40 Bags in – Well, Approaching 40 Bags.

The 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge got difficult about a week ago. Chuck and I kind of hit the wall. Part of that was schedule related. I had some long days and a lot of grading to do. Chuck was working some mandatory overtime, and he needed to carve out time to sleep somewhere in his 24 hour cycles. Excuses aside, we weren’t keeping up.

And then Chuck started the Piano Project. We’ve been looking at our antique baby grand piano, a lovely piece of furniture with many memories, just as lovely. No one in the home currently plays piano, unless it’s in the guise of helping Amigo learn his barbershop music. For that purpose, we bought a Yamaha electronic keyboard. It works well and takes up very little space.

The piano is now destined to be repurposed and upcycled. Can an object be both? This one can. Chuck is currently taking it apart, piece by piece, with a goal of creating bookshelves. As he’s working, we are storing all the pieces. This isn’t helping the de-junking project, but it is going to help create space in a big way.

What’s that keyboard doing on my fireplace mantel?

The felt hammers needed to rest in the living room. That’s Amigo’s Spark Plug award on the left, a white elephant gift in the middle, and a cactus on the right.

A cactus in a tuba. Every home should have one.

Meanwhile, Chuck is working diligently to loosen the strings and remove the sound board of this lovely instrument. I pulled out the dampers today and set them aside.

When the project is done, I’ll post a few “After” shots. I think you’ll like it, readers. Maybe you’ll even forget that I didn’t make it to 40 bags in 40 days. Instead, we attacked a major family project.

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The People are Speaking, and Speaking Loudly!

The original Executive Order on immigration was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Or was it the hole in the dike? I have no idea how the protests started. I only know that citizens knew it was wrong. Americans knew they had to take steps to take care of those who fell victim to the timing of this awful, unconstitutional action.

Folks, it’s like the sixties, but with the addition of social media. When word gets out, it goes out far and it gets out fast. As I watched news from airports all over the country, I was struck by the signs. The homemade signs, quickly conceived and quickly made. They didn’t look uniform and artistic like the signs (and hats) of the Women’s March a week earlier, but they looked fantastic.

No hate; no fear; Immigrants are welcome here. No ban; No wall. 

And it gets better.

Mr. Trump, you’re making Voldemort look compassionate!

Immigrants make America great! 

Deport Trump! 

Grandchild of an Immigrant (but she was white and Catholic, so that’s cool, right?)

Fear ignorance, not Muslims.

My grandfather is from Syria.

And a favorite, seen at several airports: 

Give me your tired, your poor; your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the retched refuse of your teeming shores;

Send these, the homeless, tempest, tossed to thee;

I lift my lamp upon the golden door! 

Get used to it, Mr. President. You’re doing dumb things. People will resist. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last time the American people will speak out. Face it; the right of the people to peaceably assemble is still there, in the first amendment, and no executive order will knock it down.

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Project Postcard

I didn’t attend the women’s marches. I didn’t protest the pipeline. I don’t have my senators and representative on speed dial, either. Email is easy to send – so easy, in fact, that many in the legislative branch have inboxes that are full to overflowing, making email actually unlikely to be read.

Nevertheless, I feel I must persist.

La Petite and I have embarked upon the journey we call Project Postcard. Here’s the list of ingredients.

Awesome, artsy postcards

Postcard stamps and an easily accessible source for buying more

Return address labels, complete with zip code

Address labels for our congressional reps and our senators

All this makes it easy to make a statement quickly and get it in the mail immediately. The flashy postcards make the process fun. The stamps and address labels make it easy. We’re ready, so ready, to take on the legislative branch of that three ring circus in Washington, D.C.

Letters to D.C. offices take a while to get through. Remember anthrax? Yeah, the vetting process for mail is lengthy these days. Postcards should go more quickly, right? Well, just in case that process is also super slow for postcards, we ran address labels for our public servants’ local offices, too. Ron Johnson has an office in Oshkosh, Tammy Baldwin in Green Bay. Mike Gallagher’s local staff work out of a nice place in my lovely downtown. La Petite lives in a quasi-suburb of Milwaukee, so she sends her postcards to quasi-suburb Brookfield.

Here’s an example. Concise, to the point, includes the name of the bill and why it’s a bad idea.

No caption needed. Nope.

Mailing after the fact is important, too. My fair state has senators on opposite sides of the aisle and on opposite sides of many issues, as well.

Unqualified? That’s an understatement.

Senator Tammy Baldwin is up for reelection in 2018, and the conservatives are already taking aim at her seat. I plan to let her know when she’s voting wisely, just like I will let Ron Johnson know when he isn’t.

And so Project Postcard begins. Readers, take note. How are you reaching out to contact your elected lawmakers? Town hall meetings? Phone calls? Or will you join us in Project Postcard?

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Why We March – and keep on marching

When they go low, we go high. And that’s why I won’t show you some of the signs from the Women’s March, no matter how clever. I saw plenty held by women my age and older announcing “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this #$@&!” This woman managed to say the same thing without profanity.

