Thursday, February 01, 2018

My February Resolution

Our spring semester writing circle has begun again, thank goodness.  I need the encouragement, spirit and love I receive from my circle of smart women.

One of our writing prompts this week was "what do I need to shake off?"  So easy to answer -- lots of stuff.  But primarily I need to shake off the fear of speaking my truth.

Another prompt was "what brings you joy?"  Easy again -- rhyming.  It's not my greatest joy, of course, but since my brain seems to work in a sing-song sort of way and I spend much of my time knee-deep in music and lyrics, rhyming just comes natural.

My February Resolution is to write every single day, so here is my poem for the week, combining truth and rhymes:

In Honor of  Response to the Koch Brothers

If I had 400 million dollars
To spend any way I would choose,
Would I pay to make voters sway my way?
Or would I buy lots of meals and some shoes?

Would I gather with other rich people
And like-minded right wing statisticians,
And deregulate things which won't make me a buck
Like Medicare and CO2 emissions?

Would I command huge fees for my wisdom?
Say, $10,000 a head, plus your lunch?
Or would it be best to share my smarts freely,
Like Jesus, Gandhi and that bunch?

And then would I consider where all my funds went;
A half million to Ryan -- where is it?
I think I would rather build nice little schools
Where I'd get a hug when I visit

Than pay for commercials and tons of junk mailings -- 
the ephemera of all things political -- 
So white guys in Congress will do as I ordain.  
Sorry, I'm being so  critical

But when I am dead and need money no longer,
What will folks point to and say,
"There's what she did; there's the people she loved;
these things are much better today"?


Friday, October 13, 2017

On Taking a Knee

I took a knee today, just to tie my shoe.

Not folding from the waist as I had admired the cheerleaders doing at a football game in 1975 as I sat and sweated in my purple wool band uniform and fuzzy white shako, waiting for our director to lift his baton and lead us in “On Wisconsin” as the flexible cheerleaders bounced in their snuggly-tied shoes, because I knew that bending my knees was better for my back and that I could bend at the waist all day long and still not be popular.

I took a knee today to clean the litter box.

Cat #1 seemed to understand the nasty nature of my chore, and waited patiently as I scooped and threw away her leavings, thoroughly washed my hands, made a cup of tea and sat down to read so she could climb on my lap.  Cat #2 barely noticed me working as she slid by on her way to her morning perch in my bedroom window to study her birds.  I thought of the boys at the long-ago Bar Mitzvah party who threw their napkins at me as they ran by, one of them laughing as he said, “Give it to the maid,” and I wanted to shout back, “I’m with the caterer,” and came home and cried because I didn’t want to be a maid, I was in grad school dammit and now here I am scooping poop into a plastic grocery bag. 

I took a knee today to pick up spilled pistachios.

I actually took two knees and one hand to balance, one hand to scoop up the nuts.  I had poured pistachios into a bowl for Olive, and gave her another bowl for the shells she loved to crack open all by her 3-year-old self, but she insisted on keeping the nearly-full bag on the footstool beside us as we read and cracked and ate pistachios, one for me, three for her.  I wish I had vacuumed before she came over that afternoon and before the bag took a tumble; I watched a few cat hairs go into the bag along with the pistachios.  “Oh no,“ I said, “cat hair!”  Olive kept on scooping and said, “It’s OK, Mimi, a little cat hair never hurt anyone” and I wondered how many times in her little life someone has told her “a little blank never hurt anyone.”

It’s good to take a knee and a breather after an uphill climb on a beautiful fall hike.  Kurt Vonnegut said, “…I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”  I like to think he would be a big advocate of taking a knee.

It’s good to take a knee in the presence of something holy.

It’s good to take a knee and think on the common bonds of our humanness, the struggles we understand but do not suffer, the peace we all want.

It’s no good to go around with an untied shoe or a litter box full of poop or pistachios all over the floor. 

It’s no good to close my eyes to the messy reality of my house or the world, to hope that my shoelaces will tie themselves and that all people will treat all people with respect and love.

