembered that he’d been in second grade back then, an automatic youth-vote-pass situation.

Getting back to that crush, it turned out to be a good thing, because those were albums to which I would not have otherwise been exposed. Rolling Stone hated both albums.  I didn’t and it broadened my musical horizons. (The crush ran its course, and LR was never the wiser.)

we_voted
Tuki (z”l) was a gentle soul in a dog suit. She died three years shy of being old enough to vote, but she always loved to come to the polls and make sure I selected the right candidates.

In the kitchen, the current non-voting dog roamed about. I made Sweetheart a hummus, olive & lettuce sandwich after cuing up two versions of the song, a live version Alice performed on Jimmy Kimmel from 2016 and the original studio recording.

For the more musical-theater inclined, Randy Rainbow (who we saw live this past Friday when he toured Flyover Country – thanks, Randy!) dropped a new voter-encouragement tune last night. The man is a genius at lyrics and also, clearly, a time-management god.

I have not written any songs by which to vote, but I do have some encouraging pictures.

It’s 6:49 a.m. and the polls open in 11 minutes……gotta run.

POSTSCRIPT@ 7:11 am: I was Voter #4. There was a line of about five people behind me; a man was registering on-site. That’s more mid-term activity than I’ve seen at my sleepy polling place in the 18 years I’ve voted there!

POSTSCRIPT@5:26 pm: Sweetheart sent me a text after he voted at 4. “199. They cheered for 200!” So I stopped by the polls on my way home from Unlearning Racism class. Voter #238 had just slid his ballot into the box; an observer from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin was sitting in the corner & a steady stream of voters was cycling through the school library-turned-polling room. The chief poll worker was ecstatic, and so am I.

“I think we’re going to hit 50 percent!” she said.

I told her I will stop by after my MIRACLE (Mental Wellness in the Urban Church) meeting and see how many more people had voted. Because I talked to the election observer, I had to sign the sheet that said I was observing. There was a spot to indicate who I was representing.

I wrote, “My neighborhood!”

POSTSCRIPT@8:07 pm: At 7:45, Voter 276 was registering. As I walked out and toward my car, a man was getting out of the leopard-print-covered seat of his late-model Camry.

“Are they still open?” he said.

“Yes!” I answered, “You’re #277!”

DkkJrD_W0AAImjs
Me, at the August primary election, doing my civic duty and getting to cross “being the first one at the polls to vote” off my bucket list. I was going to try to reprise it 18 minutes after writing this caption. It didn’t happen. Which is a win for the rest of us.

 

Dkhv8bWXsAA13Pk
Cutest couple at the polls.

Love, loss, hope and backup plans: Making now count

Tough_TimesOptimized

So, it’s been a few months. I could make up a whole raft of reasons for the radio silence, but the truth is job-related.

Last July, I was laid off from the job I loved, and not long after my last post in February, there were signs of a happy ending/soft landing. In a fit of holding off until I could share good news, I put off posting.

But I’ve waited long enough, and now I’m at that place where you just say “Now matters. Live here!”

Butterfly_Field_Trip_Optimized20160518
An expert at living in the now

So here’s a little story about the job I loved and lost. It wasn’t performance-related (the exact words of the HR official who hand-delivered my layoff letter). I was really good at what I did. But it was funded by “soft money.”  Which is code for “grants.”

The particular grant I worked on for 10 years was funded through the Wisconsin State Legislature. The program was almost 40 years old, and provided a whole lot of bang for the $895,000 it cost state taxpayers. I could venture guesses as to why it was de-funded. But those would just be guesses.

My program was one of 16 around the state. We worked with adults – mostly women but some men, too – who had not been the main breadwinner in their households, but for any number of reasons found themselves in a position where they had to become the main breadwinner. My participants were divorced or separated from partners or spouses, married or partnered with someone who’d become disabled and unable to work, or who’d lost a job. In a couple of cases I worked with people who’d given up good jobs out of state to come home and see an elderly parent through his or her last illness. Those people had been supported by the parent’s pension or social security. One of them was paid through an agency that provided elder care to be their parent’s caregiver. All that ended with their parents’ deaths, and they needed to rejoin the workforce.

For 10 years, I got paid to listen to these people tell me who they were, then help them figure out how to reimagine their lives. Most days I went home feeling like the luckiest, most blessed individual on Planet Earth because, having already gone through my own version of the horrible realities my participants were living, I could serve as living proof that it was possible to come out on the other side.

