lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
I'm thinking about going to another protest.

There's one called "A March Against Trump to Demand Human Rights at Home and Abroad." It's happening this Saturday, December 10 at 1 pm (in Minneapolis at Nicollet & Lake again.) The only potential hassle is that it's also a day that Rosemary and Mason are going to a Harry Potter concert that starts at the same time. However, Rosemary's dad is doing the drop-off at the concert hall (I'm doing the pick-up.) So... it's still do-able. I imagine it's not going to last more than a couple of hours, if that. It could actually work out, actually, since I will already be in Minneapolis for the pick-up. I like these protests that are endorsed by various groups, because they are often the types of folks who did this sort of thing a lot and know what they're doing... even if the event still FEELS like herding cats, there is actually a decent structure underneath the chaos, if you know what I mean. (Like the last one I did? Also sponsored by a ton of people and there were medics and a police escort, etc.) This one has been endorsed by: Natives Lives Matter, Minnesota Neighbors for Justice, MN Peace Action Coalition, sds @ the U of MN, Veterans for Peace, Welfare Rights Committee, Women Against Military Madness, Women's Prison Book Project, and Young Muslim Collective. Also this also means that I might get to hear from a representative from each of these groups (which expands my list of resources for more of these types of events.) It's officially run by a group called The Anti-War Committee and is about human rights, because Saturday is apparently International Human Rights Day.

There is also a protest planned at the St. Paul capitol called "Fight for the Popular Vote" both Sunday, December 18 (from noon to 8 pm) AND Monday, December 19 (8 am to 5 pm). Even if Sunday doesn't work for me, I could totally attend the Monday one at some point during the day. That seems like another possible fit for me. This one seems to be organized (at least on Facebook) by *one person* and has no list of sponsors, which makes me slightly dubious. However, the fact that the hours are such a huge range, I feel like a person could drop by at any point during the day and stay for as long as they like. Which means, that this is the sort of protest I could potentially bring Eleanor to (she'd asked to be a protest buddy at Thanksgiving.)

This protest obviously meant as a rally for those of us angry about the Electoral College system, which... while, I'm not convinced is anything that's going to be changed anytime soon (and so the idea of protesting, really is just to protest, not expect change), I agree with the idea that 2.5 million voters should not be disenfranchised because of something invented by a bunch of guys who were not necessarily expecting their country to span an entire continent and beyond. There are not a lot of other countries in the world that use the electoral college system, Italy being the larger/well-known ones after us, along with Burundi, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vanuatu. Britain uses a simple majority. I feel like maybe the time has come for us to adopt the same. It's one thing when Gore's margin of win was 825 votes. It's another thing entirely when it's close to 2.5 million votes.

At any rate, those are two actions up-coming for me in the month of December.

Stand up! Keep fighting!
lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
 My weekend was pretty good.  As I mentioned earlier, I was invited sort of last minute to do a signing at the Holiday Geek Expo.  The only time I really had available was early Sunday morning, but that worked pretty well.  There wasn't a huge amount of foot traffic, but I had a secret weapon:  I was giving away my books.

I have an overabundance of copies of RESURRECTION CODE.  That book was the one that was published by Mad Norwegian Press and when they reverted rights to me, they shipped me, like, three or four boxes of printed books.  Each box contains about 40 books, so that's a lot of books not only taking up room in my already cluttered house, but which I have to count as "inventory" for my taxes every year.  I could have taken the books to sell; I am set-up to charge sales tax.  I don't, however, have a smart phone equipped with "Square" or whichever lovely small business app I should really have, and so I would have had to have cash on hand AND MAKE CHANGE, which I dread.  

Plus, let's be honest.  I've been kicking around the Twin Cities a LONG time now.  I'm sure there are plenty of people who have never read a word I've written. HOWEVER, I'm not likely to run into those people at a very geek-specific event run by a lot of the folks connected with CONvergence, now am I?  So, giving the books away seemed like a lovely way to get rid of them.  Who can resist a FREE... well, anything? Even a second copy of a book you already have seems like a good deal when it's FREE.

I ended up being able to give away at least half of them. The books I couldn't give away, Anton took.  I told him to give them away to charities or as freebies at cons or use them for doorstops for all I cared.  I mean, don't get me wrong.  RESURRECTION CODE is a lovely book. I just don't need boxes and boxes and boxes of them cluttering up my house, is all.

So, that was Geek Expo. 

I came home and picked up Mason who has been agitating for a haircut ever since he started swim team.  His hair was not only starting to curl at his ears (something which *I*  find adorable, but which he hates,) but also the constant chlorine exposure was making it kind of frizzed and frazzled looking.  That took up all the time I had before rushing back out to Claddaugh to finally meet up with my contact at Quatrefoil, Nanette.

Nanette and I had a lovely talk. I have no idea if I impressed her or not, but she did invite me to the next board meeting and talked a lot about what kind of commitment being a board member would entail.  So, that felt cool. When I was talking to my friend Josey about this position, she said something that's been sticking in my mind a lot.  "It's such a grown-up position!"  It really it. Being a board member of a non-profit?  That's like totally something people who are ADULT do.

In all seriousness, I do think supporting a queer library is super-important right now in this time of ever growing darkness. If we are saved at all, it will be not only by our history and out stories, but also locally--city by city, county by county.  One of the things I learned about Quatrefoil that I didn't know, was that they now have a space that they can offer to any GLBTQ+ group that needs one. (I don't think they charge, but you'd have to double-check. I just went and it's not terribly obvious from their website.  But I did just discover they have a monthly D&D group!! What? Why did no one tell me THIS!!????)  

Otherwise, I've been doing a lot of letter writing.  My membership in International Pen Friends nets me 15 names of people all over the world, as I think I've written about here before.  That's a LOT of letters.  Plus, I'm discovering that this does NOT seem to be a one-to-one exchange.  For instance, on Saturday I got a letter from a woman in Germany who was _not_on my list.  So... my thinking is that I may be getting an additional fifteen pen friends... ?? .... Eep!  But, I will say, the letter from Germany was pretty cool. The woman who wrote is about my age and LOVES stickers and fun paper and she inspired me to get crafty and make my own stationary from the scrapbooking supplies we have leftover from Shawn's mostly-brief foray into scrapbooking.  I may have had WAY too much fun doing that yesterday.  It's also amazing to me how doing silly little artistic things like this actually brightens my mood.  Highly recommend as aggressive self-care during the Orange One's reign.  