I take a knee and acknowledge the mess around me; I honor the mess that comes from owning a home (and sharing it with pets).  I honor the pistachios we eat, a child who loves me and shoes on my feet.  I acknowledge the mess we find ourselves in as a nation and honor the great hope and possibility that exists in the simple act of listening to our brothers and sisters. 

And when I take a knee, it’s good to have someone right there beside me -- cat or 3-year-old -- acknowledging that my work is important. It means something, this low-level work.
It’s prayer. 

Because a little time on a knee never hurt anyone.


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Something Has to Change

I would never steal money.  But because someone stole money in a big-time bingo game operation somewhere in Northern Indiana, the Board of the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts (of which I've recently become a member),  has to jump through a hundred and one hoops in order to get a license to sell raffle tickets at the event we're having in November to try to save the Center.  We handed over copies of our meeting minutes from many years previous, turned in proof that we have a separate bank account for gaming, and sent in the names, addresses, dates of birth, and DL numbers for each Board member who will be selling $1 raffle tickets for the chance to win gift baskets (valued at somewhere around $50 each) at the event.  It may seem ridiculous, but I understand that it's what must be done because A) someone broke the rules, B) this is how it works now, and C) it's for the good of all.

I would never molest a child.  But because some adults -- priests, teachers, coaches, Jerry Sandusky -- have molested children, I can no longer drive children to field trips without a state police background check, and at St. Ambrose School, I had to take a class so I would be more aware of how abusers think and  where abusers may lurk. Shudder.  If I'm helping 4-H children, I can't be alone with a child in a room or a car, and all 4-H volunteers must sit through online awareness sessions even if they have worked with children for 40 years without the hint of incident. (Sometimes I wonder if when I give a music or sewing or knitting lesson, should a parent always stay?  Just in case?)  It is pretty ridiculous that a little old middle-aged woman like me has to worry about this, but I understand that it's what must be done because A) someone broke the rules and B) this is how it works now, and C) it's for the good of all.

I would never shoot anyone.  But because someone shot and killed 20 children and 6 teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, because someone shot and killed 49 people and wounded 58 others at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando in  2016, because someone killed 59 and wounded over 500 people in Las Vegas this week, and because someone shoots and kills someone else in our country every single day, it logically follows that private citizens shouldn't be able to own guns any longer.  It's pretty ridiculous, but that's what must be done because A) someone broke the rules and B) this is how it must work now, and,  C) it's for the good of all.

If I were Queen of America, I would like to say this:

I am really sorry for all of you who love to trap shoot or shoot cans off of 
fence posts at your neighbor's farm.  I've done that -- it's really fun.  
But you're going to have to find something else fun to do. 

I am really sorry for those of you who hunt to eat.  
But you're going to have to start buying 
your meat at the grocery store like the rest of us.  

I am sorry for those of you who feel safer carrying
a handgun at your side on in your purse. 
But you're going to have to take some classes in Jackie Chan-style martial arts 
or even better, take a yoga class, meditate and get right with the universe.

I am really sorry for all of you who get a huge hard-on from owning and 
shooting semi-automatic (or illegally-modified automatic) weapons.  
No scratch that.  I don't really feel too sorry for you. 

I am so sorry someone broke the rules, but because they did, 
you can't continue doing what you want to do the way you like to do it.  
This is simple Parenting 101.  
This is Elementary Teaching 101.  
This is American Citizenship 101.
It's for the good of all.

Here is what I will say:

Something has to change.  Something has to change.  Something has to change.

While I wish in my little Pollyanna-shaped heart that the change could be that the Second Amendment is rescinded* and we go door-to-door in every neighborhood, apartment complex and hotel room in the country and collect guns in canvas bags and bury them deep, deep in the ground in the middle of the Grand Canyon where no one is allowed to go ever again, I know in my regular old slightly cynical heart that that is not going to happen.

