murder, malpractice, arson, harassment, and thin mints.

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This weekend didn’t feel much like a weekend, except for the relaxing evening I spent binge-watching old episodes of Forensic Files on Netflix. I think I’ve spoken about my love of true crime before, and my addiction to a variety of true crime podcasts. What can I say? It started young. I had a biography of Ed Gein on my bookshelves in high school. I’m sure the woman behind the counter at our town bookshop (“The Printed Word”) thought I was ’round the bend when I slapped that baby down on the old-timey glass topped counter (probably along with the current rolled-up paper horoscope and the latest “Seventeen” magazine). So anyway. My brother & I were DM’ing and I sent him a pic of a screenshot and then of course Facebook did that thing where it puts together a slideshow of your photos with a suggested title in case you want to share it and no lie, it was a picture of my cats and this screenshot of the creepy Forensic Files mad bomber that I’d sent to my brother and the suggested title, in purple neon, was “Big Friday Night!” I had to laugh. Fuck you Zuckerberg.

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Yesterday I was asked back to “role play” at a workshop for prospective mediators-in-training. I took this course two years ago and really enjoyed it (and actually it’s not only where I learned to mediate, it’s where I was exposed to meditation, seriously, for the first time). The past two years I’ve been asked back to role play during 4 test mediations and I really enjoy it, even if it means giving up a Saturday. I was a grieving widow, the amputee victim of medical malpractice, a young female victim of sexual harassment and retaliation, and an insurance adjuster investigating an arson claim. I prepare for all my roles and really get into it.

Miss L is in the thick of Girl Scout cookie season so this morning it was up and at ’em to another cookie booth. It was the last one this year and hopefully by the grace of God I can someday shake the nickname of the “Pusher” around Widget Central. (Pronounced “POOOOSHER”. As in – “you want cookies? Go see the POOOOOOSHER in Legal. She’ll hook you up.” *sniff* *furtive glance* *wipe nose* *slink off*) And if you haven’t already, try Breyer’s line of Girl Scout cookie ice cream. The Thin Mint ice cream goes right to the vein.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend of whatever it is you like to do. xo

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Betsie Bay Frozen 5k & warm snap skiing

Over the long President’s Day weekend, Jax & I loaded the kids (Miss L and his 2 teenagers – well, one is almost a teenager) into Finn (my Subaru Outback) and went north. There were running shoes in our bags and skis in the luggage box on the roof and we made good use of them over the weekend. On Saturday morning, Jax & I and his son B ran the Betsie Bay Frozen 5k. This is a great little event that supports nonprofits in the Frankfort / Elberta area, aka my happy place. A February event in the Betsie Bay area is typically snowy and arctic, but this year’s weird winter made it a perfect springlike run, with temps in the mid to upper ’40’s.

The event starts about halfway up the steep hill to the Elberta bluff, which overlooks Lake Michigan. It’s a perfect pre-race photo opp, with the lake, the Frankfort lighthouse and dunes in the background. Because parking is limited up on the bluff overlook, runners pick up their packets at the Frankfort American Legion hall and are bussed over to the start. It’s such a fun way to meet other runners and I hadn’t ridden on a school bus in years.

The first 100 meters or so is a sharp downhill, which is the perfect start for a race as far as I’m concerned (although I don’t know how they manage it during a normal winter – I could envision a pileup of runners at the icy, snowy bottom!) I’m a slow start runner so anything that forces me to go out at goal pace warms me up faster and usually improves my overall time. Next, you run through small Elberta, past the Cabbage Shed restaurant (the owners were outside with signs advising us that after the race, we’d more than earned a pint or two of Guinness) and out onto M-22, where you cross over the mouth of the Betsie River and wind down onto Main Street in Frankfort. The course is fairly flat after the initial downhill, and the locals come out to cheer you on, and the bus drivers that dropped you off are passing you on the road, honking and yelling their support. I surprised myself with a 27.18 finish, not a PR but a strong performance for me in a mid-winter event when my training has been spotty (I still got schooled by a lady in her 60’s and another lady pushing a stroller!! This event is stacked). Jax & B harbored secret hopes of placing, but had to content themselves with placing in their age groups only, as the event was chock full of Traverse City Track Club runners who blew everyone’s doors off. This was actually disappointing as there were tons of raffle items and little prizes for the top places. More so than any event I frequent, the local merchants and businesses donated a lot of cool swag and I was a bit deflated to walk away with nothing but my swag bag (not even my shirt – it was too big so I gave it to B).