It was something I would definitely have appreciated when I was where they were. Most were also completely inspiring – making courageous choice after courageous choice to make their lives better. (I’ve stayed friends with many of them, and that’s helping me now. As I said, luckiest & most blessed.)

I had a sneak preview this might be coming down the pike in 2007, when a state legislator (Jeff Fitzgerald was his name) decided to cut the program because, according to one of my then-colleagues, he figured that if it wasn’t at all the technical colleges, it didn’t need to be at any. (There was a 100-day standoff about the budget that year, and the 16 program coordinators from around the state took advantage of the time. We spent it informing our representatives about what we did. When budget was passed, we were in it).

“Your backup plans need backup plans.”

One of my mantras is “Your backup plans need backup plans.” My backup plans since the ’90s  have been freelance writing, back-of-the-house for catering and anything else someone would be willing to pay me for.

It turned out, though, that I like having a steady gig with benefits and co-workers. When I looked at it through my Program Coordinator lens, the reality of my patchwork resume – a bachelor’s degree in music followed by journalism and project management experience – meant the average HR department would probably toss it for being too scattered. And there was the reality of my age – ie: not 30.

I needed something bigger.

 

4Michele
A rhino is pretty big, even on a Scrabble board.

 

I couldn’t do anything about my age (and didn’t really want to). But I could address the resume. So I started looking at graduate programs. I wanted something that would pull everything I’d done together and take it all to a different level. I also wanted something that would make me as fire-proof as possible for a 50-something woman whose work experience and college degree were at least as well matched as Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries.

Which is the reason I went to library school. It’s a terrific degree – really versatile. People with library degrees work in all kinds of settings – IT, corporate, legal, financial, academic – the list is pretty long. And maybe it hasn’t gotten me a job yet, but the skills I’ve added to my existing toolbox have given me a level of confidence in riding out this layoff that I never would have had without it.

So, while I wait for my Prince Charming job to come along (I’m straight, which is why it’s not a Princess Charming job), my library degree is working for me. It’s also working for others. I volunteer two mornings a week at a university library, in one of their digital units. I’ve added book indexing and dissertation editing to the freelance journalism, marketing and technical writing/editing/content development I’ve always done.

And then there’s this blog, which started as a gift to myself. Thank you for reading it, and especially thanks for reading this post, which is mostly a ramble/meditation to get myself back into my once-a-week posting routine. A whole lot has happened in the past few months, not the least of which was finishing my first knitting/quilting hybrid project.

Micah_Blanket_FinishedOptimized
My first knitting/quilting hybrid project.

Coming attractions ,with illustrations

Kinnickinnic_Bakery_coolerofawesomeOptimized
It’s all gluten-free all the time at the Kinnikinnick Bakery in Edmonton, Alberta.

 

MateyOptimized
The Humane Society said Matey was a “three-month-old Shepherd mix.” She’s not.

 

 

My Write-in Candidate is Dead and Reductive Disrespecters Want Your Brain: An Election Season Guide for the Perplexed

There are a lot of reasons I miss having a dog. Election season is one. Tuki used to come with me when I voted.

votingpair4web.jpg

She was also my candidate of choice on more than one occasion. I voted for Tuki when it was clear that, compared to the humans on a ballot, she would represent my interests more competently.

I wrote in Tuki for County Supervisor the whole time Lee Holloway was in office. The only time I ever saw him at my door was after a pension scandal (he and his fellow supervisors voted themselves and county employees fat pensions at the expense of the county’s well-being). When I asked him about it, he got owly. His opponent had no political experience and misspellings on her campaign literature. Tuki was the clear winner.

Even before she died in November, I knew there was a viable human candidate for County Supervisor this coming April. When my friend Mike found out I’d been laid off last July, he told me he was running and asked if I’d be willing to help with his campaign.

Lke me, Mike is a progressive communitarian. Of course I’d be willing to help!

Also, I quite adore him. I also adore his wife Trudy, their kids Jon and Carolyn and their special needs dog, Turbo. (Turbo is an epileptic – but courtly – German Shepherd.)

I asked about specific things he could affect as Supervisor.

“Three things,” he answered. “Transportation, parks and jobs.”

“Four,” I said. “Mental health services.”

“Absolutely!” he said.