I believe in change, and that the change starts with hearts.  We must, as a country, change our hearts so that we can, each and every one of us, say this:


It is more important that children are not killed in their classrooms than it is for me to own a gun.

It is more important that people can fearlessly attend a concert, go to a movie or dance their asses off at a club than it is for me to own a gun. 

It is more important that young people in troubled neighborhoods can walk safely home than it is for me to own a gun.  

It is more important that women in difficult or violent relationships are not killed by guns than it is for me to own a gun. 

It is more important that police officers not be shot, or even fear being shot, in the course of a routine traffic stop than it is for me to own a gun. 

It is more important that people can go to work in a factory, shop or office and be safe and come home to supper every night and be safe and gripe about their work and then sleep with their partner and be safe and get up and do it all again the next day than it is for me to own a gun.  

It is more important that children are not killed in their classrooms than it is for me to own a gun.
I know, I wrote that twice.  That's how important it is to me.

If you cannot speak those words -- "lives are more important than gun ownership" -- then I just don't know about you.  You make me sad. 

What can we do besides say those words?  
Live those words.  
Support organizations that call for sane gun laws. They're right over there on the right, if you'd like to read more or send them some money.  
Tell your Senators and Congresspeople that you care about gun laws.  You care about licenses and registries, you care about silencers, you care about the ease with which a semi-automatic weapon can be modified into an automatic weapon (and yes, I did just learn about that yesterday.)  Your legislators are listed right over there, too.
Better yet, tell them you will not vote for them if they continue to support relaxed gun laws and take money from the NRA.  I had to tell Senator Donnelly just that this morning.
Best, run for office.  Replace those who put gun de-regulation and NRA funding above human life.

That's what I think I might do.  

Although my friend, Nancy Franke (who I support almost 100%), is running again for District 69 Indiana State Representative against current Representative and NRA Supportee Jim Lucas, she is a Republican like him; if she loses in the Primary, someone needs to run against him in the General election as a Democrat, Libertarian, Green or KP (that's Kindness Party -- I'm inventing that one right now.) 

 I volunteer as tribute.  

I never thought about being a State Representative -- well, maybe I did when I was in high school, and hugely admired my dad's friend, Joe Corcoran, who served in that office and was instrumental in bringing Vietnamese refugees to our town.  He was a great man, and not just because he sent me a letter the one time I made the Dean's List at Purdue.  (I still have it.) 

But after last November's election, I made a decision to run for something -- to do something besides write letters to Jim Lucas and others in state and national government.  But I was planning on something more local, more quiet -- like a seat on our school board.  

I really don't want to run for District 69 because I know I will be crushed on social media by Lucas's followers, just like I am every time I call him out on policies, votes or bill introductions that I believe are contrary to basic human kindness and/or are geared toward gun proliferation.  But heeding my own words, lives are more important than my discomfort

I really don't want to run for District 69 Representative because I know exactly zero about how to run for office (except for watching every episode of The West Wing), I have exactly $0 to run for office and I have zero idea of how much time, effort and schmoozing are involved.   

I really don't want to run for District 69 Representative because a) I have a shit ton of stuff going on in my life; b) State Representatives probably shouldn't say things like "shit ton"; c) I'll never get my novel written; and d) I don't have a business suit or a pair of low heels in my closet, which is actually full of tunics, leggings, Birkenstocks, and paint-splattered t-shirts and yoga pants. 

But I think I might have to do it. 

If not now, when?  If not me, who?

At the very least, I'll start studying up and think about this idea until some super smart politically-savvy person says, "That woman doesn't know anything about anything except baking cookies, sassy blog posts, knitting hats and playing Baptist hymns by heart -- I better run instead."  

Or even better, how about every super smart person who lives in Indiana District 69 and believes in reasonable gun laws runs for Representative?  


It's for the good of all.