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Miss L watching me come through the homestretch. She ran me in from here. ❤

 

On Sunday, we enjoyed skiing at nearby Crystal Mountain in 50-degree temps. Rather, Jax & his kids skiied while Miss L took her first-ever lesson and I sat on a hay bale in the sunshine, knitting and feeling happy to watch her joy. I’d paid for a 2-hour group session, but the warm temps had apparently diminished the attendance levels, so Miss L had a ski instructor all to herself. Midway through the lesson, they took a snack break for hot chocolate and L stripped off her jacket and finished the lesson in her shirtsleeves. She was a quick study and as I sat there watching her, I thought that few things in life are as pleasing as watching your child learn something new, have adventures, and accomplish things.

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The face of a happy mom.

After her lesson, Jax and his daughter took L on some of the easy hills so she could get good use out of her new skills. I knitted away and after an hour or so, Jax came down the hill, followed by a little pink streak who swooshed by me and came to an expert stop a few feet away.

 


Yup, Miss L is a natural on skiis, and reminded me of Little My in “Moominland Midwinter”, learning to skate on table knives and toboggan on a silver tray, wrapped in a tea cosy.

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pugilist’s moon

The Native Americans might have called it the Snow Moon, or the Hunger Moon, but last night I decided that a more accurate moniker would be the Pugilist’s Moon. Last night’s full moon and lunar eclipse, possibly exacerbated by the “close” passing of Green Comet 45P, wreaked a fair share of havoc on us.

Yes, I do believe somewhat that the lunar cycles have an impact on our human behavior. We really are just big sacks of liquidy stuff charged with some mysterious electrical current and I’ve been friends with enough teachers, social workers, and emergency medical folks throughout my adulthood to know that many of them dread full moons. Especially full moon Fridays. My teacher friends on FB started expressing concern several days ago.

So this week:

I got into a huge fight with Jax. This isn’t actually unusual because Jax & I are both very opinionated, strong-willed people and even when we agree on a basic issue, we can still argue over semantics or the details of it. Normally I don’t mind this much because I always know where I stand with him and vice versa. There’s never any hidden undercurrents of dissatisfaction – it’s all out there, even the minor stuff. But this week’s was a little vehement and nonsensical even for us. Neither of us were really sure what it started with. We made up but post-fight I was laid low with a stress migraine the day after.

My credit card got hacked (AGAIN) for the third or fourth time. I always know what it’s about when the company calls me – “did you authorize such-and-such an outlandish charge in Florida [[Texas]]?” It’s always either Florida or Texas. And it’s almost always either a gas station or Wal-Mart. Sigh. “No, I did not try to charge $564 at Wal-Mart in Fort Worth.” “Can we Fed Ex you a new card to your home on Monday? Will you be home?” “No, I work full time.” “Okay, we will put it in the US mail. Good luck paying cash for everything over the next 7-10 business days!”

It’s a damn chip card too. But I guess I should just be happy that they catch it so quickly that I’ve never had to open a bill and find a charge for Skoal, Budweiser, and a flat screen television from a Wal-Mart in Bumfuck Arkansas.

The last and worst was Miss L’s elementary school dance last night. The PTA worked so hard to decorate the school and it looked lovely. They had cake and photo booths, a DJ and dancing, all the kiddos dressed up in their Sunday best. The joint was jumping and I was trying to knit in the darkness, humming along to Gangnam Style, when I became aware of a change in the atmosphere. I could sense it like a drop in air pressure. When not knitting, I was trying to keep an eye on L amidst all the crowds of kids and parents, and being told off roundly every time she caught me “following” her. Anyway, I packed my sock and needles up into my Moomin bag and set off into the hallway to scout things out. I quickly realized there was a very unfortunate argument between three sets of parents and two crying children, and it was devolving with lightning speed.

