Author Archives: mrswhatsit9

Take The Credit

Just yesterday, lots of parents across the US woke up to some great news: up to $300 a month PER KID showing up in their bank accounts, courtesy of the Biden/Harris agenda and the Democratic party. This money is “fully refundable,” which means even if you don’t owe any federal taxes normally, you’ll still get it.

It is the most significant anti-poverty program since the New Deal. It will cut the child poverty rate in HALF.

Some truly historic things have happened in the past almost six months since Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated:

  • 336 million vaccine shots administered
  • 160 million Americans fully vaccinated
  • $1400 stimulus checks in 160 million pockets
  • Adding $7.2 billion to the Paycheck Protection Plan, with a focus on assisting small businesses
  • 15 of 19 federal judiciary appointments are WOMEN (11 of them women of color), a historic ratio
  • Rejoining the UN Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization, and the Paris Climate Accord
  • Revoking the global gag rule
  • FINALLY ending the forever war in Afghanistan

And we are [this] close to a $3 trillion investment in critical infrastructure improvements and repairs (it is FINALLY Infrastructure Week, y’all!) and a $3.5 trillion investment in social safety net and climate change programs. There’s a LOT more, too.

Dems, MAKE SURE YOU TAKE THE CREDIT. We are, historically, very very bad at this. I blame the fact that the base of the party is women, who are also bad at taking credit and bragging on ourselves.

And then we get to election season, assuming voters will calmly and rationally do their research and examine the candidates’ and parties’ records, and Republican jackasses claim credit for stuff they voted against, and nobody calls them on it, and they get re-elected, and we all scratch our heads in puzzlement.

NOT THIS FUCKING TIME.

They’re Biden Bucks. They’re Momala Baby Bucks. Dems saved democracy and the economy and thousands of lives ENTIRELY on their own, while the Republicans were busy vying for spots on Fox “News” to whine about phony culture war bullshit or spew anti-vaxxer insanity and claiming that the January 6 thugs were just “normal tourists” visiting their Members of Congress.

And we need to SHOUT IT FROM THE GODDAMN ROOFTOPS.

Image from GQ Grandpa Joe Biden’s White House.

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Self-Care Redux

Life in the US is slowly resuming more typical contours (although the Delta variant is worrying, particularly for communities that are refusing to be vaccinated, aka, mostly Trumpers who live in red states), which means a lot of us are starting to re-fill our schedules.

Last weekend, we gathered with our pod for a day of beer brewing and barbecue on Saturday. On Sunday, we walked in our neighborhood July 4th parade with our Ward Democratic party organization, then hosted a friend for an afternoon of grilling and gin tasting (she’s a bit of an expert and was able to supply some real gems).

Two of the local Democratic groups have resumed in person meetings, although they were both indoors with groups of unknown size, so I’ve skipped them both. (Our Ward organization is still meeting on Zoom.) One of my other key volunteer commitments held their annual volunteer appreciation event in person at a beer garten, so I did go (although it was a MILLION degrees that night, so I probably sweated out more liquid than I consumed).

Tonight, we’re having our third restaurant meal since V-day (vaccination, that is), outdoors and with friends, and then going with them to our first theater show in 17 months, also outdoors (please hold off, rain).

Tomorrow, we’re due to have dinner with friends at their house, and then Sunday, we’re gathering with a small group (fewer than ten people) to celebrate a friend’s milestone birthday.

The week after, we take our first trip that requires a plane ride in 18 months.

And all that feels – mostly – OK, although again, Delta has me concerned. And I did go to my first large gathering – an outdoor political rally – since the Before Times about two weeks ago, and, to be honest, it completely freaked me out.

It does have me thinking, though.

During the pandemic, many of us were fortunate to be able to slow down and remove a lot of commitments from our schedules. And a lot of folks made a lot of noise about being more intentional about how we use our time coming out of the pandemic.

Was that you? (It was me.)

How are you doing?

Self-care is more than consumerist “treat yourself” purchases (although those can be great).

