Step outside your bubble

It’s only been about a month since the inauguration, but some days, it feels like it’s been a year.

Maybe it’s because many of our fears about what a Trump presidency could mean for the country are coming to fruition.

Reinterpreting Title IX to exclude students who are transgendered. Actively hunting down illegal aliens. Working to take away healthcare from millions of Americans.

It’s overwhelming. Disheartening. Frightening.

And much of the time, I feel somewhat alone in my fear bubble. It’s just me, a handful of friends and family and Rachel Maddow.

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At least that’s my perception.

Except we’re not alone. There are lots of us out there – I mean, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes. So why do some of us feel lonely?

Personally, I think it’s because I am living in a kind of echo chamber, despite my best efforts. Sure, I’m making my daily calls, thanks to Daily Action. I’m in the process of getting vetted to volunteer for Jewish Vocational Services’ refugee relocation program. Yet it generally feels like I’m doing these things without benefit of ever seeing a familiar face.

And then, within the last two weeks, my bubble burst in a good way.

First, a friend I’ve known for several years mentioned she’d been at a local Progressive Social Network meeting. I didn’t realize she was involved. She’d never mentioned it, and I hadn’t asked.

Then a couple weeks ago, I got an e-mail asking for last-minute volunteers at JVS.

With the stay keeping the immigration ban at bay for a bit, JVS learned that more than 40 refugees would be arriving in Kansas City the week of Feb. 13. They needed people who could help put together basic supplies to help the refugees get set up in their new homes.

So early on a Monday morning, I headed to a warehouse in Midtown to bundle together donated sheets, towels, kitchen supplies and toiletries.

I didn’t know a soul there. I was a little late (because I usually am,) so I joined two women who were just getting started. One was in her 20s, and the other in her late 40s. They’re friends who work together at Southwest Airlines. I asked how they found JVS. I thought maybe Southwest had a volunteer program such as Kohl’s Care for Kids.

Nope, they said. They were working the Sunday that folks gathered at the airport to protest against Trump’s executive order effectively banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations. They decided that day they wanted to do something to help refugees, so the older woman found out about JVS’s work through her church.

They never spoke of politics or the election or even mentioned Donald Trump’s name. They just wanted to help other humans. We worked together for two hours, counting sheets and blankets and pots and pans and toothbrushes.

Then on Wednesday, after a long day at work, I stopped by the local meeting of the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus. I was late, this time because of work, so I slipped in, signed in and headed for a seat. I tried to make myself smaller so as not to draw attention to myself.

But I felt eyes on me, so I looked over at the next table. There was a woman I knew through my job, smiling at me knowingly. I flashed her a grin.

Just then, the door to the room opened, and another woman walked in late. After a few minutes, I realized it was a woman I see at my gym. After the meeting, I reminded her that we take Zumba together.

I was starting to feel like part of a club.

And on Thursday after work, I stopped by Jo-Ann Fabrics to pick up something. As I grabbed a cart, a woman came up to me.

“Excuse me,” she said, leaning in.

She looked around and lowered her voice.

“I like your bumper sticker,” she said.

I paused.

“My Clinton-Kaine sticker?” I asked.

“Yep!” she said. “I just had to say something to you. I feel so alone that when I see people I know feel the same way I do, I have to reach out.”

I smiled and offered my hand. Then I told her about the Progressive Social Network group and the women’s political caucus meeting. She didn’t know about either. I told her about Daily Action – she’d been trying to make calls on her own.

I dug in my purse and pulled out a business card and wrote all that on the back.

She thanked me, and I thanked her for stopping me. And then we went on our ways.

And the world felt a little smaller.

#ThanksObama #ThanksTrump

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We’re almost through our third week without a president named Barack Obama.

I miss his calm demeanor, self-deprecating humor and general air of respect.
But if there’s one thing President Obama left behind for Americans as he vacated the Oval Office, it was hope.

That was a theme President Obama never strayed from.