So, since fall, Mike’s been walking the district, knocking on doors and introducing himself to voters. By the time it was time to collect the 200 signatures he needed to get on the ballot, he’d gotten a lot of exercise. He’d also gotten a lot of information from his prospective constituents.

It used to be that simple. Candidates declared their intentions by going directly to We the People to talk about who they were and what they’d do, and We the People listened, used our brains to make an informed decision, and voted.

But most people are busy. Or lazy. Some are so turned off by having seen nothing change for so long that they’ve abandoned the process entirely and don’t even bother with elections or voting any more.

All that is a big mistake. Because people – on the left and the right – have figured out how to turn that cynicism and laziness to their advantage, and they’re doing just that. They’ve given up on changing the system. They’re just trying to milk it in order to get more for themselves or keep what they have by maintaining the status quo. And they’re using your brain – with your cooperation – to get the job done.

You can see it working right now in the run-up to next year’s presidential election. Who will Hispanics want? What about women? How do we get the Black vote? What about the Jews? How do we reach White Men?

Local party/organization bosses are exactly the same. They go out and find people they think the Hispanics/Women/Blacks/Jews/White Men will vote for and recruit them to run. Then, they pour money and publicity into their campaigns and send out press releases touting their credentials “S/He went to a rally for {insert cause here} and is an activist in his/her {insert demographic-catnip-sounding group name here}!”

It’s all designed to appeal to your emotions.

Which is reductive and disrespectful. Almost as disrespectful as the fact that these decisions are, by and large, made by people who don’t even live in the districts they’re working to influence.

So, yeah. Qualifications aside, I’m a little cranky that Mike, who is in his 50s and white, is being told by the people who don’t live here that they have to support the black woman in her 20s because she’s a black woman in her 20s.

Anyway, all this to say that during this election season, don’t take anyone’s word for what the person who wants to represent you stands for. When those glossy things start showing up in your mailbox, or if candidates show up on your doorstep, find out how long they’ve lived in your district, what drove them to run, what they want to accomplish in office and how they plan to do it.

Then, stick it to the reductive disrespecters. Use your pre-frontal cortex  instead of your limbic system when you decide who’s getting your vote.

New Business, Writer’s Block and Preventing Newborn Ignorance, One Baby at a Time

 

CabbagePatchBaby&DodaDaddyBlog.jpg
My grandson and his aunt, who was so amazing as a caregiver to her sister that for a second I kicked myself for not hiring her when I had kids. Then I remembered why I hadn’t….

I will confess to not being terribly distressed to slam the door on 2015. Between the job layoff, sending my best non-human  friend Tuki to the Rabbit Field in the Sky and my mother on a slow cruise to Dementia Island, it’s been – and continues to be – interesting times.

Still, there have been bright spots. I’ve got a fledgling dissertation and thesis-writing business, and recently signed an agreement I can’t talk about to do some writing-related work that looks to be fascinating and fulfilling. And I’m pushing myself to write chapters 6 through 13 of my book, which means dredging up things I’d rather leave in the personal history sewer. The good part is that I’ll be able to throw a good number of them back there. The bad part is I won’t know which ones until I look.

Also, three weeks ago I became a grandmother. It’s not something I’d ever imagined. Which wasn’t about vanity or thinking my offspring wouldn’t be fit parents. It was about watching my friends who couldn’t have or didn’t want kids being made miserable by parents and others who were pressuring them about where the babies were.

I had kids because I wanted them. Not everybody wants them, and I had no clue about where my offspring – or their prospective partners – would fall on that spectrum. So I never really thought much about being someone’s Bubby.

But here I am, with a  wee grandson. We’ve spent a little time together, and I’m getting to know him. He’s not doing much other than the usual top four newborn things (sleeping, eating, pooping and crying), but he’s starting to add a fifth thing, staring, to his repertoire. That means he’s getting more interested in things, and that makes him more interesting.

My chief duty so far has been making sure his mother and other caregivers are fed. (My first instinct in any crisis or celebration is to start catering.) But now that he’s starting to get curious, I’m trying to answer the questions he’s not yet able to ask.

So I’m giving him tours around his house, explaining what things are (“This is a stove where food gets cooked. The top gets very hot and you don’t want to touch it then.” “These things in frames are artwork. Art is very important and good for your soul.”) and telling him about different things (“President Obama is trying to make it so assault rifles aren’t so available, which is good news.”) going on in the world.

There’s nothing sadder than a newborn who isn’t up on current events, after all.