My fear, ever-present these days, is that the environment is so highly charged, and so toxic with resentment. So many people now feel emboldened to say whatever despicable xenophobic Go Back to Whatever Country You Legally Migrated From For No Good Reason thing, typically beset with racial epithets, this so-called president has inspired them to, and so many on the other side of the issues have quivering antennae set to pick up on any hint of that even when it’s not there and immediately leap into I’m Going to Punch a Nazi Resistance mode,  disagreements can turn very ugly very quickly. In all fairness, I doubt this had anything to do with any of that. But add a crowded hallway full of children and the only thing I want to do is grab my girl and head for the nearest exit. The principal did an excellent job of containing the dispute in her office, but the content was serious enough that the police were called. This was, as you can imagine, the Most Exciting Thing to ever happen to a school full of sugar-hyped elementary kids, who goggled out windows and raced up and down crowded hallways spinning ever more ludicrous tales and only contributed to the surreal atmosphere, the disbelieving feeling that pervaded me of “this can’t happen here”.

It was an extremely unfortunate way to end the dance, which people worked very hard on and was only meant to inspire joy and happiness and a sense of community for our little ones, and I’m appalled at the behavior exhibited by adults. It is completely uncharacteristic for the beautiful, diverse, multicultural environment that our elementary school exhibits.

I can now only hope that that ol’ Pugilist’s Moon will let us recover from this upheaval. I will be hiding in my bedroom with Emmett madly cleansing my chakras until it’s over.

what’s saving my life right now

A couple of the blogs I read (Modern Mrs. Darcy and Carrie Willard) do the “what’s saving my life right now” post right around this time of year – earlier this week we celebrated Imbolc for the pagans, St. Brigid’s day, Candlemas, and for the rest of us, the halfway point from the winter solstice to the Equinox. The darkness hasn’t bothered me so much this year, but it’s undeniably nice to know that every day we are turning back to the light, and on days like yesterday, when the sun is out and bright, I just want to sit in a sunbeam and soak up some vitamin D.

So what’s saving MY life right now?

  • Reading – I am bouncing back and forth between an “airport novel” – which is what I call the bestsellers that always seem to be on the racks at airport bookstores – fast paced, adventurous, usually with a spy or a team or agents of some kind. They’re an indulgence – this one is a James Rollins “Sigma Force” book called “The Seventh Plague” and somehow I am already halfway though it. Anyway, I’m bouncing between that and “The Happiness Equation” because one of my goals this year is to read more nonfiction and although self-help isn’t really what I had in mind, absorbing more suggestions on how to be even 5 or 10% happier is just fine.
  • Being off Facebook right now. Yup. I took my own advice and took a sabbatical from Facebook and Twitter – I stayed on Instagram because it is a much more beautiful and soothing brand of social media for me. My feed is full of beautiful pictures of Norway, of Japan, Europe, cats and birds, my alma mater, handmade things and my happy places and beautiful rooms. I need these things to stay alive and right now I don’t need to steep myself in the live feed of the unrelenting negativity of Donald Trump’s administration and the divisiveness that is causing in our country.
  • Podcasts. In particular I just love My Favorite Murder (stay sexy, don’t get murdered) and Thinking Sideways. I’m also immersed in the archives of You Must Remember This and just worked my way through her series on Charles Manson’s Hollywood.
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“My Favorite Murder” has some pretty funny merch, too – I think I need one of these mugs for our staff meetings.

 

  • Finding a brief moment of hilarity at work. One of our coworkers recently returned from a long illness and he was greeted by this actually very creepy Elmo balloon, which has arms and legs and is probably four feet tall. (Why do people buy Mylar balloons still? This balloon will be clogging up some whale’s intestines long after I am ashes and dust. This stuff doesn’t biodegrade.) Over the course of a few days, Elmo began to drift aimlessly down the aisles, bouyed by rogue air currents, and I would frequently turn around to find it staring in my office window. When the GC was out one day, we decided he could be her temporary replacement.

