Civic Duty.

Friends: today, I did something uncomfortable, inspiring, reaffirming, and important.  I volunteered to get people registered to vote.

When you live in New York, you perfect the art of ignoring or turning down strangers who approach you with their agenda.  “Excuse me!” they shout as you hustle back from lunch. “Do you care about pandas/polar bears/babies?”  After a friendly response resulted in year of donating to Greenpeace, I learned to wear giant headphones, never make eye contact, and respond with a curt and forceful “no” if pressed.

I get it.  I get that people just want to be able to buy some groceries and a pumpkin spice latte without being harassed.  I understand being afraid that the person with the clipboard is going to prey on your friendliness and leverage it for their own cause.  But this year, this election feels too important to be sidelined by awkwardness, fear of rejection, or trying to preserve your “cool.”    So I put on my USA t-shirt, got my clip-board, and camped out by the Safeway entrance.

Voter registration volunteer

Doing democracy!

And you know what?  It was incredible!  Most people, when they heard I was registering voters and not trying to weasel them out of their money, were so incredibly kind.  Many thanked me.  Some wished me good luck.  One lady gave me a homemade pecan tart, and another man offered me one of his donuts!  Even a couple of Trump supporters (assuming I was stumping for Hillary…which…is fair) approached me jovially and politely.

If you base your opinions solely on what you see on the news, it would be easy to assume that Americans are filled with hatred and fear or have disengaged, but what I saw was a small army of folks with their hands full of grocery bags, holding their babies and dog leashes, stopping for a moment of shared humanity.  Even if they didn’t agree with me.

By the end of two hours, I had registered two women to vote.  One is a die-hard Hillary supporter and so excited to vote; the other is a roofer who’s still deciding her path.  It was my honor and pleasure chatting with these ladies and helping them prepare to participate in our democracy.  Two may not sound like a lot, but to me, it felt like a Sunday morning miracle.

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Deep-fried Twinkies and Other Thoughts.

Much like Hillary Clinton herself, I assume, I’ve been struggling to understand why many people believe that she is an equally bad a presidential option as Donald Trump.

I’ll admit – I was not what you’d call “jazzed” about her being the nominee at first, but then two women I respect shared their opinions of her, which began to change mine.  The first I know personally – she’s intelligent, thoughtful, and holds many people’s wellbeing in her hands.  The second was Gloria Steinem, whose memoir My Life on the Road I listened to while driving to Moab.

Gloria Steinem My Life on the Road

I recommend.

After listening to these women and looking into my own heart, I realized that my main problem with Secretary Clinton was that she wanted it, and I could tell.  I couldn’t stand her because of her ambition and willingness to play the game.

It was the same impulse that made me dislike a woman who was in the NYU Summer Publishing Institute with me – when we did a class field trip of sorts to Jane magazine, she spoke up every time the editor asked a question, charmed the woman and eventually got a job at the magazine.  I loved Jane and would have stabbed someone with a pencil to work there, but I didn’t want to seem too eager.  I didn’t want to annoy anyone by seeming like I wanted to sit at the head of the popular table.  But DAMMIT if I didn’t want to sit at the head of that table, and I turned my sadness and jealousy into snide derision.

Mean Girls

You can’t sit with us.

That young woman, shunned by so many of us, pursued and achieved her dream.  I found a job on craigslist, far from the industry that I loved.  My feeling superior to her was cold comfort.

Barack Obama, who makes me feel all the feels with his graceful yet powerful speeches, has made some bad-judgment mistakes.  And yet, and yet, I love him.  He’s cool and funny and calm, and I can’t see the gears of his clock.  Hills, as I like to call her, is intelligent, experienced, and far more qualified to lead this nation than many of the people who tossed their hats into the ring, but we can see her gears.  We can hear them when they grind and we know when she gets out the oil can.

She isn’t always smooth and polished, but at least I know that she has the right mechanisms to tell time.  Donald Trump, by contrast, is trying to tell us time doesn’t exist, and that somehow feels preferable to being faced with the truth behind the facade.  He’s the guy making s’mores, and she’s the person telling you that marshmallows are made from cow tendons.