 *and for those of you who want to get all pissy with me about the Constitution, I understand the complex and nearly impossible chance that the Second Amendment will ever be rescinded.  I further understand the complexity of the consequences to the states that such a repeal would entail-- it would be a mess.  I'm not a Constitutional expert; I just read a lot.  But I dream a lot, too, and in my dreams, James Madison is shaking his head at us and saying, "That's not what I meant at all, you doofuses."

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


Here's who I stand with:

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of the Archdiocese of Newark
Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis
Sister Helen Prejean
The sisters of St. Benedict, Ferdinand
Sisters of Providence, Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Governor John Kasich, Ohio (R)
Tom Linebarger, Chairman and CEO of Cummins Engine Company
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
Tim Cook, Apple CEO
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO
The United Methodist Church
The Evangelical Lutheran Church
Author Max Lucado
Bill and Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church
Rev. John I. Jenkins, President of Notre Dame
Purdue University President Mitch Daniels
Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie

Enough said.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Someone Triggered the Snowflake

Today is a writing day. Clay is gone with his buddies, and I texted my kids that I would be holed up in my workroom all day (pretending I was back in that little TV-less room at St. Meinrad where I was oh-so productive, dashing off pages and pages of serious prose and a couple of not-so-serious poems) and would be avoiding my phone.

While the coffee was brewing, I checked my email (constructive) and Facebook (not as constructive, but more fun) when I saw a post by a young woman I love but strongly disagree with. She loves a shirt that says "God is great, beer is good and liberals are crazy." I'm cool with the first two assertions, but disagree with the third -- actually, I was hurt by the third. Because you know how I feel about name calling, which is how I think everyone should feel about name calling (and if you don't know, I wrote about it here.) Even though I know that this shirt is just a light-hearted jab at liberals. And so I started typing a reply, which was destined to be come a "TLDR" (too long, didn't read) reply, and which Clay (after I read him the first draft over the phone) suggested would be a pretty good blog post. He also suggested the title. Thanks, husband.

You know, it hurts to be called crazy when all you believe in is equal opportunity for all.

When you believe in civil rights.

When you believe in the beauty and power of public education.

It hurts to be called crazy when you believe the death penalty is an American atrocity.

When you believe that immigration is a natural part of the growth of our society and that all should be welcomed and more quickly and easily granted the path to citizenship if that is what they desire.

When you believe that love is love is love is love is love.

When you grumble like every other American at the prospect of tax increases, but understand that taxes are what you pay to live here. To drive on paved roads, receive police and fire protection, hike the National Parks, sleep at night knowing that our country is protected by its strong military, and pray that a greater portion of those taxes will be used to bring about equality and justice in the forms of more jobs, more programs for those in need of healthcare, housing and nutrition, and more assurance that as we grow older our needs will be met, as well.

When you believe in business and industry, but also believe that business and industry have been allowed to "over benefit" from revision to tax code and deregulation; when you recognize the financial disparity between those at either end of the American class system brought on by those "benefits."

When you love this great country with all your heart and cannot imagine living anywhere else, yet understand that Americans are just a small part of a global community who carry a great socio-economic responsibility to bring about peace and justice worldwide.

It hurts to be called crazy when you believe that we are all stewards of the earth and owe the planet respect and love in the forms of regulation of pollutants to our vast yet finite supply of air, water and soil and in the development of energy sources other than oil; when you believe that climate change is natural, inevitable but amplified by environmental practices and must be studied further.

When you believe that the Second Amendment has been manipulated from its original vision -- that of allowing newly-minted Americans (ie, immigrants) in the infancy of our country to protect themselves from those foreign invaders who would challenge our freedom to be Americans -- into its current manifestation wherein people believe the Amendment guarantees their right to carry a gun anywhere, any time, without education, license or registration; when you believe that the rights of those to carry weapons seriously screws with your personal vision of a more perfect union and domestic tranquility. When you believe that those who signed the Constitution could not have foreseen a day when innocents are killed by gun violence every day.

Every single day.

It hurts to be called crazy when you know that you cannot possibly understand every single American's situation. When you recognize that you are highly privileged -- that you can read, drive, have a roof over your head and meals at your table, and therefore cannot even begin to make decisions/judgments/legislation about others without intense discussion, continuous conversation, and equitable representation.