Self-care is more than self-pampering, like a bubble bath or an afternoon reading a great novel (although those are lovely).

Self-care is more than the “change your HVAC filter, schedule your mammogram, file your receipts for your taxes” Hecate is fond of reminding us to do (although those are important adulting things).

Self-care is also about how you and I choose to invest our time and energy, both of which are limited resources. And there are no right answers.

If I choose to “forest bathe” at the nearby arboretum, I can’t also choose to invest that afternoon in postcarding for the upcoming Virginia state elections. And both of those things are totally valid and good things to do with my afternoon.

If I choose to resume piano lessons, I can’t also choose to take the yoga class that meets at the same time. Both of those things are totally valid and good things to do with my time.

If I choose to volunteer weekly with the local early literacy intervention nonprofit, I may not have the time to volunteer in the community garden at the local food bank, where we teach people how to grow their own food. Both of those things are totally valid and good things to do with my time.

Choosing one thing means not being able to choose something else. I have to remind myself of that a lot, and I’m guessing I may not be the only one.

Photo by alexey turenkov on Unsplash

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Of National Holidays and National Myths

As we roll into an Independence Day weekend where many locations in the US are approaching (or have exceeded) President Biden’s goal of 70% of the eligible population having received at least their first vaccine shot, allowing some level of gatherings and public celebrations…Fox News has ginned up right wing outrage over critical race theory, driving some governors and local parents to lose their damn minds.

Critical race theory, for those of you who have sensibly been ignoring Fox News, is, at its most basic level, an academic theory, taught mostly at the grad school level, that posits that racism isn’t just some bad actions by some bad individuals, it’s systemic. Due to our national history of racist laws and practices, it affects our systems and institutions right now and in ways that may not always be easy to spot because they’re so ingrained.

Contrary to the “but you’re trying to tell my kid that she’s a racist and there’s nothing she can do about it” freak out, CRT argues the opposite – racism, at least the kind that really does damage, isn’t primarily an individual thing, but rather is about larger scale issues. It takes the burden OFF little Mason and Emma and puts it where it belongs – on systems and institutions (that we all need to work to fix together).

What Fox and its ilk are REALLY objecting to is America growing up as a country, moving beyond our adolescent “I’m awesome, everyone else is stupid, and I never do anything wrong” phase into a more mature, nuanced understanding of our history, seeing BOTH the good AND the bad that we’ve done, celebrating the first, owning the second, and working to fix the after-effects. Because if you can’t even acknowledge that you’ve done wrong, you’ll never get to being able to make amends for it.

The Founding Fathers – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry – were brave, wise, visionary men. Who were also enslavers. Being honest about that doesn’t mean they didn’t lead the Revolution, write the Declaration of Independence, write the Federalist Papers, or famously proclaim (perhaps lacking some self-awareness) “Give me liberty, or give me death!” But they also weren’t gods.

Is it perhaps excessive to ask that nothing be named after them? Sure – but this is the US, we’re a nation of extremes. (It’s NOT extreme to ask that nothing be named for Confederate traitors.)

Acknowledging that our form of government was strongly informed by the Iroquois nation, that the Africans who were captured and put into forced labor (aka “plantations”) were knowledgeable engineers and experienced farmers, that the Civil War (or Reconstruction, or the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, or Black Lives Matter) didn’t fix everything doesn’t make us weaker – it makes us stronger as a nation.

Indeed, as a terrific Twitter thread from Jamelle Bouie today demonstrates, learning ALL of history can actually give you a greater appreciation for people who learned, grew, changed, saw the error of their ways and did something about it. And if all you take is the simple myths that the Founding Fathers were perfect, that the enslaved were “workers,” that the Civil War was about states’ rights, that the GI Bill was for everyone, that urban Black neighborhoods are under-served and under-resourced due to the personal choices of their residents (same thing with the over-representation of Black people, especially young Black men, in the criminal justice system and the racial wealth gap), you never learn those stories.

Insisting on the WHOLE truth of our history, figuring out where we’ve gone wrong so we can ACT to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice, is the most patriotic thing you can do.