In November, I will proudly cast a vote for Hillary Clinton, because my conscience revolts at the thought of voting for someone who believes that I would rather live in a fantasy world than deal with some hard truths.  Someone who appeals to the darkest, fear-inhabited pieces of our souls, whispering that these shameful feelings of hatred and racism aren’t wounds we need to clean out – they’re righteous truths.  Someone who encourages us to believe we can feel good fast if we are bombastic and blunt enough, instead of listening to each other and embracing nuance.

People I love and respect will vote for Donald Trump, and neither of us will ever fully empathize with the other person’s choice, and I am okay with that.  Thank God we live in a democracy where we can recognize the validity of different ways of living and loving.  Hillary Clinton isn’t pure good and Donald Trump isn’t pure evil, because reality doesn’t work that way, but I am choosing to stand with her.

Though he isn’t Satan incarnate, Donald Trump is the human equivalent of a deep-fried Twinkie.  Deep-fried Twinkies are ridiculous and a novelty, and the first couple of bites taste pretty good.  Their lavishness feels incredibly American.  Eating a deep-fried Twinkie in the summer sun at the state fair seems to send up a one-finger solute to boring, constrictive worries about nutrition and diabetes.  But Twinkies, deep-fried or otherwise, are really bad for you!  They’re harmless every now and again, but imagine if they became a staple of your diet.  If you had to eat deep-fried Twinkies every day, wouldn’t your stomach ache grow worse as you realized that perhaps this didn’t turn out like you thought?

I'm with her

Picking Up the Pieces.

Hi Friends!

It’s been a while.

Sometimes you reach a point in your life when, though it’s nobody’s fault and you had good intentions, you realize you’ve made yourself very small in your own life.  Your heart isn’t in the scaffolding you’ve constructed to prop up a facade you’ve built, choosing and laying every brick yourself and not even recognizing the result.

So.  So.  I am now picking up the pieces.

When you break a wine glass, some of the pieces are large and easy to see.  You can gather them up quickly, and you begin to feel that you’ve cleaned up the mess.  Then you encounter the shards that were too small to see, that you had forgotten were there.  They poke into your bare foot, or maybe into your pinkie as you clean the countertops.  It’s painful for a moment, as those forgotten slivers cry out for notice, but it’s part of cleaning up the kitchen.

I suspect I’ll be finding shards for some time.  Meanwhile, I pulled enough weeds to fill two trash bags, there’s a load of laundry going, and the floor is mopped.  I’m working on cleaning up my kitchen.

Here’s wishing you a week in which you peer into some forgotten corners.  Get out your sketching supplies; re-read that book you used to love.  Wash some dishes.

Lady Problems.

Hi friends!  We made it through another Monday, which is cause enough for gratitude and celebration.  The reward for this, of course, is a new episode of The Bachelor.

Yes, friends.  I love The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, and I’ve been known to dabble in Bachelor in Paradise.  Hate on it if you wish, but I also love Jane Austen novels, good Scotch, and Henri Matisse, so it’s fine.  Life is all about balance.  These shows have taught me about human nature and the difference between true love and self-delusion,  and they’ve gotten me through some transformative times.

As I was watching tonight’s episode, I was struck by how self-possessed the remaining women are.  Physically, they’re specimens.  Caila’s hair looked like a Pantene commercial, her nails were freshly done, and her teeth are an orthodontist’s dream.  But most impressive is how in control of her emotions she seems to be.  She’s consistently sweet and upbeat, except when she calls upon a few adorable tears to punctuate her timely and appropriate feelings.

Watching this, I wondered briefly if this is the path to success in life.  Somehow becoming master of yourself enough to show only what you want people to see, while managing to be described as “real” and “genuine.”  Pair that with washing your hair every day and remembering to clip your ragged thumbnail before five days have passed, and we have our first female president!

