Why I March

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I am packing for my trip to Washington DC.  I have warm clothes, a good coat, comfortable boots, and a sign that says “Respect Young Women with Disabilities.” I’m meeting another mom of a special needs child and together we will join The Women’s March on Washington on January 21st.

Why am I marching?

Because our daughters, and thousands of other children and adults with disabilities, need health care.

Because all daughters deserve respect, especially from our elected officials, and no one has the right to grab or molest them.

Because Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Education Secretary, doesn’t know what IDEA is or why it is important.

Because Jeff Sessions is a known racist but will be the Attorney General.

Because we are all immigrants and the children of immigrants. Immigrants and slaves built this country and immigrants sustain it. The only people who aren’t immigrants are Native Americans.

Because religious intolerance is anti-American.

Because people I love are Gay, Lesbian and Transgender.

Because climate change is real and if something isn’t done to stop the damage to our planet our grandchildren will suffer.

Because I am a rape survivor.

Because Mr. Trump has repeatedly shown his disdain of women and people with disabilities.

I walk for those who can’t, or who are unable to travel to Washington DC. It is my duty as a patriot to stand against injustice and fight for those unable to fight for themselves.

I am marching against hate.

How to be Kind.

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(image from http://madison.citymomsblog.com/kindness/)

 

Someone said, “You’re a better person than I am,” when I told him about my 100 days of kindness challenge. He said he couldn’t imagine just ignoring all the hatred going around. But that’s not what the challenge is about. Staying silent when you see injustice is not being kind. Speak up. Speak out. Protest. Fight. But do it in a way that shows your strength and integrity.The challenge is to not feed the anger and hatred.

How?

No name calling. If someone says something you disagree with, or you find offensive, tell them. But don’t stoop to calling them stupid or idiot or something worse. If they say something bad about you, tell them to stop. If they don’t, ignore them. People who have no better argument than calling you a “libtard” aren’t worth your energy.

Practice empathy. Take two minutes while you’re waiting in line to imagine what it must feel like to be the girl bagging up your groceries. Or how hard it must be for the person using a wheel chair to get all her shopping done. Instead of zoning out on your phone, look at the people around you. Everyone is struggling, not just you.

Hold the door for someone who’s hands are full.

Give up your seat on the bus if someone needs it.

Buy a cup of coffee for a homeless person on a cold morning.

When someone cuts you off in traffic or shoves past you in line, take a deep breath and count to ten before reacting. Take that pause to deescalate the anger and keep a clear head. Then decide how to react. Will you let it go, or confront the person? Either way you’ll be in better control of yourself.

Being kind is simple. Just remember all the lessons we were taught in elementary school about respect and bullying and follow them as an adult. It’s no mystery. Stand up for what is right. Refuse to spread hate. Be polite. Be considerate. But take no shit.

 

 

 

100 days of kindness

The first 100 days of a presidency are meaningful. The president elect announces, “In my first 100 days…” and everyone watches to see if he follows through. The first 100 days can set the tone for the rest of his term. That’s why I want to challenge everyone to 100 days of kindness.

President-elect Trump has spoken proudly about his dislike of foreigners and Muslims. He has denigrated women and mocked people with disabilities. His tone has made it okay for white supremacists and misogynists to harass people of color and women. Even people who don’t think of themselves as racist now believe it’s fine to tell racists jokes in public. Lashing out at your neighbor is allowed.

But I believe we can set a new tone simply by being as vocal about kindness as Trump is about hate. Trump has embraced social media as his platform of intolerance. We need to take it away and turn it into a platform of kindness.All you have to do is report kindness on social media with the hash tag #100daysofkindness. Share a kind word with the world. Take a picture of an act of kindness and post it. Not to show off how “good” you are, but to drown out some of the hate speech filling the internet. This isn’t about making you look better to your friends, it’s about spreading generosity and compassion.

You don’t have to share anything on social media, though. Just commit to being especially kind to others for the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. If thousands of people did that, imagine what could be achieved. While Trump continues to insult and denigrate, we could completely ignore him simply by being kind to a stranger. Go ahead and bellow, Mr. Trump. No one is listening.

#100daysofkindness. Imagine the possibilities

2016 – Where is the happiness?

It feels as if 2016 kicked everyone in the gut. Every person I know has faced hardship and strife. Too many people died, from the famous like David Bowie and Prince, to the not so famous but dearly loved, like my friend Randen. Tragedy hit hard and across the world war has escalated. I don’t know anyone who feels safe. And now with President Trump looming, most of my friends feel like they are one step away from disaster. I work in a town devastated by a wildfire. I see how many more homeless people there are crowding the park because there’s no where else to go. It’s so easy to get pulled in to the fear and darkness.

By focusing so much on the news and the dark stories I hear from others, I almost forgot there were many blessings for my family this year. I am teaching again. My husband’s cancer is gone. Our daughter is happy and has many friends. My new book is about half way written. Our garden is thriving. We are financially stable, at least in the short run. The roof doesn’t leak. Both cars run. We have enough to eat.

2011 through 2015 were filled with one health crisis after another. First my daughter almost died, then I was injured and lost my job, then my husband got cancer. We almost lost our home when his small-business ended. I have no idea how we got through those years.