Speaking of, my friend Theo Lorenz has made a lovely "Aggressive Self-Care Coloring Book" to help you survive the end of 2016 and onward: https://gumroad.com/l/YyBkJ  This is a "pay what you want" project, so your self-care doesn't have to come at a steep price!  it's a print-your-own, so it won't make a good stocking stuffer unless you get crafty yourself, but... you might just need to hide under a blanket, turn off the news, and color while more horrific cabinet posts are filled by people less qualified to run the country than you are...!

Ima Day

Dec. 5th, 2016 08:50 am
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
 Today marks the anniversary of my legal adoption of Mason.  

I was thinking about this yesterday at the Holiday Geek Expo, because a friend and I were talking about Trump (like you do.) I have no idea if married straight people who conceive via artificial insemination even have to think about 'second parent adoption.' (Given that I just Googled second parent adoption to see what its history was and ONLY found GLBTQ+ links, I'm guessing not.) I'm pretty sure dad just gets to put his name down on the birth certificate, whether or not it was his sperm involved.  That was not an option for us.  

Of course, neither, at the time was legal marriage.  

The process of adopting Mason was a lengthy one. I was not required to have a home inspection, because I could prove that I'd been living with Shawn since before the conception.  (And, since we did insemination in a clinic, we actually know the EXACT date of conception.)  Not that that mattered, at that point I'd been with Shawn for nearly twenty some years.  I was still required to gather affidavits, however.  Character witnesses, basically.  Our lawyer (whom we had to hire and pay for) suggested that, if possible, I should try to get as many family members on-board as possible.  We hired a lawyer who knew the judges likely to grant second-parent adoption, but she still wanted to stack our deck as much as possible.  

I knew my parents would write one, but that kind of tapped me out for my side of the family, since I'm an only child.  I picked a couple of long-time friends as well, and then... tried to suss out who would be the most likely on Shawn's side of the family.  I initially thought that one of Shawn's brothers would be a good pick.  

It turned out I was wrong.  

This whole moment in my life has a lot of echoes in the current political climate.  

A lot of people are being 'woke' as they say, to the idea that maybe the people you interact with--friends, relatives--don't actually support you.  Maybe, you've come to realize, these people you've broken bread with, joked with, bought Christmas presents for... would actively block your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. FOR REAL.  They actually don't want you to have the same things they do, because they don't actually think you're like them, that you're not worthy in the same way.

They'll take your offers of genuine love and affection, and shit on you in return.

It's an awful feeling.

And is something I've lived with, in Shawn's family, for a long time now--since that day, when Shawn called to remind her brother that the deadline was coming up for the affidavit for me and, after some back and forth about things he needed to do instead, finally admitted "Yeah, you know, I'm not comfortable doing this.  What if Mason gets out of Rounds' control?" Shawn and I puzzled over this term "Rounds' control" for a while, but whatever it meant specifically, it clearly meant, generally, that I was not family. He did not think Mason was MY child. He thought that if Shawn died, Mason should stay with his BLOOD, which did not include me. He did not want to grant me the ability to adopt a child I was living with, raising, loving... as a parent. He wanted to be able to have the legal option to take Mason away from his other mother, if Shawn should die.

Can you even imagine?  And I would have had no legal recourse, because the law would not have recognized me as ANYTHING to Mason.

This, try to remember, AFTER Shawn and I had both lost Ella. This brother was very much there, during our grieve process.  But, apparently, no part of that made him think I was Ella's parent, either.... 

And, then they wonder why I'm not super-keen to come over for a holiday dinner....

Anyway, luckily, we had enough time to find someone else.  On a whim and though I thought it was a long shot, I asked Shawn's father( who was still alive at that time).  Shawn's dad wrote the affidavit for me so fast and with so much love, it let me forget, most days, about what happened with the brother. 

The actual adoption was very formal, very quick;  We had a court date, and went though the process. The one thing I remember about that court appearance is that at one point the judge goes through this whole thing about whether or not I approved of Mason's legal name (I guess people sometimes use this as a chance to add or change a last name), and I had the weirdest impulse to lean into the microphone and say, "No, his name shall henceforth be Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate!" 

We were later married in the EXACT same courtroom as the one I adopted Mason in.

How cool is that?  

Take that you bigots and haters!

Ima Day

Dec. 5th, 2016 08:06 am
lydamorehouse: (Default)
 Today marks the anniversary of my legal adoption of Mason.  

I was thinking about this yesterday at the Holiday Geek Expo, because a friend and I were talking about Trump (like you do.) I have no idea if married straight people who conceive via artificial insemination even have to think about 'second parent adoption.' (Given that I just Googled scone parent adoption to see what it's history was and ONLY found GLBTQ+ links, I'm guessing not.) I'm pretty sure dad just gets to put his name down on the birth certificate, whether or not it was his sperm involved.  That was not an option for us.  

Of course, neither, at the time was legal marriage.  

The process of adopting Mason was a lengthy one. I was not required to have a home inspection, because I could prove that I'd been living with Shawn since before the conception.  (And, since we did insemination in a clinic, we actually know the EXACT date of conception.)  Not that that mattered, at that point I'd been with Shawn for nearly twenty some years.  I was still required to gather affidavits, however.  Character witnesses, basically.  Our lawyer (whom we had to hire and pay for) suggested that, if possible, I should try to get as many family members on-board as possible.  We hired a lawyer who knew the judges likely to grant second-parent adoption, but she still wanted to stack our deck as much as possible.  

I knew my parents would write one, but that kind of tapped me out for my side of the family, since I'm an only child.  I picked a couple of long-time friends as well, and then... tried to suss out who would be the most likely on Shawn's side of the family.  I initially thought that one of Shawn's brothers would be a good pick.  

It turned out I was wrong.  

This whole moment in my life has a lot of echoes in the current political climate.  

A lot of people are being 'woke' as they say, to the idea that maybe the people you interact with--friends, relatives--don't actually support you.  Maybe, you've come to realize, these people you've broken bread with, joked with, bought Christmas presents for... would actively block your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. FOR REAL.  They actually don't want you to have the same things they do, because they don't actually think you're like them, that you're not worthy in the same way.

They'll take your offers of genuine love and affection, and shit on you in return.

It's an awful feeling.

