Low Cost But Meaningful Christmas Gifts for My Teen

​I am a single parent who doesn’t have very much money this Christmas. Makig matters worse is that my oldest son’s birthday is on December 28.

I had $50 for his gifts. Amazingly, or perhaps I should say predictably, inspiration came for gifts whose sentimental value exceeded their purchase price.

I bought the following items for the following reasons (which I’m going to write in small attached cards):

A mini globe ($10) to remind him that there is a whole world of opportunities and people out there. Whenever he feels stuck, he needs to step back and look at the big picture. There is always more to our lives than we usually see in the moment.

A mini lantern ($5) to encourage him to always look for the light in the darkness. And to remind him that sometimes he will have to be that light, for himself and for others.

A compass ($15) to help him discover his personal true north, i.e., the values that he can’t compromise on. Once he knows what those are, I am hoping every decision he makes is guided by those values. (Mine are compassion and hope.)

A small hourglass ($10) to remind him that time is precious and goes by too fast. I am hoping he learns the value of time management and in so doing manages to live a life without regretting how he spent the time behind him.

I’m really proud of these and I hope he will love them… 

If you are tight on cash, I encourage you to think about small gifts with big meaning.

Happy holidays, my friends.

All Politics Are Local (Reflections on an Election)

I’ll be honest, I had no idea what I signed up for when I submitted my paperwork to run on the last filing day. I have learned a great deal and I would like to share these lessons with you.

 

1. Nonpartisan elections are surprisingly political.

 

2. The politics within one’s own party can be worse than the politics between the parties. Moreover, the politics within our own parties are notably more painful because it is like having a fight with a loved one rather than a stranger. I don’t care what a stranger says about me, but I care a great deal about what a friend or loved one says.

 

3. You will like some candidates on the other side as much as you like some on your own side. This should not be a source of discord and yet it usually is.

 

In the last three months, I have befriended candidates and candidate spouses, some of whom were on a slate or affiliated with a group of candidates other than my own. Party or slate loyalty should not, and does not, preclude genuine respect or affection for anyone else.

 

I consider myself to be incredibly blessed by these new friendships, some of which may be short-lived, but others I expect to be long-term. In either case, however, my life has been enriched by these relationships.

 

4. Even though I look at my campaign and identify many missteps and mistakes, I am comforted by knowing that I was not alone.

 

I have a great deal of respect for every person who ran their race while I ran mine. In particular, I feel a deep bond with the many candidates who, like myself, had never run for office before. Together, we navigated the choppy waters of local politics. Regardless of the outcome on Saturday night, I am proud of all of us.

 

5. I have been humbled by the people who have supported me in this process. I wish I had the words to convey my gratitude to each and every person who has given me (and my campaign) their time, their attention, their support, and their money. Every kind word, every phone call made, every block walked, every person my name was passed to, every dollar donated… I am grateful for every single one of these things. I am grateful to all of you.

 

6. You will anger people without trying to and you will be misunderstood, more than once. The people who matter are the people who come to you directly to address these instances. Some people, however, will not do that and you have to let those misunderstandings, and those people, go.

 

7. Politically active people are passionate people. Conflict is inevitable. But forgiveness follows (or should follow) in short order because we are essentially a family. The people who piss me off the most are also the people for whom I feel a great affection.

 

Dysfunctional or not, I love the misfits of my party. I can only hope the feeling is mutual.

All Politics Are Local (Early Voting)

Early voting: Day One

I started at CP Library. A.V. (Rep candidate for city council) and A.R. (Tea Party candidate for city council) were both there with three volunteers each. The volunteers had set up camping chairs and coolers. Very well organized. (Naturally.)  In addition, AV had two firefighters poll greeting for him (nice touch).

Most of the people who came to vote were Republicans who eagerly accepted the tea party slate sheet from AR. I kept overhearing about keeping our growing ciry “suburban”

I saw a series of candidate yard signs that had been pulled out and put against a tree. Mostly Dems but also three Republicans. I put everyone’s signs back up and left.

Next stop was the school district’s adminstrative building with volunteer Laura. I was grilled by a voter who was clearly conservative. It was fine but I know he didn’t like ANY of my answers.  (Damn you bonds!!)

