Monday, January 30, 2017

15 Steps That Help (a little) to Get Through This

Every day there is a new headline that scares the shit out of me. I'm a silver-lining/rainbow-loving/positive kind of person, but damn it is getting hard to find the light here. Last Friday afternoon, I was sitting with my in-laws having coffee talking politics and my father-in-law, who my kids call Bubba, hugged me and said "we are going to get through this." It helped. 

Not everyone has a kind fatherly man named Bubba to reassure them and tell them it will be okay. So I put together a list that might be helpful as we try to "get through this."

-Get involved and create some change
There are apps out there to find how to contact your senators and representatives. Call them. Tell your story!!!! And then call them again. Go to the coffee hours and the office hours and the town halls. Go to the protest. Never called before or protested before? Don't worry, you aren't alone. I've been so encouraged by all the first timers. Click here for more ways to get involved.

-Get a dog. (I guess a cat will do, but I don't like cats so I can't recommend them.)
I call my two dogs my therapy dogs now because I talk to them when I'm mad at the TV and snuggle with them and walk them; and god dammit I really rely on my dogs' unconditional love.

-Donate money
I don't have a lot of money, but I have a little so I donate a little. Even if it is only a couple dollars, it adds up. I just donated to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.

Go help someone in your community. Go deliver meals or make a meal for an elderly neighbor. Become a mentor. Get outside yourself, and your fear about the world and politics, and help someone.

-Go to the movies or an art museum
Movies make me forget sometimes. And sometimes they educate me and grow my mind and heart and empathy and ahhhhh. Art museums do the same. Going to see a movie alone is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon.

-Go outside
Take a walk. I don't care if it's zero degrees, bundle up. Get fresh air. Notice the breeze and the trees and the sky and the clouds, and the true fucking wonder of it all. 

-Take some situational Xanax
I have battled a bit of anxiety and depression for years, but never taken any medication. I'm scared of drugs because well, my mother is a drug addict. Xanax was her gateway drug way back in the early 80s. I'm terrified of drugs. But long story short, my perimenopausal anxiety was making my life miserable and I needed help. So, my doctor game me a prescription for a low dose of Xanax. She told me I could take it to help me get through certain situations...a flight, a football game, all the executive orders by our new president (she didn't say that last one, but I added it).

Running clears my head. I'm not very fast anymore, but nothing makes me feel better than a good run. Not even Xanax.

-Rediscover the bad-assness of Hole
When life got scary and hard when I was younger I used to drive around in my car with the windows down scream-singing Courtney Love songs, trying to right wrongs and make the world better. The anger and the music helped back then and I'm trying it again now. Here's my "Live Through This" mix on Spotify--click here.

-Support a Woman-Owned Small Business
Supporting women is a good thing. Supporting women who step out on their own and start a business, that's a great thing. Watching women and friends succeed feels good.
I ran into my friend on Sunday morning and bought earrings she made that are supposed to ward off negativity. Yes please! Click here to check out her jewelry-

-Hang out with little kids
Not teenagers because they can crush your spirit sometimes. I am talking about the under 4 set. I am lucky because I work in a preschool and get to see the hope and joy in the little kids Monday through Friday. These kids are only about their right now and it usually involves toys and music and smiling. 

In preschool we talk about taking a Snake Breath when we get a little too hyper. We breathe in deeply, hold it and then exhale. While we exhale we hiss like a snake. So yeah, you should do that, take a Snake Breath every now and then. Take a minute and breathe and relax and let go.

-Take it out on a punching bag
Tim bought the family a punching bag because he thought it might be a good way for us to all get through the decade of menopausal and teenage hormones we are embarking on. Who knew it would also be helpful way to get through the Trump years?

-Listen to a Trump voter
Have a conversation in person with someone that doesn't believe the same things that you do.

If you can do it, get together for coffee with someone that voted for Trump. Listen. Really listen. Try to understand better. Then tell them what you think without trying to convince them to change their mind. Then talk about something unrelated that you both agree about. (This might be a situation where Xanax is required. Ha!)

-Dance it out
Dance crazy and hard and with wild abandon. Dance at a club, in the car, in your room, in the kitchen. Turn up the music, close your eyes and shake everything.

And then do it all over again.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why I Marched

I accidentally hit approximately 122 people last Saturday with my cardboard sign as I marched down main street and stood listening to the speakers at the rally. No one got mad. "Sorry," I apologized to the 122 people. "No problem" and "no worries" and understanding smiles are how they responded. 

People were so nice and friendly and supportive and happy. And grateful. There was so much gratitude. For each other, for the freedom to march and speak and have signs, for understanding, for community, for hope.

Since election day, I've been slightly depressed and confused. After marching in Ann Arbor in a sister march to the massive one in Washington D.C., I still feel confused. I don't understand how people don't get it. When they ask why we marched or what was our point....