And is something I've lived with, in Shawn's family, for a long time now--since that day, when Shawn called to remind her brother that the deadline was coming up for the affidavit for me and, after some back and forth about things he needed to do instead, finally admitted "Yeah, you know, I'm not comfortable doing this.  What if Mason gets out of Rounds' control?" Shawn and I puzzled over this term "Rounds' control" for a while, but whatever it meant specifically, it clearly meant, generally, that I was not family. He did not think Mason was MY child. He thought that if Shawn died, Mason should stay with his BLOOD, which did not include me. He did not want to grant me the ability to adopt a child I was living with, raising, loving... as a parent. He wanted to be able to have the legal option to take Mason away from his other mother, if Shawn should die.

Can you even imagine?  And I would have had no legal recourse, because the law would not have recognized me as ANYTHING to Mason.

This, try to remember, AFTER Shawn and I had both lost Ella. This brother was very much there, during our grieve process.  But, apparently, no part of that made him think I was Ella's parent, either.... 

And, then they wonder why I'm not super-keen to come over for a holiday dinner....

Anyway, luckily, we had enough time to find someone else.  On a whim and though I thought it was a long shot, I asked Shawn's father( who was still alive at that time).  Shawn's dad wrote the affidavit for me so fast and with so much love, it let me forget, most days, about what happened with the brother. 

The actual adoption was very formal, very quick;  We had a court date, and went though the process. The one thing I remember about that court appearance is that at one point the judge goes through this whole thing about whether or not I approved of Mason's legal name (I guess people sometimes use this as a chance to add or change a last name), and I had the weirdest impulse to lean into the microphone and say, "No, his name shall henceforth be Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate!" 

We were later married in the EXACT same courtroom as the one I adopted Mason in.

How cool is that?  Take that you bigots and haters!


Geek Expo

Dec. 4th, 2016 08:57 am
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
if you're interested in stopping by, I'm going to be signing at the Holiday Geek Expo (at the Bloomington Doubletree) from 10 am - noon.  

I will write a proper entry soon, but my morning slipped away because we found out that Shawn's brother, Mark, is in the ICU.  So, there was a lot of calling and freaking out and such. Apparently, Mark is stable at the moment.  He's on dialysis and got an infection at the site... so it was very touch and go because he's not exactly ship shape to begin with.  Keep him in your thoughts!  

K. Got to run!


Anniversary

Dec. 2nd, 2016 07:48 am
lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
 Like a lot of GLBT couples, Shawn and I have made up our anniversary.  It's a fictional date, convenient, easy to remember.  It doesn't mark anything, other than the fact that we're PRETTY SURE we went on a 'date' to Target to do Christmas shopping together.  This was 1985 and I don't even think we were on each other's Christmas lists even, yet. We probably actually met months earlier at one of Michael J. Batman's D&D campaigns, where I remember very clearly telling Shawn she had the most beautiful eyes I'd ever seen.  I'd been sketching people's D&D characters for them and Shawn told me to make hers have blond hair and brown eyes, and I said, "No one has that combination!" (Keep in mind I was 17, what the hell did I even know? At that point I was sure Chicago was in Wisconsin.) She said, "I do." And I looked up... and, yeah, I'd say that was the moment fate was sealed.

But, in all honesty, I wasn't even out to myself yet that December. I still thought I was a straight girl (kind of... ask me about how I was already reading Gay Comix I bought at a head shop in LaCrosse my senior year).  Thing is, I would go on after December 1, 1985, to have a couple of more boyfriends and a several girlfriends. Shawn, too, had boyfriends post that fateful meeting.

Yet, we count December 1, 1985 as our anniversary because we were certainly already living together at that point (and having sex).  I moved in, and never, ever moved out.  By the end, my girlfriends would look at me and say, "How can I compete when you're living with the one you love?"  

They were right. I was cheating on all of them with Shawn.

The story would have been pathetic and sad, if Shawn didn't also finally have the same realization when we were living in our first apartment on Franklin Avenue.  After a friend of ours visited and regaled us with the stories of his gay single life and his heartaches, we looked at each other over the top of his head and knew.  We knew it was time to make things official.  Why keep seeking when we'd found love already? If we could remember the date of that day, that would probably be more accurate in a very strict sense.

But, relationships are messy, so why not just count from the real beginning? Why not skip the mess and embrace that first wonderful moment?  So we do.  Your rules do not apply to us.  Or, at least, before we were mainstreamed by marriage, there really were no rules, no sense of how any of it was supposed to work, so we just made things up as we went along.  I think most people do, anyway.  It's just that the majority of people have... well, I guess, traditions and institutions to fall back on.  Marriage dates. First dates.  We never thought to mark any of those, either. I'm sure we eventually picked a date because people asked us how long we'd been together and we had no idea.  

Ask me when Shawn and I were married, and I'll say, "It was a Monday!  Oh, and hot!"  I'm sure it was in August because that was the first month it was legal and we did the official thing in front of a judge as soon as possible because I'd gone over a decade without any decent health insurance. 

Of course, I'm generally terrible about dates.  I feel like I must be the only mom in the universe who hesitates when health professionals ask for Mason's birthday.  I've finally got it down, but for a while I used to switch the last number of his birthday with the last number of the year he was born.  I also have memories like this, "It was hot."  (Apparently important things in my life always happen on the hottest days of the year.)  

So last night we celebrated our made-up anniversary the way we have been for decades.  Actually, maybe more like a single decade, since we started this tradition when Mason was an infant and Shawn and I were too exhausted to even consider dressing up and doing something fancy.  I remember complaining to my friend Ember about how it wasn't going to be romantic with a baby, and she suggested that I surprise Shawn--that I get take out from a favorite place and fancy up the table with candles (and the high chair.) It was PERFECT. I picked Vescio's in Dinkytown.  Vescio's was one of the first restaurants I remember taking Shawn to when we did finally become 'official.'  And, miraculously, it's still there. It's still EXACTLY the same and has the EXACT same menu.  Bonus: Mason loves it and always has, even when he was in his toddler "I will only eat noodles" phase.  

We had a lovely night. 

Here's to another thirty-two years!
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
One of the ways that I'm finding helps me cope in this post-Trump-election universe is, basically, journaling. This is why you've seen me here so often lately.  I'm finding that just taking time to reflect on my day helps me get through it.  I have a couple of friends that I've been writing letters to, too, and they've seen an upswing in correspondence, as well.  (This may, in part, be in compensation for my inability to fiction ATM, but I've been feeling a drive to write the queerest queer book in the history of queer fiction, so who knows?)