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  • The snug life with this little guy – with a hot water bottle under the blanket and a movie from the Lucky Day section of the library on TV – and below that, a throwback to my favorite little human’s early years, provided at random one day by my brother, who found this snap on his phone and shared it with me. ❤

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  • A gift that I gave myself, for my evening tea, a reminder of a childhood best friend.

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  • And lastly – the bonds of trust, respect, and affection that I share with other people in my community. This was demonstrated eloquently during the Multicultural Night that was hosted by Miss L’s elementary school. On a purely voluntary basis, families and organizations came together for a night to celebrate the beautiful diversity in our community. Children from all grades (including Miss L and several of her besties) volunteered to perform, to sing songs and show what they’ve learned on different musical instruments – maracas and recorders and Indian and African drums. Some children dressed in costumes representing their ethnic backgrounds and families brought all sorts of food to share. The halls, gym, library, cafeteria, and art room were packed – the turnout was amazing. Miss L and her friends ran all over the school making memories together, doing crafts like Chinese lanterns and Roman mosaics, having their wrists henna painted by the mothers and grandmothers of some of our Indian students, and watching Irish dancing from a local dance school. There wasn’t a single political comment made, but the entire evening, which is an annual tradition at the school, spoke volumes and made me so incredibly proud of our community and our public school. We are truly blessed.

Happy weekend, all. xoxo

we are hope, despite the times

These are unprecedented times – the combination of a very controversial and highly charged political atmosphere and instantaneous information via social media. It feels like there’s no way to step away and if I do step away, I’m failing in my duty to remain alert, informed, and supportive of the political causes that I support.

But I also believe that no one can win arguments online and there is a hysteria / mob mentality online that ratchets everything up to panic mode. I don’t have any answers about how to deal with this situation and I don’t have any answers about how we mend the divisiveness in the country right now. I’m forced to step back every so often, take 24-hour Facebook & Twitter detoxes, and do other things. (I also really want to try to understand why people feel the way they feel, but you can’t ask anyone their opinion on Facebook or Twitter without getting into an argument; this week I read articles like this and this.) I don’t want to fight anyone or hate anyone but I also don’t want to see anyone else discriminated against or hassled on the basis of their skin color, ethnic background, religion or gender. It seems simple to me, live and let live, but it’s just not.

I knew I needed to take a breather when I had an intense dream that Donald Trump was our new boss at work and coming to each of our offices to grill us. It was especially vivid and I woke up startled. So this week I got some new books piled up on my bedside table (“At Home in the World by Thich Nhat Hanh, “Jerusalem Book 1” by Alan Moore – which is quite bizarre – and “The Happiness Equation” by Neil Pasricha – I’m trying to read more nonfiction books this year on a variety of topics). And I hung out with my faves. Miss L was “Leader of the Week” at school so I left work (where, contrary to my subconscious musings, Donald Trump was NOT) to bring her a special Panera lunch and eat with her in her cafeteria. And last night we went back to my alma mater to check out the Michigan women’s gymnastics team’s win over Nebraska!

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Tickets are really inexpensive and the meet was fun – great music, constant activity, and Miss L – whose attention span can be short if she’s not constantly engaged in the proceedings, or well equipped with snacks – was entranced. She got her poster signed by a few members of the team after the meet and you know I don’t usually share pics of her in this forum but you can take my word that she was on Cloud 9. Afterwards, we had a girls’ dinner at Casey’s in Ann Arbor, across from the Amtrak train station – it was hopping! We had burgers and root beer and it was a welcome refuge from a week of angst.

The boys are doing really well, their Prozac has taken effect and although I keep them separated when I’m gone for longish periods of time – when I’m at work, or at Jax’s – when I’m home or just running errands they’re out together and there haven’t been any incidents of violence.

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This week I was watching a documentary on Netflix about trappers who live in the Russian Taiga and Sarge was dead asleep in one of his favorite places.

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On the documentary, the trapper’s dog began barking and snarling and digging at a hollow log to dislodge a sable. The sable burst forth hissing and chattering and Sarge came bolt upright, his eyes wild. The dog and the sable began an epic battle and Sarge jumped down off his chair and rushed to the TV. He was riveted to the scene even after the dog subdued the sable (it was actually kind of gross) and sat there for the longest time.