It hurts to be called crazy when you believe that your liberal political views stem from what you see as simple kindness and love of every human being on the planet.

Even the conservatives.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Persist, Resist or Refuse to Engage?

I made a bit of a miscalculation.

I anticipated that my post on my State Representative's Facebook page would cause him to re-think his words, go to work at a women's shelter, stop posting so darn often (36 posts on June 13th), beg for forgiveness, and bury his guns deep, deep in the ground.

I crack myself up sometimes.  

(In fairness, he did apologize.  Sorta.  In his own way.  And he did talk with Michelle Kuiper, the woman from the original Star article, and they are at peace with one another.  So I count that as a win.)

I anticipated that lots of people wouldn't like what I said, and I knew that I would get a verbal smack down from Rep. Lucas's fans.  (As it says over there on the right, I'm OK with that. Some of the words really stung, but like a bee sting, with a little time the sting goes away.  I'm thankful I'm not allergic to either bees or words!) 

I anticipated that my words would be misconstrued.  Maybe that's one thing that Rep. Lucas and I have in common.  I'm fairly certain that many of the people who commented on the post didn't read past my first sentence, and didn't read my second post at all.  To those who did, thanks.  

What I did not anticipate is that the post would end up on BuzzFeed, and  At first I was secretly thrilled and shared the BuzzFeed page with a few friends.  But I'm not going to link the pages here, as I'm still a little overwhelmed by how far this has spread -- it's my own little Pandora's Box.  

What I did not anticipate is my intense need to seek some sort of peace.  I certainly don't need to be forgiven and I'm not seeking an apology for his "how low can you go" comment (sting), but I was hoping for some sort of acknowledgement that I tried to be civil and kind.    On Sunday evening, 6/11, at 4:53, after lots of friends were sending me links to the national news coverage, I was feeling a little shattered and wrote this to Rep. Lucas in a private message:

After all that has occurred in the media after my comments on your post from Monday, I felt a need to write to you.  I hope you saw my second post in that original thread, but if you didn't, I'll say once again that in using the term “rape culture,” I did not mean to offend you; while I believe you made a poor choice to write the letter, then a poor choice of wording within the letter, I never meant to imply that you condoned rape, rapists or sexual violence. It remains, however, that what I read in your words amounts to blaming those who don't see and do things as you see and do them -- your "this is why you carry" tag for each posting on terrorism carries with it the clear implication that if one were carrying a gun, one wouldn’t be dead.  I've had some excellent, civil exchanges with one of your adamant supporters about this very point this week – he insists that you are not a “victim blamer” and that you and I want the same things.  I’ve contemplated that deeply while reading through your Facebook feed, legislation and news articles, but still don’t agree.  You and I will never probably never agree on anything (except the fact that your children are wonderful and that this is a great country), and even though I would love to throw my 2 cents in on many of your posts, I probably won't, as the blow back from this one has been rough on my spiritual peace. You are right that there is a lot of hatred (from both sides); the name-calling, belittling and cruel assumptions from both sides don't help to further the conversation.  I read every comment on the post, and many made me stop and consider the validity of my reply, but I still stand by my words – to quote Thomas Paine, “He who dares not offend cannot be honest.”  And yet I still feel the need to keep a peace between us (and all people), for to quote TP again, “The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”   And by the way, riding in honor and memory of Hunter today was a good thing.  I’ll never forget his sweet face from his days at St. Ambrose School.  Georgiann  (Rep. Lucas had participated in a motorcycle ride that honored fallen soldiers -- Hunter Hogan was 21 years old when he was killed in Afghanistan on June 23, 2012.)

I know that Rep. Lucas read -- or at least glanced at -- this message at 6:51 PM Sunday evening.  (Thanks, smart phone technology!)  However, I haven't received a reply.  In his letter to The Star on Monday, June 6, Rep. Lucas wrote,  ... soon there were those on social media who attacked me for “victim blaming” and spreading the culture of rape. Instead of discussing the matter civilly, many used reprehensible verbal abuse to condemn my letter ...