The point is some of us needed to stand up for what we are passionate about. We needed to take a stand against a president that we don't agree with. We needed to represent our beliefs. We needed to connect with other people that feel the same way. We needed to feel less alone and worried. We needed to encourage people to get involved and run for office. 

We stepped away from our computers and met with people that felt the same way. We stopped complaining online and met in person. Millions of us. And it felt fucking amazing.

Not all of us agreed about everything. But we all agreed that Donald Trump is not the president that we want. (Even if some of these men and women didn't vote, they feel this way now and they feel bolder and braver and hopefully stronger and more willing to engage and get involved and VOTE. And I am grateful for that.) 

You don't have to agree with us to understand why we marched and rallied. 

I will understand when you organize and march and rally for what you believe in. I get that it feels good to support other men and women that feel the same. I get that you make connections at these types of events, and you inspire people, and encourage people, and challenge people, and educate people, and learn so god damn much about people.

Some of us that were there last Saturday will continue marching and rallying and gathering. Some of us will take a closer look at our beliefs and how we got here. Some of us will open our minds. Some of us will have difficult conversations and revelations. Some people might run for office. Probably all of us that participated in last Saturday's Women's March across the world feel less alone.

For the record, I am, and have been for as long as I can remember, a liberal, progressive, pacifist, pro-choice, pro-love, pro-public education, pro-science, pro-protect the environment person who has always voted for a Democrat because I've pretty much always agreed with them. I am also a suburban mom who taught Sunday school for years and volunteers and drives a minivan. I am friends with Republicans and a couple Libertarians and even a few people so far left that they are a little too liberal for me (which is waaaaay left, lol). I am trying so hard to be a better human and listen to everyone and have more empathy and more love, and at the same time put my fear and anger and frustration into positive action that helps make life more fair and just and peaceful for everyone.

And I will always, always look for the people that dance....

I saw this Instagram and LOVED it:

"Emma Goldman insisted that no cause worth fighting for would deny joy. 'I want freedom, the right to self-expression,everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things.'" I vow to take part in no revolution that doesn't invite you to dance.

Here are some links to some good articles to keep the conversation going:

Monday, January 16, 2017

Buckle Up and Do Something

A million years ago, the summer before I started kindergarten my mom and I were on our way home from the grocery store when a car drove right through a stop sign and into us. I was sitting in the front seat. Neither one of us was had on seat belts (it was way before there were any kind of laws about wearing them). It was bad. My mom suffered from a punctured lung and a bad head injury. I broke my jaw. It was a long recovery, physically and mentally, for both of us. 

A year after the accident my mom was ready to do something. She started going into elementary school classrooms talking to kids about the importance of wearing seat belts. She made t-shirts with a seat belt superhero on it. She brought in seat belts for kids to use to practice "buckling up!." I helped her sometimes. Mostly I listened and watched and learned. I learned the importance of seat belts, and doing something.

My mom didn't lobby our state legislatures but I believe that she helped encourage children, their parents and a few teachers to buckle up. She used her stories for activism. She turned the bad and made it into something useful and good. 

It's more than positive thinking, it's positive action.

Over the years, I've tried to turn the bad into good and always find somewhere I could do something. Sometimes it was a lesson in my living room to my own children about compassion for a child at school or something we saw on the news. Other times it was taking my kids to DC to take part in an environmental protest on the steps of the Capitol. I wanted to show them, like my mom had over 30 years earlier, that we had a voice and a purpose and could do something.

And then Trump was elected and everything feels turned upside down and scary and weird.

I can't do nothing. I can't just watch and shake my head. I can't just panic. I can't. I have got to do something.

Last week, I went to DC with a group that I work with called Moms Clean Air Force, and my daughter Lucy, to meet with Senators and their staff to encourage them to vote no for Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. 
Heading up to the Hill with our signs, shirts and enthusiasm!

We went to a lot of offices. 

The buildings are marble-y and beautiful with huge doors and high ceilings and important meetings and guards and metal detectors and a lot of old white men in suits and a lot of young people answering phones. Fun fact: Senator Cory Booker's office was the sunniest and the most alive and busy--nice, friendly staffers and phones that would not stop ringing.

Did you know there is a trolley underneath the Capitol that connects the offices? Um, I didn't. I rode it this time. It felt very Hogwart-y or like a fair. I would love a job that I got to go on a ride everyday. 

We met with young staffers and a few senators. We had talking points but mostly they all just wanted to hear stories about our lives. Stories used for activism, just like the seat belts all those years ago. In one office, I even discussed the Netflix show "The Crown" (if you watch then you know I brought up the London smog episode!) with a few men in Senator Stabenow's office. 
Right after we talked about The Crown, we took this picture.