 

 

 

A bottle of wine and a cat: Surviving the first dogless days

 

Tuki&SweetheartOptimized.jpg
Tuki & Sweetheart, relaxing. This was after she’d reached the point where we let her on the couch and before the point where she couldn’t get up there by herself anymore.

 

The house is so quiet. No one needs to go outside before we go to bed. There are no clacking feet in the middle of the night, the prelude to a trip down the stairs and outside into the dark. No one needs to go outside first thing in the morning. And no one is chasing Sweetheart out of the driveway when he leaves for work.

How things went

Four of us left the house to go to the vet on Saturday morning. Three of us came back.

Tuki and I sat in back of Talia’s SUV. Sweetheart sat in front. T had put the seat down on Tuki’s side and spread blankets out, so she could lie comfortably. She’d also bought a bag of freeze-dried duck hearts for her Best Girl. I spent the ride feeding them to the grateful recipient.

When we got there and got her out of the car, Sweetheart took her over to eat some snow. It had snowed the night before. Fitting, as it had done the same thing the first night she’d been with us all those years before. That morning, she’d been in constant motion, dancing all over the yard, sticking her nose in the snow and tossing what she didn’t eat, openly delighted at this toy that spanned everything she could see.

I walked into the office. Joanne was sitting behind the counter. She’s been the receptionist there since before Tuki was born. I put my head down on the counter and burst into tears.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s the hardest thing we have to do.”

She took us into the exam room and got a blanket so Tuki wouldn’t have to get up on the table. Tuki, never one of Park Pet’s grateful patients, stayed true to form, growling at the vet. Dr. Poehlmann told us what would happen – first a shot to send Tuki into the Happy Place where Everything is Wonderful (or that state of mind where, as Talia said later, Tuki would be doing things like staring up and saying things like, “Wow! My paws are SOOOO big!!”). Then, five minutes or so later, she would shave Tuki’s back leg, insert an IV and inject the drug that would stop her heart.

Sweetheart held and petted Tuki, so she was distracted when Dr. Poehlmann put the needle into her left flank. The vet stepped out. We got Tuki settled onto the blanket, and Talia and I laid on either side of her and stroked her. We talked and sang to her.

When Dr. Poehlmann came back, Tuki was unconscious. Dr. P shaved Tuki’s leg. She told us that the knee was very swollen and that Tuki had practically no muscle in that leg.

“I take comfort in biochemical information,” Talia said. “Can you tell me exactly how the drug works?”

I don’t remember what Dr. Poehlmann said. It had to do with interrupting some process or other.

Pho and tears

After it was over, we dropped Sweetheart at home. Talia bought pho for lunch, and we ate at Oldest Daughter’s house. We hugged Layli, my granddog, and talked about Oldest Daughter’s impending baby (yes, I’m going to be a grandmother, which feels very weird although I’m told by all my friends who have grandchildren that it is amazing). And, of course, I cried some. But it was easier because I wasn’t home. Then, I was. I spent the rest of the day sobbing.

I was a little better on Sunday, though not much.

“You need a bottle of wine and a cat,” Sweetheart said at one point.

On Monday, Sweetheart took the car to work. I managed to get all the dog things – water dish on a stand, food dish, food container, grooming tools and toys – gathered up and put away.

Then, I picked up her bed. She slept, ala “The Princess and the Pea,” atop a dog bed under which several blankets were piled.

I am not ready to wash it, or throw it away.

Goodbye, Tuki, and thank you for 15 amazing years.

I’m writing this with a view.

TukiLastMorningResized20151121.jpg

Tuki is lying with her head on my outstretched leg. In two hours, she will be gone and I will be bereft. I’ve never had to put a dog down before.

In between writing, I put my hand on her head and stroke the space from just above her nose and between her eyes with my thumb.

We’ve had nearly 15 years together. Our 15th Doggiversary would have been November 30th. That was the night I found her, a three-month-old stray puppy gamboling in the grass with a friend’s dog.

“Who’s the other dog?” I said, as we watched the two of them frolic from a porch above the patch of lawn where they were having a grand old time giving chase.

“No idea,” she said.

I ventured out into the dark for a closer look. Lucas, Ann’s dog, was a seven-year-old Schnauzer/Yorkshire Terrier mix. He weighed about 10 pounds. The other dog was bigger but, as I got closer, I could see how young it was.