I then went to SH Library.  Again, all the voters seemed to be conservative. 

 I’m not going to lie, it was a bummer.

I lost 15 minutes of my life that I will never get back to a woman who thinks that boys should use the boys room and girls should use the girls room and we are either male or female and none of this “it” nonsense.  She said she is gunning to replace the current mayor because he surreptitiously passed a law that “lets boys go into the girls bathroom!”  (Oh, and she will never shop at Target again, FYI.)  She was practically frothing at the mouth.

When I pretended my phone was vibrating, she moved on to the tea party person and I could hear the sheer delight of two hate mongers who have found each other after being adrift in a dirty sea of kindness, acceptance and civility.

The highlight, however, was when another woman came up and said, “just tell me who the conservatives are… so I can not vote for them.” That was great. I stepped in and pulled her away from the other poll greeters because she was clearly mine. 🙂

The second highlight was turning to the tea party guy, grabbing one of his handouts, turning to her and saying “these are the people you DON’T want to vote for.” (This was highly satisfying because: 1) the tea party goon heard me; and 2) the handout was really nice and laminated… i.e. not cheap.)

Outside of that, everyone else that came was conservative. They hate apartments, they hate equality, they hate protesters.

Finally, I returned to the first library with my son. He was tasked with approaching voters to give them my card. Nothing warms a candidate’s heart more than an ambivalent teen saying, with no enthusiasm, “vote for my mom. She’s great.” I actually started to worry that he was making people less likely to vote for me.

N. K. (Tea Party candidate for school board) was also poll greeting. I got an earful about a dem supporting sending out a PR piece about NK being a creationist. It took every ounce of restraint I had to not say, “that was nothing, wait until you see the one comparing the local tea party to the KKK.” 

Speaking of which, word on the street is that my opponent, JR., is not supported strongly by the right.  All I know is that she is on a tea party slate.  I want to win but I’m not prepared to sell my soul to do it.

This is what Dallas looks like…

And so the fight continues from Northern Texas.

Tonight, I took my son (13) to Terminal D at DFW Airport to protest Donald Trump’s refusal to comply with the federal court order to allow green card and visa holding foreign nationals to enter the US.  I was picked up by fellow resisters Margie and Laura, two women I met on the lonely Dealey Plaza protest in December.

I wasn’t planning on going but decided to at the last minute, causing me to engage in my now trademark mad dash sign making process with unsuitable tools (like acrylic paint, which sounds like it would work but it’s not great as a sign-making medium).

My son proved less malleable this time around as I tried to foist upon him a sign that read, “President must comply with court order.”  He stood his ground and insisted on holding the “Trump is Anti-American” sign, admittedly the catchier of the two.  There is a real art to this sign making business.  Not an art I’ve mastered, of course, but other people are killing it.

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This face says, “my mom’s a lawyer and she made my sign.”

My fellow resisters picked us up around 4.  Margie brought her 13 year old son, an industrious young man who had the foresight to actually video tape all of these events with a video camera and not with a cell phone that would die an hour into one’s efforts to document the beauty of civil unrest.  (Yes, that was me.)

Laura brought her 17 year old daughter, who IS mastering the art of sign making because her sign read, “The Greatest Commandment of All is Love” and it was beautiful.

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Sorry, this is the only pic I have of her great sign.

I sat in the back with the three teens and was subjected to comments like, “Facebook has been taken over by adults.”  Just for laughs I told them that being an adult was awesome.  (Not to get too political here, but they should have the same unrealistic expectations about how cool that is as my generation did.)

We parked in the garage and as we unloaded our signs from the trunk, I saw that Margie had been accumulating sign making tools.  She had poster boards of various sizes, at least a dozen wide markers of various colors, small dowels and tape.  It was quite impressive and a testament to the mistake of pissing mothers off.

We, the women who start off carrying a small human’s weight of accouterments for our infants, frequently spend the rest of our lives being trying to be prepared while mobile.  If we don’t have something the first time around, you know we will have it the second time around. (In fact, when my phone died, Margie reported that she had a portable charger in her backpack.  I marveled at how prepared she was, to which she responded, “I’m getting better as I go!”  Aren’t we all?)