On the other hand, I don't necessarily want to inundate my friends with a letter a day.  I mean, MAYBE they'd appreciate it, but I've been trying to keep it to one letter a week.  But, I LOVE actual correspondence. I LOVE getting things in my mailbox that aren't bills or advertising.  I LOVE stationary and pens.

So, on a whim, after talking about my failed attempt at an international pen pal in 4th grade, I decided to see if there were still organizations that did this--that matched strangers up with other strangers in foreign countries.  There are!  So, I signed up with the International Pen Friends, paid my membership dues, and have been waiting somewhat impatiently to see what would come of it.

Well, today I got my list.  15 people!

I get to write to 15 people around the world!  HOW COOL IS THAT?  Seriously, I'm supposed to send a letter to everyone on the list. !5! I'm going to have to allocate these people days of the week!  Anyway.... I got 2 Australians, 4 in England (all from tiny sounding towns like North Wolverhampton), 1 from Belgium, 3 from France, 4 from Germany and one from the Netherlands.  Interestingly, I asked for people all over the globe, from every single continent (well, minus Antarctica because it wasn't an option), and I entirely got placed with Europeans.  But, that's still cool.  I can't wait to get writing to them! 
lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
This has become my new battle cry: "Don't be Rory!"

For instance, after writing up my whole long screed about the Gilmore Girls mini-series, it occurred to me that a good journalist would actually try to pitch that as a column. So I did. You can now read my thoughts at: http://bitterempire.com/gilmore-girls-year-life-whiny-baby-rory/.  Ha! Take that, girl with no ideas to pitch!

Then, today I got a reply back from Quatrefoil Library about the volunteer positions I was interested in.  The woman who contacted me said she would love to have a resume.  My first thought was a very Rory-like, "What? For a volunteer position??" and then I thought, "No, don't be Rory."

Thing is, I think there's a real shot that Quatrefoil might consider me for a board position if I play my cards right.  So, I actually spend a good deal of time a professional resume that highlights the skills and experiences I have both in the GLBTQ+ community, professional fiction writing, and in various library and archives positions I've had over the years. (I'm still actually fine-tuning and making sure Shawn, who gets a lot of resumes as part of her job, not only reviews it, but proofs it too!) 

The upside? You know what? I actually look pretty damn good on paper.  I've worked in libraries/archives for a LONG time: my current work at the Ramsey County Library system is very focused on practical library skills, but I also worked as office manager/processing assistant/receptionist at institutions like the Immigration History Research Center, the Ramsey County Historical Society, and the Minnesota Historical Society. At all of those jobs, while I wasn't always doing actual archival work, I learned a lot about what the point of archives is and how they function. Add to that the fact that I have a lot of general publishing knowledge, have been a teacher for DECADES at the Loft, and, you know, even my reviews of yaoi/yuri count towards a broader sense of the GLBTQ+ book/writing community. I mean, I used to be a regular contributor to Equal Time!  (Oh! I should find a place to note that on the resume!)

And now, to complete my "Don't be Rory" I'm reading the History of the Quatrefoil Library so that when I go into this meeting, I won't be completely clueless about the organization!  

So yeah, always ask yourself: what I can *I* bring to this organization?

Am I right!?

But I'm also excited to be volunteering for them (potentially) because I really feel like in this up-coming political environment, we're going to need our history.  Particularly the history of marginalized and minority groups. Who knows, maybe we'll need these collections as a resource for how to rebuild a revolution, you know?

*sigh*

But one day at a time.  Stand up!  Fight!


lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
This morning started out rough.

We have a cat who has bathroom issues. I came down stairs to start a breakfast for Mason (normally, he just grabs himself a bowl of cereal, but today is his first day of swimming practice and so I thought I'd start him off right with eggs and bacon!), and I saw Inky, the problem cat, crouched very suspiciously over a paper grocery bag we'd left out. Sure, enough, he was doing his business.

I blame myself. Inky has pills that he takes to help with this problem, but I keep forgetting to pill him. Plus, I slacked a bit this last week on the boxes. But, so not only did I have to do emergency clean up and pilling, but I also decided I'd better get off my butt and change a few boxes.

All this before my morning cup of coffee.

Plus, it's just gray outside. Gray with rainy gray highlights.

The only silver lining in all this gray is that I still have some birthday cash leftover so I stopped by my favorite coffee shop, Claddaugh, to get a fancy latte. I chatted up a guy there who was playing Pokemon Go. I don't play myself, but I think it's fascinating, but a bunch of my friends play and I'm familiar enough with the DS Pokemon that I can have a passably intelligent conversation when I see other people playing. Anyway, I asked him what he was catching in downtown and he said "Mostly Pidgeys." (I'd known from another friend that downtown St. Paul is pretty much Pidgey territory.) But he wasn't too bummed by it, because they'd released Ditto and rumor had it that Dittos were hiding among the Pidgeys. So I wished him luck Ditto hunting.

Once here at home, I had a ton of yesterday's dishes waiting for me. Last night was our traditional, post-Thanksgiving making of the knoephla with the leftover mashed potatoes. They're basically homemade potato noodles so there's a lot of pots involved, especially since Shawn's family traditionally eats them fried in bacon grease.

I decided to watch another episode of "Yuri on Ice," to help lighten the load. If you're looking for an respite from the current political climate, you really can't go wrong with an competitive ice-skating sports anime with SUPER GAY subtext.

Speaking of TV, Shawn and I binge watched the new "Gilmore Girls." We were fans back in the early 2000s and so we thought it'd be fun to catch up. I had mixed feelings, but I think it was a perfect echo of the earlier show. This sequel just reminded me of all the issues I had with the original. (Rest of my opinions have been removed for the moment, pending an article for Bitter Empire on the same theme.... because Rory Gilmore can SUCK IT. Seize the day, Motherf*cker~!)
lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
Normally, we host our friends the Jacksons for Thanksgiving, but for reasons of other travel plans, they came early, in October.

We could have, I suppose, just skipped the making of the giant turkey, but we decided to invite a couple of our other friends, Eleanor and Patrick, over instead. I made all of our usual trimmings, except I decided to try a new brussel sprout recipe. In the past I had good luck with our one Martha Stewart cookbook, and foolishly thought that maybe her recipe for bussel sprouts would be as good as the Cuban sweet potatoes.