To quote the great Jame Baldwin:

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

So this weekend, while you’re hugging family or friends you may not have hugged in 18 months, grillin’ and chillin’, take at least a few minutes to educate yourself about ALL of our history and update your understanding of our national myths to something that, while a little less “U-S-A! U-S-A!” is a lot more accurate. The 1691 Project, flaws and all, is a great place to start. Or, as always, Baldwin.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

What Says “Summer” To You?

We’ve had absolutely glorious summer weather here this week – low humidity, warm & sunny during the days and pleasant at night. What a lovely week for Litha, particularly with the gorgeous “strawberry” full moon hitting this week as well.

Growing up, my parents, my mother in particular, were definitely not fans of summer, so in our house, the arrival of long days and hot, humid weather were something to dread, possibly related to our lack of A/C.

Thing is, even as pale as I am, needing to be slathered in SPF 1 million to be outdoors year round, there was a lot I loved about summer. Climbing up in my favorite tree to read the afternoon away. Riding bikes to the corner store to buy popsicles. Running through the sprinkler, even though my mom always made me wear a t-shirt over my swimsuit to protect my skin. Neighborhood-wide games of ghost in the graveyard. Fresh produce from my dad’s huge vegetable garden, even though I knew MANY sweaty afternoons in the kitchen preserving that abundance were coming. Picking strawberries at our family friends’ “pick your own” field, eating what seemed like my own body weight in warm, juicy, sweet berries as I went. “Be home by the time it gets dark.”

And there’s still something magical about this season. Being awakened by the birds early-early and drifting back to sleep because you don’t have to be up just yet. SO MUCH MINT coming in we can’t even begin to use it all. Plants in my garden growing so fast you can almost, almost sit there and watch them get bigger. Our CSA shifting from spring’s greens and last fall’s apples to tomatoes, peppers, and squash. Peaches so good the juice runs your arm when you bite into them. And sweet local corn on the cob. And crawfish boils. Thunderstorms. Sleepy cats sunning themselves in the sills of the open windows. Hopscotch chalked on the sidewalk. Kids giggling in the splash pad at the neighborhood park. Hanging on the stoop with a cold beer greeting the neighbors out with their dogs or kids (or both) in the long twilight. Taking a Friday afternoon off to sit on the porch with iced tea and good book. Inviting friends over to grill, drinking wine and laughing in the garden as the sun sets and the fireflies come out.

What do you love best about summer? What says “summer” to you?

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It’s On! Let’s #KeepVABlue

Ten days ago, Virginia Democratic voters chose their candidates (and, as I wrote last week, sadly passed on two well-qualified women to re-nominate Terry McAuliffe for governor. Moving on….) Now it’s on ALL of us to ensure Virginia STAYS blue this fall.

A brief recap: In 2017, Virginia Dems shocked everyone (including maybe even themselves) by sweeping the top three races (governor, lt. governor, state attorney general) and unseating 13 Republican members of the House of Delegates. It wasn’t quite enough to take control of the state legislature, but it proved to be the bellwether for the 2018 national elections and set the stage for Dems to sweep both houses of the Virginia state legislature in 2019 for the first time in more than 20 years, which was again a bellwether for the 2020 national elections.

And, as both Hecate and I are fond of remarking, “elections have consequences.”

What has that looked like in Virginia?

Raising the minimum wage. Restoring voting rights to returning citizens, and making voting easier for everyone. Becoming the critical 38th state to ratify the ERA. Passing sensible gun safety protections. Instituting the first comprehensive LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws in the South. Tackling climate change. Making Virginia a “safe haven” state for abortion rights (which could become even more critical as SCOTUS seems increasingly likely to overturn Roe v. Wade). Abolishing the death penalty. Legalizing weed.

All that progress could be at risk this fall. Legislators who flipped Republican seats are up for re-election,some of them for the first time. Governor, lt. governor, and state attorney general are all up for election. MANY candidates are going to need our help. Dems, I love us, but we are NOTORIOUSLY inconsistent voters.

What should you do?

