Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Personal Action Plan: A Rough Start


I loved 
Madison Mahdia Lynn's suggestions, so I'm writing them out here. If you're feeling like a bit of flotsam in a sea of tears, give this a try for yourself - feel free to start from my list. Also, it's often the case that others can see you more clearly than you see yourself. Do you have insights for me? Let me know.

STEP ZERO: Give yourself a moment to breathe.
This was the first two weeks. Now I need to multitask.

STEP ONE: Make a list of what you’re good at.
Writing (incl. coming up with effective slogans and bringing humor)
Attention to detail
Discount shopping
Using the phone
Passion for ALL THE THINGS

STEP TWO: Make a list of your limitations.
Public speaking (I can do it, and I might be good at it, but it's emotionally taxing)
Inability to directly confront problems ... which is going to be fun for me
Constraints due to having a toddler (time available, time of day issues)
Limited funds
Few connections to organizations

STEP THREE: Make a list of people and organizations that need support.
I'm gonna need another set of tiny hands to count these on.

Boys & Girls Club
Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Prevention

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Freedom of Speech/Press

Political Activism

Racial Equality
The Anti-Defamation League

Refugee/Immigrant Assistance

Reproductive/Women's Rights - a 4-star charity for 14 years straight

Madison Area
Outreach (LGBT support)

STEP FOUR: Make a list of people and organizations you are connected with.
Madison NOW
My workplace
My former workplaces (some, at least)
Spousal Unit's workplace
Our alma mater
Several Facebook mom groups
My Facebook group for those who want to support each other
Everyone who reads my blog?
And my Twitter, which I've been active with for like two days

STEP FIVE: Put it all together.
Spitballing ideas here for the night - not sure what the best option might be. Some could be long term or short term.

Use my blog as a platform for local resistance issues; reach out to others in the area and work together so that we can be cohesive.

Start knitting scarves for the March for Science.

Make three phone calls to elected officials every week.

Run for office? I've thought about it recently, but I don't know politics well (and also, I hate politics, which could be a problem).

Work with Madison NOW to host a diversity and inclusion training for a broader audience (this is kinda sorta in the works).

Make fun of Trump constantly.

Provide slogan ideas for protest signs, etc.

Send cookies to Tammy Baldwin. Because why the fuck not.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The World Turned Upside Down: A Modernization


The World Turned Upside Down was written in protest of Parliament. Legend says that the song, referenced in the musical Hamilton, was played by the British Army upon their surrender to the United States.

Listen to me and you shall hear of government gaslighting, opulence, fear:
Since Galileo in days of yore, you never heard the like before.
The truth is despised, “alt facts” are devised,
And science is kicked out of town.
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turned upside down.

Astrophysicists did rejoice to see gravity waves; others sang with one voice
That climate change is humanity’s thing, that now genes may receive editing.
(Let all honest folk take example and note
That truth is not false, being bound.)
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turned upside down.
Our Commander thinks himself a king, reddens to hear we’re organizing;
Upon the border he’ll set a wall; Muslims already are part of the thrall.
He profits on pain: an incubus reign.
His soul’s a moral ghost town.
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turned upside down.
Command is given, we must obey, and quite forget Obama’s day:
For our constitution, a funeral pyre; for those who resist, a narcissist’s ire.
Such fear and such hate (which I won’t advocate);
Will he gag everyone with his crown?
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turned upside down.
Old white men do sit and whine; fragility works overtime:
Their plan to make America great keeps diversity from the debate.
“Wait and see” is their bald-faced decree;
Democracy’s not his playground.
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turned upside down.
To conclude, stay focused, woke in your vigil: this is not normal, our gilded official.
The barred glass ceiling soon will break as parks declare the change they’ll make.
We’ll protest and plummet this Putinist puppet;
Let “we the people” resound.
Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turned upside down.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Activism in a "Post-Factual" America


The next four years will be hard for this country. Our rights will be hacked at with ice picks, machetes, toothpicks that introduce cracks in the foundation. It is Day 1 and the White House's climate change webpage has already disappeared, along with the LGBT, civil rights, and ACA pages. Trouble is not brewing; trouble is here.