NOPE. They were a disaster.

Luckily, only Eleanor and I even like brussel spouts and I actually have more (uncooked) so I can try again (for myself, for leftovers.)

The rest runs like clockwork these days, though, of course, Eleanor and Patrick came just at the point where I start to get a little frantic about the timing of everything. I don't think Eleanor has ever seen me so.... fussy/anxious before.

But we had a lovely meal and lots of wonderful conversation. It was just exactly how Thanksgiving should be, IMHO.

I've long advocated for Thanksgiving to be the holiday of 'choice/made family.' It really can be quite lovely when celebrated that way.

Today is a pajama day which has started out perfectly with pumpkin pie for breakfast and binge watching "Yuri on Ice" while doing the Thanksgiving dishes.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
me at protest

Often these pictures don't show up, but hopefully this one will. Photo credit to: Thaiphy Phan-Quang.
lydamorehouse: (shield)
I just got back from a protest march sponsored by the Minnesota Immigrants Rights Action Committee. I'll be curious if they post on their Facebook page the number of people who turned out, but just eyeballing I'd guess a couple hundred..? I'm really not very good at guestimating crowds, but it was a pretty good turn out considering how cold it is (and how close to the Thanksgiving holiday.) We met up at the K-Mart parking lot near Nicollet and Lake Street and marched east on Lake somewhere past Chicago, did a little loop behind the hospital (?) and then back up Lake.

I learned a few chants in Spanish and generally enjoyed the usual yelling of things like "What does Democracy look like? THIS is what Democracy looks like!", and there were new ones specific to the President-Elect that I no longer can remember, but I'm sure will echo in my dreams. Speaking of echoing we passed under the underpass and our whole group sounded like some cacophony of noise. Probably this sound horrible to some of you out there, but, being an extrovert, just walking in the crowd energized me. Many passing cars waved, honked, and gave the peace sign. I think one guy heckled us, but he was a rare exception. It was coolest when the city bus drivers honked. That made everyone cheer. People came out of their workplaces to watch us pass. Phone cameras were up and recording everywhere.

We actually had a police escort, which was unexpected, but cool.

Of all the things I've done so far since the election, I'd have to say marching was the most energizing/fun. Like a lot of the things I've been doing, I have no idea if it's at all effective.

I also called both Senators for Minnesota (because they BOTH happen to be on the Senate Judiciary Committee) and asked them to oppose the appointment of Jeff Sessions. OMG THAT WAS HARD. I completely dorked out at the end of my recorded message to Franken's DC office (his MN box was full) and then spaced in the middle of the script I'd prepared while talking to a live human staffer at Kloubcar's, but she waited patently for me to remember the word "OPPOSE." As an extrovert, my voice doesn't shake, but I still need a script (CLEARLY) or I start to blather and/or space out. Calling is a LOT less fun than waving signs and yelling, though I suspect that calling is a lot more useful at the end of the day. Especially targeted calling like that.

So now after that chilly walk up and down Lake Street, I think I will take a warm bath.

Up the revolution! (I do have to say, it was kind of fun to be at a march supported Twin Cities IWW General Defense Committee Local 14.)
lydamorehouse: (shield)
I have a cousin, Cindy, who is mixed-race.  She recently posted on her Facebook wall, "Trump is a bitch if you like him unfriend me."  And, because she and I are friends, I got to see what *her* friends said to her.... a LOT of Cindy's friends voted for Trump.  

Their responses to her range from "I live in coal country..." and basically have a sincere belief Trump was a better choice for our economy to posting YouTube videos entitled "Christianity Mind Control and Its Terrifying Power Over Believers" with a nonsense post that goes like this, "queen England and Hillary needs to stay in the devils democracy of the devils England the terrorist MuslimsChristianity Mind Control and its Terrifying Power Over Believers and wake up." (I don't even know how to parse that. And I have no idea how it relates to the argument at hand.)

At least one person felt free to use the c-word to talk about Hillary Clinton (several used the term "Killary") and the sheer amount of misspellings and misinformation is staggering.

I look at this and get several conclusions:

Fox News and its radio talk show affiliates are to blame for a lot of this.

We need a better educational system in this country.

And, possibly, America is legitimately doomed.

...

On that last one, I try to remind myself that 1.5 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than did for Donald Trump.  That may not save us, however.  I don't see how, given the reality of the next four years we can dismantle the things that spread this kind of hate and misinformation. If anything, it's likely to get much, much worse.

When people try to compare what's happening now to what happened in any other time in American history, one of the pieces that is missing is the fact that the news used to actually report facts.  Even back in the darkest days of the 1960s, the news was still a source of INFORMATION.  Opinions were still strictly kept to the editorial sections.  Now entire "news" channels lie on a regular basis and claim to be the "antedate to the 'liberal' media."  There are people out there who think scientific facts are debatable or subject to the will of their god.  Some of them are now in charge of key positions in this country.

The problem with 'reaching across the aisle" to the people like the ones on Cindy's feed is that the truth has been well insulated from them for years now. If you present them with a fact, they will tell you that you have "liberal bias" and counter with some kook report they read on Brietbart.

Back when I was young, I used to think about Republicans as "the loyal opposition."  They were people who believed differently from me, but who still used the same facts as I did to base their arguments on. We could agree to disagree, because, at the foundation, there were common facts and figures.  The real difference between us was actual opinions on the same set of truths, facts, science, etc. 

This no longer seems to be the case.

lydamorehouse: (shield)
 The guy isn't even in office yet....

Meanwhile, I'm still struggling to find things to *do* that feel honestly effective.  Yelling about things on the internet, specifically on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, don't feel productive.  The subsequent arguments that inevitably follow also just make me feel more anxious.  I'm still waiting for my Planned Parenthood volunteer orientation, so that's in limbo.  I haven't heard back from Quatrefoil Library, which I also offered to volunteer at... so again, that feels stalled out.

But I did find a couple of Facebook events that seem worthy of my time and energy. The first is a solidarity with immigrants march on Wednesday, November 23 here in the Twin Cities. They are meeting at Lake and Nicollet at 5 pm. https://www.facebook.com/events/199733550476396/.  I have not yet taken to the streets and so this might be a place to start.  Hopefully, I will actually get my butt out the door and attend.  That'll be the real trick.