He spoke of it in 2004, when he addressed the Democratic convention. He led with that theme in 2008, when he first ran for president. And during his last speech to the nation, just days before Donald Trump assumed the office of president, President Obama spoke of the optimism he still harbors that the United States will continue to be a beacon of welcome and refuge and innovation and leadership for the rest of the world.

Like others, I was distraught as Jan. 20, 2017, drew near and we faced the reality of a Trump presidency. Ugly things were happening. Reports of hate crimes against immigrants and minorities peppered the news. Meanness and vulgarity abounded on social media. It felt like the progress of the last 50 years was quickly slipping away, like water down a drain.

But since Jan. 21, I’ve got to say, the Trump presidency has stimulated hope.

What’s she talking about? you’re wondering. Is she hitting the scotch again?

My friends, I’m merely choosing to look at the last three weeks with a different perspective.

I believe the hate-filled tweets and executive orders have led many folks not to fall into lockstep with our authoritarian leaders or to cower in fear, but to become empowered. They’ve inspired hope.

Consider this. The executive order that restricts immigration and halts the resettlement of refugees was signed on a Friday. By Saturday, there were massive protests all over the country. Attorneys descended on airports to offer services to immigrants legally trying to gain access to our country, many of them green-card holders who were swept up in the confusion over the order.

That night, a judge ordered a temporary stay, followed later in the week by another ruling against the order.

That’s hope – a desire for a particular outcome to happen.

Last week, as I watched and read about the immigration executive order, I thought of all the immigrants and refugees I know. Surprisingly, for a white girl living the middle of the country in a heavily white town, I know quite a few.

And I wanted to do something to help. But I’m not an attorney. I couldn’t do anything tangible by going to the airport. I’m not an interpreter. I’m wasn’t sure what I could do.

But I’m not one for hand-wringing, so I decided to find a way to use whatever skills I have to help immigrants and refugees.

So I did that Wednesday night when I attended a volunteer orientation at Jewish Vocational Services in Kansas City. And so did more than 20 other Kansas Citians.

There were so many folks there to learn about how they could help refugees that the JVS employees had to bring in extra chairs and copy more volunteer applications.

Martin Okpareke, the outreach manager, gave an overview of how the agency helps refugees. JVS began in the late 1940s to help resettle Holocaust survivors and WWII vets returning home. Since 2004, in Kansas City, the agency has worked with one of nine national volunteer agencies charged by the United Nations with resettling refugees.

Refugees are people who can no longer live in their homelands because of persecution or real or perceived threats of bodily harm. They don’t leave their homes because they want to – they have no choice, said Okpareke, himself a former refugee from Nigeria.

Eighty percent of refugees are women and children – often the men in their families have been killed. Close to 70 percent of refugees have spent about 17 years in United Nations refugee camps, waiting either to return to their homes or to get lucky in the lottery that chooses who gets to the leave the camp for a home in a safer country.

JVS aims to engage refugees in becoming integrated into the United States, educate them about their new home and empower them to take control of their futures by finding jobs and becoming settled.

It’s difficult, Okpareke said. Many suffer post-traumatic stress from what they have been through. Others find the cultural differences between their countries and the United States difficult to overcome. Most worry about their families pulling apart as everyone works toward building a new life in a foreign land.

JVS uses volunteers to mentor newly arrived families and to help others who have been here longer study for the citizenship exam, for example. There were many more volunteer opportunities before the executive order halted everything.

Now the future is uncertain, Okpareke said. Last year, JVS resettled 518 refugees in the Kansas City area. Since January, they’ve welcomed two families.

Still, Okpareke said as he surveyed the potential volunteers, he has hope. Because the people gathered in that room had compassion.

And that gives me hope, too.

In my despair at the ugliness that has been a staple of American life for the last year, I had to do something to help. And so did all the others sitting in the room with me.

Keep calm and non-violently protest on

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Wow, guys. So much has happened. Where do I start?

I’ve been trying to write about the Affordable Care Act for the last 10 days, but I keep getting interrupted by the Crazy Train running amok through Washington, D.C. Immigration. Abortion. Healthcare. Misplaced white nationalists. Absurdly inaccurate inaugural crowd estimates.

