Invented Problems

In a dream, I am a single mother of a six-year-old boy. I am attending college. The main problem in the dream is that I have to change dorm rooms. At first I think we’ve solved the problem because I will just move in with two other women; there’s a (small) single bed in their room. And then I remember I have a son who has to live with us.

The dorm rooms are long and narrow, but very nice looking. Wooden floors, plaster walls painted pretty colors, good-looking, solidly built furniture. But they really are skinny rooms. I don’t know how we’re going to fit three beds, let alone three beds plus somewhere for my son to sleep.

Another dream has slipped away from me, but it was a similar logistical problem: Space, sleeping, family dynamics. These are the types of dreams my brain serves up to me. They have little to do with real life.

I do wake up sometimes thinking of things to worry about. “What if the Afghan Whigs tour coincides with trick-or-treat night?” Worse, what if the Afghan Whigs don’t come to Pittsburgh at all, and I have to travel to see them?

Maybe it’s part of this writer’s life I find myself enmeshed in. I don’t know if other writers do this, or to what extent, but my mind is constantly worrying at the fabric of my stories. What’s the next scene, what’s the conflict, how am I going to get my characters out of this room? Better: How am I going to get these characters into this room?

Maybe it’s just how my anxiety manifests itself these days. My life involves a bunch of moving parts. All the to-do lists are hard to keep up with, but at least help me compartmentalize the logistics. Maybe my mind needs a little less structure.

I don’t know. As long as my made-up problems don’t freeze me and keeping me from solving actual problems, I’ll try to just let them go. Or work them into my fiction.

What’s a problem you wish you had?

7 Things: The Disruption! Edition

1. Today was my first full day in the office this week. Lemme tell you why:

2. I had scheduled a four-day weekend for Dan’s birthday, which was Saturday. (We headed to Oglebay Resort, and I highly recommend their Ultimate Spa package.) We returned home Sunday — and Dan was sick. Michael complained about a sore throat, and he was definitely warm. So, Monday, since I had off, and Michael was still feverish, I stayed at home with him, and, just for funsies, Flora was sick too.

So: PTO day with two sick children.

3. Took Michael to the pediatrician because I suspected strep. I was correct.

So: Tuesday became a WFH day with two sick children, one of whom at least was getting treatment.

Michael is THE LEAST SICK sick child I have ever had. When the girls were sick with fevers or strep, they spent a lot of time unconscious or watching television from the couch.

Not Michael, man. He would watch about half an hour of television, and then play car battle. And then he would get bored and bother me. He ate very well for a sick child too. I suggested napping, but he wasn’t having it. He was literally crying with boredom by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

4. I made a good faith effort to get the office Wednesday — I even made it. Dan spent the morning at home with THREE sick children. I made an appointment for Flora.

5. Flora has been getting sick on and off quite often this year. Headaches, stomachaches, and extreme fatigue. This week was the third or fourth time she has been too sick to go to school. I was unable to get a morning appointment, so I had to leave work and take her to the pediatrician. Thank goodness I am able to work from home, and have an understanding employer (and awesome boss).

We did check for strep (negative), and the doctor decided to test for anemia. Along with the other symptoms, Flora has been suffering spontaneous nosebleeds. So we went and had blood drawn. We are waiting for results.

6. ON THURSDAY EVERYONE WENT TO SCHOOL AND I WENT TO WORK FOR A WHOLE ENTIRE DAY. It was delightful. (Seriously, I love my job. And having healthy children.)

7. BOOK UPDATE! Beta readers finished up, found the weaknesses, liked the book, gave me lots of good feedback. I haven’t blogged much because between blogging for work and doing the final edits (for now) on Lone Wolf, I have spent a ton of time immersed in words. I tweaked my pitch letter, and I am ready to start putting together a list of agents and publishers.

WHAT’S UP WITH YOU?

Letters to Congress: Investigate T*ump Administration Ties to Russia

This will be going to my representative in Congress. (h/t to 5calls.org)

Dear Congressman,

I am writing today to call for an independent commission to investigate Russian election interference.

The intelligence community concluded last year that Russia leaked DNC emails in order to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. These leaks and the current administration’s demonstrated ties to Russia compromise the integrity of American democracy. The New York Times has reported that several of Trump’s campaign staff communicated with Russia during his campaign; Paul Manafort had to leave his campaign because of this. In February, Trump’s national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn had to resign because he lied about conversations he’d had with the Russian ambassador to the United State in December of 2016.