So what can we do about it? Groundwork has some great starting points on their site, and I listed a few details more below.

Artist Haley Gilmore

Educate yourself.
What issues matter to you? Learn about them. What issues matter to others? Learn, and then fight for those too. "A healthy society is one in which those at the center scream in agony when those furthest away are cut."

Make calls.
Phone calls are the most effective method of contacting elected officials. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to call on a regular basis. Keep your senators' contact info bookmarked (or on speed dial) so you don't have to look them up every time. Take 10 minutes out of your lunch break, one day a week, and pick an issue. If you're nervous about what to say once you call, write out one or two sentences. That's all you need. Remember to be polite and make a connection with the person on the phone if you can - making a good impression means the staffer is more likely to discuss your call with others.

When organized, civil protests happen, take part. If one isn't organized and should be, make it happen. Be safe and put everything through legal channels, but remember that change doesn't happen through armchair activism alone. This is going to take some hard work.

Pick an issue and get involved. The issue I've chosen is women's rights, and I've joined the National Organization for Women. It's easier to join up with others who are already working on issues than to start from square one, so grab your friends and get involved.

Not everyone has time available to spend, so reach out to the groups that will suffer most in the upcoming years. See the list I've assembled here. You can also donate to organizations in your city/state, such as women's rights groups and domestic violence shelters.

Support political candidates.
If you don't know of a rock star in office right now, research, find one, and back them up. Learn about up-and-coming candidates for local or state offices whose policies you admire. Vocalize your support through phone calls, letters, guidance about what kind of world you want to see, etc. We need to start putting more progressives in office yesterday. 

Run for office.
This doesn't have to be a senate position. You can start at a neighborhood level. Get into your neighborhood association. Teach them why it's so important for us to all stick together, why supporting rights for those who are different from us will keep our own rights in place. 

Send letters to people. Sure, signing petitions online can have some impact, but you can better effect change by putting things into your own words and sharing your own experiences. If repealing the ACA will personally affect you, tell your senator why. . 

Reach out.
We need to contact more than just our elected officials. The only way we survive this new administration is together. Step out of your comfort zone. Make friends with those who are different from you. Learn about things that you never realized were under threat. Be a support to those around you so that if we should need help from one another, we all have someone to turn to and know what others need. This post is from shortly after the election, but is still mind-opening and relevant.

You'll probably make mistakes here and there. That's okay; I will too. You might stick your foot in your mouth sometimes. That's okay, you'll survive. But if we don't speak out, some people might not.

If you have other suggestions that I can add to this list, please share. 

Artist Micah Bazant

Activism in a "Post-Factual" America: Donations

If you're looking for causes to donate time or goods to or volunteer for, here are a few. You can find another list here. If you want to check these out more carefully, view them on; I haven't done so for all of these yet. Please share this with others. 

Boys & Girls Club
Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Prevention

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Freedom of Speech/Press

Global Warming

Legal Defense

LGBT Rights

Political Activism

Racial Equality
The Anti-Defamation League

Refugee/Immigrant Assistance

Reproductive/Women's Rights - a 4-star charity for 14 years straight

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Personal Goals: 2017

Having made lists like this for many years, I'm starting now to better recognize my limits and reasonable expectations. Here are 20 goals for the year; I hope to accomplish 15 of them.

The above paragraph makes me feel old.