She spent one night with us, and those of us not crazy in love with her from the jump (my then-husband) were moving in that direction. Animal Control picked her up in the morning so she could be reunited with her owners. We filled out a “first dibs on adopting” form if no one claimed her.

Fast forward three weeks.

The Humane Society says we can adopt her. But, they say, she has kennel cough and they want to keep an eye on her for a couple of days. The next day, they call and tell us to pick her up. We bring her home.

A week later, we’re at the vet for the second time. The first vet said it was bronchitis and threw pills at us. The second vet says, “I don’t know if this dog is going to live through the night.”

I ask how what it will cost to see if we can save her. Money is short, but I decide I can handle giving up three months of cell phone service.

As we leave, I can hear her shrill puppy cries as the vet tech and vet insert an IV.

The next morning, the vet calls.

“Good news,” he said. “The antibiotics did the job. She popped up this morning and gobbled her food. We want to keep her another night.”

Fast forward to now.

There are not enough or the right kind of words to express the universe of love, kindness and joy this dog has brought me. She was the valedictorian of her manners class. You could leave a plate of food in reach and she wouldn’t touch it if it wasn’t offered. She caught two squirrels, and tried to be a good friend to all her feline housemates, some of whom were more receptive to her overtures than others.

So, I am going to get dressed now and the three of us – that 13-year-old, who is now 28, and Sweetheart, who’s been my best human partner for 10 years – are going to do the last, best right thing we can for someone we love.

Tuki&Flowers.jpg

A walk in the park, and why there should be an Academy of Cashiering Arts and Sciences

So, the Academy Awards were this weekend. We watched a bit of them, which sparked a thought about the day before.

Sweetheart was at work and I was performing my weekly “take a lame-ass stab at bringing some order to the Landfill I Call Home” exercise in futility when the phone rang.

It was R, calling to see if Tuki & I wanted to meet her and Bailey at a nearby park for a walk. The day was perfect for a walk. Sunny. Warm (temperature above 20F (-6C) for the first time all week). So I leashed up my girl and we headed out.

Bailey is an eight-year-old Samoyed/Golden Retriever (we think) mix. He was jumping and pulling with excitement even before I parked and we got out of the car. Except for Tuki falling out of the back seat getting out, we had a great time. (I was corralling the leash and my purse and didn’t get to her fast enough as she tumbled onto the street. She bounced back up right away, but it was an awful moment. We were on the driver’s side and R & Bailey were on the sidewalk, so they didn’t see.)

Bailey, me and Tuki
Bailey on the left, Tuki on the right, and me in the middle.

Sweetheart brought R into our lives. They’re both arborists who speak fluent Tree. Walking with the two of them, I’ve learned about different types of trimming, picked up some Latin (R refers to trees by their Latin names) and a bit about urban logging. She works for a city (Sweetheart is a utility arborist). The extreme cold has cracked the trunks of some of her city’s streetside trees, so they have to be removed before spring. If they aren’t, they could fall and do some major damage. Some residents are upset about losing their trees. Rut R said this is actually a good time to do removals, because then she can get new street trees planted in spring.

After our walk, I went to my local food co-op. I’ve been a member since the mid 1980s, when there was only one location. Now there are four, including one relatively close to home.

Sometimes the checkout lines get pretty long. Like most people, I look for the shortest one. Before Middle Kid grew up and left home, we had a system. She’d hit one line and I’d hit another and whoever got closest fastest would signal the other to move over.

Those rules don’t apply at Local Co-op if Z is working a checkout line. The smile alone is worth the wait, but there’s more to Z than a cheerful smile. She’s one of those people who radiates well-being, and I do not mean that in a sanctimonious “crunchy granola” way. It’s more like a happiness bubble with a doorway. You step inside and trade in whatever might be bothering you for a few minutes of joy while she’s ringing up your butter and milk and lettuce and toothpaste and eggs and you chat about nothing.

ZhangResizedOptimized
Z, brightening the day of the customer ahead of me.

At this point, Z and I know enough about each other to ask about work and school (she’s back in school where I work, and while I have no idea if my endless pestering had anything to do with getting her to go back, I’m thrilled). We also, as it turns out, are connected through my neighbor Linda, because Z and Linda’s son were high school classmates and friends.

There’s no Academy of Cashiering Arts and Sciences. But if there were (and why shouldn’t there be?), Z would be right up there with Meryl Streep, nominated annually and winning more often than not.