Investigations of the Trump-Russia connection are currently dependent on partisan congressional committees. To ensure an independent investigation of the Trump-Russia connection, 198 House Democrats and one House Republican are co-sponsoring HR 356, the Protecting Our Democracy Act. As you are no doubt aware, the bill would establish an independent, 12-member commission to fully examine Russian interference in the 2016 election. Our nation’s electoral integrity is not a partisan issue.

I am writing to you in support of HR 356. I hope that you will vote to establish an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate Russian interference.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
rpm

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Other action:

A Twitter friend of mine also posted a nifty link to designcrush, who is providing #Resistance postcards. My favorite is “There’s More Of Us”, which is a a message I think Republicans in Congress need to get. We are calling and showing up at their offices and calling for in-person town halls not because we have tons of free time and are getting paid. We are doing it because we don’t want to lose healthcare, we don’t want our friends and family to be discriminated against, we don’t want the administration to dismantle the federal government agencies that have helped so many.

Time to go buy some stamps.

Close to Home

Some days, I really don’t know where to start.

Should I respond to the incredibly condescending letter from my representative in Congress who apparently thinks that I’ll buy Republican spin about the ACA being a failed law, and be satisfied with the list of GOP “reforms” that are going to fix the problem? Because I don’t, and I won’t, and those “reforms” aren’t going to protect people’s healthcare or lower-slash-control costs.

I suppose since a number of GOP supporters were confused that the ACA and Obamacare were the same thing, maybe Representative Murphy thinks he can get away with his spin.

And then there’s Murphy’s support for disability advocates to protect constitutional and civil rights — as long as those constitutional and civil rights have to do with gun ownership, amirite? When comes to access to affordable health care, reproductive services, and marriage equality, I’m sure Murphy has no intention of protecting the rights of citizens. The hypocrisy is rather breathtaking, but maybe he’s hoping no one will notice.

I noticed.

Don’t even get me started on the whole Russian thing. I am honestly flummoxed that Congress doesn’t see the need for investigations (or, I don’t know, IMPEACHMENT) — but then I remember they are controlled by GOP long-timers who have an agenda they’d like to see signed into law, and quickly. They don’t have time for stinking investigations! Even though they had *several* hearings on Benghazi.

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But I also have some problems closer to home, governmentally speaking. There’s the terrible SB3, which restricts abortion access after 20 weeks. It’s more restrictive than Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which is itself more restrictive than Roe V. Wade. Many people think Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, but it’s really Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which caps abortion access at 24 weeks (with, I think but I am not sure, exceptions for the mother’s health).

Look, the abortion rate is the lowest it’s been in more than forty years. And, since the birth rate hasn’t gone up, it’s not because abortion laws have grown steadily more restrictive. It’s because women and men have access to reproductive health services, comprehensive sex education, and birth control.

Plus, do you know what happens at the 20-week mark of pregnancy? It’s something called the anatomy scan. This is an ultrasound that measures the baby’s growth and looks at all of his/her parts to make sure development is going along well. This is the point where most often problems are found — the baby is not growing well, or an organ is not developing normally. This is where parents learn if their child can live outside of the womb, and sometimes the answer is that the baby can’t. He or she has something devastatingly wrong with it.

(For reference, Dan and I had learned something pretty scary at Kate’s 20-week scan. Fortunately for us, it was a problem that required constant monitoring and no life-changing decisions.)

So, restricting abortion access at 20 weeks 1. Is unlikely to lower the abortion rate in Pennsylvania any further and 2. Is going to take a decision out of the hands of people most qualified to make it (parents and their doctors).

So, excuse me while I take care of business a little closer to home. I think I’ll write letters, because it’s hard to sum all this up in a phone call. Except to say to my representative in the Pa Legislature: don’t override the governor’s likely veto of SB3.

I took a pretty substantial social media break last weekend, because it really is TOO EFFING MUCH to take in on a daily basis. But I continue to call and write. If my Senators ever have a town hall meeting, you bet your butt I will be there!

What are you doing to resist this week? What are you doing for self-care?

Keep Calm and Call and Write On

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?

Every day brings an outrageous tweet, an executive order that throws things into chaos, a cabinet nominee who is wildly unqualified, or a straight-up liar, or so radically right-wing he or she needs to be opposed.

And who knows what is going on behind the scenes? What is Mike Pence up to? What is Steve Bannon up to?

Just: breathe deep. If your weather is pleasant enough (mine is not), go for a walk. Focus on something good in your life. How are your children? Or your pet? How is your job going? Have you had a good meal lately, or watched a good show, seen a good movie?

If calling representatives gets to be too much, make a call to someone you love who will cheer you up. Do something silly. Paint your nails. Pet your dog or cat (probably before painting your nails).