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In the parking garage!

We went to the main floor in terminal D, passed baggage claim and walked down a long, wide hallway toward arrivals.  On our way, we passed Muslims in prayer, persons lined up along the walls who had clearly been there for hours (if not since Saturday), and small children sleeping on the chairs nailed to the floor.   The hallway opened up into a large well-lit area into which the double sliding doors of the arrivals gate would open.

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Prayers.
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Children.

There were hundreds of people: men, women and children of all ethnicities.  The Dallas police had cordoned off the walkways leading to the sliding doors and protesters were amassed behind yellow tape. The police looked beleaguered but, to be fair, millions of Americans are feeling equally beleaguered, hence protests like this.

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We looked for a place to stand and several protesters made space for us to join them.  We chanted (“Let them go” and “move Trump get out of the way,” “we are one, we are free, this is the land of liberty,” “this is what democracy looks like”) and held our signs above our heads.

We talked to the people around us and took photos of protesters and signs.   (Having torn my son away from the x-box on a Sunday resulted in several photos of him looking like a detainee himself. His face said, “set THEM free?  how about setting ME free?”)

We cheered people who came through the arrival doors, although the process of cheering seemed a big haphazard to me.  Was it just based on entrants who looked Muslim?  Clearly this was an imperfect albeit well-intentioned process.  People were handing out warm pizza, fried chicken wings and bottles of water.

I was thanked by several women in hijabs, which broke my heart.

The entire experience, however, was beautifully and quintessentially America (from the chants to the chicken wings.)

In the end, all persons being held were released.  A representative of the families involved spoke to the crowd.  He thanked the protesters, the police, the attorneys.  He reminded the crowd that we have to continue to be prepared to amass and to protest.  We have to remain vigilant because the attacks on marginalized groups will continue.  He said that the protests are part of why everyone was ultimately allowed to enter.  The protests brought the attention of media and attorneys.

As we filed out of the terminal, I told my son why we were there.

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Diversity is what makes America great.

We were there because the world needs to see that millions of Americans, indeed, a majority of voting Americans, do not support Trump and his agenda.

We were there because hate is not an American value.

We were there because fear makes us weak, not great.

We were there because we are a nation of immigrants and refugees and the conservative agenda is painfully, comically, hypocritical.

We were there because protests matter.  The history of America is a history of protest and dissent.

We were there because when you have a chance to be there, you should be there.  

If you ever wonder if you go and join a group of people gathering to fight injustice or governmental wrongdoing, please go.  Just go.  Showing up matters.  Go alone if you have to because you will not be alone once you get there.  

And you know what else?  You may actually change someone else’s life by going… and you will definitely change your own.

You have a voice.  I urge you to use it… preferably in-person. Signs are optional.  Chanting is fun.

When in doubt, just go.  (Tell your kids that there might be pizza.)

And blog about it when you’re done!

(Please note that yes, I realize that fathers can be super organized and prepared too.  I speak about moms because I am a mom and the people I spend time with are, frequently although not exclusively, mothers as well.)

This is what freedom looks like, Texas.

This is my third protest installment.  I seem to always be writing and posting shortly before midnight, and I’m starting to suspect that there are more optimal times to publish a blog.  I could “schedule” to publish later, but I’m a terribly impatient person, so, it is what it is.

Immediately after the election, I had created a meet-up to bring together progressives who were anxious to show up, in person, in real life, to voice dissent to the Trump administration.  We had named our group the Liberty Tree (in an effort, in part, to reappropriate our revolutionary heritage), but many of us came from the newly formed Pantsuit Republic (the Texas action-oriented arm born of our membership in Pantsuit Nation prior to the election).

Now it seems that our Collin County/North Dallas group is morphing into Indivisible TX-3 (for the third Texas congressional district), a part of the Indivisible group.  I share this with you simply because I am marveling at the powerfully fluid process of grassroots movements.  We are swimming in a sea of resistance, my friend, and the tide is swelling.

As a fledgling protester, I wanted to share some observations.