‘Nuff said. Or is it?

“Nasty” has become a synonym for strong.

With a piece of poster board and some good paint or markers, these two women made a point that many do not see. We women worked hard to get the right to make decisions about when and whether we’ll bear children. We paid out of our own pockets for birth control for a long, long time.

Many young women don’t know the history. They don’t remember when a woman couldn’t teach school if she became pregnant. Too many women tell stories of how they wore baggier and baggier clothes until they couldn’t hide their growing bellies, at which time they lost their jobs.

I explained in a Facebook thread the very real danger of losing access to birth control and access to health care in general, and the role Planned Parenthood plays in helping young women on both counts. Someone commented – or should I say, shouted? – “Buy your own damn birth control!” Face to face, that person would have looked at me and known I wasn’t one of the young women I mentioned. I am 56, had my last child 25 years ago, and had a hysterectomy three years ago. I am well past my child bearing years. Buy my own? I did, for years, because my health plan didn’t cover it.

This ignorant comment, however, reinforced the need for advocacy. I will continue to be a vocal advocate for women’s rights, especially a women’s rights to control when and whether she will become pregnant.

You can purchase Mary Engelbreit’s print here.

Proceeds from this print, and this print only, will go to Planned Parenthood.

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The Wardrobe of the Rebellion

I bought my Teach Peace sweatshirt last fall. It didn’t seem radical then, but now I wonder whether I should wear it to school or not. I decided yes, I can wear it, because the sentiment is not rebellious. Peace is a valuable, if not exactly realistic, goal.

Nasty Woman gear hit the interwebs after the third debate of the presidential campaign. In the feminist world, the term became synonymous with strong.

Ah, the pink pussy hat! A coworker told me she has one. She leaves it in her car when she gets to school, but she has it. She wears it. She describes it as “cute.” I don’t have one – yet – but the question comes to me: What does it mean to wear this in public? Wearing a pink pussy hat to a rally has a clear meaning: don’t mess with me, celebrity or not. Thousands of women wore them on January 21st, and the world took notice. I predict these hats will stay in style for, oh, at least four years.

The safety pin is still out there, just not as prevalent as it was initially. The trend started in the U.K. and spread via social media to the U.S. after, you know, The Inauguration. The safety pin quietly announces that the wearer is a Safe Person. If someone is being harassed, threatened, and needs help, the victim can reach out to the one with the pin. I see safety pins on Facebook profiles, Twitter hashtags, but few in public. Heck, maybe I don’t travel in the right circles. I know many who consider themselves advocates but don’t wear the pin. This symbol might see a surge in popularity wlong with the surge in deportations.

An old favorite, the Believe There is Good in the World tee shirt, attended the Women’s March in Chicago on my sister-in-law and niece. I wore mine at home – mine being the second I’ve purchased with this slogan because I wore out the first. No matter who leads the free world, I hope many will continue to believe and to Be The Good in the World, too.

The latest on the tee shirt scene is Nevertheless, She Persisted. Senator Elizabeth Warren was “warned, given an explanation; nevertheless, she persisted” to read the now-famous letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing the now-infamous Senator Sessions in his quest to become Attorney General. This slogan has been applied retroactively to Ruby Bridges, Susan B. Anthony, Rosie the Riveter, and more straight up strong women. This one, folks, may last more than four years.

On Election Day in 2012, I slipped my Team Obama tee shirt under a fleece bearing the logo of my employer. Will I do that again? Readers, what are you wearing to the revolution? Your pink cat hats? Teach Peace athletic wear? Something I’ve forgotten? Leave a comment, if you dare.

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Alternative Facts

We’ve all heard them. We disregard them, sometimes even laugh a little at the sheer ridiculousness that someone might want us to believe. Here are a few alternative facts that circulate – wherever.

One size fits all.

Easy open package.

Lifetime warranty.

Easy return policy.

Sanctuary cities are hotbeds of crime.

The dog ate my homework.

Wikipedia rocks.

Painless childbirth.

3 million undocumented immigrants voted in 2016.

Contents not included.

He must have misspoken.

Okay, readers, I’ve made my point. Can you think of others? Add comments for me, please.

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Walk a Mile in my Shoes Empathy Book Club

Sanctuary cities. Executive orders. Airport detentions. A border wall. The news is full of negatives, stereotypes, anger, and fear. What’s missing? Empathy. Here’s a book list to encourage empathy for those who come to America from other cultures, whether voluntarily or as refugees. With the exception of the first title, all are suitable for young people.