The other thing I found seems kind of innocuous and probably won't actually have an effect is a "postcard avalanche" to denounce Bannon: https://www.facebook.com/events/174763619653288/. Will Trump car? I doubt it.  On the other hand, I love sending postcards and it will give the post office something to do...? I don't know know.  This is where things get really difficult.  

Years ago, Shawn and I actually successfully ran a postcard avalanche for a local issue. We made pre-printed postcards for our neighbors to send in to the city council. I think this was for allowing our neighbors to have a variance for parking, though it might have been part of our push to get the roundabout at the end of the block planted.  (Both of those were successful, partly because they were super localized and specific and if ten people show up to a city council meeting it's a big f*cuking deal, as our Vice-President would say.) Somehow I don't see this having the same kind of effect, but my feeling is that at least it's more concrete than reposting some article or other or signing a petition... I mean, maybe petitions can work? But, every organization seems to have one already. Still, I don't see it does harm, so I'm signing all the ones that seem legit.

Okay, well, I'm headed off to go get groceries.  We're out of everything and Thanksgiving is looming.  So it's going to be a huge list.  Our friends the Jacksons came early, but we LOVE Thanksgiving and so we've invited our friends Eleanor and Patrick to join us.  It should be fun, or will be if we have enough potatoes....
lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)

The wind is howling outside, but we decided to forego dinner out to stay snuggled in under the blankets.  A good choice, I think. I'd hoped for Indian, but pizza delivered was just as nice.  Especially since it meant I didn't have to go in sleet and snow.  

This morning we woke up to thunder and rain. We did venture out for breakfast at the Egg & I -- all of us. Mason had the day off school and Shawn took a vacation day.  I got my presents first thing in the morning.  All of them were EXCELLENT.  I don't think I talk about this very much, but I'm an avid stamp collector.  I'm not... a terribly fussy collector. I don't use  sleeves or the little tabs.  I stick things in an album with pre-printed pictures that I bought at a hobby store in 1973.  But, it amuses me to look though the piles of stamps we buy off eBay and put the ones I find in the right places.  I can't explain it.  It's a very relaxing hobby for me.  At any rate, Shawn bought me both US stamps and world stamps, and I spent much of the afternoon playing with those.

Mason got me stationary, which goes to another fondness of mine--writing letters.  I have, currently, three regular 'pen pals.'  A friend of mine who moved to Taiwan, a friend in Washington state and another old work-collegue of Shawn's who lives in Oregon now.  Not a lot of people write letters. I don't know if you know this, but letter writing has kind of gone out of style.  Consequentially, this also means that finding actual STATIONARY is kind of a pain in the butt.  One of the few places I still see stationary packets for sale is Barnes & Noble. Mason bought me stationary and some new pens.  I'm psyched to get writing!*

Shawn also got me a couple of fun books.  I showed her the My Drunk Kitchen once and she found the cookbook and it's hilarious.  She also bought me Hannah Hart's (the My Drunk Kitchen woman) book BUFFERING.  

So mostly I managed to have a day where I didn't think overly much about politics (which is kind of amazing.) But which also might be why I feel pretty good at the moment.


---
By the way, I'm always looking for new pen pals. If you want me to write you a letter let me know.  My rules for pen pals are really not at all onerous. I don't even require you to write me back, though I do enjoy getting letters, if people feel up to them. Basically, I write once a week or so. Mostly my letters are very mundane, about as interesting as one of these blog posts.


lydamorehouse: (shield)
1.  The "You Weren't There For Us Before" argument.

Okay. We were really shitty allies.  I didn't even know that there had previously been a registry for Muslims. This is horrible.  There's no excuse for those times we didn't stand up. I'm not about to make one.  If anything I feel the crushing reality of the fact that by not protesting this kind of thing earlier is EXACTLY how we got where we are today.

But, we fucked that up.  That's not the question. In fact, that seems really obvious. The question is what do we do now?  

Reminding us we fucked up is fine, but it makes me sad because I think there are some people who are being pushed away by this rhetoric.  People who are finally showing up, waking up, and want to NOT fuck up this time. Can we please hand them the tools they need without the slap on the wrist?  

Okay, I realize that people are tired of having to deal with "white fragility," but I'm actually scared that the Neo-Nazis are watching us bicker and doing _their_ ugly work while we sputter and stall out over stuff like this.

2. Safety Pins

I'm sad people are being pressured to take them off.  It happened to me again. I got a random smile from a guy who looked like he might be a recent Somali immigrant at the coffee shop.  I can't be sure he smiled at my pin or because I was saying rather loudly that the hassle of growing old is that I swear I have to pee every five minutes.  Maybe I'm just the sort of person people smile at.  But, it's also possible that seeing a symbol of solidarity made someone feel a little less alone.  

A friend of mine and I were talking about this and she told a story about the AIDS ribbon.  You remember when those were trendy?  I do.  She remembered a friend being incensed to see ribbons on Hollywood stars, because they made is seem like all you had to do was wear a ribbon and your sins would be absolved.  I get that.  I've been mad about a lot of token gestures in my day. (Don't get me started on Willow in "Buffy.")  But, I said, okay, yes, all of that is true, but that mainstreaming of gay people and gay causes that, in a way, led us to the acceptance of freedom to marry. So, okay, so a bunch of people adopted AIDS Awareness as a fashion statement.  Did that cure AIDS? No.  But did it raise awareness?  I'm going to say yes, yes, it did.

I know I'm supposed to shut up and listen to PoC on this one. I'm reading the articles, I'm really trying to listen.  But, for instance, in the article that's listed above I'm supposed to tell off my racist relatives, contribute to anti-racism causes, etc., and then ends with a note that wearing a pin is going to get me the side-eye from PoC.

This makes me sad. What if I don't have any racist relatives that I talk to any more because I shut them out years ago for this exact bullshit? What if I don't have money to contribute (and did anyway and am volunteering)?  

Look, I don't have a burning need to prove I'm your ally or to get a cookie for my non-effort efforts, but I have literally been giving the side-eye to other white people wondering, "Did you vote for him?" Maybe the safety pins are for white people.  Maybe that's absolutely accurate.  But, maybe this white person needs to know which other while ladies/men are on her side.