Pick a race or two and make a plan to get involved.

Not sure who to support? The Virginia Public Access Project can help – they have a terrific graphical representation of the partisan “flavor” of each Virginia General Assembly district. Any race that’s in the Leans Republican or Competitive range is a good place to start.

Highlighting a few:

HD-66: Katie Sponsler is the Democratic nominee once again (she also ran in 2017 and lost narrowly) for the seat that was vacated by Republican Kirk Cox in his unsuccessful bid to be the Republican nominee for governor. This seat is RIPE for a flip.

HD-51: Briana Sewell is the Democratic nominee to try to hold the seat Democrat Hala Ayala flipped in 2017. She vacated it to run, successfully, to be the Dem nominee for lt. governor. To hold the House of Delegates, we HAVE to hold Dem seats.

Relatedly, Dem incumbents who will need help doing that:

I also need to give a shout-out to Paul Siker, who’s running against the execrable Dave LaRock in HD-33. That will NOT be an easy seat to flip – it’s like +20 R – but Paul and his team are going to do their damnedest.

Notice how every single one of those names is a link? Yeah, those are all their campaign sites. Go learn more about the candidates, pick one (or a few), donate (even $5 helps, and even better, $5 a month), sign up for their newsletter. If they’re gathering volunteers already, sign up for that, too.

Go to Postcards4VA. Set up your account. Bookmark the site. Twelve candidates (several of which are on the above list) already have addresses loaded, and MANY more will be added in the weeks and months to come. If you commit to writing ONE postcard a day, you’ll make contact with more than 130 voters by election day. Can you do two? Can you do five? That’s 650 inconsistent Dem or Dem-leaning voters YOU could motivate to get the polls this fall.

When we vote, we win. But it’s on us to make it happen.

Image from BlueVirginia, although the slogan was originated (I believe) by NetworkNoVA, and both are groups you should be following.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

Speaking of Glass Ceilings

This week, voters in the state of Virginia chose their Democratic candidates for this fall’s state elections: Delegates, state Senators, State Attorney General, Lt. Governor, and Governor.

At the top of the ticket? They chose Terry McAuliffe.

On the one hand, he was a popular governor from 2014-2018. Had he run for re-election then he almost certainly would’ve won, if the Virginia state constitution didn’t forbid consecutive gubernatorial terms.

He did good stuff as a governor, restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 mostly non-white Virginians, although he was faced with a Republican-controlled legislative branch, so his main accomplishment was having to replace his veto pen every six months stopping unending culture war foolishness.

And he raises money like a mofo, and that’s going to be important, with a very wealthy Trumpist Republican challenger who has an almost unlimited ability to self-fund his campaign.

But.

There were two qualified Black women running. Jennifer McClellan is HIGHLY qualified. Jennifer Carroll Foy is HIGHLY charismatic. It’s unfortunate that those traits were spread over two candidates, but either would have been a good choice for Virginians.

Either also would’ve been the first woman of any color to be governor of Virginia (if elected), and either would’ve been the first Black woman to be governor of any state (if elected). (Virginia elected its first Black governor, L. Douglas Wilder, in 1990.)

Yes, 2016 still has Dems shook. Yes, beating TrumPutin was the key goal for 2020, and lots of folks are mostly, at this point, concerned about who can beat his disciples at all levels (of which the Republican candidate in Virginia definitely is one).

So apparently, we’re all retreating to the “safety” of white dudes.

Just over two weeks ago, I had my first restaurant meal since before the pandemic, brunch with two friends who are VERY active in Virginia politics. Both voted for McAuliffe, because, as one of them put it, “I didn’t want to throw away my vote.”

IT’S A PRIMARY. THERE IS NO SUCH THING.

On election night 2016, we learned that the US is more sexist than it is racist – and, let’s be honest, we’re pretty damn racist as a country.

Four and a half years later, that remains true.

Photo by Umberto on Unsplash

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That Is Not a Reason

When I was in grad school, we had to jump through all sorts of asinine hoops. Whenever some brave grad student dared to ask The Powers That Be why, the answer was inevitably: “I had to put up with [X pointless thing], and so should you.”