I once was a fan of the circus. As a child, I marveled at the trained lions, and men soaring across the rings as they were shot from cannons, and beautiful women hanging by their ponytails as they performed a mid-air ballet.

But now, the circus seems déclassé. No one wants to see animals, who might be treated unfairly, jumping through hoops and dancing around rings. Don’t even get me started on the clowns.

And yet here we are, every day and night spent glued to Twitter and Facebook and the cable news channels as we seek to make sense of the biggest American circus of all – the federal government with Donald J. Trump in charge.

I don’t know where to start. I am making my daily calls (thanks, Daily Action!) and contemplating other ways I can become involved and remain a force for good.
But it’s difficult.

On election night, when it became apparent that Hillary Clinton had lost, I posted a status on Facebook, asking everyone to remain calm. We didn’t really know what was going to happen; Donald Trump had been anything but predictable during the election season, so I did not feel that assumptions would be helpful.

Man, did I get a virtual earful that night from my friends who were rightfully scared. They detailed all the ways that a Trump presidency could ruin life as they knew it, and many had valid points. He could strip away hard-won rights for members of the LGBTQI community, he could appoint a radical justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, he could pick a fight with another country and launch World War III.

All true, to be sure.

I guess I was trying to convince myself to stay calm. As a psychotherapist, I spend much time explaining to my clients about the havoc chronic anxiety wreaks on our minds and bodies. It contributes to stress within our families and workplaces. Chronic anxiety leads to inflammation, the underlying cause of autoimmune disorders and possibly cancer.

I work with my clients on mindfulness, living in the moment, letting the past go and facing the future with a clear mind.

So I was trying to practice what I preach.

That’s difficult these days, though, with the three-ring circus coming out of Washington, D.C. Yet it remains even more important now that Donald Trump has been inaugurated that cooler heads prevail among those who resist his misogynistic, racist, nationalist agenda.

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Next executive order?

His daily executive orders and manufactured feuds with the press and Twitter bullying are meant to do one thing – keep us in an uproar. And when we’re upset and anxious and fearful, the amygdala takes over. That’s the part of the brain that governs the limbic system and regulates emotions. When the amygdala is in charge of the brain’s functioning, the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that controls critical thinking – cannot work.

It’s like a governor on a machine – something that regulates something else. The amygdala can overrule the prefrontal cortex when we’re in danger, telling the body to give us the shot of adrenaline to jump out of the way of a speeding car, for example, or to spring into action when we or someone we love is threatened.
The amygdala is an awesome thing, but when it works too much, it overheats and starts telling us we’re in danger when we really aren’t. Only by remaining calm can we think and analyze whether the danger is real or perceived.

Do you see what I’m saying? The current administration seeks to keep us in a perpetual state of anxiety and fear, so that we can’t stop and analyze what’s going on, such as sneaking a highly politicized and completely inexperienced white nationalist onto the National Security Council or demanding the resignations of many experienced career diplomats at the Department of State.

We must remain calm.

That does not mean we can’t react – we just need to do so in a thoughtful way that reflects that we have thought critically about the situation. Knee-jerk reactions will be dismissed and ineffective.

So here’s what I know:

1. Calling your senators and members of Congress is the most effective way to make your dissent heard.
You can write letters and e-mails, too, but daily phone calls get noticed and aren’t as easily discarded as postcards or e-mails. Your phone calls should be sincere and polite. You don’t want to give your elected officials any reason to say you’re histrionic. Ask questions. Ask for positions. Ask that the staffer you reach take down your name and ZIP code. And say, “thank you.” Being nice disarms someone who is expecting a fight.

2. This is a marathon, not a 5K.
It’s only Day 12 of a four-year term. Donald Trump has issued at least 20 executive orders since Jan. 20. You will wear yourself out if you attack every day with the gusto you did on Jan. 21. Do what you can. Give yourself time to rest. Read something other than the Huffington Post and Twitter. Turn off MSNBC every once in a while. And then come back to the issues recharged enough to keep going. You don’t want to flame out by March.