I, myself, am struggling with the phone calls. Especially because my Republican Senator 1. Has full voice mail, always. 2. Has taken a butt-load of money from at least one of the nominees, which is probably what bought his support. 3. Has accused his constituents of being paid protesters.

My next letter to my representatives is going to go something like the following:

All your voice mail boxes are full.

Your staff is overwhelmed.

People keep coming to your office.

You’ve received an unprecedented level of contact from us, your constituents — not paid protesters BTW — and you have to consider what that means.

You can do the right thing here. Listen to the concerns of your constituents, and think about what you are doing. You don’t have to toe your party’s line, especially when it comes to what your constituents want.

What is that? Do you constituents want you to fight for the ACA? Why resist that idea? Why not take the good and popular parts of that law, and build on it instead of trying to tear it down?

Do your constituents have legitimate concerns about the members of the cabinet? Conflict of interest? Russian hacking? The President’s attack on the media, and his advisors’ insistence on “alternative facts.” Are you constituents worried about Steve Bannon’s access to power?

Why do you think that is?

You don’t work for the cabinet nominees, even though some of them have given you lots of money. You don’t work for the White House. Our current POTUS did not win the popular vote. That should carry some weight for you.

You, Republican representative, do not have a mandate. You did not win nationally in a landslide, and you probably did not win locally in one, either. (Speaking for Senator Toomey, he squeaked back into office with only 52 percent of the vote.)

You work for ME. You work for the people, the families, the women, men, and children of Pennsylvania, and to a larger extent, America.

Your feelings of apprehension aren’t because the guy at the top is a strong leader and is taking this country in the right direction. You should feel anxious; your constituents do. Don’t put your head in the sand. Fight for what is right, not for what is politically expedient.

You’ll sleep better at night.

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Again, use what you need, dear reader. Go to 5calls.org. If you need a comprehensive update, check out What the Fuck Just Happened Today? Another good one is shakesville.com.

A reminder: We are not alone.

Take breaks from social media. (This is advice I should use myself.) It is overwhelming. If conservatives truly did feel this way when Obama was voted into office, well, then they have my empathy.

And don’t take on everything. Choose your issue(s), and act on it with calls and letters. Decide if you can go to a town hall or protest. You don’t have to do everything. It’s okay to snuggle on the couch and read novels, too. For a few hours. As many have pointed out: this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

2017 Word of the Year: Dare

Three P’s:

Politically: I plan to be more politically active this year – than ever, really. I’ve made calls for candidates that I’ve supported (Kerry, Obama, and Clinton) in the past, and am likely to do so in the future (eyeing up volunteer opportunities for Sen. Bob Casey in 2018). I am writing letters and making calls – so many calls – and I will continue to do those as well.

I would like to, this year: attend a townhall; attend a rally, protest, or march; and maybe start a podcast. (I have a friend who asked me.) I plan to listen more than I talk when people of color or other minorities are at the forefront.

A good resource if you want to make calls is 5calls.org. Short scripts, direct numbers to your representatives, the issues of the day. Good luck, citizens.

Personally, publish: Finish the book and start sending it to agents and publishers. Blog more than once a week. Write something every day. I may do NaNoWriMo again (someone warn Dan). The book has a sequel! If I manage to get this first novel published, it would be fun to have a follow up to hand.

Professionally: Continue to learn about inbound marketing and analytics, and apply them to my current position. Again, write every day. I plan to be more active on LinkedIn, publishing original articles as well as sharing, commenting, and liking things. Keep my profile up-to-date and share my portfolio of work.

What will you dare this year?

Copyright for featured image: icetray / 123RF Stock Photo

No Ban, No Wall

Remember when our biggest concern was retaining the good parts of the ACA? Now we have to fight to even preserve what America stands for.

Here is a draft of a letter I am mailing to Senator Bob Casey, Senator Pat Toomey, Rep. Tim Murphy, and the White House. I cribbed much of it from a tweet that The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect sent out on Friday.

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Dear [representative]:

Hello, my name is RPM and I am one of your constituents writing from [zip code]. I’m writing regarding Trump’s executive orders for a ban on immigration from Muslim countries and for building a wall on the Mexican border.

As President Trump prepares orders to wall out Mexicans and shut out refuges from specific countries, be aware that he is retracting the promise of American freedom. Not since President Franklin Roosevelt forced Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II has this country seen such dark days.

Make no mistake, suspending visas for citizens of Middle Eastern and African countries is not national security. It’s prejudice. Building a wall isn’t national security. It’s prejudice. The President compromises our national security by engendering disrespect for America by people around the world.