That is not a reason.

This past week, my spouse got called for jury duty. It was a civil case, the first one at our local courts since the Before Times. Without going into an inappropriate amount of detail, a young woman was working for a small consulting firm. She was sexually harassed by a prospective client at an after-hours event for prospective clients at a restaurant. When she told her boss, the owner of the company, his response was, basically, “Suck it up – that’s the job.” She promptly quit.

The place was otherwise, by all reports (including hers), a great place to work. And they loved her – they’d hired her directly out of college and, over the course of three years, more than doubled her salary through a series of raises she hadn’t even had to lobby for.

It probably didn’t meet the legal definition of a hostile work environment, since the harassment wasn’t perpetrated by the boss or one of her co-workers, but Spouse felt strongly that she was owed compensation and was worried there wasn’t going to be a legal way to get it for her. Well, turns out, although I can’t really go into the details, there was, that had to do with her employment classification and the fact that the small firm she worked for was definitely not following good practices as far as HR processes and documentation.

The amount of money the jury awarded her was not life-changing, but it was enough to compensate her for the fact that it took her a year to find another comparable job.

So what’s my point?

In every generation, young women take a look at some sexist situation or behavior or norm that previous generations have just put up with and say, “Not today, patriarchy.”

And too many of those older sisters don’t back them. “Quit your whining. I had to put up with [X sexist thing], and so should you.”

That ain’t it, my sisters.

And I do get it. When I think of all the shit I’ve put up with in my career, I get it. I sucked it up because no one had my back. Or because I felt like no one would have my back. Or because I needed the paycheck. Or because I didn’t want the reputation of being difficult. Etc.

At one point, many years ago, something went down that was bad enough that I called an employment lawyer. She listened to my story, told me I probably had a case, but then pointed out that winning was far from assured, even if I won it wouldn’t be life changing money, and then I’d be “that bitch who sues people” in a smallish, highly-networked industry. She recommended I think about all that for 24 hours and then call her back if I wanted to move forward. I never called her back.

But see, if we can do better for ourselves and each other, it doesn’t have to be that way. It wasn’t for that young woman in court this week, and it doesn’t have to be that way for all the young women who will come after her.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

First Weekend of Summer Potpourri

pink crepe myrtle blossoms

I know a lot is going on politically right now, but I just can’t at the moment. So let’s talk about summer!

A few years ago, we installed solar panels on our roof, and the installer maintains a website where you can track all the data about them. Every year, we have two peaks and two valleys. Late spring and early fall, partiuclarly if it’s cool enough that we don’t need to run the A/C, are always fun – lots of sun, so low electric bills. However, this month, for the first time EVER, we generated enough power to have a CREDIT balance with our electric company. That was a pretty good feeling. It’s not going to solve climate change, but I do feel like we’re trying to do our part. What’s something – big or small – that you’re doing to help our Mother?

We’re heading into GREAT local produce season. Our yard is too small for me to be able to grow reasonable quantities of anything edible but herbs (which I definitely do), so we’ve been in and out of CSAs over the years. We were with one for quite awhile until the summer when we got not a SINGLE peach OR tomato. Then we joined another that was year-round and claimed all local produce – then sent us strawberries and zucchini in January. Anyway, when the pandemic hit, I decided it was time to find another one for reasons ranging from supporting a local farmer to concerns about the food supply. And I managed to find a farm that is run by a Black woman (Farmer Gale) whose team is mostly women, too. Not only do I get really great produce from them, I’m also REALLY happy to be able to support people who’ve been historically excluded from being able to make a good living farming. This spring, I’ve learned how to cook nettles thanks to Farmer Gale, and I’m REALLY looking forward to the arrival of my peak of summer faves: eggplant, corn, peaches, tomatoes. What seasonal produce can you not WAIT to eat?