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I’ve only had one other cat that watched television and it was crazy tiger striped Salem who loved the leopard in “Bringing Up Baby” with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

I hope wherever you are this Sunday you are enjoying yourselves and your loved ones and staying sane in this crazy time, no matter which side of the fence you are on.

xoxo

principled dissent

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It might be a little late to post about the Women’s March on January 21, but I’ll do it anyway. Like millions of others – literally – I have been dismayed and disappointed about the results of the 2016 election and have made no secret about that. I’m sure I’ve lost friends (who probably weren’t real “friends” anyway, if they didn’t know where I would stand on these issues) and pissed off many of the more conservative members of my own family, but I can’t bring myself to say (or feel) sorry about that. Instead, I have struggled to understand how people can support this administration and although I try to practice kindness, love, and empathy, it’s not always possible for me to see how we can bridge our differences.

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I felt a wave of darkness and tension descend on Inauguration Day. Even during the darkest days of the Bush administrations, I never felt that sense of utter trepidation at what the future could hold. This Inauguration Day was different. My cousin, who has attended several inaugurations, summed it up in a post on social media that remarked how angry and bitter and rude the crowd was “even though their guy won”. She said she was shocked at some of the hateful and intolerant comments she overheard and I think that atmosphere pervaded all of the ceremonies. That sense hasn’t dimmed for me. (Particularly when I see the shots and video of Trump’s demeanor towards his wife -and the look on her face- at various points in the ceremony. Can I just say how proud I was to be a Democrat that day? I thought Hillary and the Obamas and Joe Biden conducted themselves with dignity and grace and basic class.)

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This guy was the bright spot of the ceremony. God Bless ya, W, never change.

I got up on Saturday unsure of what was in store for me and my best friend Kit. We’d decided to go to the Lansing, MI march (and I knitted us matching hats – yes, Michael D. Cohen, our hats WERE made in the US,  with love and care and respect, unlike those ubiquitous money-making red trucker hats that are made in China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam). I didn’t know if the tone would be angry, if we’d be opposed, if I’d come home feeling worse than when I went – but so many of the issues are so important to me that I felt I needed to be there, no matter what.

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I’m so glad I went. The atmosphere was convivial and friendly, very chill. The signs were funny and clever and outraged but there wasn’t a single incident that made me feel anything other than proud to be there, and relieved that so many others feel the same as I do. The speakers were excellent and focused on issues – Gretchen Whitmer, who has declared herself an early candidate for Michigan governor in 2020, and Barb Byrum, Ingham County Clerk were standouts. Our speakers didn’t drop f-bombs or do strange raps (I really wish Madonna and Ashley Judd had stuck to issues) – they discussed the importance of Planned Parenthood, their concerns over healthcare and the impact to communities when the ACA is disassembled. They discussed the rights of women to govern their own bodies and not have their reproductive rights politicized and legislated. They expressed deep concerns over the enormous conflicts of interest, nepotism, and ethics complaints with the new administration, and its stance on climate change (Chinese hoax?!). They spoke at length about the troubling lack of qualifications (and far worse) displayed by nominees like Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos (Michiganders have an especial interest in DeVos as her particular brand of stupidity has negatively impacted education in many of our communities). Our diverse speakers shared what it is like to be a member of a group targeted by the new administration – an immigrant, a Muslim, someone of the LGBTQ community. There was a lot of intersectional feminism.  And they talked about what we could do to share our concerns and make sure our voices are heard in appropriate and constructive ways.

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Sadly, our efforts have been received by the administration’s supporters in some typical yet disappointing ways. I see people commenting on FB  that they want us to shut up, that people’s minds aren’t changed no matter how “righteous” the message. There are memes about how great it is that Trump got a bunch of “fat women” to walk more. A Republican senator from Mississippi, who I won’t link to because he shouldn’t get any more attention than he already has, commented that if we have money for all those tattoos and piercings, why do we want someone to pay for our birth control? Pretty standard, unoriginal stuff – not exactly incisive wit here, people. It doesn’t surprise me a bit that our detractors can’t address our actual issues, they have to fall back on completely irrelevant and superficial issues like how we look. Echoes of the Trump’s emphasis on “Perfect 10’s”, maybe. However, there are those whose tone turns quite ugly, such as the Indiana GOP rep who posted a picture of women being pepper sprayed with a comment that we should all get this treatment as our “participation trophy”. Apparently not a lot of experts on the amendments to the US Constitution in that bunch, either. I’m sorry about your politicians, Indiana and Mississippi. Really.