Here’s something a friend posted on Facebook, and she gave permission to share. I think it is heartening:

For everyone who DID something, small or big, your efforts have been successful.
Because of you:
1. Federal hiring freeze is reversed for VA (Veteran Affairs).
2. Court order, partial stay of the immigration ban for those with valid visas.
3. Green card holders can get back in country.
4. Uber pledges $3M and immigration lawyers for its drivers after #DeleteUber trends on Twitter.
5. Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) enrollment ads are still going to air.
6. The ACLU raised $24 million over the weekend (normally 3-4Mil/year).
7. HHS, EPA, USDA gag order lifted.
8. EPA climate data no longer scrubbed from website.
9. More people of different career/religious/economic/race backgrounds are considering running for political office than ever before.
10. MOST importantly, since we live in a participatory democracy, the people are engaged.

While more is needed, sometimes you have to celebrate your wins.
Stay vigilant, but also take self-care seriously. Activist burnout is a thing. Marathon, don’t sprint.
#resist

3. Love trumps hate.
Yes, the phrase is too precious. But it’s true. You cannot fight hatred with more hatred. It will consume you. You can only fight it with love.

What does that mean? How do you fight hatred with love? For me, it means that if I attempt to extract vengeance, I risk harming myself more than I do the person I’m aiming my vengeance toward. To fight hatred with love, you must remain calm. You must stare the hatred in the face with a calmness of spirit and a prayer in your heart that the hater will receive grace. You must outlast the hatred.

It’s not impossible as long as we keep this in mind while we’re striving to resist the hatred: Whatever we do should be out of love.

Love for our neighbors – those who are less fortunate, who come from other lands, who need our help.

Love for our children, who are watching how we handle this uncertain time. They’re watching and learning, and if we want them to forge a better future, we must show them how to love in the face of hate.

Love for our country, a deeply flawed place full of the children and grandchildren of brave men and women who fled persecution and hatred and economic hardship to build better lives for their families. They made mistakes along the way, of course, but everything they did, they did for the future. They made this place for us, and we should love it and cherish it and continue to speak out and fight with dignity for what we know is the way forward, not backward.

You can do it. Just keep calm.

Want to resist? Here’s how

The campaign officially ends Friday.

That’s when the vaunted peaceful transfer of power occurs in Washington, D.C., and Donald J. Trump assumes the mantle of president. POTUS.

(Personally, in my opinion, he won’t be able to pull off that acronym with the coolness of Barack Obama. But whatevs.)

Maybe you’re feeling down about this. Maybe you’re thinking this week will be the last good week of the next four years. Maybe you’re thinking all you’ve got to look forward to is Alec Baldwin on Saturday nights.

But wait. You can do something, and it’s as easy as making one phone call a day.

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Daily Action began a month ago, the brainchild of Laura Moser, a D.C.-based writer. She felt blindsided on Nov. 9, unsure of the world and anxious, for the first time ever, to really do something. But what?

Here’s how she explains it:

Then, while scrolling through yet another despairing Facebook thread, I had an idea: What if I could help curate the controversies and use technology to keep people engaged in holding the new administration accountable?

As The New York Times recently reported, phoning legislators is the most effective way to make our voices heard—but phone calls can take up time that many of us don’t have. What if a service made placing these calls so easy that we had no excuse not to do it? That’s where the Daily Action alerts come in. The idea is, with the help of the progressive digital media agency where my husband is a partner, to provide a sort of clearinghouse of actions we can collectively take to resist extremism.

It works this way: You text “DAILY” to 228466. You receive a response asking for your ZIP code. You give it, and you’re in.

You’ll get a daily text alerting you to the issue of the day, along with a telephone number. You dial that number, listen to talking points and get connected. Sometimes you’ll be connected to your senator or representative to share your concerns about a particular issue. At other times, you might be connected to other members of Congress who chair various committees or have sway over certain issues. You even could be connected to folks who influence Congress, such as businesses or policy groups.

The text alerts arrive in the morning. You can call and be done with it within 15 minutes. It’s so simple. And it’s effective.