And maybe the Somali immigrants in my neighborhood didn't get the memo.  Maybe I'm going to wear the safety pin until THEY start giving me the side-eye.*

--
Edited to add: am now starting to believe this _is_ actually me. I just went to Menards and had another Somali woman in a hijab smile at me. I paid attention this time and I realized that I was smiling first and cooing at her crying child (like I do to all frazzled parents with crying children.)  

It occurs to me one way in which we're all showing some privilege is the assumption that anyone but insiders even know what the heck the safety pins are.  Working at the library has really made me aware of the number of people who do NOT have access to the internet, newspapers, or cable TV.  

Ultimately, the lesson might be this simple: smile at people. I'm still wearing the safety pin and my pink triangle (though I lost my nice enameled one, so I've been stuck with an old political button for some organization or other, but it has a pink triangle and the word community on it, so I guess that will have to do.)
lydamorehouse: (shield)
 I almost wish I lived in a red state.

Almost, being the operative word here, but the problem is impact, right? I mean, there have been a lot of calls to action to get on the phone to your congress reps to tell them to denounce Steve Bannon.  I plan to do that, but it's not going to have a lot sway when it comes from Minnesota, which is not only very blue, but also represented by the likes of Al Franken.  Also, I'm not sure what we can actually get done there beyond symbolic statements.  Of course, I'm not saying we shouldn't try.  I sincerely feel every effort is worth doing.

I wonder if another thing I could do is write or call various media outlets and demand they stop using the term 'alt-right' and start saying Neo-Nazi or white supremacist, which is, in point of fact, accurate.  Maybe I will see if anyone is organizing that sort of thing. If not, maybe I should just start planning a lot of letters to the editor.  I am a writer, after all, this is one skill I can loan to the revolution.

Speaking of feeling like a drop in the bucket (while also feeling extremely proud of my city and state), when I went to sign-up for new volunteer orientation at Planned Parenthood, I discovered that the entire month of December is already booked. They do two orientations a month and have space for 50 people. 50! That means that, locally, over a hundred NEW people have committed to volunteering for PP.  This is where I wish they could bus us into states where more help is needed.  Although, maybe, they will send us out to rural spots--those of us who can and will travel.  I certainly could do that.

I've been talking to people about how *do* we go forward from here, how *do* we talk to people who might have voted for Trump, and I don't know the answer to that one at all.  Most people in my life are very much taking the stance of 'never surrender' and no compromise. I think that's absolutely appropriate.  I really loved (though was also harrowed by) the article by Masha Gessen, "Autocracy: Rules for Survival,"  which makes a very compelling case for never normalizing any of the hate or craziness of this new regime we're facing. I really think, too, that if people close to you, like family, voted for Trump it's absolutely appropriate to say no to Thanksgiving with them.  I think people who voted for hate need to disavow it in some real and concrete way (like, not just words; I want to see your donation to the ACLU or hear about how you called your congress person to repudiate bigotry) before I make any step towards them.  They need to be the ones coming to us to bridge the gap, not the other way around.

But, like, how do you chat with the bus driver on the way to work? I think it is important to continue to make connections. Maybe now more than ever.  I took a chance saying 'stay safe' to a white neighbor and discovered that he was gay, like me.  This is one way in which I feel like the safety pins can be more than a hollow gesture. If I see someone else wearing one, maybe we can get to talking, maybe we find some common ground, maybe I make a colleague, a friend.  And maybe our talking about this stuff on the bus/in a public space gets overheard by someone who needs to hear it, someone who needs to wake up to it or who maybe had been feeling lost and alone.  

Tiny steps.

But the ways in which we might need to be there for each other might not come with the obvious, righteous sound of the horn of Gondor.  We might just have to hold each other's hand as we pick our way through Mirkwood, and try to stay on the path.

All the while, we also have to remember to save energy for the daily protests.  I just found this wonderful group that's pledging to give us something to DO every day that Trump is president.  It's called Project 1460 and you can sign up to get daily emails with calls to action.

Meanwhile, life goes on.  Last night was Mason's student conferences. In a surprise to no one, Mason is more than passing all his classes. Washington does this very odd thing where they have the students give reports to their parents. This is sort of self-defeating, in a way.  The good students prepare and do a good presentation.  I have no idea if the kids who are failing even show up, you know?  I suppose that's true, no matter what, and maybe the idea is to get the middle of the road students to feel some kind of shame in having to face their parents and tell them that their grades are NOT awesome.  Maybe the idea is to get a dialogue going about what kids are feeling and what parents can do to actually help.  I don't know, but it's kind of an odd practice and feels somewhat useless for us when Mason is just reading a script.  On the other hand, we FINALLY got to meet his 8th grade math teacher, whom we've been trying to connect with since Mason took 8th grade math in 6th grade.  Mr. K kind of cracked us up because he made a point to say that of all the advanced students he's ever had in his classes Mason was the "most well socialized."  I took full credit for that, jokingly.  

The other Mason news is that we went for his once-every-few-years check-up on his hydronephrosis and got... cautious news.  We've been expecting Mason's doctor to sign off and say that the major problems have been cleared up with gravity and growing older, but the kidney is not improving as fast as they'd hoped.  We're back on a more frequent watch.  Not good news, but not panic-enducing yet either. Mason's kidneys continue to grow and the hydronephrosis affects his left kidney far more severely.  Everything is still working, but we were very bummed not to get the sign-off/all-clear we were hoping for.

One day at a time. One day at a time.
lydamorehouse: (shield)
As my fellow SF/F writer Saladin Ahmed disparagingly said on Twitter last night: "we're going to have epic debates about the relative levels of privelege involved in various forms of ally behavior when we're in the camps."

Another dear friend of mine and SF/F writer on Facebook was likening wearing the pin to Earth Day.  She felt Earth Day was a joke because people do tiny gestures once a year that are ultimately meaningless.  I get the frustration there, I really do.  

I'm wearing a pin, despite the fact that some people might see me as a privileged white woman making a hollow statement of solidarity.  

The problem that I have with that argument is the idea that ANY form of solidarity is hollow.  I'm white and therefor privileged in ways I can't even begin to always understand.  But, I'm also queer AF.  And, yeah, the comparisons to the Reagan era are bad ones, but I do remember when people were dying of AIDS at an astronomical rate.  I remember losing friends.... teachers.  I couldn't cure AIDS.  But, I could come out. I could wear a pink triangle.  We made a quilt.  Quilts are useless. This one was so big, it wasn't even good at keeping any one person warm on a cold night.  But, the AIDS quilt was literally just a symbol.  But, you know what? It was much, much more than that. It brought people together. It made communities. It raised awareness. It put a real number and real people into an abstract picture.