President Trump is now exacerbating the largest global refugee crisis in history. His slamming of the doors to America on the starving, the wounded, and the abused is a grotesque blot on our nation’s history of freedom. His abominable orders and revolting prejudice seem to know no boundaries. Demonizing refugees and immigrants and spending billions of tax dollars to keep them out of our nation is not in line with American values.

In addition, please know that we Americans who care strongly suspect that white-nationalist Steve Bannon is behind many of the executive orders President Trump has enacted in his first week. I’m sure I hardly need to remind you that Bannon is not an elected representative, only an appointee chosen for his servile loyalty to President Trump. We will hold the White House and Congress responsible for seeing that Bannon is removed from power, because he is not representative of the majority in our nation.

Sincerely,

RPM

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I hope you will find the will to call your representatives or to send them a letter such as I have outlined above.

This is not us. This is not America. We are bigger than this, and we cannot stand idly by as we are misrepresented by our minority President and his cronies.

Let’s Talk Politics

No, really, I think we need to start talking about politics again. What we have to stop doing is *fighting* about politics. We have to stop shouting down the people who don’t agree with us.

Here are some ground rules. This isn’t a free-for-all. T*ump supporters are whinging about being viewed as racists and bigots, and we have to get beyond that.

1. No name-calling. I won’t call you a racist. I won’t trash the President (so help me, God). Don’t use the words “libtard” or “feminazi.” Get the idea? Okay, good.

2. Do not come at me with Bernie Sanders. Just don’t.
I think I’ve made myself pretty clear in this space about my reasons for supporting the policies of President Obama and why I cast my vote for Secretary Clinton. Please review some of those posts if you need to, because I’m not going to keep defending my choice.

3. Don’t come at me with Hillary Clinton.
The campaign is over. Trump is President, and Clinton still won the popular vote. Time for you to defend your vote.

We have so much more in common with each other than we do with people in Washington. We have a lot more in common with each other than we do with Wall Street bankers, lawyers, and the one percent.

So *we* shouldn’t be fighting each other. We should be fighting for each other.

T*ump demonstratively doesn’t care about you or about me. The GOP may care about you; it kind of depends. They are a party that in my view drastically wants to limit rights of people who live differently than they do, and people I care about (and myself) and wants to limit a path to prosperity for more people than the Democrats do.

I am white. I am a Roman Catholic. I am married, straight; I have children. I work full time outside of the home. My husband and I struggle with debt. I am college educated. My activism and feminism aren’t necessarily about me.

Here are the issues that are important to me, in no particular order:

  • Access to education (because that leads to access of opportunity)
  • Access to affordable healthcare, including access to reproductive healthcare, and yes, that may for some women include abortion
  • Social justice, racial and gender equality and protection in the workplace, in society, and under the law
  • A secure social safety net for all people who need it when they need it; this includes assistance with education, food, work training, healthcare, medication, and money for when they aren’t working for whatever reason
  • Diversity. I don’t even know what to add to this. I want to see diversity in my spaces and my children’s spaces. Black and brown people, people with different physical and mental abilities, LGBTQ people, people of different faith traditions (including no faith traditions), people from different ethnic backgrounds, people from different countries. I think exposure to things that are different are important to our growth and development as human beings.
  • Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of the right to assemble. Basically, that First Amendment thing from a long time ago.

So tell me about you. What issues are important to you?

We have to start having these conversations, and harder ones, too. We do need to talk about what separates us, and we need to talk about common ground.

And even if you “just” voted for a wall, or a conservative Supreme Court member, or to see ACA dismantled, we should talk. Because the GOP is going to do more and go farther. Are you ready for that?

Rotary Telephones

Let’s Go to the Phones

This week’s call schedule:

Monday I called Sen. Toomey to oppose Tom Price (again) and Mick Mulvaney.

Tuesday: Calling to ask Sen. Toomey to recuse himself from the DeVos vote. Script (h/t Tuesdays with Toomey): “My name is __ and I am calling from [zip code]. I’m calling to oppose Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Not only is she highly unqualified, her ethics review revealed 102 conflicts of interest. She and her husband have given $200 million to convservative organizations and politicians, including nearly $1 million to 21 senators who will vote on her nomination. Senator Toomey received over $55,000 from her family. How can he be expected to vote on a nominee who has donated so much money to his campaign? I ask that Senator Toomey recuse himself because this is a blatent conflict of interest. Senator Toomey was elected to work for his constituents — not billionaire lobbyists like DeVos.”