1. Have specific "me" time once a month

2. Complete three home projects from the following list (roughly in preferential order)
  • Fix the driveway
  • Fix the toilet
  • Hem the white curtains that are floating around the basement somewhere (for the bedroom)
  • Have Troy and Sam over for a renovation party (yaaaaay)
  • Paint bedroom trim white
  • Get and hang new bedroom blinds
  • Get an A/C tune-up
  • Redo the tea room (more shelves, hang calligraphy)
  • Paint and re-carpet the basement steps
  • Replace a window?
3. Continue to attend NOW meetings

4. Go to Dragonfly Yoga regularly and/or do yoga at home once a week 

5. Knit Ingrid another sweater

6. Knit myself hand warmers with a freaking I-cord so I don't lose the damn things a fourth time
  • Bonus if I also finish the second sock in the pair I started four years ago
7. Replace the broken mandolin string

8. Clean out old financial papers
  • Bonus: Develop a better storage system (meaning any at all)
9. Attend a swim class with Ingrid

10. Save money through three of the following
  • Fix the phone plan
  • Shop at Aldi once a month
  • Have a "buy nothing" week at least four times to clean out the kitchen cupboards and use up fridge items
  • Only get takeout or go out to eat for special occasions - as part of this, keep frozen meals on hand
  • Ask for an internet service discount (because I definitely won't get one if I don't ask)
  • Get a clothing rack so we use the dryer less
  • Keep track of pet food deals, look for coupons, and stock up
  • Write down personal expenses and amounts
11. Write twice a month at minimum, with at least one blog post here per month--one post will be about a book I'll read this year

12. A personal goal that I don't care to divulge here

13. Record Ingrid's reading list on Goodreads

14. Get new tires for Yorick (the little car)

15. Go on a family camping trip

16. Make krumkake

17. Remember that afghan I made three years ago? Sew in the ends and give it an edging.

18. Have a tea party (much like my friend Sandy)

19. Send my novel to three people for review (volunteers?)
  • Bonus: Re-read it myself
20. Finally buy one of these ottomans with a reversible tray that I've been eyeing for months (for the craft corner)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Personal Goals: 2016 Recap

Hi! It's been a while. Consider this my attempt at getting back to it. Um. Again.

I didn't post it here, but at the beginning of 2017, I made a list of 21 goals for myself.

1. Reread The Happiness Project's chapter on clutter - done
2. Complete at least three home improvement tasks - done

  • Replace front window with a bay window
  • Get tools (jigsaw and sander, not that I used them)
  • Get rid of stuff we don't use, including a lot of clothes
  • Fix the driveway ... kind of. It still needs new asphalt.
  • Paint house
  • Get/make a file cabinet/bench

3. Do an activity with Tickle once a month over the year - done, including an awesome family vacation
4. Exercise more - nope
5. Play mandolin more - I broke one of the strings; does that count?
6. Create craft corner - done, and I love it!
7. Send Grandpa lefse - hand delivered, along with cookies made from his grandma's recipe
8. Make krumkake - nope
9. Start food/garden share with neighbors - sure, I'll allow it
10. Craft and hang Germany frames - done, and they look nice (now I just have to rotate out the pictures)
11. Frame and hang the Avatar poster - done
12. Get a haircut at least twice over the year - done! I think I got three.
13. Write for at least two minutes/day - nope
14. Finish at least eight books - no ... I read two and half of two others.
15. Sew a clothing item - no, but I'm counting it. I knitted a lot.
16. Pay up on the mortgage - nope
17. Create a mutual fund for Ingrid - nope
18. Get a shower clock/mirror - yes
19. Cut down time online - I'm satisfied with my online time this year.
20. Weed more than twice; put down mulch - done
21. A personal goal that I don't care to divulge - done

So I met 14 of my 21 goals (at least sort of). I'm pleased with this. The goals were simple and, for the most part, reasonable. I'm still going to try to keep my list shorter for next year, though. I especially like the way I arranged my home improvement goal, so I'll reprise that.