Did this hollow gesture of solidarity change the world?  Yes and no, but I'd like to think it helped pave the way to the victories we did win. Maybe more importantly, it helped people process grief. It helped people never forget the loved ones they lost.

Last night, I wore a safety pin on my vest at work.  I didn't work the desk, so I didn't interact with many people.  But as I was bringing an empty cart back to the work area, a woman in a hijab in the study room caught my eye. She saw the pin and she smiled. We shared a smile, without words, through a glass wall.  Did I help her?  I don't know.  But I don't see how I harmed.

I am a privileged white woman, but I'm also queer enough to know what it feels like when you think everyone automatically hates you for who you are.  I know what it's like to go through your days feeling like everyone around you potentially wants to harm you or insult you. Solidarity does matter.  Solidarity is not hollow.  

If I could make that stranger smile and feel less alone for five seconds, then I did good.  

And, yeah, it's not ENOUGH.  But it *is* something.  

I'll be wearing my pink triangle again, too.
lydamorehouse: (shield)
 I've been feeling so helpless lately.  I'm not usually the sort. My son thinks I'm beyond optimistic into some kind of uber-optimism, and he's not wrong. I'm usually the person who looks at the half-filled glass and says, "Wow! A drink! Let's celebrate!" 

So, here I am post-Trump election, trying to find my 'optimistic' way in what feels like overwhelming darkness.  

Especially today, when we hear about the appointment of a white supremacist to a chief advisory position.  I signed all the petitions I could find, but none of that felt like enough.  So, I googled volunteer opportunities in Saint Paul.  I found out that my local Planned Parenthood is looking for "guest escorts." Guest escorts are the people who hold women's hands as they fight their way through anti-abortion protestors.  I suspect Planned Parenthood is going to see even more of those, so I signed up.  I don't know when or if they'll even call on me.  But, I've been pledging to myself that this time I will stand up and fight.

Maybe this isn't much of standing, or much of fighting, but it's something I can actually *do.*
 
In fact, I put my name in the hat at the Minnesota Volunteer match site.  I maybe be doing a lot of little acts, because I have the luxury of time on my hands.  I don't have a lot of money to give, but I happen to be fortunate enough to have the time.  

And pretty soon I'm not going to be able to rake the yard. I need to get out and do.

lydamorehouse: (shield)
 I'm still incredibly shaken by this election.  

The only upside to my nerves is that I've been walking away from social media to do busy work. With the weather being unseasonably warm (another sign of the impending apocalypse), I've been raking all the leaves.  We have one maple tree, the one out front, that has very broad leaves that refuse to fall until mid-Novemeber regardless.  Normally, this means the leaves fall on snow.  Most years I end up having to rake them in spring and by then the baby-shoots of grass have suffocated.  

This year, I got most of them up. I also put to bed gardens that I ignored most of the rainy summer, too.  

Though it was colder than usual yesterday, I got anxious again and worked on finishing the front. Our neighbor James said asked me how I was. James is an African-American photographer.  He's married to Katherine, a white woman, who a anthropology professor at Hamline.  They have an adult daughter, Mali, who is of course mixed race.  At first I lied. I said the thing you're supposed to say, "I'm fine." Then, I thought, "No, you know, I'm really not and I should say so."  James and Katherine and Mali have as much at stake as Shawn and Mason and me.  So, I said, "Actually, the election has made me sick."  At first he dismissed it with a, "Don't even start," which I completely respect.  A lot of people I know are in the hiding phase. They've left social media for good or are just out of evens (for the moment.)

Later, James came back to chat a little. Even though he's black, he seems to be taking the "wait and see" approach.  James is very much a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, whose politics have been shifting center with the rest of the party.  Both he and Katherine are very middle class.  Or at least they're 'professorial class' with aspirations towards middle.  We'd previously had an "anybody but Hillary" conversation.  So even though I'm sure he voted against Trump, I'm not sure he voted for Hillary, if you know what I mean. I don't think he's the type to go third party, but even if he did, I wouldn't blame him.  I blame the people who didn't show up.  I blame the people who blocked voters from voting. 

Even so, we both agreed Trump's election was beyond tragic. I told him about my plans to volunteer.  He nodded, but his air was one of cynicism.  Again, given that he's African-American I can hardly disagree with his experience or tell him to have hope, when I see so little myself.

I waved good-bye and told him to stay safe.

Another neighbor, one I didn't know, came strolling by. We'd shared a few 'hellos' but nothing else. Our conversation stayed mostly to the weather and the never-ending task of yard work. There was something about the guy, though, that made me think maybe he was family.  So, again when we said good-bye, I impulsively added, "Hey, stay safe."

He looked a tiny bit shocked (he was white), but said, "You, too!"

I didn't think much more of it, other than to wonder if I was going to just add 'stay safe' to my good-bye rituals from then on out.  But I was just about finished with the front (I swear I was out there almost two hours), when here came the same neighbor again. He had another guy in tow, and I instantly thought, "OH! that's going to be his partner!"

Sure enough.  My chatty neighbor was Michael and I was introduced to Jon, his partner. They came down, ostensibly to go to the gym (a YMCA is at the end of our block on the other side of University), but really wanted to find out if we were family, too.  So I introduced myself and said, "and I live here with my wife Shawn and our son Mason." It was nice. We exchanged business cards and commiserated.  We talked about rumors of violence; I told them about the very real violence that happened at the bookstore.  We worried about their next door neighbors, an extended Somali family and I found out the guy I've been waving to and saying hello to for years is named Mohammad.

He walks very slowly with a cane and because he pauses a lot to rest, I've always gone out of my way to wave and say hello.  He doesn't have a lot of English, but we still manage pleasantries. And one day he worked up to saying 'Beautiful day!" which was just so wonderful. I wish there was some kind of "OMG I'm so NOT one of them" gift basket I could bring to all my neighbors like Mohammad, you know?

But the point is, the one nice thing that's happened is that now we know two more of our neighbors by name.  We've made plans to get together for coffee or deserts or just to say 'hey, still here. Still alive' to each other... and who knows, maybe start the revolution.

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