I watched a woman in our group start crying while telling the story of her asthma and her fear for her child. When she stopped and apologized to her the senator from her state, the senator told her to keep going. "Keep telling your story, it's important," she warmly told her.

This is Senator Baldwin from Wisconsin. She and her staff were very welcoming and kind. After we talked they served everyone platters of Kringle (a very tasty Danish-like treat made in Wisconsin).

The press conference was fascinating. Some of my friends from Moms Clean Air Force spoke.

There was press everywhere in the halls of the buildings and outside. There were protests. There were so many old white men in suits. So many. 
This picture is hanging in Senator Debbie Stabenow's office. We need more women and women of color! 

This is my new friend from Michigan. We carried signs and delivered them to Senate offices. Trying to navigate the tunnels and halls of the Senate offices felt like an episode of The Amazing Race. It was fun.

I've been to DC a lot over the years when we had different Presidents--Clinton, Bush, Obama--and have never felt the vibe I felt last week. It's a weird mix of fear and hope; anxiety and electricity. Everywhere I went in my Moms Clean Air Force t-shirt people thanked me for the work I was doing. People asked me how they could get involved. As I walked down the street and through the halls of the Capitol office buildings, I got knowing glances, head nods and even a fist bump full of solidarity from a stranger in the elevator. 

Lucy was next to me the whole time, sometimes helping and hopefully watching and learning the importance of stories and activism and doing something.

We took a short break and took another tour of the Capitol. Here's Lucy in front of the statue of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

I hopeful that is what a lot of people will do.....something. Because it matters. 

Walking around the Capitol and watching the podium being built where Donald Trump will be sworn in made me sad. My truth is that I wish he wasn't going to be our President. I do not support many, if any, of most of the Republicans in DC. I struggle with the hateful rhetoric tossed around online and on camera. I try to, but do not, understand the heated anger from some of Trump's supporters. I feel uncertain and worried and concerned.

BUT I also feel so hopeful. I am hopeful that more people will get involved and call their senators and tell their stories; go to Washington and their state capitols;get organized and vote. I am hopeful that more women will run for office at EVERY LEVEL of government. I am hopeful that there will be more peaceful protests and more living room lessons about compassion and tolerance. I am hopeful that some of the hateful rhetoric will be shut down with positivity. 

It won't work unless we do. Just like my mom told the first grade classroom all those years ago, "let's buckle up." Tell your story, do some good, find the light and turn the panic into positivity.

To learn more about Moms Clean Air Force click here.

Here's some musical, get moving inspiration:

Move by Saint Motel:

Milky Chance's Doing Good:

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 A Different Kind of Hope

A couple years ago instead of make a list of resolutions I decided to make a list of hopes. It felt less intimidating. It felt like less of a set up for failure, if I didn't do something on the list I could just keep hoping and protect myself from that awful feeling of failing. I went back and checked my list from 2016 and well I'm still hoping to do more of all of the things on the list. I hope to meditate more, ski more, dance more, manage my ADHD more. 

But 2017 feels different. A passive, dreamy hope isn't where I am. Nope. I am feeling like I want to take charge, take ownership, be bold, be less afraid, be okay with being a little angry, be okay with being different and not being afraid to fail. I mean I will still be all dancey, rainbow-y, messy, happy...that's what I do, that's who I am. BUT 2017 feels different. A passionate, slightly aggressive, empowered, empathetic yet powerful kind of hope is where I am.

Inspired by the empowering kick ass movie.

In the spirit of empowered hope and giving the finger to failure, I am taking a step that will give organized people a panic attack. I am saying good-bye to the wall calendar. Let's be real, me creating this giant chalkboard calendar was ridiculous. It was trying to stick a square peg in a round hole. The only thing I loved about the calendar was the colors and finding the quote at the top. I only updated it once. Once! It has remained the same since June and the last day of school. Because I hate calendars and organizing. 

The only thing that calendar did was serve as a giant, menacing reminder that I suck at time management and I was probably late for something somewhere.  So today, the second day of 2017 I am erasing the fuck out of the calendar. This is the year I reject everyone trying to give me calendars and tips to organize, I'm talking to you Pinterest. I am done. I will go back to my old system--notes scribbled on pieces of paper or receipts, sometimes the calendar in my phone and  relying on my very organized, responsible husband. 

It feels so god damn good to erase the calendar and stand fist raised in front of my mediocre chalkboard art inspired by that know-it-all Pinterest. 
New year, new chalkboard, new attitude.

So yeah, I hope I meditate more, ski more, dance more, run more, read more books, learn French, eat healthier. Yada, yada, yada. I also hope that I stare down failure, work hard to create positive change politically, not care if people unfriend me on social media, walk the walk, talk the talk and live out loud (and hope I don't miss my kids' games because of the no calendar thing). 

2017 let's fucking do this.