And of course all of the Tweeting and “alternative facts”. SAD

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I think if anything, this toxic political season and my deep disgust for what this president stands for have taught me that there is still a lot of intolerance, ignorance, and hate in our country, and even in a lot of us. I know that I frequently feel a rise of venom in my heart when confronted with these attitudes. There’s a lot of people I’d love to punch. But instead I’ve already spent more time writing my senators than ever and I guess if there’s a silver lining in this it’s that Trump has made an activist out of me – and, it seems, a lot of others.

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winter nights

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The New Year is off and running and so am I. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get waaay more miles on my running shoes and I am laying down my base. I usually get to run 3-4 times a week so I’m trying to do a tempo run, an interval run, and an easy run and do more strength training. So far, the only event that I have on my radar is the Betsie Bay Frozen 5k which is in my parent’s neck of the woods (and my favorite place on earth) but I also have plans for a duathlon and a half marathon later this year.

The weather has been dicey, vacillating between precipitation of all kinds (we had thunder and lightning at Jax’s house Wednesday) and cold and then unseasonably warm for a stretch, so the best course of action is to plan indoor activities. Knitting and reading and watching Netflix & Amazon are my fallbacks. I blew through “The Night Manager” and now have a huge and uneasy crush on Tom Hiddleston – uneasy because he has a quality that reminds me strongly of the fellow I dated before Jax – and then started immediately on “The Kettering Incident” which takes place in Tasmania. My ex husband & I spent a strange week driving around Tasmania in a camper van and parts of it are exceptionally otherworldly and odd. I would highly recommend both shows.

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I completed my first hat for the Pussyhat Project and am working on a second one – the first one it seems shall be worn by yours truly at the Lansing march and the other will be worn by my bestie. 


I also finished a pair of mittens with some alpaca mill ends that I bought over 10 years ago during my first and only visit to Rhinebeck. I’m thinking I may need to revisit Rhinebeck this year…my stash can always use an infusion.

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I also got some yarn and needles in the mail and I know I purchased them for a specific project but after sifting through my bookmarks and Pinterest board I cannot for the life of me find what I had in mind. Sigh. I’m getting old.

Lil has been getting her “make” on too and took delivery of the bowl she made at a birthday party before the holidays. I am really thrilled with how it turned out and think she might have a future in ceramics. 🙂

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I hope all of this making is enough to distract me from the inauguration festivities this week. I am still truly sickened by our President-elect and his cabinet nominees and feel a lot of pain that a large segment of the American people felt that he was the appropriate choice to lead our country. I am engaging in principled dissent against this regime and won’t be watching any of it. I’m not alone in this…our Brownie troop leader pulled the moms out in the hallway during the most recent meeting and told us about an “Inauguration Patch” that the girls could earn if they watched the ceremony and answered questions about it. Our troop looks like the United Nations and the moms are a pretty diverse and outspoken bunch. We looked at each other and one mom, who belongs to an ethnic group that our President-elect has mocked and maligned on many occasions, immediately looked stricken and said, “I don’t think T. needs that patch, we can skip that one. You guys go ahead.” There was no hesitation from the rest of us when we told her in no uncertain terms that our girls didn’t need that patch, either.

The troop leader loves patches and I could sense her distress at the conflict between having to skip a patch and having to watch the inauguration. Then she brightened and said, “There’s another patch we could do instead. How about a White House patch? The girls can learn about the history of the White House instead.”

We all agreed that this was a great alternative and our girls came out from the meeting where they had (ironically) learned about bullying, how to avoid and address it. We went out to the parking lot, cold and dark under a sky full of stars, and I wondered uneasily when our girls would have to learn about the concept of speaking truth to power.