As of last Friday, Daily Action counted more than 38,000 recruits. Along with other progressive groups, Daily Action’s calling campaign might be making a bit of a difference. Phones in Congressional offices are ringing off the hook. Some Congressmen, such as House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, have stopped taking messages. Some phones go straight to voicemail. Other mailboxes are full.

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You have the right – nay, the responsibility – as citizens to let your lawmakers know your stance on these issues. They work for you, not each other and certainly not the president, whoever he or she is. Almost 40,000 is a lot of people making calls. But just think how effective we could be if that number were twice or three times that.

Today we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., definitely a man of action. How would he join the resistance if he were here today?

Tune in, tweet on, text much. This is not the time to be silent or immobilized by inability to take action.

And luckily for us, Daily Action makes it as easy to get involved as sending a text.

*Please, please consider joining Daily Action and raising your voice. For more information, click here.

Stop hating on the media, y’all

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Kids, today’s lesson focuses on the First Amendment.

You know, those pesky 45 words tacked on to the end of the U.S. Constitution that provide protection for citizens to worship whomever or whatever, as they see fit and to speak as they wish; and for the press to publish what it deems fit; and for folks to have public meetings and rallies; and for all of us to tell government officials what we think they’re doing wrong (if you remember your U.S. history, you’ll recall that last one was a big deal to the dudes who wrote the Declaration of Independence, which you can read here.)

The First Amendment separates the United States from other countries, makes us a little edgy, guarantees that we are a bunch of loudmouths who, occasionally, get shit done and change the world.

To quote Ron Burgundy, it’s kind of a big deal.

I’m no expert on the First Amendment, although I did study it extensively during my years at the University of Missouri School Of Journalism (the oldest and best.) Most of my 20 years as a journalist were spent attending public meetings, interviewing public officials, asking unpopular questions and, when needed, generally pissing off both sides of an issue as I strived for impartiality.

And here’s what I always knew, from my very first journalism classes with Jane Clark and Don Ranly, Ph.D.: The Founding Fathers gave us the First Amendment as a gift and a responsibility.

One particular part of that amendment, the part protecting freedom of speech and the press, was deemed so important that it earned the press the unofficial title of the Fourth Estate, or the fourth leg of our checks-and-balances system (the other three are the executive, judicial and legislative branches.)

Just consider this from the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and the Newseum:

     The First Amendment was written because at America’s inception, citizens demanded a guarantee of their basic freedoms. Our blueprint for personal freedom and the hallmark of an open society, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.
Without the First Amendment, religious minorities could be persecuted, the government might well establish a national religion, protesters could be silenced, the press could not criticize government, and citizens could not mobilize for social change.

So I watch with horror as President-elect Donald J. Trump and his political organization continually trash and degrade practitioners of this profession, even as they use newspapers and broadcasters and digital publications for free advertising, saying outlandish things to get attention and then blasting as unfair anyone who reports on what they have said.

In my current profession as a licensed clinical social worker, I would suggest this behavior indicates possible borderline personality disorder, but I digress…

Today I happened to be in the car during the much-hyped Trump press conference, his first in 167 days. I turned on the car, and NPR came on, just in time for me to hear Trump deny a CNN reporter the right to ask a question. He made a snarky comment about the BBC.

first-amendment-rightsThe new president continually lobbed zingers at the reporters peppering him with questions about important issues, such as his policy priorities in the first days of his presidency and whether he was going to release his tax returns so that Americans can judge for themselves the extent of Donald J. Trump’s monetary obligations.

My jaw hung limply as I drove toward my office. Even now, more than 18 months after Trump announced his candidacy for U.S. President, I continue to be stunned when I hear how he treats journalists. And I’m frankly fearful when I hear and read regular, ordinary folks pile on the hatred.

I’m scared because I fear many people could be easily convinced that freedom of speech and press should be curtailed. There’s so much hatred.

OK, sure. Freedom of speech is messy. It’s not always pretty. Sometimes feelings get hurt. Sometimes there is cursing. Sometimes there are rumors and lies.