When I left my temp job to go to Senator Cornyn’s Dallas office at lunch, I didn’t know if I would see or find anyone I knew.  But the beauty of activism is that you don’t have to know anyone.  When you show up with your sign or just willing to answer (“Fight Back”) a call (“Stand Up!”), you are immediately among friends.  Today, there were about 250 people present (as part of Trump Tuesdays), most of whom did not know each other, yet there was not a stranger present.  It is really so much more comforting and welcoming than I ever could have imagined.

If you are thinking about showing up to some random protest, do it.  Even if you come alone, realize that you will not be alone once you come.

I made a FB Live video, asking participants why they came.  Many came because they opposed Devos as possible education secretary.  We all see her appointment for what it is:  dismantling public education so we can further divide Americans between the wealthy and the poor.  Others were there because they see our democracy devolving into an oligarchy.  We are not melodramatic, we are observant.

I then thought about and answered my own question…

I came this afternoon because I wanted Trump to know that the Women’s marches were just the beginning.  I want him, and all the Republicans who support him, to realize that their opposition is just warming up.

I also came because the best way to protect a right is to exercise it.  I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that my right to assemble and protest has been significantly abridged.  If you are going to restrict my rights, I will be a witness to that process.  I will not lose a right from lack of interest or inadvertence.  You will pry my rights from my cold, dead hands.  And that is what makes me a quintessential American.

When we walk, carry signs and chant, we are performing a civic duty.   We are preserving the rights that our forefathers and foremothers fought to secure for this new nation.  And every person who has come to America and who identifies with its freedoms has an obligation to fight oppression.

To Trump and the merry idiots supporting him, I offer this warning:  revolution is our inheritance–more so than any other country in the history of the world.  We are revolutionaries.  We resist and oppose and dissent and, ultimately, we prevail.  

At Cruz’s office last week, we had 40 people.  Today, at Cornyn’s office, we had 250.  Every week we will have more.

Senators, we are just warming up.

(This was originally written at http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/1/24/1624788/-This-is-what-freedom-looks-like-Senator-Cornyn)

Thoughts on Dreams… well, thoughts on La La Land

When I was younger, I loved acting.  As the youngest of four daughters, I was always very melodramatic as a child.  As a teen, I was in a play in Richmond, California (at the East Bay Center for Performing Arts) and I felt like I was home.  Then, when I was 17, I was actually cast in an independent film.

I had learned about the film from an acting class that I was taking in someone’s living room in Berkeley (no, I’m not joking).  For several weeks prior to the audition, I watched “Mississippi Burning” so I could master a southern accent (which was sought by casting). Three weeks prior to leaving California to attend the University of Montana, I went to the audition.

The movie was to be set in the 60s, so I wore a cotton tank top with wide straps and narrow-legged capris.  I pushed my dark hair back with a thick headband and curled the ends of my hair inwards.  After the audition (which was filmed by a massive camcorder ala Sex Lies and Videotape), I was complimented on my accent (“I thought you were really from the South,” the casting director commented approvingly).  I loved everything about the experience.

About a week after getting to Round Up, Montana, and before classes started, I had a message on our California voicemail to call the producers of this film.  From a pay phone in front of a small diner near (but not on Main Street), I called the filmmakers.  I was offered the role.  But I was in already in Montana and my mother told me I couldn’t return to California for the film because I was “too smart to be an actress.”

So I spent one semester at the University of Montana and it was universally awful.   A year later, I ended up at a different college.  After graduating from college, I went to Georgetown for law school.

I loathed law school.  In my second year of law school, I was cast as the ingénue in a community theater production of a British sex farce entitled “Not Now, Darling.”  This was one of the happiest experiences of my life.

But I was too smart to be an actress.  So I graduated from law school.  I never found my way or my passion.  Now I have $180,000 in student loans and I’m a single mom working a temp legal job living in a small apartment with no saving and no college fund for my kids.

And at 43, I’m sitting on the carpeted floor near the entrance of theater number 17 in Plano, Texas, typing this on my cell phone while La La Land plays on the big screen.

La La Land is about fidelity to things your love.  The irony is not lost on me.