While I stand by my assertion that hundreds of his posts illustrate victim blaming, I surely wouldn't say I "attacked" him; believe me, I've re-read my reply about a hundred times trying to decide if I am "reprehensible".  And civil discussion is one of my favorite things.  You know my theme song --

... raindrops on corn fields and well-played percussion; 
babies and corgis and civil discussion/
coffee and peace signs and kids free from fear, 
this is some of my favorite sensitive snowflake-liberal
Pollyanna-social justice warrior gear...

But I digress.

I know better than to think that Rep. Lucas would copy and paste my words into a Facebook post, but I was hoping for a little acknowledgment.  Just a smidge.  Because he did copy and paste a lot of the hateful things people wrote to him.  Really, really hateful.  I am ashamed at the hate some people who support my same position spewed at Rep. Lucas.  While I wish he were not my state representative, I don't hate him and I don't wish any harm to him, his family or his supporters.  That sort of talk must stop in all sectors of our society.  

That being said, what I've finally learned (sometimes I'm a slow learner) is that Rep. Lucas really loves the controversy.  He loves to stir the pot. Kick up the dirt.  Shovel the shit, as it were.  For if he truly loved civil discussion, he would have maintained a civil discourse with me, right?  Instead, he ignores my notes and continues to post things that delight and rally his supporters.  For example, he garnered intense media scrutiny and snowflake criticism this past December and January for posting  two memes which were degrading to women (and I don't care if 9,500 people -- "including women!" Lucas interjected --  liked the memes, they are still degrading).  You can google "Jim Lucas offensive memes" if you like, but I'm not going to link them here because ... well, just ick.  In what I think was a poor political move (but what do I know?  I thought Pence's political career was over with RFRA and Trump's over with the Billy Bush interview...) and unbecoming to someone in an elected leadership position, he re-posted them this week as an attempted illustration of how those of us left of center read too much into his posts and don't have a sense of humor. 

Huh.  I am fucking hilarious.  Ask anyone.  I just don't like memes of women in car trunks. 

But I do like this one, sent by a friend (OK, it was my sister again):

They (the POTUS and Rep. Lucas, not my sister and her meme-making) both need to stop. But then, so do I. 
I've done what I thought I had to do -- resisting, persisting and peace-making.  I didn't accomplish much but stress myself out, so now I'll just let Rep. Lucas and his Facebook page be.  Refuse to engage.

Until the next election.  Sting.


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Let's Knit a Kind Wall

Did you hear the one about the woman who knit eight Pussy Hats for eight amazing women to wear at marches and rallies despite the fact that she doesn't like the word "pussy" even when extended to her favorite cats and who was verbally attacked in the grocery store by a woman she thought was her friend and wondered for a few days if she really was "disgusting" for knitting said hats until she decided that nah, she wasn't, and picked up her needles to knit four more for her friends in California?

I didn't think so.  But isn't is a good one?

You'll probably like this one, too.

The amazing women who kicked off the Pussy Hat knitting revolution are starting another one --  the Welcome Blanket project.  The plan is to use 2000 miles (the length of Trump's proposed US/Mexico wall) of yarn to knit up 3200 blankets to be given to new immigrants to the United States.

You can find a pattern on their website; if you've been to my knitting classes, you'll recognize the Come Together Blanket pattern as a variation on the Grandmother's Favorite dishcloth -- 16 simple squares knit in two colors, and especially beautiful set together as in a quilt.  (But I'm sure the organizers will be thrilled with any 40"x 40" blanket you choose to make.)

This is a lovely, compassionate (and warm!) project that I am excited to take part in. If you would like to participate but don't know how to knit, come to our Knit Night at the Jackson County Library, Seymour, on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at 6:30.  We'd love to have you join us -- we don't talk about politics, but we all knit with kindness.