But as Don Ranly, Ph. D., always reminded his J300 students, a wise man (John Milton) once said (and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t want to plagiarize) that when all sorts of ideas and rhetoric compete freely on a level playing field, the truth will emerge every single time. That’s the “marketplace of ideas” concept, also mentioned in John Stuart Mill’s book, On Liberty.

And what that means – this is me talking here – is that our Founding Fathers thought the citizens of the United States were intelligent enough to call “bullshit” when they see a big, fat turd (which you cannot polish, as my esteemed father likes to point out.)

So, anywho. Here’s the thing. You can hate journalists all you want and compare them to that scourge of the Earth, lawyers (jk, all my lawyer friends…just making a point.) But you do not want to live in a country where their rights are curtailed. You don’t.

Here’s a test for you. Name some countries where journalists aren’t allow to question leaders, where their stories are censored, where they are jailed for speaking truth to power. Can you think of some?

Here are a few, courtesy of the Committee to Protect Journalists. This list is from 2015:

Eritrea. North Korea. Saudi Arabia. Ethiopia. Azerbaijan. Vietnam. Iran. China. Myanmar (formerly Burma.) Cuba. These are spots where journalists routinely are jailed for reporting news that government officials determine reflects unfavorably on the government.

Hmmm. I’m down to visit some of those spots, to be sure, but sure wouldn’t want to live there.

The press is the Fourth Estate. It’s the watchdog over our three branches of government. We might not like what we hear or see from journalists, but we need that information to make informed decisions.

That’s why those guys who wrote the U.S. Constitution put press freedom in the FIRST Amendment, not the Second or Third or Eighth. It’s first. It’s important.

People have died protecting that freedom again and again since the United States began. You know this. This, at least, should be old news.

Changing for the better

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Hey, there. It’s me.

It’s a new year, that time when we all make promises to ourselves to do things better, to make different choices, to improve ourselves. Some call them “resolutions.” I prefer to think of them as goals.

I generally make several goals as the year changes. Almost every year, for example, I set a goal to be more organized. Mixed results on that one. Sometimes I tell myself I’ll work out more. Again, mixed results.

This year, I’m pledging to speak out.

It’s been a while since I’ve written in this space. I can make up all sorts of excuses, but they don’t matter. I just didn’t write.

This year, I’m pledging to write about the things I’m speaking out about.

Here’s why:

I’m a Democrat. I’m a liberal. And I was – I am – an unabashed, unapologetic Hillary Clinton supporter. I like Hillary Clinton. I wanted her to win. I donated money to her campaign. I slapped a “Clinton-Kaine” sticker on my car and planted a “Clinton-Kaine” sign in our front yard.

And I was so convinced that Hillary Clinton would win that I ignored all the signs that pointed otherwise – the anger of those who supported Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the fear among many whites of immigrants and minorities, the hatred of a certain segment of the American population for the Obama family and liberals in general.

I lived in a bubble, as so many of my fellow liberals did. I felt like a country who could elect Barack Obama twice could never elect someone like Donald Trump. And I truly thought that people would not vote against their own best interests.

But I didn’t speak out. I let others lift their voices, but I didn’t speak out. I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of my friends and relatives who are more conservative than I. I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable around me, although I felt very uncomfortable when they spoke untruths about the Obamas and Clintons. I didn’t speak out.

So when Donald Trump won the Electoral College and it seemed like hatred suddenly oozed from every crevice in America, it felt like a punch in the gut. I never saw it coming.

And when people I know and like and maybe even love laughed at my visible discomfort and told me to “get over it,” it hurt. It hurt. How could someone find delight in others’ pain? And how could someone who did ever be or have been my friend or relative? It hurt like hell.

Had I treated my more conservative friends in this manner when my candidate won in 2008 and 2012? I didn’t think I had.

So I didn’t speak out before Nov. 8. I’m not deluding myself into thinking that had I engaged more I could have changed the election’s outcome. But I didn’t really do much to effect that outcome except vote.

But starting today, I’m making a change.