Wednesday: Call to demand Donald Trump release his taxes. This is probably a good one for your representatives.

Thursday: Call to ask for hearings on Russian hacking in the 2016 elections; if you reach a live person, as happened to me, and they ask why or what your specific concerns are, feel free to elaborate. Russian hacking lead to propaganda that influenced people’s votes. Besides (and I did say this), senators love hearings; they had several on Clinton’s involvement in Benghazi. This is also a good one for your representative. (Think Darrell Issa and Benghazi.)

Friday: If you support free trade and agreements such as NAFTA and TPP, it would be good to call about these. It’s good to keep calling about the ACA/Obamacare and to oppose defunding Planned Parenthood. I got a form letter from my Representative’s office after I called several times about the GOP plan to repeal the ACA. I am drafting a blog post in response.

I am frustrated about a number of the Presidents’ executive orders on the ACA mandate, the so-called Mexico City policy, on the USDA transparency. That is all T*ump has done so far is pass executive orders, and the GOP Congress, which was so upset about President Obama’s executive orders is completely mute. Because of course they are.

Some things to think about for future calls, and I will look for scripts on this stuff or try to come up with my own: First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which is an utterly ridiculous piece of legislation; SCOTUS nominees; and reenactment of the Defense of Marriage Act (thereby erasing marriage equality).

What else? What’s next?

It’s Not About Me

I am not a woman of color, nor am I lesbian or queer or trans. (I have friends who are.)

I am not Jewish or Muslim. (I have friends who are.)

I am not single. (I have friends who are.)

I no longer need to use birth control to prevent pregnancy,and I don’t need those types of medications for any other health conditions. (I have friends who do.)

I never directly benefited from the Affordable Care Act (I have friends who have), although I have always supported it. Even as my premiums and deductibles increased, I still thought that the ACA’s benefits for others outweighed its cost to me. I still feel this way.

The ACA did more than extend health benefits to more people. The two most popular features were ensuring that insurance companies couldn’t discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions and letting children stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 years old.

The ACA also mandated that breast-feeding mothers 1) could get a breast pump covered so they could continue to work and provide breast milk for their newborns and 2) would have a private space to pump at work. That wasn’t stand-alone legislation; it was part of the ACA. Obamacare mandated that restaurants with more than 50 locations provide nutritional information on their menus. It was designed to help combat the obesity epidemic in America.

And, of course, the birth control mandate, the part of the law that sent conservatives into a frothing tizzy. “Pay for your own birth control!” they trumpeted. Guess what, by making birth control part of health care, women were paying for their birth control — it was just less expensive now that it was a covered medication. Like antibiotics. Or Viagra.

(And if you think it’s cool to lose the ACA because you get healthcare from your employer, read this.)

But aside from Obamacare, the incoming administration wants to take away so much more.

They want to roll back marriage equality.
They want to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people in the name of “religious freedom.”
They want to defund Planned Parenthood. They want to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Heck, half the nominees for cabinet picks want to dismantle the very departments they are being asked to head up! Rick Perry would get rid of the Energy Department. Betsy DeVos wants to end the public school system.

My children are in public school. Even if I got vouchers to pay for private, Catholic school, I’m not sure I’d send them at this point. Their school district is diverse. They are thriving.

ETA: I am not the parent of a special needs child. As destructive as DeVos would be to public schools, she would be ten times worse for children with disabilities. I will fight on the side of parents who seek to educate their children.

I want my children to have access to affordable reproductive services when they grow up. I don’t really want them to need abortion services, but once they become sexually active adult humans, that’s not my call.

Abortion rates are at their lowest in 40 years, and the birth rate hasn’t skyrocketed. So something we are doing is working, and it’s probably not abstinence only education. Sorry, conservatives.

I could keep my head down, and not call anyone about anything, and not write, and not do anything. I have the protection of my skin and my religion and my straightness and my children.

And I tell you now: That’s bullshit.

If we stand by and let them take away what President Obama built up for eight years because it won’t affect us, then we are cowards. I’ve never been accused of being quiet, or not having strong opinions, or being a coward.

And I’m not going to act like a quiet, meek woman now.

I’ll be ignoring the news around the inauguration because I don’t think it’s anything to celebrate this year. I plan to go about my day as if it’s any other day — maybe make a call to Senator Toomey to chat about that low abortion rate. I will come home and cook dinner for my children, watch a movie with them, read a book (we are currently reading Charlotte’s Web). My husband will be in New York City, and I will miss him. I will write and have a cocktail, and probably stay up too late.

But I will not forget what we have, right now. And I will fight to keep it.

Love is Love.