  • A Step from Heaven by An Na
  • A Korean family moves to America, and the daughter has to find her inner strength to keep herself and her family whole. Despite her intelligence and ability to learn the language quickly, the girl encounters racism and sexism as she adjusts to her new home.
  • The Late Homecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang
  • The Hmong people were recruited to help American troops during the Vietnam war. After the war, when the new government began to persecute them, the United States provided a safe haven for Hmong refugees. Kao Kalia tells the stories of several generations as they flee Laos through camps in Thailand and eventually settle in the Midwest. The first person accounts make for a powerful read.
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Esperanza is forced to leave Mexico after a tragedy takes her safety and her family’s wealth. She is unprepared for the challenges of living in a new country with no money and no home. Esperanza is Spanish for hope, and 13 year old Esperanza finds her inner strength as she follows a path that leads to hope and a better life. This book won the Newbery Award in 1999.
  • Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhja Lai
  • A new home in Alabama means safety from the Vietnam war, but this family misses their old home in Saigon as they adjust to the new culture, new landscape, and strange foods and customs. Discrimination is rampant for their Asian appearance and poor English skills. A Newbery honor book in 2012 – well worth the time for the amazing writing and heart felt story.
  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord
  • The story takes place in Brooklyn, NY, during 1947. The backdrop of Major League Baseball’s integration helps Shirley Temple Wong and her family adjust to being recent immigrants from China. Winner of many awards, this is a valuable read.
  • Grab Hands and Run  by Francis Temple
  • Felipe is twelve when his father is killed and he must grab hands with his sister and mother and flee El Salvador for safety in Canada. This book follows their long and difficult journey, and includes the dangers they face and their doubts about leaving their home.

Readers, what are some other books you recommend – for young adults or those who are grown-ups?

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We mourned, we marched, and now —

I saw it on social media. “Friday, we mourned. Saturday, we marched. Where will you be next?”

I remembered when we, the educators and the unions, packed the Wisconsin Capitol. We marched, we sang, we protested, and to no avail. Those in power still passed the ugly bill we called Act 10, sending our bargaining rights back by 40 to 50 years. Our numbers, our marches, our voices were ignored.

On Friday, January 20, many turned off the televisions and turned our backs on the scary sight of Donald Trump taking office as President of the United States. On Saturday, even more took to the streets. Rallies in Chicago, Washington D.C., and elsewhere attracted so many people that the corresponding marches could not take place. Attendees were so numerous that they already filled the march routes.

And for what did we march? For our health care, our rights as human beings, our respect – and self respect, too. We marched to remind people that women are scared, and despite our fears and worries, we won’t take any more steps backwards. We marched to say “Hey, we heard you. We heard you mock a disabled reporter. We heard you claim you had the right to grab women in their “pussy” because you were a celebrity. We heard you call immigrants from Mexico rapists and drug dealers. We heard you announce you would prevent people who are Muslim from entering this country, and we heard you suggest a registry for those who follow Islam.”

We heard you, Mr. Trump, and we won’t forget.

The question remains: what’s next? For some, it’ll be donations to Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, or local and state progressive activist groups. For some, it’ll mean participating in more events like Saturday’s march. For others, what’s next will be emails and phone calls to elected officials, whether we voted for them or not.

Trust me on this, folks. I predict further activity. We are women, and we’ll roar, in numbers too big to ignore (Thanks, Helen!). We won’t lose our right to speak freely or peaceably assemble. We won’t lose the rights to make decisions about our own health and our own bodies.

And that, my readers, is where we’re going next.

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Next…moving along, not moving on

I couldn’t watch the inauguration. Late in the day, while we were on the road to take Amigo to La Petite’s for the weekend, I scanned my Facebook page. I kept getting choked up – but not sadness this time. My Facebook newsfeed was filled with friends and acquaintances determined to make themselves heard.

Several showed off their pink knit pussy hats for the rallies and marches. Those pink hats on display say very clearly “We are women, hear us roar!” and “Hands off my body, you jerk.” Their presence at rallies and in marches shouted out a reminder of an inspiring woman: women’s rights are human rights.

Now here it is, Saturday, and I’m not marching. I worked on grades for progress reports, and then I started the weekly task I call laundry. Meanwhile, my friends marched. Several in Madison, at least two in Washington, D.C., a significant handful in Chicago, a few in California and Washington state – and more.

And before I forget (yeah, right), I have one more quote to share. It’s a wonderful moment when the student surpasses the teacher. This statement came from a former student, a recent college graduate. She has the right attitude.

Today, and for the next 4 years, I will show love. I will fight for equality, for human rights, for women, for science, for education. But most of all, I will use the privileges I have been given to show love to those who will need it most, so that their world may look just a little bit brighter.

Well said.

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Eight Years Ago

Memories — Recipe for an Historic Inauguration
Take one republic, preheated by
Wars
Poverty and
Health care crises.
Blend worries, industry failures, job losses
Top with slashed budgets and crashing morale.
Mix dedicated candidates with
Intelligence
Experience
and Passion.
Nurture from deep grass roots
Seek hope, change, and motivation.
Beat at high speeds until competition peaks.
Organize. Volunteer. Vote.Set aside to cool.
Season with Knowledge
Insight
Plans and Ideas
Fold in global perspective,
Authentic world view.
Ship by train to nation’s capital.
Set atop quality cabinet.

Serve with courage and inspiration.

photo credit: La Petite, at a rally last June

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