I will speak out against intolerance and racism and xenophobia and hatred and bullying and just all around meanness. I will speak out against these things when I witness them. I will speak out against these things so that I can stand in solidarity with those who are disenfranchised and mistreated and look differently than I do and come from different backgrounds and places. I will speak out so that my children know that bullies will not prevail in our neighborhood, in our town, in our state, in our country, in our world.

I will speak out so that I can sleep at night knowing that I tried to make a difference. And I will speak out in this space as often as I can because that’s one small thing that I know I can do to try to make the world a better place.

Some folks who read this blog might be offended. They might stop reading. I hope they don’t because I think we need to try to understand other points of view. You don’t have to agree, but you should be able to respectfully listen to someone’s ideas and viewpoints.

I invite civil discussion and want to hear what others have to say. If you’re one of those readers who disagrees with my views, I invite you to stay but understand if you can’t or won’t. If you leave, I’ll be sad.

But I won’t stop speaking out.

Please stick around.

 

Elf, Schmelf

It’s 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 22, and what am I doing? Making a list of everything I need to buy to pull off our annual family Christmas morning brunch (well, after I write this missive, of course.)

I know I’ll be scrambling to find everything I need at this late date, but screw it – I’m a linear thinker, and I can only handle one crisis at a time.

Every night since I don’t know when has found me baking something or photo shopping something or ordering something or going to a holiday performance of something. That’s why there are no wrapped presents under the Christmas tree but why it looks like Christmas got drunk and vomited all over my house – because when I’m stressed out, I overcompensate somewhere. And this year, it was with the decorations.

So anywho, I’m completely up to my ears in the holiday, which makes me just so thankful that my hubs and I completely and utterly missed the Elf on the Shelf trend.

Not that I’m judging those of you who embrace the whole Elf deal – because I don’t. I absolutely do not judge. No way.

I mean, sure. I’m jealous of your little carefully constructed tableaus of the Elf getting into mischief while he spies on the kiddos to report any of their mischief-making to Santa, the Elf godfather, who apparently will have a sit-down with any kids not toeing the line.

I wish – nay, I yearn – for the time to thoughtfully plan and carry out the whole story line AND to keep my kids’ attention while doing so. That would really be a feat for me. As it is, we cannot even successfully conquer the traditional Advent calendar. We generally quit the whole thing by about Dec. 15 – a little later if it’s one of those chocolate-filled calendars.

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An example of a Christmas failure — it’s Dec. 22, but I’m two days behind.

And who am I kidding? The hubs and I were half-assed Tooth Fairies at best. Sometimes, teeth would be under pillows for entire weeks before the Fairy got around to finding spare change to slip under the pillow.

If we were responsible for maintaining the Elf myth, our kids would have given up on Santa and what have you years ago.

This year, the youngest of our little darlings announced that he no longer believes in Santa. As is our custom, my hubs and I neither confirm nor deny such suppositions. Our mantra is that, “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive.” So to my knowledge, the 19-year-old has yet to declare himself Santa-free. And it might be that the youngest is testing us, as is his wont.

I generally take a “less is more” attitude with my children on these matters and others of a delicate nature. As adults, we want to delve deeper into their questions and give them well-constructed answers when most of the time, they just want something more superficial.

I might be in the minority, though, judging by conversations I’ve overhead among younger mommies lately, as they worry about what to say when their second-grader’s best friend stops believing in Santa, or whether perpetuating the Santa story constitutes lying to your children.

That last one sometimes comes from folks who are wearing themselves out setting up their blasted Elf on the Shelf in fantastical poses every night.

Seriously, people? You’re worried that going along with a centuries-old story about a dude that visits children around the world once a year on Christmas Eve, delivering presents, is lying, but you’re OK with moving a creepy elf around your house and pretending that he spies on your kids and narcs on them when they’re jerks, as kids often are at this time of year?

So, yeah. I’m stressed out and way behind on my baking and wrapping and only half-way through this bottle of wine. But I’m raising a glass to the hubs and me and giving us a fist pump for eschewing that elf.