But 2016 in contrast was a wonderful year for my hubby and kid. No one was sick. No one injured. The bills were paid. Seems sad to compare 2016 to those prior four years, as if I’m saying it was a good year because we didn’t die. But sometimes it feels that way…

The future scares the hell out of me. My daughter’s health is declining and I’m afraid of the budget cuts a Republican government will force. How will that affect her and the support she needs to survive?

We are all worn out, fearful and tired. 2016 kicked everyone in the gut. But what I learned from so much fear and loss is that the only way to get back up is to remember the small miracles hidden in the fear.

My daughter’s smile.

Those moments with my special needs students when they suddenly understand something we’ve been working on for weeks.

Every time my beat-up 2003 Honda Odyssey starts on a frozen morning.

The amazing Chinese food my husband cooks from scratch.

Paying all the bills and still having money in the bank.

The tiny plants in my green house waiting for Spring.

Singing with friends on a bright Christmas afternoon.

There is still good in the world. Some years you have to look a little harder to find it, but it’s never gone. It’s worth fighting for. I heard that in a movie somewhere…

Happy New Year. Don’t give up.

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Why I loved Carrie Fisher, and it isn’t because of Princess Leia

As a kid in the 1970’s, I loved Star Wars. But that’s not why I loved Carrie Fisher. To me, Carrie Fisher was more than Princess Leia, an icon from my childhood. She was a strong, outspoken, honest and creative woman. She was a role model.

Carrie Fisher was a writer who shared her struggle with mental illness and addiction, but she did it with humility and humor. Sharing her story allowed others to laugh at their own struggles. She inspired me to write honestly. Speak the truth and don’t apologize, unless you really screwed up, then shout “I’m Sorry” with all your heart. And Carrie wasn’t afraid to fight. When people made fun of her for gaining weight it hurt, but she didn’t hide. Squaring her shoulders she responded with her usual strength and humor, and a loud “Fuck you.”

Carrie Fisher took no shit. Which is one of the reasons her death is so sad. Imagine how much more creative and outspoken she would have been at 80.

Thank you Carrie. I hope I can continue your example. Speak the truth. Laugh at yourself. Love with all your heart.

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Air Your Writing Grievances!

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Festivus, first depicted on the television show Seinfeld, is a secular holiday that allows for the Airing of Grievances. Got a complaint about a person? Air it out on December 23rd.

In that spirit, I would like to Air my Grievances about writing.

  1. I hate my compulsion to write. I am addicted. The need haunts my dreams, makes me grumpy when I don’t have the time to write and makes me resent everyone who interrupts my writing. Overall, writing makes me a bitch.
  2. My life is filled with imaginary characters who talk all at once and demand my attention, even when I’m surrounded by real humans. Writing makes me look like a crazy person.
  3. I have spent thousands of hours of my life pursuing perfection in writing. In those thousands of hours, I may have written four perfect sentences. Maybe.
  4. I have arthritis in my hands from thousands of hours of writing.
  5. Writing has made me a hoarder. There are boxes of journals, stories, half finished novels, outlines, bad poems and rejected manuscripts filling my attic and stuffed under my bed.
  6. Writing is life threatening. I will always get a great idea for a scene or story while driving. I will risk my safety and the safety of others to grab my cell phone in order to record that idea.
  7. Writing is boring. I would rather pick fleas off my dog than edit my novel. But like all good addictions, I will write and edit and write and edit until I go mad with boredom. This is why writers drink and their dogs have fleas.
  8. I’m sure I used the wrong “than” in the above section. And I am a horrible speller. But I will continue to butcher the English language because that is the only way I can get my writing fix. Being a writer and a horrible speller is a curse.
  9. I am terrified of rejection, but am compelled to write and submit and write and submit in a never ending cycle of masochistic misery.
  10. Writing makes me a narcissist. Everybody thinks their life story would make a great book. I am one of those people.

 

What are your grievances about writing?

A Glutened Solstice

Because I am a Celiac, I live dangerously every time I eat out at a restaurant. Gluten particles are sticky and cross contamination is a constant threat. So I wasn’t shocked when I had a gluten reaction from an unknown source. Could have been the cheeseburger I ate with my daughter. Even though it was wrapped in lettuce, I doubt the cook changed his gloves when handling my meal.

What did infuriate me was it happened on Solstice, the night I was to join my friends and howl at the moon around a bonfire while waiting for the longest night to end. Instead, I spent the night howling at my toilet bowl, waiting for another long night of stomach pain to end.

Believe me, if I could eat gluten I would. There is no such thing as Gluten Free sour dough bread (sorry, I’ve tried them all and they all suck). I’ve never had a Krispy Cream donut. When I went to Mardi Gras I spent two days throwing up, and not from alcohol poisoning. Of course, no one believed me as I hurled in a gutter on Bourbon Street. “Amateur” someone yelled.

No, just a celiac.

But my husband did his best to make me feel better. After our daughter went to the bed and my diarrhea subsided, we climbed up on the roof and watched the stars gleam in the frozen sky. I sipped a little wine, determined to celebrate because I’m stubborn that way, and talked about what a crazy year it had been. And then later, when I needed to spend more time in the bathroom, he handed me this:

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Suddenly, I felt a lot better.

Happy Solstice everyone!