And then my funny, fun friend sent me a text.  “Are you watching this?  This is insane!”  We chatted about how ridiculously large another woman’s family home is (“Seriously, is her dad the governor?”) and then drifted towards our own weekends.  The conversation went roughly as follows…

“How was your ski weekend?” she asked.

“It was so fun!  Except I had a panic attack in the middle of a run and a kid on a snowboard had to bail to avoid me.  I cried so hard I couldn’t catch my breath.  I was PMSing.  But the weekend was awesome!” I replied.

“Oh no!” she said.  “I was PMSing this weekend, too.  Once I cried because I was talking about how romantic Wuthering Heights is.  Then I was telling someone a pretty song lyric and started crying again,” she shared.

Then I laughed for a long time and sent some silly emojis and refilled my glass of wine.  I filed a couple of receipts and finished washing my dinner dishes, and I looked around at my sweet little house and my big, fun life, and I loved it all.  I might snooze my alarm too many times in the morning, and most of the time my nails are bare.  My emotions often pop up at inconvenient times and in conspicuous ways, but that’s ok.  I’ll take a friend who cries over Wuthering Heights over someone who art directs her emotions any day, and I think my friends would say the same for me.

My wish for you this week is that you look around at your life and love it all.  Enjoy the last of your full moon Monday!

(And if you’re a fan of The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, please do yourselves a favor and check out http://www.ihategreenbeans.com)

Regroup!

Happy New Year’s Eve, friends!  [Ed. note – the writer may have, uh, fallen asleep before midnight and forgotten to finish this post.] Whatever holidays you celebrate (or not – it’s a free country), I hope they’ve been great.

I got to spend Christmas “back home again in Indiana,” where it was a disorienting and rainy 60 degrees.  Thankfully, we had enough of a break in the weather to take my step-dad’s ’36 Ford out for a cruise on Christmas day.  Rick and my brother rode in the front and my mom and I shared the rumble seat – it was so fun to drive around town and greet people out walking their dogs.  Some called out, “hey, nice car!”  Others wished us Merry Christmas.  One man stood watching and smiling from his doorway.

image1-3

In our own little way, we helped to spread some cheer, and it felt nice!

We also saw Star Wars (loved, loved so much), played so many games of cards, sang along with family favorite Christmas tunes, and ate and drank way too much.  #typical

This year has brought a hard-won return to continuity in my life – or at least the beginnings of it.  For a long time I ran from one trip/apartment/store/bar to the next, trying to hold myself together.  Through a combination of time, living in this amazing state, buying my first house, and connecting with friends and family, I’ve started to relax back into reality.

Reality may not be perfect, but at least it’s real.  My wish for myself and all of you in 2016 is to make peace with our reality and find our own ways to make it better.

For now, I’m starting with a homemade breakfast followed by a Star Wars movie marathon with some great friends.  (Because, really, what’s more real than a bunch of adorable Ewoks?!?)

Cheers, friends!

Bird Lady.

Happy Saturday, friends!

I’m having my sprinklers blown out today (#grownup), so while I’m a homebound hostage for a couple hours waiting for the tech, I’m indulging in some hot coffee, a cheesy Hallmark movie, and laughing at the never-ending play outside my window.

From where I sit, I can see a blue jay squawking at a squirrel, who is perched on top of one of the bird feeders, flicking his tail at the jay.  A black-capped chickadee keeps trying to flit through unnoticed, barely landing atop the shepherd’s hook before flying away again.

Recently, my mom had a dream in which my dad told her to let me know that the birds meant everything would be ok.  I took that to heart.  Every time I see the one fat little finch refusing to give up his perch, hear the woodpecker announce to the neighborhood that I refilled the feeders, or see the chickadees in the pear tree, I feel calm.

I watch these sweet, bossy, funny little birds and remember the times I sat in my grandmother’s kitchen while she taught me the names of each visitor to her feeders.  Goldfinches have always carried a special magic for me since those days.  We laughed at the squirrels who got fooled by my grandpa’s corn-cob feeder that flipped them upside down.  I think about how my step-dad put up feeders in our back yard in Indiana to help my very brave mom through chemo.  Too nauseated to do much, she sat at the kitchen table and found a new strength in stillness.