I know my mother thought she was doing what was best for me when she refused to let me go back to California for the film.  But opportunities to do something you love are few and far between.  If you get a chance to pursue your dream, no matter how far-fetched it seems, then do it.  Just do it.  It seems to me, in hindsight, that the smartest people are those who follow what they love.

 

It’s Not Over. (Thoughts from a lonely protest in Texas.)

(Written first on Daily Kos.)

Tonight, my son (13) and I went to Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas for a political rally.

I saw an event on Facebook posted by a group called Women & Allies and I decided it was time for my son to learn what being an American is really about.

While frantically painting protest signs and trying to arrange a carpool (because everything I do is at the last minute and poorly planned), I explained to him that one of the defining features of being American is having the freedom of speech.

(Case in point: when someone screamed “TRUMP!!” out of his pickup truck, I explained that just like we had the right to carry our clever signs, that fine gentleman had the right to be poorly informed and belligerent.)

After painting two signs that read, “President-Elect Trump, From Russia with Love,” we joined a woman I met through Pantsuit Republic (Collin County) and headed downtown.

(Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, one side of one of the signs read, “President ELECT Trump SUCKS” because this was our first foray into sign making and we were short on time and, for this side, short on space.  My son said it was pretty immature, messaging-wise, and I told him that was okay because it was the sign I was going to make him carry.)

But I digress.  Around 6:45, we found a small group of people near the Grassy Knoll (yes, THE Grassy Knoll, not A grassy knoll).  I found it entirely appropriate that the scene of our protest, with about 20 people, was in front of flags at half-mast.  (Of course, I think all of our flags, across the country, should fly at half-mast until the inauguration.  Then, if Trump is inaugurated, they should be flown upside down.)

I’m proud to report that while I was trying to meet the people on the knoll, my son grabbed his sign and, with no prompting from me, began walking up and down Main Street.  In fact, I had to stop chatting to join him.  I’m also happy to report that we were joined in our walking by a great young woman named Fany, who did not have a sign but did have a glow stick and, apparently, an activist’s heart.

There we were.  My son and I and Fany, walking up and down Main Street.  There was a small collection of activists behind us on the grass.  They had hung a large fabric sign on the bushes that read, “Dallas Supports the Hamilton Electors.”  We had one organizer join our walk when she realized her t-shirt was a sign.  It read, “Fuck Trump.”  (Right on.)

In the hour and a half that we walked up and down Main Street, we got about a dozen positive responses from the cars driving by (honks and flashing lights on high), including the (usually scary/stressful) “whoop whoop” of a Dallas police van that switched on it’s siren momentarily.

We had one large pickup truck veer abruptly toward the curb, slow down to scream “Trump,” and then peel off in a way that left us standing in an alarming large exhaust cloud (how did that truck pass the annual emissions inspection??).  But we also had another driver of a large pick up truck later scream “Fck Trump!”  This was an important lesson on making assumptions.  I pulled my son away from the curb when the second large pick up truck slowed a bit (after the first large truck veered toward the sidewalk aggressively), and we were all pleasantly surprised by the expletives directed at Trump (and, well, not us).

We had three people walk by and laugh in agreement with the signs and five people sort of hang around with stone faces.  I was guessing the latter were tourists, but who visits Dealey Plaza after dark?  Besides protesters and a few passing-by locals?  No matter…

Do you know what does matter?  We were there.

On a seemingly random Monday night, we were there.

For the people who drove by, we were there.

For the people who were wondering “does it even matter now?”, we were there.

For the people thinking that there is nothing you can do, we were there.

For the people tempted to accept the insanity of Trump as “just how it is now,” we were there.

For the people thinking that this fight is over, we were there.

I was not disappointed by the small number of attendees.  I was inspired and invigorated.  Every one of us was there because we care, and we care enough to be there on a chilly, windy Monday night. Every one of us was there because not being present was harder than staying home at this point. Every one of us was there because we believed it is vital that others see us there.  Our presence tells others, in Texas, that they are not alone.

And we have not yet begun to fight.

For many of us, election night of 2016 was not the end, it was just the beginning.  We will be on the right side of history.  What was 20 tonight will be 20,000 next month and then 2 million next year. But first, you have to show up.  

And tonight, my son and I did just that.