When thinking about food & mine & my spouse’s relationship to it, I tend to think of us as food hobbyists more than foodies. To me, a “foodie” is someone who seeks out amazing restaurant experiences – and we do do some of that – but doesn’t necessarily get into a lot of from-scratch cooking. One of the things my spouse got really interested in last summer was making homemade ice cream, although he hasn’t been totally happy with the product so far (he is judging against Talenti, to be fair, so that’s a pretty high standard). I found him some additional source material, so I’m looking forward to more experiments this summer. What summer treats are tops on your list?

We’re also starting to think in terms of travel again. We had several trips planned for 2020 that got canceled or postponed. We know we’ll be heading to Hawaii in 2022, but we’re starting to look into seeing if we can resurrect some of the other trips in late summer or fall. We had planned to visit Northern California wine country. We have some dear friends who rent a place in Maine for the month of August and love to host – and both our families are between here and there, so we get a two-fer. And, for the first time in 20 years, we didn’t make it to New Orleans last year. So those are all pretty high on the list. Where are you going to go first, now that folks are starting to be able to travel further than the grocery store again?

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if someone announces on social media that they’re doing something trivial you don’t like – putting butter on their rice (or not), showering too frequently (or not frequently enough, or in a way that’s different than what you do), using a condiment that you think is strange or doesn’t go with that particular food, cooking food differently than you do, wearing something you don’t like – you CAN just let it go. It doesn’t have to become a huge thing. Jesus people, mind your business.

Photo by the author. If you copy, please link back.

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The Kids Are All Right

The Linda Lindas are a teen girl punk band out of LA who JUST came to my attention on Twitter because of the song they’re playing in the clip above: Racist Sexist Boy. (If you click through, you can watch the entire ~45 minute set from the LA Public Library. Because public libraries RULE.)

Let’s just say it’s not an accident their drummer is wearing a Bikini Kill t-shirt. They’re like a younger, West Coast version of War on Women or maybe the CooLots.

Lots of bad news for women this week – Hecate’s already written about some of it – so I think it’s time to start the weekend with some “Fuck the Patriarchy” feminist punk rock.

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Liz Cheney Is Still NOT a Good Person

Look, I get that she did a good *thing* in standing up – nearly alone in today’s GOP/GQP- against TrumPutin’s Big Lie.

But she’s still not our friend.

On pretty much EVERY issue that matters to Dems – strengthening the social safety net, reducing income inequality, ensuring access to health care for every American, combating the climate crisis, sensible gun safety protections, criminal justice reform, protecting women’s right to bodily integrity, promoting racial equity – she is in the wrong.

Hell, even Darth Cheney – he of “let’s start a pointless and nonsensical war that will cost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars just to make me and my friends rich(er)” – he of “speaking of friends, I like to shoot mine in the face and then make THEM apologize to ME” – came around on LGBTQ rights when his daughter Mary (Liz’s sister) came out.

Not Liz.

But even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

This week a group of Republican former luminaries – Chrissy Todd Whitman, Michael Steele, Charlie Dent – published a guest editorial in the Washington Post threatening to launch a third party unless the GQP comes to its senses. Among other things, they vow:

We will not wait forever for the GOP to clean up its act. If we cannot save the Republican Party from itself, we will help save America from extremist elements in the Republican Party.

Look, I’m skeptical at best. These are all people with a long history in US electoral politics. They know that, absent SIGNIFICANT election reforms, like ranked choice voting and multi-member districts, third parties don’t work – they can’t work in a winner-take-all-system.

This “American Renewal” thing is likely to go one of two ways. The most likely is that it devolves into a totally ineffective libertarian-style quadrennial vanity presidential campaign. Alternatively, they might actually get a semi-viable third party off the ground, split the Right, pull off some Independents….and hand power to the Democrats for the foreseeable future. They’re not going to like that, and frankly, it’s not good for our democracy for a plurality party to be wielding majority power over the long term.

Yes, there is the possibility – remote as it may be – that the current GQP will go the way of the Whigs (although actually going the way of the Know Nothing Party is probably more the more apt analogy), and I certainly wish them godspeed in that endeavor.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Photo by Heather Zabriskie on Unsplash

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