“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

I watch these birds, who bring me so much joy in exchange for a few sunflower seeds, and I believe that everything will be ok.  For a few moments at least, I release all my anxieties and illusions of control and just enjoy.

The aspen tree in my yard is golden and filters the sunlight in delicate patterns on the window.  My sprinkler system is protected for the winter.  I have a sunny Saturday in front of me and a loving family I get to see at Christmas.  Everything is ok.  In fact, it’s pretty great.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend filled with peace and productivity.

Sing-a-long.

As my step-sister Katie said upon leaving Denver this morning, “I’ve got a case of the Sundays.”  But let’s focus on the positives: I had wonderful visitors this weekend, it’s a beautiful day outside, and I used a shop vac like a boss this morning.

We visited Red Rocks this weekend and enjoyed the view from the top, after we climbed the bleachers as a rite of passage for their first trip to the amphitheater.  It was a perfect day with blue skies and a light breeze, and we wandered all over town soaking it up over local craft beers. #Denver.

Before we left Red Rocks, I took a silly photo with the statue of John Denver – it’s a long story and an inside joke, but it brought back wonderful childhood memories.  We used to drive from Indiana to Myrtle Beach, or Virginia to see my great-grandma, in the summers.  On those long drives when we weren’t allowed to sleep (shamed awake by my dad’s regular refrain of “Look out your windows!  We’re in the Smoky Mountains!  Appreciate what’s around you!”), we listened mostly to Brooks and Dunn, Clint Black, and John Denver.

John Denver Spirit at Red Rocks

Take me home, John.

Every time we hit West Virginia, we all belted “WEST VIRGINIA, mountain mama, take me home…country roads!”

The last time I was home, my mom gave me my dad’s CD case to take back with me.  Opening it felt as significant as a time capsule.  The Beatles 1 album beamed its red face out of its felt slot, reminding me of how we’d listen to it on the way home from tennis practice, and I would share my naive, new-born notions about capital M “Music” and how perfect every song was.

I flipped through the options until I reached Clint Black’s The Hard Way.  I played it in my Honda CR-V, a later model of the same car he used to drive, and though I hadn’t listened to those songs in over 15 years, every note felt familiar.  I laughed as I struggled to find the right key and remembered how my dad once told me to sing in tune or be quiet (Clint Black, for some reason, is my sing-a-long kryptonite).

I remembered us being so excited to him in the movie Maverick, and how he was listed in the credits as “Sweet-faced gambler.”

 

I’ve been feeling my dad’s presence so much lately, and it’s bringing with it memories I thought were lost.  While I’m so grateful for their return, I’m starting to realize that it has taken me 14 years to heal enough for these times to start coming back into focus.  And I don’t feel disappointed in myself or anything negative, I’m simply marveling that I’ve been healing the whole time – that my mind and soul intuitively understood when I was ready to start the next phase of healing.

What’s even better is that I know now that I’ll feel him alongside me.  When you lose someone close, you feel like you need to push through the pain until you have faced the reality that you’ll never see or talk to them again (well, that’s how I felt, anyway), at least until the afterlife, depending on your religious persuasion.  What I’m starting to realize is…maybe I don’t have to face that notion because it isn’t necessarily reality.

He may not be physically present, but he’s with me every time I hear “Better Man,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” or “Can’t Buy Me Love.”  He’s with me when I refuse to sleep on road trips because I want to soak up everything around me.  He was with me when I sat down to write this and turned on the TV to find Last Action Hero, a cheesy Schwarzenegger movie he loved.

It’s still hard every day, but I’m looking forward to this next phase,  featuring a little more trust that he’s along for the ride with me, just the same as if he were still here.  I don’t know how things will change, but for now, I’m grateful.

Here’s wishing you a week filled with connection, love, and happy memories.  Oh, and some great tunes.