Random Wednesday and Other Band Names

The boy jumped out from behind a tree when I got home.

He wasn’t wearing a shirt. He had a giant rip in his pants, at the knee.

He ran around the yard, brandishing the handle of a shovel.

“Michael!” I said. “You look like a feral orphan.”

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Wednesday was a surprisingly delightful day. I know that springlike weather in February is a sign of doom down the road, but the warm temps and sunshine lift my spirits despite my pessimism.

I knocked out a blog post for work within an hour. I knocked out some other work as well, before noon. We nailed down marketing plans and campaigns.

I learned my work is being recognized and rewarded.

via GIPHY

I knocked out more work, and went home, driving home while it was still light outside.

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Changed clothes, cooked dinner for my children, chased down Kate in the neighborhood and told her to head home.

I went to meet friends and my husband at a local brewery, The Grist House.

OMG.

Here I was, going out to socialize on a random Wednesday.

Life happens after 40; life happens after children. Don’t ever stop moving, people. Do new stuff.

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The Grist House is awesome. If you haven’t been yet, GO. Unpretentious environment, eleven taps of delicious beer, a food truck for vittles. Outdoor area. Babies and dogs. Delicious craft beer. (Oh, I said that already, didn’t I?)

Met two friends as planned, two other friends were there by chance, and met new people. Good friends, good drinks, good food. In the middle of the week.

This is oxygen.

goofy
Don’t leave your phone unattended.

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Watch for the new, live release from Feral Orphan, Post Viral Cough Syndrome. If Michael is ever in a band, that’s its name.

Thank you, and good night.

How do you spend a random Wednesday?

Seven Things: Update from a Long Weekend

1. Dan started three home projects over the long weekend, and finished two. First, at my request, he cleaned out and reorganized our pantry.

2. At his own whim, we went shopping for an entertainment center. He put it together, with Flora, and put it in place. 

3. I should have taken some “before” photos, because we had a lot of work on our hands with toy purges and the like. Monday I worked for three hours on sorting through toys. We are donating all the Littlest Pet Shop toys. And I straight up threw away two bags of accumulated junk.

4. Dan also started to install the microwave he bought as a house gift for Christmas. Unfortunately, he was unable to finish this project. Not only do we not yet have a working microwave, but now we have a bit of a hole in one of the kitchen walls.

5. I have lost my phone calling mojo. I apologize, citizens. I have letters in the works, primarily about impeachment. One month, and it’s been horrible. 

6. I wish I could say it was a great three-day weekend. Certainly, the weather was excellent. I went for a walk (after fighting with Michael about his desire to carry a chair). I took Flora and Michael to the park (Kate went to the zoo with a friend). The house got more organized. But by Monday, I was suffering from my own lack of plans and structure, and everyone was irritable. The children and I bickered all Monday afternoon, leading to a re-tightening of tablet boundaries. 

7. The book, working title Lone Wolf, is with two beta readers. They have already provided me with valuable feedback. Once all their comments are in, I will do a third draft. Then I will start shopping it to agents and small publishers. My plan is to do that for at least one year.

Do you buy house gifts at Christmas?

Letters to Congress: Save PP

One of the GOP platform action items is to defund Planned Parenthood and other family planning services. So I emailed my congressman to register my opposition to such action. I believe, as I stated in this blog post, that access to reproductive health care is vital for the economic health of families and women.

This is the letter I got in response:

Thank you for contacting me with your support of Planned Parenthood, Title X, and family planning funding. I appreciate the range of beliefs that have been shared with me on this topic and I thank you for contacting me with your own unique perspective. An overwhelming majority of my constituents object to the government directing their taxpayer dollars to fund abortion services, or to fund organizations that perform abortions. Towards that end, I have not supported continued federal funding for Planned Parenthood or any other organization that provides services to terminate pregnancies.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me with further questions or concerns. If you are interested in receiving my email newsletter describing important votes and key committee activity, I invite you to visit my website at http://murphy.house.gov and sign up.

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Oh, ho ho, sir. I don’t think so.

1. Tax dollars don’t fund abortions, and you should be sure to let your constituents know that. Ask them to look up the Hyde Amendment.

2. I don’t want my tax dollars to go to building a wall on the Mexican border. I don’t want my tax dollars to go to immigration bans, or drone warfare, or housing the First Lady in her New York penthouse to the tune of millions of dollars a year. Where’s my opt out?

Here’s a short list of where my friends and I would like our tax dollars to go, since we get to pick now: local infrastructure improvements; education; science initiatives; women’s shelters and food banks; EPA enforcement and national parks. (h/t to @AngrierFish, @MissSinBin, and @omgitsjen)

3. It is not up to you and your constituents to decide what other people – some your constituents, many more of whom are not – choose to do regarding family planning and reproductive health services.

My perspective is not “unique.” The majority of Americans, sir, believe in a woman’s right to choose; believe in the services that family planning centers provide – the majority of which are health screenings and birth control – and want families to be able to access care that benefits them… so that abortion becomes less necessary.

I have a feeling you may be hearing from an overwhelming number of constituents regarding this matter soon, and also from many people who support the ACA. Good luck with that “overwhelming majority” argument.

Sincerely,
A Constituent

Image copyright: Copyright: wolterk / 123RF Stock Photo

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.

Gotta Get a Gecko

If I may take a break from politics to mommy blog for a moment, I have to tell you something.

Getting Kate a gecko was a fantastic decision.

If Flora and I were not allergic to cats, we would have a cat by now. As much as we all would like to have a dog (well, me not so much), we’re just not ready for one.

But a gecko is great. Here are 10 reasons.

1. A gecko is quiet.
2. A gecko is small.
3. But not too small.

Gecko!
This is what happens while Katie cleans the cage.

4. A gecko is interactive.
5. A gecko needs very little. Water, light, food*, heat, something to sleep under. We line Baby’s terrarium with paper towels. That’s it.
6. No fur, therefore, no shedding…. er, no shedding fur, actually.
7. As with any pet, a gecko teaches responsibility.
8. A gecko is fun.
9. A gecko can be left alone for hours at a time.
10. A gecko also teaches biology, mostly, the circle of life and all of that.

*Geckos eat crickets and mealworms. Since geckos are hunters, the goal is to keep the crickets alive. It’s like having more than one pet, and a little tricky. We’ve tried buying one dozen — not enough for a week. Two dozen — too many die before they get eaten. So we’re sticking with a dozen, and rounding out Baby’s diet with mealworms.

Kate bought a small terrarium for the crickets. We feed them a special food and a gel water product. The goal is to gut-load the crickets with calcium, which is something else a gecko needs.

Crickets are not necessarily quiet, but they aren’t keeping anyone awake either.

So, if you are thinking of a pet, a gecko is a good starter pet. Small, quiet, and easy to care for. I would recommend.

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?