I was feeling pretty bummed about my lack of reading this year until a friend pointed out that, while she fell short of her own reading goal, her relationships and job were all going well, and that's substantively more important. So while I met 67% of my goals (great in my opinion, but still a D), I made a lot of good memories and took strides that can't be quantified. I now have thousands more pictures and had lots of wonderful conversations with beautiful minds. I did great things that aren't even listed here, like going to the Weird Al concert and FREAKING KOREA. I read Tickle the same five books way more than eight times each.

In that sense, it was a very good year.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Subconscious Wisdom

First of all, my postpartum depression post has quickly become the most viewed one I've ever written. You are all amazing - thank you for all the support. I hope that post has helped many of you in some way.

Here's a bit of an expansion on that. I mentioned that I had two dreams that led to my decision to take meds; they were so vivid and spoke so clearly that I still recall them in detail seven months later.

The First

Tickle was two and a half months old, and I couldn't admit to myself yet that I was experiencing PPD. And then I dreamed.

I saw a drawing. That was it: a simple drawing that could have been a cartoon clipped out of a newspaper. It was an alphabet quilt, colored in brown scale on a bright white background. Each square of the quilt was its own letter, with a corresponding animal family: A for alligator, B for bear, and so on. But in each panel, one parent played energetically with the child and smiled happily, while the other parent sat by themselves to one side, either looking away or looking at the other two as they played, wearing an expression of worry or anger or sadness.

I especially remember the zebra family. The baby zebra was so happy with the little wooden train (with an expression that Spousal Unit calls "unfettered joy"), pushing it while the mom smiled and lovingly rested a hoof on his back. But the zebra dad was sitting by himself, looking away, visibly upset.

On waking, I immediately realized that yes, I'd been feeling depressed. It's not like I'm a stranger to the feeling; I've dealt with it most of my life. But I was able to acknowledge that it was more than hormones and difficulty adjusting, because the thing that struck me most about the dream was that in each panel of that quilt, a parent was missing out on his or her child having fun and growing up, unable to appreciate the good times.

I knew I had already missed out on too much and had to do something about it.

The Second

Two weeks later, I had been trying to follow a new routine, doing my best (but still failing) to actively hold back the worst of my depression while continuing to see my therapist. If I were to take meds, I had to start right away for them to have any effect before my maternity leave ended. I'd filled the prescription and even brought it home, but still felt unsure about taking them.

(Looking back, I don't know that I even remember why I was so divided. Part was probably not wanting to depend on a drug for happiness, which is a flawed view - it's more about allowing me to experience a proper range of emotions. I think it mostly had to do with taking them while breastfeeding. My doctor had given me the most well-researched prescription and assured me that any amount that might reach Tickle was negligible and harmless, but still, I worried. Because I'm really, really good at it. If it were an Olympic event, I'd take home the gold every time.)

And then I dreamed.

In the dream, Tickle was born as twins and immediately whisked away from me. Birth had been so intense that for a while, I thought it had been a dream, especially without the babies at my side; the nurses and doctors wouldn't tell me anything, either. But after repeated confrontation, they admitted what had happened, and I went off in search of my daughters in the cold, industrial-sized hospital. I finally found Tickle in the dark hospital NICU, which was lit up with awful red lights. I clutched her to me and it was clear that she had no issues at all - she was small and so very new, but healthy as could be. They had only taken her away from me because they (whoever they were) thought it was best for her. But I knew that was wrong. I knew that she needed me.

Holding her tightly, I left the NICU and encountered the hospital director and a few other staff, who had been trying to chase me down and keep me from finding the babies. I was so upset that when the old balding director provided a weak apology for the situation, I clutched newborn Tickle tightly in one arm and swung out at him with my right.

You know how in dreams, you always end up moving as though through water? Fighting is completely ineffective and you can never run fast enough. But that wasn't the case with this dream. I gave the director several solid punches, all while yelling at him and holding my little girl close. I was able to defend and protect her, because I would do anything for her.

I woke up feeling exhilarated and empowered, and knew that desire to do anything for her extended to improving my mental health. I took the first pill immediately, with a smile on my face.

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